Bob Munson

Recap Of 2/3/2020 28 Board IMP Individual

As we gathered to mourn the 49ers loss in the Super Bowl, we went through the first 6 rounds where there were zero double digit swings, but we had 2 in round 7 – mostly decided by leads, but there were also decided differences in bidding which factored into the swings.  I’m going to start with 2 opening lead quizzes and then present the two hands.

After this auction:

W
You
N
LHO
E
Partner
S
RHO
Pass
1
1NT
Pass
2NT
Pass
3NT
All Pass
 
 
 

What is your lead?

W
 
9765
8753
K52
42

 

 

And, after this auction:

W
RHO
N
You
E
LHO
S
Partner
1
Pass
2
Pass
2
Pass
4
Pass
4NT
Pass
6
All Pass

What is your lead?

N
 
J1043
732
QJ
J874

 

Now here are the two deals with all the hands in view…

 
25
E-W
North
N
Beers
KJ84
K64
1054
J105
 
W
Nagy
9765
8753
K62
42
7
E
Pisarra
Q102
QJ
83
AK9763
 
S
Munson
A3
A1092
AQJ97
Q8
 

 

W
Nagy
N
Beers
E
Pisarra
S
Munson
Pass
1
1
Pass
1NT
2
3NT
All Pass
 
 
 

 

W
Michlmayr
N
Schneider
E
Weitzner
S
Friedman
Pass
1
1NT
Pass
2NT
Pass
3NT
All Pass
 
 
 

On the this first deal, each table had a different auction to arrive in 3NT.  With no obvious stopper in clubs, I simply overcalled in diamonds and soon arrived in 3NT played by North.  At the other table, 3NT was played by South.  You could say the lead/success of the contract was determined by the bidding (putting West on lead instead of East).  But I gave you the problem as an opening lead problem from West’s perspective.  For years I have felt that over 90% of competitive auctions that arrive in 3NT can be defeated (I don’t have data that proves that, but it is a “feeling” I have from my years of experience at the table).  But, to defeat 3NT, you must either make a sneak attack in a new unbid suit, or lead ‘our suit’ – and, you have to figure out which lead is the winner on each particular hand.  Also, it has often been reported that a ‘stopper’ is only as strong as it sounds.  Here, even though neither South (who overcalled 1NT at one table) nor North (who advanced 1NT at my table) had a full, real, actual stopper.  Yet it sounded like they had clubs stopped.  Together North-South did have the suit stopped.  But, after a club lead, their stopper was gone.  The percentage play to score 9+ tricks, given the bidding, is to try the diamond finesse and not count on the (anti-percentage) doubleton QJ as well as various strip squeeze/end play options that follow from that.  But, the diamond finesse lost.  So, at my table, with the long strong club suit on lead (but no entry), a 4th best club was led.  When the diamond finesse lost, no entry was required because West still had a club to return after winning the K.  The defense had 6 cashing tricks, down 2, -100.

At the other table, you were given the lead problem from the West hand, since South was declarer.  A club lead would likely have been equally successful vs. 3NT (as long as East ducked – necessary due to a lack of entries).  However, the 42 didn’t appear very promising, the opponents bid NT 3 times, so it seemed like time to try a major suit.  With declarer’s club stopper still in place, it was easy to win the opening major suit lead (8 was the actual card chosen) in dummy, take a diamond finesse, and score lots of tricks.  When clubs weren’t cashed after the diamond finesse lost and the East hand pitched a spade (down to Q10)  when they had to make discards, declarer ended up with 11 total tricks.  So, our teammates were -460, lose 11 IMPs.

Addendum:  Several have pointed out (including Mark Ralph and Mark Moss, both Grand Life Masters that play regularly in the game) how seriously flawed my analysis was for this 3NT hand.  So, I’ve modified my initial verbiage which said 3NT cannot make after a club lead.  That is, there is no defense to beat 3NT with double dummy declarer play (even with the threatening club lead).  Seemingly, the percentage/obvious way to make the hand (take a diamond finesse) fails.  But, seeing all of the cards, declarer can take what initially appears to be an anti-percentage (double dummy) play: win the club lead, cash 4 hearts forcing 2 discards from East and proceed to win 9 tricks in a variety of ways depending on East’s choice of discards.  

  1. If they pitch 2 clubs, simply take the diamond finesse because there are only 3 club tricks outstanding – they can no longer defeat 3NT
  2. If they pitch 2 diamonds, cash the A and see what they discard next:
    1. If their discard is a club, cash the A, give them their 4 remaining clubs and they will give you the KJ in the end when they lead away from their Q (3+4+1+1)
    2. If their discard is a spade, you now have 3 spades to cash for your 9 tricks
  3. If they discard 1 club and 1 diamond, cash the A and the A and use plan 2.1
  4. If they discard 1 spade (and anything else), use plan 2.2 for 9 tricks

One big advantage of double dummy analysis is the ability to open your eyes to plays you fail to see.  Here, the traditional odds of restricted choice indicate that when an honor falls on the first round of a suit missing the QJ, the odds are 2:1 that it is singleton.  So, only one third of the time will you find a doubleton QJ.  Not that doubleton QJ’s don’t happen, just that it is twice as likely to be singleton as doubleton.  At the table, declarer actually won the Q at trick 1 which required an entry to hand in order to take the diamond finesse.  That entry was the K, and and East was forced to play an honor.   Since you are about to take the diamond finesse to make the contract (or not), there is little downside to trying hearts ‘just in case.’  That is, instead of finessing diamonds at trick 3, you can play a heart to the A.  If the other honor comes down, play 2 more hearts.  If not, play a spade to the K and take the diamond finesse, now made even more likely because points that could have been in opener’s hand (both the Q and J) now have one of those cards in West’s hand.  When the East hand does play the other honor, cashing the 109 gets you up to 8 top tricks (2+4+1+1).   If you judge well from watching East’s discards (see bullets 1-4 above), you are now home with a 9th trick.

Initially, I was thinking that that line of play left you with a losing spade finesse, but as noted in bullets 1-4, there are many winning choices without the spade finesse if you read the cards correclty.  Of course, another (possibly failing) option after cashing 4 hearts is to cross to the K and take the diamond finesse.  But, again, depending on the discards made by East, even that could work!  The point of all of this rambling is that plays rejected as anti-percentage can, in fact, be additional arrows in your quiver.  If you can collect two 30% plays such that you win if either one brings you home, that line of play is (barely) better than one 50% play.  That is, a 30% line fails 70% of the time.  But .70*.70 results in a failure rate of .49, or a success rate of .51 which beats 50%.  Not that you can do all of these precise computations at the table every time, but every little bit helps.

Eddie Kantar has articles in the Daily Bulletins every day at the Nationals.  They are titled ‘Take All Your Chances’ – another way of saying that ‘don’t put all your eggs in one basket.’  If you can combine multiple parlays (if this or this or this or this happen, then I win), you will often arrive at the best line of play.  So, perhaps cashing the 4 hearts first is not double dummy after all.  Readers, what do you think?  At a minimum, you have not ruled out the diamond finesse – that play is still available after cashing the hearts.  So, using bridge/Eddie Kantar’s logic, it has to be right to see if hearts cash and then assess the best line of play from there.  You have removed any of your initial prospects of making the hand and, meanwhile, you have added to your possibilities of making the hand.  So, what I initially declared to be ‘anti-percentage’ and ‘strictly double dummy’ now appears to be the ‘percentage’ line to play the hand.  You still have the finesse after trying hearts.  Plus you have additional chances.  Any time you are not worse off, you are better off!

So, my thanks to alert readers who pointed out the shortcomings of the initial analysis.

The 3NT contract was excellent in principle, since it only required the opening bidder to hold the K.  With relatively few HCP outstanding, the opening bidder would often need that card to have enough points to open, but not on this deal.  What about the 1NT overcall vs. 1?  Clearly 1NT worked best on this hand and quite possibly on most hands.  I play 1NT opening bids as 14+-17 and overcalls as 15+-18.  I had planned to open 1 and rebid 2NT if partner didn’t bid hearts.  When 1 was opened in front of me, I failed to reconsider NT (I thought the hand was too strong to open 1NT, but the value of the hand is now in range for an overcall) and just continued with my planned 1 opening and things went downhill fast.  Actual K&R evaluation puts the hand at 18.95 HCP, for whatever that is worth: http://www.jeff-goldsmith.org/cgi-bin/knr.cgi?hand=a3+at92+aqj97+q8

 
28
N-S
West
N
Beers
J1043
732
QJ
J874
 
W
Nagy
AQ52
104
8762
AQ10
7
E
Pisarra
K8
K8
AK10954
K63
 
S
Munson
976
AQJ965
3
952
 

 

W
Nagy
N
Beers
E
Pisarra
S
Munson
1
Pass
2
Pass
21
Pass
42
Pass
4NT3
Pass
6
All Pass
(1) Stopper(s)
(2) Minorwood, key card ask for diamonds
(3) 2 key cards without the diamond Q

 

W
Michlmayr
N
Schneider
E
Weitzner
S
Friedman
1
Pass
21
Pass
22
Pass
33
All Pass
(1) Intended/expected to be game forcing
(2) Stopper(s)
(3) Waiting

Again, there was quite a difference in auctions at the 2 tables.  At the other table, one teammate thought ‘everybody’ played that 1-2 was a game force.  The other teammate thought that partner’s 3 rebid was natural, not forward going, and easily passed with their balanced minimum.  They ended up scoring all 13 tricks (for +190) after an initial club lead.  Still, there was an opportunity for a nice pickup for our side…if the winning opening heart lead could be found at my table against the slam.  One regular partner and I have found that leading the ‘unbid minor’ is often successful after an inverted minor auction that ends in 3NT.  That is, the opponents spend all of their bidding effort figuring out if they have the major suits stopped and, when they conclude that they do, they arrive in 3NT without the other minor suit controlled.  Here, though, they did not end in 3NT.  Opener rebid 2 showing values in spades and denying values in hearts.  I fleetingly thought about coming in with a 2 bid over 2, but the vulnerability convinced me that that could be unwise – why offer -800 or -1100 when the non-vulnerable opponents would be unlikely to score that much left on their own.  Should I come in with a 2 bid?  Anyway, I didn’t bid 2, so that left it up to partner to find the heart opening lead.  Did you lead a heart (when presented as a problem at the start of the blog)?  Sadly, partner went for the unbid minor and led a club – declarer had 12 easy tricks (3+0+6+3).  Lose -920, lose 12 IMPs.

What about the lead?  When opener rebid spades, they denied anything useful in hearts, so partner, who also had nothing in hearts, knew that my hearts were over dummy’s hearts, but partner didn’t know if my hearts were sufficient to do damage to the diamond slam.  It is possible to construct East-West hands where a club trick must be established before South’s heart entry is knocked out.  Here is one example, where my values in the QJ are replaced by the K and rearranging the East-West hands to remain consistent with the bidding.

W
Nagy
AQ52
74
A8762
Q10
7
E
Pisarra
K8
KQJ
K10954
A63

If this had been the layout, West still holds 2 key cards and no heart values, but a club lead is necessary to beat the slam.

 

FYI – my partner on this hand was not the partner where we have talked about ‘lead the unbid minor.’  And, that ‘rule’ we made up (but don’t always follow) applied to a 3NT final contract, not a slam in the minor that was opened.  Before the opening lead, I felt pretty confident that, barring a singleton heart in East or West’s hand, that a heart lead was coming, and that we would beat the slam.

What about the bidding?  As you can see, 6NT by East cannot be touched.  The same top 12 tricks are there, with no damage from a heart lead when the hand is played by East.  East doesn’t know what fitting values partner has.  If partner has only 11-13 balanced minimum points, the HCP are not there for a traditional requirement for slam.  But, 6 card suits produce lots of tricks without points.  And, 3 ‘unprotected’ kings argue to find a way for East to be declarer, so that, as in this actual deal, no opening lead can go through one of the kings and defeat the slam immediately.  But, there are a number of minimum hands that partner could have where 2 aces are missing.  Bidding a unilateral slam missing 2 aces is kind of silly.  Partner could hold:

W
 
AQJ2
J3
QJ32
QJ3

 

This (carefully selected) 14 HCP balanced minimum for West would be opened 1 by almost everyone (and with this sample hand, even a 5 game goes down if the heart honors are wrong (and hearts are led)).  So, it seems reasonable to check on aces.  Many/most players in our group play ‘minorwood’ where, having supported a minor suit prior to the 4 level, a bid of 4m in a game forcing auction, or a jump to 4m, will ask for key cards.  Unfortunately, after East asked, the answer (2 key cards without the Q) landed in 4NT!  Now that East has found out that the key card situation is good (only 1 missing), he is unable to ‘right side’ the contract in 6NT!  Still, if the A is in the North hand, all will be well.  Or if no heart is led.  So, East decided to play in diamonds rather than NT (partner could still have a singleton heart, where 6 is cold and 6NT is hopeless if the A is offside).  Of course, creating another perfectly misfitting minimum hand for West, it is even possible for partner to have 2 aces and not only have no play for slam but be unable to make game should the A be offside, even if you ‘right side it’!  Let’s say West held:

W
 
AQ
732
QJ432
A42

 

With this construction for the West hand, no lead will allow the slam to make.  The actual West hand had well placed black queens, well placed spade length and no heart lead.

With traditional slam HCP (33 for 6NT), you can do the math and know for certain you cannot be missing 2 aces.  However, in this auction, the expected high card points are quite likely to be well below 33, so even though you can see, looking at all of the hands, that 6NT by East cannot be beaten, jumping unilaterally to 6NT (without checking for aces) is rather foolhardy and arriving in that contract via a sensible auction is challenging, perhaps impossible.  Well, one way would be to play 4NT by East as key card for diamonds.  That would achieve right siding NT while, at the same time, asking about key cards.  Bidding 4NT as key card would have worked here, but many hands benefit by asking for aces at a lower level.

Bidding, declarer play, defense and leads are all remarkably simplified by looking at all 52 cards.  When the only data you get to hear is the bidding, and all you get to see is your hand (and dummy, when it comes down)…well, that is what makes bridge such a great game.

 

 


5 Comments

mark p ralphFebruary 4th, 2020 at 6:34 pm

Board 25: 3N is cold double dummy. After a club lead (ducked), Declarer plays four rounds of hearts – the person with the clubs is forced to make two discards: he can’t sluff a spade; if he sluffs a diamond and one club, Declarer cashes the A of D, the A of S and throws him in with a club. He can take his four club tricks, but he is then forced to lead a spade. So he is forced to sluff two clubs – then Declarer can concede a diamond, and lose only three clubs tricks. TOTALLY DOUBLE DUMMY!

Larry ShermanFebruary 4th, 2020 at 7:07 pm

On the first hand, isn’t West on lead? You have the hand labeled as East; is that the West hand?

LarryFebruary 4th, 2020 at 7:13 pm

Looks like that was the case. I decided to lead the 7 of S.

bobmunsonFebruary 5th, 2020 at 6:37 am

@Larry – correct, the opening lead problem vs. 3NT was presented as West’s problem, but labeled as East. I fixed it. Thx.

@Mark – correct – sloppy ‘analysis’ by me. I usually take the time to see what I can learn double dummy (didn’t bother) and you (and Mark Moss) figured it out without double dummy! Well done. I’ll make a revision to the body for posterity, but I suspect anyone that is going to read the blog has already read it.

Daniel FriedmanFebruary 5th, 2020 at 5:10 pm

Damn those Grand Life Masters and their impeccable analysis. No wonder that I consistently lose to them.

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