If you have a bidding or playing issue that you'd like to see discussed, please let me know at rbmcdill@swbell.net. I will be glad to address that for you. Older articles can be found in the archives section.

The premise of this article is on the "Captain" of a bridge hand. Think of this as he who knows goes.

Captain my Captain

You are probably wondering what that title has to do with bridge. Well, it has a lot to with bridge. It is a principle that comes into play on all bridge hands. But, you might say we don't call anyone the Captain, but the Captain does exist. What does the Captaincy mean in bridge? You've probably heard the expression, he who knows goes. Three No Trump ends the bidding is another common expression that isn't really true but can be the right choice if you know who the Captain is.

Let's start with an easy example of the Captain. Your partner opens 1-No Trump. You bid 2-Clubs. This makes you the Captain. You know where you want this hand to go and probably end. You know how many points each of you have within one or two in partner's hand. You know if that total is 25 or more, you need to end up in game. If it is less than 25, you know to stop below game.

Get the idea, the Captain knows where the contract should end.

Another example, partner opens 1-Diamond. You bid 1-Spade and partner raises to 2-Spades. What do you know about partner's hand? You know that she has at least 4 Spades and probably 4 or more Diamonds. Do you know anything about partner's point count? You do. Regardless of the system you are playing, you know partner has between 12 and 15 points. Why do you know that, partner didn't jump to 3-Spades or 4-Spades. Who is the Captain? You as the responder are. You make the final decision as to where the contract is placed. If you aren't sure, you ask partner for their opinion making a bid that says, partner I need some help in making the final decision. There are many ways to ask this question that are beyond the scope of this article.

Can opener be the Captain? Yes they can. Let's say partner opens again 1-Diamond. She likes that suit. You respond 1-No Trump where it shows between 6 and 10 High Card Points (HCP), and you do not have four or more cards in either major. Now the Captain is opener. She knows your point range and can add that to hers to come up with magic number of 25 or 26 or more to reach game. If less than that number she knows to get you out below game. If she needs more information, she can ask you by bidding 2-No Trump or a new suit.

See how easy this makes the game? All you have to figure out is who is the Captain.

Lets look at an auction where the Captain moves between both players. Opener starts with the big hand bid of 2-Clubs. You respond 2-Diamonds. For discussion, let's say this shows at least an Ace or a King. Partner, knows that you cannot stop below game and bid accordingly.

For our first example, we will let partner bid 2-No Trump after opening 2-Clubs This of course shows 22 to 24 HCP. You get to become Captain because you are bidding 3-Clubs. Once partner responds to the Stayman bid, you know more about the hand and does it belong in game or slam.

Another look at the Captain, we will start again with 2-Clubs and you bid 2-Diamonds. This time partner bids 2 of a suit. Just for our example, we will say it is 2-Spades. You respond 3-Diamonds showing your suit. Opener is the Captain. She know this time that you have at least 5 Diamonds and maybe your Ace or King is in that suit. She will know how much this helps or hurt and in the search for the right contract. She will take into consideration what the value of Diamonds in search for the final contract.

Here the Captain moves around. We will start again with 2-Clubs, 2-Diamonds and 2-Spades. You bid 3-Spades at your second chance. What does that show, it says partner I like Spades, but I think we might have a slam. You would have bid 4-Spades if that was where you thought the contract should end. After 3-Spade what does your partner know? She knows that you have more than just one Ace or King. She knows that you have at least 3 Spades and a good change that it is four. She should now take action to show something more about her hand. Again, just for argument's sake, we will say she bids 4-Clubs. This should show the Ace of Clubs. Your Ace is the Ace of Diamonds, so you bid 4-Diamonds. Partner say 4-Spades because I don't have the Ace of Hearts. Well, you do, so you now become the Captain and bid 4-No Trump. You will end the contract based on what partner tells you.

See, the Captain can change but it will always be there.

What happens in a competitive auction? It can be harder to determine who is the Captain, but the role is still there. For example, the auction starts by partner with her favorite suit, 1-Diamond. Right Hand Opponent (RHO) overcalls 1-Spade. You make a negative double showing some points and at least 4 Hearts and possibly 4 Clubs. Here partner is the Captain because they get to make some decisions. Maybe she has 4 Hearts and wishes to show them. Maybe she has 5 Diamonds or so and rebids her suit telling you she doesn't have 4 Hearts. And maybe, she has 4 really good Spades, possibly something like King, Queen, Jack and 10, and wants to punish the overcaller. She is the Captain for now and you respond based on her decision.

This is a short discussion on the Captain. It is material taken from several different articles. If you want more information, you can do a Google search on the "Captain at Bridge". You have to look around those many articles on captain on the bridge.

Good luck and have fun playing our favorite card game.