Mike’s Advice


Bridge offers all kinds of problems. You can be sitting quietly, playing sound cards, when all of a sudden something comes along that does not fit any of your methods.

Hand one

♠ J 8 7
Q 7 6

♣ J 8 3

West North East South
3 Pass Pass

Sitting West, you have a balancing decision. Do you or don’t you and if you do ‘do’, what will it be?

It is easy to imagine hands that you would like partner to have. Here is an important example where you find East with a meaningful fifteen-count.

West East
♠ J 8 7 6 5 4 ♠ A 10 3
Q 7 6 A 10 5
K J 9 6
♣ J 8 3 ♣ K 7 4

If partner has this hand, it looks like you might make 3♠. But you might not. You will lose at least one spade (two is possible), a heart or two, and two or three clubs.

If you are to make 3♠, you will definitely need some luck.

The next question is how to reach 3♠. If you bid 3♠, will your partner know to pass? Might he not think that you had more than one queen and two jacks? I would expect East to venture 3NT or 4♠. He has, after all, a strong notrump hand with two diamond stoppers and a fit for your suit.

Best in practice, and probably in theory too, is for West to pass. 3 will go down a trick or two, which is not going to feel like a triumph until you note that your side is a favorite to go minus if you play the hand yourself. Incidentally, if you set it two tricks for plus 100, you should not start thinking of reasons why someone should have doubled 3. East can’t double since that would be a takeout double and West can’t double because that would also be takeout, showing takeout shape. Even though West would be making a balancing double, he would be expected to have at least nine or 10 high-card points (he has four) and support for three suits.

The point of this hand is to learn that there will be times when you think you can make something but you won’t be able to stop in time to enjoy it.

One last important point. If East had a better hand than this one, he would usually bid over 3. This hints that the hand East has is a maximum under the circumstances.

Hand Two

♠ K 9 7 6 3
K J 8 6 3
A 7 3
♣ —

West North East South
1♠ 3* 4♣ Pass

* Weak jump overcall

Books on bridge do not give you hands like this to bid and most bridge magazines don’t bother with questions like this because they realize that for the moment, chaos has arrived and rules go out the window. If they did put it into a bidding quiz, the answers would be all over the place, many of them starting with, “Who dealt this mess?”

You have two choices, really.

You can rebid your spades for one, hoping that partner has a couple of them, and then, if you bid 4♠, you have to sweat while your partner starts reaching into the bidding box for his next bid. You won’t like it, whatever it is. Also, if you get lucky and your partner passes, you then have to sweat as South thinks about what he should do, one of the things he is thinking about likely being whether to double.

Your second choice is to pass. This bid is socially unacceptable but it is probably best. You have gotten by South and if you pass, it is unlikely that North will bid again. This way you put your dummy down and listen to the tenor of your partner’s ‘thank you’.

This is a big position, but a practical one. It is not something you want to make a habit of doing.

Partner’s hand?

♠ A
Q J 8 4
♣ K Q J 8 7 6 4

What contract do you want to play in with these cards? 3X comes to mind but as they say, “You can’t get there from here.”