Welcome to Basement Bridge

Weekly updates from Kit Jackson offering hints and tips for the modern Bridge player. Enjoy!

Wednesday, 8 May 2013


 Lieutenant Worf was consulting Counsellor Troi. 
"I made a foolish mistake, counsellor, and I wish to resolve the issue of my failure."
"Lieutenant: although at the moment you feel you have disgraced yourself, I can assure you the problem you present is not really to do with bridge at all."
"Is this supposed to comfort me, counsellor?"
"Not at all. I simply wish to focus you on to the problem at hand. Show me the deal."
The cards displayed brightly on the luminous holo desk as the main light dimmed around them. Only the N/S cards were visible:


"I'm afraid the auction got a little out of hand, counsellor, but it was a Teams match and we needed to score games:
1C - 1D - 1N - 3N. Not a classic auction I'll admit but it was tense. When dummy went down I was overcome with a mixture of anger and disappointment. Both I and partner appeared to have over valued our assets. I was cross with both myself and partner and that we had both let our side down. I felt ashamed. A Club was led, I took the Ace, led a low Diamond, but all was hopeless. We were way off. To make matters even worse, when we scored up we saw the opponents had been in the same contract on the same lead and actually made it! How can I stop myself from making these appalling errors of judgement, Counsellor?"
"The error you have made is not a bridge error, Lieutenant. And it is easily within your power to rectify the problem. You said - and I believe you - that when you first saw dummy you were angry and disappointed. You were under pressure in a tight situation. The problem, Worf, is that you let that pressure affect you and your judgmental processes."
"I agree. But what can I do?"
"The first task is to rid oneself of unnecessary tension. You must actively relax. When dummy goes down you are allowed One Minute's thinking time. Use it. Relax your feet; your knees; your solar plexus; your shoulders; un-frown your forehead. Breathe slowly and calmly. Now think about the hand and the problem you face. Ignore the opponents. Focus. As you can see, in order to have even the slightest chance of making this edgy contract the Diamond suit must behave. Once established, you can only get to it with the Ace of Clubs. Therefore, whatever else you do you must NOT play it at trick one. Win in hand with the King, run the J of Diamonds. There is no other legitimate chance. The Ace wins and a Club is returned. Winning with the A you now must play the DK. As luck would have it the Q falls!! You now have 6 D tricks, 2 C's and the A of Spades = 9 tricks."
"That's very lucky, though isn't it, Counsellor?"
"Maybe so, Lieutenant. Play the lucky contracts well and the standard contracts will look after themselves.”


Wednesday, 1 May 2013


"Watson!" The famous detective, Sherlock Holmes, was clearly in a bate. "Come over here at once."

"Of course, Holmes, of course. Whatever you say," I obliged.
"Look at this hand - go on look at it."
"Er ye-es, I remember. I opened 1D did I not. Was I remiss in some respect, Holmes?"
"Not at all Watson. The 1 D opening is mandatory. But what exactly was your plan, assuming I made a normal response below 2D?"
"Well, er naturally, I was going to re-bid 2D: weak-ish with a 5+ suit."
"Capital, Watson, capital." His eyes turned to me and glinted steel. "But you didn't Watson. Did you?" There was a soft breath of menace in the air. "You re-bid 3D. Didn't you? Very naughty."
"But the opponents bid, er, it got too high, oh Holmes I had to do something!" I sat heavily on a chair in misery. What had l done to deserve his opprobrium this time?
"The bidding was thus, Watson, was it not?
1D - 1S - 1NT - 2S - ???
At which point you rebid 3D. Not 2D, which, as you have previously pointed out, is the limit of the hand in bidding terms from your point of view."
"But Holmes" I went on the attack: "They bid 2S! I couldn't bid 2D! You see?" I felt pretty dam pleased with myself I can tell you. His voice was soft, silky and precise:
"I believe Watson, that you just admitted to me that you couldn't bid 2D in the auction as that spot had been bypassed by aggressive opponents. In which case - as you were unable to bid 2D - can you please tell me why in heaven's name you felt able to bid AT ALL?" His gimlet eyes pierced mine from two inches.
"If as you say you can't bid 2D then you can't bid. Your bid has been taken away. So just PASS! Why make up bids out of thin air? Why pretend to values you do not possess? And most crucially, why mislead partner? Why cause partner to make unwise bids based on incorrect information that result in -800? Hmm?"
I now saw that Holmes was right. He usually was…

Plan your re-bid. If events overtake your plans - PASS. Never ever forget that you have a partner and do not try and bid for them: just bid your hand. At the right level. Then partner will know what to do.


“Why do we play this impossible game, Miss Jones?”

“Oh but Mr Rigsby, I thought you enjoyed the gentle intellectual tussle and the meeting of minds?”

“Oh I do Miss Jones, indeed I do, most certainly. There’s nothing I enjoy more than a meeting and a tussle.”
“It’s so much about margins, Mr Rigsby. You mustn’t let Alan and Philip wind you up so. Look at the board where you played in 2S and made 11 tricks. They laughed at you for not even being in game, didn’t they?”
“It doesn’t affect me Miss Jones, oh no. Water off a duck’s back. Anyway there was nothing else I could do, and you couldn’t bid.”
“Well, actually, there was something else you could have done…”
“Oh? Really, Miss Jones? And what was that then?”
“Well, you see, Alan opened 1N, you bid 2S then All Pass. It could have been so different:

754                                                J92
K2                                                653
QJ86                                                K93
AK86                                                T942

You made +200 for 11 tricks. But see what happens if – instead of bidding 2S – you Double.”
“But why would I do that Miss Jones?”
“So that your partner can tell you have a good hand. So you can possibly take them for a nice juicy penalty. You’d like that wouldn’t you Mr Rigsby.”
“I certainly would Miss Jones, oh yes, I certainly would. Please continue.”
“After 1NT all simple overcalls of a suit promise LESS than 15 HCP, let’s say about 8 -14; and all Doubles in that position promise 15 or MORE. The Double of 1NT is not like a Take-out double of a suit. It is primarily suggestive of penalties. If you start with a double, Philip, in the East seat, has really no good bid to make. (Unless they’ve agreed some sophisticated defence to your double). I should probably pass and then Alan also has no sensible bid now. You lead a low Spade, I win with the K and then I have to think. Instead of lamely returning a S at trick 2, I look at dummy and see the H suit looks empty. I’m probably never getting the lead again so I must make my move now.”
“Oh yes, please do Miss Jones..”
“I return the HT, trapping Alan’s HK under your AQJ8, you cash the rest of the Spades and the DA giving us 10 Tricks. Doubled! Alan is now 4 Down Doubled for 800! Better than 200. Better even than if we had bid the game for 450.”
“But what if they do start bidding something? They might end up in 2C?”
“In which case with your big hand you Double again. This time they only go 3 off for 500. Still better than any game we make.”
“But what if the Vulnerability’s different?”
“If they are Vulnerable we now get 1100 or 800. Even better!”

Miss Jones is right – as usual. And even if you’re Vulnerable and they’re NV you still do better getting 800. Remember: after 1NT: – X shows any hand 15+.


"Defending is tough, Jim - real tough." Davy Crockett, King of the wild frontier, was taking time out from defending the Alamo to discuss his favourite game with Jim Bowie. "Sometimes you gotta have eyes in the back of yer head."
"You gotta see through the back o' those darn cards n' all, Davy," said Jim, carefully polishing his long weapon.
"The hardest bit," drawled Davy, "is the dang openin' lead. The helluva thing is you got no idea what's right."
"Uh, yeah, well…" interrupted Jim, "Though you do got the auction, Davy. You kin learn good from that. What the shapes of declarer's hand might be an' all sorts innneresting stuff like that."
"True words, Jim, true words indeed. Which is why you should always pay very close attention to an auction, even if you ain't involved in it. While they're bidding themselves stupid to their cosy little grand slam or whatever, you need to be startin' up a plan of attack even before the auction is over. Listen to it. Study the hell out of it. Git yerself all prepared and ready - then Bam! Attack!"
"Then you gotta make that choice - the Opening Lead." Jim grew serious. Davy's brow furrowed.
" That is why, Jim Bowie, you gotta learn, or at least be familiar with, the table of standard leads. Thataways, dang partner will at least, mebbe, have some dang idea of what yer doin' and why yer doin' it. 
First, decide from the auction and your holdings the best suit to lead. THEN, decide which card is "right":
1) Top of a sequence.
2) Top of a doubleton
3) Middle from 3 small (MUD)
4) 4th best -  FROM AN HONOUR!!!!!
5) 2nd best from rubbish
6) Bottom of 3 to an honour
You may still be leadin' blind in the pitch black to a deaf partner, but, hey - you tried…and you did the right thing."

Thursday, 6 December 2012


As you know, after an opening of 1NT you should use the conventional responses of 2C (Stayman) or 2D & 2H  (Transfers). But which one? And when? To keep it simple:
1)   With only 4 card Majors use 2C - Stayman.
2)   With 5+ card Majors use 2D/2H - Transfers.
It really is that simple. You will either follow these bids up with a PASS (10 or less HCP), or an invitational 2NT (11-12, 5 card Major), an invitational 3 Major (10 - 12, 6+ card Major) or the game bids of 3NT (13  - 17 5cM) or 4 Major (13 - 17 6+cM). With 18+ you should be slamming. This structure is fairly immutable and needs to become second nature.
The responding hands that tend to be problematic are those that have 5 - 4 in the majors and are weak (less than 10). Now what? If you Stayman (2C) and  partner comes back 2D (they always bloody do!) what then? What do 2H or 2S mean? Even worse is when you have a GOOD hand, 5-4 in the Majors, you bid 2C and hear 2D. Now what does 3H or 3S mean? To be fair, there are complex agreements that cover these hands but they're not really necessary. What you do is with game-ish hands you transfer into the 5 c suit and then bid the other one. But what do you do with a dog like this?

When partner opens 1NT they will (mostly!) have either 2, 3 or 4 H's. Three possibilities. Two of which give you the longed for 8 card fit. So you have a 66% chance of being OK when you transfer. In Bridge terms this is almost perfect. Yes, sometimes partner will have 2 H's and 4 S's. This probability is about 10%. Not worth considering. So with the above example ALWAYS transfer into the 5 card Major and then PASS. Don't think about it - do it. KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid)

It is a principle of faith for me that I will always open 1NT with ALL 5332 shape hands with 12-14 HCP. Even if that 5 card suit is a Major. Every time. I would urge you all to do the same. Every time. With one tiny exception: if your major suit looks like this -  AKQJ10, you can open it and re-bid it. But do let me know when you get this 12 - 14HCP, 5332 hand. It is phenomenally rare. 2%? of 60 trillion? Nah, you do the math...


Eeyore was beside himself with rage. Not that you'd have noticed. He stood silently alone in the sun-dappled clearing, his head droopt, his tail slightly swishing. It was this swishing that alerted a passing Christopher Robin to the fact Eeyore was disconsolate. After the usual pleasantries, the boy enquired of the donkey the reason for his anger.
"Everybody was in 4S making 10 tricks. Only I, Christopher Robin, I, Eeyore, made 11 tricks!"
"But Eeyore that's brilliant! How clever of you!"
"Yes, I found a rare inverted Double Squeeze operated at trick 11, after they failed to attack dummy's entry to the Menace at trick 3." Eeyore intoned morosely.
"Really?" said Christopher Robin, seriously none the wiser. "But didn't that overtrick give you a Top?"
"It would have done, it would have done." Agreed the donkey solemnly. "Were it not for one vital fact you have overlooked Christopher Robin."
The boy scratched his head. "And, er, what was that?"
Eeyore fixed Christopher Robin with a baleful glare - "We were only in 2 Spades!!!" The boy sank to the ground, crossed his legs and said comfortingly: "Ok, tell me what happened."
"I opened 1NT, Owl transferred with 2H, I bid 2S and then he passed, quite reasonably, with this:

I had 14 HCP and 4S with him, no wasted H values and the game is cold for 10 tricks. What did we do wrong?"
"Well, nothing really, I suppose. But there is something to be considered. When - and ONLY when - you, as the NT bidder have 14HCP and 4 card support, instead of lamely bidding 2S, you can BREAK THE TRANSFER by bidding 3S! Now partner can re-value their hand in the light of this important information and bid on if it's right to do so."
"But what if partner has a pile of rubbish and was only transferring to get out of 1NT? Aren't we now too high?"
"Possibly. But rest assured that if partner does have rubbish, then the opponents have something on; and, whatever it is, they're going to find it mighty difficult to either double you or suddenly bid a minor at the 4 level out of nowhere. Yes, maybe 5 times out of a 100 it'll go Paridiae up, but that's nothing."
"Well, very interesting. I must remember that in future. Oh, and - Christopher Robin - thanks for pointing out it was all my fault. I do feel sooo much better now. When you start in the depths of despair how good to plummet further. Do you know a tall cliff nearby? Maybe I could toss myself off..."


"Now then, chaps, listen up!" Said Captain Mainwaring to his eager squad. "This afternoon we shall have Hand Evaluation. This is how we work out how good our hands are."
"There's nothing wrong with my hands, so they tell me..."
"That's quite enough smut Walker. We're here to discuss the finer points of the Game of Bridge, not your pathetic fumblings behind the bus stop."
"How do you know about that, Sir?"
"I have my spies Pike. I have my spies. Anyway, where were we?"
"Behind the bus stop, I think Sir."
"Wilson! Pay attention. All of you. Now, there are three main parameters for the evaluation of what we hold in our hands: 1) High Card Points (HCP) 2) Suit Length 3) Suit shortage. All three can carry equal weight when we make our decisions. When you first pick up a hand you are inclined to add up the HCP and see whether or not they add up to 12 or more so you can open the bidding. Alternatively whether or not they add up to 6 or more so you can support partner if they open the bidding. But just as important is the length of the suits you hold:
This hand is worth only 10 HCP so you might PASS. But this would be to ignore the value of the extra Spades. You have a 6 card suit, so you should add 1 point extra for each card more than 4 in a suit. So, in this case, you can add an extra 2 DISTRIBUTION points(DP). Now you have a total 12 points (10HCP + 2 DP) and should open 1S."
"But what", said Godfrey, "Should I do about my shortage?"
"Get it seen by a Doctor mate..."
"Walker! That's quite enough out of you. A perfectly reasonable question, Godfrey. After an 8 card fit has been found between the two hands they should both start to add extra SHORTAGE points (SP). But be careful because what you add depends on whether you open or respond. As responder you should calculate VOID = 5, SINGLETON = 3, DOUBLETON = 1. But if you are the Opener you should add fewer: V = 3, S = 2, D = 1.
Remember, you must adjust the evaluation of your hand as the auction proceeds to allow for these extra points. And as it proceeds, your hands will be going up and down.."
"I thought you said we'd had enough smut..."