By Prof. Tony Campbell CBE

A DILEMMA you are often faced with in bridge is whether to bid three no trumps or four of a major, when you know that each of you has four cards in the major suit.

Such a hand turned up this week in the Penarth-Sully bridge club session. What would you bid on North’s hand?

The Auction

With 12-14 points and a flattish hand, North opened with a weak no trump. South with 11 points and four hearts responded with Stayman. This convention is used by most club players when looking for a four-four fit in a major suit.

I wonder what you think about the name of this convention. The US player Sam Stayman first published it in 1945.

But, Stayman was not the real inventor. In fact, the British player and co-founder of the Acol system Jack Marx invented it in Britain in 1939. So, it should really be called the Marx convention.

Apparently, in the US it was Stayman’s partner George Rapée who was the inventor there in 1944. Perhaps all this got lost in the nightmare of the Second World War.

But I do feel the Marx should be better recognised for his huge contribution to British bridge. After North had shown he had four hearts, South was interested in game, so he showed his club suit. North with a maximum of fourteen points and a doubleton club was happy to bid four hearts.

The play If you were East, what would you lead? With a good club suit and South having shown clubs, the ace and another club might find his partner West with a singleton and ruff a second club.

North must have two clubs for his no trump opening bid and South at least four in the suit.

This would leave West with only one or two clubs. At teams it must be right to lead the ace and another club, with the real possibility of defeating the contract of four hearts.

But at pairs, as here, overtricks are vital. The lead of the ace of clubs would certainly set declarer up with two club tricks, the king and the queen. After some thought East chose to lead the jack of spades.

On the bidding his partner West must have at least four spades and one or two honours.

Declarer played low from dummy, West the queen, North’s ace of spades winning the trick. Pausing to consider the hand, North could see that if the diamond finesse wins there are overtricks to be made. So, he needed to end up in dummy after drawing trumps.

Declarer therefore played the king of hearts from hand followed by the three, winning the trick with dummy’s ace.

Declarer then drew the last trump with the queen of hearts and followed this with the ten of diamonds.

West saw immediately that his king was doomed but covered the ten with his king in case his partner held the queen or jack of diamonds. Declarer won the trick with his ace and followed this with the queen and jack of diamonds.

Declarer was in luck, the diamonds broke three-three, so he was able to discard dummy’s losing spade on the last diamond. He then played a small spade from hand, which he ruffed in dummy.

He then played the king of clubs, which was won by East’s ace, who followed this with the ten of spades, which won the trick. East followed this with his last spade, West’s king being ruffed by North with his last trump.

Declarer then won the last trick with the queen of clubs, making eleven tricks in all – one spade, three hearts and two ruffs, four diamonds and one club for a top score of 450. Well bid and well played.

If East had chosen, not unreasonably to lead the ace of clubs at trick one, then declarer will make twelve tricks. Interestingly declarer can only make ten tricks in no trumps for a score of 430, making one spade, four hearts, four diamonds and one club.

But on a spade lead from East, declarer must hold up his ace until the third trick. Otherwise, he will only make nine tricks, as East will have another spade to lead back when he gets in with the ace of clubs.

What have we learnt?

1. When you have an eleven count and you find that your partner has four cards in the major in which you also have four, it is worth bidding another suit as a probe, asking partner to bid game if he has a maximum 14 points for his no trump opening, or a good fit in the other suit.

2. With a four-four fit in hearts and a doubleton in partner’s other suit, four hearts must be a better option than three no trumps.

3. When leading in a pairs competition think about the possibility you might give away overtricks if you chose a particular lead.

Penarth club results

Here are the results of last week sessions 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.

Wednesday 23rd June; 1. Irene Thomas and Carolyn Matthews (61.3%); 2.Judy Collins and Janet Cunnington (60.0%); 3. John Pikoulis and Meryl Skipper (52.5%).

Friday 25th June; 1. Mike Downey and Joy Seculer (66.7%); 2. Jim Elder and Meryl Skipper (62.0%); 3. Mick Green and Peter Millar (57.4%).

Please contact me or Meryl if you want to join.

Peter Sampson’s highly successful ladder has started again. 1. Meryl Skipper and Joy Seculer; 2. Mike Downey and Roy Holloway; 3. Angela Hudson and Carolyn Matthews.

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.