Recap Of 12/21/2016 28 Board IMP Individual
Wow, this time we had no less than 9 double digit swings that included, I think, a number of interesting hands with all essentially revolving around bidding judgment/bidding choices that players face every day. Bidding at the 5 level (or not), choosing game (or slam) in hearts, spades or NT. It all started on the first first hand.
There are not a lot of constructive bidding tools created for how to compete over a strong 2♣ opening bid (for good reaason – all tools are about disrupting their auction, not creating your own constructive auction!). Here E-W are cold for 10 tricks in their heart game, while N-S are in good shape for their own 10 tricks in their spade game. A possible opening lead of the ♠A followed by a shift to, specifically the ♥J is the only line of defense to defeat 4♠. So, 4♠ will be making every time. Some mental gymnastics could arrive at that defense (if partner has the ♥K, no problem. If declarer has the ♥K and partner has the ♥Q, leading the ♥J could create a useful entry to partner so that they could continue drawing trump, preventing a club ruff. Not going to happen. So, the decision to save in 5♥ followed by the decision to declare vs. defend resulted in spades being played at both tables scoring 10 tricks. My table, that meant -1, -50 vs. 4♠ making by our opponents at the other table, -420, lose 10 IMPs. Had I doubled 5♥, partner may have pulled to 5♠ anyway. And, if he didn’t, it only would have held our losses to 8 IMPs instead of 10. The swing was created by the decision to bid 5♥ over 4♠.
Here the 6-3 heart fit proved to be more effective than the 5-3 spade fit. If the defense attempts to stop diamond ruffs (by leading trumps), declarer can merely establish the spade suit, no problem. If the defense leads diamonds early, killing the late entry to spades, declarer can set about ruffing the 2 diamond losers and only has a spade loser and 1-2 trump losers. After declarer ruffs both diamonds and is down to a singleton heart in dummy, it is time to start drawing trump. Having every spot except the ♥A and ♥Q, how do you play the trump suit? Finesse for the queen would seem to be the normal play, but it is wrong to finesse, since, with only 1 possible lead available (dummy is now down to only one trump), the finesse only works with exactly ♥Qx in the West hand. But, small to the ♥K will pick up ♥Qx in the East hand as well as the actual singleton ♥Q. So, against any defense, 11 tricks are always there in a heart contract. But, when spades are trump, there are many issues going on – the main one is getting hearts right. Here, depending on how the defense has gone prior to attacking hearts, the normal finesse not only picks up West holding ♥Qx, but also ♥Qxx and ♥AQx and possibly ♥AQxx, although the defense may have engineered a heart ruff before that (although maybe not, since declarer never revealed heart support). Anyway, I think the lesson out of this hand is to support/play hearts and not have the problem of how to play 4♠. 10 tricks are there, double dummy, in the spade contract, but when the heart finesse lost, declarer ended up -2, -200 to go with our +620 to win 13 IMPs.
I have given my hand to a few capable players and all chose to bid 2♦ over 2♣. I think it is a very tough call, and only 2♦ and 2♥ can be considered. I have to force, while leaving 3NT and 6♣ both open. How the auction proceeds (should I have bid 2♦) is anyone’s guess. You should still be able to reach the cold slam. My ill-advised 2♥ bid hit the jackpot when partner expressed strong heart support. However, 6♣ would be far less cold (depends on the heart finesse which would have lost) if partner had held two diamonds and one spade. The third diamond in partner’s hand provided a diamond ruff in dummy for the 12th trick, while both losing hearts can be discarded on the ♠AK. So, while some might chalk this up to blind luck after my bad bid, I’ll take the slam and the +1370.
At the other table, the 2♦ call threw a monkey wrench into the auction. Yes, ‘my 2♥ bid’ could still have been deployed and they likely would have ended up in the slam, but 3NT seems reasonable – you can basically count 9 tricks (2+0+1+6) and if pard only has 5 clubs, they could hold the ♠Q or the ♥A to get to 9. But, 3NT is quite unilateral, losing almost any chance of reaching the club slam. “3NT ends all auctions.” So, our teammates were -660, win 12 IMPs.
This proved to be a bad time to upgrade the South hand. I opened a pedestrian 1♦ which had the effect of rightsiding the NT contract. Having no tenaces, and the dreaded 4-3-3-3 (lack of tricks), South at the other table decided to try opening 1NT. So, at that table, 3NT was reached with South playing, West on lead. Ignoring partner’s double (you can’t lead clubs if you don’t have them), the ♠J was led. With the ♠K over the ♠Q, declarer is toast. Even if you duck spades twice allowing both the ♠J to win and the ♠K to win (so that spades are not established), you still can’t get to 9 tricks. The defense will score at least 2+2+0+1 to defeat the contract. The actual result was -2.
At my table, East was on lead and tried 4th from longest and strongest, the ♣7. This resulted in an overtrick, but even with best defense, no lead can stop 3NT played by the North hand. The hand with queens is often the best declarer in NT. Here South had one queen (protected by the A and K), North had 3 unprotected queens. So, we were +430 and our teammates were +100, win 11 IMPs.
Another 5 over 5 decision – this one proved costly (to not bid and let them play 5♣). At the other table, it went more slowly. Still, 5♣ does not sound like an advanced save! The opponents have decided to pass out 3♥, so they are not going to game. 5♣ sounds like a hand looking for 11 tricks and expecting to find them. As it turned out, both tables found the club lead which is the only lead to hold them to 11 tricks. If 2 diamond ruffs can happen in dummy, the whole diamond suit is good and 12 tricks are there for the taking. At the other table, the extra information about 2 suits (and the opening leader holding Jxxx in the other suit), I think the club lead is indicated. At my table, I found a club lead anyway. Is a club always the best lead? Undoubtedly not, but with values in all suits outside of clubs, I decided to try to make sure to limit the (unknown) potential ruffing value that dummy may have. That lead saved us from -1370. Instead we were +200 while our teammates were +600, win 13 IMPs. It would be interesting to find out what Lead Captain would choose to lead, but so much is subjective about what values and what shape you infer into the opposing hands, I decided to not do the research.
I should add that, in an email, Manfred made an excellent point about his 2NT call. Although it provides information to the defense/opponents, it also provides information to partner. Being void in hearts, Manfred ‘knows’ that there will be a heart raise on his left. Then, if partner bids freely (clubs or diamonds), he can have a reasonable expectation that 6 of the suit chosen by partner will have excellent play. If partner does not come in, he can still bid 5♣ on his on, which he did. And, right or wrong, his sequence bought the contract for 5♣ rather than have the annoying 5♥ interference over 5♣. Should that have worked? I don’t know, but it did.
Our teammates arrived in 3NT and when it was over, they had 11 tricks for +460. At our table, the opening lead (♦Q) tends to show, among other possibilities, something like ♦KQT9, asking partner to unblock the ♦J if they have it. Declarer asked me ‘standard honor leads?’ and I reported yes. He said, after the hand, he briefly considered winning the ♦A and leading towards the ♦J, playing me for the ♦K! But, why would the opening leader throw out an empty ♦Q against slam? Eventually, declarer knew the situation in diamonds. I think a duck at trick 1 might offer slightly better chances to make the hand. It rectifies the count and various positions could then arrive at 12 tricks. But, declarer won the ♦A and proceeded to run 6 heart tricks. On the run of the hearts, East’s first discard showed club values, so declarer believed him, so after running all 6 hearts, he cashed the 3 spades, and led a diamond at trick 11. That left East on lead at trick 12 holding ♣KJ to lead into declarer’s ♣AQ. Nice endplay to make the slam. You can say whatever you want about the bidding (I’ll leave it as ‘it wouldn’t have occurred to me’ – but perhaps it should?). But NS chalked up the slam for +990 to win 11 IMPs on the hand.
As you can see, the first 5 bids were the same at both tables. A more flexible 3rd bid by North might have been 3♠, offering partner a choice of games, tending to show honor doubleton. Here, one player ended the auction with 3NT, the other ended the auction with 4♠. Double dummy, there are 10 tricks in spades against any lead and 11 tricks in NT against any lead. But, 11 tricks in NT is due to the ability to finesse the ♦J and later have it fall. That relies on a very particular lie of the cards, unlikely to be declarer’s main line of attack.
I pictured declarer as possibly 6-4 in the minors and didn’t want to give him a free club finesse. Instead I gave him the heart finesse (via my opening 3♥ lead) and declarer was feeling no pain. He could power out tricks in the heart suit and eventually came to 10 tricks. All leads looked extremely unappealing, but I think the ♣5 is probably the best opening lead (unbid suit) and hope for the best.
At the other table, winning 10 tricks in spades does not rely upon the fall of the ♦J, but I don’t know declarer’s actual line of play. Something good needs to happen in hearts or diamonds. Something really good actually happened in hearts (those long lowly hearts become winners when the ♥Q is onside, doubleton). And the trump 108 coming down certainly doesn’t hurt the cause. But, if you misguess hearts (flying the ♥K the first time hearts are led, hoping to ruff some hearts later), 10 tricks will not be available. In any case, our teammates failed in 4♠ -100 while our opponents scored +630, lose 12 IMPs.
It is rare, at IMPs, to make tight doubles of partscore contracts that turn the partscore into a game. This hand shows why. Yes, they can beat 2♠ and turn +100 into +200 for, possibly, a gain of 3 IMPs. But, if the defense falters, and 8 tricks come home, The loss of 10-13 IMPs can be pretty devastating.
So, at my table, I’ve gotten partner into 2♠X and he needs to find 8 tricks. With a diamond ruff, he can get 5+1+0+2 as long as they don’t obtain a club ruff before trump get drawn. But, the actual play left many opportunities for 6 tricks for the defense – I won’t go into the details, they were pretty amazing (ugly). I’ll just say, when the dust settled, we had our 8 tricks, +670.
Meanwhile, our teammates arrived in 3♥ which I think was more routine bidding. As North, I would always respond 1♥ after partner’s 3rd seat opener was doubled. Maybe the hand belongs to us in hearts? The 3♥ contract was not without its problems, but Bruce played diamonds from the top, dropping the doubleton ♦Q offside and brought home 9 tricks. +140 with our +670, win 13 IMPs.
Penalty doubles can run up huge scores when the opponents overextend their assets, but with no spade stack (and potentially locating the trump ♠Q for declarer), the double here proved disastrous.
Amazingly, this was the very next hand! Just after my preaching about ‘don’t double partscores at IMPS’ this hand comes along. Nick, who made the penalty double of 2♠ on the prior hand, is the one who brought the penalty double into play on this hand. This time he was right. REALLY right.
Double dummy (I’ve looked at this hand a lot!), here are the results (for best possible defense/offense). If we play the hand:
1NT -5, 1400
1♠ -4, 1100, except we were redoubled, 2200
2♦ -2, 500, what I should have bid after the redouble
2♥ -5, 1400, except we ‘only’ went down 4, for -1100
If NS play the hand
3NT, +1, +630
5♣ =, +600
Even though play/defense was not optimal at either table, it was all about the bidding. We were going for a large number once I overcalled (as who wouldn’t). Our teammates managed +130 against our -1100, losing 14 IMPs. Once I overcalled, as long as N-S went for the penalty, we were toast.
There doesn’t seem to be much to the play in 3NT. We have no threat of taking tricks, they have no problem finding tricks. Likewise, in clubs, as long as you play the hand that overcalled for both missing kings, 11 tricks seem straightforward. But, it really doesn’t matter how many tricks are scored in a club partscore. Had they gotten +150 instead of +130, no difference in the IMP score. And, had they bid and made 5♣ we still lose 11 IMPs instead of 14 IMPs. So, once we were going for a number, nothing our teammates did (in terms of getting to game/making game) mattered. We just needed them to get the same number (or better!).
I think this is a great hand for IMP scoring. I’ll still bid 1♠ next time I hold this hand. We might be cold for game in spades and I have to get in the bidding. But, Nick, noticing the vulnerability, went for the jugular and found it.