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Improve Your Bridge Workshops

Bridge workshops in Broughton Village Hall are on hold until further notice.  

As soon as it is safe to resume, I will email those who are on my email circulations.  In the meantime I am now running private sessions for groups of four at my house in Broughton.

If anyone is interested in joining in the future, please don't hesitate to contact me.

These Bridge sessions are informal, hands-on and interactive and good for extending your Bridge knowledge to the next level.  No partner required.

Further details from Fred Hotchen, tel 01794 301 185, mobile 07771 854 347 or email

Monday Pairs
Director: Fred Hotchen
Scorer: Fred Hotchen
Monday Pairs
Director: Fred Hotchen
Scorer: Fred Hotchen
Tuesday Pairs
Director: Fred Hotchen
Scorer: Fred Hotchen
Welcome to Badger Farm Bridge Club Winchester
Awbridge Monday Afternoon 4 October 2021

Thanks to all who attended our second session.  There were a lot of very lively and interesting hands including several slams!

Well done Kate and Ray who were top with 67.7%

Our next session will be on Monday 1 November at 1.30pm.

Monday afternoon Bridge in Awbridge Village Hall

I will be running Duplicate Bridge on Monday afternoons on the first Monday of each month on a trial basis.  The venue is Awbridge Village Hall, Romsey Road, Awbridge.

The next sessions are:

Monday 1 November

Monday 6 December

Please arrive by 1.20 for a 1.30 start.  The session will end by 4.30.  Table money is £4, collected at the start of the session.  There are kitchen facilities for making tea and coffee but I won’t be providing this as my focus will be on running the Bridge.

You can come with a partner but if you don’t have one, partners can be found either in advance or on the day.  Please email me in advance to let me know if you’re coming so I have an idea of numbers.

Fred Hotchen

Tel: 01794 301 185 or 07771 854 347

Defence: A Combination of Skill and Luck

There is no doubt that there are good opening leads and bad ones but nothing is foolproof at Bridge and a choice of opening lead may work on a good day but another time it won't and might even be responsible for conceding the contract.  The above deal proved to have an interesting variety of results depending not only on the opening lead but the continuation of the defence.  Thanks to Ian Fearon for sending me this hand.

The above auction was just one of many bidding sequences as some Easts would have opened 1 or 1NT and West would also have responded in a variety of ways with final contracts of 1NT, 2NT, 3NT or a club part-score, all with various degrees of success.

Against Ian and Clare East opened a strong No Trump so there was no reason not to lead a small heart which Ian did.  Declarer lost a club but the diamond finesse worked with ten tricks made from four clubs, four diamonds and two hearts and a score of minus 180 for Ian and Clare.

The heart lead was lucky from Declarer's point of view as if the King of hearts had been in the North hand, there would have been rather more losers.  However, not all Declarers made ten tricks as some were too scared to take the diamond finesse and ended up with eight tricks.

Any East-Wests playing No Trumps from the West hand were not so fortunate as the Jack of hearts lead from North meant that No Trumps played very badly with Declarer making only six tricks, losing four hearts, a club and two spades.

Several Souths for some reason tried an imaginative spade lead.  On one occasion, against 3NT, North won and switched to the Jack of hearts but when Declarer played low, South failed to go up with the King so 3NT made with an overtrick.

At another table South also led a low spade against 3NT which North won and also returned the Jack of hearts.  This time South won and played back a heart.  On dummy's Queen, North played low and blocked the suit, but with the King of spades as an entry card there was a reprieve this time and South was able to cash his fifth heart and 3NT went three off, a very poor score for East-West. 

So what can we conclude from the above?  Looking at all four hands 3NT is unmakeable and goes three off.  However, at the table we can't see all four hands so the theory and practice are quite different.  The bog standard heart lead (which I would have made every time) was unsuccessful on this occasion but if partner had held the Queen of hearts instead of say the Ace of spades, it would have been a very different story.  

The luck element from East-West's point of view was which way they happened to play their No Trump contract and if it was East declaring, if South decided on a spade lead, North had to refrain from returning the suit and instead switch to the Jack of hearts then South had to play to prevent Declarer making two tricks in the suit by going up with his King and playing back another heart.

Just the sort of hand where every result on the scoresheet is liable to be different, either a different contract or a different number of tricks made, all from a combination of good play and good fortune.

The Slam Zone

For a lot of players Slams are what Bridge is all about.  They occur relatively infrequently, they are exciting and challenging to bid and play, and bring big bonuses when they make.  But they also turn up the adrenaline and can be quite nerve-racking as a lot is at stake.

There is not much margin for error and on a good day you may bid a poor slam that happens to make or on a not-so-good day you land yourself in a good slam only to find there is a bad lie of the cards and you can't make it.  12 imps can easily be won or lost depending on whether it is a good or bad day and whether the opposition team has also bid the slam.  And on a very bad day, both sides might bid a slam but a different lead defeats one side but not the other.

Personally I'm not a great fan of slams and I believe that winning at Bridge is more about bidding good games, being competitive in the part-score zone and good card play.  Of course you should always strive to bid the good slams but many match points can be lost by overshooting to bad slams or missing the obvious slams.

Ian and Clare Fearon recently played the above hand in a teams match and both sides reached 6 for a flat board though there are in fact 17 tricks with many ways of collecting all the tricks as long as you draw two rounds of trumps first!

There is also a myriad of possible bidding sequences and whilst we can all see there is a laydown Grand Slam, getting there is much more difficult.  The hand fits like a glove and the missing Ace of diamonds is superfluous as the void is what is key.  The solid trumps are important and the spades are nice but of great importance are the clubs.  If South had three small clubs and the clubs and spades didn't break kindly, 12 tricks would be the limit and this is not something that is easy to ascertain in the bidding.

The above bidding was at Ian and Clare's table with the 2NT response being the Jacoby Convention which is game forcing (at least) and promising four of partner's major.  Jacoby is a good convention but there are many continuations after the initial response depending on partnership agreement.  Opener distinguishes between a strong or weak opening hand and whether he has shape.  

With most of my partners I play 3♣ as a strong hand with other 3 level bids showing shortage and second suit bids at the 4 level as showing length and quality suits so with the North hand I would have jumped to 4♣.  South might have continued with a 4♠ cue bid.  At this point North might make a 5 cue bid but I think that at this stage North has probably gathered as much relevant information as he can realistically expect and could now check for trump quality with a bid of 5NT.

Whatever you play, there is quite a lot of information to unravel - Having all the top trumps, that the missing Ace is diamonds rather than spades or, looking at it from South's point of view, that the void is in diamonds rather than spades.  If that is not enough, South would want to know that partner holds Ace and King of clubs and North would not know the club position in South's hand.  One way or another it is not possible for both North and South to know everything about one another's hand so what is important is that one of the partnership investigates and the other collaborates.  The laydown Grand Slam is therefore rather harder to reach than you might think.  

One criticism I would make of the above bidding sequence is that it was not collaborative.  North has a strong hand in distribution and South has 19 high-card points but you can't both take control of the bidding so after the Jacoby 2NT, there was no hurry to dash to 4NT and it would have been better for North to continue describing their hand as the South hand did not need to be as strong as it was.  It is very important, particularly when bidding slams, that one player is in control and the other cooperates by providing further information or answering questions.  As Jacoby is game forcing there was no need to hurry.

The best way I can think of reaching a Grand Slam is as follows:

After 1 and Jacoby, North bids 4♣ and when South cue bids 4♠ (slam going by inference and therefore a very good hand), North bids 5NT (Grand Slam Force) and South, with two of the top three honours, jumps to 7.  Even with this sequence the club position is not certain but partner is likely to have values to give 7 more than a sporting chance.

In conclusion, I would say that whilst it may be frustrating to end in 6 and to see at trick 1 that 13 tricks are laydown, this is not at all an easy hand to bid.