Question of the Week 24

 Hi All,

North made 13 tricks on this board. South opened 1 Diamond, North responded 1 Heart to force partner to describe his hand and South rebid 1 Spade. North jumped to 4 Hearts and South passed. North wondered if there was a reasonable path to slam.                  


                     ª J 10

                     © A K 8 7 4 3 2

                     ¨ 3 2

                     § Q J

West                                  East

ª 8 5 3 2                             ª 9 6 4

© 6 5                                  © Q 10

¨ Q 10 9                             ¨ K J 8 7

§ K.5 4 3                            § 10 8 6 2


                     ª A K Q 7

                     © J 9

                     ¨ A 6 5 4

                     § A 9 7


If South had one more point he would have made a jump-shift to 2 Spades and they would surely get to slam. North loved his hand, but if partner had 10 HCPs and a Heart void, they would go down. 

North must grit his teeth and bid a disciplined 3 Hearts, showing 6 or more Hearts and 10-12 points. South has a maximum and knows that his Heart support makes partner stronger. He may take steps toward slam and the most timid South would raise to 4 Hearts.

It is important that North not overbid because he doesn't trust his partner. This will only cause partner to become more cautious in a vicious cycle. It is better to sometimes miss a game and talk it over with partner. Every hand either strengthens or weakens a partnership. Always trust your partner!

Sweet Betsy from Pike


"Sweet Betsy from Pike" is an American ballad about the trials of a pioneer named Betsy and her lover Ike who migrate from Pike County Missouri to California. This Gold Rush-era song, with lyrics written by John A. Stone before 1858, was collected and published in Carl Sandburg's 1927 American Songbag. It was recorded by Burl Ives on February 11, 1941 for his debut album. The melody is to the tune of the Irish song "Master McGrath," which made its way to America after the Great Famine of Ireland. Members of the Western Writers of America chose it as one of the Top 100 Western songs of all time. It has been adapted many times, most recently by Johnny Cash and myself (with apologies).

Sweet Betsy From Pike

Now don’t you remember sweet Betsy from Pike

Who joined a nice bridge club with her lover Ike

She bought Bridge for Dummies as it said on the blog

And arrived nice and early with her big service dog

Ike bid three No Trump and Betsy made four

The next board they set ‘em and made even more

They made a small slam when her suit it did run

Betsy laughed loudly said “This sure is fun!”

Then Ike overbid game and Betsy fell short

The next hands went poorly but she was a sport

Then Betsy got tired, sat down to repose

And Ike he just gazed at his Pike County rose

She said the opponents gave her some advice

“There’s lots of conventions that are very nice

I think that we really must upgrade our game

That’ll help us get master points which is the aim”

They started with Flannery then Two over One

Puppet Stayman and Namyats would be lots of fun

Ike got discouraged and Betsy got mad

The dog drooped his tail and looked wonderfully sad

Now Ike missed a signal and Betsy gave out

Down on the floor she lay rollin’ about

While Ike in great tears looked on in surprise

He said “Betsy get up, you’ll get corn in your eyes”

Ike and sweet Betsy got married of course

But Ike gettin’ picked on obtained the divorce

Betsy well satisfied said with a shout

“I need a loyal partner, I’ll stick with old Scout”

Question of the Week 23

 Hi All,

The below hand was sent asking how to get to 6 No Trump. The sender's pair got to 3 No Trump and everyone else bid and made 6 No Trump.



                     ª A Q 3

                     © K J 4

                     ¨ K J 4

                     § 10 8 7 3

West                                  East

ª 6 5                                  ª J 10 9 7 4 2

© 10 8 7 6 5 2                      © 9

¨ 9 7 6                               ¨ 10 2

§ K 6                                  § J 9 5 4


                     ª K 8

                     © A Q 3

                     ¨ A Q 8 5 3

                     § A Q 2


North opens 1 Club and South stops to think with his huge hand. He considers if he should try to tell partner about his hand, but follows our normal method to respond 1 Diamond to force partner to describe his hand. He wants to make an unlimited bid and partner will never have a better time to describe.

North rebids 1 No Trump to limit his hand to 13-16 points and show that he can't bid a 4-card major, rebid Clubs or raise Diamonds. South decides on No Trump and must decide how many. He has three possible approaches.

1. South counts 21 HCPs opposite an opening hand. If he doesn't care to divulge any information or if he doesn't trust partner, he can just blast to 6 No Trump.

2. If South does trust partner, but wants more information about his strength, he can invite with 4 No Trump. Partner will probably pass with his flat 14 HCPs.

3. If partner trusts his partner and is happy with the points, he may still be concerned with the missing Ace and three missing Kings. He can conjure up the seldom used but reliable Gerber with a jump to 4 Clubs from partner's 1 No Trump. North will respond 4 Hearts to show his Ace and South can continue with 5 Clubs to ask about Kings. North will respond 5 Spades to show his two Kings. Nervous Nellie might still pass missing a King, but DSS will always bid this slam. 

4. Always trust your partner!

Question of the Week 22

 Hi All,

Most everyone played in 3 No Trump and made overtricks on the board below. The only possible slam turned out to be 6 Clubs and no one bid it. The questions were how to get to slam and if a Forcing 2-Club bid would work.



                     ª Q 10

                     © J 7 5 3 2

                     ¨ J 10 9 6 5

                     § 8

West                                  East

ª A K 9 6                            ª J 5

©                                       © A K 10 9 8 6

¨ K Q 7 2                            ¨ 8

§ A K J 4 2                          § Q 10 9 3


                     ª 8 7 4 3 2

                     © Q 4

                     ¨ A 4 3

                     § 7 6 5


First, let's look at what happens when West opens 1 Club. Partner responds 1 Heart and West stops to think. Partner's new suit has forced him to describe his hand and he ponders 2 Spades or 2 No Trump (given East's bid).

A rebid of 2 Spades shows two of his suits, 19 or more points and forces to game. He would like to find a suit fit to make his void useful.

A rebid of 2 No Trump show values in the unbid suits and shows 18-19 HCPs. He actually has 20 HCPs and definitely wants to get to game after partner showed enough to respond. Partner would have made the same response with 6 points and 4 small Hearts and might pass 2 No Trump. This would have the danger of both missing a game and going down at 2 No Trump.

After you respond 2 Spades, East probably will rebid 4 Hearts to show his 6-card suit and 10-12 points. West now is faced with the scary choice of passing or correcting to 4 No Trump and hoping partner will know that's to play. If you haven't worked out with partner when 4 No Trump is Blackwood and when it 's to play, it's time to do so.

Second, let's consider a 2-Club opening. This has the great advantage on this hand that after 2 Clubs, 2 Diamonds, 3 Clubs, partner will know that your best suit is Clubs with at least a 5-card suit. You can both upgrade your hands and have a great chance from here to find the slam. The problem is whether that is a proper opening.

The requirements for a strong opening in No Trump or a suit were stable for many years. When the Forcing 2-Club was expanded to include both suits and No Trump, it was a great improvement for both. However it has yet to be stabilized again.

Some factions went for simplicity and required 22 HCPs to use it at all. Others included any hand that required only one trick from partner for game. These were okay but neglected distributional values. The old rules generally promised 23 points with a 6-card suit, 21 for a 7-card suit and 25 for a 5-card suit. I have felt and taught that we should use the HCPs when we have a balanced hand and expect to be in No Trump and distributional values when we expect to be in a suit.

To go back to this question, this board doesn't meet any of those criteria. Partner will expect either more Clubs or more points. As nicely as this works in this case, I would open 1 Club and jump-shift to 2 Spades. In the long term it's better to be consistent.


Question of the Week 21

 Hi All,

How do you open with 6 Clubs and 5 Spades? 

The answer, as so often happens, is that it depends. If you have the 17 points to reverse, if necessary, you can open 1 Club, then rebid Spades, then rebid Spades again. The rebid of your second suit promises a 5-card suit and your opening 1 Club promises a 6-card suit since you didn't open your 5-card major.

If you have the 15 points for a 3-level reverse, if necessary, you can open 1 Spade, then rebid Clubs, then rebid Clubs again to promise 5 Spades and at least 5 Clubs.

If you lack the points for any reverse, you can open 1 Club and, if partner responds 1 No Trump, have to rebid Clubs or pass, not being able to show your Spades at all.

You can also choose to open 1 Spade and, if partner responds 2 Diamonds or 2 Hearts, have to lie with 2 Spades or 2 No Trump, not being able to show your 6-card Club suit. 

You can see that the opening depends on your overall strength, the relative strength of your two suits and your taste for risk. The important lesson is that you should never open without considering your rebid.


Question of the Week 20

 Hi All,

Glad to be back online after the holidays. I was sent the board shown below.



                     ª 9 8 6

                     © K 6

                     ¨ J 10 9 7 5 2

                     § J 3

West                                  East

ª K 10 5                             ª A J 7 2

© J 9 8 5                             © A Q 10 7 4 3

¨ A Q 3                               ¨ K

§ A 10 4                             § Q 8


                     ª Q 4 3

                     © 2

                     ¨ 8 6 4

                     § K 9 7 6 5 2

Suppose West opens 1 Club and East responds 1 Heart to force opener to describe his hand. West rebids 2 Hearts to promise 13-16 points and at least 4 Hearts. East rebids 2 Spades, a control bid, and West rebids 3 Clubs, another control bid. 

If East now jumps to 4 Hearts, is that a stop bid or should West continue? West has clearly described his hand to East, the Captain, and East has chosen to stop short of the slam. East knows what West has and West is not really sure what East has. West must pass.

Suppose instead that East rebids 3 Diamonds, another control bid. West must rebid 4 Diamonds, another control bid, to show the Ace which greatly improves partner's King. East still sees several possible losers, but he also sees around 35 points, a good fit and all the Aces. If East isn't satisfied, he can bid 4 Hearts which would definitely be to stop, but DSS will always bid the slam.