By Prof Tony Campbell

THE pre-empt bid when a player opens with three of a suit often poses problems for the opposition as it uses up so much bidding space.

But equally it can give your partner a problem as well. Here is such a hand from last week’s Penarth-Sully bridge session online. Interestingly no one chose the bid that I think was the correct one.

The Auction

North with just five points and seven clubs to the jack chose to open with three clubs. He felt this was safe as he was non-vulnerable. East had no bid to make and of course passed. But North’s partner, South, was now faced with a problem. Should he pass, support his partner’s clubs or find another more inventive bid. Some players understandably chose to bid either four or five clubs, which makes as the ace of diamonds is on the right side, so the king of diamonds makes.

North only loses two diamond tricks, making eleven tricks between the two hands. But, in my view, the obvious bid by South is three no trumps. Even if North doesn't have the queen of clubs, South can count nine tricks so long as the opponents don't make five diamond tricks.

The play

West opens the play with the two of hearts, his fourth highest in this suit. East plays the jack and South wins the trick with his ace. Now he can see at least ten tricks, and with any luck when he plays all the clubs, the opponents will have a lot of trouble discarding. East and West each have to make six discards.

There are only two clubs out, so declarer knows he must be able to make seven tricks in clubs. So here goes. South plays the ace and king of clubs, followed by a small club to dummy’s jack. Declarer then plays the rest of dummy’s clubs, there being four left in all. Now what should East/West discard. East knows his partner had four hearts to begin with. This leaves South starting with three. So East is safe in discarding all his remaining three hearts, one diamond, and one spade.

But what about his sixth discard? If South began with three spades to the ace and ten, East must keep three spades with the king and queen. But if South began with the ace and ten of diamonds, East must keep three diamonds to the queen and jack. So here it is vital both East and West watch carefully South’s discards. Otherwise, there is a danger of giving declarer an extra overtrick, an important issue when playing pairs duplicate. In the end, South discarded one spade and two diamonds. West watched this carefully and knew that he could not jettison all his hearts, as declarer had king and the eight left. So West was able to discard three spades, one heart and two diamonds.

South then played a heart from dummy to his king. East decided correctly to discard his jack of diamonds. South could have made another trick by playing a diamond towards dummy’s king. But this would have been greedy. So, declarer cashed his ace of spades, and lost the last three tricks to the ace of diamonds, the queen of hearts and the king of spades, making ten tricks in all – one spade, two hearts and seven clubs, for a score of 430, better than the 400 for those who chose to play in five clubs. Well bid and well played opponents for discarding correctly.

What have we learnt?

1. When your partner opens with a pre-emptive bid, take care to count the tricks you can make in no trumps. It can be worth taking a risk when you can see nine tricks are there.

2. When defending as declarer plays out a long suit, take care to watch all his discards, and assess how many cards he is likely to have in the other three suits. Overtricks can make the difference between a top or bottom at pairs duplicate.

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. 28th April; 1. Stefanie Rohan and Paul Lamford (61.1%); 2. John and Roy Holloway (58.3%); 3. Sally Livsey-Davies and Kegan Morley (55.6%). Fri 23rd April; 1. John Salisbury and Paul Lamford (69.4 %); 2. Ken Mitchell and Graham Wood (59.3%); 3. Mike Downey and Joy Seculer (55.6%).

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. Jenny Vaughan and Nalini Dewan 3. Avril Collins and Angela Hudson. 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.