By Prof Tony Campbell

WHEN an opponent overcalls your partner’s opening bid, this can often cause problems.

Here is a hand where game is in fact on for North/South because of the lie of the cards. But very difficult to reach after an overcall by the next player. Furthermore, it is not a good percentage game to bid.

The Auction

North/South were playing simple Acol. So, with a flat hand and 12 points North opened one no trump. There are several artificial bids for an opponent to overcall after a bid of one no trump, such as Landy or Cappelletti/Pottage. I play the latter. These will feature in articles in the New Year. But in this case East/West were playing simple Acol. So, the two club bid by East was natural, promising at least five clubs. What should South do now? Without the 2 club overcall she had a classic hand for Stayman. She herself would bid two clubs, asking partner for any four card majors. Sensibly she decided to double.

Doubles up to the two level are ‘negative’, not being for penalties, and can be very useful to indicate to partner something about your hand. In this case, since the two club bid was natural, South’s double must indicate some points and almost certainly a four card major, but no five card suit. North therefore bid his four card spade suit. South, with eleven points and four spades, encouraged North by bidding three spades. But, North, with only a minimum point count rightly felt he could not go on. So, the bidding stopped at three spades.

The play

East started with the king of clubs. West, knowing his partner must have the ace, played the queen. North, as declarer looked carefully at the hand before playing from dummy. The contract should be there so long as the trumps were split 3/2, a 68% chance.

There was also the chance of a double finesse in hearts. After East won the first trick. He followed this by playing the ace of clubs and then a third club so West could trump it and prevent the nine being a winner later in the play. North overtrumped West’s ten of spades with the ace.

He then played two rounds of spades, drawing all the opponent’s trumps, ending in his hand. He then played the jack of hearts to begin the double finesse. East, seeing the ten and nine in dummy, correctly did not cover it, and played low. North played the three from dummy, and the trick was won by West’s queen.

West then led the queen of diamonds, which declarer won in his hand, so that he could play another heart to execute the double finesse. Therefore, North led the eight of hearts. East played low, the seven, seeing his king was almost certainly doomed. North played the nine from dummy, executing the double finesse.

He knew that West had no more clubs, so he was safe to do this. Thus, the nine won the trick. North then played the ace of hearts.

The hearts were 3/3, so the ten of hearts became a winner. The double finesse, a 75% chance, was successful! Dummy won the penultimate trick with the ace of diamonds. And the final trick was won with the last trump, the nine of spades in hand. Thus, North made his contract plus one, 10 tricks – four spades and a spade ruff, three hearts and two diamonds for a score of 450. Well played.

What have we learnt?

1. The negative double, that is not for penalties, is very useful when the opponent’s overcall can cause you difficulties. This bid used also to be known as Sputnik.

2. At pairs it is rarely a good idea to bid risky games or slams. OK four spades makes here. But only because the trumps split 3/2, the hearts 3/3, and the king and queen were divided between East and West. Overall, this would therefore not be a good percentage game to bid.

Club news

Peter Sampson’s ladder competition has reached an exciting Christmas climax. It continues to be a huge success, continuing now for 30 weeks with 24 competing pairs. The semi-finals have just been played. Peter Millar and Mick Green beat Peter and Mary Blackwell, and Angela and Rod Hudson beat Phillip Bottrill and Carol Cochlin. Well done. The winners play each other in the final this Wednesday, 16th December, on Bridge Base Online starting at 6.30 pm. Good luck!

The players will allow people to watch, i.e. kibitz in bridge jargon. Kibitzer is Yiddish meaning spectator, derived from a German word. It applies to bridge and chess. Kibitzers should remain silent. Some hope! But it all should be great fun. Please let me know if there are any interesting hands for these articles! Well done Peter for setting this up. I hope to join in the New Year. But, of course, I will have to start at the bottom of the ladder! Our weekly zoom bridge classes continue at 5.30 on Tuesdays, 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. This week will be the last before the New Year.

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!