March 25th, 2017 ~ bobmunson ~ 5 Comments
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
December 29th, 2016 ~ bobmunson ~ No Comments
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
December 23rd, 2016 ~ bobmunson ~ No Comments
Wow, this time we had no less than 9 double digit swings that included, I think, a number of interesting hands with all essentially revolving around bidding judgment/bidding choices that players face every day. Bidding at the 5 level (or not), choosing game (or slam) in hearts, spades or NT. It all started on the first first hand.
There are not a lot of constructive bidding tools created for how to compete over a strong 2♣ opening bid (for good reaason – all tools are about disrupting their auction, not creating your own constructive auction!). Here E-W are cold for 10 tricks in their heart game, while N-S are in good shape for their own 10 tricks in their spade game. A possible opening lead of the ♠A followed by a shift to, specifically the ♥J is the only line of defense to defeat 4♠. So, 4♠ will be making every time. Some mental gymnastics could arrive at that defense (if partner has the ♥K, no problem. If declarer has the ♥K and partner has the ♥Q, leading the ♥J could create a useful entry to partner so that they could continue drawing trump, preventing a club ruff. Not going to happen. So, the decision to save in 5♥ followed by the decision to declare vs. defend resulted in spades being played at both tables scoring 10 tricks. My table, that meant -1, -50 vs. 4♠ making by our opponents at the other table, -420, lose 10 IMPs. Had I doubled 5♥, partner may have pulled to 5♠ anyway. And, if he didn’t, it only would have held our losses to 8 IMPs instead of 10. The swing was created by the decision to bid 5♥ over 4♠.
Here the 6-3 heart fit proved to be more effective than the 5-3 spade fit. If the defense attempts to stop diamond ruffs (by leading trumps), declarer can merely establish the spade suit, no problem. If the defense leads diamonds early, killing the late entry to spades, declarer can set about ruffing the 2 diamond losers and only has a spade loser and 1-2 trump losers. After declarer ruffs both diamonds and is down to a singleton heart in dummy, it is time to start drawing trump. Having every spot except the ♥A and ♥Q, how do you play the trump suit? Finesse for the queen would seem to be the normal play, but it is wrong to finesse, since, with only 1 possible lead available (dummy is now down to only one trump), the finesse only works with exactly ♥Qx in the West hand. But, small to the ♥K will pick up ♥Qx in the East hand as well as the actual singleton ♥Q. So, against any defense, 11 tricks are always there in a heart contract. But, when spades are trump, there are many issues going on – the main one is getting hearts right. Here, depending on how the defense has gone prior to attacking hearts, the normal finesse not only picks up West holding ♥Qx, but also ♥Qxx and ♥AQx and possibly ♥AQxx, although the defense may have engineered a heart ruff before that (although maybe not, since declarer never revealed heart support). Anyway, I think the lesson out of this hand is to support/play hearts and not have the problem of how to play 4♠. 10 tricks are there, double dummy, in the spade contract, but when the heart finesse lost, declarer ended up -2, -200 to go with our +620 to win 13 IMPs.
I have given my hand to a few capable players and all chose to bid 2♦ over 2♣. I think it is a very tough call, and only 2♦ and 2♥ can be considered. I have to force, while leaving 3NT and 6♣ both open. How the auction proceeds (should I have bid 2♦) is anyone’s guess. You should still be able to reach the cold slam. My ill-advised 2♥ bid hit the jackpot when partner expressed strong heart support. However, 6♣ would be far less cold (depends on the heart finesse which would have lost) if partner had held two diamonds and one spade. The third diamond in partner’s hand provided a diamond ruff in dummy for the 12th trick, while both losing hearts can be discarded on the ♠AK. So, while some might chalk this up to blind luck after my bad bid, I’ll take the slam and the +1370.
At the other table, the 2♦ call threw a monkey wrench into the auction. Yes, ‘my 2♥ bid’ could still have been deployed and they likely would have ended up in the slam, but 3NT seems reasonable – you can basically count 9 tricks (2+0+1+6) and if pard only has 5 clubs, they could hold the ♠Q or the ♥A to get to 9. But, 3NT is quite unilateral, losing almost any chance of reaching the club slam. “3NT ends all auctions.” So, our teammates were -660, win 12 IMPs.
This proved to be a bad time to upgrade the South hand. I opened a pedestrian 1♦ which had the effect of rightsiding the NT contract. Having no tenaces, and the dreaded 4-3-3-3 (lack of tricks), South at the other table decided to try opening 1NT. So, at that table, 3NT was reached with South playing, West on lead. Ignoring partner’s double (you can’t lead clubs if you don’t have them), the ♠J was led. With the ♠K over the ♠Q, declarer is toast. Even if you duck spades twice allowing both the ♠J to win and the ♠K to win (so that spades are not established), you still can’t get to 9 tricks. The defense will score at least 2+2+0+1 to defeat the contract. The actual result was -2.
At my table, East was on lead and tried 4th from longest and strongest, the ♣7. This resulted in an overtrick, but even with best defense, no lead can stop 3NT played by the North hand. The hand with queens is often the best declarer in NT. Here South had one queen (protected by the A and K), North had 3 unprotected queens. So, we were +430 and our teammates were +100, win 11 IMPs.
Another 5 over 5 decision – this one proved costly (to not bid and let them play 5♣). At the other table, it went more slowly. Still, 5♣ does not sound like an advanced save! The opponents have decided to pass out 3♥, so they are not going to game. 5♣ sounds like a hand looking for 11 tricks and expecting to find them. As it turned out, both tables found the club lead which is the only lead to hold them to 11 tricks. If 2 diamond ruffs can happen in dummy, the whole diamond suit is good and 12 tricks are there for the taking. At the other table, the extra information about 2 suits (and the opening leader holding Jxxx in the other suit), I think the club lead is indicated. At my table, I found a club lead anyway. Is a club always the best lead? Undoubtedly not, but with values in all suits outside of clubs, I decided to try to make sure to limit the (unknown) potential ruffing value that dummy may have. That lead saved us from -1370. Instead we were +200 while our teammates were +600, win 13 IMPs. It would be interesting to find out what Lead Captain would choose to lead, but so much is subjective about what values and what shape you infer into the opposing hands, I decided to not do the research.
I should add that, in an email, Manfred made an excellent point about his 2NT call. Although it provides information to the defense/opponents, it also provides information to partner. Being void in hearts, Manfred ‘knows’ that there will be a heart raise on his left. Then, if partner bids freely (clubs or diamonds), he can have a reasonable expectation that 6 of the suit chosen by partner will have excellent play. If partner does not come in, he can still bid 5♣ on his on, which he did. And, right or wrong, his sequence bought the contract for 5♣ rather than have the annoying 5♥ interference over 5♣. Should that have worked? I don’t know, but it did.
Our teammates arrived in 3NT and when it was over, they had 11 tricks for +460. At our table, the opening lead (♦Q) tends to show, among other possibilities, something like ♦KQT9, asking partner to unblock the ♦J if they have it. Declarer asked me ‘standard honor leads?’ and I reported yes. He said, after the hand, he briefly considered winning the ♦A and leading towards the ♦J, playing me for the ♦K! But, why would the opening leader throw out an empty ♦Q against slam? Eventually, declarer knew the situation in diamonds. I think a duck at trick 1 might offer slightly better chances to make the hand. It rectifies the count and various positions could then arrive at 12 tricks. But, declarer won the ♦A and proceeded to run 6 heart tricks. On the run of the hearts, East’s first discard showed club values, so declarer believed him, so after running all 6 hearts, he cashed the 3 spades, and led a diamond at trick 11. That left East on lead at trick 12 holding ♣KJ to lead into declarer’s ♣AQ. Nice endplay to make the slam. You can say whatever you want about the bidding (I’ll leave it as ‘it wouldn’t have occurred to me’ – but perhaps it should?). But NS chalked up the slam for +990 to win 11 IMPs on the hand.
As you can see, the first 5 bids were the same at both tables. A more flexible 3rd bid by North might have been 3♠, offering partner a choice of games, tending to show honor doubleton. Here, one player ended the auction with 3NT, the other ended the auction with 4♠. Double dummy, there are 10 tricks in spades against any lead and 11 tricks in NT against any lead. But, 11 tricks in NT is due to the ability to finesse the ♦J and later have it fall. That relies on a very particular lie of the cards, unlikely to be declarer’s main line of attack.
I pictured declarer as possibly 6-4 in the minors and didn’t want to give him a free club finesse. Instead I gave him the heart finesse (via my opening 3♥ lead) and declarer was feeling no pain. He could power out tricks in the heart suit and eventually came to 10 tricks. All leads looked extremely unappealing, but I think the ♣5 is probably the best opening lead (unbid suit) and hope for the best.
At the other table, winning 10 tricks in spades does not rely upon the fall of the ♦J, but I don’t know declarer’s actual line of play. Something good needs to happen in hearts or diamonds. Something really good actually happened in hearts (those long lowly hearts become winners when the ♥Q is onside, doubleton). And the trump 108 coming down certainly doesn’t hurt the cause. But, if you misguess hearts (flying the ♥K the first time hearts are led, hoping to ruff some hearts later), 10 tricks will not be available. In any case, our teammates failed in 4♠ -100 while our opponents scored +630, lose 12 IMPs.
It is rare, at IMPs, to make tight doubles of partscore contracts that turn the partscore into a game. This hand shows why. Yes, they can beat 2♠ and turn +100 into +200 for, possibly, a gain of 3 IMPs. But, if the defense falters, and 8 tricks come home, The loss of 10-13 IMPs can be pretty devastating.
So, at my table, I’ve gotten partner into 2♠X and he needs to find 8 tricks. With a diamond ruff, he can get 5+1+0+2 as long as they don’t obtain a club ruff before trump get drawn. But, the actual play left many opportunities for 6 tricks for the defense – I won’t go into the details, they were pretty amazing (ugly). I’ll just say, when the dust settled, we had our 8 tricks, +670.
Meanwhile, our teammates arrived in 3♥ which I think was more routine bidding. As North, I would always respond 1♥ after partner’s 3rd seat opener was doubled. Maybe the hand belongs to us in hearts? The 3♥ contract was not without its problems, but Bruce played diamonds from the top, dropping the doubleton ♦Q offside and brought home 9 tricks. +140 with our +670, win 13 IMPs.
Penalty doubles can run up huge scores when the opponents overextend their assets, but with no spade stack (and potentially locating the trump ♠Q for declarer), the double here proved disastrous.
Amazingly, this was the very next hand! Just after my preaching about ‘don’t double partscores at IMPS’ this hand comes along. Nick, who made the penalty double of 2♠ on the prior hand, is the one who brought the penalty double into play on this hand. This time he was right. REALLY right.
Double dummy (I’ve looked at this hand a lot!), here are the results (for best possible defense/offense). If we play the hand:
1NT -5, 1400
1♠ -4, 1100, except we were redoubled, 2200
2♦ -2, 500, what I should have bid after the redouble
2♥ -5, 1400, except we ‘only’ went down 4, for -1100
If NS play the hand
3NT, +1, +630
5♣ =, +600
Even though play/defense was not optimal at either table, it was all about the bidding. We were going for a large number once I overcalled (as who wouldn’t). Our teammates managed +130 against our -1100, losing 14 IMPs. Once I overcalled, as long as N-S went for the penalty, we were toast.
There doesn’t seem to be much to the play in 3NT. We have no threat of taking tricks, they have no problem finding tricks. Likewise, in clubs, as long as you play the hand that overcalled for both missing kings, 11 tricks seem straightforward. But, it really doesn’t matter how many tricks are scored in a club partscore. Had they gotten +150 instead of +130, no difference in the IMP score. And, had they bid and made 5♣ we still lose 11 IMPs instead of 14 IMPs. So, once we were going for a number, nothing our teammates did (in terms of getting to game/making game) mattered. We just needed them to get the same number (or better!).
I think this is a great hand for IMP scoring. I’ll still bid 1♠ next time I hold this hand. We might be cold for game in spades and I have to get in the bidding. But, Nick, noticing the vulnerability, went for the jugular and found it.
November 11th, 2016 ~ bobmunson ~ 1 Comment
Election conversation filled the day as we resumed our monthly (at least we try to meet monthly, sometimes twice) 2-table bridge game. Bidding judgement was the primary driver for all the big swings (throwing 9 IMP swings into the double digit category).
You could call this first one an opening lead problem, but why would North lead a diamond? Unless South bid 1♦? Why would South bid 1♦? Beats me. I did not overcall, but Manfred did overcall 1♦ at the other table. He was able to then receive the diamond lead which established the setting trick for the defense. The ♣A and 2 trump tricks will “always” be scored (see below) by the defense, but the diamond losers can easily be discarded on clubs without a diamond lead. At my table, North led the ♥2, won by the ♥A followed by the ♣K. I won my ♣A, but at that point, there is no longer a chance to defeat the contract with the diamond losers discarded on the established clubs. Should I have bid 1♦? It appears so on this hand.
When the diamond was led a trick 1 at the other table, the defense chose to give declarer a “Grosvenor gambit” – an interesting psychological ploy in bridge. For those readers not familiar, I quote from Wikipedia.
In the game of bridge, a Grosvenor gambit or Grosvenor Coup is a psychological play, in which the opponent is purposely given the chance to gain one or more tricks, and often even to make the contract, but to do so he must play for his opponents to have acted illogically or incorrectly.
Thus, the opponent likely ends up blaming himself for not taking advantage of the opportunity presented, even though to do so would have been irrational. The benefit of the Grosvenor gambit is supposed to come on future hands, due to a loss of concentration by the player who was taken in by the gambit.
The gambit was named after Philip Grosvenor, a fictional character in a short story by Frederick B. Turner published in The Bridge World, who first discovered the gambit accidentally, and over time developed its theory and deployed it deliberately. The story depicts Grosvenor as often frustrated by opponents who are too obtuse to fall for his ruse. Grosvenor’s lifeless body is eventually found bludgeoned to death, his fingers broken, shortly after a bridge tournament in which he used his gambit against the wrong opponents.
So, back to the defense – after winning the ♦A at trick 1, declarer played the ♠A and another spade. North, upon winning the ♠K, failed to lead a diamond to cash the setting trick (along with the remaining ♠Q and ♣A). Instead, they played a heart. Declarer could have ducked the heart to the ♥10, and then played more hearts discarding his losing singleton club, losing only 2 trumps and the high diamond. But, to take the heart finesse would likely result in an extra undertrick for -2, -100. Why do that? So declarer rose with a high heart and proceeded to lose his remaining trump loser along with the ♣A and diamond loser for -1, -50. With no diamond lead at trick 1, I was -420, lose 10 IMPs.
This next hand is, again, an opening lead problem, but more so (I think) a bidding problem. As South, I was on lead vs. 3NT by East, the same contract that was played at the other table. In a weak hand with no suit of my own, I would ‘always’ lead a short unbid major, hoping for length in partner’s hand, and perhaps I should have led the unbid major here. But with both length and weakness in spades, it made me think that spades was not the right start. Instead, I went for length/strength in my minor by leading the ♦5 and presented declarer with his 9th crucial game fulfilling trick. At the other table, North chose to open 1♠, providing a roadmap for the opening lead and the defeat of 3NT. With a spade lead, declarer only has 1+0+1+6 tricks available.
Should North open 1S? I think so. It satisfies the rule of 20, it has 3 quick tricks, and it is SPADES. I love bidding spades, the boss suit, because the opponents have to go to NT or else 1 level higher to compete for any contract. But, still, I could have led a spade anyway. Darn. Lose -600 to go with -100 and lose 12 IMPs. I hate starting out the day 22 IMPs in the hole.
Bidding had nothing to do with the swing on this hand. Both tables had the same auction arriving at the same contract. The difference came from the timing of the declarer play.
At my table, upon winning the ♣A at trick 1, declarer immediately set about to draw trump. Trick 2 was ♠3 to the ♠A, and then the ♠5 was led off dummy and RHO played the ♠9. Time to think. If RHO held ♠QJ9x there would be 2 certain trump losers (if the ♠K is played now) to go with 2 red aces, down 1. Is this time for a safety play, insert the ♠10? That certainly seems reasonable, but in this case, the “safety play” cost the contract. Declarer did play the ♠10 and when I (East) won the ♠Q, I knew partner had another spade and at most a singleton heart (2+ hearts with the NT bidder and 10 more hearts in my hand and dummy), so it was a simple matter to cash the ♥A (and ♦A, just to make sure partner didn’t accidentally return a club) and then provide the setting trick with the heart ruff.
At the other table, after winning the ♣A at trick 1, declarer led a heart. Here East rose with the ♥A and gave partner a heart ruff. When a diamond was returned to the ♦A for another heart ruff, West ruffed with the ♠9, allowing declarer to overruff with the ♠10, draw trump and lose just the red aces and a single trump trick. Had West ruffed up with the ♠J, declarer must overruff with the ♠K and then can only succeed by leading the ♠10, smothering the ♠9 if he is to bring home 10 tricks.
Is it best declarer play to play hearts first? Is it best to take the safety play? Beats me, but here the divergent lines of declarer play resulted in +50 and +420 for my side, win 10 IMPs.
The bidding was the same at both tables through the first 6 bids. I felt, with my shape and modest strength, it might be reasonable to respond to the takeout double with 1♥, 2♥, 3♥ or even 4♥ (6-5 come alive). I’m still not sure of the best tactical bid. Had I chosen to respond to the double with 4♥, I’m sure Dan (South at my table) was going to bid 4♠. 4♠X is the par spot for the hand. In any case, both East’s responded to the double with 2♥. The big difference in the auction was when North passed at my table with their second bid, while our teammate (Manfred) supported spades at the 3 level. When Dan heard no spade support, he competed to the 5 level in clubs and then North converted to 5♠. So, their ‘save’ was certainly preferable to defending 4♥, but it would have been better to take the save in 4♠. There was nothing to the play nor defense – the defense will score 2+0+2+0, limiting declarer to 9 tricks, down 2, +300 for our side. Our teammates collected their 3 aces for down 1 vs. 5♥X, but that was all they could get. +100 resulted in 9 IMPs for our side.
Cris has a tough bid over 4♠. Might 5♥ make? Might 4♠ make? That’s why people bid – it creates problems.
I think Dan may have felt he bid so strongly the first time, he better go quietly (over 4♠X) and hope 4♠ goes down. Since I passed the first time, it was easy to bid when partner made the takeout double of 4♠.
The ♠A might not have been the best start for the defense against 5♥, but with the ♣K onside, I was never in danger of failing to score 11 tricks and, when the defense continued with a club lead into my ♣AQ after ruffing a diamond, 12 tricks were available for +480.
The defense has 6 tricks against 4♠ (1+2+1+2) for +500 and a 1 IMP pickup. But the defense started with the ♣A and went downhill from there, scoring only 4 tricks for -1, -100. So we netted +380 to score 9 IMPs.
As usual, there were other interesting hands with either lessor swings or missed opportunities, but it is easier to just focus on the largest swings of the day.
October 6th, 2016 ~ bobmunson ~ 2 Comments
Well, it has been awhile. I’ve been traveling, so it has been over 2 months since we played, but finally played again on Wednesday, October 5th. I can’t complain much (well, a little), but it seems to me that most of the swings involved careless play/errors rather than any brilliant bidding, declarer play or defense. Here we go.
As you can see, the bidding resulted in the same contracts at both tables, but far from the optimum contract. At both tables, as the bidding developed, the optimum contract, would have been 3♦X for +800 for N-S (at first glance, it seems as though declarer can only score 3 long diamonds and 2 aces for -1100, but 6 tricks are available for ‘only’ -800). But declarer must play carefully to avoid -1100. He has to use the power of the ♥9 by leading a small heart away from dummy’s ♥J after winning the ♥A. But, if the opening lead is the ♥K, declarer must first draw at least 1 round of trump. So, there are many paths to down 4, but best play will always score 6 tricks.
Against the actual contracts of 5♣X, the defense ended up less than optimum, a lot less at one table. It is always good to defeat a doubled contract, so starting with the ♠A seems indicated and that was indeed the opening lead at both tables. At my table, Cris continued with the ♥A and noting the fall of the ♥K, inexplicably continued hearts rather than providing a spade ruff for partner to achieve down 2. So, eventually he scored his trump trick for -1, +100.
At the other table, looking at that dummy and knowing partner held a lot of diamonds, East played the ♦J at trick 2, the ♥K was discarded on the second high diamond and from that point, there was only 1 trump trick to lose for 11 tricks. -550 to go with our -100 to lose 12 IMPs. Disappointed.
If E-W don’t get involved in the bidding, the par contract is 3NT, 3 tricks for the defense, 10 for declarer, +430. But when +800 is available, playing for +400 is losing an opportunity to score 9 IMPs. My partner suggested I should bid 3NT over the 3♣ bid. That certainly would have worked a lot better than what eventually happened! But I thought 6-7-8 tricks for us defending a 3 level club or diamond contract might be easier than 9 tricks in a NT contract – my RHO did open 1NT!?!?
Bruce certainly did good to run from 1NTX, since +1100 is pretty easy on defense – the same 10 tricks we would get on offense if we declared 1NT. But, since my double was penalty, a redouble normally asks partner to bid 2♣, after which he can convert to 2♦ to play and stay one level lower (if we opt to defend) and then he would lose only -500!
Our E-W teammates had no opposing bidding and arrived at a mostly unbeatable (as the cards lay) 3NT. Only a trick 1 diamond lead succeeds. I don’t think many would try a diamond if the hand were given to The Bridge World Master Solvers. With no N-S bidding, and all 4 suits ‘bid’, a spade seems rather normal and a diamond rather double dummy. Since the defense started with a spade to the ♠A and another spade, there was no time for declarer to go after club tricks. The heart suit had to be the source of tricks. With limited entries, Declarer is required to assume hearts are 3-3 or else ♥Kx onside. Not a great contract, but 9 tricks were there on the spade lead (2+5+2+0) for a red game of +600. Win a fortunate 11 IMPs.
One flavor of defense gets into a quite complicated end game. If the defense ducks the opening spade lead (leaving declarer with no spades and only 1 spade trick (for now)), and then the defense plays a diamond after winning the ♥K, declarer must win the diamond in his hand and run hearts. On the run of hearts, South is strip squeezed into either giving up the diamond suit, or else creating an end play resulting in declarer scoring 3 diamond tricks.
Meanwhile, in my spade contract, I had to lose 2+2+2+0 for -1, -100, win 11 IMPs. This swing was more like most swings of the past – all based on varied bidding judgment (and lucky lie of the cards to correspond to that bidding). So, as I see it, no real blunders (by the opponents at my table failing to reach 3NT). But this was the only hand of the day where that was the case.
The bidding at our table was short a sweet, arriving at the par contract. We had 4 losers, 9 tricks were easy in 3♣ for +110.
I like Bruce’s responsive double. Sometimes, when you overcall 2♣ you have one 4 card major but are short in the other major, so you are unable to start with a double. The responsive double protects against that possibility with a later retreat to 3♣ if partner fails to offer a major. Bruce effectively issued a speeding ticket to Cris for his ill-advised 3♦ bid (N-S were scheduled to collect +500 and win 9 IMPs), but once Dan bid again over the double, it became N-S that had gotten too high rather than E-W. So, my side received 9 unexpected IMPs from what seemed like a nothing flat hand at our table. Technically 9 IMPs is not a double digit swing, but ‘win 9’ vs. ‘lose 9’ seems like a double digit swing to me.
RE: 6 defensive tricks vs. 3♦. If N-S draw trump, the defense will score 2+2+1+1. If they don’t draw trump, allowing a spade ruff in dummy, the ♦10 can be promoted into the 2nd undertrick (heart overruff).
So, the same 3NT contract to be played at both tables, but reached from different sides. With 25 HCP and stoppers in every suit, it doesn’t seem crazy to reach 3NT. In fact, there appear to be 9 tricks after the double finesse in diamonds: 1+1+3+4. The problem is, there is no way to unblock and enjoy all 4 club tricks. Entries to the West hand are required to take 2 diamond finesses (in order to enjoy 3 tricks there). Meanwhile, the opponents are going about setting up their major suit winners. All-in-all, 3NT is pretty hopeless. Well, that is what it seemed.
When East played the hand, the heart lead set up 4 winners there, so the split honors in diamonds wasn’t enough. The opponents got to 5 tricks quickly before 9 was remotely possible (lose the diamond finesse and cash 4 more heart tricks.
When I (West) played the hand, the ♠2 lead marked the suit as 4-3-3-3. So, before they could take a few in one major and then start taking tricks in the other major, I immediately won trick 1 with the ♠A and took the diamond finesse. The opponents then cashed their 3 spade tricks (North pitching a club on the 13th spade) and continued hearts, forcing me to win the first round with the ♥A and continue diamonds. I was already booked and needed the rest of the tricks. But, with the second diamond finesse working, I was up to 3 diamond tricks and then ‘all’ I needed was to cash 4 clubs. On the 13th diamond, rather than throwing the ♥K, North threw yet another club, allowing my ♣A to overtake the ♣J and then cash the ♣8 at trick 13 for my 9th trick. Declarer’s 2♥ cue bid (suggesting clubs), South’s small heart lead (suggesting heart values), South’s Michael’s bid (suggesting heart values) and declarer’s failure to finesse the ♥Q suggested that he didn’t hold the ♥Q. So, keeping four clubs and discarding the ♥K on the last diamond was needed to defeat the contract. +600 and +100 allowed a lucky 12 IMPs for our side.
Reviewing the dealer’s choice of opening bids – I was surprised by both tables choosing 1♣. I think Cris did it on purpose, but Mark, as he put down my dummy, indicated he made a mistake and did not actually intend to open 1♣. Not only is it normal to open the longer suit (1♦), but often 4-3-3-3 hands with 12 HCP don’t really qualify for an opening bid (I know, ‘everyone’ is opening almost all 10 point hands these days – at least the big club guys are. But no one in our group plays a big club). So, does this specific hand qualify for an opening bid? All 3 jacks are suspect in value and, as the cards lie, all 3 jacks are actually worthless. That gets the hand down to a 4-3-3-3 9 count and even the big club guys don’t open those hands as dealer.
Another way to evaluate the hand is the Kaplan and Rubens Hand Evaluator:
This is an extremely complex method of evaluating a hand that no person could perform at the table. It computes the value to 2 decimal places (perhaps suggesting that a hand of 10.07 points is better than a hand of 10.04?), but it is a valuable tool to see if a hand is worth upgrading Work points (4-3-2-1) to a higher number, or downgrading to a lower number. As you will see if you click the link, K&R evaluates this hand as 10.00. This web site also provides the evaluation of Danny Kleinman which comes out at 9+. Perhaps that is why 3NT is not a wise contract, even though partner’s hand evaluates at 13.1 K&R points (or 13- per Kleinman’s evaluator). Both of these evaluation tools downgrade rather harshly for 4-3-3-3 hands, as they should and as we should at the table.
So that was all for the double digit swings. There were 6 more 6 IMP swings – 2 were white games bid/not bid, while the other 4 were double plus positions on part score hands.
August 4th, 2016 ~ bobmunson ~ 2 Comments
Wow! Only 4 double digit swings today…and I lost them all. On to the details…
On this first one, I should have reasoned that my 3♣ bid showed extras, and if partner won’t move towards slam, then perhaps I shouldn’t either. But I did. The result was a slam that was quite close to 50% on a successful club finesse (a little less than 50% because it is possible the defense can obtain a first round ruff, or a ruff after winning the ♥A, then the slam would be down even with a successful club finesse). And, without the ♣10, the slam is quite poor. But, partner did have the ♣10, so, with no ruffs available, if the ♣K is onside, we win 13 IMPs. It wasn’t. -100 vs. -650 and lose 13 IMPs.
Should I have pushed on? Should partner have accepted? Not with the ♣K offside! But not the worst slam ever.
Undaunted, we faced this hand on the very next board. Again, I felt I had too much to simply sign off in game, so I offered the 3♣ ‘game try.’ When partner accepted, I envisioned a possibly magic hand with ♠Kxxx and ♣Kx. If partner only had ♠Kxx along with the ♣K, I could survive if trumps were 2-2. Or if trumps are 3-1 with a singleton honor, I can still bring it home as long as I guess correctly whether dummy or my hand should win the first trump trick. So, I trotted out ol’ Black and when partner owned up to 1 key card, I was there, bidding 6♠. It turned out the ♦A was his key card, but he held suitable trump honors to give decent play. As I figure it, this is very close to a 75% slam (you can tell me if I have miscalculated). If either black king is onside, I am in pretty good shape. But, the order of which black finesse you try first matters. I think I played it wrong, now that I have given it more thought. Darn, I hate it when that happens.
I led the ♠Q at trick 2 because I had the illusion that trying spades first gave me a ‘two-fer’. If they ducked, I could then try clubs. If they covered, I was very nearly home, and if it lost, I still had a high spade to then try clubs. But, that thinking is flawed because ‘then try clubs’ means that after I cross to the remaining spade honor, trump likely need to be 2-2, and more critically, I not only need my RHO to hold the ♣K, I need it to be exactly ♣Kx or ♣Kxx, since I get only 1 finesse, then I must play the ♣A, then ruff, and the ♣K must fall, or else I still have a club to lose and the slam goes down.
So, back to what to play at trick 2 after the ♦A wins trick 1? I’m convinced (now) that the right answer is to play clubs first. If the club finesse wins, I cash the ♣A and ruff a club. If the ♣K doesn’t fall in 3 rounds, I enter my hand and ruff my last club. Now, I’m in dummy and I can still try the spade finesse for a chance for all 13 tricks. If the club finesse loses, I win the return (whatever it is), cash the ♣A, ruff my remaining losing club (high) and then start taking spade finesses. This fails if either opponent held only 1 club (so that they then they ruff my ♣A) or if RHO has only 2 clubs so that they overruff the third round of clubs. It also fails if my RHO has all four outstanding trumps ♠Kxxx.
Normally, a slam needing 1 of 2 finesses is considered a 75% slam. This certainly falls short of 75% because it needs a bit more than just 1 of 2 finesses. There are other considerations in handling various scenarios. Most importantly, all lines fail when LHO holds both black kings. They did, so the slam, like the prior board, was down. Since it was non-vulnerable, -50 vs. -450, lose 11 IMPs.
Note to self – don’t play so fast when a 22 IMP swing is looming for make/down in a slam. Consider the possible layouts more carefully before embarking on a plan. Here, my play didn’t matter, but finessing in clubs first after winning the ♦A (rather than spades first) handles many more situations of ‘at least 1 black king onside.’
48 IMPs difference on those two slams vs. the opposing players on the other team. Win 13, win 11, total of 24 IMPs, vs. lose 24.
So, here we go again. Another slam (only this time it was bid by our opponents at the other table). Here it was all on the lead (sort of). As you can see, the opening leader holds 12 cards that can be led to defeat the slam. But, they also hold 1 card (♦A) that can be led that allows the slam to come home. They (our teammate) found that 1 card!!!!!
But on the auction that they heard (no key card ask), the opponents are flying blind. They could be off two cashing diamond tricks, but those (potential diamond winners) may only cash if they are led and cashed at tricks 1 and 2. David Bird says to ‘never lead a singleton against a slam’ when you hold an ace, because the chance that you hit partner with an ace is zero, and you may locate a critical card for declarer by leading the singleton. So, here the singleton works, actually any card works but the ♦A! But, I think our teammate made the right lead based on the information available.
We played a mere 4♥ at our table and the singleton spade was led. The beauty of the singleton is that partner can have either ace – the ace of the suit you led or the trump ace – and you get a ruff. So, as it turned out, partner did not hold the spade A, but they did hold the trump A and provided the ruff to hold us to 11 tricks. However, they ruffed one of our losers that could never go away anyway due to partner opposite the singleton leader holding the ♠QJT7. Declarer has no place to dispose of his 3rd spade and no squeeze. So, we were never scoring 12 tricks, but we were only in game anyway.
At the other table, in slam, after the ♦A was led and ruffed, declarer must lose the trump A, so they have to figure a way to dispose of the spade loser. It is standard, for those who lead A from AK, to lead the K from AK at the 5 level or higher (this is because it is more likely that you might lead an unsupported A at that level and it is helpful to partner to know). Anyway, declarer doesn’t know that the opening leader plays that ‘standard’. Who has the ♦K is huge in the planning of the play of the hand. As the cards lie, RHO has the ♦K and the only legitimate play to make the hand is to take a ruffing finesse in diamonds. This is incredibly complicated because declarer only has 1 sure entry to dummy (♠K). The ♥K could be an entry. Or club ruffs could be an entry (yes ruffing your good AKQ of clubs!). It is almost double dummy for declarer to play ♣A at trick 2, ruff a high club at trick 3, and then float the ♦Q, hoping for RHO to hold the ♦K. But 2 entries are required for the ruffing finesse in diamonds. You could try to force the ♥K to be an entry by first leading a high heart from hand (since you have no ‘need’ to ruff a club). If everyone plays low, the ♥K is an entry only by ruffing a club. Then use the ♠K as the entry, later, to discard your spade loser on the established high diamond.
At the table at trick 2, declarer led a heart to the ♥K and ♥A. Now the spotlight switches to East. What do they return after winning the A? It turns out, on the run of hearts and clubs, they will become squeezed in spades and diamonds, so a spade return (at trick 3) is required to break up the squeeze. If declarer wins in dummy, they have lost the late entry to the diamond threat, and if they win in hand, they have lost their entry to the spade threat, so after running clubs and hearts, East will have the luxury of discarding after dummy and the slam goes down.
But wait – declarer can win the spade in dummy, lead the ♦Q, taking a ruffing finesse, and then, if covered, enter dummy with a club ruff and discard his losing spade on the established diamond. But, that line of play is the only way to make the hand at this point as the cards lie. Declarer might take the view that his LHO has the ♦K (so the ruffing finesse is a losing cause) and simply win the spade in his hand, draw trump, run clubs and hope to squeeze LHO at trick 11. If LHO is the only one that can guard spades (he is hoping) and has the ♦K (he is hoping), then his last 2 cards cannot include both the ♦K and a spade guard. Dummy’s ♠Kx will take the last two tricks, 12 tricks in all. But, as the cards lie, that line will fail.
Now back to reality – East did not return a spade at trick 3, so declarer had a double squeeze available (spade transportation intact). He didn’t care who held the ♦K if they also held the stopper in spades, they would be squeezed. And they were. On the run of hearts and clubs, declarer has won 9 out of 10 tricks, losing the trump A, but winning 3 clubs and 6 hearts. Needing the last 3 tricks, Dummy comes down to their last 3 cards ♠K9 ♦Q. Declarer’s last 3 cards are ♠A85 and East…has no answer. If they keep the ♦K, they can only keep 2 spades and declarer’s last spade is good. If they throw the ♦K, then dummy’s ♦Q is good. This is what happened and this is how declarer brought home 12 tricks. Not a good slam (looking at the 2 North-South hands you would have virtually no play). But, +650 vs. -1430, lose another 13 IMPs. Disappointed.
What do you think of the 2♣ opening bid? What do you think of no search for slam after opening 1♥? Certainly the 4♥ rebid shows a very strong suit in a strong hand, so with some hands that will make slam, I might have made a move over 4♥. I almost did with the actual hand!
It is so embarrassing to put in this last hand that I almost didn’t include it. While I lost 37 IMPs on the first 3 reported hands, I wasn’t embarrassed about my actions on any of them (well a little embarrassed about my play in 6♠ when I tried the spade finesse first instead of the club finesse). But this hand shows a classic beginner lesson that you can get wrong every time if you are not paying attention (and I wasn’t paying attention). First, the bidding. Not a thing of beauty at our table. I was 100% certain of playing a 5-2 fit, but fell victim to thinking 10 tricks are easier than 11. I should have been thinking “I can take heart taps ‘forever’ if diamonds are trump, but if spades are trump, heart taps could present a problem.” With that proper thinking, I should pull 4♠ to 5♦ and we would either push the board (if our opponents doubled) or lose 4 IMPs if we took our 11 tricks undoubled (since our teammates had doubled 5♦ making). Anyway, we were playing 4♠ so the objective is to make the bid we are in.
I won the opening lead with the ♣A in dummy, cashed the ♠A and led a spade to the ♠10 (thinking the takeout doubler likely had length in spades). Boy did he. But, no problem. Draw 4 rounds of trump, let him ruff a diamond, then cash a winning heart and a winning club and claim the rest for 10 tricks. What could go wrong? Well, diamonds are likely 3-1 (if they are 4-0, I’m hopeless). If they are 3-1, I need to discard a diamond from dummy while playing spades to get the ♦7 out of the way of my ♦32. Failing to do that will result in round 4 of diamonds being won in dummy (for my 9th trick) with no way back to my hand to score my good 13th diamond. This is not even intermediate play. This is basic beginner bridge that ‘no one’ could get wrong when presented as a problem on a piece of paper, but, at the table, I was careless, failed to throw away a diamond as I played spades, and therefore went down in 4♠ when it was cold on the club lead (yes, they could have started with hearts and I would have had no chance because I am tapped out at trick 2, but they didn’t). That goes back to the bidding, where I said I should have bid 5♦ over 4♠ and then I would not have to be reporting this embarrassing hand. -50 and -550, lose 12 IMPs.
July 25th, 2016 ~ bobmunson ~ No Comments
While I (Bob Munson) am typing this, the content below is actually via cut/paste from an email dialog with Mike Schneider who played in the game on May 18. Mike’s specific point of interest involves the auction on board 21 (this board was not mentioned in the original blog).
Except for the final call by East, the bidding at both tables was identical. At his last turn to bid, Dan advanced to 3NT. Lew passed for his last bid and I played 3♣.
Here are the hands that created that auction:
And here are Mike’s comments.
I thought Board 21 from the May 18th two table bridge IMP match was interesting; Bob invited me to supplement the blog for that game with my discussion of the deal. Unfortunately, my amateurishness was front and center, as I failed to accurately capture all four hands before they were reshuffled to start a new two table IMP match on May 23rd. I did accurately record the East – West hands, however, and as it happens they did all of the bidding on the deal.
Looking at only the East – West hands, one would not be surprised to learn that 3N succeeded, as it did at the table. The cards lay very poorly for a no-trump declarer: ♦KJTx lay behind the declarer’s ♦AQ98, while ♠A9x lay behind dummy’s ♠KQ and ♣Ax lay behind dummy’s ♣KQJx. If the defense does everything right, and if declarer mis-guesses the heart suit, then the 3NT contract may be beaten. The cards lay very nicely for a club declarer: both spades and hearts broke 3-3 while clubs broke 3-2. Dan received a friendly small heart opening lead from ♥Qxx and so did not lose a heart trick playing 3NT, while Bob had to play hearts on his own, guessed wrongly and did lose a heart trick playing 3C: East – West plus 400 vs. East – West plus 130 meant a 7 IMP swing in favor of Joanna and Dan.
I was surprised to learn that Lew passed 3♣ — I would think that the “normal” meaning of West’s sequence is to accept East’s 2NT game invitation, while describing his distribution within one card, most frequently 5=4=1=3. Partner can accept the 3NT invite or hedge by bidding a major suit that might play OK in a seven card fit (you might still back into 3NT if your singleton diamond was say the jack). I suppose that it is even possible that partner might respond 4♣ to your 3♣ call should he have chosen 2NT holding say 1=2=4=6 with only moderate diamonds and honors in the short major suits. And of course, you might be 5=4=0=4 instead of 5=4=1=3 when you bid 3♣ (as in today’s deal), and this possibility complicates the subsequent auction for both partners. On the plus side, both partner’s participate in the inevitable judgement calls that the sequence demands. Perhaps Lew’s passed hand status influenced his decision to pass: his upper limit for 2N would be a bit higher had he been an un-passed hand; also West will open some hands in 4th seat that he might pass as dealer, say ♠K9652, ♥AT74, void, ♣Q874. Even if Lew understood that 3♣ was forcing, he might choose to pass once he decided not to bid 3NT — his hand will not be a particularly useful dummy in a club contract.
All artificial conventions extract a price for their use — this deal is interesting to me because it illustrates the downside of an artificial treatment that I have used for several years, and which I believe is used today by at least some top pairs (My most recent sighting was a Levin – Weinstein National Tournament Report in the Bridge World perhaps 18 months ago.) I play that the sequence 1♠-1N-2H♥-2N-3H♥ or 3♠ suggests that partner pass, and that 1♠-1N-2H♥-2N-3♣ (artificial) -3♦ (forced) -3H♥ or 3♠ is the game forcing version of a 6=4 or 5=5 major suit opening bid. If I want to show game acceptance with short diamonds (as in the example hand), I use the auction 1♠-1N-2H♥-2N-3♣ (artificial) -3♦ (forced) -3N (ostensibly 5=4=1=3). If instead, I want to bid 3NT showing short clubs on the way, the sequence would be 1♠-1N-2H♥-2N-3♦-3N. Obviously, this agreement is hardly ideal for the cards that were dealt on May 18th, although I may well have survived whatever choice I decided to make.
Now Bob writing again – since this bridge game that we are blogging about is an individual movement with many partnerships playing as little as 4 hands 2-3 times in the past 5-10 years, specialized systemic agreements such as this are not something you review with partner as you sit down to play your next 4 hands.
June 21st, 2016 ~ bobmunson ~ 1 Comment
Three big swings on Monday – twice a game made at one table, down at the other; once a slam made. Details to follow.
Looking first at the bidding at the other table, Does East have a vulnerable weak jump overcall of 2♥? It seems that North must have a reopening 2NT bid over 2♥. With 18 HCP and 5 quick tricks, there must be something to bid. What South does next (assuming North reopens with 2NT showing 18-19) is anyone’s guess. 5♣ seems reasonable. 6♣ seems a real stretch. 3NT might be bid, but very doubtful 3NT would make (double dummy, 3NT by North is down on any lead but the ♥Q). If South ventures forth with an immediate 3♣ over 2♥, then it seems North-South should reach game or slam in clubs. 3♣ is a bit of a stretch, but South at the other table judged to make a 2/1 game forcing 2♣ bid over 1♦. Our teammates defending 2♥ undoubled was a disappointment to us, but the reality is, what they did mattered at most 1-3 IMPs. The problem was me – my lead. My lead was a big disappointment as my lead allowed 6♣ to make!!!!
Beating 3NT is not that obvious/easy though. A spade lead (double dummy down 2) is possible, but not likely. On a heart lead, declarer must win the ♥A (not win cheaply in dummy), saving the ♥J for a later entry. It is crucial that West never ‘signal’ with a spade card – it is West’s length in spades that allows 3NT to be defeated. Declarer, after winning the ♥A, cashes the ♣A and leads a small heart towards the ♥J. Now, East must win the ♥Q and play a high spade. Any other continuation/line of defense brings in the club suit for declarer without 5 tricks for the defense. But, if East does play a high spade after winning the ♥Q, the defense will score 3+1+0+1 and defeat 3NT.
Enough on the 3NT that didn’t happen. The South hand seems more oriented to suit play. But all of this discussion about what didn’t happen at our teammate’s table really doesn’t matter. If they bid 3NT and make it, or bid 5♣ and make it, we still lose 13 IMPs because of my lead against 6♣! If they manage to arrive in 2♥X and score +800, we still lose 11 IMPs!
So, what about my lead? I thought the auction sounded like spades were being ruffed in dummy. And, I thought a club lead would reduce the spade ruffs. When I led a trump, declarer had 2 excess trumps (besides the 5 needed to draw mine) – those two trump were used to ruff diamonds good and 12 tricks came home. -1370 vs. +300, lose 14 IMPs. That was a 23 IMP swing on the lead (win 9 or lose 14), which is often the case with vulnerable slams. What would Lead Captain or David Bird lead? It is hard to say. The problem with that analysis is that you have to make assumptions about what the bidding has indicated what the North-South holdings are in the various suits.
The Bridge World magazine has a monthly problem H – what do you lead? Often people answering the problem construct a hand where their lead successfully beats the contract, while any other lead allows it to make. So, that got me thinking more about my lead – something that I should have done at the table!! For a trump lead to be necessary, one of 2 conditions must be met:
- Declarer needs to ruff 1 spade in dummy to reach 12 tricks, but a trump lead prevents that one ruff
- Declarer needs to ruff 2 spades in dummy for 12 tricks, but a trump lead holds him to 1 ruff, 11 tricks.
Example of 1 ruff needed:
With this construction, a spade lead allows 12 tricks (2+2+1+7) because dummy can ruff spades after a spade lead. A trump lead kills the ruff and declarer will come up a trick short. But, this is the only reasonable construction I could create where a trump lead is the winning lead, and it doesn’t come close to fitting the auction – would Dan really bid both 4♣ over 3♠ and 6♣ over 5♣? Not a chance.
Example of 2 ruffs needed:
Example 2 is even worse. Yes, a trump lead defeats the contract, but, again, the hands do not fit the bidding; and, a spade lead also defeats the contract. I’ve spent enough time on this to realize one thing: next time spend more time at the table instead of in the post mortem. This was not that hard to realize that a trump lead cannot be the necessary lead to defeat the contract.
One final closing note – the players involved thought that 6♣ was cold, even on a spade lead, since declarer can win the ♠A, cross to the ♣A, cash the ♦AK throwing their spade losers away, and ruff a diamond to enter their hand to continue drawing trump. The catch is, when I win my ♣K, I simply play a spade, forcing a ruff by declarer. So it turns out the opening lead must be a spade in order to tap declarer in spades (much later). That spade ruff, plus drawing my trumps, exhausts declarers trumps with none left to ruff diamonds good. Down 1.
We had the exact same bidding, contract, and lead at both tables. It was all over at trick 1. At my table, declarer feared a club shift, which could knock out the crucial entry to diamonds, so he decided to play (me) the opening bidder to hold the ♠A. So, at trick 1, he won the ♥A, led a spade to the ♠J and ♠A. The heart continuation allowed me to cash out for down 2.
At the other table, declarer couldn’t see the harm in ducking the heart (standard play holding AJx in a suit unless a shift will be fatal). Here, declarer felt that if the defense shifted to clubs, he would duck and play for split club honors, and reach 10 tricks via 0+1+6+3. After winning the opening lead, the defense had no answer. Any continuation by South left declarer in the driver’s seat. After ducking trick 1, declarer eventually took 11 of the remaining 12 tricks. +660 and +200 win 13 IMPs.
Find the minor suit queens. Our teammates, with no opposing bidding, found them both and brought home 5♣. North, at my table, won the spade lead and led trump, watching the ♦Q show up on the way to the ♦A. Declarer then led spades, needing to ruff their last spade in dummy before drawing trump. After cashing 2 spades, I led a heart. Declarer ruffed, and knew that drawing trump would mean he had no more trump left, so decided to try clubs immediately before drawing the rest of the trump. He played partner for the ♣Q. and then I gave partner a club ruff for down 2. Declarer found out I had exactly 4 spades and 1 diamond. That meant I most likely held 6 hearts and 2 clubs, or 5 hearts and 3 clubs. Of course that would still be the case if I had not doubled. Anyway, for whatever reason, they lost to my ♣Q for +100 to go with +400, win 11 IMPs.
June 18th, 2016 ~ bobmunson ~ 3 Comments
Lots of swings on Wednesday, but only 4 that cleared the hurdle of double digit swings for including in the blog. All four swings were 11 IMPs (and, for once, all in my favor!).
When my teammates stopped in game, 3 non-vulnerable slams of varying soundness were reached, all failing. One slam (less than 50% to begin with), could have been made, but declarer didn’t find the winning line. Another would have been 90+% in the right strain, but NT didn’t fare so well. The 3rd slam was way less than 50%. The other swing was a red game.
Well, the swing on this one was all in the bidding. East has an easy obvious 1♠ opening bid. South can choose to enter the auction or not. One did, one didn’t. At my table, when partner ventured forth with 2♦ and then rebid 3♦, I felt compelled to try the red game. +150 when vulnerable is always disappointing. East recognized that this was not the time for ‘fourth from longest and strongest’. With clubs our weak suit, the ♣K opening lead would have given me pause, but when the ♣K is ducked and East cannot continue, there is no problem for declarer. On the actual ♥J lead (sneak attack in an unbid side suit), I played the ♥Q and then played diamonds from the top. On the run of diamonds, East is forced to eventually allow me to score my ♠10 for 11 tricks (2+2+6+1). No lead can beat 3NT, but the ♠K would have likely given me the biggest problem, knocking out my easy/sure entry to diamond tricks. When the 1♠ contract failed by 3 tricks, our teammates were -150 to go with our +660 for 11 IMPs.
I don’t think the bidding receives any style points. Yet, East had a suitable fitting minimum and it turns out a makable slam was reached. When Mark led his singleton ♣Q, Mike took a considerable amount of time considering his continuation – how to tackle the hand after winning in dummy? He must lose the ♥A, so he cannot lose any other trick. But, as long as trump are 3-2, it appears he is looking at 12 pretty certain tricks. 2+4+2+4 Play 2 rounds of spades, pitching his club, to avoid the threat of the pending club ruff, draw trump and claim, ruffing a club high if his RHO rises with the ♥A when hearts are led.
But, appearances can be deceiving. Assuming trumps split 3-2, WHO has 3, who has 2? Missing the ♥1098 makes a bit of a problem. If North ducks the ♥A when trumps are first led from dummy, declarer must win and continue hearts. Declarer must assume that RHO held exactly ♥A8 doubleton and not play the ♥J on the second lead of trumps (letting the ace catch air). If he does play the ♥J, “forcing” the ♥A, a club continuation promotes South’s trump to the setting trick.
Of course, if RHO had held ♥A98, then declarer actually has no play/guess when he leads towards the ♥J. Since declarer’s black cards are gone, the ♥J is the only possible entry to the club winners. Declarer can play the ♥J on the second lead of hearts to force the ♥A (so he doesn’t lose to the lowly ♥9), and that will handle heart losers, but all RHO needs to do, in that case, is win the heart and return a heart. Dummy is dead and declarer is left with 2-3 diamond losers. If RHO errs (when holding ♥A98) and returns a club for partner to ruff, knowing partner doesn’t have a trump left, dummy’s clubs are revived and the slam comes home!
All of this guessing (who has 3, who has 2) eventually led declarer to decide to hope that LHO held the ♥A or that the ♣Q was not a singleton. That hope didn’t happen as I rose with the ♥A and gave partner a club ruff for -1.
I think there is limited downside to cashing the ♠AK (pitching the club) prior to leading trump. If, as you hoped, LHO holds the ♥A, pretty much the only damaging return after LHO wins the ♥A would be a spade uppercut (if LHO held 6 spades, RHO 2, which they did). That is, on a different layout, if South had held ♥A109 and I (North) held ♥85, when South wins the ♥A on the first trump lead, a spade continuation allows me to ruff with my ♥8, forcing the other high trump from declarer and turning the remaining ♥109 in the South hand into a power trump trick (with only the ♥J7 remaining in dummy opposite ♥432 to draw trump).
Perhaps this ‘what if?’ has gone on too long, but there is one more interesting way to beat the hand if declarer does lead spades at tricks two and three, taking the club discard. If LHO (South) had held ♥A109, rather than go for the trump promotion, South could simply duck hearts twice. If South thinks declarer will not play the ♥J on the second trump lead (‘needing’ the ♥A to be doubleton with North), by ducking the second time, South can win that trick and still have the ♥A for the setting trick.
When the ♣Q made its appearance at trick 1, it gave me the impression that an excellent slam was reached because your problem of how to find 4 club tricks is immediately solved. The comments above show that all problems are not solved. Spots matter. Here, if East-West held all of the heart spots, it would have taken very foul distribution (4-1 trumps or some unlikely ruff at trick 1 due to a void in the North hand) to defeat the slam. It is too hard for me to figure out, given the actual 2 hands, what is the best line of play and the % of success for that line. But, without the ♣Q lead, this slam requires things too friendly and too many guesses for the slam to reach the desired 50+% likelihood of success.
Since our teammates did not bid slam, we scored +50 and +450 for 11 IMPs. Lucky declarer didn’t guess the line of play to make it, but at the end of the day, glad our teammates did not bid it.
As you can see, again, bidding is the difference. With the opponents passing and the first 6 bids identical at both tables, I decided I had nothing extra and passed. Mike decided he had the right cards and ventured into the diamond slam.
Even if diamonds are 3-3, there are still spade/heart losers that must be dealt with, but the power of the club suit deals with both of those losers quite nicely. Or the ♦J10 could have been doubleton. When there was a diamond to lose and the ♣Q was offside, no miracle occurred and the slam failed. Certainly not the worst slam ever bid, but not a contract you want to be in looking at both hands.
Meanwhile, in 3NT, I ducked the spade lead, winning the ♠J. After cashing the ♦K, I crossed to the ♥A and played diamonds. Upon winning the 4th round of diamonds, they cashed the ♥K and the rest were mine. +460 and +50 for 11 IMPs.
Here, the auctions diverged early. With 2NT forcing to game (due to the prior 2/1 2♦ bid), Dan decided to rebid a natural 2NT and then after being raised to 3NT, he invited slam with an invitational 4NT and Mike, holding a minimum, declined the invite. At my table, Art decided to rebid 2♠ and see where the auction might go. Eventually they powered into the reasonable slam (6NT), again cold if a key suit (this time spades) broke 3-3 (or ♠J10 doubleton with LHO or ♠Hx doubleton with RHO with a successful restricted choice play). But, you hope for a few more arrows in the quiver than a 3-3 break. You have 11 top tricks.
Here, the only other arrow in the quiver (for 12 tricks) is the ♣A onside. If the ♣A is over your ♣K, you will never see a club lead. But, had the ♣A been onside, a club might have been led and life is good. However, without an opening club lead, declarer is left to lead clubs himself – doomed to go down many on this hand as the cards lay if he were to try this.
I led the ♥9. That lead seemed safest, to me, although on a different layout it might pickle partner’s ♥Q. In 6NT, declarer, trying a club up to the ♣K, hoping for the ♣A onside risked going down many, so eventually declarer cashed out winners, hoping for 3-3 spades, led a club up at trick 12, and lost the last 2 tricks.
Of course, looking at all four hands, the slam is cold via leading up to the ♠AK9 twice, finessing against the ♠J10 onside. Not the percentage way to play the suit, but successful on this layout.
The power of the totally solid diamond suit, provides a source of tricks for 6NT (half way there), but also allows for some successful ruffing without fear of overruff in a diamond contract. Here 6♦ is cold with the ♣K protected on opening lead, and the 4-2 heart split allowing hearts to be ruffed good to score the 12th trick without ever leading up to the ♣K. In fact, you can draw trump first, since you have 3 solid entries to dummy in order to ruff hearts twice and then enjoy the 13th heart. THOSE are the kinds of extra arrows in the quiver that make for excellent slams.
So, the imaginative 2♠ bid that allowed declarer to ‘find’ the ♠K (or else 3 aces) turned out quite effective…until 6NT was reached.
At the other table, the ♣2 opening lead allowed 12 tricks to score, but they were trying to defeat 4NT. So, our +50 with our teammates +490 scored yet another 11 IMPs.
May 25th, 2016 ~ bobmunson ~ 1 Comment
Well, a mostly different group played again Monday and…no whining from me for once. I can’t complain, most of the swings went my way, not from any brilliance, but often a missed opportunity by the opponents. But, the theme of “bid the games and let them try to beat you” that has been mentioned before was often the theme of the day.
Wow. We thought we lost 11 IMPs when we failed to enter the auction. We were cold for 11 tricks in 5 of either major (+650 with a simple heart finesse (that fails) to make a slam). Meanwhile we were letting them play a quiet 5♦ with no double, down 2 for +100!!?! Instead of losing 11 IMPs, we were stunned to win 12 IMPs when our opponents found the unfortunate opening lead of the ♥A, allowing our teammates to score up +510 in their 4♣X contract as one spade loser went away on the ♥K, losing just a spade and 2 diamonds.
East has a difficult opening call. Pass? 1♥? 1♠? 2♥? All bids, including pass, seemed (to me) flawed, but I think 2♥ is the worst of the lot and I don’t know what I would have chosen at the table. One favorite partner called this an ‘easy 1♠ bid’ – clearly below reverse values (so not 1♥), but it clears the hurdle for an opening bid. It satisfies the ‘rule of 20’ (11 (2 long suits) +9 HCP), but the hand does not hold 2 quick tricks and ♦Q5 is a soft 2 point contribution to your meager total of 9. As dealer, both players chose pass and, talking with them after the hand, they both thought ‘well, I can just enter the auction later’. One did enter later, the other didn’t, but neither found their way to 4 or 5 of a major suit. Should West come in over the opening bid of 4♣? West holds nice HCP, but sterile distribution and partner is a passed hand, so both Wests passed over the 4♣ opening bid.
Partner must have shape for the reopening double at this level after an initial pass. Should West bid over 4♣X? Or ‘pass and take the plus score?’ On this hand, bidding was clearly right, and perhaps that is the percentage action whenever this strange auction might occur again. If you do bid over partner’s reopening double, I’m sure the opponents will bid 5♣(perhaps North should bid 5♣ immediately, preventing the balance over 4♣?). Bidding 5♥ will be very hard (over 5♣). It looks like the answer is that East needs to open 1♠. If you pass 4♣X, then you have to find the lead! That makes another reason to bid over the reopening double. I thought this was a tough hand, lucky result. Win 12 IMPs
East-West hold modest HCP with no 5 card suit and a bunch of 4-3 fits, but the spots (10s, 9s, 8s) allow the hand to play quite well in NT. As you see, one tried 2NT, the other 3NT.
Start with the bidding – does South have a 2♦ opening bid in first seat? Probably not, with such a terrible suit, but I did open 2♦. If South does open 2♦, should West penalty pass partner’s reopening double? Probably. Best defense vs. best offense will net +500 and it is often good, in IMP scoring, to take the plus score, even if you don’t get optimal defense. However, West, responding to the reopening double, bid 2NT (often treated as lebensohl over a weak 2, and specifically over a weak 2♦, 2NT would often indicate limited values (less than 8 HCP) and a desire to play 3♣. Here, 2NT was bid as natural, not lebensohl. East, deciding partner can’t be THAT good or they would have just passed the double, decided to pass 2NT.
At the other table, when South did not open 2♦, North opened 1♥ in third seat. East has an awkward hand. It is certainly a sound opening bid, but far from an ideal takeout double with a singleton in an unbid suit. Here East decided to double anyway and South, with a big misfit for hearts decided to stick in a 2♦ bid (after a double, this bid is weak, but usually a stronger suit – however failure to open 2♦ suggests that this 2♦ bid is likely flawed in some way). Now, with the ♦Q as a bonus card to help with the diamond suit in NT, East raised 2NT to 3NT. Both tables got the opening lead of the ♦J, covered by the ♦Q and ♦A. From here, double dummy and single dummy play diverged quite significantly. At double dummy, a spade or heart lead at trick 2 is required to hold declarer to 10 tricks. A club or diamond at trick 2 allows 11 tricks.
Against 2NT, I chose to continue diamonds at trick 2 rather than break another suit. Declarer made the optimal play of the ♦8, throwing a club from dummy. How should declarer continue? If they cash their 2 diamond winners, not only is dummy squeezed out of possible length tricks, but they would be setting up 2 diamond winners for South in case South held one of the black kings. At this point declarer is cold for 11 tricks, but only if they are seeing all the cards. To score 11 tricks they must take only two heart finesses and then lead a spade honor and force North to cover. Then a spade to the ♠8 will bring in 3+4+3+1 for 11 tricks, since, at this point, transportation is available and they can untangle their tricks. But, this requires knowing that South holds exactly ♠9xx. Still, continuing a third round of hearts (after winning two finesses) is fraught with danger. Our declarer did take the third heart finesse and then cashed the ♥A, throwing a club. Next, a spade to the ♠10, losing to the ♠J. Now, when North cashed the ♥K declarer is seriously squeezed. At the table, they threw away another club. Now if North exits with the ♣K, it squashes declarer’s now singleton ♣Q, removing the vital entry to the diamond winners. However, partner guessed to get out a small club which rode around to the ♣Q so declarer achieved the needed entry to cash diamonds and score 10 tricks, -180 for our score. At the table, we thought we actually would defeat 2NT had partner found the ♣K exit (no entries to the diamonds), but as long as declarer throws away their diamond winners, the power of the ♠Q8 over the ♠9 still allows declarer, in the end, to reach 8 tricks since the defense has no long suit to cash. Saving all my black cards, I had thrown all of my remaining diamonds on the 4 rounds of hearts when I could not follow suit to the heart leads.
At the other table, our teammate, in 3NT had the opportunity for a white game swing. After winning the ♦A at trick 1, the defense tried clubs, the other continuation that allows declarer to score 11 tricks (leading spades or hearts to ‘hold’ declarer to 10 tricks is hardly obvious at the table, but both club and diamond continuations by the defense at trick 2 allow 11 tricks when subsequent play by declarer follows the best line). The ♣4 was covered by the ♣10, ♣K and ♣A. Now, if the heart finesse is onside (North did open 1♥), declarer is up to a minimum of 9 tricks (1+4+2+2) with other chances for 1 or 2 overtricks. However, declarer didn’t count their tricks and lost their way in the play of the hand to finish with 8 tricks. -50 to go with our -180, lose 6 IMPs. If declarer brought home 3NT, we would win 6 IMPs, so I counted this as a double digit swing (win 6, lose 6), since the bidding, the play, the defense and the double dummy opportunities were interesting (to me, anyway).
You could say I got what I deserved here (losing IMPs after opening a very poor 2♦), but, with the friendly lie of the cards, we kept them out of a decent 3NT. When faced with a borderline decision to preempt, or not, I will usually choose to preempt – often it leaves the bad guys with a problem.
I don’t exactly have reverse values in terms of traditional high card points (on 4=5 hands I want 16 good working points as my bare minimum), but I sure like to open my 6 card suit when possible, so if the auction stayed low, I intended to reverse into 2♥. One regular partner suggests this is still worth a reverse without the ♣K. I’m not sure I would go that far, but clearly the minimum to reverse with 5=6 is lower than with 4=5. I did a quick search on Google to see what could be found about the minimum values for a reverse. The Bridge World opinion polls talk about it a lot, but only in the context of ‘a minimum hand too weak to reverse’ but I didn’t find any attempt to define/judge ‘minimum’. Everyone judges their own, and that is part of what makes bridge such a great game.
The auction did not stay low. So, partner, who thought they had a NT bid in reserve (for their next bid) when they overbid slightly with 2♣, had to deal with my ‘reverse’ at the 4 level. They passed, and there we were in 4♥, needing to find 10 tricks.
The opening lead was the ♠10, covered by the ♠K, ♠A and ruffed. A glance at dummy shows we have 2 sure trump losers and the ♣A, so no other tricks can be lost. At trick 2, I had a choice (either works) of establishing clubs for diamond discards, or establish diamonds and making my hand good. There are entry considerations (how can I get to the good clubs?), but I thought trying for 3-2 clubs seemed better than 3-3 diamonds. At trick 2 I led the ♣K which was won by the ♣A. In the post mortem, we thought possibly ducking the ♣A would help cut my transportation, but as the cards lay, I can actually score 11 tricks if the ♣K is allowed to hold! Also, in the post mortem, we thought continuing clubs after winning the ♣A, severing my link to dummy’s long strong suit, might give me trouble. But double dummy analysis shows there is no defense able to beat best offense. The actual defense, after winning the ♣A was another spade, which I ruffed, saving my ♠Q as a possible stepping stone entry (a suit the opponents lead for you) and/or a late stopper. I then led a small heart which the defense won and led yet another spade with the ♠Q winning. But, I was in control. I could simply cash the ♥A (trump breaking 3-2, leaving 1 trump outstanding) and lead my remaining club to dummy. The opponent with the high trump could ruff clubs whenever they wanted, but dummy’s heart could provide the entry and dummy’s clubs would provide all the necessary tricks to fulfill the contract.
What if the defense continued clubs after winning the ♣A, removing my last club? At this point, 3 tricks have been played, 10 cards remain. Amazing (to me), I can lead any of dummy’s ten remaining cards and still make the contract. If I lead a high club, the long trump hand must ruff and I remain in control of the hand. If they don’t ruff, I can go about setting up diamonds (via the ruffing finesse). Since RHO had preempted with 3♠, I thought they likely had little outside of trump, and since and LHO overcalled 1♠ with no top spades, I felt it was likely they held the ♦K and they did. So, I had started with plan A (set up clubs), but I can revert to plan B (set up diamonds) if they lead clubs at trick 3 and remove my remaining club.
This is a very common trump situation where you start the suit by losing 1, then cash the trump A, hoping for a 3-2 split and just leave the remaining high trump outstanding. A similar, but more difficult holding of Axxx opposite xxx requires you to lead low trumps twice prior to cashing the A, hoping for 3-3, or, if they are 4-2, just leave the remaining high trump outstanding and go about your business taking other (hopefully) good tricks. Beginning bridge players are taught to draw trumps, and sometimes that is best. But I think the vast majority of hands require handling trump differently – there is too much important work to do, either with dummy’s trump or your own, to spend them drawing all of the opponents trumps.
What did declarer do to go down at the other table? Sorry, I don’t know. But +420 and +50, 10 IMPs.
I’m not a very big fan of weak jump shifts, but I must admit that is what my card says (when in competition). But, you need the right hand. And a weak hand. I have seen a lot of games missed due to a ‘weak’ jump shift that was too strong, partner passed, but game was available. On this board, the ‘weak’ North hand proved to be too strong when the contract ended in 3♥, while at my table, my partner, hearing me rebid the suit where he was void, decided it was best to mention his hearts one more time and I raised him to game with my partial fit (singleton in their suit, doubleton ace in partner’s suit). Unfortunately, I don’t have the auction for this board at the other table, but someone said something about a weak jump shift so I assumed that was the cause for the missed game.
There is no defense against 4♥. Even though declarer has 4 diamond losers remaining after losing the opening diamond lead, there are opportunities for discarding those losers on clubs and spades and even ruffing one. At our table, the actual defense started with the lead of the ♦Q, overtaken by the ♦K to shift to the ♠2. East won the ♠A and led a diamond to tap dummy. Declarer cash the ♥A, ♣A, ♣K and when the ♣Q fell, continued with the ♣J, ruffed and overruffed. Then cashed the ♥K, leaving one high trump outstanding and played spades, pitching the remaining diamond. So, there were only the pointed suit aces and the high trump to lose, 10 tricks, +620. The other table managed 11 tricks, but since they only reached 3, our teammates were -200, win 9.
Well, the North hand, what there is of it, is prime (ace, kings) with 2 quick tricks and satisfying the rule of 20. So, terrible as it is, I am certain I would have opened 1♠. Once opened, how can South stay out of this terrible slam? South has a fit, a source of tricks, controls, HCP, what more could you want? Well, you could check on key cards. Missing 2, the slam would normally not be bid. The resulting slam has very little chance of success. While you could alter your play, double dummy, to handle a few rare distributions, but the basic chance (after losing the ♣A on the opening lead) is to find the ♠K onside. But, that is not nearly enough. Missing the ♠10, declarer has to find a doubleton ♠10, either ♠K10 doubleton onside, or ♠10x doubleton offside. Or, there is the additional chance of Any Kx onside and the defender mistakenly fails to cover. If you guess that correctly, your chances improve somewhat. Unless there is something I am missing, if I have done the math right, the legitimate chance of success is barely above 10%. Not the sort of slam you want to be in. Unless, this is one of those 10% hands. And it was. So, thanks to my teammates, we won a very lucky 11 IMPs on this one.
Once South balanced, we were losing IMPs. I (East) needed to pass 2♥ and they would have played it there, for -170 for us. Instead, I bid, and that propelled them into the cold vulnerable game (-620) while our opponents at the other table were able to play 1♠ and make it, -80 for our teammates and lose 12 IMPs.
I must confess balancing 1NT would not have occurred to me, but it was sure the winning action on this hand. It seems as though a double is an alternative balancing action (vs. 1NT). It is minimum (I think of 10 HCP as the bare minimum bottom of a double), and it lacks 4 hearts, but you do have strong 3 card heart support which proved to be the key to making the game. I think I would have doubled.
Back to my initial third seat action (pass) – I have seen top players in world championships respond 1NT with hands like mine, more as a blocking bid against the opponents than any kind of constructive bid for partner. That hasn’t been my style, but it looks like I better start looking at that more closely. Thoughts?
This hand was not a double digit swing, but it could have been if I guessed right at the table. Preempts are tough. Since we can make 5♦, 6♣X down 1 is the par contract. If I had doubled 6♣ instead of bidding on, we score +200 to go with +500 and win 12 IMPs. But, I was drawn in to the fantasy of making our slam. Since there are 2 kings offside, we must lose them both, and, in a heart contract, an opening diamond lead allows 1 more trick for the defense by ruffing, and still scoring the ♦K and ♠K later. High level decisions are tough. Are they making 6♣? Are we making our slam? Are both/neither making? That is why preempts are so popular. So, only 10 tricks at both tables in 6♥, but with the double by our teammates, we won 7 IMPs.
Same auction, same contract, same lead at both tables. Assuming the ♥K is onside and ♦A is also onside, I have 2+2+1+4 if I can find the ♣Q (2-way finesse). This may seem like wishful thinking, but I have to start somewhere with assumptions about how I can come to 9 tricks. There is also the problem in spades – while I have the power (with a lead into my spade holding) to force 2 spade tricks, they may come rather slowly. I decided, at trick 1, to fly the ♠Q and see if I can get my spade tricks quickly. The ♠Q won. Because it looked like LHO might have 4 spades and RHO 2 spades, I decided to play RHO for the ♣Q (I understand – I still I need them to be 3-3 if I am going to get 4 tricks in clubs). I can lead a club to the ♣K and run the ♣10 (winning play), but I led a club to the ♣10 which lost to the ♣Q. Now, after some thought, LHO laid down the ♠K, dropping his partner’s ♠J and making my remaining ♠97 opposite the ♠8 a power trick by forcing out the ♠10. When LHO won the ♠10, they led a diamond to the ♦A, and RHO returned a club. So, now all I had to do was lead the ♥Q. When LHO covered with the ♥K, I was home. My 3rd spade trick allowed me to total 9 tricks for +400.
At the other table, they did not fly the ♠Q at trick 1, so the ♠J forced the ♠A. Still, since a diamond wasn’t led early, the same 9 tricks I was counting on (find the ♣Q) were available to this declarer. Lead up to the ♠Q to score 2+2+1+4 (again, assuming the ♥K is onside and ♦A is onside). I don’t know what line of play was chosen, but our teammates were able to defeat this contract (possibly due to misguessing clubs) for +50. Win 10 IMPs.
Does North, as dealer, have an opening bid? I think so – I love to open spades and even though the rest of the hand is quite weak, there is distribution as well as some defensive potential. At one table, North opened and they quickly got to an unbeatable game (with both red aces onside, declarer just needs to score the red kings, the ♣ A, and get a heart ruff in dummy, eventually establishing his last heart. Declarer can choose to fully draw trumps and lose a second heart, or partially draw trumps and lose an overruff in hearts. Either way, 10 tricks.
At the other table, the auction was more subdued after North didn’t open 1♠. I’m not positive about the auction – I’m still working to find someone who recalls for sure what happened, I know the final contract was 3♦. So, lose -420 and -130, lose 11 IMPs.
I need more BBO games (to blog) because then I have a complete record of every bid, every lead, every declarer and defensive line of play chosen. Here, it is often difficult for me to get an accurate record of the bidding, let alone the declarer play and defense, reducing the quality of the comparative aspects and learning process. Sorry readers.
This hand was particularly difficult to capture for the blog (end of a long day?) – When I inquired, I got 3 different auctions advising me of what auction had occurred at the other table, but I finally got agreement regarding what the auction was. It is the auction I published above (the second auction). For the first auction, I was THERE, and I still don’t recall the auction! Embarrassing! Darn!! The first 4 bids were definitely what happened at my table, I just don’t know for sure after that. But, what I found especially interesting was the general form of the auction: opening 1 bid not Vul; Next hand, Vul, makes a takeout double; Partner of opening bidder redoubles; and…trouble is brewing. The first of these auctions was reported 2 blogs back: +1400 was available (vs. 400 for 3NT), and 1100 was scored at one table. The next 2 times this happened, nothing remarkable happened. Here, 2♣X could achieve +800 if EW sit for it, clearly they do better if they know to run to diamonds. Diamonds can score 7 tricks (Best offense/best defense), but somehow, at the other table, the diamond contract scored 10 tricks!!! Go figure. The point of mentioning this (Vul opponents entering an auction against non-Vul) is two-fold. 1 – Very large penalties might be available, have your antennae up to seek out these opportunities. 2 – Very large losses might be looming, have your scramble agreements/structures well understood to minimize your losses. As West, would you run from 2♣X? As East, would you run if West passes?
This hand is the classic – bid a red game and let them try to beat you. I like my partner’s choice of a game transfer instead of the invitational transfer. Of course with 2 tricks to lose in both black suits, the game has no chance, double dummy. But with empty aces over the NT bidder, how can South possibly lead (or underlead!) one of his black aces. Even if that happened. The defense would have to know to cash exactly 2 in one suit and then switch to the other black suit, or 10 tricks will be scored. At the part score table, a diamond was led to the Q allowing 2 black discards and making 11 tricks for +200. At my table, a trump was led, so I drew trump ending in dummy, finessed the diamond, got 1 discard and scored 10 tricks. +620. Win 9 lucky IMPs.
Here, I was playing with a regular partner so we could use our regular convention over NT – Modified Hamilton. Partner made a trusting pass (could have bid 2♥ as a transfer to 2♠ but you can see that would not have worked out as well).
There are various ways to achieve a 4 trick set for the defense and even possible to get down 5 if the defense guesses well and declarer does not. I started with the ♦A (attitude) and partner played the ♦8 (upside down, does not like diamonds). So, I shifted to the ♥K, declarer won the ♥A, banged down the ♣A and then another club. Here partner does best to win the 2nd club after I give count, showing a doubleton, but he held up until the 3rd club, forcing me to make a discard. I was fearful that if I threw away the ♠Q, it could look like a dramatic signal to ‘please lead spades’. Of course, had I thrown away the ♠Q and gotten a spade lead, I would be down to a singleton ♠A and potentially end played out of some red tricks that I was due to win. Not knowing if declarer had ♦Qx or ♦Qxx, I threw I high heart (♥8) asking partner to go back to my first suit (diamonds) instead of my second suit led (hearts). As I played the 3rd and 4th diamond, declarer had to make 2 discards. One was a heart, so my last heart was good, but I still needed to surrender a trick to the ♠K at the end for down 3, +500.
At the other table, not playing penalty doubles, my hand showed diamonds and a higher suit and played 2♦, just making for -90 for our teammates. Win 9 IMPs.