Spade Heart  Diamond Club
Going for Game
  Big hand , but is game on? (1)

(This commentary relates to Board 2 played on August 24th 2010).

If the opposition open the bidding and you hold a big hand (20+ HCPs) it is often difficult to find out if your partner has those few key HCPs necessary for game.

West opens 1NT and North doubles. Although this contract is destined to fail by 2 tricks South , not unnaturally , bids 2. What now?

North has to take a (fairly obvious) guess. It looks as if the opponents can take a lot of club tricks together with theA , and therefore 3NT will fail. However surely 4 must have chances , indeed unless East has a 4 card heart suit or there is no way to dispose of your fourth diamond 4 will usually succeed. The problem is that you simply cannot find out about the J , or whether South has two diamonds (allowing a ruff) , or if the 4 contract can be defeated by successive club forces.  So North has to bid it and hope.

In fact on continuous club leads , and the A held up for one round , the contract normally fails by one trick because East’s 7 is promoted into a winner. (If West takes the first heart trick the contract can be made since the fourth club can now be ruffed by 9 in dummy).

Three pairs were allowed to make 4 , 4 pairs were defeated in game contracts (often 4) and 3 N/S pairs made a part score.

John C Williams 26th August 2010.

  Big hand , but is game on? (2)

(This commentary relates to Board 6 played on August 24th 2010).

If the opposition open the bidding and you hold a big hand (20+ HCPs) it is often difficult to find out if your partner has those few key HCPs necessary for game.

East opens 1 and after two passes North doubles for take-out. South responds 2 and now North cue bids East’s clubs to suggest a far better hand than minimum. South repeats his diamonds and North has one more try for game by raising 2 to 3 (he could pass) but South is not interested and passes. 

On a club lead 3 just makes , losing one trick in each suit. Accurate bidding , since on the actual layout no game is on.

Most N/S pairs bid too high and failed by one or two tricks. (Note that 3NT would not make even if the diamond finesse was right).

John C Williams August 26th 2010.

  A difficult game to bid

(This commentary relates to Board 8 played on March 24th 2009).

North/South have 25 HCPs but getting to the optimum contract of 4 proved too difficult for most pairs. After West has opened 1 South will probably protect with a double (as a bid of 1NT will normally show 11-14 HCPs and perhaps better stop(s) in hearts). North will probably bid 2 , and now South should bid 2 showing a five card suit. This is a relatively strong bid because , having given North the option of three suits , South now decides to choose one himself. If he had a weaker hand with 5 spades he would bid 1 in the first place , and with a weaker hand with 4 spades he would now pass North’s 2 bid.  What should North do? If he bids 3 then South may bid a disastrous 3NT , and If he passes then N/S miss game. The winning bid is 3 , enabling South to bid 4. Whatever West leads 11 tricks can be made via 4 spades , 4 diamonds and three clubs (note the position of the Q and 10 allowing South to lead J and then 9 to finesse twice and establish the third club).

One pair made 4+2 (don’t ask me how) and one pair made 4. In a spade part-score, four pairs made eleven tricks, one pair ten tricks , and one pair nine tricks. One N/S pair made 1NT and one pair defeated an E/W contract. Only one E/W made a positive score (perhaps by defeating 3NT).

John C Williams 27th March 2009

  A missed game

(This commentary relates to Board 20 played on December 23rd 2008)

When North opens the bidding with 1 , East probably passes (although some might chance an overcall of 1) and South bids 1. North reverses into 2 and South has a problem. Should he bid 2 , a fourth suit forcing bid, or bid 3? The former is somewhat of an overbid , but if he simply bids 3 then North will probably pass. As can be seen , both 3NT and 5 can be made. Indeed twelve tricks should be made in a club contract as the diamond finesse is right , and both small diamonds can be ruffed (the second with the Ace clubs) before drawing trumps.

Perhaps North should raise 3 to 4 and then South with his two aces would bid 5. In the event only one pair reached game.

John C Williams. December 28th 2008


  Thin games in Team competitions

(This commentary relates to Board 1 played in the Men versus Ladies teams competition on December 9th 2008)

In a team competition it is vital to bid to game whenever possible.

On this hand North may open 1 and when East overcalls 2 South should double (a negative or take out double) to show a definite 4 card spade suit, probably a diamond suit , and upwards of 8 HCPs. North’s 2 bid is now not a reverse , but simply showing a four card spade suit and a minimum hand. Each hand is minimum in HCPs (11 and 10), but each is strong in distribution with singletons and 5+ card side suits. Many point count systems allow you to add an extra 2 points for a singleton which would bring the total points to 25. In addition , Losing Trick Count Systems show that North has 8 losers and South 6 losers. In both systems this is enough for game , and South completes the auction with 4.

Unlucky! Trumps break 4-1 and after East has cashed the A and K  North must lose two further tricks in the trump suit , as he has all the low cards and is missing A,10,9,8, and 7. The contract goes one off this time.

But this is an example of the sort of thin hand where gains can be made in a team competition by going for the game when the opposition doesn't. If trumps had behaved on this hand , ie broken 3-2 as they would do approx two-thirds of the time , then 10 tricks should be made. In terms of imps your team would score +6 imps on this hand if non-vulnerable , +10imps if vulnerable. Of course in this case you would be -5 imps if non-vulnerable , -6 imps if vulnerable. But given the aforementioned 2/3 : 1/3 probability of the trumps splitting 3-2 , bidding to game on this sort of hand would be a winning strategy overall.  (All imps calculations assume that the opposition made the same number of tricks as you did , but did not bid to game)

John C Williams December 12th 2008


  Finding 5 : 3 major suit fits

In a previous Featured hand  I wrote about the importance of finding the 5-3 major suit fit. (See ‘Never mind the quality , feel the length’ in the Previous Hands section)  Another example occurred in the annual Men versus Ladies event.

(This commentary relates to Board 21 played on December 9th 2008)

Holding 22 HCPs East needs to open the bidding with a strong bid and 2NT is probably the safest bid , despite the singleton A. However, unless you are playing 5-card Stayman, West will simply raise to 3NT. This happened at our table and I realised that since East was likely to have the K, a heart lead was dangerous, thus I led a safe J. Declarer eventually went one off losing two club tricks and three heart tricks. A heart lead would have given declarer 9 tricks.

Playing 5-card Stayman West simply bids 3 and when East bids 3 raises to 4. Despite the awful trump break this contract always makes , losing only three trump tricks, the K being used to discard the small club.

NOTE ON 5-CARD STAYMAN : 3 is used over a 20-22 HCP 2NT to ask about the majors. Responses :-- 3NT = do not hold either a 4 or 5 card major; 3/3 hold five cards in this suit ; 3 = hold 1 or 2 four card majors over which responder/opener bid major suits upwards until either a 4-4 fit or 3NT is reached.

If in conjunction with this responder uses transfer bids of 3/3 to show a five card / suit and 3 to show 5 spades and 4 hearts , then pairs can always discover either their 4-4 or 5-3 major suit fit.

John C Williams 12th December 2008 

  Never mind the quality , feel the length.
(This commentary relates to Board 8 played 20th May 2008)

Acol players usually have the technique to find a 4-4 major fit but do not always appreciate the need to normally play in a 5-3 major fit.

With North the dealer this hand was played at a Tuesday evening duplicate and the results varied from 4H-1, 2H+2, 3NT-1(twice), 3NT made, 2NT made etc. Only one pair played in 4S making 4S +1 for a top.

And yet the hand should be an easy hand to bid. North opens 1H, South responds 1S and North should rebid 2NT to show 17-18 HCP's. Holding another suit and a singleton , South should now investigate a 5-3 fit in either major by bidding a game forcing 3D. If North has five hearts he should now bid 3H or if holding 3 spades, as here, bid 3S or if neither bid 3NT. With a 5-3 spade fit South bids 4S. The fortunate position of the QS and QD leads to eleven tricks , only losing the two red aces. 4H and 3NT always make fewer tricks and may need good guesses to make at all.


John C Williams. 28th May 2008

  Nineteen Point Games

(This commentary relates to Board 23 played 20th May 2008)

I am always excited when I am dealt a hand with 2 five card suits and tend to bid aggressively. Playing five card majors and despite only 9 HCP's I opened the South hand with a bid of 1H as it satisfies the rule of nineteen and the suit is robust.

My partner also bid aggressively and bid 4H, which kept the opposition out of the bidding despite their 21 HCP's. With little to guide the opening lead West chose the 4C and although this looked like fourth highest I could see a way to make ten tricks without risking it and played the AC. I followed with a diamond to my A , a diamond ruff, a spade pitch on the KC, a club ruff low and a second diamond ruff. I now led the fourth club and East was caught. If East ruffs with the AH I would pitch another spade otherwise I would ruff and then ruff my fourth diamond with the QH. Whatever East does I have ten tricks. Obviously if E/W open their defence with 2 spade tricks and the AH followed by a small H then I will be defeated as even with the club finesse right I will still have a diamond loser.


Was I brave or just lucky? I leave it for the reader to decide.


John C Williams 21st May 2008