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Hand of the week
The challenge of Duplicate Bridge!

This is a hand from Tuesday teaching class on 9th April.

First the bidding. If South opens 1 , and partner responds 1♠ , what does South rebid?

To rebid Clubs describes the hand well but is it worth 2♣ or 3♣ ? 3♣ shows 16+ points, and you have only 15, but they are a very good 15 with a singleton and all the points in your main suits.

But either way you should end up in no more than 3 contract.

Now the play. West leads K and, when it wins, continues with Q . You ruff with a heart and, conscious of the need to draw trumps, lead K . What happens next?

At Table 1

East won the A at Trick 3 and continued with a Diamond. Declarer trumped again and drew 2 more rounds of Hearts. Unfortunately West had only one Heart and that left East with one remaining Heart. When Declarer started cashing all the Clubs, East could trump the 3rd round, cash two more diamonds before leading a Spade to dummy's A♠. That left a losing Spade on the table and Declarer made only 7 tricks (4 Hearts, 2 Clubs and ♠ Ace). Two down.

At Table 2

East won A at Trick 3 and continued with a Diamond as above. But this time Declarer was ready for this and, with a little help from a teacher, discarded a spade. This play is often called 'loser-on-a loser' and it's quite safe as Declarer can never get out of losing a Spade anyway. Now, if East continues Diamonds, Declarer can trump in dummy, keeping enough Hearts in hand to draw all East's trumps. So East switched to a Spade. Declarer could win with the Ace, draw trumps in 4 rounds and could now cash all the Clubs safely. 10 tricks made (4 Hearts, 5 Clubs and A♠). Plus One!

At Table 3

Perhaps sensing what happened at Table 2 might happen here, East refused to win A at Trick 3, nor the next Heart at Trick 4. But he did win the next Heart with A and could now safely continue playing Diamonds. Declarer could trump but East was now one Heart 'ahead' and the same result as Table 1 was seen, 7 Tricks, 2 Down.

Finally at Table 4... 

Declarer tried 2 rounds of Hearts as at Table 3 but, when East failed to take A (and noticing West started with only one Heart), Declarer switched to playing out Clubs. East was able to trump the third round small but now Declarer had more Hearts than East. Eventually defenders made just 4 tricks, the initial Diamond, the A , a heart ruff and a Spade. Declarer made spot on 9 tricks. the right contract.


So what is the learning? There are many interesting points in play and defence (and indeed bidding) on this seemingly simple hand. But what this shows most of all is that the same hand can make anywhere between 7 to 10 tricks depending on small but key decisions made by either Declarer or the Defence. That's the beauty and challenge of Duplicate Bridge!

Which way to finesse?

How do you tackle the play (as North) of 4♠ when East leads the Ace and another  ?

Always hard to do at the table but the analysis\ questions after Trick 2 are these:

1) Despite the nice clubs, you cannot throw all your diamonds away on them. The diamond finesse, or a throw-in, will be needed.

2) You will need spade entries in dummy for the clubs (and diamond finesse) if opponents hold up ♣ A until the second round

3) If the diamond finesse is wrong, can you avoid losing a spade because you will also lose 2 Aces? Who has the Queen of Spades? Can you even cope with a 4-1 break in spades?

The textbook suggestion is that West is marginally more likely to have long spades than East because East has advertised long hearts. And finessing against West does protect AQ. But does East's overcall advertise more points given 2 was bid missing at least KQ?

So the suggested line is as follows:-

At Trick 3 play a club and you establish East has the Ace, at Trick 4 they exit with a club (all follow). Now you feel more hopeful West could have ♠ Q.

But you have at least 3 choices: (1) You could finesse the ♠ J immediately. If it succeeds, you could cash ♠ K and, if all follow, go to dummy with ♠ A, run the clubs and still be in dummy to take a free finesse in diamonds for possible 11 tricks. But if East shows out on 2nd round of spades you will still have a spade loser despite the succesful spade finesse (2) You cash ♠ A and finesse ♠ 10. Even if it loses, East may be out of black cards and forced into leading diamonds to you or hearts for a ruff and discard. (3) Run the ♠ 10 and, whether West covers or not, if East drops the ♠ 8 or 9, play ♠ A. Then if East shows out you can finesse again against West with dummy's ♠ 76. They will not cover as it gives a free entry back to dummy but, if they don't just run clubs discarding your diamonds. If they ruff in you can overruff, you never get to finesse the Q but 10 tricks is a result.

Your correspondents alternative option of playing 2 rounds of spades ending in dummy and running clubs, hoping that East ruffs in or that you can throw them in with ♠ Q is inferior. Why not just finesse them for ♠ Q if you think they have it?

The bad news is none of these work in practice!! (See the full hand). As to which line of play is better I'll leave to others. It seems to me (3) looks to have slightly more going for it.


Not one but 2 voids

Having a void is not uncommon but having two is a rarer beast. How do you bid when partner opens 1NT (weak)?

If you have a 4 suit transfer system where 2♠ is a transfer to clubs (showing 6 of a suit), partner may break the transfer to show club support. Very encouraging. If you then bid spades (forcing) partner bids 3NT then what next? Pass or bid clubs.

5♣ is a minimum but may not beat 3NT scores if partner has something in both red suits. Can you find a way to 6♣ without being anything more than a punt? Maybe better to bid it quickly and hope for a favorable lead.

Anyway, say you get a club lead in 6♣ and both opponents follow. Even if you can ruff out the Ace of Hearts, the key is avoiding two Spade tricks. What next?

Natural play is to lead ♠ J and, when it's not covered by Q♠, play low, South wins with the Ace and returns a Diamond which you ruff.

Now you must assume that North has the ♠ Q , and if they have the ♠ 9x as well you are doomed so you have to play South for the 9. So run the ♠ 8 and as it happens the 9 falls anyway, 12 tricks made.

It is interesting to think about when North might cover the J♠ when holding ♠Q in various combinations, especially when you know declarer has bid spades. If declarer holds ♠ A and ♠ K then you are probably 'dead' anyway so assume partner has one or the other and, if you don't have the 9♠ then assume partner has it. Then, the whereabouts of the ♠ 87 may all become crucial.

So with Qxx (as here), Qx or even Qxxx, it is better to duck the J♠ and avoid giving declarer a free finesse of a potential ♠ 87 against partners (assumed) 9♠. With ♠ Q9 only there is no choice but to cover and hope declarer gets it wrong. With Q9x you can do either because declarer will have nowhere to go.