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.

Andrew Robson charity bridge day

It is not too late to book a place at Andrew Robson’s forthcoming charity day in Oxford – an annual event that supports a good cause and always draws a big local crowd. The date this year is Monday March 9th 2020 and the venue Rose Hill Community Centre, Carole’s Way, Rose Hill Oxford OX4 4HF. The bridge day raises money for the Rose Hill Junior Youth Club, a charitable organisation which supports youth activities in one of the poorest districts of Oxford.

You can find more details and book a place by opening the attached booking form. The day starts with coffee at 9.30am and includes four hours of tuition from Andrew Robson, with an excellent lunch in between. The day finishes at 3pm. It is helpful if you can indicate whether or not you have a bridge table that you can bring along. There will be several hands to bid and play to practise the themes covered in Andrew’s distinctive style.

Booking form here:


I shall be there for at least part of the day to lend a hand, and I hope to see as many of you as possible on the day at this enjoyable and worthwhile event.  Because it clashes with Andrew’s charity day, the Next Level course lesson scheduled for March 9th will be postponed until the following week.

Separately, some of you may be familiar with the Bridge for All programme, which is raising money for further research into the social and medical benefits of bridge. You can find out more about it here. The programme is run  Samantha Punch, a formidable bridge player herself, and a professor at the University of Stirling. Bridge for All is organising a charitable “Play with the stars” dinner and pro-am tournament on February 20th in London, at which most of the top British (and some overseas) players will be taking part. Andrew himself is sadly not available because of his other commitments.

These players are giving their time for free and you can bid for them in an online auction. I have been persuaded to volunteer to play for free with anyone from Oxfordshire who would like to part in this event and is willing to donate a significant sum to the charity and its very worthwhile objectives. Please contact me ( if you would be interested in making that sort of commitment.

Bridge at The Trout

Thank you to everyone who participated in the recent poll to assess your interest in play and learn sessions. I am happy to confirm that the first two of these sessions will be held at The Trout in Godstow on Tuesday January 29th and February 5th, both starting at 10 am. All those who have already expressed an interest have been notified and will be asked shortly to confirm their availability.

The Tuesday morning option has proved to be the most popular and so we will start with those. The other two options I have canvassed – Wednesday evenings at The Trout and Friday mornings in Woodstock – have also attracted support, though not to quite the same extent, and I will be following up on those shortly.


It is not too late to express your interest in a range of dates over the next month at these two venues. This is the link to The Trout poll and this is the link to the Woodstock poll. The first two play and learn sessions are also live on the Eventbrite website, although it will save you a couple of pounds to email me your intention to take part by emailing me directly ( and paying by direct bank transfer. There is plenty of parking at both venues.

I am confident that these sessions can become a regular weekly event for all those who want to put what they know (or have learnt) about bridge into practice in a friendly and co-operative environment with like-minded enthusiasts.  This is how Andrew’s club in London started and it has gone from strength to strength ever since. We are on the way to creating what I hope will be a similar success here in Oxford….

Bridge tales: a bold sacrifice

January 2nd 2019

It is always a pleasure to play bridge with the very best experts, as I am able to do from time to time. Last week I played in the EBU’s annual End of Year festival in London with Robert Sheehan, one of the most technically proficient of all the great players of the last few decades and a stalwart of the England bridge team for many years from the 1970s onwards. On this hand from the Open Pairs event he benefited from a daring manoeuvre with what was by far the worst hand at the table.

This was the deal, with NS (our side) not vulnerable against vulnerable opponents. These are often the best conditions in which to attempt tactical manouevres. In duplicate events of this kind, your score is determined solely by how many other pairs playing the same cards you are able to outscore. Every trick and overtrick therefore is crucial. Unlike in rubber bridge, you can bid and make a small slam but still score nothing if everyone else with your hand has bid and made a grand slam.

EBU 7S down 1
D = the dealer. V = vulnerable. NV = not vulnerable.

Robert was sitting South with a miserable zero points. As dealer I opened a pre-emptive 4H, following the old “rule of 2 and 3”. This suggests that when considering a pre-emptive call to make life difficult for the opponents, a good guideline for determining the level of your pre-empt is to assume that you can afford to go down two down doubled if vulnerable (-500) and three down doubled (-500) if not. This five-loser hand more than qualifies; some might open 1H as a result.

As it was East overcalled with 4S and Robert pitched in with 5H, “raising to the level of the fit” (11 trumps = bid up to the 5 level). Now East, Espen Erichsen, an experienced professional who had won another event at the EBU festival just the previous day, jumped to 6S. With at best half a defensive trick I passed as North and now Robert bid on to 7H. He later added “I know one is not meant to do this”, What he meant was that normally, if you are going to make a sacrifice bid, you are best served doing so at the first opportunity, giving the opposition as little room as possible to decide what to do.

Here however, with his miserable hand, a void in trumps and no reason to expect more than one trick (at most) from his partner, he was taking advantage of the favourable vulnerability to put more pressure on the opponents. As 6S, a vulnerable major suit slam, rated to score 1430 or 1460, he knew that we could afford to go at least six down doubled (-1400) and still make a profit. The risk of course was that EW would bid on to 7S which if it made would have been worth 2210, comfortably beating all those who bid up to the 6 level and stayed there.

Knowing the odds just as well, all Espen could do was grimace and guess which of the two courses – doubling or bidding on the 7S would produce the best score. Eventually he bid 7S, acknowledging once he had done so that thanks to Robert’s bold bid it was a guess. Robert led the 10C and when the dummy went down, it looked at first as if Espen had made the right call. On normal distributions there seemed to be 13 top tricks by means of six spades, five clubs and two red suit Aces.

Declarer certainly thought so and put his cards down to claim all 13 tricks, but Robert was having none of it, pointing out that the clubs were not breaking and even if declarer drew trumps and took two discards on his winning club tricks there would still be a diamond loser at the end. (I am sure that the risk of bad breaks was one reason why he took the risk of bidding on to 7H). So 7S was one down for an excellent score for us, helping us to an eventual fourth place finish (out of 68 pairs).

A review of what had happened at the other tables showed that nine other EW pairs had been pushed into bidding 7S, all but one also going down (best not to enquire how it was made). Eight others were allowed to play in 7H doubled and the remainder included several stopping tamely in 5S. 7S-1 earned an 89% score on the board while 7Hx down three tricks was still worth an above average 56%. Allowing EW to play in 6S would have scored just 13%.

One other technical point (for the very keen) may be worth making. Once the declarer discovers that the clubs are not breaking, he should play off all his cards in spades and hearts. If his left hand opponent turns out to have both the five clubs and the KQ of diamonds, he will be squeezed and the grand slam will still make. It is not at all likely but when a contract looks doomed, it is still worth trying for an improbable outcome, just in case this is your day.

Bridge tales recount hands that I have come across or played myself recently and which I think contain an important instructional point or two. If you spot an error in the analysis, which sometimes happens, despite my best efforts, please let me know…..Some hands are difficult, others of more interest to early stage learners.


Free taster sessions

Thank you to everyone who has been in contact so far.  This is to confirm the times and dates of our first two free taster sessions, designed as an introduction to the Andrew Robson way of teaching bridge, and for which no previous knowledge is required or expected.

  • The first is on Thursday March 22nd (12.30 to 2.30pm) at the North Oxford Association in Summertown, Diamond Pl, Oxford OX2 7DP.  You can book a place by following this link.
  • The second free taster session will be at Portabello’s, 7 South Parade, Summertown, Oxford OX2 7JL on Friday March 23rd (10.30 to 12.30 am). To book a place this is the link to follow.

I can also confirm that the programme of eight week courses will begin in the week beginning April 23rd. I have been listening carefully to the many of you who have expressed an interest and finalising what I hope will be a helpful range of times and venues.  Although the two free taster sessions are both in North Oxford (we had to start somewhere), I am looking carefully at including some options that would be easier for those outside the city to access.

I will be posting fuller details about the different courses shortly so that you can better judge which one might be the best for you, together with the links for booking a place. Please do feel free to let your friends know about Andrew Robson Bridge in Oxford. I am particularly keen to hear from any groups that might be willing to host courses or sessions at a suitable venue that is known or accessible to them. Thanks again for your support so far.

Jonathan Davis