Spade Heart  Diamond Club
  Breaking the Mould

(This commentary relates to Board 4 played on April 3rd 2012)

In the pairs game it can sometimes pay to gamble and break the mould by bidding in third position with a substandard hand. Our opponents did just this on the above hand when East opened the bidding with 1 despite having only 9HCPs including a singleton K. Sitting South I had no reason to bid , and neither did North when West responded 1. Now East  passed  and although I realised that he could not have a good hand I had no sensible bid I could make. The contract of 1 was an easy make losing only three clubs and three aces on normal defensive play.

This earned us a complete bottom as the hand was passed out on 5 occasions , on three occasions N/S played in a NT contract making 8 tricks , and on one occasion N/S achieved a +200 penalty.

Of course E/W might have bid to too high a contract if I had intervened in the bidding , but East chose his moment well and I applaud him for his enterprise.

John C Williams April 6th 2012.


  The Whole Picture

(This commentary relates to Board 5 played on October 4th 2011).

In the cut and thrust of the pairs game it is important to get into the bidding , make life difficult for the opposition , and above all try to visualise partner’s and the opponents’ hands.  

After North had opened 1 East has not quite got enough to double. With a fourth spade (instead of a club or diamond) a double would be correct. South bid a clever 1 to try to make bidding difficult for West and knowing  that , if doubled , he could retreat to 2. West passed for the minute and North bid 2. East now took some action and doubled.

From West’s point of view he now knows a lot about the hands. East must have about 11/12 HCPs with four card heart  and club suits. Both North and South must have a minimum of HCPs and also probably hold all the diamond honours. Having a good club fit , a void in diamonds , and a huge spade suit sitting over South , West’s hand now has enormous playing strength in clubs.

Sitting West I immediately bid 5 , but on reflection I wish I had showed a void by bidding 4 first , and then 5 over partner’s response. He might then have bid 6. In fact with a 2-2 trump break the club grand slam is an easy make with a combined holding of only 23 HCPs. However bidding 5 still achieved a goodish result.

(Note that  E/W can also make a small slam in either hearts or spades).

John C Williams October 6th 2011.

  Cueing to a well bid slam

(This commentary relates to Board 31 played in session 4 of the EBU Swiss Teams at Brighton on August 21st 2011).

I am always impressed when good , accurate , sensible bidding , without the need for conventions, leads to an excellent contract. The use of a Blackwood-style slam convention certainly has its place , but I believe over-reliance on these conventions to the exclusion of more natural cue bidding is to be discouraged.

A simple 1 opening (despite the three loser hand) keeps the bidding low , and after a natural spade response 2 was forcing for one round (American style). 2 sets the suit and suggests a minimum hand with at least a doubleton honour or three small hearts in support. Cue bids of A , A , A and K follow , and West then jumps to the slam knowing that East holds the ideal cards. (NB East cannot hold K or he would not have made a simple limit bid of 2).

Despite the bad 4-1 trump break the slam is cold , and simply bid on only 24 combined HCPs.

An Ace-asking convention will always find out about the aces and will find out that East holds a K. But which one is it? Cue bidding solves this problem.

John C Williams August 22nd 2011.


  Doubling freely bid major games (1)

(This commentary relates to Board 11 played on August 2nd 2011).

Holding a balanced 19/20 HCP hand what action do you take when the opponents freely bid a 4 contract before you get a chance to bid?

Partnerships need to be clear on the meaning of defensive actions when their opponents bid what looks like a distributional/pre-emptive game.

This and the subsequent hand demonstrate the difficulties. At our table South decided to open a weak 2 (6-10 HCP but devaluing his singleton K).  Non vulnerable , North decided to put pressure on the opponents  and raised this bid to game. East doubled which was passed out .  South was favoured with a club lead and he scrambled eight tricks for -300. East can make eleven tricks in a NT contract , but only four pairs bid and made 3NT. Four pairs either bid the 3NT contract the wrong way round  (as West can only make eight tricks on a heart lead) , or bid the wrong game conceding +100 to N/S. If West bids 4 in response to his partner’s double this contract will fail as declarer has to lose two Aces , and either club ruffs or at least two trump tricks after repeated heart leads.

John C Williams August 3rd 2011.

See the next hand for some general comments on defensive bidding in these circumstances

  Doubling freely bid major games (2)

(This commentary relates to Board 14 played on August 2nd 2011)

Holding a balanced 19/20 HCP hand what action do you take when the opponents freely bid a 4 contract before you get a chance to bid?

Partnerships need to be clear on the meaning of defensive actions when their opponents bid what looks like a distributional /pre-emptive game. This and the previous hand demonstrate the difficulties.

 East opened 1 and West, cleverly, immediately raised the auction to 4. North doubled and if South passes this contract is an easy make , losing only a heart , a diamond and a club trick. However if South bids 4 and West doubles , this contract it is likely to go at least  4 off. South may then decide to believe West and try 5 which will only go 2 off. If E/W bid 5 South needs to respect North’s double for one off. Three E/W pairs made 4 doubled, one pair was not doubled and two pairs made ten tricks in a heart part-score. Three E/W pairs penalised N/S gaining 200, 800 and 1500 (on the bidding shown above). Only one N/S pair scored a positive result with + 50.

John C Williams August 3rd 2011

General comments on defensive bidding in these circumstances

On hand 2 the best action for N/S is for both to pass and let E/W have their 4 game. However it seems more normal for North to double and unless N/S find their club contract they are now in trouble. On hand 1 it is difficult for E/W to find their optimum NT contract by East. This all goes to show why pre-empting is so useful and difficult to deal with.

Over four level contracts it is usual to play a double as holding more than 16 HCPs and probably take-out orientated,  4NT as showing a two-suiter hand  , and a cue bid of the opponents’ suit as a very strong two or three suited hand.

 In any competitive auction leave the five level to the opponents.

  A Rare Occurrence

(This commentary relates to Board 15 played  on November 2nd 2010).

It is not often that a pair finish up playing in one of the opponents naturally bid suits , but it happened to my partner and I on this hand.

After West opened 1 , North (my partner) made a take-out double which either always promises a four card spade suit , or a strong hand on which he is able to handle any subsequent bid from me.  East however now bid 1 (not everybody’s cup of tea on 5 HCPs and an anaemic suit) and, sitting South , I was a bit stuck for a bid. 1NT without a real heart stop did not appeal , a double might suggest both minors , and 2 (a cue bid of the opponents suit!) would suggest that I was asking my partner to bid NTs. I selected 2 showing a four card suit with 6-8 HCPs , but when West rebid hearts and it was passed round to me I had to find another bid. I bid 2 and my partner (North) had to fathom out what I had. Reasoning that since my 2 bid had been a limit bid , and that therefore 2 could not be forcing , he realised that I must have four spades. (Full marks , however he thought for some time before passing).

I wish I could say that I made my contract , but I was limited to 4 spade tricks, a heart ruff in my hand , a club trick and a diamond trick for one off. However this was better than letting the opponents make nine tricks in a heart contract , and earned us an above average score.

John C Williams November 3rd 2010  


  Remember to double

(This commentary relates to Board 13 played  on June 8th 2010)

One of the disadvantages of using conventions is that it gives your opponents the opportunity to double the bid to indicate a good holding in the suit for a possible sacrifice or lead opportunity.  On the above hand playing 5 card majors I opened 1 and my partner bid 3, a conventional bid known as Bergen indicating 10-12 HCPs and a three card spade suit. With a 5 loser hand I was interested in a slam and bid 3 , a cue bid. My partner now bid 3 and my 4 bid ended the auction. With no real indication as to what to lead East led the 5 to South’s 7 , West’s 10 and my K. I drew trumps and by playing East for the J made all thirteen tricks when East discarded a diamond. But West had missed the opportunity to double the 3 bid , to indicate a lead that would have held the contract to 11 tricks. As it was a team competition it only cost 2 imps. However had we bid to the slam then a heart or a diamond lead would have given me the contract , and on a spade lead the contract is made via a correct diamond guess suggested by the shortage of trumps in the East hand.

Similar opportunities exist in doubling conventional responses to a 4NT ace-asking enquiry. Also , when leading, do not forget the negative inference from partner’s failure to double a conventional bid. Perhaps try a different suit.

John C Williams June 10th 2010.

  Lingwood's Winners

(This commentary relates to Board 45 played in the Essex Helliar Trophy at Mountnessing on Sunday February 21st 2010.)

Earlier this year two teams of four from Lingwood won the right to represent Essex in the Garden Cities Regional  Finals to be held on 22nd May 2010 , by being the aggregate winners in the Essex Helliar Trophy.

The hand below needed both East and West to take appropriate action to ensure the optimum result.

South responds 1NT to North’s 1 opening bid after which North gives South the option of playing in either minor. South bids 2 which is passed round to East. East must now take some action as this contract is an easy make. His thoughts should go along the lines of:--

    * Obviously West has upwards of 8 HCPs or why have the opponents not explored game.

    * North must be at least 5-4 in the minors or he would probably have passed 1NT.

    * South does not have a 4 card major.

    * By converting to 2 South has shown a 5-4 diamond fit.

East needs to ‘protect’ the situation as it is almost certain that East/West have a reasonable major suit fit, but West has been shut out of the bidding. East should double for take-out even though he only holds 8 HCPs. Now West needs to consider carefully.  With his well placed honour cards he should either bid game in hearts or bid 3 to suggest a possible game. In fact 4 is an easy make for East/West but even a part score in hearts is better than allowing North/South to make an easy 2.

John C Williams March 23rd 2010.

  A choice of Slams

(This commentary relates to Board 17 played  on April 20th 2010.)

Players were presented with a difficult choice of slams on this hand.

After opening his longest suit and hearing South’s game force bid of 2, North reversed into 2 , normally showing 15+ HCPs. With two fairly robust long suits however I approve of this bid even holding only 13 HCPs. South bid 2 (fourth suit forcing) and North completed the description of his 6-5 hand by bidding 3. South’s 4NT is Roman Key-card Blackwood , and he found that North had two aces but was missing the Q. When South bid 5NT he learned that North had the K. It is normal to select the known 5-3 fit for a slam and South can sign off in 6. However the danger is that this may fail if hearts break badly and , with a surfeit of HCPs and two strong 6 card suits , 6NT may prove to be a better spot.

Anybody who chose this bid hit the jackpot as 6 does indeed fail , losing two heart tricks whilst , thanks to the kind break in clubs , 6NT makes with 5 club tricks , 3 diamond tricks and 2 in each of the majors.

(I did realise the possible danger in 6 but , being greedy and hoping that one or other of the minor suits may be solid , I bid 7NT. Served me right , as this contract of course failed by one trick.)

John C Williams April 24th 2010.

  Splinter Bids

(This commentary relates to Board 22 played on March 16th 2010.)

The use of a splinter bid (a jump bid to indicate a void or singleton) of 4 or 4 as a response to partner’s major suit opening at the one level is the more common use of this specific bid. However other bidding situations often arise where the use is so helpful to partner that minimum HCP slams can be successfully reached.

On the above hand West’s bid of 2NT is a Jacoby bid indicating good heart support and at least a game raise, with possible slam interest. (See previous Featured hand entitled “The Jacoby 2NT”). East could now make a simple response of 3 to denote a club suit but , since he has a 6 loser hand himself , he chooses instead to show slam interest by bidding 4. This is a jump bid in a game-forcing situation with hearts agreed as trumps , and is thus a splinter bid showing a singleton or void. The bid is just what West wants to hear , because he now realises that there are only 34 working HCPs (the KQJ  are wasted values which he knows are in the opponents’ hands).

A small slam might thus be bid on 26-30HCPs instead of the normal 30-34 HCP. He uses Roman Key Card Blackwood to find out that partner has two key cards and the trump Q  , and bids 6. This is a reasonable contract and with the K well positioned is an easy make. Thus a 26 HCP slam can be brought home.

John C Williams March 17th 2010.  

  Penalising Weak Twos

(This commentary relates to Board 32 played in the Swiss Pairs at the Woodham Ferrers Congress on January 24th  2009.)

Before deciding to open a vulnerable weak two it may be important to study the opponents' defensive measures. Although on the West hand above 2 looks like a reasonable bid , N/S play an immediate double as penalty and not for ‘take out’. East , perhaps surprisingly , decided to try 2 which South imaginatively doubled.  This contract went two light for -500 and a N/S top.  (2 would have been even less successful).

In fourth position it is not so important to have a penalty double , since your suit is sitting under declarers , and it is best to retain a double for take out.

In second position a simple convention is to use 3 for a weak (11-15 HCP) ‘take out’ and 3 for a stronger (16+ HCP) ‘take out’

John C Williams

  Using the Losing Trick Count

(This commentary relates to Board 16 played on August 25th 2009)

The losing trick count can be a useful tool to help to bid low HCP games.

Surprisingly only one pair bid the excellent 4 game on this hand. Although the combined E/W HCP count is only 20 , I think one can consider each hand to be a 7 loser hand which , together with a good combined 8 card trump suit , should be enough for game. After North has opened 1 East should bid 2 ,especially holding the useful extra 109 in his suit. West technically has an 8 loser hand , however with the J10  to support the A he may adjust this to 7 losers and raise his partner’s vulnerable overcall to 4. South will lead spades , and after North has taken the first 2 tricks he will have some difficulty in deciding what to lead next.  A spade will give E/W a ‘ruff and discard’, a low diamond does not look promising leading round to the KQ97  (the A merely puts off the decision to the next trick) , and a heart lead may prove disastrous if South has 10. Thus in practice, he may lead a club, which actually solves declarer’s problem.

However if he does lead a spade, heart or diamond then East will need to guess which way to take the club finesse , probably getting it right after North has shown up with 14 HCPs  (A , K , A and K)

2 N/S pairs made spade part scores , and 6 E/W pairs collected penalties of 50 or 100 from failed spade contracts. Curiously at one table the hand was passed out.

John C Williams 26th August 2009     


  Opening light in 4th position

(This commentary relates to Board 26 played on August 25th 2009).

When should one open light in fourth position after three passes? This was the question facing North on this hand.  A good rule on opening light in this position is to do so only when holding a reasonable length spade suit , and only then if the hand satisfies the ’rule of 15’. In this rule you add  the number of cards in the spade suit to the number of HCPs in the hand , and if the result is 15 or more then open 1. (e.g. with a 5 card spade suit and 10 HCPs the rule comes to 15 , and opening 1 is reasonable).  Spades is the ‘boss’ suit and an opening bid in this suit has a pre-emptive value in that opponents must now enter at the two level. On the above hand North can be certain that each player has exactly 11 HCPs and may be tempted into opening 1. However applying the above rule , 6 spades + 7 HCPs only makes 13 , and it is wiser to pass. Even though N/S can make 2 , if North does open 1 then South will almost certainly respond 2NT , and now North will be forced to bid 3 , going one off. The only way to play in 2 is to open a weak two which is not generally advisable on such a poor suit , even though it works well on this hand.

8 tables passed the hand out, whilst 2 N/S pairs played in spades making 8 and 9 tricks and 2 N/S pairs went off in contracts.

John C Williams 26th August 2009


  The dreaded five-level

(This commentary relates to Board 14 played on August 4th 2009)

Competitive decisions at the five-level are always difficult , and there is an old adage amongst bridge experts that one should leave the five-level to the opponents. East opened 1H (personally , despite having only 14 HCPs , I would have opened 1, the longer suit, and reversed with a rebid of hearts) , South overcalled 1 , and West raised to 2. Sitting North I bid 4 , and East bid 5 which was passed round to me. Despite the adage , I bid 5 which was doubled by West. Of course this contract failed by one trick , and the opponents 5 would also have failed by one trick (or two if South finds an improbable diamond lead) , thus suggesting the adage is right. However if the opponents’ spades had divided 3-2 instead of 4-1, then 5 would have made. No wonder the five-level is so hard!

Six N/S pairs took the same decision as we did and lost either 50 or 100 depending on whether or not the opponents doubled. Two E/W pairs made 5 (once doubled) ,and four failed in heart or diamond games.

John C Williams August 6th 2009.


  Unbiddable Slam?

(This commentary relates to Board 11 played on July 7th 2009).

For all East/Wests this hand proved the most difficult of the evening to bid - nobody bid the small slam in clubs ,  let alone the grand slam. However , with the 2-2 distribution in clubs , there are always thirteen tricks available on any lead.

After South opened 1 East had a difficult bid. If he doubles then he knows West will assume he has a spade suit , so my partner contented himself with a simple overcall of 2 in the sure belief that this would not end the bidding.  South repeated his hearts and I decided to bid 2. I did this in case we had a 4-4 spade fit and East had not got a suitable hand to double the initial 1. (I could easily fall back on supporting diamonds later if necessary , and my partner now knows I cannot have a strong spade suit as I did not overcall 1 initially). My partner now made a valiant effort with his 4 bid - obviously he had a strong minor two-suiter.  However my 5 bid ended the auction. On reflection I should certainly have jumped to 6.

Three pairs made 5+2, two pairs made 5+1 and one simply 5. The other three pairs played in minor suit part scores making eleven or thirteen tricks. Thus 5+2 achieved a near top for us , but I still did not feel I had done the hand justice.

John C Williams 8th July 2009.


  The cut-and-thrust of Pairs

(This commentary relates to Board 20 played  on May 5th 2009)

In Pairs , on a part-score hand , one has to strive for the best possible score ,unlike team events where one is normally happy with a plus score.

This hand demonstrates the cut-and-thrust of duplicate pairs. West will open 1 , and most North players , because it is the ‘boss’ suit (despite its poor quality) , will overcall 1. East might venture 1NT , but he hardly has a spade stop and will probably pass. South will compete with a 2 bid which in the modern style aims to make life a bit more difficult for E/W , and confirm a spade lead should W become declarer. This does cause a problem for West as he wants to compete ,but a bid of 3 should show a more distributional hand. My suggestion is that West doubles. As he has already bid ,  this double is competitive , confirming a good opening hand and asking partner to bid something. East would bid 3 with a three card suit and therefore his actual bid of 3 shows at least a five card suit. What does North do now? In fact 3is likely to make and thus he probably bids 3 which will be passed out. The contract will fail by one trick (or more) losing two diamonds, two hearts and a club. (If opponents do not lead clubs then a diamond can be established for a club discard). N/S thus lose -100 but , in pairs , an important 10 points better than -110 in 3D.

John C Williams May 6th 2009


  Do not crucify your partner at Pairs

(This commentary relates to Board 3 played on May 5th 2009)

When partner makes a good bid in Pairs , do not spoil it by not allowing for the fact that he may have taken some risk.

When South opens 1 West has no satisfactory bid and therefore has to pass. North will bid 1NT and East has to decide whether to bid 2 or quietly pass. At pairs it is important to compete if at all possible and despite only holding eight HCPs  (incl. three Jacks) , the sixth spade should probably influence his decision to bid. When South bids 3 West’s initial reaction is probably to bid 4. However he should allow for the fact that East may be light (taking into account N/S’s bidding) and only bid 3. [Alternatively West could bid 3 indicating spade support and inviting game. When East bids 3 confirming he is light , West should have the discipline (and courage) to pass.]

 In fact East may make nine or ten tricks. To make 4 he needs to both correctly guess the club situation (playing 9 to the CJ) and also ruff two clubs before drawing all the trumps. However just making3 is better than letting N/S make 3 or 3. Had it been a Teams competition I would have chanced 4 holding West’s hand.

Five N/Spairs made contracts in hearts or diamonds and one pair collected a penalty.Two E/W pairs made 3+1, one pair made 3S, two collected penalties of 100 and 50 and one pair made 3 doubled plus one. Thus 3+1 earns a near top without the need to bid game.

John C Williams May 6th2009.

  With a little help from my friends (1)

(This commentary relates to Board 22 played on April 7th 2009)

A bridge pair should try to use the opposition’s bidding to help them reach the best contract.

Sitting South I had a difficult bid after East had opened 1. To double would suggest I had a four card heart suit , so although my spade suit is not ideal , I bid 1NT (15-17 HCP). My partner bid 2 , a transfer to 2 , which he would then have passed knowing we had a maximum of 23 HCPs. However East decided to bid 2 and after a pass from me , my partner made the excellent bid of 3. He has now told me he has 5 hearts and 4 or 5 clubs with about 5-7 HCPs. He is offering me the choice of suits but having a maximum , with A and AK holdlngs in his short suits , I realised that 4 must have good possibilities and bid it. There were no problems in the play and the 23 HCP game came home. It would have been more difficult to bid if East had not bid 2 , or indeed if West had bid 2 on the first round.

2 N/S pairs made a part score, 2 defeated an E/W contract (perhaps 3 or 4) , 1 E/W pair made 2 and 1 pair defeated a N/S contract

John C Williams April 8th 2009.

  What to open with 4441 Hands?
(This commentary relates to Board 12 played on March 17th 2009.)

Experts and club players alike differ on what to open with the East hand. Some open with the suit below the singleton (1 in this case) , some with the middle of three touching suits (1) , and some with the best , in this case only , minor (1). All can work out well or badly and on this hand 1 probably fares best , as West is likely to bid 1NT which should easily make. 1 may also fare well , as E/W are likely to finish in 2 which is difficult to defeat. Our opponents , after an opening 1 bid , reached 2 , which went two off.

I was sitting South , but if I was sitting East what would I do? I hate opening these hands. Experience has taught me to pass whenever possible , and holding three miserable Jacks in the above 12 HCP hand I would have  no hesitation in passing. Even if the J were replaced with the Q in a 13 HCP hand I would probably pass. (If East did pass , the hand would probably be passed out.)  These hands are difficult to describe and it is easy to get to a poor contract. If the hand is stronger or has better honours and playing five card majors , I am forced to open 1 , but now have to rebid 2NT over a 2 bid.

For the record , 5 N/S pairs made plus scores of 200, 100 and 50 (three times) by defeating E/W contracts. 6 E/W pairs made plus scores: 120 (1NT + 1), 110 (twice - presumably 2) and 90 (three times, presumably 1NT). So had I been East I would have received a score slightly below average , but at least I would have got onto the next (hopefully better) hand faster!

John C Williams March 20th 2009.

  Having problems with partner's pre-empt

(This commentary relates to Board 25 played on March 3rd 2009.)

Pre-empts often cause a problem for partner as well as the opponents

After North has opened 3 some people sitting East might be tempted to double. However I believe a pass is more sound. South now has a problem. He should realise that West is likely to make a protective bid , and the opponents can probably make a lot of tricks in a heart contract. South would like to play in a spade part score , but of course 3 is forcing.  However , even if partner bids 4 , at this vulnerability it may not be a bad board even if , as is likely , it is defeated. West almost certainly leads K , and then probably switches to a spade. Declarer takes this trick and must now lead a club. Whatever West does declarer will now still be able to ruff a heart , discard a diamond on K , and take the diamond finesse for ten tricks.

In the alternative scenario , if South passes , West will bid 3 and East will raise to 4. After the K lead taken with the A declarer (West) draws trumps and leads up to the Q , taken by the A. South must now play a high spade allowing declarer to discard his club loser on K. Having only lost one trick , declarer must restrict his diamond losses to two tricks. Placing the A with South he can ruff the third spade and lead 3 up to the 7 end-playing South if it is not covered with the J. If it is covered he should play the K , taken by A. South either concedes a ‘ruff and discard’ in spades , or returns a diamond and West inserts the 8 setting up his 10 for the tenth trick.

Three N/S pairs bid and made 4 (once doubled). Two N/S pairs made 3 , once with an overtrick. However two E/W pairs bid and made 4. Four E/W pairs defeated a N/S contract by one or two.

John C Williams March 4th 2009  

  Reinforcing partner’s pre-empt

(This commentary relates to Board 14 played on March 3rd 2009.)

When your partner opens with a pre-empt and you have a weak hand , try to continue the pre-empt whenever possible.

If East opens with a weak 2 and South doubles for take-out , West should not pass with the West hand but raise the pre-empt , making it difficult for the opponents to find their best contract. Without the 3 bid from West North may bid 3 himself asking South to bid 3NT if he holds a heart stop. South will be happy to oblige , and makes 3NT with an overtrick. But what can he do if West bids 3? He cannot bid 3NT himself , and if he doubles he only collects +300 , which is poor compensation for a game contract. If he bids 5 he makes the contract , but it is not as good as 3NT+1. Even if South passes , West should raise to 3  (at this vulnerability) which East should never see as a constructive bid.

Three pairs played in 3NT making ten tricks , with one pair making twelve tricks. Six pairs played in 5 , most making 11 tricks , although one pair found an overtrick. Two pairs played in a diamond part score.  

John C Williams March 4th 2009

  Moysian Fits 1

Alphonse Moyse was an American publisher and an ex-editor of the Bridge World Magazine. Unlike most Americans he advocated the opening of a four card major and supporting the rebid of his partner with only three card support. For this reason any contract played in a 4-3 trump fit contract is now universally known as a Moysian fit  Here are four examples (not all of them successful) but , in my opinion , all worth bidding.

[Hand 1] (This commentary relates to Board 25 played in the Essex versus Cambridge University match on November 2nd 2008)

Sitting South I doubled to show hearts and clubs , and then bid 3 to ask partner to further describe his hand. The 3 response indicated a stop in a three card suit (he would have bid 2 on the previous round with four).  If he had two aces it seemed that hearts would be a potentially makeable slam and , after checking , I bid 6. There were various indications that the contract might succeed:--

(i) Any force (diamonds) would be taken in the short trump hand.

(ii) In other contracts the defence would be obvious and the contracts would be doomed to failure.

(iii) In this contract any defence might prove difficult to find and the contract could succeed.

(iv) Intermediate trumps might be useful. (North might have J , and my 109 could help)

(v) The bidding suggests the cards could be right. (If the K was missing , it was likely to be with East.)

The K was led taken with the A and declarer played a second diamond. East now led a club and declarer finessed the J. The winning line of play is to lead a third diamond ruffing , or over-ruffing, as necessary ; finesse the Q , and take three rounds of trumps. With clubs breaking 3-3 twelve tricks are made. However there are other equally possible , or even better,  lines of play and my partner elected to finesse the 10 which lost to the J , the contract going one off. Unlucky!

  Moysian Fits 2

[Hand 2] (This commentary relates to Board 8 played at the Chelmsford Bridge Club on February 16th 2009.)

The same principles (i) , (ii) and (iii) from Hand 1 apply to this hand. After South’s good spade overcall , 3NT is always off , even if the clubs break. In 4 , after a spade lead taken with the A , South has a difficult decision on what to play next. A diamond is best , but perhaps not an obvious switch. Anything else allows declarer to ruff a spade and only lose a spade , a club , and a trump. A diamond switch is taken with the A , and declarer should immediately ruff a spade , play A , and finesse the 10. If North returns a diamond (best) , West ruffs draws trumps and plays his clubs. When North takes the fourth club he only has spades to return , again giving declarer ten tricks. Only one pair played in 4 (making) and most other E/W pairs had a negative score.

  Moysian Fits 3

[Hand 3] (This commentary relates to Board 1 played in the Essex versus Bedfordshire match on February 1st 2009.)

East/West have 26HCPs and three supporting tens , however no game is makeable. 5, 4 and 3NT all fail by one trick against best defence. The above bidding sequence was that conducted by my partner and myself , and at least there are not four obvious losers in 4! However on the K lead, whether East tries to ruff spades or tackles trumps , he always finishes one light. Trying to ruff two spades by coming to hand on A and K , he will lose two trumps, a diamond ruff , and the K. If he draws trumps he will lose two trumps , a spade , and the K. And if he plays a club to the K , ruffs a spade , uses the A as an entry to ruff another spade followed by the A and a second diamond to the K , then North/South will take the A , a ruff in either clubs or diamonds , together with  their two trump tricks. However the defence may get it wrong , and the same principles (i) , (ii) , (iii) and (iv) apply. Other bidding sequences may lead to 3NT played by West , in which case South will be pleased he overcalled 1 for a lead.

  Moysian Fits 4

[Hand 4] Some years ago at Lingwood, my partner and I bid the above hands as shown. (Using Roman Key-card Blackwood ,  West's response of 5 showed 2 Aces and Q , and 6 showed 1 King)

In a club contract , despite having a 5-4 trump fit , twelve tricks is the limit. However in the 4-3 diamond fit , thirteen tricks was an easy make. The same principles (i) , (ii) and (iv) of ruffing a spade in the short trump suit and the importance of the J and 10 trumps were also again evident. ( I have dined out on this hand ever since)

My overall advice therefore is to play in a 4-3 trump fit if it looks as if NT and other games / slams are going to be easily defeated , and the five principles set out above may apply.  The contracts may be hair-raising , but the defence may also get it wrong.

John C Williams February 17th 2009


  Coping with Pre-empts

 (This commentary relates to Board 15 played at the Chelmsford Bridge Club on January 12th 2009)

Pre-empts at any level are designed to make life difficult for opponents.

After a weak 2 bid by South , and East’s take out double, West’s bid of 3 showed a goodish hand asking partner to bid his best major. But what should East bid now? 4 is likely to be passed , and a Roman Keycard Blackwood 4NT would be ambiguous as no trump suit has been agreed.  4 would show slam ambitions , but West will bid 4 and now the wrong slam may be reached.

Would 3 be forcing? After the 3 bid perhaps it should be forcing for one round. West would raise to 4 and East should now bid 4NT and then 6 after the 5 response. By establishing the K for a heart discard and ruffing out the heart suit twelve tricks can be made.

Without the pre-empt East will open 1 and West may bid a 4 splinter. But whatever he bids , 6 will now be easily reached.

John C Williams. January 15th 2009


  Major Suit Five Level Raises

(This commentary relates to a Board  played on 2nd December 2008)

How do you treat a jump to five , or a raise from four to five in a major?

When a major suit agreement has been reached and your partner bids five of the major without cue bidding or using any ace asking convention then he is asking a specific question.  He is asking partner to bid the slam with trumps better than stated or better than they might have been.

On this hand after a 3 opening pre-empt from East South probably bids 4. West should realise that if he bids 4NT and receives a one ace response he does not know which ace it is. If it is the A then a slam is a near certainty either by ruffing diamonds or by setting up the spade suit. If however it is the A then a club lead may defeat the contract. If he jumps to 5 however partner will pass without A and bid six with it. In the unlikely event that he has both he should bid 6 to indicate grand slam aspirations.

Only two pairs bid the slam, seven pairs making 4 + 2 and one pair 5 doubled +1. Obviously if South overcalls 5, a good bid non vulnerable against vulnerable, it is more difficult to bid the slam.

John C Williams December 4th 2008

  Doubling a 1NT opening bid
(This commentary relates to board 10 played on 4th November 2008)

You sit South with a flat hand and 15 high card points , East opens a weak NT so you should double , right? Not necessarily. As this hand showed , you should be wary of doubling with 15 points , so scattered between the suits and unsupported by 10s and 9s that no suitable opening lead stands out.

If South does double then West can redouble for penalties , or pass for a good score. Poor North does not know what to do for the best , as for all he knows South may be able to run a long suit , or otherwise take seven tricks , whereas if he bids 2 he may find partner with a shortage opposite. One East made 1NT redoubled + 1 for an unusual score of 1160 and another East made 1NT doubled +1 for a second top score of 380. Even if North does take out to 2, luckily finding partner with four hearts, he is likely to lose at least six tricks (1 spade, 2 diamonds, 2 clubs and a heart) , probably doubled , for a below average minus score.

 Left to their own devices East West either played in NTs with five pairs making 7, 8, or 9 tricks  whereas two pairs who used Stayman to play in spades made an easy ten tricks (discarding the losing club on the established fourth diamond). However nobody bid the spade game.

John C Williams November 10th 2008

  Lead-directing overcalls
(This commentary relates to Board 25 played 3rd June 2008)

My partner has over time persuaded me that it is important to overcall on some light hands to suggest a lead.

On the indicated hand, after an opening 1D from South , I overcalled 2C even though we were vulnerable against non-vulnerable strong opponents. If the 98 of clubs had been smaller cards then I would probably have passed. Of course it can be dangerous and I have many scars, however I judged that the KD may be well placed and I certainly wanted my partner to lead clubs should North play in NT's. North had a difficult bid as a double would show stronger hearts and a bid of 2D a longer suit. He elected to pass and South not unnaturally did likewise. In the play I was able to play on hearts and emerged with eight tricks for a good result. Although best defence probably defeats me by one trick , even this would have been a good result since if I pass it is likely that N/S will play in a successful part score. In fact four pairs made nine tricks in NT's (a low club lead from West?), two pairs made eight tricks in NT's and three pairs made a part score in diamonds. Two pairs were one off in a contract. Note however that a club lead from East holds a NT contract to only seven tricks which was the point of the bid. He is unlikely to lead the suit without it.


John C Williams June 3rd 2008