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Hands of the Week
Hand of the Week [9 Sep 2019]

Our last board of the night and without doubt our worst.

East as dealer passed and South opened 1. West passed and North responded 1♠. South made a game-forcing jump rebid of 3♣, which North converted [or so he thought] to 3NT.

South now unconverted to 4♣. Question is what is this? The possibilities are:

  • South has doubts about 3NT making, and wants to play in five of a minor
  • South thinks 3NT may well make but thinks five of a minor will yield a better score
  • South thinks 3NT may well make, but is certain six of a minor will yield a better score
  • South intends 4♣ as RKCB in clubs.

Well, our North [my good self] took 4♣ as RKCB and responded 4 to show one key card. Our South, who had intended his bid as a request for suit preference between the minor suits, took 4 as suit preference for diamonds, and punted 6. So what do we think of all this? Partner and I have a general understanding that removing 3NT to four of a minor is RKCB, but this is normally where that minor has been agreed.

My own view is that if partner thinks we should be playing in five of a minor for whichever reason, the most unambiguous route is to unconvert 3NT to 5♣ for pass or correct to diamonds.Whereas if he is hell-bent on playing in a slam, he could similarly unconvert 3NT to 6♣.

Finally, having wound up in 6 what's the best line? This is all about playing the diamond suit for just one loser. How do you set about this, missing KJ10xx? You're in dummy after the opening heart lead, so you embark on trumps. What are the possibilities?

  • diamonds break 3-2 with the King on-side - no problem, finesse the Queen and claim
  • diamonds break 3-2 with the King off-side - your Queen loses to the King and you're down unless J10 doubleton is on-side
  • diamonds break 4-1 with the King on-side - finesse the Queen
    • if the off-side singleton is the Jack or the ten you rely on the principle of restricted choice to play for K10 being on-side
  • diamonds break 4-1 with the stiff King off-side - play the Ace on the first round and hastily hide the mirror on the long stick you were using
  • playing the Ace on the first round also scores if the King is in a doubleton either side and you play low on the second round
  • if diamonds are 4-1 with a singleton J or ten off-side, playing the Ace at trick one leaves you without recourse.

I'll leave you to work out which course of action has the best chance of success.


Hand of the Week: [2nd Sep 2019]

Hand 2 from last night was a good example from the seminar given on Monday [Responding to partner's overcall].

East will open 1♣ and South would overcall 1♠. West may well bid 2. Now North can bid 2 IF you play non -forcing responses to overcalls, as advocated in the seminar.
Without that understanding North cannot really bid.

Now East has to decide what to do over 2.

3♣ or maybe 2NT: either bid will be passed out. At our table East passed and we played in 2 going one-off.

A couple of points to note:

  • if South, unsure as to whether partner's 2 is forcing, raises to 3, this converts a 79% board to a 14% board - an indication that agreement as to whether responses to overcalls are forcing or not is vital.
  • if West raises 2NT to 3NT on the grounds that there may be 9 tricks to be made, he/she is demonstrating sloppy thinking in a match-pointed event. 3NT making, as it might, certainly gives EW a complete top, but 3NT-1 is an absolute bottom. If 9 tricks are making in no trumps, 2NT+ 1 is already a 71% board for EW.


Hand of the Week [26 Aug 2019]

It's interesting that when looking for a hand from Monday evening to feature in Hand of the Week, many hands raise some point worthy of dicscussion.

Hand 19 raises one or two interesting points.

Firstly, when you pick up a 12-14 hand [assuming you're playing a weak no trump] containing a 5-card major, otherwise balanced, do you open the major or 1NT? If you always give the same answer whatever, this is an easy decision for you. If not, what criteria do you employ in coming to your decision? Perhaps this should be a seminar topic.

Anyway, let's assume that with the South hand you open 1NT. The spotlight switches to West. Do you have methods to get involved here? Many Burnham players use the Modified Landy system, where a 2 overcall shows a 4-card major and a longer minor, but let's assume that vulnerability keeps West quiet for the moment at least.

Moving on to North, some players [and today's author is one such] always respond 2♣ on any hand containing two 4-card majors. Had opener rebid 2, on this hand responder now bids 2, typically showing a weak hand with 5/4 in hearts/spades respectively. Assuming opener is on the same wavelength as responder, he/she will pass except holding two hearts and three spades, in which case he/she will convert to 2♠, just in case partner's major-suit holdings were 4-4.

At our table last night, North responded 2♣, East passed, South rebid 2 , and this was passed round to East, who now came in with 3. South decided his 5-card heart suit was worth a further contribution, and West decided quite reasonably to remain silent no longer, and trotted out 4♦.

This is where matters rested for us, but the final point is, should NS have taken further action? If 4 is making and NS judge that this is going to yield very few matchpoints for them, they have little or nothing to lose and should bid 4. If they don't think 4 is making, they should double their vulnerable opponents. Bear in mind that if 4* makes and 4 making would have been a poor score anyway, the double is unlikely to have cost much.

In practice, a NS heart contract plays very well, but that's just luck of the draw. My point is that NS should take some action over 4.

Hand of the Week [19 Aug 2019]

This is board 26 from last night's teams. Five pairs languished in 4♠ [including partner and myself], two were in 6♠, one in 6NT. Every declarer made 12 tricks.

Question is how to bid and should you be in a slam?

At our table, East opened 1♠ and West responded 2NT [game-forcing Jacoby]. Spotlight on East who has the crucial decision as to whether he/she regards his/her hand as minimal [rebids 4♠] or better-than-minimum [for us we'd rebid 3♣ to show a reasonable-quality second suit of at least four cards]. This East took the wimp approach, largely based on the stiff K.

West has an awkward initial response: even though our opening spade bid shows at lease five, the Jacoby response should still show at least 4-card support. But what else can West respond? The only 4-card suit is hearts, but 2 would promise at least five. Maybe West can respond with a temporising  2-minor bid, knowing that he/she can convert to spades if opener gets too excited.

I was favoured with a heart lead, which helped not one jot if your goal was 12 tricks. Once the spade suit has behaved itself, it's fairly clear from the outset that squirm as one might the point will come where declarer has to lead a club from dummy towards K10. As it happens both ♣A and ♣Q are with North, leaving even this declarer no opportunity to fail to make 12 tricks.

Did I make the wrong decision with my initial rebid? Well, if I'd employed the mirror-on-the-long-stick technique to tell me that the missing club honours were favourably placed and the trumps were behaving, I'd have taken a different view. But having left my m-o-t-l-s at home, I'm not castigating myself: for a slam to be worthwhile in teams it has to be at least a 50% chance, and this was less than that, so I'm prepared to take it on the chin.