Welcome to Basement Bridge

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

Monday, 5 July 2010

Double – Your Flexible Friend – 8 April 2010

We’ve all got a fair idea of what each bid means, opening, responding and overcalling, but there are times when we want to compete and the bid of a suit is doesn’t quite fit the hand we have. Do we:

a) Run up the white flag? b) Hide our heads in the sand? c) Cross fingers and toes and bid anyway? d) Find a bid – or sequence of bids – that explains what we have?

Reasonably often the answer is d). And on a fair number of occasions it is best to Double. But what exactly does a double actually mean and when should we prefer it to a straight overcall?

Double of Opponents’ Opening Bid
If we double an opening bid we could have – confusingly – three distinct and different kinds of hands.

1) A shapely hand with a shortage in the opponents' bid suit
2) A hand too strong to overcall 1NT
3) A hand too strong to make a direct overcall

Which of the three you actually have does not matter initially. The key is to remember that a double is often the start of a two part communication. It is not in itself a final statement but merely the beginnings of an exchange of information.

1) They open 1H and you hold:


Bidding any suit would imply that you hold five cards in that suit so you can’t do that. Yet you have a hand you want to tell partner about – you just don't yet know where, if at all, the pair of you have a fit. So you double. Initially this says you are interested in any of the other three unbid suits and have a hand of at least opening values.

With this hand you plan to pass whichever suit partner bids . Partner could jump to encourage you to continue, but failing such strong action from partner, you would need a hand of 17+ HCP to contemplate bidding on.

2) Again they open 1H but now you hold:


You want to bid 1NT, but this shows specifically 15 - 17 HCP. Your hand is better than this so you start with a double, intending to re-bid in NT if the auction allows it. Partner must still assume you hold a hand like hand 1) but your re-bid will further explain your hand.

3) 1H again, but now you’re dealt:


You want to get that Diamond suit into the auction but you also want to tell partner the general strength of your hand as well, a tidy 19hcp and too strong for a simple overcall. So now you will Double first and then – if the auction allows it – bid diamonds. Now partner can tell not only what your suit is but that you also hold a decent number of points into the bargain.

Be aware that partner will not have much. The opening on your right is about 12+ and with your 19 there are only about nine HCP going begging, but if partner has six of them you’re in the game zone.

Remember, if you Double and then bid, you show a big hand playable opposite a fairly weak (6-9) hand. And if you're really really big (22 +) you can Double and then Cue-bid!!!

Too much fun…


Friday, 2 July 2010

The World of Risk – 1 April 2010

I’m often asked, when I suggest a bid or a line of play, whether or not my suggestion is a bit on the risky side. Oooh yes. It’s all risky, guv… the moment you sit down at the Bridge table you enter a world of risk. Even the most harmless, solid opening bid can lead to disaster. The apparent cast iron lead can gift declarer a contract they should never make. There is nothing you can do about this. The god of cards is out to get you.

The only defence you have against this cruel nemesis is that you must not help him. Sometimes the god will tease you by putting all the outstanding cards exactly where you want them, so that a dodgy 2H contract makes +3 on a favourable 3-2 trump split and all the finesses working. Should you have bid the game? No. Do not make plans based on his teasing ways. Always take the middle ground. Take his gifts firm in the knowledge that next time the trumps will be 5-0 and all the finesses wrong.

What does this mean? Should we avoid all risk? Should we underbid our way to safe contracts and a warm glow of success? I think by now you know my answer. Look that god firmly in the eye and fight back. You will certainly occasionally court disaster but consider: disaster is always round the corner anyway, whatever you do. You do not make the risk. It already exists, waiting to pounce. You must take your moment of advantage and catch the pesky god when he sleeps.

Suppose it’s early in the play of a hand, there was no opposition bidding to guide you and you hold a suit between you and dummy that looks like this:



You need 2 tricks from this suit. The K will be right or wrong. There is no risk. You finesse the Q. You’ll be right exactly 50% of the time. If you play the Ace you will be wrong 100% of the time.

Raises in Competition
As I’ve said before, once you are in a competitive auction the ground has shifted. Opponents are rascals who will do anything – and I mean anything – to knock you out of your comfort zone, to destroy your peaceful exchange of information and stamp on your delicate system.

By the same token, once they interfere, you don’t want to sit idly by and watch them neatly explain their hands either. You want to cramp their space just as much. Partner opens 1S, opponents overcall 2H and you hold either of these hands:

a) Kxxx ........................ b) Kxxx
... xx ................................ x
... Axxxx .......................... Jxxxx
... Kx ............................... Qxx

With a) and without an overcall you would have made the “limit” raise of 3S (4 card support, 10 - 12 HCP). Similarly with hand b), without the overcall, you would have made the “weak” raise of 2S (4 card support, 6 - 9 HCP). But after the overcall, 2S with hand b) does no damage to them. Into the bargain, if they bid to 3H what does partner risk? PASS? 3S?

In this situation you need to get in THEIR way. So… you bid 3S! and risk you messed them up. Take the risk away from partner and transfer it to the opponents.

OK. So what do you do with hand a) that otherwise was going to bid 3S? Luckily, as a result of the overcall you now have have that extra (risk-free) bid you didn’t have before - 3H! A “cue-bid” of the opponents’ suit. This takes the place of the uncontested limit raise of 3S, allowing 3S now to be a pre-emptive and weak raise.

Good hand + good support = cue-bid.
Weak hand with support = weak jump!

When both sides bid, the value of your fit is as important as your HCP. Here you can distinguish between “weak” raises and “limit” raises. The risk does not vanish You now control it.


The Myriad Faces of 1NT – 25 March 2010

Good to see you all again. My sessions are where I try to help you learn in a non-competitive, mutually helpful environment. With jokes. It is where you come to make mistakes, try things out and see what works. You should be pushing the envelope a bit. You should be sticking the stamp on it and seeing where it goes. Mistakes are not “bad”. They are part of learning through experience. Just keep an eye on yourself and make sure you don’t keep making the SAME mistakes…

And so to …

The Myriad Faces of 1NT

Over the many long years gestation of bridge a bid of 1NT has come to be the way to simply express the value of a hand; both its specific shape and narrow limit of high card points (HCP).
It can be used by opener, responder, overcaller, or even as a rebid. But in each case it will carry a different meaning. These different meanings need to be learnt as they are the cornerstone of any bidding structure. Just as when partner opens 1NT you know they have a balanced hand (4443, 4432, 5332) and 12 - 14 HCP, so when partner does NOT open 1NT you know they do not have this combination of shape and point count.

1NT = 12 - 14 HCP, balanced
Do not underestimate the pre-emptive value of this bid. Also be aware that a surprising number of partnerships have never discussed a proper defence to it either. So good is it as a mini pre-empt that some serious players now open 1NT with 10 - 12 HCP. (I do not recommend this at all!!)

1NT = 15 - 17 HCP, balanced
The reason you need more HCP as overcaller is that the opposition have already started their conversation. They have passed information like cold war spies in Berlin. If you’re going to butt in you need to be better armoured. The other reason is that if you hold 15 - 17 HCP and opener has 12+ HCP then that’s at least 12 HCP you know your partner doesn’t have. The two people yet to bid are now scrapping like mangy Delhi dogs over a maximum of 11 - 13 HCP between them. If the player on your left has rather smugly got them all in his hand – you’re in for a tough time.

1NT = 6 - 9 HCP, any shape whatsoever
If partner opens 1S and you have 6 - 9 HCP you cannot bid at the 2-level (you would promise 10 HCP) but you MUST bid. All you can do is 1NT even with this nonsense:

x x
Q 10 x
K J x x x x
x x

Tough but true. You’ll pass any 2-level rebid from partner, except 2C when you bid 2D and partner now knows you have a rubbish hand, no fit, but with SIX diamonds.

As I’ve said before – endlessly – if you can respond with a 4 card major at the one level, then do so. You can bid 1NT later:

1C - 1H
1S - 1NT!

What To Remember
It is your job to tell your partner what you have so partner can make decisions. 1NT in all its guises is a very handy tool. Used properly it will sharpen your sequences and get you to better contracts.

Have fun