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”

Stick it to the Man (Doubled & Redoubled!)

A couple of weekends ago I traveled to Michigan to visit my best friend, Jonathan, during one of the two annual regionals that take place in the Detroit metro area. We played team games all weekend, which are my favorite, due to the form of scoring and the fact that it allows more down-time with friends between rounds than in a pairs game.

So, we are putzing along on Saturday with a few victorious rounds under our belts, when we wind up playing against a particular Michigan team that we’ve come to know well over the years. One select member of this team is infamous in the community – he tends to act a bit entitled, flashy with his wealth, and generally purports an “above-it-all” attitude. And, at an impressive 6’5″ tall, he tends to be am imposing figure in any room.

We play a few harmless hands in our 7-board match, our opponents endlessly analyzing each previous hand to ensure themselves that they did nothing wrong. Then, around the 5th board, I pick up the following hand:

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The dealer is Mr. Hotshot to my right, and he opens 1♣. We are non-vulnerable, and I really don’t want to pass this hand. While I hesitate to encourage this bid to aspiring players, I bid 1NT, for better or for worse, showing 15-18 HCP, a club stopper, and (usually) a balanced hand. It was certainly a risk, but I deemed it the “least lie” with this particular hand.

My left hand opponent passes, and to my delight, my partner bids Stayman. Whether or not we have a heart fit, it looks like I will not be punished for my off-shape NT overcall. Now Mr. Moneybags decides to make a Lead-Directing Double, showing clubs. Generally when he opens 1♣, then later doubles an artificial club bid, it tells his partner he actually has a decent club suit and wants partner to lead a club. So, here is the auction thus far:

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The auction is back to you, and the tension in air is palpable — what would you do?

Continue reading “Stick it to the Man (Doubled & Redoubled!)”

The D.S.I. Double — An Introduction

Playing in the a recent Thursday evening game, my partner, playing West, picked up the following hand:


Neither side was vulnerable. Following her right hand opponent’s pass, my partner passed, as did her RHO.  I opened in 4th seat 1♦.  Partner’s right-hand opponent overcalled 1♠, my partner made the obvious negative double, and her left-hand opponent raised to 2♠.  Two passes later the bidding came back to my partner.

The bidding is given below:


What would be my partner’s best bid and why?  Your choices are:

A.   Pass          B.    Double       C.  3♣
D.   3♦              E.    3♥

Click on the link below to see the answer.

Continue reading “The D.S.I. Double — An Introduction”

“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”