May 25th, 2016 ~ bobmunson ~ 1 Comment
Well, a mostly different group played again Monday and…no whining from me for once. I can’t complain, most of the swings went my way, not from any brilliance, but often a missed opportunity by the opponents. But, the theme of “bid the games and let them try to beat you” that has been mentioned before was often the theme of the day.
Wow. We thought we lost 11 IMPs when we failed to enter the auction. We were cold for 11 tricks in 5 of either major (+650 with a simple heart finesse (that fails) to make a slam). Meanwhile we were letting them play a quiet 5♦ with no double, down 2 for +100!!?! Instead of losing 11 IMPs, we were stunned to win 12 IMPs when our opponents found the unfortunate opening lead of the ♥A, allowing our teammates to score up +510 in their 4♣X contract as one spade loser went away on the ♥K, losing just a spade and 2 diamonds.
East has a difficult opening call. Pass? 1♥? 1♠? 2♥? All bids, including pass, seemed (to me) flawed, but I think 2♥ is the worst of the lot and I don’t know what I would have chosen at the table. One favorite partner called this an ‘easy 1♠ bid’ – clearly below reverse values (so not 1♥), but it clears the hurdle for an opening bid. It satisfies the ‘rule of 20’ (11 (2 long suits) +9 HCP), but the hand does not hold 2 quick tricks and ♦Q5 is a soft 2 point contribution to your meager total of 9. As dealer, both players chose pass and, talking with them after the hand, they both thought ‘well, I can just enter the auction later’. One did enter later, the other didn’t, but neither found their way to 4 or 5 of a major suit. Should West come in over the opening bid of 4♣? West holds nice HCP, but sterile distribution and partner is a passed hand, so both Wests passed over the 4♣ opening bid.
Partner must have shape for the reopening double at this level after an initial pass. Should West bid over 4♣X? Or ‘pass and take the plus score?’ On this hand, bidding was clearly right, and perhaps that is the percentage action whenever this strange auction might occur again. If you do bid over partner’s reopening double, I’m sure the opponents will bid 5♣(perhaps North should bid 5♣ immediately, preventing the balance over 4♣?). Bidding 5♥ will be very hard (over 5♣). It looks like the answer is that East needs to open 1♠. If you pass 4♣X, then you have to find the lead! That makes another reason to bid over the reopening double. I thought this was a tough hand, lucky result. Win 12 IMPs
East-West hold modest HCP with no 5 card suit and a bunch of 4-3 fits, but the spots (10s, 9s, 8s) allow the hand to play quite well in NT. As you see, one tried 2NT, the other 3NT.
Start with the bidding – does South have a 2♦ opening bid in first seat? Probably not, with such a terrible suit, but I did open 2♦. If South does open 2♦, should West penalty pass partner’s reopening double? Probably. Best defense vs. best offense will net +500 and it is often good, in IMP scoring, to take the plus score, even if you don’t get optimal defense. However, West, responding to the reopening double, bid 2NT (often treated as lebensohl over a weak 2, and specifically over a weak 2♦, 2NT would often indicate limited values (less than 8 HCP) and a desire to play 3♣. Here, 2NT was bid as natural, not lebensohl. East, deciding partner can’t be THAT good or they would have just passed the double, decided to pass 2NT.
At the other table, when South did not open 2♦, North opened 1♥ in third seat. East has an awkward hand. It is certainly a sound opening bid, but far from an ideal takeout double with a singleton in an unbid suit. Here East decided to double anyway and South, with a big misfit for hearts decided to stick in a 2♦ bid (after a double, this bid is weak, but usually a stronger suit – however failure to open 2♦ suggests that this 2♦ bid is likely flawed in some way). Now, with the ♦Q as a bonus card to help with the diamond suit in NT, East raised 2NT to 3NT. Both tables got the opening lead of the ♦J, covered by the ♦Q and ♦A. From here, double dummy and single dummy play diverged quite significantly. At double dummy, a spade or heart lead at trick 2 is required to hold declarer to 10 tricks. A club or diamond at trick 2 allows 11 tricks.
Against 2NT, I chose to continue diamonds at trick 2 rather than break another suit. Declarer made the optimal play of the ♦8, throwing a club from dummy. How should declarer continue? If they cash their 2 diamond winners, not only is dummy squeezed out of possible length tricks, but they would be setting up 2 diamond winners for South in case South held one of the black kings. At this point declarer is cold for 11 tricks, but only if they are seeing all the cards. To score 11 tricks they must take only two heart finesses and then lead a spade honor and force North to cover. Then a spade to the ♠8 will bring in 3+4+3+1 for 11 tricks, since, at this point, transportation is available and they can untangle their tricks. But, this requires knowing that South holds exactly ♠9xx. Still, continuing a third round of hearts (after winning two finesses) is fraught with danger. Our declarer did take the third heart finesse and then cashed the ♥A, throwing a club. Next, a spade to the ♠10, losing to the ♠J. Now, when North cashed the ♥K declarer is seriously squeezed. At the table, they threw away another club. Now if North exits with the ♣K, it squashes declarer’s now singleton ♣Q, removing the vital entry to the diamond winners. However, partner guessed to get out a small club which rode around to the ♣Q so declarer achieved the needed entry to cash diamonds and score 10 tricks, -180 for our score. At the table, we thought we actually would defeat 2NT had partner found the ♣K exit (no entries to the diamonds), but as long as declarer throws away their diamond winners, the power of the ♠Q8 over the ♠9 still allows declarer, in the end, to reach 8 tricks since the defense has no long suit to cash. Saving all my black cards, I had thrown all of my remaining diamonds on the 4 rounds of hearts when I could not follow suit to the heart leads.
At the other table, our teammate, in 3NT had the opportunity for a white game swing. After winning the ♦A at trick 1, the defense tried clubs, the other continuation that allows declarer to score 11 tricks (leading spades or hearts to ‘hold’ declarer to 10 tricks is hardly obvious at the table, but both club and diamond continuations by the defense at trick 2 allow 11 tricks when subsequent play by declarer follows the best line). The ♣4 was covered by the ♣10, ♣K and ♣A. Now, if the heart finesse is onside (North did open 1♥), declarer is up to a minimum of 9 tricks (1+4+2+2) with other chances for 1 or 2 overtricks. However, declarer didn’t count their tricks and lost their way in the play of the hand to finish with 8 tricks. -50 to go with our -180, lose 6 IMPs. If declarer brought home 3NT, we would win 6 IMPs, so I counted this as a double digit swing (win 6, lose 6), since the bidding, the play, the defense and the double dummy opportunities were interesting (to me, anyway).
You could say I got what I deserved here (losing IMPs after opening a very poor 2♦), but, with the friendly lie of the cards, we kept them out of a decent 3NT. When faced with a borderline decision to preempt, or not, I will usually choose to preempt – often it leaves the bad guys with a problem.
I don’t exactly have reverse values in terms of traditional high card points (on 4=5 hands I want 16 good working points as my bare minimum), but I sure like to open my 6 card suit when possible, so if the auction stayed low, I intended to reverse into 2♥. One regular partner suggests this is still worth a reverse without the ♣K. I’m not sure I would go that far, but clearly the minimum to reverse with 5=6 is lower than with 4=5. I did a quick search on Google to see what could be found about the minimum values for a reverse. The Bridge World opinion polls talk about it a lot, but only in the context of ‘a minimum hand too weak to reverse’ but I didn’t find any attempt to define/judge ‘minimum’. Everyone judges their own, and that is part of what makes bridge such a great game.
The auction did not stay low. So, partner, who thought they had a NT bid in reserve (for their next bid) when they overbid slightly with 2♣, had to deal with my ‘reverse’ at the 4 level. They passed, and there we were in 4♥, needing to find 10 tricks.
The opening lead was the ♠10, covered by the ♠K, ♠A and ruffed. A glance at dummy shows we have 2 sure trump losers and the ♣A, so no other tricks can be lost. At trick 2, I had a choice (either works) of establishing clubs for diamond discards, or establish diamonds and making my hand good. There are entry considerations (how can I get to the good clubs?), but I thought trying for 3-2 clubs seemed better than 3-3 diamonds. At trick 2 I led the ♣K which was won by the ♣A. In the post mortem, we thought possibly ducking the ♣A would help cut my transportation, but as the cards lay, I can actually score 11 tricks if the ♣K is allowed to hold! Also, in the post mortem, we thought continuing clubs after winning the ♣A, severing my link to dummy’s long strong suit, might give me trouble. But double dummy analysis shows there is no defense able to beat best offense. The actual defense, after winning the ♣A was another spade, which I ruffed, saving my ♠Q as a possible stepping stone entry (a suit the opponents lead for you) and/or a late stopper. I then led a small heart which the defense won and led yet another spade with the ♠Q winning. But, I was in control. I could simply cash the ♥A (trump breaking 3-2, leaving 1 trump outstanding) and lead my remaining club to dummy. The opponent with the high trump could ruff clubs whenever they wanted, but dummy’s heart could provide the entry and dummy’s clubs would provide all the necessary tricks to fulfill the contract.
What if the defense continued clubs after winning the ♣A, removing my last club? At this point, 3 tricks have been played, 10 cards remain. Amazing (to me), I can lead any of dummy’s ten remaining cards and still make the contract. If I lead a high club, the long trump hand must ruff and I remain in control of the hand. If they don’t ruff, I can go about setting up diamonds (via the ruffing finesse). Since RHO had preempted with 3♠, I thought they likely had little outside of trump, and since and LHO overcalled 1♠ with no top spades, I felt it was likely they held the ♦K and they did. So, I had started with plan A (set up clubs), but I can revert to plan B (set up diamonds) if they lead clubs at trick 3 and remove my remaining club.
This is a very common trump situation where you start the suit by losing 1, then cash the trump A, hoping for a 3-2 split and just leave the remaining high trump outstanding. A similar, but more difficult holding of Axxx opposite xxx requires you to lead low trumps twice prior to cashing the A, hoping for 3-3, or, if they are 4-2, just leave the remaining high trump outstanding and go about your business taking other (hopefully) good tricks. Beginning bridge players are taught to draw trumps, and sometimes that is best. But I think the vast majority of hands require handling trump differently – there is too much important work to do, either with dummy’s trump or your own, to spend them drawing all of the opponents trumps.
What did declarer do to go down at the other table? Sorry, I don’t know. But +420 and +50, 10 IMPs.
I’m not a very big fan of weak jump shifts, but I must admit that is what my card says (when in competition). But, you need the right hand. And a weak hand. I have seen a lot of games missed due to a ‘weak’ jump shift that was too strong, partner passed, but game was available. On this board, the ‘weak’ North hand proved to be too strong when the contract ended in 3♥, while at my table, my partner, hearing me rebid the suit where he was void, decided it was best to mention his hearts one more time and I raised him to game with my partial fit (singleton in their suit, doubleton ace in partner’s suit). Unfortunately, I don’t have the auction for this board at the other table, but someone said something about a weak jump shift so I assumed that was the cause for the missed game.
There is no defense against 4♥. Even though declarer has 4 diamond losers remaining after losing the opening diamond lead, there are opportunities for discarding those losers on clubs and spades and even ruffing one. At our table, the actual defense started with the lead of the ♦Q, overtaken by the ♦K to shift to the ♠2. East won the ♠A and led a diamond to tap dummy. Declarer cash the ♥A, ♣A, ♣K and when the ♣Q fell, continued with the ♣J, ruffed and overruffed. Then cashed the ♥K, leaving one high trump outstanding and played spades, pitching the remaining diamond. So, there were only the pointed suit aces and the high trump to lose, 10 tricks, +620. The other table managed 11 tricks, but since they only reached 3, our teammates were -200, win 9.
Well, the North hand, what there is of it, is prime (ace, kings) with 2 quick tricks and satisfying the rule of 20. So, terrible as it is, I am certain I would have opened 1♠. Once opened, how can South stay out of this terrible slam? South has a fit, a source of tricks, controls, HCP, what more could you want? Well, you could check on key cards. Missing 2, the slam would normally not be bid. The resulting slam has very little chance of success. While you could alter your play, double dummy, to handle a few rare distributions, but the basic chance (after losing the ♣A on the opening lead) is to find the ♠K onside. But, that is not nearly enough. Missing the ♠10, declarer has to find a doubleton ♠10, either ♠K10 doubleton onside, or ♠10x doubleton offside. Or, there is the additional chance of Any Kx onside and the defender mistakenly fails to cover. If you guess that correctly, your chances improve somewhat. Unless there is something I am missing, if I have done the math right, the legitimate chance of success is barely above 10%. Not the sort of slam you want to be in. Unless, this is one of those 10% hands. And it was. So, thanks to my teammates, we won a very lucky 11 IMPs on this one.
Once South balanced, we were losing IMPs. I (East) needed to pass 2♥ and they would have played it there, for -170 for us. Instead, I bid, and that propelled them into the cold vulnerable game (-620) while our opponents at the other table were able to play 1♠ and make it, -80 for our teammates and lose 12 IMPs.
I must confess balancing 1NT would not have occurred to me, but it was sure the winning action on this hand. It seems as though a double is an alternative balancing action (vs. 1NT). It is minimum (I think of 10 HCP as the bare minimum bottom of a double), and it lacks 4 hearts, but you do have strong 3 card heart support which proved to be the key to making the game. I think I would have doubled.
Back to my initial third seat action (pass) – I have seen top players in world championships respond 1NT with hands like mine, more as a blocking bid against the opponents than any kind of constructive bid for partner. That hasn’t been my style, but it looks like I better start looking at that more closely. Thoughts?
This hand was not a double digit swing, but it could have been if I guessed right at the table. Preempts are tough. Since we can make 5♦, 6♣X down 1 is the par contract. If I had doubled 6♣ instead of bidding on, we score +200 to go with +500 and win 12 IMPs. But, I was drawn in to the fantasy of making our slam. Since there are 2 kings offside, we must lose them both, and, in a heart contract, an opening diamond lead allows 1 more trick for the defense by ruffing, and still scoring the ♦K and ♠K later. High level decisions are tough. Are they making 6♣? Are we making our slam? Are both/neither making? That is why preempts are so popular. So, only 10 tricks at both tables in 6♥, but with the double by our teammates, we won 7 IMPs.
Same auction, same contract, same lead at both tables. Assuming the ♥K is onside and ♦A is also onside, I have 2+2+1+4 if I can find the ♣Q (2-way finesse). This may seem like wishful thinking, but I have to start somewhere with assumptions about how I can come to 9 tricks. There is also the problem in spades – while I have the power (with a lead into my spade holding) to force 2 spade tricks, they may come rather slowly. I decided, at trick 1, to fly the ♠Q and see if I can get my spade tricks quickly. The ♠Q won. Because it looked like LHO might have 4 spades and RHO 2 spades, I decided to play RHO for the ♣Q (I understand – I still I need them to be 3-3 if I am going to get 4 tricks in clubs). I can lead a club to the ♣K and run the ♣10 (winning play), but I led a club to the ♣10 which lost to the ♣Q. Now, after some thought, LHO laid down the ♠K, dropping his partner’s ♠J and making my remaining ♠97 opposite the ♠8 a power trick by forcing out the ♠10. When LHO won the ♠10, they led a diamond to the ♦A, and RHO returned a club. So, now all I had to do was lead the ♥Q. When LHO covered with the ♥K, I was home. My 3rd spade trick allowed me to total 9 tricks for +400.
At the other table, they did not fly the ♠Q at trick 1, so the ♠J forced the ♠A. Still, since a diamond wasn’t led early, the same 9 tricks I was counting on (find the ♣Q) were available to this declarer. Lead up to the ♠Q to score 2+2+1+4 (again, assuming the ♥K is onside and ♦A is onside). I don’t know what line of play was chosen, but our teammates were able to defeat this contract (possibly due to misguessing clubs) for +50. Win 10 IMPs.
Does North, as dealer, have an opening bid? I think so – I love to open spades and even though the rest of the hand is quite weak, there is distribution as well as some defensive potential. At one table, North opened and they quickly got to an unbeatable game (with both red aces onside, declarer just needs to score the red kings, the ♣ A, and get a heart ruff in dummy, eventually establishing his last heart. Declarer can choose to fully draw trumps and lose a second heart, or partially draw trumps and lose an overruff in hearts. Either way, 10 tricks.
At the other table, the auction was more subdued after North didn’t open 1♠. I’m not positive about the auction – I’m still working to find someone who recalls for sure what happened, I know the final contract was 3♦. So, lose -420 and -130, lose 11 IMPs.
I need more BBO games (to blog) because then I have a complete record of every bid, every lead, every declarer and defensive line of play chosen. Here, it is often difficult for me to get an accurate record of the bidding, let alone the declarer play and defense, reducing the quality of the comparative aspects and learning process. Sorry readers.
This hand was particularly difficult to capture for the blog (end of a long day?) – When I inquired, I got 3 different auctions advising me of what auction had occurred at the other table, but I finally got agreement regarding what the auction was. It is the auction I published above (the second auction). For the first auction, I was THERE, and I still don’t recall the auction! Embarrassing! Darn!! The first 4 bids were definitely what happened at my table, I just don’t know for sure after that. But, what I found especially interesting was the general form of the auction: opening 1 bid not Vul; Next hand, Vul, makes a takeout double; Partner of opening bidder redoubles; and…trouble is brewing. The first of these auctions was reported 2 blogs back: +1400 was available (vs. 400 for 3NT), and 1100 was scored at one table. The next 2 times this happened, nothing remarkable happened. Here, 2♣X could achieve +800 if EW sit for it, clearly they do better if they know to run to diamonds. Diamonds can score 7 tricks (Best offense/best defense), but somehow, at the other table, the diamond contract scored 10 tricks!!! Go figure. The point of mentioning this (Vul opponents entering an auction against non-Vul) is two-fold. 1 – Very large penalties might be available, have your antennae up to seek out these opportunities. 2 – Very large losses might be looming, have your scramble agreements/structures well understood to minimize your losses. As West, would you run from 2♣X? As East, would you run if West passes?
This hand is the classic – bid a red game and let them try to beat you. I like my partner’s choice of a game transfer instead of the invitational transfer. Of course with 2 tricks to lose in both black suits, the game has no chance, double dummy. But with empty aces over the NT bidder, how can South possibly lead (or underlead!) one of his black aces. Even if that happened. The defense would have to know to cash exactly 2 in one suit and then switch to the other black suit, or 10 tricks will be scored. At the part score table, a diamond was led to the Q allowing 2 black discards and making 11 tricks for +200. At my table, a trump was led, so I drew trump ending in dummy, finessed the diamond, got 1 discard and scored 10 tricks. +620. Win 9 lucky IMPs.
Here, I was playing with a regular partner so we could use our regular convention over NT – Modified Hamilton. Partner made a trusting pass (could have bid 2♥ as a transfer to 2♠ but you can see that would not have worked out as well).
There are various ways to achieve a 4 trick set for the defense and even possible to get down 5 if the defense guesses well and declarer does not. I started with the ♦A (attitude) and partner played the ♦8 (upside down, does not like diamonds). So, I shifted to the ♥K, declarer won the ♥A, banged down the ♣A and then another club. Here partner does best to win the 2nd club after I give count, showing a doubleton, but he held up until the 3rd club, forcing me to make a discard. I was fearful that if I threw away the ♠Q, it could look like a dramatic signal to ‘please lead spades’. Of course, had I thrown away the ♠Q and gotten a spade lead, I would be down to a singleton ♠A and potentially end played out of some red tricks that I was due to win. Not knowing if declarer had ♦Qx or ♦Qxx, I threw I high heart (♥8) asking partner to go back to my first suit (diamonds) instead of my second suit led (hearts). As I played the 3rd and 4th diamond, declarer had to make 2 discards. One was a heart, so my last heart was good, but I still needed to surrender a trick to the ♠K at the end for down 3, +500.
At the other table, not playing penalty doubles, my hand showed diamonds and a higher suit and played 2♦, just making for -90 for our teammates. Win 9 IMPs.
May 20th, 2016 ~ bobmunson ~ 3 Comments
Well, at least the Warriors won in basketball last night…I have had a hard time getting started on this blog from our game yesterday because it didn’t seem that many of my choices (bids, play, defense) were out of line and, for the most part I did the same as my counterpart at the other table. Yet, after 3 boards to start the day, I was already 74 IMPs behind and the losses kept piling up! How do you lose 74 IMPs in 3 boards? -12, -14, -11 = -37, and the 4 players on the opposing team are +37 – all of them will later be teammates sometimes (in the remaining 6 rounds, half of the time they will be opponents, half of the time they will teammates/partner). When they are on my team, they will be winning or losing whatever IMPs I win/lose (which means no catching up in those rounds). It seems more and more of my blogs start out whining about my results. Sorry. On with the bridge.
Here, all action depended upon North’s second call. The first four calls at both tables were identical. After West bids 5♦, it was time for North to pass or double – one passed, the other doubled. If North doubles, does South sit or bid? If North passes, should South reopen with a double, or bid their second suit (5♠)? As you can see, at the table, South chose to pass when North doubled, and South reopened with a double when North passed. After South reopens with a double, the attention is back on North. North at my table tried 6♣ and reached a slam that could not be beaten. One heart to lose, ruff all the spades.
With friendly hearts, there are really only 3 aces to lose in 5♦ X, -100. The actual result was -300, but the extra 200 points lost only cost 1 IMP because the slam brought in 920, lose 12 IMPs.
Is 6♣ the right bid after partner reopens? I don’t think I would have made that bid, but it sure worked on this hand.
The literature is full of recommendations to not double low level contracts when you have a fit with partner, but I always thought that that meant suit contracts, since the opponents will be short and can ruff. If the opponents want to play NT and you have a fit, your long suit can be a source of tricks that contribute towards defeating 1NT. I don’t have the wherewithal to run a simulation to determine the best bid here, but clearly over 1NT, West must choose to raise spades, or double. I chose double and after declarer cashed the first 8 tricks, he surrendered the balance to us, -380. The player at the other table, holding my hand, raised spades. When it was all over, they arrived in 4♠X with no uptricks. -590, lose 14 IMPs. Was my double that bad? It was on this hand. But I cannot imagine we were getting to game if I made a simple raise to 2♠ and partner (with a dead minimum) never bid again.
There are several points of bidding here worth discussing with your regular partner. With most of my partners, I’m playing modified Hamilton in all positions, including after 1NT overcalls, but some play only when 1NT is overcalling a minor suit opening. With Modified Hamilton:
- Double is penalty.
- 2♣ shows diamonds, or if you pull it, a major and a minor
- 2♦ shows majors
- 2♥ shows hearts
- 2♠ shows spades
So, with that structure, should West bother showing hearts with spades, simply raise spades, or penalty double? Should East sit for the double? With the great heart/spade fit, there are a lot of tricks on offense for E-W without many on defense. The end result was a very sad result for our side.
As you can see, at my table, as dealer, South passed and later checked on a heart stopper. When North delivered the needed stopper in hearts, N-S arrived in 3NT. With the ♣A onside (as it figured to be on the bidding), declarer flew the ♣K at trick 1, cashed 2 spades and 6 diamonds and the rest were ours, -400. Our teammates arrived in 5♦. After a heart lead (partner would be able to read the ♥6 as showing exactly 3 when leading 3rd best (not true if leading 4th best)), they could win the ♥Q, cash two aces, down 1. But, the actual lead was a spade vs. 5♦.
As noted above, any heart lead will set the contract. It turns out that any non-heart lead allows the contract to make with careful card reading and play. On the actual spade lead, win the ♠A, cross to dummy in trump, lead a club up forcing the ♣A to win, ruff out clubs, run diamonds, coming down to ♠KJ and ♥K. East has no answer if declarer is able to read the cards. Either the spades cash, or the lead of the heart forces a spade lead away from the ♠Q into the ♠KJ. Wow, that would have been some play! Thanks to Bruce Tuttle for pointing this out.
In practice, declarer tried the ♠J at trick 1 and eventually led hearts to finish down 1, -100 and lose 11 IMPs.
That was my start to the day. Played 3 boards, -37 IMPs.
Finally, some IMPs coming our way. I was getting ready to reverse with a bid of 2♥ (dead minimum for a reverse, but that still seemed like the right bid to make) when my RHO bid 2♥ in front of me! I had to pass (double would show 3 card spade support), but partner was there for me. He doubled in the reopening seat and I had an easy pass. If I work out early that partner has the ♥A (not expecting the Vul overcall to be missing that card), we get an easy +800. Even with the defense I chose (when in with the high diamond at trick 2, I cashed the ♣A and got out a club, playing partner for the ♣K), +800 was still available if, when in with the second high diamond, I exit with a seemingly valuable ♥8 (to avoid an endplay) – then declarer is stuck with spade losers if I play 4 rounds of hearts.
In reality, that defense (exit with the ♥8 instead of the ♥3) is only necessary if declarer is clever enough to dump his ♥Q109 under the ♥AKJ. That isn’t happening. So, we should have gotten +800 by me simply realizing, when partner did not have the ♣K, he had to hold the ♥A for the reopening double. In any case, I was happy to finally post a plus score on the card with down 2, +500. At the other table, our N-S teammates defended diamonds, -130, win 9 IMPs.
Technically, this was not a double digit swing, but could have been if I defended to get down 3 for +800. Anyway, close enough, and with that we cut the first round deficit to -28.
Here we have another hand that was not a double digit swing, but it really was, since I had an easy bid to win 10 IMPs instead of losing 8 IMPs, so it was really an 18 IMP swing opportunity. Partner obviously bid aggressively with the jump to 3♣, and I think my values dictate a game bid (either 3♠ trying for 3NT from partner’s side, or a direct 3NT). 3NT will play immeasurably better from partner’s side if he happens to hold ♠Kx. But what if my LHO doesn’t double 3♠ allowing partner to pass? Now, 3NT may still be the best contract, but partner can’t bid it and we will have missed 3NT, since partner will have to bid 4♣ if they have no spade stopper. But, here the double of 3♠ saved me. It gave me another chance to bid 3NT on my own. But, I failed to stop and consider the full implications of the double of 3♠.
That double normally shows the ♠A or ♠K, so, at the table, I felt my ♠Q was in danger of not holding up as a stopper, so I abandoned 3NT. Wrong! Since my LHO had not raised spades, it is highly unlikely that he holds ♠Kxx or ♠Axx unless he has nothing else in his hand. If short spades are on my left, my ♠Q will hold up as a stopper and I have the values (opposite the jump to 3♣) to bid 3NT. Instead, I chickened out and bid 4♣. Partner, hearing a game forcing auction, raised to the hopeless 5♣. Trick 1 was the ♠J to the ♠K, then a diamond to the ♦A, ♠A and spade ruff. Down 2 before we got started. The rest of the tricks were ours, but when our teammates defended a club partscore (different defense) for -150 to go with our -200, we had a loss of 8 IMPs. We win 10 IMPs if I merely bid 3NT, either immediately, or when partner passed the double of my 3♠ bid. Yes, I might need the heart finesse, but the opponents have to lead something and I have opportunities for tricks in all suits besides the 6 cashing tricks in clubs, and my RHO did bid, helping to place some cards. I like my partner’s aggressive 3♣ call – it gave us the opportunity for a red game and I blew it. I should have bid 3NT instead of 3♠, and I should have bid 3NT instead of 4♣. I had 2 chances for a red game and missed them both.
On this hand, I’m back to being out of the loop (in terms of causing the loss of IMPs). I still lost IMPs, but there was defense and declarer play that was out of my control. The same straightforward auction happened at both tables, with the same (good) lead at both tables.
A spade lead doesn’t give declarer an immediate 9 tricks, but they are well on their way to 9 tricks on this hand after a spade lead. Dummy’s entries have not been attacked, so whether declarer pursues clubs or diamonds for their 9th trick, they will succeed. David Bird and Lead Captain definitely prefer a heart lead over a spade lead, quite contrary to the good old ‘fourth from longest and strongest’ maxim that pre-dates bridge (from the days of Whist, way before bridge). Why am I saying to lead hearts instead of spades? Because it increases the probability of hitting partner’s 5 card (or longer) suit (the more you have, the less they will have, on average). Because the solid heart sequence is safer than the broken spade sequence (as demonstrated on this hand). After the 1NT-3NT auctions, you almost always want to lead a major unless you hold AKQJx of some minor. If the opponents didn’t pursue a long major suit fit, you likely have one – find it and lead it. After 1NT-3NT, with a 3 card major and a 4 card major, consider the 3 card major. One hand doesn’t prove a case, and leading the 3 card suit won’t work on every deal, but I think a heart is the percentage lead on this hand.
So, a heart was led at both tables. At our table (I was on lead), partner won and returned the ♥2 – definitely indicating a strong interest in hearts (lead low, you like it and want it returned, lead high says I probably started with a suit only 3 (or 2) long and the rest is up to you (the opening leader). Normally you return original 4th best after winning trick 1. I’m not sure if partner was trying to be deceptive or just wanted to send a clear message that “I like hearts”. Declarer won trick 2 with the high heart in dummy and then cashed the ♣AK. Both my partner and I signaled high/low, upside down count, showing we were 3 long. Should we have signaled? Beats me. Knowing the count helps the defense a lot, but it helps declarer a lot too. Here just because clubs are 3-3 (not very likely a priori), declarer still needs an entry to establish clubs and then an entry to cash the clubs. With the ♦A onside, the ♦Q became an entry. Clubs were established and 9 tricks were there. 2+2+1+4. It seems strange with 12 HCP opposite 15 HCP, double stoppers for any suit led, a 5 card suit to work with, to have so much difficulty finding 9 tricks. What was the parlay that this declarer required? It seems like 3-3 clubs (36%) plus the ♦A onside to allow the ♦Q to be an entry (50%). Requiring both of these is 18%. What other opportunities were there? Well, had the ♦Q lost to the ♦A, the club suit is now dead and hearts are going to be established by the defense. But, 3-3 diamonds with the ♦J onside or 3-3 spades with the ♠Q onside (pick one – you only have one entry to dummy after the hearts are dislodged at trick 1 and 2) can still see you to 9 tricks. If you successfully pursue diamonds, that gives you 2+2+3+2. If you successfully pursue spades, that gives you 4+2+1+2. But, you cannot try both diamonds and spades. Bottom line, if the clubs had not come home for 4 tricks, there were other chances that probably amount to another 18%, or a total of 36%. But that’s not all. A doubleton ♣Q would have also provided 4 club tricks, but again, the ♦Q must be an entry be able to enjoy the 13th club. If not, you have the other options already mentioned in spades and diamonds to try to arrive at 9 tricks.
Let’s move over to the other table where a heart was also led. Here North ducked their ♥A, so declarer is in dummy after winning trick 1 instead of after winning trick 2. They are still faced with a pretty similar dilemma – where can they find 9 tricks? They can try clubs like the successful declarer did against me, or try some combination of spades and diamonds. You could try a diamond to the ♦10 at trick 2, or a spade to the ♠J at trick 2. The other declarer never tried clubs, but tried to find 5 tricks in spades/diamonds to go with 4 tricks in hearts/clubs to reach 9. With both spades and diamonds behaving quite poorly for this declarer (my teammate), he only found 7 tricks, -200 to go with my -600, lose 13 IMPs.
I think the chance of a doubleton ♣ Q makes the winning line (on this hand) the better line (attack clubs first with various fallback options – well done JoAnna!), but confirming that is the best percentage line of play is a complex analysis that I don’t feel up to right now.
I’ve been writing this blog for three and a half years. This is the first time I have reported on boards 1 -2-3-4-5-6, capturing all six boards to start the day. I’m going to stop with those. Even though there were other interesting hands, I lost IMPs on most of those that were not pushes, but none were double digit and I’m weary from wading through these 6 hands. Comments/suggestions/upgrades are welcome.
May 3rd, 2016 ~ bobmunson ~ 1 Comment
There was further discussion and research regarding hand 3 in my prior post.
Recap Of 4/25/2016 28 Board IMP Individual
The issue was the correct way to attack the club suit. One declarer succeeded by leading the ♣Q with the combination below, the other failed when they tried the ♣A, then small.
With inadequate research, I suggested that ♣Q first was correct. Actually, as pointed out by Mark Ralph in a comment to the original blog, ♣A first is correct. It is a long story, so if you just wanted to know the answer, you can quit here.
I (incorrectly) based my assessment of the best lead based on a faulty recollection of a prior article, but my recollection was mostly correct, it is just that the problem to be solved was different. While similar, the problem on this hand and the problem I recalled were actually different.
For this problem, one declarer received a threatening diamond lead knocking out 1 of 2 stoppers. So, he needed to find 2 fast club tricks without losing the lead twice (he only had 1 remaining diamond stopper). So, the first side to win 2 tricks in this suit was going to be the winner – if declarer won 2, he was home with 9 tricks in 3NT. If the defense won 2, they would have 5 tricks and defeat 3NT. This suit always has the power to win 2 tricks by forcing out the ♣K and ♣J, but that isn’t good enough.
The declarer who had both diamond stoppers intact, was merely playing the hand to avoid losing a trick to the danger hand, so he led the ♣Q – best in the context of his situation. But the other declarer, with one diamond stopper dislodged, had to find 2 club tricks without losing 2 club tricks.
I used the odds tables to find the answer.
The diagram below shows the analysis. If the ♣K is on the left, leading the ♣A and small to the ♣Q (column 1) always works. If the ♣K is on the right, leading the ♣Q first (column 2) always works. The special cases of singleton ♣J, doubleton ♣Jx and ♣KJ allow for both lines of play to succeed. But, the final special case of singleton ♣K, leading the ♣A first works whether the ♣K is singleton on the left or on the right, where leading the ♣Q first succeeds only if the singleton ♣K is on the right. While this only occurs 1.211 % of the time, it is still the better line of play.
Now back to the problem that caused my confusion. The similar problem was: What is the best line of play to win 4 tricks with this holding:
While similar, the problems are different. There are 4 possible lines of play.
- ♣A, then small to ♣Q (option 1)
- Lead the ♣Q first, letting it ride if not covered (option 2)
- ♣A, then small to ♣10
- Lead the ♣10 first, letting it ride if not covered
With a 3-3 split, each of these have their success depending on Kxx on the left or right, or correspondingly Jxx on the left or right. They offset each other such that each choice of a line of play (out of these 4) has an equal chance of success or failure depending upon the lie of the cards. I’m only going to focus on the first 2 options of how to play the suit, since it can be shown option 3 and 4 are inferior.
With a 4-2 split, ♣KJxx means you can never succeed (remember, the objective is 4 tricks – the defense should not cover). With ♣Jx (or ♣KJ) in either defender’s hand, both option 1 and option 2 succeed. With ♣Kx on the left, no option succeeds. With option 1, you will score your ♣A and ♣Q, but the ♣Jxxx will win a trick making 4 tricks impossible. With ♣Kx on the right, option 1 also fails, but option 2 succeeds! Whether RHO covers the ♣Q or not, the ♣J is the only club trick the defense can score, making 4 tricks for declarer.
With a 6-0 split, no option can score 4 tricks. With a 5-1 split, no option works if the singleton is small (‘x’). Both options work with a singleton ♣J. Option 1 works with a singleton ♣K. Option 2 works only when the singleton ♣K is on the right.
In summary, the option 1 advantage over option 2 only occurs when the ♣K is singleton on the left (1 case). The option 2 advantage over option 1 occurs when ♣Kx is on the right – that means ♣K3, ♣K4, ♣K5, ♣K6 – 4 cases!! So, leading the ♣Q is the superior way to play this suit. The diagram below shows this difference:
Note the percentages changed (compared to the initial problem at the table) because the objective changed – in the first case, win 2 tricks without losing 2; in the second case, win 4 tricks.
So, if the reader got this far…this was interesting to me if no one else. Why did I remember wrong/get this problem wrong? It was because the situation between the problem I remembered was quite similar, but the conditions/objectives of the two problems were sufficiently different that the winning play was different. Can you work this out, real time, at the table, as declarer next time this comes up at the table? I hope that, by going through this tedious analysis, I can. I further hope, if faced with this, that the better play works. It comes with no guarantee, simply a higher percentage of success.
April 29th, 2016 ~ bobmunson ~ 3 Comments
For the first time we got in two games in a month, mostly with different players. While bidding judgment played a definite role, leads, declarer play, defense and even right/wrong siding the contract all contributed to the largest swings of the day. We had 7 double digit swings and numerous other interesting hands that I probably won’t find time to report.
There will be more on the subject of leads, but I have mentioned previously my fondness for David Bird’s 2 books on opening leads and for the program written to essentially have ‘David Bird’s books in a can’ via the software developed for Lead Captain. We will look at that more later.
On this first hand, the main component of the cause for the swing was ‘siding’ but, looking at only the two hands that were bidding, it is far from clear which ‘side’ you would want to be declarer. As it turns out, declarer needs to be such that the opening lead is not a diamond. In this case, South is best to declare because West will almost never lead a diamond and East will. I was East, my partner led a heart on the auction shown. I have seen 4=5=2=2 hands that opened 1NT, but this is the first time I’ve seen a 5=4=2=2 hand that opened 1NT. As you can see, the result was playing from the ‘right’ side, since Lead Captain as well as human players would never find the diamond lead from ♦J85. My partner chose the old trusty 4th from longest and strongest, hitting my void and declarer’s strongest suit. David Bird avoided leads of 6 card suits in most situations and I think would lead the ♠Q on this hand. David Bird was heavily biased towards leading a major vs. 1NT-3NT auctions. (snide remark – of course David Bird has never seen someone open 1NT when they were 5=4 in the majors! Sorry Mike, couldn’t resist) Since the West hand is so weak (to have a chance of beating 3NT), I had trouble getting meaningful data from Lead Captain.
Still, the lead wasn’t the only issue here. The play of the club suit entered into success/failure. Our declarer won the ♥A at trick 1 and led the ♣Q at trick 2. When that found the ♣K, declarer had 9 certain tricks (by establishing another club trick on power) and due to no diamond danger, was able to score 10 tricks via the 13th club, -430 for my table. 1+4+2+3
Meanwhile, after the (to me) more normal 1♠ opening bid, 3NT ended up being played by North, with East on lead and diamonds were the unbid suit and natural lead. Still, after ducking a diamond and winning a diamond, declarer could have crossed to the ♥A in order to lead the ♣Q, same as at my table. As the cards lay, that would have ensured 9 tricks and only lost 1 IMP (after the diamond lead, 10 tricks were not possible). But, declarer tried the ♣A and small to the ♣Q. With the ♣KJ over the ♣Q, that provided the necessary entries to the long diamonds and 3NT was defeated a trick, -50 for our teammates, lose 10 IMPs.
While may seem a bit strange to lead the ♣Q without the ♣J towards a doubleton ♣A, there was a famous hand written up in The Bridge World 15-20 years ago where declarer worked out that the right play with a slightly different holding (Q1098x opposite Ax) was to start with the Q (shocking many observers at the time until they analyzed the possibilities). If the K is onside, you have already brought the suit in for 1 loser (assuming not 6-0 or 5-1). If the J is doubleton in either hand, you have also succeeded in bringing it in with one loser. If the suit is 3-3 with the honors split, you are on a complete guess when you try A, then small towards the Q. Leading the Q takes the guesswork out of it.
Here, when the honors weren’t split, but both the ♣K and ♣J were over the ♣Q, doom for playing the ♣A and then small towards the ♣Q. If, on the actual hand above, the ♣KJ had both in the West hand, the play of the ♣A would have worked well and I would not be losing 10 IMPs. Bottom line, leading the ♣Q first is obviously not always a winner, but I believe it has been proven to be the best percentage play due to winning on all doubleton jacks. Since diamonds had not yet been touched, the declarer at my table could have withstood both the ♣KJ in the other hand – losing 2 clubs, but having time to power 2 club tricks and bring his total to 9 before the defense got 5. My teammate did not have that luxury, so when the clubs were wrong, he was down.
A factor in MIke (declarer at my table) choosing to lead the ♣Q at trick 2 is the safety of his LHO winning the trick – a spade return (should the ♣Q lose to the ♣K) immediately establishes the 9th trick due to the power of the ♠J and ♠10. And, a red suit return is no problem, since there are plenty of entries between the two hands. Just cash the ♣A and reenter dummy to force a club winner. Whenever you have 8 tricks, looking for 9, look for the safest way to find #9.
Looking simply at North-South hands, I don’t think there is any obvious ‘right’ siding as to who you would want to declare without knowing the East-West hands (and who will/will not lead diamonds). So, bidding, leads, declarer play and luck all factored into this 10 IMP loss.
Next up, another lead problem vs. 3NT (same hand was on lead, same contract at both tables, same auction at both tables).
First I should mention that I was brought up being taught that ace leads vs. NT ask for unblock/count and K leads ask for attitude. In the past couple of years (only), I have switched to A for attitude, King for count/unblock (and Q attitude). I think this is provably superior, since you might try a speculative lead of the ace against NT from Ax. Whatever happens, you WILL win the first trick and view dummy. From there, plus partner’s signal, you may be able to work out what you should have led? Perhaps it is already too late. But often, with careful analysis you can continue with the suit you led, or shift, whatever you judge to be correct.
But, all that only works if the ace is your attitude card, not your count/unblock card. If the king is your attitude card, trying a speculative king lead from Kx is not only quite risky, unless you hit the jackpot, you will not be likely to hold the first trick. So, you will unable to shift to what you should have led. You will see dummy, but you will see it as it runs tricks and you are discarding because you failed to retain the lead to trick 2.
Actually, based on David Bird’s book, I didn’t think this was a lead problem at all for this hand. The lead is ‘obvious’ – a free ‘two-fer’. At the other table, Dan successfully led a heart, took the first 5 tricks, easy peasy, no problemo. He was so excited because he knew I had his hand at the other table and there was no way I would lead a heart. David Bird hates NT leads from Axxx. So do I. So, I started with my ♠A. If pard likes spades, continue. If pard doesn’t like spades, shift to hearts and hope (thus the ‘two-fer’ mentioned earlier). If, instead, you start with a small heart, all your eggs are in one basket. If a spade lead was needed to beat the contract and a heart lead at trick 1 had been a disaster, there is no time to recover. That isn’t to say that starting with the ♠A can never be wrong, but I think the ♠A is the right lead and so does Lead Captain. However, something went wrong on the way to the bank. Pard said he liked spades, I continued spades, and declarer immediately wrapped up 9 tricks. In the post mortem, partner agreed he should have discouraged spades and all would be well, push board, down 1 at both tables, no swing, no problem. But, in reality, -400 and -50, lose 10 IMPs after I think I made the provably best opening lead! Darn!!!!
Why should partner discourage spades? Because, if the opening leader does have ♠AKx and continues a third round to establish your spades, you need your entry to the established spades ato be the ♥K. But, for the ♥K to be an entry, partner must hold the ♥A. If partner has that card too, declarer has everything else and will likely run 8 more tricks in the minors to go with the ♠Q, for a total of 9. On top of that, declarer advanced to 3NT over the invitational 2NT, so he probably doesn’t hold exactly 16 HCP with no 5 cards suit. So, even though at first glance (holding 5 spades) you are encouraged by partner’s ♠A, you should discourage because there is no future there.
It is only fair to acknowledge that, had partner discouraged, I still have to determine which red suit to shift to. If partner has ♦K98, a diamond shift will be far preferable to a heart. Both David Bird and Lead Captain defend double dummy, so the lead of the ♠A is ‘protected’ by always making the correct shift! I think I would have tried hearts due to declarer’s known maximum heart length (3) vs. potential maximum diamond length (5-6). But, still, a heart shift is not assured of success and not assured of ‘the only way’ to beat the contract. Bridge is tough.
On this next deal the lead could have played an important role (an unlikely small club at trick 1 leaves declarer a trick short), but with spades bid and raised, a spade lead to start the defense seemed more normal. After winning the ♠A and leading a small diamond towards the helpful ♦J in dummy, the ♦A catches air, leaving the power of the diamond suit intact. South can (and did) still score a diamond ruff after partner wins the ♥A, but that, with the two red aces just supplies 3 tricks for the defense, allowing 10 for declarer (2+3+4+1) and +620. Trump being 3-3 didn’t hurt our cause, but had trump been 4-2 with the long hand ruffing the diamond, trump can still be handled. I think 4♥ was at least a reasonable contract that happened to make.
I usually try to respond to partner’s opening bid with an A. Here you have a bit more. You hold a side ♦J in partners suit and a rather beefy club suit. But, with no 4 card major, no support for partner’s minor, and 1NT unappealing, West chose to pass at the first (and last) opportunity. I can’t say that passing was wrong, but it was wrong on this hand where a red game was missed. Passing is so…final. I was fortunate that I wasn’t faced with that dilemma because South intervened with a 1♠ overcall. That gave my partner another chance to bid, and we were there. The 3♥ bid was a really big bid, reversing at the 3 level opposite a partner that could not make a negative double at the 1 level, so I felt I had plenty to raise to the red game.
With 10 tricks in diamonds (-130) and 10 tricks in hearts (+620), win 10 IMPs.
Here, similar auctions resulted in identical contracts, a 6♥ slam. And everything came down to the play. Specifically, how to handle clubs and how to handle trumps. In my opinion, one declarer played clubs right (and successfully) but played trump wrong and went down. The other played clubs wrong, but successfully, and played trumps right and made the slam. The one that made the slam was my opponent, -980 with our teammates -50, lose 14 IMPs.
How do you play trump? In my opinion, if trump breaks 5-0 or 4-1, you are not making, so assume that trump are 3-2. There are 2 ways to play trump:
- Finesse for the ♥Q. Winning the trump finesse is an illusion. You gain no total tricks if it wins, but you lose a critical ruffing opportunity if it loses.
- Ignore the ♥Q and lay down the ♥AK. With this line, assuming trump are 3-2, and assuming you get clubs right, you have 12 tricks. That is, 13 tricks – minus the ♥Q whoever has it and whenever they decide to take it, either as a ruff or an overruff. How do you get 13? ♠AK, ♥AK, ♦AK, ♣AKJ (again assuming I do something in clubs to achieve the critical spade discard needed) plus 2 more ruffs in dummy and 2 ruffs in hand. At some point, and you don’t care when, someone will win the ♥Q, but that still leaves you with 12 tricks.
How do you play clubs? There are two ways:
- Cash the ♣A and finesse the ♣J. My odds tables show this succeeds 50.5% of the time – half the time LHO holds the ♣Q plus when the ♣Q is singleton with RHO and falls when you cash the ♣A.
- Cash ♣A, ♣K and ruff a club, hoping for ♣Qxx falling and establishing a critical spade discard on the ♣J. This line of play succeeds whenever the ♣Q is singleton, doubleton or tripleton with LHO or RHO. My odds tables show this succeeds 36.3% of the time.
For anyone interested, here is a link to the odds tables – very useful in analyzing the best line of play: http://www.automaton.gr/tt/en/OddsTbl.htm
My opponent chose option 2 for both clubs and trumps. When the ♣Qxx allowed the ♣Q to be ruffed out on the third lead of clubs, he succeeded, just losing to the ♥Q. My teammate chose option 1 for both clubs and trumps. The ♣Q was onside, but the ♥Q was offside and he went down. Sometimes it just doesn’t pay to draw trumps. Those 2 ruffs required in dummy and 2 ruffs in hand are critical to your total trick count.
The declarer that ruffed clubs stated the the ♣Q coming down was simply a bonus, causing him to alter his line of play. When the ♣Q fell, he correctly cashed top hearts, took his spade discard and cross ruffed the balance, losing only to the outstanding ♥Q. But, had the ♣Q not fallen, his plan for 12 tricks was the 8 tricks for AKs and 4 ruffs – ruff 2 diamonds and 2 clubs for 12 tricks, leaving only a spade loser at the end. The problem with that is that diamonds and clubs must both be 4-4 to avoid an over ruff. Obviously, clubs cannot be 4-4, since the opponents only hold 7 clubs. If RHO is short in clubs, they can throw a diamond as you ruff the last club. If LHO is short, they can over ruff the last club and you are left with a spade loser at the end. The cards can be such that LHO cannot over ruff the last club and, when they pitch a diamond, they are unable to do damage to dummy’s trump holding on your last diamond ruff (such as ♥43 doubleton and likely some other holdings). However, I don’t think this potential extra parlay overcomes the odds disadvantage of simply taking the club finesse. The trump holding is too weak for a high cross ruff. Any overruff dooms the contract.
So, I’ve spent a long time on this hand and ready to bring it to a close. I think the best play is to win trick 1 (presumably a spade), cash the ♥AK, ♣A and then, if the ♣Q has not appeared, finesse in clubs. If the finesse wins, you have 12 tricks assured (13 top tricks minus the losing ♥Q). But, this makes the slam less than 34% since you need both the finesse and the 3-2 trumps to succeed. At least that is how I see it.
The alternative – cross ruff your way to 12 tricks and simply lose a spade at the end (with a bonus (36.3% of the time) if the ♣Q drops in 1-2-3 rounds) became too complex to analyze. It depends on the distribution of clubs and diamonds and hearts and heart spots in the opponents hands. So, I may have made invalid disparaging remarks about this line of play – I simply don’t know what the chance of success is. With enough time and effort, the odds tables mentioned above could actually answer this question. Interested parties, unclear how, can contact me to learn how. It is a lot of work.
As you see, wildly different approaches to the bidding resulted in different contracts. Once again David Bird’s book comes to the forefront. Doubleton leads have been frowned upon for quite a few years, but David Bird showed that leading a doubleton is surprisingly often the best start to the defense. Here it was the only successful opportunity. The Axxx suits certainly look unappealing (and leading either of those suits gives away the contract). My partner chose a trump which, had he held the all important 9, would have worked fine. As it was, the trump lead accomplished the needed finesse for declarer (without the trump lead, diamonds provides the only dummy entry for a finesse and diamonds is also the source of tricks, declarer needs lots of help). After winning the ♠A at trick 1, declarer tried the ♠Q. When the ♠9 fell, establishing the ♠8 as an entry to the diamonds, he could see his way home. Diamond to the ♦A, diamond ruff high, small spade to the ♠8, run diamonds. In the end, he was able to power home a heart trick (after the run of diamonds, the ♥K lost to the ♥A, but then the finesse of the ♥10 on the heart continuation made 11 tricks). On a diamond lead, declarer has many options, but none lead to 10 tricks against best defense.
David Bird found trump leads undesirable except when the alternatives were so bad that it made a trump look good. If you hold xxx Kxx Kxx KJxx or some similar holding, by all means lead a trump. But, he found doubletons to be quite desirable and acceptable.
According to double dummy analyzer, the 3♦ contract was cold for 10 tricks on any defense. But declarer was only able to find 8 tricks, to -650 and -100, lose 13 IMPs!!! All on the lead and the fall of the ♠9. Finally, note that if Dan’s spade suit is even stronger, such that HE held the ♠9, he cannot make the hand because he lacks a dummy entry after diamonds are established. Bridge is a strange game.
This was all about bidding judgment. Here with a doubleton, 2 aces, 3 trumps, and 10 HCP, the hand looks to me more like a 3 card limit raise than a simple raise. One table went one way, one the other. Also, the East certainly might consider a game try with good trumps, shape, and a possible source of tricks outside trumps. With the fit meshing well and the ♠Q falling, 11 tricks were easy for both sides. For me, -200, +650 by our teammates, finally winning 10 IMPs.
This is an interesting area of bidding judgment with South on the spot. The auction started the same, but diverged in a very important way. Sometimes the rewards of defeating a very low level contract can be pretty paltry when the game bonus awaits for your side. Here with the vulnerability being the most favorable for a penalty, the opportunity for a big score was there for the taking. East certainly has a minimum takeout double, especially for the prevailing vulnerability, but I think many would make that call, and here both players did. After the redouble, showing values, East-West are toast. There is no place to land. I considered running to 1♠, which is the best result possible (-1100) once the doubling begins. In hindsight, I possibly should have.
I think, after the redouble, partner of the doubler should normally make the trump suit selection for his side. Partner (who doubled and, in general ‘asked’ for the other major) will assume, if you pass, that don’t have the requested major. Therefore, he will likely bid his better minor, assuming that you have no choice between the minors (or you would have made that choice with your first bid). For responding to the double, after the redouble, I think pass should be reserved for a hand with equal support for either minor (not 5-1). And, both minors should be better than the unbid major. If you pass, partner (the one who doubled) will likely choose his better minor (and did so here).
I chose my longest suit, clubs, and offered 2♣ over the redouble. I may have been lucky to have chosen clubs, since the relative strength of South’s spades and clubs are quite different – that is, he is quite happy for a penalty double of any spade contract, but he was not so sure that he could inflict major damage to clubs (imagine my hand short in spades and much longer in clubs). Double dummy, the result for 2♣X is -1400, but South, with the heart misfit, both spades (implied by the doubler) and clubs (that were bid) well stopped, judged to bid 3NT rather than defend. 9 tricks in NT were easy (3+2+2+2) for +400. Our teammates slipped a trick defending 2♠X, scoring ‘only’ 1100 instead of the 1400 that was available. That was still good for 12 IMPs for my team and a more happy (for me) ending of the day.
Successful low level penalty doubles are rather rare. The downside (if they make it, they can sometimes get a game bonus besides) can be huge. But the upside, when there is a misfit and you have all of their suits well defended, can be huge. Here defending was huge.
April 7th, 2016 ~ bobmunson ~ No Comments
Reno made March too crowded for a date for our game, so after a two month delay, we finally played again. First timer Gary Soules won. Once again, I’ll focus on the double digit swings with a couple more thrown in.
Bidding (not necessarily good bidding) resulted in all of the IMPs won. Here we go.
Here it was all about getting to game. It seems as though 15 opposite 10 with some long suits and strong suits might result in getting to game. Both because of extensive tools available after a 1NT opening bid and the preemptive effect of 1NT bids, I tend to open virtually all hands in range with 1NT and would have here. I’m certain, if the hearts and diamonds were reversed (such that opener is 2=4=5=2) they would have opened 1NT at both tables (but, I’ve learned that Ed/Gary have a specific agreement to not open 1NT with a worthless doubleton in a major – perhaps they open a 4 card heart suit if the hearts/diamonds are reversed?). Here, both dealers started with 1♥. The auctions continued identically for awhile, then diverged.
After partner has bid both red suits, the ♣J is a doubtful value. Still the ♠10 is a mighty nice card and it seems that an invitational (vulnerable) 3♠ rebid is not crazy. Yet both tables rebid 2 only spades with Bill deciding to take one more bid with the East hand while Ed decided to pass out 2♠.
With the auction I saw, I thought there might be a club ruff coming in dummy, so I started with a trump lead and lost my club trick as declarer’s club loser was later pitched on a diamond, making 5 for -650. Our teammates played 2♠ making +170, lose 10 IMPs.
Once more an identical start to the bidding at both tables, but then a divergence that led to disaster for North-South. The general consensus was that North (at the other table) should double 4NT suggesting a hand unsuitable for play at the 5 level (a pass over 4NT invites partner to bid on). The ♥Q must be a very good card, but the minor suit queens are more likely defensive values than offensive values when West comes in with 4NT. In any case, when there was no double, South competed to 5♥ over 5♦. Against best defense (diamond lead), 5♥ has no play.
Since there was discussion (at the time and in later emails) about “how was there an overtrick in 4♥?” I assumed that a diamond was led and did extensive analysis about how to play (for 10 tricks) after the diamond lead. After writing all of that up, I have learned that the ♠9 was led at both tables!
The ♠9 is not an unreasonable opening lead. Partner implied spades with the takeout double of 1NT and you do have a potential 3rd round ruff. The effect of the ♠9 lead was remarkable (not good for the defense at our table). After winning the ♠J, declarer led two rounds of trump ending in dummy and then finessed the ♠8. Then he ran all of his trumps, coming down to a 4 card ending (winning the first 9 tricks with 2 spades and 7 hearts) and forcing East to hold 2 spades and 2 minor suit cards for their last 4 cards.
If East keeps 2 clubs and no diamonds, the ♦Q becomes a winner as well as the ♠A.
If East keeps ♦AK and no clubs, a diamond lead by declarer allows East to cash 2 diamonds and then provide the spade finesse for 2 more tricks for declarer, 11 total.
If East keeps ♦A and ♣K (and dummy keeps ♦Qx ♣Qx), a diamond play by declarer at trick 10 allows East to chose how to take 2 tricks and give 2 to declarer. Declarer can score 2 spades and no minor suit tricks, or 2 minor suit queens and no spades depending on how the defense chooses to play. In any case, 11 tricks are there against any defense after the ♠9 lead.
In any case, in 4♥, my partner made 11 tricks for +650 and in 5♥, our teammates defeated it by 2 tricks for +200, win 13 IMPs.
Bear with me for the following commentary – I spent too much time analyzing a diamond lead (that didn’t happen at either table!) to let it all go to waste. I thought the diamond lead (that I assumed happened at the other table) created a very interesting declarer and defensive problem.
On a diamond lead, 10 tricks are available, but declarer must be VERY careful. Three lines of play (to avoid 2 spade losers after a diamond lead) are successful.
Option 1 (assume LHO has the ♥10 and RHO has the ♠K) – lead a heart to the ♥8, finessing West for the ♥10. This (plus a later lead to the ♥Q) provides 2 dummy entries for two successful spade finesses, resulting in losing only 1 trick in each off suit.
Option 2 (assume trump are 2-2 and spades 2-4 with LHO having ♠10x or ♠9x) – lead the ♠Q early, losing to the ♠K prior to drawing trump, then cash the ♠A, draw trump ending in dummy, and use that entry for a spade to the ♠8, finessing East out of their ♠10.
Option 3 (so obscure, this could only be found via double dummy! – an extreme variant of option 1 with some of option 2 thrown in) – After diamond is lost at trick 1 and ruffed at trick 2 (or pitch a club loser on trick 2 and ruff at trick 3), lead the ♠8! Then things get really tricky. When they win and force a second ruff, declarer can only succeed by ruffing high. Usually you ruff high to avoid an overruff. Here you ruff high to save your low trump. Declarer’s low hearts are the key to making the hand. If you take 2 ruffs with low trump, there is only 1 remaining trump in declarer’s hand that is below the ♥8 in dummy. So, when you now lead (your last) low heart towards the ♥Q8 to finesse the ♥10 for your (needed) 2 entries to dummy for spade finesses, LHO can rise with the ♥10. You are in dummy for the last time (no more small hearts left in hand) , so only 1 spade finesse is available and down you go. So, to be successful with this option, you ruff for the second time with a high trump, preserving your critical ♥43 for leads towards dummy. Finesse the ♥8, then finesse the spade, then a heart to the ♥Q drawing trump, then another spade finesse and you are up to 10 difficult tricks. Since this requires a parlay of components of both Option 1 and 2, this is clearly an inferior line of play, but I still found it interesting, specifically because of the opportunity (if declarer ruffs low twice) for the defense to foil declarer’s plan by playing second hand high, the card declarer is getting ready to finesse (♥10) and ruining the transportation critical to succeed in the contract. These plays are rare, but what fun to see it and cause declarer to fail if you find it.
So, even though 10 tricks are available with best play/defense, it is far from clear declarer would have found any of these options on a diamond lead. There are many ways to go down in 4♥ after a diamond lead. But the spade lead made 4♥ easy to make at our table and 5♥ was possible. I don’t know the line of play/defense chosen that resulted in 5♥ down 2. So, learning belatedly that the ♠9 was led at both tables, I now have an editorial change – bidding didn’t determine the swing on every hand as I previously stated.
Well, if you can’t be good, it helps to be lucky. For what it is worth, my thinking was that, in a heart contract, we might have 2 heart losers (how ‘bad’ is partner’s suit?), but he might have enough scattered values outside of hearts to allow 11 tricks outside of hearts. Not likely, but it seemed to me to be an extra arrow in the quiver. If hearts come home, both 6NT and 6♥ should be successful. If the heart suit requires 2 losers, 6♥ will always fail and 6NT might have a chance. Anyway, that all didn’t matter when the opening lead was the ♦J. With a club opening lead, I have to find the ♥Q. No other option. As it turned out, I didn’t find the ♥Q and made only 12 tricks, good for +1440. The other table had a kickback/blackwood accident and managed to scramble 11 tricks in the inelegant 4♠ contract. 13 IMPs for our team.
Given a bit more thought, the idea that partner would hold all of the required specific cards needed to bring in 12 tricks in NT (while having 2 heart losers) is too extreme, so the percentage is clearly to hope for no more than 1 heart loser and try the slam in hearts. I dodged one there.
Our bidding helped the opponents get to a decent club game which was doomed to fail only if I gave partner a heart ruff at trick 2. If we were defending 5♣, I don’t have a whole lot of choices at trick 2 (assuming I win the ♦A at trick 1) looking at a singleton diamond in dummy. I would never lead a spade, and neither a club nor diamond is attractive. But, a heart looks scary too until you think about it – partner might have led a heart if he had a singleton. So a heart for a ruff at trick 2 would lead to -1. Eventually a spade trick would come our way.
I decided my hand held such little hope for defense against 5♣ that I would take insurance and bid 5♦. With the Stayman (? – did the double just show clubs?) action at our table, South thought the ♠Q would be a good start to the defense. Most likely I am down if any of the other 12 cards are chosen for the opening lead, but on the ♠Q lead, I was feeling no pain with dummy quickly being established, losing only 2 black aces.
Meanwhile, our teammates bounced right to 3NT with no interference from West. Having none of partner’s suit to lead vs. 3NT, West led a diamond. After cashing the first 6 tricks, the rest were conceded for down 2. +550 and -100 resulted in winning 10 IMPs. A lucky result all the way around.
Bidding seems to be the main contributing factor to this swing, but play also entered in. At our table, the auction suggested a problem in spades, so after the opponents cashed two spades to start the defense, partner had little option but to play for 3-2 hearts with split honors. They were. +620. Certainly few would play that the 2♥ rebid (at both tables) showed a 6 card suit. But when I rebid 3♦, the 3♥ bid definitely promised 6, so I abandoned NT and went for the game in hearts.
At the other table, the auction arrived in 3NT. East chose a 2NT rebid (vs. my 3♦) and West simply raised to 3NT (rather than repeating the heart suit for the 3rd time). It turns out that there are lots of issues involved in the play of 3NT. After a spade is led and the ♠10 inserted by North at trick 1, the ♠J wins trick 1. Declarer doesn’t know if spades are 4-4 or 5-3. If spades are 5-3, going after heart finesses (split honors) guarantees going down. There are 8 tricks on top after winning the ♠J. 1+1+3+3. Diamonds could be 3-3. The ♣J could fall in 3 rounds (or finesse). Declarer decided to not risk the 5-3 spades and pinned all hopes for 9 tricks on something good in the minors. When that didn’t happen, 8 tricks were the limit, -1, +100 for our teammates to go with our +620, win 12 IMPs.
I had a maximum negative double and Gary needed all of it to succeed in 4♥. His thinking (which I like) was to bounce quickly to game (even though he doesn’t really have the values for it), hoping that the opponents don’t work out to bid 4♠. It worked.
Against best defense, 4♥can be beaten, but even with a normal forcing defense, declarer must play very carefully. And he did.
Best defense: overtake the ♠Q at trick one with the ♠K and shift to a diamond. At this point, you have established the threat of a diamond ruff to go along with the ♦K and 2 black aces. If declarer draws trump to prevent the diamond ruff, he can manage a spade ruff to go with 4 top hearts and 4 diamonds, but that is only 9 tricks. There is no way to 10 tricks.
Actual defense: spade at trick 1, another spade (ruffed) at trick 2. With losers coming in both clubs and possibly diamonds, declarer must start losing those tricks early while there is still some semblance of transportation and trump control. Declarer led the ♣K at trick 3, won by the ♣A (I think ducking the ♣A one round is probably a stronger defense, starting to cut transportation). Upon winning the ♣A, a spade tap would have given declarer more problems, especially with the known (to the defense, but not declarer) 4-4-4-1 split of trumps. The actual lead after winning the ♣A was a trump, but declarer is still not out of the woods.
After the trump lead, if clubs are 3-3 (they were), declarer is home via 0+5+1+4. But, if declarer draws trumps and clubs don’t split, the only hope would be a singleton ♦K, since declarer can’t get to dummy to finesse diamonds after attempting to run clubs (and it would be a losing finesse besides). It is rarely good play to rely upon 3-3 splits when other alternatives are available. So, declarer won the trump in dummy and played another to hand, observing the 4-1 split and leaving one trump left in hand. Now, time to knock out the ♦K. Declarer led a small diamond towards ♦QJ1053 in dummy, South won the ♦K and now played a spade to make declarer use their last trump. But a diamond entry to dummy allowed the declarer to draw trump and then finish with top clubs/diamond. In the end, 0+6+2+2.
Note, if a diamond is lost after trump are gone, the defense claims the rest via running spades.
With trump 4-4-4-1, there are often many complex considerations, especially when there is a tap suit, even if the tap involves a ruff/sluff. Declarer must go about losing their side tricks early to maintain trump control prior to drawing trump. What if the defense simply continued the spade tap at every opportunity? Trick 1, win a spade. Trick 2, force declarer with second spade. Win the ♣A and force declarer with a third spade. Now if declarer tests two rounds of trump (and learns that they are 4-1), his only play is to hope for 3-3 clubs – it is too late to work on diamonds because declarer would have no more trump and the spade ruff (after losing a diamond) would come from dummy promoting a trump trick for North. But, if instead of playing trump, declarer continues with the theme of losing the side suit losers by leading a diamond, the defense can tap him for the 3rd time. But declarer can now cash his remaining trump, cross to dummy with a diamond, draw trump and claim.
Note the diamond entry is critical – declarer cannot afford the luxury of overtaking a high heart as the entry to dummy to draw trump since dummy’s ♥8 would lose to the ♥9. After ruffing 3 spades, declarer must cash his remaining high trump, then enter dummy with a high diamond to draw trump. If diamonds are 4-1, too bad.
In any case, tap at every chance or not, the only successful defense involved a diamond shift at trick 2 and a trump trick for the defense and that was not found.
For our teammates, there were 9 winners in the spade contract, so 4♠ finished down 1, -100 and +420 resulted in winning 8 IMPs.
As you can see from the footnotes, an awkward auction where East and West floundered and were on different pages most of the way through the auction, but managed to land in a makeable slam that wasn’t bid at the other table. No problem with making 12 tricks after trumps were 2-2. Certainly not a terrible slam, but not one you have to be in and it was not reached at the other table. Win 13 IMPs.
At the other table, the bidding was:
A push board where both tables missed the lay down (assuming a normal trump split) slam. After the normal club lead, 13 tricks were there since the heart loser goes away on the high club. But how should the hand be bid to reach this slam?
I have told my partners to ‘never’ bid 4NT with 2 fast losers in a suit with no known control. Here, partner tried doing that and, after learning that 1 key card was missing, decided to subside in 5♠ (the usual rule for 4NT auctions – missing 2+ key cards, stop at 5, you may already be too high – missing one key card, go on to slam). Here, with uncertainty about hearts, my partner was afraid to bid the slam. At the other table, my hand (South) had the opportunity to jump rebid diamonds after 4th suit game force. Then he offered 3NT indicating a partial club stopper. They too continued on to 5♠ but then the auction died. The first 3 bids in the auction are automatic. Then, depending on system (2♣ as game force, or 2♦ as game force), the auction will vary.
The auction is challenging (for me, anyway, at our table) because North doesn’t know about the extra playing strength and high card strength and heart control of the South hand, and South doesn’t know about the strong trumps and both club controls held by North. How might the auction go?
In the post mortem, everyone agreed North should have bid 5♣ (control bid) rather than 4NT. South needs to decide if diamonds (source of tricks) or hearts (is partner looking for a heart control?) is the right continuation over 5♣. Partner cannot know your diamonds are this good. But there is no bid to really tell that at this point. Since you have already shown diamonds, it seems the right continuation must be 5♥ over 5♣. Now, North doesn’t know about the ♠Q, but will likely continue to 6♠ since South has been cooperating in the slam investigation all along.
Another suggestion in the post mortem (for the auction at our table) was for North to bid 5♠ over 4♦, suggesting ‘no problem in clubs, but problem in hearts’. However, often jumps like that ask about trump quality, unless the opponents have bid and then it often asks about a control in the opponents suit. It is easy to say on paper, but hard to say at the table, that a 5♠ bid by north is a ‘control asking bid’ in my first bid suit, hearts!?!
What about the auction at the other table? It seems clear that North intended 5♠ as some slam invite, but exactly what he was looking for was unknown to South. Strong trump? He didn’t have it. Club control? Nope! So, both tables played 5♠. A big missed opportunity for 13 IMPs for the side that could solve the puzzle on how to bid slam.
February 4th, 2016 ~ bobmunson ~ 1 Comment
Well, when you are down 36 IMPs after the first 4 boards, it will be a long day. And it got worse. I’m leaving tomorrow at 5:30 am, so this blog report will be quick. These first 3 boards reported below accounted for 37 IMPs, but since we won an IMP on the other board, my team was ‘only’ down 36 IMPs after 4.
Not everyone will judge to overcall with the East (my) hand (at the other table, North didn’t even open, so there was no issue about an overcall or a bid with the East hand at the other table). With my 1♥ overcall, my partner was happy to advance to 4♥, whereas at the other table, West overcalled 1♥, and my hand (their partner) bounced to 4♥. Sounds like a push, but then things diverged, -300, -500, lose 13 IMPs. It’s a bidders game, but here my team bid too much and paid with speeding tickets.
Here the issue was how high to overcall: a simple 2♣ or a jump to 3♣? Vul vs. not, I was content with bidding only 2♣, but my counterpart at the other table tried 3♣ which became much more successful. At my table, North was interested in a diamond slam, but settled for game in hearts. As you can see, our teammates didn’t handle the preemption well. I led my singleton diamond in hopes of a later ruff, but partner had no entry and declarer had no trouble scoring 11 tricks, pitching their spade loser on a top club. Likewise, declarer, in 3♣, had no trouble with 9 tricks, losing 1 trick in each suit. -450 and -670, lose 15 IMPs.
About half of us that play in this game are adding a point for a 5 card suit when performing hand evaluation. Playing 20-21 HCP for opening 2NT, 19 HCP plus a 5 card suit adds up to 20 the way we count them. Others are looking at High Card Points, and seeing 19, open a suit. Here, arriving in 3NT worked well when a) ♦A was onside, and b) declarer correctly guessed that the ♠A was offside, but only 3 long, so he kept ducking spades. So, when my partner switched to the ♠Q after winning the ♦A, we cashed our 3 spades, but then the rest of the tricks belonged to declarer. 0+3+4+2 for 9 tricks and 600. Declarer at the other table, with our cards, managed 5 tricks in 1NT for -200, lose 9 IMPs.
I really hate to report this hand. Embarrassing. The opening lead was the ♣K (in case of catching a singleton ♣Q, even if that singleton is with partner, partner could not continue clubs if you started with a small club instead of the ♣K – yes, a small heart lead at trick 1 would have been more effective). I ducked the ♣K and won the club continuation. I did not like the blockage in diamonds, but I needed to give the diamond suit more thought. But, seeing the blockage and seeing a ‘solution’, I led the ♦J at trick 3. Curtains. Now RHO must win a diamond trick, clear clubs, and when the opening leader wins the ♠A, they have me set.
Bruce (declarer at the other table) told me that he also noticed the diamond blockage and considered leading the ♦J. But, in the end, he played right, leading a small diamond, allowing him to pick up the whole diamond suit, and when the ♠A was onside, he arrived at 10 tricks 2+1+5+2. -100 and -630, lose 12 IMPs. The reason the ♦J is the wrong way to start this suit is shown on this hand. Assuming RHO, who did not preempt, has long diamonds, you always have 5 diamond tricks with a spade entry for the repeat finesse and a heart entry to reach the 13th diamond. The diamond blockage created an illusion (there is no issue, but it seemed like an issue) that cost big time.
That is the end of the big swing hands for today. But, since I have time, I’ll report one more (at Bruce’s request) to see if you can do better than the players at the table. We had the same bidding, same play, push board, no swing, but there could have been…a big one.
5♣ is a very wide ranging bid, anywhere from a stab in the dark that hopes to not get doubled and not go down too many, to a hand that is almost worth a 6♣ bid. Here, since only 11 tricks were required, both declarers saw a potential danger in entering dummy with a heart for a club finesse that might lose to a singleton ♣K, followed by a heart ruff to go down 1 in a cold vulnerable game. So, both played the ♣A and then played hearts, finding them splitting favorably for 11 tricks, losing the opening spade lead and the ♣K. But, lets go back to the bidding. On this lie of the cards on this hand, there are 10 tricks in spades, so even 7♠X -3 is ‘only’ -500 against the vulnerable opponents game/slam. So, should South, who started the preempt, or North, who raised to game, find the 5♠ bid to save over 5♣? That would be a very cheap save of -100 against -600 for 5♣ making.
But, if they do bid 5♠, should East now bid 6♣? Or should West bid 6♣? By simply entering dummy in hearts to take the club finesse, 6♣ is cold, +1370! Now it is REALLY important, if you decided to save in 5♠, and ended up pushing them into the cold slam, to continue saving and bid 6♠. It will be very cheap insurance (-300) on this hand, and very costly if you do not.
High level (5 level, 6 level, even 7 level) decisions are notoriously difficult and that is what often differentiates the top players from the rest of us. But, as already noted, nothing happened on this hand, from a scoring standpoint, when both tables followed the same path in both bidding and play.
January 15th, 2016 ~ bobmunson ~ 2 Comments
Wow, I don’t think it was our best day of bridge for the group as a whole (I’m talking about all the hands, not just the ones reported on here). Many potential swings (that didn’t happen because of similar errors at both tables) and other swings (not reported because they failed to clear the hurdle of double digits) were not pretty bridge. And, on the 3 swings that did reach double digits, I lost them all! Enough whining. Onto the bridge.
There was nothing to the lead or the play here – all of the action was in the bidding. Perhaps the eventual NT ranges being shown was the biggest factor in this swing, or else the East’s view of the slam potential of the hand. East’s slam view should include the 6th trump and the singleton, but with no aces and no kings, opposite 24-25 HCPs, I have some sympathy for his decision to merely do a Texas Transfer. The East/West pair that did not bid slam are my most frequent partners at regionals and nationals. We discussed this some afterwards and concluded that, since a transfer to 3♥ followed by 4♥ is only a mild slam try, that sequence could/should have been chosen. Another option is to add a point for the 5th diamond, bringing the opener to the 26-27 point range and leveling the playing field in terms of ‘points shown’ by the 2♣ bidding sequence. In any case, -980 vs. +480 by teammates cost 11 IMPs.
Another slam invite position (taken by me) – since this came on the heals of my loss on the prior round, I think that had significant influence on my choice here. Once more, there was nothing to the lead or play, all the action was in the bidding. Did I have my invite? I guess not! When the diamond was led against 4♠, 12 tricks were easily scored with one club loser discarded on the ♦A. When the club was led against 6♠, the opponents cashed their ♣AK and the rest were mine. -50 vs. -480, lose another 11 IMPs.
There are lots of ‘rules’ in bridge. ‘Never play me for the perfect cards because I don’t have them’ would have worked well here. In the bidding, I projected the ♦AQ with my LHO and the ♦K with partner. I also projected shorter (than 4) spades and longer (than 3) clubs. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a jump to 2NT with 4 card trump support. But, with a totally balanced hand, I think that bid makes some sense. When I checked back, partner admitted to holding enough spades to play spades, jumped to the spade game and I got excited. Wrong! In hindsight, I not only needed the perfect shape and perfect placement of points to score 12 tricks, I needed partner to know what those perfect holdings would be. Bad choice.
I knew he would not have slam card in hearts (I had them). I projected the ♠AK (for the jump) and the ♦K for the eventual acceptance of my slam try. That left 8-9 more points elsewhere. Oh well, that isn’t how it was.
I think my (North) hand is a classic responding hand to a 1NT opening bid (when the opponents pass). Most players have learned to pass when holding 8 HCP with 4-3-3-3 distribution opposite 15-17, or the more common ‘good 14-17’. Only here, the opponents did not pass. Now, what do I do? I am not embarrassed by my bidding, but we could have doubled to save 3 IMPs (lose 8 instead of 11). I have very soft defense, but more important, I didn’t have a penalty double available even if I had chosen that option. A takeout double with 4-3 in the unbid red suits didn’t seem right, and it would not have ended well. Since the opponents have a misfit (although I don’t really know that), nothing will play well for us. And partner, in the balancing position, decided to go quietly.
At the other table, the bidding took a wildly different turn and the lead vs. 3NT did not attack spades. The actual ♣K lead established 3 club tricks for the declarer, and when the lead of the ♥Q dropped the ♥J, 10 tricks were in the bank (1+3+3+3).
There have been many growing trends in the world of bridge for many years. Disturbing the opponents NT opening bid has always been popular, but it has gotten much more so. Look at the problem for the North hand after either a 2♣ or a 2♠ bid? What do you do? I chose pass and they played a quiet 2♠ down 2 tricks for +100. My counterpart at the other table had an even tougher problem (over 2♠) and soon they were in the ‘hopeless’ 3NT. When the opponents bid over 1NT, it greatly alters the available NT tools and train wrecks often happen. But the ‘train wreck’ actually happened for the defenders when 3NT was not defeated. That brings up another bridge bidding ‘rule’ from the beginning of time – ‘just keep bidding vulnerable games and let them try to beat you’. Sure worked here. +100 vs. -630, lose another 11 IMPs.
November 19th, 2015 ~ bobmunson ~ No Comments
Wow, has it really been 4 months since we last played? August involved a mostly miserable performance in Chicago, then I was busy, then I was gone two months, so we finally had a 2-table game Wednesday, 11/18.
During all of this time, since I last posted a blog 4 months ago, there have been horrible developments of cheating scandals that have rocked the bridge world. I’m greatly saddened to learn how pervasive cheating has been for a very very long time. Words escape me.
But, back to the blog. For once, almost all of the big swings went my way. There were six double digit swings. I can’t say they were earned, but here they come…
Two things going on here with my double of 5♥. One – it may have been our hand, they may have seriously misjudged, and I am tired of collecting 100, 200, 300 when 200, 500, 800 is available (and, it seems like I do have 1 trick on defense that I might not have!). Two – the double might have the effect of throwing declarer off the right track, whether it should accomplish that or not. Here, # two came into play. As you can see, if declarer gets the rounded suits right (both kings are in the slot, in front of the AQ), 12 tricks are there. Our teammates only collected +500 vs. 4♠X, so if our opponents score 12 tricks without being doubled, -680/+500 we lose 5 IMPs. But, since I doubled, if they score 12 tricks, it becomes -1150 vs. +500, lose 12 IMPs! So, in theory, the seemingly bad double that I made will cost 7 IMPs extra. But, in reality, both kings were misguessed and the resulting -1, +200 combined with our teammates +500 to win 12 IMPs vs. losing 4-5 IMPs had 5♥, undoubled, been made. What happened?
Partner, of course, led their singleton ♦8. Declarer, ducked in dummy, winning the ♦9 in hand. Fearful of losing a heart finesse, followed by an underlead in spades that would then result in a ruff in diamonds, declarer simply banged down the ♥A, then a small heart to my ♥K. I was in and led my ♠Q, thinking I would tap dummy with a second round of spades, not that that would do any good. But partner (Mike Schneider), seeing what is going on, overtook my ♠Q with the ♠K and led the ♣2. Declarer is now at the crossroads with a two way finesse for the ♣K – either insert the ♣Q now (to pitch one of the losing spades and then ruff the other), or take a ruffing finesse in clubs by leading the ♣Q after winning the ♣A, playing me for the ♣K.
But here, there is an easy clue. Since I showed declarer the ♠Q, there are too few HCP left for partner if they do not hold the ♣K. That is, if they did not hold the ♣K, it would mean they opened on 8 HCP and then bid again freely at the 4 level with the same 8 HCP and only a 5 card spade suit (I have to hold 4 spades for my jump raise). Even if I don’t show the ♠Q, partner still has to have the ♣K to have his bids. But, declarer, not thinking along these lines, decided that I had my bid (I did double 5♥), so he played the ruffing finesse, and lost 3 tricks. A lucky down 1.
Virtually all players that I play with/against play Smolen. Smolen applies in a failed Stayman auction (you bid clubs, partner bids diamonds). Playing Smolen, when you hold 5-4 in the majors and partner denies a 4 card major, you introduce your 4 card major at the 3 level, game forcing, implying 5 cards in the other major (with 6 in the other major, you transfer at the 4 level). It allows you to have the effect of the transfer when that is what you want to do. After the Smolen bid, the NT opening bidder gets to place the contract, either in NT, or choose a suitable major (even the 4-3 fit if that is what they judge to be best, but now the contract with the 4-3 fit would be wrong sided). For some reason, Manfred chose to not answer Stayman with the normal 3♦, so Smolen was not available and they played a quiet (successful) 3NT.
Here, the singleton ♥7 vs. 3NT at my table gave away my ♥Q10 and brought declarer to 11 tricks (when South was endplayed out of the ♦K at trick 12), -460. Our teammates arrived in the unfortunate spade slam when only game was available, going down 2, -100, lose 11 IMPs. What happened?
Here, Bruce was thinking the diamond bid was a punt, essentially a relay/transfer back to spades, allowing partner (strong hand) to finally become declarer in 4♠, since no one had bid spades yet. If Bruce bids 4♠ as a signoff, he becomes declarer. With Mark’s monster hand, he wanted to express slam interest for spades over the Smolen 3♥ bid by cue bidding 4♣. When Mark heard the 4♦ bid, he took that as showing the ♦K and, had that been right, a slam would have been reached that likely had decent play. But not today. Clearly the 2♣ opening bid is blessed with 24 prime HCP including all 5 key cards, but with 3=3=4=3, there were not enough tricks with 2 club losers and 1 heart loser in a spade contract.
Here, a significant variance in the auction resulted in my team playing a contract at both tables. After the same first 3 bids at both tables, Bruce (my teammate at the other table) in 4th seat and holding 9 cards in the suits that had already been bid by the opponents decided he would introduce his beefy four card spade suit at the one level. With this bid, he undoubtedly tied the course record for introducing a new suit after the opponents have already bid suits that accounted for 9 out of the 13 cards held in hand. He soon found himself in the phantom sacrifice bid of 5♠, but when the dust had cleared, he was chalking up +650, win 12 IMPs, since I was down one in 5♦, -50.
We had a quiet uncontested auction to, I think, a normal 5♦. Although the ♣K is in the slot, it is not possible to draw trump, get to dummy twice, finesse clubs twice, ruff a club, and then reenter declarer’s hand to cash clubs. So, a spade, a diamond and a club must be lost in 5♦, -1.
What happened in 5♠? The singleton ♥Q lead trivially defeats 5♠, assuming the defense wins the ♥A, provides the heart ruff, and then scores a club trick at some point. However, the opening lead was the ♦A which was ruffed. After cashing the ♠AK, declarer led a club. Upon winning the club, it would seem that the ♦Q could hardly be wrong. But West tried the ♥Q (the ♥Q had been destined to score the setting trick later in the hand). Declarer, who was going to finesse against the ♥Q (by leading the ♥J and letting it ride), now had the whole heart suit solid only losing the ♥A (and the club trick) to score 11 tricks and make 5♠!
Technically not a double digit swing, but it felt like one to me. Diamonds were played at both tables, 11 tricks at both tables when a trump was not led (since there are two black aces and 9 cross ruff trump tricks with all 9 trumps scoring separately). But at my table, the contract was 5♦X and at the other table, they stopped in 3♦. 5♦ was bid over 4♠ which was going down. We have 4 top tricks to cash (2 diamonds to go with our 2 black aces) and at least one more in the wash, since declarer can’t handle the 4-1 trumps along with uneven club/heart splits. So, yet another phantom sacrifice turned into a making game! What about the bidding?
I certainly prefer a 6 card suit to come into a live auction at the 2 level, but since LHO might hold only 2 clubs, I felt my offense potential (5-5) warranted a 2♦ call. With the ♦J now likely useless, North’s opening bid has been reduced to an aceless 11 HCP. Even though reversing values may become slightly less in a pinch in a competitive auction, it seems to me that the principles of a reverse are still in force in this situation. Nevertheless, North rebid 2♠ and South, seemingly also expecting a substantial hand opposite, bounced to the hopeless spade game. But, my partner was there for them, balancing with 5♦. South, presumably still expecting a substantial North hand, decided it was time to double. But, as noted above, on the spade lead, 11 tricks were there for the taking when South was unable to overruff as dummy ruffed clubs. Since 11 tricks requires scoring all trumps separately, a trump lead beats 5♦, but the contract also goes down after 3 rounds of hearts which brings the ‘worthless’ ♦J into play. The ♦J will either be an overruff trick at trick 3, or, if declarer ruffs high, North discards a spade and will later score a spade overruff with the ♦J.
So, +550 for making 5♦X, vs. -150 for 11 tricks in the part score resulted in winning 9 IMPs.
I don’t know if my partner’s double affected the auction or not (causing our opponents to stay low at our table). With both of the pointed kings in the slot, 12 tricks become easy in 6NT with a spade lead, even with the bad club split – 2+0+7+3. A heart lead also makes 12 notrump tricks easy (with the diamond finesse on). But, this is not really a great slam, offering no play if the diamond finesse loses. Still, bidding a slam on a finesse isn’t crazy. But, with the spade lead vs. NT, you need 2 finesses (spade and diamond, which both happen to work on this hand). And with a heart lead vs. a diamond slam, you need the diamond finesse plus you need the hand with the ♥A to not hold 5 clubs. Here, there were 5 clubs with the ♥A, but the club ruff was not found and the diamond slam came home.
So, at my table, we defended 3NT on a spade lead. Declarer finessed spades, finessed diamonds, then claimed 13 tricks unless clubs didn’t split, so only 12 total tricks. We were -490. Our teammates, avoided the club ruff after a trump lead (?) against the slam, so they scored +920 for their diamond slam, winning 10 IMPs.
This is an awkward hand to bid, play and defend. Both tables arrived in 4♥ by South. I scored 10 tricks for +420 and our teammates scored 5 tricks for +100, win 11 IMPs.
I have a rather minimum responding hand, and the value goes down with my ♦Q being doubtful. However, partner has clearly made a forcing bid of 3♠ and I have to choose. 3NT or 4♥? Both contracts, double dummy, are due 10 tricks, but if I bid 3NT (not knowing partner’s diamond strength), I thought I could lose the first 5-6 tricks before I got started. So, I placed the contract in 4♥. The diamond lead seemed natural given that the suit was bid and raised, but it made my handling of the diamond suit much easier. No lead is especially effective or attractive. No lead does better. A diamond was led at both tables with the ♦Q winning trick 1 and a heart finesse at trick 2, losing to the ♥A, then a diamond return to the ♦A. Both tables were the same through trick 3.
At this point, I crossed to the ♠A, finessed again in hearts getting the bad news about the 4-1 split. Now I cashed the ♠K, ruffed a spade (when the ♠Q fell, I had a parking place for my last diamond on the ♠J). Now I decided to try the ♣J to ‘finesse’ but when LHO showed out, there was no finesse. I had to rise with the ♣A and lead the ♠J to throw my diamond while LHO ruffs. They led a diamond, but I could ruff, draw the last trump and give up a club, but RHO only had a club to lead back to me at trick 13. So, I won 2+4+2+2, losing 2 trump and the ♣K. It might seem as though the defense can gain by ruffing when I lead the club. But, they are ruffing air. Then they can lead the ♦K to force me to ruff with dummy’s ♥K, setting up their ♥Q. But that ruff takes care of my diamond loser, and now I can throw my one remaining losing club on the ♠J, leaving the defense with 3 trump tricks, but no other tricks.
What if a diamond isn’t led at trick 1? Because of the trump length held by opening leader, a diamond appeals because diamonds were raised (!?) and perhaps it will be possible to tap out declarer and gain control of the hand. No lead can beat best declarer play. But, as opening leader, you sure hate to underlead a K at trick one only to see declarer win their Q while dummy remains with just the ace. If you do not a diamond, then probably a spade is the next choice – how could a heart be right on this holding?! Amazingly, leading any of the 13 cards result in 10 tricks for declarer. You can even lead the impossible ♠Q or even ♥Q and still score 3 tricks for the defense, no overtricks for declarer! Very strange hand. But, I have played with Double Dummy Solver with many varied lines of defense and declarer play and nothing special needs to be done (such as you don’t need to finesse the ♠J in order to make the hand).
At the other table, in dummy at trick 3, declarer tried the effect of the ♥K at trick 4. Not good. I think they were thinking if trump are 3-2, lose 0+2+0+1 and arrive at 10 tricks after ruffing the last diamond with dummy’s last trump. And maybe the club finesse will work. When trumps were 4-1, with the ♣K offside, things collapsed. +420 vs. -100 resulted in win 11 IMPs.
I write this blog to learn, to review the causes of the largest IMP swings in the matches. What can be learned from these?
- 1 swing happened when the same contract with the same lead at both tables, but different declarer play.
- 1 was a decent slam (needed a finesse which worked, unlikely to go down, but could have been defeated as the cards lay) winning IMPs vs. 3NT.
- 1 was a terrible slam, losing IMPs vs. 3NT
- 2 were phantom saves that were allowed to make
- 1 was a declarer play that went astray after my strange double
So, bidding judgment again played a major role, but I think the actual swings were based more on declarer play and defense. That is what really drove the large swings for this session. The bidding created the opportunity for the defense to win big, but often declarer won out. All-in-all, pretty uneven play for the day. And lucky results for me.
July 16th, 2015 ~ bobmunson ~ No Comments
Only 4 hands reached double digit swings today.
The swing was all in the bidding. Nothing to the play. Must lose 2 diamonds and 1 club, +200 and +790 for my team, win 14 IMPs. Bruce held extra values with spade shortness so he seems to have an automatic double. Here, with the duplication in spades (singleton in both hands), it left a lot of losers to deal with in 5♣X – 800 was there with 3 top tricks, 1 heart ruff, and 1 delayed diamond trick. So, Manfred’s decision (bid or pass?) made no difference, he saved 10 points by passing the double vs. bidding 5♣. I had already decided I was doubling 5♣, although doing that could clearly be wrong on some freak hands. Dan was faced with the 5♣ bid at the other table and decided to try for 11 tricks in spades but they were short one trick. Five level decisions are notoriously difficult. Watching the Bermuda Bowl and other high level competition, it seems they ‘take the money’ more often than ‘take the push’ but these are very difficult decisions and even the top players in the world get them wrong sometimes.
You can play bridge (and I have) for 50+ years and still low level, seemingly simple auctions come up that have never come up before. And they can be sufficiently awkward that there are really no rules or general principles that can be universally applied. This next example falls into that category. If anyone has developed a set of rules for auctions like these, I would love to know about them.
The better contract (for NS) was reached at the other table, since 2♠ makes 8 tricks, while there are only 7 tricks in 2♣ for down 1, had we been allowed to play in 2♣. But, reaching spades had the effect of allowing the opponents to reach an excellent 4♥ game contract which was unbeatable on any lead as the cards lie. Nine tricks were scored in 2♦ so we lost -110 while picking up +650 for the game (when a small spade was played off dummy from ♠Qxx, it seemed as though the only chance to defeat the contract was to duck the ♠AK, hoping partner held the ♠J. So, one of the sure spade tricks went away). Win 11 IMPs
It never ceases to amaze me how very small differences in bidding systems and bidding judgment lead to extremely large swings when comparing scores. Clearly our result was lucky, since our system had the effect of creating a problem for EW. But, when results like this happen, I think it is instructive to examine/establish some general principles that may help next time.
- I think it is universal that a double of an artificial bid (such as a transfer) shows values in that suit. That helped our teammates.
- Should a double of the natural 2♣ bid be penalty, by the one who opened, or takeout? Seems natural to be penalty since you have already bid the suit.
- Should a double of 2♣ in the pass out seat (West. partner of the one who opened 1♣) be penalty or takeout? I think I have some documented agreements with some partners that ‘the first double is always takeout’. But, with an individual movement with an unfamiliar partner, should you risk a double, not even knowing what it means? And, if a double is takeout, should partner (East) convert to penalty with the hand they held, or bid hearts? If if the East hand bids spades (had they held a different hand) in response to a takeout double, should West now bid diamonds, sort of implying diamonds and hearts? And is a double followed by a new suit forcing? How high do you want to get on a potential misfit and modest 10 count?
- On the actual hand, when West balanced with 2♦, should that new suit be forcing? Should East bid again? Obviously they have to bid if they are ever going to get to 4♥, but it isn’t obvious to me that bidding is clear cut.
The auction took a decidedly different turn at the other table. When 4♣ was bid freely, and then raised to 5♣, I don’t know if either partner felt the magic might be there for the slam. Clearly Dan and I were lucky – very hard to know if the fit is sufficiently perfect to score 12 tricks, but I have announced, by doubling 4♥, that I have support for all suits and a very good hand. Dan, by failing to bid the first time, decided he had some catching up to do (plus, I did pause prior to passing 5♥, so it is likely that a committee would have barred Dan and rolled it back to 5♥ undoubled, which would score quite poorly for us). The slam was 920 vs. 420, good for 11 IMPs.
Lots has been written about slam bidding, and most of us still have a lot to learn. On this auction, luckily, I thought partner’s 4♣ bid announced ‘no 1st or 2nd round control in spades’. In spite of that, I went along with a 4♦ cue bid, which probably SHOULD have shown that I held a spade control – that is, if YOU don’t have a spade control and I don’t have one, what are we doing? Anyway, when partner continued with 4♥, I was done.
On the ‘directed’ spade lead, the opponents scored the first trick. Now, to reach 12, you must have 2 successful finesses. Since you can handle ♥Qxxx only with the South hand (if North holds ♥Qxxx you are down), the normal way to play this trump suit is small to the ♥A, then small to the ♥J.
So, both declarers lost to the ♥Q, but found the ♣Q, so 11 tricks at both tables. I don’t have the auction at the other table, but they reached slam. It turns out slam has nothing to do with controls (where you have to avoid 2 fast losers in a single suit), but queens were the determining factor. The missing core suit queens in both hearts and clubs proved too difficult.
As a side note, this hand points out the danger when presented with hand records showing which contracts make. Seeing all the hands, 6♣ and 6♥ are both trivial. Just finesse both queens the ‘right’ way and you are home! Humans often don’t play as well as deep finesse.
Our +650 paired with teammates +100 got us 13 IMPs.
June 8th, 2015 ~ bobmunson ~ 4 Comments
For our game (held on Wednesday for the first time), we had numerous swing opportunities that were missed. I’ll only cover the 5 that achieved double digit swings. Duplicate bridge sort of means it doesn’t matter who gets the cards, but on the 5 swing hands presented below, our opponents had the cards (and our teammates at the other table). I can’t find much in the way of leads, defense or destructive bidding opportunities where partner and I can alter the result at our table. Suggestions welcome. The main reason I bother doing the blog is to learn and share things I learn along the way.
Unfortunately, many of the swings were not so much bidding judgment as they were bidding ‘agreements’. Since this is an individual event, you are often playing with a very unfamiliar partner. So, we allow some discussion at the table to sort out bidding understandings. You’ll see how some of these (mis)understandings affected the results. As such, they aren’t so much about what can be learned about bridge as they are about how important common bidding agreements are between both sides of a partnership.
To those who read the early version of the blog – there was an error in reporting. My table (forgotten over time) had the bidding as currently shown above. Mark chose to close out the bidding by showing his values with 3NT (of course, with a different hand, Ed, who is unlimited, could override that decision). As the cards lie, 9 tricks was very easy in 3NT – more tricks are possible, but Mark saw 9 and took them. -400 for my table.
I can’t flaw Bruce’s decision to try the known 8 card fit. The harsh trump split and trump spots made 4♥ a challenge. Bruce struggled for 10 tricks and couldn’t find them, -50. Lose 10 IMPs.
Deep finesse can see all of the cards. He is able to score 11 tricks in hearts via a finesse of the ♥8 and ♣Q, losing only 2 top hearts while pitching dummy’s diamonds on the high spades. That scores 3+3+2+3 tricks. But, not seeing all the cards, the heart contract turned out to be too tough.
Another bidding ‘judgment’ hand, and this one seems like #11 to me. A tossup. There could be 12 tricks. There could be 11. No action seems questionable to me, but the result was clear. Without a heart lead by South or two spade discards by North, 12 tricks will never come home. Against 4NT, Ed led the ♥J and declarer already had their 12 top tricks. Against 6NT, of course, a heart was not led and there was no way to find 12 tricks. Lose 11 IMPs.
There was nothing to the play. A club was lost. 12 tricks were scored. -620 and +1370 for 13 IMPs for my team. So, I didn’t have bad luck on ALL 5 hands I’m reporting…
I think this hand does have some lessons to learn from the bidding. For starters, don’t assume a convention that you and partner have not discussed/agreed. And, when you hold 2 fast losers in a side suit, cue bidding is often the way to arrive in a good slam and stay out of a hopeless slam. RKCB is a great tool, but should not be deployed when you have 2 fast losers in an unbid suit. Even with 18 HCP and a nice fit.
Should opener rebid their robust 6 card spade suit or support diamonds? You would like a 4th diamond, but you do have a great hand for diamonds. And, by bidding 3♠ over 3♦, partner can redirect the auction back to spades if they had a 3 card spade game raise for their 2♦ bid. I’m certainly fine with either bid (raise diamonds or rebid clubs), but some may have strong feelings.
After the raise to 3♦, what should responder now bid? Certainly a cue bid of the spade void is not an option. That sounds like support. And two fast losers in hearts is a problem, so RKCB is out. I would hate to give up on slam so readily and I think I would choose a 4♣ cue bid as my next step. But a 5♦ “signoff” certainly isn’t crazy. Here, partner had so much extra, he forced slam with 5♥ in spite of no club control, and pard, with nothing in the majors and only 7 points in diamonds, provided the needed club control for the 12 tricks required for the small slam.
This is a hand that a practiced partnership should always get right. If it was submitted to The Bridge World in their ‘Challenge the Champs’ bidding contest, they would clearly reject it as ‘too easy’.
Another hand with nothing to the lead, nothing to the defense, nothing to the play. 7NT and 7♣ both have 13 top tricks. So 7NT is superior since no ruff is possible at trick 1.
Arithmetically, this was not a double digit swing. It was scored as 10 at the time, since the game vs. small slam and small vs. grand is usually 500 points which computes to 11 IMPs. But when the game is in a higher scoring denomination (NT vs. major) the extra points knock it down to 10 IMPs. But, when the grand is a minor and the small slam is a NT slam and both score all 13 tricks, the 500 point bonus is reduced to 420 which, on the IMP scale just scores 9 IMPs. So, lose 9 IMPs.