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Weekly Bridge Problems Archive
Weekly Bridge Problem, April 1st 2017

Playing in a duplicate pairs event South receives a lead of the 4. The Jack was played from Dummy, covered by East's King and won by Declarer's Ace. Declarer next played a  to Dummy's Jack and played the Queen, playing low from his hand when East played low. The Queen held the trick. What should Declarer do next? 

NB. This will be the last 'edition' of the Weekly Bridge Problem. After about seven years of producing a problem a week I am getting a little tired. I hope that you have enjoyed at least some of the problems that have been presented.

If South takes a second  finesse, and it loses, a ♣  from West will knock out the only entry to Dummy's long  Winner and the contract will be defeated. There is little doubt that some players in a duplicate game will repeat the  finesse, playing East for the missing King. If that is the situation that exists then an overtrick is potentially golden. However what is not golden is taking the finesse when it loses AND your contract also is a lost cause. Michael Lawrence, who originally wrote up this hand, makes the comment that Declarer should be aware of the quality of the opponents. "If West is a new player, it is against the odds that he holds the King New players win tricks when they can".

The winning play on this hand is to play the Ace on the second play of that suit and then follow up with Declarer's last  . With the ♣  entry to Dummy still available the contract will now be made.


REMINDER: This is the last of my Weekly Bridge Problems. I hope you have enjoyed at leasr some of them. I remain happy to respond to any bridge questions via email  -


Weekly Bridge Problem, March 25th 2017

As you are, on balance, likely to be defending twice as often as you are likely to be Declarer, I offer no apology for giving you another defense problem this week. You are sitting East, and your partner has led the  Jack.  When Declarer plays low from Dummy you win with the Ace. You are now faced with the issue of "should I return partner's suit, or should I do something else"? Your decision!!

History buffs, who know a little about the Spanish-American War, may have an advantage in finding the defense to stop Declarer from taking 9 tricks.

Winning the opening   lead East has to carefully consider how the defense can take 5 tricks to defeat the 3NT contract. He could/should return the suit that his partner has led, but even if his partner has led the Jack from KJT there is no hurry to return the  lead. East has the Ace which will enable him to return a   later. What is of greater importance is to stop Declarer from taking five tricks in Dummy. East can do that by leading, at Trick Two, the King. This sacrifice of a potential defensive ♠ trick permits Declarer to take only 3 tricks in Dummy instead of the 5 tricks he could take if the Ace was not removed BEFORE the  suit was established.

The intentional sacrifice of a high card, as a means of destroying an entry is known as the Merrimac Coup. This was named after an incident in the Spanish-American War. The US intentionally sunk one of its ships, the Merrimac, in the entrance to the Santiago Harbor. The result was that the Spanish fleet were unable to leave the harbor. 

Weekly Bridge Problem, March 18th, 2017

A defensive problem for you this week. North's bid of 2 shows at least 10 points in support of partner's  suit. [This shows a stronger hand than if North had bid 3.] East's Double is a Support Double, showing 3 card  support for partner. Defending against a contract of 3, West leads the Queen. When the Queen holds the trick you (West) continue with the  6, won by partner with the King. When South plays the Ace on the third   and leads the  6, you have to make a decision about winning with the King or letting it run around to East's Ace. Your partnership needs 5 tricks to defeat this contract. How do you plan to achieve that?

At the time the ♣ is led by Declarer, the Defenders have taken 2 tricks and need to take another 3 to defeat the contract. If West does NOT win the ♣  lead, it will be won by East who will now be end-played in the  suit, and will take only one trick in that suit.  To defeat the contract West should win with the ♣ King and then lead a ♠ . Now the defenders will win 2 ♠ tricks, 2  tricks and one ♣ trick.

Weekly Bridge Problem, March 11th, 2017

After a very spirited auction you, South, end up as the Declarer in a contract of 6doubled by West. West then leads the Ace. What is your Plan to make this contract? A word of advice. Think carefully!!!

Declarer can see that he has three possible Losers a ♣,  a  and a trump. Whether Declarer decides to throw away his ♣ Loser on the opening lead is somewhat irrelevant. If he does that he will have to ruff the second  lead. Declarer really needs to guard against a 4/0 trump break. If either defender is going to have 4 trumps the bidding suggests, strongly, that it is going to be West. If Declarer does NOT make his initial ruff with the Ten he will be defeated. By ruffing with the Ten and playing the Ace he does indeed find out that West started with the 4 missing trumps. Declarer can next play a low trump to Dummy's 9 and take the marked  finesse. Back in his hand Declarer can now play the trump King  and a small trump to Dummy's winning Queen. Repeating the   finesse Declarer can take 12 tricks, losing one  . It is important to note that if Declarer had made an inital ruff with a low trump he would be defeated. In that situation, after he had played the Ace he would have the KT7 left in his hand. When he then played the 7 West could play the Jack, which would mean that Declarer could take only one   finesse, as he had only one entry to Dummy. The clever Declarer anticipates this move and overcomes it by "unblocking" with the the play of the Ten.

Weekly Bridge Problem, March 4th, 2017

A normal sort of auction - one that most club players would probably emulate. West led the King, followed by a second   to East's Ace. A third ♣ from East was ruffed by Declarer. South next led a low trump from hand, with West playing the Ten. You (the Declarer) played the King from Dummy.........with East discarding a low  Whatever Plan you had as Declarer when you played to Trick One, now needs to be greatly revised. Can you still make your contract?

With careful play this contract can still be made! After winning the trump King in Dummy, Declarer should next play a  to his hand, winning both the Ace and King. Playing a  to Dummy enables him to discard a small  on Dummy's winning . Now ruffing Dummy's last ♣ he can win his King. At this stage Declarer is in his own hand with these three cards - 6  and A8. West has QJ2 and Dummy has 965.  When Declarer leads his 6, West is "fixed". If he ruffs with his 2 Declarer will over-ruff in Dummy, play a small trump to his Ace and concede a trump to West. If West ruffs with a high   he will then have to lead from his Q2 into Declarer's A8.

Weekly Bridge Problem, February 25th, 2017

You are sitting East in this problem. Your partner finds the lead of the  Queen, followed by the Jack, which you overtake with the King, and then play the Ace with all players following. In defence you have now taken three tricks. However you still need another trick to defeat this contract! Is there any chance for that vital fourth trick? YES. Can you find it?

Well you have taken 3 tricks BUT you need four to defeat this contract! Looking at Dummy it does not look as though either you or your partner can win a trick in the minor suits. 

The only hope for you to win an extra trick is in the trump suit - but not by leading a  ! The defense CAN score a fourth trick IF West has either the  King, or   Queen x. In case that situation exists East should play the 13th   at Trick Four. Did you find that defense?

Weekly Bridge Problem, February 17th, 2017

In a Duplicate game at your local bridge club you, South, end up in a 3NT contract, with West leading the 3, the 5 being played from Dummy and East playing the Ten. How do you intend to play this hand to give yourself the best chance of making your contract?

You, as Declarer, have five sure tricks (2 s, 2  s, and one ♣ ) and your contract is safe IF you can pick up the  King. However if that King is in East's hand then you will have only 8 tricks. The best way of playing this contract is by winning the opening  lead, and playing the  King. If East wins this trick and returns a   then you "duck" that card and win the third   . Now you can finesse the ♣ ​suit. If East does NOT play the Ace then you finesse the   suit, and make your contract. The play to be avoided on this hand is that of letting East win the opening lead. If you do that and East switches to the Queen you will NOT make your contract!

Weekly Bridge Problem, February 10th, 2017

Aggressive, not necessarilly wise, bidding had you, South, the Declarer in a 4 contract. West led his top two  honors, with you ruffing the second. How do you plan to make this contract?

Once West continued with a second ruffed by Declarer, there was a chance to make this contract, IF he could ruff three  losers in his own hand. This play, a Dummy Reversal, is a useful tool when you can use Dummy's trumps to draw the opponent's trumps, and use Declarer's trumps to trump some of Dummy's losers. However it needs careful planning to execute a Dummy reversal. In general it is desirable to use Dummy's side suit entries to access the  losers. At Trick Three Declarer should play the  Ace and then a   to Dummy's Ace and a  ruffed in his hand. Next a second  to Dummy's King allows Dummy's last   to be ruffed. A trump to Dummy's King and Queen now enables the contract to be made.

Weekly Bridge Problem, February 4, 2017

West leads the King which you win in your hand, after East followed with the 6 - a card that  has no specific meaning. With no bidding from either East or West, you, the Declarer need to have a plan to make the contract? If you lead the Queen, West will play the King and East will play a small . If you lead any  other than the Queen West will play the 2.

This hand is one of the newspaper column hands written by Philip Alder.

It is not the easiest hand with which to take ten tricks. Here is the line of play which will give you ten tricks. Win the opening lead and play the  Queen. If West covers with the King, play the Ace from Dummy. If West does not cover, play a small trump from Dummy, and then play another two trumps, finessing West. If West does cover the trump Queen, win the Ace and return to hand with a small . Now lead a small trump and play the Jack from Dummy if West plays the nine or Ten. If West plays the 2, Declarer should insert the 7 from Dummy. By playing in this manner Declarer will lose one , one   and one . Why should Declarer play in this manner? The title of Alder's column in which this hand was featured was "Untimely Talk is Costly." I deliberately omitted to tell you that West had doubled the 4   contract. Doesn't the line of play make more sense now?  Alder's final comment in the column was "Don't double the final contract unless you are 110 percent sure you can beat it." Sage advice indeed.

Weekly Bridge Problem, January 28th, 2017

South, in the balancing seat, bid 2♠ ​as he considered he was too strong to simply bid the suit at the one level. West passed and North now bid 2NT, showing invitational points. South accepted the invitation and bid the  game. West leads the 9, and you, South, the Declarer, win the trick in Dummy, with East following with a small  .

You have bid fairly agressively. Now you have to produce Declarer play to match the bidding. How do you plan to take 10 tricks?

Winning the opening lead in Dummy Declarer should pause to consider what he knows about the opponents' hands. He knows that East does NOT have 6 points otherwise he would, almost certainly, have responded to his partner's opening bid. He should also deduce that East has one of the top  honors. Why? Put yoursalf in West's position. If you had the Ace and King wouldn't one of those two cards be your lead of choice?  Declarer knows he will lose a  trick and a  trick, so he therefore cannot afford to lose two trump tricks.

South's best chance (probably the only chance) of making his contract is to play East for three trumps to the JT, and for West to have the Ace and a small trump. If Declarer reaches this conclusion he should, at Trick Two,  play the 8 from Dummy and play low from his own hand if East plays low. If East plays the Jack orTen then Declarer should rise with the King, and  later finesse East for having the other missing trump honor 

Weekly Bridge Problem January 21, 2017

A hand where you have to defend is this week's problem. A quote from Boris Shapiro is worth noting. "In the area of defence, technique will take you only half-way: imagination and alertness are needed as well."

You, West lead the ♣Queen, won by Declarer with the Ace, East contributing the 4. Declarer now leads the 3.   It is your turn to play. Perhaps you should re-read Shapiro's quote and find the way to defeat this contract.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          

In considering what action you, as West, should take you should consider what you know about Declarer's hand.You should certainly ask yourself why Declarer's lead, at Trick Two, was a ♠ rather than a ? The answer to that question has to be that Declarer has the  Ace. So why is he leading a ? Here is where the "alertness", mentioned by Shapiro comes into play. It would appear that Declarer believes he has 8 tricks - 6  tricks and 2 ♣ tricks, and needs to try to 'steal' a ♠  trick before you and your partner really know what is going on. You need 5 tricks to defeat this contract and when you win the Ace at Trick Two you still need another 4 tricks. This is where "imagination" needs to be utilized. The  suit is the only suit that has the potential for more defensive tricks. As West you need to visualize the holding in that suit your partner needs to have, to enable you to take another four tricks. You need to recall the bidding. South's re-bid was 2NT, showing a balanced hand with 12-14 points. It is highly likely that his points are made up of King, Ace and Ace and King. If that is indeed the situation then your partner has both the   Ace and Jack. To take four tricks in that suit East needs to have a 4 card suit, including either the 7 or 8. The lead of the Ten is the ONLY play that will enable the defense to take 4  tricks to defeat the contract.

Did you find that defence?

Weekly Bridge Problem January 14th 2017

North certainly hopes that his partner has made a disciplined 3 bid at unfavorable vulnerability! Trusting his partner he has bid on to game. West makes the opening lead of the  Jack which you, the Declarer, win with Dummy's Ace. You know you have 9 tricks - that is the easy part of this contract. What is your PLAN to take 10 tricks?

As Declarer has a hand that is far from being balanced, as does North, it would be logical to assume that neither of the opponents have balanced hands. As there are six trumps missing 3/3 is not really likely. There is certainly more likely to be a 4/2 break in the trump suit. So Declarer will have to be careful in the play as the opponents will try to reduce his trumps by playing a   whenever they have the opportunity. However Declarer can make his contract if the missing  cards break 3/2. Declarer should therefore play the ♣  Ace at trick two and then concede a ♣ . Undoubtedly a   will be returned which Declarer should ruff and then play a trump. Again a  will be returned, almost certainly. Ruffing that, Declarer should now play three rounds of trumps.  He should then concede a  and ruff the return with his last trump. Declarer has now made his contract - losing one trump trick and 2  tricks. This hand is a good example of the usefulness of considering the establishment of a side suit BEFORE drawing trumps.

Weekly Bridge Problem January 7, 2017

In a Duplicate game West has led the   9, which rather looks like a singleton. What is your plan to take the maximum number of tricks?

Finding a 10th trick is the problem that Declarer faces here. Given the bidding at the table it is unlikely that Declarer could realistically hope for a 3/3 break in the ♣  suit. What does work in this situation is a Dummy Reversal play. This elegant play has Declarer using the high trumps in his hand to ruff some of Dummy's Losers, and using Dummy's trumps to draw the Defenders trumps. At Trick Two Declarer should ruff one of Dummy's  Losers with his trump King. He then goes back to Dummy with a  and ruffs another  with his trump Queen. Declarer has then to take a chance and play a small trump to Dummy's 8. As West has the  Ten that play works! Declarer can then ruff Dummy's last   with his trump Jack. Now a  to Dummy's 9 and the play of the Ace to draw West's last trump enables the contract to be made.

This hand occurred some 66 years ago in a Mixed Team-of-Four  Championship. Both teams played in the same contract, but it was the fact that one team made an overtrick on this hand, that enabled them to win the Match. The  Ace was led at both tables and was ruffed in Dummy. What play should Declarer now make to take all 13 tricks? Of course you are now aware that both Teams reached the same contract and an overtrick is vitally important. The players at the table may not have been quite so sure of the importance of the overtrick! 

This hand is a very good example of not neglecting the possibility of an over trick in a Teams Match, IF trying for the overtrick does NOT place the contract in jeopardy. With a void in both hands Declarer must be prepared for some distributional hands being held by the opponents. Winning the opening   lead in Dummy Declarer can simply play a small  from Dummy and ruff it in his own hand. Now he can play a high trump, followed by a small trump, overtaking it with the Ten in Dummy. Playing the 5 top cards in the  suit enables him to discard all five  cards from his own hand. Yes a  lead would hold the contract to 12 tricks, so Declarer ha sthe opportunity of maximizing his return on this hand!!

Weekly Bridge Problem, December 24th, 2016

It is Xmas Eve and we have just left the Canary Islands and are headed North to our last stop - La Coruna in North western Spain.

Test your skill at making this contract.  West leads the ♣ Jack, which holds and he continues with the Ten. Plan your play!!

Careful play will bring this contract home - but sloppy play will not succeed!

Ruffing the second ♣  and then playing a   to Dummy's King is a good start. Then a small   to the King in hand followed by a small   ruff with Dummy's  Queen will pave the way to a successful contract. Declarer should then overtake Dummy's   Jack with the Ace in his hand, before playing his   suit to bring success. Declarer should end up losing three tricks - one ♣  to East and two   tricks to West.

Yes 5   may be an easier contract to make but your ability to make 4   showcases your Declarer play skill!



Weekly Bridge Problem, December 18th 2016

Apologies for the lateness of this week's problem. Internet access on this ship is not particularly good.

South bid 3NT after North's forcing bid of 3♠.     West led the  ♠ Jack which South, of course, won,  giving him 8 tricks. He then played the top two   tricks. Unfortunately West had the singleton 2 so South needed to try something else. He led the  ♣ Ace on which East followed with the Ten.  What should South do next?

Sailing south in the Atlantic to the Portugese island of Madeira.

When East plays the Ten on Dummy's  ♣ Ace Declarer has to pause and think. Is it a singleton? To make his contract Declarer can afford to lose one  ♣ . So the safety play that South should now make is to play a small ♣  from Dummy, playing the 8 from his hand when East discards a small  . West will win this trick but South can now return to his hand with a ♠  and take the marked ♣  finesse. South will take his 9 tricks - 2 in the ♠   suit, 3 in the    suit, one in the    suit and 3 in the ♣ ♣   suit.

Weekly Bridge Problem, December 10th, 2016

This is a hand written up by Bobby Wolff some years ago. In his write-up of this hand Wolff cited one of Sophocles aphorisms "troubles hurt most when they prove self-inflicted". You might ponder the meaning of that statement when, as Declarer, you receive the lead of the Jack from West. What is your PLAN to make your contract?

This hand does not appear to present too many problems for Declarer but the quote from Sophocles, mentioned when the problem was initially presented, proved to be particularly apt. Declarer is in control of his own destiny on this hand. With only 4 ♣ cards being held by the defense, most Declarers would probably play for a 3/1 break. In such a scenario Declarer is almost certainly going to lose one trick in that suit! However what if the suit breaks 4/0? If West has the 4 missing  cards Declarer is not going to make his contract. However if East has the missing cards Declarer can make his contract by leading, at Trick Two, a small ♣ ​from his hand and playing the 7 from Dummy. East wins this trick and will probably return a   . In reality is does not matter what card East returns. Declarer has two red suit Aces in Dummy and can enter Dummy twice to finesse through West's   cards. The contract is now made with 2  tricks, one   and  one   trick and 5  tricks. 

The Weekly Bridge Problem for the next two weeks will be posted from abroad. I will be teaching Bridge on the Queen Elizabeth on a 12-day cruise from Southampton, with one stop in each of Portugal and Spain and three in the Canary Islands.

Weekly Bridge Problem, December 3rd, 2016

North's 2NT response to partner's opening bid of one   shows an opening hand and at least 4 card support for partner's suit. This Jacoby 2NT bid is, IMHO, one of the most useful of all conventions. South's rebid of 4  shows a minimum hand with no singleton or void.

West chooses to lead the Queen. What is your PLAN to take at least 10 tricks in this contract?

Declarer has two  Losers and one ♣ Loser. He therefore cannot afford also to have a trump Loser. The only layout of the missing 4 trumps - KJ94, that permits Declarer to play the suit for NO Losers, is when East has the singleton Jack and West has K94. Declarer should play the Queen from hand and let it run, if West does not cover with the King. If West plays the King Declarer should play the Ace from Dummy. When East follows with the singleton Jack Declarer returns to hand with a  and finesses West in the  suit. 10 tricks being taken by Declarer!!

Weekly Bridge Problem, November 16, 2016

Long minor suits can be a great source of tricks in a No-trump contract - IF you can access them. Try your Declarer play skill with this problem. West leads the  3, you play the 2 from Dummy and, to your disappointment, East wins with the Queen. What is your PLAN to make your contract?

This Bridge problem should have had the date of November 26th attached to it. My apologies for the error.

As with many bridge problems the play(s) made at Trick One will often determine whether Declarer, or Defenders, prevail. In this hand Declarer's play at Trick One will determine whether he is going to be successful in making 3NT. When East wins the opening lead with the Queen, Declarer must play the Jack, Ten or 9 from his hand. Why? As the cards lie he needs two entries to Dummy, firstly, to establish his   Winners and, secondly, to access them. So when East returns a ♠  at Trick Two Declarer again plays one of his high cards in the suit. If West plays the King, Declarer wins with the Ace and the 8 is now his entry to Dummy. If West plays low at Trick Two Declarer should immediately play his   to Dummy's Ace, followed by the the other high   cards until the King is driven out. By playing in this manner Declarer will take 2  tricks, 5  tricks and either two   tricks or one    and one   .

Weekly Bridge Problem November 19th 2016

This hand appeared in print in 1978. It was in a book written by a player who, with his partner, were accused of cheating in the World Championships in a South American country some years earlier. The World Bridge Federation suspended the pair from playing in WBF events for three years. Interestingly the national bridge organization of the pair, found the case against them was "not proven".  So some questions for you to think about BEFORE you get around to solving the bridge problem. 1. Who were the pair involved? 2. Where and when were the World Championships held? 3. What does "not proven" mean?

North's 2NT bid in this auction shows a sound raise to 3 Spades. West led the  Ten, with East playing the Queen. You, the Declarer, win this trick. What is your PLAN to make? Who knows - if you make this contract you MIGHT just be part of the Team winning the World Championships, and NOT BE DISQUALIFIED!

The pair involved in the "cheating" scandal were the English pair, Terence Reese and Boris Shapiro. The event they were participating in were the World Championships held in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 1965. "Not proven" means that that, in the view of the "judges" there was insufficient evidence to find them either guilty or innocent. 

The problem hand we are looking at appeared in Reese's book "The most Puzzling situations in Bridge Play", published in 1978.

The correct way of playing this hand is to win the opening  lead and then play the Ten, playing low from Dummy if West plays low.  A second  finesse will enable Declarer to discard the  9 on Dummy's  Ace. The winning play is now to play Dummy's last   and discard the King. By taking that approach Declarer loses only three tricks - one  and two trumps.

Weekly Bridge Problem, November 12th, 2016

Many experts consider that bidding Grand Slams are only worthwhile if the odds are 2/1 in your favor of taking all 13 tricks. Their justification for taking this stance is that if the Grand Slam fails you not only lose the game bonus but also the bonus for making a Small Slam.

This hand, which was reported some 13 years ago by the Canadian couple Eric Kokish and Beverly Kraft, features some interesting bidding. North's 3NT response to South's opening bid of 1, shows a balanced hand with 16-18 HCPs!!!

Against the  Grand Slam West led the Ten, low from Dummy, the 2 from East and won by the King in South's hand. As Declarer what is your Plan to take all 13 tricks?

There are a number of possibilities to take all 13 tricks in this contract - but few with a high chance of success. Hoping for a successful  finesse to enable the  loser to be discarded on the  Ace is one, but that has no more than a 50% chance of success. Hoping to ruff out the missing  King with two ruffs has an even lower chance of success. The successful line is to win the opening lead with the   King, play  a   to the 9, play the Ace and ruff a small . Declarer then should enter Dummy with a   to the Jack and ruff another  . Next a   should be played to Dummy's Ace with the last   being ruffed with the  Ace. Now Declarer can enter Dummy with a  to the King and the  KIng drawing West's last trump, with a losing   being discarded from Declarer's hand. Declarer's Ace and the Queen and Ace bring home the Grand Slam. The success of this line of play depends upon the trumps breaking 3/2 and the missing ♣ ​ suit breaking no less that 4/2. This roughly equates to a 2:1 favorite - in other words the "right odds".

Weekly Bridge Problem, November 5th 2016

West's 2 bid showed a limit raise, or better in the  suit. The 3 bid and the 3 bid show first round control in each of those suits. West's 5 response to East's Roman Keycard bid of 4NT (an inquiry in relation to the  suit) shows 2 keycards without the Queen of the trump suit. Against the slam contract South leads the  King. What is your PLAN as Declarer?

Declarer should win the opening  lead. He should then play 2 rounds of trumps before playing his two top  cards. Next he should trump a   in  Dummy before ruffing the 3  in his own hand. At that stage he should ruff his last  in Dummy and exit with the Jack, on which he should discard the losing 4 from his own hand. Poor South is now on lead with no safe exit. He either has to play a , giving Declarer a free finesse, OR he has to lead a  enabling Declarer to ruff in Dummy as he discards the Queen.

This Strip and End play was coupled with a Loser-on-Loser play. Well done Declarer!

Weekly Bridge Problem, October 29th 2016

Declarer was indeed lucky to get the favorable lead of the 3. This gives him 7 tricks. If you are Declarer, what is your PLAN to find an additional two tricks to make your contract?

With 8 cards in each of the minor suits it is clear that that the additional tricks required will come from that area.  As the  suit is the stronger suit that would seem to be the way to go. But how are you going to play that suit? If the suit breaks 5-0 then the suit will not yield the additional 2 tricks. In that case Declarer needs to hope for a 3/2 break in the other minor suit. In playing the  suit Declarer may be in trouble if his finesse loses to a singleton honor card. The solution to this problem is to play the Ace first - this play caters for a singleton honor card in either hand. If all play low on the first  then a small card towards the Jack, and a small one back towards the Ten, will cater for any KQxx holding and any 3/2 break.

Weekly Bridge Problem, October 22nd, 2016

Defense is so very important in bridge that, for the second week in a row, you have a defense problem. See how you rate with this problem

West, your partner, leads the Jack, which Declarer wins in Dummy with the Ace. Declarer then leads the  King, which holds. He next leads a small  to his Ten. This trick is won by West who now plays the 9, covered by Dummy's Ten. How do you defend to defeat this contract?

East KNOWS, or should know, that Declarer has both the  King and Queen. Why? West led the Jack, denying the Queen. If South did NOT have both the King and Queen he would surely have played a small  from Dummy.

Therefore the defense need four tricks in the ♠ suit to defeat the contract. East MUST play the  Jack when West, having won the   Ace, leads the  9, which is covered by the Ten in Dummy. East needs to now play the 2 to West's King. When West plays his last  , East's A7 is sitting over Dummy's Q6. Well done West for playing the  9. If he had played the 3 the suit would have been blocked!

Weekly Bridge Problem, October 15th, 2016

A defensive problem for you this week. You, West, have led the  Ace with the 5 being played by North, the 3 by your partner and the 4 by Declarer. [You and your partner use Standard signals]  If you make the 'wrong' lead at Trick Two, Declarer will almost certainly make his contract. If you make the 'right' lead at Trick Two, Declarer MAY go wrong. What are you going to play?

This is a hand where passive defense gives you the best chance of defeating the contract, so at Trick Two West should continue with a high . The play of ANY other card from West guarantees South will make his contract. With ♠  cards played in the first THREE tricks, Declarer can afford to lose only ONE of the three Queens   ,  or   that have not been played.

Weekly Bridge Problem, October 8th, 2016

There are occasions when Declarer has to do quite a lot of work to make his contract. So it is with this hand. When West leads the 9, Declarer sees that he has only 5 Winners. If you are South, the Declarer, what is your PLAN to give yourself the best chance of making your 3NT contract?

This looks to be a contract that is going to need careful playing since you, as Declarer, are going to have to lose two  tricks. As you will have to lose the lead twice in the   suit, AND you have only 2 stoppers in the   suit, danger is looming. If East has both of the top  honors your contract is going to fail. However as East passed in the opening position it is probable that he does NOT have both of the missing honors in that suit.

The hand is still going to present some problems and the thinking Declarer can solve his problems by playing the  Queen at Trick One AND letting East's King win the trick. Through this play Declarer can win whatever suit East then plays and have time to drive out the two top  honors. Declarer will now take 10 tricks in his 3NT contract, for a well-deserved excellent score!

Weekly Bridge Problem, October 1, 2016

North's initial double was a Negative Double, as was the second, indicating that he had maximum, i.e. 10 or more HCPs, for his first Double. Against 3NT West led the Queen. When an enquiry was made East indicated that the lead could be from KQT, and East was to drop the Jack if he had it. 

You, the Declarer, let West win this trick and he switches to the  9. Without seeing all four hands there is no guaranteed way of making this contract, but what line of play are you going to take? No pressure here at all, but you are playing in the Teams Trials to select the next national team. You make the winning decisions you are representing your country. If you don't make your contract...... there is always next year!

Clearly East is the "danger hand" for you. Why? If East is on lead then a  through your AJ will almost certainly make it impossible for you to make your contract. From the lead of the  9 at Trick Two it would appear highly likely that East has the King in that suit. Declarer should win the Ace in Dummy and lead the Queen, which is won by West. That player returns a ♠ to East's King. Winning the  return you now have 9 tricks - 3 in the  suit, one in the  suit, 4 in the  suit and one in the  suit. Are you tempted to finesse West for the missing King? I hope not! You are not playing Matchpoint Pairs - you are playing IMPS. The important matter is making your contract. Overtricks in this situation are relatively unimportant.

Another hand from a local duplicate game. Not the least interesting aspect of this hand is the bidding. At one table N/S decided that over a natural NT opening they would use Gerber, including Keycard Gerber. Would you and your favorite partner use 4NT in the auction on this hand, or would you use Gerber? 

West led the  Ace followed by the King. Declarer ruffed in Dummy, with East following with a small  . You are Declarer. How do you proceed to give yourself the best chance of making this Slam? 

My apologies for the late appearance of the answer to the problem.

If West plays the   King at Trick Two it is for one of two reasons - either West commenced with a 7 card   suit OR West has no trumps and  is trying to force Declarer. The latter is the more likely, because with a seven card  suit headed by the AK West may well have decided to bid that suit over the 2NT opening. Trumping the   King with the 2 Declarer should play a small   to the King and Queen. Noting that East's play had suggested a 3 card ♠ suit  Declarer should now play the Queen of that suit, breathing a sigh of relief when East follows suit, Now Declarer should lead the   Ace and a small  to Dummy. Playing the two top cards of that suit in Dummy. Declarer should now play the  ♣ Ace. East is forced to ruff with South over-ruffing. Declarer should now play his remaining  to Dummy, ruffing with the Jack, with East having to under-ruff. The   Ten will again have East under-ruffing. Poor East with a five card trump suit does not take a trick in that suit! Well played Declarer.


Weekly Bridge Problem, September 17th, 2016

This hand came up during the last week at a club duplicate game. North took an optimistic view of his hand and ended up playing in 6NT. The lead was the  2. If you are the Declarer what is your plan to give yourself the best chance of taking 12 tricks? By the way - Dummy's  Ten did NOT win the first trick!

North was indeed optimistic in his 6NT contract and, regrettably, he took an inferior line of play in his attempt to make the contract - and failed! On a   lead he could see 9 top tricks - 2 in the   suit, 5 in the   suit and one in each of the major suits. Declarer tried to get extra tricks in the  suit but his  holding in that suit was not strong enough for that to succeed. If he held AJTxx in one hand then attacking that suit would have had  a better chance of succeeding - at least in theory. Having played a   Declarer was doomed. As the cards lie, attacking the ♠  suit was the play that worked. Playing a   from Dummy and inserting the Queen when the Jack or Ten was played gives Declarer 4 tricks in that suit. While a 4/2 break in that suit was not unexpected, it should be noted that Declarer can take 4   tricks only when West has the JT doubleton or the KJ or KT doubleton.

Weekly Bridge Problem, 10th September, 2016

Quite a straightforward auction on this hand. West leads the  ♣Jack which you win in Dummy, pausing to consider the implications of East playing the Queen on the first trick. What is your plan to give yourself the best chance of making this contract?

This hand should not create too many difficulties for Intermediate players. One of the most important things to remember when you are playing duplicate bridge is that it is seldom good tactics to go down because you were trying to make an overtrick. On this hand Declarer has ten tricks 'for the taking'. He has only three Losers - one ♠ , one    and one . If Declarer tries for an overtrick by taking the trump finesse he will be DEFEATED, because East will now score a   ruff. The correct way to play this contract is, at Trick Two, to play the trump Ace and then a second trump. Ten tricks taken! 

Weekly Bridge Problem, September 3rd, 2016

As Declarer you, South, receive the lead of the ♣ ​King. What is your Plan to GUARANTEE that you will take at least 10 tricks in this contract?

On this hand Declarer has a potential Loser in each suit. This hand was written up some years ago by Eddie Kantar. He gave the hand the title of Temptation. If you are tempted to win the opening lead in Dummy and then play a   to the Ace in your hand, so that you can play the   finesse, then you are indeed going down. You now have a Loser in each suit. The recommended play is for Declarer, at Trick Two, to play the  Queen. This will lose to East's King but he can now discard a losing   on Dummy's winning .

This hand was not a particularly difficult hand to play. All Declarer has to remember is that this is not a hand in which he should put his contract in jeopardy by trying for an overtrick.

Weekly Bridge Problem, August 27th, 2016

This hand was written up, about eleven years ago, by Philip Alder, who, after many years as a bridge columnist with the New York Times, is now a regular contributor to the ACBL Bulletin. 

In this spirited auction West led the   King, won by Declarer. A ♠   was led to Dummy's Ten. Lucille Le Sueur, sitting East could either win this trick or duck it and win the continuation. However our intrepid East won this trick and.... Three questions for you 1. what card should she play when she wins the trump trick, 2. why should she play that particular card, and 3. under what name is Lucille more well-known?

There was certainly some quite aggressive bidding going on at this Table! When Declarer played a   at Trick Two, East, who was better known by her screen name - Joan Crawford- showed she was also a talented bridge player. She reasoned that South almost certainly had the   Ace, but if he did not have the Jack also she could knock out a valuable entry to his hand. So East executed a Merrimac Coup, by giving up a valuable asset from her hand to destroy an entry to Declarer's hand prematurely. {This was a very good example of a Merrimac Coup, named after an incideent in the Spanish-American war in 1898. The US deliberately sank its own ship, the Merrimac, to block the entry/exit of the harbor at Santiago de Cuba.} The play of the   King by East now made it impossible for South to make his contract. as he could not get back into his hand to draw East's trumps without overtaking one of Dummy's high trumps.

Excellent defense by a talented lady! 

Weekly Bridge Problem, August 20th, 2016

These hands were played in an inter-city match between Helsinki and Stockholm many years ago. An explanation of the very strange bidding is clearly required!! South's 2 response showed an Ace and a King, and his 3 rebid was intended to be a transfer bid. North forgot their bidding system and jumped immediately to 7.   West led a small ♠. If you are sitting South you should first of all not look dismayed and then plan to take as many tricks as you can! Good luck. 

This hand was taken from "Bridge Analysis" by Boris Shapiro, published in 1976. This, in my view, is a book well worth reading for serious students of bridge!

It is important for Declarer to look confident when they see Dummy - although that may be difficult on this hand. If you do not look confident you have already given assistance and encouragement to the defenders!!

With a  lead Declarer took the first 8 tricks - two  in the  suit, three in the  suit, two in the  suit and a  ruff. At that stage West had a four card   suit and one card in the  suit. When Declarer led a ♠  West had to ruff with the 9 to stop the  7 winning in Dummy. Declarer over-ruffed with Dummy's King. This gave him 9 tricks. Declarer now made the last 4 tricks with a cross-ruff.

While Declarer made this Grand Slam with a 3/3 fit, life would have been much more difficult if West had decided to lead a trump. However if a trump had been led I am confident that the hand would not have appeared in Shapiro's book.

Weekly Bridge Problem, August 13th, 2016

West leads a small  which East wins with the Ten before attempting to cash the top . As Declarer you ruff this card. What is your Plan to make this contract?

Declarer needs to keep West off lead for as long as possible so that he cannot lead a   through Dummy. This can be accomplished by the use of a "trump avoidance play" in case West has all 4 missing trumps. Therefore Declarer should lead the Jack from hand, playing low from Dummy if West plays low. If East happened to have the trump Queen he cannot attack the  suit without giving Declarer a trick. As the cards lie in this hand the avoidance play lets Declarer pick up all of the trumps.Now he should play a  to establish that suit. When West wins the Ace and can play the ♣ ​suit. Declarer should win the Ace and discard his losing   cards on Dummy's winning  cards. The avoidance play iin the trump suit enabled Declarer to take 11 tricks in his 4♠   contract.

Weekly Bridge Problem, August 6th, 2016

Some 11 or 12 years ago Bobby Wolff wrote up this interesting hand which had been played in a duplicate tournament. As Wolff noted, the hand produced a variety of results with only a few, who played very well, making the Slam. West led the King, and continued with the Ace. You are the Declarer, sitting South, who now is tasked with making the contract. What is your Plan? By the way West has a   void.

Wolff reported a number of different approaches that Declarers took in their attempt to make their contract. Drawing trumps and taking the   finesse did not work. Neither did drawing trumps, cashing the  Ace and King, and taking the   finesse, when West covered the  Queen thus blocking the suit.

Some declarers made the slam by ruffing the second  and immediately taking the   finesse BEFORE drawing trumps. They were then able to discard their losing  on Dummy's winning  

Wolff considered that this was not the optimum approach. He considered that the best play was to cash only two trumps - the Queen and the Jack, before playing the  King and Ace. Declarer could then take the   finesse and it did not matter whether West played the King in an attempt to block the suit. Declarer still had the trump King as the entry to enable him to discard his losing   on Dummy's winning   . Would you have found that play?

Weekly Bridge Problem, July 30th, 2016

Just as defenders, particular the defender who has to make the opening lead, need to analyze the bidding, it is also important for Declarer to analyze that lead and any bidding that may have been done by the opponents. On this hand North's 2  bid was a Michaels Cue bid, usually, in this sequence, showing 5/5 in the major suits. West leads the  Queen, which East wins with his Ace, East next plays the  2, Declarer covering with the Queen and, when West plays the King, wins with the Ace in Dummy. 

How should Declarer continue?

Once East comes up with the   Ace it should be clear that West, who opened the bidding, has the missing 12 points. Declarer should win Trick Two with the   Ace in Dummy and then play the   King and Queen. His next play should be to lead a small   from Dummy to the Jack in his own hand. Declarer should now play the   King, discarding the small   from Dummy. Now he should ruff his   Ace with a small trump from Dummy and then exit with a small trump. West can take his two trump winners but the has no choice other than to exit with a  . This card will be ruffed in Dummy while Declarer discards the losing   from his own hand.

A well-planned and well-executed display!

Weekly Bridge Problem, July 23rd, 2016

How do you and your favorite partner deal with your right hand opponent making a pre-emptive opening bid of 4, 4, 4, or 4? If you have not discussed it it is time you did!! Most experienced players tend to treat an immediate Double of any of the first three bids as being for Takeout. The Double of a 4 opening bid is a little more vague. While many players prefer that Double to be penalty-oriented there also many players whose experience indicates that they may not get a good score in defending 4X. Obviously a topic for discussion!

While on this hand N/S are playing the Double for Takeout, South has not got the ideal hand for his Double, but he hoped that North would bid his major suit OR that he left the Double in for penalties. Of course North took neither of those actions but his 4NT bid asked South to choose a minor suit. 5♣ then became the final contract with West leading the  7. East played the 9 and Declarer won the trick with his Ace. Declarer then plays the  Ace on which East drops the Queen. How should Declarer continue to give himself the best chance of making this contract?

What do you know about East's hand? You know he started with a seven-card   suit headed by the QJT, and a singleton . Almost certainly as he has a comparatively weak bid suit he is likely to have some other distributional features. So a 1-7-4-1 shape would not be unexpected. What about West's hand. You know he started with a singleton   and a 4-card   suit. Almost certainly West does not have both of the two top   cards as he would have likely led that suit if he had both of those cards.

Once you recognize that East has a top   you must  draw all of the trumps otherwise East would give West a   ruff. Next you should lead a   from hand, playing the Queen from Dummy with East winning the King. East will return a high   which you win in your hand. Now you should play a second   and, if West plays low, play the Jack from Dummy. Contract making! If East held the two top  cards you were never going to make this contract, as East would have winning   cards to play.

Weekly Bridge Problem, July 16th, 2016

North has certainly bid rather aggressively on this hand - 3 bids on his 7HCPs! West leads  7 with the Ten being played from Dummy. How should East/West play to attempt to defeat this contract. This problem was one presented by Mike Lawrence about 12 or 13 years ago. In his write-up of this problem he notes that South's 2NT bid shows about 18 points. 

Bridge is indeed a 'thinking' game and the Defenders will have to cooperate very well to defeat this contract! Put yourself in East's seat and work out how you are going to defeat the 3NT contract.

The very first matter that East has to establish is the number of  cards West started with. Remembering the bidding, West knows that almost certainly Declarer does NOT have 4 cards in the  suit! WHY? His first re-bid was 1, which shows a 4 card  ♠ suit and denies a 4 card  suit! It therefore does appear that West has a 3 card   suit.  As East's only entry to his hand is the King he cannot afford to play the King until the third lead of that suit, BUT he must encourage partner to persevere with the   suit. He can do this by playing the the 8 on the opening lead - if the partnership are playing standard signals. If the partnership are playing odd/even or upside down signals West should play the 3.

When West wins the first of his minor suit Aces he should continue with a  . Again East should play small. When Declarer plays his other minor suit West should win his Ace and play his last  . The defense will now take 5 tricks  - 3   tricks and two minor suit Aces. Contract defeated!!

Weekly Bridge Problem, July 9th, 2016

When you can see some possible difficulties in making your contract it can sometimes help to try to visualize the distributions of the missing cards you would like to see to enable you to make the contract. On the lead of the 2 what is  your plan to make this contract?  How many tricks can you see at present? Have you any reasonable grounds for making some assumptions about some of the missing cards?

Your Assistance is Requested.

I have been putting out the Weekly Bridge Problem (WBP) for about 5 years. It is very much easier for me since I have been putting the question on the Website of the Beverly Hills Bridge Club. However ...... I do not know how many people look at the WBP.

If you look at it on a fairly regular basis and would like it to continue, please drop me an email and let me know.

Brian Richardon. Email:



My apologies for incorrectly showing North as the Dealer - it was indeed South who made the opening bid.

If you, as Declarer, make the assumption that you have 8 tricks IF the missing cards in the  suit break 3/2, and the  suit breaks 4/3, then this contract should not be too difficult to make. Winning the opening  lead, Declarer should immediately play a  to Dummy. East will no doubt win that trick and return a . South should win that trick and play the   KQ8, overtaking the 8 with Dummy's Ace. He should then play the  Jack, which will be won by West who can cash his two   tricks. However Declarer can now make his contract by playing his 4 to Dummy's 6, which will enable him to play his established   Winner.

As only one person has responded to my request to let me know if you want the WBP to continue, I will, over the rest of July, decide whether I want to continue to put in the effort of producing this on a weekly basis.

Weekly Bridge Problem, July 2nd, 2016

Listening to, and understanding, the bidding is an essential part of playing 'good' bridge. So it is in this hand.

West's 2 opening bid shows a 6 card suit with 6-10 high card points. West leads the Queen and East discards the 2, with South winning the lead with his King. Declarer can see 8 tricks and the   suit would provide the ninth trick IF the   Ace is in East's hand. The wise Declarer however will first see if there is another way of generating that elusive ninth trick! Our Declarer decided to try to gain an extra trick in the suit. He led a   to Dummy and played a  , intending to play the 9 if East played low. However East played the Ten and Declarer had to play the Ace. He then led a second   towards Dummy, intending to play low from Dummy if West played the Queen. Unfortunately for that Plan West discarded a small  . How should Declarer continue?

What should Declarer do now when West does not follow to the second ? If he chooses to play a  he has not been paying attention to the bidding nor has he been following the play of the hand up to this moment. He should know that West commenced with 6 cards in the major suits. Declarer should play the remainder of the   suit. When he does that he will discover that West commenced with a 2-4-6-1 distribution. So far Declarer has taken 7 tricks - 4 in the ♠ suit, one in the  suit and 2 in the  suit. If he now plays a small    from each hand West is now on lead and has either to lead a   into South's KT, or exit with a   to give Declarer his ninth trick.

While not all players will agree with West's opening bid of 2 when he has AJxx in his hand, South's play as Declarer enables him to avoid having to play the  suit! 


Weekly Bridge Problem, June 25, 2016

West leads the King against your 4 contract. What is your plan to take at least 10 tricks? A tip (in the form of a question) - if one hand has a void, are the other hands balanced?

You ruff the opening lead and play the trump Ace, with East discarding a  . You need to set up the   suit, so you should cross to Dummy with a   to Dummy's 9. Your attempt to finesse the   Queen is unsuccessful as West wins the King and forces you yet again with a . You ruff again and are now down to  KQ, while West has the 75 and Dummy has the singleton J. Next Declarer should play the   Ace and another   . As that suit breaks 3/3 you have now established the suit. Winning the   Jack, West plays his last . As you have a   loser you should discard the 4 on West's  . Another   from East will not help the defense as Declarer can ruff in Dummy, play a    to his hand and play the top two trumps. No other play can help the defense. A well-played hand by South!!

What bid would you make with South's hand if your favorite partner had overcalled 1NT when West opened with a bid of 1? Would you transfer, or would you jump immediately to the 4♠ ​game?

West leads the King. What is your PLAN to give yourself the best chance of making the contract?



Would you and your favorite partner transfer when North overcalls 1NT, or would you bid the   game yourself? Personally I would NOT transfer in this situation. Why? Partner's hand is pretty well-known after he has overcalled 1NT and I have a couple of minor suit holdings in which I would prefer the lead to come up to me rather than through me!

So we are now faced with the problem of making this contract with West's lead of the   King. It looks as if we have a  Loser and possibly 3  Losers. It does look as if the only reasonable way of making this contract is by endplaying West in the    suit. This will take some careful planning! Declarer should duck the opening lead and win the   continuation, discarding a small   from hand.  Declarer should next play two rounds of trumps, and then the   King and Ace before ruffing a third ♣  in his own hand. His next play should be a small trump to Dummy's King, followed by exiting with the   Ten, on which he discards the losing  6. Poor West is now endplayed. He has to either lead a   or give Declarer a ruff and a discard.

A Loser-on-Loser play coupled with an endplay are techniques that should be in every bridge players' tool-kit!

Weekly bridge problem, June 11th, 2016.

Maybe South was being a little adventurous in jumping to 2NT, but duplicate bridge often rewards such bidding!

How should he plan to make his contract with the lead of the 6?

On looking at this contract you may well feel that you will make at least your contract - 3  tricks, 3 in each of the minor suits and one or more in the  suit. However West may well be threatening to make your life unhappy by establishing and running a number of  tricks! That is exactly what will happen if you play the 5 from Dummy on West's opening lead. East will play the 8  and now you will be playing the Ten. When you play a black suit to drive out the Ace, West will win and play the   Ace and and the 9. Your contract is now defeated - losing one ♠ , three  s, and one  .

Now look at what happens if you take a different approach and play  Dummy's Queen at Trick One. When that wins you then lead a , driving out the Ace. Whatever West now returns he cannot establish his  suit, before you have driven out the   Ace. By adopting this line of play you end up up taking ten tricks. You achieved this by playing the  Queen from Dummy at Trick One. After all the bidding strongly suggested that East was extremely unlikely to have the  Queen BUT could have had the 8 or the 9 in the   suit!! ANALYZING THE BIDDING CAN SO OFTEN GIVE YOU KEY TO MAKING YOUR CONTRACT.

Weekly Bridge Problem. June 4th, 2016

I am putting this hand on my laptop as we are 'steaming' eastwards from Cochin (India) to Penang (Malaysia). It is 5.15 pm on Saturday afternoon and I have a glass of wine in my hand and a magnificient view over the top of my computer. I am sitting in the lounge on Deck 5 of our large ship looking at the wide expanse of sea. I would even enjoy this without the wine.

When you pick up a hand like South did here AND you are first in hand it can always be a matter of some concern about what you should pre-empt  OR indeed should you pre-empt at all? Too late to worry about that now, you decided to make an opening bid of 5  .  Everybody passed and West made the opening lead of the King. How do you plan to make your contract if (a) East plays low on the opening lead, OR (b) East overtakes the King with the Ace?

One matter that Declarer MUST look after is that he CANNOT let East get on lead, because a ♠ lead from that hand would spell disaster! Therefore if East plays low on the opening lead Declarer should discard a . If East overtakes the initial lead Declarer should ruff and go to Dummy with a small trump. He should then play the   Jack from Dummy, discarding a small  from his own hand. In both of these scenarios Declarer will make his contract by ruffing Dummy's third . Provided the missing  cards break 3/2 (a 68% chance), Declarer's 2 ♠ cards can be discarded on the 2 winning   cards in Dummy

Weekly Bridge Problem. May 28th, 2016.

After a day of century +  temperatures in Muscat, it was indeed a pleasure to get back into the air-conditioning on board ship. Next stop is Cochin, India, in three days.

Now to this week's problem. The opponents' preemptive bids can often keep you out of your preferred contract, or propel you into a higher contract than you would otherwise not have bid! Of course the opponents ' bidding might help you to make the contract.

Try your declarer skill on this hand when West has led the ♣ King and East has followed with the 2.

How would you play this hand? Of course now that you have seen all 4 hands it is much easier. When this hand was first reported the Declarer went down when, after winning the initial lead, he tried a ♠ finesse, losing to East's Queen, and then losing a second finesse in the   suit.

There would seem to be a much better approach - rather than trying two finesses. A more effective approach would seem to be leading the   Ace at Trick Two. When Declarer finds West with a void in that suit it is not too difficult for him to pick up the complete  suit. His next play should be that of playing the  9, letting it run unless West covers it. As the cards lie poor East wins that trick and has to return a major suit letting South make his Slam. The clue to finding the correct play was West's initial pre-empt. Stripping East of both minor suits creates the end-play to succeed in this contract.

Weekly Bridge Problem, May 21st 2016

When I first started playing bridge it was considered relatively normal for players NOT to open 2NT if they had a suit with no 'stopper'. That practice has certainly disappeared and now a great many bridge players have no problem with opening South's hand 2NT.

Against a 4♠ contract West leads the  Ace followed by the King, with East playing the 2 and the 9, using standard signals. West now switches to the King, which you win. You, South, next play the Ace, with West playing the Queen and East the 9. You are playing Matchpoint pairs so overtricks are important. How do you proceed?

Taking 10 tricks in this contract is not really difficult, but playing Pairs you should really be trying to take MORE than 10 tricks. However unless you plan very carefully there could be problems. Looking at his own hand Declarer should come to the conclusion that it may well be possible to establish a third   Winner in his hand on which he could discard a losing   from Dummy. A word (or two) of warning...if you are going to establish a long suit you need to be sure that you can access that long suit ONCE you have the additional Winner established.

When Declarer plays his  ♠ Ace he must be careful to NOT play the 2 from Dummy. He can play the 8, 7, 6, 5 or 4 BUT NOT THE 2. He should next play the   Ace and King, before ruffing the 3 with the trump Jack. West still has a fourth   so Declarer should now play the   8 to his King, enabling him to ruff another   with Dummy's highest trump. The carefully preserved  2 can now be overtaken by the 3 in Declarer's hand so that Dummy's losing  can be discarded on the winning 9 in Declarer's hand. 11 tricks taken will be the result and a better than average score will be collected.

Next week's Bridge Problem will be sent from the "Ovation of the Seas" leaving Muscat and heading East across the Indian Ocean towards Cochin, India.

Weekly Bridge Problem, May 14th 2016

Some players may not feel happy about bidding 2  with North's hand. Personally I have no such qualms. North's hand, after-all, does have pretty good trump support. South does not have a great hand, point-wise, but his shape would strongly suggest a jump to game.

West makes the opening lead of the Ace, followed by the King, which you (Declarer) ruff in your own hand. You now lead a small ♠, which West wins with the Ace. West continues with a second trump on which East discards the  ♣9.  

Having lost two tricks your task is now to make your contract when you have two more potential Losers - one in each of the red suits. What is your Plan?

Declarer's task is to avoid losing both a   trick and a ♥  trick. If Declarer has a choice between a. trying to establish a long suit, or b. taking a finesse, he should first try to establish the long suit IF he can try both, without losing control. So on this hand Declarer should test the  suit first to see if the missing cards break 3/3. As they do indeed break 3/3, Declarer's   Queen can be discarded on the 13th  in Dummy. This is indeed fortunate for Declarer as the   finesse does not work!

Weekly Bridge Problem, May 7, 2016

North's 4 ♣  bid is a splinter bid confirming the  suit as the trump suit and showing a singleton or void in the ♣  suit. West makes the opening lead of the  Jack which you (South) win with the King. What is your PLAN to give yourself the best chance to make this contract

There are some contracts that can only be made IF  one, or both, of the defenders can be dissuaded from making the winning play. In this contract the Declarer played, at Trick Two, the misleading   9. West was unwilling to part with his Ace on the first play of the suit and it fell to East to win the first   trick with his King. East then played a   to clear that suit. The contract could not now be defeated. Declarer played the   Ten and trumped West's Ace in Dummy. It was now a simple matter to draw trumps in two rounds and throw Dummy's  Loser on Declarer's winning   .

Weekly Bridge Problem, April 30, 2016

A common bidding issue comes up in an auction like the following. With E/W being silent throughout what does 1♠ when the bidding has gone 1♣ - 1, 1 - 1♠? How do you and your favorite partner play this? Does the 1♠ bid show a suit? Is the bid forcing? If it is forcing is it a one round force or is it game forcing? Ron Klinger, a well known Australian international player, author and teacher suggests what he calls a "sensible approach". His approach is, that in the auction mentioned, the 1♠  bid shows a suit and is forcing for one round. Conversely an auction of 1♣ - 1, 1  - 2♠ DENIES a  suit and is game-forcing! Such was the auction in today's problem. Over North's 2♠  re-bid, South rebids 3 and North jumps to 6♣, asking South to choose between 6♣  and 6.

6♣ is the final contract with West leading the  Jack, covered by Dummy's Queen, and won by East's Ace. East returns a small . What is your PLAN to take 12 tricks?

Once you have won the   King, it is time to draw trumps. When that has been done Declarer has to avoid having a  Loser. There are four possibilities [1] Finesse West for the missing Queen, [2] Play the  Jack from Dummy and finesse East for the missing Queen, [3] Play the Ace and King and hope the Queen falls, [4] Finesse West for the missing ♠ King (if successful that suit will provide a Winner on which to discard the losing ). [1] and [2] are each no better than a 50% chance. [3] and [4] together give you a 70% chance of success. As can be seen the   Queen does indeed fall doubleton.

When a finesse in either of two suits will allow you to make contract, play off the top two tricks in the longer suit in case the missing honor appears. If it does not appear then take the finesse in the shorter suit.

Weekly Bridge Problem, April 23, 2016

You may not agree with South's bidding, but as he is also the Declarer he has to live with the bid that he made. West makes the opening lead of the Queen and it now up to you [as you were the one who made the 6 bid] to make your contract. What is your PLAN?  

This hand was taken from a very useful 'small book' (61 pages) by David Bird and Marc Smith. The book, Safety Plays, is, in my view, one of the easiest books to read on this very important topic.

On this particular hand Declarer has indeed been very fortunate that he did not receive a  lead. His contract is now safe if he does not lose two trump tricks. The safety play is to play the trump Ace once you have discarded the Queen on the King. If the trump King has not appeared Declarer must enter Dummy, with a ♠ and lead a trump to the Queen.

Note that Declarer is faced with a difficult problem if he did indeed receive a  lead.  In that situation he has to hope for Kx in East's hand. 

Weekly Bridge Problem, April 16, 2016

West led the   Jack, won in Dummy with the Ace. Declarer then called for the trump Ace from Dummy and was somewhat dismayed when East showed out. When Declarer shows disappointment at the play of one of the opponents it can certainly be encouraging to the defenders when they see that Declarer is concerned!! The message is that you should keep your emotions under control and proceed as if nothing adverse has happened.  DECLARER knows that it is going to be more difficult to make his contract now. However West knows that he has a trump trick, but neither Defender is likely to be completely aware that they also have a probable   Winner. As Declarer what is your PLAN to make what is an excellent contract!

After winning the opening lead in Dummy Declarer played the Ace, with East showing out. Declarer has now to try to find a way of making his Slam when it looks as though he has both a trump Loser and a  Loser. Not fazed by the unexpected trump situation our Declarer cashed his  King  and  Ace, before ruffing his remaining ♣ in Dummy. He next led a  to his Ace and then played a second   through West, winning with the King in Dummy when West followed suit. {If West had ruffed Declarer would have played low from Dummy - making his contract.} When West followed to the second ♦,  Declarer played the King from Dummy. He now switched the the  suit, with West following to all three rounds. When Declarer now exited with a trump, poor West was end-played. He had to lead either a ♣  or a ♥. As neither Declarer nor Dummy have any cards in either of those suits, a ruff and a discard enables South to bring this Slam home.

Weekly Bridge Problem, April 9, 2016

Experienced bridge players take into account the inferences that occur often in bidding and playing. These inferences can be drawn both from what the opponents bid or played OR from what they did not bid or play. For instance, if West had bid the   suit during the auction and then makes an opening lead of say the  Jack, you can often/usually infer that he does not have both the Ace and the King of the suit he bid. 

In this hand West led the 4 and East played the Queen. You are South, the Declarer. What is your Plan to make this contract?

On the lead of the 4 East plays the Queen. The question for you as Declarer is 'should you win this trick, or should you hold up?" The answer to this question really depends upon which of the Defenders has the Ace! There is perhaps a small clue that might help you resolve this question. Do you see that clue?

 If West commenced with a five card   suit, a couple of useful black suit cards + the   Ace, he may well have ventured a 1 overcall. If you suspected he had the   Ace you should win the opening  lead as East would now not be able to get on lead to put a  through your J5. However as West did NOT make an overcall the odds slightly favor East to have the   Ace. Therefore South should hold up playing the Ace until the third round, hoping that East has that important Ace. He does indeed and now when he gets on lead with the   Ace he does not have a   to return to his partner. Declarer  makes his contract with 4   tricks. one   trick and two tricks in each of the black suits. The inference that Declarer concluded about West's hand not having the   Ace was indeed correct. Not a particularly strong inference BUT it was correct!

Weekly Bridge Problem, April 2 2016

North decided that, after South had re-bid his  suit, he had sufficient values to encourage his partner! You, as South, accept the invitation. Now it is up to you to take 10 tricks - at least. West leads the Ten which you win with the Ace in Dummy. You decide to play the  Jack which West wins with the Ace. West continues with the 9 which you win with the King. You play your King and then trump your small  in Dummy. What is your Plan to make this contract?

When should you draw trumps? If Declarer decides to attempt to draw trumps on this hand he will go down. How does he know not to draw trumps? He cannot know for certain that drawing trumps will fail. However if he considers the possibility that there is an adverse split in the trump suit AND the defender with the better trumps has four cards in the  suit, he might want to take an alternative approach. The winning approach is, at Trick Four, to play the  Ace and then ruff a small  . Now if Declarer leads the  Queen and trumps it in Dummy he is going to make his contract no matter if one defender has both the Ace and Jack of trumps. All the defense will be able to take will be the   Ace and the   Ace and Jack.

Weekly Bridge Problem, March 26, 2016

East's vulnerable 4 bid must surely show a long   suit. This is confirmed by West's lead of the  King and East's overtaking it with the Ace and returning the Queen. You, as Declarer, win the second   with the 5. What is your PLAN to make this contract?

It does look as though you have only 3 Losers, one in each of the suits - other than trumps. However as you are almost certain that East commenced with an 8-card  suit, and you commenced with two 5 card suits, it is unlikely that the other suits will break kindly for you! When you start playing trumps, say the Ace and small from Dummy to your Ten, East discards a   on your second trump. Now West has as many trumps as you have. It does not make any sense to draw all of West's trumps and the try the ♣ ​finesse - it is highly likely that the  King is in East's hands. If you take that approach you will probably lose count of the number of   tricks that East will take! No, you will have to try to set up the ♣ suit BEFORE you draw all of the trumps. So play the  Ten and let it run. East will do best by not winning the King. If that occurs Declarer should play a second  . As there were initially only 5   cards missing it is important to play the Ace now and then play a third  . Declarer can then win whatever suit is returned and will make his contract - losing one  , one , and one  . If indeed East, when he wins the  King, plays a third   Declarer can throw away his  Loser, ruff in Dummy with the trump Queen and claim 11 tricks! 

Weekly Bridge Problem, March 19, 2016

This hand was reported by Bobby Wolff about 13 years ago. The hand was dealt in a high-level Teams Match. West led the  6, with the Ten being played from Dummy and East following with the 4. You, South, are the Declarer. Plan your play.

Declarer can see that he has 8 tricks - two  tricks (once the Ace has been driven out), 2   tricks, and 4  tricks (once the Ace has been driven out). To make his contract Declarer will also have to win a  trick! At one table Declarer won the  Ten and immediately played the  King. East, playing upside down count, played the 2 and West was able to work out that South almost certainly had a singleton , and thus took his Ace. The contract was defeated! At the other Table Declarer overtook Dummy's   Ten with the Queen and then played her   5 towards Dummy. West with no clear idea how many cards in the   suit East had, did NOT rise with the Ace, and thus Declarer had 'stolen' his extra trick. Now it was a simple matter for him to establish his   suit and make his contract.


Weekly Bridge Problem, March 12, 2016

The opening lead will very often determine the success or failure of the contract. Show your defensive skill in choosing the best opening lead in this hand.

When you are on lead and you have length in the trump suit it is often a very good idea to lead your long suit, hoping to force Declarer to ruff, thus shortening his trumps. This was the thought of West on this hand, so he led his 4th highest  . Needless to say he was surprised to find that it was his partner who was short in that suit.  Now the defenders took three   tricks, and, as West had a winning trump, the contract was defeated. As West's colleagues pointed out to him almost any lead was going to defeat this contract!  However West's approach to the opening lead when he had length in the trump suit was quite correct.

Weekly Bridge Problem, March 5, 2016

This is one of Eddie Kantar's hands. Whether it is a hand from play, or one that he made up for teaching purposes, I do not know. If it is the latter it is interesting because Eddie (in his book Roman Keycard Blackwood) favors 1430! West leads the Queen and East plays the 4. 

What is your PLAN to take all 13 tricks?

Declarer has 12 top tricks and the question is "from where is the 13th trick coming?" If West has led from something like QJTx he will have to guard the   suit when the  suit is run. In addition if East, as seems likely, has four or more  cards he will have to guard that suit. So who is going to guard the  suit?

Declarer should win the opening lead in his hand with the Ace and run five   tricks, discarding a    and a   from his hand. He should then play the King, and the  Ace and King, ending up in Dummy. Dummy now has four cards left - one in each suit. East has had to find 4 discards on the run of the   suit, almost certainly one  , one   , and 2   s. When he has followed suit to the   King and the   Ace and King, East has a top  and Qxx left in his hand. Declarer has a  and the  AK2. West's final four cards are a high ♠ ​ and the  Jxx. When the 13th   is played from Dummy both East and West are faced with a problem for which there is no solution. If East discards a   then Declarer discards a . If East discards a   then Declarer discards a  . West has a similar problem -  If he discards a   then the   2 becomes the 13th trick! If West discards a   then the 9 in Dummy becomes the 13th trick.

In relation to last week's question. The two experienced IMP players I consulted had two different views  - one would try to make the contract via a minor suit finesse - standing the risk of a -200 score, while the other would settle for a -100 score in both Pairs and Teams.

Weekly Bridge Problem, February 27th, 2016

In this problem you are faced with some competitive bidding with both pairs vulnerable. West leads the Ace and King and then switches to the Ten, East following with the 3. How do you plan to play this hand?

NB If your partner over-bids you need to make sure that YOU do not under-play!!!

One of the important matters for Declarer to be aware of is that it looks as though, once he sees Dummy, that E/W can probably take at least at least 9, if not 10 tricks in a ♠ ​contract.  That being so Declarer has to be very careful not to go down two. -200 will never be a good score if the opponents do not bid on to game. South therefore needs to plan carefully. He has already lost two tricks. If he decides to take the two-way ♣ ​finesse, and it loses, then N/S will lose a total of 6 tricks and the dreaded result of -200 will be the result.

As a contract of 3  by South is a great contract Declarer needs to minimize his possible losses. A score of -100 would be a great result. This can be achieved by Declarer drawing trumps and then playing a  . The defenders can take their three   tricks but then have no choice other than to play a  or give Declarer a ruff and a discard of a ♣ ​from his hand.  That is clearly the approach that Declarer should take in a Matchpoint game. In a Teams match the situation is not quite so clear. However a losing   finesse and a score of -200 is unlikely to be beneficial  to the team! Personally I would almost certainly settle for -100 at IMPs scoring also. However I will canvass the opinions of a number of higher level IMPs players, and let you know next week what the majority view was.


Weekly Bridge Problem, February 20, 2016

When you are playing in a Duplicate Pairs games, overtricks are very important, but making your contract is even more important! This was the issue that Declarer faced in this week's problem. He received the lead of the ♠5, played low from Dummy and, when the Jack was played from East, he won the trick with the King. [Playing the King in this situation conceals the location of the Queen.] I hope that you, the Declarer in this hand, would have played the King! Having won the opening lead what is your Plan to make your contract? 

To make this contract Declarer needs only 3  tricks, NOT four! IF Declarer decides that he should get an overtrick by taking four tricks in the ♣ suit, and decides to lead twice to the high s in Dummy, he is almost certainly going to be defeated. Striving for an overtrick, which could mean the contract is defeated, is not usually a good PLAN!

To guard against a bad  break Declarer should, at Trick Two, play either the  7, from his hand, or lead the 2 from his hand and insert the 8 from Dummy when West plays low. This enables East to win with a low ♣ and return his remaining  to West. Declarer wins that trick and plays his remaining  to Dummy's King, Queen or Jack. Declarer will now end up taking 9 tricks, even if East switches to a   after winning his second  . If East decides to switch to a  after winning the first  then Declarer is almost certainly going to be defeated. If Declarer wins the opening ♠ lead with the King in his hand, a   switch at Trick Three is more difficult to find. Why? East may well believe that his partner's opening  lead was from a suit headed by the Ace, or Queen, or both!


Weekly Bridge Problem, February 13, 2016

A defensive problem for you this week. Against South's 4 contract you lead your 3, with the 2 being played from Dummy. East, your partner, plays the Ace with Declarer playing the 4. Partner returns the 8, and Declarer plays the Queen. What is your Plan to defeat this contract?

I am sure that not all South players would jump to 4  after partner has given a simple raise. However should South invite with a bid of 3 then North would accept and bid the game.

You are West on this deal and have led the  3, won by East's Ace and you have won the return with your King. If you now return the Ten, or Jack, Declarer will be forced to ruff and you will now have the same number of trumps as he has. Declarer has little choice but to draw trumps and hope that East has the all-important   Ace. Unfortunately for Declarer YOU have the  Ace, and can now take your remaining   Winners. With this forcing defense East/West will take 5 tricks, defeating the contract by two tricks. 

Weekly Bridge Problem,February 6, 2016

Playing in a duplicate game at the local Club you decide to open 1NT with South's hand. That is where you play and have to cope with West's lead of the Queen, on which East plays the encouraging 8. At this stage you may well have wished that you had made an opening bid of 1, but it is too late to change your mind now. Plan your play!

There is really no point in ducking the opening lead, although it does no harm to duck. When you take the Ace you should play your two top  s. When you know that you can take 5 tricks in that suit it is time to pause and look again at your options. You know that many of the field are going to be playing in a contract of 2 , almost certainly taking 9 tricks. A contract of 1NT, making 2, is not going to score well. Declarer needs to consider whether or not he can take 9 tricks in a NoTrump contract. If West has the  Queen an extra trick can be made by taking the finesse. Many experienced duplicate players will be prepared to take the chance of going down in a NoTrump contract if they KNOW that quite a number of the field are likely to be playing  in a suit contract, taking 9 tricks. Note that is important for Declarer to be aware that he needs an entry back to his hand to take the third trick in the  suit. Therefore he should play only the two top tricks in the ♠ ​suit so that he can use the remaining cards in that suit as the entry back to his hand. While experienced Duplicate players will consider taking the  finesse in a Matchpoint Pairs game, they would almost certainly NOT take the finesse when playing in a Teams match, where the overtrick is of much less importance.

weekly Bridge Problem, January 30th, 2016

If  you feel that you should improve your Declarer Play here is a hand on which you can try to show your skill. West has made the lead of the 5 and your task, as South, is to take the ten tricks needed to make your contract. Thinkplan & execute.

When Declarer looks at his hand and that of Dummy he should see that he has a   Loser, a ♣ Loser and two possble Losers in the ♠ suit. Fortunately West did not make the opening lead of a   , otherwise he would have lost the first two tricks and his contract would be that much more difficult to make. Declarer now needs to be very careful and avoid letting West get back on lead. He can achieve that by playing the Ten and letting East win the first trick with the Queen. As soon as he gets the lead Declarer needs to draw the opponents' trumps, breathing a great sigh of relief when East has the Ace. Declarer can now dispose of one of his  Losers on Dummy's winning  . This was a somewhat lucky hand for Declarer, because if the trump Ace was in West's hand the contract would almost certainly be defeated.

Weekly Bridge Problem, January 23, 2016

How many of you would bid 3 on North's hand? Eric Kokish and Beverly Kraft, two of Canada's most respected bridge experts, advocate a jump to 4 , - a bid designed to put pressure on the opponents. [How many North players are protesting "But I have VERY few points!"] 

On the actual auction you, South, bid on to 4 and West leads the Ace.

Plan your play to make your contract.

If the Kokish/Kraft recommendation for North to jump to 4 was a bit of a surprise, how do you feel about East's 1♠ response to his partner's 1 opening? They state "We believe that today at least half the expert community would not consider passing 1 at this vulnerability."

However you are now South and as Declarer you are striving to make 4 with the Ace as the lead. When you look at Dummy you realize you are going to need some luck to make this contract. Ruffing the opening lead you have to choose between trying to ruff three s in Dummy or trying to discard some losers on the ♣ ​suit in Dummy. The latter should be your choice. Why? Well one reason would be that East almost certainly has no more than a doubleton  and you will NOT be able to ruff 3s in Dummy AND play two rounds of Trumps! So the best play is to lead the Queen at Trick Two. West will probably win the King (although he MAY not play the King if he thinks his partner has the Ace!), and then play his King. It does him no good. You win the Ace and then play a small  to Dummy's Ten. Now you play the  Queen, discarding a ♠ from your hand. Poor West is now on lead and has to lead either a  or a , either of which would make it certain that you are going to make your contract! If West plays a  you have two tricks in that suit: if he leads a ♣  you win the Jack and then ruff a small   to set up the long ♣ ​in Dummy on which you can discard either a  or a .

Weekly Bridge Problem, January 16th, 2016

The bidding can often give you a good idea about how to play the contract. So it was with this hand, which surely displayed some aggressive bidding. While a contract of 5  doubled would almost certainly have been defeated it is not really surprising that South, with little defense, decided to bid on to 5.  When West bid on to 6, North then bid on to 6, reasoning that his partner probably has a  void.

West leads the  Ace, on which East plays the King. How do you plan to make this Slam? If the trump King is a singleton then making your contract would be quite easy.... But what if it is not a singleton?

The ONLY way you can go wrong on this hand is if you go to Dummy and attempt a ♠ finesse. Now you are going to lose. With that play you are going to lose the trump King and the Ace as the cards lie. The correct method of playing the hand is to win the opening  lead and lay down the Ace. When the trump King does not appear Declarer should play his  7 to Dummy's Ace then play the  King and Queen, discarding the two Losers.  This is a far superior play to trying for the anti-percentage  finesse! 

Weekly Bridge Problem, January 9, 2016

A spirited bidding sequence has you, South, the Declarer in a contract of 6. West leads the Ace, followed by the King which you ruff in Dummy with a small trump. You now play the Ace, followed by the King - on which West discards a .  [Surely you did not expect me to give you a problem where the trump suit was distributed nicely!!.]  What is your Plan to win the remaining eleven tricks?


You have already lost one trick and you have now discovered that East has the J8 and you have no trumps left in Dummy to enable you to finesse through East. You have the QT6 in your hand. What you really have to do is finesse East's J8!!! To achieve this you have to carry out two plays. 1. You must reduce your trumps to the same number that East has; and 2. You must lead from Dummy at Trick Twelve. At Trick Five you should play a small  from Dummy to the Queen in your hand. Now you play a small   to Dummy's Ace and then ruff a    in your hand with the 6. You have now reduced your trumps to the same number as has East. Now you cross to Dummy with a small ♠  to the Queen. From Dummy you start playing the winning s. If East trumps, you over-trump, play your last  and claim with your three winning s. If East does not ruff you continue playing s, discarding the top ♠ s from your hand. Now you are still in Dummy at Trick Twelve with only 2 cards  - both small  s. East has the  J8, and must play one of those cards. You are sitting over him with the  QT. A trump reduction play is indeed a useful tool to have in your 'bag or tricks".

Weekly Bridge Problem January 2, 2016

North's 4NT bid was quantitative (South's 3NT re-bid was 23+) and South accepted the invitation. 6NT was the final contract and West led the King. What is your Plan to give yourself the best chance of making this Slam contract?

When, as South, you receive the lead of the  King and consider your Plan, you should see that you have 11 tricks - one  , 3 s, 3 s and 4 s. The only possibility of getting an additional trick has to be in the   suit. However you do not yet have enough information about the defenders' hands to work out how to play the  suit.

As you must lose a ♠  it is a good idea to duck the opening lead, so that when you get a second lead of that suit you will start finding out more information about defenders' hands. East follows suit on the opening lead and on the second ♠  he discards a small  . So we now know that West started with a 5 card  suit. Next you can cash 4 ♣ tricks and 3   tricks. West followed to the 3  tricks and  3 of the 4 ♣ tricks, discarding a   on the fourth ♣  . From our counting exercise we now have established that West commenced with 5 s, at least 3 s and exactly 3 s. West can therefore have a maximum of 2 s. All Declarer has to do now is to play the  Ace and a small  to the King in Dummy. The lead from Dummy of the 8, through East's J9 to South's QT, brings in 12 tricks for Declarer. One of the important keys in Declarer play on this hand was the ducking of the opening lead to begin the task of getting a count on West's hand. Of course once you have a count on West's hand you automatically have a count on east's hand.

Weekly Bridge Problem, December 26th 2015

For those of you have already looked at this question I regret that I had presented the contract as being 3NT - and even I could make that contract with a couple of overtricks. I should have listed the contract as 6NT - that is the challenge for you! 

The third, and last, of our squeeze hands - well it will be the last for at least a little while! This is also our last problem of the year. I hope you have enjoyed and been challenged by at least some of them.

A simple bidding sequence has you, South, the Declarer in a contract of 6NT with West leading the  Queen. You win that in Dummy and  lead the 6, covered by East's Ten. You let East hold that trick and he returns a  to West's 9, which you win in Dummy.

Well you have two of the twelve tricks you need. Plan the play to make your contract. Think squeeze!!  


Would you have believed me, when I put this hand up a couple of days ago, if I had said "Isn't Dummy's   suit a powerful holding?" I guess the answer is that you would probably NOT have believed me!

OK let us look at the two hands. You had to lose a   and now you have done that at Trick Two. It looks as if there is now no problem if the missing  cards break 3/3. However that is against the odds. Having won Trick Three with a high ♠  in Dummy Declarer should play a  to his Ace and then take 4 ♣  tricks. After the first 8 tricks have been played these are the cards that West has: J, J985, while Dummy has: 2, AQ42. East has:  K74,  T7, While Declarer (South) has: 5, K63, T. Just look at the dilemna that West faces when Declarer plays the T. If West discards the J then Dummy's 2 will make a trick, with Declarer discarding a   from Dummy. If West discards a   then Declarer discards the 2 from Dummy and takes four tricks in that suit to make his contract, discarding his losing  on Dummy's winning . Notice that Declarer has not played any of the   suit until he has finished playing the ♣ ​suit. So if by some chance the squeeze is not working Declarer can still fall back on trying for 4 tricks in the  suit.

Weekly Bridge Problem December 19th, 2015

You, South, are the Declarer in a 4♠ contract, and East has overcalled 2. This bidding sequence may not appeal to everybody - but you have to deal with the problem with which you are presented! Neither partnership are playing 2/1. 

West leads the 8 and East wins the first two tricks, West showing a doubleton. When East plays a third    Declarer, ruffs with the 9, with West discarding the 5.  You, as Declarer, draw the opponent's trumps in three rounds.

It does look as though you have only 9 tricks so what is your Plan to give yourself the best chance of taking 10 tricks?

Declarer's chances of making this contract initially seem to depend upon the missing  cards dividing 3/3, or the  Queen being doubleton. The more experienced Declarer, however, may see another possibility - a squeeze on West. That is certainly possible IF West commenced with four  cards and the  Queen.

Declarer has to lose a  anyway, so he  should play a little   from both hands after he has played 3 rounds of trumps. East wins this trick with the Queen or Jack. At this stage West has 6 cards left  T98 and  ♣ QT9. Dummy has AK4 and J63, while Declarer has Ten, 75 and AK7. East who has just won a   trick and now has to lead from  T9,  J and ♣ 842. The squeeze is now all set up. No matter what card East plays Declarer will win, either in Dummy or in his hand. The Ten  in Declarer's hand becomes the very important squeeze card which forces West to discard either a   or a  , enabling Declarer to  take three tricks in one of those suits.

To understand the mechanics of this type of squeeze you may find it easier to follow if you actually deal out the four hands.

Weekly Bridge Problem, December 12th 2015

You, sitting South, have made an opening bid of 1♣ and, after an uncontested auction, find yourself in a contract of 6NT. West leads the ♦Queen with everybody following to the first trick. Plan your play.

Difficulty rating for this contract? No more than 2.5 out of 5. Get warmed up with the play needed to make this contract. The next two weeks will have similar problems - but at a higher level of difficulty!

Declarer can see 11 tricks in this contract, once he has driven out the Ace - 2s, 3s, 4s and 2s. .If the missing s break 3/3  the Declarer has his contract but probability suggests that a 4/2 break is more likely than a 3/3. That being the case the more experienced Declarer will almost certainly consider the possibility of a squeeze play. Winning the opening  lead he is likely to drive out the Ace. West wins the trick with that card and returns the Jack. The experienced Declarer will now start playing his suit as this is the suit that may well cause some squeeze problems for one of the Defenders. Playing 3 rounds of that suit he discovers that West started with a singleton  . He is forced to find 2 discards and will probably discard two s and one  . West is now in a real quandary. His last five cards are J975, and  Ten. Dummy has AKQ4 and 8. Declarer has 763, 9 and J. When Declarer plays the J, poor West must either discard a   or a  ♠  giving Declarer the last 5 tricks - making his contract!  

Weekly Bridge Problem, December 5th, 2015

After a spirited auction South becomes the Declarer in a 5 contract. West makes the opening lead of the King, and you, South, get to see Dummy. Make your plan and then execute it!

Declarer can see that he has a  loser and one or more  losers; in fact he will have 2  losers IF East gets on lead. Therefore Declarer has to ensure that East does not get on lead! If Declarer can do this AND the missing  cards are split 3/3 then this contract can be made. Declarer's first move should be to duck the opening King lead. It matters not what West continues with. Declarer draws trumps, ending up in Dummy, and then plays the   Ace, discarding a small   from his hand. Next he plays a small  to the Ace and a small   to the King. Now he plays a third  from Dummy, ruffing it in his hand. When both opponents follow to this third round of the   suit, Declarer returns to Dummy with a trump and discards a   on the 13th .  Adopting this Avoidance Play (avoiding East, the danger hand, getting on lead), Declarer makes his contract losing one ♠ and one .

Weekly Bridge Problem. November 28th, 2015

South is in the balancing position after the bidding sequence of 1  - Pass - 2  - Pass, Pass -?. He KNOWS his partner has some points and he, South, does not feel as though he has much defense against a 2  contract. So he makes the bid of 2♠ .Not every player would make this bid and South is not certain that E/W will be able to make their contract. Given that situation South needs to make every effort not to go down in the 2♠  contract.

West makes the opening lead of the Ten. East wins with the Ace and plays the ♠ Ace and another  . West wins the King and returns the Jack to Dummy's Queen. 

You, South have lost three of the first four tricks. How should you continue to get the best return for your balancing bid?

Certainly the play of the trump suit by the defenders made life somewhat easier for Declarer. Now he needs to build on that beginning. Having won the trump Queen in Dummy he should lead a small  to the Ace in his hand. Next he should lead the  Jack towards Dummy. If West does not cover with the King then Declarer should play a small   from his hand towards Dummy, playing the Ten if West plays low. (Declarer can always get back to his hand with the   King so that he can repeat the   finesse.) If West covers the intial lead of the  Jack with the King, Declarer can return to hand with a small  from Dummy, and lead a ♣ towards Dummy, again inserting the Ten if West plays small. Playing this way Declarer should take 3 ♠  tricks, one   trick, 3   tricks and 2 ♣  tricks.

Competing in the balancing position indeed paid a good dividend on this hand. With only 18HCPs North/South managed to take 9 tricks.

Weekly Bridge Problem, November 21st, 2015

North's cue-bid of 2♠  shows a Limit Raise (or better) in partner's bid suit. South decides to jump straight to the 4  game. West leads his top ♠  and, upon viewing Dummy, switches to a small  .

You are playing in a Teams' Match, and your team and that of your opponents are playing in the final. Going in to this last Board the two teams are tied. You do not officially know that the opposing team have played in this same 4  contract. Don't tell anyone that I told you that they did not make the contract. If you, South, can bring this contract home you are the WINNERS. No pressure on you is there?

Plan, and execute, your play to take 10 tricks!

On first looking at this problem (and not being able to see the E/W hands) it might appear that Declarer has to take either the   or the ♣  finesse to make this contract. As both of these finesses lose this was not going to work and the astute Declarer needs to find a better way of making his contract. There is indeed an approach that works. Declarer should win the trump Ace and lead a   to his hand in order to lead a ♠  towards Dummy. West wins the ♠ King and can do no better than lead another trump. East wins this trick and exits with a  . Too late!. Declarer wins the  Ace, and draws the last trump. He can now discard his two losing   cards on the long  in Dummy and the  winning   Queen.

This hand highlights the admonition of many bridge teachers - "The finesse is the play of last resort".

Weekly Bridge Problem, November 14th, 2015

Time for some thinking about defense this week. When West leads the Ten, you, East, see some chance of defeating this slam contract. After all you have a likely ♠  trick and your King is well situated to take a trick.

Declarer wins the opening lead with the Ace from Dummy. He then plays the ♠Ace and King, with your partner playing the Queen on the first trump lead. Declarer next plays the top three   cards from Dummy, following suit twice and discarding the   Queen on the third  . When Declarer now plays the fourth    it is decision time for you. Your play please. Remember you need two tricks to defeat this slam contract

One of the skills that ALL top players develop is that of Counting. For Declarer, the ability to work out the distribution of the opponents' hands, even when they have not bid, gives him a greater chance to make his contract, or make one or more over-tricks. For Defenders the ability to work out Declarer's actual distribution can enable them to work out the best defensive Plan.  This hand is a good example of the effectiveness of COUNTING.

After Declarer has won the opening lead and played the  ♠ Ace and King you, East, know that South commenced with a seven-card trump suit. Therefore he has only 6 cards in the other three suits. When Declarer plays the top three  cards, discarding the  Queen on the third  winner, you KNOW that South's hand had the distribution of 7-2-2-2. So when Declarer plays the  Ten you CANNOT afford to ruff. By now you know that Declarer's last 5 cards are all trumps. You, East, should simply keep on discarding your  suit. Declarer will ultimately be forced to ruff and will then have to lead a   from his holding of T875. You will now take two trump tricks to defeat the Slam.

Weekly Bridge Problem, November 7th, 2015

Yet another Declarer play hand for you this week. West has led the   King.

How do you plan to take 11 tricks in this contract?

This hand has generated quite an amount of discussion, with more than one respondent being concerned that West might have commenced with a seven-card  suit. I guess that is possible but perhaps West might have made a jump bid in the  suit, if that was the case.

It should be noted that the 5  contract cannot be made if West finds the best possible defense! The reality is that if Declarer wins the opening lead his chances of making this contract have been significantly diminished. Declarer should play the 7 from his hand on the opening lead, after East has played the 8. It is highly likely that West will interpret partner's 8 as an encouraging card and continue with a second high  . Declarer should  win the trick with the Ace and ruff his last  . Trumps should now be drawn. Declarer will now be aware East has no   cards or ♣  cards left in his hand. When Declarer now plays a    from his hand and plays either the Ten or Jack from Dummy, poor East is end-played. He has only ♠  and   cards left and has to lead around to Dummy, enabling South to make his contract.

How can this contract be defeated? If West, having won the opening lead, plays a   at Trick Two, East can avoid the endplay by leading a trump once he has won a  .

Weekly Bridge Problem. October 31st, 2015

A Declarer play hand problem for you  this week.

West finds an opening lead of the ♣Jack to South's 3NT contract. (Declarer might well wonder why a major suit lead was not forthcoming from West!) Declarer plays a small ♣  from Dummy and East plays the ♣8. As Declarer what is your PLAN to make your contract?

Very often in bridge the opening lead determines the outcome of the contract. In a similar fashion the play that Declarer makes at Trick One can determine the success or failure of the contract. Sometimes deception is the only ploy that is available to Declarer to enable him to make his contract. Indeed that was the situation with this hand.

Declarer has 7 Winners - 2 in the  suit, 3 in the  suit and 2 in the  suit. Declarer can also see that he is likely to lose four  tricks once he loses the lead. His only hope of making this contract is in taking 4 tricks in the  suit! Declarer's only possibility of succeeding in taking 9 tricks is through indulging in some deception. Put yourself in West's position and make a decision about what you are going to lead at Trick Two if, on the opening lead, the 4 is played from Dummy, the 8 from East and the 5 from Declarer. If you were West would you not believe that your partner's 8 spot was an encouraging signal in the   suit? You would almost certainly continue with a second ♣ ​ and Declarer would now take his 9 tricks! If West is not deceived by your play and switches to a   then that West player would indeed be in the minority!

Weekly Bridge Problem. October 24th.

Yet another defensive problem for you this week.

The North/South pair are playing 'strong twos' and therefore the opening bid is an 8 playing trick hand in Spades. After North's jump to game South tries his luck at the Slam.

Your partner, West leads the   Queen and continues with the Jack which is trumped by Declarer. Declarer then runs all of his trumps with West discarding  a   on the first trump. You have to find five discards.

Remember that bridge is a partnership game and defense is the true test of a partnership!


East has nothing in his hand that will enable him to win a trick. He KNOWS that if the contract is to be defeated the setting trick must come from his partner. If there is another defensive trick available East has to discard in such a manner that West will know which five cards to keep when Declarer has finished playing all of his trumps.

If the partnership are playing standard signals (high card showing an interest in that suit) then East should start discarding the 2, 3, 4 and 5 in one of the minor suits - it does not matter which one. East should then discard the 2 in the other minor suit. His partner should now come to the conclusion that East has NO MORE CARDS in the first minor suit he discarded. If East had discarded four  cards then West  knows that Declarer commenced with three cards in that suit. If East first discarded his four  cards then West, who has four cards in that suit himself knows that Declarer commenced with only two  cards. 

If East/West are playing upside down signals then East would discard one of the minor suits in the order of 5, 4, 3 and 2.

This hand was taken from a book written in 1972 by Victor Mollo. That book has a very meaningful title "Test your Defense. Where the Points Are Won."

That title simply underscores the importance of defense!

Weekly Bridge Problem October 17th.

Time again for us to consider defense. Try your skill with this problem.

With South opening a 12-14 1NT and North raising to 3NT, you, West, have to chose an opening lead.Your choice is the Jack. East plays the King and South wins with the Ace.

At Trick Two South plays the ♣Ten. What is your Plan to attempt to defeat this contract?

What could the lead of the Ten be about and should West rise with the Ace or not? Is it possible that South is a clever Declarer who knows that if he can "steal" a   trick, while he still has a   Winner, he will have time to drive out the  Ace and claim 9 tricks - 3 s, 2 s, 3 s and one ? Indeed this is what the clever Declarer was doing and his deception involved leading the Ten from QJTx.

Were there any clues available to West that could encourage him to immediately win the Ace and continue with a second ? YES! If Declarer commenced with AQx it would make a great deal of sense for him to 'duck' the opening lead! The fact that he did not take that course of action strongly suggests he started with a doubleton AQ. If West wins the  lead and returns a  then Declarer will be defeated because East can/will return a   when he wins the Ace. If East does not have the Ace then this contract cannot be defeated - BUT Declarer cannot have the Ace along with QT7, AQ, QJT2. Why? He would have 15 points!!

A tough hand for the Defenders but this is the sort of defense that wins champioships!!

Weekly Bridge Problem October 10th

In the United States Monday, October 12 is Columbus Day. History records that, among other things, Christopher Columbus was a 'great discoverer'. In the current problem East needs to DISCOVER how to defeat this contract.

West leads the King, followed by the 6, Which is won by East's Ace. How should East continue in order to defeat the 4♠ contract?

It indeed takes some thinking (Discovery!) for East to make the correct move at Trick Three. Let us start with the    suit. What do you imagine prompted West to lead the  King? As it was an unbid suit it would not be unreasonable to assume that West commenced with something like KQJx or KQTx. It is quite unlikely that West led from shortness. So East can see that, as the defenders already have won two  tricks and will, almost certainly win a ♣ trick, one more trick needs to be won to defeat the contract.  Can anything go wrong if the  Ace is played at Trick Three? Let us look carefully at Dummy. There is only one ♣  in Dummy. Can Declarer get rid of it anywhere? Almost certainly the answer to that question should be NO. Why? You can see four   cards in Dummy so Declarer would need five of that suit in his own hand before he could discard a card from another suit in Dummy.  Unlikely!

So where is the setting trick going to come from for the Defenders? The only hope would appear to be If West has a    trick. Based on this analysis East should play a   at Trick Three. The defense will now defeat the contract, taking one   trick,  one ♣  trick and 2   tricks. Look at what happens if East plays his  Ace at Trick Three. He wins that trick but now when he plays a   Declarer will win the Ace, draw trumps ending up in his own hand, and then DISCARD THREE   s from Dummy on the three winning   s in his own hand.

Weekly Bridge Problem, October 3, 2015

Before dealing with this week's problem - an apology for missing out the Double in the bidding on last week's problem. North had indeed Doubled West's 2  bid. This Double was NOT a Support Double - if it had been a Support Double (showing a 3 card ♠  suit) I would have informed you and then there would have been no bidding issue - South would have bid 3.  My apologies for that omission. I can well understand many of you re-bidding the good ♠ suit if North had not Doubled.

Now on to this week's problem. For some strange reason North chose not to re-bid his 6 card ♠ suit and you are playing the contract in 3NT with West leading the   Queen. Plan your play, making SURE you take at least 9 tricks!

Win the opening lead of the Queen and play the Ace and Queen. If the King has appeared you have more tricks than you need. If the King has not appeared it is best to guard against a 4/1 or 5/0  break by playing small towards the Ten in Declarer's hand. If the  suit is 4/1 then the Jack will appear and you now have 9 tricks - 5 s, 2 s and 2 s. If the suit break is 5/0, and the Jack has not appeared, drive out the King and claim ten tricks. A very important issue is for Declarer to ensure that he keeps a  entry to his hand so that he can access the ♣ suit once the suit has been established.

This hand was adapted from Eddie Kantar's excellent book "Take All Your Chances 2.:

Weekly Bridge Problem, September 26th 2015

South/s first decision is that of making his mind up about what to do over North's Double. As far as North is concerned that Double is for penalties! Your partner KNOWS that you have at least a five card suit and you have made an overcall - so your hand is limited in high card points. My view is that you should PASS.

OK, assuming you have passed, North leads the ♠ 9, with both East and West following to the first two top cards in that suit. How do you plan to continue to maximize your return?

When you first saw this hand I had put a ? mark, instead of a bid, for South's re-bid. This was done deliberately so that you would pause for thought BEFORE you made a call. Perhaps some of you wanted to at least think about whether you should make another bid. Pass was indeed the correct call to make. 

Now for the correct defense! This hand was one written up by Mike Lawrence a few years ago. His suggested play is for South to win 2   tricks and then exit with the 9.  North should win 2     tricks and then give South a  ruff. So far it is 5 tricks for the defense. Now when South exits with a top ♠   Declarer is in more trouble. In addition to the tricks the defense have taken already they should win 3   tricks and one ♣ trick. Declarer ends up taking 4 tricks. In other words North/South took nine tricks!

This was indeed a brutal hand for Declarer. If South had ever been tempted to re-bid his strong ♠  suit, instead of passing partner's Double, the result should make him really glad he did not yield to the temptation!

Weekly Bridge Problem Saturday September 19th, 2015

One of the pioneers of contract bridge (which is now 90 years ‘old’) was Ely Culbertson. The problem you are faced with today is adapted from one of Culbertson’s newspaper columns published in 1942. Test your skill at making this contract.

East/West are Vulnerable and East is the opening bidder.

West led the ♥ Queen and here are the North/South hands.​

Whether you were playing in 1942 or you are playing in 2015 the importance of making a PLAN cannot be emphasized enough. MAKE YOUR PLAN!!​

There are two important matters to consider with this hand – 1. Declarer has a ♣ Loser and 2 possible ♣ Losers, and 2. Does one of the Defenders present particular problems if they are on lead?

Here are all four hands:

The astute Declarer will recognize that (a) the only real possibility of making this contract is by developing Dummy’s long ♣ suit on which to discard ♠ Losers from his hand, and (b) West is the danger hand and must be kept off lead so that he cannot lead a ♠ through Dummy’s K7.


OK now that you have recognized the two above factors – what is your PLAN? The critical issue in developing Dummy’s ♣ suit is to keep West off lead! At Trick One Declarer should play the ♥King from Dummy and, when East plays the Ace, DISCARD the ♣7 from his hand. Declarer should then win the ♣Ace and play a small ♦ to Dummy, ruffing a ♣ high in his own hand, before returning to Dummy with a trump and ruffing a third ♣ high. As the missing ♣s are 3/3 Declarer has two winning ♣s in Dummy on which he can discard two ♠s, conceding one ♠ to the Defenders.


This Plan depends upon the 6 outstanding  ♣ cards breaking 3/3. If that does not occur then Declarer is unlikely to make this contract.

Weekly Bridge Problem September 12, 2015

Sometimes you are very disappointed when you end up in a game contract and you feel that you really should be in a Slam.

Consider the following bidding sequence.

West leads the ♠King and these are the hands of Dummy and Declarer:

There is no point in concentrating on the fact that 6♥ looks like a fine contract and you are playing in GAME! Forget the past – concentrate on the present. West has continued with a second high ♠. Plan your PLAY. Take 12 tricks if you can, but make sure that you take at least 10!!

While this looks to be a fairly easy problem BE CAREFUL. If the trump suit breaks 4/2 AND the Jack is in the hand with the long trumps you need to take precautions to ensure that you can access Dummy’s long ♣ suit. The probability of the ♥ suit breaking 4/2 is 48%, and that is the break the Jack has 4 chances of being in the long hand and only 2 chances of being in the short hand. If you have got this far in your thinking you should be glad that you are not in Slam.

With the probability of a trump Loser and a ♠ Loser Declarer needs to plan carefully. It would be a real shame to go down in a game when you wanted to be in a Slam. This hand now becomes an exercise in control of the trump suit. When West continues with a second high ♠ Declarer should discard a ♦ and then ruff the third ♠. Now that Declarer has created a void in both hands he should concede a trump trick by playing the ♥Ten. If the ♥Jack does not appear Declarer should draw trumps and claim 11 tricks. If the ♥Jack wins the trick no play by defenders can stop Declarer from taking ten tricks.

If Declarer had decided to play the ♥AKQ, nine tricks (at best) would be the result. While partner hopefully does not show his disappointment he may well be unhappy.

To quote Eddie Kantar: “One of the secrets of trump control is to give up an early trump trick when both you and dummy are void in the force suit”. In this hand the ♠ suit was the force suit.


Weekly Bridge Problem, September 5, 2015

There are times when the opening bidder is not really proud of his hand and hopes, either conscioulsy or sub-consciously that the bidding will not get too high. So it was with this hand. South bids the ♠  game BUT North is not willing to stop there and the final contract becomes 6 . West leads the  King, and now it is up to you to take the 12 tricks necessary to make this Slam.

Good luck in your efforts.

A hint - as often happens some knowledge of probability can be very useful!

You have nothing to gain (and a lot to potentially lose) by 'ducking' the opening lead of the   King,  so win it with Dummy's Ace.  It is now very important for Declarer to find out the trump situation. So that he can retain an extra entry to Dummy, Declarer should play the  Ace and Queen from his own hand.  If both opponents follow to the two trump leads you, the Declarer, now have two choices. Option [1] You can play the trump King and three rounds of the ♣  suit, making the contract if the   suit breaks 3/3, OR the   finesse works; the probability of that 'combined' approach working is about 68%. Option [2] An alternative approach would be playing off the top two ♣  cards, AFTER you have played two top trumps, and ruff a low   with the trump Jack; if one of the opponents ruffs the second   then you were NEVER going to make this contract; assuming both opponents follow to two rounds of the ♣  suit your high ruff of the third   and the playing of a trump to Dummy's King enables you to discard a losing   on Dummy's winning  .

For those who are interested in probability and WE all should be, Option [2] has about an 84% chance of success - about 16% higher than Option [1]!!!

Weekly Bridge Problem August 29th.

This hand was played in the 1998 World Championships. In the Semi-Finals of the Open Teams all 4 teams played in a 4♠ contract. In the Finals of the Women's Teams one team played in 4♠  and the other team (YOUR TEAM) played in 6♠. You are Declarer in the Finals of the Women's Teams and are playing in a 6♠  contract. You have received the lead of the   8. What is your Plan to make this contract and WIN THE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP? I hope that does not put too much pressure on you!!

First a few words of explanation..... The North/South hands that were actually played in the 1998 World championsips were altered by the author of the book from which I took the hand. The   suit was slightly changed. In the Championships the South hand had  Q62 and the North hand had  AK7. The author gave South  A62 and North  KQ7. This slight change made absolutely no difference to the play or the bidding. In the Championships the North/South pair played a 10-12 point 1NT. The author, in his wisdom, decided it would look better to his readers who were more used to a 12-14 NT opening. I believe the 5  response should have been 5  , but I am only guessing! 

Now to the play. This is certainly not a great slam to bid - but it will indeed be a great result if South can manage to bring it home. As Declarer, what chances can you see? If the missing trumps are not 3/2 then whatever slim chance Declarer had has now become even slimmer! Let us then assume that the trumps are 3/2. There is really no possibility that you can both set up the   suit and then actually access the winning   because you have only two entries outside the   suit. So how should you proceed? Win the opening   lead in Dummy and play three rounds of trumps, relaxing ever so slightly when the suit breaks 3/2, with West discarding a small   on the third trump. Declarer should then play the  Ace, followed by a   ruff, with East and West following both times. 

What next? Declarer knows that West had only 2 trumps, and had at least 2 cards in the   suit. Perhaps he should also wonder about the opening lead of the  8. It looks to be from a short suit - singleton, doubleton or perhaps tripleton! In addition Declarer cannot see either the  King or  Queen. This COULD suggest that West does not have both of those cards. The  suit looks to be about the only possibility of making this hand - but Declarer should not attack it yet. He should play a top  . West discards another   . So now we know that East commenced with a 6 card  suit and a 3 card ♠  suit. When Declarer now ruffs a third    East follows to that suit also. So Declarer now knows that East is either void or has a singleton in the ♣  suit. The only chance that Declarer has is that East indeed does have a singleton   AND it is either the King or Queen! Indeed that is the situation, exposed by Declarer's play of the  Ace. Now by leading a   from her own hand  Declarer loses but one trick to make her Slam.

A well-played hand. It is important ot note the process of discovery that Declarer embarked upon to give herself the best chance of making this contract!

Weeky Bridge Problem. August 22nd 2015.

This is an interesting hand which came up in a Club game a few days ago. West is the Dealer and East/West are vulnerable.

Two questions for you.

1. How will you bid this hand? If you open the bidding 1  North will overcall 1  and your partner will Pass. South will probably bid 2  .

2. If the final contract is in the ♣  suit how do you take 12 tricks on the  Ace lead?

With only 18 High Card Points many West players will open this hand 1 . North will almost certainly overcall 1  and East will Pass. South will either respond 1  or 2. [However some West players may choose to open their 18HCP hand 2♣, on the basis that it is a hand that has only 3 Losers IF there is either a ♣ or a  fit with partner.  There is no doubt that, if West's two suits were major, rather than minor, suits then a 2 opening bid would be the bid of choice for many more West players.] In a 1 - 1 - Pass - 1 /2 sequence, West has to be careful to now make a bid that adequately describes his hand! Certainly a re-bid of 3 does not do justice to his hand. A re-bid of 4♣  is slightly better, but in my view 5 is an even better bid. If West does indeed re-bid 5 will/should East bid on to the Slam? Again,in my view, he should bid on to 6 . Why? He has 4 card support for partner, he has an 8 Loser hand AND he knows that West has a  void!

Bidding on to the Slam is more difficult than making it! Provided the missing  s are split 4/3 Declarer should be successful. Ruffing the opening   lead in his own hand he should immediately ruff a small   in Dummy. Returning to hand with a second   ruff he should ruff a second   in Dummy. Now coming back to his hand with the  Ace he should ruff a third   in Dummy, before playing Dummy's last trump, overtaking that in his own hand and drawing the remaining trumps. Playing his three winning  s, Declarer can then concede the 13th trick, a small  , to the opponents.

Weekly Bridge Problem August 15th

It is satisfying to reach a Slam when the opponents have opened with a weak two bid - BUT ONLY IF YOU TAKE AT LEAST 12 TRICKS.

 How would you plan to give yourself the best chance to make this Slam when West leads the  King, and East follows with the 4?

This hand was adapted from a hand in a very interesting book "15 Winning cardplay techniques" by David Bird and Tim Bourke. I believe that Bourke produced the hands and Bird wrote the analysis. 

Bird advocates the following line of play. Win the  lead and play a   to the Ace. Play a trump to the 8 in Dummy and ruff a   high in your hand.  Bird considers that there is better than average chance for West to have commenced with the Kx, because of him having a six card   suit, headed by the King. He then recommends that, if the  King has not dropped, then Declarer should return to dummy with a Trump to the Ten. and play a ruffing finesse, playing East for the missing King. He claims that East has a greater chance of having   Kxx or Kxxx, than West has of having Kxx. This makes sense when you recognize that West has only 7 spaces for the  and ♣  suits, while East has ten spaces for those same 3 suits. 

The issue for all of us to understand is that this is the type of analysis we need to undertake when we are playing!!


Weekly Bridge Problem. August 8, 2015

This hand was taken from a book entitled “Odd Tricks” which was published in 1934. The hands
in this interesting book were all hands actually played in competition, usually involving the
Author, Travis White.
With South the Opening Bidder what do you think the opening bid should be?


South, looked at his hand, counted the points and decided to open 4♣. I cannot imagine many of today’s partnerships pre-empting with this type of hand. South was not really expecting his partner to bid. West passed and then South, to his dismay, realized that he had made an opening bid of 4♦ NOT 4♣. Under the rules that applied at that time a bid made could not be changed once LHO had made a call. Not surprisingly North raised his partner’s pre-empt to 5♦. The Author, who was sitting East wrote that “South…. was a retired army officer, calm by training and temperament and never giving away his hand by look or gesture”. South was indeed going to need all of his stoicism as the bidding continued! South had to get the contract back to his real suit so he now bid 6♣. I would have thought that North would have realized that South had meant to bid 4♣ to start with. However North did not think in this fashion and now bid 6♦!! Yes South now bid 7♣ and North again bid the ♦ suit. Now South is playing in a 7♦ contract!


West made the lead of a high ♥ and - well you can see what happened then. Declarer ruffed with his ♦2, played the Queen and another ♦ and, with the missing ♦s being 3/3, wrapped up his Grand Slam with one ♥ ruff, 4 ♦ tricks and 8 ♣ tricks.


To rub salt into East/West’s wounds a ♥ lead is the ONLY lead which permits the contract to be made AND there is no play for 7♣!

Not a real candidate for a Weekly Bridge Problem but I must say it amused me to read about it in the 1934 book which was re-printed in 1978.

Weekly Bridge Problem. August 1st, 2015

This hand was being played in a Teams Match. West, your partner, leads the ♠ 5. You, East, win with the King, with South, the Declarer playing the Jack. What is your PLAN to take the four tricks necessary to defeat the contract?

There are times when too much information is disclosed during the bidding, with the result that the defenders' task is made a great deal easier. Such was the case at this table in a Knockout Teams match. As both Declarer and Dummy had bid the ♣ suit it was clear, once East saw Dummy, that his partner was void in that suit. Winning the opening  ♠  lead with his King, East could not afford to lead the  Ace and a second   , because then his partner would be wasting a trump. East's correct play would be to lead the 8 suggesting a ♠ return once West has ruffed. While Declarer ruffs the  return from West, he cannot stop East from later winning both his  Ace and Queen, defeating the contract.

It was interesting to note that the bidding was quite different at the other table in this Teams Match. South made the same opening bid of 1  and after West passed North jumped to 4 . While this bidding may not be considered technically correct it certainly did not assist the defense who were unable to find the correct play of the ♣ suit, which was the only way to defeat this contract.

Weekly Bridge Problem, July 25th, 2015

South opened a 15-17 1NT, with North bidding immediately to game. West, your partner, leads the  6, the 7 being played from Dummy, the King from your hand and Declarer contributing the 4. You return the  2, telling your partner that you started with an even number of  cards. {If you do NOT give your partner 'count' when you are returning the suit he led - it is indeed time you did!} On this second trick Declarer plays the  Jack and West wins the Queen. West now returns the  Ace. How do you PLAN to defeat this contract?

It is important to remember that to defeat this contract the defense has to take at least 5 tricks. The opponents have, between them, 26-28 HCPs. It certainly does not look as if you and your partner have sufficient points, outside of what you have already seen, to generate a 5th trick! Did you, East, ask yourself why Declarer played the  Jack when you returned the 2 AND the 9 was sitting in Dummy? If you did ask that question then I do indeed hope that you quickly came to the conclusion that both Declarer and Dummy commenced with 2 cards in the   suit.

Having reached that conclusion you would of course know that your partner commenced with a five card  suit, and you thefore need to play the Ten under West's  Ace so that defense can now take five tricks to defeat the contract. Failure to play the Ten on the 3rd  will have East/West taking only 4 tricks!


Bridge is indeed a thinking game - but this problem should not really have presented you with too difficult a challenge!

Weekly Bridge Problem July 18th, 2015

North's 2♣ bid tells partner that he has a Limit Raise in the  suit (10-12 Dummy Points, with at least 3 card support). This is the Drury convention, used when partner makes an opening bid in a major suit in 3rd or 4th position. North can barely make the 10 Dummy Points, nevertheless South fearlessly jumps to the  game.

West makes the lead of the ♠ 3. Declarer plays low from Dummy and East plays the Jack. What is your plan to take at least ten tricks in this contract?. 

The careful Declarer should see that he cannot afford to let West get back on lead because a   lead from that player will result in 2 Losers in that suit. To restrict the chances for West to get on lead Declarer should not win the opening lead, letting East win the trick with his Jack. It is highly likely that East will return partner's lead and Declarer will win this with his Ace.

The best way for Declarer to proceed is to play two top trumps, leaving the   Jack in Dummy as an entry to the ♣  suit. At Trick Five Declarer should play the  Queen from his hand. If that card wins the trick then Declarer should continue with the 9, overtaking it in Dummy with the Ten. If the King has not yet appeared Declarer should now play the Ace. By playing in this manner Declarer will lose only 3 tricks - the ♠ Jack, the ♣ King and one    .

Weekly Bridge Problem July 11th, 2015

This hand came up some years ago and South's jump to 3♠  was a common approach at that time. It was a FORCING raise and committed the partnership to reaching game - at least.South apparently took a dim view of his hand and closed the auction with a bid of 4♠. West led the ♠ 5  and East followed with the ♠ 9. Imagine you are South and the result of your play will show South to be not optimistic enough, or just right! How do you plan to play this hand? 

This hand should not create too many problems for Declarer - if he plays carefully AND passively. He should win the opening ♠ lead in Dummy and immediately play the ♣ King, ruffing it in his own hand, returning to Dummy with a trump so that he can ruff Dummy's last . Declarer should now lead a low  from his hand. This will be won by East who has little choice other than to return a second . Declarer should play low on this card. If East retains the lead and returned a third  Declarer should cover that card and his fourth  would now be a Winner, thus avoiding a  finesse.  However as East does not have a third  his choices are limited - he has to give Declarer a ruff and a discard, by playing a , or, by playing a , do the finessing for Declarer in that suit.

If West overtakes the second  from East his options are also limited. He can play his winning , giving Declarer a trick in that suit so that he does not have to guess the  finesse, or giving him a ruff and a discard by playing a , or playing a , doing the finessing for Declarer in that suit.

This was indeed a hand where careful and passive play worked best for Declarer!!   

Bridge Problem. 4th July, 2015

Having jumped to the ♠  game you should not disappoint your partner by not making it! 

West led the  6, and you, the Declarer, call for a small  from Dummy. East ruffs and returns a small ♠. What is your PLAN to make this contract? 

The card actually led by West was the 2, not the 6 that was stated in the problem sent out on Saturday night. Declarer played the 3 from Dummy and this was ruffed by East with the 3. If Declarer is going to make this contract he needs to realize that almost certainly it is the  suit in Dummy which is going to provide a location for him to discard his ♣  Losers. To access that  suit Declarer needs to play one of his high  cards at Trick One. When East returns a trump at Trick Two Declarer should  play the three rounds of trumps necessary to draw the Opponents' ♠  cards. Once he has done that Declarer should play his remaining high   and then his  9, overtaking it in Dummy if West does not play the Queen! If West does NOT play the Queen it will be trumped by Declarer when he plays a small   from Dummy. Best defense will have West winning the Queen and exiting with a small  If West does not take that course of action then Declarer will almost certainly take 11 tricks - losing one   ruff and one  

 It is possible that Declarer MAY make 10 tricks in another manner. Not unblocking the ♦ suit, Declarer can draw trumps and then attempt to endplay East by exiting with his  5, putting East on lead by covering whatever   card West plays.


You are sitting East. The opening lead from West is 2♠. East is pleased that his partner has led the suit in which he (East) has 5 cards. However there is a lot of work to be done to defeat this contract. Declarer plays the Queen on the opening lead and wins the trick. At Trick Two Declarer leads the  4 and you play the  Jack which holds the trick. Whether or not you defeat this contract is in your hands. What is your PLAN? 

If you are one of the people who decided to lead a ♠  at Trick Three then you should pause, analyze the bidding and try to find a logical reason for Declarer's play. Having passed to start with Declarer then jumped to 2NT over partner's 1 bid. A 2NT bid in this situation shows 11 or 12 points. Declarer must have the  Ace otherwise he would assuredly have played   to establish that suit. By playing the  suit at Trick Two surely Declarer must be trying to establish some tricks in that suit. You KNOW that he must have the  King as you can see the other high cards. That accounts for 7 of Declarer's points. Time to look at the black suits! Declarer must have the Ace, otherwise he would not have let you on lead with the . You KNOW that Declarer started with a doubleton because of partners 2 lead. Therefore Declarer cannot have an honor in the ♣ suit. This Declarer has done what very many experienced player do - he has played deceptively at Trick Two before the Defenders have had the opportunity of exchanging information with each other, and probably before they have really analyzed the bidding and the play to the first two tricks. Yes, Declarer was lucky that the   suit broke 3/3 - but he had a PLAN, and it worked! 

BRIDGE PROBLEM June 20, 2015

Bridge can be a very competitive game, with everybody striving for the best possible result – for money if you are a rubber bridge player, for Match-points if you are a Duplicate Bridge player and for IMPs if you are playing Teams.  Of course no matter what form of bridge we are playing we ALL would like to get the best possible result. 


In the the above bidding sequence North/South persevered  and found their way through to the Slam, despite some interference from West. West’s 3bid was simply a pre-emptive bid. North’s 4 bid (also showing a strong ♠ suit) and South’s 4 bid were both control showing bids.

West led the ♦King and the hands of Dummy and Declarer appear above.


Declarer was not entirely happy to see a 5 card suit in North’s hand as it was now likely that East was void! After Declarer plays the ace from Dummy East indeed ruffed with the ♠4 and returned a small ♥.



How should Declarer continue to give himself the best chance of making this Slam?


Declarer has lost the only trick he can afford to lose - if he wishes to make his contract.

He knows (or at least he should know) that this contract will depend upon finding out which of the Defenders has the King and whether it is singleton or doubleton! The astute Declarer will delay deciding how to play trumps until he knows more about the distribution of the missing cards. At this stage he knows that West commenced with a 7-card   suit and at least one  , and East has a  void and at least one .

The recommended way of playing the contract is for Declarer to play a second high , discarding Dummy's ♣ Ace, if West does not ruff. If West ruffs then Declarer over-ruffs, draws the remaining trump and claims. If West has not ruffed then Declarer, at Trick Four, plays his 3rd high , discarding Dummy's last ♣ if West does not ruff. Declarer can now play the three high ♣ cards from his hand. When West discards a  on the 3rd ♣ Declarer KNOWS that West commenced with a hand shape of 2-2-7-2. It is now a simple matter of finessing West for the trump King.

It was counting that enabled Declarer to make this contract. Counting is a skill that ALL bridge players need to develop AND use.