Welcome to Basement Bridge

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

Thursday, 6 December 2012


As you know, after an opening of 1NT you should use the conventional responses of 2C (Stayman) or 2D & 2H  (Transfers). But which one? And when? To keep it simple:
1)   With only 4 card Majors use 2C - Stayman.
2)   With 5+ card Majors use 2D/2H - Transfers.
It really is that simple. You will either follow these bids up with a PASS (10 or less HCP), or an invitational 2NT (11-12, 5 card Major), an invitational 3 Major (10 - 12, 6+ card Major) or the game bids of 3NT (13  - 17 5cM) or 4 Major (13 - 17 6+cM). With 18+ you should be slamming. This structure is fairly immutable and needs to become second nature.
The responding hands that tend to be problematic are those that have 5 - 4 in the majors and are weak (less than 10). Now what? If you Stayman (2C) and  partner comes back 2D (they always bloody do!) what then? What do 2H or 2S mean? Even worse is when you have a GOOD hand, 5-4 in the Majors, you bid 2C and hear 2D. Now what does 3H or 3S mean? To be fair, there are complex agreements that cover these hands but they're not really necessary. What you do is with game-ish hands you transfer into the 5 c suit and then bid the other one. But what do you do with a dog like this?

When partner opens 1NT they will (mostly!) have either 2, 3 or 4 H's. Three possibilities. Two of which give you the longed for 8 card fit. So you have a 66% chance of being OK when you transfer. In Bridge terms this is almost perfect. Yes, sometimes partner will have 2 H's and 4 S's. This probability is about 10%. Not worth considering. So with the above example ALWAYS transfer into the 5 card Major and then PASS. Don't think about it - do it. KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid)

It is a principle of faith for me that I will always open 1NT with ALL 5332 shape hands with 12-14 HCP. Even if that 5 card suit is a Major. Every time. I would urge you all to do the same. Every time. With one tiny exception: if your major suit looks like this -  AKQJ10, you can open it and re-bid it. But do let me know when you get this 12 - 14HCP, 5332 hand. It is phenomenally rare. 2%? of 60 trillion? Nah, you do the math...


Eeyore was beside himself with rage. Not that you'd have noticed. He stood silently alone in the sun-dappled clearing, his head droopt, his tail slightly swishing. It was this swishing that alerted a passing Christopher Robin to the fact Eeyore was disconsolate. After the usual pleasantries, the boy enquired of the donkey the reason for his anger.
"Everybody was in 4S making 10 tricks. Only I, Christopher Robin, I, Eeyore, made 11 tricks!"
"But Eeyore that's brilliant! How clever of you!"
"Yes, I found a rare inverted Double Squeeze operated at trick 11, after they failed to attack dummy's entry to the Menace at trick 3." Eeyore intoned morosely.
"Really?" said Christopher Robin, seriously none the wiser. "But didn't that overtrick give you a Top?"
"It would have done, it would have done." Agreed the donkey solemnly. "Were it not for one vital fact you have overlooked Christopher Robin."
The boy scratched his head. "And, er, what was that?"
Eeyore fixed Christopher Robin with a baleful glare - "We were only in 2 Spades!!!" The boy sank to the ground, crossed his legs and said comfortingly: "Ok, tell me what happened."
"I opened 1NT, Owl transferred with 2H, I bid 2S and then he passed, quite reasonably, with this:

I had 14 HCP and 4S with him, no wasted H values and the game is cold for 10 tricks. What did we do wrong?"
"Well, nothing really, I suppose. But there is something to be considered. When - and ONLY when - you, as the NT bidder have 14HCP and 4 card support, instead of lamely bidding 2S, you can BREAK THE TRANSFER by bidding 3S! Now partner can re-value their hand in the light of this important information and bid on if it's right to do so."
"But what if partner has a pile of rubbish and was only transferring to get out of 1NT? Aren't we now too high?"
"Possibly. But rest assured that if partner does have rubbish, then the opponents have something on; and, whatever it is, they're going to find it mighty difficult to either double you or suddenly bid a minor at the 4 level out of nowhere. Yes, maybe 5 times out of a 100 it'll go Paridiae up, but that's nothing."
"Well, very interesting. I must remember that in future. Oh, and - Christopher Robin - thanks for pointing out it was all my fault. I do feel sooo much better now. When you start in the depths of despair how good to plummet further. Do you know a tall cliff nearby? Maybe I could toss myself off..."


"Now then, chaps, listen up!" Said Captain Mainwaring to his eager squad. "This afternoon we shall have Hand Evaluation. This is how we work out how good our hands are."
"There's nothing wrong with my hands, so they tell me..."
"That's quite enough smut Walker. We're here to discuss the finer points of the Game of Bridge, not your pathetic fumblings behind the bus stop."
"How do you know about that, Sir?"
"I have my spies Pike. I have my spies. Anyway, where were we?"
"Behind the bus stop, I think Sir."
"Wilson! Pay attention. All of you. Now, there are three main parameters for the evaluation of what we hold in our hands: 1) High Card Points (HCP) 2) Suit Length 3) Suit shortage. All three can carry equal weight when we make our decisions. When you first pick up a hand you are inclined to add up the HCP and see whether or not they add up to 12 or more so you can open the bidding. Alternatively whether or not they add up to 6 or more so you can support partner if they open the bidding. But just as important is the length of the suits you hold:
This hand is worth only 10 HCP so you might PASS. But this would be to ignore the value of the extra Spades. You have a 6 card suit, so you should add 1 point extra for each card more than 4 in a suit. So, in this case, you can add an extra 2 DISTRIBUTION points(DP). Now you have a total 12 points (10HCP + 2 DP) and should open 1S."
"But what", said Godfrey, "Should I do about my shortage?"
"Get it seen by a Doctor mate..."
"Walker! That's quite enough out of you. A perfectly reasonable question, Godfrey. After an 8 card fit has been found between the two hands they should both start to add extra SHORTAGE points (SP). But be careful because what you add depends on whether you open or respond. As responder you should calculate VOID = 5, SINGLETON = 3, DOUBLETON = 1. But if you are the Opener you should add fewer: V = 3, S = 2, D = 1.
Remember, you must adjust the evaluation of your hand as the auction proceeds to allow for these extra points. And as it proceeds, your hands will be going up and down.."
"I thought you said we'd had enough smut..."


Spock jumped as the Klingon warrior banged his fist on the blue plasti-form table.
"You tell me to compete; to be aggressive; to overcall with thin values; now suddenly you get all cautious and tell me NOT to overcall with this hand. What's the truth?"
Spock considered the hand under scrutiny on the integrated Bridge visi-display:
"So, you were Vulnerable, they were not, RHO opened 1S, you overcalled 2D, LHO made a negative Double, both partner and RHO passed and you went for -800?"
The Klingon snarled his assent. "At least everybody else did the same with my hand - with different results, I admit."
Spock considered the hand carefully. "There are three main reasons why you should overcall. 1) To obstruct. 2) To steal. 3) To suggest a lead."
"I understand all that." said the Klingon firmly. "What I don't get is why it was so wrong this time."
"Consider first the Vulnerability. This is crucial. They were Not Vul but you were. Even 1 down doubled is -200. Overcalls at the 1 level can be made on thin values - especially when Not Vul. However the 2 level is hugely different. When you go into battle you first make sure you have the weapons and armour you need, with your phaser set to 'KILL', don't you?"
"Oh yes." murmured the Klingon.
"So why would you go into battle with this deeply useless scrappy awful little Diamond suit? You don't want partner to lead it and you neither obstruct nor steal. In fact, you stick you head up and get it blown away. Why? Because you were not enough armoured. When you overcall VULNERABLE at the 2 level you need a much better suit - AKxxxx perhaps, and/or a better hand. The hand above is barely, at the very outside, worth an opening 1NT, 3rd in hand, Not Vulnerable. On a good day...  Also to consider is the hand shape - 5332. This a NT shape. If you can't overcall in NT's (15+) then it is almost always right to pass with these hands. At whatever Vulnerability. I might - just about - allow it if the hand looked like this with high cards concentrated in the long suit..."
The Klingon looked thoughtful. "So. If I want to overcall at the 2 level - and we are Vulnerable - I better really, really, really mean it?"
"In the long run, to be precise, the odds favour a 6 card suit with 2 of the top 3 honours."


"You see, men" said Capt Mainwaring firmly to the assembled platoon, "when you make a bid, partner can infer that you have such and such, depending on your bid."
"Such as such as what?" asked Pike.
"Such as whatever you bid, stupid boy."
"Such as what have I bid?"
The Captain paused while untold vile and disgusting epithets fought in his mind to be heard. When he had controlled himself he again took breath...
""Are you alright Captain," asked Private Godfrey, "Only you went a bit red then."
"I'm fine thank you Godfrey. Now where was I?"
"You were about to tell Pike what he'd jolly well bid." Said Lance Corporal Jones
"But I haven't bid anything yet. That's the whole point," said Pike smugly.
"It was," said the Captain in a voice of pure cold steel, "An hypothetical bid..."
"I don't think we've heard about them!" said Private Frazer.
"Perhaps if the Captain could just continue...?"
"Good idea, Wilson. I shall do just that. Now, chaps, if you open 1C or 1D and partner responds 1NT you will know, or can positively infer, that they have exactly 6 - 9 HCP. No more, no less. But there is also a Negative Inference that you are entitled to draw: to wit - that they also do NOT hold a 4 card or better Major suit. There is therefore no earthly point trying to find a 4-4 major suit fit later in the auction as you already know this to be an impossibility. Which is the reason why if you, as responder, DO hold a 4 card major then you MUST bid it, otherwise partner will not be able to evaluate the hand properly. It also follows that when partner opens 1 of a suit (ie does not open 1NT!) you can make the reasonable Negative Inference that they do not have a balanced 12 - 14 count. Just be sure your inferences are appropriate to your holding!"
"Blimey!" said Walker, "I met a land-girl the other night and she was like that: negative to what I was holding!"


When partner opens 1NT and RHO bids a suit you may just want to play in a 6 card minor at the 3 level. The only problem is that if you bid 3 of a minor directly it is FORCING. So what's to do? The secret is to use 2NT as an intermediate bid (sometimes known as a "puppet"). This warns partner you have no interest in game. Partner MUST first bid 3C (like a transfer) which you can then either pass or CORRECT to your suit. Partner should then Pass.
This is the basis of the LEBENSOHL convention. It is a system for dealing with intervention after 1NT when you have no interest in Game. It follows then that you can use direct 3 level bids to force partner to bid on.
This is only part of the system, but you should be aware of it as it is very common in club bridge. It also has other uses which are far more complex and should only be used in a practised partnership!
There are also other situations where 2NT no longer has its normal meaning. This is because in competitive auctions, 2NT is rarely a useful bid, as the key is usually to locate a sensible suit fit, and if you have a 2NT (10 - 12 balanced) hand you should probably be doubling for penalties. For instance, after a weak 2 opening, there is a difference between
2S (weak) - X - Pass - 3H


2S (weak) - X - Pass - 2NT
Pass - 3C  -  Pass - 3H

The second sequence shows no interest in Game (0 - 8), while the first is a decent (ish) hand and suit. The reason is that the Weak 2 has deprived your side of bidding space. If the opening bids had been 1S - X - Pass, you have room to show a good hand (9+) by jumping to 3? and bidding 2? with anything else (0-8).
This kind of differentiation makes life much easier for partner to make further, correct, decisions later in the auction. And it is of course our prime duty to keep partner well informed and very happy. We cannot play Bridge alone, so we must communicate accurately if partner is to succeed. For partner's success is also our success.



Monster Mash

We had this  - very rare - monster the other day at the Gazette in Balham:


Feast your eyes because you won't see this kind of hand very often. However, you well might, and you should have some idea of how to deal with it. You'll probably find nothing in textbooks, so here goes...
At the table (Both Vul) it was opened 6C! Perfectly reasonable: one loser, 12 top tricks in Clubs.... But the auction then went...
6C - 6S - P - P
7C - P  - 7S - X!
7SX  duly went off 3 for 800 a fabulous save as 7C actually makes (partner having the Q D's!), which would have been 2140! Even 7 off doubled (2000) would have been good for them. So how can we improve on this measly +800?
Looking at the hand again we can see that despite 6 C being cold it only has 17 HCP, thereby disproving that all slams need to have a combined 32+ count! It follows that there are another 23 points dotted around the other three hands. It is also true that if you have a 10 card suit, your opponents may well both have fairly silly hands themselves. They are therefore almost certainly going to join in the bidding themselves. Opening 6C - while perfectly reasonable - does let a rather massive lioness out of the bag. You could try opening 2C - on the grounds that Game is a certainty (!) but they will still be getting into the auction somewhere if they have any blood in their veins. So - what's to do? How can we improve this outcome?
As I said, you only actually have 17 points plus 2 voids. So where are the other points and suits? If partner has them we could get to a possible 7NT. If the opponents have them we don't really want to disclose our full potential too early, do we? What about opening 1C? Will that be passed out? Extremely unlikely. The bidding will come back to you. They WILL be bidding. You will get another chance. By then you should have some idea of what's going on. Plus your softly softly approach opens up the possibility to, as they say, catchee monkey. Take a look at the back of the 7C card. Making is 2140. Doubled and making it's 2330. Redoubled and making it's 2660. Any of these are miles better than 800. Your strategy should be to bid as if YOU are sacrificing against THEM!
1C - 1S - X - 4S
5C - 5S - P - P
Almost whatever happens now is to your advantage. They pass, you get 1370. They double, you get 1540. (DON'T Redouble!) Most of the time - I venture to suggest - they'll bid again - 6S. Now is the time to hold your nerve. Bid 7C. They might be making 6S. Who can tell? More importantly, you might make 7C. Now - hopefully - you have them. You have sprung the trap. Good opposition may well now bid 7S, and you are back to square one. But there's always the chance you will now be doubled. Still do NOT re-double. It will be impossible for them to visualise that you have such an extraordinary and incredibly rare hand. But if you re-Double you make it a certainty they will bid to 7S because you just told them to. Just make the doubled Grand Slam and quietly write in the score.
This method of bidding weird hands is known as Creeping. It is a standard ploy to get the opponents to feel they have pushed you too far. Instead, you are just where you always wanted to be.