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Hand of the Month: No 6, has been added under the Results heading. It's a hand from the final match of League 6.

Hand of the Month
Hand of the Month No. 6

Hand of The Month 6:  An interesting hand to bid and play, from the final match of League 6.

         N                                S

S   AK8532                    QT976

H   T72                           AJ9

D   A                               K2

C   AKT                           953


The hands can be assessed using the Losing Trick Count (e.g. see   This technique for assessing the likely appropriate level suggests 6S: N has a 4 loser hand, S an 8    (maybe 7) loser hand.  4+8=12 ; 18-12=6 ; so 6S.

Or the Milton Count (HCPs):   N has 18 HCP’s, plus additional value for a singleton and 6 spades. S has 10 HCP’s, plus additional values for a 5th spade and doubleton diamond. This suggests a slam is worth investigating.

The bidding will vary according to whether the N/S pair plays 4 or 5 card majors, or Precision; 6S a good slam.


A diamond is led, and declarer can count 11 top tricks. It looks like the 12th trick has to come from hearts. Finessing twice is possible because declarer has JT9 between the hands, as well as the A. This is a good line to take, with a 75% chance of making 2 heart tricks. It’s only when West has both HK and HQ, which happens 25% of the time, that it fails. This was one of those times, so when played that way, only 11 tricks were made.

To make certain of 12 tricks, it’s necessary to understand Elimination and Endplay technique, and to recognise this is an opportunity to use it. It’s not so difficult. The idea of an endplay is to make the opponent on lead give declarer an extra trick. On the above hand, the heart finesse should only be taken once spades have been eliminated from the opponent’s hand, and diamonds and clubs eliminated from declarer’s hand.

After winning the diamond lead in hand with the A, trumps are drawn in one round, possibly best done by playing to the SQ. DK is cashed, discarding a club from hand. A club is lead to CA, the CK cashed, and the CT ruffed in dummy. A trump is lead to hand, and this is the position:

         N                           S

S    A853                    T976

H   T72                       AJ9

D   None                    None

C   None                     None

The heart finesse is now taken, it loses but West is now endplayed. If a heart is returned, declarer makes 2 heart tricks, and is a diamond or club is returned, declarer gets a ruff and discards a H.  

Hand of the Month No 5

JANUARY 30th HAND 9    Compiled by Ray


South                                West                            North                         East

1D                                     2*                               Pass                            2**

2H                                     3***                          3                               4****

Pass                                  Pass                              Pass   

  • *        3 would have shown a 2 suited hand.
  • **      UCB (unassuming cue bid) showing Club support, and possible game interest. 
  • ***   Opening hand (!), and not much more.
  • **** Expecting to make, or go one down if 3H makes

Competing a part score to the 4 level is rarely a good idea, and if North/South had been Vulnerable, double might be best, hoping to get them 1 down for 200 to E/W. One idea about how to bid in this sort of situation is that of TOTAL TRICKS EQUAL TOTAL TRUMPS. If N/S play in ’s, they have 8 trumps. If E/W play in ’s, they have 10 trumps. 8+10 = 18, which is the total number of tricks to be expected on this hand. (this isn’t always so, but it’s a good guide, and is the case on this hand) These 18 tricks are between the two hands, so if N/S can make 8 in ’s, E/W can make 10 in s. If N/S can make 9 in ’s, E/W can make 9 in ’s. In both these cases, bidding 4 appears to be best.


It looks like declarer needs to make the contract, as N/S may well have gone down in 3 ( as indeed they should)’ so minus 50 is likely to be a bad score (as indeed it was)


Take time to plan the complete hand.

As West in 4’s, you have a near certain 7 tricks (5’s, A,A ) Where can the other 3 come from?

3 ruffs in dummy would do it, but it looks like South has 5’s (you can ask whether or not the bidding shows this to be the case) so North may be able to ruff the fourth round with the J ( and indeed it could )

 Two ruffs would bring you up to 9 tricks. Where can the 10th come from?

 One possibility is to play North for the A, but remembering South’s strong bidding, and North’s weak bidding, this seems unlikely to succeed. Finessing the J would have more chance, but doesn’t work.

 The winning line is to play North for an honour in ’s, along with the 10. So lead towards dummy, and put in the 9. When this draws the K, finesse again in H’s.

North is likely to lead one of her partner’s suits, and leading a would probably show declarer the way home. The actual lead didn’t help much, although it did place North with the Q. – so probably not much in ’s, and perhaps a honour, as she had supported H’s.

Seeing the need to ruff ’s, declarer won the first trick with the A, ruffed a at trick two, and led a to South’s A. South had to return a , which was ruffed in dummy. The contract cannot now make because of entry problems. It seems to me that the only way to make this contract is to finesse the 9 at trick two. This sets up the 10th trick for a discard whilst dummy still has a trump ( so South cannot cash a winner )

 How many of us would have found our way home to make the contract? Very few I suspect.


Bid more aggressively for part score contracts when you are Not Vulnerable, rather than when you are Vulnerable.

Plan the hand before you play the first card from dummy.

Hand of the Month No 4

Modifications to garbage Stayman?

By Richard Stevenson

On 11th November, on board 17, Greg opened 1NT (14-16 points). I had the following hand:

♠ J 7 4

 K J 10 4

  10 8 9 5

♣  7 6

What would you do? I passed. I couldn't see where to run to.

I also hoped it might work out well for us being left in 1NT. It’s worth noting that when partner bids no-trump, they are always more likely be closer to the bottom end of their point range. So maybe on this hand the opponents had 21 points, helping pairs at other tables and sitting in the same direction as them to make a two-level contract. If that is in a major, it would score 110 if making, better than the 50/100 we’d give away going one/two off in 1NT; and if it’s a minor, it would score 90, so we could still afford to go one off. Fingers crossed!

When the lead was made, Greg suggested I could have bid 2C and passed all responses by him. Is he right?

For several days I’ve been puzzling this idea, known as Garbage Stayman. Looking through my bridge books isn't helping, as they assume 1NT bids are not made with a five-card major. That may have been the case a few years ago, but now some leading bridge writers are advocating the merits of open 1NT with hands that include 5 card majors. Benefits include providing partner with a very good description of your hand, in terms of point count, and an opportunity to play in their weak suit, using transfers.

If your 1NT could include a 5-card major, it’s best to modify Stayman to cope with this. For example, we use 2C to ask for a 5-card major, and if a 2D denial follows, then 3C asks for a 4-card major.

If you are going to play Garbage Stayman, and the 1NT hand could have a 5-card major, your ideal hand for that bid will contain at least 3 spades, 3 hearts, and 6 diamonds, because you are guaranteed to find an 8-card fit. That’s very different from the 4-4-4-1 distribution recommended for playing Garbage Stayman in the books that discuss 1NT hands that do not include a five-card major.

When playing a 1NT system that can include a 5-card major, you need to be aware that you are less likely to get a major response, and far more likely to hear 2D. I’ve gone through the maths, and the chances of a 5-card major are about 22 percent. The worse situation, finding partner with 2 diamonds and no 5-card major, is 19.7 percent. For three diamonds and no 5-card major, it’s 31.7 percent. 

In duplicate, you need to weigh up the odds, and take the most probable course of action for success. Had I bid 2D on the hand above I’d have hit the jackpot, finding an 8-card fit in spades. But holding only four diamonds, there is a risk of playing in a 4-2 or 4-3 fit – and in 2 diamonds, there is the need to make one more trick to score the same number of points as 1NT. So, I think I’ll be only applying Garbage Stayman with hands with at least 5 diamonds, an ideally just one club.


Hand of the Month no 3 The 12th Trick

This Contribution from Ray on Board 17 Monday 21st October Claret Cup

This was not a success for Sheila and myself – 29%

 WEST           S AQ93                    S K8752        EAST

                      H QJ7                       H A65

                      D AQ3                      D K64

                      C A52                       C Q10

Is playing in NoTrumps better than in the 9 card Spade suit ?

Extra tricks in a suit contract come mainly from ruffing in the hand that has fewer trumps, or in either hand where trumps are equal. On this hand, the 5th Spade will win a trick in No Trumps,  and no more by possibly ruffing a Club.

On this hand, No trumps makes as many tricks as Spades, and gets the crucial extra 10 points.

We played in Spades – mistake!

Should a Slam be bid, or Game?

The most simple version of the Losing Trick Count suggests Game.

 ( West 6 losers, East 8 losers, 6+8 = 14 : 18-14 = 4 . So bid to the 4 level - or 3NT ) – or, take 14 from 24, which is the number of tricks you can expect to make - 10.

The New Losing Trick Count does better, suggesting that the hands can be expected to make 11 tricks ( 1.5 losers for each missing ace, 1.0 for each missing king, 0.5 for each missing queen gives West 6 losers,  East 8 losers, together 14 losers, take from 19 gives 5 , so bid to the 5 level ( well, stop in game) – or you can take 14 from 25 which is the number of tricks you can expect to make - 11

The Milton Count is 19+12 = 31, plus maybe a point for the 5th Spade. Arguably a bit light for a Slam in No Trumps ( 33 being sound on flat hands ) Fewer high card points are usually necessary for Slam in a suit, because of long suits and ruffing possibilities, but there are no extra tricks available on this hand from ruffs, and the 5th spade trick is also there in No Trumps.

 It looks like a slam will only make if North has both missing Kings – a 25% chance.

We stopped in Game – understandable mistake!

What is South’s best lead against 4 Spades ? ( or 6 S/NT )

South’s lead can only be passive, and a trump lead is least likely to save declare a guess – well done Brian. No lead gives declare the 12th trick, but a Heart or Club lead gives declarer no option but to play North for the King in the suit not led. ( Duck a Club lead establishing the CQ, then play North for the HK for the the 12th trick. A Heart lead, establishes 2 Heart tricks and you must play low to the CQ for your 12th )

How to play 4 Spades ( or 6 Spades ) on a Spade lead ?

It’s always possible to make 11 tricks ( 5 Spades, 3 Diamonds, HA + CA ) and another Heart whoever has the HK .

How to make the 12th?

The simple option is to accept the 75% chance that only 11 tricks are available. Take out trumps, play low towards the CQ, then play North for the HK. It works ! Slam made or Game + 2.

I decided to try for an elimination and throw in. ( This sounds clever, but trying to be so usually works badly for me – a little knowledge being a dangerous thing )

There is a brief explanation of "Elimnation and Throw in" play here 

I took out trumps, then played the HQ. It did not matter who had the HK, though North had it and sensibly covered. I won with the AH , eliminated Diamonds, and played HJ and Hx, throwing in North. Marion then had to give me a ruff and discard by returning a Heart, or lead away from her CK.

It worked ; it was pretty ; but was it any better than simply playing North for both missing Kings?

Although it doesn’t matter who held the HK, whoever is thrown in has to also have the CK. What are the odds on that? Furthermore South might have been able to win the 3d round of Hearts and save his partner from the end play. I suspect that Brian would have done this if possible, which is was not.

Anyway, I had some interest and fun to go along with our 29%

 How to bid this hand

I opened a mini no trump (10 – 12) Sheila bid 2 clubs (5 card Stayman) I bid 3 spades ( 5 spades and 12 points ) With a flat 19 and 4 spades, Sheila settled for 4 spades.

What if the opening was one no trumps (12 - 14) ?

With 19 points, partner  might bid a Quantitative 4 no trumps ( asking partner to  pass, or bid 6 no trumps with a maximum )

We play Gerber over any natural no trump bid, so checking for aces with 4 clubs, and for kings, with 5 clubs would be an alternative route looking for a slam ( missing 2 kings, 5 no trumps would be the contract )

Some might use Stayman to locate the spade fit, and have a go at 6 spades, knowing between 31 and 33 points were held, maybe after using RKCB to check for key cards.

What if the opening bid was one spade? ( playing 5 card majors, or not liking opening one no trump with a 5 card major )

Knowing the partnership held 31+ points, and 9 spades, a slam in spades might be bid immediately, or via whatever control asking/showing system was available.



Previous Hands of the Month

Hand of the Month No 1

Hand Of the Month No 2