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N-S vul, at Matchpoints, you hold as south: ♠AQ87 - QJ108752 ♣108


W      N           E       S

P       1         P            ?



What do you bid?



Here is a hand from the recent Winnipeg Sectional, Saturday morning. This type of hand is fairly frequent, and I have written about this theme before.


If you respond 1♠ what do you bid over 2? Or over 2♣? The problem is that you cannot bid diamonds now as it shows longer spades than diamonds, and it is game forcing. Nor can you bid 2 originally as you are too weak. Yes, it might work, but it might not.


Opposite a minimum opener the likely best contract is 3. The only way to get there is to respond 1NT, and over partner’s rebid, bid 3 which is to play. The key is that the 1NT limits your hand strength.


On the actual deal partner will bid 2NT. Now you have a whole new problem. The practical bid is 3NT. It might make it might not. The one problem is that you are playing it from the wrong side, as the only lead you fear, a club, will be going through partner’s hoped-for strength in that suit. A more scientific bid, and the one I would choose is 3♠. Now partner is involved in the decision making of the best place to play. Sure the opponents have extra information on how to defend, but on balance, I would make this descriptive bid. Let’s look at the full deal (hands rotated):



♠ K J 9
♥ K Q 8 3 2
♦ A 9
♣ A 9 4

♠ 5 4
♥ A 10 9 7 5
♦ 6 4
♣ Q 6 5 2

Bridge deal

♠ 10 6 3 2
♥  J 6 4
♦ K 3
♣ K J 7 3


♠ A Q 8 7
♥ -
♦ Q J 10 8 7 5 2
♣ 3



Some Norths might bid 3NT, down one. A better bid, even at matchpoints is 4♣. This is a cue bid, but also gives responder room to further describe his distribution. For example if South had five spades, he would rebid them. However over 4♣ South should bid 4, which North will raise to five for a clear top. Good bidding is its own reward.


Epilogue:This story does have a twist. My partner, obviously not a reader of my books and articles, bid 1. I raised to 3, as I thought my hand was much better suited to a spade contract than notrump. He bid game. On a trump lead he won, knocked out the K, and made 11 tricks for a top.


Lessons to Learn



1)    With 17 HCPs and a five card suit, the South hand is too strong to open a 15-17 1NT. Open 1, and then rebid 2NT.


2)    With a weak hand with a four card major and a longer minor, it is usually best to skip the major and respond 1NT and then sign off in the minor over partners’ minimum rebid.


3)    Contrary to 1) above, I chose to exercise judgement, and bid what I thought was a better description of my hand, 3♠. This would be 100% clear if playing Flannery (which we were) as partner’s bid will usually be based on a five card suit, as I cannot have five hearts and four spades with a minimum opener.




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Neither vul, at Matchpoints, you hold as south: ♠96532 K976J107 ♣3


W      N       E       S

P       1      P       11

Dbl    3♣     3♠      P

P       4     P       ?


1 Just reporting the facts.


What do you bid?

Here is a hand from the recent Sectional, Saturday morning. I chose this hand as there are many lessons to learn from it. However bidding 1♥ when you are 5-4 n the major is not one of them. Having said that things have turned up pretty rosy for South. It looks like he avoided the oppositions 4-4 spade fit! It is a 99% certainty, in my opinion, that each opponent has four spades for their equal vulnerability, passed hand bidding. What else do we know?


Partner bid 3♣. Normally this is a game forcing bid, but not here. Why? If partner really had 18-19 HCPs they would redouble to show this hand. So 3♣ is lighter, but still a very good opener. I would expect in the 14-16 HCP hand. With the spade knowledge, we know partner is either 0-3-5-5 or 0-3-6-4. Either way 4♥ will play miserably. You will have to ruff spades with partner’s hearts and your heart suit is too poor to withstand this onslaught. Plus you will still have spade losers!


The second best bid is 5. Yes you will likely go down one, but at least you are in the best suit. At the table the South passed and went down three for -150 and a bottom.


Why did I say the 2nd best bid? Because South should double 3♠! He has a bad hand yes, but N-S still have half the deck and trumps are splitting 5-0. To take away any doubt you are on lead! Lead a trump and when you get in again (either K or a club ruff, lead another trump. 3♠ goes down -300 and you get a top instead of a bottom. The full deal:




♠ -
♥ A 5 2
♦ K Q 8 4 3
♣ A Q 10 6 4

♠ Q J 10 8
♥ Q J 4 3
♦ 9
♣ K J 8 5

Bridge deal

♠ A K 7 4
♥ 10 8
♦ A 6 5 2
♣ 9 7 2


♠ 9 6 5 3 2
♥ K 9 7 6
♦ J 10 7
♣ 3




Lessons to Learn



1)    In order to play in a 4-3 fit where you know you will be ruffing losers with the three card holding, you must have good trumps in the four card suit.


2)    If responder has a weaker hand with five spades and four hearts, or 5-5, quite often a heart fit will not be found. A worthwhile convention is that over a minor 2 shows 5-4 or 5-5 with 5-8 HCPs and 2 with 9-11 HCPs.


3)    Quite often you can deduce exact distribution, as the spade void on this hand, by the bids made (or not made) by the other three players.


4)    If, after opening, RHO doubles conventionally (i.e. negative double) or bids a suit, the strongest rebid opener can make is double or redouble showing about 18-21 HCPs. Any other calls, including jumps, deny this strong a hand.


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Neither vul, at IMPs, you hold as south: ♠Q94 - KQ1087632 ♣Q2


W      N       E       S

1     1♠      2NT1 ?


1 Invitational plus raise in hearts, with at least four card support.


What do you bid?

You have at least an eight card spade fit, but your very good eight card diamond suit cannot be ignored! Plus you have a void in the opponents’ suit and an honour in clubs. All in all, a very good offensive hand. But what to do?


It is hard to determine the offensive potential of the hand. Does partner have a diamond fit? Longer spades? A secondary heart suit? Does South have 7 HCPS or 17? Should I steer the contract to spades or diamonds?


All very good questions. Unfortunately we won’t be able to answer most of these. The opponents have a step or two on us in the exchanging information race with their partner. They know a lot about each other’s hand. Whereas we are somewhat in the dark.


One question we can answer is what suit we want to be trump. The answer is diamonds. As we can see later, and what history supports, is hands with moderate support in partner’s suit with a long, strong suit of your own always plays better in the long suit of responder (or advancer as here).


As what to bid that is also fairly easy – 5. I expect to have a good chance to make this contract. If not, the opponents will more than likely make at least 11 tricks in hearts. Plus you will have taken away valuable bidding space from them. East-West don’t know each other’s exact distribution and relative strength. Since you haven’t promised spade support, the opponents may think that they have losers in that suit, with augers for them defending.


As it happens West now bids 5, pass, pass to you. Now what? Again a fairly easy bid. Partner has heard you and has passed, suggesting defence. You can overrule him with an unusually strong offensive hand, but here you have an ‘average’ 5♦ bid for this auction. However had you held something like ♠xxx - KQ10987632 ♣x 6♦ would have been in order. The full deal (hands rotated):




♠ K J 10 8 3
♥ A 10 7
♦ 5
♣ 9 7 5 3

♠ A 5 2
♥ J 8 6 3 2
♦ 9
♣ A K J 8

Bridge deal

♠ 7 6
♥ K Q 9 5 4
♦ A J 4
♣ 10 6 4


♠ Q94
♥ -
♦ K Q 10 8 7 6 3 2
♣ Q2




Declarer misplayed the club suit, leading the 10♣ from dummy which South covered. The 9♣ eventually was the deciding trick – down one.


The bidding over 5 was interesting and is instructive. An opening bid opposite a limit raise creates a forcing auction on E-W. Which means the opponents cannot play a contract undoubled.


I don’t agree with West’s 5 bid with such weak trumps and good defensive prospects. I would likely double to tell partner I am more interested in defending that declaring. This is especially true at IMPs where it isn’t a big loss if you are +300 instead of +450. If West had done so, East would have gladly passed and scored +500 as 5 is three down.


Lessons to Learn



1)    Play in a long good suit on hands where you have such a suit and support for partner. Here spades only plays marginally worse than diamonds. On three round of clubs declarer ruffs with the 4♠, and likely leads the K. East winds the ace and plays a 2nd spade to the ace, as east plays the 4th club ruffed in dummy with the last trump. East ruffs in on the Q, and declarer overruffs. In total the defensive scores 1 spade, 2 hearts, 1 diamond and 2 clubs. Down 4 for -800.


2)    At IMPs don’t push too high but tend to take a sure plus, as East should have done here.



3)    A double of 5 by West on this auction is a strong suggestion but not an order. East can pull with an exceptionally strong hand for his 2NT bid, such as ♠- KQxxxx Axx ♣10xxx.



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Neither vul, at Matchpoints, you hold as south: ♠KQ10954 AK3 K103 ♣3


W      N       E       S

-        -        P       1♠     

P       21    P       ?       


1 Game forcing


What do you bid?

This deal, from the April 9th Bridge at the Centre game, is a very interesting and instructive hand for constructive slam bidding. First you should be thinking slam in diamonds at this point. A raise to 3 cannot be faulted. It simplifies the auction as trumps are agreed early.


An even better raise of diamonds is a splinter. I strongly advocate playing that a jump in a new suit, in a game forcing auction, shows shortness and does NOT promise extra values. 4♣ would be perfectly acceptable on the above hand or on ♠Kxxxx Axxx KJx ♣x.


This would be my bid at teams but at matchpoints you should find out if partner has a spade fit. Bid 2♠. Now partner bids 3♣. Ok, he has a minor two suiter, and usually denies two or more spades, because you have shown six with your rebid. Now you have an easy 3 bid. Partner bids 3NT. What now?


3NT is a suggestion of a contract, thus in my view indicating a minimum 2/1.  I feel the right bid is to try for slam one more time. Even if partner has ♠x ♥Qxx ♦AQJxx ♣Axxx for his 3NT bid slam is odds on to make with reasonable splits. (If they lead trumps you set up spades; if they lead anything else you ruff two clubs.) So, what is the best call?


Before answering this I will show you partner’s hand. He held ♠A QJ2 AQJ96 ♣A954. All 7 requires is one club ruff. The best call over 3NT is 4. This tells partner you are still interested in a slam opposite a minimum. He can sign off or ask for key cards. At the table North bids 4, Redwood key card ask. (Redwood is used over minor suit fits – 4 asks if clubs are agreed and 4 if diamonds). You show your two key cards and partner signs off in 6.


If you are playing attention you will notice instead of a minimum partner held 18 of the finest. He explained that he and is regular partner liked to bid 3NT directly over 2♠ to show a minimum. Anything else shows extra values. I would not recommend this treatment for your partnerships. Otherwise you could never investigate a club fit, or further describe your hand for that matter, when holding a minimum.



Lessons to Learn



1)    At matchpoints exhaust finding a major suit fit before playing in a known minor suit fit.


2)    Opposite unlimited hands always ask for Kings when all the aces and KQ of trumps are present. This is an invitation for the responder of the key asker to jump to seven when he has either extra values or an undisclosed source of tricks.


3)    At teams a raise to 3, or with shortness, a jump in a new suit splinter simpler would simplify the auction.


4)    Some partnerships like to play Minorwood. This convention states that in a game forcing auction, 4♣ is keycard if clubs have been agreed, and 4 if diamonds. The reason that I prefer Redwood, is the ability to bid a natural four of a minor showing interest in slam, without committing to it.


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Vul vs not, at IMPs, you hold as south: ♠A1086432 A6 - ♣AJ83


W      N       E       S

-        P       P       1♠     

P       2♠      P       ?



What do you bid?


Happy St. Patrick Day!! I remembered to wear green when I went golfing this morning. First I have to say: Never consider preempting with three aces and four first round controls! Opening 4♠ is just wrong. Some people see 13 HCPs when they look at this hand. I see slam potential.


Partner’s raise covers a wide range of hands. His being a passed hand does not change matters. However the reality is that even though slam is now more remote, it is still worthwhile to try. A natural 3♣ works fine. Another option is a void showing 4. Not only does it help partner evaluate his honours, but also tells him right away you were always bidding game. The former, besides being better, takes up less bidding space which is desirable.


Over both partner bids 4♠. Over 3♣ partner has accepted the game invite, but didn’t make the call you were hoping, 4♣. Now I would have bid slam. But with the actual response, passing is probably advised. The chance of missing slam is outweighed by getting to high. Even for me.


It would be nice to have known how many trumps partner held. That is why I am a strong proponent of playing Bergen. When partner opens a major, a raise denies four or more spades. With four card support partner bids 3♣ with 6-9 HCPs, and 3 with 10-12. In this way you can more accurately estimate how many of your losers dummy can ruff, as well as how many trump losers you have. Here you may have none opposite ♠Jxxx.


Sure enough partner held ♠J975 J5 J7652 ♣K10 and you missed a good slam, needing either spades 1-1 or taking a successful club finesse. Notice that only North having a fourth trump makes the slam worthy.



Lessons to Learn



1)    Distributional hands with big trump fits have the potential to make slam with much fewer high card points than normal – here only 19! Or in another words, 13 +6 =33!!


2)    Consider playing Bergen. Once you start playing there are some variations for each partner to show shortness after the initial bids.


3)    Opposite a passed hand playing Drury is highly recommended. The way I like to play is that 2♣ shows four card support, 6-11 HCPs. 2 then asks: two of the trump suit shows 5-9 with four trumps and 2 shows 10-11 with four spades. An immediate 2 shows 10-11 with the three card support, while an immediate simple raise shows a three card support with 5-9.




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Both vul, IMPs at IMPs scoring you hold as south: ♠A K93 AK106 ♣AK1063




What do you open?




NOTE:Just to let you know my new book, The Right Bid at the Right Time is has been released and is available for purchase.


Here is a hand from a recent match between two tops teams in the Canadian Online Teams Championship. Sitting South was a so-called expert. He decided to open 2NT.


Yes, this is close to the right point count. Yes, this simplifies the auction. Yes, this is one of the worse bids I have seen from a high caliber player.


Yes, that is unfortunately true. Time and time again I see players showing notrump shape with singletons. (Haven’t seen it with a void yet!) This is lazy bidding. First your auction is easier, but inaccurate. Natural bidding will be beat notrump auctions 9 times out of 10. Another reason players do this is that they can all but guarantee they will be declarer. What that has to do with Partnership Bridge, I am not sure.


The best bid is 1♣. One bids are up to 21 HCPs. That is what you have. Having said that the only reason I open 1♣ is that your suits are the minors, which are notorious difficult to describe when you have to start at the two level. Better to open 1♣ and make a one round force with 2♦. You can still force to game.


This hand is VERY good. Much better than your high card will indicate. Much better than a 2NT opener. Give partner ♠xxxx ♥Qx ♦Qxxxx ♣xx and 6♣ is an excellent contract.


Back to what happened at the table? South got his just desserts in my view. The full deal:




♠ Q108764
♥ A65
♦ 53
♣ Q2

♠ KJ932
♥ QJ10
♦ 82
♣ J94

Bridge deal

♠ 5
♥ 8742
♦ QJ974
♣ 875


♠ A
♥ K93
♦ AK106
♣ AK1063



North transferred into 4♠, down one when declarer’s play matched his bidding.




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