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Bridge on the Sunshine Coast

A blog by Peter Busch - contributions welcome - email peter@altosoft.com.au

A link to this blog can be arranged for any club using an Altosoft bridge club web site - email if you'd like the link.

Worst hand ever?(Blog entry dated 16-Sep-16)
This item from Ken Dawson:

I was sitting East at Coolum and picked up this gem. One 8 and one 7 were the big cards in my hand. In 35 years at the competitive bridge table, I have never held a worse hand. My calculation is that a hand as bad as this occurs only once in 250000 hands. Thank Goodness. Partner got to play the hand in 1NT without success.

Has anyone held a worse hand?

Opening game force with 8 HCP(Blog entry dated 10-May-16)
Interesting hand at Sunshine Coast this week.

One table bid to 7H and were lucky enough to get the DA lead which lets it make. The moral is if the opponents freely bid to a grand slam there's nothing to be gained and everything to lose by cashing an ace.

Otherwise 12 tricks are cold.

People I've spoken would open this hand in first seat in very different ways, including 1H, 4H and 2C/2D (or 1C Precision).

Bid the hand out and see if you would reach 6H using your current methods.

Pianola - a new way to display web results(Blog entry dated 14-Jun-15)
Pianola is UK-based company providing web results for bridge clubs around the world. Many clubs in Australia, including the Sunshine Coast Bridge Club, have signed up for Pianola, mainly for the additional results display features available.

The basic results display is not too different from what is available from Altosoft (as currently used by many clubs), but Pianola comes into its own with its Pianola PLUS. This is a premium service, and shows data about a player's bidding and card play (whether declarer, dummy, defender on lead or defender not on lead). It also has the ability to replay any hand on screen, with card-by-card guidance if necessary. This latter feature will be a huge benefit to new and improving players.

Pianola PLUS is an add-on to the basic service taken out by the club, and individual players subscribe to this at a cost of $10 a month or $84 a year. However, the Sunshine Coast Bridge Club has signed up all members to Pianola PLUS for 12 months, so individual players at Sunshine Coast receive all those benefits for free.

Clubs can subscribe to Pianola through their web site www.pianola.net.

New Session at Sunshine Coast Bridge Club(Blog entry dated 19-Oct-14)
SCBC is trialing a new concept starting next month. They're introducing a new session on Tuesday afternoons starting 1.30pm. Each session will be part of a monthly event, and all pairs will need to commit to all Tuesdays in the month, though liberal substitution rules will apply. Each monthly event will consist of 14-board rounds so in each session there will be 2 rounds. The nature of the event event will change from month to month - in November it will be matchpoint pairs and December will be teams. These will be run as Swiss events is there are sufficient numbers otherwise as a barometer / round-robin.

In November and December it will be 3 Tuesdays only (11/18/25 November) and likewise in December (9/16/23 December), however from the start of 2015, it will be every Tuesday.

The new event is aimed at more experienced players, and the Club hopes to attract players from all over the Coast. However anyone can play, and non-members are welcome.

The event is pre-entry, so if you'd like to play, write your name on the notice board at the Club or send an email entry from the Club's Coming Events page.

Unauthorised information from partner(Blog entry dated 22-Sep-14)
I am surprised to learn that even experienced bridge players are not aware of some of the basic laws of bridge. One recent example I encountered is to do with unauthorised information from partner, and it seems that many players are unfamiliar with this concept.

Anything your partner says or does during the auction, except for their legal calls (i.e. bids, doubles, passes), is unauthorised information to you, and you must not factor that into your bidding or play. This includes explanations of your bids they may make to opponents when asked. It also includes their alerts of your bids and also their failure to alert what you believe should be alerted.

The laws says that even though you know you and partner are not on the same page, you are not allowed to know this. You must keep bidding in accordance with your original plan, and only deviate from that plan if it is apparent from the subsequent auction or play that you are at odds.

This can be tricky in some cases. For example assume you open 2NT strong which your partner alerts and tells the opponents it is 5/5 in the minors and weak. They respond 3C which is they believe a simple preference for clubs over diamonds. You know this because of the explanation you have heard, but you must not base future bidding on it - you must assume partner knew you were showing a strong balanced hand and has bid 3C in response. For most people that would be some sort of Stayman bid asking for a major, and you would need to respond accordingly, even though you know it's not. Likewise if they bid 3D meaning to prefer diamonds over clubs, you need to interpret that based on your original plan and this may be a transfer to hearts in your system. Where it goes from there depends on many factors including the hands themselves and the partnership agreements, and in some cases you might legitimately end up in the best contract.

The confusion may become evident to the opponents who are allowed to make any deductions they like from this - for example if they ask partner about your 2NT opening and partner says "minors and weak", and ask you about partner's 3C bid and you say "Stayman", they will know there's a problem and this is authorised to them, even though it's not authorised to you or your partner.

An interesting way to look at this is to compare it to when players play behind screens, which happens in major events. A diagonal screen is placed across the table in such a way that you cannot see your partner and can only see one of your opponents (your screen-mate). The difference with alerting is that you alert your screen-mate of your own alertable bids and your partner's alertable bids in a way that your partner cannot see, and when the bidding pad or box moves to the other side of the screen, your partner will do the same. Likewise with explanations - when asked for an explanation by your screen-mate, you do not speak to them but you write down the meaning, and your partner will do the same with their screen-mate. This way neither player knows whether or not their partner has alerted their bid, nor do they know how their partner has interpreted their bid. This is a very "pure" environment, and it is a test that will be applied by the director at your table to help decide if UI was a factor in your subsequent bidding.

In short, and as with all such issues, if in doubt call the director.

Bragging rights!(Blog entry dated 9-Aug-14)
It's not every day you make both the "Grand Slam" list and the "70 Percenters" list from one session, but yours truly with partner Tony Walford achieved that honour today at Caloundra.

Early in the session the progressive rank display on the Bridgmates showed us with 76% and coming 2nd, so we thought there's someone in the room having a fantastic day!

The grand slam hand was interesting. Partner reached 7S after his 1C Precision opening and my positive 1S response. When Dummy went down after the HQ was led, I had only 12 top tricks - a winning club and winning heart in Dummy can take care of only 2 of my 3 diamond losers. Had we been in 6S, I think I would have taken my 12 tricks and conceded a trick at the end, which it seems is what the rest of the room did, but being in 7S made be think a bit harder. My only option was to see if the clubs could provide an extra discard. So after winning the opening lead on the table, I cashed the CA and CK tossing a diamond, then ruffing a third club high in hand. Back to the table with a trump (which left only one trump outstanding), another club from dummy ruffed high in hand, then another trump to the table drawing the last trump, and giving me a good club for my last diamond.

The pressure of being in a grand slam forced me to find a line that might provide 13 tricks. Just goes to show - don't settle for a good result when there's a possibility of getting a great result!

I should also commend my partner for his inspired bid. With his 21 count opposite what is known to be 8-10 HCP with at 6 least spades, he decided after learning that we had all the keycards that the grand slam was definitely a possiblity. And this was matchpoint pairs after all!

Full hand here



A bidding mishap that worked!(Blog entry dated 27-Jul-14)
A large dollop of good luck was had by one pair at the recent Maryborough Butler Pairs.

After NS had agreed spades and started cue-bidding towards slam, a bidding mishap meant that they had signed off in 6H by mistake. Resigned to getting a bad board, declarer North was delighted once dummy went down to see that see they had a 4-4 heart fit, though it was not as comfortable as their 6-4 spade fit. But as the hand played out, the favourable heart break and extra spade length for discards meant they picked up all 13 tricks, whereas in spades only 12 tricks are possible.

Congratulations to that lucky pair - and the winners of the event - Alison Dawson and Liz Zeller.

Board details here

Cross-imping - a better scoring method than Butler(Blog entry dated 27-May-14)
Cross-imping is a method of scoring Pairs events that is growing in popularity, and is replacing Butler scoring around the world.

As far as playing the game is concerned, it's similar to Butler scoring because it's imp-based, so it's still team-style play.

But the benefit is that rather than imping against an artificial average (the datum) as you do in Butler, in cross-imping your result is imped against every other result on that board, and an average is obtained.

There's many advantages to cross-imping, and with modern scoring programs it takes no more time to score up using cross-imps than any other method.

I've prepared a document that explains cross-imping in detail, and includes some examples. View / download it here (2-page PDF).

It would be great if some of our butler congresses here on the Sunshine Coast switched to cross-imping.

Now, thats what I call ethics!(Blog entry dated 22-Nov-13)
Contribute by Ken Dawson:

I have just witnessed bridge's most ethical action.

South opened 4S and played there. This was the trump layout:-

     Axx
x          K
   QJTxxxxx

Declarer led SQ and West took a little time to get Sx onto the table.

Before South could call from dummy, East showed South the SK.

Now, that's what I call ethics!

Another 13 card fit(Blog entry dated 3-Nov-13)
Another 13 card fit on this hand at today's Caloundra Swiss Teams. Dealer North has 8 hearts and 12 HCP. Most will open this hand 4H, which will come around to West who may fancy a double, though would be better bidding 4S, reasoning that opener will have shortages that diminishes the worth of West's outside values as defensive tricks. Subsequent bidding may see South raise to 5H and East to 5S.

At most tables today it was played in some number of hearts, all making 11 tricks. At a couple of lucky tables, 5H got doubled. A few tables played it in spades, with a couple in 6S (were they pushed?). Interestingly, EW can only make 12 tricks if they get a ruff and discard, and all tables making 12 tricks got the HA lead, allowing then to ruff in East and discard one of West's diamonds. The 5th club with East takes care of a second diamond and EW will give up the third diamond, making 12 tricks. Those poor Norths could not have imagined that making an entirely proper lead of the HA let the slam make!

T-shirt slogans(Blog entry dated 31-Aug-13)
Seen recently on a bridge player's t-shirt

I transfers.

And another one (not bridge-related this time but clever nonetheless)

Wanted - dead and alive - Schrodinger's Cat.

Another interesting board from Ken Dawson(Blog entry dated 25-Aug-13)
The gremlins were at the boards again when this gem hit the table at Coolum :-

N - E - S - W
1S - P - 2C - P
2H - P - 4C - X
4D - P - 6S

4C was Gerber. After West's lead directing double, 4D was R0P1 showing 2 aces.

Opening lead DQ which you win with DK. Plan your play.

West clearly has the CA. If you elected to take the ruffing finesse in clubs at Trick 2, you get to join me in the dunce's corner. There a very good reason for East, Di Jones, to ignore the lead-directing double. She hasn't got any either!

Di ruffed the club and continued DJ. This was ruffed by West, Ines Dawes and the slam was on the floor. There would be no further club ruffs as I could afford to ruff with SQ.

The winning line is to draw trumps immediately. There's a novel idea! Since the trumps are 2-2, the HK can be cashed and the ruffing finesse in clubs used to discard Dx. Since the hearts are 4-3, the hearts can be ruffed good for 13 tricks.

Gambling 3NT(Blog entry dated 7-Jul-13)
Some partnerships play a gambling 3NT opening bid, promising a 7+ card running minor and nothing else. On a good day, partner will contribute a couple of tricks and there's your 9 tricks. If, however, the opponents double it, you run to your minor.

Board 5 at the recent Noosa Teams Congress had a classic gambling 3NT opening by South in third seat. At just two tables in this event (26 tables), the bidding was opened this way and the West players must have passed smoothly, happy to pick up a +600 - good value in teams when you're not vulnerable.

Of these two tables, they made 0 tricks at one table and 1 trick at the other. I suspect the NS pairs at both those tables would have felt sick for the remainder of that match, worrying how disastrous that board will be when they scored up. Imagine their relief when they returned to their home tables, and found that the same thing had happened at their team mates table too - just two occurrences of this sequence and the same teams were at both tables!

New alert regulations - 1 August 2013(Blog entry dated 2-Jul-13)
From 1st August 2013 a change to the Australian alerting regulations that involves "announcing". This requires your partner to announce basic information about your 1C and 1NT opening bids.

Specifically, when you open a natural 1NT, your partner will need to state its range (e.g. "14-16"), and when you open 1C, your partner will need to state the minimum suit length if using a natural system (e.g. "3+ clubs") or the minimum HCPs if it's a strong or Precision 1C (e.g. "16+, strong").

Announcing these opening bids will take the place of alerting them.

The argument supporting this change is that opponents are inclined to ask about the bid then pass, possibly providing their partner with unauthorised information. Mandatory announcing will mean many of these questions won't be necessary, making for a much cleaner auction.

Queensland will adopt these changes from the commencement date decided by the ABF, and your club will apply them at that time also.

Cards for low vision players(Blog entry dated 19-Jun-13)
Contributed by Ken Dawson:

Thanks to the QBA, Coolum Bridge Club was able to trial these cards at our regular session on June 17th. Coolum has just ONE member who suffers but we believe this is more than enough to justify shifting to these cards with larger font size.

The LVPCs were a great success and well received by all the members. The afflicted player was over the moon with the cards and touched that such consideration would be given for her. She has offered to buy the cards for the club but we have told her that we wouldn’t be doing it that way. When the cards become readily available, the club will have two boxes of LVPCs. These will be used when this member is in the field.

In the trial box, about half the decks were LVPCs. Coincidentally, It was on one of the other boards that I heard the ominous words from partner: “No diamonds, Ken?” I stared down at the table where I was sure that I had just placed the DA. No guesses as to which card I had just wasted on a revoke! It was at this point that the room realized that my support for LVPCs may be a little closer to home.

New VP Scale(Blog entry dated 5-May-13)
Later this year there will be the replacement of the 0-25 Victory Point Scale (as used in teams and Butler pairs) with a new scale. The new scale has two key differences:
  • the range is 0 to 20, with a draw being 10/10 (as opposed to 15/15 in the old scale); and
  • the scale is continuous so that every different number of imps converts to a different number of VPs, and as a consequence introduces decimal places.
The second point is significant. Under the old system, with 8-board matches, winning a match by 2, 3, 4 or 5 imps resulted in a 16/14 score, which some would argue is unfair. The new scale has different VPs for each number of imps, so a 2 imp win converts to 10.86/9.14 and a 3 imp win equates to 11.27 / 8.73 etc. Even a 1 imp win gives the winner more VPs than the loser (10.44/9.56) whereas under the old scale both teams earned 15 VPs. (However, a 1 imp win is still a draw for masterpointing purposes.)

Queensland will adopt these changes from the commencement date decided by the ABF, and they will be applicable to QBA congresses after that date, though congresses will still be able to use the old VP scale until the end of the year.

Claiming before the opening lead is made(Blog entry dated 29-Jan-13)
This item from Ken Dawson:

I don't think that I have ever claimed before the opening lead. It's not a good idea and is a tad impolite.

However, when West (Steve Brookes) opened 3C in first seat, I had an easy bid of 7NT. With 10 clubs headed by AKQ, they must run. 7+2+2+2=13

If he hasn't got the CA, he will be walking home because I will have slashed his tyres.

Now, that is what I call a "textbook" hand!

Gold Coast Congress - a world-class bridge congress on our doorstep(Blog entry dated 8-Jan-13)

The 52nd Gold Coast Congress is on from 23 February to 2 March, at Broadbeach on the Gold Coast.

For those who haven't been before, you must give it a try. It's a very professionally run congress - certainly one of the premiere bridge events in the world. There's a variety of Pairs and Teams events to choose from, and grades to suit everyone from, Rookie (under 10 masterpoints), Novice (under 100), Restricted (under 300), Intermediate (under 750), Seniors and Open. The congress attracts players from all over Australia and New Zealand and players from further afield also make the trek across.

Most of the events are designed as Swiss, which means that you play most matches against players at the same level as you, and pretty well everyone gets some gold masterpoints.

More details and on-line entries at the Gold Coast Congress web site.

Defending a grand slam(Blog entry dated 14-Oct-12)
Who can resist cashing your ace as the opening lead when defending a grand slam? Here's an illustration of why you should resist.

It's from New Zealand's National Congress earlier this month. Declarer can only make 13 tricks if he ruffs your DA lead. Otherwise he's got another loser.

The DA lead against a small slam might be safe in many situations, but when you're holding an ace and the opponents reach a grand slam, you'd have to assume that they have no losers in that suit, in which case the lead of your ace could only be detrimental to your defence.

And who could resist not doubling 7S when you're holding an Ace and 5 trumps!

One in 2 million(Blog entry dated 18-Jul-12)
(Contributed by Geoff Hart) Tuesday's session at Noosa contained a lot of distributional hands, plus one extraordinary hand. In my 45 years of playing bridge I don't recall ever seeing a hand in which one pair held all 40 HCPs.

I opened the East hand 2C, intending to show an 8/9 playing trick hand in hearts. Partner could barely control his response - it was clear he had something "interesting".

For the record the 11 pairs achieved the following results: 2x7NT, 4x7H, 4x6H, 1x3H.

As you can see there are 18 tricks available in NT! I'll have to wait another 45 years for a similar hand, I suspect.

Club sessions scored by Butler(Blog entry dated 4-Jun-12)
For a trial period, starting June 2012, the Sunshine Coast Bridge Club is scoring the first Monday in each month using Butler scoring instead of matchpoints. The big difference is that Butler scoring uses imps, and the value of the score the player obtains on each board is more important that just the ranking amongst other players.

From the players' perspective, it is teams-oriented scoring, where your partner is the room average. It means that you bid and your games and don't worry too much about over-tricks. It is a different way of playing, and many players find it more enjoyable than using matchpoint scoring.

However, there's no difference in the movement - standard Mitchells are used - and there's no difference in what the players do with the Bridgemates.

It is simple to score a sessions using Butler (or even cross-imps) using Compscore2, and sessions can be re-scored later using an alternative method, which provides interesting comparisons.

SCBC's first Butler day was 4 June, and all appeared to go well. The web site displays the results in as much detail as with matchpoint scoring - see the first session's results here.

What is there to learn about finessing?(Blog entry dated 3-May-12)
Steve Brookes is conducting a series of lessons on bridge tactics at SCCBC including this seemingly-straightforward topic. Still, Pat Feeney was the only player to bring home this ambitious 6S slam at a recent Coolum club session. After the lead of the HK (or any other lead), can you spot the winning - and correct line?

The secret is the ruffing finesse. Win HA, the CA and CQ. If West covers, you ruff. If West does not, you discard a red loser and continue with the CJ. Lucky, you say? Yes, West had the CK. This is needed to make your contract. If east had held the CK, you can finesse him - ONCE. However, even when it wins, the suit is still not established to give you all the discards which you need. Well done, Pat, but Steve is letting the cat out of the bag in his session on Thursday 17 May at 9am. [Contributed by ken Dawson.]

More extreme hands...(Blog entry dated 7-Nov-11)
This one from Ken Dawson:

When CBC209 came out of the cupboard for the first round of the Coolum Club Championship, no one had any idea what was in store for us! In just 30 boards played, there were 3 nine card suits (two in the one deal), an eight card suit and the usual 3 seven card suit. Then, throw in this 29 HCP hand

At one table, the bidding went
N        E         S         W
2NT!     P        4D         X
P       4H         P        6H
All pass
With the heart ten finesse odd-on to win, even the horror trump break couldn't stop the slam. The aggressive NS action made it harder to reach the superior spade slam.

Declarer making a possible 21 tricks?(Blog entry dated 7-Nov-11)
Another one from Ken Dawson...

Have you ever seen a hand where declarer can take 21 tricks? On this board at the recent Coolum Club Championship, there are 9D + 7H + 5S = 21 tricks.

An artificial strong opening is probably called for but it will be hard to get to the 7 level when EW get busy in clubs. Perhaps,
2C! - (P) - 3D - (4C)
4H  - (P) - 5C - (P)
5NT - (P) - 7D - all pass
A modern style is to play a bid of the opposition suit above game level as "Exclusion Roman Key Card Blackwood" i.e. Give the RKC (in hearts) answer without using clubs. Here, 5NT shows 2 key cards and the heart queen. Bingo.

8-card fit better than 9-card fit(Blog entry dated 22-Sep-11)
Today's Board 5 at Sunshine Coast illustrated an interesting point - how an 8-card fit can be better than a 9-card fit. North-South have 8 hearts and 9 spades. Of the 13 tables in this movement, 5 played in their 4-4 heart fit and all made 13 tricks, while at the other 8 tables they played in their 5-4 spade fit all making 12 tricks. With your 4-4 heart fit as trumps, the fifth spade provides for the discard of a loser, whereas with spades as trumps, your side suit is 4-4, and no discarding is available.

The biggest hand I have ever seen!(Blog entry dated 14-Aug-11)
An amazing hand at Coolum earlier this week - click here for details.

A 28-pointer with consisting of AK four times - a hand we might dream about. The temptation is to reach slam and then look around, but look at the way the hand plays. With no entries to partner's hand in NT, you stand to lose all of your 5 losers. 6NT can go 4off, but can be kept to 3 off unless the opposition leads the same suit 3 times (once on the opening lead and both times they get in on a spade) - if they don't you can set up a spade and make 9 tricks. And 6S isn't making either, with the bad spade break.

The optimum contract of course is 7D (cold). Had I received this hand, I'd like to think the bidding would go

2C - 2D (game force followed by negative relay)
3NT - 4C (rebid shows 25+, 4C ace-ask)
4D - 5C (4D 0 or 4 aces, 5C king ask)
5D - 7D (5D 0 or 4 kings, 7D to play).

Opener will need to be strong and resist the temptation to bid 7NT over 7D, but they should trust partner to know that you've shown them 4 aces and 4 kings and still they are signing off in diamonds, suggesting that no-trumps will be a problem.

If you think you`ve seen it all.....(Blog entry dated 29-Jan-11)
Not a bridge hand, but goings on at a congress. This was contributed by Ken Dawson, who was playing in the National Open Teams at the Summer Festival in Canberra:

Bridge is usually conducted in subdued tones - especially in the "Top Room" where we were playing yesterday. So, the whole room jumped when the silence was interrupted by a raucous SQUAAAAAAAARK!

One of the bridge player had a sulphur-crested cockatoo on his shoulder. Every now and then, it would go off - presumably when his mate pulled out the red "double" card. There's usually a guy here who plays with a stuffed rabbit under his armpit but this was a new one! Everyone laughed. Some of these top players really are "out there". After bridge, they go back to their jobs at the Defense Department....


Almost a perfect hand....(Blog entry dated 21-Jan-11)
Today's West section Board 8 at SCBC is surely one of the most freaky we've seen in a while. It may have proved a test of systems too.

Fortunately West is dealer, and should open a game force even though they only have 15 HCP. With positive 2H from East, and with disciplined response bidding promising a bit better than a Jack high suit, opener can confidently go straight to 7S knowing partner must have the heart ace. And with a bit of luck South will double with their values in both minors, which will no doubt be followed by a re-double!

The hand would suit those partnerships with specific ace-asking opening bids, though with partner holding 2 aces, you need a method to describe which two aces are held. (It's no good if partner has the two minor aces but not the heart ace.) Ditto those partnerships using CRO methods in their ace-asking, as a 4NT ask will receive an answer of 2 aces of the same colour telling you just what you need to know.

From the defenders' point of view, a sacrifice in either minor is the best outcome possible (at worse is being in 7, and going off 2), though you'd want to get in before West can ask for aces. A bid from South of 4NT (pick a minor) over the 2C - 2D, or even 5C, will deny West an ace-asking opportunity and may keep them to 6S. You'll also probably find North bidding up to the 7 level, though that might force EW into their cold grand slam.

Powerful 2-suiters(Blog entry dated 30-Dec-10)
This hand at Caloundra yesterday challenges some players' bidding systems.

West has 6/5 in the minors, 20 HCPs, and just 2 losers. How do you bid it? And can you reach the grand slam that is cold?

If you play 2NT opening shows the minors weak or strong, it is easy enough to reach the slam - the bidding would go 2NT - 5D - 6D. But most players using the unusual 2NT only play it as weak.

Opening 1C with the intention to reverse-shift into diamonds on your rebid is probably too dangerous, as you don't want 1C to be dropped and if partner had minimal and the remaining points equally shared, it probably would be. Opening a game force 2C is better, but bidding out your shape is crucial, because you don't care which minor partner can support, you want to be at the 5 level at least in that minor. After your 2C opening, partner would bid a positive 2H, your rebid is 3C and partner will bid 3D, and you're off and running, knowing you have at least a 9 card fit in diamonds. A keycard ask will reveal that responder has 2 keycards for diamonds (so you're only missing one), so there's your 6D sign-off. (If you use standard Blackwood, the diamond King remains unknown so 6D is a bit of a gamble.) Only the brave or foolhardy would bid the grandie at this point - it will only make if the missing keycard is the heart ace, which it is in this case and so the grandie would make. If you're desperate, maybe a 1-in-3 chance to get a top board is worth the risk.

Diamond slam with just 14 HCP(Blog entry dated 20-Nov-10)
This hand from today's Noosa Butler Pairs probably made a few Norths a bit uncomfortable. North-South have a clear non-vul spade game. At most tables, East-West bid to 5D, presumably as a sacrifice. North is sitting on 17HCP with values in all other suits, and their opponents are vulnerable, so of course they will double rather than bid to the 5 level.

At 14 out of 30 tables, EW played in a doubled diamonds contract (4, 5 or 6) and 2 others played undoubled. All made, and some with an overtrick. EW's "sacrifice" turns to gold! Best result was obtained by Sykes/Townend bidding to 6D, getting doubled, and making 12 - a nice 1540 and 15 imps for EW.

An impossible result?(Blog entry dated 17-Nov-10)
I was reminded today about a hand I played at our club a few months ago. We made 12 tricks in spades, only losing a trick to the spade Ace held by an opponent. Scrolling through the other results on the Bridgemate, we were sure we picked up an error when we saw that someone made 13 tricks in Spades, missing the ace. Up went our hand to call the director, and along came a tired looking director. Board 12, right? It's correct - there was a revoke! We were one of many who called the beleaguered director to that "error".

Two grand slams in one day!(Blog entry dated 11-Nov-10)
Not me, unfortunately. But in Sunshine Coast's 'B' section today, one pair bid them both. They tell me that in both cases, they knew there were 13 tricks before the opening lead was made. Have a look at see if you can reach the grandie using your current partnership methods. I don't think I can. The hands are Board 16 and Board 27.

When distributional hands are dangerous...(Blog entry dated 8-Nov-10)
Most players realise that distributional hands have power beyond their high card point count. But sometimes there's a sting - without something in your suits in your partner's hand, the going will get tough. Look at this board from the weekend's Northern Suburbs Butler Pairs. South is 6/6 in the minors and has 12 HCPs - now that's a hand with potential. But their partner also is 6/6 - but in the majors! At the 30 tables in the room, most bid to game or slam, but 29 out of 30 declarers went off. The only making contract in the room was 3S by North making 9 tricks.

The message is clear - with non-fitting hands, it is usually safest to get out of the auction as low as possible. Have a look at hands and see where you would have ended up using your existing partnership methods.

The power of pre-empts(Blog entry dated 19-Oct-10)
Today's Board 5 at Sunshine Coast's Restricted Pairs Championship was a great illustration of the value of pre-emptive bidding. NS have a heart slam on, which is easily biddable without interference. But West has 9 solid clubs to the AK, and should enter the bidding as high as possible to make life difficult for NS. A bid of 5C over South's response will probably elicit a 5H bid from South, but most pairs don't have any way of investigating slam at that high a level. At most tables, 5H was where they played. In fact, I understand the only NS to bid the slam didn't get any interference.

No-one likes a yarborough - or do they?(Blog entry dated 14-Oct-10)
No-one like getting a yarborough - that's a hand consisting of zero HCPs (named after the Earl of Yarborough in the 19th century - thanks Wikipedia). But once in a while, life gets interesting, as in this hand from today's Sunshine Coast Club's session.

The bidding isn't apparent from looking at the board and results, but I confess to opening this 4S in first seat (non-vul against vul). I figured if partner has some values, then 4S will probably make, and if partner has nothing, there's something big North-South. I confess to feeling guilty about it, and half expected an opponent to cry "psyche".

Had I not opened, my partner would have opened 1NT, and we'd be in 4S anyhow, with probably no interference, so my bravery (or foolhardiness) didn't gain us anything in this instance. Though competing over a big spade pre-empt from first seat puts a strain on most systems, and might have been more valuable had partner not had the best hand at the table.

Almost everyone made 10 tricks in spades (though I'd love to know how many others opened as I did), giving us a slightly better than average result. Some lucky East-West pair got the Club Ace as opening lead, so an extra loser disappears on dummy's club winners. The contract can go off with a heart lead a diamond return and another heart later, but that's not easy to find.

Quiz - maximise your score(Blog entry dated 24-Sep-10)
You pick up your cards and almost fall of your chair when you see 13 spades. You're the dealer - how are you going to bid this hand to get the best possible score?

The obvious answer is to open 7S, but this will get you an average score, because the whole room will be doing it. The key is to reach 7S doubled, and then you can redouble. Best way to do this is to open game force and make forcing bids for as long as you can - typically ace ask and king ask. People won't double your 7S opening, figuring you to have no losers, but if you get there slowly, an opponent with a couple of aces will most likely double.

Update: Since writing this, I have been alerted to an unfortunate downside of the re-double. The opponents, sensing a bloodbath, can pull it to 7NT. (Rest assured, it won't be your RHO doing it, which would put you on lead, but rather your LHO.) Your poor partner obviously won't be leading your suit, and with luck their way, it may even make. But it probably won't go off enough to surpass 7SXX!

Chance is a fine thing(Blog entry dated 21-Sep-10)
True randomness in our deal generation software means that we get some sessions with flat uninspiring boards, and we get others with extreme boards. Today's Sunshine Coast 'B' section delivered a day of extremes. In the 36 boards in play, 20 hands (out of the total 4x36=144 hands) had a 7+ card suit - that's 1 hand in about 7. Board 34 was perhaps the most interesting, with East, West and South all holding 7 carders, and North with a 8 carder. A typical bidding sequence would start with 3C pre-emptive opening by East in first seat, followed by each other player bidding their suits - diamonds, hearts and then spades by North. At most tables, North became declarer in a spade game, and typically made 11 tricks.

It's an interesting study in dealing with partner's and opponents' pre-emptive bidding.

GNOT Zone Final(Blog entry dated 1-Sep-10)
The GNOT Zone final will be fought out by 8 teams this Saturday, in a gruelling 70 board event (7x10 board matches). The top 3 finishing teams will be representing the Sunshine Coast Zone at the National Finals played at Tweed Heads in November.

Technology willing, the results will be uploaded to the Bridge Australia web site throughout the day. See the QBA web site's Zone page for a list of the teams taking part.

Noosa Novice Congress(Blog entry dated 29-Aug-10)
Sunday saw Noosa Bridge Club hold its annual Novice Congress. This year it attracted 20 tables, an exceptional turnout, even when compared to novice events at Brisbane clubs. Full results are on the QBA web site results page.

Though some players travelled from locations as far away as Hervey Bay and Brisbane, most players were members of Noosa club. Bouquets to Noosa's Bev Salter who has done an enormous amount for the growth of the Club's novice sessions. The number and quality of Sunday's field augers well for the future of bridge on the Sunshine Coast.

I love claiming at Trick 1(Blog entry dated 17-Aug-10)
Today in Sunshine Coast GNP Heats www.suncoastbridge.com.au/showtraveller.asp?id=11853&board=28 - a great hand for Checkback Stayman (or new minor forcing) to find out about your major fits, but not so easy to find out about club queen to make the grand slam biddable. But it's still a nice feeling making your claim as soon as you see dummy, even if almost the whole room is getting the same score.

Hands to dream about - Mk II(Blog entry dated 13-Aug-10)
This hand at Sunshine Coast yesterday was one that dreams are made of.

Some people opened this a 2C game force, others bid 6D straight off, figuring partner will raise to 7D with the ace.

This hand illustrates the benefit of a specific ace ask opening bid. Some play a 3NT opening bid as asking partner to show specifically which aces they have, if any. A 4D answer would result in an immediate 7D and anything else would result in 6D. The downside in relying on traditional ace-ask methods is if you get an answer of 1 ace, you still can't bid the grand slam because it might be the spade ace they have.

At my table, I opened 2C and my partner's negative response set her as declarer in 6D that can be claimed at trick 1.

Sunshine Coast August Teams(Blog entry dated 8-Aug-10)
Another successful congress on Sunday, though at 20 tables, numbers were lower than expected. There was a time when this event would attract 30 tables, but as the bridge calendar in south-east Queensland grows, Clubs must place less reliance on out-of-towners, and promote the event from within. A number of Brisbane players chose to venture south rather than north and played in the Surfers Pairs and Teams.

Don't forget the full results are on the Bridge Australia web site, right down to the individual board contracts and results, as well as the hand records showing makeabkle contracts.

One interesting hand was Board 22 from the morning session. Deep Finesse shows you can make 12 tricks, but in order to discard one of your two losers, you need to end-play North. It's easy looking at all four hands, but I don't think I'll ever master that technique at the table.

Upcoming congresses(Blog entry dated 5-Aug-10)
On 8 August Sunshine Coast Club is hosting their one-day August Teams. Entries are now closed. The club also has their one-day Graded Pairs on Sunday 26 September 2010. To enter, visit the Coming Events page on the Sunshine Coast Bridge Club web site. This used to be their Butler Pairs, but with the number of other Butler Pair events on the Coast, they thought a graded matchpointed event would be a nice change.

Caloundra is hosting their one day Butler Pairs on 12 September 2010. Entry form here.

Both Caloundra and Noosa have Novice Pairs events coming up, appealing to the newer players. Noosa's is on 29 August and Caloundra's is on 2 October. Details on their respective web sites.

T-shirt slogans(Blog entry dated 5-Aug-10)
Seen recently on a bridge player's t-shirt

I transfers.

Freak hands!(Blog entry dated 4-Aug-10)
Last Tuesday, East-West players in Section C at the Sunshine Coast club were lucky enough to get all 40 high card points between the 2 hands - click here to see the hand. Some bid the guaranteed 7NT - would your partnership have the methods to find it? And can you think of an example of a deal where one side has 40 HCPs between them but cannot make a grand slam?

Ever had a 13 card fit? I played this hand recently at Caloundra. It's nice to make a claim at trick 2, and not having to mention "drawing trumps"!

Contributions for this Blog are welcome - email peter@altosoft.com.au