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The 'impossible notrump' is used by many players to show 2 suited hands, in the minor suits, or, in the lowest of the unbid suits. It requires discipline: in the first instance it is a pre-emptive bid with maximum 10 HCP, in the 2 suits shown. Partner is asked to compete and to bid the better of the 2 suits. Hands with intermediate values are usually bid as a normal overcall, since there will be an opportunity to rebid the second suit. But, what about strong hands? The notrump bidder can show 16+HCP hands simply by bidding again.
In this hand, over West's 1C opening, North clearly has a powerful 2 suited hand. Over 2NT (alert!) and East's pass, South can see a good H fit and with 2 aces, the best bid (thanks Pete) is 4H. Even with a minimum North hand, 4H is likely to be a sound sacrifice. In this case, over 4H, an excited North can ace ask 4NT and find the slam.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing - especially with bridge play!
West is declarer here in 4S, and N opens with AC and follows with the 3C, ducked to Souths JC.
A low club from South presents declarer with a problem: There are 2 possible heart losers, and the diamond winners will deal with 1 of these, but North will either an over-ruff or get a probable trump promotion. Either way the contract is down.
An elegant solution is simply to discard a heart loser and let North have the trick. Declarer can win any return, clear trumps, and claim.
That's not what happened, of course. But it was obvious as soon as North over-ruffed!
South to lead ...
Here South has a nice sequence in clubs which looks ripe for leading - but just before you rush in and lead, let’s listen to the bidding. Here West has shown diamonds and hearts and no spade fit. East has spades and hearts so probably is short in diamonds.
How do you think declarer will try and play the hand?
East will try and cross ruff the hand. If that is the case, then a trump lead may cause declarer the most problems as South will likely get in and be able to play another trump causing real problems for declarer after that.
Recap: Before you lead make sure you listen to the bidding and create a picture of the missing hands and what the play may go like and how you can best cause issues for the opponents.
This hand went down in 4 of 8 attempts.
N E S W
XX 2D p p
3NT all pass
East leads the JD. Counting winners you have 2 diamonds, 1 heart, 1 club, and 3 spades. If you can pick up the spade suit for no losers you can get 2 more spade tricks make 9.
How should you play the spade suit?
With AKTxx opposite Qx the usual play is to hope to that the jack falls in three rounds, so you could play the from the top. However on this hand we have had some bidding.
It is always useful to remember what the bidding was during the play!
Here West made a takeout double indicating short spades so the chance of spades 3-3 is now practically gone. On this hand you want to play the QS and then finesse to the ten. It is very important to remember the bidding as it can influence the play of the hand and help locate key cards.
You pick up this hand as the dealer. Playing weak 2's, what should you do?
Q J 9 8 7 2
Q 9 8 6 4 2
Does this hand fit into a weak 2 category?
Partner expects 6-9 points with 6 reasonable hearts, while you have 5 points that is not the reason why you shouldn’t open this a weak 2. This hand is much too distributional compared to what partner expects. I won’t open a weak 2 with a 6-5 shape let alone a 6-6 shape.
Can you open this wild distribution hand at the 1 level?
Occasionally you can open at the 1 level a little bit light because of wild distribution. People frequently apply the rule of 20 to openings (high card points + length of two longest suits). This hand doesn’t meet the rule of 20 and definitely should not be opened at the 1 level. Even if a hand reaches the rule of 20 I do not open at the 1 level without a minimum (9)10 points.
What should be done with this hand?
I would pass and see how the bidding develops. I may get a later opportunity to try out a Michael’s cue bid or a Unusual 2NT. If the auction does not proceed that way I might just have to choose one of my suits to bid at a later time.
E S W N
1C p 1H X
1S 2D All Pass
Lead spade 10:
What losers do you have in 2D? You have 1 spade, 2 hearts, 1 diamond, and 2 club losers.
How can you get rid of your losers? There is nothing you can do about your spade loser, 2 heart losers and 1 of your club losers. If diamonds are 2-2 you will have no diamond losers and you could try throwing your losing club on the 4th spade.
How should you play? You are not worried about a spade ruff because east only has 4 spades, so you can duck the first spade. East wins the king and plays ace of hearts and another heart to the king; after that west continues their other spade and you win the queen.
What now? Draw trumps. Under the AK of diamonds both opponents follow so no diamond losers. Now to the club loser. Spades are blocked – so do you have any entries to dummy? That 4 of diamonds could have been an entry to dummy if you preserved your 3 of diamonds while drawing trumps. You can now play jack of spades and the 3 of diamonds to the 4 and now ace of spades throwing away your losing club.
It is standard good practice to try and unblock your small cards to maintain flexibility between the hands for later entries.
But who kept the 3 of Diamonds??? We all micro sleep at times! If you didn’t keep the 3 of diamonds, instead of being upset at yourself for making a mistake, take some time and try and think of another solution.
What do we know about the hand? East has an opening hand and should have the Ace of clubs, also 4 spades so we can’t overtake our jack of spades hoping they are 3-3.
See if you can work out how we can recover from our mistake. Answer at the end of next hand.
Playing in 4S by North after East as a passed hand overcalled 2H. East leads a low heart.
What losers do you have in 4S? There are no spade losers, 1 heart, 1 diamond, and 3 club losers.
How can you get rid of your losers? We can’t do anything about the diamond loser. The heart loser we can trump in dummy. Clubs we can try finessing.
Making a plan. Plan to address the Issue – ie how to get rid of your losers - rather than hope that the opponents will do something silly. On a heart lead we draw trumps ending in dummy. There is no rush to trump the heart as we can use that as an entry to dummy. We should try and reduce our club losers first.
How to reduce our club losers? There are two options: the simple way is to lead a club to the king hoping the ace is onside (50% chance). A better way (75%) is to try a double finesse in clubs, by finessing the queen and jack. We do this by leading the ten of clubs and running that to east who will usually win either the queen or jack. We can get back to dummy (by ruffing a heart) and then lead the 9 of clubs and running it, now if west had either the queen or jack of clubs they will be finessed and then we will only lose 2 clubs. By trying the double finesse in clubs we improve the odds to 75% (west having either Q or J) rather than 50% (west having the ace).
If we didn’t have the 8 of clubs in dummy we wouldn’t be able to do the double finesse because we are leading the big cards rather than leading towards the big card. Whenever you are leading a card intending to run it to finesse you should consider what will be promoted if the opponents cover your card. If we did not have the 8 and led the ten which ran to easts Q or J, then led the 9 which got covered by the other honour we would be promoting the opponents 8 of clubs.
Sitting South: Your partner opens 1D in first seat and right hand opponent (RHO) passes. You are playing better minor so 1D can just be 3+ diamonds. What do you bid?
While you probably have a diamond fit, you don’t know yet - and as responder you bid your four card suits up the line at the 1 level.
Without a 4 card major you respond 1NT.
The auction continues: 2S by left hand opponent (LHO) and partner jumps to 5C which RHO passes. What do you bid?
You prefer diamonds to clubs so you are going to take it back to diamonds. But just before you only bid 5D let us take a moment to try and visualize partners hand.
What hand shape do you think partner should have for jumping to 5C without considering 3NT or any other games? Believe partner! - at minimum 6-5 in the minors.
How strong is partner? If partner expects to make game opposite 6-9 points than they must have a reasonable hand - in fact likely to have AK in both minors.
If we visualize partner’s hand how many tricks will they take? Partner has at most 2 cards in the majors. From the interference, likely a singleton or void in S. At worse this gives us 1 spade loser, no hearts, no diamonds, and no clubs.
So what should we bid over 5C? 6D; even though the S hand is a balanced 8 points. Point count is good for balanced hand types but for unbalanced hands it is better to try and visualize if your points fit together. In this case the Ace of hearts means no heart wastage, 4 diamonds to give a good fit and the queen of clubs to shore up the club suit, All the S points are pulling full weight.
At the table the hand makes 7 because dummy's heart losers go on the long clubs and so to trump the heart loser.
After playing Ace and King of diamonds from dummy, the hand is as shown.
Lead toward your queen of clubs (East can’t rise with the ace without reducing your club losers).
Run all of your diamonds: East has to hold onto all of the spades otherwise you overtake your jack of spades and win dummy's 7. Pitch down to a singleton club and A7 of spades in dummy. East has to pitch down to 9 8 of spades and the ace of clubs.
Now unblock your spade Jack and exit a club – East is forced to lead back to the ace of spades.
The Auction goes: P - P - 1NT - (all pass)
The opponents lead the 3 of clubs. What does that tell you about the club suit?
The opponents lead 4th best so LHO has 4 clubs and RHO has only 1.
What else? If an opponent leads a 4 card suit that will mean they do not have any 5 card suits.
What hand shapes can LHO have? Based on the inference from the lead LHO will either have a 4333, 4432, or 4441.
Now to the play you have 2 clubs, 2 hearts, 1 spade off the top. Where can you set up more winners?
You will be able to set up one more Diamond winner by strength; and in hearts you can set up 1 more winner if the suit divides 3-2. After winning the ten of clubs (RHO playing the 9 - believed to be singleton) how should you continue the play?
The diamonds can wait and you should start on hearts. Playing the AK will test if they are 3-2 however you can gain a small edge by playing the ace and if you don’t see any honour continue with a low heart to the 9. By leading low to the 9 you will still have 3 winners whenever they are 3-2 but you would also be able to get 3 winners whenever RHO has 4 hearts to the QJ, because you will be able to finesse the other honour when in dummy later by leading low to the ten and you will know to do this because LHO has shown out in the suit.
You play Ace of hearts and a low heart and LHO discards a diamond so your play in hearts has paid off this time.
What was LHO’s original hand shape? Based on the inference from the lead we now know they are 4144 shape. On this hand in due time you will win 2 clubs 3 hearts 1 spade and 1 diamond.
If you are able to routinely put together information like this, you will significantly improve your game.
This hand illustrates a number of bidding issues: South opens 1NT and North has a game+ hand. What to bid??
North is strong enough to bid and play the game, or to bid 3S (slam interest), but on balance the best approach is to transfer (Jacoby 2H) then bid a new suit (3D). This is natural and game forcing, showing at least 5-4, and giving opener a choice of suit to play in. South’s bid of 3S sets spades as the trump suit and is positive, on the principle of slow arrival (a jump to the 4S game would show a weak 1NT opening).
North’s next decisions are whether, and then how to try for slam. In a strong duplicate field, or at match play, the slam is a must – everyone will be in it and there is minimum downside. North’s cue bid 4C showing the AC will get South excited (count 12 tricks in D and S), and to bid the slam. Or North with the distributional hand can use losing trick count to push to slam on the basis that opener has at least 1 Ace.
In this case, happenstance the slam needs trumps to break 2-2 (40%) after the H lead. And so they do.
Only 1 pair bid the slam and all others made 13 tricks in 4S. Sorry Partner.
Almost everyone overbid this hand and in several cases the culprits were rewarded by poor defense!
At our table: E passed and S opened 1NT. A gap in the bidding system was exposed when a 2S transfer to a minor was raised to 3S, and the 3NT gamble was taken.
Winning the 2H lead declarer tried the Clubs but a wily W held up till the third round, E discarding 2 spades and a diamond. W cashed the AH and exited with JH to declarer. Declarer tried to bluff an entry to dummy’s clubs with the JD, but E won with the AD. What to lead? Anything but the KS! Declarer held up, won the QS continuation then cashed out 3 spade tricks to go with 2 tricks in each of the other suits.
Hmmm … Standard passive defense will bring this one down. It’s obvious that declarer is in trouble if the Clubs don’t run. After QC trick 2 everyone should have the count. W can place E with 8+ points in D, S. E can discard D rather than S and let declarer force in vain for the 9th trick.
The gambling 3NT is the best contract, and made 3 out of 4 times. 5C is a war crime and was duly punished. What were they thinking!
Here's a hand from 12th March that illustrates the importance of having clear partnership agreements and discipline in competitive sequences.
East dealt and opened 1C. South has no good bid and so passed with balanced values.
West, playing inverted minors, interposed 2D (weak).
North's 2H overcall shows 13-15 HCP and a sound H suit (probably 6 cards).
South can place almost all the values, and, holding the KH, and stoppers, can bid 3NT, trusting partner's discipline in the overcall.