By Prof Tony Campbell

SLAMS win matches. Never has this adage been more true than last week in the final of the Welsh Cup, a competition throughout Wales.

The final match was between John Salisbury’s team, that contained three members of Penarth Bridge Club, and Mike Best’s team, Mike also being a member of Penarth. Here we see a key hand where Tony Ratcliff and Julian Pottage bid and made an outstanding seven hearts. But, a warning, the bidding here is incredibly sophisticated! Back to simpler hands next week!

The Auction

The bidding was very advanced, as you would expect from two international players. Julian’s opening bid of one heart went against the usual advice to open the suit below the singleton. Yet it seems best with two four card majors. Tony’s two no trump bid in their system showed a good raise to three or four hearts. The three spade and four club bids by Julian as South were cue bids, showing either first or second round control in these suits.

Since Tony as North had bid no trumps twice, his five-diamond bid was what is known as exclusion Roman Key Card Blackwood, which would normally have been a bid of four no trumps. In this case it asked for key cards but excluding the ace of diamonds. Julian, with two key cards and no queen of hearts, bid five no trumps. Six clubs by Tony asked whether Julian had second round control in clubs. He did and had the ace of diamonds, so he bid six diamonds. Tony was then was happy to bid seven hearts.

The play

Mike Best, himself a very good player, made the classic lead against a grand slam, the three of trumps. Julian perused the hand. He could see that he needed the trumps to be 3/2, a 68% chance, and had to be able to ruff three of his losing diamonds in dummy. So cleverly, knowing East must hold the jack, he covered the opening lead with dummy’s ten of hearts. Mark, another very good player, covered this with his jack, and Julian won the trick with his king.

He played the ace of diamonds and then ruffed a small diamond with dummy’s five of hearts. He then crossed back to his hand with the ace of clubs and ruffed another diamond. Returning to his hand again, this time with the king of spades, he ruffed his last losing diamond with dummy’s ace of hearts.

He then came back to hand with a club ruff, drew the last trumps with his nine and eight of hearts, and claimed the rest of tricks with the ace, king, queen and jack of spades, making his contract of seven hearts – four spades, three diamond ruffs in dummy, and four hearts in hand, the ace of diamonds, and the ace of clubs making thirteen tricks for a score of 2210. In the other room, North/South ended up in three no trumps, making eleven tricks for a score of 660. So, there was a net gain for John Salisbury’s team of 1550, equivalent to 17 IMPS. The Welsh Cup is an annual all Wales team of four competition. All teams have to lose twice to be knocked out.

What have we learnt?

1. Top players often use many artificial bids. You may not want to play them yourself. But it is worth at least knowing about them, as you may play against them at a club level.

2. When you are declarer do not play to the first trick until you have first worked out a strategy for the whole hand. Here the ten of hearts being covered by East’s jack was crucial to allow entries to South’s hand for the three diamond ruffs.

Club news

Peter Sampson’s ladder competition has restarted. So why not join it. There are several new pairs. Penarth and Sully bridge Clubs support this initiative strongly. The current positions in the New Year are: in first place Everard Kerslake and Sam Fellows, in second place Peter Millar and Mick Green, in third place Linda Houston and Sue Jones, and in fourth place Peter Blackwell and Vernon Pearn. Well done Peter for setting this up.

I have joined for the New Year. We are also hoping to get some club events going next year on BCL, BBO or RealBridge. Our weekly zoom bridge classes continue, triggered by an email from a regular Penarth Times reader. Let me know if you would like to join us. We meet again on Tuesday 5th January.

Further information

If you have any views, hands, and information you would like to share, please email me, My articles are online at www.penarthtimes/bridge. Keep well. Keep safe. Bon chance. Virtual table up! I hope you had a good Christmas and I wish you a Happy New Year free from Covid!