By Prof. Tony Campbell

DURING the last few weeks I have tried to introduce beginners and improvers at bridge to a number of important principles - opening the bidding, responding to your partner’s opening bid, and opening leads. Well here is a hand from Penarth Bridge Club before the lockdown that involves all three.

The Auction

East has a fairly even hand with 12 points, so can open a weak no trump. South must pass, as he only has 9 points and no five card suit. West, with 14 points, knows that game must be on. But if partner has four hearts then the hand should be played in hearts and not no trumps. So West bids 2 clubs. This is Stayman, asking if the opening bidder has a four card major, as I have explained in previous articles. As East has no four card major he bids 2 diamonds. If East had a maximum of 14 points but no 4 card major, he might decide to respond with 2NT after the Stayman 2C by his partner. West knows that they must have at least 26 points between them. Since 25 points is the classic requirement for game he bids 3NT.

The play

East is declarer, so South is on lead. As I recommended last week, South first confirms how many points he has, and then estimates how many his partner could have based on what the bidding has told him. South has 9 points. So if East and West have 25 or 26 points between them, North can have no more than 5 or 6 points. The Stayman 2 club bid tells South that West must have a 4 card major, but East has none. The passive lead would be a diamond. But surely it must be worth an active lead. Hoping West’s four card major is hearts, South led the king of spades. This will work out well if North’s 5 or 6 points include either the jack or ace of spades.

Bad luck, West has both! East looks at dummy before playing any cards, and takes stock. As he has the jack and ten of spades he has two spade tricks for certain, three heart tricks, three certain diamonds with the ace, king and queen, and the ace of clubs, making the required nine tricks. If the club finesse works he makes ten tricks. So declarer, East, takes the first trick with the ace of spades in dummy and then plays the queen of hearts, his best suit. South takes this with the ace. South can see North must either have the king of clubs or the king of diamonds. Hoping it is the former, and knowing that East cannot have four spades, as he bid 2 diamonds after West’s Stayman 2C, South plays the king of spades and another spade, leaving him with a winning nine of spades.

East wins the third spade with the West’s jack, and plays a heart to the king in his own hand. He knows that North can have no more than one spade, so he can risk the club finesse. He plays a small club from hand and then the queen from dummy. This loses to North’s king, who plays his last spade which is won by South’s nine. East then wins the rest of the tricks. After cashing his winning hearts, East plays the ace, king and queen of diamonds, and North’s jack and ten of diamonds are lost. So East makes the last trick with the eight of diamonds. East therefore has made ten tricks – 2 spades, 3 hearts, four diamonds and one club. Well played all.

What have we learnt?

First, always use the Stayman 2 club bid if you have 11+ points and a four card major when your partner has opened 1 no trump. Secondly, if you have 13+ points then you must have at least 25 points between you, and should be able to make 3 no trumps. Thirdly, if you are on lead make an estimate of the points your partner could have based on the bidding and your hand. On that basis, you can decide whether to make an active or passive lead. But remember, there will always be exceptions to every rule. That is why bridge players love their post-mortems at the end of a hand. If only you had played that partner…! It’s all great fun. Find a beginners class online and have a go.

Further information

Good luck with your online bridge. Bridge Club Live (BCL) is the best and may be open again for new registrations. If it is, then open Clubs and put your name against Penarth. We aim to organise some sessions where we are all playing. Bridge Online Base (BBO) is OK, but the software is not nearly as good as BCL. BBO is still open for registrations and our membership secretary is trying to encourage members and friends to play at the same time. Contact meryl.skipper@icloud.com for information.

You can register and play with a chosen partner or take potluck with a random one. A number of members of both Penarth and Sully Bridge Clubs are already registered at both BCL and BBO. There are several good books available for beginners and improvers. As a student the bridge guru for me was Terrance Reese. Today Paul Mendelson is a good writer, as well as Andrew Robson who has teaching classes online. Griffin Books can obtain any book for you. Contact them online.

It would be marvellous if you can keep copies of my articles as I build them up. Please let me know if they are useful. You can always find my articles online at www.penarthtimes/bridge.. Keep an eye open for more information at https://www.bridgewebs.com/penarth/. Email me if you have anything you would like me to discuss campbellak@cf.ac.uk. Keep well. Keep safe. Bon chance. Table up.