Bridge Problems

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.

Play it Safe

Many of you have probably heard of the notion of a “safety play.” In bridge, this is often a play that ENSURES making the contract, even on some wildly unlikely distributions, such as a 7-1 split in the defender’s hands. Take the following E/W hands from a recent CBA game in which Julie was playing.

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We safely landed in 3NT, and got a spade lead from LHO. Unfortunately, the ♠J got covered by the Q, so we only have only more spade stopper. Luckily, we should be able to take 2♠, 4♥, and 5♣ for a solid +460. With ten clubs between both hands, this should be no problem, as clubs will usually break 2-1 in the opponents’ hands. So, plan your play: After winning the spade lead, what will you play at Trick 2?

Continue reading “Play it Safe”

A Nifty Defensive Convention

Here is a nifty defensive convention that I recently taught in my defense class that, as irony would have it, popped up in a recent over-under game at the club.

I am sitting East (well, actually I was sitting in the “Over” position in the North hand, but I rotated the hands for ease of viewing).  We are vulnerable; opponents are not.   The opponents reach 2♥ after the following unrevealing auction.


Partner led the ♦A and the weak dummy to my right came down.  After dummy follows, what should I play? Continue reading “A Nifty Defensive Convention”

A Note on Strong 2♣ Openings

A strong 2♣ opening is something I have a lot of opinions about — some popular, others less so. A mentor I greatly respect taught me to generally not open a strong 2♣ with an unbalanced two-suited hand, or “freak” hand, unless it is absolutely necessary.  Many people play that opening 2♣ and rebidding anything other than 2NT is GAME-FORCING — often times, 22-counts (as fun as they are) are not really strong enough to make game with no help from partner. Thus, try to restrict the 2♣ opening to balanced, or semi-balanced hands, unless you have fancy tools and tricks to describe unbalanced hands thereafter.

The other logic behind this is that we have preempted ourselves by opening at the 2-level, and have not described one lick of our hand with our first bid. Well, this is fine and dandy if our next bid is a clear, concise 2NT, showing 22-24 balanced. However, consider the following hand. What would you open?

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To see what Julie recommends (and Tom agrees) for a “plan of action” with this hand, and the logic behind it, click on continue reading tag below. Continue reading “A Note on Strong 2♣ Openings”

Don’t Take Your Eye Off the Ball

I always warn my daughters that, when skiing, to be particularly careful the last run of the day, as that is when they are the most tired and most likely to not pay attention, fall, and injure themselves.  The same advice could be given at the bridge table in reference to the last board of a long round.

Playing with Julie Arbit, Zach Brescoll and my daughter Allison at the Orlando regional in a Bracket 1 Knockout, I  was dealt this pretty hand for the last hand of the 1st session.


We are down 22 imps at the half, perhaps in part due to my lack of sleep the night before, but had done well so far in the 2nd half.  If we did well in this last board, I felt we had a chance to save the match.

Julie, to my delight, opened 1♣, my right hand opponent (RHO) made a weak jump bid of 2♦; I made a negative double, my left hand opponent (LHO) jump to 5♦ and Julie doubled.

Being sleep-deprived, I did not see Julie’s double card.  When the bidding came back around to me, I bid 5NT (demanding that my partner pick a slam).  Julie bid 6♥ and I corrected to 6NT, ending the auction.


My LHO led the ♥9 and this is what I saw:


I perked up.  Not bad!  If I can make this hand, we might win the match.  Time to plan.  Let’s see, we have only 9 tricks of the top  (3 spades, 2 hearts, 2 diamonds, and 2 clubs), assuming that the marked diamond finesse is right.  I’ll have to bring the entire club suit home and either 3 hearts or 4 spades to make 12 tricks.  So the 1st order of business is to find the club Queen.

I covered the 9 with the 10, East covering with the J and I took the Ace.

I asked East what West leads from an empty tripleton and he said top of nothing.  So I counted West for no more than 3 hearts, which means that East has at least 3 hearts also.  East, having at least 9 cards in the red suits (6 diamonds for the 2♦ preempt) and only 4 in the blacks, is heavy favorite NOT to hold the ♣Q.  So I led the J.  West thought quite a while and covered with the Q, covered with the A, East discarding a small club.

Next, I took the marked diamond finesse which won.  Now, how to play the clubs?  I had two options — play for the 3-3 split, or finesse the 8, hoping West had the 9.  I decided the 2nd was best given West’s long hesitation and East’s known length in diamonds.  And so I finessed the 8, East showing out.  Phew!

From here I played too fast, and ended up down 1.  Can you do better?  Here is the play so far:


Continue reading “Don’t Take Your Eye Off the Ball”

Matchpoint Teamwork

If you have ever played a bridge team game, you will know that playing matchpoints and playing IMPS are two entirely different beasts. Many players consider it a different game entirely. There are endless arguments about whether MP or IMP scoring is a more “pure” form of bridge, and further, which is more fun! Personally, I prefer IMPs, but I imagine the bridge world is split about 50-50. Regardless of all that, we are relegated to matchpoint bridge at the club, and so this lesson is about Taking Our Tricks on defense.

Consider the following hand, and accompanying auction:

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Here we are on lead after a simple auction by East/West. Generally, leading from small doubletons at matchpoints is not winning bridge, so a lead is out. Beyond that, we don’t want to solve the trump suit for declarer by leading a .  Particularly with a touching KQ and the ♣10 to boot, we have a pretty clear ♣ lead, and we can be confident that most other Souths will lead the same thing, which is good.

Once we lead the ♣K, the following dummy appears on our left:

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Sometimes, declarers don’t want to take their Aces right away, for one reason or another. So, the ♣K hold Trick 1, partner following with the 2 (playing standard carding), and you are again on lead at  trick 2…..What is your next lead? (Click on “read more” to continue)

Continue reading “Matchpoint Teamwork”