A guide to performing well at this week’s regionals

  • Preparation time: as the 2020 Bermuda Bridge Regional begins next week, David Ezekiel writes that if players are going to get results, players need to prepare well for the crammed schedule

    Preparation time: as the 2020 Bermuda Bridge Regional begins next week, David Ezekiel writes that if players are going to get results, players need to prepare well for the crammed schedule

Bridge results for the week of January 6, 2020

Monday afternoon


1, Judith Bussell/Peter Donnellan

2, Gertrude Barker/Julia Beach

3, Elizabeth McKee/Stephanie Kyme


1, Joseph Wakefield/William Pollett

2, Margaret Way/Molly Taussig

3, Patricia Siddle/Gill Gray

Tuesday evening Junior Game


1, Julia Cook/Margaret Kirk

2, Katyna Rabain/Louise Payne

3, Duncan Silver/Marion Silver


1, Malcolm Moseley/Mark Stevens

2, Tim Mardon/Jean Schilling

3, James Mulderig/Robert Mulderig

Wednesday morning


1, Charles Hall/Stephanie Kyme

2, Gertrude Barker/Jane Smith

3, Judith Bussell/John Hoskins


1, William Pollett/Linda Pollett

2, Peter Donnellan/Lynanne Bolton

3, Elizabeth McKee/Joseph Wakefield

Thursday evening


1, Alan Smith/Jane Smith

2, Rosemary Smith/Ruby Douglas

3, Marilynn Simmons/Richmond Simmons


1, Wendy Gray/Richard Gray

2, Elizabeth McKee/Linda Pollett

3, Martha Ferguson/Judy King

Friday afternoon


1, Gertrude Barker/Marilynn Simmons

2, Rosemary Smith/Alan Douglas

3, Julia Patton/Jeanette Shaw


1, Patricia Siddle/Tony Saunders

2, Jack Rhind/Edward Betteto

3, David Pickering/Sancia Garrison

The big day is nearly here and a week from today the 2020 Bermuda Bridge Regional kicks off at the Fairmont Southampton with the charity game on Saturday evening.

Sheena Rayner, tournament chairperson, and her committee, and Sol Weinstein, chief tournament director, and his team, Janet Evans, bulletin editor, and the Fairmont Southampton’s staff will all be ready to ensure that to deliver a high-class event.

Sheena has done this many times before and her experience is a huge plus; I understand that the number of registered attendees is up from last year, which is great news for the tournament and for Bermuda.

There is a ton of bridge to be played at the regional, with games starting early in the morning and ending at midnight.

The keener players play three sessions and some ten hours of bridge a day!

All of that demands that players stay calm and pace themselves during the week, and if they are going to get results, players need to prepare well for the crammed schedule.

With that in mind, here is my guide to help you along both before and during the event. Go through it, preferably with your partner, and I think you will reap the rewards for your willingness to improve.

Before the Game

Sit with your partner(s) and go through the convention card in detail. Agree on all your systems, signals, leads, etc, well ahead of time.

The card has recommended bids and leads, so agree whether you are following them or if you will do something different.

The system is important, but not as important as you and your partner playing the same one.

Simplify your system! Bridge is a game of getting to the most reasonable contract as often as possible. You cannot hope to get to the perfect contract every time.

So clogging your brain with esoteric sequences that come up once in a blue moon is, in my opinion, a losing proposition.

At the Event

Move on after a bad result — it is done! Accept that partner is trying his/her best.

Do the normal things! Do not try to be cute, unless your game is so bad as to need some contrary approaches, in order to salvage something.

Take your plus scores and avoid the stupid -50 or -100 in some quixotic search for game.

Let them play the misfits, stay patient.

Don’t go searching for the magic slam, just bid the ones that demand to be bid. A game, plus overtricks, will usually score well.


Again, keep it simple. Your partner cannot see your hand, so a bid that makes perfect sense to you, may not mean anything to partner.

Sacrifice the “perfect” bid for something that cannot be misunderstood.

Try and understand which of you is “in control” of a bidding sequence.

Just because you have the strongest hand at the table does not mean that you should control the auction.

For instance, when you open 1NT what does partner know about your hand?

Is it 15-17 HCP, no singletons, no five-card major, probably no six-card suits, not 2-2 in the majors — that is a lot of information.

What do you know about your partners hand? Nothing! So who should guide the auction to the final contract? Correct: partner!

Also, when you open a weak two bid or a pre-emptive three bid you have described your hand and partner is in control; you are not permitted to bid again, unless partner asks you to by making a forcing bid.

If you overcall, make sure you either have a good suit or a good hand!

For instance, RHO opens one Club and you hold AJ109x, Kxx, xxx, xx.

A one Spade overcall is fine, as you have a good suit (if you had six Spades I would overcall two Spades).

If, however, you have Q8763, K74, K32, Qx in my book, even though you have more points than the previous hand, this is not a hand where you should overcall; your main suit is awful and if partner has a good Heart, Diamond or Club suit, you can help if LHO is playing in NT, so you should not be suggesting a Spade lead to partner.

Remember that Partner will, nine times out of ten, lead your suit.

Be ultra-disciplined in your bidding opposite an unpassed partner. If partner has passed, especially if you are non-vulnerable in third seat, the gloves are off!

This is because if you have a weak hand in third seat, your bidding approach now becomes destructive, instead of constructive.

Do not bid a Grand Slam unless you can claim 13 tricks without seeing dummy!

The risk/reward in bidding a Grand Slam is not great and that goes beyond the scoring, as picking yourself up off the ground after a failed Grand will not be easy.

Some specific things to discuss are:

Do you play systems on after partner opens a NT and opponents interfere?

Partner opens a NT, RHO bids a suit and you double — penalties or takeout?

Do you play a forcing NT? Does it apply if you are a passed hand and bid 1NT after partner has opened?

What system do you play when opponents open a no trump?

Does it remain the same in the pass-out seat? Is it different if they open a weak no trump?

What system do you play after partner opens a weak two bid? Does 2NT ask for a feature or a singleton?

Clarify what your splinter bids mean. A splinter bid is a mild slam try, asking partner to go to slam if they have a good hand and your singleton works for them … partner cannot judge that if he doesn’t know your point range or whether you have a singleton or void.

The rule I like is that if you think you have a combined 28HCP outside the splinter suit you should be in slam.

So I like a splinter to show only a singleton and 13-15 HCP … if I have a void or a greater number of points I would find another way to bid the hand.

What sort of Blackwood do you play? Standard or Roman Key Card?

Agree with partner that 4NT followed by 5NT after the response confirms the holding of all five key cards, which can be really important. Example:

You open a Spade with KQJ109xx AJx Kx x, partner now bids 4NT, and when you answer 5S showing two key cards and the Spade Queen and partner bids 5NT confirming all five key cards and asking for kings, your hand becomes huge, with the two extra Spades that partner does not know about.

You should bid seven Spades immediately and partner can either leave it there or, likely, convert to 7NT.

Defence and Leads

Lead partner’s suit unless you know something else is better, not if you think something else may be better.

What do you lead from a suit headed by the Ace King; the Ace or the King?

If you have an agreement that you would generally lead the Ace, it follows that if you ever lead the King, followed by the Ace, it should show a doubleton.

What do you lead from xxx — low or MUD (middle up down)? Is it different when partner has bid the suit?

Do you always lead fourth best against no trump?

What do you lead against 3NT from KQxx or KQxxx and what do you lead from KQ10x or KQ10xx?

You should lead fourth best on the first two and the King on the last two.

So the lead of the King promises KQJ or KQ10 ... why is that important?

If partner holds the Jack when you lead the King, he is obliged to throw the Jack to tell you that it is safe to continue the suit and that Declarer is not holding up with AJx. This is the Bath Coup.

If partner holds the Ace and the Jack is not in dummy, partner is obliged to overtake your King with the Ace and return your suit. Once again, this is to let you know that declarer does not have AJx.

The rules are different against suit contracts, where you would lead the King with all four holdings.

Agree with your partner that you will never make an opening lead away from an Ace against a suit contract, as this makes the defence a lot easier to handle.

Do you always give count when following suit — up the line with an odd number, down the line with an even number? You should.

What discards do you use? Standard (high card encouraging, low card discouraging) or something like Lavinthal (my preference) where your first discard is always in a suit that you do not want and the size of the card says which of the other two suits you do want.

So if declarer is drawing trump in Spades and you discard a high Club, it says you want a Heart (the higher ranking of the remaining suits), and if you discard a low Diamond, it says you want a Club, the lower ranking of the remaining suits.

Stay patient in defence; let declarer play the hand.

More often than not a busy defence ends up giving declarer more tricks than were available at the start.

Be patient with your high cards … the saying “Aces were meant to take Kings” is as true now as when it was first written.

Every once in a while, you will not get a trick with an Ace because you stayed patient, but trust me, that is a small price to pay in the long term


When you are declarer, plan the play at trick one.

If everything looks good, plan for bad breaks; if everything looks bad, play as if everything is sitting exactly as you want it!

Don’t always rush to draw trumps.

Sometimes you have to set up a side suit or a cross-ruff, and you need to stay calm in getting there.

The irrational fear of one of your winners being ruffed early often leads to makeable contracts being turned into … un-makeable ones!

If you get to a good contract that fails because the cards lie badly remember that it is the same for all the other pairs with those cards.

So, go and enjoy it and remember that you cannot improve at this game without practice, reading, and learning from your mistakes.

The post-mortem after the session should not only be enjoyable but useful!

I end with some sad news as Alan Douglas called with the news that David Pereira has passed away in London.

David was a good friend and an excellent player and a big part of the bridge scene for many years.

He played an intuitive game full of flair, and he was better than most of us in making each session a lot of fun and taking the bad results with the good.

David’s name is all over the winner boards at the club and he represented Bermuda on many occasions during the Seventies, Eighties and Nineties.

Our thoughts are with his family and friends.

Ps answer to last week’s quiz in next week’s column!

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Published Jan 18, 2020 at 8:00 am (Updated Jan 17, 2020 at 9:56 pm)

A guide to performing well at this week’s regionals

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