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Bridge Tip of the Month

JANUARY

Some players are slower than others but there is also a lot of valuable time wasted at the Bridge table.  Always make the opening lead BEFORE you write down the contract on your scoresheet and at the end of the hand, North's number 1 priority is to enter the result on the traveller and get it checked by the opponents, NOT to fill in his own personal scorecard.

FEBRUARY

When partner opens a 12-14 1NT and you have 5-4 in the majors, with 11+ points transfer into your 5-card suit then bid your 4-card major (forcing).  With fewer than 11 points, with no aspirations towards game, use Stayman.

MARCH

Try to avoid the losing Bridge practice of underleading an Ace as an opening lead against a suit contract.  Almost as bad is leading an unsupported Ace.  The lead of an Ace generally promises the King.  If you don’t have this, try to select another suit as the opening lead.

APRIL

A good way to improve your Bridge playing techniques is to deal some random hands and see how suits break and cards lie.  One good one is to test out 'split honours'.  Give you and partner 13 cards each including eight spades missing the King and Queen.  Then deal the rest of the cards out randomly and see how often you would only lose one trick by finessing twice.  The odds are that you should succeed 75% of the time by doing this.

Another one you could try is to do as above but only missing the Queen.  See how often you would catch her by playing off Ace and King and see how often you would catch her by finessing.  You should find that it is much better not to play for the drop when you have only eight cards in the suit.  However, a variation on that is to have nine of a suit missing the Queen.  Normally it will be right to play for the drop rather than to take a finesse.

MAY

Whilst we have to continue maintaining Social Distancing, why not give online Bridge a try?  Bridge Base Online is free with a small charge made if you want to enter any of the club or county events that attract Master Points.

JUNE

Many Declarers go wrong at Trick 1 because they play too quickly and don't plan the play.  When dummy goes down, take a few seconds to reflect whether you are in an easy or difficult contract, whether it will require some luck to make it and, if it looks easy, what are the possible dangers.  Should you win in hand, in dummy or duck the opening lead?  More haste, less speed at the start often means less time trancing during the middle of the play when things have gone wrong.

JULY

Always watch the vulnerability.  If you are vulnerable, going down can be very expensive.  Minus 200 at Pairs is nearly always a poor result.  When you are not vulnerable you can be more pushy, especially if you end up sacrificing against vulnerable opponents.  For instance going three down doubled in 5♣ non vulnerable is profitable against the opposition's vulnerable 4♠ but if you are vulnerable and the opposition are not, you cannot even afford to go two down doubled in 5♣.

AUGUST

The most underused word in the Bridge vocabulary by less experienced players is 'Double'.  It covers a huge range of scenarios but it is very important to have partnership agreement on whether the double is takeout or penalties.  Many more doubles are used for takeout rather than penalties compared to how it used to be.  For instance if you opened 1NT, left hand opponent jumped to say 3 and your partner doubled, what would that mean, takeout or penalties?  It's all down to partnership agreement and if you don't have agreement, you can't really do it at all.

SEPTEMBER

Should you cover an honour with an honour?  Sometimes yes, sometimes no and sometimes maybe.  When you are defending, it helps to think ahead whether you consider it right or wrong to cover if Declarer plays a certain card.  If you don't think ahead, you will either play too quickly and maybe make the wrong decision or hesitate and completely give the game away.

OCTOBER

Miscounting trumps is the downfall of many Declarers, either because they leave one out or draw one round too many.  There are two good ways of counting trumps.  One is to count them as they go but some Declarers lose track when somebody ruffs.  One good way is to count up your total trumps when you see dummy then mentally tick off the opposition trumps each time they play one.

NOVEMBER

A takeout double is probably the most useful tool in the bidding vocabulary.  Yet is is a much underused bid as many players are not sure when/when not to double and often nervous about doing so.

DECEMBER

Continuing the theme of takeout doubles, many players do not know how to respond to it.  Rule of thumb is to respond at the lowest level with 0-7 points, jump with 8-10 points and cue bid the opposition's suit with 11+.  With a good stop in the opposition's suit, bid no trumps at the most appropriate level.  Occasionally with a very good holding in the opposition's suit, it may be appropriate to pass and turn the takeout double into penalties.

 

Bridge Quiz
Test your Bridge knowledge

Test yourself with this fun quiz which I hope you find enjoyable and maybe even educational!  5 marks for each question.  The answers are all there if you want to test yourself or can't work it out and where appropriate you can reveal the whole hand.

Question 1

Playing Basic Acol, you open 1♠ and partner responds 2.  The opponents both pass.  What do you rebid on the South cards?

A response of 2 to 1♠ shows a 5-card suit and a minimum of 8 points.  With the South hand, you can jump to 4.  If by partnership agreement you are playing 'splinter bids', you could jump to 4♣ which shows a singleton or void club and heart agreement.

Question 2

After the above bidding, as West you become Declarer in 3NT.  Despite East bidding clubs, North nevertheless leads the 6.  South goes up with the Jack so you win with the King and play the Ace of hearts but North shows out.  How do you go about making your contract?

The only hope of making the contract is if the King of spades is with North so play a spade towards the Queen and you have a 50-50 chance of a 9th trick.  Anything else gives you no chance!

Question 3

As West you become Declarer in 3NT.  North leads the 3 of spades which South wins with the Ace and returns the 2.  What should Declarer play and why?

It is clear from the lead that the spades are breaking 4-4 and North must have the Queen.  There is therefore no point in finessing the Jack at trick 2.  Furthermore, if you do take a losing finesse at trick 2, look what happens if North switches to a heart.  You cannot now make the contract whatever you do.  If you play the Ace, the defence will get in with the Ace of clubs and make several heart tricks.  If you don't go up with the Ace, South will win the trick with his King and switch back to a spade which also defeats the contract.

If you go up with the King of spades at tricks 2, then knock out the Ace of clubs, 3NT is cast iron.

Question 4

As South you play in 4 and West leads the 2 of spades to his partner's 9 and your Ace.  What do you play at trick 2 and why?

You can't avoid losing the Ace and King of trumps and the Ace of clubs but you can avoid losing a spade if you act quickly.  After winning the opening lead, you need to play a club at trick 2 to knock out the Ace.  Another spade will be returned so you now need to play two more rounds of clubs, discarding a losing spade on the third club.  Only now can you let the opponents in by drawing trumps.

Question 5

After the above auction, you are on lead with the West hand.  What would you lead and why?

From the bidding, partner is marked with a shortage in diamonds and with two Aces you may have the opportunity to regain the lead and give partner some ruffs.

Lead the smallest diamond and if partner is void, he may take the hint and play a club back which you can win and give him a second diamond ruff as well as making your Ace of trumps.  

If partner has a singleton diamond, it is still a great lead as when Declarer draws trumps you go up with your Ace, play another diamond, partner ruffs, plays a club back to your Ace and you give him a second ruff.  See the full deal.  Any lead other than a diamond will allow 4♠ to make.

Question 6

North leads a small spade which you win in dummy.  You play a diamond to the King and Ace which is followed by a second spade.  How would you go about making your contract and how many tricks would you expect to make?

On the spade return, you should play a diamond to the nine, then finesse a heart.  When you get in again, come back to hand with another diamond and finesse the hearts again.  Three times out of four (75%) at least one of the top heart honours will be in the North hand so unless you are very unlucky, playing this way should yield nine tricks.

Question 7

At Game All your left-hand opponent opens 1♠ and your partner overcalls 2.  Your right-hand opponent bids 2♠.  What would you bid on the North cards?  

With your partner having overcalled 2, you have an excellent supporting hand and lack of defence to spades so I would not hesitate to bid 4.  Bidding diamonds is a waste of time and could result in the opponents bidding up in spades before you have supported hearts.

Question 8

Playing South, you and your partner arrive in a good contract of 6♠.  West leads the King of diamonds.  You win in dummy and play the King of spades which reveals a five nil trump break.  How many tricks would you expect to make?

The bad trump break is no more than a distraction.  Play the cards in the right order and you can make all 13 tricks.

Question 9

After the above auction you try the four of hearts as the opening lead.  Luckily partner plays the Ace and plays back the 10 which Declarer covers with the Queen.  Which card do you play and why?

You should play the three of hearts.  As you have no entry, you are reliant on partner getting in if you are to make some heart tricks.  As partner played back the 10 of hearts, you know Declarer has the Jack so you have to hope they each have one heart left and that your partner gets in.  See the full hand.

 

Question 10

As South you become Declarer in 4 and your left-hand opponent leads the King of spades which you win with the Ace.  Which card do you play at trick 2 and why?

After winning the spade lead you need to play three rounds of diamonds, discarding two losing spades.  The hearts are not lying particularly well but you can afford to lose two heart tricks and the Ace of clubs, providing you don't lose any spade tricks.

Question 11

Your right-hand opponent opens 1 and after two passes, your partner doubles.  As South, what would you bid on the above hand?

1NT

Question 12

After the above auction (the opponents playing a 12-14 No Trump), you lead the three of clubs from the West hand.  Declarer plays low from dummy and partner plays the 10 which wins the trick!  Partner then plays the Queen which Declarer covers with the King.  What do you play and why?

As you have no entry to your clubs, you need to maintain communications with partner.  By looking at dummy's high card points, your partner is marked with between 9 and 11 points so he is bound to get in again sooner or later.  You should therefore resist playing the Ace of clubs and wait for partner to regain the lead and play another club.

If you duck the club, Declarer cannot make the contract.  If you don't duck, he will make 3NT with an overtrick.

Question 13

Playing basic Acol, you open 1NT with the North cards and the auction proceeds as above.  What do you bid after partner's 2♠ bid?

No bid.  Despite bidding Stayman, partner's bid is a sign-off.  He will have less than 11 points and 5-4 in the majors.  He could have a very weak hand so continuing to bid is dangerous.

Question 14

After the above bidding you lead Ace then King of diamonds and your partner plays the eight then the three.  Which card should you play next and why?

Partner has shown a doubleton.  At trick 3 you should play the 10 of diamonds.  You can see that dummy will ruff but hopefully partner will overruff.  If he is able to do so, you would like him to play back a heart to your King.  The 10 of diamonds is a suit preference signal asking for the higher of the other two suits.  If you played a small diamond that would be asking for a club.

If you find this defence you will make two diamonds, a spade, the King of hearts and the Ace of clubs.  Any other defence will allow Declarer to make his 3♠.

Question 15

Playing basic standard Acol, how would you bid the above pair of hands?

North opens 1NT, South bids 2♣, North bids 2.  South should now bid 2NT.  North, with 14 points can raise to game.  However, not 3NT!  As his partner bid Stayman and wasn't interested in hearts, he must hold four spades so North should now jump to 4♠.

3NT is a poor contract.  You would lose at least four clubs and the Ace of spades but in spades you would lose a maximum of two clubs and the Ace of trumps.

Question 16

At Game All, your right-hand opponent opens 1NT and you double.  Left-hand opponent passes and your partner bids 2♠.  What would bid on the above hand?

You should pass.  Your partner has taken you out of your penalty double of 1NT so should therefore be very weak.  Any further bidding is asking for trouble!

Question 17

Your partner leads the five of diamonds against 3NT.  Declarer plays the two from dummy.  What do you play and why?

As East you should play the eight of diamonds.  Declarer cannot now make his contract.  If you go up with the Queen, Declarer can now make two diamond tricks but more importantly he gains a tempo.

Even if your partner held the King of diamonds and Declarer the Jack, it would still not lose anything to play the eight.

Question 18

With nobody vulnerable, your left-hand opponent opens 1NT and your partner doubles.  What do bid on the above hand?

No Bid.  You have good defence to 1NT doubled.

Question 19

As South you reach 7NT and West leads the 7 of spades.  How do you make your 13 tricks?

Win the opening spade lead with the Ace, then play the Queen and Jack of spades, discarding the Ace and King of hearts from dummy.  Now play the Queen, Jack and 10 of hearts, discarding the Ace, King and Queen of diamonds from dummy.  Then run six diamond tricks and finally play the 2 of clubs to dummy's Ace.

Question 20

As South you become Declarer in 7 and receive the King of spades lead.  Looking at all four hands, how do you go about making all13 tricks?

On the King of spades lead, you need to discard a club from dummy (key play) and win in hand with the Ace.  Next play a trump to dummy's Jack, followed by a diamond which you ruff in hand.  Now play another trump to dummy's Queen and ruff another diamond in hand.  Play another trump to dummy.  Now play dummy's last trump, discarding the Ace of clubs from hand.  Then play the Ace of diamonds, discarding the King of Clubs from hand.

Having discarded the two top clubs from hand, you can now run the rest of dummy's clubs for your 13 tricks.