By Prof Tony Campbell

WHEN your partner opens the bidding with one no trump it is vital you do not miss the chance of a 4/4 fit in one of the majors.

Such a hand turned up at Penarth Bridge Club last October. It also illustrates what to do when you are not sure which way to take a finesse.

The Auction

After the one no trump opening by his partner, East with 11 points and four cards in both majors is looking for game if West has a four card major and a maximum point count. West responded to Stayman with two spades, showing his four card spade suit. East was happy to raise this to three spades, and with a maximum of 14 points West bid four spades.

The play

North led the king of hearts, which won. Assuming his partner held the ace of hearts, North followed this with the ten of hearts. This was overtaken by dummy’s jack and won by South’s ace. A third heart was ruffed in hand with the two of spades. So long as the spades are 3/2, a 68% chance, and West as declarer finesses against the queen held by South he can see his ten tricks – the ace, king and ten of spades, a spade ruff in each hand, three diamonds and two clubs.

But West doesn't know which way to take the spade finesse. If the queen is held by North, West should play the king spades from his hand, and on the next trick play the ten of spades, covering North’s presumed queen with the ace, or playing low if North does not cover it with his queen. But if, as here, South has the queen of spades, this finesse loses to South’s queen, who will return a third spade, removing West’s last trump, leaving him one short of his contract.

So the correct play is to refuse to take the spade finesse. Simply play a spade to dummy’s ace, followed by a spade back to the king. Declarer then plays ace, king and queen of diamonds, followed by the ace and king of clubs.

He then ruffs a third club in East’s hand, and plays back a heart towards his hand. If South ruffs with the queen, West can discard his losing club. If South does not ruff then West ruffs with his last trump, which wins. He then ruffs his last club in dummy, leaving the last trick to South’s queen of spades. So West makes his contract of four spades – the king of spades and two ruffs in hand, the ace of spades and a ruff in dummy, three diamonds and two clubs, making the necessary ten tricks, losing just two hearts and the queen of spades for a score of 420, and a top. Well played.

What have we learnt?

1. It is vital to play Stayman in order to find out if you have a four/four major fit after your partner has opened one no trump. There is another version called puppet Stayman to see if the opener has a five card major. I will show an example of this next week.

2. Yes, usually it is essential to draw all the opponent’s trumps so that they don’t make any ruffs. But sometimes it is not necessary to risk a finesse if you are able to cross ruff your losers after drawing all but one of your opponents’ trumps.

Further information

In spite of many shops, restaurants and pubs opening, sadly there is little chance of bridge clubs resuming in the near future. Penarth and other Wales’ clubs have many members over 60.

We are the high risk group, and must be protected. Professor Brian Morgan, of Cardiff Metropolitan University, and I are setting up a Wales COVID communication group between the business, education and science sectors to help find creative solutions to the restrictions the SARS-Cov2 coronavirus has imposed on us. See

I will also post some information relevant to bridge clubs on the Penarth Bridge Club web site. If you have any views, experiences and information you would like to share, please email me. Meanwhile, good luck with your online bridge. Bridge Club Live (BCL) is very good and may be open again for new registrations. As shown in this article Bridge Online Base (BBO) is also OK. 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.