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What would you bid? #2

What would you bid?

When you have decided, see the answer for the assessment of Andy Hung (Australian Teams member).

You should jump to 4♠. Bidding 3♠  is a bit too timid here - whilst we "only have eight points", remember, partner has made a takeout double so is showing an opening hand with support for all unbid suits! Additionally our length in clubs suggests partner will likely have a singleton ♣ rather than a doubleton ♣.

Try to visualise a minimum hand from partner: ♠A854 AJ52 QJ73 ♣4. Opposite that hand, game is a very good prospect!

If we only bid 3♠, partner will (rightly) expect us to hold a relatively weak hand, and would therefore pass with a minimum hand. Remember, when responding to a takeout double, it is our duty to show our strength. With weak hands, we bid our suit at the cheapest level, and if we have a stronger hand, we must make a jump (or sometimes even a cue bid)! 

With thanks to Andy Hung

Last updated : 28th May 2022 11:16 ESTA
What Would You Bid?

No one is vulnerable. As South you open with 1♠.

What would you bid in in response to the opponents 3? Compete with 3♠ After partner's support? Something else?

It might be tempting to compete to 3♠ given that we are not vulnerable, but take a look at your hand.

All we know about partner's hand that we have an 8-card ♠ fit and we have the worst possible shape to be competing 3-over-3 (a very balanced 5332 shape).

Our Q is known to be a wasted card (they bid  twice), and looking at our hand, our honour cards are scattered everywhere!

Contrast this hand to one like this, even with one less HCP: ♠KQ1092 65 42 ♣AQJ3 where all of our points are concentrated - it makes a world of difference and by all means bid 3♠!

With all signs pointing to defence, passing 3 is best. If partner has an unbalanced hand and a fourth trump, then partner could compete to 3♠, but for all we know, hers may just be a defensive-oriented hand with only three ♠ trumps.

With thanks  to Andy Hung.

Last updated : 19th May 2022 08:50 ESTA
02 May 2022 - Board 1

A defensive problem for you today.

North opens 2NT, and despite your attempt to interfere, the opponents end up in 4 by North and you lead the K, taken by declarer's A.

Declarer cashes the A and this is the moment where you should stop for thought and plan your defence, since it is your first chance to think after seeing dummy.

What can you do to help defeat this contract?

North has 4 or 5 hearts, which means that partner has at least 4 hearts, and declarer may have a problem in the trump suit.

The only useful values in dummy are the singleton diamond, allowing North to ruff losing diamonds, and the club suit, possibly allowing North to discard losers.

You can't do anything about the diamond situation, but you can attempt to kill the club suit. When declarer leads the ♣K, you must duck and observe partner's length signal. If your partnership has studied Kantar's "Introduction to Defender's Play", they will play the ♣7 on this trick.

With the 9, 8 and 6 missing, you need to decide whether partner has 9-8-7 and has played low to show an odd number, or 7-6 and has played high to show an even number. When declarer leads the ♣6, however, all becomes clear, and you take this trick, locking declarer out of dummy.

Declarer cannot eat the ♠2, and partner will take the setting trick in spades.

Defence is so easy!

Last updated : 3rd May 2022 10:06 ESTA
15 April 2022 - Board 23

A member asked how to get to 4 on this deal.

A standard approach is to play responses to overcalls as forcing for one round, usually based on a 5-card suit, since advancer (overcaller's partner) is (probably) short in overcaller's suit, thus making a 5-card suit more likely.

Using this approach, West has an easy raise to 2, and East has enough strength to bid game.

South leads the 6. How would you approach the play? Can you make it if one of the opponents has all four missing trumps?

You seem to have only one side-suit loser, the ♠A, since the small club can go on the K.

You can therefore afford to lose two heart tricks, and any 2-2 or 3-1 heart break will be OK. Just play the Ace and another.

In the unlikely scenario where North has all four trumps, you will go down, as North will make three trump tricks. Since a 4-0 break in either hand is a 10% chance, the chance of North having all four trumps is 5%, and protecting against that seems worthwhile.

Therefore, the best play is a small trump towards the queen. If South has all four, playing the King or ducking won't help - you will always lose only two trumps. If South shows out, the Queen loses to North's King, and you can now lead twice through the remaining J-10-4 and lose only one more trick.

On the actual deal, the trumps are 3-1, so virtue was its own reward.



Last updated : 18th Apr 2022 08:53 ESTA
4 April 2022 - Board 7

This misfit deal was suggested by a member - one of many to play in a bad spade contract.

The trouble starts when (presumably) South opens 1♣ and West pre-empts in spades. What level do you think is best for West?

Many would bid 3♠ on the basis of holding a 7-card suit. This effectively pre-empts partner out of the necessary space to find a reasonable red-suit contract.

A little luckier is a 2♠ overcall. Perhaps the suit quality and the vulnerability suggest pulling in a notch? Over this, East, who has a right to think that a game may be on, will have room to bid 3, then 4 to suggest 6-5 shape, thus reaching the heart game.

Misfits are tricky!

Last updated : 11th Apr 2022 08:37 ESTA
(16th Apr 2022)
17 March 2022 - Board 10

This deal is from the first round of the Autumn Teams.

South is in 6 (would you get there?) and West leads 7. Plan the play.

The ♠2 goes on the opening lead, taken by the A, and all the side suits are "in the bank".

The contract depends on playing the trumps for one loser. The correct line with this holding is to take a double finesse, just as you would with A- Q-10-x opposite x-x-x-x.

Lead a small heart and finesse the 8 unless West plays an honour. On this deal, the 8 wins the trick!

Now that you know West has both honours, return to the South hand with a spade and lead the Q. You will lose one trump trick and chalk up +1430.

If East had produced the King or Jack, you would finesse against the other honour on the next round.

You chances are a bit better than 75% - excellent odds for a small slam.

Last updated : 22nd Mar 2022 11:34 ESTA
(1st Apr 2022)
7 March 2022 - Board 1

And here it is again!

If you looked at yesterday's deal, then the heart suit in today's deal would be no problem. Just lead the J, and when it is covered by the K and A, come back to hand and finesse the 10.

Short and sweet.

Last updated : 9th Mar 2022 08:10 ESTA
(13th Mar 2022)
28 February 2022 - Board 1

Today's deal involves bidding a poor slam and getting away with it by playing a suit to best advantage.

Would your partnership reach 6♣  or 6  on this layout?

If East decides the hand is worth a 2♣  opening, it might go 2♣ -3  (positive), 4♣ -4 , 6 . After all, East has a 3-loser hand.

South leads the ♠ 10. The ♣ A is going to lose a trick. How do you play the heart suit for no loser?

There are two possibilities, both of which need the King onside.

Line 1: Lead a small heart to the Queen, and cash the Ace. If the King is onside and doubleton, you can now drop the Ten with the Jack.

Line 2: Lead the Jack, intending to run it. If North covers, take the Ace, return to the West hand and finesse the Nine.

Line 2 is better, but has only a 22% chance of success. On this deal, your luck is in.

Without the Nine in the East hand, line 2 is not available and you must play line 1, which succeeds only about 13% of the time.

These suit combinations are tricky things!

If you happen to land in 6♣  instead, things are no better. You still need to play the hearts in the same way for no loser. You can discard one heart on the third spade, but you will still have that pesky 9 to deal with.

... and if North doesn't cover the J? You must still assume that the King is there, and thank the gods that North didn't "cover an honour with an honour", because you can now finesse the Queen and get home without worrying about the Ten.

Last updated : 6th Mar 2022 07:28 ESTA
(7th Mar 2022)
7 February 2022 - Board 8

Here is a rarity. a grand slam with a twist.

There a many ways to bid this layout. One is:

West East
1NT (14 HCP and a 5-3-3-2) 2  (transfer to ♠ )
2♠  4NT (RKCB)
5♣  (1 or 4 Key Cards) 5  (Do you have ♠ Q?)
7♠  (Yes, and enough Kings) Pass (OK)






North leads the  4 to the 10, Q and A. Plan the play. Be warned - it's not easy.

We have 12 top tricks: 6 spades, 2 hearts, 3 diamonds and 1 club, so we need to find a 13th trick.

After winning  A, the plan is to make an extra diamond trick by bringing down the  J. Thus we take ♠ A, ♠ K (preserving entries to hand) and the trumps behave themselves.

Next,  A, ♠ Q, preserving the  K as a later entry, and  K,  Q, discarding a heart and a small club. The bad news is that the  J is not coming down, and the 13th trick needs to come from somewhere else.

There is one hope: North, who started with 2 spades and 1 diamond, presumably has the heart stopper (since South would have played the J from Q-J), and the club stopper (K-Q-x and more). If so, we can ruff a diamond to hand and run all of the trumps, leading to this end position:

West East
♠  --- ♠  ---
 K 8  10
  ---   ---
♣  --- ♣  J

North can keep only 2 cards: if they are hearts, the ♣ J is good. If North has kept the ♣ K, the hearts are good. Now you can see why the  K had to be preserved.


Last updated : 14th Feb 2022 11:29 ESTA
(16th Feb 2022)
7 February 2022 - Board 5

A member requested that I look at this deal.

After North passes (would you?) and East passes, South opens 1NT (15-17). West passes and North has to consider the best way to get to some game.

This deal comes under the general category of "enough for 3NT or 4♠  if partner has the right cards, but maybe not enough for 5 of a minor".

The general strategy with these hands is to try for the major suit fit and bail out to 3♣  if partner's response to 2♣  is disappointing.

On this deal, a 2♣  response fetches 2 . The recommended continuation now is 3♠ , denying hearts and showing spades at a game-going level. Partner bids 4♠  and East finds the risky, but best, lead of a small diamond.

How do you play this one?

You have 2 diamond losers on this nasty lead as well as the ♠ A. That's all you can afford.

Counting winners, you have three spade tricks by force, one diamond, and three clubs, a total of seven tricks.

One possible source of extra tricks is a ruffing finesse in hearts, pitching diamonds and hoping West has the  A. If this fails, it's instant death as you will lose the heart as well as the above three tricks.

A better line could best be described as an undignified scramble: win  A, club to the ♣ K, heart ruff. club to the ♣ Q, heart ruff.

Now, ♣ A to pitch a diamond. If they ruff this, you have swapped a diamond loser for a trump loser (on the ♣ A). Wonder of wonders, they both follow and your clubs are good.

Next is to drive out the ♠ A. They have no defence now. You will just lose a diamond and a heart by drawing the last trump and driving out the  A.

When you have a difficult deal like this, the "Play It Again" button is your friend.

Last updated : 13th Feb 2022 11:54 ESTA
(16th Feb 2022)
4 February 2022 - Board 10

After two passes, West opens 1 , North overcalls 1 , and east makes a pre-emptive raise to 3 . How would you continue as South?

South appears to have two choices: 3♠  (forcing), or a responsive double, which tends to deny support for partner and suggest the unbid suits.

If South bids 3♠ . North has a right to be excited. 4♠  is the safe option; 4  is the exciting option. Your partnership should decide what this means. It would be nice if it promises a good hand, a fit, and slam aspirations.

If North bids 4  with this meaning, South should go quietly now with 4♠ . The  Q figures to be worthless, and the spades are a bit tatty. North will need very good cards to continue.

If South chooses the responsive double instead, North will show the clubs. South's minimum in context will dictate raising this to 5♣, which is the second-best spot.

This deal is a good illustration of the effect of "bidding the trumps". East assumes that West has 4 diamonds (3 is very unlikely) and raises the ante, taking the maximum bidding space at reasonable risk.

Last updated : 9th Feb 2022 10:15 ESTA
(9th Feb 2022)
28 January 2022 - Board 4

This is an interesting defensive problem. A possible path to 3NT is shown.

The opening lead at every table where 3NT was reached was a heart. This suggests that North may have suppressed the heart suit over 2 , bidding 2NT or 3NT instead.

In any case, the lead of fourth-best from K-Q-x-x or Q-J-x-x is fairly dangerous, since it is likely to give up a cheap trick as happened here.

If the defenders are fortunate enough to hear the example auction, the percentage lead is the unbid suit, and East might try the ♣ 10. West must be careful! Taking the ♣ A and returning the club gives North the contract.

West must duck the club (giving an encouraging signal), and North wins. Now, North tries the diamonds, overtaking the Jack and finding that there are only three diamond tricks. Now North goes after the spades.

East must win the first spade and then return the precious ♣ 8 while West still has ♠ A. Now West cannot be prevented from getting the lead and taking the setting trtick in clubs.

Defense is hard!

Last updated : 30th Jan 2022 12:52 ESTA
14 January 2022 - Board 21

A member wonders whether it's possible to get to 6♠  on this deal.

Looking at the analysis, North can make 5♠ , and South can make 6♠ , so the first observation is that it's pretty unlilkely for South to declare a contract in Spades, and therefore 6♠  is "no go".

In practice, 4♠  was played by North at every table, but two declarers managed 12 tricks. Let's see if we can work out how.

All Easts led a club, which West presumably won. Looking at the North-South assets, there are 6 spade tricks, 1 heart trick, and 4 diamond tricks after North draws trumps, plays 3 rounds and ruffs the 4th diamond in hand. That makes 11.

It seems that the defenders who gave up 12 tricks attempted to cash a second club at trick 2. Declarer ruffs this, and now the ♣ Q is the 12th trick. This is a good example of "declarer's advantage". It's much easier to manage your assets (i.e. as declarer) if you can see 26 cards, and yet another reason (in general) to bid aggressively.


Last updated : 17th Jan 2022 11:40 ESTA
(18th Jan 2022)
10 January 2022 - Board 2

Here's an oddity. East-West have bid to 5♣  in a pretty direct way. Your partnership might do it differently, but all roads should lead to either 5♣ or 3NT.

The oddity is that South appears to have three tricks, the ♣ A, the ♠ K and the  K, but South is end-played at trick 1! These are the ugly choices:

  • Lead the ♣ A and put off the misery for one trick, or
  • Lead a spade and lose the spade trick, or
  • Lead a diamond and lose the diamond trick, or lastly
  • Lead the  K, which looks reasonable, but is also fatal: East takes the  A, and eventually leads a heart from hand, building a heart trick via a ruffing finesse to discard a spade from dummy to avoid the spade loser.

Some days you're the windscreen, and some days you're the insect!

Last updated : 17th Jan 2022 11:25 ESTA
(15th Jan 2022)
31 December 2021 - Board 8

In the suggested auction, South cues East's suit to show a good hand with a club fit. North's heart holding suggests 3NT.

East leads  Q. Over to you.

The hearts appear to be 6-1, and the club finesse will lose to West if the ♣ K is wrong, so no holdup is necessary, since West is already out of hearts after trick 1.

Counting our tricks, we see 2 hearts, 3 diamonds, and 3 or 4 clubs. If the club finesse is wrong, there are only eight tricks.

This is one of those times when a "just in case" play, routinely made by top players and difficult for us mere mortals, is worth a try: cash the  A before doing anything alse and lo! East is void.

Now, a diamond to the 10 and we have four diamond tricks. Deblock the  Q next and try the ♣ Q. If it loses and West returns a spade, we need to put up the ♠ K as the only chance, since if East has that card, we are dead.

Sadly, this is real life and down we go, but the diamond play is worth remembering.

You can see the full deal by clicking "Show All Hands".

Footnote: Which spade do you think West should return? A low one to the Jack will make East nervous about cashing the Ace, since it's not obvious that the King will drop. The Queen lead is the winner this time, since West is pretty sure it's necessry to run the spade suit to beat the contract.

Last updated : 3rd Jan 2022 07:00 ESTA
(10th Jan 2022)
17 December 2021 - Board 1

The search for the first entry in this feature didn't take long - It's Board 1 - a competitive battle. This deal is an illustration of the need to get in early and often.

North has 2 quick tricks and 7 losers, suggesting a 1♠  opening. If North passes, the auction will probably continue 2 -Pass-4, and now it's a bit difficult to get into the action. Better to open 1♠, thus getting in early.

East needs to show the hearts. The choices are 2 , which should suggest a sound overcall. 3  suggests a hand more like a Weak Two, so that seems more appropriate.

South's long-term winning strategy with a 10-card fit and little defense is an immediate "bid the trumps" raise to 4♠. North's opening move has paid off, since NS can make 9 tricks against best defense, a much better outcome than allowing the opponents to make 4.

West has a difficult decision now. 4  is a probable make, so West's choices are Double, Pass or 5. Pass is poor - If 4 is making, it's impossible to get enough compensation unless West doubles. Even in that case, EW would need 500, which means taking 6 tricks on defence, an unlikely prospect. With a probable spade loser and no likely red-suit losers, the question is whether EW will lose 2 club tricks. Let's say West decides that East is likely to have something in clubs (after all, where else?) and bids 5.

Now it's North's turn to ponder. North can see only one spade trick and the ♣ A. South's pre-empt makes a third trick for NS moot, so 5♠  is indicated. EW need to double this to protect their score.

The "par" score on this deal is 300 to EW, which this auction achieves. If you are not familiar with this concept, it is the best score that can be achieved by either side if everyone does the "right" thing. On this deal:

  • NS must bid 4♠  because -100 (if doubled) is better than -420 for 4
  • EW must then bid 5 because +450 is better than +100
  • NS must then bid 5♠ because -300 (if doubled) is better then -450
  • EW must then double because +300 is better than +100, and EW cannot make any higher contract.

You might think that this is a difficult deal, and you would be correct. This was a Nationwide Pairs deal played 107 times. The par score was achieved - once.

This is hopefully the first in a series. In later efforts, I will use a quiz format some of the time to test your bridge and generate some discussion. Feel free to (a) comment on this deal, and (b) submit deals you would like discussed in future entries.

Cheers for now,

Last updated : 22nd Dec 2021 08:58 ESTA
(10th Jan 2022)