By Prof Tony Campbell

ONE of the dilemmas you may face during the auction at bridge is how to handle an overcall by your opponents, after your partner has opened.

Such a hand turned up for me at Penarth Bridge Club in July last year. My partner and I had changed our system slightly from standard Acol, to make it more flexible after an overcall by our opponents. It succeeded here, but so did the conventional Acol bid.

The Auction

As South I decided to open one spade, though several other players opened one diamond in case North had a heart suit. South could then reverse by bidding one spade, showing a strong hand, with the aim at this stage of looking for three no trumps. After the two club overcall by West what should North bid? With eleven points and four spades, the standard Acol bid by North would be three spades. But my partner and I had decided that this should be pre-emptive, to disrupt any more bids by the opposition. Our two no trump bid here was now artificial, showing a good raise to three spades, if there had been no overcall of two clubs by West. With seventeen points I was happy to bid four spades.

The play

West wisely decided not to lead a club, but rather the ten of diamonds. I looked at the hand before playing from dummy. West was likely to have the ace of clubs because of his two club bid. So, I had two club losers, unless I could discard at least one of them. I could achieve this if either the hearts or diamonds broke 3/3. But, on the lead this was unlikely to occur with the diamonds. However, the contract should be safe without this, so long as the trumps broke 3/2, a 68% chance. I took the first trick with the king of diamonds in dummy, and played three rounds of trumps, drawing all the spades in my opponents’ hands.

I then played a small heart towards the king and queen in dummy. West won this with the ace and then played the nine of diamonds, which I won in hand with the ace. I then played three rounds of hearts, the jack followed by the king and queen, discarding a club in my hand on the last heart. I then played a diamond from dummy, which I won with the queen in my hand. After ruffing my fourth diamond in dummy, I gave up the penultimate trick to West’s ace of clubs and won the final trick with my last trump.

So, I made eleven tricks for a score of 450 – the ace, king and queen of spades, and a small spade in hand, one ruff in dummy, three hearts, and three diamonds. West should have held up his ace of hearts. In this case, I would win the first heart with dummy’s king and then have to come back to my hand with the ace of diamonds to play towards the queen of hearts, still held in dummy. West’s ace would win, and I would then win a diamond return with the queen in my hand.

But, after winning the jack of hearts, I am now blocked from playing a heart back to dummy’s winning queen of hearts. After West’s passes the first heart, many players would play back towards the jack, which would be won by West’s ace. And then I could only make two tricks in hearts. But, in fact, there is an advanced play. By eliminating diamonds after West has passed the first heart, West can then be end played when he wins the next heart with his ace, as he has to play clubs, since he only has this suit left, allowing my king to make. An interesting hand with lots of possibilities.

What have we learnt?

1. The unusual unusual two no trump bid as I call it, after an overcall by your opponents, gives greater flexibility than simply using an Acol three spade bid. Two spades tells your partner you have weak hand. Double would show the normal Acol two no trump hand.

The two no trump bid here was invented by the British-American player Alan Truscott. At the age of only 26, playing with Robert d’Unienville, he was in the British team with Terrence Reese and Boris Shapiro which won the bronze medal in the European Bridge League Championships. He was prolific bridge writer, with a daily bridge article in The New York Times for 41 years.

2. Normally it is best to hold up an ace if the next hand has the king. It follows the adage of second player plays low.

Club news

Our weekly zoom bridge classes continue, triggered by an email from a regular Penarth Times reader who plays bridge with a group of ladies online We discuss opening bids, responses, leads and how to play a hand as declarer. The hand here will be the feature this week.

Let me know if you would like to join us. It is a lot of fun. Peter Sampson’s ladder competition continues to be a huge success, continuing now for 29 weeks with 24 competing pairs. Current leaders are Peter Millar and Mick Green, followed by Angela and Rod Hudson, then Rod Hudson and Hilary Morgan, with Angela Hudson and Carolyn Matthews in fourth place.

Further information

If you have any views, hands, 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 well. Keep safe. Bon chance. Virtual table up!