Thursday, January 2, 2020

Classic Rewind from 2007

Here are a couple of gems from the knockouts at the Sacramento Regional. The first hand was from the semifinals.

Both Vul. As dealer I opened 1 diamond and heard 3 hearts on my left. Pass, pass to me.


Think about your next call before reading on.

I thought briefly about 4 then decided I was too strong and reached for the stop card: 5. Frank studied his hand and raised me to 6!

He had the "fitting cards" as he likes to say. He banked on my being short in hearts and figured his DK and clubs were golden.



Now all I had to do was to make it.

The K lead was overtaken by the A. I ruffed the continuation and studied the hand. The key was clearly the diamond suit. I started trumps and LHO showed out. Hmm...that gave him more room for diamonds. The bidding and play strongly suggested he had 7H. Probably didn't have too many spades. How many diamonds did he have? I had to get the diamonds right to pitch my spade losers from the board and ruff my spade.

I drew trumps in 3 rounds and led a D to the K. A diamond back to my hand and did not see the Q or the 10. It was decision time. Play the Ace or finesse the J? I knew the match was close and this hand would likely win or lose it.

After a couple of minutes of thinking I played the ace and when I led another D to ruff, the Q came up on my left! Diamonds were 3-3! I returned to my hand and pitched my spades on my good diamonds. Making 6 felt like a very good score with these cards.

Sure enough when we compared scores we said: "plus 1370" and our teammates said "minus 150!" The person with my hand only rebid 4 and played there. Win 15. We went on to win the match by 1 imp.

The Finals

A tough match against a tough team which included Mike Lawrence and Harvey Brody. We had beaten them the first evening in the quarter finals but they survived and now we faced them again.

The match seemed to be going our way. We were practicing what we preach: bidding and making our games and beating theirs! Then I picked up a nice but rather innocuous looking hand:


We were vul and they were not. The bidding got off to a normal start and then quickly spiraled out of control. 1 by me, 1 on my left, 4S by Frank (what the heck is that...a splinter?), 4N on my right! I'm not sure what anyone is doing but I do have good clubs so I venture a 5 call. It goes Pass and Frank bids 6!

It doesn't stop there. RHO goes into the tank and pulls out the 6 card! 3 passes to Frank who starts thinking. He thinks for a long time. Finally he makes his bid: 7! The opponents pass slowly and I can't wait to see this...

Mike L. leads the A and I see the following:



I think to myself: "Maybe he should have doubled instead of bidding 7!" But now I have to see if there is a way to make the darned thing. At least we're not down off the top.

Does something look familiar? It's virtually the same diamond suit as the club small slam from the semifinals! (see above)

I ruff the A and play a round of trumps, both following. Good...I need to do a lot of ruffing and didn't want to see another 3-0 trump break. I pull the last trump and pause to consider the play. If I can bring in the D suit I can throw my H losers from my hand and maybe make this improbable grand slam.

(Meanwhile Frank left the room after bidding 7 and a well-known player was turning the dummy. I don't think he could stand the suspense! )

I played the K and the 10 came up on my right. Hmm...what is his D holding? I led a D to dummy, thought a few moments and played the Ace. The Q dropped on my right! Could it be? I pitched a H on the J, ruffed a D to my hand, returned to the HA and pitched my last H on the good D. I showed my hand and claimed. The opponents looked sick. Frank had returned and looked happy. I was amused and delighted.

We compared scores: "Plus 2140" we said, "minus 300" said our teammates. Win 18 imps.

We didn't win the match but this hand was certainly the high point.

It is only as I finish writing up these hands that I notice another striking similarity: Each of these slams was bid with only 23 high card points.

I'll have to have a talk with Frank about how many points he needs to bid a slam...:-)

Stay tuned for hands from the California Capital Swiss in which we placed third.

See you at the table!

Saturday, December 21, 2019

When Stuck, Make the "Least Bad" Bid + A Nondescript 9 Pt. Hand has Exciting Elements

It often happens that you don't have a good bid available; nothing describes your hand accurately. You are either too strong or too weak, or don't have the right distribution, etc., etc. In that case you may be forced to choose the best of several bad options.  Here is an example:

I held this hand recently in a club pair game.

                        ♠ 2
                        ♥ A J 10 3
                        ♦ K 10 5 4 2
                        ♣ J 3 2 

LHO dealt and passed and partner opened 1. RHO passed and I bid 1NT, forcing.  Partner rebid 2 and it was back to me. I couldn't think of a good bid. All bids were flawed.  A pass of 2 was both conservative and may be a poor fit, as partner may not have many clubs.  2 or 2 might be good places to play, but not worth committing to.  With no good bids, I thought about 2NT.  I would prefer to have a little more strength, but the distribution was good.  Also, I thought, 2NT was unlikely to be a worse score than any of the other possible misfits.  So, I trotted out 2NT--the "least bad bid".

Partner raised to 3NT and I awaited my fate. Sitting North, I received a spade lead and paused to count my tricks and study the hand.

                        ♠ 2
                        ♥ A J 10 3
                        ♦ K 10 5 4 2
                        ♣ J 3 2         
♠ 8 6
K Q 8 4
J 9 7 6       
K 5 4

 ♠ Q 10 9 7 4
  7 5
   A 8 3
 ♣ 9 8 6
                       ♠ A K J 5 3
                       ♥ 9 6 2
                       ♣ A Q 10 7

Hard to tell what would happen as each suit had problems as well as possibilities.  I won the A and played the 9.  West played an honor and I paused again.  She probably had both honors, and as transportation was a problem I decided to play low.  Furthermore, she was more or less endplayed as any thing she did at this point was likely to help my cause.  In fact, she returned a diamond which I ducked to East's ace. East returned a diamond and I won the J with my K. and now I had two diamond tricks and the contract was starting to look promising. 

It was time for the club finesse and I led the J from my hand.  West won and returned a diamond which I won with the 10. Now I should have plenty of tricks:  At least 2 hearts after a finesse (assuming both heart honors are onside), 2 diamonds, 3 clubs and 2 spades.  And HELLO--a bonus trick as West is squeezed on the 4th club fro dummy and needs to discard a heart in order to retain her winning diamond. 

The final tally was 2 spades, 3 hearts, 2 diamonds and 3 clubs for 10 tricks (430) and a top. One other pair played in 3NT and made 3.  The most common contract was 2 or 3.

It never fails to amaze me that a nondescript nine point hand, when looked into deeply, can yield up so many fascinating elements:  an impossible bid, an endplay at trick two and even a squeeze at the end! And let's not forget another reason we like bridge--sometimes we get to be courageous, creative  and lucky!

See you at the table!

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Use Losing Trick Count for Accurate Hand Evaluation

I often run across hands where there is a total failure to use the simple hand evaluation tool of Losing Trick Count.  Here are two hands I played recently where the use of LTC gets you to the right contract, yet it was not used. One of these hands was even held by a flight A player who generally uses LTC.

1.  I played this hand in Terra Linda recently as East.

Dlr: N Vul: NS

                        ♠ A J 10 8 6
                        ♥ A J 8 2
                        ♦ K 6 3
                        ♣ 6          
♠ 4 3
K 6 5
9 4 2       
Q J 10 5 3

 ♠ Q 7
  Q 9 7 4 3
   J 10 8
 ♣ A K 9
                       ♠ K 9 5 2
                       ♥ 10 
                       ♦ A Q 7 5
                       ♣ 8 7 4 2

North opened 1 and I overcalled 2 with a less than optimum hand.  South bid 2 and pard bid 3.  Amazingly, everyone passed and I played in 3.  Down 4, minus 200 was, not surprisingly, an 85% board as NS can make a slam in spades!  What happened?

The answer is that South under-valued his hand and failed to make a limit raise.  He actually has a 7-loser hand, so could even consider forcing to game! Whether or not he forces to game, he should start with a bid of 3, showing a limit raise or better in spades. Admittedly, slam is not a good bet, as it depends on not losing a spade trick, but game should be easy to reach.

It is also possible that there was no competitive bidding at most tables, but that shouldn't be a reason for South to fail to use LTC and be very competitive with this hand.

2. I held this hand recently as North. After two passes I opened 1.  Pard bid 2 and that was the final contract.

Dlr: S Vul: None

                         A K Q 8 5
                        ♥ 5 3
                        ♦ 9 5
                        ♣ K 10 3 2         
♠ 9 6 2
A 10 9 8 4
J 5 2       
A 6

 ♠ J 3
  K Q 7 6 2
   K 10 4 3
 ♣  5 4
                       ♠ 10 7 4
                       ♦ A 8 7 6
                       ♣ Q J 9 8 7

A club was led and I made 5.  It always makes 4.  After the hand I asked my partner why, with 8 losers, he didn't bid 2, Drury, showing a limit raise. He admitted that he should have. Interestingly, most pairs didn't properly evaluate their hands and failed to reach game so our score was about average.  It was definitely a lost opportunity, however.

Stay alert (as I tell my bridge students) and don't forget to use LTC for accurate hand evaluation!

See you at the table!

Friday, September 27, 2019

Welcome to Jennbridge!


Tips for Astonishing Success at  Bridge Tournaments


Would you like to have more fun and greater success at bridge tournaments? Then this book is for you. The Bridge Tournament Handbook is for busy advancing players who want some great tips to tune up their game before heading off to a tournament - or even their local bridge club. It presents valuable information that you can refer to again and again, so can be used as a reference book.

Written for intermediate/advanced players -- with a dash of information for newer players.

Did you know that there are steps you can actually take to prepare for a bridge tournament? Just like professional athletes prepare for competition, we, as bridge players can prepare for competition. There are steps we can take to gain more confidence, more focus and the right mindset. We want to be confident, alert and bold. The Bridge Tournament Handbook will help you hone your skills and get you into the winning mindset. Hundreds of insightful tips from teachers and experts illustrated with great hands from actual tournaments. 

Bridge is the most entertaining and intelligent card game the wit of man has so far devised.           Somerset Maugham
  • Playing at the Nationals and Other Tournaments (For Newer Players)
  •  Focus, Concentration and Improving Memory (Memory is everything!) 
  •  Convention Card Review, Plus Larry Cohen's Classic Tips to Simplify 
  • Strategy and Tips for Pair Games 
  • Strategy and Tips for Team Games
  • Probability of Suit-Divisions Table (A great reference source)
  • Bidding Tip: Losing Trick Count (Contains my NABC handout)
  • Declarer Play Tip: Counting (For serious players: Improve your counting for excellent play!)
  • Defensive Tip: Carding, Discarding and Signals & Opening leads
  • Expert Bidding Secrets (Not taught in bridge lessons!)
  • Card Play Principles: Restricted Choice, Rule of 11
  • Great tips from Teachers and Other Experts: Gerry Fox, Jo Ginsberg, Peggy Tatro, Bruce Blakely, Sara Rothmuller, Bob Klein, Kathy Venton, Kate Hill 

A. Types of Pair Games                                                                  
B. Types of Team Games                                                                
C. Types of Masterpoints
    This handbook is filled with hundreds of great (previously unpublished) tips for tournament success and presents a valuable roadmap to navigate the rough waters of competitive bridge and get you on the winning path! 

    One copy: $14.95. Bridge Bulletin Special: 2 copies for $24.95! 
    Order from the PayPal button on the top right. **Discounts for bridge teachers.
    Questions: Contact me at 

    Guaranteed to elevate your game or your money back! See book reviews on top right. 

    Thanks - See you in San Francisco! I will be a "celebrity speaker". Come say hello!

    Wednesday, September 25, 2019

    Losint Trick Count Q & A

    Here's an email I received this week about using Losing Trick Count.

    Hi Jennifer,

    Question on how the bidding should have gone with a 1,5,6,1 distribution please.

    N: S K84, H QJ3, D J2, C J976         7LTC, 12 pts
    S: S 97652, H K5, D K53, C 643      9LTC, 6 pts
    E: S AQJ3, H 862, D AJ, C AT98      7LTC, 16 pts
    W: S T, H AT974, D QT9842, C 7   6LTC, 6pts

    I was West and with a 6 losing trick count opened 1H. Right, Wrong?

    Bidding: P – 1H – P – 1S; P - 2D – P – 3NT we went down 1

    Bridge printout says we make 2NT, 4H, 4D.

    So with my 5-6 west hand, should I have opened or passed?
    Or how should this board have been bid? Maybe to get to 4H or 4D?

    At this time, we are playing Standard American. Any thoughts on how to evaluate and bid this board etc. would be greatly appreciated?

    Thank you.


    Dear 6-5 friend,

    Although you only have six losers, you don't have enough HCP to open the bidding. You should be "in the range" – probably at least 10 HCP. Also remember this: losing trick count does not really apply until you find a fit.
    That being said – once you open, your partner has heart support and should always take you to game in hearts, not NT!
    Now let's look at how the auction should have gone. Your partner would open 1NT and you would transfer to hearts. Now you might consider taking another call, say, 3D, at which point he would jump to four hearts with his maximum. His hand will play great in hearts with his aces, three trumps and ruffing value.

    Good luck!

    * These topics are covered in my articles in the Bridge Bulletin; the most recent series published in May, 2018 through Oct., 2018.
    *For more info, grab a copy of one or both of my LTC books, available on this site.

    See you at the table!