By Prof Tony Campbell

A HAPPY New Year to you all. I hope you managed to have some sort of Christmas. 2020 was a bumpy year for us all.

But it ended for me in an amazing way as you may have seen on this website a few days ago:

The Benjamin weak two bid, invented in the UK by the Scottish player Albert Benjamin, is played by the vast majority of club players. If you have 6-10 points and a six-card major, you open two of your suit.

This weak pre-emptive bid replaces the old Acol strong two opener. If, as responder, you have a hand with not many points you can easily pass or bid your partner’s suit at the three level to interfere with your opponents. But what do you do if you, as responder, have a strong hand?

Here is an example of how to handle this and end up in a good game. It is also a hand where you may decide to break the golden rule of drawing trumps when you are first in as declarer. We will see.

The Auction

North has an ideal hand to open with a Benjy two hearts. But what should South do with three hearts to the jack and a good fourteen points? He bids two no trumps, showing he has a game going hand if North has a maximum, which he has. There are a number of conventions that the person who opened the weak two can use after two no trumps by partner. Here North/South were playing what is known as the Ogust convention.

It is named after an American bridge player, Harold A Ogust, but it is also known as the ‘Blue Club’ response after the Italian bidding system which became popular in the sixties through Benito Garozzo.

The aim is to find out how strong the opening two bid actually is. North/South had agreed that a ‘minimal hand’ would be just six or seven points, a ‘maximal hand’ being eight to ten points. A hand with two of the top three honours to them was regarded as a ‘good’ suit. So, with minimal points and a ‘poor suit’, the opener would bid three clubs. But with maximal points and good suit, as here, the opener’s bid is three spades. So, with fourteen points, two tens, and three trumps to the jack South had no hesitation in bidding four hearts.

The play

East was on lead and decided to play his fourth highest spade, the two. North as declarer won this with dummy’s ace, after some thought. He could see he had potentially four losers: a spade, the ace of trumps, and possibly two clubs if the position of the ace and jack of clubs was against him. But, in fact, he then realised that he could discard a losing club on the king of diamonds. Thus, at teams North should immediately draw trumps.

However, at pairs, as here, it is sometimes worth taking a small risk. So, rightly declarer didn’t draw trumps straight away, but instead started his play with the ten of diamonds to his queen, followed by the ace and king of diamonds, discarding his losing spade on the king.

He then played a small heart to his king, which was won by East’s ace. East them played a spade, on which West played his queen. But it was too late, as declarer ruffed this with the two of hearts. Declarer then played the jack and queen of hearts, drawing the last of the opposition’s trumps.

He then played the three of clubs from his hand, finessing against the jack in East’s hand by playing the ten. This was overtaken by West’s ace, who returned another club, declarer taking then two club tricks with the king and queen. Declarer then claimed the rest of the tricks as he was left only with trumps in his hand, making the contract with eleven tricks: one spade, five hearts, three diamonds and two clubs for a top. Well bid! Well played! At other tables, declarer often played trumps before the diamonds and thus lost three tricks: one spade, one heart, and one club, only just making the contract with ten tricks

What have we learnt?

1. When playing the Benjy weak two bids in the majors, you must have a convention that you can use if your partner responds with two no trumps, showing a strong hand. The Ogust convention is a good one I use.

2. As declarer always stop before playing to the first trick, to assess how many tricks you can make, or how many losers you have if the cards are badly distributed.

Penarth club news

Peter Sampson’s ladder competition has restarted. So why not join it. It is aimed at members of the four local clubs: Penarth, Sully, Barry and Dinas Powys. There are several new pairs, including myself.

The current positions in the New Year are: in first place Peter Millar and Mick Green, in second place Kate Dyer and Mick Green, in third place Everard Kerslake and Sam Fellows, and in fourth place Patsy Cohen and Jim Elder. Well done all.

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 zoom Tuesday 5th January at 5.30.

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 wish you a Happy New Year free from COVID, and plenty of bridge online!