Lighten Up!!!

My partner Christine and I have been browsing through a terrific bridge book, “50 Winning Duplicate Tips,” by Australian expert Ron Klinger. The nice thing about his “tips” is that they don’t require you to adapt a whole new bidding system – for the most part you can just incorporate them into whatever you’re already doing.

I instantly liked one of his very first tips, super-light third-seat opening bids, but ever since we decided to try it, for weeks no such opportunities seemed to come up to try it. But when it rains, it pours. Then it happened two days in a row at our home club, the Vero Beach Bridge Center. And – I am very happy to report – in both cases it worked like a charm and got us excellent board scores.

Klinger advocates opening super-light in third seat after two passes even with only 8 or 9 high-card points. There are a lot of advantages: You take up bidding space from your opponents, who probably should have the bid on the hand and you make it more difficult for them to find their best fit. If you wind up on defense, in many cases you’ve told your partner what to lead. He basically says that if a hand is worth an overcall – and most 8- or 9-point hands are – then it’s worth an opening bid in third seat.

It’s hard to argue with him, especially after our initial success. On Thursday (7-28-16) I opened One Diamond in third seat after two passes with 9 high-card points. It just so happened that my left-hand opponent had a One No-Trump opening. He did not stay quiet and tried to get into the auction, but my partner Christine just happened to have 10 points and four Diamonds for me, so she raised the auction to 3 Diamonds, which we made on a combined total of only 19 high-card points.

Result: A tie for top. Only one other pair reached the 3 Diamond contract our way and no one else with my hand had the guts to open it.

Then the very next day, Friday (7-29-16), I did it again – open One Diamond with 9 HCPs, except that this time, I didn’t even have an honor in my three-card Diamond suit. My partner responded a Spade and I happily passed since I had four of them. That’s part of Klinger’s tip: After you open super-light, pass just about anything your partner bids. In this case, Christine was allowed to get the contract for One Spade and she made it for a plus-80 score. Naturally, it should have been our opponents’ hand and they could have made 2 No-Trump on it.

Result: An 87% score for us.

Thursday’s hand helped us to a 53% game that got us .22 MasterPoints. On Friday, we made too many other mistakes and ended up below the 50% mark, but less than a percentage point out of the prize money because the field was so bunched up. In any event, we’re definitely sold on the tactic and will continue to use third-hand super-light openings. It’s hard to see any downsides to it.

To illustrate how it works, here’s the hand from Friday on which Christine was allowed to play and make one Spade. Our friend David LeBar, who’s really a very nice guy and not a bad player, will have to be Flustered Flo this time because he had the biggest hand around the table but didn’t know what to do against my super-weak opening. I’ll be Flo’s nemesis, Smug Sam, with the North hand that opened super-light, while Christine will play the hand from the South seat as my (Sam’s) partner, Shy Shem

South Dealer; North-South vulnerable

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

The bidding:

South West North East
Pass Pass 1 Pass
1 All pass

Opening lead: King of Diamonds

Flustered Flo had seen quite a few rotten tricks pulled by her nemesis, Smug Sam, to try and steal the bid away from her, but on the diagrammed hand played at a recent club, she thought Sam stooped to a new low.

Sitting North, after two passes Sam opened his 9-point hand with a Diamond, making it extremely difficult for Flo to bid with her 14-point East hand. She vaguely remembered a piece of advice from one of her bridge lessons: “If an opponent opens in your suit, just pass,” so that’s what she did – Diamonds was her best suit but that’s what Sam had opened.

Sam’s South partner, Shy Shem responded a Spade, and Flo’s partner, Loyal Larry passed. Somewhat to Flo’s surprise, Sam also passed, leaving Flo with a last chance to bid something. Judging the hand to be somewhere close to a 20/20 division of high-card points, Flo did not want to go to the 2 level to bid something without a five-card suit, and she didn’t want to double to force her partner to go to the 2 level if he didn’t have much, as seemed to be the case.

So Flo declined the last chance to bid and she just passed, leaving Shy Shem to play One Spade. Shem ruffed the third Diamond lead and led the 10 of Hearts, forcing Flo to play her Ace. Flo next led a small Club to her partner’s King when Shem ducked the Ace. Larry had to return a Heart with dummy’s Queen forcing out Flo’s King, but now Flo did not have a good continuation. She led a Club to dummy’s Queen; then Shem collected the good Jack of Hearts and came to his hand with the trump King.

Shem then led the Club Ace and Larry was check-mated. Ruffing low would be throwing away a trump because it would get over-ruffed anyway and then East-West would not get a natural trump trick. If he ruffed high, Shem would over-ruff with the Ace and East-West’s natural trump trick would disappear again. If he didn’t trump at all, he would get his natural trump trick but Shem would have his seven tricks – a Heart, two Clubs, the two top trumps and two ruffs.

Whatever Larry did, Shem had his seven tricks to make his ultra-thin contract and get 80 points on just 16 combined high-card points and not much distribution to go with it. It was an 87% score for Sam and Shem. Only two other North-South pairs got better scores when their East-West opponents foolishly tried for Game in 3 No-Trump and went Down Two – although they should have been able to limit the damage to just Down One.

Since Sam had been dummy and had been forced to reveal his hand, showing that he had opened the bidding with just 9 points and nothing in Diamonds, the suit he opened, Flo was furious afterward.

“How did you dare open that hand?” she challenged him. “Is that on your convention card, that you open with 9 points?”

“It’s not on our card,” said Sam, smug as always, “but sometimes in third seat I open with even less. I can do it with 8 points, too. I got it out of Ron Klinger’s book, 50 Winning Duplicate Tips. This was only No. 1, so get ready, Flo, I have 49 other tricks up my sleeve still to come.”

“That’s something to look forward to,” said Flo. “Just tell me one thing. What am I supposed to do with my good 14-point opening but no five-card suit after you open with that garbage of yours.”

“You have lots of choices available to you,” said Sam. “You can double or you can bid the balancing One No-Trump in fourth seat with 11-14 points. That’s probably your best option because you’ll wind up in 1 or 2 No-Trump and 2 NT is your best contract for plus-120.”

“So what’s your next trick, Sam?” Flo asked. “Am I going to have to buy that book to find out?”

“I think it’s out of print,” said Sam. “But I’ll lend it to you – after I’m through with it, which might be quite a while.”

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