Why Nine Never?

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Everyone knows the adage “eight ever, nine never” which refers to finessing for the queen of trumps. I recently received this question about it, which is answered below.

Why do you play for the Queen to drop when you have nine trumps, isn’t a 3-1 split more likely than a 2-2?

It is true that when you are missing four cards, a 3-1 split is more likely than a 2-2 split. However a specific 2-2 split is more likely than a specific 3-1. When you cash the Ace and lead towards the KJ and everyone follows, there are only two possible cases left, the 3-1 where the queen is finessable and the 2-2 where the queen is dropping. Read on for a fuller explanation of why the 2-2 is more likely.

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Splinter Bids

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I. Controls plus Tricks can produce slam on less than 33 points

Point count is not very accurate with unbalanced hands that have a good fit. Tricks and controls, or controls with distribution and lots of trump are the hand types that make slam easily with less than 33 points. Here are the two hands from the post on slam bidding repeated to illustrate this point. Notice how the well-placed shortness makes slam on both of them.

West East West East
AJ3 KQ10987 AJ987 KQ1065
KQJ1085 A97 4 A9854
A3 965 A7652 5
85 6 A7 63

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Major Suit Raises – JACOBY 2NT

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I. Responding to partner’s one of a major opening

When partner opens one of a major and you have three cards or more in support then you know you have an eight card fit. When you first learned bridge your teacher undoubtedly told you to raise your partner immediately when you know you have a golden fit and show your point range at the same time as follows:


Point Range


Raise to the



2 level



3 level




This is all well and good, but for slam bidding, having a nine card or longer fit is more likely to produce the extra tricks. Also when you have four card support, you have more trumps to ruff with, so a trump lead can no longer hurt you. Thus more advanced players change their stronger responses to discriminate between having 3 or 4+ card support. This means a limit raise, the raise of the major to three, requires at least four trump. So with only three card support, you bid a new suit first and then jump raise.

II. Making a Game Forcing Raise: Jaoby 2NT

With game going values or better and four card trump support, we use a special convention called the Jacoby 2NT. It was invented by the great games player Oswald Jacoby. The bid of 2NT in response to partner’s opening bid of one of a major shows at least 4 trump and 13+ points in support. This leaves the whole three level and much of the four level for exploring for slam. Now you can use the immediate raise to four of the major for preemptive hands, hands with five or more trump and not the high card points for game

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Slam Bidding Basics over Suit Openers

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Point count is not very accurate with unbalanced hands that have a fit. Tricks and controls, or controls with distribution and lots of trump are the hand types that make slam easily with less than 33 points. For example, the following two deals both make slam and neither has the required points.

West East West East

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Slam Bidding Basics Over Notrump Openers

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It takes 33 points to make a small slam and 37 to make a grand. Do you have them? When you have a good balanced hand of your own, add your points to partner’s possible minimum and maximum counts to see what the possibilities are. The following table shows your bids over 1NT, the point ranges assume a 15-17 1NT opener.

Bid Your HCPs Meaning
4NT 16-17 Please bid 6 with a maximum
5NT 20-21 Please bid 7 with a maximum, else bid only 6
6NT 18-19 This is what we can make (you may not raise)
7NT 22+ This is it.

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BALANCING at the two level

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When the opponents have stopped in a part score at the one or two level, should you pass it out or bid? The answer depends on what contract they have stopped in and what kind of hand you have yourself.

Let’s look at the classic situation where they are in two of a major:

1 Pass 2 Pass

Pass ?

First of all, they have less than 26 pts, probably less than 25; their range is roughly 19-24; this leaves plenty of high cards for our side. The mathematics of suit distributions indicate that if they have an 8 card fit, we usually have one as well. Thus if we have an 8 card fit and roughly half the high cards, perhaps we should try to play the hand.

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Balancing at the One Level

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I. Definition of the Word BALANCING

The term balancing means taking a bid other than Pass after two preceding passes. In other words, balancing is an attempt to prevent the opponents from playing the hand. For example,

1 Pass Pass        and it is your bid

Saying Pass here would be the final decision of the auction, while bidding means there have to be at least 3 more bids. You’d better be right to pass!

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Competing over the Opponents 1NT

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I. Competing over 1NT only requires weak 2-bid strength

What are your side’s chances of making a game when an opponent opens 1NT? Well, there are only 24 high card points left, so even if your side has all of them, which is unlikely, some distribution points will be required to get your side up to the 26 points needed for game.

So if you bid over their 1NT, it is because you want to contest the part-score.

When the opponents open 1NT and everyone passes, your chances of getting a good score are not likely. If you can make 110 your way in a major and they go down one or make it, then you are wrong to let them play it. If they are making and you are down one non-vulnerable, you are also wrong to pass it out.

When it is their hand for game, you take away their ability to bid Stayman or transfer by bidding. Also if they double you, frequently the penalty they collect is smaller than the plus score they would get for their game.

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Does a Negative Double of 1D show both majors?

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Another recent question was …

Does a negative double of 1♦ after partner opens 1 show both majors?

The standard treatment is that a negative double of 1♦ after partner opens 1 shows both majors, usually 4-4. Longer and unequal lengths such as 5-4 or 4-5 are possible with a weak hand.

Here is why the double needs to be both majors: Due to the way Bridge scoring works, it is extremely important to find your eight-card major suit fits. In a competitive auction you need to do this as quickly as possible. This means that if you have only one major, even if it is only four-cards long, you must bid it right away so partner knows which one you have. When the opponents overcall 1♥, you can use a negative double to show four spades and bid 1 ♠ to show five because, unlike after a 1♦ overcall, there is no ambiguity as to which major your side holds.

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      35 Comments on Preempting

One of the most effective strategies in competitive bidding is the preempt. When you have a long strong suit and not many points you can start the bidding at the 3 level with a 7-card suit and at the four level with an 8-card suit. This makes life very difficult for the opponents since they have lost the space needed in the bidding to find their own correct contract and most of the time doubling you will not be profitable enough.

Using the 2 level for pre-empting as well, makes it even harder on the opponents and only gives up bidding space on those very strong (22+) one suited hands that you almost never get. The bid of 2 clubs is used for all your hands of 22+ (except 21-22 balanced which are opened 2NT).

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