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For bridge hands of interest

May the fourth suit force be with you

Even after your side has bid three suits, you are sometimes still uncertain of which denomination (which suit or notrumps) to head for.

There is no need to bid the fourth suit just to show strength there – a notrump bid would be appropriate in that case. Instead, a bid of the fourth suit is used to show doubt about the final destination. This is commonly called “fourth suit forcing” (4SF).

This fourth suit bid shows nothing further about the hand (except strength), it just asks for more information. In reply, you may:

  • return to partner’s first suit with three cards there
  • bid notrumps with the fourth suit stopped
  • rebid your second suit with five cards
  • raise the fourth suit with four card support
  • rebid your first suit with extra length
  • with nothing to say, do as best you can!

How forcing is the fourth suit? The traditional standard was that it showed invitational values or better. However, a survey of experts revealed that most now use it as forcing to game.

Here are a couple of other results of an Australian poll. The bidding proceeds:

Opener  Responder
1H      1S
2C      2D(4SF)
?

Choose your rebid as opener with:

S K5
H AT654
D 42
C AQ63

Read more: May the fourth suit force be with you

Lower than the two

In one Peanuts cartoon, Charlie Brown – on a particularly bad day – complains: “I feel lower than the two of clubs.”  Sometimes, however, the two is not a bad card to hold.

Put yourself in the place of Bronwyn Swaddling, sitting South as declarer in a notrump slam on the following deal, on a diamond lead. Cover the East-West cards and work out your line of play:

          NORTH
          S AK2
          H A
          D T5
          C AKQJ962
WEST                EAST
S Q93               S T875
H T9732             H J865
D K864              D QJ9
C 7                 C T8
          SOUTH
          S J64
          H KQ4
          D A732
          C 543

Read more: Lower than the two

Lightner strikes

When the opponents bid to a voluntary slam (as opposed to a sacrifice) you are not going to get rich by doubling them for penalties; they will usually not go down by more than a trick or so. It makes more sense to use the double to try to defeat the contract. But how does this work?

As early as 1929, when contract bridge was a mere four years old, Theodore Lightner suggested that a double of a freely-bid slam should ask partner to make an unusual lead. This will usually be dummy’s first bid side suit, or the leader’s longest suit. Typically, the Lightner double is based upon a void.

The leading pre-war bridge authority, Ely Culbertson, refused to endorse the Lightner double, reputedly because the first time it arose when Culbertson was partnering Lightner, the latter doubled for an unusual lead having forgotten that he himself was on lead, resulting in disaster.

However, the Lightner double has long been accepted as part of expert bidding. Your opponents bid to 6S and you have the following hand:

S A2
H —
D J76542
C Q9863

If partner will be on lead against 6S, you should double, Lightner. If dummy has bid hearts, or if you have shown the minors via an Unusual Notrump bid, then it is clear for partner to lead a heart – remember, the Lightner doubles asks for an unusual lead, such as dummy’s first bid suit, and not a suit you showed.

If there are no clues from the bidding, partner’s hand will have to suggest which lead you want. Your double suggests you have a void (and are looking for an opening round ruff) so partner who probably has lots of hearts can hopefully deduce that is likely to be your void.

Cover the North-South cards on the following deal from the 2008 European Championships. The Italian West opened a weak 2S. East started by replying 2NT as a strong enquiry and after West showed extras, 6S was reached. South doubled. Decide how you would declare as West on the HQ lead.

Dealer West, NS vul.

          NORTH
          S —
          H QJT732
          D QJ932
          C T7
WEST                EAST
S KQ7542            S J963
H K                 H A6
D 8654              D AKT7
C J4                C AQ2
          SOUTH
          S AT8
          H 9854
          D —
          C K98653

The HK wins after which the SQ drives out the SA from South’s hand, with a heart returned. Over to you.

Read more: Lightner strikes

Fust about defence or Fust but not phased

Victorian State Bridge Instructor Jeff Fust created quite a stir south of the border with his electronic techniques for bridge teaching.

The following hand comes from a Swiss Pairs congress in which Fust, sitting East, was partnering Leeron Branicki. It contains a good example of  “Creating Extra Trump Tricks”, which Fust calls the Fifth Line of Defence. Can you see the defence?

Dealer West, EW vul.

          NORTH
          S K7
          H AKJ6
          D Q9
          C AKT72
WEST                EAST
S AJ                S T5
H 982               H QT75
D AKJ86             D 742
C J93               C 8654
          SOUTH
          S Q986432
          H 43
          D T53
          C Q

WEST   NORTH   EAST   SOUTH
Branicki       Fust
1D     Dble    Pass   4S

Read more: Fust about defence or Fust but not phased

Creating extra trump tricks or Fust but not fazed

Jeff Fust is a Victorian bridge teacher. The following hand comes from a Swiss Pairs congress in which Fust, sitting East, was partnering Leeron Branicki. It contains a good example of  “Creating Extra Trump Tricks”, or the Fifth Line of Defence as Fust terms it.

Read more: Creating extra trump tricks or Fust but not fazed

Michaels ready or not...

While a bid of the enemy suit in most auctions is used to show a strong hand, the immediate bid of the enemy suit is used differently, as a Michaels Cue Bid showing a weak 5-5 hand including any unbid major. What would you do with the following hand after an opponent opens 1C or 3C?

S JT9754
H KQJ643
D —
C J

Read more: Michaels ready or not...

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