Welcome to Basement Bridge

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

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Power Hands – What To Do With A Big One! – 1 September 2010

It’s always a pleasure to find you’re holding a big one. But what to do with it? Should you handle it gently or grab the moment? As you’re aware, I’m no shrinking violet so my advice is that if you’ve got something worth showing – get it out there!


In most systems the biggest opening bid you can make is 2 Clubs. In Acol, 2C is a game force. Only the sequence:


can be passed out below game when the 2D bidder has nil points. Otherwise game must be bid.

If you hold a balanced hand with any of these distributions: 4333, 4432 or 5332, then you need to have 23+ HCP. However if you have more distribution, 6322, 5521 then, as a result of your presumed extra playing strength, you can have a few points less than 23, but certainly a minimum would be 20 HCP.

For balanced hands in the 20 - 22 HCP range the opening bid is 2NT. You need to tell partner very clearly that a) the hand belongs to your side and that b) you are the proud possessor of half or more of the available total HCP (40).


Most of the time when you overcall you’ll have about 9 - 16 HCP and partner will respond accordingly. So how to tell partner when you have a hand better than that? The answer is to start with a Double and then bid again – assuming the opponents have left you the space
to do so!


Whatever is opened on your right, your hand is too strong to overcall 1NT (15 - 17) so the strategy is to Double and then bid NT’s (at the lowest available level) and partner will know you are 18+ and take appropriate action.



is far too good for a simple 1S overcall, so again, Double first and then introduce the spades, making it clear to partner that you have a 17+ hand with spades.

It follows that when you do Double you cannot make another bid UNLESS you have 17+ HCP as partner will assume you hold one of the big hands. This is why when you respond to a Double
you must always make a jump bid with 9+ HCP. Of course, never assume partner does have one of the big hands. Wait to be told.

We Open And They Double

Partner opens 1S and opponent on your right Doubles. What’s your strategy? Most of the time you can either ignore the double and bid naturally OR – with a fit for partner – make some appropriate pre-emptive raise. But there is another weapon you can use when you do NOT have a fit for partner but you do have 9+ HCP. It’s the very little used blue one with the two XX’s on it: RE-DOUBLE!

Now, partner knows that as a partnership you hold at least half the points between you and will know what to do.

Oh yes they will…



Plays in Single Suits – 25 August 2010

How can you play this suit for four tricks whatever happens?

A Q 10 x

K 9 x

You have between you and dummy seven cards in the suit so six are held by the opposition. If they break 3 - 3 between those two hands you just play off the A, K, Q and the little one in dummy will be good. But what if they break 4 - 2 and the jack is in the 4-card suit? What if they break 6 - 0? 5 - 1? How can you now make four tricks?

The answer is to play off the A first. If the jack drops singleton, or there’s a void you make 4 tricks (You know where the Jack is!). If not then you play low to the King. Again if the jack drops now you make four tricks. If on the other hand the player to your right shows out void, then now you can play low to the 10 and you make 4 tricks even on a 5 - 1 break. But what if all follow small to the second round?

Actually at this point – if you have no other information about the opponents likely shape from the bidding or their previous play – you should play for the drop and the 3 - 3 break. It’s all about finding the Jack. But by playing the Ace first you give yourself more chances to find it. Take those chances!!!



Don't be shy - After 1NT You Can Bid On Air (And A Long Suit!) - 25 August 2010

As I said last week when partner opens 1 of a suit you MUST respond when you have 6 or more points in case partner holds 19 HCP. However when partner opens 1NT things radically alter.

For a start, you know they won’t have 19, so the need to just bid any old thing with 6 HCP doesn’t arise. Alternatively, when partner open 1 of a suit you shouldn’t bid with less than 5HCP, but now after 1NT there are situations where you WILL bid with absolutely nothing! Bids have different meanings; you may be expected to bid with 0+ points and you may be expected to pass with as many 10 points. Weird huh? How can this be? you cry. Has the man taken leave of his senses? Well, maybe, but the point is …

Responses When Partner Opens (12 - 14)

When partner opens One of a Suit they can have a crummy 10 to a gorgeous 20 HCP. We just don’t know so we keep bidding until we do know. But when partner bids 1NT we know specifically the range promised – 12 - 14. Armed with this valuable knowledge your strategy is subtly different. Here’s a breakdown of what your responses should be and what they mean:
  • PASS Balanced – less than 10 or unbalanced with no suitable bid
  • 2C Stayman (“Have you got a 4-card major?")
  • 2D Transfer (“Bid 2H”)
  • 2H Transfer (“Bid 2S”)
  • 2S minor suit run-out (“bid 3C”)
  • 2NT 11-12 balanced (“Bid game if you have 14”)
  • 3C VG suit, slam interest
  • 3D VG suit, slam interest
Above this things get more complicated as well as being open to many differing and varied concepts and styles so, er… we’ll forget all that then!


The Rule of 25 – Bridge’s Best “Value Bet” – 18 August 2010

There are many so-called “rules” in bridge, some of which are nonsense, some of which are eminently breakable and some which are cast iron mathematical certainties. But there is one truly important rule – one rule sent to rule them all – the Rule of 25!

The Rule of 25 states that: If the combined total of a partnership’s point count is 25 or more then – assuming normal breaks and normal distribution – game should be made MOST OF THE TIME.

Therefore when you and your partner have that magical number - Bid Game! Somewhere, somehow.

The corollary of this rule is that: if you and your partner have less than 25 combined points – game is not on unless the distribution is wild. In this case you should PASS as soon as you reasonably can.

Partner opens 1NT and you hold:


What you absolutely and categorically know is that game is not on (14 + 8 = 22!) and therefore you will try to pass as soon as you can before the auction gets too high. In fact with this hand you will pass immediately. You have nothing to say and have no reason to suppose that a contract other than 1NT will score better for your side. You cannot bid 2D as that means hearts (transfer) and you definitely can’t go stayman as partner is likely to bid 2S with dire consequences. So PASS 1NT.

Alternatively you hold


You also know game is not on but this time 1NT rates to be second best to 2S, so transfer to spades and THEN pass! Remember - no 25 - no game.

The Rule of 25 is also why you must ALWAYS respond to 1 of a suit with 6 points – because partner may open One of a Suit with 19 hcp (6 + 19 = 25). It really is that simple.

Don’t forget Ned Paul’s friendly duplicate on Friday evenings – details here: http://www.ruffclub.co.uk

See you next week


Fourth Suit Forcing – Routefinding To The Best Game – 11 August 2010

There are a lot of different ways to bid game when you know unequivocally what the denomination will be. It’s less easy (and illegal) to scratch your head and say to partner – “Hey! I want to be in game but frankly I really don't know which one. Sorry!” Luckily there is a legal way of doing this. Really! And it’s Fourth Suit Forcing (FSF).

You hold:


The auction begins with partner opening 1C. You know straightaway game is on but is it 3NT, 4H or 4S or 5C? Which is the safest? Which the most high scoring? Is 3N +1 (+430) going to be better than 4H/S (+420) or will a major suit game produce an overtrick for +450? Will 3N get you +2 for +460? At some stage you will have to take control of the auction and push partner to game.

The auction proceeds:

1C - 1H
1S - ???

Does partner have five clubs and four spades? Or six clubs and five spades? Or just four of each? Or even three hearts? Maybe a diamond stopper? At this point in this auction game might be on in three of the 4 suits plus the NT game and slam can’t be too far off either. So which one will you guess to bid? And why should you stab at a silly guess when the solution is to simply bid 2D! FSF!

How FSF Works

Once three suits have been bid between you and partner it is extremely unlikely that the bid of the 4th suit can possibly be natural. Therefore it is used as a conventional (ie unnatural) bid to demand of partner that they continue to define the parameters of the hand they hold. The other
great thing about it is that it is unconditionally forcing to game, so you and partner can swap useful bits of information between you safe in the knowledge that a game – somewhere – must be reached!

So the auction goes on:

1C - 1H
1S - 2D (FSF)

Now opener’s 3rd bid should be the one that finally unlocks the clues to the Sherlock Holmes-like mystery of which game to play in:

2H = 3 card heart suit
2S = 5 card spade suit (5+ Clubs as well; i.e. you have a fit in two suits)
2NT = A diamond stopper, no 3 H’s, no 5 S’s
3C = 5+ Clubs
3D = asking for a diamond stop for 3NT

When partner makes one of these bids you will – finally – know exactly which denomination to play in. What you may not know yet is exactly at which level. OK, so game’s on but what about slam? You’d like those extra 500 or 1000 points on the score card wouldn’t you? It’d take care of any of those silly minuses that creep in. As I said earlier, FSF is “forcing to game”. This means that both of you can bid away as much as you like showing a feature here, a void there, cue-bidding merrily away because you both KNOW that whatever else happens you MUST end up in game.

See you next week!