Bridge Problems

“Gotta Start Bidding Those Grands, Pard!”

I could have titled this article “The Art of Playing a Hopeless Contract — Part 3” but I decided on the above more optimistic title.

Playing the 2nd qualifying session of the Silidor Pairs in the Spring Nationals in Philadelphia, I picked up the following hand.


My right-hand opponent opened the bidding with a pass.  Opponents are vulnerable; we are not.   What do I do with this hand?

While this hand is well short of high card points typically deemed necessary for an opening bid, it does have several attractive features — a heart suit with great intermediates; a void; and 3 possible suits to choose from.  Particularly given the favorable vulnerability, I did not hesitate to open this 1♥.

The next player passed.  My partner, Zach Brescoll, bid a semi-forcing 1NT which shows 6 to 12 high card points, and typically denies 3-card heart support.  My right-hand opponent then came in with a bid of (you guessed it) 2♠.   What would you bid if you were me now?

First-time low level doubles should almost always be deemed take-out doubles and so if I am going to bid anything, a take-out double is my best choice.  Normally, such a double should show at least a sound opening bid.  Does this hand qualify?  Probably not but given the void in the opponent’s suit, the certainty of having a fit in the minors (partner’s 1NT bid denied having 3 hearts or 4 spades, so we must have a minor suit fit), I am going to venture a bid and hope things work out okay.  So I made a take-out double.

My left-hand opponent raised to 3♠.  I will now show you Zach’s hand:


Zach then bid once more.  Can you guess Zach’s next bid?  Here are your choices:

A.  4♣               B.    4♦       C.   4NT
E.  5♣               F.    5♦        G.  5NT

If you guessed 5NT, you picked the winner!  Sudden jumps to 5NT like this are now typically played among experienced players as a so-called “pick-a-slam” bid.   It asks your partner to choose a preferred slam on the 6-level.  Whether Zach had the values to justify such an action I will leave it to you to decide — obviously, everyone at the table was shocked that a player who did not think his hand good enough for a forcing bid of some sort suddenly decided to commit the partnership to a small slam.

Having better clubs than diamonds, I bid 6♣.  I breathed a sign of relief when Zach passed.  Here are our hands and the bidding:


West, not surprisingly, led the ♠Q.  Is there play for the contract?  And if so, what is the best way to play the hand?   Click “more” to see the answer. Continue reading ““Gotta Start Bidding Those Grands, Pard!””


A Minor Suit Slam Try

How do you bid this pretty hand held by my partner, Dave Cantor, at a recent club game?


Your RHO (right hand opponent) passes.  Do you open 2♣?

Well, this hand certainly qualifies in terms of trick taking power for a 2♣ opener, but Dave followed Julie’s sage advice to avoid opening two suited hands with a 2♣  bid having a very strong two-suited hand.  (See blog Jan 21, 2018 — a Note on a Strong 2♣ Opening).  Not only will 2♣ likely deprive Dave of the opportunity to play this beauty (given the expected 2♦ response) but (more importantly), we may forever lose the heart suit.

So Dave opened the hand a gentle 1♦ .  With opponents passing throughout, I responded 1♠, Dave made a forcing reverse of 2♥ (showing 17+ HCP, longer diamonds than hearts, and forcing for 1 round), and I jumped to 3NT (showing 10-12 HCP, stoppers in clubs and spades).

Here is a recap of the bidding:


What does Dave bid now? Slam is certainly in the picture but is not a sure thing.  We would play 4NT here not as blackwood, but as a quantitative bid inviting a 6NT slam.  Gerber players have it easy here, but we only play Gerber over JUMPS of a first and last no-trump (more on this topic in a later blog).  A bid of 4♣ here in our methods would be natural and show a 0-4-5-4 hand.

Is there any way to explore for slam without undue risk of getting too high?  Click on “more” to read on. Continue reading “A Minor Suit Slam Try”

An Introduction to the Redouble

(A column of particular interest to newer players)

First things first:  let me say that we are utterly impressed by the dedication of our beginning players to the learning of this very complicated game.  Julie and I have run our Monday limited game for just a few weeks now, and the activity on the 0-49 side of the room is a wonder to behold.  There is a constant discussion and interchange of ideas among the newer players after every hand, and we feel a bit guilty having to interrupt those discussions to move the game along so we don’t get out too far past everyone’s bedtime.

The following hand 14 on Monday evening, Feb. 12 caused a good deal of agida for the player in the North position.  She held the following hand:


The bidding proceeded as follows:


North, with her 16 count, shortness in diamonds, and at least 3-card length in all the other suits, had made a very nice take-out double. But upon seeing East’s redouble card on the table, our North player had no idea what to do.   She had apparently had not run across a re-double before.  A redouble is, after all, one of the rarest bids in the game of bridge and so it was not surprising that a beginning player would be unfamiliar with the bid.   North had no idea what the redouble meant, or what she could do in reaction to the bid.  Confused and even a bit distraught, she called me, the director.

The only thing I felt comfortable doing as director — and this, frankly, this was pushing it — was to explain the literal meaning of the bid; how it would impact the scoring; and further explain to her that since there were now 3 passes in a row, she had a right to make another bid.  Obviously, I could not advise her what bid to make.  My explanation did nothing to help the situation whatsoever, and, still confused and distraught, she passed.  Two diamonds doubled and redoubled made easily, and the result was a bottom board for North/South, and not a particularly pleasant experience for this new pair to the game.

Three days later I overheard North’s partner discussing with her teacher, Pam Barry, the same hand and the distress it caused.  Hearing the redouble, North’s partner took no action, because she thought that the redouble cancelled the take-out double, so that the double no longer had any impact or consequence.  Pam explained that that was not the case, and attempted to console her student by explaining the bottom board as “that’s just bridge.”

So what exactly does a redouble mean, particularly on the bidding shown.  And what should North (and also South) have done in this particular, somewhat unusual, situation?  Click on the link below to see the answer. Continue reading “An Introduction to the Redouble”

Easy Squeezee!

The hero of our story today is Mary Kay Scarborough, playing in a recent Monday game at the club.  Sitting West, Mary Kay picked up against me and Marshane Griffin the following so-so collection of points:


Following her partner’s opening bid of 1♣, Mary Kay bid 1♠. Her partner then jumped to 3♦,a strong jump shift in their methods, and Mary Kay signed off at 3NT.  Marshane and I passed throughout.   Marshane led the ♦6, and the following dummy came down.



Mary Kay successfully finessed the ♦Q, and then cashed the two top clubs, clubs splitting 2-2.  From here, as the cards lie, the hand was cold for 7NT.  Mary Kay played the hand beautifully to make exactly that.  See if you can match Mary Kay’s feat of card play.  Here is the the play of the hand after the 3rd trick, with Mary Kay in the dummy, the ♣QJ having dropped doubleton:


How did Mary make 7NT?  Click the link below to see the solution.

Continue reading “Easy Squeezee!”

One Opportunity

There is plenty of talk among bridge players of “making a plan” when declaring. That is, deciding what you need to do to take the most tricks, and then carrying it out and re-evaluating if something doesn’t go quite as planned.

Well, let’s take it a step further: beyond simply making a plan, let’s talk about making a GOOD plan — a plan which has the best possible chance of working! Allow me to explain using a declarer play problem. See the hands below:

Screen Shot 2018-02-10 at 11.28.07 PM

South reaches 4♠ with no opposition bidding, and West leads a particularly unhelpful club honor. I tend to count losers in suit contracts, so here we have a possible 2 hearts, 1 diamond, and 1 club to lose — one trick too many. What is the best plan to avoid the loss of four tricks? Well, we have two possible finesses in the red suits, and hope that the A and K are on our right, with East. With that in mind, make a plan for tricks 1, 2, 3, and 4.

When you are ready, click on the link below.

Continue reading “One Opportunity”

The Murphy’s Law of Bridge

On a recent Thursday evening game, I filled in with Jackie Key to avoid a sit-out.  Jackie and I had never played together, and since Jackie came in at the last minute, we did not have a chance to fill out a card.  While we were rushing through a discussion of the various conventions we played, the topic of the so-called “unusual-vs-unusual” convention came up.  I will not discuss this convention at this moment, other than to note that it is a defense to a Michaels cue-bid, and is somewhat complicated.  (Those of you who are interested may click here for a summary of the convention).  Jackie suggested that we discuss the convention if we were to play it, but we did not have the time to do so without holding up the game. “No problem”, I said.  “It will never come up; those types of rarely used conventions never come up … unless, of course, the partnership does not discuss them.”  The four of us around the table laughed, not realizing how prophetic my joke would be.

One of the many or our bottoms of the night was board 7, for which I (West) was dealt the following hand.


I naturally opened 1♣.  North overcalled 2♣ — a michaels cue-bid showing at least 5-5 in the major suits, my partner passed and my RHO bid a gentle 2♥.  With a 7-card club suit having good intermediates, I’ll just re-bid my suit so I bid 3♣;  North bid 3♥, partner and RHO passed, and the bidding is back to me.

What do you think I bid?  The answer may surprise you.  Here is the bidding so far:


Click “read more” to see the answer. Continue reading “The Murphy’s Law of Bridge”

Unusual over Unusual: Defense to Michaels/Unusual 2NT

To go along with our post re:  The Murphy’s law of bridge, here is a description of the so-called Unusual over Unusual convention, which is a defense to Michaels and Unusual 2NT.   This is not a convention for beginning players — do not attempt this convention until you are very comfortable with Michaels and Unusual 2NT as this convention is used to defeat those two conventions.    Take a look at this convention the first time you get a bad hand because you did not know how to bid your hand following opponent’s Michaels or Unusual 2NT call.

Unusual over Unusual allows responder to distinguish between strong and competitive hands in the two suits NOT promised by the Michaels/Unusual Two-Notrump bidder. Here it is:

Over Michaels, but only if the Michaels bid promises two known suits

Over 1♣ –  2♣ or 1♦  –  2♦ (Michaels, promising both majors), responder with length in either minor, bids as follows:

2♦ over 2♣

Natural, non forcing bid with long diamonds


Clubs & 10+ HCP (high card points). Responder either has a good club suit of his own if Opener bid 1♦, or Responder is making a limit raise or better in clubs if Opener bid 1♣


Diamonds & 10+ HCP. Responder either has a good diamond suit of his own if opener opened 1♣, or Responder is making a limit raise or better in diamonds if Opener bid 1♦

3♣ over 2♣

Non-forcing club raise. Less than limit raise values.

3♦ over 2♦

Non-forcing diamond raise. Less than limit raise values.
The idea here is that since Responder will never wish to bid either major suit naturally (since opener is promising 5+ of each), we will use 2♥ and 2♠ as game going bids in the minors.  Note these bids are generally not played as game forcing, but are highly encouraging.  With a minimum, Opener will simply revert to 3 of the minor; but with any interest in game, Opener should start cue-bidding his major suit stoppers or bid 2NT with both majors stopped, much as one would do while bidding out an inverted minor sequence.
Mnemonic for the convention:  “lower lower, higher higher”, since the lower major promises the lower minor; and the higher major promises the higher minor.
Note:  this convention is NOT on if the Michaels bid only promises ONE known suit (i.e. 1♥ — 2♥: promising spades and a minor).  In that event, the bid by responder of of the KNOWN suit (spades in this example) is a cue-bid limit raise.  The bid of either minor is natural and forcing for one round.
Over an Unusual 2NT Bid (promising the lower two unbid suits)
Similarly over 1M — 2NT   (M = either major suit), with 2NT showing the minors:


Hearts & 10+ HCP. Responder either has a 5+ suit of her own if Opener bid 1♠; or Responder is making a limit raise or better in hearts if Opener bid 1♥
 3♦ Spades & 10+ HCP. Responder either has a  5+ spade suit of her own if Opener bid 1♥; or Responder is making a limit raise or better in spades if Opener bid 1♠


Competitive only:  a heart suit or heart support; opener may pass


Competitive only: a spade suit or spade support; opener may pass
Again, the mnemonic for the convention is:  “lower lower, higher higher”, since the lower minor (clubs) promises the lower major (hearts); and the higher minor (diamonds) promises the higher major (spades).
If you try this out and it works (or even doesn’t work) for you, send us a note.  We’d love to hear from you.