Welcome to Basement Bridge

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

Thursday, 23 February 2012


When you learn the game of bridge the emphasis is on bidding suits you genuinely hold. This will tell partner (beloved partner) useful, constructive information about your hand so they may then make (you hope!) the correct decisions.
As you slowly progress you will begin to realise that some bids have been set aside for other specific purposes. They do not actually mean what they appear to say. These bids are known as "Conventional" bids.
One of the most useful of these bids is the opening bid of 2 Clubs. It says nothing about the Club suit itself at all: either its quality or its length. The meaning assigned to it is that you have a hand that is super massively powerful.
If you add together all the values in the pack for Aces, Kings, Queens and Jacks you will find the total is exactly 40 points. Experience has shown that - most of the time - if your partnership has a combined total of 25 points, then some kind of Game contract should make. It follows, therefore, that if you hold yourself, in your own hand, more than half of those possible points - 20+ - then you are in an incredibly strong position. Partner needs very little for you as a pair to be bidding Game. But how do we inform partner of our collective great good fortune? Across the world in nearly all systems it has been decreed the bid assigned to impart this delicious information is 2 Clubs. This is the "Standard" bid that says: "I am super massive - keep bidding!" This forces partner to bid even if they hold less than the normal 6 points required to respond to an opening bid. They MUST bid!
The general requirements are that a balanced, No Trump kind of hand should hold at least 23 of those wonderful points. This hand should open 2C!
But not all powerful hands are so flat. There are other more distributional hands that even though they have fewer points, are just as strong. These hands need a minimum of about 20 points:
Partner will need only have any of the Kings (3 points) for game to make on most layouts. If you open 1S you will most probably miss that game. So force partner to bid - open 2C!
You need to be in game whenever possible because of the bonus. In all forms of the game - Rubber, Teams or Duplicate - those bonuses are what it's all about. Bid those games.

Sunday, 12 February 2012


What if, what if what if???? A question I get asked a lot. usually when I suggest a bid and it's reason, but the questioner gets cold feet about my bold suggestion. Yes indeed what if? Moreover, what if we stopped worrying about the bad breaks and all the things that can go so terribly wrong? What if we used that spare "worrying" brain power instead to concentrate on what matters? You see, nothing will EVER be always right. Occasionally it will all go tits up.  So?


You deal yourself this hand and naturally open 1C with glee and optimism in every pore. Things get immeasurably better as partner has this hand


Oh yes! 7N is cold! how great! Yeah. But "what if..." this great hand is on your left instead? Now you could well struggle to make even your original 1C contract. So does this "mean" that it was therefore "wrong" to open 1C? Or that we should only bid when partner has the "right" hand? How on earth can we know?
The answer is that - most of the time - 99.9% - the reality will be somewhere between the two extreme possibilities: that partner has a hand that will help you make a Grand Slam, OR that your left hand opponent is going to slaughter the living daylights  out of you. The crucial point is to realise that there is NOTHING you can do about this. Fate will deal what fate will deal. You open 1C because that is your bid, not because it will turn out right on every deal, but because you MUST tell partner what you have. Every single time I bid 3NT I have absolutely no certainty that the contract will either A) make or B) be the best contract. I don't know how the "what ifs" are placed around the defenders' hands. Know what? I don't care. If I think, to the best of my available knowledge, that 3NT is the best thing to bid then I will just do it. I will be wrong or right. If I'm right - well and good. If I'm wrong I will fight and pray the defence gets it wrong and I get away with being "wrong". Otherwise shrug and move on. My plan is to be "right" about 60% of the time. Not EVERY time. This is not humanly possible. Like the man said: Treat success and failure... exactly the same. Remember: it isn't always your fault!

Wednesday, 8 February 2012


When you and partner freely exchange bids without opposition interference, you can be said to have a CONSTRUCTIVE auction. However when one side starts overcalling you are now into the crazy world of the DESTRUCTIVE auction. They overcall to destroy your auction, to suggest leads or to steal away what may rightfully be yours. This is when you need to access your inner Dalek and EXTERMINATE! Fits in suits often count for more than mere HCP so be on the look out for these situations.
At the recent pan- galactic tournament on Arcturus V the hotly contested final was between Humanoids and Daleks. This hand arose with the match all square.  N & S (vul) were the Humanoids, S dealt:
AKxxx  1098542
Q                       xx
Kxxx                 xxxx
Axx                   10

The tough auction went:
1H - 1S - 2S! - 5S
2S by North was a good raise (10+) and a 4+ fit.  Despite his zero count the Dalek East imagined his species cry of "EXTERMINATE" and went through the roof with his bid of 5S but this induced the catastrophic error by S of 6H which went 2 off after the efficient defence of AC, club ruff and a Diamond return. -200. At the other table with the Daleks sitting N- S the auction was a gentler affair but with a sting in the tail:
1H - 1S - 2S! - 4S
5H - X -   Passed out
Bemused by his partner's pass of the double, West now made a series of Humanoid defensive errors and led the AS, ruffed by the Dalek South, who drew trumps and led a club. Winning his A the Humanoid West compounded his errors by leading a low Diamond, won by the Q on the table so the Dalek South could claim his doubled vulnerable contract PLUS ONE and score +1050 which the Daleks gleefully added to the 200 won at the other table for a total of +1250. The humanoids caved in and duly lost the rest of the match by a heavy margin. After the match the Daleks discussed the hand:
"Why you make lunatic bid of 5S? Could be disastrous. Right this time, lucky......"
"Had to do desperate thing. Never know. If they bid 6H's and make, I will  congratulate warmly then terminate me in nearest Nova. But I don't think so..."

5S is a "pressure bid." Pressure induces mistakes. A destructive auction can go either way. Make sure it's your way...

Have fun

Friday, 3 February 2012


"We have two weapons", intoned the wizard. The evening sun dappled the stone chamber. "Each of these weapons has magic force. Sometimes they have power on their own and sometimes their forces combine."
"What are these weapons, Dumbledore?" quizzed Harry.
"They are STRENGTH and LENGTH, young Harry. Observe." The wizard waved a wand and 13 cards tumbled before Harry's face, jiggling and giggling. "Get a grip," moaned the wizard. The cards obediently fanned themselves in the air. This is what Harry saw:


"This hand is powerful as a result of its STRENGTH in high cards. But note that it has no shape. Opposite the wrong hand it may very well take no more than 4 tricks despite its power. But that would be extremely unlikely in practice. We open 1 Diamond expecting to rebid 3NT if partner responds. Now consider this hand:


"This hand is powerful as a result of its LENGTH in the Spade suit. It has no power of STRENGTH. Now we must use its power quickly and make a pre-emptive strike before the opponents muster their forces: we must try to cut their communications by opening 3 Spades!"
"Wow, that seems a lot," said Harry.
"True. But consider: if we bid like that before they bid, we hope fatally to damage their auction. We take away precious bidding space. Can they bid the right game? Will they miss slam?"
"But what if we have a hand with both powers combined?"
"A very wise question, young Harry," beamed the wizard, snapping his fingers to change the cards. Harry saw:


"Here, we have Strength and Length. There are 16 points  and a 6 card suit. But the value of the hand is worth no more than a 1 Heart opening. If, however, partner responds 2 Hearts we now re-value the hand for it's SHAPE. The singleton pulls its weight so we ADD  3 points giving us a total of 19: enough to attempt game. We bid a direct 4 Hearts! The STRENGTH & LENGTH combine but only after we find a fit!!!"

It really isn't magic at all, y' know...


William Brown was not a natural card player. It was having to sit still and keep quiet he found hardest. Having eaten all the chocolate eclairs his mother had baked for the WI, his punishment was to spend the afternoon partnering Violet Elizabeth while his mother and father practised their bidding on them. Luckily for William, he and Violet Elizabeth were dealt a succession of very good hands - much to his Father's petulant annoyance - so the scores were fairly level, despite Mr Brown's advanced techniques. Then William failed to raise Violet Elizabeth to a slam and Mr Brown began to scent a victory. William was sulky.
"I din' have nearly enough points for slam! Why're you sayin' I should bid slam. You keep tellin' me we need 32 points for slam and we din' have nearly that. Not even close to nearly, actually."
"But it isn't just about points is it William? Distribution is as strong a weapon as lots of honour cards. You had a void, so that increased the power of your hand quite dramatically. Don't you think so Violet Elizabeth?"
"Oh yeth, but he hath done very well tho far. At leatht, I think tho," said Violet Elizabeth, batting her eyelids with alarming sophistication at William who resolutely refused to notice or even enjoy her constant praise.
The next hand was dealt by Mr Brown who took his time and then bid 2C (Any big, unbalanced hand of 20+ HCP or a balanced 23+). Violet Elizabeth passed and Mrs Brown obediently bid 2D (Any hand with less than about 8HCP). William stared at his hand for some time, still smarting from his father's criticisms as well as acute indigestion. All that fuss. He din' even like chocolate... Taking a bold view and holding to one of the Outlaws favourite sayings (Get 'em before they get you!) William bid 4S. Mr Brown went through a series of emotions including shock, fear and homicidal mania. Channelling his aggression he doubled with a profound air of killer self-satisfaction. Everybody passed, the lead was made, dummy went down and, when the dust finally settled, William emerged with the 10 tricks he bid and an incandescent father.
"You said it wasn't about points, so actually, it's like I kind of took your advice, din't I ,Pops?" said William loftily.
"Well I think that's it for the afternoon," said Mrs Brown abruptly, thinking how awful it was to get blood off the Axminster. "Well played William dear. Why don't you walk Violet Elizabeth home?"
"That would be thuper, wouldn't it William", said Violet Elizabeth in a voice of cream and honey.
 Mr Brown had yet to find his voice. He had been so sure William had finally and foolishly overstepped the mark. After the others went, he sneaked a look at William's hand:
William lost a Club, a Diamond and the Ace of Hearts; the Spades broke kindly and though William only had 12 HCP the doubled game had been lay-down. Mr Brown hated losing. Especially to William.
William, wondering if he could get back to the other Outlaws before dark, suggested to Violet Elizabeth they take a short cut to her house through the woods.
"Oh yeth, William, yeth." She whispered. "I'll thcream and I'll thcream..."


It was the final of the 100 Acre Wood Pairs. For the last round Christopher Robin and Pooh were playing Tigger and Eeyore. Tigger was the dealer and excitedly sorted his cards with little grunts of satisfaction. After much chin scratching and intense study of distant late afternoon clouds he bid 1NT. Eeyore correctly intoned: "12 - 14" but then went on:  "balanced, no singleton, only one doubleton - ".
"Yes, we get the picture," said Christopher Robin.
 "Do we? When?" said Pooh. Christopher Robin passed and Eeyore went into a huddle, shifting in his seat and dropping his cards while his tail knocked over the bidding box. When order had finally been restored Eeyore resignedly and slowly passed.
"Your bid Pooh," said Christopher Robin.
"Is it?" said Pooh, who up until now had been laboriously sorting his cards by some secret system known only to himself. "What's happened so far?" The auction was explained to him and then Pooh made a sound such as "Aha" as if to say well that tells me all I need to know doesn't it and then with great craftiness - he passed as well.
"Right, 1NT it is then," said Christopher Robin, controlling the urge to throw his toys out of the pram, "Any questions partner?"
 "Yes. When's dinner?" said Pooh.
Tigger did his utmost bestest to go down but even he managed to wind up with 9 tricks in the end. As he won each trick he leapt up and down giggling: "Did I win that? Did I really win that? I won that. Which hand am I in?" As Christopher Robin scored the traveller Tigger tried to teach a disinterested Eeyore the finer points of the high five but without much success. Christopher Robin noted that he and Pooh had scored a complete top as everyone else had been in 3NT but he doubted it would be enough to beat Rabbit and Owl.
Later, as they ambled back to Pooh's house, Christopher Robin pointed out that as Tigger had 15 HCP points on that hand he just was too good to open 1NT. Especially as Eeyore had 10 HCP and they should have been in the making game of 3NT with a combined total of 25 HCP.
"You see, Pooh, it's partnership game."
"Now he tells me, already..." growled Pooh in a surprisingly good New York Bronx accent.
"Thing is, Pooh, if you lie to partner - your beloved partner - however small the lie, partner can only get it wrong. Tigger should have opened 1 of a suit and then REBID 1NT, showing 15 - 16 HCP. Eeyore with his 10 HCP can now safely bid 3NT knowing the partnership has a combined holding of 25 HCP - enough to attempt game. Do you remember that other hand where I opened 1C and you responded 1NT, Pooh?"
Pooh narrowed his eyes and thought as hard as a bear can think and finally said "Oh ye-es." in the nonchalant devil may care voice he used when he had no idea what anyone was talking about.
"You had a balanced 9 count, true,  but you also had 4 Hearts. As did I."
"I didn't know that, Christopher Robin. How could I know that?" said Pooh spreading his arms wide and appealing to the gathering dusk.
"True. But if you bid 1H first then you have a chance of finding out. As it happens I bid 3NT which can never make while 4H is cold on any defence. We have to work together to find our best combined contract. If you withhold information from me then I can only get it wrong. Do you see?" said Christopher Robin more in hope than expectation.
"Oh ye-es." said Pooh hurriedly. "Can we have dinner now?"
Christopher Robin sighed as the sun sank below the distant trees. "The real trouble is that Owl and Rabbit won. Even though he's only an Owl, we'll have weeks of him crowing".


Back in the stone age it was sort of decided that a good leading strategy was to lead the fourth best of your longest and/or strongest suit. It is no longer the stone age. It is true that if you do decide to lead from a 4 card or longer suit HEADED BY AN HONOUR (!)  then the 4th best card is the right card to play. But the crucial point is to decide whether or not that is the right SUIT to attack in the first place.  The opening lead is probably one of the hardest parts of the game and many a contract will make or fail on the first card led. When the bidding is over you should all leave your bids on the table until the first lead is made. This is to enable the opening leader to look at and assess the auction while they opt for the - hopefully - correct lead. Here's a couple of hints:
1)   Try not to lead a suit bid (or implied) by the opposition - especially declarer.
2)    Try not to lead from an unsupported honour - especially A's or K's
3)    DO lead the suit bid by your partner
4)    Eliminate the suits you do not want to lead from and then choose the right card from suit you decide on.... but which is the right card, I hear you holler?
The standard approach is to lead: Top of a sequence (KQxx, QJxx, J1098 etc), top of an internal sequence (KJ109, Q109x), 4th best from an honour (Qxxxx, Kxxx) and 2nd from bad suits not headed by an honour  (10xxxx, xxx), A from AK and top of a doubleton. Obviously singleton leads against a suit contract are always worth a shot as well.  But you should not make one of these leads just because you hold them. These are the leads you make from any given holding once you have decided to lead that particular suit from your assessment of the auction. No amount of so-called "rules" will ever take the place of actually thinking about what to do in any given situation.  "Rules" are not a substitute for thought. They are an aid to assist your thoughts in certain repeating patterns. On the other hand sometimes you're stuffed whatever you do. The auction goes:
1NT - 3NT.     You're on lead with this:
Er.. I don't know either. Anything could be "right" or "wrong" but the rules state that you must lead something. But what? Frankly, I might choose a low card from one of the major suits on the basis that no-one bid a major, used Stayman or made a transfer, but if partner turns out to hold Qxxxx in the club suit I'm going to look a twat. Tuff. Score up, move on. Not an easy game is it?


When partner opens 1NT (12 - 14) you will hold one of three types of responding hands:
1)        A hand that DOES want to be in game (13+)
2)        A hand that MIGHT want to be in game (an "invitational" hand: 11 - 12)
3)        A hand that does NOT want to be in game, (less than 10)

1)      (a)  With a 4 card Major (H/S) you bid Stayman first and then rebid 3NT, 4H or 4S.
          (b)  With a 5 card - or longer - Major you bid the suit BELOW  (a transfer), partner completes the transfer, and then you bid game: With 5 cards you rebid 3NT. With 6 cards  rebid 4 in that Major.
          (c) With no four card Major you just raise direct to 3NT
2)      (a) With 11- 12 HCP and a 4 card Major, after bidding Stayman first, you will only rebid 2NT, 3H or 3S.
          (b) With a 5 card - or longer - Major you transfer as before. If you have 5 cards you rebid 2NT. With 6 cards bid 3 in that Major
          (c) With no four card Major you just raise direct to 2NT

3)   In general ALL these hands will pass. The only time you will bid is when you have a (goodish) 5 card Major and a singleton OR any hand with a 6+ major. In both cases you make the relevant transfer and then just pass. The idea is that you don't want to be in game but you do want to suggest either a lead if the opponents steal the contract later, or a place to play that might be safer than 1NT. You might also talk the opponents out of bidding which is always a good idea! You might also try Stayman with a void or singleton Club, as you can then pass any bid by opener.

So after a 1NT opening from partner, you will either:
BID 2NT or 3 NT
bid Stayman or Transfer and then bid game
bid Stayman or Transfer and then invite game
bid Stayman or Transfer and then pass.


The way the points are divided between you and the opposition is obviously important. However, just as important is the way individual suits are divided. We talk about fits. Ideally you are always on the lookout for an eight card fit in a particular suit between you and partner to determine the trump suit. Especially if it's a major suit. When you have such a fit the opponents will hold between them 5 cards of that suit (13 - 8 = 5). The suit will split 5 - 0, 4 -1 or 3 - 2. With an eight card fit you can - mostly - put up with, or navigate your way around, the 4 - 1 and the 3 - 2 splits but 5 - 0 will - mostly -  prove insurmountable. Luckily, this is heavily against the odds and should be largely discounted. If it happens - tuff. Live with it. When making your plan as declarer in any contract you will naturally assess the trick-taking potential of an individual suit based on information from the auction and the high card power you and dummy possess. But there is another "fit" you should train yourself to be aware of of: The SEVEN card fit. In a No Trump contact you see this combination between you and dummy:

AKQx        xxx

As you have seven cards in the suit the opponents will hold six of them (13-7=6). If they each hold three cards in that suit the little (insignificant!) x in four card holding will magically become good. It will be "established" and you will make four tricks. Likewise:

AKQxx    xx

If the suits "splits" 3 -3 you will make FIVE tricks and even this combination:

AKQxxx   x      will produce SIX tricks on the same split.

We can't always be so lucky. Sometimes you'll get this:

AKxx   xxx

No, you won't make four tricks here but you might make three! On the first round of the suit play low from both hands, then cash the AK. If the split is 3-3 then again the little x in the four card holding is promoted to a winner. In trump contracts you have an extra "trick" up your sleeve. Try this:

AKxxx   xx

Having drawn trumps (hopefully!) you play off the AK and then ruff the third card. Now, if the split is 3-3,  two of the small x's in the long holding have been promoted and what looked like two winners - magically - become four!
No. None of this happens all the time. Nothing does. But you should always be alert to the possibility available to you and be ready to take advantage when it does occur. Be ever optimistic. Pessimistic bridge is losing bridge. Hope for the best but be gracious in defeat. At least you tried...


There are lots of esoteric ploys at declarer's disposal. Some of them - such as the automatic double guard squeeze - are pretty rare. But others crop up a lot and here's one of them:
THE END-PLAY (Eliminate and Throw in)
West opens 1C and N/S wind their way - rightly or wrongly - to 4S and when dummy goes down you see this motley collection

Instead of wondering where to get another partner - MAKE IT! Yes, you have an apparent 4 tricks to lose (AH, KS, KC, JC) but there's ways and ways... As they opened the bidding you can be pretty certain West holds all those cards so the contract looks doomed. In fact it's cold as long as West holds the AH, which looks probable on the bidding. West leads a diamond, you lose the spade finesse and the AH and end up with this:


The key point is to ELIMINATE the red suits. You cash the KH, ruff a diamond in hand and cash the QH, now ending on the table with this:

Having eliminated the red suits you now execute the THROW IN. You can lose one more trick so you lead a small club to the 10. As expected West wins but now is end-played! If they lead a red card you ruff in one hand and discard a club from the other (Ruff & Discard). If they lead a club you make the A & Q. 10 Tricks bid and made.  Once you've organised the end-play West is powerless. Whereas you...:-)
It's fun, I tell you.


There is a general tendency among teachers of the game not to mention too soon in the careers of people learning Bridge the all important and fascinating world of the Squeeze. There are just too many snares, pitfalls and technicalities. Well stuff that. Here goes. The Simple Squeeze. I'm not going to get technical about menaces, threats and entries but there is one guiding principle you do need to attend to before even contemplating the positions. It is called "Rectifying the Count." You can only apply a simple squeeze to the defenders when you are in the position where you are going to win all but ONE of the remaining tricks (n-1). Here's a single positional squeeze. It's a 3 card ending with both menaces in one hand (North) so only West can be squeezed. The JS & KH are the menaces and AD is the squeeze card while the AS is the entry card. You are certain to win 2 tricks but look as if you have one to lose. Aha but no...
A                              Immaterial
When the AD is led, West has to find a discard before the North hand and cannot get it right whatever they do. The squeeze is inexorable. West discards the AH - now the KH is good and North discards the JS. If West discards  a Spade honour, north lets go the KH, making A & J Spades.  The squeeze works just as well if one of the menaces (KH) is in the South hand:
A                              Immaterial
I'm not going any further into this but if you want you can immerse yourselves in the romantic world of Double, Automatic, Triple and Repeating Squeezes to your heart's content!

Thursday, 2 February 2012


There's no question defence is the hardest part of the game to get right. It helps if the lead gets you both off on the right foot. Rest assured no-one ever gets it right all the time.  You either: (A) try to establish tricks for your side or (B) try not to give away tricks to declarer. There are many other styles of leading, but below is a quick run down of what are known as STANDARD LEADS

The standard rules for which card to lead are

a) top of a sequence or a broken sequence                             K Q J 10,  K Q 10 9 (K)
b) top of an internal sequence                                                     K J 10 x x                 (J)
c) fourth highest from a good suit                                                Q 10 7 5 2                (5)
d) lowest from three to an honour                                               K 8 3                          (3)
e) top of a doubleton                                                                      9 5                             (9)
f ) MUD (middle, up, down) from three small cards, play the top card on the
next round                                                                                        8 5 3                          (5)
g) second highest from four small cards, play your original fourth highest card
on the next round                                                                           10 8 6 3                     (8)

As in all contracts if your partner has bid a suit it will most often be right to lead that suit. However if partner hasn't bid then you must decide from a combination of your own hand and the opposition bidding which SUIT will either be the best attacking lead OR the safest lead. First you decide which suit to lead. Then you must lead the "right" card from that suit, so that partner has a chance to work out what to do if they get the lead later in the play.

There is one difference when leading against Suit or NT contracts

K Q 7 6 3

Against a suit contract lead the K but against a NT contract lead the 6. You want fast tricks in a suit contract, but slow tricks when defending NTs. When you lead top of a sequence against NT contracts you will normally have 3 cards in the sequence, broken or otherwise. See (a)

Sadly none of this helps you decide which actual suit to lead. All you can do is listen to the bidding and avoid leading their suits. Obviously you can't do this if they bid everything (!) If declarer on your right has bid a suit and in  that  suit you hold:              K x x x       then it's probably wrong to lead it, even if it's your only 4 card suit. If there's no obvious lead, then work backwards by deciding which suits you probably can't lead and then lead the suit left!

Be warned: nothing works all the time. That is why Bridge is the fascinating game it is. In everything you do there is an element of risk and chance. The idea is simply to do the best you can with cards you have and the information given to you by the bidding.


The suits have a rank. Clubs is the lowest ranked of the suits and Spades the highest. We can use this fact to our advantage when we want to give partner information about which suit to switch to (or to lead). This the dummy:





The contract is 4S and partner leads the A of H's. This wins the trick and now partner has a dilemma: what to do next? If during the auction you had bid a suit (C's or D's) partner would presumably switch now to that suit. But there are many auctions where you don't get a chance to tell partner useful information about your hand. So let's assume partner has no idea what to switch to and so has to guess which minor suit to lead next. Ah yes. But what is it I keep saying? It's a partnership game!! Wake up! Why leave partner to guess when you - presumably! - know the answer. If you have the K of D's you want that suit led. If you have the AQ of C's you want that suit led. Right so how do we do this? Well, we use what is called a "Suit Preference Signal". There is no earthly point in partner continuing with the H suit so now the H card you follow with to the A will tell partner which suit to switch to. If you want a D, then discard a HIGH Heart - asking for the highest ranking of the other two suits. Alternatively if you wand a Club led then follow with a LOW heart , asking for the lowest of the other two suits (Obviously S's & H's are discounted) It is not always true that the card you follow with to the first trick is a SPS. It's just that in this case - nothing else matters. if you have the 269, the 2 asks for a Club and the 9 asks for a D. Of course you may be dealt the 234 of H's so how is partner to know what your signal means? I'm afraid they just have to work it out based on the discards from the dummy and declarer!

It follows therefore that when you are defending you must not blindly pull a card from your hand and place it on the table. What information are you giving partner? This communication is key in getting good scores. Do not give declarer tricks they do not deserve. Be frugal in your beneficence.


The Competitive Cue bid is a strange unnatural bid I'll grant you. But it is hugely valuable, especially when both sides bid. In these situations a cue-bid is defined as "a bid of the suit opponents have bid". It cannot possibly be "natural". That is to say, when you do bid the opponents suit you cannot possibly be interested in playing in that suit. If you do - genuinely - hold their suit, you should either be passing to begin with, or later on in the auction, doubling them for a big fat juicy penalty. The last thing you want is to play in THEIR suit. It follows therefore that, when you bid their suit, it must be for another reason. There are two distinct and separate situations when this can occur. Partner will (1) open a minor suit or (2) open a major suit.

(1) when partner opens a minor suit we will - most of the time - be aiming to play in a NT contract. 9 tricks are easier than 11. After an overcall on your right (1D - 1S!) you may want to play in NT but have no "stop" (ie high honour) in their suit but still have a lot of points. Don't "guess" 3NT - use the cue-bid to ask partner if they have a "stop"





You bid their suit as in 1D - 1S - 2S! This says "do you have a stop in their suit such that you can suggest a NT contract?" If possible partner will duly bid NT at some level or other depending on their hand. (Note that with 4 H's this hand would use the "Negative" double!)

2) When partner opens a major suit we will - most of the time - be looking to express a fit for partner and aiming for game. After an overcall on your right, you now want to bid the value of your hand either pre-emptively (weak) or constructively (strong). But how can we distinguish the difference? After 1H - 1S (overcall) what do you do with this:





You must make a weak (!) pre-emptive jump to 3H! Make things difficult for them. Push them into guessing what to do next. Obstruct. If you do then sometimes they will get it wrong. Conversely what do you do with this?





After 1H - 1S (overcall) you have a good fit for partner (gold dust) as well as good (10+) points (platinum dust). You must show that your raise is strong and NOT pre-emptive. You do this by bidding their suit thus:

1H - 1S - 2S!

Have fun!


"I say Jeeves. Bit rum of you to raise me to 3NT after their weak 2S opening. I went down like a May Ball Fresher. Have a care in future."

"Yes of course Sir. Though if I might venture to suggest Sir, it seems eminently possible you can make the contract."

"The Dickens! You don't say so old chap. Really?"

"Yes Sir. If you remember the hand... East opened 2S (weak), you bid 2NT and I raised to 3NT -





xx KQJ10xx

10xxx Jx

xx Qxx

AQJ10x xx





A Spade was led, which you very correctly ducked, Sir.."

"Golly ta ever so Jeeves,"

"East continued the suit and you then - correctly again in my humble view Sir, played East for the Q of D, as you cannot let East in to cash his Spades and lead a Club, can you Sir,"

"I think should bally well think not old bean."

"You now had 5 tricks and if the H's split 3 - 3 you make 4 H tricks and your contract."

"But that was the deuce of it. Duffing H's split 4 - 2 so heck what now says I to meself. Ghastly so I try a low Club to the K, but West has all those and the last H so I'm a gonner - one orff. As I said Jeeves, your raise to 3NT was somewhat of a tad on the hasty side."

"If I may sir? The H's do not break, as you say, but there is remedial action to be indulged at this juncture. If, despite the bad break in H's you nevertheless continue a 4th round of the suit, West is forced to win and now, with only C's left in his hand, can cash the A of the suit but must then perforce lead a C round to your K for the 9th trick. Contract made."

"Oh I say that is jolly clever. Well slap me with a whippy fishing rod what a dashed fine notion!"


"Lissena me, schmuck," said the capo di tutti frutti. "When you pre-empt you pre-empt with a single suiter, ain't that right?"
"Yes boss," whimpered the face strapped in the chair.
"So, why, tell me why did you go on and pre-empt - as dealer! - with a TWO suiter, you lousy little no-good mangy son of a rat's ass?"
"But boss, boss," squirmed the face, "it worked out OK. I open 3D, they go overboard, go down in 4H. We gotta plus. What's to worry over, already? Look at the hand:"
"I seen the hand, don't you fret. Who cares they bid 4H, they mighta anyways. Problem is, what happens when you open 3D with that hand and I have Spade support? Huh? Maybe real good Spade support? How you gonna tell me that? How you gonna guess it right? How'm I gonna guess it right? You pre-empt to give THEM a guess. You don't pre-empt to give ME a guess. I don't like to guess, do I Shorty?
"No boss. But opening 1D didn't seem right. Or 1S. What should I do Boss? Tell me what I should do Boss, please Boss tell me. What's to do?"
"OK. Lissenup, wise guy. Here's the way it is. You can pre-empt with 4 of another suit if you really want, (But I knows guys who will rub you out fer that.) But not never 5. If you was 3rd in hand I wouldna minded so much, but you were first! If I've passed, OK, you can take a liberty. After 2 passes Not Vulnerable you can get creative, sure thing, why not. But not when you the dealer. Not with this. Too many times we'll miss a Spade fit. And then. I WILL. BE REALLY. ANGRY. You was lucky I didn have no spade fit with you this time. So lucky. And that is why I'm lettin you off light. The best you coulda done was PASS. Wait and see. Remember one thing if nothing else: Don' lie to me. I gets antsy when folks lie to me. Don't get me antsy."

If you want to open habitually with these hands - and I think you should - then you and partner are going to have to learn the convention that allows this - LUCAS TWOS. Weak 2 suiters - 5 - 10 HCP. There's a whole raft of these conventions, Muiderberg 2's. Woo 2's, Dutch 2's etc etc. But you'll need to learn the conventional responses as well. On top of that you now won't have single-suited weak 2's available. So be careful what you decide!


It's a tough game. You can't win every board. All you can do is cut out the zeros and keep plugging away. You get bad scores for these reasons:
1. You, or partner, make a mistake in bidding, defence or play.
2. Opponents don't make a mistake in the bidding, defence or play.
3. The cards lie wrong for you, so your perfectly reasonable contract is doomed to fail.
4. The cards lie exceptionally well for you but, perfectly reasonably, you don't take advantage.

The remedies are:
1. Cut down the mistakes.
2. Bully opponents into bad contracts
3. So what? Nothing to be done.
4. When in doubt, bid up. Just in case...

The other two things are DEFENCE and DEFENCE. Giving away unnecessary overtricks is where most of the round fat zeros come from. Sometimes just holding the opponents to their contract, and no more, will gain you a good score. Letting them make a contract that should go down will always get you a bad score. There are three elements to Bridge: Bidding, Declarer play, & Defence. On average you will be Declarer 25% of the time. But you will Defend 50% of the time. Logically, then, you should work at your defence twice as hard as your declarer play. Defence is the hardest part of the game. And the hardest part of defence is the opening lead. More contracts are let through by a duff opening lead than anything else. Somewhere in all your bridge books there will be a table of the suggested card you should lead from specific holdings. If you study nothing else, study this table. You are bound to do better in the long run as a result. This is an area even top experts get wrong so don't beat yourself up about it, but do think, think and think again. Study the auction, not just your own hand, for any small clue. Above all, do not blindly lead 4th best. It is frequently a losing option. You know it makes sense...


As the starship sped through a galaxy of 53 trillion stars, Obi Wan turned to the Princess Leia:
"What were you thinking before you bid that last hand?"
"Whether to bid 1S or 1H."
"They were my options."
"No, I mean, why were you thinking about it? You must have taken at least 2 minutes to decide."
"Surely I should always think about my bid shouldn't I, Obi Wan?"
"Bridge is quite taxing enough on brain power as it is. I don't see why you would expend two minutes of quite valuable intellectual energy on a foregone conclusion. You finally, & correctly, bid 1S on this hand:
The system is clear on these hands: with both majors 5 - 5 you open 1S: the fact that H's are stronger is irrelevant. There is nothing to think about. Save that brain power for genuinely difficult hands. If you try to imagine the universe of possibilities with every hand, your brain will rapidly become an exploding Death Star. Luckily you don't need to: there is a system that takes care of all the common, repeatable situations just so you don't have to waste your brain thinking about it. Ancient and wise heads have sifted all the myriad possibilities and decreed there is a pattern in the universe of chance that Bridge encompasses. The Force in the system is unbreakable and if you trust the Force so may you prevail."


Spock was teaching Klingons Bridge.
"Above all else, Bridge is a partnership game," said Spock. "With both sides bidding - a competitive auction - partner competes to 5D over their 4S hoping to make a worthwhile sacrifice. It so turns out it's not; you go badly down when, in fact, their 4S was never making. You get a really bad score. How do you re-act?"
"I tear his ears, gouge his eyes, break his teeth. Then I kill him," the Klingon smiled wearily. Spock narrowed his eyes.
"Interesting. However, not conducive to partnership understanding. If that was board 4 of a 24 board session, what do you do for the next 20 boards?"
The Klingons shuffled in their seats and mumbled.
"It's not really going to work out, is it?" explained Spock patiently.
"You mean... should we keep him alive?"
"That's certainly a viable option. Another option would be to commiserate with your unfortunate partner and praise them for their willingness to boldly compete the auction to the limit. Then partner is more likely to aggressively compete correctly on future boards. Which he can't do if he's dead."
"Are you saying I should be nice to partner whatever happens?" Spock lowered his head in consent. "But this is not the way of Klingons, Spock."
"Maybe not. But it is the way of Bridge. Do not treat your partner as your opponent. You have enough trouble with the bastards either side of you. Everyone makes mistakes; bids too much; bids not enough; misplays or misdefends a hand. As, I can assure you, so will you."
The Klingons banged the table and swore they would never ever in the heat of bridge do such things. Spock gestured and the room fell silent.
"You will make mistakes, I guarantee it. And when you do, you will hope partner understands your mistakes were made with the best of all intentions; for the good of the collective and not for individual glory. Your partnership will then do so much better. The Power of Pairs outweigh the Weakness of One. This is the Law."

Keep partner relaxed and focussed. Whatever happens. Getting tetchy achieves zero. Worse - it will make you play badly as well, as you are now concerned with being right when your only concern should be the next hand.
Have more fun


The convention was first proposed over 50 years ago and is now so common the latest international rules state it does not even need to be alerted, while an old fashioned penalty double does!

They occur when a) partner has opened & b) the next opponent overcalls. A double by you is now said to be "Negative". This means you do NOT hold partner's suit and you do NOT hold the opponent's suit. The inference is you therefore hold the other two suits. You will have - depending on the level of the overcall - about 7+ HCP. An extension to this idea is that if either partner or the overcaller has bid a Major suit, you will hold the OTHER major with at least 4 cards, and not necessarily the 4th suit as well. Here's an example of it in action: Partner opens 1C and your RHO bids 1S. You hold





You do not have enough to bid at the 2 level and 1NT would promise a decent Spade honour, so it looks like you lie or are frozen out of the auction. NOT SO! You simply Double. Now partner knows you have at least 4 H's and (in an ideal world) 4 D's as well. Armed with this valuable information partner will be able to make informed decisions later in the auction, rather than trying to feebly guess what's going on if you just pass, or lie.

The reason for using Double like this - as a positive forward going manoeuvre and not simply a weapon to bash opponents - is to do with numbers. Specifically, the numbers of hands possible in relation to the number of bids possible. There's in the region of 53 trillion possible Bridge deals and to bid them all we have a mere 35 legal suit bids. However we can vastly improve our chances if we use DOUBLE as a positive, forcing bid in the early rounds of bidding. Now we have 36 bids! Modern theory has also begun - in certain competitive situations - to use PASS as a forcing bid as well, so adding 2 whole bids to the armoury in our fiery battle against random chance.

Remember, Double is a bid just like any other, and like any other bid, it can have different meanings in different situations.


You are Not Vulnerable, while the Vulnerable opponent on your right deals and opens 1H. You hold...





and I get asked "What should I bid? I was going to open (1H). Should I (A) double or (B) lie a little and bid 1NT?"

The question ought really to be not "what" but simply "should I bid?" And the answer is a resounding NOOOOO!!!

The opponents have bid a suit in which you are strong, so why tell them that. It's unlikely the bidding will end up in a H contract anyway, but careless talk costs lives (and tricks!)

(A) A double in this situation would be "for Take-out." It is NOT a penalty double. It would carry the message that you are happy for partner to bid any other suit than H's at whatever level they deem fit. This is not a message you want to send with this hand at all. PASS.

(B) 1NT as an overcall promises 15 - 17 HCP and a good (ish) stopper in their suit. You only have 12 HCP. Do not lie about this hand. PASS.

(C!) In a perfect, ideal, wonderful world of supreme happiness the auction would - you fervently hope - go like this:


PASS - ???

Partner's double is for take out, as before, asking you to bid one of the other three suits. But before you reach for the 3C card have a think. Say you make 3C that's +110. Say you end up in 3NT and make +400. All fine. Except what if you PASS again? They play in 1H Vulnerable and go 2 down for +500 to you? That's the perfect score isn't it? And that score is only a (remote) possibility if you PASS twice. if you try to bid in these situations you immediately lose the chance for the magical +500. Even 1 down for +200 could be the top score possible. Nobody knows. And nobody ever will if you try to bid with these hands.

The question you should really have asked is "WHY should I bid and WHY should I pass?" 9 times out of 10 my answer will be "What's the score?"

When the opponents bid your suit - PASS, unless you have a hand suitable for a 1NT overcall (15 - 17) If you have an even bigger hand (18+) you can then double as you will re-bid NT's - promising a hand better than an immediate 1NT overcall. On a slightly different note: when you do pass, pass smoothly. Do not dither. Do not hesitate. Do not by your demeanour let them or your partner know that you have this type of hand. If you do so you give the game away to the opponents, which is pointless. OR you give partner unauthorised information which is unethical. Be careful about this. In general try very hard not to hesitate and then PASS. To hesitate and bid is fine.


I frequently get asked the question: "How many points do I need?" This is especially true when someone wants to overcall, but sadly the answer is not - necessarily - about points. It is also about distribution or "shape". It can also be about where your points are. Take a look at this hand:
A perfectly decent opening bid of 1NT. But if your Right Hand Opponent (RHO) opens anything you cannot bid. You cannot bid 1NT over a suit as you need 15 - 17 to do so; plus you have no 5 card suit to get into the auction with. Nor should you bid if they open 1NT themselves. So now you must - reluctantly - PASS. On the other hand you might have fewer points BUT in a more shapely hand:
I suppose some people might overcall with this hand - good luck to them! Swap the points round, though, and things change radically:
Now you should bid, even though you have fewer total points than the 13 count above. What you lack in HCP is more than compensated by the "shape". When your RHO opens 1C or 1D you can make a weak jump overcall of 2H! And even if they open 1S or 1NT you are still entitled to bid 2H. You might steal the auction and you also give partner a good indication of what to lead if you subsequently lose the auction.

Remember - Points are good but Shape is better. SB4P
This is why there are so many conventional overcalls to show specific shapes before showing the point count.
Shape. If you got it - flaunt it baby...


At Pairs and teams scoring a Non-vulnerable game is worth 400/420. A Vulnerable game is worth 600/620. It follows that if you can somehow give away less than either of those two scores you will have returned an actual plus for your side. If the opponents contract to play 4 Hearts Vulnerable they will make 620. If your side is not vulnerable you can go 3 down doubled for a score of -500, an actual profit of 120. However - be careful. The loss of 500 is only worth it if the Vulnerable game can actually make! And even if it can, you must hold your losses to that -500 mark, as if you go down for -800, you just turned the loss from 620 to 800 instead. This is not good. Don' be fooled into thinking that all sacrifices are necessarily the correct thing to do. It is probably as true anything can be in this game that if you are the Vulnerable side and the opponents are Not Vulnerable, then to sacrifice is almost never the correct thing to do.

The crucial point I am making is that how far you bid will depend not just on what cards you hold, what partner bids and what the opponents do but also what the score is. This applies to all forms of the game - Rubber, Duplicate and Teams. This concept also applies to the part-score battle, when both side have roughly an even number of points. This is particularly true at Duplicate, rather less so at Teams or Rubber. The maths is the same: if they contract to make 2 Hearts for -110 to you, then you can go for -100 in 3 Clubs or Diamonds (say). This profit is so marginal that at teams scoring it is a flat board, but it's very important at Duplicate, where the size of the profit is not an issue. if you beat all the other pairs by 10 points, you get the same Matchpoints if you beat them all by 1000.

However - Rubber Bridge players should beware the siren song of the sacrifice. Do not be lured unthinkingly to those rocky rocks. Let us assume a rubber score where you are not Vulnerable, but they are Game and 60. If they get this game they get a 700 rubber plus their Game and overtrick scores and any other scores above the line you might have gifted them on the way. So. Thinks. If we can sacrifice for anything less than 700, you think, apparently rationally, then we are quids in. WRONG. Ok let's say you duly sacrifice in this dubious enterprise and go for -300. Aha! you might think, saved 400! WRONG. The reason is that when the dust has finally settled they will STILL be Game and 60 and will gratefully receive the 300 you just donated to them. Now, having invested that 300 in trying to save the rubber, will you now protect your investment by sacrificing again and again until you finally do get a game? And how will you feel if, in this extended rubber, your opponents find a slam, thus giving them another 1000+ points into the bargain? Initially you were worried about chalking up a -900 rubber but now you find yourself scoring about -3000 instead. The way to avoid this common pitfall is to know when to give up. Minimise your losses by getting out of the rubber as cheaply as possible and move on to the next when hopefully your luck will change. Do not flog dead horses. Cut and run.

This is why - before you even look at your cards - you must check the vulnerability. Your cards don't really matter. The Vulnerability is utterly crucial.