Welcome to Basement Bridge

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

Wednesday, 8 May 2013


 Lieutenant Worf was consulting Counsellor Troi. 
"I made a foolish mistake, counsellor, and I wish to resolve the issue of my failure."
"Lieutenant: although at the moment you feel you have disgraced yourself, I can assure you the problem you present is not really to do with bridge at all."
"Is this supposed to comfort me, counsellor?"
"Not at all. I simply wish to focus you on to the problem at hand. Show me the deal."
The cards displayed brightly on the luminous holo desk as the main light dimmed around them. Only the N/S cards were visible:


"I'm afraid the auction got a little out of hand, counsellor, but it was a Teams match and we needed to score games:
1C - 1D - 1N - 3N. Not a classic auction I'll admit but it was tense. When dummy went down I was overcome with a mixture of anger and disappointment. Both I and partner appeared to have over valued our assets. I was cross with both myself and partner and that we had both let our side down. I felt ashamed. A Club was led, I took the Ace, led a low Diamond, but all was hopeless. We were way off. To make matters even worse, when we scored up we saw the opponents had been in the same contract on the same lead and actually made it! How can I stop myself from making these appalling errors of judgement, Counsellor?"
"The error you have made is not a bridge error, Lieutenant. And it is easily within your power to rectify the problem. You said - and I believe you - that when you first saw dummy you were angry and disappointed. You were under pressure in a tight situation. The problem, Worf, is that you let that pressure affect you and your judgmental processes."
"I agree. But what can I do?"
"The first task is to rid oneself of unnecessary tension. You must actively relax. When dummy goes down you are allowed One Minute's thinking time. Use it. Relax your feet; your knees; your solar plexus; your shoulders; un-frown your forehead. Breathe slowly and calmly. Now think about the hand and the problem you face. Ignore the opponents. Focus. As you can see, in order to have even the slightest chance of making this edgy contract the Diamond suit must behave. Once established, you can only get to it with the Ace of Clubs. Therefore, whatever else you do you must NOT play it at trick one. Win in hand with the King, run the J of Diamonds. There is no other legitimate chance. The Ace wins and a Club is returned. Winning with the A you now must play the DK. As luck would have it the Q falls!! You now have 6 D tricks, 2 C's and the A of Spades = 9 tricks."
"That's very lucky, though isn't it, Counsellor?"
"Maybe so, Lieutenant. Play the lucky contracts well and the standard contracts will look after themselves.”


Wednesday, 1 May 2013


"Watson!" The famous detective, Sherlock Holmes, was clearly in a bate. "Come over here at once."

"Of course, Holmes, of course. Whatever you say," I obliged.
"Look at this hand - go on look at it."
"Er ye-es, I remember. I opened 1D did I not. Was I remiss in some respect, Holmes?"
"Not at all Watson. The 1 D opening is mandatory. But what exactly was your plan, assuming I made a normal response below 2D?"
"Well, er naturally, I was going to re-bid 2D: weak-ish with a 5+ suit."
"Capital, Watson, capital." His eyes turned to me and glinted steel. "But you didn't Watson. Did you?" There was a soft breath of menace in the air. "You re-bid 3D. Didn't you? Very naughty."
"But the opponents bid, er, it got too high, oh Holmes I had to do something!" I sat heavily on a chair in misery. What had l done to deserve his opprobrium this time?
"The bidding was thus, Watson, was it not?
1D - 1S - 1NT - 2S - ???
At which point you rebid 3D. Not 2D, which, as you have previously pointed out, is the limit of the hand in bidding terms from your point of view."
"But Holmes" I went on the attack: "They bid 2S! I couldn't bid 2D! You see?" I felt pretty dam pleased with myself I can tell you. His voice was soft, silky and precise:
"I believe Watson, that you just admitted to me that you couldn't bid 2D in the auction as that spot had been bypassed by aggressive opponents. In which case - as you were unable to bid 2D - can you please tell me why in heaven's name you felt able to bid AT ALL?" His gimlet eyes pierced mine from two inches.
"If as you say you can't bid 2D then you can't bid. Your bid has been taken away. So just PASS! Why make up bids out of thin air? Why pretend to values you do not possess? And most crucially, why mislead partner? Why cause partner to make unwise bids based on incorrect information that result in -800? Hmm?"
I now saw that Holmes was right. He usually was…

Plan your re-bid. If events overtake your plans - PASS. Never ever forget that you have a partner and do not try and bid for them: just bid your hand. At the right level. Then partner will know what to do.


“Why do we play this impossible game, Miss Jones?”

“Oh but Mr Rigsby, I thought you enjoyed the gentle intellectual tussle and the meeting of minds?”

“Oh I do Miss Jones, indeed I do, most certainly. There’s nothing I enjoy more than a meeting and a tussle.”
“It’s so much about margins, Mr Rigsby. You mustn’t let Alan and Philip wind you up so. Look at the board where you played in 2S and made 11 tricks. They laughed at you for not even being in game, didn’t they?”
“It doesn’t affect me Miss Jones, oh no. Water off a duck’s back. Anyway there was nothing else I could do, and you couldn’t bid.”
“Well, actually, there was something else you could have done…”
“Oh? Really, Miss Jones? And what was that then?”
“Well, you see, Alan opened 1N, you bid 2S then All Pass. It could have been so different:

754                                                J92
K2                                                653
QJ86                                                K93
AK86                                                T942

You made +200 for 11 tricks. But see what happens if – instead of bidding 2S – you Double.”
“But why would I do that Miss Jones?”
“So that your partner can tell you have a good hand. So you can possibly take them for a nice juicy penalty. You’d like that wouldn’t you Mr Rigsby.”
“I certainly would Miss Jones, oh yes, I certainly would. Please continue.”
“After 1NT all simple overcalls of a suit promise LESS than 15 HCP, let’s say about 8 -14; and all Doubles in that position promise 15 or MORE. The Double of 1NT is not like a Take-out double of a suit. It is primarily suggestive of penalties. If you start with a double, Philip, in the East seat, has really no good bid to make. (Unless they’ve agreed some sophisticated defence to your double). I should probably pass and then Alan also has no sensible bid now. You lead a low Spade, I win with the K and then I have to think. Instead of lamely returning a S at trick 2, I look at dummy and see the H suit looks empty. I’m probably never getting the lead again so I must make my move now.”
“Oh yes, please do Miss Jones..”
“I return the HT, trapping Alan’s HK under your AQJ8, you cash the rest of the Spades and the DA giving us 10 Tricks. Doubled! Alan is now 4 Down Doubled for 800! Better than 200. Better even than if we had bid the game for 450.”
“But what if they do start bidding something? They might end up in 2C?”
“In which case with your big hand you Double again. This time they only go 3 off for 500. Still better than any game we make.”
“But what if the Vulnerability’s different?”
“If they are Vulnerable we now get 1100 or 800. Even better!”

Miss Jones is right – as usual. And even if you’re Vulnerable and they’re NV you still do better getting 800. Remember: after 1NT: – X shows any hand 15+.


"Defending is tough, Jim - real tough." Davy Crockett, King of the wild frontier, was taking time out from defending the Alamo to discuss his favourite game with Jim Bowie. "Sometimes you gotta have eyes in the back of yer head."
"You gotta see through the back o' those darn cards n' all, Davy," said Jim, carefully polishing his long weapon.
"The hardest bit," drawled Davy, "is the dang openin' lead. The helluva thing is you got no idea what's right."
"Uh, yeah, well…" interrupted Jim, "Though you do got the auction, Davy. You kin learn good from that. What the shapes of declarer's hand might be an' all sorts innneresting stuff like that."
"True words, Jim, true words indeed. Which is why you should always pay very close attention to an auction, even if you ain't involved in it. While they're bidding themselves stupid to their cosy little grand slam or whatever, you need to be startin' up a plan of attack even before the auction is over. Listen to it. Study the hell out of it. Git yerself all prepared and ready - then Bam! Attack!"
"Then you gotta make that choice - the Opening Lead." Jim grew serious. Davy's brow furrowed.
" That is why, Jim Bowie, you gotta learn, or at least be familiar with, the table of standard leads. Thataways, dang partner will at least, mebbe, have some dang idea of what yer doin' and why yer doin' it. 
First, decide from the auction and your holdings the best suit to lead. THEN, decide which card is "right":
1) Top of a sequence.
2) Top of a doubleton
3) Middle from 3 small (MUD)
4) 4th best -  FROM AN HONOUR!!!!!
5) 2nd best from rubbish
6) Bottom of 3 to an honour
You may still be leadin' blind in the pitch black to a deaf partner, but, hey - you tried…and you did the right thing."