Bob Munson

Recap Of 11/7/2018 28 Board IMP Individual

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

Mark M
Bob
1
1
1NT
3NT
All Pass
 

 

Bruce
Gary
1
1
1NT
3NT

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Tony
Bob
1
3
4NT
5
6
All Pass

 

Mark M
Mark R
1
3
4
4
All Pass
 

 

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

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

 

Recap Of 10/24/2018 28 Board IMP Individual

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Recap Of 10/22/2018 28 Board IMP Individual

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Qxxx   Qxxx   AQx   KJ

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Recap Of 9/26/2018 28 Board IMP Individual

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Recap Of 9/24/2018 28 Board IMP Individual

The trend, lately, has been a mix of leads, defense, declarer play and bidding all involved in determining the large swings and today was no exception.  There were 5 double digit swings.

 
6
E-W
East
N
Nick
93
Q95
Q842
K1052
 
W
Mike
J8642
K7
9763
Q8
A
E
Jerry
K5
AJ1084
AJ
A943
 
S
Bob M
AQ107
632
K105
J76
 

 

W
Mike
N
Nick
E
Jerry
S
Bob M
1
Pass
1
Pass
2
Pass
2
Pass
2NT
All Pass

 

W
Steve
N
Bob E
E
Ed
S
Chris
1
Pass
1
Pass
2NT
Pass
3NT
All Pass
 
 

I thought this was a tough opening lead problem given the auction at my table.  I pictured declarer holding 1=5=3=4 with a possible singleton K.  I pictured that with 2=5=2=4, declarer would be too weak in diamonds to offer NT as  a place to play.  So, down went the A as my opening lead, presenting declarer with his impossible 8th trick.  This was a hand for passive leads – choose to lead any heart, any club or even a diamond that is not the 10 and you will beat 2NT.  There are only 7 tricks unless the defense gives declarer the 8th trick.  I did.  With clubs being bid on my right, the only other lead I considered was the small diamond.  Sometimes, to avoid blockage with a 3 card holding, I will lead the middle card from H10x or H9x (hard for partner to read, but necessary to avoid blockage) but here, due to the 9 in dummy, if I had chosen the 10 for an opening lead would have been just as unsuccessful as my actual A, providing declarer with their 8th trick (0+5+2+1).

Meanwhile, on a different auction, our teammates arrived in 3NT.  Here, South had not heard a club bid, so they ended up making the best opening lead of a small club.  Declarer beat the 10 with the A at trick 1, crossed to the K, and then took the finesse against the Q.  As declarer cashed their 5 heart tricks, South needed to find 2 discards, choosing a spade and a club(!?).  Declarer then led a club to the J, Q and K and back came a diamond.  Declarer won the A, cashed the 9 (the 8th trick for declarer), whereupon South discarded a diamond.  Now declarer exited with the K, allowing South to cash their AQ and K, but at trick 13, they had the 10 left to lead to dummy’s J, making 3NT.  So we were -120 while our teammates were +600, win 10 amazing IMPs.

Here is what “Lead Captain” has to say about the choice of opening lead.  I don’t present this for vindication, just for your information.  And, the description I used for dummy/declarer is based on the auction at my table (arriving in 2NT), not the auction at the other table which arrived in 3NT without bidding clubs:

I’m not surprised, from a double dummy standpoint, that the A is the best lead because, double dummy, I would always get the shift right.  At the table, not so much.  Here, the 2 top leads (A and 10) are the two leads the present declarer with their 8th trick.  As readers of the blog know, I continue to believe that Lead Captain (for specific hands) and David Bird’s books (for general principles) provide the best available information for leads.  But, the chosen lead won’t always be the best on a given deal.  As noted previously, the 10 must be considered (vs. the 5) due to potential suit blockage.  The 10 barely beats out the 5 using Lead Captain analysis, but it does come out ahead of the 5 and the second best lead.

 
7
Both
South
N
Nick
10
AJ9
AJ75
AK843
 
W
Mike
AKQ64
K3
Q104
765
A
E
Jerry
8532
10642
K962
2
 
S
Bob M
J97
Q875
83
QJ109
 

 

W
Mike
N
Nick
E
Jerry
S
Bob M
Pass
1
Dbl
2
3
3
4
4
Pass
Pass
Dbl
All Pass
 

 

W
Steve
N
Bob E
E
Ed
S
Chris
Pass
1
Dbl
3
Pass
Pass
Dbl
Pass
4
All Pass
 
 
 

Notice the bidding at the two tables was sort of similar, but not really.  At both tables, N-S competed to 4 but the path to get there was quite different.  At my table, 1X was only raised to 2.  Personally, with this East hand, I would jump 3 as they did at the other table, showing the 4 trump and preemptive values.  The singleton club with 4 trump proved quite valuable.  Over 2 I decided partner wanted to hear me bid and I sure wasn’t broke, so with modest values I decide to enter the auction with a bid of 3.  West continued with 3 and partner raised me to 4.  With maximal doubles, the 3 bid should simply be competitive, not a game try, but… East decided to venture on to 4 and North decided to make a penalty double.  My sterile distribution kept me from considering bidding 5 but, as you can see, with the doubleton K in the slot, 5 will deliver 11 tricks for the vulnerable game bonus for N-S.  Should partner have offered 4♣ over 3or tried 5♣ over 4?  Beats me. I doubt that I would have if I held the North hand, since a 4 bid discourages hearts and likely promises a much better club suit.  But 4 rather than 4 would likely have worked here, getting us to 5.

This hand is (sort of) another opening lead problem, but better defense can overcome the unfortunate start.  Often, when people are dealt any AK in a suit, leading a high card becomes a semi-automatic lead to start the defense.  Here, in the post mortem after the hand was over,we were thinking that the only leads that allow 4 tricks for the defense would be to start with a small club (impossible to find that play!) or a neutral spade lead (in fact, a neutral spade lead allows us to defeat the contract 2 tricks if partner (North) later tries to give me a diamond ruff).  By starting with a spade, South can gain the lead when a club is played (declarer must play clubs early in order to ruff his club losers in dummy prior to drawing trump).  When South wins declarer’s club lead, they can push a heart through the Kx, allowing the defense to score 0+2+1+1 for down 1.  As the cards lie, the only lead that allows 10 tricks against 4 is a heart lead.  North did not try that!  But, once they started with a high club, the only entry to my hand was lost.  Still, the diamond suit provides additional opportunities for both the defense and declarer.  There are some obscure double dummy plays to beat it, but the easiest way is a traditional holdup play.  That is, resist the temptation to place your A on the Q.  Instead, simply duck 2 diamonds, win the 3rd round of diamonds, and then lead a club.  Declarer is left with 2 heart losers in the end, since the 4th diamond in dummy can’t be reached to discard the losing heart.

The actual play was A led (I played the Q, promising the J), then a small club ruffed (I played the J, thinking I was showing partner that my remaining count was an odd number (3 remaining) and showing him that I held J10x at that point.  Is it possible those plays confused partner?  I was trying to help!  Declarer played a spade to hand to ruff their last club, then another spade to hand and one more to finish drawing trump (on the spade leads North pitched a diamond(?) and a heart, keeping his clubs).  Declarer played the Q and North won the A (duck is necessary to defeat the game).  North continued with clubs as declarer ruffed.  Now the 10 was led and ducked all around, then a diamond to the 9 and then the K to pitch one heart loser.  So, in the end, the defense scored their 3 aces and declarer took the rest.

The defense is a bit double dummy to achieve down 2.  An initial small diamond or trump lead is the necessary start.  When partner wins their club, they lead a heart through.  If North’s opening lead is a small diamond (impossible with this holding), they now simply provide partner a diamond ruff to score 1+2+1+1.  If the opening lead was a more likely trump and South, after they win a club, leads the heart through declarer’s Kx, North must not cash the setting tricks, but pursue a diamond ruff to achieve down 2 by underleading the A.  This defense is possible, but only if North determines partner’s shape as 3=4=2=4.  After the small diamond continuation, if declarer draws trump, they can’t get all of their clubs ruffed.  If they don’t draw trump, South gets to score a diamond ruff.  Either way, 5 tricks for the defense, +500.  Instead, -790.

At the other table, our teammates put maximum pressure on N-S with the jump to 3 and when that was passed around to North, they repeated their takeout double.  South, reasonably, didn’t consider 4/5 but instead bid their 4 card heart suit and bought the contract.  The doubleton Kx in the slot is great in the heart contract too, but not good enough to score 10 tricks.  In fact, even scoring 9 tricks is quite a challenge after two rounds of spades.  It turns out the actual defense was a high spade followed by a club shift.  Declarer won in hand, finessed the J and then cashed the A and 9.  When they tried to enter their hand with a club to draw the last trump, East could ruff and cash 2 spades for down 1.  The losing diamond goes on the last winning club in dummy.

After a start of 2 high spades, the only way for declarer to reach 9 tricks is to allow the opponents to win the first 2 spades and ruff the 3rd spade (so that now you no longer have spades, severing the defensive communication).  Now cross to the Q, heart to the J, then the A.  But, North has no more hearts, so you can’t draw trump (and you can’t get to your hand to draw trump).  When you play a club, East ruffs and leads diamonds.  You must win West’s Q with dummy’s A and continue with the J so that West can’t gain an entry and provide yet another club ruff for East (which is why declarer can’t ruff the high spade at trick 2).  Bottom line, our teammates scored 4 tricks, +100 to go with our -790 to lose 12 IMPs.

 
9
E-W
North
N
Jerry
AJ92
AJ6543
J9
7
 
W
Bob E
654
K1082
K542
KJ
2
E
Steve
1073
Q
10873
A6532
 
S
Bob M
KQ8
97
AQ6
Q10984
 

 

W
Bob E/Ed
N
Jerry/Nick
E
Steve/Chris
S
Bob M/Mike
1
Pass
2
Pass
2
Pass
2NT
Pass
3NT
All Pass
 

This hand had identical auctions and identical leads at both tables.  And, it is all over at trick 1.  Certainly the opening lead could have been from 10xx2 rather than Kxx2, but I didn’t want to be in my hand – I need to get going on clubs.  So, at trick 1 I played the J and, the way the cards lie, I can not be defeated.  At the other table, when the 9 was covered by the 10 at trick 1, the contract can no longer be made.  I was looking for 4+1+2+2, but to do that, I had to lose 3 club tricks and I wanted to start losing them to West (where he cannot successfully lead diamonds).  If I’m losing 3 clubs, I cannot lose 2 diamonds.

At trick 2 I ran the 7 losing to the J (fearful that they might allow the 7 to win, I almost overtook the 7 with the 8 which would have left me with only 1 club trick!).  But, with the friendly singleton Q coming down, I still could have managed 9 tricks if I timed it just right (4+2+2+1) even if I had overtaken the 7.  When West won the J, no exit is effective.  They tried a spade which I won and continued clubs.  West won the K and continued spades.  I won the spade in hand and forced out the A.  When a diamond came through, I could win the A and cash my 9 tricks.  Double dummy, no lead beats it, but it is necessary to win the J at trick 1.  When the dust settled, our teammates achieved down 2, +100 to go with our +400, win 11 IMPs.

 
21
N-S
North
N
Mike
QJ6
Q86
974
QJ62
 
W
Bob M
109
AK5
AK
AK10854
4
E
Chris
A873
1032
QJ8532
 
S
Steve
K542
J974
106
973
 

 

W
Bob M
N
Mike S
E
Chris
S
Steve
Pass
2
Pass
51
All Pass
 
 
(1) Well, I was going to open 2C, but now what? See below
W
Jerry
N
Nick
E
Ed
S
Bob E
Pass
Pass
Pass
2
Pass
2
Pass
2NT
Pass
31
Pass
3NT2
Pass
43
Pass
44
Pass
65
All Pass
(1) Table discussion confirmed ‘regular Stayman, not puppet Stayman’
(2) Indicating a desire to play 3NT hoping partner covers spades (rejecting the normal reply of 3D)
(3) First bid of a natural suit
(4) Not sure if 4D was a transfer, so ‘accepting’ in case it was a transfer
(5) Thinking 4H was a cue bid, going for the slam

This hand was bid poorly at both tables (if I say so myself), but more poorly by me!  As I’ve said before, we allow table talk with unfamiliar partners, so I should have inquired about preempter’s key card (4 bid over any opening preempt with responses: 0, 1, 1+Q, 2, 2+Q).  I can still construct weak 2 bids that offer no play for slam, even if trump divide evenly and partner has “1+Q”.  But, I think, had I asked and found one ace plus the Q, I can pretty much count 11 top tricks.  Partner could have another Q or clubs are very likely to ruff good or possibly a spade ruff could bring the total to 12.  I have no problem with my partner’s weak 2, but I failed to see what bids I could make that would learn what I needed to know, so I just jumped to the terrible bid of 5.  My bad.  But at least neither table arrived in the challenging 3NT, but does manage to score 9 tricks on this lie of the cards.

The auction at the other table, annotated above, got to the right spot even if they were not exactly on the same wavelength.  I don’t know the details of the play, but I was told “played it safe for 6” since they were in slam.  Assuming a spade lead won and cross to the A, as long as clubs aren’t 7-0, it seems pretty safe to ruff one low.  Then cross to the K and ruff a club high.  Draw trump and claim, 13 tricks.  That is what my partner did for +440.  Our teammates were -920, so we ‘only’ lost 10 IMPs.

Actually, if clubs had been 7-0 or 6-1, the only way to 12 tricks was a spade ruff which risks going down when trump are 4-1.  So it seems that hoping for clubs no worse than 5-2 is the safest play to make 12 tricks and when clubs turn out to be 4-3, all 13 tricks are there.

 
22
E-W
East
N
Mike
9
Q1063
QJ1073
872
 
W
Bob M
K
AJ852
A82
Q1096
A
E
Chris
J74
K74
K964
KJ4
 
S
Steve
AQ1086532
9
5
A53
 

 

W
Bob M
N
Mike
E
Chris
S
Steve
Pass
1
Dbl
2
Dbl
2
Pass
Pass
Dbl
Pass
Pass1
Pass
(1) See below

 

W
Jerry
N
Nick
E
Ed
S
Bob E
Pass
1
2
Pass
21
4
Pass        
Pass
Dbl
All Pass
(1) Heart raise, invitational values

I like to have a 6 card suit, or else a MUCH stronger 5 card suit to overcall vulnerable at the 2 level, so double seemed, to me, to be automatic at my first turn.  North decided to show their diamond suit (non-forcing after the double) and partner doubled.  I took that as ‘good diamonds, they cannot make 8 tricks in diamonds’ (he was right).  South, walking the dog, bid a gentle 2 and I couldn’t find a bid, so I passed.  Partner balanced with a double and there we were.  I agonized a long time before passing, but I pictured partner with weak clubs and hearts, strong spades and diamonds, possibly QJTxx Qx KQxx xx or the like.  If so, they cannot make their contract, and we have no suit to play at the 3 level.  So, I passed!  However, if this is precisely what partner held, 2NT should make.  Being wrong about 2 going down can be really costly, and it was.  Partner just thought he was showing convertible values with nothing to bid – suggesting that I bid or pass depending on my defense and he would be happy either way.  If dummy is short in spades, and partner is short in spades, declarer may have a lot of spades (he did). 

Basically partner made a DSI double, I have values, you have values, do something intelligent but it wasn’t very intelligent when I passed!.  Clearly I thought he had better defensive values against 2.  When we failed to goad South into bouncing to 4♠, we were destined to lose a lot on this hand in any case, since no 3 level contract makes.  But, I might have gotten a 3 bid out of South if I had bid something.  Anything!  If I chose 2NT, I’m looking at down 3 vulnerable on a likely spade lead, so that won’t gain many IMPs.  But, if I bid anything, it might prompt North to bid again.  Who bids ‘only’ 2 with an 8 card suit?  Nice bid Steve!

There was a different auction at the other table.  My West hand did overcall 2♥ rather than double.  When East took the overcall seriously and showed heart support with invitational values with the 2 cue bid, E-W had already gotten too high.  However, South saw his 8 card spade suit and bounced to the ill-fated game which was doubled.  There were the same 8 tricks in the spade contract at both tables, which meant our teammates were -300 and we were -470, lose 13 IMPs.

 

 

Recap Of 8/27/2018 28 Board IMP Individual

Today there were only 4 boards that created double digit swings – the first one didn’t happen until board 19 and then they came in a flurry.  Leads, defense, declarer play and bidding all came into play.

 
19
E-W
South
N
Manfred
K93
A6
J764
AKJ5
 
W
Bob
Q752
Q1094
Q852
6
Q
E
Jerry
AJ864
J85
Q10742
 
S
Jack
10
K732
AK1093
983
 

 

W
Bob
N
Manfred
E
Jerry
S
Jack
Pass
Pass
1NT
21
Dbl2
23
Pass4
25
36
37
3NT
All Pass
 
(1) Clubs and a higher
(2) Stayman
(3) What is your higher suit, I don’t like clubs
(4) No 4 card major
(5) My other suit is spades
(6) Natural forcing
(7) I have spades too

 

W
Chris
N
Dan
E
Chuck
S
Tom
Pass
Pass
1NT
21
Dbl2
23
Pass
24
35
Pass
3NT6
All Pass
 
(1) Clubs and a major
(2) Stayman
(3) What is major, I don’t like clubs
(4) Major is spades, not hearts
(5) I want to try 3NT if you can stop spades
(6) I have a spade stopper

This auction here at both tables, while not identical, established the same ‘known’ conditions.  That is, declarer held a strong notrump, dummy had game values, opening leader held both spades and clubs, and the partner of the opening leader didn’t have clubs.

At my table where I had supported spades, partner led his fourth best spade and declarer won the K and led a diamond, hoping to bring in that suit.  When East showed out of diamonds, declarer knew that losing a diamond would result in the defense cashing 4 spades to defeat the contract.  Declarer hoped for some miracle to happen after cashing 1+2+2+2, but the rest of the tricks went to the defense, down 2, +100 for our side.

Our teammate, declaring at the other table, received the opening lead of a heart (partner ‘bid’ hearts and had no chance to support spades).  Opening leader was trying to make sure that declarer could not enjoy their spade stopper by retaining all of their spades over declarer.  Double dummy, any heart or any spade opening lead will defeat 3NT, but that is not what happened.  Declarer won the A, and lost the Q.  West then led the Q, covered by the K and A and East continued with hearts.  Declarer won the K and, on the run of the diamonds, the East defender held onto his J8 over declarer’s 9, but successful defense required throwing all of the low spades and holding onto the last heart (not the J!).  In the 5 card ending, East needed to hold J5QT7, not J8QT7.  By holding onto all black cards, East was subjected to a black  suit end play.  From the bidding, declarer knew East held spades and clubs.  Declarer could lead 3 rounds of clubs forcing East to surrender trick 13 to the 9, or declarer could lead spades, forcing the defender to give a trick to the J at the end.  So declarer could score 1+2+4+2 or 0+2+4+3 to reach 9 tricks.  By retaining a heart, East has an exit card to lead to partner’s heart winners, scoring 2+2+1+0 for the defense.  With the end play, declarer was able to reach 9 tricks, making 3NT for +400 to go with our +100, win 11 IMPs.

 
21
N-S
North
N
Chuck
A76543
J2
KJ5
A5
 
W
Manfred
KQ9
K4
A863
KQ87
5
E
Bob
J102
A109875
10
J32
 
S
Tom
8
Q63
Q9742
10964
 

 

W
Manfred
N
Chuck
E
Bob
S
Tom
1
Pass
Pass
Dbl
Pass
3
Pass
3NT
All Pass
 
 

 

W
Jerry
N
Dan
E
Jack
S
Chris
1
Pass
Pass
Dbl
Pass
2
Pass
2NT
Pass
4
All Pass

Bidding judgment determined the final contract.  Looking only at the East-West hands, 4 would appear to be far preferred (vs. 3NT), with 10 tricks easy as long as spades were 5-2 and hearts 3-2.  Our teammates were defending 4 and led their singleton spade, got their ruff when North continued with the suit preference 3, so South ruffed, returned a club to partner’s A and received a second spade ruff to take the first 4 tricks.  Declarer had the rest, but that was down 1, +50.  In spite of having a potential natural trump trick (via Qxx), the old rule ‘if you have a singleton, lead it’ worked well here.

I liked the texture of my heart suit enough to jump to 3 over partner’s balancing double.  But, perhaps unwisely, decided to just sit when partner bid 3NT.  The defense can defeat 3NT leading any card (but the 2), but that isn’t what happened.  The opening spade lead was won by the K and declarer decided to try the K which was won by North with the A.  North then cashed the A (error) and the contract could no longer be defeated assuming best play by declarer.  After cashing the A, North shifted (too late) to 5.  Declarer ducked that and ducked the diamond return to the J, rectifying the count (now the defense has 4 tricks).  At this point, declarer only has 7 top tricks (2+2+1+2).  But there is no continuation by North that is effective.  South is caught in a 3 suit progressive squeeze that produces 2 additional tricks!  At the table, North continued with the J.  On the A, South was able to throw an idle diamond.  But, after that, South’s 3rd heart, 4th diamond and 4th club are all critical to protecting those suits.  West won the K in hand and played the 9 to the J in dummy.  South’s discard (they threw a diamond) allowed that suit to be established.  And after running clubs and diamonds, in the 2 card ending, dummy has A10 and declarer has 48.  If South keeps both of their hearts, declarer’s 8 is good.  If South keeps the 10, dummy’s hearts are good.

After winning the A at trick 2, only a diamond continuation by North can defeat the contract.  After, say, 3 rounds of diamonds by the defense, West will win the A on the third round and will likely continue with Q which North must duck!  Ducking the spade establishes the spade suit and prevents declarer from rectifying the count.  It was the third round of spades that crushed South in the progressive squeeze.  But, if North ducks their A, declarer cannot play 3 rounds of spades.

Tough hand.  So, my partner was able to bring in 9 tricks in 3NT for +400 to go with our teammates +50, win 10 IMPs.

 
23
Both
South
N
Chuck
A6
53
KQ10932
1053
 
W
Manfred
KQJ104
KQ1082
A94
A
E
Bob
82
AJ74
A8765
K2
 
S
Tom
9753
96
J4
QJ876
 

 

Manfred
Bob
1
2
2
3
41
42
4NT3
54
5NT5
66
77
Pass
(1) Cue bid
(2) Cue bid
(3) RKCB
(4) 2 key cards
(5) King ask, showing all key cards
(6) Club K
(7) Miscounting aces

 

Jerry
Jack
1
2
2
4
All Pass
 

Many players employ a ‘fast arrival’ approach to bidding which states that a jump to game (in a suit contract) when already in a game forcing auction shows minimum values and, usually, very soft cards that will not be helpful for slam.  The auction started the same at both tables, but for my rebid, since I was already in a game forcing auction, I opted to raise to 3 in order to give partner room to explore.  I was certainly minimum, but what values I had offered promise (AAK).  After the cue bids and RKCB auction, partner had a miscount on aces (or, instead, convinced himself that I would not show the ace that I already showed in the auction – therefore, I must have 2 aces in addition to the diamond ace).  So he contracted for the grand slam when 12 tricks were the limit.  There was nothing to the play of this hand, all was in the bidding.

At the other table, the combination of fast arrival plus partner bidding the suit of their void prompted West to give up on slam and simply play game.  The same 12 tricks produced -680 with our -200 (we were doubled), lose 13 IMPs.

Since a club will almost certainly be led against a heart slam, West has to worry about the defense establishing a club trick before it can be discarded.  Partner did bid 2/1 game force.  They could hold AK to take care of both club losers.  Or the K.  Or the AQJ and a ruffing finesse.  Still, it wasn’t clear from the bidding that the small slam would be cold.  Small slam still seems sufficiently promising to give it a try.

 
24
None
West
N
Chuck
AQ543
KJ96
42
A2
 
W
Manfred
K7
42
KJ10963
QJ9
A
E
Bob
10986
A105
A875
85
 
S
Tom
J2
Q873
Q
K107643
 

 

W
Manfred
N
Chuck
E
Bob
S
Tom
2
2
4
Pass
Pass
4
All Pass
 

 

W
Jerry
N
Dan
E
Jack
S
Chris
2
Dbl
4
5
All Pass
 
 
 

Here, playing weak two bids, the dealer (West) has an automatic 2 bid.  North must formulate a plan.  One player offered a double (without perfect shape/support for all suits) and another just bid their longest suit.  East, at both tables, bounced preemptively to 4 and South had to figure out what to do.  With excellent support (but modest values) for both unbid suits (after the spade bid), South might try a responsive double (showing hearts and clubs)?  But, the responsive double after partner doubled won’t work – that implies some spade tolerance.  Should South focus on his major (hearts) or his long suit (clubs)?

At the table where North doubled, South tried bidding their longest suit.  The 11 tricks required for 5 came up short when two aces and a trump trick had to be lost.  At my table, South passed 4 around to North who reopened with 4.  South was VERY happy with that, and that ended the bidding.

After my A won trick 1, I had to find a continuation at trick 2.  This is a basic defensive position that occurs extremely frequently.  That is, dummy has a long threatening suit (clubs), so it is time to attack potential late entries (diamond ruffs)…NOW!  Clearly, the best continuation at trick 2 was a diamond.  Instead, I lamely tried a club (after which 11 tricks are cold).  Declarer won the A, led the J which was ducked (making life even easier for declarer), then a small heart which I won with the A.  Declarer ruffed the (belated) diamond return, cashed the K, ruffed the clubs good with the K, then a heart to the Q to draw trump and run clubs.  In the end, they took the spade finesse (risking the contract!) to make 11 tricks.

There are always 10 tricks in hearts, even with the diamond continuation at trick 2, but it is much more difficult.  Declarer must ruff clubs good, as they did at my table.  They can even ‘guess wrong’ and ruff with the 9, allowing an overruff with the 10, but they must not ruff with the 6 (if they did, my hand can discard a diamond and declarer quickly loses control of the hand).  But, interesting (to me), if they do ruff with the 9 and my hand does not overruff, there is only one continuation to make the contract – that is to lead their 6 and finesse dummy’s 7, playing me for the 10 that I did not overruff with!  Any other line of play leads to defeat with best defense.

Essentially all successful lines of play (after the best defense of a diamond continuation at trick 2) rely upon my hand (East) holding the 10 and partner (West) holding the K.  We did hold those cards, so the game can always make.  But, the job of the defense is to make declarer’s life tough, and I failed miserably on this hand when I did not lead diamonds at trick 2.

So, with 5 down 1, our teammates were -50 to go with our -450, lose 11 IMPs.

The big hands of the day involved lots of defensive issues with some bidding, leads and declarer play thrown into the mix.

 

Recap Of 8/8/2018 28 Board IMP Individual

Seven double digit swings today including an unusual number of slams.  In addition to 3 boards where an excellent slam was bid at both tables for a push, 5 more boards had slam bid at only one table with huge IMP swings in the balance depending upon the success of that slam.  The other 2 boards were games that were bid/not bid causing the swings.  So, you could say bidding decisions created all of the swings.  But, in fact, opening leads, defense and declarer play played significant roles in deciding which way the swing would go.

 
13
Both
North
N
Ed
AK104
A108
J
K10653
 
W
Bob
J2
KQ643
KQ764
J
J
E
Manfred
Q8
75
8532
AQ987
 
S
Jack
97653
J92
A109
42
 
W
Bob
N
Ed
E
Manfred
S
Jack
1
Pass
1
Dbl
3
All Pass
 
W
Bruce
N
Nick
E
Mark
S
Cris
1
Pass
1
Dbl
31
Pass
4
Pass
Pass
Dbl2
All Pass
(1) Invitational spade raise with singleton diamond
(2) Lightner Double

Based on the lie of the cards, this hand ended up all about bidding, since no defense can defeat the 4 game once trump broke 2-2.  At one table, North offered a ‘mini-splinter’ raise of spades and South decided to pursue the game despite modest values.  A full game splinter bid would be 4 and, had West passed, 2 would have been a natural forcing reverse, so 3 must be shortness, strongly invitational, but less than game force.   Had the A been onside, declarer could have withstood a trump loser with a 3-1 trump split, but after the opening J lead, there were 2 club losers and a certain heart loser.  This meant trump had to be 2-2.  Trump were 2-2, so declarer was able to win 7 spade tricks (with 2 diamond ruffs in dummy) along with the red aces and a second trick in hearts to provide their 10 tricks and fulfill their contract.

When game was bid at the other table, East noticed that he provided no help in the red suits that partner held, so he decided the best chance to defeat 4 would come from an opening club lead, allowing him to choose which red suit to shift to (or continue clubs) after winning the first trick and looking at dummy.  So, he made a Lightner double of the final contract.   Theodore A. Lightner of New York City, New York,  was born in the year 1893 and was an early pioneer of bridge theory.  He figured out that if you ‘knew’ that the contract would be made by a normal lead, it cost little to double if you had a reason to believe that directing partner to make a different lead might present declarer with problems.  Often the bid is made with a void (but partner doesn’t know you have a void so they won’t be leading the suit unless you double).  Here the double was made holding AQ expecting to find the K in dummy.  Any unexpected double of a freely bid game or slam contract is considered a Lightner double and asks for an unusual lead, often dummy’s first suit.

Result, we were -170 but our teammates were +790, win 12 IMPs.

 
19
E-W
South
N
Ed
Q752
AQ975
K2
K7
 
W
Mark
943
KJ2
QJ753
108
3
E
Cris
106
10643
108
A9642
 
S
Bob
AKJ8
8
A964
QJ53
 
Bob
Ed
11
1
1
22
33
34
45
46
47
All Pass
(1) Typically, when holding 4=4 in the minors and an easy rebid, I start with 1C to provide greater flexibility for partner
(2) XYZ, but here that is the same as 4th suit game forcing
(3) Natural, showing 4, bidding out my shape
(4) Going slow, leaving room for slam exploration
(5) No club control, but I do have a diamond control
(6) Heart control, plus implied club control (if partner has none and I have none, then continuing to pursue slam is nonsense!)
(7) Signing off, should I?
Jack
Manfred
1
1
1
41
52
6
All Pass
 
(1) Signing off
(2) Sayng I have a diamond control with more than a minimum (enough more?)

Here is the first of the 5 hands where slam was bid at one table and not the other.  In my opinion, this slam is close – during the bidding we were both kicking around the idea of slam, but I just thought the tricks weren’t there, so we settled in game (no 5 card suit of my own, no help for partner’s heart suit, only 8 trump between us).  The bidding took a different turn at the other table resulting in the 6 contract.  Our bidding (which indicated two shapely hands in a 4-4 spade fit) suggested a trump lead to cut down on ruffs.  West did lead a trump and East did well by saving their 10 for a potential overruff in diamonds, should the play develop that way.  So, I won the 8 at trick 1 and decided to knock out the A at trick 2.  West won and returned their 10 to continue cutting down the cross ruff. At this point, scoring my trumps separately via ruffs, a successful heart finesse would bring me to 12 tricks (6+2+2+2) assuming both the QJ cash and that I can figure out which loser to throw on the A and which loser to ruff low (since the last trump was held by West, I couldn’t go wrong), but a losing heart finesse could cut me back to 10 tricks if they could win with the K and return a trump (5+1+2+2).  So, I just went for 11 tricks (6+1+2+2) and did not pursue the heart finesse, since I was only in game.  But, given the two rounds of trump leads by the defense, the heart finesse is the only route for me to score 12 tricks.

Playing 6 at the other table, 12 tricks were a requirement (with one sure loser).  How is declarer supposed to find 12 tricks?  Assuming no singleton in the minors (risking an early ruff), declarer has no reasonable way to get an extra trick out of their 4-4 minor suits (yes, a tripleton QJ10 would promote the 9 after a ruff, or a doubleton A onside (small to the K, duck coming back).  So, after an opening trump lead and ignoring these extreme outlier cases, there are exactly 2 tricks in each minor and 1 in hearts.  That means declarer must obtain 7 trump tricks via a nearly full cross ruff (ruffing 2 diamonds and 1 club in dummy), or else 6 trump tricks and a heart finesse.  But, at the table that bid the slam, the opening lead was the 10, and East went up with the A, presenting declarer with 3 club tricks.  Now the route to 12 tricks looks greatly simplified.  6+1+2+3 will see you home.  There are no clubs that need to be ruffed in dummy.  Assume trump are 3-2, assume diamonds are 4-3.  Ruff one diamond low, ruff one diamond with the Q and you reach your 12 tricks.  That was declarer’s plan, so declarer was disappointed when the first diamond ruff was overruffed by East’s 10.

Transportation is amazingly problematic on this hand, in spite of numerous winners in both dummy and declarer’s hands.  If declarer draws two rounds of trump (a precaution to reduce chances of an overruff if East happened to have only 2 diamonds and only 2 trumps), he can safely ruff the first diamond low.  But then a heart ruff is the only way back to hand for the second diamond ruff, and then there is no way back to hand to draw trump and enjoy the established clubs.  Still, I think declarer took, by far, the better percentage play for the 12th trick (vs. heart finesse) once he was presented with a gift of an extra club trick.

Should East rise with the A at trick 1?  Obviously not, on this hand.  But what if declarer held AQJxx in diamonds and the club loser went away on a high diamond.  A trick is a trick and it only takes two to defeat the small slam.  Making sure the A is one of the defensive tricks is a high priority.  But, is it really possible that declarer has a hand like that?  After the bidding at my table, the defense should know that I am 4=1=4=4 or 4=0=4=5.  But, after the bidding at this table where clubs were never mentioned, declarer could have long strong diamonds, allowing them to discard dummy’s club.  However, if that is the case, I don’t think any defense is going to defeat 6.  So, I think best defense is to not play the A at trick 1, saving the A for dummy’s K.  What does declarer do for 12 tricks if East withholds the A at trick 1?   They can try to cash 2 winners in each minor suit and ruff 3 minor suit losers in dummy (will not be a success on this lie of the cards) or ruff 2 minor suit losers and take a heart finesse to discard the other loser.  Missing both the 10 and 9 of trump makes it quite challenging to choose the best line, avoiding overruffs at each step of the way.

Back to the actual play after the A won the first trick and the K won trick 2…What other options does declarer have (besides a heart finesse or ruffing two diamonds)?  Trying to ruff hearts good (playing for Kxx in either hand) will fail because there isn’t transportation to do that and still draw trump.  What about a squeeze after drawing trump?  You would have 11 tricks and have threats in both hearts and diamonds, but again, transportation is a problem.  So, you could draw only 2 rounds of trump, then ruff a diamond high, return to hand using the last trump in dummy, then play winning black cards coming down to 9 and 8.  If the long diamond and K are in the same defensive hand, that hand will be squeezed and either the 9 is good or the hearts in dummy are good.  As the cards lie, this squeeze play also works, but I think it is hardly the indicated line of play.  There is no guide from the defensive bidding or play to suggest that this would be successful.  So, it seems to me the simple straight forward plan to ruff one diamond low and one diamond high is clearly the best percentage play, but unsuccessful as the cards lie.

In any case, the defense scored two tricks when the diamond overruff gathered in the second trick, so our teammates were +50 to go with our +450, win 11 IMPs.

 
20
Both
West
N
Ed
K9
87642
A983
K10
 
W
Mark
763
AQ5
KQ10
9732
10
E
Cris
AQJ102
KJ3
75
Q86
 
S
Bob
854
109
J642
AJ54
 
Mark
Cris
Pass
1
21
22
23
All Pass4
(1) Drury, asking strength of the opening bid
(2) Acknowledging ‘full opening bid’
(3) Weak shape, weak trump suggests no need to go higher unless partner does
(4) Nothing further to say
Nick
Bruce
Pass
1
21
42
(1) Drury
(2) Bidding the game

After both tables started with a Drury auction, one table bounced to game while the other settled quietly in 2.  With 3 nearly certain club losers plus the A, it was best to not be in game…unless the opponents let you make it!  Both tables had the opening lead of the 10, won in dummy followed by a trump finesse.  Not knowing that the K was doubleton (not that it mattered or changed things), both declarer’s won the trump finesse and led diamonds to the K and A.  At my table, after winning the A, partner played the K and then 10.  I overtook with the J and led back a small club for partner to ruff and declarer claimed, -140.  

North, at the other table, after winning the A, returned a heart (presumably hoping partner can ruff).  That assumes that declarer held the A and 4 hearts.  There are two problems with that assumption.  One – declarer would likely have checked on a possible 4-4 heart fit via a 2 rebid rather than bouncing to 4.  The other problem: if declarer does have the A, 4 tricks are not possible for the defense, even with a heart ruff.  Declarer will have 5+3+1+1 even if a heart winner is ruffed away.  If, on the other hand, North assumes that partner (South) holds the A, continuing with the K offers significant chances for defeating the contract.  Either the defense scores 2 clubs and a ruff, or 2 clubs and a trump promotion (when the K is overruffed with the A, it is possible that that will promote partner’s remaining 10x to a trick.  When North continued with a heart, declarer won in dummy, drew trump and then led a diamond to the 10, allowing a losing club to be discarded on the remaining high diamond.  Game bid and made, +620 for our  teammates to go with our -140, win 10 IMPs.

What about the Drury auction?  Assuming you are not playing a big club, nearly everyone will pass with the West as dealer.  All will open 1 and it is time for Drury showing invitational values with 3+ card trump support.  I think the choice to bounce to game comes from full membership in the club: ‘never take back a red +170’.  By bidding game, you are assured of not producing +170!  Any time you hold Qxx in a suit, that Q is not pulling full weight unless partner has some help there or you are lucky enough to have the AK on the right.  Also, 5-3-3-2 hands are only 1 card removed from the death holding of 4-3-3-3 (which is what West actually held on this hand).  Balanced hands need more HCP to produce games.

 
21
N-S
North
N
Cris
52
K82
AK984
1065
 
W
Manfred
AJ764
1097
J76
J9
6
E
Nick
10
QJ654
102
87432
 
S
Bob
KQ983
A3
Q53
AKQ
 
Cris
Bob
Pass
2NT
3NT
All Pass

 

Ed
Mark
Pass
2NT
4NT1
62
6NT
All Pass
(1) Invitational
(2) Accepting offering spades

Both tables started with an opening 2NT and the focus shifted to North.  My partner simply raised to 3NT ending the auction.  At the other table, with the strong 5 card diamond suit and all prime values, North decided the hand was worth an invitational 4NT.  Their partner accepted by offering 6 as a contract, but that was corrected to 6NT.  This needs diamonds to be 3-2 or else diamonds 4-1 with a singleton honor in East to pick up the diamond suit for 5 winners.  To reach 12 tricks, declarer also needs the A in the East hand, or else the J10 in the East hand (likely doubleton, since a first round successful finesse of the 9 would involve suspected cheating!).  When the spade suit lay poorly for declarer, our teammates ended defeating the slam down 2, +200 while we played a quiet 3NT, scoring +660 to win 13 IMPs.

Does North have the values to invite?  It is close.  One player thought yes, the other no.

 
23
Both
South
N
Cris
1092
10932
3
Q10764
 
W
Manfred
A754
AK8
AKQ108
J
10
E
Nick
63
Q7
9542
AK982
 
S
Bob
KQJ8
J654
J76
54
 
Manfred
Nick
1
21
62
(1) Inverted showing invitational values
(2) Bidding what he thought he could make (with all suits controlled, it was unlikely that slower bidding could improve the quality of the contract)
Bruce
Jack
1
1NT1
3NT2
(1) 6-10 HCP
(2) Bid what he thought he could make

Bidding at both tables was quite short.  Here again, it was the response to the opening bid the propelled the partnership into slam.  What is the ‘right’ response to 1?  Either you decide the hand evaluates to an invitational diamond raise and bid 2 or you don’t (and bid 1NT).  Both bids are flawed.  After 1NT, the opponents are going to lead a major suit, and you are ill-prepared for either major, but perhaps partner has you covered.  If you raise diamonds, you are usually promising 5 card support or else a bit better hand.  Still 5 card suits headed by the AK can often produce a lot of tricks (opposite a singleton or doubleton, 1 or 2 ruffs might produce an extra trick.  Opposite club length, perhaps the whole suit can run?  As you can see, the more passive 1NT resulted in 11 tricks for +660 while the play in 6 had 12 sure tricks as long as trumps were not 4-0 (1+3+6+2).  Assuming no singleton heart, after drawing only 2 rounds of trump, declarer played 3 rounds of hearts pitching dummy’s last spade and then cross ruffed the hand to score all 13 tricks.  In IMPs, this line of play was risking -100 to score a useless extra 20 points, but the chance of a singleton heart was quite small.  So we were -1390 to go with our teammates +660, lose 12 IMPs.

 
24
None
West
N
Cris
Q5
AK54
Q108
A943
 
W
Manfred
A108762
83
J93
52
2
E
Nick
K943
10762
K7
J106
 
S
Bob
J
QJ9
A6542
KQ87
 
W
Manfred
N
Cris
E
Nick
S
Bob
2
Dbl
4
4NT1
Pass
5
Pass
6
All Pass
 
 
 
(1) Two places to play – takeout
W
Bruce
N
Ed
E
Jack
S
Mark
2
Dbl
3
Dbl1
Pass
4
Pass
5
All Pass
 
 
 
(1) Responsive, takeout often with only 3 card heart support, but values to compete

Preempts were invented to keep the opponents guessing.  The mild bump to 3 left little difficulty for the opponents, while the bigger bump to 4 left me guessing at a higher level.  I felt I had a nice hand, but my bidding showed a nice hand.  I clearly didn’t have sufficient values to unilaterally bid slam.  Partner really needed some perfect cards in a maximum double for 12 tricks to be assured.  So, blame me, my fault, no one else to blame.  But, something happened on the way to the bank.  West made an opening (spade) lead out of turn, allowing the North declarer to forbid an opening spade lead.  Now the slam is cold if declarer could work out the necessary conditions for success.  The diamond spots are quite poor in dummy, creating a substantial problem.  The opponents will lead spades whenever they get in, tapping dummy.  Declarer must establish diamonds to pitch their losing spade.  So, I think to score 12 tricks, the A must remain in dummy when you lose a diamond trick.  The only way that can happen is to lead diamonds off dummy.  There is no way to lead diamonds from your hand that will force out the K, leaving the Q high and the A as a late entry to the established diamonds.  Try it (with any lie of the defensive diamonds).

So, what can you do?  If you determine diamonds MUST be led from dummy (preserving the A as a later entry to the established diamonds), and you must dislodge the K when you do lead diamonds, and you must have the singleton spade discarded from dummy prior to losing the diamond, I think there is only one choice. 

Dummy has plentiful tricks, plentiful entries, but not after drawing 3 rounds of trump and playing 4 rounds of hearts to discard the spade.  With that line of play, dummy is down to 2 entries – a spade ruff and the A.  If the A is gone prior to losing the diamond, the spade ruff that follows the losing diamond trick will leave you with possibly established diamonds in dummy that are inaccessible.

There is a winning play, but hard to find at the table.  Draw only 2 rounds of trump, then play 4 rounds of hearts pitching a spade, then draw the last trump ending in dummy, then lead a diamond off dummy.  If West holds the K, he must play it.  Otherwise, you could win Q, then A, then another diamond, establishing the diamonds with the spade ruff as an entry.  But, if West doesn’t play the K, you must assume he doesn’t have it and finesse the 10.  Now, hoping East doesn’t hold the J, East must win the K (otherwise, you, again, can play, A and another diamond, establishing diamonds while retaining the spade ruff as an entry to the good diamonds.  You hope for East to be 4=4=2=3.

I think the key to the hand is realizing diamonds cannot be successfully led from hand to produce the necessary ending.  Leading diamonds from hand, no lie of the diamond suit can provide establishment as well as the necessary entry after they are established.  In actual play, declarer drew 3 rounds of trump, played 4 rounds of hearts discarding the spade, then led the Q, covered with the K and A.  When a small diamond was led from dummy, the J came up and a spade was led, tapping dummy.  Now a diamond to the 10 and all the diamonds are good, but they are in a dummy with no entry.  

Playing 5 at the other table, the defense cashed a spade and declarer navigated the diamond suit for one loser, scoring 11 tricks.  Our teammates were -400 to go with our -50, lose 10 IMPs.

 
25
E-W
North
N
Ed
105
1076
1083
QJ976
 
W
Nick
Q832
KQJ964
A7
A
Q
E
Bob
AJ5
8
KQJ92
K843
 
S
Bruce
K974
A32
654
1052
 
Bob
Nick
1
1
2
21
2NT2
3
43
4NT4
55
6
All Pass
 
(1) 4th suit game force
(2) Spade stopper
(3) See below
(4) RKCB
(5) 1 key card
Manfred
Cris
1
1
2
21
2NT
3
3NT
All Pass
(1) 4th suit

The last slam of the day was lucky for me.  Both tables had identical bidding for the first 6 bids.  I felt partner’s choice of sequence showed very strong hearts (they were, but not THAT strong) and a desire to not play NT (actually he was OK with NT having strong values in every suit outside of hearts).  Anyway, for the 7th bid of the auction, my hand bid 3NT at the other table, ending the auction.  I raised hearts (likely suggesting a doubleton, which, if I held that, wouldn’t have made the heart slam quite so bad).  Partner checked on aces and bid the slam.  The 6 slam requires a doubleton or tripleton 10 as well as no spade lead.  If I (East) played 6NT, I am protected from a spade attack and the only requirement for 12 tricks is a doubleton or tripleton 10.  So, a poorly bid slam came home when North led from their club sequence rather than attacking spades, the unbid suit.  We scored +1430 against our teammates -690 to win 12 lucky IMPs.

So, all 7 swings were game/not game or slam/not slam, but leads, defense and declarer play was often the determining factor regarding which side obtained gains by bidding (or not bidding) higher.

 

 

 

 

Recap Of 7/18/2018 28 Board IMP Individual

Reporting on 7 double digit swings today – 5 caused by bidding decisions, 1 lead problem and 1 play problem.

 
1
None
North
N
Mark R
K932
105
954
10984
 
W
Dan
J6
964
AQ106
KJ3
4
E
Manfred
AQ
AKQJ873
J32
5
 
S
Bob
108754
2
K87
AQ76
 

 

Manfred
Dan
21
2
2
3
4
4NT
52
53
64
All Pass
(1) !?
(2) 0 or 3
(3) Heart Q?
(4) Yes, but no K

 

Mark M
Cris
1
1NT1
4
All Pass
(1) Forcing, showing, in this case, 3 card limit raise

The lower bound threshold for all bids seems to be in a continuing downward slide.  Here, at one table, after the dealer passed, East opened 1 but at the other table, East opened 2.  The result – a slam that, barring a ruff on the opening lead (followed by cashing the A), needs nothing more than the K and K onside (or 3-3 diamonds to pitch a black loser after winning the diamond finesse).  It is possible that a favorable opening lead could improve the odds of the slam?  There is one more chance (but not exactly another arrow in the quiver), instead of taking the spade finesse, lead up to the K hoping the A is onside (or lead to the J hoping the Q is onside) providing a discard for the spade loser.  So, a very poor slam needing 2 cards favorably placed was reached with the result: win 11/lose 11 based on the location of the kings.

In my mind, this was all decided on the opening bid.  I don’t see how West, opposite a real 2 opening bid, can fail to proceed towards slam.  In fact, West at the other table might consider moving onward towards slam, since they have a good 3 card limit raise and partner blasted to game opposite a nebulous forcing 1NT.  However, if East-West could look at all of their cards, there is no reason they would want to get to slam.  But 22 IMPs hung in the balance (win 11 vs. lose 11) based on the location of the K and K.  Since both kings were onside, the club loser could go on the 13th diamond and 13 tricks were made at both tables.  For me, -1010 vs. +510 for our teammates, lose 11 IMPs.

 
3
E-W
South
N
Mark R
QJ8743
AKJ62
93
 
W
Dan
6
87543
J862
Q73
A
E
Manfred
A2
Q9
AQ104
AK1064
 
S
Bob
K1095
10
K75
J9852
 
W
Dan
N
Mark R
E
Manfred
S
Bob
Pass
Pass
1
Dbl
2NT1
Pass
4
4NT2
Pass
53
54
Dbl5
56
Pass
Pass
Dbl7
All Pass
(1) Limit raise values (as dummy, singleton heart worth 3)
(2) Further takeout, 2 places to play
(3) Choosing diamonds over hearts in case the ‘2 places’ are the minors
(4) Bidding out the hand, lead director if we end up on defense
(5) I don’t think they can make this!
(6) Correcting back to the previously agreed suit
(7) I don’t think they can make this!

 

W
Cris
N
Tom
E
Mark M
S
Bruce
Pass
Pass
1
Dbl
2NT
Pass
4
Dbl1
Pass
52
Dbl3
All Pass
 
(1) Further takeout
(2) Assuming hearts is one of the requested suits for takeout
(3) I don’t think they can make this!

The first 7 calls were the same at both tables and the focus was on East.  With nearly half the deck in HCP, it seems East must chose something other than pass.  One table bid 4NT suggesting 2 places to play (likely both minors, but since spades was the suit initially doubled, hearts might still be one of the suits offered).  Partner replied 5 with their longest minor, but North wasn’t done.  North bid 5 which was doubled by East, corrected by South to 5 which was also doubled by East.  The powerful fit found by North-South had 11 easy tricks, just losing the 2 pointed aces.  So we were +650 for making 5X non-vulnerable.  Seemed like an OK result…

At the other table, faced with the same start to the auction, East chose to double.  In this situation, it is still largely a takeout double, so partner, with reasonable shape and no defense to offer vs. 4X pulled the double to 5.  North had no problem doubling that contract and, with East-West vulnerable, it was not a happy ending.  Our teammates were down 7 for -2000!  Lose 16 IMPs.

Double dummy analysis shows that, with best play/defense, 5 would be down 3, 5 would be down 2, and 5 would be down 5.  So, had declarer been ‘only’ down 5, he could have saved 3 IMPs.  The real problem goes back to the double of 4.  If West chose to pass, letting the opponents make a non-vulnerable doubled game with an overtrick, they would only lose 1 IMP (-690 vs. -650).  But, partner’s double suggests bidding.  With a likely useful Q, J, singleton spade and 5 trump, West bid onward to the ill fated 5.  So, I think the verdict (what caused the swing) falls to the 4NT call chosen at our table vs. the double chosen by our teammate.  After a 4NT call, if North chooses to double 5, they can collect +500 vs. +450, but with their 6-5 hand, North will certainly bid onward as they did at my table.  It would take a very meek East to not double 5, but 5 IMPs can be saved by avoiding the double of a making contract (assuming both tables arrive in 5, one doubled and one not).  With 2000 scored at the other table, the double of 5 only cost 1 IMP.  Like most swings, this hand was all about bidding decisions.

 
5
N-S
North
N
Mark M
87
8752
AKQJ85
4
 
W
Bob
A10962
J10
6
98763
K
E
Manfred
J53
AQ9
9
KQJ1052
 
S
Bruce
KQ4
K643
107432
A
 

 

W
Bob
N
Mark M
E
Manfred
S
Bruce
1
2
Dbl
5
Pass
Pass
5
All Pass
 
 
 

 

W
Dan
N
Tom
E
Mark R
S
Cris
2
3
5
61
Pass
Pass
Dbl
All Pass
 
 
 
(1) !?

A pair of phantom saves brought a big swing on this hand.  The choice of opening bids seems (to me) to be a close call.  A 2 opening risks losing a potential heart fit (this would be an incredible dummy in a heart contract).  A 1 opening risks suggesting more overall strength.  As you see, one table tried 1 while the other tried 2.  After our teammates opened 2, North-South quickly reached 5 and then West made the peculiar decision to try for 12 tricks (to make? to save?) and bid 6!

At my table, after North opened 1 East overcalled 2and South had a clear negative double.  I bounced to 5.  When that gets passed around to South, with their excellent diamond fit, it seems South must try for the vulnerable game bonus (+600 vs. taking the ‘sure plus’ defending 5X).  It turns out defending would have been better, since 10 tricks is the limit with the North-South hands.

When 5 failed by a trick (2 hearts and a spade for the defense), we were +100.  Meanwhile at the other table, in an attempt to ditch the losing diamond in 6, declarer won the K opening lead with the A and tried a heart finesse.  When that failed, the spade continuation provided a spade trick, a spade ruff, the K and 2 aces, down 4, +800 for our teammates.  Added to our +100 produced 14 IMPs.

Several side notes to observe here.  The famous law of total tricks is off by 3, with 22 total trumps only providing 19 total tricks.  In addition, the best contracts are not in the longest fits.  The best contract for North-South is 4 where the same 10 tricks are possible (their 8 card fit instead of their 11 card fit, even though they are missing the AQJT9 of trump).  And, for East-West, their best contract is 4 where 9 tricks are possible (down 1) rather than 5 where 9 tricks are also possible (down 2).  Not surprisingly, neither spades nor hearts were ever mentioned in the auctions.

 
6
E-W
East
N
Mark M
J93
K4
96
KQJ754
 
W
Bob
AQ74
9765
Q532
10
7
E
Manfred
10852
A8
A1074
632
 
S
Bruce
K5
QJ1032
KJ8
A98
 

 

Bruce/Cris
Mark M/Tom
1NT
3NT
All Pass
 

Here is the opening lead problem of the day.  After what I would consider a routine 1NT-3NT auction at both tables, West was faced with a classic problem. 

  1. Lead a 4 card suit with 2 honors
  2. Lead a 4 card suit with 1 honor
  3. Lead a 4 card suit with no honor
  4. Lead a singleton

Here, the old adage of a 4th from longest and strongest 4 lead would have sufficed for down 1.  A diamond lead and continuation would lead to down 2.  I’m baffled by what actually happened, which I will get to in a minute.  I ran Lead Captain to see what it would pick from the list above.  Lead Captain attempts, via software, to capture David Bird’s classic book on opening leads.  Assuming you have correctly defined what to expect in the hands of both declarer and dummy, you can run a simulation (with double dummy play) for the lead  of every possible card in the hand of the opening leader (note, if you hold cards in sequence, such as 765, from a double dummy perspective, the 765 all are equal so the program treats them as the same card and only simulates one of those cards, not all 3).

What would you lead?

Here are the results from Lead Captain.

 

I fully expected the 7 to come out as the lead most likely to succeed, and it did.  However, surprisingly (to me), there was not a great difference in any of the leads in terms of expected results.

Back to what happened at the tables.  In my mind, the clear ‘book lead’ (using the principles from David Bird’s book), was a major.  And, leading away from AQ suits can provide declarer undeserved tricks, so I picked the other major and started with the (fatal) 7 (2nd best from a weak 4 card suit).  Fortunately, partner was dealt the 8, so he is able to read that I have made a lead of 2nd best from nothing.  That is, using 4th best leads, if my 7 was 4th best, he can see all of the hearts except QJT9.  For the 7 to 4th best, I must hold 3 of those 4 cards – which one do I not hold?  If not the Q, I would lead J from JT9.  If not the J, I would lead the 10 from QT9.  If not the 10, I would lead the Q from QJ9.  And if not the 9, I would lead the Q from QJT.  Therefore, the 7 is not a 4th best lead, declarer holds great hearts and it is time to shift.  As the cards lie, the only shift to give declarer a problem is a diamond.  Declarer has a guess.  It might seem that the only card to play is the K, since you can’t afford to have LHO win the Q and then possibly lead to RHO’s A and then perhaps still lose the AQ.  But, by the same logic, you can’t afford to have the K lose to the A and then possibly lead to RHO’s Q and then lose the AQ.  Declarer has plenty of tricks as long as he can gain the lead (6 solid clubs and 3-4 hearts).  If he loses the lead, the defense might be able to score 2+1+2+0.  So, had a diamond shift occurred at trick 2, on a different lie of the cards the J would be the winning play, but here, as the cards lie, declarer must fly with the K to ensure the contract.  All of that was rambling about a defense that might have occurred, but didn’t.  In reality, at trick 2, partner returned the 8, declarer cashed their 10 tricks, and conceded two aces at the end.  We were -430.

What was the lead at the other table?  The A!?!  That lead did not hit my radar, but it had the benefit of defeating the contract when spades were continued at trick 2, establishing 3 spade tricks plus 2 aces.  Playing leads of the ace vs. NT asks for attitude, what would you signal, as East, to the A?  You do have spade length, but no strength.  I must confess that I would have discouraged, but then partner may have shifted to a fatal heart rather than a successful diamond.  If the opening lead was from Ax or AQx, you so not want a spade continuation, but from the actual AQxx, the continuation was satisfactory for down 1, -50 for our teammates, lose 10 IMPs.  I can’t argue with success – my lead resulted in 10 tricks for declarer, while the A achieved down 1.

Often an ace lead allows you to look at dummy to figure out what you should have led.  Often, you learn what you should not have led was the A!  Here, according to Lead Captain, hearts, diamonds and even the lowly singleton 10 were all deemed to be a better opening lead than a spade, but on this hand the club is ineffective and the spade was quite effective.  Why is the A superior to 4th best?  Because you will retain the lead and might be able to figure out the best defense after seeing dummy as well as partner’s signal.

 
10
Both
East
N
Mark R
J1053
8
K973
10986
 
W
Mark M
AQ7
Q6
Q84
KQ752
A
E
Bob
6
AK109532
J652
A
 
S
Cris
K9842
J74
A10
J43
 

 

W
Mark M
N
Mark R
E
Bob
S
Cris
1
1
2
3
4
Pass
4
Pass
5
Pass
5
All Pass
 
 

 

W
Manfred
N
Tom
E
Bruce
S
Dan
4
All Pass

I considered opening 4 but feared that bid would just invoke the “transfer” to 4 (by the opponents) and then I wouldn’t know what to do (but partner would know what to do on this hand!).  So, I started slow and advanced to 4 after the 3 weak jump raise.  That showed both a pretty good hand and a very good suit.  Partner, not unreasonably, made a slam try with a 4 cue bid.  When I cue bid the A, the exposure of our weakness in diamonds was complete, so the defense started with 3 rounds of diamonds sending our contract down 1.  At the other table, after East’s 4 opening bid, West, the partner, might consider going further, trying for slam.  Alas, our opponents at the other table passed it out in 4 and took their 10 tricks.  -620 for our teammates and -100 for us, lose 12 IMPs.  Clearly without a diamond ruff, we would have been safe in 5 and 12 tricks are possible without a diamond lead.  Was this result bad luck, or was my failure to open 4 simply bad bridge?

Another interesting (to me) note – had partner simply blasted to 6 we would not have provided the roadmap for the defense.  Obviously 3 rounds of diamonds could have still scored the same 3 tricks, but without the clue from the bidding, I doubt that that defense would have been found when defending against 6.  Not complaining, just observing.  Of course, I could have bounced to 6 over 4 and I think it would have been highly unlikely to find the A lead.  Interesting that 5 cannot make but 6 likely does make!

 
24
None
West
N
Dan
43
K93
AQ1032
J52
 
W
Cris
KQ9
Q
K76
AK10873
Q
E
Bruce
AJ8762
A106
9
964
 
S
Bob
105
J87652
J854
Q
 

 

W
Cris
N
Dan
E
Bruce
S
Bob
1
1
1
3
4
Pass
4NT
Pass
5
Pass
6
All Pass

 

W
Mark R
N
Tom
E
Manfred
S
Mark M
1
1
1
3
3
Pass
4
All Pass

As you can see, the auction started the same at both tables.  Since East’s 1 bid only promised 6 points and 4 spades, I was a bit surprised when dummy came down.  East expected more playing strength (to justify the leap to 4 since the K is likely worthless on offense), and I expected a 4th spade.  However, East was not hurting for spades – there were plenty of tricks as long as clubs were 2-2 (or a possible restricted choice play).  The singleton club honor was there, but it was in front of the clubs instead of behind the clubs so the slam had no play as long as the defense captured a diamond trick before or after winning the club that they always must win.  Our teammates simply bid 3 over the weak 3 jump, so East raised to game, but there was no slam exploration.  So, 11 tricks were there and it just depended upon how high East-West got.  Our +50 along with +450 allowed us to win 11 IMPs.

 
25
E-W
North
N
Tom
AK102
J
K76
K10975
 
W
Bruce
983
Q976
98542
A
4
E
Bob
Q74
A1054
QJ3
864
 
S
Mark R
J65
K832
A10
QJ32
 

 

Tom
Mark R
1
1
1
21
22
2NT3
3NT4
All Pass
(1) XYZ forcing 2D, typically the start of all invitational sequences
(2) Forced
(3) 2NT, the only way to invite in NT, since a prior 2NT bid would relay to clubs
(4) With 14 HCP, easily accepting the invite

 

Manfred
Mark M
1
1
1
2NT
3NT
All Pass

Similar bidding resulted in the same contract with the same lead (the unbid suit, 4th best diamond) at both tables.  With clubs solid, declarer is looking at 8 sure tricks (4 clubs and AK in both pointed suits).  The 9th could come from a spade finesse or the A on side (by leading up to the K).  As long as diamonds are 5-3 and the A is onside, a losing spade finesse still doesn’t jeopardize the contract and provides the 9th trick.  But, as the cards lie, declarer must duck a round of diamonds to sever the transportation for the defense.  After the opening 4 lead went to the J and A, declarer led clubs.  Partner won the A and continued with the 2 (confirming a 5 card suit), so when declarer went up with the K, it was easy for me to unblock the Q, preserving the 3 as an entry to partner’s diamonds.  Now, a losing spade finesse can’t utilize the 10 for the 9th trick because the defense will have already cashed out sufficient tricks to defeat the contract.  So, in the fullness of time, declarer took their 8 tricks, we took 5 for down 1, +50.  Our teammates did duck a diamond, so they were able to score 9 tricks when the A was onside for +400 and 10 IMPs.

The commentary about the play on board 25 suggested that failure to duck a diamond was simply wrong.  Clearly that is not the case – sorry.  If declarer ducks the diamond at trick 1, any heart shift (high or low) will produce 5 tricks for the defense.  If declarer ducks the diamond after losing the A, there is still a risk of a heart shift.  If the East-West hearts are reversed (so that East holds Q976), a shift by East to the Q (smothering the J) would produce 3-4 heart tricks (to go with the club and diamond tricks already won).   The texture of declarer’s heart suit presents great risk.  In short, the right way to play diamonds (duck or don’t duck) is based on where you think other key cards are (Q and A).  Since RHO held both, a diamond duck was necessary on this hand.  But, had LHO held both, ducking a diamond could be fatal when a simple spade finesse will produce the 9th trick.

I’m adding a footnote as another opening lead problem.  You are leading against 6NT holding:

S
South
A743
QJ973
2
973

And you heard this auction

W
LHO
N
Partner
E
RHO
S
South
Pass
2
2
Pass
Pass
3NT
Pass
6NT
All Pass
 
 

Clearly a spade is right if partner has the K.  Anything but a spade is right if the opponents need a spade trick to reach 12 tricks and partner has the QJ.  Clearly a heart is right if the opponents need a spade trick to reach 12 tricks and partner has the K.  Opening leads can be tough.  You have to pick something.  (Sorry, I don’t know the auction at the other table)

All players who join in this game attend the National tournaments and have had some success.  The two players that held this lead problem have recently had high finishes in 2-day national events.  This hand didn’t reach the blog because it was a push.  A heart was led at both tables producing 13 tricks for declarer (yes, partner had the K).  This is not the same hand, nor the same auction as board 10 where I suggested 6 might have succeeded had the auction not provided the road map for the defense.  I have received numerous and universal feedback that the A would have been the automatic lead vs. 6.  When you are given the hand as a problem, you often think of unusual leads.  When you are given the hand and see all of the other hands, there is often a clear cut best lead.  My main point was that as long as we are going down in 5 we may as well go down in 6 just in case 6 happens to make.

Recap Of 6/11/2018 28 Board IMP Individual

There were eight double digit swings in our last game, but the cause of the swings was quite varied.  Some were caused by bidding judgment, others declarer play, opening leads, and bidding confusion that comes with unfamiliar partnerships.  Here we go.

 
7
Both
South
N
Bob E
108
A64
J1053
K1086
 
W
Gary
KJ3
QJ9532
872
J
A
E
Bob M
A9654
K
4
AQ7542
 
S
Chris
Q72
1087
AKQ95
93
 
W
Gary
N
Bob E
E
Bob M
S
Chris
Pass
Pass
Pass
1
1
21
3
52
All Pass
(1) Intended as showing a hand similar to a weak 2 opening in hearts, but unsuitable to open
(2) Taking partner’s bid as a ‘fit jump shift’, bid what I think I can make
W
Mike
N
Dan
E
Ed
S
Jerry
Pass
Pass
Pass
1
2
2
3
31
Pass
42
Pass
43
All Pass
(1) Playing ‘maximal doubles’ the suit between their suit and our suit is the only game try available – 3S would simply be competitive
(2) West likes hearts a lot
(3) Correcting back to the previously agreed suit

This hand was all about bidding, nothing much happening in the play.  I know, from past discussion that Gary, my partner on this hand, has extremely high standards for opening a weak two bid.  He wants to hold 2 of the top 3 honors plus an outside A or K – otherwise he passes.  Still, I thought ‘everybody’ plays that jumps after an initial pass show a fit (on this hand, 2 would show a good 5 card heart suit along with 4 card club support, invitational values).  In practice, Gary was simply making a weak 2 jump saying he had a hand unsuitable for an initial weak 2 bid.  In this case, I had an easy 3 bid  at my second turn (over 3) that could possibly find out that partner was not trying to support my clubs.  I don’t know where that would have led, but it could have led to someplace better than our hopeless final contract of 5.  So, I would classify this (my failure to offer 3) as strictly a bidding error rather than bidding judgment or bidding misunderstanding.  The other table also did not open a weak 2.  But my opening bid involved bidding judgment.  When faced with a 6-5 opening hand, I tend to follow The Bridge World standard – open the 6 card suit unless it is the lower suit, adjacent to the 5 card suit, and unsuitable for a reverse.  Here, I could open clubs and bid spades.  At the other table, after my hand chose the spade opening bid, it allowed the players to easily reach the 4 contract.  I still like starting with 1 but ‘assuming’ partner has a fit is super dangerous, especially with no prior discussion.  There is no reason for my unilateral 5 bid when 3 was available.

Double dummy, there are 9 tricks in clubs (losing 2 trumps and 2 aces) – which was my result, down 2.  Double dummy there are 9 tricks in hearts, since the opponents can kill any diamond ruff and score their 3 top diamonds to go with the trump ace.  In spades, on the other hand, with hearts so friendly, 11 tricks are possible – simply lose the two red aces, draw trump and claim.  Playing more safely, the actual declarer scored 10 tricks in spades for +620 to go with my -200, lose 13 IMPs.  

 
9
E-W
North
N
Bob M
Q10642
K95
K54
K6
 
W
Dan
973
10863
J9
AQ108
8
E
Mike
AKJ5
AJ
A87
J974
 
S
Chris
8
Q742
Q10632
532
 
W
Dan/Ed
N
BobM/BobE
E
Mike/Jerry
S
Chris/Gary
Pass
1
Pass
1
1
2NT
Pass
3NT
All Pass
 
 

After the same auction at both tables, one South player chose (successfully) to ignore partner’s spade suit and lead the 3, 4th from longest and strongest.  This had the effect of establishing diamond winners for the defense.  At my table, partner led my ‘suit’ the 8.  This had the effect of eventually establishing declarer’s 5 as a power finesse against my 6! and providing 9 easy tricks for declarer (4+1+1+3).  Actually, instead of shifting to diamonds after winning the K , I shifted to hearts.  That allowed declarer to score a heart trick too, getting him up to 10 tricks.

At the other table, after (routinely) ducking two rounds of diamonds, declarer noticed the power of the spade spots, but first played a top spade, hoping to drop a singleton Q or 10.  When, instead, the 8 came down, declarer had lost the opportunity to score the 5.  Had declarer started with the 9 and let it ride if not covered, he also had 9 tricks available, but that is a hard play to find.  So he had to rely upon the club finesse to reach 9 tricks.  When the club finesse failed, 9 tricks were no longer possible, down 1.  So, our teammates were -100 to go with our -630 to lose 12 IMPs.

 
10
Both
East
N
Bob M
AJ104
A62
942
J109
 
W
Dan
95
107
1076
K87432
10
E
Mike
76
KJ543
AQ85
Q6
 
S
Chris
KQ832
Q98
KJ3
A5
 
W
Dan
N
Bob M
E
Mike
S
Chris
1
1
Pass
2
Pass
4
All Pass
 
 
 
W
Ed
N
Bob E
E
Jerry
S
Gary
1
1
Pass
2
Pass
31
Pass
3NT2
All Pass
 
(1) Exploring 3NT as an optional contract
(2) ‘I have a heart stopper’

The auction had a similar start at both tables, but one South player, concerned about the play in spades holding Qxx, the suit bid by his RHO, thought that 3NT might play better than 4.  With the cards so friendly, both contracts should work fine, but that is not how it worked out.

Playing 3NT, East decided to try the Q, hoping to hit partner’s suit.  He did, but with no entries, partner’s clubs were not of much use.  Declarer was able to score 5+2+1+2 for 10 tricks, +630.  At my table, playing 4, partner had opportunities.  Many years ago, I read/learned that JT9 sequences are incredibly undervalued (worth much more than the 1 point scored using 4-3-2-1 evaluation).  JT9 can turn Qxxx from an unlikely trick into 2 sure tricks; JT9 can turn Kxx from a possible trick into 1 certain trick while two tricks possible; JT9 can turn Axx from 1 sure trick into a 75% play for 2 tricks.

On this hand (playing 4) while drawing trumps, declarer could have used one entry to dummy to lead JT9.  If covered, they have a second club winner on which they can discard a losing diamond.  If not covered, they will find out the K is with West, leaving East with, most likely, every remaining high card.  Plus, if the club lead is not covered, they could later play the A and see if a doubleton Q comes down (it does), again providing a discard for a losing diamond.  Or declarer could simply hope the Q is with the opening bidder and finesse the J.

Here, the actual declarer play was to draw trump, cash the A and lead another club.  When East won with the Q, they played a small diamond which was ducked to the 10, losing a heart, a club and 2 diamonds for down 1.  So, we were -100 to go with -630, lose 12 IMPs.

 
17
None
North
N
Chris
AKJ2
1072
K742
KJ
 
W
Jerry
Q64
Q8
9863
A862
5
E
Bob M
98
J953
A105
Q954
 
S
Ed
10753
AK64
QJ
1073
 
W
Jerry/Dan
N
Chris/Bob E
E
Bob M/Gary
S
Ed/Mike
1NT
Pass
2
Pass
2
Pass
4
All Pass
 
 
 

We had the same auction at both tables. The opening trump lead made the difference.  After the trump lead, the defense had no chance, allowing 10 tricks for our teammates, while my heart opening lead required declarer to guess the location of the A.  I led the 5 (third best) which was won in dummy with the A, declarer tried a club to the J.  When I won the Q and returned a heart, we had two aces remaining and an established heart (with the A for an entry) for down 1, +50.

The trump lead at the other table could have allowed declarer to draw trump and simply lead clubs from hand, forcing the establishment of the 10 for a heart discard while he still maintained control of the heart suit.  Our team’s declarer at the other table considered that line of play, but the actual play varied from that.  Declarer played only 2 rounds of trump and then, concerned about diamond blockage, led a diamond to dummy (QJ).  When that won, he followed with a club finesse to the J and Q.  Then they led a club to partner’s A who then led his last trump.  Now it was easy to cross to dummy to take the heart pitch on the 10.  That brought the game home, +420 to go with our +50, win 10 IMPs.

If hearts aren’t led at trick 1, the defense can’t get to 4 tricks.  If hearts are led at trick 1, declarer must guess to play the K on the first club lead to reach 10 tricks.  Our opponent did not.

 
18
N-S
East
N
Chris
65
AK843
32
K832
 
W
Jerry
Q974
Q6
AJ8
AQJ9
4
E
Bob M
10832
1095
Q754
76
 
S
Ed
AKJ
J72
K1096
1054
 
W
Jerry
N
Chris
E
Bob M
S
Ed
Pass
1
1NT
Dbl
All Pass
 
W
Dan
N
Bob E
E
Gary
S
Mike
Pass
1
1NT
Dbl
Pass
Pass
2
Dbl
All Pass
 

The auction had an identical start at both tables with the first call by each player the same.  Once the opponents double us in NT, a runout is often advised.  My runout of choice with regular partners is to redouble with all one suited hands (asking partner to bid 2 which is pass or correct), and to bid a suit showing that suit and a higher one for 2 suited hands.  Using that structure, I would bid 2 and partner, fearful that my other suit is hearts, would likely pass.  However, I was not playing with a regular partner and even though we could discuss our runouts at the table, I opted to not add that confusion to the mix, so I simply passed and hoped for the best.  Passing allows us to stay at the one level and 1NTX may be our ‘least bad’ spot?  I did have honors in 3 suits for play in NT.  Nothing suggests we could find our way into (our best spot) 2.

Double dummy, we are down 3 in 1NT, while if we can find our way to a spade contract, 7 tricks are available for down 1.  I’m not sure what runout would allow us to arrive in 2, nor am I sure that we could achieve double dummy play for down 1, but 7 tricks do appear likely if we could play in spades.  

At the other table, the East hand did not attempt a runout, but when passed back to the West hand, they went from the frying pan to the fire by bidding 2.  That was quickly doubled and that ended the auction.  Double dummy play can only achieve 4 tricks for declarer, and that is what he got for -800.

Meanwhile, playing 1NTX, the start was the 4th best heart.  Clearly that is the best lead when holding no entry, but with the K a likely entry, it turns out that starting with the top hearts will be more effective.  Declarer’s Qx will fall under the AK, establishing partner’s J (and partner can return a club to your K to cash the remaining hearts).  On the run of hearts, declarer can keep their club winners at the expense of shortening themselves in spades/diamonds, so 4 tricks is the best they can do against best defense – down 3.

Note:  if you start with “top hearts” it is critical to have a partnership understanding of the “power lead.”  Traditionally, the power lead asking for unblock or count has been the lead of the ace, but my current favorite is the king for the power lead.  The reason is that from Ax or Axx, you may take a stab at leading the ace in that suit vs. NT, hoping to see partner’s attitude requesting you to continue or shift (but you sure don’t want them unblocking their honors!).  But with Kx or Kxx in an unknown unbid suit, you are quite unlikely to start with the king.  Thus, using this system: A=attitude; K=count/unblock.  Be sure to know what your partner plays.

But, back to our table, the opening lead of the 4th best allowed partner to score their Q at trick 1.  At trick 2 declarer tried the J won by the K and hearts were continued and cashed.  The first discard by South was the 10, but declarer discarded the QJ and after cashing the hearts, North exited with a club, allowing declarer to score their A9.  They eventually scored a spade trick to go with a heart, 2 diamonds and 2 clubs for 6 tricks, down 1, -100.  With our partners scoring +800, we netted 12 IMPs on the board.

Note there is no makeable game for N-S, so intervening with 1NT proved quite costly at one table, but not the other, even though not vulnerable against vulnerable opponents.  I would always overcall 1 with 1NT when holding the West cards.  Since both tables made the 1NT overcall, yet a large IMP loss occurred, you can blame the defense to 1NTX, or you can blame the runout to 2X.  But the defense could have been right, the 2 runout could have been right (sometimes the opponents mistakenly start bidding, taking you off the hook).  Bridge doesn’t come with a lot of guarantees.  The trouble with runouts, there are countless millions of hands that partner could hold for the bidding thus far, but you need to find the right contract for this hand, the one that they do hold!

 
25
E-W
North
N
Bob E
105
AQJ65
762
A83
 
W
Jerry
J7632
83
10954
Q7
10
E
Mike
K4
97
KQJ8
109542
 
S
Bob M
AQ98
K1042
A3
KJ6
 
W
Jerry
N
Bob E
E
Mike
S
Bob M
Pass
Pass
1NT
Pass
21
Dbl2
33
Pass
44
Pass
45
Pass
46
Pass
4NT7
Pass
58
Pass
69
All Pass
 
 
 
(1) Jacoby Transfer
(2) Lead directing
(3) Not sure what we are playing, but…
(4) May as well cue bid since bidding 4H anyway
(5) May as well show a diamond control
(6) Enough
(7) Making the poor decision to check key cards
(8) Showing 2 with the Q
(9) No options now
W
Chris
N
Dan
E
Gary
S
Ed
1
Pass
2NT1
Pass
42
Pass
43
Pass
54
(1) Game raise with 4+ trump
(2) Balanced minimum with no slam interest
(3) Still interested…Dan wasn’t sure if this was intended as key card or cue bid, but…
(4) Bid 5H either way (whether 4S was key card or not)

Lots of bidding issues with this next hand, but at the end of the day, it is really a simple problem.  I had only played 4 previous hands with this partner (in my lifetime), so we didn’t really have a lot of solid agreements, just play bridge.  Still, I will discuss some potential bidding items.

The first fundamental question – is the North hand an opening bid?  Since it fails the rule of 20, I would not open, but it was opened 1 at the other table.  Their auction proceeded to 5 and miraculously stopped there.

After opening 1NT and partner does a Jacoby transfer into a suit where you are holding 4-5 trumps, what agreements do you have about ‘super accept?’  Some play only jump to 3 of the major with 4+ trump and a maximum HCP for the 1NT opener.  Some have a system for showing 3 trump with maximum HCP values.  My current system with most partnerships includes a simple accept (bid 2) with any 2-3 cards, bid 1 step higher with a maximum and 4+ trump support and a doubleton somewhere (in this case 2), bid 2 steps higher with a maximum and 4-3-3-3 (in this case 2NT), and accept the transfer at the 3 level with 4+ trump but less than the maximum HCP.   And, what do you do over interference?  And what do you do over lead directing doubles (does taking action promise a stopper in the indicated suit, do you continue to use the same system)?  It is amazing to me how often, playing with new partners and filling out convention cards, how simple little conventions (such as Jacoby transfers) have a staggering number of necessary followup questions that require discussion (but what if…?).  This discussion rarely happens except in very experienced partnerships with lots of bidding notes.  And then, once the notes are made, of course, you must remember what you discussed/agreed!

Anyway, all of that aside (and undiscussed with this partner), I jumped to 3 after partner’s transfer.  Of course partner has promised no values, but I’m hopeful that, with the jump, they will have game interest.  Partner did have game interest, and cue bid 4 over my 3 bid.  That, unjustifiably, got me interested in slam?!?  Partner is a passed hand!  What was I thinking?  What “perfect” passed hand could offer good play (better than a finesse) for slam.  Given enough years, you may be able to find one, but odds are very strong that if partner has the hoped for key cards (Q and both missing aces) they cannot have any other useful stuff to provide good play for slam (well, a singleton diamond starts to give hope, but partner didn’t have that).  Still, I went ahead and asked for key cards (note here that another useful convention ‘1 over key card’ (where 4 is the key card ask for hearts) allows partner to respond showing “2 with the Q” and not force slam).  But we were not playing ‘1 over key card’ so I bid 4NT and then 6 over the 5 reply.  With a sure diamond loser, I had to avoid any spade or club loser (this requires dropping an honor or taking two finesses).

So, playing 6, I won the diamond lead with the A and returned a diamond.  Since there was no way to avoid a diamond loser, I returned a diamond at trick 2 (maybe they would break a black suit for me?) and they returned a diamond which I ruffed.  This stripped diamonds from both hands so that, if I ever lost another trick, I couldn’t go down 2 – not that it mattered, since the IMPs lost for down 1 and down 2 are the same. 

I drew trump in 2 rounds, ending in dummy and led the 10.  I had not decided what I was doing, but my RHO popped with the K, so I won the A.  Now, due to the power of the 98 the contract is cold…if I could just look into their hands to find the J (or if I bothered cashing the AK prior to worrying about the J).  If RHO holds the J, simply enter dummy, finesse against the J, and pitch the losing club on the Q.  If LHO holds the J, simply cash the A and lead the 9 for a ruffing finesse.  If they cover, the 8 is established to pitch the losing club.  If they don’t cover, I can pitch the club as the 9 wins the trick and come to 12 tricks.  Also, I could try to first cash the AK and, if the Q falls, I don’t even have to worry about who has the J, I am home with 12 tricks.  Or, I could cash the Q and ruff a spade, winning whenever the J had initially been only  3 long regardless of who held it.  I have taught many classes on ‘maximize your chances’ – that is, if you are getting ready to take a finesse for your contract but have a side AK that you could cash that would possibly drop a doubleton Q, DO IT!!!!  If the Q drops, the finesse you were about to take is not necessary.  Don’t even think about it – the bonus for making far exceeds whatever problems happen if the Q does not fall.

Lots of choices in spades.  Is this a coin toss?  Play for split honors?  (as noted above, whatever you may decide about spades, you should simply cash the AK as basic routine fundamental technique prior to making your spade play – I didn’t.  Very very sad play.)  East probably has diamond length to justify their double of 2♦ (and therefore possibly spade shortness).  As a defender, when holding KJx(x) and it appears that declarer is about to double finesse with the 10, playing me for holding both honors, I have often played the K on the first finesse, hoping to dissuade him from taking the double finesse later.  On that basis, I was obsessed with the fact that I ‘knew’ where the J was and carelessly didn’t bother to play clubs first.  I played to finesse East for the J.  Wrong.  Doubly wrong.  Down 1, -50 to go with our teammates -450, lose 11 IMPs.

Note to self:  There are a lot of IMPs at stake when playing slams.  Even when in a poor slam, a nearly hopeless slam, give it best play.  You might just make it.

 
27
None
South
N
Bob E
AQ96
5
A106
87643
 
W
Jerry
QJ2
987542
QJ105
9
E
Mike
K108543
1043
QJ3
9
 
S
Bob M
J72
AK9876
K
AK2
 
W
Jerry
N
Bob E
E
Mike
S
Bob M
1
Pass
1
Pass
31
Pass
4
Pass
4
Pass
5NT
Pass
6
All Pass
 
 
 
(1) ?? Not the values for a jump shift, but hoping, if pard holds 5 spades, he will bid 3D/3H and I can bid 3S showing 3 card support and, now, I have closer to the values for a jump shift.
W
Gary
N
Ed
E
Chris
S
Dan
1
Pass
1
Pass
3
Pass
3NT
All Pass
 

Here I am again in an extremely poor slam, requiring 2 key cards to be located favorably on top of requiring trump to be 3-3.  Trump were 3-3, so now all I needed was West to hold the K10 and I would be home.  When West showed out on the first spade lead, I could simply duck, down 1 after pitching my losing club on the A.

As noted in the bidding above, I was expecting/hoping that partner held 5 spades with a hand that would respond 3 or 3 to my jump shift, allowing me to then bid 3 showing my 3 card support.  Instead, partner raised my clubs and I was in a precarious position.  I hoped to be able to get out and play 4 or, if necessary, 5.  The heart split made 4 easy and the club split made 5 unlikely (it can make, but declarer must play for the 4-1 club split which they would be unlikely to do).  5NT was clearly ‘pick a slam’ but there was no slam to pick!  I had messed up the bidding with my decision to jump shift rather than a simple jump to 3.  I think I held a little extra for the 3 rebid, but there is nothing wrong with holding a little extra.  I did not have the right hand for the jump shift and paid for it when partner raised clubs and then took me to slam.

At the other table, a more sensible 3 rebid arrived in an excellent 3NT contract (or North could have raised to 4 which would also be excellent unless hearts were 5-1 with a singleton small heart).  Still, there is work to be done in 3NT – do you look for tricks in clubs, hearts or spades?  If suits are splitting poorly (spades and clubs sure did), even reaching 9 tricks could possibly be problematic (if you lead and lose the J finesse, you are looking at 8 top tricks (2+2+2+2).  Still, you need 9. 

At this table, the Q lead went to the singleton K in dummy (while partner played the 9 announcing (via upside down carding) no interest and, specifically, denying the 10.  Declarer ran the J at trick 2, losing to the K and East continued with a diamond into declarer’s A10, providing the 9th trick.  I think, at this point, declarer just claimed their 9 tricks and went on to the next hand.  That left our teammates -400 to go with our -50, lose 10 IMPs.

 
28
N-S
West
N
Bob E
J64
AQ8762
QJ6
A
 
W
Jerry
K8
10
K10832
KQ853
4
E
Mike
7532
J54
A75
J74
 
S
Bob M
AQ109
K93
94
10962
 
W
Jerry
N
Bob E
E
Mike
S
Bob M
1
1
Dbl1
22
Pass
4
All Pass
 
(1) Negative showing 4 spades and 6+ points
(2) Cue bid showing heart support with invitational values
W
Gary
N
Ed
E
Chris
S
Dan
Pass1
1
Pass
2
3NT2
Pass
4
All Pass
(1) !
(2) !! showing the minors

As you can see from the bidding, after West failed to open as dealer, radically different auctions occurred.  As the cards lie, 4 cannot be beaten.  But after a 1-2 start, North, who has an extra heart but a lot of losers, is not prepared to compete higher over the surprising 3NT call.  And South, who has a maximum 2 raise, but lots of minor suit losers, is not prepared to compete over 4.  As a result, EW were able to play 4 undoubled, losing a trick in every suit for down 1.

In our auction, as noted, I upgraded my hand based on my spade suit (after hearing the negative double on my right) to treat the hand as 10-11 invitational vs. 6-9.  So, I showed invitational values via the 2 cue bid.  With a minimum opening bid, West had nothing to say and partner has an easy raise to game opposite an invitational hand.

Does West have an opening bid?  Often, the side that makes the first bid in an auction has a large advantage.  Here, the delayed action of 3NT claimed the advantage and stole the hand.  Nice bid Gary!  In 4 we were +620 while our teammates were -50 to gain 11 needed IMPs after my two miserable failed slams in the last round of the day.

Recap Of 5/2/2018 28 Board IMP Individual

It has been over 2 months since we last played.  March included the Nationals in Philadelphia plus other travel.  April included the Gatlinburg Regional plus other travel.  So here we are in May.  Lots of slams today, with four slams bid at one table that were not bid at the other (for large swings) and two more times slam was bid at both tables, making, for a push.  Rather than report the boards in numerical order, I’m going review the four slam swings first.

 
14
None
East
N
Mark R
J92
2
AQJ96
KQJ7
 
W
Bob
1083
J98
K82
8543
2
E
Manfred
Q75
Q6543
43
1062
 
S
Ed
AK64
AK107
1075
A9
 

 

 Ed
Mark R
1
31
42
53
64
All Pass
(1) Diamond support, short hearts
(2) Two-way bid in case it was long/weak hearts
(3) Nope, diamond support
(4) I hope it is GOOD support!

 

 Bruce
Cris
1
21
2NT2
33
3NT4
All Pass5
(1) Inverted showing diamond support with invitational or better values
(2) Balanced game force
(3) Short hearts
(4) With weak diamonds, not sure he wants to go higher
(5) Thinking he has done enough

Here, the table that reached slam was not a practiced partnership with no bidding agreements.  In fact, everyone at the table was wondering if 3 was intended as natural/weak hearts or a splinter in support of spades (and we were discussing the appropriateness of simply asking – remember, we are just playing for fun.  Obviously in any competition the partners are supposed to have agreements, know their agreements, and would never be allowed to ask ‘what does that bid mean?’!!!).  However, South had an easy 2-way bid to discover if the 3 bid showed long/weak hearts or diamond support, simply raise to 4 and find out what partner does with that!  If partner had a hand with weak hearts, 4 will have good play.  And, if he had a diamond splinter, he can pull 4 to 5.  Upon hearing that it was a splinter in support of diamonds, South raised to slam and found a suitable dummy.  I led a small diamond thinking I may be able to cut down ruffs and that I would eventually score my K anyway.  Declarer played safe for the slam by rising with the A and playing another diamond, knowing that whoever won the K at trick 2 couldn’t give themselves a ruff, and it would be unlikely that they could give partner a ruff either (thus insuring 2+2+4+4 for their contract).  So, I scored my K, ‘holding’ declarer to 12 tricks.  Declarer commented after the hand that “that is, by far, the worst suit I ever held where I bid slam.”  Partner had him covered.

At the other table, a very practiced partnership (Cris and Bruce) with many pages of system notes was unable to find their way to the slam.  6NT is best (no ruff possible, double stoppers in all suits). When the diamond finesse won, declarer had 13 tricks, but our teammates only scored +520 for their game bid of 3NT.  Compared to the -920 at the other table, lose 9 IMPs.  Technically not a double digit loss due to the structure of the IMP table, but it felt like one at the time.

A “morning after” email discussed upgrades to the notes to handle this hand.  I commented after the hand that “our” system notes (the notes that I have with Bruce, but not Cris), do cover this hand (notes repeated below):

1C/2D and 1D/3C are invitational; 3 level MAJ splinters; 1C – 3D also splinter : Note: Splinters are game going values, while a splinter by responder after inverted raise is slammish

Still, even with this agreement, some judgment is involved.  Had North treated their hand as “less than slammish” and merely bid an immediate 3 splinter, it is still reasonable/possible, with AKAKA in the South hand, to pursue slam as was done at the other table.  Clearly, if North had this agreement and had chosen to make the 3 bid after the inverted raise to show a slammish hand with a singleton heart, the slam would have been reached.  Without specific agreements on this auction, our North/South teammates failed to find their way past 3NT.

So, be sure to discuss this with your partners so that you know, for starters, is 1m-(P)-3M natural/weak or splinter?  And, while you are at it, if you conclude it is a splinter, you may as well decide if there is a difference between an immediate splinter and a delayed splinter (after first offering an inverted minor suit raise).

 
16
E-W
West
N
Mark R
84
J10642
82
A765
 
W
Bob
AKQJ9763
A
A
KJ9
J
E
Manfred
52
Q87
KJ10975
84
 
S
Ed
10
K953
Q643
Q1032
 

 

 Bob
Manfred
2
2
2
31
3
4
All Pass2
(1) Natural, values better than a terrible hand, game force
(2) Fearful to go higher

 

 Mark M
Dan
2
2
2
3
61
(1) Ready to go higher, don’t need much

Wow – this West hand is a rare powerhouse where 10 tricks are about as close to a 100% certainty you will ever have.  Here 12-13 tricks are possible if you can find partner with one or two club cards…or an entry to provide one or two discards…or an entry and a chance to lead up to the K (and then guess what to play).  The problem was that partner has no red entry (due to my singleton aces), and a possible trump entry requires a specific holding, so the most likely chance for slam is a club card.  Clearly I was a bit of a wimp on this one – I was looking at 3 possible club losers (nearly certain to have 3 losers if I play clubs out of my hand with no club help in dummy).  Therefore, I didn’t view the 5 level as safe.  A bid of 4NT would have allowed me to locate the A if partner held it, but I possessed no tool to locate the Q, and I did not want to go minus if partner held neither of those cards.  At the other table, the player with my hand simply flipped his coin and it came up ‘bid the slam and see what happens.’  A heart was led at both tables.  Against the slam, the defense worked out to discard diamonds and save clubs, holding declarer to 10 tricks.  Against my game, I started playing trump and with 2 trump to go, the 10 was discarded.  That allowed me to ensure 11 tricks, so I stopped playing trumps and led the K, dropping the (now singleton) Q and scoring 12 tricks for +680.  With our teammates +200, that was 13 lucky IMPs for our side.  Perhaps someone else can better understand how to bid this hand.  From my viewpoint, I can’t really see any blame for bidding the slam or not bidding the slam – either you are feeling lucky or you are not.

Note that the slam cannot be beaten if the defense starts by leading the A, since the 3rd club can be ruffed in dummy.  Good defense teammates!

 
19
E-W
South
N
Mark R
KQJ1083
A85
4
Q64
 
W
Dan
95
32
J8532
J975
6
E
Bruce
6
Q976
K97
K10832
 
S
Bob
A742
KJ104
AQ106
A
 

 

 Bob
Mark R
1
1
41
4NT2
53
5NT4
65
66
All Pass
 
(1) Not wanting to splinter with an ace
(2) Enough to explore slam
(3) 0-3 aces
(4) We have all the key cards, kings?
(5) I have the heart K
(6) Not enough to ensure 13 tricks

 

 Ed
Manfred
1
1
41
42
4NT3
54
5NT5
66
77
All Pass
(1) Game raise in spades, short clubs
(2) Cue bid
(3) Key card for spades
(4) I have 2 with the Q
(5) We have all the key cards, kings?
(6) I have the diamond K
(7) Cool, let’s try grand

There are mixed views of splinters in the expert world whether or not it is appropriate/valuable to bid a splinter that is a singleton ace.  The down side is that partner may view their hand as slam negative if they have strong values opposite the splinter, since the splinter is usually a small card.  The upside of splintering with a singleton ace is that, in some cases, a key card asking bid might disclose the singleton ace and partner can proceed accordingly.  I elected not to splinter and simply show a hand that evaluated to about 20 points.  Since partner had 12 HCP and a singleton, he judged that sufficient values were there for slam and bid key card, then showed that all key cards were present by checking on the kings via 5NT, but when I couldn’t show him the K (to go with his Q), he was fearful of a loser there.  He also held 2 losing hearts that had to be dealt with and had no way to count 13 sure tricks, so he settled for the small slam.

At the other table, the player with my hand opted to splinter with the singleton A and when his partner cooperated with a return cue bid in hearts, the hand that I held ended up doing the key card asks.  Over 5NT (showing possession of all key cards and asking about specific kings), the North hand inexplicably showed the K with his 6 reply and the grand slam was reached.  Of course, the 6 card spade suit  (unknown by South during the auction) immensely improved the prospects of 13 tricks.  But, still the grand slam was not a lock.  Declarer must ruff out a doubleton or tripleton K, or guess the Q.  When the K fell on the second diamond ruff, the Q remained, allowing a discard of the heart loser from the North hand, so there was no need to guess the location of the Q.  Both tables played the deal the same way, with slam bid at both tables, but our 13 tricks were only worth 1010, while the grand slam scored up 1510, lose 11 IMPs.

 
26
Both
East
N
Mark R
93
AK
9543
KJ974
 
W
Cris
KQ85
10753
A10
A103
Q
E
Bob
AJ1076
4
KJ72
Q52
 
S
Mark M
42
QJ9862
Q86
86
 

 

 W
Cris
N
Mark R
E
Bob
S
Mark M
1
Pass
2NT1
Pass
32
Pass
33
Pass
44
Pass
4NT5
Pass
56
Pass
67
All Pass
 
 
(1) Discussed at the table, “1960s Jacoby 2NT”
(2) Short hearts
(3) Intended as a waiting bid, asking me to bid 3NT with non-serious slam values, or cue bid with serious slam values
(4) Unaware of partner’s convention/intention, thinking that, even with minimum values, I have to show a control on the way to 4S if I have one
(5) With nothing wasted in hearts and all prime values, ready roll out ol’ Black
(6) One Key card
(7) Only missing one, must be good for slam

 

 W
Bruce
N
Ed
E
Manfred
S
Dan
1
Pass
2NT
Pass
3
Pass
41
Dbl2
Pass
Pass
43
Pass
44
All Pass
(1) Showing a club control
(2) Requesting a club lead
(3) Showing a diamond control
(4) Minimum, not wiling to go higher

Often, right or wrong, I find a way to justify my action to myself if no one else.  Every so often (too often) reporting a hand in the blog is super painful due to my clear culpability in the loss.  This is one of those hands.  Here we had a confused auction (partner thought one thing, I thought another) and we arrived in a very poor slam (albeit, as the cards lie, cold).  The bidding problems were annotated above, so I will move on to the play.  At the other table, requiring only 10 tricks for the contract, declarer received the requested club lead.  12 tricks are possible, but it is complicated and potentially dangerous to pursue the 12 tricks, so declarer simply took the 11 tricks in front of him, losing a heart and a club.

At my table, I had to score 12 tricks on a heart lead, so I was booked at trick one and needed the rest of the tricks.  A simple diamond finesse (small to the 10 after drawing 2 rounds of trumps) succeeds if my LHO has Q, Qx or Qxx.  I can toss my 2 losing clubs from dummy on the KJ.  Here is the tool I use to determine the odds of success on any given hand:

http://www.automaton.gr/tt/en/OddsTbl.htm

Using that tool resulted in this:

The tool says that the slam succeeds if the distribution that is shown in rows 8, 9 or 10 matches the hand in question.  As you can see, that makes this an 18.2% slam (of course this is assuming that trumps are 2-2, so the actual percentage is much lower).  Not the kind of slam you would choose to be in, but, nevertheless, not hopeless and, yes, trump were 2-2 and the Qxx was with LHO making the slam cold with that line of play.

However, I adopted a more esoteric approach, looking for a squeeze where I hoped to find my RHO with the K as well as 4+ diamonds with the Q (when RHO overtook the Q with the K at trick 1, and returned the A, there was some inference that hearts were 6 long on my left, and only 2 long on my right – therefore placing a lot of clubs and diamonds in the North hand).  Using the same tool mentioned above (this tool is not available while playing the hand!), I found the probability of RHO having this specific holding (K as well as 4+ diamonds with the Q) to be only 15.2% (again, lower when you must also assume 2-2 trump).  However, this line of play has the advantage (since the defense already had me booked at trick 1), of not going down as soon as I lost a first round diamond finesse.  There is something mildly satisfying about not going down on a finesse early in a slam (but there is also something satisfying about attempting the best play for your contract!). 

Anyway, I ruffed the A return at trick 2, drew trump (both following) ending in dummy (instead of ending in my hand and finessing the 10).  I ruffed a heart (RHO pitching a club).  I crossed to the A (both following) and ruffed the last heart (RHO pitching another club).  Now I crossed to the A (both following) and led the Q (RHO pitching the J, I pitched a club, and LHO pitched a heart). In this position, I led dummy’s last trump, the 8:

 
26
Both
East
N
Mark R
954
K
 
W
Cris
8
10
103
Q
E
Bob
KJ7
Q
 
S
Mark M
8
Q8
8
 

When I led dummy’s last trump, RHO pitched the K!  At this point, Mark R was hoping/assuming that the ending looked like this:

 
26
Both
East
N
Mark R
954
K
 
W
Cris
8
10
103
Q
E
Bob
KQ7
8
 
S
Mark M
8
J8
Q
 

If this had been the actual layout of the cards, pitching the K is the only way to defeat the slam.

Instead of realizing that I am now cold for the slam (once the K was discarded – quite easy to see with all the cards laid out above), I ‘concluded’ that RHO had the precise holding I was looking/hoping for (K plus Qxxx) and that he had been duly squeezed.  I was momentarily elated!  So, I mistakenly kept my ‘good’ Q) and finessed the J, losing to the Q, down 1.  If I bothered doing the math, I can throw my Q at trick 10.  The 10 is high with only 1 other club outstanding.  So, in the 3 card end position, had I thrown away my Q, I can cash TWO clubs in dummy and lead to my K for 12 tricks, scoring up +1430 to win 13 IMPs.  Instead I scored -100 to go with our teammates -650 and we lost 13 IMPs.

Counting suits is always good.  Sometimes, when a lot of discards are in play, keeping track of all suits can be difficult.  But, here, RHO followed with a club when I played to the A plus they discarded a club at every opportunity (2 heart leads, 2 trump leads).  Counting the clubs can’t be that hard.  When 10 clubs are gone and only 3 remain and you hold a high one and a low one, those two clubs will produce 2 tricks.  Always.  Disappointed.

One more thing – my computation that the squeeze only produced a 15.2% success rate is bolstered by other extraneous factors.  For instance, my a priori assumption, for the squeeze to work, required LHO to hold no more than 3 diamonds.  But, had my LHO held 9xxx, perhaps they would not have  held onto all of their diamonds to the very end, allowing a pseudo squeeze to succeed.  Or, as in the actual case, the defenders will misjudge and discard incorrectly.

Epilogue…There are many lessons from this hand.

  • Know your bidding agreements (we should not have reached this horrible slam)
  • When you are in a nearly hopeless contract, don’t give up
  • When you are in any contract, any time, count, count, count and count some more
  • Don’t get distracted with a planned line of play when information develops that another line is better
  • Sometimes a mathematically inferior line of play can become the best available line of play when you add in the potential for defensive missteps.

While these slam swings were happening, there were 3 other boards with double digit swings.  One was a bidding mishap, the other 2 involved leads.

 
9
E-W
North
N
Mark M
KJ954
KJ2
Q10965
 
W
Dan
AJ5
8732
AQ10
732
J
E
Bob
KQ102
AQ
8653
AK8
 
S
Manfred
987643
106
974
J4
 

 

 W
Dan
N
Mark M
E
Bob
S
Manfred
Pass
1
Pass
1
2
2NT1
All Pass
(1) Thinking I’m showing 18-19 HCP

 

 W
Cris
N
Mark R
E
Ed
S
Bruce
Pass
1
Pass
1
Pass
11
Pass
22
Pass
43
All Pass
(1) Unclear what conventions partner may play/assume after a 2NT rebid, decided to simply bid his 4 card major
(2) Showing 7-9 with 4 card support
(3) Found our suit, game values, bid the game

The bidding (annotated above) wasn’t especially effective, but reaching the 4-3 fit in spades instead of the more reasonable 3NT proved to be adequate to win the board.  Defending against 2NT, North pitched down to a singleton K, so I was able to win both my A and Q for 10 tricks, +180 (losing a club, diamond and heart, winning 4+2+2+2).  At the other table, the spade game suffered from the 6-0 split, but declarer still managed to score 10 tricks for +620, to lose 10 IMPs.

What happened in the bidding?  I thought 1m-1M-2NT showing 18-19 HCP was the equivalent of the auction I was actually facing (which had the intervening 2 call).  I could have bid 3NT rather than 2NT, but usually 1m-1m-3NT shows about an 8-9 trick hand with a long running minor with hopes partner can produce the 9th trick if needed.  I thought I was just bidding the values I had while showing clubs stopped.  My partner, having bid hearts, was concerned about his ‘weak hearts’ and I guess didn’t think we actually held 29-30 HCP to pursue our likely 9 tricks in 3NT.

As North, I might have chosen to open 1 but after an original pass, that weak club suit would not tempt me to enter a live auction.  However, the 2 bid proved to be amazingly effective at disrupting our auction.  With that miserable dummy, there would not be many tricks available for North in any contract, but it was hard to find a penalty double at that vulnerability.  Playing support doubles, it was impossible.

 
22
E-W
East
N
Bruce
AKJ9
AQJ82
87
92
 
W
Manfred
543
75
A952
Q1074
4
E
Cris
102
1064
KJ64
A653
 
S
Bob
Q876
K93
Q103
KJ8
 

 

 Bob/Dan
Bruce/Mark R
Pass
1
21
42
All Pass
 
(1) Drury showing heart support with invitational values
(2) Enough to bid game

Here, the same auction reached the same contract.  At my table, East started with a trump lead.  When partner tried a diamond towards dummy, East hopped with the K and continued with a passive trump.    Declarer could draw trump, lead another diamond to the 10 and was able to throw a losing club on the Q, eliminating any guess for the  A/Q.  When declarer led their last club towards dummy, East ducked, allowing the K to score, reaching 11 tricks for our side, +450.

At other table, East started with the 10 and learned there was no future in spades.  When declarer drew trump and tried a small diamond towards Q103,  East won the K and switched to a small club to put declarer to a guess.  Declarer guessed wrong, +50 for our teammates.  Win 11 IMPs.

 
28
N-S
West
N
Mark R
KJ752
J72
7
AJ107
 
W
Cris
A
AQ9
986
865432
5
E
Bob
64
108654
KQJ103
Q
 
S
Mark M
Q10983
K3
A542
K9
 
W
Cris
N
Mark R
E
Bob
S
Mark M
Pass
Pass
11
1
22
43
Pass4
4
All Pass
 
 
 
(1) Very strange 3rd seat “opening bid”…where P, 1H, 2H, 1D and 2D are all considered. By opening 1D, I showed the lead I thought I wanted and I kept hearts in play, either via a response in hearts or a negative double, so that was my choice
(2) Nice values with extremely weak clubs, but sticking in a 2C bid anyway, the longest “suit”
(3) Splinter showing short diamonds with spade support
(4) No longer any need for a diamond lead to set up tricks, so no double of their 4D call
W
Bruce
N
Ed
E
Manfred
S
Dan
Pass
Pass
21
2
32
43
Pass
4
All Pass
 
 
 
(1) Deciding to treat this as a weak 2 in diamonds
(2) Routine ‘law of total tricks’ raise with 3 card support
(3) Strong spade raise – not able to show short diamonds

Quite different bidding reached the same contract, 4 by South.  Our teammates were faced with a diamond lead (the suit that East opened in 3rd seat), presenting no problems for declarer.  Upon winning the A, when West didn’t cash the A, declarer had 12 tricks for +680 (his losing hearts were discarded on the good clubs).

At my table, partner found the killing club lead.  Declarer is helpless.  When declarer led trumps, partner won the A and continued with a high club for me to ruff (asking for a heart return).  When I continued a heart through the K3 to partner’s AQ, we obtained the necessary 4 tricks for the defense, +100, win 13 IMPs.  Nice lead partner!

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