orbis logoIn the three months leading up to the 1999 Orbis World Bridge Championships, Orbis sponsored an innovative free Internet bridge contest. A first in the world of bridge, the contest was designed in collaboration with bridge star, Zia Mahmood, to appeal to a broad range of players. For 13 weeks beginning 1 September 1999, Zia presented a different Orbis Hand of the Week and contestants were invited to submit one answer per week to a question such as «what card would Zia play next?» The Competition attracted over 35,000 entries from participants in over 100 countries, including Mongolia and the Marshall Islands.

Zia’s Question and Solution for Week 2

The advantage of bidding is to describe your hand to your partner. Pre-emptive bidding can often be a double-edged sword. Although it limits communication between your opponents, as information it can turn out to be what Neil Armstrong might describe as one small step for partner, one giant leap for opponents.’ – ZIA

East deals and NS are vulnerable. Zia mahmood Chennai 2015 Zia picks up this really good hand:

aaxx The bidding is as follows:


East opens with an awkward bid of 3. Zia doesn’t really have any way of bidding his giant of a hand scientifically. He could settle for 4 and a sure profit, but that’s not his style. So Zia bids a bold 6. The chances are that Zia’s partner will have some bits and pieces to enable him to make a slam – after all, the K by itself would be enough. The final contract is 6.

West leads 2 and when Zia sees dummy, he regrets his decision:aaxx

Zia’s partner does indeed have some bits and pieces – the trouble is that they don’t appear to be where Zia needs them. After West’s opening lead of 2, Zia plays low with 4 from dummy, East contributes a studious 7, and Zia wins with A.

What card would Zia play next?

[polldaddy poll=9462228]

Once you have voted, you can find Zia’s response below.

Zia’s Solution

The full deal is as shown:aaxx

Zia’s answer is 8, 6, 5 or 3 (each of these cards is considered correct for the Orbis Hand of the Week).

Zia needs to reach the heart winners in dummy. There are three possible approaches:

1. Play a Low Spade (Zia’s Solution)

Lead a low spade towards 9, hoping that West will have 10. This is the best percentage play, especially given that East opened with a 3 pre-empt. On the actual deal, West would win with 10 (ducking would not help). Whatever suit West returns, Zia can win. For example, if West returns a spade dummy’s  will win the trick. Zia’s carefully crafted entry to dummy now enables him to cash the AKQ, discarding his club and diamond losers.

Final Result: NS win 12 tricks for +1430

2. Play a High Spade (Approach ‘A’)

You could cash A, hoping to drop the singleton 10. In this case, 9 would be an entry to dummy’s AKQ. On the actual deal, this approach would not succeed. Cashing a high spade could have worked, but playing a low spade is the better percentage play given East’s 3 bid.

3. Play a High Spade (Approach ‘B’)

A possible approach would be to draw trumps hoping 10 falls, failing which to then exit with Q in the hope that West has to give dummy an entry. On the actual deal, West’s 10 does not drop but there is still a chance. Zia can draw the remaining trump and then exit with Q. If West wins with K and started with KJ, he will have to present you with an entry to dummy. This might work, but it is more likely that West will have one specific card, 10, than two specific cards, K and J (making Zia’s strategy of playing a low spade wiser). Besides, even if West does have that club holding, he can always duck Q! Then, Zia will succeed only if West began with two or three clubs and East five or four – wildly unlikely on the bidding. Again, Zia’s approach of playing a low spade is the better percentage play.

Just a hint – after you rack up the slam with this play, it would not be appropriate to sing ‘Fly me to the moon!’