Welcome to Basement Bridge

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

Friday, 20 April 2012

Responding 1NT to Overcalls

"Sometimes, Watson, you can be a parcel of street dirt."
Holmes was being at his steeliest as he dissected a small - but I maintain, quite understandable - bidding error on my part.
"It's merely a question of thinking. This is what - sometimes - you just do not do. Calm, clear, rational though would lead you to the correct answer, even if you did not already know it."
"But, Holmes..." I squirmed, "you overcalled and I had 6 - 9 points, no fit, so responded 1NT! What can possibly be wrong there?"
"Almost everything" sighed the master. "And it is out of your own mouth that you are condemned. Consider: you said - correctly - that I overcalled, did you not?
"Er, ye - es..."
"Precisely. I overcalled! I did not OPEN. Therefore you cannot assume I hold "Opening" points, can you? However, you can assume that I hold, perhaps, at least as many as 3 points less than a normal opening bid. Therefore it is perfectly logical - is it not - that a response of 1NT to an overcall must of necessity contain at least 3 points MORE than the same response to an opening bid?"
"Do you mean to say that in response to an overcall, the bid of 1NT shows 9 - 12 HCP?"
"Indeed so, Watson. Indeed so. Perfectly logical, I would say..."

Thursday, 12 April 2012


Bridge is a listening game. One of the most important skills you need is the ability to listen. To listen to partner. To listen to the opposition. To hear what is said. Sometimes - crucially - to listen to and hear what is NOT said.
When you open the bidding with 1 of a suit and both your left hand opponent and your partner PASS, the one thing you know for certain is that partner does not have 6 HCP and will most probably not have any kind of fit with your suit. Even with 4 or 5 HCP points partner might well decide to give you a weak raise with 4 card support, just to get in the opponent's way. Now when your RHO bids you should get out of the way and pass with most flattish hands like this


Now you should look to take your chances in defence of whatever contract opponents land in. They now have the advantage because they also know your partner is very weak and should play you for the outstanding high cards. On the other hand if your hand is distributional you should bid again with something like:


Fewer points but better shape. 
Again, if you have a competitive auction where both sides are bidding but one opponent is particularly pushy it's probably because they are very short in your suit. The corollary therefore is that the other opponent is marked with the length in your trump suit and you should plan the play of the hand accordingly.
Similarly if an opponent is very quiet even though his partner is bidding in a competitive auction, you should deduce that they have no fit in their suit and so the side suits will probably break badly for you if you become declarer.
It's also true that if both opponents bid against you in a pre-emptive fashion and you hold 4 of their suit, partner will almost certainly be void in that suit, with a possible singleton at most. This should influence your high level decisions towards bidding on in a tight corner.
There are lots of little inferences around during the auction. Listen to them. Make use of them. Do NOT, whatever you do, decide that as you don't have much in your hand you can just go to sleep. If you do, you will lose endless match-points as a defender. Always concentrate on the auction - even with a Yarborough.

Thursday, 5 April 2012


"You have to make a choice Mr Bond," said Scaramanga. "Will your Doubles be penalty or take-out?"
"Nnnngh," said Bond, bound and gagged as he was.
"So, let us decide once and for all. Let us say that (1) a double of an opening bid of one of a suit is for take-out and that (2) a double of 1NT is for penalty, yes?
"Nnnngh," said Bond again.
"Exactly." said Scaramanga. "Now the onus is on partner to know how to respond in each different case, no?"
"Nnnngh," said Bond again.
"Right. When partner Doubles one of a suit (Take Out) - they want you to bid whatever your hand may be. But when they double 1NT (Penalty) they want you to bid with a poor hand but PASS! with a good hand! Isn't that strange?"
Nnnngh, said Bond again, rather unoriginally.
"You see - it's those juicy penalties you can extract. Especially if declarer is Vulnerable. Even 1 down doubled and Vulnerable is 200; while 2 down is 500! On the other hand, the problem arises if you double them and they actually make their 1NT doubled and Vulnerable. Now you give away 180, or even 380 if they make an overtrick. This is why you have to decide what to do with very weak hands when partner doubles 1NT."
"But surely - " said Bond leaping free from his Bondage - "it's a simple maths question! If partner doubles they have 15+ HCP, so if you have 5 or more you have the balance of the points and should leave the double in! So what if they make it. You have to be tough and unafraid, isn't that so - Scaremonger?"

Last week I saw leaving 1NT doubled in netted +1400.  5 down doubled and vulnerable. So you might like to consider what the 1NT bidder's partner can do to rescue the situation...