Tino’s Bridge Corner #3

Tino Mori, Columnist

Welcome back to Tino’s Bridge Corner!

Are you ready for more?  Let’s dive in.

Quack: A queen or a jack.

When you evaluate your hand, you’re counting aces as four points, kings as three, queens as two, and jacks as one.  You can thank Charles Goren for coming up with the hand evaluation system that most of us use today.  Overall, it’s fairly intuitive.  You’re going to win more tricks with an ace than with a queen, nine times out of ten.  In fact, an ace in undervalued: in a hand of bridge, one ace is worth more than two queens.  Same applies for one king and three jacks.  The king will likely lead to more tricks than any number of jacks.   Kings and aces are slightly undervalued in Goren’s system, while queens and jacks are slightly overvalued.  So when you’re looking at your cards, keep an eye out for your quacks.  Just because they’re face cards, doesn’t mean they’re automatic winners.

But let’s be honest.  It’s just really fun to say “quacks”.

For the Neophytes


You’re sitting South, playing in 5 of clubs:

Spades: A K 9 8 2

Hearts: 3

Diamonds: Q 8 5 2

Clubs: J 8 3

Hand two:

Spades: 7

Hearts: A 7 4 2

Diamonds: K 10

Clubs: A K Q 9 4 2

West leads a low spade.  How do you make the contract?

Under most circumstances, my instinct is to draw trump.  In that case I would win with the ace of spades, and play the jack of clubs.  However, this is not the best line of play for this hand.

You see, if clubs break 3-1, you’ll have to play three rounds of trump to neutralize your opponents’ wild cards.  You’d still have three trump in your hand, which really isn’t shabby, but your hearts will be the end of you.  You have three losing hearts, which, when added to the one trick to be lost in diamonds, is a problem.

You want to draw trumps, but not immediately.  While it’s critical to eliminate opposing trumps, doing so now will cost you two trumps per round – one on table, one in your hand.  Ruffing allows you to win extra trump tricks, and therefore win the contract.  Let the cross-ruffing begin!

On trick 2, play hearts to the ace of hearts, and then play a low heart.  Because you have a snazzy void on the table, you can scoop up the trick with a low club!  Huzzah!  Now, to get back to your hand, play a low spade, and trump it in your hand.  You’re all set up to take another heart.  There’s a chance East has no more hearts and can overruff you, but it’s not likely.  If you’re skittish, win with the jack and play the king of spades, discarding your last heart on it.  Even if you’re trumped, you’ve now won the contract.

While trumping is lots of fun and gives you a rush of endorphins not unsimilar to narcotics, let it be noted that only trumping in the short hand gets you extra tricks.  This is important.  When we trumped a spade to get back to the hand, that didn’t get the declarer anything they wouldn’t have gotten anyway.  The purpose of that ruff was transportation – getting back to the hand to ruff on another heart.  There are exceptions – sometimes you can do it to establish a suit in dummy – but let’s keep it simple for now.  If you want to conjure up an extra trick, use the shorter hand.  You’ll see.

For the Intermediates


You’re sitting South and holding:

Spades: 3

Hearts: A 7 6

Diamonds: K J 9 3 2

Clubs: A J 8 4

North East South West

                        1D     1H

1S      Pass      2C   2H

2S     Pass     ?

What on earth do you do here?  Do you pass on iffy spades?  Do you go to 2NT?  Do you try for 3NT?  What’s the best option available?

Let’s do some basic math.  West has at least 13 points and at least six hearts.  If West were weak, they would have gone straight to 2 Spades.  Bidding first at the 1 level shows a desire for conversation with East – a desire to find a suit.  Alas, East cannot respond.

So if you have 13 points and West has at least 13 points, that means North and East hold less than 14 points between the two of them.  So it’s possible North has an opening hand, but probably not.  They probably just have stellar spades.

A game contract is off the table.  If you had a trump fit it might be a different story, but you don’t.  So you’re looking for a part-score contract, but which part-score contract:  2 Spades or 2NT?

You could make a case for going up to 2NT.  Honestly, I probably would bid it in a friendly match, because I like to take the occasional risk – but passing is the safe option.  2NT is a notoriously difficult contract to make, and if you can’t trust your partner to have enough support, those long hearts in the West will tear you apart.


But for the sake of a challenge question, what if you do go 2NT?  What happens then?

North East South West

                        1D     1H

1S      Pass      2C   2H

2S     Pass     2NT  Pass

Pass   Pass

Spades: A K 10 9 7 4

Hearts: 5 4

Diamonds: A 8 6

Clubs: 10 9

Lead: King of hearts

Spades: 3

Hearts: A 7 6

Diamonds: K J 9 3 2

Clubs: A J 8 4

What card do you play, and how do you conduct the hand?