Category Archives: Lessons

Online bridge update no 12

I am sorry to say that the Monday morning bridge seminar series is going to have to skip a week. There will be no seminar this Monday (June 15th) on trial bidding, because of a second professional commitment of mine, which unfortunately I cannot change. I apologise for the break in service, which is rare, but sometimes unavoidable. There are after all few more important things than a regular bridge commitment…….

The series will resume on Monday week with Ace-showing cue bids, followed by the Jacoby Two No Trump convention, two more essential additions to your game and slam bidding methods. The session on trial bidding will be rescheduled for a later date. Anyone who has already booked for this Monday will be automatically rolled over to the next date unless you advise me otherwise.

The next three topics in the series will be as follows:

  1. Ace-showing cue bids: June 22nd
  2. Jacoby 2 No Trump convention: June 29th
  3. Playing No Trump hands: July 6th.

The good news is that it will be back to business as normal on Tuesday morning with our regular social game (“Wytham online”). I will assume that those of you who booked for last week’s cancelled session are coming this Tuesday unless you tell me otherwise; there will be no need to book again in that case.

As an experiment, and in the interest of continuous improvement, rather than using Eventbrite, I am inviting you to pay directly from the website. Simply click on the button below and you should be able to pay by debit or credit card. If you have any problems please let me know. I am keen to know whether this method is simpler or more difficult to use than alternatives. If so I may use it for the Monday seminars as well.

Tuesday play 23rd June

Our regular social bridge session every Tuesday morning


All the online coaching groups continue as normal. I have had a number of enquiries about a beginners class in bridge and I am willing to offer this if there are enough takers. If you have not already done so please feel free to let me know if you are interested in this, or know anyone who might be. In the latter case please ask them to email me with their details.

In the meantime happy bridging!




Online bridge update no 11

Tomorrow’s Monday morning bridge seminar continues our sequence of invaluable conventions, this time focusing in on splinters. A splinter bid tells your partner about a shortage in your hand once you have agreed a trump suit. it dovetails nicely with the other tools you will need to become an expert game and slam bidder. As with the others in the series once you have mastered splinters, you won’t want to leave home without one.

As normal the seminar begins at 9.30 and will include a series of example hands and teaching notes that are emailed to you after the event. You can book a place by following this link to the Eventbrite page, or email me to pay by bank transfer if your computer won’t let you use Eventbrite (you might need to change your browser).

The next three topics in the series will be as follows:

  1. Trial bidding: June 15th
  2. Ace-showing cue bids: June 22nd
  3. Jacoby 2 No Trump convention: June 29th

And now for the bad news. I am afraid that I am going to have to cancel, exceptionally, our regular Tuesday morning social bridge gathering (“Wytham online”) because of a change in the time of the monthly investment committee to which I belong. This change has been foisted on me and I am sorry that there is nothing I can do at this late stage, and apologise for the late notification. Anybody who has booked for the Tuesday session already will be given a rollover to the following Tuesday when we will resume as normal.  If I can find an alternative time this week I will let you know.

All the online coaching groups continue as normal. As I noted last week, as the lockdown eases it may be that some of you may need to drop out of these groups, and I would appreciate some early warning if you think that might be the case as it will give me time to find suitable substitutes. Of course I recognise  that many of you will have become so hooked on your weekly bridge coaching session that you will want to reschedule your work and family life to make it a fixture indefinitely…….! In the meantime enjoy the sunshine and keep safe.






Online bridge update no 10

The topic for tomorrow’s Monday morning bridge seminar is a wonderful convention that you should definitely aspire to adding to your bidding armoury as you improve. Roman Key Card Blackwood is the upmarket version of the better known  Blackwood convention, when a bid of Four No Trumps after a suit has been agreed is asking for the number Aces your partner has. Roman Key Card Blackwood, so named because it was developed in Italy, extends the enquiry to include the King of Trumps as well as the four Aces and also enables you to ask about the Queen of trumps as well – often the crucial information you need to go slamming.

As normal the seminar begins at 9.30 and will include a series of example hands and teaching notes that are emailed to you after the event. You can book a place by following this link to the Eventbrite page, or email me to pay by bank transfer if your computer won’t let you use Eventbrite (you might need to change your browser). This seminar dovetails nicely with the Losing Trick Count we discussed last week and the next four seminars as well. These will be as follows:

  1. Splinter bids; June 8th
  2. Trial bidding: June 15th
  3. Ace-showing cue bids: June 22nd
  4. Jacoby 2 No Trump convention: June 29th

Our regular Tuesday morning social bridge gathering (“Wytham online”) continues as normal, starting at 9.30 and also can be booked on Eventbrite. Follow this link. As always I shall be arranging the tables on Monday evening so please do try and book up in advance so that I know the numbers and it also helps if you can log in to the Zoom call around 9.25 for best results and a prompt start. All the online coaching groups continue too.

As the lockdown eases it may be that some of you may need to drop out of these groups, and I would appreciate some early warning if you think that might be the case as it will give me time to find suitable substitutes. Of course I recognise  that many of you will have become so hooked on your weekly bridge coaching session that you will want to reschedule your work and family life to make it a fixture indefinitely…….! In the meantime enjoy the sunshine and keep safe.




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 ( 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 no 3

(Updated 11th April 2020)

The main news this week is that I have made some further improvements to the way we are running our online sessions. Thanks to everyone for their patience so far. I know that many of you are playing a lot of online bridge now, which is excellent news. As the lockdown and social distancing restrictions seem set to last at least until the end of this month, and probably longer, it looks like there will plenty more opportunities to improve your game and while away the hours at the same time. It is encouraging that all the research done so far suggests that playing more bridge is good for your long term mental health and wellbeing.

Tuesday mornings

I am making some important changes to the way that the Tuesday morning sessions (what I call “Wytham online”) are run. Having experimented last week with the use of Zoom rooms, I am now able to make this a much better experience than it has been so far – thanks for your patience while we worked out how best to do this. How it will work in future is that each table will have their own Zoom breakout room, where they can freely chat to each other without having the distraction of hearing those at other tables also talking. Everybody at the table will be able to communicate directly with each other as well, just as when we meet in Wytham. You don’t have to do anything except click the link I will send out on Tuesday mornings around 9am: I can set everything else up.

The other great advantage of this arrangement is that it will enable me to visit each table more often to offer advice and supervision. I can for example arrange to visit each table in turn for 10 or 15 minutes each time, either to watch the current play or to answer questions about hands played earlier at your table. I am confident that this will work considerably better and make it much more enjoyable for everyone involved. We will continue to allocate all comers to tables of roughly equal ability and experience. It means that you do not always have to play with the same group, though you are free to do so.

The booking page link for these Tuesday morning sessions is here.  I hope you will try this new and improved format! If you  have trouble with paying by Eventbrite (as some of you have been having), you can also pay by bank transfer, but please make sure you do so 12 hours in advance with the date clearly stated. Please let me know if there is someone you are expecting or hoping to play with. In order to make this work for everyone, I am going to have to be fairly strict about insisting on advance booking, so I can make sure the numbers are working.

Private group sessions

For the rest of the week, as mentioned last week, I am continuing to offer any group of four players (more if some are happy to spectate) the chance to have a private 60 or 90 minute supervised play and learn session with me. I have now got six regular groups who have opted for this format, which allows me to give undivided attention to every bid and play you make in that time, again with voice interaction on Zoom. By using a BBO teaching table, it gives me greater freedom to comment and show what might/could have happened.

So quite a few of these private group slots in the week have gone, but I still have room for one or two more. Please email me if you have a group or a partner who is interested and wants to book a regular slot. To the extent that time allows, I am happy also to try and match up those with others of the same levels of experience so they too can benefit from this. Tuesday afternoons and Thursday mornings are full, but there are still a few 60 or 90 minute slots available on other days. I am meanwhile looking for volunteers for a regular 90-minute supervised session at 2pm on Saturday afternoons.

Monday seminars

I will be continuing the regular Monday morning topic seminars (two hours with presentation slides and direct Q and A participation via Zoom). You can book a place for several weeks ahead by following this link. The topics for the coming weeks can be found on the seminars page. Although this Monday (April 13th) is Easter Monday, I propose to continue with this series when the topic will be Showing your shape (including discussion of reverses. how to distinguish 5-4, 5-5, 6-4 and 6-5 hands and the dreaded 4-4-4-1 shape).

What it will cost

To keep it as simple as possible I am proposing a simple tariff for any sessions you book, as follows, per player. Monday topic seminars: £20 each. Tuesday mornings (“Wytham online”) £15. Small group sessions £15 for 60 minutes and £20 for 90 minutes. Anything longer: by negotiation.  Experience suggests that most of you find 90 minutes about the most you want to spend on direct supervision before your concentration goes, but there is nothing to stop you playing on with your table without supervision either before or after my involvement. That way you get both some uninterrupted play and some tuition. It also means I can help a greater number of different groups each week. Some evenings may also be possible. To minimise the time I have to spend checking payments it would be helpful if you could pay in advance as soon as your booking is confirmed.


Online bridge update

Given the level of interest in playing online bridge, I have updated the page about the options for online play and lessons we are offering from Monday onwards. These include a number of regular supervised play sessions, plus details of the lessons that are continuing, and the opportunity to book a time for a smaller group session with your chosen friends and partners (either continuous supervision or an hour-long review session at the end). For the first time we are offering you the chance to organise supervised play or small group sessions in the afternoon and evening, subject to them fitting in with my schedule. Follow the link to the online bridge page for more details.

Online bridge

One of the very few good things to say about the current coronavirus epidemic is that there are now many more online bridge sites than there used to be, and most are much more sophisticated than they once were. A good many of you have expressed interest in online lessons and supervised play now that all face to face dates in our calendar have had to be suspended.

As far as lessons are concerned, if you are interested in taking part in these, I would like to suggest that as a first step you should sign up to become a member of Bridge Base Online. It is free to join and all you have to do is create a username and password. BBO, as it is known for short, is the most advanced of all online bridge sites and has recently been undergoing modernisation. It is the one that all professional players use and the one I use too.

The drawback with it is that the robots it uses and most of the players you can play with at an online table use American bidding methods, which are different from the ones most people play and teach over here. Those methods typically involve a strong No Trump and you need five cards to open the bidding in a major suit, whereas in the UK we play four-card majors and a weak No Trump.

However for teaching purposes that does not matter as the teacher can control everything that happens at the table. What I would like to suggest is that once you have become a member you send me your username so I can set up tables where only those I invite can play. That way it will be possible to create a suitable teaching environment and also, I believe (though have not yet had confirmed), replicate something that is in principle similar to our Tuesday sessions with multiple tables.

I will provide more details shortly when I have fully explored the possibilities. In addition to teaching on BBO, I will also be creating a number of teaching videos and webinars to explore particular topics. The first necessary step however, if you do want to keep learning during our enforced absence, is for you to send me your usernames (to so I can add them to the teaching/supervised play database. I look forward to hearing from all of you.

BBO website




Coronavirus update

Given the latest advice from the Government, it is inevitable that our regular bridge sessions will soon have to be postponed until the epidemic is properly contained. Thanks to those of you who have already told me that they no longer feel able to come to classes or play and learn sessions. I fully understand and support your decision. I was already planning on suspending most of our events even before the latest announcements. This is the BBC News analysis as of 4.30pm today (link here) – Sunday March 15th.

While the Health Secretary says that it is not yet the right time to urge anyone over 70 or those with health issues to self-isolate, that decision will be coming shortly. The peak of the epidemic is not currently expected to occur for around 10 weeks. It seems inevitable however that most people, whether or not they are in the highest risk category, will decide to take matters into their own hands sooner rather than later to try and minimise the risk of infection.

Bridge events as we organise them currently are particularly risky as sources of infection, given the use of playing cards and bidding boxes. We can minimise that risk to some extent by dispensing with boards that move round the room, replacing them with packs of cards that are not used at any other table and are thrown away at the end of each session, and also by stopping using bidding boxes. However there is no way to enable social distancing, which requires people to stay six feet away from each other, or to eliminate the risk of transmission through the atmosphere.

The English Bridge Union has today cancelled all its national events over the next few months and  issued new guidance to bridge clubs that do decide to stay open, urging members who are vulnerable to stay away, and clubs that are still open to consider carefully whether their arrangements are still appropriate.  Some of us already know somebody who has been infected and it is inevitable that the number of cases is going to continue to grow rapidly for a few weeks.

In these circumstances, I am proposing the following. The seminar tomorrow (on overcalling and the Unassuming Cue Bid) is going ahead, but the series will not continue after that until further notice. I have asked those who have indicated interest in attending to let me know if they are coming or not tomorrow.

The Tuesday play and learn session and Thursday morning refresher course will also not continue after this week, and will this week only operate on the basis set out above – no bidding boxes and no boards travelling around the room. I have created a new Doodle poll for the Tuesday Wytham session to replace the existing one. You can find it here. I would be grateful if you could complete it. I will be contacting those who have been coming to the Thursday refresher course directly with a similar message.

While sessions are suspended, I will be offering the option of online lessons and also a regular online tournament as well. If you are interested in either of those options, please let me know – playing online may not always be as much fun as playing in a social setting, but this could be a chance to work on your game so as to come back even better and stronger than before when the virus threat has subsided. If you unfortunately find yourself among those who have to self-isolate, this may also be one good way to while away the time.

There is, finally, the possibility of holding smaller private group lessons as well, in particular cases where everyone involved is not in the primary risk category, understands and is happy with the risks and suitable playing conditions can be created. For the moment I am monitoring developments closely and will only offer that on demand and in the light of prevailing medical advice.

I very much hope that those of you who have been regular or occasional participants in any of the classes or play and learn sessions will let me know what your thoughts are on all the above. I shall provide further updates on the website and by email so that we do not lose touch. If you have not already signed up to receive emails from this website, it would be very helpful if you could do so now, by adding your email in the box to the right of the page.

This is obviously a very difficult set of circumstances, particularly so as the lessons and sessions we run have been growing in popularity and I know how many of you have been enjoying the chance to play and learn with our convivial and growing group of participants. However it is obvious that we must do everything we can to minimise the risk of infection over the next few trying weeks and protect those who are at risk. I hope that we will all be back at the bridge table sooner rather than later.

Thank you finally for all your emails and messages. Please keep them coming!




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 to enquire about spaces

Advanced Defence

Lessons 5 to 8 will be scheduled shortly


Spring 2020 teaching and play sessions

Here (at last!) are my plans for teaching in the New Year. I am trying this time round to be as flexible as possible, so that nobody is disadvantaged if they cannot make all the lessons in each course. There is a summary on this link.

Here are the current options:


There is no scheduled beginners class at present, but if you would like to learn from scratch, don’t despair. Simply drop me an email ( and let me know you are interested in learning.  I shall add you to my waiting list and as soon as there are enough people to make it viable, we will schedule a time and venue for the beginners course. You won’t regret learning this great game!

Next Step

This will be taking place over four consecutive Friday mornings beginning on Friday January 17th. Each session will be a double lesson, which experience shows is helpful for those at this stage of their learning. The course is already nearly full, but there may be an opportunity to join if you let me know in the next week or so. There are a couple of one-off spots also available on the first and third dates. Venue: Wytham Village Hall. Start 9.30am. Free parking. Booking form attached. See the course outlines page on the website for more details. Ideal for those who have been on a Beginners course or know the mechanics of the game but want to press on ahead.

The Next Level

This courses based around Andrew Robson’s latest book, The Next Level, which looks in more detail at the bidding conventions and play techniques you will already know if you have completed the Essential or Improver courses. There are 36 separate topics (listed on the website) and I am proposing to teach these as individual 2 hour lessons, each one featuring at least four hands to play, plus a separate bidding quiz and notes I am writing for each topic. Each topic will go into greater depth about such tools as Stayman, transfers and Roman Key Card Blackwood and many suit play techniques.  If you have to miss one, provided you can notify me in advance, you won’t be charged but can roll forward your course fee for that day to a later lesson. The initial course fee for five lessons will be £100, after which you can renew for a further block of five lessons at a time. Provisional timing and venue: Monday mornings at the NOA in Summertown. Please let me know if you are interested and I will send you a booking form.

Refresher course

I am repeating this course as it proved very popular before. Because of the amount of individual attention involved, I am limiting the numbers to a maximum of four tables. It will be held every Thursday morning at Wytham Village Hall, starting at 9.30am and lasts around two hours. The format is very simple: each table deals and plays a hand, which is then discussed in depth with all the players at the table. The emphasis is on recognising situations as they arise and practising what you have learnt before, although in practice new topics keep on cropping up (e.g. signalling, using cue bids for slam bidding). I shall be providing a follow up note on any important ideas to emerge each week. Ideal for current or potential partners who want to play regularly together (although individuals are also welcome). The cost is £20 per week. First come, first served. Email me on this email if you are interested in signing up.

Advanced Defence

I am also scheduling this course, which is about the art of successful defence at the highest level. Venue and timing will be determined as soon as final numbers are confirmed. It follows on from the successful Advanced Play course held in the autumn. Improving your defence will not only make every hand of bridge more interesting, irrespective of whether you are dealt any good cards, but also make you a popular partner. All the secrets of signalling, counting and discarding are covered. Just email if you are interested.

Learn and play

The regular Tuesday morning supervised play sessions will continue at Wytham Village Hall throughout the year and I hope that the numbers will continue to grow, as they did satisfactorily in 2019. The first session of the New Year will be held on January 7th 2020. I hope to add a slightly different second supervised play session each week, starting in February. The idea I am toying with is running each session with a slight difference, playing a pre-dealt set of boards, just as on Tuesday mornings, but scoring each session as a teams event to add a slightly keener competitive edge to proceedings, and maybe adding a Q and A session at the end (as Andrew used to do in his club). Don’t be put put off if this sounds too serious: it will all be done in our normal friendly atmosphere. This could be held on a weekday evening, starting at 7.15pm. Let me know if this might be of interest to you.

Other courses

As you now there are 11 Robson course in total, all of them listed on the website (link to Our Andrew Robson courses) and I am always willing to offer them if there is sufficient demand. The way I propose to deal with this is to invite you to suggest the courses you would like to take and as soon as there is enough interest to make them viable I will be happy to schedule them. Experience again suggests that running courses as four double sessions or even two or three triple sessions can be the easiest way to resolve the problem of only being able to attend some of the normal eight weekly lessons in each course. Finally if you know of anyone who you think would enjoy learning bridge with me, please feel free to give them my contact details and ask them to get in touch.

Happy New Year to everyone.

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