Recap Of 12/28/2016 28 Board IMP Individual
For the first time in a long time, we got in two games this month – mostly with different players. There was quite an assortment of 5-6-7-9 IMP swings, some with interesting hands, but I’m going to stick with reporting the 5 double digit swings of the day. Normally I just use first names – if the reader knows the players, they know who is who, if not, they don’t care. This time, with 2 Bobs and 2 Mikes, I used last names for half the field.
The first swing of the day came on board 2 where our opponents stopped in 5♦ while our teammates ventured a small slam that was, to say the least, not odds on. The auction seemed sensible at our table, but our teammates just blasted into 6♦. In 5♦ you get two chances to avoid a third loser. After winning the ♥A at trick 1, lead a small club towards the ♣Q. If the ♣K is onside, you can pitch your third spade on the ♣A without risking the spade finesse. In 6♦ your only real chance is to find spades 3-3 with the ♠Q onside (about 18%). But, since spades were 3-3 and the ♠Q was onside, no problem. The 13th spade provided a parking place for the club loser, so the only trick lost was the power trump trick to the defense. +920 vs. -400, win 11 IMPs.
It isn’t often you raise partner’s second suit with only 3 card support, but here, since I didn’t make a negative double, partner did know I only have 3 spades and that I am offering a choice of places to play. Knowing that, he still opted for the tenuous 3NT. Game in spades appears to offer better prospects than 3NT, assuming hearts are no worse the 5-3 and spades no worse than 4-2. If that is the case, you will lose 2 spades and a heart, but win 2+0+4+1 in top tricks (with the diamond finesse) and still score club ruffs in hand and heart ruffs in dummy to reach 10 tricks. The opponents can ruff your diamonds or overruff your heart ruffs, but they can still only score 3 tricks vs. 4♠.
To achieve 9 tricks in NT, declarer needs the diamond finesse and the spade finesse. With the opponents starting out with 4 rounds of hearts (establishing the 13th heart as the setting trick), you have no play but to hope the ♠Q is onside. It is, and so is the ♦K. That provides 3+1+4+1 for 9 tricks and the red game comes home. We were certainly lucky to bid/make 3NT, and 4♠ would have been a better spot, but when vulnerable at IMPs, the payout is so huge, it pays to go after red games. As you see, the other table languished in 3♦ just making, -110 for our teammates to go with our +600, win 10 IMPs.
Once again, a close vulnerable game is at stake. The first 3 bids were the same at both tables and then they diverged. Bill (my partner) slightly overbid with 2NT (so, with a maximum “minimum hand” I automatically raised to 3NT – never miss a red game), while his counterpart at the other table only raised to 3♦ and they played it there.
This is a challenging opening lead vs. 3NT, but with no suit and no entries, it is often best to try to hit partner’s suit. Perhaps partner has great spade spots over dummy and you know partner has at least 5 spades (South never supported spades, North never rebid spades). The spade lead caught the ♠KJxxxx with partner for 2 tricks, but the spots in dummy were strong, so spades provided declarer 3 of the necessary tricks for game, with hearts and diamonds also bringing 3 tricks each for a total of 9. To declarer, the club suit looks a bit scary, but the distribution of the club suit offers no great source of tricks for the defense.
On the actual play of the hand, East won the ♠J at trick 1, shifted to hearts with the ♥K winning in dummy. Declarer then knocked out the ♠K to establish spades. When East won the ♠K and continued hearts, declarer knocked out the ♦A and had his 9 tricks (able to finesse against the ♦10 when East showed out on the ♦J). So again, a vulnerable 3NT making for +600 against 9 tricks in a diamond part score, so our teammates were -110 again, win 10 IMPs.
Faced with the opening 2♠ bid on the right, North has to choose. I really hate to double a major with only 3 card support in the unbid major, but I wasn’t going to pass and I hated bidding 3♣ even more, since the hand is flat, the club spots are weak and the suit is only 5 long. So, I doubled, followed by 4♠ and then partner has to decide what to do. This is a very high frequency auction and, nearly every time it happens, no one knows whose hand it is?! Was the 2♠ opening super light (as it sometimes is, especially non-vulnerable), was the 4♠ bounce being bid expecting to make 10 tricks, or an advance save trying to jam the auction and make the opponents guess at a high level? Bill guessed to not defend 4♠ and bid 5♦ which was passed out. It turns out 4♠ cannot be beaten (on the magical fit, the defense only has 2 clubs and a diamond to collect), but E-W were unable to sort out that it was their hand (and score a penalty double vs. 5♦). On the lead of a top spade and a heart shift, they gathered in their 5 tricks in the majors before declarer got started. The rest of the tricks were ours, so we were down 3, -150 in our non-vulnerable game.
At the other table, when my hand decided to venture a 3♣ overcall after the 2♠ opening bid, East again bounced to 4♠ putting maximum pressure on N-S. Here South thought the opponents were trying to steal the hand. Since he had no idea about partner’s diamond support, he tried 5♣ over 4♠. When that got doubled, both North and South sat for the double, not realizing there was a better spot. The defense was ruthless. After 2 hearts were cashed and a third heart lead ruffed, a top spade was cashed with the ♠Q available as a signal that the ♠J was held. So, West underled to the ♠J for another heart lead, ruffed with the ♣J and overruffed with the ♣Q – the trump promotion created 2 trump tricks for East. So, E-W essentially scored the same 5 major suit tricks vs. 5♣ that they did vs. 5♦, but with 2 additional trump tricks available against the club contract, doubled, the damage was significant +1100 vs. our -150, win 14 IMPs. Had our opponents doubled (for +500 instead of +150), we still win 12 IMPs. Those 1100s can be really costly!
On this last hand, West, as dealer, has an awkward hand. 1♦, 2♦ and pass, all seem to be in play. If bidding is an option, pass is rarely right, so as you see, my table chose 2♦ (ostensibly showing a 6 card suit with 5-10 points – discounting the singleton ♠Q), and the other table started with 1♦. With N-S holding 10 spades, it is rarely right to defend 4♥. When East arrived in 4♥, there was no defense to beat it. Not a great contract, other than it makes – you must lose 3 aces and avoid any defensive club ruffs as well as avoiding a second trump loser. After ruffing a spade, you must play West for exactly ♥Ax, so get to your hand to lead a small heart to the ♥Q and then, on the next lead of hearts, play all small hearts as the ♥A catches air, preserving the ♥K to draw the remaining trump. 10 tricks, +420 for our teammates.
As you can see, we landed in 4♠ with hearts never having been bid. West has a difficult opening lead against 4♠. I think I would have chosen the ♠Q. The ♠Q is coming down singleton anyway, and the other 3 suits all have serious dangers. Eventually West chose the ♥5, declarer covered with the ♥J, and East thought they had a problem. Is it a singleton ♥5? A doubleton ♥54? Or 3 to the ♥Q75? It turns out it doesn’t matter. For any of those holdings, the ♥K is the necessary play. It costs nothing in the case of the ♥ singleton/doubleton – declarer always has 3 top heart tricks and whether or not you play the ♥K at trick 1 doesn’t change anything. They still have 3 tricks. But, if partner happens to hold the ♥Q75, failure to play the ♥K at trick 1 costs the contract. The defense is entitled to 0+1+1+2. But, when East decided to play third hand low at trick 1, the heart trick for the defense disappeared and declarer had only 3 losers, 10 tricks, and a double game swing for +620 to go with +420, 14 IMPs.
Today was my lucky day.