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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 3 - June 11 Game

Although 4 Hearts and 4 Spades both make for the North – South duo, I think N-S should be in the 4 Spade game. Here’s how (and why) to get there.

After passes by South and West, North opens 2 Notrump on this 20 HCP balanced hand. As to South’s response, my recommendation having a four-card and a five-card major is to always use Stayman. Doing so guarantees to partner that you have at least one major of exactly four cards in length. If you later bid the other major on your own, you have then succeeded in showing partner your exact 5-4 or 4-5 distribution in the majors. And remember, it’s better to seek a 4-4 major fit than to demand a bid of what could be a 5-2 fit if you immediately employ a Jacoby transfer. There’s usually time enough to show that five-card suit later (and if you've already found a 4-4 fit you don't need to)!!

So South’s recommended response is 2 Clubs which will elicit a 2 Spade bid by North, at which point South should carry on to game in Spades. The only thing that declarer needs to take some care with is to quickly cash the two top Clubs while pitching a losing Diamond on the second Club. That guarantees that Diamond losers are held to no more than two.

Board 6 - June 4 Game

I’m always on your case about failing to bid enough, so let’s examine a hand in which almost everyone bid too much.

After passes by East and South, West will no doubt open this very nice hand 1 Club. East will (at least, should) respond 1 Spade so as not to deny the four-card major, weak as it is. West has 19 HCP and the most descriptive bid would be 2 Notrump – not 3!  And, no, 2NT is not a forcing bid. While East’s original bid could be virtually unlimited,  East should resist any urge to bid again. East’s hand simply does not improve after hearing partner’s jump in Notrump. So the correct call of “Pass” completes the picture of a 6-9 point hand.

As it is, the East-West duo will be lucky to make 2 Notrump. Neither the queen of Clubs nor the 10 of Diamonds drops. So on the lead of the jack of Spades (my choice), defenders will likely come to 3 Spade tricks, 2 Heart tricks, and at least 1 trick in one or the other of the minors. There’s no shame in being Down 1 in 2 Notrump on this hand, by do try not to be Down 2 in 3 Notrump on similar  hands in future.

Board 6 - May 28 Game

Bidding in the minor suits can be awash with difficulty. Do you ultimately belong in a minor game, or do you belong in 3 Notrump? And all of that is greatly influenced by the conventions which you play (or don’t).

South must open 1 Club and North doesn’t really have a good forcing bid, yet knows full well that the partnership belongs at least in game. But which one?

For those who play Inverted Minors, a bid by North of 2 Clubs is absolutely forcing and allows Partner to begin showing stoppers. But if you don’t play Inverted Minors, I think that 3 Notrump is the bid. Yes, it’s a slight underbid (technically showing only 13-15), but it’s the best you can do. And 3 Notrump should make 4 and perhaps can make 5.

The response NOT to make is 3 Clubs. For those playing Inverted Minors it’s a weak, preemptive bid. And for those playing good ol’ Standard American it’s invitational. But don’t invite Partner to game when you already should know from your own point count that game is at hand. Force Partner to game or, as in this case, bid it yourself.

Board 10 - May 7 Game

Let’s review what a “loser” is in context of this hand. A loser is any ace, king or queen that you and dummy are missing in the combined holding of any suit. So there are three potential losers in each suit – BUT – losers are also limited to the MINIMUM number of cards in the suit between you and dummy. So if you have a singleton in either dummy or in hand, for example, you have no more than one loser in that suit. If there’s a doubleton either in hand or on the board then you have no more than two losers. Otherwise it's a maximum of three in each suit.

Now let’s talk preempts. I’m opening the East hand with a bid of 3 Clubs even though vulnerable. Count the losers. NONE in spades, two in Hearts (AQ), two in Diamonds (AK), and one in Clubs (K). So that’s Down 1 IF I contract for nine tricks by bidding 3 Clubs. If I fail to do so, opponents find an easy and makeable Spade game and, once they start bidding, they’re going to outbid any attempted Club overcall. Too late!

"East's hand is too strong," you say? Perhaps, and I know there''ll be disagreement on this point. But vulnerable, your bid will tell partner that you have seven guaranteed tricks in your hand (within 2 tricks of your bid). So if West had a better hand, they could simply add their guaranteed tricks to yours and bid accordingly. 3 Clubs is the most descriptive bid you can make and, if partner is paying attention, risks missing nothing.

“Losing Trick Count,” as it is called, is sometimes handy in deciding how high (or whether) to preempt. But it’s also vital for declarers in suit contracts in order to make an initial assessment – or PLAN – on how to play each hand. Step One is to remind yourself how many losers you can afford, Step Two is to count those losers using the Losing Trick Count method, and Step Three is to either take the tricks you need or figure out a way to rid yourself of extra losers. All of this is in line with my pet theme begun last week – THINK before you play.