Welcome to Basement Bridge

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

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

When ‘Rules’ Are Made To Be Broken – 20 Jan 2011

The basement bridge group meets every Wednesday evening for ‘supervised play’ at the Princess of Wales in London NW1. Date given in each headline is the date this posting was mailed out to the basement bridgers. Check the blog for past info on transfers, cue-bids, doubles and so on … New players are always welcome and partners are found for all players. To be added to the mailing list, send an email to bridge@ruffclub.co.uk with the subject ‘Basement Bridge’.

An evening of weird distributions was evidence that sometimes the rules don’t seem to apply and you just have to fly by the seat of your pants, stare down the opposition and see who buckles first. Even the last hand of the night was a treat. A perfectly sound 6D was bid and the play could cater for a 4 - 1 trump break but was finally defeated on the 5 - 0 break. Which you can do nothing about 90% of the time. Hey ho… Another chronosynclastic infundibulation… which brings us to the subject of:


There are many of these so-called “Rules” in Bridge. They are designed to assist the average player make decisions in certain repeating situations. But be warned! None of them are sacrosanct or 100% cast iron.

The problem is that if you follow a rule blindly you will stop thinking clearly about the hand you actually hold in the deal you are actually playing. For instance – as I've said before – most of the time it is not a good idea to lead from a suit headed by just the ace or just the king against a suit contract. This is not a RULE. It is “Advice To Players” (ATP)

The same is true of the Rule (!) “2nd hand plays low, 3rd hand high” when you are defending. Most of the time these ATP will hold good but not ALL of the time. So you have to think about the situations where these ATP do NOT apply.

The opposition bid as follows:

1S - 2D
3D - 3S
4S - P

You are on lead and you hold a diamond suit like this: Axxx.

Looking at the auction - and thinking about it - you can tell that the opposition have an 8 card fit in both the diamond suit and the spade suit. Well, if they have eight diamonds and you have four then partner has … er … ONE! So – in this case – you must lead the ace of diamonds and then give your partner the expected ruff.

Similarly if, after a competitive auction where you and partner bid hearts but the opposition bid on to 4 Spades, partner leads a small club. Dummy wins the ace and a small spade is led from the table. What do you now play with this hand?


The ATP is that 2nd hand plays low. But Stop! Think! Why has partner not led a heart – the partnership’s known best suit? Partner is either a dang dumb fool OR knows exactly what needs to be done and wants you recognise the fact. What if the club is singleton and that’s why partner led it?

Now you have to ignore the ATP “2nd hand plays low”, dive in with the ace of spades and give partner the club ruff before declarer has a chance to draw trumps.

The Rules in bridge (ATP) that you will hear about and read about are not rules. They are percentage plays or bids that probably succeed more often than they fail. What you have to be aware of is the slightly smaller percentage times when the ATP do NOT apply. There is only one Rule in bridge: NEVER STOP THINKING…

Have fun

2-Suited Overcalls - The Contessa Bids Michaels 12 Jan 2011

“You have to get in there whenever you can,” breathed the Contessa.

As she laid them gently on the table, I was rather amazed to see what she had. The bidding had started on my left:

1H - 2H! - 4H - 4S
Dble - P - P - P

I alerted the Contessa’s 2H and when asked said it was a Michaels Cue bid showing a weak hand (5 - 9) with at least 5 Spades and a 5 card minor.

In fact the Contessa’s dummy was a lot less in points than expected and my heart sank when I saw it:


I held:


I didn’t expect to make 4S but knew we had a double fit and just wanted to be awkward. 16 points between us didn't seem enough for game (!) but I soldiered on. Luckily the ace of clubs was on my right and the suit broke 3-2. I got away with losing 2 clubs and a heart to make my daring doubled game.

It was always exciting when the Contessa let me play with her. “You see? You should never be shy when you have a good shape, no?”

I swear she winked at me…

For more on this, check the blog at: http://basementbridge.blogspot.com/2010/05/two-suited-overcalls-part-2-michaels.html

Have fun

Freak Show – 12 Jan 2011

Something like 70% of hands fall in to the category of “Bread & Butter” hands. The rest can be almost anything. Tonight we had:


This is not a hand you will find in textbooks. Basically you have to do whatever you think is right and make it up as you go along. Partner opens 1NT and the bidding – I arbitrarily decided – should go along the lines of:

1NT - 2H!(transfer)
2S - 3C
3S - 4S

Well.. who knows? It went down, but on another day you might make an overtrick!

Everyone Loves Big Ones – 5 Jan 2011

However much you may want to, you won’t hold one of these very often. So it’s crucial you know what to do when you get a handful…

A Big One is defined as hand of 20+ HCP. As there are 40 points in the pack you hold half or more of the total, so game can be on opposite less than 6HCP. So. How do you tell partner about your wonderful holding?

Balanced Big Ones
  • 20 - 22 HCP BALANCED = 2NT

Ok. So that’s all the big balanced hands taken care of. In all the above cases you want partner to bid when they hold LESS than the normal responding hand of 6+ HCP.

Shapely Big Ones

But what about the UNbalanced hands where Game is on opposite less than normal responding hands? These will be hands of 20+ HCP where a NT bid or re-bid is not suitable:

A Q 5 4 2
A K Q 8 6

21 HCP. You need almost nothing from partner to make game and with a a couple of Kings over there, slam could on. The point count is right for 2NT but the shape is NOT. If you open 1H you will be VERY cross when partner passes with nothing but the King of Hearts and 4H rolls in.

The solution is to open such hands with the BIG BID - 2 CLUBS! This bid does mean you have 23+ with a BALANCED hand but it also means 20+ with an UNBALANCED hand.

2C followed by a suit re-bid is unconditionally forcing to game. It cannot be passed by a shy responder! Note that the hand above has only 3 losers, but that 2C can be bid on hands of 4 losers. Also if you add in the Length Points for the 5th cards in each red suit you do have 23 points.

See you all soon

Talking of Big Ones, how about Squeezes! For those of you with an enquiring mind about the finer intricacies of declarer play, you might like to glance at books about the Squeeze: a slightly esoteric but nonetheless important part of declarer’s armoury. Here’s a few to look at:
  • A Bridge to Simple Squeezes - Julian Laderman
  • Squeezes Made Simple - David Bird, Marc Smith
  • Squeeze Play Made Easy - by Terence Reese and Patrick Jourdain

Saturday, 1 January 2011

Overcalling Part I – The SQOT Test – 15 December 2010

By now I hope you all have understood that to overcall we need a suit of at least 5 cards in length. I encourage aggressive overcalling – especially non vulnerable – but you do need to be careful about introducing bad suits into the auction when you don’t have too many high card points (“hcp”). But how to judge when to bid and when to pass I hear you wail in unison? Luckily there is a little rubric that helps and that is:


This stands for Suit Quality Overcall Test. Be warned! It is not foolproof. Nothing ever is. But it will at least guide you towards considering the quality of the suit you want to overcall in as well as giving you a nudge towards the level at which you can be (reasonably) safe to overcall.

It goes like this: add the number of cards held in a suit to the number of honours (A,K,Q,J,10) held and the answer will give you the level at which you can overcall. Well that’s the idea anyway. But as I said be careful, especially when vulnerable. The overall quality of the rest of the hand is just as important as the suit you want to overcall with.

Some examples of suits in isolation:


A97432; ... KQ764; ... A10852; ... AQ753

AKQ84; ... AQ9652


The first one has a SQOT of 6 and should not be bid. The nextfour examples can be bid at the one level as the SQOT is 7. The next two have a SQOT of 8 and can be overcalled at the 2 level. The last one has a SQOT of 9 and can therefore be used in a weak jump overcall to the three level if NV. (If Vul have a 7 card suit for the 3 level)

This idea can be used for simple overcalls or Weak Jump Overcalls (5 - 10 with a good 6-card suit).

See also

If I don't see you before, have a wonderful Christmas and a very good New Year!

All the best