I have now published details on the website of the confirmed Andrew Robson courses which will be starting after Easter. They are Next Step, Essential Extra, Improver Plus and Advanced courses. For more details of these courses please follow this link. To book a place simply send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I will confirm and provide bank details by return if you need them. I am also planning to offer another Beginners course, with the first lesson free if you attend and later decide that this is not suitable for you. If the times and dates do not suit you, don’t worry – simply email me with the course that you are hoping to do and I will make arrangements to schedule it as soon as there is sufficient demand. Detailed lesson by lesson outlines of the 11 Andrew Robson courses that are available to take are now listed here. I will also separately be running single topic seminars over the course of the next few weeks – do look out for details of those. The weekly play and learn sessions will also continue after Easter. Looking forward to seeing as many of you as possible!
Over the course of the next month, in addition to the weekly Tuesday morning sessions at The Trout, I am offering three single-session seminars on specific topics in which I know many of you have shown an interest. These lessons will all run to two hours and cost £20 each. They will take place on Thursday mornings beginning at 9.30 in the Library at the North Oxford Association in Summertown (plenty of parking available).
March 28th Transfers over 1NT and 2NT (and Stayman review)
April 4th Cue bidding and Roman Key Card Blackwood
April 18th Signalling and an introduction to better defence
These lessons should be suitable for anyone who is familiar with basic bidding methods, either from a Robson course or from other sources. Email me (email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org) to book a place. Payment by bank transfer is preferred. For those who don’t already have them, our bank details will be provided by return if you request a place – first come, first served. I will however run a waiting list if there is an awkward number looking to attend, but I hope to be able to accommodate everyone who wants to come along.
The next set of eight-week courses will start immediately after Easter. They will run on Monday and Thursday mornings and possibly Tuesday afternoons as well. I will produce a schedule shortly. There are 11 Andrew Robson course in total (follow this link for a summary). There will definitely be an Improver/Improver Plus course on Thursday mornings, and probably a Beginners and Essential course as well.
As promised we are ready to try some additional times and venues for our play and learn sessions. The popular morning sessions at The Trout will continue, starting at 10am every Tuesday. On the morning of Friday March 8th we will be holding our first trial morning session in the Terrace Room at Islip Village Hall, starting at 10am. This is one of the best venues that I have come across, spacious, comfortable and well-appointed, and ideally suited to playing bridge. It is just a couple of minutes drive from the A34 north of Oxford, and also accessible from the ring road. There is plenty of free parking. Postcode OX5 2TH.
We are offering a three hour play session with supervision available from myself and Annabel on a series of pre-dealt hands (hand records available at the end). As the Tuesday morning sessions have shown, these play and learn sessions combine an element of real life competition with the chance to meet new people and practise what you know or have learnt so far in a friendly atmosphere.
As with the Tuesday sessions, the simplest way to book a place is to make a bank transfer quoting Islip March 8th as a reference. Alternatively send us an email (email@example.com, or firstname.lastname@example.org) declaring your intention to play and we will provide the bank details by return. All sessions cost £15 and refreshments will be available. While it is possible to turn up unannounced, we will try – but cannot absolutely guarantee – to find you a table.
We now have two new Doodle polls running for you to indicate which dates in March you might be able to make, one for The Trout on Tuesday mornings and the second for Islip on a Friday morning. These polls don’t commit you to play, of course, but are helpful for planning purposes. Once the current crop of teaching courses has ended, we may be able to work in opportunities to play on other days of the week as well, including our first duplicate sessions.
These are the links:
All the hands we have played at the play and learn sessions at The Trout are pre-dealt and therefore randomly generated by computer. That makes it all the more surprising that this week we had two hands which both provided an opportunity for the defence to double a one-level contract for penalties and then defeat it. This is a rare event in bridge.
This was the first hand (reproduced using the excellent Bridge Solver software).
The dealer was East and the normal opening bid here is 1 Diamond (1D), preparing to rebid 1NT/2NT over any positive response from partner, showing a balanced hand of 15-16 High Card Points. This opening bid naturally was a bit of a shock to South, with his seven diamonds headed by a strong sequence. The golden rule to apply when an opponent bids your best suit is simply to suppress your surprise and pass in good tempo, as if nothing unusual was going on.
West also passed and now the onus switches to North. The North hand just qualifies for a takeout double, which ideally shows support for the other three suits and a shortage in the opening bidder’s suit. (In some cases it may also be the only way to kick off the bidding with a strong hand that has no other obvious bid). In either event it is not a penalty double. As a general rule any low level double when your partner has not made a positive bid (that is, something other than a pass) should be treated as a takeout rather than a penalty double.
But while North expects his partner to respond to the takeout double by bidding a suit, there will be some occasions when he/she is more than happy to convert the double into a penalty double. The way to do that is simply to pass. That should only happen, as in this case, when the partner of the doubler has a particularly long and strong holding in the doubled suit and can be confident of making most of the tricks in trumps.
Beginners in bridge often find this kind of thinking counter-intuitive; “this is our suit” they tend to say “so why aren’t we trying to play the hand instead of the opponents?” The answer to that is that the objective of the game is to score more points than the opponents. It is not just to bid and make contracts. Doubling and defeating an unmakeable contract is often the simplest and most lucrative way to make a good score.
So on this hand East will be lucky to come to more than 2 or 3 tricks if left to play in 1D doubled. If that is what happens the penalty accusing to North/South will be +800 (four down doubled, not vulnerable) or even +1100 (five down doubled, not vulnerable). At the same time the only game contract that North/South can hope to make is 5D – 11 tricks in the opponents’ suit! – which would be worth +400 points. That is only half the reward for roughly twice the effort – an unattractive bargain. The moral is: if there is a big penalty on offer, take it!
Here is the second hand on the same theme that came up shortly afterwards.
The bidding here, with both sides vulnerable, started with West as dealer. With 5-5 in the major suits, the correct opening bid is 1S, planning to rebid in hearts. North has a perfect takeout double with 16 High Card Points and a void in spades. When this comes round to South, the calculation has to be that defeating 1S is more likely than making game, so a pass is called for. True, North South may well have a fit in diamonds, but game in diamonds is unlikely and the penalty from defeating 1S is likely to be greater than the value of the game, even if it can be made.
Note however that in order to be sure of defeating a One-level contract like this the trumps you hold will need to be at least as good as the six cards headed by a strong sequence shown here. If you only something like KJ953 in the suit that has been doubled, experience shows that the declarer will do much better than you think. One reason is that the A and Q will usually be in declarer’s hand, “sitting over” your King and Jack, thereby reducing the chances of those cards making tricks.
On this hand, with perfect knowledge of where all the opposing cards are located, North South can defeat 1S by three tricks to score +800 (three down, doubled, vulnerable). In practice two down double (+500) is probably a more likely score. Note that there is no game contract that can be made by North South on best defence, although on the day at The Trout North was allowed to make 3 No Trumps at one table.
Points to remember:
- If no suit has been agreed with your partner, low level doubles are usually for takeout, suggesting playing in anything but the opponent’s bid suit
- As the partner of the doubler however, do consider passing and turning the double in to a penalty double when you have a very long and strong holding in that suit
- Racking up a large penalty score by doubling and defeating a contract bid by the opponents is definitely winning bridge, especially when they are vulnerable.
It is worth noting however that on the second hand, East West will have a much better chance of escaping trouble if they can find their way to play in hearts rather than spades – they can actually make eight tricks with hearts as trumps. How to rescue yourself from a One-level doubled contract will be the subject of a different, later note.
The next session of Bridge at The Trout will be taking place at the usual time of 10am on Tuesday next week and for every week thereafter. To book your place simply send me an email (email@example.com) letting us know you are coming and I will send payment details by return. An even easier method if you have been before is to make a bank transfer to the ARB Oxford bank account, quoting Trout and the date of the session you wish to attend (e.g. Trout 12th Feb). For genuine latecomers we do take cash on the day, but that may sometimes lead to an odd number sitting down to play and those who have paid in advance will have priority. I have now created a separate Doodle poll for Tuesday morning dates in March and you can indicate your advance interest in those dates now by following this link. You will be asked to add your email and phone number so that we can contact you if necessary. The two sessions we have held so far have been well attended and greatly enjoyed by everyone involved, so do please spread the word and come and try one out for yourself. Email firstname.lastname@example.org with any queries.
We are looking forward to seeing as many of you as possible at the Trout in Godstow tomorrow morning for the weekly morning play and learn session. Most of you have paid by bank transfer and will know who you are. If anyone intends to come but has not yet secured their place by paying, please let me know as soon as possible so we can adjust numbers if need be. There will be several tables in play and up to 32 exciting pre-dealt hands to bid and play. We will be conducting a new poll about your preferences as far as other days and times of the week are concerned in the next few days. I have already logged the names and preferences of those who answered our poll about Wednesday evenings and Friday mornings, and these will be carried forward into the new poll.