By Prof Tony Campbell

SOME of the most intriguing and challenging bids at bridge occur when there is a competitive auction with both sides bidding.

Such a hand turned up last week at the Penarth-Sully session on Bridge Base online. The key question that East faced was should he double or bid on?

The Auction

With a singleton king of hearts, East was not going to open one no trump. So, naturally he chose to open with his five-card spade suit. South has a good diamond suit and was in no fear of being doubled for penalties, so he was happy to overcall with two diamonds.

This would be useful if West ended up playing in no trumps, as it directs North to lead a diamond. West has seven points and four spades.

But he decided this was not strong enough to jump to three spades. With a singleton spade and expecting his partner to have at least five diamonds, North bid three diamonds. This left East in a quandary. Should he double, bid three spades, or pass.

At pairs North/South can afford to go one off in three diamonds undoubled for a loss of 100, which is better than two spades making by East for a score of 110. After some thought, East decided to take the safe option, and passed.

The play

West was on lead, and understandably led the three of spades, the fourth highest of his partner’s suit. East won this with the ace and could see that South as declarer would try and get rid of his losing spades by ruffing in dummy. So, East next led a small diamond which was won by South’s ace.

Declarer then played his nine of spades, which he ruffed in dummy. Declarer could see that he could afford to go one down but not two. If the club finesse worked then it was plain sailing. But, if not, he needed to set up dummy’s hearts.

So, next, declarer played a small heart from dummy, which he was surprised was won by East’s king, suggesting he had a singleton. East then played another spade, South winning the trick with his king.

In fact, the best hope was to play the king and then another diamond, preventing West leading a club. As it happens, after the king of diamonds, South followed this by the jack of hearts. West cunningly held up his ace, but won the next trick when South continued with his last heart.

Declarer was now doomed as West then led the six of clubs. Declarer had no choice but the take the finesse, which lost to East’s king.

East won another trick with his jack of diamonds, declarer claiming the rest of the tricks with trumps and the ace of clubs, making eight tricks in all – one spade, one heart, a spade ruff in dummy, four diamonds in hand, and the ace of clubs, East/West making the ace of spades, two hearts, one diamond and the king of clubs. Yet, this was a good result for North/South as two spades just makes by East/West. North leads the four of diamonds (MUD) which South wins with the king.

He then leads the ten of clubs, North playing the queen, the trick being won by East’s king. East plays another diamond, won by South’s ace. He then returns another club, won by North’s ace, who returns another club, ruffed by South, who only has one more trick he can win, the king of spades. In the event, three diamonds one down undoubled was a loss l00, against the better score of 110 for two spades making.

What have we learnt?

1. Overcalling with a good five card suit at the one or two level and only eleven points, is a good idea telling partner what to lead.

2. Part score hands are interesting to judge.

3. At pairs, if you think a contract by your opponents is only going one off, and your contract would make, it may be worth doubling them so that you get a top rather than a bottom.

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. 19th May; 1. John Pikoulis and Meryl Skipper (71.4%); 2. BBO Bot and John Holoway Seculer (60.3%); 3. Pat James and Philip Botrill (55.6.0%). Fri 22nd May; 1. Paul Lamford and Nalini Dewan (64.6%); 2. Patricia Cohen and Carolyn Matthews (60.4%) 3. Mike Downey and Joy Seculer (57.6%).

Please contact me or Meryl if you want to join. The current positions in Peter Sampson’s ladder are: 1. Sue Jones and Carolyn Matthews; 2. Marnie Owens and Peter Craig; 3. Kay Dyer 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.