Bob Munson

Recap Of 6/19/2019 28 Board IMP Individual

Bidding judgment determined all 4 of today’s swing hands.

 
12
N-S
West
N
Cris
863
AJ754
A
J982
 
W
Mark M
A94
Q832
K963
73
Q
E
Bob
QJ752
10
J842
K106
 
S
Mark R
K10
K95
Q1074
AQ54
 
W
Mark M
N
Cris
E
Bob
S
Mark R
Pass
Pass
2
Dbl
3
4
All Pass
 
W
Bruce
N
Gary
E
Tom
S
Dan
Pass
Pass
Pass
1
Dbl
1
1
Dbl1
Pass
32
All Pass
 
(1) Showing 3 card heart support
(2) Inviting game

First the bidding at my table:  I certainly usually take the opportunity, when in third seat, to make some sort of reasonable noise rather than passing and letting fourth seat take the first bid of the hand after seeing 3 passes – especially when not vulnerable vs. vulnerable opponents as it was here.  Given that philosophy, I was never going to pass.  My question, as East, was whether to open 1 or 2.  Preempts often present problems, but sometimes the presumed strength shown by an opening 1 bid can deflect the opponents from their best spot.  I flipped a coin and opened 2.  South has a routine (if flawed) double – flawed since partner expects to see 4 of a major when the other major is doubled.  Still sometimes you have to double spades when you only hold 3 hearts.  My partner, over the double, had a routine bump to 3 to continue to block the opponents bidding, and it was now up to North.  They didn’t have the greatest hand, but still with some nice shape including two aces, 5 trump and a singleton, they didn’t want to miss their vulnerable game, so they tried 4 which ended the bidding.

At the other table, South got to open in fourth seat after seeing 3 passes.  They started with 1♣ and West, who had passed originally, decided that they had enough strength and shape, as a passed hand, to make a takeout double.  The double can be an excellent way to enter the auction and compete for the partscore, but it can also backfire by telling the opponents how to play the hand.  North bid their heart suit, East showed spades, South showed 3 card heart support and East passed.  North thought (and so do I) that they only had enough values to invite game, so they jumped to 3.  Finally South, concerned about a possibly worthless K, decided they didn’t have enough  to go on to game, so they languished at the 3 level.

Looking only at the NS cards, this doesn’t look like a game you want to be in (when the A is behind the K).  But, on the lie of the cards, there are always 10 tricks due to the well placed club honors (K10 with East).  On this deal, declarer has two routes to 10 tricks – bring in the hearts and clubs with no losers, losing 3 spade tricks.  Or, more naturally, ruff a spade in dummy creating a heart loser, and then bring in clubs for no losers.  When the Q opening lead was ducked, I continued at trick 2 with the 2 suggesting to partner that after they won the A, a club return was safer than anything else (and hoping they had some spots to allow an eventual trick in clubs).  Declarer won the Q over my 10, cashed the K, finessed J, ruffed their spade, crossed to the A, cashed the A and then led the 9, taking a finesse against my K.  When that held, the only trick left for the defense was a power trump trick.  At the other table, after West’s takeout double of 1, North started clubs themselves by leading the J and later finessing against the 10 for the same 10 tricks, but with no game bid, we were -620 while our teammates were +170, lose 10 IMPs.

Back to the bidding – might NS have missed their game if I pass instead of opening 2?  If I open 1, will they miss game?  Did the passed hand double by West (at the other table) prevent NS from reaching game?  As noted, this is not a great game to be in once the A is over the K, but it has the advantage of being vulnerable and unbeatable.

 
17
None
North
N
Dan
92
Q1092
K10
97432
 
W
Bob
1083
A754
QJ752
A
2
E
Gary
AKJ5
KJ86
94
J65
 
S
Mark M
Q764
3
A863
KQ108
 
W
Bob
N
Dan
E
Gary
S
Mark M
Pass
1
Pass
1
Pass
1NT
Pass
21
Pass
22
Pass
23
Pass
34
Pass
45
Pass
Pass
Dbl6
All Pass
 
 
 
(1) XYZ – forcing partner to bid 2D, after which I clarify my intentions
(2) As requested
(3) Showing a hand with 4 hearts and invitational values
(4) Confirming heart support and returning the invitation back to me
(5) Accpeting the invite
(6) Thinking the bad split and poorly placed cards will spell trouble for declarer

 

W
Bruce
N
Cris
E
Mark R
S
Tom
Pass
1
Pass
11
Pass
2
Dbl2
RDbl3
Pass4
Pass
Pass5
(1) Bypassing diamonds to show the 4 card major
(2) Thinking that he is showing 4=1=4=4 takeout of hearts
(3) Telling partner the hand belongs to our side
(4) Choosing to not take action
(5) Thinking that partner desires to defend 2HXX

Wow, what a hand, what a result.  Lots of different bidding choices showed up here.  Playing 5 card majors, everyone in the East seat opens 1.  South might have opened a minor themselves, but really they have nothing to bid over 1, so they pass.  West can bid up the line (my choice of 1) or bypass the diamonds and show their 4 card major (the choice at the other table).  North passes and East has a choice for their rebid: start showing their 4 majors (which I would do), or show their balanced hand and point range with 1NT (which was my partner’s choice).  Now, even though I considered this hand worth an opening bid, I wasn’t ready to force to game with no known fit.  I could bid 2 (which would be a game force, since it is a reverse by responder), raise to 2NT inviting game there, or show an invitational hand with 4 hearts which was my choice.  When partner raised, I decided I had enough for game and continued to 4 which was passed around to South who entered the auction for the first time with a (Lightner) double, suggesting a club lead would be a good start to the defense.  With all of the prior passes by South, I was a bit shocked at the double and didn’t know how to interpret it – what cards did he hold besides strong clubs?

Next let’s look at the bidding at the other table.  As mentioned before, the West player with my hand responded 1 which his partner raised to 2.  South now doubled, since they had a classic 4=1=4=4 takeout double of 2 – they couldn’t bid the first time due to their length/strength in clubs, but when they heard the raise to 2, they could show their shape and values via a takeout double.  West, with a reasonable hand thought they had a chance to make 2 so they redoubled to let partner know that the hand belonged to EW.  Maybe partner raised with only 3 card heart support and the best EW result would be defending whatever contract NS landed in.  North, given a choice of clubs, diamonds and spades had a clear preference for clubs, but decided to pass.  However, if South’s double was simply a takeout of the other two unbid suits (clubs having been bid do not count as an option), then North has very little to choose between spades and diamonds.  If EW stop off to defend 3X, down 1 is the best they can achieve for +100, so they will do better by bidding more if NS do bid clubs.  Anyway, East has no reason to bid over 2XX, and it was now up to South.  South would like to re-redouble asking partner to please chose a suit, but since that bid is not allowed, they had to start choosing suits themselves, or assume that partner knows best and wants to defend 2XX.  So South passed and 2XX was the final contract.  Clearly North needed to take a view that clubs were part of the takeout and bid clubs, or else South needed to take a view that North has nothing worthwhile in diamonds or spades, so maybe clubs will be the best spot.  Both North and South cannot afford to pass – someone must bid clubs.

I often point out areas that you should definitely discuss and be in sync with  partner and the lesson on this hand involves passing the business redouble (a support redouble and a SOS redouble involve different decisions).  There are only two possible messages sent by the pass, and only one can be what partner intended:

  1. I have nothing to say, no preference for your suggested suits, so you choose
  2. I think they are in trouble and I want to sit for and defend this redoubled contract 

So, be sure to know your partner’s intentions.

Now, on to the play of the hand.  The declarer at the other table knew where the heart length/shortness was located.  I knew it was possible that when South finally doubled when we got to 4 that the double was due to shortness that would create a challenge to a hand that could only invite game.  Perhaps, on an auction that sounded more powerful, they would not have doubled.  Still, if the opponents are going down 2+ tricks, doubles can pay handsomely and the cost, if the opponents make it, is not that great as long as there are no overtricks.  In any case, South judged that there would be problems and doubled.  I knew they had good clubs, but I had an answer for that problem with my singleton A.  I could win the first club lead and ruff the rest, so no problem.  My problem was how to find 10 tricks.  I needed to establish diamonds (or find successful finesses in spades and hearts).  I needed to lead diamonds from dummy (twice), and since I felt South had hearts, I started with a heart to the K and a diamond up, disappointed to lose to the K in North.   They continued clubs which I ruffed, then a spade to the A and another diamond to the A.  South continued with their remaining high club, forcing me to ruff again.  Double dummy, the best I could ever do was to win 9 tricks, and I was still on track for 9 tricks at this point (in spite of getting hearts wrong) if I continued with the J.  When I continued, with a small diamond ruffed in dummy (establishing diamonds), North was able to discard their remaining spade and I was running out of tricks.  I could cross to my A and now lead the J, but North could ruff small, allowing my J to score, but then I had no trumps and they still had the Q and good clubs (so I never got to enjoy my K).

The way I played it, if South had held 3 hearts to the Q, they would have the only outstanding trump, they would have to follow to my J lead and then it didn’t matter what they did on my last diamond, since I would discard both losing spades on the diamonds.  At trick 12, I would have the K and J in dummy, and the only trick that South could score in the last 4 cards would have been their high trump.  But, that wasn’t how the cards lay.

You would think, if you KNOW that South is short in hearts and North is long in hearts, that the play might be much easier.  I have tried lots of options (playing the hand double dummy on my computer, including starting hearts with a small heart to the 6 – truly a double dummy play), and scoring 9 tricks is still not so easy against best defense!  I don’t know how the play/defense went at the other table.  In any case, the declarer playing 2XX managed to score 9 tricks.  The overtrick for making 9 tricks instead of 8 in a 2 contract is, of course, 30 points.  However, redoubled vulnerable overtricks payout 400 points!  Plus the game bonus, plus, plus plus.  Bottom line, our teammates were -1240 while we were -300 to lose 17 IMPs!

 
23
Both
South
N
Mark R
10932
KJ84
A753
10
 
W
Dan
AKJ7
72
KQJ86
Q9
A
E
Bob
Q85
5
109
KJ87542
 
S
Tom
64
AQ10963
42
A63
 

 

W
Dan
N
Mark R
E
Bob
S
Tom
2
Dbl
4
5
All Pass

 

W
Gary
N
Cris
E
Mark M
S
Bruce
2
Dbl
4
All Pass
 

Here, there was pretty simple bidding with the same 3 (pretty automatic) bids to start the auction at both tables. However, some players would consider South too strong for a weak 2 bid and open 1.  At the other table, those 3 bids ended the auction.  However, in 4th seat, I had no prospects of defense against 4 so I did what partner asked me to do with his takeout double – I bid my best suit.  South, with 2 aces providing much better defense than they might have had for a weak 2 opening bid, might have doubled, saving a couple of IMPs (but if the opponents have a heart void, it would reduce his defense to 1 trick, so the penalty double isn’t exactly automatic).  The play in 4 was straightforward, with 10 winners and 3 losers.  The play in 5 was also straightforward, with 3 aces to lose, but 10 tricks after that.  So, we were -100 while our teammates were +620, win 11 IMPs.

 
25
E-W
North
N
Cris
Q54
753
J943
1042
 
W
Bob
KJ9732
AK642
Q2
2
E
Tom
108
Q9
K10875
J765
 
S
Gary
A6
J108
A6
AKQ983
 
W
Bob
N
Cris
E
Tom
S
Gary
Pass
Pass
3NT
4
Dbl
All Pass
 

 

W
Mark R
N
Mark M
E
Dan
S
Bruce
Pass
Pass
2NT
All Pass
 
 
 

After 2 passes, how do you open the South hand.  Some might see a good hand with clubs and start with 1.  Counting a point for both the 5th and 6th club, your 18 HCP can get up to 20 points and start with 2NT (which is what happened at the other table).  At my table, they play ‘gambling 3NT a la Meckwell’ in 1st/2nd seat which shows a long solid minor with an outside ace or king.   But, in 3rd seat, a 3NT opening bid is … ‘tactical’ – as you can see, as West, I had great interest in just what was shown by the 3NT opening bid.  I had no clue what was right.  The opponents have no obligation to describe their hand, only their systemic agreements about what bids mean.  I was told it shows a good hand that is not confined to the restrictions of ‘one ace or king outside’ that applies to a first or second seat opening.

So, what does West do over 2NT?  Over 3NT?  I think whatever system you play over 1NT should also be played over 2NT.  Why not?  It doesn’t come up often, but since you have a system available, it seems you should use it.  If, over 1NT, 2♣ would show majors, then bid 3 over 2NT; if 2 shows majors over 1NT, then bid 3 over 2NT.  Anyway, the player with my hand, noting the vulnerability, elected to pass over 2NT and after a heart lead, the defense cashed 5 heart tricks.  Then a spade continuation allowed declarer to knock out the J and score the rest of the tricks for down 1.

Since 3NT opening bids can be all sorts of hands, I don’t think continuing the philosophy of using the same system over 2NT that you use over 1NT can be extended to include 3NT opening bids.  I briefly considered bidding 4♣ as a surrogate for Michaels – hoping that partner would not take 4 as natural and would bid their best major.  So, if partner held 5 hearts and no spades, my 4 call would not have been a success.  Eventually I decided upon the safety of the extra trump with spades being trump and, using 6-5 come alive mentality, bid 4.  I bought a fantastic dummy, with partner’s spade spots filling in my gaps and Q9 allowing me to establish hearts (and if someone overruffs hearts on the third round, they are using one of the 2 natural trump tricks they have.  When hearts proved to be 3=3, it was time to draw trump and claim…well, not so quickly.  I still held 5 trump, but when I led the 10 off of dummy and South played low, I had to choose whether to play the K (assuming South held the A) or duck the 10 (assuming South had the Q).  What did South hold to open 3NT?  What did North hold to double 4?  I was still thinking more ‘gambling 3NT’ than power.  I needed to play the K (to make the hand, double dummy), but ducked the 10, losing to the Q.  Now, the defense has the upper hand, but only if they continue tapping me out in clubs to make me lose control of the hand.  I still have 4 trump, but the tap  after winning the Q reduces me to 3, and when I knock out the A I’m down to 2 trump.  One more club tap (after winning the A) leaves me with 1 trump to draw the last trump, but then I must establish my diamond trick and when the opponents win the A, they can cash a club at trick 13 while I follow suit with my winning diamond.  However, North continued with a diamond after winning their Q and I was back in control.

So, I was lucky to catch such a great dummy and lucky to misguess spades and still survive.  It seems that when I ignore 6-5 come alive advice, I regret it.  The trouble with using any sort of simulation to determine the wisdom/foolishness of bidding over 3NT depends upon defining a very vague notion of just what do you expect the 3NT bidder to hold.  I didn’t know during the bidding and I didn’t know during the play.  If North and East (both passed hands) exchanged their hands (so that the North hand was my partner and the East hand became the North hand), I would lose only 1 spade instead of 2, but I would also lose a heart and 2 diamonds.  Still, that would be a good save against the 9 tricks NS could score in their 3NT contract.  Warning: just because the 4 bid worked on the actual deal and the modified deal with North and East switching hands, it is not an attempt at proving it was a good bid, the right bid, …  Note also that getting partner to choose a major would likely result in an unsuccessful heart contract.

By my judgment, it is impossible to determine the ‘right’ bid in these situations.  Certainly some would view 4 as foolish, all would view the result as lucky, but, it turned out, my bid worked, scoring +790 while our teammates were -50 to score 12 IMPs.

 

Recap Of 5/20/2019 28 Board IMP Individual

Today there were 6 double digit swings, 3 of them fell into declarer play problems (with leads and defense also playing a factor), with bidding judgment the source for the other 3 big swings.

 
3
E-W
South
N
Bob E
KJ82
A752
A63
874
 
W
Chris
Q103
QJ1063
74
KJ6
Q
E
Bob M
5
K984
KJ52
Q1098
 
S
Jerry
A9764
Q1098
A532
 
W
Chris
N
Bob E
E
Bob M
S
Jerry
1
Pass
2NT
Pass
3
Pass
3
Pass
41
Pass
42
Pass
43
Pass
4
Pass
6
All Pass
 
 
 
(1) Cue bid
(2) Cue bid
(3) Cue bid – showing a void
W
Manfred
N
Dan
E
Mike
S
Gary
1
Pass
2NT1
Pass
32
Pass
43
Dbl4
4
All Pass
 
 
 
(1) Jacoby 2NT spade raise
(2) Heart shortness
(3) Cue bid
(4) requesting diamond lead

Both tables used traditional Jacoby 2NT in support of spades, finding heart shortness.  At my table, North then bid 3 to indicate a hand that could be slam suitable (it is minimum in high card, but it does have 3 key cards).  The 3 bid initiated a series of cue bids (4-4-4) with North indicating they had nothing more to say when they next bid 4.  They have a nice fit, all suits controlled, now what?  South decided that there would be 12 tricks available and bid the slam.  After partner’s heart lead, declarer had chances.  All he needed was to find trumps 2-2, diamonds 3-3, K onside and he would be there: 7+1+3+1.  He got the K onside, but that was all.  So, eventually he lost a trick in every suit but hearts for down 2, +100 for our side.

Our teammates cue bid diamonds after hearing heart shortness.  When that was doubled, South looked at their minimum values and, based on the bidding, one sure diamond to lose, so they were not seeing a route to 12 tricks with their minimum HCP so they simply signed off in 4, ending the auction.  When that contract came home, they were +420 to go with our +100 for 11 IMPs.  When you are at the 3 level in a game forcing auction, it is good to have agreements about what subsequent bids imply.  Many play a ‘fast arrival’ approach that suggests limited/no controls in unbid suits and zero slam interest.  Partner may proceed at their own peril.  I think North is too strong to immediately sign off in 4 over 3.  But whether they bid 3 waiting (the bid chosen at our table), 3NT non-serious slam try, or 4 cue bid of their cheapest control (chosen by our teammates) is somewhat a matter of style, judgment and bidding agreements.  Always good to have bidding agreements.  Here, I guess South just fell in love with his hand.

 
4
Both
West
N
Bob E
AQ83
1085
Q3
K1052
 
W
Chris
742
J9
K9542
AQ7
4
E
Bob M
1096
K743
107
J983
 
S
Jerry
KJ5
AQ52
AJ86
64
 
W
Chris/Manfr
N
Bob E/Dan
E
Bob M/Mike
S
Jerry/Gary
Pass
Pass
Pass
1NT
Pass
2
Pass
2
Pass
3NT
All Pass
 

Both tables had the same auction with the same lead.  Now to find 9 tricks.  When the Q holds the first trick, you certainly have 4+1+2+unknown opportunities in clubs as well as potential for additional diamond and heart tricks.  This hand was about the play (and defense).

At my table, I followed with the 7 at trick 1, showing count and saving the 10 which may be useful.  Declarer played a heart to the Q (noting the fall of 9) and cashed 4 spades.  On the last spade, I played the 9, declarer pitched a fateful diamond while partner played their 2 (confirming a 5 card suit – often when forced to discard from the suit of your original 4th best lead, you want to play your original 3rd best (if the spot doesn’t cost you), leaving declarer in the dark as to whether your initial suit was 4 long or 5 long).  Next declarer led a heart, thinking a bit about ducking, but eventually played the A, dropping the J.  Declarer had a plan.  He decided my 9, in theory, showing nothing in clubs had been a false card ploy to deceive (and that I actually held the A), so all he had to do was strip the last diamond out of my hand (by cashing his A) and lead hearts.  He had taken the first 8 tricks and needed 1 more.  I could cash two hearts (the K7), but would be forced to lead away from my presumed A, giving him his 9th trick in dummy with the K.  This would have worked quite well as the cards lie if he had kept all of his diamonds.  Yes, my spades, hearts and diamonds would be gone, forcing me to lead clubs.  If I had the A, his plan worked.  But if my partner had the A, his plan also works…as long as he keeps all of his diamonds.  Partner would be forced to either cash the K and lead a diamond to his J for his 9th trick, or lead a club to the K in dummy for his 9th trick.  As it was, we took the last 5 tricks, 2 hearts, 2 diamonds and a club.  So we were +100.

Meanwhile, our teammates (also playing 3NT by South) won the Q at trick 1 while my hand followed with the 10 (upside down attitude).  Declarer continued with a heart at trick 2, ducked around to West’s 9 (a better way to come closer to assuring 2 heart tricks – but complicating getting those 2 tricks), and West exited with a safe spade.  Declarer cashed four spades (keeping all his diamonds, and so did West, both players pitching a club).  Next declarer led a heart to the A, dropping the J and continued with a heart to the 10 to force out the K, establishing the Q for the second heart trick.  On this trick West pitched the Q, still keeping all his diamonds, thinking that the 10 played by East at trick 1 promised 3 diamonds and that declarer started with AJ6.  My hand (East) won the K and continued with their remaining diamond (7) which was covered with the J and K.  Nine tricks have been played (4 spades, 3 hearts, 2 diamonds) with dummy (North) following suit to all 9 tricks, leaving dummy with the 4 clubs they started with.  During those 9 tricks, declarer won 6 and lost 3, and he needs 3 more out of the last 4.  Declarer has a high diamond and high heart in their hand, but no way to get to them without help from the defense.  But with hearts and spades gone, West was down to leading diamonds (into declarer’s A8) or their now singleton A.  If East had started with 3 diamonds, a diamond lead at this point leaves declarer with only 2 more tricks (high red cards) – the defense will score the last 2 (high minor suit cards) for down 1.  Had West discarded 1 diamond and 1 club, the defense can abandon diamonds and score (at least) 2 club tricks for down 1.  West led diamonds after winning the K, allowing South to score their A8 as well as the Q.  That brought declarer’s total to 9 tricks for +600 to go with our +100 to win 12 IMPs. 

At trick 9, if West had kept the AQ (pitching 1 diamond and 1 club), declarer must not finesse in diamonds but use this opportunity to gain access to his red winners.  If declarer goes up with the A, and cashes the Q, West has no effective answer.  On the heart lead, they can throw their Q, but then must surrender a trick to the J at trick 13.  If they throw a diamond on the Q, they must surrender a trick to the K at trick 13.  Declarer must end up relying upon the A being onside.

So, which diamond spot to play at trick 1 turned out to be critical (and, at our table, which diamond spot to discard was also critical – when West played their original 5th best diamond, declarer could be 100% certain that diamonds were 5-2).  I have always heard ‘if you can’t beat the J at trick 1, your attitude is already clear, give count.’  Here dummy didn’t play the J, but the Q.  So do I give attitude with the 10 or count with the 7?  It isn’t so much what I mean by the card I play, but rather how partner interprets what I play.  I thought that the 10 might be important/useful in the diamond suit, so I saved it.  But rules (known by and followed by both players) can be really useful.  Partner needs to be able to read your cards in order to have the most effective defense.  Of course declarer can read your cards too, and draw their own conclusions.

 
7
Both
South
N
Bob M
87
AKJ105
J1086
Q7
 
W
Dan
AQJ103
62
A97
1064
K
E
Manfred
K95
Q973
KQ
KJ98
 
S
Jerry
642
84
5432
A532
 
W
Dan
N
Bob M
E
Manfred
S
Jerry
Pass
1
Pass
2
Pass
2
Pass
4
All Pass
W
Mike
N
Bob E
E
Gary
S
Chris
Pass
1
Pass
1NT1
Pass
2
Dbl
RDbl2
2
2
Pass
4
All Pass
(1) Forcing
(2) Offer to play

With most regular partners, I lead (Rusinow) K from AK.  This was not my regular partner, but somehow I still led the K.  When I saw dummy, I shifted to diamonds.  Declarer won, drew trump and led the 10.  I made a reflexive cover play of the Q (seeing dummy, that is impossibly bad –  playing the Q can never be right!), partner won his A, I got my A and declarer had their 10 tricks, -620.  Due to my weird K (accidental) lead, declarer wasn’t sure where the A was, so he had no assurance that he could obtain a club discard on the Q, so he was looking for the Q to be onside.  It was.

At the other table, the defense cashed both hearts prior to shifting to a diamond.  Declarer drew trump and, with the Q available in dummy for a club discard, they led a club to the…K!  The defense cashed their 2 club tricks to go with their 2 heart tricks for down 1.  North had doubled at his second bid, indicating values (and red cards), but North did pass the first time over 1 (as did I).  North holds a strong heart suit, but I think, with both vulnerable, the hand and suit are not strong enough to come in the first time.  Some thought West should get the club guess right based on North not acting the first time. Holding xx AKJxx Jxxx Ax – after the forcing NT by East and 2 rebid by West, this is a routine double (the hand may belong to us).  Is this enough to make an offshape double over 1?  A 2 overcall of 1?  You be the judge.  If the hand shown had to bid the first time (if they were that strong including the A), then they cannot hold the A.  If someone holding that hand might pass over 1, then the club play is a total guess.

Bottom line, I gave declarer no guess, and our teammate got the club guess wrong.  We were -620 and teammates -100, lose 12 IMPs.

 
8
None
West
N
Bob M
J5
A1054
KQJ7
KJ5
 
W
Dan
Q1098
92
853
AQ64
9
E
Manfred
76
KQJ873
109832
 
S
Jerry
AK432
6
A109642
7
 
W
Dan
N
Bob M
E
Manfred
S
Jerry
Pass
1NT
21
32
Pass
3NT
Pass
4
Pass
5
Pass
63
All Pass
 
 
 
(1) Single suit
(2) Taken as Stayman
(3) !
W
Mike
N
Bob E
E
Gary
S
Chris
Pass
1NT
3
3
Pass
3NT
All Pass
 

Our bidding certainly got us to an excellent contract that had some chances even if my diamonds were not so strong (if we find 3-3 spades or 2-1 diamonds, that would have helped a lot, not to mention if my KJ were the A).  As it was, my high diamonds meant the opponents did not have them, so they could be squandered with ruffs and allow declarer to get back to their hand (ruffing high) and still be able to draw trump.  I like the first 5 bids by our side, up through 5, and I like partner’s raise to 6, but I think that bid may be less clear cut/automatic.  Bottom line, partner has a powerful playing hand with controls in all 4 suits and made a reasonable assumption that my hand would provide some useful fillers.  At the other table, the 3 got the auction higher faster, but actually it produced an auction quite similar to the one at my table.  As it was, South could have advanced  to 4 over 3NT and seen what partner did, just as my partner did.  If partner bids 4NT, give up, but if North raises diamonds, South’s playing hand definitely offers opportunities for slam.  Against 3NT, after a 9 lead, declarer cashed their 9 tricks making their contract.  The 9 was also led against 6, but all declarer had to do was draw 1 round of trump, noting that trump are 3-0, and get 2 spade ruffs to establish spades, and then draw trump losing a club at the end.  So we were +920 vs. -400, win 11 IMPs.

 
12
N-S
West
N
Gary
J64
A7543
5
AQJ9
 
W
Bob M
A95
K
KJ109
K8654
J
E
Dan
Q1032
106
Q87632
3
 
S
Chris
K87
QJ982
A4
1072
 
W
Bob M
N
Gary
E
Dan
S
Chris
1NT
21
2NT2
33
All Pass
 
 
 
(1) Clubs and a major
(2) Systems on over 2C, so this was a transfer to diamonds
(3) Pass or correct, I like your major, whichever you have
W
Manfred
N
Bob E
E
Jerry
S
Mike
1
1
Dbl
4
All Pass
 
 
 

I’m not especially proud of the 1NT opening bid that I chose.  It could certainly backfire, but here the result was spectacular.  Yes, if partner responded 1 to my 1 opening bid, 1NT is a reasonable rebid.  Still I give myself a point for the 5th card in a suit (many only do that with a quality suit – this certainly fails that hurdle, since the opponents took 4 club tricks in their heart contract!).  1NT can act as a preemptive bid making the opponents auction awkward.  Many varied tools have been developed to try to get in and compete when the opponents open 1NT, since it seems the bad guys are doing it more and more.  Here North, using Meckwell, opted to show clubs and a major, East transferred to diamonds, and South thought their majors were good enough to compete to 3 (as pass or correct to spades, if the major isn’t hearts).  North had to guess whether to try for the vulnerable game and ultimately decided to pass.  At the other table, after my hand opened 1 and North overcalled 1, South bounced to the heart game.  With both rounded kings onside, 11 tricks were easily scored at both tables.  We were -200 while our teammates were +650, win 10 IMPs.

In the bidding, knowing partner has 6 diamonds, my 4 strong diamonds suggest we have a good non-vulnerable save against their vulnerable game.  We do, since we just lose 1 trick in each suit (-300 vs. -650).  But, no sense in prodding them into game if they are willing to play a partscore.

 
19
E-W
South
N
Bob E
1063
J
KJ1072
Q1096
 
W
Bob M
2
852
Q93
KJ8732
10
E
Mike
AK85
AKQ3
A64
A5
 
S
Dan
QJ974
109764
85
4
 
W
Bob M
N
Bob E
E
Mike
S
Dan
Pass
Pass
2
Dbl
Pass
2NT1
Pass
3NT2
All Pass
(1) lebensohl relay to 3C
(2) Unwilling to play only 3C
W
Jerry
N
Chris
E
Gary
S
Manfred
Pass
Pass
2
Dbl
Pass
31
Pass
32
Pass
3NT3
All Pass
 
 
(1) Showing values in the context of lebensohl
(2) Checking on a 2nd stopper in diamonds
(3) Yes, I have a diamond stopper

Similar auctions (but certainly not the same) resulted in the same contract by the same declarer at both tables.  At the other table, the J♦ was led, handing declarer their 9th trick.  In the end, North kept both the Q and 10, so when a diamond was led, declarer also scored the J at trick 13 for 10 tricks, -630 for our teammates.  After a club lead, I struggled (more on that later).  I have probably played this hand more than 80 times since Monday afternoon, using DDS – Double Dummy Solver, available for free (donations encouraged – I did) at http://www.bridgecaptain.com/downloadDD.html.  This program shows you, at each hand’s turn to play, the cards that will result in making the contract or which cards will lead to down 1, 2, … or which cards will lead to +1, 2, … overtricks if everyone plays double dummy from that point forward.  Some think using double dummy programs are cheating, but for me, it is a great learning tool.  Variations in the play (what might have happened if the defense did this or declarer did that) are fascinating and eyeopening.

What about the bidding?  All players in the group play a 2NT lebensohl relay after a double of a weak 2 opening bid.  If a bid is freely made at the 3 level, values are shown (typically 8+ HCP).  I judged that I did not have those values – a doubtful Q, so even though I had a 6 card suit, I bid 2NT as a relay to clubs.  The player holding my cards at the other table thought they were too good for 2NT, so they bid a ‘value showing’ 3♣ in response to the double.  Their partner checked for a diamond stopper besides the one (A) they held and holding Q93, West was happy to oblige by bidding 3NT.  My partner, dealing with my lebensohl 2NT but holding 7 solid tricks decided taking the relay to 3 was too wimpy, so they bid the NT game – I could hold the J and Q – definitely weak values, but those cards would create 9 tricks in NT.  3NT is a pretty good contract (“cold” on any lead – double dummy).  Where there are 8 tricks, there must be 9.

What do you lead against 3NT?  I have found that when your side bids, and the opponents, hearing your bid, go ahead and try 3NT, they are (more often than not) prepared for a lead in your suit and a ‘sneak attack’ lead is indicated.  The sneak attack is any lead other than your suit – here I thought the 10 was unlikely to be from Q109 and that North was trying to hit their partner’s suit.  So, I went up with the A at trick 1 and continued clubs with South showing out.  Darn!  Now what?  Plan the play. 

I made a (too) hasty plan that assumed North was 6=4 in the minors and had only 3 major suit cards.  If he, did, all I needed to do was extract those major suit cards and then lead a diamond.  Due to my 9, I had a 100% endplay against North after stripping him of his major suit cards (cover whatever South plays).  I was home!  So, I started to eliminate those ‘3’ major suit cards and crossed to the A and then played the  K – at this point, double dummy, it is no longer possible to achieve 9 tricks.

There are a number of ways to make the hand with this precise layout of the cards, but the ‘obvious’ one (duck a spade to ensure I can extract all of North’s major suit cards) becomes more double dummy than you might imagine.  Let’s say after winning the A and K, I lead the 2 and duck it.  Seems reasonable, and that is the play that I felt like I needed to have done at the table after the hand was over.  South wins the spade and leads his partner’s diamond suit through my Q and, to make the hand, I must:

  1. Win the A (no other card allows 9 tricks)
  2. Cash the AK (no other card allows 9 tricks)
  3. Lead the 3 to Norths singleton J (no other card allows 9 tricks!)
  4. North now must allow my J or Q to score a trick and that will be my 9th trick

But, there are other ways to make the hand.  At the table, I led the heart at trick 3 and saw the J.  I could (must) revert to spades, playing 3 rounds (losing control of spades, but extracting all of North’s spades).  If, after winning the A, I duck a spade prior to cashing the AK, I can no longer make the hand.  This is what I was talking about when I said I could learn things from DDS.

My plan (100% certain to make the contract) was the right thinking – but I needed to include in the plan the potential that North was 3=1=5=4 and then find the right timing.  

There are so many variations on the play and defense (more than you can imagine), but they mostly come down to getting North down to all minor suit cards.  I didn’t bother discussing South’s discard at trick 2.  What does South play at trick 2 when they cannot follow to the club lead from dummy?  The actual play was the 4, but a heart discard will give declarer much greater problems.  If South discards a heart at trick 2, the only way to now bring in 9 tricks is:

  1. Win the K (no other card allows 9 tricks)
  2. Lead the 2 (no other lead allows 9 tricks)
  3. Duck the first or second spade (if you play AK and another spade it does not work)
  4. Win the A after South plays a diamond through (no other card allows 9 tricks)
  5. Cash the remaining high spade(s) AK (no other card allows 9 tricks)
  6. Lead the 3 to Norths singleton J (no other card allows 9 tricks!)
  7. North now must allow my J or Q to score a trick and that will be my 9th trick

The line of play to make the hand that is closest to ‘not double dummy’ is to win the A and K (noting the discard of a spade), and then lead a heart and notice the J (assume it is a singleton) and then lead A, K and another spade.  That works on this lie of the cards, but this line fails if North had been 2=2=5=4 or 2=1=6=4.  Since I (incorrectly) ‘knew’ they were 2=1=6=4, I never thought about 3=1=5=4.  If South discards a heart on the club at trick 2, only double dummy play can bring it home with this lie of the cards.

You may be getting tired of all of these double dummy plays, but I have just a few more observations, for what they are worth.  To make the hand (double dummy), I did not have to play the A (as table talk/post mortem suspected at the time).  In addition, after choosing to win trick 1 with the A, 12 cards remain in dummy and, with double dummy play, I can lead any one of 11 of them and still score 9 tricks – the only fatal lead at trick 2 is cashing the A (a crazy bad play).  After leading the A, I will be unable to score 9 tricks, double dummy.  Any other card gives me a chance.  Given how complex this layout is, I feel much less embarrassed about failing to bring home my 9 tricks in 3NT.  I congratulate Bob on his sneak attack club lead.

One last epilogue – had North been 2=2=5=4, my play (cashing AK in both majors) works, but ducking a spade at trick 3 does not.  Bridge is a tough game.

 

Recap Of 5/8/2019 28 Board IMP Individual

Wow – today we had 8 double digit swings.  Not one of them was the standard 10 IMPs which usually come from a non-vulnerable game that was bid/made at one table, down one at the other or else a vulnerable game bid/made at one table, while not bid at the other.  Today, bidding judgment played a big role over and over: bid too much, bid too little, slams, as well as leads, defense, revokes – it was all there.

 
4
Both
West
N
Bruce
KJ104
863
KQ62
K4
 
W
Tom
9
AJ107
J753
A1062
J
E
Mark M
8732
Q53
A104
J75
 
S
Bob
AQ65
K92
98
Q983
 

 

W
Tom
N
Bruce
E
Mark M
S
Bob
Pass
1
Pass
1
Pass
2
Pass
Pass
Dbl
Pass
2NT
Dbl
RDbl1
Pass
3
Dbl
Pass
Pass
RDbl
Pass
3
Pass
Pass
Dbl
All Pass
 
 
 
(1) SOS – run – anywhere

 

W
Mark R
N
Cris
E
Gary
S
Dan
Pass
1
Pass
1
Dbl
21
Pass
4
All Pass
 
 
 
(1) Showing 4 spades in the context of support doubles

You can see the difference in bidding judgment on this hand.  Yes, I took a conservative view that worked.  Was that right, in principle?  Hxx and Hxxx ‘points’ are substantially overvalued.  Honors are worth more when they are paired.  I had no points in the suit that partner opened, so at least one of my honors had a potential of not being worth very much.  At least that was my thinking when I did not advance past 2.  At the other table, the bidding allowed the South player with my hand to know their partner held 4 trump and an opening hand.  For them, that was enough to bounce to game.  I could have certainly tried a natural 2NT, or possibly a spiral bid (asking about the length of partner’s trumps and the size of their hand), but I wanted to protect the plus score.

As a passed hand, it seems like West could double 1 as was done at the other table.  When West heard my pass of 2, they had the perfect shape for a balancing reopening double and reason to believe they could compete for the part score.  That left East with a problem – they can’t really pass 2X and they have nowhere to play that appeals.  With double dummy play/defense, 2NT, 3 and 3 all are down 1 (and 3 is down 2).  East’s bidding plan was to bid 2NT, and when that got doubled, redouble to say ‘partner, you choose’ but that plan was foiled by partner, who made their own redouble!  So, East had to start bidding 3-card suits up the line.  When 3 was doubled, they redoubled and when partner ran to diamonds (the suit that my partner opened!), they decided to quit trying to find a suit and just play 3X.

In the play of diamonds, the defense is entitled to 5 tricks on any lead (except the 6, which would actually allow the contract to make!).  The defense started with 2 rounds of spades, ruffed by declarer.  Declarer led a diamond to the Q and A and then successfully finessed in hearts and cashed 3 rounds of hearts.  That brings their total to 5 tricks with a certain trump trick yet to come as well as the A.  Declarer led the 13th heart and can score 2 trump tricks and achieve down 1 if they ruff their heart winner, but they discarded a club instead of ruffing up with the 10 (which is sure to win, since North had opened diamonds and split their honors when diamonds were led).  So I ruffed the heart and…erred by allowing declarer another spade ruff with a small trump while they still remained with the J and the 10x in dummy for another trick.  So, declarer got back to down 1.  But, if I had led a club, declarer has no answer.  Looking at the J7 in dummy, I hated to lead from my Q, but I needed to.  If declarer ducks my club, partner can draw trump.  If declarer wins my club, nothing they lead after that can get more than 1 more trump trick – we have all black winners.  So, the +500 that became available went back to only collecting +200.  Was that dangerous to double a vulnerable part score at IMPs, possibly giving them a game (when they were only down 1)?  I think it was dangerous not to double, but that is just my view.

Meanwhile, the South player with my hand at the other table had trouble finding 10 tricks in spades.  When both red aces lay over our red kings, there really are only 8 tricks possible in spades – a trick in each minor and 6 trump tricks.  I suspect declarer drew 1 too many rounds of trump and, in the end, only found 7 tricks for down 3, so our teammates were +300 to go with our +200 to win 11 IMPs.

 
5
N-S
North
N
Cris
10863
K
K97642
97
 
W
Mark M
AQ92
10963
QJ1032
Q
E
Bob
K754
A5
AJ8
AK54
 
S
Mark R
J
QJ8742
Q1053
86
 

 

W
Mark M
N
Cris
E
Bob
S
Mark R
2
Dbl
3
4
Pass
4
All Pass

 

W
Bruce
N
Gary
E
Tom
S
Dan
Pass
2NT1
Pass
3
Pass
3
Pass
6
All Pass
 
 
(1) 20-21

This hand was interesting for bidding judgment, play and defense.  Starting with North, as dealer, do they have a suitable opening 2 bid, vulnerable against not, with a shoddy suit and a side 4 card major?  The North player at my table decided they did, so they opened 2.  I considered 2NT, but was definitely too strong, so I started with a double.  South raised to 3 and my partner bid 4 asking me to choose a major.  I certainly have (much) more than a minimum takeout double of 2 and undoubtedly should have found some bid other than naming my major with a simple 4 (perhaps bid 5 or even 6?).  My partner passed 4, but as he put dummy down, he indicated that he too had extra values that he hadn’t shown, so we were both fearful that a slam had been missed.

Meanwhile, at the other table, North did not open the bidding, so East got to open.  Playing 20-21 point 2NT opening bids, does the East hand warrant an upgrade?  K&R Hand Evaluator comes up with 19.55 (round up?) – http://www.jeff-goldsmith.org/cgi-bin/knr.cgi?hand=k754+a5+aj8+ak54

Anyway, East did open 2NT, and the auction proceeded rapidly to slam.  Now to find 12 tricks.  There was no bidding at the other table to warn the declarer about potential foul splits.  This is an excellent slam if trump are 3-2 with 12 easy tricks (5+1+1+5) – no finesses, no problem.  When trump were 4-1, there was a problem.  I think the actual play to score 12 tricks is quite double dummy (if you start by drawing trumps) and not that likely to be found unless declarer has a long time to analyze information as it becomes available and takes considerable time and effort to play the hand.  To score 12 tricks on the actual heart lead, declarer must play only 2 rounds of trump (winning the AQ in dummy) and then score 2 diamond ruffs in dummy by crossing to hand in clubs (but at least 1 round of ‘crossing to hand’ involves leading a high club from dummy and overtaking in order to unblock clubs (assuming they break 2-2) so that the 3 can later be led to the 4 to draw trump!).  After the last diamond ruff, the small club from dummy leaves North with no answer.  If they ruff, declarer can win any return, draw trump and claim (winning the A and good clubs).  If they don’t ruff, declarer wins the club lead and plays both trumps, eliminating the threat of a club ruff (of course this only works if the K was a singleton, placing north with 4=1=6=2).  With only diamonds left, North must lead to East’s A and their remaining club allows an entry to the established clubs in dummy so that they can pitch their heart loser on the 13th club at the 13th trick.  But, that is not how the play went at either table.

Bruce pointed out an easier plan to make 12 tricks (after reading my first draft).  The plan above assumes that, after winning the heart lead, you play trumps at trick 2 (learning about the 4-1 split).  But, there is zero risk to ruff a diamond at trick 2 and then play AQ.  If trump are 3-2, you can draw trump and claim.  If trump prove to be 4-1, cross to hand in clubs to ruff your last losing diamond.  Cross to hand again in clubs: if North ruffs, hope that North is 4=1=7=1.  If they follow suit, win the club and play 2 more rounds of trump.  They must win and lead diamonds (assuming North started with a singleton heart).  With both losing diamonds ruffed in dummy and the heart discarded on the 13th club, you have 12 tricks.  This line of play (ruff a diamond at trick 2), eliminates the non-obvious requirement to lead a high club as you cross to hand, unblocking clubs so that the 3 can lead to the 4.

At my table, due to the 2 opening bid, South found the Q opening lead (although it made no difference which diamond they chose).  I ruffed and played the AQ.  Since I retained both red aces, I was in great position to get the ‘5+1+1+5 tricks’ mentioned at the start, although not as initially expected (that is, initially I thought 3 top trumps and 1 ruff in each hand, the classic ‘extra trick’ to get 5 tricks out of a 4-4 trump holding).  Instead, I can get 2 diamond ruffs in dummy to go with my 3 top trumps.  So, I crossed to my hand in clubs, ruffed my J, and then crossed again in clubs (if they ruff, my club trick count goes down by 1, but my trump trick count goes up by 1).  Now I should play 2 rounds of trump (giving North their natural trick) and claim.  Only I didn’t – big blind spot (my ‘blind spot’ was based on the usual technique of ‘leave the high trump outstanding so that you still have a trump after they ruff’ – but it doesn’t apply when you have all suits controlled, a suit to run and cannot afford an untimely ruff).  Anyway, I just kept playing clubs.  Now, if North simply ruffs the 4th round of clubs, my 13th club is inaccessible and I only have 11 tricks.  But, North ruffed the 3rd round of clubs and I was back to 12 tricks.  But I wasn’t in slam, so the tricks made no difference.

Let’s move over to the play in the slam.  With no diamond bid from partner, South found the normal lead of the Q which went to the K and A.  As mentioned previously, 12 tricks are available on any lead, but not easily.  Declarer erred by drawing 3 rounds of trump, leaving the high trump outstanding.  They then started playing clubs.  North was down to their high trump and all diamonds.  Since they were counting points (declarer had shown 20-21), they ‘knew’ that, in order to reach 20 HCP declarer had to hold the AQ, so a simple finesse would allow declarer to win 2 diamonds when North is forced to lead a diamond after ruffing a club.  The way to avoid that finesse is to never ruff!  So, they didn’t ruff the 3rd round, 4th round or 5th round of clubs.  They let declarer cash all of their clubs and pitch the heart loser.  If North ruffs any club, both of declarer’s trumps will become tricks, so the defense will only score the high trump and a diamond at the end, down 1.  If declarer did have the Q, there is nothing the defense can do.  Declarer will make 12 tricks when they finesse the diamond after North leads one.  Discarding on all of the clubs allowed declarer to score both of their trumps separately, and the diamond loser that they actually held was doubly lost as it was covered by South’s  Q and ruffed by North’s high trump at trick 13.

So, not the best offense, defense or bidding on this hand.  We were +480 and our teammates were -980, lose 11 IMPs.  6 is an excellent slam and we should have gotten there even after the opening weak 2.  Making 6 is certainly easy after the diamond lead that I got – take 2 diamond ruffs as you draw 2 rounds of trump and then re-enter hand to play 2 more rounds of trump.  With all suits controlled, 12 tricks (5+1+1+5).

 
6
E-W
East
N
Cris
82
K1043
Q5
K10863
 
W
Mark M
AK943
AQ5
864
A5
2
E
Bob
QJ76
76
AK9
QJ97
 
S
Mark R
105
J982
J10732
42
 

 

W
Mark M
N
Cris
E
Bob
S
Mark R
1
Pass
1
Pass
2
Pass
31
Pass
3NT2
Pass
6
All Pass
 
 
(1) Spiral ask – 3 trump or 4? min or max?
(2) 4 card ‘max’

 

W
Bruce
N
Gary
E
Tom
S
Dan
1
Pass
1
Pass
2
Pass
2NT1
Pass
32
Pass
4
All Pass
 
 
(1) Spiral ask? 3 trump or 4? min or max?
(2) 4 card ‘min’

The bidding was nearly identical until it came time to call the East hand ‘minimum’ or ‘maximum’.  I judged it ‘maximum’ and my partner quickly ended the bidding with slam.  My counterpart holding my hand at the other table judged ‘minimum’ and his partner reasonably signed off in game.  Which is it?  Min or Max?  Relying on K&R Hand Evaluator, not available at the table, I learn that this hand comes out at 11.85!  While I’m shocked (I thought that with the K supported by the A and with both queens supported by jacks), that the honor combination moved the evaluation closer to 14 than 12.  I have know ‘forever’ that queens are overvalued, and the proper evaluation of this hand will help me evaluate better next time.

Still, we did reach a reasonable slam.  As long as trump aren’t 4-0, there are 12 easy tricks if the heart finesse wins.  If the heart finesse loses there is a chance in clubs (to dispose of your diamond loser).  First the club finesse must win, but also the 10 must be doubleton or tripleton so that the 9 is established for your diamond discard.  So, the slam is a little better than 50%, which is certainly enough to bid a slam, but with both finesses losing, there was nothing to the play.  Both tables scored 11 tricks, so we were -100, our teammates were -650, lose 13 IMPs.

Epilog – there are lots of flavors of ‘spiral asking bids’.  Some always start with 2NT as the asking bid whether trump is hearts or spades.  There is a ‘Dutch Spiral’ that has gotten a lot of press on Bridgewinners.  With most of my current partners, we are using 2NT as natural (always) and the next higher suit (2 over 2; 3 over 2) is the asking bid.  But, in addition to agreeing what the asking bid is, there are a variety of responses out there, so if you decide to play ‘spiral’ it is best to confirm with partner what all of the bids are.  Spiral also works best if you know how to evaluate a hand as min or max which I failed on this occasion!

 
11
None
South
N
Bob
K10
AJ4
K9873
AQ2
 
W
Gary
QJ7653
1082
65
KJ
A
E
Bruce
2
Q97653
10
109876
 
S
Mark R
A984
K
AQJ42
543
 
W
Gary
N
Bob
E
Bruce
S
Mark R
1
2
3
Pass
3NT
Pass
4NT1
Pass
52
Pass
6NT
All Pass
 
(1) Intended as quantitative
(2) Answering 2 with the queen

 

W
Tom
N
Cris
E
Dan
S
Mark M
1
2
3
Pass
3NT
Pass
4NT1
All Pass
 
(1) Intended as quantitative

Identical bidding at both tables to get this auction started.  I don’t like either auction, since, if diamonds are trump, 12 tricks are there on any lead with the club finesse available for all 13 tricks.  The preempt gummed up the works, which preempts are intended to do.  There simply isn’t room for opener to describe a real diamond suit.  At my table, when partner answered key cards to my intended natural/invitational 4NT, I still didn’t know what to do.  They could have been 4=4=3=2 and produced the same auction.  Even though I have a nice hand, my 3 bid aleady showed a decent hand and slam will take a perfect fit or extra values that partner could not conveniently show.  Bottom line, we wandered into 6NT and thanks to the power of the 10 and 9 (and the club finesse), 12 tricks were easily there (3+2+5+2).  The same 12 tricks were there in the 4NT contract, so we were +990 vs. our teammates -490, to win a lucky 11 IMPs.

The hand belongs in a diamond slam.  But I haven’t figured the auction that sensibly gets there, perhaps some readers can help?  Obviously you can just sit there and bid 6 like I bid 6NT, but I’m looking for an auction that can knowingly bid 6.

 
12
N-S
West
N
Bob
K
AJ10
AKQ943
J62
 
W
Gary
J1096
8743
AQ953
A
E
Bruce
AQ75
K952
76
K108
 
S
Mark R
8432
Q6
J10852
74
 

 

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

When I was 2nd seat, Vulnerable vs. not, I actually considered a 2NT opening (18 HCP plus a point for the 5th and 6th diamond = 20 – perfect!).  Only possessing nothing to stop 9-10 black suit winners convinced me to start with 1.  At the other table, North did start (and end) the auction with 2NT.  Who/how does E-W enter the auction after that start???  Now it came down to the lead.  David Bird instructs passive leads into a powerful 2NT opening hand.  Lead Captain didn’t have a lot of differentiation between the different choices – clearly the best lead will depend upon what partner and declarer hold in the various suits and you have no way of knowing.  Lead Captain has 2 ways of expressing the value of a lead: % set (how often the contract goes down with that lead) and # tricks (the average number of tricks that lead will produce for the defense over 5000-10,000 deals).  For IMPs, %set is all that matters (you don’t care how much they go down – well OK, you do a little), but you want to beat the hand.  By the definitions that I inserted into the hands, Lead Captain chose a A (60.3%) as its first choice (allowing a 4 trick set), a small heart (59.6%) as their second choice (giving declarer their 8th trick), and a passive diamond (55.8%) as the third choice (the actual choice that East made at the table).  Declarer won the diamond lead and played another diamond at trick 2.  East, who was thinking about something else, played the 2, showing the K.  They then noticed that they still held a diamond to follow suit, so they corrected the revoke, but the 2 was on the table.  So, at trick 3, declarer led a heart, East played their 2, and declarer had found their 8th trick!  Without the revoke, no line of play can get more than 7 tricks.

Back to the auction at our table.  East had a routine takeout double of my 1 opening bid.  Partner made a gentle raise to 2 (I doubt that a preemptive raise would have helped keep the opponents out of game – perhaps pass would help?) and West bid 2.  With no spade stopper, NT did not appeal for my second bid.  But, it appears we likely have the majority of the HCP (we did), so it felt like I should compete somewhere.  Had I chosen 3 we might have been able to defend 3.  Instead, I bid 4 and West reopened with 4 which East corrected to 4.  There is no lead or defense that can beat 4 and, in fact, amazingly, there is no lead or defense to defeat 5 in spite of the defense holding the AQJ10x!  Against 4 declarer ruffed the opening diamond lead, drew 3 rounds of trump, crossed to the K and drew the last trump and then ran clubs for their 10 tricks.  That left us -420 while our teammates were -120 to lose 11 IMPs.  We are still losing 8 IMPs even if they beat 2NT a trick (and losing 1 IMP even if the beat 2NT 4 tricks!), but, with 2NT down 1, at least this hand would not have made an appearance in the blog!  Against 2NT, the A is an incredibly effective lead on this deal, but it can sure quickly give declarer a trick and a tempo on many other hands.  What a hand.

 
14
None
East
N
Dan
K
A43
AK9763
1093
 
W
Bob
QJ7653
107
42
A76
K
E
Gary
82
KQJ8653
KQ42
 
S
Mark M
A1094
9
QJ1085
J85
 
W
Bob
N
Dan
E
Gary
S
Mark M
1
Pass
1
2
2
3
Pass
3NT
All Pass
 

 

W
Bruce
N
Cris
E
Mark R
S
Tom
4
All Pass

Another wild hand.  As dealer what should East open, nobody vulnerable?  One table decided to start the auction at 4 and it ended there.  At my table, partner started low.  As you can see, partner hoped that his best chance for a plus was using his clubs and hearts and my spades to prevent 9 tricks in NT, so when the opponents reached 3NT, he passed.  It turns out competing further to 4 would have worked better, since there are always 9 tricks in NT for N-S and always 10 tricks in hearts E-W (since clubs split 3-3).  Nothing to the leads, play or defense here at either table, it was all in the bidding judgment.  We were -400 and our teammates were -420, lose 13 IMPs.

But, going slowly might have worked – if East bids 4 over 3NT and can buy it for 4 (and not have the opponents compete to 5).  The opponents might think that, having contracted for 9 tricks in NT that it is more likely to score 4 tricks against the 4 contract than 11 tricks in diamonds.  At the other table, going fast might have failed.  North, who appeared to have substantial defense against 4, did not feel like contracting for 11 tricks in 5♦ (turn a probably plus into a probably minus).  Had North balanced with 5, East has to find the improbable lead of three rounds of their KQxx suit instead of starting with their KQJxxxx suit, or else the diamond game will come home.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I would find a club lead if I were East defending against 5.  But, I must say it is hard to get to 5, either the slow way (after first trying for the 9 trick NT contract and then bidding 5♦ over the opponents 4) or the fast way (balancing over the 4 opening bid).

Should North balance over 4?  Should East open 4?  Bob Richardson, author of Lead Captain, is working on a program called ‘Bid Captain’ – so here is a data point to add to the program.  Would Bid Captain balance with 5 after the 4 opening bid, or pass and go for a defeat of 4?

 
22
E-W
East
N
Cris
A10764
9762
863
K
 
W
Bob
KJ852
AQ95
J972
Q
E
Tom
9
AKQJ
K104
A8543
 
S
Gary
Q3
108543
J72
Q106
 

 

W
Bob
N
Cris
E
Tom
S
Gary
1
Pass
1
Pass
2
Pass
3
Pass
3NT
All Pass
W
Mark R
N
Mark M
E
Dan
S
Bruce
1
Pass
1
Pass
2
Pass
6
All Pass
 
 

Another slam decision.  The auction started normally enough at both tables and West had to find a bid over the 2 reverse.  Often I will show my 5th card in my major, but that is not played as game forcing, so I chose to bid 3 which is game forcing and let’s partner know about the fit (do you and partner have an agreement about what forces to game after a reverse?  you should).  If partner has 3 spades to go with his 4 hearts and 5 or more clubs, I will hear about it next round.  When partner next bid 3NT, it virtually guaranteed that he was 1=4=3=5 with the K.  So, playing in clubs, we have no heart losers, no diamond losers, but very likely a spade loser and the issue is how many of partner’s points are concentrated in clubs (to ensure no club loser) and how many points are wasted/useless in hearts.  Perhaps I should pull 3NT to 4 which should be key card for clubs.  But, I still won’t really know if one key card being shown by partner is the A or the K!?!  With the AKQ, the club slam could be cold, or at least playable.  Missing any one of those (assuming a spade loser) and the slam will be dicey or hopeless.  On top of that, the 10 could be a critical card.  So, I decided to go quietly.  After the Q lead, 11 tricks were straightforward in our 3NT contract.

At the other table, the player holding my hand had an answer for responding to the reverse – bid 6!  It could have worked if partner had the right cards.  He didn’t have the right cards.  In fact, if the defenders clubs were switched, there would have been 2 club losers to go with the spade loser and you can’t even make 5.  Slams pay well when they come home, but we were +660 while our teammates were +100 to win 13 IMPs.

 
23
Both
South
N
Cris
10975432
8
53
A75
 
W
Bob
8
KJ9764
974
Q63
8
E
Tom
AK6
532
AJ102
1042
 
S
Gary
QJ
AQ10
KQ86
KJ98
 

 

W
Bob
N
Cris
E
Tom
S
Gary
1
2
Pass
3
Pass
Pass
3
Pass
3NT
Pass
Pass
Dbl
All Pass

 

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

Without the 2nd seat preempt, the auction at the other table was quite straightforward (as you can see from the auction listed second).  With both vulnerable, I was in second seat after South opened 1.  I certainly didn’t like the broken heart suit, and it was possible I would go for a large number, but bridge is a bidder’s game, so I entered the auction with 2.  North has an easy 1 response if West passes or bids 1, but 2 over 2 shows more values than this, and perhaps he will get another chance to bid, so North was forced to pass at their first turn.  When 3 came around to North, they balanced with 3.  South, who had had a 2NT rebid that they never got to show, decided that their spade fillers (and the potential for 3 heart stoppers) would allow NT to play better than spades, so they bid 3NT.  Playing NT, there won’t be a heart lead through their tenace, but in 4 the heart lead is coming right through the AQ10.  My partner, perhaps expecting more for my vulnerable 2 call, elected to double 3NT!?!?  Wow.  We are in trouble.  If the opponents now run to 4 we have no defense and we are going -790.  But both North and South decided to sit for 3NTX.  As long as I don’t lead a heart against 3NT, declarer will be held to 7 tricks.  My actual spade lead was won with the K and I won the heart shift with the J.  At this point I can surrender club tricks or diamond tricks, but as long as I don’t lead hearts, declarer will only have 7 tricks.  I chose clubs (declarer did bid diamonds and I have help in clubs if partner has any values there).  That gave declarer the whole club suit for 4 tricks, but he can only manage 1 in each of the other three suits, so only 7 tricks for declarer.  We were +500 while our teammates were +620 in their unbeatable 4 contract to win 15 IMPs. 

Had partner not doubled, we would ‘only’ win 13 IMPs.  But, the double had the chance to lose 5 IMPs (net loss of 18-20 IMPs) if the opponents ran to 4 and we doubled that.  Although doubles can pay handsomely… warning: do not double if the opponents can run to a making contract – just sit and take your known sure plus.

 

 

 

 

 

Recap Of 4/8/2019 28 Board IMP Individual

Today we had 4 double digit swings – 2 slam hands and the other 2 varied bidding decisions.

 
6
E-W
East
N
Ed
A85
AQ7532
A8
85
 
W
Chris
QJ1074
J109
53
AJ10
5
E
Mike
96
84
Q97642
962
 
S
Bob
K32
K6
KJ10
KQ743
 

 

W
Chris
N
Ed
E
Mike
S
Bob
Pass
1NT
Pass
41
Dbl2
4
Pass
43
Pass
54
Pass
6
All Pass
 
(1) Texas Transfer to hearts
(2) Requesting diamond lead
(3) ?
(4) ?

 

W
Jerry
N
Manfred
E
Gary S
S
Dan
Pass
1NT
Pass
21
Pass
2
Pass
42
All Pass
 
(1) Jacoby transfer
(2) Slam invitational

Most people who play both Texas and Jacoby transfers over 1NT opening bids use those tools to describe various hands with 5 or 6 card majors.  Typically, if all you want to do is play 4, you need to bid (Texas transfer) 4 and pass when partner accepts the transfer by bidding 4.   But, if you want to invite slam with a 6 card suit, you can start with (Jacoby transfer) 2 and when partner accepts the transfer by bidding 2, you can bid 4 showing a slam invitational hand with 6 trump.

Another way to invite slam with a suit that is only 5 long is to first use Jacoby transfer and then bid 4NT (4 NT is NOT key card, but a quantitative raise showing slam invitational values that includes a major suit that is only 5 long).

Here, North had a suit that was 6 long and wanted to invite slam – but they have a problem.  Partner has at most 1 ace and may not be encouraged to move beyond game.  At the other table the opponents, who were holding our cards, did start with a Jacoby transfer and then invited slam with a raise of 2 to 4, but they played it there when the invitation was declined.

At my table, partner decided to bid (Texas transfer) 4 which got doubled.  My system notes with most partners discuss “if a Jacoby transfer is doubled”…but, looking at my notes, the notes don’t cover “what if a Texas transfer is doubled?”  I think the same principle should apply.  That is, if the Jacoby (or Texas) transfer is doubled, you accept the transfer as long as you know you will have 8 trump and you DO NOT HAVE two fast losers in the suit that was doubled (here, that means you hold the A or K).  Partner can always redouble to re-transfer, but meanwhile partner can know if you are exposed (or not) in the suit that was doubled.  After I bid 4 my partner bid 4.  OK, what does that mean?  We had some table talk (perhaps it is exclusion key card showing a spade void; perhaps it is kickback asking key cards via 4 rather than 4NT; perhaps it is a cue bid checking on a club control?), but eventually we decided it wasn’t really fair to ask – if partner chooses to make a murky undefined bid, do your best to figure it out).  So, I did the best I could by bidding 5.  It was my longest strongest suit, it might show partner a club control, and it also answered 1 key card in case partner was playing 0314 key card with his 4 bid!  So, however partner took my bid (and however he intended his bid), I had it!  Partner assumed that I would not have accepted the transfer (after 4 was doubled) unless I had some interest in hearts – I could always wait and let him bid 4 or redouble to re-transfer.  So, he decided to just bid the slam over my .  After the diamond lead, it was all over when trump were 3-2, since a diamond winner allowed me to get rid of the spade loser in dummy.

Doubles to help partner on the opening lead can be very good.  Here East had nothing in any suit but diamonds and feared partner might blow a trick if they led a non-diamond on opening lead, so they doubled.  If West leads a spade, things are a bit more touchy.  If clubs don’t set up, you can always fall back on a diamond finesse.  Declarer will always arrive at 12 tricks with this friendly layout.  So, we were +980 vs. teammates at -480 to win 11 IMPs.

 
10
Both
East
N
Manfred
J8
10
Q9862
87654
 
W
Mike
653
J976
K53
KQ10
K
E
Bob
A1094
K832
AJ
A32
 
S
Jerry
KQ72
AQ54
1074
J9
 

 

W
Mike
N
Manfred
E
Bob
S
Jerry
1NT
Pass
3NT
All Pass
 
 

 

W
Chris
N
Dan
E
Ed
S
Gary S
1NT
Dbl1
22
Pass
2
Pass
4
All Pass
 
 
(1) Meckwell showing one minor, both majors or good hand with spades!?
(2) Stayman

Here I was playing with a semi-regular partner where, after my strong 1NT opening bid, 2 could be a Stayman start to an invitational sequence heading towards 2NT with or without a 4 card major; 3 would be game forcing puppet Stayman which would allow us to find a 5-3 spade fit or a 4-4 heart fit.  But, partner elected to make an aggressive 3NT call (9 tricks might be easier than 10) and we played it there.  Lucky.  At the other table, they deployed Stayman, found the 4-4 fit in hearts and wound up with 7 tricks, down 3, +300 for our teammates.  Double Dummy there are 9 tricks available to declarer in hearts, but the poor split and some unlucky guesses only produced 7 tricks.

Playing 3NT, I had to find a way to win 9 tricks after the opening lead of the K.  I ducked, of course, and North decided that the 8 played by South would make a spade continuation safe, so at trick 2 they led a small spade to the J and A.  I continued spades at trick 3, establishing my second spade trick – I was going for 2+2+2+3.  I had five top tricks in the minors (with a possible 3rd trick in diamonds), and with that start, I was up to two spade tricks.  If I could find either the Q or the 10 with my RHO, I would be able to force 2 heart tricks.  When North won the Q at trick 4, they led a heart.  The club and diamond suits did not look appealing to North at the start, and after seeing dummy and seeing the first 2 tricks, the minors still didn’t look appealing.  As it turns out, double dummy, no defense can defeat 3NT. 

So, at trick 4, when I captured the 10 with the K, I had the power to keep leading hearts, losing 2 more tricks in hearts, but winning a second heart and get me to 9 tricks.  The vulnerable game scored +600, so we won 14 IMPs.

I don’t think I would have bounced to the 3NT game if I had held partner’s (West’s) hand.  It can be useful to check on major suit fits.  But, bidding 3NT sure worked for this hand.

 
16
E-W
West
N
Bob
J85
A9872
J10754
 
W
Gary S
AQ
QJ9432
Q53
AK
4
E
Ed
K109743
K5
KJ10
86
 
S
Jerry
62
A10876
64
Q932
 

 

W
Gary S
N
Bob
E
Ed
S
Jerry
1
2NT1
32
53
54
All Pass
 
 
(1) Unusual for the minors
(2) Showing an invitational hand in spades
(3) Advance save, hoping to push
(4) Going for the vulnerable game

 

W
Chris
N
Manfred
E
Dan
S
Mike
1
2NT1
32
Pass
4
All Pass
 
 
(1) Unusual for the minors
(2) Showing an invitational hand in spades

The bidding started with the same three bids at both tables, but with the favorable vulnerability, my partner decided to push them level higher by immediately bouncing to 5.  West had some texture to their long heart suit and wasn’t sure how long/strong partner’s spade suit would be.  As it turns out, there is no defense to stop 11 tricks in spades, but the 5-0 split in hearts left declarer with only 10 tricks at both tables, losing the 2 red aces plus another heart trick.  That mean down 1 for us, +100 to go with +620 for our teammates, win 12 IMPs.

Once again, there was nothing to the play, it was all in the bidding.  Several lessons are available from the bidding.  Preempts work – they create problems and make the opponents guess.  Sometimes it is best to take the plus score that has been offered (5X would likely have scored +500) rather than risk a speculative bid at the 5 level (“The 5 level belongs to the opponents”?).  Arriving at a 5 contract was barely possible, but highly unlikely…unless South got greedy and doubled the 5 contract!  The extra 100 points gains 1 IMP, but if your double causes them to run to 5, the 12 IMPs you were winning by defending 4 without a double just became a 1 IMP loss.  There aren’t too many rules in bridge that have the words “always” or “never,” but I think it is safe to say “never double the opponents in a contract where they will fail if it is possible for them to run to a higher level contract that will succeed.”  You will turn a small (or even possibly large) win into a loss – this is losing bridge (and you might lose a partner along with it).

Another ‘lesson’ from the bidding revolves around the spade suit and Uvs.U.  Most players play that a 2NT overcall of an opening bid shows 2 suits (some always the minors, some the two lowest unbid).  On this hand, 2NT (known as “Unusual NT” bid at both tables) was clearly showing clubs and diamonds.  The side that opened the bidding can use the two known suits (+) shown by the opponents to create some useful bids for their side to show the other two suits (+).  This is known as “Unusual vs. Unusual” aka Uvs.U.  But, as is often the case, there is reasonable ground for reasonable agreements (disagreements) over what various choices mean, so be sure to discuss this with your partner.  When the two suits known to be held by the opponents are clubs and diamonds, some people play that cue bidding the lower suit (clubs) always shows a limit raise in partner’s suit while others play that cue bidding the lower suit always shows the lower suit (hearts).    Here, since West opened hearts, both ‘agreements’ would have the same meaning.  What about the 4th suit – spades?  There are two ways to show spades – one by bidding 3♠ and one by bidding 3.  Which is stronger?  Here again, there are different agreements, so you must discuss and agree with partner.  Some play that one bid is “less than invitational” and the other bid is “invitational or better.”  The ‘common’ understanding, used at both tables, was that 3 would be strong and game forcing, while 3 would show spades with invitational values.  I think this hand is about as close to prototypical that you could get for an invitational spade hand.  A suit that is 6 long, 10 HCP, doubleton support for partner’s initial heart bid.  Perfect. 

So, why didn’t E-W arrive in 5 that makes instead of 5 that did not make?  Well, the N-S bidding does not offer any clue into which suit is breaking 5-0!?!?! Very unlucky for E-W.  Had the hearts been 4-1, a ruff would likely beat 5 but you can score 11 tricks in hearts (by finessing for the 10).  But when the opponents have modest values and compete for a high level contract, it is often because they have some distributional values to make up for their lack of HCP.  So, beware – bad breaks will be lurking (if North is 5=5 in the minors as advertised, it is not possible for both majors to break 3-2 – it simply can’t happen).  Rather than guess, just double and collect what you can.

 
19
E-W
South
N
Dan
Q2
75432
95
A1092
 
W
Bob
AK1073
Q
K1032
J86
4
E
Gary S
64
AKJ106
AQ64
K4
 
S
Mike
J985
98
J87
Q753
 

 

W
Bob
N
Dan
E
Gary S
S
Mike
Pass
1
Pass
2
Pass
2
Pass
3
Pass
4
Pass
4NT1
Pass
52
Pass
6
All Pass
(1) Key card for diamonds
(2) 2 key cards without the diamond Q

 

W
Ed
N
Manfred
E
Jerry
S
Chris
Pass
1
Pass
2
Pass
2
Pass
2NT
Pass
3NT
All Pass
 
 

Here again, the first 3 bids were the same, but my partner’s second bid showed his second suit.  It was easy to raise diamonds (although I considered bidding 3 and supporting with the singleton Q).  Usually honor doubleton is expected when you provide delayed support to a known 5 card suit.  Anyway, partner proceeded with key card and soon we were in the diamond slam.  It was easy to score 12 tricks – the hearts were so strong that it was not necessary for the A to be onside as long as trumps broke 3-2 (2+5+5+0).  Fits that are 4-4 usually produce a 5th trick via a ruff in each hand – sometimes even a 6th or 7th trick can be scored with extra ruffing.  After the actual club lead, declarer won trick 2 with the K and simply needed to draw trump and claim the balance of the tricks, scoring +1370.

The other table stopped in a safe 3NT contract.  When the 3 was led, North inserted the ♣9 which was won by the K.  Declarer ran their red suit winners and, uncertain about the club situation, South abandoned spades and declarer was able to score all 13 tricks.  Still -720 for our teammates along with +1370 for our diamond slam allowed us to score 12 IMPs.

What about the bidding?  Certainly a lot of players, for purposes of opening bids, are treating many hands that are 5-4-2-2 as balanced and opening 1NT when they are in range in terms of HCP.  But, that is for opening bid purposes.  Also, in the second round of bidding in game forcing auctions, jumps in NT should show extras (“not fast arrival”) so that a 2NT rebid by responder (who already made a 2/1 game forcing bid) should show a minimum (13-14 HCP) so that a jump to 3NT would show 15-17 HCP.  With more than 17 HCP, you can start with 2NT, but then you must bid again after partner raises to 3NT.  Here with 17 (plus the strong 5 card suit upgrading to 18), if they are going to rebid NT, East probably should either jump at their second bid or else bid further after partner raises to 3NT, depending on how they evaluate their hand.  East chose the 2NT bid in order to become declarer and protect the K on the opening lead.  But, in the end, West, who had opened the bidding, never knew that East had extra values nor that they had a second suit in diamonds.  Right siding the contract can be a useful tool in constructing the auction/making your bidding choices.  But, here, if partner raises 2NT to 3NT, with extra values and an awkward auction, what should you bid?  What would a 4 bid show?  I think just bidding naturally (3) for East’s rebid was easiest, best and certainly worked well on this hand.  The diamond slam is far superior to NT or hearts (even though they all make on this hand).  In diamonds, if trump are 3-2 (67.8% of the time), you can reach 12 tricks without the A onside.  In both hearts and NT, you cannot reach 12 tricks without finding the A onside.  Well, in hearts, you have one slim extra chance: with trump 4-3 and spades 3-3, you can ruff spades good for club discards.

In an email exchange with Jerry (who was East and bid 2NT), I learned that, in his regular partnerships, he plays 3NT as the weak hand (minimum game hand, a type of “fast arrival” treatment that I have never heard of) and uses 2NT for all ‘extra value’ hands.  If his partner knew this, he could have offered his 4 card diamond suit at the 3 level and perhaps proceeded to slam – who knows?  As it was, West was minimum with a little help everywhere and simply raised 2NT to 3NT ending the auction.

So, on all of the hands, bidding determined the result.  Lead, defense and declarer play had little impact on the final IMP result.  And all 4 swings went my way, although in each case it was my partner’s decision that created the good result (not mine).  

  • Board 6 – moving past 4 
  • Board 10 – bidding 3NT and not checking on the majors
  • Board 16 – taking the save in 5 and making the opponents guess at the 5 level
  • Board 19 – bidding their second suit propelling us into the excellent diamond slam

Recap Of 4/3/2019 28 Board IMP Individual

Today’s game only had 2 double digit swings (with a fair number of opportunities that failed to materialize).  Both were slam hands – see how you might bid these with your favorite partner/systems.

 
2
N-S
East
N
Bob
J864
43
543
Q1096
 
W
Gary
Q95
AQJ9
J8
A743
3
E
Bruce
AK32
K862
A9
KJ8
 
S
Jack
107
1075
KQ10762
52
 

 

W
Gary
N
Bob
E
Bruce
S
Jack
1
21
22
Pass
33
Pass
34
Pass
4NT5
Pass
56
Pass
5NT7
Pass
6NT8
Pass
79
All Pass
(1) Weak
(2) ?
(3) Forcing, often Western asking for a diamond stopper, but here clearly heading for a heart contract
(4) Punt, not willing to go past 3NT, waiting to see what partner’s intentions are
(5) Key Card
(6) Showing 2 aces and the heart Q
(7) Letting partner know that they possess all key cards and asking about kings
(8) Apparently still not sure how strong partner’s heart support is, so deciding to attempt slam in NT
(9) Not comfortable that there are 12 tricks in NT, so maybe there will be 13 tricks in hearts

 

W
Tom
N
Cris
E
Mike
S
Mark M
1
31
Dbl2
Pass
43
Pass
44
All Pass
 
 
(1) Weak!
(2) Negative
(3) Force partner to pick a major
(4) Bidding the only 4 card major they hold

Diamond preempts over 1 opening bids are notorious for creating problems for the responding hand.  Although I had numerous comments in the bidding diagram, I will spend a bit of time on the struggles at both tables.

At my table, my partner bid (only) 2 and the opponents ended up in a confused auction that eventually landed in the hopeless (as the cards lie) 7 grand slam.  Many people play that a negative double after an auction that starts 1-(1)-X shows exactly 4=4 in both majors, but some play it shows at least 4 in each major with possibly more.  However, 1-(2/3)-X is different.  West doesn’t have the luxury of confining the specific meaning of the negative double to guaranteeing that they are 4 long in each major – the double shows values which will usually include at least 4 cards in at least 1 major, but partner doesn’t always know precisely what you hold.  For me, I would use the negative double with both auctions, even though West only held 3=4 in the major suits.  At my table, over 2, West elected to freely bid their heart suit even though it was only 4 long.  East cue bid 3 showing a strong hand and, at least temporarily asking for a diamond stopper.  West denied the diamond stopper and stalled with a 3 bid (interpreted by West as a hand that was 4=5 in the majors.  So, East launched into Key Card for hearts.  Upon hearing that partner had the two missing aces as well as the Q, East checked on kings via 5NT (advising partner that all key cards were held) hoping that there might be a grand slam and…West ‘signed off’ in 6NT!  East was wrong when he decided 12 tricks would not be possible in NT, and when he tried to put partner in 7, they were not able to find 13 tricks playing in hearts.  The hands were too flat, too balanced (however a 3-2 trump split and a 3-3 spade split and a club finesse would have been enough to find 13 tricks in hearts- but it was not to be).

What about 6NT?  Since North holds the 4th round stopper in both black suits, declarer can duck a diamond lead (or win any lead, then duck a diamond) and then run 5 red winners.  The remaining 7 cards for declarer will be 4 spades in dummy along with 3 clubs, but 4 clubs in declarer’s hand along with 3 spades.  North is unable to hold 4 cards in BOTH black suits, so they will be squeezed – establishing the 4th card for declarer in whichever suit North abandons (assuming declarer takes the club finesse).  So, 12 tricks were available playing in NT.

Our teammates faced a 3 preemptive overcall and didn’t find the sequence to advance to slam.  West started with a negative double (as I would) and heard partner come back with 4.  East’s 4 bid allows them to not be forced to choose a major in case partner, under pressure, didn’t have both majors.  Since East has both majors, he is happy to let West choose.  But, when West chooses, they are now at game, having mentioned hearts for the first time at the 4 level.  Both East (who could advance beyond partner’s 4 bid) and West (who made the 4 bid) could have bid more.  But neither had a huge amount extra.  Since East would probably bid the way they did with one less ace, they probably need to take another bid.  But bid what?  A 5 bid would say ‘partner, bid 6 as long as you don’t have 2 fast diamond losers’ – not the key question for this slam.  Key Card would likely have worked, but that is a bit unilateral in case partner was stretching to make the negative double of 3.  I think, what you really want, is a quantitative invitational bid which says: ‘partner, if you have any extra, anything in reserve, for your bidding thus far, bid slam.’  Perhaps that ‘slam invite bid’ is 5?  A 5 bid would confirm that a diamond stopper is not the issue, but invite slam if partner has any reason to move onward.  Some may look at the East hand and say they simply have to drive to slam.  Some may look at the West hand and say they have to bid more than 4.  What do you think?

And, what do you think of the diamond preempt?  Second seat is a really dangerous place to stick in a vulnerable preempt vs. non-vulnerable opponents.  There were no singletons, so many might fear making any bid at all.  I like to bid 2 over 1 whenever possible.  Here, I can simply call the 3 bid bold!

Anyway, our teammates thought they lost 11 IMPs when they did not bid the small slam, but in fact we won 11 IMPs when the grand slam went down.

 
22
E-W
East
N
Bruce
1065
10976
1073
1042
 
W
Tom
AK732
AKQ5
J854
 
K
E
Mark M
Q9
J3
AK96
A9875
 
S
Bob
J84
842
Q2
KQJ63
 

 

W
Tom
N
Bruce
E
Mark M
S
Bob
1
Pass
1
Pass
1NT
Pass
21
Pass
32
Pass
33
Pass
3NT4
All Pass
(1) XYZ – game forcing checkback
(2) Showing the diamond suit
(3) Values in hearts
(4) Unwilling to go higher, not knowing of a fit

 

W
Jack
N
Cris
E
Gary
S
Mike
1
2
2
Pass
2NT
Pass
3
Pass
3NT
Pass
41
Pass
42
Pass
53
Pass
64
All Pass
(1) Forcing cue bid, slam interest, little interest in NT
(2) Honor doubleton, offer to play
(3) Finally supporting diamonds
(4) If there’s 11 tricks, there must be 12

The slam bidding (by our teammates) was simplified somewhat when East (as dealer) opened the bidding with 1 in spite of a decent (and longer) club suit.  After the 2 overcall, West could be pretty sure that all of his cards were working (and that it was likely that partner’s cards were also working).  I don’t know the best way to bid these two hands, but our West teammate bid his hand sufficiently strongly that, in the end, East simply raised the 5 game bid to the 6 slam.  There were lots of choices for which strain to play – all options but clubs were in play.  The cards lay so friendly for declarer that 13 tricks were available in clubs, hearts, spades and no trump, but clearly you don’t want to get past a small slam.  Only the diamond slam offers a high percentage chance to make (all 3-2 diamond splits and some 4-1 splits will find 12 tricks).  So, congratulations to our teammates who bid the diamond slam.  In the actual play, declarer won the heart lead, cashed a high diamond, and then led small to the J, losing to the Q.  This will make anytime diamonds are 3-2 (and no ruff), but it will also pick up a 4-1 trump break with LHO.  It also picks up 4-1 break with singleton Q, but since the Q didn’t drop, you know that parlay isn’t coming through for you.

At my table, after East opened 1 there was no opposing bidding.  By raising the artificial 2 to 3, East showed a hand with less than 3 spades, less than 4 hearts, and exactly 4 diamonds.  Next, 3 showed strong hearts, but East didn’t know if West was simply confirming heart values for NT when they were 2=2 in the minors, or if the 3 call represented diamond interest, so they retreated to 3NT.  West, on the other hand, didn’t know if East had relatively weak diamonds with wasted strength in clubs (in which case 3NT was likely the limit of the hand), or strong diamonds (that he actually had).  I think West can make one more move, bidding 4 over 3NT (I think that should show exactly 5=4=4=0).  Then, if partner bids 4NT – that would be (I think) to play.  But, if partner moves on with diamonds, bid the slam.  Slam isn’t cold, but it is a good slam where, if you could look at both hands, you would always want to be in 6.

I think the general tendency is to open 1 all (or almost all) times when you are 4=5 in the minors.   How do you bid reach the good diamond slam after a 1 start?  I think there are 2 ways.  Either West can raise 3 to 4, or else West can bid just like they did at our table, but continue with 4 over 3NT, showing a slam positive hand that is almost certainly 5=4=4=0.  East, with their major suit helpers and minor suit controls should be able to envision slam and just bid it.

There was not much in the play – 13 tricks in 3NT made our score -720 while our teammates scored +1370 in 6, winning 12 IMPs.

Recap Of 3/4/2019 28 Board IMP Individual

There were 5 double digit swings in the game on Monday with a number of other hands that might have been a large swing if the right opportunities had been found.

 
1
None
North
N
Gary
KJ987
K5
J94
1076
 
W
Bob
1062
A103
AQ10
K952
K
E
Chris
AQ5
762
7653
AQ3
 
S
Manfred
43
QJ984
K82
J84
 

 

W
Bob
N
Gary
E
Chris
S
Manfred
Pass
1
1
2
2
3
Pass
31
Pass
42
Pass
5
All Pass
 
 
(1) Showing a heart stopper, hoping partner has a spade stopper
(2) ?

 

W
Jerry
N
Mike
E
Dan
S
Ed
Pass
1
Pass
2
Pass
21
Pass
2NT2
Pass
3NT
All Pass
(1) Showing a spade stopper
(2) Implying a heart stopper

Most players have a “Western cue bid” available to ask partner for a stopper.  It applies when 3NT is a possible contract and the opponents have bid only 1 suit.  A cue bid in that suit is typically a request for partner to bid 3NT if they possess a stopper.  However, the structure is different when the opponents have bid or shown 2 suits.  When that is the situation, and you are able to probe for a 3NT contract, the suit you bid is SHOWING a stopper, and implicitly asking for a stopper in the other suit that has been shown by the opponents.  While this treatment is standard, it is not necessarily what your partner plays, so be sure to be in sync with whatever understanding your partner has.  My teammates at the other table passed throughout and therefore didn’t present the same bidding situation that we faced.  The players with our cards easily arrived in 3NT (which, by the way, is not such a great contract).  I was trying to head to 3NT with our cards when I showed my heart stopper, but partner persisted in clubs and we ended up needing to find 11 tricks in 5.  “All” we need (for 11 tricks in clubs) is 3-3 clubs, spade finesse on, 3-3 diamonds, and the KJx with South.  Almost all of those conditions were met, but when the J was with North, 10 tricks was the limit in clubs and the same 10 tricks were available in NT, so we were -50 while our teammates were -430, lose 10 IMPs.

Many of the conditions necessary to make 11 tricks in clubs were also required in order to achieve 9 tricks in 3NT, and even one more – the long hearts must be with South.   Declarer starts with 6 top tricks.  They can get 1 more with 3-3 clubs and one more with the spade finesse, but a losing diamond finesse would go into the hand with long hearts.

What about the bidding where the N-S opponents passed?  After an inverted minor (1m-2m shows invitational or better values with support) many players use a structure that starts by showing major suit stoppers after the raise.  Of course 1-2 is not the same thing.  Partner has not shown support and partner has created a game force, not an invitational bid.  In any case, with no opposing bidding at the other table, East heard the 2 bid and proceeded to start showing major suit stoppers by bidding 2.  Some would play this shows a real suit (4 long) and some would play this also shows extra values (not a full reverse, but not a dead minimum opening bid).  I’m not suggesting there is a ‘right’ way to play it, but I will suggest that you and your partner have some understandings of what subsequent bids show after an auction begins 1-2.

What about the bidding where the N-S opponents bid?  Both North and South have extremely modest values.  Still, had they passed throughout, we would likely have arrived in the 3NT contract that was bid at the other table.  Bidding has risks – you may steer the opponents away from a contract which would have failed if left to their own devices.  You may be doubled.  You may tell them how to play the hand.  Still, those risks come with rewards.  You may buy the contract, direct the  lead or you may throw a monkey wrench into the opponent’s auction and send it off the rails into a hopeless contract.  That is what happened at our table.

 
9
E-W
North
N
Ed
J8643
K9742
Q10
J
 
W
Chris
Q10
Q853
AK4
A964
3
E
Mike
AK975
10
653
Q1083
 
S
Bob
2
AJ6
J9872
K752
 

 

W
Chris
N
Ed
E
Mike
S
Bob
Pass
Pass
Pass
1NT
Dbl1
22
2NT3
Pass
34
3NT5
46
Dbl7
All Pass
 
 
(1) Meckwell showing a single minor or both majors
(2) Jacoby transfer
(3) Intended to show ‘whatever you have, I have support, just bid what you were going to bid’ (later, searching my notes with other partners, double at this point sends that message, not 2NT)
(4) Thinking my bid simply said ‘I have great minors, choose your best’
(5) Bidding what he thought they could make
(6) Foolishly competing onward, unwilling to defend
(7) I don’t think you can make it

 

W
Jerry
N
Gary
E
Manfred
S
Dan
Pass
Pass
Pass
1NT
Dbl1
22
Pass
2
Pass
3NT
All Pass
(1) Meckwell
(2) Jacoby transfer

This auction got pretty far off the rails, even though the first 6 calls were the same at both tables.  As you can see from the comments, the ever present ‘bidding agreements’ (in this situation, what does this bid mean?) entered into the final contract.  This proves the bridge maxim that merely agreeing to play a convention doesn’t come close to being ready to play it.  What if one/both partners are passed hands?  What if the opponents interfere?  What if the opponents double/redouble?  What if the opponents preempt?  There are lots of situations that are often not covered simply by saying ‘let’s play Meckwell.’

I knew it was possible that North and East both had 5 spades, giving West 2 to go with my 1.  Still, I thought it was more likely that partner had a single minor, so I wanted to compete in that minor – if it turned out held had both majors rather than a single minor, I was OK playing 3♥ since I could ruff some spades.  As noted in the comments, I thought 2NT merely said “show which of the possible Meckwell hands you held”, while partner thought I was forcing him to pick a minor.  Thinking we were on the same page, I decided to push for offense in our presumed long diamond fit rather than defend 3NT.  Obviously we didn’t have a long diamond fit, and it would have been far wiser to try to get 5 tricks on defense rather than 10 tricks on offense, even if we did have a long diamond fit and even if declarer held AQ and a double diamond stopper (with partner on lead).  I thought this hand was about competing for a partscore – I did not expect the 3NT call.  When I heard 3NT, I needed to change tactics and simply pass – not keep competing.

The comments in the bidding pretty much cover how the final contract was reached.  Double dummy, the defense can score 8 tricks for down 5, +1100.  When the defense started with 3 rounds of diamonds against the 4X contract, they were still headed for down 4, +800 if East wins the spade lead and puts the Q on the table (smothering the J and scoring 4 club tricks).  However, after winning the A followed by JQK, declarer led a spade (he had to get to dummy to finesse the 8).  The spade was covered by East and won cheaply by West with the 10.  West  can’t play clubs effectively (so down 2 is now the best possible).  However, seeing the setting trick, they now cashed the A for down 1 and declarer had the rest via a proven heart finesse.  To achieve most of the tricks to which they were entitled, East had to rise with a high spade to gain the lead when declarer led a spade.  Then put the Q on the table.  From the fall of the diamond suit, East can be fairly certain that North’s hand is 5=5=2=1.  If it is, no matter declarer’s singleton club is, the lead of the Q is certain to gain 4 tricks, but only if East gains the lead.

Playing 3NT, our teammate was looking at the (favorable) opening lead of the J.  That immediately solved all problems with 3 top spades and 2 top diamonds to go with 4 club tricks.  Double dummy there is no lead to beat 3NT, but the only route to 9 tricks (without J the lead) is by scoring 3 spades (establishing 2 spade winners for the defense) followed by leading the Q.  (well, technically, since the J will be coming down, you don’t have to cash the third spade yet, since you can reenter dummy later with a club – or, if they don’t cover the Q, cash the spade when you are in dummy for the last time.)  With only spade entries to dummy in an awkward spade suit, that line of play is unlikely to have been how declarer would have played the hand.  All the more reason for me to simply pass 3NT.  Why offer a huge minus when we are likely to go plus (assuming no J lead).  All I can say is that I made a terrible bid and came out great.

 
14
None
East
N
Gary
A98
QJ10762
32
107
 
W
Mike
72
K3
AKQ1086
Q93
9
E
Bob
QJ6
A5
J975
A642
 
S
Jerry
K10543
984
4
KJ86
 

 

W
Mike
N
Gary
E
Bob
S
Jerry
1
Pass
1
2
3
3
3NT
All Pass
 
 

 

W
Ed
N
Manfred
E
Chris
S
Dan
1
1
21
3
Pass2
Pass
53
All Pass
 
 
(1) Limit raise or better in support of diamonds
(2) Minimum balanced hand
(3) No spade stopper, great hand, no way to ask for a spade stopper at this point

Here, the choice of opening bid was clearly a factor in how the bidding progressed.  With more than half of his values in the club suit that was opened, South did not venture a 1 overcall at my table.  I will almost always open 1  when 4=4 in the minors in order to allow partner to have more room at the 1 level as well as find a club fit when that fit might not be found if I open 1.  This hand doesn’t prove anything about the merits of opening 1 vs. 1, but it worked well here. 

Anyway, with the opponents jamming the auction (in hearts at our table), partner (West) wisely chose the 9 trick contract and bid 3NT (he held a heart stopper and a source of tricks).  Meanwhile, at the other table, the opponents were jamming the auction in spades, and West needed to make a decision without having any clue that partner had a spade stopper.  West ran out of room to explore 3NT and, not unreasonably, bid the 11 trick diamond game.  East, holding a spade stopper, could have tried 3NT with their second bid, but partner did not have to have a hand nearly as strong as the one they held.  The 3NT contract could be pretty silly if partner (only) had a routine limit raise in diamonds.  Ten tricks were there for those playing NT and for those playing diamonds, which means we were +430 while our teammates were +50, win 10 IMPs.  This hand, like the first hand of the day, shows how bidding (rather than passing) can make things extremely difficult for the opponents.

 
17
None
North
N
Bob
KQ64
A94
76
AQ93
 
W
Manfred
A108
J75
Q1093
K75
J
E
Ed
J532
106
A8
J10842
 
S
Jerry
97
KQ842
KJ542
6
 

 

W
Manfred/Chr
N
Bob /Gary
E
Ed/Dan
S
Jerry/Mike
1NT
Pass
21
Pass
2
Pass
32
Pass
43
All Pass
 
(1) Jacoby transfer
(2) Second suit, game forcing
(3) Selecting the game to play

On this hand, both tables had the same auction, same lead, and same diamond continuation at trick 2.  I got it wrong, our opponent got it right.  At trick 2 I inserted the J, losing to the Q.  When a diamond was returned at trick 3, a defensive diamond ruff was threatened.  East won the A and continued with a spade to the A, followed by another diamond.  Since the defense already had 3 tricks, I needed East to hold J10x, so I ruffed with the A, finessed the 8 which lost to the J and East still had the 10 to beat my 9 to get their diamond ruff for down 2.

When Gary led a diamond at trick 2, he played the K.  He still wasn’t home – he needed to find the A onside or ruff a diamond for the 10th trick, but since both were possible (without a diamond overruff), he did score 10 tricks.

Clearly if the shape had been the same (2 diamonds with East, 4 with West) but the A and Q switched between the 2 hands, the defense can easily prevail the way they did at my table – that is, win the K with the A, lead to partner’s doubleton Q, and win the A.  Then West leads the third round of diamonds and declarer will be down 1 or 2 depending on how he handles the threatened diamond ruff.  Is it a guess which diamond to play at trick 2?  Beats me.  Is there a better line of play – deferring diamonds until later?

After the club lead, assuming hearts split 3-2, you have 5 heart tricks to go with 3-4 black tricks.  You will need at least 1 diamond trick and possibly a diamond ruff.  Perhaps finding out early if the A is onside is better?  Win the Q, lead a heart to the K, then lead a spade.  If the A is with West, they must win it or lose it (they know declarer’s clubs and that declarer can discard the last spade on A).  So, reflexively, they will probably go up with the A.  However, letting declarer win their spade and then discard dummy’s last spade may not be all that bad for the defense.  Declarer may get rid of a loser, but that doesn’t create a winner.  That still only brings them to 8 tricks (5 trump and 3 black winners).  They still have to win a diamond and ruff a diamond to reach 10.  And there is a risk of an overruff in diamonds.  Anyway, assume West does hold the A and wins it when you play a spade at trick 3, and continues spades.  You are up to 9 tricks (assuming hearts are 3-2), but you aren’t home.  You draw trump ending in hand (you still retain a spade and club winner) and you lead a diamond.  If you guess diamonds wrong, they might win and lead a black suit.  You can cash both black winners pitching 2 diamond losers, then lead your last diamond towards dummy’s remaining diamonds (honor and small diamond).  As long as one diamond honor was onside, you will prevail even if you guessed wrong the first time.  But what if they win the diamond and return a diamond?  That gives you your diamond trick, but your black winners are stranded in your hand, unreachable!  If diamonds are 4-2, your spots are such that you will lose 3 diamond tricks to go with the A for down 1.  And if you cash your black winners first before touching diamonds, the opponents have black winners to make dummy ruff and force you to lead diamonds from dummy – not good.

But, if the A had been with East (so that, when you led the heart to dummy at trick 2 and then led the spade up towards the KQ at trick 3, East wins with the A), you have some more problems.  You are going to have to win a diamond as well as ruff a diamond to reach 10 tricks.  And that is likely to be accomplished more easily if you lead diamonds early.

Bottom line, I don’t have the tools or skills to determine the ‘best’ line of play.  Depending on how suits split and where certain cards are, as well as how the defense defends, there are lots of possibilities out there.  Does anyone else know the ‘best’ line of play (without seeing all of the cards)? Suffice it to say that my diamond ‘guess’ failed and Gary’s guess worked.

 
18
N-S
East
N
Bob
A85
A105
2
QJ10942
 
W
Manfred
Q10762
J7
10763
87
2
E
Ed
J94
K962
J94
K63
 
S
Jerry
K3
Q843
AKQ85
A5
 

 

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

I underbid my hand and paid dearly.  I caught partner with a moose, but they couldn’t envision my powerful hand, so they made no move towards slam.  I was a victim of point counting – looking at/counting my 11 HCP.  Knowing partner will often open hands with only 10-11 HCP themselves, I didn’t want to force game.  Still, I had 2 aces and the 109 really boosts the value of my hand from ‘invitational’ to ‘game force.’   Using the K&R hand evaluator (A85 AT5 2 QJT942), the hand evaluates to 13.50.  Clearly this is not a 2NT invitational bid, but a 2/1 game force 2 response to partner’s 1 opening.  Not to say game is assured, just that I have to bid my values and work at arriving in the best spot.  There are plenty of 1 opening bids that will not produce 11 tricks in a minor nor 9 tricks in NT with this hand, but I’m convinced that a game forcing 2 is the right call.  Gary bid 2 and had a reasonable power auction to the club slam.  With my 2NT response to partner’s 1, they had no choice but to raise to 3NT. 

With the heart lead vs. 3NT, I did not rise with the Q, so I lost a club and a heart for 11 tricks, +660.  The club slam had a convenient spade ruff in dummy (with the A), so then declarer could lead clubs losing only to the K (discarding losing hearts on diamonds).  So this hand was all about bidding with little to the play.  We were +660 while our teammates were -1370, lose 12 IMPs.

All-in-all, a pretty sad day for me at the bridge table with lots of poor choices.

 

Recap Of 2/13/2019 28 Board IMP Individual

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Recap Of 2/4/2019 28 Board IMP Individual

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

Recap Of 1/14/2019 28 Board IMP Individual

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

Manfred
Jerry
2NT
3
3
4
All Pass
 

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Recap Of 1/9/2019 28 Board IMP Individual

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

Cris
Bruce
Pass
1
1
2NT
3NT
All Pass

 

Robin
Dan
Pass
1NT
All Pass
 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Cris
Bob
1
1
2NT
3NT
All Pass
 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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