Source: April 2016 ACBL Bridge Bulletin   

In this article, we will bid and play a deal, and you listen in on my thoughts. You won’t agree with all of my actions because bridge is a game of style and judgment. My off-the-cuff analysis may be imperfect. That, too, is part of the game. Still, I hope you’ll find it helpful to follow my thinking during a deal.

Frank Stewart
Frank Stewart

On a visit to the Birmingham Duplicate Bridge Club, which I am proud to call my “home” club, I’m playing in one of the popular “Eight is Enough” team games. My team consists of two experts and two inexperienced players. Our opponents are configured the same way. How my team should line up to maximize our chances is an interesting question: Should the two experts play together? But I find myself facing one of the up-and-coming players.

On the opening deal of the second match, I’m South, both sides vulnerable, and hold:

 6 5   A 8   10 7 6 5 4    A 8 6 5

My partner deals and opens 1, East passes and I raise to 2. I would have a problem if we were playing “inverted minors” – my hand is neither weak nor strong – but in a casual partnership, I insisted that we use no special methods. West passes, and my partner bids 2. That bid shows – or ought to show – interest in game, not a fear of playing at diamonds. Since I have a maximum – a fifth diamond and two aces – I must accept. With a stopper in both unbid suits, I jump to 3NT, hoping my partner won’t pass if his hand is shapely. But everyone passes, and West leads the Q.

A K Q 4
6 5 4 3
K Q J
Q 7
6 5
A 8
10 7 6 5 4
A 8 6 5

“I should have opened 1NT,” my partner says sheepishly, “but I hoped you would bid notrump or a major so I could raise. I wanted you to play the hand.”

“That’s a nice compliment,” I reply, hoping I can justify his confidence.

East overtakes with the K, and I duck. When the 2 comes back, I take the ace and lead a diamond. East takes the ace, which is good news. But unfortunately for me, East is the expert half of the defenders’ partnership. He mulls … and shifts to the K!

That gives me a second club trick, but kills my entry to the diamonds while the suit is blocked. I can count only eight tricks – three spades, a heart, two diamonds and two clubs – but I still have a chance. I play low, and East leads a second club to dummy’s queen. I take two diamonds in dummy and then the three top spades, pitching a club.

At the 11th trick, I exit with the last spade. Luckily, East must win and lead a club – all he has left – and I win the last two tricks with the A and 10. Making three. The full deal:

A K Q 4
6 5 4 3
K Q J
Q 7
7 3 2
Q J 10 9 7
9 2
J 3 2
J 10 9 8
K 2
A 8 3
K 10 9 4
6 5
A 8
10 7 6 5 4
A 8 6 5

My partner survived his opening bid, but it’s wrong in principle to “master-mind” – for instance, to distort your bidding to steer the contract into your partner’s hand (or into your own hand, if you’re a notrump hog). You should choose the bid that best describes your hand.

At the other table, North correctly opened 1NT, and South liked his aces and five-card suit (even though it was ragged). He raised to 2NT, and North went on to the vulnerable game. East led the J, and North won, forced out the A and took nine tricks without working up a sweat. It was a hard way for us to achieve a push.