Keep it simple


Rixi Markus ( England )


RIXI MARKUS, who died in 1992 aged 82, was one of the greatest woman players of all time and the first to become a WBF Grand Master. Born in a remote part of the Austro-Hungarian empire, she spent much of her childhood in Vienna . Having helped Austria win three European Championships before the war, she fled to England in 1938 and subsequently helped that country to win seven Europeans, the last of which was in 1975. She won five World titles in total; her World Pairs win with Fritzi Gordon in 1974 was by a margin of more than seven boards, a feat unparalleled in the history of the game. In 1975 she was awarded an MBE for her services to the game, among which was the organization, for charity, of the annual match between the British Houses of Parliament. She was the author of several books and bridge columnist of The Guardian from 1955 until her death.

Impetuous, imperious, passionate are some of the adjectives one might apply to Rixi who was a tigress at the table. Opponents, shaking with fear, have been known to drop their cards when playing against Rixi. She was loyal, too, and always proud of her adopted home. At one European when the British women rallied from an unlikely position to win the event, she was asked to what she attributed the team's success. She said in her heavy accent, We British are at our best vith our backs to ve wall.'

I HAVE been a member of the bridge community for a great number of years and have played very many different bidding systems, some by choice and some that were forced upon me. I eventually opted for the Acol system, which I still enjoy playing. I have added one or two simple gadgets or agreements to the basic system, but I find that Acol leaves enough freedom to the players while being at the same time based on a number of clearly defined principles. I maintain that if your bidding system is simple but effective, it leaves you enough brain power to cope with the more important aspects of bridge: dummy play and, above all, defence.

As you will have gathered, my BOLS bridge tip relates to bidding and it is:

Keep it simple.

HERE are my specific recommendations:



 When you are the dealer you have at advantage which you should not waste Try to open the bidding as often as you car particularly if you have a good suit which yoc can rebid and which you want your partner tc lead. Thus with:


A 10 6

Q J 10



K J 9 5 4

 K 9 3

A 8 7 6

 K J 9 8 6 2 



do not hesitate. You should open as dealer on both hands.



 Consider playing a strong no-trump at all vulnerabilities. My 1NT opening promises 16-18 points, but I count AJ10 as six points, QJ doubleton as two points and the doubleton Qx as one.



 Do not hesitate to open a four-card major suit, which can sometimes be a good pre emptive weapon. For example:

K Q J 9

 10 9

 K J 10 6

 Q J 10


I would open One Spade on this hand. As I play strong no-trump, I can rebid 2NT over Two Hearts, and I am well prepared for any other response from partner.



 Use your two bids to show strong but not game-forcing hands. My Acol two bid shows a hand either with one long, strong suit or with two good suits, and I can assure you that my various partners and I have bid very many games and slams that were missed by our opponents.



 Use Herbert responses to Acol two bids, whereby a bid of the next higher-ranking suit is the negative. This is an idea which I helped to popularize, and it has two advantages over traditional methods. First, it means that any eventual no-trump contract is almost always played by the strong hand, which makes the opening lead and subsequent defence more difficult. And second, it can save valuable bidding space. If, for example, the opener has a strong hand with diamonds and spades, the auction will start 2 -2-2♠                                   and not 2 -2NT-3♠ as before.



        Play Stayman and transfer bids in

response to 1NT. I find transfer bids most useful, because they allow the final contract to be played by the strong hand and because they allow the responder to describe his hand more accurately.



If your partner's opening bid of 1NT is doubled for penalties, redouble if you have a strong hand but ignore the double if you are weak. This is my own special idea, and I find that it works very well. It means that transfer bids will permit all two-level t contracts to be played by the stronger hand, and it also means that responder will be able to try to wriggle out of trouble by bidding Two Clubs (Stayman) even after a double, say with

J 9 4

 10 7 5 2

 J 8 6 4

 9 3 

After 1NT-Dble, you can bid Two Clubs, intending to pass whatever partner replies.



 Agree some way of showing both major suits over the opponents' weak no-trump. I personally like to use a conventional bid of Two Diamonds for this purpose, for it deprives the opponents of two bids (Two Clubs and Two Diamonds) which would otherwise be available to them.



 Only make a game-forcing jump shift in response to partner's One of a suit if you have either a very good suit of your own or a very good fit for partner. On all other strong responding hands, you will need as much bidding space as possible and it will work out better to take things slowly.



 Unless the opponents are obviously  sacrificing, only double a high-level contract if you have a good holding in trumps: aces and kings do not always take tricks



 Retain a penalty double for low-level contracts. I find that to play negative doubles gives up the chance of obtaining too many profitable penalties, and I have never come to much harm through bidding my suits instead of showing them by way of a double.



 Never make 'trap' passes. If my right-hand opponent opens One Spade and I hold:







I am happy to overcall 1NT. Any other course of action is likely to put pressure on partner at a later stage, and this is contrary to my advice that you should keep it simple.



   At rubber bridge, keep it simple for  partner. If you want him to bid again, for example, do not make a bid which he might pass. For example, with:

A 10 

A K Q 6 4

 K 7

 K Q 7 5 


If you are game and 40 below and your partner opens One Diamond and rebids Two Diamonds over your response of One Heart, bid either 4NT or 6NT. Do not bid Three Clubs, which he might pass in an effort to settle for the rubber.



If your partner makes a take-out double and your right-hand opponent redoubles, do not speak unless you have something useful to say. Do not bid for the sake of it, for you may choose the wrong suit and go badly astray. Use the opportunity to pass and tell partner that you have nothing worthwhile to say.