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Barrivale summer parties:

Tuesday 30th July - Claret Jug handicap competition  

Thursday 25th July

Friday 16th August

More details to follow  

No bridge in the week beginning 19.08.24 to 23.08.24 ( hall being decorated)

N0 bridge 27.08.24 Bank Holiday  






Hands of the Week
Good play gets lucky

2♠ asking strength of opening bid.

Cover E/W plan the play1

This hand came up 20 Feb.

Everyone received a ♠ lead which you win with the Q♠ 

4  2♠  1 2♣ = 9 tricks if spades split 4/3 you make on the safety play of ducking the ♠ return after K loosing to theA 

You must not let west in! after making 4 tricks you play   to A  and you get lucky when the K  drops .

Q♣ runs to the K♣ 10 tricks in the bag on a double safety play.

Who needs points!

Would you pass bid 5 or 5♠ on a8 card fit?

There is no way you should be playing in 2 !

E/W can make 5♠ on good defence 4   will be defeated.

With only a16 count between the 2 hands E/W can make  11 tricks.

Even sacrificing would give E/W a top score!!!!


Who was tempted to bid 2 over Partners opening bid of 1 .

When you find a fit tell Parner by raising his suit.

3 into 5

Hand 2        28/11/17

On the K♣  lead plan the play.

No pair opened 2♣ 8 playing trick hand. 2   north.----- or 2 South  to play the hand!!!!


No pair managed to try for the laid down 6 .

At trick one on lead of the K♣ did we all trump with 3 !!!!!!

If you did the 6  fails

Because the 3 overtaken by the 5  will become a entry into dummy to run your  suit discarding two spades loosers.

Worth more???

This hand arrived at our table.

Opening 1♠, 2♣ byWest around to South ??

Options are pass2  or 2NT .Partner chose 2NT.

With a singleton  bid 3♠ .No partnership managed to find game but 14 points and a singleton was it worth more??

3NT or 4♠  are making contracks but  no bidding space to find it.

This was Board 9 14/11/17

Was that a physc. and what do i bid???

Well would you believe it partner has a 4/5 card ♠ suit.If its 4 they will have a stronger hand.

Or did he phyc!!!

So how do you reach 4 -5 -6 -or 7♠ .    2 S  Pass to N ?? 

North has several options.2NT strong hand 15/17 ! or 4♣ showing a loosing singalton and 4card   support

South ask for Aces through Blackwood  2 aces 1 King which should come to 9  tricks in ♠   A  or K  or A♣  club ruff .

13 tricks no one fould it

Four out of Five .

Hand  24 was played  7 Nov.

Luck plays a big part in this contract.

Do you bid 2♠  3♣  pass, ???

Sitting west  if you bid 3nt. you get lucky.

                                     4♣  ----5♣  also makes on any lead.

                                     3       4  ditto

                                     3♠       4♠  ditto

That is on good play see if im right.!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


  On this deal on one pair bid game.!!!!!!    


When you find a10 card fit  you shoud  always bid to the limit

Did u find away to defeat the contract?

This deal came up when sitting east playing strong nt .15/17  opening 1nt. passed around to north  who bid a lead directive.2 .

Passed to south with 10 card   fit  bid 4 

On the k♣  lead declarer wins with the A♣ and plays a  ducked and the K played.

Declarer is home and dry cross ruffing coming to 4  4♣  A♠  1  ten tricks for a top.

Defence needs to lead the A continue with a   when diamonds are led go in with A  and play your last heart thus stopping the cross ruff.

A spade lead will also defeat the contract.


To Sacrifice or not - Board 15 18.07.17

On some tables the opening bid by South was 2  for those playing a strong 2 bid. 

Those playing Benji bid as above. 

The problem arises for East as to what to do. Double?

South will make it difficult for by bidding 4 . 5♣ or 5 are cold for EW. Sacrificing by South to 5 should be doubled for -2 , 500and a top for EW. Letting EW play will give NS an average.

Gypsy Warning 14.08.17 Board 12

Sitting eastdid you overcall 2  or double the finalcontract,or did you ust take the money all east/west did.

Playing strong nt. Bidding starts P 1♣  1  2 *                                *     2  asking for   stops

                                                     P 2♥**  P  4  all pass                  **     2  no stop 4 

Given the gypsy warning south decides to play in the 4/3 heart fit maing on careful play.

Small matter of the Bath Coup

The K♠ was led and allowed to hold .East hoping to pull off the Bath Coup.

The "Bath  Coup"is acrd play whereby a player holding AJ4♠ plays small smoothly hoping to gain 2 tricks  on a♠ continuation

On this deal it will anable declarer to make his contract.

Did we fall for this!!!

Kings Guards Board 17 from 27.06.17

The bid of 4♣ was Gerber and partner shows 1 ace. 5♣ asking for kings nad partner shows 1 king.

West now has to make a decision - you have all the kings but one ace is missing. The contract you would like to be in is 6♠ 

The only trouble is east will be playing abd the lead will come through one of the unprotected kings. to avoid this outcome, west might bid 6NT thus protecting his kings. 

At the table 7♠ was made on a heart lead and 6♠ went down on the natural diamond lead.

PS Aces are for killing kings so protect them where possible. 

Hand of the Week 31 - The losing trick count

3 * = Generally this is a game-try – Can you help me in diamonds (and was your raise a minimum or a maximum)? But this time it is a slam-try – you are going to bid game even if partner bids 3♠.

So you have a 17 count and you can discount the  J – it might as well be to  2. Should you just bid game when partner raises, or look further?

Let’s have a look at the scores.

Table 1: 5♠ +1 by N   = for +480                       N/S 2   E/W 6 matchpoints

Table 2: 5♠ +1 by N   = for +480                       N/S 2   E/W 6 matchpoints

Table 3: 4♠ +2 by N   = for +480                       N/S 2   E/W 6 matchpoints

Table 4: 6♠ =  by N   = for +980                        N/S 8   E/W 0 matchpoints

Table 3: 4♠ +3 by N   = for +510                       N/S 6   E/W 2 matchpoints

Clearly Tables 1 and 2 suspected there might be more than game on, but didn’t know how to find out, and two pairs just bid game. At Table 4 were our masters of underbidding, Dave and Tom. But Dave and Tom also use the Losing Trick Count (LTC) to evaluate hands. The bidding didn’t quite go like the suggested route above, but they got the job done.

So let’s look at the Losing trick Count:

Developed by F. Dudley Courtenay, and popularised by Maurice Harrison-Gray during the 1930’s, the Losing Trick Count (LTC) used in conjunction with the standard point count, is a method of evaluating the trick taking potential of two combined hands playing in a suit contract. It primarily quantifies the ‘shape’ of the hand, and is merely a different but more formal way of adding points for length, singletons, or voids. It should only be used when a fit has been established.


  1. Count Losers
  2. Add to partners Losers.
  3. The magic number is 18 – Subtract the total number of losers from 18 to give the level to play at. (Or you can use 24 to give the number of tricks if you wish).

Counting Losers

-          Only the first three cards in any suit can be losers

-          Only the Ace, King, and Queen are winners

-          ‘Droppable Honours’ count as losers (i.e. singleton King, or doubleton Queen)

Modify when there are three card or more suits containing the Queen as follows.

-          if the Q is in the trump suit – no modification.

-          if the Q is supported by the A, K, or J – no modification.

-          Q109 – no modification.

-          if the Q is not supported by any of the above – add ½ loser.

There are also some other adjustments for specific holdings, and also subtracting a loser for a known 9 card suit.

A normal opening hand will have about 7 losers. So if partner raises to the 2 level he has about 9 losers [18 – (7+9) = 2 level or 24 – (7+9) = 8 tricks] and if he raises to the 3 level he has 8 losers.

But look at the North hand. There are only 4 losers, one in each suit. Wow. If partner raises to the three level you should be looking at a slam [18 – (4+8) = 6 level] and you just need to check on Aces.

Should South bid 3♠? The hand is

♠  A 10 9 5

  K 7 6 4

 Q 6 4

♣ 6 3

That’s 8.5 losers according to the above rules, but the likelihood of a 9 card trump fit (not certain in Standard Acol) surely suggests rounding down instead of up.

If partner is a little more conservative and only raises to 2♠ you can make a pretend game try in diamonds and if he accepts he probably has help there (or a maximum) and bid the slam after checking on Aces.





Mike Close





The full deal

Board 01   Vul :None  Dealer North

♠  K Q 8 6 4

© J

¨ AK 10 9 7

♣ A 5

♠  J 7                                       ♠  3 2

© 8 5 2                                                © A Q 10 9 3

¨ 3 2                                      ¨ J 8 5

♣ K J 10 9 7 2                                     ♣ Q 8 4

♠  A 10 9 5

© K 7 6 4

¨ Q 6 4

♣ 6 3





Hand of the Week 30 - There can be a downside to light openings

This board 5 from 14/07/15

Unusually we can see all the cards straight away.

So 1) Would you open with the North cards?

2) If North passes, would you open with the East cards?

3) If North and East pass, would you open with the South cards?


The bidding shown is what happened on one table

In the days of yore this hand would have been passed out, as no-one has 12 points. But it is commonplace now to find 11 pointers routinely opened at the one level, particularly if the players are more experienced and play in tournaments.

The theory behind this is that you mess up the opponents constructive bidding, possibly steal the contract for yourself, or provide lead information for partner.

You will also find players responding to an opening bid on less than six points to further confuse. This means that bidding systems continue to evolve - in Acol the 15-16 1NT rebid has become 15-17 in tournament play, because of these light responses.

But not everyone has adopted this style of bidding – and there are downsides.

This hand demonstrates what can sometimes happen, as we can see from the scores.

Table 1: 1♠ by N   = for +80                              N/S 4   E/W 2 matchpoints

Table 2: 2♠ by N   = for +110                            N/S 6   E/W 0

Table 3: 3♠ by N  -2 for -200                            N/S 0   E/W 6

Table 4: 3♠ by N  -1 for -100                            N/S 2   E/W 4

We can see that at Tables 3 and 4, North opened 1♠. South bid 2, North 2♠, and South 3♠ inviting game which was rapidly declined by North. But 3♠ was a Richard Attenborough directed film*  as the contract went off at both tables.

At Table 1, both North and East passed, and South opened 1. With a chunky five card suit and two aces this was not unreasonable. North responded 1♠ and South, holding three cards in spades passed. The defence was very accurate (or maybe the play not so much) and a plus score was recorded for N/S.

At Table 2 North passed, but East couldn’t resist opening an 11 point 1NT. This happens so regularly with some players it is on their card as 11-14 and their partners have to only invite game with 12 counts to compensate. When 1NT  came back around to North he assumed partner would have some points and balanced with 2♠. Since North had passed originally, South was not going to invite game and that was where they stopped.

Now the lead of the ♣4 was very revealing. Declarer knew immediately that West had a high card in clubs and a high card in diamonds (as West would surely have preferred a high diamond lead holding both the ace and king). So he could place all the other important cards with East at trick 1 and play accordingly. And of course that is another downside of opening light, sometimes you give away the location of the high cards when the other side declares.

*(A Bridge Too Far)



Hand of the Week 29 - Not that 4NT convention again?

One from a few weeks back - 09/06/15 Board 3

A few months ago I mentioned the opening 4NT convention which asks partner to show specific aces, and I rather foolishly predicted that it probably wouldn’t come up again for another ten years. (see Hand of the Week 20 (and the end of Hand 21))

How wrong I was. So as North you hold the above hand, and partner opens 4NT. What is your reply?



Partners bid comes as a bit of a surprise, as you hold an opening bid yourself. And, goodness me, two aces. So can you remember the responses?

The conventional way to show two Aces is to bid 5NT. This allows partner to bid 7NT instead of seven of his suit, as he can count 13 tricks.

Let’s look at the full hand and the scores (and the matchpoints)

Table 1: 7NT by S   = for +1520                        N/S 7   E/W 1

Table 2: 7    by S   = for +1440                        N/S 3   E/W 5

Table 3: 7NT by S   = for +1520                        N/S 7   E/W 1

Table 4: 6NT by N +1 for +1020                       N/S 0   E/W 8

Table 5: 7    by S   = for +1440                        N/S 3   E/W 5

As you can see from the full hand, partner was looking for the  A to bid 7  The news that there were two aces opposite meant that she could now bid 7NT for a great score.

Poor North-South at table 4 – its not often you bid 6NT and get a bottom.

Hand of the week 28 - Protecting your partner's holdup

This is board 4 from 19/05/15

You are defending 1NT played by East. The auction was as below – you had decided not to overcall 1♠ because partner had already passed. You lead the ♠5 (♠2, ♠8, ♠Q)  and declarer plays the 9. Which card do you play?

The 1NT rebid showed 15-16. In a club duplicate the part scores are as important as the slams, so it is important to defend as well as possible.

Here the opponents have made a subtle mistake – dummy has no entries except in hearts, and so West should have bid 2  so that the trump suit could be used as entries. In 1NT it is imperative that the hearts cannot be cashed, leaving East to play from his hand. So South must assume that partner has the  Q and play his king at the first opportunity, even on a small card. This forces declarer to take his  A immediately, and now North is in control of the hearts – they cannot be run, as there is no entry to dummy.

Alternatively declarer could duck, playing South for KQx (and so finesse on the second round of hearts). If he does, he will never make the  A!


Let’s look at the full hand and the scores (and the matchpoints)

Table 1: 2    by E  -1  for +100                      Lead  4            N/S 8   E/W 0

Table 2: 1NT by E   = for -90                          Lead ♠5            N/S 6   E/W 2

Table 3: 2¨   by E  +1  for +110                      Lead ♣Q            N/S 4   E/W 4

Table 4: 1NT by E   = for -180                        Lead ♠5             N/S 0   E/W 8

Table 5: 1NT by E   = for -150                        Lead ♠5             N/S 2   E/W 6


Two tables played in 2 . A great lead on table 1 meant that North could pull trumps before East could ruff any clubs. At table 3 the lead was less effective, and East could ruff his two club losers.

In 1NT East made 7 tricks, 9 tricks and 10 tricks.

To make 10 tricks the hearts must come in, so South did not cover the 9 and North won the  Q immediately. Now when declarer played his second heart, the king went under the ace, and the hearts in dummy could all be cashed. 

To make 9 tricks, South did not cover, but North ducked as well, to ensure the hearts would not run. And to make 7 tricks declarer must have played on diamonds first.

So when you hold honour doubleton under a finessing position, it may well pay to put your honour in first, so that partner can hold up if necessary and stop the run of a long suit in dummy.


SIMS - Sometimes it doesn't happen like the book says

This is board 18 from 21/04/15

East opens 1♣ and the next two hands pass. What do you bid?



Here is a possible auction:


























Yes, you have an easy takeout double. So you make it and suddenly East jumps to game, leaving you regretting you didn’t use the green Pass card.

Partner leads his longest suit (a club) and declarer cashes nine top tricks, six clubs, two diamonds and a heart. His hand was:

♠ 10 4,    A,  ¨ A K 6 3,  ♣ A K Q J 10 4

Now you really wish you had passed. Later when you open the booklet with the commentary on the hands it says “East has a monster of a hand and will open with his strongest bid 2♣ (Playing Acol)” So why didn’t East do this?

The hand was opened 1♣ at several tables in Barrivale. Perhaps we should ask one of them why they did this? Maybe we can find somebody…

So I opened 1♣ as East. It is quite dangerous, as everyone could pass, or I might struggle to describe the power of my hand (remember, 1♣ followed by 3♣ only shows around 16 points, and I have 21). But

  1. you may learn something from the other bids which a 2♣ – 2  – 3♣ sequence would not tell you.
  2. Partner might bid 1  a suit that may get lost in the 2♣ sequence
  3. If partner bids a major, I have a forcing rebid – 2  after 1♣ is a reverse and partner has to bid again.
  4. The opponents may tell you something. But you must pick your opponents carefully as many club players (with a jack less than the actual North hand) might just pass, leaving you stranded, whereas players who have some experience will balance (and bid something)

So at my table it went 1♣ – Pass – Pass and North, holding an easy takeout double, bid 1 . I confess I chuckled at this point (as I was going to bid diamonds next). I paused and reconsidered my next action. So:

  1. Partner has no points. He couldn’t respond so there is no slam.
  2. And he didn’t raise clubs, the easiest option holding clubs with a subminimum .
  3. North has bid diamonds, so that suit is out for us.
  4. Important – no-one has bid spades – it is unlikely anyone has a 5 card or longer spade suit.

Given c) especially, it was easy to bid 3NT at this point, hoping that the spades were split around the table, and I could make my nine top tricks.

As you can see from the full deal, the opponents can only cash four spade tricks before giving me the next nine. Whereas 5♣ will fail – there are only 10 tricks – nine in hand and a diamond ruff in dummy.

In the Sims results on the Ecats website,

-400 happened 9 times and scored 130 of 146 matchpoints (89%)

One off (presumably in 5♣ c) was very common (22 scores) for 42%

Stopping short of game in 3♣ or 4♣ happened 16 times and scored 68% - maybe it wasn’t quite worth a Game Force opening after all?

Hand of the Week 26 - Count Declarers Points when they open 1NT

This is board 19 from 03/03/15

1NT – 12 to 14 points

2  – transfer to hearts

After two passes North opens 1NT, you pass and South transfers into hearts. You find yourself defending 2  by North – what is your lead?


It is a horrible lead problem. At two tables the lead was a small spade, one led a club, and one led a low diamond. Personally I would have led a diamond as well, but many people don’t lead away from kings.

Dummy looks like this:

♠  10 6,    K J 10 8 4,    10 8 7 2,  ♣ 9 6

On a diamond lead, partner plays the queen and declarer wins with the ace. He then plays the spade ace, then the spade king and then the spade queen, throwing a club from dummy. Then declarer plays a heart which East wins with the ace.

We need to look at the full hand now, for it is West’s turn to shine:

East cashes the diamond king on which West shows out. East plays another diamond to give West a ruff. What does West do now?

All West has to do is count declare'rs points. The spade ace, king, queen and the diamond ace add up to 13, so declarer cannot have the club queen. So West has to underlead his club honours to get another diamond ruff.

This holds the contract to 8 tricks and would have gained 8 out of 10 matchpoints. All four 2  contracts made 9 tricks, understandable if East led a spade. On a club lead, West must cash two clubs then switch to the singleton queen of diamonds to get a ruff and hold it to eight tricks.

Hand of the week 25 - Sometimes you can make a slam when the opponents open

This is board 13 from 17/02/15

North passes, you pass and South opens 1♣. Partner doubles – what do you bid if North passes again? And what would you bid if North bids 2♣ ?

This auction that did not happen on Tuesday:

2♣* – both majors, equal length (at least 4 cards) and enough to bid at the 2-level

6   – If you have enough stuff to bid at the two level then I pick this major, at this level

This hand was pretty much flat in Barrivale on Tuesday, East/West playing 4  plus 3 (or 5  plus 2) for –710.  When I mentioned this, one of the comments I heard was that you can’t make a slam when the opponents open at the one level.

Whilst it isn’t likely that you can make a slam with balanced hands when an opponent opens showing values, when shortages and fits occur, the odds improve. If we look at the whole hand, and in particular West’s hand, we see that he has no clubs, and thus we are playing with a 30 point pack – if South has the AKQJ of clubs they are all useless when we play with a trump suit. Similarly, if the partnership does not have the  K, you can be sure that the 1♣ opener has it and thus it is finessable.

If North passes after the double, East can use the cuebid to show equal length in both majors. Normally this would show 8-10 with 4-4 in the majors, but here we have 5-5 so we don’t need as many points to make the bid – the main thing is to get into the right suit.

If North starts raising clubs it gets more interesting. If you choose to bid a major, partner still has an easy raise to slam, as your bid must have shown some values. If you choose to stretch by cue-bidding 3♣ to get to the right major, partner will surely go looking for a grand slam.

If North bids 3♣ it is best to pass, and when partner doubles again bid 4♣ to show both majors – this should encourage partner to have a go at slam. So maybe North’s best pre-emptive bid is 4♣.

As you can see, there is nothing to the play and thirteen tricks (5 trumps, 5 spades, diamond ace and two ruffs) are easy. So all it needed was a little imagination in the bidding.

Hand of the Week 24 - I went off because I had too many points

This is board 21 from 03/02/15

Cover the West hand. Do you open the East hand? If you do open 1  partner bids 1♠. What do you do now?.

If you decide to pass this 11 count as East and partner opens 2♣, which in Benjaminised Acol shows 8 playing tricks single suited, or a balanced 20-21 hand, do you reply with a relay, or a positive 2  bid?

And now you have bid to 6♠ (or 6NT). How do you play it?


2♣ – 8 playing tricks, single suited, or balanced 20-21

2  – Relay, waiting to see which

2NT – balanced 20-21

3 – transfer, 5+ hearts

3♠ – transfer break, five spades and two hearts

4NT – Standard Blackwood

 – One Ace

Light openings are very popular nowadays, and if East opens 1 , his partner responds 1♠ . What is East’s next bid? His best option is raise to 2♠. Giving a raise on three cards shows a weak hand with a shortage somewhere.

If you pass you may have an auction similar to the one above.  In the club, Standard Blackwood is often used, and this results in a poor slam being reached. Roman Keycard treats the king of the agreed trump suit (or the last suit bid) as an ace and so with two ‘aces’ missing, the bidding would subside in 5♠.

The East/West pairs bid this hand to 6NT three times, and 6♠ once. And every pair that bid slam went down. Most declarers cashed the club king and queen before travelling to dummy with the diamond ace, and then took a heart discard on the club ace (to avoid the guess whether to play North for the  Q or  A). But now they couldn’t get to dummy enough times to take the spade finesse repeatedly. And down they went.

Which is a bit sad, because if declarer had had the ♣2 instead of the ♣Q (and the  2 instead of the  J) he or she wouldn’t have gone wrong. The ♣Q and the  J cards are a mirage.

What the declarers did not realise is that having Kx of spades onside is very unlikely, so you need at least two entries to dummy (and maybe three) to finesse the spades. So the club ace and the heart king are needed as entries.

Win the club lead in hand and play across to the diamond ace. Take the spade finesse playing the jack or queen. The ten appears from North, which is ominous and suggests the spades are 4-1, so use the club queen to cross to the club ace and lead the ♠9 to take the spade finesse again. Now play spades until you have picked up the king. If you have played the spades incorrectly you will need a third entry to dummy – the heart king, and luckily the heart ace is your left.

There are other ways to make it, but all involve keeping two hearts. And if you use the heart king as your first entry, you might emerge with all 13 tricks if North ducks.


Hand of the Week 23 - Stretch to pre-empt - but give the oppponents room to hang themselves

This is board 1 from 30/01/15 (sorry it's late!!!)

After a Pass from North, partner opens 1♠ and South bids a large number of clubs. What do you bid with this hand if he bids 3♣, or 4♣  or 5♣ ?

This week was a Charity Pairs event, where many clubs play the same hands on the same day, so your scores are compared with other pairs sat in the same direction all around the country.

If South bids a feeble 3♣ you have no problem, you have enough high cards to simply bid your longest suit, forcing. Some people would concentrate on the majors by bidding 3  here but it isn’t my style – you can easily miss 6. I strongly dislike the idea of a take-out double – partner will assume you only have four cards in each of the red suits.

Over a 4♣ pre-empt you might still decide to bid diamonds, hoping partner will bid hearts, and you will be happy to pass 4♠ if he bids it. But bidding diamonds is not without risk – you are showing quite a good hand, and partner might bid on. Alternatively you might choose to double instead, provided that is still a take-out double, but showing values. This pre-empt is tricky as you have the most possible options, and so many chances to go wrong.

Over a 5♣ pre-empt your only real option is to double, showing some cards, and indicating to partner that you have the balance of the points. You do not have enough in your two suits to force partner to choose between them, and not enough spades to raise partner.

Let’s see what happened, and show the Sims percentages:

4♠ by E    =  for 420     43% overall  (figures approximate, as more results may come in)

5♠ by E   +1 for 480                 82%

5♣* by S  -3 for 500                 91%

5♠* by E  = for 650                  94%

5♠* by E  = for 650                  94%

5¨* by W -4 for – 800                        0%

Looking at the Sims overall scores on the EcatsBridge website is instructive. The person who played safe to make 10 tricks scored 43% overall, whereas making the overtrick would have been worth 62%.  And if South leads the ♣A declarer may make 12 tricks.

I have no idea why 5♠ was doubled twice, that seems suicidal. As you can see, pre-empting 5♣ was one too many if the defence was decent. But it was a gamble – the pre-empt induced the last 5* result above as both West and East misguessed. And if the pre-empt was misdefended for only 2 off this got E/W only 37%. So maybe a 4♣ pre-empt was just about right.

Many E/W pairs (in the country) bid too much, or perhaps misplayed 5♠ and went off, -50 was worth 18% to E/W.

One final thing – on the website this time you will notice a box to the bottom right of each hand, telling you which contracts you can make on the hand. This is the Deep Finesse analysis, and is never wrong (in my experience).

Personally the Deep Finesse (DF) analysis should come with a health warning as sometimes it can drive you mad. DF can see all the hands, always drops singleton kings and doubleton queens offside and always takes finesses the right way. It also works on best leads and best defence.

On this hand it says that East can make 6♠, but West can only make 5♠. Quite tricky, when North has a certain trump trick and South does not lead the ♣A.

Oh, you want to know how? Think grand trump coup on a red suit lead.


Hand of the Week 22- Takeout Doubles and Responding to them

This is board 3 from 20/01/15

This problem is in two parts. Cover up the East hand. South opens 1♣. What do you bid (if anything) as West?

Now cover up the West hand, and reply to the West bid (or lack thereof) as East, as North passes. What do you bid?

Much depends upon how you play takeout doubles. Many pairs double with any flattish 13 point hands - “I have some points partner”. Others prefer to wait for more suitable shaped hands, ie at least 3 cards in all the other suits, and four cards in at least one unbid major.

Holding the East hand, what do you bid if West doubled? You want to bid game but you don’t know which major to play in. The simple answer is to bid their suit, so bid 2♣. This can mean :

  1. “.I have a good hand and we are going to game – let’s bid our suits and find the best place”
  2. “I have equal length in both majors – which is your best – I want to go to game”
  3. ““I have equal length in both majors – which is your best – I have enough points to play at the 2 level”

Ask your partner which he would prefer.

If you responded to the double at the 1-level you have performed a criminal act against sensible bridge (and your partner). He or she will never be able to tell whether you have a good hand, or something like J87, J10876, 84, 976 and you want to be left to play in 1 

If West passes but can still have 13 points, East should bid with any suitable 9 count. This is to “protect” Wests pass. So, for example you hold AQ876, K105, 843, 96.  You would bid 1♠. Now partner has to make allowance for your protection, using the “principle of the transferred king”, ie he responds as if he has a king less than he holds, because you may have borrowed it to bid. So here, if the auction starts (1♣) – Pass – Pass – 1♠ – Pass – then 3♠ would be the right call. Because East knows about the transferred king and has a hand much better than a nine count, so he has an easy 4♠ raise.

If we look at the results:

4♠ by W  +2 for 680

2♠ by E   +2 for 170

4♠ by E    +1 for 650

4  by E    = for 620

3♠ by E   +3 for 230

3♠ by W  +4 for 260

So we find that three pairs did not bid game, and one pair played in 4  instead of 4♠. It is no wonder that everyone opens light nowadays if it causes you to miss the easiest of games, and here you can make a slam with spades 2-2 or the ♠Q dropping singleton. There are five spade tricks, five heart tricks, the A and a diamond ruff in the short spade hand.

So can the slam be bid? Yes, provided East cuebids in clubs at some point to show a better than minimum hand and the void.

Of course you have to be able to bid game first.


Hand of the Week 21 - But I only have 11 points

This is board 13 from 13/01/15

You pick up the above hand and open 1 . This hand is far too good to open 3  - you have four good spades as well. Next hand passes, and partner bids 1♠. Your right hand opponent doubles – what do you bid now?



Because partner has bid a suit you like, it is time to re-evaluate the hand. Counting points is not very effective here. The Losing Trick Count is a much better guide – a normal 1 level opener has about seven losers and you have none in clubs, one in diamonds, and two in hearts and one in spades, which should be covered by partner bidding the suit. So the re-evaluation of your hand suggests you have a hand at least three tricks better than a normal opener and you should jump to game in spades...

If you really want to count points, you can revalue by adding distributional points to your 11 High Card Points, because you have a known fit. Add long suit points - 1 point for each extra diamond greater than four cards, and add 4-5 points for a void (I normally add points equal to the number of trumps I have). That gives 11+3+4/5 = 18/19 points. Add your points to partners minimum of 6 to give 24/25 and that is enough to jump to game.

However, it pays to show your void on the way to bidding 4♠.  If partner has a suitable hand you may be able to make a slam, so bid 4♣ to show a singleton/void. If you look at the full hand you will see that this shortage in clubs is not at all helpful to partner, so he signs off in 4♠. Bidding 4 to show the void is not recommended – you should only show aces and kings in partners first bid suit, or partner will misjudge (and perhaps try to play in diamonds). Because South did not cuebid 4 , North can see he has two losers there, and when West comes to life by bidding his own club suit, North can simply bid 5♠. With 19 points West did not double – perhaps he was having a little nap.

A look at the scores will show that they are all different, from 4♠ doubled up 2 to 4♠ doubled minus 2. So the play is the thing – and the correct play here is to set up the long suit. The defence cashed two top hearts and then led a trump. Declarer won in dummy, ruffed a diamond, crossed back in trumps and ruffed another diamond. When the ace came down the diamonds could be used to discard all his losers, and it was easy to get to dummy by ruffing a club.

Of course this wasn’t the hand of the week really. As a commentator one must get used to the occasional "egg-on-face" moment. Last week I suggested using the opening bid of 4NT (to ask for a specific ace) on the featured hand, but if you missed your chance you will have to wait a long time as it only comes up once a decade. Splat!.

This week, Noelle, holding ♠AKQJ94 ©Q ¨AKQJ10 ♣J  (Board 19) - opened 4NT, got a 5♣ = “no aces” response, bid 5♠ and made comfortably. The perfect hand for the bid.



Hand of the Week 20 - A Bit of a Clint Eastwood Hand

This is board 13 from 06/01/15

The first question I was asked was “How do I find my partner with specifically the heart ace?” Well, those players with convention cards in Barrivale will almost certainly have a 4NT opening bid defined. This asks for a specific ace to be shown (5♣ = None (as standard Blackwood), 6♣ is the club ace and 5NT =2). This bid will come up about once a decade, so if you didn’t spot that you could use it, you are going to have to wait a long time for the next one.

Both Mick and Celia opened 6  Whilst this opening shot would be described as “agricultural” there are some benefits to directly bidding what you think you can make – the opposition are extremely unlikely to sacrifice, and secondly if 2♣ is your strong bid, you will be playing it instead of partner (as you know he will respond with the negative 2 ). My usual partner tends to make “snorty” hogging noises when I bid like this.  Anyway, both their partners (looking at an ace) started thinking, but eventually passed. I was asked whether 6 ,could ever be raised to 7 , to which I said “only with the ace or king of trumps”. 

I have given a suggested bidding sequence using Benjaminised Acol, where  2 is the game forcing bid. So we have

2 * - Game Forcing, any distribution

2 * - Negative (or Relay if you prefer)

4  -  A jump in an already forcing auction shows something specific. Here it shows a solid trump suit and says to partner – “This suit is trumps, don’t worry if you don’t have any, please cue bid.”

4 * - Cuebid, showing the heart ace.

5♠* - I have an agreement with my regular partner that this asks for a third round control in this suit to bid the grand slam. Thus partner would bid 7¨ with the spade queen.

6  -  I can’t quite cover the third round loser (but with six small spades it would probably be worth bidding seven).

So if you had known about the heart ace, would you have bid the grand slam? As Clint Eastwood might say – “Do you feel lucky punk?” ‡


The hand was a flat board, everyone bidding and making 6¨+1.

As you can see from the full hand, partner does have the heart ace, and five small spades. Spades are 2-2 – should the grand slam be bid?

The chances of a nine card suit breaking 2-2 is about 40% Here we can add another 12.5% for dropping a singleton queen in a 3-1 break, making the odds just over 50%. That’s probably not enough to risk the small slam score, especially at a club pairs where it is not certain that everyone will bid the slam. It was once suggested to me that the grand should be bid if the chances were about 68% or better, e.g. a 3-2 break in trumps. But if you were behind in a teams match, 52.5% is a very reasonable gamble!

‡ Is a classic misquote - in the film Dirty Harry, Clint Eastwood doesn’t say: 'Do you feel lucky, punk?' when he makes his final approach to an injured criminal as is commonly believed. Instead, the line goes: ‘You've got to ask yourself one question. Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?’

The full deal  is approximate,  some of the small cards have been guessed.


Hand of the Week 19 - Bidding slams at pairs is a risky business

This is board 4 from 02.12.14

Partner opens 1♣, you bid 1♠ and partner bids 2NT showing 18-19 points. How do you proceed?


The first thing you should know is that if you bid over 2NT it is forcing to 3NT, and since partner might suppress a four card heart suit to show you how many points he has, you can bid 3 . If partner doesn’t raise, his first duty is to show three card spade support (also forcing), as here.

Now you have quite a good hand. You might just bid 4♠, but you have a singleton and you are close to the slam zone, so you make a slam-try by cuebidding 4 . Partner cuebids 4  in return, showing the ace, but you don’t want to force to slam, so you sign off in 4♠ now to allow partner to evaluate his cards. He bids the slam.

I received the lead of the ♣9 and played pretty much as the booklet suggested – I knocked out the trump ace, tested the clubs by cashing the other high honour – no queen appeared, pulled trumps and cashed the diamond ace. Then I went back to dummy with a heart honour to play the  Q as a ruffing finesse, throwing away the ♣J. Sadly I lost to the  K and the slam was one down. 

What I didn’t try was a swindle – cashing the diamond ace before playing trumps, to tempt South to try and cash the king of diamonds. Any self-respecting South should not fall for this – why would a competent declarer cash the ace if he had a finesse available? The conclusion is obvious – the  A was singleton.

So if you were the declarer who got a diamond lead at trick one, and put the  Q in to tempt North into a cover, that is a misplay, as you have blown your main legitimate chance of making it.

The hand is a bit sad for the pairs who stretched to slam – if the  QJ had been the  K there were lots of chances. As it was the line described above was a little under 60% so it was quite reasonable to bid. Of course at pairs, these slams go down 40% of the time, giving you an extremely bad score (instead of an extremely good score when it makes), so it pays to have a sympathetic partner when you try and fail.

Hand of the Week 18 - Cue Bids Show good Raises

This is board 27 from 18.11.14

North opens 1♣ , partner overcalls 1♠  and the next hand passes. What do you bid?

Last week we briefly touched upon the subject of using cuebids to show good raises in competition, and here is another example. The cuebid allows you to distinguish between simple raises of partner’s suit showing, say, a 4-8 count, and good raises with 9+ points. Some tournament players also use 2NT (or 3♣) in competition here as well to show a good 11+ 4 card raise, further adding to the accuracy.

Here the 2♣ cuebid shows a three card spade raise with 9+ points. If partner has overcalled with a weak hand he can simply bid 2♠. If you look at the full hand you will find that East has quite a good hand, only 12 points but a singleton and a six card suit. Knowing of at least nine points opposite East can either bid game directly, or make a game-try by bidding a suit in which he needs help.

With North doing all of the bidding, the missing cards are very likely to be placed favourably, and here the spade king is very likely to be well placed for the finesse.

This is what the results looked like:

4♠ by East    =   for  -420    -6 imps to N/S  6 imps to E/W

1♠ by East,   +3 for  –170    flat board

2♠ by East,   +2 for  –170    -1 imp to N/S  1 imp to E/W

5♣ by North, -4 for  –200    -1 imp to N/S  1 imp to E/W

2♠ by East,   +2 for  –170    flat board

3♠ by East,   +1 for  –170    -6 imps to N/S  6 imps to E/W

As you can see, hardly anyone got to 4♠ although North-South got a little overexcited at one table – fortunately East-West could not find a double (and +800).

Bidding this game was worth 6 imps to the team who got there. Did they use a cue bid? Sadly not.

The smarty-pants North opened a Strong NT with a singleton spade honour, trying to steal the contract and making it difficult for East to bid. South transferred into his five card heart suit and North bid 2 . East managed to find a 2♠ bid at this point, passed around to North. All he had to do to replicate the result at the other table was to pass, but he thought that he was competing the part-score, and bid 3 . Now East. feeling that she hadn’t done enough so far, bid 3♠, which was enough to tempt West into raising to game.

Hand of the Week 17 - Bidding 2 hearts in response to partner's one spade shows 5 hearts

This is board 23 from 11.11.14

In Teams it is very important to bid games (and make them). But several Easts lost their way on this hand, and a grand total of 80 IMPs changed hands at the Barrivale Teams this week.

The auction started with a pass from South, your partner opens 1♠ and North bids 2♣. What would you bid?


At our table we were playing 5 card majors, so East was always going to bid the spade game, and used a convention to show a high card raise in spades by bidding the opponents suit. When partner showed a minimum, and North rashly bid again vulnerable, East had the delightful choice of either bidding game, or doubling 4♣ - unfortunately he chose incorrectly (as 4♣ doubled was going for at least 1100) .  4♠ made comfortably, as you can see from the full diagram...

At three of the tables East must have bid 2  over 2♣ . Unfortunately this promises five hearts, and at these tables, all the Wests raised to 4  .  A 4-3 fit can be OK as a game contract, but here the trumps broke 5-1 and 4  went off twice. Note that North should not give South a ruff in clubs, but instead switch to the diamond king.  4  was made at one  table when the ruff was offered – declarer overruffed in dummy, cashed three rounds of hearts and then played on spades, losing only one more trump.

If you are playing 4 card majors it is better to make a takeout double on this hand, showing four hearts. When West repeats his spades you know he has at least five and can bid the spade game directly.

At another table, East-West lost their way and did not bid game. And one North became so enamoured of his clubs he had to bid game in them, despite having no encouragement from his partner. This was doubled by East and went for 1700. Ouch.

This is what the results looked like:

4© by East, -2  for +200 13 imps to E/W -13 imps to N/S

4© by East, -1  for +100 18 imps to E/W -18 imps to N/S

4© by East, =  for  -620   9 imps to E/W   -9 imps to N/S

3♠ by West, +2 for -200   9 imps to E/W, -9 imps to N/S

5♣ by North, -6 for -1700 18 imps to E/W -18 imps to N/S

4♠ by West, +2 for -680   13 imps to E/W -13 imps to N/S



Hand of the week 16 - Grosvenor Coup - or accident?

This is board 10 from 14.10.14

Do you know what a Grosvenor Coup is? When an opponent makes a play that gives you your contract, but you don't believe him so you go down anyway, you have been the victim of this Coup.


You lead the fourth highest of your longest and strongest, which goes ♣7, ♣3, ♣10, ♣A. Declarer plays a spade which you duck and the king wins. Now he plays a diamond to partners  5, and his  9 and you….......

Duck ?! As we can see by looking at the full hand, all declarer now has to do is cash his diamonds from the top to drop your queen to make his contract, and then play for overtricks.

But naturally declarer didn’t do that. As the finesse had appeared to work, he catered for a 4-1 diamond break. He went back to dummy with another spade (which you ducked again), and he led his second diamond, this time to partners  6 and his  10. This time you won and knocked out the second club stopper in dummy – and declarer could not get to his diamond winners without letting partner in with the  A and putting you in to cash your clubs.

So that was two down, and -200, a shared top. If you were to win the first diamond to clear the clubs, declarer can cash his diamonds for one down and an average. If you go up with the spade ace on the first round to clear the clubs, declarer can duck one round, then play on hearts to bring his contract home, cashing three spades, two clubs, two hearts and two diamonds.

Of course I watched all this as the dummy, including my partner's discombobulation when the second diamond was taken.

So, was this a brilliancy by the defence? Or perhaps West did not want to “waste” his queen on a card as lowly as the nine? So here is a tip for partner – when you want the opposition to take their winner, play the highest of touching cards – if you don’t play your lowest. So as declarer holding KQJ10 you lead from dummy, and play the king if you want your left hand opponent to take the ace, and play your lowest if you don’t. Would West have ducked the  J on the first round ? We will never know.


Hand of the Week 15 - They have bid my Suit

This is board 11 from 07.10.14

You have a nice chunky six card suit, and 14 points, so you plan to bid 1♠ at your first opportunity. Unfortunately it isn’t your go. South opens 1 and your partner passes. North bids 1♠. That’s annoying, what will you bid now?

There is no rule in bridge whereby if the opponents bid a suit first you cannot bid it naturally later. Here many players will respond 1♠ to a minor with four small cards – don’t let them steal your suit. Unfortunately a double after 1 -Pass-1♠ here is takeout, showing hearts and clubs. But because double is takeout you can bid 2♠ naturally.

Of course, not a lot of people know that. In Barrivale this week, two Souths played in 2♣, one in 2NT and one in 3¨. The 2♣ players must have had the sequence shown, which I find bizarre. Even if you were not confident enough to bid 2♠ immediately over 1♠ surely East could have bid 2♠ in the passout seat?

Yes, this will push N/S to 3♣ which is making, but partner knows what to lead now.  And maybe that is what happened for the South in 2NT. With West leading king and another spade, East can set up his spades to cash when he gets in with the club ace.

I suspect that didn’t happen.




Hand of the Week 14 - Splinters and Cuebids

This is board 19 from 23.09.14

It’s a tricky opening bid for South. The problem with opening a Benjaminised Acol 2  is that you might not be able to bid your second suit below the four level. At my table South opened 1 , and North bid 1♠, what does South bid now?


4♣ = splinter, values for game, at most a singleton club

4  = cuebid, control in diamonds

4  = cuebid

4NT = Roman Keycard Blackwood

5♠ = 2 of 5 Aces (includes the trump K) plus the trump Q


Splinters are used by almost all tournament players, as they are “picture bids” – you describe your hand well in one bid. Normally seen opposite a 1 /1♠ opening, a double jump says “I have enough for game, I have four card support for your suit, and I have at most a losing singleton in the suit I bid”. Note that 4♣ could be one of the double jump bids, so you can’t play a direct 4♣ as Gerber, asking for aces. And you can use them in this sequence as well, they have the same meaning. So here South bid 4♣ as a splinter.

So what does North do now? Holding something like ♠J1043,  1086,  K8, ♣KJ103, he has too many wasted honours in clubs opposite a singleton, and so immediately signs off in 4♠ but the actual hand is much, much better. He has a fifth trump, the club ace and length opposite a known singleton so ruffs are available, and knows partner has about an 18 count with no points in clubs.

Last week we saw an example of how cue bids show first round controls before second round controls. Tournament players tend to be more flexible, cuebidding second round controls as well, especially if they can remain below game. They use Blackwood to check on aces later, just in case.

So North bids 4  showing a control (a singleton this time) and that is just what South wants to hear. At the table South avoided a trap - bidding 4NT and getting a two ace response would not tell him which aces are opposite, so instead cuebid 4 . Now North asks for aces in the modern way (where the king of trumps is also an ace), and finds sufficient controls for a small slam, and not enough for a grand slam.

One pair fell for the trap – South asked for aces after a 4¨ cuebid and found two. He guessed they were the spade ace and the diamond ace and bid 7♠ – oh dear, one down. Two pairs bid 6♠.

So can you find the slam if you start with a game-forcing 2  or 2♣ ? Yes, provided North gives a positive response of 2♠ - now South can splinter with 4♣ again, and get a 4 cuebid back.


Hand of the Week 13 - Pre-empts work

This is board 23 from 16.09.14

Partner opens 1 , what do you bid?

You rarely see Strong Jump Shifts nowadays, as they have gone out of fashion. Also most players don’t realise that they can use them, which is very sad as they have their place in Acol, as long as you know what you are doing. Here is a classic example – the club suit will stand up by itself opposite a void with a reasonable break. So tell partner about it.

Jumping into the suit, and then rebidding it passes that message to partner, and asks him to cuebid. Using standard cue bids - first round controls before second – the 4  bid shows the heart ace and 4♠ shows first round control in spades. Now 5  shows the diamond king, and East can bid 7♣, knowing that the hearts are likely to provide the extra tricks he needs.

If you look at the full layout you will see that South has a hand that many would consider to be worth a pre-emptive bid. Look what happens now. If South opens a (slightly cowardly) weak 2♠, West will overcall 3© and the East hand is far too good to respond 4♣. Best is to cuebid the opponents suit (3♠) as partner will probably bid 3NT, and then 4♣. From this start East-West will find it difficult to bid the grand slam, but they should find 6♣.

And if South opens 3♠, West will overcall 4© and the club suit may get lost. Again, East might try cuebidding the opponents suit, but the auction will become very murky indeed.

One pair found themselves in 6  and went down on a spade lead. However it is makeable – ruff the first spade, cash the heart king, noting the appearance of the  10. Now cash three top clubs throwing all the spades away. Luckily the clubs break and you can knock out the trump queen at leisure, ruffing the next spade lead in hand.

But in 7♣ you make very simply, pull trumps, and cash the heart king. The 10 appears and crossing to the heart ace, you have a ruffing finesse against the queen. Ruff it, cross to dummy with the diamond king and enjoy the rest of the hearts.Just a minute, the results don’t show anyone in 7♣. Er no, unfortunately, we started with the auction above, but there was a little accident along the way….


You rarely see Strong Jump Shifts nowadays, as they have gone out of fashion. Also most players don’t realise that they can use them, which is very sad as they have their place in Acol, as long as you know what you are doing. Here is a classic example – the club suit will stand up by itself opposite a void with a reasonable break. So tell partner about it.


Jumping into the suit, and then rebidding it passes that message to partner, and asks him to cuebid. Using standard cue bids - first round controls before second – the 4© bid shows the heart ace and 4♠ shows first round control in spades. Now 5¨ shows the diamond king, and East can bid 7♣, knowing that the hearts are likely to provide the extra tricks he needs.


If you look at the full layout you will see that South has a hand that many would consider to be worth a pre-emptive bid. Look what happens now. If South opens a (slightly cowardly) weak 2♠, West will overcall 3© and the East hand is far too good to respond 4♣. Best is to cuebid the opponents suit (3♠) as partner will probably bid 3NT, and then 4♣. From this start East-West will find it difficult to bid the grand slam, but they should find 6♣.


And if South opens 3♠, West will overcall 4© and the club suit may get lost. Again, East might try cuebidding the opponents suit, but the auction will become very murky indeed.


One pair found themselves in 6© and went down on a spade lead. However it is makeable – ruff the first spade, cash the heart king, noting the appearance of the ©10. Now cash three top clubs throwing all the spades away. Luckily the clubs break and you can knock out the trump queen at leisure, ruffing the next spade lead in hand.

But in 7♣ you make very simply, pull trumps, and cash the heart king. The 10 appears and crossing to the heart ace, you have a ruffing finesse against the queen. Ruff it, cross to dummy with the diamond king and enjoy the rest of the hearts.


Just a minute, the results don’t show anyone in 7♣. Er no, unfortunately, we started with the auction above, but there was a little accident along the way….














Hand of the Week 12 - The extra 10 points count at pairs.

North passes, partner opens 1♠ and next hand passes. You bid 2  and partner bids 3 . What now?

OK, I made this auction up, it didn’t happen at any table

Experts play the major-major sequence as forcing to game so there is no chance of it being passed, but most club players would be terrified to bid 3♠ here without this agreement, in case partner passes.

But it is useful to suggest the other major as trumps, and here it pays off. The Roman Keycard response of 5  denies the spade queen and so West can see that it is too dangerous to look for 7♠ .

However, 6NT making will score 10 points more than 6♠, making it the winner at pairs.

As you can see, 6  (played twice) and  6♠ (played once) were made. 6♠ is cold, you just lose the trump queen when you play for the drop, and then ruff the hearts good when you get that suit wrong.  6  requires a good guess in spades, or North leading his singleton to give the position away. Someone tried 7♠ and went off playing for the drop in trumps.  Similarly so did the person in 7  - they must have got a singleton spade or trump lead, very unwise.

7NT can be made with the application of a little logic. Assuming a safe diamond lead, declarer can test hearts. When they break 4-1 it is correct to play the short heart hand for length (and the queen) of spades, because the singleton heart hand has more cards that could be spades. And that is how you should play 6NT as well.


Hand of the Week 11 - Responding to a double of a weak NT

This is board 19 from 03.09.14

Opener passes, you pass and your left hand opponent opens 1NT. Partner doubles, and South passes again. What do you bid? 

When partner doubles a weak No Trump, he shows a minimum of 15 points. You have 7 and a very decent five card suit. Show partner that you have the majority of points by passing.

This is an area where less experienced players go wrong, as they bid with bad hands to play in two of a suit but they also bid the same way with better hands. Of course partner has no clue which, and so he has no idea whether to bid on or not.

This also leads to some of the better players taking advantage, and suddenly a 12-14 point hand also include 11 counts. The slightly pre-emptive effect of the 1NT bid now makes the opposition struggle to find out whether they should bid to a part score or a game.

So a simple rule would be – opposite a double of a weak no trump;

  1. Run to a suit with weakness
  2. Pass to show some values
  3. Jump to show a good six card suit and values, when you are not willing to defend.

The same rule applies if the hand opposite the 1NT starts running. Add a fourth part to the rule above :

  1. Double for penalties, to show a holding in the suit bid and values

If you find that neither of you can double their escape suit, you can now start bidding your own suits, forcing to 2NT.

At my table was a known 11 pointer rogue so the auction started 1NT followed by double. As you can see, the 1NT bid has little to commend it. There are 11 counts which are worth 12 (for example hands with suits such as Q1098 instead of Q432).  But here the two stray jacks are useless (as I will demonstrate shortly) and the diamond suit less than robust.

Unfortunately West did not obey the rules described above and bid 2♣ , playing there for a terrible score of 110 when East/West can make both 4♠ and 3NT.

What would have happened if West had passed? East would have lead the spade king won in dummy. A heart would have been led (a diamond has the same result) and East wins. He now cashes his top clubs and plays another for five tricks, and then West leads a spade. With four spade winners and the diamond ace to come, East/West make 11 tricks, to score 1100. And thus you will show the people who bid on poor 11 counts that you are not to be trifled with.

Hand of the Week 10 - A Tale of Two Grandmasters who can't Count

This is board 9 from 12.08.14

This hand is far too good to bid 4♠ . Many tournament players have a gadget – they bid 2NT as a game-forcing raise agreeing spades. A raise to 4♠ is semi-pre-emptive – it usually shows five spades and some shape, but not many points, making it extremely hard for the fourth seat to bid sensibly.

In standard Acol a direct 4♠ raise is still not very strong, and instead a “Delayed Game Raise” is used to show a high card raise to 4♠ with 4+  trumps. So here you should bid 2  , and then bid 4♠ to describe this type of hand.

At one table two Grandmasters sat North and West. The bidding was as shown in the diagram – a low heart was led and when dummy went down the Grandmaster sitting North (GN) was disconsolate – “I play the immediate 4♠ bid as weak”, he said, clearly suggesting that a slam had been missed. The Grandmaster sitting West (GW) concurred and eruditely mentioned the “old Delayed Game Raise” as the right way to bid this without a conventional raise.

To continue this tale you must get a pack of cards out and lay them out as in the main diagram. Now move the 10 from North’s hand and put it with South (the dummy). The heart 6 was led which went 10, K, A. GN attempted to immediately discard his (only) losing remaining small heart. He wanted to cash his two diamonds, pull trumps ending in dummy and then play the ace of diamonds for a discard.

Not so fast. Seeing the K appear, East muttered “I’ll have that” and ruffed it. Mysteriously East now played another trump rather than cash his heart winner. GN pulled trumps and cashed the Q, crossing to dummy with a third trump to cash the ¨A and finesse the club, losing, and promptly claimed for +450.

As they were about to move for the next round GN and GW revisited the hand – “I have to play it that way, I can’t pull all the trumps and then cash diamonds, I can’t get to dummy.” GW agreed, “You will run out of trumps before knocking out the club king. You can’t make twelve tricks then, there is always a heart winner to be cashed.“ Yet, there on the Bridgemate showed a +480 and a +1010. GN and GW were baffled.

Later I was dummy and I grabbed the board from another table to jot down the hands. At that point I discovered that South had 14 cards and North only 12, and so I gave the board to another pair who had already played it to get the cards corrected.

Looking at the actual hands, either a club lead will give you 12 tricks, and on a heart lead the 7 will draw the king. Now declarer can play a heart back and set up the ten for a club discard. (Making 13 is still a bit of a mystery.)

But what is more of a mystery is why two Grandmasters (and their partners) didn’t spot that there were 14 cards in the dummy.



Hand of the Week 9 - Silence is Golden

This is board 21 from 05.08.14

To bid a new suit at the 2 level, particularly one which is higher than partner's bid suit, requires 10 or more points. Sometimes you have to stretch with long suits but the time to bid is when you have some of partner's suit as it is his most likely rebid.


So look ahead. What are you going to do if partner bids clubs again? And what will happen?

Well, what happened is shown in the bidding diagram. 3  doubled went for -1100.  Another North-South ended in 3♣ (undoubled) went for -600 on a cross ruff.

What happened in 3  doubled? West led the spade queen and when this held, switched to a diamond, won by the queen and the ace cashed. A top spade was followed by a low one, ruffed by West, who gave East a diamond ruff. Another high spade was played and that forced declarer to ruff with the ace of hearts, promoting Wests J874 into two more tricks. Ouch.

What happens if you pass 1♠ ? Nothing bad happens, everybody passes and they make 10 tricks for -170.  Silence is golden (sometimes).

At a couple of tables North did not open. East still opened 1♠  - are you even thinking of bidding hearts vulnerable opposite a passed partner? Shhhhh! Now West will bid 1NT, and East will bid his second suit – clubs. Yes, on this hand in the drawn pairs competition both North and East tried to play in 3♣ . Only East was successful, scoring -130.

Of course, when I say successful, I meant that she made her contract. But –130 at pairs was a complete bottom. Perhaps this article’s title should also apply to North?



Hand of the Week 8 - That's a lot of Hearts

This is board 12 from 29.07.14

As you sort your hand all you seem to find is hearts and more hearts. How are you going to bid this hand ? West opens 1♠ and it's your go.

I have picked up a few nine card suits in my time as a bridge player, but I think this is my first 10 card suit. How to bid this? Well, I am not putting this hand down as dummy (unless partner bids 7NT), and I certainly don’t want to defend. How best can I arrange to play the hand?


I could make the obvious 4  bid to begin with, and then over the inevitable 4♠ bid 5 , hoping for a double from the opponents. Another idea is to pass first and wait for the opposition bidding to run out of steam before bidding. This is a favourite trick of junior bridge players to try and get doubled (as I know from personal experience) and also I have seen a player in a Camrose match pass with AKQJ to nine spades and no other high cards. Another ploy is to just bid the minimum required each time it is your turn to bid until the opponents lose patience and double – this is known in bridge circles as “walking the dog”.

I went for Plan A, and facing the redoubtable Huw and Celia it came unstuck almost immediately.

Huw found an unusual 4♠ raise on two small spades (as he said afterwards “I wasn’t going to let Mike talk me out of our most likely game”) and my partner Noelle had plans of her own, pushing the opponents up in spades so she could double them.

The bidding now spiralled out of control – Huw did double me in 6 , but with eight spades and a “known” fit Celia wasn’t having any of that. Sadly for my partner, Celia wouldn’t take the push to 7♠.

Huw led the  A and then, knowing his partner had no more diamonds, tried to give her a ruff. Sadly Celia could only play a black card, so I only went one off. That was only worth two matchpoints out of ten - sorry Noelle, I should have allowed you to double for 5/10. One pair had been allowed to play in 4♠ undoubled, and one in 6♠ doubled. Only one other pair sat our way had been doubled – in 4 . Maybe I should have “walked the dog” after all.

Oh, and how did the Camrose player get on with nine spades? His pass was followed by three more green cards. As they all put their hands back into the board, his partner politely asked how many points he had. “Just the ten”, he replied.

Hand of the Week 7 - Bridge is a Cruel Game

This is board 9 from 22.07.14

1    4NT = Roman Keycard Blackwood, where the king of trumps is the fifth ace

2    5 = Playing 1430 responses, shows 0 or 3 (the 3♠ rebid indicates 3 most likely)

3    5NT= We have all the aces. How many kings (outside spades)?

4    6 = One king

5    If North was looking at a solid spade suit (say AKQJ10x) he could bid 7NT because 5NT showed all the aces

If you just count points you don’t have the 16 required to bid 3♠, but the powerful 7-card suit makes it easily good enough.  Now partner gets excited – 16 +18 = 34 and a small slam is surely going to be easy? A check on aces seems appropriate.  Now if you are playing the sophisticated Roman Keycard Blackwood, the king of the agreed trump suit (or last suit bid) is also shown as an ace.  Also, a 5NT bid after 4NT shows that all the aces are present, and North is allowed to show some initiative if he holds extras, for example a solid spade suit.

The safest lead for the opposition is a heart, so you win the 10 in dummy.  Best now is to duck a spade – if the spades are 3-2 you have 14 tricks. If the spades break 4-1 you can take the club finesse twice, using the  A and the  K as entries.  Combining these chances gives you an 84% chance of landing the slam - that’s excellent odds.

You win the return and cross to table, cashing the ♠A and K. Sadly the spades do break 4-1 so you play a club and finesse.  Unfortunately it loses and you are one off.  Very disappointing. Surely everyone will bid this though, for a flat board?

No, even more sympathy must go to Denis and Tim, and Diana and Cynthia, because their opponents didn’t bid the slam. They had to share 2 matchpoints between them.

Hand of the Week 6 - That's a Lot of Diamonds

This is board 14 from 15.07.14

You are East and first to speak. What do you bid?

This hand is just too strong for the Standard Acol Gambling 3NT opening, which promises a solid suit and not more than a queen outside. And you are not supposed to open this as a Strong 2:  there is a little known rule (handed down from the English Bridge Union) about strong hands – they should be ‘Extended Rule of 25’ which means the minimum allowed is any of the following

a) a hand that contains as a minimum the normal highcard strength associated with a one-level opening and at least eight clear cut tricks (defined as tricks expected to make opposite a void in partner’s hand and the second best suit break – this hand has only seven if diamonds break 4-1); or

b) any hand meeting the Rule of 25- (high card points +number of cards in two longest suits) - any hand worthy of a 2♣ opener would always fit; or

c) any hand of at least 16 HCPs

The auction shown happened twice. East opened at the one-level and hearing partner respond in a suit he needed help with, blasted 5 . South, with a trump trick, two aces and a partner who had bid, indicated that this was an error, resulting in N/S +300. Two pairs tried 3NT, one was doubled and went 5 off for N/S +1100, whilst the other was also defended well for 5 off and N/S +250, a below average score for N/S.

What would I open? Personally 5  looks about right, and now neither North nor South have enough stuff to double. But what are the diamond bidders saving against? Well Deep Finesse tells me that 4♠ will make provided a) you don’t get a spade lead at trick 1 and b) you can play the hand like Garozzo. Sadly, no-one bid spades.


Hand of the Week 5 - Open two-suited hand at the 1 level

This is board 22 from 08.07.14

The auction given is typical – 2♣ was a Game Force, and 2  a positive. After some more bidding West took over and asked for Aces.

This hand caused a lot of problems in the bidding. As you can see, you want to get to 6 , but this is quite difficult. .

Even worse occurred at two other tables where East opened a Benjaminised Acol 8 playing tricks bid (either 2♣ or 2  depending on your style). Now the standard way to play this is that it shows a single suited hand, too strong for 1♠ followed by a 3♠ rebid. It should not be used on a two suiter as partner will not expect you to have a second suit such as those diamonds. Where this was bid, West drove to 6♠, expecting his cards to be useful opposite a long suit and outside strength. This got doubled at one table and went for -500, and also went for -200 at another.

With an extreme two suited hand it might be best to open at the 1-level. There is no danger of it being followed by three passes as you only have 15 points out of 40, and only two suits, so it is almost certain someone will bid. Now the auction will go 1♠-2 -3  (forcing to game after a 2-level response) – 3NT – 4  (still forcing to game). Now West will either bid 6  directly or cuebid 5♣, showing the club ace and denying the heart ace.

The two pairs who found diamonds made 11 and 12 tricks. On best defence 6 doesn’t make, as South will cash the heart ace, and then he can trump high on the second spade lead, forcing the diamond ace. Now on another spade lead he can overruff dummy’s small trumps.  What a shame West did not have the 10.