Eureka! Three of the Island’s four duplicate bridge clubs now have computer-dealt hands, with hand records distributed after the conclusion of play. What’s more, the hand records display the optimum bids available. They’re a terrific vehicle for learning.

The beneficent clubs are Edgartown (meeting at Howes House across from Alley’s in West Tisbury Mondays at 12:30 p.m.), Island (Howes House, Thursdays at 7 p.m.) and Bridge Club of Martha’s Vineyard (Tisbury Council on Aging, 34 Pine Tree Road, Vineyard Haven, Saturdays at 9:30 a.m.).

To me, the most frustrating outcome of a hand is underbidding a game, small slam or grand slam that makes. In this regard, Board Six at BCMV on July 12 was worth a post-mortem or three. Sitting South and dealing, with North-South vulnerable, you hold:

♠ A K 9 7 5

♥ A K Q 7

♦ A

♣ A 8 3

The bidding has proceeded as follows:

South     West     North     East

2♣          Pass      2♠*       Pass

3♠          Pass      4♠         Pass


*Step raise showing 7-9 high-card points

What would you bid? Decide before reading on.

Here’s a place where step raises — 0-3 HCP = 2♦, 4-6 HCP = 2 ♥ etc. — are useful. With 24 HCP of your own, what appear to be only three losing tricks and at least two likely tricks supplied by dummy, it seems obvious to bid 6♠. I did. Most Souths probably did.

It’s always a good practice in bridge to imagine partner’s hand. I envisioned the following North holding:

♠ Q J 4

♥ 10 9 8

♦ Q 10 4 2

♣ Q 10 4

You’ll note that Mr. Optimist produced the lowest possible point count (7 HCP) and some of the most useless honors possible under the 2♠ step raise. With this hand, 6♠ may not make unless the club king sits West. But just how realistic was my forecast? The 16 HCP I didn’t hold were:

♠ Q J

♥ J

♦ K Q J

♣ K Q J

Was it reasonable to imagine nothing but queens and jacks, and arranged as they were? Based on the bidding, I’d have done better to give North the spade queen and 8 HCP. Here’s the full deal:


♠ Q J 4 2

♥ 2

♦ K Q 10 4

♣ J 9 7 2

WEST             EAST

♠ 10 6             ♠ 8 3

♥ J 3               ♥ 10 9 8 6 5 4

♦ 9 8 7 3 2     ♦ J 6 5

♣ K Q 5 4      ♣ 10 6


♠ A K 9 7 5

♥ A K Q 7

♦ A

♣ A 8 3

Contract: 6 ♠

Opening lead: ♥10

It was easy enough to make 13 tricks. Win the opening lead with the heart ace, draw trump, cash the diamond ace, cash two more hearts (discarding clubs), ruff a heart on the board, cash the diamond king-queen (discarding clubs) and claim.

The hand record says 7 ♠ and 7NT are optimal bids. Clearly, they are as the cards lie. 7NT, however, makes because the diamond jack falls obligingly when the ace, king and queen are played: five spade tricks, three heart tricks, four diamond tricks and one club trick.  But with the stiff diamond ace, a spade contract rates to be much safer in the long run. The diamond ace is a big card that offers opportunities for club discards in 7 ♠. What’s important is less the result and more the thought process. Hand records make that possible.