Nancy Evins: Logic has left the building

It has been many years since I taught adult education classes in basic bridge at Cumberland University, but I can still remember some of the mistakes made by the students, maybe because I had not explained carefully enough.
Aug 10, 2014
Nancy Evins

It has been many years since I taught adult education classes in basic bridge at Cumberland University, but I can still remember some of the mistakes made by the students, maybe because I had not explained carefully enough.

After teaching the basic aces are four points, kings are three, and so on, I began on opening bids. Must have at least five of a major and 12 points to open the bidding of that major or must bid diamonds or clubs whether holding five of these or not.  Must have 15-17 and a balanced hand to open one no-trump.

When I got to responders I said responder could raise the major with three of that suit and six to ten points.

We did not have card tables in the room. The students (all adult women) sat at a long table like a cafeteria table, which meant North and South were across from each other but East and West quite some distance apart.

After I had taught two six-week sessions, I asked if Cumberland would buy two or three inexpensive card tables as the class was growing, and that was when Cumberland closed the classes down.

At one particular night, South had opened, correctly, one heart. West passed as did North. East surprised me by bidding two hearts. I certainly had not gone into Michaels at this level, which would have meant East held five spades and five of an undisclosed minor.

I expressed some surprise, and she explained, “You said if you had three of the suit and at least six points we could raise.”

Well, she had me there. I guess I had not explained that the raise was for your own partner, not your opponent.

One expects things like that to happen in a beginner’s class but one does not expect players of decades to mess up bidding in extraordinary ways.

A recent situation happened awhile back that I was made aware of between two very experienced players. The woman, South, had opened two clubs (around 22 points) and her partner bid two diamonds which says, in their system, that he is holding at least an ace or a king. South then bids two spades to say she had five of them and North bids three no-trump. She figures he only has the ace or a king to make up the three or four points that would be necessary to go to game so she passes. He had ten and it rolled to six no-trump easily.

The following week the same bidding occurs. South bids two clubs, two diamonds by North and 2 hearts (this time) by South. North takes a lot of time to consider his hand and finally bids three no trump. He holds only six points this time.

South, annoyed, asked why it was that he would bid three no trump with one hand holding ten points (10 + 22 is certainly in slam range) and the same bid for three no trump with only six (6 + 22 =28, not slam possibility).  If he had three of the major, both hands could add distribution. She pursued and asked why did he not, on the 10-point hand, immediately bid four no-trump, and he said, “I have a worthless doubleton.”

I wrote about that last week but this is a totally different situation. South has made a limit bid with 22-23 points followed by the two hearts or spades and now it is North’s obligation to add whatever to his own point count. With that many points, surely South has the face cards to consider slam. Some Norths might have gone to six no-trump immediately.

Another situation came with two ladies who have played a long time but are still having difficulty with bidding. 

First lady opens a diamond. Her partner bids one heart. The first lady raises to two hearts. What does that mean? The first lady did not have a five card spade or heart suit but does have four hearts to be able to raise her partner and an opening hand of about 12-14 points. Her partner jumps to four hearts, indicating that she, too, has an opening hand. However, when she laid down her hand, she held 19 points. Seven hearts made easily, and partner jumped on opening bidder, and said she should have gone farther.

She failed to remember that after a limit bid, she was the one in control. She also failed to add 12-19, and she should have either gone into Blackwood or just jumped to six hearts.

Points to remember: When one of the partnership has made a limit bid, the other partner is in control and is responsible to get to game or slam if the points are there.

For experienced players, the difference between genius and stupidity at the bridge table is that genius has its limits.

Nancy Evins, of Lebanon, is a certified bridge instructor. Email her at


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