Thursday, 27 June 2013

Unpopular bidding

Here's another hand from the aggregate pairs at St. Andrews last Monday. I faced two tough dilemmas. Not ethical dilemmas this time though, just straight up bidding decisions.

Here's my big hand:

♠A3 ♥74 ♦AKQT8 ♣AT84

Lovely. At favourable vulnerability, my right hand opponent dealt and opened 1♠. This was a five card major. I've got three options now:

  • Double - it's a 17 point hand
  • 1NT - it's a semi-balanced 15-17, with a Spade stop
  • 2♦ - a maximum overcall with a good suit
  • 2NT - Showing minors

I think the modern style is to go for 2♦, as it makes things easier in later rounds. I didn't like that as it doesn't get across the strength of the hand, and we might easily miss a game. I didn't even consider 1NT, but maybe I should have. It's maybe too strong for that though. In the end I doubled, planning on bidding Diamonds on the next round.

Double might not be the best, but me and partner have agreed that doubling then bidding a suit shows 16-18 and a good suit, so at least we'd know where we stood. In fact, later in the night we had that auction, when the opponents opened 1♦ and I had ♠AQ ♥AQ82 ♦T2 ♣AQT72 I doubled then bid 2♣.

Over my double though things took an unexpected turn. Left hand opponent bid 2♥ and opener raised to 4♥. Here's my hand and the auction so far:

♠A3 ♥74 ♦AKQT8 ♣AT84

Now I have another dilemma. I'd originally doubled because I have such a good hand. Am I going to go quietly now, or will I bid again? Here's the options:

  • Double. Two ways to win. It might be going down, or if partner has a really distributional they might sacrifice.
  • Pass - They're probably going to make it.
  • 4NT - for minors.

I think bidding 4NT is definitely wrong, as for all you know 4♥ is going down. It's better to involve partner. The problem with doubling is, partner might still think that you have Hearts for your first takeout double. I thought 4♥ was probably going down, but I convinced myself to pass. This was the full deal:

NS vul
S deal
♠ K
♥ K J T 3 2
♦ J 6 3
♣ K J 9 2
♠ A 3
♥ 7 4
♦ A K Q T 8
♣ A T 8 4
♠ Q 9 8 7
♥ 5
♦ 9 5 2
♣ Q 7 6 5 3
♠ J T 6 5 4 2
♥ A Q 9 8 5
♦ 7 4
♣ -

So 4♥ was passed out. When dummy (South) came down we were all a bit surprised. Not wanting to open a hand with such good majors he's opened a cheeky seven point hand! Risky, but hit the jackpot when partner bid Hearts. Anna, sitting East, lead a Club. Rather than ruffing, declarer discarded a losing Diamond from dummy, and let me win the trick in West. I cashed a top Diamond then played Hearts. When declarer lead a Spade from dummy I ducked my ♠A, as I thought that maybe if he had something like ♠K9 he might have a guess, and could go down if he got it wrong. As it happened he had singleton ♠K, which won the trick for 4♥+1.

There were eight tables altogether. The others had North-South in 3♥+1, 4♥=, 4♥x= and 5♥x=-1. On the other three tables EW played, and scored 5♣-2, 5♦x-2 and 5♣x=.

According to the hand records, there are nine tricks available in Diamonds and ten in Clubs. But you could get more if they defence fails to take their Heart, or less if you don't drop the singleton ♠K. But it looks like it's a good sacrifice against 4♥. The problem is, if I double on the second round, will partner pass or bid? Anna was coy about this, and said she might have bid 5♣.

I posted the problem of what to do on the second round on the Bridge Base Forums. Most people ignored my question about what to do on the second round, and just commented on how much they hated my first double. As for the second double 5/7 people favoured Pass, and 2/7 Double, so I feel vindicated.

Bridge Base Forums comments here.

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Dodgy ethics

Me and Anna played at St. Andrew's Bridge Club on Monday. I've been on holiday quite a while now, and have slightly lost track of time. "Is it normally aggregate scoring on a Saturday?" I asked irrelevantly. I'd forgotten that it was Monday. It was indeed aggregate scoring though.

Me and Anna played well, with no mistakes. We bid and made all of the games we were dealt, and did well in the partscores. We were even lucky the opponents missed a slam against us, but unlucky that they made a lot of games too. In the end we finished 3rd overall.

In my featured hand we got a very good result, making a part score our way when everyone else went minus. But it came at quite a price, as I made a dubiously ethical bid. I didn't know at the time what the law was, and bid it because I wanted to, but now I know that I was very wrong.

Here's my West hand and auction, leading up to my crucial decision. No one vulnerable:

♠ K 7 6 5 2
♥ 8 4
♦ K 6 3
♣ Q 8 3

North opened a 12-14 no trump. Anna sitting East paused for quite a while, then passed. South transferred with 2♦, and North completed the transfer. Anna paused again over 2♥, and it was passed round to me.

Even though it's aggregate scoring, I'd like to bid 2♠ here. After they pass out 2♥, partner rates to have some points (at least 8 or so), and we've probably got a Spade fit. It's a risky bid, but it's what I want to do. But after partner's two big pauses, it's sort of clear she's got a decent hand.

Ethically, I have to pass. Even though I think I would have bid 2♠ even without the help of partner's pauses, that's not good enough. I think the law is that I have to be actively ethical. I can only bid 2♠, if it's really the only sensible bid. Here that's not the case, as pass is certainly a logical alternative. I wasn't sure on this, but have since got some expert help (more on that later). In a tournament if the director was called, he would probably rule that my 2♠ bid was suggested by partner's hesitation, and rule the score back to 2♥ their way, making.

In the end though I did bid 2♠. Here's the full hand and auction:

No one vul
s deal
♠ A Q 4
♥ K T 9
♦ J T 8 5 4
♣ A 6
♠ K 7 6 5 2
♥ 8 4
♦ K 6 3
♣ Q 8 3
♠ J T 9 3
♥ A J 2
♦ -
♣ K J T 9 5 4
♠ 8
♥ Q 7 6 5 3
♦ A Q 9 7 2
♣ 7 2

After I did bid 2♠, it was passed out. South had a good think about this, and I would certainly have bid 3♦ with his hand, as you've got a 5-5 hand with short Spades so don't want to defend. If you do bid Diamonds, it works out great as partner has five of them, and three card Heart support too.

I get a great dummy in 2♠, and it looks like I could make loads of tricks. Actually though it was hard going. Both Spade honours offisde, repeated Diamond leads, and forgetting how many trumps were left, meant I made just eight tricks. Still, 2♠= was a very good score. On the other tables North-South were playing in Diamonds or Hearts making overtricks. North-South have such a good fit in fact I think you can make 4♥, but the analysis sheet says you can only make nine tricks (why is this?).

Here's the results of the deal on the St Andrew's website.

Finally, as mentioned above, before writing this I wanted some expert advice. So I wrote a poll about what I should do on the Bridge Base Forums. You can see the results (and vote if you want) here. Almost everyone thought that I should pass out 2♥, most because I'm ethically barred from bidding, and some because they wouldn't bid anyway.

Sunday, 23 June 2013


Last night me and Anna boldly decided to have a go at an online tournament. This is the first time we've done this.

We entered "SpHiNx Pairs", along with 369 other pairs. Anna was pretty nervous, and I certainly didn't help. On the first board I miscounted my losers and put Anna in a hopeless 6♠, off two. Then she passed my takeout double of 1♥, and declarer made it with three overtricks. 1♥x +3 was not a good score.

These two bad boards were followed by two very good ones, which were a bit wild too and did nothing to settle the nerves. The opponents went way overboard in 4♠, doubled, then Anna bid an impulsive 5♣, doubled, and made it. though.

My featured board is that 5♣x=, which gained us 7.6 IMPs.

All vul
N deal
♠ Q 6 3
♥ J 4
♦ Q 7 4 3
♣ A 8 3 2
♠ K 8 4 2
♥ A T 8 5 2
♦ K 5
♣ J 6
♠ J T 9 7 5
♥ Q 9 7 6
♦ J 6 2
♣ T
♠ A
♥ K 3
♦ A T 9 8
♣ K Q 9 7 5 4

Anna opened the big South hand 1♣, which West overcalled 1♠. Why West overcalled 1♠ I have no idea. I had the decent looking North hand, and settled for a modest 2♣, prepared to bid 3♣ later if I had too. East raised to 2♠ and Anna had a rebid problem. With four losers and a ten card Club fit, she went for 5♣, which looks fine to me. Afterwards she suggested she could have bid 3♦ instead, which would probably have got us to a rather dodgy 3NT (which does make - eight tricks on top, extra tricks in Diamonds, and opponents can't attack Hearts or Spades without giving you tricks).

5♣ potentially has four losers - two in Hearts and two in Diamonds, if you are very unlucky. West lead the ♥A, which limited us to one Heart loser straight away. So Anna drew trumps then got ready to play Diamonds. The normal way to play the suit is to finesse twice, but since West doubled there's an arguement for playing him for holding ♦K and ♦J and leading up to dummy's Queen. Anna went for the standard double finesse, leading the ♦Q from dummy, which worked nicely. When West won his ♦K he made it easy for Anna by returning a Diamond, for 5♣x=.

Perhaps West played that second round of Diamonds as he was reluctant to lead a Heart and give a ruff and discard, or a Spade away from the King (although actually on this layout that is safe). Declarer could try and make it harder for the defence, by eliminating the other suits before tackling Diamonds. You could just cash the ♠A, or better eliminate all the Spades. Then, even when West has ♦KJx, once he wins his ♦K he might be forced to returning Diamonds as he knows the other suits will give a ruff and discard. In fact, with four Diamonds in each hand, you don't gain anything by a ruff and discard, but the defence don't know that.

This would be the position after Spades are eliminated, with dummy on lead about to run the ♦Q.

All vul
N deal
♠ -
♥ -
♦ Q 7 4 3
♣ 8 3
♠ K
♥ T 8 5
♦ K 5
♣ -
♠ J
♥ Q 9
♦ J 6 2
♣ -
♠ -
♥ -
♦ A T 9 8
♣ Q 9

After that third doubled hand in a row, things settled down slightly. I made a poor 1NT, Anna squeeked home in 3NT, then made another 5♣. Then she lost her connection, was replaced by a Sub, and had to sit and watch this extraordinary auction.

EW vul
S deal
♠ 8
♥ 8 5 3
♦ K T 9 8 7
♣ Q J 8 3
♠ A 5
♥ A K Q T 7
♦ J 6
♣ 7 6 5 4
♠ K Q J T 9 6 4 3 2
♥ -
♦ Q
♣ A K 9
♠ 7
♥ J 9 6 4 2
♦ A 5 4 3 2
♣ T 2

East opened 1♥, West replied a simple 1♠, and East rebid 2♥. Now West made up the forcing bid of 3♦, which gave East a rebid problem. He found it such a big problem he decided to pass, leaving them in 3♦, a nice 2-1 fit.

Declarer has six top tricks outside trumps, and somehow, through terrible defence, made it up to eight tricks. Me and the Sub both trumped each others winners. I did it accidentally, then I think he got upset and did it on purpose, then he deliberately crashed his ♦A with my ♦K. The end result was for 3♦-1. But since everyone else was in 4♠+2; or 6♠=, we gained an undeserved 15 IMPs here.

In the end, with a lot of help from that last hand, me and Anna finished 67th out of 370 pairs.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

System On - Defence

This is the last blog entry in a series describing the basic Acol system that me and Anna play in Glasgow. Hope you're reading this Anna.


This is pretty standard.

  • Reverse attitude on partner's lead.
  • Standard count on declarer's lead.
  • McKenny discards.

Defence to Multi 2♦

Our defence to 2♦ is a bit controversial, as we tried something else and Anna didn't like it so we've switched. This is what we've agreed on now.

  • Double shows a weak NT, or 18+.
  • Overcalls are natural two level overcalls.
  • Once they've bid a suit doubles are takeout.

Defence to Short 1♣

Just ignore it and treat it like a normal 1♣.

Defence to Lucas Twos

Pretend it's a normal Weak Two opening (2NT overcall is 15-19 with a stop, etc.)

To finish, here's a picture of a horse stuck in a fence:

System on - 1NT/2NT

This is my latest blog entry in a series describing the basic Acol system that me and Anna play in Glasgow. Hope you're reading this Anna.

I've already mentioned that we can open a Weak 1NT with a good 5 card major, and only open 5422 if both doubletons are good.

Responses to 1NT opening

These apply equally for a 1NT opening and a 1NT overcall.

These are the continuations with Stayman. There's a subtle little twist here.

  • Bidding 2♣ then correcting 2♦ to 2♥/2♠ shows a weak hand 5-4 in the Majors.
  • Suppose you bid 2♣ and get a 2♥ reply. 2♠ is totally artificial and agrees Hearts as trumps. 3♣/3♦ show at least a 5 card minor and implies four Spades.
  • The above also applies if partner replies 2♠; 3♥ sets Spades as trumps.
  • After a positive reply to Stayman 4NT is quantitative, if you want to bid Blackwood you need to set trumps first by bidding the other Major.

For Transfers:

  • Making a transfer then bidding the other Major shows a game forcing hand 5-4 in the Majors.
  • Making a transfer then bidding 3♣/3♦ shows a game forcing hand with 5 in Major and at least 4 in minor, 5431 shape or better.
  • Opener can jump accept with any 4 card support, he breaks the transfer with a good hand with 4 card support.
  • After a transfer, 4NT is quantitative. If you want to bid Blackwood, then start with a 3 level response.

The other possible responses to 1NT:

  • 3 of any suit is a slam try in that suit, showing a good six card suit. If the bid is 3♣/3♦ opener bids 3M if they have a 5 card major. Otherwise, opener bids 3NT with a weak doubleton in responders suit, and cuebids with anything else.
  • 4♣ is natural (not Gerber). We never bid this though.

Checkback Stayman

We rebid 1NT with 15-17, and 2NT with 18-19.

  • If you've got the right strength then prioritise rebidding NT over showing a 4 card Major.
  • If you have 18-19 then the usual rebid is 2NT; 3NT is only used if you are very flat (4-3-3-3).

Responder can show a 5-5 hand with a jump after a 1NT rebid, or a weak six carder by rebidding his suit.

2NT responses

2NT opening shows 20-22. Opening 2♣ then rebidding 2NT shows 23-24. As far as possible, the responses are the same as over 1NT. One difference though

  • If you bid Stayman and then correct 3♦ to 3♠, as before this shows 5 Spades and 4 Hearts. But it's no longer a weak hand, just giving a choice of games.

The reason for doing that is to stop you going beyond 3NT.

They interfere with our 1NT

After a double we play Helvic. After any artificial interference (e.g. 2♣ showing Majors) our double shows that suit (e.g. Clubs). Over a natural interference, such as 2♥ showing Hearts and a minor, we play naturally:

  • Double is penalties.
  • 2♠ (any bid at the 2 level) is weak and natural.
  • 2NT is natural.
  • 3 level bids are strong and forcing, e.g. 3♣ or 3♠.
  • A cuebid is Stayman, such as 3♥ here, which asks partner if they have Four Spades.

Our defence to their 1NT

We play competitive doubles, see here. A double of a 1NT opening shows 14+ and balanced. These other bids are about 9-13:

  • 2♣ - 54 or better in Majors (depends on vulnerability). Partner bids 2♦ to ask for the better Major, or if he has a strong hand and will invite game next time.
  • 2♦ - six card Major.
  • 2♥/2♠ - 5 of the Major and at least a 4 card minor. Partner bids 2NT to ask for the minor.
  • 2NT - minors

3 level overcalls don't happen much but would be some sort of very shapely hand.

To finish, a jumping horse.

System On - Conventions

This is the next instalment in my effort to document all of the basic Acol system me and Anna play.

Jacoby 2NT

After an opening bid of 1♥/1♠, partner bids 2NT with a game forcing raise.

  • After a double, 2NT is still a good raise, but is only invitational.
  • After an overcall, 2NT is natural. Use a cue bid for an invitational (or better) raise.
  • After a 1♣/1♦ opening, 2NT is natural.
Opener then rebids as follows, supposing the suit is Hearts:
  • 3♥, 3NT, 4♥ show balanced hands with 5,6 or 7 losers respectively.
  • Suits at the three level show a good second suit, with 6 or fewer losers.
  • Suits at the four level show are splinters, with 6 or fewer losers.
If you have a second suit and a singleton, then show the second suit first. Not sure there's anything else to say about that.


We play 1430 Blackwood. After 4NT and the reply:

  • Cheapest bid is Queen ask. Reply with next available bid for no Queen, else show cheapest King, or just bid 6 trumps with no extra Kings.
  • 5NT asks for specific Kings.
If you happen to have a useful void (not one in partner's suit), there are special responses to 4NT:
  • 5NT with even number of keycards.
  • 6 of the void suit with odd number of keycards, or 6 trumps if the void is above the trump suit.

The way to remember this, which sounds odd but appeals to me, is that NT is even.

We also play Exclusion Blackwood, which is a jump to the 5 level, but not in a suit that partner has bid naturally.

Finally if the opponents double or interfere after 4NT, we play 1430 as follows:

  • Pass is 1 or 4, double/redouble is 0 or 3, next step is 2 without queen, next step after that 2 with queen.

Five level Bids

Think I've written this about five times, but it's never come up so I'm still a bit nervous about it:

  • 5M - Asking for control in the opponent's suit, or the unbid suit. If that's not possible, 5M asks for good trumps in context.
  • 5NT - pick a slam.

Michaels / Unusual 2NT

This should be fairly straightforward.

  • Michaels or Unusual 2NT show two non-specific suits, and are either weak or strong. If you have a medium hand with two five card suits, then you bid twice if you can.
  • In the pass out seat you only bid Michaels/Unusual 2NT with the strong version.

If there's two possible cuebids to make, as the opponents have bid two suits, then what do we do?

Fourth Suit Forcing

This is forcing to game, except at the one level (1♣-1♦; 1♥-1♠) where it is just natural. At the two level FSF asks for shape, at the three level it specifically asks for a stopper for NT.

Fit Jumps

I like fit jumps. These are the occasions we play fit jumps:

  • If responder is a passed hand, then make a jump shift. For example 1♦-2♠. This shows at least four Diamonds and at least 5 Spades.
  • In response to an overcall. Again this shows you have an eight card fit with opener, and shows a good five card side suit.
  • In response to a weak two?

Big Hands

Just squeezing this note in here.

  • Overcalls are up to 15 points.
  • Double then bidding a suit shows 16-18.
  • Doubling then bidding opener's suit shows 19+

To finish, a sketch of a horse (not by me!)

Monday, 17 June 2013

System On - Openings

This is the start of an attempt to document all of the basic Acol bidding system that me and Anna play together in Glasgow. This is in preparation for the Peebles Summer Congress that we are about to play. Hopefully it will be more detailed than a convention card. My previous experience of doing this is when me and Ted documented the entire Polish Club system. You can see it here.

In general we play weak NT and four card majors, with three weak twos.

One level openings

  • Always open the lower of four card suits (Swiss style).

We respond 2/1 with 10+ points, maybe 9 if you have three card support for partner. Jump responses show a really good suit and 16+ points, but don't set trumps.

If opener has a 6-5 hand he can open then make an unnecessary reverse, e.g. opening 1♣ then rebidding 2♠ over partners 1♥.

4-4-4-1 hands

  • With a singleton Club/Diamond and a weak hand ... make something up!
  • With a singleton Club/Diamond and a strong hand open 1♣/1♦, planning to rebid in NT.
  • With a singleton Heart/Spade open 1♦, then rebid 2♣ or reverse if strong enough.


  • 12-14 and balanced.
  • With 5-4-2-2 shape, open 1NT if the doubletons are both Qx or better.
  • With a five card major, open 1M if the major is good enough to rebid, e.g. KQJxx.

Responses are Stayman and transfers. Three level bids are slam invitational in that suit. 4♣ is Gerber, other 4 level bids aren't defined. We escape 1NTx with Helvic, which Anna never forgets but I do.

If the opponents interfere naturally double is penalties, other bids natural (2 level weak, 3 level strong), and a cuebid is Stayman. If the opponents interfere artificially then double shows that suit, otherwise it's all the same.


  • 23+ or eight tricks.
  • Should have some defence - don't open 2♣ if you wouldn't be happy defending the opponents if they get to a doubled slam.

A 2♦ response shows 5+ (or an Ace). 2♥ is a double negative. Any other reply needs a good six cards suit (headed by two of top three honours) and an outside Ace or King.

Weak twos

  • Always 6 cards
  • 5-10 points and suit quality of QTxxxx or better
  • Strength can dip slightly at right position/vulnerability.

You can open with a side four card Major if it's very weak, or partner has already passed.

Any new suit responses are forcing, for at least one round. A 2NT reply is Ogust.


  • 20-22 points.
  • May contain a singleton honour, and may contain a good five major.

Normal Stayman and transfers. 3♠ is minor-suit Stayman. 4♣ is Gerber.

Weak threes

  • Normally seven cards, could be six in Clubs.

Like with Weak Twos, new suit responses are forcing. If the preempt is 3♣/3♦ then after 3 of a major opener can raise with 3 cards, or bid 3NT with two card support.


  • Gambling. A seven or eight card minor headed by AKQ, and no outside Queen (not sure Anna likes this!).

4♣ is pass or correct. 4♦ asks for a singleton. 4♥/4♠ is to play. 4NT is an invitation to slam, which opener accepts with an eight card suit.

Quick Quiz

All right here we go. What would you open on each of these? I've put the HCP in brackets. Hopefully, Anna will agree with me on all of this. In fact, I'd take 8/10.

1. ♠A ♥KQ43 ♦A876 ♣AJT4 (18) 1♣
2. ♠KJT5 ♥AQJ4 ♦KQ64 ♣A (20) 2NT
3. ♠J4 ♥AKQ7652 ♦42 ♣J4 (11) 1♥
4. ♠AKJT4 ♥A65 ♦AK432 ♣- (19) 2♣
5. ♠74 ♥J ♦QJT4 ♣QJT732 (7) 3♣
6. ♠AJT96 ♥82 ♦KT9 ♣A54 (12) 1♠
7. ♠QT43 ♥QJ532 ♦AK ♣J9 (13) 1♥?
8. ♠8543 ♥KT7632 ♦Q2 ♣Q (7) 2♥
9. ♠AQJT8 ♥973 ♦AKQ ♣AQ (22) 2NT
10. ♠KQT4 ♥AJ9 ♦KJ ♣J532 (15) 1♣

Highlight the whole table and you'll see my suggestions.

To finish this first instalment, here's a picture of a horse, a "creature of beauty".

Friday, 14 June 2013

Competitive Double of 1NT

One of the talks at the GBC, from John Matheson, was about doubling 1NT with any 14+ hand. I liked the idea so much we decided to adopt the convention. This is partly in preparation for the Peebles Summer Congress, which we're greatly looking forward to. Although we don't want to make things more complicated for ourselves, I think it might actually make things simpler for us to adopt a convention like this, because then we'll know exactly what we play. That's what I've told Anna anyway.

So here it is. For the doubler:

  • You double a weak NT with any 14+, and a balanced hand (at least two cards in each suit).
  • Either partner can make this double - it shows the same strength in immediate seat or pass out seat.
  • If you're not balanced, you can still double if you have 17+.

For responder:

  • With 0-6 bid a 5 card suit if you've got one, else pass.
  • If the opponents bid again your double is takeout.
  • If the opponents bid again, you can still bid if you have a good 5 card suit and 5-8 points. With a stronger hand just bid naturally. With a hand that wants to penalise, pass and hope partner doubles again.

Because the competitive double is primarily takeout, further doubles are also takeout, by either partner. This is true up until the third double by our side, which is always penalties. I like that as a general rule.

Here's some examples, which I hope cover all the main situations. I've just shown the West and East cards. In all the examples South opens 1NT, and West doubles.

Example 1. We double them and they end up playing 1NTx. In this example responder is very happy to pass the double, as he has 7 points, so added to his partner's 14+ has the majority.

♠ K 6 2
♥ A J T 6
♦ Q T 7
♣ A T 8
♠ Q J T 5
♥ 9 5
♦ 9 8 3
♣ K J 6 4

1: 14+ balanced
2: Any 7+

Example 2. We double them and end up playing a suit contract. Here the responder is too weak to pass the double, but has a five card suit to escape into. He knows his partner has at least two of each suit.

♠ K 6 2
♥ A J T 6
♦ Q T 7
♣ A T 8
♠ J T 5
♥ 9 5 3
♦ 8 3
♣ K J 6 4 3

1: 14+ balanced
2: 0-6 with a five card suit

Example 3. We double them and end up in big trouble. The responder is too weak to pass, but has no five card suit to escape into so must pass anyway. On the upside sometimes the doubler will have a lot more than just a bare 14 points, so it might work out okay.

♠ K 6 2
♥ A J T 6
♦ Q T 7
♣ A T 8
♠ J T 5 3
♥ 9 7 5
♦ 8 3
♣ J 6 4 3

1: 14+ balanced
2: 0-6 without a five card suit

Example 4. We double them, they bid and we overcall. Here responder has a good five card suit, and enough points to play a contract at the two level.

♠ K 6 2
♥ A J T 6
♦ Q T 7
♣ A T 8
♠ A Q 8 6 4
♥ 7 3
♦ 8 5 3
♣ J 5 4

1: 14+ balanced
2: 5-8 and a five card suit.

Example 5. We double them, they bid and we double for takeout. Here responder has a decent hand and is short in the opponent's suit, so doubles. If opener had lots of Clubs himself, he could pass the double, but here bids his four card suit. Responder then bids game.

♠ K 6 2
♥ A J T 6
♦ Q T 7
♣ A T 8
♠ A 9 8 3
♥ K 7 5 3
♦ K 8 3
♣ J 2

1: 14+ balanced
2: Takeout
3: Natural

Example 6. We double them, they bid and we double again. If responder wants to penalise, he can't double straight away as that's penalties. Instead, he has to pass, and wait for partner to reopen. Responder knows opener has at least two Clubs, so is happy to penalise 2♣x here.

♠ K 6 2
♥ A J T 6
♦ Q J T 7
♣ A 3
♠ 6 3
♥ 5 3
♦ A 5 4
♣ Q J 9 2

1: 14+ balanced
2: Double would be takeout, so has to pass.
3: Doubles for takeout.
4: Passes.

Example 7. Doubling them three times. As before the opponents run to 2♣, East passes for penalties and West doubles for takeout. This time when East passes South runs to 2♥. West now doubles again, and as it's the third double by our side, it's got to be penalties.

♠ K 6 2
♥ A J T 6
♦ Q J T 7
♣ A 3
♠ 6 3
♥ 5 3
♦ A 5 4
♣ Q J 9 2

1: 14+ balanced
2: Double would be takeout, so has to pass.
3: Doubles for takeout.
4: Passes for penalty.
5: Penalties.

Example 8. Getting to game. After West doubles East has an unbalanced hand and enough for game, and just bids it. He knows his partner has 14+ and at least two Spades.

♠ K 6
♥ A J T 6
♦ Q J T 7
♣ A 3 2
♠ A J T 8 7 3
♥ 5 3
♦ A 5 4 2
♣ 7

1: 14+ balanced

After speaking to Mr Matheson himself, I have two more examples. These show how responder should bid if he has a good hand, but doesn't want to make a penalty double or bid an immediate game. He begins with a takeout double, then bids again.

Example 9. Responder has a good hand, and doubles to look for a fit. With lots of Clubs opener could pass this, but instead bids his four card Hearts. Responder now bids 2♠. This must how five and be forcing, to game, as with a weaker hand he would have bid an immediate 2♠. The partnership should now reach 4♠.

♠ K 6 2
♥ A J T 6
♦ Q T 7
♣ A T 8
♠ A Q 8 6 4
♥ 7 3
♦ A J 9 2
♣ 8 6

1: 14+ balanced
2: Takeout.
3: Natural, game forcing.

Example 10. Responder has a good hand, but no clear direction. After an initial double he bids 3♣, the opponent's suit. This must be a general cuebid, because if responder had four Clubs he would have passed the first time to try and penalise 2♣x. Here, opener will rebid 3NT. On other hands he might rebid a five card major or suggest a minor game.

♠ K 6 2
♥ A J T 6
♦ Q T 7
♣ A T 8
♠ A J T 2
♥ K 7 3
♦ K J 3
♣ 9 6 3

1: 14+ balanced
2: Takeout.
3: General cue bid, asking opener to bid again.

That's all the examples. Me and Anna had a few hands practising this on Bridge Base, in the partnership bidding room. I'd set it up so an imaginary opponent opened 1NT, and the next hand had 14+. Unfortunately we didn't get much good practice, as for some reason we ended up with about 30 points between us, so every time we ended up defending 1NTx.

For slightly more detail, I've also scanned in John's notes from the day. The first page is general notes, the second page some example West-East hands, like my ones above. Click on a page then zoom in to read it.

Finally, I know that you don't need to alert the competitive double, as you don't need to alert any doubles in Scotland. Maybe you need to pre-alert it though? (John Faben will know).

Support Doubles

Me and Anna were playing on Bridge Base the other night, in the Acol Club. During the hand below something occurred to me. I was going to point it out at the time, but Anna doesn't like to chat during the play. So I've saved it until now.

Have a look at the auction. I'm sitting West, and Anna is East.

NS vul
W deal
♠ 9 8 7 5 2
♥ A 5 2
♦ A J 2
♣ 8 2
♠ 3
♥ Q 9 3
♦ K T 9 6 4
♣ A Q 6 3
♠ K T
♥ T 8 7 6 4
♦ Q 5 3
♣ K T 7
♠ A Q J 6 4
♥ K J
♦ 8 7
♣ J 9 5 4

I've got the 11 point West hand. It's an easy 1♦ opener, because I have a nice 2♣ rebid. Over my 1♦ Anna replies 1♥, and South comes in with 1♠. Now it's decision time. I've got good three card support in Hearts, and a singleton, so my hand should be an excellent dummy in a Heart contract. But the problem is, I've only got three Hearts. With four of them I'd bid, but what can I do with three? If I don't show support now, I'll likely not get another chance. Could I risk raising with three? Not really. Instead, I showed my 5-4 shape with a bid of 2♣ (pass was another option).

North advanced his partner to 3♠. As Anna said afterwards, for us that hand is a clear raise to four. "Immediate 4♠". The 3♠ bid was passed round to me, and I had another decision. I reluctantly passed, but still felt a bit anxious about my three card Heart support, as we might have missed game.

What convention will let me show my three card support, and put my mind at ease? Support Doubles! On my second turn I could have doubled (instead of 2♣), to show exactly three card support.

Here's how I think Support Doubles work:

  • Suppose we open and respond, and the opponents overcall (or double) at the 1 or 2 level.
  • Then opener can double (or redouble) to show exactly three card support.

For example, out auction could have gone:

1: Exactly three Hearts.

An extra advantage of playing Support Doubles (and redoubles) are that if opener fails to make the bid, the responder knows he doesn't have three card support. And also, what else are you going to use the double for?

A final note - on this particular hand, I'm not sure the support double would have helped much, as if we get to 4♥ then the opponents bid 4♠ and make it.

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Grand Slam USA

This is about the USA team selection for the 2013 Bermuda Bowl. The USA are allowed two teams. In order to choose USA1, there is a massive knock out teams tournament, happening right now. If you lose, at any point, you drop into the draw at an appropriate point to compete for the chance to be USA2.

I've been watching some of the matches on BBO. My favourite player is Zia Mahmood, so I follow his Fleisher team. On the deal below it looked like he had nothing much to do, but he still made a crucial difference (which I'll mention at the end).

The matches are over 120 Boards. This must have been the most important one in Fleisher's quarter-final. Here's the hand and auction, provided in the daily bulletin (click on it to enlarge, or open it in a new tab):

You can see that on the 1st table the Fleisher team, sitting East-West, are playing 7♦. This needs the Diamonds to come home, which they do unless it's a 3-0 split. Although it feels more natural to cash the ♦K first then lead to the ♦AJ it could work just as well cashing the ♦A first, so it's a complete guess. When South lead the ♣Q, declarer did guess correctly to start with ♦K, and then finessed North to claim all 13 tricks.

At the 2nd table the contract was 7NT. I think West bid it because he knew with his Heart suit there could be a chance for 13 tricks even if Diamonds split badly. As it happens, declarer did get Diamonds wrong. There was indeed still a chance for 13 tricks, if he got Hearts right (played for the drop) and then squeezed North in Diamonds and Spades. This is the advantage of being in 7NT, a second chance to make the contract. However, the disadvantage of being in 7NT is that if you go wrong you go lots down. Declarer, seeing that South was void in Diamonds finessed the ♥J and went six off.

Here's what the daily bulletin said:

Fleisher went on to win the match, and set up a semi-final against the Spector team.

A final note - the Daily Bulletin was slightly wrong. I know this as I watched the hand live. On the second table, against 7NT, Zia was on lead. He didn't lead the ♣Q, which would give away that he had long Clubs, but instead made the strange looking lead of the ♣T. This seems harmless, but maybe lead declarer to think that South had short Clubs, leading him to guess to play South for the long Diamonds and go down.

Monday, 3 June 2013

Senior Moments at the GBC

In September 2013 the Bridge World Championships take place in Bali. The Scottish Seniors had a fundraiser on Saturday, £20 each for some lessons from the experts, then a 16 hand tournament.

There were about 40 people seated in front of a speaker and projector. The talks were:

Derek DiamondImportance of Agreements
Willie Coyle Transfer Responses
John 1 Double 1NT with 14+
Iain Sime Slam Bidding
John 2 Counting

In Importance of Agreements people kept asking "What should you bid here?" and he kept saying, "Bid what you like, just agree it with partner.". My notes say:

  • Raise 1♦ to 2♦ with ♠xxx ♥xxx ♦AKx ♣xxx.
  • In the auction 1♦-1♠; 2♥-3♦, is the 3♦ forcing or not? (me and Anna say no).
  • With ♠xx ♥AKQx ♦KJxxx ♣KQ open 1♦ and rebid 2NT. No need to reverse to show Hearts as we play Checkback Stayman.
  • After 1NT is overcalled with 2♠, partner can bid 2NT to ask for the minor.

In Transfer Reponses I was baffled for the first ten minutes until he gave some examples and I knew what he was talking about. Basically, after partner opens you bid one below the suit you actually have. For example, if partner opens 1♣ and you have Hearts you bid 1♦. I can definitely see the advantage of this in giving you a bit more space, but I still don't fancy it.

In Double 1NT with 14+ the speaker convinced me that you should double a weak 1NT with any hand that has 14+ and is balanced. He called this a competitive double. If partner is weak (0-6) and has a five card suit they remove the double, else they pass. If the opponents bid again the next double from either you or partner is takeout, but after that any further double is penalties. In fact, as a general rule,

  • The third double by our side is always penalties.

Me and Anna have decided to adopt this new competitive double. After all, it's what the Italians do.

We had a break now, but only one cup of tea, then two more talks. I was wilting by this point but was still very interested in Slam Bidding. This was a whistlestop tour of eight slam bidding conventions. What I took on board was:

  • After the opponents interfere with our RKCB:
    Pass = 1/4 keycards, x/xx = 0/3 keycards, next step = 2 keycards without queen, next step after that = 2 keycards with queen.
  • Minorwood means 4m is RKCB, except in competition.
  • Redwood means the suit above the agreed minor at the 4 level is RKCB, and 4NT is now a cue.
  • Kickback is like Redwood but for any suit being trumps.
  • Last Train means that when only one cue bid is available below game it's a general slam invite, e.g. in 1♥-4♣; 4♦, the 4♦ is a general slam invite, not promising a Diamond control.
  • If opponents double a cuebid, a redouble shows 1st round control (and pass is stronger than bidding).
  • If a major is agreed 3NT is a serious slam try.
  • A raise to 5M asks for control in the enemy suit or unbid suit. Replies are to bid 6M with second round control, 6 something else with first round control. If there is no enemy or unbid suit 5M asks about trump quality.

A lot of stuff there! There was a handout. Anna says she's going to read it.

The last talk was on Counting. As we were behind on time and people were getting fidgety this was abbreviated, but included some useful inferences. I remember:

  • Everyone bids Spades if they have them, so it's normally possible to work out where all the Spades are.
  • The best passive lead is a trump

I'm a doodler

After the hands we had a 16 Board tournament. The idea was that the SBU members would sit with other players, to give them a chance to play with an expert. I thought that was the whole point of the event, but Anna wasn't that keen, so we remained as a pair. Perhaps she thinks she is already playing with a super expert (ME)?

After four hours listening to Bridge Lectures we were not at our best. On our first hand (Board 13) Anna made a weak jump overcall of 2♥ with ♠- ♥QJ75432 ♦J2 ♣Q932, then once I supported came back in with 5♥ over their 4♠. This was doubled and down two. Afterwards our expert Derek pointed out that the bidding suggested the opponents had a 4-4 Spade fit, so even though Anna had a Spade void she can pass confident I have five. I did indeed have five Spades, and was itching to double 4♠. The reason I'm mentioning this is because a similar situation came up later, and this time were were able to make a crushing penalty double of our opponents, getting them three off in 2♠x-3 on Board 12.

Towards the end things picked up, and we had a few very good results, mostly through pushing the boat out and being a bit lucky. On Board 15 I could have played a comfortable 3♥ but raised to 4♥. Although this made exactly there was no point bidding it really, I'd have got almost as good a score for 3♥+1 with none of the risk.

My featured hand is one where we defended extremely frugally to take down Scottih Senior John 1.

EW vul
S deal
♠ T 9
♥ A T 8 6 4
♦ 7
♣ Q J T 8 3
♠ J 7 5 2
♥ 3
♦ A J 9 5 3
♣ A 4 2
♠ Q 6
♥ K Q J 7 5
♦ 6 4 2
♣ 7 6 5
♠ A K 8 4 3
♥ 9 2
♦ K Q T 8
♣ K 9

John1 opened 1♠ and his partner replied 1NT. He rebid 2♦, and partner corrected to 2♠, the final contract. Thus South is known to have at least 5-4 shape in Spades and Diamonds.

I was West, and chose the ♥3 as the opening lead. Even though I've got four trumps, so a ruff doesn't necessarily help, I like leading singletons and I've nothing else to lead. Declarer won this with the Ace (preventing an immediate Heart ruff), and played a Diamond to the King and my Ace. Now that dummy is void in Diamonds I switched to a low Spade. This might cost a trick leading from my ♠J, but I was relieved when Anna played the ♠Q and declarer the ♠A. Declarer now took his Diamond ruff, and played a Club up from dummy. Anna played the ♣5, showing odd count, so after a lot of thinking to check I'd got it right, I let the ♣K win. Declarer now exited with a Heart, which I could have ruffed but instead let it run round to Anna, who won. She returned a Diamond, which declarer won in hand.

The situation is now as below, with declarer in hand having won five tricks so far, and us two. I'm definitely getting my ♦J, ♣A and a trump, and need to get another trump to take it down. As you can see, I'm always getting two trumps, but at the time I didn't know who had the ♠6, and was worried about getting endplayed.

♥ 8 6
♣ Q J T
♠ J 7 5
♦ J
♣ A 4
♠ 6
♥ Q J 7
♣ 7 6
♠ K 8 4 3
♦ T
♣ 9

Declarer led a Club from hand. I won my Ace, cashed the ♦J. I was now planning to exit with a Club, leaving me with three trumps remaining. I'd then be forced to win the 11th trick (the one you don't want to win, with three cards left), and end up giving declarer the last two. But what's this? Anna ruffed my winning ♦J, and led through a winning Heart. Now when declarer ruffed high I was guaranteed to get my two trump tricks, so we took it one off. This was the optimal defence, but on the actual layout wasn't necessary.

It was a good board for us, and I remember on the traveller someone else had made nine tricks in 4♠-1 (bad bidding, good play).

Overall we finished on 58%, which was surprisingly joint second and one Matchpoint behind first.

Here's a link to the speaker's notes: Competition Transfer Responses.

Sunday, 2 June 2013

Good try, bad result

Here's a hand from the Matchpoint Pairs at St. Andrews on a Wednesday night. Me and Anna were playing Reverse Benji, and having an average evening, when along came this opportunity to shine.

North is dealer, and no one is vulnerable. Here's our auction.

♠ T 6
♥ J T 6 5
♦ T 7
♣ A K 8 6 3
♠ A K Q J 9 4 2
♥ A Q 7
♦ 2
♣ Q J

1: 23+ or any game forcing
2: Weak or waiting
3: Single suited with Spades
4: Cue bids agreeing Spades
5: RKCB 1430
6: 0 or 3 keycards
7: Do you have ♠Q?
8: Yes, but no outside Kings

Anna had the mighty South hand. You could argue for opening 1♠, 4♠ (she was fourth in hand), 2♣, or a Benji 2♦. With four losers and eight tricks Anna went for 2♣. I think this is right, as you can make game opposite almost nothing in partner's hand. I was sitting North, and have a decent hand opposite a 2♣ opener. I was tempted to reply 3♣, showing my good suit, but me and Anna play that a positive reply needs a good suit and a bit more overall strength. So I just bid 2♦, which allowed Anna to show her single suited hand with a jump to 3♠. There's just a chance we still belong in Hearts, but the advantage of bidding 3♠ is that it clearly sets trumps. I cuebid 4♣, Anna cuebid her Diamond control with 4♦, and now I had a dilemma.

If I bid 4♠, as I ought to do, denying a Heart control, I'm worried that Anna might then pass, not realising how good my Clubs are. But if I bid on past 4♠, maybe we'll be in a slam missing ♥AK. I decide to gamble on the high road, guessing that for her 2♣ opening Anna has something in Hearts, and bid 4NT. Anna shows 3 keycards. These are presumably ♠AK and one other Ace. If Anna's Spades are ♠AKxxxxx I don't want to end up in a 7-2 fit missing the Queen, so I ask for the Queen and we end in 6♠.

As you can see, it's an excellent contract. There are seven top Spades, ♥A, and four Club tricks, though they are blocked. My ♠T could provide a possible entry though, and there's also the Heart finesse to fall back on. West leads the ♦A, and the ♦K, ruffed. What do you do now?

Scroll down for the full deal.

No vul
W deal
♠ T 6
♥ J T 6 5
♦ T 7
♣ A K 8 6 3
♠ 7
♥ K 9 3 2
♦ A K 6 4
♣ T 9 7 2
♠ 8 5 3
♥ 8 4
♦ Q J 9 8 5 3
♣ 5 4
♠ A K Q J 9 4 2
♥ A Q 7
♦ 2
♣ Q J

Unfortunately, everything is wrong. The Clubs are not 3-3, the Spades are not 2-2, and the Heart finesse is offside.

Here's what happened at the table. Anna cashed one round of trumps, unblocked the ♣QJ, then played a Spade over to the ♠T. If trumps were 2-2 she'd be home now, as all of dummy's Clubs would be good. But when West showed out on the second trump she had a problem. She was in dummy, but couldn't cash the Clubs as there was still a trump outstanding. She played for the defender with the long trumps (East) having four Clubs, and lead the ♣A. This is risky, as if it doesn't work East can ruff one of the Clubs leaving you trapped in hand. East failed to ruff the ♣A, but certainly would have ruffed the ♣K, so Anna switched tacks and tried the Heart finesse. This lost, leading to one down.

Anna's line basically works if trumps are 2-2 or the Heart finesse works, making it about 75%.

The alternative line is to draw trumps, then play on Clubs. This makes if Clubs are 3-3 (overtaking in dummy), or the Heart finesse works. This sounds like it's a bit worse, but actually, if you play all seven rounds of trumps, you get an extra chance. After the first Diamond trick is lost and seven Spades follow, there are only five cards left. Which five cards can West keep? He either has to throw away a Club, which is fatal, or go down to bare ♥K, which is fatal if declarer spots what's going on. This squeeze works any time the defender with the ♥K also has the long Clubs (be it four, five, or even all six Clubs). West's best chance is to keep his Clubs and go down to just ♥K, after which declarer may still finesse Hearts as they can't know it's now a singleton King. But in reality West may well throw away a Club. This means that running all the trumps will often work better, and indeed on this deal it's the only way to make the slam.

All the other tables played in 4♠ or 5♠, usually making 11 tricks and once 12. 6♠-1 was a bottom. See the travellers for Board 8 here (but ignore the associated deal, which is displayed wrong on the website).

In the end we finished the night on just above 50%, which because of a few very high scoring pairs was enough for 5th place.