Release 2.19o

Holding our AGM via Zoom videoconferencing is a radical departure from our normal practice, but in the present circumstances there’s no other viable option, writes Jeff Orton, chairman of the SCBA.  

Please try to attend the AGM if you can; the meeting will decide a number of important issues such as the future Constitution, the members of the Executive Committee, and the county Universal Membership (pay-to-play) fee up until the end of March 2022. It may seem daunting if you’re unfamiliar with Zoom, but it’s really very easy; full instructions will appear on this website soon, and help will be available if you need it.  

Our AGMs usually take about 40 minutes; it’s difficult to predict how long this one will take because we’ve never held one online before, but we’ll certainly aim to keep it below an hour.  For those attending the AGM, the online AGM Pairs Competition will follow at 3.30pm and this will replace the Suffolk Sunday Pairs on that day.

The menu list below gives details of the '2020 AGM agenda and nominations', and 'Constitution' (both current and proposed new), and a link to the Minutes of last year's AGM will follow soon.  We hope to see you online on the 21st June.


Suffolk shared the secrets of its online bridge success with 100 representatives from other English counties on Saturday.

During a 90 minute WEBINAR organised by the English Bridge Union, Jacks Morcombe, Peter Bushby, Malcolm Pryor and Richard Evans explained how Suffolk has managed to offer a range of different playing opportunities for its members during the current crisis.

The presentations highlighted the central message deployed by Suffolk - online bridge is the only game in town - setting up online events on BBO including a teams league, and training people to run 'virtual' clubs.

The webinar, hosted by Jacks, drew appreciative comments from the audience and confirmed  some counties currently have no online bridge available.

Click on BBC RADIO SUFFOLK to hear Lesley Dolphin's interview with Richard Evans about virtual bridge clubs.


A 28-board Suffolk FunBridge Pairs Challenge is taking place every week.

The competition will be open from 10am to 10pm every Wednesday to any FunBridge player in Suffolk. As usual on FunBridge a (very good!) robot will be your partner.

The event will be password protected. Click on PAIRS and a password will be sent to you.

To find the challenge, click on the Get Started/Practise tab, then click Exclusive Tournaments. Type Suffolk FunBridge Pairs into the View all Tournaments space.

Daily five board competiton for FunBridge players in Suffolk

The event is aimed at the growing FunBridge community in the county - and those who would like to give it a try.

Amanda Roberts who plays at Stansfield, Abbeygate, Stowmarket and Bury St Edmunds, came up with the idea.

The name of the competition is Suffolk Bridge Clubs, which can be found in Exclusive Tournaments via the orange Get started/Practise tab.

If you are interested but have not played on the site before go to


Rick Hanley reviews Marty Bergen’s new online audio-visual lesson.

Click on REVIEW to read more


In addition to BBO and FunBridge, Bridge Club Live is an online favourite with many players. To find out more click on


Richard Evans & Paul Rickard are the webmasters running Suffolk's dedicated bridge website.

If you would like to publicise a forthcoming event or submit a news item for this website click Richard or Paul

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Rick Hanley - Captain's Log
How To Find The Best Opening Lead

Rick Hanley reviews Marty Bergen’s new online audio-visual lesson

Problem 1

You hold the following poor hand:

♠ Q75  9653  843 ♣ Q75

The bidding proceeds:

You            North        East           South       

Pass           1                Pass           1                   

Pass           3                Pass           3NT        

All Pass

What would you lead? Think carefully because your decision will determine whether or not the contract is defeated.


Your only hope is if you can find partner with a long strong suit of their own. The question is, should you lead the unbid major (spades) or the unbid minor (clubs)?

Other things being equal, you would probably lead the unbid major rather than the unbid minor in NT. So perhaps, like me, you chose the 5 of spades.

Wrong….Other things are not equal in this hand. The key to this decision is what partner didn't do. Partner wouldn’t need much to overcall 1♠ . Since they passed, they are unlikely to hold a hand with nice long spade suit such as ♠ KJ643   J10  A97 ♣ J64.

However, the requirements for a 2-level overcall are a good deal higher than for a 1-level overcall. Partner might have a nice club suit but couldn't bid clubs because their hand did not justify a 2-level overcall. Therefore, they could have a club holding such as ♣ KJ643 alongside ♠ J64  J10  A97.

Therefore, the correct lead is the ♣ 5. As it turned out, once A♣  had been knocked out, partner could cash the remaining clubs after getting in with  A to defeat 3NT by one trick.

Problem 2

The bidding proceeds:

You            North        East           South       

                                                       2NT (20-22)                   

Pass            3NT             Pass       All pass

What would you lead holding the following?

♠ KJ  KJ10983  A3 ♣ Q102


There is a strong chance that declarer holds both the  A and  Q. But it is still clear to lead a heart and try and set up your long suit. The standard lead from king-jack-ten-nine is the top of the interior sequence, the  J. But is this lead best here?

Since the opponents almost certainly hold both missing heart honours, it probably doesn't matter which heart you lead… However, on this hand you should lead  K.  This is because it is possible that dummy has singleton  Q. If dummy has a singleton honour, it is far more likely to be the Q than the Ace. If that is the case, your problems are over when you lead K.

You might be thinking “Yes, but what happens if dummy has singleton  A?” It turns out that there can be no great cost to the lead of the king even if dummy holds singleton  A. Then, no lead would have defeated the contract. Even if you had led the jack, your partner cannot be expected to hold enough points to win a trick and so could never lead a heart through declarers  Qxx or  Qx.


These two deals are taken from a new on-line lesson on opening leads prepared and presented by US national champion Marty Bergen that has just been released. The lesson presents 34 deals with auditory commentary spoken by Marty that involve important decisions about what card to lead at trick 1.

I found the 34 hands to be consistently helpful and insightful, as in the above examples. I am pleased to say that the lesson does not describe a series of unusual leads in one-off hands that are chosen to show how clever Marty or one of his expert pals was to find them. Instead, the deals have general application and I think that they can help players of improver, immediate, and advanced standards. The deals are challenging but not fiendishly difficult; I have got 3/10 of the leads correct from those that I have so far attempted, and I felt I should have done better on a couple of the others. The remaining five involved leads that I did not consider, but the logic behind making them is (to use one of Marty’s favourite percentages) 110% solid.

Most of us use received wisdom to determine what to lead (e.g. lead 4th highest; lead partner’s bid suit; lead the top of a sequence; lead an unbid major) and sometimes this works out just fine. But there are also situations where the use of such principles does not produce the best outcome. This online lesson will alert you to the clues from the bidding (including what was not bid) that indicate when you should be making a different lead. There is also an interactive facility that allows you to replay the hands to convince yourself that the suggested lead really does defeat the contract.

There is also a valuable bonus section at the end presenting the opening lead principles that Marty employed in his successful partnership with Larry Cohen.

I thoroughly recommend this lesson. The cost is 25 US dollars (exactly £20 at today’s conversion rate) and is available from Marty’s website. For further information click on this link:


A failed squeeze and a birthday bottom! 

by Rick Hanley

This intriguing hand was played at the Ipswich and Kesgrave club on 20 February, which also happens to be my birthday. It raised so many issues that, for the second year running I spent the birthday cash that I had accumulated earlier in the day asking US expert Marty Bergen ( to comment on the events that occurred at my table. 

The bidding:

Vulnerable against Non-Vulnerable, I picked up:

♠ Q8643     -    AK8532   ♣ A10

RHO started things off by passing. I bid a diamond and my partner bid 3NT. RHO now bid 4! Enquiries revealed that he did not play weak 2s so presumably this was a belated expression of a hand with six hearts and less than opening values. I passed and partner bid 5. Feeling that 5  would generate a poor score if 3NT was making, I bid 6♦ and all passed. Dummy contained:

♠ K92    AJ     Q1076   ♣ KQ86

Marty Bergen on the bidding:

“The immediate 3NT is not clear with responder’s hand, but its definitely OK, especially at pairs, to protect the   tenace.
I agree with your forcing pass of 4
If partner then doubled, I would not pass.
The actual 5
 bid was questionable, especially at pairs. Responder definitely expected to make 3NT with his max +  fit, and since he was sensibly not going to double, he could not afford to end in 5. At pairs, after 4  P   P, I definitely would have bid 4NT (to play).
I agree 100% with 6

The Play

Dummy looked promising and, yes, 3NT would produce a better score than 5♦.

The Q was led, won in dummy and trumps were drawn in 3 rounds (RHO was void). There are 11 tricks available (6 diamonds, 3 clubs, 1 heart and 1 spade). Where is the 12th coming from? How would you plan the play? Decide before reading on.

  1. A club finesse would fail because LHO holds J♣. 

  1. RHO is marked with seven cards in the black suits. Presumably he holds A♠ for his bid. If he holds just two spades in total, then one can lead a spade from dummy to the Queen and then duck a low spade to his Ace. But how likely is it that RHO holds five clubs and only two spades? It must be less than 50%.

  1. So, I tried a different line (an automatic squeeze in the black suits) that required RHO to hold four clubs and three spades. At this point, you might find it useful to use the Play it again facility that is available on many club websites.  It allows you to replay any board by playing the cards from all four handsGo to the Ipswich & Kesgrave website and locate board 25 from the 20 February session (I sat east). Click on Play it again and then click on 6 by East as the contract. You can now follow the line I describe below.

I played a spade to the K♠ and RHO’s A♠. He returned a spade to my Q♠ (LHO played a low spade, then J♠). I then cashed the A♣ and ran the diamonds discarding the remaining spade and heart from dummy. My expectation was that RHO would be forced to discard either the winning spade or his fourth club on the final diamond. But alas, it was LHO who held the winning spade so the squeeze never materialised. Against the odds, RHO did indeed hold two spades and five clubs. So, playing RHO for Ax in spades would have worked. 

RHO’s hand was:

♠ Ax    K97652    -   ♣ 97543

LHO held

♠ J10x    Qxxxx    Jxx   ♣ Jx

RHO’s 4 bid had earnt him an outright top and given me a bottom.  Was I unlucky or did a take the wrong line?

Marty Bergen on the play:

“You were unlucky, but you missed a better alternative. When you find out what it is I predict you will kick youself.
After the not stupid but, on this hand, potentially fatal
Q lead, you had a successful squeeze regardless of whether RHO held Axx or Ax of spades. I'm not sure of the technical name for it.  I would call it a 3-suit squeeze without the count”.

Once again, the Play it again facility allows you to follow Marty’s account trick -by-trick to see in detail how an elegant endplay unfolds when RHO holds two spades. 

Following Q lead:

 “Trick 1:    Win A  pitching a spade.

Tricks 2-4: Draw three rounds of trumps ending in dummy.

Trick 5:  Play a spade to your queen

Tricks 6:  Cash a diamond from your hand.

Tricks 7:  Cash a diamond from your hand. Discard 9 from dummy.

Here will be the 6-card end position:

                  Your hand
♠  8XX
♣ A 10

♠  K
♣  K Q 8 x

RHO must keep: four clubs, heart king + spade ace and was triple-squeezed at trick 7. If RHO began with two spades, as was the case in the actual layout, he would have discarded a club at trick 7.

 Trick 8 and 9:  You play A and 10 winning the second club on table. 

Trick 10 You now ruff a heart to get back to hand.

Trick 11: Lead a spade. 

RHO must win the A♠  but is endplayed and must lead towards dummy’s Q-8 from his 9-7.”

Play it again means you can see for yourself that the 3-way squeeze would, crucially, also have been successful even if RHO had held three spades:

“If RHO had begun with 3 spades, he must discard a spade at trick 7. At trick 8, you play a spade to the K and ace, meaning that your 8S has become your 12th trick.”

Concluding thoughts

Am I 'kicking myself ' for not spotting this line? Marty obviously thinks I am a better player than I really am. I have the feeling that if this 3-way squeeze was executed at the world championship, the vugraph commentators on BBO would be in raptures.

Finally, you might like to consider Marty’s suggestions for how to bid RHO’s hand:

“I would open with 4 . Next best is 3, then 2. After the initial pass, 4 is clear-cut over 3NT.”

WHY '1430' IS SUPERIOR TO '0314'

Roman Key Card Blackwood: Why it’s time to switch to 1430


Roman Key Card Blackwood (RKCB), in which the King of trumps represents a fifth key card, is the slam-bidding convention of choice for most Suffolk players. 

Over 4NT, the typical pattern of responses is:

5♣ = 0 or 3 key cards

5 = 1 or 4 key cards

5 = 2 or 5 key cards without Q trumps

5♠ = 2 or 5 key cards with Q trumps

I will refer to this version of RKCB as 0314, in line with the 5♣ and 5 responses. 

However, an alternative version (“1430”) is now favoured by many of the country’s leading players. In 1430, the 5♣ and 5 responses are reversed such that:

5♣ = 1 or 4 key cards

5 = 0 or 3 key cards 

Apparently, Andrew Robson felt that he once lost a crucial match with the England team because they played 3014 rather than 1430. But, how exactly could something like that have happened? What is the point of making things more complicated by adding this tweak? 

Take a look at the hand below for an example of the benefits of 1430 relative to 0314. My team-mates (Michael Sherer, Bill Tweddell, Jeff Orton) and I had fought our way through to the quarter-final of the EBU online-knockout competition, beating a team of England juniors in the round of the last 16. The quarter-final was fairly even with eight boards remaining. Then this deal appeared with both of our pairs playing 3014 while the opposition played 1430. 

North (Dealer)

KJ753  Q9764  K ♣ A


A  AK102  A98643 ♣ K3

With E/W passing throughout, the opposition bidding went: 1♠-2 (game forcing), 2-3, 4♣-4NT…. Playing 1430, North responded 5♣. South could now bid 5 to ask for the Queen of trumps. 5 would have denied Q , but North was able to bid 5♠, showing both the Q and the K♠. A grand-slam was now declared, and it duly rolled in after a spade ruff had brought down Q♠. When our team sat N/S, however, North’s (3014) response to 4NT was 5. Unable to bid 5D to locate Q, South signed off in 6 for an 11imp loss. 

Given that the player who responds to his or her partner’s 4NT is more likely to hold one key card than zero key cards, 1430 is likely to provide a much more useful response (5♣) than 0314 (5) when hearts are trumps. This is because, as in the above example, 5 can subsequently be used to discover whether partner holds Q. This is valuable not only when a grand-slam is in the offing; the presence or absence of Q of trumps in partner’s hand can also be crucial in determining whether to bid 6 or to stop in 5 on other hands. 

In fact, we ended up losing the match by more than 11 imps, so our choice of 0314 responses was less destructive for us than it was for Andrew Robson. However, it could easily have been critical. It’s time to change.


“Be ready for Board 1”


The 2018/9 Suffolk county bridge season finally came to an end on June 6 with the completion of the 40-board final of the Championship teams contested by Hanley (Rick Hanley & Peter Sutcliffe; Karen & Malcolm Pryor) and Price (David Price & Jane Moore; Jenny Price & Cleopatra Hensby). These two teams were contesting the final for the third year running, although this time Karen & Malcolm replaced Peter Gemmell and Chris Chambers in the Hanley team.

One of the biggest swings came on the first board that I played and was particularly painful. I played in 4 as South following the 9♠ lead to the Q and King. There are now nine top tricks plus a club ruff for an apparently easy game. At trick two, I played A to which all followed. I then played a second top heart, but East showed out. What would you do next?

I carelessly crossed to ♠A (West playing the eight) and led a club to the King and West’s Ace. West led back a heart which I won on table and led a club. East won the ♣Q and gave West a spade ruff. There was now an unavoidable 4th loser in one of the minor suits. What I should have done was to cash the two top diamonds, play a heart to the nine and ruff a diamond. A spade to dummy allows the last trump to be drawn to cash the final spade. Well done to Cleopatra and Jenny and who found this line at the other table for 10 imps to Price. The West and East hands were:

Not a great start, but fortunately there were still 39 boards left! As with the previous encounters between these teams, it turned out to be a very tight match with the Hanley team edging it by 56-42 imps. Congratulations must go in particular to Karen and Malcolm who also won the Winter League with the Sherer team, the Abbeygate Shield with the I&K team and the Mid Anglia Pairs. Thanks to Chris Green and Michael Sherer who played for the Hanley team in the December qualifier.


Heartless Norfolk


Imagine you are playing in a teams match against strong opposition and pick up the following hand:

♠ 9754  83  102 ♣ KQJ107

Your partner (South) opens 2♣ (strong and game forcing). Your right hand opponent bids 2  and you pass awaiting developments. Left hand opponent now bids 2 which comes back to you, your partner passing. You now double and left hand opponent  converts to 3. Partner now bids 3 . You bid 3♠ but partner bids 4. What is going on here? You confirm with West that East’s 2 bid was not alerted as artificial. What do you do? Pass/Bid 4♠/Bid 5♣? Make your decision before looking below. 

This was the dilemma facing Andrew Moore who was my partner in the recent ECL A-team match against Norfolk.  Andrew chose 5♣, but what do you do when partner now bids 5?

Wisely Andrew chose to pass this time. Here are the other three hands:

You can see that East’s (Stuart Langridge) bid of 2 was a psych. It completely misrepresented his hand in an attempt to keep us out of hearts and it nearly succeeded. When we ended up in 5 , West can make the heroic defence of leading a low diamond. A spade return now defeats the contract. What a coup that would have been, but fortunately West (Paul Darby) understandably led A.  Psychs were once a feature of the game even at international levels but are much less common these days as bidding systems have become more sophisticated. Unsuccesful psychs sometimes marked the end of previously cordial partnerships, but note that East’s psych is pretty safe because he has little chance of playing in hearts given his diamond holding. Psychs are sometimes considered a little underhand but Andrew and I both enjoyed this one. 


Better slam bidding with Marty Bergen: Consulting the Oracle


Rick Hanley Jeff Orton

Here is a hand from a recent EBU online knockout teams match, played on BBO, in which my partner and I (Jeff Orton) were playing with team-mates Bill Twedell and Michael Sherer. Fortunately we won the match, but we lost imps on this particular board.


Playing 15-17 NT and a short club, you hold: 

♠ AQJ2  A63  AJ64 ♣ Q10


Partner opens 1♣, you reply 1♠ and partner rebids 1NT (12-14). Do you bid 3NT (to play) or 4NT (quantitative invite to slam)? As I had a flat hand, and our partnership had at most a combined 32 HCPs, I bid 3NT. 


Jeff held: 

♠ 54  KJ2  Q53 ♣ AKJ85


Both K♠  and K were onside and 12 tricks rolled in. Sadly the opposition bid 6NT and we lost 11 imps. Oh dear, perhaps I was to blame for not bidding the slam?


I had recently bought two excellent books on slam bidding (“Better slam bidding with Bergen” and “Slam bidding made easier”) from the website of the great bridge writer and 10-time North American national champion Marty Bergen (

I noticed that he said on his website that he was prepared to discuss hands played on BBO for 1$ a minute. What better way to spend my recently acquired birthday cash than to email Marty and ask for his opinion? How did he rate my bidding? Within a couple of hours, I discovered the answer. He didn’t rate it at all!! Nor did he rate my partner’s bidding as being much better.


Marty Bergen

Here are the full details of Marty’s response (reproduced with his permission):

This was very bad hand evaluation by both players.

Relevant for both players.
I define any suit with 3+ honours and 4+ cards as a quality suit.
They are rare.
Any time you have a quality suit, add 1 HCP to the value of your hand

Your partner

Add 1 HCP for his quality suit

He is also blessed with a five-card suit. Add 1 point for that.

It is OK for him to consider his Q not worth 2 HCP.
If he wanted to subtract 1 point for that, it is sensible.

So, with 15-16 points, he should open 1NT.

Before the auction beganyou have 18 traditional HCP.  

add 1 HCP for quality spade suit
add 1 HCP for 3 aces.  Aces are underrated honours. Their real value is 4.5
Subtract 1 HCP for your dubious
So, your hand is worth 19 HCP before the auction began

Then, when partner opened 1, you immediately restore the 2 HCP for the Q

(Note that here, your Q was worth a lot, and even the 10 was potentially useful
s were 5-1)

So, you had 20 HCP.  When partner showed 12-14, you definitely are worth a quantitative raise to 4NT.  He obviously would accept.

Of course, after a 1NT opening, you would force to slam.

6NT is not cold, but it is a good contract, and would be helped by a lead of either unbid suit.


So there you have it. If you want to bid good slams (and games), don’t bid like I did and mechanically count up your traditional HCPs. Upgrade your hand on the basis of its quality features and take it from there.


Has Andrew Robson improved your card play?


Did you attend the excellent Masterclass teaching session by Andrew Robson that Clare Bridge club organised in November? If so, a hand from a recent Ipswich and Kesgrave club session would have provided a good test of how much you had absorbed on that occasion. 

On the hand in question (see below), South dealt and passed, as did West and North. East (myself) opened 1NT (15-17). South overcalled 2 and East/West ended up in 4 spades played by West. North led a heart to the A, K and a low heart. West ruffed high while North discarded. West now crossed to the ♠A and ♠K of spades in dummy and led a diamond to get back to hand to draw the last trump. The question is which diamond should he play from hand? Should he play the King, the Jack, or do you think it is a 50/50 guess? Make your decision before reading on.



My partner, who had not attended the masterclass, decided to play the King. Was this right? Andrew Robson urged us to count the high card points that an opponent has played and use that knowledge in conjunction with the bidding to determine the course of action. The key issue in this hand is that South had not opened the bidding and had already shown AKJ = 8 points. If he/she had also held the A, then he/she would surely have opened 1. In all probability, the A must therefore be with North. So declarer should have played the J and would have made the contract because North held the Ace but not the Queen. 

According to the traveller, only 2/5 declarers made 10 tricks in spades on a heart lead. So this hand did not fool my partner alone. If you decided on the same play as he did, you might like to know that Clare Bridge club are holding another Andrew Robson Masterclass in Lavenham on Feb 1st (see the SCBA website for details). Can you guess what my partner received for Christmas?