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Daily Bridge in New Zealand

Jan Cormack.

How High on Jan’s Day?

Today’s "Jan’s Day" article features a classic “how high do you pre-empt” situation. Before we see the winning answer, we checked with our Panel some 45 years after the problem occurred.

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Q 10 2
Q 9 8 6 5 2
7 5 2
West North East South
1  Pass 1  2 
4  ?    


The opposition are looking for slam. 4Club-small shows first or second round control in clubs and agrees spades. East-West alone are vulnerable and you are playing Pairs.

Let’s start low:

Stephen Blackstock “4Heart-small: I would rather partner made the decision whether or not to save. They may not make 4Spade-small, and we may be -800 at the five level. It will probably be difficult for South to judge also, but it would be wrong for me to take unilateral action at this point.”

The majority went a little higher taking away some of their bidding space:

Michael Cornell “5Heart-small: takes away Key Card and cues and unlikely to be more than 500 in any case. We may have good defence, probable spade trick and the diamonds are not breaking. So, I am not doing anymore.

Partner knows I have a weak hand with long hearts advance-diving over 4Spade-small. So, any additional moves can come from him. (if he has top hearts, he should not expect to cash even one)”

Pam Livingston “5Heart-small: A half- way house bid.  We could make or won't be off by much.  They have to guess what to do.”

Michael Ware “5Heart-small: Likely bidding 6Heart-small over 5Spade-small. I can't see a way to involve partner sensibly in making a decision so dive (could easily make) now to take away their room.”

So, Michael may go higher but not so Bruce:

Bruce Anderson “5Heart-small: perhaps our opponents can make a small slam, or even a grand, but at this point, I am content to take up sufficient bidding space to stop cue bidding and/or RKC. Possibly 6Spade-small is going down as partner has a trick outside hearts and I have a trump trick. For that reason, I am not pre-empting to a higher level.”

Nigel Kearney “5Heart-small: We are going at least this high so may as well do it immediately to make them guess. Maybe 6Heart-small is a decent save against a making 5Spade-small but I don't have to decide that myself. Partner may or may not have defensive tricks and my 5Heart-small paints a decent picture and puts him in the best position to take any further action if necessary.”

Matt Brown “5Heart-small: Instinctively this feels enough to me. We obviously want to sacrifice over 4Spade-small, but have no idea what they can make above that with my Spade-small QTx  and partner having overcalled. Going higher could just result in us being doubled for more than their vul game, which is a small victory even if they do have slam available, or pushing them to slam and it being cold.”


Peter Newell “6Heart-small: General principle is to take up space and make them guess. I have my doubts about them making 6Spade-small since we probably have a trump trick, and partner may have a club or diamond trick, and possibly but unlikely a heart trick.  I would have expected that West would splinter in hearts rather than bid 4Club-small. Possibly they have 2 small and East a void, or maybe they have a good club control and want to see if partner can cue 4Diamond-small

 Anyway, take away room. 4Spade-small seems very likely to make and probably 5Spade-small. So, 6Heart-small will usually be a good dive and will make it hard for them to judge whether to bid 6Spade-small. I’m kind of hoping to push them there though it will make at times. By bidding 5Heart-small, East has more room…and West if East passes or doubles.”

It would be an interesting debate between former partners, Stephen Blackstock and Peter Newell. Let’s see who won the day at the table:

Bridging with Jan Cormack

“Down Two to Sharif and Belladonna

Omar Sharif is a name which conjures up a vision of romance and excitement. He is not only a famous film-star and the idol of millions of film-goers but also a brilliant bridge-player. He devotes six months of the year to acting and six months to indulging his passion for the game of bridge.

A few years ago, I was lucky enough not only to meet him but also to play bridge against him and Giorgio Belladonna. You can imagine how my knees were knocking at the thought of playing against this celebrated pair. Giorgio Belladonna is recognised as one of the world’s top bridge players.

An Auckland Women’s team was invited to a Sydney congress at which a team with Omar Sharif would be featured. In a Pairs event which preceded the Teams, I was partnered by Robert Jacobs, our non-playing captain, and our first boards were against Sharif and Belladonna.

After my blurred vision had cleared enough for me to focus on the cards and I had sorted my seven suits into four, I found as South I held the following:

Spade-small 7  Heart-small AKT74  Diamond-small 9542  Club-small KQ9

East-West were vulnerable and with West the dealer, the bidding proceeded:

West              North            East                South

1Diamond-small                   Pass             1Spade-small                   2Heart-small

4Club-small                   6Heart-small                   x                   All Pass

4Club-small was explained as a general slam probe, agreeing spades and promising first or second round control in clubs.

Belladonna, East, thought a long time before doubling 6Heart-small. As he explained later, he knew that we realized that an attacking lead was required to beat 6Spade-small and that to try and cash a top heart would be futile. These were the four hands:

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


West led Spade-smallA and then Diamond-smallK, overtaken by East’s ace. East exited Diamond-smallJ.

When I led a club from dummy, East split his JT thus enabling me to hold my club losers to one, “down two” -300, conceding one spade, one diamond and one club.

As can be seen, if an initial high club is led against 6Spade-small, it automatically defeats the contract though were a heart led initially, East would then have the timing to discard his losing clubs on the long diamonds.

high level.jpg

The winner

Robert’s 6Heart-small bid was highly praised by the masters and earned us a top board.”

So, Robert Jacobs, back in the mid 1970’s and Peter Newell, in 2021, found the winning bid. Robert is alive and well these days in Auckland but not playing bridge. Jan’s partner in Sydney was Bebe Simpson who was unwell at the time of the Pairs. That was why the npc got to have a game.

For Less Experienced Players

It’s a play hand for tomorrow. You reach 3NT without too much difficulty.

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


2NT showed a balanced 18-19 enabling North to raise comfortably to game. West led Diamond-smallJ and despite a slightly dangerous opening lead, there seemed plenty of potential for tricks.

South ducked the opening lead with West producing Diamond-small10 next, East Diamond-smallQ. Plan the play.

Richard Solomon


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