By Prof. Tony Campbell

I HOPE you enjoyed last week’s hand showing how the Bath coup operates. Guess what? I was Bath couped myself last Wednesday by one of our members. Well done!

When defending, or even as declarer, it is usually a good idea to lead through strength and up to weakness, and not the other way round. Also, if you have a choice of which way to take a finesse, make sure you choose the one that protects a vulnerable honour in one hand or the other. Our tuition group have asked me to illustrate what I mean by this. So here is a hand from last Wednesday’s Penarth-Sully Bridge Base online session with the final contract being three no trumps.

The Auction

North-South were playing Benji-Acol with a weak no trump, so North got the bidding going with one no trump, after West’s initial pass. South has a strong hand, fifteen points with five clubs and four hearts. With a singleton spade, four hearts will be the best contract if North has four cards in this suit. So, South responded with two clubs – Stayman, asking if partner has a four-card major. He hasn't, so he bid two diamonds in response to his partner’s Stayman bid. South then bid three no trumps, since, even if North, his partner, had only twelve points, they must have at least twenty-seven points between them, more than the magic twenty-five for three no trumps. . But not enough for a slam. The only worry is spades as North can only have three at most, after his two-diamond bid denied a four-card major.

The play

So, what should East lead? He knows South must have a four-card major, since he used Stayman. But which one? Also, East knows that North can only have at most three cards in each major, otherwise he would have shown his four-card suit. In the event, East decided to lead his fourth highest spade, through what he hoped was South’s strength, and that partner had at least one honour in spades. This, on the face of it, looks a bad lead, as North as declarer won the first trick with the jack of spades.

But, in fact, it wasn’t that bad. Looking at the hand carefully, declarer could see five club tricks, two hearts and one diamond for certain, which makes nine tricks for his contract, after winning the first spade with his jack. So, declarer cashed his five club tricks. It was tempting to return to hand with the ace of hearts and take either the heart or diamond finesse. But this was fraught with danger. Because, if it lost West would come back with the ten of spades, catching North’s king, the defence then taking four spade tricks, one down. As it was, declarer rightly took the heart finesse into East’s hand, to protect his king of spades. East won this with the queen of hearts.

East felt the only way now to get the contract down was the hope that West held the king of diamonds, and declarer risked the finesse. So, East played the ten of diamonds at the next trick, leading through strength in dummy. Rightly, declarer refused the finesse and won the trick with dummy’s ace of diamonds. It would have been a disaster if North had taken the finesse, as West would have won with his king, and return the ten of spades, catching North’s king. Declarer then cashed the ace, king and jack of hearts, conceding the last two tricks to the king of diamonds and ace of spades. North therefore made ten tricks for a score of 430: one spade, three hearts, one diamond, and five clubs. Well played.

What have we learnt?

1. When deciding of what to lead against a three no trump contract, think what a negative response to Stayman by the original opener means.

2. Take care not to take a finesse into the wrong hand. You may need to protect an honour in dummy or your hand.

3. As a hand progresses, usually playing through strength and up to weakness is the best strategy.

Penarth club news

Our membership secretary, Meryl Skipper, with the help of Sarah Amos at Cardiff, has setup a way of playing duplicate sessions using Bridge Base online (BBO) at 2pm on Wednesdays and 7pm on Fridays. Here are the results of the second week, details and the hands are available on the Penarth Bridge Club web site. Just click on Results and then the appropriate date. Wed. 3rd March; 1. Carolyn Matthews and Tony Campbell (60.4%); 2. Roy and John Holloway (59.7%); 3. Tim Beer and Anita Charles (56.3%). Fri. 5th March; 1. Peter Craig and Marnie Owens (64.4 %); 2. Tony Campbell and Simon Brindle (62.8%); 3. Judy Collins and Janet Cunnington, with Mike Downey and Joy Seculer (58.3%). Please contact me or Meryl if you want to join. The current positions in Peter Sampson’s ladder are: 1. Angela Hudson and Rod Hudson; 2. Rod Hudson and Hilary Morgan; 3. Peter Millar and Mick Green. Our weekly zoom bridge classes continue. Let me know if you would like to join us.

Further information

If you have any views, hands, and information you would like to share, please email me, My articles are available online. Keep well. Keep safe. Bon chance.