Bob Munson

Recap Of 10/16/2017 28 Board IMP Individual

After a long break (no games in August/September), we got in a second game for the month of October.  We had a strong group, but some uneven play through the day.  You can see if you could have done better.  As usual, there were a number of hands that had interesting decisions, but didn’t clear the hurdle of a 10+ IMP swing.  But, much different than usual – bidding was a factor in less than half with swings with leads, defense and declarer playing deciding the rest of them (but bidding was also still somewhat of a factor on those, just not the biggest factor).

 
3
E-W
South
N
Jack
109653
6
K872
AK10
 
W
Bob E
J4
J4
QJ1065
9863
K
E
Bob M
A87
AKQ1083
4
QJ2
 
S
Chris
KQ2
9752
A93
754
 
W
Bob E
N
Jack
E
Bob M
S
Chris
1
Dbl
RDbl
2
Pass
2
Pass
Pass
Dbl1
Pass
Pass2
Pass
(1) Reopening, assuming partner has values, defense and N_S cannot let the opponents play 2H undoubled
(2) Sorry, but I have no explanation for this call
W
Gary
N
Jerry
E
Dan
S
Ed
1
2
2
Pass
Pass
3
All Pass

First a comment on the bidding – various players have quite a wide range of standards regarding how large your hand must be in order to double and then trot out your own suit.  It is quite important to have clear partnership understandings on this issue, although many have not discussed it.  I would say, based on my experience, that I have a higher standard than most – if I double and then show a new suit, my hand is really good.  I am not sure I have ever done it before with ‘only’ 16 HCP, but this hand had very strong playing strength and was good enough to me double and then bid hearts.  My opponent, holding my hand at the other table, chose the simple 2 overcall.  One reason I wanted to show the strong hand was the vulnerability – I really don’t want to miss a red game and partner might have a suitable hand to move onward (towards game) if I show strong values, but a simple overcall of 2 would be far less encouraging.

Here, there is no game in sight.  Declarer is only due to score 8 tricks in their heart contract if the opening lead is a trump, but when, at both tables, the K was led (partner’s suit), it allowed for a spade ruff in dummy for 9 tricks.  The spade lead allowed the 3 contract to come home, but it also allowed the 2X contract to come home with an overtrick.  +870 vs. -140, win 12 IMPs.

 
6
E-W
East
N
Jerry
J104
A1083
Q108
1083
 
W
Bob M
AQ9653
64
752
K4
6
E
Chris
K82
KQ
A643
QJ96
 
S
Gary
7
J9752
KJ9
A752
 
W
Bob M
N
Jerry
E
Chris
S
Gary
1NT1
22
43
Dbl4
45
Pass
Pass
56
Pass
Pass
Dbl
All Pass
 
 
(1) 15-17
(2) Hearts and a minor
(3) Texas transfer to spades
(4) Showing hearts
(5) Accepting the transfer
(6) Deciding to take the save
W
Jack
N
Dan
E
Bob E
S
Ed
1NT1
Pass
42
Pass
4
All Pass
(1) 15-17
(2) Texas transfer to spades

Gary (South at my table) has some very particular ideas about various bidding situations – one of which is to compete aggressively over strong 1NT opening bids.  So, here, he caught partner with a nice fit inducing a white vs. red phantom save of 5 over 4.  Of course 4 can come home if the defense doesn’t get diamonds going soon enough, but thankfully my teammates did lead diamonds early, so my teammates were +100 at their table and we were +500 at our table when the 5 ‘save’ failed by 3 tricks.  Hard to say North or South did anything wrong – the hands could have been different such that 4 makes and N-S gain a small pickup comes from the 5 sacrifice, but, at IMPs, phantom saves are always quite costly.  

 
13
Both
North
N
Ed
1098742
52
32
Q72
 
W
Chris
J
AJ9863
KQ876
J
10
E
Dan
KQ53
Q
A109
AK964
 
S
Bob M
A6
K1074
J54
10853
 
Dan
Chris
1
1
2NT
31
3NT2
43
54
65
All Pass
 
(1) New minor checkback for heart support
(2) No heart support
(3) But I also have a real diamond suit
(4) I can support diamonds
(5) Well then let’s try slam
Gary
Jack
1
1
1
21
32
33
3NT4
All Pass5
(1) 4th suit artificial game forcing
(2) Deciding to show real clubs rather than a diamond stopper for NT
(3) Deciding to show a 6th heart rather than the second suit (diamonds)
(4) With no heart fit, signing off
(5) With no heart fit, giving up on pursuing diamonds

Here, the very nice second suit held by responder (diamonds) did not get bid naturally (at either table) when first mentioned, and, at one table, never got mentioned again.  At my table, when diamonds were first bid naturally at the 4 level, opener raised to 5 and responder carried on to the decent (but not cold) 6 slam.  How to defend?  How to declare?  My partner got off to the excellent spade lead so, when I won the A we had book at trick 1 and needed just one more trick to defeat the slam.  I couldn’t see declarer’s hand, but I knew declarer needed some heart ruff(s) in dummy and might need the heart finesse.  If they held Qx, it looked grim for our side, but hoping they did not have that, I had to chose between a trump (cut down on heart ruffs) or a heart (remove the option of a finesse by ‘forcing’ declarer to play the A at trick 2 – no one wants to lose the first 2 tricks in a slam!).  Or I could have tried a club (start cutting down declarer’s transportation).  I opted for the small heart at trick 2.

Assume you are declarer and don’t want to go down at trick 2, so you play the A and need 11 more tricks – where are they coming from?  The nasty J is missing, so any crossruff is exposed to a potential overruff if the wrong person is short in a suit being ruffed and the defense is able to overruff with the J.  Still, if the J is in the ‘right’ hand, you may be ruffing after they can ruff, so you will be well placed.  In any case, you cannot ruff the clubs good, so the only route to 12 tricks is 3-4 black winners, the A and heart ruffs.  So, one option, for a plan of attack at trick 3, is a full crossruff, scoring all 8 trump tricks plus the A plus 3 out of 4 black winners in dummy.  If all 4 black winners come home, only 2 heart ruffs are required.  There are lots of transportation problems, but, in any case, at trick 3, declarer made the normal play of a heart ruff (maybe the K is doubleton and will ruff out?).  After ruffing a heart at trick 3, I think declarer should immediately try to see if all 4 black winners in dummy will cash – now.  If all 4 do cash, only 1 more heart ruff is needed.  If they don’t all cash, 2 more heart ruffs are needed.  Instead, declarer cashed the A, limiting the potential heart ruff total only 1 more.  They hoped to then cash 2 spades, ruff a spade, ruff a heart, cash 2 clubs (pitching their last heart) and then ruff a club to hand to finally draw trump.  The K won but when the Q was led, I ruffed and declarer is now a trick short.  However, when North pitched a club, I (South) was caught in a club-heart squeeze as declarer played out all of their trumps.  I had to hold onto the K, so dummy’s clubs came in for the 12th and slam fulfilling trick.

Our teammates had the slower auction, and the 6-5 hand had the opportunity to show the diamond suit below 3NT, but instead they opted to show their 6th heart and the diamond suit was lost forever when they passed their partner’s 3NT.

One more look at the defense.  Had I led a trump at trick 2, declarer should win cheaply in dummy (now the J is slightly less threatening, but it still out there).  At this point, like the earlier recommended play, I think declarer should see if his black winners are cashing – start by playing the KQ.  If those hold up, cash the AK.  If those 4 black winners cash, he can score 2+1+7+2 with 2 heart ruffs yet to come in dummy (assuming at no point an overruff happens with the J).  But, when South ruffs the second spade, declarer is, once again, short a trick and should fall back on the heart finesse (which happens to work), and find their 12 tricks.  Another option is 3-3 hearts – however the odds heavily favor a 50% finesse (actually greater than 50% when spades prove to be 6-2 since there is more room for the K in the South hand than the North hand).  So the heart finesse is (much) better than trying for the less likely 3-3 split in hearts. 

So, as the cards lie, 6 cannot be defeated on any defense if declarer takes the right view (and, without the critical spade lead, 13 tricks are there).  If East-West held the J, the 6 contract would be excellent.  As it was, the 6 slam was decent, but it was difficult to time the plays well to take advantage of every opportunity. 

Bottom line, 6 made at our table for -1370 while our teammates scored +660 in 3NT to lose 12 IMPs.

 
14
None
East
N
Ed
A852
J1076
632
Q10
 
W
Chris
QJ7
93
AQ1098
A83
2
E
Dan
10
AKQ52
K7
KJ965
 
S
Bob M
K9643
84
J54
732
 
Dan
Chris
1
2
31
3NT2
All Pass
 
(1) Showing extras
(2) Showing a spade stopper
Gary
Jack
1
2
31
3NT2
43
44
45
56
67
All Pass
(1) Showing extras
(2) Showing a spade stopper
(3) Not willing to settle for NT
(4) Offering another strain/cue bid
(5) Offering another strain/cue bid
(6) Supporting clubs
(7) Reaching for the brass ring

Having missed the slam on the prior board, our teammates came roaring back on the next board.  I’ve certainly been in worse slams, but here, 6 is not a great slam.  Basically you require Qx or Qxx onside (finding a singleton Q offside would also suffice, in terms of trump losers).  But, in addition to handling trumps for no losers, you need winners.  You must find something good (3-3 split or J falling) happening in a red suit – 12 tricks are not automatic even if trumps come in for no losers.  If diamonds don’t split, you can ruff them good, but there is no entry to cash the 13th diamond.  If hearts don’t split, ruffing them is not likely to be useful, since there is danger of an overruff or a trump promotion.  Good fortune was with our teammates, so they managed +920 while we were -460 defending 3NT (we cashed 2 spades and the rest were theirs), win 10 IMPs.

 
18
N-S
East
N
Jerry
J1082
AQ8
3
AK876
 
W
Dan
K954
109
KJ
QJ942
5
E
Bob M
AQ63
74
A108754
10
 
S
Jack
7
KJ6532
Q962
53
 
W
Dan
N
Jerry
E
Bob M
S
Jack
1
Pass1
1
2
22
All Pass
(1) The heart suit is pretty soft to enter with a vulnerable preempt
(2) Showing 4 card support
W
Ed
N
Gary
E
Chris
S
Bob E
1
21
Dbl2
Pass3
2
Pass
34
45
Pass
Pass
Dbl6
All Pass
 
 
(1) Undaunted…
(2) Routine negative double
(3) Waiting in the bushes
(4) Mildly invitational
(5) Knowing pard has a singleton or void in spades
(6) How can they score 10 tricks?

This was a strange hand – we had a very quiet auction, ending in 2 making 3.  Our teammates competed unwisely to 4 and got doubled, but it is only unwise if you actually go down.  10 tricks were difficult after the excellent opening trump lead (without the trump lead, 2 diamond ruffs in dummy could possibly get declarer to 10 tricks).  At trick 1, declarer won the A in dummy and continued with two top clubs which East ruffed.  Now, since partner doubled, it is reasonable to place them with at least a king somewhere.  If East underleads either ace, partner can win the K in the suit chosen and continue a trump.  This holds declarer to 6 trumps in hand, 1 diamond ruff and 1 club, 8 total tricks and -500.  However, after ruffing the club, East cashed the A and the A.  The defense was over.  Cashing the A allowed the K to be ruffed out, establishing the Q for a trick as well as 2 more diamond ruffs in dummy for the 9th and 10th trick (0+8+1+1).  The key to the defense was the initial trump lead and then find a way to get West back in so that they can lead another trump.  If no ace is cashed, declarer is down 2.  If only the A is cashed, declarer is still down 2.  But, once the A is cashed, down 1 is the best possible, and after cashing both aces, no entry was available for West to lead trumps.  So while we were making +140 in our spade partial, our teammates added +790 for making 4X, win 14 IMPs.

 
24
None
West
N
Bob M
9764
Q102
AJ1042
3
 
W
Gary
KQ3
AK7
63
J8764
10
E
Ed
A102
J98
K985
A92
 
S
Jack
J85
6543
Q7
KQ105
 
Gary/Chris
Ed/Bob E
1
1
1NT
3NT
All Pass
 

Identical auctions led to identical contracts (but different opening leads).  With the A onside, 9 tricks were always there.  Both defensive club entries were in the hand that was short in diamonds) so that even if the diamonds were established, they couldn’t be cashed.  With diamonds having been bid on my left, the diamond lead didn’t appeal.  This auction (per David Bird’s instructions as well as a lifetime of bridge) screams for a major suit lead.  And, given a choice of a weak 4 card major or a somewhat stronger 3 card major, my recollection of David Bird’s book was to always lead the 3 card major – and, from this specific holding (QT2) the 10 is recommended, since leading the 2 could complicate/block the suit.  Therefore, I dutifully lead the 10.  Not a success!  That turned declarer’s 9 tricks into 10 (yes, we could have still held them to 9 tricks if partner clairvoyantly  leads the Q after winning the first club – declarer must duck that trick and then we can win 2 clubs and 2 diamonds, holding declarer to 9 tricks.  Anyway, 3NT is not going down.  Our declarer scored 3+3+1+3 for 10 tricks.

Meanwhile, a spade was led at the other table where our teammate was playing 3NT.  Declarer (possibly) needs to lead clubs twice from dummy in case the KQxx are with RHO.  If the clubs are 3-2, nothing matters, but just in case, preserve your dummy entry.  So, on the spade lead, declarer should win in hand, lead a club to the A and then another club.  When LHO shows out, you need another entry to dummy to lead clubs up toward the J.  With your carefully preserved A, you have an entry to dummy (without establishing tricks for the opponents).  Lead to the A, continue clubs, and if the A is onside, you are up to 9 tricks (3+2+1+3).  But, our declarer at trick 1 won the A in dummy, cashed the A and continued clubs.  Again, LHO showed out at trick 2, so another dummy entry was needed in order to lead towards the J.  Declarer found that entry by leading to the K (LHO ducking), but then when clubs were led off dummy, RHO won their last high club and led the Q.  LHO was able to cash out diamond tricks at that point to defeat the contract (apparently a diamond was discarded, so declarer was only down 1).  So, I was -430 at my table, our teammates were -50, lose 10 IMPs.

 
26
Both
East
N
Bob E
7
AQ32
K832
AK64
 
W
Bob M
K1063
J1094
65
532
6
E
Gary
AQ8542
K
J74
987
 
S
Dan
J9
8765
AQ109
QJ10
 
W
Bob M
N
Bob E
E
Gary
S
Dan
21
Pass
42
Dbl3
Pass
Pass4
Pass
(1) See comments below
(2) Seemed automatic to me, see comments below
(3) Normal takeout double
(4) Decent values to contribute to the defense, poor shape to pursue offense
W
Ed
N
Jerry
E
Jack
S
Chris
21
Pass
32
Dbl3
Pass
44
All Pass
 
 
 
(1) ‘Normal’ weak 2
(2) Gently raising to 3S, not 4S
(3) Routine takeout double
(4) If partner makes a takeout double, take it out. Here you have 4 (weak) cards in the other major, so pretty automatic to chose 4H

Safety play techniques are useful weapons to have in your arsenal.  This last hand features a play that comes up fairly often, but often gets missed at the table (this same play actually came up a few months back, but didn’t make the blog because it wasn’t a double digit swing).  If your trump suit (say hearts) is missing KJTxx and you have AQx(x), there is a safety play that will often be the right play.  A safety play is a play that can ‘never’ cost a trick, and sometimes will save a trick.  There is some dispute as to whether the safety play applies here, so we will look at that more closely later.  But what is the safety play?  Rather than take the ‘normal’ first round finesse in trumps, simply cash the A first, then get to hand and lead towards the Qx.  If, as you hope, the K is onside, they will have to play it and, later, the Q can draw the outstanding trump (if they are splitting 3-2).  If trump are 4-1 with the KJTx onside, they will still get 2 natural power tricks, but they were always getting 2 tricks.  The advantage of playing the A comes when the K is singleton offside.  In many cases (where the K is singleton offside), you can hold your losses to 2 trump tricks by making the safety play.  If you take the first round finesse with the Q losing to the singleton K, offside, you are likely facing 3 trump losers.

But, before getting into the play of the hand, let’s review the bidding.  Gary (my partner on this hand), as I mentioned earlier, has some very specific ideas about bidding.  One of them is that his ‘weak 2’ in first or second seat consists of a 6 card suit, 2 of the top 3 honors plus an outside A or K.  So, in spite of being vulnerable, I ‘knew’ the opponents had a red game and possibly a slam.  I could bounce the bidding to 4 with various upside possibilities

  • Steal the hand (play 4 undoubled) when the opponents don’t know where the balance of power is
  • Push them into an unmakeable contract – in particular 5 where they lose a spade, a heart, and partner’s side card
  • Cause them to miss a slam, or
  • Achieve a profitable save against their game

As the cards lie, as long as they take the safety play in hearts, there are 11 tricks in diamonds or 10 tricks in hearts, for makeable games (but clearly no slams this time).  Unfortunately, our hands didn’t fit particularly well, so our ‘save’ cost 800.  But, when the safety play wasn’t taken, our teammates lost 100 in their 4 contract, losing the A and 3 trump tricks. 

So, let’s go back to the safety play.  There are various types of safety plays.  Many times ‘safety’ means ‘playing safe for your contract’ – so you might give up a trick to allow for a foul distribution – a trick that you would not lose if you just played ‘normally’.  Other times a ‘safety play’ involves playing a suit in a particular way that ‘heads you win, tails you tie’ – that is, you are never worse off, and on occasion you come out ahead.  And then there are ‘best percentage plays’ which aren’t really safety plays at all – they are just the best way to play a suit the highest percentage of the time.  Sometimes these plays score the maximum number of tricks, sometimes not (“8 ever, 9 never”).  Often the best percentage play for a suit (in isolation) is the worst possible play (on a particular hand) because of entry considerations, danger hands, better use for your trumps, and so on.

In a trump contract (assume hearts are trump), if there is a danger of an opposing ruff, the safety play being discussed here (cash the A first) could expose you to the ruff whenever Kx is onside.  Instead of the safety play, you can finesse the Q, cash the A and lose only 1 trump.  If, instead, you take the ‘safety play’ by first cashing the A and then crossing to the other hand and leading towards the Q, the player with the doubleton K might be able to give partner a ruff, scoring a second trump trick for the defense when they only were entitled to 1 trick as the cards lay (without the safety play).  So the recommended safety play cannot claim to always ‘win or tie’ – you can construct a hand where it loses.  On this hand, it might barely be possible to have Kx onside and the opening 2 bidder holds a void that would allow a ruff, losing a trick that you do not have to lose.  But, that ruff would still hold your losses to 2 trump tricks and the A, winning 10 tricks and fulfilling your contract.  So, I think the safety play of cashing the A first has no downside that I can find, and a really big upside when the K is singleton offside.

On this hand, what if the cards had been distributed differently such that KJT9 were with West and the singleton 4 was with East?  After the defense starts with 2 rounds of spades, forcing dummy to ruff, declarer takes the ‘safety play’ cashing the A (dropping the singleton 4, not the singleton K), crosses to hand in clubs to lead a heart up towards the Qx and West rises with the K to play another spade.  At this point, dummy has only the Q left, so declarer must take the ruff in hand, pitching a diamond.  Now declarer has lost control of trump, since there is 1 trump left in each hand, but 2 trumps with West.  So they cannot finish drawing trump.  They must start cashing club winners until West ruffs.  Then, if yet another spade is led after West ruffs, declarer ruffs that spade with their remaining small trump, crosses to dummy in diamonds, and finally draw trump with the carefully preserved Q. 

Sometimes subtle plays that are not obvious can blind (my) analysis to arrive at invalid conclusions.  So rather than state ‘the safety play sometimes gains a trick and never loses a trick’ I decided to put this hand into a double dummy analysis.  All 52 cards are the same as the actual deal except the K (that was initially offside) was traded for the 4 so that the simple first round finesse would win the trick and only 2 trumps would be lost (by abandoning the safety play).  This was to find out if the safety play of cashing the A first, then crossing to hand and leading a heart towards the Qx (having ruffed once already, that is all that is left in dummy) could prevail even if the trump finesse had been working all along.  The image below shows the position after trick 2, where the defense has started with 2 rounds of spades, forcing dummy to ruff.  It shows, double dummy, that the A can be cashed at this point and still score the required 10 tricks.  So, the safety play (with this hand revised as noted) does work if the KJT9 had been onside, and the safety play is required when the singleton K is offside. Otherwise, 3 trump tricks plus the spade trick will be lost and the contract will be defeated.  It was defeated.

Would you bid 4 knowing partner’s ‘weak 2’ style?  This is just one hand (and a big loss), but I think, given the chance again with the same hand, I would do it again!  Would you take the safety play in hearts?  The trump K is not singleton offside very often, and there are often many other factors in the hand (entries, texture of the trump suit, other threats), but when you are missing KJTxx of trumps, I think you should carefully consider cashing the A first and see if that will work for you or create other problems.

Our -800 paired poorly with our teammates -100, lose 14 IMPs.

 


2 Comments

Gary SoulesOctober 19th, 2017 at 12:33 am

The safety play comments were terrific. I also like the 4 spade bid as it is difficult for the opponents to defend with no spade strength or length. Also if the opponents held any strength in any five or six card suit they might have missed a slam or game. Knowing the weak 2 spade bidder has an ace or king outside might discourage the slam option if any opponent is void.

bobmunsonOctober 19th, 2017 at 12:42 am

Gary, thanks for the comments. Right – at the table I was severely disappointed that neither North nor South held a 5 or 6 card suit. Their flat hands ended up in their successful defense.

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