Release 2.19o
News

29th March 2020

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Archived hands of the week
This week had a succession of interesting hands. I only wish I had been awake enough to make the most of them.
 
North/South had a number of potential slams  to bid and then find a way to make them. I failed on two of them as you will see in the next weeks when I look at the play of two interesting slam contracts. Board 1 was the first possible slam -
 
As North I held A3/KQ108752/AQJ3/-. A hand with potential - what would you open? Well, we play weak twos so my options were 1H or a strong 2C. I don't like to open 1H when I have no idea how to rebid, so I decided on a possibly unsound Acol 2C. The opponents passed throughout, and Georgia responded 3C and then raised my 3H rebid to 4H. In our style a positive response does not promise any particular values, and the raise to 4H is not forcing. Probably I should pass, but I risked a jump to 6H. Partner held J42/A94/9/QJ8654 and the contract made easily on a diamond lead.
 

 

 

30.12.13.


We finish the year with another slam hand, as bidding and making a slam is one of the most enjoyable parts of the game. On board 8, North has a routine weak NT opening and South with a strong hand with two weakish 5 card majors has an interesting choice of responses, which partially depends on the system in use. I think that a normal approach would be to start with a transfer to Spades with the intention of continuing with 3 Hearts - for some players this shows 5/5 distribution as hands with 5/4 in the majors would use Stayman and then follow with a jump to 3 of the long suit if partner denies a major. As an aside, there is a convention called Smolen which is widely played in America, where responder jumps in the 4 card suit to achieve the effect of transferring the contract to the 1NT opener. This is particularly sensible when playing strong NTs.
 
Returning to the hand, in response to the transfer to Spades the North hand should not break the transfer (in my opinion) with a 4333 shape and so bids 2 Spades . As planned, South continues with 3 Hearts to show the second suit. Some would play this as forcing to game whilst for us it is only invitational and the bidding can stop if opener bids 3 Spades. It is very important to know your system here as, if 3 Hearts is game forcing, 3 Spades by opener should be a stronger bid than using up space by jumping to 4 Spades. However, if the sequence is only invitational plus opener would need to jump to 4 spades with a good hand to ensure that game is reached.
 
On the actual hand, North should wake up to the fact that his hand has greatly improved. He holds decent 4 card support for Spades, a superb holding in support of partners Hearts and an outside Ace, all very positive features. To alert partner to this fact, North cuebids 4 Clubs, an unusual action which tells partner that the opening hand is good for a possible slam. There is a problem now as South does not know which suit is agreed. Without an interest in slam South could sign off in 4 Hearts and expect partner to convert to spades if necessary.
 
As South has a strong hand and now knows that  North has a good fit he could just jump to 6 Hearts for a choice of slams. However, should opener have the SKQ, HKQ, CA a grand slam could be makeable so jumping to the six level is premature. So South cuebids the Diamond Ace, expecting partner to now tell him which suit is agreed. When North bids 4 Spades to set trumps South continues with 4NT as Keycard Blackwood. The response shows that a keycard is missing so 6 Spades becomes the final contact.
 
If the game was either rubber bridge or teams in which making the contract is very important and overtricks relatively unimportant the declarer would probably win the Diamond lead and play Ace and another Spade claiming 12 tricks when the trumps split 2-2. This approach minimises the danger of conceding a ruff in a side suit if breaks are very bad. In pairs it is important to try for the overtrick if the trump situation is fortunate, so declarer should cross to dummy by overtaking a Club honour with the Ace to take the Spade finesse. When the SQ is covered by the King it is normal to play for the suit to split 2-2 and so we drop the S10 and make 13 tricks. The chance of a 2-2 split is 40% whilst a 3-1 is 50% but the chance of a particular player having 3 cards is only half of the 3-1 splits and thus 25% making playing for the drop a clear favourite.

 

Board 7 - 9.12.13
It was Christmas party night this week. The food and company was excellent but the turnout was disappointing. The scoring was aggregate making games and slams even more important than usual.

To bid slams with any degree of certainty there needs to be accurate bidding at lower levels as shown by today's hand. South with a balanced 19 count is not good enough to open 2NT so chooses 1 Diamond. After West passes North should make the practical bid of 4 Hearts. This sort of response to an opening 1 bid should look like a textbook 4 of a major opener, so a good 7 card suit and little else. With the high cards promised by the opening bid the  contract should have a good chance of success.
 
After the 4H response it is easy for South to envision a slam counting 7 probable heart tricks to go with 3 clubs and 2 aces for 12 in total. There is even a diamond finesse in reserve. So 4NT as Keycard Blackwood is the obvious continuation. North bids 5 hearts to show 2 keycards without the queen of hearts.
 
Now South can count a sure 12 tricks and should look for a grand slam and bid 5NT. He does not expect partner to have a king but it does no harm to check. As well as asking for kings the 5NT bid announces that all aces are held and suggests a grand slam. Normally the responding hand will show the number of kings but he is allowed to jump to 7 with extra tricks.
 
On this hand North has shown 7 good hearts and in response to 4NT has revealed the Heart Ace and King. On the actual hand North has an eighth heart which is an extra winner so he should jump to 7 Hearts and South converts to 7NT which is completely lay down. Sequences like this are only possible with decent understandings and partnership trust.
Board 19 - 2.12.13
Most players use negative doubles these days. Once upon a time they were called sputniks which dates the original idea very well. In the past, if your partner opened and the next hand overcalled, a double was for penalties, saying that the overcaller was in trouble. Today, a double asks partner to bid something intelligent, with strong emphasis on any unbid major suit.
 
So, what do you do when you have a penalty double? It is no good to double and hope partner gets the message as he will bid something which is not what you want. So, you pass (smoothly.....) on the expectation that partner will reopen with a double on any hand that would have passed a penalty double. Board 19 is a good example. After South passes and West opens his nice hand with 1 Spade, North has to decide whether to overcall. He has a reasonable 6 card suit and an opening hand, so I would choose to bid 2 Hearts, especially as I am not vulnerable.
 
Now, East knows that he would like to defend 2 Hearts doubled, expecting a good penalty, and no expectation of making a game. So East passes in tempo, and hopes for a reopening double from his partner. South passes, and West has the ideal hand for a double - extra strength and support for all unbid suits. No-one has anything to add, so the final contract is 2 Hearts doubled. Normal sensible defence will get it 4 down for +800 - better than a game. At one table, it only went down 500 but that was still a good score for East/West as several played in partscores, and 7 pairs conceded either 300 or 400. With both 3NT and 5 Diamonds makeable, it is hard to see how this was achieved, but it was a nice present for the North/South pairs.
Board 14 - 2.12.13
Board 14 was another example of not being able to double for penalties and therefore passing and waiting for partner to double. West held -
 
S Q107
H A53
D J7
C AJ875
 
and heard partner open 1 Diamond and the next hand overcall 2 Clubs. The vulnerability was love all, so it seemed that the penalty available against 2 Clubs is probably greater than bidding and making 3NT. So West passed intending to pas the reopening double. East held -
 
S AJ5
H 942
D AKQ10832
C -
 
and knows partner must have a penalty double of Clubs, as nothing else explains why the bidding as stopped so quickly. So should we double? I would say no, as our hand is all about Diamonds and the penalty in 2 Clubs will probably be inadequate. At our table this hand reopened with 2 Diamonds (although I would have bid 3). The next hand tried again with 2 Hearts and West doubled. This shows a decent hand with Clubs and some defence to Hearts so is a penalty suggestion. Our East removed it again to 3 Diamonds which seems a huge underbid to me. West was about to bid 3NT when the overcaller tried again with 4 Clubs. West's double was worth 500 - better than any game but not as good as the pair who tried 6NT and found the SK with the weak hand to give 12 tricks. I am sure that they wouldn't have bid it without the S10!
 
Once upon a time, bidding was much more simple than today in that a double of an overcall was penalty and partner would normally pass. Today we pass for penalties with all the resulting complications and doubles are takeout which is also more complicated. I can still remember the first board of my first ever match when I opened and they overcalled 2 Hearts. My partner's double netted us 2300, still the largest penalty I have achieved and life was easier then.
Board 4 - 18.11.13
Easy Bidding?
 
 
Is it difficult to  bid a grand slam? Sometimes it is very difficult but not always. Board 4 is an example of how good agreements can make bidding very simple.
 
North has a balanced 18 count and opens 1 of a red suit depending on partnership understandings. My preference is for 1D whatever the system you are playing.
 
In response South has a 17 count with a reasonable 7 card major. In my opinion, a jump shift response shows about a 16 count with a decent 6 card suit. Maybe slightly less if the suit is strong. The South hand is near enough to this description so it is a jump shift to 2 spades.
 
Now North has it easy. He knows partner has 6 spades to the king and probably the jack as well with a strong hand. so he jumps to 4NT as Keycard Blackwood as the number of keycards is the main item of importance.
 
The response of 5C shows 0 or 3 which must be 3 as South has shown a strong hand.
 
So North can count tricks. There must be at least 6 tricks in spades, plus his ace of hearts, plus the known 2 minor suit aces in dummy with his king/queen of diamonds and king of clubs for a total of 12 tricks on top. As partner has promised a strong hand and has only shown the spade king, diamond ace and club ace he must have more so we bid 7NT and be certain we are going to make it.
 
When dummy comes down we can count 7spades, 3hearts, 3diamonds and 2 clubs for a total of 15 tricks on top. Should we have bid higher?
 
The board was played 18 times and only 3 pairs managed to reach 7NT. Most of the rest stayed in a small slam and those who bid in no-trumps were well above average. If you lucky enough to hold these sort of hands, getting a good score is not so tough.
 
 
PLAY PROBLEMS - 21.10.13.
 I have talked often about bidding, so today we will look at some play problems from Monday evening. The ability to maximise your tricks without risking your contract will ensure good scores on a consistent basis. It might be easier to follow if you open the Brunton website in a second window and get up a copy of the entire deals. So let's look at some hands :-
 
Board 1 our opponents reached 5C by West on the following hands :-
 
S Q6                                          S A53
H Q                                            H J1073
D J742                                       D AK108
C AKQ1075                               C J8
 
 
The lead is the S10, you play low and the King wins. A heart switch is won by the Ace and a small diamond led through the AK. A count of tricks shows 2 in spades, 2 in diamonds and 6 in clubs for a total of 10 and we need 11. The diamond finesse is a possibility and so is the ruffing finesse in hearts. Which is better?
 
Well, trying to drop the DQ before trying the hearts is much better, but we do not have enough entries to do that so a decision is required. The better option is obvious when you think about it. If the opening leader had the HAK he would have led one, so lead the HJ from dummy, and discard if next hand does not cover. Result, 5C made and it feels good until the traveller is opened and everyone else is in 3NT making plenty of tricks so we still get a near bottom.
 
Keen players will spot that South failed to find a very tough defence by winning the SK and switching to the HK. Now if declarer tries the ruffing finesse in hearts he will be very sad to see North win the HA for 1 down.
 
Board 6 and this time West is declarer in 4H with :-
 
S K875                           S AQ3
H KQ87432                    H 65
D 6                                 D AQ3
C K                                C Q9832
 
The opening lead is the SJ. A count of losers this time shows 1 or more in hearts and 1 in clubs with a possible loser in the fourth spade. As we need to play the hearts from dummy, we win the SA and lead a heart to the king which wins. If we are gambling we could now finesse the DQ hoping to discard the club loser and pick up the hearts and spades for only 1 loser and make 12 tricks. If it loses,, the defence can cash the CA and make a heart to hold us to 10 tricks. Alternatively, we could aim for 11 tricks by leading the CK to establish the queen to throw the fourth spade. Either way we need to get to dummy to lead another round of hearts in case South holds the AJx This route leads to 11 tricks just losing the AC and the AH.
 
Returning to the gambler who leads a diamond to the queen which holds; we cashes the AD to discard the CK and leads a heart to pick up the trump suit with only one loser. Now there is the spade suit to deal with. When you lead a second spade North plays the S10 and you win the queen. Now some of you may have heard of the principle of restricted choice. it applies to a situation where a player may have two touching cards such as the S10 and S9 in this example. The presumption is that when he plays one of them that he does not hold the other. So, in this case, the play of the S10 makes it odds on that he does not hold the S9. So we lead a spade to the S8 and make 12 tricks.
 
Very keen players will notice that if West cashes all his trumps coming down to a 3 card ending where he holds SK87 and dummy holds SQ3 CQ then what does South keep? If it includes the CA then he only has 2 spades and if he keeps all the spades then the CQ is a winner. This is an example of a Simple Squeeze. (and yes, there are lots of other squeezes to tell you about some other time)
 
Lastly, a problem for South who reaches an aggressive 4H on Board 12 after East has overcalled a weak 2S to see:-
 
                                     S QJ
                                     H KQ7
                                     D K1097
                                     C Q963
 
                                     S K97
                                     H 1098432
                                     D 83
                                     C AK
 
 
The opening lead is S6 to the SA and another spade won with the Q in dummy. There are 3 aces to lose with the possibility of a second heart or diamond loser, so some good fortune is needed. How to play it?
 
Let's start by assuming that East holds the DA. Can we make it - West will certainly have the HA in that case.  We would have to cash the CAK and then get back to dummy to play the CQ to discard a diamond. When we try to do that in hearts West can rise with the Ace and switch to diamonds for 1 down. So to avoid that we could ruff the SK in dummy to cash the CQ. There are 2 problems with this line, we might now lose 2 trump tricks as dummy is down to KQ doubleton, or West can ruff the SK with the HA and play a diamond. There is also a fair chance that East might ruff a club with the HJ.
 
Having spent time thinking, we decide that West will need to have the DA and our only problem is the trumps. So we play a club to hand and a heart to the king losing to the ace. Our East returned a club so we win and play another heart on which West plays small. There is one heart left and it is the jack, who has it? Well, we all know that when we have 9 of a suit that the odds favour a 2-2 break so we should play the other top honour, or should we? There is another theory called vacant spaces. We know West started with 2 spades and East with 6 spades. Therefore there are 11 chances to 7 that West holds the HJ so we should finesse. It loses and we go 1 down, so much for the odds. But did we play correctly?
 
Yes, we played the odds but missed a very practical play. Before playing a second trump, lead the SK. We know that West will ruff it and now there is only one trump left so the HJ will drop. Contract made.
 
So the contract is cold? Well, a top player sitting West will wonder why we are playing the SK knowing I will ruff, especially when there is nothing useful to discard from dummy. So he will discard on the KS and I will finesse in trumps for 1 down after all.
 
Well, there is more to it that that. East knows that he might be able to defeat the contract with his HJ if his partner has the decency to hold the 8,9 or 10 of trumps. He should play a spade when he wins the HA hoping his partner can ruff high enough to dislodge the other top heart from dummy thus promoting the HJ. This is totally necessary if partner started with the H8,9 or 10 as there is no finesse position and they will both fall on the second round. This time partner doesn't hold the necessary card and, as before, needs not to ruff the spade. Declarer is now back to the heart guess but should work out what was going on and get the trumps right to make the contract. Bridge can be a complicated game.
 
For the record, our opponents went off in the first two hands and Georgia made 4H on the third one. When things go well they go well - or so it seems;-)
 
 
 
 
 
ALL ABOUT WEAK 2'S - 14.10.13.
Do you play weak 2s? Most of us do although some play Multi 2D to show a weak 2 in a major or strong hands. When the weak 2 was first invented it was supposed to be like an opening pre-empt but with one fewer card in your suit.So you would open 3S with KQJxxxx in spades but 2S with one fewer spade.Over the years opening pre-empts have become weaker and some players open weak 2s on poor suits, or even only a 5 card suit with varying success.
 
This Monday there were a large number of potential weak 2s and we will see how they fared and how well the the opponents dealt with them.
 
On Board 1 I held as North first in hand not vulnerable -
S 732
H AQ9754
D 102
C QJ
Although the hand is not a classic weak 2 it looks a very reasonable choice. The next two players passed and West had to decide what to do holding -
S AKJ10
H 2
D J8
C A109742.
At our table he bid 3C which was passed out making 10 tricks. I believe that there were several reasons to make a takeout double of 2H. Firstly he held 4 spades and doesn't want to miss a major suit fit, secondly it is possible that partner has a heart stack and can pass for penalties. The fact that South has not raised hearts increases the chance that partner has several of them. If you double, partner will pass, as he held 5 decent hearts and you get a penalty of 500 which is larger than the lucky 3NT that can be made.
 
On board 13 I was still  North and again was first in hand but vulnerable and held -
S AQ9874
H 104
D J8
C 983. 
I think this is ok for an opening 2S especially as the spade spots are good. The next hand doubled for takeout and Georgia with only 1 spade and 7 hearts  decided to run to hearts.Our method for this is to redouble to ask partner to bid the next suit and then she could bid her hearts. Our opponents rightly decided to bid on but got too high and went off.
 
Board 14 was weird. First in hand, our opponent as East held -
S KJ10754
H 6
D Q1086
C 54.
To me this is an ideal weak 2 especially as it was not vulnerable and I know some players who would open 3S. To open 2S should get your side to 4S which can be made with careful declarer play.Our East passed and Georgia held -
S Q2
H J109752
D J7
C 76.
Whilst I might push it and open 2H if not vulnerable and 1st in hand so there are two opponents to inconvenience and only one partner, I would certainly pass 2nd in hand. Well, Georgia didn't pay her entry fee (and mine!) to sit there and pass so 2H it was.The next hand doubled and I had a 16 count with a heart fit so bid 2NT for range. She showed a minimum so I bid 3H to play.East finally joined in with 3S. When it came back to me I was tempted to either double or bid 4H but in the end settled for a pass.If I had doubled the contract would have made and if I tried 4H I guess East would bid 4S and might have made it.
 
Just to show I also have a sense of humour we have board 17 where again I was 1st in hand not vulnerable with -
S K9865
H 9
D K10964
C J10
Well by now you know that I like to make weak 2s quite freely when 1st in hand not vulnerable so 2S was my bid. - not exactly classic. East passed and Georgia raised me to 4S with 4 spades to the queen and a balanced 9 count. (she did this using the Law of Total Tricks, which says, holding 10 major cards between the hands, raise to 4 ie try to make 10 tricks) West had a big hand and doubled for penalties. I managed 9 tricks for -100 with East/West cold for 4H so the operation was a success this time. (the Law of Total Tricks isn't always accurate but was on this hand, we could make 9, they could make 10 with their 10 card fit)
 
Then for the hand of the night - board 20 - when West held 1st in hand but vulnerable -
S AJ10642
H 5
D 765
C 1092
Would you open? I guess I would and my opponent was like minded so 2S it was. The next two hands passed it to Georgia with a distributional hand -
S -
H KJ8763
D ADJ83
C A6
What would you do? Well we play Leaping Michaels in this position. A bid of 4 of a minor shows that suit and the other major (so hearts here) at least 5/5 and strong. So this is the perfect bid?  Well perhaps not if you take my earlier advice about reopening with a takeout double in this sort of situation.She decided the descriptive bid was best so 4D it was. This found me with a most unsuitable hand -
S KQ987
H Q
D 94
C KQ874
The problem with conventions is you need to know what happens next and we have never discussed it. I didn't fancy 4H on a singleton or 5D on 2 small so tried 4NT to play - perhaps. From then on we were on different pages and finished in 6D down 2. Meanwhile look what happens if you double 2S. The penalty in in 4 figures.
Had we managed to do that, we would have won the Steve Ray Cup instead of coming 2nd.....
 
Hand of the Week - 23.09.13.

I do not see that there was an outstanding hand this week, so we will look at board 14 which is an interesting bidding battle, with some important points in play and defence.

Both East and South pass, and West opens 1H.  North’s bid depends on system; it is an excellent intermediate jump overcall of 2S, but most play weak jumps,  so 1S is our bid.

At our table, East raised to 2H. The hand is very maximum for the bid despite the lack of aces and kings. In the modern style, a jump raise is more an attempt to win the contract than to invite game, so I would have bid 3H on this hand.  The truly invitational hand should  cuebid the opponents suit to show at least game invitational values.

South now wants to bid, but does not have primary spade support of 3 or more cards. The answer is again a modern development,  the responsive double,  which shows tolerance for partners’ suit and support  for  the unbid suits, a perfect description.

At our table, West passed when she might have pre-empted with 3H, and I somewhat cowardly chose 2S when I might have tried 3S, although game looked unlikely opposite a passed hand without a true spade fit.

East rebid 3H, and Georgia raised me to 3S, a weaker bid than doubling again. West continued to 4H leaving me to make a decision. It seemed clear that the hand belongs to North/South but is it a game? It seemed to me that it was unlikely that we can make 4 spades opposite a passed hand so I doubled 4 hearts and everyone passed.

The obvious lead is the SA and the carding and the bidding show that declarer started with 3 spades and partner with a doubleton. Now how to defend? It seems probable that partner has at least one honour in diamonds and probably the CK. So we could play CA and another, hoping to get a ruff for 2 down.  But we know that declarer has 6 hearts and 3 spades so is unlikely to hold 3 clubs.  If we play CA and a club we might set up the suit and allow the contract to be made.

So I decided to try for any diamond tricks that we might have,  on a good day partner could have AK10 over the QJ. As there is no chance that I would lead away from either the ace or king in this position I chose to give count be leading low. On this hand it was not a good choice.

Declarer played the queen and the spotlight is on South. Knowing that the ace is with West there is no percentage on covering with the king. If South does cover West can discard one of the club losers on the third round of diamonds and make the contract.  It is text book not to cover the first of touching honours and this hand shows why. As long as the defence is not stupid the contract goes down one giving us 60% on the board.

Returning to the auction, if North can overcall 2S as intermediate then South should raise to 4S but can it be made?  A trump lead by East will result in the defence getting 2 heart tricks and at least 2 diamonds but what happens on the normal lead of HQ?

West  can overtake the lead to return a trump. Declarer wins in dummy, crosses to the CA to ruff the heart, cashes the CK and ruffs a club, hoping for a 3-3 split. When that fails, it is time to play on diamonds, needing to win 1 trick in the suit.  East has shown up with the HQJ and CQJ so the DA is near certain to be with West to justify the opening bid. So there is no point in leading a diamond to

the king. The only chance is to duck the diamond twice and hope the ace falls. As you see this works and 4S is made. If you count the hand, you will be fairly certain that West was 3622 and you would be confident that this line will work.

Not entirely surprisingly, making 4S would be a top for NS just as making 4H the other way would be for EW. Three N/S pairs made 10 tricks in 4S and 2 others managed 11!  Three E/W pairs made 10 tricks in hearts, including one in game.

26.08.13

Steve is once again!! On holiday so it befalls to me to step into his shoes and find a ‘hand of the week’

Most experienced players have ‘gadgets’ they use when opponents have the ‘audacity’ to interfere with their bidding! One common theme of today’s players is to try and disrupt the bidding after a 1 NT opening.  

What to do after intervention over opening NT?  S dealer Vul: E/W

Auction:  South will pass and West if playing a weak NT will open 1NT

The action that North takes will depend on the defence they are playing, most partnerships will have a way of expressing this hand type, Kelsey, Asptro, for instance. At our table I could have bid 2D to show the majors but chose a bid of 2H and East passed.

Should East bid?  In my opinion - Yes.  By using a conventional bid called Lebensohl one can easily describe your hand type. 

2NT = artificial transfer bid, forcing opener to bid3C, after which responder may pass or sign off in three of his real suit. 

3 of a new suit is therefore natural and forcing

On the given hand South will almost certainly bid 3H over 2NT and it would be totally inadvisable for West to now bid 4Clubs, as partner could have a much weaker hand for his bid of 2NT. 

The success of this contract is by no means certain and good defence will certainly result in a plus score for E/W

East leads singleton Diamond – West wins with the Ace and now should ‘tell’ East what suit to play back, therefore returning his lowest card (2d) to indicate an entry in clubs, East ruffs and plays back the CQ – West wins with the Ace, noting the fall of the King by declarer, West should now play back his highest diamond and East after ruffing should return a Spade to the Ace and on the subsequent diamond return must make is heart king.

So, in defence E/W make 6 tricks for a +65% score

19.08.13.
I am grateful to Don for this week's hand.  He is the hero of the hand, having bid and made a grand slam and scored a joint top on the board, but did he deserve it?
 
Once upon a time, the West hand could be described by opening an Acol 2H - it being a hand of power and strength with  probable 8+ playing tricks, backed by high cards. In more modern times it has been normal to use a response in the next suit as negative, allowing the opener to rebid 2NT to show a second suit of spades and still stop in 3H if responder is completely broke.
 
Today, many pairs play three weak 2's hence Don's choice of 1H opening. Liz made the normal response of 1S and Don rebid 4C as a cuebid, to show a very strong raise of spades with a club control. Now the focus was on Liz with the East hand. Don had shown a hand worth game, even opposite a very weak response and she had 2 aces and a king, although the value of the diamond honours was not as certain as if they were in hearts or spades. Rightly she cuebid her DA to await developments. Don then cuebid his HA and Liz returned to 4S to say she had no further interest at this point - perhaps slightly cowardly. Don continued with Keycard Blackwood and discovered 2 aces opposite.
 
So, having discovered that partner has at least 4 spades and 2 aces, with some limited slam interest, what to do now? It really comes down to something of a guess, as what becomes important is how many spades partner holds and also how many hearts, as the more hearts that Liz has, the greater chance of the suit running for 6 tricks. There are some inferences about the number of spades in the East hand. With 5 spades and 2 aces it would have been cowardly to try to sign off in 4S and with 6 cards in spades, to try to stop in 4S would be completely wrong. Don took a very optimistic view in jumping to 7S. He was counting on making 6 heart tricks, 2 minor suit aces and 5 spade tricks, 4 tricks when drawing trumps and a diamond ruff in his hand. For this to work, he needed spades to break 3-2 ( Although some 4-1 breaks could be overcome or partner might have the SJ) and hearts to break well.
 
This time he was right, as 13 tricks were makeable without using partners DK. the books say that the odds for a grand slam should be at least 75% so was he within the odds? If the grand slam had needed both spades and hearts to break 3-2 that is about 68%x68% ie about 45% so clearly inferior. However, the extra trick in the form of the DK probably means that only one of the suits needs to break well moving the odds much closer to 75%.
 
So did he do right? he scored 27mps out of 28 for making 7S. If he had settled for 6S +1 he would have scored 18 out of 28 which is about 65%. He wondered if he might have tried 7NT which is cold and would have given all 28 out of 28 this time but is well against the odds. You decide for yourself.

 
 

  •  
 
 
 
I talked about very strong balanced hands last week. Here is a hand that we played in the Portuguese Open Pairs recently. With a balanced 26 count I opened 2C and rebid 3NT over the 2D response. That ended the bidding. Georgia and I do not play Kokish as described below. As a result we failed to find the 4-4 heart fit where 11 tricks are easy with a normal 3-3 break in trumps. In fact with the trump break the heart slam only needed the club finesse or lead.
 
In 3NT West chose to lead a diamond which ensured that only 10 tricks were possible. Our matchpoint score was only saved by the pairs who failed in aggressive 6H contracts.
 
If we played Kokish we would have had room to find the heart fit and play in 4H making 11 tricks for a decent result. 
 
As mentioned last week, Eric Kokish has introduced a new way of bidding 25+ balanced hands when the bidding starts with a 2C opening and a 2D response.
 
The basic idea is for openers rebid of 2H shows either hearts or the balanced 25+. It is responders duty to bid 2S and now opener bids 2NT with the balanced 25+ and a natural bid when holding hearts.
 
After the 2NT which is forcing to game, responder can play the same system as used over a 2NT opening (and also 2C-2D-2NT). It allows responder to look for a fit below the level of 3NT making further bidding much easier.
 
All that said there are a wide range of repercussions to consider if you want to adopt this convention as current agreements cannot be used.
 
It is normal to play 2C-2D-2H-3H as showing a fit and an ace or perhaps a control) with a raise to 4H showing a good fit with values that do not include any controls. And new suits over 2H show 5+ cards and some values. Also you can use 1 of the bids to show a 2nd negative. Originally that was 2NT but more recently 2S has been used. We prefer to use 3C as the 2nd negative over either 2H or 2S.
 
All of these sequences are not available when playing Kokish so the meanings of future bids need to be considered when opener has a hand with hearts. Suppose the bidding starts 2C-2D-2H-2S-3C where opener shows hearts and clubs you could play -
 
3D= 2nd negative.
3H/4H- Raise with/without controls.
3S= 5+ spades
 
all perfectly playable. But what if openers second suit is diamonds? or worse still spades?
 
the sequence 2C-2D-2H-2S-3S leaves no room for responder to do anything except bid 3NT or 4 of a major. You could add 4C/D=good hand for hearts/spades but it gets very awkward
 
So now it is up to you to decide whether to add Kokish to your system..
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
How often do you hold a balanced 26 count?  Well,  if you manage it very often,  you should stop playing duplicate bridge and start playing for money!
 
Because it is such a rare hand type, most partnerships will have few bidding understandings to make use of. We play stayman and transfers after the 3NT rebid. Many years ago Terence Reese proposed playing 4D as Flint showing a very weak hand with a 5+ card major and 4H&4S as having some interest in bidding on. It is not clear to me that the North hand above is strong enough to make a forward going bid and is only worth the Flint 4D.
 
Last Monday, we held the hands  above and bid them as shown. Georgia opened the 26 count with 2C. I showed weakness with 2D and Georgia rebid 3NT to show 25/26 balanced.  With a weak hand and a 6 card major it was obviously to transfer to 4H and there the bidding ended. 
 
Well,  they may have been the correct bids in theory but the final contract was clearly inferior as a slam is well with the odds. The spades will often provide 4 tricks either with a 3-3 break or, as here, with the jack dropping singleton or doubleton. If these chances do not work out there is the chance of making the twelfth trick in diamonds, so what went wrong? There were only 29 points between the hands and no exceptional fit so why is a slam so good?
 
I would suggest that Georgia should have broken the transfer to hearts by jumping to 5H to show an exceptional hand with all suits controlled. If you consider that a responding hand with 6 small hearts and at least 3 small clubs will make 6H the 40% of the time that hearts break 2-2 and might sneak home on a 3-1 break if the defence fail to cash their DA on lead.
 
In my opinion the South hand is too strong to be shown as 25/26 balanced. The controls held in combination make the hand very powerful. It will make a slam opposite very weak responding hands with a long suit such as :-
 
Sxxxxxx/Hxx/Dx/Cxxxx
Sxx/Hxxx/DQxxxxx/Cxx
 
and similar hands. therefore I would have bid 2S over the 2D response to leave partner some room to show any values and suits held.  Over 2S partner could have chosen to bid 3C to show a double negative hand, but holding a 6 card major and a partial spade fit would probably have chosen 3H to show a semi-positive with at least 5 hearts. Over 3H I would have asked for aces and settled for 6H when one ace was missing.
 
Recently there has been a new development in bidding theory by Eric Kokish of Canada is designed to improve the bidding of 25+ balanced hands. My next article will explain the idea.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 
South is first in hand with 11 points and a decent 5 card diamond suit. As the hand has two aces to provide the defensive tricks an opening bid promises and the potentially valuable S10 and D10 and 5431 distribution I would regard it as a normal 1D opening.
 
West has an obvious pre-empt with 8 clubs which are solid except for the queen. We can count a certain 7 tricks and a possible 8 tricks with clubs as trumps. The usual rule for pre-empting is to keep the penalty to a maximum of 500. As West is not vulnerable that leaves the pessimists bidding 4C and the optimists choosing 5C.
 
However there is another possibility, it could be that a reasonable number of the missing values could be held by East and our side can make 3NT. We use a jump cue-bid overcall to show a solid suit (usually a minor) and little else. Others play it also shows values outside the suit although we believe that that makes the hand strong enough to overcall or double. On this basis we would bid 3D over the 1D opening.
 
At the table our West chose the aggressive 5C overcall leaving me as North to make a decision. It seems that 5D is going to make and a slam or grand slam is possible. It is interesting to consider what the various bids mean in this awkward situation -
 
Double is for penalties although a very strong or distributional opener should bid on knowing there are some values opposite.
 
A new suit is clearly natural so that leaves bids of 6C and 5NT to consider.
 
To me the cue-bid of 6C must agree diamonds and promise 1st round control of clubs. That may be sufficient information to enable the opener to bid 7D on a hand such as SA/HAKxx/AQxxx/xxx.
 
That leaves hands where responder wants to bid on but does not know which suit should be trumps , e.g. -
SAJxxx/HAKxxx/DKJx/C-  or SAQJxxx/HAKxxx/DQx/C-. The only available bid is 5NT which has to be for takeout, It is the duty of the opener to rebid a long diamond suit or to bid a major with length there.  The first example hand would pass whichever suit opener bids. The second hand would remove a rebid in diamonds to hearts to ask for a choice of the majors.
 
Back to the real hand the possibilities over 5C are 5D which I felt was an underbid or a 6 level bid. I thought 6C was appropriate in that I had a big diamond fit and 1st round club control but overall the hand was too weak to suggest a possible grand slam. So I jumped to 6D and hope for the best. As you can see the opening hand although a minimum was very suitable and the slam was cold.
 
Now it was East's turn. He has a weakfish hand with a 4 card club fit, a singleton diamond and a possible spade ruff. It is almost impossible to see how 6D will go down if partner has a normal pre-empt with his values in clubs. So if the opponents can make 1370 in 6D and we are not vulnerable we can make a profit by bidding 7C. Even 4 down would be only 1100. Partner's bid promises 8 tricks and we can surely add 1 or 2 more. That suggests we will go down 2 or 3 tricks in 7C which will cost either 300 or 500. This is less than anyone who allows their opponents to play in 5D and score 600 or 620. So far it is a no-brainer but bidding 7C does preclude the possibility that the opponents have got it wrong and are going down in their slam thus giving us a top.
 
For me to bid 7C is clear cut and the best that North/South can do is double for 300 and a bottom.  Luckily for us our West passed and we scored 1370 for a 75% score. I see no East/West pair managed to find their very successful save.
 
This week there were many hands when it was necessary to make the obvious contracts with solid declarer play. Board 2 was one example 
 
The bidding is not easy for East who has only 11 points but good distribution with support for both majors. if East decides to open, the normal Acol choice is 1H so as to give an easy rebid of 2D. The downside of this sequence is that partner will normally expect 5 cards in hearts and might put you into a 4-2 fit. Some pairs would agree to open 1D and rebid 2D should partner be so unreasonable to respond 2C. For those who play 5 card majors the only choice is to open 1D. It is normal to play 15-17 NTs with 5 card majors so that a 2 level response would show 11+ points. This allows East to rebid 2NT after 1D-2C showing in theory 12-14 balanced - nearly a good description. If East opens 1H the final contract will be in game, probably 3NT played by West.
 
Given the difficulties if you open the East hand, some will decide to pass leaving West to open or rebid 1NT depending on the ranges used and if the West hand is regarded as too good for a weak NT.  With 11 points, East would invite game and the contract will be 3NT played by West.
 
I was North and had to lead after East had bid hearts and West had shown a balanced hand. Rather than speculate with a spade I chose a diamond. Declarer won in dummy and should now count tricks. There are 4 in diamonds, 2 aces in the rounded suits and 2 or 3 tricks in spades depending on the location of the SQ. So if South holds the SQ with fewer than 4 cards we nearly guarantee making our contract. So we lead the S10 at trick 2. At our table I allowed the S10 to win the trick and declarer took the opportunity to finesse in clubs losing to my CK.
 
Now I had to decide what to play next. It was clear that there no future in spades or diamonds. In hearts, partner would need to hold the queen whilst in clubs, there was a danger in finessing partner and no realistic chance in getting to her hand, even if a club switch set up a trick in her hand. Of course, a diamond continuation was passive and would not give a trick away. However it would leave declarer time to switch back to spades setting up that suit to add to the 4 diamond tricks, the HA and some number of tricks in clubs.
 
So a heart switch it was. With dummy holding the A109X I decided that playing the HK was best and would gain should declarer hold the singleton queen. Our declarer ducked the HK and lost the next round to the HQ. Ultimately he failed to take all his tricks making only 8 in total.
 
 When I look at the results, I see that 6 declarers failed to make 9 tricks on this hand and it is hard to see why. Normal play will make 3 spades, 1 heart, 4 diamonds and the CA. If the defence fail to play hearts early there will be time to set up a 10th trick in clubs. So anyone who failed to make at least 9 tricks should look at the play and try to discover how more than 1 spade, 2 hearts and 1 club were lost.
 
 
 
 

 


  •  
 
Accurate defensive play is worth many matchpoints in every session we play. Board 12 was one such hand. It was played 16 times on Monday evening. Ten declarers made 11 tricks for an above average score whilst four were held to 10 tricks for a great score for the defenders.
 
The bidding is straightforward. North opens 1D and South, who is to strong to respond 3NT for fear of missing a slam, responds 2C awaiting developments. North with a super suit  holds too few high cards to bid anything except 2D. After this weak rebid South bids 3NT to end the auction. The resultant contract is at risk on a spade lead if the diamond finesse were to lose but is the highest scoring contract and where you would want to be at pairs. At teams where making game contracts is paramount you might prefer to reach 5D.
 
West is on lead with an obvious spade lead but has to decide the choice of card and think about the bidding. South would probably have bid a 4 card major if he held one so we can assume that we has not got one. Personally I do not like to underlead touching honours such as KQ, QJ or J10 although many books would advise to lead low from these holdings, especially if they are not supported by another high card. So all experts would lead the highest honour from KQJ, QJ10 and J109 and most would do so from KQ10, QJ9 and J108. With lesser holdings they would chose the 4th highest. On this board the majority would try the SK which is just as well on this hand as the 4th highest lead would be won by dummy with the S9.    
 
On the lead of the SK dummy plays its singleton and East has to decide which card to play from the 8762. If you play normal encourage/discourage we play the S2 to deny the ace or the jack. If you play reverse then you play the S8. If you play mainly distributional signals it gets slightly more difficult when holding 4 small cards .My view is to play 3rd highest (S6) to discourage with four cards and 2nd highest to encourage - so the S8 from J876. This sort of agreement is more complicated than simple encourage/discourage but will help in a slightly different situation where declarer holds AJ doubleton and East can be read for 5 small cards when he plays the S2.
 
On this hand after East discourages on the SK lead the declarer (South) must decide what to do from his SAJ3. This is an easy decision as winning with the ace and taking a losing diamond finesse will result in defeat of the contract when a spade is returned through your remaining J3. Therefore we have to duck by playing the S3 leaving the AJ to guard the suit. Should West lead another spade it will be won by the jack which would make the contract easy to make The contract is still in danger if West can lead a heart to his partners ace and get a spade return when the diamond finesse will need to work.
 
When the SK is allowed to win the first trick it is West's turn to think. The card played by his partner should make it clear that he does not hold the ace or jack of spades so that a continuation will be a losing play. If we consider the other suits starting with clubs. Declarer has bid the suit, we have 4 cards and dummy has 3. Therefore our partner is short in clubs and will not be able to get the lead unless he has the ace. If he has the ace and returns a spade declarer will win at least 7 diamonds, 3 clubs and 1 spade and I will lose my HA. Alternatively partner holds the DK as well when the contract will always go down. Therefore a club switch must be wrong.
 
Now lets look at a diamond switch. If declarer has the DK he will start to play clubs through partner and cannot make a losing guess. He will make 1 spade, 7 diamonds and several clubs and there is some danger that we will never make our HA. If partner has the DK, when he wins it. he will return a spade to clear our suit. Declarer will win 1 spade, 6 diamonds and several clubs. Again we might not win our HA. Either way a diamond switch must be wrong.
 
So we have worked out that we need to play a heart but which one? if we lead a small one through the KJ in dummy partner might win with the HQ to return a spade which would be good.  Could anything go wrong? Imagine partner with HQ9xx. If declarer plays low partner might play the H9 and lose to the 10.The H9 is the correct play if you have led from the H10. Of course you will argue that you would have led the H10 in that situation but partner had a tough decision to make. When declarer lacks the HQ he may guess to play dummy's king and could run both the minors so we fail to win our HA.
 
When you think back to the bidding South is favourite to hold the HQ as he did jump to 3NT and might not have done so without a heart stopper. After a full analysis it becomes clear that we should cash our HA and play another. If partner has the HQ and an entry in one of the minors he will be able to cash the queen and the long card in the suit.
 
On the actual hand declarer would win the second heart in hand to take the diamond finesse. Partner will win the DK for our third defensive trick and we get a near top for holding declarer to 10 tricks .Of course we managed it?
 
I am afraid not. it was the last board of the night and we were sleeping. Georgia lead the SK and continued the suit into the AJ. Declarer took the diamond finesse which I ducked. Georgia showed out on the second round of diamonds and I won the king. Without any thought I returned a spade giving declarer 11 tricks on top.
I should have stopped and counted. I knew declarer had 2 spades and 6 diamonds and some other high cards. If Georgia has the CA then she will not have the HA so declarer might win 3 tricks in hearts to make 11 in total. If Georgia has the HA she is in danger of being squeezed in hearts and clubs so I should have led to her ace - but which one?
 
From Georgia's perspective she could count declarer for plenty of tricks unless I had the CA so she should have signalled for a heart switch to make sure that she got her ace .Thinking and counting can get tough late in the evening!
 
 
 
Sometimes you come across an opportunity to do something that seems brilliant until the reasons are analysed. Board 8 was such an opportunity and I am annoyed that I missed it by failing to apply the required concentration.
 
The bidding was very simple, 1NT = 15-17 raised to 6NT with North as declarer. The lead was the S2. On the previous hand, this defender had also led the same card, and proved to hold 4 small spades. It seemed reasonable to assume that this was a lead from a 4 card spade suit.
 
A count of tricks reveals 2 in spades, 1 in hearts, 4 in diamonds and 4 in clubs for a total of eleven top tricks. The only chance for the twelfth trick is to take a second trick in hearts. the main chance is that West holds the king with slight extra chances of East holding the singleton king or West having the J10 doubleton so that my H9 gets set up.
 
So how to play the contract? One possibility is to play a heart to the Ace and then another very early. On this hand you would be down one very quickly. Much better is to cash some winners and watch what develops. So we win the SA and cash our solid clubs and ensure we observe the cards - opponents have been known to throw away the wrong cards. As we cash the clubs East discards the H2 on the third round. On the 4th round West discards the SQ to show that she started with solid spades headed by the queen, and East discards the S3. Has anything interesting happened?
 
Yes it has - the heart discard by East is revealing as it is not normal to throw from a 4 card holding as it could easily cost a key trick, so it is more likely that East started with 3 or 5 cards in hearts.
 
Next we cash three rounds of diamonds ending in dummy (South). Somewhat surprisingly, East shows out again, discarding another spade. So what do we know now?
 
We know that East started with 2-2 in the minors and therefore 9 cards in the majors. If the lead was a true card his shape was 4522 which fits in with the discard of the H2 on the third club. So is it time to play West for the HK?
 
Well, West is assumed to have started with only 1 heart so East is 5 to 1 to have the king. This is very poor odds so we need to think about an endplay instead. First we cash the last diamond and discard a heart from our hand. West follows suit and West discards a heart. We are down to a 4 card ending needing 3 more tricks -
 
 
 
                                                                                                                S 5
                                                                                                                H Q94
 
                                                                      S J104                                                            S 8
                                                                       H ?                                                                 H ???
                                                                                                 
                                                                                                               S K
                                                                                                               H A76
 
The missing hearts are the KJ108. If we play the HA we will make the contract if West started with the singleton HK but not otherwise. As I have shown the chances of that are 5-1 against so we ignore that chance - so how can we make it?
 
We need to endplay West to make a losing lead. In this position if we play a heart and West wins he can safely return a spade to my King and we gain nothing. So we cash the SK leaving only hearts in our hands. Now the contract is cold as long as West's singleton heart is not the King. We lead a heart away from the Ace and watch for West's card. If it is the 8 we play out 9. East wins the 10 and then has to lead away from the KJ. If it is the 10 we cover with the Queen and East has to lead away from the J8. If it is the Jack we cover with the Queen and East wins with the King and has to lead away from the 108. And if it the King we curse and go 2 down in a laydown contract.
 
On the actual hand West plays the Jack and we make the contract and we feel very proud. And I missed it!
 
Looking at the travellers 1 pair made 6NT and 2 pairs made 12 tricks in 3NT. I guess that East led a 4th highest heart which might well be reasonable against 3NT but I would suggest that leading away from a King against 6NT is not reasonable and deserved to let the contract in.
 
 
 
 

 

 
 

 

It was teams this week and 16 teams was a good turnout. Team is about bidding and making your games, defeating the opponents games and avoiding dubious slams.
 
You as East hold this very promising hand -
 
S AQJ108
D 7
C AQJ1065
 
Image your surprise when partner deals and opens 1spade , what to do 
 
I guess the natural reaction is to bid 4NT as key card blackwood.
 
Partner responds 5C to show 0 or 3 key cards. As an opening with no key cards is not possible we know partner holds the KS,AH and AD so our only interest is the KC.
 Ii
How can we find out about it?
 
Suppose we bid 5NT for Kings. On this hand partner shows 2 kings. Most of the time one of them will be the KC. If not partner may have a singleton club or the finesse might win so we bid 7S. As those who remember the hand will know today is not a lucky day as the KC is missing and the finesse loses.
 
Some Wests will open 1D and raise to 3S if we respond 1S. If we respond 2C West will bid 2NT and then raise our 3S to 4S. In each case we will continue with 4NT and we in the same position as if West opens 1S.
 
So how do we avoid bidding a 50/50 grand slam?
 
In modern key card blackwood the responses are -
 
5C 0 or 3
5D 1 or 4
 
Although some players invert these - check with your partner.
 
5H 2 or 5 without the Queen of trumps.
5S 2 or 5 with the Queen of trumps. 
 
Over the responses of 5C or 5D which do not specify about the Q of trumps the lowest bid asks about it and also outside Kings.
 
Over any response 5NT asks for Kings but in a new way. Rather than by number you bid the lowest suit in which you hold the King. On our hand responder can bid 6D to deny the KC and to show the KD. We would know that the KC was missing and settle for 6S.
 
This type of system is complicated and needs discussion and works best when spades are agreed as there is more room available. An improvement  would be to use as the lowest available bid to ask for kings but the meaning of all the responses would need to be agreed.
 
So how did we bid the hand?
 
Georgia was West and would open 1NT = 15-17.
 
I would transfer to spades with 2H.
 
With a super maximum and 4 spades Georgia would break the transfer.
 
I would bid key card blackwood and get a 5C response. As we don't play any asks for specific Kings I would have bid 7S and gone down this time.
 
Luckily for us this was one of the boards we skipped.
12.08.13.
 
 
This week there were many balanced hands and I can't find any one interesting hand to report. So this week I will look at the hardest part of bridge as far as I am concerned - the opening lead. If any player can find the correct lead on a regular basis they will prove hard to beat. I try very hard to consider the bidding before deciding on my lead but don't claim any great success rate. The decision as to whether to make an aggressive lead or what looks to be a safe lead is tough. My natural inclination is to make safe leads but it is far from clear that it is a winning policy.
 
So here are some problems to consider before looking at the hands on the website :-
 
1. S-/HK109/D87532/J10543  The bidding 1C-1S-4D(Splinter)-4S     Your lead?
 
2. SQJ83/H732/DJ98/CJ53     The bidding 1NT-2H(transfer)-2S-2NT   This time?
 
3. SK75/HQ7/DQ1084/CK875  The bidding 1H-2H-2NT-4H   This is a difficult choice.
 
4. SKQ7/H73/DQ532/CJ986    The bidding1D-1H-4C(Splinter) - 4H  Partner would double 4C with a good holding so you lead?
 
5. SKQ/H8543/DAJ73/CJ52     The bidding 1S-3S-4S      Another tough choice.
 
 
The answers :-these hands are from Monday night. The hand numbers are given so you can see them from the hand copies.
 
1.  Hand 2 - The clubs and spades don't break but the diamonds look good for declarer as partner didn't double 4D. I chose to lead a heart from the king. Declarer fearing that it was a singleton played the ace and made 10 tricks. On any other lead declarer should take the red suit finesses to make 11 or possibly 12 tricks if he can negotiate the trumps for 1 loser.
 
2. Hand 3 - This is a easier one. With 5 spades on your left you should not lead the suit. Any other lead will beat the contract. A heart lead is harmless while either minor is a great success. Personally I would lead a top of nothing 7H as the lead of the smallest from 3 to the jack in either minor might confuse partner who would expect a 4 card suit.
 
3. Hand 5 - This is the type of hand that separates the winners and the losers. A spade lead leaves declarer needing to play the trumps correctly to make the contract. A heart lead solves the trump problem but holds the contract to 10 tricks. A diamond lead gives the contract and will result in 11 tricks for declarer and a bottom for you. A club lead could allow declarer to guess to play the queen and then guess the trumps for 11 tricks. I do not usually lead from kings so would misguess the clubs for 10 tricks only. If I had been on lead I would have lead a diamond and suffered.
 
4. Hand 7 - At my table I got the SK lead and made 11 tricks for a top. A diamond lead is not indicated and would not be a success. A club lead is harmless leaving declarer stuck in dummy and short of entries to play spades. It is tough to make 10 tricks from here. That is rather fortunate and the better and more obvious lead of a trump has the same effect and must be the best choice.
 
5. Hand 20 - The winning choice is a club or the ace of diamonds and then a club. As we tend to non-aggressive leads Georgia chose a heart lead which picked up my king and allowed 11 tricks for a poor score.
 
How did you do?
 
 

  

I have never seen such a strange set of scores. With only 25 pairs at the club we played a Mitchel movement with the last two rounds being arrow-switched. When you look at the results the first ten pairs all played East/West for most of the rounds. Only one North/South pair finished above average - well done Mary and Mark - and North/South pairs filled eleven of the bottom twelve places, all very odd.
 
This week's hand is board 21 an easy grand slam for North/South with 15 top tricks in either major and for those who were thinking also in NTs. it is a test of your methods and evaluation.
 
 Our bidding is shown above and features some partnership agreements. We play 5 card majors and I opened the obvious 1 Heart. Georgia knew that slam was quite possible and responded 2 Spades to show her strong hand and 6 card suit. My rebid of 2NT over a jump-shift is a partnership agreement , it is the normal choice unless we have a second 5 card suit to bid or a strong opening suit to rebid. We do not raise the responders suit to leave extra room in a crowded auction. The advantage of this approach comes clear when Georgia could bid 3 Hearts to support my suit and then I could bid 3 Spades to reveal my spade fit and leave room for a cue bid in clubs which was the main worry for slam. Georgia was able to cuebid with 4C and I launched into 4NT which is keycard blackwood for us.
 
As I discussed in a previous article it is important to have an agreement about which suit is the agreed trump suit in keycard auctions.If a suit has been bid and raised then that is the agreed suit otherwise it is the last bid suit before the 4NT bid. In this auction we had bid and raised both hearts and spades and our agreement is that we count as keycards the kings of both agreed suits. On that basis Georgia responded 5 Hearts to show 2 or 5 keycards without any queens of agreed suits. I could calculate that a hand that had made a jump-shift could not only hold 2 keycards and therefore must hold 5 which were known to be SAK. HAK and CA. A count of tricks made 5+ in spades, 6 in hearts and the aces of diamonds and clubs. That made at least 13 tricks without the DK. hence the choice of 7NT. This is doubly correct as it scores most and there is no risk of a ruff at trick one. With 15 tricks the play was very brief.
 
On reviewing the traveller I see that our result got us the top and one other pair reached 7 of a major. One pair missed slam entirely and the other eight pairs were about average for bidding to 6 of a major.
 
Playing standard acol how should the bidding go? The 1 Heart opening will be totally standard, now for the response, I say that 2 Spades is correct to reveal the strong hand and good suit and to allow a bid of 3 Hearts on the next round to show support and slam interest. If you play weak jump responses I would suggest that it is a bad method for slam bidding. If you start with 1 Spade what do you bid next if partner bids 2 Clubs or 2 Diamonds? A jump to 3 Hearts is invitational and not forcing so you are totally stuck for an intelligent bid.
 
After 1H-2S opener should not do anything but to raise to 3S to show the fit. Now cuebids take over as neither player is in a position to bid blackwood due to lack of a control in a minor suit. So South cues 4C and North cues 4D. If you play that cuebids on the first round promise the ace that it vey helpful on this hand. North now knows he is facing a strong hand with good Spades and controls in Clubs and Hearts and can use keycard  blackwood with Spades agreed. South responds 5 Diamonds to show 1 or 4 keycards. As he has made a strong jump-shift it cannot be only one so he is know to hold SAK/HA/CA.
 
Now we can think about a grand slam as at worst it is on the heart finesse so we try 5NT for kings. Some pairs have sophisticated agreements to show not only how many kings are held but also which ones. they would bid 6H to show the HK - ideal. On this hand playing normal responses South could respond 6D to show one king apart from spades which was already been shown. This would be of little help to North who is not really interested in the KC. he could still hope that South has the correct king or the heart finesse works or could settle for 6 Spades.
 
However in a partnership who trust each other the 5NT bid promises that all keycards are held and that the trumps (spades in this case) are solid and invites partner to jump to a grand slam if he can or else show the number of kings held. On this hand South should realise that the HK is vital and jump to a grand slam. If he is really thinking he would jump to 7NT expecting two running suits and the minor suit aces. Not easy but very satisfying when it goes right.
 
 
 

 
 

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29.07.13.
There were many hands this week where sensible bidding, good play or careful defence would result in a good matchpoint score. Board 6 was one such board.
 
South has a normal 1C opening and North has a decent 5/5 in the majors, but is short of the values to insist on a game contract. In order to show both suits conveniently, North should start with 1S. South has a choice of rebids - either 1NT to show a balanced hand or 2H to show reversing values. In modern Acol, it is normal to play a rebid of 1NT to show 15-17 and a jump to 2NT as 18-19. This scheme is better than the traditional rebids,1NT=15/16 2NT=17/18 3NT=19 as it avoids the space consuming jump to 3NT which can leave responder in a difficult situation. For example SAJxxx/HQxxx/DQxx/Cx after the sequence 1D-1S-3NT. It is quite possible that 3NT is the best contract but if opener has 3 spades then 4S is likely to be best, If opener had 4 hearts then 4H or even 6H will be best and it could be a hand to play in diamonds if opener has weak clubs and there is no room to explore. Much better is 1D-1S-2NT-3H as the start to the bidding.
 
Meanwhile, on this board I believe South should not rebid 1NT but 2H, a reverse. This bid promises extra values, say 16+, as it forces responder to the 3 level if he prefers clubs to hearts even if very weak. It also shows longer clubs than hearts. Now North knows that the values for game are present and can jump to 4H. He may feel that 4H is something of an underbid with such strong support. However, the singleton in partners' first bid suit and a losing doubleton in the unbid suit suggest caution. If the minor suits were reversed, a splinter bid of 4D would be clearcut. The 4H bid ends the bidding as opener has no extra values.
 
West is on lead and has to make a decision. On this hand a diamond lead gathers the first 2 tricks holding the contract to 11.  It is not normal to lead an unsupported ace or lead away from an ace against a suit contract except at high levels. So Georgia chose to lead the 9 of spades against 4H. Now, how should declarer play? there are 2 losing diamonds only so making 11 tricks should be easy but it is pairs and overtricks are valuable.
 
The lead looks like a doubleton or singleton, so hoping that the spades break 3-3 looks against the odds; ok, what about the clubs? Suppose we win the spade Ace and cross to hand in trumps to check that they are not 4-0. Everyone follows, so we play clubs, first the ace and then the queen with the intention of discarding a diamond from dummy if it is not covered. This means we will only lose a club and a diamond even if East holds the KC. 
On this hand, there is no reason for West to cover so the QC will win the trick. Now we draw another round of trumps, noting that they break 2-2.  It  is now time to return to clubs. As we know that West has the king, we play the jack to force a cover. On a good day, the 10 will drop from East setting up our 8 and 7. This time, East shows out so we know where the 10 is located. We cash the KS and ruff a spade in hand, spotting that they were not 3-3 originally. We play the 8C and ruff the 10 from West and return to hand by ruffing another spade with our last trump, setting up the fifth spade in dummy. We cash the 7C and discard the other diamond from dummy. Now with 2 tricks left to play dummy has the last trump and the last spade so we make all 13 tricks and West is left wishing she had speculated with the lead of the ace of diamonds.
 
So 4H making 13 tricks is the result of normal bidding, a normal lead and good declarer play but how many matchpoints would it produce? The hand was played 15 times. One N/S pair overbid to 6H with 2 diamond losers but managed to make all 13 tricks for a top. Perhaps this West should have lead the ace against a slam especially with such a good club holding over declarer. One N/S pair scored 13 tricks in 4H for a near top, 2 more managed 12 tricks and another 3 made only 11 tricks but still scored well above average. This was because 5 pairs only managed 10 tricks which is a poor effort and 3 pairs went minus, presumably in 3NT or 6H. I believe that 4H is such an obvious contract to reach that any pair that did not manage
Playing Trump Suit - 15.07.13.

We were not at the club this week so thanks to Don for this hand.  Hand 24.

In the bidding, 2S and 3C were alerted.

The auction started with a routine pass by West and 1H from North. Now the spotlight is on East with a weak hand with six spades and a void heart. It seems near certain that N/S have the values for game and a very probable 8+ card fit in hearts. At love all it is possible that there is a cheap save in spades against the N/S game contract of 4H. So East needs to bid spades, but how many? Well, 3S shows a weak hand but partner will expect a 7 card suit and might make a losing decision. So that leaves 2S if playing weak jump overcalls, or else 1S, although partner will expect more in high cards for this bid. Our East chose a 1S overcall.

This left South with an easy bid of 2S to show a strong raise in hearts. The auction comes to West who must be surprised to hold a near opening bid of 11 points. A count of points around the table reveals North has 11+ to open and South has 10+ for the cuebid so East is known to have a weak overcall. Given this information to bid 2NT as our West player chose is clearly wrong and only succeeded to giving extra information to N/S. Probably West should pass smoothly, although a double of 2S is possible. In my opinion, the double should show a 3 card spade fit which would encourage East to bid on over 3 or 4 hearts which is not what West wants.

The auction finished with a 3C trial bid by North and an acceptance of game by South with 12 points and a good fit in Hearts. As is often the case the play decides who wins the matchpoints on the board.

On this hand, the defence is not really relevant as it is the decision of North, the declarer, as to how to play the trumps that is very important. In the absence of information from the bidding, it would be quite normal to start trumps by playing the ace hoping for an honour to drop of for an honour to appear from East when you play a second round towards the queen. the only time there are two trump losers is when West has KJx or KJxx This time declarer is unlucky although careful play will mean that the only losers are 2 hearts and 1 spade to make 10 tricks.

At our table the 2NT bid by West telegraphed the heart position allowing declarer to pick up the heart suit for 1 loser but first ruffing his 3rd spade in dummy with the queen and then leading hearts through West to make 11 tricks.

When you look at the traveller, making 4H by N/S was an average whilst the overtrick was worth a near top. Two declarers conceded 50 presumably by going down in 4H for a bottom.

01.07.13.

After the succession of strong balanced hands of recent weeks this week was more mundane with many weak NT openings. I have chosen a hand that involves straight forward defence to hold down the number of overtricks in a lay-down game contract for North-South.

 

At our table Georgia was first in hand at Green (The technical term for not-vulnerable against vulnerable opponents). She chose to open with a weak 2 spades despite having only 5 card suit. The favourable vulnerability and the strength of the suit and the presence of a side 4 card minor helped sway her decision. This time the opposition has nothing to say and I chose a simple raise to game rather than start asking about her range with a 2NT enquiry bid. I expected to make 4 spades even opposite a minimum and felt slam was unlikely to be good. Such bidding avoids giving away information and sometimes the next hand may feel that it is being robbed and bid something and concede a huge penalty.

 

4 spades was passed out and easily made 11 tricks when Georgia twice led trumps from dummy to pick up the jack and then played ace, king and another club to set up the suit for 1 loser. That was 450 for us and 17 match points out of 28. 8 other pairs equalled our score and 1 played 4 spades making only 10 tricks giving all 28 points to east/west.

 

The other 6 pairs reached the inferior contract of 3NT and the obvious heart lead from East knocks out the side entry to dummy's spades. Normal play would be for declarer to cross to the ace of clubs to lead a spade to the king, ducked by West. It is then sensible to return to hand with the king of clubs (helping set that suit up) to play a second spade. East has to play the jack of spades saving declarer a guess in the suit. declarer covers with the queen and west should duck again as he can see that his partner would not play the jack unless forced to do so and therefore the last spade is with declarer. This second duck kills the spade suit for lack of an entry and declarer is forced to clear his club trick for fear that he goes down in 3NT. East wins the jack of clubs and plays a second heart to dislodge the ace. Now declarer has 9 tricks - 2 spades/2 hearts/2 diamonds and 3 clubs. At the table this result would be a complete top for East/West as last night 2 sets of defenders conceded 11 tricks for 460 and no matchpoints and 4 others allowed 10 tricks for 430 and a poor score for North/South.

 

It is true that East could have helped his partner by petering his spades to show a doubleton. It would have been bad play however as declarer could have just continued spades to drive out the ace rather than having to use up an entry to his hand in order to lead a second spade towards the dummy.