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Interesting Hands
Good Slam

This was board 18 at Brodick on Thursday 10th October.

Whether South opens  1D or 1H is a matter of system style. Norths hand is extremely powerful with two AK combinations and all the points in the long suits and will bid 2C. South now has a difficult bid. 2H(if 1D was opened) would show the reversing values but would indicate a 5 card Diamond Suit. Despite the singleton in P's suit 2NT (15/16) is probably best. N can now safely bid 3S (a new suit at the 3 level is always forcing) and South shows 4 card spades and the rest is routine to reach the slam.

The play in 4S is routine and by playing a Diamond from hand early N will guarantee the contract regardless of the position of the D Ace by means of 2 Diamond ruffs, 4 Trump tricks, 2 Hearts, the DQ and 3 Club tricks.

If the inferior contract of 6NT is reached South wil still prevail with the aid of a heart finesse. 

Can 6NT still be made if the East and West hands are interchanged?

By playing a Diamond to the Q and K early declarer will isolate West (holding Easts actual hand) with the guarding of the Club suit and the heart suit. West will be unable to discard a club at any time without setting up 5 club tricks. whatever W leads when in with the DA declarer will run his top tricks in Spades on which W can safely discard a diamond and a heart. On the play of the DK W will be reduced to Q87 of Hearts and J764 of Clubs. Whichever card he discards will set up the contract without the requirement of a finesse. west will be SQUEEZED in Hearts and Clubs.

Last updated : 24th Oct 2013 10:32 GMT
Preempt to the Limit and make your opponents guess

This was Board 6 at Lamlash on 10th June.

After a routine 2 Passes and a 1S opener West preempted to the limit with 4D. In North's position it can be seen that a fit is available in Spades but the hand contains a lot of losers.

North now has to guess the best action from Pass, 4S and Double.

Pass seems out of the question opposite an opening bid. 4S could be right but with the knowledge of a very long Diamond suit with West a spade contract might run into a bad break.  

While double is unlikely to produce enough to compensate for a vulnerable game against the non vul opponents North reasoned that he had 2 tricks in trumps and had a partner with an opening bid and doubled - reasonably hopeful of a plus score.

That hope was greatly diminished when dummy appeared and partner was unable to lead a trump at trick 2.

While 4S doubled was made and those in a part score in spades made 10 tricks it is possible for 4SX to be defeated by 2 tricks on the lead of the singleton club followed by a club ruff, K and A of hearts and a H ruff.

Wests bid made life difficult for the opponents and followed the maxim - 'if you are going to preempt, preempt to the limit'. It is always a good idea to make the opponents have the last guess in the auction.

In practice had N bid 4S West might have bid one more with 5D. This action would have been criminal as the maxim of preempting to the limit would have been broken and North now has no guess and having shown spade support can now double confidently without guessing. If W was going to bid 5D it should have been done on the first round.  

Last updated : 25th Jun 2013 21:33 GMT

This was Board 9 last Monday (20th May).

Alerted by Partner's overcall East led a spade and the suit was continued at tricks 2 and 3. North ruffed the 3rd spade and counted his tricks - 5 top hearts, 3 top clubs and 2 top Diamonds = an easy 10 tricks. Unfortunately the bad trump break meant that when East took his his last trump he could cash further spade tricks to defeat the contract by 2 Tricks.

Nobody made 10 tricks in hearts but the 'double dummy' analysis reveals that the contract is makeable.

Where did our declarers go wrong?

On the 3rd Spade declarer should DISCARD a diamond. This leaves dummy (the short trump suit) to control any further spade attack. If spades are continued Dummy can ruff small and 10 tricks are available by cashing the top tricks as above. If East had been able to ruff  the 4th spade dummy overruffs and even if East had started with 5 trumps decarer still retains trump control.

West's overcall, although light in values, is a standard action having a goodish suit and suggesting a lead for Partner should his side defend.

Last updated : 25th Jun 2013 21:33 GMT
Remember to unblock the Suit

You are South in 3NT. West leads the 6S to East's K. How do you plan the play?

Beware counting on 5 Club tricks unless you can unblock the club suit.

Duck the first spade and take the spade continuation noting that spades are no worse than 5/2.

Play the King and then Ace of clubs (it is usually best to play the Honours from the short side first). If the clubs had been 2/2 there would be no problem. Unfortunately clubs break 3/1.

Lead a SPADE from Dummy and Discard the 9C. West can take his remaining 3 spades but must concede the lead for declarer to take 9 tricks by enjoying the 5 club tricks, 2 Diamonds and the two major suit Aces.

Note that if East had not continued spades the contract would be made by playing Ace and Q of Hearts to establish 2 Heart tricks, 2 Diamonds, 1 Spade and 4 Clubs. If Defenders win the QH with KH 10 tricks would accrue as the HJ would be used to unblock the clubs

Last updated : 25th Jun 2013 21:33 GMT
Can you make 3NT with these hands?

The first three bids are automatic with E/W silent. South knows his P has a)15/16 Points and b) a balanced shape. North must therefore have at least 2 Spades and an 8 card fit is guaranteed. There is no need to look further than 4 Spades for a game contract.

2 Pairs at Brodick Club,however, played in 3NT going 2 and 3 off. Another pair played in 4 Hearts.

How should 3 NT be played by N on a small Diamond lead? 

When dummy is displayed declarer can see that 4 Spades is the par contract. At aggregate pairs the damage will be minimal if 3NT can be made. With 9 Diamonds missing it is clear that the Contract will go off if the first trick is not won. There is therefore no alternative to playing the Diamond King and exhaling deeply when it holds.

If the Spade Q is played at trick 2 and West holds the King he will often play it in error or flinch enough to give away its position. Here West plays low in tempo. South should now assume East has the King and play the Ace before returning to Dummy with a club and relying on the Heart finesse for his contract.

If South is going to rely on the Spade finesse he can improve his odds slightly by playing AK Hearts firsts in case the HQ falls doubleton thus rendering the spade finesse unnecessary.

Around 1978 Zia Mahmood won the 'Bols Award for Tip of the Year' which was if a defender does not cover a Q with the K assume he does not have it.

Last updated : 25th Jun 2013 21:33 GMT
Not all Points have the same value

After South’s 1NT opening West declined a reasonable opportunity to enter the bidding with a 2 Diamond overcall. Against a weak NT it is normally best to get into the bidding where possible. Here, the reticence paid off.

North with decent values, a 5 card suit with potential and points concentrated in his long suits tried for a 4/4 heart fit with 2C. When South showed 4 spades North felt the spade suit may be a source of tricks gambled with 3 NT which, on a Diamond lead was a hopeless contract and resulted in 3 off for –300.

Who should take the blame?

While North’s bidding is certainly aggressive, aggression often pays at aggregate scoring. The South hand has 12 points. Not all points are, however, worth the same value. It is generally agreed that points in long suits are more valuable than points in short suits and that Aces and Kings are undervalued in the Point Count while Queens and Jacks are overvalued.

Here 10 of South’s points are in short suits and 5 points are made up of the minor honours. Partner has still to bid and if he cannot find an opening bid it is extremely unlikely that game will be possible over South’s miserly collection.

Despite partner’s 10 points, even 1NT could not be made.

If South passes West will open 1 NT and play there for a small plus.

Because a 12-14 NT is played it is often wise not to open with a poor 12 especially when Vulnerable. With a 12 Count look for a suit with a potential source of tricks, points made up of mostly of major Honour Cards and in the longer suits.

Last updated : 20th Apr 2013 20:05 GMT
A big Misfit but slam still makeable

This was board 18 at Brodick on Thursday night.  3 pairs bid to 6 Hearts without success and one pair made 4 Hearts doubled by an optimistic North. Only one pair, Dougie and Margaret, bid to the makeable 6 NT. 6 Clubs would also have been successful.

Despite the bad breaks in spades, diamonds and hearts it appears that E/W have 12 tricks available in NT by way of 6 Clubs, 3 Diamonds, 2 Hearts and 2 spades ie losing only the Ace of spades. There is a scarcity of entries however and these must be managed carefully.

On a spade lead declarer forces out the Ace. If North continues with a heart or a club the rest of the tricks are easy. If North returns a Diamond declarer wins in dummy unblocks the Club Queen, cashes a high heart and uses the Diamond Q as an entry for his established clubs and spades.

On a heart lead Declarer wins the Ace, discarding the Spade 5. unblocks the Club Queen, crosses to the Diamond Queen. After cashing his club tricks a spade to the Ace end plays North to concede to either declarer’s spades or dummy’s hearts.

A diamond lead is more problematical. How should declarer play to the first 2 tricks?

Declarer must win the opening lead in DUMMY and cash the Heart Ace (discarding the small spade) and Club Queen before using his carefully preserved Diamond Queen as an entry for his established clubs and then endplaying North as before.
Last updated : 16th Mar 2013 16:16 GMT
2C makes 10 tricks for North, but 2D goes down for East

Board 7 at Brodick Thursday 7th February was a routine part score board where 1 North played in 2C making 10 tricks and all other E/W went down in Diamond or Spade contracts.

After 2 passes North will bid 1C. East chose to overcall with 1D and west bid 1S which should show no interest in game and short diamonds – with 3 diamonds pass is probably better. North bid 2C to confirm the 6 card suit and to try to buy the contract. East continued with 2D despite having already shown a 5 card suit for which partner has denied tolerance and this was passed to North. What should North do?

3C would be very dangerous when Vulnerable and both opponents in the bidding. When partner has not bid doubles at low levels are usually for take out. Here the double indicates ‘I do not want the opponents to play 2D undoubled, and a secondary heart suit’ Partner with a scattering of values, only 3 hearts and a likely diamond trick converts the pass to penalties. This yielded +500 for a good score on the board.

At aggregate pairs a double of 2C or 2D is often a cheap and lucrative option as the value of the contract undoubled is 90 while doubled it only increases to 180 as the score is not increased to game level. When the contract is not made however +500 or even +800 is often available.

The problems for E/W originated from East’s original bid. A take out double with a weakish hand shows a) shortage in the bid suit, b) tolerance ie 3 cards in each of the unbid suits and c) the values to compete. Here if East doubles the hand is bid in one effort. Partner will bid 1 Spade and opponents will play in clubs at no risk to E/W.

Last updated : 16th Mar 2013 16:16 GMT
A missed game

When this hand was first played in the 2010 "Bobby Allan" the notes by international player Roy Bennett stated "It is difficult to imagine a contract other than 4S to E/W .. there are 10 easy tricks and those who find the SQ will get a top for 11 tricks".

When played at Brodick last week in the Adam Morrison Cup, only one pair managed to reach 4 Spades, indeed one East went 2 off in 2 Spades after losing control.

After 3 passes, West has a routine 1 Heart opener and East has little option but to bid 1 Spade. West with 15/16 Points and a balanced shape has 1NT as a standard rebid. Now East can bid 3 Diamonds (a new suit at the 3 level by responder is always forcing) this shows values for game AND confirms a 5 card spades suit. Now West with 3 Card support and 4 honour cards in partners two suits has an easy raise to 4 Spades.

With a 3/2 Spade break the play is easy (4 Spades + 5 Diamonds and the Ace of Hearts = 10 Tricks) with 11 possible if the position of the trump Queen is guessed.

Should East consider opening with his 9 High Card Points?

There are many 'Rules' for counting High Card Points and distributional values by adding points for shortages or length.

The simplest to remember is probably "Add your high card points to the number of cards in the two longest suits and, if the total is 20 or more, then open the bidding". This is known as the rule of 20. Many tournament players, keen to get into the action use the rule of 19. Here the total is 19 and most players will pass. Many will, however, open on the rule of 19.

After an opening of 1S the bidding will proceed 1S - 2H - 2S (hand is not good enough to bid 3D) - 4S with the same result.

Last updated : 16th Mar 2013 16:15 GMT
Difficult Contract

Whether it is your style to open the North hand 1 Spade or 1 Diamond North is likely to declare 4 Spades which was the contract at all 7 Tables. This was made only twice both on the lead of the HT. The successful leads were AD  and ST (twice each) and the HT.

On the lead of a diamond defenders can score the first two tricks with the aid of a ruff. The 4/1 trump break will be revealed on the first round of trumps and declarer can see 2 Diamonds, 1 diamond ruffed small, AK of Hearts. The 4 high trumps will only come to 9 tricks and it is necessary to play a club to the King early in the contract for the tenth trick.

On the lead of TS declarer should concentrate on the spades breaking 4/1 as 2 heart ruffs might be required. A small diamond is played towards dummy at trick 2. If West takes the Ace he concedes 10 tricks. If he ducks declarer declarer plays a second trump to reveal the 4/1 break and continues with a second diamond which will be taken. A second trump is returned and declarer can now succeed as on a red suit lead by recognising that the club King will be required and will lead a club towards the King while in dummy.

Last updated : 16th Mar 2013 16:14 GMT
3NT should make but might be difficult

Dealer - South; E/W Vulnerable

At Brodick on Thursday evening this hand was played in 3NT at all 5 tables. When played by West the contract was made with an overtrick at all 3 tables. Where East was declarer the same 10 tricks are available on the 'normal' lead of SJ.

One East was unfortunate to receive the lead of the 4th best Diamond. When declarer won North’s J with the Q the contract was doomed as when North was in with the CK the lead of the D9 defeated the contract immediately.

'The operation was a success but the patient died'.

Although it makes no difference on this hand where the HA is with the hand with the long diamonds it would have been better technique to DUCK the opening lead and continuation. The contract would then be made if North had held the HA. The position of the Club King would have been irrelevant.

The contract would still have been beaten but East would have won the ‘post mortem’

Last updated : 16th Mar 2013 16:14 GMT

Board 2 at Lamlash on 17th March was a cold slam missed by all pairs and is a good introductory example of simple cue bidding..

Although the East hand contains only 10 High Card Points it qualifies as an opening bid under 'The Rule of 20' ie add the number of HCPs to the number of cards in your two longest suits and if the aggregate is 20 or more you consider opening. Opening with a toatal of 20 is not compulsory and the order and ranking of the suits will be important in deciding. Here the possession of the 'Boss' (spade) suit makes opening adviseable.

After Easts 1S opener West's hand becomes huge as it contains good trump support, first round control in two side suits and plenty of ruffing power.

A jump bid to 3C/3D or 3H would show a good suit in a strong, game forcing hand with slam interest. There is, therefore, no need for a double jump bid in a natural sense. The most common use for the immediate double jump is a 'Splinter' bid which shows good support for Partners suit, at least game forcing with slam interest AND singleton or Void in the suit bid.The West hand is ideally suited to a 'splinter' type bid of 4H. The bid agrees openers suit by implication.

The situation is now forcing to game (in Spades) and East must re-assess his hand.Partner has the values to be interested in a slam. He/she has short hearts and must, therefore, have values in either (or both) Clubs and Diamonds. 

When a situation is forcing to game and a suit has been agreed a bid in a new suit is a cue bid showing first round control of the suit bid. East, therefore, bids 5 Clubs to co-operate with Partner in the slam investigation and to show first round control in Clubs. West bids 5D a return cue bid showing first round control in Diamonds. East now has a complete picture of his Partner's hand and can safely bid 6 Spades.

Note that if South overcalls in Hearts the bid of 4H would retain the same meaning.

Cue bidding is used to arrive in slams with moderate values where the actual aces held is more or as important as the number of Aces. eg in the example hand the info that West has 2 Aces would be useless as the Ace of Diamonds is goldust and the Ace of clubs would be valueless.

A google search will provide lots of information on Splinter bids and cue bids which are not as complicated as intermediate players assume.


Last updated : 14th May 2014 18:48 GMT
Lead Directing Doubles

Double is probably one of the most underused bids available. Double is often useful in a 'lead directing' sense eg to obtain a ruff against a freely bid slam contract (known as a 'lightener double') or to obtain a specific lead against a freely bid NT contract by opponents.

When opponents have bid freely to a NT contract it is unlikely you will have enough tricks to guarantee defeating the contract unless you get a specific lead.

There are three situations where a double is useful.

In the first case, opponents have not bid a suit eg 1NT - 3NT a double would reuest partner to lead his shortest major suit which will be a suit in which you have reason to believe will give the best chance of defeating the contract.

The more frequently found, second, occasion is when both opponents have bid suits and end up in NT where a Double requests P to lead dummy's first bid suit.

A rare opportunity for this bid arose on board 22 at Lamlash on Monday 3rd March. An examination of the hand reveals that the contract will be made on any lead but a Diamond but will go two light on a diamond lead. Against the bidding shown East doubled, taking the chance that P did, indeed, hold at least 1 Diamond and requesting that it be led. Unfortunately, the opening leader forgot this inference, not a capital crime as the bid only arises very infrequently, and the contract made 10 tricks on the lead of a 4th best spade.Another case of 'the operation was a success, but the patient died'.

The third case is where defenders side has bid a suit - the Double says don't worry if you have a broken suit lead the suit we have bid P.

By googling 'lead directing doubles' and/or 'Lightener Doubles' the internet will lead you to many explanatory sites - including 'Bridgeguys' which is always gives illuminating explanations.

Last updated : 18th Mar 2014 11:31 GMT

This was Board One in the Adam Morrison Cup at Brodick on 20th February.

After Norths 1H opening East bids a weak jump overcall and West does his/her duty by preempting to the limit. North now guesses to try for his/her own game and bids 5D and East breaks the golden rule of 'preempt to the limit at 1st opportunity'. Having already preempted east should be satisfied that the opponents have had to guess. Nobody guesses right all the time.

Those pairs allowed to play in 5C (doubled or undoubled) should score well. Here 6C is just one too many and the resultant -500 scored a matchpointed 'bottom'.

It is interesting to note that E/W have 11 Clubs and N/S 9 Diamonds ie a combined total of 20 Trumps. The handout sheet shows E/W can make 9 tricks in Clubs and N/S 11 Tricks in Diamonds, again a total of 20.This supportsthe ' LAW OF TOTAL TRICKS' which states that 'The total number of trumps is equal to the total number of tricks' as mentioned in the last featured hand.

Interestingly, the sheet reveals that N/S can be held to 9 tricks in a Heart contract.

Can you see how E/W can score 4 Tricks?


On a Diamond lead the Ace is followed by a Diamond ruff. East must now lead a LOW club from AKQxxx to allow Partner to regain the lead to provide a second Diamond ruff.

While this is relatively easy to see with sight of all four hands anyone achieving this at the table should feel very pleased with themselves.


Last updated : 4th Mar 2014 13:26 GMT

This hand was played in Spades 4 Times at various levels viz 5 Spades, 6 Spades (twice) and 3 Spades. The East hand is a good example of a prempt bid with its good 7 Card suit and extreme shortage in the major suits. When preempting it is always best to bid to your limit at your first attempt. Here 5 Diamonds minimises the chances of opponents finding a major suit fit. Now South who would have had an easy 4 Spade bid over 1 Diamond finds it more difficult to enter the auction at the 5 level and passed. West with 3 trumps,  and excellent shape including a 5 card club suit with trick - taking potential and  potential ruffing values in Spades has a logical bid of 6 Diamonds. Although West was to be disappointed at having no Spade ruffs the hand played easily for 13 Tricks.

When deciding whether to bid on at high levels in competitive auctions the LAW OF TOTAL TRICKS is a useful guide. 'Google' will lead to a few sites which will explain the LAW in its simplest terms. Basically, the law states that the number of Total Tricks available is equal to the total number of trumps held by each side. Here E/W have 10 Diamonds and N/S have 12 Spades making a total aggregate of 22 Trumps. If N/S can make 4 Spades (ie 10 Tricks) this leaves 12 Tricks for the E/W Partnership in their suit. There are a number of adjustments to be made eg for voids in side suits etc. but the basic LAW is a good guide.

On this hand the total tricks are 23 and the total Trumps are 22.




Last updated : 21st Feb 2014 10:47 GMT
Which suit to play in?

This was board 22 at Lamlash on Monday 27th January.

After Partner’s opening 1NT is passed by South how should West proceed?

At the table, almost all Wests bid 2S which, generally, became the final contract.

Clearly, the West hand is too weak to bid both major suits either using transfers or other methods.

With both majors and a weak hand it is usually best to commence with a stayman 2C. When partner has a 4 card major you land on your feet. When partner denies a 4 card major you can now guess which major to play. The chances of guessing right are just as good now as they would have been had you initially chosen a suit to transfer into.

Since Partner's hand is balanced (1NT) and does not contain a 4 card major it must be 3/2 in the majors. There is no reason to suggest that the 3 card suit is either Spades or Hearts. However, in a heart contract the hearts suit will, mostly provide a source of 2 or 3 tricks while in a spade contract the Heart suit will be almost useless.

Conversely, In a Heart contract the spade suit will have the prospect of providing a few tricks as a side suit.

The suggested bidding, with opponents silent is: 1NT – 2C – 2D – 2H - pass. The advantage of this sequence over 1NT – 2D – 2H – Pass is that you have kept alive the possibility of finding partner with a 4 card major where you could be playing in a 5/2 fit with a 5/4 fit available..

Last updated : 6th Feb 2014 15:44 GMT
Biggest Hand Ever?

Board 22 of the 3rd Round of the Boyd Trophy at Brodick on 28th November produced probably the biggest hand ever seen at the club. East/West held a combined 37 points with North/South limited to three useless, unconnected Jacks.

Only one pair failed to bid a small slam but no pair managed to reach the Grand Slam.

Although East has 20 Points the hand is not suitable for a 2NT opening bid because of the singleton Spade. One Heart is too likely to result in a missed game over many hands on which West would Pass and 2 Hearts would normally show a 6 card suit or a strong 5/5 shape. This leaves 2 Clubs as the best alternative. Although this bid normally shows 23+ points the preponderance of Aces and Kings and the 2 Queens being well supported makes the hand worth this (almost) game forcing bid.

West will give a positive reponse of 3C (usually a 5 card suit) and East can now almost underwrite slam unless opponents can cash 2 tricks. To check he bids 4NT and 5NT (Ace and King asking) and discovers partner has 2 Aces and 1 King.

West can now virtually count 13 tricks (5 Clubs, 3 Hearts, 2 Spades and 3 Diamonds.

At Aggregate Scoring 7 Clubs might be chosen as the safest contract (in case P has only a 4 cardclub suit and a ruff may be required) but at Match Point Scoring 7NT would be chosen as the small risk justifies the extra points available for the NT contract.

On the actual scoring on the night those bidding 6NT scored 10 Points 10 Points out of 12 (83%) and those in 6 Clubs scored only 3 Points (25%).

Last updated : 28th Jan 2014 11:14 GMT
Which Finesse?

The Contract is 6 Clubs by South. The opening lead is Jack of Hearts. What is the best line of play?

There are 3 potential losers viz: 1 Heart, 1 Club and 1 Diamond. A successful club finesse will not allow the disposal of one of the other losers whereas a successfull Diamond finesse will allow the ditching of the Heart loser before taking the club finesse for a potential overtrick. The key to the hand is that no matter the position of the Club King the contract cannot be made without a successful Diamond finesse.
Last updated : 9th Jan 2014 14:02 GMT
When THEY have a fit - WE have a fit!

This was board 18 at Lamlash on 4th November.

Here after West’s opening 1H N makes a simple overcall of 2D, the disparity between the two suits and the unfavourable vulnerability mitigate against a bid of 2H which some tournament players would use to show Spades (the unbid Major) and a minor. The simple overcall of two Diamonds is unlikely to be passed out.

When the bidding returns to N the situation is already at 4H. The situation is changed, however, because opponents have shown a fit. When opponents have a fit – we have a fit.

South is likely to have at most 4 Hearts. If he/she does not have 3 or more Spades then 7 minor suit cards are held and a fit is guaranteed.

If N bids 4 Spades and South has 3 or more that will be the contract unless Opponents decide to go further. If South has 2 or less Spades he/or she will remove to 5D as the Diamonds must be longer than Spades. The play will be assisted by the ruffing values ie (short) spades in dummy.

Where a double fit is held the number of points required to make game is dramatically reduced. Here N/S with only 17 points but with a double fit in Spades and Diamonds can make 11 Tricks, or 13 on a non club lead – while E/W with only 23 Points, of which 3 (QJ spades) are useless can also make game with their Heart/club double fit.


Last updated : 23rd Nov 2013 10:33 GMT
When THEY have a fit - WE have a fit!

This was board 17 at Lamlash on 21st October.

5 Pairs played at the 4 or 5 level, mostly in Hearts but one in Spades. All but one made 12 or 13 tricks. Only two pairs bid to slam but ironically only made 11 tricks.

In 6 Hearts declarer, as always, counts the available tricks. 5 (at least) hearts, 5 (likely) spades and the Ace of clubs = 11 tricks and one club ruff before drawing trumps yields 12 tricks without the heart finesse.

One unlucky declarer played in 6 Spades and received the unfortunate lead of the Club King. This removes an entry to dummy prematurely and stops the option of drawing trumps, establishing Hearts by playing AK and a ruff as there is now no entry to dummy to enjoy the established heart suit.

How can declarer still prevail?

Declarer has to recognise that the contract cannot be made without bringing in the heart suit and that the simple finesse offers better chances than dropping the singleton or doubleton Queen.

Last updated : 7th Nov 2013 14:19 GMT
When you have support - SUPPORT

This was Board 5 at Lamlash Charity Bridge last Monday (24th September) where game was missed at 2 tables and the bidding at one of these was as shown.

The East hand is a clear opening bid. Although it contains only 11 points these are in the long suits and the hand contains 2 Aces which are undervalued in the 4/3/2/1 count.

The West hand also contains an opening bid. Normally an opening bid opposite an opening bid = a game contract.

West proceeds with a simple 1S and East rebids 2D to show an unbalanced hand (at least 5/4/-/- shape. Now West knows a) there is an 8 card Heart fit, b) he has a good heart holding, c) the Spade suit is a good source of tricks, d) there are values for game.

West should now, therefore, bid 4H following the maxim - when you have support - SUPPORT!

Although the chosen bid of 3S emphasises the quality of the Spade suit it has the big disadvantage of not being forcing. East can hardly be blamed for passing with a minimum opening and no fit.

An alternative response from West would have been 2S - this would have the advantage of being forcing to game and therefore, rendering a continuation of 3S bid as forcing.





Last updated : 12th Oct 2013 13:13 GMT
Some Cheap Tricks can be Expensive

South has a Balanced hand with 25HCP. This is shown by opening 2C and re-bidding 3NT to show 25/26 Points after Partners' 2D negative. With 23/24 the rebid would have been 2NT.

East leads the 6C and West cannot beat dummy’s 9. South now counts the tricks – 3 Clubs – 4 Hearts – 1 Diamond and 1 Spade – No problem???

When the side's points are concentrated in one hand, as here, communication between the hands is often a problem.

How do you overcome the blockage in the Heart suit?

The answer is to overtake the club lead in hand and unblock the AK of Hearts. A small club towards dummy forces a club entry to enjoy the 2 heart winners. A Diamond to the Q forces the ninth trick.  

Last updated : 16th Sep 2013 15:05 GMT
The Cardturner

Most bridge clubs have difficulty in attracting new members, particularly younger ones, as bridge is not seen as being ‘cool’ in the modern world.

It is, therefore, surprising to find that one of the best selling novels at the moment is a bridge book entitled ‘The Cardturner’. The book features a teenager who is engaged by his blind uncle to tell him what cards he holds. The uncle memorises the cards and instructs his nephew which card to play. He has strict instructions not to speak.

As well as being a good read the book contains many interesting notes explaining the game and some of its technicalities and plays. It is a much more interesting way to pick up tips on play than the standard way of reading page after page of instruction and is capable of being read by those without any idea of how to play bridge and perhaps generate enough interest to encourage them to take up the game.

The nephew, Alvin’ becomes fascinated by the game and learns from watching his uncle. He persuades his pal’s girlfriend, who is the daughter of his uncle’s one time partner, to be his partner. They reach the national finals and on the last round the hand shown proves critical.

The play of this hand will decide the tournament and secure Alvin’s relationship with his partner.

The hand looks easy - 1 Spade, 3 Hearts, 6 Diamonds = 10 Tricks. There are , however, some problems of communication.

Can you make the contract on a spade lead and continuation?

The Ace of Spades is the only entry to declarer's hand.

Duck the first two spades and on the third round you win with the Ace and and discard the ACE of HEARTS.

Next you cash the K and Q of hearts and discard the ACE AND KING of DIAMONDS and then cash you 6 Diamond tricks to make the contract.

Last updated : 27th Aug 2013 07:30 GMT
Easy Game on Marginal Values

Board 20 - Charity Summer Bridge - 29th July 2013

Although North has only 11 HCPs the hand is well worth an opening bid due to the fact that the points are all contained in the long suits. As a general rule when considering whether to open or not the 'Rule of 20' can be used. To apply the rule you add your HCPs to the number of cards in your two longest suits - if the total is 20 or more then it is, generally, wise to open. Here the total is 20 and an opening bid of 1H should be standard.

The principal objectives of bidding are a) to find an 8 card major suit fit if it exists and b) to ascertain the level of the contract. Here South simply shows his 4 card major. North now knows there is an 8 card fit and sets the suit. Since he has no extra values he does so at the minimal level of 2S. With an opening bid in responders hand South follows the rule that an opening bid plus an opening bid = a game contract and bids game in spades.

Declarer can draw trumps and concede 2 trump tricks and the Ace of Diamonds. 

Last updated : 12th Aug 2013 16:52 GMT
Successful Gambit - but not necessarily recommended

Board 12 - Charity Summer Bridge - 15th July 2013

Easts disappointment at picking up the worst hand held since taking up bridge was tempered by hearing his Partner bid a strong 2 Hearts. After Norths pass west decided on a 'baby psyche' of 2 Spades, reasoning that this may deflect N/S from their most likely spot. After North South reach 5D East had to decide whether his Partners 2 Opener would have enough tricks to defeat 5D. Since the Heart suit was unlikely to yield more than 1 Trick (possibly 0 tricks) he decided to bid 5H which neither opponent was able to Double.

Easts action is based strictly on simple arithmetic. Partner has at least 8 Tricks ie 3 off in a 5 level contract which doubled is -500 against opponents vulnerable game worth -600. The only decision then is to decide whether you think opponents will make 5 Diamonds. Here, East guessed correctly and the score of -100 represented a large favourable swing on the board.

Is West's 2 Heart opener the best bid on his particular hand?

The strong two should normally show some bits and pieces outside the trump suit ie some defensive values. This knowledge can be useful to Partner when deciding whether to double opponents high level bids for penalty or to go on with your own sides game or slam. The actual hand here purely OFFENSIVE and is probably best opened with 4H.

Last updated : 30th Jul 2013 09:29 GMT
Blackwood or Cue Bidding?

Board 17 at Mondays Summer Charity Pairs

East, in the modern style of bidding 4 card suits in ascending order, opens 1H. West bids 3C to force to game. This shows a strong hand of at least game values (usually about 16+hcp) and one of 2 shapes of hand, either a) A good club suit with Heart tolerance OR b) a self supporting club suit. East bids 4C to show the fit for that suit and West bids 4H to show the first of the 2 hand types above.

With 17 Hcp East knows his side are in the slam region and can count a likely 5/6 tricks in clubs, 3/4 in Hearts and 3 in spades. Diamonds are an obvious weakness.

Those using traditional simple methods would bid 4NT (Blackwood) and get a 5H (2 Aces) response. This would leave a possible gap of 1 Ace and the diamond King and East would have no difficulty in passing.

The modernists using Roman Key Card Blackwood (RKCB) where the King of Trumps is counted as a 5th Ace would get the response of 5S showing 2 of the 5 Aces and the Q of Trumps (5H would show 2 Aces and no Trump Q. They would find themselves committed to slam with the opponents having a 'marked' Diamond lead.

If a slam is to be bid it would work best in practice to bid a direct 6H after Wests 4H bid leaving opponents with a choice of Diamonds and spades as a lead. If he guesses wrongly slam will be made with an overtrick.

The RKCBers would be required to recognise this potential problem and proceed by way of the cue bidding sequence shown.

What is a cue bid? 

When a suit has been agreed AND the situation is forcing to game any bid in a new suit is a cue bid showing control of the suit bid.

Here after wests 4H bid Easts bid of 4S shows a) slam interest and b)1st Round control of Spades, West bids 5C also a cue bid showing club control. With control in Diamonds East would now bid 5D so the actual bid of 5H shows the lack of a diamond control and West has an easy Pass.

The lowest ranking control is shown first so holding the Ace of Diamonds and no spade Ace East would have bid 5D to show control in that suit and denying control in Spades and Clubs. West would now be able to recognise that the second round control in spades is important and proceed to slam.

Last updated : 16th Jul 2013 18:43 GMT