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Our commentaries are now used by a few clubs, some of which are close by.
For reasons of security we will no longer be posting them on the website.
Naturally when you have played in a session you will be emailed the commentary that night.
They all use Standard English Acol and are suitable for Second Years+
There are 24 boards each week.
Any club who wishes to use our commentaries should contact me:

More Hosts Please!

Our club is totally unique in that it offers anyone who rocks up to our club a guranteed game.
To enable us to fulfil this valuable commitment we need more volunteer hosts.

We already have a small but commited group of volunteers. We need more to spread the burden.
Identify a Tuesday session in the forthcoming months where you would be able to volunteer and drop a line to our Host Angel


Chief Host Angel !
Chief Host Angel !

Our club has always been a great advocate of 'everyone gets a game'. Just turn up and a partner will be found - every time.
It particularily suits people graduating from courses who have yet to find a regular partner and people new to the area who want to try our club (good choice!)

Our lovely Maureen is our Chief Host Angel.  Her task is to allocate volunteer hosts to session dates.
She looks a bit shocked here actually:-)

Announcing this that and the other
Announcing this that and the other
We have all got used to 'announcing' the range of partners opening bid of 1NT. Now the rules have been extended to announcing the range of the opening bid of 2NT.
Subsequent transfers and Stayman also require an announcement.
Additionally those of us that play 5-card major suit openings, a minor suit opening that could be two cards or fewer should be announced even if it is non-forcing. 
Hand of the Week
Odds on a nine-card suit! 14th January

This hand came up at our club last night. I was playing with a new player who passed with the west hand because he didn't have twelve points :-)
Sitting East I opened 1NT and my partner gave me a 'game option' of  3
to which I responded 3NT. This made ten tricks on a diamond lead which wasn't quite a bottom board as two pairs only managed to get to 3.
Most players will open 4
. This is normal with an 8-card suit and few points. I guess this extends to a 9-card suit too.
My partner asked me what the odds are on getting a 9-card suit. There are some people who know these extreme odds but I had to look it up.  0.009%

5 proves to be a very good save for north/south especially given the favourable vulnerability. If you have a system whereby a double is always for take-out over a pre-emptive bid North can respond 5.
It doesnt make of course
but its good fun trying and is a great save for a top board having the comfort zone of keeping it to less than four off if doubled against a making 4 = 620

Board No 16 E/W Vul Dealer West
Pairs Contract Scores Points
N/S E/W Bid By Ld Tks N/S E/W N/S E/W
3NT E 5 +1   630 10 4
3♠ W ♠J +1   170 14  
4♠ W A +1   650 5 9
4♠* W ♣J =   790   14
4♠ W ♣J +1   650 5 9
4♠ W ♣J +1   650 5 9
3♠ W 2 +2   200 12 2
4♠ W A +1   650 5 9

This is the traveller:


Some Wests wont be able to resist competing over 5 and soldier valiantly on with 5. "but I had 9 spade cards, Partner and NO HEARTS" - Ooops.


Ducking, Avoiding and Rule of Seven - Bd 14. 7th January

This hand came up at our club on Tuesday and tested Declarer's suit management.
South opens 1
and North responds up the line with 1
After opener rebids 2 (denying four spade cards) North confidently bids 3NT.
A lovely contract! What can go wrong? The lead of the King of Hearts. Ooer! 
Luckily declarer has seen all this before. He counts his top tricks. Just seven. Where are the others coming from. Well yes. The club suit.
As friendly as our club is the club honours are unlikely to drop in the first two rounds. It is too much to ask for the QJ
to fall kindly. Even in our lovely club.
And so we need to duck a club into the 'safe' West hand - win any return and then enjoy all of the rest of our clubs.
Hold on a min? You did duck the first two rounds of hearts on trick one and two before winning with the A
didn't you? Am sure you did.
The old rule of seven tells you how many times to duck before you win your trick.
Add up the amount of heart cards between your hand and the dummy (I make that five) and take away from seven. Two? Duck twice then. This strategy deprives poor old west of a heart card to return to partner when you duck a club round to his Q
. Nine tricks are now assured. More if West daftly discards  two spade cards when the clubs are running.

Some intrepid Easts may well open 1with this holding. Not quite rule of twenty but excellent rebidding options with a half decent four-card diamond suit and of course a quality heart holding. If he does open 1South will overcall 2 and North (after thinking that there must be a lot of points in this pack) bids 3NT anyway.



Bad Luck in the Wessex

Geoff and Chris were most unfortunate on this hand from their Wessex League match. They know that slam must be on - but which slam. South surmised that it must be spades and were beaten by the break. The Q is unlikely to come down on a kinder break anyway.
In fact the diamond slam can't be broken. How to bid it? Really hard. It may go something like this. South will open 2 and North will relay 2. South now bids 2 This is now totally game forcing so everybody should relax and show the shape through.
If North rebids 3 now (the higher of two 5-card suits) South needs to make the really awkward 4support bid. If South persists with 3 now showing six cards North would make the equally awkward bid of 4 saying 'look partner will you please stop bidding spades and choose one of my minor suits'
North's hand improves with the support and they would go on to bid six.
The play is quite simple. After drawing South has a ruffing finnese in the spades for 12 tricks.
Easy when you can see all four hands isn't it :-)

Hearty Responses

Mike and Jeanne helped steer their team to a top position with this quite thin slam at the new Open Teams event on Friday. They were the only pair to bid the slam.
At first sight there appears to be a diamond loser and a spade loser. After winning the club lead, declarer draws trumps and starts on diamonds. When they ruff out 3/3 declarer can now ditch the losing spade.
I think that Jeanne did very well to drive on to the slam after a rather tepid
 2H response. All Sunderland now need is a striker!

Very well bid!

Another heart breaker

At the inaugural Open Teams on Friday Jonathan did well to bid this 6©.
I love slam tries. One partner bids it the other tries to make it:-)

After 1© Jonathan bided his time with a 2§ response. Phil used the text book 3© to show six heart cards and 15+. This was enough for the good doctor who now drove to 6©.

That is only half the story of course and Phil did well to make this. It requires spades to be set up for a club discard and the long(ish) diamond disposes of the other club loser.
Well bid. Well Made.

Grand Times - 13th August

You would think that 7NT would be a top board.
So when 7NT was entered into the magic bridgemate you would be forgiven for thinking that North had entered the score incorrectly when it turns out that this is not a top.
But no. A pair bid to 7© (which is also unstoppable) and were doubled. Tick.
Well done Chris and Gerry for entering a rather magnificent +2470.


Six spades and counting

This deal came up on Tuesday 2nd July. Board Two. The thing is how to bid to the slam in spades or diamonds. North opens 1. South has just enough values to respond 2. Do we agree 3?  Is this forcing? Well yes it is. But is it better to show the sixth spade by jumping to 3?  Maybe. Still forcing? Yup.
In fact this bid will uncover the spade fit and the superior scoring of 6 rather than 6.
Two pairs found the diamond slam. Well done to Richard and Chris and Jerry and Chris for finding any old slam anyway :-).


At the club last week Derek asked about the Rule of Fifteen. We deploy it exclusively in 4th seat after three passes.
If we cannot open 1NT and we are considering opening a suit there are one or two pitfalls of which we should be aware.
By opening in 4th seat after three passes we may just be opening a can of worms. Or even Pandora's box!

Take a look at our featured hand.
If we open 1§ as we would in any other seat there is every chance that the opps will find a major suit fit and pinch the contract. Whilst they did not have the values to open the bidding they may just summon up the points to overcall your 1§.
You now wished that you hadn't opened in the first place!

RO15 gives us a guide whether to open in 4th seat after three passes.
Add up your high card points + the amount of spade cards you hold. If the sum of this doesn't add up to fifteen, pass and get on with the next board.
Much better than entering -110 or -140 to your scorecard.

Hand of the Week

5th March 2013 - Board 13

This is similar in principle to the last Hand of the Week that I wrote about.  Should you open...
(a) 1 (11 HCP, but comfortably satisfying the 'rule of 20'),
(b) 2 (strong, eight 'playing tricks') or
(c) 4(pre-emptive - a long suit with not much outside)?

In terms of playing strength alone, (b) is most accurate - you have, for sure, eight tricks given that hearts are trumps.  However, 'Acol Two' bids should be reserved for hands where you hold overall strength in High Cards, not just a good long suit.  The same applies, if you play Weak Twos, to an opening 2♣.  Indeed, you could get in trouble with the law for opening 2on such a hand.

Although the hand is perhaps a touch too good, you should open either 1♥ or 4♥.  At this vulnerability, the latter shows a similar playing strength to the Acol Two (do you know about the 'rule of 500'?), but based on tricks from a long suit rather than overall high cards.  If you open 1♥, you shouldn't bid any less than 4♥ on your second turn.  In principle this shows c. 18 - 19 HCP and a good 6-card suit, but the hand is worth that in playing strength.

For reasons cited in the previous article, I prefer the 4-level opening.  You are almost certainly going to bid up to 4♥ anyway, and most of the time you make life more difficult for the opponents by doing so now rather than later!

The principle disadvantage in opening 4♥ is that on the rare occasions (such as this) when partner has a strong hand, you have taken away bidding space to explore a slam.  But if the auction starts 1♥ - 1♠ - 4♥, partner is in no better position to proceed!

So what should South do on this occasion?

Whatever action North chooses, South should realise that a slam is on.

An Acol 2 shows eight tricks.  In principle so does a 4 opening (do you trust that your partner has used the 'rule of 500'?)  South has five tricks in his hand.  8 + 5 = ?
Even if partner has been a little aggressive with his 4 opening, a small slam is likely.

If the auction starts 1 - 1♠ - 4, South might read North as having 18-19 HCP.  Add this to South's 18, that's close to a Grand Slam.  If you are aware that North's bid might be based on shape rather than high cards, you might apply the 'Losing Trick Count':  North has shown a 5-loser hand, and South has a 6-loser hand.  Again, in principle, you should have 13 tricks available.

N.B. "in principle". It doesn't always work out that way!

As it happens, you have eight heart tricks, two in each of the black suits.  And also a diamond trick, but only after the defence have taken their Ace!  Quite often you might have 13 tricks available, but the defence can cash their tricks first.

So why not use Blackwood?  If partner shows the A (or two 'aces' if you play 'KeyCard' Blackwood), then you should be confident about the Grand Slam.  Otherwise I would settle for the Small Slam, and consider myself unlucky if the defence can cash two tricks quickly!

Hand of the Week

29th January 2013 - Hand 11

What should South open, Angie asked.  4 (weak with 8 cards) or 1 ('rule of 20')?

The hand is good enough for either bid.  Certainly too good for a 3pre-empt - the hand is at least a trick better than a standard 3 opener!  Any hand that is too good for a pre-empt should be worth a one-level opening.  But is this better than opening 4?

In fact, this question coincides with an excellent article by Michael Byrne appearing in this month's English Bridge magazine.  I can do little better than refer to this, and in particular the paragraph:

In a major suit you often open marginal opening hands at the four level on the grounds that the sooner your side gets there the better:

(The article is on page 13 of the February issue.  This isn't available online yet, otherwise I would provide a link, but EBU members should have received their copy through the post by now.  I do recommend Michael's articles.)

The point is that the opponents have almost certainly got a heart fit, and even if you open 1♠, you are surely going to bid 4♠ later anyway, whether you do so as a sacrifice or expecting to make it.
If you open 4♠, neither of your opponents will know about their fit, or about their relative strengths - they will be forced to make an uninformed guess about whether to pass or bid on (or double!)  If you open 1♠, then they have a little more time to tell each other about their hands, and they will be able to make an informed decision.

Look at the actual hands:  If you open 4♠, which of West & East might compete?  West has the heart suit, but very little in overall strength.  East has some values, but no suit good enough to bid at this level - though he might try a double.  Either might take action, but it wouldn't be without considerable risk.
But if you open 1♠, the auction might go something like 1♠ - 3 (weak) - dbl - 4 - 4♠.  Now both East and West know that they have a fit.  I won't suggest that it's obvious for either of them now to bid 5(which is the correct action as it happens), but they are in a better position to judge rather than guess!

Rejecting the major suit fit

North opens 1© and South rightly responds 2©. North should now rebid 2NT. This shows a strong, balanced hand 17/18 points. What should South do now?
South can add value to his hand now for his single diamond ace and sign off in 4©.
Had the South hand looked something like this:

ª J 8 5
© 10 9 8 7
¨ A J 4
§ J 7 4

He would have settled in the no trump contract because he has no ruffing value. Sometimes, even with a four-card major suit fit the combined hands play better in 3NT because they only make nine tricks anyway.
North did well to rebid 2NT. He had a balanced hand so he bid it like a balanced hand.

Stuff to do BEFORE drawing trumps
The bidding here is hardly scientific but I suspect that this brief auction is what took place at most tables in the Teams that took place on Tuesday. Note that South should respond 1S - the higher seniority of two suits. 
Most East players will choose the lead of the Jack of Clubs. Top of a run headed by an honour is always the most effective card. It rarely gives declarer a trick that he wouldn't have made himself.
When the dummy goes down we see that there is a single club card. Useful! Thank you dummy! It is so important that we utilise that single club card by ruffing the losing clubs from hand BEFORE drawing trumps.
When we ruff with the SHORT trump hand we are gaining tricks. Did you make ten tricks? Some made more!
Hand of the Week

Tuesday 3rd January 2012, hand 2

"I was West with only five points, and I know I should not have bid at all", Christine confessed to me.  "But with a void in hearts and not being vulnerable..."

And so she bid 2♠, and ended up playing in 3 down one.  But this turned out to be a top score, as North-South can make various part-scores (& other East-Wests went further down in different contracts).  Even if North-South had doubled 3♠, this would have been an equal top for Christine.

So was Christine just lucky, or was her bid not quite as bad as she thought?

It pays to be aggressive in competitive auction, and this is certainly justified by the result!  Although the hand has only 5 HCP, it is worth more than that because of its shape.  On the negative side, a void in partner's suit tends to be a liability rather than an asset, and when she bids 2♠, her partner, if he chooses to bid on (as Geoff did), has to do so at the 3-level.

But there is a much more subtle point here, and one which might be missed by players far more experienced than Christine & Geoff.  To demonstrate this, first I want you to imagine you were in Christine's position, but with a hand that was quite a bit stronger, say:


After partner opens 1, and RHO overcalls 1NT, what should you bid?  Would you bid 2 now?  perhaps even 3♠!  This certainly seems reasonable, and it may very well be that you and partner have a game contract on.  But it's equally likely that you have a misfit.
Whether or not you have a game on, you are likely to get a better score (especially at this vulnerability) by doubling 1NT .  Simply defeating the contract will score better than a part-score, and to defeat it by two tricks will beat game contracts your way.
In fact, in this position, you should probably double with almost any hand with about 9 or more HCP, because you know that your partnership has the balance of points, and RHO has made a mistake in overcalling!

Why is all this relevant?
Well, if you think about this, it means that by bidding 2
♠ Christine was effectively denying that she had a good hand.  The bid should show a hand that was too poor to double 1NT, but nevertheless had enough spades to unilaterally bid the suit at the two level!
(Probably equivalent to a poor-ish 'weak two' opening).

So well done, Christine, in almost perfectly describing your hand!

I can't blame Geoff for bidding on in the circumstances, but had he appreciated all this, he could even have just passed 2♠.  They would have got them an even better score of +110.  No more match points as it happens, but nevertheless a pleasing result!

Hand of the Week

November 1st, Hand 4.
"How should this hand be bid?" Angie asked.

North / South have a comfortable game on in either No Trumps or Clubs.  Slam in Clubs is an excellent prospect, and as the cards lie, both 7♣ and 6NT can be made.  And yet two pairs managed to stop in a part-score.  It's never easy reaching slam, especially a minor suit slam, when your combined point count is only 31, so I would forgive any pair for stopping in game, but to play in a part-score...

Actually the hand does present a couple of problems in the auction:

North opens 1; so far so good.  Should South respond 2♣, her longest suit, or 1, the major?  I have often taught that if you can respond at the 1-level, you should do so.  If you don't, there's a strong possibility that you miss your heart fit.  Certainly with a weaker hand it's correct to respond 1, but on this occasion it's fine to bid 2♣, because you are strong enough to bid 2 next time (if partner just rebids 2D.  If she bids anything else it's unlikely that you'll miss out on the potential 4-4 heart fit).

Now North has the real problem.  Partner has bid her second suit, so she'd like to show support.  She should, if possible, try to convey to partner that she has more than a minumum opening hand.  So what are the options?
3♣ - shows club support, but implies minimum values (c 12-14 HCP)
4♣ - shows club support, and the extra values.  But it by-passes 3NT, which could very well be the best contract!
2NT - shows 15-16 HCP, but implies a balanced hand - what about that singleton heart?
2 - shows a minimum hand, and denies club support, so is a worse option than bidding 3♣.
3 - shows the strength of the hand, whilst still keeping 3NT as an option, but it does imply a better suit, and denies club support.

Of the above, 4♣ is the only technically correct bid, and if North does indeed bid it, then it should be quite easy for South to advance to 6♣.  You might think that this is a bit of a gamble, but it's seldom right to play in 5♣ at 'Pairs Scoring'.

If North bids anything else (she cannot, of course, pass), 3NT is likely to be the resting spot, though South might yet be interested in a slam if North does show her strength.

So how did you stop in a part-score? (& how do you avoid such accidents in the future?)

I don't know how the auction actually went at the two tables in question, so I can't actually answer the first question!  I can only suggest that whichever of the partnership made the final 'pass' was probably the most guilty, even if partner might not have got across the strength of her hand sufficiently.

The moment North opened the bidding, South knows that they have a minimum of 27 HCP between the two hands, so whatever North might bid, South should never pass until they have reached game.

If South responded 2♣, then North is in a similar situation:  She has 16 HCP, and partner has promised at least 9.  This gives a total of 25, so likewise North should never pass until game has been reached.

If South responded 1, then North might rebid 2♣.  This describes her shape well; it doesn't promise extra values, but nor does it deny values - she might have up to 17 or 18 HCP.
Now South might think that she should bid 3♣ to show support, but this would be a grave error - South has so far shown no more than a minimum responding hand (6+ HCP), and by bidding 3♣ she's not promising any more.  It would be understandable if North were to pass now, as she has no idea that South has the enormous hand that she actually has.
South needs to have somehow shown her extra strength, or otherwise made sure that North didn't pass a part-score bid!

To appreciate this, you need to understand the difference between a forcing bid and a limit bid:

A limit bid describes the strength of your hand within a certain limited range of points.  Most No trump bids are limit bids: for example the 1NT opening shows 12-14 HCP; but as a response 1NT shows 6-9 points.
Similarly, whenever you 'support' partner's suit, that limits your hand.  If you do so at the lowest available level, that shows a weak hand; if you jump, then you show extra values.  The same applies if you re-bid your own suit: a rebid at the lowest available level shows a weak hand (in the context); a jump shows extra values.

By contrast, whenever you bid a new suit, generally speaking this is unlimited.  If you open 1 and i respond 1, I might have only 6 points, but I might have 26 - there is no upper limit to my bid.  For this reason, you cannot pass (just in case I have the stronger hand) - this is a forcing bid.

So if you are in a situation such that you know you need to play in a game contract, but partner might not know, you can do one of the following.
(a) bid the game regardless (if you know which is the right game)
(b) make a forcing bid, e.g. by bidding a new suit.
Only make a 'limit bid' if you are are correctly describing your hand.  If you tell partner that you have a weak hand when in fact you have a strong hand, then it will be your fault if you miss game when she passes!

Hand of the Week

Responding to a take-out Double.
July 19th, Board 17

When partner doubles an opponent's suit bid, she is asking you to bid your best suit .  She is basically saying 'I've got opeining values, and I'm happy to play in any of the other three suits'.

Board 17 presented a problem to West.  Her best suit happens to be the opponent's bid suit!  She cannot bid the suit herself - you know that's going to end in disaster: partner has told you she hasn't got many hearts, and there's a stack of them sitting on your left.

With a weak hand, sometimes the best option is just to bid whichever one of the other three suits you prefer, even if you only have three cards - 'the best of a bad job'.  On this occasion, playing in 1♠ would not have been a bad thing - certainly better than playing in hearts!

With a moderate hand (such as this one) and with a good stop in the opponent's suit, how about bidding 1NT?  If you don't have a suit fit, No Trumps is normally the best option - but when the opponents have bid a suit, it's best to have some strength in that suit to stop them taking the first umpteen tricks!  On this occasion, 1NT also works well.

What about passing the double?

This is quite a common mistake that beginners make:
Partner doubles for take-out; you've got a weak hand, and you're not sure what to do; so you pass.

This could be disastrous! The single biggest message that partner is telling you is that she does NOT want the opponents to play in this contract.  It will be much worse for you if they play in this contract doubled, especially if you have a weak hand!  You will need a new mortgage on your house when they make a few overtricks.
(OK - we don't play for high stakes at Aylesbury Vale - but you might need a new partner!)

The only time that you should consider passing is when you have a stack of the opponents suit, and quite a few points as well.  You must be confident (even in light of the fact that partner's strength is in the wrong suits) that they are not going to make the contract, and that you don't have a better spot yourself.

Actually, the West hand on this deal comes close to being good enough to pass the double.  But in my opinion it isn't quite close enough.  Even if you do manage to defeat 1 doubled, it may not be as good a score as making a contract (such as 1NT) yourself.  On this occasion, 1 should make, so by passing you will be conceding -160, instead of notching up a partscore yourself.

Hand of the Week

Competitive Bidding: Balancing

Allowing the opposition to play in their comfort zone is a bit too friendly really.  Even in our very friendly club!

June 28th, hand 1:

North opens 1 (11-19 HCP and a 4-card heart suit).  South responds 2:  a 'limit bid', showing 6-9 HCP and 4-card support.  North should now pass, knowing that the partnership does not have the values for game, and a fit having been established.

In the meantime, neither East nor West should have felt that they could compete.  East was simply too weak to speak over 1.  West is a little stronger, but by the time the auction reached him he would have to have overcalled at the three level.  This would have been quite dangerous without knowing that North had a relatively weak hand.

But now the auction is about to die out.  East is in what we call the 'Pass Out Seat' (also called the 'protective' position).  If he does pass, North is going to be allowed to play in the comfort zone - in a fit at the 2-level.
Don't let him get away with this!!

When the opposition have settled for a part-score, you can assume that they have no more than 23 HCP between them, and they could have a lot less.  You and your partner must have at least 17 HCP between you.
If you are in the Pass Out Seat, you should strive to compete, even if you are a few points short of what you think you need - if you don't have the points, partner must have them!

Here, East should Double, showing tolerance for any of the other three suits.  West will bid 3♣ (he shouldn't get excited - he knows that East couldn't scrape up a double first time round).
3♣ is likely to make, but North will probably compete to 3.

What have East-West acheived by this? North is no longer in the comfort zone - he now has to make nine tricks for his contract.  On this occasion he will probably only make 8 tricks.  Had East not competed, North-South would have scored +110.  By competing in the Pass Out Seat, East has turned this into a positive score for his side.

Hand of the Week

13th June 2011, hand 13:

4-4-4-1 shapes can be awkward to bid.  I don't mind it so much when the singleton is red - I open the suit below the singleton and everything should fall into place.  But black singletons make the rebid more of a problem.  The recommended method is to open the middle of the three suits, and (unless you get a surprise response from partner) bid the lower of the three on the second round.  Partner might expect you to have 5 cards in your first suit, but this is the least of the 'lies' that you can make under the circumstances.

In contrast, West's bidding looks much easier.  Bid your longest suit on the first round, and your second suit on the second round.
East is delighted that partner has bid one of his four-card suits, so he also bids it to show 4-card support, and West is happy to bid game - when partner has opened the bidding and you have an opening hand yourself, you should be in game!

This is all very well, if you have never heard of 'Fourth Suit Forcing'.
The problem is that when three suits have been bid, it is so unlikely that the partnership has a fit in the fourth suit that it's not worthwhile keeping that as a natural bid - Most partnerships use a bid of the fourth suit (2 in this case) as an artificial bid, asking partner to describe their hand further.

In fact the bidding might still be exactly the same as above, but for different reasons!

If you want to know more about 'Fourth Suit Forcing', click on 'Show Answer':

Fourth Suit Forcing

Imagine the auction starting

1 - 1♠
2♣ - ?

West has promised 5 hearts and 4 clubs.  The chances that he also holds 4 diamonds are minimal, and so even if East holds a diamond suit, it doesn't seem worthwhile bidding 2.

But give East a hand like this:
♠  K Q 7 5 2
  A 3
  J 9 2
♣  K 7 5
East should be thinking about game, but which one?  3NT would be risky without knowing whether partner has a stop in diamonds.  If West has 3-card support, 4♠ is best.  There is also the possiblity that West has a 6-card heart suit, for 4 to be the best contract.  Even 5♣ is not out of the question.  East still needs to ask West more about his hand.  But how can you ask all these questions in one go?
Why not just bid 2(forcing) and wait and see what West says?

It looks at first glance like a bit of a white lie.  Well, yes it is, but in fact most partnerships now agree that 2 in this situation does not show diamonds, but just asks the general question.

West has many possible replies:
1.  He has already denied 4-card spade support.  If he has 3-card support, he will show it by bidding 2♠.
2.  He has shown 5 hearts and 4 clubs.  If he has any more in either of those two suits, he can bid that suit again.
3.  If he has a 'stop' in diamonds, he can show this by bidding No Trumps.
4.  If, against all probablility, he does have 4 diamonds, he can show his complete shape by bidding 3.
5.  Failing all the above, if West really has nothing else to say about his hand, he will just have to bid as cheaply as possible, 2.

When to use f.s.f.

"Fourth Suit Forcing" obviously only applies when precisely three of the suits have been bid by the partnership.

You should use it when you are not sure of which denomination you want to play in, and if the reply from partner will help you decide!

Most importantly, you should only use f.s.f. if you are strong enough to cope with any response that partner might make.  This basically means that you must be close to bidding game regardless.  As responder, you should have at least 10 HCP.  In fact many partnerships agree that the fourth suit is 'forcing to game', in which case you need a little more still

If you have below 10 HCP as responder, you cannot safely use f.s.f.
When partner has shown you two suits, it is normal to show preference for one of those suits.
If you really don't like either, and you have six cards in your own suit, then you could rebid those, but it is dangerous to do anything other than these options.

Hand of the Week
Hand of the Week

7th June

My bridge partner (Peter – surname retained to protect the not so innocent) and I (Steve) set forth to our regular Tuesday night gathering at the local bridge club with an increasing sense of confidence.
[Ed: just in case you haven't already got enough clues as to their identity, here's a picture!]
Although very much “improvers” we have worked hard to move our game forward.  Latest results were promising with a couple of recent wins under our belt.  We had even started to think that we both had a decent and similar understanding of the bidding systems we were using. Little did we know that Board 4 was about to shatter that illusion.

I played north with Peter south.  West was dealer and passed as did I and then East.  Peter opens 1♣.  I respond with 1♠ thinking that clubs looked a promising place to go back to.  Peter goes 2NT signalling 17 plus points and West then passes.  So far so good.

At this point I have a dilemma.  I know I am bidding ♣, but how many?  I have passed on my first bid so Peter knows I am not strong and all my second bid told him was six points or more (max 11).  I am worried that being in a minor suit, not knowing I have four clubs, and as we might only have 23 points (17+6) he might decide that to make game at the five level is at least one bridge too far and pass a 3♣ bid.  I am confident that with my shape we can do more and that a game bid should not be ruled out so I want to encourage him.  I use a losing trick count calculation which says we can make 4♣ without any extra from Peter and this seems the right bid as it invites game.

Oh dear, I am expecting 5♣ or pass but get 4NT.  Blackwood – where did that come from?  Peter did not bid 2♣ to open so he has less than 23 points and I have 5HCP.  We are heading for a fall here!

Unknown to me, Peter has taken 4♣ as Gerber (which we play – unfortunately we seem not to have agreed that it doesn’t apply when clubs have been bid) so 4NT is saying 3 aces.  The trouble is I don’t know this.

Suddenly I feel better.  It occurs to me that as I have no aces and the response in Blackwood is 5♣ by sheer good luck we will end up in 5 clubs and if we can’t make game at that level at least it might only be one off.  My relief is short lived as Peter storms back with 5♥ in the belief he is showing me his one king.  At this point I have no b……y idea what is happening!  Why does he want to play in hearts?  ……..the penny drops!!  Gerber.  I am sure we said no Gerber until suit was agreed and definitely not if clubs were a bid suit.  Or did we….?

What to do.  We cannot go 5NT with my hand.  5♠ and pray Peter has a few – desperate thoughts.  No!  We have clubs and this must be the best “worst” position so 6♣ and pray Peter doesn’t want to tell me about his queens!  Thankfully we reach an end.  I am furious because at times like these it is hard to think that you might be the culprit.  Peter senses my angst and looks nervous.  The lead is made – a low heart – my cards are on the table and I wait for the certain carnage that is to follow, not noticing a subtle change in my partner’s expression. Winning with the King in hand he goes back to dummy by ruffing a heart and has the luxury of the trump finesse gamble which works and I watch in dis-belief as he takes all thirteen tricks! [Even an ace of hearts lead still leaves us with a small slam]

It was about a week before we stopped laughing!!  We came top – sorry!  Memo to self – must agree use of Gerber with partner.

If this has amused you – good.  What should have happened?

Sue Maxwell says: If you play weak two openings North will open 2S. Its only five points but a good suit and the hand has a nice 6/4 shape to it. But in the absence of that the hand will be passed round to South who opens 1C. North rightly responds 1S. Never agree a minor suit when you have a 4-card major let alone a 6-card major! Agreement of a minor suit denies a major.
South rebids 2NT showing a 
fairly balanced 17/18 count. North should rebid 3S. This is forcing and shows 6 spade cards. It is now tempting for south to rebid 3NT. If he does that is where the contract will rest. But if he responds with 4S North will investigate further. His hand is now enhanced with a fit in both black suits. With imps scoring (teams or rubber bridge or Chicago) North would be wise to settle for the safer club slam. But at match pointed pairs, as in our club, the spade slam beats the club suit slammers.
East should probably lead the JH. South covers with the King with West winning with the Ace. A heart is returned and ruffed. Declarer draws trumps. So far so good. North now plays his 9C intending to run it. When it holds up he claims. I've been in worse making slams.

Hand of the week

Philip played this hand in 1, which struggled to make, whilst there is clearly a better fit in spades.  He asked whether the bidding was correct.

The simple answer is 'Yes'.  It is not uncommon for correct bidding not to find the best contract, in particular when one of the partnership is too weak to describe their hand sufficiently.

1 is the correct opening for East in the 'Standard English' system.  There is a school that would have opened 1, but that would have been scarcely better on this occasion.

South has a hand that would have opened 1NT, but the hand is not suitable for any overcall or a take-out double.  If any South bids 1NT regardless (which should show 16-18 HCP as an overcall) I hope that they were suitably punished!

Should West respond to 1?  With only 3 points, it is technically correct to pass.
However, I know a lot of players who would bid 1 in the hope of finding a better spot.  East should then bid 3NT, and whether or not West 'corrects' this to 4, the partnership is at too high a level.  This will get West a worse score than simply passing in the first place.

The moral of this is that if you have a misfit and not much strength, it is better to duck out of the auction early - better to play in a poor fit at a low level than in the right fit at too high a level.
If you look at the traveller and see better scores, shrug your shoulders; other pairs have got that through inferior - but lucky - bidding, or perhaps with some help from the opposition.

Hand of the Week

15th March 2011 - Hand 22

Angie asked how the bidding should go on this board.

Without interference form North-South, it should be relatively easy to bid to 3NT.

If you don't play weak twos, the uncontested auction should start (from West) 1 - 1- 1, and now East should be happy to bid 1NT, as she has some cover in the fourth suit.  West raises to 3NT, which should be comfortable as the cards lie, and indeed 11 tricks are quite possible.
Angie opened a weak 2 with the East hand, which seems very reasonable to me.  This makes life a little more difficult for West.  I'd like to bid 3NT, but I'd be worried about the singledton K, and I can't really find out if partner can help me out there.  Nevertheless I don't like the alternative of 5 (and anything short of game just seems a bit feeble to me), so my style is to just bid 3NT and hope - I'd have been lucky on this occasion!

But what if South overcalls?
If Partner opens 2♦, and South bids 2♥, I'd actually be more confidant about bidding 3NT as West - I'm not afraid of a heart lead from North, which he is now likely to do, whereas otherwise a spade lead would have been quite likely.
Without the weak two, the auction might go (as shown above) p-p-1-p-1-1♥.  Now West has no really good bid to keep the auction going.  You can't bid your second suit naturally.  Repeating clubs or supporting diamonds would be misleading, and even if you jump (to 3 or 3♦), it does not get across the full potential of the hand.  You could double, or bid 2, at least to try to get some information out of partner, but you're unlikely to find out what you want to know.
So once again, I would just bid 3NT and hope!

Hand of the Week

This is hand 16 from August 24th, which TD-on-the-night Richard sent to me.  There is a comfortable slam on for East-West - in fact, as the cards lie, they can make all 13 tricks with either hearts or clubs as trumps.  But nobody bid the slam - and a couple of pairs didn't even reach game.

For a starter, let's look at the East hand.  This is far more valuable than its 17 High Card Points suggest.  It's worth at least 8 tricks in its own right, which would make it worth a traditional Acol 'strong two' opening, if only the main suit weren't clubs!  I personally would not open this with a game-forcing 2♣, but start with a quiet 1, hoping to get across my strength later.

If partner can make the slightest squeak in response to 1♣, or even if partner opens ahead of me with a 'Weak Two' opening, then I would immediately assume that game is on, whilst thinking about the possibility of a slam.  If West opens with 1 (the hand is just short of the 'Rule of 20' mark, but some players will think it's just too good for a Weak Two), then slam is a serious prospect.

However, it often happens that it's very hard to find out whether West has just the right cards for you.  Suppose the auction starts 1 - 1- 1- 3♥.  The last bid from West shows a 6-card heart suit and a better-than-minimum response (about 9-11 HCP) - not dissimilar to a good Weak Two opening.  If West were to hold Q J 10 x x x, and a few diamond honours, slam is a poor prospect.  But with West holding K Q x x x x, the slam looks very good.

Blackwood is not much good in cases when you have a void - what use is it to know that partner has the A?

I fear that the only sensible way to reach the slam is to trust your evaluation of the hand and just go for it!  Or is it the only way...?

If you play Weak Twos, what do you understand by a 2NT response?  Usually this is played as asking opener more about his hand, but there are two methods in common use for opener to reply to this question.

  1. Opener just rebids his suit if his hand is weak (within the context), or bids another suit 'with a feature' (e.g. an ace or king) if stronger.
  2. Opener replies with codified responses showing (a) whether he is minimum or maximum(within the 'Weak Two' range), and (b) whether his suit is good quality.  This might require a feat of memory.  Say the auction starts 2 - 2NT:
    3♣ - shows a minimum hand (say 5 - 7 HCP) and a poor heart suit.
    3 - shows a minimum hand but good suit (two of the top three honours).
    3 - shows a maximum hand (say 8 - 10 HCP) and a poor heart suit.
    3♠ - shows a maximum hand and a good suit.

This latter method is sometimes called 'Ogust', sometimes 'Blue Club' (Don't ask me why).  On this hand, it would work very well if East were to choose to ask West, instead of trying to describe his own hand.  When West shows a good suit, this is just what East wants to hear - he knows that this must be KQxxxx, and the rest of the hand doesn't matter (very much)!

Strange - preemptive bids are intended to make life awkward for the opposition, but it's surprising how often Weak Two openings can be used constructively to find games - and slams - that wouldn't be found by just adding together High Card Points!

Tuesday Teams - 03/03/09

When we started to learn bridge, we were governed by point counts, but over the years we learn that points alone are not the only criteria.
With a shapely hand like this, I want to explore game, partly because we like to bid games when playing teams.  I know we must have an 8-card fit in one of the majors, because partner can't have two doubletons when he opened 1NT,  so how do we find out which?
If you don't play transfers you can bid 3♠ (forcing).  Partner will bid  4♠ with 3-card support, but if he bids 3NT (showing a doubleton spade), you can rebid 4 in the safe knowledge that he must hold at least three hearts.
If you play transfers, you can start with 2, showing a 5-card spade suit, and follow up by bidding 4 to show the 2-suiter.  Then partner can pick the best suit.


The play.
Dummy was slightly disappointing - a minimum hand with no shape.  But those two aces will at least be useful!

North on lead faced the ♠3.  Why select a trump lead?  Trump leads are much under-rated. Often you lead a trump if you fear that declarer is going to ruff tricks in dummy, or even set out on a cross-ruff.  This is less likely on this auction, so perhaps there is another reason - Maybe North didn't like the alternatives because he has honours to protect in the other suits!

South won the Ace of trumps and returned a small trump.  When both follow to the second round, you know that there is only one outstanding trump, a master, so there is no point wasting two of your own trumps in drawing a third round.

Win in hand and finesse the ♣Q.  When this holds, discard a small diamond on the ♣A.  Imagining that North has the K, I want to lead a heart from hand towards dummy's queen, so I need to return to my hand.  I could get back to my hand by ruffing a club or a diamond but that might leave me short of entries later.  I return to hand with a small heart to the Ace, but notice that South plays the J.  This gives me an alternative line:
It's now twice as likely as not that North holds the 10.  So I lead a small heart to dummy and try the 9.  When this draws South's K, we have ten tricks in the bag.  South can play his trump master when he likes, but dummy's Q will draw the last heart, and declarer's remaining hearts will be winners.

Why is it more likely that North holds the 10?  Take a look at the 'Principle of Restricted Choice'

24th February

Your hand record probably tells you that you can make 12 tricks on this hand (whether you are playing in hearts or No Trumps), if the hand is played by West.  But East has a problem in the auction.  Firstly, he knows that partner has a balanced hand, 15-16 HCP.  So they probably don't have enough points to be considering slam - Game should be enough.  But also he doesn't know whether there is a heart fit or not.  When partner rebids 1NT, you know that he has a balanced hand, but that might mean a doubleton heart or a trebleton.  (Partner won't have 4 hearts, otherwise surely he would have bid 3 not 1NT!)

A quick poll round the office tells me that a 3 rebid shows exactly this type of hand.  Just as a 3 response to an opening 1NT shows a game-force and precisely 5 cards in the suit, so does the 3 bid over a 1NT rebid.  If you have a 6-card suit you should simply decide whether to play in a part-score (by bidding 2), or in a game (by bidding 4).  If you had a second 4-card suit, you might be able to make the situation clearer by bidding that suit, and sometimes players 'invent' a second suit for the purpose, e.g. by bidding 3.  I don't recommend it on this hand!

Opener should, on this occasion, prefer to play in 3NT rather than 4.  I would expect a spade lead from North - declarer will try an honour from dummy, which will win the trick.  Now declarer has plenty of time to unblock the hearts, and try the club finesse.  This loses, but it establishes four club tricks in addition to five hearts, two diamonds and two spades.  Tricks to spare!

Thursday, 29th January

Board 21.  Dealer North; NS vulnerable.

Gill chose to pass with the North hand - balanced, with 12 points, but she didin't like the look of three bare aces.

You might have been taught that you shouldn't make a pre-emptive bid when you also have 4 cards in an outside major.  However, it's OK to do so in third seat, as the risk of missing game in the other major is severely reduced.  On this occasion the 4-4 fit is missed, but the 7-2 fit turns out to be better anyway.

A vulnerable pre-empt should, in principle, tell partner that you are two tricks short of your bid.  i.e. when you bid 3, you expect to make 7 tricks with no help from partner.  Given this, it is easy for Gill to bid 4, with her three certain tricks.

What do you do with the South hand if partner opens 1NT?  Do you think that your hand is worth a game, and if so, would you explore the possibility of 4♠ instead of 4?  There are many occasions when it is better to play in a 4-4 fit, even when you have a 9-card fit elsewhere.  Unfortunately this is a time when it is better not to, but that is only because of the bad spade break.

If South acts cautiously, West will surely compete in diamonds, and those Wests that were given the opportunity will have got a good score.  Even if West has to compete at the 5-level, they will get a better score than allowing NS to make 4.

Tuesday 27th January

We don't always need 12 HCP to open the bidding at the one level. Board 13 was a classic example, North hast 10 points and seven spades.  The hand is too strong to open 3♠ so open 1♠ and repeat spades until partner gets the message.

Listening to the auction at our table, it did rather sound as though we were playing with two packs of cards to have enough points for our auction.  I certainly had my opening bid and East’s 1NT is sound.
South's bid is actually quite a good bid, but most of us probably don't appreciate why!  If South had even a moderately good hand, say about 8 or 9 points upwards, he should double to punish East for entering the auction when North-South have the majority of points.  Thus a bid now shows a weak hand with a long suit.
When West found enough points to make a free bid at the 2-level I decided to muddy the water a little and jump to 3♠.  East having seen me in action before doubled.  As it happens he should have trusted his partner and bid 4.

When you have distributional hands, 'bumping the bidding' makes it harder for the opposition to judge their best contract.

Thursday, 22nd January

I feel that I worked really hard this week to achieve an unremarkable 50% two nights running.  My partners probably feel that they worked harder! On Thursday night board 14 was one of those hands with each side having 20 points and the last man standing probably made their contract as EW can make 4 and NS can make 4♠.

The auction did not go like this at our table but might have done on a good night.  East has the easiest bid to find, opening points, a 5-card major and 4-card minor suit.  Some Souths might overcall 1♠ at this point.  West has to do the real work and value his hand correctly, only a measly 7 HCPs but 5-card support for partners suit, a singleton and 8 losers.  All this adds up to raising partner to 3, not 2.

If NS are ever going to find their game, for sure one of them has to make a noise at some point and this is North's last chance.  If partner has called a spade be bold and bid 4♠ now.  If you only bid 3♠ EW can easily bid 4 and the auction may die there.  You should be aware that 
1)  EW are likely to make 10 tricks
2)  East will find it harder to bid 5 over 4♠
3)  South might pass 4 and you will still have to make a decision

If South did not overcall I would be very tempted to double and ask partner to bid his best suit.  Double would suggest that you hold 4 spades.  West will bid 4 hearts and South should not be shy about bidding 4♠

Thursday 15th January

When partner opens a 'weak 2' its sometimes difficult to know if you should raise to game.  The decision is made easier on this hand when the opposition help out by doubling for 'take-out'.  In a competitive situation, you should raise partner as high as you dare, to take away bidding space from the opposition.
10 tricks are available to NS, who are vulnerable.  But what about EW?
Not vulnerable, they can afford to go up to 3 off, doubled, for -500 if they are sure NS are making +620.  Careful defence holds 4 to 8 tricks but if NS are too slow to take their club tricks, they might disappear on the diamonds.

Teams: Tuesday 6th January. Board One
North has a straightforward opening bid of 2NT. South starts a transfer process by bidding 3D  expecting to bid 3S over partners 3H to show his shape through and give his partner three game choices. This is a gameforce showing at least five hearts and four spades. North with max points and an excellent heart fit bids the 'super accept' of 4H. South gets a bit excited because of his nice shape and ask for aces using blackwood. South stops in 5H when he finds that two aces are missing. Unfortunately poor North receives the single diamond lead to the ace, a diamond return for a ruff and the ace clubs for the setting trick.
No justice.

It was a case of two wrongs making a right last night. My partner, Barry Meacham, made some excellent decisons helping us to a 60% win.
On table one, board 2, Tony opened 1♣. Holding both majors my partner might have chosen to double but decided to get the five card major across early by bidding 1♠.
Ian Raynes made an excellent 'trap pass' and Tony made a very good take-out double in the south seat.
Ian had this auction where he wanted it and chose to defend 1♠ doubled, by passing.
I never, ever rescue partners. So I rescued partner by bidding 2!
Tony now bid 3♣ and my redoubtable partner raises me to 3 (yikes!)
Ian might have chosen to bid the vulnerable 3NT now but decided that discretion was the better part of valour and settled for 4♣ which is where the auction ended.
My partner Barry had been heroic up until now, but more was to come!
The lead often gives away tricks that declarer wouldn't have made otherwise and so it proves on this hand. Barry didnt fancy leading fourth highest spade. The heart holding of AQ looked too dangerous to lead from and underleading the King of Diamonds to a passed-hand (twice) partner looked dangerous also. He chose (wait for it) a singleton trump lead! As you can see by the hand layout, this was the perfect lead which consigns this contract to 1 off.
Well done Barry!

We had quite a few distributional hands last night but, sadly, not all of them lived up to my expectations.

This one did.  East is dealer with an interesting 6-5-1-1 shape.  Surprisingly, pass is the best bid for the moment.  The hand is not good enough for a 1-level opening; nor is it the right shape for a 'weak two'.  It is better not to pre-empt when you have length in a major as well as your primary suit as you may miss a major suit fit.  The suit quality is also very poor.
But after partner bids 1NT you can get excited and go to town. 

By 'bidding' spades first (here we are using transfers) and rebidding hearts at the 4-level partner will get the message that you are at least 5-5 in these two suits.  If you know you want to be in game, tell partner; if you leave him to guess don't be upset when he gets it wrong.  West must have 3 cards in one of these suits after opening 1NT and can either pass 4 or correct to 4♠.  It is important to bid spades first.  If you started with hearts, you would need to rebid 3♠, which is still forcing to game but indicates 5/6 hearts and only 4 spades.

4th December - Board 5

There are some interesting bidding decisions on this hand, such as North's Rebid.  North is not strong enough to reverse, but 2♣ would be an underbid.  1NT, even though the hand isn't quite balanced, looks best to me.
'Roman Key Card Blackwood' helped NS to reach the slam.

Missing three kings and the club queen, Declarer has options to take finesses in all four suits.  Which finesses should declarer try?

When you have, for example, AQJ opposite a singleton, there’s not necessarily any need to take the finesse – you may be able to play the Ace, and ruff out the rest of the suit, not losing any tricks.  Even if the finesse works, you can’t repeat the finesse, so you can’t take any more than two tricks without either ruffing further tricks or losing a later trick to the king.

With this heart suit, however, you can try the finesse, and if it works, repeat it.  Thus if the king is onside, you can continue, and you don’t have to lose any heart tricks at all.

When you can only afford to lose one trick, and you might have to lose a trump, it’s best to try the trump suit first, and that might affect the way you play the other suits.  If you know you have a trump loser, you have to be careful to play the outside suits for no losers; if you don’t have a trump loser, you may decide that you can afford to lose a spade (for example) to help establish the suit.

So, if you get a diamond lead, play the ace first – you can’t afford to risk that finesse without knowing whether you have a trump loser.  Then play the heart queen.  Assuming that East doesn’t cover, duck this trick and play another heart from dummy.  Having drawn trumps, you now know you can afford to lose a trick either in spades or in clubs.  Luckily, when you play the ♣K, the Queen falls, and you know you can take four clubs without losing one.  But (with only one trump left in each hand) you can ruff only one round of spades, and have to lose a trick to the King as well, whether or not you take the finesse!

I ran a poll around the office on what East should open after pass from North.  3 votes for 4 and 4 votes for 1.  2nd in hand, it does seem better to open 1.  Why?  Partner's hand is undisclosed.
Pre-empting is supposed to make the auction difficult for the opposition, not for you and your partner
.  Note that the hand is too strong for 3
.  Because your outside suits are short, you need to find partner with top cards, minimum 3 aces or the AD plus A K in the same suit if you want to make the contract.  On the other hands you are not vulnerable against vulnerable and if NS have a game on you can afford to go 3 off doubled and still make a small profit, 620 – 500 = 120.

Ian writes:

There’s more to this hand than meets the eye.
I personally agree that East should open 1♠, but there is a good argument for 4♠.

Having doubled on the first round, South should pass on the next round – he has nothing more than he’s already described (an opening hand with a shortage in spades and probably 4 hearts).
Nevertheless, I suspect that some Souths just can’t resist temptation!

Looking at the North & South hands together, it looks even less inviting to bid 4:  a combined 23 HCP;  Both hands have a doubleton, but the distributions are mirrored (both hands have exactly the same number of cards in every suit) – this means that the value of the doubletons is eliminated – there’s no opportunity to get extra tricks through ruffing or discarding losers.
Even if you guess correctly in clubs, it appears that you can’t avoid losing 2 diamonds, 1 heart & 1 spade.  But there is hope yet…

Assume that East leads his top spade against 4.  Declarer wins, and starts to draw trumps.  When West takes her A, she plays a second spade (not knowing that it can’t ‘run away’).  East does best to let West’s spade win the trick – otherwise he will have a problem knowing what to switch to next.  West has an easier decision to switch to a diamond.

As the cards lie, declarer must take the first diamond trick, finish drawing trumps, guess the clubs correctly and cash enough of those.  Then exit with a diamond.  When East wins the K, he has nothing to lead but spades, and has to concede a ‘ruff and discard’ – declarer throws a diamond from one hand, and ruffs in the other hand.  The ‘unavoidable’ loser has disappeared!

What can East-West do about this?  Well, an earlier diamond lead may make it easier to cash the diamonds before East is end-played, but it seems natural to play spades first.  Having done this, the only thing that East can do is to play his K on declarer’s Ace, or discard it on the 3rd club, hoping that West still has two diamond tricks!

Friday Teams

This was the auction at our table and some pairs make 3NT on a heart lead.  After West opens 1 East has an easy response with 2 (10 points +  and some diamonds) A nice easy rebid of 2 from West shows at least four heart cards and five spades cards.
Is 3 by East now forcing?  Had she been a bit stronger she could have bid the fourth suit - this would be game forcing. The fourth suit is always artificial and asks for further and better details about partner's hand - such as has she got clubs stopped or has she got a fifth heart or if all else fails support the diamonds.
West has got a bit of a stop with the Q but once the defenders lead a club (the unbid suit) they get in again with the ace hearts and clear the suit for one off.

So back to the question of whether the 3 bid is forcing. East says no and who can argue with that.

Slam Happy 4th March

Most players got to 6NT on this hand on Tuesday evening down at our club. There are various ways of bidding it.
For sure West will start with 2.
This shows either a game forcing hand or 23 points plus which is not yet game forcing.
Acol is starting to pinch Standard American ways of using a 2relay with any holding in response to 2.They call it a 'waiting' bid. Quite descriptive.
It keeps the bidding low and uncomplicated whilst giving the star of the show plenty of space to further describe his hand.
After our star rebids 2NT showing a fairly balanced hand with a 23-25 count East can now embark on all the gizmos that he would use opposite a 1NT opener such as Stayman (some use puppet stayman) or transfers.
In this case he may use a simple quantitave raise to 4NT. Note that in this sequence this is not Blackwood - just like it wouldn't be opposite a 1NT opener.
It simply is an invite to go to 6NT depending on the range of West's 2NT rebid. Given the added value of the lovely diamond holding East may bash on to 6NT straightaway anyway.

On the lead of the Q declarer can count 12 tricks if the diamonds break unkindly or 13 top tricks if they do.
Well done to everyone who bid it.


In the slammer again -board 10

Whilst East has not got 23+ points he is well worth a 2 opening. This hand is enormously powerful with it's two fab pointy suits and should be treated as a game force.
West relays 2 and now East has got all the time in the world having announced his great hand with a 2opener. So he responds 2
. This is now totally game forcing.
West, with his outside ace clubs is too strong to sign off in 4 and so responds 3. Note that this is a stronger bid than 4.
After a round of Blackwood East now bids 6.

Very well bid E/W winners Gay and Jill and also Paul and Alan for getting to the rightspot.

South leads the Aand is disappointed when the K doesnt stand up. But then that is why East added value to his big hand when he opened 2


At our table the auction did not go like this but in an ideal world it might.  West has a clear opening bid of 1♠ intending to rebid 2♥ if partner does not support spades.
Tip: always think about your rebid before making your first bid.  Norths club suit is not very strong but six cards headed by the Ace plus 11 points are good enough for me to have one go.  East should not bid 2♥ directly as this would show a five card suit, but indicate four hearts to partner with a double.  South should pass and West can show medium interest by bidding 3♥.  East might pass, or as its teams and we try very hard to bid games at teams, might raise to 4♥.
If South was on lead it would be easy, just lead partners suit and hope for a ruff.

North choses the ♣A anyway.  And continues with another club.  The size of this club should tell South which suit to return.  A high club aks for the higher of the two remaining suits and a low one aks for the lower of the two remaining suits.  It doesn't matter on this occasion as dummy only has two clubs as well, but there will be times when dummy has three clubs or only SMALL trumps.  Unlucky if you bid 4 as N/S have now made 4 tricks, 3 aces and a ruff.

Contract 3NTs, Lead 6
A very simple hand.  The auction is not perfect as we teach you to open 1♠ on this hand.  I still prefer 1♣ as I know we will not miss a 4 - 4 major suit fit.  And after 35 years old habits die hard!  Anyway we are in the correct contract of 3NTs.  One of the first things you will have been taught is the 'Hold Up'.  You do not have to win a trick just because you can.  Sometimes we need to cut communication between the opposition.  If West is short in the suit East leads, all I had to do is wait one or two rounds before winning my ace; that way, next time West wins the lead she will be unable to return partners suit, East can’t get in and cash all his lovely winners.  But at the table East lead the 6, I played the 7 and West contributed the King.  I was so delighted to see the King that I happily put down my ace and won the trick.  2 seconds later I realised that I now did not have a stop in hearts and could not make my contract without losing the lead at least once.  Two off for -200. 
I'm quite pleased that Sue has pointed out that I'm missing the spade ace as well so East with the long hearts can always get in.  I can cash the Ace and 5 clubs and then I'm stuck. 
The principle is still correct - it is often right to hold up to the 2nd or even 3rd round when holding empty suits headed by the Ace in NTs

Smart Boys :-)

Board 2 April 8th

East opens 1NT. Some Wests will blast 3NT. The thing is with such great shape you may miss the diamond slam. A jump bid of 3shows at least six diamond cards and a lot of shape and the potential for a slam in diamonds.
With just five diamond cards and a flatish hand you would indeed sign off in 3NT.
It is now important to support partner's diamond suit even though it takes you past the 3NT level.
Some may even bid a sort of super-accept 5
showing four diamond cards and close to max points.
We have used ordinary blackwood here but Roman Keycard Blackwood would give the extra security of locating the K
Note that 6NT goes off. There are only 11 tricks available. The diamond slam concedes a heart for +920.
Some intrepid Souths may overcall 2
.  A 3response now would be totally forcing - it is not a sign off.
The best lead against the diamond slam is probably a trump as you do not want to risk underleading the major suit kings into a NT hand. The slam makes on any lead however.

Well done Peter and Stephen!


The auction was 'spot-on' at our table.  West correctly opened a spade preferring her 4-card major to a 4-card minor.  East does not have (a) enough points, or (b) any other reason to reply at the 2 level, so responds 1NT.  West has quite a nice hand, but very flat, so rebids 2NT and waits to see if East is top or bottom of his range.  East of course passes.  Note; North should not be tempted to interfere over the 1 Spade bid.  The opening lead was the club 5, and declarer should sit and count his tricks.  Barbara and Phil were the only pair to make 2NTs on this hand.  Plan the hand before reading the answer.

If you play the ♣8 from dummy and automatically follow with the 4 from your hand after North's 3, you have gone off at trick one.  Stop and count your tricks before playing a card.  You have six top tricks: 2 spades, 2 diamonds and 2 clubs.  The lead has given you one more (at least) - if North plays the queen, you take the Ace, and the Jack & Ten are winners; if not, you win the trick cheaply and still have two more certain club winners.
You need one more trick.  How?
could make a 3rd diamond trick if they break 3-2, or try the spade finesse.  The problem is that if you lose a trick, the defence might cash 4, 5 or 6 tricks in hearts.  You could also try a club finesse.  But who has the queen?
The ♣5 looks very much like a '4th highest' lead, especially when all North can do is play the ♣3!  Surely South has the queen, but to take the club finesse against South, you need to be in hand.  You could return to hand with the A to do this, but then you will have no way to return later to take your last club trick.
Win the first club in hand with the 10 and imeadiately lead a small club towards the K-J and finesse the J.  Now cash your ♣K, play a diamond to the Ace, and cash the ♣A.
Carefull planning at trick one saves the day.

At this game it’s important to count shape not just points.

With West’s hand I prefer to open 1 and rebid my clubs, mainly due to the priority of finding a major suit fit, but also because opening spades makes it slightly more awkward for the oppo to bid their red suits if they have them.  On a bad day partner may have just red-cards and/or worse, no points, but the hand is probably worth 8 or 9 tricks, even if partner has nothing, provided that we play in the right fit.  
North should double 1 for take-out, despite having only 3 hearts.  It won’t be the end of the world if South ends up playing in a 4-3 heart fit!

East’s hand improves vastly after partner opens 1♠.  Knowing that they have a fit, East should value his void even more than an Ace!  Or, if he uses the ‘losing trick count’, he finds that it’s an 8-loser hand (one trick better than a minimum responding hand).  Normally the hand would be worth a raise to 3♠, but when North doubles, East should bid one level higher, to ‘pre-empt’ the opposition.

As the cards lie, 12 tricks are available with careful play:

North will probably lead the ♦A, and try the ♦K.
West ruffs and should ruff a small club (without cashing the A) to get to dummy to finesse the ♠J.  Ruff a 2nd ♣, finesse the ♠Q and draw the last trump with the A.  Now play clubs from the top; you will have made 4 clubs, 5 trumps, 2 additional ruffs and the ♥A.  Easy.

1) You need to ruff two clubs to establish the suit.  But if you draw trumps first, that will take three rounds, and there won't be enough trumps left in dummy.  You must ruff the clubs before you finish drawing trumps.
2) If you try to cash top clubs before ruffing small ones, South could over-ruff.
3) ♣ ruffs are the entry to dummy to take the repeated trump finesses.  Having reached dummy for the first time, you could have led the ♠10, intending to repeat the finesse, but it's better to lead to the ♠J - The trump finesse is also an entry back to hand to repeat the club ruff!

Timing is crucial on this hand!

10 -Card Suit! Board Four
A K Q J 10 9 6 4 3 2
7 6


East was minding his own business on Tuesday evening and picked up this hand.
Yes a ten-card suit! What are the odds of holding a ten-card suit.
The priori chance is 0.000017. Not an every day occurance then.
Don't ask what priori means. I looked it up on Google and it said it was a face cream.
So, What do you do when partner opens 1

Board 16 saw two slightly unusual bids at our table: North opened 1NT with a 5-card major and East chose to pass on his 18 count (which including a solid 5-card suit).  Perhaps he had given up hope of partner having any points!   You know that North has at least 12 points, so add your 18 and 12 and subtract from 40:  South and West have a maximum of 10 points between them.  Being an eternal optimist, I would hope to find partner with at least half of this!  As usual I would have been disappointed; West has just one.  Over 1NT, double is for penalties and shows a strong hand of 16 HCP or more.  If North opens 1♠, East would should still double but now the message would be different:  It would be for take-out and probably shows 4 cards in hearts.  South should raise spades to the 3-level.  After a TO double. with 4 card support you should pre-empt the bidding to make it difficult for the opposition to find their fit: after all you have found yours.  So raise to 2♠ with 3-5 points, 3♠ with 6-9 points and 2NT with a hand that would have raised to 3 had RHO not doubled.

One way to maximise your trick potential is to always play towards honours - difficult when you can't get into dummy.  So any contract by East/West is doomed to failure with only seven tricks available in hearts or clubs.  If East doubles 1NT, South with 8 points should sit tight and put the pressure on West, who is between a rock and a hard place.
If North is left in 1NT, doubled on undoubted, East should start by cashing his 5 club tricks, trying make declarer throw away the wrong cards. Leading the top (wrong against NTs) or 4th heart gives North a trick.
On the run of clubs, North has to find three discards.  The best chance of tricks is spades so although he can afford to throw two small spades from dummy, he should try to keep five spades in his hand.  South's diamonds are the second source of tricks so I would like to keep Jx. However if you decide to keep one diamond and AJ in hearts, unblock the J and keep a small one, so that you can finesse the 10.

Try Everything - board 4

I don't get to play much at the club but I managed to play one hand last night just to stand in for a late arrival.
Using RO20 Derek was quite right to open the bidding with the North hand.
With two five-card suits he opens 1
  the senior of the two long suits.
East overcalled 2
 . I double showing length in the unbid suits. Derek responded 2 .
Note that if I responded 2
 after the club overcall I would be denying four heart cards. 
I absolutely do not want to be in 5  if 3NT is making the same amount of tricks and so I cue bid 3 . This asks partner if he has a club stop.
Derek now responded 3
 . I know he cannot have four heart cards because he would have responded hearts immediately after the double.
His heart bid also denies a club stop.
So it is just a matter of now bidding 5
 . Most people get there. On the lie of the hand 6  actually made.


Board one Tuesday

East opens 2. Partner responds 2 (relay) and East rebids 2NT showing 23-25 points and a bit in every suit.  West has got some bits and pieces - but can’t count the combination for the magic 33 points needed for a small slam – settles for 3NT.

Although loathed to lead away from isolated, lonely honours into a strong hand South may still lead the 2 and East wins.
North has a job to do here. When wondering what to throw on the long clubs he MUST keep diamond length otherwise declarer will make some very expensive overtricks. A top priority for defenders is to keep length with what you can see on the table or what is known to be in declarer's hand.
On best defence Declarer can make 11 tricks.


Board Five Tuesday

Interesting board this and very competitive. With favourable vulnerability E/W must sacrifice to 5 to get a good board. After all you can afford to go three off doubled if N/S is making a vulnerable 4.

In fact they are making 4 with an over trick. Our Aussie visitors sacrificed 6 over 5 (am presuming the auction) Even though they are doubled they managed to keep it to two off beating all those who passed 4.
It is worth remembering that in match pointed pairs the contract is irrelevant. You are always playing for the best score. If the vulnerability was reversed 5
doubled can only afford to go one off now (which it does) but margins are very fine.

I did a hand commentary on boards 1-12 from Tuesday's duplicate primarily for my 3rd term beginners to enjoy and also sent them to the club players with one or two advanced bidding options.
This has proved so popular with our club players that I intend to do hand commentaries every week for our Tuesday session and email them to the players the next day.
Am absolutely sure that some of you will have your own ideas on how to bid a hand too which may well differ from my suggestions. There is often no right or wrong. It will simply be my own interpretation of the deals.
I do hope that this gives added value to our club and that our less experienced players benefit as a result.


The first Wessex League match of the season part 2

The club at Bicester does not have the facilities for a dealing machine and its a great shame as  the hands were definately not flat and uninteresting.  No less than three grands were bid on different boards.
After some thought, I opened this hand 2♣, but I never knew why.  How can partner tell me what I want to know, the location of the & ♣ jacks?  If I had been playing pairs I would have bid 7 and crossed my fingers. But at teams and with this form of scoring I can't take the risk of going down in a grand when a small slam is almost certain.

There does not seem to be a correct answer to this problem.  When I opened 2♣ I always knew I was going to play in at least 6.  The only advantage is we may have found a club fit and been able to bid 7♣.  The disadvantage is if I tell the oposition my hand shape by bidding both my suits, South will know to keep four clubs.  We bid 6 and made all thirteen tricks because North tried to cash the A.  The lead of the J should hold this hand to 12 tricks as this completely removes the only entry to dummy.

My friend Max said open 1 and rebid 7♣ if you you get the chance.

The first Wessex League match of the season, part 1

The B Team played their first match this week, away to Bicester.  This hand did not bring in many points from my point of veiw!  I'm West  in 4and get a diamond lead.  On causual analysis I can see 4 posible losers, 3 spades and the club king.  Blinded by this fear, I decided I needed to ruff my losing spades.  I won the ace of diamonds in dummy and took the oportunity to take the club finese which was wrong of course.  North returned a second diamond which I ruffed in hand lead a spade to the ace and gave gave up a spade, North winning again.  A third diamond and now I'm in real trouble ending up 2 off for -200.  How would you have played it?

Looking at the hand again I can see 2 spades and 1club loser.  The 4th club in dummy alows for 1 ♠ discard as long as you maintain an entry.  So win the diamond lead in dummy, draw trumps ending in hand and play ace and another club.  North will return the J, ruff this in hand.  Cash your clubs, J, small to the queen and discard a spade on the ♣10.  Ten tricks and happiness!

Luckily the match result was a win of 15 - 5 or I might have been in the doghouse.

(One of our tables bid and made it as did one of the oposition, luckily the oposition also went one off which made the score on the board -3. me making the contract would have been +12 and a match result of 17 - 3)

19th February

Not everybody bid the slam on this hand.  Indeed, not everybody made 12 tricks!

If your target is 12 tricks, then you have to avoid losing two club tricks.  Discarding two clubs on dummy's AK won't actually help - you still have three clubs in both your hand and dummy's, and only one winner!
You can try the diamond finesse (a 50% shot) for an additional discard, but there is a better chance (about 75%) to avoid losing two tricks in the suit by taking a deep finesse twice:
Having drawn trumps, try running the ♣J.  This will lose to East's King.  But when you regain the lead, try again! Lead a small club, intending to play the ♣9 if West plays a small card.  Then a 3rd round of clubs will draw all the opponents' clubs, and you only have winners left.

But it's actually possible to go one better!  Yes, you can make all 13 tricks if you can discard 4 clubs on dummy's hearts.  To acheive this, you need to establish the suit by ruffing twice, & to acheive that, you need several entries to dummy.  You have both minor aces as entries, but that's not quite enough (one entry to ruff for the 1st time, one entry for the 2nd ruff, and a third entry to get to dummy to run the now-established suit).
Where is the 3rd entry?  Its the ♠9!  But you need to draw trumps before you run the heart suit, so this should be one of the earlier entries:

Let's assume that West leads a diamond.  Win that with the Ace, and immediately ruff a heart (don't bother cashing the AK yet).  Now play a small spade from your hand, winning with the ♠9 in dummy.  Ruff another heart, before drawing trumps.  Now use the ♣A as the entry to play your remaining hearts, discarding all your club losers.  Your 13 tricks were 7 spades (including the 2 ruffs), 4 hearts and the two minor aces.

The timing of the hand actually isn't as simple as I suggested.  This line works because the defenders' hearts break 4-3.  What if they break 5-2?

If hearts do indeed break 5-2, then you don't have the time and entries to establish the suit.  But it's still worth a try (the 4-3 break is quite likely).
If they do break badly, it is important that...

  1. you don't find out that hearts break badly by watching West ruff, or over-ruff, an early round; &
  2. you can still resort to the alternative line in order to make 12 tricks (by the double finesse in clubs).

Point 1 is the reason why we don't cash the AK first, before ruffing.  If East is the one with a short heart suit, you are OK, since you can always over-ruff.  But if West started with just 1 heart, he will ruff the second round, and there's no way back from that.  Even if West has 2 hearts you need to be careful to ensure that he doesn't over-ruff the third round.
However, you do need to take enough rounds to work out the position before you waste all your entries, in particular the ♣A.

If you use the ♣A before you find out the bad break, you can't resort to the double finesse in the suit.  So the line as described above won't actuallty work!  You must cash one of the heart honours before starting to ruff the suit:

Win trick 1 with the A, play A and ruff a heart.  (You can surely afford to ruff with a top spade, just in case West had only 1 heart - but at the very least you should try the ♠7!)
Then lead the ♠3 to dummy's 9, and ruff another heart (again ruffing with a high spade).
If both defenders follow, you know that you are OK - you can draw trumps and cross to dummy with the ♣A to run the remaining hearts (starting with the K)
If one of the defenders shows out on the third round of hearts, you must abandon the idea of establishing the heart suit.  You must still draw trumps, but then try the double finess in clubs.

Tuesday 17th March

This is not a great overcall for North to make - only 6 HCP and a 6-card suit missing three top honours.  Nevertheless I believe that most Norths chose to do so.

What should East do now? Some chose to bid 2, but this just shows a hand that wants to compete: 'I just fancy my chances playing in 2'!  Almost as if you'd responded 2 directly to a 1NT opening - a weak take-out - you expect opener to pass.

East's hand is too good for this.  With 15 HCP you must be considering game, but which one?  Mike chose just to bid 3NT - a brave choice without a genuine diamond guard, but a winning choice.  It takes very careful defence to beat 3NT, but the expected diamond lead makes it easy for declarer to rack up 10 tricks (in fact Gill made 11).

The correct bid by East is 3.  Again, just like responding directly to 1NT, this is forcing, promising a 5-card suit (precisely) and asking opener to choose between 3NT and 4.  As West, without the overcall I would have chosen to play in 3NT despite the 3-card support for partner - the 4-3-3-3 shape means that it's unlikely that there are more tricks available in the suit contract.  But only having the single diamond stop, and not knowing that partner also has one, I might have chosen the 'safe' option of 4.

After a diamond lead from South. North needs to switch to a top spade to defeat 4.  If he doesn't, then the same 10 tricks are available - 4 hearts, 4 clubs and 2 diamonds.

Hand of the Week

Tuesday 28th February 2012

This famous hand was used by card sharps on the steam boats to relieve the rich of their cash. The unwary South was given a hand to admire, as you can see. South is the dealer and gets very excited. Determined not to lose out on big winnings with his 'no loser' hand opens 7H.
The card sharp in the west seat doubles and happily takes his winnings.
On a diamond lead South can only make six tricks and no game can be made.