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 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 8

The Monday morning seminar is on the topic of bidding big hands. It covers when and when not to open Two Clubs and how to develop the bidding from there. The next three weeks after that will cover the Losing Trick Count, the Jacoby Two No Trump convention and splinters, all popular subjects that will help with your game and slam bidding. The list of topics is updated regularly. You can sign up for all these dates on Eventbrite, or if that proves tricky (as sometimes happens) email me and pay by bank transfer.  The seminars start at 9.30am and run till 11.30.

Tuesday will feature our regular morning of social bridge, starting at 9.30am, and again the way to book a place is via Eventbrite. We aim to have a minimum of four tables and this week we will be looking for a couple of newcomers to add to our regulars. The breakout rooms are working smoothly on Zoom.  Please email me if you would like to join us this week. There is a cutoff point for booking a place on Monday evenings so I can allocate the players to tables.

On Monday afternoons I have committed to play with a regular partner of mine in the Andrew Robson 18-board duplicate game for the next few weeks. I will record some short videos about a couple of the hands each week and have arranged to discuss them with at least one pair from our group who are taking on the challenge of playing in the same event. As I said last week, there is always a greater random element in the pairs game and so this is a great chance to outscore the best players from Andrew’s London club (extra kudos if you manage to score more than me!).

The Advanced Defence course finished last week and I am happy to say that some of those who were on the course have said they want to do it again. For the time being I am continuing with private one-table coaching sessions during the week (currently doing 12 in all) but I am thinking of how best to offer new courses as well, with a beginners or recently started course one of the priorities. If you have any specific requests let me know and I will build up a waiting list.

Online bridge update no 5

The demand for online bridge seems to be intensifying as the lockdown goes on. I now have ten separate groups who have signed up for 60 or 90 minute coaching sessions through the week. Each group has a different range of experience and they are all, from early stage to advanced, fun to teach and the feedback continues to be very positive. Thank you to  everyone who has signed up.

In addition to all these groups there will be another seminar on Monday, this time devoted to when and how to establish long cards in suits. It will cover the probabilities that suits will break, ducking to preserve control of the hand and the importance of keeping the right number of entries, plus some other example hands from my archive. You can sign up for that on Eventbrite here.

Tuesday morning will again feature our normal Tuesday morning supervised play session (“Wytham online”), with each table in its own Zoom room to allow all four players to chat while playing. I will again be shuffling the tables around to allow you to play with different partners and opponents, unless specifically requested otherwise. Please sign up here if you can, or otherwise let me know before lunchtime on Monday and pay by bank transfer, so that I can make sure we have the right numbers. (If I have told you that you are unfortunately on a waiting list, don’t despair: I may be able to rustle up a fourth player at the last moment on Tuesday morning).

Then on Wednesday at 2pm I will be continuing with the next lesson in the Advanced Defence course, covering suit preference signals. The first of my “play these hands with me” bridge videos should be appearing shortly. For those who are at this level, I am also considering offering anyone who is interested the chance to play with me in an Andrew Robson Bridge Club online duplicate, to be followed by a short review of the hands that were played. Please let me know if this is something that would interest you. The ARBC duplicates are held twice a day on BBO, but be aware that the techniques required to get a good score in duplicate are somewhat different to teams or Chicago.

In the meantime take care and stay safe.  Jonathan

PS I am also keeping an eye on what is happening in the financial markets during the crisis and you might be interested to know that I am recording a short weekly podcast about the latest news from the investment trust sector with Simon Elliott, head of investment trust research at Winterflood Securities, released every Saturday (via




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!




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.

Bridge this week

Tuesday 13th January

Play and learn: Wytham Village Hall, 9.30am to 12.30pm

Thursday 16th January

Refresher course: Wytham Village Hall, 9.45 to 11.45am

Friday 17th January

Next Step course: Wytham Village Hall 9.30 to 12.45pm

If you have expressed interest in one of the two courses, but have not seen an email from me in the last few days, please check your spam folder or contact me on