Log In

Reset Password

‘Meckwell’ are here for the big bridge event

The big event is here and tonight the Charity Game kicks off the 2017 Bermuda Regional. I am sure that chairperson Kathy Keane and her committee are ready for all eventualities and that we can expect another quality event. I hear that numbers are up in all categories and that is exciting as the Regional continues its climb to get back to the heady heights of the 1970s and 1980s.

I hear the great Jeff Meckstroth is returning to play in the event. Meckstroth and his partner Eric Rodwell (the partnership is known as “Meckwell”) have set new standards in the past few years and there is much to learn from their approach to the game.

There is a ton of bridge to be played and with that in mind, here is a guide to help you along both before and during the event.

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 doing 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 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. Don’t try to be cute unless your game is so bad as to need some contrary approaches 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. A game plus overtricks will usually score well.


Again, keep it simple. 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 to 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? 15-17 HCP, no singletons, No 5 card major, probably no 6 card suits, not 2-2 in the majors — that is a lot of information. What do you know about partner’s 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 3 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 1 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 2 Spades). If 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 whether you have a great fit. 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 28 HCP 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 will 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 5 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 2 key cards and the Spade Queen and partner bids 5NT confirming all 5 key cards and asking for kings — your hand becomes huge with the two extra spades that partner does not know about and so you should bid 7 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? 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 — the Bath Coup. The rules are different against suit contracts where you would lead the King with all four holdings.

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

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.

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

Declarer play

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 unmakeable 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, enjoy it and remember 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.