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Hand of the Day Archive 2
Thursday 12th March

West will open 1, East will respond 1♠, West will rebid 2 which will be passed round to South. Given the limited auction South should Double for takeout North will bid 2 and West will probably compete with 3.

The defence should take 5 tricks for +50. Better than letting 2 make.

Compete if the opposition stop at the two-level

Wednesday 12th March

Well done to Lester and Theresa who were the only pair to reach game on this hand.

North will open 1♣ and East should bid 2♠ a weak jump overcall. South with 13 points knows the partnership should be in game but how to get there is the problem first South should Double for takeout showing 4 Hearts and at least 4 Diamonds, West with three card support will raise to 3♠. South now has to choose between double, 3NT and 5♣, North must have six Clubs but 11 tricks is a long way away facing a minimum hand. If you can make 6 Club tricks there are 2 Diamonds and a Spade on the lead so 3NT seems a better bid than Double. (Double is ok and works in this case but relies on North having a Spade stop).

West will lead a Spade South will win ♠K leaving an entry to dummy. South will play ♣ A, ♣ K, Club West will win ♣ J and declarer now has 10 tricks for +630.

Bid game with game values

 

Tuesday 11th March

North will open 1♣, East will overcall 1, South will bid 2 a cue bid showing a fit in Clubs with at least invitational values. North with a minimum hand is not interested so will bid 3♣. South will cue bid again still hoping for 3NT. North will probably bid 4♣ and South will raise to 5♣.

East will lead  A,  K, 7. How should North play the hand?

 

This is a great exercise in planning. There are two possible lines:

1. Play ♣10 hoping East holds ♣Q when this holds cross to K play ♣4 finessing ♣Q, ♣A cross to K, ruff a Club, cross to ♠K draw the last trump if necessary. Making the contract 

2 Play ♣A hoping West holds ♣Q; now ♣10 playing low when West fails to cover, ♣9 

  • If Clubs are 2-2 West holding ♣ Q you have just made the contract
  • If West has 3 trumps including ♣Q draw the last trump, play  K, A ruff a Diamond, if that fails East will be squeezed in Hearts and Spades if holding ♠Q.
  • If West has 4 trumps West will cover ♣9 cross back to K, ♣7 covered with ♣8 North will win draw the last trump A then the last Club squeezing East, 

Option 1 works about 40% of the time option 2 about 45%. East has shown 8 points already so missing Queens could be in either hand. If East hesitates before playing a low Heart or switches rather than playing a Heart it is likely that East holds ♣Q. 

In either case you should have planned your play before playing to trick three.

Plan the play at an early stage

Monday 9th March

There was a lack of initiative by the Norths on this hand. North must overcall 2♣ with this hand, the suit is good and you want to get in the way. As North has passed already South is not going to get overexcited. South will raise to the level of fit and West is unable to bid again. If you play the Spade suit correctly there are 10 tricks for +130.

Another interesting aspect of this hand is the defence to a Heart contract. North will lead ♣K, South should win ♣A, switch to 6 North will win A, return a Diamond for South to ruff,  now ♣ 4 to ♣ 10 and a further Diamond for South to ruff holds West to 8 tricks.

Bid and defend boldly

Thursday 5th March

North should open 1♣, East will overcall 1 and South will Pass. What should West do? 1NT is the best choice (responding to an overcall 1NT is a little stronger than over and opening bid as East might have only 8 points). East should raise to 2NT and West will bid game. (East could bid 3 showing 2 card support and with only five Hearts West will bid 3NT).

A 1NT response to a one-level overcall is stronger than a response to one of a suit, shows less than three cards in partners suit and shows a stop in the opponent's suit

Wednesday 4th March

West will open 1, North will overcall 1♠ and now the fun starts. If East had an invitational hand a 2♠ cue bid is the correct bid showing at least 10 points and a fit in Hearts. So with this hand holding 9 points, 3 is enough (4 is also fine) South will jump to 4♠ bidding to the level of fit. West has a difficult choice and will probably bid 5. North knows that South is almost certainly void in Hearts so proceeding to 5♠ seems with the odds. In fact North will make 12 tricks in Spades and West can make 11 tricks in Hearts. 

The bidding may change the value of your hand

Tuesday 3rd March

With 26 points between the hands East-West must reach game. 

West will open 1, East will respond 1♠ and West will rebid 2 a reverse bid showing 17+ points. Holding 9 points East must get his side to game and 3NT seems the best bet. Clearly East should have a Club stop for this bid so Pass is not unreasonable. 

There are 9 top tricks for +600. 

Bid game with game values

 

Monday 2nd March

No one managed to reach 6 on this hand.

North will open a weak 2♠, East should overcall 2NT showing about 16-18 points with two stops in Spades, West will transfer to Hearts then bid 3NT. East will give preference to Hearts with three or more Hearts or Pass with only two. With an exceptional hand for Hearts in this case maximum with four Hearts and three aces East can cue bid 4♣ showing the ♣A and interest in a Heart slam, West with a hand suitable for slam will bid 4 showing A or void (with an unsuitable hand West will bid 4) and East will bid 4♠ showing the ♠A. Now West can use Blackwood and on finding 3 key cards or 3 Aces will bid 6. The 4♣ cue bid cannot be showing a suit so must show ♣ A and Heart support.

As North has K singleton East will always make 13 tricks.

Use cue bids to show suitability for slams

 

Sunday 1st March

Firstly the bidding West will open 20-22 point No Trump. East should value the hand as 5 points counting one point for each Doubleton. East should transfer to Spades and raise to game. (3NT will fail if North plays low on ♠ K.) This is a good contract with many chances and will make over 70% of the time. Note the contract is so much better played by the West hand.

The lead from the North hand against 4♠ or 3NT should be passive; a vast majority of the opponents' points will be with West so J seems best (3 against No Trumps). With the ♣K10 offside this will give the defence a fighting chance. If the defence slip or West can set up Hearts for a Club discard declarer will prevail.

Count points for shortages

 

Thursday 28th February

This board caused difficulties on Thursday. Despite holding 27 points only John and Jane Gallagher reached game for a complete top. 

The problem is the singleton ♣K. How much is it worth? The good news is partner has bid the suit so it must be worth something. So even if you value ♣K as 1 point you have enough for game.

I think the choice is between 2, 2NT and 3NT. 2NT would be my choice. It is a more flexible allowing partner to show any concerns about 3NT

Bid game with game values

Wednesday 26th February

A curious hand 4♠ is the best contract but you might struggle on a Heart lead if you try to discard a Heart on a Diamond before taking the Spade finesse. 3NT is a poor contract and will fail on a Heart lead  

This time 3NT is best because West is likely to lead 5 South will play low hoping West has lead from 10, South will cross to dummy to take the Spade finesse making 10 tricks when this loses to ♠10. 

Somehow everyone ended in 3NT and everyone received a better score than bidding 4♠.

Good bidding is not always rewarded

 

Tuesday 26th February

The successful pair on this board were Tony and Laurence who Doubled 2♠ for +500. Everyone else must have bid 2 over 1NT (showing 10-14 HCP) for a deserved poor score.

When North opens 1NT East must Double to show fifteen or more points, South will escape to 2♠, West will Pass (Double would be for takeout). Now what should East do?

This is a forcing situation. I would favour Double over 3. West will pass the Double and there are only four tricks on the best defence for +800. Probably +500 at most tables.

If East bids 3 West will bid 3NT for a likely +630 but maybe a fortunate +690.

Double the opponents 12-14 point 1NT with 15+ points

Monday 24th February

An interesting hand to bid. No one managed to reach 3NT which is the top spot.

South will open 1♦, North will bid 1♥, South will try 2♦ showing six Diamonds (if South bids an optimistic 3♦ wild horses should not stop North bidding 3NT). Now North must make a game try and 2NT seems the best option showing the point count and South with seven Diamond tricks will bid 3NT.  With 26 points between the hands, you must bid game.

South will lead ♣J and on gaining the lead North will cash 10 tricks for +630 and a top board.

Bid game with game values

Thursday 21st February

Not a difficult hand to bid. There is no point in West bidding Spades as East would have rebid 1♠. 

Now what does North lead ♠Q is the standout lead from the North hand if the suit has not been bid, otherwise North will lead 2 showing a 4 card suit or  3 from the South hand if West bid Spades. 

On the ♠Q lead (or any Spade lead from North) you have three Spade tricks, at least three Club tricks. You can set up two Diamonds. So you need a ninth trick easiest is to play ♣A, ♣K, then when everyone follows ♣Q and another Club and you can't be prevented from making nine tricks. 

The Heart lead presents a different problem, now the defence has three Hearts and a Diamond so conceding a Club will lead to -1. So on winning the Heart play a small Diamond to Q,  4 to K North will probably win  A, then cash a Heart. Now you will make the contract if either the Diamonds or the Clubs break. Note the  2 from North indicates a 4-4 break whereas the  3 from South makes life less certain unless you see  2 from North. Basically, if believe Hearts are 4-4 you can increase your chances of making the contract from 35% to 58% by playing on Diamonds

Plan the play

Wednesday 19th February

Monica and Diana did well to reach the good Heart slam.

How might you get to 6? East will open 2NT and west will bid 3 a transfer to Hearts. Now East has a maximum in points, 4 card trump support and an extra point for a doubleton. So should bid 4 expecting to make opposite most hands that would pass 3. Now West holds three tricks and knows partner is bidding on the basis of at most one useful card opposite or you can think of it as 11 points opposite a maximum 2NT opener. An immediate 6 is a good bid but if playing Roman Key Card Blackwood you can check on controls first.

Even the 4-0 break does not prevent declarer from making 12 tricks.

Bid slam with slam values

 

 

 

 

 

Tuesday 18th February

An interesting rebid. East will open 1, West will respond 1NT and what should you do now? Most appear to have bid 3 and West in some cases bid 4. For game to make West must provide three tricks so it is going to be marginal at best opposite a 1NT response. So also consider Pass, 2NT, 3NT and 2.

At all but one table East played in Hearts which should make nine tricks.

I was lucky when South bid 1♠ (overcalls show at least five-card suit lacking in this case), now when my partner bid 1NT he is not likely to have a poor minimum, I could count seven tricks in my own hand, partner has a Spade trick for 8 and one more trick will normally be available so I bid 3NT making 9 tricks for +600.

In 4 only Keith and Roy managed to find the good lead of ♠Q and hold East to 9 tricks. ♠ Q is much the best lead especially with East holding the stronger hand.

Think about the lead

 

 

Monday 17th February

I was watching Debbie play this hand this morning. The bidding was an approximation of what happened at the table. 

North led ♣K how do you play the hand?

Firstly you must assess the lead; North cannot hold ♠ AK or she would have led ♠A, so the reason for the bold Double must include a Diamond trick. 

Debbie won ♣A, played A assuming North held  K for the Double, A, 10 on which North played low (Q beats the contract), 8 finessing Q and now the Hearts provide two Spade discards making the contract.

If North had covered 10 Debbie would have emerged with 10 tricks which is more than anyone else managed. Well thought through.

The only other thing to note is that rather than bidding 5♣ South could have bid 4 to request a Heart lead if the opposition bid 5. This would guarantee a two-trick defeat. (After a pre-emptive bid 4 cannot be a slam try)

Think about the opponent's hands

Thursday 13th February

Paul and Adrian were the only pair to reach slam on this hand. Here is their bidding sequence; 2♣ from East was 23+ or enough tricks for game in a strong hand, West responds 2 showing 0-7 points, East bids 2 game-forcing with at least 5 Hearts, West will raise to 3 maximum with Heart support and with 29 points East bids 6

Bid slam with slam values

Wednesday 12th February

No one managed to reach slam on this hand despite a combined holding of 34 high card points. 

When East rebids 3NT showing 17-19 high card points it would not be unreasonable for West to bid 6NT immediately. For the more cautious a raise to 4NT asks East to bid 6NT with a non-minimum hand. In this case, East with a maximum should accept with alacrity. 

See also Board 12 another hand where slam should be reached. (auction 1 - 1 - 3NT (the good Diamond suit merits an upgrade) - 6NT). Well done to Richard and Debbie for getting there.

Bid slam with slam values

Tuesday 11th February

South will open 1. With 18 points (including 1 for the doubleton Diamond), North wants to know if the partnership has enough values for slam so it is probably best to bid 1♠ to find out the strength of partner's hand. (Sometimes when you are seeking information about partner's hand you can make bids to extract the maximum information from partner. Slam should be bid if South rebids 1NT or any bid from 2NT upwards and if partner rebids 2 or 2♠ there is a very high likelihood of slam.) In this case, partner will bid 1NT showing to 15-16 points. Now knowing the partnership has at least 33 points North can bid 6 (often better than 6NT as here). 

West might lead 9 South will win A, then probably does best to play K, then cross to A, then play K, Q discarding a Club. Now the hand can be cross-ruffed allowing West to make Q at some point.

Bid slam with slam values

Monday 10th February

This turns out to be a complex hand. The first question is what should you do with the East hand there are four options 1, 2, 3 and Pass.

1 conforms with the dreaded rule of 20 and on this occasion, West will not get overexcited. North/South will probably reach 3♣ for a good score.

2 this will be Passed to North who could bid 3♣ which will probably be passed out. If South tries an optimistic 3 inviting game with a fit for Clubs, West will bid 3NT which makes.  (North could Double for takeout which would be my choice if I had held the hand as South. As South has Passed there is far less chance of South holding a 5 card major suit so 3♣ might be better.)

3 Will probably be passed out for -50 and a great score. The wild shape makes this an effective bid.

Pass If you Pass you must bid 2 over North's 1NT opening (North should make at least 9 tricks in No trumps +150). This is the old fashioned thought that you cant open a weak 2 with four cards in another major suit. This has been largely discredited especially in first or third position. North will probably Double 2 for takeout and South will bid 3♣.

Preemptive bids make the opposition guess

 

Thursday 6th February

East will open with a weak 2♠, South could Double but with only three Hearts 3♣ looks a better bet. West raises to 3♠, North Doubles (this should show the partnership has the majority of points, no more than 3 Clubs and 4 Hearts) and now what should South do? 

From the bidding, North will have three Hearts, probably three or Four Spades and no more than three Clubs. Clearly you have the values for game but which one? The options seem to be: 4 you can ruff losing Spades in the shorter trump hand. 5♣ hoping partner has a couple of Clubs, 4 showing four Diamonds and less than four Hearts or Pass hoping for a sensible penalty. 4♣ is not an option as partner may Pass.

If you are going to bid 4 seems the best option partner can decide the best contract but maybe Pass is best. 4 gets you to 4 or 5♣ both of which make for +620 or +600. Pass should get you +800 or at worst +500. Any of which would score  90% or more.

Bid game for game values

Wednesday 5th February

Everyone reached the good 4♠ contract. The declarers all received a Heart lead but only Mick came to 11 tricks.

The Heart lead gives you the chance of discarding the losing Diamond on the Q but there is only one quick entry to dummy. So you should win the A, play K, cross to ♠A noting the 4-0 break, Q discarding a Diamond, ♠9 East will win ♠K and on regaining the lead South can reach dummy in Clubs and finesse the ♠J. On a Heart lead South should make 11 tricks for +450.

Plan the play at trick one

Tuesday 4th February

The bidding is as described in the commentary, as shown above, which seems good to me. Should you bid 2 with the North hand well if you don't East will Double 1 and you will possibly end up in 3 anyway.

Four out of five pairs opened the inferior 1♣ and were left to play there. 

In 3 John and Jane the only pair who bid correctly received A lead (their opponents obviously liked them), Now 3 can be made, West does best to switch to K, South should hold up, win the second round of Hearts with A, then four rounds of Spades discarding a Club, followed by ♣8  now the defence can do no better than to win a Heart and a Club. South making 9 tricks for +140.

With Suits of equal length always open the higher ranking suit (unless you have precisely four Hearts and four Spades)

Monday 3rd June

West will open 1NT and East will use Stayman to check if there is a Heart fit. Given East's interest in the majors North is likely to lead a minor; South can Double to request a Club lead and avoid the likely Diamond lead. This is not without risk. West will continue with 2♠ and East has little choice but to bid 3NT. The ♣Q lead by North gives the first 5 tricks to the defence. 

Where South has not Doubled North has to choose between leading a Club and a Diamond as South has not Doubled 2♣ a Diamond seems automatic. If North leads 4 East can make five Diamonds play 7 from dummy South will play 10 West will win A, play 3 covering Norths card, cross back to A, finesse in Diamonds again, cash the remaining Diamonds, K, Q and there are two Spade tricks for a total of ten tricks more if you want to take the Spade finesse.

It is sometimes good to take a risk in the bidding to avoid a bad lead

Thursday 30th January

East will open 1♠, without 2 Spade stops South does best to Double, North knows there is at least a 10 card Heart fit so can count 8 points and will bid Hearts. South will force to game and they will end up in 4.

Now can you make 11 or 12 tricks? North will win the first trick, play two top Hearts, now when the trumps fail to break you can address the Diamond suit without any risk before drawing the last trump, cash K when J10 fail to fall, Q making 12 tricks if the Diamonds are 3-3 (if this is ruffed the trick comes back as you can ruff the losing Diamond), ruff a Club, ruff a Diamond ruff a Club and claim 11 tricks for +450.

Well done to Diane who was the only player to make 11 tricks for a complete top.

Look for extra tricks

Wednesday 30th January

Well done to Rosemary and David for reaching the best contract of 4♠. West should open 1♣, East should respond 1♠ and West will jump to 2NT showing 17-18 points. With 7 points do you continue or not? With the 10 and 9 cards in the majors it seems worth proceeding with 3 (forcing to game and showing 5-4 in the majors). West will bid 4♠. This is a good contract and so much better than 3NT. 

Play game in 5-3 major fits

Tuesday 29th January

On this hand, surprisingly all but one pair played in 3♣. West will open 2, North will bid 3♣ (Double is also a good bid), now East should rase to the level of fit by bidding 3 which only fails by one trick for a great result. However North should now continue with a Double When South will bid 3 for a top board.

Bid to the level of fit

 

Monday 27th January

An interesting hand both in bidding and play. 

Firstly the bidding East will open 1♠. Should South intervene partner has passed but East has also shown less than 11 points so Double looks good. West with three Spades will raise to the level of fit. To rich for North who will Pass. If South fails to Double West may Pass hoping North who has passed already will also pass.

Now the play, there is no attractive lead the opposition must have a minimum of 17 points and could have a many as 25 points. As East has made a pre-emptive the ♣A is a possibility, a Heart or a Diamond looks dangerous also there may be ruffs in dummy. The best lead is a Spade stopping two Heart ruffs in dummy but ♣A or a Diamond lead is fine as long as a Spade is led to the second trick. As soon as the defence sees dummy a switch to a Spade seems obvious.  From North's perspective, South cannot hold five Hearts and have Doubled so two Heart ruffs are a danger. If South leads ♣A a Spade is the only safe switch.

The defence should lead trumps to stop ruffs in the shorter trump hand

 

 

Thursday 24th January

South not quite strong enough for 2♣ will open 1, West will make a weak jump to 3♣, this will be passed back to South who will continue with 3, North will give preference to Hearts (not quite enough for 4). Can South now bid 4? No matter +170 scores almost the same as +420.

West should lead ♣K South will win ♣A. Now the route to 10 tricks is to ruff three Diamonds in dummy. So A, ruff a Diamond, ruff a Club, ruff a Diamond, ruff a Club, then if East has held onto K ruff a Diamond. Accurate defence will hold South to ten tricks for a great score. 

Cross ruffing often makes extra tricks

Wednesday 23rd January

The bidding on the hand is interesting but the play is where this board can be won. 

East will open 1♠, with less than 10 points West will respond 1NT, East will rebid 2 and West will give preference to Spades. West with a maximum for the bidding and an 8 card fit could jump to 3♠ when East will bid 4♠. In any case making 10 tricks is the target.

The defence will lead ♣K, then follow with two more rounds of Clubs and East will ruff. The Heart suit presents the best chance of extra tricks so East should cross to A, play K technically best, finesse K, top Heart, 2 ruffed with ♠5 (North must still have K), Diamond ruffed with ♠A this is a no-cost play and in this case prevents the overruff, ruff the 4th Heart, now there are three top Spades to come for 10 tricks and a top board. 

Ruffing in the short trump hand adds extra tricks

 

Tuesday 22nd January

No-one managed to reach the safe haven of 4. West should open 1NT, North will overcall 2, East should Double for takeout, West will bid 2, having found a fit East can add three points for the singleton Diamond and bid 4.

Don't forget to use takeout Doubles

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

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

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

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