By Prof Tony Campbell

MANY players often find themselves in a dilemma when they have a weak four card heart or spade suit, because they are frightened it is not strong enough to bid.

But I find that it is always worth bidding it, if you have the chance at the one level. Here is such a hand where the player who bid his weak four card spade suit won the day.

The Auction

North has a strong hand with 17 points and opened his five-card diamond suit. His partner held a four-card spade suit but with no honours. Nevertheless, this South decided to bid it. North can now see a possible game, and so jumped to three spades, showing at least 16 points and five/four in diamonds and spades. South with the queen of diamonds was happy the raise his partner to four spades.

The play

West made the attacking lead of the jack of hearts, expecting his partner to have either the ace or the queen, as the opponents had avoided three no trumps. East won this with the ace and played a heart back, which West won with the nine. He then played the king of hearts forcing dummy to ruff. Declarer could see he was home and dry, so long as both the spades and diamonds were 3/2. So, he drew two rounds of trumps with the ace and king of spades, leaving East with his making queen.

He then played the ace of diamonds, in case West had four to the jack. But when he won the next trick in hand with the queen of diamonds, he discovered the bad news that in fact East had four to the jack. But no worries, declarer won the next trick with dummy’s king of diamonds, and followed this by ruffing a fourth diamond in his own hand, dropping East’s jack. Crossing back to dummy with the king of clubs, he played dummy’s last diamond, which East was forced to ruff with his winning queen of spades, declarer discarding his losing club. South then won the last two tricks with the ace of clubs and his last small trump, the nine of spades.

So, South made his contract of ten tricks – three spades and two spade ruffs, three diamonds and two clubs, losing just two hearts and the queen of spades, for a score of 420 and a top. An alternative play would have been to ruff his losing club in dummy. Well bid and played.

At other tables, South felt, mistakenly, his spade suit was too weak to bid, and so bid one no trump after his partner’s opening one diamond. North, assuming his partner did not have a four-card spade suit, raised this to two no trumps. Most Souths, with a maximum for their bid and the queen of diamonds, raised this to three no trumps. But three no trumps was doomed! West once again led the jack of hearts.

East again won this with the ace and returned another heart. South in vain played his queen, which West overtook with his king and cashed the ten and nine of hearts. He then played his fourth highest club, the seven. Declarer as South won this with his ace and played the ace and then the queen of diamonds discovering again the bad diamond break. So sadly, he had to concede the fourth diamond to East’s jack, losing five tricks, one down, for a loss of 100!

What have we learnt?

1. At the one level it is always worth bidding a four-card major even if it looks weak. Otherwise you are likely to miss a four/four fit in hearts or spades.

2. Only draw two rounds of trumps if you are missing the queen, as here. Do not waste two of your trumps to your opponents one.

Further information

When the local bridge clubs closed because of Covid a WhatsApp group was formed for players from the Penarth and Sully clubs to get in touch so that they could arrange games online. The secretary of Penarth Bridge Club, Peter Sampson, thought it a good idea to introduce a little bit of competition. So, taking an idea from his squash playing days, he formed a ladder competition. Play is on Bridge Base Online (BBO). The ladder has been a great success, continuing for 18 weeks with 24 competing pairs.

It just adds an extra bit of excitement and fun to the games, and Peter sends out the results weekly. If you would like to join, more details can be had from Peter at pandgsampson@gmail.com. Current leaders are Angela and Rod Hudson, followed by Peter Millar and Mick Green, and in third place Debbie Dawkins and Hilary Morgan.

If you have any views, experiences and information you would like to share, please email me. Meanwhile, good luck with your online bridge. You can always find my articles online at www.penarthtimes/bridge. Keep an eye on 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. Virtual table up.