The Wachusett Bridge Club

FEB 26


Hand of the Week

This page will hold a collection of instructive hands played at the Club or hands about which you have asked questions.  So feel free to ask about a specific hand from each week's game and one will be chosen for inclusion here.

Board 20 - February 19 Game

Sometimes even the most mundane hands will reach up and bite us. Here’s one where North players need to remember all of the requirements for a vulnerable overcall.

Most Wests will open 1 Spade and the question is what is North to do? My opinion – PASS! While North marginally has the points for an overcall, having a good suit in which to overcall is just as important – especially when vulnerable. And in bridge, a “good” suit is specifically defined as having two of the top three or three of the top five cards in that suit. So North is not only borderline on the opening point count, but doesn't even hold the semblance of a good Club suit.

If North overcalls 2 Clubs the result is disastrous. If North simply passes, now the disaster might just be passed along to an unsuspecting East-West pair. It is East who should be bidding 2 Clubs – a two-level bid to show more than 10 points, and the Club suit because that’s what East has in abundance (and good ones, at that). But that’s an absolutely forcing bid and West’s only recourse would seem to be an attempted signoff at 2 Notrump. That doesn’t make against careful defense, nor does anything else into which the E-W pair may wander with the exception of 3 Diamonds. And honestly, I do not see any reasonable path toward actually arriving at that contract.

If I were North and non-vulnerable against vulnerable opponents, I would be overcalling 2 Clubs with this hand all day long. Semi-garbage overcalls with favorable vulnerability can often work to your advantage in duplicate bridge. But in the actual case the vulnerablility is not favorable so the lessons of the day are: (1) pay attention to vulnerablility, and; (2) make vulnerable overcalls only with legitimately “good” suits. The alternative is explaining to partner why you’re down several hundred.

Board 7 - February 12 Game

Most of you know that I am loathe to highlight slam hands simply because there are so many varied systems for properly reaching the six- or seven-level. But I couldn’t resist this one simply because it highlights the importance of precisely valuing your hand from the outset.

South opens 1 Heart with a 16 – not 15 – point hand due to the 5th Heart. And a 16 point hand is NOT a minimum opener. That distinction ends with 15 total points on the high side.

North can safely bid 1 Spade at this point which, as a non-passed hand, is an absolutely forcing bid. Note that North probably shouldn’t consider 2 Spades at this juncture even if you play strong jump shifts (few do these days), for that would also typically promise a 6+ card Spade suit.

Here’s where South’s accurate hand valuation comes in. With an intermediate range opener, South can legitimately jump shift to 3 Clubs and the rest, as they say, ought to be history. If North is capable of addition, North realizes that the partnership has at least 33 points and that a Blackwood call is appropriate. Finding the partnership with all four aces and three kings, a 6 Notrump contract is the place to be.

If South fails to understand that their opener represents more than a minimum hand, the partnership can flounder around with all sorts of possibilities of conventional calls, and maybe or maybe not reach slam. But isn’t simpler better?

Board 5 - February 5 Game

Let’s highlight the basics of another convention: New Minor Forcing. East is opening this hand 1 Club and West should immediately understand that the partnership belongs in game, but which one?

West’s first response should be 1 Heart. Don’t get confused about the bidding of your two five-card suits – bid two  four-card major suits “up the line,” but two five-card major suits as higher-ranking first. And when one is a major and one is a minor as is the case here, the major ALWAYS gets bid first.

When East responds 1 Notrump as I suspect might be the case, a bid by West of the unbid minor – Diamonds – begins the convention known as New Minor Forcing. It promises game-going values and asks two questions in this order: (1) does East have three-card support for my suit (Hearts), or failing that; (2) does East have four cards in the other major? East's response is 2 Hearts confirming three-card support, and game is afoot.

This is a great way to find the 5-3 Heart fit, and with other hands is very often a good way to navigate between a contract which belongs in a major versus one that belongs in Notrump.

The only tricky part of this convention is remembering that you play it. In the case of this hand, being left in Diamonds results in a below average board but certainly not a disaster. But in many cases those who play this convention will invoke a bid in the new minor having only a couple – the intent is never to play in that minor itself but rather, to ask partner the questions shown above.