Welcome to Basement Bridge

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

Thursday, 30 September 2010

Hunting Big Game – Bidding With Powerful Hands – 5 August 2010

Sometimes you start a climb from the very bottom of the mountain, not knowing how far up the slippery slope you will be able to climb. Occasionally you can take advantage of technology and make your journey more certain by starting higher up – thereby ensuring you get where you want to be. In Bridge the two bids that get you started higher up the slippery slope and force the journey to the top are 2NT and 2C.

1) 2NT = balanced 20 - 22 HCP

It’s not FORCING (!) but is highly invitational and partner should consider game with as few as 3 HCP in their own hand (22 + 3 = 25!) . Stayman and Transfers can be used as over a 1 NT opening.

2) 2C = balanced 23 + OR!!! An unbalanced hand with about 20+ HCP (4 losers)

The point is these are hands that want to be in Game opposite hardly any points from partner and maybe even slam opposite a few decent key cards.

The reason you want to force to the game so much is because of the Game Bonus. At teams, duplicate and chicago bridge these are worth 300 not vulnerable and 500 vulnerable and at Rubber, if you win 2-0, you get a whopping 700!

Don’t be shy. If you’ve got something worth showing – get it out in the open light of day fast!

Responding With Big Hands

I know I know, mostly when partner opens you hold some dross and queasily end up in a ratty part-score. Just occasionally it is you as responder who holds the power house and not the opener. But what do you do then? Make some kind of jump forcing bid straight away? Bid game immediately? Hmm. Mostly not is the answer.

Usually there’s no need to get over-excited too quickly (as the actress…) The trouble is you don’t know what partner has for their opening. They may have no more than 10 HCP and a scrappy 6-card suit. That’s not their fault - it's what they were dealt and you shouldn’t berate
partner for occasionally being a tad aggressive in the auction. That’s why – even with fairly big hands – you should just make some simple natural bid. Not to deceive partner but to give them the option of making their most natural re-bid. In that way you find out what their hand is worth.

Later in the auction – after partner has made their simple natural re-bid, and given you some idea of what they actually hold – you can always keep the bidding open with a jump rebid, a reverse or by using the common Fourth Suit Forcingconvention. The only kind of hand that should make a direct jump response is a hand almost too good for game and very very interested in slam possibilities. It should contain a long strong suit of its own and a good point count, usually 16-19hcp:


Partner opens 1H and you would be perfectly within your rights to bid 2S and slam would be on opposite some opening even as awful as this:


You’ve told partner with your jump that game is certain and slam is probable which would certainly not be the case if you had some ordinary 12-hcp hand. If slam is on in those circumstances it is because partner has a good hand and it is partner who will take charge and drive forward. Save your biggest bids for truly big moments!

Forcing Bids – 29 July 2010

Occasionally I’ll mention that such and such is bid is FORCING. But what exactly am I talking about? (Do you ask yourself this too?) Well here’s a round-up of the kinds of things that I might be talking about.

With the opposition silent it goes like this:

1H - 1S
2H - ?

The first thing to notice is that the 2H bid is NOT forcing: partner CAN pass. So a quick resume is that a forcing bid is one that FORCES partner to bid again (assuming the opposition remain silent!)

Something like

1H - 1S

The 3C bid is unconditionally forcing. It cannot be passed. Even if you responded 1S on drivel, that’s your problem but you CANNOT pass.

1H - 2D

The 2NT bid is FORCING. (2D = 10+, 2NT = 15 - 19 so game is on.) Again if you responded 2D with not quite 10 HCP that is not partner's problem, it’s your problem – you still have to bid over the FORCING 2NT.

Partner opens with a Game Force bid of 2C (23+ in a balanced hand but only 20+ with an unbalanced hand!) and you hold:


You get cold feet and pass. What will you say when partner turns up with 29 HCP and Four Spades is cold? The point is that partner made a Game FORCING bid. You cannot pass. You must bid – whatever you’ve got. It’s not just about your hand but how the hands fit together in partnership. You do not bid alone your 13 cards. You bid together your 26 cards.

Just so you know, there is one auction that starts 2C that can die below game and it is this and this alone:

2C - 2D
2NT - ?

Now, with something like the hand above, you may pass. Everything else goes to game –regardless of what you hold.

In the same way, responses to 1NT are all forcing too (Again I assume the opps are silent). 2C (Stayman) 2D, 2H, (transfers) and 2S (minor suit take-out) are all forcing. When partner makes a forcing bid the option of whether you bid or not ceases to exist. Partner has taken control of the auction, so obey. If partner has it wrong that’s just tough but partnership confidence and understanding can be fatally damaged by not listening to what partner is saying.

In most auctions at some point one of you has to take control – either by passing an unsuitable hand or by forcing the auction to the correct level.

1S - 3S (10 -12, 4 card support)

It doesn’t really matter what Four Clubs actually means - it’s FORCING! It might be a void, a singleton, a real suit, a partial suit – anything. But it doesn’t matter. Partner has taken control of the auction and has made a bid that is forcing to at least game and maybe more.

You don’t need to think about what it means – you have to think about the bid that will most help your partner understand how your hand fits with theirs. Have you got the Ace of Diamonds or Hearts? (Cue bids!) Are you bare minimum (in which case sign off in 4 S)?

Listen to your partner. Remember – just like you, partner does really really like to win!

Harassing the Enemy – The “Unusual No Trump” – 22 July 2010

Today - that old favourite! Yes it’s…

The Unusual 2NT Overcall

Once the opposition attempt to start their delicate little bidding conversation at base camp it is your job to jerk them up the mountain as fast as possible before they know whether or not they’ve got enough oxygen for the climb to the summit. Of course this is risky – but no more so than anything else! (see this link! : http://basementbridge.blogspot.com/2010/07/world-of-risk-1-april-2010.html)

Let’s look at all the possible 1 of a suit openings and see what a 2NT overcall means:
  • 1C - 2NT = Hearts and Diamonds
  • 1D - 2NT = Hearts and Clubs
  • 1H - 2NT = Both minors
  • 1S - 2NT = Both minors

All these 2NT overcalls are made with a hand that is at least five cards long in each of the two suits promised and LESS than opening points (6 - 10) give or take a bit for vulnerability or whether partner has passed.

Partner now knows you are shapely (!) but weak. The possible outcomes are:

  • You steal the contract and make it
  • You steal the contract but don’t make it when they had game
  • You talk them out of game or slam
  • They bid and make what they would have done anyway.

Of these possibilities only the last one is bad so you could suppose it’s a 75% action. Well, it isn’t quite: but in general the odds are on your side PLUS you make life very difficult for them. Will they know what to do? Will they bottle out? who knows who has what? Do they have the oxygen? It is always a good idea to induce uncertainty (lack of oxygen) into their auction.


  • After an overcall of a minor suit give preference to hearts with 3-card support or more. Otherwise agree the minor suit.
  • After an overcall of a major suit bid the minor you are longest in. Responder’s forcing bid is a cue-bid of the opener's suit showing a good hand with a fit for at least one of the suits implied: 1C - 2NT - pass - 3C! Three Clubs here is forcing (probably to game, maybe slam.)

What About Spades!?

Luckily the spade suit is naturally strong enough to be bid as a natural overcall – even with a two-suiter. It is King of the Suits and beats all others in the auction. Always get yer spades in if you can!!

BTW I tend to teach that with 12-14 points and a 5332 distributional hand you should still open 1NT even if the 5-card suit is a major. The reason is that one bid says it all and partner is much better placed if the auction gets competitive. But I will come clean and say that I would open 1S with something like:


It’s maximum and if partner bids at the 2-level I’ll re-bid 2N. Not classical I know but as good as anything and slightly more honest in this dishonest world where too few bids have too much work to do.

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Drawing Trumps – 15 July 2010

You’ve made it! You started the ascent from base camp with a nervous 1-level bid and now here you are at the summit in a good trump contract. Tired but happy you settle down in your mental tent to consider the opening lead and partner’s dummy. What next?

The crucial point here is to take your time. It took a lot of effort to get all the way here so now you don’t want to go ruining the moment by rushing the hand without consideration of exactly what to do.

Inevitably you will have to consider the key part of the hand which will be the perennial question : “When shall I draw trumps?” There are three answers to this question:
  1. In a minute
  2. Never
  3. Now
You may have heard often enough the refrain “Always draw trumps first!” and while this is a good guideline it does not tell the whole story. Let’s say the contract is Four Spades and the lead is a heart:

a) .... Kxx ......... AQJxx
........ x ............. Axx
....... AKxxx . .....xx
....... Qxxx ........ J10x

If you draw trumps too early you will never get rid of the two losing hearts in your hand. The reason is you need to trump them with two trumps in dummy so you must attend to that BEFORE drawing trumps.

b) .... Kxx ........ AQJxx
........ x ............ Axxx
........ Axxxx ..... x
........ Qxxx ...... J10x

Now you can’t draw trumps as you need to trump hearts in dummy as well as trumping diamonds in your hand. Here you never draw trumps as you need them all separately coming to eight spades and the two aces.

c) .... Kxx ........ AQJxx
........ xx .......... Ax
........ AKxxx .... Qxx
........ Qxx ........ J10x

Now you do draw trumps. You are not going to trump anything in dummy and you need to get rid of their trumps BEFORE you try to run the diamonds.

Just remember the old song : “It's now or never…”

Friday, 3 September 2010

The Splendid Splinter – A Convention Well Worth Learning – 8 July 2010

Another full house - lovely to see you all. When do Stayman and Transfers apply? In these four instances:

1) 1NT opening
2) 2NT opening
3) 2C - 2D - 2NT
4) 1? - 1NT (overcall 15-17)

Just so you know… And now…


When we make a bid, most of the time we can only convey one simple piece of information about our hand. We try to convey a mixture of information over a series of bids to tell partner about our point count as well as our shape: whether or not we have 5 or 6 or 7 cards in any particular suit.

1D - 1S

In this standard auction with our second bid we tell partner we have about 16 - 19 points, 5 Diamonds and 4 Clubs. But we might have 5D and 5C; we might also have 6D and 4 or 5 C but that information is yet to be communicated. The higher points are communicated by the jump to 3C; had we only had 12-15 points, we would have contented ourselves with a simple 2C.

The same is true is the responder has clubs. 1H - 2C is a regular response, at least 10hcp and 4 clubs, and 3C is agame forcing response, 16+ and possibly a lot of clubs.

Well, that takes care of clubs, whatever your strength, so interestingly that leaves higher club bids without a meaning, at least until we give them one… Enter a very useful tool – the SPLINTER bid.

I know, I know… There are times when you really really want to jab partner with a sharp pointy bit of wood but I'm afraid that is not what it means and anyway the World Bridge Federation gets a bit shirty about that sort of thing. It means this:

When you make a double jump bid in any other unbid side-suit it indicates a game-going trump fit with your partner and a singleton or void in the suit bid. Thus:

1H - 4C! (or 4D)

The 4C bidder will have at least 4hearts, wants to be at least in game and has a singleton or a void in Clubs. It’s a DOUBLE jump. As set out above, 2C is just 10+ HCP, 3C is a big hand with a very good Club suit so 4C is a bit redundant otherwise, which is why it has been pressed into
service like this. It's a really handy bid because unlike many bids it carries two pieces of information, not just one.

As well as being handy for responder, opener can also use them – like so…

1H - 1S

Now opener makes a splinter re-bid, promising 4 spades and a singleton or void diamond suit plus they want to be in at least game and could well be interested in going further down the line to one of those incredibly rewarding slams.

The only thing to remember is that splinter bids do not apply in NT auctions – a trump suit is ALWAYS agreed as the previous suit mentioned by partner. Splinters are well worth remembering as it’s great to convey so much information in one go while at the same time making life very difficult for the opponents.

If you’re interested the Italians won the European Bridge Championships at the weekend, with Poland winning the Seniors event and France the Women’s event. No, we didn’t do very well. Don’t ask…

A couple of links you might like:



A Hot Night For Bridge – The Importance of Going Plus – 1 July 2010

Bit hot down there but the bridge was steamy too, so… Welcome to the new faces lovely to see you all hope you had fun. Er, and learnt a bit too…

We had this ludicrous hand last night bit of fun, bit of fun, nudge, nudge…

S: KJ10xxx
H: -
D: AJ10xxxx
C: -

And starting on your right the bidding went:

1D! - pass - 3C - pass
6C - ????

So now what on earth do you do here? You can read as many text books as you like but none of them will tell you how to navigate in these perilous parlous difficult dangerous waters. The initial pass is probably “right” thoough 1S would not be “wrong” but you must surely bid here. The hand is a freak and there are no rules about freak hands but my rule of thumb is “just bid something!” So here, what does this hand do now? Answers on a ten pound note… ;-)

The POINT of it all: The cards are dealt. They’re in your hand. Before you even look at them – what is your aim? What are the possibilities? If you bid to a contract (at Chicago, Teams or Duplicate) you will gain anything from +70, for 1 C making, all the way up to 2980, for 7NT redoubled making. If they bid to a contract and go down you’ll get anything from +50, 1 down NV, to 7600 for 13 down redoubled and vulnerable.

Obviously – whatever you cards are – your initial plan must be to make the best score you possibly can given the 26 cards you and your partner have been dealt in this specific hand. If that fails you must then be especially careful to give away as little as possible ie WIN BIG, LOSE SMALL.

Realistically we can discount all the super massive scores because they only exist in dreamland. Though an International at last year’s World Championship did manage to go 5 off redoubled for -2800 rather cleverly. So what CAN we aim for?
  • Certainly any of the small slams should be a goal all the time. This is because they score so many points: 6N = 990 NV and 1440 VUL so you need to be alert to the possibility of a slam all the time.
  • Next up of course is the Game. 4S will get you 420 or 620. This is why sometimes you will stretch to bid the game because 3S + 1 is only 170.

Naturally when you do finally look at your hand you won’t necessarily see the 20 HCP rock crusher you’ve been fantasising about bidding all the way to slam. You may not even see your way to game after a few rounds of bidding; so slowly, gently, tired but happy, you’ll finally
settle in some measly part score and be pleased enough just to make it.

But what if the other side keep bidding? How do you improve your losing score? If they bid, vulnerable, to 4S and it makes, they will get 620. If you are not vulnerable and can go only (!) 3 down doubled they will now get just 500. At this form of scoring this is a winning strategy. (At rubber, just be a bit careful about gifting Vulnerable opponents extra points when the rubber was lost anyway!)

And the POINT of all this? Before you look at your hand - look at the vulnerability! Is it
favourable ie GREEN - RED? or dangerous RED - GREEN? Know this as you start to count the points in your hand – think about what your strategy should be in the upcoming bidding war. And your preferred aim? Well I think anything from 500 - 1000+ is always good news in my book!

The freaky hand we started with. If the opps seem to know what they are doing, you better pay your insurance premium by bidding 6S. At least you know partner doesn’t have many diamonds.

All the best


A Bit More Advanced Stuff – Roman Keycard Blackwood – 23 June 2010

Here for reference are the responses to 4NT when it’s Roman Keycard Blackwood. In RKCB the King of the agreed trump suit is counted as an Ace so there are in effect 5 (!) Aces. The responses to the 4NT ask enquiry are:
  • 5C = 0 or 3 Aces
  • 5D = 1 or 4 Aces
  • 5H = 2 or 5 Aces but no Queen of trumps
  • 5S = 2 or 5 Aces with the Queen of trumps

After partner responds 5C or 5D then the a bid of 5 of the next suit above (not the trump suit)ASKS for the Queen of trumps. The Queen is important because if you are missing an Ace you can’t afford to lose a trump trick as well so you suit better play for no losers, i.e. you need the Queen.

You show the Queen by jumping to 6 of the agreed suit or by bidding another suit which shows not only the Queen of trumps but an extra feature in the suit bid as well(King or singleton). If you don’t have the queen you “sign off” by simply bidding 5 of the trump suit.

K Q 7 6
K 7 5 4
Q 10 9 6 2

Partner opens 1S and you junp to 3S – a limit bid, 10 hcp but not mcuh quality to tee hand. [You also have seven ‘losers’ but no ace so devalue the hand a bit – 3S looks better than going game. Nonetheless partner now bids 4NT.

The bidding goes:

1S ..... - ... 3S
4NT.. - ... 5D
5H ... - ... 6H

5D = One of five “key cards”, in this case the King of Spades.
5H = “Do you have the Queen of Spades?”
6H = “Yes, I do and the King of Hearts as well”
6S = “Thanks for the info, but 6S is enough, we don’t have seven!”

Fighting Fire With Fire Pt II – More on Responding When The Opps Have Made a TakeOut Double – 23 June 2010

Last week partner opened a minor (1C or 1D) and the opponents doubled. This week Partner opens a Major (1H or 1S) and the opponents double:

When partner bids, the magical quest for slam begins. But when the opponents DOUBLE, that quest is forever lost. Well, ok, maybe 99 times out of a 100 anyway… However everything is not totally lost as game, partscore or even a juicy penalty double are all still options. Partner has opened with at least (we hope!) 12 high card points (hcp). The doubler will have – most of the time - at least 12 HCP as well, so now out of the total of 40 HCP in the pack, 24 of them have been allocated, leaving just 16 of them between you and the opponent on your left.

It is now your job to tell partner whether a) you have any points and/or b) you have a fit. Remember you have to keep the bidding alive if at all possible in case partner has opened with 20 points. This is a possibility. This is why you respond with 6 HCP. ALWAYS.

1H - X - ?

The responses aren’t that much different from when partner opens a minor. As before, all your raises of partner’s suit are pre-emptive (or stretch raises) so you show a good raise (4 cards & 10+hcp) with 2NT (Truscott). All hands with no fit and 10+ HCP go through REDOUBLE (the blue one!). Otherwise you just bid as naturally as possible.

But do remember that you MUST bid with 6 points. This means that if you can’t bid at the 2 level you'll have to bid 1NT. You’ll bid 1NT with whatever hand you have and only 6 - 9 HCP. For instance:


You can't bid 2D as that promises 9 or 10 HCP, so the only bid you have is 1NT. I know it doesn't describe your hand but it does at least tell partner you have 6 - 9 HCP which may be the most valuable information partner needs! There’s a useful motto:

Help Your Partner Win at Bridge!

(There's a book of the same title…)