Bob Munson

Recap of 3/30/2020 21 board IMP individual on BBO

With face to face bridge on hiatus for as far out as we can see, I have set up a number of BBO games online.  Recently I have blogged on google blogspot, but I’m trying WordPress/bridgeblogging again because of extra features available here that are not available with google (for instance the actual BBO movie, not a link or a screen shot of it).  We play 7 rounds, 3 board per round, with random partners, BBO is not really set up to do an individual movement where everyone is your partner for one and only one round.  Today, there 5 double digit swings where bidding judgment drove the varied results, but some interesting declarer play problems arose as well.  There were 3 slam swings.  See how you would have fared.



At our table, after North tried the save in 4, North bid 5 which ended the auction.  With 11 of the most straightforward tricks imaginable (8 top trump and 3 aces), North claimed after the heart lead.  He could have tried spades (and luckily made 12 tricks), but it didn’t matter.  At the other table, it mattered a lot when they bid the club slam.  How good is that slam?  Since there are 11 top tricks, it seems like there would be various options for a squeeze, but the spots are so bad, it is hard to construct any chance of making it except for the layout that actually occurred.  The slam has zero play on a diamond lead (well, really close to zero – if the opening lead was a singleton diamond plus KQ in the slot, there would still be 12 tricks – not possible on the bidding).  After a heart lead, there is a 25% play for slam (actually MUCH less than 25%, since East has very limited values on the bidding making it highly unlikely they hold both of those cards).  But this time they do have the KQ and if declarer leads spades (after the heart opening lead) he will find 12 tricks).  When the K was led against the slam, you are close to 100% to make the slam – play for the opening leader to have both spade honors and 12 tricks are there with the losing diamond discarded on dummy’s high spade.  So we were -600 vs. +1390 to win 13 IMPs.

At the table I thought, with some good guessing, declarer could get 10 tricks in hearts via discarding a spade on a diamond and then ruffing 2 spades in dummy, but double dummy analysis says the limit when playing in hearts is 9 tricks.  Still, 6X down 3 only pays out 500 points.  But, far better to beat the slam if you can find the right lead rather than take a save.  Unless West inserts a diamond lead directing bid on their way to 4 (4 bid – good bid on this hand!), I don’t think it is possible to find a diamond lead vs. 6.  A lucky favorable swing for our team.



On this hand, the bidding was the same at both tables through the first 2 rounds of bidding.  At the other table, 1NT ended the bidding, but I decided that my top spades and minor suit texture warranted a raise to 2NT.  Partner, with a near maximum, advanced to the game.  There are only 8 tricks after a non-heart lead, but the opening heart lead provided declarer with their 9th trick.

As this deal was constructed, due to the lucky J10 falling, declarer ‘only’ needed the 9 instead of the 8 to have a heart stopper and still score 9 tricks on any lead.  But, since he didn’t have that card, the defense has the A and 4 easy heart tricks after a non-heart lead.  We were +600 while our teammates were -150 to win 10 IMPs – another lucky favorable swing.  At the other table defending against 1NT, the defense did start cashing hearts after winning the A, but rather than set up declarer’s 5th heart, the A wasn’t cashed and declarer had the rest of the tricks.




Wow, radically different bidding here, starting with the opening bid.  As you know, I consider most 5 card suits worth a point, so I also would have opened 2NT.

Anyway, at my table, West started with 1 and when 3 was passed around, he balanced with 3NT.  Although 10 tricks are possible, it mostly involves double dummy play and declarer survived with 9 tricks to score their vulnerable game. 

At the other table, after West opened 2NT, North competed with 3 and East transferred into spades, dutifully bid by West.  But, North wasn’t done.  They bid a (very) unusual NT suggesting that diamonds might be an alternative place to play (besides the clubs that they had already shown).  East  doubled to suggest defense might be preferable to declaring – defending is preferable, since fairly normal defense will result in +800 vs. 4X.  However, West elected to bid 4 to show their spade support.  On the lead of the J, double dummy,12 tricks are there for the taking if West made some inferences from the bidding and the lead.  It would seem the lead is a singleton (otherwise, why not lead one of their suits) and that they can trump a heart, so they are not void of spades.  But, the bidding and lead sound more like 1=1=5=6 than 1=1=4=7, so the line of play that gathers in 12 tricks on this actual deal may be a much worse (double dummy) line of play against a 1=1=5=6 North hand.  With such limited assets, how do you score 12 tricks?  Win the Q, then (knowing North showed diamonds, lead a diamond to the Q, then a spade, covering whatever South plays.  If you lead small and play the 7 and North holds a singleton J or K, there won’t be 12 tricks, but they will be endplayed into leading clubs or diamonds for you).  Next a diamond to the A (only works if diamonds are 4-2, not if they are 5-1), and then a heart finesse (again, assuming North is 1=1 in the majors).  Then cash the A (pitching a club from dummy) and ruff a heart.  Take another spade finesse.  You have 8 tricks in at this point.  Ruff your last heart, club to A and ruff a club.  You have scored 11 tricks and you still have the trump A remaining.  South will ruff North’s good diamond at trick 12 or 13.  The bidding (and lead) suggests that North is 1=1=5=6 and this line only works for 1=1=4=7.  If you had a wire that North was 1=1=4=7, I think this is actually not double dummy play.  You desperately need dummy entries to take major suit finesses.  South has the majors.  North has the minors.

Anyway, it was interesting, to me, that 12 tricks were possible on this deal.  With less double dummy play, the trick count drops to 11 or 10…or even 9.  Declarer, on the actual play of the hand, won the Q and played A and 7, South winning the J and, strangely, not cashing the K but led a club instead.  If they had cashed the K, drawing declarer’s last trump, they still can’t beat it.  Now, to make the hand, West must win the A and return the Q, forcing North to either lead diamonds or provide a ruff/sluff.  West did win the A, but continued with diamonds and, even with double dummy play, 9 tricks was the limit from there on out.  This was certainly an awkward/difficult hand to play with the bidding indicating some extreme distributional dangers.  Sometimes, in those situations, it is better to sit back and defend rather than put yourself through the torture of declarer play.  Even if you slip some tricks on defense, you are going plus.  But, the lure of the vulnerable game vs. possibly paltry points for defense against non-vulnerable opponents got E-W into the spade game that failed.  We were -600 and our teammates -100, lose 12 IMPs.




There is a maxim in bridge – support with support – and it usually works pretty well.  At the other table, opener heard a response of 2, noticed their 4 card club support and raised clubs.  I’m not sure of the best auction to get to the grand, but soon they were cue bidding their way to the small slam in clubs and scored the 13 obvious tricks – ruffing the last diamond good for 2+1+4+6.

At my table, opener rebid 2, so I showed my spades which, potentially could be artificial (4th suit), asking for a spade stopper.  Now partner supported clubs.  I thought 9 tricks would be easier than 11, so I bid 3NT with my balanced minimum misfit hand.  Partner raised to 4NT. 

Now what?  What is partner’s shape.  Since he failed to bid 2NT over my 2, I would say he doesn’t have a spade stopper.  Is he 2=4=4=3?  2=4=5=2?  1=4=5=3?  My 2 forced him to chose something.  Rebidding hearts would show 5=6 in the red suits.  Rebidding diamonds would show a 5 suit.  He chose to support clubs over 2 by bidding 3.  I was surprised at this development (raise of 3NT to 4NT) in the auction, but still had a balanced minimum misfit, in context, and could not imagine how 12 tricks could be scored, let alone a cold grand slam.  So, I passed, looking for 10 tricks.  On the spade lead, it was straightforward to score 2+1+4+5 for 12 tricks.  We were +690 while our teammates were -1390 to lose 12 IMPs.  On a heart lead, as the cards lie, the only route to 12 tricks is to start diamonds by leading to the 9.  Had we been in the inferior 6NT, I don’t know what North would lead, but if he leads a heart I’m going down.

How might the bidding go here?  I think, in spite of the spade singleton being the K, the East hand is so powerful that a jump to 3 showing club support and a singleton spade is indicated.  Now, it would be impossible to miss slam, since my A covers the singleton and my spade losers can be ruffed in dummy (and, partner, in general has a strong slam positive hand indicated by the splinter jump).  In context, I also have a slam positive hand – I have good trumps, the fitting K, the A and small spades to be ruffed.  Certainly there is a heart problem – I can find out about that, but my hand is also slam positive.  How do you think the bidding should go?  Here is one possible auction:

(1) 4 cards club support, short spades
(2) Minorwood, checking key cards
(3) 0-3 key cards
(4) Do you have any kings? 4H (next step) would ask for the trump Q, the next step (4S) confirms all key cards and asks for kings
(5) Yes, I have the spade K
(6) Partner does not have the heart K, so I must find the diamond Q in dummy or be able to ruff diamonds good to pitch my heart for 13 tricks. Bid 6C or 7C?




Here is yet another 2nd seat, vulnerable vs. not preempt.  How can you not bid clubs?  Both tables preempted clubs – 4 by me, 3 at the other table.  I suppose there are some exceptions, but I have always thought that the 2 level was for 6 card suits, the 3 level for 7 card suits and the 4 level for 8 card suits (yes, I make some exceptions).   On this deal, double dummy, I could get out for -500, but I was probably going down 3 had the opponents decided to punish 4X.  But, with that hand, no North player is going to defend 4, so I was safe this time.  What should North bid over clubs?  The other table was able to jump to 4, showing a potentially wide ranging hand, but sufficient extra values that South felt that they could ask aces, advise partner that N-S were in possession of all key cards and North, with an incredible playing hand, jumped to the grand slam.  At my table, a jump to 4 was not available, so what bid can North make to show the red suits?  I don’t know of a bid.  Clearly 4 is a big underbid and partner is a passed hand.  But, jumping to 5 or 6 could turn a plus score into a minus.  I mentioned that 4 after 3 shows a wide range of hands, but 4 over 4 shows an even much wider range of hands.  South is quite happy with their support and figures partner will make it, but I think, for South to move beyond 4 assuming that North holds a monster would be wishful thinking.  South just doesn’t know.  Sometimes preempts work (which causes me to do it sometimes when I shouldn’t!).

In the play, North pitched the Q on the opening club lead, drew all trump ending in dummy and floated the 10 (he is only in 4).  When that won, they easily had the rest of the tricks.

The play was a bit more complicated in the grand slam.  Rather than pitch the Q on the A at trick 1, declarer chose to ruff in hand.  Now 13 tricks were in great jeopardy.  If, at any time later in the hand, declarer leads a club from dummy without drawing trump, they will be down.  If they lead a spade from dummy to finesse, they will be down.  They need to establish diamonds, draw trump, and discard the Q on the A … in some order.  That Q needed to be discarded on the A at trick 1.  But it wasn’t.  In a perfect world, declarer would like to ruff all 3 potential diamond losers in dummy.  But, without looking at the opponents cards, he doesn’t know who might have diamond shortness and who has the J for an overruff to defeat the contract.  He found out who had the J when he cashed the K at trick 2 and West showed out.  At this point, there is no way to make the hand except to find diamonds 4-3 with the Q only 3 long (or cross to dummy and finesse for the Q).  Declarer must return to their hand if they are to accomplish two diamond ruffs.  As I mentioned earlier, getting off dummy in a black suit would spell defeat – even a spade to the A (as an entry to get another diamond ruff) would require a later attempt to discard the Q on the A, hoping that clubs were 7-2, not the actual 8-1.  If you draw trump, you have exactly 1 diamond ruff available.  Declarer decided to play A, K and ruff a diamond.  When the Q did drop on the 3rd round, declarer was home.  He was able to draw trump ending in dummy, finally obtain the discard of the Q on the A, after which his hand was all good red cards.  Wow!

Had Q the dropped doubleton, 2 ruffs would be needed in dummy, but it would not be possible to get them – there is no way back to hand.  Should declarer start trying to ruff diamonds immediately?  I’m not certain, but I’m, pretty sure not.  If West, who is distributional, happens to have a singleton J, drawing 1 round of trump allows 3 diamond ruffs in dummy, where playing diamonds early exposes you to a diamond overruff.  Actually, had declarer discarded the Q on the A at trick 1 and found the singleton J, he is completely cold for 13 tricks if the A is not ruffed – he can ruff all 3 losing diamonds in dummy, crossing to hand with club ruffs (since his hearts are all high – he doesn’t have to worry about any overruffs).

How good is this grand?  Of course a ruff at trick 1 always defeats a grand slam, so there is that danger – greater danger after a preempt, but “no (Lightner) double, no trouble.”  If you play a trump at trick 2 and both follow low (52% of the trump splits), the J is still outstanding.  It seems you must extract the J rather than risk an overruff.  If you do complete drawing trump, you can only ruff 2 diamonds, successful on all 4-3 splits regardless of where the Q is (as well as singleton or doubleton Q) – about 72% of the 2-1 trump splits, J not singleton.  As noted, when there is a singleton J (26%), the slam is pretty much always making with no ruff at trick 1.  When trump are 3-0 (22% of the time), as long as you took care of discarding the Q on the A at trick 1, you can still get your 2 diamond ruffs in dummy (ruffing the 2nd diamond with the A if West was the one holding 3 trumps, then finesse to finish drawing trumps).  Of course, when North bid the grand slam, he didn’t know partner’s diamonds.  With 3-4 small diamonds in dummy, the prospects of 13 tricks (in the context of the preempt) drop in a really big way.  However, once the bidding starts at a high level after a preempt, there is no way of locating the singleton diamond that I know of (which improves the grand a lot).

Summing up, if I’ve got it right:

  1. 52% (when trumps are Jx-x) of 72%
  2. 26% (when trumps are J-xx) of 99+% (assume spades are not 7-0 and diamonds are not 7-0)
  3. And 22% (when trumps are 3-0 either way) of 72% 
  4. That is more than 79%, if I’ve got it right – a very good grand

As declarer played it (he didn’t know that a black suit lead off dummy spelled doom), he was only getting 1 diamond ruff.  I’m not sure how the preempt affects the odds, but looking at the diamond suit alone, playing for Qxx in either hand is 26.6%, while finessing, playing West for Qxx or Qxxx, is  31%, so it is slightly better to finesse (the line of play taken in 4).  I think declarer was actually hoping for 7-2 clubs so that he could still get 2 diamond ruffs if the Q failed to fall in 3 rounds.  When it did fall, he had 13 tricks for +1510 and we were -510, win 14 IMPs.


Mike SchneiderApril 1st, 2020 at 4:31 am

3 clubs does suggest a 7 card suit, and at unfavorable Vul might include the king of spades. Assuming 7-2 spade division, declarer might handle 4-3 diamonds with the spade finesse wrong or 5-2 diamonds with the spade finesse right. Or so I thought when considering the deal at trick one.

bruce tuttleApril 1st, 2020 at 8:17 am

Board 19 can still reach grand after 4C. : too strong to overcall 4H, so N overcall 5C showing a huge two suiter. partner, recognizing slam potential bids 6C. N bids 6D and S corrects to 6H. N then places pd with hearts, likely the A, and more ( SK or CA), and takes a shot at 7.

bobmunsonApril 1st, 2020 at 12:07 pm

@Mike – Thanks. I now better understand your thinking. Don’t commit at trick 1 leaving flexibility for your choice of discard – a spade if diamonds behave, a diamond if diamonds fail to establish. That provides another arrow in your quiver for hands when trump are 2-1 and clubs 7-2. The plan proposed in the blog is almost 80%. Using the same 3 trump divisions (1- Jx-x 52%; 2- xx-J 26%; and 3 – 3-0 22%) – By my calculations, you gain in case 1: draw trump, learn diamonds don’t ruff good, pitch a diamond on club A, take spade finesse. Instead of 52% of 72%, you get 52% of 79%. But, in case 2, your plan can’t benefit to get the nearly 100% of 26% line. And case 3 (the one that actually was there on this deal also decreases…a lot). We can exchange some emails if you’d like to discuss further. This could be a long discussion! It is always in declarer’s interest to add arrows to the quiver and here you are doing that with your choice of play. For the most likely case: trump Jx-x at 52%, you added another chance via the deferred discard. But, when that was not the actual trump split, your line of play seems to fall quite short of 80%.

bobmunsonApril 1st, 2020 at 12:28 pm

@Bruce – clearly North would like to keep 2 suits in play on Board 19. I’m not sure I would know 5C means (any) ‘2 suits’ but let’s say I do. But, the South hand is passed, the East hand has not yet bid. Switch the East hand with the South hand (just to examine anther deal, not the actual deal). What would East bid over 5C? Probably 5D. But, actually, the South hand (now sitting East) probably bid 6C first before South has a chance to respond to 5C. Now what? With the revised deal (East/South hands switched): 6D down via heart ruff, 6H makes via diamond finesse (but would you). Probably end up collecting +200-500 vs. 6C but I don’t know where the auction goes. With North having a decided preference for hearts vs. diamonds, perhaps leave the diamond suit on the shelf and bid 6H over 4C. South could certainly raise THAT to 7H! But both East and South can hold a huge variety of hands on any given deal, so I don’t know what a ‘best’ bid is. Can submit to The Bridge World for Master Solvers.

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