Question of the Week - 17

 Hi All,

This question concerns whether to pass or transfer when partner opens 1 No Trump and you have a scrawny 5-card major and 0-7 points. These can be difficult, but you must place the contract. You can't always be right, but you can neither pass nor transfer arbitrarily.

You usually figure partner for 4 tricks and he's probably in trouble. What would you do with the first hand below?


                     ª 10 9 8 7 6

                     © 5 2

                     ¨ 9 5

                     § 8 6 5 3


You add no tricks in No Trump and never get the lead so that declarer can lead toward his honors. Ugh! If, however, you transfer to 2 Spades, you may take 2 trump tricks and declarer can lead twice to his honors. You may greatly ease the pain and might even make 2 Spades. How about the hand below?


                     ª 10 9 8 7 6

                     © 5 2

                     ¨ 9 5

                     § K Q J 2


This time you may get two or even 3 tricks and declarer can lead twice toward his honors. You have a good chance for 1 No Trump and see no need to go for 8 tricks in Spades. Pass!

Most or the time, you'll be somewhere between with a tough choice. You must thnk it over and place the contract as best as you can. That's Bridge! Good luck and stay well, Dave

Question of the Week - 16

 Hi All,

Only one question this week. A lot of pairs got to 4 Hearts and some make an overtrick. It also makes 6 Diamonds, but no one bid it. The only question was about the general approach to the hand.

W Dlr
N-S Vul


                     ª 109653

                     © 3

                     ¨ K5

                     § KQ976

West                                  East

ª K84                                 ª 2

© 98                                   © AKJ6542

¨ 9862                               ¨ AQJ3

§ A1052                             § 8


                     ª AQJ7

                     © Q107

                     ¨ 1074

                     § J43

At the writer's table, East opened 4 Hearts and all passed. At another table, East opened 1 Heart, West responded 1 No Trump and East jumped to 4 Hearts. Finally, the writer pondered a 2-Club Forcing Opening and asked for my thoughts.

1. I will start with the worst of these approaches and take them in order until I get to the best. East's hand has 19 points, 15 HCPs and 8 sure tricks. None of these meet any criteria for a 2-Club Forcing Opening. It would probably go 2 Clubs, 2 Diamonds, 2 Hearts, 3 Hearts (promising extra values) and East might try for slam, hopefully stopping at 5 Hearts. Even then, not everyone made 5 Hearts. More importantly, why lie to partner?

2. Next comes the opening 4 Hearts. It get's them there, but East has no idea what partner has. Opener's first responsibility is to describe his hand and East has told partner that he has 7 sure tricks when he has 8. He has not told partner that he has a second suit. He is way too strong for a preempt. West will always pass with his 7 points, but with a different 7 points, slam could be laydown. Again, why lie to partner?

3. At last, East opens 1 Heart. If West can't respond, game is unlikely. When West responds 1 No Trump, East jumps to 4 Hearts. Perfect? No! West has 6-10 points, but some 6-10 points are better than others. East hasn't really given partner any info to evaluate his hand and make decisions. Again, he hasn't even shown his second suit.

This jump would be excusable if he had no forcing bid and had to bid what he hoped he could make. That is not the case here. Why not give partner as much information as possible, so that he can contribute?

4. Finally, East opens 1 Heart, West responds 1 No Trump and East describes his hand with a jump-shift to 3 Diamonds. Now, West can see two suits and 19 or more points in partner's hand. They're forced to game and both can contribute. West has already told partner that he doesn't have 3 Hearts, so raises to 4 Diamonds to show the fit. Now they are in good position to find the best contract and their trust in each other is undamaged.


Question of the Week - 15

 Hi All,

Another question about basic bidding on the board shown below.



                     ª K 8 5 2

                     © K 10 5 3

                     ¨ K 5 3

                     § 7 3

West                                  East

ª                                       ª A Q J 9 7

© Q J 9 6 4                         © 8

¨ 9 8 7                               ¨ J 10

§ Q 10 9 5 2                       § A K J 8 6


                     ª 10 6 4 3

                     © A 7 2

                     ¨ A Q 6 4 2

                     § 4


West dealt and passed, North passed, East opened 1 Spade and all passed. East made 1 Spade for 80 points, but other E/Ws bid part scores in Clubs for 90-130 points. East had two questions:

1. Should he instead have opened 1 Club?

2. Should West have responded 2 Clubs over his 1 Spade?

1. No. Our Lesson 2 prescribes opening the higher ranking of two 5-card suits regardless of relative strength. To do otherwise makes it impossible for opener to properly describe his hand. Stick with that!

2. No. A response of 2 Clubs would be a gross overbid, promising 10 or more points. West can't take points for his void in partner's suit; Partner may just rebid it. If he does respond 2 Clubs anyway, East will see a good Club fit and 10 or more points opposite his 18-20 points. Any red-blooded East would describe his hand by jumping to game and would go down for an even worse score. 

Assuming that they wouldn't do either of those things, how did some pairs get to 2 Clubs? I can see only one somewhat reasonable sequence. West's pass is justified, but, if he is uncomfortable with his void in partner's suit, he may keep the bidding open with 1 No Trump. The rules most of us follow say that you must respond with 6 points, but they don't say that you can't respond with a reasonable 5 points.

This is risky and they will go down at 1 No Trump, but in this case East will surely rebid 2 Clubs. As long as they don't get carried away to game, they should make par.

Good luck and stay well, Dave

Describe Your Hand! - 14

Hi All,

I get a lot of questions about handling complex situations and I do the best I can. I still, however, get questions about very basic bidding. I have tried to present in Lesson 2 what I believe to be an exquisite system to open one of a suit and bid back and forth to reach the best contract. I have not done my best, apparently, to explain and sell it. Let's look at several examples.



                     ª A 10 8 6

                     © Q 10 6 5

                     ¨ A J 3 2

                     § K

South opens 1 Spade and North is excited. Even after downgrading the singleton Club King, he counts 14 points and has great Spade support. He wants to show his Spade support and extra values, so responds 3 Spades. He is disappointed when partner passes. What went wrong?

His response was a limit raise promising 4-card Spade support and 10-12 points. South has a minimum hand and must pass. North could clearly see game, so must not bid anything that partner can pass short of that. North could jump to 4 Spades, but that would be a close-out. He doesn't know enough about South's hand to discourage slam.

North must respond 2 Diamonds, a new suit at the 2-level promising 10 or more points and forcing partner to describe his hand. Whatever South rebids, North will know whether to just bid 4 Spades or to pursue slam. Exquisite!


West                                  East

ª 10 9                                ª A K 7 4 3

© A K Q 8 7 3                      © 8 5

¨ A 5 2                               ¨ Q J 10 9

§ K 9                                  § A 7

East opens 1 Spade, West responds 2 Hearts and East rebids 2 No Trump. West rebids 3 No Trump and they take all the tricks. What went wrong?

East's rebid promised 13-16 points and stoppers in the unbid suits. That's not wrong, but it's certainly discouraging. It says a lot about what he doesn't have and not much about what he does have. It says that he doesn't have 6 Spades, he doesn't have 3 Hearts, he doesn't have enough to jump to 3 No Trump and he can't bid another suit, either because he doesn't have one or he doesn't have enough points to reverse over partner's 10 or more points. West has a lovely hand, but with his 16 HCPs opposite a probable minimum, he bids a safe 3 No Trump.

Look at how this all changes if East rebids 3 Diamonds. He now shows two suits, 15-18 points and forces for at least one round. North is now definitely thinking slam. He has several paths to get there, but it's hard to see how he fails to get to 6 Hearts or 6 No Trump. Again Exquisite!