Bob Munson

Recap Of 10/5/2016 28 Board IMP Individual

Well, it has been awhile.  I’ve been traveling, so it has been over 2 months since we played, but finally played again on Wednesday, October 5th.  I can’t complain much (well, a little), but it seems to me that most of the swings involved careless play/errors rather than any brilliant bidding, declarer play or defense.  Here we go.

Board 6

 
6
E-W
East
N
Bill
QJ953
K
6
K109753
 
W
Bruce
7
97653
1098752
8
A
E
Cris
A8642
AJ4
J4
QJ6
 
S
Bob
K10
Q1082
AKQ3
A42
 
W
Bruce
N
Bill
E
Cris
S
Bob
1NT1
Dbl2
2NT3
Dbl4
35
Dbl6
37
58
Dbl9
All Pass
(1) 14+-17 After the hand was over Cris remarked that he missorted his hand. I think he meant miscounted, but he did open 1NT
(2) Good hand, penalty, modified Hamilton
(3) xfr to diamonds – suspecting, correctly, that 1NT will not be a success, Bruce moves to get out in diamonds
(4) Showing values
(5) He would bid 3D if he had good diamonds, so with only Jx, he responds 3C
(6) I noted the vulnerability and made a penalty double of 3C in case Bruce is ready to pass (if he had both clubs and diamonds, hearing partner didn’t like diamonds Bruce could opt to just pass and play 3C, hoping that Cris’ clubs are better – that is how Bruce would bid if his heart suit were his club suit).
(7) Bruce runs to his long suit, diamonds
(8) Bill decided to go for offense instead of defense
(9) Cris thought we couldn’t make it
W
Art
N
Dan
E
Mike
S
Mark
1
Dbl
21
3
32
Dbl3
Pass
44
Pass
55
Pass
Pass
Dbl6
All Pass
(1) Lead director! Although a free bid at the 2 level over an opponents takeout double doesn’t promise values, it is often a hand a little north of zero HCP!
(2) Raising partner’s ‘diamonds’
(3) Suggesting they won’t make it
(4) Thinking that they have more offense than defense
(5) With the strong hand, deciding to bid the game
(6) Suggesting they won’t make it

As you can see, the bidding resulted in the same contracts at both tables, but far from the optimum contract.  At both tables, as the bidding developed, the optimum contract, would have been 3X for +800 for N-S (at first glance, it seems as though declarer can only score 3 long diamonds and 2 aces for -1100, but 6 tricks are available for ‘only’ -800).  But declarer must play carefully to avoid -1100.  He has to use the power of the 9 by leading a small heart away from dummy’s J after winning the A.  But, if the opening lead is the K, declarer must first draw at least 1 round of trump.  So, there are many paths to down 4, but best play will always score 6 tricks.

Against the actual contracts of 5X, the defense ended up less than optimum, a lot less at one table.  It is always good to defeat a doubled contract, so starting with the A seems indicated and that was indeed the opening lead at both tables.  At my table, Cris continued with the A and noting the fall of the K, inexplicably continued hearts rather than providing a spade ruff for partner to achieve down 2.  So, eventually he scored his trump trick for -1, +100.

At the other table, looking at that dummy and knowing partner held a lot of diamonds, East played the J at trick 2, the K was discarded on the second high diamond and from that point, there was only 1 trump trick to lose for 11 tricks.  -550 to go with our -100 to lose 12 IMPs.  Disappointed.

If E-W don’t get involved in the bidding, the par contract is 3NT, 3 tricks for the defense, 10 for declarer, +430.  But when +800 is available, playing for +400 is losing an opportunity to score 9 IMPs.  My partner suggested I should bid 3NT over the 3 bid.  That certainly would have worked a lot better than what eventually happened!  But I thought 6-7-8 tricks for us defending a 3 level club or diamond contract might be easier than 9 tricks in a NT contract – my RHO did open 1NT!?!?

Bruce certainly did good to run from 1NTX, since +1100 is pretty easy on defense – the same 10 tricks we would get on offense if we declared 1NT.  But, since my double was penalty, a redouble normally asks partner to bid 2, after which he can convert to 2 to play and stay one level lower (if we opt to defend) and then he would lose only -500!

Hand 13

 
13
Both
North
N
Bob
98642
K87
954
72
 
W
Mike
7
AQ10653
K1076
108
♠K
E
Bill
KQJ
J
A82
QJ9543
 
S
Art
A1043
942
QJ3
AK6
 
W
Mike
N
Bob
E
Bill
S
Art
Pass
1
Dbl1
1
12
Pass
Pass
2
Pass
Pass
2
All Pass
 
 
 
(1) Not ideal shape, but at least 3 card support for every unbid suit
(2) Obviously I considered passing, but with spades the boss suit, a well placed heart K, and spades 5 long…
W
Cris
N
Dan
E
Mark
S
Bruce
Pass
1
Pass
1
Pass
2
Pass
21
Pass
22
Pass
2NT
Pass
3NT
All Pass
(1) Showing ‘something’, not sure what.  Cris tells me it is just a forcing bid, not necessarily a suit.  I’m not sure what he wants to be ‘forcing’ for with a broken heart suit and a 9 count, but it pretty much worked to get them into 3NT
(2) Not ready to give up on game, and knowing partner knows he didn’t bid spades last time, so he can’t have a 4 card suit, but wants to show values.  Cris wasn’t sure what 2S showed (if spades, why didn’t Mark bid 2NT?).  Anyway, Cris continued with 2NT and Mark advanced to game.

Our E-W teammates had no opposing bidding and arrived at a mostly unbeatable (as the cards lay) 3NT.   Only a trick 1 diamond lead succeeds.  I don’t think many would try a diamond if the hand were given to The Bridge World Master Solvers.  With no N-S bidding, and all 4 suits ‘bid’, a spade seems rather normal and a diamond rather double dummy.  Since the defense started with a spade to the A and another spade, there was no time for declarer to go after club tricks.  The heart suit had to be the source of tricks.  With limited entries, Declarer is required to assume hearts are 3-3 or else Kx onside.  Not a great contract, but 9 tricks were there on the spade lead (2+5+2+0) for a red game of +600.  Win a fortunate 11 IMPs.

One flavor of defense gets into a quite complicated end game.  If the defense ducks the opening spade lead (leaving declarer with no spades and only 1 spade trick (for now)), and then the defense plays a diamond after winning the K, declarer must win the diamond in his hand and run hearts.  On the run of hearts, South is strip squeezed into either giving up the diamond suit, or else creating an end play resulting in declarer scoring 3 diamond tricks.

Meanwhile, in my spade contract, I had to lose 2+2+2+0 for -1, -100, win 11 IMPs.  This swing was more like most swings of the past – all based on varied bidding judgment (and lucky lie of the cards to correspond to that bidding).  So, as I see it, no real blunders (by the opponents at my table failing to reach 3NT).  But this was the only hand of the day where that was the case.

Board 16

 
16
E-W
West
N
Bob
107
A8
A108
QJ8542
 
W
Mike
AK82
42
J7642
A6
K
E
Bill
653
Q9765
KQ9
93
 
S
Art
QJ94
KJ103
53
K107
 
W
Mike
N
Bob
E
Bill
S
Art
1
2
2
3
All Pass
 
 
 
W
Cris
N
Dan
E
Mark
S
Bruce
1
2
2
Dbl1
32
Pass
Pass
Dbl3
Pass
34
Pass
45
Pass
56
Pass
Pass
Dbl7
All Pass
 
 
(1) Responsive double, showing values and both majors
(2) Trying to push the opponents higher
(3) Again, values with no clear direction, suggesting this is our hand.
(4) I can’t explain this bid, but I guess he thought partner REALLY wanted to hear a major, so he bid his best one
(5) Retreating to partner’s club suit, knowing the heart fit won’t be adequate
(6) Must be time to go for game?
(7) I don’t think they can make it

The bidding at our table was short a sweet, arriving at the par contract.  We had 4 losers, 9 tricks were easy in 3 for +110.

I like Bruce’s responsive double.  Sometimes, when you overcall 2 you have one 4 card major but are short in the other major, so you are unable to start with a double.  The responsive double protects against that possibility with a later retreat to 3 if partner fails to offer a major.  Bruce effectively issued a speeding ticket to Cris for his ill-advised 3 bid (N-S were scheduled to collect +500 and win 9 IMPs), but once Dan bid again over the double, it became N-S that had gotten too high rather than E-W.  So, my side received 9 unexpected IMPs from what seemed like a nothing flat hand at our table.  Technically 9 IMPs is not a double digit swing, but ‘win 9’ vs. ‘lose 9’ seems like a double digit swing to me.

RE: 6 defensive tricks vs. 3.  If N-S draw trump, the defense will score 2+2+1+1.  If they don’t draw trump, allowing a spade ruff in dummy, the 10 can be promoted into the 2nd undertrick (heart overruff).

Hand 26

 
26
Both
East
N
Dan
Q92
K5
Q86
109765
 
W
Bob
A73
A84
J104
A832
2
E
Mark
J85
J92
A972
KQJ
 
S
Mike
K1064
Q10765
K53
4
 
W
Bob
N
Dan
E
Mark
S
Mike
11
22
23
Pass4
35
Pass
3NT6
All Pass
 
 
(1) Not the ‘classic’ opening bid, but…
(2) Not the classic shape for Michaels, vulnerable, but…
(3) Playing U vs. U, a cue in their lower suit (hearts) shows limit or better values in support of clubs
(4) No need to get involved
(5) Forced to rebid his club ‘suit’ at the 3 level
(6) Would far prefer to have partner play it, but I know of no bid to effectively xfr to 3NT, so I bid it – I sure didn’t want to go to 5C with this shape and any bid might force partner to go past 3NT
W
Art
N
Bruce
E
Cris
S
Bill
11
Pass
12
Pass
1NT
Pass
3NT
All Pass
 
 
(1) Amazing, the same 1C? bid was found at the other table.
(2) Although 2C is forcing, decided to start with 1D

So, the same 3NT contract to be played at both tables, but reached from different sides.  With 25 HCP and stoppers in every suit, it doesn’t seem crazy to reach 3NT.  In fact, there appear to be 9 tricks after the double finesse in diamonds: 1+1+3+4.   The problem is, there is no way to unblock and enjoy all 4 club tricks.  Entries to the West hand are required to take 2 diamond finesses (in order to enjoy 3 tricks there).  Meanwhile, the opponents are going about setting up their major suit winners.  All-in-all, 3NT is pretty hopeless.  Well, that is what it seemed.

When East played the hand, the heart lead set up 4 winners there, so the split honors in diamonds wasn’t enough.  The opponents got to 5 tricks quickly before 9 was remotely possible (lose the diamond finesse and cash 4 more heart tricks.

When I (West) played the hand, the 2 lead marked the suit as 4-3-3-3.  So, before they could take a few in one major and then start taking tricks in the other major, I immediately won trick 1 with the A and took the diamond finesse.  The opponents then cashed their 3 spade tricks (North pitching a club on the 13th spade) and continued hearts, forcing me to win the first round with the A and continue diamonds.  I was already booked and needed the rest of the tricks.  But, with the second diamond finesse working, I was up to 3 diamond tricks and then ‘all’ I needed was to cash 4 clubs.  On the 13th diamond, rather than throwing the K, North threw yet another club, allowing my A to overtake the J and then cash the 8 at trick 13 for my 9th trick.  Declarer’s 2 cue bid (suggesting clubs), South’s small heart lead (suggesting heart values), South’s Michael’s bid (suggesting heart values) and declarer’s failure to finesse the Q suggested that he didn’t hold the Q.  So, keeping four clubs and discarding the K on the last diamond was needed to defeat the contract.  +600 and +100 allowed a lucky 12 IMPs for our side.

Reviewing the dealer’s choice of opening bids – I was surprised by both tables choosing 1.  I think Cris did it on purpose, but Mark, as he put down my dummy, indicated he made a mistake and did not actually intend to open 1.  Not only is it normal to open the longer suit (1), but often 4-3-3-3 hands with 12 HCP don’t really qualify for an opening bid (I know, ‘everyone’ is opening almost all 10 point hands these days – at least the big club guys are.  But no one in our group plays a big club).  So, does this specific hand qualify for an opening bid?  All 3 jacks are suspect in value and, as the cards lie, all 3 jacks are actually worthless.  That gets the hand down to a 4-3-3-3 9 count and even the big club guys don’t open those hands as dealer.

Another way to evaluate the hand is the Kaplan and Rubens Hand Evaluator:

http://www.jeff-goldsmith.org/cgi-bin/knr.cgi?hand=j85+j92+a972+kqj

This is an extremely complex method of evaluating a hand that no person could perform at the table.  It computes the value to 2 decimal places (perhaps suggesting that a hand of 10.07 points is better than a hand of 10.04?), but it is a valuable tool to see if a hand is worth upgrading Work points (4-3-2-1) to a higher number, or downgrading to a lower number.  As you will see if you click the link, K&R evaluates this hand as 10.00.   This web site also provides the evaluation of Danny Kleinman which comes out at 9+.  Perhaps that is why 3NT is not a wise contract, even though partner’s hand evaluates at 13.1 K&R points (or 13- per Kleinman’s evaluator).  Both of these evaluation tools downgrade rather harshly for 4-3-3-3 hands, as they should and as we should at the table.

So that was all for the double digit swings.  There were 6 more 6 IMP swings – 2 were white games bid/not bid, while the other 4 were double plus positions on part score hands.

Recap Of 8/3/2016 28 Board IMP Individual

Wow!  Only 4 double digit swings today…and I lost them all.  On to the details…

 
5
N-S
North
N
Bob
AK543
J
Q108
AQ98
 
W
Manfred
96
A872
J643
752
3
E
Mike
QJ87
6
K9752
K43
 
S
Mark
102
KQ109543
A
J106
 

 

Bob
Mark
1
2
31
3
32
4
53
64
(1) Undiscussed, but certainly thinking I am showing extra values
(2) Not really liking QT8 for the NT diamond stopper
(3) Thinking the J has to be a great filler so give it one more try
(4) Liking his full control of diamonds and partial club fit
Bill
Dan
1
2
3
3
3NT1
4
Pass2
(1) Thinking his diamonds are OK for NT
(2) Done

On this first one, I should have reasoned that my 3 bid showed extras, and if partner won’t move towards slam, then perhaps I shouldn’t either.  But I did.  The result was a slam that was quite close to 50% on a successful club finesse (a little less than 50% because it is possible the defense can obtain a first round ruff, or a ruff after winning the A, then the slam would be down even with a successful club finesse).  And, without the 10, the slam is quite poor.  But, partner did have the 10, so, with no ruffs available, if the K is onside, we win 13 IMPs.  It wasn’t. -100 vs. -650 and lose 13 IMPs.

Should I have pushed on?  Should partner have accepted?  Not with the K offside!  But not the worst slam ever.

 
6
E-W
East
N
Bob
A109742
AK
J
AQJ9
 
W
Manfred
65
9643
KQ542
83
6
E
Mike
K8
Q72
976
K10652
 
S
Mark
QJ3
J1085
A1083
74
 
 

 

W
Manfred
N
Bob
E
Mike
S
Mark
Pass
Pass
Pass
1
Pass
2
Pass
31
Pass
42
Pass
4NT3
Pass
54
Pass
65
All Pass
 
(1) Seems like some slam try must be made?
(2) No club help, but I like my hand
(3) Time for RKCB
(4) Playing 0314, showing 1
(5) One seems like enough?
W
Cris
N
Bill
E
Bruce
S
Dan
Pass
Pass
Pass
1
Pass
2
Pass
41
All Pass
 
(1) Thinking this is enough for game!

Undaunted, we faced this hand on the very next board.  Again, I felt I had too much to simply sign off in game, so I offered the 3 ‘game try.’  When partner accepted, I envisioned a possibly magic hand with Kxxx and Kx.  If partner only had Kxx along with the K, I could survive if trumps were 2-2. Or if trumps are 3-1 with a singleton honor, I can still bring it home as long as I guess correctly whether dummy or my hand should win the first trump trick.  So, I trotted out ol’ Black and when partner owned up to 1 key card, I was there, bidding 6.  It turned out the A was his key card, but he held suitable trump honors to give decent play.  As I figure it, this is very close to a 75% slam (you can tell me if I have miscalculated).  If either black king is onside, I am in pretty good shape.  But, the order of which black finesse you try first matters.  I think I played it wrong, now that I have given it more thought.  Darn, I hate it when that happens.  

I led the Q at trick 2 because I had the illusion that trying spades first gave me a ‘two-fer’.  If they ducked, I could then try clubs.  If they covered, I was very nearly home, and if it lost, I still had a high spade to then try clubs.  But, that thinking is flawed because ‘then try clubs’ means that after I cross to the remaining spade honor, trump likely need to be 2-2, and more critically, I not only need my RHO to hold the K, I need it to be exactly Kx or Kxx, since I get only 1 finesse, then I must play the A, then ruff, and the K must fall, or else I still have a club to lose and the slam goes down.

So, back to what to play at trick 2 after the A wins trick 1?  I’m convinced (now) that the right answer is to play clubs first.  If the club finesse wins, I cash the A and ruff a club.  If the K doesn’t fall in 3 rounds, I enter my hand and ruff my last club.  Now, I’m in dummy and I can still try the spade finesse for a chance for all 13 tricks.  If the club finesse loses, I win the return (whatever it is), cash the A, ruff my remaining losing club (high) and then start taking spade finesses.  This fails if either opponent held only 1 club (so that they then they ruff my A) or if RHO has only 2 clubs so that they overruff the third round of clubs.  It also fails if my RHO has all four outstanding trumps Kxxx.

Normally, a slam needing 1 of 2 finesses is considered a 75% slam.  This certainly falls short of 75% because it needs a bit more than just 1 of 2 finesses.  There are other considerations in handling various scenarios.  Most importantly, all lines fail when LHO holds both black kings.  They did, so the slam, like the prior board, was down.  Since it was non-vulnerable, -50 vs. -450, lose 11 IMPs.

Note to self – don’t play so fast when a 22 IMP swing is looming for make/down in a slam.  Consider the possible layouts more carefully before embarking on a plan.  Here, my play didn’t matter, but finessing in clubs first after winning the A (rather than spades first) handles many more situations of ‘at least 1 black king onside.’

48 IMPs difference on those two slams vs. the opposing players on the other team.  Win 13, win 11, total of 24 IMPs, vs. lose 24.

 
10
Both
East
N
Bob
K9432
K3
QJ543
5
 
W
Bruce
6
54
A982
987632
6
E
Dan
QJ107
A7
K1076
J104
 
S
Manfred
A85
QJ109862
AKQ
 
Bob
Manfred
1
1
41
Pass2
(1) No slam exploration
(2) Good hand, but don’t know what partner needs
Mike
Mark
2
2
2
21
32
63
All Pass
(1) Forced, in case partner has a big Kokish NT hand
(2) Showing a 1-suited heart hand, strong
(3) A collection of useful cards, perhaps not the most elegant, but…

So, here we go again.  Another slam (only this time it was bid by our opponents at the other table).  Here it was all on the lead (sort of).  As you can see, the opening leader holds 12 cards that can be led to defeat the slam.  But, they also hold 1 card (A) that can be led that allows the slam to come home.  They (our teammate) found that 1 card!!!!!

But on the auction that they heard (no key card ask), the opponents are flying blind.  They could be off two cashing diamond tricks, but those (potential diamond winners) may only cash if they are led and cashed at tricks 1 and 2.  David Bird says to ‘never lead a singleton against a slam’ when you hold an ace, because the chance that you hit partner with an ace is zero, and you may locate a critical card for declarer by leading the singleton.  So, here the singleton works, actually any card works but the A!  But, I think our teammate made the right lead based on the information available.

We played a mere 4 at our table and the singleton spade was led.  The beauty of the singleton is that partner can have either ace – the ace of the suit you led or the trump ace – and you get a ruff.  So, as it turned out, partner did not hold the spade A, but they did hold the trump A and provided the ruff to hold us to 11 tricks.  However, they ruffed one of our losers that could never go away anyway due to partner opposite the singleton leader holding the QJT7.  Declarer has no place to dispose of his 3rd spade and no squeeze.  So, we were never scoring 12 tricks, but we were only in game anyway.

At the other table, in slam, after the A was led and ruffed, declarer must lose the trump A, so they have to figure a way to dispose of the spade loser.  It is standard, for those who lead A from AK, to lead the K from AK at the 5 level or higher (this is because it is more likely that you might lead an unsupported A at that level and it is helpful to partner to know).  Anyway, declarer doesn’t know that the opening leader plays that ‘standard’.  Who has the K is huge in the planning of the play of the hand.  As the cards lie, RHO has the K and the only legitimate play to make the hand is to take a ruffing finesse in diamonds.  This is incredibly complicated because declarer only has 1 sure entry to dummy (K).  The K could be an entry.  Or club ruffs could be an entry (yes ruffing your good AKQ of clubs!).  It is almost double dummy for declarer to play A at trick 2, ruff a high club at trick 3, and then float the Q, hoping for RHO to hold the K.  But 2 entries are required for the ruffing finesse in diamonds.  You could try to force the K to be an entry by first leading a high heart from hand (since you have no ‘need’ to ruff a club).  If everyone plays low, the K is an entry only by ruffing a club.  Then use the K as the entry, later, to discard your spade loser on the established high diamond.

At the table at trick 2, declarer led a heart to the K and A.  Now the spotlight switches to East.  What do they return after winning the A?  It turns out, on the run of hearts and clubs, they will become squeezed in spades and diamonds, so a spade return (at trick 3) is required to break up the squeeze.  If declarer wins in dummy, they have lost the late entry to the diamond threat, and if they win in hand, they have lost their entry to the spade threat, so after running clubs and hearts, East will have the luxury of discarding after dummy and the slam goes down.

But wait – declarer can win the spade in dummy, lead the Q, taking a ruffing finesse, and then, if covered, enter dummy with a club ruff and discard his losing spade on the established diamond.  But, that line of play is the only way to make the hand at this point as the cards lie.  Declarer might take the view that his LHO has the K (so the ruffing finesse is a losing cause) and simply win the spade in his hand, draw trump, run clubs and hope to squeeze LHO at trick 11.  If LHO is the only one that can guard spades (he is hoping) and has the K (he is hoping), then his last 2 cards cannot include both the K and a spade guard.  Dummy’s Kx will take the last two tricks, 12 tricks in all.  But, as the cards lie, that line will fail.

Now back to reality – East did not return a spade at trick 3, so declarer had a double squeeze available (spade transportation intact).  He didn’t care who held the K if they also held the stopper in spades, they would be squeezed.  And they were.  On the run of hearts and clubs, declarer has won 9 out of 10 tricks, losing the trump A, but winning 3 clubs and 6 hearts.  Needing the last 3 tricks,  Dummy comes down to their last 3 cards K9  Q.  Declarer’s last 3 cards are A85 and East…has no answer.  If they keep the K, they can only keep 2 spades and declarer’s last spade is good.  If they throw the K, then dummy’s Q is good.  This is what happened and this is how declarer brought home 12 tricks.  Not a good slam (looking at the 2 North-South hands you would have virtually no play).  But, +650 vs. -1430, lose another 13 IMPs.  Disappointed.

What do you think of the 2 opening bid?  What do you think of no search for slam after opening 1? Certainly the 4 rebid shows a very strong suit in a strong hand, so with some hands that will make slam, I might have made a move over 4.  I almost did with the actual hand!

 
19
E-W
South
N
Bob
KQ1083
4
KQ432
72
 
W
Bill
J9742
AQJ5
10
K54
Q
E
Manfred
5
K1076
J85
QJ1083
 
S
Cris
A6
9832
A976
A96
 
W
Bill
N
Bob
E
Manfred
S
Cris
1
Dbl
11
2
Pass2
Pass
33
Pass
34
Pass
45
Pass
46
Pass
Pass7
Pass
(1) I could redouble, but if they bid a lot of hearts, I have a lot to say, so I start with spades
(2) No support double, therefore 2 or fewer spades
(3) Tell partner I have a good hand. 5D a this point would have been a better call, we are not making slam.
(4) Showing honor doubleton
(5) Again, I should bid 5D
(6) Showing Ax, offer to play
(7) Foolishly accepting the offer to play 4S
W
Dan
N
Mark
E
Mike
S
Bruce
1
11
Pass2
Pass
Dbl3
24
45
46
Pass
Pass
57
Dbl8
All Pass
(1) Choosing to overcall rather than double
(2) Penalty pass
(3) Reopening
(4) Moving right along to his next suit
(5) Invitational?
(6) Thinking they may fit pretty well!
(7) Looks more like offense than defense
(8) Can’t take a joke

It is so embarrassing to put in this last hand that I almost didn’t include it.  While I lost 37 IMPs on the first 3 reported hands, I wasn’t embarrassed about my actions on any of them (well a little embarrassed about my play in 6 when I tried the spade finesse first instead of the club finesse).  But this hand shows a classic beginner lesson that you can get wrong every time if you are not paying attention (and I wasn’t paying attention).  First, the bidding.  Not a thing of beauty at our table.  I was 100% certain of playing a 5-2 fit, but fell victim to thinking 10 tricks are easier than 11.  I should have been thinking “I can take heart taps ‘forever’ if diamonds are trump, but if spades are trump, heart taps could present a problem.”  With that proper thinking, I should pull 4♠ to 5 and we would either push the board (if our opponents doubled) or lose 4 IMPs if we took our 11 tricks undoubled (since our teammates had doubled 5♦ making).  Anyway, we were playing 4 so the objective is to make the bid we are in. 

I won the opening lead with the A in dummy, cashed the A and led a spade to the 10 (thinking the takeout doubler likely had length in spades).  Boy did he.  But, no problem.  Draw 4 rounds of trump, let him ruff a diamond, then cash a winning heart and a winning club and claim the rest for 10 tricks.  What could go wrong?  Well, diamonds are likely 3-1 (if they are 4-0, I’m hopeless).  If they are 3-1, I need to discard a diamond from dummy while playing spades to get the 7 out of the way of my 32.  Failing to do that will result in round 4 of diamonds being won in dummy (for my 9th trick) with no way back to my hand to score my good 13th diamond.  This is not even intermediate play.  This is basic beginner bridge that ‘no one’ could get wrong when presented as a problem on a piece of paper, but, at the table, I was careless, failed to throw away a diamond as I played spades, and therefore went down in 4 when it was cold on the club lead (yes, they could have started with hearts and I would have had no chance because I am tapped out at trick 2, but they didn’t).  That goes back to the bidding, where I said I should have bid 5 over 4 and then I would not have to be reporting this embarrassing hand.  -50 and -550, lose 12 IMPs.

 

Slight revision to blog of Board 21 from May 18

While I (Bob Munson) am typing this, the content below is actually via cut/paste from an email dialog with Mike Schneider who played in the game on May 18.  Mike’s specific point of interest involves the auction on board 21 (this board was not mentioned in the original blog).

W
Bob/JoAnna
N
North
E
Lew/Dan
S
South
Pass
Pass
1
Pass
1NT
Pass
2
Pass
2NT
Pass
3
Pass
?
 

Except for the final call by East, the bidding at both tables was identical.  At his last turn to bid, Dan advanced to 3NT.  Lew passed for his last bid and I played 3.

Here are the hands that created that auction:

W
Bob/JoAnna
KQ652
A1074
KQJ8
 
E
Lew/Dan
108
KJ5
AQ98
10942

 

 

 

 

And here are Mike’s comments.

I thought Board 21 from the May 18th two table bridge IMP match was interesting; Bob invited me to supplement the blog for that game with my discussion of the deal. Unfortunately, my amateurishness was front and center, as I failed to accurately capture all four hands before they were reshuffled to start a new two table IMP match on May 23rd. I did accurately record the East – West hands, however, and as it happens they did all of the bidding on the deal.

Looking at only the East – West hands, one would not be surprised to learn that 3N succeeded, as it did at the table. The cards lay very poorly for a no-trump declarer: KJTx lay behind the declarer’s AQ98, while A9x lay behind dummy’s KQ and Ax lay behind dummy’s KQJx. If the defense does everything right, and if declarer mis-guesses the heart suit, then the 3NT contract may be beaten. The cards lay very nicely for a club declarer: both spades and hearts broke 3-3 while clubs broke 3-2. Dan received a friendly small heart opening lead from Qxx and so did not lose a heart trick playing 3NT, while Bob had to play hearts on his own, guessed wrongly and did lose a heart trick playing 3C: East – West plus 400 vs. East – West plus 130 meant a 7 IMP swing in favor of Joanna and Dan.

I was surprised to learn that Lew passed 3 — I would think that the “normal” meaning of West’s sequence is to accept East’s 2NT game invitation, while describing his distribution within one card, most frequently 5=4=1=3. Partner can accept the 3NT invite or hedge by bidding a major suit that might play OK in a seven card fit (you might still back into 3NT if your singleton diamond was say the jack). I suppose that it is even possible that partner might respond 4 to your 3 call should he have chosen 2NT holding say 1=2=4=6 with only moderate diamonds and honors in the short major suits. And of course, you might be 5=4=0=4 instead of 5=4=1=3 when you bid 3 (as in today’s deal), and this possibility complicates the subsequent auction for both partners. On the plus side, both partner’s participate in the inevitable judgement calls that the sequence demands. Perhaps Lew’s passed hand status influenced his decision to pass: his upper limit for 2N would be a bit higher had he been an un-passed hand; also West will open some hands in 4th seat that he might pass as dealer, say K9652, AT74, void, Q874. Even if Lew understood that 3 was forcing, he might choose to pass once he decided not to bid 3NT — his hand will not be a particularly useful dummy in a club contract.

All artificial conventions extract a price for their use — this deal is interesting to me because it illustrates the downside of an artificial treatment that I have used for several years, and which I believe is used today by at least some top pairs (My most recent sighting was a Levin – Weinstein National Tournament Report in the Bridge World perhaps 18 months ago.) I play that the sequence 1-1N-2H-2N-3H♥ or 3 suggests that partner pass, and that 1-1N-2H-2N-3 (artificial) -3 (forced) -3H♥ or 3 is the game forcing version of a 6=4 or 5=5 major suit opening bid.  If I want to show game acceptance with short diamonds (as in the example hand), I use the auction 1-1N-2H-2N-3 (artificial) -3 (forced) -3N (ostensibly 5=4=1=3).  If instead, I want to bid 3NT showing short clubs on the way, the sequence would be 1-1N-2H-2N-3-3N. Obviously, this agreement is hardly ideal for the cards that were dealt on May 18th, although I may well have survived whatever choice I decided to make.

Now Bob writing again – since this bridge game that we are blogging about is an individual movement with many partnerships playing as little as 4 hands 2-3 times in the past 5-10 years, specialized systemic agreements such as this are not something you review with partner as you sit down to play your next 4 hands.

Recap Of 6/20/2016 28 Board IMP Individual

Three big swings on Monday – twice a game made at one table, down at the other; once a slam made.  Details to follow.

Board 4

 
4
Both
West
N
Dan
862
AK62
AK1073
A
 
W
Munson
Q753
Q864
K8542
2
E
Nick
KJ9
Q108753
J952
 
S
Pastor
A104
J94
QJ109753
 
W
Munson
N
Dan
E
Nick
S
Pastor
Pass
1
Pass1
22
Pass
23
Pass
3
Pass
3
Pass
3
Pass
4
Pass
5
Pass
6
All Pass
 
(1) Vul – soft suit…?
(2) Vul, good suit, but void in partner’s suit
(3) Some play this reverse shows extras, some play merely shows shape – undiscussed with this “partnership”
W
Chris
N
Jack
E
Art
S
Jerry
Pass
1
21
Pass2
Pass
Pass3
(1) Deciding it is worth a weak jump overcall
(2) Deciding not worth 3C
(3) Can’t find a bid

Looking first at the bidding at the other table, Does East have a vulnerable weak jump overcall of 2?  It seems that North must have a reopening 2NT bid over 2.  With 18 HCP and 5 quick tricks, there must be something to bid.  What South does next (assuming North reopens with 2NT showing 18-19) is anyone’s guess.  5 seems reasonable.  6 seems a real stretch.  3NT might be bid, but very doubtful 3NT would make (double dummy, 3NT by North is down on any lead but the Q).  If South ventures forth with an immediate 3 over 2, then it seems North-South should reach game or slam in clubs.  3 is a bit of a stretch, but South at the other table judged to make a 2/1 game forcing 2 bid over 1.   Our teammates defending 2 undoubled was a disappointment to us, but the reality is, what they did mattered at most 1-3 IMPs.  The problem was me – my lead.  My lead was a big disappointment as my lead allowed 6 to make!!!!

Beating 3NT is not that obvious/easy though.  A spade lead (double dummy down 2) is possible, but not likely.  On a heart lead, declarer must win the A (not win cheaply in dummy), saving the J for a later entry.  It is crucial that West never ‘signal’ with a spade card – it is West’s length in spades that allows 3NT to be defeated.  Declarer, after winning the A, cashes the A and leads a small heart towards the J.  Now, East must win the Q and play a high spade.  Any other continuation/line of defense brings in the club suit for declarer without 5 tricks for the defense.  But, if East does play a high spade after winning the Q, the defense will score 3+1+0+1 and defeat 3NT.

Enough on the 3NT that didn’t happen.  The South hand seems more oriented to suit play.  But all of this discussion about what didn’t happen at our teammate’s table really doesn’t matter.  If they bid 3NT and make it, or bid 5 and make it, we still lose 13 IMPs because of my lead against 6!  If they manage to arrive in 2X and score +800, we still lose 11 IMPs!

So, what about my lead?  I thought the auction sounded like spades were being ruffed in dummy.  And, I thought a club lead would reduce the spade ruffs.  When I led a trump, declarer had 2 excess trumps (besides the 5 needed to draw mine) – those two trump were used to ruff diamonds good and 12 tricks came home.  -1370 vs. +300, lose 14 IMPs.  That was a 23 IMP swing on the lead (win 9 or lose 14), which is often the case with vulnerable slams.  What would Lead Captain or David Bird lead?  It is hard to say.  The problem with that analysis is that you have to make assumptions about what the bidding has indicated what the North-South holdings are in the various suits.

The Bridge World magazine has a monthly problem H – what do you lead?  Often people answering the problem construct a hand where their lead successfully beats the contract, while any other lead allows it to make.  So, that got me thinking more about my lead – something that I should have done at the table!!  For a trump lead to be necessary, one of 2 conditions must be met:

  1. Declarer needs to ruff 1 spade in dummy to reach 12 tricks, but a trump lead prevents that one ruff
  2. Declarer needs to ruff 2 spades in dummy for 12 tricks, but a trump lead holds him to 1 ruff, 11 tricks.

Example of 1 ruff needed:

N
Dan
Kx
AKxx
Axxxxx
x
2
S
Pastor
Axx
xxx
AQJ109xx

With this construction, a spade lead allows 12 tricks (2+2+1+7) because dummy can ruff spades after a spade lead.  A trump lead kills the ruff and declarer will come up a trick short.  But, this is the only reasonable construction I could create where a trump lead is the winning lead, and it doesn’t come close to fitting the auction – would Dan really bid both 4 over 3 and 6 over 5?  Not a chance.

 

Example of 2 ruffs needed:

N
Dan
x
AKxx
Axxxxx
xx
2
S
Pastor
Axx
xxx
K
AQJ109x

Example 2 is even worse.  Yes, a trump lead defeats the contract, but, again, the hands do not fit the bidding; and, a spade lead also defeats the contract.  I’ve spent enough time on this to realize one thing: next time spend more time at the table instead of in the post mortem.  This was not that hard to realize that a trump lead cannot be the necessary lead to defeat the contract.

One final closing note – the players involved thought that 6 was cold, even on a spade lead, since declarer can win the A, cross to the A, cash the AK throwing their spade losers away, and ruff a diamond to enter their hand to continue drawing trump.  The catch is, when I win my K, I simply play a spade, forcing a ruff by declarer.   So it turns out the opening lead must be a spade in order to tap declarer in spades (much later).  That spade ruff, plus drawing my trumps, exhausts declarers trumps with none left to ruff diamonds good.    Down 1.

Board 7

 
7
Both
South
N
Dan
A10432
853
42
942
 
W
Art
J6
7
KQJ973
AJ53
Q
E
Jerry
KQ975
AJ4
A
10876
 
S
Munson
8
KQ10962
10865
KQ
 

 

W
Art/Jack
N
Dan/Nick
E
Jerry/Chris
S
Munson/Past
1
2
2
2
Pass
3
Pass
3NT
All Pass

We had the exact same bidding, contract, and lead at both tables.  It was all over at trick 1.  At my table, declarer feared a club shift, which could knock out the crucial entry to diamonds, so he decided to play (me) the opening bidder to hold the A.  So, at trick 1, he won the A, led a spade to the J and A.  The heart continuation allowed me to cash out for down 2.

At the other table, declarer couldn’t see the harm in ducking the heart (standard play holding AJx in a suit unless a shift will be fatal).  Here, declarer felt that if the defense shifted to clubs, he would duck and play for split club honors, and reach 10 tricks via 0+1+6+3.  After winning the opening lead, the defense had no answer.  Any continuation by South left declarer in the driver’s seat.  After ducking trick 1, declarer eventually took 11 of the remaining 12 tricks.  +660 and +200 win 13 IMPs.

 
14
None
East
N
Dan
A732
KJ1076
K1064
 
W
Jack
84
AK954
8432
87
K
E
Bob
KQJ9
108732
Q
Q53
 
S
Chris
1065
QJ6
A95
AJ92
 

 

W
Jack
N
Dan
E
Munson
S
Chris
Pass
1
Pass
1
Dbl
Pass
1
2
Pass
2NT
Pass
3♠
Pass
4
Pass
5
Pass
5
All Pass
 
 
 

 

W
Jerry
N
Pastor
E
Nick
S
Art
Pass
Pass1
Pass
1
Pass
2NT
Pass
3
Pass
3
Pass
4
Pass
5
All Pass
 
 
 
(1) 4-3-3-3 12 HCP has often been a problem for traditional bidders, but 2 aces…

Find the minor suit queens.  Our teammates, with no opposing bidding, found them both and brought home 5.  North, at my table, won the spade lead and led trump, watching the Q show up on the way to the A.  Declarer then led spades, needing to ruff their last spade in dummy before drawing trump.  After cashing 2 spades, I led a heart.  Declarer ruffed, and knew that drawing trump would mean he had no more trump left, so decided to try clubs immediately before drawing the rest of the trump.  He played partner for the Q. and then I gave partner a club ruff for down 2.  Declarer found out I had exactly 4 spades and 1 diamond.  That meant I most likely held 6 hearts and 2 clubs, or 5 hearts and 3 clubs.  Of course that would still be the case if I had not doubled.  Anyway, for whatever reason, they lost to my Q for +100 to go with +400, win 11 IMPs.

Recap Of 6/15/2016 28 Board IMP Individual

Lots of swings on Wednesday, but only 4 that cleared the hurdle of double digit swings for including in the blog.  All four swings were 11 IMPs (and, for once, all in my favor!).  

When my teammates stopped in game, 3 non-vulnerable slams of varying soundness were reached, all failing.  One slam (less than 50% to begin with), could have been made, but declarer didn’t find the winning line.  Another would have been 90+% in the right strain, but NT didn’t fare so well.  The 3rd slam was way less than 50%.  The other swing was  a red game.

Board 2

 
2
N-S
East
N
Bob
107543
A6
KJ
A952
 
W
Mark
2
753
832
QJ10873
J
E
Art
KQ986
KJ1084
Q5
K
 
S
Dan
AJ
Q92
A109764
64
 

 

W
Mark
N
Bob
E
Art
S
Dan
1
2
Pass
2NT1
Pass
32
Pass
3NT3
All Pass
 
(1) A slow spade stopper, but I need to do something
(2) Noting that his suit is not ready to run, retreats to 3D
(3) Well, pard has to have 6 and my fillers might work

 

W
Bruce
N
Cris
E
Jack
S
Mike
1
Pass1
Pass
Pass2
(1) Vul vs. not…
(2) It sure doesn’t look like missing a red game…

Well, the swing on this one was all in the bidding.  East has an easy obvious 1 opening bid.  South can choose to enter the auction or not.  One did, one didn’t.  At my table, when partner ventured forth with 2 and then rebid 3, I felt compelled to try the red game.  +150 when vulnerable is always disappointing.   East recognized that this was not the time for ‘fourth from longest and strongest’.  With clubs our weak suit, the K opening lead would have given me pause, but when the K is ducked and East cannot continue, there is no problem for declarer.  On the actual J lead (sneak attack in an unbid side suit), I played the Q and then played diamonds from the top.  On the run of diamonds, East is forced to eventually allow me to score my 10 for 11 tricks (2+2+6+1).  No lead can beat 3NT, but the K would have likely given me the biggest problem, knocking out my easy/sure entry to diamond tricks.  When the 1 contract failed by 3 tricks, our teammates were -150 to go with our +660 for 11 IMPs.

Board 5

 
5
N-S
North
N
Bob
52
A8
Q654
98652
 
W
Jack
AK83
J76
10
AKJ107
Q
E
Mike
6
KQ432
AK872
43
 
S
Mark
QJ10874
1095
J93
Q
 

 

W
Jack
N
Bob
E
Mike
S
Mark
Pass
1
Pass
4NT
Pass
5
Pass
6
All Pass
 
 
W
Cris
N
Art
E
Bruce
S
Dan
Pass
1
Pass
2
Pass
2
Pass
2
Pass
3
Pass
3
Pass
4
All Pass

I don’t think the bidding receives any style points.  Yet, East had a suitable fitting minimum and it turns out a makable slam was reached.  When Mark led his singleton Q, Mike took a considerable amount of time considering his continuation – how to tackle the hand after winning in dummy?  He must lose the A, so he cannot lose any other trick.  But, as long as trump are 3-2, it appears he is looking at 12 pretty certain tricks.  2+4+2+4  Play 2 rounds of spades, pitching his club, to avoid the threat of the pending club ruff, draw trump and claim, ruffing a club high if his RHO rises with the A when hearts are led.

But, appearances can be deceiving.  Assuming trumps split 3-2, WHO has 3, who has 2?  Missing the 1098 makes a bit of a problem.  If North ducks the A when trumps are first led from dummy, declarer must win and continue hearts.  Declarer must assume that RHO held exactly A8 doubleton and not play the J on the second lead of trumps (letting the ace catch air).  If he does play the J, “forcing” the A, a club continuation promotes South’s trump to the setting trick.

Of course, if RHO had held A98, then declarer actually has no play/guess when he leads towards the J. Since declarer’s black cards are gone, the J is the only possible entry to the club winners.  Declarer can play the J on the second lead of hearts to force the A (so he doesn’t lose to the lowly 9), and that will handle heart losers, but all RHO needs to do, in that case, is win the heart and return a heart.  Dummy is dead and declarer is left with 2-3 diamond losers.  If RHO errs (when holding A98) and returns a club for partner to ruff, knowing partner doesn’t have a trump left, dummy’s clubs are revived and the slam comes home!

All of this guessing (who has 3, who has 2) eventually led declarer to decide to hope that LHO held the A or that the Q was not a singleton.  That hope didn’t happen as I rose with the A and gave partner a club ruff for -1.  

I think there is limited downside to cashing the AK (pitching the club) prior to leading trump.  If, as you hoped, LHO holds the A, pretty much the only damaging return after LHO wins the A would be a spade uppercut (if LHO held 6 spades, RHO 2, which they did).  That is, on a different layout, if South had held A109 and I (North) held 85, when South wins the A on the first trump lead, a spade continuation allows me to ruff with my 8, forcing the other high trump from declarer and turning the remaining 109 in the South hand into a power trump trick (with only the J7 remaining in dummy opposite 432 to draw trump).

Perhaps this ‘what if?’ has gone on too long, but there is one more interesting way to beat the hand if declarer does lead spades at tricks two and three, taking the club discard.  If LHO (South) had held A109, rather than go for the trump promotion, South could simply duck hearts twice.  If South thinks declarer will not play the J on the second trump lead (‘needing’ the A to be doubleton with North), by ducking the second time, South can win that trick and still have the A for the setting trick.

When the Q made its appearance at trick 1, it gave me the impression that an excellent slam was reached because your problem of how to find 4 club tricks is immediately solved.  The comments above show that all problems are not solved.  Spots matter.  Here, if East-West held all of the heart spots, it would have taken very foul distribution (4-1 trumps or some unlikely ruff at trick 1 due to a void in the North hand) to defeat the slam.  It is too hard for me to figure out, given the actual 2 hands, what is the best line of play and the % of success for that line.  But, without the Q lead, this slam requires things too friendly and too many guesses for the slam to reach the desired 50+% likelihood of success.

Since our teammates did not bid slam, we scored +50 and +450 for 11 IMPs.  Lucky declarer didn’t guess the line of play to make it, but at the end of the day, glad our teammates did not bid it.

Board 9

 
9
E-W
North
N
Bob
J43
Q10652
K
AK108
 
W
Bruce
102
KJ8
10532
9642
6
E
Dan
Q9765
743
J7
Q73
 
S
Jack
AK8
A9
AQ9864
J5
 

 

Bob
Jack
1
2
2
3
3NT1
4NT2
Pass3
(1) Well, the opponents haven’t been bidding spades, maybe they are 4-4?
(2) I have to try for slam
(3) My spade ‘stopper’ may be less than you hoped for, and my diamonds aren’t so great either

 

Mike
Mark
1
2
2
3
3NT
4NT
61
All Pass
(1) Deciding the diamond support is good enough.

As you can see, again, bidding is the difference.  With the opponents passing and the first 6 bids identical at both tables, I decided I had nothing extra and passed.  Mike decided he had the right cards and ventured into the diamond slam.

Even if diamonds are 3-3, there are still spade/heart losers that must be dealt with, but the power of the club suit deals with both of those losers quite nicely.  Or the J10 could have been doubleton.  When there was a diamond to lose and the Q was offside, no miracle occurred and the slam failed.  Certainly not the worst slam ever bid, but not a contract you want to be in looking at both hands.

Meanwhile, in 3NT, I ducked the spade lead, winning the J.  After cashing the K, I crossed to the A and played diamonds.  Upon winning the 4th round of diamonds, they cashed the K and the rest were mine.  +460 and +50 for 11 IMPs.

Board 17

 
17
None
North
N
Bob
J1065
92
875
AJ102
 
W
Art
Q72
K3
AKQJ103
K4
9
E
Jack
AK93
A10543
92
76
 
S
Cris
84
QJ87
54
Q9853
 

 

Art
Jack
1
2
2
21
3
42
43
4NT4
55
6NT
All Pass
(1) ? make some forcing call
(2) Cue
(3) ? Cue, punt, not sure what is going on
(4) RKCB
(5) 3 assuming spades are trump

 

Dan
Mike
1
2
2
2NT
3NT
4NT
All Pass

Here, the auctions diverged early.  With 2NT forcing to game (due to the prior 2/1 2 bid), Dan decided to rebid a natural 2NT and then after being raised to 3NT, he invited slam with an invitational 4NT and Mike, holding a minimum, declined the invite.  At my table, Art decided to rebid 2 and see where the auction might go.  Eventually they powered into the reasonable slam (6NT), again cold if a key suit (this time spades) broke 3-3 (or J10 doubleton with LHO or Hx doubleton with RHO with a successful restricted choice play).  But, you hope for a few more arrows in the quiver than a 3-3 break.  You have 11 top tricks.

Here, the only other arrow in the quiver (for 12 tricks) is the A onside.  If the A is over your K, you will never see a club lead.  But, had the A been onside, a club might have been led and life is good.  However, without an opening club lead, declarer is left to lead clubs himself – doomed to go down many on this hand as the cards lay if he were to try this.

I led the 9.  That lead seemed safest, to me, although on a different layout it might pickle partner’s Q.  In 6NT, declarer, trying a club up to the K, hoping for the A onside risked going down many, so eventually declarer cashed out winners, hoping for 3-3 spades, led a club up at trick 12, and lost the last 2 tricks.

Of course, looking at all four hands, the slam is cold via leading up to the AK9 twice, finessing against the J10 onside.  Not the percentage way to play the suit, but successful on this layout.

The power of the totally solid diamond suit, provides a source of tricks for 6NT (half way there), but also allows for some successful ruffing without fear of overruff in a diamond contract.  Here 6 is cold with the K protected on opening lead, and the 4-2 heart split allowing hearts to be ruffed good to score the 12th trick without ever leading up to the K.  In fact, you can draw trump first, since you have 3 solid entries to dummy in order to ruff hearts twice and then enjoy the 13th heart.  THOSE are the kinds of extra arrows in the quiver that make for excellent slams.

So, the imaginative 2 bid that allowed declarer to ‘find’ the K (or else 3 aces) turned out quite effective…until 6NT was reached.

At the other table, the 2 opening lead allowed 12 tricks to score, but they were trying to defeat 4NT.  So, our +50 with our teammates +490 scored yet another 11 IMPs. 

Recap Of 5/23/2016 28 Board IMP Individual

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.

Board 6

 
6
E-W
East
N
Nick
643
K97
K874
A107
 
W
Munson
KJ7
AQ85
A96
985
J
E
Dan
AQ1092
J109642
Q5
 
S
Bill
85
J1032
KQJ6432
 

 

W
Munson
N
Nick
E
Dan
S
Bill
Pass
4
Pass
41
Pass2
53
Pass4
Pass
Pass5
(1) Apparently taking out insurance that 4C is not a NAMYATS bid, showing a strong heart preempt
(2) Now, not sure if X shows ‘the majors’ or double shows ‘diamonds’!?!
(3) Liking his hand, a lot, for diamonds
(4) A lot of points, but not sure where tricks might be coming from
(5) Well, kind of late to start bidding now

 

W
Pastor
N
Jerry
E
Chris
S
Mike
Pass
4
Pass
Pass
Dbl1
Pass
Pass2
Pass
(1) If partner bids diamonds, I can correct to hearts
(2) Partner passed initially, I have defensive values and no shape, so…

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 4X 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 4X?  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 4X, 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

Board 11

 
11
None
South
N
Nick
KJ5
K6543
J7
K95
 
W
Chris
Q108
QJ9
K1086
Q102
J
E
Mike
A764
A1087
Q
A763
 
S
Munson
932
2
A95432
J84
 

 

W
Chris
N
Nicke
E
Mike
S
Munson
2
Pass
Pass
Dbl
Pass
2NT
All Pass
 
 

 

W
Jerry
N
Dan
E
Pastor
S
Bill
Pass
Pass
1
Dbl
2
2NT
Pass
3NT
All Pass

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.

Board 14

 
14
None
East
N
Mike
KQ4
832
2
QJ8643
 
W
Dan
109853
KQ9
K53
A7
10
E
Jerry
AJ762
J7
1097
1052
 
S
Munson
A10654
AQJ864
K9
 

 

W
Dan
N
Mike
E
Jerry
S
Munson
Pass
11
1
22
3
43
All Pass4
(1) Intending to reverse
(2) Slightly undervalued
(3) Not expecting the reverse to come at the 4 level
(4) Still, arriving at a good contract that cannot be beaten
W
Pastor
N
Nick
E
Bill
S
Chris
Pass
1
1
Pass
2
3
Pass
4
All Pass
 

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.

Board 15

 
15
N-S
South
N
Mike
K6
K109842
109763
 
W
Dan
9732
53
AKJ42
Q8
Q
E
Jerry
A54
QJ6
Q5
109532
 
S
Munson
QJ108
A7
8
AKJ764
 

 

W
Dan
N
Mike
E
Jerry
S
Munson
1
1
1
21
3
Pass
32
Pass
43
All Pass
 
 
 
(1) Values, wanting to bid something, so raise on Qx
(2) Not the values for 3H, but some shape plus a strong distaste for clubs, maybe we have a better spot in hearts
(3) If you can bid 3H, surely I can bid 4H

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. 

Board 17

 
17
None
North
N
Nick
A9764
6
K4
K10754
 
W
Jerry
K32
J52
Q65
AJ62
9
E
Munson
108
10943
J10732
98
 
S
Pastor
QJ5
AKQ87
A98
Q3
 

 

W
Jerry
N
Nick
E
Munson
S
Pastor
Pass1
Pass
1
Pass
1
Pass
2NT
Pass
32
Pass
33
Pass
44
All Pass
 
(1) Deciding both 1C and 1S present problems, so in initial pass
(2) Checkback
(3) 3 card support
(4) No clear reason to explore slam

 

W
MIke
N
Bill
E
Dan
S
Chris
11
Pass
2
Pass
32
Pass
63
All Pass
 
 
 
(1) 2 quick tricks, ‘rule of 20’, own the boss suit, so open!
(2) Usually showing substantial extra values, here just showing shape, offering another suit
(3) “I can’t think of anything intelligent to do” – how can I not bid slam with controls, fit and 18 HCP??

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.

Board 20

 
20
Both
West
N
Nick
AQ8
96532
6
AJ94
 
W
Jerry
KJ762
Q8
AKQ87
3
3
E
Munson
1053
J104
1053
K865
 
S
Pastor
94
AK7
J942
Q1072
 

 

W
Jerry
N
Nick
E
Munson
S
Pastor
1
Pass
Pass1
1NT2
23
24
25
Pass6
Pass
2NT7
Pass
38
Pass
49
All Pass
 
(1) Perhaps a forcing NT, attempting to shut out the opponents would have been best here…
(2) Balancing NT typically shows 10-14 and does not necessarily show a stopper, but I’m Vul!?
(3) May as well show a second strong suit, and I have a respectable hand
(4) Not much of a suit, but some values, so may as well introduce my 5 card major
(5) No fitting values, no reason to bid, but…I couldn’t help myself
(6) I’ve said my all
(7) Well, I have spade stoppers
(8) I was just kidding partner, but I do hold 3 hearts
(9) Well, if you can support my hearts, then we must belong in game, and we are Vul
W
Mike
N
Bill
E
Dan
S
Chris
1
Pass
Pass
Pass

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?

Board 23

 
23
Both
South
N
Munson
J83
KQ1086
AQ53
Q
 
W
Bill
K1094
J
AK965432
7
E
Mike
52
973
K742
J1087
 
S
Pastor
AQ76
A542
J10986
 

 

W
Bill
N
Munson
E
Mike
S
Pastor
1
21
2
3
42
63
64
Pass
65
All Pass
 
 
 
(1) Gently…
(2) Showing control and a nice raise in hearts
(3) Bid to the max and let them guess
(4) Well, I’m guessing diamonds
(5) “Correcting” to hearts

 

W
Dan
N
Nick
E
Chris
S
Jerry
1
51
52
Pass
63
Dbl4
All Pass
 
 
(1) Get high now
(2) Value bid
(3) Well, if pard can bid 5, I can do no less than…
(4) Lightner, often showing a void in dummy’s first bid suit

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, 6X 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.

Board 24

 
24
None
West
N
Munson
A975
QJ4
K74
K104
 
W
Bill
J4
1085
AQ1032
976
2
E
Mike
K1062
K72
986
Q52
 
S
Pastor
Q83
A963
J5
AJ83
 

 

W
Bill/Dan
N
Munson/Nick
E
Mike/Chris
S
Pastor/Jerr
Pass
1
Pass
1
Pass
1NT1
Pass
3NT2
(1) It is standard for a bid of 1S to promise at least a 4 card club suit.
(2) Seems closer to a 2NT raise, but both tables bid 3NT

 

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.

 

 

Board 25

 
25
E-W
North
N
Chris
AKQ64
97643
62
Q
 
W
Bill
1082
85
10984
J986
3
E
Munson
3
AQJ2
AQJ73
K107
 
S
Jerry
J975
K10
K5
A5432
 

 

W
Bill
N
Chris
E
Munson
S
Jerry
1
Dbl
RDbl
2
Pass
Pass
4
All Pass
 
 
 

 

W
Mike
N
Nick
E
Pastor
S
Dan
Pass
1
Pass
Pass
2
Dbl
2
Pass
Pass
3
Pass
3
All Pass
 
 

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, 2X 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 2X?  As East, would you run if West passes?

Board 26

 
26
Both
East
N
Chris
K83
93
Q763
KQ104
 
W
Bill
J9
KQ87652
94
98
4
E
Munson
Q105
AJ
AKJ8
7652
 
S
Jerry
A7642
104
1052
AJ3
 

 

W
Bill
N
Chris
E
Munson
S
Jerry
1NT
Pass
41
Pass
4
All Pass
(1) xfr to hearts

 

W
Mike
N
Nick
E
Pastor
S
Dan
1NT
Pass
21
Pass
2
Pass
32
All Pass
 
 
(1) xfr to hearts
(2) Invitational

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.

Board 27

 
27
None
South
N
Chris
KJ4
A974
Q7
AQ108
 
W
Bill
109753
65
1085
K95
A
E
Munson
AQ
KQ1082
AKJ9
42
 
S
Jerry
862
J3
6432
J763
 

 

W
Bill
N
Chris
E
Munson
S
Jerry
Pass
Pass
1NT1
Dbl2
All Pass
(1) Who wouldn’t?
(2) Hamilton, penalty

 

W
Mike
N
Nick
E
Pastor
S
Dan
Pass
Pass
1NT
21
All Pass
(1) Diamonds and a major

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.

 

Recap Of 5/18/2016 28 Board IMP Individual

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.

Board 1

 
1
None
North
N
Mike
A8
Q94
J62
K10963
 
W
Bob
Q
J87
AK1098543
7
K
E
Cris
J10953
K10653
Q7
5
 
S
Lew
K7642
A2
AQJ842
 
W
Bob
N
Mike
E
Cris
S
Lew
Pass
Pass
1
5
Pass
Pass
Dbl
Pass
6
All Pass
 

 

W
Dan
N
Mark
E
Bruce
S
JoAnna
Pass
Pass
1
5
Dbl
All Pass
 

 

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.

Board 2

 
2
N-S
East
N
Mike
94
J65
AJ1005
985
 
W
Bob
K732
A1073
Q3
732
2
E
Cris
Q10865
KQ42
K42
J
 
S
Lew
AJ
98
876
AKQ1064
 

 

W
Bob
N
Mike
E
Cris
S
Lew
1
1NT
Dbl
All Pass
 
 

 

W
Dan
N
Mark
E
Bruce
S
JoAnna
1
1NT
2
3
Pass
3NT
41
Dbl
All Pass
 
(1) !

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 4X 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.

Board 3

 
3
E-W
South
N
Mike
KJ4
K1032
AJ1092
5
 
W
Bob
10952
J76
6
QJ982
4
E
Cris
Q876
AQ65
Q
A1074
 
S
Lew
A3
98
K87543
K63
 

 

W
West
N
North
E
East
S
South
Pass
Pass
1
Dbl
RDbl
Pass1
Pass
1
22
Pass
2NT3
Pass
3NT4
All Pass
 
 
 
(1) No great lead director, no certainty of club support, I pass to let partner choose (and play from his side if we declare)
(2) With likely 7 tricks in hand, express interest in 3NT by asking for a heart stopper
(3) Yes, I have a heart stopper
(4) Well, then let’s try game

 

W
Dan
N
Mark
E
Bruce
S
JoAnna
2
Pass
5
Dbl
All Pass

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.  

Board 4

 
4
Both
West
N
Mike
J843
52
Q83
Q765
 
W
Bob
6
KJ83
AKJ95
A103
6
E
Cris
Q1097
A6
642
J984
 
S
Lew
AK52
Q10974
107
K2
 

 

W
Bob
N
Mike
E
Cris
S
Lew
1
Pass
1
2
Pass
Pass
Dbl
All Pass

 

W
Dan
N
Mark
E
Bruce
S
JoAnna
1
Pass
1
Pass
2
All Pass
 
 

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.

Board 5

 
5
N-S
North
N
Mike
9752
9
K4
AKQJ72
 
W
Bruce
K
J87652
J85
543
J
E
JoAnna
AJ1083
K3
A102
986
 
S
Bob
Q64
AQ104
Q9764
10
 

 

W
Bruce
N
Mike
E
JoAnna
S
Bob
1
1
Dbl
Pass
3
Pass
3
Dbl
Pass
Pass
4
Pass
5
All Pass
 

 

W
Mark
N
Cris
E
Dan
S
Lew
1
1
Dbl
Pass
2
All Pass
 

 

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 4if 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.

Board 6

 
6
E-W
East
N
Mike
93
A7632
942
Q102
 
W
Bruce
A62
KQ
Q87
J8653
10
E
JoAnna
KJ84
J54
K1063
AK
 
S
Bob
Q1075
1098
AJ5
974
 

 

W
Bruce/Mark
N
Mike/Cris
E
JoAnna/Dan
S
Bob/Lew
1NT
Pass
3NT
All Pass
 
 

 

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.  

Update to prior post dealing with proper play holding Ax opposite Q109xx

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.

N
 
Q10953
 
S
 
A4

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.

http://www.automaton.gr/tt/en/OddsTbl.htm

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.

KJxxx

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:

N
 
Q10987
 
S
 
A2

While similar, the problems are different.  There are 4 possible lines of play.

  1. A, then small to Q (option 1)
  2. Lead the Q first, letting it ride if not covered (option 2)
  3. A, then small to 10
  4. 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:

KJxxx win 4 tricks

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.

 

 

Recap Of 4/25/2016 28 Board IMP Individual

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.

http://www.bridgecaptain.com/LeadCaptain.html

Board 3

 
3
E-W
South
N
Dan
103
AK2
A72
Q10953
 
W
Mark
Q9
1087643
J85
72
6
E
Bob
K752
Q9643
KJ86
 
S
Mike
AJ864
QJ95
K10
A4
 
Mike
Dan
1NT
3NT
All Pass
 
Art
Bill
1
2
2
2NT
3NT
All Pass

 

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.

Board 6

 
6
E-W
East
N
Bill
Q96
7653
Q5
KQ64
 
W
Bob
A4
AJ92
J1064
1093
A
E
Mike
108753
K8
932
J82
 
S
Chris
KJ2
Q104
AK87
A75
 
Chris/Art
Bill/Jerry
1NT
2
2
2NT
3NT
All Pass

 

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.

Board 7

 
7
Both
South
N
Bill
J43
A43
10832
K32
 
W
Bob
106
985
J5
A109654
2
E
Mike
AK5
KQJ6
KQ9764
 
S
Chris
Q9872
1072
A
QJ87
 
W
Bob
N
Bill
E
Mike
S
Chris
Pass
Pass
Pass
1
1
Pass
2
3
Pass
4
All Pass
 
 

 

W
Dan
N
Jerry
E
Mark
S
Art
Pass
Pass
Pass
1
All Pass

 

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.

Board 15

 
15
N-S
South
N
Art
107
104
QJ764
9742
 
W
Mike
AK92
K765
8
KJ85
J
E
Jerry
854
AJ92
AK52
A3
 
S
Bob
QJ63
Q83
1093
Q106
 
Mike
Jerry
1
1
3
61
(1) Thinking they have sufficient controls and no need to ask…
Dan
Chris
1
1
3
4NT
5
6
All Pass
 

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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:

  1.  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.
  2. 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.

Board 20

 
20
Both
West
N
Bill
876
J85
AKQ974
7
 
W
Jerry
542
A107
J8
AQ962
2
E
Bob
K9
Q642
10632
J83
 
S
Dan
AQJ103
K93
5
K1054
 
W
Jerry
N
Bill
E
Bob
S
Dan
Pass
Pass
Pass
1
Pass
21
Pass
22
Pass
43
All Pass
 
(1) Drury
(2) Decent opening hand, not game forcing
(3) Ruffing values plus source of tricks, take a shot at a red game

 

 

W
Art
N
Chris
E
Mike
S
Mark
Pass
3
All Pass
 

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.

Board 22

 
22
E-W
East
N
Bob
1094
652
K753
1095
 
W
Chris
873
J7
A642
AJ76
A
E
Art
AKJ52
Q104
10
KQ82
 
S
Dan
Q6
AK983
QJ98
43
 
Art
Chris
1
2
All Pass
 

 

Mike
Mark
1
1NT
2
3
4
All Pass

 

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.

Board 25

 
25
E-W
North
N
Mark
8
AK8765
A1064
J10
 
W
Bob
652
Q102
8
97652
8
E
Chris
Q974
J4
KQ93
A43
 
S
Jerry
AKJ103
9
J752
KQ8
 
W
Bob
N
Mark
E
Chris
S
Jerry
1
Dbl
RDbl
2
Pass
Pass
3NT
All Pass
 
 
 

 

Art
N
Bill
E
Dan
S
Mike
1
Dbl
RDbl
Pass
Pass
21
Dbl
2
Pass
Pass
Dbl
All Pass
 
 
 
(1) Picking his better minor

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 2X 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 2X, 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.

Recap Of 4/6/2016 28 Board IMP Individual

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.

Board 6

 
6
E-W
East
N
Bob
K32
AQ8
109
KQ952
 
W
Mike
AQJ1065
76
Q75
J4
2
E
Bill
74
K10943
AKJ4
A3
 
S
Mark
98
J52
8632
10876
 
W
Mike
N
Bob
E
Bill
S
Mark
1
Pass
1
Pass
2
Pass
2
Pass
3
Pass
4
All Pass
 
 
W
Gary
N
Manfred
E
Ed
S
Bruce
1
Pass
1
Pass
2
Pass
2
All Pass
 
 

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.

Board 7

 
7
Both
South
N
Bob
532
Q8
Q82
Q9863
 
W
Mike
96
105
107543
AJ72
9
E
Bill
K1074
76
AKJ6
K54
 
S
Mark
AQJ8
AKJ9432
9
10
 
W
Mike
N
Bob
E
Bill
S
Mark
1
Pass
1NT
Dbl
4
All Pass
 
 
 
W
Gary
N
Manfred
E
Ed
S
Bruce
1
Pass
1NT
Dbl
4
4NT
Pass
5
5
All Pass
 
 
 

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.  

Board 10

 
10
Both
East
N
Ed
9754
32
J1097
KQ2
 
W
Bob
AQJ3
K9
AK8
AJ85
J
E
Mike
K2
AJ10874
Q62
96
 
S
Bruce
1086
Q65
543
10743
 
W
Bob
N
Ed
E
Mike
S
Bruce
2
Pass
2NT1
Pass
32
Pass
6NT
All Pass
 
 
(1) Ojust
(2) Good hand, bad suit
W
Bill
N
Manfred
E
Mark
S
Gary
2
Pass
2NT1
Pass
32
Pass
43
All Pass
 
 
(1) Ogust
(2) Good hand, good suit
(3) Intended as kickback/ace asking for hearts as trump, interpreted as ‘to play’

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.  

Board 14

 
14
None
East
N
Mark
A54
J8642
4
KQ85
 
W
Ed
87632
KJ9865
76
Q
E
Bob
KJ10
K10953
A1073
2
 
S
Gary
Q9
AQ7
Q2
AJ10943
 
W
Ed
N
Mark
E
Bob
S
Gary
1
1NT
21
Dbl2
23
34
35
56
57
Dbl8
All Pass
 
 
 
(1) Modified Hamilton showing either 1 suited diamonds or a major/minor 2-suited hand
(2) Stayman?!?
(3) I don’t know what partner has, but I don’t want to play 2CX, and I do have diamonds, so…
(4) Showing his true colors
(5) Confirming diamonds (still don’t know about spades)
(6) Figures to be a pretty useful dummy in clubs
(7) I don’t know who can make what, but I’m taking out insurance
(8) I don’t think they can make it
W
Mike
N
Manfred
E
Bruce 
S
Bill
1
1NT
Pass
3NT
All Pass
 

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.

Board 16

 
16
E-W
West
N
Mark
A1062
K3
J10
J8643
 
W
Ed
Q54
AJ10864
AQ6
7
A
E
Bob
J8
52
K874
AKQ105
 
S
Gary
K973
Q97
9532
92
 
W
Ed
N
Mark
E
Bob
S
Gary
1
Pass
2
Pass
2
Pass
3
Pass
3
Pass
4
All Pass
W
Mike
N
Manfred
E
Bruce 
S
Bill
1
Pass
2
Pass
2
Pass
2NT
Pass
3NT
All Pass
 
 

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.

Board 18

 
18
N-S
East
N
Manfred
AK74
9762
86
1042
 
W
Bob
32
AKJ8
QJ1053
98
Q
E
Gary
10
Q1054
A72
KQJ73
 
S
Mike
QJ9865
3
K94
A65
 
W
Bob
N
Manfred
E
Gary
S
Mike
1
1
Dbl
2
4
All Pass
W
Mark
N
Bruce
E
Ed
S
Bill
1
1
Dbl
3
Pass
Pass
Dbl
Pass
4
4
All Pass
 
 
 

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, 4can 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.

Board 20

 
20
Both
West
N
Manfred
J986
Q6
QJ63
Q105
 
W
Bob
K105
A1095
K54
AJ8
8
E
Gary
AQ4
K7432
A1087
6
 
S
Mike
732
J8
92
K97432
 
Bob
Gary
1NT
21
22
33
44
45
46
47
58
69
610
Pass11
(1) Jacoby Transfer
(2) I had never played with Gary, so I didn’t know if 3H at this point showed extras or, as I usually play, just 4 pieces and not a maximum 1NT bid
(3) Showing doubt about strain, game forcing but certainly not necessarily slam invitational
(4) Now things started to go off the rails. I liked my ‘all prime’ hand, so I wanted to show ‘slam interest’ immediately. However, Gary interpreted my failure to bid 3H indicated that I specifically had slam interest in diamonds.
(5) Nothing else special to say
(6) In my mind, clarifying my 4C bid, in Gary’s mind cue bid Ax of hearts for slam in diamonds.
(7) In my mind, Kickback key card for hearts per other discussions earlier in the day. In Gary’s mind, cue bid for diamond slam.
(8) In my mind, 2 key cards without the Q (for hearts). In Gary’s mind, giving up on slam.
(9) But, Gary doesn’t give up on slam. He’s there for me.
(10) Finally converting to our real trump suit.
(11) Totally confused, but no where to go.

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:

Mark
Ed
1NT
2
2
3
4
4
5
5
Pass
 

Board 26

 
26
Both
East
N
Bill
AK102
Q10876
5
AK4
 
W
Gary
J76
A952
10843
86
8
E
Bruce
94
J42
72
J109532
 
S
Bob
Q853
K
AKQJ96
Q7
 
Bob
Bill
1
1
1
21
32
33
44
4NT5
56
57
Pass8
(1) Playing XYZ, 2C would be a relay to diamonds with various hands, but 2D is a game forcing bid
(2) Shows real diamonds, lack of club stopper, lack of 3 card heart support
(3) Sets spades as trump showing at least mild slam interest. Otherwise he would just bid 4S over 1S.
(4) Confirms neither first nor second round club control, but I do have diamonds controlled, a lot!
(5) RKCB
(6) 3014 showing 1 key card
(7) nervous about 2 heart losers
(8) Can’t go on
Ed
Manfred
1
1
1
21
32
33
3NT4
55
Pass6
(1) 4th suit game force
(2) Extras with strong diamonds – about what he has!
(3) Sets trump
(4) Offering a partial club stopper
(5) Wanting to invite slam, but not knowing how
(6) Wanting to bid slam, but not knowing what partner needs

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.