Cambs & Hunts Bridge

Newsletter Number 41 30 September 2005

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


This and previous newsletters can be found on the County Web page, whose URL is given above.

Would you like to edit this Newsletter? It looks great on your C.V. and is a guaranteed puller of partners! See page 6.

Congratulations to Rod Oakford on becoming the County's 8th Grandmaster - enough for two teams of four.

Congratulations to Paul Fegarty & Catherine Curtis on the birth of their second child - another team of four in the making!

Catherine Jagger, playing with Sarah Teshome, has won the women's trials in convincing fashion, qualifying once more for the Lady Milne.


In this slender issue we present the solutions to the rubber bridge conundra from last issue. There is a Play Problem from Roger Courtney, our sole contributor apart from Aunt Agony, who is her normal lovable self. There is a puzzle to do with competitive slam bidding, only as so often you are competing with partner. Finally, there is an entry form for the Newmarket Swiss Teams.

How many points do you need between the two hands to guarantee 3NT no matter what the deal is? And what is the lowest combined point count you can hold with 3NT being unbeatable? See pages 2 and 5.

Daylight Rubbery

Last issue we described two games of rubber bridge featuring extreme scores. In the first we only won two tricks, never holding an ace or a trump honour, but nevertheless won the rubber by 20. On the first hand they made 5c+2 for 140, and emboldened by this they tried 7c on the next hand, which went two down redoubled for -1000. Chastened, they then played safe with 5c+2 again, scoring 140+700 with the two-game bonus. So we won by 1000-140-840=20.

The next rubber we lost heavily, with every contract making exactly undoubled. On the first hand we made 1c exactly, despite one opponent holding cAKQJ10, scoring 20 below the line and -150 above. This happened four times. Then opponents make 1c exactly, aided by their 150 honours, scoring a net 170. This they did twice more, and then for variety they made 1h with honours for 180. Then, with us having 80 below and them 90 below they made 7NT with honours for 1220+150. So for the first game their score was 4×130+3×170+180+1370=2580.

The next game was similar, they made 1d 3 times and 1s once, while we made 1 minor 5 times. Our net loss was 5×130+3×170+180=1340.

Finally, we made 1minor 4 times, they made 1minor 3 times, 1major once and then 7NT (with honours each time, naturally) scoring 4×130+3×170+180+1870=3080. They then got the 3-game rubber bonus of 500. So our net loss on the rubber was 3080+1340+2580+500=7500. But I think we were unlucky.

This almost put me off rubber bridge - there's so much luck in it. I mean how can you win if opponents get dealt a 39 count but nevertheless play in 3NT? On the following hand North opened 1c out of turn and chose to modify his call to 3NT, silencing South.

40 count needed
H J103
D -
C AKQJ10986
for 3NT
S 108753
H 982
D J10832
C -
W         E
S 9642
H 7654
D -
C 75432
D AKQ97654
C -

Partner led a spade and they drifted one down. I've never heard such wingeing by declarer! How often are you dealt 39 points? And how often does partner put down dummies that strong? And on the very next board they picked up a 33 count! Still worse, we had a bidding misunderstanding:

7 count enough
D AKJ10987654
for 3NT
S 76
H 75
D -
C J109876542
W         E
S 5432
H 6432
D Q32
C A3
S KQJ1098
H KQJ1098
D -

I opened 3NT as West, showing a long minor. LHO doubled, and partner redoubled, thinking this was showing at least Qx in my suit. Perhaps I shouldn't have passed, but you have to trust partner occasionally. How they whined - just because they let through an overtrick. They even accused me of being lucky - me!! After I'd sat there all evening with them holding all the trump honours. I think I'll stick to duplicate.

A new approach to slam bidding

There are various kinds of slam auctions. There's the (fairly rare) constructive discussion on the lines of

"Hmm. We're still below the game level and I have some extra values. What about you?"

"Well, given that I've limited my hand I do have some useful cards, such as this one."

"Really? Anything else?"

"Nothing I can conveniently show."

"I need one other feature."

"OK, let's do it."

Much more commonly, slam auctions are competitions between the players, for example:

"You supported me! Let's bid slam."

"No. I've already overbid twice."

"Go on - I know you've got something over there."

"No, honestly, nothing. Let's hope we can make game."

"Not even one wafer-thin control?"

"Well, I do have this king."

"Gotcha! 6s."

And then there are hands where you're both bursting to bid slam, and the competition is to be the person who bids it first...

Never mind about the hands. You are to have an uninterrupted auction with partner, where the object is to be the first person to bid 7NT, subject to the following rules at each turn:

(a) You can bid any denomination at the cheapest level (so the auction must start at the 1-level).

(b) You can raise partner's last call by any number of levels.

(c) "You shall not pass!"

Thus a legal auction would be 1h-2d; 4d-4h; 4s-5s; 5NT-7NT, in which responder would win.

Who should win this game with best play and what should their strategy be?

And finally, if the aim of the game is to absolve yourself from blame by making partner bid 7NT, what strategy should you now adopt, subject to the same rules?

Gandalf explains rule (c) to the Balrog

Letter to Aunt Agony

Dear Auntie,

I was pleased to find an extra chance in a poor grand slam in a Swiss teams event.

S A10xx
H 10x
D 8
C 987xxx
W         E
S xx
H AKQ87x
C -

It was love all. The auction was exciting:

   East       South       Me       North   
2c* 5c X P
6c* P 6s X
7d P 7h all pass

2c was game forcing and the double was for penalties. North surprisingly found a club to lead, and I ruffed on table and surveyed the wreckage.

One chance was to play a black suit squeeze against South, who might perhaps hold KQJ xx 10x AKQJ10x, but the double of 6s made that unlikely. So instead I wondered about ruffing dummy's 2nd spade in hand. For that to work three rounds of diamonds would have to stand up, so that South would have to have a singleton trump. If that singleton is the 9 I have a good chance. My first thought was to cross to hand with sA and run h10. If South holds xxx 9 xxx AKQJ10x I can then play four diamonds, throwing my spades, and ruff a spade and I'm home. But then I remembered the chess grandmaster Tartakower's maxim: "When you see a good line - look for a better!"

It seemed strange that I could make against a stiff h9 but not a stiff hJ. Suppose I play off hA dropping hJ. As I'm using my other trump to ruff a spade, I have then to pick up North's h9xxx with a trump coup...and then I saw it! If South holds xxxx J 10x AKQJ10x I can cash hA and all five diamonds thowing 3 spades and a club, then cross to sA, ruff a club, ruff dummy's spade and I'm in hand with dummy holding hKQ8 over North's h9xx!

Even better, I could combine both these chances. I first cashed two diamonds, hoping the 10 would drop, and when it didn't I reverted to the first line. Unfortunately no line had the slightest chance as the cards lay.

I doubt if you'll be complimentary about the bidding, but I'm sure you'll be pleased that your frequent criticism of my declarer play is beginning to bear fruit.

Yours ever,    Jonathan Mestel


Dear Nephew,

Complimentary? Actually I try to be complementary to your bidding, in that whatever you do I try to do the opposite. Your partner's 6c would have been my 4th choice, after pass, 5h and 5NT, but I dare say you'd already given them ample reason not to trust your bidding. Your 6s was somewhat pushy and I assume 7d was a misprint for 7c offering a choice of suits - surely, not even you would bid 7h when you expect partner to have KJx AKQ AKQJ10xx -, although they would need a lot of ill-advised confidence in you to bid 6c with that.

So now let us move on to your play. Cashing dAK was I suppose imaginative, but it was wrong for two important reasons. Firstly, suppose South had held your first hand xxx 9 xxx AKQJ10x. You cash two diamonds, cross to sA and run h10, which is not covered. You ruff a club, cash two more diamonds throwing spades, ruff a spade and have to ruff a 3rd club to get back to dummy - you no longer have enough trumps to draw the remainder. Count them. So essentialy your line required South to hold d10 or d10x and either a stiff h9 or hJ - not very likely. You need to keep dA as an entry to dummy if you aim to run h10.

But even more importantly, put yourself in North's shoes. Suppose they hold hJ9xx and you cross to sA at trick 2 and lead h10 from hand. Will they cover? It's very likely they'll play low quickly, in which case you triumph whenever North has 3 diamonds and 4 out of the 5 possible singletons. A much better chance than your trump coup.

For you, nephew, I think I must recommend Auntie's maxim: When you see a reasonable line of play, play it quickly, before you hit upon something worse.

Yours ever,    Auntie


PS Thankyou for allowing me to proofread my article. I suppose your mildly humorous piece on page 2 was intended to imply that a 7-count was needed to be certain of 3NT. In fact several 6-counts suffice, of which the following is perhaps of greatest interest:

6 count enough
S 1098765432
H AQ10
D 2
C -
for 3NT
H KJ98765432
C -
W         E
H -
D KQJ1098
S -
H -
D 76543
C 98765432

West must cash out to hold you to nine tricks, even. I don't think a 5 count is ever sufficient for 3NT, though.   AA

Play Problem

by Roger Courtney

I played the following interesting hand in a recent Pairs event. I dealt, as West, and without any opposition bidding soon found myself in the wrong contract: 3NT. Some things never change!

H AJ32
C A1042
W         E
S QJ932
H KQ87
D 53
C Q3

North starts with the h10. Wanting to preserve communications you win in hand with hA and play a spade. South wins and returns d10, dJ, dK, d3. North plays the d4 back, South playing the d7. You win, cross to dummy with a heart and play a top spade South playing the ten. Good news! Maybe you can score as many tricks as the people in 4h. You try another top spade but South throws a club, as do you.

What do we know? It is not clear at this point if the d4 was from an original holding of K4 or K42, but in any case it looks like South started with the 98 of diamonds and we know North has two spades left. We don't know for sure who has the last heart. Can you see how to make all the remaining tricks whichever opponent has the club king? (Answer below.)

Solution to Play Problem

by Roger Courtney

After 7 tricks the position with East to lead is

S -
H J3
D Q2
C A10
W         E
S J3
H K8
D -
C Q3

North is known to have two spades, and South has at least two diamonds. If you time the play right, neither will be able to guard clubs. The important thing is to play off dQ before the sJ, as you don't yet know what to discard from hand. Cross to hand with hJ and cash dQ, throwing a club, and go back to dummy with hK and lead sJ. On this trick South must keep a diamond and so must throw a club. You now throw a diamond. North follows, but one of his last two cards is known to be a spade. Neither opponent can have two clubs left, and so your c10 must win the last trick! This is an example of a "non-simultaneous double squeeze". For once your poor bidding has earned you a top!

National Bridge Centre

The EBU are using a new venue in Kettering for most of its events that were previously held in the Midlands, starting with the Tolle Qualifier in November. There is lots of space, and the venue is currently being upgraded to EBU specifications, with the intention being to work closely with the organisers in the near future. There are possible plans longer term to make it into a National Bridge Centre, relocating the head office there, and building a hotel for the bridge.

Newsletter editor required

by Jonathan Mestel

This is my 27th Newsletter, and it has been a lot of fun producing them. Recently, however, I have found myself writing an increasing proportion of the text, and my ideas have been drying up. Furthermore, I shall be in the USA until the New Year, and it seems a good time to pass the mantle and the baton onto new shoulders and into new hands respectively. Just think - you need never read contorted sentences such as the previous one again! If you would like to edit the Newsletter, starting this Christmas, get in touch with Chris Jagger or any committee member. It is possible that with the internet and e-mail there is no longer a perceived need or desire for a County Newsletter. But equally, a change of editorial style might well encourage Clubs and individuals to contribute more often.

In conclusion, thanks to all contributors over the last decade, and for all the kind comments I have received. That inevitably excludes Aunt Agony, of course. Best wishes to all, Jonathan.