Brian Gray Articles


Still feeling like a newcomer himself, Brian Gray has recently published a book designed to aid the newcomer to bridge.

John Rayner, renowned Canadian bridge teacher and Canadian champion writes.

Many aspiring new bridge players eventually, with trepidation, venture out to their local duplicate bridge club to give it a try.

For new players the world of duplicate bridge can be a daunting and humbling experience.

For such players, Brian Gray’s “A Newcomers Guide: Stress-Free Introduction To Duplicate
Bridge” is a wonderful reference to help them better prepare for the experience of club play.

With detail and humour, Brian gently guides the reader through every aspect of what to expect as you get ready for your debut at the duplicate table.

In addition to the fine explanations and advice, this book‘s presentation, the quality of the type-style, pages, graphics and illustrations is terrific. Colour abounds throughout, bringing
the pages alive. Brian’s book should be a “must-read” for every newer player – and for more experienced players as well.

Brian, you have done bridge players a great service with your guide. Congratulations – well done indeed!

John Rayner

I’m just an advancing newcomer player. I know the term Safety Play but probably would not recognize a safety play situation.
I would mistakenly play on and only realize the error in my line of play when it was too late. I’d just grumble, “Bad trump split again,” for not making the contract.
I wanted to “spruce up” this article and make it more meaningful by using personal examples of a safety play. I didn’t want to just Google “Safety definition: A safety play is where you play a suit in such a way that it will protect
against an adverse distribution of the opponents’ cards. With this line of play, you may give up the chance to make the
maximum number of tricks when there’s an average break, but you avoid the loss of extra tricks when there’s a bad break.
I am still looking for an answer to my question: “How will I recognize a safety play opportunity?”

Greg Coles, ACBL Technology Guru, ACBL Tournament Director, certified teacher, and former Club Manager of Midland Bridge Club, Ontario provides
us with this example:

The bidding goes 1NT by South, 3NT
by North.
West lead, the ]Q. This one is simply
a case of thinking about what could go
wrong. If the missing clubs are divided
3-2 then declarer has ten winners
off the top (a spade, two hearts, a
diamond, and six clubs). However, if
you assume that this is going to be the
case when you play two top clubs and
find out that the clubs are divided 4-1,
you will now have no chance of taking
nine tricks due to the fact that there
are no entries to dummy. The better
play is to duck a round of clubs right
away while you still have control of all
the suits. Now you will take nine tricks
for sure.
company on this unfriendly layout. However, if your objective is to make the contract at all costs (rubber bridge or team game), you should play a club to dummy’s nine when West contributes the club three.
This play guarantees success regardless of how clubs break. When East discards, you play a diamond towards hand in an effort to build a winner in that suit with a good guess. Even if you misguess diamonds, you can still make 3NT as a subsequent finesse of the jack of clubs.

Play” for the information. How much fun would that be? On behalf of the Kibitzer readers, may I extend our heartfelt thanks to all the contributors: the bridge experts, teachers, and writers who gave freely of their time and talents to educate us with their Safety Play examples.


Thank you, Josee Hammill, for your editing prowess and constructive commentary. I will set the stage with Karen Walker’s
love of teaching. Merry is accredited
through TAP, is a certified online
teacher, accredited through Learn
Bridge and a dynamite teacher at St.
Petersburg Bridge Club, Florida. Merry
“The safety play is used when you are
trying to gain extra tricks through
length but have no other entries to the
suit other than through that suit.
The key to using a safety play is to
stop and make your plan to make your
contract before playing to the first
Say this is the heart holding:
You Dummy
♡ xxx ♡ A K x x x
You have eight hearts and if your opps
have five, they are likely to break 3-2.
Ideally, you can play the ace and king,
then lose a trick, get back to the
dummy with an entry in another suit
and collect the last two tricks. But
what if you don’t have an entry in
another suit?
You have to use the safety play. So, you
should lose the first trick in that suit.
This leaves the ace and king in the
dummy and two small hearts in your
hand. Next time you get control, lead
small to the ace and collect the rest of
the tricks. You have to recognize this
potential problem when the dummy
comes down or you might not do it
Contributor Dave Willis is bridge
columnist for the Toronto Star and
Ottawa Citizen. He’s also the Director
at the Prince of Wales Bridge Club in
Ottawa. Here’s his example:
With N-S vulnerable, the bidding goes
3} by North, 3NT by South

Opening lead: ♠️Q
Safety plays are really only appropriate
at rubber bridge or imp scoring,
where overtricks are of little value.
A safety play requires declarer to
sacrifice potential overtricks which are
losing tactics at matchpoints (where
overtricks are all important).
You are fortunate to have escaped a
heart lead on this deal. Dummy has
no outside entry to the club suit and
so the play of the top clubs will be an
abject failure when a defender holds
}Qxx. Defeat will be imminent.
At matchpoints, you should play a club
and insert the jack when West follows
suit. This line will guarantee at least
nine tricks as long as East follows suit.
Alas, East shows out and the game will
be defeated, but you will have lots of
brings home the entire suit and earns the game bonus. Stay tuned for more examples of safety plays in future issues of the Kib! Brian is busy finishing his second bridge book,
“A Handy Bridge Player’s Guide to Duplicate” for the UK beginners.
You can read more about what Brian is up to at his website:

Download New Comer’s Guide

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My article on Safety Plays has been
divided into two parts. Part 1, on trick
development with limited entries,
appeared in the Winter 2020 issue of
the Kibitzer. Part 2, presented here,
deals with hold up plays. Hold Up Plays – keeping the dangerous opponent off lead Contributor David Bird is a prolific
British bridge writer having written
over 130 books. He is the bridge
correspondent to the Mail on Sunday
and the London Evening Standard. Bird
is also a regular contributor to several
magazines including his humorous
column, “Bridge with the Abbot” which is featured monthly in the ACBL Bridge Bulletin.
I contacted David Bird and asked
him to send a message to Brother
Xavier and The Abbot at the St Titus
monastery. The Abbot replied, “Here is
a safety play that you can use:”
West North East South
1NT pass 3NT all pass West leads the heart king. Declarer holds up the ace until the third round to break the link between the two defenders. He has 8 tricks on top and must develop a ninth trick without allowing West (the danger hand who can cash two more hearts) on lead. He plays the ace of clubs and leads the club 4 to dummy’s 9. The safe East hand wins and declarer makes nine
tricks. The safety play would fail only if
West holds }Q10x. I understand all
the monks at St Titus are doing just
fine. There is no internet Server; they
are connected to a Higher Power!”
Another famous name in the bridge
world is Larry Cohen. He is a writer,
teacher, and winner of 25 North
American Bridge Championships.
Larry also writes a monthly column in
the Bulletin titled “The Real Deal.”
Larry writes, “The Rule of 7? Rules –
Schmules. There are too many ‘Rules
of #x%’ out there. I prefer the Rule of
Thinking. If you must know the Rule
of 7 was designed to tell declarer in
notrump how many times to hold up.
For example, say he gets a heart lead,
and this is the heart suit:
Dummy Declarer
]4 ]A 8 7 5The rule says to total up your hearts
(you have 5) and subtract from 7. That
leaves 2, which is how many times
you should hold up. Now let’s forget
that rule (I never use it) and try some
good old logic instead.
Against 3NT, West leads their fourth
best ]2.
The Rule of 7 says to hold up twice
(7-5 = 2) but the Rule of Thinking says
to win the first heart and so not to
hold up at all.
From the lead of the deuce, declarer
knows the hearts are splitting 4-4.
Not only does that make a hold-up
play irrelevant, but it gives the defence
a chance to switch to a devastating
club to defeat the contract. Winning
the first trick produces 9 tricks. On
this deal, the winning play is to holdup zero times.”

Larry concludes: “I always prefer thinking and logic to rules. The Rule of 7 told you the wrong information nearly every time. With it, you would have robotically held up twice on each hand. In real life, the correct play is to hold up 0, 1, 2, or even 3 times. This should put the Rule of 7 into ‘Rule of Heaven.’ Maybe the ‘Rule of Graveyard’ is a better phrase.” Hot off the press! The dynamic duo of Barbara Seagram and David Bird are at it again! Great bridge and COVID advice are in their latest endeavour, Play It Safe. A request. I need your help! I’m writing a humour book titled Bridge Bloopers. We’ve all been there. Tell me a story (anonymously, of course) and have a good laugh!

Have you ever…

  • had your partner open the bidding with a Double?
  • redoubled your partner’s double?
  • asked to see your opponent’s convention card and later find out he handed you your partner’s card by mistake?
  • reached a 4[ contract and had double vision because the same card (the [A) was in both the dummy and your hand? I have experienced all these embarrassments and more! 

Please send your favourite blooper(s) to me at Also, feel free to check out my website: www.

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