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Hands of the Week
Hand of the Week [25 Nov 2019]

We were fortunate to be on the receiving end of our opponents' mis-bidding on this hand: the bidding at our table is as shown.

Probably most of us use the Jacoby 2NT response to an opening 1-major bid to show a game-forcing hand with support for the suit opened. Opener can rebid four of the original suit to show a relatively minimal opening hand with no interest in going beyond game.

I say 'mis-bidding' firstly because the 2NT bid is defined as showing a relatively balanced hand with no singleton or void - we have splinter bids for that. If East responds 4♣, West is in a much better position to judge that the hands are not fitting particularly well, and will certainly not now overbid her response.

More generally, it's important that partnerships' agreements on bidding systems and conventions are built on a sound and referable base. For the Jacoby 2NT, pairs need a joint understanding of why the convention exists, when to use it and when not. Looking at the Burnham System Card on the website, the HTML version has a number of topics underlined, Jacoby being one. Clicking on an underlined topic provides access to a detailed explanation, and sometimes allows the browser to drill down even further. In the Jacoby explanation, there is a further underlined hyperlink leading to an article in English Bridge by David Bakhshi. You may not want to play the convention his way, in which case you can replace his version with your own. What is important is that you and your partner are singing from the same hymn-sheet, to which you can refer when things go wrong.

Hand of the Week [11 Nov 2019]

Breaking the Law

Board 14 does not seem to be a very exciting hand, but it is likely to be a  typical part-score battle.

The bidding at one table was as above. At another table, East came in with a skimpy double over 2, and EW were allowed to play in 3♠, going one-off.

Unluckily for NS, East had been reading a book by Larry Cohen the arch-prophet of “The Law of Total Tricks”.  This states that the total number of tricks available to the two sides playing in their respective longest trump suits is equal to the total number of trumps held by the two sides.

So East did a quick calculation:  it was virtually certain that EW had 8 spades and probable that NS had 9, or possibly 10 diamonds.  So the total number of tricks available in their best suits was 16 or 17.  In other words, if EW could make 3♠ NS could make 1/2 and if EW were going one down, NS could still only make 2/3.

North had “broken the Law” by going a level higher than his sides trump total.

So East did what Mr Cohen instructs, and doubled, not without misgivings.  He was very relieved when North had to lose 4 tricks after a heart lead.

So, was the double a great triumph?  Not really, as at the three tables where EW had pressed on to 3♠ they were allowed to play there [results =, -1, -2: it needs more than Mr Cohen's Law to explain this disparity!]. 4x -1 doesn't hugely improves EW's score compared to 4 -1, but at least it should have the benefit of getting West to pull out a Pass card.

David Beever

Hand of the Week [4 Nov 2019]

What do you open as East [if anything]?

If your non-vulnerable weak two bids are in the 5-9 range that would seem to rule out 2. But for me, with such a poor-quality suit, 2 seemed the most practical bid. If partner's holding the spades, I don't want to be fighting him for where to play; if opponents have the spades I'd like to get my pre-emptive bid on the table. As in many situations, we have to find a bid for the hand rather than the other way round.

My 2 was followed by two passes, and North in the protective position came in with 2♠. After two passes, West doubled: what does this mean? The general rule is that a double following partner's pre-emptive bid is for penalties, although I'm not sure my partner and I saw things completely eye-to-eye on this point. Anyway, I passed, and after a lead of A and accurate defence, 2♠* was two-off for 500.


  • find the best bid for the hand rather than sticking rigidly to a system
  • make sure you're on the same wavelength as your partner with doubles following pre-empts
  • don't be over-concerned about doubling low-level contracts in match-pointed pairs, especially when at favourable vulnerability.
Hand of the Week [28 Oct 2019]

This is ironic in that the West hand is ideal to investigate a slam using the Minorwood bid of 4♣. Ironic in that the only pair to find 6♣ was partner and I and we weren't playing Minorwood! Partner responded 3♣ to my opening 1NT, and I rebid 3NT on account of my lack of first-round controls. Not to be put off, partner now found 4NT so, with three clubs including the King, two other Kings, and a potential source of tricks in diamonds, I decided to bite the bullet and respond 6♣.

The problem is that by looking for a club slam in this way, we bypass the potential match-point-winning 3NT contract, right? Wrong! As you'll know if you came along to our Minorwood seminar in March 2011 [Graham]. The Minorwood system allows for the slam-investigating player to sign off in no trumps, usually at the 4-level.

If you would like a copy of the Minorwood Powerpoint presentation, in one form or another, please contact Graham or Nigel.

Hand of the Week [21 Oct 2019]

For a hand with relatively little “swing” last night, this board is of interest in bidding and defence. I suspect for most, the bidding went 1♣  from South, pass (1♠  vulnerable from West seems a little over-aggressive at teams), 1  from North, pass, 2♣  from South, all pass. But North might have judged to bid 2NT over 2♣  playing teams, which South will surely raise to 3NT after a “maximum” weak rebid of 2♣ .

What should East lead against 3NT by North? If he follows the principle of “4th highest of your longest and strongest” and leads a diamond, he will be sadly disappointed, for there is no defence. North will let the lead run to his J and that will yield at least 5 clubs, 3 diamonds and 2 Aces for an overtrick.

If East finds a magical spade lead, normally choosing the ♠4, as actually happened at one table, West plays the ♠9 if Dummy plays low, which North ducks. A simple spade continuation by West, playing a small card to East’s ♠Q, also ducked by North, is not enough. All East can do is play another spade but North can now prevail with the diamond finesse, 5 clubs and 2 Aces for 9 tricks.

West, when allowed to win the first trick with the ♠9, must then have the foresight to play the ♠K, holding the trick, to play – not a 3rd round of spades, but a counter-intuitive diamond at trick 3! East covers whatever card North plays and South wins the Q. Declarer tackles clubs, East winning with the ♣A over North’s ♣K, then must lead the J. Declarer probably plays low, West wins the K and exits with either red suit, forcing dummy to win the trick. Poor North never gets back into his own hand to make the stranded ♠A and the contract fails by one trick.

Congratulations would be in order to any E/W pair who found this defence. No wonder it is said that defence is the hardest part of the game and also that 3NT is the contract most frequently mis-defended.

Nigel Marlow

Hand of the Week [14 Oct 2019]

Harping back to the October seminar, this is a North hand you would like to open 1NT if playing a weak no trump. Even if 1♠ only promises a 4-card suit, this is not a suit you would want to rebid.

Having said that, an opening 1NT by North is going to be doubled, and one would expect a rescue into 2 by South will suffer the same fate, for an EW top [give or take the odd 800 being thrown into the mix!].

Anyway, at our table North opened 1♠, East overcalled 1NT, and there things rested. South led ♠A, perhaps a little dangerous with East having promised spade cover, and East is now able to set about hearts. With 10 coming down, the defence is now restricted to taking its three aces.

2 is the most successful lead, although a heart lead to the Ace followed by a diamond switch will similarly hold declarer to 8 tricks.

Hand of the Week [7 Oct 2019]

The topic for last night's seminar was Opening 1NT with a 5-Card Major, and this hand was an example.

There is an argument for opening 1♠ opposite a passed hand, but a suit headed by AJ is not one which opener would be comfortable rebidding. Another consideration is that, with a 3-card heart suit, West is perfectly content with being transferred into 2, should the situation arise.

Once we've opened 1NT, partner is in the driving seat for the remainder of the auction: all we need to do is to respond appropriately to any bids partner makes.

At our table, West opened 1NT, East bid 2NT [strength enquiry or transfer to a minor], West rebid 2NT [minimum], and East ended proceedings with 3♣. The hands fit together very well, diamonds break 3-3, and ten tricks roll in.

If on the other hand West opens 1♠, one would expect East to respond 1NT and play there, scraping 7 tricks or being allowed to make an overtrick. West has no reason to disturb 1NT, and a 2♠ contract gets its just desserts.

Hand of the Week [30 Sep 2019]

This is an interesting hand from several points of view: bidding, declarer play, defence. Assuming East opens 1 [adding a bit of interest to South's meagre collection], how should West respond? If a 2-level response requires 10 points, the only option is 1♠. East may choose to forge directly to 3NT, although 2NT [typically showing 18-19 HCP] would leave things open for West to show a 5-card spade suit. In practice, West only has four spades so we're going to finish up in 3NT anyway.

EW have a combined count of 29 yet because of the diamond blockage there is no immediate entry to dummy. A club lead would be helpful but on any other lead declarer will cash AK, but how to  get to the three winning diamonds in dummy?. As ♣AJ  are sitting over dummy there is no entry in that suit, provided that the defence ducks ♣K, which they will. So declarer tries a heart which East must win. but is now endplayed. If South has led his/her singleton spade at the outset, the enforced heart return will give declarer a third heart trick and the opportunity to endplay North in spades. Otherwise a spade return now will enable declarer to win ♠Q then give North three club tricks, after which he/she will be forced to lead away from the ♠K. All very difficult, as evidenced by the fact that three of the five declarers playing in 3NT failed in their contract, despite the hand analysis indicating that 10 tricks can be made.

What do you choose as your opening lead as South? Two chose the singleton spade [3NT-1 in both cases], two chose 8 [3NT+2, 3NT-2], one chose ♣6 [3NT=]. In the latter case, North mistakenly contributed ♣J: ♣6 is obviously from a poor suit, so playing the Jack gives declarer the opportunity to fashion a definite entry to dummy.

Some people maintain that bridge is an easy game!

Steve Gore

Hand of the Week 23 Sep 2019

The auction on board 19 will depend on whether North/South are playing weak or strong NT and if outside their NT range whether a spade opening shows at least a 5-card suit. I am surprised that more than half the field played in 3NT when North has a fine 6-card heart suit. The best way to handle the heart combination for 5 tricks is to take two finesses, which works here. If West leads ♣K then declarer will be held to 11 tricks, but that will not be easy if South has opened 1♣. On any other lead South should make 12 tricks if two heart finesses are taken and it is strange that two declarers only made 11 tricks on a neutral diamond lead.

If North/South are playing a strong NT then South might open 1♣ or 1♠. I would normally recommend opening the lower suit with only 4 cards in each, which is best to ensure that no fit is missed, but here the spade suit is so good that at pairs there is a strong case for opening 1♠ provided it only guarantees 4 cards.

If the 4 contract is reached then most pairs will make 12 tricks. A fine defence is needed to hold declarer to 11 tricks. A club must be led (not easy to find if North is declarer). Declarer rises with the Ace and 2 clubs are discarded on the 3 top spades. Declarer takes a losing heart finesse and the spotlight falls on East. He must play a fourth spade which West ruffs with the heart Q to promote a second defensive trick for 9.

Dick Davey

Hand of the Week [16 Sep 2019]
A wide variety of conventional bids is available for use by regular partnerships, but it is of course essential that both players are using the same ones, to avoid what can be disastrous results.
Board 31 provided a good example of how conventions can lead to a good result, which would otherwise be missed.
At one table the bidding was as shown, with the 3♠ response being alerted.
After a couple of rounds of bidding, with lots of thought, it seemed probable that something was going wrong, but no-one including the perpetrators was quite sure what!
South, on lead, was fairly confident that the opponents had reached the wrong contract.  He would obviously make the ♣A and, as opponents clearly had no real fit, it seemd best to lead a trump to cut down possible ruffs in dummy.

Declarer took this in hand, played A, K, led a small trump to dummy's Q, ruffed a heart back to hand, and drew the remaining trumps. He now played ♠K, finessed ♠J, and when spades broke 3-3 made all 13 tricks as South had discarded a heart in order to hang on to his ♠Qxx.
Surprisingly enough every other table was in 3NT+2.
And the bidding?  This was accounted for by the fact that West thought that 3♠ showed 5 spades and 4 hearts whereas East thought it showed the minors.
North was not too pleased that South had not made the obvious lead of CA!
[Incidentally, if 3♠ does show the minors, opener rebids 3NT with no minor-suit interest, otherwise 4-minor is RKCB in the suit bid. A 4♠ response to 4 would show zero or three key cards, and leave declarer somewhat perplexed. Opener took responder's subsequent 5♠ bid as possibly showing a spade void.
As always when the wheels have come off, declarer has to make the best of a bad job. The only chance is that spades break 3-3 with the Queen on-side, and that was the position.]
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.