The idea for this page is to offer some comments about a hand of interest at the club or on a point of law. I hope members will find it of some value.
6 May 2019 – A Slam Goes Begging
I hope everyone enjoyed the Howell movement – new opponents and new seats for many of us.
East/West pairs all missed a good slam on Board 12:
West opens 1 Spade and East, with a seven loser hand, should see game as the minimum target. This is where the Jacoby 2NT response is really useful – it promises at least four card support and values for game. Direct raises to 3 or 4 Spades are respectively invitational to game or pre-emptive with long trump support and much weaker values. Jacoby does mean doing away with the Acol 2NT response but, with a ten point hand, responder can bid two of a suit instead.
After Jacoby, opener goes direct to game with a minimum, anything else below game level is forcing and shows slam interest. Here, opener replies 3 Clubs and responder 3 Diamonds to show controls – this is great news for West who now has only one immediate loser at most. Blackwood shows that East has one ace (Key Card Blackwood would also confirm the trump king) and West can confidently bid 6 Spades. The play is straigntforward whatever the lead. West draws trumps, cashes the Diamond Ace, throws East’s small Diamond on a top Club and then ruffs his Diamond loser in dummy, giving up a Heart trick at the end.
Although the experts always recommend showing support before anything else, here, without Jacoby, East might best respond 2 Hearts. West now jumps to 3 Spades and it would be up to East to gamble on going beyond game. For those who are tempted by the extra value of 6 NT, it is worth noting that this would fail on a Diamond lead…
15 April 2019 – A Phantom Sacrifice
There were no really big hands this week but Board 6 featured some really big fits and bidding to match!
After East and South pass, West opens 1 Diamond. North’s shape is wrong for a take-out double but has an excellent 2 Clubs overcall. East raises to 2 Diamonds. South now knows that there is a ten (or more) card Club fit and should raise to the level of the fit, 4 Clubs. But West is also likely to raise to the level of his fit with 4 Diamonds. As North has a sixth Club he may confidently bid 5 Clubs. At this point, neither side really knows where the balance of power lies. There is an adage that the five level belongs to the opposition but does West really want to risk see North sail home in a game contract when 5 Diamonds might, at worst, be one or two off? Or is 5 Clubs a sacrifice that needs to be punished? Of course, East could relieve his partner of the decision by bidding 5 Diamonds himself as he has virtually nothing to contribute in defence against Clubs. The same logic now applies to North/South: South may well expect his partner to be a litttle weaker and 5 Diamonds to be making, so bidding a small slam sacrifice is the least worst option.
As things lay, the Club slam is defeated providing the defence cash their Diamond trick at the outset. Otherwise, North can draw trumps and take a ruffing finesse in Hearts against East. Here, a normal finesse would lose an extra trick if it failed but the ruffing finesse would see South’s losing diamond go – a loser on loser play. Note the importance of the Heart spots – once North sees the Nine appear from West, his Jack, Eight combination is worth a certain trick whether or not East covers the Jack with his Queen.
Of course, 5 Diamonds also fails by one trick…
8 April 2019 – Slams Galore?
This week saw a strange mix of hands that didn’t get past an opening bid and several possible slams, but remember that each score is of equal worth in calculating the evening’s results. Congratulations to Barbaea and John, and Ann and Roger for bidding and making small slams. This was the latter’s success on Board 24:
West has a bare minimum opening hand. Some might prefer 1NT over West’s weak Hearts but bidding is more likely then to stop in game. Having a forcing reply that shows support is a really useful bidding gadget and there are two commonly-used conventions. Using Jacoby, a 2NT response shows at least four card support and is unconditionally forcing to game, with slam interest. Jacoby means sacrificing the unlovely Acol 2NT response – better to show that sort of limited, balanced hand bt bidding a suit and then NT. Responses to Jacoby need to be agreed – potentially either cue bids or trial bids. In this case, a trial bid of 3 Diamonds by West would encourage East to press on and eventually settle for 6 Hearts. The alternative is a Splinter bid – a double jump, in this case 4 Diamonds, showing a singleton or void in that suit. There is no way of defeating the Heart slam but declarer should play safe by ruffing his losing Diamonds in dummy before drawing trumps. Otherwise, if a defender held three trumps to the Ace, he could win the second round and then lead his third trump to leave declarer a ruff short. In practice, everything behaved…
On Board 22, on the other hand, the cards did not behave.
East opens 1 Spade and South overcalls with 2 Hearts, prepared to show Clubs later if necessary. West is very weak but might bid to the level of the presumed fit, 4 Spades, in the hope of keeping North/South of a making game contract. Left to his own devices, North might have opened with the Gambling 3NT. As it is, he has no defensive values in a Spade contract, so going on to 5 Diamonds looks like a fair two-way bet. At this point, South would be very well advised to keep quiet and trust his partner! With the horrible 5-0 split in Diamonds, North cannot avoid a trump loser as well as the two black Aces. Two declarers did actually make eleven tricks, though neither was in 5 Diamonds – one in 4 and the other in 6, presumably a rescue from South’s 5 Hearts. Where that was bid, East doubled and South, with no access to those Diamonds could make only eight tricks. One East declared in 5 Spades, going one down. If South starts with his top Hearts, declarer can obtain ten tricks via a cross-ruff after drawing two rounds of trumps. Otherwise, he must try to endplay South in Hearts and Clubs.
18 March 2019 – A Bidding War
Revokes happen. Nobody means to revoke but it’s essential that the rules are followed. Call the Director who will determine what should happen – it’s not entirely straightforward. If the revoke is spotted before play begins for the next trick, it must be corrected. A player due to play after the revoke card may change his play. If the revoke card is played by a defender it becomes a Penalty Card. Once the next trick starts, the revoke trick stands – the cards are never, ever changed retrospectively – and revoke penalties apply. Please resist the temptation to agree the outcome of a revoke at the table.
Board 3 featured a bidding war between North and East:
After two passes North opens 1 Diamond, being not quite strong enough for an Acol Two. East might show his strong hand with a jump overcall 2 Spades but may well feel that going to direct to game is the best option. Either way, South and West are shut out of the bidding. Over 2 Spades, North has the option of a strong reverse 3 Hearts but has a difficult decision over 4 Spades – Pass, Double or 5 Diamonds. How should East respond over 5 Diamonds? Despite the maxim that the five level belongs to the opposition, it is tempting to press on to 5 Spades which North should definitely double. South would lead a Diamond and North should cash his three winners when East tries to set up the Clubs.
Only one North got to play in 5 Diamonds, making an overtrick, for a top score. Declaring in Spades, Easts had mixed fortunes, one making 5 Spades (doubled), another 4 Spades and others going down in 6, 5 and 4 Spades. At one table, East bid 4 Spades, doubled by North and then redoubled! This convinced North that East was void in one suit and so bid 5 Diamonds. East overcalled 5 Spades and North doubled again, reluctantly, but the contract was defeated. It is interesting to note that North/South could make 6 Hearts or 6 Diamonds on anything but an unlikely Club lead. The East who sacrificed in 6 Spades showed good judgement, even for a relatively poor score!
11 March 2019 – Two Slams…
Thanks to Mike for producing the results despite a hiccup with the Bridgemates. The movement in their programme was different from the one on the movement cards as it switched N/S and E/W positions halfway through. We stuck with the movement cards to avoid confusion but Mike had to calculate the results by hand.
There were two good slam opportunities on the North/South cards. Congratulations to Tony and Pam who were the only pair to bid one, on Board 20:
North could certainly be justified in opening 2 Spades with his strong hand and long suit. South responds positively with 3 Hearts and North rebids 3 Spades, forcing and setting the suit. With the singleton king, South might simply bid 4 Spades or show Heart control by bidding 4 Hearts. Key card Blackwood would allow North to discover that all-important Spade King and risk the small slam. The chances are good, requirine either the Spades to split 3-2 or the no-risk Heart finesse to work. As both did, almost every declarer collected 13 tricks. If North conservatively opened 1 Spade, South would again reply 2 Hearts and North’s jump to 3 Spades, after a two over one response, is forcing, showing extra strength and at least six Spades. In this auction, South would now have the option of 3 NT (though not with the cards he actually held).
The slam on Board 10, with only 28 points, eluded everyone – not surprising as the extra strength in North’s Hearts is not easy to show.
South opens 1 Spadeand North replies 2 Hearts. Given his very good Spades, South might now jump but could also show his extra strength and shape with 3 Clubs (with a minimum hand, he should not introduce a new suit at the three level). North replies 3 Diamonds (natural or fourth suit forcing in this case) and South rebids his Spades to give North a choice – with the fit now confirmed, Spades is a better bet than 3 NT and North’s support might just encourage South to explore a slam. Or perhaps North should seize the bull by the horns, knowing that his Heart honours will guarantee tricks. In Spades, the play is straightforward, even despite the 4-1 split in trumps. South wins whatever is led, cashes a Club and then ducks one. Even if the defence return a trump, South can now ruff a Club in dummy, draw trumps and claim the rest. Two declarers plyed in 3 NT where only the eleven top tricks are available. One North played in 4 Hearts. Twelve tricks are again possible by ruffing a diamond in dummy before drawing trumps.
4 March 2019 – A shot in the dark?
East/West pairs had good reason for feeling short changed by their cards – North/South had ten game-making boards against East/West’s four. There were certainly plenty of big hands around but only one slam opportunity, on Board 20:
North has an immensely powerful hand – some would open a game-forcing 2 Clubs rather than a strong 2 Diamonds. Either way, South can show his Clubs and North should immediately be thinking of slam. At the table where a slam was bid, West overcalled South’s 3 Clubs (game-forcing) with 3 Spades. North now bid Blackwood and found an ace missing (a 4 Club bid, to which South replies with a 4 Spades cue bid would be a more expert sequence), assumed from West’s bid that it was the Spade Ace and punted 6 Clubs for his partner to play! As West led his ace the hand was now laydown. Had he led anything other than a Heart, South would make an overtrick by throwing his Hearts on dummy’s Diamonds. The only tricky lead would have been a small Heart, albeit a very unlikely one against a suit slam. Declarer would now have to guess whether it was away from the Ace or the Queen…
18 February 2019 – The Value of a Void
A void in the opponents’ suit is hugely valuable and worth bidding at least one level higher than would be indicated by the point count. The Losing Trick Count is a good way of factoring in the value of a void once a partnership has found a trump fit. Board 1 provided a good example:
North has lovely cards for any suit except Clubs and naturally opens 1 Heart. East has a sound overcall with 2 Clubs. With three card support for Hearts, South can afford to show his excellent Spades first (if North continues with 3 Hearts, South should raise to game). West should assume that East has five Clubs and raise to the level of the fit – no great risk non-vulnerable – 4 Clubs. If South has bid Spades, North should now have no hesitation in raising to game. Aggressive bidders might even consider a slam enquiry. With an extra Club, East might now sacrifice with 5 Clubs which must be doubled.
In Spades, the play should present no difficulties providing South ruffs his two Clubs in dummy at the same time as drawing trumps. If the defence start with a trump, the lead will be in dummy after two rounds of trumps and two ruffs, but there will be a trump outstanding if, as is most likely, they split 3-1 (in fact they were 2-2). South has no immediate entry back to hand to draw the last trump and there is a risk of a defensive ruff. For example, if he leads a Heart honour from dummy, East ducks the first round, wins the second with his Ace, leads a Diamond to West’s Ace, with a Heart returned for East to ruff. Even then, declarer would still make his ten tricks for the contract.
The evening saw a range of results, with both East and West allowed to play in 4 Clubs (undoubled), two down. In 4 Spades, Souths made ten, eleven and twelve tricks (in the last case, how the defence failed to make their two red aces is incomprehensible) while one North made eleven tricks in 4 Hearts. As a general rule, it is better to play in the suit that will provide ruffs in the shorter hand but here it made no difference with the defence’s Hearts splitting 3-2.
4 February 2019 – A Double Fit
All North/South pairs missed makeable small slams on Boards 5 and 8 but Board 12 was altogether more interesting:
After West’s pass, North opens 1 Club, with East overcalling 1 Diamond. With opening points, support for Clubs and good Spades, South should be thinking of game – but where? Best to start with 1 Spade, to allow room for investigation. West should intervene by bidding to the level of the fit: nine cards equals 3 Diamonds. North will probably pass as South could be much weaker, so it will be up to South to make the running, with a jump to game in Clubs. If South’s initial bid is a jump to 3 Clubs and West intervenes, North will bid 3 Hearts, implying no cover in Diamonds. South now replies 3 Spades, again implying that 3 NT is a non-starter. North will most likely rebid his Clubs, with South raising to game.
If West has supported East’s Diamonds, East can risk leading from his tenace and the defence take the first two tricks. Declarer can count eleven top tricks, whatever is led next and so should think about how to avoid possible Pooh traps. Playing in Clubs, North draws trumps and overtakes his second Spade in dummy. South’s top Spades now take care of North’s losing Hearts, despite the bad Spade break and game is made. If South plays in Spades, the defence might make things awkward by playing a third round of Diamonds. Declarer can ruff in dummy and discard a Heart loser from hand but must now resist the temptation of playing on Hearts to return to hand as he would then have fewer trumps than West. Instead, he plays the trump Queen from dummy and then a small Club, hoping that neither defender is void. He can then play out all the trumps, followed by the Clubs and the Heart Ace, making eleven tricks. If North plays in 5 Clubs and the defence do not lead a Diamond, declarer can score an overtrick by throwing both his small Diamonds on dummy’s Spades and losing just a Heart.
There were very mixed results on the evening: two Norths made twelve tricks in Clubs, but only one was in game, while another went one down, doubled, in 5 Clubs. Spade contracts were less successful with game bids going two and three down, though 2 Spades made three overtricks. One East/West pair also scored well by making 3 Diamonds, losing two Hearts, a Spade and a Club.
28 January 2019 – Game in a Minor Suit
With game values and a minor suit fit, it pays to consider 3 NT as an easier and more lucrative alternative to the five-level suit contract. But 3 NT can go badly wrong if the defence can run a side suit…
North opens with 1 Club and East may overcall with 1 Diamond. South should be thinking in terms of game but a jump to 3 Clubs undervalues his hand – it could miss a fit in Spades or 3 NT. Best to bid 1 Spade and await developments. West might support Diamonds, bidding 3 Diamonds, to the level of the fit. This would make further action difficult for North but South should now show support for Clubs (the Losing Trick Count suggests ten tricks). If West bids only 2 Diamonds North may now show his Hearts – by avoiding no trumps he shows, by implication, a gap in Diamonds. South can again show support for Clubs. Finally, North could re-evaluate his hand to recognise the value of his two Spade honours and go for game. 5 Clubs cannot be defeated. If the defence do not cash their Diamond tricks, North’s Diamonds may be discarded on South’s Spades once trumps have been drawn, leaving just a Heart to lose.
In practice, only one pair bid the Club game while the one trying 3 NT came to grief, with the defence taking the first five tricks in Diamonds.
21 January 2019 A Big Pre-empt
Pre-emptive bidding with a weak hand but a very long suit is designed to prevent opponents from finding their best contract. A simple rule is to go as high as you dare straight away and then leave bidding to partner. With an eight card suit, open at the four level…
Board 14 illustrated how this might (or might not) work:
After East passes, South pre-empts in Hearts. West could double for take-out or bid 4 Clubs over 3 Hearts, with space to explore the other suits without going too high. Another golden rule that didn’t apply here: never pre-empt over a pre-empt – any competitive bid shows a strong hand. Over 4 Clubs or Double, North should raise to 4 Hearts. This is known as “bidding to the level of the fit” to make life even more difficult for the opponents. However, here East will have no difficulty in raising to 5 Clubs, or maybe double to invite West to name his suit (if West started with a Double). With an extra Heart, South can bid to 5 Hearts, leaving the opponents no choice but to double for penalties. If South started with 4 Hearts, his bid might win the auction.
With best defence, South would make just his eight Hearts, for minus 500, if doubled. If West plays in Clubs, Declarer should take thirteen tricks, whatever the lead: 5 Clubs, 2 Heart ruffs in dummy, 5 Diamonds and the Spade Ace. The pre-empt would make a Club slam almost impossible to find so, in theory, 5 Hearts, doubled, going three down should be a good score. In practice, it turned out to be the worst score as two declarers were able to make 3 and 4 Hearts, while Club contracts unsurprisingly stayed at game level.
14 January 2019 Hearty Fare
Congratulations to Barbara and John who bid and made the only slam of the evening, on Board 18:
East opens 1 Club and West replies 1 Heart. With good support but a minimum opener, East raises to 2 Hearts (a jump would imply a stronger opening hand). With that valuable Club King as well as excellent Hearts, West should be thinking about slam possibilities but must make a forcing bid to show his strength (partnerships need to agree how to proceed with cue bids or trial bids in these situations) or go straight to Blackwood and hope that partner has the Diamonds covered. In any event, 6 Hearts is an an excellent contract that cannot be defeated, save for a defender having five clubs to the Ten and trumps dividing 4-0. If the opening lead is a Diamond, West wins the Ace, draws trumps and plays out the Clubs, discarding the Diamond losers on the third and fourth rounds. If the Clubs did not split, West now gives up a Spade to the Ace, wins whatever is returned, cashes his second Spade honour and ruffs the small spade in dummy (5 Hearts, 4 Clubs, 1 Spade, 1 Diamond and 1 ruff for the twelve tricks).
7 January 2019 New Beginnings
A great start to the New Year and the cards served up some treats, including several slam or near-slam hands. Congratulations to those who bid and made small slams on Board 4 (West) and Board 14 (South). Commiserations to others who were brave but failed…
Board 23 was one that got away:
At game all, after South passes, West most likely opens 1 Diamond, though some might choose a slightly lopsided weak 1 NT or even pass. Assuming West bids, North knows that the opponents are in the game zone at least. As the cards lay, North would have made seven tricks in Hearts, so three down, doubled, vulnerable would have scored worse than a vulnerable game to the opponents but much better than a slam, if there was one. Whether North bid or not, East would not stay silent with such a powerful hand and all pairs, bar one, ended in 4 Spades (the exception being one West, playing in 3 NT). If North doesn’t bid, the sequence might be 1 Diamond – 2 Spades (game-forcing) – 3 Clubs – 3 Spades – 4 Spades (minimum) – 4 NT – 5 Hearts – 6 Spades. If North does intervene with 4 Hearts, East might just risk 6 Spades anyway. Success requires one of the two black suit finesses to work (75% chance) and the slam comes home.