By Prof Tony Campbell

IN our bridge improvers sessions, we are continuing to deal with opening two bids, playing Benjy Acol.

Here is a hand with a big point count that requires careful bidding to reach the right contract.

The Auction

North has a hand with twenty-three points. So, playing Benjy Acol, North opens two diamonds. This shows at least nine tricks in hand or a balanced twenty-three points plus. It is forcing to game. Her partner, South, with only four points bids two hearts, which asks North, her partner, to show what she has. With a balanced hand North bids two no trumps. South now knows that between them they have more than the magic twenty-five points required to play three no trumps.

But hold on a minute, what if North has five hearts? Four hearts would then surely be a better contract than three no trumps. So, as with last week’s hand, the correct bid by South is now three clubs - five card puppet Stayman - asking North if she has a four or five card major. North bids three hearts, showing her five-card heart suit. South now bids four hearts, as she knows that they have eight hearts and at least twenty-seven points between them. This is indeed the best contract, as three no trumps makes, but not so many tricks on a spade lead.

The play

East begins with the queen of spades. North as declarer looks carefully at the hand before winning this trick with the king in dummy. She realises that this was the only way to dummy to be able to take the heart finesse. Remember - eight ever nine never is the rule. In other words, with eight cards between you in a suit the percentage play is to take the finesse. But with nine cards between you, the percentage play is usually to play the ace and then the king to try and drop the queen. So, declarer at trick two plays the two of hearts from dummy, playing the jack from her hand to execute the finesse.

This wins, as West has the queen. North then plays the ace of hearts followed by the king, removing all the opponents’ trumps. The odds for a 3/2 break are good, 68% in fact. Declarer then plays the king of diamonds from her hand. West holds up his ace of diamonds for two rounds, until declarer has played the king and queen, overtaking the third diamond with his ace. West does this in case declarer has a losing club, which could be discarded on dummy’s jack of diamonds.

East has played first the three and then the five of diamonds, indicating he has three cards in that suit. We will see next week how he would have played his diamonds if he had four cards in this suit, using what is known as a Peter. West then plays his ace of clubs, and it is all over, North winning the rest of tricks with the ace of spades, the remaining trumps, and the king and queen of clubs. So, she makes her contract of four spades with an overtrick, 11 tricks in all – two spades, five hearts, two diamonds and two clubs.

Well bid and well played. Without the use of puppet Stayman North would probably play in three no trumps. On the lead of the queen of spades this only makes nine tricks - two spades, five hearts and two diamonds. Declarer takes the heart finesse and plays all her hearts. Then, she plays the king and queen of diamonds, West winning the third diamond with his ace, having refused to take the king or queen. West would then return the ten of spades, which would be won by declarer’s ace. But when she plays the king of clubs, West pounces with his ace and plays the nine of spades, which wins, followed by West’s last spade won by East’s queen, East/West making four tricks – two spades and two aces, East having to discard one of his spades on the preceding tricks.

What have we learnt?

1. As we saw last week, five card Puppet Stayman, after the opening bidder has shown a strong two no trumps, is vital if you are to find either a 5/3 of 4/4 fit in one of the majors. ‘Puppet’ has sunk into bridge jargon over the past forty-five years. The convention was originally invented by Neil Silverman and developed in the 1970s by Kit Woolsey and Steve Robinson, all American players. As well as finding a 5/3 fit in a major, 5-card puppet Stayman has the advantage that, if there is a 4/4 fit, the person with the strong hand plays the contract, and the lead comes up to him.

2. Always take care to take the first trick in the right hand if you want to take a finesse.

3. Sometimes it is advisable to hold up an ace, particularly in no trumps, to block your opponents from entering the hand with winners in it.

Penarth club news

Peter Sampson’s ladder competition continues. It is aimed at members of the four local clubs: Penarth, Sully, Barry and Dinas Powys. There are several new pairs, including myself. The current positions are; in first place Peter Millar and Mick Green, in second place Angela Hudson and Carolyn Matthews, in third place Kay Dyer and Mick Green, and in fourth place Jenny Vaughan and Nalini Dewan. Well done all. Our secretary, Meryl Skipper, is working hard to get some club events going this year on BBO or RealBridge. Our weekly zoom bridge classes continue, triggered by an email from a regular Penarth Times reader. Let me know if you would like to join us.

Further information

If you have any views, hands, and information you would like to share, please email me, My articles are online at www.penarthtimes/bridge. Keep well. Keep safe. Bon chance. Virtual table up!