By Prof Tony Campbell

Three no trumps plus one non-vulnerable gets you a score of 430, whereas 4H or 4S only makes 420 points. As a result some players often risk bidding 3NT, when the safer contract is in hearts or spades. This week’s hand was one that turned up in the Celtic simultaneous pairs event (SIMS) in December last year. The hands were played all over Wales at the same time by over 230 pairs.

The Auction

South has a strong hand, 17 points and five hearts. So the opening bid was straight forward- 1 heart. West, cheekily, bid his five card spade suit, directing his partner to lead spades if the final contract was in no trumps. North now had a dilemma, as he was too strong to bid just 2 hearts, and apparently not strong enough to bid 3 hearts. Fortunately, this North-South pair had a system bid to cope with this. North’s bid of 3 hearts showed he was better than two hearts, but not good enough to bid 3 hearts if there had been no overcall. With such a hand he would make the system bid of 2 no trumps. Even so, South had no worries in bidding 4 hearts.

The play

West had no problem choosing a lead, and led the king of spades. Declarer could see nine certain tricks – 1 spade, five hearts, two clubs and a club ruff in dummy. So it all depended on where the ace and queen of diamonds were. As with most declarers, South won the first trick with the ace of spades, drew three rounds of trumps, and then played the ace and king of clubs followed by a club ruff with dummy’s last heart. Decision time. With West’s overcall of 1 spade, South was expecting him to hold the ace of diamonds. So his only chance was that East had the queen. So South played the jack of diamonds, which was taken by East’s ace, who then played a spade, West winning the next two tricks with the queen and jack. South then claimed the rest of the tricks, making his contract of ten tricks – 1 spade, five hearts, one diamond, two clubs and a club ruff in dummy. Well done. Some pairs got into a mess and bid three no trumps. This only makes nine tricks, declarer losing two spades, one diamond and one club. One greedy South decided to have a go at making 11 tricks in spades. At this table, West had not overcalled a spade after the opening bid of 1 heart. Thus, South reasoned West could not have the ace of diamonds, otherwise he would have overcalled. So South held up the first trick, and took the second spade with the ace. He then played a small diamond from dummy, which was won by East’s ace. East now did not have another spade to lead. So he was forced to lead a small club. South won this with the ace, played the king of diamonds, and then the king of clubs, following this with a ruff of his last club in dummy. He then played the jack of diamonds, which was covered by East’s queen and ruffed in hand. South then played three rounds on trumps, ending in dummy with the queen. He then discarded his losing spade on the ten of diamonds, making eleven tricks – 1 spade, five hearts, two diamonds, two clubs and a club ruff in dummy. Well thought out, for a top.

What have we learnt?

1. There is a clever system after an overcall of your partner’s opening 1 spade or heart.

2. A major suit game contract can often give you a better score than 3 no trumps.

3. At pairs, it sometimes pays off to take a risky strategy in the play. But at teams, always play safe and make the contract.

Further information

The top I describe here could be considered as a double dummy solution to make 11 tricks, instead of the simple play to make 10. There is a very good long-standing double dummy site, something I loved doing from Bridge Magazine when I was a student. Double Dummy Corner is written by Hugh Darwen at and is well worth looking at. There is a large archive of problems. His latest can be also found at (which also has a copy of the entire archive). His latest problem can be found at, the last one being composed by Ian Budden. I will be putting the solution to some of these on the Penarth Bridge Club web site, but only after the closing date for each problem. Good luck with your online bridge. Bridge Club Live (BCL) is the best and may be open again for new registrations. Bridge Online Base (BBO) is OK, but the software is not nearly as good as BCL. BBO is still open for registrations. Contact for information. I hope you are able to 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 on Email me if you have anything you would like me to discuss Keep well. Keep safe. Bon chance. Virtual table up.