Welcome to Basement Bridge

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

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Duplicate Pairs Scoring – 9 December 2010

I talk a lot about bidding, how to get to the best contract, how to stop the opponents finding their best spot; then how to try to make all the tricks you can in defence and as declarer so that you score best. But why? And what does that really mean, I hear you scream in unison. Ah well…here we go then:

A hand (board) will be played a number of times. You will score 2 Match Points for every pair you beat and 1 Match Point for every pair you equal. This means it doesn’t matter what the contract is. 1NT or 6NT attract the same number of Match Points depending on success or failure. They are equally important contracts – both as declarer and defenders. Let’s say a hand is played in 1NT four times. The score sheet might look like this:

NS ... EW .. Contract .. By .. N/S .. E/W .. MP .. MP
. 1 ..... 5 ....... 1NT= ...... N ..... 90 ..... ......... 3 ..... 3
. 2 ..... 6 ....... 1NT+1 .... N ..... 120 ..... ....... 6 ..... 0
. 3 ..... 7 ....... 1NT= ...... N ..... 90 ........ ...... 3 ..... 3
. 4 ..... 8 ....... 1NT-1 ..... N ............. .. 50 ..... 0 ..... 6

Pair 2 have the best N/S score by playing the hand well OR by pair 6 defending badly. Likewise pair 4 have gone to sleep OR pair 8 have defended exceptionally well.

If you substitute 6NT (NV) as the contract:

NS ... EW .. Contract .. By .. N/S .. E/W .. MP .. MP
. 1 ..... 5 ....... 6NT= ...... N ..... 990 ................ 3 ..... 3
. 2 ..... 6 ....... 6NT+1 .... N ..... 1020 .............. 6 ..... 0
. 3 ..... 7 ....... 6NT= ...... N ..... 990 ................ 3 ..... 3
. 4 ..... 8 ....... 6NT-1 ..... N ................ 50 .... . 0 ..... 6

note that the pair that make the overtrick still do best. In fact the crucial point is that the Match Point scoreline for the hand hasnt changed at all: pairs 2 & 8 still get tops!

Overtricks matter. Accurate defence matters. Single tricks one way or another matter. You need to get really stingy …

Hi ho, Silver…


Bidding Theory: The Reverse Made Clear – 1 December 2010

I get asked about “reverses” a lot. Here’s a basic definition: a reverse is a re-bid by opener in a higher ranking suit than that originally opened. 1C - 1S: 2H! In this case the heart suit is higher ranking than the original club suit first opened and is therefore a reverse.

Included in the idea is that a reverse will take you above the repeat level of the first suit bid. So, e.g., in the sequence 1C - 1H - 1S, the 1S bid may be in a higher suit but it’s not a reverse – partner can easily go back to the first suit cheaply by bidding 2C. On the other hand, where the bidding goes, say, 1S - 2H - 3C, the club suit is indeed lower ranking than the first bid spades, but to get back to spades partner will have to bid THREE spades. So this IS a reverse.

The reverse is so named because it is a bidding sequence that is the reverse of that which is expected. Normally you open one of a suit and then bid another, lower ranking suit, as a re-bid. 1H - 1S: 2C. Partner can then “give preference” without raising the level. But after you make a reverse partner will be forced to give preference to your first suit at the three level.

Because of this raise in level you shouldn’t make a reverse unless you have a minimum of 16 high card points. When you make a reverse you show 16+ points and the two suits bid will be at least 5 - 4. And it is FORCING. Responder cannot pass.

It follows (doth it not?) that with less than 16 points you cannot make a reverse. So with this hand, after the bids 1C - 1S, all you can do is bid 2C:


You must resist the temptation – go on, fight that temptation! – to re-bid 2H. If you do bid 2H you will be fibbing to partner about how strong your hand is. Partner will assume you have a hand like this:


and bid confidently to a slam that will never make because you didn’t have the hand in reality that you claimed you had during the bidding.

This is why I so frequently ask you to consider your natural re-bid BEFORE you make your opening bid.

Responder can also make a reverse, and as above it shows a better than minimum hand (ie 10+ hcp) Here’s a sequence where responder is reversing and showing a 5 - 4 hand as well:

1D - 1H
2D - 2S!

This is also forcing.

The second bid is always the one that attempts to define more accurately the shape AND the strength of your hand.

Good luck!


The Mystery Of The Missing Cue – More from the Baker Street Diaries – 18 November 2010

I had not seen Holmes for some time. I had been busy with my own affairs and he had been abroad on some investigation about global fraud and funds for hedges. I called at his rooms where he was languid as ever and regaled him with a tale of the card table.

“You see Holmes, twice my Partner opened 1H, overcalled on my right by 1S, and on both deals I was desirous of bidding 3H but for entirely different reasons. It’s all a bit of a muckle, ain’t it old boy?”

Holmes perused the two hands in question, sighing the while:

a) . xx
..... AJxx
..... Kxx
..... Kxxx

b) . xx
..... Axxxx
..... xx
..... Qxxx

“I see the quandary in which you mired yourself, Watson. With the first hand, having the required points for an invitational raise to 3H (10 -12) you made that bid, even though the opponents had intervened.

“Then when the second hand occurred you were, correctly, ready to pre-empt the opponent on your left by bidding 3H with a much weaker, more distributional hand. Had you done so your partner could only have inferred that you had hand like the first one. Did you bid 3H?”

I nodded assent that I had.

“I thought you might’ve. Partner had a rock-crusher, pushed to 6H and you went 2 down I dare say?”

I nodded again in the affirmative that he was jolly well spot right on.

“When opponents intervene, you as responder, are Snookered. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. The answer is to get out your Cue when you have a good hand and leave it in its case when you don't.”

“Eh?” I snorted, “Get what out, Holmes?”

“To distinguish between a pre-emptive raise and a GOOD raise we need two different bids. If 3H is pre-emptive then what can we bid with a good hand? The answer lies in the cue; as in cue-raise. You merely bid the opponent’s suit. Now you are no longer snookered. You can bid a pre-emptive 3H with a weak hand – less than 9HCP and make a cue-raise with any 10+ HCP hand with 4 card support.”

When opponents intervene you are in a “competitive auction”. This is different from a “constructive auction” when they are silent. Therefore your aims are different. Either (1) you want to tell partner you have a good fit and 10+HCP, or (2) you want to pre-empt them out of their safety zone.

Remember, get yer retaliation in first!

Intervention over 1NT – “System On” or “System Off” ? – 10 November 2010

Congratulations to Captain Ann and the PoW team in the London Newcomers League who WON their first match of the season. Brilliant! Onwards and upwards!

Now for some bridge!

Partner Opens 1NT And Your Right Hand Opponent (RHO) Doubles Or Overcalls

STANDARD (Systems Off)

In Standard Acol it is normal to play "Systems Off" when your RHO intervenes. This means that Stayman and Transfers no longer apply and all bids are natural. ie 2C,2D,2H,2S mean what they say.

If RHO bids a suit, a Double by you is now for penalties. If RHO Doubles, a Re-Double by you means you think partner will make 1NT Doubled. This is nice and simple and everyone knows where they are.

On the other hand… if Stayman and Transfers are so great when RHO stays silent why aren’t they even better if RHO Doubles or bids?


Everything in this section is NON Standard and MUST be discussed with partner before you start playing around (!) just to make sure everyone is on the same wavelength. Otherwise fantastic mis-understandings can occur. Well, they probably will anyway but why
make it worse? Everything below is ONLY by partnership agreement! You
have been warned…

1NT - 2C - ?

Playing Systems On you might agree with partner that a Double by you is Stayman i.e. “They stole my bid: I wanted to bid 2C so I’ll Double to let you know that.” You’ll have a goodish hand and with two 4 card majors and want to compete.

Notice that you now therefore can’t double 2C for penalties. Experts believe this a very small price to pay for regaining Stayman, but you must decide for yourself.

Again in the above auction you can now keep 2D & 2H as transfers. BUT… what if it goes 1NT - 2D - ? Following the principle above a double by you is now a Transfer to Hearts, and 2H is transfer to Spades.


All this of course assumes that the 2C & 2D were natural doesn’t it? You’ll find that a lot of practised partnerships have quite complicated defences to opponents opening 1NT, most of them revolving around two suited hands. This means you have to be a bit more careful in employing Systems On.

For instance a popular defence to 1NT is to play a convention (known as Landy) where a 2C overcall shows BOTH Majors (5 -4), so there’s now no point in Doubling 2C to show the majors in your hand as you’ll want to defend against their untimely intervention.

To make matters even more interesting, other partnerships use a convention (known as Astro) where a 2C overcall of 1NT shows 5+ Hearts and a minor suit, and 2D shows 5+ Spades and a minor. There are plenty of these conventions about (Cansino, Ripstra, etc) and if you come up against them you need to discuss with partner what your bids will now mean.

Sunday, 26 December 2010

Not Quite So Basic Bidding Refesher – Responding To Weak Twos - 3 Nov 2010

A contentious area. BUT... When partner makes a weak bid our job is to (1) help them obfuscate the opposition OR (2) try to find our own best spot.

(1) A pre-emptive weak 2 (or 3) bid is mostly designed to a nuisance. Partner will have about 6 - 9 points and a 6 card suit (the same as for a weak jump overcall).

Assuming you have no interest in game (less than 14 HCP), now what's important is FITS, i.e. do you have a fit for partner or not? And how good the fit is will determine the level you should bid at… not the point count.

[a small digression… A cornerstone of all modern bidding theory is the concept of “the level of the fit”. This theory, popularised by the US Masters Marty Bergen and Larry Cohen, though originated by a French player, states that in competitive auctions (i.e. where both sides are bidding) the combined fits of the trump suits will equal the number of tricks to be taken.

At its simplest and most raw interpretation this means that if you and partner have a 9 card fit you should contract to make 9 tricks; 10 card fit = 10 tricks etc. This is a VAST over-simplification of the theory but it nevertheless holds good in most competitive situations.

So… If partner makes a weak 2 noise and you hold 3-card support, you should therefore raise to the 3 level (6+3 =9) and with 4-card support raise to the 4 level (6+4=10). You most probably won’t make your contract but you will lose less than if they do make theirs. Theoretically. Most of the time. Percentage-wise …]

(2) If you have a very decent hand (18+) opposite a Weak Two you’ll either plump directly for game or slam or whatever. But sometimes you’ll want to know whether that Weak Two was based on a 6 count or a 9 count. You hold:


Partner opens a Weak Two in D, H, or S. If it’s 9, game is a distinct possibility in NT, H’s or S’s. But how can you know? Should you just guess? Scratch your nose? Smile apologetically and bid game anyway? NO NO NO NO NO. What you do is bid 2NT!

This says nothing about your hand but what it does do is ASK partner to tell you which end of the range the weak bid was made with. If the bid was minimum (6 - 7) the opener will just repeat the original suit and you can then decide what to do in the light of the rebid. But if partner holds a “good” hand for the opening bid partner must tell you this by bidding a “feature” in a side suit.


2S - 2NT

This says, “I’m maximum and I’ve got the club A or K.”

Armed with this valuable information you now bid the game.


Basic Bidding Refresher Part III – Pre-Empts – 28 Oct 2010

Most of the time you’ll open the bidding with hands of 12+ HCP. However there are some mini opening hands that can be opened one of a suit with slightly less and here we can use the “Rule of 20”, e.g:


This hand has 10 HCP. Add the number of HCP to the combined length of the two longest suits and if the answer is 20 or more – open 1 of a suit: in this case 1S, preparing to rebid 2D.

This is a way of getting weakish 2-suiters into the auction early. Aggressive bidding within fairly well-defined limits is always a good idea.

And this is also why we make “pre- empts”:

7-Card Suits


With this hand you can open 3H! You'll have a 7 card suit and 6 - 9 HCP. The idea is simply to destroy the opponents auction before they’ve even had a chance to start. Partner now knows you have rubbish and can either control the auction with a good hand or, with a fit, bid 4H – sometimes to make and sometimes not expecting to make, just to get even more in the way.

This bidding style is called “Barrage Bidding”. The opponents frequently get into the wrong game and often miss slam because you have eaten up their space.

6 Card Suits

The pre-empt idea got extended as players discovered more about bidding. In the 1950s some bright spark thought “Well, hey, if 7- card pre-empts are that good, why not 6-card pre-empts?" and so the Weak Two was born …


With this hand you open 2H! The principle is exactly the same as above.

Some of you may mourn the loss of the Acol Strong Two bid but to be honest this is an outmoded way of showing strength. Added to which the Weak Two type hand occurs far more frequently. So you will be bidding more and being more of a nuisance than before. This is a VERY Good Thing…

For the more adventurous of you, I can recommend you scour the internet for a variety of bids known as “Lucas Twos”. Then you can open 2S with a 5(!) card suit. Fun fun fun!

Next week : responding to weak openings.



Basic Bidding Refresher, Part II – Responding After a Suit Bid – 21 Oct 2010

There are 2 starting points to any possible contract: 1NT or a bid of a suit. With 1NT partner is limited to exactly 12 -14 HCP and you base your actions on that inherent knowledge. You can pass 1NT with as many as 10 HCP whereas after a 1 level suit opening that would be criminal. This is because when partner opens 1 of a suit they may have from 10 to 20 HCP and we just don’t yet know, so we struggle to keep the bidding open for at least one round. (I'll leave discussions of how to respond after weak 2 or 3 bids for another time.)

Responding with 6 - 9 HCP

The weak range:

1) Always, always, always, ALWAYS respond with 6 HCP (assuming no overcall). Always, always, always, ALWAYS show a 4 card major at the 1 level if you can.

Do NOT, repeat NOT, bid 1NT if you can bid 1H or 1S. If you bid 1NT after partner opens 1D, but you had 4 Hearts, later in the bidding, when you might need partner to know you have them, partner will never believe you. The net effect of this is to damage partnership confidence. If partner had 19 points, 6 Diamond and 4 Hearts, you're NEVER going to find the Heart game and you miss out on the lovely game /rubber bonus. More importantly, your partner will miss the bonus and will not be a happy bunny. Still inwardly cross, they will probably make a mistake on the next hand, and now the partnership is in a downward spiral. All because you didn't bid 1H when you could.

2) You can give partner a weak raise with 4 card support (1H - 2H) but if partner opens a minor suit, the above constrictions apply: even with 4 card support for a minor, show a 4 card – or better – major FIRST.

Responding with 10 - 12 HCP

The "invitational" range: i.e. you can suggest game to partner but you cannot yet insist on it.

1) Bid a 4 card major at the one level (I do go on don't I?)
2) You can bid a new suit at the 2 level. It can be 4 cards long [except!!: After 1S, 2H's promises 5 hearts]
3) You can make a “limit” raise of partner's suit (1H - 3H) with 4-card support. If partner opens a minor though, if you remember, bid a 4 card Major first…
4) There used in Old fashioned Steam Age Acol to be a bid that covered this range and it was 2NT. This bid has almost completely dropped out of usage and you should forget you ever learnt it. The reason is that modern computer based study of percentage actions has shown that it is correct to open on fairly weakish hands that would have horrified our forefathers. Consequently the best place to play may be in a suit at the 2 level. Impossible if you bid 2 NT.

Responding with 13+ HCP

The Game range

1) Make sure of game.
2) Bid a 4 card major at the 1 level if you can (again already?)
3) Er, that's it.

More next week

Basic Bidding Refresher – 14 October 2010

New players are showing up so here’s a quick summary of how we aim to bid. Commit this to memory!

“BALANCED” Hands (4333, 4432, 5332 shapes) :

  • 12 - 14: open 1NT. 15 - 16: open 1 of a suit, rebid 1NT.
  • 17 - 18: open 1 of a suit, rebid 2NT.
  • 19 - 20: open 1 of a suit, rebid 3NT. 20 -22: open 2NT. 23+: open 2C, rebid 2NT.

WEAK Hands:

  • 6 - 10, 6 card suit: open 2D, 2H, or 2S. You CANNOT make a weak 2 bid in Clubs!
  • 6 - 10, 7 card suit: open a pre-empt at the 3 level.

BIG Hands:

  • Open 2NT (balanced 20 -22) or 2C (Unbalanced 21+ OR balanced 23+)


Will open 1 of a suit. But here the key is the REBID. Sherlock is very keen on the idea that before you make your opening bid you decide what your rebid is going to be. This will depend on your
assessment of your hand. Your hand will normally fall into one of two distinct ranges: 12 - 15 and 16 - 19. With the first you can only make a minimum rebid, but with the second point range you must make some kind of forcing or jump rebid.

Here are some examples of how different rebids tell different stories. Assume partner makes a 1-level response of some kind:

  • OPEN: 1H, REBID: 2H. You show 5+ H's and 12 - 15
  • OPEN: 1H, REBID: 3H. You show 6+ H's and 16 - 19
  • OPEN: 1H, REBID: 2D. You show 5+ H's, 4+ D's and 12 - 15
  • OPEN: 1H, REBID: 3D. You show 5+ H's, 4+ D's and 16 - 19

Don’t be shy – bid your hand. I know the opposition (sometimes, even your partner) will contrive to make it difficult for you to bid exactly what you want when you want. Nevertheless, Sherlock says you should have a very good idea of – IDEALLY – what your rebid will be.

The point is that by doing this you are forced to assess the value of your hand at the beginning of the auction, not two-thirds of the way through when you might by then have forgotten why you opened in the first place!

The other key factor is to listen carefully to the bids made by partner and the opposition to see if you can gather information about where certain key cards might be and how that affects the value of your hand. Remember the value of your hand may go down as well as up – just like your investments (hollow laugh…)

Have fun