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Both vul, at IMPs, you hold as south: ♠A85 KJ AJ108 ♣AK64


W      N       E       S

P       P       1     Dbl

P       1♠      P       ?


What do you bid?

There were a number of hands that all three pairs could have done better on, to win our semi-final match versus Miles, which we lost by 6 IMPs, and possibly be representing Canada at the Bermuda Bowl, and not Miles.


However this was the last one, and our final undoing. Actually we were leading by 4 IMPs or so, when this penultimate hand was ‘dealt’.


North promises about 0-7 HCPs for his 1♠ bid. There are four reasonable choices two conservative and two aggressive:


1.     1NT – 19-20 HCPs.

2.     2 and pass 2♠.

3.     2NT – 21-24 HCPs

4.     2, and then bid 3♠ over 2♠.


As you have 20 HCPs so you must take another call. Actually, despite a likely wasted J, this hand is MUCH better than its count.


Why?  First, you know where almost all of the high card points are located. Secondly, and more important they are all onside on your right. While entries will be limited in the North hand, the same is true about West. The 3rd ‘plus’ feature about this hand is your AJ108 suit. The 108 adds a lot to the suit that might have been AJ32.


So not only should you bid again, I am strongly suggesting that you should be aggressive. But is it #3 or #4? The answer can be found in previous columns, and is focused on the heart stopper. You know a heart will be led knocking out your only stopper. Unless you can run 9 tricks you are down in 3NT. Although partner may have only a four card suit spade, suit, #4 is the right approach.


Where one of our pairs were N-S, South rebid 1NT and played it there, making overtricks. The other South bid 2, and partner bid 3♠. South raised to four, made five easily, and caused me to abuse my body that night at the bar across the street. The full deal (hands rotated):




♠ Q 9 7 6 4
♥ 8 7 6
♦ Q 6 5
♣ 5 2

♠ J 10 3 2
♥ 9 4
♦ 9 3 2
♣ Q J 8 3

Bridge deal

♠ K
♥ A Q 10 5 3 2
♦ K 7 4
♣ 10 9 7


♠ A 8 5
♥ K J
♦ A J 10 8
♣ A K 6 4




Lessons to Learn



1)    With only one stopper tend to double (thus trying to get to a suit contract instead of notrump) versus overcalling 1NT with the right point count.


2)    Although to be avoided, 3NT can still be investigated by asking partner for a stopper, so that you know your side has two of them.


3)    Evaluating hands is an art. Always consider who has the points, and internal solidity. Another factor, but not always reliable, is how good are  the opponents are at defending?


4)    Although easier to be aggressive vul. at teams (payoffs are greater), don’t stop playing bridge!




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Neither vul, at IMPs, you hold as south: ♠J6 1097632 ♦53 ♣J106


W      N       E       S

-        -        P       P

1     Dbl    P       ?



What do you bid?

First of all, Happy belated Canada Day! Second of all, yuck!! LHO has bid your six card suit. You have no suit to bid. So that leaves no good choices, and three lousy ones:


1.     1NT  You do have a stopper, but not the 8-10 HCPs advertised.

2.     2♣     You have good clubs, albeit 3 of them, and two ruffing values.

3.     Pass  This could make (-180) or with overtricks (-280, -380, etc…).


Which is best?


There is an answer. I actually think it is a good one. The best bid is to pass. Yes, they may make. But the plus reasons are complelling:


Partner’s points are behind declarers.

You won’t get too high.


This 2nd point is a real possibility if you do anything but pass. RHO has passed originally, and had nothing to say the second time around. Definitely less than 10 HCPS, as no redouble. North and/or West have good hands. If it is partner he may bid more, a lot more.


I passed in Montreal. Here is the full deal (hands rotated):




♠ K 9 5 2
♥ -
♦ A K Q 2
♣ A K 7 5 2

♠ A Q 10 3
♥ K Q J 5 4
♦ 9 6 4
♣ 9

Bridge deal

♠ 8 7 4
♥ A 8
♦ J 10 8 7
♣ Q 8 4 3


♠ J 5
♥ 10 9 7 6 3 2
♦ 5 3
♣ J 10 6




In the CNTC Round Robin we beat 1♥ one for +100 and a useful swing when the N-S pair at the other table bid too much. My partner would likely have bid 5♣ had I bid 2♣, which gets, doubled down at least two for -300.



Lessons to Learn



1)    When deciding whether to bid over a takeout double with weakness and no suit, remember partner may be bidding (a lot) more, getting you too high.


2)    With the opponents high cards favourably placed as here, it helps on defence but not much on offence as there are usually no entries in the weak hand.



COMING SOON:On Sept 1st I shift focus to columns that will help newer players.


Questions or comments may be sent to me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.






N-S vul, at IMPs, you hold as south: ♠A J5432 AKQ76 ♣A7


W      N       E       S

-        P       P       1♥

P       2NT1 P       ?


1A heart raise that upgraded North’s hand to an opener.


What do you bid?

This is the 1st in a series of articles on the Canadian Bridge Championships that was held two weeks ago in Montreal. After this I will change the focus, to  a series of columns for intermediate players.



At the other table the South bid diamonds, then key-carded and had to guess how high to bid.


At this table our own Doug Fisher found the winning call, 5. This bid says, “I have a hand good enough for slam, but my hearts are weak. Bob Todd had an easy 6 bid, making easily. The full deal:




♠ K 10 4 2
♥ A Q 10 8 6
♦ 10 2
♣ J 8

♠ J 8 7 6 3
♥ 9
♦ J 3
♣ K 9 6 4 3

Bridge deal

♥ K J 8 5
♦ 8 7 3
♣ A K J 8


♠ A
♥ J 5 4 3 2
♦ A K Q 7 6
♣ A 7





Lessons to Learn



1)    When deciding what to bid you sometimes need a strategy. In order to determine the strategy you need to ask yourself,


·        ‘What do I need to know in order to (eventually) set the contract?’


And then ask ,


·        ‘How can I elicit partner’s help to get this information?’


2)    Without opposition bidding a jump or raise to 5 of the trump suit asks for good trumps. However the meaning changes, if the opponents bid exactly one suit, to ‘Bid slam if you have 1st or 2nd round control of their suit.



NEXT PROBLEMS:For the near future all bidding problems will come from the recent Canadian Bridge Championships.


Questions or comments may be sent to me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.






E-W vul, at IMPs, you hold as south: ♠Q542 AK107 4 ♣J1076


W      N       E       S

-        -        -        1♣

1      3♣1    Dbl2   ?



1 5+ clubs, 5-9 HCPs

2 Responsive, usually 8+ HCPs and support for unbid suits.


What do you bid?

One of the interesting aspects of high-level team matches, experts versus experts, is that sometimes bidding is meant as constructive, sometimes meant as non-constructive and sometimes as a two-way shot. Non-constructive bidding is primarily aimed at talking the opponents out of what you think they can make. This is sometimes a part-score, often a game and occasionally a slam. As here, ‘talking the opponents out of something’ is easier to achieve when the vulnerability is favourable.


In a round-robin match at the recent CNTCs I opened 1♣ in 1st seat. Bidding is much harder when the other side opens. I was hoping to buy the hand in a 4-4 major suit fit, keeping them out of the auction. The actual bidding was both good news and bad news. On the plus side they may have a game, as I know they have 21-25 HCPs. If partner has something like ♠xx xxx xxx ♣KQxxx the opponents are likely to make 3NT or possibly 5. On the minus side, whatever contract they are in partner will be on lead.


I found a creative solution to both of these potential pitfalls, I bid 3!! This bid is ostensibly a good opener trying for game. From the opponents perspective, my having 16+ points is plausible as neither one has a well-defined idea as to their partner’s assets. I think that I can get out in 4♣, or maybe 5♣ not doubled. And in case they declare, I have almost guaranteed a heart lead.


It goes pass and partner bids 3♠! Whoops, I guess I caught him with a maximum. Oh well. Looks like my plan has back-fired. I hopefully bid 4♣, but partner promptly puts me in game. It goes all pass. I get the 3 lead. The full deal:




♠ A 3
♥ 9 6 4
♦ 10 6 3
♣ K Q 9 4 2

♠ J 9 8 6
♥ 3
♦ A Q J 8 5 2
♣ A 3

Bridge deal

♠ K 10 7
♥ Q J 8 5 2
♦ K 9 7
♣ 8 5


♠ Q 5 4 2
♥ A K 10 7
♦ 4
♣ J 10 7 6



Partner sure had his bids. I look at the lead again and realize it looks like a singleton! If so I can pick up four heart tricks, pitching a spade from dummy, making my contract if clubs are 2-2. Alas, West won the first round of clubs and underlead his diamond to get his ruff. We were -50. We won 2 IMPs as our teammates stopped in 2 making!


Although we didn’t get a big gain, we didn’t lose anything. Had East’s spades had actually been ♠AK7 instead of ♠K107 he would have had a difficult bidding decision over 4♣. Two of the three choices would result in minus scores (pass and 5♦). Either way it would be a sizeable gain for us, as with South passing initially, the opponents would have ended up to 3NT unencumbered, with 9 top tricks for the taking.


Lessons to Learn



1)    If you are vul, vs not vul opponents, pay attention to their bidding! They may try to ‘steal’ from you by bidding on less than normal values, or preempting with less length and/or poorer suit quality that normally expected!


2)    Remember that when you are ‘stepping out’ (not ‘with my baby’) partner will be fooled as well. Make sure, as here, that you can handle him being fooled.


3)    Stepping out too frequently is a bad strategy. First the opponents make start to get wise. But much worse, it may destroy partner’s confidence in your calls.


4)    Regardless of the vulnerability, always try to show your values, the earlier in the auction the better.


5)    Trust partner, not the opponents!


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N-S vul, at Matchpoints, you hold as south: ♠A1043 AQ92 A4 ♣732


W      N       E       S

-        2♠      P       ?



What do you bid?

Here is a hand type that I got wrong in the Knockouts and we got wrong in the pairs at our last Sectional. First we know partner has a good weak two – he opened in 1st seat vulnerable. Let me rephrase – he has a good suit. Looking at the ♠10 in my hand he probably has ♠KQJxxx. Why is this important to know?


The reason is that you want to know if he has any point outside of spades. Here the answer is maybe, maybe not. If the heart finesse is onside he has nine tricks. Plus if partner has three diamonds he likely has 10 tricks. For example visualize him holding ♠KQJxxx xx xxx ♣xx. Now if he holds ♠KQJxxx xx xxxx ♣x you are up to 11 tricks with the heart finesse, but North could just as easily be ♠KQJxxxx xxxx ♣xx. Ok, it looks like we want to be in game. Should we consider playing in 3NT?


The answer is affirmative. First of all no-trump scores better than a major if you make the same number of tricks. Secondly there are some hands where 3NT makes, but 4♠ does not. Here are two such examples:


·        ♠KQJxxx xx xx ♣xxx (Heart finesse is on, and clubs are 4-3, or clubs are 5-2 and they do not lead them, or block the suit.

·        ♠KQJxxx - xxx ♣xxxx on a heart lead.


Plus both contracts might make 10 (or 11) tricks. Here are examples:


·        ♠KQ9xxx xx xx ♣Axx

·        ♠KQJxxx J10x x ♣QJx


The full deal (hands rotated):




♠ K Q J 9 8 6
♥ 7 6
♦ 6 5
♣ 10 9 5

♠ 7
♥ 10 4 3
♦ K Q J 10 9 2
♣ Q 6 4

Bridge deal

♠ 5 2
♥ K J 8 5
♦ 8 7 3
♣ A K J 8


♠ A 10 4 3
♥ A Q 9 2
♦ A 4
♣ 7 3 2



The winning calls in both hands was 3NT.



Lessons to Learn



1)    When considering a bidding decision try to give partner some example holdings and see how many tricks you can make in which contracts.


2)    Although not as clear here, sometimes you can deduce that a suit is splitting evenly when the opponents have had a chance to overcall in it, but didn’t.


3)    Nine tricks are easier than ten. This is especially critical on a hand where a lot of pairs will not get to game.


4)    Even when the opponents can beat a close game, or hold the number of tricks down, the defence is not found, or is not clear from their holdings.



NEXT PROBLEMS:For the near future all bidding problems will come from the recent Canadian Bridge Championships.


Questions or comments may be sent to me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.







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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