Cambs & Hunts Bridge

Newsletter Number 28 30 April 2001

Editors:  Chris Jagger, 2 Wycliffe Road, Cambridge CB1 3JD, Tel: 01223-526586 and
Jonathan Mestel, 180 Queen's Gate, London SW7 2BZ, Tel: 01223-329671.
E-mail: or
Web page:

Items for the Web page should be sent to David Allen on

The next newsletter is scheduled to appear on 30th September. Please try to get copy to us no later than 15th September. All contributions welcome!


The Cambridge club has decided to purchase a `Duplimate' dealing machine and boards. Copies of each evening's hands should thus soon be available.

This newsletter, and past issues also, can be found on the County Web page, whose URL is given above.


In this issue Peter Burrows concludes his trilogy of `detective stories,' while Paul Barden gave me a special squeeze for my birthday. Chris Jagger offers advice on defence against preempts, and which card to lead from AK. A somewhat harder collection of opening leads comprises a new competition. Bill Briscombe complains while holding 25 counts and Sally Dempster writes to Aunt Agony. There is the usual round-up of News and Events.

End position

It's rare both to be absolutely certain how the last 12 cards are distributed AND to be able to do something clever with the knowledge. But when it happens, why, it's almost as good as playing chess.

See if you can cope with the ending on the right. North is on lead, with spades as trumps, and you can afford to lose only one trick.

The solution can be found here.


Spades trumps
H Q64
D -
C 95
N on lead
S -
H J8
W         E
H A5
D 1084
C -
S Q7
H 3
C -

Defending against preempts

by Chris Jagger

Bidding can be hard enough at the best of times, but when people preempt against you, life may become almost impossible. In order to combat this, it is important to play a good defence to preempts, and fortunately, the best defence is also the simplest.

Natural preempts

Over the years all manner of defences against preempts have been proposed, but virtually all top players in the world now agree on how to defend against preempts. Double is for take out, showing a shortage in the bid suit and support for the other three suits, no trump and suit bids are natural. (The cuebid and jump to four of a minor are not entirely standard but are nowadays the way that most people play.)

For example, if opponents open a weak 2h:

X: Take out, eg Kxxx x AJx KQxxx (Over this, you should play Lebensohl, see Newsletter 12)

2s: Natural, at least five card suit, 12+ points (ie HCPs), eg AKxxx xx Kxx Qxx

2NT: 16-19, eg Kxx KJx AKxx Kxx

3s: Natural, at least six card suit, a reasonable seven playing tricks. eg KQJxxx x AKx Kxx

3NT: A better hand, hoping to make 3NT, e.g. Ax Kx xx AKQxxxx

4s: A good hand, hoping to make ten tricks. KQJxxxx x AKx Ax

3h: Asking for a heart stop, based on a good minor suit, e.g. Ax x Kxx AKQJxxx

4c/d: Roman jump - showing at least five spades, and five cards in the suit bid, and a good hand (with a weaker hand simply overcall 2s), e.g. KQxxx x AKQxxx x

Notice that there is no way to show a balanced 12-15 points. Indeed - simply pass on these hands. Whilst it is true that you might miss game, they have preempted you, and inevitably bidding is not going to be as accurate as before. What about xx Q10xxx AKx AQx? Pass - and hope that partner can make a take out double, which you will gleefully pass for penalties. Even if partner does not double, it may well be better to defeat 2h undoubled than to try to enter the fray.

If they open a three level preempt, things are much the same, but a level higher. You might want an extra point, but it is worth assuming that partner has a seven count, and bidding accordingly. Similarly, when responding to partner, bear in mind that he is already hoping for you to have a seven count, so don't be too eager to raise him. The main difference over a three level preempt is that the cuebid is now a little pointless as asking for a stop, and so should show two five card suits, and a good hand. Similarly all suit bids will be natural.

Multi 2d opener

If somebody opens a transfer preempt against you, or more specifically a multi 2d (showing a weak two in either major or a strong hand), the principles will be broadly the same, but with some extra options available to you (this is why it is sometimes said that it is easier to defend against a multi 2d opener than a natural weak two bid).

The key bid is double - this should NOT be a take out double. It should instead show 13-15 points with a balanced hand, or a very strong hand. The latter will take care of itself. The former is using the extra space to describe itself to partner by doubling a contract that opponents are unlikely to be able to play in (if you doubled a natural preempt to show this, too often you would force your partner to bid when it would be better to defend). Thus

X: 13-15 balanced, or a strong hand. If the next hand passes (which should show diamonds, though many do not play it this way), your partner should generally pass also, unless he has something to say.

All other bids are natural. If you pass, then you then will bid as before. For example, with Kxxx x AJx KQxxx you will pass, and when the expected 2h comes round to you, double for take out. Similarly, 4c should show clubs and spades. If you pass, and then protect with a suit bid, this should be weaker than bidding immediately.

Harder is bidding once it has started 2d-P-2h. My advice is pretend it has been a weak 2h opener, and defend as above, with the exception that 3h should be natural.

The only bid that should be different against a multi is four of a minor. There is very little need for this to be a strong hand, since there are plenty of other ways to show this, and going past 3NT may not be wise. Similarly, as you do not know the suit yet, a Roman jump is not so easy to play. My advice is that this is the one sequence where you should preempt against a preempt. Since they don't know what the suit is, this can be a good time to retaliate, and make opponents' life difficult.

Opening leads competition

In each of the following hands, select a lead. Entries should be submitted to either editor before the end of August.

Based to some extent on a consensus view, our judges will award seven marks for the choice of lead, and a further three for reasoning (which should not be unnecessarily long - a one word explanation may suffice!) Feel free to comment if the form of scoring (or vulnerability) matters.

1. Q10843 Q2 752 Q93. Teams, game all. 1c-1h-1NT-P, 3NT.

2. QJ94 Q6 54 J10762. Teams, love all. 1s-P-2c-P, 2s-P-3NT.

3. QJ32 K852 973 A4. Pairs, Oppo vul. 3h-3s-P-4s. (3s showed takeout with spades).

4. KJ97 A954 76 K102. Pairs, Oppo vul. 1NT-P-2c-P, 2s-P-3NT (Sequence likely to have hearts but not guaranteed.)

5. KJ5 Q108 K3 AJ1087. Pairs, Vul. 1NT-P-2d-P, 2h. (Normal transfer.)

6. KJ862 10643 K J52 Pairs, Game all. 1s-P-2h-P, 3c-P-3NT (2h game-forcing)

7. 4 J94 KJ7642 K54 Teams, Oppo vul. 2d-3d-5d-5h, P-6h. (Weak 2d, 3d showed the majors)

DETECTIVE STORY: Part 3, Grand Finale

by Peter Burrows

This is a true story. It happened to me a very very long time ago in a club in London after a hard day's work. As with the two previous articles in this series, (which originally appeared in the LCCBA News, to which we are indebted (ed),) there is a challenge involved. Although the story is true, I have taken one small liberty in the telling of the tale, for reasons which will become clear towards the end of my story. The challenge is to identify the inaccuracy. On this particular night, I was taking part in a partie fixe and the deals which follow were all dealt in sequence from two new packs, from both of which I stripped the wrappings with my own hands. Honest Injun.

On the first hand, my partner dealt as South and passed. Our opponents then bid unopposed 1s - 3h; 3s - 4c; 6NT - 7NT;

Their hands were

H 10
D AKxx
C xxx
W         E
S Jx
H AKQxxxx
D 108

Spades broke 3-3, and hearts 3-2. Fifteen top tricks! Not a propitious start. Oh yes, and the club finesse would have worked as well.

East dealt the next hand with the auction

   East       South       West       North   
1c 1d 1h 1s
3c P 3d X
3s 5d 5h P
7c P P P
S KJxxx
H Jx
D QJxx
C x
Dealer E
S x
H Axxxxxx
D Ax
C QJxx
W         E
S Axxx
H Kx
D x
C AK109xx
S Qxx
H Qx
D K10xxxx
C xx

Not even a 4-0 heart break would have inconvenienced declarer, provided that (s)he did not suffer a ruff at trick one! Maybe North should have raised diamonds directly, or perhaps South should have supported the spades. Certainly one of us should have bid 7d if you judge by the result. But we did none of these things.

I was reeling a bit by this stage, but there was yet more to come on the very next hand:

S xxx
H x
D xx
C QJ8xxxx
Dealer N
S x
H Jxxxx
D Axx
C AK109
W         E
H Ax
D KQJ109x
C -
S Q10xx
H KQ10xx
D xx
C xx
   North       East       South       West   
3c 4c* 5c 6c
P 7d all pass

South did his best by leading a trump, but declarer won in hand, cashed the sA, ruffed a spade in dummy, came back to the hA, and ruffed another spade with the Ace. Then he discarded a small heart on the cA, ruffed a club high, drew trumps and claimed.

We gravely congratulated our opponents on their bidding, and this led to an animated discussion as to the theoretical distinction between the 6c bid that West had actually chosen and a bid of 5NT in the same position. There were two schools of thought. One was that the No-trump bid would have directed East's attention to the lower ranking unbid suits, and thus was West's correct choice here, whereas 6c should have implied support for spades and one other suit. The alternative view was that the distinction between the two bids was basically one of strength, with 6c being both stronger than 5NT and also (according to one proponent of this view) guaranteeing first round control of clubs.

Most expert partnerships will have their own ideas on this and similar positions, but I do not think that there is any clear-cut consensus. The ranking of the suits in question must have some bearing on the matter. Where the opening is in clubs, then there will be no advantage in space as between the cue-bid and the bid in NT. But in the near analagous positions

a) 3d - 4d - 5d - ?

b) 3h - 4h - 5h - ?

c) 3s - 4s - 5s - ?

that is not the case, and there are other considerations involved. My own interpretations would be that in (a) 5NT would put emphasis on the club suit, with tolerance for at least one of the majors, while 6d would emphasise the majors. Whether it would guarantee first round control of diamonds is a moot point, but I am inclined to think that it should. In (b) 5NT would show a willingness to play in either minor, probably with a preference for diamonds, and 6h would show a strong preference for spades, first round control of hearts, and tolerance for both minors, with some expectation of being able to make seven of a minor if partner bids it. In (c) 5NT would clearly put emphasis on the minors, and 6s is so bulky a bid as to have no practical value.

As you can see, this is quite interesting stuff and I am sure that you would get many different shades of emphasis if you were to present these positions to a variety of experts. In our case, the discussion covered all these various points. East and West did not see eye to eye on most of them, and the argument became almost acrimonious at one stage. More important to my story is the fact that it continued unabated throughout the bidding and play of the two subsequent hands. Admittedly my partner and I contributed to the discussion, and so we can not really complain about its longevity. But the next two deals were bid and played at close to the speed of light, with everyone's attention being focussed primarily upon the various theoretical points raised above. What happened on those next two hands? Well, you know already! I did tell you at the outset that I had taken one small liberty in the telling of my tale, and those of you who noticed that the deal seemed to progress in the wrong direction round the table will have divined already what it was. I have described the three hands in the reverse of the order in which they actually took place. And I can vouch for the fact that, if there is one thing more aggravating than being on the wrong end of three successive grand slams at fairly serious stakes, it is being subjected to that experience by opponents whose attention seemed, for the most part, to be occupied with other considerations than those of the matter currently in hand!


by David Carmichael

A Tournament on Saturday March 31st at Shire Hall for inexperienced players (not above Club Master if ranked at all) was a great success. 56 players `enjoyed' a tense struggle over two sessions and 36 boards. Pre-dealt hands were obtained from the EBU and copies were given out at the end with a commentary by Chris Jagger.

Andrew Lansley CBE MP presented the prizes.

The winners were David Todd and Elaine Wilson. The runners-up were Don Kyte and Alan Misson. Third were Sonia Holmes and Kathrin Peters.

It is hoped that Clubs in the area, together with the EBU and the County will benefit from more people wishing to play organised Bridge on a regular basis.

As a follow up, we should run a similar tournament next year (in February) and combine it with a qualifying heat for the National Pairs Newcomers competition.

Results Round-up

County Individual

1. David Carmichael 62.04%
2. Michael Soames 59.74%
3. Ken Jackson 56.74%
4. Dave Harrison 56.61%
5. Peter Last 55.92%
6. Ian Hill 54.34%
7. David Williams 52.40%
8. Bill Penfold 52.11%
9. Marie Burrows 51.51%
10. Ron Todd 51.35%

County Pairs Final

1. Midgley, Pimblett 60.53%
2. F.Warren, K.Orde-Powlett 59.21%
3. Wraight, Wraight 58.33%
4. C.N.Jagger, Wightwick 57.24%
5. Man, K.Jackson 56.36%
6. Curtin, Turner 55.92%
7. C.J.Jagger, Woodruff 54.17%
8. Caldwell, Smith 52.41%
9. Birdsall, Greig 50.88%
10. Chaplin, Chaplin 46.49%

In the consolation final:

1. King, Scofield 57.87%
2= Morgan, Padgett 55.09%
2= Riley, Riley 55.09%
4. Pal, Hankin 54.17%
5. Carmichael, Gittins 52.78%

Club Swiss Teams Challenge

1. Oxbrow, Haddock, Padgett, Morgan
2. Milman, Stelmashenko, Wraight, Wraight
3. Larlham, Nicholson, Midgley, Warren
4. Allen, Allen, Last, Last
5. Briscombe, Oxley, May, Pimblett
6. Parker, P.Jackson, Howard, Pal

As part of this event, Cambridge won the Teams of Eight Challenge, Briscombe's team were the leading team containing two players below the rank of 1* Master, and Riley, Riley, Pearce and Courtney won the Ascenders Prize.

Another tremendously exciting year in the county knock-out, again showing that every team has a chance in this competition! Pattenden bt Jude, Hamiliton bt Kenney, Greig bt Man, Copping bt Elstein, Jones bt May and Howard bt De Souza. In the next round, Burrows bt Pattenden, Hamilton by Riley, Woodruff bt Jacobsberg, Greig bt Copping, Larlham bt Jones, Jagger bt Howard and Zakrzewski bt Pal. In the quarterfinals Burrows bt Hamilton, Greig bt Woodruff, Wraight bt Larlham, and Zakrzewski beat Jagger. In the semifinals Greig bt Burrows and Zakrzewski bt Wraight.

In the Plate De Souza bt Riley, Last bt May. In the quarterfinal De Souza bt Man, Elstein bt Jacobsberg, Kenney bt Pal, and Last bt Jude. In the semifinal Last bt Kenney.

In the Garden Cities Huntingdon bt Balsham, Cambridge 2 bt Saffron Walden 2. In the quarterfinal, Camb University bt Thursday 1, Cambridge 1 bt Huntingdon, Cambridge 2 bt Thursday 2, and Saffron Walden 1 bt Cambridge 3. In the semifinal, Camb University bt Cambridge 1, and Cambridge 2 bt Saffron Walden 1. In a nail-biting final, Camb University bt Cambridge 2 by just 2 imps!

In the Eastern Counties League against the University, the A team lost 5-7, the B team 4-8.

In the local section of the Schools Cup, Ramsey/Harris, von Barloewen/Harris, Rolf/Croft and Denny/Martan all of the Perse School were 3rd-6th respectively.

Last December Kendrick and Gibbons got to the Gold Cup final, and later came 3rd in the National Swiss Teams Congress. Young partnered Collings to come 3rd in the National Men's Pairs. Jagger came 4th in the Women's Trials. Jagger and Jagger won the Welwyn heat of the Portland Pairs, only coming 16th nationally. Woodruff/Wightwick and Jagger/Jagger were 2nd and 3rd in the regional final of the National Pairs, then Jagger/Jagger were 2nd in the final, with Woodruff/Wightwick 6th. The Cambridge Club are through to Round 6 of Nicko. In the Easter Festival, May and Pimblett won the B flight Swiss Pairs (for those players below a certain rank), whilst Thomas came second.

Chris Larlham won the Company of Makers of Playing Cards bridge competition, representing the City of London Solicitors' Company.

Around the Clubs

Cambridge Club: Watson won the Cradock Trophy, Milman, Stelmashenko, Wraight and Wraight the Swiss Teams. Wightwick, Brodie, McFarlane, Mestel & Siklos won the Collis plate.

Full details on the club Web page,

Cottenham Club:

Evans Handicap Cup (Autumn) Evans Handicap Cup (Spring)
1. Peter Jackson & Anil Patel 74.99% 1. Frank Padgett & Anil Patel 72.36%
2. Mike Curry & Mary Woodbridge 69.38% 2. Margaret Allen & Brian Robinson 72.09%
Championship Pairs Individual Championship
1. Joan Grayer & Ken Everett 57.47% 1. Barrie Harrison 64.38%
2. Frank Padgett & Anil Patel 57.40% 2. Jan Drew 59.09%
Championship Teams David Haddock Cup
1. Vin Vachher, Jack Townsend, Peter Jackson, Alan Ashment 1. John Pearce
2. John Pearce, Emile Habib, Joan Grayer, Ken Everett 2= David Larman, Ann Aplin

The inominate squeeze

Consider the following hand, which is an improved version of a problem composed by Paul Barden which appeared in an early Newsletter:

3s by S
S K1098
H Q1064
D -
C A9543
sA led
H J987
D KQ65
C K876
W         E
S J65
D 10843
C QJ10
S Q7432
H 32
D AJ972
C 2

The defence finds the annoying line of sA followed by h9 to the 10 and K, and a low trump from East, on which West throws h7. Declarer is now a trick short, but finds the brilliant shot of a low club from dummy, won by East. A club is returned to dummy (sJ squeezes West!) a club is ruffed in hand and a diamond in dummy, leaving the position on the front cover:

Spades trumps
H Q64
D -
C 95
N on lead
S -
H J8
W         E
H A5
D 1084
C -
S Q7
H 3
C -

North leads a club and East is subjected to what Paul Barden reliably informs us is a `new squeeze', which has not been seen before in Bridge literature. Another world exclusive for the CH Newsletter!

(a) Clearly trumping is hopeless as we make 3 trumps, dA and the long club.

(b) If East throws h5, we ruff and duck a heart to the bare ace. A trump is returned, but we cash dummy's winners and exit with a heart. West must lead to our dA.

(c) So East throws a diamond. We ruff, play dA and ruff a diamond. North leads a winning club in this 3 card ending:

Spades trumps
S -
H Q6
D -
C 9
N on lead
S -
H J8
C -
W         E
H A5
D -
C -
H 3
C -

East must ruff, we overruff and West, caught in a vice, must throw a heart. A heart lead now establishes dummy's h6.

If you managed to analyse that out from the diagram on the cover, you have my (JM) sincere congratulations! There are many subtleties in the play of the full hand. In particular, note that playing dA too early fails, as East throws a heart at the end and then forces dummy.

A for attitude, K for kount

by Chris Jagger

Following to the opening lead is a critical part of defensive play. Some people like to play count, some attitude, whilst the more adventurous like a combination of both. The method described in this article is becoming increasingly popular in this country - we give some of the basic principles. This article is aimed more at those already familiar with giving count or attitude.

The basic idea is that if partner leads an ace or a queen, you follow with attitude, whilst on a king or jack lead you will give count. Partner still leads top of sequences, or chooses what to lead with the ace and king (always the king from AK doubleton). Thereafter you fairly blindly follow the rule just given.

For example, if partner leads the ace and dummy goes down with Qxx, you would play a low card from three or more low cards, or a high card from a doubleton, trying to get a ruff. However, if KQx went down in dummy then you would revert to count, or give a suit preference signal. Other than this fairly unusual situation, the normal exceptions to the rule are when partner and dummy are known to have at least nine cards between them (eg Qxxxxx in dummy, when you'd assume partner has AKx, or Qxxxx in dummy after partner has bid the suit). Now you should revert to standard count. Also, if a singleton goes down in dummy in a suit contract, you should probably give suit preference instead.

Whilst it is clear that playing attitude on an ace lead is not always desirable, it is quite playable to stick rigidly to count on a king lead, and that is what I do with some of my partners. However, with others I have some exceptions here too. On a king lead against a suit contract then I play attitude if dummy has 3 or 4 cards all smaller than the ten, or headed by the ace, with the rest smaller than the ten. (As you only need to know about the jack when declarer has not got the ten.)

As part of this method, against no trumps, the queen should be led from weak KQ holdings (eg KQ9, or KQ10(x) if it is a short suit lead). The king is led from strong holdings (eg KQ10xx or AKJ10x), and asks for count and unblock - partner gives count or else unblocks the queen or jack if he has it (but not the ten). (As a further point, with KQJ9x you start with the king, and then the jack to ask partner to unblock the ten, whilst continuing with the queen would ask partner to keep his ten.) If you don't want partner to unblock, you lead the queen to ask for attitude.

As a final point - how do you decide whether to lead the ace or the king? Whenever you have AKQ of the suit you would lead the king, to ascertain the count in the suit, as you don't care about partner's attitude to the suit. With AK to six you probably want a count signal also. With fewer cards in the suit you are more likely to be leading the ace, though if partner has raised the suit, then probably the king would be better.

Dates for your diary

29th April 2001 ECL v Herts (Trumpington)
10th June 2001 Jubilee Swiss Pairs (Trumpington)
1st July 2001 ECL v Suffolk (A)
9th September 2001 ECL v Essex (A)
14th October 2001 ECL v Beds (Trumpington)
4th November 2001 Newmarket Swiss Teams
11th November 2001 ECL v University (Trumpington)
6th January 2002 ECL v Northants (A)
10th February 2002 ECL v Norfolk (A)

Dummy again

by Bill Briscombe

Those bridge gods have been amusing themselves again at my partner's and my expense.

At the recent C & H Swiss Teams Club challenge, in second position you pick up possibly the strongest hand you have ever held

AKQ109x AKx AJx Ax.

You look forward to opening 2c, and practicing the high-tech set of responses and rebids you have persuaded partner to play.

However the first letdown comes when dealer opens 1c; dashing all thoughts of a sophisticated auction. Still, a slam is not out of the question so you double in preference to an uncultured 3NT overcall.

LHO passes - and perhaps you can guess what response partner comes up with? 1s of course.

Fuming, you raise him to 4s, and as you table dummy you complain good-humouredly about him hogging the contract when you hold such a powerful hand. I suppose I should be grateful that only a double whammy was delivered, and partner did in fact make his contract.

But the story doesn't end there - 2 weeks later at SWBC you pick up as West:

Q10954 K52 3 8643.

North opens a Multi 2d, partner doubles and RHO bids 2h (pass or correct). You bid 2s, pass and partner pauses for though for a little while before raising to 6s! Immediately, your mind goes back 2 weeks to the hand above - have you got your revenge?

"25 count partner?" you half-jokingly ask as he prepares to table his hand.

"No - 26 actually," he replies and puts down:


6s+1 as a diamond was not led. I did not have the heart to make fun of his unscientific bidding.

Winston Churchill and bridge

Stephen Siklos sends us the following extract from "Winston Churchill as I knew him" by Violet Bonham Carter:

Our nightly bridge on the Enchantress [admiralty yacht] deserves a word to itself. My father [Asquith] was an eager and execrable player. Winston was even more dangerous, for he played a romantic game untrammelled by conventions, codes or rules. When playing in partnership they made a happy, carefree and catastrophic combination. But to cut with Winston was to both his private secretaries a severe ordeal. Masterton was a really good bridge player and treated the game with respect. Moreover, though the stakes were low he could not afford to lose overmuch. He used to sit in agony while Winston declared, doubled and redoubled in wild recklessness, watching his every discard and building reasonable conjectures on his play, only to be disillusioned and dumbfounded again and again. "But First Lord - you discarded the knave..." - "The cards I throw away are not worthy of observation or I should not discard them. It is the cards I play on which you should concentrate your attention.

Eddie [Marsh], though an indifferent player, had a passion for cards and all card games transformed him. Over the "green baize" he sat erect with a square jaw and glittering eyes, holding his cards in trembling hands and breathing heavily. He took his own performance very seriously. In bridge he tasted rapture, a rapture that was bitter-sweet when playing with Winston as his partner. I can still hear his shrill cry of pain when Winston, having led up to and sacrificed his king, declared: "Nothing is here for tears. The king cannot fall unworthily if he falls to the sword of the ace" - a dictum which left Eddie's tears over his fallen king undried.

To Eddie, Masterton's word was law at bridge. He revered him as a Master, opened his heart to him as a confessor. The bathrooms in the Enchantress were all assembled together side by side, and divided by partitions which did not reach the ceiling, so that one could converse agreeably with one's neighbour. Lying lapped in hot salt water in my bath I often heard Eddie next door pouring out his bridge confessions to Masterton and asking to be guided or shriven. "Masterton," he piped pathetically, "you have always told me that in No Trumps it's right to lead the fourth highest of my longest suit. Well, I had four diamonds to the nine, so I led my two which was fourth highest and Winston returned my lead and when he found I only had the nine he was furious with me. Was I right, Masterton? and was he wrong?" A long pause - and then very gravely in a deep bass voice from Masterton: "What else had you in your hand, Eddie?" "Well, I had two aces and a king-queen, " etc, etc. Absolution was sometimes withheld and sometimes given. But I felt that master and pupil, penitent and Pope, were united by the bond of a common misfortune - that of being Winston's partner - and that they felt deeply for one another and themselves.

Agony Column

Dear Aunt Agony,

I was delighted to hear of your new column in the Newsletter, and would welcome your comments on the following hand from the Thursday club. What advice can you give to West over 5h? Six hearts is cold for N/S but they don't know it, or would your bidding methods reveal it?

Yours sincerely,Sally Dempster

Dealer West
S 3
H 107632
D 5
C A109754
NS Vul
S KQ765
C Q32
W         E
S J92
H 85
D 98742
S A1084
D J63
C 6
   West       North       East       South   
1s P 1NT 2h
3d 4h 4s P
P 5h P P

Dear Sally,

This is a very interesting hand indeed. First of all let us run through the auction. The first bid worthy of comment is East's - with a doubleton and three card support for spades, even though partner has not shown a five card suit, I would recommend East to raise partner - partly as it is likely to be a better place to play, and partly to keep opponents out of the auction - how many Souths would venture in at the three level? (I can even imagine some lucky pairs to be allowed to play in 3s making after this start.)

The rest of the auction looks quite reasonable, and I imagine that most Wests would double 5h. However, there are some indications that this is not the right action. For a start, opponents are bidding wildly at unfavourable vulnerability, and it often pays to give some credence to their actions when they do this.

The other indicator is the honour structure West holds. The singleton queen is not only likely to be of little use, but is also an indication that opponents have even more distribution than they might have, since it is two points less that they hold. The king and queen of spades are going to be at most one trick, probably none. Partner's 4s bid and subsequent failure to double quite possibly indicates (since he has only three spades), a side diamond fit, thus those values are also quite possibly wasted.

I wouldn't lay my hand on my heart and claim I would not double, but there are certainly indications that it would be better to pass.

What about N/S - should they have bid the cold slam?! Certainly not! It is impossible with so good a fit and so few values to determine if slam is making - even if opponents kept quiet you would be more concerned with preempting the opponents than trying to reach an unlikely slam. Furthermore, on this occasion the slam is only likely to make if the clubs split 3-3 (otherwise two rounds of diamonds take out a vital entry for setting up the clubs). Without that favourable club split you would be very happy to be at the five level.

A particularly red-blooded North might have overcalled a Michaels 2s. On this particular hand, rather than large quantities of the aforementioned gore being liberally distributed over the table, the lucky 6h might well be reached. But Aunt Agony's insurance premiums don't cover this sort of advice. (ed)