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Play, Defence even Bid for Newer Players


There are times when you want to be in 5 of a minor as opposed to 3NT. When one player is very short in a side-suit, and there partner has only one hold in that suit, maybe a doubtful hold at that, then 5 of a minor may not only be a safer contract but may be the only making game.

However, if both hands are relatively balanced, and especially if you are playing Pairs, then if 3NT is a possible making contract, that is the place you want to be. If both 5Club-small and 3NT make, you normally will be better off in the no-trump game where just one overtrick scores you an extra 30 points. The minor suit overtrick is only worth 20. If you score two overtricks in 5 of a minor, you will often be regretting not bidding a small slam.

Playing Teams, the final 5Diamond-small contract on the following board would not have been a disaster for the declaring side, a loss of a couple of imps, on a really bad day even 3 imps. However, Pairs was the name of the game and 5Diamond-small was no great place to be

North Deals
N-S Vul
K 3
A 9 3 2
A 4
K Q 8 5 2
8 7 6
K 10 6 5
J 10 2
A 10 4
W   E
J 10 5 4 2
Q J 8
7 5
J 7 6
A Q 9
7 4
K Q 9 8 6 3
9 3
West North East South
  1  Pass 1 
Pass 1  Pass 2 
Pass 3  Pass 5 
All pass      


Let’s see what is wrong with the above auction. All was fine until South bid 2Diamond-small. There is a saying “one two, that will do” meaning that when you rebid your suit as responder at the two level, your partner, who should not have more than 16 high card points (they only bid 1Heart-small, not 2Heart-small to show a stronger hand), should pass.

So, South should have bid 3Diamond-small at their second bid, 10-12 hcp with 6 diamonds. North would then bid 3NT.

With a maximum and a potentially useful diamond holding, North did well to ignore the saying and bid 3Diamond-small. South made up for their previous under-bid by jumping to game, but the wrong game. Look at South’s spade cards, the unbid suit. Surely, if 5Diamond-small could be made, then so could 3NT, with a good chance for overtricks?

The play

Thus, it proved. West led a top of nothing Spade-small8 lead against 5Diamond-small. Declarer won in dummy, played Diamond-smallA and two more rounds of diamonds. The Club-small9 followed which was won by West’s ace. South’s heart loser disappeared on the Club-smallKQ meaning South scored 620…


the best defensive lead West could make against 3NT would be the Heart-small5. Declarer can win with Heart-smallA and play six rounds of diamonds and three rounds of spades before leading a club. Even if the defence took the last three tricks, South would score 630, subtly better than the 620 from 5Diamond-small. Any other initial lead from West will give South an even bigger score. At the table, some declarers even made 12 tricks in no trumps, +690.

So often, you want to be in 3NT rather than 5 of a minor, especially when you have holds in every suit….and sometimes too when you do not! The opponents may not discover your weakness until too late!

Richard Solomon

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