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.

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:


S  KQ984

H  K96

D  J94

C  T2


S  J76

H  –

D  AQ853

C  Q8763


S  5

H  AJT85432

D  T62

C  4


S  AT32

H  Q7

D  K7

C  AKJ95

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:


S  96

H  QT87

D  A2

C  AQJ98


S  KQ5

H  AKJ64

D  J73

C  K2

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:


S  T9


D  AJ862

C  Q642


S  K

H  QT986532

D  95

C  97


S  AQJ8752

H  K4

D  K



S  643

H  7

D  QT743

C  K853

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.