Interesting Hands
  Three wrongs make a right

Hand 14 Tue eve 17 April 2018.

I can't say I'm proud of this but you may find it has its amusement (unless you happened to be our opponents).
The bidding started normally enough until I, North, lost the plot.
When partner bid 3 , I wanted to find out whether we had a 5-3 fit in hearts; if not then we would play in 3NT.
Wrong no. 1.  As soon as the 3 bid was made, it dawned on me that partner already knew I had five hearts; I was showing him six. (But if I had six hearts why did I bother to show four diamonds? Plus if I had six hearts and five diamonds, wouldn't I have bid 4 ?)
Wrong no. 2. With me showing six hearts, partner should have raised to 4 . (although this does assume he could make sense of my 3 bid)
Wrong no. 3. 4♠ was meant to tell partner to sign off in 4NT.  Not unsurprisingly, he wondered what on earth I was doing - converting to 4NT did cross his mind -but, after some thought, he bid 5 .

Missing a contract of 3NT looked like we'd be heading for a bottom so I duly apologised before I even saw dummy.
When the dust had settled, eleven tricks rolled in without much difficulty.  Accessing the bridgemate showed we had a top!
Now I had to apologise to the opponents.  Have you ever done so much apologising?

Last updated : 9th Sep 2018 17:46 BST
  A comedy of errors

Hand 27 Tue eve 3 Apr 2018.

2 was the Multi, 2 a relay, 2♠ showed a weak 2 in spades.
2NT explained as hearts and a minor.

You lead the 4♠ to the King, partner's Ace and declarer's 10.
S leads the 2 , declarer plays the three and you win with the Ace.
What do think West holds; both distribution and high cards?
How do you plan to defend?

Declarer only has a singleton spade and must have at least ten red cards, probably eleven.  
The only red high cards he can have are K10 hearts and KJ10 diamonds.Your tricks appear to be 1 spade, 3 hearts, 1 diamond.
You really need to defeat the contract by 2 tricks; the only hope appears to be that partner has three diamonds, one of which is the 10 or the Jack.

A heart lead appears suicidal so you lead the 5♣ . Dummy's Ace wins, S plays the 2.  Dummy cashes the K♠ and the A♣ discarding two hearts. He now leads the Q♣ so, over to S.  He reckoned he had a natural trump trick which would vanish if he ruffed so he discarded a spade. Declarer discarded a third heart. A fouth club was now led, S discards, W discards a fourth heart and N wins.

N wasn't sure if declarer now held Kx or a singleton K in hearts.  Hence he found the disastrous lead of a diamond.  End result: only one off for a poor score.

Note that S needs to ruff the Q♣ with the J .

Last updated : 22nd Aug 2018 22:22 BST
  Countering a dangerous dummy

Hand 18 Wed aft 22 March 2018.

Whether or not you agree with the bidding is irrelevant.  Your task in defence is to take as many tricks as possible.
You lead 4 to partner's Q and declarer's A who promptly leads a heart and ruffs.
A small club is led from dummy, E plays the 10 and declarer the J.
Plan the defence.

In a suit contract, when dummy has a long side suit which you think might run then two lines of defence should occur to you

- cash your winners asap
- try to cut entries to dummy

Here, you should take your A♣ having decided what to do next.
Hopefully you've counted the clubs and realised there's only one left. But who's got it?  Partner would play the 10 from a singleton or a doubleton.
Partner didn't open a weak 2 so looks to only have a 5 card suit.
So, cash your J - which holds - and did you then lead another heart or a club?
Leading a club is crucial regardless of who's void. Here E will ruff.  If S were the one to ruff the contract would still fail

Last updated : 30th Jul 2018 17:13 BST
  The importance of being the nine

A hand from a semi-final of the Arnold Cup (teams).

Why does an international know how to play a hand and I don't?
(Please don't bother to e-mail me as I think I know the answer!)

N leads a club.  You cash the A and K with both opponents following suit.  You lead a heart to dummy, N plays the nine and South the five.
Plan the play.


Well, like me, did you go for the 75% chance of the double spade finesse?
You only realise you could have done better when you ask Espen Erichsen how he made it and, more to the point, why he played as he did.

First consideration:  why did N make a passive lead? Probably beacause he has something in the majors.
Secondly: What is N's heart holding when he plays the nine on the first round?  With a low doubleton surely he'd play the low one; why give a count? So his likely holding is either
a doubleton honour or QJ9. So, Espen next played the heart King dropping N's Queen and simply conceded one trick to the Jack.

If N had held QJ9x declarer can still make the contract as long as N has the King of spades.  The 4 card ending will be:

                      ♠ KJ

E   ♠ A10 9                        W    ♠ Q42
       10                                      4

When East leads Q N is stuck. Discard a heart and E will lead the 10 and throw him in.  Discad a spade and E simply cashes the A♠ .

Now, did you work all that out?  If so, you might become an international.                       

Last updated : 14th Jul 2018 10:32 BST
  Dealing with the Multi 2 Diamond opener

Hand 2  Tue 6 Feb 2018.
I include this hand so you should be better able to deal with the Multi 2 opener.  I know that many players at the club simply glaze over and almost decide to be confused.  However, if you listen to their bidding it can often be revealing and therefore helpful for you in the play, whether as declarer or defender.

The opening 2 bid is explained as a weak two in a major 2-5 points.
The 2♠ response is explained as "if East's suit is spades he should Pass, else convert to 3 ".
North's 2NT shows 15-17 pts and S dutifully raises to 3NT.

East leads the 9 .
E/W's lead style is 4th highest and 2nd from bad suits.

Try and work out as much as you can about both your opponents' distribution and honour card holdings.
Then, plan your line of play.

So, is East's major hearts or spades?
You have seven cards in both majors so your holdings are no guide.  
West's bid indicates he has some hearts, hence East must have long spades.
East hasn't led spades which is consistent with him having a broken suit headed by the KJ.
These are likely to be his only points. He might have a Jack but the lead of the 9 means it's exceedingly unlikely he has the J .

Now, what about East's distribution?
He appears to have six spades and one or two hearts.
It looks unlikely that either of the hearts or diamonds are going to split 3-3.

Count your winners.  One spade, two hearts, three diamonds and you can easily set up two clubs.
Knowing East's spade holding you can set up a spade trick.  Hence nine tricks look secure by playing on spades until you get your second trick in the suit and then knocking out the A♣ .
Can you do any better?
Chances don't look good but what if one of the red suits were to break 3-3?
The "play it again" feature on the website shows there are several ways to achieve 10 tricks but all rely on you tesing for a 3-3 break in hearts before trying diamonds.
My suggestion would be to win the first trick and advance the 9♠ at trick 2.  East will probably duck.  You are probably a bit surprised when West follows.  However, before you panic and think your analysis is faulty, remind yourself of the vulnerability - when it's favourable, many players will open on a five card suit. Then play on hearts.  You are virtually certain West has the outstanding high cards so it doesn't matter from which hand you play them.  As it turns out, hearts are 3-3 so ten tricks will be made.

Moral:  Don't be scared of playing against the Multi 2 .  Stop and think.

Last updated : 1st Jul 2018 19:26 BST

A hand supplied by Stephen Pierce.

E leads J .  W cashes two heart tricks and leads a third heart.
E ruffs with the K♠ !
Declarer now places the J♠ with W.

A neat deception.

Last updated : 10th Jun 2018 12:24 BST
  A Cost Nothing play

Board 11 Tue eve 6 Feb 2017

E leads the 9♣ .
When you play trumps, E plays the Q♠ on the first round.  Using the theory of restricted choice do you finesse W for the Jack?
As this isn't the point of the hand let's say you did what 3 out of 4 appear to have done and played for the drop.  This works.

Now, having not lost a trump trick, how many tricks do you expect to make?
Then, can you spot a "Cost Nothing" play for a potential extra trick?


You appear to have eleven tricks:  Four spades (in dummy), A of diamonds, two diamond ruffs in hand, two clubs and two hearts = 11 tricks.

You appear to have two certain losers; one in hearts and one in clubs.
Now, try eliminating diamonds and cash the A and K in both hearts and clubs.
You will be left with

 ♠ 10
   9 7
 ♣ 8


♠ A 7
♣ 3

Simply exit with your guarnteed loser - the club - and see what happens.  If the defender who wins cashes a heart then you're no worse off.  But, if he doesn't have a heart then you'll be given a ruff and discard.

Last updated : 23rd May 2018 10:59 BST
  The throw in or away?

Hand 28 Wed aft 31 Jan 2018

It's my first hand of the afternoon.
W leads the 8♣ .  Plan the play.
Even if trumps break reasonably. you're still looking at four losers; 2 spades, 1 heart and 1 diamond.

What happened.
The club lead looks like a singleton so the last thing I want is East to gain the lead and give West a ruff.
West looks highly to have the A so I won the club in hand, led a trump to the King and inserted the 10 on the trump lead back to hand. 
West won, cashed the A and exited with a diamond; I discarded a spade.
I drew the last trump and cashed three rounds of clubs.  I'm now down to 

♠ A 9 7

♠ Q 6 5

I cashed the A♠ .  East plays the 3 and West the 8. I lead the 7♠ and East plays the 4.  I'm convinced West holds the King but I still played the Queen.
By playing low I would have made it.  Note that if East plays the 10 instead of the 4, I must cover and hope West is still end-played; as in fact is the case.

A useful lesson of the hand is for defenders.  East needs to be alive to the possibility of partner being thrown in and look to insert a high card when a small card from dummy is lead.  On this hand it doesn't matter but on other occasions it might.

Last updated : 11th May 2018 18:58 BST
  Oh partner! What's the matter with you?

Hand 12 Wed aft 3 Jan 2018.

Partner (me) has had a flight of fancy on the last board of the afternoon.
Can you salvage anything from the wreckage?
South's double can be assumed to be because she doesn't think you'll make it rather than Lightner.
Finally, you can assume N has a maximum of seven spades.
The lead is the 4♣ on which S plays the J♣ .
You run the 10 and it holds.
Plan the play.

You must assume S has all four diamonds.  Hence you are bound to lose one diamond trick. Study the pips closely and you see S must have K-J-4-2.  So achieving three ruffs in your hand looks to be the way forward.  You have to assume S has at least one spade: S also must be certain to hold at least three clubs.
So, cross to the A♠ and lead the Q - in case N has a singleton.
Now you can cross to dummy by ruffing spades with anything greater than the four and ruffing your third club with the 3 .

You'll now make 12 tricks:  1 spade, 2 hearts, 4 diamonds, 2 Clubs and 3 diamond ruffs in your hand.

Last updated : 25th Apr 2018 22:38 BST
  What do you think about the ethics of this?

What do you bid?

 So, what did you bid?
Now, what would have you bid if the auction had gone
  East   North   West   South
Pass     Pass*   Pass       ?

* North emits a stifled but audible sound which suggests he has made an incorrect bid.
The auction proceeded South 1NT - North 3NT.
At the end of play, one of the opponents calls the director and asks if S's bid is allowable.  (N's bid of 3NT is quite ok as it is responding to an opening 1NT described as 12-14 pts.)
South says he didn't hear anything from North.  E & W both heard it and N readily admits to having made the sound.
South remains adamant he didn't hear a thing.
How would you, as a director, rule?

I can't answer the question because the situation didn't quite go this far. One of the opponents didn't realise S only had 10 pts.  The other, who'd been counting and mis-defended because of mis-reading declarer's hand, waited to hear the post-mortem.  N started by admitting he'd passed by mistake.  Both opponents said something like "I thought so".  S said "I didn't hear anything".  Sensing the involvement of director might cause feelings to become strained, the matter was dropped.

Last updated : 16th Apr 2018 17:00 BST
  What a shame to waste a winner

Board 23 Mon eve 27 November 2017

S leads the 2 .  You play low from dummy and N contributes the 3 .
Plan the play.

So, did you cash your K♣ ?
Analyse what you know so far.
Bidding: S passed originally but has managed to double your 1S.  S must be short in spades so the double must be based on either a void or possibly a singleton honour.
The combination of the double, the lead and N's play to the first trick makes it virtually certain that S started with four diamonds to the King.  S's shape looks like being 0-5-4-4 or
Now count your losers.  You are certain to lose a diamond so you must try to only lose two trump tricks.  You wish you'd played a high diamond from dummy at trick one but you didn't.
If N has all the outstanding trumps, you need two entries to dummy so as to finesse the J♠ twice.  If S has the singleton J♠ then that will be a shame.  To get the extra entry to dummy, lead the K♣ and overtake with the Ace.
If you've cashed the K♣ then you've made life difficult for yourself; you only have one entry to dummy - the A  - so can no longer cope with a 4-0 spade break.
Now you must hope spades are 3-1 and that S has an honour.  It's only a one in three chance it's the Jack so lead a small spade from hand hope S has a singleton Ace or King.

Last updated : 25th Mar 2018 17:48 BST
  Helping partner

Hand 22 Tue eve 17 October 2017

West is an international player.
What do you do now?

You have three choices:  Pass, Double or 5 .
I chose the wrong one by bidding 5 .  I spent 20 hours regretting my choice until I showed the hand to three strong players from other clubs.  They also all chose 5 as you don't appear to have much defence.  When they saw South's hand they immediately suggested how the auction should have gone - accepting the 1 rather than a weak two opener.
Can you say what should have happened?

Here's the suggested auction.

   E        S        W        N
  Pass   1      2NT     3♠ 
  Pass   4      4NT    Pass
   5♣    dble

Now N knows that S has some defence and will not bid 5H.  N should probably double 5 should W bid it.

Last updated : 11th Mar 2018 16:42 GMT
  Partnership co-operation

Hand 29 Mon eve 11 Sep 2017.

2NT = 20-21pts
W leads the 10♠ to your Queen which holds.  You return a spade to declarer's Jack and W's King.
W leads the 9♠ . What do you discard?

A diamond might be correct but dummy's holding suggests otherwise.
So how do you decide between a heart or a club?
Dummy has more clubs than hearts so it seems likely that declarer has four hearts so you'd best keep your hearts.
But wait a minute.  Partner looks certain to hold five spades so he knew when he led the 9♠ that declarer by then only held the A♠ .
Hence he had the opportunity to indicate a suit preference.  By leading his highest remaining spade he's suggesting he has a heart entry.
Therefore you should discard a heart.
You can use the "Play it again" feature to see that declarer can still make his contract but I doubt many players would find the required line of play.

Finally, I have written this from East's viewpoint.  Do look at it as West.  At trick 3, would you have thought to signal to partner?  This does require the partnership to agree that you will use signalling rather than simply leading your highest remaining card as a matter of course.

Last updated : 27th Feb 2018 20:18 GMT

Hand 17 Wed aft 23 August 2017.

You lead the 7 , partner plays the 10 and declarer wins with the King.   He leads a heart which partner wins with the Ace.
Partner now leads the 5 covered by declarer's Q .
How do you defend and why?

What actually happened.
East took the A and led another diamond.  Declarer now rattled off eleven tricks for a joint top.

East should have considered the bidding. Why did North choose 3NT when his partner is showing at least nine, probably ten cards in the black suits? The answer must be that he has mostly red cards (at this stage you don't know North should have bid 4♠ ). 
When opponents play in 3NT having shown a misfit you should always consider
a) cutting declarer's communications
b) having cut them, locking declarer into one of the hands.

Here, communications have been cut to declarer's hand so you should lock him in dummy by leading a black card.
You will now reap the reward from opponents being in the wrong contract.

Last updated : 10th Feb 2018 12:54 GMT
  The value of counting

Hand 28 Mon eve 21 August 2017.

S leads the five of hearts to N's King. You duck this, the next round and take your Ace on the third.  N follows and you're virtually certain S led from a five card suit.
You cash the AK of diamonds and N discards a low spade on the second one.
Plan the play.
What can you deduce from the bidding and the play so far regarding the NS holdings?

S started with five hearts and four diamonds hence he can only have four black cards.
N didn't overcall in spades so is unlikely to hold six of them.  So, N is virtually certain to hold at least four clubs.
You expect most pairs will be in 3NT and you can now count a safe nine tricks; one heart, three clubs and five diamonds.
Should you look for an overtrick and risk going off if S has the Ace of spades and keeps his remaining two hearts?
If this were teams you should take your nine tricks.

But this is pairs.
The chances are that S only has one spade and three clubs.  Hence the odds are heavily stacked in favour of N holding the Ace of spades.
Also most of us like the satisfaction of a squeeze and N looks a good candidate to be on the receiving end of one.
So, how about cashing the Ace of clubs and then the King.  Rather than cash the Queen, take the marked diamond finesse and cash your remaining diamonds.
To retain his four clubs N can only keep one spade. 
A satisfying squeeze.  At least it would have been if I hadn't settled for nine tricks!

Last updated : 25th Jan 2018 15:10 GMT
  One that got away. Part 1

Hand 15 Wed aft 16 Aug 2017.

A hand that defeated most declarers.
The bidding shown was at my table.
The 2NT was the unusual NT showing at least 5-5 in the minors.
$NT was RKC Blackwood and 5 showed one "Ace".

West lead the Jack of clubs, East played the six.
Plan the play.
Once you've made your plan, look at the answer and then go on to part 2 as more information will emerge as you play to tricks 2 & 3.

Firstly, did you decide whether you should aim for 12 or 13 tricks?
I would suggest you should secure your contract as there are likely to be several pairs who aren't in a slam.
Further, anyone in 6NT is likely to fail.

So, did you do what happened at my table and what I suspect happened at many other tables?
Declarer took the Ace of clubs, drew trumps and then looked to set up the spade suit.  He made the first eleven tricks but was left with two losing clubs.

The simplest way to ensure twelve tricks is to lead a club at trick two and ruff a club in dummy.

Now plan how to make 13 tricks bearing in mind the bidding.
Once you've thought of a plausible line of play go on to Part 2.

Last updated : 13th Jan 2018 10:07 GMT
  One that got away. Part 2

Hand 15 Wed aft 16 Aug 2017.

So, you're trying for 13 tricks.
Take the Ace of clubs.  Lead a heart to your Ace (in case W started with four when you can finesse him) and find both E & W follow.  Cash the Queen of hearts on which East discards a low club.
Over to you.

Don't draw the last trump but lead a spade to the Ace as you know East can't now ruff.  As expected, East follows to two rounds of spades.
East is marked with 5-5 in the minors.
You now have enough entries to set up the spades as you have the extra entry of the King of hearts.

Last updated : 12th Jan 2018 15:46 GMT
  Save the last hand for me

It's your last hand of the year.  
You were lying a close second at the end of the penultimate round and you've just scored 60% on the first two boards.
You've reached a good contract.  Ten tricks look very likely so all you've got to do is to make it!

W leads J .  You take the finesse, which loses. E returns 3 which you win in dummy.You've two Aces to lose so mustn't lose another trick.
You lead a spade to your Jack and W playes the 10♠ .  This has all the hallmarks of being a singleton.  You cash the A and lead a heart to E's K .
E exits with a trump and W discards a diamond.  You ruff a heart and draw trumps.  

Don't worry if you haven't followed the above.  You're down to a four card ending where you hold only clubs.
You lay down the Ace, W plays the 10 and E the 2.
So, are clubs 4-1 or 3-2?  How do you play?

Unless W has had a brainstorm or is trying to be too clever by half, you now have a guarantee way of making.
Nobody made the contract.  A short pause to think and the way to play should occur to you.
If the split is 3-2 then cashing out will work.
If they're 4-1 would W have played the 10 from J-10-x-x thereby potentially sacrificing a certain trick?
So, simply lead low from hand towards the Q♣ . If West shows out you now have a marked finesse against East.

Nobody made 4♠ !  Presumeably all declarers played the Ace and then the King of clubs.  A top rather than 50% was the difference between winning and coming second.
Ah well.  There's always next year.

Last updated : 30th Dec 2017 14:30 GMT
  Is your brain as sharp as your scissors?

Hand 14 Tue eve 8 August 2017.

You lead the 10 , the Q is played from dummy, partner plays the Jack and declarer the 4.
a diamond is led from dummy to declarer's Ace, partner following suit.  Declarer leads a diamond, you play the King, dummy the 10 and partner discards a small club.
Regardless of whatever discarding system you use, you deduce partner is simply throwing away a card he doesn't want.

What do you lead now?

What actually happened.
East led the J♠ and declarer now made nine tricks.
He went up with the Ace, cashed the Q , crossed to hand with the A .

What did you do?
N must have the AK of hearts and is known to have started with six diamonds to the Ace 9.
If he holds the K♠ or the K 10♣ then there's nothing you can do. If he doesn't, then his only entry to hand will be via a heart.  Before being able to run the diamonds he must unblock the Q .  So your best bet is to lead a heart.  This cuts declarer's communications - hence the reference to scissors in the title.

Last updated : 22nd Dec 2017 18:06 GMT
  The order of play

Hand 10 Mon eve 31 July 2017.
Not a bidding sequence to be proud of.  To make the hand interesting trying playing it as 6 which was a common contract.
Assume the lead is the J♠ .

Usually one looks to draw trumps before tackling a side suit.
Here however, your analysis should lead you to a different approach.
You can see the potential for two losers, one heart and one diamond.
You're unsure how to tackle the hearts although playing for the drop looks enticing as all it requires is a 3-2 heart break.
You should then realise that unless you're going to play for a singleton King of diamonds, you will have to take the diamond finesse.
So, take the diamond finesse immediately!  (If it's ruffed then your chances of dropping the J improve).
If it holds, which it does, switch to hearts at trick 3 as the chances of a 3-1 diamond break are too great to ignore.

Now, how are you going to play the heart suit?
Stop and think.  To make your contract you can now afford to lose one trump trick.  You should note that anyone in 6NT will will now have a laydown 13 tricks.  It must be likely that several pairs won't be in a slam so your priority should now be to ensure your contract if you can.  You can't survive a 6-0 break where East has all six, but what about a 5-1 break?
You study the pips carefully and note with relief that dummy's singleton is the nine.  Hence you should run the nine.  Now the defence can only score one trick.

If this were teams then this is definitely the way you should play the hand.

My thanks to one of my readers for suggesting I include this hand.

Last updated : 7th Dec 2017 17:56 GMT
  I didn't want to lose a trick partner!

Hand 3 Wed aft 26 July 2017.

You lead the 7 to the Ace, 5 and declarer's 2.
10♠ led from dummy, S's Q, declarer's K and you win with the Ace.
How do you defend?

Obviously you want to make your King of hearts so which of the other suits did you choose?
Thus thought I and several others.  We didn't lead a heart.

I regretted my stupidity.  Declarer is trying for a spade ruff.  Partner's play of the Q♠ indicates he hasn't got the Jack so a lead of the K can't cost.  (Better to lead the King rather than the nine as partner must have 2 or 3 hearts and if he has J-x-x he will make a trick in hearts even though you've led the King).  You've prevented a ruff even if you've led into declarer's AQ.  As it turns out, partner has the Ace.

Last updated : 30th Nov 2017 17:42 GMT
  Covering an honour with an honour

Hand 27 Tue eve 18 July 2017

North leads the2♣ .  This is clearly a singleton so you win with the Ace and return a small club.
N ruffs with the 9 and leads the 5 .  Declarer wins with the Ace in dummy and leads the Q .
Do you cover? 

What actually happened.

South played the King of hearts and felt somewhat uncomfortable to see North overtake it with the Ace.
I expect you played low but was this because I've used the hand as a problem, so you stopped to think?
Defence is reckoned to be the most difficult part of the game and I think this hand provides useful pointers for less experienced players who wish to improve.

1. From West's bidding you know he is at least 5-4 in hearts and clubs.
2. Once partner leads the 2♣ , you can count him for a singleton and West with exactly four.
3. Partner's ruff with the 9 means this is either his only heart or he has one more which is higher than the nine.
4. Now consider what you can gain by covering the Q .  You would cover an honour with an honour if you felt there was a chance of promoting a winner in partner's hand.  As partner can only have a maximum of one more heart you cannot possibly gain by covering.  Hence you do not cover.

Last updated : 9th Nov 2017 17:31 GMT

Hand 26 Wednesday afternoon 5 July 2017.

I have had two instances reported to me recently where declarer felt he was misinformed by an opponent.
See what you think.

The contract is 6NT by North with no opposition bidding.
East leads 10♣ and West plays the 6♣ .
You cash the King of clubs and West discards the5 .  You ask East what discard system they're using and he replies "Odds and evens with evens encouraging".
Plan the play.
Assuming you run your clubs, West's six discards will be two spades, two hearts and two diamonds.  East three discards will be one heart and two diamonds.

Seeing the 5 discard, declarer took this as discouraging diamonds and so took the heart finesse and went one off.
He felt he had been misled.  Do you agree?

I do not think so.
1. Against a slam, West is unlikely to think East will gain the lead so why bother to sigmal?
2. He may only have "odd" diamond cards.
3. At any time an opponent is allowed to false card.
4. Sometimes you simply want to throw something away, regardless of whether it's odd or even.

I am no fan of "odds and evens" discards.  When I make my first discard I'm conscious of partner watching this like a hawk and basing his defence on this regardless of other considerations.

Regarding this particular hand I offer no guaranteed way of playing it to ensure success.  If the contract had been 6♣ then East's failure to start with the Ace of diamonds would incline me to lead towards the King of diamonds after cashing most of the clubs.  I would only pay attention to discards by counting the number in each suit.

Last updated : 29th Oct 2017 12:20 GMT
  Could you have helped win the NICKO?

A hand form the NICKO final won by the Tunbridge Wells A team.

The contract is 3NT by South.  East leads the 8 .  Plan the play.

Where do you expect nine tricks to come from?
Four spades, two hearts, hopefully four diamonds and at least one club.  Could anyting go wrong?
So, did you play the Ace of hearts at trick one or let it run round to your Queen?

Your analysis should be that nine tricks are cold provided you only lose one diamond trick.
At the other table, declarer played low and East's King won. He switched to a club and now declarer had to lose three clubs and the two red Kings.
Espen Erichsen played the Ace at trick one and immediately tackled diamonds.  Nine tricks were duly made.  +13imps to the TW team.

Last updated : 17th Oct 2017 15:17 BST
  How many finesses to take?

Board 12 Wed aft 5 July 2017

South leads the 6 and North follows with the 7 .
Plan the play.
Particular questions to consider:
1. What is S's likely diamond holding and how will you play the suit if N obtains the lead and leads a diamond?
2. How will you play the heart and club suits?

The contract doesn't look straightforwad so concentrate on simply making it.
The lead looks like 4th highest.  If so, N started with two cards higher than the six.  You've seen the seven.  Unless N is falsecarding it would seem his seven is his lowest diamond, hence he started with a doubleton.
You'd love to lead hearts towards dummy but have you spotted the difficulty?  Your only certain entry to hand is the Q♠ .  If you use this at trick two, and the hearts are badly placed you could well be cut off from hand and unable to cash heart tricks.

So, do you actually need the heart finesse?  No you don't!  Simply lead a heart from dummy at trick two.  Now provided the heart honours are split you will come to nine tricks even if S switches to a club.  3 spades tricks, 3 hearts, 2 diamonds and 1 club.  I daresay you might be able to construct a distribution where 3NT will fail but if S has 6 diamonds then N/S will find it difficult to garner 5 tricks before you have 9.

So the answer to the original question is "Don't take any finesses".

Last updated : 14th Oct 2017 11:35 BST
  Does your system cope??

Hand 14 Tue eve 28 June 2017.

So, what do you bid now?
4NT is RKC Blackwood.  You've got 5 of the top "Aces" and the Queen of trumps!

When you look at both hands, think how you would bid them.

Finally, to see how Helen and Espen Erichsen would bid them, look at the Answer.

  East          West
   2♣             4NT
   5♣              7 

2♣ Standard Acol, forcing to game.
4NT is basic Blackwood  ie. no. of aces.
5♣   shows 0 or 4

Last updated : 3rd Oct 2017 20:36 BST