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Bridge in Paradise: by Neil Robinson

“I favour light opening bids. When you’re my age, you can never be sure that the bidding will get back around to you again.” Oswald Jacoby at 77.

I dealt and picked up this hand:

S: KJ642
H: 9
D: AK9
C: 8752

It is light, but just meets the rule of twenty (high card points plus length of two longest suits adds to twenty or more to open). So I opened 1S. My partner, John Bucher, bid 4D. This triple jump shift is a splinter bid. It is a useful bid because it shows several things: a fit in spades, at least game values, and a void or singleton in diamonds. Now I had a decision to make. The splinter bid showed possible slam interest. Should I encourage slam or discourage it? My hand was really a minimum, with only 11 high card points. What would you bid, gentle reader? If you were wise, probably the rational and honest 4S, which would discourage slam and your partner would then most likely pass. However, I reasoned that, with partner’s diamond shortness, there were no diamond losers. With my singleton heart, we had at most one heart loser. So, I decided to exaggerate the strength of my hand and bid 4H, showing a heart control, and therefore encourage towards slam. Partner, with his heart ace (see diagram) and my apparent heart shortness, now knew we had no heart losers. With his spade holding, surely there were no spade losers. That just left clubs, and his king and queen of clubs made that suit look good. He bid 4N. I responded 5H, which in Roman Key Card Blackwood shows two of the five “key cards” (four aces plus the trump king), but denies the trump queen. Missing only one key card, John took us to slam.
This was the full hand, all vulnerable, South dealer:

  S: AQ1073  
  H: A75  
  D: 4  
  C: KQ64  
S: 95   S: 8
H: KQ103   H: J8642
D: 10862   D: QJ753
C: A103   C: J9
  S: KJ642  
  H: 9  
  D: AK9  
  C: 8752  

This was the full bidding:

South (me) West North (John) East
1S P 4D P
4H P 4N P
5H P 6S All pass

When I saw dummy, it was clear the only problem was clubs. We were missing the jack, ten and nine as well as the ace, so it looked like the only chance was to find the ace in the West hand. Then I could lead up to the king and queen and make both of them. There was one additional chance.

If the ace was offside, I could still make the contract if the ace were singleton and East were then forced to give me a ruff and sluff. I took the king of hearts lead in dummy, pulled trumps, then played top diamonds (throwing a club from dummy) and cross-ruffed out both hearts and diamonds. With both dummy and hand stripped down to only clubs and trumps, and the lead in hand, I led a low club towards dummy.

I took the first trick with the king and then led a low trump to get back to hand. Now another club lead towards dummy established the queen. Since the ace of clubs was indeed with West, my precaution of stripping the red suits was wasted, but it made me feel good to increase my chance of making to a bit more than just a 50% chance.

So, opening light and exaggerating the strength of my hand led to us making a small slam with just 26 high card points. Light wins—at least this time!

Bridge Club of Chiang Mai welcomes all players. We have members from seventeen different countries already. For information on the Club go to the web site If you have bridge questions, or to send me your interesting hands, please contact me at: [email protected]

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Bridge in Paradise