Tuesday, June 1, 2010


In his April, 2010 BULLETIN article, Zeke Jabbour wrote about using 4S to show 4-4 or 5-4 in the minors to get to a good slam in a minor when NT is questionable. This works if you use TEXAS but I've never been sold on TEXAS. 1NT-p-4H sounds too much like a sign off, especially if you play with different partners. ONE DISASTER CAN NEVER BE RECOVERED, no matter how many boards you play. In any case Zeke's problem hand is easily handled with a SPADEWOOD 2S. He holds: KT86 A97 A975 A6. His pard holds A5 T65 KQJT KQJT. Most pairs would raise to 4NT and pard would pass. End of story. His pard bid 4S to show the minor suit hand. With a good fit and key cards he bids 6D and makes. What if pard had the SQ and the HQ instead of the SA and HT. Now nothing makes and we would never hear about Zekes toy. I respectfully suggest it is important to 1. find out if you are in the slam range. 2. Do you have ALL the aces. 3. Is there a GOOD 4-4 fit. If so bid the slam! Here, Over 1NT pard bids 2S, opener bids 2NT, minimum. Now pard bids 3C, asks for Aces. Opener has 3 and bids 3NT to show them. (3D=0, etc.) Now you know you have 31 HCP, ALL the Aces and you start bidding your suits. In this case, 4C. Opener bids 4D to deny clubs and show his diamond suit. BINGO, a fit is found and 6D is bid. No guarantees but it is a good contract and it is lots of FUN!

I appreciate your comments. HAPPY BRIDGING, SPADEWOOD.

Friday, April 16, 2010


Greetings to my followers and friends. I made my annual trek back to NY on Feb 16-18. The trip was uneventful. Spent a nice weekend in our apartment and on Monday, Feb 22 I had a major heart attack. I ended up in Newark-Wayne hospital for two nights of diagnosis and stabilization, then was transferred to Rochester General Hospital for surgery. On Thursday I had angioplasty and 5 stents were inserted. I had two blocked arteries and one almost blocked. The stents were sucessful and blood flow was resumed. Tests indicate there was damage to the heart and it was running at about half speed. But I am still alive. My cardiologist said I looked better in person than I did on paper. In addition my kidneys are approaching need for dialysis but so far I have avoided that. While in the hospital a severe diabetic ulcer was found on my foot and a golf ball hunk of flesh was removed. I was in RGH for 9 nights during which there was a blizzard. Julie could not travel back and forth and she stayed with me and slept on a chair. What a girl! After the hospital stay we remained at home mostly in recovery. I am doing well. I start hyperbaric oxygen therapy on Monday. This will continue daily for 20 to 40 days of treatment. I continue to see doctors each week, It seems like one every day. Not much time for blogs but here I go again.

I had promised some of my friends I would explain the convention I call SPADEWOOD. My wife and I have been playing this for many years and while sucesses are few, the principles are in use on almost every NT deal. The convention is designed to get to makable balanced hand slams in the 31 to 32 HCP range. Not quite enough to be safely in 6NT but you feel slam is possible.

Let me say right up front, I do not like the GERBER convention. It is misused far more often than it is correctly used. In fact when my opponents use GERBER I usually can count on a good board. There is always some way to misinterpret the bids. At a recent local duplicate my opponents bid 1C- 3C, a limit raise. Now comes 4C, announced as GERBER. After 4H showing one ace, opener finds he has no way to sign off in 5C. Yeow! They proceed to 6C, down one. A top for me but I just shake my head. People will not listen. I make every effort to NOT PLAY GERBER AT ALL. But some partners talk me into it with reassurance that it is only used in 1NT and 2NT auctions. I still hate it and avoid it if possible.

If you dont play GERBER you need some way to ask for aces. Blackwood still works but now you lose the QUANTITAVE raise to 4NT. Not a great loss in my opinion, but SPADEWOOD effectively replaces BLACKWOOD, GERBER and QUANTITIVE NOTRUMP RAISES. I should also say I like a 15-18 1NT opening. The extra range can be handled and it gived credibility to all other NT ranges. NUFF SAID!

We open 1NT with 15-18 hcp and play Stayman and Jacoby transfers to H and S. 2NT becomes a transfer to 3C either a pass if weak or bids at the three level to show various holdings. Now, 2S is availible as an ASKING BID FOR SIZE and if a maximum, Aces are shown as 3C=0, 3D=1, etc.
With minimum, 15-16 HCP, opener bids 2NT which can be passed. This is equal to an old fashioned raise to 2NT, which opener passes with 15-16 HCP. After opener bids 2NT in response to 2S, responder can bid 3C which is ace asking, like GERBER except at a level lower.

My theory, which has no scientific basis, is that 31-32 HCP will often produce slam if ALL THE ACES ARE HELD and a good 4-4 fit is found. So, the procedure is to first determine if you have the required HCP, then check to see if all the aces are held, THEN look for a good 4-4 fit. If none is found, sign off at the cheapest NT level availible. This will usually be at a lower level than other bidders in the room. An example hand is in order.

You hold SA94 HK95 DQT63 CAK2. Pard opens 1NT (15-17). What is your bid?
Frank Stewart in his classic book "Becoming a Bridge Expert" says, bid 4NT, quantitative. Sounds good to me. I expect Pard will pass with 15, bid 6NT with 17 and look hard at 16HCP. What does the raise to 4NT show? Yes, about 16, but what do you do with 17? You probably blast 6NT and expect to make it most of the time. Not very scientific, eh.
Well Pard holds SK82 HA7 DAKJ4 CJ863. According to Frank he bids 6NT, I would too and finds he can only make 11 tricks. Frank suggests opener start looking for 6 of a minor by bidding 5C. Responder bids 5D, the opener raise to 6D. Makes 6. Ye Haw! Ride em cowboy. I would not dream of bidding a J high suit to suggest 6 of a minor. My minimum is QTxx or better.

Using SPADEWOOD the bidding goes
1NT(15-18) p 2S* p *SPADEWOOD
2NT(15-16) p 3C* p *Ace asking.
3S*(2 Aces) p 4D*(we have all the aces-natural bid)
6D*(good 4 card D support)

There is lots you can do in this auction. You can continue looking for a 4-4 fit til one is found or sign off at a minimum NT. If you are missing an ace (or two) you can sign off at 3NT, not 4NT as you would with GERBER.

Thanks for reading my blog. Feel free to make any comments. Ill try to keep up with timely posts. Best Regards and Happy Bridging. SPADEWOOD.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Another WTB with good lessons

Another fun hand. I was doubled after opening 2S and MADE IT. Yeoww! With RHO opening 2S you hold S-A2 H-KT42 D-KQ5 C-A543. You have plenty of juice to double with 16 hcp and 4 hearts and support in both minors. LHO passes and your pard holds QJ43 Q83 7654 J4.
He is in a pickle! The alternatives are pass, 2NT, and 3D(as a sign off). 2NT as a natural bid may lead to more troubles. 3D shows a much better hand and is a poor alternate. Actually 3H has some merit but I wouldn't seriously consider it. Todays modern bridge players often play Lebensohl in this situation. 2NT becomes a transfer to 3C which can be passed or to next bid 3D as a signoff. Not a bad alternative, to transfer then sign off in 3D. At least you wont get in more trouble. All these alternates have one major defect. The board is likely lost. Anything you do will likely be bad. The bid I like is the pass. With vulnerability right, opp Vul vs you NV you have a good play for a top. Now the fun begins. You have to take 6 tricks before declarer takes 8 tricks. As the doubler, what do you lead. You have 4 likely tricks. Pard probably has 2 so it should be down 1. I'd lead the DK. Thats not the killing lead but it is the RIGHT lead. For fun find the killing lead. The full hands are as follows:


The opening lead is the DK. What do you think of your chances of making this? RHO has to have a trump stack. If he has 5 trump you will be down. losing 3 trumps, 2 hearts and a club. With the more likely 4-2 break you can end play him if you reduce your trump length to the same as his. With that in mind I take the DK with the A and lead back the J of diamonds, discarding a heart. LHO wins the diamond and returns a low heart. RHO plays the Q and I take the A. I lead a low club and LHO plays the A.(If he ducks, I pitch a heart on the good diamond.) He cashes the HK and leads a heart. I pitch a club, then lead the S9 and run it. LHO wins the A and leads a diamond. I ruff it, lead a club to the K. We are at the 9th trick. I have 5 tricks, they have 4 tricks. I lead a diamond and trump it. I then lead the ST, won by RHO SJ and he concedes the last two tricks, for making two. An earlier switch to clubs would have ruined the timing for the end play.

Did you find the killing defense? Try leading CA and another on opening lead. Then lead a third round for a ruff when in with the SA. Easy game this bridge.

More blogs to come as I get the mood. Thanks for reading. Happy Bridging. SPADEWOOD.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


This hand was played in Mobile at the Bridge Center. My partner and I were NS on board 3 with EW vulnerable. The opponents are competent players. Pard opens 2D and RHO holds S T3 H AJ98543 D 86 C 64. What do you bid? There are lots of points in your partners and the opponents hands. I personally require a better hand than this to overcall at the two level. I think as a minimum a 2H bid should show a sound weak two bid and a good six card suit. Here the suit quality is covered but the strength is low. I would just pass, expecting to bid later. Anyhow RHO bids 2H! I am faced with a decision holding QT76 T4 KT763 Q5. Pard has bid 2D, RHO overcalled 2H and I bid 5D. I think this places maximum pressure on LHO who I expect to have a terrific hand. He now bids 6H and RHO blanches. We all pass and I lead my fourth best diamond. The whole hand is this: Board 3 EW vul, N dealer: bidding is 2D 2H 5D 6H all pass.


Declarer ruffs the opening lead of the 4 of diamonds. He cashes the HK, plays S AK and leads a low spade from dummy. Pard ruffs with the HQ and declarer overruffs. He then draws the outstanding trump and claims 7 by establishing the 5th spade for his diamond loser. Pards uppercut is essential if I hold the HJ instead of the HT.

I dont know how the bidding will go if RHO passes instead of overcalling 2H. I will bid 5D anyway and LHO will double. RHO may then bid 5H and LHO will raise to 6H for the same result. Most pairs reached 6H making.

More fun hands to follow as I continue to review the ACBL convention card, We'll continue to discuss responses to NT openings and what to do over interference.

In the meanwhile, Happy Bridging and thanks for reading. SPADEWOOD.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Avoiding an impossible 3NT

Playing today in the local duplicate with a new partner. We had not played together before. I suggested "Yellow Card" and she was not familar with that. I said Standard American then with 15-17 no trumps, WTB and strong jump responses. I hate WJR, they usually lead to problems for the bidding side and eliminate a valuable tool for slam bidding. Anyway, our opponents were strong players and with us vulnerable held the following. S Q87 H AK3 D T4 C AKJT2. I routinely open this 1NT. If I open 1C and pard responds ANYTHING at the one level I have no adequate rebid. My NT bid is made despite the weak doubleton. LHO passes and pard bids 2C Stayman. RHO sticks in a 2D overcall and I have to find a bid. With no 4 card major I pass. LHO passes and pard bids 3NT. All pass and pard tables AKJ4 QJ75 62 943. The opponents quickly cash 6 tricks for down two. With no interference 3NT would be the normal rebid but with the OVERCALL lead director it just doesn't seem right. I think pards right bid is 3D asking about the diamond stopper. With a diamond stop 3NT would be OK. With none you must check on the stopper situation. I now will bid 3H denying a stopper and having previously denied 4 hearts I am looking for a 4-3 fit. This time it works out. The 3 card suit stops the run of diamonds and 10 tricks are there with 4S, 4H and 2C tricks. Makes five if they lead diamonds and force the ruff. This should be a top board. Few will find the 4-3 fit and missing nine diamonds assures 5 diamond tricks on defense unless the suit blocks.

This subject requires more discussion. I dont think there is a "standard" bid in this situation. After pard bids 2C I will not sell out at the two level without doubling. I suggest a double of 2D with a stopper, denying a 4 card major. A pass would deny a stopper and bidding ensues as before. A bid of 2H or 2S would neither admit or deny a stopper. After this, only bid NT if you hold a stopper yourself. Don't rely on pard to have one. BTW I dont advocate bidding 2C with garbage. It should represent an optimistic invitational bid at minimum.

If 2C is doubled for lead direction a similar situation occurs. In this case, PASS with a CLUB STOPPER. This neither shows nor denies a 4 card major. Pard then reopens with a redouble and the auction proceeds as if there was no double or redouble except you now know about the stopper. BTW this applies if a transfer bid is doubled for lead. Pass shows a stopper, pard redoubles to reopen the bidding.

More later on handling interference after opening 1NT. I'd love to see your comments. If they are civil I will include them on the blog. The only response so far is from my friend Dr. Wilson Miller. He said to tell everyone it's not hard to enter a comment. Simply click on comments, leave the message and email address, then answer the "letters" question to discourage spammers.It's OK to sign in as anonymous and the email address wont be available to me.

Thanks for reading. Happy Bridging. SPADEWOOD

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Bidding after opening No Trump

We need to look at how to handle auctions that start with No Trump. I am often asked if I open 1 NT holding a 5 card major. It's not an easy question. With 18 hcp I open a 5 card major and treat the hand as if it is 19 hcp. With 15 hcp I tend to open the major suit and REBID a side 4 card suit or 1NT or PASS if pard responds 1NT. NOTE THIS: IF I OPEN 1H AND REBID 1NT OVER 1S AND PARD BIDS 2 OF A MINOR IT IS A SIGNOFF AND MUST BE PASSED. He has a hand with 6-10 hcp, only 4 spades, no heart support and probably 6 clubs. With 16-17 hcp I freely open 1NT with a five card major and a balanced hand. My rule is to open 1NT with 15-18 hcp hands and no more than 1 defect. A defect is: 1. a five card major,
2. a weak doubleton,
3. a side 4 card suit.
4. a minimum 15 hcp hand,
5. a maximum 18 point hand, or
6. an aceless hand.

Responding to a 1NT opening we usually try to find an 8 card major suit fit. We do this by using Stayman 2C and Jacoby Transfers. 2C response asks for a 4 card major suit, responder rebids 2D without a 4 card major or bids the 4 card major, up the line if you have both. A 2 level rebid by responder shows an invitational hand. A major suit rebid shows a 5 card suit. A 2NT rebid shows 8-9 hcp A jump to 3 of a major after 2D shows 10+ hcp and a 5 card suit. 3 of a minor rebid is forcing to 3NT or 4 of a minor. It shows 10+ hcp and an unbalanced hand.

Jacoby Transfers show a 5 card suit or more. 2D transfers to 2H, 2H transfers to 2S. A transfer followed by 2NT is invitational with 8-9 hcp. Opener bids 3NT or 4 of the major with 17-18 hcp and passes or bids 3 of the major with 15-16. A transfer followed by 3 of a minor shows 5-5 and 10+ hcp. Transfer to 2H and rebid 2S with 5-5 invitational. Transfer to 2S and rebid 3H as forcing with 10+ hcp.

Next post will discuss more NT sequences. Please feel free to comment.

Thanks for reading. Happy Bridging, SPADEWOOD

Thursday, January 28, 2010


It's my blog, I'll write what I want to. Yeoww. I played a fun hand this week at the local duplicate. My opponents were competent players but were not a regular partnership. None vulnerable I held S JT9653 H AK842 D void C T6. Pass on my right. I open 1 Spade! I open light but this is a new record. Let's look at it. 8 hcp plus 6S and 5H easily meets the rule of 20! The AK of hearts is my two defensive tricks and the hand has 6 losers. This is a good hand and I opened it. LHO bids 2NT unusual for minors. Now pard jumps to 4 Spades! In our methods this shows a preemptive hand to make the opponents guess at the five level. It shows no defense! We play unusual over unusual so a bid of 3 Diamonds would be a limit raise or better in spades. This is a cue bid of one of their implied suits showing a spade raise. But it's not over yet! RHO bids 5 clubs and I bid 6 spades! Really, I think it is their hand and I would bid on to 6 spades if they go to 6 clubs. More to come...! LHO bids 7 clubs! It goes p p and NOW WHAT. Should I double? It is match points and I am on lead. I think I have won the board. If I double they may run to 7D and pard is on lead. He might then lead a spade and seven might make. I pass and lead the A of hearts. It holds, down at least one.
The whole hand is:


I go on and cash the HK and give pard his ruff. We later win a diamond for down 4. We score 75% on the board and I am happy with the result. Any comments?

As always I appreciate your comments. Happy Bridging, SPADEWOOD.