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Hands of The Month
If you have any interesting hands that you would like to share, they may be hands you saw, read about or actually played, please get in touch and we can post them here.


Heart Ache!!

This hand was played in a Thursday duplicate on 2/11/17 and it was unsusual in the fact that every players first suit bid was the same suit - ''s'

The opening bid was a 'weak two' showing a 6 card suit (maybe the purists would not open a weak 2 when also holding 4 spades?); souths double is for take out; Wests bid was natural (a raise to 4  or even 5!! woud have made life harder for the opposition); North with a hand that is powerful enough to suggest at least game values and with 2 places to play plus the void in 's chose the not unreasonable cue bid of 4; after East passed South with a strong hand for the initial double & excellent support for all 3 suits, and after some deliberation decided to show slam interest by bidding 5 and suggesting to North to pick the slam (or maybe even go for the grand with the right hand!!); after Wests pass North deliberated and as it was 'Pairs' chose the very reasonable option to go for the 'higher scoring' ♠ slam in lieu the ♣ slam 

So there you have it everybodys first suit bid in this auction was HEARTS!! Allowing N/S to reach this excellent slam.....but was it?

Unfortunately the tale does not have a happy ending for N/S as the play went;   lead ruffed in hand by North; followed by a finesse of dummys ♠Q (correct play) which lost to dummys singleton ♠K and now the 'heartache' follows as declarer cannot avoid a second loser in trumps.

Unfortunately with the diamond finesse being right, no matter how you play the spades the club slam will always make 12 tricks. The question is....after the same auction upto south's 5 bid follwed by Wests pass...can you find a bid from North now that would suggest South to choose the slam and thereby find 6C without North guessing?

 

What about 5NT? What can this possibly mean?

Now if South chooses 6's North can convert to spades or if South chooses 6♣'s (which in this case he will) North can pass

Positively a Negative Double Partner

This is an unusual bidding situation that does not come up very often. It occurred in a recent Sakar Cup match which is a local Knock Out Teams of 4 competition. Sitting East and playing ACOL with 4 card majors, everybody is vulnerable.you open 1 Heart after North has passed, then you hear the auction go, 2 clubs by South, Double by partner (Take Out and promising spades), pass by North, back round to you. What is your next bid?............ Nb. It is better to NOT look at all four hands until you have read the answer!

Even though this is only an 11 count, I think most red blooded bridge players will be opening this hand in the East position, but having done so you need to now asses your options over partners take out/negative double. Partner's double promises 4 spades, he will not have 4 hearts on this auction and is almost certainly to be short in clubs. Therefore he is likely to have a two suited hand with spades and diamonds; S xxxx, H xx(x) D xxxxx C x(x) being a most likely distribution or even a singleton heart and 3 clubs with 5 diamonds, (yes S xxxx H xx(x) D xxxx C xx(x) is also a possibility) . If he had 5 spades he would definitely have bid them unless he was 5 - 5, in which case a double would probably be the best bid. So having worked out that partner is more likely to hold 5 diamonds, rather than 3 hearts you can bid 2 diamonds knowing that even if partner has only 4 diamonds, then the 4-3 fit with shortage in partners other suit will still probably offer several play possibilities.

However you have been given another option now................how about pass?

Partner knows we are vulnerable and is making a '2 level' take out double, so does not rate to have a minimum holding, he may be expecting a few more points yes, but he will also realise that you must be short in spades and must have a decent club holding (ok I would have been more confident with the club suit being a little stronger and with more solidity sat under the club overcall, but we cant have everything). So even if partner has an opening bid, game our way is going to be tricky or even not making at all, in which case 2 clubs must be 'going for a few' (we are not likely to be missing a slam with these cards, are we??) On the other hand if partner is minimum and the best we can make is a part score, then 2 clubs is still going to be a struggle and may even be a 'misfit' for the defence. The other likely occurrence after a pass is that South will work out what is happening and may even offer 2 spades as an alternative contract for their side...... West will surely be doubling this for penalties now unless his double was made on anything but the minimum of hands.

So PASS was the bid and after 'the dust settled' 800 rolled in after 3 down for declarer. Yes 3NT and 4 Hearts can make on the above distribution, but the fortunate heart layout makes this easier than it may have been on other more likely layouts. The other table played in 4 hearts for 620, a swing of 180 for your side and a gain of 5 imps, which went toward an eventual win for our side A team incidentally which is made up of predominently Wigan memebers.

Yes it is questionable if South should be making a vulnerable overcall on those cards, but we were playing against a team from Bolton and they have not had the advantage of some expert teaching on overcalls that is given by the Wigan Club!!

 

 

TRICK'y ONE

This is an actual hand played in the East Lanc's Bridge League. You are vulnerable as South and take an optomistic view (rightly or wrongly) of this 17 points and go for the game. 

Westt leads a small diamond and you now have to make 10 tricks from what appears to be a hopeless situation, or is it?

What are your thoughts and how do you plan to play the hand?

 

Yes the contract now looks very over optomistic when you see dummy. But the trick target is still 10 and if there is any slight opportunity to salvage a game bonus it must be taken.

So lets consider the hand:-

Wesst has doubled, and there are a total of 16 points missing. Your KX holding in the Spade suit looks doomed you have a definite diamond loser now after this lead, but If the clubs behave (unlikely but we must play for them to be 3-3 to stand any chance) and if East started with KJX in hearts you may be able to bring the contract home, via a double finese in hearts... By way of; 4 Heart Tricks; 1 Diamond Trick; 4 Club tricks, if  'the weather stays fine' and clubs are 3-3, and 1 diamond ruff in dummy.  Yes we may be clutching at straws, but sometimes the situation demands it..........Does all that sound good!!

But wait a minute have we thought this all through sufficiently?

That lead of a small daimond is giving you a problem, or at least it should be!!.

If West had started with KQXX(X) in diamonds, would he have led a small one? Probably not. Therefore East must now be holding a diamond honour and cant possibly hold the KJX in hearts as well. Otherwise West has doubled with a 9 or 10 count.............. So its back to the drawing board.

 

What are the possible combinations for the missing honours in the red suits?

If West has led from the QD then East holds the KD and could possibly hold the JH, giving West 12 points for his double. Alternatively East may hold the QD and possibly the JH, giving West a 13 count for his double. However East may just have started with the KH and QD, giving West the possiblity of having doubled with an 11 count. All in all we cannot plan our play until we know the layout of the red suits. But how can we discover the layout?..............

There is a simple answer..................PLAY LOW AT TRICK 1........

.........and if East plays the QD then you must 'flip a coin' and decide if his heart holding is either KXXX or JXXX; either way you are hoping for a singleton honour with West. Alternatively if he plays the KD, you will play for a singleton KH with West with a little more certainty. You just have enough entries into dummy via the AD a diamond ruff and the QC to take all the other heart fineses required.

 

In reality East played the King Diamond at trick one, a diamond return put you back in dummy at trick 2 (best return for the defence as a small spade may give you time to set up the Jack of Spades for a club discard. Nb it may look that a spade to the King then a spade to the Jack may work for a club discard now. But this will not help if Diamonds are continued each time, as you may be able to ruff twice in dummy, but will now be unable to pick up the Jack of Hearts with East). So without batting an eyelid you play a small trump from dummy inserting the Ace from hand and dropping Wests singelton King. All at the same time as giving a wry smile in Wests direction and noticing the already puzzled look on his face, wondering how you mangaed to see his cards when he was holding them under the table and out of view all the time!!

Unfortunatley the clubs did not break 3-3, but what a good shot you gave it?

 

Mission Impossible
Mission Impossible Watching some friends play bridge I noticed this hand, which made 10 tricks as a part score in spades by North/South. Without giving it much thought or discussion they went onto the next hand. However, spectating I could see that this was quite an unusual hand. 10 tricks is cold in Spades, but game cant be bid or can it?

The actual bidding at the table is shown and nobody seems to have made any real error of judgement (or have they?), how would you have bid if you are playing SAYC, which is essentially a 5 card major system, 15-17 strong NT, with weak 2's in 3 suits and minor suit openings could be 3 cards, rest of the system immaterial.

Because you are playing weak twos, you may miss a game in hearts (if one exists) if you open a weak 2 spades. Opening 3 spades for the same reason, may also be undesirable. A 1 spade opener probably works better, but it does not conform to the guidance of the rule of 19 and although the hand is essentially a 6 loser hand the poor spade suit may or may not work well in offence. So in the end, you are steered away from all opening bids and you not unreasonably pass in the dealer seat.

Left hand opponent passes and partner opens 1 club. Now what are your options? 

Partners opening does nothing to increase the value of your hand, and it has the added hurdle that it is now a third in hand opening and as we know, responses (unless they are obviously forcing) may be passed now. 

So what can you bid? 1 spade and cross your fingers, that opener will not pass or bid 2 spades which implies a game try in spades, but based on club support? This may work better, but may be a disaster in game if partner bids on expecting HCP's in clubs. Either way neither of these bids will be 100% forcing because of our original pass. We cannot bid 3 spade, this sounds like some type of splinter or control showing bid agreeing clubs and asking partner to decide where to play and finally 4 spades is just a 'unilateral decision' which could work or could be an outright disaster (also playing with an inexperienced partner, it could also invite further problems).

So unless we have some 100% forcing bid agreement showing this type or similar hand, then I am afraid you are 'fixed'


If you did not come up with an answer, don't worry. Not only did the players at the time, miss out, but I gave the hand to 6 expert players and even they could not agree on a solution!!

All six initially agreed that dealer should pass and all agreed with the 3rd in hand opening, playing a strong no trump, should be 1 club. Although one of the experts, obviously not a fan of 15-17 NT openers, commented 'why on earth should anyone want to play a strong NT?' (does he have a point?)

So having all agreed on the bidding so far, it now comes back round to dealer. Now the options offered were; 3 experts suggested 1 spade, 2 reluctantly, suggested 2 spades and 1 offered a full bloodied blast at 4 spades.

Further analysis and discussion ensued,which then had one of our experts changing his opening to 2 spades. But I think this needs a very understanding partner when you occasionally miss the 4 heart game.

So as you can see, 4 spades really does seem to be mission impossible or is it? Nobody offered the option or considered what may happen if North also passes. Look at all four hands and you will see that East with a miserable 12 point collection will probably pass out in 4th seat? Yes it has become mission impossible then.

*note: the hand is not necessarily unusual in shape (although we do not pick up 7420 shape hands every deal!), but the long spades + 4 hearts, combined with the fact that you will be bidding before partner, makes it a problem. If you are bidding after partner, then the problem is not as great.




We always call a spade - A SPADE
This interesting hand occurred in a recent Tuesday night duplicate event. The hand was held by Des King, partnering Mary Finch in opposition against Kath Yates and Beryl Duckworth. Before you look at all four hands, look up the answer first.

It is interesting in the fact, that it just goes to show, that the best bid, does not always produce the best result and, things do not always work out as planned.


So what should you bid with the West hand now? and what happened on the this particular table?

Before I tell you, lets us consider our options in view of the bidding so far;

West is weak in terms of HCP's but a powerful spade holding looks like almost seven sure tricks. Even opposite a singleton, in fact with a little luck a 3-3 break or J10 falling in 2 rounds, if the King of diamonds is an entry, we may still enjoy seven tricks in the suit even opposite a void!!

What about partner? Well we are playing 5 card majors (is that relevant?) and so partner is likely to have a doubleton at the very most and with our style of NT response, 1NT rates to be limited to around 6- 9 pts, If it is only 6 points, and that 6 points includes an Ace, and the Diamond Ace is right (which it rates to be, from the bidding), 9 tricks could easily roll in.

What about the South overcall. At this vulnerability it sounds as if the Ace of Diamonds is almost certainly right side and so the King of diamonds is pulling its full value!!

What about any additional source of tricks from partners hand? Unlikely but if there is they will be a bonus.

Playing pairs is a little awkward, as if no game is on we probably should be playing in the safer contract of spades, where we will have more control over the hand. .But if game is on, whatever number of tricks we are going to make it will be the same in NT's or Spades....if it was teams its all so easy.....just go for the game bonus and crash 3NT.

It would be an advantage for West obviously to be receiving the opening lead, but we cant have everything our own way, so using the odds as a guide and knowing we will be on almost 100% guaranteed top board if it rolled home, I opted for the full blown game contract of 3NT.


So in the words of that famous sporting quiz show ''what happened next''


Trick 1 South leads QD, ducked in dummy and holding the trick,

Trick 2 South continues JD and same thing (and now I fear the worse)

Trick 3 South plays another diamond and yes the worse fears are realised, North Wins the Ace

Trick 4 and the tension is now mounting. With beads of sweat rolling off Mary's face, and Des getting into his running shoes, ready to make a sharp exit, Kath is waiting with fingers crossed and her heart in her mouth (heart in her mouth!! is that not unauthorised information!!) Beryl, takes the next card out of her hand and places it on the and its..... and its a...... heart switch...... for 8 defensive tricks and 4 off for us!!!


Score sheet at the end of the night reveals every other pair played it in 2 spades making 8 or 9 tricks (it makes 9 if East starts with Ace of Diamonds!!! and therefore would also make 9 in no trumps played this way round on the same or small diamond lead aaaarrrrrggghhhhhhh!!!!)


For the rest of the night I can just imagine all the sniggers and comments 3nt? ..3NT??? is he mad??.....calls himself an expert??? Playing in NT's with all those spades, perhaps he should go and try John Gooch lessons!!!

Strong NT or Weak NT...Its all the same bid?
Playing online in a Teams match at the weekend, I dealt and picked up this rather innocuous looking hand. We was playing a Standard American Yellow Card System (SAYC) which is basically a 5 card major system with a strong 15 - 17 NT.

After further thought I considered my opening bid, 1 Heart? hmmmm what do I bid over a 1 Spade response from partner? 1 NT... well I suppose I have the shape, 2 Spades...with 3 card support also appears acceptable. Both of these bids cannot be faulted and each have a valid argument. However I think they both undervalue the strength of the hand.

So what is the solution?

I looked at this hand and decided, that a rebid of either 1NT or 2 Spades, although acceptable, would rather devalue the hand....It is an excellent 14pts. It has a 5 card suit, and excellent intermediates with three 10's. So I upgraded it a point, ignored the 5 card suit (wasn't a good suit anyway) and opened it with 1NT.

But afterwards I got to thinking, what would I have opened had I been playing a weak NT? I have to be honest and admit that, playing a weak NT, I may not have considered the rebid problem in the same way and blindly gone on and opened it,,,,yep you guessed it...THE SAME 1NT!!!

But maybe not now. So the next time I pick this or a similar hand up, especially if vulnerable at teams, I may elect to open 1 heart and rebid 1NT over a 1 spade response (showing 15/16 or 15-17 dependant on your preferred methods).

Oh yes...but what was the outcome I hear you cry...Well partner turned up with a 10 count and 9 tricks safely rolled in, whilst on the other table the opposition opened 1 Heart and ended up in a 1NT contract, making 10 tricks. Allowing me tease my team-mates, by asking them to explain how they allowed the extra trick!!!

*In the modern game it is becoming more acceptable to open 1NT, whatever your range, with a balanced hand including a 5 card major. If that is your style, you may wish to consider utilising puppet stayman.

To slam or not to slam....
In a recent club pairs this hand was played by Des King as South and Austin Barnes as North.

Before you look at all four hands, what do you suppose the final contract should be?

On the given auction, what would you bid now with the North hand, taking into consideration that West's 3 club bid is a weak jump overcall?

Would it make a difference if I told you that South holds a spade and the Ace and King of Diamonds?

We actually played in spades with South as declarer.....yes that's correct South was declarer in this auction playing the contract in spades?.....so how did that happen?

Austin actually bid 4NT's intended as Roman Key Card Blackwood and received the reply of 5 Spades (From the four Aces and the King of Hearts, 5 spades showed 2 controls plus the Queen of Hearts), which caused something of a problem. If the 2 controls are the Ace and King of Hearts then they are useless, as the defence will take at least the first two tricks with Ace of Diamonds and Ace of clubs. Even if they are the Ace of clubs and Ace of Hearts again the defence can possibly take the first 2 tricks with Ace and King of diamonds.

With South's opening of 1 Heart, North judged that the likely hood of two tricks off the top was too great and passed 5 spades. Had he known that the Ace and King of Diamonds was with South and he held a Spade, he would have bid 6 spades.....which as you can see goes off after West starts with the Ace of Clubs.

Interestingly on the night out of the eleven times the board was played, 4 pairs bid the spade slam (which is not unreasonable), 2 pairs stayed in 5 spades, 4 pairs played in 4 spades and one unlucky West who not unreasonably judged that 6 spades was probably making, sacrificed in 7 clubs doubled going 4 off for -800

Call Yourself an Expert?
This hand was played by our two allegedly 'club experts' Mike Nicholson in the North seat and Des King in the South seat, representing Bolton V's Poulton in a recent Fylde League Teams of 8 match. Surprisingly enough on the night, not a single pair found the right slam.


So how would you bid this hand with your favourite partner?

In the sequence above playing a weak NT, South deals and opts to open (you may not agree!) a border line 1NT (we all know Des has an unusual habit of over valuing his 2's and 3's). West comes in with 2 and North bids 3* staymanic. With no 4 card major South bids 3NT and North shows his strength with 4* big hand.

What would you do now on the South hand?
With the worst ever 1NT opening 4333 in a horrible 12 count. Knowing that North who is probably 4441 or even 5440 (or possibly a huge 2 suiter with a Heart control), and could easily hold a 5 card spade suit, South decides, to 'pass the buck' and make the cheapest bid available of 4 which, having already denied a four card spade suit, this must be a good 3 card suit (but perhaps also implies a 4 card heart suit). Do you agree?

So North now, because of his 'chicken partner' has to make the vital decision? What is Norths best action now?

Mike at the table, elected to punish his 'little chicken, buck passing partner' and take a 'punt' on the moysian fit and bid 6, which goes off with the AH lead and not surprisingly the spades were found to be 4-2. 


So what was Norths best action now after 4?

This hand, like all the best bridge hands, was played expertly well by all the participants in the bar afterwards!(Which threw up 3 different opening bids by South, including pass). It was decided that on the above sequence 5, after South's 'chicken' 4 is the best option.....With no suit yet agreed this must now mean....pick a Minor Suit Slam?

Who found the winning bid?

Well on the night it was Mike Nicholson in the bar, about 90 minutes too late!

Don't forget to tease Mike and Des on their expert slam bidding the next time you see them!!

Good news and a happy ending for once. Mike and Des helped the Bolton Team to a 15 - 5 vp victory on the night. So 'alls well that ends well'

Plan The Play


HAPPY ENDING?


West / Game All




North



4 3 



9 6 5



A J 6 4


 

A Q J 10


West

Description: I

East

              


South



A K 2



J 10 8 7 3



  9 2



  K 8 7


West

North

East

South

Pass

1D

Pass

1H

Pass

1NT

Pass

2C*

Pass

2H**

Pass

4H***




 *Checkback (essentially a major suit enquiry)

**3 card support

***It’s teams and vulnerable & a limp 3H bid would only assists the defence!



Playing Teams, online, using a Strong No Trump and 5 card majors. You end up in a not unreasonably bid 4H contract.


However after the opening lead of a small diamond, things look pretty hopeless and you wished you had gone for the easier 9 trick No Trump game.


Can you see any reasonable line of play to make 10 tricks after the Diamond lead?

 



After careful consideration, I decided there was only one reasonable line. If I could run 4 rounds of Clubs (and hope to find them split 3-3) for a losing diamond discard and hope that either defender holds any AK; AQ;or KQ doubleton combination in trumps (therefore the other must hold any HXX combination).  I should scramble home for10 tricks.


Knowing that the most likely distribution in Clubs is 4-2, it may still make on a defensive error, if East has the doubleton Club. How? …..If I can convince east that I also have a doubleton Club, he may be reluctant to ruff thinking he is going to be over ruffed (this would also work if East started with any combination of a 3 card trump holding).  Therefore I would now ruff a spade on table and still be able to discard my losing diamond on the winning Club!!


So combining both chances, I took trick 1 with the Ace of Diamonds; Playing a Spade to the Ace in hand at trick 2; I then played a Club from hand at trick 3 and took a (seemingly)  successful finesse of the Queen!!; Now after the Ace of Clubs at trick 4, the stage was set.  At trick 5 I played a small Club from table - Would the Clubs break 3-3? And if not,would East have the doubleton Club and if so would he be reluctant to ruff? East did follow to the third round of Clubs and they were 3-3.


Did you work it out?

 

Anyway only in Walt Disney Films do we ever guarantee a happy ending.  In reality even though the clubs ended up being 3-3. The hearts where unfortunately 4-1 and West ruffed the fourth club with his singleton heart. AAAARRRRRGGGGHHHHHH!!!! After all that planning and everything going smoothly up to that point, you can imagine my frustration!! Ah well, if it wasn’t for bad luck I wouldn’t get any luck at all!!

Who said bridge is only a game.