Surprise favorite bridge player with gifts of skill

Published 5:20 pm Wednesday, December 3, 2008

I mentioned in a column a few weeks ago that I would recommend some places to go to get a gift for your favorite bridge player. Go to your favorite bookstore and ask them to order a copy of Marty Bergen’s newest books “Slam Bidding” ($24.95 hardcover) and the companion paperback “Better Slam Bidding” by Bergen ($9.95). Other titles by my favorite bridge author are “Points Schmoints” ($19.95) and More Points Schmoints ($19.95), both my favorites, Vol. 1, 2 and 3 of “Marty Sez” (each $17.95), “Better Re-Bidding” by Bergen ($7.95 softcover) and “To Open or Not to Open” ($7.95 softcover). Bergen’s books present concepts in a funny, easy-to-read format.

I teach simplicity in bidding. You can have the basics of 1S-2S-3S and 1NT-2NT-3NT and not have to learn/use a single additional convention and still be a good bridge player. Bridge players spend 80 percent of their education time trying to learn bidding conventions when in reality the players who score most often are those who can count to 13 in four different suits.

Winners in bridge are those players who can remember the cards that are outstanding during the play, have a good guess where those cards are, and never give the opponents a freebie during the play of the hand.

Tip of the Week:

Partner opens 1H and you hold doubletons in hearts and spades, the KQxxxx in diamonds and Qxx in clubs. While your diamond suit is good, you don’t have enough high card points (HCP) to bid 2D. Bid 1NT to tell partner you don’t have a four-card major suit and 6-9 HCP. You know you have seven hearts between you because you only open 1H when you have five in the suit. If partner rebids his hearts at the two level, pass.

If partner jumps to 3H, he’s showing a six-card suit and a strong hand and you should raise him to game; your doubleton in spades now worth an additional point or two. If partner has the ace, your diamond suit has been promoted and any losers in his hand will be discarded.

If partner passes your 1NT raise, he has 12-14 HCP and you’d better hope he has three diamonds because the defense isn’t going to take its ace unless it has to. If he rebids 2H showing a six-card suit, pass and play in a part score contract.

Good defenders will know you only have one or two hearts because you would have raised to 2H if you had three in the suit. Instead of trying to develop suits early, a trump lead by defenders will make it tough-to-impossible for declarer to ruff any losing spades in his hand.

If partner jumps to 3H he’s showing a solid six-card suit, an unbalanced hand and outside values; otherwise he would have raised you to game in NT. You can feel comfortable raising him to 4H even though you have only two spots in the suit.

Lastly, in duplicate bridge, a contract of 1NT making 2 for 120 points is nearly always a good score, beating out 2H/2S making 2 for 110 or 3C/3D making 3 for 110. No Trump is my favorite contract.

Try this at home with your party bridge players. When all four hands are passed out, instead of throwing the cards in and re-dealing, make it a rule that dealer has to play the contract in 1NT! Practicing playing NT contracts helps you count all four suits, keeping track of those pesky eights, nines and tens.

Hand of

the Week:

West knows that he must make a series of forcing bids to get his partner to describe his hand. While the 2C opener has only 18 HCP, it’s proper when holding 8.5 sure tricks or more. The 2S reply shows eight-plus points and a five-card spade suit headed by an honor.

West plays it slowly to allow partner to continue to describe by bidding 3D. East in turn bids his second suit, clubs. While West wants to jump out of his seat, he resists and bids 4D, allowing a further description of the hand, which the 4S bid provides. Ever cautious, West checks one more time about aces, then jumps to 7D, reasonably confident of the outcome; declarer has 17 tricks available!

John Randall can be reached by e–mail at