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Hand of the day
Monday 20th January

Surprisingly no-one reached game on this hand. North will open 1NT, East will Double showing 15+ points with any distribution, South will escape to 2♣, now West knowing the partnership has a minimum of 20 points can Double for takeout and East knowing his partnership holds at least 29 points can jump to 4.

Bid game with game values

Thursday 16th January

On this hand two Caterham pairs bid and made game the other four pairs did not two failing in their contract. Nationally 34 pairs made game, 72 pairs made a part score and 62 pairs failed to make their contract. Click here to see the hand. So why the problem. There are issues in both the bidding and the play.

The key in the bidding is to raise to 2NT showing 17-18 points rather than bid a wishy-washy 2 which could be done on 11 points. There are 23 points missing and neither opponent has bid so partner rates to have a maximum more rather than a minimum. Also this is a good 17 points. With 8 points and lacking three Spades North will raise to 3NT.

Now how to play the hand. East will lead ♣6 North will win ♣A. To make the contract you need 5 Diamond tricks (and an extra trick in the majors). So A to cater for singleton J and cross to  K.

Now which finesse to take?  If you take the Spade finesse first and it loses West will clear the Club suit now the A in the East hand will not allow you to make the contract. If you play a Heart towards the king first and this fails you can take the Spade finesse later making if either finesse works. Chances of this contract making is 55% so it is sensible to bid the game.

Bid game with game values

Wednesday 15th January

At the table five out of six pairs were allowed to play in 4 for a good score. East will open 1♣, South should make a weak jump to 2♠, now West needs 10 points to bid 3 but with such a good suit and a singleton in the opponents' suit I would bid 3 or 4 and North with 4 Spades knowing of a 10 card fit should bid 4♠ (biding to the level of fit). This is a two-way shot sometimes it will make sometimes and if not it will be better than the opposition scoring +420 or as in this case +140. 

4♠ should make 10 tricks. South will ruff the second round of Hearts play ♠Q, cross to ♠A, play a Diamond to 10 losing to J, on regaining the lead cross to ♠A, play a Diamond finessing K and there are just two Clubs to lose for +420.

Bid to the level of fit

Tuesday 14th January

On this hand only 33% of the pairs at Caterham made enough tricks for game. Nationally 72.5% made game see here for the national result. One interesting issue is that at Caterham 3NT is played by the South hand this can be only if South bids 2NT over 1♥, this is a very poor bidding choice better is to bid 2♦, now if North shows five or more Hearts you can raise and if North bids 2NT probably 3NT rather than 3♥, is best with such a balanced hand.

In this case North with the stronger hand will be declarer. 3NT is not a bad contract needing a non-Club lead or Clubs 4-4. In this case with North declarer, most Easts will prefer a Spade to a Club and the contract will roll home for 10 or 11 tricks. 

Don't bid 2NT with a balanced 11-12 points

Monday 13th January

This hand has some difficulties. North will open 1♠, South has enough points to respond 2♦ and North needs 15 points to bid 3♣ so will settle for 2♠. Now, what should South do Pass is a possibility just losing three aces for +170. However, with a good 11 points, 2NT is not unreasonable and North with a maximum for the bidding so far and a surprise in the Club suit should raise to game. On the lead of 7 South will probably come to 11 tricks for +660.

Bid game with game values

Thursday 9th January

South should open 2NT North has enough points for 6NT so the question is can you find out whether to bid a grand slam. One option is to bid 5NT which asks South to bid 7NT with a maximum and 6NT with a minimum.

The other option is the auction shown. North transfers to Hearts then bids 4NT if you are playing Roman Key Card Blackwood the 5♣ response shows three key cards (or none) and North can continue with 5 asking about the Q South will show Q and ♠K. Now South might reason we have all the Aces and Kings and the Q so there are 11 top tricks to have 20 points South must have another Queen for 12 tricks and at least two Jacks or another Queen so a grand slam is with the odds 7 looks the best option.

Well done to David and Helen who bid 7NT.

Bid a grand slam if it is with the odds

Wednesday 8th January

West will open 2♠ and North should overcall 2NT. South knowing there are enough points for game will use Stayman and on finding no Heart fit will bid 3NT. The Spade lead gives two tricks and when the Clubs break there are nine tricks for +600. For the more advanced player, East can be squeezed in the red suits for ten tricks. Well done to Jane and Mary were the only pair to reach 3NT.

Bid your hand 


Tuesday 7th January

West will open 1. East with game values can bypass the spade suit and bid 2, West will force to game with 3 and East will continue with 3♠ showing at least 13 points and slam interest opposite the jump. West will show a Diamond fit with 4, East can now use Blackwood, West will show three aces and a King and East should bid 7 expecting at worst the contract to need Hearts to be no worse than 4-2 (84%). Even 6 would have been a top board. 

A responder reverse shows at least game values

Monday 6th January

When North responds 1♠ to Souths 1 opening South's hand improves as now there is a fit; 3 points can be added for the singleton Club and one subtracted for ♣J which has little value for a total of 20 points. As North has responded so must have 6 points South must bid 4♠ (if playing splinter bids 4♣ is better). North's hand has also improved 3 points can be added for the singleton Diamond and 1 for the doubleton Heart for a total of 14 points. So North should check on Aces and proceed to slam.

Twelve tricks can be achieved by drawing trumps and ruffing a Diamond in hand. 

Well done to Jane and John who bid and made the slam.

Count extra points for shortages when you have a fit


Thursday 2nd January

What should North bid?

1NT. It is better to show 8-10 balanced than the Diamond suit. Now South should raise to 2NT and North will bid 3NT.  

Even if North bids 1 South should prefer 1NT showing 15-16 points rather than 2♣ showing a sixth Club.

At the table only Colin and Keith reached the 26 point game.

Make the most descriptive bid

Monday 30th December

What do you bid now?

Answer 3♠. 2♠ shows 6-9 points but your Spade Suit will usually play for one loser opposite a void and Qxxx in your partner's suit must be good value so you should upgrade your hand to 10-12 points and bid 3♠. With such a good Spade suit you should not consider playing in Diamonds. 

After 3♠ with 14 points including ♠K North should raise to 4♠. If North bids 3NT South should bid 4 showing a hand unsuitable for No Trumps and North will then bid 4♠.

You can upgrade your hand with good cards

Thursday 19th December

Partner opens 2NT showing 20-22 High Card Points. What should you do?

3♣  Stayman, North happens to bid 3 and you can Pass (if North bids a major you can bid 4 which North should Pass). If you are a gambling type 3NT is an option because either you are making seven Diamond tricks or not. Passing 2NT and making exactly 8 tricks seems unlikely. 

Use Stayman to escape to a weak minor

Wednesday 19th December

East will open 1. West can see that slam will be a great proposition if West has an ace also if East has 2 aces and a king a grand slam should be bid. As you have 17 points, East has at least half the remaining points so holding an ace is more than likely. West should bid 3 showing a strong single suited hand with Diamonds or a strong hand with a good Diamond suit and Heart support. East should rebid 3 showing a minimum hand with five Hearts and no Diamond fit. West will bid 4 setting Diamonds as trumps. East should cue bid 4 showing A. West will ask for aces and when East shows one ace settle for 6. I often think 'what should I bid if I had only one bid' this often guides how you might bid the hand. Well done to Nicky and John the only pair to bid Slam.

Visualise what is required opposite for to make your contract and bid with the odds

Tuesday 17th December

Your partner has overcalled 1NT showing around 16-18 points and two stops in Clubs. 

This is tricky, your choices are between Pass, Double and 2. What would you do?

It is close the problem is you only have 4 High Card Points. If you Double partner could Pass with four Clubs and 2♣ could be hard to beat. Pass seems a little wimpy when the opposition are playing in an 8 or 9 card fit at the two-level. So you are left with 2 which will be passed out for the best score available.

Don't let the opposition play in an 8 card fit at the two-level

Thursday 12th December

Only Mike and Linda ended up in the right place with this hand. East will open 1♠, South should Double for takeout (if South passes West should bid 1NT showing less than 10 points and less than 4 Spades), West should Pass (if West bids 2 forcing with 10+ points it will propel East/West too high). North will bid 2, South should Pass and now West can bid 3 showing at least 6 Diamonds, less than 10 points and 2 Spades or less. Now everyone should Pass.

A new suit at the 2 level shows 10+ points

Wednesday 11th December

Only Alan and Mick managed to reach 4 on this deal. A considerably better contract than 4♠ or 3NT. 

East will open 1, South will overcall 2♣, West can bid 2♠ a forcing bid showing 5+ Spades, East will bid 3 showing a minimum hand, West with game values will continue with 3 (new suit at the three-level so forcing to game) and East will be please to raise to 4.

Use forcing bids to describe your hands

Tuesday 19th November December

A curious hand at each of the four tables it was played in a different suit.

The auction shown has North making a very disciplined Pass, I would expect some players to have opened 1 or 2.  West will open 1. North will overcall 1. Now East should bid 3 showing a hand that would have bid 2 without the intervention. South is too weak to bid 3 opposite a passed partner. West will bid 3 inviting game hoping East can bid 3NT. East will bid 4  showing a minimum hand with no Heart stop and West with 21 points will bid game. With a combined holding of 25 points (28 counting the singleton), East-West should always reach game. 

Well done to Colin and Ken who at least reached 4♠ and did extremely well to make it.

Bid game with game values

Monday 9th December

Lots of different actions are possible on this hand. At least two Norths started with a Heart bid one pair playing in a supprising 2 clearly East forgot to Double. If East Doubles, West will bid 4♠ over any action by South.

If North Passes East will open 1 and the auction should proceed as shown. Wests 1♠ bid should show a five-card suit and East should not be shy in bidding 4♠ over North 4 bid (bidding to the level of fit). Now, what should South do? 5 depends on getting the Clubs right but as East has opened the bidding ♣6 to ♣J seems right. Passing or Doubling 4♠ may seem prudent but even beating the contract gets you a bottom if everyone is making 4.

Bid up with distributional hands


Thursday 5th December

How do you continue now?

2♣ It is always correct to show a second suit. The 1NT response does not show a balanced hand, it shows 6-9 points and denies four Spades. In this case, those who bid 2♣ got a good score. Partner would give preference to Spades unless they held two more Clubs than Spades.

Always show a second suit if possible

Wednesday 4th December

What do you bid now?

The one thing you must not do after this auction is Pass which happened at four out of five tables. With such a good Heart suit 4 must be the correct bid. If the opponents bid on to 5♣ the sequence is forcing North/South to Double or bid on.

Don't be cowed by pre-emptive bids

Tuesday 3rd November

What do you do when East opens 3♣ ?

3NT. With 17 points you can't Pass. If you make a takeout Double partner may bid 4. So you have to bid 3NT, partner is unlikely to bid 4 as with 6 Hearts and 5-10 points North would have opened 2.

Monday 2nd December

Partner opens 1♣ do you bid?

There are three possibilities Pass or raise to 2♣ counting one point for the doubleton or having a fit added one point for the doubleton bid 1.  I would have probably bid 1, not a success as partner will bid 3NT. However many bad contracts succeed, South has no reason to lead a Diamond, a Spade lead and the very fortunate Club position leads to 9 tricks. With bridge luck plays a part

Boldness be my friend

Thursday 28th November

Only 2 pairs managed slam on this hand. The bidding should be straightforward, North's rebid of 3NT shows 17-19 points and now South with 16 points knows the partnership has 33-35 high card points so should bid 6NT.  A black suit lead will give you 13 tricks.

Bid a small Slam with 33 High Card Points

Wednesday 27th November

This hand is easy to bid if East doesn't intervene but the 2♣ bid makes life difficult. The vulnerability makes Double attractive but the doubleton Heart is not ideal. Best probably is 3♣ game-forcing with at least two places to play. West will bid 3 denying 4 Diamonds, East can bid 4♠ and West will raise to game. There are 11 tricks available for +450. In 3NT North must hold up Clubs at least once (twice would be prudent) now North can lose a Diamond for 10 tricks making +430.

A cue bid of the opponents' suit after partner has opened 1NT is game forcing with at least two places to play

Tuesday 26th November

A very tricky hand. When North opens 2 East has to choose between 2NT, 3NT and 3♣. Partner having Passed will not have 6 Spades and 5-10 points so is unlikely to bid 4♠ so there is less risk in bidding No-Trumps. 2NT seems best; if you bid 2NT and South Doubles you can bail out into 3♣. As it is West uses Stayman then bids 3NT. 

The play is the thing South might lead 10 East should play low North will win A and switch to a Heart there is no hurry to take the finesse so win A. If the Clubs break there are lots of tricks available so most will take a risk on a 3-2 break and play ♣A but on seeing ♣Q from North, East will take the safer option for nine tricks by playing a Spade.

Try to play in No-Trumps rather than a minor suit

Monday 25th November

Do you take action over East's intervention?

The vulnerability makes this more contentious but it is usually best not to let the opposition play at the two-level. Double would be best if North has 5 Spades or 4 Diamonds and only 2 Clubs. Perhaps better is for South to bid 3♣ which works whenever North has 3 Clubs. In practice 2 made two out of three times yesterday (it takes a Diamond to ensure the contract fails) so even -100 would get 75%. 3♣ is the big winner making +110. 

Don't let the opposition play at the 2 level in a suit contract

Thursday 21st September

Partner opens 1, North will double for takeout. What should East do?

Redouble. This shows that the partnership has the majority of the points, without a fit for partner and there is no obvious alternative bid. South should bid 2♣ not showing any values but a clear preference for Clubs. Now, West can confidently bid 4 knowing there are some scattered values opposite.

Redouble says the partnership has the majority of the points

Wednesday 21st November

East will open 1, South is too strong to bid 3♣ so will bid 2♣, North hoping for a better spot should try 2, South has no option but to bid 3♣ and North expecting to make as many tricks in no trumps as in Clubs might try 3NT. 

There is no problem on the likely Heart lead making 10 tricks when the Spade finesse works.

Take a chance on 3NT

Tuesday 19th November

An interesting hand West will open 1, North will make a pre-emptive bid of 3♠, East with 2 Spade stops and values for game must bid 3NT. South might raise to 4♠. Now for East/West, they have voluntarily bid game so Pass is forcing, Double shows no interest in proceeding further and a bid is self-evidently showing an unwillingness to defend. Clearly 5 is likely to be correct if East has 2 or more Hearts but this is by no means certain so Pass forcing partner to bid is the best action. East would bid 5 with 3 card support but with only 2 Hearts Double is not unreasonable. This should get +300 for East/West. At the table 3 out of 4 pairs failed to take action and North played in Spades undoubled. Well done to Colin and Ken for Doubling and achieving +500 for a top board.

If you have bid game and the opponents bid on you partnership is forced to take action

Monday 18th November

What do you do with this hand when partner opens 1NT?

Firstly you must reach game. You have 16 points and partner must have 12 points. There are two options to play in Clubs or in No-Trumps. As 6♣ is unlikely it is probably right to bid 3NT. In 3NT there are 10 top tricks which will beat anyone playing in Clubs.

If there is a choice between a minor suit contract and 3NT it is usually correct to play in 3NT

Thursday 14th November

This was a most interesting hand, I would suggest the auction above. South should open 2 and North with 4 Hearts should bid 4 without much thought. Now, 4NT  asks West to choose between the minors, in this case, West will bid 5♣. As it happens 5 is a good sacrifice but -300 would not be a good result on the day.

Nationally over 50% of pairs recorded +300 or better. At Caterham, there was only one score out of seven better than +300. Mike and I were able to reach 6♣ when South failed to open 2.

Pre-emptive bids make you guess


Wednesday 13th November

South will open 2NT North will use Stayman South will show four or five Spades and deny four Hearts. North might get a bit excited and jump to 4NT which in this case is Roman Key card Blackwood (the four aces and the trump king being key cards) South will bid 5♣ showing three key cards (or 0 but that is impossible in this case). Now 5 asks about the queen of trumps and 6 says I have the  Q and no kings. In this case, you are a little unlucky, the chances of making the slam are close to 50% as you need a little bit more than two out of three finesses to work. However, as all three finesses work there are a certain 12 tricks and you may even get to 13 if you read the situation correctly.

Think about bidding slams when you have close to 33 points and a fit


Tuesday 12th November

We were playing Tony and Laurence and our bidding is not for the faint-hearted. I bid 3 to show the 5th heart as well as giving another suit option (with four Diamonds and four Hearts I would have bid 1 first). Tony did well to compete to the three-level making 8 tricks for -50 for a good board. Other pairs made 10 or 11 tricks in Diamonds.

Bid to the level of fit


Monday 11th October

This is a very tough hand after South has opened  with a weak 2♠, despite the wrong shape with 17 points I would Double with the West hand and I would bid 4 with the East hand as I did at the table; this may seem bold but from the bidding North who has at least 4 Spades but has passed (so possibly 4333 with a poor hand) and 4 may put some pressure on (with 2 Spades I am happy to Double 4♠). That should have been the end of the auction but partner followed with 6. So to make the contract the Club finesse must be successful, I need to ruff two Spades and find an extra trick from somewhere. So I win ♠A, cross to A, ruff a Spade cross to  K, ruff a Spade, ♣ J covered by South I won ♣A and played Q drawing the last trump. Now decision time, should you play for Clubs 3-3 or ♣9 dropping in 2 rounds or for North to have J (North will have in either case a 4333 shape South has already shown up with 8 points so will not hold K). Lets be kind I failed. The solution is neither you should play ♣J cross to ♣Q if the Clubs break your problems are over. If North has 4 Clubs you can play the 4th Club and North will have to lead away from K.

Look for endplays

Thursday 8th November

What do you do next with the South hand?

3NT! 2NT is forcing partner has denied four Hearts and shown 15-16 points so with 26 or 27 points you must bid game and 3NT is the only possibility.

The cards could not be more badly placed for declarer. Despite this; the play has a few twists and turns but North has a fairly simple 9 tricks. East will lead 7 North will win K, ♣A, ♣10, Q, 10 overtake with A, ♣Q setting up 9 tricks for +400.

At the table no-one reached game!!!

You must bid game with game values


Wednesday 7th November

Only two pairs reached game on this hand, three pairs sold out to 3. With 13 points and a decent suit South should bid 3♠ and North will raise to 4♠. At our table, John led 6 to K, A and now Colin led a cunning J. Clearly West holds ♣ A from the bidding so I might make the contract if Spades are 2-2 by ruffing high and playing two top Spades the only downside is when West holds all 4 Spades where the contract will now fail by 2 tricks so I played ♠A and now John and Colin had earned well deserved top. Note failing by one trick would have been a very good result for us.

Bid over the opponent's preemptive bids

Tuesday 5th November

East will start with 1, South will overcall 1♠, West knowing the partnership has at least 10 Hearts should bid to the level of fit with 4 (with a stronger hand West can cue bid 2♠ to show at least invitational values with 4+ Hearts) and North will also bid to the level of fit with 4♠. Now the spotlight falls on East; from the bidding West has 6 Hearts, a likely void in Spades and few points so will not get rich Doubling 4♠  so should bid 5 expecting this to make. As it happens bidding 5♠ is a good sacrifice but neither North or South are sure of the situation so will probably Pass.

South will probably lead ♠A East will ruff and can make 12 tricks for +480 by leading towards the ♣ KQ twice and taking the Diamond finesse.

Bid to the level of fit

Monday 4th November

The first question is should you open the North hand. I think non-vulnerable against vulnerable it's worth a shot. Now East can overcall 2♣  but South won't stop till game is reached.

If North passes life is more difficult see the auction above: East will open 1♣, South has no clear bid so should Pass, West has less than 6 points so will Pass, North will Double for takeout, South will bid 2♣ showing a strong hand with at least 2 possible places to play, North will bid 2 showing suits in ascending order, South will bid 2 and North with 14 points counting 3 for the singleton will bid game.

There are just 2 Aces to lose for +450. At the table 3 out of four pairs lost their way.

Play in 4-4 major suit fits in preference to No-Trumps

Thursday 31st October

What do you bid now?

1NT. The choice is between 1NT and 2♣. The advantage of 1NT is that it gets across the strength of the hand (15-16) as well as suggesting the best denomination. Partner will raise to 3NT. Note with less than game-forcing values East should not respond 2♣ to the 1 opening but prefer 1♠.

Avoid playing in 5 of a minor

Wednesday 30th October

Partner opens a weak 2 in Diamonds showing 5-10 points and a 6 card suit. What do you do?

Pass! Lots of East/Wests got into trouble on this hand losing 200 or even 400. Two Pairs did not open a Weak 2 giving the opposition a free run. To change denomination you need at least 16 points and it is forcing so the 2 opener must bid again. To raise you need at least 3 Diamonds unless you have 16+ points. 2 -1 is a great score for East/West when North/South can make +110 in Hearts.

When partner has shown a weak hand and you have no fit Pass unless you have 16+ points

Tuesday 29th October

An interesting hand. Several Souths managed to get into trouble on this hand. When North passes the partnership will have 21 points at best and is unlikely to have a good fit. When East bids 2 South has no good bid and in any event has the chance to intervene with a suitable hand. When West bids 2 there is even less reason to bid as the Q is now a less attractive value.

Be careful if you have no fit with partner

Monday 28th October

Not the most sophisticated bidding but partner had passed so there is little real chance of slam and having had two Stayman mishaps already I was trying to avoid a third. 

South leads ♠4

So how to play the hand. You have 11 top tricks and a twelfth is possible if North holds A.

How good is the contract? If South has A you already have a good board as 4♠ should only make 11 tricks however if North has A you need +690 to beat the certain +680 in 4.

What do you know from the lead? South appears to have lead 4th highest (you can see the ♠2 and ♠3) suggesting that there was not a better suit to lead.

Let's play some cards to find out what's going on. Win ♠K trying to fool the defence (unusually the correct card South or North could hold ♠A but not ♠ K), play five rounds of Hearts noting South has 3 Hearts, North discards 3 Diamonds and a Club, South discards 2 Clubs. Now ♠ A and two more Spades, North discards a Club and 10

Do we play a Diamond or cash two Clubs? The clues we have are North might have opened 2 with a six-card suit, West's best suit appears to be ♠10xxx, and South holding 4 cards in either minor would have prefered to lead that suit rather than the anaemic Spades. So North appears to have started with ♠ xx  x ?10xxx ♣??xxx. A priori the odds are 5-3 on that the A is with North. If North held Qxxxx is the discard of 4 Diamonds reasonable? It looks like North has reduced to A ♣Qxx. If the defenders have retained 2 Diamonds each we are no worse off.

The evidence looks good so I played a Diamond making 12 tricks for +690.

The results were 3 pairs making 480 in Hearts, one pair making 11 tricks in 3NT for a bottom and us making +490 for a top board.

Think through the opponent's plays and bidding

Friday 25th October

East has a good hand but what now?

I think that most will try 4! Not a bad bid but it does not work. This time even 3 is too high. This shows the value of a weak two in Diamonds. Three pairs asked me about this hand all of whom had 2 opened against them.

The value of a pre-emptive bid is to surprise the opponents so having a four-card major should not put you off.  You show the major feature of your hand in one shot and more importantly, partner will know when you have passed then bid any other suit but Clubs you cannot have more than five cards in the suit.  

Pre-emptive bids make you guess

Thursday 24th October

East will open 1♠, South will make life difficult with 3, West will bid 2, North will bid 4 raising to the level of fit and the best East can do is Double for +300. If South fails to bid East-West have an easy path to game in Clubs or No-Trumps. (1♠ - 2 - 3♣ game forcing).

Preemptive bids get in the way

Wednesday 23th October

The interesting thing about this hand is the different possible sequences from the same hand. East could overcall either 2 (10+ with 5+ Diamonds) or 3 (5-10 with 6 or 7 Diamonds) either might work but perhaps 2 shades the options because of the good suit. In any case South will Pass. If East bid 2 West will bid 2 showing invitational values with Diamond support which will put North off from competing further as South cannot hold more than a couple of points and the bidding will probably subside in 3.

The auction will take a totally different course if East bids 3. This was the auction at our table. West will not bid as East may have only six Diamonds and the four Hearts are not an asset when raising Diamonds. From Norths perspective holding 18 points, South could easily have the values for game and not be able to bid over 3 so should Double with some trepidation. After the Double South must bid. North should usually have five Hearts but there are lots of Diamonds missing if West holds four Diamonds there would have usually been a raise to 4 even with minimal values so it looks like North must hold three Diamonds so must be 18 or 19 points and 3433 or 4432 shape so with 7 points including the void 4♠ seems a clear choice.

As long as you negotiate the Club position sucessfully there are 10 tricks for +420. In any event it is better than letting the opponents making a Diamond contract.

Marginal bidding decisions may lead to very different results

Tuesday 22th October

What should you lead on this auction?

From the bidding East-West have an 8 card Spade fit and North may well have a Heart holding that can be ruffed in dummy with such poor Spades ruffing more than one Heart is unlikely. So a Spade lead looks best. ♠3 was led East reasonably played low North won ♠K switched to a Diamond and now South played Spades at every opportunity. The unlucky East played a Heart to the K ensuring the defeat of the contract. Note on any other lead East can crossruff to make the contract even if both majors are misguessed.

Lead a trump to stop declarer cross-ruffing

Monday 21st October

This hand looks good. You are not so happy when the bidding reaches you. What do you bid now?

Well, clearly there is nothing wrong with 5 but should you bid 6.  I analysed 200 deals, 114 of these made 6 or 7 hardly conclusive but 6 seems the best try. Also if North/South bid 5♠ what will you bid now? Bidding 6 makes North/South have to guess at the 6 level.

Give the opposition the last guess 

Thursday 17th October

For some reason, this board caused a problem! If North opens 1 (11+ points and unbalanced so why not?) there is no problem as South will press on to game in No-Trumps or Diamonds however the auction goes. Even if North passes South will open 1NT West will probably bid 3♠, North has an ideal Double for takeout this should show invitational values and now South cannot go wrong either bidding 3NT or 4 or 5 or even Pass will improve things. Well done to Chris and Richard who managed to reach a good 4 contract everyone else played in Spades. 

Double for takeout

Wednesday 16th October

The lead I received was 3 East played J. The issue with this hand is whether to win the first Heart. If you do and the Diamond finesse fails you will lose a number of Heart tricks. If you duck twice you will make the contract if West has 6 Hearts even if East has K. Playing teams scoring this might be a good idea but at pairs it's the number of tricks that count.

So win A, finesse K, back to ♠A, repeat the Diamond finesse, cash the rest of the Diamonds discarding a Club and a Heart. Now cash three Spades when they break 3-3 and now East is in difficulties having to find a discard from K ♣Qxx so South should make 13 tricks for +720.

At pairs, playing safely is not a good strategy unless the odds are in your favour

Tuesday 15th October

East will open 1 , South will overcall 1♠ 8+HCP with 5+ Spades. North will bid 2 showing 10 or balanced 11HCP with 5 Hearts and two or less Spades (would have opened 2  with 6 Hearts and would raise Spades with 3 card support). As you have 19 points partner has at most 4 points with 3 Diamonds or less (as with four or more Diamonds a raise to 2  would be in order). So what to bid?

At the table, I chose 4♣ and made 11 tricks despite the 4-0 trump break for a top board.

Everyone else played in Diamonds where 9 tricks should be the maximum. Was this a lucky shot I was not sure so I generated 200 boards for the West hand that fitted the bidding of these there were 77 where West should have chosen to play in Clubs (when the Club suit was 4 in length or West held 2 more Clubs than Diamonds) of these 46 were better played in Clubs than Diamonds whereas only 14 played better in Diamonds. With a small sample like this it's hardly definitive but experience tells me this is correct. So bidding the second suit gained 23% of the time and cost 7% of the time. I like these odds.

When you can it is usually best to show your second suit

Monday 14th October

Several pairs failed to reach 4♠ with this hand. East will open 1♣, South could intervene with 2, West must Double to show responding values with four Spades and at least four Diamonds. With a known Spade fit East can add points for the singleton and doubleton but will discount the Q and the Heart values so 2♠ seems enough. West with 13 points will raise to game. I guess the three pairs who missed game did so when West failed to Double 2♠.

Don't forget to Double for takeout

Thursday 11th October

If East Doubles your 1NT opening what should you do?

Bid 2♣ the opposition may have the majority of the points but are unlikely to Double. As you can see 1NT* has 8 top losers for -300. Partners Pass should show a maximum of a poor 8 points with better hand Redouble is the correct. With a weak hand and a 5+ card suit partner would have bid.

As opener escape from 1NT* whenever you can

Wednesday 9th October

Clearly, on this hand, most Norths opened 2NT. With 5 or more Hearts South must transfer to 3 and now with this hand you have a guaranteed 8 card Heart fit so can count 3 points for the singleton giving a total of 6 points plus partners known 20-22 points gives enough values for game. There are 10 easy tricks despite the bad breaks in Hearts and Diamonds. Well done to Chee and Diana who bid 4 they were the only pair to play in Hearts.

Always transfer to a 5+ card major over 1NT or 2NT bids

Tuesday 8th October

At the table, everyone played in Spades. North will open 1 South should respond 1♠ (thinking of slam as the final destination). North is not strong enough to bid 2, as responder it is important to mention the second, then when the opener raises to 4, South should bid Blackwood if North shows 2 Aces South will bid 7 or 7♠ or 7NT taking a small chance that the Spades are good, when North shows one Ace South should probably bid 6 North rates to have ♣ K for the opening lead and it may be dangerous to have West on lead if East holds ♣AQ. On a non-Club lead, there are 13 tricks as the Clubs can be discarded on the Diamonds.

Always show your second suit if you have the values to do so

Thursday 4th August

North with seven Hearts and 5-10 points should open 3, East will have some concerns but should Double for takeout, South will bid 4 raising to the level of fit and West should bid 4♠ ending the auction. North will lead ♣5 and when South wins ♠K, a Club return ruffed by North will defeat the contract.

Is this a bad result? It is certainly a little unlucky. Notice if East Passes South should raise to the making 4 for -620. So well done to Janice&Linda and Richard&Chris for reaching 4♠.

Double for takeout with suitable hands

Wednesday 3rd October

I won't pretend to guess how the bidding went but I have made a stab at it. It is certainly a distributional hand! One pair defended 6♣x and no doubt switched to a Spade after winning A, not a good idea but defeating 6♣ by one Doubled only scores 25%. At the other end of the scale, Rosemary and Keith made a small slam in Diamonds. Why are there so many tricks available? The answer is the double fit both sides have at least 8 cards in a second suit.

Double fits make more tricks

Tuesday 1st October

A competitive auction makes judging the level to compete to difficult. East will open 1, South will overcall 1  and West must Double to show the black suits. Now the judgement bit North should raise to 2 you have an 8 card fit with 6 points counting the singleton, how bold will East be 3♠ seems correct with 17 points including the shortages, with the shortages South has 20 points so will bid 4 (this will make if the defence fail to lead Hearts ) and will West press on to 4♠ which will probably fail by 2 tricks. Phew!

Distributional hands make competitive deals difficult to judge

Monday 30th September

Should you bid over the opponents 1NT?

Yes!! If you could tell North to lead Heart Pass could be correct but partner is sure to lead something else. At the table three Souths Passed, North did not lead a Heart and as a result, West made 1NT. One South bid 2 and made 8 tricks which would have been a good result even if West had failed in 1NT.

In 4th position strain to bid over a 1NT opening 

Thursday 26th September

Only one pair reached 6 on this hand. North will open 1♣ the suit below the singleton, South can respond 1, North will raise to 2, South has 20 points including the doubleton so should not stop before 6 but how to proceed. Given the reluctance of players to bid slams at this session 6 is probably the best bid as Blackwood will not help in the decision to bid slam. If you are interested in 7 a simple route is to use Blackwood, then when North shows one Ace you can ask for Kings and if North shows 3 kings you can bid 7. In this case, there are only 12 tricks when the Spade finesse fails.

Bid Slam with Slam values

Wednesday 25th September

This hand is from the morning session. What should you bid now?

3NT with game values you must bid game. The lack of a stop in Hearts should not affect the choice of level. Even if North bids 2NT showing 17-18 points South must raise to 3NT.

Bid game with game values

Tuesday 24th September

North will open 1 with a good hand with lots of trick potential, South will respond 1, West also with a good hand too strong for 2♠ will intervene with 1♠, North will jump to 3 showing a strong single suited hand a bit bold but there are 8 tricks, South will rebid 3 , North having overstated the hand on the last round will simply raise to 4 showing three-card heart support and the void in partners suit will deter South from bidding further. There are 11 or 12 tricks depending on how the heart suit is played. Note at the table no one played in Hearts which would have been the top score. Note the similarity to yesterday's hand.

Play in eight card major suit fits

Monday 23rd September

A curious hand; when you pick up it looks like you want to end up in 3NT which will usually be the best scoring contract.  So you start with 1, partner responds 1, what next its a choice between 3 and 2NT either is fine over 2NT North will bid 3 a forcing bid showing the Diamond support and some concern about 3NT, South will raise to 4 (hopefully North understands this is forcing), North might bid 4 showing a 5th card in the suit and South could Pass; over 3 North will raise to 4 again after 3 this should be forcing and now South can bid 4. 6 is only a good contract because of the quality of the Heart suit without the 9 the contract is poor so reaching the major suit contract is best in practical terms.

Our bidding went 1 Pass 4 so as partner has not got a major suit it is likely 3NT will be the best scoring contract but that ship has sailed so the only hope for a good result is 6. I was lucky and got a Spade lead now with careful play I can draw trumps and eliminate the black suits ending in dummy the play J covering Easts card thus ensuring the contract. I managed to muddle the play reducing my chances to 75% but as West did not have  K and  Q I got away with it. Surprisingly I was the only one to make 12 tricks.

Accurate bidding requires confidence in partners knowledge of your bidding system

Thursday 19th September

Competitive deals are difficult to judge. North will open 1, East should overcall 1♠, South has a difficult bid 2 understates the point count but 2♣ conceals the Heart fit. Now West should jump to 3♠ bidding to the level of fit (nine trumps suggest bidding to the three level). As long as North/South do not take a big risk and Double (if Hearts were 3-1 the contract would make) this will be -100 against +140 available in Hearts and a good score.

Bid to the level of fit

Wednesday 18th September

With 13 points West should open 1♠, East responds 2 and now what should West do?

West holds 13 high card points and East has shown 10+ HCP with 5 Hearts. If East has one Spade you have an eight-card fit but partner will not be able to recognise this. So it is best to force to game with an unsophisticated 4♠ (or a sophisticated 3♠ followed by passing 4 or bidding 4 over 3NT showing 2 card support). All roads lead to 4♠ which is unlucky to make only 10 tricks. In any event, East with 13 points must force to game whatever West bids.

Bid game with game values


Tuesday 17th September

What do you do now?

The first thing is you have 13 points so you must not stop below game. The choices for the final destination are between 3NT and 6♣. Partners 2NT is forcing to game so 3♣ should be a slam try in Clubs or at least expressing some doubt about 3NT being the best contract. Partner will bid 3 with a 5th Heart or Cue bid an Ace with a Club fit or bid 3NT with 4 Hearts and a dislike of Clubs. In this case, a cue bid of 3 by partner is the correct bid and you should reach 6♣. However, if you are not sure of partners bidding you must take the bull by the horns and bid game. 3NT with fingers crossed is the best choice. At the table, I bid 3NT over partners 1NT opening. Everyone else played in a Club partscore. 

Bid game with Game values

Monday 17th September

What should you do now?

Bid 1NT showing 11-14 points and everyone will Pass. East with a balanced 10 points should not bid as there can't be values for game. North will lead ♣Q and West has an easy 7 tricks for +90. Those playing in 1♣ made 6 tricks for -50 a better score.

1NT in the protective position shows 11-14 points

Thursday 12th September

You pick up 21 points and partner opens 1NT! The first thought should be we have at least 33 points so I must bid slam but which one. If you have no idea how to bid the hand just bid six of somthing either 6NT or 6 would have got you 100%.

For the more sophisticated the best start is 3 a slam try in Diamonds. South will show interest with a cue bid of 3 and a series of cue bids will get you to 7 .

Always bid slam when the partnership has at least 33 high card points

Wednesday 11th September

This a surprisingly tricky hand. The simple answer is to bid 6NT.  You could bid 5NT asking partner to bid 7NT with a maximum. Will you make more tricks in Spades if you have a 4-4 fit. maybe it is better to use Stayman then if partner bids 3♠ use Roman Key Card Blackwood to check on Aces and Kings and ♠Q bidding 7♠ with all of them. If opener responds 3 you can bid 6NT (4NT is quantitative and would only invite 6NT). If opener responds 3 you can bid 6NT suggesting 7♠, why else have you used Stayman. This is a deal where you need to be sure of your methods.

Note there are only 12 tricks available whatever the bidding, the only thing worth retaining in the South hand is four Spades.

With a regular partner agree to the meaning of 4NT in sequences where partner has started with 2NT

Tuesday 10th September

West opens 3 what do you do with the South hand?

You have 18 points so are worth two bids. So start with Double this will ensure you play in a major suit if partner has a five-card major, also you maintain the option of playing in 3NT. North has a difficult bid Pass is a strong option 3 is probably second choice when South could bid 3NT when North will Pass or 4♣ which North must raise to 5♣ (this must be a strong hand with a 5 card suit or South would have bid 3♠ over 3). 

Double to get two bids to show extra strength

Monday 10th September

On this hand, North failed to bid 3♣ on at least three out of four opportunities. This allowed East to bid 1NT and East/West to play in No-Trumps. South will not lead ♣Q holding East to five tricks and so East will come to nine tricks. (Why South led ♠A on three occasions is unclear.) The most North/South will lose in 3♣ is -100 for an excellent score.

Weak Jump Overcalls make life difficult for the opposition



Thursday 5th September

What should you do when partner opens 2?

Pass! Having only one Heart is not a problem as partner has six. 2 makes as North has a minimum hand but a good suit. 

You need 16 points to change denomination over a weak 2 bid

Wednesday 4th September

When South opens the bidding North should realise that slam is almost certain, the question is in which suit or even No Trumps. So to find the best denomination you must make a series of forcing bids. North will start with 1spade and South will rebid 2club showing a minimum hand. North must jump to 3heart as 2heart is not forcing and South will show four-card support with a raise to 4heart. Having found a fit, North can use Blackwood South will show two Aces. Now North has a decision, 7heart looks a good bid but settling for 6heart will get a good result on a Wednesday morning at the moment. The 4-1 Heart break ensures there are only 12 tricks. Well done to Jane and Chris for realising the potential of the hand and bidding 6heart.

When you have 33 or more points you should bid Slam

Tuesday 3rd September

This hand illustrates the variance in scores that occur in a Sim pairs. At Caterham, three pairs reached 4, not a terrible contract if South has a Club honour but doomed to failure on this occasion. One North-South pair made 2♠. So the scores at Caterham for North-South were +50 0%, +100 25%, +110 75% and +150 100%. Across the country most pairs played in 2 so nationally the scores for North-South were +50 86.6%, +100 93.76%, +110 96.64% and +150 98.89%. This increased Sandra and Keith's score by 4% and reduced our score by the same amount. In fact, nationally the leading score at Caterham was reduced by about 14% and the bottom score increased by 10%. As you might guess, usually scores move towards 50% the more comparisons there are. Click here for another example.

Sim Pairs scores tend to move towards 50%

Monday 2nd September

What do you bid when East opens 1?

3 you have seven high card points plus three points for the singleton Diamond, for a total of 12 points. West will raise to 4 which will make comfortably.

When you have a fit you can count points for shortages 

Friday 30th August

North has a strong hand and will make 11 tricks in Diamonds, so should open 2♣. South should respond 2 showing 0-7 points. North will rebid 3 forcing to game and South will try 3NT. Now what should North do? 

There is a lot to this hand but bidding 4 seems to give you the best chance; this is forcing to game and stronger than 5. Slam will be excellent if South holds ♠A or ♣Q or K with a trump entry. Also, there are some extra chances in Clubs for example on this layout or if a Spade can be established. In this case, without a useful card, South will raise to 5. Note 3NT will fail on a Spade lead.

When a sequence is forcing to game a bid below game level is stronger than a game bid

Thursday 29th August

What do you do when partner opens 1?

Bid 3 showing 10-12 points counting three points for the singleton. The hand has good values in Hearts and ♠ QJ in the same suit is much stronger than being in different suits. The opposition have not bid so partner might have a stronger hand and will Pass 2 with up to 17 points including distribution as three pairs did on this occasion. In this case, only Paul and Carol reached the good game. Note it takes a Diamond lead to prevent 11 tricks. Even if East was the dealer a raise to 3 seems sensible as if partner is minimum the opposition should have a contract somewhere.

Count points for distribution when raising partner

Wednesday 29th August

This is a matter of hand valuation. North will open 1♠, the key to the hand is the valuation of the South hand you only have nine points but you do have a good six-card suit and most importantly three-card trump support so you should upgrade to ten points and bid 2♣. Now with 15 points, North will force to game. 

You can make a points adjustment with a suitable hand

Tuesday 28th August

East will open 2NT West will transfer to Hearts and then knowing opener has two Hearts should raise to 4. On Tuesday no one reached 4. 3NT can be made but requires an unlikely sequence of play. In 4 South is likely to lead ♠Q East will win ♠K to make 11 tricks East has to cross to dummy and lead a Heart towards the Q otherwise there are 10 tricks for +620. In any case, 4 will score better than 3NT.

Thursday 22nd August

This hand clearly shows that transferring to a major is sensible even with very few points. Should North break the transfer? Over 2NT it makes some sense to break the transfer with a good hand and 4 card support. However, even with this hand, you need the Diamond finesse to work and no more than one Heart loser or no Heart loser roughly a 50/50 chance. Over 1NT, breaking the transfer only makes sense if you have five of the trump suit. 

Transfer over a 1NT or 2NT openings or overcall whenever you have five or more of a major

Wednesday 21st August

Clearly, 4 is the best contract and a better scoring contract. At the table, five pairs played in 3NT which will probably fail on a Diamond lead. The key is that West should bid 2♠ over 1NT a responders reverse, East should then bid 3 showing three-card Heart support and West will raise to 4.

It pays to bid out your shape in the majors

Tuesday 20th August

East will open 1, despite the poor quality suit West must respond 1 and East will rebid 1♠. Now what should West do? 

East has shown a minimum hand with the 1♠ rebid also with 15-16 points and a singleton Heart East is likely to have bid 1NT. So game looks unlikely so a conservative 1NT is not unreasonable. If you bid 2NT East will raise to 3NT. 3NT makes as East has 14 points, North has A and the Diamonds are good for five tricks. So the conservative 1NT looks good when dummy goes down but not so good when you make 10 tricks. In the long run, I think the conservative 1NT will be the winning action.

Sometimes boldness is your friend

Monday 19th August

A tricky hand! So what should you do with the North hand given the auction shown? The Double is for takeout but may not be an ideal shape at higher levels.  If East had opened 3 and South had Doubled what should you do? Also if East had opened 2 and South had Doubled what should you do?

At the table, different East's opened 2, 3 and 4.

Firstly should South Double for takeout, points in the short suit are not ideal but you have 14 of them with four Spades and the right shape so you should always Double.

At our table, I looked at the vulnerability and made the pressure bid of 4 South Doubled for takeout (my partner redoubled but this should not alter your action)? So what should North do, clearly 5♣ is unlikely to make values in Spades will be wasted and South will need five winning cards to give you a chance. So it is best to cross your fingers and Pass (easier after the Redouble) hoping for a Spade ruff. As a rule of thumb don't bid five of a minor unless you have a  six-card suit or extra shape or think you will make the contract opposite 13 points. In this case, partner will play ♠A, ♠K, Spade ruff and there are 2 Hearts to come for +300. 5♣ will make only 8 tricks for a very poor score. 

If East opens 2 as happened at two of the tables; one South made a wimpy Pass and conceded -110 the other Doubled and partner correctly called 3♣ conceding only -100 for a better result.

If East opens 3 South will Double, West must Pass (and certainly not bid 3NT even if South passes you have an 8 card Heart fit, to few points and no guarantee of reaching dummy). Now the odds have changed 3 is more likely to make and 4♣ less likely to fail so 4♣ is not an unreasonable bid. That will fail by 2 tricks for -200 for a poor score. 

This hand is like Goldilocks and the three Bears with unsurprisingly 3 being just right!

Pre-emptive bids make you guess

Thursday 15th August

North will open 1♠, with no Spades South should bid 1NT slowing the auction whilst prepared for any response, West at favorable vulnerability might try 2, North might Double for takeout, South might consider passing but the vulnerability is wrong so will invite game with 4 and North with an excellent hand for this sequence (the two aces, singleton Heart, and  QJx look ideal) will raise to game. The hand can be made by ruffing two Hearts in dummy and discarding the losing Club on ♠A. Well done to Paul and Adrian the only pair who bid and made the game.

A bid at the 2 level shows 10+ points

Wednesday 14th August

Most got into difficulty on this hand. South will open 1and West will overcall 1♠. What should North bid? Without West's intervention, the bidding would proceed 2♣ - 2NT - 3 - 3NT. With 6-8 points and 3 card support, North should raise to 2. In this case, North can't bid 2♣ as this now shows at least five Clubs after the intervention should bid 1NT this now shows 8-11 points and a stop in the opponent's suit (with 6-7 points you can Pass as partner has another chance to bid) now South can raise to 2NT showing 15-16 points, North with 10 points will check for a 5-3 Heart fit with a forcing 3 and South will settle for 3NT.

The bid of 1NT as a response after intervention shows a stronger hand than it would without the intervention

Tuesday 13th August

North may open 1♣ hardly a thing of beauty.  East will overcall 1 showing 8+ points and South will Pass. West has a fit for Hearts and 16 points so could bid 4 immediately and East with no Aces will Pass. Otherwise, West must bid 2♣ showing a fit for hearts and at least invitational values and now East will bid game (now West might bid 4NT Blackwood and when East shows no aces settle for 5 ).

Only one pair reached the good game.

Bid game with game values

Monday 12th August

The bidding on this hand should have been the same at every table but many failed to reach game.

The interesting part is the play in 3NT. West leads 2 now how should South play the Hearts?

If you play Q this will work when West holds K. In isolation, this might be the best thing to do but in this case you can play on Spades for a 10th trick if the defence cannot cash three heart tricks. So play low from dummy gaining when West has led from J10xx or Jxxx and losing if West has led from Kxxx.

Thursday 8th August

North should open 1♠, South with 14 points so not intending to stop below game will respond 2♣, West will bid 2 (3 puts the cat amongst the pigeons North with a minimum will Pass, South should  Double for penalties and +300 will be a good score), North can bid 3♣, South will bid 3 showing at least invitational values game hoping North can bid 3NT, North will deny interest in 3NT and show a minimum hand with 4♣. Now South with game values must bid 5♣. There is no problem with the play. 

Bid game with game values

Wednesday 7th August

If partner has opened 3 a slam seems certain but which one? A leap to 6 is premature. West should bid 4NT Blackwood finding East holds ♣A, Now 5NT asking for kings and on finding one opposite bid 7NT (not 7 as you almost certainly have 13 tricks without the Heart suit). As there is a Heart loser 7NT is the right spot. 

Don't forget to count your tricks


Tuesday 6th August

What does South bid? Partner has already passed and you have just 12 points. Bidding could be dangerous. There are three alternatives 3, Pass and Double. In this case, 3 is the winner as partner will raise to 4 which should make 10 tricks but next time who knows.

Pre-emptive bids make you guess

Monday 5th August

South will open a weak 2, a partner will overcall 3♣, now what should East do?

3NT! Two stops in Spades and no raise by North should be enough. In this case, ten tricks are likely. 

Bob Hamman among the greatest players of all time had a maxim for this sort of circumstance:

If you have a choice of reasonable bids and one of them is 3NT, then bid it


Thursday 1st August

Despite holding 25 points and a good suit no-one managed to bid the excellent game. North will open 1, East will overcall 1, South has a good fit for Diamonds with at least invitational values so should cue bid 2, as South could still have four Spades so North will continue with 2♠, South will show the Heart stops with 2NT and North with 14 points including a further Heart stop will raise to game. With a Diamond loser 3NT might be beaten on a Spade lead but with three Hearts why would West lead one.

Bid game with game values

Wednesday 31st July

What do you bid now?

Tuesday 31st July

An interesting hand South will open 1, West will overcall 1♠, with 9 points (12 with a Heart fit) North is too strong to bid 2 so will Double showing both minors, East can invite game with a cue bid of 2 (the hand is limited by the original Pass), South will show the Diamond fit with 2, West will discourage by bidding 2♠ and North with a Diamond fit as well as expecting South to have no values in Spades might bid 4. If South bids 3 East will bid 3♠ and now North has a further decision so this is another good reason for bidding 4 immediately. There are just three black suit losers making 10 tricks for +620.

Give the opposition the last guess

Monday 30th July

The bidding might proceed as shown. If you are playing splinter bids West should bid 4♣ showing a sungleton or void Club and East with values mostly in Clubs will decline. Now how to play the hand. On a Club lead it is best to discard a Diamond if North wins ♣A you have two Club tricks and should make 11 tricks. (Best for the defence is an unlikely Spade lead.) How would you proceede on the lead of J?

This hand looks great for a cross-ruff which will be sucessful even on the worst distribution. So win A, play A, 5 North will win Q, then play a Spade (or East might make eight Spade Tricks), East can win in the West hand, ruff a Heart, now ♣K discarding a Diamond. Now whatever North does the other losing Diamond can be discarded on ♣Q, trumps drawn and East has 11 tricks for +650. The threat of a crossruff ensures the defence has no winning play.

Ask the question why shouldn't I draw trumps

Friday 26th July

A tricky hand what should you bid when West opens a pre-emptive 3?

(see Hand of the Day Monday 22nd July for a similar problem) All actions have flaws but Bob Hamman among the greatest players of all time had a maxim for this sort of circumstance:

If you have a choice of reasonable bids and one of them is 3NT, then bid it

Thursday 25th July

West will open 1, East will respond 1♠, now West should bid 2 (2 is a bit of a stretch showing usually 17+ points), East should rebid 2♠ showing at least six Spades, now West can add a point for the doubleton Club and the three Aces are also a positive so a jump to 4♠ is not unreasonable. Only two of the six pairs played in Spades; the point is West should not bid No Trumps but support Spades once West has bid the suit twice. 

Wednesday 24th July

John counting 5 points for the void found the 3 bid on this hand which allowed the raise to 4. There were only 11 out of about 244 pairs who managed to bid and make game.

Tuesday 23rd July

Should you bid or Pass?

I think a bid of 1 is the percentage option as I did at the table Alan and Mick did something similar. You do hold 5 points and a few tens. If partner raises or bids another suit or bids No Trumps you can Pass. 1 is unlikely to play well if partner holds four or even 5 Diamonds. If partner rebids 2 at least you know you have a 7 card fit.

In this case partner rebid 1NT which scores better than 1.

Have a look at similar hand board 9 yesterday where the winning action is to bid 1♠. Click here for the hand.

It is worth trying to improve the contract

Monday 22nd July

What do you bid when South opens a pre-emptive 3♣?

3NT not ideal but there is no better option. A major suit bid would show a 5 card suit and could be Passed with up to 10 points. If you Double you could be lucky as in this case when partner shows a major but a jump in Diamonds would be difficult to handle. Bob Hamman among the greatest players of all time had a maxim for this sort of circumstance:

If you have a choice of reasonable bids and one of them is 3NT, then bid it

Thursday 17th July

A tricky hand to bid. I will take you through my thinking. I started with 1and partner responded 1NT. Now you have the values for 2NT but partner cannot hold more than three Spades so this seems dangerous, forcing to game with 3 is overstating your hand so a quiet 2 seems best. Now when North gives preference to Hearts a raise to 3 seems good lacking four Spades and prefering Hearts North is likely to have three Hearts. North with nine points has no problem raising to 4. With Hearts 3-2 there are 10 tricks for +620.

Think about partners hand

Wednesday 18th July

How many tricks can you make in No Trumps. Imagine you are in 6NT played by North on the lead of a low Spade. North wins ♠10 how should you continue? 

You now have three Spades, three Diamonds one Heart and two Clubs for a total of 9 tricks. You should look at each suit in order; Spades there is little chance of extra tricks West apears to have at least ♠ Qxxx; Hearts finessing K will add one trick if West holds Kx there are two extra tricks; Diamonds playing 9 finessing  J will add one trick however the Diamonds split (playing the top three Diamonds will make five Diamond tricks over half the time but you will make only three Diamonds 13% of the time); Clubs playing ♣K then finessing ♣Q will add three tricks if the Clubs are 3-3. This is a hand where you have to take your chances in order so play 9 finessing J, 43% of the time when the J is this will give you 12 tricks by then giving up a Heart so when 9 wins cross to ♠K play, A, K finding the bad news, now play 3 towards Q this will generate the two extra tricks required when Hearts break 3-3 or East has Kx or singleton K (you cannot afford to play A first) in this case Q will lose to K and now you can test the Hearts which break 3-3 making 12 tricks for +990. Note you still have the Club finesse in reserve if the other chances don't materialise. (If the Diamond finesse loses you can cash ♠K, play ♣K, finesse ♣Q if this suceeds and the suit breaks you have 12 tricks if the Club suit does not break you have to take the Heart finesse.) You can make 13 tricks but this puts the contract at risk.

Take your chances in order

Tuesday 16th July

West leads ♣3 to your ♣10 East wins ♣Q, plays Q low from dummy. How do you defend?

You should play low (smoothly) East is sure to follow with 5 to J you can win K and now East has no way back to the Diamond suit and will fail by several tricks.

Defenders can hold up too

Monday 15th July

An interesting problem. South with a balanced 11 should Pass, West should open 2, North does not have a bid so should Pass but South having Passed initially can Double for takeout. Now North has two choices bid 3NT or Pass hoping for +500 or +200 and game is not making. I would favour Pass at this vunerability. The analysis says the contract should fail by two tricks but practically the defence will make 6 tricks for +200 and in this case 75% of the matchponts.

It often pays to take the penalty

Thursday 12th July

This hand was interesting no one reached the 25 point game. North should open 1, South should respond 1♠, North will rebid 1NT showing a balanced 15-16 points South with 9 points should invite game with 2NT, North will accept showing exactly 3 Spades (in case South has five Spades) with a bid of 3♠ and with only four Spades North will bid 3NT. 

East should lead ♣10 as this is probably from ♣(K)109(xx) North should play low winning ♣Q. Now a low Club intending to play ♣8 East might win ♣K now even if East switches to a Diamond North will come to at least 9 tricks for +600.

Bid game with game values

Wednesday 10th July

An interesting hand from Wednesday mornings gentle play session. I was playing with Christine in her first duplicate session and we managed to bid as above. East will open 1 South might overcall 2♣ now West can bid a forcing 2 showing a five card suit I continued with 2♠ which does not show extra values Christine continued with 3 showing a six card suit which I was happy to raise to 4.  

After a Club lead West should win ♣A now a cross ruff seems a good idea so ♣K ruff a Club ♠ A, ♠ K ruff a Spade ruff a Club and now the defence can only take two Aces.

Think about the bidding


Tuesday 9th July

The bidding should be straightforward. When West opens 2NT East with 35-37 points in the two hands must bid slam. East could try Stayman but when West bids 3 must bid 6NT. Note 4NT is not Blackwood but quantitative as no suit has been agreed. 

Now how to play the hand. Most will lead a Club say ♣4 West will win ♣K. What next?

The key is how to play the Diamond suit, crossing to A then following with 5 will succeed over 85% of the time failing only when South has Kxxx.

Slightly better is to cross to ♠A, then lead 5 to Q if South wins K then returns a Club West can win ♣A, play A finding out the bad news, follow with three more rounds of Spades, then three rounds of Hearts ending in the West hand. West holds ♣J 8 East has  J6 and South who has still to play to the 11th trick holds 109 ♣Q and has no good discard.

It is better if South does not win the first Diamond trick but West should still prevail West will cross back to A finding the bad news. Again West should play three more rounds of Spades, then three rounds of Hearts ending in the West hand. This time West holds ♣AJ 8 East has  J63 and South who has still to play to the 10th trick holds K10 ♣Q8 and has no good discard. If South discards a Diamond West can play a Diamond and finesse the ♣Q on the Club return or if South hangs on to both Diamonds ♣A will drop ♣Q establishing the ♣J. 

Leading towards Q without playing A succeeds over 89% of the time so one in 25 times you will make the extra trick and today is the day.

Look for extra chances

Monday 8th July

No-one managed to bid this hand correctly at the table. North should open 1NT South should transfer to Spades and then force to game with 3, North should bid 4♠ showing a minimum with 3 Spades and South with no slam interest will Pass. At the table players seem to have transferred to Spades the bid 2NT (when North with should bid 3♠ and South with 15 points will raise to 4♠) or used Stayman then bid 2NT. The only time you would want to play in 2NT is if North has 2 Spades, 3 Hearts and only 12 points so you must play with the odds and bid 3.

Now the play is also interesting assume East leads 5 (second highest from a bad suit) West will win K, then switch to  ♣3 (lead towards weakness in dummy) how should North play? 

Play with the odds

There appears to be a loser in Clubs, a Spade suit to negotiate and a fourth heart to deal with. Best is to win ♣A, finesse ♠K, cash a top Spade, cross to K, back to A, Q discarding ♣2, then when J falls play 10 discarding a second Club, cross to ♣K and cross ruff, East has a trump trick so North will make 11 tricks for +650.

Thursday 4th July

North will open 1NT and South should bid 2 a transfer to Hearts. (Otherwise West should Double to show 15 or more points when reaching game is then certain.) West should Double to show Diamonds and North will complete the transfer. East cannot bid not knowing the strength of Wests hand. When South passes West must bid having shown Diamonds 3♣ seems the best bid and East with 10 points will bid 3NT. As North is known to have nearly all of the outstanding points the play is not too difficult.

Bid game with game values

Wednesday 3rd July

What a strange hand! Not so much what you hold as the bidding. Partner has a balanced hand you have this strange distribution and neither opponent has a bid. So what is your plan?

You could bid 3NT or 5 directly. Better could be a 3 a slam try in Diamonds.

However the best option seems to be 2♣ Stayman. This gives some chance of slam. If partner bids: 

  • 2 You can bid 5 
  • 2 you could try 3NT hoping partner can stop the Clubs (if partner bids 4♠ you can bid 5♣ showing first round control in Clubs)
  • 2♠ you can bid 4♣ a Splinter bid showing a singleton or void Diamond

So in this case you will end up in 5 by East for +400 as South is sure to lead  K.

Don't worry about this hand too much nothing similar likely to happen to you again!

Think about using Stayman


Tuesday 2nd July

No North/South succeeded with this hand today. What should you do with this hand after South opens 1 and West overcalls 1♠?

After the 1♠ overcall North must bid 1NT showing 8-11HCP with a Spade stop (1NT is stronger over the intervention). Now South with 19 points will bid 3♣ forcing to game and the part score will be avoided. At the table all four pairs failed to reach game probably because North passed rather than bidding over 1♠.

Bid game with game values

Monday July 1st

I think North has too many HCP in the black suits and might settle for 3NT hoping to make the same number of tricks as those in Hearts. However two intrepid pairs reached the reasonable slam this is certainly better than 50%. West makes the helpful lead of ♣A and plays a second Club South will win ♣Q. South has nine tricks on top. How should you play the hand?

The best chance of extra tricks is in the Heart suit so K then Q (honors from the short hand first) and when West discards there are five Heart tricks by taking the marked Heart finesse (11 in total). Now as East has four Hearts the missing queens are more likely to be with West. So before cashing the Hearts it is best to play ♠A in case East has a singleton ♠Q, ♣Q, finesse J, cash two more Hearts, play A then K hoping Q drops (better to try for doubleton Q than doubleton ♠Q 4-2 is more likely than 5-2). Then if nothing good has happened take the Spade finesse for 12 tricks scoring +980. As it happens everything works.

As declarer make a plan

Thursday 27th June

Only two pairs out of six bid to slam on this hand. The sequence above shows how the hand might be bid. West will open 1♠, East already thinking about slam should try to find out as much asc possible about West's hand by bidding 2, West will rebid 2NT showing 15-16 points, a greedy East might bid 3♠ (intending to explore the possibility of 7♠ should West show five Spades by raising to 4♠) and in any event East with 35 or 36 points must bid 6NT over the 3NT response (or over 2NT). There are eleven top tricks and you can take the Diamond finesse in either direction making 12 or 13 tricks. 

Bid slam with slam values

Wednesday 26th June

This hand is interesting because of the results achieved at the table. Three pairs played in 3NT, one in 2♠ and only one in the correct contract of 4♠. Everyone should lead Q two players found another lead at the table. Declarer will play ♠A then finesse ♠Q losing to West making 10 tricks in a Spade contract. Now the problem with 3NT is that if you lose a Spade the defence should cash three Heart winners (lucky it could be more) holding you to nine tricks in this case as the Hearts are 4-4.

So back to the bidding how do we reach 4♠ . With a good 11 points South should invite game by transfering to Spades then bidding 2NT most of the time North will have three or more Spades and will end up in 4♠  (if North with 12 points bids 3♠ South should raise counting extra points for the singleton). In this case North has a maximum with 3♠ and should bid 4♠. I guess the shape pursuaded some Norths to bid 3NT this is a mistake on two counts South has not shown a balanced hand and the high cards held suggest suit play rather than No Trumps. If South had enough points for game (add ♠Q) and the same shape over 2♠ the correct bid would have been 3♣ showing either a very strong hand or some concern about 3NT as the final contract. So a bid of 3NT would show a balanced or semi-balanced hand. 

A transfer followed by a bid of 2NT does not necessarily show a balanced hand

Monday 24th June

There were three good slams today Several pairs bid 6♠  on board 3. Nicky and Ian did well to bid and make 6 on board 22. The hand above is board 2 the key is to realise how strong the West hand is. West will open 1 , East should respond 2♣ showing 10 or 11 points, West will force to game with 3, South will bid 4 showing at least two card support. Now the moment of truth East has 10 or 11 high card points and you have 21 points if East holds A you should be able to discard a Spade (or Club loser from hand) if not where are his points (Club values could be good too). Perhaps best is 5 asking East to bid 6  with a good Heart holding and East with good Hearts and two more kings should have no trouble in bidding 6

Sometimes you have to take a chance with a good hand

Thursday 20th June

North will open a Weak 2♠, West will overcall 2NT 16-18 with 2 Spade stops and East should transfer to Hearts. Most West's will make 3 as North cannot get a Heart ruff without help and a trump promotion in the Spade suit is difficult for the defence to see and organise. In any event it is better than 2NT which will probably make only 5 tricks. Notice if you do not play transfers in this position you cannot bid 3 as this would be a game force. 

Stayman and Transfers apply when the first natural bid by your partnership is 1NT or 2NT

Wednesday 19th June

There are probably many bidding sequences on this hand. The Double of 1 in the sequence above is not ideal but it is one way to make sure a Spade fit is not missed. Also if West bids 3♣ instead of Double North may be disuaded from bidding 3. Certainly if West is allowed to show some values East at the vulnerability should Double 4. Bidding 3 may result in missing a game. The other thought is if South bids 4 immediately will this avoid the contract being Doubled. I think its a tough call but I think an immediate 4 will pay off in the long run.

Vunerability should influence your bidding

Tuesday 19th June

This is a difficult hand to bid. West will open 1, East must bid 1♠, West has a tough desision but bidding 2 seems best (the other option is 1NT), now East has the tough desision but should either raise to 3 inviting game when West with 18 points will jump to 5 or bid 2NT when West will raise to 3NT. In either case game will make (3NT needs the Heart finesse to work or no Club lead but scores better).  The point is with 26 points game should be reached. 

Bid game with 25 or more points

Monday 17th June

Three pairs did well bid a small slam. South will open 1♠, North should respond 2♣ (responder should bid four card suits in ascending order), South will jump to 3♠ a game force with 15+ high card points and 6+ Spades. Now North knows the partnership has at least 33 points enough for slam. North should check for Aces and Kings with Blackwood then bid a slam. In this case 6NT scooped all the matchpoints.

Is it possible to bid seven? The sequence above is Roman key card Blackwood 5♠ shows 2 key cards and ♠Q, 5NT asks for Kings and 6 shows K and denies ♣K as well as K. Now South must have at least one queen for the 3♠ bid so North could bid 7♠ (slightly better than 7NT) hoping South holds Q or ♣Q or if not you will need at least one finesse to work. (South has shown 12 points from the Blackwood responses so should have at least 3 points in Queens and Jacks. North is missing Q,  QJ and ♣Q. If South has 4+ points the grand slam is always making. So the only problem is when Souths 3 points are specificaly QJ and even with this holding there are still chances.)

Discover partners hand from the bidding.


Thursday 13th May

The bidding should start as shown. What should West do after the 1NT bid?

Paul was the only one to find the correct answer which is is to Pass. The only other choice is to bid 2♥ it is possible that partner has three Hearts but it is against the odds. East will have at least seven cards in the minors so 1NT should play well. East has denied four Spades by bidding 1NT so you should not bid 2♠ which should show at least 17 points and is forcing (bidding over the barrier or a reverse). The defence is difficult but you will make at least as many tricks in No Trumps as in Hearts for a better score.

Wednesday 12th June

What do you when South opens 1NT?

Andrew found the best solution by passing, making seven Diamonds and A for +200  and a top score.  Unless you can make an unlikely 5  or 3NT with the opponents vunerable this is certain to be the best result.

Tuesday 11th June

When you are holding 14 points and partner opens the bidding the one thing you must not do is make a bid partner can Pass. This was obviously a problem with this hand. For most the bidding will start as shown above. Three West's made a non forcing Heart bid either 2  showing 6-9 points and a 6 card suit or 3  showing 10-12 points and a 6+ Heart suit. One West bid 2NT showing 11-12  inviting game and one West allowed East to play in 4♣. So what is the best bid? Have a think then press the show answer button to see my thoughts.

Clearly any bid of game is better so 3NT or 4 or even 5♣ would have given all the matchpoints. The best bid is 2♠ East has already denied four or more Spades so cannot raise to game, it is a responder reverse so it is forcing to game, in this case East will bid 2NT (stronger than 3NT) or 3NT with Diamond stops and you will reach 3NT for a top board. However the point is that whatever East responds West has an answer if East bids 2NT or 3♣ or 3  West can bid 3 showing a 6 card suit, if East bids 3  showing three Hearts West can raise, if East bids 3♠  showing no Diamond stop less than 3 Hearts as well as 3 good Spades East can continue with 4♣ and East can bid 4  with 2 Hearts or continue on to 5♣ with a 6 card Club suit.

Do not give partner the option to Pass below the level of game when you have game values

Monday 10th June

This hand was played in 1NT at all tables. At three tables South was declarer presumably on the auction above. What should you lead? 

1NT is always an interesting contract. The best lead is a Spade we have learnt to lead ♠10 from this holding and is the most sucessful on this occaision (♠6 is also good but if declarer plays ♠7 from dummy he there are 7 tricks available). Two pairs found a low Spade and beat the contract by one. The other lead was 10 when declarer should play low from dummy ending up with 7 tricks for +90 (1♠ 2 1 3♣). Two North pairs played 1NT having either opened 1NT or after 1♣ P 1 P 1NT. Now this contract can always make as East is almost endplayed at trick 1 the best lead is 6 which will probably hold North to 7 tricks. At one table somehow West managed to play in 1NT and made 6 tricks. Leads have a major influence on results.

It's usually best to lead your longest suit against No Trumps prefering a major suit to a minor suit

Thursday 6th June

West will Pass, North will Pass, East will start with 1, South wanting to ensure a Club lead will bid 2♣, West should compete with 2, North should continue with 2♠ this should be a 5 Card suit with a tolerence for Clubs also as North has already Passed it is no longer forcing (with 6 or more Spades North would have opened with a pre-empt) and South happy to play in Spades will Pass. If West gets into the action with 2 over the 2♣ bid (showing either 3 Hearts and 6-9 points or 4 Hearts and 2-5 Points), when North bids 2♠ East knowing there is at least an 8 card fit will bid 3  for a good score.

Support partner with 3 cards and 6-8 points after intervention.


Wednesday 5th May

There were unusual results on this hand. The auction should proceed as shown once South has shown 19 points 6NT seems the only bid to make. (5NT is not Blackwood but invitational to 6NT). You can lead  9 towards dummies  K for the 12th trick (13 if West ducks). In fact only one pair bid the slam but then slipped in the play. 


Tuesday June 4th

With a balanced 15 points South will open 1  (the hand lacks intemediates and has three suits with a single honour so 1NT is not an unreasonable alternative), West has no option but to Pass, North will respond 1♠ , South will rebid 1NT showing 15-16 points, North will force to game with 3  and South should bid 4♠  showing a minimum hand with three Spades. 6♠  is a good contract requiring Spades 2-2 or the  J to fall in three rounds or the Club finesse however two of the four pairs yesterday failed to bid game.

Bid game with game values 

Monday 3rd June

This was the bidding at our table. The first decision is whether to open 1♠  or 4♠ . Opening 4♠  means you might miss slam if partner has a good hand but as in this case you may stop the opposition reaching their contract. There is nothing wrong with West's Double but East unluckily picked the wrong suit. Many players play 4NT in this position to show two places to play (with Spades you can Pass 4♠).  5 will make but 6  is the contract. With an extra Spade and a good hand I felt justified in bidding 5♠  espechally at this vulnerability.  If East had bid 5  West would have passed 5♠  to show slam interest and with so much more than he might have East could bid 6 . A tough hand for East/West.

Pre-emptive bids make you guess

Thursday 30th May

North will open 1NT, East will overcall 2♣, South has no convenient bid as well as knowing the partnership has at most 24 points so will Pass (this must be done in tempo or North will have difficulty bidding) , West will Pass, North should make a takeout Double and now whether South decides to Pass for +300 or bid the result will be improved.

You can Double for takeout after opening 1NT with a doubleton in the suit bid and a 4432 shape .

Wednesday 29th May

South will open 1NT, North will bid 2© a transfer to Spades, East should Double to show Hearts, South will complete the transfer and West with 13 points not including the ♠ K should jump to 4©. North will lead ª6 to ªA, switch to ¨3 West will win ¨A, draw trumps ending in dummy, play §3 South will win §A, play ¨8 to ¨J and West will claim the rest making 10 tricks for +420. 

Remember a Double of an artificial bid shows the suit bid

Tuesday 28th May

This should be a fairly simple game to bid but three of the four pairs ended up in a Heart part score. Once East opens 1NT West should commit to game by using Stayman and on finding a Heart fit bid game. The three pairs in Hearts all made 10 tricks. Only one pair reached game on this hand a poor 3NT which slipped though on a misdefence but at least West recognised the need to bid game with game values.

Bid game with game values