Analysis by John Jones
Hand 1 – The double dummy analysis shows that North/South can make 6H or 6D. Only massive overbidders will get close to a slam. It is possible to pass the hands out. Would I open the North hand in first chair? No! I normally open most hands with 12 HCP. With 11 HCP I open if the hand is unbalanced with a reasonable 5-card suit headed by the A, K or Q. I tend not to open 5332 11 HCP, but tend to open 5422 11 HCPs. I would make an exception for this hand though. Opening marginal hands with horrible suits is losing bridge. This hand has: no aces, no connecting honors, a horrible suit, and only 11 HCP. Its best to use judgement and pass. Even if the hand is opened the likely resulting contract will be 3D. If North sensibly passes in first seat, South might open in 3rd seat. Then North will respond 1S, South will rebid 2D, North will raise to 3D, and that will end the auction. With diamonds 2-2 and hearts 3-3, 12 tricks will be easy.
Hand 2 – Holding a combined 9 trumps and 25 HCP, North/South will get to 4S at many tables. East opening a strong NT might deter getting to game, or even getting into the auction. Defending 1NT and taking 8 or 9 tricks before East can get in will be good. If North declares 4S, East should lead the DA, the longer of the AKx combinations. UDCA signalers should signal with the D4. This is an attitude, not a count position. East can’t possibly tell the difference between two diamonds and four diamonds, so only encourage with a doubleton. East will follow with the KC and AC at tricks 2 and 3 before hoping the DK will cash at trick 4.
Hand 3 – Again South has an 11 HCP that doesn’t come close to a reasonable opening bid except for those that count their points with an abacus. West will open 1C and North will overcall 1H. East should pass, South can cuebid 2C to show a limit raise and a 2H rebid by North will end the auction. The 4-1 heart break and the spade suit sitting horribly will normally prevent an eight trick for down one.
Hand 4 – The double dummy analysis shows that East/West make 3 different grand slams, but the most frequent contract will be 4S. West makes 7 by using the rule of restricted choice to guess diamond after the stiff Q falls on the first round of the suit.
Hand 5 – 6H by East/West should be reachable. After East opens 1H, West can either respond 1S before giving a strong heart raise, or can splinter with 4D immediately. East should force to 6H on either sequence.
Hand 6 – East will open 1D. South might make a very light overcall of 1S at favorable vulnerability. If 1S is overcalled then West makes a negative double. If that sequence begins the auction then the East hand skyrockets in value with 4-card support for hearts and a void in the overcalled suit. A 3S splinter might even be possible, but at least a 3H call is in order. West should drive the hand thereafter and reach at least 6H. If South declines to overcall (which actually helps the opponents) then East must decide on how many hearts to rebid after West responds 1H. 3H by East looks right, after which West should cuebid 4C. East will cuebid 4D, West might try to signoff in 4H, but with a useful void, East should carryon and 6H should be reached.
Hand 7 – The deal will start 1S Pass 2S Dbl at most tables and then gets tactical. South may elect to block with a 3S bid. If that is the case West might pass or double. North will pass, and East will double again. This double isn’t penalties. Since the first double was takeout, the second double is takeout with extra values. West now has a wide range of possibilities: pass and convert the double to penalties, bid 4C, or bid 4D. At all red, the best vulnerability for defending (as opposed to declaring), pass seems reasonable. The defense has 5 top tricks, but can generate an extra down trick by playing three rounds of hearts to score the jack of trumps. If South elects not to block after opening 1S, West will select between 2C and 2D. A tip here is to select the higher suit (diamonds) first so that if you need to bid again you can bid the lower suit (clubs in this case) and give partner a choice.
Hand 8 – The auction will frequently go: Pass Pass 1D dbl 1S Pass 2S Pass Pass Pass. South will likely lead the HK. It is good technique for West to duck an early heart in order to time the hand so that heart ruffs are easier after drawing two rounds of trumps. If South shifts to a club, declarer’s life is easy. But if South guesses to shift to a diamond declarer will likely take the losing finesse and have to play well to make. However, the key play of having ducked the early heart will bring declarer home even with the diamond finesse losing. That is because South can’t get in again. Declarer will win the second diamond, work on clubs, cash the HA, draw two rounds of trumps, ruff hearts in dummy and will eventually breathe a sigh of relief as eight tricks prove available.
Hand 9 – Passes by North and West will lead to the first decision of the hand. Does South open a normal 1D or a great 4-card major with the minimum opening bid. 1D will likely get West to overcall 1NT, but a 1S opener will likely get West to make a takeout (better than a 2D overcall). North is likely to raise to 2S in either case. It doesn’t matter how the defense proceeds or whether E/W take their heart tricks or not, the tricks don’t go away. Making four.
Hand 10 – East and South will pass leaving West a choice of calls: Pass, 1S or 2S. If West opens light with 1S or makes a 3rd seat 5-card weak two bid, North has 13 HCP but no rational bid. However, if the auction goes Pass Pass 1S Pass 2S Pass Pass, North can back in with a 2NT bid showing two places to play. The intention would be to correct 3C to 3D showing both red suits. With South advancing 3D though, North will pass happily.
Hand 11 – North/South make 6S or 6H on this board, but again, no rational pair will get close. A normal auction is for South to open 1S and North to respond 2D before later supporting spades and resting in 4S. The timing of the play of the hand might be a tad tricky on the DQ lead, but with 3-2 spades, the SQ dropping short, and both missing club honors onside, 12 tricks should be made.
Hand 12 – It looks as if 6H by East/West is on a heart finesse, but not so fast. Hearts are visiting Hawaii, Five-O! North will come to two trump tricks in addition to South’s SA. A very unlucky hand for pairs who reach the 5-level on a slam investigation.
Hand 13 – After North passes East should open a 15 – 17 1NT if the pair is playing strong NTs. A quick 3NT by West will close the auction. Weak NT pairs might get to 3NT via 1D by East , 3C invitational by West, 3NT by East. With diamonds breaking but clubs not cooperating 9 tricks is all there is available on a major suit lead.
Hand 14 – After three passes someone will surely quote Frank Varga, “You must be a billionaire”. The billionaire will open 1NT which will end the auction. A spade lead with repeated diamond finesses will yield eight tricks for declarer. The hand analyzer shows nine tricks are available, but that requires utilizing the miracle club position and timing the hand well too. I doubt anyone will dream of playing the hand on that line.
Hand 15 – South will open the bidding and North/South will probably play 3NT, otherwise 5 of a minor. The hand analysis shows 11 tricks are possible. True, but you need to know the layout of both minor suits to make 11 tricks. A more realistic line will be to win the second heart and take a club finesse. When the finesse loses, East/West should be able to avoid blocking the heart suit for down one.
Hand 16 – I expect East/West will score +650 at many tables. With West declaring 4S, the opening lead will frequently be a low diamond or the HJ. Declarer will score six spades, three hearts and two diamonds. Should someone underlead the CA at trick one? Call the director, we may need an ethics committee.
Hand 17 – North will pass in 1st chair and East can open 2NT with an off-shape hand with a singleton ace, or alternatively open 1C and hope partner responds. The 1C openers will hear double pass 1S and have to consider how aggressively they wish battle with their side suit now picked off. If East/West declares, it will likely be in hearts, while if North/South declares in will likely be in spades. Spades will routinely yield 8 tricks, but the variations on the play and defense of a heart contract are complex.
Hand 18 – 4S is perfectly makeable, but many players will go down. A lead of the unbid club suit sets up the club trick for the defense. To make 4S, declarer will need to resist the temptation of trying the heart finesse to pitch the losing club. Instead, leading a spade towards dummy and ducking a spade on the way back will lead declarer to the winning line of later resisting the diamond finesse and instead leading a low diamond towards the jack.
Hand 19 – South will pass and West will open 2H. After two passes, South will have a choice of passing 2H, reopening with a passed hand takeout double, or bidding 2S. 2S is a poor bid, if you are going to reopen, double has the most flexibility and the highest ceiling (if partner passes). 2S will probably go down three, but double will get partner to convert the double and defend 2Hx for down a trick if the spade ruff is found.
Hand 20 – South will open 1H in 4th seat and North will respond 1S. South can now pass, rebid 1NT, or raise to 2S. Passing seems right opposite a passed partner. The friendly layout should yield 10 tricks in spades.
Hand 21 – West will open 1C in 2nd chair. East should respond 1D, not 1NT. West can now rebid 1H. In the 2/1 GF style this shows an unbalanced hand, or at least heavily concentrated suits. West can pass 1H, its not forcing since East didn’t jump. If 1H is passed out South needs to consider the opening lead. Auctions that end at a low level with dummy haven taken a preference dictate a trump lead. However, many Souths might decide to lead a diamond from AKQx anyway. Regardless, 1H should be made even if declarer misguesses the club layout.
Hand 22 – East/West will probably arrive in 4H, likely after East opens 1NT and West bids Stayman. The contract will make either 4 or 5 depending on whether declarer guesses the ten of hearts. The lines of starting hearts with a low heart towards the dummy (playing North for the trump ten) versus a low heart towards declarer’s hand are equally good. But declarer is likely to be in hand after the opening lead, so most will lead a heart to the dummy and guess the ten of trumps to make 5.
Hand 23 – North/South make 6C on this deal and might get there. North will open 1C in 3rd seat and West will overcall 1S. South will make a negative double and North should reverse into 2D. If North jumps to 4C to show a big club fit, the slam might be reached.
Hand 24 – West will open 1H and two passes will precede a 1S balancing overcall by North. West can now continue with either 2H or 2D. 2D doesn’t work well in this instance, but it is normally best in the long run to get the second suit in, After West rebids 2D or 2H, South has to chose a bid. 2NT, double, and passing again are the logical choices. The paths of the possible auctions are rather diverse at this point, but if South elects to defend the matchpoint scores will tend to be higher.
Hand 25 – The contract will frequently be 3NT by West. The auction might well be 1D – 1NT – 2NT (showing 18 or 19 HCP) – 3NT. The opening lead will likely be the SJ. Declarer has 9 easy tricks by playing on clubs unless clubs break 5-1. So declarer wins the opening spade and plays clubs immediately. The 5-1 club break costs declarer a trick, but the 3-3 heart break gets the ninth trick back.
Hand 26 – The auctions will be a little different depending on East/West bidding methods. If the pair is playing invitational jump shifts at the 3-level, then 1S – 3H – 4H will be the auction. Another possibility is 1S – 1NT – 2D – 3H – 4H. Whether the contract makes or is defeated depends on the opening lead. A low diamond will let the defenders take the first three tricks and wait for a club to set the contract. But the lead of any other suit will allow declarer to play dummy’s SA and pitch a losing diamond. Aggressive opening leads are very under rated.
Hand 27 – This hand is a spade/heart fight between North/South and East/West. West will open 1D and North will overcall 1S. Thereafter auctions will diverge depending on West’s action. A negative double, a 2/1 in hearts and jumping to 4H are all possible. 4H is a great descriptive bid If the partnership plays it as natural. South should not be shutout regardless. It is important to make the bid in that establishes a fit for your side. So even if West bids 4H, South should bid 4S. Either side might compete to the 5-level, and either side might get doubled when they get there. But 11 tricks are easy in either contract, so the declaring side wins on this deal.