Release 2.19p
0 0 0 0 0 0
Pages viewed in 2022
Play & Learn News
Play & Learn News

At last a decent coffee machine!

Yep. Got them in Bath too.

We have tablet scoring. 

In Bath, too. Same.

Level 1 lesson notes
Welcome to the Bridge @ Box Level 1 page. Most weeks, there'll be something posted that's relevant to what you learned in the last lesson.

You've just completed ... Lesson 10

Rebids with a strong unbalanced hand

Last time we looked at what happens when the opening bidder has a stronger, unbalanced hand and partner doesn't immediately support her suit (e.g. 1 - 1♠ - ?). We defined 'strong' as being 17-19 HCPs, or a good 16, and discovered that (not surprisingly!) we show our extra strength by making a higher bid than we would with a weaker hand. (With only 12-15 points we'd stay safely below the 'barrier' of 2 of the opening suit - in this case 2. See the first box below.)

Two such bids are pretty straightforward:

  • Jump support of partner's suit (3♠ in this sequence)
    This shows 4+ spades and 16+ points, and invites partner to raise to game. With 19 points, or a good 18, you can of course go straight to 4♠ yourself.
  • Jump rebid of our own suit (3 in this sequence)
    This shows 16-18 points and a decent 6-card suit. It also, of course, denies 4-card support for partner's spades.
If you have a second suit of your own, you'll want to show the new suit and your extra strength all in one bid. How you bid it depends on whether the new suit will take you 'above the barrier' or not. Let's take that slowly.

When you open 1 of a suit, you impose a mental barrier for yourself of 2 of the suit. So if you open 1, your barrier is 2. (Unless you find a fit with partner in the meantime, of course.)

With a weaker hand, you should ensure that your rebid is at or below that barrier. So after  1 - 1♠, you can show a club suit (2♣), or rebid your diamonds (2), but you wouldn't be able to bid 2 because that would take you above the barrier.

With a stronger hand, you're free to bid above the barrier.

So, to recap, how you show a 2nd suit depends on whether it takes you above the barrier or not.
  • 'Reverse' (= a bid above the barrier)
    Bidding 2 takes you above the barrier, so that does the job in one: it shows your second suit and shows extra strength. It shows at least 16 points, and partner mustn't pass it: it's forcing.
  • 'Jump shift'
    If you're strong and clubs is your 2nd suit, you don't want to bid 2♣, as that's below the barrier and partner can pass it. Instead, bid 3♣. But beware: a jump shift is the strongest rebid you can make, and is forcing to game (which means that neither you nor partner can pass until game is reached). So use with care!
The purpose of all this, of course, is not to create unnecessary misery for learners of Acol, but to help us communicate as efficiently as possible with our partners so we can get into the right contract. So let's look at a few auctions - this time from the viewpoint of the opener's partner. As usual, give yourself time to think about your answers, then triple-click to check.

Your partner opens, you respond, and partner rebids. You take it from there …

Bids so far

What does partner have?

Your hand

What to do now?

1  -  2
3♣  -  ?

At least 5 hearts and 4 clubs. She's reversed (her 3♣ bid is beyond her 2♥ barrier), so she has at least 16 points.

♠ KQ6



♣ K85

Well, with 11 points of your own, you have to be in game. You have no suit fit, so bid 3NT. You'll probably get a spade lead, which will come round nicely to your KQ6!

1  -  1
3♣  -  ?

The same shape as in the last hand, but even stronger. This time, partner's bid is a 'jump shift', which is forcing to game.

♠ QJ62



♣ 1085

Not an inspiring collection, but with the unbid suit (diamonds) well covered, you should again bid 3NT.

1  - 1
2  -  ?

At least 5 diamonds and 4 spades. Again very strong. Partner could have bid just 1♠, but has chosen to jump shift: forcing to game.

♠ Q983



♣ 1096

A no-brainer, really. Partner wants to be in game, and you have a 4-4 spade fit. Bid 4.

1  -  1
3  -  ?

Partner has at least 5 clubs plus 4-card support for your hearts. She's quite strong, but not strong enough to take you straight to game. Say 16-17 points.

♠ Q983



♣ 1096

You haven't really got much to offer: a near minimum with no singleton or void. Pass.

1  -  1NT
3  -  ?

16-18 points and a 6-card spade suit. No other 4-card suit.

♠ Q9



♣ 964

 You weren't strong enough to show either of your suits at the 2 level, but you have maximum points for your 1NT response, and you now know you have an 8-card spade fit. Bid game: 4.

You've just completed ... Lesson 9

Finding a fit

We covered a lot in the last lesson. As well as revising opening suit bids and supporting opener's suit, we looked at what happens when partner doesn't immediately support the suit that's bid first:
  • responding with a change of suit
  • responding with 1NT
  • opener's rebid ...
  • ... and responding to that.
In fact, we covered most of pages 38-43 of your coursebook, and as that is a very well constructed and clearly explained section, it would be well worth your while browsing through it as a way of revising the lesson - just skim over those bits we haven't done yet!

Meanwhile (or, better, after a bit of revision) have a go at these four hands below, which raise most of the points that came up in the lesson.

Decide what you would bid with the four pairs of hands shown, and then (as always) triple-click to reveal the answer. At the end of each auction, there's a short comment on whether the resulting contract seems to be the right one: again, this is accessed by a triple-click.

♠ AQ983



♣ 6

Auction 1


Triple-click below to check your answers

♠ J103



♣ AJ108

opening bid?

1 spade   With opening points and an unbalanced hand, open your longest suit.



2 clubs   Partner may have 5 spades, but you don’t know that yet. Meanwhile, you have enough to bid at the 2 level, and with two four-card suits, you bid the cheaper first.


opener’s rebid?

2 diamonds   Show your second suit. Partner now knows that you have at least 4 diamonds, and at least 5 spades.



3 spades   Now you know you have an 8-card fit in spades. You jump to 3 because you have 10-12 points.

responder’s rebid?

a further bid?

4 spades   You have more than a minimum (the Rule of 20 gives you a count of 23), and the singleton could be useful.




a further bid?

Comment  You may lose a trick to the ♠K, and possibly two diamond tricks, but in practice you’ll be unlucky to make fewer than 11 tricks – especially if the opening lead’s a diamond, which gives you a free trick!

♠ 8



♣ KJ95

Auction 2


Triple-click below to check your answers

♠ KJ742



♣ 1086

opening bid?

1 heart   You just squeak through on the Rule of 20 (11 HCPs + 9 cards). As always, bid the longest suit first.



1 spade   You're pretty weak, but with 6 points you have to bid, and you can show your spades at the 1 level.


opener’s rebid?

2 clubs   You had your rebid ready when you made your opening bid!



2 hearts   Difficult. You don't much like either of partner's suits, but you're far too weak to try no trumps (you need a combined 23 points to survive 2NT), so with only two 7-card fits available, plump for 5-2 rather than 4-3 (and a major rather than a minor).

responder’s rebid?

a further bid?

Pass   Your partner has given you a 'weak preference' and is promising no more than 6 points. Stay low!



No further bid available. If your partner had been foolish enough to go on to e.g. 3 hearts, you would pass.

a further bid?

Comment  You're unlikely to make 8 tricks: this would require the hearts to be 3-3 and various crucial Aces and Queens to be in the right place. 6 or 7 are more likely. But look on the bright side: the opposition have 23 HCPs and should be in a contract themselves - this should be a good result for you!

♠ AQ54



♣ 53

Auction 3


Triple-click below to check your answers

♠ K1076



♣ AK82

opening bid?

1 heart   A comfortable opening bid with 12 points.



1 spade   You can't support partner, but have your own 4-card major to bid.


opener’s rebid?

2 spades   With a stronger hand you'd jump to 3 or 4. As it is, your bid shows 4-card spade support and no more than 12-14 (or a poor 15) points.



3 spades   You have 11 points opposite an opening bid and an 8-card major fit. If partner can find a little extra, you could be in game ...

responder’s rebid?

a further bid?

Pass   You don't really have any extras.



No further bid available.

a further bid?

Comment  You have two major fits - hearts and spades - but you've agreed on spades and that's fine. If you clear out some trumps and then lead hearts from the dummy toward your KJ a couple of times, you'll probably set up some extra tricks in hearts. Or you might decide to ruff (= trump) a club in your hand - two, even. But there are risks. You have two diamond losers, at least one heart loser, and the opponents might be able to ruff one of your heart winners. With 23 HCPs, most of the time you'll be better off stopping at the 3 level with this holding.

♠ QJ10



♣ K6

Auction 4


Triple-click below to check your answers

♠ K94



♣ A9872

opening bid?

1 diamond   A very nice 19 points with a couple of 10s to boot. Open your longest suit and hope partner doesn't pass. If she does, then you probably didn't have game anyway!



1 NT   You're not quite strong enough to bid 2 clubs - that isn't a good 5-card suit.


opener’s rebid?

3 NT   Your partner's response is very informative: no prospect of a major fit; she has at least 4 clubs (think about it!) and at least 6 points. So you have at least 25 points and no suit fit - so go straight for game in NT.



Pass   (Godammit, why didn't I bid 2 clubs, and then partner would be playing the hand instead of me!)

responder’s rebid?

a further bid?





a further bid?

Comment  Great contract. You have 7 tricks off the top in diamonds and clubs, and can create the other two you need by forcing out the spade Ace at the first opportunity. Against most defences, you'll be making at least 10 tricks.

You've just completed ... Lesson 8

Opening 1 of a suit

If you're the player who opens the bidding, you'll usually start with one of a suit: 1♣, 1, 1 or 1♠. This will happen whenever you have between 12 and 19 points and you don't have a 1NT opening bid. So:
  • with an unbalanced hand, you'll always open a suit
  • with a balanced hand and 15+ points, you'll also open a suit (intending to show your balanced shape by bidding NT later on).

The ground rules are pretty simple – just common sense, really:
  • Bid your longest suit first.
  • If you have two suits the same length, bid the higher ranking one first.
  •  Exception  (there's always an exception in bridge!) If you have four hearts and four spades, start with 1 – this helps you to find a 4-4 'fit' in either major quickly and easily.
Here are a few hands. What would you open? Why? Triple-click in the answer box to check your answers.

What do you open?


♠ AK54



♣ A7

Open 1 diamond. The spades are stronger, but the diamonds are longer. You may be able to find a fit in spades later.

♠ K76



♣ Q6

You’re balanced, but with 16 points too strong to open 1NT. Open 1 heart, intending to bid no trumps next.

♠ 1098



♣ AQJ76

You have 14 points, and a balanced 5-3-3-2 shape with a 5-card minor. Open 1 no trump.

♠ Q10965



♣ -

With two 5-card suits, open the higher-ranking: 1 spade.

♠ AK54



♣ AQ4

No trump shape, but again too many points for 1NT. Instead, open 1 heart. If partner supports hearts or bids 1 spade, you’ve found your major fit. If not, you’ll probably end up in no trumps.

♠ A4



♣ KQJ984

Just 14 points, but with two doubletons and a 6-card suit, not a balanced hand. Open 1 club.

What of your partner's reply? For the moment, we'll limit ourselves to hands where she supports your suit.

Supporting partner's suit

Suppose your partner opens 1. What do you know? Only that she has 12-19 points and at least four hearts. Oh yes – and she doesn't have an opening 1NT hand. That's all the bid tells you. And now it's your turn to say something.

Let's say that you happen to have 4 hearts. That's great: it means you don't have to look further to find an 8-card fit, because you've already found it – you're going to end up in a heart contract. All that remains is to find the right level, and that depends (largely) on how many points you have:

With 0-5 HCPs, pass. Even if partner has the maximum 19 points, you don't have enough for game, so there's no point in going any further.

With 13+ HCPs, bid 4. You have enough points for game.

With 6-12 HCPs, you cut off (roughly) half way!

So with 6-9 HCPs, bid 2. This says "I have support for your hearts, partner, but no more than 9 points. Are you interested in going further?"

And with 10-12 HCPs, bid 3. This says "I have support for your hearts, partner, and we could well be in game. Do you have a little extra? If so, please go on to game."

But is isn't all to do with points. As we saw in the lesson, shape is also important (page 37 in your book).  With a flat hand (e.g. 4-3-3-3), your hand tends to be worth less. But if you have a shortage (a singleton – or even better, a void) or a good, long side-suit, your hand becomes more powerful - and may be worth a higher bid.

Try these. You partner has opened 1♠. What is your response? What do you expect partner to do?

You hold ...


♠ QJ65



♣ 108

You have good spade support and 11 points. Raise to 3♠. If partner has any 'extra values' (in points or shape), she'll go on to game.

♠ QJ65



♣ 8

Same points as before, but a much more powerful shape. The club shortage is useful, and you may well be able to set up extra tricks in diamonds. Bid 4♠. Partner will pass unless she is very strong and smells a possible 'slam'.

♠ Q965



♣ A

Your hearts are longer than your spades, but you've already found a fit in spades, so stay with it. With luck, you may be able to develop extra tricks in hearts (just like the diamonds on the previous hand). Bid 4♠. Again, unless partner is very strong, she'll pass.

♠ Q1096



♣ A87

Not an exciting collection, but with 4 spades and 7 HCPs, you're worth a raise to 2♠. With a maximum 18-19, your partner will raise to game. If she raises you to 3♠ ("Partner, I have some extra values - maybe you do too?"), pass: you don't!

♠ Q1096



♣ A87

Only 7 points, but the singleton makes it worth more than the previous hand. The long diamonds might be useful (but not nearly as useful as the ones in hand 2, above). A toss-up between a 'good' 2♠ and a 'thin' 3♠. If you do bid 2♠ and partner comes back with 3♠, you're certainly worth a raise to game.

♠ KQ85



♣ 10853

Nice spades, but with only 5 points, pass. Turn one of the diamonds into a club and you'd be worth a raise to 2.

How did you do? You've seen that while there's sometimes a very clear 'right' answer, this is far from always the case. The edges are often blurred, and then you have to make a judgment, using the information you have to hand. Which is much more fun, anyway – there wouldn't be much to it if all you had to do was add up points!
You've just completed ... Lesson 7
In the last two lessons, we've looked at No Trump bidding, including the use of Transfers into the major suits (hearts and spades). This was our first experience of an 'artificial' (or 'conventional') bid, a notion takes a bit of getting used to. But fear not. Transfers aren't really very complicated – and they're certainly very useful. The aim of this review is to help you grasp the underlying reasons for using transfers, and give you a little practice in using them.

I have a balanced hand, and no 5-card major suit.

First, the basics of responding to 1NT with a balanced hand (without a 5-card major suit). Your partner knows that you hold 12, 13 or 14 points, and that you need a combined total of around 25 points to make 3NT – that is 9 tricks, or game, in no trumps.

Test yourself (triple-click in an answer-box to check your answers). What do you think your partner holds if she responds with ...

Your partner's response to your 1NT opening bid



Ten or fewer points. Even if you have a maximum 14 points, you haven't got enough for game, so there's no point in going on.


At least 13 points. Even if you have a minimum 12 points, together you have enough for game.


Partner has 11 or 12 points. If you're a minimum 12 points you should pass (as you don't have enough for game). But if you're a maximum 14, bid 3NT - game. What if you have 13? Well, you have to make a judgment. With a good 13 (featuring 10s and 9s rather than 2s and 3s, and/or with a half-decent 5-card minor suit), bid game. With a poor 13, pass.

I have 5+ hearts or spades

If your partner opens 1NT and you have 5 or more hearts or spades, you need to tell your partner about this straight away. Why? Because if you have 8 or more spades (or hearts) between you – an '8-card fit' – you're probably going to make more tricks in spades (or hearts) than you will in no trumps.

But rather than just bid the suit yourself, it's better to get your partner to bid it. Why? There are two reasons, of which more later. First, let's sort out the how. That's simple: you use a transfer. It works like this.

  • Your partner opens 1 no trump.
  • If you respond 2, this means: Partner, I have at least 5 hearts. Please bid 2.
  • If you respond 2, this means: Partner, I have at least 5 spades. Please bid 2♠.
Let's say you have 5 hearts. The bidding has gone 1NT - 2 - 2 ... and partner now knows one thing (and only one thing) about your hand: that you have 5 or more hearts. She has (as yet) absolutely no idea about how strong you are: you could have as few as 0 points or as many as 28. Which brings us to a simple rule:

 If your partner opens 1NT and you have a 5+-card major suit, the first thing you do is transfer to that suit. Your point count is, at this stage, irrelevant!

Because your partner made a bid (i.e. didn't pass), you are now entitled to make a further bid, and this is your opportunity to tell your partner about your strength.

So if you have an absolutely awful hand with 3 points and J109542, you simply pass. (Which brings us to the first reason for using transfers: as your partner was the one who bid hearts, the 2 contract will be played by the stronger hand, which will be hidden from the opposition, and your hand – the weak hand – will be laid down as dummy.)

If, on the other hand, you have more than 10 points, you can now show this in the normal way, just as you would over 1NT - with the vital difference that your partner knows as well that you have 5+ hearts (or spades).

What do you think these bids mean? And how will you respond?

You open 1NT, your partner responds 2 and you obediently bid 2♠. All you know at this stage is that partner has at least 5 spades.

Partner now makes a further bid. What would each of these mean, and how should you respond? Triple-click to check your answers.


What does your partner have?

What to do now?


At least 5 spades and 10 or fewer points – maybe a lot fewer!

You don’t get to bid again! You’ll be playing the contract in 2♠.


Game-going points (at least 13) and exactly 5 spades.

If you have 3+ spades, you have an 8-card spade fit – bid 4♠. With only 2 spades, pass.


11 or 12 points and exactly 5 spades. Your partner's sending you an invitation ...

With 3+ spades, bid 3♠ or (with a maximum) 4♠. With only 2 spades, pass or (with a maximum) bid 3NT


Game-going points and at least 6 spades (even if you only have 2, she knows you have an 8-card fit)


3♠ (think about it!)

11 or 12 points, and at least 6 spades (she’s already told you she has 5, so by bidding spades again she’s showing 6).

Raise to 4♠ with a maximum. Otherwise pass.

That wasn't so bad, was it? The second reason that transfers are a good thing is, of course, that by forcing your partner to bid again, you get to bid again yourself, and this enables you to give partner a more precise picture of your hand – as we've just seen.

It makes it easier for you, too: you show your shape first, and afterwards you show your strength. And so long as partner remembers that your 2 bid is a transfer (and not a natural bid showing diamonds), you'll find the best contract. If he does forget, he'll only do it once ...!

You've just completed ... Lesson 4
Yikes! Just when it seemed that play was all about declarers making plans and defenders going like lambs to the slaughter, it turns out that defenders have all sorts of weapons of their own. As well as choosing the opening lead (which can often make or break a contract on its own), defenders can (and do!) exchange all sorts of information with their partners by the cards they play.

Take leads, for example. Any lead, of course, could be a singleton, but there's a more usual meaning:

  • The lead of an honour is usually top of a sequence (e.g. Q from QJ10)
  • Leading your lowest card in a suit means 'I have an honour in this suit, partner.' Example: 3 from KJ53
  • The lead of a higher card (e.g. 8 or 7) suggests that you don't have an honour. The card you play at the next trick will tell your partner how many cards you started with:
    - if you play e.g. 8 followed by 4, you started with two (or possibly four) cards in the suit. Remember: play High-Low with a doubleton
    - if you play e.g. 7 followed by 9, you started with an odd number of cards in the suit - probably 3. Remember: MUD = Middle, Up, Down
Similarly, the card you play on your partner's lead can help him or her to know what to do next:

  • If partner's led an Ace, and you want the suit continued, play as high a card as you can afford. If you don't want the suit continued, play as low as you can. Remember: HELD = High Encouraging, Low Discouraging.
  • The same goes if declarer takes the trick. e.g. Partner leads the 4 of clubs, dummy wins with the Ace and you have K 8 4. Play the 8 to tell partner you'd like another club lead. If, however, you have 863, play the 3 to tell partner you have no interest in the suit.
  • And finally, what happens here? Your partner leads ♠2 and dummy plays the ♠5. You have ♠QJ3. You play the Jack. Remember: If you are playing high, play the lowest card of any sequence. Playing the Jack here says 'I don't have the 10, partner, but I may have the Q - or even the KQ!'
Of course, it's no use making all these super signals if partner doesn't notice what cards you've played - and the same goes for you, of course! So full attention, please, and test yourself.

What information can you glean from each of these examples of play by defenders? When you've decided on an answer, triple-click in the Answer box and check if you're right!




Your partner leads 7. On the next trick she plays 9.

She probably has three hearts, but no honour.


Your partner leads ♠2. Dummy has ♠QJ3 and you have ♠A1064

Your partner has K. (She has an honour and you can see all the others). If declarer is daft enough to play 3 from dummy, you can win the trick with your 10!


You lead the 3 from J1063. Partner plays the King and declarer wins with the Ace.

Unfortunately, declarer has the Queen as well. With KQ, your partner would have played Q, not K.


Partner leads 5. Dummy has Q82 and you hold K1043.

That’s partner’s lowest diamond (you can see the 2, 3, 4), so he has an honour: the A or the J.


You lead A from ♣AK5 against a suit contract. Partner plays the 3, and declarer the 2.

If the 3 isn’t a singleton, partner has no interest in clubs. See if you can find a better suit to switch to.


In a suit contract, partner leads 10 to your AK3. You win with your King and lead A. Partner plays the 4.

Partner either has two hearts left or (more likely) none. Lead another for Partner to ruff.


You lead A from ♠AK5 against a suit contract. Partner plays the 9.

Carry on with the K. Partner may have a doubleton, or may have started with Qxx.

You've just completed ... Lesson 3
I think we did more than enough cerebral activity in today's lesson, so no extra online problem-solving this week. (Sorry about the hand xeroxes - we'll use real cards next time!)

It might be a good idea to do some consolidation
, so if you have time (and the inclination!) check out what the Coursebook says (pages 10-12) about planning a contract. If you like, look ahead to opening leads.

You might also
try out one or two of the 'practice hands' on page 21-22, alone or with others This would be a good format:

  • Look at the hands without reading the commentary, and decide what contract the declarer (shown in pink) is probably in.
  • Decide what you would choose as the opening lead (opening leader is the player to the left of declarer).
  • Check what the book recommends (1st part of the commentary) .
  • Make a cunning (or otherwise!) plan for declarer
  • Check what the book recommends (the rest of the commentary).

Maybe we'll play a few of these hands together next week.
You've just completed ... Lesson 2
In Lesson 2 we took a quick look at trumps, but the main focus was on playing the cards as declarer. Whether you're playing with trumps or in no trumps, your first job is the same: take a good look at your hand and dummy and count your winners.

Your 'winners' are the tricks that you can take 'from the top', without having to give the lead away to your opponents by losing a trick. So in this suit:

[your hand] K Q 3           A J 6 5  [dummy]

you have four winners (assuming you play them correctly, which you now know all about - see the article following Lesson 1!), and in this suit:

[your hand] ♣ A 5 4 3            K 8 [dummy]

you have only two. The diamond suit looks like this:

[your hand]  K Q 8           J 10 9 7 4  [dummy]

It's a lovely suit, but it doesn't contain any winners yet, because you're missing the Ace. And to complete the picture, here are your spades:

[your hand] ♠ A 10 6           K 2 [dummy]

OK. Let's look at the two complete hands:

A 10 6
K 2

K Q 3
A J 6 5

K Q 8
J 10 9 7 4

A 5 4 3
K 8


Before you read on think about these questions:

  1. How many winners do you have altogether, to start with? Is that enough for game?
  2. What's your plan for making as many tricks as you can?
  3. How many tricks are you going to make altogether?
Here are my answers:

  1. You have 8: two each in ♠ and ♣ and four in . No - you need 9 for game in No trumps.
  2. Starting with the K (then the Q), keep leading diamonds until an opponent takes a trick with the A. You then win whatever they lead back, and cash your remaining diamond tricks.
  3. 12. They can take one trick in diamonds (with the A). The other 4 diamond tricks all belong to you. So your 8 original winners + 4 new diamond winners = 12.
If that seems obvious to you, you're doing well - because it's possible to go horribly wrong on this hand, and many beginners, given the chance, would end up with only 8 tricks. The reason is that it's much easier (and much more fun!) to bang out a string of winners and then start thinking afterwards.

"Let's see. I'll take these four heart tricks first. Now I'd better win those two tricks in clubs -
and I might as well take those two spade tricks as well. Um ... what now? I know. I'll lead the K,
and after they've won with their Ace, I can make my Q ..."

Dream on! The opponents only started with 5 diamonds between them. All rubbish cards apart from the Ace. Are they going to hang on to them just so they can lead one to your Q? No way. Instead, they've been hanging on to their ♠QJ10 and ♣QJ ... and once they come in with the A, they're going to start leading out their winners. Why should they give you any more?

From this, two vital rules emerge:

Rule 1  Make a plan at trick one. Count your winners, then work out how to make the extra ones you need.

Rule 2
  In No trumps, lose the tricks you have to lose as early as possible, while you still have high cards in the other suits.

Stick to these two rules with this hand and you can't go wrong. Say they start off by leading a spade. You win with your ♠K, and decide to lose your diamond trick at once: so you lead diamonds and they take a trick with their A. What do they do now? Whatever they lead, you can take the trick. And provided you play your cards sensibly and don't get 'stuck in the wrong hand', you make all the rest of the tricks.

That's almost it ... but before we stop, let's change one card in dummy's hand. We'll take away the ♠K and replace it with the ♠7:

A 10 6
7 2

K Q 3
A J 6 5

K Q 8
J 10 9 7 4

A 5 4 3
K 8


Now everything depends on what the opening lead is. If it's a club or a heart or a diamond, no problem. But what if it's a spade? Now things are looking distinctly dodgy. Once you've played your ♠A, you have no protection left in spades, and you've got to lose the lead again in order to set up your diamond winners. And if the opponent with the A has a string of spade winners, you're in trouble. You might decide instead that game in diamonds - even though it requires 11 tricks rather than 9 - is a safer bet than game in No trumps. As indeed it is.

But that brings us back to trumps - not to mention opening leads - of which more later. Meanwhile, make a point of adding those two new rules to your armoury.