Bob Munson

Which major do you lead vs. 3NT?

Last month’s blog featured a hand where I led the 10, unsuccessfully, from Q102 vs. 3NT.  At the time, I thought the 10 was the right lead, but it just didn’t work out this time – a standard psychological ploy we all use to deceive ourselves when we don’t want to admit errors.  But, I did some further research and decided it was time to point out (via this blog) that the 10 was wrong, and develop some better ‘rules’ about what to lead when.

I’m going to focus on auctions where you are going to lead a major and have to choose between a 4 card major and a 3 card major (if you happen to hold a side club suit such as AKQJ42, the traditional J ‘4th from longest and strongest’ will likely be a more effective lead than a major suit, but I’m assuming some different minor suit holding).  What are the auctions where you are going to lead a major?  Here are some, although this is not an exhaustive list.

West
East
1NT
3NT
West
East
2NT
3NT
West
East
1
1
1NT
3NT
West
East
1
1
2NT
3NT

I have made numerous references, in the past, about David Bird’s groundbreaking work in his book Winning Notrump Leads.  Unfortunately, that book can provide some guidelines regarding hundreds of sample hands, but it does not include every hand you will ever be dealt, so additional research is possible using Lead Captain by Bob Richardson.

http://www.bridgecaptain.com/LeadCaptain.html

With Lead Captain, you can enter any specific hand for the opening lead and then describe what you believe the cards should look like for dummy and declarer based on the bidding (you can include a description of partner’s hand too, but often, partner was not bidding so they get random leftovers).  Then you can run a simulation that randomly deals the remaining 39 cards and selects all deals that conform to your description of the other hands.  Once a hand is selected, every card is analyzed as a potential opening lead and, from there, the hand is played double dummy.  The result shows the % of time that a particular card is successful (obviously comparing leading this card vs. leading that card).  In finding the best lead, David Bird used a threshold of 5000 deals (out of millions) that fit his parameters for dummy and declarer.  With Lead Captain, I usually use 10,000 deals (because it doesn’t take very long), but you can select any number you want.

So, I held, as reported in my last blog:

N
 
9764
Q102
AJ1042
3

 

 

The auction was the third one in the list above (1-1-1NT-3NT).  Why did I think the 10 was the right lead on that hand?  Two reasons.  I drew invalid conclusions from the David Bird book (when faced with 4-3, ‘always’ lead the 3 card suit).  And, earlier in the day, another hand, not reported in the blog had been played with auction #4 (1-1-2NT-3NT) where my partner, holding the hand below, led the 2 when the K would have defeated the contract (further cementing my notion of ‘always lead the 3 card suit’).

N
 
A742
KQ8
1097
654

 

 

Anyway, I came home and ran Lead Captain, ‘knowing’ that it would ‘prove’ my 10 was the right lead!  It didn’t (thus, the motivation to create this blog).  At first I thought I merely described dummy and declarer incorrectly, because the  10 just had to be the right lead.  Then I learned something.  I asked Bob Richardson what I was doing wrong and he said: “nothing is wrong – the 10 is not the right lead!  The  10 was ineffective because of the tenace in hearts.”  Spades were safe (it gives nothing away), while the heart lead can (and did) give a trick away.

First, where did ‘lead the 3 card suit’ even come from?  ‘Everyone’ knows you lead 4th best from longest and strongest.  David Bird pointed out that the real objective when defending against 3NT is scoring 5 tricks, and 5 card suits can be the most effective at achieving that.  If you lead a 3 card suit, partner is more likely to hold 5 in that suit than if you lead a 4 card suit.  So, you are often off to your best start to defeat the contract when attacking the 3 card suit.  I should warn that the statistically best lead over 10,000 deals won’t always be the best lead from that hand on a given deal.   You won’t hold that hand with that auction 10,000 times in order to reap the benefits of the law of averages.  Still, learning to make the best lead can be a useful skill to acquire at the bridge game.

For those not familiar with David Bird’s book or Lead Captain (which is really David Bird’s book written in software), one surprising theme comes up repeatedly.  That is, an out of the blue lead of an unsupported ace is a winning lead – one that traditionally would never be made at the table.  How can that be?  The answer lies in double dummy defense.  After leading the ace, you can switch, at trick 2, to the card you should have led and still be successful in the defense.  But this only works with sufficiently accurate signaling (and reading the signaling) to get the subsequent defense right.  Of course, in double dummy defense, signaling is irrelevant.  The defenders always make the right play, the right shift.  David Bird addressed that issue in his book (concern that double dummy defense isn’t realistic).  He points out that both sides (defense and declarer play) get the benefit of double dummy.  Sometimes the double dummy play would not have happened at the table.  But, when considering 10,000 deals, it all averages out and the results are valid.

When I ran the simulation for the second hand above, the A got the top prize as it would have at the table.  Win the A at trick 1, shift to the K and you can establish partner’s heart suit while they still have their entry.  Leading unsupported aces still remains quite dangerous because you are giving up a tempo, potentially establishing declarer’s tricks before you establish your own.  You may need that entry later.  But, on that hand, using Lead Captain, the K stands out as far better than a small spade lead.

So, now I’m going to share some of the hands that I researched.  Assuming one of the auctions above (or any other auction) has led you to decide to lead a major, and you are 4-3 in the majors, which one do you lead?  The numbers reported below show the % of time that that lead would defeat the contract.

Starting with my actual hand that caused me to write the blog:

 
 
9764
Q102
AJ1042
3

 

7 was best at 43.3%  3 was 37.2%  10 was 34.8%

Lead any spade and that lead will be better than any other suit, but specifically the 7 was the best spade to lead, conforming to standard practice of leading second best from 4 small.  The 9 is small, but it isn’t that small – it can come into play later and should not be wasted at trick 1.  Next up was the lowly 3, leading right into declarer’s bid suit – a surprise to me, but since you are so short in clubs, sometimes partner will be long.  And the club was better than leading that heart tenace!  The 10 was the best heart to lead (since, if you do hit partner’s suit, you may need to start unblocking/getting out of the way of his suit at trick 1), but as noted repeatedly above, hearts is not the best way to start the defense with this hand.  A diamond lead was a distant fourth place.

Now, changing the hand to take away the heart tenace

N
 
9876
987
AJ1042
3

 

9 was best at 36.7%, but the 9 was close behind at 35.7%

Here, the heart lead is best, but barely.  It is close to a tossup.  I expected the 3 card suit to be much better than the 4 card suit,  but the simulation indicated it didn’t much matter which major was led, just be sure to lead a major.

Now I wanted to beef up the heart suit, thinking that would make a huge difference

N
 
9764
J109
AJ1042
3

 

J was best at 40.3%, but the 7 was not far behind at 38.3%

This was the most shocking run of all, since the texture of hearts seems to me to make a heart lead an overwhelming choice for the opening lead instead of barely beating out  a spade lead.  Still, the results are what they are.

 

Another hand, balanced, with a weaker heart holding, but includes the A.

N
 
A752
1094
QJ3
742

 

10 was best at 33.6%, clubs were 29.4%, small spades 28%

Surprisingly, the A came in worse than the small spades – 27.1%, the worst spade of all (but still better than leading diamonds!).  I think the reason leading the A was so bad here vs. when holding the KQ8 is that the weaker hearts made the loss of tempo (by leading the  A) devastating.

 

What if both major suits have a dangerous tenace?  Which one do you lead?

N
 
KJ76
Q102
AJ1042
3

 

3 was best at 38.5% 6 was next at 34.5% and the 10 came in at 33.5

Not what I was expecting.  Here, the passive club lead beat out both majors because of the dangerous tenace in each major, and the spades barely beat out the hearts for second best.

So, as I was preparing this blog I spent some time rereading Winning Notrump Leads and, I believe, the results shown here are consistent with the book.  There are many factors in running the simulation and setting up the hands.  How weak/strong are you, the hand on opening lead?  What you have/don’t have leaves partner with the remaining assets for your side and affects what your strategy should be.  I could go on with many more hands (and so can you, if you acquire Lead Captain), but I decided to stop here.

Bottom line when considering your lead vs. 3NT when holding 4-3 in the majors…

  • Some of the differences (which lead is best) are minor
  • Tenaces are not only dangerous vs. suit contracts, but also vs. NT contracts
  • The 3 card major is not always best, but if the 3 card major is safe and the 4 card major is dangerous, always choose the 3 card major

 

 

Recap Of 11/01/2017 28 Board IMP Individual

Our November game came early.  There were only 5 double digit swings – 3 from bidding and 2 from defensive problems.

 
3
E-W
South
N
Bob
J1094
J
Q753
10876
 
W
Jim
7
KQ9853
KJ9
J32
J
E
Mark R
KQ83
A72
8
AKQ54
 
S
Manfred
A652
1064
A10642
9
 
Jim
Mark R
2
2NT1
32
4NT3
54
65
All Pass
 
(1) Ogust
(2) Showing good suit, good hand
(3) 3014 RKCB
(4) 1 key card, known to be the trump K, since he reported ‘good suit’ on prior bid
(5) Hoping for a bad lead?
Bruce
Mike
2
41
42
53
All Pass
 
(1) Preempter’s key card
(2) Showing 1+ trump Q
(3) Counting up, and recognizing that is 1 too few

Here both tables found a strong hand facing a normal weak 2 opening bid.  Both approaches were similar, checking on key cards to see if partner had a perfecto, but then…at my table they decided their hand was SO good that perhaps 12 tricks could be found even if they were off 2 aces!?  I led a spade, partner won, cashed the A and we folded up the hand, conceding the rest.  

Had I led a trump or a club, the defense is interesting.  Declarer has 11 top tricks (0+6+0+5).  He must draw trump, perhaps play a few extra trump, run clubs throwing away his singleton spade and diamond loser and then, at trick 11, lead dummy’s singleton diamond towards the KJ.  South must reduce to A and Ax.  South must play low on the diamond lead, resist flying the A and leave declarer with a guess as to which diamond to play.  South may be annoyed partner found such a miserable lead, but stay in the game, make it as tough as possible for declarer, and hope for the best. 

11 tricks at both tables, +100 and +650, win 13 IMPs.

 
5
N-S
North
N
Bob
Q1087
Q1084
Q107
KQ
 
W
Mike
92
AK765
84
10652
J
E
Tony
AKJ653
J2
J53
97
 
S
Jim
4
93
AK962
AJ843
 
W
Mike/Mark M
N
Bob/Mark R
E
Tony/Bruce
S
Jim/Manfred
Pass
2
3
Pass
3NT
All Pass
 

With the same auction and same lead at both tables, it was all up to West on defense.  At the other table, they went up with the K to try a spade lead through declarer.  That achieved 3 spade tricks and 2 heart tricks for down 1.  At my table, they feared my spade stopper(s) were such that perhaps the setting tricks should come from  hearts.  I was a passed hand.  West pretty much knows (looking at 19 HCP between his hand and dummy),  that North has exactly 11 HCP and East has exactly 10 HCP.  If partner led from J10x, hearts will be established by ducking and if partner has an entry, ducking trick 1 will defeat the contract.  So West ducked trick 1.  On another hand, that might have worked.  On this hand, with clubs and diamonds splitting, that gave me 11 tricks, conceding the last 2.

So +660 and +100, win another 13 IMPs.

 
14
None
East
N
Bob
875
J1084
642
108
 
W
Mark M
62
9753
AJ953
K7
K
E
Jim
104
KQ2
KQ
A96432
 
S
Bruce
AKQJ83
A6
107
QJ5
 
W
Mark M
N
Bob
E
Jim
S
Bruce
1
Dbl1
1
Pass
2
2
3
Pass
Pass
3
All Pass
 
 
 
(1) Too strong to simply overcall
W
Tony
N
Manfred
E
Mark R
S
Mike
1NT1
Dbl2
23
Pass
2
2
2NT4
Pass
35
36
Dbl7
All Pass
 
 
(1) Not everyone’s choice, but…
(2) Meckwell, showing 1 minor, both majors or strong spade hand
(3) Stayman
(4) Showing 8-9 HCP
(5) Running out
(6) Good enough to continue competing
(7) Thinking good enough to double

Different bidding to arrive at a similar contract, but doubled at the other table, not my table.  At IMP scoring, you normally want to be looking at a 2 trick set prior to doubling (a game or a part score).  Turning 50 points into 100 has very little gain.  And the downside, if they make, is way too great to justify the small gain from doubling.  In any case, West did double the final contract.  South has sufficient playing strength with modest defense so that competing to 3 is clearly the right call.  Since 3 has 9 tricks, there should be a small gain and 3 might even make.

This was another hand where the swing came from defense (but the size of the swing came from the double).  My wife and I play some kitchen bridge with another couple and there is a constant refrain, often after a defense has missed its chance – “throw your losers, save your winners”.  It seems like a pretty useful adage to live by, but sometimes we lose focus and all of a sudden a fatal discard is made and the defense is over.  That is what happened here.

At my table, the play/defense went really fast.  The opponents started K, then club to the A (declarer dropping the Q, but not fooling anyone).  East then played K and Q.  Since West knew they could not beat dummy’s trump if a club came back, they overtook with the A and continued with the J.  Declarer ruffed, drew trump and conceded a heart at the end, down 1.

At the other table the defense started with 3 rounds of clubs, with West ruffing the Q  and overruffed in dummy.  Now declarer played 6 more rounds of spades, the A and another heart.  In the end, East came down to KQ and KQ.  But West came down to xxx and A.  So, when East won the second heart lead, a diamond went to the now singleton A and at trick 13 a heart to dummy’s J provided the contract fulfilling 9th trick.  Oops.

Lose 50 and lose 530, lose 11 IMPs.

 
26
Both
East
N
Bob
10842
J65
874
AKQ
 
W
Manfred
AKQJ65
A98742
10
2
E
Mark M
93
Q10
AKQJ9532
3
 
S
Tony
7
K3
6
J109876542
 
W
Manfred
N
Bob
E
Mark M
S
Tony
1
5
61
72
Pass3
Pass
74
Pass
Pass5
Pass
(1) See below
(2) See below
(3) See below
(4) See below
(5) See below
W
Mike
N
Bruce
E
Jim
S
Mark R
3NT1
Pass2
43
All Pass
 
 
(1) Gambling
(2) Not wanting to get involved
(3) Bid what I think I can make

Wow, what an auction.  At both tables.  No lie of the cards can bring that heart suit home for zero losers, so the 7 grand slam was due to fail on any lead.  I decided to hope for a spade ruff (a double by partner would normally ask for a diamond lead).  Declarer won the 9 in dummy to start drawing trump.  Partner ducked the Q, but the when the A had to take the K, my J held up for the setting trick.

At the other table, North tried a high club to start the defense against 4 and declarer was looking at 15 top tricks after ruffing and drawing trump.

It isn’t often that you have a potential choice of 3 suits for a grand slam (diamonds, hearts and spades).  As noted, the heart grand slam was hopeless, but what about diamonds?  Or spades?  With the wrong lead, as noted above in the defense of the 4 contract, 15 top tricks are there.  Against 7, a club must be led, forcing dummy to ruff.  Now, getting off dummy to draw trump is not possible.  The best hope is 2 rounds of spades, then ruff the third round and draw trump.  But with a singleton spade in South, the second round spade ruff dooms the 7 contract.  But only with a club lead.

Against 7, a diamond must be led.  Any other lead allows the same ’15 tricks’.  After a diamond lead, declarer is faced with heart losers and no access to the many diamond tricks.  Even 6 can be in some difficulty after a diamond lead.  Declarer must draw trump and lead a small heart to dummy.  With the diamonds all good, North would ‘have to’ rise with the K if they had it (although a stronger defense would be to duck with Kxx, hoping had South held Jx).  So, declarer would likely play the 10, forcing the K and establishing both an entry to the diamonds as well as making all of his hearts good in the process.  So the 6 slam is quite likely to come home – it cannot be beaten on any lead if declarer guesses right.

As you might guess, this hand created a fair amount of discussion.  With so many IMPs at stake, the bidding choices had a lot riding on them.  With the contracts that were reached at both tables, there was no opening lead that could make any difference in the IMPs.  But, with different contracts, there could have been a critical opening lead.  What about the bidding?

First – as East, what do you open?  I think a gambling 3NT often looks more like xx xx xx AKQxxxx, but some thought the suit should be bolstered by the J to be ‘traditional’.  Here, at my table, the extra solid diamond and extra length diamonds (8, not 7), coupled with the Q resulted in a simple 1 opening bid.  5 should also be considered for the opening, and that would have taken the auction down a completely different unpredictable path.  But the other table, East chose 3NT to start the auction.

Next up is South with a 9 card suit.  Over 3NT, they decided to not get involved.  Over 1, my partner decided to try the effect of 5.  Both choices (what action to take over 3NT and over 1) certainly seem reasonable.  But bidding 5 over 3NT should also be considered.  However, that likely would not have ended well – we will never know.

Moving around to West.  One West had to choose over 5 and they decided to bid what they thought they could make (6) opposite a ‘normal’ 1 opening bid.  They were right, that is what they can make.  The other West had to choose after partner’s gambling 3NT was passed to them, not knowing if their suit is diamonds or clubs.  The hand has more promise if opener’s suit is diamonds, but West doesn’t know which suit it is.  And most asking bids are oriented towards playing in the minor (which would certainly have been OK here as long as no grand slam is bid).  Anyway, West wasn’t interested in opener’s minor with their own self-sufficient spade suit (game is 10 tricks, not 11), so they bid what they thought they could make – 4.  Should they have been more optimistic?  If all of the hands are balanced, and partner’s suit is clubs, declarer figures to be able to lose 2 hearts and a diamond and hopefully score 10 tricks in their spade contract.  So, missing slam hardly seems crazy.

Now, look at North’s hand.  After 3NT-P-4, they have the only flat hand at the table and it cannot occur to them to bid something.  The opponents are already playing their longest suit as trump!  But, after 1-5-6, North has a different world view.  North ‘knows’ that South must have 9 or 10 clubs, since they bid missing the AKQ!  That doesn’t leave any club tricks for our side (automatic ruff at trick 1, perhaps a ruff/sluff).  And North certainly has no defensive tricks in diamonds, hearts or spades.  The chance that South has 2 tricks when they only have 3-4 total cards in the other suits isn’t high.  So, I took the ‘save’ in 7.  I hoped partner had 1 trick (to defeat a grand) but not 2 tricks (to make my bid a phantom sacrifice – the most costly bid of all).  If I pushed them into a making grand, when only a small slam was bid at the other table, that, too, could be quite costly.

Back to East, they opened a simple 1 and now the bidding is at the grand slam level after one round of bidding!  I think it is standard to double if you have a loser in the sacrifice grand slam suit bid by the opponents, but here East chose to pass.  South also passed.  Now West, with their powerful 2 suiter (but spades way stronger than hearts), decided to try for a grand slam rather than take the penalty.  He chose 7 to give partner a choice between the 2 suits (but, how can partner know your spades are THAT much better than your hearts?).  East, with hearts stronger than spades (considering that on this auction, partner was likely 6-6 with possibly AKJxxx and AKJxxx), chose to pass the 7 bid and, as noted above, all leads result in down 1.  With such a self-sufficient suit, some thought West, if they aren’t going to just double 7 and ‘take the plus’, should try 7, ignoring hearts.  Perhaps.  But, a counter to that was that, if East is void in spades with their opening bid values located in hearts, a heart grand slam could be safer.  It wasn’t.  Bottom line, it is really costly to be wrong at the 7 level, so taking whatever tricks are available on defense (the sure plus) is often the wisest choice.

So, +100 and +710, win 13 IMPs.

 
28
N-S
West
N
Bob
Q3
QJ4
KQ4
AKJ95
 
W
Manfred
97542
A965
J5
42
A
E
Mark M
KJ6
K1072
A86
876
 
S
Tony
A108
83
109732
Q103
 
W
Manfred
N
Bob
E
Mark M
S
Tony
Pass
1
Dbl1
2
2
32
Pass
Pass
3
Pass
Pass
Pass
(1) 3 card support for all unbid suits and all bid suits as well
(2) Competing for the part score
W
Mike
N
Bruce
E
Jim
S
Mark R
Pass
1
Pass
1
Pass
2NT
Pass
3NT1
All Pass
 
 
 
(1) Vulnerable…never take back +150

I have seen contracts stolen via light opening bids and light overcalls, but I think this is the first time I have missed a vulnerable 3NT because of a (very) light takeout double.  I cannot imagine what auction I should have manufactured to arrive in 3NT (3NT is not that great of a contract, but it happens to make as long as you find hearts 4-4 and drop the J).  Suggestions welcome (as to what I should have bid).  As you see, we simply defended 3, beat it a couple of tricks, and didn’t think much about it.  It would not have occurred to me to double with the East hand, but it sure worked.

Meanwhile, the players with our cards at the other table, with no interference bidding, waltzed right into a 3NT contract.  Even though the defense started with 2 rounds of hearts, they shifted rather than establishing the heart suit.  So, declarer only lost the diamond and 2 hearts, 10 tricks.

How good (or bad) is that 3NT contract?  Well, with two club entries, ‘all’ you need is the 4-4 heart split and the A onside or the J doubleton.  Not the worst vulnerable game, but not one that is that embarrassing to miss.  But it was costly to miss it.

We were +100 for our paltry 2 trick set of 3 while our teammates were -630, lose 11 IMPs.

Recap Of 10/16/2017 28 Board IMP Individual

After a long break (no games in August/September), we got in a second game for the month of October.  We had a strong group, but some uneven play through the day.  You can see if you could have done better.  As usual, there were a number of hands that had interesting decisions, but didn’t clear the hurdle of a 10+ IMP swing.  But, much different than usual – bidding was a factor in less than half with swings with leads, defense and declarer playing deciding the rest of them (but bidding was also still somewhat of a factor on those, just not the biggest factor).

 
3
E-W
South
N
Jack
109653
6
K872
AK10
 
W
Bob E
J4
J4
QJ1065
9863
K
E
Bob M
A87
AKQ1083
4
QJ2
 
S
Chris
KQ2
9752
A93
754
 
W
Bob E
N
Jack
E
Bob M
S
Chris
1
Dbl
RDbl
2
Pass
2
Pass
Pass
Dbl1
Pass
Pass2
Pass
(1) Reopening, assuming partner has values, defense and N_S cannot let the opponents play 2H undoubled
(2) Sorry, but I have no explanation for this call
W
Gary
N
Jerry
E
Dan
S
Ed
1
2
2
Pass
Pass
3
All Pass

First a comment on the bidding – various players have quite a wide range of standards regarding how large your hand must be in order to double and then trot out your own suit.  It is quite important to have clear partnership understandings on this issue, although many have not discussed it.  I would say, based on my experience, that I have a higher standard than most – if I double and then show a new suit, my hand is really good.  I am not sure I have ever done it before with ‘only’ 16 HCP, but this hand had very strong playing strength and was good enough to me double and then bid hearts.  My opponent, holding my hand at the other table, chose the simple 2 overcall.  One reason I wanted to show the strong hand was the vulnerability – I really don’t want to miss a red game and partner might have a suitable hand to move onward (towards game) if I show strong values, but a simple overcall of 2 would be far less encouraging.

Here, there is no game in sight.  Declarer is only due to score 8 tricks in their heart contract if the opening lead is a trump, but when, at both tables, the K was led (partner’s suit), it allowed for a spade ruff in dummy for 9 tricks.  The spade lead allowed the 3 contract to come home, but it also allowed the 2X contract to come home with an overtrick.  +870 vs. -140, win 12 IMPs.

 
6
E-W
East
N
Jerry
J104
A1083
Q108
1083
 
W
Bob M
AQ9653
64
752
K4
6
E
Chris
K82
KQ
A643
QJ96
 
S
Gary
7
J9752
KJ9
A752
 
W
Bob M
N
Jerry
E
Chris
S
Gary
1NT1
22
43
Dbl4
45
Pass
Pass
56
Pass
Pass
Dbl
All Pass
 
 
(1) 15-17
(2) Hearts and a minor
(3) Texas transfer to spades
(4) Showing hearts
(5) Accepting the transfer
(6) Deciding to take the save
W
Jack
N
Dan
E
Bob E
S
Ed
1NT1
Pass
42
Pass
4
All Pass
(1) 15-17
(2) Texas transfer to spades

Gary (South at my table) has some very particular ideas about various bidding situations – one of which is to compete aggressively over strong 1NT opening bids.  So, here, he caught partner with a nice fit inducing a white vs. red phantom save of 5 over 4.  Of course 4 can come home if the defense doesn’t get diamonds going soon enough, but thankfully my teammates did lead diamonds early, so my teammates were +100 at their table and we were +500 at our table when the 5 ‘save’ failed by 3 tricks.  Hard to say North or South did anything wrong – the hands could have been different such that 4 makes and N-S gain a small pickup comes from the 5 sacrifice, but, at IMPs, phantom saves are always quite costly.  

 
13
Both
North
N
Ed
1098742
52
32
Q72
 
W
Chris
J
AJ9863
KQ876
J
10
E
Dan
KQ53
Q
A109
AK964
 
S
Bob M
A6
K1074
J54
10853
 
Dan
Chris
1
1
2NT
31
3NT2
43
54
65
All Pass
 
(1) New minor checkback for heart support
(2) No heart support
(3) But I also have a real diamond suit
(4) I can support diamonds
(5) Well then let’s try slam
Gary
Jack
1
1
1
21
32
33
3NT4
All Pass5
(1) 4th suit artificial game forcing
(2) Deciding to show real clubs rather than a diamond stopper for NT
(3) Deciding to show a 6th heart rather than the second suit (diamonds)
(4) With no heart fit, signing off
(5) With no heart fit, giving up on pursuing diamonds

Here, the very nice second suit held by responder (diamonds) did not get bid naturally (at either table) when first mentioned, and, at one table, never got mentioned again.  At my table, when diamonds were first bid naturally at the 4 level, opener raised to 5 and responder carried on to the decent (but not cold) 6 slam.  How to defend?  How to declare?  My partner got off to the excellent spade lead so, when I won the A we had book at trick 1 and needed just one more trick to defeat the slam.  I couldn’t see declarer’s hand, but I knew declarer needed some heart ruff(s) in dummy and might need the heart finesse.  If they held Qx, it looked grim for our side, but hoping they did not have that, I had to chose between a trump (cut down on heart ruffs) or a heart (remove the option of a finesse by ‘forcing’ declarer to play the A at trick 2 – no one wants to lose the first 2 tricks in a slam!).  Or I could have tried a club (start cutting down declarer’s transportation).  I opted for the small heart at trick 2.

Assume you are declarer and don’t want to go down at trick 2, so you play the A and need 11 more tricks – where are they coming from?  The nasty J is missing, so any crossruff is exposed to a potential overruff if the wrong person is short in a suit being ruffed and the defense is able to overruff with the J.  Still, if the J is in the ‘right’ hand, you may be ruffing after they can ruff, so you will be well placed.  In any case, you cannot ruff the clubs good, so the only route to 12 tricks is 3-4 black winners, the A and heart ruffs.  So, one option, for a plan of attack at trick 3, is a full crossruff, scoring all 8 trump tricks plus the A plus 3 out of 4 black winners in dummy.  If all 4 black winners come home, only 2 heart ruffs are required.  There are lots of transportation problems, but, in any case, at trick 3, declarer made the normal play of a heart ruff (maybe the K is doubleton and will ruff out?).  After ruffing a heart at trick 3, I think declarer should immediately try to see if all 4 black winners in dummy will cash – now.  If all 4 do cash, only 1 more heart ruff is needed.  If they don’t all cash, 2 more heart ruffs are needed.  Instead, declarer cashed the A, limiting the potential heart ruff total only 1 more.  They hoped to then cash 2 spades, ruff a spade, ruff a heart, cash 2 clubs (pitching their last heart) and then ruff a club to hand to finally draw trump.  The K won but when the Q was led, I ruffed and declarer is now a trick short.  However, when North pitched a club, I (South) was caught in a club-heart squeeze as declarer played out all of their trumps.  I had to hold onto the K, so dummy’s clubs came in for the 12th and slam fulfilling trick.

Our teammates had the slower auction, and the 6-5 hand had the opportunity to show the diamond suit below 3NT, but instead they opted to show their 6th heart and the diamond suit was lost forever when they passed their partner’s 3NT.

One more look at the defense.  Had I led a trump at trick 2, declarer should win cheaply in dummy (now the J is slightly less threatening, but it still out there).  At this point, like the earlier recommended play, I think declarer should see if his black winners are cashing – start by playing the KQ.  If those hold up, cash the AK.  If those 4 black winners cash, he can score 2+1+7+2 with 2 heart ruffs yet to come in dummy (assuming at no point an overruff happens with the J).  But, when South ruffs the second spade, declarer is, once again, short a trick and should fall back on the heart finesse (which happens to work), and find their 12 tricks.  Another option is 3-3 hearts – however the odds heavily favor a 50% finesse (actually greater than 50% when spades prove to be 6-2 since there is more room for the K in the South hand than the North hand).  So the heart finesse is (much) better than trying for the less likely 3-3 split in hearts. 

So, as the cards lie, 6 cannot be defeated on any defense if declarer takes the right view (and, without the critical spade lead, 13 tricks are there).  If East-West held the J, the 6 contract would be excellent.  As it was, the 6 slam was decent, but it was difficult to time the plays well to take advantage of every opportunity. 

Bottom line, 6 made at our table for -1370 while our teammates scored +660 in 3NT to lose 12 IMPs.

 
14
None
East
N
Ed
A852
J1076
632
Q10
 
W
Chris
QJ7
93
AQ1098
A83
2
E
Dan
10
AKQ52
K7
KJ965
 
S
Bob M
K9643
84
J54
732
 
Dan
Chris
1
2
31
3NT2
All Pass
 
(1) Showing extras
(2) Showing a spade stopper
Gary
Jack
1
2
31
3NT2
43
44
45
56
67
All Pass
(1) Showing extras
(2) Showing a spade stopper
(3) Not willing to settle for NT
(4) Offering another strain/cue bid
(5) Offering another strain/cue bid
(6) Supporting clubs
(7) Reaching for the brass ring

Having missed the slam on the prior board, our teammates came roaring back on the next board.  I’ve certainly been in worse slams, but here, 6 is not a great slam.  Basically you require Qx or Qxx onside (finding a singleton Q offside would also suffice, in terms of trump losers).  But, in addition to handling trumps for no losers, you need winners.  You must find something good (3-3 split or J falling) happening in a red suit – 12 tricks are not automatic even if trumps come in for no losers.  If diamonds don’t split, you can ruff them good, but there is no entry to cash the 13th diamond.  If hearts don’t split, ruffing them is not likely to be useful, since there is danger of an overruff or a trump promotion.  Good fortune was with our teammates, so they managed +920 while we were -460 defending 3NT (we cashed 2 spades and the rest were theirs), win 10 IMPs.

 
18
N-S
East
N
Jerry
J1082
AQ8
3
AK876
 
W
Dan
K954
109
KJ
QJ942
5
E
Bob M
AQ63
74
A108754
10
 
S
Jack
7
KJ6532
Q962
53
 
W
Dan
N
Jerry
E
Bob M
S
Jack
1
Pass1
1
2
22
All Pass
(1) The heart suit is pretty soft to enter with a vulnerable preempt
(2) Showing 4 card support
W
Ed
N
Gary
E
Chris
S
Bob E
1
21
Dbl2
Pass3
2
Pass
34
45
Pass
Pass
Dbl6
All Pass
 
 
(1) Undaunted…
(2) Routine negative double
(3) Waiting in the bushes
(4) Mildly invitational
(5) Knowing pard has a singleton or void in spades
(6) How can they score 10 tricks?

This was a strange hand – we had a very quiet auction, ending in 2 making 3.  Our teammates competed unwisely to 4 and got doubled, but it is only unwise if you actually go down.  10 tricks were difficult after the excellent opening trump lead (without the trump lead, 2 diamond ruffs in dummy could possibly get declarer to 10 tricks).  At trick 1, declarer won the A in dummy and continued with two top clubs which East ruffed.  Now, since partner doubled, it is reasonable to place them with at least a king somewhere.  If East underleads either ace, partner can win the K in the suit chosen and continue a trump.  This holds declarer to 6 trumps in hand, 1 diamond ruff and 1 club, 8 total tricks and -500.  However, after ruffing the club, East cashed the A and the A.  The defense was over.  Cashing the A allowed the K to be ruffed out, establishing the Q for a trick as well as 2 more diamond ruffs in dummy for the 9th and 10th trick (0+8+1+1).  The key to the defense was the initial trump lead and then find a way to get West back in so that they can lead another trump.  If no ace is cashed, declarer is down 2.  If only the A is cashed, declarer is still down 2.  But, once the A is cashed, down 1 is the best possible, and after cashing both aces, no entry was available for West to lead trumps.  So while we were making +140 in our spade partial, our teammates added +790 for making 4X, win 14 IMPs.

 
24
None
West
N
Bob M
9764
Q102
AJ1042
3
 
W
Gary
KQ3
AK7
63
J8764
10
E
Ed
A102
J98
K985
A92
 
S
Jack
J85
6543
Q7
KQ105
 
Gary/Chris
Ed/Bob E
1
1
1NT
3NT
All Pass
 

Identical auctions led to identical contracts (but different opening leads).  With the A onside, 9 tricks were always there.  Both defensive club entries were in the hand that was short in diamonds) so that even if the diamonds were established, they couldn’t be cashed.  With diamonds having been bid on my left, the diamond lead didn’t appeal.  This auction (per David Bird’s instructions as well as a lifetime of bridge) screams for a major suit lead.  And, given a choice of a weak 4 card major or a somewhat stronger 3 card major, my recollection of David Bird’s book was to always lead the 3 card major – and, from this specific holding (QT2) the 10 is recommended, since leading the 2 could complicate/block the suit.  Therefore, I dutifully lead the 10.  Not a success!  That turned declarer’s 9 tricks into 10 (yes, we could have still held them to 9 tricks if partner clairvoyantly  leads the Q after winning the first club – declarer must duck that trick and then we can win 2 clubs and 2 diamonds, holding declarer to 9 tricks.  Anyway, 3NT is not going down.  Our declarer scored 3+3+1+3 for 10 tricks.

Meanwhile, a spade was led at the other table where our teammate was playing 3NT.  Declarer (possibly) needs to lead clubs twice from dummy in case the KQxx are with RHO.  If the clubs are 3-2, nothing matters, but just in case, preserve your dummy entry.  So, on the spade lead, declarer should win in hand, lead a club to the A and then another club.  When LHO shows out, you need another entry to dummy to lead clubs up toward the J.  With your carefully preserved A, you have an entry to dummy (without establishing tricks for the opponents).  Lead to the A, continue clubs, and if the A is onside, you are up to 9 tricks (3+2+1+3).  But, our declarer at trick 1 won the A in dummy, cashed the A and continued clubs.  Again, LHO showed out at trick 2, so another dummy entry was needed in order to lead towards the J.  Declarer found that entry by leading to the K (LHO ducking), but then when clubs were led off dummy, RHO won their last high club and led the Q.  LHO was able to cash out diamond tricks at that point to defeat the contract (apparently a diamond was discarded, so declarer was only down 1).  So, I was -430 at my table, our teammates were -50, lose 10 IMPs.

 
26
Both
East
N
Bob E
7
AQ32
K832
AK64
 
W
Bob M
K1063
J1094
65
532
6
E
Gary
AQ8542
K
J74
987
 
S
Dan
J9
8765
AQ109
QJ10
 
W
Bob M
N
Bob E
E
Gary
S
Dan
21
Pass
42
Dbl3
Pass
Pass4
Pass
(1) See comments below
(2) Seemed automatic to me, see comments below
(3) Normal takeout double
(4) Decent values to contribute to the defense, poor shape to pursue offense
W
Ed
N
Jerry
E
Jack
S
Chris
21
Pass
32
Dbl3
Pass
44
All Pass
 
 
 
(1) ‘Normal’ weak 2
(2) Gently raising to 3S, not 4S
(3) Routine takeout double
(4) If partner makes a takeout double, take it out. Here you have 4 (weak) cards in the other major, so pretty automatic to chose 4H

Safety play techniques are useful weapons to have in your arsenal.  This last hand features a play that comes up fairly often, but often gets missed at the table (this same play actually came up a few months back, but didn’t make the blog because it wasn’t a double digit swing).  If your trump suit (say hearts) is missing KJTxx and you have AQx(x), there is a safety play that will often be the right play.  A safety play is a play that can ‘never’ cost a trick, and sometimes will save a trick.  There is some dispute as to whether the safety play applies here, so we will look at that more closely later.  But what is the safety play?  Rather than take the ‘normal’ first round finesse in trumps, simply cash the A first, then get to hand and lead towards the Qx.  If, as you hope, the K is onside, they will have to play it and, later, the Q can draw the outstanding trump (if they are splitting 3-2).  If trump are 4-1 with the KJTx onside, they will still get 2 natural power tricks, but they were always getting 2 tricks.  The advantage of playing the A comes when the K is singleton offside.  In many cases (where the K is singleton offside), you can hold your losses to 2 trump tricks by making the safety play.  If you take the first round finesse with the Q losing to the singleton K, offside, you are likely facing 3 trump losers.

But, before getting into the play of the hand, let’s review the bidding.  Gary (my partner on this hand), as I mentioned earlier, has some very specific ideas about bidding.  One of them is that his ‘weak 2’ in first or second seat consists of a 6 card suit, 2 of the top 3 honors plus an outside A or K.  So, in spite of being vulnerable, I ‘knew’ the opponents had a red game and possibly a slam.  I could bounce the bidding to 4 with various upside possibilities

  • Steal the hand (play 4 undoubled) when the opponents don’t know where the balance of power is
  • Push them into an unmakeable contract – in particular 5 where they lose a spade, a heart, and partner’s side card
  • Cause them to miss a slam, or
  • Achieve a profitable save against their game

As the cards lie, as long as they take the safety play in hearts, there are 11 tricks in diamonds or 10 tricks in hearts, for makeable games (but clearly no slams this time).  Unfortunately, our hands didn’t fit particularly well, so our ‘save’ cost 800.  But, when the safety play wasn’t taken, our teammates lost 100 in their 4 contract, losing the A and 3 trump tricks. 

So, let’s go back to the safety play.  There are various types of safety plays.  Many times ‘safety’ means ‘playing safe for your contract’ – so you might give up a trick to allow for a foul distribution – a trick that you would not lose if you just played ‘normally’.  Other times a ‘safety play’ involves playing a suit in a particular way that ‘heads you win, tails you tie’ – that is, you are never worse off, and on occasion you come out ahead.  And then there are ‘best percentage plays’ which aren’t really safety plays at all – they are just the best way to play a suit the highest percentage of the time.  Sometimes these plays score the maximum number of tricks, sometimes not (“8 ever, 9 never”).  Often the best percentage play for a suit (in isolation) is the worst possible play (on a particular hand) because of entry considerations, danger hands, better use for your trumps, and so on.

In a trump contract (assume hearts are trump), if there is a danger of an opposing ruff, the safety play being discussed here (cash the A first) could expose you to the ruff whenever Kx is onside.  Instead of the safety play, you can finesse the Q, cash the A and lose only 1 trump.  If, instead, you take the ‘safety play’ by first cashing the A and then crossing to the other hand and leading towards the Q, the player with the doubleton K might be able to give partner a ruff, scoring a second trump trick for the defense when they only were entitled to 1 trick as the cards lay (without the safety play).  So the recommended safety play cannot claim to always ‘win or tie’ – you can construct a hand where it loses.  On this hand, it might barely be possible to have Kx onside and the opening 2 bidder holds a void that would allow a ruff, losing a trick that you do not have to lose.  But, that ruff would still hold your losses to 2 trump tricks and the A, winning 10 tricks and fulfilling your contract.  So, I think the safety play of cashing the A first has no downside that I can find, and a really big upside when the K is singleton offside.

On this hand, what if the cards had been distributed differently such that KJT9 were with West and the singleton 4 was with East?  After the defense starts with 2 rounds of spades, forcing dummy to ruff, declarer takes the ‘safety play’ cashing the A (dropping the singleton 4, not the singleton K), crosses to hand in clubs to lead a heart up towards the Qx and West rises with the K to play another spade.  At this point, dummy has only the Q left, so declarer must take the ruff in hand, pitching a diamond.  Now declarer has lost control of trump, since there is 1 trump left in each hand, but 2 trumps with West.  So they cannot finish drawing trump.  They must start cashing club winners until West ruffs.  Then, if yet another spade is led after West ruffs, declarer ruffs that spade with their remaining small trump, crosses to dummy in diamonds, and finally draw trump with the carefully preserved Q. 

Sometimes subtle plays that are not obvious can blind (my) analysis to arrive at invalid conclusions.  So rather than state ‘the safety play sometimes gains a trick and never loses a trick’ I decided to put this hand into a double dummy analysis.  All 52 cards are the same as the actual deal except the K (that was initially offside) was traded for the 4 so that the simple first round finesse would win the trick and only 2 trumps would be lost (by abandoning the safety play).  This was to find out if the safety play of cashing the A first, then crossing to hand and leading a heart towards the Qx (having ruffed once already, that is all that is left in dummy) could prevail even if the trump finesse had been working all along.  The image below shows the position after trick 2, where the defense has started with 2 rounds of spades, forcing dummy to ruff.  It shows, double dummy, that the A can be cashed at this point and still score the required 10 tricks.  So, the safety play (with this hand revised as noted) does work if the KJT9 had been onside, and the safety play is required when the singleton K is offside. Otherwise, 3 trump tricks plus the spade trick will be lost and the contract will be defeated.  It was defeated.

Would you bid 4 knowing partner’s ‘weak 2’ style?  This is just one hand (and a big loss), but I think, given the chance again with the same hand, I would do it again!  Would you take the safety play in hearts?  The trump K is not singleton offside very often, and there are often many other factors in the hand (entries, texture of the trump suit, other threats), but when you are missing KJTxx of trumps, I think you should carefully consider cashing the A first and see if that will work for you or create other problems.

Our -800 paired poorly with our teammates -100, lose 14 IMPs.

 

Recap Of 10/4/2017 28 Board IMP Individual

Wow – has it really been nearly 3 months since we had a game?  Vacations and other conflicts made it a long time since July’s game, but a strong group joined us on October 4th with bidding decisions proving to be the source of all 5 of the big swings for the day.

 
1
None
North
N
JoAnna
Q76
10985
AQ2
A42
 
W
Bruce
AJ10
AKQ73
J74
Q9
5
E
Bob
3
642
K1063
K10753
 
S
Mark R
K98542
J
985
J86
 
W
Bruce
N
JoAnna
E
Bob
S
Mark R
1
Pass
1
2
Dbl1
3
All Pass
(1) 3 card spade support
W
Manfred
N
Mark M
E
Lew
S
Ed
1
Pass
1
2
Dbl1
3
3
4
Pass
Pass
42
Dbl
All Pass
 
 
(1) 3 card spade support
(2) Taking the ‘save’

First board out of the box and already a double digit swing.  The first 6 bids were the same at both tables, but then the bidding diverged substantially.  At my table, South didn’t rebid their spades. Bruce hesitated awhile prior to passing my raise to 3.  Bruce has substantial extras, but his balanced shape leaves lots of losers that have to be dealt with.

At the other table, South used the law of total tricks (6+3 = 9) to bid to the 9 trick level – 3.  He was too high already, but Manfred took the push to the heart game.  Now, in balancing seat, South decided to take a white vs. white save and bid 4.  For the save to be really successful, game had to be bid at the other table (it wasn’t) and made at the other table (it wasn’t) and the loss in going down in 4X had to be less than the value of the game (it really wasn’t).  Only the last two points are required for a partial success (if 4 was going to make at this table and if 4 would only suffer a loss of 300, then 2 IMPs could be saved, lose 4 instead of lose 6).

So, what can make, double dummy?  It turns out 4 is cold on any lead, and 4 always makes book (-4).  The excellent 5 lead created problems for declarer from the start – now he cannot ruff his 2 spade losers, so he has to establish minor suit winners to provide spade discard(s).  With the 4-1 trump split (that he does not yet know about), he has to lose a trump and 2 aces, winning the rest.

With both minor suits 3-3 and with the opening bidder (LHO) holding both aces and the Q, it turns out the minor suits provide lots of tricks.  But, unable to see into the opponents hands, declarer won the trump lead and played for the opening 1 bidder to hold the J, so he floated the 9, losing to the J.  Now declarer is in trouble of losing 1+1+1+2 and going down in 3.  But the friendly lie in diamonds came to the rescue and 9 tricks were scored for +140.

Double dummy, after the heart opening lead, declarer must time his plays very carefully to arrive at 10 tricks and, as noted above, once the 9 lost to the J, declarer now had to be really careful to achieve 9 tricks.

Meanwhile, our teammates were playing 4♠X.  Against the best lead (any diamond), 6 tricks are all that can be salvaged by declarer.  The same N-S 3-3 split in both minors that provided so many offensive tricks for E-W in hearts at the other table provides lots of losers in 4.  When the dust settled, declarer had book, 6 tricks, down 4 for -800.  Paired with our +140, lose 12 IMPs.

 
10
Both
East
N
Mark M
52
QJ653
2
AQJ75
 
W
Bruce
AKJ63
A92
Q964
K
Q
E
Ed
Q1094
A75
1098642
 
S
Bob
87
K10874
KJ1083
3
 
W
Bruce
N
Mark M
E
Ed
S
Bob
Pass
Pass
1
21
32
43
4
All Pass4
(1) Michaels showing 5 hearts with a side 5 card minor
(2) Cue bid of hearts to show limit+ spade raise
(3) ? – perhaps I should have tried 5H taking an advance save and possibly goading them into a 5S contract?
(4) I still could take a save and bid 5H over 4S, but partner’s strength is ambiguous and phantom saves are costly, so I passed, hoping 4S would fail.
W
Lew
N
Mark R
E
JoAnna
S
Manfred
Pass
Pass
11
1
Dbl2
43
Pass4
Pass
Dbl5
Pass
46
Pass
57
Pass
58
All Pass
 
 
(1) Strong and artificial, 16+
(2) Showing 6-7 HCP
(3) Raise to game and jam the auction
(4) Forcing pass, where normally partner will reopen with a double allowing a chance to show my hand next round
(5) As expected, double
(6) Showing their suit for the first time
(7) Fearing that the heart void offers too great of a prospect for slam
(8) Minimum for the 1C opener, signing off in 5S, but already 1 too high

Preempts can often create problems for strong club auctions (since the partnership doesn’t even know what suit they are competing in until later in the auction), and that proved to be the case here.  East doesn’t have to bid again over 4, but the heart void, the ace, and strong trump support led to the 5 cue bid and E-W had gotten too high.

There are various ways in which the offense and defense might go.  The cross ruff cannot proceed until the lead is lost in clubs as well as diamonds.  So, even if the opening lead is not a trump, the defense can still foil declarer’s plans.  If declarer plays clubs first, it provides an opportunity for a trump return.  But even if the defense doesn’t play trumps then, ducking the K allows North to ruff the Q and lead a trump.  Declarer has 4 red losers that all must be ruffed in dummy (and dummy only has 4 trumps!), so as long as the defense plays a trump at some point without establishing the Q, limiting dummy to 3 ruffs will hold declarer to 10 tricks, but no path to 11 tricks.

That is, with 2 trump leads, declarer is held to 7+1+2+0.  Or, if the defense ruffs out the Q and leads a trump, declarer will get 8+1+1+0, but no route to 11 tricks.  The timing/transportation just doesn’t work to get all of the needed ruffs in dummy.

So, with 10 tricks at both tables, my side was -620 and -100, lose 12 IMPs.

 
12
N-S
West
N
Mark M
A10
8643
J63
KQJ6
 
W
Bruce
K9643
95
Q954
109
10
E
Ed
8752
Q1072
8
7532
 
S
Bob
QJ
AKJ
AK1072
A84
 
W
Bruce
N
Mark M
E
Ed
S
Bob
Pass
Pass
Pass
2
Pass
2
Pass
2NT
Pass
6NT
All Pass
 
W
Lew
N
Mark R.
E
JoAnna
S
Manfred
Pass
Pass
11
Dbl
Pass
22
Pass
2NT3
Pass
3NT
All Pass
 
(1) !!
(2) Seems like a jump is in order here?
(3) Possibly 3NT?

Wow!  Being white vs. vulnerable opponents in third seat (looking at two passes) has always been an attractive time to throw in a light opener or a psychic bid (playing a strong club makes the psych slightly safer?), and here, when JoAnna opened the bidding with 1, N-S found the NT slam impossible to reach.  At my table, the strong 2 auction allowed me to show 22-24 balanced and, with 11 HCP, partner simply did the math and bid the slam.

I’m not sure why North didn’t jump (showing 9-11) in response to the double?  Usually a simple bid shows 0-8.  South’s monster might consider jumping to 3NT over 2, since the 2NT bid showed a hand more like 19-21 HCP.  Still, there was no source of tricks (and no spade stopper), RHO had ‘opened’ the bidding, and partner showed no life, so following up the double with a 3NT bid would normally have a more promising source of 9 tricks.

But, once the heart opening bid is believed, reaching slam is, in my opinion, very very difficult.  Both North and South have to take very aggressive actions with their hands and neither did.

What about the play?  It seems automatic to win the club lead in hand, cash one high diamond (looking for LHO to have a singleton Q, 9 or 8), cross to dummy in clubs and float the J.  When that loses, you need the rest, with only 11 top tricks.  There are 4 lines of play to get your 12th trick

  1. Heart/spade squeeze vs. East (but then a simple heart finesse would also work)
  2. Heart/spade squeeze vs. West (but then a simple spade finesse would also work)
  3. Take the spade finesse
  4. Take the heart finesse

After LHO won the Q, they paused awhile.  They had no clubs to lead.  A heart lead would solve my problems.  A spade lead would possibly make me guess now, but if my spades were Qx, they didn’t want to give away their K.  Eventually they led a diamond to let me break the majors.  I decided he must hold the K, so I took that finesse successfully and arrived at 12 tricks.  

The heart lead at trick one at the other table provided 12 tricks off the top.  So, we were +1440 vs. -690, win 13 IMPs.

 

 
22
E-W
East
N
Bob
Q953
Q862
A9852
 
W
Manfred
J10
K9863
A953
74
8
E
Ed
AK
AQJ1074
J1074
Q
 
S
JoAnna
87642
52
K
KJ1063
 
W
Manfred
N
Bob
E
Ed
S
JoAnna
1
21
32
4
5
Pass
Pass
53
Dbl4
Pass
65
(1) Michaels showing 5 spades and 5 card minor
(2) With a huge fit, leaving a little bit in reserve
(3) My offense seemed far more promising than my defense, so time to take a save
(4) Not wanting to go higher
(5) Decided to bid the slam – Not sure if he thought he had too little defense, or too great an offensive hand to settle for the penalty available in 5S, hoping that slam would come home?
W
Mark R
N
Mark M
E
Bruce
S
Lew
1
11
22
43
5
Pass
Pass
Pass4
(1) Deciding to make simple overcall rather than Michaels
(2) Upgrading to a limit+ cue bid
(3) Jam the auction
(4) Not knowing partner was 5-5, perhaps the heart void would give declarer problems in the play for 11 tricks so decided to not bid 5 over 5

I have a rather modest hand, and partner surely didn’t have any extra for her Michaels bid.  Nevertheless, it turns out 10 tricks are easy for N-S in a spade contract, so the save in 5 was only destined for a 1 trick set.  At my table, because of the Michaels bid, I had the extra knowledge that one of my minor suits was going to fit with partner’s (unknown) side minor to provide a source of tricks on offense (and possibly limit our tricks on defense).  So, maybe we could defeat 5, but it seemed sufficiently unlikely that we would be able to beat it such that taking out insurance by saving in 5 was nearly automatic.  North, at the other table, was facing a 1 overcall by partner and not a Michaels bid, so they opted to hope that pushing the opponents to the 5 level had worked.  So they decided to defend and hope  to defeat 5.

With the singleton K, there was little to the play.  Declarer simply loses 1 club and 1 diamond, 11 tricks total.  That meant my side was +100 and +650, win 13 IMPs.

 
27
None
South
N
Bruce
QJ6
A108
KJ2
A975
 
W
Bob
K4
73
Q8763
8632
K
E
Manfred
10982
652
A
KQJ104
 
S
Lew
A753
KQJ94
10954
 
Lew
Bruce
1
2
2
2
4
Mark R.
Mark M.
1
3NT
All pass
 

Since we play an  individual movement, sometimes you are playing 4 hands with a partner that you have never played with before.  I have seen partnership agreements that specifically call out that 1M-3NT shows a 4-3-3-3 hand.  I’ve also seen agreements that 1M-3NT will show 3-2-4-4 (exactly).  So, for readers that play in this game, a lesson from this hand is that it might be unwise to throw out a potentially conventional and misleading bid, hoping partner can field it.  Here, there was some discussion (table talk) at the time of the 3NT bid and it was determined North’s bid was around 15 HCP balanced.  South assumed that North held a 3-2-4-4 shape and passed (3NT ends all auctions?).  I think North thought they were showing 4-3-3-3.

Unless you are playing a strong club, the South hand, had it been more balanced, did not really measure up to an opening bid.  That is, they opened the bidding because of the 4=5=4=0 shape.  So, using the shape as the strength/reason for the opening bid, perhaps that same reason should be applied to their rebid and make some call over 3NT.  Voids can present problems in 3NT and that was the case here.

At my table, North simply responded with a game forcing 2 bid and soon they were in the cold heart game.  Declarer can score 3+5+2+1 for 11 tricks in the heart contract on any lead.  I tried the unbid suit and started with the K, hoping we could score the first 3 tricks and then find another trick somewhere, but there are always 11 tricks to be had on any lead.  Actually, after the K start, declarer can find 12 tricks, but 11 tricks were scored and we were -450 for what seemed to be a flat board.

The count of 11 tricks being available in the heart contract was not true about the 3NT contract reached by our teammates.  With the obvious K lead, declarer, hoping clubs might be blocked in some way, won the A at trick 1, crossed to dummy in hearts and tried the diamond finesse.  The finesse worked, but declarer was down 1 after East won the A and cashed 4 club tricks.

So, I was -450 and our teammates -50, lose 11 IMPs.

Recap Of 7/17/2017 28 Board IMP Individual

Well, in terms of double digit swings (6), they were half good, half bad as far as my results are concerned.  There were also a number of interesting hands where high single digits were won/lost, when it could/should have gone the other way with some slightly different choices (or even a push board could have been a double digit win…if only).  In fact, that happened so much I wouldn’t have time to cover them all and may cover none of them.  We may try to schedule more BBO soon, since reporting (and knowing exactly what happened at the other table) is far easier.  But, BBO isn’t the same as playing face to face.

As always, the swings were largely based on judgment in bidding (5 out of 6), with only one where play was the deciding factor.

 
3
E-W
South
N
Bruce
9
AKQ973
10
AQ1083
 
W
Bob
AK10652
8642
Q6
4
Q
E
Mike
QJ743
J10
K952
75
 
S
Jerry
8
5
AJ8743
KJ962
 

 

W
Bob
N
Bruce
E
Mike
S
Jerry
1
1
2
3
Pass
4
5
Pass
6
All Pass
 
 
 
W
Ed
N
Dan
E
Chris
S
Gary
2
Pass
4
All Pass
 

Here, the bidding was everything.  Start with the dealer – is this a opening one bid or a weak two bid (or neither)?  The playing strength is far beyond the typical weak two bid, but the HCP are modest, to say the least, for a one bid.  Still, the hand does have an ace and a king to provide some defense against what the opponents may try to bid and make.  Basically, I think this is a style question as well as a partnership question – it is best to know what your partner’s style is if you are to compete successfully.  As you see, one table chose 1 while the other tried 2.

Now second seat (my hand, in this case) has a choice.  Over a weak 2, West certainly has much less than you might expect for a 2 overcall, but the suit is good and spades are the boss suit, so I think I might have ventured a 2 call over the weak 2 opening bid.  But, the player who heard 2 on his right did not enter the auction.  

I was faced with a 1 opening bid, and I have to decide whether to make a simple 1 overcall or a weak 2 overcall.  I have had partners make weak bids with hands that had reasonable playing strength causing us to miss game, so I tend to fall on the side of making the simple 1 overcall, possibly keeping hearts in play.  Bidding 2 almost completely rules out the chance for our side playing in hearts.  On the other hand, bidding 2 does rob the opponents of some bidding space, so it cannot be clearly wrong.  Decisions, decisions.  On this deal, I think once South has opened with 1, nothing is going to keep North from slam.  But, since my 1 bid ended with a big loss, we couldn’t have done worse had I tried the effect of a weak 2♠ jump overcall of the 1 opening bid.

Third seat has a different problem.  And, the problem they faced was quite different at the two tables.  They hold a very strong two suited hand with no fit for partner.  When South opened 2 and RHO passed, North bid what they thought they could make and ended the auction with a 4 call.  They could have bid 2 forcing or 3 forcing.  But what will they learn?  They might learn that opener’s weak two had a significant side second suit that happened to match their own second suit!  So, clearly, since they can always get to 4 eventually, going slowly has much to recommend it.  Anyway, once they bid 4 the auction was over.

A good point to make here is that you can never have too much discussion with partner about bidding sequences.  Assume the opponents are passing and you open a preemptive bid (here 2) and partner makes a forcing bid in a new suit.  Is your third suit bid offering a second place to play?  Or is it a confirmation of partner’s suit (in this case hearts), showing values outside of diamonds (that you opened) and a fit with hearts?  You can’t have it both ways (at least in my opinion).  Either the third suit announces a misfit and shows 2 suits of your own, or it announces a fit (in this case hearts) with some control/values in the third suit.  If you had this auction with your  favorite partner, would you be on firm footing?

South
North
2
3
4
?

Third seat at my table had an easy 2 bid over my 1♠ overcall of the 1 opening bid.  2 is natural, forcing, and providing time to explore.  Obviously, the same as when partner opened 2 at the other table, they have no fit for partner’s opening bid (but a critical singleton in the suit bid by RHO – a suit that was not bid at the other table).  

Fourth hand (East) might have tried 4 with their weak hand and 5 card support, but we were vulnerable vs. not and the opponents can collect 500 (on this hand) if they opt to try to gain a penalty.  However, it didn’t matter whether my partner bid 3 or 4 because the hand that had opened light passed over the 3 bid (with no fit for hearts and limited power to start offering their second suit) and I raised to 4 so the problem next faced by North was the same whether partner had chosen 3 or 4.  

North had to decide what to do over 4.  What to do with a misfit for the opening bid, but two strong suits of your own?  Easy, show your second suit and bid 5!  This is not the time to defend.  South, with 2 key cards facing a partner that unilaterally bid clubs at the five level, decided to raise to slam.  North (Bruce) at my table, REALLY wanted to raise to 7 but unluckily for me, restrained himself and settled for the small slam.

The result – clubs was a far superior slam to hearts.  A heart slam required a 3-3 trump break or a doubleton JT.  Very much against the odds.  6 merely required no diamond ruff and no heart ruff on the opening lead (or at trick 2 after winning a spade) which made it close to a 100% slam.  Lose 920 vs. our teammates +480, lose 10 IMPs to start the day.

 
7
Both
South
N
Chris
97
KQ86
65
KJ1097
 
W
Bruce
43
A1095
872
5432
6
E
Bob
AKQJ10865
J43
A
A
 
S
Gary
2
72
KQJ10943
Q86
 
W
Bruce
N
Chris
E
Bob
S
Gary
3
Pass
Pass
Dbl
Pass
3
Pass
4
Pass
4
Pass
6
W
Mike
N
Dan
E
Jerry
S
Ed
3
Pass
Pass
4
All Pass

Another slam decision (at least that is how it seemed to me) came up on this next hand.  The chance of an opening ruff is so remote (and you can easily handle a 5-0-0 trump break), that I think you will rarely hold a hand more certain of 10 tricks than this one (yes, the defense could start with 4 rounds of hearts, promoting a trump trick when all 5 trump were on your left, so it is barely possible to not score 10 tricks).  You are sitting in fourth seat after 3-P-P-?  One table ended proceedings with 4 which was likely to make!  I hoped for more and risked starting with a takeout double.  Holding the A, I thought it was highly unlikely for partner to have a holding that would pass for penalty.  As Edgar Kaplan always said, when partner makes a takeout double, take it out!  They replied 3 (showing/promising nothing, but at least more promising for slam prospects than 4) and I forced with 4.  Again they bid their hearts and it is decision time.  I could try 5 (recommended by one player who suggested that then, if partner repeats hearts yet again, try 5 (which says “go to 6 if your hearts are good”!?!?)).  That would certainly be what you want that sequence to show.  I think that saying that is exactly what the 5 bid means in this auction is creating a Humpty Dumpty bid, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.”  I don’t claim to know what 5 would mean in that auction.  I think a jump to 5 directly over 4 would typically ask partner to bid 6 if they have first or second round control of diamonds.  Obviously all I really need is good hearts, but I just don’t know an auction that asks that question.  As you can see, I opted for 6 over 4 and bought a very respectable dummy, perhaps MUCH better than I deserved.  All I needed was split heart honors (or both onside), but it was not to be, down 1.  Since grand slam could be laydown opposite the perfect hand (where partner still would have passed the 3 opening bid), it seems as though something should be done.  What I did has little to recommend it, and I still don’t know how it could be better handled.  I guessed/hoped, and was very wrong.  Down 1, -100 vs. our teammates -650 resulted in lose 13 IMPs.

 
10
Both
East
N
Dan
K983
75
AQ875
A3
 
W
Bob
J4
42
KJ103
J9652
2
E
Gary
AQ1072
10863
2
K84
 
S
Mike
65
AKQJ9
964
Q107
 
W
Bob
N
Dan
E
Gary
S
Mike
Pass
1
Pass
2
2
3
Pass
3NT
All Pass
 
 
 
 
 
W
Chris
N
Jerry
E
Bruce
S
Ed
Pass
1
Pass
1
Pass
1NT
Pass
3NT
Dbl1
All Pass
(1) Partner, please lead spades

Quite often, in NT contracts, siding can be critical.  Here, with the K protected by length (and some useful spot cards), it didn’t really matter whether the contract was played by the North hand or by South.  At my table, the opening 2 lead went to the J and K and declarer had to find a 9th trick (assuming hearts split, he was looking at 1+5+1+1).  

Declarer tried to score a club trick at trick 2.  He thought he was trying to give himself an extra chance (believing that the opening 2 showed only a 4 card suit).  By leading small towards the Q, he could fallback later on the diamond finesse (since the opponents, in his mind, could only cash 3 spade tricks) should he fail to score a trick with the Q.  East grabbed their K and cashed 4 spade tricks for down 1.  It turns out the 2 was simply a suit preference lead, advising me, should I care, where his entry might be (clubs, the lowest suit, therefore a low lead).  Declarer simply had a blind spot (no passed hand makes a two level vulnerable overcall in a live game forcing auction on a 4 card suit AQT2).  Declarer took the 2 as a count card, showing a suit that was only 4 long (in spite of hearing the vulnerable 2 bid over the game forcing 2 bid).  Here, since there were 4 spades to cash, there was no other path for declarer than to hope for the K onside, which it was.  

At the other table, with spades over the spade bidder, East thought a spade opening lead (without a double) was unlikely, but that a spade opening lead was the only chance to beat it.  So, they doubled to get the spade opening lead.  They got the very useful J opening lead and led four rounds of spades, giving declarer a spade trick but establishing their 5th spade.  However, the defense could only produce 4 tricks when declarer successfully finessed in diamonds.  So, our teammates were +750 to go with our +100, win 13 IMPs.  The double has a lot to recommend it.  You are losing only 4 IMPs when the double turns out to be wrong (with no overtricks), but gaining 13 (+200 vs. +600) when your requested lead proves to be the only way to defeat the contract.  So, I like the bid, even though it didn’t work here.  It was especially painful for them when their teammate didn’t bring home the 3NT contract at the other table, but then the ‘cost’ of the double became 1 IMP instead of 4.

But the rest of the bidding is worthy of some review.  Normally, especially in 2/1 game forcing bidding systems, you respond to partner’s opening bid with your longest suit when you have game values.  There is time, later, to mention 4 card majors, but when you have a longer, stronger minor, that (2) is the usual choice over the 1 opening bid.  Yet, at one table, North responded in their shorter weaker 4 card major (1) which eventually led to the subsequent lead directing double of 3NT.  At my table, partner made a dangerous (vulnerable) lead directing 2 bid over the game forcing 2 bid.  This offered +800 to the opponents if they opted to defend against 2X (as long as you don’t lead a silly 9 or Q, you will achieve down 3 against any other lead).  However, North-South went on to 3NT, but then failed to collect their 9 tricks.

 
18
N-S
East
N
Ed
KQ43
972
6
J9743
 
W
Gary
AJ875
K106
K984
K
9
E
Jerry
1062
J8
QJ10753
Q8
 
S
Bob
9
AQ543
A2
A10652
 
W
Gary
N
Ed
E
Jerry
S
Bob
Pass
1
1
2
2
3
31
Pass
3
Pass2
Pass
Pass3
(1) Help suit game try
(2) Reluctant, but I don’t think there was a break in tempo
(3) Reluctant – wanting to double, but not wanting -530
W
Chris
N
Dan
E
Mike
S
Bruce
31
3
5
Pass
Pass
Dbl
Pass
5
Pass
Pass
Dbl
All Pass
 
 
(1) Not everyone’s 3 level preempt!

We have covered the one hand where play made the difference.  So we return to our usual topic where variance in bidding decisions provide the large swings.  At my table, when East did not open (weak 2 or weaker 3), I was able to open 1 and the bidding proceeded rather normally (or so it seemed).  West suggested that East, with such soft values, not bother with a raise to 2, but the raise to 2 seemed normal to me.  We are certainly close to game in hearts, but the heart spots forced 2 losers there plus two certain black losers, so 10 tricks wasn’t going to be possible in hearts (or clubs).  So we quietly defended 3 down 2, not doubled, not vulnerable for +100.  Since we could make 9 tricks for +140 in 3 it seemed as though we might have lost an IMP.

Meanwhile, at the other table, East, noting the vulnerability, decided to open in first seat with 3!  Preempts can create problems for the opponents, as you will soon see.  South overcalled with 3 and West, unable to take a joke, bounced to 5 passed around to South who thought, with their 3 aces, 5 might come up short on tricks and doubled.  But the bidding wasn’t over.  North decided to pull the double to 5, and that got doubled.  The same 9 tricks available in 3 were also available in 5 but that meant our teammates were +500 to go with our +100 and all of a sudden we had won 12 IMPs.

The North hand possess some useful defense with limited offensive contribution, so pulling the double doesn’t seem right.  Since partner didn’t double 3, the opponents almost certainly have some spades and the KQ can be useful defense.  Don’t pull partner’s double!

 
19
E-W
South
N
Ed
9
AK8543
Q42
KJ2
 
W
Gary
QJ52
Q1097
9876
6
K
E
Jerry
AK763
AK5
109875
 
S
Bob
1084
J62
J103
AQ43
 
W
Gary
N
Ed
E
Jerry
S
Bob
Pass
Pass
1
21
32
3
Pass
4
All Pass
(1) Michaels showing spades and a minor
(2) Constructive raise, less than a limit raise
W
Chris
N
Dan
E
Mike
S
Bruce
Pass
Pass
1
Dbl
2
Pass1
3
Dbl
Pass
3
All Pass
 
 
(1) Enough to bid 2S?

On the very next hand, the IMPs went back the other way when each East took different actions at the two tables.  Some play that Michaels cue bids are weak or strong, not mid-range.  Mike Lawrence has argued for years that the ability to tell partner, with one bid, about 10 of your cards is so valuable that it should not be reserved for certain hands, but do it with all hands and try to sort it out later how high is appropriate for this particular hand.  I don’t know if that (mid-range Michaels) was a factor on this hand or not (in East’s decision to double).  But one player trotted out Michaels while the other doubled at their first opportunity.  As the auction progressed, Michaels was the winner, arriving in game at my table while our teammates languished in the partscore.  After I played the J in the middle of the hand, declarer’s problems were over and he had 11 tricks for -650.  Our teammates scored +170 for a 10 IMP loss.  

A spade lead turns out to be the only lead that holds declarer to 10 tricks, double dummy.  The play must be timed very carefully (to reach 10 tricks after a spade lead) but the heart spots and 5 card club suit both come into play to reach 10 tricks.  Should the Michaels bid have been that much more successful than the double?  Should E-W arrive in game after the double?  You be the judge.  But, any vulnerable game that can’t be beaten is always disappointing to miss.

 
23
Both
South
N
Dan
K4
AKQ1054
Q8642
 
W
Jerry
Q5
87
J43
AJ9753
K
E
Bob
J6
63
KQ108752
K10
 
S
Chris
A1098732
J92
A96
 
W
Jerry
N
Dan
E
Bob
S
Chris
Pass
Pass
1
3
3
Pass
4
All Pass
 
W
Ed
N
Mike
E
Gary
S
Bruce
2
Pass
3
4
5
Pass
6
All Pass
 

We end on an amazing hand.  And more bidding judgment issues trying to solve the puzzle what to bid and how high to bid?  Many (seemingly most) times, as I write the blog, the first 5-6-7 bids are the same at both tables, then a variance occurs in the bidding that causes the swing.  For the hands this time, the bidding variance started much earlier – often with the first or second bid, but always in the first round of bidding.  

To consider the bidding, start with the dealer – is this an opening hand?  It has 2 quick tricks, but comes up one shy in the rule of 20 for an opening 1 bid.  I don’t think this is anyone’s idea of a preemptive 3 bid, but it could possibly be a quirky 4 bid due to the first seat odds (there are 2 opponents and only 1 partner that you are preempting).  Anyway, rejecting 1, 3 and 4, Bruce, as the dealer at one table, chose 2.  Not everyone’s weak 2, but it proved to be rather effective.  Chris rejected all 4 choices and began with a pass.  

After the pass, partner (North) has a normal 1 opening bid and East enters the auction with a preemptive 3♦ bid.  South (who failed to open) has a lot to tell partner.  They have support plus first round control of 3 suits!  They judged to start telling their story with a 3 bid, but when partner merely repeated their heart suit, they were in game and, to them, that seemed high enough.  They passed.  Obviously, with you having those strong controls (and being a passed hand), partner is going to have a hard time envisioning the slam potential for this hand unless you do something over 4.  Showing the spade control would sound like a heart misfit (although how can you have a spade suit that good and pass in first seat?).  A 5 cue bid, I think, could also sound like a misfit – an all black hand trying to find a place to land (but, perhaps since you passed initially, you don’t have the right to go exploring beyond game on a misfit?  Would partner be on the same page?).  But a 5 cue bid would be unmistakable heart support.  Good.  But now it would be North’s turn to bid with no black A and they had a diamond control themselves with their void, so hearing your diamond cue bid would not be good news for slam, from their perspective.  It could be that the only reasonable way to bid slam after that start is for South to jump to 6 and hope partner has what is needed.  Bidding, and then hoping, is not a good way to winning bridge (as I proved back on board 7).  As discussed previously, this is not an easy hand to open, but perhaps the initial pass made it impossible to catch up later as the auction developed.  You can see, looking at the whole hand, that 13 tricks are easy, but that has to be uncovered via reasonable bidding and looking only at the 13 cards you hold.  I am not seeing the way to do that.  If you know the answer, I’m interested.  Here is a hand, totally consistent with North’s bidding that offers zero chance of slam.

S
 
A1098732
J92
A96
 
N
 
54
AKQ652
2
QJ87

Here, if South passes, North would open 1 and rebid 4.  You have a decent chance to make 4 but very slim chances for slam.

 

So, let’s see what happened in the bidding at the other table where South dealt and began the auction with 2.  Partner made a forcing bid of 3 and East competed with 4.  South, with lots to show, elected to make the unambiguous 5 cue bid saying ‘I like hearts and I control diamonds’.  Unfortunately for North, hearing the cue bid is still not enough (since they hold their own control in diamonds via the void).  What about the black aces?  South did open a weak 2!  In any case, they proceeded to bid the slam and hope.  When there are 13 tricks available (easy on this particular hand and 13 tricks possible for many distributions that might have been), you want to be able to at least reach a small slam.  Here, North-South had a perfecto fit.  The secret is to uncover that fit via the bidding.  Often that is not really feasible and some amount of guessing is required.

This brings up a point I was making earlier.  Assume there is no bidding by the opponents and assume South starts with 2.  North will make a forcing 3 bid and now it is South’s turn to bid.  Do they like hearts?  They LOVE hearts.  Do they bid 4?  Does that show the void, club control, heart support?  Or does that show a second suit, misfit for hearts?  On the actual board 23, it is precisely the club void in the South hand that makes the slam so magical, but often it is quite difficult to describe every feature of your hand.  This is what makes bridge so exciting as well as challenging.

 

Recap Of 6/21/2017 28 Board IMP Individual

In this week’s game, there were a total of 9 double digit swings, with 8 decided by successful/flawed bidding choices and only one decided by declarer play.

It all began on the first board…

 
1
None
North
N
Munson
109
A86
KQJ98652
 
W
Madalena
AJ875
Q10432
5
103
K
E
Bill
6
K95
KQ9742
A76
 
S
Gary
KQ432
AJ876
J103
 

 

W
Madalena
N
Munson
E
Bill
S
Gary
5
5
Dbl
All Pass
 
 
 

 

W
Dan
N
Bruce
E
Mark
S
Jack
5
All Pass
 

 

As dealer, non-vulnerable, it seems that the opening 5 bid is automatic and that was the bid at both tables.  Our teammates at the other table did not disturb that bid, so 5 bought the contract.  But, at my table, East decided to venture forth with 5 which was immediately doubled.  Holding 5-5 in the majors, West certainly thought there might be a better spot, but was fearful of picking the wrong major ( both majors were ‘wrong’! since South was also 5-5 in the majors, but hearts would have fared better), so with no where to run, E-W ended up in the ill-fated 5X contract.

The defense started with the K, won in dummy with the A.  At this point, declarer should play a diamond off dummy and start to extract some trump.  Instead, they ruffed a spade and led a heart up to the Q, which was ruffed.  Then, North led the K and the A was ruffed out, A cashed, another heart ruff, top club cashed, and a club ruff while declarer follows suit.  Then yet another heart ruff with the A and another club was led – declarer was growing weary at this point (only one trump was outstanding) so they can simply ruff high (K) and then their hand is high, all trump played from the top.  But when declarer actually ruffed low, partner scored yet another club ruff with the J.  All told the defense got one high club, the A, and all 6 of their diamonds, one at a time, for -6, +1400.  The quiet 5 contract at the other table failed by 2 tricks for +100 and 17 IMPs to start the day.  A good start to the day, but many bad results lay ahead for me.

For interested readers, there is a bit of a back story to the 5 bid.  Just a couple of weeks prior to this hand, a different hand occurred which plants the seeds of ‘are the opponents stealing this hand when we should be playing it instead?’  If you want to read more about that episode, I posted the hand here:  http://bridgewinners.com/article/view/grand-theft-larceny/?cj=508795#c508795

East, who bid 5 on today’s hand, was involved with this ‘theft’ that was reported in bridgewinners.  After the hand, I asked him if he was thinking about the hand reported in bridgewinners and he acknowledged that, yes, he was.

 
2
N-S
East
N
Munson
96532
AJ2
K4
732
 
W
Madalena
AQ10
1086
J865
QJ5
A
E
Bill
8
Q9
AQ109732
1084
 
S
Gary
KJ74
K7543
AK96
 

 

W
Madalena
N
Munson
E
Bill
S
Gary
4
Dbl
Pass
4
All Pass
 

 

W
Dan
N
Bruce
E
Mark
S
Jack
3
Dbl
5
Dbl
All Pass
 

 

And here we are, board 2, the very next hand, and most of the IMPs go back the other way.  Again, an opening preempt (which is designed to make the opponents guess) was involved.  At the other table, a seemingly normal 3 preempt was doubled and West, with a 4-3-3-3 balanced hand, decided to further the preempt by bouncing to 5.  North doubled 5 to end the auction.  The four card trump fit opposite the preempt can be powerful, but 3-3-3 in the side suits can produce lots of losers.  Plus, queens, are rarely helpful when partner preempts (because, by the time a queen is useful, partner is out of the suit and can ruff it).  But, those same queens can often provide tricks when playing defense  (when both opponents are short in diamonds, they often have length in all of the remaining suits).  Against 5 the opponents can cash their two ace kings for down 2, and then it is  a matter of declarer deciding to finesse for the K or play for the drop.  Declarer decided to play for the drop and ended up down 3, -500.  Still that result would have been a good save against 4 making.  However phantom saves (when you sacrifice against a contract that was not going to make) can be especially costly.  At our table, my 4 game failed by a trick.  Obviously, looking at all of the hands, I could have made my game.  However, I played the hand that preempted to be shorter in hearts (he was) and odds were for the hand longer in hearts to hold the Q (he didn’t).  So, I lost a heart and with AQT over the KJ, there were 3 spade tricks to lose for -1 in my 4 contract, -100 paired with -500, lose 12 IMPs.

I’m not sure what inspired Bill to try the opening preempt of 4 vs. 3 (perhaps the -1400 on the prior board?), but it is often good practice to mix up your preempts to keep the opponents guessing.  In this case, Bill’s partner was not tempted to further the preempt, so I arrived in the normal 4 contract, failing.  On a different day (give the J to me instead of dummy) and I would be scoring +620.  Or, on a really different day, perhaps my hand would try 5 over the advance save of 5 and fail.  That is when the advance sacrifices really pay off – before the opponents get a chance to bid their game, you are already at the 5 level and they guess to try to make 5 spades when only 10 tricks are available.  Bruce was not tempted to bid on and simply doubled the 5 bid.

 
5
N-S
North
N
Munson
Q765
103
J983
Q107
 
W
Mark
K
AKQJ97
Q104
863
6
E
Jack
AJ1043
865
AK2
K9
 
S
Madalena
982
42
765
AJ542
 

 

Mark
Jack
1NT
4
4
6
All Pass

 

Bruce
Dan
1NT
2
2
4
All Pass

Here two different evaluations (slam invite, slam force) by the West hand had a curious end result.  At my table, holding no tenaces (thus, no need to declare and get a lead into your honors), a Gerber ace asking bid followed by bidding the slam left declarer with a dummy exposed to the opening lead.  To me, the auction suggested an aggressive lead, so I was going to be leading from a black queen.  Which one?  I’m not sure what David Bird would choose, but when I ran Lead Captain (not sure I ran it correctly), it was a tossup.  So, I mentally tossed a coin and it came up … spades.  Wrong!  A club lead beats the slam as long as partner plays the required J, but this club lead is only effective if West is declarer.  With East as declarer, the 6 contract, as the cards lay, is cold.  With my spade lead, declarer had sufficient entries  (due to 2-2 trump) to draw trump, establish spades for a club discard (with another club going on the A), so 12 tricks were there, -980.

Meanwhile, our teammates tried a Jacoby invitational auction (in conjunction with Texas transfers, a Jacoby 2 transfer to 2 followed by a jump 4 promises 6 trump, sets hearts as trump, and is a mild slam try).  The player that opened 1NT is to look at their hand in the context of that invitation and decide whether to advance to slam or pass and play game.  Holding all primes (aces and kings), 3 card trump support, and a side 5 card suit – this hand appears to me to be a clear slam acceptance.  That 5th spade turned out to be the crucial 12th trick, but when only game was bid, +480, lose 11 IMPs.

 
10
Both
East
N
Munson
73
J102
Q10632
972
 
W
Dan
QJ
Q765
A9
J1085
4
E
Gary
AK9852
AK
J4
KQ3
 
S
Mark
1064
9843
K85
A64
 

 

Dan
Gary
2
2
2
3
4
4NT
51
6
All Pass
(1) 0-3 keycards

 

Bill
Bruce
2
2
2
3
4
All Pass
 

 

Here again, Dan is making the crucial slam decision on this hand with an identical auction up through 4.  Here, to my dismay, this time he took the aggressive route (thinking that ‘if partner can open 2 then I have enough to go on’).  I think he was right.  The QJ in trump and A have to be huge slam cards.  Hopefully the Q or J will combine with partner’s hand in some useful way – as it turns out, both the Q and J were crucial to making the slam cold.  In any case, the collection of assets seem worthy of a continuation over 4.  At the time, Bill thought ‘Bruce can’t cue bid between 3 and 4‘ but that isn’t possible with a 2 opening bid.

The play becomes slightly awkward after a diamond lead, but since there was no diamond lead, 12 tricks were easy with a diamond discard on the Q (which is what you would also do if a diamond were led at trick 1, you would just have to win the A, cash the AK, cross to the QJ and then cash the Q discarding your diamond prior to drawing all of the trump).  Our teammates played the game, not pursuing slam.  -1430 vs. +680, lose 13 IMPs.

 
11
None
South
N
Munson
AJ
K83
K75
A8632
 
W
Dan
75
Q1072
A1083
Q109
7
E
Gary
8632
J4
J92
J754
 
S
Mark
KQ1094
A965
Q64
K
 

.

Munson
Mark
1
2
2
2
3
3
4
4
4NT
5
6
All Pass
 

 

Jack
Madalena
1
2
2
3
3NT
All Pass
 

 

Now, on the very next hand, after losing these slam swings, I decided to take the aggressive route, and so did my partner.  We contracted for 12 tricks when only 10 or 11 were there.  I was not proud of my 2 call with only 2 trump, but that kept the auction low and slow – in theory allowing us to probe for just the right game.  I considered 3 for my second call, but I rejected it.  I felt I was holding a good strong 1NT opening and had higher aspirations.  At the other table, the 3 choice of rebids resulted in a 3NT response from opener which ended the auction.  At my table, partner and I just kept bidding merrily along until all of a sudden we were ‘there’.  One of us should have finally put on the brakes, but momentum carried us all the way.

At the other table, the opponents managed 11 tricks in NT for -460 to go with our -50 (West rose with the A when given the chance, fearing a singleton was the basis of the 3 bid).  Lose 11 IMPs.

 
12
N-S
West
N
Munson
109762
K53
92
AQ9
 
W
Dan
A
AJ964
K54
KJ105
8
E
Gary
Q8
Q8
AQJ106
7432
 
S
Mark
KJ543
1072
873
86
 

 

Dan
Gary
1
21
3
3
3
3NT
4
5
6
All Pass
(1) Not meeting everybody’s requirements for game forcing 2/1

 

Bill
Bruce
1
1NT
2
3
3
5
All Pass
 

 

So, here we have this hand, the very next hand following our debacle on the prior board.  I guess the opponents were so mesmerized by our bidding on our prior deal that they decided to try some of it themselves!?!  Played by East, with South leading a club, 6 was not a success.  After taking Q, A and a club ruff, declarer still had the K to lose for down 3, +150.  Meanwhile, after not treating the East hand worthy of 2/1 game force, our teammates ‘right sided’ the diamond game.  The ‘effective’ club lead from South (that occurred at our table) is not nearly so effective for North vs. 5.  And, later in the hand when North wins the K, they STILL can’t lead clubs.  So, as declarer, West can score 5 diamonds, the A, a spade ruff in the short hand, and 4 heart tricks.  11 tricks.  Game bid and made.  +400 to go with our +150, win 11 IMPs.

 
19
E-W
South
N
Munson
AQ86
Q104
Q9852
4
 
W
Bill
KJ7
J52
103
QJ1083
Q
E
Mark
1095
7
AKJ64
K752
 
S
Bruce
432
AK9863
7
A96
 

 

W
Bill
N
Munson
E
Mark
S
Bruce
1
Pass
1
Dbl
RDbl1
2
4
All Pass
 
(1) Support redouble showing 3 card spade suit

 

W
Gary
N
Madalena
E
Jack
S
Dan
1
Pass
21
Pass
2
Pass
4
All Pass
 
(1) Not meeting everybody’s requirements for game forcing 2/1

This hand presented the only swing of the day that resulted from declarer play.  Double dummy, due to the favorable spade position, 11 tricks are available.  But, at my table, Bruce was focusing on getting his clubs ruffed and in the fullness of time, the J was promoted to a trick, losing 1 diamond, 1 heart and 1 spade.  At the other table, South played the same contract without the information about the minor suit oriented takeout double that happened at my table, but with the same lead.  I don’t know how, but South went down 1 at that table for +50 to go with our +420 to win 10 IMPs.

 
23
Both
South
N
Munson
K
10987642
KQ
KQ4
 
W
Jack
A108654
Q
AJ53
93
A
E
Dan
Q9
AKJ53
42
A1082
 
S
Bill
J732
109876
J765
 

 

W
Jack
N
Munson
E
Dan
S
Bill
Pass
1
2
Pass
Pass
Dbl
Pass
Pass
RDbl
Pass
3
Dbl
All Pass

 

W
Madalena
N
Mark
E
Gary
S
Bruce
Pass
1
2
All Pass
 

 

With negative doubles played pretty universally, players still have to find a way to extract a penalty double when it becomes available.  The opponents at my table had no trouble (although it is possible that pursuit of the game bonus in 3NT could provide a more profitable outcome).  Here, with my partner void, he hoped there would be a safer place to land than 2X, so he tried a redouble.  I bid my longest suit and we played 3X in our 4-3 fit.  I could only manage 6 tricks, losing -800.  Defending against 2, when a high heart crashed partner’s Q on defense, our teammates could only manage their 3 aces and 3 heart tricks for -1, undoubled, +100.  Double dummy, I was scheduled for -1400 in 3X, but -800 was still pretty painful.  Double dummy, 3NT by East has 10 tricks, but actual play/defense might have been a different result.  So, two significant bidding problems were faced by E-W on this hand.  Should East pursue 3NT or make a penalty pass, hoping partner reopens with a double?  If East passes, should West reopen with a double holding meager support for clubs?  Both Easts passed (less than optimal on this hand, but taking the sure plus is often winning bridge).  Even though they do hold 2 aces, only one West chose to reopen with the double.  In any case, +100 was a paltry score with the E-W holdings, and paired with our -800, lose 12 IMPs.

 
28
N-S
West
N
Munson
AQ6
73
AJ8763
65
 
W
Bruce
103
J108
Q954
AQ104
2
E
Gary
J742
Q2
102
KJ092
 
S
Jack
K985
AK9654
K
73
 

 

Munson
Jack
1
1
2
2
31
3
3
4
42
5
All Pass
 
(1) Not liking this bid, but bidding clubs, hearts spades or NT at this point seem more misdirected
(2) Now I should have tried 4H

.

Dan
Bill
1
1
1NT
4
All Pass
 

 

And, ending on board 28, the last hand of the day, the carnage continues.  This was all about bidding. After opening 1 I can’t say that a 1NT rebid even occurred to me.  I’m well prepared for a spade lead, but my clubs are certainly lacking and my diamonds aren’t quite ready to run in NT, so this seemed more like a suit oriented hand to me.  As you can see from the footnotes in the bidding, partner and I ended up on different wave lengths as the auction progressed.  He could have bid 4 over my 3 and I should have bid 4 over his 4.  Our temporary landing spot of 4 has some chances, but the defense will certainly prevail.  We had to get to 4 but we didn’t.  The less revealing auction at the other table resulted in no club lead, so a club was quickly discarded on the  A and 11 tricks were made, -650.  At our table, they took their two clubs to start and their 2 trump tricks later, -2, -200, lose 13 IMPs.

How about anybody else?  Does a 1NT rebid look right?  If 2♦ is your rebid, then what do you bid over 2?  Certainly 3 sounded like I had a 7th diamond and/or the Q.  If I had held the Q instead of the Q, 5 would have had decent chances.  But I did not, so 5 had no chance.

That’s all folks.

Recap Of 5/24/2017 28 Board IMP Individual

Bad day at black rock.  I lost big on 4 of the 5 double digit swings.  As usual, bidding played large rolls in the swings, but once the bidding had produced a different contract at the two tables, leads, declarer play and defense sometimes came into focus as opportunities were missed.

 
1
None
North
N
Bob
Q7654
J943
976
2
 
W
Dan
A9
K865
J105
KQJ5
A
E
Mark
10
10
AKQ83
A108543
 
S
Manfred
KJ832
AQ75
42
97
 
W
Dan
N
Bob
E
Mark
S
Manfred
Pass
1
1
Dbl
4
4NT
Pass
6
All Pass
 
 
W
Mike
N
Bruce
E
Bill
S
Cris
Pass
1
1
Dbl
4
5
All Pass

It all started on board 1 when second seat had a good hand, and had to decide how to open holding 1=1=5=6.  Classic Bridge World Standard says ‘open the 6 card suit’ unless you have touching suits without sufficient values to reverse.  Here you have touching suits.  I think normal reversing values start at 17 HCP, but can be softened to 16 HCP in a pinch.  But, those are usually with 5-4 hands.  6-5 is a bit different and here, with the second suit so powerful, I think starting with 1 makes sense.  As the auction unfolded, it proved to be the more successful opening bid.  So, at my table, the 4NT bid was available to suggest a desire to compete with another suit (diamonds or hearts) available as a possible trump suit.  Dan, knowing his incredibly powerful clubs would fill in partner’s club suit bid the cold slam.  Of course the A that he held was also key to making the slam.  At the other table, with the similar but different sequence, West passed out in 5.

I wish I had ‘do overs’ for my raise to 4.  I couldn’t do worse.  I contemplated 3 as an alternative, to give the opponents some room to stop low.  However, it is often most effective to preempt to the max at the first opportunity, depriving the opponents of as much bidding space as possible.  Both North players found the 4 call irresistible, but my bid resulted in slam while our teammates languished in game.  Had I bid only 3 East would have likely tried 4 and now West would be stuck for a bid.  Would they jump to the slam?  Or cue bid 4♠ while partner doesn’t know which suit he likes?  Of course East could then try 5NT (pick a slam) over 4 and solve the problem regarding which minor West likes, so they might have gotten to the slam anyway.  In any case, 12 tricks were easy, so we were -920 vs. +420, lose 11 IMPs.

 
3
E-W
South
N
Bob
A62
A982
A53
753
 
W
Dan
KJ95
1054
K97
KQ8
2
E
Mark
73
KQ
QJ1086
A1092
 
S
Manfred
Q1084
J763
42
J54
 
W
Dan
N
Bob
E
Mark
S
Manfred
Pass
1
Dbl
RDbl
1
1NT
Pass
3NT
All Pass
W
Mike
N
Bruce
E
Bill
S
Cris
Pass
1
Dbl
1
Pass
1NT
Pass
2NT
All Pass

I wasn’t exactly happy with my takeout double, but the same bid was made at the other table.  At least I had an opening hand with 3 card support for all unbid suits – one of my main thresholds for determining whether or not to make a takeout double.  But, unless partner has a really shapely hand, I have no spot cards, no tricks…3 bare aces and then what?  

Had I not doubled and needed to find an opening lead, I’m still not sure what I would have tried, had the opponents arrived in 3NT on their own power with no opposing bidding.  The David Bird book suggests, usually, to go after the 3 card major, hoping to find 5 with partner (vs. the 80+ years old standard of ‘4th from longest and strongest’).  But, that usually works best when there is a balance of power in the two defensive hands.  Here I hold almost all of the assets for our side.

In any case, I did double, I heard partner’s suit, and led partner’s suit.  Here my lead was critical and, once again, I was there with the wrong lead.  When the opponents happily bid 3NT after we have introduced our suit, more often than not, they are fully prepared for a lead in that suit and it is time for a ‘sneak attack’ in a different suit.  We have 5 easy tricks and defeat 3NT on a heart lead.  With two 4 card majors, partner was trying to bid his stronger one, which I think is right.  I just have to rely on the opponents bidding that they are prepared for spades.  On this hand, declarer was really prepared for spades and my spade lead led to 10 tricks for a loss of -630.  The other table was trying to defeat 2NT and our teammates ended with +150, lose 10 IMPs.

I did pause long enough to consider that, for a spade lead to work, partner needs to hold QJTx(x) or KJTx(x).  But, West didn’t have to bid over 1 since their partner was forced to bid again after their redouble.  So, it is very reasonable to assume that they are VERY well prepared for a spade lead and I failed to draw that inference.  Darn.

Finally, what about East’s raise to 2NT?  They only hold 12 HCP, but a 5th diamond and the tens in both minors I think argues for a raise to game.  But, the raise to 2NT has the advantage of reaching the last makeable spot if the defense is accurate.

 
5
N-S
North
N
Bill
96432
9
Q109
Q1053
 
W
Bob
J10
A876
A8653
82
5
E
Dan
K875
52
J74
AJ64
 
S
Cris
AQ
KQJ1043
K2
K97
 
W
Bob
N
Bill
E
Dan
S
Cris
Pass
Pass
2NT
Pass
3
Pass
3
Pass
3NT
All Pass
 
W
Mark
N
Bruce
E
Manfred
S
Mike
Pass
Pass
1
Pass
Pass
Dbl
RDbl
2
Pass
Pass
2
3
All Pass
 
 

Over the years, I have seen lots of NT opening bids (1NT/2NT) with 6 card minor suits.  I have only seen two NT openers when they were holding a 6 card major, and this was my second (both of them 2NT opening bids).  The result was not happy for our side.  The play (and defense) presented challenges/opportunities in both 3NT and 4.  Cris used the standard 20-21 HCP criteria, where an extra point is added for the 5th (and 6th) card in a suit.  Partner, with modest values, proceed to the 3NT game after first transferring to spades.  So, there they are, in a 22 HCP game and no lead to beat it!  Which is not to say it cannot be beaten.  Sometimes opportunities present themselves.

I led 4th from longest and strongest, the 5, which went to the 9, J and K.  Declarer is looking at 1+5+1+0 and needs to find 2 more tricks.  Certainly one trick could come from a spade finesse, but how to get to dummy?  How to get the opponents to lead spades?  One (or 2) could come from clubs, on power.  Knockout the A and there is a trick established, or finesse for the J and there are 2 tricks; but with no entries to dummy, the only way to finesse for the J is against West, and here West does not have the J.  One trick could come from diamonds – if the opponents are nice enough to lead them again.  One other option is to hope to find an entry with the 9 – the opponents may duck?  That would provide an entry for club finesse the other way, or the spade finesse.  But, there is really nothing to go on as to where the J lies.

It turns out the (only) successful line with this lie of the cards is to start pounding out the heart suit, establishing those 5 tricks.  So, let’s first look at what did not happen with declarer and defense.  Sometimes, on a hand like this, you might have to hope for split aces and then have to guess which ace is held by the defender with the diamond length.  But, here, if diamonds are 5-3 (and the A with the diamond length), the defenders can maintain communication, even if the defender with the diamond length has neither of the critical outside aces (A or A).  So, to get the bulk of your necessary 9 tricks to fulfill the 3NT contract, declarer must lead hearts at trick 2, and keep leading them until the A is driven out.  What can the defense do?  The best they can do is win the A and continue diamonds: if West holds the A, they must lead a small diamond (to maintain communication) or, if East had held the A, lead a diamond (top of 2 remaining) while West ducks to maintain communication.  Now diamonds are established and represent a defensive threat – any loss of the lead will result in defeating the contract.

When the defense continues diamonds, that gets you up to 8 tricks (1+5+2+0), and, at the same time the diamond lead puts you in dummy to take the spade finesse which succeeds, providing you with the necessary 9 tricks.  Note, going after a club trick at this point is nearly guaranteed to fail, since the diamonds are established. 

What if the defense does not return diamonds?  They must play spades, hearts or clubs.  (Double dummy?), If the defense tries a non-diamond lead after winning the A, it actually presents declarer with 10 tricks!  The run of the hearts crushes the defense in various 3 suit squeezes while dummy has no problem throwing away spades.  

With a heart continuation (after winning the A), the 7 tricks you started with (1+5+1+0) stays at 7.   The defense has given nothing away. But, after cashing all of your hearts (and exiting with a diamond), the defense, which had to find discards while the hearts are being cashed, must decide what their last 6 cards will be.  And then, if they win the diamond exit, pick a suit to lead.  No matter how hard they try, the defense can only score their 3 aces and declarer wins the rest (of course some of this is double dummy, seeing where the J is).  Anyway, I found it quite interesting that the failure to continue diamonds after winning the A presents declarer with an overtrick in all possible lines of defense.  But, continuing diamonds presents declarer with an entry to dummy to take the spade finesse and make the contract.

Now, return to what actually happened at the table.  At trick 2, declarer tried the effect of the K rather than attacking hearts.  Now the defense has many ways to defeat the contract.  The easiest is following the general principle of NT defense where the defender who does not hold the long threat suit attempts to gain their entry early in the hand, return partner’s suit to get it established, hoping partner has an entry later in order to cash the established diamond suit.  If East wins the A and leads a diamond, ducked to dummy, the long diamonds are established and West still holds the heart entry (and, in this case, should East gain the lead, they still have a diamond to lead to partner).

But, fearful of providing a crucial entry to dummy (taking the A would establish Q), East ducked the K.  Now declarer began playing hearts.  West must win the first, second or third heart trick (preserving a late heart exit to endplay declarer), and play clubs.  East must cash both clubs and exit a diamond.  West must win that diamond lead and exit a heart.  Now the defense has stripped declarer of all clubs and diamonds.  Declarer got up to 8 tricks by winning the K, but they cannot reach 9 tricks.  Dummy is dead, so there is no spade finesse.  They are down to all good hearts and the AQ. At trick 13, they will have to lead the Q and lose to the K, down 1.

But, what really happened…I won the second heart and led a small diamond.  That established my diamonds, but it also provided declarer with their 9th trick.  They could still take the spade finesse for 10, but with 9 tricks in sight at that point, they cashed out.

What should have happened?  I should wait to win the third heart lead, notice that partner fails to follow suit, giving declarer 7 known tricks (0+5+1+1).  If declarer has the AK, then they are up to 9 tricks, but at this point I have to hope the cards are as they actually were and play clubs.  Partner must cash 2 clubs and play diamonds.  I must win the A and play my last heart, beating the contract.  At the table, I ducked the first heart to get a count from partner, and then concluded hearts were 1-4-4-4…wrong!

This analysis of 3NT has gone on long enough.  I thought it presented a sufficient number of interesting issues for declarer and defense that it was worth it.

As you see from the other auction, our teammates defended 3 and beat it a couple of tricks for +100 to go with our -600, lose 11 IMPs.

What if a ‘more normal’ 4 contract had been played?  4 makes if a major is led (I think I would have led the J), but it goes down if a minor is led.  A club lead (ducked) provides opportunity for a later club ruff.  A diamond lead (high or low) provides the opportunity to get 2 diamonds played early (stripping declarer’s crucial diamond suit), with a multitude of varying defenses allowing an endplay of declarer, making declarer break clubs or spades from their own hand and providing a 4th trick for the defense to go with their 3 aces.

Finally, what do you think of the 2NT opener?  It has the advantage of reaching the only makeable game, so it can’t be too bad!

 
10
Both
East
N
Manfred
AK5
AJ754
A63
K8
 
W
Bill
Q3
K109
Q84
106542
7
E
Bob
972
Q82
KJ10752
7
 
S
Mike
J10864
63
9
AQJ93
 
W
Bill
N
Manfred
E
Bob
S
Mike
2
Pass
3
3
All Pass
 
W
Dan
N
Bruce
E
Cris
S
Mark
2
Pass
Pass
Dbl
Pass
4
All Pass
 
 
 

Here, a simple raise of the weak 2 opener left 4th seat with a slightly different problem than the one faced at the other table (where it was not raised!).  Holding 19 HCP, it seems as though double or 3NT rates to produce a more flexible result, but as you can see, North chose 3 which bought the contract when everyone passed.  Via a cross ruff, we were able to score 3 heart tricks, but that is all, -170.  Meanwhile, our teammates were scoring 12 tricks in a spade contract for +680, win 11 IMPs.

 
16
E-W
West
N
Bruce
J85
10
QJ74
AQJ93
 
W
Bob
A73
86
A6
K87642
A
E
Mike
KQ109642
K3
K105
10
 
S
Dan
AQJ97542
9832
5
 
W
Bob
N
Bruce
E
Mike
S
Dan
1
Pass
1
51
Pass
Pass
5
Pass
6
Dbl
All Pass
 
(1) !
W
Manfred
N
Cris
E
Bill 
S
Mark
1
Pass
1
4
Pass
Pass
4
All Pass

Dan’s spectacular 5 preempt left me/partner floundering.  Over 5 I could double to suggest partner not bid on, but I did have nice spades and wasn’t sure about my defense.  I believe, had I doubled, partner would likely have bid 5 over my double.  I clearly should have passed 5, but wishful thinking got me to raise to 6♠, and we were promptly doubled.  The double asked for a club lead, but Dan didn’t relish leading a singleton with nothing to trump with, so he started by playing 2 rounds of hearts.  Ten tricks were the limit in a spade contract, -500.  Since our teammates allowed 4 to play/make at the other table, they were -620.  Lose 15 IMPs!  I don’t think that 5 was going to be doubled?  If not, we could have ‘only’ lost 12 IMPs, and if they doubled, 13 IMPs.  So, my poor bid of continuing to the slam didn’t cost as much as perhaps it should have.  What if we defend 5?  The only way to beat it is to start with 3 rounds of diamonds, and then we ‘only’ lose 11 IMPS!  But, I likely would have tried the A leading to -450 for a 14 IMP loss.  Or if 5 is doubled, making, we lose the same 15 IMPs!!!

You can judge the wisdom of Dan’s vulnerable 5 bid, but whatever might happen in the long run,  the way the cards were on this hand made it an awesome winning bid.

So, that completed the 5 ‘big swing’ hands.  One more hand in the last round of the day provided an opportunity for either side to score an 11 IMP pickup, but in reality there was no swing.  

 
27
None
South
N
Bruce
K
KJ965
J1096
Q74
 
W
Cris
Q9542
A32
7
KJ32
A
E
Bob
108
1087
532
109865
 
S
Manfred
AJ763
Q4
AKQ84
A
 

 

Manfred
Bruce
1
1NT
3
4
5
All Pass

 

Bill
Dan
1
1NT
3
3
4
All Pass

So, the hand was a push, with 10 tricks in 4  +420 and 12 tricks in the 5 contract -420.  What might the auction be for a more successful result, since 12 tricks in diamonds are easy assuming no defensive ruff.

How about using the auction from the first table, continuing…

South
North
1
1NT
3
4
51
62
All Pass
 
(1) Expressing concern about the unbid heart suit
(2) I think I can cover a second round heart loser

Or, what about using the auction from the second table

South
North
1
1NT
3
3
4
51
62
All Pass
(1) My hand has promise in diamonds that I have not yet shown
(2) If you like diamonds, then I do too

Some have suggested that South actually has a 2 opener.  What do you think?  With two-suited hands, 2 often gets the auction up quite high, quite fast.  After a 2opening bid, the auction might have proceed 2-2-3-4-?  These auctions are created in hindsight with the ability to see what works and, in reality, you have to find the right bids at the table for successful results.  If you have a preferred way of bidding these hands, please share.

Recap Of 3/29/2017 28 Board IMP Individual

Back at it again March 29th with a different group playing our 2-table individual.  

There were 3 slams missed at both tables, slams that were cold as the cards lie, but not necessarily biddable – still always a disappointment to see the slam bonus slip away.  Yet another slam was a push when 6 was bid at both tables, down 1, when 6NT was cold on any lead with no finesses and no splits required – really disappointing!   So, no swings on those 4 slam hands – I’ll include them at the end of the post to see if anything can be learned.

Meanwhile, back to my ‘normal’ reporting – four hands cleared the hurdle of double digit swings.  Twice it was an issue of games bid/not bid, twice it was an issue of which game (plus some defensive luck/slip).

 
3
E-W
South
N
Bob
K975
K107
A10
AQ32
 
W
Dan
Q853
KQ5432
J108
4
E
Ed
A1086
AJ642
76
76
 
S
Manfred
QJ432
9
J98
K954
 

 

W
Dan
N
Bob
E
Ed
S
Manfred
Pass
Pass
1NT
21
22
3
3NT
All Pass
 
(1) Both majors
(2) ? – see below
W
Mike
N
Bruce
E
Bill
S
Cris
Pass
2
2NT
Pass
31
Pass
42
All Pass
 
(1) Jacoby Transfer
(2) I like spades

As you can see here, very different auctions leading to very different results.  With West, in second seat, the hand is potentially quite valuable in diamonds, hearts or even clubs.  With most partners, I play a modified Ogust system (2NT) over a weak 2 which allows (forces) partner to show a side 4 card major if they have one along side their 6 card diamond suit.  Here, West at my table didn’t have that agreement, so they decided 2 was too great a risk and passed (hard to play hearts or clubs after starting with 2).  I’m not sure if East-West had ‘modified Ogust’ as an agreement at the other table, or if West just rolled the dice and started with 2.

So, for the bidding at my table, after West passed, I was allowed to start with 1NT, followed by East showing both majors.  Partner’s 2 bid was undiscussed, but I thought perhaps 2 means:

  1. Shows game values, stopper in spades, asking about heart stopper (when the opponents show only 1 suit, a cue bid often asks for a stopper; when the opponents have 2 known suits, a cue bid ‘tells‘ that I have a stopper in the suit I bid and typically asks ‘do you have the other suit stopped so that we can try NT?’
  2. Shows game values with diamonds.  When opponents show 2 suits, a structure of ‘unusual vs. unusual’ is often deployed, where a cue bid in their higher suit shows the higher of the other two suits (spades (being the higher of their suits hearts/spades) showing diamonds, the higher of clubs/diamonds).
  3. Shows spades, to play.  This treatment didn’t occur to me, but it was the actual intent of the bid at the table.  If 2 had shown diamonds, or ‘diamonds and another suit’ the standard treatment is for 2 and 2 to be natural to play, not forward going.  But, I’ve never heard of 2 being natural to play after the interfering bid showed both majors.  For most players, after the opponents interfere over our 1NT with 2, unless the 2 bid shows both majors, they play double for Stayman and all systems on as though no interference occurred.  Interfering bids higher than 2 cause problems, with this hand being a case in point.  
    1. Opponents are interfering more and more often against our 1NT opening bids.  With most partners, after NT interference I play transfer lebensohl (clarified nicely by Larry Cohen – transfer lebensohl is a great system if you are prepared for the memory work). You can read about it here: https://www.larryco.com/bridge-learning-center/detail/775 and here: https://www.larryco.com/bridge-learning-center/detail/41
  4. With this partner, with no agreement, I thought it likely that he either meant #1 or #2 and I was happy to continue to 3NT with either of those meanings.  Fortunately, I avoided my second choice – penalty double of 3 since 9 tricks are cold with East-West playing 3.

The 4 contract reached at the other table was a great contract, destined to succeed unless trumps are 4-0 (but they were 4-0).  With East’s spade spots over North, the 4 contract failed due to 2 red losers as well as 2 trump losers.  3NT is likewise hopeless after the heart lead, but that isn’t how it turned out.  Declarer only has 8 tricks (2+1+1+4) but after the opening lead of the 4 went to the 9, Q and K, declarer led the 9, won by the A while West threw an encouraging diamond.  Now Declarer has the tricks needed, so the defense has to cash out hearts now if they are to beat 3NT.  But, fearful that declarer still had 10xx remaining, East shifted to a diamond and the 3NT game came home.  +400 and +50 led to win 10 IMPs.

 
11
None
South
N
Manfred
A
Q1087
J863
Q1073
 
W
Bill
9876
K6542
54
52
5
E
Bob
Q1032
J9
A10972
A9
 
S
Mike
KJ54
A3
KQ
KJ864
 

 

W
Bill
N
Manfred
E
Bob
S
Mike
11
Pass
12
Dbl3
14
Pass
35
Pass
36
Pass
47
Pass
58
All Pass
 
 
 
(1) With a 5 card suit and easy spade rebid, this hand was too strong for a 15-17 1NT opening bid
(2) With less than invitational values, typically bypass 1D to start showing 4 card majors
(3) Showing spades and diamonds
(4) Continuing to bid the hand naturally
(5) Invitational
(6) Probing for NT
(7) Continuing in clubs in spite of holding help in both spades and diamonds, the opponents ‘suits’
(8) Well, if partner invites and I have 17 HCP, I’m bidding game
W
Dan
N
Bruce
E
Cris
S
Ed
11
Pass
12
Dbl3
14
Pass
1NT5
Pass
2NT6
Pass
3NT7
All Pass
 
(1) Same as the other table
(2) Same as the other table
(3) Same as the other table
(4) Same as the other table
(5) Here, with something in both spades and diamonds, North opted to suggest NT
(6) Showing 17+-19 bad
(7) Plenty to accept the invite

Here the bidding had a similar start at both tables, but the big divergence came with North’s rebid.  The NT rebid started the path towards 3NT.  The club rebid started the path towards 5.   With 10 tricks scored in both contracts, +50 and +430 resulted in win 10 IMPs.

Since the takeout double showed both spades and diamonds, those are the threats that a NT contract must deal with.  South said that they had spades covered with their 1 bid, and Jxxx is a rather thin ‘stopper’ for NT, but partner is there with strong diamonds as well, so NT proved to be quite satisfactory.

As is often the case, 9 tricks in NT proved to be easier to achieve than 11 tricks in a minor suit.

 
18
N-S
East
N
Bruce
J10962
93
AJ72
106
 
W
Bill
84
AKQ52
KQ86
Q5
6
E
Ed
Q73
8764
1095
942
 
S
Bob
AK5
J10
43
AKJ873
 

 

W
Bill
N
Bruce
E
Ed
S
Bob
Pass
1
1
11
32
Dbl3
Pass
3
All Pass
 
(1) Showing 5+ spades
(2) Preemptive
(3) See below
W
Cris
N
Mike
E
Manfred
S
Dan
Pass
1
1
1
Pass
3
Pass
4
All Pass
 

Here (again, see board 3 above) I didn’t know the best bid over 3.  Even though I was playing with my regular partner, I wasn’t sure if my double would be taken as:

  1. Support – Even though we only play ‘support doubles’ (showing 3 card support) through 2 I thought/hoped that pard my consider it a ‘high level support double’.
  2. Maximal – Since there are no bids available between 3 and 3, maximal doubles are used to allow 3 to be strictly competitive (with no game interest) and double of 3 to be a game try, the only game try available besides simply bidding 4 and trying to make it.  But maximal doubles would normally only apply when spades have been shown/supported by both partners.  Here I have not had a chance to support spades.
  3. DSI – general card showing ‘do something intelligent’ partner, saying I have a good hand with no clear bid.
  4. Penalty – since this is an established partnership, I was on firm ground knowing that partner would not treat this as penalty.  We have rules regarding when it is penalty and this isn’t one of them.  Although here, we are destined to beat 3 two tricks which would allow us to cut our losses if we had scored +500.

Not knowing for sure how partner would take my double, I chose double anyway because no other bid seemed clear cut.  When partner could only bid 3 over my double, I passed and we languished in the part score.  I could have bid 4 over 3 and also could have bid 4 over 3, but I didn’t.  At the other table, with RHO passing over the 1 bid, Dan was able to invite with a jump to 3 and his partner advanced to the cold game, making (a bit lucky) 11 tricks at both tables when the Q came down doubleton and the Q was finessed away.  +200 vs. -650, lose 10 IMPs.  

Is this a game you want to be in?  I think so, and I should have just bid game and see what happens.  “Never bring back a red 170” to your teammates is a pretty good slogan to live by (playing IMPs).  Here it was a ‘red 200’ which is kind of a corollary to the original “rule”. The IMP table rewards games such that 37.5% (odds of making the game) is break even, as long as you only go down 1 if unsuccessful in the game.

There wasn’t much to the play/defense.  After cashing 2 heart tricks, West continued with the K, which declarer won with the A to take a spade finesse (covered at the other table, ducked at our table).  Then, when 2 clubs were cashed and the Q came down, it was time to draw trump and claim.

 
20
Both
West
N
Bruce
A8
KJ975
1092
Q64
 
W
Bill
KQ532
63
J3
AK82
9
E
Ed
10
Q84
Q764
109753
 
S
Bob
J9764
A102
AK85
J
 

 

W
Bill
N
Bruce
E
Ed
S
Bob
1
All Pass
 
 
W
Cris
N
Mike
E
Manfred
S
Dan
1
Pass
Pass
Dbl1
Pass
3
Pass
4
All Pass
 
 
 
(1) !?.

Again, my bidding choice was at the center of an adverse swing on this last hand.  I was sufficiently shocked at the result at the other table, I decided to post a bidding poll on bridgewinners to see what ‘the rest of the world’ would do with my hand in the pass out seat. This is a relatively small sample, but it rather supports my choice of pass: http://bridgewinners.com/article/view/bidding-problem-2-0oizts8vcx/.  As of this writing, 86% passed, as I did.  One (out of more than 40) chose to double.  At the other table, declarer managed to score 11 tricks in their 4 contract while we only scored 7 tricks defending against 1.  So, that made +100 vs. -650, lose 11 IMPs.

So, that is the end of the four hands with double digit swings.  Now moving into the 4 flat boards that had slam swing opportunities, missed at all tables.  If you had been there, could you have done better?  You couldn’t do worse!  So we are going to take a look at 4 slam hands.  What is required for successful slams?  I don’t claim to have all the answers, but a brief summary of the key ingredients:

  1. Controls – you don’t want 2 fast losers in any suit.  Notice if you are rich in controls, partner is not – therefore if partner makes any slam noise (lacking those controls), he must have some other interesting holding and you must cooperate.  There is a lot of debate (with no general consensus) about whether early cue bids should be first round control or ‘first or second’ (vague as to what control is being shown).  Definitely worth partnership discussion.
  2. Strong trump – the converse, weak trump, is a huge slam negative (danger of over ruff, inability to achieve a high crossruff, etc.).  But, if you have strong trump (and partner doesn’t), partner doesn’t know that you do unless you make a move to indicate that.
  3. Source of tricks – 4-3-3-3 hands are typically extremely slam negative.  Long strong suits provide the tricks (and discards) needed to make most slams.  Again, if you have a source of tricks, partner is unlikely to know it unless you make some move during the auction to share that info.

I don’t know that any of these guidelines are useful in any of the following 4 hands, but thought I would mention them anyway as a frame of reference for slam bidding.

 

 
4
Both
West
N
Bob
Q109
KJ10
AKQJ8
K9
 
W
Dan
J754
A842
9752
2
A
E
Ed
32
9653
63
Q7654
 
S
Manfred
AK86
Q7
104
AJ1083
 

 

Bob
Manfred
2NT
31
3
42
43
64
All pass
(1) Regular Stayman
(2) Taken as natural, intended as ‘minorwood’ asking for 1430 responses to key cards with clubs trump
(3) Continuing to show my hand, definitely interested in slam if he is interested
(4) Ending the auction

 

Bruce
Cris
2NT
3
3
41
4NT2
5NT3
64
All Pass
(1) By partnership agreement, 4C is minorwood, with 1430 responses, except 4NT is not a response. 4NT states that I do not have a slam oriented hand and I refuse to tell you how many key cards I hold.
(2) Saying that this hand is not interested in slam
(3) We are going to a slam, you choose
(4) Expecting better clubs for partner’s bidding (and choosing poorly!)

 

It is always disappointing when a 6NT contract is not bid in spite of holding at least 2 stoppers in all suits, 12 top tricks that require no finesses, no suit must split to score the necessary tricks, just cash them out.  Here, 6NT scores 3+2+5+2 for 12 tricks.   Here 6 was not a success.  I am not sure what the appeal was for pursuing clubs?  It is likely that a hand can be constructed (consistent with the bidding) where 6 makes and 6NT does not make, but I think you would have to work on it awhile.  But, I’m not sure of what auction would find that hand.  This certainly was not the auction and not the hand.  I think the North hand is quite strong, but using the Kaplan-Ruebens hand evaluation software, it only scored at 19.50.  If partner has slam interest, so do I.  I may have fewer controls than a typical 2NT opener, but I suspect I have more sure tricks that many 2NT openers. 

After the auction, my partner said that he knew that my 4 bid could not be 1 or 4 key cards (his expectation being that I owed him a key card response after the 4 call).  But, he thought since I ‘knew’ his 4 was minorwood, that after 6 I should have simply pulled it to 6 or 6NT.

There have been a number of followup discussions and emails on this.  As one of the key participants/perpetrators, it is hard to be objective, so in that context, I will say that 14 HCP semi-balanced opposite a 2NT opener sounds like a 6NT bid.  Yes, on some day, you might be able to uncover the perfect fit and get to a grand in a suit.  And, grand slam bonuses pay well.  But, meanwhile, it would be nice to get paid for the small slam bonus that neither table was able to achieve.  The club suit might produce tricks in NT.  If not, there may be other options (to find 12 tricks in NT).  But, in 6 there are no other options if there are loser(s) in clubs.

Using the checklist above:

  1. Neither North nor South has (self-contained) controls necessary to assure  a successful slam.
  2. Strong trump – this was the downfall of the 6 contract, but 6NT has no trump worries!
  3. Source of tricks – North’s diamonds should provide 5 tricks and, I think, makes the hand ‘slam postive’ and willing to cooperate.
 
23
Both
South
N
Ed
109863
1098
J10875
 
W
Mike
AQ5
KQ74
AJ52
62
A
E
Cris
KJ87643
AJ
Q74
4
 
S
Bob
1092
52
K63
AKQ93
 

 

W
Mike
N
Ed
E
Cris
S
Bob
1
Dbl
2NT1
32
Pass3
3
Pass
44
All Pass
(1) Flipflop Jordan (standard “Jordan” provides 2NT to show a limit raise+ hand, while a raise to 3 is preemptive. Using ‘flipflop’ the bids are reversed such that 2NT shows a preemptive club raise and 3C would be limit)
(2) Showing some good hand
(3) Not wanting to give them more options in the bidding.
(4) Intended as forward going, but ending the auction
W
Manfred
N
Bruce
E
Dan
S
Bill
1
Dbl
2NT1
4
All Pass
(1) Also using flipflop Jordan

 

The preempt did consume some bidding space, but, assuming no opening ruff by the defense, 12 tricks are easy in spades, even though all of the defensive trump were held in one hand (often creating some difficulty for declarer, but not here).  Diamonds can be discarded on hearts.  Who should bid more?  How can the powerful fit be uncovered?

Again, looking at the checklist:

  1. Controls: West has excellent controls, but they hold the disappointing doubleton in clubs.  East has excellent controls, but 2 fast diamond losers.
  2. Strong trump: together, the trump holding is perfecto, but both partners are looking at a broken suit, unsure as to what lies opposite.
  3. Source of tricks: West is balanced.  East has the great source of tricks with long reasonably strong spades.  But, nothing wasted in clubs in either East or West.

I don’t think the 3 bid necessarily showed a club control, instead it merely set up a forcing auction.  Nevertheless, at East’s first opportunity to bid, they had the option of bidding 4 which would show a long, reasonably strong suit with no interest in going higher unless the takeout double had significant extra values.  By going through 3 prior to bidding 4, East set up a picture of long spades, AND slam interest.  West has a very fine hand for the takeout double, even though they are balanced with no source of tricks other than the high cards they basically promised.  West certainly has more (an ace more) than a minimum takeout double.  If West doesn’t feel comfortable trying 4NT over 4 due to the doubleton club, perhaps they should cue bid 5.  Perhaps raise to 5 asking about a club control (the typical meaning of raising 4M to 5M when the opponents have bid a suit).  But, this bid could be confused with another typical meaning when the opponents have not bid (that is, how good are your trumps?).  In any case, in my opinion, West is too strong to pass 4♠ (at the table where East went through 3).  In my opinion, East’s suit is too broken to unilaterally take control and force slam without cooperation from West.

At the other table, with a direct jump to 4 it would seem impossible to get to slam from there. East’s 4 bid says, to me, that is where I want to play.

 
26
Both
East
N
Bruce
Q6432
AK10965
J5
 
W
Cris
75
83
Q63
K108742
J
E
Bob
J8
74
K1097
AQJ96
 
S
Manfred
AK109
QJ2
A842
53
 

 

W
Cris
N
Bruce
E
Bob
S
Manfred
11
Dbl
32
4
All Pass
 
(1) I don’t like 4=5 in the minors, but I quit opening these hands with 1D.
(2) Preemptive. Not playing flipflop Jordan.
W
Ed
N
Dan
E
Mike
S
Bill
1
Dbl
41
4
All Pass
 
(1) Even higher preempt

 

This hand is a virtual repeat of the last hand – club opening bid, takeout double, preemptive club raise, … and missing a slam that is cold, this time 12 tricks in hearts, even if all defensive trump had been held in one hand, as long as the opponents do not achieve a ruff on the opening lead.   (even 13 are available in spades with normal splits – the diamond losers can be discarded on hearts)

This time the takeout double only had a balanced 14 HCP (vs. 16 HCP on the prior hand).  Both times, the takeout doubler is facing a partner that bid game, but they are looking at a doubleton club – always a risk of doubleton opposite the doubleton for two quick losers in your slam.  Still, nothing is wasted in clubs, the controls in spades and diamonds are powerful, and the fillers in hearts will make that suit nice (albeit South’s trumps being only 3 long could be disappointing to partner).

Going through the checklist:

  1. Controls – North has the incredibly valuable club void that South doesn’t know about, but North also holds the worrisome doubleton diamond.  South holds great controls, but they have the worrisome doubleton club.
  2. Strong trump – both North and South can be reasonably comfortable that the trump suit is at least adequate.
  3. Source of tricks – again the hand that doubled is balanced.  North, being 6-5, has a great source of tricks.  And, the 30 point deck (nothing wasted in clubs) was a great contributor to the ease of bringing in 12-13 tricks.

Conclusion: sometimes preempts work.  Over the 4 preempt North has a really hard problem making a move towards slam.  Over 3 North might have bid 4 (but that may not get their side anywhere).  After partner chooses a major, they need to pretty unilaterally start moving towards slam when partner may have a hand that is very unsuitable for slam.  Over 3 the 4 bid simply would have meant ‘choose a major’ not ‘but if you have nice controls for slam, go higher’.  Partner has a balanced (near minimum) takeout double.  But the high cards are perfectly placed.  Perhaps one of the blog readers can offer a better insight into this hand.

 
28
N-S
West
N
Bruce
K
A52
109862
KJ64
 
W
Cris
J96
Q9763
AK5
A2
10
E
Bob
AQ1087542
K
J743
 
S
Manfred
3
J1084
Q
Q1098753
 

 

Cris
Bob
1NT1
22
23
44
Pass5
All Pass
(1) 15-17 including a point for the 5th heart
(2) Texas transfer of 4H is available, but going through Jacoby transfer and then bidding 4S suggests mild slam interest
(3) Showing less than 4
(4) Mild slam interest
(5) Due to aces, gave it considerable consideration, but eventually decided to pass

Finally, an outlier.  That is, this ‘missed slam’ is not exactly cold on any distribution.  It took some luck, but the luck was there, and I have been in much worse slams.  After a heart lead (which quite possibly could have happened had we been in 6), the slam needs 1-1 trump (both losing diamonds can be discarded on the A and Q).  But when there was no heart lead, trump were 1-1, and the Q was singleton, 13 tricks were there.  So, not a crazy slam, but not one I’m going to spend much time second guessing the bidding.  The 1NT opener was solid, but on the low end.  The ‘mild slam invite’ was also on the low end, but it felt too good to simply use a Texas transfer and signoff.  I assume the bidding was the same at the other table, but I did not check to find out how they bid it.  I just know they did not reach slam.

 

 

Recap Of 3/22/2017 28 Board IMP Individual

Travel plans including a mostly disappointing trip to Kansas City resulted in our first game of March not happening until the 4th Wednesday.  With two Bobs and 2 Mikes playing today, I have used a number of last names to call out the players.  Six of the boards resulted in double digit swings, starting with the first.

Board 1

 
1
None
North
N
Munson
542
AKQ102
Q7
K83
 
W
Dan
KJ53
J843
3
Q1062
6
E
Bandler
108
975
109843
A54
 
S
Manfred
AQ97
6
AKJ65
J97
 
Munson
Manfred
1NT1
2
2
3
3
4
5
6
All Pass
 
(1) “15-17”
Jerry
Chris
1
2
2
2
3NT
All Pass

 

This hand was all about bidding judgment. For starters, for NT purposes, I evaluate 5 card suits (of any strength) as worth 1 point. Certainly this 5 card suit has some potential to be worth more than 9 points. In any case, I treated it as a 15-17 balanced 1NT hand. After Stayman allowed me to show 4 hearts, partner’s 3 bid allowed me to repeat hearts, showing a heart suit that was 5 long.

To me, as South, the information that North holds 5 hearts (opposite my singleton) would be extremely regressive (in terms of slam potential). My bidding doesn’t show where my points are, but, as South, knowing that I only have 8 cards split 3-3-2 in his suits outside hearts creates problems (imagining the play of the hand during the bidding). It only works if none of my values below the A had been in hearts (if you make the Q the ♣Q and the K the ♠K), and even if that were so, there is still a problem getting to 12 tricks, even if diamonds split. Unless you also give me the ♠J, the spade suit needs a 3-3 split or you must have the ability to attain a spade ruff in dummy. In any case, partner didn’t see it that way. So, rather than trying 3NT or 3♠ with his third bid, partner repeated diamonds. Having no spade stopper (and not clear what 4NT would even mean over 4), I raised diamonds to 5 and partner carried on to 6. Double dummy, the diamond contract has some interesting twists and turns (potential to score 11 tricks), depending upon the leads, discards, and continuations by the defense, but on the actual ♣6 lead (rather favorable for declarer), East won the ♣A and there was no chance for 12 tricks with the diamond distribution creating a certain loser there. In the end, declarer did not finesse the 10, so only 10 tricks were scored for down 2, -100. (But down 1 would not have saved any IMPs.)

At the other table, North did not like the concentration of HCP in the heart suit (for starting with NT), so he started with 1. That allowed North-South to stop in 3NT – not close to pursuing slam. The opening lead of the ♠10 went the the ♠Q and ♠K followed by a heart return, finessing the 10. Declarer ended up scoring 11 tricks. So our teammates, defending 3NT, were -460, lose 11 IMPs.

 
6
E-W
East
N
Pastor
QJ6
A7
9875
A973
 
W
Dan
K54
KQ8
AQ103
KJ2
9
E
Munson
A10873
103
KJ2
1065
 
S
Chris
92
J96542
64
Q84
 
W
Dan
N
Pastor
E
Munson
S
Chris
Pass
Pass
1
Pass
1
Pass
2NT
Pass
3
Pass
3
Pass
3NT
All Pass
W
Bandler
N
Jerry
E
Manfred
S
Schneider
Pass
Pass
1
Pass
1
Pass
2NT
Pass
31
Pass
4
All Pass
 
 
(1) New minor forcing

Sometimes 9 tricks are easier than 10.  In a spade contract, you can pitch a club loser on the long diamond, but you didn’t have 3 club losers anyway, so that club discard doesn’t really help.  You are looking at 9 easy tricks (4+1+4+0) and need the A onside or else a successful guess in clubs.  Having found the A offside, declarer opted/guessed for ‘split aces’ (as good a guess as any, but an unsuccessful guess as the cards lie).  He led a club to the K and lost the trump trick, A and 2 clubs for down 1.  Those same 9 tricks are easily there in NT, but with the defenders seeking 5 tricks to beat 3NT, declarer ended up making 10 tricks for +630 to go with +100, win 12 IMPs.

With many partners, I play a form of Wolff relay (I am not sure how many forms there are?!).  Dan (my partner here) is my regular partner in Gatlinburg, but we haven’t played much since Gatlinburg 2016, so I did not recall if he and I had discussed/agreed to play Wolff or not.  In the form I play with other partners, after opener’s rebid of 2NT my bid of 3 requires partner to respond 3, after which I can pass to play 3, bid 3 of my major to play exactly 3 of that major, bid 3NT as a slam try in his minor, or bid 3 of the other major as a slam try in the other minor.  At the table, I intended 3 as simply new minor forcing (not Wolff), checking back for an 8 card spade fit.  Partner dutifully bid 3 (playing Wolff) and I bid 3NT, ostensibly showing a slam try in diamonds, but mercifully Dan passed.   I was a bit lucky to say the least.

 
9
E-W
North
N
Manfred
J
AQ542
AK852
AJ
 
W
Pastor
KQ982
K82
J6
K74
10
E
Munson
10763
J1096
973
108
 
S
Schneider
A54
7
Q104
Q96542
 
Manfred
Schneider
1
1NT
2
3
6
All Pass
Jerry
Bandler
1
1NT
3
3NT
All Pass
 

 

Well, it is hard to argue with success, and if nothing else, the 6 contract was certainly successful.  With clubs favorable (3-2, K onside), diamonds favorable (3-2), hearts favorable (4-3 with the K dropping after 2 ruffs) and the A favorably placed (in dummy), declarer won the J on the opening lead, cashed the A, ruffed a heart, crossed to the A, ruffed another heart, played the Q, played the A, then ruffed a spade, drew trump and claimed.  13 tricks, -940.  Our teammates arrived in 3NT, which certainly has problems on a spade lead.  If diamonds are coming in for 5 tricks, that still only leaves the 3 aces for 8 tricks, so a finesse in clubs or hearts must be chosen to reach 9 tricks (after a spade lead, a losing finesse will result the defense cashing the setting trick in spades).  Since either finesse is destined to succeed, there is no problem after all (except that slam was bid at the other table).  +400 for 3NT compared to -940, lose 11 IMPs.

What about the bidding?  With 19 HCP (the J is a doubtful value, but still 19 HCP), a jump shift seems in order.  The South hand, responding to the jump shift, has problems.  The singleton in partner’s first suit, the A as a cover card, the the Q are all slam positive.  But with only 3 card trump support, South decided to show their black suit values by rebidding 3NT and the auction died.  When North, at my table, opted to rebid only 2, South had a different rebid problem.  No bid appeals.  Should they pass?  (I confess that “pass” would likely have been my bid.)  Returning to 2 (partner’s first suit) makes no sense.  A bid of 2 commonly says (since I failed to bid spades the first time, I can’t really have spades) that I have a very strong maximum raise to 3 (in context of the initial 1NT response).  That bid, certainly doesn’t apply.  2NT should show 11 HCP or a very good 10 HCP.  A bid of 3 should have a lot better spots, or greater length, so that seems to be ruled out.  So, the only bid not discussed so far, 3, was the bid chosen at the table.  Since partner could very well be 4=5=3=1 (with insufficient values to reverse) or 3=5=3=2, the danger of a 3 card diamond suit seems quite real.  You don’t really want to play your 3-3 fit at the 3 level, or any other level!  In any case, after the diamond raise, North (having not jump shifted on the prior bid) decided to make up for lost time and bid the cold (as the cards lie) slam.  

 
13
Both
North
N
Jerry
7432
73
KQ10942
10
 
W
Munson
10
J42
J96
AK9742
A
E
Schneider
AKQJ98
K86
7
J85
 
S
Dan
65
AQ1095
A53
Q63
 
W
Munson
N
Jerry
E
Schneider
S
Dan
2
2
3
Pass
Pass
3
Pass
41
All Pass
 
 
(1) “Never bring back a red 170”
W
Manfred
N
Chris
E
Pastor
S
Bandler
2
2
3
Pass
Pass
Dbl
Pass
5
All Pass
 
 

As you see, the bidding started out the same, but when it came time for East’s second bid, the choices diverged.  It is common, whenever overcalling at the 1 or 2 level with a 6-3-3-1 hand, to first bid your 6 card suit, then (if given the chance) double the next time to show extra values and 3 card support for the unbid suits.  Here you have that.  But, you have a bit of disparity in your suits.  Your spade suit is solid and can play quite well opposite a void.  If partner has values, those values should help your spade contract, but if partner has a suit, your spades may not help their contract as much as you would like.  With this specific East hand, I like repeating the spade suit vs. the double, and specifically on this hand, the double worked out disastrously, while the choice to repeat spades arrived at the spade game.

The heart lead against 5 resulted in 4 quick tricks for the defense (2 hearts, a ruff and the A), down 2.  Against 4 the defense began with 2 rounds of diamonds.  Declarer crossed to the A (noting the fall of the 10) prior to starting to draw trump.  Playing one round of clubs before playing trump was a really thoughtful play.  If declarer starts with 4 rounds of trump, they now have to guess how to play clubs.  (Well, they could still lead one round of clubs after 4 rounds of trump, ruff the last diamond (with the last trump), and then guess clubs correctly.  But, that risks going down a lot of vulnerable undertricks if you get clubs wrong.)  So, I like the timing of declarer’s play and especially like the correct guess in clubs (finessing the Q on the second round) to score +650 (one club was discarded as trump were drawn) to go with +200 and win 13 IMPs.

 
14
None
East
N
Jerry
AQJ74
J4
Q82
985
 
W
Munson
965
KQ8
K109
AKJ4
9
E
Schneider
K83
76532
AJ75
2
 
S
Dan
102
A109
643
Q10763
 

 

W
Munson
N
Jerry
E
Schneider
S
Dan
Pass
Pass
1NT
Pass
2
Pass
2
Pass
2NT
Pass
4
All Pass
 
 
W
Manfred
N
Chris
E
Pastor
S
Bandler
Pass
Pass
1NT
Pass
2
Pass
2
Pass
2NT
Pass
4
All Pass
 
 

As you can see, the bidding was identical at both tables.  Choosing 4 (rather than 3NT) may not be everyone’s choice, but partner often has shortness somewhere and the concentration of values in hearts (and lack of spades) convinced me (and Manfred at the other table) to choose the heart game over 3NT.  Had I been in 3NT, the defense gets off to its best start leading the Q followed by the J.  Assuming I guess to rise with the K, I would then learn the A was onside (can’t get to 9 tricks without heart tricks), then finesse against North, the danger hand, for the Q and arrive at 11 tricks in NT (1+4+4+2).

But, I wasn’t in 3NT.  The same 11 tricks are there in a heart contract, or at least appear to be.  The defense and offense vs. 4 began the same at both tables.  After the club lead, declarer continued with two more rounds of clubs pitching 2 spades from dummy followed by a spade, won by North’s A as dummy follows with their now singleton K.  At this point, a spade continuation seems obvious/automatic.  At my table, that is what Jerry led.  I ruffed the spade in dummy, led a heart to the A followed by a club ruff by North, then a spade ruff by South, holding me to 9 tricks, -50.  At the other table, upon winning the A, North shifted to a diamond, not only solving that problem, but when declarer won the J and led a heart, South ducked, so another diamond to dummy and another heart lead resulted in the 11 tricks that were ‘always’ there.  -450 for our teammates and lose 11 IMPs.

 

 
21
N-S
North
N
Bandler
9
865
K96
AQ9652
 
W
Schneider
106543
92
Q43
K73
♠4
E
Chris
J82
QJ103
A102
1084
 
S
Munson
AKQ7
AK74
J875
J
 
W
Schneider
N
Bandler
E
Chris
S
Munson
Pass
Pass
1
Pass
2
Pass
3NT
All Pass
 
 
 
W
Manfred
N
Jerry
E
Dan
S
Pastor
Pass
Pass
1
Pass
2
Pass
2NT
Pass
3
All Pass
 

Being rather well-healed in the majors, it did not occur to me to bid anything other than 3NT after partner made a (non-forcing) passed hand bid of a new suit at the 2 level (certainly guaranteeing that he held no 4 card major and around 10+ playing points).  So, we ended up in game while the opponents, holding our cards at the other table, stopped in 3.  Playing diamonds, declarer only lost 2 diamond tricks, scoring 11 tricks for +150.

After East followed with the J at trick 1, I won the opening spade lead with the K, hoping that by concealing the Q my 7 might grow up into a trick later in the hand (it didn’t).  At trick 2 I led the J which was covered by the K and I ducked (there was no suit I was ready to play from dummy and I (thought I) was happy to have LHO on lead.  Perhaps they would under lead their 108?!  West continued with the 3 to the 8 and A, as I pitched a heart from dummy.  Between my hand and dummy, I held the 98765.  I decided my best chance was to play LHO for the Q or 10, but not the A, so I led the 5 to the 4, 6 and 10.  Back came the 2 which I won with the Q (establishing LHO’s spades, so LHO better not have the A!).  I continued diamonds to the 9 and when that forced the A, dummy now had the precious entry to enjoy club tricks and I now had plenty of tricks, scoring 3+2+1+4 for +630.  If there were only 2 club tricks to cash (if clubs had split 4-2), I still had the chance that diamonds were 3-3 and I could score 2 tricks there.

But, at least double dummy, I played the hand wrong.  Once I ducked the K, I can no longer make the hand.  I was (wrongly) hoping LHO would continue spades from the 108.  But, all they need to do is notice that they likely have no further entry and switch to the 9 (which is the only continuation that beats the hand).   Now the defense can go about establishing their heart suit while East still has 2 entries in diamonds.  That would give the defense 0+2+2+1.  To make the hand legitimately, I must win the K with the A.  From that point, there are various successful continuations, as declarer:

  1. I can go after diamonds, trying to find the 10 (assuming one defender will eventually have to lead a club to allow me to score the Q).  That provides 3+2+2+2 = 9 tricks.
  2. I can cash the Q myself while I am in dummy and then try to find the 10.  That also provides 3+2+2+2 = 9 tricks.
  3. I can play 3 rounds of clubs and hope for 3-3 clubs with a late diamond entry (which, in this case, can only come about by stripping East of spades and throwing him in with hearts to lead away from the A).

Option 2 seems the best to me.  At the point when I cash the Q, I hold double stoppers in both majors and the opponents only have 1 club to cash (the 9 prevents a second club trick).  So, if I can find the 10, I will lose the AQ, but score 2 diamonds to go with 7 tricks in the other suits.

When West is allowed to hold the K, they know dummy’s clubs are established and they know declarer holds (at least) the A (partner would have played the A at trick 1 if he had it).  If declarer also holds the A, he is up to 9 tricks (2+0+2+5).  If declarer does not hold the A, continued pursuit of spades is futile, since the established spade suit would have no entry.  Defense is tough.  Being a declarer is tough.  A lot becomes easier when looking at all of the hands after it is over.  In any case, +630 went with -150 to win 10 IMPs.

Recap Of 12/28/2016 28 Board IMP Individual

For the first time in a long time, we got in two games this month – mostly with different players.  There was quite an assortment of 5-6-7-9 IMP swings, some with interesting hands, but I’m going to stick with reporting the 5 double digit swings of the day.  Normally I just use first names – if the reader knows the players, they know who is who, if not, they don’t care.  This time, with 2 Bobs and 2 Mikes, I used last names for half the field.

 
2
N-S
East
N
Munson
Q62
Q108653
3
1076
 
W
Ed
K983
A
A8542
A32
2
E
Bill
AJ4
KJ7
J10976
Q8
 
S
Jack
1075
942
KQ
KJ954
 
W
Ed
N
Munson
E
Bill
S
Jack
1
Pass
1
Pass
2
Pass
31
Pass
3NT2
Pass
43
Pass
44
Pass
55
Pass
Pass6
Pass
(1) Usually denying a 5th spade and exploring for where to play
(2) Showing only 3 card spade support with hearts stopped
(3) Pulling 3NT, not yet giving up on a diamond slam, showing a strong hand with strong diamond support
(4) Weak diamonds, offer to play 4S, look for the 10 trick game instead of 11 tricks.
(5) Deciding diamonds would be safer than spades, even though it is a trick higher, and leaving open the possibility partner will carry on to the slam
(6) Weak trumps, weak controls, not interested in slam
W
Schneider
N
Pastor
E
Bandler
S
Manfred
1
Pass
1
Pass
1NT1
Pass
22
Pass
23
Pass
34
Pass
35
Pass
66
(1) Rejecting the raise with 3 card support
(2) New Minor Forcing, ostensibly checking for 3 card spade support or 4 card heart suit
(3) Admitting to 3 card spade support
(4) Showing where he is really heading
(5) Not ready to commit to anything yet
(6) Ready to commit!!

The first swing of the day came on board 2 where our opponents stopped in 5 while our teammates ventured a small slam that was, to say the least, not odds on.  The auction seemed sensible at our table, but our teammates just blasted into 6.  In 5 you get two chances to avoid a third loser.  After winning the A at trick 1, lead a small club towards the Q.  If the K is onside, you can pitch your third spade on the A without risking the spade finesse.  In 6 your only real chance is to find spades 3-3 with the Q onside (about 18%).  But, since spades were 3-3 and the Q was onside, no problem. The 13th spade provided a parking place for the club loser, so the only trick lost was the power trump trick to the defense.  +920 vs. -400, win 11 IMPs.  

 
15
N-S
South
N
Munson
J102
10
AJ105
AJ1053
 
W
Pastor
87
A8752
K93
Q94
5
E
Ed
Q954
K94
74
K876
 
S
Schneider
AK63
QJ63
Q862
2
 
W
Pastor
N
Munson
E
Ed
S
Schneider
1
1
21
Dbl2
2
Pass
33
Pass
3NT4
Pass
Pass5
Pass
(1) Usually limit raise or better in diamonds
(2) Values with heart support, but not willing to venture 3H
(3) Upgrading my J10 holdings (plus singleton) to essentially game force, giving partner a choice of games
(4) QJxx in hearts may be more useful in a NT contract than a spade contract, and 11 tricks is too rich for a diamond contract, so shoot for the 9 trick contract
(5) “3NT ends all auctions”
W
Manfred
N
Jack
E
Bill
S
Bandler
1
1
21
2
Pass2
Pass
33
Pass
Pass4
Pass
(1) 2/1 not game forcing, just showing longest suit (and implying less than 4 spades, since no negative double)
(2) No where to go
(3) Now showing diamond support
(4) Not willing to take it higher with the club misfit

It isn’t often you raise partner’s second suit with only 3 card support, but here, since I didn’t make a negative double, partner did know I only have 3 spades and that I am offering a choice of places to play.  Knowing that, he still opted for the tenuous 3NT.  Game in spades appears to offer better prospects than 3NT, assuming hearts are no worse the 5-3 and spades no worse than 4-2.  If that is the case, you will lose 2 spades and a heart, but win 2+0+4+1 in top tricks (with the diamond finesse) and still score club ruffs in hand and heart ruffs in dummy to reach 10 tricks.  The opponents can ruff your diamonds or overruff your heart ruffs, but they can still only score 3 tricks vs. 4.

To achieve 9 tricks in NT, declarer needs the diamond finesse and the spade finesse.  With the opponents starting out with 4 rounds of hearts (establishing the 13th heart as the setting trick), you have no play but to hope the Q is onside.  It is, and so is the K.  That provides 3+1+4+1 for 9 tricks and the red game comes home.  We were certainly lucky to bid/make 3NT, and 4 would have been a better spot, but when vulnerable at IMPs, the payout is so huge, it pays to go after red games.  As you see, the other table languished in 3 just making, -110 for our teammates to go with our +600, win 10 IMPs.

 
21
N-S
North
N
Munson
AQ1084
K84
KQ97
9
 
W
Manfred
2
J105
10853
J10842
2
E
Schneider
KJ7653
7632
A
AQ
 
S
Bill
9
AQ9
J642
K7653
 
W
Manfred
N
Munson
E
Schneider
S
Bill
 
 
1
Pass
1NT
Pass
2
Pass
2NT
Pass
3NT
All Pass
 
W
Ed
N
Bandler
E
Jack
S
Pastor
 
 
1
Pass
1NT
Pass
2
Pass
31
All Pass
 
 
 
(1) Somewhat conservative

Once again, a close vulnerable game is at stake.  The first 3 bids were the same at both tables and then they diverged.  Bill (my partner) slightly overbid with 2NT (so, with a maximum “minimum hand” I automatically raised to 3NT – never miss a red game), while his counterpart at the other table only raised to 3 and they played it there.  

This is a challenging opening lead vs. 3NT, but with no suit and no entries, it is often best to try to hit partner’s suit.  Perhaps partner has great spade spots over dummy and you know partner has at least 5 spades (South never supported spades, North never rebid spades).  The spade lead caught the KJxxxx with partner for 2 tricks, but the spots in dummy were strong, so spades provided declarer 3 of the necessary tricks for game, with hearts and diamonds also bringing 3 tricks each for a total of 9.  To declarer, the club suit looks a bit scary, but the distribution of the club suit offers no great source of tricks for the defense.

On the actual play of the hand, East won the J at trick 1, shifted to hearts with the K winning in dummy.  Declarer then knocked out the K to establish spades.  When East won the K and continued hearts, declarer knocked out the A and had his 9 tricks (able to finesse against the 10 when East showed out on the J).  So again, a vulnerable 3NT making for +600 against 9 tricks in a diamond part score, so our teammates were -110 again, win 10 IMPs.

 
24
None
West
N
Munson
76
Q73
AK9
KQ743
 
W
Manfred
AK10854
96
1076
J5
K
E
Schneider
QJ2
AKJ104
5
10986
 
S
Bill
93
852
QJ8432
A2
 
W
Manfred
N
Bob
E
Schneider
S
Bill
2
Dbl1
4
52
Pass
Pass
Pass3
(1) Not perfect, but…
(2) Pard asked me to bid my longest suit, so…
(3) Who knows? Give declarer singleton or void in hearts and dummy singleton or void in spades and they could be missing slam?
W
Ed
N
Bandler
E
Jack
S
Pastor
2
31
4
52
Pass
Pass
Dbl3
All Pass
(1) Rejecting the double
(2) Deciding Ax was enough support and that the bad guys are trying to steal the hand. It’s OUR hand! (not)
(3) Here, the double seems more clear and paid off handsomely

Faced with the opening 2 bid on the right, North has to choose.  I really hate to double a major with only 3 card support in the unbid major, but I wasn’t going to pass and I hated bidding 3 even more, since the hand is flat, the club spots are weak and the suit is only 5 long.  So, I doubled, followed by 4 and then partner has to decide what to do.  This is a very high frequency auction and, nearly every time it happens, no one knows whose hand it is?!  Was the 2 opening super light (as it sometimes is, especially non-vulnerable), was the 4 bounce being bid expecting to make 10 tricks, or an advance save trying to jam the auction and make the opponents guess at a high level?  Bill guessed to not defend 4 and bid 5 which was passed out.   It turns out 4 cannot be beaten (on the magical fit, the defense only has 2 clubs and a diamond to collect), but E-W were unable to sort out that it was their hand (and score a penalty double vs. 5).  On the lead of a top spade and a heart shift, they gathered in their 5 tricks in the majors before declarer got started.  The rest of the tricks were ours, so we were down 3, -150 in our non-vulnerable game.  

At the other table, when my hand decided to venture a 3 overcall after the 2 opening bid, East again bounced to 4 putting maximum pressure on N-S.  Here South thought the opponents were trying to steal the hand.  Since he had no idea about partner’s diamond support, he tried 5 over 4.  When that got doubled, both North and South sat for the double, not realizing there was a better spot.  The defense was ruthless.  After 2 hearts were cashed and a third heart lead ruffed, a top spade was cashed with the Q available as a signal that the J was held.  So, West underled to the J for another heart lead, ruffed with the J and overruffed with the Q – the trump promotion created 2 trump tricks for East.  So, E-W essentially scored the same 5 major suit tricks vs. 5 that they did vs. 5, but with 2 additional trump tricks available against the club contract, doubled, the damage was significant +1100 vs. our -150, win 14 IMPs.  Had our opponents doubled (for +500 instead of +150), we still win 12 IMPs.  Those 1100s can be really costly!

 
28
N-S
West
N
Munson
AJ643
J103
73
654
 
W
Jack
Q
Q75
KJ10986
KJ7
5
E
Pastor
95
K9862
2
AQ1032
 
S
Manfred
K10872
A4
AQ54
98
 
W
Jack
N
Munson
E
Pastor
S
Manfred
2
Pass
Pass
2
Pass
31
Pass
42
All Pass
 
 
 
(1) Feeling like I owe him a raise, even though my hand is flat
(2) Nothing extra, but never miss a red game
W
Bandler
N
Schneider
E
Ed
S
Bill
1
Pass
1
1
Dbl1
32
43
Pass4
Pass
Pass5
(1) Support double, showing 3 card heart support
(2) A gentle preempt, hoping to buy it
(3) Upgrading the 5-5 hand, knowing there is an 8 card fit
(4) Enough defense to hope they might go down, so not taking the save
(5) Not much defense here, so the save in 4S might be indicated, but partner didn’t bid 4S, so maybe…

On this last hand, West, as dealer, has an awkward hand.  1, 2 and pass, all seem to be in play.  If bidding is an option, pass is rarely right, so as you see, my table chose 2 (ostensibly showing a 6 card suit with 5-10 points – discounting the singleton Q), and the other table started with 1.  With N-S holding 10 spades, it is rarely right to defend 4.  When East arrived in 4, there was no defense to beat it.  Not a great contract, other than it makes – you must lose 3 aces and avoid any defensive club ruffs as well as avoiding a second trump loser.  After ruffing a spade, you must play West for exactly Ax, so get to your hand to lead a small heart to the Q and then, on the next lead of hearts, play all small hearts as the A catches air, preserving the K to draw the remaining trump.  10 tricks, +420 for our teammates.

As you can see, we landed in 4 with hearts never having been bid.  West has a difficult opening lead against 4.  I think I would have chosen the Q.  The Q is coming down singleton anyway, and the other 3 suits all have serious dangers.  Eventually West chose the 5, declarer covered with the J, and East thought they had a problem.  Is it a singleton 5?  A doubleton 54?  Or 3 to the Q75?  It turns out it doesn’t matter.  For any of those holdings, the K is the necessary play.  It costs nothing in the case of the  singleton/doubleton – declarer always has 3 top heart tricks and whether or not you play the K at trick 1 doesn’t change anything.  They still have 3 tricks.  But, if partner happens to hold the Q75, failure to play the K at trick 1 costs the contract.  The defense is entitled to 0+1+1+2.  But, when East decided to play third hand low at trick 1, the heart trick for the defense disappeared and declarer had only 3 losers, 10 tricks, and a double game swing for +620 to go with +420, 14 IMPs.

Today was my lucky day.

 

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