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Interesting Hands
Robbie Roberson's 5C Contract

This hand was featured in April's edition of 'Talking Bridge'.

Robbie declared 5C as North and East led the spade ace ruffed in hand with club two. He crossed to dummy's ace of diamonds and discarded two diamonds on the ace and king of hearts. He then ruffed a diamond in dummy with the trump five happily seeing the queen of diamonds from West. With the diamond suit established he led the king of clubs, covered by the ace and he was then allowed to make his contract by only losing a second trick to the trump queen.

He was very lucky! Why?

When West won the trump ace, he should have led a heart. If declarer ruffs small East over-ruffs and if he ruffs with the jack or ten, East discards and waits patiently for his two trump tricks. It wasn't necessary to discard diamonds on the ace and king of hearts - in fact it was important that he didn't.

Amazing really as the three major suit honours in dummy could have been replaced with small cards and the contract would still have been successful with a total point count of twelve!

Bad Luck or What!

Tam Payne came across this hand recently playing online. Using Roman Keycard Blackwood along the way. Sitting South, Tam bid confidently to 7D after finding his partner with the ace of spades and trump king and queen. East led a small diamond won in hand by declarer who played a heart to the ace and followed with a club to the jack in order to ruff his last heart. Ouch! The club was ruffed by East and the contract was beaten. One wonders what declarer was thinking as there would appear to be thirteen certain tricks with normal breaks. Even then the hand is yet another example where declarer should ask himself what could possibly go wrong. 

Winning the trump lead in hand, declarer must play a heart to the ace and return to hand with a spade to ruff his last heart with the ace. He then plays off his trumps, discarding two spades and a club from dummy. West can discard his two remaining hearts but on the last trump he is put in the rather unenviable position of throwing his spade king or a club. A no win situation! 

Frustration Or Joy?

North/South play a strong No Trump and North's bid of 4NT is quantitative. You are West and have to decide what to lead.

If you lead a small club you defeat the contract. In one match Valerie Barrett, understandably, was unhappy at leading away from her club king and chose the spade ten. Declarer was delighted to take all thirteen tricks. Needless to say, there were smiles from North/South and gnashing of teeth from Valerie and Brian.

At the other table the was the bidding same up to 2NT but Richard Sissons sitting North opted to punt 6NT. This time there was even more pain for West who chose the same lead!


Firstly, take a look at the bidding. South opens 1H and after West intervenes with 2C, North responds 3C indicating a good raise to 3H or better with at least four card support. South rebids 4C and North 4D each showing the ace. 4NT asks for controls and North's 5H confirms two (the diamond ace and trump king). South bids the slam.

West leads the club king and you take stock. You win the ace, lead the trump ace and west shows out. I will tell you that West also holds four spades with the queen and jack. How do you intend to continue?

You cannot afford to draw trumps immediately as you need entries to dummy to eliminate the minor suits. Firstly go to dummy with the diamond ace and ruff a diamond. Draw the remaining trumps in two rounds finishing in dummy and play the king of diamonds discarding your last club. Ruff a club and play the ace of spades and continue by playing the spade ten. Whichever opponent wins the spade must either play a spade into your K9 or give you a ruff and discard. Slam made.
Double Dummy Problem
As West you arrive in 4S and North leads the diamond three. How do you guarantee your contract?

You have five trump tricks and one each in the minors so clearly you need three tricks in hearts. It is tempting to win in dummy with the ace, go to hand with a trump and lead up to the queen of hearts but clearly this will not work as South will win the king and lead another diamond, so shortening declarer's trumps. When you lead a third heart, North will win and lead yet another diamond.

The answer is to win the first trick with the ace of diamonds and play a small heart from each hand. When declarer eventually ruffs the third diamond he can win the heart ace and ruff a third heart in dummy with the trump ten, draw trumps, and take two more winning hearts and the ace of clubs. Contract made.

Is It Just A Guess?
You reach a spade game after North had shown a good raise with his cue bid of 2H. West leads a small heart which East takes with the ace and returns the six to West's king. West switches to a diamond taken by East with the ace and he returns another to your king. The defence already has three tricks so what now?
You have a total of 25 points leaving 15 for the opposition: Have you noticed that West had the king of hearts and it is, therefore, impossible for him to have the spade king. Your only hope is that East holds it as a singleton and you must play a small trump to the ace and hope for the best. You're in luck this time and you make your contract to the applause of partner!
Nothing is as simple as it looks!

You are South and overcall East's 1H with a pre-emptive 3S. West bids 4H, North 4S and East doubles. Dummy's clubs are welcome and 4S has a good chance of making. East wins the heart lead and returns the king which you ruff in hand. You play a club to the ace on which East plays the ten. You  continue with a trump from dummy and East plays the ten taken by your king. You want to play another club to dummy to lead another trump but can you see the danger?

East will win the Ace and lead a diamond to West's ace who will return another club for East to ruff. Its true that East/West can make 5H so one off is not so bad but 4Sx is even better. How should  you have played 4S to guarantee the contract?

On winning the second trick, you should lead a diamond after which you continue with the original plan. This time East will be unable to get the fatal ruff. This is another example of the scissors coup and is great if you pull it off.

Curiouser and Curiouser!

Our thanks to Les Ferry for this contribution. This hand comes from the club session on Monday, 31 January and at every table North was declarer playing either 4S or 6S. The strange thing about the hand was that the opening lead was never the ace of clubs and yet no declarer made more than 6S.

Clearly, declarer is held to twelve tricks on the lead of the club ace whilst the misguided and unlikely lead of a small club clearly hands declarer a thirteenth trick. On any other lead there are good possibilities of a squeeze whenever (i) either defender is holding the club ace and four cards in a red suit or (ii) if East holds four hearts and 4 diamonds and (iii) if either defender holds four cards in both red suits and the ace of clubs.

On the actual lie of the cards, if declarer wins the opening lead, draws trumps, takes the three top hearts, the ace, king of diamonds, and then plays off three more trumps, the end position will be as follows:

North S: Q

          H: -

          D: 10

          C: K

West  S: -                                 East        S: -                                  

          H: J                                               H: -

          D: -                                               D: 9 6

          C: J 10                                          C: A

South  S: -

           H: 9

           D: Q 3

           C: -

When declarer leads his last spade, east concedes; he must discard a diamond and declarer takes the last two tricks with the queen and three of diamonds.

Simple you might say but not as easy as playing off two top diamonds and dropping the jack allowing you to cash the ten, using the hearts as an entry for the fourth diamond! Doubtless you all saw that though.

This is a hand from the Teams of Four league session on Monday 8 November. North/South get to 3NT and you, West, are on lead. You have the choice of the two unbid suits, clubs and hearts. Should you chose the club queen, declarer will take the first ten tricks so take a tip,  be agressive and go for hearts, admittedly a broken four-card suit. Which card have you removed from the bidding box awaiting partner's invitation to lead?

I think it is reasonable to say that the majority of club players lead fourth highest from an honour and so you chose the heart two. Dummy goes down and the first trick is taken with partner's ace and you take the next three but that is the end for the defence. Partner has a fifth heart but will never be able make it as the suit will be blocked.

However, if you play third and fifth leads, you will lead the heart seven and the defence will prevail by taking the first five tricks. This hand was played in 3NT five times out of ten and was made each time!

Don't Be Too Hasty

North/South are playing 5-card majors. South decides to show his sixth spade rather than the 4-card heart suit; North upgrades his hand and raises to game. West leads the heart king and South decides to let it hold this time. West switches to a club which South wins and continues with the ace of hearts and another which he ruffs in dummy with the five. Declarer calls for the ace of spades but East points out that he has over-ruffed with the queen. One down! Where did South go wrong?

Declarer was careless: He should ruff the heart with the ace and return to his hand with a club to ruff another heart with the five. The queen is the only trump out higher than the five and he doesn't mind losing one trump but he should mind losing one trump and a second heart.

You reach as South a routine 3NT. West leads a spade, you play low from dummy and East wins with the queen. East continues with another spade which you win in dummy leaving you with just one stop. Clearly the contract is good so long as the diamond suit comes in and you lead a heart to your ace to play a diamond from hand as you do not wish to lose your king to to a possible singleton ace with West. However, West follows small so now it is OK to lead the diamond Queen which is taken by West's ace and east discards. Are you in trouble now?

It all depends on which diamond you have left in your hand. If its the nine or eight, when you play it, West will refuse to cover and you will be defeated. If you have the three left you will be able to finesse against West's ten if he plays low.

The whole point of this hand is show the importance of recognising the need to unblock early in the play.

Always good to make a doubled contract
This hand will decide the final of the Gold Cup so you will need to get it right. East doubles your 5D and West leads the two of spades. You play the king from dummy covered by the ace which you ruff. You can see the chance of making an over trick by ruffing two clubs and discarding a losing heart on the Spade queen. What is your plan?

You win the club ace, ruff a small club with the trump seven and are just about to play the spade queen for a heart discard when East points out that he has over ruffed. He promptly leads out the ace and king of hearts and you lose both the contract and the Gold Cup!

You should have been warned by West's double of your 3C bid. All you had to do was to ruff the second club with the queen and discard a heart on the spade queen You return to hand with a spade ruff, ruff a club with the QUEEN and claim your contract. You only make eleven tricks but there is a lot to be said for making a doubled contract and winning the Gold Cup! 


Sitting East you overcall 1H and compete to 3H which pushes South to 3S. West leads the heart king. What are your chances of defeating the contract? You can see two heart tricks and maybe two club tricks but if South has only one club your chances are not good. How would you like the defence to go? If West has only one club you can get two club tricks and a ruff. If he has two clubs you might get one more by returning a third club, setting up a trump trick for West. How do you get him to switch to a club? 

You must overtake the opening lead of the heart king with the ace and continue with the two of hearts. This screams for the return of a club, being the smallest card, and is another example of showing suit preference. Left to his own devices, West would win a second heart and almost certainly switch to the queen of diamonds ending any chance of a successful defence. By your thoughtful play, you will win two club tricks and lead a third, so promoting a trump trick for West.

You open 1S and partner responds 1NT. You rebid 2C and North gives preference to 2S.West leads the nine of hearts. What tricks do you think you will make? It looks as though a club ruff or two would be welcome. How do you plan to get them?

You need to be very careful in your play to the first trick. Nothing new there. If you win in hand you can play the club ace and follow with a club ruff in dummy but there is no certain way back to hand to get a second ruff. You must win the first trick in dummy, play a club to the ace followed by a ruff in dummy. You can then get back to hand with the heart ace for a second club ruff. You have five tricks and you would expect to make one diamond trick bringing you to six. With very good spot cards in spades you must score two trump tricks for your contract.

-750 OR +500

South opens 1NT (15-17) and following North's stayman enquiry, routinely reaches 3NT which your partner, West, doubles. Although you are not delirious with your hand you pass and West leads the spade king which wins the trick. He continues with the queen which also wins and then  the jack which is won by declarer's ace. Declarer runs the queen of clubs and you make your contribution to the defence by winning the king. How do you continue?

 If you led a heart the defence will prevail with four spades, a club and heart for +500. If you lead a diamond, the contract will make as declarer will have four club tricks, four diamonds and a spade - game made and you will be writing -750 on your card. One of these results is better than the other!

Look again at the play of the hand so far; you know that South has no more spades from the bidding and West must have started with K,Q,J,10,2. When he led to the third trick to draw out Declarer's ace he could have led any of three cards but he chose the jack. This is clearly a suit preference card demanding the higher of the remaining suits, hearts. Had he wanted a club he would lead the two or alternatively the ten for a diamond.

Playing a strong No Trump you open 1C and West overcalls a weak 2S. North smashes his way to 6C and West leads the king of spades which you take with the ace. You are very pleased with dummy and all you need to do to bring the slam home is to decide who holds the red queens. You draw trumps in two rounds, ruff a spade in dummy and return to hand with the diamond king to ruff your last spade. So far all you have learned is that East held two clubs and followed to all three spades. Is it time to start finessing?

It certainly isn't; the contract is guaranteed without taking any finesse! Your next step is to play the ace of diamonds and continue with the jack. It doesn't matter whether the trick is taken by East or West, he will shrug his shoulders and concede. What is he to do? If he leads a diamond or a spade you will ruff in dummy and discard a losing heart and if he leads a heart he gives you a free finesse into dummy's A,J,T or your K,9,4.

Moral to the story: Only finesse as a last resort!

A Small Slam

A word on the bidding. North's reply of 2NT to South's 1S is Jacoby and shows 4-card spade support and is game forcing. South rebids 3S indicating an above minimum hand with no void or singleton. North's bid of 4NT is RKCB; South's 5C reply shows none or three of the 'five' aces and North confidently bids the small slam.

You see that there is no problem outside the trump suit but you are playing teams so an overtrick is not vital. How do you plan to play the trumps?

You have three choices; which is best?

1) Lead a spade to the queen.

2) Lead the spade ten and finesse it.

3) Other.

If you lead to the queen and East wins, you don't know whether to finesse West for the jack or play the Ace to drop it. If you run the spade ten and it loses to East's jack you have a similar problem with the missing king.

You must lead a spade to the Ace. If East follows with a small spade you will later lead towards the Q75 in dummy. As long as West didn't start with a void or small singleton spade you will make twelve tricks.

If you drop the king from West, East will get a trump trick and if you drop the king from East, you will later finesse West's jack for all thirteen.

Chance for a coup!

West leads a heart to East's ace and you are delighted with partner's clubs. East continues with the heart king which you ruff and play a club to the ace. You lead a trump to your queen which wins as West discards a diamond. Clearly you must return to dummy to lead another trump through East but what are the dangers? Plan the play from here. 

If you lead a club to dummy's king and lead a trump, East will rise with the ace and lead a diamond to West's ace who will return a club which East will ruff. Down one! What you must do after winning the first trump lead with the queen is to lead a diamond immediately and the contract is safe. East cannot put West in to lead a third club for the vital ruff. This play is a good example of the Scissors Coup so named as it cuts communication between the defenders.

A Laydown Slam - No Problem?

You are South and although your hand has some holes you decide to ask for key cards. You get the answer you were hoping for and bid the small slam. West leads the heart queen, dummy goes down and you are delighted that, unusually, partner has just the right cards including the spade jack and just two small hearts. Dummy's spades will take care of your two losing hearts. You win the ace and continue with the king. There is a concern that the king will be ruffed but both opponents follow. Now what?

You should ruff a heart with the intention of ruffing the other heart later. What care, if any, should you take? Is there a worry?

If you ruff with the four and East overruffs with the five or six you will have a problem. If you ruff with the jack and East overruffs with the queen, will you have a problem? The answer is no; you will ruff the last heart with the ace and draw trumps.

The key here is recognising a danger and finding the answer. If you have the tools you should use them and the tools in this case are the excellent spot cards in spades you have here and using them to effect.

Match Pointed Pairs - Part 5
West leads the spade four to dummy's ace, East playing the eight. You cross to the king of diamonds, both defenders following, and play a heart for a finesse of the ten. West plays the three and East the eight. How do you continue? You can make sure of twelve tricks by continuing with the ace and queen of hearts, but there is a possibility of making all thirteen tricks. Is the play for the overtrick worth the risk involved?

There are two things that may go wrong if you return to hand with the jack of diamonds and take another heart finesse. East may produce the king, or he may show out on the second round. In either case the defenders are sure to switch to clubs when in with the king of hearts, and your communications will be in a tangle. Unable to enjoy the long hearts and the long diamonds, you will have to settle for eleven tricks.

It does not pay to be greedy when you have landed in an excellent slam. Few will play in six hearts, and if you make sure of twelve tricks in no trumps you will outscore those who play in six diamonds even if they make an overtrick. All the indications are that you should continue with the ace and queen of hearts to make sure of your slam.

Match Pointed Pairs - Part 4

West leads the heart five, the queen is played from dummy and South drops the four under your ace. You continue with the jack of hearts on which South plays the seven and West the three. What now?

Partner appears to have five hearts and he must have the king; with 10 9 8 5 3 he would have led the ten rather than the five. So you can run three heart tricks to defeat the contract. Is there a reason for doing anything other than play your third heart?

As partner is marked with the heart king, declarer must have the remaining face-cards with the possible exception of the club jack. That means he has eight top tricks - two spades, five diamonds and the ace of clubs, and if you take your five hearts declarer will take the rest for one down.

Plus 100 is all very well but plus 200 is better, and there is an excellent chance of scoring 200 if you switch to the queen of spades at trick three. The heart pips are such that declarer might think the suit is breaking 6-2. he will view your spade switch as a welcome reprieve, and he will entertain hopes of making his contract by taking the club finesse. He will be disappointed and score a loss of 200.

There is no danger in the spade switch. Declarer may try to embarrass you by running the diamonds, but you can throw two clubs and a spade without discomfort.

Even at teams it would be right to switch to the spade queen at trick three. At pairs an opportnity such as this must mot be missed.

Match Pointed Pairs - Part 3

In spite of South's bid of 2S, West led the six of spades against the 3NT game. A heart is discarded from dummy and your spade queen holds the trick, South following with the three. How should you continue?

You know from the bidding that South has four spades and West five and you must hope that South's only significant card in the suit is the ace. Declarer might still make his contract by holding up the ace of spades three times before finessing in clubs. Can you deflect him from this course?

Declarers are always reluctant to give up the chance of overtricks by holding up too often. In this case South will be particularly keen to make ten tricks in no trumps in order to outscore anyone who plays in clubs. You should therefore try to persuade him to take the ace of spades on the third round by returning the ten of spades rather than the normal two.

If South gains the impression that you started with three spades he will see no reason to hold up three times. He will take his ace on the third round and finesse in clubs, hoping to make at least ten tricks and possibly eleven.

Imagine South's annoyance when you win with the club king and produce a fourth spade to defeat the contract!

Match Pointed Pairs - Part 2

West leads the queen of hearts. How do you plan the play?

This would appear to be the standard contract; if any one gambles on three no trumps he will make just nine tricks on a heart lead. Making your actual contract will give you a fair score and all you have to do is win the first trick, draw trumps and establish a trick in clubs. Might you do better?

At teams this is routine but at pairs you must do all can to improve your result. It is clear that the defenders can always cash three tricks but this may not be clear to West. Allow the the queen of hearts to hold and it will be difficult for him to switch to a club that will give the defence three tricks. Even if he does find the switch your contract is in no danger: The defenders may win one heart and two clubs, but after drawing trumps you can discard your losing diamond on the ace of hearts.

The bonus comes when West fails to switch to a club. Now you can draw trumps, discard a diamond on the heart ace and trump the third round of diamonds to establish the suit. You will get back to dummy with a trump and two losing clubs go away on the long diamonds. You score 650 and a top.

A Match Point Decision

In match pointed pairs, the making or defeating of the contract is not all-important as it is in teams or rubber bridge. A change of strategy is required if you are to score well at pairs and during the next few weeks we will feature a number of hands which are designed to sharpen your play.

This week South plays in 1NT and West leads the six of spades to his partner's queen. You hold off and East continues with the ten of spades, West playing the two under your ace. How will you continue? You have missed the best contract as 2H seems to be lay-down. The decision you have to make is whether you should settle for five tricks and a score of minus 100 or try to sneak one or two tricks in diamonds before the defenders know too much about your hand.

You cannot beat those who play in two hearts but it is unlikely that there will be too many of them. Your weak no trump has prevented you from reaching your best best contract but it has pre-empted your opponents. neither could take the risk of competing at the two level and it seems that they have a 5-3 fit in spades and West may well have come in with 1S had you opened with 1H or 1C. Clearly you have no more than five tricks in defence against a contact of 2S.

If others are conceding 110 defending 2S, you can afford to lose 100 in 1NT. The signs are that you should not be greedy; make sure of your five tricks first and settle for two down. If you try to steal a diamond trick you are likely to finish three down and minus 150 is certain to be a bad result.

A Dangerous Lead

As South you declare 4H and West leads the four of clubs. You have three aces to lose but it would appear that you can make your contract with four trumps, two diamonds, three clubs and a club ruff. However, there is a danger. What is your plan?

The danger is that West has led a singleton club or fourth highest and East has the singleton. Either way there is the danger of a club ruff unless you can sneak a trump through if the trumps break 2-2. If you lead the king, West will win having taken the view that aces are there to beat kings. He will then lead another club which will be ruffed by East. Your best chance is to lead the trump jack or ten and hope that West is not alert and plays small in which case you make your contract.

One off in 4S doubled is a good save but not if you can get a plus score for defeating 4H.

A Dangerous Lead
As South you open 1C and partner responds 1H. After your reverse to 2D, North raises to three and you close the bidding with 3NT. West leads the jack of hearts. If the minor suits behave you have eleven top tricks but that won't do you any good if the opponents take the first five tricks. What do you play from dummy to the first trick?

Presumably West is leading from J 10 X with or without a higher honour. If you play the queen, East will win with the king and return a heart to his partner's ten. West will continue with a third heart, the defence wins the first five tricks and the contract is defeated.

Declarer must not cover the first heart but cover the ten with the queen when West continues the suit. East will win with the king but cannot get West in to lead another heart through dummy. Contract made.


In a teams of four match, against South's 3NT West leads the four of spades. This does not hurt declarer but time is short; there are eight top tricks but too little time to set up a club trick so your only hope for the ninth trick rests with hearts. What line will you take?

There is a safety play which comes up quite regularly; play the king of hearts and continue with another heart to the ace and then lead towards the jack covering if East plays low. This play wins whenever East holds the queen and also when West holds the doubleton queen. Of course the contract cannot be made if West holds three to the queen or better.
Another urgent decision
West leads the diamond queen and you win in dummy with the Ace. What is your plan?
If you  play two rounds of hearts and ruff a third in dummy, East will over ruff. After winning the ace of diamonds you must take the club finesse immediately. If it loses (or wins) try for ruffing the third round of hearts.
North/South are playing five card majors and the two over one game force method. West leads the three of hearts and you, East, win with the ace. You lead another heart which West ruffs as you expected and returns a diamond won in dummy with the king. Declarer leads the spade two from the table; what is your plan?
From the bidding how many trumps does declarer hold? Clearly West can have no more than two so winning the ace of spades and leading another heart will be to no avail as West will be out of trumps. You must play low and hope that partner holds the queen and is allowed to make it. Will this work? You cannot tell but it is your only chance.

This is a hand from the New Partner session on the 16 April when Brian Barrett and Malcolm Thompson sitting E/W were opposed by Julie Aspinall and Maurice Lewis. Playing Benji, Malcolm's 2NT showed 21/22 HCP, 4C was Gerber. 4S indicated two aces and 6C was something of a gamble. Sitting North, what do you lead? Give it some thought because you will not get a second chance to beat the slam.

Julie led the eight of hearts and the defenders took the first two tricks! Her reasoning was that East must be short in one suit and would in all probability be able to discard. Sound logic as, without a heart lead there were fifteen top tricks. Would you find that lead?

No one else tried 6 clubs. One pair bid and made 5 clubs; five pairs bid 3NT of which two went one off and one made six(?); the other two made all thirteen tricks.

Weak Overcalls!

This hand is from a recent Norfolk League match and features Grand Master, David Newstead, North, and Mike Whiting, South. There is, I suppose, some merit in North's overcall of one spade in that there is shape and in any case, without it, there would be no story.

East, having a void in the trump suit naturally led the diamond king and when it held, continued with the queen. This was ruffed by declarer who promptly led a heart to the five, jack and ace. West led the diamond ace ruffed by North who then ruffed a club in dummy. He then followed with the king of hearts and then ruffed a heart in hand. He then ruffed a club, ruffed another heart followed by another club ruff in dummy. He then led dummy's last diamond discarding a club from dummy as West trumped with the king. West then had to lead a trump won in hand with queen by declarer who then won the last trick with the trump ace. Contract made for 590!

Of course, the contact could have been set if West had won the first trick with the Ace of diamonds and led a small trump. Later, he can ruff with the king in front of declarer and lead his last trump. Easier said than done!

How is it that the good players get away with this and mere mortals go for very large numbers when they try it!!!


West leads the ace of diamonds and you, sitting East, encourage with the six. You win the diamond continuation with the queen and cash the king, West discarding a small spade. What is your next move?

There are a number of considerations: West led the diamond ace from Ax which is not usually a good idea so he did not have  have an attractive alternative and it was the unbid suit. He then discarded a discouraging small spade on the third diamond. Seeing dummy's strong clubs, it is almost certain that the defence has no further trick outside trumps and East is looking at a very promotable trump holding. At trick four East must continue with a fourth diamond and West must ruff with his trump queen. Although dummy overruffs with the king, East must win the third round of trumps with his ten. Contract defeated!

West opens one heart, you double and East ends the bidding abruptly by raising to game. Plan the defence.

There is no defence. This was not the problem; your partner should be declaring four spades, probably doubled. Look at the full deal.

South has six spades and he expects partner to have four after his double, a total of ten. The law of total tricks states: "You are safe in competing to the trick level equal to your partnership's number of trumps. Avoid bidding beyond that level in competitive auctions".

West leads the king of clubs, East encourages a club continuation, and you ruff the third round. You finesse the queen of spades, and draw the remaining trump. You return to your hand by ruffing dummy's fourth club and take the diamond finesse. Once you are back in your hand , you repeat the diamond finesse and score up your game, losing two clubs and a heart. OK, South was fortunate to find the two key kings in the opening bidder's hand, although it was no real surprise. South did not have to make his contract in order to justify the four spade bid as going down one or two tricks would still net a profit compared to allowing the opponents to make an easy game. They might even have been pushed to the five level.

Another Match-pointed Pairs Hand
You start with the ace of hearts and continue with the three. South ruffs the second heart and plays a low spade which you win with the king, partner following with the four. For want of anything better you continue with a third heart. South ruffs again and plays a spade to the queen, East echoing with the three. Next comes the three of diamonds to the eight, king and ace. How do you continue? When you have the best hand at the table you want to make the opponents pay a high price for the privilege of playing the hand. How can you best achieve this aim?

The indications are that declarer's shape is 6-1-3-3. If partner has any honour in clubs, even the ten, you would have made your contract of four hearts in comfort. You would probably have made eleven tricks, in fact, for you would not guess wrong in trumps after the revealing bidding. So you need to defeat the enemy game by four tricks, scoring 800, to compensate adequately for the loss of your vulnerable game.

You will not score 800 by continuing with the heart force, nor by switching to clubs if declarer has the king. South will draw the last trump and finesse in diamonds to escape for one off.

The way to extract the maximum penalty is to return the jack of diamonds , locking declarer in dummy and forcing him to play clubs himself. You win the first club, give partner a diamond ruff, and win two further clubs to achieve your target of 800. 

Note also East petered with an odd number of trumps, the usual way to indicate the possibility of a ruff.


West leads the ace of hearts and continues with the queen. You ruff and play a club which is won by West with the ace. West plays a spade to his partner's ace and East continues with the queen of spades for dummy to ruff. A trump to your jack clears the suit, West discarding a spade. How do you continue?

You have already lost three tricks and look like losing another in diamonds. Will your sacrifice be worth while? Losing 700 to save a slam may not be too bad; it depends on how many East-West pairs actually bid the slam. You would be happier if you could hold the loss to 500, as you would outscore those whose opponents only bid game.

The best chance of avoiding a diamond loser is to find West with the king and another but if this is the case, then the slam is defeated by a normal diamond lead and your sacrifice is a phantom. The only chance of holding the penalty to 500 is to find someone with a singleton king of diamonds and that is the one to go for. Play a small diamond from hand , and if West plays low go up with the ace, hoping for a singleton king with East.

West leads the queen of hearts. How do you plan the play?

This appears to be the standard contract. Someone may take his chances at three no trumps and will make nine tricks but no more on a heart lead. Ten tricks in spades  will give a fair score and all you have to do is win the first trick, draw trumps and establish a trick in clubs. Can you do better? At teams this would be routine but this is pairs and you must press a little harder.

You can see that the defenders can always cash three tricks but this may not be clear to West. Play low from dummy at trick one, allowing the queen of hearts to hold.

It is hard for West to find the club switch and, if he does, your contract is not in danger. The reward comes when West fails to find the club switch. Now you can draw trumps, discard a diamond on the ace of hearts and trump the third round of diamonds to establish the suit. A trump puts you back in dummy, and two losing clubs go away on the long diamonds. The deception thus gives you 650 and a top score.

Playing a pairs event you arrive in the obvious game contract and West leads the queen of spades. How do you plan the play?

Your opponents have attacked your weak spot and there will not be time to knock out both minor-suit aces. It seems you will have to be satisfied with nine tricks unless you can safely try for the overtrick.

If you win the first trick in hand and play on clubs someone will take the ace immediately and continue the spade attack. You will then have to run for home with your nine winners. You might try slipping a diamond through but this is a dangerous move as, if the ace of diamonds is taken immediately, you will go down.

The better way of trying for the over trick is to win the first trick with the spade ace deliberately squandering dummy's entry and then play a club to the ten and continue the suit. Seeing his partner peter in clubs, East may decide to shut out the suit by holding up his ace until the third round. If so, you will switch to diamonds and finish with the all important extra trick.

East should ask himself why you did not win the first trick in hand but defenders do not always think of these things.

Trial Bids - Part 2

South opens one club and is raised to three by North. South is looking for game if North can help with hearts so he rebids three diamonds as a trial bid. North is happy to indicate a good heart holding and South is able to bid three no trumps with confidence. Had North's hand been, say,

S: A54

H: J82

D: Q5

C: K9872

His rebid would be three spades and South would sign off with four clubs.

Trial Bids - Part 1

The bidding is straight forward to North's response of two spades but South then has a problem. Clearly the hand will be played in spades but at what level? South could bid four spades and then find that he could go down with two losing clubs, and a loser in each of hearts and diamonds. Looking only at the South hand it is clear that he needs help in the hearts suit so he asks for help in that suit by bidding three hearts (a trial bid). In the featured hand North has exactly what is required - the ability to ruff South's losers in the suit - and is very happy to go on to game. Had North's hearts been 73 and diamonds Q93 he would be well advised, with his minimum, to retreat to three spades. Give North three small hearts and Q9 of diamonds, Declarer would do well to make three spades.

When opener makes a trial bid, responder should consider his rebid carefully. If he has three losers in the suit in which help is required, he should merely bid three of the agreed major. With two losers in the suit  he should probably only go on to game if he is maximum for his first response. With only the one loser in the 'help' suit he should always bid game.


This is an interesting hand from the teams of four league on 5 January. In the match featured, Mike Whiting and David Loasby sat East/West against Brian Barrett and Tony Graham. Firstly, a word on the bidding: Mike favoured opening two clubs game forcing rather than a strong two diamonds. Two hearts promised the ace and West's rebid of three hearts then was natural. After East's three no trumps, David thought for some time before bidding the grand. Perhaps a slight punt but nevertheless an imaginative one after the two clubs opening.

South, Tony, quite naturally led the heart ten and after a moment's thought, the ace was played from dummy, North encouraged with the seven and declarer discarded his small spade. Declarer then ran seven diamonds before playing the ace of spades and there was nothing North could do as, to retain his heart and spade kings, he is forced to discard clubs. The position would have been just the same had the majors suit kings been split between North and South.

A very good result for East/West but as Mike explained later, he would have bid the same way three spades and three clubs in which case there is no play that succeeds.

West leads the five of hearts and East plays the queen. If you hold up your ace, East will return the ten of hearts. Continue.
If diamonds break 3-2 you have eight winners in your hand; but there is no way to get to dummy's queen of spades. The best chance to make your contract is to endplay West. To do this you must win the second heart trick (if you duck the contract is hopeless - West will win the trick and lead a third heart). Next cash the ace and king of spades and three or four diamonds to remove West's safe exit cards. Now lead your last heart. After West cashes his heart tricks, he must put you in dummy with the queen of spades, or lead a club into your ace-queen. Contact made.
Share the Secret
Against South's three no trump contract West leads the three of diamonds to your knave and declarer's king. South leads a small heart, your partner puts in the nine and the three is played from dummy. How do you defend?
If you allow partner to hold this trick he will certainly switch, but will he find the right switch? You know from the opening lead that declarer started with four diamonds and therefore, since he bid both majors, not more than one club; but that information is not available to your partner. Rather than risk your partner taking a wrong view, you should win this trick with your knave of hearts and lead the king of clubs. If your king is allowed to hold the trick, a diamond to partner's ten will permit him to lead another club through dummy. Partner might have found the club switch unaided, but in such situations as soon as you can see a way to defeat the contract you should share the secret with your partner.
North's response of 4D is a splinter bid and promises four-card heart support with a singleton (or void) in damonds. West leads the jack of spades against your contract of six hearts which cannot be beaten. As declarer plan your play.
Win the first trick with the ace of spades and draw trumps. Then win the ace of diamonds and ruff out the remaining diamonds and spades ending in dummy. Finally, lead a club and cover whatever East plays. West will win and will have to do something helpful. If he leads a spade or a diamond, ruff in dummy and discard the remaining club loser from hand. If he leads a club, he will be leading into your tenace.
Your partner leads the three of clubs against South's contract of four hearts. The two is played from dummy and declarer plays the ten under your ace. How will you continue?

This is a matter of counting your own tricks and getting the timing right. Partner's three of clubs is clearly a singleton so you can give him a ruff and the trump king will be the third trick for the defense. You must ask yourself from where is the setting trick to come. Either partner must have an ace, in which case it does not matter in what order you take your tricks, or he will have to have the king of spades. In the latter case you must plan the defense carefully. Suppose you lead a club and give partner a ruff immediately, he will be unable to attack spades from his side so he will lead, say, a trump. Your king will be allowed to win and when you lead a spade, declarer will rise with the ace, draw trumps ending in dummy and discard his spade losers on the clubs.

To be sure of setting the contract, you must lead a spade at trick two. There is no need to hurry to give partner his ruff. On the bidding he is marked with three trumps and the ruff can be safely postponed.

Three no trumps is, of course a safer contract.


Sitting South, you are somewhat surprised to hear the bidding passed round to you with only nine points and eight spades. Deciding that partner must have ten or eleven points which could be useful you decide to bid 4S. West leads the king of hearts which you win with the ace and lead dummy's only trump to which East follows with the three. Continue.

To be successful, it is clear that the diamond king must be on side in which case you have a heart and diamond loser and you therefore cannot afford to lose more than one trump trick. On the lead, it is safe to assume that West holds the heart queen which together with the necessary ace of diamonds gives him nine high card points. Consequently, he cannot have the ace of spades or he would have opened the bidding. You rise with the king of spades which wins, lead another and look very smug when the ace and queen fall together. You eventually will lead towards dummy's king of diamonds intending to play it if West plays low. Of course, if the king loses to the ace you were  always going to go down so there is nothing to lose.

At teams you routinely get to the contract of 3NT. West leads the spade four and East plays the king. You have seven top tricks; two spades, two diamonds and three clubs. With the spade lead you do not have any time to develop any heart tricks but the diamond suit will provide the two extra tricks needed. As you only need four tricks from diamonds, what is your plan?

The only distribution that can hurt you is a 4-0 break. After winning the the first trick with the ace of spades, lead a low diamond from hand. If West follows with a low diamond, play the nine from dummy. If East shows out, West is limited to one diamond trick. If West discards on the first diamond lead, you can limit your diamond losers to one by winning with dummy's king and leading a diamond toward your hand.. Finally, if East wins the first trick with the queen or knave, then the suit does not break 4-0 and you are left with four certain diamond tricks.

With the actual lie of the cards, you can also make your contract if you play the ace first but this would be wrong as you will go down if East has the four diamonds.

West leads the nine of hearts, East wins with the ace and continues with the queen of hearts. Plan the play. 

If you cover the queen with the king at trick two you will go down as West will ruff; you cannot escape the loss of four heart tricks since dummy's trumps are too low to be of consequence. It may seem likely that East has five hearts instead of six but there is a certain way to make the contract in either case.

The winning play is to duck the second heart trick; let East win with his queen. If East leads another heart, play low again and West will ruff (else you will ruff in dummy); but that is the last trick for the defense. Whatever West leads next, you will win the trick, draw trumps, and claim the rest.


South is a player who is always complaining that he gets poor cards. However, on this occasion....... The contract is 7NT and the lead is the jack of spades. There appears to be a problem only if the missing diamonds are in one hand so is there a safety play you can make?

You can test the clubs first. Win the opening lead with ace of spades and continue with the queen, discarding the heart ace from hand. Then play the king, queen and jack of hearts from dummy discarding the ace, king and queen of clubs. Next, lead the jack of clubs and if the ten falls, you can run the club suit. If it doesn't fall you can try running the diamonds. Bridge is an easy game!

As West, you are on lead defending four hearts and chose to lead the ace of diamonds and continue with the ten. Dummy wins the king and declarer ruffs another diamond high. He than leads the trump king and continue with the queen. You take the ace and lead your last trump with East discarding. Declarer then leads the ace of clubs followed by the king. Before you look at all the hands what is your plan?

The question should have been; what is Declarer's plan? You had better play your club queen under the ace or king otherwise Declarer is going to throw you in with the third club to lead away from your king of spades and the contract will be made.


Sitting South you quickly arrive in the contract of four spades and West leads the two of hearts. You have four potential losers (one heart, one diamond and two clubs). You can discard your diamond loser on a high club if you can drive out the ace and king of clubs before your opponents drive out your ace and king of diamonds. What do you play from dummy to the first trick?

The key play is to win the first trick with the ace of hearts and the contract is 100% safe. You have time to draw trumps and establish a club trick in dummy to discard your losing diamond. The heart finesse is an unnecessary risk and you will go down as the cards lie. If you do take the finesse, East will win the king and he has a routine switch to the jack of diamonds at trick two and the timing is now in the enemy's favour; they can dislodge the ace and king of diamonds and cash a diamond before you obtain a discard in clubs. Once again your play to the first trick is vital.

The First Trick

You reach 3NT and receive the lead of the seven of spades. You have 6 top tricks; where are the other three coming from? As is so often the case your play to the first lead is vital. Presumably West's lead of the seven of spades is his fourth highest so this is a case for the rule of eleven.

The Rule of Eleven: This is a helpful rule that may be applied at both notrump and trump contracts, but only when you can assume that a defender has made a fourth-best lead (fourth highest card in the suit led). It can be used by both the leader's partner and the declarer. Here is how it works: Subtract the card from eleven. The result is the number of cards held by the other three players (other than the leader) that are higher than the card led.

This rule is based on simple arithmetic: If the ace, king, queen and jack had numbers, the cards of a suit would be numbered from two to fourteen. If you subtract any card from fourteen you find out how many higher cards there are in the suit. If a fourth-best lead has been made, the leader has exactly three higher cards in his own hand. So, rather than subtracting from fourteen and then subtracting three, you simply subtract from eleven.

On this lead, by subtracting seven from eleven, you learn that the other three hands (North, East and South) have four spades higher than the seven. Since the dummy has the ace-queen-ten and you have the eight, East has none; in which case he cannot prevent you from winning the first trick with the eight.

The right play from dummy at trick one is the two of spades. After winning with the eight, you can finesse against the ten, and later the queen. This gives you four spade tricks to go with your five other top tricks in the other suits. If your first spade from dummy is not the two, you cannot win four spade tricks and you will be set.