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Bridge School

The following lesson handouts are from the Intermediate Bridge Lessons held by and for BCCM members from early October through November, 2018.

Additional bridge articles appeared in issues of the BCCM Newsletter (2016-2017).

  Becoming an Oracle

Becoming an Oracle

by Jazi Tricks

Do not ask yourself “What should I do now?”
Rather always ask
What the hell is going on?

Bob Hamman
– world champion and one of the best players ever


  • There is usually some information for you. 

No finesse is a real 50-50. There are nearly always some clues. 

  • No certainties. But likelihoods.
  • Sure is not our goal. Probably is what we can get.

Or more likely.

  • Be content with “it looks like *****”. This will suffice to aid play. 
  • Police detective attitude. 
  • Try being Sherlock Holmes all the time. 
  • Do not be over confidence with it. Guesses are guesses. But you will be surprised as to how many times you can guess right.
  • Postpone decisions if you can.

Lets say you have a finesse that can go both ways. AJ10 opposite K98

  • You can finesse from both directions. 
  • Do everything else you can do before making your decision. 
  • Every round of cards tells you more. Once you arrive to decision time you might know way more than you can imagine. If you make the decision at trick 12, you can   sometimes “play double dummy” simply because you already saw 48 cards!


  • Be curious when playing dummy. You are free from deciding. Try guessing:

“what does declarer have in spades?”

“why is declarer not playing trumps now?”

“this suit looks like a finesse. Why is declarer not taking the finesse??”

Keep track on your guesses, and see whether when and why you were right vs wrong. 


Practical principles:

  1. Guessing is a multi part expertise with many individual steps to learn.
  2. You can learn some parts of it without being fluent in the whole thing. 
  3. There are technical aides and tricks how to do it.
  4. Examples will be provided for. Point counting. Distribution tracking. Bidding inferences.


Last updated : 18th Apr 2019 18:24 ICT

Bidding Six Common
Standard American Doubles

by Tim Dickey


Today we’ll be talking about six (6) different Standard American ways to double plus the redouble. There are more doubles than I can name, so we’ll only be discussing 6 of the Standard American doubles most common and useful. We all know that the Standard American bidding system was created by some Machiavellian Prince to be as complicated as possible, but we also know that the system is based on a mathematical model. Doubling is different. It is a parallel communication system that is not necessarily mathematically based. 

So here we go. 

1. Take-Out Double

The first double we all know and love is the Take-Out Double. The Standard American Take-Out Double following my RHO suit bid says: I have opening (13/14) pts with no upper limit; I am weak in the bid suit, 0,1,2; I am saying to Partner: “I am bidding, in general, any one of the remaining three suits, You are required to bid in response.”

  1. Take-Out Doubles always take a discussion with Partner because not everyone understands a Take-out Double quite this way, but this is the Standard American way. 
  2. What is the difference between a Take-out Double and an Overcall? The primary difference is that in an Overcall I’m saying – “Partner, I have a specific suit for us with at least 5 cards, I have no more than 16 pts and I don’t demand that you bid.” So these are 2 entirely different conversations and of course, the point threshold is different for an Overcall on both ends. 
  3. Okay, so partner, I’ve bid the Take-out Double and you’re now ready to respond with best suit, but your hand has 4 of a major and 5 of a minor. Which is your best suit? A major suit is generally recommended over a minor suit regardless of relative strength, but you should discuss this with partner. 
  4. Now partner, you’re ready to give your best suit, but at what level? American Standard says 0-8 pts, a sequence bid. My RHO bids a ♣ , I double, LHO passes, you bid 1 //♠. 9-11 pts, jump a level. My RHO bids 1♣ , I double, LHO passes, you bid 2 //♠ . This perfectly describes your hand. I’ll take it from there. How about 12 pts and above? Bid game. So my RHO bids 1♣ , I double, LHO passes, you take a deep breath and bid 4 /♠ . This not a close out bid. I’ll take from there. 
  5. Can you also respond 3NT? Sure, provided you have at least 1 stopper in the bid suit and preferably more. So just because I’m bidding any one of the remaining three suits this does not mean that you are forbidden from bidding No Trump if your hand dictates it. 
  6. Let’s say my RHO bids, I double and LHO bids. Partner is obviously off the hook. But if partner decides to bid, partner should adhere as closely as possible to the Standard American response schedule. 
  7. So my RHO bids 1♣ , I double, LHO passes, you have no pts.  Okay, we know you must take it out. It’s a sliding scale, the fewer the pts, the more important it is to bid. But are there any circumstances where you can pass? Yes. With a strong hand you can pass thereby converting a Take-out Double to a Penalty Double. Here’s an example: I Double, you my partner have a strong hand – we could easily make a game contract, but we’re not Vulnerable and they are. If they go down 2 tricks, good, 500 points for us, more than we score not vulnerable in a game contract, even with an overtrick. The risk of setting opponent’s contract at least 2 tricks at the one level is obviously higher, but the reward is also higher. 
  8. Let’s say my RHO bids 1 club, I double, you have 0-10 pts, you’re ready to give me your best suit, but NIGHTMARE– your best suit is clubs. What do you do to get us out of this mess? You’ll likely have a club stopper since that is your best suit so you bid 1 No Trump with 8-10 pts and a stopper in the bid suit. You’ve accurately described you hand. I’ll likely pass it out. This is not all bad because the lead by my RHO will probably be 4th highest from his/her bid suit so you can probably capture the first trick without sacrificing your stopper. Otherwise, 0-7 pts bid your second best suit. If you don’t make the bid, it’s on me for requiring you to take me out.
  9. Take-out Double after a 1NT open shows a balanced hand with 16-18 pts – a slightly stronger hand than normal and generally regarded as a penalty double. You can pass. If you choose to bid, the double is treated as a no trump bid and systems are ON. So the responsive bids are Stayman, Transfer and No Trump, as applicable.
  10. There are 2 other Take-out Doubles not commonly used and found only deep in the bridge books. They are: 1) a strong one suited hand, 16 pts and a 6 card suit and 19 pts with a 5 card suit. You still need shortness in the bid suit and able to handle the other two suits. 2) a balanced hand too strong to bid 1 no trump. Some people might say: “Oh, you should Overcall and show pts in the next round by changing suits.” But since an Overcall only goes to 16 pts, I am too strong for that bid.  Further, the threshold for an Overcall is low which risks partner passing.
  11.  Should I double for take-out after a weak two bid, I’m telling partner I have at least 15 points and weak in the bid suit.

2. Negative Double

The next double is the Negative Double.

  1. The bidding sequence is alwayspartner opens, my RHO bids and now it is my turn to bid. 
  2. I must have at least 6 pts at the one level and 8/9 pts at the two level. This is not a limit bid, I may have a strong hand. 
  3. I am saying to partner, “I’m 4/4 in the other two suits,” but as a practical matter, it doesn’t always work quite that way.
  4. If partner bids a minor and my RHO overcalls with a minor, I double to say I have the two majors. Partner takes it from there.
  5.  If partner bids a major and my RHO overcalls with the other major, I double to say I have the two minors. Partner takes it from there.
  6. If partner bids a minor and my RHO overcalls with a major, I double to say I have the other major and I am saying nothingabout the remaining fourth suit. Partner takes it from there.
  7. Here’s an interesting twist. When partner opens with a minor, my RHO bids one heart, it is recommended that if I have 4 spades, I double. If I hold 5 spades I bid the spades, otherwise, partner will not know I have a 5 card holding and will not know whether to support the bid. These are two very descriptive, but entirely different bids. A discussion with partner about the difference is recommended.
  8. Should discuss with partner as to what the highest level the negative double may be made. It is recommended that negative doubles go to two spades.  
  9. Let’s say my LHO is dealer and bids, my partner passes and my RHO bids. I double. This is not a negative double. This is a Take-Out Double. 

3. Support Double

  1. A support double can come in pretty handy. This is always a second round bid by partner who has opened. It is usually a situation where partner has opened with a minor, my RHO has passed and I have bid, usually my major. My LHO also bids or doubles and now it is my partner’s turn to bid again. My partner doubles the overcall or redoubles my LHO’s double to show three card support in my bid suit. This is quite useful information because I may have a 5 or 6 card holding that is otherwise not disclosed in the first round of bidding. So we may have an 8 card fit. If we don’t, I likely bid two no trump to show I have only a 4 card suit. Partner takes it from there.
  2. This double by partner says nothing about pts – only three card support in partner’s (responder’s) suit. 
  3. Obviously, if opener has four of the partner’s (responder’s) suit he/she would bid it, but unfortunately, when that is not the case opener bids a support double/redouble in the second round to show three card support. 

4. Stolen Bid Double

This bid is recommended to be used only after an opening bid of 1NT where Opponent’s bid interferes with Stayman or Transfer (a not uncommon situation). Opener then treats the double as if Responder has bid normally without the interfering bid and bids as if the double were, in fact, Stayman or transfer. 

5. Balancing Double

  1. This bid is made from the balancing seat. 
  2. It is used after an opening bid and two passes to me in the fourth (balancing) seat to indicate to Partner that I have around 9-11 points and weak in the bid suit. 
  3. In pursuit of this double, I have calculated that opponents have about 17-19 total pts (my LHO opener: 12-14, my RHO 0-5). I borrow a king from partner and add it to my hand. Now I have the 13/14 points for a regular take-out double and bid accordingly. This helps to find the contract, but partner should be aware that I have borrowed one of his/her kings to make my bid. We then compete for the contract using the Law of Total Tricks. 
  4. Should my calculations be in error, my LHO with a monster hand will likely rebid or redouble. In this latter event, it is even more important that partner bid. 

6. Lead Indicating Double

  1. This double may be used after any opponents bid of a convention. 
  2. It is particularly recommended during opponents No Trump bidding - my LHO bids 1NT, my partner passes and RHO bids Stayman or Transfers by bidding a suit I like for a lead – usually because I have the ace or a void – I double. My LHO will continue the bidding and their contract ultimately set. Partner will probably be on lead and leads accordingly. 
  3. This double is also used when opponents are going for slam. After Gerber/Blackwood, if an opponent bids a suit I like for a lead, usually because I have the ace or a void I double. Opponents continue to slam and Partner leads accordingly.

Redouble of Opponents Take-Out Double

  1. Shows 10 points or more.
  2. When partner bids and my RHO doubles for take-out, I want to show partner I have a relatively strong hand so I redouble to say “Partner I have 3 card trump support.” 

This has been a primer on common doubles and by all means not exhaustive, but hope it helps.



Last updated : 18th Apr 2019 18:25 ICT
  Hand Evaluation


by Luc Berte


Good bidding is not merely a matter of having a well-developed system and of knowing it. Far more important than having a good system is good judgement, and the basis of good judgement is intelligent hand evaluation.


To a beginner and, alas to far too many experienced players, hand evaluation is a matter of counting points, mostly for high cards (HCP) but with some adjustment for holding a long or short suit. There is far more to it than that.

Factors to be considered when evaluating the strength of your hand:

♠ Shape

4-3-3-3 is the worst, whether in suit or NT contracts.

4-4-3-2 offers 2 possibilities of an extra length trick and in a suit contract the doubleton gives a ruffing possibility. 5-3-3-2 is better still.


♠ Honour combinations

Honours combined in a same suit, especially “touching” honours, are more powerful than split between two different suits. 

♠ Honours with length

Honours in long suits are more powerful than in short suits: they help establishing extra length tricks.

♠ Intermediates

Intermediate cards such as 9 and 10 play an important role, especially when associated with honours.

♠ Sidesuit shape

Sidesuit shape must be taken into consideration. Even when you preempt, 7-4-2-0 is much better than 7-3-2-1 or 7-2-2-2.

♠ Partner’s suit

Honours in partner’s suit are more valuable than honours in unbid suits. And if your partner bids two suits, shortness in the second suit is an asset if you have genuine support in the first.

♠ Opponents suits

Honours in opponents’ suits are less useful than in your sides’ suits because, while necessary as stoppers, they will not produce length tricks. 

But don’t forget to upgrade your honours in a suit bid by your RHO, and downgrade them if the bidder of the suit is your LHO. 

♠ Opposite shortness

If the bidding shows that your partner is short in a suit, it’s better for you to have low cards in that suit. Your honours will be more useful in another suit where they can combine with your partner’s holding. Splinter bids are useful in this respect.

Hand evaluation is a continuous process evolving with the progress of the bidding.

Last updated : 18th Apr 2019 18:26 ICT
  Opening Leads


by Neil Robinson


The most important rule, but the most difficult to follow is:

  1. Think about the bidding
  • In particular think about what your opponents have and therefore what does your partner have?
  • Do they have a long side suit to run? If so you need to try and get tricks fast. 
  • Are they planning to cross- ruff? If so, you may want to lead trumps.
  • Do you have a stack of trumps? If so, you want to make declarer ruff, so you have more trumps and are in control.
  • If they are reaching for the contract and the lead might give away a trick, try to make the lead passive.


Below is a list of other helpful considerations. No such list can be complete---that is part of what makes bridge such a frustrating game!


  1. Help your partner if possible---bid or double the suit you want led.
  2. Lead partner’s bid suit, unless you have a very good reason not to.
  3. Lead a trump if you think there will be ruffs in the short trump hand. This is often right against a doubled contract or sacrifice.
  4. Do not lead a singleton trump if you think your partner has long trumps. You don’t want to alert declarer to the situation and make it easier to finesse your partner.
  5. If you have a sequence of honours, lead from the top.
  6. Leading from AK is often a safe way to see dummy (either A or K depending on your partnership agreement).
  7. Do not underlead from an A against a suit contract (OK against a NT contract).
  8. 4th highest from a four card suit with an unsupported honour against NT is often not good, no matter what the old rule says. 4th highest from a five card suit or from a better suit often is good.
  9. Leads against 6NT are not the same as 3NT. Be careful of giving away a trick.
Last updated : 18th Apr 2019 18:28 ICT
  Splinters & Jacoby 2NT Bidding

Splinters and Jacoby 2NT Bidding

by John Bucher


John Bucher did not provide handouts for his talk, but he recommended everyone visit the Bridge with Larry Cohen website.

Look for the menu option "Learning Center" and the link takes you to a list of Larry's Articles.

Both Jacoby 2NT and Splinters are in the Bridge Conventions - 11 through 20. Specifically: 

Jacoby 2NT

Splinter Bids

Last updated : 18th Apr 2019 18:29 ICT


by Steve Ault


A reverse is not a highfalutin add-on convention or bidding system. It is basic to the game, just as basic as a strong jump shift rebid by opener.  It can be said that a reverse is actually more fundamental to bidding than the Blackwood and Stayman conventions we all play and take for granted. 

A reverse is a rebid on the 2-level by opener after partner’s 1 level response (including 1 NT) of a suit of a rank higher than that of the suit of the opening bid. There are 10 possible reverse sequences (We assume here that our friendly opponents are not being obnoxious by fouling up the works with bids of their own.): 

1♣ -1 -2 , 1♣ -1♠ -2 , 1♣ -1♠ -2 , 1♣ -1NT-2 , 1♣ -1NT-2 , 1♣ -1NT-2♠  

1 -1♠ -2 , 1 -1NT-2 , 1 -1NT-2♠  

1 -1NT-2♠ .


The additional point count requirement for a reverse is the default for standard bidding, but there are some who say, “I don’t play reverses.” If not, partner needs to alert opponents that the bid may not have the additional values customarily required for a reverse. And, these partnerships should not at all be surprised by frequently finding themselves in trouble at the three level.

The reason for the higher point count requirement for a reverse is quite simple: responder must bid on the 3 level to show a preference for opener’s first bid and longer suit. Let’s illustrate this point by taking the first example, 1♣ -1 -2 . The responder may have bid 1  with only 6 points and perhaps 4 hearts and 3 cards in the other suits. A club contract is desirable given the obvious 8 card fit or better, but to support clubs the bid has to be made on the 3 level. If the opening bidder has 12 or 13 points, well, good luck—you most assuredly will need it.

For contrast, let’s change the auction a bit. Instead of 1♣ -1 -2 , we have 1 -1 -2♣ , and let’s assume partner has the very same weak hand with 4 hearts. It looks like opener has at least 5-4 distribution in the minors with longer diamonds. But this time the weak hand can support opener’s first bid, 5 card suit at the 2 level by bidding 2 diamonds. The reason: opener’s second bid suit is of a rank lower than that of the first. Here, there is no reverse.

When reversing, opener’s first suit is always longer than the suit of the rebid. The typical distribution is 5-4, but more extreme distributions such as 6-5 or 6-4, etc., are possible. *With the more extreme distributions, the minimum point count requirement is lowered if all the points are in the long suits. A 6/5 hand can reverse with 14 HCPs or even 13 with good spot cards (10s and 9s).

After a two over one response, e.g., 1 -2♣ , the additional point count requirement for a reverse is lifted. Reason: responder must have at least 10 points and thus reaching the 3 level should not prove to be disastrous. Opener can bid 2  or 2♠  with minimum values.

Standard bidding practice is for opener to jump shift with a least 18 or 19 HCPs. The upper range is about 21 HCPs with distribution not suitable for a 2NT bid. A jump shift is virtually forcing to game. Some play that it is 100% forcing to game. A reverse has a lower minimum requirement (16 HCPs), but the same maximum. A reverse is forcing 1 round but not necessarily to game. A bid that’s both a reverse and a jump shift, e.g., 1♣ -1♠ -3 , has an entirely different meaning: instead of length, the bid shows shortness, either a singleton or void, plus a good hand with strong support in partner’s suit. This bid is known as a splinter, which will be the subject of a future presentation.


It’s time to reevaluate the hand. With 9 points or more, game or higher should be reached. With less, game should be attempted only if the reversing hand has values above the minimum.

With less than 9 points the following options are available: bid partner’s first suit with 3 (or 2 if you must); raise partner’s second suit with 4 (or 3 if you must); bid 2NT; rebid your suit on the 2 level with 5 or more. (More is better as partner can be short) Passing is not an option. The reversing hand will probably pass with a minimum. With a stronger hand partner will bid game, jump, or bid the forth suit.

With 9 or more points one can bid 3NT or game in one of partner’s suits, jump to the 4 level with support in a minor where 3NT is not a good option, jump in your original suit with at least 6 cards, or bid the fourth suit. The forcing bid of the fourth suit can serve as a check back for 3 card support for your 5 card major, or it can be asking for a stopper for bidding 3NT, or it can be none of the above. Sometimes a forcing bid is needed to get partner to reveal more information about the hand.


A 5 card minor can be rebid if it is half decent, partner’s 1NT bid can be passed, you can bid 1NT, and obviously, partner’s bid should be raised with 4 card support or even 3 card support when it appears to be the best option. As a rule, partner’s bid should not be supported when holding only 3 cards, but sometimes one has to make the best possible bid when there are no good alternatives available. Landing in a 4-3 fit is sometimes the best option, especially if the hand with 3 trumps has a singleton or void.


With minimal opening values, holding a 5 card minor and 4 hearts and doubletons in the other two suits, opener bids the 5 card minor. Partner, with a weak hand holding 5 spades and 4 hearts, responds 1 spade.  Opener is too weak to make the reverse bid of 2 hearts, so either a rebid of the minor suit or 1NT are the remaining options. Partner, with a weak holding, cannot introduce a new suit at the 2 level, which is a forcing bid, and therefore must pass. Thus, the desired contract of 2 hearts is missed.

Things can get really dicey when opener is holding a 6/5 hand that wants to reverse but is too weak. The solution here is to treat the hand as if it were 5/5 and open the higher ranking 5 card suit, especially if is a major. With the rare 7/5 hand, you’re really in a quandary.

Last updated : 18th Apr 2019 18:31 ICT