By Prof Tony Campbell

WHERE were you on 21st March? At the bridge table of course. Will the census cope with this?

In fact, here is a hand that illustrates one of the great dilemmas in bridge. When to stop in three no trumps, or to bid five of a minor in clubs or diamonds. Both earn you 400 or 600 points depending on the vulnerability. Yet three no trumps has the chance of an overtrick, giving you 430 or 630 for a top.

But three no trumps can be fraught with danger if you do not have an adequate stop in the opponents’ main suit. Have a look at this hand, played last Wednesday at the Penarth-Sully bridge afternoon session online. This was a simultaneous Charity pairs competition run through Ecats that we play every year ( With East opening the bidding what would you bid?

The Auction

East’s hand is really too strong for an opening of three hearts. But that is what several East’s bid. Even with only three to the queen in hearts, South here bid three no trumps, having eighteen points and an assumed stop in hearts. This was passed out. At other tables South doubled. West bid four hearts followed by five diamonds from North. When East opened one heart, South doubled and they ended up in five diamonds, East having sacrificed in four hearts over three no trumps.

The play

In the three no tump hand, West led the four of hearts, East winning with his king. Realising that if he played a small heart to West’s ace, it would set up declarer’s queen, East mistakenly switched to a small club. Continuing the hearts allows declarer to make the queen. But he then has to cash out, three no trumps being restricted to nine tricks. Declarer played low, and trick was won by West’s king of clubs. West then returned the seven of spades.

Declarer played the ten from dummy, which was covered by East’s jack and won by South’s ace. Now declarer can see he could win the contract with an overtrick if East held the queen of clubs. So, he played the ace and king of diamonds, and then the eight to dummy’s queen. Boldly, he then played the ten of clubs from dummy. South thought this would be safe, as he still held the queen of hearts as a cover if the finesse went wrong. However, there is a danger in this, particularly as East opened with a pre-empt of three hearts. He has already shown up with a probable eight points. So East was unlikely to have the queen of clubs.

If West has the queen of clubs, in addition to his original king, then he wins the club trick, and East/West then take two more tricks, the ace of hearts and the king of spades. One off! But, as you can see, it worked. East played low to dummy’s ten of clubs. But a further club saw East’s queen taken by the ace in South’s hand. Declarer then cashed the jack of clubs and returned to dummy with the nine of diamonds, cashing dummy’s remaining cards in that suit.

So, in the end, South as declarer made ten tricks: one spade, no hearts, six diamonds, and three clubs for a score of 430. Well bid and well played. A top, as at other tables North played in five diamonds, making eleven tricks for a score of 400: This contract has to be played with care. East led a small heart, West’s ace being ruffed by North as declarer.

He could see that he needed to ruff at least two spades. So, he played the ace and then the three of spades, which was won by East’s jack over North’s ten. East cannot lead another heart as it sets up dummy’s queen. So, East led a low club. Dummy played low and the trick was won by West’s king. He followed this by a small heart that was ruffed by declarer in hand. North then ruffed a spade, setting up his queen.

He then drew trumps and took the finesse in clubs against East’s queen, making eleven tricks for a score of 400: two spades, six diamonds and three clubs, as the ruffing finesse set up a second spade trick in North’s hand. This play had to be done before drawing all the trumps. In fact, four hearts by East doubled only goes two off for a loss of 300, a good sacrifice over three no trumps. But five hearts doubled over five diamonds is not a good sacrifice.

What have we learnt?

1. With a seven-card major and ten or eleven points you have to decide whether to open one of the suit or pre-empt with an opening three or four in the suit.

2. With a long minor suit in dummy or declarer’s hand, three no trumps can give you a better score than a contract in the minor suit.

3. When defending at pairs take care not to give declarer an overtrick.

4. In a minor suit game take care not to use trumps in dummy if you need ruffs before drawing trumps.

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 last week, details and the hands are available on the Penarth Bridge Club web site. Just click on Results and then the appropriate date. Wed. 17th March (Charity pairs); 1.Meryl Skipper and John Pikoulis (64.4%); 2. Julian Pottage and Tony Ratcliff (62.2%); 3. Joan Andrews and Joy Seculer (59.4%). Fri. 21th March (Charity pairs); 1. Julian Pottage and Tony Ratcliff (70.0 %); 2. Carol Cochlin and Philip Bottrill (57.8%); 3. Mia Deschepper and Tim Barsby (55.6%). See Ecats web site for results of the SIMS (

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. Avril Collins and Angela Hudson; 3.Marnie Owens and Peter Craig. 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.