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Improve Your Bridge Workshops

I run regular Bridge workshops, mostly at my house in Broughton.  Many of these are for regular groups of four, weekly or fortnightly but I also do ad hoc sessions which are open to anyone on my email list on a first come, first served basis.  I occasionally run a course with six modules for complete beginners which again is normally a group of four.

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
Monday Pairs
Director: Fred Hotchen
Scorer: Fred Hotchen
Hands of the Week 2020
Results for Monday 10 July

Well done Ray and John who were top this time with a score of 67.4%.  The August duplicate will be on Monday 21 August (changed from 14th).

I guess the above hand, board 16, was probably the most memorable.  At my table the opposition, Paula and Ruth, didn’t beat about the bush and fair enough as 6♠ was a good contract which was bid all but once.  However, no doubt the auctions varied.  Some may even have started with 1 or even 2♣.

Personally on the North hand I would have started with 1♠ as the potential of this hand is dependent on whether or not it fits with partner.  Well South knows it does and is a good one for making a splinter bid of 4.  North could either make a cue bid or ask for Aces as with a ten card spade fit, his hand is clearly worth more than just game.

In the play everyone made twelve tricks and much as it is tempting to lead the Ace of clubs, that makes it very easy for Declarer to make twelve tricks.  On a heart lead, I’m not at all convinced the slam would have made...

Hand of the Week - Tuesday 10 March: The importance of partnership understanding

On the above hand, after South opens 1♠ and North responds 1NT, would you or would you not intervene with 2 on the East hand?  

It is not wrong to overcall, dubious at worst non-vulnerable, vulnerable probably not such a good idea.

When South jumps to 4♠, on the West hand, would you double or pass?  If partner doesn’t bid you certainly wouldn’t double but if he did make an overcall of 2, then what?  I guess it depends on what you are expecting from partner’s overcall.  If it’s what he has in the above hand, the answer is likely to be no but if you expect more, the answer is almost certainly yes as your ♠KQx are very well placed.

Taken from a recent teams match this hand has a tale to tell...

Against 4♠ doubled West duly kicked off with a heart, partner’s suit.  Declarer won with the singleton Ace and had a think.

Under normal circumstances, Declarer would have expected to lose a diamond, a club and, fingers crossed, only one trump if the enemy trumps either divided 2-2 or one of the defenders held a singleton honour.  However, the penalty double made this highly unlikely and almost certainly West must have doubled on ♠KQx or ♠KQxx.

At trick 2 Declarer played the Ace of trumps, both defenders following, followed by Ace King and another club, hoping either to drop the Queen (unlikely) or the clubs to break evenly (more likely) or even West to hold Qxxx.  

West won the third round of clubs and switched to a diamond but it was too late as Declarer was able to win with dummy’s Ace and discard his losing diamond on the Jack of clubs.

4♠ doubled rolled in, losing two trumps and a club for a score of plus 590.

Ironically, at the other table East didn’t overcall 2 so, after South also jumped to 4♠, not only did West not double, he didn’t lead a heart either.  Instead he made his natural lead of the Queen of diamonds and Declarer could not avoid losing a diamond, a club and two trumps.  One off.  Unlucky Declarer and a loss of minus 50 so a total loss of 640.

A post mortem followed, East blaming West for doubling and West criticising East for his poor overcall which had resulted in a lead that let the contract through.

Actually the problem lay with the lack of partnership understanding.  If West knew that East made light overcalls, he would not have doubled.  In 4♠ undoubled, yes West would lead a heart if East has overcalled but there would have been no reason for Declarer to be so suspicious about the spades and he would almost certainly have played two rounds of trumps rather than three rounds of clubs.  West would then have had time to make the diamond switch and defeat 4♠.

The moral of the story is make sure you and partner are on the same wavelength and know the calibre of your overcalls.  If they are weak, partner must take account of this rather than expect something like ♠ x  KQxxxx  Kxx ♣ Kxx.

Hand of the Week - Tuesday 3 March 2020

Sometimes you open up the scoresheet and wonder how on earth a pair has got into a certain contract.  Well, looking at board 22 above from Tuesday 18 February you can see how East-West reached 2 doubled.

After a routine start of three passes and an opening 1NT, East competed with an imaginative or outrageous (or both) 2.  You decide!  Anyway that was just the start of a normal kind of hand becoming a complete rollercoaster but before we look at the play, let's consider the bidding a bit more.

In the above auction East's 2 was described as showing spades and any other suit and South's double was described as penalties.  West's pass presumably implied a willingness to play in diamonds if that happened to be East's other suit and that therefore became the final contract.  Also presumably, North thought South's double showed diamonds and South thought North's pass meant he was happy to defend diamonds so a multitude of misunderstandings.

Taking a step back for a moment, let's say East hadn't competed, what would you bid on the South hand, something or nothing?

Had South passed 1NT, that would have become the final contract.  East would have led a diamond and the defence would have collected five diamond tricks, the Ace of hearts and King of clubs for one down.  That all seems quite normal but for East-West, collecting plus 50 would have been a complete bottom as all other pairs had played in a higher level contract and gone more than one down otherwise two East-Wests had bid and made a part-score in diamonds.

Assuming North had opened 1NT in fourth seat, maybe some players with the South cards tried their luck and bid Stayman to find a 4-4 fit.  Unlucky on this occasion and as the only retreat to a response of 2 by North, South would have had to bid 2NT which with 14 points, North would then have raised to 3NT.  This must have happened on three occasions as three Norths grimly went three off in 3NT.  Classically the South hand is not suitable for Stayman but tactically who can blame them for having a go?  Just that it didn't work out on this occasion.

Three Norths managed to stall at 2NT.  Two went two off and one Declarer lost their way and went four off.

The other three times East-West captured the auction in diamonds, one playing in 3 making and the other two were in 2 doubled, one made it with an overtrick for a top and the other went one off for a bottom.

The play and defence I witnessed was every bit as entertaining as the bidding.  South was on lead and decided to underlead the Ace of clubs, not normally a good idea but it had the desired effect of fooling Declarer.  Under normal circumstances Declarer would have played his singleton club towards the King but convinced that North held the Ace of clubs, Declarer played a low club from dummy so North won with his Queen.  The standard lead from South would have been the Jack of spades but with East having shown spades this may well have deterred him from doing so.  A small heart would have been a sensible alternative.

After winning the Queen of Clubs, North switched to the King of hearts which Declarer ducked, then won the continuation.  Declarer next played a small diamond and when the King appeared, prospects for Declarer looked good and for the defence not so good.

Declarer now played a small club and ruffed in hand then exited with a heart.  The defence won and cashed two top spades as their fourth and fifth tricks then North played a small club.  Still convinced that North had the Ace of clubs (instead of counting that he'd already shown up with the Ace King of spades, King Queen of hearts and the Queen of clubs for his 12-14 No Trump), Declarer discarded a spade instead of ruffing the club and went one down for minus 200 instead of making plus 180 for making 2 doubled.

So that's how you turn an innocuous looking hand into a rollercoaster.  It could have been defending 1NT going one off for a bottom (we'll never know!) to playing in a very lucky 2 doubled making for a near top, to going one off in 2 for an even more uncomfortable bottom and a big sigh of relief for North-South.  Even the dullest of Bridge hands can be highly entertaining!

Awbridge Hand of the Month - Monday 11 April 2022

The above hand (board 14) seemed to provide more than its fair share of anguish in the Awbridge April duplicate.

Depending on bidding systems, the bidding would have varied but an opening 2NT would be popular by many players.  Responses by North would have been geared to locating a 4-4 fit in one of the majors, either using ordinary Stayman, otherwise Puppet Stayman or Baron, all bids of 3♣.  In the above example a reply of 3NT by opener would have been appropriate opposite Baron or Puppet Stayman, both showing no interest in either major.

One South decided to open 1♣, not wrong, but unfortunate as West made a weak jump overcall in spades which was passed back to South who then made a takeout double.  North then bid 3 and played there.  Not ideal.  Another pair somehow found their way to 6NT which was way too high and went four off.  Not sure how that happened.  3NT was the normal and sensible contract but nevertheless provided most Declarers with difficulties.  Let's therefore take a look at the play...

Hands like these are not easy as there is no obvious line and to some extent the outcome is dependent on what the opposition does.

A spade lead was commonplace.  The correct card is the ten.  That is 'top of an interior sequence' though many players these days play 'strong tens' against no trumps so if the 10 is led, it promises a higher honour (not the Jack).  Some Declarers covered with the Jack which was the first mistake as playing this card cannot be beneficial to Declarer in any way.  West would hardly have been leading the 10 from KQ10.  Anyway for those who didn't cover, the Queen then appeared from the East hand and Declarer now has to make a decision whether to win or duck.

Let's say Declarer wins.  Looking at all four hands, nine tricks are now there - Two spades, four clubs, two diamonds and a heart.  Easier when you can see all four hands rather than at the table but if you count your tricks and place the cards correctly, it all falls into place.

Now let's say Declarer ducks which happened at one table I watched.  East switched to a diamond and Declarer played the ten beaten by the Jack and Ace.  Declarer lost a club trick but didn't make the Jack of spades as the defence attacked diamonds instead and Declarer went one down.  Nine tricks can be made on the diamond switch.  Playing the 10 is a fruitless exercise as East is bound to have the Jack or the Queen.  The winning line is to play the 8 and finesse against the 9.  This takes the Jack and Ace as before but now Declarer can make the 10 of diamonds by finessing against the Queen.  This is the correct way to counter the diamond attack - Once the 8 of diamonds finesse succeeds, Declarer can now play for 'split honours' whereby West will have either the Queen or the Jack 75% of the time, a pretty good bet.  The nine tricks now come from one spade, one heart, three diamonds and four clubs.

3NT can always be made with careful play.  The difficulty is that there is no obvious line of play or source of tricks.  Declarer has to respond to whatever the opposition throw at him and delicately keep the hand under control then, one way or another, he will come to nine tricks.  Communication between the hands is not all that easy so any strong lines of play may result in difficulty getting between the hands.  At the same time, the defence also have issues and can easily get overactive and let the contract through so a bit of a tricky hand all round.

First online Bridge Match

During our absence from Bridge Clubs, Mike Kinsey has very kindly set up an online Bridge league and I'm pleased to say three teams from Badger Farm have entered.

Ian and Clare Fearon are in a team with Jill and Alan Hickson, Steve and Pauline Davis are in a team with Dick and Mary Killick and I am in a team with Andy Hughes, Jeremy Baker, Jeremy Dhondy, Dave Huggett and Nick Craik.  Good luck everyone.

We played our first match (16 boards) last Sunday evening against a team from Chichester, have another this evening and another on Friday.  For those who are not familiar with the scoring, IMPs are International Match Points and used for teams matches.  Basically this is a weighting against the difference in scores between the two sides.  They are depicted at the bottom of most convention cards.  If for instance both sides bid to 4 and one North-South pair makes 10 tricks and the other 9, the successful pair gets  plus 620 and the unsuccessful pair gets minus 100.  That is a total gain (or loss) of 720 which on the IMP scale converts to a gain (or loss) of 12 IMPs.  At the end of the match, the number of IMPs won or lost is converted to VPs (Victory Points) so for instance, in our first match we won by 25 IMPs which converted to a 16-4 win.

The above hand contributed to the largest swing of our match which was mostly fairly flat boards.

The above bidding was Jeremy Dhondy (North) and Andy Hughes (South) reaching a thoughtful but not infallible 5.  It could have been defeated had West underled the AKQ of spades to East's Jack and then East switched to a heart at trick 2, an unlikely defence indeed!  However, this is one of those hands where it made a tremendous difference who played the hand.  If played by North, East would probably lead the Jack of spades and hopefully switch to a heart with the defence taking the first three tricks.

Against Andy, West led the Ace of spades and East played the Jack which was helpful to Declarer who would now be able to take two 'ruffing finesses' through West, thereby setting up his spades.  At trick 2 West cashed the Ace of hearts and Andy easily took the rest of the tricks.  However, had he not done so, Andy would have been able to discard his two heart losers on the Ace and King of clubs and make 5 with an overtrick.  5 making vulnerable scored plus 600.

So what went on at the other table?  Well, North decided to overcall 2♣ over my 1♠ opening, rather than make a takeout double, which was then passed out.

Jeremy Baker led the Jack of spades from the North hand and when I saw dummy I was quite hopeful it would go off.  Jeremy did not switch to a heart but instead played a 'forcing game' by continuing with a second spade and getting Declarer to reduce his trumps by ruffing.

The contract was hopeless as Declarer was unable to keep control.  He did the best he could and ended up making four trump tricks plus the Ace and King of diamonds, going two off for minus 200.

That was a net swing to our team of plus 800 which converted to 13 IMPs.

The opposition were rather unlucky with their 2♣ overcall but I must admit my own preference would have been for a takeout double as Jeremy did.

Hand of the Week - Tuesday 25 February 2020

The above hand, board 4, was a monster of a hand with South having not one void but two!  The bidding at our table was a rollercoaster and felt more like Russian roulette than Bridge.  It's one of those hands that has a unique bidding sequence at every table depending on what conventions are played and what view is taken.

Against Jane and Anke, Jeremy and I were playing a 2♠ opening as weak with five spades and at least five of a minor.  In terms of strength this was top end but of course it should be as we were vulnerable.

The opening bid was followed by a bit of hesitation from Jane in the North seat as it's difficult to decide whether to pass or bid.  She opted for a takeout double.  After Jeremy's pass Anke decided on 3♣.  I was happy with that though wouldn't double in case they went into diamonds.  This could have been passed out but Jeremy competed to 3♠ after which Anke bid 4.  From the bidding it now seemed that Jeremy's and my hands gelled well as I was expecting him to be short in clubs and I was therefore tempted into bidding 4♠ which not surprisingly was doubled.  Also not surprisingly the double was removed to 5 which became the final contract.

I toyed with the idea of leading the Ace of clubs but I wondered why the opposition had bid clubs first then settled in diamonds and suspicion got the better of me so I instead led the King of spades. 

When dummy went down I was a littled surprised but obviously not surprised to see Declarer void.  However, when Declarer also showed out of hearts that was an unusual sight!

These distributional hands have to be managed carefully and are not always the easiest to play.  Declarer embarked on a cross ruff and ended running out of trumps and losing two diamond tricks at the end in addition to the Ace of clubs.

The bidding provided some key information.  The minor suit held by West had to be clubs and instead of ruffing a number of small clubs in dummy, Declarer would have been better to play the King and take a ruffing finesse against West.  This would quickly have established the suit, enabling Declarer to keep control of the hand.  In fact all 13 tricks would then have been made.

Wild as this hand was, it was played by South in diamonds every single time.  That is not to say it was anywhere near a flat board...

5 going one off was a bottom.  Second bottom was 4 making 12 tricks for a score of +170.  

Five other Souths also played in 5.  Three Declarers made all 13 tricks for a score of +640.  One Declarer made 12 tricks for +620 and another made only 11 tricks but he was doubled so scored +750.

One South reached the dizzy heights of 6 and made 12 tricks for a good score of +1370 but not quite as good as the pair who reached the even dizzier heights of 7 making all 13 tricks for a grand score of +2140.

As the cards lay, there was no lead that could have prevented Declarer from making 13 tricks in diamonds, providing he took the right view.  It's all very easy when you can see all four hands but when you can't, it's not so easy...

I've no idea how any of the other auctions proceeded but if West doesn't open the bidding, there's a good chance that North probably will and an opening bid of 1♠ by North would not have enhanced the feel of South's hand which is in any case extremely difficult to bid.

First taste of online Bridge

I've finally succumbed and registered with Bridge Base Online.  Being a complete novice to online Bridge, I had a look at the website to try and familiarise myself with it before taking the plunge and having a game.

I took the opportunity to view a game and clicked on 'Take me to an interesting Table' expecting to witness some kind of expert play or defence.

The above hand appeared and we were half way through a 2NT contract being played by South.  Declarer had by this stage collected four tricks and lost one.  As I joined the hand East was winning trick 6 with the Ace of spades.  

It transpired that all the clubs had gone and after the Ace of spades, East cashed two more spade winners.  All looked fine for Declarer as he would then have the Ace of hearts, three top diamonds and another diamond if the suit broke and I was beginning to wonder if they'd missed a game.

After the Ace of spades, East cashed a spade and I was a bit surprised to see Declarer throw a diamond both from dummy and his own hand as this might have been an overtrick.

East continued with another spade, his last one, and this time Declarer discarded a small heart from his hand but another diamond from dummy, leaving the bare Ace.  East now switched to a heart which Declarer won in dummy and cashed the Ace of diamonds but lost the rest of the hearts as there was no access to his King and Queen of diamonds and 2NT went one down.

Yes that was an 'interesting' play but not in the way I was expecting and I decided I'd done enough kibitzing and promptly exited!!

Hand of the Week - Tuesday 18 February 2020

On board 12 (shown above) East-West have a combined 25 points plus a 4-4 spade fit so a contract of 4♠ looks not unreasonable.  Admittedly Queen doubleton heart is not an asset but this marginal game makes providing the spade finesse is right, which it is.

The bidding shown above is just a suggestion as North may or may not have opened 1NT.  For those who did, some Souths would have bid 2 as a transfer to 2.  Some Easts may have decided not to double 1NT and some Souths may have decided not to bid anything at all.

Those who didn't open 1NT would probably have been playing a Strong No Trump and therefore have kicked off with maybe 1♣.  East would have made a 1NT overcall then West would have located a 4-4 spade fit via Stayman and, with 10 points, bid to Game.

Jeremy and I play a Mini No Trump so I opened 1NT on the West hand.  Jeremy therefore bid Stayman and we quickly arrived in 4♠ so you can see there are many ways to skin a cat.

On the otherhand it was certainly not a matter of all roads leading to 4♠ as this was only twice the final contract.  Mostly it was various part-scores...

One South ended up in 2 doubled, going three off for minus 800, a top for East-West.  Second top was West playing in 4♠ making.  Then we had two Norths going two off in 2 for minus 200 but at least they weren't doubled and would have been good scores had more East-Wests reached 4♠.

Two Wests were in game but didn't make it, one going one off in 4♠ and the other going one off in 3NT.  3NT is off on a heart lead but 4♠ can always be made.

The other two results were North going one off in 1NT which was a good result for North-South and South going three off in 2 for minus 300 which was not a good result.

On the face of it board 12 looked like a fairly ordinary hand but it actually produced a surprising variety of contracts and scores.  Had East been the dealer and opener, I expect most East-Wests would have got to game with a mixture of 3NT going off and 4♠ making but not a lot else.

Hand of the Week (part 1) - Tuesday 11 February 2020

The above hand appeared in a recent teams match.  The opposition bid to 4♠ and South was on lead.  What would you lead?

The opening lead is very important for the defence and the correct choice can often make a big difference.  Some leads are much better than others but there is also an element of luck and nothing always works though, on balance a good choice of opening lead is more likely to be beneficial.

Against a suit contract there are a few guidelines as to what not to lead.  It is generally considered bad practice to lead an unsupported Ace against a suit contract and worse still underlead an Ace as an opening lead.  A lead of the Ace therefore normally promises the King.

On the South hand, by process of elimination, South decided to lead a club, the four from 5, 4, 3 - MUD (Middle Up Down).  When dummy appeared, Declarer played low, partner the Jack and Declarer the Ace.

Declarer then played a heart at trick 2 which rather looked like a singleton.  South shot up with the Ace, dummy played low as did partner.  What should South play next?


Many players play a mixture of 'attitude' and 'count' signals.  

Attitude means that if partner leads something like the Ace from Ace King, you would 'encourage' if you held the Queen by playing a relatively high card.

Count means that if partner leads something like the King from Ace King, you show count by 'petering' with an even number and playing upwards with an odd number.  Thus if you held a doubleton, you would play 'high-low'.

When Declarer plays a suit, many defenders play 'count' as the norm.  On the above hand, when Declarer plays a heart at trick 2 the norm would be for North to play the two of hearts as he has an odd number of cards in that suit.

Exceptionally, however, it is clear in this case that Declarer has led a singleton heart and therefore when partner goes up with the Ace, it is much more useful for North to play a heart as a suit preference signal.  Discounting trumps, the other two suits are clubs and diamonds.  If North plays a low heart, that would indicate a continuation with clubs and a high heart would indicate the desire for a switch to diamonds.

After winning the Ace of hearts, South's correct play at trick 3 is therefore to continue with another club.  Switching to a diamond would land Declarer with the contract as he would only lose one diamond, one heart and one trump.  If South does not play a diamond and continues with a club, he will eventually come to two diamond tricks. 

Hand of the Week (part 2) - Tuesday 11 February 2020

Same bidding and looks distinctly like the previous hand.

Against 4♠ you start with the four of clubs to partner's Jack and Declarer's Ace.  Declarer once again plays a heart and you go up with the Ace, dummy playing low and partner the 10.  What would you play at trick 3?


If it is a club continuation, you have now let the contract through as Declarer will win in dummy, play two top hearts, discarding two small diamonds then draw trumps, losing a diamond, a heart and a trump (three Aces).

At trick 3 it is essential to switch to diamonds and make two diamond tricks before Declarer throws away his losers.  Declarer now loses two diamonds, a heart and a trump for one down.

But how does South find the diamond switch?  North's 10 of hearts is the key.  On the hearts, when South goes up with the Ace over what is likely to be a singleton, North must give a suit preference signal by playing a high heart to encourage partner to switch to a diamond rahter than continue with a club.

As you will see from the above two example hands, defence is difficult and good signalling can make all the difference.  It is also interesting to note that sometimes, as is the case here, the weakest hand at the table plays the key role in the defence.

Hand of the Week - Tuesday 4 February 2020

The above hand was board 5 and most East-West pairs found themselves in a thinnish game, mostly in hearts but occasionally in spades.  The bidding in the above table was how it proceeded at our table and was probably fairly typical.

If you look at all four hands, there isn't really a problem in making this game.  On a diamond lead, you would lose two diamond tricks and a heart.  However, it's easy when you can see all four hands as there are many options and therefore a number of different ways of tackling this hand.

After the 2♣ intervention I received a club lead which I won with the Ace.  I suspected South might have the King of hearts and/or the Queen of spades and locating her was pretty important in successfully delivering the contract.

Having had a club lead, I was not too keen on a diamond switch and wasn't sure about the spade position.  Even if the King of trumps was onside, I might still lose a heart to the 10 so I played the Ace at trick 2 and a small heart to hand at trick 3, disappointed to see the King appear in the North hand where he could have been caught.

A club trick was now won by South who then switched to a diamond.  If I got the spades wrong it would now be curtains.  I won the Ace of diamonds, drew the outstanding trumps then played King of spades and ran the ten... Phew, North had the Queen so I caught her and was able to discard two losing diamonds on two winning spades.  That was 11 tricks and a good score though one Declarer managed to make 12 tricks.

Finding the Queen of spades was lucky but not unlikely.  South had not shown up with much for his overcall and, at the same time, he had shown up with three trumps and had at least five, if not six, clubs.  To justify his overcall, shortage in spades rather than having the Queen was likely.

The way to get your 12 tricks is to win the opening club lead, play a small spade to hand, then play a top trump.  North covers, you win with dummy's Ace, then play a trump back and finesse on the way back and capture South's 10.  You then take a spade finesse, return to hand with another trump, then take a further spade finesse through North.  The Queen is now captured and you can discard your two losing diamonds on the long spades.

Obviously the above lines of play worked well due to the favourable lie of the cards but a number of pairs made fewer tricks, one East playing 3♠ just making, two pairs went two off in 4 and one Declarer went three off.

One bizarre contract was West in 2 going one off.  I wonder if East had opened 1NT and when West did a transfer, East didn't recognise it and passed...

Anyway, playing in 4 or 4♠, both reasonable games, whether or not you were successful depended on how you tackled the hand and whether you managed to capture the King of hearts, Queen of spades, both or neither.

Hand of the Week - Tuesday 28 January 2020

Interesting that on board 23 (shown above), as the cards lay East-West could make 11 tricks in hearts whilst North-South could make 11 tricks in diamonds or 9 tricks in No Trumps.  So to whom does this hand really belong???

As with any hand of this nature, there are a million and one different bidding sequences that could have taken place.  The above auction was how it was at our table and I had better explain as it probably doesn't make a lot of sense...

I was sitting South and decided not to pre-empt in diamonds but when partner opened 1 I nearly fell off my chair and had to think of an appropriate bid after East's takeout double.  I toyed with both 4 and 5 as had an inkling 4 might be on the other way.  Instead I decided on 3, a splinter bid agreeing diamonds.  Not surprisingly West doubled and North's redouble now promised the Ace.  This was not exactly what I wanted to hear but consequently found myself bidding 3NT based on the knowledge we had a heart stop and presumably six diamond tricks.  That would have been fine but North had other ideas and decided 6 would be a good bet and there we played with East on lead with a heart.

Declarer won the opening lead, discarding a small spade from dummy then drew all one of the enemy trumps.  However, it looked like there was no avoiding losing two spade tricks unless West held the Ace and, as you can see that was not the case.  Not sure whether East was teasing Declarer as when he played several more rounds of trumps, she discarded three little spades, baring her Ace.  Declarer therefore had a chance to play a small spade from dummy, not play his King and allow East's Ace to beat thin air but that didn't happen so he went one down.

So what happened everywhere else?  Well I've no idea how any of the other auctions proceeded but they were heavily loaded with dynamite as the contracts ended up being as follows:

5 by North just making; 5 doubled by South making with an overtrick for a score of plus 950; 5 by West doubled going one off; 6 by North both times going one off; 6NT doubled by North going three off for minus 800; and 6 doubled by West going two off for minus 500.

An amazing hand indeed!

Tuesday 21 January - 7 tables: 24 boards

The cards were neither terribly interesting nor all that friendly this week and as a result there appeared to be quite a lot of contracts going down.

Board 16 shown above is a good example of how important it is to make that extra trick to get a good score at pairs.  One ultra cautious pair only reached 2♠ but 4♠ was otherwise the standard contract.  There is no problem in making the contract but how many tricks can be made?  Well that depends on Declarer and the defence...

4♠ was played by both North and South.  If played by South, what would West lead?  I doubt anyone would go for a trump.  Some might try the Ace of hearts but I think that is a poor choice and would go for the 10 of diamonds though the Queen of clubs is not unreasonable.  Say it is the latter, there is no way for Declarer to avoid losing a club and a heart.  Interesting that on three occasions Declarer made 12 tricks for a very good score.

A couple of times 4♠ was played by North so what would East lead?  Actually any of the suits is possible and anything could be right or wrong.  One East led the Jack of hearts which was covered by the King and Ace but look carefully at the heart pips...

Knowing a heart continuation was a waste of time, West correctly switched to a club which Declarer won in hand with the Ace and now proceeded to draw trumps by playing for the drop of the Queen.  West duly obliged.

With the enemy trumps out of the way, Declarer can now play the Queen of hearts and then take a ruffing finesse by playing the 8.  Of course East covered but that left Declarer with the master 7 and on that card he was able to discard dummy's losing club.  Declarer also played Ace King and a low diamond and ruffed out the Queen, leaving the master Jack for another trick on the table.

All very neat, 12 tricks in the bag and a very good score as three pairs only made 11 tricks, possibly through no fault of their own but the defence getting off on the right foot.

One hand destined to go off but didn't was board 2 where several East-Wests played in a sensible part-score in diamonds making 10 tricks.  However, three pairs tried 3NT, making 9, 10 or 11 tricks.  Presumably South led a heart from A9753 and presumably North played the King from KJ2 seeing 1086 in dummy.  Declarer had Q4 and luckily for him, however hard the defence try, the suit is blocked.  If North plays back the Jack, dummy's 10 is a stopper and South has no entry.  If North plays back the 2, Declarer doesn't make a heart trick but the suit is blocked for the defence.  Sometimes Declarer just can't go wrong!

An unusual occurrence, board 9 was a flat board with everyone in 4 by North making 10 tricks.

For this week's 'Hand of the Week' I've chosen board 17 which was not so successful with almost all contracts going off (see below).

Welcome to Kerry Coleman and Sarah Graveson playing at Badger Farm for the first time.

Well done John and Tony who were first with 66.3% 😀

Hand of the Week - Tuesday 21 January 2020

The scoresheet for Board 17 showed a tatty set of results.  The hand is shown above with one example of how the bidding proceeded but if I were to ask you who can make game, North-South or East-West, what would you say?

Well it's all very close but the answer is nobody but in practice, game could conceivably be made both ways.

Looking first at East-West playing in 4♠.  The King of clubs would seem a sensible lead though the killer is the Jack of hearts as this goes Ace King and a ruff plus the Ace of trumps for one off.  However, on the club lead, if Declarer tries to draw trumps at trick 2, South can rise with the Ace and carry out the same procedure with the hearts and Declarer is once again one off.

On the club lead, Declarer can scupper that heart attack by first playing off Ace and King of diamonds, discarding two hearts from hand, then play trumps.  South can rise with the Ace and switch to three rounds of hearts but on the third heart, Declarer can ruff high so North can't overruff and he now has his ten tricks.

Looking at the traveller, 4♠ was played three times, once doubled.  Once it made and twice it went off.

Now let's consider what North-South got up to.  I was sitting South with the above auction and made the marginal decision to bid 3NT.  Pre-empting first in hand, even non-vulnerable should be a fair suit and, hoping for AKxxxx would give a high chance of 9 tricks but even something like KQxxxxx might well be good enough.

I was hoping not to get a spade lead but it wasn't my lucky day as the King quickly landed on the table.  I won it confidently and set about the clubs, naively hoping for a switch.  Well I got one but it did me no good at all.  East played off Ace and King of diamonds.  I was praying for a continuation but no such luck, back came a spade.  West had actually discarded a spade on the King of diamonds but I still went four off for a hopeless result.

To rub salt into the wound, I could have made 3NT on the spade lead by ducking the first round!  Because West had started with seven and had no entry, quite incredibly I was OK and legitimately I would have been able to collect nine tricks via five clubs, one diamond, one spade and two diamonds.  With no opposition bidding, however, I honestly didn't believe 3NT had a chance after the King of spades lead but it just shows, you should never give up.

Ironically, 3NT cannot be made on a heart lead, the reason being that the defence will be able to get their 5 winners before Declarer gets his 9.  By East-West plugging away at hearts, Declarer will only be able to make five clubs, two hearts and the Ace of spades before the defence then manage to collect five winners.

Just to complete the picture, North played in 4♣ on one occasion, going two off and East once played in 3 and went one off.

As for the correct contract on this board, I really have no idea!

Results for Monday 16 October

Some interesting hands this week and board 21 certain set the cat among the pigeons!  A very strong hand opposite a really weak one often spells trouble for any but the most experienced partnerships with a tendency for the strong hand to go crazy and the weak hand to dig his heels in and not see any hope of making anything.

The hand was played four times and always started with an opening 2♣ by North but then it went all over the place!  These were the sequences at each table:

2♣ 2♠ 3 3♠ 3NT

2♣ 2 4 

2♣ 3♠ 4NT

2♣ 2♠ 3 3♠ 4NT 5♣ 5 5♠ 5NT 6♣ 6 Dbl 6♠ Dbl

Looking at the two hands together, it is clear that 4♠ is the correct contract and there is a sensible exchange of bidding that gets you there.

2♣ 2 2 2♠ 3 3♠ 4♠ 

The opening bid shows a very strong hand, the 2 is a relay but also potentially shows a weak hand.  2 is game forcing.  2♠ is natural.  3 reaffirms a good suit.  3♠  shows at least six spades, no interest in hearts and no additional values.  North should now support spades.

There was no need to jump all over the place in the bidding and cut out so much bidding space.  In a game forcing sequence you should take things nice and slowly to exchange the maximum amount of information and hopefully then settle in the right contract.  Nobody did.  A contract of 4♠ making with a overtrick for a score of +650 would have been a top!


Well done Sue and Dot and Mick and Mary who were joint first with 56.4%.

The November Monday duplicate will be on Monday 20 November from 1.30-4.15.

Awbridge Hand of the Month - Monday 14 March 2022

♣ The above hand appeared in the Awbridge duplicate pairs and is one of the most crazy hands I have seen and it was not even computer generated!

I watched it being bid and played at three tables but I'm quite sure that if it was played at a hundred tables, everyone would have done something different!

At the first table East opened 1♠.  Personally I would have opened 2♣.  Anyway, after a pass by South, West jumped to 4♣ which I presumed was a splinter.  I went round to have a look and was amazed to see nine clubs and four diamonds.  I was busy wondering why West would pre-empt with this hand, especially opposite partner's opening bid.  However it soon became apparent that 4♣ was intended as Gerber to which East answered 4.  West then continued with 4NT.  I don't know what that was meant to be but East replied 5♣ which West raised to 6♣.  East now went into a short huddle and bid 6♠, the final resting place.  Fairly quickly Declarer went five down for a score of minus 250.

I couldn't resist following the board to the next table where the bidding started the same with 1♠ but there the similarities ended.  South decided to jump to 3, possibly a little dubious at this vulnerability.  West continued quietly with 4♣ but then North piped up with 4.  East quickly reached for the double card but just as quickly South continued uneasily to 5 and West then also pulled out the double card which ended the auction.  5 doubled went for 1400.

Without making it too obvious, I loitered near the next table to see what they would make of all this.  This time East opened 1 followed by a pass and West jumped to 5♣.  East now bid 5♠ which was passed out and went three off.

Unfortunately I didn't witness any of the other auctions but inevitably I was asked how I would have bid the two hands.  Well for starters I would have opened 2♣ on the East hand as it has huge playing strength.  As West I would bid 3♣, obviously a game forcing situation so no need to jump anywhere at this stage.  East would bid 3♠, West would continue with 4♣ and East would now bid 4

Much as I would like to ask for Aces, no suit has been agreed and I would worry that some partners might pass this.  Without any easy way of finding out about the Ace of clubs, I would probably jump to 6♣ and have done with it. 

As for the play and being in the right spot, you might as well be spinning the roulette wheel.  On my auction, East would be Declarer so South would be on lead.  North may have made a 'Lightner Double' asking for South to make an unusual lead, hoping his partner will find a diamond lead for him to ruff.  That would result in 6♣ doubled probably going three down, an initial diamond ruff, the Ace of trumps and two more diamond losers.  However, if South leads a heart or a spade, Declarer has the possibility of discarding all four of his diamonds and losing just the Ace of trumps, though he might not be aware he needs to do this - He might just discard two diamonds and when South gets in with the Ace of trumps, he might lead a diamond and give his partner a ruff.

For anyone playing in clubs from the West hand, a trump lead would kill the contract as Declarer would have no access to dummy.  On a major suit lead, Declarer has a similar opportunity to discard all his diamonds on Ace of spades and Ace, King, Queen of hearts, South ruffing the Queen of hearts with the Ace of trumps!  But again, would Declarer really know he had to do this?  If he throws two diamonds, he probably thinks it is now time to draw trumps but South wins the Ace and can give North a diamond ruff.

What about a dubious contract of 6NT?  On a heart lead, Declarer throws a couple of diamond losers but maintains vital access with that valuable singleton diamond.  Obviously North can't lead a diamond as he doesn't have any but a club lead would destroy 6NT providing South continues with a diamond.

At the table where South played in 5 doubled I was amused to see the opening lead of the 5 of clubs, the first time I've ever seen a lead of 9th highest!

Interesting when you realise that with this incredible hand, on correct defence, any slam is impossible and the only game that can be made with reasonable ease is 3NT but it would be inconceivable to play there.  The most likely game contract is 5♣ which is easy to let through at the table.  However, if you can see all four hands, the only way to make it against perfect defence is quite incredible.

A heart or spade lead by North concedes the contract at trick 1, obviously a diamond lead is not possible so it has to be a club lead.  South wins with his Ace  and best defence is to play back the Queen of diamonds.  If North ruffs he has to play a heart or spade and Declarer makes his contract.  North therefore refuses to ruff so Declarer now draws the outstanding trump.  The key play now is to exit with a low diamond.  South wins but whatever diamond he returns, Declarer can now make his 9 to make his contract so 5♣ cannot be beaten on optimum defence and Declarer play.

Hand of the Week - Tuesday 14 January 2020

The above hand was board 1 and the above bidding was as it was at our table though, quite honestly, there is an almost unlimited number of sequences that could have taken place.

5 of either minor by North-South can be made unless East-West find their spade ruff quickly.  However, with the distribution held by East-West it is not surprising this only happened once and that East-West captured the auction in a heart or spade sacrifice.

I played in 4 by West and the defence was not the best.  North led the Ace King of diamonds, then the Ace of clubs followed by a third diamond which was ruffed in hand.  It was not now difficult for me to ruff two clubs in dummy, take dummy's Ace of spades and lay down my hand which was all top trumps.  Obviously North switching to a trump instead of the Ace of clubs would have given 4 no chance of making.

As for the rest of the contracts I have no idea how they were reached or how they were played but they make for interesting reading...

East played in 4♠ doubled and went three off for minus 500;

North played in 5 doubled and made it for plus 550;

West played in 4 and made it for plus 420;

East played in 5♠ doubled and went two off for minus 300;

West played in 5 doubled and went one off for minus 100;

North played in 4 (how tame!) making it with an overtrick for plus 150;

East played in 5♠ (not doubled) and went three off for minus 150; 

East played in 3♠ doubled and went one off for minus 100;

and East played in 3♠ doubled and went two off for minus 300.

Hand of the Week - Tuesday 7 January 2020

The above hand was board 23 and had real wow factor.  The bidding indicated was how it was between John and me playing against Brian and Helen.  No doubt the bidding varied at just about every table but one pair actually bid to 7♠.  That was Harry and Ivor against John D and Colin.  Like me, sitting South Harry opened 1♠ but Colin passed and Ivor jumped to 4♠, John now bid 5 and Harry 6♠ but that wasn't the end of it.  Colin sacrificed in 7 and Ivor bid 7♠.

I received a diamond lead in 6♠ and had I been in a grand slam I would have been worried the diamonds were two nil but they weren't, they broke 1-1 so 7♠ was lay-down (as would have been 7).

Harry and Ivor scored 2210 for their 7♠.  Two pairs played in 6♠ making all 13 tricks.  Three pairs played in game in spades, also making all 13 tricks.  One East-West pair managed to get away with sacrificing in 6 going two off and they weren't even doubled.  At least Declarer couldn't have been accused of not getting the trumps out as neither of the opponents had any!