Release 2.19q
0 0 0 0 0 0
Pages viewed in 2023
Saturday Lecture Series

Links to handouts and recorded videos for

AED (Automated External Defibrillator)
AED (Automated External Defibrillator)

The BCA has an AED in a cabinet on the south wall of the main room. A short video is available which explains its use.

Charity Games
Charity games award extra masterpoints. The extra charge is split between the ACBL Charity Fund and Posada Esperanza, a local charity the BCA supports which provides shelter for immigrant women and children escaping domestic abuse.
Hand of the Week,12/12/2016
Compliments of Paul Tobias
Compliments of Paul Tobias

Hand # 23, December 8, 2016


This was one of the most unusual (and fantastic !) hands I have ever held, I am looking at the North major suit hand (with a loser count of 1!!) and my partner opens 1C. At my table - not the auction shown, and that auction will be discussed in detail - I bid 1H, partner bid 2C and I then bid a forcing 2S. Partner did not support spades at this point and we eventually ended up in 6S, of course making 7.


The auction actually shown illustrates how it is easily possible to get to 7S if partner bids 3S, instead of 3D, after you rebid 2S. But the partnership must be playing an expanded version of the Grand Slam Force (GSF), first introduced by Ely Culbertson around 80 years ago.


The Culbertson GSF asks partner to bid a Grand Slam if partner has 2 of the 3 top trump honors. It is highly useful when all the outside suits have more than enough top winners and you are worried about the quality of your trump suit. If partner does not have the 2/3 honors, the convention said you sign off at the 6 level.


Most experts still play the GSF, but have taken advantage of the room to bid below the trump suit to show various trump holdings. There are many ways to modify the GSF and the one I play is as follows:


Assume you have 3 steps below your trump suit (spades are trumps): 

    step 1 shows the Q or at least a ten card fit

    step 2 shows the A or the K (but not both)

    step 3 shows the A or the K and a 10 card (at least) fit

    With 2/3, bid 7 of a king you haven't shown yet below your trump suit or bid 7C         


If your suit is hearts, step 1 shows the A or K and step 2 is the above step 3. If your suit is diamonds, 5C is as shown above as step 3. 


Now return to the auction where South raises 2S to 3S. North can bid 5NT (GSF) and South can reply 6D, showing the KS. Now South can confidently bid 7S.


When the hand was played 12 times, 4 pairs did not even reach slam. That is the definition of a pessimist: Holding a 1 loser hand and partner opens the bidding and you don't reach slam! Two pairs did reach a Grand - congratulations to them. One told me that they used the GSF to reach the slam, similar to the auction shown here.




1) Add the GSF to your tool kit if you are not already using it and decide how to play step responses when you have room below your trump suit.






Compliments of Pam LaShelle
Compliments of Pam LaShelle

Hand from 11/19 Swiss Teams


IMPS, East is the dealer, N/S Vulnerable;


                      East                  South               West                  North

                        p                      2C                    p                     2NT (5+H w/2 of top 3)

                        p                      3S                    p                     4D

                        p                      4NT                  p                     5D (1430---0 of course)

                        p                      5NT                  p                     5H (2 Kings)

                        p                      7NT                  p                      p



This is a hand that came up in the November 19th Team game that had 20 tables. It was a very good mix of players and very competitive.


South counted a 4 loser hand, so opened this 2 Clubs and partner was happy to show his 5 card Heart suit headed by 2 of the top 3 honors by bidding 2NT(standard response to show Hearts when playing 2D is a game forcing waiting bid and 2H is a negative hand less than a K or A). South showed his fine Spade suit and now North made a nice bid by showing that he had "something else" in Diamonds. South was busy counting tricks and now could come up with 5 Hearts (maybe more if North has a longer suit), 2 Diamonds, 1 Club and  5 Spades (this is being slightly optimistic). Because it is free to check on Aces and Kings, South asked for Aces and then Kings.


What happens if you don't show the Heart suit by bidding 2NT and instead bid 2 Diamonds? Yes, partner knows you have at least an Ace or King, but is missing such valuable information about the Heart suit.


The question is where should this hand be played? Hearts? No Trump? How was transportation going to be? The King of Diamonds could help get to the North hand!


 Are you an optimist or a pessimist? South was an optimist and bid 7NT.  2220 scored up and when comparing with partners the other team did not reach any slam! This was a 17 IMP gain!


Above I asked what if partner bids 2 Diamonds instead of 2NT and that is what happened at the other table. You can really never catch up to all the information that is given with the initial 2NT response. Knowing partner has a 5 card suit and knowing exactly which cards he holds in Hearts is so valuable.




 1)  Know your bidding system with partner over an opening 2 Club bid. Many partnerships play that 2NT shows 5 or more Hearts with 2 out of the top 3 honors.


 2)  Be prepared to show any other controls that you have to partner after your initial response showing at least 1 control.


 3) Don't miss slams in team games. As the saying goes, "There goes the ball game!"


 4) When this hand was replayed and rebid by many tables in a class, several wouldn't ask for kings and stopped at 6. When it is free, find out all the information you can!


 5) Count your tricks. Notice the Opener counted his losers to start with and from then on counted his winners!


 6) Be optimistic!

Compliments of Paul Tobias
Compliments of Paul Tobias

Hand # 11, Tuesday, 11/15/2016


This is another example of a slam that should have been reached at almost every table and was actually reached only 1 time out of ten (with another pair bidding the wrong slam and going down 1).


The auction shown is a suggested one that reaches 6C and, if South is in a very aggressive mood, might have even reached the makeable 7C grand slam. We will go over the bids and thought process in detail.


South starts with 1D and North, not quite good enough to bid 2C playing "2/1", responds 1H. South has 19 high-card points and all 4 aces and shows his strength with a jump-shift (game forcing) bid of 2S. North is now thinking about a NT game, or possibly a slam, and makes a waiting bid of 2NT hoping to learn more about South's hand.


South cooperates by completing the picture of her hand with a 3C bid. Now North knows they have a 9 card trump fit in clubs and South is short (possibly void) in hearts. Loser Count methods apply and North has an L. C. of 6 and can expect South to have an L. C. of 5 or 6. That means a small slam, or even a grand slam in clubs, might be there if they have sufficient key-cards - but note, however, that North has 0 key cards in clubs. (See the Unit 207 website for a copy of the recent lecture on Loser Count if this concept is new to you.)


North has a problem using the standard Roman Keycard Blackwood method for asking South about the 5 missing keycards, If South responds 5D or 5H, it is already beyond 5C and 5NT may be too high. This is possibly why many North's choose to sign-off in 3NT as a better duplicate option than 5C. 


In the auction shown, North/South were playing a form of Keycard Blackwood known as Minorwood. In Minorwood, a bid of 4 of an agreed upon minor, when there is a game force in effect, asks for keycards. Responses are steps for 0-3, 1-4, 2-5, 2 without the minor Q, and 2 with the minor Q. (People playing 41-30 reverse the first two responses). The Minorwood bidder can next ask for the Q of the Minor (one step) or the lowest K (2 steps) - with all NT bids and bids of the minor being sign-offs and not counting in the 1 step or 2 step count.


So, North bid 4C Minorwood and South showed 2 (or 5) by responding 4S. North then signed-off with 5C, knowing that South would go on if holding 5 key cards instead of 2. South considered bidding 7C but decided reaching 6 would be good enough.


The play in 6C (or even 7C) is fairly straight forward. Say clubs are 2 - 2. Then you can ruff 3 diamonds in the North hand and cash 3 hearts, 2 spades and all 4 clubs in the South hand along with the diamond ace for 13 tricks. If clubs are 3 - 1, you have to maneuver to ruff 3 diamonds while only drawing 2 rounds of trumps and keeping the A of spades as an entry back to draw the last trump. You don't even need the extra bonus of the QJ doubleton of spades falling to set up your 10.




1) Be on the lookout for a slam when it is clear you and your partner have most of the points. If you also discover a good trump fit, re-evaluate your hand using Loser Count methods to see if you want to go on and look for slam.


2) When bidding slams with a trump fit and short suits it is usually better to avoid NT and take advantage of ruffing tricks. The exception is when you have long running suits and can expect the same number of winners in NT.


3) Minorwood helps solve asking for key cards when your agreed suit is a minor and possible responses to a 4NT ask might get you too high. (Another conventional asking bid, called Kickback, uses the suit above your agreed upon suit as the Roman Keycard ask and also solves this problem). 





Compliments of Jack Lacy
Compliments of Jack Lacy

Hand # 18, Saturday 10/29/2016


The bidding (beginning with E and only passes by N/S) was 1C  – 1D – 1N – 2D – 3D – 4H – 4N – 5H – 5S – 6C – 6H – 7N

This is purely a bidding discussion since the play in NT or Diamonds is trivial, there being 13 top tricks. 


The bidding does deserve some explanation.  East opened 1C because the partnership has an agreement that opening 1D shows at least 4 cards to the QT.  1D was natural. 1N was the normal rebid showing a balanced hand and 12 – 14 HCP. 2D was an artificial game force (XYZ). 3D was a normal raise. Responder bid 1D in response to 1C so he must have diamonds. 


Next, 4H was Kickback.  Kickback is a key card asking tool using the suit above the agreed-to trump suit as RKC.  Kickback is also known as one-over because one bids the suit one over the trump suit to ask for keycards.  4N showed 1 (or 4) keycards. 


Now the bidding becomes real fun.  5H confirms that the partnership has all 5 keycards (the four aces and the king of trumps) and also the queen of trumps, iIn addition, 5H s a grand slam try and asks for cheapest kings up the line. Very similar to 4N – 5N not playing Kickback. 5S shows the spade king.  Spades is the cheapest king because 5S is cheaper (in bidding) than 5N and 6C.  5N would deny the spade king and show the heart king (the king that cannot be shown because the asking bid is 5H).  6C would deny both the king of spades and the king of hearts and show the king of clubs.  6D would deny any outside king. 


Next, 6C asks for the club king - it means: if you have the club king, partner, I think we have a grand slam. Thanks for telling me you have the spade king but I really want to know about the club king.  Without the club king, responder is supposed to bid 6D and with the club king, responder is supposed to bid 7D.  


6H is not one of the two possible responses to the 6C ask.  What can it mean?  I meant it to mean that, yes, I have the club king and on the way I am showing you the heart king as well.  Why does it show the club king?  Because it goes beyond 6D, that is, it forces a grand slam and the club king is what partner asked about so responder must have the club king to go beyond 6D. 


Now asker can count 13 tricks: 4 spades, 2 hearts, 5 diamonds, and 2 clubs.  7NT!  And the contract can be claimed before the dummy is put down (if you really believe your partner J). 


This is this kind of bidding sequence that is one illustration (at least to me) of the beauty of this game we play.  I keep coming back hoping that among the many hands I play, there will be a few that are very beautiful like this one.


By the way, what would happen if I had opened 1D?  1D – 1S – 1N – 2D – 2S – 3D – 3N – 4H and onward as above.  2D is an artificial game force as above and 3D sets the trump suit.  

Complements of Louis Sachar
Complements of Louis Sachar

Friday, October 28, Hand # 4

Should you always lead a singleton against a suit contract?  No.


Some people are so enamored with leading a singleton,  I’ve actually seen people lead a singleton when they didn’t have any trump! Obviously you shouldn’t lead a singleton when you have no trump, but you also shouldn’t do it when you have too many trump!


First, a note on the bidding.


Partnerships have various agreements regarding on how to respond to a 2c opening.  The one played here is one played by quite a few partnerships in our club. North’s 2h response showed a very weak hand. Any other bid would have been game forcing.


After South bid 2s, North had a number of options; 3c, 2nt, 2s. The one thing North couldn’t do was pass.


After a 2c opening bid, responder should never pass a new suit bid by opener!


I was sitting North and chose to bid 3s.  This had the advantage of limiting my hand.  I told my partner I had support, but I wasn't willing to go to game even opposite a 2c opener.  I would have preferred 3-card support, but a 2c opener tends to have either a six-card suit, or a two-suiter.  With just a five-card suit, opener usually rebids 2nt.  I didn’t want to bid 3c, and hear partner bid 3s.  Then I wouldn’t know what to do.


The Play:


West led her singleton club, found her partner with the ace, and got a ruff. She couldn’t have hoped for better.

She didn’t realize she just allowed South to make an unmakeable contract.


Why was it wrong? Based on the bidding, she should have realized that she had a natural trump trick anyway.  She didn’t need a ruff, and often if you lead a singleton, you run the risk of establishing a long suit for the opponents,  which was exactly what happened here.


Declarer was able to win the return, pull the remaining trump, and discard his two losing red cards on the long clubs.  Making 5.


What would have happened had Wed led the Q of hearts, or the K of diamonds? East would hold off and win the third round of clubs so South couldn’t set up that suit.  South would eventually lose one card in each suit.  Down 1, instead of making an overtrick!


Lesson points:


1.  After a 2c opening bid, responder must not pass a new suit by opener.  You are forced to either 2nt, three  of a major, or four of a minor.  But as long as opener keeps mentioning new suits, responder must not pass.


2.  Always be thinking ahead in the bidding. "If I bid this, and then partner bids that, what will my next bid be?" If you don’t have a good answer, then maybe you should find a different bid.


3. It is usually not right to lead a singleton against a suit contract if you have long trump, especially if you have an honor in the trump suit.  Often you do better by setting up your own suit, and trying to “tap" the declarer.  In the case at hand, West was always going to score a trump, and East was always going to score his ace of clubs, but because West led her singleton club, that was all they got.



Compliments of Dave Goodwin

Hand # 8, Sectional Friday Morning, 5/6/2016


Editors Note: This contribution is from one of the newer players at the BCA and does an excellent job of showing the thought processes of a beginner learning the competitive game of duplicate Bridge.



This hand occurred at the Spring Sectional at BCA on Friday, May 6, in the 10 AM Game, Board #8. I played it in the Limited game (299’er), where it was played by 8 pairs.  It was also played in the Open room by 17 pairs, in two sections. The play of the hand is not particularly interesting: most E/W pairs ended up in Notrump or Clubs, where 12 tricks were there for the taking, no more and no less. But the bidding was not as uniform as I thought it would be when I sat at the table.

My partner, West, opened 2 Clubs, strong. With 12 HCP, I had enough for a positive response. But I didn’t have a suit strong enough for a positive response, and, since we play Austin Standard, a 2NT bid would be a positive Heart response, so I couldn’t bid that. And I didn’t know what bid would indicate a positive Notrump response.  Ignorance is bliss – I responded 2 Diamonds, waiting. My partner bid 2 Notrump: at least semi-balanced and 22-24 HCP. I added that to my 12 and got 34-36 HCP total. To me, that said 6N`T, or maybe 7 of a suit if we had a good fit. I briefly considered that latter possibility, but reasoned that I had had an opportunity to mention a strong suit and hadn’t (I bid 2D instead), and my partner had had an opportunity to mention a strong suit and hadn’t (she bid 2NT instead). And, to be honest, my goal was to get a good result, not necessarily the absolutely best result. So I bid 6NT over my partner’s 2NT, and she made it without any commotion.  At the time, I thought the result might be the same at almost all tables.

Not quite so. 47% of the tables in the Open room played at 6NT; 50% in the Limited room. 3 tables in the open room played at 6 Clubs, none in the Limited. There were two overbidders in the Open room (at 7NT), and one overbidder in the Limited room (at 7 Clubs). Were there pairs who didn’t make it to slam? Yes – three in the Open room and two in the Limited room. I think it’s almost a “sure thing” you’ll get to slam if West opens 2 Clubs, but the possible bidding sequences are much more convoluted if West doesn’t start with 2 Clubs. Are there reasons not to? Perhaps some West’s thought they didn’t have enough quick tricks, or too many “losers”?  I really don’t know. Sometimes it’s a blessing not be aware of all the complicated thinking and bidding that occurs in the Open game.

Compliments of Paul Tobias
Compliments of Paul Tobias

 SundayTeam Game, 4/24/2016


South opened the bidding 2C with her powerful 4 loser hand. North showed at least an A or K with her 2D bid and soon the pair found themselves in 4S.


West led the 8H and East put in the 10 when declarer played low in dummy. Declarer won the AH and played AS, KS, JS. On the third spade, West signaled club strength and East won the QS. East now cashed the KH and tried to cash the QH. Declarer ruffed and played another round of trumps on which West was forced to pitch his last heart (a club pitch would leave only the AJ and declarer would have the 10C in dummy for a winner after playing the K and Q). Declarer next played the KC and West saw that he would have a problem leading if he won the A, so he ducked. Declarer then followed the old but reliable adage - play off all your winners and often good things will happen. On the last trump, West was squeezed and had to part with either the JC or a diamond. West chose a diamond and declarer won three diamond tricks to make the contract. If West had kept 3 diamonds, declarer could establish a 10th trick by playing clubs. 


Let's look at the position after 7 cards had been played to make this clear.






--                                                                                                        --

--                                                                                                        7 

Q97                                                                                                    J5  

AJ5                                                                                                     976





At this stage, declarer can play the last trump or first play the KC and then the last trump - and West has no way of preventing declarer from establishing another winner in either clubs or diamonds.


In the post-mortem, West told East that leading a club instead of trying to cash another heart might defeat the contract. However, whether West wins the ace and gets out a club or ducks the KC, the same squeeze will take place when declarer runs her trumps. 


So, is there any defense that stops 4S from making? Yes, one very unlikely one to occur at the table, however. East, when in at trick 4 with the QS, must not cash even 1 heart and instead must lead a high club. West has to duck the KC and then there is no way declarer can "rectify the count" for the squeeze. Declarer has to lose a heart to East first and another club lead brings home 4 tricks for the defense.


What if declarer ducks the opening heart trick to get her loser out of the way? Then, East must immediately abandon hearts and lead a club, ducked by West (otherwise the squeeze will still work). Again, not a very likely defense!


Note that a squeeze like this can often happen even if declarer doesn't know where all the critical cards are hiding. Just playing winners and watching the opponent's discards is often enough.



1) As declarer, even if you don't know how or where an extra trick will come from, play off all your winners and watch the discards carefully. Often, that's all you need to do to get a magical extra trick.


2) Squeeze defense is much harder than executing a squeeze - almost impossible for mortal defenders in this hand. That is good news for declarers but sad news for the defense!






Compliments of Pam LaShelle
Compliments of Pam LaShelle

Hand 31, Friday, March 11, Open Game



                  S              W               N               E

                  p               1C             1S             2H

                  X(Rosey!) 2NT            p               3C

                  p                p               p                


How long do you keep a convention on your convention card and not have a chance to play it? This was truly a test of longevity for the Rosenkrantz Convention (named for George Rosenkrantz, however some say it was first thought of by Mrs Rosenkrantz). My partner and I had waited many months for this to come up! This is really a wonderful convention that will give your defense a big boost!


Rosenkrantz  Double:  After partner OVERCALLS and the next hand bids, a double or redouble shows the Ace or King in parther's overcalled suit (some also include the Queen). You should have at least a doubleton in the suit so you can tolerate it if partner has to rebid the suit. If you simply raise partner's suit when you could have doubled or redoubled, you are denying one of the top honors.This is an alertable double or redouble and should be written in to the space on your convention card in the square for Doubles. How far you want to play these is up to you, but I suggest 3 Spades.


Today's hand was just about made for the Rosenkrantz Double. You can see when South made the Special X (of course North alerted it), I have nicknamed it Rosey!


North led the singleton Heart and what a wonderful lead to get this hand off to a winning direction. South took the Ace and studied the board. It was a consideration to lead the King of Spades and another to overtrump the dummy when partner led one back,  however the Heart certainly had to be a singleton. South returned the 6 of Hearts (the highest) to ask for the Spade back. North ruffed the Heart with a small Club and confidently returned a  Spade. South took the King and played another Spade. North took her Ace of Spades and returned a high one and South overruffed the 8 of Clubs on dummy with the 9. South now led a another Heart and declarer tried ruffing with the Ten, but North overruffed  with his Ace. North now led another Spade and now South's Queen would become a winner!! Down 3 for an absolute top board.  




1) Learn what the Rosenkrantz Double is either to use it or so you know what it is when the opponents use it.


2) If you have to pick whether to use this or the Responsive Double you can say that you will only use it when the opponents have bid more than one suit, so you don't have a conflict. You can play both. If you choose to not play Responsive Doubles at all, you can play it all the time.


3) Try some new conventions out to perk your game up! They can be fun and very rewarding!

Compliments of Paul Tobias
Compliments of Paul Tobias

Hand # 27, Wednesday Morning, 3/9/2015


A straightforward  hand where 14 out of 15 pairs reached four hearts and 10 of these pairs made what was expected: 11 tricks. But 4 pairs in 4 hearts tied for top on the board by making 12 tricks. Looking at why leads to an interesting lesson about overcalls.


The auction shown occured at one of the tables where South made 12 tricks (and probably was duplicated at most, if not all, of the other tables where South made 12 tricks).  East overcalled 2 spades trying to be competitive and fearful if he passed that the auction would either stop at 2 hearts or partner would balance with 3 of a minor when they should compete in spades. Because players learn to be highly competitive and to always push when the opponents have found a low-level fit, this seems not unreasonable, Some pairs even play "pre-balance" bids which allow East to have less than a normal overcall just as if East were in the balancing position,


The overcall backfired, however, when West made the natural opening lead of the king of spades against 4 hearts, thereby losing the spade winner that the defense would take with any other lead. Was this bad luck or is there something to be learned from what happened?


The answer is that a would-be overcaller should consider one more thing before bidding, even with more than enough points to make a bid. Picture the opponents buying the contract and your partner on lead with something like Kx in the suit you want to overcall with. Would her leading the K embarass you and possibly cost a trick? If so, then perhaps it is wiser to pass and, hopefully, come back into the auction later when partner can reason that your failure to overcall earlier could be because of a weak suit.


Had all the East's used the "Kx" rule they would have avoided making the overcall that gave several North/South pairs a top.




Before overcalling, picture your partner on opening lead with Kx of the suit you are thinking about bidding. If leading the K could be costly to your defense, perhaps you should not overcall!

Compliments of Paul Tobias
Compliments of Paul Tobias

Hand # 15, Friday Morning, 2/19/2016


This hand gave North/South the opportunity to use a simple convention to distinguish a bid made competitively from a bid made by a good hand.


Douth could possibly have opened a weak 2H bid, but thought the hand too weak with too many losers and not nearly enough tricks to open at the 2-level vul vs non-vul. So, after 2 passes, North opened 1NT with a maximum and a good 5 card spade suit. East, with a good 5-5 in the minors, bid 2NT (unusual - asking partner to bid her best minor).


Now South certainly wants to compete with a 3H bid - but how to stop partner from thinking this shows a good hand with at least 5 hearts? The answer is by playing the "unusual over unusual" convention. With this convention, a bid of 3C shows a good hand with the lower major, or a good hand with hearts. A bid of 3D shows a good hand with the higher major, or a good hand with spades. That frees up the 3H or 3S bids to show weak hands competing with a long suit. So South can freely bid 3H, expecting partner to pass.


The "unusual over unusual" convention can also be used when partner opens a major and the next hand jumps to an unusual 2NT. Partnerships can extend the convention to cover cases where the unusual NT bid or a Michaels bid is used to show the highest unbid (or lowest unbid) suits. Knowing whethewr partner is competing with a good hand (and not just showing a long suit or a fit) can make the difference for bidding good games or slams.


The play in 3H after a diamond lead was straightforward, with declarer losing 2 clubs, 1 diamond and 1 spade.


Now, true confessions: I sat North and, despite knowing my partner meant 3H to play, I bid 4H. After all, my hand was worth more than a 1NT opening when played in hearts and I could picture partner possibly holing a singleton diamond and making game - or the KC and six hearts. So my partner went down 1 in 4H while reminding me that we played "unusual over unusual" and I should have passed!




One of the hardest bidding problems is how to be competitive while not giving partner the impression you have a reasonable high card count. Pre-emptive jumps solve this problem on some hands and the "unusual over unusual" convention is a tool that can help on other hands when the opponents take away your bidding room.  


Compliments of Paul Tobias
Compliments of Paul Tobias

Board # 25, Thursday 2/11/2016


On Saturday, 2/12/2016, the local Bridge Unit (#207) sponsored a lecture at the BCA on Bridge Squeezes. So it is timely and appropriate to show an unusual hand that occurred a few days before the lecture that presented the opportunity for a squeeze the way it was defended at some tables.


Everyone at the table had at least a 7 card suit and West held 8 diamonds. In addition, there were 4 singletons and 1 void among the 4 hands in this wildly distributional deal. Many auctions began with North opening 2C. Despite having only 15 high card points, most North's felt the 4-loser hand was too good to open 1 heart or 4 hearts.


East chose to show his good club suit by doubling 2 clubs, South passed (perhaps playing that a pass showed values or just waiting to see where the auction was going before bidding spades). West couldn't resist bidding 2D with his 8 card suit and North ended the auction by bidding 4H.


East led the AC and looked at dummy. Perhaps West held a singleton club and could ruff a second club and lead a diamond for East to ruff. But, instead, declarer ruffed the 2C that West led (the 2 telling partner that, if he was the one who ruffed the trick, West wanted the lower suit or diamonds led). Declarer now considered the situation. She could play top trumps and, if they split, make at least 5 hearts. If they split 3 - 1 and the defender with 3 held the Q, 4 hearts would make. On the other hand, declarer could try to ruff a diamond in dummy and possibly make all the rest of the tricks. Declarer ignored the 2D bid by West that signaled freakish distribution and played the AD. West ruffed with the 6H and played the QC, East pitching a spade while declarer ruffed. Next, declarer hoped that West did not have the QH and led a low diamond to ruff in dummy. However, West ruffed with the QH and gave partner a spade ruff for down 1!


What about the promised squeeze example. Say Declarer, fearful that West had 1 or no diamonds (and noting the 2C West led at trick 2) chose to play 2 top trumps at tricks 3 and 4. The QH would drop, insuring at least 11 tricks for declarer. Now, remembering that when you have all but one of the rest of the tricks, declarer could run her long trump suit and see what happened. When declarer plays all the rest of the hearts and the A , dummy would come down to AK10♠, -, -, J♣. West could hold the Q♣ and the QJ6 of spades but the next lead (of the K) would force West to either part with a spade guard or the club guard. Dummy, pitching after West, keeps the established new winner and declarer makes 6H!  


This squeeze is easy to execute - all declarer has to due is watch for the Q♣ and throw the J♣ in dummy at the end if it is not good.



1) Be cardful on freakish distributional hands - it might be wise to "play safe" instead of making what might be a risky play.


2) Run all your long suit winners.Good things often happen producing extra tricks you might not have even anticipated. 





Compliments of Jack Lacy
Compliments of Jack Lacy

Board 14, Wednesday Morning, January 27, 2016. 


The auction was (EW silent & starting with South): 1C – 3N – 4C – 4H – 6C.


This hand of the week is about bidding since the play is trivial whether you end up in 3N, 5C, or 6C.


South opens 1C and North bids 3N.  Most people play that 3N in response to a minor opening bid shows 13-15 HCP, no four card Major, and a relatively balanced hand.  North’s hand fits this description to a tee.  What should South do after North responds 3NT?  South’s hand has two flaws for NT, the singleton spade and the three hearts to the queen.  The reason that the spade singleton is a flaw for NT is obvious but why is the Q third of hearts a flaw?  Because we know that North has at most 3 hearts so only if North has a reasonable holding in hearts, will hearts not be a problem.  However, playing matchpoints, we are all taught that minor suits should be the last priority after Major suits and NT have been explored.  So the question is do the two flaws override the notion that we do not want to play in a minor suit?  The answer is that we don’t know so we need to explore the situation.  How do we do that?  By bidding 4C.  4C is not Gerber but rather it is a bid showing a good hand with a good club suit and a worry that NT is not the right strain. 


North then bids 4H.  What is 4H?  It is a cue bid in support of clubs.  How do we know it is a cue bid and not an offer to play hearts?  Because North denied as many as 4 hearts when she bid 3NT.  The 4H bid should be enough for South to bid 6C.  She has first or second round control in all the outside suits, a sixth club, and 17 HCP.  When you know where the contract should be played, just bid it.   What about a grand slam in clubs?  It would take a perfect hand from North for a grand slam and, even then, it would probably require a finesse.   


What if South’s major suits were interchanged; that is, South has a singleton heart and the queen third of spades.  Now maybe NT is viable.  After all, partner has cue bid hearts so that shouldn’t be a problem for NT and now our Queen third of spades might fit nicely with whatever spades partner has when she bid 3NT.  How would we explore that possibility?  By bidding 4NT.  4NT is not Blackwood (or RKC), it is an offer now to play NT.  If that was the bidding, then North would have a difficult problem because her hand is bullish for clubs but NT is king at matchpoints.      



1) When partner suggests NT as a strain, you need to evaluate your hand for NT play.  This particular hand is only good for NT if partner has good Major suit cards.  You can express worry about NT by bidding 4C.  As long as partner understands what you are doing, then bidding 4C should allow the partnership to explore whether this hand should be played in clubs or NT.  

2) 4C is not always Gerber.  I like to play that 4C is only Gerber if it is a jump over partner’s last NT bid.  1N – 4C is Gerber.  1D – 1S – 1N – 4C is Gerber.  The above auction is an example where 4C is natural and, therefore, not Gerber.

3) 4NT is not always Blackwood (or RKC).  Again, the partnership needs to discuss when it is or it isn’t Blackwood.  In the above situation, it isn’t Blackwood because the strain is still not settled.  It is a good guideline that the partnership needs to settle strain before trying for slam.

4) 3NT is not always the right strain even when playing matchpoints.  This particular hand was played 17 times, 13 times in NT.  Only 6 pairs made their NT contract, presumably because the defenders either didn’t lead spades or blocked the suit when they did lead spades.  

5) When you know what the level and strain should be, just bid it.  After you know where to play the hand, any further bidding will only help the opponents.

Compliments of Pam LaShelle
Compliments of Pam LaShelle

Friday, Jan. 22, Board 10 


The auction was pretty straight forward but there was an inquiry as to whether North had shown anything with his initial pass. Why do I bring this up? It is a common convention for the partner of an opening 2C bidder to show values with a PASS after interference and show a bust with a DOUBLE. South advised that they do not play this convention and she had no information what the pass meant. South's hand looks good enough to venture a 4 Spade bid over partner's 3 Spade bid. North, however, could have taken stronger action with his 5 card Major suit and an outside Ace, after his partner's double.


Looking at dummy it is hard to see how this declarer could have any trouble at all with this hand. After all, where could East-West come up with many tricks?


East dutifully led the Jack of Clubs and West won the Ace and looked over the dummy. He could most likely count on the Ace of Diamonds to add to the Ace of Clubs, but where could any other tricks come from? It looks like the trump suit was the only hope for any more tricks if declarer held the Ace of Hearts, so looking at the AKQJ on dummy, he made the dummy ruff his King of Clubs with a high trump. Declarer played a 3 rounds of Hearts, ruffed another Club on dummy and then played his 2 top trumps off the dummy. He now led a Diamond off dummy and West rose with the Ace and played another Club. He had now promoted the 9 of Spades for a third trick and a good board for East-West. It was planning and persistence that paid off with an eventual trump promotion  - all without having any idea of what East was holding in the trump suit. 


Defense can be just as much fun as declaring a hand (and some think even more fun!). Watching your partner defend effectively can really be fun! This hand it was partner's plan and he executed it as well as he could. The final promotion was thrilling! Who would have thought the 9 of Spades would ever take a trick? Holding this to 4 was worth over 9 match points with a 15 top.




  1) Know your system of bidding over partner's 2 Club opening when the opponents interfere. A common method is to utilize the pass to mean VALUES and the double to show a BUST.


  2) In match point play, try to imagine what partner could have to get your best result. 


  3) Don't give up just because you don't have a lot of points.

Compliments of Jack Lacy
Compliments of Jack Lacy

Hand # 10, Friday AM, Austin Secional 1/8/2016


First comments on the bidding:  East opens 1C.  Some people might open 1D but I think 1C is right.  If one has 5 weak clubs and 4 strong diamonds, then you might open 1D intending to rebid 2C.  On this hand, though, the clubs are very reasonable to open and rebid if necessary.  The problem with opening 1D with this hand is that you will never convince partner that you have 5 clubs which might be important for a club slam. 


South bids 2S preemptive.  South might very well bid only 1S with his 10 count but one of his points is the jack doubleton of clubs and 2 of his points is the queen doubleton of hearts.  His hand is closer to a preempt than a 1 level overcall although he would like a stronger suit.  West bids 3H showing 5 hearts and a very decent hand.  He is showing enough to support partner bidding 3N or 4H.  He would prefer to be able to bid at only the 2 level but South’s preempt puts a wrench in the works.  That is why one preempts.  North passes and now East has a problem.  Nothing seems reasonable.  He can bid 3N but he has the worst possible stopper: Ace doubleton.  Another choice is 4H even though he has only 2 hearts.  He hopes partner has a sixth (or more) heart or that his hearts are very good.  He chooses 4H. 


The opening lead was the jack of spades and East can see when dummy is put down, that 3N would have been an easier contract.  But they are in 4 hearts.  In hearts, it is usually easier to count losers than winners.  East has no spade losers if he assumes that South has the queen of spades (or he can ruff his third spade in dummy); he has 1 diamond loser, and no club losers.  What about hearts?  He has at least two heart losers and he might lose three depending on the opponents hearts and who has which hearts.  But there is nothing he can do but trek on and do the best he can. 


He wins the ace of spades, and plays the ten of hearts, covered by the queen and his king.  North lets him win the trick since the duck can’t hurt and might make declarer misplay the trump suit.  North has two sure trump tricks since he has the 9 and now he is hoping partner has some other heart spot for another trick.  It is often good on defense to duck the ace of trumps in this kind of situation.   Now how should declarer continue in trumps?  If trumps were originally 3-3, any play will hold his losers to two.  What if they  were originally 4-2.  At this point declarer has the J853, North has the A94, and South has the stiff 7.   From declarer’s point of view, if North has the A97, there is nothing he can do but if South has the stiff 9 or the stiff 7 left, then declarer can play his jack and smother the 7 (or 9).   Declarer plays the jack and North now wins the ace while South plays the 7.  Now declarer’s remaining 853 will force out North’s 9 (from the 94) so that his 5 can draw the last trump, the 4.  When North wins the ace, he decides to lead a club knowing that if the club switch is wrong, he can try a diamond when he gets in with the 9 of hearts.  Making 4.  Good play and good defense.  



1) A doubleton is the worst possible stopper in NT because you can hold up only once.   If you have an alternative to 3NT, then it might be better to choose that alternative.  4H in this hand. 

2) Do you like it when the opponents preempt?  No, I don’t either.  That’s why we preempt when we get the chance.

3) When you hold the ace of trumps, it is often right not to give it up early.  Sometimes it gives declarer a guess how to continue.

4) Watch the spots.  The spots in the trump suit in this hand are important.  If you don’t watch the spots, you might go down.  

Compliments of Louis Sachar
Compliments of Louis Sachar

Hand # 14, Wednesday Morning, December 30th


The bidding is how it went at our table, although I think at most tables South would have opened the hand. After West opened 1c, North bid 2c, Michaels, showing at least 5-5 in the majors, East cue-bid 2h showing a good hand with club support. This is a convention known as “unusual over unusual” and is used after the unusual two no-trump bid, but can also be used in a Michaels auction. In any case, N-S ended up in three spades, a fairly normal contract.


The hand was played 12 times. 4s was played twice. Three spades once. And two spades once. It was also played in hearts five times, and east-west won the bid three times; twice in clubs, once in diamonds. Four spades is cold, yet it went down twice, and when three spades was played against us, it also went down. The player who played 2s managed to take 8 tricks.


At our table the queen of clubs was led by west. East won and shifted to a high diamond, and continued diamonds forcing dummy to ruff. There are two ways now for declarer to take ten tricks.


A. She can play for both majors to break 3-2 (as they do). She leads a low heart toward her queen, losing to the king. Ruffs the diamond return. Cashes the Ace of hearts and ruffs a heart with the ace. Now she can pull trump ending in dummy, and the hearts are all good. That line of play works on this hand, but it requires decent breaks in both majors.


B. A safer way would be to lead the ace of hearts at trick three, (in case hearts are 4-1) and give up a heart. (you now find out hearts are breaking). Again you ruff the diamond return, ruff a heart, cash your king of clubs, and cross-ruff the hand. You will end up scoring ten tricks: The ace of hearts, the king of clubs, and 8 trumps.


If the defenders try to prevent the cross-ruff by returning a trump instead of a diamond, you can take ten tricks by setting up the hearts as in A. Since you weren’t tapped in diamonds, you can survive a 4-1 spade break.


So ten tricks were there for the taking, and yet, three of the four times it was played in spades, the declarer only managed 8 tricks. The other time the declarer took nine. What went wrong?


Judging by what happened at our table, the only explanation was failure to make a plan. A declarer can sometimes be overwhelmed by all the possibilities, and will just start playing the hand haphazardly, first leading trump, then deciding to ruff, then deciding to try to set up a long suit. But a declarer who took a moment to count her tricks, count her losers, count trump, and count hearts, and then make a plan, would have earned a cold top.


Lesson Points.


1. Make a plan. If you can have some flexibility in your plan, so much the better, but sometimes you just have to hope for a certain lie of the cards and go for it. But even then, you have to figure out what it is you need to hope for. There’s nothing worse than finding a perfect lie of the cards, but going down anyway because you failed to plan for it.


2. Don’t overlook the value of a long suit. The six-card hearts suit was golden, even though it was Ace-empty. After losing one heart, and ruffing one heart, you have four heart tricks. That’s like having four aces! Yet it’s surprising how often declarers fail to take advantage of a long suit, especially when its in dummy.

  Compliments of Pam LaShelle
Board 2, Thursday December 24, NS Vul, Dealer East
  Thinking out of the box is a rare attribute for the bridge player using a system over and over, day after day.  It is a bad habit to continue bidding hands in a safe manner with no real imagination. So break the habit! Here is a hand where I wish I would have been a broader thinker.
   East opened 1NT and the North and South hands passed throughout the auction. West (this is me) used Puppet Stayman by bidding 3 Clubs and was pleasantly surprised to hear 3 Spades from the East hand. Now it only seemed fitting to use 1430 to find out how many key cards were held between the two hands. Sadly, East had to say 5 Hearts (No Queen and 2 Key Cards) and  slam now seemed out of the question.  I bid 5 Spades and indeed that was all that could be made (in Spades) with the Spade honors split and an outstanding Ace of Clubs. My opponent said she was overwhelmed at my "will power" to stop in 5 Spades. 
   Did it cross my mind to think out of the box and bid 6 of something else? Not for a second!  After the Puppet bid and the 1430 I guess I felt "committed" to the Spade contract and should  have thought there might be a slam elsewhere. All those points and a fine 5 card Diamond suit!  I had  plenty of points to have bid 4NT originally instead of 3 Clubs. This is a lesson for me and maybe it will help some others to think about a second choice in a case like this. I could have tried 6 Diamonds or 6NT!!
  What would partner have done if I did bid 4NT originally? He has 16 with a 5 card suit and his points are prime cards (aces and kings), no doubt he would have said 6NT.
  So we played 5 Spades making 5 (one pair made 6 with weak defense) and one East West bid and made 6NT! My "will power" was worth a shared bottom board!
 1) Think "out of the box" and give every bid a thought during the auction. 
 2) Don't make up your mind to playing in one contract or another, it is fine to switch after starting with Key Card for a suit. You can switch to another suit or NT.
 3) Try out new things so you don't get in a rut!!
Compliments of Paul Tobias
Compliments of Paul Tobias

Hand # 20, Wednesday Morning, 12/16/2015


East forgot a useful convention but came out tied for top anyway! After South opened a weak 2H and West doubled, East should have remembered the Lebensol convention - which allows the responder to partner's double to show if he has a good bid or just a weak hand forced to bid by partner's takeout double. The convention works as follows: A 2NT response is made on all weak hands instead of bidding your suit. Partner alerts and must bid 3C (unless his double was based on a hand with a long, strong suit that was too good to just bid that suit at some appropriate level - in other words a hand very interested in slam). After partner bids 3C, the 2NT bidder can pass if that is the suit he has or bid his suit on the 3 level expecting partner to pass.


So, when the responder to the double of a weak 2-bid directly bids a suit on the 3 level it shows a good hand and is forcing to at least 3NT or the 4-level in a suit if you play disciplined takeout doubles in immediate position (showing better than an opening hand). In any case, the doubler knows his partner has something like 8 to 10 points and is encouraged to look for game.


After West doubled 2H, East forgot Lebensol and bid 3C. West looked at his 4 loser hand with a great club fit and, reasonably, raised to 6C. If partner had a good hand with clubs, 6C should be a good contract.


South led the AH and continued the K, ruffed in dummy. East could count 11 tricks by ruffing another heart high in dummy and playing winners. Alternatively, if trump were 2-2, East could pitch two diamonds on dummy's good spades and crossruff to get to 12 tricks. Testing this line, East played 1 high trump in dummy and discovered the bad news. Pulling all the trump was not an option - was there anyway to succeed?


Declarer realized that all he needed was North to have 4 or more spades. He cashed all of dummy's spades and was relieved to note North following while he pitced 2 diamonds. Now, he cashed the AD and ruffed a diamond low. A heart was ruffed high in dummy and another diamond ruffed with the JC. Now, the QC was cashed leaving dummy with two high trumps for the last two tricks. 




1) Lebensol is a very useful convention that allows you to show either a weak hand or a good hand when responding to partner's double of a weak 2-bid. It is easy to forget, however!


2) There are many hands where declarer should not pull all the opponents trumps if he can make better use of the trump suit by ruffing.


3) If you need the opponents to hold a certain distribution to make a contract - cross your fingers and play for it!




Complements of Louis Sachar
Complements of Louis Sachar

Hand # 27, Friday Morning, December 11,2015

Dealer south.

1c - 1s - p - p



That’s right. The bidding is correct. North- South have a 4-4 spade fit, and West is playing 1s in a 4-1 fit!


West was stuck for a bid after South opened a club. Some would say he should have passed. Others might have doubled, since he does have support for the other three suits. Still others might have over-called a no trump, despite only having fourteen points. He chose to bid his chunky four-card spade suit.


I was East, and I think my pass was a much worse bid. My thought at the time was that since we were in a misfit, I didn’t want to go from bad to worse.  But that shouldn’t mean I shouldn’t have bid my hand. I think my correct call was 1nt, despite having no club stopper.


How many times have you heard someone say, “but all you did was overcall!”


Just because someone overcalls doesn’t mean he can’t have an opening bid or better. It is better to assume an opening bid, and bid accordingly. If partner had opened 1s, I certainly would have bid one no trump. Yes, in this case I would have liked a club stopper, but at least I had four, and a 1c opener is often short. For all I knew partner might have a had a big hand with five spades and five diamonds.


When dummy came down, partner did not say anything except, “Thank you, partner.” There was no pained expression on his face.  He didn’t glare at me. The result: Partner managed six tricks for down one, earning seven out of a possible twelve matchpoints, which equates to a 58% result.  Most of the time, North-South played 2s making two.


Lesson Points


1.  Unless partner is a passed hand, don’t discount his bid just because he’s an overcaller.  It’s not his fault he didn’t get to bid first. Of course you need to be aware he might have less than an opening bid, but you should not assume it.


2.  Keep your cool even if you’re in a terrible contract. Don’t get upset, and more important, don’t let the opponents know you’re in a terrible contract.  

You shouldn’t say anything even if you’re in a good contract. Every comment only helps the defenders. It doesn’t help your side one bit.


Compliments of Paul Tobias
Compliments of Paul Tobias

Hand #8, Friday Morning, 12/4/2015


This is how I earned myself a bottom holding the North hand.


I opened a heart with a nice 14 point hand and my left hand opponent overcalled 1NT! East upgraded her hand to the NT range because of the well placed heart cards and did not make the takeout double so many other East's did. West, naturally, with a 6 card diamond suit and 9 points, raised to 3NT. 


South, holding 10 third in partner's major, led the 4 of hearts. I looked at dummy and, if declarer held the expected 15 to 18 points, knew partner had at most a Q in his hand. Hoping it was the Q of hearts, I rose K after dummy played low and lost to the A.


Now declarer played the Q and J of diamonds - overtaking the J with dummies K. Since that gave me two diamond tricks, I won the A. Next, hoping my partner led from the QH, I led a heart won by declarer in dummy with the J. Declarer played another diamond and I was in with the 10. Now, I was mostly thinking about not giving declarer any overtricks but still did not want to give up without trying to set the hand - after all, it was still possible partner held the QS. So, I led the KS and watched hopefully for partner's spot card.


We play upside down count and attitude and, when partner played the 8S, it seemed to me a negative signal denying the QS - look at the spots, the actual holding is the only possible one where partner would have to play the 8 as the lowest card while holding the Q (assuming, reasonably, that declarer has no more than 4 spades).


So, instead of cashing the AS and continuing spades to set the contract two, I played a third heart. 


When the smoke cleared, declarer had wrapped up 10 tricks and a top - and I had a well deserved bottom.


It was only in the post-mortem that we realized that my partner had an expert play that might possibly have stopped me from a self-destructing defense. When I led the KS and it held (with J2 in dummy), my partner, holding Q1098, knows I hold the A and wants the suit continued. The play of the 8 will appear to discourage - what to do? Play the QS under partner's K! With the J in dummy and partner known to have the A of spades, that could only mean you hold the 10 and want partner to cash that A and continue. We would set the contract 2!


Now let's look again at trick 1: I should have reasoned that if declarer had any 2 card diamond holding or even 3 cards missing the Q or the J, I can keep declarer from enjoying dummy's long diamonds by ducking the opening heart lead. Even if partner had led away from the Q of hearts, that would not cost (declarer always has at least 2 heart tricks and, if partner has the Q, I can lead them when I'm next in).



1. Think carefully about the hand before playing to trick 1. It may make the difference!

2. Every systen of signaling has its difficult hands. Think creatively, instead of just following a signaling system blindly, and hope partner does the same.



Compliments of Pam La Shelle & Mary Anne Laier
Compliments of Pam La Shelle & Mary Anne Laier

Hand # 21, Monday Morning, 11/30/2015


Playing with a variety of partners can be challenging and especially when it comes to ace asking bids and wondering if you are on the same page with partner. Today's hand was about bidding, plus a play problem. North passed and East opened 1 No Trump, West used Stayman and found out the good news about the Spade fit and marched on from there! 4 Clubs was Gerber, plain Gerber! East answered even though she had a question whether 4 Clubs really was Gerber!! Trusting partner all the way to 7 SPADES!! There was no way even using Key Card to find out about the Queen of Hearts, so Gerber worked here as well as Key Card would have!


Match points drives many players to always put slams in No Trump. One good lesson that I have learned over the years is that 7 of anything making is going to be a good board! If the suit feels safer (say you have some distribution), then put it in 7 of a suit rather than 7 No Trump.


When dummy hit (the lead was of course the Queen of Clubs) East was not pleased to see that she had to find the Queen of Hearts! The elusive Queen!! More on that as the hand goes on. Declarer won the Club trick and decided to do a little detective work to find the Queen. She first pulled trump and then played on the Diamond suit, even playing the 13th Diamond from her hand before touching the Heart suit. On the last Diamond, South discarded the 2 of Clubs and North threw a Club also. Declarer played her last Club and saw the 6 come out of South's hand. From this she figured out that South had started with long Clubs and therefore was SHORT in Hearts. Why? No one would lead the Queen without at least the Jack and most likely the Ten too, therefore South should have 5 Clubs. That left him with short Hearts!


There was the answer she was looking for! If you don't have anything else to go on, then play the hand with the long Hearts for the Queen! Success is sweet and earned in this case.


Declarer was the only one in 7 Spades making, 2 others were in 7 No Trump and going down one. Every other pair was in a small slam, five making 7 and three making 6. This declarer in 7 Spades got the TOP board. 




 1) Be thorough in your bidding (slow and accurate) on your way to a slam. 


 2) Make sure you know which slam conventions you and your partner are using!


 3) When faced with finding the Queen, try to do some detective work and don't just make a guess (50%).


 4) When bidding 7, put the contract where it is the safest.


Complements of Louis Sachar
Complements of Louis Sachar

Hand #9, Friday Morning, 11/13/2015


A note on the bidding: East could have bid 3NT for his third bid, but was hesitant with ace doubleton. If West held the Qxx of spades, no trump would play better if West was declarer.  As it turned out, with West holding J109, it would have played better from the East. With West playing it, there was only one spade stopper. If East played it, there would have been two.


The play: North led a low spade, ducked in dummy. South returned a spade to dummy’s ace. Declarer came to his hand with a club, and took the heart finesse. When it won, he returned to his hand and led a second heart.


There’s a bridge adage that says, “Play the card you’re known to have.” While this also applies to declarer play, it is especially important for a defender.


There are many instances where playing that card will cause a declarer to go wrong, and even if you can’t forsee exactly how it might happen on any given hand, it is still a good rule to follow ( so long as it can’t hurt).


On this hand, Dean Truair, sitting north, made the expert play of the king of hearts, when West led his second heart.  He  knew from the bidding that West only had two hearts, and he also knew that hearts were splitting 3-3.  But by playing the king, he created the illusion that hearts were not breaking well for the declarer.  If that was the case, if declarer continued hearts, he was set to lose a heart, three clubs and a spade.


Alas, in this case, declarer had no other options, so he played the third heart, and scored his nine tricks. However, since the hand was played from the “wrong side”, Dean and his partner got a good board anyway.


Lesson Points


1) Good bids and good plays often go unrewarded. With ace doubleton in a suit likely to be led by the opponents, it is usually right to let partner be declarer. That didn’t work here.


2) Play the card you’re known to hold.  The opportunity to make this play occurs on numerous occasions., even if you don’t know how it might cause the declarer to go wrong on any given hand.

For example, on this hand, if declarer had the ten of diamonds instead of the six, he may have been talked into the diamond finesse, as opposed to playing for hearts to break.

Compliments of Jack Lacy
Compliments of Jack Lacy

Hand # 11, Thursday, 11/5/2015

The bidding is 2S (S), P, P, X, P, 3NT all pass.   The opening lead is the Ten of spades. 


First the bidding.  South has a normal weak two although some may require a better suit.  West has a nice 13 HCP hand but no convenient bid.  X should show 4 Hearts or a stronger hand so he passes.  East has a pretty easy takeout double of the 2S bid in the balancing position and now West can come alive with a 3NT bid.  Note that if West had doubled originally, the likely contract is 4H which has 4 likely losers: 1 spade, 1 club, and 2 diamonds.  Therefore, West’s discretion is not making a takeout double immediately pays off because 3N is a much better contract. 


Now the play and defense.  North leads the T of Spades and South plays the Q and West wins the Ace.  West has only 8 tricks (2 Spades, 4 Hearts, and 2 Clubs) without a Diamond trick so he needs to develop a Diamond trick.  He leads a Diamond and North wins the Ace and leads a second Spade.  Now South can set up Spades retaining the King of Diamonds as an entry.  Down 1 (or 2 if West plays for North to have both of the high Diamond honors).


Can declarer do better?  What if he ducks the first Spade and wins the second Spade?  Now assuming South has at most one high Diamond honor (if he has both high Diamond honors, then he would have opened 1S, not 2S), the contract is cold.  West can force out the two Diamond honors.  If North wins the Ace first, he doesn’t have a Spade to help set up Spades and if South wins the King, then he can set up Spades but now has no entry.  Making 4: 2 diamonds, 2 spades, 4 hearts, and 2 clubs.   


Can the defense do better?  What if on the Ten of Spades lead, South encourages but doesn’t play the King or the Queen forcing West to win the first Spade with the Jack, then the defense will prevail.  North still has a Spade to lead when he wins the Ace of Diamonds.   Declarer wins the Jack of Spades and leads a Diamond.  North plays the Ace and lead his second (and last) Spade.   Now South can set up his Spades while retaining the King of Diamonds as an entry.  Down 1 (or 2 if West plays for North to have both the high Diamond honors).



  1. Making a takeout double of a Spade bid (1 or 2) should show 4 Hearts or should be a stronger hand than a minimum takeout double.
  2. It isn’t always correct to play 2nd hand low.  In the first and third described scenarios, if North plays second hand low (as we have all been taught), then the contract is made because South has to use his Diamond entry before his Spades are set up.
  3. It isn’t always correct to play 3rd hand high.  In the third scenario, if South (third hand) plays low, Declarer has no alternative but to win the Jack and then should go down. 
  4. When you are missing two high honors in the suit you must develop (Diamonds in this hand), do what you can to extract all cards of the dangerous suit (Spades in this hand) from one of the defenders so that if the honors are split, you can develop the suit without the dangerous suit being set up.
  5. This hand illustrates the maxim that there is no Always nor no Never in Bridge.  For the defense to succeed in this hand, it must violate two rules that we have all been taught: 2nd hand low and 3rd hand high.
Compliments of Paul Tobias
Compliments of Paul Tobias

Hand #20, Thursday, 10/15/2015


This is a defensive problem where 22 out of 22 pairs got it wrong!! North/South were supposed to only make 2S, yet 21 pairs made 3 and 1 pair even made 4! What went wrong in every East/West defense?


The auction shown took place at one table. The bidding was normal up to West's reoppening double. West had two 4-card minors and did not want to sell out to1S. Since West had passed the original takeout double by North, it was clear the double had to be for takeout in the unbid suits. South had the top of her original 1S bid and showed it by bidding 2S, which closed the auction. Three of the 22 N/S pairs actually got to 4S on this 12 opposite 9 point fit - showing how eager our players are bid (overbid!) games.


Now for the defense: East started with the AD (A from AK) and looked at dummy. No continuation looked particularly good, so East passively played the KD and the JD. Declarer then pulled trump ending in hand.


Declarer next played a club to the K in dummy. Based on count signals, West knew declarer had 2 clubs and he held off the first round and won the AC when the Q was continued. Now, West thought, I can lead partner's bid suit before declarer gets a pitch on dummy's good club. West led the 10H, declarer ducked and lost the A and could claim the rest - making 3 Spades.


The heart suit is what is known as a Frozen Suit. Neither side can lead that suit from any hand without losing a trick. If declarer has to play the suit from dummy or hand, she will always lose 2 tricks. If either defender plays the heart suit, declarer only loses 1 trick. A key part of good defense or declarer play is recognizing frozen suits and trying to make the opponents be the first to lead them.


West has a good count on the hand after seeing East follow to 2 trumps and show 3 diamonds and 3 clubs - East has 5 hearts and declarer therefore has 4 hearts. West can safely continue another club since one sluff in declarer's hand still leaves 3 hearts and will force her to break the frozen suit.


How did one pair make 4 spades? Probably, after leading a high dimond, East saw many possible piches for declarer and switched to the AH, hoping partner, who had shown less than 3 in the auction, had a singleton or the K. This set up all of declarers hearts and, after pulling trumps, declarer could pitch 2 diamonds in dummy and only lose the A of clubs - making 4 spades. 


So, how do you recognize frozen suits? Often you are looking at a J or Queen in dummy and hold an honor yourself. Examples for declarer holdings might be Jx(x) opposite Kx(x) or Jxx oposite Qxx. Another declarer holding might be 109x opposite Kxx with a defender behind the K holding the A and one of the other honors. Lay down these suit holdings and see why they are "Frozen" for yourself (if the defenders cards are in the right places). The holding 


                                                                                   AQ75              J852


is particularly interesting in that it is doubly frozen for the defense and also requires careful play. Say you avoided leading the suit (which would always give declarer an eventual trick) and declarer leads the 10 from dummy. East cannot cover J or declarer eventually makes the 9. So, East ducks and West wins the Q. Now, if either East or West leads the suit, declarer makes a trick - it is still frozen. If declarer has to lead the suit the next time it is led, he loses all the tricks.    




1) Learn to recognize possible frozen suit holdings and avoid leading them.


2) Don't panic on defense and, out of fear, lead a frozen suit late in the hand. Count declarer's tricks and only desperately lead suits when you can see declarer will have enough pitches to throw away his possible losers.


3) Learning when to cover an honor in second position (or not cover) can be very difficult! Switch the 9 and 6 between dummy and declarer in the doubly frozen example above and now East must cover if the 10 is led from dummy.




Compliments of Paul Tobias

Hand # 30, Tuesday, 9/22/2015


This interesting hand was not actually played at the BCA last Tuesday, as only Boards 1 to 27 were used. So what appears below is an imaginary auction and play for a an instructive and interesting hand. 


North, looking at his 23 point hand filled with controls, could hardly believe it when his partner opened 2H in second position. They play disciplined weak two bids in first or second position, so North was assured his partner had 6 good hearts and at least 5 high-card points. In order to find out about key cards, North asked with 4NT. The partnership played 1-4, 0-3 and South showed the A of spades with 5C. Now, a bid of 5D asked South if she had the Q of trumps and any outside K. If South had outside Kings and the Q of trump, she wouid bid the lowest King. Without the Q of trumps she would bid 5H. With the Q of trumps and no outside King, she would bid 6H - which is what she did.


North can now count 12 tricks off the top (assuming 6 heart tricks). He could bid 6NT safely. However, if partner had the Q of diamonds or the J of spades (or the JS dropped when the suit was played, or was clearly finesse-able), then North could count 13 tricks at NT. It is a general rule to not bid a Grand unless you can pretty well count all thirteen tricks - but assume this North was somewhat of a gambler or needed a top score to have a good game - so North, knowing he had to have good chances, bid 7NT!


Now to the play: East should make as safe a lead as possible against a Grand and, in this case, that calls for a lead of the Heart 2. Declarer (North) wins with the A and can count 12 tricks off the top with a 13th trick possible from either spades or diamonds. North plays the K of hearts and continues with the K and Ace of diamonds and the K of spades. Now a spade to dummy's Ace and then run the rest of the hearts. Declarer was planning to come down to the 7S and JD in dummy and the Q10 of spades in hand, with the lead in dummy. If any defender held both the QD and 4 spades they would be squeezed and if the spades were 3-3 a lead to hand would bring home the contract. If the diamond Q fell early or if the JS fell, the play would be over. As the cards actually were, however, when declarer led to the AS at trick four East showed out making the finesse of the JS a clear winner for a 13th trick. A brave bid would be rewarded by a top!




1. Keycard and asking bids for the Q of trumps are useful conventions for slam bidding. In this example, 0-4, 1-3 allowed room to sign-off in 5H if that was all the hand called for.


2.  Generally, it is safer to play slams in a trump fit and to only bid Grands when you can count all 13 tricks. However, when you can count at least 12 tricks in NT with all suits stopped - at matchpoints bid 6NT and, if you think you have good chances for a 13th trick and you need a top, consider risking 7NT.


3. Cashing the diamond A & K early, as well as the KS, before going to dummy maximizes declarer's chances.

Compliments of Paul Tobias
Compliments of Pam LaShelle

Hand #16.Tuesday, Sept.15, 2015


E/W Vul, Dealer-W

                    W               N                E               S

                    2C              p                2D             3H

                    3S              p                4S             p

                    6S              p                 p               X

                     p               p                 p

We spend lots of time preparing for conventions that sometimes hardly ever come up. As is the way with bridge players, my partner and I crammed in a few quick thoughts about our conventions before the game last Tuesday. I have been reading about some interesting hands and was thinking about the Lightner Double and asked if we were playing it and we briefly went over how we each understood how it was used. We both said that it has been forever since it had come up. We would use it against trump slams to ask for an unusual lead, usually with a void in some side suit.


In the third round of our game we played board 16. West opened 2 Clubs with an edgy hand (looks be one too many losers)., North (me) passed and East showed a positive bid with 2 Diamonds. Now partner jumped to 3 Hearts, after all we were not Vulnerable and they were. West bid 3 Spades , North passed again and now East tried a shutout bid of 4 Spades. South passed and  West decided to "go for it" with a 6 Spade bid! I am loving this with my QT54 of Spades and passed. East passed and now, lo and behold, my partner DOUBLED!! Oh my Lord! It had to be the LIGHTNER DOUBLE!! What a coincidence! Nothing to decide now since he had bid Hearts and those are out. He can't be void in Diamonds with me only having one, so I led the 6 of Clubs. Partner ruffed and returned a Heart and declarer won the stiff Ace. Declarer now led a small trump to the King on dummy and eventually lost two more trump tricks for -3 doubled.


If East had bid Clubs at his first opportunity (after partner's 3 Spade bid)  they might have found 6 Clubs which makes. West could have tried 5 Clubs instead of the jump to slam after partner's 4 Spade bid and that too might have helped get to the right spot.


The board was played 12 times and six pairs got to 6 Clubs and five made it, there were a couple 3NTs (making 3 once and 4 once), one 4 Spade making, two 5 Club contracts (one was doubled and down 1), and of course this 6 Spade contract doubled and down 3.


There are times I wonder if I am dreaming or psychic and this coincidence was  one of those times! It seemed surreal that the Lightner Double came up so soon after talking about it, what are the odds?




1) Keep studying conventions that are seldom used, they will come up and you have to be ready! Don't miss the fun of getting to use your rare conventions!!


2) Preempting is effective in jamming the auction for the opponents. When you are not Vulnerable, and the opponents are, is the time to bid your long suit as high as you can.


3) The Lightner Double (thought of by Theodore Lightner 1893-1981) is used against trump slams to ask for an unusual lead because partner of the leading defender has a void.  Lightner's rule was that the lead should not be a trump or a suit bid by the doubling partner. Listen to the bidding to determine the suit partner is most likely void in. (There are several variations of the Lightner Double, this is the one I play - another version is to play it calls for a lead of the first suit bid by dummy, which can be used against NT slams while playing the Lightner Double for voids when opponents bid a trump slam).



Compliments of Pam LaShelle
Compliments of Jack Lacy
Compliments of Jack Lacy

Hand 23, Wednesday Morning, September 9, 2015


The bidding is P – P – 1S – 4H – 4S all pass.  The opening lead is the A of hearts. 


First, a comment on the bidding.  North opens 1S in third chair.  East makes a practical bid of 4H since his partner is a passed hand.  South bids 4S, not knowing if it will make or not but with 5 Spades, she knows that the number of Spade tricks on defense is limited.  West might consider a 5H bid but has some hope that her King of spades and King, Jack of diamonds will supply enough defense to beat 4S.  As it turns out, best defense beats both 4H and 4S so West’s decision not to bid on is best (presuming that the defense beats 4S).  


East leads the Ace of Hearts.  When dummy comes down, he should consider the defensive situation.  In fact, West can help East if she will play the 9 of Hearts on the Ace which should be a suit preference because of the singleton Heart in dummy.  If East reads the 9 of Hearts as a suit preference, the hand will be over quickly because East can play the Ace of Diamonds and a diamond to West’s King, Jack and then West can play the fourth diamond hoping to generate something more with a some kind of uppercut.  However, West might wonder about a Club shift rather than leading a third Diamond because leading a third Diamond would set up a pitch if, in fact, North has the doubleton Diamond rather than East.  Sometimes West will not be able to tell what is going on in the Diamond suit, particularly if North keeps his deuce hidden (as he should).  But if East does shift to the Ace of diamonds, there would be no story to tell.  At the table, West continued the Queen of Hearts making Declarer ruff in dummy.     


Dummy ruffs the Queen of Hearts with the Ten in dummy just in case West has a singleton Heart.  Now what is the plan?  Declarer has 1 possible Spade loser, 1 Heart loser, and 2 sure and 1 possible Diamond losers.  What should Declarer do?  First, take a Spade finesse.  The odds are 37 to 13, almost 3 to 1, favoring the finesse over playing to drop the singleton king off side.  So, at trick 3, Declarer leads the Jack of Spades and finesses.  It wins!  Draw the last trump winning the Ace in hand.  Now what? 


The best chance to hold the Diamond losers to two is find the Jack with East.  You have all the Diamond spots missing the AKJ so finding East with the Diamond Jack will hold the Diamond losers to 2 as long as you lead toward the QT86 in dummy twice putting in the ten (or 8) if East plays low.  Is there any other chance?  There is one extra chance if the defense will cooperate.  If East has the doubleton Ace (or King) of Diamonds and fails to play it on the lead of the first Diamond, then East will be endplayed on the second round of Diamonds and have to concede a ruff sluff so that Declarer can get rid of one of his Diamond losers.  But, in order to have that endplay work, the Clubs must be eliminated.  So, play the AKQ of Clubs ending in hand and now lead the 9 of Diamonds toward the QT86 in dummy.  Why the 9?  If East doesn’t have the J of Diamonds, we are hoping to convince East to play low on the first round of Diamonds.  Note that if East does play low, he will have to win the second Diamond with the Ace and since he would be now down to all Hearts, he will have to concede a ruff sluff allowing Declarer to get rid of his last Diamond and make 10 tricks.  At the table, East did play low and was, therefore, endplayed on the second round of Diamonds and did have to concede a ruff sluff so that Declarer did make his contract.  Well done!


Now shift focus to East.  Should he know to play the Ace of Diamonds?  Yes because he should be able to envision what is about to happen if he plays low on the first Diamond.  In particular, when Declarer plays three rounds of Clubs before leading a Diamond, that is a big clue that an endplay is in East’s future if he doesn’t take remedial action immediately.           



1)  When unsure what to do in the bidding, it is often right to bid on in partner’s suit particularly when you have 5 card support and a singleton.  When South bid 4S in this hand, she didn’t know if it would make or not, but she was sure that her fifth Spade limited the defensive prospects and bid 4S hoping it will make or that it is a good sacrifice against a making 4H.


2) As Declarer, make a PLAN.  In a suit contract, it is usually easiest to count losers and see what you can do, if anything about them.  On this hand, Declarer could count 5 possible losers.  If the Spade finesse worked, that would eliminate one and then he had to worry about limiting his Diamond losers to two. 


3) When you have 10 cards in a suit missing the king, the finesse is almost 3 to 1 over trying to drop the singleton king off side. 


4) When on defense, you need to visualize what is going on and what Declarer is trying to do.  On this hand, East needs to realize that if he plays low on the Diamond, he will surely be endplayed.  Therefore, East should play the Ace of Diamonds when Declarer leads the 9 from his hand.


5) When partner leads a card that is likely to win and there is a singleton in dummy in that suit, you can help partner with a suit preference signal.  Playing low asks for the lower of the two available suits (eliminating the suit led and the trump suit) and playing high asks for the higher of the two available suits.  Playing a middle card shows no preference or asks for a continuation of the led suit.  

Compliments of Pam LaShelle
Compliments of Pam LaShelle

Hand $27, Friday Morning, 9/3/2015


Dealer:South, No one Vulnerable


                                          S                     W                  N                E

                                          P                     1C                 P                1D

                                          P                     1H                 P                1S

                                                             P                     1NT               P                3NT

                                                             P                      P                  P


Here is a good example of North staying interested in the hand even though his values are minimal. North had no attractive lead and led the 4 of Diamonds. Declarer played the Ace and South played the Jack. Declarer then led the Jack of Clubs off dummy and let it ride to North's Queen. North now switched to the Queen of Hearts and South played the 2 (encouraging, playing upside down signals). Declarer doesn't have her suits established and decided to let N/S have this trick. Now North switched to a Club and declarer won this in her hand. Declarer next led the 8 of Diamonds and played small off the board! South took the Ten and led the Ace of Hearts to hold the contract to 3.


Deceptive carding makes it much harder for players to read the position at the table and the Jack of Diamonds worked well as it appeared to be a restricted choice card with North leading from 4 to the 10. You can't blame declarer for falling for the ruse. North aided and abetted by switching to the Heart when in and then making the neutral lead of the 2nd Club. This all looked like he really did have Diamonds and was avoiding playing them again.  Look at the Spade suit. Imagine if North had switched to a Spade after taking the Club Queen? Spades is a frozen suit (I will define this below-don't miss it!) . 


How much is holding this contract to 3 worth? Almost all the marbles! A shared top for the defenders.


Frozen suit: A suit neither side can lead without damage to it's side. In this case, if N/S lead a Spade, they will not take a Spade trick. If West leads a Spade, N/S will always take a trick. Once you start noticing frozen suits you will see them all over the place and know that you need the opponents to play them first! 




1) Pay attention and play well, even when you have very few points.


2) Get ready to false card as soon as you play, don't hesitate or you will give the "Show" away!


3) Be watching for frozen suits and don't lead them for the opponents. This is the time for a neutral lead!



Compliments of Paul Tobias
Compliments of Paul Tobias

Hand # 5, Wednesday, 9/26/2015


West has one of the best hands he has ever held - a 27 point monster! Before he bids he hears partner open a weak 2S bid in second position. How do you bid this powerful hand?


If partner has nothing other than KQJxxx of spades, there should be good play for 7S. It also will play well in NT if East has an outside entry. So, West started with an asking bid for an outside feature - 2NT by their agreements. If East showed a QH or a QD, West thought a slam in NT might work. Note: West might also have started with a forcing 3C, as it is possible that will lead to the best slam).


After 2NT, East bid 3S and West thought it would be probably impossible to reach East's spades if playing in NT. So West tried keycard Roman Blackwood with 4NT and learned East had one key card. The 5H bid asked East about the Q of spades and East showed the Q by bidding 6S. Now, surprisingly, South doubled this final contract and all passed. The opening lead by South was the 10H.


14 pairs played in spades, almost all in slam, and none were able to make 6 with the 5-1 spade split and no way to get to East's hand other than ruffing something and shortening declarer's trumps.


That would be the end of the story - tough luck due to the 5-1 spade split, except that, especially after the double, an expert declarer should be able to make the slam. Here's how: Assume the 10H is either from 10x or 109(x) or even 109(xx). Win the AH and play the AS and see, with relief, the 10S fall from North's hand. Clearly, with the double, South has the J753 of trumps left. He probably has only 2 clubs (if just 1, declarer has little or no hope to succeed). So, assume he is 5-4-2-2 or 5-3-3-2 or 5-2-4-2 as his most likely distributions, assuming he has 2 clubs. 


Declarer next cashes 2 clubs (carefully watching to see if the defense makes it clear that South had a doubleton). Then, declarer plays the K of hearts and ruffs a heart with the 9S. If South over ruffs with the JS, the hand is over - declarer can ruff a diamond back to hand and pull all of South's trumps and claim. So, South must pitch a diamond.


Next, declarer plays A, K of diamonds and ruffs a diamond. Declarer is down to KQ8 of spades and a club and South has 4 trump left. Declarer plays the club and South has to ruff and lead around to the KQ8 of trumps! 


Note that this line of play would work for any of the likely distributions for South as long as declarer ruffs the right cards from dummy. The double and the fact that, with 8 clubs in the East/West hands and only 6 hearts and 5 diamonds, South was not likely to have 3 clubs, made these the most likely distributions that give declarer a way to make the slam.




1) Be very careful when you double a contract - you may be alerting declarer to a bad split and allowing him to find a way to overcome it.


2) As declarer, try to picture favorable distributions that will allow you to make your contract and play for the most likely of these - watching to see if opponent discards change your view of the hand.








Compliments of Paul Tobias
Compliments of Paul Tobias

Hand # 4, Thursday, 8/20/2015


Less than half of the 13 pairs who played this hand got to the very easily makeable 6 Spade slam - so this is another lesson about slam bidding (or not bidding good slams!).


First a word of wisdom a world class player once told me: in duplicate club games (not imps scoring) don't try too hard for games (in our games many pairs go all out to bid many games that fail!) but do try to reach good slams as they will yield many match points (in our games, most pairs are much more afraid of going down in a slam than in a game!). 


So what about this hand? The auction shown did not occur at my table as my partner and I have many artificial conventions. But the result was the same as if my partner had shown a splinter bid forcing to game with short clubs after I opened 1 spade. With that bid by partner, and holding a jump shift hand, how could I (West) not reach slam? West has a 4 loser hand (2 spades, 1 heart, 1 diamond) and expects no worse than 7 losers in partners hand, You only need a total of 12 losers to have a good play for slam (assuming you're not off 2 cashable key cards) and you can find that out with keycard Blackwood.


On the auction shown, after the 4NT Blackwood bid showed one key card missing, West bid the 6 spade slam, knowing that 7 was off an ace or the K of trump and not a reasonable bid.


There was nothing to the play whatever the lead, as you can pull trumps and discard 2 of dummy's diamonds on clubs.


So why did more than half the field not reach this slam? My guess is that East, with only 10 high-card points, bid something like a sign-off at 4 Spades early in the auction. So, the question is, why should East have encouraged partner with something like a splinter bid in clubs instead of just bidding a spade game? Because East has a 6 loser hand in Spades (1 spade, 2 hearts, 2 diamonds, 1 club) and that is one less than needed to force to game, leaving slam a possibility and worth showing to partner.


I also think that West, with a 4 loser hand, even after partner signs-off in 4S early in the auction, should not give up trying for slam.


It all goes back to the observable fact that our club players are very (possibly overly!) aggressive at bidding duplicate games and much less aggressive bidding slams - where they count points too much, instead of losers when having a good fit with partner. 



1. Try being more aggressive bidding slams when you have a good fit and loser count suggests a slam is possible. On the other hand, be less aggressive bidding games on marginal point count hands without exceptional loser counts.

2. Splinters and keycard Blackwood are helpful slam bidding conventions partnerships should employ. 





Compliments of Pam LaShelle
Compliments of Pam LaShelle

Board 17, Friday Evening, August 7, 2015


Distributional hands are fun and can be challenging to describe. WIth a good 5-5 hand you can open one suit and jump in another (and then bid the 2nd suit again) to try to show this. So what about a 6-6 hand?


North was the dealer on this non-vulnerable deal and has a terrific hand if partner has any minor cards with her. North opened 1 Diamond, LHO bid 1 Heart and South of course bid 1 Spade, passed back to North. Time for some action!!


North jumped all the way to 5 Clubs (hoping this would show the big distributional monster that she had. East passed and now partner, who is a well known excellent slam bidder (Mary Anne Laier), jumped to 6 Diamonds!! Mary Anne has just reached 5000 Master Points (Diamond Life Master) and many of her points have come from her astute slam bidding. She is in many good slams that no one else is in and particularly minor suit slams.


East led her Ace of Hearts and the play was not difficult. Ruffing the first trick in her hand, declarer ruffed a Club, ruffed a Heart back to her hand, ruffed another Club, played the trump king and ruffed another Heart. Next, declarer pulled trump and when the Queen of Clubs came down, claimed 7.


A nice top board thanks to the slam bid. Everyone made 7, but no one else bid the slam.




1. Use your imagination when bidding distributional hands. Normally a jump to the 5 level (2nd bid in a 2nd suit) shows a very distributional hand. (Note: patnerships playing Exclusion Blackwood should discuss whether this auction shows a void in clubs and great spade support or a very good minor 2-suiter.)  

2.  There is a saying" 6-5 Come Alive! " Good advice with a 2 suiter.

3. When you are the partner of the big 2 suited hand, be thinking "SLAM"  if you have a fit for partner and key cards.



Compliments of Jack Lacy
Compliments of Jack Lacy

Board 26, Thursday, July 30, 2015


The bidding is 1D (E), 1S (S), 2C (W), 2D (N), P (E), 2S (S), P (W), 4S (N) all pass.  The opening lead is the 3 of diamonds. 


This hand is both an interesting bidding hand and an interesting play hand. 


First, the auction.  East opens 1D (not everyone would open 1D but I think it is an opening bid), South overcalls 1S, and West bids 2C (not my choice but not the most terrible bid I have ever seen .. I think a preempt would be better).  Now North bids 2D.  What is that bid?  It usually shows support for partner’s overcalled suit (spades, in this case) and at least a limit raise in support of spades.   South bids 2S saying she has just a minimum overcall and has no interest in game.  What should North bid now?  Possible bids are pass, 3S, and 4S.  Although, North has only 12 HCP, he has a clear better hand than a pass.  He has 4 trumps, what looks like two tricks in clubs (because of West’s bid of 2C), a stiff ace of diamonds, and a bonus Q of hearts which may or may not be useful.  I think a bid of 3S is the minimum one should bid and 4S certainly would not be terrible.  I choose 4S because my hand is bullish in lots of ways.  The four trumps are key.  The stiff diamond ace is very good.  And, as discussed above, the AQ of clubs feels like two tricks. 


Now the play.  The opening lead is a diamond which will be won in dummy, of course.  But before one plays even the most obvious of plays (like the ace of diamonds in this case), declarer should pause and make a plan.  The best way to go about a plan in a suit is to count losers and then see what can be done about them.  This hand is kind of different because there is a suit (hearts) in dummy that can be a source of tricks.  Therefore, it might be easier to think about how to set up dummy.  If that is our plan, then we want to draw trumps and force out the AK of hearts.  We may have to worry about our diamonds since we have so many but maybe we can use the clubs and hearts in dummy to get rid of the diamonds and ruff one if necessary.  OK.  That is our plan. 


Win the ace of diamonds and lead a trump.  Let’s say East plays low (the best defense).  Win the king of spades.  Now what? Cash the king of clubs and ruff a diamond. Next, play the ace and queen of clubs planning to pitch diamonds if East doesn't ruff or ruffs with the ace of trumps.  East is done for.  If he doesn't ruff you have no more diamonds and can lead another trump from dummy. If he does ruff with the J, you over ruff and ruff your last diamond and start playing hearts.. 


If East wins the first spade lead at trick 2, there is nothing he can do that will stop declarer. If he leads a heart (the best defense), West will win the ace and return a diamond which you must ruff because if you don’t you will lose 4 tricks: 2 hearts, 1 spade, and 1 diamond.   Now you have a problem because you have two diamonds to do something with.  If you draw the last trump, you will have a diamond loser which East will win when he wins the king of hearts.  How to solve that problem?  Play a club to your king and ruff another diamond.  Now cash the ace of clubs pitching your last diamond.  Now try to cash the Q of clubs.  If East ruffs, overruff, draw the last trump and set up hearts.  If East doesn’t ruff, pitch a heart and lead a heart off dummy.  You will eventually get to your hand to draw the last trumps.  You will lose 2 hearts and 1 spade. 


The play of this hand follows a different plan than normal.  You need a basic plan but then, depending on the defense, you may have to change your plan to accommodate one defense or another.  I call it “going with the flow”. 



  1. When partner overcalls and you have 4 card support, your hand is better than it may seem.  On this hand, you have only 12 HCP but, in support of spades, your hand is worth much more. 
  2. Sometimes, one just needs to take a stab at what you think partner will make or, at least, have a good play for.  On this hand, from North’s perspective, South has to have a decent play for 4S even if the overcall is a minimum.  KQJxx of spades and a doubleton heart might be enough. 
  3. Before you play even one card from dummy, stop and make a plan.  Many contracts have been lost because the wrong card was played at trick one.  Even if you are forced to play a card (as in this hand), it is good discipline to stop and make your plan before playing the card. 
  4. This hand is a bit difficult to plan because there are so many options.  Even though one normally counts losers in the master hand (usually the hand with more trumps), sometimes that isn’t sufficient. 
  5. Even after you make a plan and start executing it, you may have to modify the plan after a few tricks.  This need to modify happens most often when a bad break happens. 
  6. The most fun plan but probably the hardest to execute is what I call the “go with the flow” plan.  You start with a basic plan and then depending on the defense, you have to change one thing or another.  On this hand, although it appears that there are only 3 losers (1 spade and two hearts), one possible defense threatens to set up a diamond for their 4th trick and you must figure out how to mollify that threat.  
Compliments of Pam LaShelle
Compliments of Pam LaShelle

Hand # 24, July 17, 2015


Preempting is a strong tool that we all use to try to steal a hand, mess up the opponent's bidding and occasionally get to a better contract. Here is an example of a 3 level preempt "doing it's job" for most of the East-West pairs.


How many South's would double with just 7 points? The South hand is perfect in shape and so I luckily got to be the partner who was "protected" by South. Partner was none other than Marilou Powell, a seasoned expert with great instincts on when to bid or double.


There are a couple ways to treat a bid in direct seat over a preempt. One, you can double or bid with just a regular old opening. Partner knows you might be minimum (or the better hand, he doesn't know which) . It is easy to get into trouble with a minimum hand in direct seat if your bids vary from time to time. To bid with a very minimum hand over a 2 or 3 bid is risky at best when you think of how many tricks you are committing the partnership to.


Or two, you can agree with your partner that you will have MORE than opening to double or bid in direct seat. This is the one I recommend and is used by most experts. If you have this agreement, then it becomes very important for the partner in pass out seat to protect the partner by taking some action. Of course, the South hand could have been much stronger to do this double. North knows that you are protecting and should not go crazy! The easiest way to remember this way of bidding over pre-empts is the following: In the immediate position you bid on[y your hand, paying careful attention to the level you are committing the partnership to. In the balancing position you bid both your hand and assume partner may have  up to a typical opening bid.


Now take a look at the North hand. There was no doubt for me that I would sit for the double. 3NT crossed my mind, but unless partner has a really huge hand it is out of the question. Setting 3 Diamonds seemed certain, so pass was my choice. I supposed that we would set this contract several tricks. 


Imagine my shock looking at the dummy after I led the 9 of Hearts covered by the Ten, Jack and Queen. Now declarer has lots of Heart tricks. This looked  seriously scary now! If we were lucky we would get 2 Spades and how many Diamonds? We needed 3 Diamonds out of my AJ85!! 


Declarer played the Jack of Clubs to the Ace and led the 6 of Diamonds and partner played the 9 of Diamonds!!  The 9 was a HUGE card! That 9 helped build 3 tricks for me in trump. Declarer played the King of trump , I took my Ace and played the Ace and another Spade to partner's King. Whew!! We eventually took the other two Diamonds for a plus 100 and a 10.33 out of a 12 top. What beat us? Only two 3NT boards their way that went down 2 and 3. There were six 3 Diamond bids, down one, UNDOUBLED for a below average score.




1. Decide with partner how you are going to play over preempts. Chose one of the actions and bid that way all the time. Remember most experts "bid their hand in the immediate position" and bid "both their hand and partner's" in the balancing position.


2. Be prepared to "protect" partner in pass out seat so they don't have to bid with weak opening hands in direct seat.


3. After partner's  reopening double, if choosing between a risky bid or passing and taking a plus score for a set, choose the plus score.


4. Remember that bidding is a delicate dance between you and your partner. Dance well and you will end up in the right contract!



Compliments of Paul Tobias
Compliments of Paul Tobias

Hand #27, Wednesday Morning, July 7,2015


North opened his powerful 19 point hand with 1H and had to venture 3NT the next time, after East's 3S pre-empt. A 6 of spades was led and North played low from dummy and won with the 7. Now, (a little late, as we'll see), North started to PLAN how to take 9 tricks. There were seven sure tricks (2 spades, 1 heart, 2 diamonds and 2 clubs) and any additional tricks would have to come from clubs or hearts. Clubs offered the best chance as all it would take to produce 4 tricks would be a singleton or doubleton honor or a 3-3 split. 


North was happy to see the JC fall on the second club trick and went to dummy with the KD to lead the 10C and force out the QC. West won the QC and continued a diamond, ducked by declarer. A third diamond was won by the A and all North needed to do now was get to dummy to cash the set-up club tricks. North led the JS, intending to overtake with the QS to get to dummy. East, however, was alert and knew North had only the KS left in hand - so East rose with the A of spades and continued a spade. Declarer was stuck in his hand and eventually went down 2 tricks.


What did North do wrong? Planning should begin before playing to trick 1. Declarer can see that he will need two entries to dummy after trick 1 to set up club tricks and one of those entries will have to be in spades. So, declarer has to win the first trick with the KS! Now, East cannot prevent declarer from getting to dummy in spades to cash 2 more club tricks. Winning a trick cheaply at trick 1 in this case cost declarer a makeable contract.


A familar variation on this theme occurs when a declarer, playing NT, finds a dummy with a long, solid suit missing the A and dummy's only other highcards are QJx (opposite declarer's Axx) in the suit led. Declarer can easily win the first two tricks in the suit led by playing the Q at trick 1. However, if the Q holds, declarer will be unable to get back to dummy after the defense holds up the right number of times in dummy's good suit. Declarer has to duck the opening lead in dummy and win the A in hand regardless of what spots are played. Now, declarer has the needed entry back to dummy i by leading to the QJ.  




1) PLAN before playing to trick 1. Pay special attention to preserving entries that might be needed to get from hand to hand before and after setting up your tricks.


2) Winning a trick cheaply can become an automatic habit but it is not always the best or right thing to do.    



Compliments of Pam LaShelle
Compliments of Pam LaShelle

June 26. Board 7, South Dealer, Both Vulnerable

      The auction:


                      S      W       N       E

                      P      P       1NT    P

                      3C*  P        3S      P

                      4S    P         P       P 

       *  Puppet Stayman asking for 5 card major

       Every system has it's glitches and for all those who play Puppet (3C) over 1NT, here is a hand with the glitch. After North opens 1NT South has to decide whether to use regular Stayman, Puppet Stayman or perhaps just bid 3NT with his flat 4-3-3-3 hand. It is a tough decision and if you look at the results on the final scores you will see people are playing in Hearts 3 times  and Spades 9 times!

      North decided to open 1NT with high cards in the doubletons. This hand is just a 15 count so opening 1 Spade is also an option.

    What I am trying to say about this hand is that it could be bid many ways by both the opener and the responder. There isn't always a definitive answer to what is "right" in bidding. We all bid the way that seems like the best at the time.

   Responder asked for a 5 card major, so North bid 3 Spades and now South is pretty hard pressed to not bid 4 Spades. No chance to find the 4-4 Heart fit which so often will result in an extra trick.

   The 7 of Hearts was led and taken in hand by the Queen in his hand. Declarer led a Spade out of his hand and played the Ace, catching the King from West. This looks bleak if the King is a singleton. No sense prolonging the inevitable so a small Spade was led off dummy and the miracle of the Queen appeared from West. Now trump losers are held to just one!! Who would have thought with this holding that could be the result. With just two Club losers the declarer brought in the contract!!

  Even though 4 Hearts will make here, most declarers made 4 Spades even though Deep Finesse says only 3 can be made! 

  So what is the glitch? It is because 4 Hearts can be reached with regular Stayman, but never through Puppet with this hand. Seems like every system has certain hands that it can't give the best result on (that being to reach 4 Hearts where there is the possibility of making 5) and this is one example.

  What is more curious is that so many did not reach game on this hand. Why? Possibly with a 1 Spade opening responder will not think they have enough for game(10 points and flat hand). 6 pairs did not reach game, 2 pairs went down in game (one in 4 Hearts and one in 4 Spades) and only 4 pairs bid and made game! One pair in 4 Hearts even made 5 when the defenders failed to ever lead Clubs! 

  This is why duplicate is so much fun!! One hand, many results and auctions! We are all racing to find the best on each hand!


 1.  Use Stayman bids(regular and Puppet) to help find 4-4 and 5-3 major suit fits.

 2. Opening 1NT could get you to more games than opening 1 of a suit.

 3. When things seem impossible such as the trump on this hand, persevere and don't leave your opponents trumps outstanding. They will start ruffing your winners if you do!




Compliments of Jack Lacy
Compliments of Jack Lacy

Hand #19, Friday Morning, 6/15/2015


First, let’s look at the bidding.  East’s 2C is reasonable but may run into some trouble if the opponents preempt.  Opening 2C with two 5 card suits is often not the best strategy because if the opponents do some preempting, you might lose one or both 5 card suits and have to guess at high level.   On this hand, however, the opponents can’t reasonably get into the auction even though they are not vulnerable against vulnerable (the best time to get into an opponent’s strong bidding). 


West bids 2D which shows at least a king and is game forcing according to the agreements this East West pair use.  Now East bids 2S and West bids 3S.  Bidding 3S says that besides the minimum king he showed with his 2D bid, he has some possibly useful card(s) outside (in this case, the queen of hearts and the king of diamonds).  East now bids 4C, a slam try probably showing a second suit.  West has the worst possible club holding (three small) for this bidding so just returns to 4S which ends the auction.  If East West were playing that they cue bid both aces and kings, West might consider bidding 4D over 4C but with West’s 4333 distribution and the three small cards in clubs, West’s 4S bid seems best even if the partnership cues both aces and kings.  The final contract is 4S with an opening lead of the J of clubs.         


Dummy is put down and East makes a PLAN.  It appears that making 5 is assured unless the opening club lead is ruffed or spades happen to be 4-0.  Assuming neither of those nasty happenstances occur, East should ask herself if 6 is possible and, if so, what she needs to do to make 6.  The scoring is matchpoints so every overtrick is important.   Declarer must lose a diamond trick so the only possible way to make 6 is to somehow dispose of her heart loser.   Where could that heart loser go?  Notice if the ace of diamonds is onside, then the king of diamonds could be used to dispose of declarer’s heart loser.  Now we have a plan.  Win the opening club lead (unless it is ruffed, of course), draw trumps, and lead the J of diamonds toward the king.   If South plays the ace, win the return and get to dummy by ruffing a club (which also sets up the clubs if clubs happen to be 4-1) and use the king of diamonds to dispose of your heart loser.  Making 6!  What if South ducks the ace of diamonds?  Go up with the king because although you led the J, you really have no finesse against the Queen because you are missing the Ten.


One other defensive point.  If South chooses a heart lead, the most that East can make is 5 because when South wins the ace of diamonds, South will be able to lead a second heart to partner for the defense’s second trick.  Opening leads are tough. 


  1. Opening a hand with 2C when one is 5-5 is often not the best strategy because if the opponents preempt, you may not be able to get in both suits and might have to guess at a high level what to do.  However, when one suit is spades, it is usually OK because spades can be bid at as low a level as the opponents allow with their (presumed) preempt. 
  2. If your agreement is to bid 2D over 2C to show at least a king, then raising partner’s suit to the three level shows extras.  If you had just the king you showed when you bid 2D, you would bid 4S to show nothing extra. 
  3. Making a PLAN is crucial to declarer play.  On this hand, it appears that 5 is pretty much guaranteed so declarer should look for ways to make 6.  Overtricks are very important at matchpoints. 
  4. On this hand, declarer has two possible losers, a heart and a diamond.  It is possible if the ace of diamonds is onside, to see a way to make 6 by pitching your loser on the king of diamonds or if South ducks by playing the king of diamonds.  Either way leads to making 12 tricks. 
  5. South has a difficult hand to lead from.  She chose the J of clubs because she had the JT and two smaller clubs.  Very reasonable.  However, if she had hit upon a heart lead, she would have been able to hold declarer to 11 tricks.  Again, opening leads are difficult.
Compliments of Paul Tobias
Compliments of Paul Tobias


Hand # 8, Friday Morning, 6/12/2015


This is a very interesting hand from a bidding viewpoint. Twelve North/South pairs played the hand - with 14 tricks off the top and just the A to lose. However, only 4 pairs reached slam. What happened?


Probably every West opened 3 and North overcalled 3. After a pass by East, South's bid is crucial for reaching the slam. South can meekly raise to 4, but that would be a major underbid with this 17 point, 5 loser hand with great heart support. Say South tries keycard Blackwood with a 4NT bid. North will show 3 with a 5 Club bid (or a 5 diamond bid, if playing 1,4 - 0,3). Now South is concerned that there are 2 possible diamond losers off the top and might sign off in 5H. In fact, anticipating this very auction, the majority of South's did not even risk the 4NT asking bid. The 3 pre-empt scared South into meekly bidding 4.


How can South find out that there are less than 2 diamond losers (i.e., that North has the king or less than 2 diamonds)? There is a very useful understanding for situations like this where there is a danger suit and you want to find out if partner has less than 2 losers in that suit. Jump or raise to 5 of your major suit fit to ask a simple question: Partner can you control the second round of the danger suit? In this hand, a bid of 5 hearts by South would ask about 2 diamond losers and North, with either the king or a singleton (or void), should bid slam.


Wait, you say - what about the two missing black suit aces and the heart king? How can you know that partner has those cards? The answer is simple. Partner took direct action over the 3 diamond pre-empt. Since you don't pre-empt a pre-empt and the overcall is on the 3-level, North needs at least the top of an opening bid as well as a good heart suit. Try giving North a hand that can bid 3 hearts without both black aces and the king of hearts and you will have a hard time - unless you give North the ace of diamonds or a void in diamonds.




1) Playing disciplined bids over pre-empts in the immediate position (don't pre-empt a pre-empt!) allows the partner of the pre-empt overcaller to confidently look for slam.


2) When there is a danger suit (either bid by the opponents or not cue-bid by your side), a bid of 5 of your agreed major suit asks for second round control in that danger suit. (If there is no clear danger suit, a bid of 5 in the trump suit says you are worried about the trump suit and asks for extra trump quality or length in order to make a slam.)  



Compliments of Pam LaShelle
Compliments of Pam LaShelle

Hand # 26, Friday Morning, 5/29/2015


Dealer East, Both VUL                                                                                          

East passed and South bid 1 Spade. It looks like a pretty weak opener!! If you use loser count (and assuming you will be in Spades) you can count it as a 6-7 loser hand - which means it qualifies as an opener (7 losers is considered an opener, so 6 is even better). If you use quick tricks, the hand only has 1 (normally it takes 2 to open). Point count is worse with only 9 high card points! No doubt some are preempting this hand instead of opening 1 Spade!


West passed and North decided there was nothing that could help more than Key card (0-3, 1-4) and bid 4NT. East passed and South bid 6 Diamonds. What did this mean? By an agreement many partnerships have, a jump to the 6 level shows a VOID in that suit and an odd number of key cards. North was thinking, "Really? Only 1?" It didn't take North long to realize that the hand belongs only in 6, but 6 of what? What if South's 1 keycard is the Ace of Spades? Should North bid 6 NT to protect his King of Clubs? Say South has the A of Spades and no Q of clubs. Then, with West on lead in a spade slam, there might be 2 quick losers. So, with as much information as could be gathered, North bid 6NT and was pretty confident that it should make with all the high cards in his hand. 


What if South had held 2 key cards (even number) and a void? Then he is to bid 5NT. 


The lead was a Heart with declarer immediately playing spades and getting the Ace out and then claiming. As is so often true on slam hands, there was nothing to the play, it is all in the bidding! If you get to the best contract, you win.


And win they did with a shared TOP in 6NT. Out of the rest of the field, 3 were in 6 Spades and 3 stopped in game making 6.




1. Use 6 of a suit over key card (4NT) to convey an ODD number of key cards and a void in that suit.


2. Use 5 NT over key card (4NT) to convey an EVEN number of key cards and a void (unknown suit).


3. Use your tools and gather all the information you can before deciding on your final bid. Remember that NT pays more in duplicate and can even be a safer place to play a slam (when declarer has a K to protect, for example, or the opponents might possibly have a ruff on opening lead)



Compliments of Jack Lacy

Hand # 17, Monday Morning, 5/18/2015 


The bidding is 1D by West, 1H by East, 1S by West.  Now what should East do?  2H seems like an underbid and 3H seems like a little bit of an overbid because of the diamond void in partner’s opening bid suit.  However, I lean toward the slight overbid rather than, what seems to me, the large underbid.  Bridge is, after all, a bidder’s game.  After East bids 3H, what should West do?  What does East need for a slam?  Given partner has 6 hearts for her leap to 3H, the AQ of hearts would make the play for slam pretty good and partner has more high cards than just the AQ of hearts for her jump.  What about Axxxxx of hearts and the Q of diamonds?  That would be enough for 7 if hearts are 2-2.  Given those two hands that are minimal for the bidding, it seems that slam would be a decent proposition opposite most hands that East would have for her 1H response and 3H rebid.  Therefore, a leap to 6H seems reasonable.  Note that this is a 26 HCP slam.  What about a grand slam?  Given that partner is a passed hand, leaping to 7H seems like a bit of a stretch although if partner has the AQ of hearts, it wouldn’t be unreasonable and cold if partner has, in addition, the Queen of diamonds. 


The play is also interesting.  The opening lead is the ace of clubs.  What is your PLAN?  Usually, counting losers in a suit contract makes most sense but in this hand, it is easier to count winners.  We have 6 heart tricks, 2 spade tricks, 2 diamond tricks, and 1 club ruff for sure.   How do we make more?  The key is the diamond suit.  What if we can set up the diamond suit since we have the spade ace as an entry?  Ruff the club in dummy, ruff a diamond in hand, heart to the J, ruff a diamond in hand, heart to the king.  If hearts are 2-2, then cash the AK of diamonds and see how diamonds sit.  On this hand, diamonds are 4-3, so that the rest of the diamonds in dummy are good.  You end up taking 4 diamonds, 6 hearts, 2 spades, and a club ruff for 13 tricks.  What if diamonds are not 4-3 and the diamond queen is still out?  Then ruff another diamond setting up the last diamond in dummy.  Now you take only 3 diamonds, 6 hearts, 2 spades, and a club ruff for 12 tricks.  What if the hearts are 3-1 when you lead a second heart to the king?  Now you must draw the third trump.  Go to the spade king and draw the third trump, go back to the ace of spades and cash the AK of diamonds.  If the diamonds were 4-3, then you again take 13 tricks.  If the hearts are 3-1 and the diamonds are 5-2 with the Queen with the 5, you will go down.   I calculate the slam as a little above 80%, not too bad. 


  1.  Points schmoints.   When you have a good fit and a source of tricks on the side, you can often make a game or a slam without the HCPs that are normally needed.  That is exactly what is happening on this hand.  You have a nice heart fit and a source of tricks in the diamond suit. 
  2.  How do you bid the East hand in this example?  Partner has opened 1D, you have bid 1H, and partner bids 1S.   If you bid just 2 hearts, it seems a big underbid since you have 6 good hearts and the king of spades in partner’s second bid suit.  The downside is the void in partner’s first bid.   However, bidding 3H seems better as it will be good any time partner has support for hearts and if partner bids 3N, we have help in both spades and clubs. 
  3. When you plan the play, it often is best to count losers in a suit contract.  However, sometimes it is easier to count winners.  In this hand, if you count losers, you have 5 (4 clubs and 1 spade) and deciding what to do with all of them will be difficult. 
  1. Counting winners:  you have 6 hearts, 2 spades, 2 diamonds, and 1 club ruff for 11 tricks without developing any further tricks.  You only need one more winner for 12 tricks and 2 more for 13 tricks.  What might you do to get another trick (or two).  One plan might be to try to ruff another club which will get you to 12.  However, if you focus on the diamond suit, it looks the best avenue to pursue.  Diamonds will be 4-3 about 62% of the time and even if they are 5-2, the queen will be doubleton for another 12.4%.   
Compliments of Jack Lacy
Compliments of Paul Tobias
Compliments of Paul Tobias

Hand # 3, FridayMorning, 5/15/2015


This hand shows how hard it is to defend, especially with no information about partner's hand from the bidding. Declarer East played in NT 7 times and was only held to 8 tricks once when that is the par result for the defense! 


Assume that North makes the typical lead of the 10  and South plays the J. Declarer wins the A  and next plays 5 clubs. In order to hold the contract to 8 tricks, North and South must keep all their diamonds and continue that suit when North gets in with the A♠ . But, how is North to know his partner has such good diamonds?. The key lies in South's discards and the use of a convention that a number of club players already use.


The convention is known as Smith Echo and only applies against NT contracts. Smith Echo is designed for when you like partner's opening lead and declarer wins the first trick and you want the suit continued if partner wins a later trick. Since many times partner cannot tell from the spot you play on the opening trick whether you like the lead or not, a convention like Smith Eco can be very useful.


How does it work? After declarer wins the first trick she will set up or run her winners. The cards you play to declarer's first suit tell partner whether you want the opening lead suit continued. If you echo (i.e., play high and then low to declarer's suit) and you are playing Smith Echo, you are not giving count but instead, you are telling partner you like the opening lead. If you play low and then high you don't like the opening lead and would prefer a switch. 


Simple enough. Here's how it would work on the given board. On the second trick, declarer plays to the K♣ and you play the 9. When declarer plays to the A, you play the 7 (an echo). You are not signaling count - instead you have told partner you like diamonds and he should hold onto them. On the next three clubs, you discard all your spades. Partner can throw 2 spades (signaling his ace) and partner knows to lead a low diamond when he wins the A. The defense takes 4 diamonds and a spade and gets a tie for top!


Without this convention it is easy for North, not knowing where the K and Q of diamonds are, to throw away a small diamond when clubs are run or to switch to the K  after winning the A♠ .


Note that some partnerships who like the purpose of Smith Echo feel it works better to play high/low when they don't like the opening lead and low/high when they do. This form of the convention is called Reverse Smith Echo. If playing either form of this convention, let the opponents know when they ask about carding, leading or signaling in NT contracts. It also belongs on the convention card.


Is there a downside? Yes, you lose the ability to give correct count in declarer's suit - but that rarely matters. The primary downside is that you or your partner are likely to forget this convention the first few times it comes up. Almost everyone I know has! But, once you get over that, its benefits can be significant. 


Compliments of Paul Tobias
Compliments of Paul Tobias

Wednesday Morning, 5/6/2015, Hand #24


In the auction shown, East knew West's double of the 2H overcall was for penalties but, with equal vulnerability, chose not to try for at least a 3 trick set and instead bid the 3NT game. North dutifully lead the 4and South won the A♥ and led the 10  which declarer won in dummy with the A.


It's a STAC game so the hunt for overtricks is even more important than usual. Declarer can count 9 tricks off the top with a possibility of a 10th trick if clubs split 3-3 (not an odds-on favorite, however). Also, based on the overcall, Declarer thinks it is more likely than not that South has the K Declarer first thinks about stripping South's hand of exit cards and then throwing South in with a heart - that would force a lead into the KJ of hearts or a lead away from the K.  This requires cashing the exact right number of clubs and spades and ending up in Declarer's (West) hand to lead a low heart. 


Declarer cashes 4 spades, pitching a low heart, and goes to the Q♣. The remaining cards in South's hand are the Q109 of hearts and the K103 of diamonds. Declarer leads the 6 and South is forced to either lead into the heart tenace or lead away from the K♦ around to dummy's Q - either lead giving declarer an extra trick!


What if South had a third club and only 2 diamonds - then he could get out a club avoiding the endplay. Now, however, with clubs splitting, declarer would have 10 tricks off the top. And we would have arrived at a very interesting end position. Putting declarer on the bottom, look at the 4 card position with the lead in dummy:







                                          -                                                                                 -

                                          -                                                                                 Q10

                                          J964                                                                           K10

                                          -                                                                                  -






When dummy leads the 13th club (remember, we are assuming clubs split in this possible ending). South must either give up a heart stopper or a diamond stopper and declarer throws the other suit and makes all the remaining tricks (for 2 overtricks).


But clubs did not split in the actual holdings. Could we still have played for this kind of squeeze ending instead of the endplay after the club lead at trick 2?  Assume declarer wins the Q and gets out a low heart at trick 3 and South leads another club or a spade. now declare cashes clubs and spades and ends up in the diagrammed position, except that North has the J and J96. The lead of dummy's 3  still squezes South even though North wins the trick instead of declarer!    


None of these possible or actual end positions are immediately obvious - but always look for squeeze or endplay opportunities to provide those critical duplicate overtricks.



1. Overtricks are very important in matchpoints, so consider possible endplays or squeeze positions when planning your play. The best way to do this is to picture the 3 or 4 card end position you would like to arrive at and play your winners and losers to safely get to that ending.

2. Losing tricks at the right time to the right opponent is often the way to arrive at end positions that provide extra tricks,



Compliments of Louis Sachar
Compliments of Louis Sachar

May 1, 2015, Friday Morning of the Tournament, Board 7


There are several ways for East-West to reach four spades in this deal, perhaps the simplest being 1nt-2c-2s-4s.  This hand is about the play.  Specifically, how do you play the club suit for only one loser?


The answer. You don’t. You make the opponents play it for you.


South leads the king of diamonds. You win the ace. Do not duck!  You pull trump in two rounds, and then play three rounds of hearts, clearing the suit. Now you exit a diamond, which is why you didn’t duck. You needed an exit card.  Whoever wins the diamond trick has to lead clubs for you, or else give you a sluff/ruff. As long as you play for split honors in clubs, you will only lose one club. (Try it.)  Making five.


What if spades were 3-1? Same thing. You play a third spade. They win and cash their diamond, but once again will have to lead a club for you, allowing you to make your contract.


Lesson points:


1) Often, the best way to play a suit is to let the opponents play it for you. Sometimes, you can even force them to play it for you.

2) Keep this in mind on defense too. Don’t break new suits for declarer unless it seems necessary — (not always so easy to determine!).

Compliments of Pam LaShelle


 Board 11, Friday, April 24, none Vul. Dealer South
    South     West      North      East
     1C          1NT         P            P
  Defense can be just as fun as declaring and be just as valuable in matchpoints.
  Here is a hand from a Friday afternoon game at the BCA with 11 tables. The bidding was not surprising with a 1 Club bid from the Dealer, South. West has a nice 16 point hand and overcalled 1 NT. Now choosing a lead from the North hand seemed to be between a Heart from 4 small or the Ten of Clubs, partner's only bid suit. North chose the Ten of Clubs and it went small off dummy, the 4 from South(upside down, he likes it!) and declarer won the King in her hand. Looks like like there wouldn't be too many trips to the dummy for declarer and she played a Spade to dummy's Ace. Now a Diamond to the Jack in declarer's hand and North won the Queen. Partner liked the Club, so an easy decision to  lead the 9 of Clubs, South winning the Jack. South now led a small Spade and declarer is in pretty hot water and played small. North won the Ten of Spades, cashed the King of Spades, and led her last Club. South won the Ace of Clubs, cashed the Jack of Spades and Ace of Diamonds and got out with a his last Diamond. South eventually got a Heart for a 2 trick set and a top board! 
   Think how differently this would all go if North leads a Heart at trick one. This would allow declarer to take all 4 Hearts, 1 Club, 1 Diamond and 1 Spade.  Also a below average board.
  The opening lead is one of your most valuable tools. Any time you can get a clue what to lead or help partner know what to lead gives you the "edge" on that board. One of my partners is especially good about helping give lead suggestions by doubling and bidding at every chance to help the partnership get the right lead on the table.
  One convention that I particularly like is called Rosenkrantz Doubles and it is used when one of the partnership overcalls. Now if the partner has the Ace or King(even if it is a doubleton) he doubles or redoubles to show this card. This allows you to lead your suit when you are holding AQxxx or the Kxxxx and many other combinations. This can be a killing lead!
  We are lucky that we have a famous guest coming to Austin on June 18 named Billy Miller and he will be doing part of his one day seminar on KILLING LEADS! Don't miss this dynamic speaker! Watch for seminar tickets to become available right after the Sectional next week.
1) Careful leading and defense can make for very satisfying bridge and top boards!
2) Use whatever information you can gather to help you make good leads.
3) Help partner by making lead directing bids and doubles.
4) Know your signals so you know whether or not to continue the lead when you get in again.
Compliments of Jack Lacy
Compliments of Jack Lacy


Board 21 from the Thursday, April 16.   One suggested auction is 1C (E) – 1H – 3C – 3H – 3S – 4C – 4D – 7C.  

This HOTW is a bidding discussion since the play in the various likely contracts is trivial.  

East has an easy 1C opening bid.  West has an easy 1H response.  Now what?  East is really too strong to rebid only 2C and not quite strong enough (in HCs) to rebid 3C.   But with a 7 card suit and controls in all the unbid suits, East should rebid 3C.   Remember that East might have only 5 or 6 clubs for a 2C rebid, for example: AQx, x, xxxx, AKTxx.  With 7 good clubs and 15 HCP, 3C is a standout rebid.   Over 3C, West bids 3H to see if East can help in the heart suit.  But what if partner passes 3H?  3H cannot be passed because any bid over 3C is forcing to game.  Over 3H, East has a problem.  Since West might have only 5 hearts, he cannot bid 4H.   4C bypasses the lucrative (at matchpoints) 3NT so 3S seems a reasonable bid.  Can it show four spades?  No, because with four spades, East would have rebid 1S over partner’s 1H response.   West is not happy when partner shows stuff opposite his void but he has 3 clubs to the J and a really good heart suit.  West now bids 4C to set trumps.   East is encouraged and bids 4D to show a control in diamonds.  Now, West can practically count 13 tricks with clubs as trumps.  West would like to inquire about the strength of East’s club suit but there is no convenient way to do that.  So, West bids what he thinks the partnership can make. Of course, the play in 7C is trivial.  As it turns out, there are 15 tricks in clubs (or NT) when clubs break 2-1 and hearts break 3-2. 

   A much simpler auction leading to 7C includes the use of Exclusion Blackwood.  1C – 1H – 3C – 4S.  4S is Exclusion Blackwood asking opener to show keycards excluding the ace of spades.  Opener would respond 5D showing two key cards without the queen of clubs.  Now responder knows that opener’s club suit is good and bids 7C.  What about the known to be missing queen of clubs?  With 3 clubs to the J, the odds are very much in favor of picking up the queen of clubs if partner has only 6 clubs (any 2-2 or the stiff Q of clubs).  Of course, with 7 clubs, the odds move to overwhelming  

   Another auction leading to 7C would be: 1C – 1H – 3C – 4C (Minorwood).  What is Minorwood?  A way to ask for key cards in a minor.  The answers are either 1430 or 3014 whichever is your pleasure.  Let’s say we are playing 3014.  Then East would respond 4D showing 0 or 3 KCs. West would know that it must be 3 because with zero KCs, East cannot have a 3C rebid.  Over 4D, West can just bid 7C.  If your partnership is playing Kickback (another KC asking method) where 4D would be RKC for clubs, then over 3C, West can bid 4D and get the same answer of 3 KCs and bid 7C again.  This latter auction is much easier.   The problem with either KC asking auction is West’s spade void.  If partner has only 2 KCs does he have the AK of clubs, the two missing aces (one of which is wasted ), or the Ace of spades and the King of clubs?  Asking for aces or KCs with a void is not a good way to explore for slam.  

    When this hand was played, a popular contract was 6H.  What might be the sequence to that contract?  One sequence that I am aware of is 1C – 1H – 2C (a slight underbid as we have discussed), 4H showing the kind of suit that West actually has.  Over 4H, East has too much to settle for just game.  That is another reason why I think East should rebid 3C rather than 2C but this auction turned out to be effective.  Over 4H, East can just RKC and finding partner with all the controls, can bid 6H.   East’s hand is bullish for hearts even though he has only 2 hearts.  He has a stiff diamond and the ace of spades and a long and good club suit.   I heard of this somewhat crazy but effective auction: 1C – 1H – 3C – 6H.   Now I don’t agree with the 6H bid because it gives up on 7C and requires partner to have a heart, at least, although with a suit this good, West can play opposite a void for only one loser more than half the time.  The real problem with this auction is the fact that after a 3C rebid by East, 7C is a real possibility.  


1.      Because we all play matchpoints most of the time, we tend to downplay the value of the minors.  However, when we are thinking of a slam, any bid and made slam is usually an above average score.   Playing IMPs, a minor suit slam is just as good as a Major suit slam. 

2.     When East rebid 3C, West’s hand became gigantic for clubs.   Now West can envision 7C because of his support and his great source of tricks in hearts.  All he has to do is either ask for KCs or convince himself that he has enough KCs to bid the grand slam. 

3.     Exclusion Blackwood is a very useful tool when you hold a void.  It allows the asker to determine if the partnership has all the required key cards for a small or grand slam.  Responder to Exclusion Blackwood excludes (therefore, the name) an ace in the (void) asking suit.  

4.     Minorwood and Kickback are convenient key card asking tools particularly useful for minors.  Minorwood is whenever the partnership is in a game force the asking bid is 4 of a the agreed upon minor.  Kickback is a bid of the suit above the trump suit again asking for KCs.

5.     Asking for aces or KCs with a void is fraught with danger.  If partner has all the missing KCs, then all is well.  The problem is when partner has less than all the missing KCs so that asker doesn’t know what KCs partner actually has. 


Compliments of Louis Sachar

WednesdayMorning, April 8, Board 11


p - 1nt - p - 2c

p - 2s - p - 4c*

p- 4d - p  - 6s

all pass.


Four clubs was keycard for spades. Four diamonds showed zero or three. Since East had fifteen points of his own, and West promised 15-17, she couldn’t have zero keycards. So East correctly bid slam. More on the bidding later.


What happened at our table:


North led the king of diamonds.  West won, ruffed a diamond, led a club to her king, but when she tried to ruff another diamond the wheels came off. South overruffed and led the Q of clubs (just in case North and West each started with two.) North ruffed. Led another diamond. South ruffed, and led another club for North to ruff. Down three.


How should West have played.


The first thing you should do when you’re in a slam contract is count your winners outside of the trump suit. This will tell you how many ruffs you need. Here you have three hearts, one diamond, and two clubs. That’s six tricks. If spades break 3-2, you’ll have four more spade tricks, plus at least one ruff. Now you’re up to eleven. If the club ftnesse is working, you have all you need. If the club finesse is not working, you’ll need two diamond ruffs (or a 3-3 club break).


I think the best chance is to ruff a diamond at trick two, then cash the queen of spades, and lead a trump to your hand. Now you ruff the second diamond. If it is overruffed, you can fall back on the club finesse. If it is not overruffed, you lead a club to your hand and pull the last trump. You end up with six trump tricks, two clubs, three hearts, and a diamond.


A note on the bidding:


There’s a convention known as BAZE which works well for bidding slams, after the bidding begins 1nt - 2c - 2 of a major. It’s a bit advanced, but can be helpful if you want to add it to your bag of tricks.


Assuming the bidding begins 1NT - 2c - 2h.

   4c is keycard for hearts.

   4d agrees hearts, but is quantitative giving partner the option of bidding either four or six hearts.

   4nt is quantitative for either NT or spades. (If you’d didn’t have spades, you wouldn’t have bid 2c). It gives partner the option of passing, bidding five spades, bidding six spades, or bidding 6nt.


The problem with this treatment is that you’re giving up splinter bids, but BAZE has a solution to that. After 1nt - 2c - 2maj…  a bid of three of the other major agrees on the major bid by partner and says “I have shortness somewhere."


Examples:  1nt - 2c - 2h - 3s (agrees hearts, and has an unknown singleton or void. Partner now bids 3nt to ask where the shortness is.)


1nt - 2c - 2s - 3h (agrees spades, and has shortness somewhere). Partner now bids 3s to ask where the shortness is. 


As I said, this is a bit complicated, but can be important. For example, in today’s deal, the actual bidding at our table was 1nt - 2c - 2s - 4nt….  West correctly interpreted that last bid as keycard for spades, but how was she to know it wasn’t quantitative for no trump? Even if you don’t play BAZE in its entirety, it’s important to have some kind of agreement as to what’s keycard, and what’s quantitative.


Lesson Point.


While it is always important to make a plan it is especially important in slam contracts. Count your tricks outside the trump suit, and that will tell you how many ruffs you’ll need. 



Compliments of Louis Sachar
Compliments of Paul Tobias

Hand # 10, Wednesday, 4/1/2015


After the straight forward auction shown, East arrived at 3NT. The same contract was played by 13 East's with a result of making 4NT 9 times and 5NT only 3 times. Let's look at one of the times East was successful in making 5.


South made a 4th best lead of a low heart and North won the A and continued with the 9. Declarer could now count 10 tricks: 4 in spades, 2 in hearts, 2 in diamonds after forcing out the A and 2 in clubs. Possibilities for an 11th trick were: the 10 of hearts, East's 4th diamond or a third club.


Declarer started by leading a low diamond to dummy's Q and losing the diamond trick that had to be lost to North's ace. North played another diamond, won by East's K. Now declarer had all the rest of the tricks but 1 and started cashing spades. On the 4th spade declarer pitched the 4 of clubs and on the QH, declarer pitched the 6C. This was the 4 card ending with declarer (East) on the right and North on top :






                                       -                                                                          -

                                      10                                                                         -

                                       -                                                                          J5

                                       A102                                                                    K7





Note that North has already come down to just 2 clubs in order to keep diamonds - otherwise, declarer's 2 diamonds would both be good. South still has 3 clubs, protecting that suit, and a high heart keeping dummy's 10 from winning.


Now declarer leads a club to the K and cashes the JD. South must still keep the JH and therefore has to throw a club. Both North and South could only keep one club and dummy's A10 of clubs take the last two tricks.


This setup where one defender has to hold onto a particular suit and the other defender has to hold on to a second suit, leaving a third suit unprotected for declarer to cash, is called a double squeeze. When the opponents cards are right for it, Declarer just has to have communication between hands and cash tricks in the right order and it works almost automatically. 


Is there anyway the defenders could have stopped the double squeeze after the heart lead? If North had switched to clubs at trick two and led them again after winning the diamond A, declarer would not have had the communication between hands to pull off the double squeeze. Alternatively, if North had let declarer win the first two diamond leads, declarer would not have been able to lose his second trick early and run winners for the squeeze. But, squeeze defense is perhaps one of the most difficult parts of defense and few North's would find these winning plays.     






Compliments of Paul Tobias
Compliments of Pam LaShelle

Board 3, Friday March 27


 E/W Vul and S the Dealer


    S            W          N         E

    P            1S         P         2S

   3H           3S         P         4S

   P              P          P    


North leads the 7 of Hearts and declarer plays small off dummy. You know this is either a singleton or a doubleton as partner would not lead high from 3.


How many times do you wonder if you should finesse the board? This often happens on the very first trick, when it is critical that you get it right. Squirming in your chair won't help! Try to make some sense of the situation and ask yourself, "If Partner has a singleton, are you entitled to natural tricks anyway?" "Do you have an entry for partner to lead back to you for a second ruff if the lead is a singleton?" and "Is there another suit that declarer can run and dump his losers?" Also, consider that a doubleton lead is a more likely holding than a singleton.


Look at the first choice. With the AJT96 of the Heart suit you will be giving up at least 1 natural trick by going up with the Ace at trick one. If partner has a singleton you may get 2 immediate tricks. However, unless declarer has another suit to run, you are safe to finesse the board since going up with the Ace would set up 2 tricks for declarer!


The second question is whether you have a "fast" entry for partner to get back to you. The answer in this case is NO. Your King of Clubs is possibly an entry if partner has the Ace. Declarer did invite to game so should have at least 15 high card points. That leaves just 5-6 points possible for partner to hold. 


Lastly, we see no second suit for declarer to run to get rid of his Heart or Hearts.


So add this all up and playing the Ace at trick one is a losing play all the way around. Five out of 13 players most likely made this play to let 4 Spades make (it only makes 3 with good defense). Two defenders made the right play(and set 4 Spades) and the other declarers were in other contracts.


Declarer took full advantage of the Ace of Hearts play at trick one and later threw a losing Diamond on the Queen of Hearts to make his contract. He lost 2 trumps and the Ace of Hearts.


Not often that I tell on myself! I was "greedy" and grabbed the Ace of Hearts and led another for partner to ruff. Studying when finessing is "right" will hopefully stop this poor defense from happening next time!




    1. Take your time and think about all the consequences  when you are finessing the board (or not).


    2. Realize that it is not always correct to finesse the board, however it is always a consideration.


    3. Try to figure out what will happen in both instances and think about declarer's bidding. Did he show extra points or minimum? Do you have natural tricks and does declarer have a long suit to run?


    4. If you are gambling that grabbing the Ace is right, you really should have a fast entry for partner to get back to you.



Compliments of Pam LaShelle
Compliments of Louis Sachar

 Hand From Silver Ribbon Pairs at New Orleans Spring Nationals 2015 


Dealer East, Both Sides Vul

The auction, starting with East, with explanations follows.

p   –   p   –  2C   –   p

2D*  -  p  –  2S    -   p

3C** - p   –  6S***  all pass



** artificial, second negative

*** afraid partner might pass 4C (six clubs is a better contract)


The deal was played by Tobi Sokolow in the silver ribbon pairs at the Spring Nationals in New Orleans.


She took a reasonable shot with her slam bid despite the negative response from East, and was dismayed by the singleton spade in dummy. North led the ace of diamonds, which was ruffed. If spades failed to break 3-3 she would need the queen of hearts to fall doubleton. The good news was that spades broke. The bad news was that clubs were four-one, and the Q of hearts didn’t fall. After pulling trump, she took two rounds of hearts and two rounds of clubs and got the bad news. With no way to get to dummy, it looked like she had two losers, a club and a heart. But she had one last chance. If South, who had the clubs, also had the Queen of hearts, he could be squeezed out of his exit cards, and then endplayed. So she played off the rest of her trump, leaving this 3-card ending.



        9                                                 J

       ♣ Q10                                            Q    



                               ♣ J7 

Notice that South was forced to keep those three cards. If he discarded a club or a heart declarer would have twelve top tricks. (The fact that he discarded the king of diamonds didn’t really help declarer, other than confirm that her plan would definitely work.)  She led a heart, and South was forced to give her the marked finesse in clubs.


As we have said may times in this space, good things can happen when you run your winners.


An important note on the bidding:

After a 2C opener, followed by a double negative (2H in a widely played system) the rule that most pairs follow is that the only bids below game that are passable by responder are 2NT, 3 of a major, or 4 of a minor. However, a new suit by opener is never passable. So in the case at hand, if opener had bid 4C over the artificial bid of 3C, responder should not pass. (Tobi didn’t trust me.) As another example of this, if you play 2H as your double negative, then after 2C – 2H a bid of 3H would be a “new” suit by opener, and should not be passed.

Compliments of Louis Sachar
Compliments of Paul Tobias


Hand # 20, Wednesday Morning, March 11, 2015


The Unit sponsored lecture on March 7th was on "Hold-Up Plays" ( and Beth Tobias mentioned that one reason for declarer to hold-up and not win a trick was to "rectify the count for a squeeze". This is a relatively rare play, especially at trick one, and the lecture did not elaborate further on it or give an example. By chance, however, this hand, coming just 4 days later, illustrates this kind of hold-up play perfectly.


The auction shown highlights the value of a defensive pre-emptive bid. Probably every North bid 2 or 3 spades and no East/West pair was able to get to an excellent slam. At our table, West's bid of 3S asked East if he had a spade stopper and the bidding stopped at 3NT.


Declarer was disappointed that a spade wasn't led - which would have given him an extra spade trick he couldn't get himself because of the void in dummy. The lead of the K  instead of a spade was almost surely from length and the KQJ of hearts and declarer paused to consider winners before playing to the trick. Assuming the clubs would all score, declarer could count 11 top tricks. A 12th trick could come from diamonds if the J dropped or if declarer finessed the 10 successfully. So, at least 1 trick had to be lost and declarer ducked the opening lead to set up a situation where he didn't need to guess what to do with the diamond suit.


After the second heart lead (South leading the J to show he had KQJ), declarer won the ace and cashed 6 clubs and came to the A in his hand. This was the layout at that point (with East on the bottom as declarer):


                                                            ♠  -



                                                                                                    ♣  -   

                                     ♠  -                                         ♠  KJ                             

                                      Q                                        ♥ -

                                     ♦ J98                                      ♦ 65

                                                            ♣  -                                        ♣ -

                                                              ♠ AQ 



                                                              ♣  -



Note that North has already been forced to come down to only 2 diamonds in order to protect the K of spades. Next, on the lead of the A of spades, South must also come down to 2 diamonds in order to keep the Q of hearts. Declarer cashes the last 3 tricks in diamonds without having to worry about finessing or playing for the drop!

Try playing the hand without ducking the first trick and declarer has to guess the diamond suit in order to make 12 tricks. In addition, this line of play works even if the 10 of diamonds is replaced by the deuce. 


1) Before playing to trick 1, count your winners and losers and make a plan.

2) If you can safely lose all but one of the tricks you think you have to lose before running your long suit(s), do it! Good things may happen to make that additional loser vanish.



Compliments of Paul Tobias
Compliments of Andy Hush

Hand # 15, Monday Night, 2/23/2015


Editors Note: This hand was contributed by a Club Master (Andy Hush) who has been playing at the BCA for a year and a half: Thanks, Andy, for the instructive hand and the write-up.


An early lesson in declarer play is that when you are short on trump, sluffing a loser is a great way to preserve trump without sacrificing a trick. This deal shows that even with an abundance of trump, sluffing a loser on defender's trick can pay great dividends. In this case, it even creates two new winners that later saves having to take a losing finesse.


On the opening lead of the 2 of diamonds, Declarer played the 9D from dummy, a clever play in its own right, causing North to cover with her Jack, won in hand by the Ace. The play of the 9 later proved crucial to declarer's strategy. Declarer (East) then led a high club, taken by North's ace. North dutifully returned a diamond to reach South's winner. Instead of ruffing and then drawing the last trump, East instead sluffed his only heart loser. The contract is now guaranteed. East gets to the board with the JC and cashes the Q and 10 of diamonds, discarding two spades. He has avoided the necessity of the doomed spade finesse.


Note how the offense's diamond holding did not look very promising at the start, but ended up yielding three important tricks.




1) Don't reflexively ruff a trick that defense would win. There may be a better option.


2) Allow defenders to set up suits for you. Let them cash their high cards early.


3) When a contract seems to hinge on a finesse, be on the lookout for a better option. 


4) The "loser on loser" play is a useful tool in a declarer's arsenal - especially when it also sets up tricks declarer can use later.

Compliments of Pam LaShelle

Hand 23, Saturday Afternoon, 2/28/2015 (Sectional)


Defending might seem humdrum holding the North hand after the auction shown. However, it pays to be on your toes and "give it all you've got"!


East/-West have a big Heart hand and arrive at 6 Hearts rapidly. Other pairs bid more slowly, since playing 2/1 the West hand can afford to rebid 2H knowing they are on a game force and the partnership could check for keycards before settling in 6H. In any case, along with many other pairs, this East/West reached 6H.


Now North had to find a good lead. When nothing looks too promising reverting to 4th best comes to mind and he led the 4 of Spades, taken by the stiff King in dummy. Usually the thought that crosses your mind after the lead is "whew" if it didn't cost a trick and this time was no exception. North noted that his partner played the 7 of Spades. What could this mean? It certainly is not a signal that he likes Spades and therefore should show the higher ranking suit other than Spades. Declarer now led the 10 of Hearts off dummy and let it float around to the King in North's hand. Back on lead again North now played the 2 of Diamonds (using the information from partner). Declarer took the Ace in dummy (partner signaling with the 10) and and played another trump to finish drawing trump. He then led a club to the Ace and North played the 3 and South the 8. Now another Diamond to his hand and another Club was led from the West hand. "Wake up North"!! Time to help partner win his doubleton Queen by playing the 9 of Clubs. Declarer sighed and played the Jack and South won his Queen!


You might ask why playing the 9 makes a difference. It's because it sets up the illusion that North could have Q93 or, otherwise, that South has 3 Clubs to the Queen. Does it work all the time? Of course not, BUT it is your proper and best hope to help partner in this situation. Did it contribute to declarer taking the Club finesse (which is the usual play missing 5 to the queen)? MAYBE. But, again, you did all you could to set up that illusion.


6 players went down in a Heart slam and most likely all took the Club finesse. Only 2 players made the slam and you sure don't want to be on the short end of that stick!! The difference is 12 match points for setting the slam down one and only .5 for match points if East/West make the slam. Two East-Wests were in 7 Hearts and went down two. That was worth 15.5 match points to the North/South pair!




1) When your hand is not award winning, don't give up - think what you can do to help partner.


2) When no other lead looks inviting, get back to basics and lead 4th best.


3) Playing  false cards and playing in tempo are part of good defense.


4) Signaling at every opportunity is part of the game, but of course partner must be watching and trying to understand what your discards mean and you don't want to signal "honestly" when it will help declarer more than it will help partner.

Compliments of Pam LaShelle
Compliments of Paul Tobias

Hand # 5, Friday, 2/20/2015


East/West reached the reasonable contract of 4H nine times with the following results: made exactly 4 four times, went down 1 or 2 four times and made 6 once.  Once the standard lead of the Q of spades is made, however, if declarer plans and executes carefully, the conract should easily make 5.


Before looking at the play lets go over the auction. The bidding shown occurred at my table. North did not open a weak 2S bid because of the vulnerability, his weak spade suit and his very weak hand. In 4th seat West opened 1NT and East transferred to hearts and then bid 3C. Over West's 3H bid (showing 3 card support), East was happy to end the auction at 4H. 


Another possible auction would be for East to bid 3NT after the transfer to hearts since West would then correct to 4H if she had 3 or more hearts. But it is easy to understand why East was reluctant to bid NT with a void in diamonds. 


Now to the play after a lead of the QS. Declarer assumes from the lead that North also holds the J of spades. Should West cover with the K? If the lead is from QJx or QJxx it does not matter whether declarer covers or not. But if the lead is from QJxxx or QJxxxx it is important not to cover (if South has Ax, covering makes it easy for South to lead back to North's J and get a ruff on the 3rd round. So, West ducks and is rewarded when North's singleton A wins the trick. Now declarer knows she can make the next two spade tricks after trumps are pulled and if she leads from her hand. North on lead decides, based on the auction and his partner's lead showing 3 points in spades, that it is impossible for his partner to have the KC. So, he leads a diamond that declarer wins with a ruff in dummy.. 


Now, declarer is ready to pull trumps but must be careful how she does it. Carelessly playing the A first or second will leave declarer in dummy after trumps are pulled and declarer wants to be in her hand to cash 3 or possibly even 4 diamonds and then finesse the 10 of spades. S, declarer plays the K and Q of hearts and leads to the AH. After cashing the top diamonds and finessing the 10 of spades, declarer leads a club and has to score the KC. Result: making 5 hearts.




1. Consider carefully before playing to trick one as it is often at this point that a careless play can be costly.

2. Be careful with the order you cash tricks - this can be especially important when communication between the two hands is limited.







Compliments of Paul Tobias
Compliments of Jack Lacy

Hand #25, Wednesday Morning, 2/11/2015


This hand is a play of the hand  example where it is critical to make a plan before playing to trick one. 


First a comment on the bidding.  North has an easy 1C opening bid.  Most South's would respond 1H although there are bidding camps that would respond 1D.  Let’s assume the normal response of 1H.  Now North has a choice.  Should she rebid 1N with no spade stopper or rebid that nice 5 card club suit?  At matchpoints, 1N is the favored rebid since NT scores so much more than clubs.  However, it clearly could be right to rebid 2C. 


Now South has a decision to make.  Should South pass with that prime 10 count (A, AQ) or invite game?   At IMPs, I would invite game because of the possible game bonus.  But at matchpoints there really is no reason to bid 2N since the reward for making game is diminished at matchpoints compared to IMPs.  Actually, you might get a very good board making an extra overtrick in NT without the risk of going down at 3NT!


With an opening lead of the J of diamonds, how should you play to maximize the number of tricks you can make in NT?  Make a PLAN!  P stands for Pause to consider your objective.  L stands for count your winners or losers.  A stands for Analyze your alternatives.  N stands for Now put it all together.  With the diamond lead, you can count 3 diamond tricks, 1 spade trick, 0 or 1 heart trick, and a possible 4 club tricks by developing the club suit.   8 tricks or 9 if the ace of hearts is on side.  


There is a possible problem that needs to be addressed.  Unless the club king is doubleton on side, how do you plan to take 4 club tricks?  You can set up the clubs but you must make sure you have an entry to the club suit after it is set up.   You can hope the ace of hearts is on side but if it isn’t, then you have to find another entry to your hand.  The obvious candidate is the diamond king.  If you win the diamond lead in dummy and go about setting up clubs you will be fine.  A very simple concept but many people miss it, mostly, because they don’t pause to consider the whole hand before playing to trick one.  


Once declarer decides to win the first diamond in dummy, the hand almost plays itself.  Win the diamond.  Club to the T.  A of clubs, Q of clubs.  West will likely switch to the Q of hearts which North must cover or the defense will make 3 heart tricks.  When East wins the ace of hearts, she can see that there is no future in the heart suit because of the T964 in dummy and will switch to the king of spades.  Declarer will then take 4 clubs, 3 diamonds, and 1 spade for 8 tricks and an above average board.     


What about the opening lead?  Maybe it isn’t always best to lead from your five card suit.  On this hand, if East chooses a spade lead (K or 6), the defense will often come to 6 tricks: 3 spades, 2 hearts, and 1 club.  



  1.  As declarer, make a PLAN even on the easiest of hands.  Many contracts (or overtricks) are lost at trick one because declarer plays before making a plan.
  2. At matchpoints, the objective is not always clear.  One way to decide what your objective is, is to count your sure or easily developed tricks and let that be your objective. 
  3. Having decided on the objective, think the hand completely through before playing to trick one.  Often the hardest part of playing a hand is making sure you have the number of entries you need to take the maximum number of tricks. 
  4. At matchpoints, avoid playing a minor suit if NT is reasonably feasible.  The overwhelming score differential justifies some risk playing NT over a minor suit.


Compliments of Jack Lacy
Compliments of Paul Tobias

Hand # 13, Wednesday Morning, 2/4/2015


Bridge books and lessons do not instruct players how to bid wildly distributional hands. Perhaps that's why on this hand, where 7H makes on a correct spade finesse guess, only 6 out of 18 pairs (5 out of 12 in the open game) managed to reach 6H. Let's look the bidding problem East's hand poses and some of the possible auctions that lead to slam.


East could open 4H but that could be done on an 8 card suit to the QJ10 and nothing else. East does not have enough high card strength (according to ACBL limitations) to open 2C so East decided to open 1H planning to next rebid 4H showing a hand too good to just pre-empt an opening 4H. After South's jump to 5D, West has a difficult problem. It looks like East/West will have 1 diamond loser and possibly could have 1 or 2 heart losers if East bid on only a 5 card suit and, as expected from the auction, South is very short in hearts. So, despite feeling there might have been a slam in hearts or one of his black suits, West takes the safest bid and doubles. This follows a reasonable bridge aphorism that advises you to "Payoff to the Pre-empt" rather than bidding a possibly foolish slam.


Now, when East takes out the double and bids 5H, West's problem is solved: East must have very long and good hearts and West's hand has first or second round control in every suit. East can bid a fairly confident 6H.


Is there any other auction that would allow East/West to easily get to slam? There is an alertable convention played by a number of experienced club players designed to show hands like the one held by East. It is called NAMYATS (Stayman spelled backwards in honor of the partner of the convention creator, Victor Mitchell). Playing one simple version of the convention works like this: holding long, strong hearts and 81/2 or 9 playing tricks, you open 4C. With the same type of hand and long, strong spades, you open 4D. Playing NAMYATS, an opening of 4H or 4S is natural and denies the playing strength of a NAMYATS opening. 


After 4C (showing hearts), partner can accept the suit and close out the auction with 4H. If, however, partner bids the slot suit with 4D, he is showing at least mild slam interest. The same applies after a 4D opening showing spades. 


How, playing NAMYATS, do you open a standard pre-emptive 4C or 4D bid? You open 3NT and partner alerts you have a 4-level minor suit pre-empt and then bids 4 or 5 clubs and you correct, if needed. 


Now let's return to this week's hand. East has 71/2 heart tricks and an additional 1/2 trick for each K brings the total to an estimated 81/2 playing tricks. So, East opens 4C. After South's 5D bid, West is no longer worried about the heart suit and can confidently bid 6H.




Compliments of Paul Tobias
Compliments of Pam LaShelle

Board 17,Thursday, January 29, 2015


                               N               E           S          W

                               p               1C         1D        1H

                               3D(weak)  3H         4D         X

                               p               p            p



Playing Matchpoints in the regular club games is a different game from Swiss teams and IMPs. Studying what you can do to improve your matchpoint game is an excellent way to improve your club game scores.


Here is a spirited auction with everyone non-vulnerable. Maybe it was the vulnerability that made for some pretty pushy bidding! Once the 4 level was reached it was automatic for West to double with 2 quick tricks.


The play was simple. The Ace of Hearts was led and East signaled high(playing upside down) with the 8 of Hearts to ask for a switch. West switched to the Jack of Spades and East took the top two Spades and played a Heart back through for the setting trick. Doubled the score read only +100 and what was that worth? Just about all the marbles! Another team had set 5 Diamonds down 2, so it was a shared top.


What are some things you can do when playing Matchpoints ?


 1. Make matchpoint doubles. These can occur when the opponents are trying to steal your bid or are pushing you and go to far. Instead of taking the push, double. 


 2. Push your opponents to the 3 level whenever possible by balancing whenever you can (especially when non-vul) - remember, if they have found a fit and stop at the two level your side is likely to also have a fit. It is much easier to set contracts in three than in two!


 3. Interfere with 1 No Trump bids by using DONT or any similar convention that allows you to stay at the 2 level and show your suit(s).


 4. Learn some conventions (Michaels, Unusual No Trump, Sandwich No Trump) that allow you to show distributional hands easily.


 5. Be a steady and dependable partner. This means discipline when bidding! Confidence in your partner can make your game fantastic and fun!

Compliments of Pam LaShelle
Compliments of Louis Sachar

 Hand 21, Sunday, January 18


Opening lead: Two of spades.


This hand offers important points in bidding, dummy play, and defense.




The bidding, as shown above, is how it went at our table but is not recommended. North correctly opened 1d in their system, and playing 2/1 South certainly had enough to make a g.f. 2c. North now bid 2h, which was not a “reverse” after a 2/1 response, although you can play it that way (discuss with partner). 


I do recommend however that the 2h bid denies holding five or more diamonds. With five or more diamonds, opener should rebid his diamond suit before showing a 4-card major.


In other words, here’s your list of priorities after 1d-2c.

    1. raise clubs with four or more clubs.

    2. Rebid diamonds with 5 or more diamonds

    3. Bid 4-card majors up the line.

    4. Bid 2nt.


South’s bid of 3d was a mistake. South would never bid this if she knew North denied five diamonds, but even without that agreement the bid grossly misdefined her hand. Her initial 2c response promised only four clubs. She has six clubs. This is one of the advantages of playing 2/1. She can rebid her club suit, promising six, and still be in a game force. N-S reached the correct contract of three no trump, nonetheless, so the misbid didn’t hurt on this deal, but it could on another.


Declarer play


This deal is about recognizing the “danger hand”.


Declarer (North) won the opening spade lead with the singleton ace in dummy. Clearly, he needs to set up clubs, but will have to give up a club trick along the way (unless someone has the doubleton QJ.) Here West is the danger hand. If West gets on lead, she can lead a spade and declarer could lose three spade tricks, to go along with the club, and the eventual ace of hearts. So declarer must somehow set up clubs, while making sure that the danger hand never gets on lead. Accordingly, he leads the 2 of clubs off of dummy, and when West plays the 7, North plays the 8. Now when East wins, she can’t hurt declarer by playing another spade.




Going back to trick one, East led the 2 of spades, and dummy played the stiff Ace. Which spade should West play?


It doesn’t matter whether you play standard or upside-down carding. The correct card here is the jack. This tells partner you have a sequence headed by the jack. It therefore denies the queen!


Now at trick 2, when declarer leads a low club off of dummy to the 8, East will win with the jack. Knowing declarer has the queen of spades, she needs to find an entry to West’s hand. Her best shot is to try a heart, but it is not without risk. The one thing she should not do is lead another spade.


Note the importance again of declarer ducking the second trick. If declarer had played A, K, and a third club, he would have gotten lucky and kept the danger hand off the lead, but on the third club, West could have signaled for the heart switch.


Question: If East finds the heart swtich, which heart should she lead? 

Answer: The highest one she thinks she can afford.


Here’s the rule. When you lead a suit against a no trump contract, and later regain the lead, if you lead a low card in a new suit, it means you want that suit returned. If you lead a high card in that suit, it means you want the first suit returned.


So what happened at the table? West did not signal with the jack of spades, and after East won the club, she cashed the king of spades, and led another spade giving declarer the contract. Furthermore, both East and West had trouble discarding on all the clubs, and Declarer made five, discarding all his hearts and winning the last two tricks with a low diamond, and a low spade. That was why I thought it would make a good lesson hand.


Lesson points:


1. Playing 2/1 after the bidding begins 1d - 2c, opener should bid as follows:

    With four or more clubs, he should raise clubs.

    With less than four clubs, but with five or more diamonds he should bid 2d.

    Without either of the above, he should bid a 4-card major.

    With none of the above, he should bid 2nt.

(Discuss this with your partner.)


2. When playing a contract, it is often important to recognize which hand is the “danger hand” and declarer should do whatever is practical to keep that hand off the lead. 


3. When partner leads, and you have a sequence in that suit, you should play the top of that sequence when you cannot beat dummy (or opening leader).

For example: If partner leads the ace, and you have QJ10, play the queen. Or, as here, when partner leads low, and dummy plays the ace, it is correct to play the Jack from J1098.


Caveat. You don’t want to do this when it could cost a trick. 


Note also, that you only do this when you are not trying to win the trick. For example, if we alter today’s deal so that dummy could have played a low card at trick one, then, holding J1098, the correct play would have been the 8, the lowest of a sequence. In that case, if you played the jack, it would deny the 10.


Compliments of Louis Sachar
Compliments of Jack Lacy

Hand 21, Tuesday, January 13th, 2015.  

The suggested bidding is 1H – 2C – 2H – 3H – 4H – 4N – 5H – 6C. 


East opens 1H invoking the rule of 20.  She has 6 hearts and 4 diamonds and 10 HCP qualifying for a rule of 20 opening bid.  It qualifies for a rule of 20 opening bid in my restricted rules because I insist that a high card in a short suit is not counted unless it is an ace or a protected king.   I don’t count queens and jacks in my short suits when evaluating whether I should open a hand under the rule of 20. 


West, of course, is quite surprised with his 21 HCP and great 6 card club suit to hear partner open the bidding.  His questions now are which slam to bid and whether to bid a small slam or a grand slam.   Playing 2/1 game force, he bids 2C to tell partner the good news that we are going to (at least) game.  East rebids her 6 card heart suit although I would not argue with her bidding 2D since that is her second suit.  Now the problem.  How can West find out how good a heart suit East has so he can decide whether to play in hearts or clubs?  If East had rebid 2D rather than 2H, then West would be worrying about whether to play in clubs, diamonds, or hearts.   West supports hearts by bidding 3H even though he has only 2 because that is the best way to find out how strong East’s heart suit is.  Now hearts are trumps for purposes of RKC.  East has nothing to say even though West invited a cue bid (by bidding only 3H) because East’s opening bid is a minimum.  East bids 4H and now West can bid 4NT to find out about East’s heart suit.  East responds 5H, 2 key cards without the queen of hearts.  Now West knows that the heart suit is not suitable for a slam missing both a key card and the queen of trumps.  And, of course, a grand slam is out of the question because the partnership is missing a key card which may be, most likely is, an ace. 


West then settles into 6C which should end the auction.  How is East to know that partner wants to play clubs and not hearts that he presumably supported?   The answer is that she must trust partner since partner is the captain in this auction.


What if East opens 2H which many people may be inclined to do? Is a slam still possible?  And if you explore for slam and find you are missing too many controls, will you end up at the five level which might be too high?  If you bid 4N over 2H, you might very well end up too high if partner has, for example, KQJxxx of hearts and not much else.   It isn’t usually a problem to be at the five level but sometimes there is a ruff available to the defense which will scuttle a 5 level contract.  What to do?  There is a very handy tool called Preemptive Roman Keycard Blackwood as follows.  It is initiated by a bid of 4C (4D over 3C) and works over any preempt, weak two bid or 3 level preempt.  In this case, with partner opening a weak two in hearts, the asking bid is 4C.  Answers are in steps: 0 KCs, 1 KC w/o the Q, 1 KC with the Q, 2KCs w/o the Q, 2 KCs with the Q.  In this case, the weak two opener has two KCs (the king of hearts and the ace of diamonds) without the Q of hearts and so answers the fourth step: 4NT.  Now West knows what he needs to know to bid 6C and not 6H.  Very handy and not too difficult to add to your kit bag.  Notice that if East had responded 4H (1 KC without the Queen), the partnership can settle in a very comfortable 4H. 


What about the play in 6C?  Pretty easy because unless the opening lead is ruffed, you have 12 easy tricks: 6 clubs, 4 diamonds, and 2 hearts.  How about if we are playing matchpoints and if the defense doesn’t start with the ace of spades, we should try to make an overtrick.  If hearts are 3-2, it is easy but what if hearts are 4-1?  Now you need two entries to dummy, one to ruff out the 4th heart and one to cash the 5th heart.  Do you see the extra entry to dummy?  It is in the diamond suit.  If diamonds are 3-2, then you can create another entry to dummy with the 8 of diamonds if you are careful.  Here is the line.  Win the opening lead (say the T of diamonds) in hand.  Draw trumps pitching both spades and a little heart from dummy.  Now play A of hearts, K of hearts.  If they are 3-2, ruff out the third heart and go to the ace of diamonds to cash another heart for your 13th trick.  If the hearts are 4-1, then ruff a heart and cash a 2nd high diamond in hand.  If the diamonds are 3-2 (you know that now because this is the second round of diamonds), overtake the J of diamonds with the ace and ruff another heart in hand.  Now lead the carefully preserved 3 of diamonds to the 8 of diamonds in dummy to cash a heart and claim.   



  1. When planning a bidding sequence, think about what you need to know so you can easily find out.  In this hand, the big hand needs to know the quality of the heart suit in order to decide whether to play 6H or 6C.   By establishing hearts as trumps for purposes of RKC, he can find out if partner has the Q of hearts.
  2. If partner opens a weak two bid (or weak three bid) and you have a big hand, how can you find out what you need to know to decide whether to bid a slam and what strain to bid the slam in?  Preemptive RKC (sometimes known as "Poor Man's Keycard") is a handy tool which allows you to ask for controls and keep the bidding low whenever partner doesn’t have the controls necessary to bid a slam.  It is sometimes important to keep low in case the contract at the five level goes down. 
  3. When planning the play, count your winners (or losers).   Even if you have enough winners (or few enough losers), consider a possible overtrick.  Overtricks can often be the difference between a good score and a bad score at matchpoints.  At IMPs, you don’t want to lose a match by 1 IMP because you were lazy. 
  4. If your plan requires an extra entry and you don’t see that entry, take a close look at your side suit.  Sometimes, if you are careful, you can create an extra entry in that side suit by judicious play in that suit.  
Compliments of Jack Lacy
Compliments of Paul Tobias

Hand # 16, January 6th, 2014

Wildly distributed hands like this one produce fascinating results. In the open game, it was played 12 times in 9 different contracts ranging from 2S to 6S, with the repeated result being 4H (doubled twice and undoubled once).


The auction at my table is shown. West chose to pass his 10 highcard hand - possibly other West's chose to open 1D or a weak 2D bid but a pass is reasonable. I passed the 5-7-0-1 North hand because I do not prempt in 1st or 2nd position when I hold a side major of 4 or more cards - again I'm sure several North's chose to bid a large number of hearts.Next, East opened 1NT and West raised to 3NT.


With favorable vulnerability I now came in with 4H. East made a penalty double and West, looking at the vulnerability, showed his long diamonds with a 5D bid. Perhaps 4NT (natural) would have been a better choice as East, thinking the hand should have played in the better matchpoint contract of 3NT or 4NT, made a matchpoint bid of 6D. The reasoning East used was sound - if you think you already have a matchpoint disaster, why not try for a top by bidding a slam. However, in this case, 5D making would have been a good matchpoint result since only 1 pair played in a NT game.


Now lets look at the play in 6D. North led the QH and declarer won the A and pulled trumps and played the AS and finessed a spade in dummy. Two clubs were pitched on the K of hearts and the K of spades but declarer still had two losing clubs left and went down 1.


However, after a non-club lead, it turns out that declarer can make 6D utilizing an elegant pay known as "the stepping stone" . Here's how it works: declarer wins the AH and immediately plays all his trumps. When the last diamond is led, the cards are as follows (putting declarer on the bottom):





                      Q876                                                                   5

                      J10                                                                      2

                      -                                                                           -

                      Q                                                                         AK943






On the lead of the 2 of diamonds North is under great pressure - if he pitches a spade declarer can bring home the whole spade suit with one finesse and make 7. If he pitches a heart, dummy's 6H will score the 12th trick. So, North must throw the QC. Declarer pitches a spade from dummy and plays the AS and finesses with the spade 10. Dummy has the KJ of spades and the K6 of hearts left. North has the Q8 of spades and the QJ of hearts. Declarer plays the K and 6 of hearts and North must lead a spade, giving declarer another finesse to make the slam!


This is a very rare play and very difficult to work out at the table. But it will succeed whenever North has 7 hearts and at least 4 spades to the Q. An expert declarer might picture this distribution as the reason North did not pre-empt at his first bid and play the hand this way. But, I would expect that more than 99% of declarer's would hope North had 2 or 3 spades to the Q and play the hand the way this declarer did.                                                 


Compliments of Paul Tobias
Compliments of Pam LaShelle
Hand 5, Wed., Dec 24       
Dlr: North, VUL: N/S
"Twas the afternoon before Christmas when at the BCA,
The Hearts, Spades, Diamonds and Clubs wanted to play, 
The cards were all dealt by the dealer with care,
In hopes that contracts soon would be there."
It was a  small crowd gathered for a spirited game the afternoon before Christmas. Laughter and fun was everywhere!
North chose to preempt 4 Spades with his lovely spade hand (loser count is only 5 losers). East and South passed. Playing with a new partner, West was afraid to do much other than bid 5 Clubs (the vulnerability was right!).  North  bid 5 Spades and East looked at all the Clubs in her hand and made a fine bid of 6 Clubs.  South doubled.
Not too much to the play once the defenders cashed a Spade and a Diamond. Of course, if they should mistakenly play a second Spade or a trump, West could actually make this hand by throwing her losing Diamond on the extra Heart.
How did the E/W players fare? Almost a top! One pair let E/W play 5 Hearts (Deep Finesse says it only makes 3 Hearts) and make it! All the rest of the N/S players got the bid in 4 Spades and they each made a different number of tricks! One made 4, one 5 and the other one made 6! (Deep finesse says they make 6 in either Diamonds or Spades!) So -100 was a mighty fine score!
1) Take chances to push the opponents if the vulnerability is right. You may push them one too far !!
2) Know your system with each partner, so you are prepared when someone preempts. Preempts are not rare anymore and chances are you will need to bid or balance over them many times in one game.
3) Deep finesse is the square on the results page for each hand that tells you the most that could be made on each hand with the best defense. 
Compliments of Pam LaShelle
Compliments of Louis Sachar

Thursday morning, December 18th. Board 23


The bidding is how it went at our table, and while some of it is a bit unconventional, there are a couple of things worth pointing out.

East correctly bid her diamonds before her hearts. With a game forcing hand, you should bid your longest suit first.  While we all strive to play in the majors, sometimes the minor suit is right, and it is important to accurately describe your hand to partner. With a weak hand and the same pattern, I would bid the hearts first.


I don’t like South’s double. Whose hand is it? North couldn’t bid over one club, and South only has a five-count. Not only is he misleading partner, he’s telling the opponents how to play the hand.


Notice West’s redouble. This is a support double, showing exactly three diamonds. Some people only play support doubles if partner bids a major, but as shown here, it can come in handy after 1c - 1d, too.


Again, notice how South’s ill conceived double helped West. West would have had a difficult bid without the double. He couldn’t rebid clubs with only five clubs, and he couldn’t raise diamonds with only three. His only option would have been to bid 1nt without a stopper in either major. Yuck. He was very happy to get to redouble to show exactly three diamonds.


The rest of the bidding is not very scientific, but East took a reasonable shot at slam. Again, she was helped by South’s double. It didn’t sound like West had any wasted values in spades.


The play was fairly straight forward. East ruffed the second spade, led a low diamond, and when South showed out, she was able to pick up the trump suit. Making six.


After the hand was over, North said she wished she could have somehow gotten partner to lead a heart. Well, there’s a bid for that. It’s called a Lightner Double, named after Theodore LIghtner, who came up with the idea which works like this. If you double a freely bid slam, it asks partner to make an unusual lead. In most cases the doubler will have a void somewhere, and it’s up to the opening leader to figure out where it is. Sometimes it’s obvious, other times, not so much. In this case, South would have had no trouble finding the heart lead.


North was an experienced player and had heard of the Lightner double, but it occurs so infrequently that she didn’t think of it. It’s a shame, since she may have to wait another ten years before it comes up again.


Incidently, there is second version of the LIghtner Double, applicable when the opponents bid no trump. The double says “lead dummy’s first bid suit.” For example, dummy may have responded "one heart,"  on Jxxx of hearts, and you’re sitting behind it with AKQ109. Notice the opponents don’t have to bid slam, or even game, for the LIghtner double to be applicable. You just have to believe that you can set the hand if partner leads dummy’s first bid suit.


Lesson Points

1. If you use “support doubles” consider using them after 1c - 1d.

2. You should have a reason to bid. South’s double here was ill-advised. What was it supposed to accomplish.? .So they found their spade fit? So what?  It wasn’t their hand. It helped the opponents, both in the bidding, and possibly in the play of the hand.

3. Consider adding “Lightner Doubles” to your bag of tricks. For further explanation go to:

Compliments of Louis Sachar
Compliments of Paul Tobias

Board 28, Wednesday Evening, 12/10/2014


Here's a hand with both bidding interest and a choice of simple squeezes, double squeeze or strip squeeze endplay to make 6. Sounds very difficult but, when we get to the play, you'll see it's just a matter of placing cards and picturing the 4-card ending you want to set up. First let's look at the auction.


Ten North/South pairs played the hand, with only one, Dan Baker & Alick Einav, reaching slam with the auction shown. They were playing a strong club system so North's 3H bid was game forcing with possible slam interest and that made it easy for South to cue bid his spade ace and North to try keycard and bid the slam. Dan suggested that 2/1 players may also reach slam with the following auction starting with West: P - 1C - 1S - 2H; P - 2S - P - 2N; P - 3H - P - 3S; P - 4NT - P - 5H; P - (6H or 6NT) - P - P - P. In this auction 2S is an ambiguous cue bid - either looking for a NT stopper or heart support with better than game hopes. After South shows a spade stopper with 2NT, North's 3H bid is forcing and shows a hand better than just a jump to game earlier in the auction. As you can see, this is an auction that requires both partners be in synch with each other and it is easy to see why only the club system partnership got to slam.


Now assume you are in 6NT. You can count 11 top tricks. Where can a 12th trick come from? Perhaps the diamond Q will drop doubleton or someone with 4 clubs will pitch one when  you run your hearts. Are there squeeze possibilities that will force the opponents to give you that 12th trick? Dan analyzed the hand and came up with several different squeeze posititions declarer can play for. They depend on which defender has the length in clubs and/or the diamond Q (and all assume, based on the auction, that East holds the top spades other than the ace). We will start the analysis by looking at how to do a simple squeeze that forces East to give you a trick if he holds 4 or more clubs.


The key to a successful simple squeeze is losing your 1 loser early and then cashing your winners in the right order. So, declarer ducks the lead of the K to lose his one loser and then wins the J continuation with the A. Now picture the 4 card ending you want to have - you will have all 4 clubs (AKxx) in your hand and dummy on lead holding 10 , -, J , Q6 . East must hold the Q and only has room left for 3 clubs. You then cash the Q and go to your hand to cash the ace and king and your last small club is good because East was forced to pitch his 4th club. Can you get to that 4 card ending? Yes - just cash the AK of diamonds and then your 5 hearts.


But what if West has the 4 or more clubs? Then you have the situation where West has to hold clubs with the club threat over him and East still has to hold the QS with dummy's spade threat over him. Neither defender can hold onto diamonds - a classic double squeeze situation where each defender has a suit they haver to hold onto and that forces them to give up control in a third suit. Picture this 4 card ending with declarer down to  -, -, AK3 , 4  and dummy on lead holding 10 , 3 , J7 , - . On the lead of the last heart, West must hold onto a club, or the 4 in dummy is good. So, West comes down to only 2 diamonds and a club. Declarer pitches the useless club from his hand and East must next pitch a diamond, or dummy's 10♠ will be good. Declarer cashes the A, K of diamonds and wins the last trick with the 3! Note that you get to this ending by cashing the clubs first and then running the hearts (you leave diamonds alone, or, at most, cash only one in case a singleton Q drops). Try out these squeezes by laying out the cards and playing them as suggested, switching the 4 clubs from East to West to see what is really going.


There are other squeezes possible that involve the diamond Q - but, depending on who has 4 or more clubs, the two squeezes described above are all you need to know to make the hand. The problem is deciding which one to try - at worst a 50/50 guess as to which defender holds 4 or more clubs.


But there is a third, different type of squeeze that will suceed whenever East has the Q♦ independent of who has club length. And, given that East did overcall, it is reasonable to place that card with him. For this squeeze, you do not "rectify the count" by giving up a spade on opening lead. That is especially useful if North is playing in 6H, since East may have 6 spades and you can't afford to duck the opening spade lead or else next next lose a ruff of your A of spades. The key is placing the Q with East and picturing this 4 card ending: South, on lead, holds 10, -  , J74, - ♣.  East has to come down to Q , -  , Q86, - ♣. Declarer now "throws-in" East with a spade and East is forced to lead away from the Q of diamonds. Declarer wins the J and then the last 2 tricks with the A and K. This kind of squeeze strips exit cards from a defender and then throws him in to lead away from an honor, giving declarer an extra trick. It is known as a Strip Squeeze Throw-in endplay. Fancy - but really no risk trying it of making at least 5. The key, as previously stated, is just picturing what the defenders hands will look like when down to 3 or 4 cards.




1. Partnerships must decide which auctions are forcing and which invite or show slam interest. Otherwise, it is difficult to bid slams with hands and auctions like the one shown.


2. To squeeze opponents, look at your possible threat cards (cards that become winners if defender's choose to or have to pitch their cards in that suit) and picture what the defenders may be holding and what kind or 3 or 4 card ending you can come down to that forces them to make one of your threat cards into a winner. In general, the order in which you cash tricks will depend upon which defenders you place with the cards that stop your threats from being winners. Picture their card holdings and then picture a 3 or 4 card ending that forces them to give you a trick and see if you can cash tricks in such a way as to get that ending. If you can't, look for another possible defender's card holding that works and play for that.


3. Some types of squeezes do not require losing all but 1 of your possible losers early. In particular, if you can save one loser until you have squeezed all exit or winning cards from a defender and then throw him in, you can get an extra trick via an endplay.



Compliments of Paul Tobias
Compliments of Jack Lacy

Board 5, Monday Morning, 12/1/2014


The suggested bidding is (with North dealer): P – 1H – 2C – 4C – P – 4D  – P – 4H – P – P - 5C  – 5D – P – 6H all pass.  The opening lead is the J of clubs. 


The bidding is of interest.  East has a very strong but normal 1H opening bid.  South’s overcall of 2C is not recommended because it violates one of the main reasons one overcalls: to direct a lead and South is certainly not sure that she wants a club lead.  But that is what happened at the table.


West has three choices after the overcall: 3C, 4C, and 4H.  3C would show a limit raise or better and heart support and the West hand is certainly in that ball park.  4C would show shortness in clubs with heart support and enough for game and 4H would show the 5th heart and distribution but may result in missing a slam.   West chose 4C as the best description of his hand.  After 4C showing shortness, East has no serious slam ambitions because 9 of her HCP's are in West’s shortness.   On the other hand, the AKQ of clubs are tricks which may be used to discard losers in the West hand.  East can envision a slam if West has some help in the diamond suit.  So East bids 4D. 


Now West is interested since he has help in the diamond suit and his club shortness is a void, not a singleton.   But West has already somewhat overbid his hand and probably should slow the bidding down a bit.  Then, if East makes another try, West is ready to cooperate.  West bids 4H, pass, pass to South.  Now South makes another egregious (in my opinion) bid by bidding 5C vulnerable versus not.  If West knew what East held in clubs, he would either pass or double himself.  But he cannot see through the backs of the cards so he bids 5D showing his help in the diamond suit.  East now bids 6H because the 5D bid shows what East is looking for to get to a slam.   


It is interesting to speculate what would have happened if South had not overcalled.  My guess is that the bidding would have gone 1H – 4C – 4D – 4H.  West might bid 5D over the 4D bid but I am guessing not.  It really was South bidding clubs twice that facilitated the auction to get to the slam.    


After the J of clubs lead, East pauses to make a plan.  Taking 12 tricks in Hearts looks like it depends on the diamond finesse.  Can East do better?  What if the diamond finesse is off?  Is there something that can be done to avoid losing a diamond?  Suppose the hearts are 2-1 (about 78%), then if you can get rid of the three diamonds in dummy, you can cross ruff taking 12 tricks: 5 hearts, 3 ruffs in dummy, 1 diamond, and 3 clubs for 12 tricks.  That is the plan!  So, pitch a diamond on the club lead.  Draw trumps in 2 rounds (they do break 2-1, thank you), pitch two more diamonds from dummy on the clubs, lose a spade, and cross ruff.  12 tricks.   Well done.   If hearts had not been 2-1, then East would have had to rely on the diamond finesse.  Thankfully, that wasn't needed this time.




  1. Within one’s bidding agreements, there usually are choices to describe one’s hand.  In this hand, West had three very reasonable choices after South overcalled 2C.  West’s choice of 4C seems like the best description of his hand although the other two choices are certainly also reasonable.   
  2. Do not overcall just to hear yourself bid.  One overcalls for three reasons: to disrupt the opponents’ bidding, to compete for the contract, and to help partner with a lead.  South’s overcall on this hand was pretty bad in that she certainly didn’t know whether she wanted a club lead or not and the vulnerability suggests prudence.  Although she was 7-4, the vulnerability was such that it made the 2C overcall very dangerous. 
  3. When South followed up her silly (in my opinion) 2C overcall by bidding 5C at unfavorable, she put her partnership at serious risk.  However, it did cause West some angst in that he didn’t know what to do and was afraid of passing.   But now he could show his diamond help without risk by bidding 5D.  That was all that East needed to bid the slam.   This situation illustrates another reason why the 5C bid is silly.  It let EW exchange more information at no risk and get to the good slam. 
  4. When making a plan, consider all options.  Finesses are 50-50 propositions which means that half the time they lose.  If you think you need a finesse, try to find an alternative.  Once you ask yourself that question, you might find a better line than a finesse.    
Compliments of Jack Lacy
Compliments of Louis Sachar

Tuesday, November 18. 2014, Board 36


West opened 1s, and sitting North, I had to decide how many diamonds to bid. I chose five. Everyone passed, and when diamonds split 2-2, I lost only one diamond and one spade.


After the hand, the East player commented I was lucky to find partner with his club holding, and also lucky that diamonds split. Agreed.

But was it a bad bid?


What if we switched the South and East hands? Then I would lose no spades, and no diamonds, but probably three clubs, unless the opening leader began by leading his two top clubs. In that case I would still make five. But either way, it would be a good result, since they could make five hearts. 


Agreed, this is a small sample size. We can all construct hands where five diamonds is doubled down three, when the opponents can’t even make game. We could also construct hands the other way, where each side is cold for a vulnerable game. 


These were the considerations I took into account when I made the bid.


1. Not only did I have an eight-card suit, but I also had a side four-card suit. If I was 8-2-2-1, I would have bid only 4d. it would also have been more difficult if my four card suit had been hearts. We could be missing a heart game.


Suppose I only bid four diamonds. How would I feel if the opponents now bid four hearts or four spades? This seemed quite likely, looking at my hand. In fact, a four diamond bid by me, would practically invite the opponents to bid 4s. If they did that, it would be wrong to now bid 5d. Once you preempt, you should not rebid your suit. The greatest value of the preempt is that it forces the opponents to guess at a high level. Don’t give them a second chance to get it right. Maybe they have bid too high. Maybe they should be doubling you. Or maybe they belong in slam. So you should bid the maximum you want to bid with your first bid, and then shut up.


What’s the vulnerability?

We were vulnerable, but so were the opponents. That means if the opponents can make game, I can afford to go down two, doubled. 

If they weren’t vulnerable, I probably would only have bid 4d. If they now bid game, at least I would have made them guess. Maybe they’re too high. Maybe they belong in slam. Besides, I have a partner. He heard me bid 4d at unfavorable vulnerability. He can still bid five if he thinks it’s right.


4. Am I preempting partner?

I would have felt better about my bid had partner been a passed hand. For all I knew we were bypassing 3nt or were cold for six clubs. Still, while I knew nothing about partner’s hand, I did know that my rho had an opening bid. It seemed more likely that my bid would cause trouble for the opponents than for my partner. Looking at his hand now, I’m sure he was not happy to hear my call. He was probably thinking that he wanted to play the hand in four hearts. That looks like it would be down one.


Lesson points:

1. Once you preempt, you should not rebid your suit later in the auction (unless forced to do so by partner.) So decide how high you want to bid, and then bid it with one bid. Factors to consider are the vulnerability, and whether you are preempting your partner.


2. Don’t be afraid to preempt. Even experts hate  it when they opponents preempt against them.

Compliments of Louis Sachar
Compliments of Paul Tobias

Hand # 24, Friday 11/14/2014


This widely distributional hand leads to several interesting bidding questions partnerships should consider. After a 3D pre-emptive opening bid by West, should North bid either 4C or 3S or pass? I play the immediate position after a pre-empt needs better than opening values to take action. But this hand, while only 10 high card points, has enormous playing strength if partner has a fit in one of the black suits. I felt, however, that ther spade suit was too weak to overcall with and bidding 4C risks losing the spade suit entirely. So, reluctantly, I passed after the mandatory 10 second pause. I can understand how other North's might have bid a black suit, especially if they do not adhere to a highly disciplined style of bidding in the immediate position after a pre-empt.


Partner, after 3D- Pass- Pass, bid 3NT - a strong bid! Sure that there was a slam, I bid 4C. This is a bid partnerships should discuss - is it natural with slam interest or is it an ace asking bid (Gerber or KeyCard Gerber). My partnership agreement is that it is KeyCard Gerber with, as long as no suits were bid, the 5th control being the KC.  Other partnerships may decide that it shows interest in slam with good, long, clubs.


South responded 4H, showing 1 or 4 controls. I did a quick count of outstanding points and realized partner could have a 19 point hand and still have only 1 control (something like AQx, KQJx, KQJ, Jxx, for example). So, I found a way to sign-off at 4NT and we played there. Another useful agreement to have is whenever your bid shows two possible levels of control (i.e. 0 - 3, 1 - 4 or 2 -5) and you have the higher value you must not allow the auction to stop below slam.


Those who play 4C by North after the 3NT bid to be good clubs with slam interest have a strong chance to get to 7C on this hand, which easily makes. What about 6NT? It was played 6 times and went down twice. Should it always make? The answer is yes, if South is declarer. Just count tricks and you see that immediately playing diamonds yields 2 spade tricks, 1 heart trick, 3 diamond tricks and 6 club tricks. If, however, you get a non-helpful club lead and you run clubs, you might squeeze your hand into pitching a winning diamond and go down. Just count tricks and immediately give up a diamond and claim!  




1) Have an agreement with partner about immediate bids after pre-empts. Are you going to play a very disciplined stye relying on your partner in the balancing position to protect you or are you going to play a looser style. In any case, agree not to pre-empt a pre-empt!


2) Also, agree upon the meaning of 4C after partner bids NT in auctions like this. If keycard, what K counts as a control, if any? If natural, is it always a forcing slam try?


3) Declarer should stop at trick 1 and count winners and losers. It may be too late to do this after you have run your long suit.






Compliments of Paul Tobias
Compliments of Pam LaShelle

Saturday Evening Swiss , November 8, 2014


  No one Vulnerable,   Dealer South







                       QT8                                                                 752

                       75                                                                    Q9642

                       Q9832                                                             AK4

                       T75                                                                 Q9







                 S          W          N         E

               1NT        p          2H        X

                 p          p           XX        p

                2S        p            p          p



IMPS are far different from matchpoints and my partner and I were having a nice relaxing game. Bidding our partials and making our games along with some fun defensive hands. Along came this perplexing bidding sequence!


Everything was pretty normal (okay, my NT opener did have 2 unprotected suits) until my RHO (right hand opponent) made a X over the 2H bid.  My pass says "Partner I don't have 3 Spades so I will  pass right now". Now for the bid that made me think and think and decide that I had no idea what my partner's XX was! She surely didn't have Hearts since I had the AK3, what to do, what to do. I could bid 2NT with 2 Heart stoppers, but I am not so sure that isn't some kind of SOS XX. You know ...---... (Morse code for HELP). So I bid 2 Spades and that's where we played it making 6!


A  Heart was led and dummy played the Jack, covered by East and taken in hand with the Ace. Now the top two trump followed by another getting rid of all the trump in their hands and putting West back in the lead. West dutifully led another heart and it was taken on the board with the Ten. Now a Club finesse won and the Clubs were run discarding dummy's Diamonds. The dummy was good now and the hand claimed. Making 6 sounded pretty good.


Let's see how NT would do and it  is where the hand most likely would land if there was not double. Without the double West is leading a Diamond and East West will take the first 5 Diamonds. Now to compare..our opponents most likely were in 3NT down 1! Sounds good!      We went back to our partner's table after the round to find out that their opponents stopped in 2NT(making after our partners took the first 5 Diamonds). What a disappointment, but we still managed to win 3 IMPS(International Matchpoints). Every IMP counts and we won the match!




     1) Many decisions made at the moment are puzzling, try to keep a level head and make what is a reasonable bid, even if you aren't sure what partner is doing!


    2) In a team game, part scores are just as important as the games and slams. Play hard!


Compliments of Pam LaShelle
Compliments of Jack Lacy

Hand # 7, Thursday, October 30th 

The suggested bidding starting with West and skipping passes by North & South is 1H – 1S – 2C – 2D – 3C – 3S – 3N – 4C – 5C – 6C all pass. The opening lead was the Queen of Hearts.


Comments on the bidding: 1H, 1S, and 2C are natural. 2D is fourth suit forcing (FSF) to game. 3C completes West’s pattern. 3S suggests a (at least) 6 card suit. When West doesn’t raise, East is sure West has at most 1 spade. After West bids 3N, East bids 4C. What is 4C? I suppose it could be Gerber but I don’t think so since we are still searching for strain. Could it be Minorwood if we are playing Minorwood? Again, I don’t think so (for the same reason) because we are still searching for strain. Is 4C forcing? I have a rule with all of my partners that we do not get out of 3NT due to fear. Therefore, it is forcing. Now West just bids 5C because he doesn’t really have a great suit for a club slam. East then carries on to 6C hoping that partner has enough key cards to justify a slam. Note that if either partner had used some form of keycard, the slam would not have been bid because the partnership is missing two keycards.


On the given opening lead of the Queen of Hearts, the play for slam is excellent. Win the first two Heart tricks, discarding the T of diamonds from dummy. Now take the club finesse. If it wins, you have three chances to try to make 7: ruff out the king of spades, take a ruffing finesse for the king of spades, or set up hearts. It could also work to take a straight finesse so that if the spade king is on and no worse than 4 times, you will make 7. In any case, since you are missing two key cards, just making the slam rates to be a good matchpoint score. The actual line that takes advantage of all the chances (if clubs are 2-2) is to cash the ace of spades, ruff a spade, and ruff a heart. If the hearts are 5-2 (and therefore not able to be set up), then lead the Q of spades giving up a spade if necessary. Suppose that the opening lead is a low diamond to the ace. Now what is the best line to make the slam. First, you now must have the club finesse working so assume that. After the club finesse works, you have two chances to make the slam. You can bring in the spade suit without losing a trick or you can bring in the heart suit by ruffing hearts in dummy. I think the best chance is to set up hearts not risking losing a trick to the spade king. So, the line should be: draw trumps and, if in dummy, ace of spades, ruff a spade, AK and ruff a heart. You now know that whether the hearts are going to break. If so, ruff a spade, ruff a heart, and claim. If the Hearts do not break, lead the Q of spades out of dummy and guess whether to float it (ruffing finesse for the king) or ruff hoping the king will come down third. Since there are so many spades in dummy, you probably know by now what your chances in spades are.


1. Using FSF (to game) makes the bidding comfortable since both partners are committed to bidding until game is reached.

2. After FSF and partner not supporting your initially bid Major, if you bid that Major again, it shows 6 (or more) in that Major.

3. Have the agreement that you and your partner do not leave 3N to 4 of a minor out of fear. That is, after a game force and a 3NT bid, 4 of a minor is forcing.

4. Sometimes (as in the hand today) knowing how many keycards the partnership has is information that may not be valuable because you might not bid a cold slam.

5. In a slam, no matter how you got there and no matter how good a slam it is, take your best shot even if it risks going down more than 1. Once you are in a slam, it is unlikely to be any worse to go down more than one as going down exactly one. 6. Try to take advantage of all your chances. In the second scenario above, you want to be able to take advantage of the hearts and if they don’t work out, then the spades.

Compliments of Jack Lacy
Compliments of Louis Sacher

Hand # 5, Tuesday Morning, 10/21/2014


It feels great to make a daring and well thought-out play. Don’t miss your opportunities.


South didn’t exactly have a club stopper, but it’s hard to fault her 1nt overcall, especially since a one-club opener doesn’t promise a long club suit.


West led her 4th best heart, and declarer won the third round. 


Time to take stock. Declarer has twenty-four points between herself and dummy, and East opened the bidding. Based on the play so far, West seems to hold the queen of hearts, so nearly all of the remaining fourteen points should be in the East hand. That means the spade king should be onside, but club ace should be off.


Declarer then cashed four diamonds ending in dummy. At trick eight, she  led a spade to the queen. She cashed the ace of spades, and  got out a spade. East won the king, but was end-played, and had to give declarer a club trick. Making two. Well played.


East missed his chance. When South cashed the ace of spades at trick nine, East should foresee the endplay. (At this point he holds the K4 of spades, and the AQ10 of clubs). He is desperate to get West on lead, so his best chance is play the king of spades under the ace. If declarer has the jack, East gives up a trick in spades, but gets it back in clubs. But if his partner has the jack, then she will win the third spade, cash her good heart, and then lead the club through for him.


This really isn’t that difficult of a play to find, if you think ahead and foresee what will happen. If partner didn’t have the jack of spades, you still would have come out even (since you wouldn’t have been endplayed.), But when  it works, as it would have here, you can spend the rest of the day patting yourself on the back. You intentionally dropped your king under an ace, just like Bobby Wolfe would have done.


Lesson Points: 


1) When dummy comes down, it is a good idea to count points, and remember the bidding. This often will tell you where the missing high cards will be. (This is equally valuable for a defender as well as declarer. It will often tell you how many high card points are in your partner’s hand.)


2) When on defense, try to think with the declarer. You can often figure out her plan (if she has one) and foresee a few tricks ahead. This may allow you to come up with a plan of your own, to thwart her.

Compliments of Louis Sacher
Compliments of Paul Tobias

Hand #1, Wednesday Morning, 10/15/2014


Here is a small slam hand that has over an 80% chance of making. The field of 14 North/South pairs bid pretty well, with only 3 staying out of slam and 1 over-bidding to a grand. However, this was the less than 1 in 5 deal where the slam goes down and the timid bidders were unjustly rewarded.


Despite the unlucky result, it is instructive to look at an auction that arrives at this slam and makes use of a convention for bidding slams when your hand has a void known as Exclusion Keycard Blackwood.


After North opens 1 heart, South, with first and second round controls in every suit except hearts and at least a 9 card trump fit in hearts (and a 5 loser count), should think "I want to bid to at least a small slam - and if partner has very good hearts perhaps we can make a Grand. Is there any way I can find out about partner's keycards outside of diamonds?" There is a way and that's what Exclusion Keycard Blackwood is used for.


After a trump suit has been agreed upon a jump bid beyond game in a new suit starts the Exclusion asking bid. In the auction shown, the jump to 5D after partner's 1H opening sets hearts as trumps and is Exclusion Keycard Blackwood. You may choose to play exclusion only after a trump suit has been supported - but I would rather lose the 5D pre-emt bid (why pre-empt partner, especially at such a high level?) and play this bid as showing a void in diamonds, support for the last suit bid and keycard Blackwood with partner expected to ignore all keycards in diamonds.


The responses are: 1 step with 0 or 3 keycards, 2 steps with 1 or 4, 3 steps with 2 and 4 steps with 2 plus the Q of trumps. People who prefer to play 4-1, 3-0 keycard responses will reverse the meaning of steps 1 and 2. However, you will soon see that 3-0, 4-1 works better in this example.


Returning to the auction, 5D asks for keycards outside of diamonds. North responds 5S to show just 1 (the A of hearts). South knows a keycard in hearts is missing and settles for 6H. If North had shown the AKQ of hearts with a 6C bid, South would have bid a Grand slam in hearts. If, however, North had no keycards outside of diamonds, he would have responded 5H and South could have passed below slam - which would not be possible playing 1-4, 3-0 keycard responses.


As far as play goes, the hand analysis says that North can make 6H. How is this possible assuming declarer knows all the cards? He avoids playing trumps until he has played 4 rounds of spades (ruffing 2 of them), 4 rounds of diamonds (ruffing 2 of them) and two rounds of clubs. There are only 3 cards left and now declarer finesses the QH and East is in and has to lead away from the JH around to declarer's A10. Should declarer play this way? No, unless he knows East has a trump stack behind him. That's why it is often dangerous to double a game or slam and give away to declarer that trumps split poorly.




1. Exclusion Keycard Blackwood is a convention for asking for keycards with a trump fit and a void. It starts with a jump to the void suit beyond game in the trump suit. Partnerships may chose to use it on jumps after a suit has been bid but not supported - making that suit the trump suit by inference.


2. Recommended responses are: 1 step with 0 or 3 keycards, 2 steps with 1 or 4, 3 steps with 2 and 4 steps with 2 plus the Q of trumps - where there are only 4 keycards, since the A of the exclusion suit does not count. 




Compliments of Paul Tobias
Compliments of Pam LaShelle

Hand #13, Thursday 10/8/2014 


Halloween is upon us and the moon must be full because we had a game full of slams. How full? Out of the  27 boards, five were slam possibilities (and they all make) !  North-South had three of the slam hands and East-West had two. What is the likelihood of this many slams? Well, it is the haunting season and so 18.5% of the hands being slam hands was not unexpected. However, of the 40 pairs who played these 5 slam hands, only 6 slams were bid - and one was a grand slam off an A cashed on opening lead! True, several of these slams depended on a card being on-sides. But, clearly, we are missing too many slam opportunities.


Isn't it true that when it is your slam hand, it is just so much fun! When you are on the "other side" and have no bid and have to try to come up with the winning lead, not so much hilarity.


My partner and I had one board where the opponent wrote a big "F" (this should stand for FIX) on his score sheet. It was board 13 shown above (hmm, a pattern here of halloweenish coincidences). My partner opened 1 Heart and I looked at my hand and it just felt like a slam was likely. Maybe it had been all the boards prior to this that were slams that got me "in the mood". I went directly to 4NT, and partner bid 5 Hearts. Do I care about the Queen of trump? Not this time, because I have 5 trumps! So I trotted off to 6 Hearts and the Ace of Clubs was led by South.  South then led a trump and partner pulled trump and claimed.


Not sure how the rest of the East-West players bid this hand, but not even one got to slam! With East's poor hand there is no way he is going to be interested even if you use a splinter bid. Short of a magic spell or 4NT you are not getting partner to  go to a slam. The points that West has are all PRIME (Aces and Kings)  and  the singleton is golden, so using Key Card here seems very inviting and necessary.  


I would feel worse about the FIX, however the fine pair we were playing against still managed to win with a 68.5% game! Way to go Jack Lacy and Mary Anne Laier! Happy Halloween!




1) Not all points are created equal, prime points are as good as it gets and should be considered as much more valuable.


2) When you hold 5 of partner's suit, the Queen ask is unnecessary.


3) When you hold the hand that "knows", then you need to push on. Straight unadjusted loser count says these two hands should make on the 5 level. However, having a 5-5 trump fit and "prime points" adds enough to make a slam reasonable or even cold. 

Compliments of Pam LaShelle
Compliments of Jack Lacy

Hand # 18, Wednesday Morning, October 1s

The suggested bidding starts with East (NS silent throughout the auction): 1D – 1S – 2C – 2H – 3H – 3S – 3NT. 

This board is an interesting one to bid.  1D is normally 4 or more diamonds but is only 3 if opener is precisely 4432.  1S shows 4 or more spades and enough to respond.  2C shows 4 or more clubs and confirms that 1D was 4 or more diamonds.  2H is fourth suit forcing (4SF) artificial and game forcing.  3H shows 4 hearts and completes the description of East’s hand to be either 1444 or 0454 or 0445.  3S shows 6 or more spades and suggests doubt about NT.  3N is the best (from East’s perspective) chance for game.   With a spade honor, East might have tried 4S rather than 3N particularly if he has doubts about playing 3N. 


Now the spotlight turns to South who must make an opening lead.  He knows a lot about the two declaring hands so should be able to choose a lead that is best for the defense.  A spade might be right, particularly if East is void in spades, but rates to help declarer set them up.  Both hearts and diamonds are likely to be dangerous so by default a club is probably best. 


With a club lead, the defense should prevail.  North will win the king and return a club to dummy’s ace.  Why should North return clubs and not switch to hearts which seems to be the obvious switch?  If the club ace is not removed from dummy, North can see that declarer will have time to set up spades and cash them.   If declarer needs spades to make 3NT, he will need two entries to dummy after he leads the first one, one to set up spades and the second to cash the spades.  After dummy wins the club ace, what should declarer do?  He can lead a high spade but has only one entry left to set up spades and, therefore, cannot cash them once they are good.  Basically, from this point, the defense should follow whatever declarer does to make sure they give nothing away so that declarer will go down at least one trick.  Declarer should be held to 3 diamonds, 1 spade, 2 hearts, and 2 clubs.  North will lead a heart when he wins the spade ace. 


If South leads another suit, we can imagine the declarer making the contract as follows.  On a spade lead, declarer has enough entries to set up spades and cash them.  On a diamond lead, declarer can win the lead in hand and lead a spade and again has enough entries to set up and cash spades.  In fact, if South leads the 3 of diamonds, he gives up a 4th diamond trick.  And, given declarer’s heart holding, a heart lead will give up a third trick immediately or if South leads the Q of hearts, again declarer has enough entries to set up spades and cash them. 



  1.  Listen to the bidding.  Often just based on the bidding, you can imagine the opposing hands. 
  2. When choosing an opening lead, use your knowledge of the opposing hands to choose the most effective (or least damaging) opening lead.
  3. When you win the opening lead as third hand, look carefully at dummy and remember what you know from the bidding so that you can choose the best lead at trick two.  On this hand, if North leads what seems like the obvious switch, a heart, declarer will prevail because he has enough entries in dummy to set up and cash the spades.  
  1. As declarer, you have to take your best chance.  On this hand, any lead except a club and a club return, you have 1 or 2 clubs, 3 or 4 diamonds, 2 hearts, and 1 spade.  If everything works, you have 9 tricks but it doesn’t cost to lead a spade so that if diamonds don’t break or the diamond finesse loses or you have only 1 club trick, you have a second possible source of tricks in spades.
Compliments of Jack Lacy
Compliments of Paul Tobias

Hand # 22, Austin Sectional Pairs, Thursday Morning, 9/25/2014


Ask experienced Bridge players - they will usually agree that defense is the most difficult and challenging part of the game.  So it gives me pleasure to relate how my partner (both in life and for this game) made an outstanding play that was needed for us to set a 3NT contract.


North was stretching with the final 3NT bid but thought it likely that 8 tricks were there with the expected club lead and, perhaps, partner might have a 9th trick with an A  or a K♠ . The opening lead was the Q♣ , ducked by declarer, followed by a club to the A and a third club to declarer's K. Now declarer played 6 rounds of diamonds, putting heavy pressure on East. Look first at the cards left in play after the 5th diamond was cashed  (North at the top):







 J 8 7 
 K 10 
   K 3
   Q J 
 Q 10 5 
 Q 9 


When the 6th and last diamond was played, East had to make a difficult decision. Look what happens if East discards a club - declarer gerts out the J  and East is in, cashes a club and has to lead away from the K♠ to give declarer her 8th and 9th trick. If East discards the 3♠ declater can play the A and drop the K, setting up the Q for a 9th trick. The only winning play East has is to discard the A of hearts, playing partner for the K. East made that play and when the J was led to my K at trick 11, I could lead a spade and set the contract.


Opportunities for unblocking plays to avoid an endplay are not uncommon on defense. Making them is - so kudos for East avoiding a bottom on the board and achieving a tied for top.  





Compliments of Paul Tobias
Compliments of Steve Bruce

Wednesday Evening, BCA, Sept 10, 2014


This hand was played in the last round of the Wednesday night game.  North was Joe Black, who was playing with Greg Kania.  West was CG Bell, playing with his uncle, Steve Bruce.


With one round to go, Joe and Greg were in 2nd place North South while CG and Steve were leading the East Wests.  


North opened 1S holding AKxxx, x, AQxxx, Kx and heard his partner make a “Modified Bergen Raise” of 3C, which showed 4-card Spade support and 7-11 points.


North now bid 3D to ask partner if they were on the top of their range (9+ to 11). North intended to bid game even if South was at the bottom of the range and intended to explore for slam if partner had the upper range hand.


South jumped to 4S, showing that he was on the top of his range.


North was now able to ask for Keycards by bidding 4NT (there are five keycards, the four Aces and the King of trumps).  They were playing “1430,” so South’s bid of 5C showed 1 or 4 Keycards.


North now bid 5D, which asked partner if he held the trump Queen or a 5 card fit (a 10 card trump fit with both the A and K is nearly as good as holding the Queen.


South didn’t have the Queen, but  did hold a 5th trump, so he jumped to 6S.


North South were now on course to score 81% of the matchpoints for going plus 980 (6 ½ on an 8 top), but they got an added bonus when East didn’t cash the Ace of Hearts on opening lead, They ended up taking all the tricks and all the matchpoints (6S-N, making 7, +1010).


Half of the field of eight bid slam (only one of those made 7).


Of the four pairs that stopped in 4 Spades, two of them made 12 tricks and two of them made 13 tricks. 


The Ace of Hearts must have been led five times, while three times it was not.


Joe Black and Greg Kania had the right tools for the hand.  Modified Bergen Raises, Roman Key Card, and then a Queen asking bid.  A well-deserved top board for North-South.  They didn’t quite reach 1st North-South, missing by less than half a matchpoint, but they did knock East-West down to 2nd.

Compliments of Steve Bruce
Compliments of Jack Lacy

Hand # 4, September 9, 2014


Defense is difficult.  This hand illustrates a very valuable tool that helps the two defenders cooperate to win the maximum number of tricks. 


First, a comment on the bidding.  West has a normal 1D opening bid and North has an easy overcall of 1H.  East passes although I wouldn’t argue with a negative double even as weak as East is.  South has a normal raise to 2H and West doubles for takeout.  Even though West has only 3 spades, his distribution and strength argue for competing.  East bids 2S and now West passes knowing that East is pretty weak.  North competes to 3H.  I don’t like North’s bid of 3H because she has exactly what she said she had when she overcalled 1H.  Her heart suit is powerful but she has 8 losers outside the heart suit which doesn’t bode well for the 3H bid and she is vulnerable.  If the defense is careful, 3H should go down 2 which will be a bad board for North-South even if 3H is not doubled.


Against 3H, East leads her stiff diamond to West’s ace.  West can easily read that West has a stiff diamond since the 2 is the lowest diamond.  West is going to return a diamond for East to ruff.  Does it matter which diamond West returns?  West can tell East where her entry is by the size of the diamond she returns for East to ruff.  A low diamond will tell East that West has an entry in the club suit (the lower of the two remaining suits ignoring the suit being ruffed and the trump suit) and a high diamond will tell East that West has an entry in the spade suit (the higher suit).  And a middle diamond should say something like I don’t have a preference which suit you lead next since I don’t have a quick entry and I don’t know what your hand is.  On this hand, West should return the 4 of diamonds telling East that her entry is in clubs (the lower of the remaining suits).   East ruffs and returns a club as asked.  West wins the club Queen and returns the 6 of diamonds for East to ruff.  East leads another club to West who wins the king.  Now, West returns 8 of diamonds for East to ruff because the club suit is done and it is time to establish our spade trick.  Even if East cannot ruff the last diamond led because North ruffs high, the threat of East ruffing kills the fourth diamond in dummy so that declarer cannot discard her spade loser on the good diamond. 


This defense will get 6 tricks: 1 diamond, 2 diamond ruffs, 2 clubs, and eventually 1 spade or 1 diamond, 3 diamond ruffs (if declarer chooses to pitch on the last diamond) and 2 clubs for +200 and a very good matchpoint score. 



  1. Giving suit preference when expecting partner to ruff is a valuable tool to guide the defense.  On this hand, it is critical for West to show his club entries so that the defense gets the maximum number of tricks. 
  2. Matchpoints is a very competitive game but sometimes one should not automatically compete.  If your original bid is a good description of your hand, then you should strongly consider not competing any more.
  3. A good rule of thumb is to compete to the level of the number of trumps between the two hands.  One should still consider other factors like vulnerability and whether one’s hand is better or worse than already described.  On this hand, South might have bid 3H with 4 trumps (since she knew that North has at least 5 for her overcall) and when South doesn’t compete to 3H, North should conclude that South’s raise consisted of only 3 card support and, therefore, North should not compete to the three level with only 5 hearts.  
Compliments of Jack Lacy
Compliments of Paul Tobias

Hand # 8, Wednesday Evening, 8/27/2014


This looks like a routine hand with South playing in spades every time and making 5 or even 6 once. However, the hand analysis says it should only make 4 so it is worth looking at the play to see where all the defenses possibly went wrong.


First, a quick look at the bidding shown. South has a 4 loser hand and should go to game after partner supports spades. Five out of six pairs did reach game so that was not a problem.


West, at my table, led the J of clubs - the lead that should hold declarer to only making 4S. Any other lead and a club loser will go off on the third heart or else, if West leads the J of diamonds and East rises A to switch to the club king, declarer can use dummy's Q  to pitch his club loser. So which J10 minor suit should West lead? My thought is that declarer is likely to have less cards in my longer suit and any defensive winners might go away if the suit is not led. So, typically, I would also lead the J♣. However, one might also argue that leading the from the J10 shorter suit might find declarer with more potential losers in that suit that have to be attacked early. So, perhaps several Wests choose the J♦ lead allowing declarer to make 5 .


Now back to my table where West got off to the killing club lead. Declarer won the ace and played two rounds of trumps, ending in dummy. Then a heart was played to West's ace and a club was lead to East's Q. East was at a critical moment which we will return to later - but did not realize it and tried to cash a third club.


Declarer ruffed and knew making 5 was there if the heart 10 fell under the Q or J, allowing pitches of  both the diamond 3 and K. But, rather than play hearts immediately, declarer first played all his trump winners. Here's what the cards lokked like when the last trump was led by South:





                                                         ♣ -  

                                                                             ♠ -                                                                 ♠ -                                 

                                            -                                                                  1087 

                                            J1054                                                          ♦ 

                                           ♣ -                                                                  ♣ -

                                                                                     ♠  3



                                                         ♣ -  


After South plays the Q on the last spade, East must either throw a heart (setting up dummy) or the diamond ace, setting up declarer's K. East has been squeezed and declarer makes 5.


Now let's return to the critical moment when East won the club Q. East can count that declarer has 7 spade winners, 2 heart winners in dummy and the A of clubs - for 10 tricks or more unless East cashes the right cards at hat moment. East should play the A and look to see if West signals the K. If not, switch back to the K of clubs. That maximizes the defenses chances to take tricks before declarer gets to win dummy's hearts. 




1) When you have all the rest of the tricks except one and chances for that extra trick often it helps to play off all your winners (usually trumps) to put pressure on the defenders. They may mistakenly throw the wrong cards and give you that trick (called a psuedo squeeze) or they may be, as in this example, legitimately forced (squeezed) out of a winner.


2) Defending against squeezes (and psuedo squeezes) is one of the toughest parts of the game. Counting declarer's winners and making sure you get what is coming to you is one of the ways you can avoid losing what looked to be a sure trick. 

Compliments of Paul Tobias
Compliments of Pam La Shelle
Compliments of Pam  La Shelle

Hand 24, Thursday, August 28  no one vul, West dealer


How many hands are decided at trick 1?  Many are decided by how you play one suit and how interconnected it is with another suit.


The auction was a simple one, 1NT in 4th seat by South (surprising that North passed with a rather nice 12). After East and West pass throughout, a Jacoby transfer by North into Hearts, transfer completed by South and North now bid 3NT. All pass. 


Now for a well thought out lead by West. Partner had the chance to double 2 Diamonds (transfer suit) and did not, so that doesn't look appealing. Hearts is definitely out with North announcing 5 of them. Clubs doesn't look so hot either with 3 to the 9, so west led a low Spade. The process of elimination is quite often what the leader must fall back on. 


Declarer played the Jack off the dummy and  east signaled with the 8 that he held 3 (upside down count). Spades look harmless, don't they? Why could it be important in this hand? Only if you are thinking way on down the road about your entries!! This declarer decided he wanted to be on the board and played the Jack of Spades! Do you notice anything? How many entries is declarer going to have to his dummy now? Such a little innocent play, but can be so very expensive! Declarer went to his hand with a Diamond and confidently led the10 of Hearts and West ducked. Declared now led the 9 of Hearts and again West ducked!


West absolutely needs to duck both of the Hearts to avoid  declarer making 11 tricks. What does West know about declarer's hand? Declarer should only have 2 Hearts because he chose to play 3NT rather than 4 Hearts


Now South led a spade to the Ace and played the Ace of hearts. However his entries were gone and he could no longer set up the heart and get back to them. Declarer did not get a bad board, but he also did not get a top board. He took 3 Spades, 3 Hearts, 3 Diamonds and 1 Club.


This hand's double dummy result is making 5. Working on your worst suit (Clubs) is seldom the way any declarer will go and that is the only way to make 5 (unless West covers the Heart!) Leading up to your Clubs 2 times will yield 11 tricks along with taking the Heart finesse 2 times. Declarer will take 3 Spades, 3 Hearts, 3 Diamonds and 2 Clubs.


If declarer has not used his 2 dummy entries he might decide to switch to Clubs after trying the Hearts. 


Two lessons in this hand:


1) Look at your entries carefully at trick one before you play to the first trick. Decide how precious they might be in either hand and preserve them if they are.


2) Use all your clues to decide on your lead. Just because you don't have many points doesn't excuse you from making a wise choice, after all, your partner is marked with some high cards!

Compliments of Jack Lacy

Hand # 23, Wednesday Evening, 8/20/2014


The auction was P – 1C – 1H – 2D – P – 2N – P – 3N all pass.  The opening lead was 2 of diamonds. 


First a comment on the bidding.  West opened 1C and North’s overcall of 1H created a problem for East.  He has a balanced 16 count but no Heart stopper.  What to do?  My partner solved the problem with a little white lie of 2D.  Why is this bid a little white lie?  Because 2D should show a 5 card suit but he has only 4.  There were other lies he could choose:  2H showing club support and at least a limit raise and 3NT without a Heart stopper.  No bid is perfect and partner’s choice of 2D is as good as any, in my opinion.  After that, the bidding was smooth resulting in 3NT by West.  


When dummy is put down, what is your plan?  Even though you have 29 HCP between the two hands, it is not obvious how to go about taking 9 tricks let alone an overtrick which is what one would normally expect with 29 HCP.  So, back to basics.  We have 7 sure tricks: 2 spades, 2 hearts, 2 diamonds, and 1 club.  We have chances for tricks by taking the spade finesse, the heart finesse (although on the bidding, I would expect that the heart finesse is not working), diamonds 3-3, and the club finesse (leading up to the queen, hoping that the king is with South).  In reality, there are only 3 possible extra tricks unless we can convince North to lead a heart.   Diamonds 3-3 is a 35.5% chance and with the opening lead, we might guess that it is less on this hand.  The spade finesse is a straight up 50%.  The club finesse is a little more complicated because South may have the king or North may have the king and if it is doubleton, we can get an extra trick there.  Given that analysis, my plan is to win the opening lead in hand and try the spade finesse.  After that, we can see what happens.  This kind of hand is one where you might make a plan and then have to modify it based on what you learn trick by trick.  Actually, that is exactly what happens with this hand. 


I played low on the diamond, South played the Q and I won the king and led a spade.  When North showed out of spades, I immediately learned that the spade finesse is not going to work J.  But I also gathered some valuable information.  With South having 6 spades and at most 2 hearts, we are beginning to develop a picture of the unseen hands.  I won the spade Ace in dummy and led a club toward the Queen.  South played low and now I went into the tank.  What does North have for her overcall?  The Q of hearts only.  The J of diamonds only.  No spade honors.  It seemed to me that North is very likely to have the club king.  Even with the club king, her overcall is suspect although we would all overcall 1C with 1H with her hand.  We just wouldn’t be very proud of the overcall.  So, I played 8 of clubs and North won the J.  Did you notice that South should have played the 9 (or T) of clubs so that either the Queen would be forced or South would hold the trick so that she could lead a heart through me?  North won the J of clubs and continued with the J of diamonds.  Still struggling for tricks, I ducked the diamond and won the next diamond with ace and South followed to both diamonds.  Wow!  All of a sudden I have an 8th trick.  I cashed the 13th diamond pitching a spade from my hand.  South pitched a spade and North pitched a heart.  No new information there.  But continuing our count of the hands, we now know that South has 6 spades, 1 or 2 hearts, 3 diamonds and, therefore, 2 or 3 clubs only.  In other words, South is either 6232 or 6133.  Therefore, North is either 0535 or 0634.  One thing this tells us is that the club king is not coming down doubleton.  What alternatives do we have if the club king is not doubleton?  We can endplay North so that North has to lead a heart to us for our 9th trick.    OK, here we go. 


Cash the ace of clubs and a club to our queen and North’s king.  South followed to both clubs so we have now verified that North is 0634.  North has another club to cash but now must lead a heart into our AKJ for our 9th trick.  Wow, what a struggle.  But with counting and a little bit of luck, we have overcome adversity.  What a sad tale it would have been to take only 8 tricks with 29 HCP between the two hands.  But if we hadn’t kept our eye on the ball every trick, we would very likely have come to that fate. 



  1.  Make a plan on every hand.  In NT, count your sure winners and then see where you can develop extra tricks.  In this hand, although you had 7 sure tricks, it was not obvious where your 8th and 9th trick would come from. 
  2. Be fluid in your plan.  As  you learn new information, you may have to modify the plan to accommodate the new information. 
  3. When the obvious play is doomed to fail, consider how you might take advantage of that fact.
  4. Count every hand.  Every hand.  By counting every hand, it will become easier to count hands where it is important to know what the opponents hands are.  Practice may not make perfect but it will make it easier. 
  5. Sometimes you have to tell a white lie in the bidding because your hand does not lend itself to “normal” bidding.  When you have to do that, choose a lie that you hope will lead to the best possible contract.  
Compliments of Jack Lacy
Compliments of Paul Tobias

Hand # 27, Friday, 8/15/2014


The title of this Hand Of The Week could well be "HOW WOULD YOU BID THIS INCREDIBLE HAND?". Let's start with what happened at my table.

I held the South hand and elected to pass instead of pre-empting with my 7 card spade suit to the QJ8 and no outside cards. No one was vulnerable and I had the highest ranking suit so I thought I could wait and see who had what. A mistake, as it turned out.


In fourth position, East opened 2C and I now knew where most of the points were. I considered 3S but, with equal vulnerability, decided that 2S was enough obstruction. West passed - a bid that good players intend (and West was one of the best of the club players) as positive and game forcing after a 2C opener. West would have doubled 2S with a bad hand that could not have made a positive 2D response to an opening 2C bid.


North passed and East had a choice of bidding some number of clubs or hearts. Since any bid below game could not be passed by West, East chose to bid 3H. Note that his powerful 5 card suit could play opposite a doubleton, or even a singleton, for no losers a high percentage of of the time and, of course, you want to play in the major in a matchpoint game. The choice would have been more difficult If North, with good spade support and an outside ace, had chosen to raise partner's 2S bid to 3S, 


West had no difficulty raising 3H to 4H and it was up to East to place the final contract. Knowing West had a heart fit and a positive response to 2C was all East needed to take the gamble and leap to 7H - for a cold top!


Now let's look at the other 8 results on this board. Three pairs did not reach slam (playing in 5H hearts once and 5C twice). One pair reached 7C and 4 pairs played in 6C. So, reaching 6C was above average on a board that will make 7 in both hearts and clubs.


What went wrong on most of the auctions for this hand? Possibly the South hand made it much more difficuly by pre-empting 3S to start with and North could have raised to 4S to continue crowding the auction before East had a chance to bid. But East, with 1 one loser hand (!!! - have you ever held a 1 loser hand? - !!!) should never stop bidding below slam if partner is not forced to bid again. If the auction is up to 4S (or even 3S) when East gets his first bid he has to either cue bid or bid 6C or 6H (or even, if bold enough, 7C or 7H). The 3 pairs who stopped below slam obviously did not appreciate the full value of a 1 loser hand that could often make a grand slam in either hearts or clubs even if partner had no points and just 2 or 3 hearts and 2 or 3 clubs.You may never get a hand as good as East had again - so appreciate it and have courage.



1) A heart suit such as AKQJ4 will be playable as trump suit a majority of the time even it partner has as little as a singleton - so don't count it out in favor of a good 7 card minor suit when playing matchpoints.

2) When you have a very good 1 loser 2-suit hand start by promising yourself you will play in slam and then, if given the chance, look for a possible grand slam. Don't make a bid that can be passed out short of slam!

3) A useful agreement to have is that after partner's 2C opening is overcalled, a double shows a bad hand and a pass shows a hand that is game forcing opposite a 2C opener (a suit bid after the overcall instead of a pass or double shows at least a good 5 card suit with 2 out of the 3 top honors and probably slam interest).

4) Look for opportunities to obstruct the opponents bidding when you know it is their hand to make at least a game - but be careful when the vulnerability is unfavorable and your set may be worth more than their game.


Compliments of Paul Tobias
Compliments of Jack Lacy

Hand From 2014 Los Vegas Nationals (Swiss Teams}


Opening lead: 10C.

This hand of the week could be sub titled a Tale of Two Bidding Sequences.  Since the play of the hand at any level spade contract is trivial as long as trumps are drawn as soon as possible, this Hand of the Week will concentrate on the two bidding sequences used at the two tables in a Swiss event at the Las Vegas Nationals.   

First, a comment on the lack of bidding by either West or East.  When dummy hit, I, as South, wondered about the fact that with 12 hearts between them, neither one chose to bid.  I decided (not that it made any difference to the play) that hearts must be 6-6 and the EW hands were as flat as possible with a 6 card suit.  In fact, one of EW must be 2623 and the other must be 2632.   

Let’s discuss the bidding sequence shown above.  South’s opening bid of 1S is normal.  North actually has three choices: 2C, 2N (Jacoby), or 4H (shortness).  I think partner’s choice of 2C is best since a slam (small or grand) will probably depend on the club suit.  South’s rebid of 2D is descriptive (remember that responder is captain and it is opener’s job to describe his/her hand as best as can be so that responder can decide level and strain).  2S by North sets trumps.  South continues with a 3D bid since it completes the description of his hand and leaves open the possibility of slam.  North now cue bids 3H and South returns the favor by cue bidding 4C (South thinks showing the club king is more important than showing the heart ace since partner has already cue bid hearts and fhe partnership accepted it was OK to cue bid kings).  Now the key bid in the auction is 5H, exclusion Blackwood.  This bid asks partner about key cards outside the excluded suit, in this case, hearts.  South answers 0 key cards and now North knows that they are missing the diamond ace and bids a small slam in spades.   As discussed above, no problem in the play as long as there is not a singleton diamond or club void lurking.   Nicely done, 6S bid and made. 

Now let’s contrast the bidding that went on at the other table.  Again, EW were silent.  South opened 1S, North bid 2C, South bid 2D, North bid 2S.  So far, exactly the same.  Now the train went off the track.  South bid 4NT (RKC).  South decided he should take over the captaincy and it cost him big time.  North responded 6D showing a void somewhere and an odd number of key cards (there are other ways to respond, based on partnership agreement).  South was in a pickle.  He had no way to know what void partner had so he had to guess.  Unfortunately, for South, he guessed diamonds and bid the ill-fated grand slam in spades.   Down 1 in a grand when your opponents bid and make a small slam is a big IMP loss.  I have some sympathy for South since his hand was gigantic opposite North’s bidding but he should not have taken over the captaincy when he could continue his description and allow partner to decide level and strain.  One other point: how did South decide partner’s void was in diamonds and not hearts?  Since he had only 1 heart himself, it is logical to think that North’s void is in diamonds and not hearts.     


1. Responder is captain until voluntarily relinquished.  If you adhere to this rule, it will save you much anguish. 

2. Opener’s job is to describe his hand as best he can and leave the decision about level and strain to responder. 

3. The first bidding sequence described is good since South was able to describe his hand very well and let North decide how to proceed.

4. Exclusion Blackwood is a nice tool when you have a void.  However, if you and partner decide to use this powerful tool, be sure you are in agreement on the responses.  I like simplicity: 0 KCs, 1 w/o the Q, 1 w the Q, 2 w/o the Q, two w the Q. 

5.The second bidding sequence is a good example of what might happen when you take the captaincy when it has not been voluntarily relinquished to you.  South found himself having to guess and made a reasonable but wrong guess on this hand.

Compliments of Jack Lacy
Compliments of Pam LaShelle
Board 9, Thursday July 24, NAP Qualifier
North passed as dealer and East opened 1 Spade. South now bid 2 Hearts and West passed. North passed and East did exactly what they are supposed to do and reopened with a double. Why? Can West make a penalty double? Not if playing playing negative doubles! Therefore it should be almost automatic for East to reopen with a double to allow for partner having to pass with a penalty doubling hand.
What excuses do players make for not doing this? The number one excuse is that their "shape" isn't right and what will they do if partner bids their doubleton? In this case it would be Clubs and partner does have a 2nd suit and could bid Diamonds to let partner know that they have 2 suits. Another excuse is that they are "too distributional",or " too weak". Since we have all heard so many excuses by players that just refuse to reopen with a double for their partner, it seems to be something that many players are afraid to do. They are missing so many good boards!
How often should you be reopening with a double for partner? When partner is not a passed hand and when you don't have many of the bid suit (when you do, then you know that partner probably does not have a penalty double in mind),you probably reopen about 90% of the time. If partner is a passed hand, the percent could go down .
On this hand, partner did reopen with a double and the West hand gladly passed. The opponents did hesitate  and squirm in their seats (particularly the North hand with his singleton Heart), but they had nowhere to run.
West's singleton Spade was led to partner's King. It was impossible for East to know if the lead was a singleton or a doubleton, so East led a Club back to the King and Ace. West led a trump to East's Ace (now East knows that the Spade was a singleton). East made a fine play and led another Club and declarer had to play the Queen and now had 2 Clubs to lose. Declarer lost 2 Spades, 3 Clubs, and 4 Trump tricks.
The 2 Heart bid went down 800 and was a top board for this pair. More than a vulnerable game! Other pairs were setting Heart contracts ,but there was no double and other pairs were trying to make a vulnerable game and going down.
   A)  Try to reopen with a double for partner whenever it is called for (this usually being when the auction goes: bid by you, bid by LHO, pass, pass, NOW IS YOUR CHANCE! DOUBLE! 
   B)  Remember that partner cannot make a penalty double, so you have to do it for them.
   C)  If you are trying to step up your game and haven't been doubling for partner, give it a try and get some tops!
Compliments of Pam LaShelle
Compliments of Steve Bruce

Wednesday Evening, Hand 2, BCA, June 18th, 2014

Editor's Note: This fine hand write-up is a guest author submission from Steve Bruce.

I found this hand most interesting from a defensive standpoint, but it was also interesting because of the bidding and that it was played eight times with seven different results!
At my table my partner Passed the East hand, even though he was not vulnerable against vulnerable opponents and had a seven-card suit.  South was a bit light for a vulnerable 3 Spade opening, so he fudged and opened with a 2 Spade bid on his 7-card suit.  I was West and jumped to 3NT.  After North Passed, it appears normal for East to bid their seven-card suit – but it would not be the winning bid in this case.  6NT is a maker, even though the Defense has the Ace and King of Spades, and 4H can go down (and should, in my opinion).
At my table, South was on lead against a 4H contract and made a really nice lead of the 3 of Spades (this was after opening 2S).  The 2 of Spades was in Dummy, so this was the lowest Spade that South could have and could not have been “4th Best”.  It was a chance to use Suit Preference at Trick One.  South is hoping for the best – if his partner could somehow win Trick One, either by holding the Ace of Spades or by ruffing (if they were void), then he would like a Club returned (so that he could ruff it) - the unusually low spade lead was intended to convey that message.
North won their singleton Ace of Spades and fell from grace by not returning a Club.  But, assuming North catches on to what his Partner’s low Spade lead implied, he should now return a Club, like their partner requested, but they, too, have a chance to show Partner suit-preference (at Trick 2) by returning their highest Club, the Ten, which should ask for a Spade back from Partner.  South will ruff the Club return with their singleton trump, then cash the King of Spades and lead a third round of that suit.  Both North and East are out of Spades, but North can trump with the Jack of Hearts as East watches helplessly by.  This means that East will have lost two trump tricks (a Club ruff and a Spade ruff) despite holding seven trumps to the Ten-Nine-Eight opposite Ace-King-Queen third.  Ouch!
The hand was played eight times, with seven different results.  Seven times East played some number of Hearts.  The only duplicated score was 4H-E making 420.  The one pair that played in No Trump took 13 tricks (the Defense has to cash the Ace of Spades on the go or they don’t get it!).  The other seven pairs that played Heart contracts varied greatly in the number of tricks they took:  7, 10, 4, 12, 10, 13, and 11.  I can’t fathom how only 7 tricks were taken at a Heart contract, much less the one that took only 4 tricks, but 2H down one (7 tricks) and 5H down seven (4 tricks) were two of the contracts. 



Suit Preference is a key tool and can even be used at trick 1! 


Compliments of Paul Tobias

Wednesday Evening, 7/9/2014, Board # 8


A hand which has interesting lessons at every level from beginner to expert. An example of why Bridge is endlessly fascinating!


West opened 2H with 10 H.C. points mostly in "soft cards" like Queens and Jacks. East has great support but not really enough tricks to expect a likely game opposite a Non-Vul Weak 2-bid. However, East is sure the opponents have a spade fit so he bid 2NT (asking for an outside feature, typically an A or K) to stop the easy 2S opponent balancing bid. West, perhaps over in love with his soft 10 points, bid 3D (with only the Q!). West now assumed a two suit fit and bid 4H, ending the auction.


We'll start with what happened at the table. North chose to open the 4 of clubs and this lead gave declarer 2 club tricks - something he could not do on his own by leading clubs. Declarer now drew trumps and led to the QS. The defense won and returned a spade and declarer, after ruffing, had to play the rest of the hand losing only 1 diamond trick in order to make the contract. Declarer first finessed the club king and cashed the third club, eliminating all suits except diamonds and trumps in hand and dummy. Now, if any defender had 2 diamonds to the K, or if the K of diamonds was with South, declarer was home. He played the AD and all followed low. He played a small diamond towards the Q and South played the J. It was a time for West to think.


West decided that South was not likely to have KJx in diamonds - with that holding she might have gome up K on the second diamond lead. So, declarer played small and North could not overtake without setting up declarer's queen. South was on lead with only spades or clubs to play and the sluff and ruff gave declarer the contract! 


Now for the expert level analysis. South has to play the JD under the A to avoid being stuck in the lead and having to give declarer a sluff and ruff. Not easy to see at the table but there is really no holding where you have to keep the JD in order to set the contract. If you drop it under the A, partner wins the diamond play and cashes the setting diamond trick. 


5 Pairs played 4H and 4 of them went down - despite the fact that the hand analysis said 4H should make. Perhaps those players did not get a helpful club (or diamond) lead. North is better advised to play safe on opening lead with a heart. We will get to how declarer has to play after that leads eventually - but first let's look at ways to play the East/West diamond holding:



                                                          K1074                                                             J2



How can you play this diamond holding to lose only one trick and win 2? Lead the 9 from dummy and no matter what the right hand opponent plays you win two tricks (if he plays the J, you cover and later finesse for the 10, if he ducks, you lose to the 10 but later lead the Q and smother the J). When would you play the suit this way? Probably only after your left hand opponent has opened or bid diamonds in the auction. Then, you can win two tricks with this play whenever your right hand opponent has 2 to the 10 or J or a singleton 10 or J.


Finally, assume North makes a safe trump lead against 4H. How can declarer still make his contract (double dummy puzzle)? Hint: You have to remove spades and trumps and play diamonds as shown above for when South has a doubleton 10 or J. When North wins the diamond 10 or K (depending on what South plays after the 9 is led from dummy), he is end-played and has to lead clubs or give up 3 diamond tricks. Play out the cards and try it yourself!




1. On opening lead North should play safe and lead the 10 of trumps. Make an aggressive lead like a low club when you think declarer has an outside suit he will set up and then use to pitch losers. That is not the case here as you have length and strength in diamonds and spades - so try not to give away anything with your opening lead. As a side note, the club holding in these hands is sometimes referred to as "Frozen". That means, if either side leads the suit their side loses 2 out of the first 3 tricks. So both declarer and defense want to avoid leading clubs, if at all possible.


2. Declarer carefully elininated side suits before playing diamonds - the correct strategy to set up possible end-plays where you can get a ruff and a sluff.


3. South should see that declarer has eliminated side suits and the key play will depend on the diamond holdings. When the A of diamonds is played from dummy, South should stop and think and conclude that dropping the J is the only play that makes sense (if declarer has the Q10x or K10x dropping the J won't hurt and with declarers actual holding it is necessary to set the contract.


4. If you ever run across a similar diamond holding, but this time your left hand opponent has bid diamonds and is pretty sure to have the K, the way described in this writeup to play for a 10 or J doubleton or singleton on your right is worth remembering.






Compliments of Paul Tobias
Compliments of Paul Tobias

Hand # 19, Wednesday Morning (Regional Choice Pairs), 7/2/2014


Board 19
South Deals
E-W Vul

A Q 9 8 4

J 7 5

A 9 2

A 10

K 6


K Q 8 7 4

K J 5 4 3









A K Q 9 8 3

10 6 5

9 8 6


J 7 5 3 2

10 6 4

J 3

Q 7 2


With South bidding first, the auction went:      P    1D   1S   2H

                                                                      2S    P     P   3H

                                                                       P    4H    P     P



The opening lead was the 3 of spades won by North's Queen and declarer (seated East on the hand diagram above) ruffed the AS followup. Now declarer viewed his prospects with dismay. He had 4 possible losers in the minor suits and had already lost a spade. If trump split the expected 4 - 2, the game contract could go down 2 or even 3 tricks!.


Time to think positively and come up with a game plan. Clearly you need a 3 - 3 trump split and also some help in the minor suits. You hope diamonds will have only 1 loser and can be set up to pitch clubs. That will work if the A of diamonds is on-sides with 1 or 2 other diamonds and you can get to dummy in either diamonds or clubs later in the hand. Or, perhaps, the diamond J might drop doubleton.


Should you immediately draw 3 round of trump? No, you need to first lead to dummys diamonds while you still have a trump exit card from dummy if the diamond K holds. Which is exactly what happened when declarer led to the K of diamonds.


Next, after the K of diamonds holds, you draw 3 rounds of trumps and breath a sigh of relief when they split 3 - 3. Now, a second diamond and the J appears from South. North wins the trick and leads another spade. Declarer ruffs, cashs the 10 of diamonds and leads a club to dummy's J (guessing correctly!). There is nothing North/South can do at this point to stop the game from making.


Many declarers went down in 4 hearts by not timing their play or guessing correctly. The only lead that could always defeat 4H is a club lead - not too likely at the table!




1. Don't give up and always MAKE A PLAN! 

2. Sometimes it is best to postpone pulling trumps so that you have communications from dummy back to declarer. If declarer pulls 3 rounds of trumps early, he would have to guess whether to play the Q of diamonds when stuck in dummy (to smother the J) or play a small diamond which would work if the diamond A is doubleton.

Compliments of Paul Tobias
Compliments of Jack Lacy

Board 16, Wednesday morning, June 25

With NS passing through out, the auction is 1H, 1N (forcing), 2C, 3H, 4H.  Opening lead: 5D.

The bidding is reasonably standard for pairs playing 2/1 game force.  West has an easy 1H opening bid.  East has a balanced 12 HCP hand with 3 card heart support.  Should East force to game or try for game?  Based on the 4333 distribution, I think East should not force to game but rather invite game in hearts.  In 2/1, East can bid 1NT which is forcing 1 round.  After West bids 2C, East can then bid 3H showing a 3 card limit raise.  West has an easy 4H bid because he is significantly above a minimum opening bid.  Should East try to maneuver the auction to see if 3NT might be better than 4H?  Even though East has 4333 distribution, 4H makes 5 (as we will see below) and 3N makes only 4.  At matchpoints, the point differential of 20 points is critical. 

Playing 4H, the opening lead is the 5 of diamonds.  Declarer should now stop and make a PLAN.  Pause: what is the objective?  In this case, there are 10 easy tricks so the plan objective should be 11 tricks.  Look: what are my losers and winners?  In this case, there are 10 easy tricks (1 spade, 5 hearts, 3 diamonds, and 1 club).   If you prefer, let’s count losers.  Remember that we only count losers in one hand, typically, the Master hand.  The Master hand is West since it has 5 trumps and East has only 3.  No spade losers, no heart losers, no diamond losers, and 2 or 3 club losers.  That count is consistent to what we derived when we counted winners.   How can we make an 11th trick or, if you prefer, how can we make sure we lose only 2 clubs?  Analyze: If clubs are 3-3, then we have only 2 club losers (why?).  What if clubs are not so friendly?  Can we do something about the 4th club in our hand?  Yes!  We can ruff it in dummy.  


Now put it all together:  Win the diamond lead and play the Ace of clubs and a low club.  Win the return and play a 3rd club.  Now if clubs are 3-3, all is well, but what if they are not 3-3.  Ruff the club in dummy high, draw trumps, and claim.  This line will yield 11 tricks almost always. 

What about what my Mom used to tell me?  Get the children off the street.  What she meant is draw trumps immediately.  The problem on this hand if you draw trumps before you give up the clubs, you will not have a trump in dummy to ruff the 4th club in your hand. 

This hand is worth some study because this situation is not uncommon.  The problem is that you have to recognize the situation and then take the appropriate action as you play the hand.  Overtricks are critical when playing matchpoints. 


1.     Playing 2/1 game force, a 1N response is forcing for one round.  This agreement can be used to describe a variety of hands.  In this hand, it conveniently describes a 3 card limit raise in partner’s opening heart opening bid. 
2.     No matter how easy a hand looks, declarer should always pause and make a PLAN.  In this hand, if you don’t pause and make a PLAN, you might miss the opportunity to make an overtrick, critical if playing matchpoints. 
3.     When looking the club suit in today’s hand, you have 2 or 3 losers.  If clubs turn out to be 3-3, then any line yields 11 tricks.  However, the odds are against a 3-3 break (35.5%), so one’s PLAN should accommodate a 4-2 or worse break. 
4.     Sometimes, it is better to postpone drawing trumps until you have made some other preparations.  In this hand, if you draw even one round of trumps, the defense may be able to “help” you draw trumps thereby thwarting your plan to ruff (if needed) a club in dummy. 


Compliments of Jack Lacy
Compliments of Paul Tobias

Hand # 8, Friday, June 20th


This is a very interesting hand when looking at the results across a large field and at the BCA. Looking at the East/West hands, it is clear that 7 spades is cold. However, seven hundred sixty five pairs in the common game played this hand and only a little betterr than 20% managed to get to even a small slam. Less than 1/2 of a percent got to the cold 7S contract. Players at the BCA were more successful at reaching the small slam - but still, over 60% did not get to 6S and none reached the grand slam. 


The auction shown occured at my table with South electing to not pre-empt in diamonds after East opened 1S. That made it easy for West (a passed hand that now had a 6 loser count in support of spades and wanted to be in at least game) to bid 4D (a splinter showing at least 4 card spade support, game going values and shortness in diamonds). North doubled to ask for a diamond lead and East, thinking slam was a strong possibility, cue bid 4H. South had another chance to show 7 card diamond support, but with equal vulnerability, passed. West happily cue bid 5C and it was up to East to bid next. Afraid there was a diamond loser and a possible club finesse needed to make 6S, East did not repeat the heart cue bid (to show second round control) but went directly to 6S. The auction stopped there, but at least a slam was reached.


Another auction that reached 6S at a different table went as follows: With West having the first bid                 p - p - 2C - p

                                                                                                                                                                           2D - x - 2S - 4D

                                                                                                                                                                           5D - p - 5S - p

                                                                                                                                                                           6S - p - p - p 

The East hand, with a 4 loser count and 17 high card points, could easily expect to make game opposite many hands that might pass a 1S opener and so opened 2C, Again, South did not interfere with a diamond pre-empt but it was hard for West to show, or East to hope for, both the A & K of clubs in the West hand along with a diamond void.So, again, only 6S was reached.


Two key questions remain:  Why did so few pairs get to even a small slam and is there a reasonable auction that would get to a grand slam?


One reason so few got to slam is paying too much attention to high-card point count. After all, East/West only have a total of 26 high card points. However, loser count says that they have a total of 10 losers between the two hands and therefor should be able to make 8 spades (which is accurate as they have 5 club winners, 2 heart winners, 6 spade winners and 1 diamond ruff in dummy!). Another reason might be that South often made it difficult for the East/West hands by pre-empting early in the auction and North possibly continued the pre-empt to the 5-level. That would certainly crowd the auction and make it harder for East/West. However, whenever East chooses to open 2C, the West player should always insist on slam once a spade fit has been established, After a 1S opener and a 3D jump overcall, it would be more difficult to get to even a small slam.


There is a possible auction that, playing certain conventions, might lead to a clear bid of 7S (remembering that it is generally a losing strategy to bid a grand at duplicate unless you are sure of all the 13 tricks). After East opens 1S, and assuming West passes, playing a modified Bergen major raise convention used by several BCA players, a bid of 3H shows a strong game raIse to 4S and also shows either a singleton or void somewhere. East can ask by bidding 3S and West replies with 3NT showing an outside void. East asks where the void is with 4C and West shows it is diamonds with 4D. Now, East cue bids 4H and West responds with 5C (the club A). East shows his second round heart control with 5H and West bids 6C to show the club king. This auction, with no North/South interference, would allow East to confidently bid a grand slam!




1.  Hands like this are much better suited to loser count - paying too much attention to point count when you have a good fit and voids or singletons will leave you underbidding.


2. South could have made it much more difficult for East/West by a pre-emtive jump in diamonds. That will use up room and make it much harder to reach even a small slam.


3. Some, even if cold, contracts are very hard to bid unless playing perfect conventions that suit the hands (assuming the opposition gives you the room to use them).






Compliments of Paul Tobias
Compliments of Pam LaShelle

Hand 30, Friday (the 13th of June!) - Dealer East, No One Vulnerable


I was playing bridge on Friday the 13th when I overheard two top bridge players discussing a book they had read on opening leads by David Bird. Lead a short major (even a doubleton!) against 3NT if neither of the opponents has bid a major and this can be a brilliant lead!  So now Board 30 came up and I liked the quality of my 3 card Spade suit. The East opponent opened 1 No Trump, I passed and LHO bid 3 No Trump! Here was my chance for that new lead instead of my 4th from longest and strongest! I guess you have already noticed that my lead is giving the declarer an extra trick if I keep leading it! That doesn't sound good!


Declarer won the Q of Spades lead in her hand with the Ace (partner encouraged with the 3 of Spades (upside down carding). Next, declarter led a Club to dummy's King. Declarer finessed a Heart to her Ten and my Queen. Now I was confident in leading my Jack of Spades and Declarer won her King. Now I am thinking, "This lead is really working, my partner has the Ten and I am a hero!" Declarer led a Diamond to the Ace and back came a low heart finessed into my King. Now for the killing Spade return! I led my 9 of Spades and low and behold the declarer had the 10!


Looks like it really is Friday the 13th for me, but wait! Declarer can try to cash her tricks, but she is one short and what is the setting trick? The 13th Spade in partner's hand!! Love new ideas and this will be a good one to remember! Maybe next time I will just have the doubleton and it will work even better!


If I make any other lead it is very likely to be helpful to the declarer in setting up a suit. This lead of a short suit can serve the same purpose as a neutral lead.




  1) Don't be afraid to try some new ideas! That is one of the things that keeps this game fun!


  2) Watch your partner's discards to help guide you throughout the hand. Partner was right to encourage the Spade 3 (playing upside down so a low card says "come on" ) and without that encouragement I might have made a costly switch).


Compliments of Pam LaShelle
Compliments of Jack Lacy

Hand #19, Saturday Afternoon, May 31st

The auction (EW passing throughout) is pass, 1N, 2C, 2S, 2N, 3N.  The opening lead is the 5 of diamonds. 


We have all been taught “second hand low” but there are exceptions to all the various “rules” we have been taught.  This hand illustrates such an exception.


First, a comment on the bidding.  North in 3rd seat opens 1NT.  Some people would open 1S but I happen to think that it is very difficult to show a balanced 15-17 HCP if you don’t open 1NT.  For example, on this hand, if you open 1S, partner will bid 1N (not forcing because she is a passed hand).  Now with the North hand, what do you do?  You are really too strong to pass 1NT but not strong enough to bid 2NT.  And therein lies the dilemma of deciding to open 1NT (or not) with a 5 card Major.  Personally, I lean toward opening 1NT.  


Now the play and defense.  The opening lead is the 5 of diamonds won by the T in dummy.    What is declarer’s PLAN? She can count 2 diamonds, 2 hearts, and 2 clubs off the top.  Therefore, 3 more tricks are needed.  The easiest way to take 3 more tricks is to take the club finesse hoping for Q third under the KJ986.  If declarer takes that line, West will win the Q of clubs and lead a diamond.  That leaves declarer with only 8 tricks (4 clubs, 2 diamonds, and 2 hearts) with no hope for a 9th trick.  If the Q of clubs is in a favorable place now, it will be there later as well .. that is, there is no hurry to play clubs.  One idea is to lead a spade hoping to eliminate East’s entry and maybe develop a spade trick (unlikely, but possible).  Therefore, declarer should lead a spade at trick two.   Suppose, first that West plays “second hand low”.  If so, declarer will play the Q of spades and now East has a problem.  If East wins the trick, he has no entry to his diamonds should they ever become good.  East also knows that he can’t lead another diamond because the Ten won at trick one.  Both clubs and hearts look dangerous to lead if East wins the ace of spades.  And if East ducks the spade to preserve his entry to his diamonds (or just ducks because he thinks that declarer has the KQ or more in spades), that is declarer’s ninth trick if she can develop clubs to get only 2 more tricks.  On balance, it seems to be correct to duck the spade. 


Now let’s think what will happen if West plays “second hand high”, that is, the king of spades when spades are led from the table.  The king will win and West can now lead a diamond to set up partner’s diamonds maintaining partner’s spade ace as an entry to the now good diamonds.  In other words, this hand illustrates the exception to second hand low.   What if declarer has the ace of spades?  Playing the king doesn’t hurt and still might help by setting up some spades in partner’s hand.  The only time it is truly wrong to play the king is if declarer has really strong spades such as AQJ9 or similar.  Certainly possible but unlikely.  


The key is that by playing the king, when West wins the trick, the defense becomes extremely easy.  And if it doesn’t win, it still might be helpful to the defense.  If West plays low, the defense becomes quite difficult whatever the spade situation.  


  1. When holding 15-17 balanced, open 1NT even if you hold a 5 card Major.  Exceptions would be if your hand is concentrated in two suits (for example, KQJTx, xx, AKQ, xxx) or you are 54 in the Majors. 
  2. When dummy is put down and before a card is called from dummy, declarer should pause and make a PLAN.  In NT, the basis of a plan is to count your sure tricks and see where you can develop more tricks to meet your objective.
  3. If there is really only one place to develop tricks, but you can postpone developing that suit, try something else. Sometimes, the defense has a problem that you can’t see and they may help you.  
  4. Sometimes “second hand low” is counter to the best defensive strategy.  One notable exception that happens more often than you might think is trying to get in to set up partner’s led suit.  This hand illustrates exactly that situation.  
Compliments of Jack Lacy
Compliments of Pam LaShelle

Board 34 from the City Championship, afternoon session, May 31,2014.

North South Vulnerable, East dealer

East opened his hand 1 Spade, South passed and West made a Bergen 3 Spade bid (preemptive and shows 4 trump and 6 or less points), now North passed, East passed and South bid 3 No Trump! West passed after inquiring what the 3 No Trump bid was told it was NOT to play.  North now bid 5 Diamonds! Pass by East and South and now West doubled on the Ace of Clubs. Declarer ruffed the Ace of Spades on dummy(West playing the 2 of Spades asking for a Club) . Declarer now led a Diamond off dummy and played the Jack out of his hand and lost to the Queen in East's hand. East led a high Spade and forced dummy to ruff. Declarer pulled trump, played Hearts sloughing a spade and 2 Clubs and gave up a trick to the Ace of Clubs. 750 for North South. That was worth ZERO matchpoints!

Did East think his partner could really have 2 tricks after preempting and showing less than 6 points? He knows he is  getting 1 Spade at the most. Should he leave the double in? 

East had a preemptive hand  and when his partner preempts he needs to complete the preempt by bidding 4S to prevent the opponents from coming in to the auction. He had all the information he needed from the 3 Spade bid to know that the opponents are loaded with over 1/2 the points. Will they have a fit in a suit? They have to with both of them short in Spades.  This is marked to be a good hand for them.

East West are getting a very bad board after the opponents bid their Vulnerable game. The double is almost irrelevant. The best they could do at this point is for East to bid 5 Spades and get doubled and be -500 instead of -750!! What a choice!


      1) When partner preempts and you can further the preempt, do so immediately.

      2) Be a detective and stop to figure out what point count and shape the opponents  have.

      3) If you know your defensive tricks are not cashing and partner has doubled, bid once again.

Compliments of Pam LaShelle
Compliments of Paul Tobias

Hand # 10, Tuesday Morning, 5/20/2014


This hand was written up in TheCommonGame and is worth repeating as a Hand Of The Week since no player at the BCA reached slam on the East/West cards and only about 3% of the over 700 CommonGame players found the completly cold slam. 


The recommended auction requires good judgment and the right partnership agreements. West opened 2C despite having a 2 suit hand and knowing it is often hard to have room to show two long, strong suits after opening 2C. However, with a 2 loser hand and a self-sufficient spade suit, it would be foolish to only open 1S and risk possibly being passed out there. East replied with a game forcing waiting bid of 2D and West showed his powerful 6-card spade suit.


It's at this point where possibly many pairs went astray. East is tempted to show her 5 card major by bidding 3H. However, the suit is only topped by a Q and she has most of her points outside of hearts, including 2 spades to the A which is often very good support when partner opens 2C and next bids spades. The CommonGame analyst recommended a bid of 2NT and I would also consider a 3S bid as better describing the hand's strength than 3H. 


After 2NT, West showed his second suit, bidding 3D. East now bid 3S and West had a lot to think about. East had not shown strength in hearts so far and all West needed was an ace in spades or clubs to have at least some play in slam. However, an ace of hearts would be possibly useless if West could not get to dummy to cash it. So, Blackwood might not help West even if East showed 1 ace. What to do?


There is a convention for this that covers the case where you have a void and still want to know if partner has useful keycards. It is known as Exclusion Keycard and it occurs after suit agreement when the controlling hand jumps to a suit beyond the game level. The message is "Partner, bid how many keycards you have but exclude the ace in the suit I just jumped to". Partner bids steps with the next step always showing 0, 2 steps = 1 keycard, etc.


In our hand, after East's 3S bid, West jumps to 5H and East responds 5NT s howing one keycard other than the A of hearts. West now bids the slam and easily makes it.


Now look at what happens if East bids 3H after West's 2S bid. West is afraid that East has wasted strength in hearts and even 5S may not be safe. So, almost all of the time, West ends up in 4S. The same might happen if the partnershi is not playing exclusion keycard and West can not tell whether he is missing two cashing aces.



Compliments of Paul Tobias
Compliments of Louis Sachar

Saturday Afternoon, May 17,2014, Hand # 16


There are a number of kinds of defensive signals: attitude, count, and suit-preference, which is the subject of this week's hand.


South's four spade bid is questionable opposite a passed hand,  but with a solid six card suit, not entirely unreasonable.  It's east-west's job to defeat this kind of close contract.


West led the ace of diamonds, and playing standard signals, East should play his lowest diamond. This is a strictly attitude signal, saying he wants a switch to another suit. (If playing upside-down signals, then East would play the 8,)


Nonetheless, West chose to cash the king of diamonds. Now what diamond should East play? With the dummy now void in diamonds, the only kind of signal that makes sense here is suit preference. Here's how it works. There are two suits left, not counting the trump suit, clubs and hearts.  East should play his highest remaining diamonds to ask for a heart, the higher ranking of the two suits. If he wanted a club, he would play the lowest of his remaining diamonds. (This is the same whether you are playing upside-down or standard signals.)


If East had nothing in either suit, he probably should have encouraged diamonds initially. He wouldn't have asked for a shift.


Notice the importance on this deal. If West shifts to a club, declarer plays low from dummy. East wins his king, but that's the last trick for the defense. Declarer wins whatever he returns, cashes the queen of clubs, pulls trumps, ruffs his good jack of diamonds to get to the board and discards his remaining heart on the ace of clubs. 


Lesson points:


1. Playing in a suit-contract, when a defender's lead of a suit causes dummy to become void in that suit, it is usually right for his partner to give a suit-preference signal. A high card says you want partner to lead a card in the higher remaining suit. A low card says you want partner to lead a card in the lower remaining suit. (Even if declarer wins that trick, suit preference signals would still apply.)


2. Get in the habit of watching every card your partner plays. It beats scratching your head and thinking now what?

Compliments of Louis Sachar
Compliments of Louis Sachar

Tuesday morning, May, 6 , board 11


Bidding                                                                        p - p - 2nt - p

                                                                                    3c - p - 3h - p

                                                                                    4nt - p - 5c* - p

                                                                                    5d - p - 5h - p

                                                                                    5nt - p - p - p

(*5c was intended to show 1 or 4 keycards in hearts.)


Auctions that begin 2nt -3c - 3Maj seem simple and straight forward, but actually can be quite problematic when responder is interested in slam.  The auction above, which occurred at my table, is a mess and is only included as an example of what can happen if you and your partner don't have clear agreements.South bid 4nt which she meant as a quantitative slam try, but which North interpreted as keycard in hearts. Everything after that was a mad scramble.


So what do you do after partner opens 2nt, you bid 3c (stayman), and partner shows four of a major? Is 4c keycard in that major, a cue bid, or a new suit? Is 4nt keycard or quantitative? What about 4d? Is it a cue bid in support of the major, or a new suit? Do you have an agreement, or do you just wing it and hope you and partner are on the same page?


Here's the convention played by many experts. After the first three bids, 2nt - 3c - 3Maj:  you bid the other major, to confirm the trump suit, and show slam interest. (These would also apply after a 2c opener followed by a rebid of 2nt.)


Example: 2nt - 3c - 3h - 3s.

Responder is agreeing hearts and showing slam interest. Her bid says nothing about spades. Opener should probably cue bid an ace. 4nt by either bidder is now keycard in hearts.


Example: 2nt - 3c - 3s - 4h

Responder is agreeing spades, and showing slam interest. Her bid says nothing about hearts. Now 4nt by either bidder is keycard in spades. Any other bid is a cue bid.


These bids may seem like an unnecessary step, but it allows 4c, 4d, and 4nt  to  have their natural meaning. So, in this case above, when South bid 4nt, North would know it wasn't keycard, since South hadn't bid three spades first.


Or suppose you hold something like, KQxx,  x, xx, AQ9xxx. Partner opens 2nt, you bid 3c, and partner bids 3h. Wouldn't you like to bid 4c, natural? Now partner will know you have four spades, and long clubs. You certainly don't want your partner taking it as keycard gerber in hearts! (you don't care about the king or queen of hearts)


These bids only apply when responder is interested in slam. If not, she can just make her normal call of four of the major, or 3nt, just as before. By bidding the other major, you set the trump suit, and show slam interest. It frees up all other bids to have their natural meaning. It's nice to have clarity.


As an aside, after a bit of scrambling, North was able to figure out (somehow) that South had meant her 4nt bid to be a quantitative slam try. Once she figured that out, I think she should have accepted and bid 6nt. She had the ace and the king of spades (partner's 4-card suit) plus a five-card suit of her own. Since her hand showed a very narrow high card range, 20-21, I think those kind of factors are more important than whether she has exactly 20 or exactly 21 points.


Lesson Points 

After an auction that begins 2nt - 3c - 3M, subsequent bids can be problematic, unless you and your partner have clear agreements. The above convention is one played by many experts. Of course, if you choose to adopt it, be sure to talk it over  with your partner. (And then wait two year for it to come up! *:) happy)


If you open 2nt (20-21 points) and partner subsequently bids 4nt (quantitative) your decision shouldn't be based solely on whether you hold 20 or 21, but on other factors such as whether you have a five-card suit, or your holding in a suit shown by partner.

Compliments of Louis Sachar
Compliments of Pam LaShelle

Hand 13 , Friday April 25  

This past Friday game had 5 slams possible for the North-South to bid and make! There were none that met the point count of 33 for a small slam (this really only works in No Trump) but were strong enough because of their distribution. Let's see what happens with this 29 point hand.

Board 13 was a challenging board to bid. North opened 1 Diamond with his fine 2 suited hand and South bid a normal 1 Spade. West bid 2 Clubs and now North made a splinter bid of 4 Clubs! South can now either bid 4 Spades or cue bid 4 Hearts on the way. Why not tell partner that you have this great card? First, how many points is partner showing with his splinter? He should have a 20 count or a hand equivalent to it in playing strength. Now North bids 4 No Trump! A gulp and a 5 Diamond bid (0,3-1,4) showing that same Ace of Hearts! North now asks for the Q of Spades. How? By bidding the next suit, 5 Hearts. South dutifully bid 6 Clubs, showing the King of Clubs and the Q of Spades and now North could confidently bid 7 Spades. The Ace of Clubs was led and the hand was claimed after drawing trump. A Grand Slam on 29 points! How is this possible? The whole Club suit was removed from the game and there went 10 points, so 29 was plenty! Only one pair bid 7 Spades and it was a combination of cue bidding, a splinter and Key card Blackwood that got therm there.

Board 3 was a  6 Diamond board with only 27 points. Board 16 was a 6 Spades on 29 points. Board 18 was a 6 Diamond hand with 31 points and Board 27 was a 6 Heart hand with 28 points (no one bid this one).




     1) Even if you have a minimal hand and partner makes a big bid where you have room to cue bid on the way to game, show an Ace (or possible void or first round control) by cue bidding! It may help you get to a difficult slam that you would miss otherwise.


     2) Trust your partner that he knows what he is doing and don't try to mastermind the hand by jumping somewhere in an  ace asking bid. 


     3) Don't go strictly by points when trying to get to a slam in a suit.

Compliments of Pam LaShelle
Compliments of Jack Lacy

Hand # 19, Wednesday Morning, 4/23/2014

The proposed bidding is 1C – P – 1S – X – 2H – P – 2S – P – 4C – P – 5C – P – 6C – all pass.   Opening lead: T of diamonds. 

This hand is not an easy hand to bid.  The proposed auction is reasonable but would hardly be duplicated at all tables.   South opens 1C.  Should South open 2C?  I don’t like opening 2C with a minor oriented hand and if South decides to open 2C, the heart suit is likely to be lost forever.  Of course, on this hand, losing the heart suit is not an issue.  One criteria for whether or not to open 2C is “would you be unhappy if the bidding went pass, pass, pass?”.  If yes, then open 2C.  On this hand, I don’t think you would be unhappy if it went pass, pass, pass because to make 5C (or 4H), you really need partner to have at least a minimum response (you can probably make 4H opposite 5 small hearts and nothing else).

South decides to open 1C and North responds 1S.  Now East enters the auction with a (light) takeout double.  She has support for both unbid suits (the red suits), 9 HCP, and a singleton club.  Double seems agressive but not unreasonable to me.  South now bids 2H, ignoring the double, and showing a very good hand with longer clubs than hearts.  North has an easy 2S bid showing at least 5 spades but ambiguous as to strength yet.  South promised another bid when she reversed.  

Now South has a problem.  She really has a stronger hand than she has shown but does she have enough to insist on 5C?  To make 5C, North has to cover 2 of her 4 outside losers and have a few clubs so that there is likely to be no club losers.   I think 4C describes South’s hand pretty well.  It isn’t really forcing but it is highly encouraging.  If North were to pass 4C, South can be content that she has described her hand.  If North were to bid 4S, South would be content for North to play game in spades.  But when North bids 5C, all of a sudden, South’s hand looks like slam is a distinct possibility.  What does North need for 6C to have a decent play?  The Q of hearts is probably enough.  Alternatively, the king of diamonds  or the AK of spades.  Of course, there is no way to find out if North has what South needs so South should just take a shot.  Bid 6C and hope for the best. 

When dummy hits, 7C has a decent chance.  Win the opening diamond lead.  Cash a high club.  Cash the heart Queen.  Come back to a high club.  If the clubs are 2-2, claim.  Cash the AK of hearts pitching diamonds from dummy.  Ruff a diamond, cash the ace of spades, ruff a spade, and draw the last trump if necessary and claim.  For this line to work, you need hearts to be no worse than 5-3 or the person with only 2 hearts to have 2 or less clubs.  It is a very decent chance at matchpoints and should be taken.  On the other hand, at IMPs, you should just settle for making 6C, happy that you got to the slam and it is makeable. 

There actually is a play for 7 without ruffing the diamond (pretend, for example, that you are in 6N rather than 6C).  After winning the ace of diamonds, run your hearts and clubs.  Before you cash your last club, you hold in your hand the T of spades, the J of diamonds, and a good club.  Dummy is the A98 of spades.  If East had the KQJ of spades, he is down to the KQ of spades and the King of diamonds.  When you cash your last club pitching the 8 of spades from dummy, any pitch that East makes will give you your 13th  trick.  If East discards a spade, the A9 of spades will take the last two tricks and if East discards the Q of diamonds, your J of diamonds will take trick 12 and the ace of spades will win trick 13. Of course, on the actual card layout, West can and should keep the guarded Q of spades and the squeeze becomes a psuedo-squeeze for East might keep the KJ of spades and pitch the K of diamonds.


  1. Some very powerful hands are inappropriate for a 2C opening bid.  One criteria that I like is that if I open 1 of a suit, will I be unhappy if the bidding proceeds pass, pass, pass.  If I would be unhappy, then I open 2C.  Otherwise, I am quite OK opening one of a suit.
  2. Even very powerful hands need some cooperation from partner to make game (or slam).  Be content to show your very powerful hand and expect partner to cooperate if it is appropriate.  On this hand, South was moderately unhappy bidding only 4C but knew that if partner passed 4C, it was probably the limit of the hand. 
  3. If you have described your hand and partner cooperates, you may have to take a shot at slam because there is no way to find out if partner has the specific cards you need.   If there is exactly one holding that partner can have to make slam, it is probably not a good bet.  But if you can think of two or three different holdings that partner might have that would be what you need and is consistent with partner’s bidding, take a shot. 
  4. Playing matchpoints, every overtrick is very valuable.  One even risks the contract to make an overtrick if it is a reasonable bet.  On this hand, if clubs are 2-2, making 7 Clubs is easy.  But if clubs are 3-1, it is slightly risky to try for the overtrick but this risk should be taken at matchpoints.  On this hand, bidding and making 6C was worth 5.5 (top 8) and making 7 was worth 7, a difference of 1.5 matchpoints or a little over 19% of the matchpoints available on this board.        
Compliments of Jack Lacy
Compliments of Louis Sachar

Thursday morning, April 17. Board 20


We all know the value of having a long suit. It is one of the things we take into consideration when bidding. Yet for some reason, once the play of the hand starts, many good players fail to take full advantage of a long suit, especially what that suit is in dummy.


As the cards lie, six hearts was cold, yet only one declarer in the open game managed to take 12 tricks, and none in the limited game.* The declarers all saw the spade shortness in dummy, and were apparently oblivious to the five diamonds also there.


This is how the play went at our table. Declarer won the club lead with the ace, got rid of a club on the ace and king of diamonds, and then led a spade towards the queen. She did well not to pull trump first. That way, if the king of spades was offside, she could ruff a losing spade in dummy. All well and good, but the king was on, and she didn't need the ruff. She ended up losing one spade and one club. Making 5.


Here's how the play should have gone. Win the lead, cash the ace of diamonds, then ruff a diamond. A heart to the king, and ruff another diamond. (The diamonds are now set up.) Pull trump, lead a spade to the ace, and run the remaining diamonds to discard two clubs. Now lead a spade toward the queen. If the king was offside, you'd end up with the same eleven tricks as our declarer made. But here, with the king onside, you take twelve, losing only to the king of spades.


The declarer at our table played in such a way as to nearly guarantee eleven tricks. And if you were playing teams, and were in five, that would be the way to play it. But you could expect the missing diamonds to break 4-3 about 62% of the time. And even if they don't break, you still have a 50% chance that the king of spades is onside. That gives you a greater than 80% chance of taking eleven tricks, and about a 30% chance of taking 12. At matchpoints, that's a risk worth taking.


Note on the bidding. At our table, South actually bid 3h at her second turn. Then her partner bid 4h.

All that does is lead to possible confusion. . North had promised a balanced hand, with at least two hearts, and eighteen or nineteen points. South knew she wanted to play in four hearts. What was the point of bidding three just to hear partner bid four? She had no interest in slam.  If you know what the final contract is going to be, just bid it!


Lesson point: Don't overlook the value of dummy's long side suit. This comes up quite a bit, and you need to be sure to take advantage when it does.


*One declarer in the limited game took 13 tricks in no trump.

Compliments of Louis Sachar
Compliments of Paul Tobias

Hand #12, Friday, 4/11/2014


A fairly routine hand but still with several interesting points well worth noting. The 3NT response to partner's 1S opening was a conventional bid (part of Bergen major suit raises) that showed an opening hand with flat distribution and exactly 3 of partner's major. This bid gives West the option of passing or correcting to 4S. West chose to bid 4S, probably fearful that the heart suit might be a weakness in NT. If she had passed and made 4NT, as 2 other pairs did, it would have been a near top and a victory for the Bergen 3NT bid.


Playing in 4S, North made the lead of the JS - hoping declarer had all the high spades except the J and Q and would finesse partner for the Q. This is not a particularly good deceptive lead since leading a J from a holding without the Q will often lose a trick and that should make declarer suspicious about the lead. However, in this case partner had 3 to the 10 and the defense will always get a trump trick. Declarer won in her hand and played to the AS and then played a club to the K. Declarer is not happy at this point since the diamond holding could produce an almost certain 2 losers and 3 losers are possible if declarer has to play the suit herself. Before taking the club finesse, declater played the K and A of hearts and ruffed a heart, hoping the Q & J of hearts would fall. No such luck! So declarer took the club finesse and cashed the A of clubs.


Now, South ruffed in and had to play the diamond suit. How do you play a suit with the AQ10 looking at dummies holding of Jxx? The winning play is to lead the Q, not the A or 10. If declarer has the Kxx, he will win the K but lose the next 2 diamonds. Leading the A and a small diamond will allow declarer to duck and make 5S! The lead of the Q leaves you with cards that surround dummy's J. Also, it will not cost you if partner does have the K. There are other cases of leads like this. For example, if you hold KJ9 in a suit declarer has 2 or 3 cards in (or you hold AJ9) and dummy has the 10xx, it is a winning play to lead the J and, if declarer holds Qxx, you will get 3 tricks. A low lead allows declarer to duck and eventually win the Q.




 1. The Bergen 3NT response to partners opening 5-card major bid can help you play flat hands with game going points in NT instead of 4 of the major. The bid does not give up anything since, with 13 - 15 points and less than 3 of the major you can bid a suit and next go to game in NT.


2. Be on the lookout for hands where you lead the middle of sequences like AQ10 or KJ9 when dummy on your right holds the J in case 1 or the 10 in case 2. Preserve your "surround dummy" holding!

Compliments of Paul Tobias
Compliments of Jack Lacy

Hand From Dallas Nationals Swiss Teams  

Dealer North.  Bidding (North & South only) was 2N – 3H – 3S – 6H – 7H.  

This freakish hand was dealt during the final day Swiss at the Dallas NABC on Sunday, March 30, 2014.  The hand is about bidding since the play is trivial whatever the final contract. 

North opens 2N showing 20-21.  One might consider opening 2C to show the heart suit but in the long run it is better to open this balanced hand with 2NT to show the 20-21 HCP.   Now South has a problem.  He has only 9 HCP but great playing potential.  Using loser count, he has a 4 loser hand which is a very strong playing hand if he can find a fit with partner and, of course, since partner opened NT, he knows he has an 8 card spade fit at least.   How should South go about showing his hand and finding out what he needs to bid a grand slam.  Note that a grand slam in either Major is cold opposite: A2, AQT, 76543, A65 which is only 14 HCP and partner opened 2N.  He most likely can make 7H opposite A2, A8654, 654, A65 which is only 12 HCP.  The key questions are what is partner’s holding in the Majors and does he have the club ace.  Note that the diamond ace is irrelevant unless you are planning on bidding 7NT. 

I can think about three approaches to this hand.   The first is reflected in the bidding shown.  Transfer to spades and bid 6H.  What can that be?  It must be a distributional monster with a void in one of the minors.  Why a void?  Because you didn’t use any form of Blackwood which you would have used without a void.  After the above approach, North needs to wake up and reflect on what is going on.  Partner has contracted for a small slam missing all the Aces and the Queen of the trump suit.   If he thinks he can make a small slam and I hold this gigantic (in controls) hand and this gigantic fit, a grand slam in hearts must be cold.  So, just bid it.  7H.

The second approach requires some previous discussion with your partner.  With most of my partners, I play Texas transfers and additionally I play that bidding a suit after Texas is Exclusion Blackwood.  So, with the above hand, South would Texas (4H) to spades and then bid 5D (Exclusion for diamonds).  North would respond with 3 KCs (the aces outside the diamond suit) and now South can bid 7S.  Note that this approach precludes ever getting to hearts which might be a problem if with the given hands spades are 4-0, because in 7H, the spades can be ruffed out.  Therefore, the downside to this approach is that you can end up in the wrong grand slam.   Of course, on this hand, if spades are no worse than 3-1, either Major works just fine.

The third approach is to try Stayman.  With the given hands, the auction would go 2N – 3C – 3H – 5D.  5D is again Exclusion Blackwood asking for Keys outside the diamond suit.   North would again respond with three KCs (the exact response depends on how you have agreed to respond to Exclusion) and South would bid the grand in hearts.   The downside to the approach is what do you do if partner responds 3D showing no 4 card Major?   One approach is to use Smolen showing 5 spades by bidding 3H and then when partner bids 3S, you can then try 5D.   But if partner doesn’t have even 3 spades, you still have a problem. 

Based on the above discussion, it seems to me the very simple approach of transferring and blasting to a small slam is the most effective.  The only thing that is required to get to a grand slam (if one is available) is to have an awake partner with the right hand. 


  1. With highly distributional hands, point count is mostly irrelevant.  With the above South hand, the 12 HCP in the North hand will make a grand slam with only 21 HCP between the two hands.
  2. After partner opens 2N, handling a distributional monster may take some creative bidding.  There really is no perfect way to handle the South hand after North opens 2N but, with some thought, South should be able to craft an auction that lets him find out what he needs to know.
  3. Using Exclusion Blackwood after Texas Transfers is a handy tool to have in your kit bag but be sure you and partner are clear on when it applies and what the responses to Exclusion Blackwood are.  
Compliments of Jack Lacy
Compliments of Paul Tobias

Hand #24, Friday March 28th


The Friday game featured many wildly distributional hands and 5 boards where at least one side could make a slam (including one possible 7H or 7NT hand) and 2 more where it would take an unlikely lead to prevent a slam from making. The hand shown here was one where both sides could make a small slam. Four out of 5 times it played in hearts (twice at the 6 level). The auction shown is the one time East/West played the hand in spades (at the 5 level, making 6).


The Auction 


West opened 3S, with a concealed 5 card club suit giving the hand possibly extra playiing strength. After North passed and East raised to 4S, South bid 4NT. This typically shows a 2 suit hand willing to compete at the 5 level in the suit with the best fit. Since East may have been bidding 4S to make (as was the case here), it is unclear to North whether South expects to make a 5-level contract or if South is sacrifice bidding with two very long suits.


After West passed, North bid 5C (not 5H, since South may be showing two long minors and does not have to have hearts). East looked at his AK9 of clubs and doubled and South naturally corrected to 5D.


Now West made a bid of 5S, surprising everyone at the table since, after pre-empting, you are generally expected to keep quiet and let partner make all the future decisions. Why did West bid? Because, after partner doubled 5C showing he had bid 4S to make and had good clubs, his 5 clubs to the J became a strong playing asset. It was also clear that the opponents had a good heart fit and the 5S bid would make it hard for them to find it. The bid worked  -  everyone passed and West played 5S and made an overtrick. The result was a top..


Comments on the Bidding 

South's bid of 4NT was the correct way to show a highly distributional 2-suit hand. A double could be passed or partner could respond 5C and you would not have a way to show extra length in both diamonds and hearts. After South's 5D bid, North should know South has at least 5 hearts and long diamonds - so the partnership has an excellent heart fit. However, it is tough to first bid the suit at the 6 level and North took the conservative action by passing. If North followed a reasonable guideline of bidding on in highly distributional hands with equal or favorable vulnerbility, the result would have been different. But West's good bid of 5S stopped North and earned East/West a top.


Comments on the Play

After a diamond lead and a diamond continuation, West has to ruff high and immediately play clubs in order to always make 6 - even playing one round of trumps and then returning to hand by ruffing a heart to lead a club will not work if North plays the 10 of clubs on the first lead. Eventually, North's 9 of trump or QC will win a trick! But in 5S, the contract is easy and when North played low on the first club lead, declarer finessed the 9 and made 6.


In 6H, played by either North or South, all declarer has to do is play to ruff 4 diamonds in dummy to make 6. Even a trump lead will not stop declarer as he has enough entries (ruffing spades to get back to his hand) to ruff out all the diamonds. And, of course, the diamond finesse, while not actually needed, is also on-sides.


Compliments of Paul Tobias

Hand # 2, Tuesday, 3/18/2014


Three passes to the North hand and he opened 1 Diamond, pass, and South now bid 2 Hearts which, according to the convention played by many advanced BCA players, shows at least 5 Spades and at least 4 Hearts (can be 5-5 or 6-5) with no game interest - this hand could be as little as 4 or 5 points. This is a bid that doesn't come up often, but when it does, it is very helpful to stay out of bad games! It also solves the problem of what to do with 5 spades and 4 hearts and invitational values - when you first bid 1 spade and then bid 2 hearts it is forcing with longer spades and you are willing to play at least somewhere at the 3 level . After the 2H bid there was a pass by West, and now a decision by North - whether to pass or try to invite. Partner will know if the North hand bids that they have a real barn burner! North decided he must invite with his fine hand and he bid 3 Hearts and South, who could certainly have been worse, decided to give it a try and bid 4 Hearts.


There wasn't  too much to the play - it was straightforward. West led a club and East took the Ace and returned the Jack of Spades. Declarer went up with the Ace, played the top two Hearts and then the Jack (after the Q fell doubleton). The 10 of Diamonds was led and Diamonds repeated until the Ace was played. Now declarer claimed making 5. This was a 5 on a 6 top, with two others bidding 4 and making 5, two making just 4 and one going down 1. One pair failed to find the heart contract and went down 4 in 3NT.


There are other ways to bid this hand such as 1 Diamond (by North), pass, 1 Spade, pass, 2 Hearts (big hand , reverse) and now surely South will give a raise to 3 Hearts (or possibly 4 Hearts to show little interest in slam but enough for game).




    1) Use bids that are the most descriptive of your hand, strength and shape to help in getting to the best contract. The 2H conventional bid described in this writeup can help partnerships clarify when responder has a week hand with long spades and hearts versus a hand that is invitational or better. 


    2) Respect your partner's bids and trust them. South certainly trusted North's bid to show a BIG HAND!


    3) Analyze each hand and don't try to copy wht you might have bid on other, slightly different, hands. Remember, there are 635,013,559,600 hands possible for each 13 cards!


   4) Reevaluate your hand at each turn.


Compliments of Pam LaShelle
Compliments of Louis Sachar

Tuesday, 3/11/2014, Hand # 13


The Bidding

North opened a club, East bid one no trump, West bid two clubs, Stayman, and North bid 3c. North could have doubled to a show a real club suit, but this is much better. Stick it to the opponents! If East chooses to bid, she now has to guess to do it at the three-level. At the table, she bid 3 hearts, and caught partner with a four-card heart suit, but she didn't have to be so lucky. Another time she might catch partner with only a two-card heart suit, and could end up playing three no trump with only one club stopper when partner has a bare minimum.

The Play

South dutifully led a club, and North won, and returned a high club, indicating a spade switch in case partner was able to ruff. As it was the suit broke evenly.

East wasn't out of the woods yet. She had nine tricks, four hearts, four diamonds, and a club, but because of the mirror image distribution of her hand and dummy, she had no way to pitch losers or ruff anything. Her only chance for a tenth trick was the king of spades, but based on the bidding, it was almost certain that the ace was behind the king. As it turns out, the hand would have been better in three no trump.  Still, she didn't give up.

She pulled trump, glad to find they broke 3-2. When playing mirror image hands it is often right to strip the side suits, and try for an end-play. In other words, she wanted to be able to force North to lead a spade. The clubs were already cleared, so she now played four rounds of diamonds ending in her hand. She was left with one trump and three spades in each hand. She led a low spade, and when South played low, she called for dummy's nine. North won with the ten, but was end-played as planned. He either had to concede a sluff-ruff, or else cash the ace of spades. Either way, East scored her ten tricks.Well done!

South had one point in his hand, the lowly jack of spades, but he could have been a hero on this deal.He needed to rise with the jack of spades when declarer led a low spade to dummy, thereby breaking up the end-play. Should he have known to do this? Probably. He is a good enough player to  realize that North is about to be end-played. From the bidding and North's signals, he knows North has the ace of spades, and almost certainly the queen. He doesn't know about the ten, but if declarer has it, she will always have ten tricks. So he should play his partner for A,Q,10, and rise with the jack, making his one point count!

So why didn't he? My guess is that holding such a poor hand, his mind had already shut down until the next deal. We've all done it when dealt bad cards.It's hard to stay focused when it seems like your hand is meaningless.

Lesson points:


1. When playing in a suit contract, with mirror-image distribution between your hand and dummy, it is often right to strip the side suits and try for an end-play.

2. It is sometimes difficult to stay focused when dealt a hand with only one point. But there are numerous occasions where your play still matters, whether it is choosing discards, signaling partner, or as in this case, being prepared to play second hand high in order to break up an end-play. Good players  play good cards well.Great players play bad cards well.

Compliments of Louis Sachar
Compliments of Paul Tobias

Hand From Sectional Swiss (3/2/2014)


One doesn't often hear partner open the bidding 6C! But, believe it or not, it happened twice to me, once last Sunday and again last Monday! On Sunday, it was my partner who opened 6C and that is the hand shown here for Hand Of The Week.


So, what does it mean when partner opens 6 of a suit and how should you respond? The common expert agreement is that you look only at your trump holding and raise to 7 if you hold either the ace or the king. Other aces or high-cards do not matter. The same type of rule applies if partner opens 5 of a major - raise to 6 if you hold the K or A in his major. Note, however, that if partner opens 5 of a minor it is just a pre-emptive bid and you need much more than a K or A in his minor to raise to 6 thinking it might make


In the hand shown, North had the AC and dutifully raised to 7C (thinking that the AH was nice to have but not really part of the decision to bid a grand.


What about the play? The KH was led, declarer pitching the 4 of spades. Then, declarer ran off all his 7 clubs. The defenders were happy to pitch all their hearts since declarer had none and dummy had no more entries. But on the 6th and 7th club, East had to find either spade or diamond discards. Not unreasonably, East chose to hold onto the QJ9 of diamonds and he pitched 2 spades - allowing declarer to make his Grand Slam. After all, declarer had already pitched one spade and it was hard to picture his hand having the AKQxx in spades to go along with the 7 clubs.


Is there any way that East could have known to save all his spades? The answer lies with West's discards - instead of throwing hearts when declarer played his clubs, West should have immediately signalled that he had a diamond stopper on his first discard at the 4th trick. Then, East would know he could pitch all his diamonds and hold onto spades. If 7C had gone down, North/South would still be wondering how they could have bid to 7S or 7NT, both of which would always make since declarer could preserve a dummy entrance and play the A and K of spades and know to finesse for the J.




1. When partner opens 6 of a suit - raise to 7 if you have a K or A in that suit. When partner opens 5 of a major suit - raise to 6 if you have a K or A in that suit.


2. On defense, if declarer is running his long suit and not claiming, signal a quickly as possible if you have a suit you can cover so partner knows to hold onto a different suit. 



Compliments of Paul Tobias
Compliments of Paul Tobias

Hand # 23, Tuesday, 2/25/2014


The auction proceeded as shown and North ended up declarer at 3NT. East led the AH followed by the Q and declarer had his first decision to make: should he hold up? He decided that he would be taking the club finesse and, if East had the QC, he would get in anyway so there was no sense holding up. Anyway, if clubs worked perfectly, there would be 11 tricks to take with possibilities for a 12th trick and this was duplicate. So declarer won the KH and finessed the JC.


Next, declarer played the AC and got the bad news - West had a club winner. Declarer played the KC, pitching a heart, and then a small Club, pitching a diamond (leaving dummy with just the stiff QD!). That was a carefully calculated move that soon played dividends. West  had no difficulty now playing the KD to smother dummies QD. Declater won the AD and played off his last two clubs leaving the AKQ9 of spades in dummy. West was sure that declarer had at least 1 spade, so he had to keep his 4 spades to the 10. But that meant he had to thow the JD. Declarer was happy to cash the 10D and win the last 3 tricks in dummy with the AKQ of spades. Making 5 for a tied for top.


Note the West was legitimately squeezed when the last club was played. But, he could have avoided the squeeze by playing a spade when in with the QC. He probably would have done that if declarer hadn't pitched a diamond from dummy instead of a useless heart or spade. Declarer made West an offer he couldn't refuse - even though he should have! 




1) On opening lead East expected to find the KH in dummy (after all, South had bid the suit). So, leading the QH would have been a much better choice. Declarer would have to duck in dummy (after all, West might hold Ax or even Axx). If East continued the JH, declarer might duck again (I would) and the defense will certainly either hold or beat the 3NT contract.


2) After winning the second trick, assuming West has only 2 hearts and also has the QC 3rd or 4th, declarer can count 10+ tricks and should start thinking about winning 11 tricks or more. Whe he has to lose a club his chances of making 5 depend on either finding a J10x in spades or a squeeze. Making it possible for West to lead the KD by pitching a diamond from dummy left both those possibilities open. So the lesson here is for declarer to try to make it easier for defenders to play the way he wants them to play. The lesson for defenders is to be suspicious when a thoughtful declarer seems to have gratuitously made things easier for them.   

Compliments of Paul Tobias
Compliments of Jack Lacy

Hand # 18, Thursday, 2/13/2014

First, a comment on the bidding.  North is too strong to open 1NT but not strong enough for 2N (assuming 20-21 requirement for a 2N opener) so opens 1D.  It is correct to open 1D when holding 44 in the minors.  South has no 4 card Major but does have a response so bids 1NT.   South could bid 2D if their agreement is 6-9 HCP for a raise in a minor.  But the matchpoints are in NT and South has no real flaw for NT (except for no heart stopper which shouldn’t be a problem at the one level).   North has 19 HCP and, therefore, an easy raise to 3NT.  North has a worry because she holds only the Q4 of spades but she has to hope that partner has some help in the spade suit. 

The opening lead is the 2 of Hearts, 4th best from longest and strongest.   When playing a hand, it is always a good idea to make a plan.  In NT, the way to start a plan is to count your sure winners so that you can see what you need to do to get to contract (or overtricks).  On this hand we have 1 Heart, 3 Clubs, and 3 Diamonds as sure winners.  If we can take 4 Clubs and 4 Diamonds, we will make our contract.  There really is no chance for an overtrick since as soon as a defender wins a trick, they will have a Heart to cash to get the defense to 4 tricks (3 Hearts and 1 Spade, say).  

What is the best way to make sure we take 4 Club tricks and 4 Diamond tricks?  We can take 4 Club tricks if they are 3-2, the J is singleton, or the Jxxx is with West.  We can take 4 Diamond tricks if they are 3-2, the J is singleton, or because of our great Diamond spots we guess whether East or West has 4 Diamonds to the Jack.  This hand is really an exercise in which order to try the two suits.   You don’t have enough information yet to decide which way to guess Diamonds since at this point it looks like Hearts are 4-4 which doesn’t tell us much about the rest of either hand.   It must be correct to try Clubs first.  Two reasons:  if they aren’t 3-2, there is nothing you can do about which hand has the length since if the length is with East, you cannot get a 4th trick; and playing Clubs may give you some information as to how to play Diamonds.

Cash two rounds of Clubs and see what you learn.  Good news and bad news.  The bad news is that the Clubs are not 3-2; the good news is that West has 4 Clubs to the Jack and, therefore, because of our good Club spots, we can finesse West for the Jack giving us 4 Club tricks.  There is no hurry though to get back to hand to take the finesse because we can do that the next time we are in our hand.  

Have we learned anything that will help us in the Diamond suit?  Yes.  We now know that West has 4 Hearts and 4 Clubs which means that is more likely that if anyone has Diamond length, it is East.  Why is that true?  East has more room for Diamonds in her hand than West has.   Think of it this way.  West has only 5 places in her hand for Diamonds and East has 8 places in her hand for Diamonds.   Just based on that it is 8 to 5 that East is longer in Diamonds than West.  Another way to think about it is that if West is long in Diamonds, she has only 1 Spade which would leave East with 7 Spades.  With 7 Spades, a non vulnerable East might very well preempt.  Therefore, we will hope that Diamonds are 3-2 and, if not, East has 4 (or 5).  Start with the K of Diamonds followed by the Queen of Diamonds.  As soon as East follows to the second Diamond, you are home free.  If West follows, you have 4 Diamond tricks because they are 3-2 and if West doesn’t follow, then you can finesse East for the Jack thereby taking 4 Diamond tricks.   

Don’t forget to finesse the Clubs whenever you are in your hand with Diamonds.   Congratulations, you have taken 9 tricks: 1 Heart, 4 Diamonds, and 4 Clubs.  Well done.  

One last thought.  Why not just force out the Ace of Spades and take 2 Spades to go with your sure 3 Clubs, 3 Diamonds, and 1 Heart?  Good question.  The reason I would not do that except as a last resort is sometimes opponents lie (you heard it first here) and maybe the Hearts are really 5-3.  If so, you may go down in a cold contract. 


  1. When opening the bidding holding both minors, open 1 Diamond.  If you consistently do that, it will greatly help partner judge the fit of the two hands
  2. Playing matchpoints, it is usually better to play NT than a minor because NT scores so much more than a minor.  Therefore, with the South hand, it is preferable to respond 1NT rather than 2D.  
  3. Make a PLAN before playing to trick one.  On this hand, it would not hurt to play the Hearts before making a plan but it is much better to discipline yourself to make a plan before playing to trick one.  I have seen many hands lost because declarer played to trick one before looking at the whole hand and making a plan.   For example, I defended board 27 on Monday, February 17th, and on a Spade lead against 3NT, declarer (South) played the Ace of Spades before making a Plan.  The hand could now not be made.  
  4. In NT, start your plan by counting sure winners.  After you know how many sure winners you have, you will know how many tricks you need to develop to reach your objective.  
  5. After you know what suit or suits you need to play to develop more tricks to reach your objective, if there are two or more suits to be developed, decide which order to work on each suit.  Sometimes, as in this hand, there is no choice in one of the suits and, if so, that is usually the suit to play first.   Sometimes playing one suit will give you some information to apply to the second suit.   
Compliments of Jack Lacy
Compliments of Louis Sachar

Wednesday afternoon, 2 -12 -14, Board 12.  


 This hand offers interesting lessons in the bidding and defense, and further illustrates how a creative and flexible declarer can succeed despite bad breaks and good defense. 


The Bidding


You pick up the South hand. West opens 1h in first seat, and the bidding proceeds, p - p - X.

Your  first double was easy, but what do you do after partner responds 2d? You don't know if you belong in diamonds, clubs, or possibly no-trump. Partner may have no points and only four diamonds.


The correct bid is to cue bid 2h. I spoke to one declarer who told me she didn't cue bid, because she was afraid her partner would take it as a strong hand with good diamonds. (So instead she bid 3c, bidding a five card suit at the three level. Yuck.) While you may have a hand with strong diamonds, (and if so, you can clarify that later)  partner should be aware it is more likely that you have a hand more like the one you have: a very strong hand, but unsure what suit you belong in, or how high you should be. 


The 2h cue bid simply says, "I've got a huge hand.Tell me more."


North would have had a difficult time responding. He has a fifth diamond, but he only has six points, and no aces or kings. He would have a tough time choosing between 3d, 4d, and 2nt. If he bid 3d, South would pass. If he bid 2nt, South would raise to three. Neither result would be opitmal.


Fortunately, West made it easy for North by doubling the 2h bid. That bid only helped the opponents. He'd already told his partner he had a good hand with hearts. Don't tell your partner the same thing twice! Note: Some expert pairs play that a double after your suit has been cue-bid is a message to partner not to lead that suit if on lead, otherwise, pass if you don't want to suggest some other lead is much better.           


Now, North was able to make a free bid of 3d, promising both a fifth diamond and a decent hand (considering he could have nothing.)


If North had passed, South would have bid 3c. After the free bid, South went on to game.


The Defense


East dutifully led a low heart (promsing three) and West did well to win and shift to another suit. He chose a club, but any shift would have worked.


North won in Dummy, and counted his tricks. He had the eleven he needed, five clubs, four diamonds, and two spades. He just had to be careful he didn't lose two hearts and a trump. So he started to pull trump, leading a diamond to his hand, and a diamond back to the king.


West did well to duck both times. This is an important defensive technique. When you are fortunate enough to hold Ace-fourth of trump, it is almost always right to wait to play your ace on dummy's last trump, in this case, the third round of trumps. 


Now declarer was in trouble. If he played a third round of diamonds, West would win, and then cash the other high heart for the setting trick. If instead, he abandoned trump, there would be a diamond lurking about, which might trump something for the setting trick. Note that if West had s taken his ace of diamonds earlier, declarer could simply pull the rest of the trump and take his eleven tricks. Now however he was stuck.


In fact, there was still a way to make the hand, but declarer didn't find it. West was rewarded for his fine defensive play.


What declearer should have done.


After playing two rounds of trump, he got the bad news. Diamonds were 4-1. But there was also good news. The four diamonds were in West's hand, in front of declarer. Now, he had to hope that West also had at least two clubs.


He could have started running the clubs, discarding hearts from his hand. If West trumped low, declarer could over-ruff, return to Dummy with a spade, and continue clubs. Nor would it help West to trump with the ace. There are many different permeatations,

but if you want to play it out, you will see that as long as declarer is careful, all roads lead to eleven tricks.


Lesson Points:


1. Doubling, then cue-bidding, shows a very strong hand (most often a hand that might have opened 2c), but  with doubt about what suit you belong in.


2. Don't bid your hand twice. There are many variations of this concept, for example, preempting, and then bidding the suit again. In this case West opened a heart, and then doubled the heart cue-bid. He'd already told his story the first time. His double only helped the opponents. 


3. Holding ace-fourth of trump on defense is very powerful. Don't play your ace too early. It is often right to wait to play it on dummy's final trump.


Compliments of Louis Sachar
Compliments of Pam LaShelle

Wednesday Morning, 2/5/2014, Hand # 1



While directing on Wednesday morning I had some players ask me, "Have you seen board 1?" I figured this must be a really WILD hand for players to be talking about it throughout the game. So here it is!


When everyone at the table is bidding, there must be some pretty wild distribution in the hands. This hand is a perfect example of  distributional hands and how they can skew what your hand is worth.


North opened 1 Diamond and East had to decide whether to overcall 1 Spade or double for takeout. He decided to double because he had such great support for either major. South passed and now West had plenty to jump to game by bidding 4 Hearts. North was delighted to bid 5 Clubs and East got out the double card. South came to life with a 5 Diamond bid and it went pass, pass, back to East. It was decision time and East thought a Double made the most sense. Did it? He knows North must be very distributional and that South has more Diamonds then Clubs and might be very short in  Clubs. Did he have any trump tricks? No! Is it dangerous to double a bid that sounds distributional with no trump winners? Are you counting on winning tricks with your major suit cards?


Maybe you are thinking, "But no one could know that North is 6-6!". Doesn't it sound like North is at least 6-5? Equal vulnerability and North is willing to bid at the 5 level? The proof is there, but it will take some analyzing.


Once he figures out that North could be 6-6, he knows he cannot double and now has 2 choices, bid or pass. Is there a way he can know to go to 5? Some use the theory of "Bidding just one more". If your partner thought they could make 4 Hearts, there is a chance he can make 5 Hearts and if the opponents can make 5 Diamonds, it is pretty good insurance to go ahead and bid 5 Hearts. Down 1 will look good compared to -400.


This is a very difficult situation and we get in these all the time and way up at the 5 level!. There are no pat answers. You will have to play detective and try to sort out what everyone at the table is doing!


This board was played 8 times in the Open game and was doubled and making 5 Diamonds (one time with an up trick) 5 times! One North-South was in 5 Clubs doubled down 2 and 2 East-Wests were in 5 of a major making.




  1. Analyze your opponent's distribution and points carefully before making a decision to double or bid at the 5 level.


  2. If there seem to be an inordinate number of points around the table, watch out for some big distributional hands.


  3. To double your opponents when they are showing distributional hands, you need to have some trump tricks.

Compliments of Pam LaShelle
Compliments of Louis Sachar

Board 16, Wednesday afternoon, 1/28/2014.

The aucti\ion was (starting with North): 

p - p -1c - 2c

2s - 3c - 3s - p

p - 3nt - p - p 



This hand is  about the bidding. Notice South's 2c bid. Shouldn't that be Michaels, promising both majors?

That is how most people play it, but I now have the agreement with a number of partners that it is natural. We see the value of that bid here.  Partner's subsequent 3nt bid may also seem a bit strange, but he knows I have a good hand to make a 2-level overcall, and he can figure I either have a good six card club suit, or five with a decent opening hand. Even if 3nt goes down, he assumed it would probably be a good sacrifice against three spades. In addition, he knows that I know he's a passed hand, and I can always pull it to 4c.


A more troubling bid was West's 2s. That should show a five card suit and at least 10 points. Occasionally it can be done with 9 and a very good suit. The correct bid should be double. If partner bids 2h, she can now bid 2s to show a five-card spade suit and a hand not good enough to bid 2s the first time. This is an important concept. It should not be confused with making a take-out double, and then bidding a new suit, which shows a hand that's  too good to bid that suit the first time.


Notice the trouble the 2s bid caused. Partner naturally raised to 3s, which would have gone down two, vulnerable. Even worse,  it drove the opponents to a cold 3nt contract. 


True, 3s could have worked out It could have forced the opponents to an unmakeable contract, but it is best to have your bids mean what they're supposed to mean. If you bid two spades with this hand, and also bid it with a good hand, in the future how is partner supposed to know what to do?


Getting back to South's 2c bid. If you play that as natural, does that mean you can no longer play Michaels?

No. We play that 2d is Michaels over both 1c and 1d openers. It's a good bid, just so long as you don't forget it!


Lesson Points:


1. When the opponent opens 1c, consider playing that a 2c overcall is natural. You have to discuss this with your partner, and it is one of the only bids that has to be alerted as "natural."

     If you do decide to play this, and if the opponents open 1c, you now have to bid 2d to show the Michaels hand. (Don't forget and bid 2d with a six-card diamond suit!) The 2d bid is also alertable over 1c but not over 1d.


2. When partner opens, and the opponents interfere so that you are unable to bid your five-card suit at the one level, you need ten points to bid it at the two level. Otherwise you should make a negative double. Later, if you decide to bid your suit, it does not show extra. It shows exactly this hand, at least a five card suit, but less than ten points.


Compliments of Louis Sachar
Compliments of Jack Lacy

Board 2, Wednesday Morning, January 22, 2014

Suggested bidding: P (E) – 1S (S) – 2H (W) – 3D (N) – P – 4C – P – 4N – P – 5H – P – 6D – all pass.  Opening lead: ten of Hearts. 

At our table, the matchpoint greedy North bid 6N which can be made with careful play after a heart lead (but is always down several with a club lead).  However, I think it is better with the North hand to bid 6D since it is likely that any slam bid and made with these cards will be a good board.   As it turns out, the board was played 21 times at the BCA and no slam was bid in either section except for our North who misplayed 6N and went down 4.  Across the Common Game players, out of 815 pairs holding these cards only 51 pairs bid and made a slam (34 - 6D, 17 - 6NT).  The point is that if you do not expect that many pairs will bid a slam, bidding the safest one is the best strategy. 


First, let’s examine the bidding to get to 6D. The first round is pretty routine with North showing diamonds and South showing her two good black suits.  Of course, South could not bid 3N and North knew that from her heart holding. After South bids 4C, it seems like North has a better hand than her 13 HCP would suggest since she has a very decent seven card diamond suit and 3 likely Heart tricks. Secondly, having bypassed 3NT, playing 6D at matchpoints is probably better than 5D since with North’s holding, 3N should be relatively easy.  So North bids 4N which is probably RKC for clubs. Very few partnerships have tight enough agreements for it to be anything but RKC. South shows 2 keycards without the Queen of clubs and North bids the diamond slam hoping that South has at least 1 diamond. When dummy hits, North is delighted with South’s stiff Jack of diamonds. On a heart lead, the play is relatively simple. Win the heart lead, cross to dummy in clubs and play the Jack of diamonds. West will not cover so the Jack of diamonds will hold. Now club ruff back to hand to cash Ace of diamonds and claim giving up the King of diamonds. Why did North go to the trouble of crossing to dummy and taking the Diamond finesse?  Two reasons: first, the King rates to be in the West hand for his bid and it might be doubleton. Second, if there is a heart ruff possible, declarer does not want West winning the first or second diamond trick and giving East a ruff. 


Now let’s see how 6NT might be played or misplayed. North wins the Heart lead and crosses to dummy in Spades to take the Diamond finesse.  Now a second Heart finesse and play the Ace of Diamonds and give up a Diamond to West’s King. Oops, how is North going get in to cash her diamonds?  If West woodenly returns a third Heart, North will win and claim the contract with 6 diamonds, 3 hearts, 3 spades, and 1 club for 13 tricks except she has lost a Diamond trick. What should West return? He is out of Spades and Diamonds and we just decided he shouldn’t return a Heart so it must be a Club.  But which Club? If partner has the Queen then it makes no difference but if North has the stiff Queen, then it is essential to return the King of Clubs (of course, we have all been counting so that we all know that North is 2371 or 1372 and if the latter includes the Queen of Clubs, the contract is cold). Returning the Club King makes West a hero and the greedy 6NT contract goes down 4. 


Based on that, we see that the correct line of play in 6NT is to play A of Diamonds and Q of Diamonds hoping that the Diamonds are 3-2. Since they are, the contract is made. If the Diamonds are 4-1, based on the above analysis, the only way we are making 6NT is if the Diamond King or 9 is stiff.  What about leading a Diamond to the Jack eschewing the finesse altogether. A wise West will duck the Jack and the contract will go down 4 as above.    


Given the shaky nature of 6NT as a contract, I hope you can see that if you are going to bid a slam with these cards, it should be 6D. And based on the number of slams bid across the Common Game players, bidding and making 6D was a 96% board. Not too bad. 


  1. Even at matchpoints, bidding a minor suit slam instead of NT is correct if you expect that few players with your cards will bid a slam. 
  2. If you decide to play NT with this kind of distributional hand, be very careful of your entries. Note that even if you are in only 3NT, if you play the hand like the greedy matchpoint declarer did in 6NT, you will go down (only one in 3NT but down nevertheless). 
  3. On defense, count the hand. It is usually easier to count declarer’s hand when it is distributional because when you determine that declarer has a 7 card suit, there are only 6 cards left to count in declarer’s hand. 
  4. Maybe North should have just bid 3N over West’s 2H bid. A bit scary with a stiff Club but partner rates to have Club cards for her opening bid.  The reason at matchpoints for bidding 3N is that it scores so much more than Diamonds and if the Diamond slam goes down, 3N is the superior place to play the hand. At IMPs, one can explore slam and settle for 5D if it doesn’t work out but playing a game in a minor at matchpoints is often a losing proposition.   
Compliments of Jack Lacy
Compliments of RosemaryKelley

Thursday, Jan. 16, Bd. # 19


Suggested Auction:


N         E         S          W

                       1D         P

1S        2H       3D         P

3N       All  Pass


Bidding Commentary:


Pretty straightforward.  North knows that South cannot have 3 Spades or he would have made a support double.  South could bid 3Hearts, instead of 3D, but that bid is ambiguous at this point and might be taken for better Spade support.  A rebid of the Diamonds here, in the “free” position, shows a reasonable hand and a good suit. So North chooses 3 NT, with the double Heart stop and good Diamond  support.  She expects the Diamond suit to be a good source of tricks, always a needed commodity in a 3 No Trump contract.


Play and Defense:


East cannot expect much from the West hand, but has entries to the Heart suit so chooses to give declarer 2 tricks but hopefully gain 3 Hearts, a Spade and a Club in the process.  Hence the 7 of Hearts lead.    When West produces the 10, the lead looks even better.


Now North can see an awful lot of tricks:  6 Diamonds, 4 Spades,  and 2 Hearts.  That would be 12 but she must give up the Spade King (probably to East) and then the Club Ace could be cashed, leaving only 11 tricks.  It’s a Race!!


After winning the Heart Queen at trick one, North should now lead a small Spade to the Jack.  East should duck the first in order to get a count on the hand.  Now the Queen of Spades is led and when East wins the King, it is time to stop and COUNT!!!  Believe it or not, West has played an important role in the defense of this hand.  His only job is to give East count any time declarer leads.  After two spade tricks have been played, East should know that  West started with exactly 3 Spades. 


               1.  Playing standard count, West should have played the 2 and then the 7 of Spades.


               2.  Playing upside down, West should have played the 7 and then the 2 (or 3, depending on the partnership’s agreement for present count.)


So now East knows that there are 6 running Diamonds in the dummy and North started with 5 Spades so will take 4 Spade tricks if she has any entries.  With the 2 Heart tricks she has coming that makes 12.   Setting up the Heart suit is fruitless at this point.  IT IS TIME TO CASH THE ACE OF CLUBS AND HOLD DECLARER TO 11 TRICKS!!!  This is especially important at Matchpoints. 


When this hand was played at the BCA, in the Open Game on Thursday, all SEVEN Declarers were allowed to take 12 tricks, with East  ‘‘going to bed” with her Ace of Clubs!


Lessons from this hand:


1.   Rebidding your opening suit at the 3 level, without knowing whether partner has any more than a 6 count or support for that minor, shows a full opener and a pretty good suit.  Partner needs to stretch to 3 NT with any reasonable 10 count , stoppers and a couple of the opener’s suit.


2.  When Declarer has a running suit, but attacks another suit first, beware of letting them make too many tricks.  Always ask,  “Why isn’t Declarer working on the good suit in dummy?”  It is usually because that suit is ready to run and the Declarer is searching for other tricks.  Sometimes just to make the contract and sometimes to make some over tricks when the contract is already secure.


3.  Even if you have no points in your hand, remember to give count whenever declarer leads a suit, as partner, having all of your side‘s assets will have trouble defending without an accurate count on the hand.


4.  Best Defensive Maxim ever: 


                              When partner leads, and they or the dummy is already winning the trick, give   ATTITUDE!!!


                              When declarer leads, and your play will be trivial, give   COUNT!!!

Compliments of RosemaryKelley
Compliments of Paul Tobias

Hand # 25, Wednesday Evening, 1/8/2014


The auction shown is one of the ways a pair might reach the conract of 6NT. North has a powerful 18 points, all aces and kings with 2 4 card majors. He opens 1C and jumps to 2NT after partner responds 1D. Now it is up to South to either sign-off in 3NT or make a slam try. South is on the borderline with 12 points opposite partner's typically 18 or 19 points and most South's elected to9 be conservative and bid 3NT. But, the South shown here decided her strong 5-card diamond suit was worth a slam try and bid 4NT. This bid, after any level non-conventional NT bid by partner, is a quantitative slam try telling partner to go on to slam if he likes his hand and to pass otherwise. If partner accepts the slam try he can show aces on the way if there is a possibility of being off 2 of them. North, even with the minimum point count of 18, likes his abundance of aces and kings and two 4 card suits and quality spot cards (10's and 9's). So North bids 6NT.


How does 6NT make? First assume East leads anything but a club. Declarer counts 11 top tricks and can make a 12th trick if spades are friendly (3 - 3 or West holding both the Q and the J or a doubleton Q or J). Before running the diamonds and forcing either heart of spade discards from his hand, declarer leads to the Spade K and back to his hand, intending to put in the 10. Whether West splits honors or not, an extra spade trick will be established.


But what if East leads the club 6? Now declarer cannot afford to lose a spade to establish another spade trick! Declarer should duck the QC and win the continuation of the K, noting the 2 from East. Most likely East has led from a 5 card holding and West is out of clubs. Declarer cashes 5 diamonds, pitching 2 spades and a club from his hand. East pitches 2 clubs and West pitches 2 spades. Hoping dummies spade 9 is now going to be a winner, declarer plays the AS and leads to dummy's K9 of spades. Here is the card layout at that point, (with declarer on the bottom):







-                                                                                                          QJ

J752                                                                                                  10 6 4

-                                                                                                          -

J                                                                                                         -    







When the 10 of spades is led, East has no safe discard - pitching the JC sets up dummy's 7C and pitching a heart gives declarer 4 heart tricks. Either way East discards, 6NT makes on the squeeze and the North/South pair earn a top score for agressive bidding and good play!  




Compliments of Paul Tobias
Compliments of Pam LaShelle

Saturday Morning, 1/4/2014, Hand # 26 (Winter Sectional Tournament)



Dlr: East
Vul: All
No 26


The auction, started by East, was Pass - 1D - Pass - 1H - Pass - 3H - pass - 4C - pass - 4D - Pass - 4H - Pass - 6H. 


It's tournament time and you are putting on your best game! East deals and passes. South opens 1 Diamond and West passes and partner bids 1 Heart. Oh, it doesn't get much better than this! Now you have several choices to show partner you have such a nice hand for him in Hearts. A direct jump to game is a possibility, and so is a splinter, however it is not a great idea to splinter in a suit where you have an Ace (there are exceptions to this and it is not a strict no-no). Another possibility is 3 Hearts to show a game-inviting strong hand. Your hand is really better than this, however you decide to do this instead of jumping to game, to allow room for partner to make other bids.  Partner bids 4 Clubs and now your hand looks even better! You show your Diamond Ace by bidding 4 Diamonds and partner bids 4 Hearts. You have heard enough and go to 6 Hearts! 


The play was a Club out  and taking the Ace on dummy (preserving the King for a later entry if needed). Now the A of Trumps (noting the Ten by RHO). The Diamonds must be solved and I could afford to lose one, so I led one off dummy and put in the Queen and it won! Now a Diamond was ruffed in dummy and trump pulled and when Diamonds split the hand made 7.


When you are in a very good contract, don't risk it by trying dangerous things like trying to ruff another Diamond in dummy. You know the suit will come in(even if you have to lose 1) and you have control of every suit unless you try to get back and forth several times.


This hand was worth 23.5 matchpoints out of 25 in an Open Pairs game! Six pairs were in 6 Hearts and four  made 7, one went down 2, one made 6 and one pair was in 7 Hearts down 1.




           1) When you have a really great hand, leave bidding room by making another bid (hopefully a forcing one) first to see if partner has any key cards he can cue bid.


           2) If you are in a great contract , don't make risky plays for over tricks.


           3) Try for slams and don't just settle for games all the time.


            4) Think of your entries starting at the first trick.

Compliments of Pam LaShelle
Compliments of Jack Lacy

Board 7, Tuesday, December 17th


\With the opponents silent, suggested bidding is 2C – 2D – 3S – 4C – 4D – 4H – 5H – 6C - 7S. 


This HOTW is about bidding because the play at 7S or 7N is routine as long as the spades are 2-1. The suggested bidding is with the opponents silent.  After that discussion, we will talk about how the bidding might go if the opponents are not silent. 


2C is a normal strong artificial forcing bid and 2D shows at least a king.  Now the bidding gets interesting.  3S shows a solid suit, states that spades are trumps, and asks for partner to cue bid an ace if she has one.  Note that the spade suit is not solid but with 9 in the suit, it is as good as solid and should be treated as such.  After S bids 3S, N cues 4C (good news to S), S cues 4D, N cues 4H. 


And now what?  S has decided to bid a small slam and still wants to explore for a grand slam.  But how?  If S bids 4S, the bidding might end or, at least, she won’t get any help from N since N might leap to 6S or 6N and then what should S bid?  I recommend bidding 5H trying to elicit more information from N.  N should then bid 6C and now S can count 13 tricks (9 spades, 1 heart, 1 diamond, and 2 clubs).   Congratulations, you have bid a 78% grand slam with only 26 HCP between the two hands. 


What about that 2C opening bid with only 15 HCP?  Although S has only 15 HCP, she essentially has 10 ½ tricks in her own hand (even opposite a spade void) so it is easily a hand worth starting with 2C.  After partner responds with 2D showing at least a king, S should be thinking a small slam and maybe even a grand slam.  But she has a problem in clubs as partner could have 16 HCP (AKOJ hearts, KJ diamonds, Q clubs) and they still would be off the first two club tricks.  The problem of possibly being off the first two club tricks is solved when partner cues the ace of clubs.


Now what if the opponents are not silent.  I certainly would preempt with the East hand (in reality, I did when I held this hand as East).  3H seems very reasonable to me.  That mucks up the bidding described above.  The bidding would start 2C as before and 2D as before but now East bids 3H.  


What now?  A jump to 4S doesn’t mean the same thing as a jump to 3S with no interference.  I think S will bid 3S.  Now what should N do?  As soon as partner opens 2C and N holds A, AK she should be thinking a minimum of a small slam and the possibility of a grand slam.  Yes, it is only 11 HCP but it is 3 tricks opposite a minimum 9 trick hand.  9 + 3 = 12 so a small slam is easily on the horizon and the only questions should be how to explore for a grand slam and in what strain.   It isn’t as easy with the interference since the strain might still be in question whereas with S’s jump in the first auction, the strain is settled (spades).  However, when partner opens 2C and is willing to freely bid 3S over the 3H preempt, she probably has very decent spades but we should also consider NT as a possible strain since we have hearts well stopped.


I know that I would bid 4C with N’s hand and see what happens.   S should be delighted with the 4C bid and should encourage more information gathering by bidding 4D.  Now N can bid 4H and S can bid 5H encouraging a grand. 


What should N bid now?  He has shown his two aces and partner still wants to bid a grand slam?  The king of clubs should be the 13th trick so S should bid 7.  It takes real confidence in partner to bid 7S but 7N is very reasonable since if partner doesn’t have enough tricks in spades, maybe the other cards that make up her strong 2 bid will fit nicely with N’s hand to take 13 tricks.  Note that the bidding with the interference is way more difficult than when East was silent.  As I tell my students, that is why we preempt. 


I did some research using the Common Game website.  At the time I looked, this hand was played 622 times across the various Common Game sites in the US.  Out of those 622 times, only 34 grand slams were bid and 221 small slams were bid.  That means that 367 times no slam was bid - way over half of the times!  I find this result astounding but I think I know what the problem is. The S hand has only 15 HCP which, for (too) many of our players, is all they think about.  Let me emphasize again, this hand is not a point count hand.  The S hand has 10 ½ tricks in its own hand even opposite a void.   My regular students are no doubt getting tired of me making this point over and over, but it is very important.  Point count is good with balanced hands but terrible with highly distributional hands.  If you come up to me and say something like “but I only have 15 HCP”, I will talk with you but only because I want to help you to learn.  I will tell you to stop talking to me about your HCP and talk to me about your losers or tricks. 



  1. Holding a highly distributional hand, count your tricks or your losers and bid using that analysis.  In this hand, you have a 2 ½ losers (2 in clubs and ½ in diamonds).  It is worth a strong two because you have a real possibility of game opposite a Yarborough. 


  1. After opening a strong two and a positive response by partner, a jump in a Major at the three level sets that suit as trumps and asks partner for a cue bid.  This tool lets the opening bidder evaluate slam chances immediately.


  1. Use cue bidding when you have a problem with a particular suit rather than HCP or controls. 


  1. As responder, when partner opens a strong 2C and you hold A, AK, you should insist on a small slam and do what you can to explore a grand slam.  You have 3 tricks and a strong 2 in a Major shows 9+ tricks.  9 + 3 = 12 J.


  1. Point count is good help with balanced hands but it is of little use with highly distributional hands.  What is more important with distributional hands is having aces and kings and where those cards are placed. 


  1. If you have a hand that is a preempt, you should do it even in the face of a strong two bid.  People just bid too well when they have no interference. 



Compliments of Jack Lacy
Compliments of Rosemary Kelley

Wednesday Morning,  Dec. 11th, Board 2


This hand has a lot of important points to be made in the bidding.  Grand Slams, or Small Slams for that matter, don't come along that often, but when they do it sure is nice to have the tools to bid them accurately.  Below the suggested Auction you will find an explanation of each bid, with some comments about what was NOT bid, also.  Don's panic, it really is not as intricate as it seems!!


Suggested Auction:

      E            S           W          N

    Pass       2C        Pass      2D

    Pass       2N        Pass      3S 

    Pass       3N        Pass      4D 

    Pass       4S        Pass      5H 

    Pass       6C        Pass      7N

    All Pass                 


2C      South should choose to open this hand with 2Clubs and not 2 Notrump, as the good five-card suit makes it better than a 2N opening.


2D     North shows a game going hand, with at least 2 Queens(some play a minimum of a King, which also works here.)  Playing this system, a bid of 3 Diamonds would show a 6-card or longer suit with 2 of the top 3 honors.  North should not choose this bid, even though the hand qualifies, as it takes up too much room.  This bid would best be used when that is all that the hand holds.


2N     South shows 22+ balanced points here.  Remember the fifth Club in a GOOD suit counts as a point.


3S     This is the start of a convention that everyone should have in their bag of goodies.  It is a RELAY to 3N.  If North now passes, that is all they wish to play.  But with a good minor suit hand, North will bid on and show her hand.  There are many forms to play after the 3N has been bid but the simplest form, and the part that is necessary here, is to have Key Card asking bids for each minor.  Paul and I keep it simple:  4 Clubs is Key Card for Clubs and 4 Diamonds is Key Card for Diamonds.  I play other forms with other partners, so if you already have a convention, just use your own. 


3N      As requested


4D      Key Card for Diamonds.  Partner will now respond using the 4 steps of your Key Card responses.  We use Roman, or 3014, so the responses to 4D, going up the line are:

                        4H     (0 or) 3 Keys with Diamonds as the Key suit. (Step 1)

                        4S      (1 or) 4 Keys... (Step 2)

                        5C     2 Key Cards without the Queen  (Step 3)

                        5D     2 Key Cards with the Queen  (Step 4)    

Note that 4N is not part of the responses, as the 2N bidder should use this with fewer than 2 Key Cards.  This is why the 0 and 1 are in parentheses;  they are not going to be what the responder has.


4S      As noted above, this shows 4 Key cards in Diamonds


5H      As in all Key Card auctions, the next non-NT and non-agreed-suit call by the asker will be asking for the Queen of Trumps, (in this case Diamonds.)  Asker should skip this bid (5C in this auction) if they hold the Queen or have enough in the suit that it will not matter.  So then moving up one more bid, skipping NT and the suit again, 5H here asks for specific Kings.  Responder will bid their Kings, up the line, or return to the trump suit at the cheapest level to deny any outside Kings. 


6C      Shows the King of Clubs, as noted above.  In this auction, this denies the Spade King, as that would come first, going up-the-line


7D     The absence of the King of Spades is actually a GOOD thing on this hand.  South has more room  for the Jack of Diamonds in case it is necessary.  Or a Club or Spade suit to take tricks in, if the Diamonds do not run.


It is advisable to be able to count 13 tricks whenever you bid a Grand Slam.  North can count 6 Diamond tricks, 3 Spades, 3 Clubs and 1 Heart.  Even if South has only 2 Diamonds, only a 3/2 break would be needed, or the two Diamonds North holds could be the AJ(see the Heart suit!)  So North has a pretty good idea that the Diamonds will come home.


Why did North not bid 7D?  Conventional wisdom says that when you bid a Grand, bid the SAFEST one!  That is exactly what North did!!  Not only is a possible first trick ruff avoided, but, as mentioned above, there may be another suit or suits to run if the Diamonds don't work out.



Just one note about the play:   If West should have 4 Diamonds to the Jack, South can finesse and pick up the suit.  The only thing that can foil this bid is all four outstanding Diamonds in the East hand.  That would really be bad luck, after such a nice auction!





1.Don't show the good suit with 2 of the top three honors in response to a 2 Club opener, if it is a minor and there is more in your hand than those honors.  It takes up too much bidding room. 


2.When you use any Asking bids in trying for a slam, it is usually best to use the same “steps” you use over 4NT;  just start with whatever the next bid is over the “ask” and go up the line from there. 


3.When asking in a minor, 4N should be skipped by the asker but not by the responder, EXCEPT IN THIS PARTICULAR CONVENTION,  as the 2NT bidder might have too many “soft” values and needs a way to get out in 4N, showing no interest in the minor suit slam.  If they make a response that could be 1 or 4, partner is likely to assume 4 from a 2 NT bidder and disaster could strike.  Not likely, but why take the chance!


4.Make sure you know where all 13 tricks are coming from when you bid a Grand Slam! 


Compliments of Rosemary Kelley
Compliments of Pam LaShelle

Hand Played at a Home Team Game 12/6/2013


Sixteen BCA players choose to celebrate  birthday with a home team of 4 game. This hand came from that game.


For those that think all the weird distributional hands are from the computer, this was a hand dealt right at the table!   Evaluating and bidding your hand is sometimes easy and sometimes very difficult. When you are Vulnerable (all were in this case), it is always wise to take a little extra care!


After South dealt and opened 1 Spade, it was hard to say how valuable my West hand would end up being. It is certainly too big to just bid 2 Hearts, so a double is inevitable and necessary. You can guess the bid by partner was some number of Clubs and thank goodness partner is a calm bidder and just went to 3 Clubs. Now is decision time. I could show the Heart suit, but what if partner thought I was minimum? I needed to show I had a very powerful hand with slam possibilities, IF we could find a fit. So I cue bid 3 Spades and partner of course came back with 4 Clubs.


Now, I took a deep breath and tried 4 Hearts (my suit looked pretty puny at this point!). I have totally shown my big hand, a dislike of Clubs and that I have Hearts. How lucky for me that partner had the JT to beef up my suit and make this our GOLDEN spot and that she PASSED! The play was somewhat predictable with a Spade out to the Ace. Defender switched to the Ace and another trump to the Jack on dummy. Now two Spade pitches on the Club Ace and King, back with a Diamond to my hand and pulling  trump. So I lost the Ace of Spades and the Ace of Hearts to score up making 5! 


This was an exhilarating hand and both my partner and I said how much we liked the bidding of the other.



    1) Each hand is a puzzle to be put together by sorting the pieces (suits) and fitting them in as you can. 


    2) Take your time and try to decide if you need to force another bid from partner.


    3) Utilize the CUE bid to help you when nothing else works.


    4) When partner shows they have a good suit and you have just a doubleton, but they are TWO HONORS, - that is great support!



Compliments of Pam LaShelle
Compliments of Jack Lacy

Hand 4, November 19, 2013  

The bidding was 1H – P – 1N – P – 3H – P – 4H all pass.  Oppening Lead = Queen of diamonds.

This hand of the week is mostly about never giving up even when things look pretty bleak.  First, a note on the bidding.  West opens 1H and partner bids 1N.  Now West bids 3H.  It is an easy 3H bid even though you have only 16 HCP because you have a good 6 card suit and all of your outside cards are aces and kings.  And after a 3H bid, East has an easy 4H bid with 8 HCP including the king of hearts and a side 5 card suit.  This hand was played 15 times across the two sections and 7 of those pairs did not get to the heart game.   6 of the 7 pairs played in 3H which tells me that East thought she didn’t have  enough to bid 4H for some reason.  One played in only 2H which tells me that one West thought her hand not good enough to bid 3H for some reason. 

The opening lead is the Queen of diamonds.  Before you play to the first trick, always make a plan.  You have 2 diamond losers since North is unlikely to be under leading the ace, two possible spade losers if the ace is in North’s hand, and a possible heart loser if the hearts don’t break 3-2.  That is 5 possible losers, way too many.  On the other hand, if hearts are 3-2 (or the J is singleton) and the clubs are 3-2, you have at most three losers, two diamonds and one spade since if they don’t cash their spade ace, you will pitch your spades on the clubs.  Very good chances to make 4H and maybe even 5H.  But there is a trap at trick one.  If you cover the Queen of diamonds with the King because you think it doesn’t make any difference, South will win the ace and now can lead spades through your king.  Play low on the first two diamonds so that South cannot get the lead to lead through your king of spades.

Ruff the third diamond, draw trumps (they are 3-2) pitching a spade from dummy while North signals that she has the ace of spades.  You are not worried because you plan to pitch your spades on the clubs.  You cash the AK of clubs and are about to claim when South pitches on the second club.  Oops, the plan to run the clubs will not work.  

Now what?  One possibility is to cross to the Queen of clubs and lead toward the King of spades hoping that South has the Ace of spades.  But North signaled that she has the spade Ace.  Do we believe her and if we do, what can be done about it?

I recommend believing North since early defensive signals are usually correct for fear of misleading partner.  However, rather than give up, cash another heart pitching a club from dummy.  Now North is down to the A4 of spades and the JT of clubs.  Dummy is down to the T9 of spades and the Q6 of clubs.  Now lead the last heart.  If North pitches a club, your last club in dummy is good.  If North pitches her last little spade, pitch the last little club in dummy and lead a low spade away from your king.  North is down to the stiff ace of spades and has to play it.  North must lead a club and you win the last two tricks with the Queen of clubs and the King of spades.  A very pretty but reasonably rare kind of squeeze. 

As an aside, notice that as the cards lie, with perfect defense, the contract cannot be made.  After the Queen of diamonds wins, North leads the Jack (or Ten) of diamonds and declarer ducks the second diamond, South overtakes the second diamond making the King good!  Now South can switch to the Queen of spades and the defense will get two spades to go with their two diamonds.    What a pretty defense but very difficult because it is so unnatural.   


1.     Point count is only a guideline.  West’s hand is worth quite a bit more than the 16 HCP she holds because of the 6th heart, the Queen of hearts is inside his heart suit, and his outside cards are all Aces and Kings.  Every pair with this pair of hands should get to 4H.
2.     Always make a plan before playing to trick one.  Many contracts are lost because declarer calls for a card from dummy before making a plan.  On this hand, it looks like it is no problem to play the king of diamonds just in case North is under leading the ace.  But, on this hand, the best play to make the contract (and the overtrick) is to duck the first two diamonds.
3.     If your plan runs awry because of some problem (like the clubs not breaking 3-2 on this hand), take into account all the information you have before proceeding.  On this hand, it appears that North has the ace of spades (defenders usually signal truthfully because if they don’t they might very well mislead their partner) so leading toward the King of spades is not likely to work. 
4.     Once you decide a plan will not work, don’t give up. Even if you don’t see this squeeze exactly, it cannot hurt to lead your last two trumps watching carefully North’s discards.  If the cards lie as you think they are, North cannot discard a club so must come down to the stiff Ace of Spades.  What fun.
5.     Defense is difficult.  Even though this contract is beatable, it really isn’t because in order to beat this contract you must unnecessarily set up a trick in dummy.  Aces are made to take kings or so our mothers have told us.

Compliments of Jack Lacy
Compliments of Louis Sachar

Sunday, November 17th, Board one.


After the opening lead, before you play a card from dummy, it is important to take your time and  plan ahead, and to try to visualize how the entire hand may play out. Some hands are harder than other, with lots of contingencies to consider. This one was  pretty straight forward, yet only one declarer took all the tricks to which he was entitled.


Against West's 3NT contract, North made the normal lead of a club, and West instantly saw ten top tricks; four clubs and six diamonds. The declarers who didn't plan ahead simply won the queen of clubs, came to their hands with a diamond, cashed their remaining good clubs, and then the rest of the diamonds. Making four. North took the last three tricks-- two aces and a good club.


When I can see ten tricks off the top, I'm never happy if that's all I end up with. Not at matchpointsEspecially not, when I've got two outside kings and a queen.


So what should the declarer have done? 


If he stopped to plan ahead, he would have realized he could  set up a spade trick. And if he thought about it, he would realize the time to do it was at trick two, before he set up a defender's possible fifth club, and before they had time to signal to each other. After all, the last thing he wants is for South to rise with the ace of spades (if he has it), and shift to the queen of hearts.


He should also take the time to consider tthe danger of leading a spade off the board. If North has the ace of spades, eleven tricks are safe. A heart shift won't hurt him. But what if South has it? South could hop up with the ace, as mentioned, shift to a heart, and, depending on the heart position, he could be going down in a cold contract.


But how likely is that? 


First, South would have to hold the ace of spades.  Second, he would have to play it. (More likely, he would play second hand low.) Third, the ace of hearts would have to be with North. And fourth, South would have to know to shift to a heart, and not return a club, his partner's suit. (If he rises  with the ace and returns a club, Declarer now has twelve tricks.)


At IMPS it wouldn't be worth even this small risk. But this is matchpoints. You are in a normal contract and the risk is small. In fact, at matchpoints, it is a greater risk to not go for the overtrick!


The declarers who simply took their tricks, either because they didn't plan ahead, or because they didn't want to "risk" the contract, all got below average results.


The  time to plan ahead is at trick one, before you play a card from dummy.  I've seen people, as they put down a dummy, immediately play a singleton in the suit led.  Not only is that poor ettiquette, it sends the wrong message to partner. Encourage your partner to stop and form a plan. Wait for her to call for a card, even when that card is a singleton.

(I have one partner who, as declarer, routinely calls for a card in the suit led, even before I finish putting down the rest of the dummy. I now make sure I put down that suit last.)


In addition to all the obvious benefits from planning ahead, there is one not so obvious. When you stop to think in the middle of a hand, your opponents are also thinking. They're trying to figure out why you stopped when you did, and what your problem may be. Make it hard for them. Do your thinking early, and then try to play the hand with an even tempo.




Lesson Points:


1Try to get in the habit of visualizing how the entire hand may play out, before playing a card from dummy, even if you already know what card that will be.


2. At matchpoints, it is sometimes "riskier" not to risk the contract.

Compliments of Louis Sachar
Compliments of Paul Tobias

Hand # 3, MondayEvening, 11/10/2013


Over half the field reached slam on this board (one was in 6S instead of hearts), showing that most of the field holding West's cards appreciated their 4 loser count hand once partner opened 1H (assuring that they had at least one good trump suit to play in). What does it mean to have a 4 loser count (1 in spades, 1 in hearts, 1 in diamonds and 1 in clubs)? It immediately signals that, baring missing 2 aces or unusually bad suit splits, there is a strong likelihood that slam will make opposite a normal opening hand.


West begins by bidding 1S and sees partner put the 2D card on the table. Now West must make a forcing bid to start exploring for slam. West can bid 3C, 4th suit game forcing and artificial, if the partnership has that useful agreement. Otherwise, West must bravely bid 4NT, intending to bid 6H if partner shows at least 1 ace. If the partnership is playing 4th suit game forcing, West bids 3C and next sees a 3D bid from partner. Now West can bid 3H, establishing hearts as the trump suit. East bids game in Hearts and West bids 4NT. If East had 2 aces and the QH, she would respond 5S (playing Roman Keycard Blackwood) and West could confidently bid a Grand Slam. As it is, however, East shows 1 ace and West bids 6H.


Note that the main advantage of playing 4th suit artificial and game forcing in this hand is that it allowed West to show heart support with the 3H bid, setting the trump suit while keeping the bid forcing. 


How about the play in 6H after, say, a club lead. East wins the club in hand with the king and must be carefull not to immediately pull trump. Look what could happen if East plays 3 rounds of trump and then leads the JS - North can duck and East will never be able to set up the spade suit. So this is an example of waiting to play trump until you are sure you can set up your outside winners. If North ducks the JS at trick 2, you play 3 rounds of trumps, ending in dummy, and then lead the KS. You still have the AC as a dummy entry and North will pay for ducking the first time by losing his spade trick! 




1. Loser count is a useful tool that can alert you to explore for slam and check for controls.


2. 4th suit artificial and forcing to game (must be alerted!)can come in handy when no other forcing bids below game are available.


3. Often as declarer you have to ignore the rule beginners learn about immediately pulling trump. You may have to do this because of entry limitations (as in this hand) or to preserve trumps in dummy to ruff losers. 

Compliments of Paul Tobias
Compliments of Rosemary Kelley

Wednesday Evening, Nov. 6th, Board 22


         This board is a great illustration of a concept that I have taught for many years.  Of the 8 times this hand was played on Wednesday evening, 4 Easts played 3 Hearts, probably having opened the  bidding there and left to play in it.  Another table showed South playing 4 Diamonds, probably after East opened 3 Hearts and North doubling in the passout, South contributing the 4 Diamond bid. 


         The 5 Easts who played in Hearts (one played in 2 Hearts) were not able to come close to nine tricks, most taking only 7 and one taking only 6.  As E/W is vulnerable, that translated to -200 and -300 on the hand.  West's hand is not much less than can be expected; with a Heart honor and an Ace, you would think that East would have some play for this contract or, if not, would not go for more than the N/S pair could make.  So what went wrong?


         East's hand has at least two flaws in it that should indicate there should be no preempting it. 


1.  Using the rule of 500, East promises 7 tricks with a 3 level preempt, vulnerable, particularly in first or second chair.  Remember the rule of 500 is this:  If I preempt, partner, and you have no tricks for me and the opponents double, I will go down exactly 500.  Again, vulnerable, that means 7 tricks in hand if you open a 3-level preempt.  Not there in this East hand.


             Now I know that this rule is limiting and most players today tend to ignore it, at least slightly, as preempts have gotten more and more aggressive.  So many would still open 3 Hearts, if that was the only problem with the hand.  But with the second flaw, most top players would think again and not step into the foray with a preempt with this hand.  What is the second flaw?


2.  A preemptive hand should never have more than one defensive trick outside their suit!!!  Note the Ace of Clubs and the King of Spades are two such defensive tricks.  They will prevent N/S from making 3 NT.  If one of those cards was in a N/S hand, three NT would have a play for them.


              Please note that the Deep Finesse says N/S can make 3 NT, but this is only if declarer plays East specifically for the Ax of Clubs and doing this before cashing the Diamonds.  Most players have a hard time with this play and it is still less than a 50% game, as the A of Clubs could be in either hand and does not have to be doubleton. Even without the preempt, N/S will have a hard time getting to 3 NT with only 24 HCP between them.   


               So, here are two points from this hand:



  1. In 1st or 2nd chair, the rule of  500 is still a very good guideline to follow with preempts, particularly vulnerable.


  1. NEVER preempt with 2 defensive tricks outside your suit.  Besides distorting your trick taking ability on offense, this distorts your defensive capabilities and puts partner on such a guess when they actually have some values.  Your partner will not know whether to bid on, pass or double, if the bidding becomes competitive.
Compliments of Rosemary Kelley
Compliments of Louis Sachar

Board 12, Thursday, October 31


Only on Halloween would such a hand occur. The bidding, shown above, is how it went at one table, but I doubt it went the same way elsewhere. Can you open 2C with just eleven high card points? The director was asked that question after the hand was over. One thing you can't do. You are not allowed to psych a 2C opener.


After much deliberation, including looking on the Internet at various hands that were allowed and disallowed in tournaments, the director ruled that the bid was legal. After all, opener did have nine and a half tricks in her own hand and 2 aces. But it was a close decision. Had the diamonds been an 9 or 10 card suit to the KQJ, it would not have qualified as a 2C opener.

I would never open 2C on that hand. For one thing, it will mislead partner. If partner doubles four or five hearts, would you know whether to pull it or leave it in?  After all, partner is surely expecting you to have more than one defensive trick for your strong opener. What if partner bids 3NT? Is that a safe contract? You're better off, in the long run, describing your hand accurately, so that partner can make intelligent decisions. 


So how should you bid the hand? For one thing, you can safely open one diamond. It will not be passed out. There are twenty-nine points outstanding, and everyone has diamond shortness. Somebody will bid something! There are various scenarios as to what could happen next, but most of the time, you will be able to cue-bid and then jump in diamonds. Hopefully, partner will get the message.


Opening two clubs obviously worked at this table. North was clearly intimidated by it. How else can you explain North's failure to bid five hearts? Partner had just bid four hearts, vulnerable, against non vulnerable opponents. It's hard to imagine a better dummy for him.


That's our second lesson point. Don't let yourself be intimidated by a 2C opener.  Just because someone makes that bid, it doesn't mean you should give up. Trust partner, and bid appropriately.


The defense of the hand was also interesting. Two pairs defended a diamond contract, (the other one was 7Dx) and in both cases, they allowed the declarer to take eleven tricks. South led the AH, ruffed in dummy (note that the 9 card diamond suit was in dummy on this auction!), and a low club was led from dummy.  North took the A and K of clubs and then it was all over. Declarer could pull trump ending in hand and pitch the losing spade on the queen of clubs.


Why was North in such a hurry to cash the second club, especially after partner showed out? How could it possibly go away? As defenders, we've all seen tricks disappear because we didn't take them when we had the chance, but rather than just act out of fear, one should stop and think. A heart  switch didn't seem likely to help. If declarer had the K of spades there was no hope – so assume partner has that card and lead the queen of spades and beat the contract. A low club would have also worked, but that had some risk (partner may not have any trump to ruff the QC!). The important thing was that there was no hurry to take the second club. It wasn't likely to go away. 


The hand was played five other  times. Three times it was played in six hearts, undoubled, down one. Once it was played in five hearts, making. Once it was played in seven diamonds, doubled, down two. And finally, this table, five diamonds making. 

Happy Halloween.


Lesson points:


1.  Be careful opening 2C based only on a long suit. You may mislead partner into thinking you actually have defense. You are also not allowed to psych a 2Copener. 


2. Just because an opponent opens 2C, that's no reason to give up. Bid your hand. Stay alert on defense.

Compliments of Louis Sachar
Compliments of Jack Lacy

Hand # 22, Wednesday 10/23/2013

The bidding starts with North opening the bidding in 4th chair.  East makes a typical matchpoint overcall of 1S.  Now what should South do?  For a passed hand, she has a good hand in support of hearts and needs to say so.   If East had passed, South could have used Drury (if she was playing it) showing a near opening hand and heart support.  But when East overcalls, Drury is off and the correct bid is 2S showing a near opening hand and heart support.  Now North has an easy 4H bid and probably would bid 5H if pushed by EW. 


The play is also interesting.  After EW cashes their two spades, they switch to a diamond.   After drawing trumps, what is the best way to play the clubs to make sure that you don’t lose more than one trick?  If clubs are 3-2, any line will work.  If clubs are 4-1 (or 5-0), then you need to be a little more careful.  If clubs are 4-1 and you guess wrong and have the possibility of two club losers you still may be OK since there is an additional chance to take a ruffing finesse in diamonds to get rid of a club loser.  All in all, the game is a good bet.   Based on the overcall, I thought that the club king was with West.  Remember that I cannot see the unseen hands.  If the club king is with West, the best way to play the suit is to play the ace and a club toward the QJ in dummy.  If, in fact, West has the club king, this play guarantees the contract.   It also has a side benefit in that if East has the singleton king of clubs, then declarer can make 5.  Overtricks are very important in matchpoints.  


So, we play the ace of clubs and the miracle happens, the club king is singleton with West.  Now because of the club spots, East cannot win a club trick.  Lead toward the club QJ6 in dummy and if West does not put up the 8, finesse the 6 (surely, West is out of clubs).  And if East puts up the 8 of clubs, win the J of clubs, ruff back into your hand with a diamond and lead another club toward the (now) Q6.  East has the T4 left.  Cover whatever East plays and claim 11 tricks.  Well done!



  1. When partner opens the bidding in third or fourth seat and you have nearly an opening bid, you must show partner that fact so that partner can assess whether game is a good bet or not.   If you are playing Drury and there is no competition, you can do that by bidding 2C or 2D as per your Drury agreement.  If there is an overcall, you can cue bid to show your support and nearly an opening bid.  If the competition is a takeout double, then you can show your support by bidding 2N (Jordan) or redouble if you are not playing Jordan. 
  2. Most partnerships play that Drury is off with competition.  Make sure that you and partner are on the same page with this very useful convention.  If, in fact, Drury is off, then there are other ways to show the hand. 
  3. The play of the hand should be influenced by the bidding at the table.   When that bidding tells you that the normal line of play is unlikely to work, then you need to think about alternatives that will let you make the contract (or the overtrick).
  4. On this hand, it seemed like the normal club finesse was likely to be off so that declarer should think about other ways to play the clubs.  On this hand, the indicated play is to play the A of clubs and a club toward the QJ in dummy.  With this particular layout, that leads to an unexpected overtrick.  
Compliments of Jack Lacy
Compliments of Pam LaShelle

Hand # 1, Friday, 10/18/2013

If you can't get your two cents in then you can't buy anything, including a bid! In today's hand North and East passed and South opened 1 Heart. West doubled and North bid 3 Hearts  (alerted as preemptive).

What a fine bid 3 Hearts was! East didn't feel her hand warranted a bid at the 4 level so she passed and now South bid 4 Hearts! Why would South go to 4 with her 12 count? It could be for several reasons, but, most importantly, to keep the opponents out of the bidding until it was so high they might be afraid to bid. If partner does have a weak hand with lots of hearts, then South knows that East-West have great Clubs and Spades. Besides, there is a possibility with 5-5 that the hand might just make - all North needs to have is one ace and 4 hearts and that might be enough!

The declarer was one of the BCA's finest declarers (Charlene Sands) and she proved to be so on this hand! West led the top 3 Clubs and the third one was ruffed by declarer. Now declarer led the Ace of Hearts (seeing the Queen fall) and got out with the King of Diamonds to the Ace in the East hand. East led a Spade and West took the King (now West is totally end-played) and tried to cash the Ace of Spades and declarer ruffed and led a Diamond to ruff in dummy followed by the Queen and 10 of Spades, discarding a Diamond on each. Using Restricted Choice (seeing the Queen of trumps fall you play for that defender not to also have the Jack, and therefore not to have a choice which one to play first) declarer now finessed for the Heart Jack and claimed for down 1 and a TOP board!

You sometimes hear players say they are furthering the preempt and this is just what South did. After the hand she asked her opponents if they were going to bid over 3 Hearts. According to Deep Finesse, the East-West cards will make 2 Diamonds, 3 Clubs, 2 or 3 Spades (depending on who plays it) or even 3 NT!! Notice that all these bids are below 4 Hearts!

LESSON: Preempt as high as you can immediately to block the opponents and make communication difficult for them.

Compliments of Pam LaShelle
Compliments of Paul Tobias
Compliments of Paul Tobias

Hand # 20, Friday Morning, 10/30/2015


First the auction for the only pair (out of 6) to reach a reasonable slam: Only North/South were bidding and North opened a minimum hand with 1S. South bid a Jacoby 2NT showing 4 spades or more and at least game going values. North's 4S response denied a singleton and showed minimal values. South, however, had a very good 6 loser hand and ventured 4NT (Roman keycard Blackwood). When North showed 2 keycards and the Q of trump, South bid the small slam.


Another, possibly better auction would have been for South to jump to 4C with his first bid (a splinter bid) showing shortness in clubs and everything else the same as shown by a Jacoby bid. North would then cue-bid the AH (below game - so not showing any extra values). The rest of the auction would proceed as before.


East led the AC and could tell from partner's negative signal that he had to switch at trick 2. He played a low diamond, won in dummy by the K.  Now it was time for declarer to formulate a plan that gave him the best chance for success. He could see that it would be possible to ruff 2 clbs in dummy and the only possible loser after that (unless trump were 4 -4 behind him or 5 - 0) would be a heart, assuming the heart finesse lost. Was there any way to avoid the heart finesse? Yes, if the 4th or 5th diamond in dummy could be set up. That would happen if diamonds were no worse that 4 - 2, which was highly likely. So, declarer had to ruff 2 clubs in dummy and up to 2 diamonds in hand (and pull trump). And all this had to be done while presrving the KH in dummy to get back to dummy for a diamond winner or a heart finesse if diamonds were 5 - 1 or 6 - 0.


Declarer started by playing a trump to the K and ruffing a club. Now, dummies A of trumps was played and declarer noted that West still had the JS. Time to test diamonds: Declarer played the AD and saw they were splitting no worse than 4 - 2. A low diamond was led from dummy and ruffed while West pitched a club. West still had a club left and had to follow suit when declarer next ruffed his QC with dummies last trump. Declarer was home free since he could safely ruff dummy's 4th diamond and pull West's JS (pitching a heart from dummy). Dummy now had a good diamond and the K8 of hearts so declarer did not need the heart finesse - which would have worked anyway as the cards lay.




1. South knew he had a slam interested hand as soon as partner opened 1S. He had a very good 6 loser hand fith first or second round control of every suit and enough trumps to allow partner to ruff several clubs. So his hand had to be the driving force behind bidding the reasonable slam.


2. Declarer had to formulate a play at trick 3 that would maximize all chances to make the slam. When to ruff and when to pull trump were key parts of the play. It's true that if trumps were 2 - 2 (only a 40% chance) declarer could first pull trumnps and then start ruffing clubs and diamonds and end up as described above. But, if trumps were not 2 - 2, communication between hands and the order in which the suits were ruffed could matter critically. Declarer maximized his chances by first ruffing a club and then pulling the second round of trump. Note that if declarer ruffs the 2 diamonds before the second club ruff, West will have a chance to pitch 2 clubs and can overruff dummy if declarer tries to ruff the second club (order of the ruffs can matter!!).

Compliments of Paul Tobias

Hand # 15, Wednesday Evening, 10/9/2013

When South sees his partner open 2NT he should be thinking "Slam" -  most likely in either clubs or hearts if the partnership has the required key cards. Why? Because North/South have over 30 points between them and, more importantly, South has a six card suit and a 4 card suit and a loser count of 6 opposite the very strong opening hand held by partner. South uses Stayman and discovers the heart fit. The 4C bid was Key Card in hearts by partnership agreement - without that agreement South would have to have some other partnership agreement that allows him to start a keycard asking auction (a problem if you play 4NT would be quantitative and 4C shows a long club suit with slam interest but does not guarantee agreement that hearts are trumps!).


When North bids 4H showing 1 or 4 keycards, South knows from the 2NT opener it is 4 and bids the slam in hearts.


A typical lead would be the JS and North (declarer in 6H) does not have to risk playing low since dummy's second spade can go on a high diamond. Next declarer should play the A and K of hearts for reasons we'll explain later. When both defenders follow, North leads to the QH and back to the A and K of diamonds, pitching dummy's spade loser. At this point, dummy has 6 clubs and a trump and the only remaining question is how to play the club suit. Should declarer play the AC and then play the 10 of clubs to dummy's J  (correct if East has 3 or 4 clubs to the Q) or should Declarer play the A and K of clubs, planning to ruff the third round and pick up the suit whenever it splits 3-2? Note that if West shows out when the K is played, declarer can lead the JC from dummy and let it ride to East's Q and still make 6H. So, playing the A and K is the best line of play for the most likely 3-2 lie of cards and declarer will be rewarded by making an overtrick in 6H.


Now, why did I say play the A and K of hearts first? What if trumps split 4 - 1 and East has 4 to the 10. After playing the A and K, you can play 3 rouinds of clubs, trumping the third round (if needed) with your JH. Next, you lead the 7 to dummy's 9 and finish pulling trumps and claim.


A look at the results when this hand was played 8 times is instructive. Two pairs did not appreciate the trick ttaking power of South's distributional hand and stopped in 4H. Two pairs bid the 6H slam and two pairs, looking for the bonus points of a NT contract, bid 6NT and had no choice but to finesse East for the QC (the best play to pick up the club suit in a NT contract). Both these NT bidders went down 1 and the lesson learned is that it is often much better to play a slam in a trump contract, especially when you can set up another long suit with ruffs.


The final two pairs were braver than I would have been and bid and made 7H.That worked out well for them but what if North had had Axx in clubs? The grand slam would be about 50% and that is not the kind of grand slam that should be bid. Just bidding and making a small slam is usually a good duplicate score and bidding a grand will often gain very little if it makes, but lose a lot of matchpoints when it fails.




1. Be aggressive bidding (small) slams when you have distributional hands with a good loser count and partner show a strong hand.


2.When you have a good trump fit playing in that suit will often produce more tricks than playing in NT - don't be overly swayed by the extra points in NT unless you can count the required winners and you are sure you won't need to ruff anything.






Compliments of Paul Tobias
Compliments of Paul Tobias

Hand #20, Wednesday Morning, 10/2/2013


As shown, this looks like a simple, uninteresting hand. Eventually, East/West will take 4 hearts and 1 spade and declarer will make 1 overtrick. However, underlying the auction is a controversy about which many in the Bridge world have strong feelings. Should North, in second position, open 1NT or, instead, open his 5 card major spade suit? Half the field did actually open 1S instead of 1NT and they were rewarded by making 3 for a tied for top score of 140 instead of 120 for 1NT making 2. And how can North explore for game if the auction goes 1S - 2S but not get to an unmakeable 4S contract?


First the debate about whether to open 1S or 1NT: Advocates of the 1NT opening say that you will often have a difficult rebid if partner bids 1NT over 1S. If you are in the 15 to 17 point range you cannot rebid 2NT or jump shift into a 3 card minor - you are stuck with either an underbid or an overbid because you did not show your strength by opening 1NT. Even if partner bids 2 of another suit after you open 1S you will have a difficult time showing your strength in slam exploration auctions. Advocates of opening 1S point to hands like that held by South where there is a spade fit but South cannot find it after a 1NT opening. Of course, if South has game going values, many partnerships play a convention called "Puppet Stayman" where South bids either 2C (or 3C using a modified Puppet Stayman) after partner opens 1NT and a following 2S (or 3S if playing the 3C modified puppet variation) bid by North shows a 5 card suit. But problem hands will still occur when South has less than game invitational values and spades play better than NT.


However you choose to play - either always open 1NT or always open the 5 card major - there will be hands that give you trouble. One solution might be to open 1NT unless at least half your points are in the 5 card major suit. But that would still have today's North hand opening 1NT. Another variation some use is to open 1NT only on 16 point hands and to open 1S on 15 or 17 point hands, intending to downgrade the 15 point hands and upgrade the 17 point hands - this would work on today's hand. My preference is to always open 1NT and also to play a variation of Puppet Stayman. But it is important that you and your partner discuss this and agree upon your approach..


Finally, what if you open 1S and partner bids (as South in today's hand will) 2S? You could easily have a game if partner is at the top of his bid or if his 7 or 8 points are in the right spots. How do you explore for game? Jumping to 4S, as one North that played in 4S might have done, runs the risk of going down when partner has the wrong minimum. North should bid 3H over partner's 2S response as a (conventional) "Help Suit Game Try". This bid says to South "Partner, I'm interested in a game in spades but I need help in the heart suit to have a good chance." South has the worst possible heart holding (3 without a high honor) and signs off in 3S.




1. Decide where you and your partner stand on the issue of opening 1NT holding a 5 card major.


2. If you open 1NT with 5 card majors, consider playing some variation of Puppet Stayman. That will at least solve the problem for cases where partner has a game going hand.


3. Playing a convention such as Help Suit Game Tries (HSGT) gives you a tool to explore for game intelligently when you have extra values and a major suit fit.

Compliments of Paul Tobias
Compliments of Pam LaShelle

Thursday Afternoon Swiss at the Austin Fall Sectional, 9/26/2013.


This slam took some aggressive bidding by the South hand to reach a 25 point slam! South's bidding was pretty straightforward, however the 4 Club bid was showing another 5 card suit, as is always true when you bid another suit at the 4 level after a Jacoby 2NT bid by partner. Even with the interference, I took it to show another 5 card suit. That made my hand very happy and thus the 4 Spade cue from my hand and now a 5 Club cue bid by partner. We play we are bidding Aces, Kings, singletons and voids up the line, hence my cue of Diamonds with the King. Partner is finished and signed off in 5 Hearts. I felt with my extra points I should go on to 6, after all, I didn't know partner just had 10 points! As Marty Bergen says, points schmoints!


The play was simple.The diamond A was led (okay, we had some luck with this being on-sides!) and then a spade switch. Partner won the A and next picked up the trumps.and then led the Jack of Clubs (going fishing!) from his hand. When his LHO didn't cover, he played the King and back towards his AT and the Q fell. Making 6H and picking up 10 wonderful IMPS!!!



1) When you have shape, points are not nearly as important as controls.

2) Take your time on your way to game and show your controls with any of these:

                 a) a shapely hand

                 b) a better hand than partner knows

                 c) a hand that could have potential

3) Cue bid up the line and, if you passed up a lower suit to show a higher ranking ace, you can then show a King or second round control in that suit.

4) It’s rare that an opponent will interfere after a Jacoby 2NT bid but if it happens I suggest the following:

              a) Double if the 3 level bid “steals” your singleton bid.

              b) Any 4-level bid is another 5 card suit

              c) With a singleton in a higher ranking suit bid it as you would have  

                   with no interference. With no singleton, bid game with a minimum

                   and bid your suit on the three level with extra values (or 3NT if the

                   3-level bid is not available.

              d)  Pass (forcing) with a singleton you cannot show on the 3-level. 



Compliments of Pam LaShelle
Compliments of Paul Tobias



This hand that the computer analysis says should make 5 Hearts was played in 4 Hearts by all 16 East/West pairs in both the Open and limited games. It only made 5 a total of 3 times and actually went down 7 times (3 times by 2 tricks!). So what went right with all the bidders and wrong with so many of the West declarers?




The auction shown is one of many ways for East/West to arrive at a 4 Heart contract played by West. West meant 2S as a "help suit" game try and East, with a maximum raise to 2H and a singleton spade, accepts by bidding 4H. Everyone who played these cards felt West, with a 5 loser count, was strong enough to either go to game directly or at least make a game try. 




What possible losers does West see when dummy comes down? There can be from 1 to 3 trump losers with 1 the most likely. There can be 1 club loser if you take a losing finesse. And, the spade suit can produce several losers if you are not careful. Let's assume first a spade lead to the A and a club shift. Declarers who went down 1 probably finessed the club and later played AH and a small heart to lose 1 spade, 1 club and 2 hearts. Suppose instead of a spade, North leads a diamond and declarer takes both diamonds, throwing a spade, and then finesses the club Queen. North wins and retuns a club and declarer plays the A of trump and a small trump. Now declarer will lose 1 club, 2 trumps and 2 spades. That's the only way I can imagine that three declarers went down 2, although there probably are other ways I haven't tbhought of.


How should declarer proceed after a spade to the A and a club return? Go up A of clubs, lay down the A of trumps and ruff a small spade in dummy. Play both the A and K of diamonds, throwing your Q of clubs. Now lead dummy's last trump and you easlly make 5 hearts. What about after a diamond lead? Win the A and lead a spade. It South rises A and leads a club refuse the finesse and then play the A of trump, ruff a spade, pitch the Q of clubs on a diamond and lead dummy's last trump - again easily making 5 hearts. 


What if South doesn't rise with the A of spades? This turns out to be the best defense, although few South's are likely to make this ducking play. Declarer will probably only make 4H unless he finessed in diamonds when they were first led. 


Finally, if North tries an attacking opening lead of a low club, declarer will always make 5 hearts by carefully managing to lead spades from dummy and then playing the A of trumps before ruffing a spade and leading a trump from duimmy.




The secret to this hand is carefully timing when you play trumps and using your diamond entry to dummy to lead spades before you play the trump A. You also want to avoid taking any unnecessary finesses by using dummy's second high diamond to pitch your Q of clubs. You have to play a spade from dummy before playing any trumps to make sure you still have hearts in dummy to ruff spades. 

Compliments of Paul Tobias
Compliments of Rosemary Kelley

Wednesday Morning, Sept. 11th, Board 23


Wow, what a hand for East! And South has a whopper in the minors, too! With South as the opener, East is going to have a tough time convincing West of the power of this two suiter. This hand is all about the bidding.



Possible Auction:


N                      E                    S                  W

                                               1D              Pass

Pass              2D                   3D               3S

Pass              5C                 Pass             5H

Pass              6S                  All                Pass


Opening Lead: 5 of Diamonds




When South opens 1 Diamond and the auction passes to East, he must find the best description and force the auction at the same time. In the passout chair, a cue bid is definitely Michaels and in this case should be showing the majors. The original range for a Michaels' Cue Bid was opening hand strength, 11-14. Most players today have adopted a “weak or strong” range, showing either below 10 or above 14 HCP's. If the Cue Bidder is below ten, they do not bid again unless asked a question by partner. If above 14, at least one more bid should be forthcoming from the hand, unless game is already reached.


South is too good to just double the cue and wants to make life a little more difficult for the opponents. Vulnerable with a passing partner and only a 5-card suit, 3-Diamonds is probably enough. Partner does not rate to have any of your losers covered so you should expect to lose 5-tricks in the majors and 1 trick in Diamonds, bringing your total to 7. If you are doubled, that's -500 versus a 600+ game for the opponents, if they can make it. Going -800 when all the opponents can make is game can't be good.


West has a difficult call. If he chooses to double the 3 Diamond call, life will be more difficult for the partnership. Since East could be the “below 10” weak hand and not have any tricks, he can't be sure 3 Diamonds is even going set. And North/South may even find a Club fit if you double.


By taking the preference when West could have passed also shows some values and a suggestion of at least 3 Spades. This helps East evaluate, even with a less powerful hand, and might help get to a close game on different values. In this case, it helps East see the possibility of Slam, looking at a 3 loser hand.


The jump to 5 Clubs is Exclusion Blackwood. This bid occurs when a fit is found and (usually) a jump to the 4 Heart or higher level is still possible. It asks partner to respond with Key cards, omitting the Ace of the asking suit, and using the same system that would have been used over 4 NT, starting at the next bid with the first response. In this case, using RKC the responses, starting with 5 Diamonds, would be:


5D          0 or 3, Key cards, excluding the Ace of Clubs

5H          1 or 4, “

5S          2 (or 5) without the Queen, “

5N          2 (or 5) with the Queen, “


When West shows a Key card, East bids the small slam, only needing a doubleton Heart or the Queen in partner's hand to set up the Hearts in most cases. The actual singleton works even better.


Now look at what should happen if the auction takes a different turn.


N                     E                  S                 W

                                            1D            Pass

Pass              2D                3D              Dbl

Pass              4D               Pass            5S

Pass              6S               All Pass


Now West must show some Spade strength by jumping to 5 Spades, when East insists on him choosing a major. Vulnerable, East must have a very good hand, much more suited to declaring than defending, to pull the double this way, when he could have simply bid 3 Hearts or 3 Spades, He might be afraid of leaving the double in because of a lack of tricks in his hand (but should really trust West's judgment, having already showed a distributional hand.) Some Easts may not even pull with a weak hand and South might make it! Not so here! With a little different hand, say


S    AQxxx

H    KQxxx


C    Axx


East would leave the double in, as partner said that was the best place for the hand. Note, in most situations with the East hand just given, N/S would probably just go down 1 in 3 Diamonds doubled, while 4 Spades would have a good play. This is why West should not be doubling 3 Diamonds with such an awesome Spade holding!!




This should be a pretty straight forward offense. Win the second trick (probably a Club ruff in dummy) and cash the Ace of Spades. If they are breaking 2/1, cash the Ace of Hearts and lead a small Heart from dummy. You expect any Heart length to be in the North, as South has the Diamond length. When South follows with the 9 or 10, ruff with the 8, cash the King of Spades and return to dummy by ruffing a Club or Diamond. The Hearts are no worse than 4/2 so cash the King and claim.


Pointers from this hand:


  1. In 4th chair, Michael's Cue Bid is still available and should still be “weak or strong.”
  1. A second “cue” should show the strong hand and suggest game in hand in this auction.
  1. When partner has forced you to bid and you have values, like KJxx in one of their suits, try to show some interest, either with a jump or a “free” bid. NOTE: a “free” bid is one where you were no longer required to respond to partner's forciing bid because of a call taken by the opponent.
  2.  When a suit has been agreed upon, and partner could be using 4NT for Key Card but instead jumps to a non-trump suit at the 4 Heart or higher level, it is the convention called Exclusion Blackwood. This shows a void in the excluded suit and asks partner to give Key Cards, omitting the Ace of that suit in the count. If more information is still required, the asker uses the next non- agreed suit to ask about the Queen (if not already addressed in the response) and the second non-agreed suit to ask about specific Kings. For further clarification and an alternative way to respond, see
  3. This a rather extreme case of “high cards do not take tricks in distributional hands” but South should not double, even a slam bid. Having heard the Exclusion auction, he knows he has no Club tricks and cannot be sure to take more than 1 Diamond  trick, if that. Eighteen points and only one defensive trick! Remember that the next time you want to double and then have to say to partner, “but I had to double, I had 18 High Card Points!
Compliments of Rosemary Kelley
Compliments of Jack Lacy

Hand from the 2013 Summer NABC Fast Pairs in Atlanta


The bidding by North (dealer ) and South is 1H, 2D, 2N, 3D, 4D, 4N, 5H, 6D.  N/S were playing 2/1 game forcing so it was safe for South to rebid 3D and not be afraid of partner passing. The opening lead is the 5 of spades by West. The East/West hands have been left blank because it is more instructive that way - but you will see after the first two tricks that that the opening leader, West, has the outstanding A9 of trumps (diamonds). 

You get to a very nice 6D contract and West leads the 5 of spades to the Q by East and you win the K. 

What do you think of the bidding?  North had an uncomfortable rebid after opening 1H.  He had a choice of lies he could make: he could rebid 2H showing 6, raise diamonds showing 4, or rebid 2N without a spade stopper.  He chose the latter.  S then bid 3D and N, happy to be out of NT, bid 4D.  S asked for key cards and when N showed 2, S bid the slam in diamonds.  W led the 5 of spades, E played the Q and S won the K. 

What do you think of the contract?  You have 11 tricks (7 diamonds, 2 spades, 1 heart, and 1 club) with 4 possible finesses (spade finesse through East, club finesse, the heart finesse, and the heart ruffing finesse through East) to find a 12th trick.  In addition, you might ruff some hearts hoping the king of hearts comes down so that the Q of hearts will be your 12th trick. 

I am one who dislikes finesses because sometimes (more than 50% it seems to me)  they lose.  Suppose you lead the 10 of diamonds and W playsthe 9, low from dummy, and E discards a club.  You are now cold. 

Take a minute and see if you can see that you are cold.  Here is a clue: take no finesses  -  remember, I hate taking finesses.  Thought about it?  After W ducks the A of diamonds, he is now down to the stiff A of diamonds and is certainly open to being end played.  If we can lead a second diamond after eliminating all safe exits for W, when he wins the second diamond, he will have to give us our 12th trick. 

Here is what you do.  Cash the A of hearts.  Cash the A of clubs and ruff dummy’s last club.  Now lead a diamond.  Dummy is down to the 43 of spades, the QJ32 of hearts, the J of diamonds and no clubs.  You are down to the A10 of spades, no hearts, the KQ876 of diamonds, and no clubs.   West is in and gets to choose how he gives you your 12th trick. 

Do you see it now?  If he leads a club, you get a ruff sluff for your 12th trick.  If he leads a spade, it is into your A10 which gives you a third spade trick.  And if he leads a heart, you play the Q of hearts.  If E covers the Q of hearts with the K, ruff and go back to dummy with the J of diamonds to cash the J of hearts pitching your losing spade.  And if E doesn’t cover the Q of hearts, then the Q of hearts is your 12th trick and you can pitch your 10 of spades and claim.   Very pretty, I think.  Note that if W choses to win the first diamond and return a diamond, you then have to decide which finesse to take.  I don’t know which one works, since as I played it and as it was defended, I didn’t care. 


  1. Eight card suits are very powerful worth way more than whatever HCP you have.  Note that this slam was bid with a total of 26 HCP.  Points, schmoints.
  2. If you can avoid a finesse and still make your contract, do your best to do so.  On this hand, after West plays low on the first diamond, you are now cold by taking no finesses. 
  3. An end play is a very valuable tool to add to your bag of tricks.  It may be instructive for you to lay out this hand and see how the end play works.  This particular end play is not difficult but you do have to recognize the possibility.
  4. West surely should have played his A of diamonds when I played the 10 out of my hand.  How could it be wrong?  The only way is if I was missing the K of diamonds and the king was stiff in the East hand.  If I was missing the Q and not the K, I surely would have gone to dummy and led toward my king. On the other hand, West was afraid of looking foolish if his A crashed his partner’s K! 
Compliments of Jack Lacy
Compliments of Paul Tobias

Board # 10, Wednesday Evening, 8/28/2013


It never feels good to get a near bottom when your opponent plays a hand exceptionally well. But it does give me an excellent "Hand of the Week" to share.


I was North and C. G. Bell was declarer after the auction shown. The 3D bid was an artificial "checkback" bid asking whether West had either 3 card spade support or 4 hearts (partnerships playing this new minor checkback should agree which to show if West has both). East choose to play in the known 5-3 spade fit rather than 3NT on the theory that it might be safer and it is often possible to make more tricks in a trump contract.


The opening lead was the JH, won by declarer's A. Now declarer had to tackle the trump suit, which was missing 5 cards including the K and the 10. The correct way to start this suit (both for safety and for maximum tricks) is to lead towards the J and only play the A if the K appears. If the K wins in North you next play dummy's A - only losing 2 tricks if the K was singleton and holding every other 4 - 1 split to just 1 loser. When North played the 3 of spades, East went back to his hand with the KD and had to decide whether to lead the QS or the 9S next. The Q will work if South has K5 left and the 9 will work if South has only the K left. Declarer intends to let either the 9 or Q ride (unless covered) to protect against South holding K10xx.


C. G. chose to lead the QS and my10S was smothered when the trick went Q-K-A-10. That was step 1 - bringing home the spade suir without a loser. Next, after pulling the last outstanding trump, declarer led the QC, covered by the KC and won in dummy by the A. Now declarer had 12 tricks to cash - 5 spades, 3 hearts, 2 clubs and 2 diamonds. He cashed dummy's K and Q of hearts and J of clubs and ruffed a club back to hand. Here was the layout with 3 cards left to play (with declarer moved to the bottom South position):





                                      -                                                                                                          -

                                      -                                                                                                          98

                                      QJ                                                                                                       4   

                                      8                                                                                                          -







On the lead of the last trump, West in the above layout (my partner) folded his cards and conceded the last 3 tricks. He was squeezed and whatever he played, dummy would play the other suit and have the remaining 2 tricks. Making 7 was a well deserved near top result!




1. When playing an 8 card suit fit missing the K and 10, take a line of play that can possibly bring home all the tricks (with a favorable lie of cards) but is also as safe as possible to avoid 2 losers if there is a 4-1 split. The way declarer played the spades in this hand was an example of this. Note, however, that a cagy North holding K10xx instead of 10x could smoothly refuse to take the K when declarer finessed the J. If next delarer led the Q, North would be rewarded by winning 2 trump tricks. (This interesting deceptive duck play to earn the possibility of an extra trump trick was pointed out by Mark McAllister.)  


2. Also, this hand illustrates why it is often better to play in a good major suit fit rather than in NT. 3NT, defended properly, can only make 6 since declarer cannot ruff the third round of clubs to set up the squeeze end position.


3. Note how the squeeze ending only required playing the last trump while keeping an entry to dummy and watching to see whether dummy's remaining club was good. Even if you don't actually visualize the end squeeze position, be sure to play off all your long winners and often good things happen!

Compliments of Paul Tobias
Compliments of Paul Tobias

Hand # 9, Friday, 8/23/2013


This hand could be titled "Loser Count Trumps Point Count" as it clearly illustrates how loser count can be much more useful than point count on highly distributional hands with good trump fits.


The auction shown was by one of the 2 out of 4 North/South pairs who got to 4 of a major and made 5. The other two N/S pairs let East/West play in either 3 diamonds or 4 diamonds - probably because they were swayed by the low highcard point counts in the North/South hands.


It's easy to get upset by the North hand's jump shift auction. After all, she only has 11 highcard points - barely enough to open, let alone jump shift to the 3 level opposite a partner who couldn't bid over after the 2D overcall. But North realized that her hand had a magnificent 4 loser count and an almost self-sufficient spade suit if partner couldn't support hearts. Even if South held as much as a 10 loser count (worse than a typical 1-level response to an opening bid) the total of 14 losers would usually provide a good play for game.


South did have a 10 loser count but with a good fit in hearts he had no difficulty bidding 4. Since the K of hearts was onsides doubleton, an overtrick was made. Four spades would also make 5.


Note that North/South only had 17 highcard points between them (E/W had 23 but could only make 2D against perfect defense). So a decided win for people following loser count methods on this hand!




Here's a quick review of basic loser count evaluation: For each of the suits you have count one loser for missing the ace, one for missing the king if you have at least 2 cards in the suit and one for missing the queen if you have at least 3 cards in the suit. Thus a holding of xxxx yields 3 losers while Kx yields just 1 loser. A typical minimum opening loser count is 7 and a typical minimum response loser count is 9. Add both hands loser counts and subtract from 18. The result is the contract level you will likely have a play to make, provided you have at least an 8 card trump suit fit to play in. So, if you and your partner have a combined loser count of 13 or 14, you should consider bidding 4 of any major you have a fit in. Loser count totals of 12 or less mean you should be exploring for slam (but make sure you're not missing 2 key cards before bidding a slam!). 


There are many refinements to the simple loser count assessment described above. For example, both Axx and Qxx have a loser count of 2 but Axx is clearly "stronger". Also, a holding like KJ10 will almosty always do better than Kxx or Qxx - although all three have a 2 loser count. However, using just the simple basic loser count approach on highly distributional hands with trump fits can improve your bidding - as shown in this week's hand.

Compliments of Paul Tobias
Compliments of Pam LaShelle
 Hand # 16, Friday morning, August 16th
Dealer West, E/W vulnerable
    Here is a hand from the NAP Qualifier that made me think about the different ways people respond to 2 Clubs. I have played them all and must say they each have times of really doing well in different kinds of auctions. Here are some choices that many players might not be aware of and most are not played by many in the USA.
   2 Diamonds:
                1) Waiting..this means exactly that! No information given and the partner is waiting to hear what the big hand says before revealing anything about their hand. Seems most players would like some kind of idea what their partner has so this method is a rarity today. If partner does bid any other suit he is showing a 5+ suit with 2 out of the top three honors.
                2) King or Better..probably the most common response in Austin and means that partner has at least a king, but is unlimited. It is game forcing by most. 2 Hearts in this system shows less than 1 King.
   Other responses to 2 Clubs:
                3) Steps..2 Diamonds=0-3 Points, 2 Hearts=4-6 Points, 2 Spades=7-9 Points,3 Clubs=10-12 and 3 Diamonds=13-15! 2 No Trump is not used if you are wondering.
               4) Controls..Some variation with this, but Aces count for 2 Controls and Kings as 1 Control. 2 Diamonds=0-1 Control, 2 Hearts=2 Controls, 2 Spades= 3 Controls(1 Ace and 1 King), 2 No Trump=3 Controls (3 Kings)3 Clubs=4 Controls, 3 Diamonds= 5 Controls
      So now on with our wonderful North South hand! The dealer is west and passes, North opens 2 Clubs, East passes and South now uses the positive response of 2 Diamonds (King or Better). (East West never bid), so now North bids a descriptive 2 No Trump (22-24) and South transfers to spades by bidding 3 Hearts and North jumps to 4 Spades with maximum (24 points) and 4 Spades - a "super accept". South is excited and asks with 4 No Trump, 5 Diamonds by North showing 1 or 4 key cards (with the 4 aces and the king of spades key cardsand playing 0-3,1-4). South now bids 6 Spades. 
    Not too much to the play with a heart out. Trump was pulled and the Club finesse was not even necessary even though it would have worked. The Diamonds were used to pitch away the Clubs off dummy. If a Heart is not led then the Club finesse can be taken and 7 is made either way.
   How is the hand any different if you were using another method of answering 2 Clubs? 
  Waiting probably won't make much difference and you can imagine the auction going much the same, but the big hand will be in the dark as to what his partner has. Maybe you would like the surprise aspect of playing this! If you don't like big surprises you may want to pick another method.
  Steps will bring a 3 Club (10-12) response from partner. This could be a problem because now the opener can't really show his hand. Now no Stayman, no transfers...this one is not working out well on this hand! The up side of this is that the big hand now knows there should be a slam. On this hand, people playing this will probably be unjustly rewarded with a top if they never find the spade fit and end in 6NT!
  Controls will bring a 2 Heart bid (2 Controls) and may not be damaging on this deal. The big hand can still show his points and values with a 2 No Trump bid, however he does not know if the 2 controls are 2 Kings or 1 Ace. Either way a slam seems to be on the horizon.
   Maybe all roads lead to Rome (your slam), however some are freeways and some are dirt roads! Which road will you pick?
Compliments of Pam LaShelle
Compliments of Rosemary Kelley

Friday Morning,  August 9th, Board 19


Balancing can sometimes be the right bidding choice but it can be tricky trying to find the right suit.  With East/West vulnerable and finding a fit in the Heart suit, North/South shouldn't let them play at the 2 level without a fight. See the suggested auction with the hand displayed above. 


Opening Lead:  King of Hearts




North cannot open this hand in third chair.  West has a full opener and opens 1 Club.  South cannot get in here and West naturally bids 1H.


A double by North in this spot would show more values and the ability to support Spades and Diamonds.  An unusual NT by North would show the same two suits, more distribution and not necessarily much in count.  So North passes for the second time. 


East raises to 2H.  South could double here, showing Diamonds and Spades, but is not sure the auction is dying:  she may be stepping into a “live” auction and just be giving the opponents information about her hand.


When West passes, showing a minimum response on round 1, North now knows that South has some values.  But here is the neat part:  Since a double would be takeout for Diamonds and Spades, the Unusual NT here would be takeout for the MINORS!!!  Things changed, once the first two passes by North occurred.  This is a classic case of realizing what DID NOT happen earlier and using it to understand what is happening NOW!!  Remember, a 1 Club opener does not always promise 4 or more and North/South could easily have a Club fit.  Turns out the fit was in Diamonds, but if North doubled, South would surely bid Spades!  OOPS!




Having led the King, West is marked with the King and Queen of Hearts, and  the likelihood that the Queen of Diamonds lies in the East hand rises.  East should have a full opener in the fourth chair so should have at least one of the round suit Queens, if not both, to go with the Ace of Hearts and the K, Q, J of Clubs to get to the opener.  If West had one of the Queens with her fifth Heart, she probably would have taken the push to the 3 level in Hearts. 


So after cashing the 2 Hearts, there will be a switch to a Club at the third trick.  South should win the Ace.  Since there are two Club losers anyway, it is correct to try to set up the Club suit in dummy.  Play the Ace of Diamonds, and then the King.  When the Queen comes in, lead a small Club.   If West ruffs, so much the better.  Now South has 2 trumps left in dummy to ruff her losing Spades and just gives up the 2 Clubs, to go with the 2 Hearts.


If West does not ruff, East will win the Club and most likely return a Spade.  Win the King in the South hand and lead another Club.  If East wins again and leads another Spade, win the Ace in dummy and ruff the 4th Club with the 10 of Diamonds.  Now the 8 to the Jack of Diamonds pulls the last trump and dummy is good.  


Note that 3 Hearts will not make.  In fact, if North gets the Spade ruff, 8 tricks are not even possible.  The 3 Diamond contract set N/S to go plus, either 110 if allowed to play 3 Diamonds, or 200 if defending 3 Hearts. 


Pointers from this hand


1.When a NoTrump call sounds “Unusual”  it is.  Look around for unbid suits.  If both a double and an Unusual NT would show the same strength, a double would show 2 specific suits, the Unusual NT will show 2 others.  Don't forget Clubs becomes a possible suit here, if the only time the opponents mentioned the suit was opening the bidding with 1 Club.


2.Try to get count on the opponents' hands before searching for a Trump Honor. 


3.Using a trump to ruff partner's natural trick can be correct.  It depends on whether partner can still get the trick later, or at least stop the suit from running if you trump. 


4.Allowing the opponents to play at the two level when they clearly have a fit is not usually profitable in Matchpoints.  Try to balance, especially if your side is not vulnerable.           


Compliments of Rosemary Kelley
Compliments of Jack Lacy

Board 28, Monday Morning, July 29, 2013.  

The suggested bidding is 2NT – 4C – 4S – 5C – 5D – 7NT.

Here is a fun hand.  Both the bidding and the play have some interesting aspects.  Look at the N hand.  Partner opens 2NT.  What are you thinking?  You have 14 HCP so the partnership has 34 or 35 HCP between the two hands.  We are going to bid a small slam and a grand slam is within reach. 

How do you approach the bidding?  You have a 4 card Major and a 5 card Major.  Should you use Stayman?  Transfer?  I don’t think you should do either.  You have plenty of HCP so 6NT should be pretty easy and playing a Major has some problems that NT does not have.  For example, if you play in a Major, you will need a favorable break in that suit whereas in NT, if one suit breaks badly, another suit may supply enough tricks.  Another problem with playing in a suit is that an opponent might ruff the opening lead. 

My recommendation is to bid 4C directly to ask for aces and if appropriate ask for kings.  Your five card heart suit will be a nice surprise for partner when you put the dummy down.  Partner responds 4S which shows 2 aces.  Wow! We have all the aces.  What about a grand slam?  You have “seen” only 8 HCP of partner’s at least 20 HCP so with the right 12 HCP, you will probably have a lay down grand slam.  Let’s ask about kings by bidding 5C.  Partner bids 5D.  What can that mean?  Partner cannot have 0 kings since if he has no kings, he would have at most 14 HCP (AQS, JH, AD, and QJC) but he opened 2NT.  Therefore, partner must have 4 kings (playing 0-4).  

Let’s count tricks.  We have 2 spades, 3 hearts, 3 diamonds, and 2 clubs adding to 10.  Hearts could be 3-3 or partner could have 3 or 4 hears or even the J of hearts (there is just room in partner’s hand for an additional J) or the opponents could lead hearts which would add 2 more heart tricks to the mix which adds to 12.  I have a regular and favorite partner that says if you can count 12 tricks, there are 13 so if you think hearts are going to be good for 5 tricks, you should bid 7NT.  The odds that hearts will yield 5 tricks are pretty high: 54.5% if she has only 2 hearts, 81.95% if she has 3 hearts, and 100% if she has more than 3 hearts.  What if hearts do not yield 5 tricks?  There are lots of other chances.  Partner might have a 5 card suit of her own.  If it is diamonds that will yield 5 tricks.  If it is spades, it will take a 2-2 spade break or the Q stiff for 5 tricks: a little over 53%. 

All this math to convince you that it makes sense to bid 7NT.  You don’t really need to know the math, just a sense of the probabilities.  As responder, I would say to myself, it is likely to very likely that hearts will yield 5 tricks and if they don’t, there are a myriad of other chances (including a favorable opening lead).   7NT it is. 

After the opening lead of a diamond and dummy is put down, let’s make a plan.  You have 2 spades, 3 hearts, 3 diamonds, and 2 clubs adding to 10 just as responder figured during the bidding.  You can work on hearts or you can work on spades to try to yield enough tricks.  Suppose hearts yield 5 tricks as we hope.  That adds 2 tricks to our total getting us to 12.  Why is that significant?  Even if hearts break favorably, you will still need an additional trick which most likely will have to come from the spade suit (if you look at the EW hands, you can see that on this hand clubs can actually yield an extra trick but the particular holding is very unlikely).  My point is that you should try spades first.  If spades yield 5 tricks, you have 13 tricks without even huffing and puffing: 5 spades, 3 hearts, 3 diamonds, and 2 clubs.  Only if spades do not yield 5 tricks will you have to have 5 heart tricks and some luck in the club suit.  

Try spades and when they are 2-2, claim.  Well done.  What if spades are not 2-2 and the Q is third so that you get only 2 spade tricks?  Change the EW hands so that W has the J doubleton of hearts, the Q third of spades and only 1 diamond.  Now you have 5 heart tricks, 2 spade tricks, 3 diamond tricks, and 2 club tricks to add to 12.  You need an extra club trick.  There are two ways you can get an extra club trick: the QJ can be doubleton or E can have a singleton honor so that you can finesse W for the other honor.  It is a guess but you might be able to count W’s hand so that you know what to do.   In any case, as you can see, there is a very good chance you will make 13 tricks so the contract is a good one.  


1.     When you have an overwhelming number of HCPs, don’t worry about playing the hand in a Major.  NT is safer and scores an extra 10 points which is good if you are playing matchpoints. 

2.     After finding out that you have all the aces, it is unlikely that partner will have all the missing kings but it doesn’t hurt to ask.  On this hand, you are rewarded since partner does have all the kings. 

3.     After you know all your assets, count the tricks you expect to make.  On this hand, you can come to 10 for sure with lots of chances to get to 12 or 13. 

4.     If you can count 12 tricks during the bidding, bid 7.  Unless you can see that there is absolutely no chance for a 13th trick, it is winning bridge to bid the grand slam when you can count 12 tricks during the bidding.

5.     After the bidding is over and the opponents have made the opening lead, make a plan.  In NT, that means count your sure tricks and add them up.  Then figure out what suit (or suits) you can develop to get to the required number.
6.     If after you get a favorable break in a first suit, you still need a trick in a second suit, start by developing the second suit first.  If you get lucky in the second suit, you may not have to be lucky in the first suit.  And if the second suit doesn’t break favorably, you will learn something that may help in the development of the first suit.    

Compliments of Jack Lacy
Compliments of Rosemary Kelley

Wednesday Evening,  July 24th, Board 19


If you have been reading the Bridge Columns in the Statesman this week, you have been sharpening your trump management skills.  This hand will help to reinforce the column's points.  Management of 8 card or longer suits is tough enough, but when you find yourself in a 4/3 (Moysian) fit things can get pretty sticky.  


Opening Lead:  Queen of Spades




North has an interesting problem in third chair.  Choosing to open 1 Heart is probably correct for the following reasons:


            1.  This Heart suit sure “looks like a 5-card suit to me,” as you will tell your partner upon inquiry.  Now you have a 5/5 hand, with which you bid the higher ranking so you can bid the lower ranking one later if partner is not interested in Hearts (and not be “reversing,” showing about an Ace better than an opening or commensurate playing strength which this hand does not have). 


            2.  Now that you have let the opponents into the auction by opening in third chair, you want to make sure you get partner off to the best lead, especially if you are defending a NoTrump contract. 


Although East has the strength to make a take-out double, the shape of the hand is not ideal so East chooses to wait for the auction to die to make the move.  West knows that his partner is counting on him to have about 6-9 points so has no need to jump in Spades.  The main point would be to push the opponents to the 3-level, if possible, in order to have a better chance at setting them.


North takes the “push,” a bid not everyone would make, considering her suit is only 4 cards long, but it is seldom correct to let the opponents play at the 2 level in a suit that is a “fit.”  Besides, maybe partner has 4-card support.  Some might try the Diamonds at this points but if we get the bid in Hearts, we do not want the opponents to know about our second suit.  You know partner will return to Hearts so why bother.  Besides, it might sound like you would rather have a Diamond lead if you introduce the suit now. 




Here is where our trump management needs to be in good form.  North ducks the first Spade lead, but should play the King on the second one.  She hopes that East will win the third lead of Spades. It is obvious that West has the Ace, and East does might not know to switch to Clubs so try to get that hand to win the third round which you will NOT TRUMP.  Pitch a losing Club to maintain all four trumps.  Might not help if the opponents next find the Club switch, but maybe they will try Diamonds, since the Club suit in dummy might get set up.  If they continue with Spades, dummy can trump, and you can keep your 4 trumps in hand.  Most likely a switch will come. 


Unfortunately, the 10 of Spades is in the West hand who will now be on lead for the 4th trick.  If the King of Clubs is led, East might overtake to lead the Diamond through (as it happened at my table, a thoughtful play but didn't work this time.)  If East lets West lead another Club, you have to trump this,  or you will be giving the opponents the setting trick.  Now you have to hope for Hearts 3/3, or for the hand that has 4 trumps to be out of Spades when they get in.  If the switch is to Diamonds, you will still have your 4 trumps and will be able to handle a 4/2 trump break if the Diamonds break 3/3.  If the Diamonds are also 4/2, you might try a cross ruff for as long as it will last.  On this hand, though, they are both friendly breaks.  


Play on Diamonds, winning the King, then the Ace and ruff in dummy.  One red suit is breaking, anyway.  Now play three rounds of Trumps and cross your fingers.    


When the trumps split, you are home free.  Four Hearts, Four Diamonds and a trump in dummy.  If the trumps had not broken, you would be down two.  Not vulnerable, it would still be a good score, as the opponents, with their 8 card fit, will make at least 8 tricks in Spades and probably 9, unless you can find the Diamond ruff for partner.   Vulnerable, not so good, but then North would probably have taken the “push.”


Pointers from this hand:


1.In 3rd and 4th chair, sometimes it is right to open a 4-card major if it very good and you definitely want it led.  Plan ahead for your next bid whenever possible,  to prevent an awkward rebid.


2.Try to push the opponents to the 3 level, to give your side a better chance at defeating the contract.


3.Watch the vulnerability when deciding to bid one more in a competitive auction.


4.To maintain length in your long trump hand, pitch a loser instead of ruffing, whenever possible. 


5.Sometimes 6-cards do break 3/3!  The more likely break is 4/2 but only by about a 10%  difference.  Plan for the most likely break (4/2) but be grateful for the better one if it comes. 



Compliments of Rosemary Kelley
Compliments of Jack Lacy

Board 13, Thursday morning, July 18, 2013.


Suggested bidding is 1N – 4C – 4S – 5C – 5H – 7NT.


Again, I am showing you a hand where point count is not something you want to think about.  What do you think when you pick up the S hand and partner opens 1NT?  You have only 15 HCP - but who cares?  You have an 8 card suit which will produce 8 tricks more than 89% of the time (assuming partner has at least 2 hearts, the suit will break  2-1  78% of the time and of the remaining 22% when hearts break 3-0, you can pick up the suit if the 3-0 break is on your right and if partner has more than 2 hearts then 8 tricks are 100%).  Eight tricks is worth way more than point count. 


So, how do you bid it?  As you can see by looking at all the hands, you have 16 tricks because the diamond J comes down. But, of course, you only need 13 tricks to make a grand slam.  So, again, how should you bid it?  I recommend that you never tell partner about your heart suit because you are assuming it will be worth 8 tricks in NT as well as in hearts.  To net, you are going to bid a small slam unless partner had no aces.  And you have a possibility of a grand slam if partner has two aces and one king (do you see that if partner has 2 aces and 1 king, you have 13 tricks?).  Operating on that premise, bid 4C to ask partner how many aces she has.  If she has 0 aces, bid 4H and be done with it.  If she has 1 ace, bid 6H.  Yes, you might go down in 6H when partner has only 1 ace but it is unlikely that you will go down because partner has at least 11 other HCP to help you.  In both of these cases, you have to place the contract in hearts because of your singleton spade. 


Ah, but what if partner shows you two aces?  Now we are very happy.  We can count 12 tricks (8 hearts, 2 spades, and the two aces).  What do we need for a 13th trick?  A king from partner.  How do we find out whether partner has a king?  Bid 5C asking for number of kings.  If partner shows 1 king, now we have 13 tricks (8 hearts, 2 spades, 2 aces, and whatever king partner has).  If you follow my suggested bidding, you will bid a grand slam holding a combined 30 HCP with a wasted Q of diamonds and a wasted Q of clubs in partner’s hand.  Congratulations, you have bid a grand slam and can probably claim 13 tricks at trick 2 after playing one round of hearts.


Some people wouldn’t open 1N with the N hand but rather would open 1D and when you respond 1H will rebid 1N.  What are you thinking now?  Actually, the thought process should not be much different.  After all, we saw that we can make a grand slam if partner has the right 11 count (two aces and one king).  So, after partner rebids 1N, bid 4C and based on the answer bid 4H, 6H, or 5C.  If you get the chance to bid 5C and partner shows one king, bid the grand slam.  As you can see, the grand slam is virtually cold with 11 HCP in partner’s hand and the 15 HCP in our hand.  In other words, with the right 26 HCP, you are almost cold for a grand slam.



  1. I’ve made this point before but it bears repeating.  Point count is only a guide line since points don’t take tricks, aces, kings, queens, and long suits take tricks. 



  1. When you have a long suit which will likely run in NT, play the hand in NT.  Three reasons: your long suit will take tricks in NT; you avoid a rather unlikely but possible ruff on the opening lead; at matchpoints, the extra 10 points might be worth a lot of matchpoints.



  1. Not all slams take 33HCP or 37HCP.  HCP are most useful with balanced hands. If you can count tricks during the bidding, it is the best method of evaluating the potential of the two hands.  What fun it is when you can almost claim a grand slam before the opening bid is made.  On this hand, you want to win the opening lead and cash one heart trick before claiming since you are dependent on running your 8 card heart suit
Compliments of Jack Lacy
Compliments of Jack Lacy


Board 24, Monday, July 8th, 2013. 

The suggested bidding is 2C – 2D – 3S – 4D – 4H – 5H – 6S. 

The bidding is what is interesting in this hand because the declarer will take 12 or 13 tricks depending on whether or not a club is led.  This hand is similar to the HOTW that I did in May but the lessons are worth repeating.

West opens 2C based on her 9 trick hand.  I wouldn’t argue with a 1S bid but it will be difficult to convey the playing strength of this hand if one doesn’t open 2C.  2D shows at least a king in the favorite agreement of players in Austin.  3S shows a solid suit and says this is the trump suit and asks partner to cue bid an ace if she has one.  If she doesn’t have one, she bids 3NT.

On this hand, E cues 4D which shows the diamond ace and, also important, denies the ace of clubs.  Immediately, W knows that the maximum of the hand is a small slam since she has a club loser.  W bids 4H to encourage E to further describe her hand.  West is now looking for a king since she knows that the only ace E has is the diamond ace.  East bids 5H to show the heart king and deny both the club king and the diamond king.  

West can now count 12 tricks: 7 spades, 3 hearts, and 2 diamonds and so bids the slam.     

1.     The jump to 3 of a Major after a 2C opener sets the Major as trump and asks partner if she has any aces - it typically shows a suit that is either solid or at least has good play to not have a loser opposite a small singleton.  This is a very useful treatment when you hold a strong distributional hand.  Be sure to discuss this treatment with partner before springing it on her.

2.     High card points do not take any tricks.  High card points are often a good indicator of the trick taking value of a hand but, in the case of distributional hands, some other method of evaluation will work better.  In the above auction, we counted tricks. 

3.     Not all slams take 33 points.  High card points are most useful in NT.    

4.     If you can count tricks during the bidding, it is the best method of evaluating the potential of the similar to the hand of the week I did in May.

5.     Note all the partnership agreements that were so useful during the auction: A 2D response to 2C promises at least a king and is game forcing; A jump by the 2C opener promises a solid suit and sets trumps; After the jump responder must cue bid her lowest first round control - if none bid NT ( some partnerships bid the trump suit but this uses up more room); If asked to cue bid again after showing first round controls you can show your second round controls. Partnerships should make these or similar agreements to help their slam bidding.


6.      Finally for the defense - listen to the auction and it is clear E/W are off the A of clubs. Lead a club or you may lose that trick!

Compliments of Jack Lacy
Compliments of Pam LaShelle

Board 23, Saturday 7/29/2013, Afternoon 

Preemts do their damage to people who are not flexible in their bidding and cannot adapt to situations that are a surprise. In this example, South dealt and opened 2 Spades.

Spades is the ultimate preemptive suit, so it puts West in a bind what to do with his 18 points. He is too good to just bid 3 Hearts so his choices are a double or with some imagination 3 Spades to see if partner bids 3NT. Partner now jumps to 5 Diamonds. What does this show? Partner had many choices, but clearly has shown POINTS (you know they aren't in Spades) and long Diamonds.

Back to partner having points. Look at your hand and realize that partner must have almost all of his points in Diamonds, so what does his suit look like? Remember he has 8+ points. Could be AKJxxx or AQJXXX, or even AKQXXX.

Should West now 1) bid 5 Hearts, 2) Pass, 3) or  bid 6 Diamonds? Clear thinking sometimes escapes us all when put under pressure. The thoughts going through my head were that partner surely does not have hearts, so 5 Hearts was out. Partner has over 8 points or he would just have bid 4 Diamonds and he does not have a spade stopper or he would have bid 3NT. Does partner know I have 18 points and what looks like 8 tricks in my own hand with a stiff spade? Clearly, no he does not! 

So for all the mentioned reasons I bid 6 Diamonds and we went down one! The King of Diamonds was offside or 6 was making.

Did we get a bad board? Luckily NO! The field was in some number of Hearts and down many more. We received a 9 on a 14 top and if I had passed 5 Diamonds we would have had a 12.

Something not mentioned here is the lack of the double of 2 Spades. This could have been the winning thing to do for several reasons. One is that partner could have held lots of spades (since I had just 1) and wanted to penalize them. The other reason that it was a viable option is that it was equal vulnerability.

What are the lessons here?

   1)  Use all the information you have to arrive at your final contract.

   2)  Just because a suit like Hearts looks self-sufficient, it isn't.

   3)  Just because Hearts is a MAJOR, you shouldn't automatically go to it.

   4)  If no bid is exactly right, use your imagination and make a forcing bid to hear what partner has.

Compliments of Pam LaShelle
Compliments of Jack Lacy

Board 24 from Wednesday morning, 6/26


 Suggested bidding is 1C – 1S – 3C – P – 5C all pass.  The opening lead is the A of spades. 

First, a word on the bidding.  3C was a preemptive bid showing club support and under 6 HCP.  Note that East has only 4 clubs.  But what if West has only 3 clubs, you ask?  As soon as North overcalls 1S, the odds of West having only 3 clubs, go significantly down since there are only three hand patterns where West has only 3 clubs: 4333, 3433, and 4423 and when North bids 1S, the odds of West having 4 spades go down significantly.   In any case, that was the bidding at the table.  West has a gigantic hand when partner shows club support and decides that the best chance for game is 5 clubs and, without further ado, bids the game in clubs. 

Now to the play.  


Stop before playing to the first trick.  Make a plan.  You can make this hand if the club finesse is on or if the diamond finesse is on.  To be able to take both finesses, you need two entries to dummy.  Do you see them?  The first entry to dummy is, of course, the K of hearts.  The second entry to dummy is in clubs if you are careful with your club spots.  Ruff the second spade, go to dummy, with the king of hearts and take the club finesse.  Two traps which, if you have a plan, you should avoid.  First, do not ruff the spade with the 5 of clubs as that is your second entry to dummy.  Secondly, what if the clubs are 3-0 with the 3 in the South hand?  Ruff the second spade with the 8 of clubs, overtake the Q of hearts with the K and lead the J of clubs.  If the J is not covered, don’t play the 5 as you need that 5 later to get back to dummy, play the 9 of clubs.  When N shows out, you are still in dummy to lead a second club to your Queen and draw the last trump with the Ace.  Now use your carefully preserved 5 of clubs to go back to dummy to take the diamond finesse by playing the Ten of diamonds so that if the king is not played on the first trick, you are still in dummy to take the second finesse.   On this hand, the K of diamonds is with North but you still make your contract.  Well done!  What if the K of clubs had been with North?  Then you would have needed your carefully preserved 5 of clubs to get back to dummy to take the diamond finesse and if South held the diamond king no worse than third, you would have made your contract.  


One more important point.  Should you finesse at all in clubs because, after all, you have 10 clubs between the two hands?  Yes.  In the cases that matter, the odds are almost 3 to 1 favoring the finesse over playing for the drop.  If you don’t believe that, talk to me or lay out the cards so you can see that it is better to finesse than play for the singleton king off side.  


1.       Do not play to trick one until you have a plan.  In this hand, if you hadn’t stopped to make a plan, you might very well ruff the second spade with the 5 which would mean that you would not have a second entry to dummy had you needed it.

2.       With 10 cards between the two hands missing the king, it is almost 3-1 in favor of finessing rather than playing for the drop. 

3.       Since your trump suit might break 3-0, carefully play the Jack on the first round so that if the finesse wins, you will still be in dummy to take another finesse.  It would be a shame for the club finesse to work but the clubs are 3-0 and you can’t get back to dummy to take a second finesse. 

4.       When you think you have a decent play for game, don’t fool around, just bid the game and see if you can make it.  On this hand, there is a second benefit since NS can make 10 tricks in either hearts or spades but because you bid to 5 clubs immediately, they could not get back into the bidding to find that out. 

Compliments of Jack Lacy
Compliments of Paul Tobias

Hand # 9, Wednesday Morning, 6/18/2013


This hand illustrates two key points of duplicate bidding and play: 


    1) When opponents have found a fit at a low level and stopped bidding it is usually right to try to at least push them to a higher level.


    2) Always look for an extra trick or overtrick, even if prospects look dim - you never know what good fortune may happen (often that means running your long suit and hoping for a miracle!).


The Bidding 


After South's 3rd hand opening, West was reluctant to bid a J high diamond suit at the two level and possibly get partner off to a fatal  diamond lead.  After West passed and North bid 1 and South bid 2 clubs, West passed again for the same reason (and also because it was unclear where the auction was going and whether the opponents had found a fit). Now North passed and East was in the pass out seat. East could tell from the auction that the opponents had found a good fit and only had about half the highcard points available. East/West might have a diamond fit or even a spade fit on this auction. So East followed principle 1) above and doubled to let West bid his suit. The auction proceeded as shown and West ended up playing 3.


The Play and the Miracle Overtrick


Have you guessed that the extra overtrick will come from the lowly 9 of clubs? Here's how it happened.

The opening lead was the 9 of hearts. West knew this was high from probably a 2-card holding and, after the A and a heart continuation, West won the second trick with the J.  When the finesse of the Q held and the A collected the last outstanding trump, West could see an easy 11 tricks with 1 seemingly unavoidable spade loser left. What were the hopes for a 12th trick? It looked like only a low spade to the J, hoping North both holds and ducks the K and Q of spades. A possible, but not very likely, defensive error. Declarer led a low club towards the concealed stiff ace and South rose with the Q, to guard against declarer holding the AJ of clubs. Declarer next ruffed the 8♥ in dummy and led another low club. South, still afraid that declarer was trying to sneak a trick with the J, went up with the K. Declarer ruffed and the stage was set for a 12th trick the defense could not prevent.


Declarer played the K and ran all his trumps. Here's what the 4 card ending looked like with two more trumps to play (putting declarer on the bottom).:







             KQ                                                            54

             -                                                                 -

             -                                                                 -

             J10                                                           87







On the lead of the 3 North shed the 10 and dummy threw a spade. On the lead of the 2, North was forced to pitch the J. Dunmy pitched the JS and won the last two tricks with the A and 9.. 


Note that once South played both her K and Q of clubs (a not unreasonable thing to do), the squeeze North was subjected to was legitimate and unavoidable. Declarer was rewarded with a next to top (someone was in 3 doubled!) for looking for an extra trick and playing off all his trumps. Also note that a good defensive play by North would have been to play the J on the first club trick (after partner plays the Q and declarer plays the A). This would tell South that you have the 10 and declarer isn't trying to sneak a club trick past South (North's pass of 2 clubs promised at least 3 card support so playing the J has to guarantee the 10).

Compliments of Paul Tobias

Board 2, Tuesday Morning, 6/11/2013


There are few books written on how to bid a highly distributional hand.  West’s hand is a hand that would be considered highly distributional.  Although West has only 12 HCP, her hand will make lots of hearts or spades if partner fits one of the suits.  The question is how to show the distributional nature of the hand and elicit partner’s help in deciding which suit to play and how high to play the hand.  Note that if East’s hand is as weak as Ax, Kxxx, Axxx, xxx, the partnership is cold for a grand slam with just 23 HCP between the two hands. 


The recommended bidding shows a highly distributional two suiter with maybe not very many HCP.  Note again that the partnership is cold for 4H with as little as 3 HCP in the East hand (the J of diamonds is a wasted value).  When West bids as recommended, what should East do?  After all, East has only 4 HCP.  This hand shows the value of a fit so that HCP are not as important as a fit in one of the two suits.  Note again that West will likely make 4H opposite as little as Jx, xxxx, xxx, xxxx losing a heart, spade, and a diamond.   So, what should East do when West bids as shown.  I think East has an easy raise to 4H because she fits West’s second suit so well.   It is interesting to note that out of 20 times this board was played, 5 NS’s were allowed to buy the contract in diamonds or clubs.  The lesson for West is that with 6-6, you should be declarer, not a defender. 


This board illustrates another lesson.  Whenever one side has such a distributional fit, the other side probably has a similar distributional fit.  Note that EW is cold for 5H and NS is cold for 6C (or 6D unless East leads a club).  So with 16 HCP opposite 24 HCP, the hand is cold for 23 total tricks (11 in hearts and 12 in clubs).  The point is that on this kind of distributional monster, point count is a terrible indicator of the trick taking potential of the hands.



  1. With a highly distributional hand, HCP is not a good indicator of the trick taking potential of the hand.
  2. When one has a fit, the hand will often take many more tricks than might be thought possible given the HCP between the two hands. 
  3. If partner has shown a highly distributional hand, then a fit in one of partner’s suits is way more important than the high card strength of the hand.  
  4. With a highly distributional hand and with a fit, you most likely want to declare, not defend.  With the above hand, both NS and EW should strive to play the hand, not defend.  And certainly neither hand should double since with this kind of distribution, some of your Aces and Kings will not take tricks. Note that 5H was doubled more often than not and the resulting 650 score gave a bottom to the doublers who ignored the highly distributional nature of the hand and thought their points would take tricks.


Compliments of Roaemary Kelley

Friday Morning, June 7,2013, Board #7


Possible Auction:


N        E         S         W


1H     1S       1N      Pass

2C     Pass   2H      Pass

Pass   3D     3H      Pass

All Pass


Opening Lead: Ten of Diamonds




Not to belabor this part of the hand too much, as the auction could go several ways, but South should like her hand well enough to take a push to the three level, even though she is flat. North will not be able to bid 3 Hearts, as she might think South has only 2 Hearts. At any rate, the 3 Diamond push was well conceived, as 9 tricks in Hearts might be tricky. Three Diamonds should probably go down just one, a good sack over the always making 2 Hearts.




Leading a Heart would be ideal, but tough to do with the singleton King, which will usually take a trick if the Ace were in the North hand. It looks like partner might have some length in Hearts so lets make North ruff, if we can. The ten is the “top of an interior sequence” and the recommended card to lead from this holding, unless the partnership has agreed on leading “coded nines and tens,” a topic for another lesson.




Here is where it gets interesting. After three rounds of Diamonds with North ruffing, careful play might yield 9 tricks. A small Heart to dummy uncovers the bad break. Note the play of the small Heart, for just this possible holding. Leading the Queen will compress the Heart honors and give up a natural trick when the King is onside and singleton, as in this hand. If it is onside, with one or two small ones to go with it, you will still be able to collect it after playing the 9 from dummy and returning to hand with a Club for another finesse, if that is what you choose. But when the King appears, stop for a minute and count your tricks. You can get 5 natural Heart tricks, 2 Clubs and a Spade. As East bid a Spade over your Heart overcall, instead of making a double, East shows at least 5 so count on West for only a doubleton. At any rate, you need another trick. A full count of West's hand gives you a 2/4/5/2 pattern, so your Clubs are not breaking; no 4th round winner there. But perhaps you can ruff that 4th Club with a trump in dummy. Watch out! You need to develop and cash your Spade trick first!!


After winning the Heart Ace, lead one of the high Spades from dummy. West will now return either a Club or a Heart. Win the trick and cash your Spade winner. Now a Club to your hand (and a second high one if West led a Heart back) and give up your 3rd round Club trick to East. The hand will now look like this, if West returned a Club, with East on lead: (If a Heart was returned the cards in parentheses would be gone.)





                                                    H. QJ(6)


                                                    C. 4

West                                                                                     East

S.                                                                                          S. J8(7)

H. 87(4)                                                                                 H.

D. J                                                                                        D.

C.                                                                                           C. Q


                                               S. 96

                                               H. 10(9)




East cannot lead anything to hurt North. A Spade and North will crossruff the hand. A Club, and North will ruff in the South hand, cash the 10 of Hearts and claim, holding the good QJ of trumps in hand! Nine tricks found and cashed!!


Pointers from this hand:


  1. Do not lead a high card in a finesse to entice a cover, if the cover will not do you any good or your secondary honors will fall on the same trick, thereby “compressing” your tricks. Exception: You have no more entries to the leading hand and you may need to repeat the finesse.


  1. With a 4/3 fit in a side suit, don't expect the 4th card to hold up as a trick if it is a small one. The most likely split is 4/2 in the opponents hands. Think about ruffing the fourth round, particularly if you have good spots in the ruffing hand that are not needed to pull trumps.


  1. Before ruffing a third or fourth round of a suit in which one of the opponents is going to be out, think about what they may be sloughing on the trick and make sure they will not then be able to ruff one of your other tricks. In this hand, I am referring to the possibility of West pitching a Spade if you play three rounds of Clubs before you develop your Spade trick. This is the same principle as taking your side winners before you start a crossruff.



Compliments of Roaemary Kelley
Compliments of Pam LaShelle

Tuesday, 5/28/2013, Board # 25


Balance is important in everything we do including the balance of strength between 2 hands when in any contract. Lack of transportion, no way to develop tricks , no ability to take finesses, are some of the problems with lop-sided hands. Of course, when this happens there is nothing you can do about it, except take it easy on bidding and stay low! One extreme example to illustrate this: say you have AKx, AKx, AKx, AKxx and partner has no points with short clubs. Despite your 28 points you will not make 3NT without significant uinlikely help from the opponents. You are much better off having 25 or 26 points evenly split between you and dummy. 


North opened in first position with a weak 2 Hearts (despite having 4 spades - something the partnership should agree to either allow or never do) and the auction proceeded with a pass by East and a pass by South. West now doubled and North passed (he has bid his hand even though it was a very nice weak 2). Now East bid exactly what he should have and bid 2 Spades. This was the very weakest bid he could make with his poor 2 point hand - and sometimes may be made with only a 3 card suit and no points. South next passed  and West, with his 18 points and 3 spades has to decide if his double over a weak 2 already showed his strength. It definitely shows more than an opening count and  likely support for the other major. He chose to bid 3NT even though 2NT would have shown 18-20 points and a balanced hand. His bid showed a hand good enough to make 3NT in his own hand - which was far from what he had. .


Trouble was brewing now with a game bid and only 20 points and the huge imbalance in the two hands. Playing a hand almost entirely out of one hand is just about impossible. 


North led the Jack of Hearts and Declarer struggled to take 7 tricks. He took 4 Spades, 2 Hearts and 1 Club. He had to keep leading from his hand which is never good. On his one trip to the board with Spades he led a Club to his King. He played it as well as he could and was lucky to guess correctly in the spade suit.


Down 200 was 1 match point out of 4 for the 3NT bidder and his partner. If he had bid 2NT and been down just 1 it would have been a good board (next to top for 3.5 match points). 


It is easy to get excited about a great hand! Just keep reminding yourself of how little your partner might be holding and try to be careful in your bidding.




    1. After a takeout double of a preempt remember that you have already shown a better than opening hand just by doubling. Any subsequent bid by you is showing  at least 18 and a jump 20+ points. On this hand with a balanced 18 points and good heart protection, an  overcall of 2NT instead of a double would not have been an underbid.


    2. Lebensohl is a very valuable convention to use over weak 2's. It works much like Lebensohl over interference of your NT opening. So, after a takeout double of a Weak 2: 2NT is a relay to 3 Clubs and a subsequent bid by responder is for you to pass unless they could have bid the suit at the 2 level. If the responder instead bids a suit at the 3 level (and does not go through 2NT first) it shows 8+ points. Any bid staying at the 2 level shows less than 8 points.


   3.  Remember to stay low on imbalanced and misfit hands.

Compliments of Pam LaShelle
Compliments of Paul Tobias

May 24, 2013, Board # 19


I must confess - I had many interesting hands to choose from this week such as a hand where 7NT had 17 tricks off the top (see board  16, 5/22 morning)  and most players played in spades or at the 6 level -  but his hand today struck a chord that needs repeating over and over again.


The auction at my table went 1NT - pass by me - 2D Transfer - pass - 2H - pass - 3NT - p - p -p.


I led the 7 of clubs and we quickly took 5 clubs for down 1. The post mortem by declarer stated that she was "balanced" so expected to make as many in NT as in hearts, despite having 3 card support to the AK. What's wrong with this reasoning? In many hands it is possible to elect 1 side or the other as "Captain". East showed her values with the 1NT opening. West is now "Captain" and transferred to hearts and bid 3NT. West is saying "Partner, please bid 4 hearts with 3 or more hearts - otherwise, pass 3NT.


To me this is a matter of simple partnership discipline. You don't have to think (Thank God! - Bridge is a difficult enough game and it is nice to have a chance to just do what partner is telling you to do). Automatically, bid your 4H game and if it makes as many tricks in NT it is not your fauilt (you were only following orders).


But what happened on this simple board? There were more players in 3NT than in hearts (5 out of 9) and all went down. The result, no doubt of those irresistible extra 10 points for being in NT that lured all these East players to pass 3NT (despite not having a club stopper and knowing partner had either a doubleton or even a singleton on this auction (3-5-4-1 or similar distributions with 10 points are possible shapes for West). 


Lessons  Have partnership agreements on auctions like this as to who is "Captain". Then follow those agreements despite the lure of a No Trump contract - unless you are absolutely sure you are right! Only depart from this if you desparately need a "top" and know you are deliberately breaking partnership agreements and going against what the field is likely to do.

Compliments of Paul Tobias
Compliments of Louis Sachar

Wednesday morning, May 15, board 17.


Auction with North Dealer:                        1d - 1h - 1s -2h
                                                                     3c - 3h -3NT  all pass

This hand contains a fairly common card-combination problem, yet more than half the declarers in both the open and limited games got it wrong, and went down in a cold game.

West led the Queen of hearts.

First of all, there is no reason to duck this trick. You can lose two spades and a diamond, but if diamonds and clubs come in, you won't have any other losers. Why give them a heart trick, too? (And if they don't take their spades, one of those losers may disappear as well.) The duck of a heart would only make sense if West can win two diamond tricks, and East had no spade entry, not likely on the bidding. (East overcalled and rebid hearts missing the AKQ and probably the J of the suit. Surely she has a spade honor.)

Okay, so you win the first heart, and that brings us to the crux of the hand. How do you play diamonds for just one loser? (If you lose two diamonds, they will be able to get three heart tricks as well.)

If the missing diamonds are divided 3-2, it doesn't much matter what you do. But if they are 4-1, you can still pick up the suit if East has four to the queen.So you check to make sure there are no entry problems to either hand, and enter dummy with the king of clubs. Then lead a low diamond toward the jack. If it loses to West's queen,  you are back to hoping for a 3-2 diamond break, but playing East for queen-fourth, gave you an extra chance, which on this hand of the week, turned out to be critical..

This could hardly even be called a safety play, because there is almost no distribution of the missing diamond cards that will allow you to lose no diamond tricks.  (More on this later.)

Some might ask what happens if West had a singleton queen. Then it would have been right to play a high diamond first. True, but the suggested line of play works whenever west has a singleton 3, 4, 9, or 10. Thus it is four times more likely than him having precisely a singleton Q. It sometimes may turn out to be wrong, but all you can do is make the play that gives you the greatest chance of success. 

Incidentally, at trick two,when you lead a low club to the board, be mindful of your table presence. Try not to act like you expect it to win. You're not allowed to decieve the opponents by being overly dramatic about it, but at least show some interest in what card East plays. Remember, the opponents are taking inferences from every card you play, as well as your attitude.

Despite your manner, East should probably figure out you have the ace of clubs, but you never know. At our table, after getting in with the queen of diamonds, East led another heart, when she should have known that a spade trick was going away. She knew declarer had the AK of hearts from the opening lead, and she can see five diamond tricks and  four club trick in dummy. Thus if she wanted her two spade tricks, she better take them NOW!

One last note. Going back to the diamond suit card combination, there is one precise defensive holding where you can legitimately take all six diamond tricks. If West had exactly  Q43 and East had exactly 109, you can lead the jack from your hand, finessing West's Q. Such a precise holding is unlikely, and I would only play for it to be that way if I was desperate, and couldn't afford any diamonds losers. (It doesn't work if East has the singleton 9 or 10 as West can insure a diamond trick by not covering.) 

Lesson points:

1. With AKxxxx opposite Jx, the best way to play for only one loser in the suit is to lead low towards the jack. (You're going to have to lose one one trick in the suit anyway, no matter what you do, and this gives you an extra chance to avoid two losers.)

2. Try not to reveal your card holdings by your table manner. It is unethical to put on an act, but if you are too cavalier, or act too worried, you may be giving valuable information to the opponents. When you lead up to a king, your manner should be the same whether you have the ace in your hand, or whether the contract depends on the ace being on-side.

3. Count declarer's tricks on defense. Today's East should have known to cash out after winning the queen of diamonds.


Compliments of Louis Sachar
Compliments of Jack Lacy

Friday, 5/3/2013 KO Match


This hand is from the finals of the Friday 5/3/2013 KO at the Austin sectional.  The play is trivial as long as no one ruffs the opening lead so we will focus on the bidding.  South opens 2C.  Is his hand worth a 2C opener?  With spades trump, it has 9 winners: 7 spades, 1 diamond, and 1 club.  Yes, it is worth a 2C opener.  The 2D response showed at least a king, a treatment that is popular with many players.  Now the jump to 3S.  That bid (the jump after opening 2C) is reserved for a hand where you know what the trump suit is and all you really want to know is if partner has an ace (or two).  Bidding 3S says spades are trump and asks do you have any aces?  Partner cue bids his cheapest ace (and if he doesn’t have an ace bids 3NT).  North bids 4C showing the A of clubs.  South now bids 4D showing the A of diamonds.  North is out of aces but has a useful king in the diamond suit (he thinks it is useful since partner cue bid the ace of diamonds) so he bids 5D.  To reiterate, the 5D bid denies the A of hearts and shows the K of diamonds.  South can now count 12 tricks if North’s clubs are at least 3 cards long: 7 spades, 2 diamonds (the A and K), and 3 clubs (the A, K, and Q).  Also, South knows that there is not a grand slam since he has a singleton heart and partner has denied the A of hearts.  South ends the auction by bidding 6S.  Congratulations, you have just bid a 25 HCP slam. 



  1. The jump to 3 of a Major after a 2C opener sets the Major as trump and asks partner if he has any aces - it typically shows a suit that is either solid or at least has good play to not have a loser opposite a small singleton.  This is a very useful treatment when you hold a strong distributional hand.  Be sure to discuss this treatment with partner before springing it on him.                                                                                                                                                                                                                              
  2. High card points do not take any tricks.  High card points are often a good indicator of the trick taking value of a hand but, in the case of distributional hands, some other method of evaluation will work better.  In the above auction, we counted tricks.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  
  3. Not all slams take 33 points.  High card points are most useful in NT.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    
  4. If you can count tricks during the bidding, it is the best method of evaluating the potential of the two hands.  
Compliments of Jack Lacy
Compliments of Rosemary Kelley

Tuesday April 30,2013, Board 16


Possible Auction:


N          E          S          W


1N      2S         2N*      Pass

3C    Pass       3H       Pass

Pass   4H      All Pass


Opening Lead: King of Spades




North and South play conventions on after a 1NT overcall so Lebensohl was available to South.

South's 2NT bid is a relay to 3C. South could now pass, bid a new suit at the 3 level or bid 3NT. The new suit bid of 3 Hearts shows a hand with fewer than 8 points and a 5+ card suit. Basically, a “drop dead” bid—“This is where we are playing the hand. I have no interest in game.” For a full description of the bid, Google Lebensohl and choose an explanation of the Convention over 1NT interference or go to for a full explanation.


After South shows the Heart suit, North has reason to believe that the hand could actually make 4 Hearts with as little as x Kxxxx xxx Jxxx. All of North's values seem to be “working” and well placed behind the opener. Suit by suit this means:

            Spades: South should have no more than 1 Spade and therefore no losers in that suit.

Hearts: Even missing the King in the South hand, a finesse against West for the King could easily bring this suit in for no losers.

            Diamonds: Exactly 2 losers here.

Clubs: With the Ace or Jack onside (in the West hand) only 1 loser here. As long as South can reach her hand and figure out which is “onside.”


With no high cards in the South hand, but entries, via Spade ruffs, to lead the Hearts and Clubs it looks like 10 tricks are very possible.




Pretty obvious.




South realizes the need for entries to her hand and should start by ruffing the first Spade in her hand. She needs 3 trumps for ruffing so would like the Hearts to break 2/2 but might be able to handle a 3/1. At trick 2, lead the Jack of Hearts. If covered, return to hand with the 10 of Hearts. If not lead a Club toward dummy. East would do well to duck, but most players will win the Ace and lead the Queen of Diamonds. South will duck this. The 10 of Diamonds next (West knows East has the Jack so the 10 lets West know about that card also) and another duck by South. Now East will probably shift back to Spades. South should win the Ace in dummy and play the Ace of Hearts. Now a second Spade ruff to hand and lead a third round of Diamonds. If the Ace falls, you are home free. Return with the last Spade ruff and pitch the 10 of Clubs from dummy on the King of Diamonds. If the Ace does not appear, use that last ruff to hand to do the Club finesse.


It is right to try the Diamond FIRST!! If you do the Club finesse first and it loses, you will already be down!! If you do the Diamond first and it does not work, you can still do the Club finesse later. Wouldn't you feel awful if East had the Jack of Clubs but West had the Axx of Diamonds and you went down??!!


Pointers from this hand:


  1. When you have two chances to make a bid, do first the one that will not result in a lo