Sally Sparrow

The “Really Big Hand”

A few nights ago I had a great time on BBO with my mother and two of her students.  Mum and I have often played in a private room against robots so I’m familiar with the set-up but I have to admit I was pretty nervous playing against real people for the first time.  I was introduced right away to Brian and Mary-Lou and they seemed very welcoming and I instantly felt better when Brian admitted he was a bit rusty and my mother told them both I was a beginner.  I have had more experience at this point playing hands than bidding, since I’ve been working my way through Bridge Master and reading a lot on play of the hand (not always stuff that I understand but I think some of it sinks in occasionally).  When it came to bidding, since the lessons have not taken me as far as NT bidding, I was allowed to ask questions (it was, after all, a teaching room).   However, I found that with Barbara Seagram’s Pocket Guide in hand, I was able to quickly look up my hand type and make decisions based on the book’s suggestions.  Was this the best thing to do?  Most of the questions I asked were about my partner’s bid.  I felt confident bidding my own hand, not necessarily understanding the reasons behind it.  Perhaps occasionally this led me astray, judge for yourselves.  For example, I was delighted to pick up this 22-count sitting West:

♠A K 8 A 7 A 9 2 ♣ A Q 6 3 2

Immediate excitement (I had four aces!) made me grab the book and open to the “really big hands” page.  In retrospect, perhaps this wasn’t a “really big hand” rather just a big hand, but I was too excited to open something I had never used before, Strong 2♣. Besides, my hand was balanced and met the requirements, “balanced hands too strong to open 2NT start with 2, then rebid notrump.”  That’s just what I did:

West North East South
2 pass 2 pass
2NT pass 3NT all pass

I was very excited at the prospect of playing out my hand.  North led the 3 and down went the dummy:

♠10 6 4 2 Q 10 5 4 2 Q 8 6 4

Now I had a problem: I could only count five sure winners and with one club in dummy, I had little or no access to my longest suit.  Now my beginner-ness will start to show through (I’m sure a more experienced player would have no problems with this hand?).  I won the heart lead with my ace and was able to get back to dummy (somehow?) by playing a heart to the queen.  My plan was to finesse the K, so I (probably foolishly) played the 4 to my Q.  No such luck, South showed the 10 and North won with the king.  Now I had lost control and had no entry to clubs from dummy.  After winning two rounds of hearts, North returned a spade and I was back in the game.  But I had already lost three tricks and had three aces but not much else.  I tried the diamond finesse, again, no such luck and now South was in control.  By this point I didn’t know what had been played of the remaining suits and after winning my three aces, I led a diamond.  Bad move.  In the end I was down three tricks.  So much for my “really big hand.”  This was the full layout:

Dealer: W

Vul: Both

Q 3
K 8 6 3
J 7 5 4
K J 7
West East
A K 8 10 6 4 2
A 7 Q 10 5 4 2
A 9 2 Q 8 6
A Q 6 3 2 4
J 9 7 5
J 9
K 10 3
10 9 8 5

Perhaps if I had know more about bidding I could have come to some other contract?  Looking at the results from other tables, it seems that everyone in 3NT was down three, sometimes four, tricks.  That makes me feel a lot better.  Even suit contracts went down, come to think of it.  No one made their contract.  Maybe it wasn’t a “really big hand.”  Maybe it was a “really bad hand!”


Linda LeeJanuary 8th, 2009 at 5:28 pm

You might have opened 2NT. You have 21 HCP which is in the range for this bid. However, a lot of experts might open 2C too. They would say that with a good five card suit and all those aces this hand is worth 22 points. So you might say that you made an expert bid! Your partner should have bid Stayman after you rebid 2NT. The hand is likely to play better in a major suit if you have a fit. The auction might go

2C – 2D

2NT – 3C


Even when you show no major East should presist by bidding hearts. This would show five of them. Many experts play a convention called Smolen which allows East to show 4S and 5H and still get you the strong hand on play. Something to think about in a year or two. All of that being said the normal contract is 3NT. So you arrived in the right place.

Unfortunately as you said your hand does not fit well with East and the cards are not lying well for you. I can’t think of any sensible way that will allow you to make nine tricks. So don’t feel too bad. Sometimes you bid the hand right and it just doesn’t make.

Sally SparrowJanuary 8th, 2009 at 5:33 pm

Well we’ll let my partner off the hook since she knows I haven’t learned Stayman! And I’m happy to hear I made an “accidental” expert bid 🙂

F. Marion FletcherApril 6th, 2009 at 1:46 pm

Here is a thought. Using the rule of 11, 3rd hand shd have two cards higher than the opening lead. Play the 8 and let the covering card win. If diamonds are 5-2, covering hand, with the K would play that card no matter what usually. When the card played is the 10, 3rd hand shd have three cards, which means the suit will split perfectly. Now 3rd hand is on the horns of a dilemma and there is now a play–remote but doable–for 3NT.

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