Recap Of 3/29/2017 28 Board IMP Individual
Back at it again March 29th with a different group playing our 2-table individual.
There were 3 slams missed at both tables, slams that were cold as the cards lie, but not necessarily biddable – still always a disappointment to see the slam bonus slip away. Yet another slam was a push when 6♣ was bid at both tables, down 1, when 6NT was cold on any lead with no finesses and no splits required – really disappointing! So, no swings on those 4 slam hands – I’ll include them at the end of the post to see if anything can be learned.
Meanwhile, back to my ‘normal’ reporting – four hands cleared the hurdle of double digit swings. Twice it was an issue of games bid/not bid, twice it was an issue of which game (plus some defensive luck/slip).
As you can see here, very different auctions leading to very different results. With West, in second seat, the hand is potentially quite valuable in diamonds, hearts or even clubs. With most partners, I play a modified Ogust system (2NT) over a weak 2♦ which allows (forces) partner to show a side 4 card major if they have one along side their 6 card diamond suit. Here, West at my table didn’t have that agreement, so they decided 2♦ was too great a risk and passed (hard to play hearts or clubs after starting with 2♦). I’m not sure if East-West had ‘modified Ogust’ as an agreement at the other table, or if West just rolled the dice and started with 2♦.
So, for the bidding at my table, after West passed, I was allowed to start with 1NT, followed by East showing both majors. Partner’s 2♠ bid was undiscussed, but I thought perhaps 2♠ means:
- Shows game values, stopper in spades, asking about heart stopper (when the opponents show only 1 suit, a cue bid often asks for a stopper; when the opponents have 2 known suits, a cue bid ‘tells‘ that I have a stopper in the suit I bid and typically asks ‘do you have the other suit stopped so that we can try NT?’
- Shows game values with diamonds. When opponents show 2 suits, a structure of ‘unusual vs. unusual’ is often deployed, where a cue bid in their higher suit shows the higher of the other two suits (spades (being the higher of their suits hearts/spades) showing diamonds, the higher of clubs/diamonds).
- Shows spades, to play. This treatment didn’t occur to me, but it was the actual intent of the bid at the table. If 2♦ had shown diamonds, or ‘diamonds and another suit’ the standard treatment is for 2♥ and 2♠ to be natural to play, not forward going. But, I’ve never heard of 2♠ being natural to play after the interfering bid showed both majors. For most players, after the opponents interfere over our 1NT with 2♣, unless the 2♣ bid shows both majors, they play double for Stayman and all systems on as though no interference occurred. Interfering bids higher than 2♣ cause problems, with this hand being a case in point.
- Opponents are interfering more and more often against our 1NT opening bids. With most partners, after NT interference I play transfer lebensohl (clarified nicely by Larry Cohen – transfer lebensohl is a great system if you are prepared for the memory work). You can read about it here: https://www.larryco.com/bridge-learning-center/detail/775 and here: https://www.larryco.com/bridge-learning-center/detail/41
- With this partner, with no agreement, I thought it likely that he either meant #1 or #2 and I was happy to continue to 3NT with either of those meanings. Fortunately, I avoided my second choice – penalty double of 3♥ since 9 tricks are cold with East-West playing 3♥.
The 4♠ contract reached at the other table was a great contract, destined to succeed unless trumps are 4-0 (but they were 4-0). With East’s spade spots over North, the 4♠ contract failed due to 2 red losers as well as 2 trump losers. 3NT is likewise hopeless after the heart lead, but that isn’t how it turned out. Declarer only has 8 tricks (2+1+1+4) but after the opening lead of the ♥4 went to the ♥9, ♥Q and ♥K, declarer led the ♠9, won by the ♠A while West threw an encouraging diamond. Now Declarer has the tricks needed, so the defense has to cash out hearts now if they are to beat 3NT. But, fearful that declarer still had ♥10xx remaining, East shifted to a diamond and the 3NT game came home. +400 and +50 led to win 10 IMPs.
Here the bidding had a similar start at both tables, but the big divergence came with North’s rebid. The NT rebid started the path towards 3NT. The club rebid started the path towards 5♣. With 10 tricks scored in both contracts, +50 and +430 resulted in win 10 IMPs.
Since the takeout double showed both spades and diamonds, those are the threats that a NT contract must deal with. South said that they had spades covered with their 1♠ bid, and ♦Jxxx is a rather thin ‘stopper’ for NT, but partner is there with strong diamonds as well, so NT proved to be quite satisfactory.
As is often the case, 9 tricks in NT proved to be easier to achieve than 11 tricks in a minor suit.
Here (again, see board 3 above) I didn’t know the best bid over 3♥. Even though I was playing with my regular partner, I wasn’t sure if my double would be taken as:
- Support – Even though we only play ‘support doubles’ (showing 3 card support) through 2♥ I thought/hoped that pard my consider it a ‘high level support double’.
- Maximal – Since there are no bids available between 3♥ and 3♠, maximal doubles are used to allow 3♠ to be strictly competitive (with no game interest) and double of 3♥ to be a game try, the only game try available besides simply bidding 4♠ and trying to make it. But maximal doubles would normally only apply when spades have been shown/supported by both partners. Here I have not had a chance to support spades.
- DSI – general card showing ‘do something intelligent’ partner, saying I have a good hand with no clear bid.
- Penalty – since this is an established partnership, I was on firm ground knowing that partner would not treat this as penalty. We have rules regarding when it is penalty and this isn’t one of them. Although here, we are destined to beat 3♥ two tricks which would allow us to cut our losses if we had scored +500.
Not knowing for sure how partner would take my double, I chose double anyway because no other bid seemed clear cut. When partner could only bid 3♠ over my double, I passed and we languished in the part score. I could have bid 4♠ over 3♥ and also could have bid 4♠ over 3♠, but I didn’t. At the other table, with RHO passing over the 1♠ bid, Dan was able to invite with a jump to 3♠ and his partner advanced to the cold game, making (a bit lucky) 11 tricks at both tables when the ♣Q came down doubleton and the ♠Q was finessed away. +200 vs. -650, lose 10 IMPs.
Is this a game you want to be in? I think so, and I should have just bid game and see what happens. “Never bring back a red 170” to your teammates is a pretty good slogan to live by (playing IMPs). Here it was a ‘red 200’ which is kind of a corollary to the original “rule”. The IMP table rewards games such that 37.5% (odds of making the game) is break even, as long as you only go down 1 if unsuccessful in the game.
There wasn’t much to the play/defense. After cashing 2 heart tricks, West continued with the ♦K, which declarer won with the ♦A to take a spade finesse (covered at the other table, ducked at our table). Then, when 2 clubs were cashed and the ♣Q came down, it was time to draw trump and claim.
Again, my bidding choice was at the center of an adverse swing on this last hand. I was sufficiently shocked at the result at the other table, I decided to post a bidding poll on bridgewinners to see what ‘the rest of the world’ would do with my hand in the pass out seat. This is a relatively small sample, but it rather supports my choice of pass: http://bridgewinners.com/article/view/bidding-problem-2-0oizts8vcx/. As of this writing, 86% passed, as I did. One (out of more than 40) chose to double. At the other table, declarer managed to score 11 tricks in their 4♥ contract while we only scored 7 tricks defending against 1♠. So, that made +100 vs. -650, lose 11 IMPs.
So, that is the end of the four hands with double digit swings. Now moving into the 4 flat boards that had slam swing opportunities, missed at all tables. If you had been there, could you have done better? You couldn’t do worse! So we are going to take a look at 4 slam hands. What is required for successful slams? I don’t claim to have all the answers, but a brief summary of the key ingredients:
- Controls – you don’t want 2 fast losers in any suit. Notice if you are rich in controls, partner is not – therefore if partner makes any slam noise (lacking those controls), he must have some other interesting holding and you must cooperate. There is a lot of debate (with no general consensus) about whether early cue bids should be first round control or ‘first or second’ (vague as to what control is being shown). Definitely worth partnership discussion.
- Strong trump – the converse, weak trump, is a huge slam negative (danger of over ruff, inability to achieve a high crossruff, etc.). But, if you have strong trump (and partner doesn’t), partner doesn’t know that you do unless you make a move to indicate that.
- Source of tricks – 4-3-3-3 hands are typically extremely slam negative. Long strong suits provide the tricks (and discards) needed to make most slams. Again, if you have a source of tricks, partner is unlikely to know it unless you make some move during the auction to share that info.
I don’t know that any of these guidelines are useful in any of the following 4 hands, but thought I would mention them anyway as a frame of reference for slam bidding.
It is always disappointing when a 6NT contract is not bid in spite of holding at least 2 stoppers in all suits, 12 top tricks that require no finesses, no suit must split to score the necessary tricks, just cash them out. Here, 6NT scores 3+2+5+2 for 12 tricks. Here 6♣ was not a success. I am not sure what the appeal was for pursuing clubs? It is likely that a hand can be constructed (consistent with the bidding) where 6♣ makes and 6NT does not make, but I think you would have to work on it awhile. But, I’m not sure of what auction would find that hand. This certainly was not the auction and not the hand. I think the North hand is quite strong, but using the Kaplan-Ruebens hand evaluation software, it only scored at 19.50. If partner has slam interest, so do I. I may have fewer controls than a typical 2NT opener, but I suspect I have more sure tricks that many 2NT openers.
After the auction, my partner said that he knew that my 4♦ bid could not be 1 or 4 key cards (his expectation being that I owed him a key card response after the 4♣ call). But, he thought since I ‘knew’ his 4♣ was minorwood, that after 6♣ I should have simply pulled it to 6♦ or 6NT.
There have been a number of followup discussions and emails on this. As one of the key participants/perpetrators, it is hard to be objective, so in that context, I will say that 14 HCP semi-balanced opposite a 2NT opener sounds like a 6NT bid. Yes, on some day, you might be able to uncover the perfect fit and get to a grand in a suit. And, grand slam bonuses pay well. But, meanwhile, it would be nice to get paid for the small slam bonus that neither table was able to achieve. The club suit might produce tricks in NT. If not, there may be other options (to find 12 tricks in NT). But, in 6♣ there are no other options if there are loser(s) in clubs.
Using the checklist above:
- Neither North nor South has (self-contained) controls necessary to assure a successful slam.
- Strong trump – this was the downfall of the 6♣ contract, but 6NT has no trump worries!
- Source of tricks – North’s diamonds should provide 5 tricks and, I think, makes the hand ‘slam postive’ and willing to cooperate.
The preempt did consume some bidding space, but, assuming no opening ruff by the defense, 12 tricks are easy in spades, even though all of the defensive trump were held in one hand (often creating some difficulty for declarer, but not here). Diamonds can be discarded on hearts. Who should bid more? How can the powerful fit be uncovered?
Again, looking at the checklist:
- Controls: West has excellent controls, but they hold the disappointing doubleton in clubs. East has excellent controls, but 2 fast diamond losers.
- Strong trump: together, the trump holding is perfecto, but both partners are looking at a broken suit, unsure as to what lies opposite.
- Source of tricks: West is balanced. East has the great source of tricks with long reasonably strong spades. But, nothing wasted in clubs in either East or West.
I don’t think the 3♣ bid necessarily showed a club control, instead it merely set up a forcing auction. Nevertheless, at East’s first opportunity to bid, they had the option of bidding 4♠ which would show a long, reasonably strong suit with no interest in going higher unless the takeout double had significant extra values. By going through 3♣ prior to bidding 4♠, East set up a picture of long spades, AND slam interest. West has a very fine hand for the takeout double, even though they are balanced with no source of tricks other than the high cards they basically promised. West certainly has more (an ace more) than a minimum takeout double. If West doesn’t feel comfortable trying 4NT over 4♠ due to the doubleton club, perhaps they should cue bid 5♦. Perhaps raise to 5♠ asking about a club control (the typical meaning of raising 4M to 5M when the opponents have bid a suit). But, this bid could be confused with another typical meaning when the opponents have not bid (that is, how good are your trumps?). In any case, in my opinion, West is too strong to pass 4♠ (at the table where East went through 3♣). In my opinion, East’s suit is too broken to unilaterally take control and force slam without cooperation from West.
At the other table, with a direct jump to 4♠ it would seem impossible to get to slam from there. East’s 4♠ bid says, to me, that is where I want to play.
This hand is a virtual repeat of the last hand – club opening bid, takeout double, preemptive club raise, … and missing a slam that is cold, this time 12 tricks in hearts, even if all defensive trump had been held in one hand, as long as the opponents do not achieve a ruff on the opening lead. (even 13 are available in spades with normal splits – the diamond losers can be discarded on hearts)
This time the takeout double only had a balanced 14 HCP (vs. 16 HCP on the prior hand). Both times, the takeout doubler is facing a partner that bid game, but they are looking at a doubleton club – always a risk of doubleton opposite the doubleton for two quick losers in your slam. Still, nothing is wasted in clubs, the controls in spades and diamonds are powerful, and the fillers in hearts will make that suit nice (albeit South’s trumps being only 3 long could be disappointing to partner).
Going through the checklist:
- Controls – North has the incredibly valuable club void that South doesn’t know about, but North also holds the worrisome doubleton diamond. South holds great controls, but they have the worrisome doubleton club.
- Strong trump – both North and South can be reasonably comfortable that the trump suit is at least adequate.
- Source of tricks – again the hand that doubled is balanced. North, being 6-5, has a great source of tricks. And, the 30 point deck (nothing wasted in clubs) was a great contributor to the ease of bringing in 12-13 tricks.
Conclusion: sometimes preempts work. Over the 4♣ preempt North has a really hard problem making a move towards slam. Over 3♣ North might have bid 4♣ (but that may not get their side anywhere). After partner chooses a major, they need to pretty unilaterally start moving towards slam when partner may have a hand that is very unsuitable for slam. Over 3♣ the 4♣ bid simply would have meant ‘choose a major’ not ‘but if you have nice controls for slam, go higher’. Partner has a balanced (near minimum) takeout double. But the high cards are perfectly placed. Perhaps one of the blog readers can offer a better insight into this hand.
Finally, an outlier. That is, this ‘missed slam’ is not exactly cold on any distribution. It took some luck, but the luck was there, and I have been in much worse slams. After a heart lead (which quite possibly could have happened had we been in 6♠), the slam needs 1-1 trump (both losing diamonds can be discarded on the ♣A and ♥Q). But when there was no heart lead, trump were 1-1, and the ♦Q was singleton, 13 tricks were there. So, not a crazy slam, but not one I’m going to spend much time second guessing the bidding. The 1NT opener was solid, but on the low end. The ‘mild slam invite’ was also on the low end, but it felt too good to simply use a Texas transfer and signoff. I assume the bidding was the same at the other table, but I did not check to find out how they bid it. I just know they did not reach slam.