Release 2.19o

29th March 2020

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This deal illustrates the power of the 4-4 fit and the importance of luck in bridge.
At our table,  North opened a 15-17 NT. South used stayman and , when North denied a major , settled for 6NT with her balanced 17 count. Do you agree with the auction?
Firstly let's look at the chances of making the contract. assuming that East avoids the spade lead that easily gives away the contact and settles for a passive heart lead how do we play it?
We have 4 hearts tricks, 4 diamond tricks (we hope) 1 spade and 2 clubs for a total of 11. There is no realistic chance of an extra trick in spades so the only chance of a 12th trick is in clubs.
When we look at 9xxx opposite AKx the obvious play for 3 tricks is a 3-3 break which is a 36% chance. Look more closely there is another possibility, East might hold a doubleton with 2 of the Q,J or 10. Then the Ace and King drop the honours and a third round towards the 9 gives the 12th trick. On this hand neither play works and we are down 1. Did we do our best?
Well,  it usually takes 33 or 34 points in two balanced hands with no long suits to make 6NT and we don't have it. North had his 15-17 points for his 1NT opening albeit a minimum. With a 17 count with good controls and 4432 rather than 4333 distribution, South has a close decision as to raising to 4NT as an invitational raise or deciding to bid a slam. Clearly, North would pass a raise to 4NT with his minimum hand and we will make 11 or 12 tricks. As we have seen raising to 6NT gets a minus for down 1. What would you have done? 4NT or 6NT?
Whilst you think about it, let us think about a modern Acol auction. North is too strong for a weak NT so should open 1 diamond rather than 1 club on 4 small cards. South responds 1 heart and North rebids 1NT. If it shows 15-16 we know that we are short of the required points for 6NT. If it is 15-17 or even 15-18 we could ask for range and find North has a minimum putting us in the same situation as over a 15-16 1NT rebid.
So, we are in the same situation as when partner opens a 15-17 1NT? No, not at all. This time we know partner has 4+ diamonds and so do we. With a 4-4 and 32/33 points we probably have a slam in diamonds for we bid what we expect to make which is 6 diamonds.
As you can see,  in diamonds, we can draw 3 rounds of  trumps, ruff a spade for the 12th trick. 6 diamonds bid and made. Why can we make 6D and not 6NT? it is because in NTs, the diamonds yield 4 tricks while in diamonds they make 5 tricks, 3 rounds to draw trumps and a ruff in each hand.
So, Acol gets us to 6D made whilst the strong NT gets us to 4NT or 6NT? Well maybe not. If you play good methods, you have a range enquiry over a 1NT opening. Say it is 2S. Opener bids 2NT with a minimum and say the lowest suit with a maximum. This time, opener shows a minimum, alerting South to the fact that 6NT is a doubtful proposition. However, a slam in a suit is still possible if a 4-4 fit is available so South bids 3D, being the lowest 4 card suit. This time a fit is found immediately so North raises. South should get to 6D perhaps via key card Blackwood. This is the advantage of good methods
So would we reach the correct contract? We play 15-17 for 1NT but don't have a range enquiry, so we would go wrong? I say no because our second bid as South would not be 4NT, as I think the hand is too strong to only invite. We would bid 5NT which is forcing to a slam and says please bid 6NT with a maximum but if you are minimum, please try a bid of a 4 card minor. We would not try 6C on 4 small so would bid 6D - a triumph!
Bridge would be a much easier game if every hand fitted with a text book bid. However often it is not like that. This board is a typical example.
North has an 11 count with 6 poor spades. Is it an opening 1S or perhaps a weak 2S with a maximum point count but a weak suit or perhaps a strong pass?  Add the S10 and it is a clear 1S opening. Always an aggressive bidder, Georgia opened 1S.
Now, East has a similar problem holding a reasonable 11 count, with two fair 5 card minors. At the teams afternoon,  I suggested that a 2NT overcall showing the minors promises opening values. The question is, do we have opening values? I would say no but it is close. A slight improvement in the pips in the minors would change my opinion. At the table East chose to bid 2NT.
As South I did not have the values to double showing good defence to one or both minors, as it usually shows 10+ points. Again, it is close as the long and strong diamonds will make it difficult for East/West to make many tricks in clubs unless they have a big fit.
Now West has a problem. With partner showing an opening bid or more the prospects of making 3NT or even 5C seem possible.  Should partner have a minimum then 3C will be high enough. The only way to ask partner about strength is to cuebid with 3S which will get us to 4C opposite a minimum and 5C opposite extra values. A 3NT contract will not be reached .So what is your choice? I would go for 3C in view of the poor cards in the minors. At the table, West made the aggressive 3NT bid.
After two passes, I had an obvious double to end the auction,  although West might have tried to escape into 4C which would have been doubled and gone down by 1 or 2 tricks.
There are many possible variations on the play after a spade lead through the AKQ10. Declarer must either cash the top spades or may never get to cash them. At the table the contract was down 2 for -500 which seems about right. That got East/West a near bottom.
When one looks at the scores there are +570,+500,and +300 to North/South and +800 and +300 to East/West. The remaining scores are small pluses each way which look like mainly contracts going down. These scores are a clear sign of an awkward board.
The interesting point about all this mayhem is that,  using the style of opening bids recommended in most books over the years, the auction could well be - pass/pass/pass/pass!
01.9.14. Board 18
This week our East/West opponents seem to open 1NT on most boards. Here is one of them.
East has an easy weak NT opener. As South I had one of the better hands of the night but it is still a clear pass.
West has  a weakish, unbalanced hand with  the minors. On a bad day 1NT could go down several tricks whilst a 3D contract should have good chances. I would therefore use whatever method that is in use to get to play there. Some use a direct jump to 3 of a minor to play there. Others play transfers into the minors or use 2S or 2NT as a puppet that includes weak with a minor as one of the hand types.
Our West chose to pass 1NT. That would have been a winning decision if it was passed out and I had led the obvious spade. It would easily have made 9 tricks with the normal guess in diamonds. However Georgia as North with a poor 11 points and 6 hearts bid a natural 2H despite being vulnerable. 
East passes, having already described his hand leaving me with a decision to make. I had a good heart fit and reasonable values. Playing teams, the lure of a possible vulnerable game would ensure that I raised to 3H. Playing pairs, the odds do not favour pushing for close games, as you will often score well for making 10 tricks in 2H. Also, Georgia had bid in protective position and might be somewhat lighter than usual. Therefore I passed 2H.
Now West has to chose an action. The opponents have reached 2H where they figure to have a decent fit. The points are shared fairly equally so we can apply a count of total tricks .It seems likely that the opponents have 8 or 9 hearts between them. We have 6 diamonds and our partner has between 2 and 4 or even 5. Therefore a reasonable view is that there about 18 total trumps which is correct on the actual deal.
So if the opponents can make 8 tricks in hearts, we can make 10 in diamonds or, if 9 in hearts we can make 9 in diamonds. This makes it clear cut to bid 3D. Had that happened I would have competed to 3H  which would have been the final contract.
In real life, the contract was 2H by North. East had an awkward lead and chose a low club away from the ace. That worked very well when West won the CK and played another. Declarer ruffed the 3rd club and cashed the HA , in case East has the singleton H10, drawing only small cards. Now how to continue?
The contract is good but there is a danger of losing 2 spades, 1 heart, 1 diamond and the 2 clubs already lost.  Should opener have a doubleton SA, we can set up the spades for 1 loser and we might get our diamond away and make 9 or 10 tricks depending on the heart break. so how do we play?
If we go flat out for the maximum tricks we find the cards lie badly and we go 1 down. But if we try to make 8 tricks how do we play? Clubs are already cleared from our hand and we can see that playing either of the majors does not work. So that leaves diamonds, where we are always likely to lose a trick. So we play to the DA and then another to our DJ losing to the DK in East.
Now East is stuck, a spade or heart costs a trick in the suit and a minor suit allows dummy to ruff and declarer to discard her 3rd spade plus avoiding a second spade loser. So the contract is cold? 
Well certainly not. If West is alert he can play the DQ on the second round of the suit winning the trick. This is fairly clear as partner looks as if he has the DK. So West wins the DQ and switches to the S10 ducked to the SK and defeating the contract.
So 2H goes down 1 for a very good score as 3D makes at least 9 tricks. Had West bid 3D I would have bid 3H and might well have lost 200 for a bottom. At pairs the difference between losing 100, 110. 130 and 200 can be huge when at imp scoring it is only 1 or 2 imps. 
4.8.14. - Board 21
As there are no hands from this week this is board 21 from 4th August. Dealer N. N/S vul
the bidding - P/1C/1D/1H/1S/2H/3D/P/P/P
Here is another hand from last week.  Playing the strong NT, Georgia opened the East hand 1C.
South has an exciting hand with the minors and chose to bid 1D for now. As an aside, I think that 2NT over a possible short 1C should show the minors. It would certainly be a good agreement if the South hand had 5 diamonds and 6 clubs. On this hand it is better to bid diamonds and then clubs.
As West I bid 1H, normally showing a 5 card suit.  North joined in by bidding 1S. The East hand is improved by the spade bid on the right in front of the Ace/Queen and diminished by the diamond bid over the King. Either way it is clear to raise to 2H with 4 card support.
The South hand has too much playing strength to pass over 2H and our opponent bid 3D although I prefer 3C which must be a natural bid showing a 5 card suit. West and North have obvious passes leaving East to make a decision.
So what to do? We have opened a balanced 13 count and raised partners hearts.  The DK looks a dubious value if we want to bid on so should we pass?
Well,  we expect partner to have 5 or more hearts and we have 4. The law of total tricks says we should bid to the 3 level with 9 trumps. Georgia decided that her DK was useless and passed out 3D which made 10 tricks for -130. I believe that she should have bid 3H with our 9 card fit where we would likely have been left to play.
But would I have made it? Clearly there are 2 losers in clubs, and 1 each in spades and diamonds so I would have had to guess the hearts. With a 9 card fit including the Ace and King normal play is to cash the 2 top honours playing for a 2-2 break. When someone has shown a long suit the odds change in favour of the finesse. But this time South is known to be short in spades changing the odds again. So would I have made it - I don't know. Even 1 down in 3H for -50 is much better than -130 and +140 would have been great.
 The increased popularity of the law of total tricks has influenced the bidding styles across the globe and given rise to generalised bidding rules which are worth following as long as you adhere to a few health warnings.
Rule 1 - Don't let the opponents play in a 2 level contract if it is an 8 card or longer fit.
The reasons for this rule are fairly simple. Assuming you are playing reasonably competent opponents, when they bid 1H-2H-Pass they will not normally have missed a game and will mostly have at least 8 hearts between them ( Not so certain when playing 4 card majors). If they have 8+ hearts your side has at most 5 and therefore at least 21 cards in the other 3 suits. You will be unlucky not to have an 8 card fit of your own if you can find it. Then remembering the law of total tricks if each side has an 8 card fit that makes 16 total tricks. So if they can make 2H your side can maybe make 2S or go 1 down in 3 of a minor. That is if you get best defence! Of course you might push the opponents to 3H and maybe they will go down.
Rule 2 - Bid to the level of your fit.
Therefore if you have a 9 card fit bid to the 3 level and 10 cards to the 4 level.
This theory has resulted in the rise of preemptive raise of opening bids and overcalls. In particular it has caused the use of Bergan raises of an opening bid showing a 5 card major. the original scheme works like this :-
Raise 1S to 3S shows 0-6 points with 4 spades.
Raise 1S to 3C shows 7-9 points with 4 spades
Raise 1S to 3D shows 10-12 points with 4 spades and is an invitation to game.
This sort of response system has gained huge popularity and replace strong jump shifts for many tournament players. In the original system perhaps the following hand is a raise of a 1S opening to 3S
S Jxxx
H Qx
D xxxxxx
C xx
If this is your bid I must admit that I would not be keen to play with you, but nor would I like to play against you.
4.8.14. - Board 5

Have your heard of the law of total tricks?  It was originally introduced by a Frenchman called Jean-René Vernes in an article in the Bridge World in 1969. In the 1990s, Larry Cohen, an American expert, wrote two books on the subject and it became the foundation of a large part of modern bidding systems. The law says that the number of tricks you can take, if you play in your best trump suit, added to the number of tricks that the opponents can take in their best trump suit is approximately equal to the total number of trumps held by the declaring partnerships.

To give an example, if N/S have 9 spades and E/W have 9 hearts there are 18 total trumps and the law says there will be 18 tricks so, if N/S can make 10 tricks then E/W can make 8 tricks. It may sound most unlikely but extensive analysis of past hands has proved that it is fairly accurate and rarely out by more than one trick.

 I like to use the law in two main situations -

 1. deciding how high to bid on hands where the points are fairly equally divided.

 2. deciding whether to sacrifice at high levels and deciding whether to bid or double when opponents sacrifice.

 Over the next three weeks I will use hands from last Monday to discuss the application of the law. This week's hand was board 5 where the points are almost equally shared between the two partnerships.


Georgia was East and opened 1C, as we play strong NTs. For those who play weak NT I would suggest that it might to best to open 1C and treat the hand as a black 2 suiter rather than balanced.

 Mark was South with a strong hand and good hearts. He decided that he was too strong to overcall 1H so he doubled intending to bid hearts on the next round.

 I sat West with my usual powerhouse. Our system here is to redouble with 9+ points and no good suit. New suits are forcing and usually show a 5 card suit. In theory I should pass and maybe bid later but, encouraged by the club fit and the possible value of the S9/10, I chose to bid 1S suggesting 5 cards.

Mary as North, with a balanced 5 points, had no reason to bid, and Georgia had an easy raise to 2S. Mark followed through with his plan to bid his heart suit even though it was at a higher level than expected. I passed with only 6 points and only 4 spades.

 Now Mary had a decision to make. Her partner had shown a strong hand with hearts and she had a fit and a few values. Should she raise? I would say it is a close decision at pairs, whilst it would be normal to try for a vulnerable game when playing teams, as the odds suggest bidding vulnerable games at imp scoring, make it worth bidding games that are only 40% likely to make.

 3H was passed around to Georgia who had to decide whether to compete further. The law strongly suggests that it is correct to compete to the level equal to the number of trumps held by your side. She would expect me to hold 5 spades and she had 4 so she continued to 3S hoping either to make it or non-vulnerable, to concede a penalty lower that the opponents can make playing in hearts.

 Now the ball is back in North/South's court. It looks normal for South to pass over 3S as he has bid his hand leaving Mary as North in passout seat. Having decided that 4H will not make it is not easy to now change your mind. At teams it would be a normal decision to pass out 3S and hope to get a plus score. At pairs it is rather different; as North/South were expecting to score +140 in 3H it is probable that defending 3S and getting +50 or +100 will not be good. One possibility is to double 3S but turning +50 to +100 may not help and 2 down for +300 seems unlikely. So at pairs it makes sense for North to continue to 4H and hope it is a make, or that 3S was making and 4H goes down only 1 undoubled.

 If North does bid 4H now East/West are under pressure in case it is a making contract for -620. In that event a save in 4S will be cheaper. Even if they could see each others hands and see that they held both the SAK and CAK they would still not know if they were cashing. As you can see, South has a singleton club which allows an easy 10 tricks in 4H. It is always difficult to save over a game that you have pushed the opponents into so East/West would probably pass 4H out and hope to beat it - not this time! Interestingly if Mary as North had raised to 4H the first time it is probable that Georgia as East would have taken the save conceding 300 if doubled.

 So what has all of this got to do with the law of total tricks? On this hand N/S have 9 trumps and E/W have 8 for a total of 17 total trumps. N/S can make 10 tricks and E/W 8 tricks for a total of 18 total tricks. The law is inaccurate by 1 trick. Now imagine South gives a spade to North and receives a club in return. Now they can only make 9 tricks and the law is correct. Conversely if North gives a spade to South and gets a club in return then N/S make 12 tricks. The same applies to E/W. On the actual hand they each have 2 losing hearts and 3 losing diamonds but swapping some cards could greatly reduce that number, although they do not have sufficient trumps to make a huge number of tricks. it is certainly possible for the law to be many tricks out on this hand.

 So the law of total tricks is rubbish? No, it is a very useful tool, but can be wrong if there is purity - that is, a hand with a double fit for each side. On this hand, each side has all the honours in two suits. Such hands can lead to both sides being able to make a game or even a slam. Conversely, when each side has holdings in the opponents long suits, the total number of tricks can be lower than expected.

 Having confused everyone I will look at it further in the next two weeks!





28.7.14 - Board 1
Board 1 from Monday last -
Bidding P/P/1H/2D/3C/P/3NT end
I was elsewhere on Monday, so am grateful to Georgia for this hand played by Liz.
After two passes, South with a 17 count opened in her good heart suit. West overcalled 2D with both dubious values and suit. North now has to choose a bid between 2H on poor support or 3C which is rather an overbid. Georgia went with the aggressive option hoping that Liz would take it as promising a tolerance for hearts as a passed hand.
Liz now bid the obvious 3NT. Now how to make it?
West is on lead and has a choice between the weak 5 card diamond suit and the 4 card spade suit. The spade lead from the AQ  is likely to be around to the king so is not tempting so West led the 6D being 4th highest from his 5 card suit.
Declarer can count 3 or 4 tricks in hearts, 3 in diamonds and the CA for 7 or 8 on top so will need to find at least 1 extra trick to make the contract. The first decision is the card to play from dummy at trick 1. The 4th highest lead of the D6 means that East has 1 card higher than the 6. If that card is the Q or 10 we need to play low and then finesse the D9 to win 4 tricks in diamonds. If it is the D7 or 8 then the D9 will win in dummy but we will still only have 3 tricks in the suit. As West had overcalled in diamonds and was likely to have both the DQ and D10  Liz decided to play the D9 which won the trick.
Georgia did not follow the play, so from here these are my thoughts. LIz did succeed  in making 9 tricks.
There is no reason to play on spades or clubs at this point, so we try hearts to see if the HJ drops in 2 rounds, so we could cash the H10 and then the last top heart. When the HJ doesn't drop, we try another round and are pleased to see the 3-3 split. Now we have 4 heart tricks, 3 diamond tricks and the CA and only need one more trick to make 3NT. How should we continue?
Firstly, we should see what we know about the opposition hands. We know that  West started with 5 diamonds and 3 hearts and must have a few spades or East would have been bidding them. Therefore, West will be fairly short in clubs. Also West overcalled and is almost certain to hold the SA over our SK. We could play a spade towards the jack but that wouldn't be good if it lost to the queen.  
So, we should play a club towards dummy and West contributes the CK. Well, we don't know why West has played the CK, maybe it is singleton, maybe KQ doubleton or perhaps a good play from Kx but it is clear to duck in dummy. This time West has only spades and diamonds left and is endplayed. If West plays a spade, we win the jack in dummy and cash the CA squeezing him down to SAQ and DQ108 for his last 5 cards .This leaves a choice of satisfying conclusions to the play. We can play the DK then cross to the DA and then the last diamond leaving West to lead away from his SAQ round to our SK. Alternatively, we can cash the DK and then play a spade to Wests' SA and SQ and wait for him to lead away from his DQ into our DAJ. Either way, 10 tricks are made for a near top score.
It is interesting to note that if West avoids the very thin 2D overcall, then North has a close choice of responses - 2H on poor support, 2C on minimal values and will probably settle for 1NT in a system that opens in 4 card majors. As a result,  North would be declarer in 3NT and East would be on lead. If East should choose to lead a spade, it is hard to see how even 9 tricks can be made. A club lead will give declarer a clue about the lie of that suit but it is still difficult to get 3NT on the card - that is, bid and made.
Looking at the scores, 4 North/South pairs made 3NT and 4 went down, 1 pair scored 800 when the East/West pair bid far too much, and the other 4 North/South's managed a few plus scores. 
We weren't at the club this week so I am grateful to Mary for the information on board 1.  
As dealer, North has a huge hand and clearly qualifies for a 2D game forcing opening playing Benjamin. No player is going to stop under 5C with such a hand with 10 certain tricks and only needing the DJ or diamond length to make 5C a certainty.
After the 2D opening, East had an obvious 2S overcall. South had nothing to say and West raised to 3S. Now North rebid 5C and everyone passed. The contract made 12 tricks thanks to the spade ruff in dummy. Clearly the slam was cold so who did something wrong?
Clearly North could not have bid 6C with 2 losers in the opponents suit. Should South have bid a slam? She did after all have a singleton spade, the KH and 3 small clubs. So should South have raise to 6C?  Well, maybe but it is far from a sure thing. Imagine partner held x/x/AKQ/AKQxxxxx so that 2 aces are missing. So it is too difficult?
Well,  maybe it is, but suppose North had chosen to bid 4C over 3S by West. As 2D if forcing to game, then partner cannot pass 4C. We would expect that partner will bid 4H as she is likely hold plenty of them given our void. Not this time however as South has a club fit and should cuebid her singleton spade making easy for North to bid 6C or try for a grand slam opposite a spade void.
So the slam could be bid? Well, probably not because I believe that West should have raised his partners 2S overcall to 4S with such strong support and singleton club. Now there is no room remaining so North will bid 5C and play there. Sometimes slams cannot be bid other than by a good guess.
Bidding 1NT(15-17) by North all pass.
Here is a typical hand that divides winners and losers at the bridge table. The vulnerability is very relevant to the actions that each player should take.
At our table I decided that a 14 count with two 10s and a good 5 card suit was good enough to open a strong NT. This show of strength was sufficient to silence both East and West whilst Georgia had nothing to say so 1NT became the final contract.
East had an obvious diamond lead to West's ace. How to play the contract? With no entry to dummy to take the club finesse there is a danger of going down 3 or 4 tricks to concede 150 or 200 which is perhaps more than East/West could score in their own contract. So what would you do?
Well, I decided to ditch the DK under the DA in attempt to get to dummy. West continued diamonds to the Queen and I won the third round in dummy. The club finesse gave me 5 tricks in the suit and later I won a spade trick to total 7 for 90 to North/South.
When I looked at the scores I found that this was worth 75% for us as some East/West pairs had gone one down in contracts to lose 100. Surprisingly, had I gone down one to lose 50 we would have received the same 75%. 
At the start of the article, I said that this was a key bridge hand so now I will try to explain why. Most players will open 1NT as North although you could argue that the hand is too strong for a 12-14 NT. At pairs, it is not a good policy to leave a non-vulnerable opponent in 1NT if there is any alternative, as it will be difficult to score well on defence.
For this reason, I suggest that East should consider overcalling with 2D, certainly if not vulnerable. This will silence South and give West a problem as game is possible. A simple response for West is 2NT over which East will sign off in 3D and make a minimum of 9 tricks. The alternative is to respond 2H at the risk of being left to play there with insufficient trumps. This time the 2H bid hits the jackpot as you should make 9 tricks for a very good score. If East raises 2H to 3 you will surely go on to 4H where you can be beaten by accurate defence after a spade lead.
Now lets assume that East passes as he is vulnerable, or because 2D would be conventional. South will also pass leaving West to decide his action with an opening hand with both majors. Many partnerships play a conventional defence to 1NT such as Astro or one of its variants. Each of them finds hands with both majors somewhat of a problem so I would suggest to you that the best choice is to play Landy, named after an American expert of yesteryear.
If playing Landy, a 2C overcall of 1NT shows a hand with both majors, in theory at least 5/4 in the suits. So on this hand,  West would bid 2C in protective position leaving East to decide which suit to respond in, as he has 3 cards in each major. To solve having to guess the suit,  I like to play that a 2D response to Landy 2C says that I hold equal length in the majors so you choose please. If you have loads of diamonds and no interest in either major you just have to jump to 3D and wish you hadn't agreed to play this idea. This time West would choose 2H which East would pass.
Sometimes your opponents do not just sit there whilst we show off our conventions. An active North would double the artificial 2C to show his good suit. Then when we bid 2D for choice of suit South will probably compete with 3C. It  is not clear whether West is worth another bid but East should not pass out 3C with a singleton and a choice of possible contracts. I think he should bid 3D which is natural and gives West a choice of playing there or in a long major. West will remove it to 3H the final contract.
At some tables, North will open 1C. East just has the values to overcall 1D. A weak 2D is a possibility but the suit is poor and he has as  partial fit for both majors. South can jump to 3C if you play preemptive raises (as you should) as a cuebid  can be used to show an invitational plus hand with a fit. After 1C-1D-3C, West needs a way to bid his opening hand with the majors. 3H is possible but it suggests a better suit. A better option is a takeout double bringing both suits into the auction. East will respond 3D as he has a 6 card suit and no 4 card major, the final contract. The pre-empt will have stopped  East/West finding their 5/3 heart fit. If West should venture 3H East will raise to game and can be defeated.
Whilst there are several possible bidding sequences, East/West should find a way of playing a red suit part score. Having reviewed the scores,  I see 2 pairs reached 4H and made 11 tricks for a top. 4 others went down to get a bottom. A score of 140 for any East/West who reached hearts was worth 75% for them.
We have always been able to bid slams. However making them is often more of a problem. Here is one from last Monday.
South has an interesting hand with great playing strength. I would like to open an Acol 2S on the hand but as we play weak 2s Georgia started with 1S. West decided that the hand has too weak to overcall ( I agree). I had an obvious 2H response.
Whilst the South hand has only 13 points the playing strength justifies a 3C rebid which is forcing to game after a 2 over 1 response.
North has a decent 14 count without a fit for either of partner's suits. The first thought is 3NT but careful thought shows that the hand is too promising to suggest partner leaves us in the NT game. As the hearts are not rebiddable and we don't have adequate support for partner, the clear choice is 3D, the fourth suit forcing.
South should be encouraged to discover that partner does not have diamond strength opposite her void and continues with 3S to show extra length. A possible alternative is to bid 4C to show 5 cards but I prefer to reveal the 6 card major.
Now I knew that spades were a satisfactory trump suit so I could raise to 4S. However I felt that I was too strong to make a passable bid so chose 4H which has to be a cuebid  denying a control in diamonds which I would have shown first as 4D is lower ranking and it is normal to cuebid controls up the line.
This suited Georgia perfectly so bid 5D to show the void. I cuebid 6C in case we had a grand slam but Georgia signed  off in 6S knowing that the HK was missing from my failure to bid 5H over 5D.
As you can see there are 12 tricks on top and Georgia actually made all 13 when the HQ and HK both fell under the HA.
We were the only pair to bid and make the slam although one North/South pair did manage to score 1700.
This was the bidding at our table. The play was brief as the defenders cashed 1 club, 1 spade and 2 diamonds for 1 down.
However it was very obvious that North/South had been robbed as, with careful play, they can make either 4S or even 6C and therefore 5C is totally lay down. So what went wrong?
Well, South had a clear pass in 1st seat, so the spotlight must be directed at North. After Georgia opened a weak 2H, North has a choice to make, to bid 2S on a weak suit or double for takeout with support for all the unbid suits Either way, pass is not an option with opening values and a void in the opened suit.
If North chooses to overcall 2S, I would still raise to 4H and South has an easy 4S bid. This will be passed round to me (East) to make a decision. Whilst 5H figures to be cheaper than a making game for North/South holding such good spades I might have taken the chance of beating the contract. I would have led the HK.
Declarer ruffs the lead and ducks a trump to West. The best defence is to continue hearts giving a ruff and discard attacking declarer's trump control. Now as long as the ruff is taken in dummy and the SA cashed and then minor suit winners played, the contract is made for the loss of just 3 trump tricks A less careful line could result in the loss of trump control and the contract going down several tricks as seems to have happened at a few tables.
Had North chosen to double, South would bid 5C over my 4H raise. Some of the time North would raise to 6C. Even if 5C is passed back to me, North would likely try 6C when my 5H save is passed back to him, but how to make it?
Let us start by assuming that West leads the HA. When we count tricks, we see 6 clubs, 3 diamonds, the SA and a heart ruff in dummy for a total of 11. The obvious chance of a 12th trick is the D9 if the suit splits 3-3 or the DJ10 drop, but there is another chance - can you see it?
We start the play by ruffing the heart lead and drawing trumps in 2 rounds, noting that West has 2 trumps. There were 12 hearts missing and it seems probable that they were split 6-6 between the defenders. When we play diamonds East drops the DJ on the 2nd round. When we lead the 3rd diamond West follows with a small card and we play?
Well, there is a bridge theory called restricted choice that applies here. It says that when a defender has a choice of playing either of 2 equal cards ( the DJ or D10 here) it is random which one will be chosen. Therefore, when one of these cards is played, the odds favour it being forced as he does not hold the other card. This makes it odds to finesse the D9 in this situation. Today that is a winning choice and we make 6C, but was it played correctly?
Well I would say no. It is true that the odds favoured the finesse of the D9 but we have failed to think it through. If West started with 4 diamonds in addition to the known 2 clubs and assumed 6 hearts, then he had a singleton spade and most of the time it will be an honour and he can be end-played with it. So we don't finesse the diamond but try for the 3-3 break. When that fails we ruff the last diamond and exit with a small spade.
On this hand, West plays the SQ and East cannot afford to overtake it. West is left on lead with only hearts to play. We ruff in dummy and discard our losing spade for 6C bid and made.
If West had started with the SQ at trick1 it would not harm us to duck it. West would have to lead another suit at trick and we would ruff the heart in dummy, draw trumps and cash the SA. We would be able to count the West hand for 2641 distribution allowing us to finesse the D9 with some confidence to make the slam.
East would be left regretting his decision to save over 5C although at -500 it would have been cheaper than allowing North/South to make a vulnerable game.