The Extended Support Double

Zach Brescoll and I had the following defensive disaster at the club the last time we played together in what was otherwise a very good game.    See if you can do better than I did.

Playing West (the hands are rotated), with our opponents vulnerable, I picked up the following pretty collection:


Following 3 passes to me, I opened 1 (which in our system just showed 11-15 HCP with no 5-card major), South overcalled 1♠, Zach made a negative double showing 4+ hearts and North bid 2♣.  I made the obvious jump to 3 (showing 6+ diamonds and 14-15 HCP).  South passed as did my partner.  North, my right-hand-opponent bid 3♠.

What should I do know?

Obviously I’m going to bid again but what?  4 was the safe choice but did I have some other options?  In our style, I did.  A double here would show a sound opening and leave the decision to Zach as to what to do to.  I liked this option — having already showed 6+ diamonds by my 3bid, my double would give Zach the option of rebidding his hearts with 5, taking me to 4 diamonds without 5 hearts, or, if he thought we could set the contract, passing.  Defending the contract doubled with opponents vulnerable was particularly attractive so long as we could manage the set, since unless we could make 5, setting the contract at 200 a trick would be a top board.

So I doubled.  South passed.  Zach thought for an uncharacteristically long eight seconds and then passed.  So the final contract was 3♠ doubled.

Zach led the 3 and the following distressingly strong dummy came down:


I took the A and considered my options.  I counted 3 tricks only — my two Aces and a heart (presuming my partner at least had the Q).  To set the contract, I had to start by placing  Zach with at least the ♣A or A.  I was pretty sure he had one or the other, otherwise he would not have enough values for his negative double.

But that would not be enough.  That’s only 4 tricks.  I would also have to get a club ruff for our 5th trick.   How would I manage that?

Obviously, I had to get to Zach’s hand while I still had a trump.  So I shifted to the K, declarer taking the A, Zach playing the encouraging 4.  Good — Zach has the Q.  He must also have the ♣A for his negative double and so we are still in the running here.

Declarer played a low spade to the ♠K.  I took my ♠A immediately.  Here are the exposed hands after I’m in with the ♠A.


Now I was at a cross-roads.  I needed to continue in a manner that Zach would know to shift to a club when he got in.  If he shifts to a club, it is down 1 for a top.  But if he does not shift to a club, it’s a bottom board for sure.  But how could I communicate that message to him?  The hand absolutely depends on me getting this right.  Click on the link below for the answer.

Continue reading “The Extended Support Double”


Poker Face

It is said that poker and bridge have a lot in common. Perhaps not in the mechanics, format, and scoring of the game, but certainly in terms of hedging your bets, reading your opponent, and playing the odds. The following set of hands includes one hand from the recent over/under game at CBA, and the rest are hands that Zach or I have happened upon recently while practicing on BBO (Bridge Base Online). They are all markedly similar: they are each strong, unbalanced hands with a long, strong minor.

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These hands tend to be unwieldy enough when we get to open the bidding. When the opponents open, either a normal opening bid or a preempt, it is almost impossible to get to the right contract scientifically.

On each of these hands, you are in 4th chair, and someone opens the bidding in front of you. On the first one, the auction goes (1) – P – (P) – ___ to you.

On the subsequent three, the auction goes either (1♠) – P – (P) – ___ or (2♠) – P – (3♠) – ___ to you.

What might you do in these cases?

Continue reading “Poker Face”

2N Or Not To Know (Making Negative Inferences)

Last weekend I traveled to Atlanta to play in the nationals with a good friend who I hadn’t played with in a few years. He graciously agreed to play the system I play with my regular partners, and we practiced away on BBO. Despite all of our practice, there are still (somehow) bridge situations that will arise that we have not explicitly discussed. Enter: The power of the negative inference. Negative inferences are a “must” in bridge – they involve thinking about what partner did NOT bid (or play) as a clue to what they ARE bidding (or playing).

For instance – playing 2/1, partner opens 1♠, we bid a Forcing 1NT; We show a side 4-card minor, and partner shows a preference by bidding 2♠. Partner did NOT raise 1♠ to 2♠, but supported them later – thus, he has only 2-card support. We can infer something about partner’s hand both by what he DID bid and what he did NOT bid.

So – how does this possibly relate to “2N or not 2N”? Well, in the midst of a 0-10,000 event with my partner, I pick up the following hand:

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I am South, in fourth chair, and after two passes, my RHO opens 1♠. I generally like a better (and/or longer) suit to make a 2-level overcall, but I have a good hand, so I dutifully overcall 2. Two more passes follow, and RHO balances with 2♠.

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Now I have to put my thinking cap on and figure out how to get us to the right spot. I generally try to avoid letting my opponents play at the 2-level if I can help it, and I have a good enough hand to want to compete. But what to bid? I cannot make a takeout double with so few hearts. Any thoughts?

Continue reading “2N Or Not To Know (Making Negative Inferences)”

Courteous Bids

The hand I selected to write about today exemplifies one of the most versatile – and underused – bids in all of bridge: The Cuebid.

I stumbled across this hand whilst killing time during an unfortunate cold that hit myself and Zach before last weekend. Trying to keep my mind off the unfortunate state of my sinuses, I took to Bridge Base Online (BBO) to play a few practice hands against robots in what they refer to as an “Instant Tournament.” These 8-board mini tournaments give the human player the best hand at the table (by HCP), and can be played at imps or matchpoints.

The following is my hand on one particular deal:

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Seems harmless enough, right? So, dealer (East) on my right passes, and I open a 15-17 1NT. My LHO Robot bids 2♠, which the bots play as spades and a minor. My partner bids 3, game forcing with 5+ hearts. LHO passes.

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What would you do now?

Continue reading “Courteous Bids”

Help Suit Game Trick

As many of you know, I run a teaching (“Barometer”) game a few times per month, on Saturday mornings and Thursday afternoons. They are both capped at 499 MPs, and consist of 12 boards. All tables play the same board at the same time, and I instruct on each board directly after playing it. To prepare for this game, Zach and I deal 12 random boards, and discuss together the best way to handle each one, which is what I teach at the game. The lessons that come up most often are things like competitive bidding, New Minor Forcing, 2/1 auctions, etc. But, occasionally, we get something freaky, like the following hand:

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Hands like this may look like an absolute nightmare to figure out, even to players with years and years of experience under their belts. It can be so tough to handle these types of hands in uninterrupted auctions, let alone if the opponents interfere!

So, let’s start to parse this out. I tend to preach opening these types of hands at the 1-level, in case any of you were tempted to open 2♣. Opening at the 2-level can really preempt us out of finding the best contract. So, we open 1♠ and hope for the best. To our surprise, partner raises to 2♠! The opponents are still silent.

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Now we may have visions for slam – partner is showing us 6-9(10) points, and a spade fit. So, it’s looking like no spade losers, but what about those pesky hearts? If partner had the ♠Q and K, it’d be hard NOT to make a small slam, and that’s only 5 HCP. But, if partner has the KQJ for his 6 points, it’s not looking great for the home team. So, how best to gauge all of this……

Think about what you would bid now, and when you are ready, click “Read more.” Continue reading “Help Suit Game Trick”

The Control-Showing Redouble

As luck would have it, another hand popped up illustrating yet another meaning of the redouble when I was playing with Peter Shwartz the other day at the club:

As North, I held the following hand with Peter Shwartz being the dealer:


Peter opened 1♦, my right hand opponent (“RHO”) overcalled 1♠, and, with my decent hand and 5 hearts, I bid 2♥.  (2/1 Learners please note:  a 2/1 bid over an overcall is NOT game forcing, but is forcing for 1 round, and so should only be made with a 10+ point hand.)  My LHO passed, and Peter bid 2♠!

What does Peter’s 2♠ mean?

Since our opponents bid spades naturally, it can not possibly be a natural bid.  In this position, this 2♠ cue-bid sets up a general game force.  It says nothing about Peter’s spade holding nor whether Peter has a spade control; it just commits us to game.  We now can “go slow” and explore slam possibilities as they present themselves.

My response to Peter’s cuebid is pretty much automatic:  most of the time I will bid 2NT as a “waiting bid”.  This does NOT show a spade stopper, but rather gives Peter a chance to describe his hand.  I don’t yet know WHY Peter wants to force to game and the 2NT waiting bid gives him a chance to tell me.  For example, if he has a really good diamond suit, he can bid 3♦; if he had heart support, he can now bid 3♥, setting hearts as trumps and expressing slam interest (with no slam interest, he would have made a direct jump to 4♥).  Peter would be confident that in either case, I could not and would not pass his bid.  (He could also rebid 3♠ to ask for a spade stopper for no-trump).  Occasionally, I might do something else instead of bidding 2NT:  for instance, if I had really long, good hearts and nothing in diamonds, I might just rebid my hearts to get that point of across.

Before I could even settle on my best course of action, my RHO slapped his double card on the table.  Here is the bidding so far:


If you were in my shoes, what would your  next bid be?  Would you have just made the default waiting of 2NT here, or is there some other, more informative bid you can now make in this situation?  Click the link below to see the answer.

Continue reading “The Control-Showing Redouble”

The S.O.S. Redouble

We don’t know why, but our most popular columns have concerned the rarest of bridge bids — the redouble.   Let’s continue our discussion of the topic, picking up where Julie left off last week when she “Stuck it to the Man.”

You are West.  You pick up the following pretty collection of cards:


With the other side vulnerable, the starts with a pass on your left, then pass by partner and a 3♣ opening preempt on your right.

What is your best bid?

A.  Pass          B.  3♦        C.   3♠
D.  3NT          E.  Dbl

With 16 high-quality high card points, you have to bid something.  But what?  3♦ is out given its only a 4-card suit.  3NT looks tempting — you have a stopper, after all — but you are light on high-card points and there is a serious problem:  on a club lead, holding the singleton Ace, you won’t be able to hold up playing the Ace.  Particularly with partner passing on the first round, it is likely that you will have to give up the lead at least once to establish your long suit (whatever that may be), in which event the opponents will rattle off their long clubs.

So it’s between 3♠ and a double.   Each could work out.  Personally, I have discovered through hard experience that holding 5-3 in the majors, it is better to bid your 5 card major here.  Partner is more likely to have 3 spades than 4.  Responding to a take-out double, he won’t bid your long suit holding only 3.  More likely, he will bid his 4-card heart suit and you will end up in a 4-3 fit instead of a 5-3 fit.  Bidding this particularly weak 5 card suit could be wrong if partner has short spades and long hearts, but it appears to be the least of evils.  So you bid 3♠.

Oops! Wrong choice — your left-hand opponent slams his double card on the table.  Then two passes to you.  What do you do?

Since a preemptive opening shows a weak hand, doubles of overcalls of a preemptive opening are ALWAYS for penalties.    With your terrible 5-card spade suit, you have dug yourself into a hole.   Here is the bidding so far:


Is there any way you can dig yourself out of this mess ?  Click the link below to continue.

Continue reading “The S.O.S. Redouble”