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Welcome to Bridge @ Box
  The next Play & Learn session will be on a date TBA – 9.15 for a 9.25 start.
Play & Learn suspended

Following the Prime Minister's announcement on Monday 16 March that all non-essential contact with others must be avoided, I've sadly come to the conclusion that we must suspend our Wednesday morning sessions for a while. Sorry for the inconvenience – let's hope we won't be in lockdown for too long.

In the meantime, keep an eye on the website – I'll do my best to keep up a Hand of the Week or something similar, and if I discover any useful online possibilities I'll post them here.


Hand of the week 11 March 2020

The other two suits

Q1 What does your partner's double mean, and Q2 what (if anything) should you bid now?

Answer 1  It's a takeout double, showing an opening hand and asking you to bid your best suit. BUT as the opposition have already bid two suits, it promises only the two unbid suits: spades and clubs.

Answer 2  Normally, a takeout double is absolutely forcing *, even if you've got zero points, but East's 2 rebid has let you off the hook and you are no longer required to bid. But you should, nonetheless. Why? Two reasons: you have enough points to respond to an opening bid (which is what your partner has effectively made); and you have not one but both of partner's two suits – a double fit. Bid 2. Note that because you made a 'free bid' (ie you could have passed), partner will be expecting you to have some values.

What happens next? West raises her partner to 3 ... and your partner raises you to 3, which is passed out: you've just become declarer with a crummy 6-count! West leads a small diamond and dummy goes down ...

How does it go?

Take a look at the whole deal. Your trumps aren't great, but you have 9 of them. Dummy has a singleton diamond and the AQ sitting over West's hearts, and you have a pretty solid looking club suit as well. Could be a whole lot worse.

And everything goes beautifully. The trumps are 2-2, the clubs break 3-2 and you lose just two trump tricks and one diamond, making 10 tricks in all. Not a game you'd want to bid with a combined 17-count, however.

Don't forget the takeout double. It's a really efficient way of getting your whole hand across in just one bid, and is especially useful if you don't have a decent 'overcalling' suit: North has 5 spades, but their quality is zilch.

In Box and Bath

In Box, I'm guessing that no one made the takeout double, as it was all EW in hearts or diamonds – all making far too many tricks!

In Bath, just two NS pairs ended up spades: both made 10 tricks for a well-deserved shared top. All the others were allowed to play in hearts or diamonds, making their contracts. 

* The only exception, as we saw in a recent HOTW, is if you're holding a fistful of the opponents' suit: your PASS converts the double from a takeout into a penalty double.

Hand of the week 04 March 2020

Come on, partner ...

Here's a situation you'll probably recognise. You've opened one of a suit, there's been an overcall, your partner passes ... and it comes back round to you. What to do? You've got plenty of points (19, though those in clubs are unlikely to be of much use) ... It would have been really useful if partner had bid something, just to give you some idea of what to do next. Is she really weak ... or does she maybe have clubs? What to do? You have to say something or the auction will die ...

Well, you have 5 hearts, so you could rebid them ... but with better-than-average points (in case partner really is weak), there's a better option – the one you always forget: double. In this situation, with the auction about to close if you pass, a double has its own name: a reopening double. And it means: Come on partner, help me out here. I'm better than I might be, so bid something!

Partner might respond in all sorts of ways. If she's weak with 3 hearts, she'll bid 2. Or maybe she's weak with a diamond or spade suit: she can now bid it. Or if she has has a few points including ♣KJ4 (so without the interference she would have responded 1NT) she can now say 2NT. Anything to prevent NS pinching the contract with a measly 2♣ bid.

What happens here?

Take a look at the whole deal. As it happens, partner really is weak – just 2 points – but has one asset: a 6-card diamond suit. All she can do is reach reluctantly for the 2 bid ... which is passed out. It works out beautifully. NS can take their AK, A and A – but that's it. West takes 6 diamond tricks, 2 spade tricks and a club ruff for 9 tricks. Much better than struggling (and going off) in 2. Or, God forbid, rebidding a hopeless 2NT. Or defending against 2, which also makes 9 tricks.

To sum up:

Opener: If you're at a loss after an overcall and silence from your partner – you have a good hand but no obvious rebid – consider making a reopening double. Come on, partner ...

Responder: Don't mistake this for a penalty double – it isn't! You're required to bid. There's only one exception:

The exception

Suppose partner opens and your RHO makes an overcall in your suit that you were about to bid. Say they overcall 2♣ and you have ♣AQ1085 and a few more points scattered about. You might pass – especially if they're vulnerable, sensing a nice penalty coming your way. And if partner happens to make a reopening double ... well, they're now in 2♣X, which suits you even better! Pass and wait for the points to come rolling in. What you're doing, in other words, is converting partner's reopening double into a penalty double of your own. Yummy. *

In Box and Bath

In Box, 3 pairs were in 2, all making comfortably. One East rebid 2NT (yuk – after partner's pass and with no club stop!) and one rebid 2. Both got hammered.

In Bath, it was much the same story: East going off in 2NT or 2, or West making 9 tricks in diamonds. Plus a couple of cases where a faint-hearted East allowed 2 to go unchallenged for an ignominiously poor score.

* This, of course, is the reason you need a good-quality suit to overcall, especially at the 2-level. Imagine making a frisky 2 overcall with KJ962, say, and ending up doubled with ♣AQ1085 sitting behind you. Not a pretty thought.

Hand of the week 26 February 2020

What's in a lead?

After an unremarkable auction – your 1NT rebid telling partner you have a balanced 15-16 count – North leads the 2 against your 1NT contract and down goes dummy. Time to think. And one of the things always worth a moment's thought is the opening lead. Let's try it. What does the 2 lead tell you? 

Well, other things being equal, it's usually best to lead a major suit against NT contracts. Why? Because if they had a good major suit, they'd be in that instead of NT. So if North had a decent 4(+)-card heart suit, she'd probably be leading it.

Inference 1, then: North probably has fewer than 4 hearts. Which means that South has at least 5.

What else? Presumably she led clubs because she likes them. And if the 2's her 4th highest club, then  ...

Inference 2: North has  exactly 4 clubs. Which means that South has a singleton.

And there's a further, very positive inference:

Inference 3: If we're right so far, we've just made our contract.

How come? Easy. We play low from dummy and get rid of South's singleton club. Now we simply lead clubs from hand towards dummy's ♣ AJ10. that's 3 club tricks for us. Add that to the AK and the two major suit Aces and that's seven. Simple.

Take a look ...

... at the whole deal. South wins trick 1 with her singleton Q and (probably) leads back a heart. You win (no need to hold up because you can already see your 7 tricks) and finesse a club. Then back to hand with the A and finesse another club. Then your A, cash your K and A and you're home.

In Box and Bath

In Box, everyone was in 1NT, everyone got the 2 lead ... but only one declarer made the contract. A moment's more thought making a plan required at trick 1!

In Bath, everyone who was in 1NT made 8 tricks *. One pair was in 2, also making 8. And one other went one off in 2 by South **.

* If you're interested, I suspect that this was because declarer did hold up for two rounds of hearts, winning the 3rd round with the A. Then, knowing from inference 1, above, that North started with only 3 hearts, she was safe to finesse the J. This loses to North's Q, but no matter because North has no hearts left, so can only exit with a spade or diamond. Meanwhile, South has probably discarded a diamond on one of the club tricks ... and so declarer makes an 8th trick with her last diamond: the 5!

** A pretty risky punt by South, which I wouldn't make if vulnerable. Luckily, partner turns up with K104, and it only goes one off for a relatively good -100. 

Hand of the week 19 February 2020

5-0 split ...

Looks like a pretty decent slam. After a sensible information-swapping auction * you end up in 6. North leads the J and when dummy goes down you're sorry you didn't go the whole hog and bid 7.

You win trick 1 in dummy and lead the 9 towards your A ... and discover that North is void in spades: South holds J8543. Stop right there and rethink:

Can you still make your slam? And if so, how?

Yes, of course you can! You have 8 tricks in clubs, diamonds and hearts. So all you have to do is make sure you only lose ONE spade trick ... and spades will provide you with the other 4. Easily done, as you know exactly what spades South holds:

  • Lead a low spade out to dummy's king and lead back the 10 ...
    • If South covers with the J, beat it and lead another spade, giving her a trick with her 8. Then you can clear her last small trump and bang out your winners.
    • If she plays low, your 10 wins the trick. Over to your hand with the A and play Q and another spade, giving South her spade trick. Then bang out your winners.

Which makes it a bit of a mystery how none of today's declarers made anywhere near 12 tricks – see below. My guess is that they took fright when they discovered the bad split and abandoned clearing trumps. 

PS  It is, of course possible for NS to take the slam off – by starting with a diamond lead instead of a heart. This forces out West's A, and now when South comes in with a trump she can cash her K for one off.

In Box and Bath
In Box, three of the four Wests were in the slam and one stopped in 4. Three declarers made just 10 tricks, and one made nine ... frown

In Bath, bizarrely, only TWO pairs bid a slam – one 6 (making) and one 7♠ (one off). All the pairs in spades bar one made 12 tricks. The most popular contract was 3NT, mostly making 13 tricks. How? Presumably declarer banged out her clubs and South carelessly discarded a spade or two ... 

* After East's 2NT rebid, showing 17-18 points, any bid by West is forcing to game. Instead of just raising to 3NT, West should rebid her spades just in case they have a 5-3 spade fit. And it turns out they do. 

With 14 points and excellent controls – 3 Aces and a singleton – West must surely sniff a possible slam. RKC Blackwood confirms that East holds the 2 missing key cards ... and we have lift-off. If the spades are 3-2 – which they will be 68% of the time – you're making all 13 tricks.

Hand of the week 12 February 2020


Here's a tricky one. You're sitting South, vulnerable with just 5 points. After West's raise of East's opening bid to 2, your partner doubles for takeout ... and East now bids 3. Do you pass or bid? And if the latter, what?

It's very tempting to pass: you're vulnerable and short of points ... and the only suit you can bid at the 3-level is a pretty threadbare 4-card spade suit. But hang on a minute ...

... the vulnerability cuts both ways: your partner must have a decent hand to want to force you to bid at (at least) the 2-level vulnerable after you've already passed. And for her bid, she surely has at least 4 spades herself.

So much for her hand. What about yours? Your greatest asset is a void in hearts. Could be worth as many as 3 tricks. Your diamonds are worth another trick – maybe two. And if partner does have spades, count your losers: I make it just 7. Which, opposite an opening hand is good enough for game. Going straight to 4 may be just a tad too nerve-wracking, but you should certainly compete with 3.

And the rest will be up to your partner – who, with a 16-count and just 5 losers, will unhesitatingly raise you to game. Take a look at the whole deal ...

How does it go?

Oops — don't put your hand down as dummy. You bid spades first, so you're declarer. Let's say West leads a heart.

  • Play your 9 and (assuming East covers with the Q) ruff in dummy.
  • Back with a trump. If West takes her Ace, fine. What does she lead now? If a club or spade, you can win and ruff a 2nd heart. If a diamond, the A is the last trick they get. 
  • Whatever they do, in fact, you get 11 tricks: 4 trumps, (at least) 1 diamond, 2 heart ruffs and 4 club tricks.

(The only way they can keep you to 10 tricks is a diamond opening lead, followed by another diamond. Then when West comes in with her trump Ace she can give partner a diamond ruff.)

So there you are: 11 tricks in spades with a combined 21 points. Which goes to show that points count for a lot, but so does shape!

In Box and Bath

Well, at Box we only had 2.5 tables, but neither NS pair found a way into the auction.

In Bath, by contrast, every pair bar one was in 4. Mind you, all but one of those were played by North: meaning that instead of a double, North made a (dodgy, in my view) 2 overcall – which makes things much easier for South. 

   The previous featured hand – First things first – is now on the Declarer play (in a suit) Improvers' Page.   
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