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

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