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 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 6

Week 6 of lockdown already and most of you seem to be settling well into a routine in which online bridge features on a regular basis. The number of groups having regular coaching sessions with me on BBO and Zoom now stands at 11 and I am seeing some dramatic improvements in performance. Thank you all for your support and for having so much energy and enthusiasm. In order to accommodate everyone I shall be contacting one or two groups to suggest bringing forward the starting times by 15 minutes or so. Do contact me if you want to set up a regular session.

It might be worth clarifying that the Monday morning seminars are now definitely starting at 9.30. Tomorrow’s topic is on the subject of managing the trump suit, an important complement to last week’s seminar on establishing suits (which many of you seem to have found very helpful). It addresses the fundamental question declarers need to answer when planning the play: should I be drawing the trumps or delaying doing so?

As before, if you are having trouble signing up on Eventbrite, feel free to email me to say you want to participate and make a bank transfer – however only those who have paid in advance will be allowed to join. The same goes for the Tuesday morning group sessions, which are now running smoothly with each table having its own Zoom breakout room. With 12 regular participants, I am looking for another couple of participants to justify a fourth table, the maximum we can manage for the moment. The idea of this session is to keep switching the tables around so that, for variety, you are not always playing the same people each week. For the time being it is the closest we are going to get to our pre-pandemic Wytham sessions.

This weekend I am – virtually speaking – on the northern Norfolk coast, taking part in an annual three-team event that has been running for several years and is known, for some reason that has never been clear to me, the Bittern Bucket. It is normally accompanied by much wining and dining around a large (and noisy) table in our host’s kitchen. It is very much a social occasion and the standard of bridge is variable, but a perfect example of what a great game this is. Bridge can be enjoyed at so many levels, whatever the standard.

Here are a couple of the challenging decisions that came up yesterday. This is your hand

S 2

H 109762

D AK975

C 87

The bidding goes 3S from your partner, (as dealer) Pass, Pass, Double, Pass, 4H.

Your bid? Rightly or wrongly I doubled (discuss), having what I hoped was a nasty shock in store for declarer with my five hearts. I led the AD and this disappointingly suitable dummy appears:

S A107


D 43

C A10953

On the first diamond your partner plays the 6 and declarer the 2. You play a second diamond and partner plays the 8 and declarer the 10. Are you going to defeat the contract now and if so how?

This is the second


H –

D 97

C AKQ1062

This time your right hand opponent opens with a weak pre-emptive bid of 3 Hearts. Your bid?

Answers in due course.












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 update no 4

You all seem to be getting a taste for playing bridge online, which I am delighted to see. Yesterday when I was about to play a match myself, I noted no fewer than nine other tables in play with familiar faces from our regular sessions. I am guessing that you may well retain that interest when the lockdown is finally over – as a complement to our own regular face to face sessions in Wytham when they resume, naturally (it is still a social game after all)!

I also now have several groups of four taking 60 or 90 minutes training sessions with me during the week. These are a lot of fun for me and going down well with you, according to the feedback I am getting. I still have a couple of slots left, so do please contact me if you are interested in joining the throng.

The Monday morning seminar this week will be on the finer points of finessing, starting at 9.45am. You can sign up here. Our Tuesday morning Wytham online session is now running very smoothly, with each table having its own Zoom room so you can chat to each other while you play without disturbing anyone else. It means also I can flit from able to table at regular intervals. Booking for that is here.

I do have to limit numbers to multiples of four, however, as if I have to play it complicates the logistics to an unhelpful extent. Do email me however to see if there are any last minute places if you have not managed to book in advance: I cannot promise to accommodate you, but I will try.  I will continue to mix and match tables in response to requests, so you don’t always have to play against the same people, in keeping with our social bridge mandate.

A number of you have had some trouble in accessing all the features of BBO; in many cases this is because you do not have the right browser. Safari or Google Chrome are worth trying as alternatives if you are having issues as they do always work well with BBO. Look forward to seeing you “at the table” in one guise or another in the next few days.











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.


« Older Entries Recent Entries »