Free Bridge Puzzles
Once a month I post a puzzle to get you thinking about how you would play in a particular situation.
There are no prizes, unfortunately, just the satisfaction of knowing whether or not you were right.
Bridge Puzzle 18 September 2011
Today I am looking at three hands which illustrate the importance of maximising your bidding. As I have said frequently, if you don't get the most out of your hand, somebody else will.
East deals and turns up:
Spades K J 9
Hearts K 9 6
Diamonds K Q J 3
Clubs A J 5
Eighteen points, a nice flat hand within the range of sixteen to eighteen points for opening 1 No Trump, so East comfortably opens with that bid.
South passes and the bidding turns to West who has:
Spades 10 8 7 6 3 2
Hearts 7 3
Diamonds A 4
Clubs 7 4 2
Only four points and as 'the rules say that you need at least six points to respond to an opening bid', West is perhaps tempted to pass, but he has a good shape to his hand with six spades and two doubletons. Even though the spades are small ones, West can reasonably expect his partner to have one or more high spades as he has opened 1 No Trump, and so he re-calculates his hand to be worth eight or nine points to take account of the extra values. He therefore decides to bid and says 2 Spades which is guaranteeing at least five spades.
North passes and East now has the glint of a game in his eyes. Depending on how daring he is, he will say 3 Spades or 4 Spades. If it is the former then I would expect West to make it up to 4 Spades as he has six spades - East only knows he has five.
In practice, if West passes the opening bid of 1 No Trump, East probably makes seven tricks. If West plays the hand in 4 Spades, he will make ten or eleven tricks, thus making the game, and recording a big swing against those partnerships who settled for 1 No Trump.
See how many tricks you could make yourself in the two different contracts.
The North/South hands are:
South Spades A 5
Hearts 8 2
Diamonds 10 8 7 5 2
Clubs K 10 6 3
North Spades Q 4
Hearts A Q J 10 5 4
Diamonds 9 6
Clubs Q 9 8
This time South deals, but neither he nor his partner North bids during the auction.
West opens the bidding with 1 Diamond holding the following cards:
Spades Q J 9 7
Hearts A K Q 10
Diamonds Q 7
Clubs 10 9 5
Fourteen points without a five card major or a four card minor so he opens a 'phoney' 1 Diamond. If you haven't come across this yet, it means 'partner, I have enough points to make an opening bid. Please let me know what you have in your hand'
East must reply to this bid, come what may. He holds:
Spades A K 10 4
Hearts J 8
Diamonds A 10 8 6 5 2
That makes fifteen points with good distribution, but just be cautious about the singleton King of Clubs. You can't count it as three points, and then add on a couple more because it is a singleton - in fact it may be better to downgrade it to say one point, and even then if the opposition plays the Ace at some stage it will be worth precisely nothing.
Nevertheless East, as well as West, has an opening bid in his own right, and therefore knows that there must be a game contract in the hand. With his distribution it looks as though it may be best to play the hand in a suit rather than no trumps, so he uses the Stayman convention to try to find the best suit for the partnership and says 1 No Trump. Under the convention West replies 2 Clubs, which asks partner to bid either hearts or spades if they have at least four cards in the suit.
As you can see, East has four spades and bids 3 Spades. He bids 3 Spades rather than 2 to show that he has a good hand, and 3 Spades rather than four, in case West doesn't have a decent spade holding. When West sees East bid 3 Spades then he quickly makes that up to 4 Spades, and that becomes the contract.
On this sort of hand there will be some players who will end up in 3 No Trumps, but the pairs who take advantage of the uneven distribution in East's hand come up with the better results. Assuming a fair standard of play, only nine tricks can be made in no trumps, but ten, eleven, or even twelve can be made in spades.
Again I suggest that you might play the hand to see how many tricks you can make in the two contracts. Bear in mind that if you can mid and make 6 Spades you will win a big score bonus for the slam.
The North/South hands are:
South Spades 8 6 5 2
Hearts 4 3 2
Diamonds K 9
Clubs A 6 4 3
North Spades 3
Hearts 9 7 6 5
Diamonds J 4 3
Clubs Q J 8 7 2
This time there isn't much doubt about the suit, but how high do you bid?
South deals and passes. West opens the 'phoney diamond' again with:
Spades Q J 8 2
Hearts K 8
Diamonds A Q 7 2
Clubs K 10 7
North passes and East has to decide what to bid with:
Hearts A Q 7 5
Diamonds K 10 9 6 4
Clubs Q J 5 2
The point count is twelve but with a void the hand is potentially worth at least sixteen points. In this situation, East must let his partner know how strong his hand is. Bidding 2 Diamonds is not exactly wrong, but it does not convey the strength, and so East says 3 Diamonds to indicate a good diamond suit and an opening hand.
West now re-examines his hand. With four good diamonds and a doubleton he is sure that there will be a game in diamonds, but might there be a slam?
The point that I am making with this hand is that if East responds 2 Diamonds rather than 3 it is most unlikely that the bidding will go higher than 5 Diamonds whereas with the double raise then partner will seriously think about bidding a slam.
As you will observe in this particular case, getting to the slam may not be all that easy. Between them the partners only have two aces and so using the standard system of asking for aces will probably lead to the slam not being bid - but it can be done!
I will come back to this in a later puzzle.
In the meantime, the North and South hands are:
North Spades K 9 7 6 4
Hearts 10 6 4 2
Clubs 8 6 4 3
South Spades A 10 5 3
Hearts J 9 3
Diamonds J 8 5 3
Clubs A 9
Bridge puzzle - 6 August 2011
I have had a very busy 2011, but heavy rain has stopped me going outdoors today, so I have been able to get a new puzzle to you all at last.
Here is an interesting hand.
North is dealer and no-one is vulnerable. East/West reached the contract of 3 No Trumps, North having made an intervening bid of 1 Spade after West opened the bidding on 1 Diamond.
West is Declarer so North has to lead, and puts down the five of Spades. As you know the standard lead against a No Trump contract is the fourth highest card of your longest suit, and it looks as though this is what North has done here. West plays low from the doubleton in Dummy, and South plays the Queen. West now has to think, because he also only has a doubleton (the Ace and two) in Spades. If he plays the Ace immediately he has no control in Spades, so he thinks it best not to play the Ace and South takes the trick with the Queen.
What happens next is hardly surprising – South leads another Spade. This time it is the King, and West has no option but to take the trick with the Ace. Now neither West nor East has any Spades. An interesting thing happened though on this second round of play. North played the three of Spades. As his opening lead was the five, the fact that he has now played the three is an indicator that he started with five Spades.
All of the players now know that North/South can win a further three tricks in Spades and Declarer knows that as neither he nor Dummy has the Ace or King of Clubs he can lose two tricks there as well which would bring a total of six losing tricks – the Queen of Spades, then three more Spades and the Ace and King of Clubs.
Declarer now takes a deep breath and sets out to make sure that scenario does not happen. Can he do it?
Well, as he has no Spades and two top losing Clubs, he has to tackle the red suits. Which one first? He has five Diamonds in his hand, and Dummy has four Hearts in his, but between the two hands they have all four top Hearts but are missing the Queen of Diamonds.
In the light of this, Declarer sensibly decides to tackle Hearts first, and he cashes in four tricks ending up in Dummy, having now won five tricks in total. Although playing the Hearts was totally straightforward, Declarer was watching carefully to see what North and South were discarding.
When Declarer played the third round of Hearts, North had no more Hearts to play, and therefore had to make two discards on the third and fourth round of Hearts. North, closely watched by Declarer, firstly discarded the eight of Clubs, and then thought for a long time before discarding the eight of Spades on the next round.
At this juncture, Declarer silently thought – ho ho – North has sacrificed a winning card, so he must have something else which he wishes to protect. What can it be?
At this stage, he thinks back to the bidding. He has fifteen points and Dummy has ten, making twenty-five in total. South has already played the King and Queen of Spades so that there are only ten other points in the North and South hands. As North put in an intervening bid of one Spade, then Declarer thinks it is highly likely that North has the Queen of Diamonds. If he is right then the contract of three No Trumps can be made.
North therefore now plays a low Diamond from Dummy to the King in his hand, and then makes a successful finesse with the Jack of Diamonds. The play then of the Ace of Diamonds drops the Queen from North’s hand and Declarer goes on to make three No Trumps plus one (one Spade, four Hearts and five Diamonds), despite North/South having potentially had six winning tricks between them.
The play of this hand is interesting and illustrates the benefit and importance of thinking about what your opponents are doing.
The full hands were:
♠Spades J 9 8 5 3
♥Hearts 5 4
♦Diamonds Q 8 3
♣Clubs A K 8
♠Spades 10 4
♥Hearts K Q 10 7
♦Diamonds A 9 5 2
♣Clubs J 9 5
♠Spades K Q 7 6
♥Hearts 9 8 6 3
♣Clubs 7 4 3 2
♠Spades A 2
♥Hearts A J 2
♦Diamonds K J 10 7 4
♣Clubs Q 10 6
P.S. If we were to swap the eight of Diamonds in North’s hand for the ten in South’s, then the contract could probably not be made unless the opponents were obliging. It’s a fine line between success and failure!
BRIDGE PUZZLE FOR JANUARY 2011
Quite often you will be thinking about bidding and deciding what your opening bid will be when your right hand opponent puts a spoke in the wheel, and makes a bid. You feel that you have enough points to say something, but what?
Most importantly you must ensure that what you bid will be interpreted correctly by your partner so both of you must have a well defined practice in these cases. Basically you have three choices.
Let us suppose you are sitting East. North deals and opens 1 Spade, playing five card majors. Barring extreme distributions, you will be able to bid 2 Clubs or 2 Diamonds or 2 Hearts. Any of these would be a standard bid showing that you have sufficient strength to be able to play the hand at the two level bearing in mind that North has at least an opening hand.
Secondly, you may like to Double North’s bid. This means that you too have at least an opening hand, and by making the bid you are asking partner to let you know what their best suit is (this could be No Trumps as well as a suit).
Thirdly you can bid 1 No Trump. In our system this means that you guarantee that you have a minimum of sixteen points – not fourteen or fifteen, it must be at least sixteen.
Whichever choice of bid you make, your partner will have a very accurate picture of your hand.
We will look at some hands so that you can make sure that you are on the right lines. In each case North opens 1 Spade. As East, you hold:
♠ Spades K 7 5
♥ Hearts J 9 7
♦ Diamonds K Q J 6 5
♣ Clubs 10 3
♠ Spades A 10 8 4
♥ Hearts K 5
♦ Diamonds A K 8 3 2
♣ Clubs Q 8
♠ Spades K 8
♥ Hearts Q 9 7 4 2
♦ Diamonds A Q 10
♣ Clubs Q J 9
♠ Spades A 6 3
♥ Hearts Q 10 9 3
♦ Diamonds Q 4 2
♣ Clubs A 10 7
I will come back with my suggested answers in a few days time.
A Happy New Year to all my readers.
Quick Tips for Christmas 2
If you get the opportunity, get in your opponents’ way during the bidding and provide them with a challenge.
Say you are sitting North and open 1 Spade. East overcalls with 2 Hearts, and your partner bids 2 Spades. West then says 3 Hearts. If you have a little more than just a bare opening hand and decide to bid again, instead of bidding 3 Spades, bid 4 Spades. Now if East/West wish to continue bidding they will have to go to 5 Hearts. To make that contract they would have to win eleven tricks, and the likelihood is that they won’t do it.
Just note that even if you are vulnerable, it will be better for you to go one down in 4 Spades, which costs 50 or100 points, depending on vulnerability, than allow East/West to make 3 Hearts which would cost you 140 points.
Quick tips for Christmas 1
Although this is the season of goodwill, it doesn’t always seem like that at the bridge table. Here are some tips where you can be less than helpful to your opponents!
* You are sitting West. South is the dealer and opens 1 No Trump showing sixteen to eighteen points. You have nine points with five Clubs to the Ace and Queen. As South has approximately twice as many points as you, you would normally pass, but hang on a moment, is it possible that South is hoping to play in a major suit contract, and so will be hoping that his partner will bid 2 Clubs asking for four card majors? Yes it is quite possible, but, if you were to bid 2 Clubs, then North couldn’t and the opposition wouldn’t be able to play normal Stayman. They might not therefore reach the optimum contract because you have put a spanner in the works.
We are going to look at responses to opening bids this month. Nothing too fancy, but tests
♠ Spades K 10 9 5 4
North bids 1 Spade. What do you reply? First things first - you have at least six points and so you must bid. You only have one long suit - Spades - so that is going to be your bid (you cannot think of bidding No Trumps with a worthless doubleton in Hearts). You need just six points and three spades to the Queen to support a rise to 2 Spades, and you have more than that, but to raise partner to 3 Spades you need eleven points and four spades. You have four spades, but not eleven points, and so you must not bid 3 Spades - just 2. If North's next bid is 3 Hearts, showing that he has rather more than a bare opening bid, you can then reasonably bid 4 Spades as you also have rather more than you have told partner with a bid of 2 Spades.
North opens 1 Heart and you have
♠ Spades Q J 3
Fourteen points with even distribution including four hearts to the Queen. North is guaranteeing five hearts with his opening bid, and although you have a flat hand it is much better to support the hearts than to look for what might be a very risky no trump. So you just say 4 Hearts in the knowledge that you have enough points for game (a minimum of eleven from partner plus your fourteen). Don't shilly-shally and say 2 Hearts or 3 Hearts in the hope that North will bid again, You know that you have enough points for game - so bid it!
Making a total of eleven points, but a very strong distribution with two five-card suits. Don't rush madly with a hand like this. Remember that if you bid a different suit than the one which partner has bid then he will have to bid again and so you will have at least one more chance as well. Now, will you bid hearts or spades? Your hearts are a little better than the spades, but in this situation I recommend that you always bid the higher ranking of the two suits, in this case spades. This is because if you bid hearts first North may never get round to showing you that he has some strength in spades. If you do it the other way - 1 Heart - 1 Spade then North can either support your spades or bid hearts if he has four of them, and this would suit you as well.OK? So you bid 1 Spade and wait to see what North decides to do.
Well, here comes the biggie! North opens 2 Clubs.
North has shown a minimum of twenty-three points and you have ten so that together you have at least thirty-three which is enough for a small slam (thirty-two is normally reckoned to be enough). As you know if you have fewer than eight points when partner opens 2 Clubs you will bid a negative 2 Diamonds, but here you have ten points and must make a positive bid. As you have no long suit, here I think it is best for you to say 2 No trumps which will indicate that you have at least eight points and a flat hand. North will now know that there is a very good chance of bidding a slam, and the onus is on him to decide as he has many more points than you have.Almost certainly he will bid 4 Clubs asking you for Aces and will be pleased to hear you respond 4 Spades showing two Aces. (4 Diamonds - 0, 4 Hearts 1, and 4 Spades 2).Good bridging and may you all enjoy the festive season.