Seeing through cards #17

Knowing how to ask yourselves the right questions and then answer them is the key to improve your chances on any bridge hand, be it as declarer or as defender.

I’ll give you a hand below, and a series of questions – like a riddle! Try to answer these questions by yourself. Then look at the answers, which will be presented together with the full deal.

At the end we’ll summarize a few important “Things to remember” for each problem. Enjoy!

Dealer East, East-West Vulnerable

Against 4♠ West led the ♣9. East took the ♣A and switched to the J.

West won the A and played a Diamond back, which East ruffed with the ♠5.

East continued then with a Club and you won it with the ♣K (West followed with the ♣8).

  1. How are the points divided between your opponents?
  2. How are Diamonds divided?
  3. How are Clubs divided?
  4. How are Hearts divided?
  5. How are Spades divided?
  6. How will you continue?

  1. How are the points divided between your opponents?
    We can count about 12-13 points in East and 6-7 in West. East opened the bidding and West responded with a negative double, which shows some values too.

  2. How are Diamonds divided?
    5 with West and 1 with East, as East ruffed the 2nd Diamond.

  3. How are Clubs divided?
    4 with East and 2 with West. West showed 2 Clubs already which means East can’t have more than 4 cards. That means East has at least 8 cards in the major suits, and they have to be 4-4.

    East can’t have 3 cards in Clubs because in that case he will have to have 9 cards in the majors. That means he would have at least one 5 card major, in which case he would have opened with 1/♠)

  4. How are Hearts divided?
    4 with East and 6 with West (from calculating earlier that East must have 4 cards in Hearts).

  5. How are Spades divided?
    4 with East and 0 with West (from analyzing before that East must have 4 cards in spades).

  6. How will you continue?
    After winning with the ♣K at trick 4 – Play a Heart to dummy’s A, and continue with the ♠10, planning to run it if East plays low. If East covers with the ♠J –- win it with the ♠K, ruff your 2nd Heart and finesse East’s ♠Q.

    You can then play the ♣Q and ruff your 4th Club in dummy, or play the K from dummy and overruff East (or discard a Club if East discards). Either way – you lose just the first 3 tricks.

Things to remember

1) Count points and distribution. The bidding, the opening lead and how the play went on the first few tricks can reveal all the cards for you.

Like here: You learned at trick 3 that East has a singleton Diamond, and at trick 4 that West has at least 2 Clubs. You also knew from the bidding that East doesn’t have a 5 card major, since he opened the bidding with 1♣. Now you can complete your analysis and be 100% sure that East’s distribution is 4-4-1-4, which marks West with 0-6-5-2.

2) A negative double over a 1st level overcall shows 6+ points and at least 4 cards in the other (unbid) major. It can either be 4 cards with any range (6+ points) or 5+ cards with 6-9 (with 10+ you bid your suit at the 2nd level).

So, if you have a long major suit which you can’t bid at the 1st level and you have less than 10 points – You double first, and later rebid this suit to show a long major and 6-9 points.

If your opponent overcalls at the 2nd level, then you need to have (8)9+ points for a negative Dbl.

If the bidding goes 1♣-(1), a Double now shows both majors (and 1/♠ bid shows 4+ cards).

If the bidding goes 1♣/ – (1), then a Double shows 4 cards in Spades and a bid of 1♠ shows 5+ cards in Spades (However you can agree otherwise with your partner).

If the bidding goes 1 – (1♠), then Double is for the minors.

3) Note North’s 4♠ bid. This bid was not only to make 4♠, as South could have overcalled with much less and in that case 4♠ then could not be made. But this bid also disturbs opponents and makes it hard for them to find their excellent 5 contract (E-W vulnerable). However, some E-W would not pass with West’s hand and bid on (5).

4) If the bidding would have gone:

*mixed raise, (7)8-11 points, 4 cards Spades

Note that now East can be more quiet, by bidding Hearts on his partner’s negative double, and West has a clean bid too.

Let’s say South leads the ♠A. How will you play the hand as East?

Ruff the opening lead, play A and ruff a Diamond. Play the ♠Q and ruff South’s ♠K if he covers. Play a Club to the ♣A and throw your Club loser on the ♠J.

Ruff the 4th Spade in dummy and ruff the 3rd Diamond with the 10. Continue with a Club ruff, a 4th Diamond ruff with the J, and a 3rd Club ruff in dummy. Ruff the 5th Diamond in hand with the Q and you make 12 tricks, losing just the final trick to the A.