Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Oregon Grinders: Day 1

Paul and I are playing all pair games at the Seaside Regional. We started off hot by winning the Charity Pairs Monday night. According to the directors, we led wire to wire and won by a landslide. There were a lot of fun hands, and we handled them well, surviving three near-zeroes. That just goes to show you that you shouldn't let one bad board ruin your session...

Our first set of two boards warned of a wacky set of hands:

Systemically, we open 1C with 5-5 black hands. We got to absolute par by saving over 4H. Do you agree with 4S by me? West, understandably, took the push to 5H with his 6-5. +200 was worth 32 of 34 matchpoints.

OK, here's some problem hands for you to chew on. Feel free to share your answers and read others' opinions by clicking on the word "Comments" at the end of this article. I'll also tell what happened at the table in that section.

(A) White vs. red

A32 KT4 5 JT8643

LHO (a solid citizen) opens 3S; pard doubles; RHO passes. Your call.

(B) All white

Q52 Q987 KQJT QJ

RHO opens 1C. You're up.

(C) Red vs. white

A K52 Q98652 Q96

You open 1D in third seat. LHO bounces to 4H, and partner makes a negative double. Your bid.

(D) How should these hands be bid at all white? South starts, and East bids (or doubles) hearts at her first opportunity.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Three-Way (Kokish) Game Tries

It's important for every partnership to have a good structure for game tries when one of a major gets raised to two. These should apply in any of these situations:

  • 1H (P) 2H (P);
  • 1S (2D) 2S (P);
  • 1C (P) 1H (P) 2H (P);
  • 1C (P) 1D (P) 1S (P) 2S (P);
  • (1D) 1S (P) 2S (P);
  • (1D) 1H (2C) 2H (P);
Basically, one of a major has been raised to two, and there has been a pass after the 2H or 2S bid. There could have been prior bids by one or both partners, and there could have been interference (or even an opening bid) from the opponents... but the important thing is, one of a major has been raised to two.

Standard practice in this situation is the "help-suit game try" -- when the one of a major bidder has enough above a minimum that he wants to investigate game but not enough to just up and bid four of the suit (I'll call that player 1M for short) bids a new suit where he has some losers that need to be taken care of. In response to this, his partner (we'll call him 2M) can bid game if the "help suit" is well covered (with high cards or shortness), return to three of the major if the "help suit" is not at all covered, or bid three of another suit that he has "stuff" in when he's not sure if his holding in the "help suit" is enough for a game bid.

Let's show a couple of examples:

Partner has opened 1H, you raised to 2H, and he bid 3C as a help-suit game try. You hold:

(a) JT5 KJ64 86532 7

(b) JT5 KJ64 72 8653

(c) JT5 T94 KQ9 K942

With hand (a), your lousy five-count has turned to gold. Partner will lose a club but then trump any further club losers in the dummy. Bid 4H!

With hand (b), you still have a lousy five-count. You can't do anything about partner's club losers, and he probably has some spade-diamond losers as well. Bid 3H and hope he makes it.

With hand (c), you have a good raise to 2H, but that alone shouldn't make you bid game. You have some help in clubs, but not enough to go straight to game yourself. Here you should bid 3D. This tells partner, "Yes, I do have some help in clubs, but not enough to be sure of game. I do have some nice stuff in the diamond suit, too--- maybe that information will help you make the right decision."

Many years ago, some players turned the game try system on its head-- they bid the suit where they didn't want their partner to have high cards -- their singletons! This is called the short-suit game try. Partner will tend to bid game with no wasted values in that suit -- something like three small is a great holding here -- and sign off in three of the major when he has wasted high cards in that suit.

Which works better, help-suit or short-suit game tries? If I had to pick, I guess I'd say short-suit, but thankfully, I don't have to choose between them.

Eric Kokish came up with what he called two-way game tries. This structure has held up very well over the several years that I've been playing it.

Let's talk about the 1S - 2S auction first:

1S - 2S -

  • 2NT = asks partner where he would accept a help-suit game try.
  • 3C = short-suit game try.
  • 3D = short-suit game try.
  • 3H = short-suit game try.

When 1M relays with 2NT (asking for a help suit), 2M will bid the cheapest suit in which he would accept a help-suit game try. So if 2M has QT6 J84 KQ632 86, he'll bid 3D over 2NT. This not only tells partner about that diamond help, but since 3C was skipped over, 1M knows that 2M has a poor club holding.

So let's say the auction went 1S - 2S - 2N [asking] - 3C [showing goodies in clubs], but 1M wasn't interested in the club suit. He can now bid 3D or 3H, asking for help there. So, theoretically, an auction might go like this:

1S - 2S; 2N [asking] - 3C [stuff in clubs]; 3D [do you have stuff in diamonds?] - 3H [Not really, but I have some goodies in hearts!]; - 4S.

It gets just a bit trickier for a lot of folks when hearts are trumps. If we were to use 2NT as the "help-suit ask" over 2H, there would be no way to show spade help-- so we use 2S as the asking bid.

1H - 2H -

  • 2S = asks partner where he would accept a help-suit game try.
  • 2NT = short-suit game try in spades.
  • 3C = short-suit game try.
  • 3D = short-suit game try.

One more little space-saving maneuver: When partner asks with 2S, to show spade help we bid 2NT. So if the auction goes 1H -2H -2S [asking] - 3C [stuff in clubs], 2M has denied help in spades (the "cheapest" suit).

So there's Kokish's two-way game tries. Astute readers may have noticed the title of this post was three-way game tries. What's the third way? We use the re-raise (1H - 2H - 3H or 1S - 2S - 3S) as trump asks. If we've opened a 16-count with Jxxxx of spades, after partner's raise we certainly don't want to be in game if partner has a medium hand with Txx of spades. SO we make the trump-ask of 3S. Pard will pass with Txx but bid game with KQx or AT9x.

The re-raise can also tip 2M off that the values for game are there, but the trump quality may not be-- so if he holds 10 HCP but a trump suit of 854, the funny looking but highly intelligent auction of

1S - 2S - 3S - 3NT - Pass

can occur. How about that -- 10 HCP opposite 16, we take our nine tricks in 3NT when the rest of the field is losing three trump tricks and an ace in 4S. Go team!

I've also been known to use the "trump ask" of 3H or 3S as a preemptive action. I once held

AKQxxx x Qxx Txx

and the auction went 1S (X) 2S (P) to me. I bid the "trump ask" of 3S knowing full well pard wouldn't bid 4S. It was a slight risk that he would bid 3NT, but knowing my LHO had a big hand it seemed that the tactical bid was the percentage action. I turned out to be right (for once) -- lefty had enough values to take another bid over 2S but not over 3S. Down two, -100, against lots of -170s and -620s their way.

So, to sum up: When one of a major gets raised to two (no matter what bids came before those),

  • the next step is an asking bid
  • everything else between the next step and three of the major is a short-suit game try
  • three of the major asks for good trumps.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Seaside Regional begins!

We'll be playing at the famous and fabulous Seaside, OR Regional this week. Our old friend Merlin will be putting the results up daily at the District 20 website. We'll certainly be having good times with good friends... but hopefully we'll throw some good bridge in, too. We hope to have time to update the site daily, so check back all this week for fun tales and fun hands from the tournament. If you're also attending this great tournament, plesae track us down and say hi!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Tuesday Club Game: Klamath Falls

Tinker and I played the gthe Klamath Falls club the other day. We had a good time, with remarkably few mixups for a first-time partnership. We had a 61% game for first overall.

All problems matchpoints; click the word "Comments" at the end of the post to put in your two cents, see what we did at the table, and see what others would have done!

(A) White vs. red

53 K92 A84 T9853

RHO opens 1S. You pass, LHO raises to 2S, and partner bids 3H. Righty passes. Do you bid?

(B)  All white

KQ9 J8652 5 K976

You pass in first chair. LHO opens a 'could be short' 1D, passed around to you. You double, and pard advances with 1H. Should you raise to 2H with this?

Say you pass. LHO bids 2D, pass, pass, you now bid 2H, and lefty bids 3D, checked around to you again! What's your call here?

(C) Red vs. white

Q8 AT872 A8532 3

Your right-hand opponent passes in first seat, and it's your bid.

(D) White vs. red

86 Q94 AQT765 63

LHO opens 1S, pard passes, and RHO bids two non-game-forcing clubs. Do you have a call? Would it make a difference if it was a GF 2C call?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Bridge Etiquette of Old

Yesterday I wrote about the Laws of Auction Bridge from 1912. I shared some of the wacky rules that ran the game 96 years ago.

At the end of those Laws, there's an Etiquette section. This is very well done, and I'd like to share the first seven Rules of Etiquette. Modern bridge players could do well to take this to heart.


In Auction Bridge slight intimations convey much information. A code is compiled for the purpose of succinctly stating laws and for fixing penalties for an offense. To offend against etiquette is far more serious than to offend against a law; for, while in the latter case the offender is subject to the prescribed penalties, in the former his adversaries have no redress.
  1. Declarations should be made in a simple manner, thus: "One Heart," "One No-trump," or "I pass," or "I double"; they should be made orally and not by gesture.
  2. Aside from a legitimate declaration, a player should not give any indication by word or gesture as to the nature of his hand, or as to his pleasure or displeasure at a play, a bid, or a double.
  3. If a player demand that the cards be placed, he should do so for his own information and not to call his partner's attention to any card or play.
  4. No player, other than declarer, should lead until the preceding trick is turned and quitted; nor, after having led a winning card, should he draw another from his hand before his partner has played to the current trick.
  5. A player should not play a card with such emphasis as to draw attention to it. Nor should he detach one card from his hand and subsequently play another.
  6. A player should not purposely incur a penalty because he is willing to pay it, nor should he make a second revoke to conceal a first.
  7. Players should avoid discussion and refrain from talking during the play, as it may be annoying to players at the table oro to those at other tables in the room.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Official Laws Of Bridge (1912 edition)

The WBF has recently put out a new set of Laws for 2008. There have been many good changes to the old (1997) set. These Laws and the application thereof interest me greatly, so when I recently came across a copy of the Laws from 96 years ago, I was thrilled. Here's some of the strange (to us moderners) things that were Law back in 1912. (Be warned that these Laws are for Auction Bridge, and not Contract Bridge -- Contract wasn't invented until 1924.)

  • Since this is Auction Bridge, you are given game and slam bonuses for making the right amount of tricks no matter how high you bid... one club making six still gives you the slam bonus.
  • There are two ways to bid spades-- Spades, and Royal Spades or "Royals", Royals scoring more.
  • To make game, you need 30 points "below the line"; No Trumps count for 10 per trick, Royals 9 per trick, Hearts 8 per trick, Diamonds 7 per trick, Clubs 6 per trick, and Spades 2 per trick. All this extra math means is you still need 3NT, 4M, or 5m to make the game bonus. You can never make a game in Spades.
  • If your opponents revoke, giving you your 12th or 13th trick, you do not receive the slam bonus.
  • The dealer cannot pass! If the dealer had a bad hand, he would bid One Spade (remember, this counts only 2 points per trick).
  • The worst you can do in 1S is -100.
  • To bid more than the current bid, you have to bid something worth at least as much in trick value. So if your RHO bid 3NT, you couldn't bid 4C -- you'd have to bid five!
  • If you bid or double out of turn, either opponent can demand a new deal.
  • When declarer revokes, the defenders automatically get 150 points.
  • When the defenders revoke, declarer can take 150 points or take three tricks from the defenders.
  • The revoking side cannot score (except for honors, of course).

Monday, September 22, 2008

Fall Open Pairs

We came in second in the annual Klamath Falls Unit Fall Open Pairs on Sunday. The event was certainly ours to win... but I had a poor session. There were a few interersting boards. Try your hand at these problems. Please leave your answers and thoughts on the hands in the Comments!

All problems matchpoints. See the Comments for what happened at the table.

(A) All white

Y753 5 AJT2 Q854

LHO opens 1H, partner passes, and righty passes too. What's the lowest value for card Y with which you would double?

(B) Both vul

T3 AQ54 53 AKQ74

You're first up. 1NT would be good 14-17.

(C) All white

K J8762 K54 KJT6

In second seat, you pass (or do you?), LHO opens 1S, partner overcalls 2D, and RHO passes. What's your call? Your choices are 2H non-forcing, 2S limit raise in diamonds, 2N natural and invitational, 3D natural, or 3H fit-showing.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Book review: Bridge With the Blue Team

Everybody has that one book that they keep in the bathroom. You know the one-- the book with a bunch of short, but interesting articles on many different subjects. My "bathroom book" is Pietro Forquet's Bridge With the Blue Team.

This book, widely and correctly regarded as one of the best bridge books ever written, is in a simple yet highly engaging style. There are 140 hands laid out in two to three page sections. Each hand recounts a miracle in at-the-table card play as pulled off by the Blue Team. 

Italy's Blue Team won ten Bermuda Bowls in a row. Ten! They accomplished this feat between 1957 and 1969. They took the next two Bowls off, but they "un-retired" and won the next three. The Squadra Azzura changed members manyy times over the years, but there were three perennials: Belladonna, Garozzo, and Forquet. With this amazing book, Forquet showed that if he had wanted to put in the time, he could have been the best bridge writer of his day.

Many of the deals feature amazing plays and fabulous squeezes. My favorites, however, are deals like the following, in which the Italian players do incredibly simple things to make their contracts -- that is, simple once you think of it.

Giorgio Belladonna played in 5D on the lead of the jack of spades. How would you play it?

Belladonna won the spade in hand and cashed the ace and king of clubs on the table. He ruffed a club, then went back to the dummy with the ace of hearts to lead the last club. If East had followed, he would have pitched his heart loser, but when East discarded, he ruffed and gave up a heart. He won the spade return and this was the position:

No trump finesse necessary! Giorgio exited with his spade loser and had to take the last three tricks.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Friday club game

Marie and I tried again the next day at the club. Things went much better, but we had an oft-occurring problem at club bridge -- playing the wrong hands against the wrong opponents. Far too often, the opponents would get to the par spot, make a normal number of tricks (sometimes even lose a trick they shouldn't) but still get most of the matchpoints. So it goes...

(A) White vs. red

QT95 A63 4 T8762

Partner opens 1H in third chair, and righty overcalls 2D. You bid 2H, and lefty competes in diamonds. The auction:

P (P) 1H (2D);
2H (3D) P (P);

(B) White vs. red

Q5 AKJ764 T A954

Lefty opens 1D, partner passes, and RHO limit-raises with 3D. Do you bid?

(C) White vs. red

-- KQ762 AQJ974 73

You're first to speak.

(D) All red

AQT62 K3 852 432

Pard opens a 20-21 2NT. Your call.

(E) All red

52 AKJT843 J6 QT

You open 1H in first seat (at least, I hope you do). LHO jumps to 2S, which gets passed back to you. What's your call?

(F) White vs. red

QJ93 J6 A832 432

Pard opens 1H, righty bids 1S, and you bid 1NT. LHO raises to 2S, partner bids 3C, and RHO passes. What's your bid?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Interesting hand from the Buffett Cup

This hand from the first segment of the Buffett Cup, played this morning, interested me. This auction was repeated several times, and, of course, all declarers made at least six. The West hand, in my opinion, is way too good for a 4S call here.

Why preempt when you have such an immense hand?

Why preempt when you have spades?

Couldn't you have a hand more like AQxxxxx x x Qxxx?

Does the board-a-match scoring affect your thinking on this hand?

Several excellent players made this decision, so I may well be in the wrong here. Would you bid 4S on this? Why?

Monday, September 15, 2008

Instant Matchpoint Game, 9/11/08

The Instant Matchpoint Game was held Thursday. I played with my friend Marie. Meg also played (and won) - here's her writeup of the event. Marie and I didn't do so hot, but we had a good time.

(A) All white

J9 K7 JT87653 J7

Do you preempt in first chair?

(B) White vs. red

32 63 8762 KQ764

(P) 1S (P) ?

(C) White vs. red

AKJ AJT K9632 T6

(2S) P (3C*) ?


(D) White vs. red

A753 AJ76 A862 6

The opponents are silent. Partner opens 1C, you bid 1H, and partner bids 1S. What's your bid/plan?

(E) All white

AJ985 7 972 AJT3

Pard opens 1H. You bid 1S, and she rebids 1NT. What's your bid?

(F) Red vs. white

AQT2 875 K54 843

Pard opens 1H. What's your call?

Buffett Cup

The biennial Buffett Cup starts today in Louisville, KY. This is a 'challenge match' much like golf's Ryder Cup, which starts on Friday, also in Louisville. Europe and the USA have each sent six pairs to battle in a grueling (but friendly) set of matches. Scoring is done by board-a-match (hence the 'grueling'). There are three segments to the challenge match -- Pairs, Teams, and Individual.

The first Buffett Cup was played in Dublin, Ireland in 2006. The USA team was victorious. Europe led after the Pairs and Teams competitions, but in the Individual the Americans pulled out a last-minute win.

Every hand of this event will be broadcast on Bridge Base Online. Here's the schedule of the broadcasts.

This year's teams:


Sabine Auken and Marion Michielsen

Michel and Thomas Bessis

Boye Brogeland and Espen Lindqvist

Tom Hanlon and Hugh McGann

Tor Helness and Jan Peter Svendsen

Michal Kwiecien and Jacek Pszczola


Bob Hamman and Zia Mahmood

Geoff Hampson and Dick Freeman

Alan Sontag and David Berkowitz

Tobi Sokolow and Janice Seamon-Molson

Howard Weinstein and Steve Garner

Roy Welland and Bjorn Fallenius

Happy kibitzing!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Instant Matchpoint Game

The ACBL holds its annual Instant Matchpoint game tonight. This is a very fun event. The (random) hands are analyzed by Larry Cohen, and each player in tonight's game will receive a booklet with the hands and analyses. This is an unusually scored event-- you're not matchpointed against the other players in your club, but against what Cohen thinks most people will be doing. You'll get your results directly after each hand. Section tops will earn a gold point, and other placings will be half red and half black. National winners will get a writeup in the ACBL Bulletin.

Meg and I are playing in this event tonight-- I'll be playing with my friend Marie (with whom I had a great time at the Raleigh, NC Regional this year) and Meg will be with a new (but very strong) partner. So we should have some fun hands to report for you tomorrow!

Follow this link to see if a club in your area is offering the Instant Matchpoint Game tonight.

Here's the results from last year's IMG.

Richard Pavlicek analyzed the deals for the IMG from 1987 to 2006. Here's a link to all twenty years of hands and analyses!

Wednesday club game

I played bridge yesterday for the first time in three weeks. What a drought! I haven't had one that long in years. 

I played at the Charlottesville bridge club with my friend Pete. We had a very matchpointy game-- lots of doubling and partscore battles. The hands were lots of fun. We ended up with a touch over 63%, half a board out of first place.

All hands matchpoints, of course. What happened at the table will appear in the Comments section.

By the way-- some of the best material on this site comes from readers like you-- Please feel free to comment and read what others have to say! If you click the title of a post, a new page will come up with the full post and all the comments.

(A) White vs. red


Partner passes, you open 2C, partner bids a "waiting" 2D,and you bid 2S. (Do you prefer 3S?) Partner now comes out of the bushes with 6S! Your call.

(B) White vs. red

AQ3 JT83 QJT K74

The opponents silent again - pard opens 1H, you pull out good old Jacoby 2NT, and pard rebids 4D [presumably a second suit]. You're up.

(C) All white

8 AT9 K853 KQ853

You open 1D (do you prefer 1C?) and lefty doubles. Pard redoubles, and righty bids 1S. What do your bids mean here? What's your call?

(D) Red vs. white

5 -- J987643 QJ532

You're first to speak. Do you?

(E) All white

AKQ2 T7643 54 96

RHO opens 1C. What's your call?

(F) White vs. red

AKQ84 AQ9532 Q J

Righty opens 1NT. You're playing Brozel - 2C = C+H, 2D = D+H, 2H = H+S, 2S = S+C or S+D, X = one long suit, 2N = C+D, higher bids undiscussed. What's your call?

(G) White vs. red

AKT92 4 AQ5 KJT2

You open 1S, and partner gives you a forcing notrump. What say you?

(H) White vs. red

KT5 T7 AJ986 J76

Pard passes in first seat. Righty opens 3H, you pass, and lefty lifts to 4H, all pass. It's your lead.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

And the award for Worst Bid and Best Played Hand goes to...

...B. Jay Becker! 

Mr. Becker played with Dorothy Hayden in the 1963 International Team Trials. They tied for fourth in the event, just shy of being placed on the USA team in the 1964 World Team Olympiad. Mr. Becker and Mrs. Hayden had a bit of a bidding misunderstanding, but Mr. Becker played the hand majestically.

As was standard at the time, Hayden's 3C (jump preference in a minor) was forcing. Mr. Becker made an invitational 4C bid... but Hayden remembered their actual agreement that 4C was Gerber (ace-asking)! She responded 4S (two aces), and when the bidding got back to Mr. Becker, he figured that any partner that bid diamonds, clubs, and spades couldn't have more than one heart-- so he bid the club slam!

Leading aces against slams may (and may not) be good matchpoint strategy, but it's awful at IMPs. So we certainly forgive Sam Stayman in the West seat for not cashing the first three heart tricks! He opened a small diamond. Mr. Becker played the jack, holding, cashed the DA for a heart pitch, ruffed a diamond, played a club to the ace, ruffed another diamond (exhausting E-W of that suit), cashed a trump, and drew trumps ending on the board leading to this position:

The diamond queen was cashed (South pitching a heart), and East (Vic Mitchell) was squeezed in a fun way. He couldn't release his spade guard, so he let go a heart honor. Mr. Becker cashed the queen of spades and led the eight of spades. Mitchell split his honors (all later agreed that Mr. Becker certainly would have stuck in the 9 if Mitchell hadn't split) and South won and exited the jack of hearts! If West hopped up with the ace, he would have to lead from the 8-5 of hearts into dummy's T-6 at trick 12, and if he didn't, East would win and have to lead from J-7 of spades into declarer's A-9!

Maybe I should stop bidding so scientifically so I get the chance to make plays like this...

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Book Review: Matchpoints

Kit Woolsey's Matchpoints is one of two books that I think all aspiring bridge experts need to have read. (The other is Lawrence's How To Read Your Opponents' Cards.) Woolsey does a masterful job of explaining the mathematics of matchpoints (don't worry - you don't need a calculator!) and tries to help the reader think about the right things, like what the contracts will be at the other tables,  whether or not to take a safety play, and what the expected gain or loss would be from different lines of play. 

Woolsey spends a lot of time on the "two ways to win" principle, and for good reason! It's simple mathematics, but most bridge players don't quite 'get' that combining the chances of two unlikely things can add up to a better chance than one likely thing happening. The simplest case of combining chances is taking two finesses. Every bridge player should know that finding a 3-2 split (68%) is much more likely to happen than finding a finesse onside (50%). But if you can combine your chances on a hand and find one of two finesses onside, it adds up to 75%, considerably better than the chances for a 3-2 split. Woolsey goes into many different "combine your chances" situations in both the bidding and the play.

To go along with the standard pairs subjects, like balancing, doubling, and sacrificing, he also has a good section on the Law of Total Tricks. In my opinion, Woolsey's discussion on the subject is more accurate and valuable than Larry Cohen's more famous work on the subject, To Bid or Not to Bid

Surprisingly, Matchpoints is a good way to learn IMP play for those of you who almost exlusively play pair games! The first time (of probably six or seven by now) I read this book, I had been coming along well at the bridge club. I'd placed highly in some Sectional pair games, but never seemed to do anything in the Sectional Swisses. Matchpoints made me realize just how many of the "pairs-only" tricks Woolsey shared that I was already doing, and how many imps they were costing me!

So, in a nutshell, if you haven't read this book yet, get it before your next pair game!

Buy Matchpoints at Amazon.com

Monday, September 8, 2008

Results: You Be The Judge

A few days ago I put up the post You Be The Judge.  We got some great responses. Here's the original hand and the final result of the responses.




1♦ - 2♦;
3♦ - 3NT;

2D was an invitational or better raise, all else was natural.

Correspondent: West's percentage of error / Worst call

Collins: 0% / 3NT
Noble: 70% / 3D
Kevin: 100% / 3D
Randall: 20% / 3NT
Memphis MOJO: 90% / 3D
My vote: 85% / 3D

Consensus: West's percentage of error: 61%. Worst call: 3D.

Thanks for all the responses! I'll know who to turn to next time I have a disaster.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Bridge Master 2000

Bridge Master 2000 is, in my opinion, the best bridge program out there. It's a declarer play program, with dozens of preloaded hands. There are five skill levels. Level One is challenging for a novice; any reader of this site should breeze through them. Level Three should be tough for most players. Level Five is miserably hard... these are meant to trouble even World Champions. I'll put my favorite Level Five hand at the end of this article.

Bridge Base Online offers six sample deals at each of the five Levels. Try it for yourself! Log in to BBO, and click on "Other Bridge Activities". Near the bottom of the list is Bridge Master 2000. Click your preferred level and try the sample hands! You can purchase individual sets of hands on Bridge Base for $10.00 per 30 hands, and you can buy the whole program here for $59.95. The price tag may look steep, but I promise it's worth it. My suggestion would be to play the sample hands on BBO and find your level, then buy two sets of that level and one of the level above that. Then practice!

These hands are set up to reward the best lines of play. If you play it and fail, you can try again as many times as you need. Be warned-- the lie of the cards that wreck your first try may not be the same lie when you try again! If you try a different sub-par line of play, you'll get punished for that too.

My favorite deal from the samples on BBO is Level Five, deal 4:

Vul: None
Scoring: Rubber

Once South finds out that North holds the black aces, he bounces into 7D. The king of spades is led, and it's your play. I'll post the full play in the Comments.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Hands From BBO

I practiced on Bridge Base Online a few days ago with my friend Paul. You'll read a lot more about my adventures with Paul later this month-- we're playing the most popular Regional in the Northwest - Seaside, OR -  together. Paul and I had some amazing hands and some good practice. All problems IMPs. What happened at the virtual table will appear in the Comments, as always.
(A) Red vs. white

J83 K4 AJ4 AQT86

(3H) P (P) ?

(B) Red vs. white

none KQJT4 J9862 T42


Am I the only one in the world who would think of 2H here? How about at other colors?

(C) White vs. red

AKJ73 QT98763 9 none

1H (P) 1N [forcing] (P) ?

Or would you have opened 1S? Or passed?

(D) All white

2 AKJ754 Q65 A85

(1D) X (3D) [weak] ?

(E) All white

K985 543 62 AJ42

(1S) 2D (P) ?

Assuming you pass here, the auction goes

(1S) 2D (P) P
(2H) X [1] (P) ?

[1]: Takeout.

(F) All white

KJ9632 5 KJT54 8

You pick this up first in hand. Do you open? If not, what do you need to add to the hand to make it worth a one-bid?

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

You Be The Judge

Many years ago, The Bridge World ran a column called "You Be The Judge". TBW would present a famous disaster and ask a panel to assess blame. The East-West hands were shown and an august panel would answer two questions:

(a) What was West's percentage of the blame for the final result?

(b) What was the single worst call [or play] of the hand?

I liked this column a lot. It was discontinued about a decade ago, so I don't feel awful about 'borrowing' the format.

By the way, if I haven't said this before, TBW is the one tool that every bridge player needs. Looking back on my bridge life, the thing that primed my brain for high-level competition and brought my game from middling-intermediate to expert is reading my Bridge World every month cover to cover and reading any back issue I could get my hands on. I was thrilled a few months ago to be able to buy over 100 back issues from the 1950s to the 1980s. Hopefully in a few decades my collection will be filled in. Hardly a night goes by that I don't read at least one back issue in bed before falling asleep. If you don't currently have a subscription, get one. If you already have one, get one for your favorite partner.

So let's get judgmental!
Dealer: West
Vul: Both
Scoring: IMPs



1♦ - 2♦;
3♦ - 3NT;

Playing a strong notrump based system, West opened a natural diamond. East made an invitational or better raise with 2♦. When West rebid 3♦, East bid 3NT and West let it sit.

3NT made 4 on a spade lead. Obviously, 6♦ is laydown unless an opponent has Axxxx of hearts, and would have made at the table, giving E-W some very nice neckwear. As it was, they 'settled' (happily, may I add) for 6th overall in the World IMP Pairs in Verona, Italy, in the summer of 2006.

So-- the two questions for you, loyal readers:

(a) What is West's percentage of the blame?
(b) What was the single worst call?

Monday, September 1, 2008

Book review: How To Read Your Opponents' Cards

Mike Lawrence is probably the top American bridge author. He has over 20 books in print. All are good and most are excellent. My favorite may be his first book, How To Read Your Opponents' Cards (The Bridge Experts' Way to Locate Missing High Cards). Mike was 30 when he won his first World Championship as a member of Ira Corn's Dallas Aces. When Mike was 32 and two-time defending Bermuda Bowl champion, Corn suggested he write a book. When Mike balked at the idea, Corn reminded him who wrote the checks... and How To Read was born.

I would recommend this book to anyone looking to make the leap from Intermediate to Expert. Mike shows the reader lots of basic inferences available from bidding and play of normal, everyday hands. He then moves on to the technique of "discovery play", that is, forcing the opponents to show you their distribution and locations of high cards. The final chapter changes tone from the rest of the book-- it's all about reading hesitations and other tells from your opponents. I don't find this part nearly as useful as the rest of the book. Generally, when I'm playing against strong opponents (say in a Bracket I of a regional knockout), they don't show these tells, and when I'm playing against weak opponents (say at a club game) their hesitations and fumbles generally just mean they weren't paying attention. Maybe these tells were much more prevalent in the early 1970s... and just maybe my "sixth sense" doesn't work as well as it should. The rest of the book is spot-on, though.

Here's an example of a simple discovery play:


♦2 led


At IMPs, East dealer, E-W only vulnerable, a painless auction leads to 4S:

(P) 1S (P) 2NT [1] ;
(P) 3C [2] (P) 4S;
All Pass

[1] Artificial; Game-forcing spade raise
[2] Artificial; Minimum hand, may or may not have side shortness

See my post on Modified Responses to Jacoby 2NT for more on this auction and for better ways to utilize your bidding space.

So our hero South plays 4S on the diamond lead. East wins two diamonds, and hoping his partner's fourth-best was from Qxxx, shoots a third back. South wins, and sees a simple way to make the contract-- play up to a heart and try to hook the king of spades on his right. But like all good declarers, once he's found a good line of play he looks for a better one! He tables the jack of clubs. East, suspecting what declarer's up to, holds up for a round, but is forced to take the second club. East plays a heart to declarer's ace, and South bangs down the ace of spades, dropping the king on his left! Mirrors? No-- South recalled East's first seat pass, and watched 11 HCP tumble out of his hand. South knew that East couldn't hold the king of spades, so the only way to pick up the suit for no losers was for West's king to be stiff, and play accordingly.

West held his cards much closer to his chest for the rest of the session.

Buy How To Read at amazon.com