By Prof Tony Campbell

THANKS to the secretary of Penarth Bridge Club Meryl Skipper and Sarah Amos, former President of the Welsh Bridge Union, supported by several others, Penarth and Sully bridge clubs have joined forces to play bridge on Bridge Base online twice a week.

This has been a great success in keeping both clubs active during the COVID pandemic. Last Friday there were some very interesting hands, including one where one hand had eight hearts, and in another had nine spades. But here I want to tell you about another interesting hand in the same session.

When playing a hand in a suit contract a vital decision for declarer is if and when to draw trumps. Here is a hand where the key to making a small slam is never to draw trumps, but instead play a cross ruff in order to make twelve tricks.

The Auction

North opened the bidding with his five card suit. South responded with his five card suit. North then bid his four card spade suit. South now can see game must be on, and maybe even a slam. So, South used a useful convention called Splinter, and jumped to three diamonds.

This showed good spade support, at least four, and a singleton diamond. North, with only thirteen points, declined to show his heart void, and bid three no trumps, having a good diamond stop. But South was still interested in slam, and bid four no trumps, Roman Key card Blackwood. This asked North how many key cards he held, there being five in all – the four aces and the king of the agreed trump suit, spades. North with two key cards and the queen of the agreed trump suit, responded with five spades. South then converted this to six spades.

The play

East began with his fourth highest diamond, the four. West covered dummy’s ten with the king, the trick being won by declarer’s ace. North paused to assess the hand. Should he draw two of clubs towards dummy’s queen. East won this trick with his king. But what should he play next? From the bidding, East knows North has two aces and the queen of spades. Thus, his partner West must hold four spades, possibly with the jack. If so, leading a trump would be a disaster. So, East decided not to risk playing a spade, but to continue with the jack of diamonds. Declarer discarded a club from dummy and won the trick in his hand with the queen.

He can now see that he can make twelve tricks on a cross ruff, so long as West held two clubs originally. So North as declarer played a club to dummy’s queen, which won the trick. He then played the ace of hearts, discarding a club from his hand, followed by the two of hearts which he ruffed in his hand with the four of spades. He then ruffed his two of diamonds in dummy with the five of spades and played another heart, which he ruffed with his six of spades.

It was plain sailing now as declarer held all the high trumps, there being no fear of being over ruffed now. North then proceeded to ruff a club in dummy with the ten of spades, followed by another ruff of a heart in his own hand with the jack of spades. This was followed by another diamond ruffed in dummy by the king of spades, and dummy’s last heart ruffed in hand by the queen of spades.

Dummy’s ace of spades then won the final trick, North making the contract of twelve tricks – eight spades in a cross ruff, the ace of hearts, the ace and queen of diamonds and the queen of clubs. Well bid and well played. After North’s three no trump bid, perhaps South was a bit ambitious to go for the slam. The slam goes one off if East had decided to play a spade when he was on lead after winning the second trick with his king of clubs. If declarer had decided to draw two rounds of trumps, he goes one off anyway, as the spades were four/one.

What have we learnt?

1. Splinter bids are very useful to find both games and slams because there is a good distribution between the two hands, but not necessarily lots of points

2. Roman key card Blackwood is better than ordinary Blackwood.

3. When defending a slam or game contract, make sure you reduce the chance of declarer making lots of ruffs by leading trumps as soon as you can.

Penarth club results

Here are the results of last week from the Penarth-Sully online bridge, details and the hands are available on the Penarth Bridge Club web site. Click on Results and then the date. Wed. 21st April; 1. Stefanie Rohan and Paul Lamford (63.5%); 2. Irene Thomas and Carolyn Matthews (61.1%); 3. John Pikoulis and Meryl Skipper (60.2%). Fri 23rd April; In fact the top pair were guests to make up the numbers, good players from the USA and Canada, with 69.4%.

But the first three pairs of club members were; 1. Justin Cooper and Tony Campbell (61.1%); 2. Val Hetheridge and Avril Collins (56.3%); 3. Judy Collins and Janet Cunnington (55.2%). 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. Val Hetheridge and Sean MacDougall 3. Carolyn Matthews and Patsy Cohen. 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.