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Hands of the Week - latest
  Grand Slams Need Bidding Space

The following hand came up on Tuesday May 30.  Grand slams should have about a 75% probability before you bid them and any seven card holding will break 4-2 much more often than 3-3 so contemplating a grand slam in spades with a 5-2 fit should be out of the question. How do East and West bid to reach a grand slam in clubs?

With 20 HCPs, approximately four losers and eight certain winners West will usually open the bidding 2C. '

We discussed 2C bidding systems in a very recent article and this hand is a good example of how the Sydney Modern system can supply that little bit extra of bidding information to make the difference in feeling confident to bid a grand slam.

The traditional system of 7+ HCPs and a five card suit headed by an honour in order to make a positive response will result in a 2S response. What does the 2C opener rebid now knowing his partner has at least 7 HCPs. She might take a punt and ask for Aces, and, finding responder has two, settle for 6C or 6NT. She might bid 3C and what will responder do now, probably ask for Aces and also settle for 6NT.The 2D relay bid will elicit a 3C bid from opener having no idea what responder has got. Responder will bid 3S and then…?

In the Sydney Modern system responder bids 2D which shows either 5-8 HCPs and no immediately biddable suit or, rarely, 9+ HCPs. Opener will rebid 3C and now responder will bid 3S. Opener needs responder to have at least one Ace to make a small slam as well as a suit of her own to elicit some additional tricks. Why has responder now bid 3S when she could have supported clubs or bid 3D or 3H or 3NT? It appears that spades are a useful feature of her hand but she could not bid them initially because she has 9+ HCPs. If opener now asks for Key Cards in spades she will be very gratified to learn that responder has two key cards and the QS. With this information she can bid 7C expecting to win 7 x clubs, 1 x heart,1 x diamond and at least four spades providing they do not break worse than 4-2 if responder has only five. If opener has six spades to the AQ, happy days!

Note that a heart lead by North will present declarer with a problem because no-one will lead away from an unsupported K against a grand slam, will they? Therefore, if North finds the perfect lead of a heart, West must win AH and hope for a 3-3 spade break or a squeeze against any defender who holds 4+ x spades.

♠ J108
♠ K9    ♠ AQ76
7 Q
♣ 3 ♣ 
♠ 532

After winning AH, declarer plays AD and then six rounds of clubs leading to this end position.

When West plays her seventh club, if North has the KD or the KH (very unlikely) and 4 x spades left she must discard a spade to retain her K. However, she discards the JD. West now discards the QD from dummy. If South has the KH as expected and 4 x spades she must discard a spade to retain her KH. However South discards a small heart. West can now feel confident that a squeeze was unnecessary because the spades are breaking 3-3.

  Response to 2C Opening Bids

The following hand came up on May 16.  How does North respond to South's 2C opening bid?

There are many bidding systems for use over 2C openers. Most players prefer to keep it simple and use either:
(1) a 2D response as showing less than 7HCPs, a suit bid shows at least five cards and 7 or more HCPs (sometimes stipulating three controls an Ace counting as 2 and a K as one) and a 2NT bid shows 7HCPs or more and a flat hand, or
(2) a 2D response is a waiting bid pending the 2C opener describing her hand further. This puts control of the contract largely in responder’s hand, at least initially, since the 2D bid gives no information to opener.

If the contract needs to be played in responder’s suit, opener needs to know both the quality of that suit and what controls she has before venturing towards slam.
Following (1), responder would be entitled to respond 2S with the hand above and comply with the rules and yet making a slam relies on possibly as many as three finesses and a favourable break in the heart suit to make, normally very low probability.
Following (2), opener gets no information and would bid 2H to which responder would probably bid 2S and the pair are even more in the dark.

Both (1) and (2) have merit because they are simple, but, for those who want to get more out of their 2C bidding sequences I recommend consideration of the:
(3) Sydney Modern approach discussed under the “Bottom Line” section in this link.

Basically more modern systems employ a double negative 2H immediate response to advise the opener that they have 0-4HCPs which does not contain an Ace or even as much as 2 x queens. Unlike the 2D waiting response above this does provide useful information. A response of 2D is semi-positive with 5-8HCPs (occasionally 9+ but this is very uncommon) and does not contain a straightforward biddable suit while a bid of 2S shows 5-8HCPs and 5+ hearts and a bid of 2NT shows 5-8HCPs and 5+ spades, both enabling the strong hand to play the contract.

A simpler (4) version (source Wayne and Christine Houghton) comprises:
2D response = 9+ HCPs
2H response = 0-4HCPs and no Ace
2S, 3C, 3D, 3H= 5-8HCPs and 5+ cards
2NT response = 5-8HCPs and balanced.

How would these more refined systems cope with the hand above?
With (4) responder bids 2S and opener has better information than (1) because responder’s hand has an upper limit of 8HCPs which guides opener better as far as whether to look for slam. (2) provides no information. With (3) responder has a choice depending on whether she chooses to show her 5 card spade suit immediately. She can bid 2NT to show 5+ spades and this would convey the same information as (4) or she could bid 2D showing 5-8HCPs and no suit immediately worth bidding. When opener rebids 2H, responder can now bid 2S showing no heart support but a five card spade suit of poor quality.

Opener now has a better viewpoint on whether a slam is possible with the realisation that a spade loser is very likely.

  3NT Opening Bids

Self- established suits are defined as those that have no losers even without help from partner. They comprise AKQxxxx, AKQJxx or better.

The Gambling 3NT opening requires the opener to have a self-established seven card (or longer) minor. Partner is required to leave the bid in if she has stoppers in all other suits or bid 4C if she doesn’t whereupon the opener will pass or correct to 4D.

North held this hand on Tuesday March 28, on Board 10 when his partner opened 3NT after East had passed.  What bid should North make?

(Note:  Some pairs play an opening 3NT bid as Kabel  where opener has three or fewer losers and  is purely interested in what Aces or Kings his partner holds. The standard responses are 4C=no Aces, 4D=AD, 4H=AH,4S=AS. A bid of 4NT by declarer then asks for Kings. 5C=none,5D=KD,5H=KH,5S=KS, 6C=KC.If partner responds 5C to the 3NT bid this shows the AC and then 5NT is used by opener to ask for Kings. There are alternative responses where responder can show two Aces but this seems less useful given opener is unlikely to be missing two requisite Aces and still have a hand worth of Kabel. )

7NT. Opener knows partner has seven tricks in clubs and has six tricks himself. Asking for Aces and Kings is unnecessary and might, remotely, get the partnership in trouble if they end up in 7C and East has a void and has the chance to suggest this via the bidding to West who will be on lead.

  How to make 5D on this hand?

North held this hand on Tuesday March 28, on Board 23.  North opened 3NT (Kabel) and partner bid 4C denying an Ace. North badly needs to know whether partner holds the KC but cannot bid 4NT in case partner shows the KH or KS which are likely to be useless and bypass the safe haven of 5D. North bid 5D which was passed out and E led KH. How does North give himself the best chance of making 5D?

You may note that the computer says that only 10 tricks can be made at diamonds. This requires East to avoid making the natural lead of a heart and either lead a trump or the AS followed by a trump. Declarer is now forced to lead clubs twice from hand and West can defeat the contract by keeping three good clubs and a heart as an exit card. 

With a KH lead North trumps and draws trumps before leading a spade. East must go up with AS and has the choice of leading a club or playing AH. Leading a club gives North the 11 tricks he needs. If East plays the AH, North discards the small club. East must now either allow North into dummy or lead a club.

  Another HOW from the Deep South ...

Another Hand of the Week from David, from his games in Tassie ...

Sitting North, not vulnerable against vulnerable, East opened 1H, partner bid 2S (weak) and West 4NT. 

What do you bid?

Work out your answer, then click on  Hands of the Week - latest to follow the bidding and play, and the defence solution. 

  Defence from Left Field

Do not click on "Show All Hands" until you have worked out the answers!

Sitting North, not vulnerable against vulnerable, East opened 1H, partner bid 2S (weak) and West 4NT. 
1. What do you bid?

East bids 6H and your partner, based on your bidding, leads the KS and dummy goes down.
2. How do you plan the defence?


1.  North should bid 5S because partner is weak and has 6 x spades and you are very weak with 5 x spades meaning your one defensive hope, the AS, may well not make a trick. This is a fairly safe sacrifice against a vulnerable heart game in the E-W direction, let alone a vulnerable heart slam.

Now click on "Show All Hands"!

2. It is very unlikely that partner has the AD because it is unlikely that declarer (East) would bid 6H without an Ace in his hand and, in any event, if she had the AD, partner would probably have led it.

Partner has led the KS to give herself a chance to win the trick and look at dummy. With its self-established club suit and four card heart support to partner’s opener the chance of defeating the contract looks bleak. However, there is the remote chance that your partner is void in clubs so you should overtake the KS with the AS and lead a club. This defeats the contract. In practice only 1 of the 5 tables found this defence.

A word on Suit Preference Signals:
Suit preference signals are very useful when the defence needs to cash tricks fast to have any hope of beating the contract. They come in handy in these types of situations where the defence is hoping to win one trick in its own suit before finding the critical switch at trick 2. Either leading or following with an unnecessarily high card asks for a switch to the higher of the suits outside trumps and leading or following with an unnecessarily low card asks for a switch to the lower of the suits outside trumps.

If South had led the 2S, an unnecessarily low card given that she is known to hold 6 x spades then North would win the AS and feel confident to return a club despite it being straight down the throat of the huge suit in dummy. Playing suit preference the lead of the KS in this hand would probably be looking for a diamond switch but it is not as clear because it may also be important for the defender on lead to hope that the K will hold the trick in order to look at the dummy and, hopefully, obtain guidance as far as what to lead next.

  Hand from the Far South!

(From David Christian in the Southern Isle): 
After a bidding misunderstanding, I was North playing a hand in 5H the other day at the Tasmania Bridge Association with the following trumps in dummy and my own hand and a certain spade loser:


How do you play the suit for the loss of one trick?
I got it all wrong but the computer assured me that 11 tricks were possible. To achieve this it is probably essential that you can see all the hands. See if you can make 11 tricks after a spade lead by East to the AS in West's hand, and a diamond continuation by West.

You take the diamond in dummy say with QD and lead a small trump. If West plays the 10H it is more straightforward double dummy because you cover with the JH forcing the KH and then, when you are next in, play the AH dropping the QH before drawing East’s remaining trumps with the 9H and 8H in dummy.

However, if clever West plays the QH you must lose this trick. Let us say West continues with a diamond but it does not matter. You win in hand and run the JH. East needs to duck to ensure that his KH remains protected because, if East covers, the AH will capture both the KH and the 10H and once again the 9H and 8H can be deployed to draw the remaining trumps. Let us assume, therefore, that East ducks the JH leaving KH and 7H in his hand and AH, 9H and 8H in dummy.

You can still bring the hand home by a trump coup. This requires you to reduce your trumps to the same length as the dangerous opponent. You cross to hand with a club and trump one of your spade winners! You now cash a club winner in dummy before crossing back to hand with a diamond and discard your last diamond in dummy on your remaining spade winner. You can now play your fourth diamond from hand. If East trumps, you over-trump and draw his KH with your AH before cashing the remaining clubs.

If East discards a club you also discard your last club in dummy.

You will now have two winning clubs, say AC and 10C (but you don’t actually need any more winners in your hand), and East will have KH and 7H and you will have AH and 9H sitting over East in your dummy. You play a club and over-ruff whatever card East plays to make 11 tricks and thus lose only one trick in the trump suit.

Note that if you hadn’t reduced your trump length earlier by trumping that spade (winner) in dummy you would end up with three trumps in dummy whereas East would only have two. This would force you to trump in before East in the end game and to concede another trump loser to East’s KH.

  A Double Dummy Problem ...

This hand was played on July 11. As North, find the line to make 6H on the KD lead.  ( Note that any lead can still make finding the line difficult including a heart lead as long as West doesn’t cover the 10H played from dummy).

Possible losers are the QH, a diamond and a club or, alternatively, no diamonds but two clubs. To avoid losing more than one trick outside the trump suit you also have a number of possibilities, the JS could drop after three rounds, the club finesse might work, you might be able to ruff a club in dummy.

The KD lead imposes an immediate potential loser in diamonds so you would prefer to ditch the diamond loser on the QS before embarking on finesses. But with the AD gone you only have the AC to enter dummy quickly and that means forgoing the club finesse. A counter-intuitive solution which avoids taking any finesses involves winning AD , crossing to AS, playing KS, crossing back to dummy with AC and discarding the losing diamond on the QS. You now have two small clubs to manage with three trumps on the table. You cross to KC and ruff a third club round with the 10H. Despite West being able to over-ruff with the QH there is nothing she can play (including the JS which you would ruff with the 9H in hand) to stop you winning the next round in hand and ruffing your fourth club with the JH before returning to hand with a trump or by ruffing a diamond to draw the remaining trumps.

  Holding The Line

This hand was played in 4H by West on July 11 after the bidding as shown.  9D is led. Plan your play for 10 tricks.


You have 3 x club losers and a trump loser if the finesse loses. You must therefore assume the QH lies with South, a reasonable assumption, since she opened the bidding. You could take the QD, finesse the QH return to dummy with the AH , discard your fourth diamond on the AS and plan to finesse the QH again before drawing the third round of trumps. Unfortunately, even if clubs break 3-3 you must let the opponents in three times and you will run out of trumps to trump their winners before you can win the last club.

If diamonds are 4-3 you can trump a diamond in dummy before you draw all the trumps. Despite the 9D lead this line looks more promising. You win the QD, finesse the QH, play AD and your low diamond intending to trump it in dummy. Unfortunately, North trumps first with the 5H. You must now “hold your line” and over-trump with the AH, ditch your fourth club on the AS before repeating the heart finesse.

  Playing the Percentages

This board was played on July 10 2016. East was in 3NT and received the lead of the 6H. You have eight tricks off the top as long as you win the lead with the AH, avoiding blocking that suit. What is your best chance of making a ninth? (Don't click on "Show All Hands" until you have worked out your answer).


You can’t lead diamonds yourself without a good chance of losing four tricks. Your extra trick has to come from spades or clubs. If either of these suits break 3-3 and you choose the right one you will make nine tricks but if six cards are outanding in a suit they will break 3-3 only 36% of the time and 4-2 nearly half the time (  Therefore, the odds are not on your side since you will probably only get the chance to check out one of these suits.

If you look at the middle cards you hold in the black suits you will see that you hold the 10C as well as the 9C. Therefore, you have the extra chance of either the QC or the JC being doubleton in one of the opponents hands and playing AC, KC and another club will give you the best chance of developing an extra trick.