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Robbie's Reviews
  Fortune Favours the Brave
Fortune Favours the Brave

I looked at my three loser hand and felt justified in leaping straight to Five Clubs after two passes, followed by One Spade from my right.

  West was not to be deterred and saw the potential of at least three tricks for the defence. DOUBLE.

West’s Plan A was to lead the singleton diamond, seize the lead with the Club Ace and put partner in with the boss spade (Well he had bid them). The appearance of Dummy scuppered this bright start, and the 5 was to gift the contract to Declarer. West took the A and tried exiting with the Q, to Declarer’s king. Now all Declarer had to do was draw the remaining trumps and, with the knowledge that East was 5-5 in the pointed suits, exit with the 10.

If West ducks this, Declarer continues with a small heart towards Dummy’s 8 and, eventually, must reach Dummy to enjoy the isolated A for a heart discard.

The question is: Should East open third in hand with his holding? It certainly misled his partner!



  Compromise Called For
Compromise Called For

After the first two rounds of bidding, it was obvious that both North and South held six card majors, with little or no support for their partner’s suit. I maintain that North should now bid 2NT with their 18 HCP but, no, North persisted with 3H. Unhappy with this outcome, South reasoned that North must hold some decent cards in the minor suits, so proceeded to bid 3NT.

West led the 4, and declarer was more than happy to see ¨K8 in dummy. This meagre holding guaranteed a maximum of three diamond losers and, had the defendant’s cards split 4-3 , a diamond trick could be made after a 3rd round of the suit. But ‘twas not to be, as East exited with a club at trick three. So Declarer's only option was to play North’s three aces, cross to K and reel off his five top spades to make the contract.

The printout reveals that South can make game in spades for a better score, so why did most Souths fall one trick short in 4S?



  The Nine High Slam
The Nine High Slam

When South opened his nine high five card major. he did not envisage playing a slam in that suit. However, North took a more positive view and, over West’s 2D interference bid, he bid 4D. This showed support for spades to at least game and a singleton or void in diamonds. With AK, South was not too enamoured with the splinter bid but decided to show further interest with a 4H bid showing first round control.

With his 15 HCPs North was off to the races. 4NT (RKCB) triggered a 5C response (0 or 3 key cards), 5NT asked for Kings, 6D showed one and 6S set the contract.Q lead revealed dummy, and declarer prayed for a 3-2 split in opponents' spades. Moreover, for his overcall, West should have the ♠K so, when Dummy’s ♠Q held the second trick and the ♠K fell under the ace confirming the 3-2 split, Declarer was home in an unlikely scenario.

6NT was the winning score, and one brave couple were defeated in 7S. No-one found the top spot of 7C.



  Defender's Dilemma
Defender's Dilemma

East was left to play in 2S after a spirited bidding sequence. After enquiring about West’s 3rd round double, South quickly gobbled up the first four tricks via A,K, ruff and A. Now South had to judge the whereabouts of the two unseen diamonds. As declarer had shown at least nine cards in the black suits he was favourite to start with a singleton diamond. Therefore continuing with the K would set up dummy’s Queen for a heart discard in declarer's hand,

So South switched to a heart. Now, with the potential heart loser gone, Declarer set about the trumps, but with five trumps in North’s hand,  it looked like a loser in diamonds and spades to go one down. The only hope was to take the spade finesse, followed by another top spade and the winning club and heart. Fortunately North had to follow suit each time, so on trick eleven it was a simple matter to exit with the losing diamond and smother North’s play of trumps on the last two tricks.


 PS. With hindsight, how much simpler to pass one spade doubled for an easier ride and better score!




  Another Example of Reserving One's Rights
Another Example of Reserving One's Rights

I have aired this issue once before although the opponents' right to reserve their rights to summon the TD later is a rare bird. But, when it happens, what can one do about it?

On this hand I opened a weak 1NT, East doubled, and South bid 2D, which I alerted as a transfer to hearts, West could have worked out that this is wrong when East bid 2NT (With only a singleton heart!!) and bid 3NT in response.
Now South on lead, leads the
J and, although he knows there is a bidding error, he should remain schtum until the end of play. Alas he felt he had to state that his diamond bid was a suit. West tabled her dummy feeling aggrieved as she would have made a take-out double of a natural diamond bid.  Quite in order, she reserved her rights but, to my mind, if EW have a good result on the board they should be happy. If not they call on the TD to rule on the defenders, misleading bids.

I was certain that we were playing transfers as per our convention card and insisted on calling the TD (Law 16B2), to settle the issue there and then. South had mis-bid, and the TD was sympathetic to the opposition, but NS had not benefited from this info during the auction. Had South said nothing I would have known from dummy’s hearts that South had a long diamond suit. As it was, declarer took the
K on trick 2 and six spade tricks before conceding the last five tricks via South’s A. Most declarers made 10 tricks in three or four spades.


  Board 13 Congress Swiss Teams
Board 13 Congress Swiss TeamsIn a 7 board Swiss Team match, the issue is often decided by one board swing of 9+ imps. So when facing a hot shot team on Round 2, I was very conscious of the need to avoid a big mistake.

Sitting North on this hand, do you open 1C, 3C or pass? With shortage in the majors, I decided that the opponents might have a major suit game on, so I opted for a pre-emptive 3C. Sure enough, the opponents soon arrived in 4S by East.

Partner led the
A, followed by a small club to declarer’s K.  A next meant that my Q was good, and I exited with a club. Declarer now tried the spade finesse to my K and I exited with the 10. With three tricks in the bag, I was left with four clubs and the singleton K. To my surprise and joy, declarer now tried the diamond finesse and my K defeated the contract. Declarer had already seen 8 HCP in my hand, and by rights I should not have the K. One down for 100 to us.

Our team  mates arrived at the same contract, but North had opened 1C. Therefore after South’s lead of
A, it was easy enough to place the outstanding HCPs with North . Take heart finesse against North, lose the spade finesse, but drop the singleton K for an overtrick and 13 imps to us. Match won.

According to the all knowing DMP, six hearts is makeable, even after losing to
A. Get the heart finesse right, play the A to drop the K, back to J, finesse South’s 10, and, on the last two diamond tricks, discard your two spade losers. No need to go to Deep Finesse to fathom this one.


  Rule of Nineteen
Rule of Nineteen

At most tables at a Thursday session, the declarer was West in 1NT – 2, so the score of 3NT by South for 600 stood out like a sore thumb. So, how come?

Well this South had recently played in an EBU sim pairs and, with a hand similar to this one, the EBU expert had strongly advocated opening one spade. Rule of 19, with HCP plus length of two longest suits amounting to 19.

So our South pushed his luck and opened the bidding. 2D from North, 2H from South and a bullish North bid the fourth suit.

Now South regretted his weak opener, but with J10 and two other tens as well, the only bid was 3NT.

West was stuck for a decent lead and opted for a small club, so it was a simple matter to set up three club tricks, and three heart tricks. With the very favourable lay of the diamond and spade suits, it was possible to set up three tricks in the other two suits, unless EW were spot on in their defence.


RevokesOur esteemed Chairman Melvyn quite rightly says that the TD should be called immediately when a problem arises at the bridge table, as it saves time and avoids misunderstanding.

The trouble last Thursday was that the majority of the umpteen calls I received were for revokes, which could have been easily avoided thus saving me from constantly getting up and down at my advanced age. The other benefit is that it avoids distracting players at the other tables.

Bear in mind that if your partnership revokes you will be penalised one or two tricks at least and suffer a poor score. But there is an easy solution. If your partner does not follow suit you can immediately say: “Having no
/// Partner?” and this saves the revoke from becoming established. At worst, if partner has revoked, that card remains on the table as a penalty card, but the ignominy of losing two tricks is averted. You must ask partner on a regular basis, so that you cannot be accused of suddenly highlighting a situation. So I want all members to start querying partner’s failure to follow suit. Yes - Dummy can ask Declarer too.

The attached hand is fairly simple. Most pairs rescued 1NT X to 2C, but my partner is made of sterner stuff. He envisaged me making the contract with the potential four club tricks in his hand plus my 12-14 high card points. Taking the first trick in dummy with the
J, I should have just exited with a low diamond from both hands. Now the defence will not know which suit to attack. Instead I crossed to A, to now duck a club to East's hand. Next a heart return was indicated but, when I regained the lead, I finessed West for the K, and ended up with 8 tricks. Plus 280 for a top!


  Penal Pre-empt
Penal Pre-emptDespite the vulnerability, West opened a pre-emptive 3C. East took a long time to consider her options. Firstly , obviously West’s points should be in the club  suit, and with seven clubs to the AK , is 6C on. In the end East put partner to 5C., and with the difficult y in playing the club suit, declarer got it wrong. One down

Now a furious debate ensued at the table. First of all, West was far too weak to pre-empt 3C when vulnerable, and that bid would not deter an intervention from a strong opponent. I then stated that I was taught that you do not open a weak three with four cards in the un-bid major. To my surprise, my partner backed West’s decision, whilst East agreed with me. The proof of the pudding is in the eating and' if West passes, East can open one spade and the correct contract of 4S or even 6S will be reached

Could East have  done better? Obviously a 3S response will lead to the good contract of 4S, and 3NT to play makes as North is squeezed in the red suits by the long spade suit.


  2NT Overcall
2NT OvercallThis hand from the County mixed pairs gave all the Norths an adrenaline rush. After West’s opening one spade, I could envisualise a minor suit game in my own hand. Normally, I would overcall 2NT showing the two lowest unbid suits, but I was playing with a casual (but gifted) partner. So I decided to jump to 3D.
The bidding escalated after that, and I was very happy with 5CX, but partner, bless her, decided to rescue in 5H. Ugh. No choice but to bid 6C, doubled of course. East led the
Q ruffed by me, and I decided to try and ruff out the A.  The K was covered by the Ace and ruffed in dummy. Now I thought the contract is safe, draw trumps and all the diamond winners.for 12 tricks. Alas, I mistakenly played low from hand at trick three and went down one. The defence had given me the opportunity to succeed as the lead of A and a 2nd trump allows East to defeat the contract with his A

It transpired that all was not gloom because we scored 12 out of 18 as most players went down at least two doubled. Masuma played a blinder after that and we were the clear winners at the end of the day,

  Grand Slam
Grand SlamThe opportunity to make a grand slam should be cherished and, after dummy is tabled, a long think is mandatory before you call for a card from dummy.

On Board 17, South did not take long to propel partner into 7S with the aid of RKCB. South knew they held all the key cards and plumped for 7S
without exploring the whereabouts of Q

East helped by leading a trump, so North had no further worries about the Queen's location. A deep analysis of the situation would reveal the danger of a heart loser and the need to jettison two hearts from hand on South’s minor suit winners, if and when established. However, Declarer carelessly called for the
10 from dummy and now all is lost.

Correct play is low from dummy, remove trumps and attempt to set up a 5th winning diamond  for a heart discard. So A
, low to the K, and ruff a diamond.  Diamonds are now no worse than 4-2, so A, cross to K, and ruff the fourth diamond. Now the conserved 10 is an entry to table and two losing hearts are discarded on Q and the winning 8.

Only one North found this line, making all 13 tricks but they were only in game. So no-one is perfect. Six no trumps is an unlikely top, unless 6S plus one is made.


PS. Have just spotted that
A is entry to table for 5th diamond, so bad play at trick one should not matter.

  Splinter Bids
Splinter BidsBoard six from the Jubilee Pairs saw Partner and me employ one of the best gadgets in duplicate bridge. A splinter bid.

After David opened 1S, I had enough points for game and a singleton diamond, so bid 4D. North came in with 5C, and now East knows that we only have one loser in the minor suits  Moreover, most of my high card support must be in the majors, so cue bids of 5D and 5S propelled us to the small slam.

David claims that we would have reached the slam come what may, as my singleton diamond was crucial, even if North’s overcall helped. So remember, if you have a major suit game on for certain, help partner by splinter bidding a suit with a singleton or void. Ball's in your court mate!


  Koblenz 2012
Koblenz 2012
I joined the N & N team on their return visit to Koblenz (twinned with Norwich). A lovely city to visit in Spring and a very hospitable bridge club. Having lost in Norwich, our hosts made short work of our 32 board match and won quite comfortably. So we were invited to the next afternoon's duplicate session in their club house. They rent a house, with several small playing rooms (two to seven tables) on one floor, with kitchen, toilet etc as well.

As we assembled prior to play, our names were typed into the Bridgemates and, when ready, each pair received a slip indicating boards, table number and opponents for each round. Thirteen table Mitchell, no arrow switch and the visitors all sat EW. The first round was dealt at the table and North put the cards for N,E and S into the bridgemate and the contracts, result etc Because of the restricted layout of the rooms, the club had a random order for the tables (to prevent eavesdropping) which they used on a permanent basis to cope with any movement  Needless to say, we felt like headless chickens but our hosts told us which room to go to, and all went well

I sat West and enjoyed the hand above. Game in my own hand, nearly, so I opened an Acol 2C, partner responded 2D, Relay and fewer than seven points. 2S from me and partner bid 2NT, a second negative, so we limped into 4S . Q lead to my K, draw trumps and cross to dummy’s A.  Small heart to take a finesse when, to my surprise, South played the K. No option but to play the Ace and continue with the Q and, to my delight, the suit broke 3-2. Plus 680 yielded 9 out of 22 match points so should my partner have encouraged me by showing the A? Could go wrong but, achieving 57%, (3rd EW) I felt we had restored some pride to the proceedings.

Bridge over, tables put together for 24 plus people and we helped ourselves to open sandwiches with meats, cheeses, fruits, cakes etc, and one of their wine-buffs conducted a lengthy tasting session with five different wines of the region.  Now that is what I call bridge par excellence!


  Mirror Hands
Mirror HandsAfter Partner opens the bidding 2NT, (19-20 HCP), I was faced with a myriad of choices. With a combined count of 32-33 HCP, it was tempting to look for a small slam, so should I bid 3C Stayman, 4C Gerber, 4NT quantative, or 6NT (biting the bullet)?

Well, I have seen too many 6NT with 32-33 points go down, unless one player has a 5 card suit, so with a flat hand I decided to play safe and bid 3NT.

After the
8 lead North was not under too much pressure as 10 tricks are assured, but to make 12 tricks each suit must contribute three tricks . A is a certain loser, and where are J and Q? Pure guesstimate.

Declarer played a small spade towards Dummy’s Queen, dislodging the Ace, and then finessed West for the
J. Brilliant. As she also took the correct finesse against West’s Q, 12 tricks rolled in for 490. As most pairs were one down in a slam, or making twelve tricks in 4S, this was a good result.

It was beaten only by 6S by South when West led away from
Q and there was only one finesse to get right.

Incidentally, with a mirror hand of 4,3,3,3 the best contract is no trumps as there are no ruffing values in a suit contract.


  Having No Hearts, Partner?
Having No Hearts, Partner?To perform to the best of your ability, you must keep alert all the time. On this hand, knowledge of the laws also helps.

I was South and, after my overcall of 2D, didn't notice if Partner supported me (which she should). But perhaps she did and I was dozy, which was why East jumped to 3S.

Anyway, after the
A, club ruff, and A Declarer ruffed a diamond at trick four. drew trumps and crossed to Dummy’s club winners before tackling the hearts. When North played a diamond, an alert declarer should have smelt a rat, as this leaves South with six hearts, and he had not bid them. Declarer could enquire whether North had revoked, but instead his mindset was now conditioned to South holding AQ over his KJ, and he played the K. At the same time I said : "Having no hearts, Partner?"

North was very apologetic and tabled the
6 and, although the revoke was not established, the 6 remained a major penalty card. So, I felt that I did not have to call the TD but, as an irregularity (Red Book Terminology) had occurred, Declarer should have called the TD at once. The TD would have outlined his options, which would include playing the Q rather than the Ace. Instead Declarer persisted with the play of the A, so I took the trick with the King and exited with a diamond.

On the 13th trick North defeated the contract with the
Q. Declarer now claimed he meant to finesse against the Queen, so we offered to call the TD. This was rejected and, in any case, how could Declarer prevail with his claim, when he already knows the position of the missing honours? If I had not been alert and the revoke had been established then we would not have scored the last trick.

  Don't Dither
Don't DitherOn this occasion I completely overlooked the fact that we employ Lucas two bids .

After West’s pass, I had the perfect hand for a Lucas 2S bid, with five spades and five clubs and a 6-10 point range.  Instead, with a seven loser hand, I toyed with opening 1S and, after a dither followed by another dither, I passed.

East opened 1H and, despite my hesitation, South was strong enough to double. West went 3H, and now I compounded my misdemeanour. I should have been aware that South cannot ethically bid again, and I should have jumped to 4S.  Instead, I bid 3S and all passed.  The opponents reserved their rights, and led a heart.

Away goes a losing diamond and, despite the 4-1 split, I proceeded to draw trumps. Now the
J, covered by the King and Ace, with a small club back from dummy.

Q prevailed, but I still had a trump for the heart return and 11 tricks rolled in. To my surprise this was a 50% score and, even if we made 11 tricks in 4S or 5S, we would only increase our match score by five points. As we were six behind the winners, I was let off the hook. This time....

  A Moysian Fit (2)
A Moysian Fit (2)After a very moderate afternoon's bridge, my spirits were raised by the penultimate board. Following two passes North opened a strong Acol two clubs. With seven HCPs I decided to be positive and bid two spades and, assuming I had five spades for my bid, partner raised me to four. With AQ8 of my suit he was happy if I only had four spades.

West led the
A, followed by a club ruff and the third trick was lost on a heart return. West tried a small diamond next and I had no option but to play the Ace. Now I could draw trumps and play my winning clubs, but I realised I had three small red cards to dispose of. The clubs would only provide two discards so I had to ruff a losing heart in dummy, before drawing trumps.

So I crossed to my
10, ruffed a heart on the table with  A, overtook the Q with the K and my J cleared the trump suit. Ten tricks for a top at last.  So a Moysian fit (4-3) in the majors does work again.

  The Dynamic Duo!!!
The Dynamic Duo!!!As John Copson and I arrived at the table for the last round, we were welcomed to the table of the ‘Dynamic Duo’. I said I hope the boards match up to your expectations, so I can write about them. Did they, bloomin' 'eck?    

With 11 cards in the majors and a six loser hand, I opened the bidding 1H. Partner responded 1S, and the stylish Ms Dynamic leapt to 5D. I bid 5S, and East bid 6D. She can’t make that, I thought when I doubled. If partner has
A we can take this off easily, so I led my Q to no avail. Declarer rattled off 12 tricks and, in fact after my club lead, the overtrick is available. I was not alone as 6Dx had been made at five more tables. Now I should have sacrificed in 6S, or even 7S for a good result...

Our Dynamic Duo fell from grace on the second board when, with a combined count of 34 HCP, they swept the board in 3NT. So, honours even on the day, but be warned DD, you are on my radar from now on!

  Never Ever Give Up
Never Ever Give UpAfter a well merited win at ABC, Iris Green and I were hoping for a continuation of our form the next evening at N & N. We were rapidly disillusioned as a succession of poor results found us languishing with 29% after 13 boards. DISASTROUS ...

However, on the 14th board, we defeated a slam and a revival was heralded. Thus, when East opened 3C on this hand I was feeling in positive mode. Normally we double these bids for take-out but I wanted to protect my
Kx and, with a good hand, I jumped to 4H. East would not lie down (does Peter Gaskin ever back off?) and raised the anti to 5C. South, bless her, bid 5H and, after an A lead and switch to a diamond, it was a relatively easy task to make 5H.

This earned 13 out of 18 match points and the last 11 boards came to 69%. Still below 50%, overall, but the message must be Do Not Despair, however bad it looks at the time.

  The Lightner Double
The Lightner DoubleBoard 13 from Feb 16th yielded a fortuitous and undeserved top. After the first two bids, I was anxious to highlight my strong heart suit so jumped to three hearts for my re-bid. I should have responded one or two no trumps, as partner assumed I had seven tricks with hearts as trumps. So he jumped to six hearts. Promptly doubled by North.

I awaited South’s lead with trepidation, as I assumed we were missing two Aces. South felt disinclined to lead her singleton club as West had bid the suit and opted to lead the
7. Dummy’s ten took the trick, followed by two rounds of trumps, and the spade Ace. Next I drew the last trump with the K, and discarded Dummy’s diamond on the Ace. When the Q felled the ten and Ace in one move, the prime score of 1660 was assured.

Now, had the opponents been employing  the Lightner double I would have endured a bottom. The Lightner double is used specifically against a slam by the defendant not on lead. It asks partner to find an unusual lead, not a trump or a suit bid by the defence. It usually calls for a card from dummy’s first bid suit and, in this case, South is obliged to lead the
10. Now the defence take three tricks. So remember the Lightner double, as otherwise East’s double is a 50-50 lottery.


  Is that Double for Take-Out or Penalty???
Is that Double for Take-Out or Penalty???Board six from the Anniversary Lunch led to a failure in communication with my partner.

East opened the bidding with 1H. Holding a flat 14 points I doubled for take-out, West bid 2H, Partner passed and East bid 4H. On lead with AK
, and a strong heart holding - which should yield two tricks at least - I doubled again for penalties.

To my consternation, with only one point, partner chickened out and tried to limit the damage by bidding 4S, Minus three for an outright bottom!

Well there is a well-known adage that the first double of a suit is for take-out, and a subsequent double of the same suit is for penalties. In this case, I would probably collect plus 500 unless Declarer is very astute and forces me to lead away from my heart holding.

As I ‘gently’ advised Partner, she must pass, and - if they make 4H doubled for a top - at least she will win the inquest!


  Extended Stayman - Lesson Two
Extended Stayman - Lesson TwoPlaying Butler scored pairs, South opened 1NT (12-14). Sitting North, I felt we would be better off in a major, so employed Stayman, followed by extended Stayman to establish a 5-3 fit in spades. A rare bird indeed, said Partner as I tabled my hand as dummy .....

West had an invidious choice of lead, and opted for the
4, much to Declarer’s relief. The 10 took the trick and the first round of trumps was taken by 5 - to my astonishment.

Partner now played A
, heart finesse to K followed by J and a fourth heart ruffed by 8. Back to dummy with A and played the established 5th heart from dummy.

East fell from grace by ruffing with a top spade, and now declarer made an overtrick for plus seven imps. The only declarer to make ten tricks on this board!


  Not So Grandiose
Not So Grandiose
Asked to join  three Grand Masters in a team event, I was well aware of my place as the junior member of the team. Must mind my Ps and Qs, and not commit any howlers, I thought, and then we might win the trophy.

My one mistake - which I felt would result in minus 10 imps - was offset by team-mates' brilliance and we gained 10 imps instead. However, our chances of winning were scuppered  on this board.

Partner doubled the opening bid and, with singletons in both the opponents’ suits, I jumped to three spades to show my six card suit and strength. To my astonishment partner passed as he only had two spades in his hand. As our team-mates defended 5D, we dropped 10 imps on the board, enough to win the event. No one bid the cold slam, but everyone was in game. No names, no pack drill.

  Michaels mis-cued
Michaels mis-cuedOn this deal from the National Pairs heat, we were one of two pairs to make 12 tricks in spades. Several pairs were one down in 6S, so were we brilliant or were we lucky? In this case fortunate, in that my left-hand opponent had competed in the bidding stakes with a Michaels 2S bid.     

Now I like the Michaels cue bid showing a 5-5 hand in two of the other suits, in this case Hearts being one of them. However, it can give the opponents too much information, as in this scenario.

Over East’s 2S overcall, partner employed RKCB. My 5C bid showed three of the five controls and partner could still ask if I had the Q
. To my surprise he signed off in 5S and, missing the Q, I opted to pass.

East led the K
and, as I feared, the Q with the opponents, but which one? Missing four trumps the odds are only 40% on an even split. So, assuming someone is short of spades, East had already told me that he only held three cards in his two short suits. At trick two I unblocked the A,crossed to Dummy’s A,and ran the J. Eureka! Without East’s help I might have taken the finesse t’other way.

Draw trumps and on KQ
discard two clubs, to concede a diamond trick at the end.

Beware of giving too much away by your two-suited bids.


SignallingAmongst a litany of errors compiled by Partner and me at the ABC Xmas party, this board reflects our level of incompetence.

The first question is should West open a pre-emptive 3D when holding a 4 card major? Strictly taboo when we learnt the game, but that was many moons ago. So he opened 3D and I did not fancy 3NT missing three Aces.

However, with my 12 points I was prepared to double the opponents if they entered the bidding, so 4CX by South was the final contract. Can South make it? Well he must lose a diamond, a heart, possibly two spades and the club King. Surely East must hold the
K for his double, so that leaves the problem of not losing two spade tricks.

The play: my partner West led
A and switched to 5, taken in dummy. Now Declarer should play spades and ruff the 3rd round in dummy before playing 10. However, he successfully drew two rounds of trumps before playing A and a low spade to the Jack. In with the Queen, I played a trump to prevent the 3rd round ruff, and Declarer exited with a heart. I should overtake partners 10 and play a 3rd round of hearts to establish who held the missing one. My mistake and partner played the Q, which was ruffed, followed by a salvo of clubs. My partner kept discarding diamonds, when discarding his 3rd heart would have told me all I wanted to know. So which major suit king do I discard on trick twelve? Wrong again, and 37.92% exceeded our expectations.

  Reserving One's Rights
Reserving One's RightsPartner and I had agreed a while back to open 2NT showing both minor suits and a good pre-empt against the opponents having a major suit game available. Of course it had not occurred until this hand and I thought 2NT was a 23-24 NT holding. So I bid 3D (transfer) and when South passed it was obvious the wheel had come off.

Before leading, East established my mistake and reserved his rights, before laying down the
9. I took it with my Queen, returned a spade to the Ace, and then ruffed a spade with my singleton trump. A, heart ruff, cross to my A, heart ruff. Crossing to my Q and another heart ruff, together with A ensured 10 tricks. East reiterated his reserve of rights but, before I entered the score, I called the TD.

Well we must call the TD when the first offence occurred, and then the TD could rule that the bidding remains open. As East had not called the TD I was admonished for my misdemeanour, and the score of +130 was allowed to stand. This was a 50% score, as most Norths had played the board in 4H, succeeding when East had led away from his
K (anything but a passive lead).

So call the TD when the bidding has gone awry, and remember these obscure conventions if you are daft enough to employ them. Sorry partner!

  Responding to 3NT Opener
Responding to 3NT OpenerTo continue last week's story of the Gambling 3NT opener from West which I faced at Kettering, what might happen if I as North pass?

Usually, with no controls in the other suits, East would bid 4C and West convert to 4D. However, EW are not vulnerable against vulnerable opponents and a crafty East might realise the opponents have a game on, if not a slam, in clubs or hearts.

If he passes, and South does not double, then partner is minus 12 or 13, -650 at worst. If South doubles, the option is there to run to 4 of partners minor suit.

What would South do in this scenario? Partner has passed and East has intimated that he is prepared for partner to play in 3NT, and presumably has some good cards in the outside suits. Vulnerable, many Souths would pass at this juncture, expecting to concede 400 or 430, rather than being doubled minus two in hearts. Smart move by East.

Out of interest, let us transpose the East hand with North, and then with South. With stops in the outside suits and not strong enough to envisage a slam, the North holding in East’s seat would happily pass. A similar outcome would be the result if South’s cards were in East’s hand. This would be the case provided the responder had a card in partner’s long suit.


  Pre-emptive 3NT Opener
Pre-emptive 3NT OpenerIn the recent county match against Northants all the West pairs opened the bidding a gambling 3NT, or pre-emptive 4D. At my table, West opened 3NT. Obviously a long solid Diamond suit.

I bid 4C (natural), and my partner responded 4H. West now made the devastating bid of 5D. This prevented me from using RKCB, which would ask partner to describe his hand further with hearts as trumps. A 5S reply would tell me partner held AQ
and the A. Now, with only one loser in diamonds, I could happily bid 6.

Denied this useful tool, should I bid 5H or 6H? Where is the missing A
? On reflection I should have assumed that South probably had A to justify his 4H bid but, at the time, it looked a 50-50 call so I bid 5H. With two diamond losers South had no option but to pass.

At one table West opened 4D, North doubled, and South just bid 6H. Simple really. However, only five of the twelve NS pairs reached 6H so I was not the only cautious North player. Two Norfolk pairs did not even bid 5H, so no wonder Northants won all three sections by handsome margins overall!

  Passive Leads
Passive LeadsAfter a delicious lunch at the All Day, sitting with three equally delectable ladies, I felt in quite a buoyant mood. So, when Board 9, arrived, I was about to open the bidding 1H when I realised I had a potential three loser hand. So I bid 2H (strong). Partner made a waiting bid of 2NT, 3H from me, followed by RKCB bid of 4NT from South. With two key cards and missing the Q, I responded 5H, and partner bid the small slam.

Now East should make a passive lead against a slam, with a small club or diamond. Surveying the scene I realise the spade finesse could be wrong, so I cannot afford to lose a trick to the
Q. The odds of a 2-2 split in hearts is only 40%, so I must play for a 3-1 split  at best. But who has the missing Queen?  Well I have never known the hand on lead to lead a trump when holding the Queen so, placing the Q with East, I ruffed the 2nd round of diamonds and played the 10. from hand. When both opponents followed low, I knew the heart finesse would work.

Was I that brilliant at the table. No, I played for the drop. WRONG.  Did it matter. NO. Why not? Well East had kindly led away from her
Q, to give me a free finesse of the J. So the slam was assured - and I probably should have played for the over-trick for an outright top

So remember passive leads against slams and, missing four trumps including the Queen, take the finesse if possible against the initial leader.

  Don't Upset the Ref
Don't Upset the Ref  

The  England rugby team incurred so many penalties in the World Cup because they queried the referee's decision too often and antagonised the man in charge. This can happen in any game, especially bridge.

At a recent event I was called to a table where Declarer, (North), had revoked when, early in the proceedings, she had played a heart after leading a spade from dummy. I was intent on finding out whether the revoke was established, when East claimed that there was a penalty in any case. She knew the rules, and claimed that Declarer had not realised she had revoked until West had said: "You have revoked". Not difficult to diagnose as Declarer had bid hearts followed by spades, before settling in a heart contract.

Now it was difficult to establish what had happened first - whether Declarer had tried to amend her revoke before or after West had alerted her to it, ie whether the revoke was established or not. No-one seemed to know so, influenced by East’s belligerent attitude, I ruled in favour of Declarer.

Half an hour later, East-West arrived at our table, and my partner was in a 5H contract, destined to go one off. Partner had a lot of hearts and, in a frosty atmosphere, was drawing trumps. I did not get a full view of West’s small red card, and asked if I could see it.

West pointed out that I was dummy, and had no rights, so refused.  Partner, a canny Suffolk farmer, was aware that West had revoked but said nothing and waited until the revoke was established. After which one trick was duly transferred to the good guys!

An ironic outcome.


  RKCB Triumphs
RKCB TriumphsAfter Neil’s initiation at the club into the workings of Bridgemate, he had emphasised the folly of trying to remember all the remedies for wrong entries etc. Like fouling up a rarely used convention, was his example.

So, as a new partnership, we agreed four card majors, weak NT, Stayman, transfers, all strong twos and Roman Keycard Blackwood.

Which takes us to Board One. After three passes I opened 1S, and raised partner to game in hearts. Neil now bid 4NT, and I responded 5C, showing three of five key cards Neil now bid 5D, which specifically asked if I held the
Q. The correct response is to bid 6H if you have, and so we arrived in the slam.

With two kings missing the play was quite simple. The odds favour one king being in the required hand, and so it proved with the
K. We were the only pair in it but, without KCB, bidding a slam would have been a lottery. This also highlights the importance of assuming your partner knows the appropriate responses. Do learn and use RKCB if you can.

  Losing Trick Count
Losing Trick CountWhy don't the members learn and abide by the losing trick count formula? Basically it's  based on counting the number of losing tricks in each of your suits and how they add up to the correct level of contract.

It is assumed that the opening bidder has seven losers or fewer. Partner, with a trump fit, counts his losers, adds them to opener's seven losers and takes the result from eighteen. Now nine losers plus seven - 16 from 18 =2 - so maximum support is at the two level. With an eight loser hand plus seven = 15 from 18 = 3, therefore bid three. A seven loser hand (ie an opener) plus seven = 14 from 18 = 4. So bid 4.

On this hand nearly all the Wests were in three or four hearts. WHY? Assume West opens 1H having a six loser hand, ie two losers each in spades, diamonds and clubs. North bids 1S. Look at East's hand; three losing spades, three hearts, two diamonds and one club (total nine losers). The ♥10832 of a suit is only 3 losers as normally the 4th card will be a winner. Respond 2H.

So after South's pass West must re-assess his hand. First of all they now have three losing spades because North will have at least five spades. As South did not support partner, he will have two spades or fewer. So North will play ♠AK and South will ruff your ♠Q on the third round. Even without this wisdom, your partner has shown a nine loser hand, so why bid 3H? Most pairs did, minus one for a poor result. One person jumped to 4H and only the premature play by South of ♦A precluded an outright bottom.

  Doubling at Pairs
Doubling at PairsNorfolk’s premier guru, Mike Walsh, firmly advocates judicious doubling of the opponents on about four boards per session, yielding a 75% success rate, My partner David Hitcham is a keen disciple and we doubled four contracts on this particular Thursday afternoon with a 78% success rate. This hand highlights his vision (or luck) in this stratagem.
East opened the bidding a strong 2D so I bid 2H, hoping to show my clubs later. (2NT showing the lowest two unbid suits might have been better). The bidding escalated beyond my resources, when North surprisingly bid 4S.  This was doubled minus two at most tables but, before I could contemplate my next move, East bid 5D. Now came the master stroke by North, who doubled.

What do I lead as I cannot produce a spade? Well his double must be asking me to lead a heart, so here goes. It was ruffed by North who returned a spade, and we quickly made our five trump tricks by cross-ruffing, plus the
A for 1100 to the good guys. This looked spectacular on the traveller, but in truth 5D is always one off for a bottom as the cards lie.

  A Thirteen Point Game
A Thirteen Point GameIt is a rare moment when partner makes a doubled game contract with a mere 13 HCP between the two hands.

At the Open Pairs last Friday, South opened the bidding 1D. West, with vulnerability in our favour, pre-empted with a jump to 3S. North put in a take-out double and, with four card support for partner's suit and one loser in the minors, I bid 4S with confidence. North doubled again and I was tempted, but refrained, from re-doubling.

North led the almost obligatory diamond suit and, on my AK, partner was able to discard a losing heart. When the opponent’s top spades fell together the contract was assured.

I assume the old adage that the first double is for take-out and the second for penalties precluded South from bidding 5C. This failed by one trick at most tables. Partner would have been defeated in 4S if North had found a club lead. An exciting board for the dealing machine.

Who's a Greedy Boy Then?Board 8 from bridge on Thursday 15th July proved a salutary lesson for East. After 1C from my partner West and a 1D response from me,  South muddied the waters with a 1H bid. West now bid her 2nd suit, 1S, and I made a 4th suit forcing bid of 2H. Partner denied a reasonable heart stop by bidding 3C, so I bid 3NT.

As expected, South led a small heart taken by dummy’s Knave. Now there are 10 tricks on top so, whilst running the diamond suit, I contemplated the possibility of extra tricks. I assumed that other tables would be in 3NT making 10 tricks, so the only hope for a top was to run the
Q. Surely, I reasoned, the Banker must hold the K for his 1H bid as he only had 6 points in hearts. Assuming this, I can make three tricks in spades, and 12 tricks in all.

  Wrong. North sweetly produced the
K and I was one down. "You had 10 tricks on top," said partner. "Well," I replied: "Playing teams I would have taken them, as overtricks are not important, but in pairs I went for broke."

To my annoyance, most tables had not bid the 3NT contract, and 430 would have been a top. Oh! Foolish youth.


  Responder's Reverse
Responder's ReverseReverse bidding in Acol is an art in itself. A 1H opener followed by a reverse into 2S over partner's response, should show 15-16 HCP at least - and probably a longer heart suit than spades. A game contract is the usual end result.

So what happens if your partner has opened 1S as on this hand? You suspect game is on somewhere, so how do you show both minor suits. First of all you cannot reverse as my opponent did, because you are then showing a longer club suit than diamonds. When East bid 2C followed by 3D, the other three players surmised he had a stronger hand than this holding. West assumed he must be 6-5 for this bidding sequence and bid 5C.

I led the Q
, taken by North who forced declarer to ruff the 10 return. Two rounds of trumps were followed by a switch to a diamond, taken by A, North forced declarer by leading another heart and, in the end, East contrived to go down four.

Bidding correctly East should have responded 2D initially, followed by 3C (a new suit at the three level is forcing). Then, with no heart stop in sight, West should ensure that they reach a cold 5D contract

  The Dreaded Minus 200
The Dreaded Minus 200How often have I been rash enough to go two down vulnerable in a  part score hand? You know the scenario. The opposition are both bidding, but do not appear to be going for game.

So you decide to repeat your six card suit at the three level with about a dozen points. Your dummy is not a lot of help and, although the opponents did not have a game on, they take you two down.

Traveller reveals you are minus 200, against scores of –110 or –140 at other tables. Now minus 200 in this situation will almost guarantee you a bottom, so beware of over-bidding when vulnerable.

For a change on Board 10 today I was the recipient of the opponents' largesse. Although partner and I had ascertained  a 5-3 fit in both majors, we felt game was not on. North, with his eight card suit, decided to sacrifice in 4
, which I promptly doubled. Ace lead followed by switch to Q gave us three tricks in the majors and now my lonely 10 ensured two club. tricks for partner.

Declarer expostulated that he was sacrificing against our game contract, but we had not bid or even envisaged being in game So watch that vulnerability....

  The Perils of Pre-empts
The Perils of Pre-empts
Pre-emptive bids are a powerful weapon if used intelligently, but even experienced players can commit hari-kari by lack of thought.

In a recent teams event, where mistakes can be catastrophic, the vulnerability favoured  a pre-empt bid.  After East opened a strong no trump, a pre-emptive jump to 3H  is correct. Even doubled, minus 500 set against the likely game score for the opponents of 600, will yield 3 imps unless the opponents go on to game.

However, when opponents bid on to 5D, I was horrified when partner bid again. 5H doubled was only off five tricks, minus 1100! I even wrote –10 imps on my score card, a correct analysis of the outcome without knowing the score by our team mates. As I emphasised to partner, the accepted rule is that once you have made a pre-emptive  bid, you do not bid that suit again. Trouble with a large T.

  The Acol 2C Bid
The Acol 2C BidOf the  three big hands on Thursday July 1st, declarers met with varied success.  On Board 11, every one made 13 tricks in 6H, but no-one found the top spot of 7NT. On Board 23, no-one bid the slam which, with a combined high card point of only 28, does not surprise me. Indeed fortunate finesses are essential to make more than 11 tricks.

So we are left with Board 17, in which only one pair found the slam. Guess who?? After three passes, West was looking at a strong hand with only three losers. Heigh–ho, open the basic Acol 2C so that the best of the bidding sequence can materialise in due course. East responded 2D, a relay bid, but in this case positive to boot. West now bid 2S, game forcing of course, and East jumped to 4S. 4NT (Roman Keycard Blackwood) from West evoked the hoped for response of 5D, so 6S looked a near certainty. In fact the best contract is 7D, but that's almost impossible to find after locating the spade fit.

Back in 6S, fortunately, North was not in a position to lead a heart, so a diamond it was. This removed the
Q, so now draw trumps. The J from South smelt of a singleton, so play A, cross to A, and discard losing heart on K. Now the 4-1 split meant only one trick to the defence.. This was so simple and basic a hand to bid that I apologise for teaching Granny to suck eggs, but some grannies have a strange diet.

  Very Basic (Baby) ACOL
Very Basic (Baby) ACOLWith so many gadgety bids employed by various partners, I was almost taken short by partner’s opening 2C bid on Board 16. This was of course the standard Acol 2C opener and, of the possible responses, I remembered that I had to show a negative with fewer than seven HCP. Was it 2D or 2NT??? Well, if partner has a 23 point No Trump opener, he should be declarer, so I employed the relay (and negative) bid of 2D. North now bid 2NT (23-24 HCP), I bid 3H and partner put me to 4H.

After a spade lead, it was a simple matter to ruff a club at trick two and run the
J. I usually play the hand on lead as holding the missing trump Queen, as no-one would lead a trump holding that card... Bingo!! Right again. Back to hand as soon as possible to take the heart finesse again, and 12 tricks were assured.

As partner filled in the traveller he was upset as there were three better scores entered. Why hadn’t I made a positive response with my hand? Well, a prominent bridge teacher of basic Acol, has confirmed my 2D as correct. The small slam in hearts depends on the position of the
Q, and, as for those in No Trumps with a 6-3 major suit fit, I might upset good friends if I make a comment!

  Regal Protection
Regal Protection At every table NS played the contract in Spades at the 4, 5 or 6 level, usually with South as Declarer. My opposition North envisaged a slam after his partner supported his Two Heart bid. So a Blackwood enquiry revealed only one Ace but fearless North pressed on to the slam in Spades despite his missing Ace.

The denouement was painfully short. My partner had seen the bidding and, with her critical
holding, opted for a Diamond lead. Job done. I happily took the first two tricks.

However, are NS in the right slam? If I had been North I would have opted for the 5-3 fit in Hearts and bid 6
to protect my doubleton K. Now what would East decide to lead against 6? Tempting to lead A in the hope that partner has the K. This would result in 12 tricks for NS. However, if East leads a Club and North does not opt for the finesse, then the position of the A is critical.

Why would North not take the initial Club finesse? Well, good players do not lead away from a King, especially against a slam. Moreover, the 2nd Club in hand can be jettisoned on the 5th Spade, which brings us back to the whereabouts of the
  Roman Keycard Blackwood
Roman Keycard BlackwoodOn this hand from ABC, only two pairs bid the grand slam in hearts. 7NT is cold so why did most pairs stop short in a small slam? At our table RH opponent, playing 5 card majors,  opened 1H. Her partner, with a massive hand jumped to 2NT, showing a good raise to three hearts at least.  East now jumped to 4H, indicating a six card suit, and game on anyway.

Encouraged by this move, West enquired with 4NT, Roman Key Card Blackwood and East bid 5H, showing two of the five key cards (ie the four Aces and the King of the agreed trump suit). With four trumps missing, the odds on a 2-2 split are 40%, so bidding a grand slam which could hinge on guessing the whereabouts of the trump queen is bad bridge. Hence West settled for a small slam in hearts. It transpired that East had failed to show his trump queen, and 13 tricks rolled in.

Employing RKCB, the responses to 4NT are 5C, (0 or 3KC), 5D(1 or 4 KC), 5H (2KC) and 5S, (2KC plus Queen of trumps), often briefly referred to as: 30, 41, 2 without and 2 with trump Queen. (There is a way of finding out about the trump Queen after a 5C or 5D response, but grasp the basics first).

On this hand after the correct 5S response, West could bid 5NT, asking for Kings other than the trump King. A negative 6C response dashes one's hopes of finding East with
K. Now what???

Well we know East has shown nine points so far, with no
K. Surely he must have some Queens for his bid, so do you bid  7H or 7NT? I would bid the latter for three reasons:

1    It scores better than 7H
2    It protects my AQ holding in spades and
3    With five spades in my hand, it is possible that South might have six, lead them
      and find his partner with a void. OUCH! I have seen it happen

  A Light Opener
A Light OpenerNormally, as dealer, I would not open the bidding with only nine points.  Third in hand after two passes yes, but not an opening bid. However we were on a roll and, with only 6-7 losers and the rule of 19 met, I decided to open 1C. Well, I can repeat my club bid, support partner if she responds 1S and  indicate to partner to lead a club if she is on lead against a no trump contract.

Partner, of course, with an opening 1NT in hand had other ideas. So 1H from partner, 1S from West and 2C from me. South now bid 2S, asking me if I had a spade stop, 2NT from me and Bingo - 3NT from Partner. East led the
6 and I hoped to make my Jack but West popped up with the Queen and returned a diamond to dummy’s Ace.

I could not play the
K, so ran off six club tricks, squeezing both opponents and dummy. Could I reach dummy’s boss diamond via the K, as dummy’s five cards were now J9, K6 and K?  No.  West played the A, and exited with a spade, ducked by me to East’s Ace. East could not play a diamond, so a  heart return to West’s Queen forced  a spade return away from the Queen.  TVM - or ta very much.  

The defence discards were helpful as the winning line is to take the first diamond trick in dummy and run the
9.  However, Deep Finesse knows the lay-out and I am muddling through. At other tables, North played in a part score club contract, so my enterprise paid off.

  Signals - The King's Lynn Decider
Signals - The King's Lynn DeciderHow good are you at signalling your card holding to help partner defeat the opposition contract? This hand turned out to be crucial in the Plate Final at the Norfolk Congress.

I had a good diamond suit and, when my right hand opponent bid 2C, I now envisaged eight tricks in my hand alone, and finally ventured to 3D over 3C. Promptly doubled by East.
East led the
A. then decided to switch to a club as South’s Q was a danger - and who held the  missing spade?

Q forced out the Ace and now West played the 8, taken by my Ace, I felt my ninth trick could come from a ruff of the third round of clubs. I therefore played K and my third club only for East to ruff with the 7. East refrained from playing his winning spade and exited with a heart. J from dummy ‘conned’ West into covering with the Queen to my Ace.
Now my
J took the next trick so, on the Q, East played the Ace. With four tricks to the defence already, East was convinced that his partner's Q showed a doubleton and that he could defeat the contract by ruffing a heart. To my surprise, he led a small heart, taken by the ten on the table, and away went my losing spade.

Plus 670 - an outright top - rather than minus 200 which would have been an outright bottom. This was a difference of 20 match points to us and, as this pair finished 20 match points behind us in 2nd place, they would have won the trophy with better play. 66% to 62% would have been reversed. PHEW!

  What's The Rush?
What's The Rush?In selecting a hand for comment from the excellent luncheon function, my problem was solved with the 3rd hand I played that day. Board 5 in the morning session After partner’s opening bid of 1, I was quite happy to play in 4S as I had the K of partner's suit, we have a 5-3 fit in trumps, and the heart bid on my right enhanced the value of my K
Predictably, North led her singleton heart to the Ace, so I played the 10 to suggest a doubleton. To my relief South decided to make sure of her diamond trick by playing the Ace, before seeking a ruff in hearts from partner. What is the hurry ? The only hope of defeating the contract is to hope partners
7 was a singleton. Therefor at trick two return the 2 for partner to ruff. Why the smallest heart specifically? This should tell partner that I have the top card in the ‘lowest’ suit and, as the Ace is visible in dummy, partner will lead a diamond to your Ace and a 2nd heart ruff defeats the contract.

Half the field played in 4S, and the only pair to defeat this contract  were Sue Pulley and Gay Lind. Well done ladies.


  Find the right contract
Find the right contractBoard 3 last Thursday produced a variety of contracts by EW, from 3NT to 6NT and 4H or 5H and even 3D.

At my table Jeannette Pamplin as East opened a strong 2D alerted and West replied with a negative 2H. East now bid 3H and West showed her six card spade suit and dislike of hearts. Now a brave East could settle for a makeable 3NT, but Melvyn opted for 4H

North led the
A, and declarer twigged there was no entry to her hand. Tough luck. South played the 4, and North dutifully switched to the 2.   A finesse of dummy’s diamonds let South in with the Q, and a trump return removed Declarer's chance of a diamond ruff. Declarer now cashed the AK, and drew trumps, losing to North’s J.

3 followed from North and, if declarer plays dummy’s 6, South wins the trick with the 9 and then has to lead away from his K.  Contract minus one.  Instead dummy played the 10 to the K and South could exit with a small diamond to North's seven. Contract minus two.

No-one found the optimal contract of four spades. Why is it optimal? Well the spades are useless unless they are trumps, whilst the heart holding should be good enough for two, possibly three tricks

  Robbie gets it right - as per usual!
Robbie gets it right - as per usual!

This hand from the county match against Essex, produced a mixed bag of results, and illustrates the extremes the competitors resort to in order to gain a good result.


With both sides vul, North opened a dodgy 4S. Well it could silence the opposition, but East was daft enough to bid 4NT showing both minor suits. Fortunately West had a useful hand , with support for both minor suits. Rather than plonk for 5C, West deliberated, assuming East had a better hand than his actual  holding. What to bid??? After considering possible options, West found the excellent bid of 5S, asking partner to bid his favoured minor. East responded 6C on the assumption that West would convert to 6D if clubs not in favour.

Understandably, South led ª3, ruffed in hand with §3.  Drawing trumps with the successful finesse, Declarer crossed to his ©A, and the heart finesse worked to enable him to discard two losing diamonds on the long hearts. Now ¨2 to his Ace allowed declarer to play towards dummy’s¨Q, and although South took the trick with his ¨K, Declarer still had a trump left to ruff the spade return.

Could South defeat the contract by starting of with a diamond for his partner to ruff. YES, assuming North does not then play ªA, which would then provide declarer with three diamond discards on dummy’s major suit winners. 6C and 6H by West are untouchable. On the four tables in the B team we amassed a score of 2630, which translates to 21 imps. Massive!


  4-1 Trump Splits
4-1 Trump SplitsAfter the heated debate at the AGM, regarding the bad splits on Duplimate boards, one would think that all the 4-1 splits were the ingenious machinations of the dealing machine.

Well, reference to a 1979 textbook entitled  “Master The Odds at Bridge” states that in a 4-4 suit fit the odds of the opposition cards splitting 3-2 are 68%. This supports Neil Tracey's argument that one needs to practise against adverse splits, which will occur on one board in three

Lo and behold Bd 5 that same day proved his point. All Norths played the hand in either 4S or 6S, making 10 or 11 tricks, when the print-out states that 12 are available. At our table North opened her hand one club, a dubious opener in my humble opinion with such a weak hand. South jumped to two hearts, as she assumed a slam was on. Why the hurry? Surely one heart keeps the bidding open? The spade bid revealed the fit, and Roman Keycard Blackwood confirmed that one senior card was missing. Probably

East led a safe
7, and now it looks as if two rounds of trumps followed by two diamond discards on AQ does the trick. Not so, says Deep Finesse. Apparently the 13th trick is taken by 10. Proceed with a trump to the King to take the diamond finesse. Win East’s return, play A and ruff a heart. Now on A and Q, discard two losing hearts. Proceed to draw trumps and now lead a diamond at trick 12  as West will have been squeezed on trick 11. Not easy but DF points the way.

  Kamikaze Bidding
Kamikaze BiddingAfter my outright bottom on board 4 last Thursday my metric opponent challenged me to write an article about the hand.  So here goes:

With a 4 card holding in both black suits, 99 times in a hundred I would open 1S - because if everyone passes a spade contract should score better than a minor suit. So why did I open 1C ?

I dunno but, when partner responded 1H, I was in a predicament. I felt I was too strong to bid 1S as game seemed likely with my hand. I did not fancy 2S with a four card suit, so tried showing my point card with a 2NT bid. Partner put me to 3NT and the opponents took the first 6 diamond tricks.

Removing the egg from my face, I asked partner why he had not bid 1S. Well he did not fancy bidding a five card rubbishy suit, in case I supported him with three spades - so I fail to see the logic of bidding a four card heart suit! Admittedly there is room for me to respond in spades and then we would reach game

A 1S opener from me or 1S response from partner would see us reach 4S - hey presto. As five of the ten spade contracts saw South as declarer, I was not the only one to open 1C.

A bonus to the first person to email me with name of the opponent who issued the challenge.


  Bidding after partner pre-empts
Bidding after partner pre-emptsPre-emptive bidding is very popular, but it can cause problems for partner. My 3 opener at the N & N showed a seven card suit and 5-9 HCP. Partner cogitated for a long while before responding, and why not with 4 card support in clubs and 21 HCP.

looks the obvious contract but, if North only has five points in KQ, then 6C might not be on. So South reasoned that, even without both the King and Queen, there would be values in the other suits.

      She reasoned that at pairs 6NT would score better than 6
and, to my surprise, the 6NT card appeared. The fortuitous lead of a small spade guaranteed 12 tricks and, when the clubs split one-one, 13 tricks rolled in. A clear top as most of the other tables played in five or six clubs.


  Rescue bid after weak 1NT doubled
Rescue bid after weak 1NT doubledAs I left ABC on Thursday June 10th, two ladies asked me about the bidding sequence shown here and asked: "What do I play after partner's 1NT has been doubled?"

On this sequence it looks as if EW are employing the wriggle as if West had responded 2
direct over the double, it would have asked partner to bid 2. So the bidding comes round to the 1NT opener, who re-doubles (the wriggle), and East is fortunate enough to have a 5 card suit to bid.

Now I never play the wriggle, as I have seen too many people go down redoubled for a catastrophic score. If East only has about 4 points and no 5 card suit, where does he go?

At my table, over my double, EW were playing Jacoby transfers as a means of running to a 5 card suit with the strong hand hidden. Thus East’s re double would show clubs, 2
shows diamonds, 2 ditto hearts and 2 ditto spades. So, after my double, East bid 2, transfer to diamonds and 9 tricks rolled in. This defence is ideal for a new partnership for the day.

However, from Roger Amey, I have learnt the Broad-Griffiths escape route to 1NT doubled, and I now play it with my better regular partners. Partners 1NT doubled cannot make, so with a 5 card suit you re-double and partner has to bid 2
, which you convert if necessary to your 5 card suit. Now, if you do not have a 5 card suit but two 4 card suits, you bid the lower one and find a 4-3 fit even if doubled. On this hand I would re-double and convert 2 to 2. Swap the 2 for a spade, and I would bid 2, lower of two 4 card suits. It works. Believe me.

  Andrew Robson's Tip
Andrew Robson's TipMy partner opened his South hand 1NT, showing 12-14 HCP. I was looking at a flat 11 points and passed. Tabling my hand as dummy, my partner was as vehement as the opposition in expressing surprise at my pass. Why had I not tried Stayman or bid 2 showing 11 HCP, was the general consensus.

Well, some two years ago in the EBU journal English Bridge, Andrew Robson’s tip was to respond to partner's 12-14 1NT with this hand by passing. South felt that I should have tried Stayman and, with the spade fit, we would have been in 3S. Showing 11 HCP by bidding 2
would end in 2NT. Neither contract made at the other tables.

The analysis suggests that 1NT fails, but East led the
10, and, with the J falling, South was able to establish two diamond tricks to go with four in spades and the A. A near top for Robson’s tip and, as it works 75% of the time, it is worth using, especially in pairs.

  A Moysian Fit
A Moysian FitA Moysian fit describes a hand in which declarer plays in a 4-3 trump fit, usually in a major, and quite often at game level. It is a comparatively rare bird, but four Souths found themselves in this situation on Board One from the November league

My partner opened 1D and I responded 1S. Partner bid 2S and, with a fit in two suits, I invited game by bidding 3S. With his shapely hand, North duly obliged. West led the
10, and I was shocked by partner’s  three card support. Never mind. If the spades break 3-3, and the opponents do not set up a diamond ruff, there is hope.  A followed by Q, saw West on lead again. Fatefully he continued with a heart,  won by K. I continued with 9, and after much thought West played the K. A 3rd heart was ruffed in hand and, when the J drew the last trumps, I was home and dry.

Obviously a diamond lead, or club lead to the Ace and diamond return would defeat the contract, but all four declarers made their dodgy games. Several Norths were in 5S, some succeeding despite the three obvious black suit losers. Only one pair found the unbeatable 3NT contract.

  The Unbid Major
The Unbid Major
This hand from the N & N saw the rare use of the unbid major. West opened the bidding  2, and East responded with a relay bid of 2. West’s bid of 2NT showed 21-22 HCP. With a joint holding of 31- 32 HCP East launched into Blackwood, and West responded 5. Sitting North I am pondering my lead to a 5 or 6NT. contract (ie do I lead away from my K?)

However, after some deliberation East decided that the slam was not makeable, missing an Ace so had to recourse to bidding the unbid major, in this case 5
, telling partner that 5NT was high enough.  South quickly doubled 5 for a spade lead so, when West obediently bid 5NT, I could happily lead my 4th highest spade. Declarer did not have a spade stop and we took the first four tricks. An outright top on the board

Should  East have looked for a slam? I always feel that a no trump small slam with 31-32 points is dodgy, unless one hand has a 5 card suit. Most of the field made 9 tricks in 3NT, so I am with the majority.
  Andrew Robson's Strategy
Andrew Robson's StrategyThis hand from the Dereham Trophy found me seriously lacking in technique.

With my red suit honours well placed and support from my partner, I felt that 4
stood a chance.  The diamond lead gave me instant access to dummy for a spade finesse. I was aware that I must lose one heart trick and two club tricks minimum, so could not afford a trump loser.

Now the Andrew Robsons of this world take a positive view, and in their mind determine where the essential cards need to be in the opposition hands in order to make the contract. Thus the
A had to be with East , or I am down anyway.

So place East with the
A, what does this leave West with for his opening bid?  Jxxxx, possibly QJx, something in Hearts, and therefore must hold KJx(x).

East obviously has six hearts and dislikes my spade bids, so I should have played him for a singleton spade at best. With my negative thoughts on the position of the
A, I led the 10 from dummy and played the Q from hand in case East held the Jack.

Playing the
A revealed that Robson’s thinking would have paid dividends, especially when East indeed did hold the A.

One down and a shared bottom . My only solace was that only one pair scored 170 with my cards.

Well done Peter Rowlett!

  Law 27
Law 27Yet another insufficient bid to deal with. East opened the bidding 2NT with a 20-22 HCP. Perfectly legal with a singleton Ace, providing  you have  “may include a singleton Ace” written on your convention card. West bid 2, and the director was called. (Your screen shows the final sequence as the website software does not permit insufficient bids).

The insufficient bid was artificial (ie a transfer to spades) and a relatively new Law 27B covers this situation. And I quote:

If there is a legal call, (sufficient bid, pass, double or redouble), whose meaning is the same as the insufficient bid, or is contained within the meaning of the insufficient bid, ie has a more precise meaning, THEN the player may correct the insufficient bid to that legal call AND there is NO penalty.

North did not accept the insufficient bid, West corrected her bid to 3
, and East bid 3NT. The same contract at other tables minus one was the par result. 

  Fortune favours the foolhardy
Fortune favours the foolhardy

Board 4 from Thursday  4th November produced some early fireworks.  On the traveller, all four players had been declarer in all denominations except spades. So what happened at my table?

After my partner opened 1D followed by a 1H overcall from North, I had a problem. With three unprotected Kings, I felt the hand would play better if I were declarer. I envisaged making my K and, presuming Partner had top diamonds and an outside Ace for her bid, I could count on six tricks in diamonds plus AK of another suit. Nine tricks in all, but I hedged my bets by bidding 2NT. Partner with QJ10 to support my stop in hearts bid 3NT

Predicted lead of a heart from South, and dummy revealed a very dodgy opening bid from Partner. UGH!  Press on and hope.  K on trick one, A dropped singleton K, so seven tricks in the bag. Exited with heart to dummy’s QJ, which held trick and somehow the defence contrived to give me a ninth trick in spades. Very lucky. Admittedly the defence are ‘squeezed’ on six rounds of diamonds but, if North rises with A at trick one and switches to a club, then they take the first ten tricks. Lucky.


  Psychic Bidding
Psychic BiddingAs a Tournament Director. the one call I hate is: “TD, I want to reserve my rights.” This usually heralds a hesitation in the opponents' bidding, or a misleading bidding sequence and the complainant feels aggrieved. On this occasion, it was a case of psychic bidding and fairly easy for me to legislate.

South had opened the bidding 3
, described by partner as 6-10 points and a seven card suit. West doubled for take-out, North passed and East bid 3. South now bid 4, doubled by West for penalties and all passed. When the contract was made, West stated she would not have doubled if she had known South had 13 HCP. South had opened 3 with a stronger hand than the partnership agreement, ie a psyche.

Now psychic bidding is a perfectly legitimate ploy, providing partner does not field the psychic bid. On this occasion South had bamboozled the opponents and his partner alike. Thus there was no redress for West

West should have defeated the contract anyway .After seeing dummy at trick one the next move must be to lead the
Q, taken by declarer. Now seven club tricks squeeze the opponents, but West must retain A, K8 and J. East needs to hold on to
Q9 and K9.  Whilst I have seen worse psyches than this one, psyching in a relatively low key friendly bridge club results in the approbation of the culprit and should not be practised at ABC.

Michaels Cue Bid

The Michaels cue bid is a very useful convention to have in one’s armoury. Despite no opportunity to discuss it with my partner, I assumed he was au fait with this convention.

Basically, you can show your distribution by bidding the opponents' opening suit bid. If this is a minor suit, a two bid of that suit guarantees at least 5-5 in the majors. Conversely, if the opponents open one of a major suit, two of that suit shows 5 cards in the other major, and 5 cards in an unspecified minor.

If partner does not like your major suit and has useful cards in a minor (say 3-3 holding) he can bid 2NT asking you for your minor suit. Simple.

On Board 24, West opened 1C and with my hand, I bid 2C. Partner was alive to the situation and, although East probably bid 2D, partner's 2S response was passed out.

No problem with the play: just one trick to be lost in each suit. One other pair played in spades, but they reached game , losing the same 4 tricks. Strangely enough, when we arrow-switched on the last round, Board 7 provided my partner with the opportunity for a Michaels cue bid. He converted  my 2S response to 4S, and the defence contrived to give me a twelfth  trick.

Remember this convention. Twice in one day makes it worthwhile.


  Insufficient Bid
Insufficient BidBoard 8 at the National Pairs heat in Norwich gave me a lot of aggro, and taught me a lesson worth remembering. Sitting North, I opened a standard 12-14 1NT. East bid 2, and partner bid 2. With four hearts to the AK I was happy enough to pass.

East re-bid his suit at the three level, and South, in an attempt to find a better fit, bid 3
. West dived into her bidding box and was obviously (to me) extracting a pass card, when I foolishly (or prematurely) cried out: "Insufficient bid." (Apologies that the disputed 3 bid is not displayed but the website software won't allow it!)

Now the roof caved in. Despite my assertion that West had a pass card in her fingers, it had not hit the table and East correctly said he did not know what bid West had in her hand, and called the Tournament Director. Despite my vigorous assertion that West was about to pass, the TD correctly ruled that, as the pass card had not hit the table for all to see, the 3
bid was insufficient and not condoned.

Law 27 gives South three options and, in a quandary, South opted to pass. This prevented me from bidding and West now bid 3
, the final contract which made.

South could have corrected his bid to 3
(Law 27C) but, as the offender’s partner, I must pass throughout. 3 was cold so we dropped 12 match points on this board. I felt that the opponents were exploiting the rules, and vowed not to cry Insufficient Bid by partner until it is condoned.

Vindictiveness is not normally in my nature but I was more than delighted when Bridgemate revealed partner and I were in the play-off zone, whilst my
bêtes noires were at the relegation end.

  Stripping the Hand
Stripping the HandOn Board 8 from Wed 20th October after a 1NT opener from West as East I would be striving to put partner into 6H via a 2D transfer bid. With no Aces missing, the small slam would be bid.

North will lead a red card, and declarer must now work out his strategy. With 9 tricks in the red suits and two black Aces the 12th trick must come from clubs, a dubious prospect. The best plan is to take the first trick in dummy, play the
A, cross to Q and ruff a spade, Draw 2nd round of trumps if necessary, cross to A, and ruff another spade. Now play KQ, and you have eliminated any possible get of lead
card from North.

Next take the club finesse and, when West wins with his singleton
K, he is forced to give you a ruff and discard. This line of play will succeed against most distribution except split club honours with South holding three to the Q9x. Had you not eliminated the other suits, North would have a safe exit card and you would be one down.

  Phoenix Arises
Phoenix ArisesDespite our partnership debut debacle the previous week,  I knew Kevan was a far better player than our result suggested.

However, we had a misunderstanding on Bd 1 this Thursday. As North I opened 1NT (12-14), and partner responded 2S. Like many pairs this is either 11 HCP, or a first move to a weak 3C or 3D with a 6 card suit.

With my 13 HCP I was about to bid 2NT when West tabled the 3C card.  This reduces South’s hand to 11 HCP - or a weak 3D takeout. So I doubled, showing a stop in the club suit.

East bid 3S, and West bid 4C. Uncertain of Kevan’s hand I passed, but he was nonplussed by my double of 3C and failure to double 4C. As I explained later, I doubled 3C telling him that we can defeat 3C if he has 11 points, or run to 3D. So a double by him of 4C would have given us an even better score. As it was, his switch to a trump on trick two when in with the
A prevented a heart ruff in dummy and restricted declarer to seven tricks.


  Robbie walks on water - as he puts it himself
Robbie walks on water - as he puts it himself

Playing Acol partner opened 1C, which in a 4441 hand is the suit below the singleton, unless the singleton is a heart. I responded 1D, and West’s 1S silenced partner for a moment.

Now we had been on a good run, so I assumed partner only had four clubs, and could not support my diamonds. However she had opened the bidding , and I held the most points in the minor suits Coupled with my ©J109, my partner’s major suit holdings could ensure a 3NT contract. How do we get there?

I jumped to 3C and partner, bless her, duly obliged by bidding 3NT After a spade lead the play was relatively simple, and the contract was made with two spade tricks two in diamonds, four club tricks and the heart Ace.

My message on this hand is that you must envisage your partner's holding, and sometimes fortune favours the brave. Lena and I were walking on water at times. Most of the other NS were in 2NT, making 9 or 10 tricks.


  Extended Stayman
Extended StaymanBoard eight from Thursday 18th August highlighted a glaring chink in my bidding responses with David Hitcham.

After a standard 12-14 1NT opener, we all know that 2C is Stayman, seeking a 4-4 fit in a major. However, if you are 5-5 in the majors and partner replies 2D, what next?  Well partner must have 3 cards in a major so now employ a 3D bid (Extended Stayman), asking partner to reveal a three card major, which you can leave or go on to game.

On today’s hand, I did not want to be in a NT contract, so I responded 2H for partner to respond 2S (my five card suit)  Now I showed my 2nd major with 3H, and partner assumed I must be 5-5 in the majors and bid 4H.  Even if his assumption is correct he has three cards in each major and should bid 4S, to protect his tenace holdings in the minors.

So I am in a horrible 4-3 fit and the opponents led the
A. I ruffed that and, with nothing better to do, played three rounds of trumps and cleared that suit.

Luckily East is now on lead and did not fancy playing
K, so exited with 6 taken by my nine. A losing spade finesse to the King, and East still withheld her club trick. So I made a lucky overtrick, to equal the result 4S would have provided.  Jan Wells & Eileen Townsend were the only pair in the par contract of 4S by North.


  Cable Stitch
Cable StitchThe day after Vince Cable’s diatribe against bankers, I was playing with my favourite “spiv” at ABC. On board 4 I opened 1D and, after partners’s 1H response, I bid spades. My partner’s 3C bid surprised me but I alerted it as he was looking for help in clubs. With my singleton K I bid 3NT, the final contract.
Luckily the opening lead was a small club, taken by my King. I now ran off seven diamond tricks, and West was squeezed as he wanted to retain a club as an exit card, but could not retain two hearts and three spades as well. As the opponents jettisoned spades on tricks seven and eight, I crossed to
A at trick nine, and returned to hand with AK. When the Q dropped on trick 11, I made all thirteen for 720, an outright top.

I enquired of David why he had jumped to 3C. "Because you had jumped to 2S soI thought you had a powerful hand."  Of course, I had pulled out the wrong bid and this had led to the stitching up of the opposition. Bidding 1S would have been followed by 2H and then 3D and now we might reach 5D, but 6D is very unlikely.  Do not try this Cable Stitch as I was very fortunate, even if I am now a fraudster in the political hierarchy.

  Teams Slam
Teams SlamI was dusting off the cobwebs with John Massey before the next county match. On board 16 I opened 2NT. A 3C enquiry revealed the 4-4 heart fit, and  the 5S response to 4NT showed three Aces.

John happily put me to 6H, and, apart from the
K offside, 12 tricks rolled in. Not a top as 3 pairs had bid 6NT. John reassured me by stating that 6H was the correct contract playing teams.

How right he was as 6NT should not make with best defence. Left to his own devices, declarer has two tricks in spades, three in hearts, three in clubs and only three tricks in diamonds...

North on lead twice must resist the temptation to lead the 4th highest diamond - and must not discard a diamond on the 4th heart. South, of course, will cover
J when led from dummy, so 6NT will  fail. Rough justice!!!


  Find the Lady
Find the LadyBoard 19 from 5th August saw most declarers one down in 3H. That is what the book says, but I was given the opportunity to make my contract. East led the Q, followed by the 9, taken by the King.

I now played the
10 to muddy the waters. After all, this still left the fourth trick in the suit in my hands and West thought his partner had played the Q from Q98.

Now who would do that, so West got it wrong and dared not lead the Ace which sets up Dummy’s Knave if I ruff. So he exited with a spade to the Ace and I won the spade return.

How do I play the trump suit? Well, as trumps had not been led at trick one, I assumed that East holds the
Q. Have you known any defender to lead away from the trump Queen? So I played East for Q, but did not allow for the 4-1 split.

I should have Played the
J, then finessed K9 against East’s Queen, returned to hand via the K and killed East’s Q with the Ace. Then I only lose 3 club tricks and a spade.

My mistake was to start on the trump suit playing the Ace from hand. Now I must lose three club tricks and one in each major. But remember the tip re the Queen of trumps


PS. My card play did not match my shirt!

  Ace Leads?
Ace Leads?Board 16 from the All Day Bridge highlighted a marked contrast in the defender's opening leads.  The traveller on the website revealed that all the EW pairs played the hand in hearts but, in score order, the first four contracts were in 6H  by East minus one. In each case South had led the Ace and, encouraged by North’s ten, had continued with a diamond to the King to defeat the contract.

At my table the opponents rested in four hears by East (the popular contract) and, as if in collusion with other Souths, my partner did not lead the Ace of diamonds and twelve tricks rolled in which gave us a joint bottom. OK. Lead an Ace against a slam, but should one make the same lead against a mere game? Well a spade lead is unlikely to result in a ruff, so why not take a look at Dummy by leading the
Ace - and then we hold the opponents to eleven tricks. After all, in duplicate pairs the odd extra trick can yield as much as a brilliantly executed slam. So think about it!!

  No Way, José !!!
No Way, José !!!
Board 27 from the lunch posed a problem for some. Sitting East I had to respond to my partner’s 1NT opening bid. With my 6 card diamond suit I could have looked for a slam in diamonds. However, with a maximum of 31 HCP I opted for 3NT as I did not relish playing in a diamond suit below the slam level. This guarantees a poor pairs result.

However the printout says six diamonds is on. The traditional route
with my hand would be to respond three diamonds, inviting partner to consider six diamonds. Partner hurriedly re-bids 3NT with her 12 points. Now only an outright optimist would proceed further with a 4NT asking bid and, playing Roman Keycard Blackwood, partner would bid five spades showing two Aces and the Q. Even missing the Q, a five heart response commits you to the slam. With the K in North’s hand the slam is cold on any lead.
Two brave souls tried 6NT which is sunk at trick one by the
K lead. Any other suit lead and you make it. Why are you in 6NT? Surely a quantitative raise of 4NT would evoke a “No Way, José” pass.


  Long Suit Trial Bids
Long Suit Trial Bids

On Board 23 from Thursday, everyone made 10 tricks in spades but only three pairs bid game. My partner opened one spade and, although we had a fit, I felt that with my flat hand and only seven points, two spades was sufficient. Unsupported Kings and Queens never look that attractive.

However, partner had other ideas and bid three clubs, alerted by me. Partner’s three club bid says: "I am interested in game but I have at least three losing clubs in my hand. Can you help me?" Now, with a doubleton club to the King, I knew we could not lose more than two tricks in clubs so dutifully bid four spades. If I had held three small clubs I would have bid three spades

The opposition took their three Aces and fortunately the A was onside. Remember the long suit trial bid. A useful gadget as evidenced here.


  The Gambling 3NT Opener
The Gambling 3NT OpenerIf you play the gambling 3NT opening bid, North’s hand is ideal for the purpose. Seven playing tricks in a long solid minor and nothing outside higher than perhaps one King.

On this hand partner knows you have seven tricks in the diamond suit and, with a good stop in all the other suits, can happily pass in the almost certain knowledge that 3NT will roll in. One proviso of course; he must have a diamond in his hand, to access your goodies. However, there are a raft of responses you must both know when partner does not have a hand like South’s.

Firstly, if partner does not have the other three suits protected, he will respond 4C, You can leave it if that is your suit or bid 4D. I know partner is well aware that your suit is diamonds so why not bid it? Well. 4D is reserved for partner to bid when he has a very good hand, with two good outside suits and several losers in the third suit.

Now, opener could have a void or singleton in your poor suit, so responds, 4H, 4S with singleton or void in suit, 5C shows the same in diamonds, and 5D shows singleton or void in clubs. With a 7-2-2-2 hand respond 4NT. If the short suit matches partner's requirements you are in the slam zone.

If partner knows you can make game in your minor suit, he bids 4NT and you bid five of your minor. What if partner has a strong solid major suit (8+ tricks)?  He bids it and you pass. This convention is worth learning with your regular partner, as it was worth 14 out of 16 match points on this hand. Most pairs went off in 5D.

  Silence is Golden
Silence is GoldenBoard 19 from last week produced a menagerie of results. After South’s pass, my partner produced a devastating pre-emptive 3S bid. North, with a big two suiter in the minors, bid 4D. Over to Yours Truly. With four spade support it is tempting to raise partner's bold bid. However, after a little thought, I realised we only had one defensive trick in spades. Moreover, partner had a weak hand, so how could we defeat a game contract in a minor suit?

As things stood, the opponents could probably score 150, so why bid and force them into game? Also, vunerable against non-vulnerable opponents, a bid of 5S doubled would be suicidal. So I passed and South, in a quandary, took the wrong option and passed. My tip is that if the opponents are resting in a part-score contract, do not try to be clever. 4S from me would give North the chance to show his clubs over a silent partner and 5D making, possibly with an overtrick, would be the resultant contract.

  Take your pick of contracts
Take your pick of contractsSitting North @ the Norfolk & Norwich Open Pairs, I was in a quandary after my partner opened a 12-14 1NT.

Playing teams, I would have looked for a minor suit slam. Responding three of a minor after partner opens 1NT shows interest in a slam. Thus I would have responded 3D, fully intending to jump to 5C in the event of a negative response from partner.

However, South has 4 card support for my diamonds, and a bullish South might respond an investigative 4NT. We play Roman Keycard Blackwood, so my response would have been five clubs (none or three key cards), and now my partner knows I hold the A
,  K and A. He can still stop in five diamonds but, surely, will bid the small slam in diamonds which rolls in.

However we were playing pairs and I thought a long while before bidding. The optional contracts were 3NT, 5C, 5D, 6C or 6D. The problem with looking for a minor suit slam is that, if the two hands do not gel enough to bid the slam, you could finish up in 5C or 5D with a score of 600 or 620. Assuming partner has stop(s) in spades, then 3NT with overtricks likely will score better. Thus I opted for 3NT.

The opponents led the
10, taken by Q. One round of diamonds checking  for a 4-0 split, and now declarer could take the club finesse against the king which works. Now declarer can give up a club trick to J, and has time to return to hand via a top diamond, to play the A and jettison dummy’s J. With two spade tricks, one heart, five diamonds and four club tricks, a score of 690 scored far better than those in the minor suit game recording 600 or 620.

  David Newstead's Maxim
David Newstead's MaximPlaying against David Newstead in a pairs competition, he went one down in a dodgy 6D, when 5D was cold. "Why did you risk 6D?", I enquired. "Well, when we passed 3NT which I knew was cold, I had to bid the minor suit slam or get a bottom against all those in 3NT plus overtrick(s)."

I was reminded of this advice on Bd 11 above. All the tables played it in 3NT by East with overtricks except my opponents. After the 1C opening bid, East made the naff response of 3C. OK, they have a club fit but 3C is a gross underbid.

What are the alternatives? 4C or 5C, but then you have gone past 3NT. A 3NT response with enough points but a dodgy spade suit? My suggestion would be a manufactured bid of 1D, to see what partner says next. Incidentally, never bid  a three card major suit as a waiting bid or you might find yourself in a major suit game on a 3-3 fit.

To revert to what happened, West now bid 3H, which to me sounded like an asking bid. "Partner can you bid 3NT with the heart suit stopped?"  However East thought this was a second suit so bid 4H.

How could it be a genuine suit, as If East held five clubs and four hearts, surely a first round response of 1H  looking for a major suit fit would be preferable to the 3C bid? Now West, unsure of East’s strength,  settled for 5C. Although good play was rewarded with an overtrick, as South I felt we had got a top. Thank goodness West was not David Newstead!


  The Baron Convention
The Baron ConventionAmongst the many slams available I predicted no-one would find 6C on Board 20. However Deep Finesse has stated that 6C is biddable and makeable, despite the defence's best efforts. So how come?

North will open 2NT and only those using the Baron Convention over 2NT will find the 6C contract. Stayman over 2NT is looking for a major suit fit but, if your convention of choice is a Baron 3C, (looking for a 4-4 suit fit) then 6C can be bid. South’s 3C bid asks partner to bid his four card suit(s) in ascending order. With a 3-3-3-4 hand partner has to bid 3NT. Now South knows his partner has a 4 card club suit and, with better points, might progress to 6C.

I play this convention with David Hitcham and Roger Amey so, assuming we arrive in 6C, how do I make it? Incidentally my 4C with David is Gerber and 4NT shows three Aces.

Even after a diamond lead (unlikely) from East, careful play ensures the contract. The clubs happily split 3-2 and successive finesses in the spade suit, against the
Q and 8 ensure a fourth spade winner in hand. Now discard a losing diamond from dummy and your only loser is a diamond trick.

Choose between 3NT or 4HDespite a 5-3 fit in hearts, my partner opted to make game in  No Trumps. Perhaps she did not believe I had three of her 5 card opening suit.

West naturally led a spade. And continued the suit when in with a diamond. Now declarer could discard her losing club on the
Q, and ten tricks rolled in via three in spades, four in hearts, two in diamonds and a club. An outright top.

Neil Tracey asked me to look at the situation in 4H, the standard contract in which everyone was minus one or two tricks. The print-out says you can make 4H whatever the lead, so both Neil and I looked at our Deep Finesse programs to see how to do it. If you have not got Deep Finesse on your computer, do get it if possible.

Neil lost a trick in each suit, so I approached the problem from the worst possible lead of a club, taken by East’s Queen. Win the club continuation with the Ace.

You have already lost one trick, must lose a diamond trick, and the whereabouts of the
Q is a lottery. Therefore you must avoid a spade loser.

Lead a heart towards the King, play
A and K and return to hand via A. Now you can take a ruffing finesse in spades and, in the end game, West is forced to lead away from his heart holding. According to Deep Finesse, the premature lead of A by declarer to draw trumps guarantees failure. Not an easy contract to make. 

  Beware of Helping the Opponents
Beware of Helping the OpponentsYour partner has bid a suit after the opposition have opened the bidding. With three plus card support in partner's suit you feel obliged to raise the ante. Whenever I have done this, I have been aware that I might be helping the opponents by highlighting a possible shortage in our suit in one of their hands.

On this particular hand, I was the beneficiary of such largesse. After the first round of bidding South, with 16 HCP and a shapely hand, made a reverse bid of 2D. Now, sitting North, my hand becomes interesting and, after supporting partner's 2nd suit, even more so when East supported his partner's spades. Now, with a singleton heart, length in diamonds and
A, I am pretty certain that South has at most a singleton spade. Thus it looks like one loser in each major and eleven tricks in Diamonds. Bingo!

I am not advocating failing to support partner's suit, but be aware of the potential consequences - especially when the vulnerability invalidates a potential save in five spades.

  Pre-Emptive Power
Pre-Emptive PowerEast muddied the waters by making a very good pre-emptive bid  of 3D. Despite this, I decided to bid 4C with my good 7 card suit, and my partner bid 4H.

What next?  Well my partner must have a six card heart suit, and I have
Q7. I also have two losing diamonds, and partner may not have any clubs. So I decided to pass, and 13 tricks rolled in with ease on a diamond lead.
Of course I have no idea of North’s strength, but suppose I had been bold enough to bid 5C? Then with his big hand North could bid 6C as his hearts could be set up for losing discards. As it happens, 7C and 7NT are cold but 6H fails on an initial club lead

Have you a defence against pre-empts? With David Newstead I play Fishbein (next suit up) for take-out; this leaves a double for penalties. I also like FOXU (Fishbein over and double under) as a defence.

Now if you have decent honours in the pre-empt suit and nothing  else you pass. Partner with a good hand, sitting under the opening bid, can double for take-out, which you convert to penalties by passing. Very effective, but only with a regular partner.