Chuck Arthur

Gavin’s website

This blog entry is to let you know of Gavin Wolpert’s website. It is at

It is loaded with good information. For instance, it was the place to go get up-to-the-minute results from the World Championships recently held in Philadelphia, even while the events were in progress. I admit a certain bias since Gavin is a friend of mine. The fact that Gavin has posted a reference to this blog at his website may also influence me.

A tough defence

The game is matchpoints in a 21 table game (top was 20) on a Monday afternoon at Hazel’s Bridge Club. North deals with nobody vulnerable.




West East: John
A10962 J7
A106 KQJ9843
94 6
K73 1095
  South: Chuck  


West North East South
  1 4 Pass
Pass Pass    

The auction may be justified by explaining that East was John Cunningham. He generally pre-empts at one level higher than the field. Without giving it too much thought, I led the 5. North won the Ace and tried to cash the King. John ruffed, cashed the 9, and led the J; I covered. In time, John cashed the other high trump and knocked out the Q. North could do no better now but to cash the A. Four hearts just in.

I might have given the defence some more thought and led a club at trick 1. Then if North inserts the Jack, the rest of the defence is easy. Even if she wins the Ace, the defence is okay as long as she returns a club to set up our second club trick before the spades are set up. Even on the actual diamond lead, North might have “caught” my errant opening lead and played a club at trick 2 setting up our second club trick early enough. This however is a really tough play.

Imagine what would have happened were we playing 3rd and 5th best leads. I would have led the 7 instead of the 5. Now North would have looked around for the 5 and found it missing. She could deduce that I must have it, and that I must have led the 7 from a 4 card suit, so the second diamond is not going to cash. Now, the counterintutive play of a club at trick 2 (any club will work) is far easier.

The virtual traveller may be examined here.


Everybody plays Blackwood. A major modern improvement is to play Roman Key Card Blackwood. I believe so called “RKCB 1430” to be nearly universal; it certainly is around here. This works well enough when the agreed suit is a major. When a minor suit is destined to be trump, there is often a real danger that the response to 4nt will get us too high if we have insufficient controls.

For the past ten years or so, whenever partner is willing, I have been playing a gadget that dramatically improves my minor suit slam bidding. I am very high on this convention. We (and others) have dubbed it Minorwood: Blackwood for the minors. In certain strong auctions, a bid of 4 of the agreed minor is RKCB. This is most useful because we need the extra space afforded us by starting our keycard asking at 4 of the agreed minor rather than 4 notrump. When should 4 of a minor be Minorwood? Here are some sample auctions that I like to play as Minorwood. The opponents are silent through all of these.

  • 1 – 2 (GF); 3 – 4
  • 1 – 2 (GF); 2nt – 3 ; 4
  • 1 – 2 (inverted); 4

You and your partner may add to this list as is your preference. I believe that the following auction should NOT be minorwood: 1 – 1nt (F); 3 – 4; nor should 1 – 4♦.

The responses to Minorwood should pattern match whatever you use for RKCB 4nt, i.e. 1st step 1 or 4 keycards. 2nd step 0 or 3 keycards, etc.

The continuations are not so obvious. My way of thinking has 4nt and 5 of the agreed minor to play. If the response already confirmed or denied the Queen of trump, then the next open step should confirm that the partnership has all the keycards and the queen or trump, and be a grand slam try, ostensibly asking for specific kings up the line. If the response was ambiguous with respect to the Queen of trump, then the next open step should ask about her, and the second open step should be the grand slam try.

You may read more about Minorwood and its companion Redwood here.

 I was West when the following hand was dealt.

Dealer: East

Vul: All

West East
9 A63
A QJ864
K642 AJ1093


West North East South
    1 1
2 Pass 2 Pass
2 Pass 3 Pass
4 Pass 5 Pass
Pass Pass    

Partner and I were not on the same wavelength here. We had agreed to play Minorwood, but our convention card read simply “Some Minorwood.” I had hoped that partner would interpret my 4 diamonds as Minorwood; clearly he did not, and we missed a good slam. I think that it is most useful to play 4 diamonds as Minorwood in this auction. The same would apply if the auction had gone


West North East South
    1 1
2 Pass 2 Pass
4 etc.    



West North East South
     1  1
2    pass  2 pass 
 3  pass  4    


Partner and I have since agreed to play such auctions as Minorwood,

To view the virtual traveller, click here. We were pair 24 EW.

Safety Play

I had a call from a friend the other day. He asked me “What is the best way to play 98x opposite AQxxx?”. I thought that I knew the answer, but told him that I would run it through my (it is not really mine) Suit Play program to be sure. I did: the answer was to cash the Ace, then cross and play low to the Queen. As an interesting aside, if you add the 7, Suit Play indicates that the best line of play is to run the 9; presuming that loses to the Jack or 10, cross and run the 8.

I was playing with this same person as partner a day or so later when we were dealt the following hand at matchpoints.


I was declarer in the West seat and received received the Jack of spades as the opening lead. I won it in the dummy and took stock. There really didn’t seem to be much to this hand. If I can hold my trump losers to one, I’ll make five easily. This trump suit has an uncanny resemblance to the one discussed earlier. Unless the KJ is doubleton onside, I must lose at least one trump trick. Since the game is matchpoints, I suppose that I should play for that. I’ll be able to see whether there is any chance for that when I make my first trump play from dummy at trick two. Other that that, I think that I will first play small to the Ace as a safety play. I can then enter dummy with a spade and lead a second trump towards my (now) Qxxx. One does not usually take safety plays at matchpoints, but this one is surely indicated, at least I thought so.

The roof fell in! You can follow the play of the next few tricks by successively pressing the Next button above. North ruffed the spade at trick three, played Ace and another club; South ruffed with the King, and led another spade, scoring North’s Jack of hearts. There was still the Ace of clubs to lose. I had contrived to go down one when the hand was cold for five by simply taking the heart finesse at trick two. I had absolutely no warning of the 7-1 spade split, nor of the 6-1 club split. South had wisely not bid her seven card spade suit, nor North his six card club suit. Can I find a modicum sympathy for my line?

To see the virtual traveller, click here. I did not do as badly as I thought I was going to do.

No Blackwood 2

There was another potential slam hand that we had dealt to us. The dealer was West with nobody vulnerable.


West: Jan East: Chuck
62 A9853
AQJ87 952
K AQ103
AK852 4


West North East South
1 Pass 1 Pass
3 Pass 3 Pass
4 Pass 5 Pass
5 Pass Pass Pass


My 3 hearfs was stronger than had I bid 4 hearts. since 3 clubs created a GF. Jan might have bid 4 clubs instead of 4 hearts, but she thought that she may have overbid the hand already, so opted for a simple 4 hearts. I owed my partner a further move towards slam: I bid 5 diamonds, thinking (in my foggy brain) that I was patterning out. This was a clear cut error. We have set trumps, so we are in cuebidding mode here. Look at the hand from Jan’s perspective: with 2 small spades, she has nowhere to go, so checked out at 5 hearts. I need to bid 4 spades, my cheapest first cound control, since we are past game. The complete auction would then be


West North East South
1 Pass 1 Pass
3 Pass 3  Pass
4 Pass   4 Pass 
5 Pass 5 Pass
6 Pass Pass Pass


It is very important to cuebid first round controls up the line. Bidding slams without going through Blackwood is so much more fun.

For the complete hand record and virtual traveller, click here, then select board 8. Slam is not cold, but I think that we want to be there. It will not tolerate any ugly breaks. Any reasonable line of play works; the best line is not obvious, certainly not to me. Only 12 tricks are available, even double dummy. Kxx are in the pocket, but if we use both dummy’s trumps to pick up the K, we will not be able to ruff out the club suit.

Bidding slams without Blackwood is so much more fun.

No Blackwood 1

The following hand occurred at a matchpoint pairs at Partners Bridge Club in Toronto Sunday night. I have rotated the deal for the convenience of presentation. South was the dealer with EW vulnerable.



West North East South
Pass 2 Pass 2nt
Pass 3 Pass 3
Pass 3   Pass 4
Pass 5 Pass 5
Pass 5 Pass 7
Pass Pass Pass  


2 diamonds showed at least a king or 4 HCP. NS were playing Kokish so the 2 notrump rebid showed 22-23(24) HCP balanced. 3 clubs was garden variety Puppet Stayman; 3 diamonds showed 1 or 2 four card majors; 3 hearts showed 4 spades and not 4 hearts. 4 spades was perhaps a lazy bid, but after all, South was minimum in HCP for his bidding. 5 clubs, 5 diamonds, and 5 hearts were all cuebids. After the last of these, South paused to take stock. Suddenly, his hand took on gargantuan proportions. North had very poor trumps, yet was willing to initiate a slam try. No wonder since she apparently held 2 aces. South knew that these 2 aces were both opposite kings in the other hand. If North only held 2 aces and no other high cards, it would not be enough for a grand slam. If partner happened to have a spare queen to go along with her 2 aces, ghe grand slam was probably cold, unless she had Qx. On the other hand, there was apparently no way that South could convince partner that she need not worry about trump quality. Enough stewing: South simply bid the grand slam. Does anybody out there have any suggestions?

I get the sense that many players think that a slam doesn’t count if they do not go through Blackwood. As a matter of honour, NS like to avoid Blackwood when bidding slams.

13 tricks were cold since no splits were truly ugly. Tumps broke 4-1, but that was only a minor annoyance. 13 tricks were were even available in notrump due to a squeeze that developed, but playing the slam in spades was clearly superior. To see the virtual traveller and hand record, click here and look at board 25.


If you played at Hazel’s yesterday, you came across this hand. You hold in second seat, vulnerable against not


West East


West North East South
  Pass ??  


Do you bid? If so, what? Would it make any difference if the colours were different, or in what position you were sitting?

The Bald Man and the Fly

Throughout this article, certain  words or phrases appear in blue. This indicates a hot link, at least that is what I call them. If you move your mouse over such a field, the pointer changes from an arrow to a hand pointer. As well, assuming that I have given the hot link a title, a small window will pop up identifying the title of the link. Clicking your mouse while in such a field causes a display of certain background information that I deem relevant and appropriate. To return to the main text of this article, hit the browser Back button. I use Internet Explorer as my defaul browser; the technique may vary slightly if you use another browser.

During the recent Toronto Regional bridge tournament, Vince Oddy, my favorite vendor of bridge books and supplies, as usual, had a table displaying his wares. One of his specials was the book Bridge Hands to Make You Laugh … and Cry by David Bird and Nikos Sarantakos. The first author in particular caught my attention. for $5.00 I could not resist; I bought the book; I was not disappointed. The very first deal tickled my fancy, partially because of its nostalgic value.


North was Norman Kay, South, Edgar Kaplan, both now deceased. Norman at that time was married to (the now) Judy Kay-Wolff, fellow blogger and oft time commenter on this blog. The deal arose during the 1968 Olympiad Egypt versus USA match. Negative doubles had not yet gained worldwide acceptance, so West’s double was for penalties. This action seems questionable holding 4 card support for East’s first bid suit. East was not obligated to sit for the double; in fact, he may well have removed it, holding a void in trumps. Follow the play if you wish by successively pressing the Next button immediately above. By trying to cash a second club at trick 3, East was probably relying on his sense that partner would not have made a penalty double holding 4 of his first bid suit. The short story is that Edgar made 1 doubled for +160.

In the other room, a slightly different scenario unfolded.

West North East South
Pass Pass 1  Dble
1 Pass 2 Pass
3 Pass 5 Pass
Pass Pass    


For the USA, West was Bill Root; East was Al Roth, the inventor of the Negative Double convention, called Sputnik in the early days. Playing South for Egypt was a handsome gentleman with a crowd of kibitzers named… you guessed it… Omar Sharif. At this table, the penalty double (or lack thereof… I assume that Roth – Root were playing negative doubles) never came into play since Sharif doubled and Root for the USA bid spades first. Roth – Root bid easily to the club game; 3 notrump was a sound alternative. Sharif led the King to dummy’s Ace, as East discarded a heart from hand. Dummy led the 9; North split his honours. Eventually, Roth scored 11 tricks, even misguessing trumps. So the +400 in this room was added to the +160 in the other room to give the Americans 11 IMPs.

The deal appears in the chapter The Bald Man and the Fly. This is the title of one of Aesop’s fables. To know the context, read the text behind the hot link. That heading works just fine. I might add a couple of my own old saws:

  • A-void defending with a void in trumps
  • Be particularly wary of issuing a penalty double with good support for partner’s suit


This may not be a classic MSC type problem since I do not give you your hand. Nevertheless I solicit your thoughts.

I found the following auction posed by Bob Gray of some interest

West North East South
1 1 pass pass
1nt pass ??  


EW are playing 1 notrump opening 15-17 HCP. I hope that we all agree that 1 notrump by West shows 18-19 HCP with some semblance of a spade stopper or two. Even if you play weak notrump openings so that the balancing 1nt need only be 15+ or so, these questions still apply. What do bids mean at the ?? by East? Should systems (Stayman, transfers) be on? Have you discussed this with your partners? If you have not discussed it with this particular West, are there any macro agreements that can assist?

Don’t let them see you sweat

This was deal 26 from Thursday afternoon, March 25, at Hazel’s Bridge Club 


Opening the bidding 4 hearts may not be to everybody’s taste, but that is what happened. You can follow the play, trick by trick, by successively hitting the Next button immediately above. The opening lead was a trump. Declarer finished drawing trump discarding two small spades from dummy, then led a diamond. West won and led a spade, 10 from dummy, Queen and small; East returned a spade to dummy’s now singleton Ace. South returned to hand by ruffing a diamond, crossed to dummy with a high club and ruffed another diamond. There are not quite enough entries in dummy to ruff out the diamond suit and still cash the long diamond, but at least the diamond guard has been isolated. Declarer played his second last trump; West safely could discard a small club. At trick 11, when declarer played his last trump, West was done; she groaned loud and long. There was a kibitzer at the table (he was watching North); she showed him her hand and asked “What can I do?”. Declarer said somewhat sardonically that he was our coach, not her’s. He of course kept a straight face and said nothing. Declarer could have claimed but he somewhat sadistically enjoyed watching West’s discomfit. She finally discarded a club and South took the remainder. Declarer did not need the Jack of clubs; East could just as well started with J765 and South with 32. West had the lone diamond guard; East had the lone spade guard; nobody could guard clubs. This was just your everyday double squeeze.

The virtual traveller is available at

My advice: don’t let them see you sweat. When you know that you are being squeezed, discard happily and confidently. Declarer might go wrong.