Bob Munson

Recap Of 2/13/2019 28 Board IMP Individual

Five hands today with double digit swings.  The first two involved slam decisions, the next was defense/declarer play, and the last two were game/part score decisions.

 
1
None
North
N
Cris
A982
Q10864
AQ
AQ
 
W
Mark R
KQ107
9532
J104
J3
K
E
Bruce
63
J7
7653
96542
 
S
Bob
J54
AK
K982
K1087
 

 

Cris
Bob
1
2
2
2NT
4NT1
6NT2
All Pass
 
(1) Quantitative invite
(2) Believing that I have enough to accept

 

Tom
Gary
1
2
2
2NT
3NT1
All Pass
(1) Signing off

First hand of the day.  The first 4 bids at both tables seemed pretty automatic and were identical.  But, the variation occurred on the fifth bid where my partner (Cris) made the invitational jump to 4NT which I accepted, while our opponent at the other table simply raised to 3NT and ended the auction.

Looking at only the North-South hands, this is not a slam you want to be in.  Rarely is it possible to construct two hands with over 30 HCP split somewhat evenly between them that have such miserable transportation.  If you are going to enjoy your top minor suit tricks separately, the only entry to the South hand is in hearts (unless the defense creates the J as an entry by starting with K then Q);  And the only entry to the North hand is the A and that may be gone early.  Declarer starts with 10 top tricks (1+3+3+3 – A plus 3 AKQs) with possibilities in every suit for more tricks, but that is a bit of an illusion due to the transportation problem that I mentioned.  If the J comes down in 3 rounds (it does), you have your 2 extra needed tricks (if you can get to them).  If the J comes down in 3 rounds (it does), you have 1 extra trick.  If the diamond J10 fall in 3 rounds (they do), you have 1 extra trick.  And if the opponents start with K and then Q of spades, you have 1 extra trick with the J.  You want to be able to try out all suits to gain whatever tricks may be available – they were all there!  The extremely favorable card layout (for declarer) made it such that 12 tricks was never a problem. 

So, the following discussion is taking a look at ‘what might have been’ to show how really dreadful the transportation was.  Consider declarer’s problem If the opponents start by knocking out the A (without establishing your J – picture a spade lead where East holds one of the top spades and returns a spade at trick 2).  Your 10 top tricks now look more like 9 since, if you first unblock the minor suit AQ and AQ, there is no entry back to the North hand to enjoy the hearts.  Therefore, after winning the A, you will pick a minor to cash the AQ and then cash the AK, enter dummy in the other minor, and later you must overtake the remaining minor suit queen to get minor suit tricks in the South hand.  This means you are 3 tricks short (you can only enjoy the AKQ of one minor and sacrifice the Q in the other minor)!  If the J comes down in 3 rounds, that only gets you 2 extra tricks, so you are still a trick short.  You have to find 3 discards as you run hearts before you see how the minor suits behave.  Your 3 discards will be a spade and either 2 small clubs or 2 small diamonds, hoping the suit you didn’t discard will produce 4 tricks.  On this hand the lie of the minor suits was extremely favorable, so either minor you try (cash AQ and A then overtake the Q; or AQ and A then overtake the Q) would have allowed 12 tricks – this discussion is all under the scenario of an opening lead to East’s high spade and a spade return and the J did fall, making the hearts all good. 

But if the J did not fall (giving you only 4 major suit tricks), you would need 8 minor suit tricks.  I think this would only have been possible with a doubleton J10 and with the J no more than 3 long, cashing clubs first.  So, the favorable spade position, which left the opponents poorly placed to knock out your A made a huge difference in the play of the hand.  Without that spade position, 12 tricks were going to be very challenging even if the J falls (which minor are you going to try?).  In bridge, luck often favors the bold, but not always.  There are some very unlikely squeeze possibilities – unlikely since most squeezes require robust transportation and that was not featured on this hand.  I was lucky to land 12 tricks due to all cards being very favorably placed.  I ducked the K opening lead and all continuations allow a route to 12 tricks, but the Q at trick 2 probably would have given me the biggest problem.  We were +990 while our teammates were -490, win 11 IMPs.

 
11
None
South
N
Cris
AQ104
AJ103
1084
103
 
W
Mark M
K973
54
J97
Q865
7
E
Bob
J8652
72
KQ32
42
 
S
Dan
KQ986
A65
AKJ97
 

 

Dan
Cris
1
31
62
All Pass
(1) 4+ card invitational limit raise
(2) Bidding what he thinks he can make

 

Mark R
Gary
1
2NT1
4NT2
53
5NT4
65
76
All Pass
(1) 4+ card game forcing heart raise
(2) RKCB
(3) Two without the heart Q
(4) Kings?
(5) None
(6) Well, with no kings, that increases the chance that you have the club Q

At one table, responding to partner’s 1 opening bid, North offered an invitational limit raise; the other  table bid a game forcing Jacoby 2NT.   So, via different routes, both tables reached slam…but one table was in GRAND slam!  How to find 13 tricks?  There are basically 5 options: spade lead and guess right; 3-3 clubs (allowing a diamond ruff in dummy after discarding both diamonds on good clubs and discard the other diamond on the A); 4-2 clubs and guess for East to hold the Q and finesse; 4-2 clubs and guess for West to hold the Q and take a ruffing finesse; or have 2 ruffs drop the K to dispose of both of your diamonds.  So, as long as clubs are not 6-0 or 5-1, the grand slam is ‘cold’ – just work out the club position!  I don’t see any way to obtain a reliable inferential count – it is a guess with a lot of IMPs at stake.  Against the grand slam, the ‘standard’ trump was led, the K didn’t fall, and clubs were not like declarer hoped.  When declarer played for the Q onside, they were limited to 12 tricks.  The problem is that there is no way to combine the play to include more playing options to cover more of the possible club distributions.  What are the choices regarding how to play clubs?  Cashing the A first (to allow for a singleton Q  offside) and then finessing is decidedly worse than finessing the first time (because the probability of LHO holding a void or a small singleton is far more likely than holding exactly the singleton Q).  That leaves 3 possible lines of play in clubs (assuming you failed to ruff out the K, which should be your top priority, since then the issue of diamond discards from dummy disappears, you can discard both of your diamond losers on spades).  So, what is the best way to play clubs?

  1. Plan A – Lead the 10 and let it ride if not covered.  If the 10 wins, repeat the finesse.
  2. Plan B – Lead the A, K and ruff the third round.
  3. Plan C – Lead the A, K and J – discarding a diamond if not covered.

Plan A is 50%.  Plan B and C are both around 54% with plan B being slightly better than Plan C (but Plan C worked on the actual hand).  For those interested, there is a web site to provide percentages:  http://www.automaton.gr/tt/en/OddsTbl.htm.  Just enter the missing cards in the box at the top and then check the box if your line of play will work for that particular layout of the suit.  It automatically totals the percent of time that that line of play will succeed.  Unfortunately, at the table, you need to take your best guess, since this tool is not allowed as you play the hand!

Against the small slam, the 7 was led and declarer guessed wrong, playing the 10 from dummy.  Thinking declarer had the K9, I didn’t bother playing my J!?!  So, 13 easy tricks were there for declarer when clubs were 4-2 and both club losers could be ruffed and both diamond losers went away on spades.  We were -1010 while our teammates were -50, lose 14 IMPs.

Holding the North hand, what do you respond to partner’s 1 opening bid?  It may be the weakest ever Jacoby 2NT, as well as the strongest ever limit raise.  Well, maybe not ever, but this hand is, in my mind, a definite tweener.  I gave this bid to some other strong players and they decided they didn’t want to play below game, so they bid 2NT.  It should depend upon partnership style – how light will they open?  

 
17
None
North
N
Mark R
Q8753
Q1065
94
98
 
W
Bob
J
9873
K
KQJ10753
K
E
Gary
10942
J
Q876532
A2
 
S
Mark M
AK6
AK42
AJ106
54
 

 

Mark M/Tom
Mark R/Cris
2NT1
32
3
4
All Pass
 
(1) 20-21, but it is rich in aces
(2) Regular Stayman

Here, both tables had an identical auction to arrive in 4.  Both tables led the K which was overtaken and a club returned.  At this point, with best play, declarer cannot go down – at least double dummy.  The opening lead needed to be one of the singletons!  Either the J or the K can defeat 4, but starting with 2 club tricks leaves declarer well placed no matter how the defense proceeds at trick 3.  The defense always has 2 club tricks, but they need 2 more. The J lead threatens a spade ruff in addition to scoring an eventual diamond trick.  The K lead establishes a diamond trick for the defense, and declarer still cannot come to 10 tricks, whether they duck the K (for a later double dummy finesse of the Q) or capture the K with the A.  Declarer can’t draw all of the trump (the defense would have 7 club tricks to cash).  So, declarer can draw some trump but then must play side suits.  If declarer plays a diamond to the 9 (establishing the J10), West can (must) discard their spade and get a spade ruff to go with a diamond and 2 clubs.  If declarer plays spades, West can ruff.  If they play clubs, East can win, cash the Q (allowing the spade discard) and then a spade ruff and a club will provide 4 tricks for the defense.  But, all of that is about how either singleton lead will defeat the contract (Benito Garozzo is famous for the advice:  “If you have a singleton, lead it!”  When will I ever learn? – Peter, Paul and Mary, 1962)

The reality is that both tables cashed two clubs.  I then led a third club (Q), thinking I might get a trump promotion.  Since I have all of the remaining clubs (and I thought it would be ‘obvious’ to partner that all hands were now void in clubs) it didn’t seem to matter which club I led – I thought partner would ruff and that might help my trump suit grow up.  Partner did not ruff, and at the time, we thought declarer could not reach 10 tricks if partner had only ruffed the third round of clubs.  But, declarer’s answer to a club ruff with the J is to not overruff, but to discard a diamond from both hands.  Then win whatever suit is returned, cash the A and ruff a diamond in dummy and then and draw all 4 rounds of trump.  East is squeezed in spades/diamonds and 10 tricks are scored.  So, partner’s failure to ruff really was not a defensive failure – declarer can prevail after that beginning for the defense.  So, partner disappointingly did not ruff my third round of clubs and declarer did.  Declarer then drew 4 rounds of trump discarding a diamond from hand, and he was down to AK6 and AJ10.  At that point, he simply led a diamond to the A (there are only 3 diamonds outstanding).  Partner had discarded a diamond on the third round of clubs and 3 more diamonds on the run of trumps.  If partner had all of the remaining diamonds (and I showed out on the A), that meant spades were 3-2 and they were all winners.  As it was, I followed with the K under the A, so declarer could lead the J, losing to the Q but establishing the 10 for his 10th trick.

At trick 3, a trump was led at the other table (after cashing 2 clubs like we did).  With this line of defense, declarer has a number of ways to arrive at 10 tricks (although he cannot draw all of the trump and then lose a trick to the K because there are clubs to cash).  If declarer wins the trump lead and plays another trump, they will learn that West had 4 trump and (likely) 7 clubs (why else would East overtake trick 1 with the A and return a club?).  Perhaps they should stop drawing trump and try running the 9?  Looking at it double dummy, there are many alternative lines that can produce 10 tricks.  With the line our teammates (the declarer at the other table) chose, they only found 7 tricks.  They drew trump, cashed spades hoping for a split and then finessed diamonds with West winning the K and cashing the remaining tricks with good clubs.  So, we were -420 to go with -150, lose 11 IMPs.

For what it is worth, Lead Captain also chose the singletons as the two best leads, but the K was not far behind.

 
18
N-S
East
N
Mark R
K98743
KJ1093
2
6
 
W
Bob
106
642
KJ10876
A8
3
E
Gary
52
AQ8
Q93
QJ543
 
S
Mark M
AQJ
75
A54
K10972
 

 

W
Bob
N
Mark R
E
Gary
S
Mark M
Pass
1
2
2
3
3
Pass
4
All Pass
 

 

W
Bruce
N
Cris
E
Dan
S
Tom
Pass
1NT
Dbl1
32
Pass
33
Pass
Pass4
Pass
(1) Meckwell showing 1 minor, both majors or strong spades
(2) Showing at least 5-5 in majors with invitational or better values
(3) Accepting spades but declining the invite
(4) Abiding partner’s decision

So much for ‘same bidding at both tables!’  These last two hands of the day featured different bidding judgment in nearly every seat for every bid with many varied bidding problems/options.  I decided to go through the bidding, one bid at a time for each table.

Let’s look first at the bidding at my table.  Is the South hand an opening 15-17 NT?  At my table South opened 1.  Nothing wrong with that.  

I was next (West), and with a respectable diamond suit, I made a weak jump overcall of 2.  Perhaps I should bid 3?  Or 1?  I have pretty fair offense and defense, so I settled on the middle ground – a 3 bid certainly would have given North a different problem than the 2 bid that I chose.  No singletons is a serious negative to my hand. 

Now, it is North’s turn.  After hearing partner open 1 and RHO bid 2, they can make a negative double or start bidding their suits.  The hand has a bit less HCP than you would expect for a free bid of 2, but it does have the advantage of holding 6 spades as well as 5 cards in the other major with the ability to try hearts next time if partner retreats to 3.  The 2 bid was mildly aggressive, but reasonable: 6-5 come alive.  Partner did open the bidding, so how bad can it be.

Over to East having heard partner’s weak jump overcall, they raised to 3.  

With their second bid, South who had opened 1 offered a 3 raise.  With maximum high cards (in the context of a potential minimum opening bid) and a doubleton, they might have jumped to game, but if they must ruff hearts, the value of their spade honors might decrease.  

Now West, gets another chance to bid after their RHO has bid 3.  Here they heard their partner raise their suit.  But, there is no sense in forcing them to bid game, so pass certainly seems reasonable.

North, who aggressively bid a new suit at the 2 level, heard partner raise spades.  North is minimum in high card and if partner has no minor suit ace, discarding on secondary minor winners (after the opponents take their aces) will be unlikely to produce incremental tricks, since your heart suit is so strong – those heart discards will likely be cards that would be winning tricks anyway!  Still, partner raised spades, so North went on to the spade game.

East has some respectable defense vs. 4 with little idea about partner’s offense/defense holding (but, the 2 weak jump overcall does suggest more offense than defense).  East passed.

After North has raised to game, South has nothing further to say.

But, West (my seat) now had a significant decision – save (with 5) or defend (with pass).  Since we only have 3 tricks on defense and 9 on offense (losing 2+1+1+0), I should have taken the save.  I was worried about the potential that the opponents might be going down (aka phantom “save”), and I was also worried, if partner had the wrong cards, that we could pay out -800, more than the value of their vulnerable game.  Five level decisions are always tough and I sure got this one wrong.  Do you take the save?

Now let’s look at the bidding at the other table which was quite different.  Is the South hand an opening 15-17 NT (14 HCP plus a point for the 5th club)?  I think so and South did open 1NT.

Over 1NT, West was unable to immediately show diamonds, so they made a Meckwell double (showing one minor, or both majors or spades…to be revealed later).

Now, it is North’s turn.  Responding to 1NT (and ‘knowing’ RHO has a single minor – they could hardly hold both majors), they were able to use a convention (3) where they can show both majors, 5 or more in each, invitational or better.  That pretty well describes this hand.

Over to East where presumably the Meckwell bid consisted of one minor since his RHO had just shown at least 10 cards in the majors.  Knowing that, they might try 4 or even 5 as “pass or correct, I have support for whatever minor you hold” but they simply passed.

With their second bid, South was bidding in response to partner’s 3 which was invitational or better with long majors.  Since their HCP count was minimum (in the context of the 1NT opening), they did not accept the invite.  Their K is of doubtful value, but the other high card points are golden – carrying full weight and then some.  In any case, they obviously chose spades, but declined the invite with a 3 call.

Now West gets another chance to bid after their RHO has rebid 3.  There is no sense in forcing them to bid game, so pass certainly seems reasonable.

North, with 6 spades, heard partner choose spades over hearts (after opening 1NT), but partner did not accept the invite.  Over the years, I have found that 6 card suits with support from partner have an incredible consistency of producing 10 tricks (however, this is not the case in the context of a weak 2 opener followed by a blocking bid by partner raising my suit to 3), so I don’t spend much time on analysis, I just bid the game.  Still, you are minimum in high card and you invited, partner did not accept.  So North passed.

East has no good reason to balance over 3 so they pass and defend the partscore.  The opponents didn’t reach game, don’t force them there.   

There was nothing in the play in the spade contract.  Two hearts and a club must be lost, but there is the A plus 3 hearts and 6 spades for 10 tricks.  Our teammates were +170 to go with -620, lose 10 IMPs.

 
20
Both
West
N
Mark R
QJ7
J762
AK8543
 
W
Bob
K
A843
AQJ92
QJ2
Q
E
Gary
964
KQ105
1065
1073
 
S
Mark M
A108532
9
K8743
9
 
W
Bob
N
Mark R
E
Gary
S
Mark M
1NT
Dbl1
Pass
22
Pass
4
All Pass
 
(1) Meckwell showing 1 minor, both majors or strong spades
(2) Natural
W
Bruce
N
Cris
E
Dan
S
Tom
1
2
Pass
2
Pass
3
All Pass
 

Once more, I think the bidding decisions were interesting, so I will look at them one seat at a time from each table.

West (my seat again) was the dealer.  I don’t relish opening 1NT with a singleton K, but I really didn’t want to open 1 and then bid 2NT over partner’s possible 1 response.  I have “18 points” with 17 HCP and 1 for the 5th diamond, but with the flawed spade suit, I decided to open 1NT.

North made a Meckwell double showing 1 minor, both majors or strong spades.  East had nothing to say.

South looked at 6-5 and came alive with 2.  The ‘routine’ bid after the Meckwell double is 2 and then let partner describe which of the hands they hold.  Since North would pass if their suit was clubs, South didn’t like the prospect of playing 2 so they showed their suit.  If partner has both majors or strong spades, they should know what to do.  And if partner has one minor, they can still look at their hand and figure out the best course of action.  West has no bid after hearing the Meckwell violating bid of 2.

North, with 2 club tricks, strong spades in context, and a diamond void, bounced to the spade game which was passed out.

Meanwhile, at the other table, West thought they were too strong to open 1NT, so they started with 1.

That gave North the opportunity to bid their club suit naturally with 2.  East passed.

South had modest high card points and no interest in clubs, so they tried their spade suit with 2.

West had nothing to say and North elected to raise to 3 showing useful support.  East passed.

South decided that the overall strength of the hand was too weak to advance to game.  As I said on the prior problem, when I have a 6 card major and hear a raise, I will usually go to game and let the defense worry about how to defeat it.

Again, there is no interesting play or defense – cross ruff your way to 10 tricks.  With all other leads unappealing, I started with a club.  Declarer pitched their heart loser on the top clubs and then ruffed 4 hearts and 3 diamonds.  Nine tricks in and they still had the A10 and 2 losing diamonds.  When partner ruffed my diamond trick (necessary to have any chance to hold them to 10 tricks) they led trumps.  Declarer played the A and ended up with 11 tricks.  Our teammates scored 10 tricks on the opening lead of the A, so they were +170 with our -650, lose 10 IMPs.

 

Recap Of 2/4/2019 28 Board IMP Individual

Across all of the hands, we had record low scoring in the Monday game, and only 2 boards achieved a double digit swing.  Many other boards afforded missed opportunities, but I will only report on the two where the big swings actually happened.  One was all about bidding while the other was all about defense.

 
3
E-W
South
N
Jerry
K
K98653
J9
Q1074
 
W
Mike
AJ854
72
Q1086
82
Q
E
Jack
Q107
AJ10
K72
AJ53
 
S
Bob
9632
Q4
A543
K96
 

 

W
Mike
N
Jerry
E
Jack
S
Bob
Pass
Pass
2
2NT
Pass
31
Pass
3NT2
All Pass
(1) Intended as spade transfer
(2) Interpreted as Stayman

 

W
Chris
N
Manfred
E
Dan
S
Ed
Pass
Pass
2
2NT
Pass
31
Pass
3NT
(1) Spade transfer

Here, essentially the same bidding resulted in the same contract and the same lead at both tables.  Declarer needs to find 9 tricks, the defense needs to find 5 tricks after the opening Q lead against 3NT.  Clearly if declarer could see the singleton K and the doubleton J, there would be no problems in the play…simply win 5+1+3+1 for 10 tricks.  But, not knowing how those suits are distributed…

At my table, declarer ducked my Q lead and I continued the suit in spite of declarer’s play of the 10 (suggesting that he still held the AJ over partner’s K).  There was no suit that was appealing for a shift, none that I wanted to break for declarer and perhaps the 10 was a false card?  Naturally declarer won trick 2 with the A and floated the Q, losing to the K.  Now, a heart continuation would establish the heart suit.  But to what avail?  With no obvious entry, the established hearts would wither on the vine.  North (my partner, Jerry) made the excellent decision to switch to clubs and chose the 10.  I like that play a lot.  It caters to declarer having a minor suit holding of AKx(x) and Kxx(x) as well as the actual minor suit holding that declarer did hold.  Note that simply leading a small club might work poorly when declarer ducks (but, as the cards were distributed on this deal, a small club can produce 2 club tricks for the defense just as well as the 10 did).  When partner chose to lead clubs, the defense already had 2 tricks and needed 3 more.  By leading the 10, we might achieve 3 club tricks immediately, or perhaps 2 clubs and a diamond before declarer can find 9 tricks.  We did not have heart tricks coming, so looking for tricks elsewhere was a wise move.  The 10 was covered by the J, so I won the K and continued with the 9.  Declarer could save a trick by ducking the 9 and severing our communication in clubs, but he couldn’t be clear who had what – ducking would assure defeat since declarer still had to lose the A before they could score any diamond tricks.  In any case, declarer won the A and cashed spade winners, but when diamonds were led to the K, I could win the A and lead to partner’s long clubs to give the defense 6 tricks (1+1+1+3) for down 2.

At the other table, declarer won the first trick with the A and finessed spades at trick 2, losing to the K.  North cleared hearts (cashed the K and led another).  So, the heart suit was established, but with no certain entry in the North hand, it did no good for the defense.  Declarer won the 3rd heart lead (throwing a club from dummy while South discarded a diamond).  Then declarer cashed 4 more spade tricks.  North had to find 4 discards and chose to part with a club and all 3 of their remaining hearts.  Declarer pitched 2 clubs and South pitched a diamond.  Now declarer led a small diamond from dummy, North playing the 9, declarer the K, won by South’s A.  South then exited a diamond  providing declarer with a 100% line of play – simply play small.  If South has the J, the finesse will win and there are 9 tricks (4+2+2+1).   If North has the J, the finesse will lose, but that will only be the 4th trick for the defense and there are no hearts to cash.  So, the defense is limited to 4 tricks (1+1+2+0) and declarer still has a diamond in hand to lead to the 2 established diamond tricks in the dummy.  With the defensive club shift found by my partner, declarer never had a chance for 9 tricks.  With the sequence of plays by the defense against my teammate, 9 tricks were assured.  So, our teammates were +600, making 3NT to go with our +200 to win 13 IMPs.

What about the bidding?  For starters, it is good to have a mutual understanding about Stayman – that is, make sure that whatever partner thinks and what you think match.  After the auction goes (2)-2NT-(P), some play that 3 is Stayman, some play the cue bid (3) is Stayman, and some play that the transfer into the opponents suit (3) is Stayman.  Amazing: 3 possible Stayman bids – 3, 3, 3!!!  But only one of those actually is Stayman – there is no right/wrong answer, just be sure you and partner agree.  And how do you show 5 spades with Jacoby (vs. 4 spades with Stayman)?  Some play a normal transfer (3) and some play transfer through the opponents suit (3) to show spades.  Assuming partner showed 5 spades, what is declarer to do?  There are two schools of thought: 1) if you have 3+ spades, the partnership has 8+ major suit fit, bid the spade game; 2) use judgment, sometimes bidding 3NT in spite of holding as many as 3 spades.  On this hand, there is reason to fear that your nearly certain 2nd heart trick (due to the power of AJT) could be ruffed away (and that fear is validated with the card layout on this hand).  Plus 3NT requires 9 tricks instead of 10.  Plus the East hand is 4-3-3-3 with a stopper in every suit with minimum values, so 3NT might offer as good or better play for game compared to 4.  Bottom line, every hand is different (using this hand as an example is a poor basis for a long term plan) – 4 might work better sometimes, 3NT other times.  With a heart lead (as expected) and the K onside (as expected), there are 9 easy tricks in NT on this hand, but 10 tricks in spades will be challenging.  I don’t think there is a clear cut right answer.  Do you?

What about the play – win trick 1 or duck?  My preference is to duck, because you need 2 heart tricks.  Ducking trick 1 all but guarantees your 2 tricks (you can lead later to the J when you choose to).  If you win trick 1, your 2 heart tricks are still possible.  But, you’ve lost control of the suit.  Sometime they must be led again to establish your trick, but at that point you have no hearts left in dummy to lead to declarer’s hand to enjoy that trick.  So, some other entry must be found.  You have 1 sure entry (the A), but you may not want to use it for that.  Communication can be awkward, and ducking trick 1 simplifies getting your 2 heart tricks.

What about defensive options?  Clearly the club shift at my table doomed declarer.  But at the other table, as spades are cashed, if North discards 1 heart and 3 clubs, keeping 2 hearts, 2 diamonds and a club, declarer has to have his guessing shoes on.  He can no longer enjoy a 100% play of finessing for the J (after South won the A and continued diamonds).  If he is wrong, he is down.  Furthermore, with the actual discards that North made at the table, if South plays a club after winning the A, declarer once more is faced with a guess in diamonds.  After winning the A, declarer is down to 1 remaining (losing) club and 2 diamonds.  Dummy is down to all diamonds.  If he guesses wrong in diamonds, the defense will reach 5-6 tricks depending on how he guessed and how the remaining clubs/diamonds are divided. Declarer can reach 8 tricks, but never 9 if they guess diamonds wrong.

 
17
None
North
N
Chris
9632
94
K72
A943
 
W
Ed
J1074
10862
986
76
J
E
Bob
AKQ85
J3
J4
QJ85
 
S
Mike
AKQ75
AQ1053
K102
 

 

W
Ed
N
Chris
E
Bob
S
Mike
Pass
1
21
Pass
2NT2
Pass
33
Pass
44
Pass
45
Pass
56
All Pass
 
(1) Michaels showing hearts and an unknown minor
(2) Asking for the minor (some play 2NT shows invitational values and 3C is pass or correct)
(3) Showing a strong hand, forcing, partner should bid 3NT with a stopper, but South may not leave it in.
(4) Bidding their best minor
(5) Showing their actual minor (hearts were already implied)
(6) With partner showing such a strong hand, 2 key cards is certainly adequate to raise to game

 

W
Dan
N
Manfred
E
Jack
S
Jerry
Pass
1
Dbl1
2
32
Pass
33
Pass
44
Pass
55
All Pass
 
 
 
(1) Takeout
(2) Showing about 6-8 points (once West bid, North isn’t obligated to bid)
(3) Intended to show a REALLY strong hand, forcing, slam may still be possible
(4) No second suit to show, so simply bidding the one suit he has, again
(5) Raising to game, reaching the 5 level without directly showing either of the 2 suits held

This hand was all about bidding with very little to the play.  Both tables reached a minor suit game, one in the 5-3 diamond fit and one in the 4-3 club fit.  In diamonds, declarer can draw 2 rounds of trump and then play 3 rounds of hearts, ruffing in dummy.  If hearts are 3-3, no problem.  If hearts are 4-2 and the hand that is short in hearts is also short in diamonds (it was), the hearts are ruffed good and you can return to hand, draw trump and wrap up 12 tricks, losing a club at the end.  That is what happened at my table.  Our teammates were playing the weaker club fit.  The short hand is able to ruff the opening spade lead, but eventually declarer lost control and lost 2 clubs and 2 spades for down 2.  So, we were -420 while our teammates were -100, lose 11 IMPs.

South has a really strong 3 loser hand.  How should they proceed?  Michaels showed 2 suits initially and proved to be an effective bidding tool.  Even though 6 is cold, slam is not especially good (looking at the North-South cards), but the 5 game in diamonds is quite good.  Very strong 1 suited hands are often bid effectively by starting with a double and then showing your suit.  Partnership understanding is important as to HOW strong of a hand does that bidding show (I play that it is quite strong, others less so).  However, it is difficult to construct auctions that allow you to double and show 2 suits.  The cue bid (3) used at both tables is often considered ‘Western’ in these types of auction, stating that the values are there for possibly scoring 9 tricks if partner can produce a spade stopper.  Sometimes the cue bid is merely forcing, showing strength and ‘tell me more.’  Here it is hard for North to visualize the shape and strength of the South hand.  They are reluctant to introduce a second ‘suit’ that is only 3 long.  Double asked partner to bid their best suit and they did.  The cue bid forced another bid from partner and they simply repeated their clubs as the only suit they held.  It is certainly frustrating to have such a strong hand and arrive in a hopeless contract, but my opinion is that starting with Michaels is a more promising way to get this monster off your chest.  Yes, you do have at least 3 card support for all unbid suits, but your red suits are WAY stronger than your clubs.  What do you think?

 

Recap Of 1/14/2019 28 Board IMP Individual

Six hands provided double digit swings in play on Wednesday including slam swings on 4 of the 6.  Between the two tables of play, there were also 5 more slams bid that were essentially push boards and not reported below.  Quite a lot of action throughout the day.  Of course bidding differences were involved in many swings, but leads, defense and declarer play were consistently playing a significant role in the final result.

 
6
E-W
East
N
Jerry
Q1083
86
A432
Q97
 
W
Mike
964
73
QJ108
J1063
Q
E
Bob
52
109542
976
K82
 
S
Jack
AKJ7
AKQJ
K5
A54
 

 

Jack
Jerry
2
21
3NT2
6NT
All Pass
 
(1) Waiting
(2) 25-27

 

Chris
Ed
2
2
3NT
41
42
6NT
All Pass
 
(1) Stayman
(2) 4 hearts

In the first hand for today, some bidding issues arose that are worth discussing with your partner.  At my table, the North hand simply did the math: if partner has 25-27 HCP and I have 8 HCP, then we have at least 33 HCP combined, the classic requirement for slam, so they raised 3NT to 6NT.  At the other table, North initiated an exploration to find a 4-4 fit in a major and bid 4 intended (and received) as Stayman.  The 4 response was not the major they hoped for, and it was unclear how to proceed.  Would 5NT now be ‘Grand Slam Force (GSF)’ advising partner to proceed to 7 if they hold 2 of the top 3 honors in hearts?  Looking at their hand (AKQJ), South should be able to see that that cannot be what partner intends by their 5NT call.  However, North doesn’t know what hearts South holds.  What North wants to do is force slam, with a choice of 6NT or 6 contracts.  5NT perhaps should be that.  It certainly could be that.  But since North was unclear what bid would make partner choose (between 6 and 6NT), they decided to end the auction with 6NT, the same contract that was reached at the other table.  Stayman at a lower level would have simplified the auction (Kokish anyone? – although that still may not solve the problem).  When the auction begins with 1NT, there are many standard tools dealing with a “choice of game” (do we want to play 3NT or 4 of a major?).  Everyone knows if partner asks for a major, hears one, then jumps to 3NT, they were ‘obviously’ interested in the other major.  So, when the NT bidder holds both, they remove 3NT to 4 of the other major.  Here, the bidding tools with unfamiliar partnerships were not sufficiently refined.  With spades and diamonds behaving, 13 tricks (via 2 diamond ruffs in the South hand) are easy in a spade contract.  Bottom line, be sure you and partner know/agree as to the meaning of 4 after an auction that starts out 2-2-3NT (Gerber or Stayman?).   Also, have an agreement about the meaning of 5NT (GSF or ‘pick a slam’).  Through the years, most experts have evolved to where 5NT is almost always ‘pick a slam’ – that meaning comes up much more frequently and provides much greater utility.  Still, if partner is not on the same page, 5NT can be a very dangerous bid!

Now, on to the play/defense – both declarers were trying to find 12 tricks in 6NT.  The opening lead is automatic – you have a nice safe diamond honor sequence to lead.  Declarer plays small, and I…well, I think I should have taken more time before playing to this trick.  I owe partner a count card.  Trying to not tank forever, I played the (upside down count card) 7.  In the moment, I thought, even if unlikely, the 9 might be useful, so I will save it.  The lead of the Q is almost certainly QJ10, otherwise it could be too dangerous.  If partner holds QJ10, my 9 has no use, so I should play it to make my count clear to partner.  If, unlikely, partner found the Q lead from QJ5 and declarer held K108, my play of the 9 would provide a finesse for declarer to bring in the whole diamond suit for 4 winners and no losers.  But, in that situation, playing the 7 would possibly have the same effect, since, if I win a trick, I will then lead the 9.  All of that is extremely unlikely, but I didn’t work that out at the time and played the  7.  You will soon see why that was significant.

Where is declarer going to find 12 tricks?  This hand has 11 top cashing tricks: 4+4+2+1 with virtually no chance for a 12th trick except for the K on side (in the West hand).  Lead small to the Q and hope.  At trick 2, that is what declarer did, and I won my K.  When I led the 9 to trick 3, partner doesn’t know if my trick one play of the 7 was from the 97 or 976!?!  Of course declarer won the A and cashed their 8 major suit winners, ending in dummy with a small diamond and small club remaining in dummy.  When the last spade was cashed at trick 11, partner was holding J and J10 and had to make a discard.  Who holds the 6?  If declarer started with 4=4=3=2, partner had to save their diamond.  If declarer was 4=4=2=3, partner had to toss their diamond, knowing I could beat the lowly 4 remaining in dummy!  When partner selected a club discard, declarer had found their 12 tricks out of thin air.  We were -990 while our teammates were -50, lose 14 IMPs.

I wish I had played my 9!  Meanwhile North-South wish they had found the auction to arrive in 6.

 
7
Both
South
N
Jerry
64
KQJ98
A10
J1084
 
W
Mike
9532
A6
J9752
96
9
E
Bob
A107
10753
Q64
Q75
 
S
Jack
KQJ8
42
K83
AK32
 
Jack/Chris
Jerry/Ed
1NT
2
2
3NT
All Pass
 

 

The same auction was used at both tables to arrive in 3NT.  Nearly all pairs would reach 3NT if this hand were played hundreds of times.  My partner chose to lead the unbid major (9) to attempt to locate our source of tricks.  My preference when leading from length without strength is second best (here, the 5).  I have two reasons for this preference.  First, it is possible, on a different layout, that the 9 could eventually be established as a power trick.  Second, partner knows, for certain, when a 9 is led, that partner’s suit will be 1, 2 or 3 long – never more.  It can help count the hand.  This is another understanding worth having with partner (but it made no difference on this hand).  After the spade lead, declarer simply needed to knock out 2 aces and claim their 11 tricks.  When I ducked trick 1, declarer won and led a heart.  When that won, they crossed to the A and led another heart.  Partner’s doubleton A won that and on the spade continuation, the defense was done.  Declarer had 3+4+2+2 for 11 tricks without a club finesse. 

At the other table, holding an entry and a 5 card suit, West made the opening lead of the 5, traditional 4th from longest and strongest.  This gave declarer a greater challenge. 

There are several ways to attack the hand, looking for 9 tricks.  Plan A: he could win the diamond in hand (preserving the crucial diamond entry if needed to reach the established hearts) and lead a heart towards the strength.  When that wins, cross to hand with the A and lead another heart.  When West’s A appears, it allows dummy to win 4 hearts to go with 2 each in clubs and diamonds.  Still when diamonds are continued after winning the A, diamonds are established for the defense, so there is no time to go after spade tricks.  Declarer must take the club finesse.  When the Q turns out to be on side, they have 10 tricks instead of the 11 won at my table.

Plan B: duck the opening diamond lead in both hands, winning trick 2 in dummy with the A.  Ducking the first trick is rather standard technique when holding 5 cards including the A and K.  If the major suit aces are split, and if diamonds are 5-3, and if you guess which major suit ace is held by the long diamond hand, you can lock that hand out by ducking early.  After winning the A, you could lead a club to the A and a heart towards dummy.  If that wins, it seems best (Plan B1) to switch to a club finesse.  By ducking the diamond at trick 1 and the opponents ducking the heart, the heart suit is currently without an entry.  On this hand, if you do lead the J at this point, you will both find the Q and gain an entry back to hearts.  So, upon winning a club in hand, you can lead hearts again.  When the A goes on air, the hearts are good and you only lose the diamond you ducked and 2 major suit aces, 10 tricks total.  What if the club finesse loses?  It is still possible to find 9 tricks, but only if both missing aces are with the short diamonds.  You will lose a trick in each suit, but score 2+2+2+3.  An alternative (Plan B2) would be to next try spades after winning the first heart lead in dummy.  Assuming they duck and your K wins, lead another heart.  The doubleton A must win the second lead of hearts, and they will stick you back in your hand with your K.   You now have no real choice except to play clubs surrendering a trick to the Q.  But, when that hand is out of diamonds, you only lose a trick in each suit and score 9 tricks for 3NT bid and made.  What about Plan B2: duck a diamond, win the A, lead a spade?  This could work if diamonds are 5-3 and the A had been with the long diamonds, but if they duck their A, now what?  Lead a heart, winning in dummy, and lead another spade?  Now they might win that with the A (again, assuming West had the long diamonds and the A) and lead spades, getting the defense up to possibly 2 spade tricks and a possible trick in every other suit.  So, if allowed to win a spade and win a heart, it must be time to try the club finesse.  When that wins, a spade can force your 9th trick:  2+1+2+4.

What about Plan C:  at the other table, my  teammate/declarer won the opening diamond lead in hand with the K (preserving the A in dummy as an entry to hearts, but leaving the opponents with communication when diamonds were divided 5-3).  At trick 2, they led a heart to dummy, but when dummy won the high heart, declarer continued with a second high heart from dummy, hoping for hearts to be 3-3 or the 10 doubleton.  But, if that were the case, that would still be the case if they had bothered to first lead a club to the A and then another heart up.  That sequence of plays would add the chance of the doubleton A onside to their chances for tricks.  As it was, diamonds were continued upon winning the A, establishing diamonds for the defense prior to establishing hearts for declarer.  Now declarer had no route to 9 tricks.  If he attacked spades, the opponents would win and cash diamonds.  If he took a winning the club finesse, he can only reach 8 tricks (0+2+2+4).  So, we were -660 while our teammates were -100, lose 13 IMPs.  Plan C was not a success.

 
13
Both
North
N
Chris
63
9753
AK
QJ962
 
W
Bob
K1054
K6
QJ10853
3
Q
E
Ed
9872
842
764
1054
 
S
Mike
AQJ
AQJ10
92
AK87
 

 

Mike
Chris
2
2
2NT1
6NT
All Pass
 
(1) 22-24

 

Manfred
Jerry
2NT
3
3
4
All Pass
 

 

Playing 20-21 HCP for a 2NT opening bid, one player looked at their balanced hand, counted 21 HCP and opened 2NT.  Responder counted their points.  Even with a point added for their 5 card suit, they only saw a combined maximum of 32 points, so they tried Stayman, found the 4-4 fit, and then signed off in 4.  At my table, the same South hand upgraded their balanced 21 HCP to reach 22 points, so the bidding started off 2-2-2NT.  North evaluated to 11 points, did the math, and tried for the 33 point slam in NT.  With weak hearts, a 4-4 heart fit might fail on a bad split when 12 tricks are there in NT, so I like the bounce to the NT slam (forgoing Stayman) assuming partner has their 22 points.  As it was, it was an excellent slam in either hearts or NT (although I prefer NT to avoid the potential of a defensive ruff).  NT is a clear 75% slam (win one of 2 50-50 finesses).  This is a slam you would always want to be in if you could examine both the North and South hands.  However, if you could also examine the East-West hands, you would decline the slam, since both kings were offside!  Very lucky for our side, unlucky for our opponents.  Our teammates were +650 in their heart contract, we were +100 defeating 6NT, win 13 IMPs.

Was South’s hand worth an upgrade?  The honors are clustered, touching and helping each other.  Offsetting that is a worthless doubleton in diamonds.  Still they arrived in a great slam.

 
14
None
East
N
Chris
2
KQ1054
K7
KJ842
 
W
Bob
KQ53
A96
Q106
1095
A
E
Ed
J9864
3
J843
AQ3
 
S
Mike
A107
J872
A952
76
 

 

W
Bob
N
Chris
E
Ed
S
Mike
Pass
Pass
1
21
4
5
Dbl
All Pass
 
 
(1) Michaels, hearts and a minor

 

W
Dan
N
Jerry
E
Jack
S
Manfred
Pass
Pass
1
1
1
21
Pass2
4
All Pass
 
(1) Cue bid, invitational heart raise
(2) ?

Several years back, I became rather well known for the belief that 3rd hand should ‘never’ allow 4th seat to see 3 green pass cards.  That is, open ‘anything’ in 3rd seat.  As West, I would never open this hand in first or second seat (yes, many strong club players are opening all 11 point hands and nearly all 10 point hands, but that is a whole different structure).  I have mellowed some over the years (some hands simply aren’t worth opening – the downside exceeds the upside).  Still, an opening bid in 3rd seat can often prove disruptive to the opponents bidding (sometimes with undesired and unexpected consequences!).

Here, both West players concluded they should open the bidding in third seat.  I started with 1 and North tried Michaels (2) to show the other major and a minor.  My partner bounced to 4 giving North-South a serious problem.  How much defense do they have against 4 and how much offense do they have to try for 11 tricks in hearts?  At my table, South tried for the two way 5 bid – maybe it makes, maybe it is a save against a making 4 contract?  I doubled to make sure partner didn’t try to save – my flat hand suggested (to me) limited offense and better defense.  Clearly, I had no reason to think we could score 3 tricks against 5 but if they made it, I thought the loss would be less than if we went on to 5.

At the other table, the West hand chose 1 for their ‘opening bid.’  Then, after a simple 1 overcall, their partner (East) bid 1.  When South showed an invitational heart raise (via their 2 cue bid), West was sufficiently embarrassed about their initial light opening, that they did not raise spades!?!  North bid the heart game and ended the auction.

Even with the club honors in poor position for declarer, the 3-3 club split allowed a ruff to establish the suit so that the only losers in the heart contract were the 2 clubs and the trump A.  That meant 10 easy tricks, but not 11.  We were +100 to go with +420, win 11 IMPs.

How does the 4 contract fare?  There are a variety of ways the defense can get 4 tricks including the unlikely start of two top diamonds and a diamond ruff to go with the trump A.  However, there are ways that the play can go that would allow a club discard on a diamond, so that declarer would only lose 2 diamonds and the A.  Barring the early ruff, the defense needs to lead clubs early and often (not obvious for South to lead into AQ3).  It is clearly unlikely that declarer will find 10 tricks in spades, but bidding 4 over 4 seems like a worthwhile insurance bid – little potential of a big loss, and possibly a big save.  I especially don’t understand the failure to support spades early and let partner decide if they want to defend or save when 4 was reached.  Somebody needed to bid 4.

 
19
E-W
South
N
Jack
1095
A84
762
J763
 
W
Chris
AQJ872
K
AK8542
2
E
Bob
643
KJ652
1085
Q9
 
S
Manfred
K
Q10973
AQJ943
10
 

 

W
Chris
N
Jack
E
Bob
S
Manfred
1
11
Pass
2
32
63
Dbl
All Pass
 
(1) !
(2) !?!
(3) !?!?!?!

 

W
Ed
N
Jerry
E
Mike
S
Dan
1
2
Pass
2
3
3
Pass
3
Pass
5
Dbl
Pass
Pass
RDbl
Pass
5
All Pass

There were a number of different bidding decisions here.  As dealer, South gets to open a red suit.  One chose the longer diamonds and when the bidding came back around, they bid, opposite a passing partner, 3!  (yes, they are 6-5, but 9 working HCP seems a bit much when partner could not muster a negative double)  At that point, my partner hoped that I held some useful card(s) and bid the slam.  Unless all of my values were in the red suits (that South had been bidding), there figured to be some chance for 12 tricks (either long clubs to make them all good, or short clubs and ruff them good).  So, the slam was a bit unilateral, but had the benefit of being cold.

The other table opened the 5 card major, judging that the hand wasn’t sufficiently strong to reverse.  The black hand decided to show a 2-suited Michael’s bid, and when they heard a spade response, they kept cue bidding hearts, trying to get partner to show some life and encourage them to bid the slam.  In the end, they subsided in 5.

There was little to the play – after entering dummy with the Q, lead spades.  When the K shows up, play another round in case it was a false card.  When there is still a trump outstanding, declarer needs to review the situation.  If clubs split, 12 tricks are there for the taking.  But, what if clubs don’t split?  Whenever you are in this situation, you are faced with a 100% right play.  Play clubs and find out  if clubs split before drawing the last trump!  If clubs split favorably, draw trump and claim.  If clubs don’t split, and the opponent ruffs, you were not making the hand anyway.  If clubs don’t split, and the opponent with the long club has the long trump, you can ruff the clubs good with the  last trump in dummy, THEN draw trump, run your clubs, score your slam.

That is how the play went at the table that was in 5, scoring 12 tricks.  Sadly, after bidding the slam, partner drew trump and proceeded to lose a club to the J, down 1.  We were -200 and our teammates were -680, lose 13 IMPs.

Note “100%” didn’t mean the slam is assured.  It just means that if it can be made you will make it, and if it could never be made, you are no worse off.  Heads you win, tails you tie.  Very important.

 
20
Both
West
N
Jack
QJ3
A98543
KJ102
 
W
Chris
108742
6
J8543
Q3
4
E
Bob
K95
KQJ7
KQ92
96
 
S
Manfred
A6
102
A1076
A8754
 

 

W
Chris
N
Jack
E
Bob
S
Manfred
Pass
1
Pass
2
Pass
2
Pass
2NT
Pass
3
Pass
3
Pass
3
Pass
3NT
All Pass
 
 
 

 

W
Ed
N
Jerry
E
Mike
S
Dan
Pass
1
Pass
2
Pass
3
Pass
3
Pass
3
Pass
3
Pass
4
Pass
4
Pass
6
Dbl
All Pass

One more slam to end the day.  At our table, different bidding judgment drove our opponents into a 3NT contract.  There were lots of bids at both tables where both strain (, or NT) and level (game or slam) was in serious question.  The only reasonable slam was in clubs, and our teammates reached the 6 slam which could be made with careful (double dummy?) play.  How do you score 12 tricks in clubs?  There are some layouts where you can score 12 tricks even with hearts 4-1 and clubs 3-1.  I think you have to assume that clubs are 2-2 or 3-1 and assume the Q is with West.  You also might need to assume the K is onside so that you can win 2 spade tricks.  The question is ‘how many arrows are in your quiver?’  What is the worst layout you can handle and still score 12 tricks?  How do you get 12 tricks?  And, if the actual layout is not as bad as the assumed worst layout, will you go down when the cards were normal, but you are playing the line of play required to make it with the worst layout?

Here is a line of play (Call it Plan A1: it handles 4-1 hearts and 3-1 clubs, Q onside, K onside): At trick one, play the  A and (find out if hearts are breaking 3-2 or 4-1 right away) play another heart, losing to J as you follow and West shows out.  After two rounds of hearts, it will take 2 more being ruffed before the last two are established, so you may need the spade finesse as well.  For now, assume that East continues with a diamond: Win the A pitching a spade, finesse the 10, ruff a heart with the A, finesse the J (were they 3-1?), cash the K (remember I’m assuming West held Qxx in my worst case hand) and ruff a heart with your last trump.  Now you can ruff a diamond in dummy, cash the two good hearts and dummy is left with the QJ to take the spade finesse and score 12 tricks: 2+3+1+6. 

That sounds good, and ends up working on the actual layout, except then, (assuming East returned a diamond after winning the heart lead at trick 2), you don’t even need the spade finesse (Call it Plan A2)!  That is because, on the actual layout, with trump 2-2, you have the luxury of an extra trump remaining in each hand (that extra trump was not needed for the 3rd round of drawing trump) and you are able to score 1+3+1+7.

What if East returns a spade?  I think this is a pure guess.   By leading a heart at trick 2, you have learned the bad news early that hearts are indeed 4-1.  But, as you can see from the scenarios above, if trump are 2-2, you don’t need the spade finesse.  If trump are 3-1, you do need the spade finesse.  Pick one – either you take the finesse or you don’t.

Is there a better line of play, a better parlay?  Let’s call this Plan B.  What about win the A at trick 1 and draw trump, assuming a 2-2 split, and now you play a heart, learning that they were 4-1 as feared (this was the actual line of play chosen at the table)?  After this start, with best defense, there is no parlay, no line of play, no continuation that allows you to score 12 tricks on the actual lie of the cards.  The (correct) defense after winning the J is to continue with a diamond which allows you to ruff in dummy and start setting up hearts, but when the hearts are finally established, there is no entry to use them.  After drawing trump there are two dummy entries (needed to establish hearts) but a third dummy entry is required to cash the hearts.  Even with the spade finesse and 2-2 trump, declarer can only score 2+1+1+7, but there is no 12th trick possible without establishing the hearts.  And no long heart can be enjoyed without entries. However, note, if East returns a spade after winning the J, on the actual layout, that is the only way to allow you to make the hand using Plan B (getting helpful defense) – it gives you a crucial extra entry (you let the spade lead ride around to the Q.

How does Plan B fair if hearts were 3-2 and trump 2-2?  Great!  Only 1 ruff is required to set up hearts, and one entry to cash them, and those entries are there after drawing trump (two trump remaining for diamond ruffs).  You score 1+4+0+7 – you don’t even need the spade finesse or the A for a trick!  But Plan B failed on the actual deal.  

How does plan A fair if the hearts were 3-2 and trump 2-2?  OK.  You require the Q to be with West, but you do not require 2-2 trump and, as with Plan B, you do not require the spade finesse when trump are 2-2.  The established hearts as well as scoring the trumps separately will be your source of tricks.

What about Plan C?  I can’t really find a line of play that allows for more chances – can you see a better way to play this?

As the cards were distributed, after the A wins the first trick, declarer has to make a decision.  If hearts are 3-2, this shouldn’t be too hard, especially if clubs are 2-2.  But, would East double for a heart lead with only KQ7?  East knows that it won’t take too many ruffs to establish hearts.  I think the double almost has to be based on KQJ7, and if the lead of the 6 is to be believed, it is guaranteed to be a singleton.  So, looking at the lead and the bidding, it would appear hearts must be 4-1.  If so, Plan B has no chance and Plan A has reasonable chances.  Well, that is how I’m seeing it.  I’m certainly interested if someone sees a better parlay that brings more alternative distributions into a successful line of play for 12 tricks based on this auction and lead.

What about the play in 3NT?  Partner led a diamond, but when declarer played clubs for 5 tricks and finessed in spades, 9 tricks were there.  So we were -600 defending 3NT and our teammates were -200, down 1 in 6X, lose 13 IMPs.

Enough on the play, what about the bidding on board 20.  Clearly the auction starts 1-2.  Opener has a 6th heart (is it a priority to show that?) as well as strong clubs with a side void.  If you raise clubs and partner immediately supports hearts, you know you have a 6-3 heart fit (they would surely find some probing bid for NT if they only held 2 hearts).   If you raise clubs and partner does not support hearts, there will be at most 2 hearts in his hand and a club slam starts to look reasonable.   I think it is right to raise clubs immediately, but others may have different opinions.  Anyway, you can see from the auction, the table that repeated hearts for their rebid roamed around awhile and ended in 3NT.  The table that raised clubs also roamed around awhile and eventually bid the slam.  Slam is excellent (cold) if clubs are 2-2 and hearts 3-2.  So, it certainly isn’t a terrible slam.  I think the double gives a pretty clear indication how to play the hand – lacking the double, Plan B will likely be chosen and the slam will fail.  With the double, declarer might have found Plan A and scored their doubled slam.  It is always nice to help partner on opening lead, but make sure you aren’t helping declarer, nor sending them from a failing contract into a making contract (as they run to something else).  Here there is no alternative contract to run to (but the double does provide information to assist declarer in playing the hand).

Full disclosure: Dan played the hand.  We rode together.  It was on the way home that, together, that we figured out how to make it.  Is it too much double dummy?  It is not, unless someone can find a better line that handles a more likely distribution. 

Epilogue:  I think the theme of this hand is a combination of counting tricks and shape.  If you know hearts are 4-1 (I think the bidding and lead confirm this), then Plan B cannot establish hearts, and you cannot possibly reach 12 tricks without establishing hearts, so Plan B fails. Even with the spade finesse, 2+1+1+7 is your maximum total and you are 1 trick shy.  You have to set up hearts.  And, the only way to do that is to start early…and ruff with the A, hoping the Q is onside for a later finesse.  One more variation of the play is possible: what if, using plan A, East leads a heart at trick 3 after winning the J?  Since you know, and East knows that you know, you are not making the hand without establishing hearts, East shouldn’t be leading hearts to help you.  If they do, you ruff with the A as you had planned before.  However, the heart lead (instead of a diamond) lost the crucial entry to hand (which was the A, had they led a diamond).  So now, after ruffing that heart lead with the A, you lead clubs to the J (finessing the Q), and you have a choice.  If believe clubs are 2-2, you can simply cash the K, ruff out the last heart, and take your 12 tricks without bothering with the spade finesse.  Or, if you believe clubs are 3-1, you can (and you must) take the spade finesse to enter hand and take a repeat club finesse.  This variation is a flavor of the spade lead at trick 3: that is, do you finesse in spades or play the A?  Count your tricks.  Guess the shape.  If clubs are 2-2, you have enough tricks without the spade finesse.  If clubs are 3-1, you require the spade finesse.  There is no right answer that will guarantee the contract.  Counting your tricks: when hearts are 4-1 and clubs 2-2, you have 7 club tricks and do not need 2 spade tricks.  When hearts are 4-1 and clubs 3-1, you only have 6 club tricks so you need 2 spade tricks.

Finally, there is one more critical variation on Plan B.  Plan B simply said ‘play 2 rounds of trump and then lead a heart’ – but, it didn’t say HOW you play 2 rounds of trump.  The ‘natural’ way is A and small to K.  That is wrong.  Since you can easily lead hearts from either hand to start the establishment, the right way to draw trump is to start with the K.  Why?  If the Q falls singleton, you need to lead hearts immediately (draw at most one more trump, but you cannot completely draw trump) and retain the A in hand for the heart ruff  – only 1 heart ruff is required, but…you must retain at least the 10x in dummy for dummy entries to finish drawing trump and ruff a diamond while establishing hearts.  It is not possible to draw 3 rounds of trump and then set up hearts, even when hearts are 3-2 because you still have the need for 2 entries, one to ruff them good and 1 to use them.  If you first play the A and the Q falls singleton, 12 tricks can no longer be made, even if hearts had been 3-2!  The endless variations and complexities of bridge in general (and this hand in particular) provide fascination for a lifetime.  Plays you routinely make on one hand may not be right for this hand!  Play carefully!

 

Recap Of 1/9/2019 28 Board IMP Individual

Bidding judgment was key to all 4 of today’s double digit swings, but once the bidding was over, the opening lead made the big difference on one of these four hands.

 
3
E-W
South
N
Dan
72
AJ
AQJ9
AQJ63
 
W
Mark M
64
KQ2
K10652
K52
10
E
Robin
KJ10
1096542
8
974
 
S
Bob
AQ9853
87
743
108
 

 

W
Mark M
N
Dan
E
Robin
S
Bob
2
Dbl
Pass
3
Pass
Pass
Dbl
All Pass
 

 

W
Gary
N
Jim
E
Bruce
S
Cris
3
Pass
4
All Pass
 

When you deal, white vs. red, a first seat preempt is always appealing.  The opponents must start guessing what to do at a higher level and they will not have the luxury of slowly and fully describing their hands starting at the 1 level.  Here, I simply opened what appeared to be a normal weak 2 bid.  Soon I was on lead against 3X and when the dust cleared we had won 2+2+1+3, 8 tricks, -4, +1100.  The West player at my table, in spite of holding only 11 HCP and only 3 hearts, decided they would make a takeout double.  In the post mortem, some thought the West hand was not strong enough or shapely enough to make a takeout double of 1♠ (let alone 2).  I tend to agree.  What do you think?

Meanwhile, our teammates’ opponents chose to start with an opening 3 preempt.  The powerful North hand raised to 4 and 11 tricks were scored, losing just 1 spade and 1 heart trick.  That was -450 paired with our +1100, win 12 IMPs. 

Preempting ‘one more’ can definitely create problems for the opponents, but due to the aggressive takeout double of 2 (a double would not be considered over a 3♠ opening), the team dealing with the 2 opening bid had the bigger ‘problem.’

 
17
None
North
N
Gary
109
J732
K94
J975
 
W
Jim
A532
54
AJ
AKQ103
A
E
Bob
KJ4
KQ106
Q8653
6
 
S
Mark M
Q876
A98
1072
842
 

 

W
Jim
N
Gary
E
Bob
S
Mark M
Pass
1
Pass
2
Pass
2
Pass
2
Pass
2NT
Pass
6NT
All Pass
 
 

 

W
Bruce
N
Cris
E
Robin
S
Dan
Pass
Pass
Pass
1
Pass
1
Pass
1
Pass
1NT
Pass
3NT
All Pass
 
 

Here, after North passed, I was in second seat and thought I had an opening bid – what do you think?  Meanwhile, partner took me seriously and decided that his hand, rich in aces, should go ahead and contract for 12 tricks in NT even though the point range of the combined hands was about 30-32.  It seemed that an invite might be more appropriate, but there I was, committed to 12 tricks.

With hearts the only suit that was unbid, the opening lead vs 6NT was the A followed by the 9.  With a miracle, 12 tricks could be possible.  After this start, I had 3 heart tricks.  If both the spade and diamond finesses worked, I would have 3+3+2+3 and had many chances for my 12th trick: 3-3 spades, K falling doubleton, J falling tripleton, finesse for the J, or some squeeze to try to find the 12th trick.  At trick 3 I tried the diamond finesse.  When that lost to the K, slam was lost.  Due to diamonds behaving 3-3, I could have been down only 1, but I ended up trying to drop the J and then trying the spade finesse, ending up down 2.  Communication is quite awkward:  the only entry to my hand after the defense started with two rounds of hearts is the K.  If I use that to find out if diamonds split, I have given up on the spade finesse.  The trouble was that, even though there were many options for more tricks, I couldn’t parlay them all (see if this works, if not, try this, if not…). 

At the other table, my hand not only failed to open, they responded 1 and then rebid 1NT.  In any case, without an opening bid by East, West was never interested in slam with no fit and 18 HCP.  The way the play went at the other table, 9 tricks were scored for -400 to go with our -100, lose 11 IMPs.

 
21
N-S
North
N
Cris
KJ72
J43
J85
763
 
W
Bob
Q109
K965
73
KJ104
5
E
Mark M
A865
108
Q42
Q852
 
S
Bruce
43
AQ72
AK1096
A9
 

 

Cris
Bruce
Pass
1
1
2NT
3NT
All Pass

 

Robin
Dan
Pass
1NT
All Pass
 

 

There was a lot riding on the opening lead here.  I’ll get to that in a minute.  Meanwhile, on the bidding, one South player added up their points, arrived at 17 and opened 1NT, ending the auction.  At my table, South added up their points (including 1 for the 5th diamond) and arrived at 18, enough to open 1 and rebid 2NT.  North noted the vulnerability and figured ‘might as well’ to arrive at the 3NT game contract.  What to lead?

In my estimation, leading a bid suit made no sense.  So, I had to choose between two 4 card suits headed by the K.  Clubs were bolstered by the J10, while hearts spots were quite weak.  Nevertheless, I chose to go after the unbid major for disastrous results.  Declarer was able to gain an entry to dummy with the J, use the J to finesse diamonds and run diamonds (I eventually pitched a heart on the run of diamonds and partner pitched clubs on the run of diamonds/hearts, so declarer found himself with 10 tricks (as soon as I pitched a heart, he was up to 9: 0+3+5+1).

At the other table, after a club lead, 9 tricks were never happening.  Declarer ended up with 7 tricks so our teammates were +90 to go  with our -630 to lose 11 IMPs.  

Readers of this blog know about my fascination with David Bird’s books on opening leads as well as Bob Richardson’s implementation of those books via software in his product:

“Lead Captain”: http://www.bridgecaptain.com/LeadCaptain.html

What do you think Lead Captain had to offer for selecting the best lead on this hand?  Here are the results:

I was totally shocked to see a diamond lead at the top of the list, but it was really in a tie with the low heart lead (virtually a tie).  It shows how Hxxx is not only dangerous vs. suit contracts, it is a problem vs. NT contracts when leading into the strong hand on your right.  Lead Captain chooses every possible card in your hand (adjacent cards are considered equal, since the double dummy result of leading the 6 vs. the 5 will always be the same – they are the same card).  At the table, choosing between adjacent cards could create different results (partner reading spots, signals, counting, etc.), but double dummy players don’t have to worry about partner reading their cards – adjacent cards are equal.  I point this out to explain why the 9, 5 and 10 are not in the table.  Since a club lead is so devastating to declarer (on this exact deal) and a heart lead so friendly, one tends to look at the hand and conclude, ‘obviously, a club is the best lead.’  If Lead Captain is to be believed (and I do believe it), then a club is decidedly not the best lead based on this auction – it is decidedly the worst lead.  But, at the table, it was the winner on this hand.

Why does a simulation show a club lead to be so bad?  I think, with nearly half of the deck in declarer’s hand, the Q will be there much of the time.  When it is, declarer is presented with a trick they could never achieve otherwise.  On the other hand, even when declarer’s assets include the AQJ (as it did here), if the heart suit had been 3=3=3 around the table, you are one lead from partner away from establishing your suit (assuming the A is with declarer) after an opening heart lead.  Meanwhile, declarer always had 2 tricks in the suit on their own power, so (in the case of 3=3=3 hearts) the heart lead gives away nothing.  Anyway, that was my thinking at the table and that is my thinking after seeing the Lead Captain results.  What do you think?  A major or a minor?  A weak Hxxx or a strong Hxxx?  Or a diamond?  The diamond, in theory gives away nothing, but it does provide the ‘entry’ for declarer to take the diamond finesse.  Lacking that easy entry, the declarer playing 1NT simply cashed the AK after they won the A.

 
28
N-S
West
N
Cris
AKJ4
AK8
96
A843
 
W
Jim
876532
7
KJ108
52
2
E
Dan
Q
Q932
Q542
KJ106
 
S
Bob
109
J10654
A73
Q97
 

 

Cris
Bob
1
1
2NT
3NT
All Pass
 

 

Mark M
Bruce
1
1
2NT
31
32
3NT3
44
All Pass
(1) Major suit checkback
(2) Yes I have 4 spades
(3) Actually I was looking for hearts
(4) Well, I have that too

Well, more bidding judgment issues did me in on this last hand.  At the table, I had various thoughts about ‘checkback.’  9 tricks are less than 10.   A 3 checkback bid could allow a lead directing double.  If partner had only 2 hearts, nothing would be learned by going through checkback.  If partner had 3 hearts, he may be able to use hearts effectively in a NT contract.  So I bid 3NT.  Wrong.  The opening leader found a diamond lead against 3NT anyway.  Partner did have a 3rd heart and could have used it to ruff the 3rd diamond.  After the diamond lead and a losing spade finesse, 3NT had no play whatsoever.  Meanwhile, our opponents holding our cards at the other table, did use checkback, found the 8 card heart fit that produced 10 tricks in their 4 game.  When partner only found 7 tricks in 3NT, we were -200 to go with -620 to lose 13 IMPs.

I must say, in general, I nearly always do checkback.  But somehow I got the idea that this was the exception and I should not do it on this hand.  Do you ‘always’ do checkback, or use judgment?  Does judgment depend on the total HCP?  Texture of the major suit?  Texture of the whole hand?  I clearly needed to use that tool here.  Just for the heck of it, I decided to do a poll on Bridgewinners to see if there were other crazies who thought 3NT (vs. 3 checkback) had any merit.  The response has been tepid (only 13 votes so far) but there are some votes for 3NT by some national champions, but also votes for checkback by some national champions: https://bridgewinners.com/article/view/bidding-problem-2-n97oscag76/

In hindsight, I believe checkback is the right bid, but it wasn’t the bid I made at the table and my choice of 3NT failed.

It feels like the content on today’s 4 swing hands didn’t have much to offer.  Board 3: either you open 2 or 3 and and then come in with a double or not.  Board 17: you open the East hand (or not) and then invite slam with West or blast to slam.  Board 21: you open South with 1NT or 1 and then lead a club or a heart.  Board 28: either you checkback or not.  Pretty binary choices.

Recap Of 12/19/2018 28 Board IMP Individual

Here we are again, 2 days later, playing with mostly a different set of players.  Eight double digit swings, essentially all based on bidding judgment.  Several hands that were not double digit swings as well as three of the 8 that will be reported were somewhat classical heart/spade duels where the winning answer, as is often the case, was ‘bid more.’  Obviously at some point you have to quit bidding – that is the beauty of bridge – figure it out!

 
3
E-W
South
N
Cris
A10
KQ432
K86
1054
 
W
Bob
KJ5
J95
A754
932
7
E
Dan 
Q97643
7
32
AQJ6
 
S
Gary
82
A1086
QJ109
K87
 
W
Bob
N
Cris
E
Dan
S
Gary
Pass
Pass
1
21
32
Dbl3
4
All Pass
 
(1) “weak” (but vulnerable vs. not)
(2) Heart raise, forcing game
(3) Showing a high spade (A or K)
W
Mark R
N
Tom
E
Mark M
S
Bruce
Pass
Pass
1
1
21
2
Pass
Pass
3
Pass
Pass
3
All Pass
(1) Drury, invitational heart raise asking about the quality of the opening bid

Here is the first heart/spade duel.  My partner evaluated his hand as a weak jump overcall and I incorrectly sold out to 4 – I should have bid 4♠ – at least as the cards lie.  At the other table, our teammates dealt with a simple 1 overcall and the auction gradually crawled up to 3, allowing our opponents to play the hand there, making their contract at both tables.  So we were -420 to go with -140, lose 11 IMPs.

Reviewing the bidding at our table – if East had passed the 1 opening bid, South would undoubtedly have offered an invitational limit raise bid of 3 .  However, after East jumped to 2 South didn’t really have an invitational bid available.  They could bid 3 showing fewer values than they had, or force to game (via a 3 cue bid or simply bidding 4) showing more values than they had.  So, the 2 preempt had the effect of forcing our opponents into game.

Our teammates judged that neither side was making game, so they just passed it out in 3 hoping that they might be able to find 5 tricks to defeat the contract.  I felt that, with my sterile distribution, it made no sense to take a vulnerable save against a non-vulnerable game.  It would have been right this time, but since our teammates didn’t reach game in hearts, it wouldn’t have saved many IMPs.  You have probably heard “6-5 come alive” and “6-4 bid more.”  Hands with those shapes, especially when they find a fit, have a way of taking a lot of tricks.  To get better results on this deal, both tables (on my team) sold out too early and needed to ‘bid one more.’  But that is just one hand.  Given the same bidding with a different layout, going higher could clear by wrong.  Still, if we could start over, I would prefer a 1 overcall rather than the 2 that was chosen.  Perhaps we, too, could have bought the hand for 3?

Defensively, it might seem that we can score a spade, a diamond and 2 clubs.  However, we cannot knock out both the spade stopper and the club stopper on the opening lead.  Soon diamonds are established for the critical discard, so declarer always has 10 tricks.

 
5
N-S
North
N
Cris
A9653
7
A3
109432
 
W
Mark M
Q42
A954
KQ64
AJ
A
E
Bruce
KJ7
KQ83
7
KQ865
 
S
Bob
108
J1062
J109852
7
 
W
Mark M
N
Cris
E
Bruce
S
Bob
Pass
1
Pass
1
1
3
Pass
51
Pass
62
All Pass
(1) Checking to see if partner has 2 has spade losers?
(2) Confirming 2nd round control of spades
W
Tom
N
Dan 
E
Mark R
S
Gary
Pass
1
Pass
1
1
1NT
Pass
3NT
All Pass
 
 

I’m happy to jump raise my partner’s major suit response to my minor suit opening with 13 HCP and a singleton, so I have no problem with the 3 raise that happened at my table (14 HCP and a singleton).  The KJx also increased in value after RHO made a 1♠ overcall.  West, having heard the jump raise, is looking at 16 HCP and a doubleton, so they proceeded to invite slam with 5, asking for a spade control.  With two aces and a trump to lose, they were already too high, so they were down 2 in the 6 slam. 

The heart fit was never mentioned at the other table.  With such a strong hand, West decided to simply respond 1♦ bidding their suits naturally, up the line, with 4-4 in the red suits.  After the 1 overcall, East rebid 1NT and it was easy for West to simply raise to the NT game rather than try to find a major suit fit.  At a regional lecture many years ago, Grant Baze suggested that when holding 29-31 points with 2 flat hands, just play NT.  Both the major and the NT contracts will usually score 11 tricks.  In matchpoints, when they both take the same number of tricks, that is a HUGE win to play in NT.  But, in IMPs, playing NT with 2 strong hands has the advantage of having a recourse to find other tricks if you run into a foul trump distribution.  Playing a suit contract, there is no such recourse.

I think East-West were a little unlucky to find such poor fitting hands with lots of wasted values coupled with a lousy trump split, but the old adage of going slow with strong hands (bid up the line) worked wonders for our teammates.  Once East rebid 3 at my table, West is really stuck for a bid to describe their hand.  Their choice of 5 didn’t work.  They could have simply cue bid 4 (denying a spade control) and hear partner cue bid 4 promising a spade control.  But, one player, in the post mortem, suggested that 4 is not a diamond cue bid, but instead is ‘last train’ (but, it was noted, that a ‘last train’ 4 does promise a spade control, otherwise, just signoff in 4).  Last train is another long discussion I don’t want to get into:  did you and your partner discuss it, agree to play it, know when it applies, …  In any case, that is not the auction that happened.  East showed extras with the jump to 3 and you (West) have extras and need to find a way stop in 4 or you will be going minus.  The 5 slam try left 4 unattainable.  There aren’t many bidding tools available to allow you to arrive in 3NT once you have found a strong 4-4 heart fit.  Result: partner cashed their 2 aces against the slam and I still had a trump trick coming for down 2, +100 while our teammates took 11 tricks in 3NT for +460, win 11 IMPs.  (I’m not sure what the defense was, but they were never going to defeat 3NT.)

 
7
Both
South
N
Cris
10
A5432
KJ75
1076
 
W
Mark M
AKQJ74
7
Q4
AQJ8
10
E
Bruce
92
KJ1086
A9863
3
 
S
Bob
8653
Q9
102
K9652
 
W
Mark M
N
Cris
E
Bruce
S
Bob
Pass
2
Pass
21
Pass
2
Pass
3
Pass
3
Pass
52
All Pass
(1) Waiting
(2) General slam try, usually checking on trump quality (when there has been no opposing bidding)
W
Tom
N
Dan
E
Mark R
S
Gary
Pass
1
Pass
1NT
Pass
3
Pass
3
Pass
3
Pass
4
All Pass

At my table, West judged to open 2, East responded 2 waiting, and West showed a spade suit.  East next showed positive values, choosing to show diamonds cheaply while leaving room for partner to offer hearts.  When West rebid spades, East felt that 2 trump, a singleton, and two 5 reasonable card suits offered play for slam and made a quantitative invitational 5 bid that typically asks about the quality of the trump suit.  In spite of outstanding trumps, West did not pursue the slam.  Partner made the only lead to challenge declarer – a trump.  12 tricks are possible, double dummy, with any non-trump lead, but 11 tricks are the maximum after a trump lead.  Declarer won trick 1 with the A and led a heart…to the J.  Once I won the Q at trick 2, the hand can no longer be made.  At the table, I returned a heart.  Declarer discarded their diamond loser as partner won the A to make another good lead – the K, killing dummy’s late entry to the established hearts.  Declarer won the A to start cashing hearts and was disappointed to see me ruff.  They overruffed and led a trump to the 9, hoping the remaining trumps split 1-1 and that they could discard club losers on the remaining good hearts.  The remaining trumps were not 1-1, so declarer knew I could ruff a heart lead.  Declarer didn’t bother leading hearts, but took a winning club finesse.  But, they still had 2 clubs to lose, down 2.

At the other table with a radically different auction that stopped in game, a trump was not led, declarer guessed well, and they managed to score the double dummy optimum 12 tricks that are available without that trump lead that my partner made.  Nice lead partner!  We were +200 and our teammates were +680 to win 13 IMPs.

 
8
None
West
N
Cris
AKQ872
10
7
A9873
 
W
Mark M
J643
K983
A632
Q
Q
E
Bruce
10
AJ4
QJ10985
 
S
Bob
95
Q7652
K4
KJ106
 
W
Mark M
N
Cris
E
Bruce
S
Bob
Pass
4
All Pass
 
W
Tom
N
Dan
E
Mark R
S
Gary
Pass
1
3
Dbl1
5
5
All Pass
 
(1) Negative

Most 4 opening bids show a decent hand able to score around 7 tricks if partner has no help whatsoever, meanwhile hoping to make it difficult for the opponents to enter the bidding for the first time at the 5 level.  Often, the 4 bidder will have 7-8 trumps.  But, here, when partner opened 4 they only had 6 trumps with a nice 5 card suit on the side.  But, the high level opening bid had the desired effect of removing the opponents from the bidding.  Even with the bad trump split, 10 tricks were easy when the clubs behaved, just losing a trump and both red aces.

At the other table, the auction started lower with a simple 1 opening bid, the opponents entered the auction, and by the time the bidding got back to the opening bidder, the auction was at the 5 level!  Reasonable enough, North continued to 5 but declarer could only score the same 10 tricks, so we were +420 while our teammates were +50 to win 10 IMPs.  In fact, 5 was a necessary save!  Due to a singleton in each black suit for East-West, 11 tricks were going to come home in the 5 contract assuming declarer played to finesse South for the red honors during the play of the hand!

Even with both sides non-vulnerable, the 4 opening bid made it very difficult for either East or West to enter the auction.  It would have been right on this hand, but I cannot imagine it being winning bridge, long term, to come in with a 5 bid over the 4 opening bid.  What do you think?  I think preempts are tough…bridge is tough.   Here the opening 4 bid made it really tough on the opponents.

 
15
N-S
South
N
Cris
Q10652
AQ1085
J7
2
 
W
Tom
J974
62
Q863
754
A
E
Bob
K3
K9
AK109
AK1083
 
S
Mark R
A8
J743
542
QJ96
 
W
Tom
N
Cris
E
Bob
S
Mark R
Pass
Pass
1
Dbl
1NT
Pass
2
Dbl1
Pass
Pass2
Pass
(1) Intended as takeout
(2) Interpreted as penalty
W
Bruce
N
Gary
E
Dan
S
Mark M
Pass
Pass
Pass
2NT
All Pass

At the other table, when East saw 3 passes, they were able to open a reasonably standard 2NT.  Partner’s signal (singleton) to the opening Q lead looked encouraging, so clubs were continued at trick 2 and soon declarer had 9 tricks.  So, our teammates were -150.

At my table, once North opened 1 the bidding took a very different turn.  I had too much to overcall 1NT, so my first bid was double.  I thought my next double was also takeout, but I wish I had bid 2NT.  If partner took 2NT as natural, we quickly go down 1 (after a heart lead), but that would save over half of the IMPs that we lost.  If partner took 2NT as ‘takeout, pick a minor’ we could have gotten to a makeable  3 contract.  That would have held the losses to 1 IMP.  Of course, if my second double was interpreted as takeout, we also would have gotten to 3 and just lost 1 IMP if partner brings it home.  Sadly, partner decided, since my first double ‘showed hearts’ my second double was taken as a penalty double of hearts, so they passed,  We had 5 easy tricks against 2X but we needed 6.  So, we were -670 to lose 13 IMPs.  Darn.

Although this is a very different situation than my last blog which talked about 1 partner thinking the double is takeout and the other thinking it is penalty, it is the same principle.  If you are not certain you and partner are on the same page, making a penalty double that may be taken out or a takeout double that may be left in for penalty will result in very poor results.  If there can be any doubt, don’t make a disastrous low level takeout double that may be taken as penalty, turning the opponents partscore into game.

With practiced partnerships, I use the ‘Larry Cohen list’ – a short list of what low level doubles are penalty.  If it is not on the list, it doesn’t exist.  It is takeout.  Still, to avoid the disaster, I should have tried 2NT.  https://www.larryco.com/bridge-articles/berk-co-exceptions-to-low-level-doubles

Had we been in 3 partner needs to play carefully.  If the opponents haven’t helped with a spade opening lead (perhaps they led a singleton club?), draw trump, play a high club the first time clubs are led and a low club on the second club lead (key play), forcing your club loser to happen on the second round, but retaining a club that can lead to the last high club so that you can ruff the 4th round (or possibly lose the 4th round of clubs), but establishing the 13th club for a trick.  Depending on how the defense goes, you might lose a heart, a spade and 2 clubs or various other combinations, but if you establish the 13th club you will win 0+1+5+3 for 9 tricks, +110.  Of course you also must guess which major suit ace is onside, but the opponents play might help.

I really hate to offer 3 passes to the 4th bidder, so I will often strain to ‘open’ with almost anything.  For me, this hand easily clears the hurdle, but at the other table, our teammate sitting North looked at the vulnerability and opted to not make the light opening bid.

 
21
N-S
North
N
Mark M
3
AQJ985
862
A62
 
W
Bob
AQ7642
K7
J1093
7
A
E
Gary
K95
4
KQ754
QJ83
 
S
Tom
J108
10632
A
K10954
 
W
West
N
North
E
East
S
South
1
Dbl
41
4
Pass
Pass
Dbl
All Pass
 
 
 
(1) Preemptive
W
Bruce
N
Cris
E
Mark R
S
Dan
1
Dbl
2NT1
4
5
Pass
Pass
5
Dbl
All Pass
 
(1) Jordan 2NT showing heart support with invitational values or better

Considering East didn’t hold 4 card spade support, they had a rather light takeout double of 1 but I still think it is the right bid – and both tables did double the 1 opening bid.  South made an attempt to jam the auction with a jump to 4 but I had an easy 4 bid.  When North and East passed over 4 South decided to offer a penalty double – rare after a preemptive action.  North, with 2 aces, thought 11 tricks might be a stretch in hearts, so they decided see if they can find 4 tricks vs. the spade contract.  Sometimes partner (South) will hold 5 good spades after preempting in hearts when the takeout double hand only had 3 spades – that happened Monday this week (prior blog) and the defense scored +800.

Anyway, I was playing 4X after the A lead won trick 1 with South playing the 2, North was hoping that South held Kx and could obtain a club ruff.  So, North continued with the 2 at trick 2.  It is unusual to underlead aces, but in this situation, the 2 MUST promise a high club (or else show a singleton).  South feared that I held the A, so they did not rise with the K and my Q in dummy won trick 2.  I drew trump and just lost the 2 red aces, 11 tricks, +690. 

To achieve 4 defensive tricks North must lead a diamond to the singleton A while they still have an entry.  South can win the A, return to the remaining entry, and then ruff a diamond.  That defense was tough to find.

At the other table, North heard an ‘invitational or better Jordan 2NT’ over East’s double.  North competed to 5 over 4 and correctly, concluding that North-South were scheduled to make 11 tricks in their vulnerable game, West took the cheap save in 5X.  Our teammates, on defense, took their 3 aces for +100 to go with our +690, win 13 IMPs.  Our North-South teammates also could have found 4 defensive tricks via 3 aces and a diamond ruff, but they were most interested in ensuring that the contract went down.

Again, as it happened on board 3, the losing side in this competitive heart/spade auction quit bidding too soon.  That is not to suggest that these are simple problems and that you should always just keep bidding.  But, it certainly is a recurring theme where it is often right to bid more in case you can make your contract or they can make theirs.  Bidding more is right in either case (you make or they make), and only wrong when both contracts are going down.

I understand South’s jump to 4 (sometimes you can buy the hand and keep the opponents out of the bidding), but I like the choice of Jordan 2NT better.  Had East not doubled, but passed instead, I would want to treat this hand as a limit raise.  Not a simple raise to 2 or a preemptive raise to 4.  I would make a routine limit raise of 3 showing an invitational hand.  So, after the double, 2NT describes the South hand rather well.  At the other table, North judged well to bid 5 over 4 and West judged well to bid 5 over 5.

 
25
E-W
North
N
Mark R
AJ76
K10
KJ2
Q974
 
W
Mark M
532
A764
873
1083
4
E
Bob
Q984
853
95
K652
 
S
Dan
K10
QJ92
AQ1064
AJ
 
W
Mark M
N
Mark R
E
Bob
S
Dan
1
Pass
1
Pass
1NT
Pass
3NT
All Pass
 
 
 
W
Gary
N
Cris
E
Tom
S
Bruce
1NT1
Pass
32
Pass
33
Pass
34
Pass
3NT5
Pass
6NT6
All Pass
 
 
 
(1) “14+ – 17”
(2) Puppet Stayman
(3) No 5 card major, may have 4 card major
(4) Shows 4 hearts, not 4 spades
(5) No heart fit
(6) Quantitative

Our ‘bridge club standard’ 1NT opening bid is “15-17” but we will open 1NT with a ‘good 14.’  Personally, I count a point for the 5th card in a suit and there aren’t many other 14 point hands that I upgrade.  If a hand has great spot cards and is rich in aces/kings with a lack of queens, that could be a cause to upgrade.  Here, North is dealing and they are looking at a balanced 14 HCP with the ratio of aces to queens 1:1.  Both jacks are bolstered with higher honors nearby (one AJ, one KJ) which could make the jacks more valuable than the 1 point assigned.  But the Q is all alone and hardly worth the full 2 HCP that normally is accredited to that holding.  As mentioned on board 25, this is a regular partnership which has 14+ to 17 on the card.  Subsequent discussion with Cris indicated that he didn’t ‘upgrade’ but just chose to make a tactical bid of 1NT.

The ‘gold standard’ of hand evaluation is the Kaplan and Rubens hand evaluator (knr):

http://www.jeff-goldsmith.org/cgi-bin/knr.cgi?hand=aj76+kt+kj2+q974

This is a computer evaluation that is extremely complex (and provides a number evaluating the hand to 2 decimal places).  It evaluates a “7” as being barely more valuable than a “6”!  It is not possible to utilize this tool at the table.  Still it can useful to get another opinion to try to hone your hand evaluation skills.  The number for knr evaluation of this hand is 12.95.  This is quite a bit shy of the 15-17 range associated with a 1NT opening bid.  Still, when North opened 1NT, they created an extremely easy auction for South.  South checked on a 4-4 heart fit and simply bid the NT slam.  There are 11 easy tricks (2+3+5+1) with 2 chances for the 12th trick (but you cannot try both – pick 1).  With a certain loser of the A, you cannot afford a spade or club loser.  Either finesse the K (it was onside) or find the Q (2-way finesse, so the slam is ‘cold’ if you could only see who has the Q!).  Best line, I think, if the opponents don’t give you the spade guess for free at trick 1, is to cash red tricks and see who has the most red cards (West does).  That leaves more room for East to hold the key black cards that you need to find to score your contract.  But, transportation isn’t that easy.  Running the red cards leaves you knowing that odds are in favor of East holding the card you want to find, but you are in dummy after you learn that.  So, if you took that line of play, it is best to cash the K, then A.  If the Q doesn’t fall, take the club finesse.  With East holding both critical black cards, they are squeezed on this hand when the red cards are cashed.  If you cash the top spades after running red winners you won’t go wrong.

Let’s revisit the bidding.  If you agree that North does not warrant an upgrade to 1NT, how should the hand be bid?  I think South, with 17 HCP and a good 5 card suit should offer a raise of 1NT to 4NT, invitational.  If partner has the minimum 12 HCP, 6NT is unlikely to succeed.  But, if they have a max, there should be some play (of course, the hands fit incredibly well – you could construct plenty of maximum 14 HCP hands which offer poor play or no play for 12 tricks in NT).  Still, I think it is worth an invite and let partner decide.  When South simply raised to 3NT over 1NT, the slam auction was over.  I led a spade vs. 3NT at my table and declarer claimed their 12 tricks.  Clearly a spade is not what you want to lead vs. 6NT – it makes life easy for declarer.  Here the question is ‘passive or aggressive?’ – lead a black suit where you have Hxxx or a red suit where you have nothing.  Often against a slam, you want to avoid presenting declarer with his 12th trick, but aggressive leads can payoff too.  The actual lead against the slam was a small club.  This made the play end very quickly.  There is no option to rise with the A and later worry about finding who has the Q.  You MUST play hearts, the defense will win the A, and if they have a club to cash, you are down. So, there is only one play at trick 1 – hold your breath and finesse the J.  Either the K is onside or it is not, but there is no decision/choice about what to play or how to play it.

Both tables took 12 tricks in NT.  We were -490, our teammates +990, win 11 IMPs.

 
28
N-S
West
N
Mark R
Q863
A874
QJ1053
 
W
Mark M
AJ86
104
J93
K872
4
E
Bob
KQ953
J7
KQ62
96
 
S
Dan
10742
AK952
105
A4
 
W
Mark M
N
Mark R
E
Bob
S
Dan
Pass
Pass
1
Pass
21
Pass
22
Pass
Pass
Dbl3
Pass
3
All Pass
 
 
 
(1) Drury showing spade support and invitational values
(2) Less than full valued opening bid, no interest in game
(3) Takeout
W
Gary
N
Cris
E
Tom
S
Bruce
Pass
Pass
1
Pass
21
Dbl2
23
3
3
Pass
Pass
4
All Pass
 
 
 
(1) Drury
(2) Takeout of spades
(3) No game interest

The last hand of the day was a different flavor of heart/spade battles.  The auction was somewhat similar, but at our table, North waited to double after the signoff in 2♠ was passed around to him.  At the other table they doubled the Drury bid of 2.  It seems that there is an endless stream of “you better discuss this bid (and agree) with partner” and here is another one.  Typically, if a player doubles a Jacoby transfer bid, it merely shows a request to lead (or, depending on the hand partner holds, possibly bid) the suit that is doubled.  It is not normally treated as a general takeout of the suit being transferred to.  That is: (1NT)-P-(2)-X shows diamonds, not a takeout of hearts.  Here, North doubled the Drury 2 bid.  Some might play that the double merely asks partner to lead clubs, or possibly bid clubs if their hand warrants.  Another option (I’m not sure which is the most standard) is to play that the double of Drury is a takeout bid of the major that is being shown.  Here North-South are a regular partnership and they had the specific agreement that double of Drury here is a takeout of spades.  Yes, you and partner are both passed hands.  Still, you can see the result.  Voids are magical when you have a fit.  With trumps splitting 2-2 and without a diamond lead, there are 12 tricks in hearts.  0+7+1+4 – easy peasy.  There is nothing to the play or defense.  So, with no diamond lead at either table, we were -230 at our table defending 3 while our teammates in 4 were +680, win 10 IMPs.

Which is better – double of Drury shows clubs or shows a major suit takeout?  I think to avoid the opponents stealing the hand, the takeout is superior, but what matters is that you and partner are on firm footing with a common understanding.

Epilog: talking later with Bruce, the South player that bid the 4 game:  “Since Cris and I play a double of Drury as a takeout double of the major, it made things somewhat simple. I did not leap to 4  fearing the opponents would go for the non-vulnerable save, so I was “walking the dog” by bidding 3  over 2 and then 4 in the passout seat. It looks like 4 is only down 1 (possibly 2), losing 0+2+1+1/2 – a cheap save, but the opponents did not save (mission accomplished).”

Best defense vs. 4 looks like it would involve leading the doubleton diamond (possibly after cashing 2 hearts) and ducking the A.  Now, with a diamond ruff threatened, declarer must draw all trumps, leaving themselves with only 1.  Now when they knock out the A, the defense can go back to hearts, removing declarer’s last trump and prevent declarer from scoring a trick with the K.  In practice, this might be a tough defense to find.  Anyway, no one played spades, this hand was played in hearts.

 

 

 

 

 

Recap Of 12/17/2018 28 Board IMP Individual

There were a lot of IMPs flying around today, but only 5 hands that cleared the hurdle of ‘double digit.’  The opening lead determined the result on one hand, but bidding decisions created all of the other swings.  It all started on the first board…

 
1
None
North
N
Dan R
K54
AQJ754
75
A3
 
W
Bob
AJ932
1092
J4
J82
6
E
Manfred
Q10
K863
10853
Q76
 
S
Gary
876
AKQ92
K10954
 
W
Bob/Ed
N
Dan R/Jerry
E
Manfred/Mike
S
Gary/Dan F
1
Pass
2
Pass
2
Pass
3
Pass
3NT
All Pass
 

With identical auctions at both tables, this hand came down to the opening lead.  On this auction, no lead is especially appealing, but a heart is probably the last choice, and a weak holding with length in dummy’s first suit suggests there is unlikely to be any future there.  If you got that far in your choices for an opening lead, you are down to a couple of black queens – the unbid spade suit that is only 2 long (Q10), or dummy’s second suit where you are 3 long (Q76).

My partner tried the 6 which I read as 4th best on this auction.  When I covered the 9 with the J, declarer could win the A and try 4 rounds of diamonds.  My partner won the 10, but when partner continued with the Q ducked to declarer’s K, declarer could finesse the 10 and bring in 10-11 tricks.  At the table, they discarded a club on the A, so only 10 tricks were scored, -430.

Playing the same contract with the same bidding at the other table, our teammate was faced with the lead of the Q.  If they could see all of the cards, they could duck the spade at trick 1 and then pursue various double dummy line of plays to arrive at 9 tricks ‘knowing’ that East held a doubleton spade, so there would be no danger to let them on lead.  Some lines of play involve throwing East in with a heart after cashing exactly 2 diamonds so that a diamond lead allows a finesse of the 9 to bring in 5 diamond tricks!  There are many double dummy variations, but single dummy, declarer had to allow for the possibility that the opening lead looked more like the Q from AQJxx so that ducking would result in zero spade tricks if West ever gained the lead.  By winning the first trick, declarer had the potential to score 1+1+5+2 for their required 9 tricks.  Sometimes the JT would be doubleton or the QJ would be doubleton providing the necessary tricks without a 3-3 split.  Alas, diamonds did not come home, and East still had a spade to lead when they gained the lead, so declarer took 1+1+4+2 while the defense gathered in a diamond trick to go with 4 spade tricks for down one.  So, our teammates were -50 combined with our -430 resulting in losing 10 IMPs to start the day.

When I put this hand into Lead Captain (http://www.bridgecaptain.com/LeadCaptain.html), a diamond lead was the best non-spade lead.  The Q was 3 times better than a diamond and even the 10 (impossible in practice to start with the 10!) was more than 2 times better than a diamond lead.  Of course no one would ever start with the 10, but Lead Captain methodically tries out every card as a possible lead against thousands of random hands that could have been dealt that are consistent with the actual hand on opening lead as well as N-S bidding.

 
5
N-S
North
N
Dan R
A8
AK854
6
QJ1073
 
W
Mike
10964
QJ962
AK92
7
E
Dan F
QJ
10
AK1087543
54
 
S
Bob
K7532
73
QJ92
86
 
W
Mike
N
Dan R
E
Dan F
S
Bob
1
5
Dbl
All Pass
 
 
 
W
Jerry
N
Manfred
E
Ed
S
Gary
1
4
Dbl1
Pass
52
Pass
5
Dbl
All Pass
 
 
(1) Intended as penalty
(2) Bidding his best black suit

When facing favorable vulnerability, I will often preempt ‘1 higher’ than my shape calls for (e.g. jumping to 3M over 1m when holding only 6 cards in my major).  Preempts were made to create problems for the opponents and Marty Bergen would certainly approve.  Here at my table, East (not vulnerable) opted to use his first bid to jam the auction to the 5 level opposite vulnerable opponents (1 higher than standard).  If the opponents can score their vulnerable game, it is unlikely that the penalty in 5 will greatly exceed the value of the game.  “Make ’em guess.”  However, here there was no game above 5X so the opponents simply made a penalty double and took their 5 tricks (2+1+2+0) and scored 500 points.  In fact, on this layout, there is no contract above the 1 level that N-S can make!  Par (best possible result for N-S and E-W) is to let East play 2 and make it!  At the other table, East made the more pedestrian 4 preempt.  South thought that negative doubles only went through 3 so they made what they thought was a penalty double.  North thought that they had more offense than defense, and, they also thought, that partner was asking them to bid.  Since North ‘knew’ that there was no heart support in the South hand, they tried 5.  South ‘corrected’ to 5♥ and West had no trouble finding a penalty double.  Double dummy declarer play as well as double dummy defense can hold declarer to just 6 tricks, making their book but down 5 tricks.  That is what happened, so we were +500 to go with our teammates +1400 to score 18 IMPs! 

This swing was based more on partnership agreement about what level of bidding constitutes a negative double vs. a penalty double.  As I have reported many times in the past, we do allow discussion at the table regarding what certain bids mean, but it is a bit awkward to ask ‘is a double of 4 a negative double or a penalty double?’  That question kind of gives the hand away.  Therefore, I should possibly throw this hand out based on a misunderstanding…but it is still instructive – make sure you and partner are on the same page when it comes to “when do negative doubles no longer apply?”

 
10
Both
East
N
Dan F
9652
5
QJ9
107432
 
W
Manfred
QJ874
10982
753
Q
A
E
Jerry
3
AQ7543
1086
A65
 
S
Bob
AK10
KJ
AK42
KJ98
 
W
Manfred
N
Dan F
E
Jerry
S
Bob
1
Dbl
31
Pass
Pass
Dbl
Pass
3
All Pass
 
(1) Weak
W
Ed
N
Dan R
E
Gary
S
Mike
1
Dbl
3
Pass
4
Dbl
Pass
4
Pass
Pass
Dbl
All Pass
 
 

This auction had the same start at each table for the first round of bidding.  Holding the big hand, I was all set for a 2-2-2NT auction, but these days the opponents are rarely silent so those simple descriptive auctions are often not available.  I had an automatic double when East opened 1 and I couldn’t really see an option other than to double again when 3 came back around to me.  3NT certainly doesn’t appeal and I have no suit to start bidding.  If partner declares the hand but has no entry and must lead away from my strength on each trick, we may not score many tricks.  When partner could only offer 3 in response to my second double, I finally decided, after considerable thought, to pass and let him try to score 9 tricks.   Yes, there is a possible vulnerable game and the opponents may be “out stealing” – bidding with meager values and a lot of shape.  Even though my hand doesn’t have to be THIS good, partner knows I have a great hand to double the second time.  If partner has values, they owed me a stronger bid than 3.  West was waiting for the penalty double if I had decided to raise 3♠ to 4.  Double dummy results in 8 tricks for declarer playing a spade contract, and that is what my partner got.  After the second heart was won with the K, partner played only 1 spade and then led a diamond to hand in order to lead a club up to the K, dropping the singleton Q offside.  As long as 2 top spades aren’t played early on, the defense can’t find more than 5 tricks.  So we were down 1, -100.

At the other table, our teammates weren’t content to pass it out in 3.  Opener raised 3 to 4!  That really put the pressure on the player with my big hand.  Now my huge hand gets to make their second bid at the 4 level!  What can you do?  With both sides vulnerable, pass will score 5 tricks and allow +200.  But, that seems pretty wimpy.  You could double and hope partner passes.  The player with my hand tried a second double (in this situation it is certainly standard for this double to be treated as takeout) and North took it out to 4.  West was all set with the penalty double of 4 to end the bidding.  Here, declarer won the second heart lead and cashed the AK.  Now, the defense had 6 tricks coming, because West had gained trump control.  Declarer could cash 3 diamonds successfully, but when the 13th diamond was led from dummy, all West needs to do is ruff low.  Declarer can overruff, but that is their last trick.  After the A, West can ruff a club, draw trump, and run hearts.  So our teammates scored +800 compared to our -100 to win 12 IMPs.

After the preempt and subsequent penalty double by West, should North pull 4X to 5?  There are 10 tricks available in clubs (as long as you play East for the A), so running to 5 sure would have worked out here.

 
18
N-S
East
N
Bob
Q75
KJ
K109432
107
 
W
Gary
1042
105
Q6
AK9863
K
E
Dan F
K863
97432
J
542
 
S
Ed
AJ9
AQ86
A875
QJ
 
W
Gary
N
Bob
E
Dan F
S
Ed
Pass
1
4
4
Pass
5
All Pass
 
 
 
W
Manfred
N
Dan R
E
Mike
S
Jerry
Pass
1
2
2
3
3
All Pass
 
 
 

Here our opponents pretty much jammed us into the game.  I can hardly do less than support partner with my 6 trumps (even if it is at the 4 level) and partner continued to the 5 game.  When a simple 2 overcall by West happened at the other table, the player with my hand also supported diamonds, but only at the 2 level.  Then clubs were raised by East, and with no club stopper for NT, the opening 1 bidder simply rebid their diamonds and ended the auction at 3.  Both declarers lost the first 2 club tricks, but that was all for the defense.  No tricks to lose in the majors or diamonds, so 11 easy tricks were scored at both tables.  We were +600 and our teammates were -150, win 10 IMPs.

Should my hand (North) bid more at the other table?  After the 2 overcall, normally a jump to 3♦ would be much weaker than this hand and a jump to 4 would often be more shapely but still weak (since a cue bid of 3 is available, so any bid that isn’t a cue bid will show less than limit raise values).  The shape of the North hand is really bad (in the context of 6 card trump support), but using LTC or other hand evaluation methods, I think it evaluates to “limit raise/invitational values” – bid 3 with the first bid.  When the bidding comes around to North the next time, South had had no easy bid to show extra values.  They could have tried high reverse with 3, but their hand had dropped in value since the QJ evaluate to 2 losers and zero high card points.  So, for North’s second bid, the current bid is 3♦ and they must decide what to do.  Now, raising 3 to 4 might jeopardize the plus score and, even though you have 6 trump, you have no singleton nor void.  Bridge is a tough game.  You certainly hate to miss a game that merely requires a 2-1 trump fit and no finesses to fulfill your game contract.  It to me looks like they had to cue bid to show the limit raise the first time.

 
20
Both
West
N
Bob
Q1042
K4
KQJ8
98
 
W
Gary
763
AQ105
A3
AK76
A
E
Dan F
J98
J
642
QJ10542
 
S
Ed
AK5
987632
10975
 
W
Gary
N
Bob
E
Dan F
S
Ed
1NT
Pass
2NT1
Pass
32
Pass
Pass3
34
Dbl5
All Pass
 
 
(1) Relay to 3C
(2) Bidding as requested
(3) Reached the desired contract
(4) Balancing
(5) Thinking they can’t make it
W
Manfred
N
Dan R
E
Mike
S
Jerry
1NT
Pass
21
Pass
2NT2
Pass
33
Pass
3NT4
All Pass
 
 
(1) Showing clubs
(2) Saying ‘I like clubs’
(3) Weak hand, no game interest, just want to play 3C
(4) Where there is 8, there must be 9…

There are a wide variety of treatments to handle minor suits after partner opens a strong 1NT.  From my experience, the 2 most popular ones appeared on this hand.  At the other table, a 2 relay/transfer to clubs was offered (and there are actually 2 flavors of this system – one where you bid 2NT if you like clubs, and one where you bid 3 if you like clubs).  Anyway, the result of this sequence left South with an option to bid over the 3♣ signoff bid, but they did not.  Looking at 8 almost certain tricks with a possible heart finesse for 9, West didn’t sit for the 3 partial but went forward, uninvited, to 3NT.  When diamonds were led at trick 1, declarer was only able to score their 8 top tricks, so they went down 1, -100 for our teammates.

At my table, the 2NT response to the 1NT opening bid forced a 3 bid.  East would pass 3 if they simply wanted to play 3 or else, if they had game values with a 4-4-4-1 hand, they could use this tool to show that particular strength and shape by bidding their singleton over 3.  So, after 2NT, West dutifully made the requested 3 rebid which was passed around to South.  With little hope of defeating 3 and knowing that I had to have some useful values (if the opponents are willing to play a partscore, where are the rest of the points?), my vulnerable partner bid 3.   West had a lot of quick tricks and thought that 3 heart tricks were likely to go with the A and A to defeat our contract.  Since North-South were vulnerable, +200 seemed assured with higher numbers possible if dummy proved to be a disappointment and partner produced some help on defense, so West doubled.  They did get their 3 heart tricks, but when there were no club tricks for the defense, partner was able to score their 9 tricks for +730.  When it was all over, West was lamenting their failure to bid 3NT rather than double, since little bad could happen to the 3NT contract and there was a huge potential upside if they could score 9 tricks (as well as avoiding the downside of 3X being made!).  Our +730 combined with our teammates -100 to score 12 IMPs.

 

 

 

Recap Of 11/7/2018 28 Board IMP Individual

Today’s game featured 5 double digit swings with one challenging play problem along with 4 bidding decisions (2 slams) creating the remaining 4 big swings.

 
6
E-W
East
N
Bob
Q9
QJ102
104
J10953
 
W
Gary
AKJ10865
K4
9872
10
E
Tony
432
A8763
AK
Q62
 
S
Cris
7
95
QJ653
AK874
 

 

W
Gary
N
Bob
E
Tony
S
Cris
1
2NT1
32
53
Dbl4
Pass
55
All Pass
 
 
(1) Unusual NT showing both minors
(2) Showing spades with at least invitational values
(3) Jamming the auction
(4) Penalty with soft spades, strong quick tricks, not clear where to go
(5) Stuck for a bid…

 

W
Bruce
N
Mark M
E
Mark R
S
Tom
1
2NT
3
4
41
Pass
52
Pass
53
Pass
64
All Pass
 
 
(1) Cue bid saying I have diamonds controlled
(2) Cue bid saying I have clubs controlled
(3) Another cue bid
(4) REALLY wanting to bid the grand, but…

There was nothing to the lead, defense or play of this hand – draw trump and establish hearts so that one diamond loser can go on the 13th heart and 1 diamond can be ruffed for 13 tricks.  It was all in the bidding.  This vulnerability (white vs. red) provided me the opportunity to throw a monkey wrench into the opponents auction, so my first bid of 5 left little room for the opponents to explore.  East had the perfect cards for West’s long spade suit, but they were unable to sort that out and guessed to let the bidding die at 5.  When my hand bid only 4 at the other table, East-West were able to express their solid controls of the minor suits with cue bids and almost bid the grand (but few extra IMPs would have been paid out had the grand been bid and made when the other table failed to reach the small slam).  This (failure to be in slam at the other table) is what makes the IMP odds for bidding the grand slam quite perilous – you need to have a high degree of certainty for 13 tricks to take the plunge and bid the grand.  When the other table has not bid the small slam, you are gaining 4 (additional) IMPs when you bid/make the grand with a chance of losing 26 IMPs (the 13 you would have gained for the small slam bid/made vs. the 13 you lose for going down in the grand against their game bid).

Another reason to not bid the grand – when the opponents are bidding at a high level with extremely weak hands, they have some extreme distribution.  Always.  Here, had the unusual NT been 6-5, or if their shape was 2=1=5=5, then 7 has no play.

What about West’s initial bid over 2NT?  It is quite common for many established and new partnerships to play “UvsU” – that is, when the opponents bid unusual NT (or other bids that show 2 suits), use those 2 suits as anchors to show the other 2 suits (in this case, use clubs and diamond cue bids to show hearts and spades).  Often, that is how far the discussion goes, but, as with virtually any ‘system’ bid, much much more discussion is required.  Which variation do you play?  Some play that the cheapest bid (in this case 3) shows support for partner’s suit, some play it shows the lower suit (in this case, partner’s suit is hearts, the lower, so the ‘system’ would be the same regardless).  Also, if 3 is going to show spades, does an immediate 3 bid (which obviously also shows spades) show a better hand than 3 or is 3 a non-forcing competitive bid?  At out table, it was an established partnership and both understood 3 to be a stronger spade hand than had West bid 3.which would have been non-forcing competitive.   Our teammates were not an established partnership, and with no discussion, West bid 3 assuming it was forcing (and stronger than 3) and carried on from there.  Memo to all partnerships: be sure to nail down what bids mean and be sure both partners have the same understanding!

Out teammates were +1460 vs. our -710 to win 13 IMPs.

 
7
Both
South
N
Bob
108652
KQJ
106542
 
W
Gary
10875
QJ74
A8432
Q
E
Tony
AJ6
A93
96
AQ873
 
S
Cris
KQ9432
K
1075
KJ9
 

 

W
Gary
N
Bob
E
Tony
S
Cris
1
Pass
1NT1
2
2
All Pass
 
 
 
(1) Semi-forcing

 

W
Bruce
N
Mark M
E
Mark R
S
Tom
1
Pass
1NT
Dbl
2
4
Dbl
All Pass
 

The bidding started the same at both tables – pretty automatic to open 1 and respond 1NT.  At East’s first chance to bid, he has a very awkward hand.  If they had dealt, undoubtedly they would open 1NT.  But what does East do after RHO bids 1NT?  At the other table, holding nice values but limited support for the unbid red suits,  they tried a takeout double.  They soon found themselves as dummy playing their 4-3 heart fit in 4 doubled.  At my table, East overcalled 2 with their modest club suit.  At both tables South who had opened 1 rebid 2.  But, at my table 2 ended the auction.  Partner was able to find 5 tricks opposite that miserable dummy for down 3, -300.  Our teammates somehow managed to find 9 tricks in their 4 game contract, but they needed 10 tricks, so they finished -200 to lose 11 IMPs.

Bridge is a tough game.  Given the exact same problem, different players come up with different solutions.  That is what makes the game so fascinating.  East has a very tough bid at their first opportunity.  Bouncing to the 4 game in response to the double may have been a bit exuberant, but if partner held short spades (as advertised by the double) and some fitting diamonds (little wasted in clubs), game may have been just right.

 
15
N-S
South
N
Bob
Q10762
QJ6
AK43
K
 
W
Bruce
AK4
954
J87
A764
10
E
Cris
5
K8732
1092
Q1098
 
S
Mark R
J983
A10
Q65
J532
 
W
Bruce
N
Bob
E
Cris
S
Mark R
Pass
1
1
Dbl
2
All Pass
 
 
 

 

W
Tony
N
Tom
E
Mark M
S
Gary
Pass
1
1
Dbl
2
Pass
3
Pass
4
All Pass
 
 
 

Here I violated one of my oft mentioned ‘rules’:  never bring back a red +170 to your teammates.  I was really close to making a game try, but Mike Lawrence wrote a book about 50 years ago about the principle of ‘in and out evaluation’ – ‘in’ being points in your suits and ‘out’ being points in the opponents suits.  Specifically, queens and jacks are good in your suits (for offense – poor for defense) but queens and jacks are very poor values in the opponents suits (for offense, but good for defense).  The queens and jacks don’t come into play until the 3rd or 4th round of the suit and by then partner could possibly ruff it, providing no offensive value at all.  On top of that, those points that you hold are points that not held by the opponents, yet the opponents are bidding, so they have compensating values elsewhere to make their bid.  Those ‘other’ points they hold could be your downfall.  Of course singleton kings in the opponents suits may take a trick on defense, but they will rarely be useful for offense.  In reality, my QJx paired with partner’s A10 to make a good holding in that suit.  When considering the option of making a game try or not, the overall spade suit was weak.  So, even though I had 15 HCP, I discounted the heart and club values, taking me down to 9 ‘working’ HCP.  Since partner had provided a simple raise to only 2, I decided to preserve the plus rather than risk a game try that might result in playing 3 going down when only 8 tricks were available.

With 3 top losers in the black suits, everything else had to work.  The heart finesse has some chance of success (of course the finesse must succeed in order to make game).  LHO showed heart length with his double, but opener (RHO) has more points (both opponents are bidding on light values, but you don’t know who is light during the auction – it could be partner).  figured to be successful, but unless the A captures the K, there is still a heart loser that must be ruffed.  And, unless diamonds are 3-3, there is a diamond loser that also must be ruffed.  If trump are 3-1, it won’t be possible to obtain 2 ruffs in dummy.  Alas, diamonds were 3-3, so no problem – 10 tricks were scored at both tables.  Our +170 vs. our teammates -620 cost us 10 IMPs. 

It is pretty common in standard bidding to play a jump cue bid as a mixed raise – a raise that shows some offense, some defense, 4 card trump support and about 6-9 HCP – a bid which pretty well describes the South hand.  Partner wanted to do a ‘mixed raise’ with a jump to 3.  But, other than playing in this game, we have never played together and he wasn’t comfortable throwing that bid in the mix.  Still, South at the other table made the same simple raise to 2 and my hand found the game try that allowed them to reach and make the reasonable game.  Charge this one to me.  Even though the game was somewhat lucky, vulnerable games have to be bid due to the 10 IMP payoff.

 
22
E-W
East
N
Bob
KQ82
K32
K752
Q8
 
W
Tony
109
A9
A1063
97652
10
E
Mark R
J763
Q1075
98
K43
 
S
Mark M
A54
J864
QJ4
AJ10
 

 

Mark M
Bob
1
1
1NT
3NT
All Pass
 

 

Bruce
Gary
1
1
1NT
3NT

 

This hand was the play problem for the day.  With slightly different bidding, both tables arrived in 3NT with the same 10 lead.  With the club finesse on, after the diamond A is knocked out, declarer has 3+0+2+3 ‘top’ tricks – one short.  Spades may split 3-3, diamonds may split 3-3, the A may be onside, or an endplay may be possible.  Or, perhaps a finesse in spades or diamonds will make it possible to pick up the suit for the extra trick when those suits break 4-2.  For instance, if the opening leader held 1097x and their partner held Jx, the 8 is there to finesse West out of their 9.

Playing for the A onside is pretty scary with that heart suit.  At my table, partner won trick 1 with the A and proceeded to knock out the A.  West won and persisted with spades, won in dummy, and then declarer led the Q to the K and A.  Hoping for a favorable split in spades or diamonds, declarer cashed his winners ending in dummy and in the end position, knowing that East had the last spade, led a spade hoping for an endplay.  They may have a club to cash, but then, if they held Ax, they would have to surrender the 9th trick to dummy’s K.  Alas, as they won the J, their partner threw away their 9, leaving them with the A and a good club and and a good diamond.  5 tricks for the defense, down 1.

Play at the other table started the same, but when West won the A, they shifted to clubs which went to the Q, K and A.  But, declarer, noting the fall of the 98 on the first 2 rounds of diamonds elected to finesse the 7 on the 3rd round of diamonds and that play brought them to 9 tricks.  I think this falls in the category of restricted choice plays and it sure worked for this hand.  Our teammates were -400 and we were -50 to lose 10 IMPs.

What about the response to 1?  I chose 1 and Gary chose 1.  Traditionally, I have responded in my 4 card major with less than invitational values, but just bid up the line with good hands.  The actual choice had no bearing on the result, but it is worth discussing with partner.

What about the lead?  It was the same at both tables, once when spades were bid, once when no major was bid.  I like the spade lead, either way.  With clubs bid on your right, the 9xxxx hardly looks like a place to go looking for tricks.  If you rule out clubs, Axxx satisfies ‘4th from longest (remaining) and strongest’, but David Bird’s book and experience have indicated that a lead from a suit like that is often helpful to declarer (on this hand it would have shown the way to 9 tricks via a finesse against the 10) and rarely (but sometimes) fruitful for the defense.  Although the A could hit partner, they didn’t bid the suit, so it is unlikely to help and it gives up a valuable tempo in the hand (it proved to be the entry to the setting tricks late in the hand).  The 10 seems to offer the best prospects of safety (avoid giving away tricks) and attack (partner might have good spades over the spade suit that was bid by dummy at one table).  And the 9 to go with it provides some texture to help fill in partner’s suit.

 
26
Both
East
N
Bob
A63
A852
102
Q1076
 
W
Tom
Q874
63
K654
532
7
E
Bruce
KJ1052
94
QJ97
J4
 
S
Tony
9
KQJ107
A84
AK98
 

 

Tony
Bob
1
3
4NT
5
6
All Pass

 

Mark M
Mark R
1
3
4
4
All Pass
 

 

This is a tough hand to judge.  With the bidding starting the same at both tables, my partner unilaterally trotted out RKCB and, finding me with both missing key cards, bid the slam.  At the other table, South advanced with a club cue bid and, with weak diamonds (no cue bid possible there), North simply rebid hearts and that ended the auction.  In the context of having made a limit raise showing 10-11 HCP with 4 trumps, what do you think of the North hand?  Clearly holding 2 aces is slam positive.  But the Q is soft and the hand is flat.  Perhaps they should offer a 4 cue bid back to partner and see what they do?  That might have allowed them to reach the slam, but when I gave the hand to another strong player, they still didn’t get to slam after a 4 cue bid in response to the 4 cue bid.

If my Q had been a Q or Q, I would have bid the same and the slam would have had virtually no play.  But if my entire club/diamond suits were switched, so that I had xx and Qxxx, 12 tricks might have been possible with the K onside.  Obviously there are many many hands that I (North’s limit raise) could have held, some which make slam hopeless, and some which make slam cold.  The bidding challenge is to find out which of those hands I do have and end up in the right contract.  Partner had very solid hearts and nice controls outside of hearts.  This time, his  approach (RKCB) worked.  We were +1430 vs. -680 to win 13 IMPs.

 

Recap Of 10/24/2018 28 Board IMP Individual

Here we are again, 2 days later, with a different cast of 7 players plus me.  Again 8 double digit swings mostly based on bidding judgment, but some leads, play and defense opportunities were present on some hands.

 
2
N-S
East
N
Bob
K10654
K54
43
AK3
 
W
Dan
Q3
AJ9
KJ96
J1086
J
E
Gary
J98
10876
Q85
954
 
S
Tom
A72
Q32
A1072
Q72
 
W
Dan
N
Bob
E
Gary
S
Tom
Pass
Pass
Pass
1
Pass
21
Pass
42
All Pass
 
(1) Drury – invitational spade raise
(2) Accepting the invite
W
Mark R
N
Nick
E
Steve
S
Mark M
Pass
1
Pass
1
Pass
1NT
Pass
21
Pass
22
Pass
3NT3
Pass
Pass4
Pass
(1) XYZ – 2C forces 2D, usually a signoff or a prelude to some invitational bid
(2) Dutifully bidding 2D as requested
(3) Offer to play, pass or correct to 4S, showing 5 spades and 3-3-2 in the other suits
(4) Deciding 9 tricks might be easier than 10 with no ruffing value, even though there is a known 8 card spade fit

No one in my game plays a strong club on a regular basis – all bidding is pretty standard.  With the prevalence of strong club players at the top levels of bridge, many experts are opening balanced hands with only 10-11 points in 1st and 2nd seat.  They always open 4-3-3-3 hands with 12 HCP.  As for my bidding style, I try to use judgment – looking at hand evaluation – some 4-3-3-3 12 point hands are openers, some are not (my opinion only, not shared by all).  Here, my partner judged to pass in second seat.  He had 2 aces which are strong indicators of opening.  But, he had 2 unsupported queens of doubtful value.  I have no problem with his decision to pass, but the favorable result went to our opponents who decided to open the South hand.  As you can see, from the comments on the auctions, our opponents reached a well-judged 3NT rather than playing in their known 8 card fit in spades.  The only opening lead to give declarer a problem is 4th from longest and strongest – a small diamond from KJ96.  Not a likely lead into the suit that declarer opened.  But, double dummy declarer play can still make 3NT even after the diamond lead, since the lie of the spade suit allows, with careful play, to never allow the East hand to gain the lead for a diamond through the 10.

Declarer still must be extremely careful to land 9 tricks after the actual club lead.  I don’t know the card-by-card timing of the defense or declarer play, but the slightest misstep by declarer could allow the defense to defeat 3NT, even after a club lead.   For instance, if declarer, somewhat naturally, wins the club and plays 3 rounds of spades, a diamond shift (from Q85) will defeat 3NT.  Again, that is the suit they bid, so that defense is a bit hard to find.  But, partner’s lead of the J indicates limited future there.  Dummy’s diamonds are quite weak.  Perhaps partner had strong diamonds but didn’t lead them due to the opening 1 bid on his right?  A club continuation would be safe, but a diamond could be (and would be) right.  3NT is very touch and go, but when the smoke cleared 9 tricks were in the bag.

My play in 4 was a bit boring.  Assuming spades are 3-2, I must lose a spade, a heart and a diamond, and I must lose 2 hearts unless there is an Ax and I can work out which hand has the doubleton A.  As the play unfolded, it appeared no one had a doubleton ace and that was the case, so I was limited to 9 tricks.  Our -100 paired with -600 for our teammates, lose 12 IMPs.

But what about the bidding?  My 4 bid was quite unilateral.  I did want to accept the game try, but I could bid 2 on the way showing a legitimate hand with some game interest, and later explore with 2NT if partner merely bids 2.  I reported on this exact auction from Monday’s game earlier this week where one table arrived in a hopeless 4 and the other table played a cold 3NT.  Here, 3NT is far from cold.  And we don’t have a diamond opening bid to dissuade a diamond opening lead if we are in 3NT.  Still, my 4 bid was poor and my contract was hopeless as the cards lie.

 
4
Both
West
N
Bob
103
762
AK10
A10754
 
W
Dan
964
K10854
52
K93
Q
E
Gary
KJ87
QJ9
93
QJ86
 
S
Tom
AQ52
A3
QJ8764
2
 
W
Dan
N
Bob
E
Gary
S
Tom
Pass
1
Pass
1
Pass
1NT
Pass
3NT
All Pass
 
 
 
W
Mark R
N
Nick
E
Steve
S
Mark M
Pass
Pass
Pass
1
Pass
2
Pass
2
Pass
3
All Pass
 

Here we go again with another ‘light’ opener.  Jerry Helms talks about the rule of 22 – quite similar to the rule of 20, except you add quick tricks to high card points and the length of your 2 longest suits.  Using that rule, I have an easy opener!  3 quick tricks plus 11 HCP plus 8 cards in my 2 longest suits equals 22.  So, I opened the hand and soon we were in 3NT.  Of course, with the spade finesse on, I can use my powerful diamonds to ruff spades and still draw trump later in the hand, allowing 12 tricks in a diamond slam.  We did not explore the diamond slam.  And, with 6 top diamonds and 3 aces, I simply took my 9 tricks, no spade finesse to risk going down in a cold contract.

At the other table, our opponents, holding our cards, did not open the North hand and soon found themselves playing a partscore in diamonds.  Should North make a stronger move after passing as dealer?  If so, what?  Should South bid on after partner’s raise to 3?  It turns out on this hand they should.  They found their 12 tricks playing their diamond partscore, so our teammates were -170 to go with our +600 to win 10 IMPs.  Very little going on here in the way of leads, play and defense – it all came down to bidding judgment…and the points that N-S held were the right kind of points (aces with running diamonds) to gather in their tricks.

What about my 1NT rebid with zero stoppers in both unbid suits?  I think the modern style, when you have a balanced hand out of range for a strong 1NT opening bid, is to strain to rebid 1NT to show a weak balanced hand and let partner take care of the stoppers if needed.  It doesn’t always work, but I think it is the way most players are bidding these days.

Kudos to the opening lead of the Q.  Leading 3 card suits, especially with the nice texture of this one, targets hitting partner’s 5 card suit (he did!).  If East leads one of their 4 card black suits, declarer is able to take the spade finesse for the extra trick without worry.  But, on the heart lead, a losing spade finesse could be fatal so it won’t be taken.  Not that it mattered in IMPs, but I still thought it was worth noting.

 
6
E-W
East
N
Steve
3
875
K1094
AJ972
 
W
Bob
AKQ8
AQJ853
K53
7
E
Dan
76542
KQJ1032
2
Q
 
S
Mark M
J109
A964
76
10864
 
W
Bob
N
Steve
E
Dan
S
Mark M
2
Pass
3NT
All Pass
 
 
W
Gary
N
Nick
E
Tom
S
Mark M
Pass
Pass
1
Pass
1
Pass
2
Pass
4NT1
Pass
52
Pass
63
All Pass
(1) Key card ask, spades trump
(2) Thinking he was showing 0-3
(3) Thinking partner has 4

Well, I considered omitting this hand from the blog.  Wow, what a hand!.  My partner judged to start with a weak 2 bid and I had to find a way to respond to that opening bid.  I have a great hand and certainly could have started with a forcing 3 which would almost certainly hear a 3 rebid from partner.  Then I could offer spades and, on this hand, we would have arrived in 4 and still lost a bushel of IMPs.  But, I thought the chance of a 2-3-3-3-4 auction was sufficiently low that I decided to just blast 3NT and see if I could find a way to score 9 tricks.  Partner could hold the K, making 9 tricks trivial in 3NT…wishful thinking.  3NT was not a good choice as it turned out.  I won the club lead in dummy with the Q and took a diamond finesse, losing to the K.  It seems unlikely that declarer holds the A and is messing around with diamonds, but I suppose it is possible.  At this point a heart lead and club return would have scored 6 tricks for the defense.  Anyway, North continued with a spade.  As I cashed my four spade winners, North had to find 3 discards.  They knew to keep all of their diamonds and hated to part with potential club winners, so they ended up throwing all of their hearts!  So, when I played A, J and another diamond, they were able to win the 10, but then had to lead clubs, allowing me to regain the lead, cash my remaining diamonds and score 10 tricks.  Had they kept 1 heart, the defense would still score their 6 tricks for down 2.

The other table had a rather different auction.  Fearing the danger of missing the spade suit, East passed rather than open with a weak 2.  After the jump shift in spades, their hand looked like a key card hand – completely solid hearts missing the ace, 2 singletons, long strong trump support.  So, they launched a key card auction and quickly arrived in 6 off two aces (as noted a 3014-1430 confusion).  With the A over the solid heart suit and partner void, it was a simple matter of drawing trump and then ruffing out the A to score 6+5+1+0, 12 tricks and -1430 for our teammates.  Paired with my +630, lose 13 IMPs.

 
8
None
West
N
Steve
94
AJ109853
AQ
86
 
W
Bob
52
Q6
J985
AK1054
Q
E
Dan
10876
K2
743
QJ73
 
S
Mark M
AKQJ3
74
K1062
92
 
W
Bob
N
Steve
E
Dan
S
Mark M
Pass
1
Pass
1
Pass
4
Pass
6
All Pass
 
 
 
W
Gary
N
Nick
E
Tom
S
Mark R
Pass
1
Pass
1
Pass
2
Pass
4
All Pass
 
 
 

Here is another hand that is all about bidding judgment.  Both tables started the same, but one player opted for a simple 2 rebid while the other blasted all the way to 4.  Using losing trick count (LTC), the 1 opening bid is looking at a routine 7 loser hand (the classic LTC for a minimum opening bid) and, therefore, this hand seems more like a minimum 2 rebid.  The jump to 4, I think, should show close to 20 points or a 5 loser hand.  The South player, thinking he had a few more tricks to offer partner than his simple 1 response had shown, raised to the 6 slam.  On the standard Q lead, only 10 tricks are available to declarer, so we were +100 while our teammates were +420, win 11 IMPs.

 
13
Both
North
N
Nick
QJ862
KQ65
8
973
 
W
Bob
A9753
73
J63
K82
10
E
Mark R
K4
AJ1094
KQ2
Q105
 
S
Dan
10
82
A109754
AJ64
 
W
Bob
N
Nick
E
Mark R
S
Dan
Pass
Pass
1NT
Dbl1
22
Pass
2
Pass
2NT
Pass
3NT
All Pass
(1) Meckwell showing 1 minor, both majors or a hand too strong to simply bid a natural 2S
(2) Jacoby Transfer
W
Tom
N
Mark M
E
Steve
S
Gary
Pass
1NT
Pass
2
Pass
2
All Pass

The auction took extremely different routes at the two tables.  Playing ‘good 14-17 HCP’ that all of us play, many 8 point hands should quietly pass, or transfer and pass.  That is what the player holding my cards elected to do at the other table.  I had the extra problem of the (most likely) single suited minor to contend with (although South’s double could also have suggested both majors).  But, holding some help in both minors, I decided to transfer and then invite with 2NT.  My 8 HCP included a 5 card suit headed by the ace as well as a side king – usually those are more useful points than a bunch of isolated queens.  Partner held minimum high cards, but with stoppers in both minors and the heart suit 5 long and bolstered by the 109, partner accepted my invitation (and he is vulnerable, so strain to bid all games).

Against 3NT, South made the normal lead of the 10 (top of an interior sequence in their longest suit).  Double dummy, the only lead to hold declarer to 9 tricks is an unlikely (impossible) spade.  So, declarer, double dummy, has 10 tricks on the diamond lead and that is what he scored!  But, the play and defense wasn’t exactly double dummy.  To get 10 tricks, declarer must win the J for one of his precious dummy entries so that he can start playing hearts.  Instead, he won the K in hand (perhaps hoping to fool the opening leader about the location of the Q?).  Now he needed to get to dummy to start attacking hearts and made a potentially fatal play of a club to the K.  After a heart to the  J won, he played a spade to the A and led another heart.  North split their honors and the A won followed by the 10 to the K.  With no diamonds to lead, North must now play a black suit.  A club would have allowed South to cash 3 club tricks and the A to set the contract, but North, with no entries, played a spade instead.  Now, on the play of the major suits, South, trying to defeat the hand, kept their clubs and pitched down to the singleton A.  When declarer next played diamonds, South had to win and return a club, allowing declarer to enjoy their second club trick and second diamond to go with four hearts and two spades – 10 tricks in all.

At the other table with no interference bidding, my hand opted to play a quiet 2.  The extreme spade split meant that the defense had 3 trump tricks as well as a trick in every other suit, so 2 was defeated 1 trick.  That gave our teammates +100 to go with our +630 to win 12 IMPs.

It may not be obvious, but the club suit on this deal is extremely complex.  Given where the 9 is located, and the J, and the 8, amazing things happen.  The suit is semi-frozen, meaning the side that first leads the suit gives up a trick they would otherwise gain if they were not the first side to lead the suit.  It is ‘semi’ frozen since, the way the cards are distributed, declarer can actually safely break the suit (and keep it frozen) if they guess the layout of the cards.  Declarer can (and must) lead the 10 (or Q) to start the suit.  That way, if South plays the A on the 10, 2 tricks are there and problems are over.  If they play the A on the Q, South’s entry to their diamonds is gone and the club suit remains frozen – neither North nor South can lead clubs effectively.  If South ducks the 10, declarer can duck and win the trick.  And if South covers with the J, declarer can win the K in dummy and the 8x remaining in dummy still leaves the suit frozen – North cannot effectively lead the 9 or underlead the 9 to gain tricks for the defense as long as declarer reads the position accurately.  All of this (about how to play the club suit) is a bit double dummy, but still I found it interesting.  And, as it turns out, necessary (after failing to win trick 1 with the J) to bring home the contract with double dummy declarer play against double dummy defense.

 
14
None
East
N
Nick
J954
K6532
2
QJ2
 
W
Bob
Q1063
AQJ9
A
AK103
3
E
Mark R
K
74
KQJ10963
965
 
S
Dan
A872
108
8754
874
 

 

W
Bob/Tom
N
Nick/Mark M
E
Mark R/Steve
S
Dan/Gary
3
Pass
3NT
All Pass
 
 

Here, the bidding was the same, the lead was the same, and it all came down to the play of the hand.  Double dummy, the only lead to defeat 3NT is a small spade (the shorter major, but a suit with more texture).  The heart suit, however, was 5 long and headed by the king, so that offered the most promise and that is what was led at both tables.  With the heart lead, declarer, hoping clubs will produce 3 tricks, is looking at 1+3+1+3 – one trick short.  Other than stripping a hand to throw them in to lead diamonds at the end, there is no real chance of the 9th trick except for the 10.  Not that the opponents are going to ever lead diamonds, but I next cashed the A and then went after spades.  As the cards lie, double dummy, leading spades at that point is the only way to reach 9 tricks.  Upon winning the A, South, as expected, continued hearts (if a spade had been led at that point, I can only make the hand if I rise with the Q and go about getting my other tricks, eventually scoring the 10 at trick 12 and a long club at trick 13).  On the heart return, I finessed with the J and North won the K.  They can safely lead hearts, but since South can never regain the lead, declarer’s 10 is going to eventually score a trick.  North’s actual continuation after winning the K was the Q.  This gave me a different route to 9 tricks.  I won with the A, cashed a heart (noting the 5-2 split), and led the 10!  This presented North with Hobson’s choice – he could win with the J for the third and final defensive trick (since the 9 would provide an entry to dummy to run the diamonds), or he could duck, giving up his ‘sure’ club trick, but presenting me with a 4th club trick and the game going trick (1+3+1+4).

If, after winning the K, North exits with a heart instead of the Q, I cash my hearts, cash my clubs, and when I lead the third club, North wins the club and has a heart to cash (while I throw my losing spade), but at trick 11, North must lead away from J9x into my Q10 with a good club remaining on the side to reach 9 tricks and make the contract.

At the other table, declarer won the opening heart lead (presumably cashed the A) and then led 3 rounds of clubs with North winning the Q.  This got the 3rd club trick in the bag, but left the 2nd spade trick on the sidelines.  North exited with a small spade – very important.  After attacking one suit (hearts) and later shifting to a second suit (spades), the size of the shift is critical.  A high card says ‘I’m not interested in this suit, so if you/partner win a trick revert to my original suit.’  A low card says ‘I’m no longer interested in my original suit, if you/partner win a trick, return this suit.’  This is fundamental defensive carding that all players should adhere to.  So, upon winning the A, a spade was returned and 9 tricks are no longer possible for declarer.  The defense scores 3+1+0+1.  So, +50 for our teammates and +400 for our 3NT making, win 10 IMPs.

As a side note, 6 by West (impossible for West to play diamonds unless you play transfer preempts) is cold, but 6 by East goes down on a heart lead.  Since partner’s preempt suit is often not nearly as robust as this particular 3 bid, even pursuing 5 (vs. the 3NT chosen by me and the player with my cards at the other table) seems inferior.  What do you think?  Finding 9 tricks is often much easier than finding 11.

 
18
None
East
N
Nick
AK2
K932
AJ
Q972
 
W
Steve
QJ85
5
KQ864
J43
K
E
Gary
10943
Q1064
753
A10
 
S
Bob
76
AJ87
1092
K865
 
W
Steve
N
Nick
E
Gary
S
Bob
Pass
Pass
1
Dbl
Pass
1
Pass
2
Pass
4
All Pass
 
 
 
W
Mark M
N
Mark R
E
Tom
S
Dan
Pass
Pass
2
2NT
Pass
3NT
All Pass
 
 
 

Many recurring themes were back again on this hand.  Fundamental is the 3NT vs. 4M – should you look for an 8 card major suit fit?  If you find one, should you play in the 10 trick major or 9 trick NT contract.  The other ‘theme’ is opening bids.  What do you “open” in 3rd seat Vul vs. not with the East hand?  “Light openings” would be an understatement to describe the modern style.  Few people, especially me, like to allow 4th seat a free rein to bid anything they want.  Whatever you open prevents them from opening the bidding (all they can do is overcall or double).  Your bid can inhibit (or help) their hand description.

At my table, they chose a simple 1 opening bid.  The other table tried a 2 opening bid.  Here you have a weak suit 5 long with a decent 4 card major on the side.  The preempt prompted a 2NT overcall and responder didn’t bother with Stayman – simply raised to 3NT on their balanced 8 HCP.  

3NT is no piece of cake after the diamond lead.  If declarer has to lose 2 club tricks, the diamonds will be established and the defense will reach 5 tricks before declarer can find 9.  As you can see, the heart suit is good for 4 tricks, but declarer can’t see that (there are only 4 heart tricks if they take a deep finesse the first time they lead towards AJ87).  In any case, the diamond lead was won with the A and a club was led towards the K.  When East rose with the A, the play was over, declarer had 2+2+2+3 without risking the heart finesse.  Since East had the doubleton A, it really didn’t matter what they played – if they played the 10, declarer was set with 3 club tricks by winning the K and ducking the club continuation to let East’s A catch air.

Meanwhile, I was trying to find 10 tricks in my 4 contract.  I won the K with the A, then won the K and a heart to the J.  Good news/bad news – the finesse for the Q won, but I’m losing a heart, plus a diamond plus the A, so I, too, need to find a doubleton A.  But, when diamonds proved to be 5-3, I was seeing the only chance was a singleton J or 10 with East (since West had opened, clearly they ‘had’ to have the A – I wasn’t considering the fact that it was a 3rd seat opener).  If they had Ax, they would have to be 5=1=5=2 and would have opened 1, so I hoped for 3=1=5=4.  East did have the 10, but they had the A to go with it.  Down 1.  Double dummy, 11 tricks were there for the taking, but I could only find 9 of them.  Our -100 paired with teammates -600 to lose 12 IMPs.  Once diamonds are established and the clubs produced 3 tricks, a heart finesse (or deep finesse) could have produced overtricks at the risk of going down, so no heart finesse was taken in 3NT, just 9 tricks to make the 3NT.

Even though 3NT and 4 are both cold on this deal, double dummy, neither contract rates to be a great success, but both contracts are reasonable.  Simply looking at our hands (and what the ‘bidding’ told us?), I don’t know that I have a great preference for one contract over the other.  Both contracts succeed easily with Qxx onside.  In the case of Qxx onside, in NT, you have 2+4+2+1 and in hearts you have 2+5+2+1 (losing a diamond and 2 clubs).  In NT, it is best to try clubs first (which Mark did).  If you are able to find 3 tricks there, no need to risk the heart finesse (2+2+2+3).  Where as, in NT, if you try the heart finesse first and it loses (prior to testing clubs), the opponents will establish diamonds and still have the A to then run diamonds and defeat 3NT.  If the Qxx is onside, the 4 heart tricks will still be there later.  So, in 3NT, if clubs fail, fall back on hearts.  In hearts, if you have a heart loser, fall back on clubs.  Finding WHO has the Ax is certainly key, so that you start clubs from the proper hand to produce 3 club tricks (or you could guess to lead a high club hoping to find AHxx opposite a singleton J or 10).  

The reality is 3NT worked.  What do you think of partner’s takeout double rather than a 1NT overcall of 1?  Or what do you think of the 2NT overcall rather than a takeout double of 2?  I think it is very close and can’t argue either way.  With only a doubleton, you can’t hold up to isolate the suit when it splits 5-3.  But, if partner has 10xx, the power of the J provides a double stopper.

What do you think of North’s raise to 2?  Many play that that simple raise shows 4 card support with ZERO extra values.  This is not a regular partner and I didn’t ask, I simply took him as making a game invitation, saying that if I was close to the 9-11 HCP that would have allowed me to jump to 2, then 4 should have play so I bid 4.  I was close (8 working points) and 4  did have play, just not the way I played it.  Plus, I never considered 3NT and neither did partner.

But, after the hand, East who had passed as dealer heard RHO double after his partner opened 1♦ in third seat.  He remarked that he almost bid 1.  Not only would we then arrive in 3NT, not 4, but we would also have a road map for the 4 tricks available in the heart suit and not need to find who had the doubleton Ax!  Always keep in mind that bidding is a double edged sword.  When bidding, you can be helping partner/messing up the opponents, or you can be giving the opponents the clues they need to both find the right contract and find the right line of play.  Bridge is a bidders game, but silence can be incredibly effective sometimes as well.

 
26
Both
East
N
Nick
KJ6
A84
AQ6
KJ42
 
W
Mark M
A1084
K
10832
10753
J
E
Bob
975
J109
KJ97
AQ8
 
S
Tom
Q32
Q76532
54
96
 
W
Mark M
N
Nick
E
Bob
S
Tom
Pass
Pass
Pass
1
Pass
1
Pass
2NT
Pass
3
Pass
3
All Pass
 
W
Gary
N
Dan
E
Mark R
S
Steve
Pass
Pass
Pass
1
Pass
1
Pass
2NT
Pass
4
All Pass
 
 
 

This hand contained a comedy of errors, except it wasn’t really all that funny, especially for my side.  Declarer only has 8 tricks in a heart contract, but one side contracted for 9 tricks, the other 10.  I normally make my leads face down and wait for acknowledgement before turning it face up.  Here, I managed to turn a lead out of turn face up and South who should have been declaring put their dummy down while partner is trying to lead.  Partner is confused about what is going on.  Eventually, my J lead was accepted and South became dummy.  Declarer ducked, of course, winning the K with the A.  They then led the J, won by West with the A.  At this point, partner has 4 diamonds to choose from (10832).  If they lead the 10 or 8, we get our 5 tricks, defeating 3.  But, when they led a small diamond, declarer isn’t forced to finesse the Q, they can play the 6, forcing me to win the 7 and saving their Q for later.  When I got out with a heart, they won the Q, cashed their spades and exited with a heart to my 9.  Having no more major suit cards, I am now endplayed in the minors to provide declarer their 9th trick, either in diamonds or clubs.  But I can’t blame partner – keep your face down lead face down.  Even better, pay attention to the auction and know whose lead it is.  

Meanwhile, our teammates ventured a game contract in hearts, played by South.  The opening lead of the A won the first trick followed by a diamond shift where the Q lost to the K.  The J was covered by the Q, K and A.  But the defense already had 2 tricks with 2 trump tricks and 2 club tricks yet to come, down 3.  So, we were -140 and our teammates -300 to lose 10 IMPs.

Recap Of 10/22/2018 28 Board IMP Individual

A lot of action today with 8 double digit swings, mostly bidding decisions with a couple of opening leads thrown in to make the bidding differences impactful.  One of the 8 hands was a slam swing caused by a key card mixup that I won’t bother reporting, so that leaves 7 hands in today’s blog…

 
4
Both
West
N
Gary
QJ5432
4
KJ3
Q95
 
W
Bob
8
AK875
AQ1076
76
10
E
Chris
K9
Q109
9852
J1082
 
S
Bruce
A1076
J632
4
AK43
 
W
Bob
N
Gary
E
Chris
S
Bruce
1
2
Pass
4
Pass
All Pass
 
 
W
Jerry
N
Mike
E
Ed
S
Jack
1
1
2
4
5
Pass
5
Dbl
All Pass
 
 
 

An automatic 1 opening bid was followed by a weak jump 2 overcall at one table and a simple 1 overcall at the other table.  In both cases, the bidding was already to 4 when the auction returned to the opening bidder.  But, since my partner didn’t move over the 2 bid, I thought our chances of beating 4 were greater than something good happening by coming in vulnerable at the 5 level with my second suit.  So, defending 4, we got our two red aces, declarer took the spade finesse and made 11 tricks.

At the other table, the East hand had a routine heart raise after hearing the 1 overcall.  So here, the opening bidder has heard from partner and decided the opponents might be stealing (or, if they are making, perhaps there is a good save available).  As the play unfolded the defense (our teammates) managed their  3 black winners, 2 diamond winners and a trump trick, down 4 for +1100 vs. our -650 to win 10 IMPs.

What about passing 5?  Well, if you knew 100% that it was a serious offer to play diamonds vs. a lead director in case the opponents persist to 5, then perhaps the diamond fit would play better than hearts.  Not knowing that, East returned to the known heart fit.

 
9
E-W
North
N
Mike
9653
J8
A96
K1093
 
W
Bob
AJ72
K97654
K3
A
5
E
Jack
KQ108
AQ32
754
J8
 
S
Chris
4
10
QJ1082
Q76542
 
W
Bob
N
Mike
E
Jack
S
Chris
Pass
1
Pass
1
Pass
2
Pass
2
Pass
3
Pass
4
All Pass
 
 
W
Ed
N
Bruce
E
Gary
S
Jerry
Pass
1
Pass
1
Pass
2
Pass
41
Pass
52
Pass
6
All Pass
 
 
(1) RKCB for hearts
(2) One key card

This turned out to be a great hand for playing standard/somewhat natural ‘help suit’ game tries rather than some spiral structure (the ones that I am familiar with would clearly set hearts as trump – finding the spade fit is off the table).  At my second turn to bid, I asked partner if we were playing spiral and he replied ‘standard’.  That allowed me to bid 2 naturally and see what partner does.

It also is a great hand for ‘6 key card ask’ when 2 suits are supported, the kings of both suits count as aces, and the queens just take your bidding even higher.  So, if we were playing 6 key card ask, and if partner was on the same page and considered my ‘help suit’ as a suit and viewed his hand as holding 2 key cards and 2 queens, the reply to 4NT key card ask would be 5NT showing 2 ‘aces’ and both queens.  With that, the far superior 6 slam could be reached with 12 tricks as long as spades are not 5-0 (that is, 4-4 fits can often be superior to 6-4 fits because a ruff (here a club ruff) can turn 4 spade tricks into 5 tricks to go with the 6 heart winners and the A.  But I was not with a regular partner and didn’t know a bid that would say ‘is all of your ‘stuff’ in ‘my suits?’ (other than bidding the 6 key card ask which I can’t really invent for our 1 time partnership at the table).  So, I stuck with my long suit and signed off in 4 after partner accepted my game try.  Obviously I was always going to game, so why bother with a game try unless I make a move towards slam if partner likes my game try?  I really can’t answer that!  I can only say that I wanted to bid 6 but feared there would be no play if partner’s values were in the minors instead of all values in the majors.

That is, if partner held a maximum with nice 4 card fits with both of my suits, which they promised when they raised to 3 and if they had help in both of my suits:

 Qxxx   Qxxx   AQx   KJ

I don’t even want to be at the 5 level if partner had this hand even though they do have one key card.

At the other table, the auction started the same and the player with my hand simply bid key card and reached the nearly 50% slam (the A is onside or it is not).  When the A proved to be lying over the K instead of in front of the K, 11 tricks were scored at both tables allowing +650 for us and +100 for our teammates for a random 13 IMP win.  The spade slam was much better than 80% with the only failures happening when trump are 5-0 or an opening lead is ruffed.

As I side note, with N-S non-vulnerable, you can see that, in a club contract, they only lose the 3 outstanding aces and score 10 tricks.  So, even a 7X contract will show a profit against any making vulnerable game.  Obviously, no need to bid 7 if the opponents are going down in 6.  Of course the spots in South’s club suit are pretty miserable, but partner’s fit makes the club contract worthwhile.  N-S did not enter the bidding at either table.

 
10
Both
East
N
Mike
J7
J
AKQ72
Q7653
 
W
Bob
AKQ3
Q9742
83
82
4
E
Jack
106
K1083
10954
J94
 
S
Chris
98542
A65
J6
AK10
 
W
Bob
N
Mike
E
Jack
S
Chris
Pass
1
Pass
2
Pass
2NT
Pass
3NT
All Pass
 
W
Ed
N
Bruce
E
Gary
S
Jerry
Pass
1
Pass
2
Pass
2NT
Pass
3
Pass
3
Pass
3
Pass
4
All Pass
 
 
 

Here, the auction began the same for the first 3 bids, but our North opponent simply raised 2NT to 3NT and played it there.  After a heart lead, declarer cashed their 11 tricks and gave us the last 2 tricks.  Our teammate made a reasonable bid to show their second suit (expressing concern about hearts) and when opener came back with 3 North thought hearts were a problem for NT and showed their Jx with a 3♠ bid.  South then, unfortunately, raised to the spade game.  The hearts proved to be a bigger problem in the spade contract since the opponents could draw two rounds of trumps and then start playing hearts to score 5 tricks (3 top spades and 2 heart winners) for -200 to go with our -660, lose 13 IMPs.

I think showing your hand by bidding the second suit makes a lot of sense.  But the result should still have been 11 tricks in a NT contract or a minor suit contract and not 8 tricks in a spade contract.

 
16
E-W
West
N
Mike
J106
9762
A5
KJ83
 
W
Gary
KQ2
Q4
10986
A975
J
E
Jerry
A9743
AK8
J32
Q4
 
S
Bob
85
J1053
KQ74
1062
 
W
Gary
N
Mike
E
Jerry
S
Bob
Pass
Pass
1
Pass
21
Pass
22
Pass
33
Pass
44
All Pass
(1) Drury showing spade support with invitational values
(2) Positive response, willing to explore game
(3) Showing where his values are
(4) Accepting the game invite with full values
W
Bruce
N
Jack
E
Ed
S
Chris
Pass
Pass
1
Pass
21
Pass
2
Pass
22
Pass
2NT3
Pass
3NT4
All Pass
 
 
(1) Drury
(2) Nothing extra, no 4th trump
(3) One more try
(4) Happy to accept with strong fitting spades and a flat hand

Once more the bidding centered around getting to an easy 3NT contract or a difficult (impossible) 4 contract.  But this time, the problem wasn’t the weak spade suit, the problem was finding 10 tricks.  The bidding started the same, and then East had to choose how to advance the positive response to Drury.  At our table, West made a game try in clubs and opener accepted, bidding the game in spades.  Our West teammate simply bid 2 as the followup to Drury, and opener, with a sound 14 HCP, continued with a well-judged 2NT game try.  With no ruffing values and strong spade fillers, West was happy to raise to 3NT.  The defense had no chance against 3NT and declarer ended up scoring 10 tricks for +630.  At my table, declarer has to lose 3 diamonds and a club, so we were +100 to win 12 IMPs.

 
21
N-S
North
N
Mike
10984
AJ107
A3
K74
 
W
Bruce
KJ762
K963
7
986
6
E
Bob
3
842
KQJ85
A1053
 
S
Ed
AQ5
Q5
109642
QJ2
 
W
Bruce
N
Mike
E
Bob
S
Ed
1
2
2NT
Pass
3NT
All Pass
 
W
Jerry 
N
Chris
E
Jack
S
Gary
1
Pass
1NT
All Pass
 
 
 

For many years, I have found much success trying to make a 2 bid over a 1 opening bid whenever possible.  The opponents have easy ways to handle 1-1, but often 1-2 creates an awkward bid that doesn’t quite match the values/shape that is held.  It puts more pressure on the opponents and they often arrive in the wrong contract.  This hand was no exception – against best defense there is no play for 9 tricks in NT…except partner thought it best to lead his suit (spades) instead of my suit (diamonds).  Declarer has 7 (somewhat) top tricks – take the heart finesse and knock out the A and they will see 1+3+1+2.  That leaves them 2 tricks short.  But, a spade lead gets them up to 8 tricks, and then by cashing all winners, West can be thrown in with a heart to make 1 more spade lead and all of a sudden, the 7 trick hand has become a 9 trick hand.  Perhaps I should have overcalled only 1?  Would partner then have led my suit?  We will never know.   But, he reasonably assumed that, since he could not provide any help in diamonds, that I couldn’t have strong enough diamonds and outside strength to make a fruitful defense out of a diamond lead.

Incredible, at the other table, my hand passed(!) rather than bid 1 or 2??  And, South, with 11 HCP  and a 5 card suit (seemingly a routine 2NT response to an opening bid of a minor) decided to bid only 1NT.  With no diamond bid to guide them, West led the routine spade.  Declarer won the 10 and led a small heart to the Q which West won with the K.  West  continued a club and declarer cashed their 2 clubs, 3 hearts, and A and then played another diamond, hoping to endplay West to provide another spade lead into the AQ.  Instead, East was ‘endplayed’ when they took the rest of the tricks, holding declarer to 7 tricks.  So, we were -600 while our teammates were +90, lose 11 IMPs.

Clearly on a diamond lead, declarer cannot reach 9 tricks on any reasonable defense (but on a diamond lead, declarer’s 5th round diamond ‘stopper’ (10xxxx) or some endplay will get them to 8 tricks eventually with best play/defense).  Should partner have led my diamond suit?  I have found the ‘sneak attack’ (some unbid suit) is the most effective lead (most of the time) when one side introduces a suit and the opponents, in spite of hearing that suit bid, continue to 3NT.  This is one of those exceptions when leading partner’s suit was right.  This is what makes bridge such a great game – familiar problems, recurring problems, always trying to find the best answer, but sometimes what worked last time doesn’t work this time.  This is not an advertisement for: “don’t lead partner’s suit” – I’m just saying that many NT contracts will fail when the opponents are well prepared for a lead in partner’s suit, but they are vulnerable in a side suit that you can successfully attack.  Obviously, this hand is an advertisement for: lead partner’s suit.  But that isn’t always best.

 
22
E-W
East
N
Mike
84
5
K9864
A10962
 
W
Bruce
K975
AKQJ3
Q2
K5
A
E
Bob
AQ10
10972
J1073
74
 
S
Ed
J632
864
A5
QJ83
 
W
Bruce
N
Mike
E
Bob
S
Ed
Pass
Pass
1
Pass
2
Pass
4
All Pass
 
 
W
Jerry
N
Chris
E
Jack
S
Gary
Pass
Pass
1
2NT1
3
4
4
Pass
Pass
5
Dbl
All Pass
 
 
(1) Unusual, showing both minors

Here, both tables reached 4, but after our teammates (North) inserted an unusual 2NT showing both minors, South opted to ‘take out insurance’ and save in 5.  If the opening lead vs. 4 is a diamond, South can win, shift to a club through the K and 4 will fail when 2 clubs and 2 diamonds are lost.  An opening spade lead finds the J for declarer and a later club discard holds declarer’s losses to 3 tricks.  On an opening trump lead, Declarer’s play to partially draw trump, then finesse the J, then finish drawing trump and discard a losing club on the K  will allow 10 tricks for declarer.  This play is strictly double dummy without the unusual 2NT bid, but this line of play should be automatic if North has made an unusual NT bid to show 10 cards in the minors.  This shows how 2-suited bids can be a double edged sword – they can help you in the bidding, but they can help declarer in the play of the hand!

What about a diamond lead against 4?  Most have read or heard about David Bird’s strong admonition to not lead away from kings.  Much more often than not, it gives declarer an undeserved trick that they cannot score otherwise.  Here, leading away from the K is the only way to defeat 4.  So, as noted in the commentary closing out the previous problem – sometimes a choice of leads that worked for a similar problem fails to work on the actual problem at hand.  I would like to play all of my bridge hands against someone who always leads away from their king – I would lose on this hand and on many hands, but in the long run, I feel I would come out far ahead.

Normally you don’t want to take a sacrifice, ensuring a minus score, when the opponents could be set (giving you a plus score), but, bottom line, our teammates taking the ‘phantom’ save worked perfectly – they didn’t have to worry about finding the successful diamond lead and merely surrendered 100 points when they were down 1 in 5X.  After my partner received the lead of the A, 10 tricks were easy.  We were +620 vs. -100, win 11 IMPs.

This hand had different paths the bidding can and did take.  Show the minors or not?  Take the save or not?  And, if you are going to tell declarer how to play the hand (by showing 5-5 or better in the minors), you better find the diamond lead or else find the save in 5!

 
24
None
West
N
Mike
7
97
A85432
J842
 
W
Bruce
QJ9854
K8
KQ965
7
E
Bob
A1062
AQ543
J76
A
 
S
Ed
K3
J1062
KQ109
1073
 
W
Bruce
N
Mike
E
Bob
S
Ed
1
3
4
5
6
Pass
7
All Pass
W
Jerry
N
Chris
E
Jack
S
Gary
1
3
3
Pass
3
Pass
5
Pass
6
All Pass
 
 

Boy did I feel confident bidding the grand.  Since I knew that partner knew he couldn’t count on me for all of the aces, he had to be void in diamonds (or have the A, but that didn’t seem likely).  So, if partner has a diamond void, I felt ‘sure’ we had 13 tricks.  If we can get 12 tricks missing an ace, surely there are 13 with all of the aces.  As the cards lie, there was no play for 13 tricks.  The traditional trump was led at trick 1 and the defense claimed down 1 when they saw the dummy.  When ‘only’ a small slam was bid at the other table, our teammates were -980 to go with our -50, lose 14 IMPs.

What about my 4 bid?  I considered 3 but felt that letting partner in on the knowledge of ‘good spade fit’ early in the auction would be key, and I didn’t really have a source of tricks in hearts anyway.  My cue bid said nothing about diamonds, simply that my hand was too strong to merely raise to 4.  Thus, I was at least making some form of slam try via my 4 bid.  Partner accepted (should he?) and I thought I had too much to pass 6 (any sympathy out there?).  ‘They say’ never bid a grand unless you can count 13 tricks and this hand is one of the reasons for that ‘rule.’  Live and learn…slowly.

Recap Of 9/26/2018 28 Board IMP Individual

Here we are again, 2 days later, playing again with a mostly different group (while watching the fascinating bridge in Orlando and reading the incredible research by Avon on Bridgewinners).  Six double digit swings today: 3 slams, a game, a wrong game and…a hand that will go unreported (no, I was not involved in the swing).  Three of the swings came the first round

 
1
None
North
N
Nick
Q10
AKQ8
AK1085
92
 
W
Bob M
93
109654
J743
103
9
E
Tony
AJ76542
2
962
K8
 
S
Mark M
K8
J73
Q
AQJ7654
 

 

W
Bob
N
Nick
E
Tony
S
Mark M
1
1
2
Pass
2
2
3NT
All Pass
 
 
 

 

W
Tom
N
Gary
E
Mark R
S
Bruce
1
3
3NT
Pass
4NT
Pass
6
Pass
6NT
All Pass
 

The result was all in the bidding, but who got the favorable result depending on the location of the K (if offside, a big swing goes the other way).  After the 1 overcall at my table followed by a rebid of 2, one might think the club finesse would be successful (what are they bidding/rebidding on?  Nothing but the AJ long?).  At the other table, an immediate 3 overcall propelled them to slam when 3NT was raised invitationally to 4NT and the slam invite was accepted.  Note that North corrected the slam from 6 to 6NT where no surprise ruff could doom the slam.  On the other hand, had the K been offside, 6NT is down 4 instead of down 1 in 6.  But, at 50 per trick, a small price to pay to insure no ruff.

North seems to have enough in reserve to try the same invitational raise to 4NT at my table, but 3NT was passed out.  Normally all jumps in NT show extras (there is no ‘fast arrival’ that declares ‘no slam interest’ implied after a jump in NT), so it seems that this jump (3NT over 2) should show extras.  Complicating the understanding of who holds extras is the fact that 2 wasn’t game forcing, and partner did reverse, albeit after a 2/1 in competition.  Many play that no extra values are shown by a reverse after 2/1 game force (I still think it shows some extra values, but many do not).  But with the intervening spade bid, I’m not sure all have discussed this particular case – how many extras are shown by the 2 reverse when 2 was not game forcing?  In any case, -490 vs. +990, win 11 IMPs.

 
3
E-W
South
N
Nick
64
AQJ74
Q82
743
 
W
Bob M
AQJ3
10
J64
AK1096
6
E
Tony
10
K96532
A1075
Q2
 
S
Mark M
K98752
8
K93
J85
 

 

W
Bob M
N
Nick
E
Tony
S
Mark M
2
3
Pass
4
Pass
Pass
Dbl
All Pass
 

 

W
Tom
N
Gary
E
Mark R
S
Bruce
2
3
Pass
3
Pass
3NT
All Pass
 
 

Here, I almost overcalled 2NT, but fearful of hearing 4 I decided to simply overcall 3 and await developments.  What developed was 4♥ from partner!  I knew we were in trouble when North doubled.  On the diamond lead (and with the spade finesse and 3-3 clubs), declarer has 7 tricks in the side suits (2+-+2+3).  It seems like it might be possible to score 2 trump tricks even with those spots.  Indeed, double dummy shows 9 tricks are possible, but when the dust settled, we were down 2.  Very little IMP difference though, since we belonged in 3NT.  Double dummy, best defense allows 10 tricks in NT.  It helps with both minor suits splitting 3-3, but assuming that suits will break 3-3 is usually not a reliable source of tricks.  It is far from clear what the best defense is, or what the best offense is in the 3NT contract.  At the table against 3NT, the opening lead was partner’s suit.  The 10 won the first trick in dummy and, fearful of entry problems, declarer led a club to the 10!  I don’t know the rest of the play, but the result was 10 tricks, -630 for our teammates to go with our -500, lose 15 IMPs.  I think 3 is forcing over my 3♣.  Partner will find your way to 4 if that is the right destination, and if they correct to 3NT after bidding ‘only’ 3, live with it.

 
4
Both
West
N
Nick
A752
KQJ1063
2
AQ
 
W
Bob M
Q983
A8
J543
K54
6
E
Tony
KJ64
742
AQ8
863
 
S
Mark M
10
95
K10976
J10972
 

 

W
Bob
N
Nick
E
Tony
S
Mark M
Pass
1
Pass
Pass
Dbl
RDbl
1
2
Pass
2
Pass
3
Pass
4
All Pass
 

 

W
Tom
N
Gary
E
Mark R
S
Bruce
Pass
1
All Pass
 

To balance or not to balance?  If this hand were given to a poll to a large enough audience, I’m sure there would be votes for pass, double and even 1NT.  I chose to balance with a double and soon, rather than defending a lowly 1 partscore, we were defending game and, instead of a bidding problem, it became an opening lead problem.  There are two actions in bridge that are so totally demoralizing that it is hard to overcome:

  1. Doubling a hopeless contract only to have them run to a contract that is cold, or even worse, tell them how to play the contract that would never make, but because of your double they can now play double dummy and make it
  2. Balancing a partscore contract into a making game contract

I’m currently reading a great book by Michael Lewis: The Undoing Project (aren’t all of his books great?) and it talks about decision making as well as ‘hindsight predictions’ (after you know what happens, you can go back and find all of the data that pointed to the fact that that was what was going to happen).  ‘Predicting’ things that have already happened is a pretty exact science.  So, as I write my blog, I make a serious attempt to not be a results commentator, but just assess what it seems like the right bridge answer is to the problem at hand.  Having said that…

It seems like hands that pass a 1-bid and then liven up later in the auction have been upgraded due to some helpful ruffing values (including in a newly found fit, but here the ‘fit’ remained the heart suit).  The upgrade can’t come from HCP, since they were staring at them when they chose to pass the first time.  If dummy has ruffing values, perhaps cutting them down with a trump lead is right?  Clearly this comment is based upon results and I apologize if it is off base, but I think I will use that ‘rule’ in the future if a trump lead makes any sense at all with the hand that I hold.  Here, a trump lead makes a 2-trick difference, win 9 IMPs vs. lose 10 IMPs.  Would you find a trump lead?  Should partner have found a trump lead?  Should I have not balanced?  How bad can it be to balance when the opponents hand you 9 IMPs… but instead they scored 10 IMPs.  As you see, 1 was passed out at the other table and, without a trump lead, declarer produced the same 10 tricks.  So we were -620 while teammates were +170, lose 10 IMPs.

If East had bounced to 2 over the redouble, might that have precluded getting to game?  We will never know.

 
13
Both
North
N
Nick
A8
AQ1085
AK10652
 
W
Gary
KQ7542
Q1094
2
Q4
10
E
Bob
1096
AJ32
J763
J7
 
S
Tom
J3
K8765
K94
983
 

 

W
Gary
N
Nick
E
Bob
S
Tom
1
Pass
1
2
3
Pass
3
Pass
4
Pass
5
All Pass
 
 
 

 

W
Bruce
N
Mark M
E
Tony
S
Mark R
1
Pass
1
1
2
Pass
3
Pass
3
Pass
4
Pass
4
Pass
5
Pass
6

Here dealer has a 3 loser hand which often means a 2 opener, but 5=6 in the minors is REALLY awkward starting with 2.  Therefore, both tables began with 1.  Like the last slam, once more the opponents intervened with a spade bid – a preempt at one table and a simple 1 overcall at the other.  This time the preempt resulted in the slam being missed, while the simple overcall produced a slam that was bid and made.  After a normal spade opening lead, with friendly trumps splitting 2-2, 13 tricks become available if diamonds behave.  But, the 4-1 diamond split forced a ruff to establish diamonds leaving no trump in dummy to take care of the losing spade at trick 13.  So, 12 tricks were scored at both tables, -620 vs. our teammates +1370, win 13 IMPs.

Should these cards be in slam?  If trump are 3-1, life is not good but there are chances.  If the long trump hand also holds exactly 3 diamonds, the spade loser can be discarded before the long trump can ruff in, so 12 tricks will score.  Or, if West has a singleton honor, the K is in dummy for an entry for a restricted choice finesse if you want to go that route.  So it isn’t impossible to land 12 tricks even with trump 3-1, but then diamonds must behave.  Should the preempt have disrupted the slam auction?  Opener’s 3 rebid/reverse shows a very strong hand, since partner must return to the 4 level to support the first bid suit.  Still, by my calculations, this is less than a 50% slam, so not to worry about missing it.  Most bad trump splits will send the double digit IMPs to the defenders rather than the slam bidders.

 
23
Both
South
N
Mark R
10
4
A1092
AQ97632
 
W
Bob
KJ5
Q1092
KJ4
J105
10
E
Mark M
Q7432
J875
643
8
 
S
Gary
A986
AK63
Q87
K4
 

 

W
Bob
N
Mark R
E
Mark M
S
Gary
1NT
Pass
21
Pass
2NT2
Pass
3NT3
All Pass
 
(1) Using 4 suit transfers, this is a “transfer” to clubs, asking partner to bid 3C if they like clubs, otherwise bid 2NT
(2) Showing they ‘don’t like clubs’
(3) Giving up on higher aspirations
W
Bruce
N
Nick
E
Tom
S
Tony
1NT
Pass
21
Pass
32
Pass
33
Pass
3NT4
Pass
45
Pass
46
Pass
57
Pass
58
Pass
69
All Pass
 
(1) Using 4 suit transfers, this is a “transfer” to clubs, asking partner to bid 3C if they like clubs, otherwise bid 2NT
(2) Showing they ‘like clubs’
(3) Showing second suit
(4) Not certain of partner’s strength – most of the values are in the majors
(5) Minorwood, key card for clubs
(6) 0 or 3 key cards
(7) If zero, we are too high already
(8) No, I had 3, cue bid
(9) Completing the slam auction

One more slam to end the day.  A similar auction to start both tables.  One table said ‘I don’t like clubs’ and the auction quickly ended in 3NT.  But the other table judged Kx was enough to say ‘likes clubs’ and when diamonds were bid to show a second suit, nothing can stop the NT bidder from proceeding to slam – their AKA in the majors will take care of side suit losers and their minor suit fillers should be enough to handle those suits.  Note that, whenever missing KJx(xx) and you hold A109(x) in one hand and Qx(xx) in the other, the percentage play is to lead the Q unless you have inside information about the lie of the cards.  Both tables did lead the Q after trump were drawn and when it was covered by the K, it was time to claim 12 tricks.  Yes, 25% of the time the KJ(xxx) will be offside and you will lose 2 tricks (when you could have lost only 1 trick by leading to the A and back to the Q).  But a 75% slam is a mighty fine contract and both declarers played it correctly.

So, what does it take to ‘like clubs’?  My system notes with 4 different partners is specific: Axx, Kxx, Qxx or xxxx.  Should the answer to ‘like clubs?’ be up to the players judgment as each hand arises?  One hand should not prompt system changes, but I definitely want to discuss this issue with those 4 partners.  That is, is Kx with 2 more side aces enough to respond ‘like clubs’?  It turns out the key to the slam was not the K (wasted, useless) but the 109.  When partner bids 2 to transfer to clubs, there are basically 3 possible hand types (with a 2 suited minor hand being a fairly distant 4th possibility).

  1. Weak, intending to play 3.  With this hand (Kx), bidding 3 has the advantage of the NT opener declaring the hand (often good, but not always best), but other than that, the final contract will always be 3 regardless.
  2. Invitational to 3NT.  Holding 2 aces as well as Kx, it seems that, if partner wants to invite 3NT, we likely want to accept that invitation.  Otherwise, he might sign off in 3 when 3NT is cold?
  3. Invitational to 6.  Again, the Kx with 2 outside aces is extremely ‘slam positive’ and when partner bids diamonds, your Q87 are good cards.

Here, the winning call was ‘like clubs.’  If North had been 4=6 instead of 4=7, the K comes very much into play  and saves the day.  But still the critical 109 is what makes the slam 75% rather than 50%.  If this hand were submitted to a poll of ‘4 suit transfer partnerships’ I feel certain there would be votes both ways (like and don’t like).  I’m not sure what the right long term answer is, but I am certain on this hand that ‘Kx’ qualified for ‘like clubs’!  The slam was safely bid in clubs (a spade lead will defeat 6NT), so our teammates were +1370 while we were -690, win 12 IMPs.

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