Category Archives: Conventions

Online bridge update no 9

The topic this week in the Monday morning seminar series is the Losing Trick Count, one of the must have tools in improving your bidding judgment. Learn how to use the Losing Trick Count to help value your hand – how to count your losers, how to support your partner to the right level and when (and when not) to use this popular valuation technique. As usual the seminar starts at 9.30am and finishes around 11.30pm.

Along the way we will show a series of example hands and go through a set of slides that will also be emailed to those joining the seminar after the seminar has concluded. You an book a place via Eventbrite (link here) or if that proves difficult (as sometimes happens) send me an email to register your interest.  Coming up in the following weeks are seminars on other powerful bidding conventions – the Jacoby Two No Trump convention, Splinters and Roman Key Card Blackwood among them.

Places at our regular Tuesday morning sessions are also available to book on Eventbrite (start time also 9.30am) and all 12 of the regular small group coaching sessions are also continuing as normal. You should get an invitation to join the related Zoom session for all our events shortly before the start. Payment for the group sessions is by bank transfer and it is very gratifying that so many of you are paying promptly without having to be reminded – thank you for that!

I see a lot of progress in all the groups, whatever the level, which is great to see, and just as importantly everyone is enjoying the game and its many subtleties. Keep up the good work……

 

 

 

Online bridge update no 7

It is another glorious sunny day – not perhaps the best for sitting indoors to play bridge – but there is more cold weather coming and it looks like it is going to be some time before the lockdown restrictions are materially eased. How nice to have developed a weekly routine in which some of the hours can be filled with the best card game every invented!

The seminar I am running this Monday is about the single hardest decision you have to make at the bridge table – which is the right card to lead at trick one? Without a sight of dummy, you only have the bidding and your own cards to guide your choice.  On some estimates the fate of as many as 50% of all contracts are determined by which card you lead at the first trick.

I shall be discussing the options and explaining how your thinking should be guided in the two-hour seminar, starting at 9.30am. (To add to the problem, there are or course different answers for No Trump and trump contracts). You can book a place by following this link, but let me know by email if Eventbrite rejects you (as it seems to do with a small minority).  I have updated the list of future topics on the seminar page on this website; look out for some popular bidding conventions coming up.

The “online Wytham” session will be going ahead as normal on Tuesday, starting at 9.30am (link here – ignore any suggestions on Eventbrite that the start time is 9.45am). Nearly all our regulars will be there but we do usually have room for one or two more, so please advise me by email (arb.oxford@gmail.com) if you would like to be considered. I try to sort out the tables on Monday evening, so there is a cut-off for entries at that time, but occasionally I will send out an SOS for reinforcements to fill the last table.

All the 11 different coaching sessions will be continuing this week and I am trying to fit in a couple more. What this means unfortunately is that I am having to be a little stricter about start and finishing times. I appreciate there are many distractions, but if you can log in on BBO and join the Zoom call just before the start time it will ensure that we squeeze in as many hands as possible. Each group is different but they are all a lot of fun to teach – thank you for making them so.

For those of you who are interested in playing online duplicates, Andrew Robson’s club in London is now running four tournaments a day on Bridge Base Online. Subject to other commitments, I am planning to play in the 18-board 2.15 game on Monday afternoons myself and happy to take questions about the hands afterwards if you are also taking part. There is a considerable random element involved in duplicate pairs, so even the experts don’t always come out on top, and this is a good chance to try and outscore the best players and secure some bragging rights!

With another hat on I am involved in a small group organised by the Oxfordshire Bridge Association which is tasked with promoting tournament bridge in the county. They are planning some tournaments for early stage bridge players in the coming weeks. Most of you I know prefer the friendly social games that we have always run, but I shall give more details in due course for those who might want to try it out.

I will do a separate post about the answers to the two bridge hand questions I posted last week. I gather, finally, that there is a mention of a bridge player I know well in Andrew Robson’s latest Country Life column (though I have not seen it). Those of very advanced years may recall my grandfather Frank Davis, who wrote the salesroom column in Country Life for more than 20 years and was still busy writing the week he died, aged 98.

Enjoy the sun while it lasts!

 

 

 

 

Online bridge update

Thanks to everyone who took part in the Tuesday morning session today – fewer teething troubles than last time, despite Internet connection issues in one case. Some great hands were played and I saw a lot of good things done. It will get better smoother once we all get used to it. Am reviewing how best to set up Zoom so that everyone gets a chance to discuss hands with me; look out for further bulletins on that score. I will continue to organise the tables so that you get a chance to play with the right people. You can book up for next week’s session by following this link.

Meanwhile the Refresher course (max four tables) is going ahead on Thursday morning; email me (arb.oxford@gmail.com) if you have not already done so and wish to take part. It is very much hands on learning at the table. The Monday topic seminars (intermediate plus) are also continuing and worked particularly well this week by common consent. For these I produce a step by step online presentation and we all play through the same hand as a group , so do consider trying that as well. Next Monday’s topic is on penalty doubles and redoubling. Again please email me if you are interested.

Bridge this week

Monday 2nd March

Next Level seminars – every Monday morning

This week: Fourth Suit Forcing, the must have bidding convention

North Oxford Association, Summertown, Oxford, 9.45am to 11.45am

Follow this link to let us know you are coming

Tuesday 3rd March

Supervised play and learn

Wytham Village Hall, 9.30am to 12.30pm

Our regular Tuesday morning session

Follow this link to let us know you are coming

Thursday 5th March

Refresher course

Wytham Village Hall, 9.45 to 11.45am

Maximum four tables; sorted by ability

Expert tuition at the table

Email arb.oxford@gmail.com to enquire about spaces

Advanced Defence

Lessons 5 to 8 will be scheduled shortly

 

Latest news

Thanks to everyone who has so far responded to assorted Doodle polls about our regular events – Tuesday supervised play and learn at Wytham, the Thursday Refresher course (ideal for, but not limited to, budding partners) and topic seminars based on Andrew’s The Next Level book. Please continue to update those if your plans change. The subjects of the seminars are moving into territory that some of you may be interested in if you have not come across them before. Next Monday (March 2nd) for example will cover Fourth Suit Forcing, an essential addition to any player’s bidding armoury, and future topic include Roman Key Card Blackwood, Jacoby Two No Trumps, two-suited overcalls (Michaels and the Unusual no Trump) plus many others. The seminars are single two-hour sessions at the North Oxford Association in Summertown, north Oxford starting at 9.45am, and cost £20. You can find the topics on a week by week basis by following the What’s Coming Up link at the top of this page, or the dedicated The Next Level page.   A reminder also that Andrew Robson’s charity day event at Rose Hill Community Centre is coming up on Monday March 9th.

Latest bridge update

A quick reminder, for those who may not have seen my earlier email,  that bridge tomorrow morning (July 9th) will not be at The Trout but once again at the Jacobs Inn in nearby Wolvercote. Also that there are additional places for the two special one-off seminars I am offering – one on transfers (this Thursday July 11th, starting at 9.40am) and the second on doubles (penalty or takeout?) next Monday (July 15th) at 9.40am. Both sessions to be held at the North Oxford Association in Diamond Place, Summertown (behind the Co-op). The cost for each two-hour lesson is £20, but free for those who have just finished the Essential Extra or Improver Plus courses.

Bridge tales: a rare penalty double

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).

Trout hand 1 !2th Feb 2019

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.

Trout hand 2 12th Feb 2019

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:

  1. 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
  2. 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
  3. 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.