Welcome to Basement Bridge

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

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

The Dodgy 3NT

Dear Marge,
Please may I take advantage of your agony column to solve an embarrassing personal problem?  My partner and I disagree about whether it is ever possible to respond 3NT with less than 13 HCP after partner opens 1NT. Please help as I am at my wit's end. Also, should one have sex on a first date?   Confused of Caerphilly.

Dear Confused of Caerphilly,
Please be assured this is a familiar problem and nothing to be ashamed of. It depends on whether or not you expect to make your contract most of the time. Partnership confidence is based on this common assumption. So from that point of view my answer is NO. However things really aren't quite that simple, as you might expect. There may be tight situations in a Teams Match where you might decide it could possibly be a good idea to raise to 3N with as little as 11 HCP, just in case it makes. This action is well below 50% but, if it makes, you might get a winning game swing from the hand. On the other hand if it doesn't make you're going to need an understanding and sophisticated partner who realises what you were attempting and why.
Alternatively, you might hold a weakish hand, 9 - 10, but with a good six card minor (AKJxxx) and precious little else. Now a "psyche" to 3N might pay good dividends if you get lucky and 9 tricks roll in. But again partner will need to understand the perfectly reasonable logic. My advice is: don't try this with new partners. Build confidence with them first and then, maybe later, introduce these more advanced ideas gently in casual conversation.
There is (at least) one other situation when a Bid of 3N is called for when you are obviously under-strength:
After 1N - Pass - ??? Do you try to take out into your 7 card minor at the three level and hope to make it? Do you pass and hope partner makes sneaky overtricks? Or bid 3N on the off-chance of it making? The answer is in the hand. Ask yourself: (1) "where are all the other points and all those major suits?" Answer: on your left. (2) "Are they itching to bid them?" Answer: yes. (3) "How can you make life as difficult as possible for them?" Answer: bid 3NT. You could also try 5D, which would have the same effect, but does not leave open the opportunity for them to guess wrong about which major to be in, and for partner then to promptly double them. Also if you don't steal 3N, you can always rather sheepishly bid 5D later, wait for them to Double you, then pray you make it!
As regards the other problem - what are you doing on Friday?

Wednesday, 23 May 2012


But Jeeves, Old Man, you really make the most frightful hoo-hah over nothing.  We bid to 5 Clubs and, thanks to some rum nifty card play by yours truly at the death, we even made a jolly old over trick, what?”

“Ah well you see Sir, it’s really not quite as simple as that.  Is it?”

“Isn’t it?  Does the Wooster brain miss something?”

“Quite possibly, Sir.  Let us peruse the score.  5 Clubs plus 1, Vulnerable, makes 620. Did Sir happen to see the traveller for the board at all?”

“Crikey, no. Really dull.”

“It makes, however, interesting reading. We obtained a complete bottom on the board.”

“Zero? Big fat zero? All my hard work and snazzy declarer play availeth nought?”

“Everyone else was in 3NT sir, you see. If they had all been held to 9 tricks they would indeed have done worse than us with only 600. But in fact everyone made at least one overtrick for plus 630, and some even made two for 660. So 620 – however admirably played, did indeed availeth nought, as you so accurately put it.”

“That’s really not fair. I make 12 tricks and get a lower score than those who only made 10! That’s outrageous. I am speechless.”

“If only sir. It is to do with the value of the first trick at NT, which is 40,  while subsequent tricks are 30. Even major suit tricks are only worth 30 each, while a minor suit trick is worth only a paltry 20. As you see sir this will heavily affect the score line It will also therefore heavily affect the contract one should strive to be in. Obviously, it is the better scoring contract we should always aim at. Not the safest.”

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Defend Or Die

“Watson! Over here,” said master sleuth, Sherlock Holmes. His eyes burned with unnatural fire. I edged to the table and saw him peruse thirteen cards spread on rich maroon velvet:

6 4 2
10 9 5 3
Q 3
J 7 5 2

“Familiar, Watson?”
“Erm, er, yes, er, sort of. Yes.” I blustered.
“A hand held by you only yesterday at Madame Fifi’s.”
“Just so. A fine evening, by the way…”
“Possibly. The opponents edged to 3NT. I led a small Diamond, you played the Q, Declarer winning the Ace. Do you recall further events?”
“Indeed I do Holmes…”
“No, Watson – about this hand. Concentrate.”
“Ah. As I now recall, Declarer rattled off winners and actually made 6NT in the end, a pretty bad score for us. A deeply boring little hand I’d say. What’s the purpose of it?”
“The purpose is that, yes, indeed we did attain a bad score, but it was eminently avoidable. Consider the facts: you have a hand of almost no trick-taking potential whatsoever. But this does NOT mean, my dearest friend, you can allow yourself to be diverted from the task in hand; which is: – to make certain Declarer makes only those tricks to which he is, by chance of the deal, entitled to. And no more”
“But Holmes,” I protested feebly, “What was I to do?”
“What you had to do was think, man, think! If you do not hold many cards – where are the other points, eh? Tell me that.”
“They might have been underbid…”
“Do not – ever – take the opposition for fools. No, Watson, if you have not the points then logically I have the outstanding high cards. I therefore am the one of us who is under pressure. I need help. All the assistance I can get so as to determine which of my cards I may dispense with as required. In order to do this I need YOU to carefully and accurately inform me of your various holdings in each suit. They may be of no interest to you, but they are of profound importance to me, and I, Watson am your beloved partner.”
“Oh, I say.”
“You randomly played the lowest card from each suit according to whim and fancy, therefore denying me any small chance of gleaning such information about your hand as I needed. Had you played small from an odd number of cards and Hi-Lo from an even number, I would have been able to imagine the shape of declarer’s hand and so know what not to discard, thereby saving a trick and many Match Points. On top of that, you discarded a low Club at some point, thereby enabling Declarer to make his lowly 10 of Clubs for the 12th trick. Lazy, Watson. Deeply lazy. Just because your hand is bad does not entitle you to park your brain in the stables. We are a partnership. You must do your work in conjunction with mine. Two needless overtricks were frittered away and an average score became a complete and total bottom!”
“Talking of bottoms….”

Thursday, 10 May 2012


"Trouble is, Sir," said Private Pike, "when I'm Declarer and dummy goes down I panic."
"What you need," said Captain Mainwaring, "is a Plan. I recommend CATSUP."
"My mother told me not to drink, Sir!"
"Stupid boy, it's mnemonic."
"That's easy for you to say, Sir."
"Not with these teeth it isn't. Now listen up: here's how it goes:
1) CONTRACT. Write it down. I've lost count of the times chaps say "what's the contract?" Keep a scorecard. It starts a mental routine and "locks" the contract into your neural pathways. 
2)  AUCTION. What was it, and what can we learn from it?
3)  THANK-you partner. Always say this. Always look happy to see dummy. Always compliment partner on their bidding. Always fool the opposition.
(If opponents huff and puff you take too long - ignore them. They are rude, selfish and deliberately trying to hurry you into error. Thoroughly unethical. No-one in the higher echelons of the game would dream of doing this.)
4) STUDY the hands together. How each suit links from dummy to hand. How many losers? How many winners? By what ploys can the contract be made? Decide. Act. Now you have a plan. You have focus. We can still get it wrong. But at least we tried.
5) UNDERSTAND how you might play the hand based on knowledge you have gleaned or percentage possibilities.
6) PLAY decisively. Wrong or right - go for it.
Remember CATSUP:     Contract, Auction, Thanks, Study, Understand, Play."
"Captain Mainwaring, Sir, my mother says a gin is better."
"Thought you didn't drink, Pike?"
"No, Sir. Always Get Into No Trumps..."
"Possibly, Pike, possibly..."

Wednesday, 2 May 2012


"If you don't mind me saying so, Sir, it might be a good idea to try to make a plan when you're defending."
"D'ya think so, Jeeves?"
"Indeed I do, sir, indeed I do. Per example this hand from the Club Duplicate."
"When was that Jeeves?"
"Last night, Sir... If you can still recall...?"
"Oh yah, rather, Jeeves old fruit."
"As I recall, you held this hand and correctly opened a Weak 2 Diamonds:


The bidding proceeded:
2D       -     2S -   PASS  -  3C

I  led the 9D. This was Dummy:


You played the A, K  and a third diamond, declarer winning with the Q. Declarer took a losing S finesse into my hand, but alas I had no more D's and so was end-played with Declarer making a costly over-trick as a result."
"Dashed bad luck, eh, Jeevesy?"
"If I might suggest, sir -  there need be no element of luck in these matters at all. After a smidgin of thought."
"How so? Surely..."
"It's an open book, sir. First I did not support your D's therefore I most probably do not posses 3 of them. Therefore I must hold either 0, 1 or 2 of them. If I hold 0 or 1 there is precious little to be done. However if I hold 2 of them, as is likely on the lead, then declarer must surely hold Q10x. Consider the possibility of ducking at trick one. Then when Declarer takes his losing S finesse I still have a second D with which to maintain communication with your hand. I lead it, you NOW cash the A,K  and hey presto cash 3 more D's and declarer is now TWO off. Instead of plus 1!"
"Dashed clever. I say. Gosh. Now why didn't I think of a plan like that?"