Thursday, December 31, 2009

A Defensive Problem

Playing IMPS, you hold 4 Q93 Q74 AQT865 with no one Vul in first seat. You decide to open 3C and this goes P P to your RHO who bids 3N, ending the auction.

You decide to lead your singleton Spade and this dummy appears, Q975 J874 K65 J2. Declarer plays the 5 on the first Spade and captures your partners 8 with the 10. Declarer then plays the 3 of Clubs towards dummy, your play.

What is declarer doing, you are looking at stoppers in both red suits, so where are the tricks coming from. Does he really only need 1 Club trick for 9 tricks, or what is he doing.

I think there are 3 main options here, and still not sure what is the best. Option #1 involves ducking this completely, and hoping your partner can get in to lead a (hopeful) 2nd Club through declarers supposed K. Option #2 involves clearing the Club suit with Q, A, and another, and hoping you can win a trick with a red suit Q to set this (if declarer needs another trick and you can survive the Spade discards), and option #3 involves winning this trick with the Q and playing on a red suit.

I have some sympathy with option #3, but that means something strange is going on. Even if we give declarer 5 Spade tricks, an outside AK in a red suit leads to only 8 winners. And if declarer has the other red A, then he has 9 winners in that case and will likely not go down. For that reason, I also think option #1 is out. Once you duck the Club and the J holds, any competent declarer is going to have to go out of his way to allow your partner to win a trick now, really unlikely. And even if you win a Red Q and the A of Clubs, you are essentially back to option #3.

For that reason, as bad as it might prove to be, I like option #2 on the hand. Declarer may guess you to have 1 of the red Q’s on this hand for the play, but may not guess you have both, and may not have anything they can do about it anyways. The biggest option is what discards you are going to have to make on the Spades that are coming next. I am not sure I have an answer for that, will have to depend on what partner signals, but I think it is the least of all evils. And who knows, a nice declarer might not run the Spades before trying to guess what red Q to play you for on the hand. Not perfect, but not sure there is a perfect answer on this hand.

On the actual hand, the person defending with this hand did choose option #3, winning the Q of Clubs and switching to the Q of Diamonds. This was not a success, since Declarer held AKT3 A62 AJ8 K73. On the Spade lead, declarer had 7 tricks, and the Club gave 8, so instead of trying to make an early guess on a red suit to play, started by trying to set up a Club trick (and cutting communications) and got a bonus when the Q of Diamonds came back. This was now 9 easy tricks, on a hand that any other defense would probably beat. The hand was beat in 3N at the other table, for a double digit swing.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Where are we Going?

Had a very interesting hand today in our weekly team game. With no one vul, you pick up a nice hand in 3rd seat K AKJ5 AQ86 AK83 and open 2C after 2 passes to you. This now goes 3S on your left, and 2 more passes back to you. We had briefly discussed that the pass over the interference showed some valus and nothing to bid. So now what?

I had a few choices, but I finally decided that 3N was not one of them. So that left Double, 4C, and the wild 4S. I think double is the most flexible, since you can play in any suit partner bids, but it does not get the strength of your hand across. And I think your hand is strong, since partner should now have a 4 card fit with you, you have a lot of playing strength. So for that reason, I decided to bid 4S, and get most of my hand off my chest.

Partner now bid 4N over that. I assumed this was not to play, or at least I hoped not, but if not, what was it, more values, or 2 places to play. I finally decided that it should be 2 places to play, so I bid 5C. Partner now bid 5D over this. At this point, my hand got better, if partner has Diamonds and Hearts and a few values, my hand is very good. any time partner is 3442, or 2452, with as little as Q of Hearts and K of Diamonds, slam should have some play. So wanting to find out if we were on the same wavelength here, since this had kinda never come up before, I raised to 6D. The opening lead was the 8 of Spades, and the A and Q of Spades were played by my LHO. Partner ruffed this on board, cashed the A of Diamonds, and went into the tank when the 9 appeared from the 3S bidder. His hand was xxx Q9xx KJ8x xx. He finally decided he probably could not make it if his RHO had 2 singletons, so played a low Diamond back to his hand, and his RHO contributed the 10, making the contract a simple claim.

I am not as sure about the problem if RHO has 2 red singletons, since there are some squeeze chances, but it is probably right. On the other hand, it was nice to see that 6H has serious problems on the 4-1 Heart break with the 10 behind the Q9xx. I am not sure that 6H can make since you have to ruff the Spades high. It turns out that 6D can only make since partner has the nice J of Diamonds.

I am not sure how this hand should go after 3S, but it is always tough after the opps pre-empt at a high level. I am glad that we got to this, at the other table they stopped in 5H after the Spade hand only bid 2S.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

BBO at it's Best (?)

Playing in a pick up team game on BBO with the host, she picked up this hand Q3 AK764 QJT5 76 All Vul and heard the auction P by her, 1D on her left, Double by pard, P back to her. Now at this time, I think there are a few things available. I personally like 4H with this hand, anytime pard has anything resembling a double, this should have play. But I guess you can test the waters with 2H or something. I kinda think 2D is dangerous, since if partner bids Spades somewhere, you will have a tough time showing your hand.

But almost anything showing a good hand here will work. What really does not work is 1H with this hand. At the table, it now went all pass, and when dummy comes down, guess what, you are claimers for 4H on this hand. Partners hand is KT7 Q853 76 AK85. This is supposed to take another call after making a TO double and hearing partner only bid 1H, sorry, not today.

Anyways, when the hand showed, the host immediately typed in a long series of ?????, perhaps asking about her bid, but I assume asking why I passed. Perhaps because if I really bid 2H on this hand and it ever now goes double on my left, it is going to be bloody. I was then ejected from the game by the host, since I obviously did not know how to play. This is not the first time I have run into this from some US players, I can only guess that the TO doubles have become so bad, that you do not dare bid more than 1H on those hands, and expect partner to do something again with a real TO double. And you write off those occasional -1100's to plain bad luck when the doubler bids again and someone doubles.

So I put another bit of wording beside someone else's name and will politely refrain from playing in a game that person is involved in. And try to get some sanity back into the bidding world :)

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Danger, Will Robinson :)

Had a hand on BBO with a pickup partner last night, that I am not sure how you are supposed to handle it, other than hopefully to survive. We did not.

Vul vs Not in first seat, you pick up AQJ542 95 4 AK85 and open 1S. You are playing SAYC and partner bids 2H, which is not GF, but standard. This now goes 3D on your right, and you bid 3S, 4D on your left, P P back to you. You do have a fairly good hand, with shortness in the opponents suit, but partner not bidding 4S here is a bit of a problem, since it means you should not get 3 card support.

It looks like the options are double, 4H, 4S, and Pass. I do not think Pass is a valid option at IMPS, so you can discard that. Double might be right, but you do not have a lot of defense and are you going to get this more than 1 down, if you even beat it. So would rule that out as well, leaving a tough choice between 4H and 4S. Since you have already rebid your 6 card suit, which is not that solid, I think 4H has to be right here, and let partner decide. Anytime he has 2 decent Spades, you will probably get returned to 4S, and with good Hearts, partner will leave it in 4H.

Now for the surviving part, this is not your hand. The idea on this hand is to get out with the least damage, since this is a true nightmare hand. Here is the full hand, in all it’s gory details.

In either major, the taps start right away, and with 5 good cards behind each major, there are a bunch of losers. I had the Heart hand, and decided to bid 2H over 1S, even though slightly under strength, but what else are you supposed to bid, playing SAYC, and not having the agreement that 1S-3H shows this kind of hand (A very good thing to play, in my opinion, since these hands are designed to give you nightmares, and this one in particular). Anyways, at our table, the N hand decided that he should show his Spades again, and this went double behind him, and a Diamond was led and returned. This now got messy, and when the smoke had cleared, we were –800. I think 4H is always destined for down 1, perhaps down 2, but reading the position will allow you to do better, and taking the first Diamond tap in the short Heart hand really helps.

At this point, my partner started in on me for the 2H bid, since that was obviously the source of our disaster, according to him. I did not think I needed to get into the discussion about what constitutes a suit you can bid, and then rebid freely at the 3 and 4 level with no support, since it was obviously irrelevant to the discussion. But I should give some cudo’s to our opps for laying the trap for us. The 3D and 4D bids were well judged, and the opps did not make any mistakes once we had wandered into the danger zone.

Just as an FYI, at the other table, my hand also started the same way, with 2H, but the opps did not find the 3D bid. So N now rebid 3C, and over 3H, bid 4H, which got doubled. This did go down 2, but that is only 500, vs our 800.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Weekly Imps, Back at it

Had a pair of back to back interesting hands yesterday at the Weekly IMPS League. On the first, you hold AK764 KT3 5 AQ84 All Vul and hear partner open a 12-14 HCP NT in 2nd seat. You transfer to Spades and partner accepts with 2 Spades, which has many negative connotations, no 4th Spade from partner (Weak or Strong), no 3 card holdings with good hands. So this is simple, you bid 3C, which we play as a 1 round force, possibly game forcing as well. Partner now bids 3D, saying he likes 1 of your suits, and setting up a full game force. So you bid 3H, and partner now jumps to 4S. Now what?

At the time, I thought partner had a minimum or near minimum 3 card Spade holding with help in Clubs on the hand, hence the jump to 4S. I would need a minimum of xxx AJx Axx Kxx to have any play for slam (it is now on a Heart guess), but even with that minimum, would partner jump to 4S with all primes? I finally decided that partner had too much room to do something between 3H and 4S, especially 3S, if he had anything that would work towards slam, so decided to pass. That was the wrong decision, as partner actually had xxx Axx AKxxx Kx and slam was a claim when Spades went 3-2. Turns out partner was worried that 2N over 2H would promise a Spade honour or 2 (something I disagree with, would rather know partner has a good 3 card raise with a max, this hand, then honours). And then over 3H, was worried that 3S might not be forcing, which I disagree with since 2 cue-bids can not now stop below game. And even if it was non-forcing, 4 of a red-suit would have gotten us there.

At the other table, they had a variant of the same problem to also miss this slam. After a 12-14 HCP NT as well, my hand bid 2D (GF Stayman, not playing transfers) and his partner bid 3D. This now went 3S by my hand and 4S by his partner. Talking to the person that bid 4S after, I said she should have cue-bid 1 or the other of the red suits, since at this point, that must indicate a good hand for Spades. Again, not knowing how good the fit really was, my hand passed for a push board.

On the next hand, you pick up a nice collection with None Vul. AK42 5 AKT73 AKT. This gets even better when partner opens 1S in front of you. I was really tempted here to actually just bid 7S, like c’mon, how often to you really get the possibility of that auction? I actually bid 4N, since there is little I can learn on this hand by bidding 2D first. Partner showed 1 KC with 5C, and I bid 5D asking about the Spade Q. Partner now bid 5H showing the Q of Spades and the K of Hearts, so no Club loser, now what.

At the table, I fell asleep here and made a non-bid, 5N, knowing what partner had to bid over that before he bid 6S, since I am looking at every other card missing. I eventually now hoped for something other than 3 small Diamonds from partner and raised to 7, but I had put myself to a guess for no reason. I really think, after the fact of course, that 6D here has to be taken correctly. I do not think you can want to play in Diamonds on this kind of auction, so it should be asking for 3rd round Diamond control. Partner was nice and had Qx, so this is not a problem hand. But it would be a nice one to stay out of when partner has xxx, even though there are still chances as long as partner is not 3 small in each of the minors.

At the other table, it went 1S-2D and then after KC BW, my hand decided to be pessimistic and settled in 6S, also not thinking of the 6D bid. Although in his case, there would be a lot more ambiguity now, since after 2D, 6D actually could be a place to play.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Pre-Empting Partners

Had an interesting discussion hand come up during last nights weekly IMPS League team game. You hold AJTx xx AKx Kxxx with none vul. You are not playing Namyats, and partner opens 4H in 1st seat. Do you bid, and if so, what?

The first question is, how good should partners hand be to bid 4H, and what range/type of hand can he have. With equal vul, partner should have in the neighborhood of 7 ½ (Maybe 7 in some cases) - 8 ½ tricks, without too much high card outside Hearts. You have 3 tricks, plus 2 - ½ tricks, so can state you have 3 ¾ - 4 tricks for part, plus 2 card Heart support. So if partner has the high end of trick count, with good Hearts, you want to be in slam, if partner is on the low end, you want to pass.

That sort of answers the question, you want to invite slam, but want to ensure partner has the good hand to get there. I think that sorta brings the answer to the question, I think the probable best answer is to raise to 5H. This should ask partner to go on with a solid Heart suit and not too bad a hand. Since you expect to be off the A of Clubs, you do not want partner bidding again with bad Hearts. The only problem with this, is how often will you be too high in 5H? This would happen any time partner has 2 Heart losers and the A of Clubs, or 1 Heart loser and 2 Club losers. So when is the risk worth the gain.

Partner is in 1st seat, so should not have a terrible pre-empt. And even if partner did it on some kind of shape hand like 7-5 with a minor, you have good cards for either minor, so should have some hope. So all in all, I would probably go the aggressive road and raise to 5H.

On this hand, that gets an easy 6H, which is always cold, and makes 7 on a Spade lead. So the next question is, is this hand too strong for a 1st seat 4H call? The opposite hand was K9x AKxxxxxx x x. There is very little defense, 8 ½ tricks, and a good suit, so the major question is, is the hand too good to open 4H when NOT playing Namyats, since there is a chance of missing a slam, as happened. The actual hand passed 4H, and the discussion afterwards was whether the hand should bid, and whether the other hand should open 4H or not. I think it is a close call either way for both hands, but the 4H hand knows they do not want to defend any contract, so wants to make if as difficult as possible for the opps to get into this auction, the definition of a pre-empt.

And this is why I do feel that Namyats, despite all the bad press it gets, is actually a useful convention. It is nice to know when partner has a good pre-empt, vs one of those other, ‘Putrid’, things that you never open :)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

What Constitutes a 2/1 GF Hand?

Back on BBO, was playing in a pick up Team Game when this hand came up for the opps. All Vul, you pick up 73 T7 A KQT97653. The auction goes 1H by partner, pass on your right. I know you only have 9HCP, but c’mon, look at the hand, this hand is worth a lot of tricks in Clubs, and the 1H opener rather than 1D has improved the hand. I would bid 2C and then 3C or even 4C with this hand.

At 1 table, this hand bid 1N forcing (uugh!) and heard partner bid 3D, which went double on his right. Now he has got himself into a position where some people might never mention their 8 card suit, but at least he got over that and bid 4C. His partner raised this to 5C, and now he had another problem, how much can he make? He finally passed, and wound up making 7 when partner put down Axx AKJxx J9xx A. 6 was pretty much always cold on anything other than a Spade lead, tough to find after the double of 3D. And on this hand, everything was cold since the Q of Hearts was 3rd onside. Looked like losing a slam swing on the board.

Except for the weird happenings at our table. After 1 Heart, P, this hand decided to bid 4C (!) at our table, what most people think of as a Splinter. His partner now Cue Bid 4S and he bid 4N, seemingly confirming the Splinter. The 1H opener now bid 5D and he attempted to sign off in 5H (!). This got raised to 6H and on the opening Diamond lead, was not the expected dummy. This quickly went down 2, when dummy got tapped in Diamonds so declarer could not take the Heart hook, and 12 IMPS went the wrong way on the board.

This hand get so simple if you just start bidding your suit, either 2C followed by 3C or 2C followed by 4C, which I prefer. Either way, partner with lots if A’s and a source of tricks, will have a chance to place this in a decent contract.

Monday, November 16, 2009

CNTC Unit Final Part 2

The only potential slam hand that came up during the CNTC Unit final was as follows. You are not vul and pick up KT762 A73 864 K4. Partner opens 1D in first seat and you bid 1S, the opps are silent throughout. Partner now bids 4C (Splinter), up to you?

The main question is do you have enough to cooperate towards a slam with the wasted K of Clubs or not. At our table, this hand decided the 5th Spade and A was enough to make 1 try, and bid 4H. Partner now Key Carded with 4N, and settled into 6S, which then got doubled by your RHO. The opening lead was the K of Diamonds, and partner laid down AQJ4 KQJ5 AQ93 6. It looks like the A of Diamonds is going to get biffed here, but with nothing better to do, you play it. Strangely, it holds, and when you play Spades, they are 2-2. You quickly claim, and RHO explains he looked at the auction wrong, and thought the opening bid was 1C, not 1D, hence the double.

At the other table, this hand decided that there was a little too much wastage opposite the shortness, and bid 4S, hoping partner could act again. This ended the auction, and resulted in a 12 IMP swing.

Diamonds are Sue's Best Friend

Playing in the unit CNTC finals, a couple of interesting problems came up this past weekend. On the first, All Vul, you hold this hand in 2nd seat. AK8 --- KJ42 AQ9752 and open 1C after a pass on your right. This goes 2C (standard Michaels) on your left, P by partner, 2H on your right. You come back in with 3C and it goes 3H on your left, P-P back to you. You are playing with an aggressive partner, so you know she does not have any 8 count, or any kind of decent Club support, and you know Hearts are not friendly, so the big question is, do you disturb this contract, and if so, with what.

First question is, can they have any play for 4H if you do take another call, your LHO should be showing a decent hand, either distribution, high card, or both, and your partner is limited. You do have the 6th Club and the Heart void going for you, but what are you going to do if they bid 4H, sit it or bid another time? At the table, this person passed 3H, and it made for -140. The problem was, they can make 5D as partner had xx Kxx Axxxxx xx, and in their methods, could not bid 2D over 2C. This cost 12 IMPS when our partners got to 5D making at the other table.

But even that was due to a bit of luck and a convention I do not personally like, Klinger. The auction at the other table went 1C – 2D (Klinger, showing the majors) and the Diamond hand doubled, showing Diamonds and some values. Now it was easy for them to get to 5D. That is my basic problem with Klinger, you show some 2 suiters by bidding 1 of the suits the opps will have to play in. You can never keep them out of openers suit, or NT, but Klinger makes it easier in some auctions for them to show marginal hands with the other suit they can play in by doubling, as was the case here.

The counter to that argument though, is if the auction goes 1C-2C Michaels, you have 3 bids available. If you play a variant of the Unusual vs Unusual over Michaels, the normal treatment then is 2D is 6-10 or so, 2H is a limit+ in openers suit, and 2S is 11+ in Diamonds, the other suit. So this hand still could have got in, playing something like that.

Next hand, you hold Jxx Jxxxx 10xx x NV vs Vul and hear it go 1D by partner, 1S on your right. You decide to pass, and it goes 2D on your left (good Spade raise), P by partner, 4S on your right. You pass and this ends the auction. You lead the stiff Club and table hits with K9x K Q98 QTxxxx. Partner wins the A of Clubs while declarer drops the J, cashes the K of Diamonds, and leads a small Club back for you to ruff. However when you return a 2nd Diamond, declarer ruffs, draws trump, and claims making 4. Looks like you missed the 2nd ruff until partner explains he only had 2 Clubs, they had a 10 card fit, and Partner did not have the Heart A.

Normal, expect at the other table, opener doubled the 2D bid, showing good Diamonds, so this hand decided to sack in 5D and your RHO bid 1 more to 5S. On the same defense, this went down 1, for another 12 IMP pickup. 5D would have gone for -500, so trying for 5S converted losing 4 IMPS into 12.

Last hand in this batch, All Vul you hold Ax Ax AQxxxx Kxx and hear it go P 1H to you. The hand is fairly good, so you decide to start with a Double, even if Spades can get you in trouble. This goes 2H on your left, 2N (Minors) by partner (nice partner!), 3H on your right. That is too bad, as it would have been nice to bid 3H with your hand, so what now.

This hand now bid 4D, assuming it was forcing after the double, except that it went all pass. The opening lead was a Heart, and dummy put down xxx x Kxxx Axxxx. It takes a Spade lead to beat 6 on the hand. The discussion was mainly what is forcing after 3H? How do you compete, or can you? At the other table, they got to 5D for the final 12 Imps from Diamonds.

The bridge in the final was a little inconsistent, with 10 game swings occurring in 28 boards (plus 2 more potential game swings), not counting all the part score swings. A lot of this was the boards were tough, with decisions having to be made in competition at the 5 level on several, but a few too many were mis-defense or questionable decision making both ways.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

How to Get Lucky and Survive in the KO's

Playing in the first round of the KO's, we were in a round robin of 5 teams looking to eliminate 1. So we of course started off the first half of the round robin with a loss and a tie against the first 2 teams, placing ourselves in the position of needing a win in the 2nd half against the other 2 teams.

Playing the first set, you pick up AK82 AQT5 873 A4 if first seat Vul vs Not, and decide to slightly violate system by opening 1C (playing a weak NT system). This goes 2C (Michaels) on your left, and 3D by partner. You play unusual vs unusual style bids, so 2S would have shown a forcing hand in Diamonds, but also play fit jumps in competitive situations, so this should qualify as that. It now goes 3H freely on your right (!), which you double, P on your left, and 4D by partner. You finally decide to take a hopeful plus and bid 5D. The opening lead is a small Spade and partner holds x x AQJTxxx QTxx, giving you chances for a slam on a Diamond hook. After winning the Spade,partner takes the Diamond hook, which loses, and eventually gives up a Club on the hand, when there are no squeezes. The K of Hearts was onside, the 2C bid was on Jxxxx in each major. So it looks like the winning play for the Diamond slam is almost impossible to find, 3 rounds of Spades ruffing, Heart hook, cash the A, ruff a Heart, A and out a Diamond, endplaying LHO in Clubs. So you are happy that the slight underbidding that kept you out of the slam worked.

At the other table, this hand opened a strong NT, and with no opposition bidding, they got to 6D on a Spade lead to the Q and A. Declarer could not work out the complete hand, so took a Diamond hook at trick 2 losing to the K, and another Spade came back. Declarer won that, ruffed the 8 of Spades, keeping the 2 hidden, hooked the Heart, cashed the A, and ruffed a Heart, then ran all the Diamonds. The opps signalled wrong on the hand, and declarer took the last 2 tricks with the A of Clubs and 2 of Spades for our side.

Turns out we thought we had won the other match at our table, and probably lost this one due to our opps staying out of the slam. Wrong, we lost the match we thought we could win, and won this match to advance to the next round. This got us jump started, although we eventually lost in the final on a close match.

The hand that decided the match we thought we had won you hold KJTxxx Ax --- JTxxx Not Vul vs Vul. The auction goes 3D on your left, Double by partner, 5D on your right, what do you call?

At our table, this hand bid 6S, and when there is no Club ruff on the go, and partner lays down AQxx Kxxxx --- KQxx, it is not hard to make it. (The ruff and sluff on the opening lead does not give anything away, and since Clubs were 2-2, there was no way to beat it) At the other table, our partner with that hand finally decided to bid only 5S, and thought it was good on the Club lead, until no ruff emerged. We had won small pickups on several other boards, and the opps had missed a hard to get to but making slam at our table, but when our partners missed both the slams, our small pickups could not handle that 1 hand.

That is a problem with these short matches in this kind of format, 1 bad thing happens and you only have 5 boards to recover, do 1 bad thing in more than 1 match, and it gets interesting :)

Another Sectional Hand

Will give the hand that decided the last match in the sectional, we did not win, far from it, but this hand went a long way towards deciding the winners as we were playing the 2nd place team that had a shot at the win. (They had run out of other teams for them to play I guess :) )

You hold a pretty nice hand as dealer with no one vul, AKx --- AJ98xx AQxx and open 1D. The opps are silent throughout and partner bids 1H. I do not like jumping with a void in partners suit, but I can not conceive of a way of bidding this hand later if I do not, and it is a nice picture bid, so I jumped to 3C. Partner now bid the expected 3H and I bid 3S, not sure if 3N is not better, but I may not have any tricks on a Spade lead if I do, so wait and see again. Partner now bids 4D, and the question is, how strong is that? I am working under the assumption in this auction that we are in a GF auction now, with my bidding, so if partner had a truly bad hand, 3N and 5D were available, so in theory, 4D should show values. I do not play regular with today's partner, so there are no really solid agreements in place, but I trust him and that is the general nature of how we treat hands and have talked about. But I do have a lot of losers on this hand, so for better or worse, I decided to under bid for once and bid 5D. I really believe the correct bid here is 4S, showing the second Spade card and letting partner make the decision, since I have shown my hand at that point, but did not bid it, sigh :)

The opening lead is a small Spade and partner puts down a very good dummy, xx AQxxxx KTx xx, oops, that will teach me to mastermind on a hand. Anyways, I still have a potential lot of losers, lets hope they will materialize, since the pair at the other table are quite agressive and can be expected to be in the slam. So I won the AK of Spades, ruffed a Spade, all following, if the carding can be believed, probably 4-4 in Spades, and led a Club to the Q and K. A Heart now came back, so I won the A, pitching a Club, cashed the K of Diamonds, played a Club to the A and ruffed a Club. Now ruffed a Heart back to hand and cashed the A of Diamonds, and luck was in today, the Q did not appear as RHO pitched another Heart. So I wound up making 5D exactly, hoping they did bit the slam, since as nothing was working, it appears you must always lose 2 tricks.

Except a funny thing happened at the other table, on the same start of 1D-1H, the person with my hand elected to next bid 2C only, and his partner now bid 3H. Not sure what I would have done over that, but the 4H bid at the table should have play on high card alone, but the bad Hearts in partners hand meant there were 4 losers in Hearts, so we did win 13 Imps, the hard way. I have a lot of sympathy for the 3H bid, since by not using 4th suit forcing, it implies a hand very like what he had. It shows the problem of not bidding 3C though, since you are now caught on the hand. If partner has all values in Hearts, and a little better suit, 4H becomes an excellent contract. But on this hand, you lose the chance at what was actually not a bad slam in Diamonds, with only 1 real problem, it doesn't make.

Not sure what the correct or best sequence is, but it is a good hand to talk about with your regular partner, where would you get to and would you be happy with the result.

Monday, November 9, 2009

3 Hands to Drive you to Drink

Playing in the Swiss Teams at our local sectional over the weekend, we had 3 back to back hands in 1 match that produced interesting results, even if they were somewhat unfair to our team. But if you make errors, no matter why, it is nice to see them punished.

First hand, you pick up --- Txxx AK8xx AKxx in first seat and open 1D. This goes 1H on your left, 1S by partner, 2H on your right. I really thought 3C was going to get me into trouble on this hand, since partner will likely bid 3S leaving me with no real valid options, so I passed. This went P to partner who bid 3H. I bid 3N over this and partner now jumped to 5D. So thinking about this, I assumed partner had something like 5-5 in the pointeds, with 0-1 Heart, leaving 2-3 Clubs in hand. Since this meant the hand was fitting like a glove, I decided to push 1 more and bid 6D. This went P-P-Double on my right, oops, oh well. The opening lead was the Q of Clubs and partner put down AK876 x Q9xxx xx, a REAL nice version of what I expected, but the double was a real worry now. I played low on the Club, and RHO followed with a small non-descript Club while I won the A. First test was the Diamonds, since if both followed to the first 1, I can claim, but LHO pitched a small Club as expected on the Diamond.

I now figured I had 2 main options for trick 12, try to set up Spades on board, or try to do the cross ruff that I had intended when I bid 6D. The problem was that RHO was a VERY good player, who did not double on 3 Diamonds and the fact his partner had bid, there were other pitfalls waiting for me on this hand, I had just not discovered them yet. The fact the Club survived the first round is a bit of a surprise and not surprise, since was LHO 7-5 or 7-6? I decided to see if could combine some chances (probably stupid) and led a Heart at trick 2. LHO played a fairly high Heart, but RHO won and played the J of Diamonds, which I allowed to run to the Q while LHO pitched another Club. I now cashed the AK of Spades, pitching a Heart and a Club, while LHO followed with the 10 and the J? LHO was also a good defender, and they would not be doing me any favours in the Spades, so what was the JT, were they real or not. I now had 2 options to try to set up Spades, run the 8, or ruff another, hoping for 4-4 Spades, which was looking less and less likely, unless they were trying to get me, also a possibility. Not being able to decide, I finally went back to plan 2, and led a Club off board, Since this now got ruffed, the hand could always be set after the Club lead on my line, if LHO was left on lead. So this was a version of the Grosvenor that I was supposed to get right, sigh. Anyways, RHO held Q9xxxx Axx JTx x, to make the hand, I had to cash 3 Diamonds ending on board, cash the AK of Spades, then run the 8. And LHO had also participated by not bidding 2N over 1D with 5 Hearts and 6 Clubs. At the other table, the opps bid 3N after our partner bid 2N with the W hand, and he found the Club lead, not the Heart, so 3N actually made, instead of going down 1, lose 11 Imps.

Next hand, RHO picks up Qx AKT AKT8xx AK and hears it go P by pard, 1S on his right, double by him, P on left, 2C by pard, 3S on right. He doubled again and pard bid 3N, ending the auction. The opening lead was the J of Spades, and pard held Kxx xxx x QJTxxx. 6C looks like a pretty nice contract, and 3N has many worries, but declarer won the Q of Spades on board, cashed the AK of Clubs in case the opps screwed up, unlikely when LHO pitched a Spade on the second Club, then cashed the AK of Diamonds, LHO dropping the Q on the second round. By force he led another Diamond, and was able to claim 9 tricks when RHO won the 9 of Diamonds but did not have a 2nd Spade to return. This still looked like it should be a loss, but at the other table the strong hand doubled the 1S opener as well, and after 2C by pard, 2S on his right, leaped to 5D. This had no play at all, and another 11 Imps out the window.

Third hand, W picked up AKxx Axx AKQTx A and in true Canadian fashion opened 1D in first seat with the 2 suiter. This went 1H on his left and 1S (!) by partner. Losing patience early in this hand, he bid 4N and got the expected (!) 5C response from partner. Problem is that he now lost track of the auction, and bid 5D, intending it to ask for the Q of Spades. The problem is that when 5D and 5H are available for this kind of ask, and 5D is a possible place to play the hand (4N could be asking about Spades when you intended to play in Diamonds), the ask should be 5H. As I said before, E was a good player, decided this was what it should be, and passed 5D. And since N was endplayed on the opening lead, 5D also happened to make when E held QJTxx Qx xxx xxx and N held 4 Diamonds to the J. At the other table, our partners got to the 7S contract, but made a small error in the play, ruffing the 3rd Club with a low Spade, allowing N to overruff and beat 7S 1 trick, losing another 11 IMPS.

So in 3 hands, we managed to lose 30+ Imps when the opps played in the sub-optimal contract 3 times, instead of winning 30+.

The only thing you can say to that is Sigh :)

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Innovative Ways to GO Down in a Contract

Playing teams on BBO last night, I watched an opp give me a gift on a hand that up till that time they had done perfectly on, and all because he got what I consider a simple suit combination wrong.

The eventual declarer held Kxx Ax AQxx T98x and had this auction.

Him Pard
1D 2C
3C 3S
3N 4D
4H 6D

The opening lead was a small spade and partner put this hand down Ax Kxx KJxx AQxx. He won the K of Spades in hand, cashed 3 rounds of Diamonds (they were 3-2) ending on board, cashed the A of Clubs, came to the A of Hearts, and led the 10 of Clubs, LHO playing small (of course!). He had now given himself a problem, what card to play from board. He eventually played small, and lost to the J on his right, LHO later got the K of Clubs for down 1.

After a little thought, he apologized to his partner for not taking the double Club hook as happened at the other table. He did get unlucky to get this Club holding and to get a defender who played low on the K of Clubs smoothly, and the line is not totally unreasonable. Any Club honour shows up early and he has no guess. But these are the kinds of hands where you have to get them, if not right, at least take the highest percentage play.

Monday, November 2, 2009

The Novice

Playing on BBO last night, I got invited to a team match with a random partner and opps. First hand, my LHO held this hand, Vul vs Not, AQ2 AKJT763 7 Q3, opened 1H in first seat and heard his partner bid 1S. I think this is a good hand at this point, as the 1S call has improved it, but not to the point that this person thought it had. He now bid 4D, showing a singleton Diamond and a GF hand. I think I might have bid 3H, hoping partner can scrape up another call, have to admit this particular call would not have occurred to me.

Anyways, his partner signed off in 4S, but apparently being concerned his partner had not caught the brilliance of his first bid, he now went 4N and heard his partner bid 5C (0/3). He finally decided he might be high enough, and bid 5S, which went pass all around. The opening lead was a Diamond, and the opps cashed the A of Diamonds, and the AK of Clubs off the top. Since his partner only had Kxxx x Kxxx xxxx, with the Heart Q offside and Spades not breaking 3-3, he had to go down another 2 tricks.

As the hand ended, this person announced that he was dropping out of the game due to his partner being a ‘Novice’. I have played against his partner a few times, and feel he is one of the better players on BBO, but at least we had lost 1 novice from the table :)

Incidentally, the contract at the other table was a simple 4H, which was allowed to make, even with the 3 top losers and slow Heart loser. That declarer seemed to think that he needed 4 Spades in his hand to force a Spade contract after the same 1H-1S start to the auction, what a ‘Novice’ idea :)

Friday, October 23, 2009

Tale of 2 Slams

Had a couple of tough slam hands at the weekly IMPS game this week. On the first, you hold KQ752 AKQ4 AK98 void in 3rd seat with no one vul. It starts with P – P to you, and the first decision is what do you open. I am a firm believer in 2 suiters should almost never be opened 2C, since you will almost always have difficulty describing the hand, especially major/minor 2 suiters. But what about 3 suiters and especially this strong of 1. If you open 1S and over anyone else’s bid, jump to 3H (or reverse if jump to 3D), 1 of the red suits is almost certain to be lost, and it is hard to justify only bidding 2H/2D at your second turn on this hand. So better or worse, I decided to show strength first with 2C. This went 2H by partner (negative), 2S by me, and 3D by partner. The 3D bid intrigued me, since it should be natural, but I decided to see what partner would say over 3H first, and got a 4S bid from partner. This seems to indicate partner has a bad hand with a bunch of Diamonds, probably 2 Spades since did not get an immediate Spade raise, and less than 4 Hearts. So since we have no more than 1 quick loser in the majors, and a 9-10 card fit in Diamonds (if I read pard correctly), I bid what I wanted to play in, 6D.

Pard had about a perfect hand, 109 7 Q76532 8753, and even with the 3-0 Diamonds split, was able to make 6D on the hand, when Spades went 4-3. At the other table, 1S was passed all around and the hand made 3. Still not sure what is the best auction, but I like our result of +920 better than the +140 at the other table.

The next hand was A98 QT74 J AK963, NV vs VUL. Partner opened 2N in 1st seat (20-21/22) and it went pass on my right. 3C was puppet stayman and partner bid 3N, no 4 or 5 card major. I now made a very lazy bid, I bid 6C, figuring since partner had 7+ cards in the minors, I should get some support. Partner put down the proper hand for lazy bids like this, KQ6 AK2 AKQT7 74. Since Clubs were not 3-3, I had found the only slam that managed to have 0 play.

As I said later, there is no rush on this hand, if I just bid 4C over 3N, I will find out if partner has support or not. If he does, I continue on to 6C as before, but if he does not, and bids 4N as here, then I can raise that to 6N and play in a reasonable contract. When not sure of the strain and/or level, involve partner in the discussion, got to always remember that. Here I ‘Assumed’ I knew the strain and level, when there was a possibility I was wrong, and I had a method of finding out. And it is good to see lazy bids punished on occasion, it is the only thing that teaches you lessons. If partner put down a 4333 hand I would have been overjoyed at my brilliance, and gone away happy. Probably would not stop and think about what could have gone wrong, since I obviously did not at the time.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Hand Analysis Fun

A few months ago, I did a hand analysis for a local game to see how it would work. Generated 32 hands, looked at them and did an analysis page for each, then worked with a local club to set up a game and see how it went. Everyone seemed to have fun and enjoy the analysis, and the people responsible for the newcomers at the games thanked me and said the newcomers enjoyed it.

So I decided to do it again and it will run this weekend. It is actually fun, to try and guess what is going to happen on a board for the various times it is played. What will be a common score, what pitfalls are in the hand, and perhaps what funny things can happen. If you get a chance, I do recommend it for your local games, it does add something different to the event and helps out new players. Besides, your ego can take the hit when an expert comes up and tells you what they did different to destroy your analysis :)

Will post next week how far off I was in some of the boards once the game is complete.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Ya Gotta be Flexible

Had a hand a couple of days ago that has bugged me since then, mainly because I mostly got the hand right, but when the crucial moment came, I did not change my original game plan to accomodate the extra chance I got, and thus turned a potential large swing my way into a small loss.

Playing IMPS, I picked up K32 KQ765 Q6 A54, ALL VUL and heard it go Pass, Pass to me. We play weak NT's and though I usually do not like to open 1N with a decent 5 card major, I decided to break my own rule and do it this time, primarily due to the values outside and the flatness of the hand. This went Double on my left (mainly penalties), Pass by partner (forcing a redouble if RHO passes, either to play or starting a 1 suited run-out) and Pass on my right. This is why I do not like to open 1N on these hands, I now have a guess coming, where is it right to play this hand. Anyways, right or wrong, I decided that since I broke rules once by opening 1N, let's go all out and I now bid 2H, rather than redouble like I was asked. Decided that 1N redoubled might be a silly place to play this, and if partner bid a suit that got doubled, A I had set him up to play a hand in what might be a silly place, and B I would not know if Hearts or his suit would be correct. At least this way, all partner had to do was watch me butcher the hand, not get beat up himself :)

This now went Double on my left (unsure what that was, had my own ideas), all Pass. The opening lead was the A of Diamonds (Even number, usually with the K) and this dummy hit. T65 JT8 J985 K86, probably better than I deserved. I played low on the Diamond, a discouraging Diamond came from RHO, and LHO shifted to a small Club, small, Q, A by me. So what is going on, LHO has to have almost everything left on the hand, so I have to assume that the double of 2H was TO and RHO converted it. Since this is largely unexplored, I did not ask the opps since I was not sure I would get a decent answer, and I might alert them to each other's problems by asking. (Maybe I should ask more, but some of the answers tend to stop me asking questions) So if RHO made a penalty pass with almost no values, I can tentatively assign hm 4-5 hearts and likely not much more than the Q of Clubs and 1 of the missing Spade honours, probably not the A. That leaves LHO with something like AQxx - AKTx JTxxx or something close to that, not what I want to see as this hand may not play too well.

Anyways, make sure the carnage is not too large, I exited with the Q of Diamonds to the K on my left, won the J of Clubs return with the K, and cashed the J of Diamonds pitching my loosing Club as all followed. Now I started a strip play (always good practice) by ruffing the Club to my hand, both following (there goes hand type 1, RHO had 3 Clubs, so what is going on) and decided to exit a Heart. LHO won the A of Hearts and now played the 10 of Diamonds, RHO pitching a Space.

My original plan had been to strip the minors, pull 2 trumps, and try to end play LHO in Spades, assuming he had short Hearts and the AQJ of Spades, a little far-fetched, but at least it got me to 8 tricks on this hand. The problem now was that did not make a lot of sense. Would RHO have really passed with 3433 and only the Q of Clubs?

The point of this whole hand came now. I was so stuck to my original plan that I didn't ping to the fact that I had actually succeeded in end-playing LHO. I ruffed the Diamond, played a Heart to Board on which LHO pitched a Spade as expected, and played a Spade, but RHO put up an intermediate Spade, and I wound up loosing the 3 Spade tricks for down 1. Flexibility and making the hand was simple, pitch a small Spade on the 10 of Diamonds, and LHO is forced into leading away from the A of Spades or giving me a ruff and sluff, same difference. That was just a very sloppy play that wound up sitting in the back of my head for a couple of days now until I wrote this. And those are the kind of hands that just haunt you, where you had done most things right, and were on the verge of a triumph, before falling into the mud on your face at the crucial moment.

I guess last point is the pass of 2H doubled. I do think that is too close when playing IMPS. Rho turned out to have Jxx 9xxx xxx Qxx. You are not beating this hand a lot, and 2S is not going to get doubled on this hand, especially after 2H. And if I had woken up in time, this hand is not that hard to make with any kind of reasonable technique. It turns out that LHO is going to be in a lot of trouble on this hand if you make any kind of attempt at keeping RHO off lead. But when you let the opponents off the hook with bad plays like I made here, you never learn lessons, either way.

Addendum: Thinking again about the hand I realized that on the actual defence I could have and think I should have, made it, RHO had the opportunity for a very nice defensive play that gives me no chance to make it. If RHO ruffs the 10 of Diamonds when it is played rather than pitching a Spade, I have no counter. Over ruffing lands me where I was on the actual hand when I ruffed it, and pitching a Spade allows RHO to return a Spade for the 2 Spade tricks required to beat me.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Are you not supposed to be Aggressive Playing Board a Match?

Playing BAM with a pickup partner last night, had a couple of hands that just confused me. BAM is MP's on steroids, you do everything for that ultimate score, and +200 on defence is the ultimate. So these hands really confused me.

First hand, you pick up KT A64 QJ2 QT984 Vul vs Not, and hear it go 1C (Roman, 11-15 unbalanced or 16+) on your right. You decide to pass, not something I personally like, always strive to bid over a 2 way 1C opener, they have no clue what is happening yet. It now goes 1D neg on your left, 2H by partner, 3S on your right. I am not sure what is going on here, but you have an opening bid and support, I think you have to make some move. It turns out any move by you will work, double and 3S goes down 3, 4H makes, anything. But passing is 1 way to lose the board. Partner had Q982 KQJ83 A973 void. A good 2H bid, but partner is a passed hand and came into a live auction Vul vs Not. You lose the board when they doubled 3S at the other table and only beat it 2 tricks, but +300 beats +150.

Second hand, you hold A32 JT5 85 KQT98 NV vs Vul and pass in first seat. It goes 1D (can be short) on your left, pass, 1H Neg on your right. You now bid 2C (I like that bid) and it goes P, P, 2D on your right. This goes to partner who doubles it, P back to you, now what? What does partner have, he passed 1D, passed your 2C, and now doubled 2D. I think that has to be penalty, since partner could have bid 3C if wanted to play there. But this hand bid 3C which went double on his left, ending the auction. This dummy came down KJ96 K643 KQ96 5, about what partner should probably have. The opening lead is the 5 of Spades, J, Q, A. It now goes 5 Diamonds, 2, Q, 4. Then 5 of Clubs, 4, 8, 2. Declarer plays the Q of Clubs, 3, 3 Hearts, J Clubs. So it looks like Clubs are 5521 around the table, probably not good. Declarer now played 9 Clubs, 6 6 Diamonds, 4 of Spades, confirming the Clubs. I think he should now play a Diamond, but instead played the 2 of Spades and was overjoyed to see this get ruffed with the 7 of Clubs. It now went 3 Diamonds to the K, 7, 8 (?), so declarer played the K of spades from dummy, ruffed by the A of Clubs. Back came the A of Diamonds in this comedy of errors, which RHO followed to and declarer ruffed with the 10 of Clubs. The position is now the 9 Spades and K64 of Hearts on board and the K Clubs and JT5 of Hearts in hand, and declarer has lost 2 tricks. So declarer now played the J of Hearts out of hand and when LHO played low, let it ride(?), playing the opener for a full 9 or 10 count. This got punished as it should, win the Q on his right, 10 of Spades ruffed with last trump while LHO pitched a Heart, and claim down 1 for the defence with the A of Hearts and J of Diamonds. 2D doubled was down several, and on this defence, 3C was going to make, instead we lost the board again.

Last 1 you hold A6 AJ JT864 K982 and hear it go P, P, 1H (4 card major) by RHO. You decide to overcall 2D and this goes P, 2S by partner, P on your right. To me this looks like a good place to play this, but you decide to show a real hand and now bid 2N :) Partner raises this to 3N and it goes all pass. The opening lead is the 7 of Hearts which goes 5, 10, J. You play a Diamond to the Q and it surprisingly goes A on your right. RHO now returns the 3 of Clubs (?). You are missing 16 points on this hand, and LHO never took a call. You need 1 Club trick to go with the other tricks to get to 9, so I believe the correct play here is the K, assuming RHO has a real opener, since LHO looks to have some Hearts and did not raise. You also do now want LHO to switch back to Hearts, since you have gotten a reprieve. If you rise on the K of Clubs, it holds, and with the Spade hook on, 3N makes in an ugly fashion. Declarer actually played low, LHO won the Q, switched back to a Heart to clear that suit. Now declarer ran all the Diamonds, cashed A and out a Spade, and watched the opps claim down 2 for another lost board.

The only hand we won was another error by this hand on another tough declarer play problem. You hold A6 void K872 AKQJ982, all vul and open 1C in first seat. This goes pass, 1H by partner, pass on your right, so you decide to bid 2D to set up a force. This goes 2H by partner, so you end the auction with 3N. The opening lead is the 2 of Spades and this dummy tracks. T954 AQ843 JT9 4. You decide to play low from dummy (agree, put max pressure on the opps to make the correct play, playing low on these holdings works an amazing amount of the time) and RHO plays the K of Spades, which you win with the A. Personally, I think a second Spade is now the correct play, since playing Clubs will squeeze dummy. But the declarer here led a low Diamond from his hand, setting up what looked like 4 tricks for the defence. But not to be outdone, LHO won the A of Diamonds (?), another strange looking play by this person, and switched to the 2 of Hearts, yet 1 more strange play. So declarer won the A pitching a Spade, and remembering that he was playing BAM, played the J of Diamonds with his unexpected board entry and let it ride, LHO showing out. Another Diamond and it was easy to wrap up 12 tricks for an easy win on the board when the declarer at the other table did not find that play.

All in all it was a tough day, since admittedly, the hands were very tough and all players were being aggresive. But I believe it was yet another example of not paying attention to the opponents bids and plays and reconstructing their hands while declaring the hand.

Just wanted to add after that I think I was too negative with this post. I really was impressed with how GOOD the other players on the other team played. I think it was our team not playing that well and not thinking clear. I would not want to play those guys too often with a regular group that I play with.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

What to Bid

Playing IMPS in a practice match, you pick up Ax Ax xxx AKJTxx Vul vs Not and hear it go 2H* on your left, P P to you. 2H is a weak 2 suiter with Hearts and another unknown 5 card suit.

I think the main options on this hand are Double, 3C, and 2 or 3NT. I could not bid 4C since that was leaping Michaels and would show a strong 2 suiter in Spades and Clubs. The first 2 bids I rejected since Double I just thought would get me into trouble in Spades. If partner bid any number of Spades, I would have to bypass 3N to bid Clubs, or decide if I was going to bid over 4S, knowing my hand is going to be a disappointment to partner. And 3C would be passed out on many hands where I could make game. The Clubs missing rated to be on me right, since I assumed that the second suit for the 2H bidder was most likely Spades or Diamonds. 2C might very well be right, and probably would be if we were best suited for 5 or even 6 Clubs, but that is about the only time it would be right, and a lot of hands where we can make 5C are going to be passed out in 3C.

This left the 2N and 3N choices. I had a source of tricks and stoppers in 2/3 of the remaining suits, including the primary known suit, so lots of upside on the hand. But the 3 little Diamonds are a large worry, since it was just as likely for the 2H opener to have either of those 2 suits. If Spades, I had little worry, since partner would rate to have Diamonds now. If it was Diamonds, I might not have a stopper in that suit at all. The big questions is what does justice to your hand. You are worth 7 1/2 playing tricks, the A of Diamonds or a stopper and 1 other card will give you at least some play for 9 tricks. So does 2N cover it, or do you have to bid 3N?

The plus for 2N is that partner can show a suit over it, but will you be able to judge where to play the hand when it goes 2H P P 2N P 3S P ?, you have essentially delayed your decision between 3N and 4C for 1 round. The big advantage here is that bidding 4C after 2N describes your hand, it just takes you past 3N :)

The plus for 3N is it makes for a blind lead that may allow you to make a hand you are not entitled to. The down side, it may be a hopeless wrong contract.

At the table I finally decided on 3N. Partner put down not the hoped for dummy with KJxxx KQx x xxxx after the opening Diamond lead. The opps quickly cashed 5 Diamonds winners and exited a Heart. This looked pretty bleak since it appeared 6C was odds on (not sure how you get there) whereas 3N was down 1 on the opening lead. Except when a Club was led from dummy, RHO showed out, LHO was 0553, meaning 6C had 2 losers. Of course this also meant I was down 1 more trick, but that was mostly OK. I thought the only makeable contract was now 5C, kind of hard to get to.

Turns out the other table got to 4S, and made it. Not sure how that worked, and did not ask. Seems like there are only 8, maybe 9 tricks there, with the foul splits. But that is a discussion for another day. And I still think I would bid 3N given another chance, although that 2N-4C auction would sure work well on this hand :)

Thursday, September 24, 2009

High Level Shenanigans

Playing IMPS at the local club game, you pick up K75 KQ K82 A9842 with all vulnerable. Partner open 1S, you bid 2C GF, and partner now jumps to 4D, supposedly a splinter in support of Clubs, which RHO doubles.

Since you do note really have any first round controls, even though your hand is awfully good, you pass to see what partner will do here. Partner bids 4H and RHO passes, what now?

At the table, the person holding this hand bid 4N, Key Card in Clubs, over which partner bid 7C (a lot) and RHO now wandered in with 7D. This was doubled, although pass seems like a very workable alternative with all the stuff in the majors, and when dummy put down xxxx xx Qxxx xxx, declarer went for 1400 with his x xxxxx AJxxxx x hand to pick up 2 Imps when they played in 6S at the other table.

The discussion after centered around how to get to 7S in an intelligent manner on this auction once the opps decide to save in 7D. 7C is obviously the first choice of where to play the grand, but you were not allowed to play there. How do you find out partner has the very good Spades required to play in 7S, with the probably bad split.

Giving it to a local expert, he said he would have bid 4S over 4H. This almost has to be forcing, since you passed the double of 4D and then bid it over another cue bid. It turns out partner also would have bid 7C over that bid, but now it is a lot easier for you to pass over 7D and a LOT easier for partner to bid 7S.
Partners hand was AQJT4 AJ97 void KQJT, and with Spades no worse than 4-1, both black grands will make.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Interesting 3N

Playing IMPS at our local game, I picked up this hand, AK74 AK3 95 AQT6, all vul. I opened 2N and partner bid 3C, Puppet Stayman, I bid 3D showing a 4 card major and partner bid 3N, ending the auction.

The opening lead was the 2 of Spades and this dummy hit, J6 754 AQ843 852. The opps were playing attitude leads, so I hopefully put up the J of Spades, but RHO played the Q, attitude huh? :) Since I did not want a Heart shift, and had a bunch of work to do, I won the A at trick 1 and led the 9 of Diamonds, planning to duck it. LHO put the 10 on this, but the original plan was still in force so I played low from dummy, the only possible way to set the Diamonds up. RHO overtook the Diamond with the J (?) to play the 9 of Spades, not a card I liked to see. Now was as good a time as any to try to cut some of their communications so I ducked this, and LHO overtook it with the 10 (interesting spots) and returned a small Spade (?). I pitched a Heart from board and RHO played the 8 of Spades, so I won the King. I now had an unexpected 3rd Spade, and might not need the Diamonds if something good happened in Clubs. Plus it was starting to look like LHO had made a very strange lead in Spades.

Wanting to find out about the Clubs, I led the 10 of Clubs out of my hand. I had the timing to save the Diamond decision now, and wanted to have some options if that suit did not pan out. LHO went into a serious tank over the 10 of Clubs, but finally played low, and RHO won the K. So I was pretty sure that LHO had the J and a few Clubs, made even more certain when RHO led the 6 of Spades (!) to my good 7, and LHO pitched a Heart. Why had he led a 3 card Spade suit, looked like he was probably 3334 or something like that, which gave me hope on this hand, even if the Diamond K was offside now.

I cashed the A and Q of Clubs from my hand, and sure enough the J did not appear, and RHO pitched a Heart, from his presumed 4 card holding. It certainly looked like I was right about the hand, which left LHO with 2 Hearts, 2 Diamond, and the J of Clubs, and RHO with 3 Hearts and 2 Diamonds. At this point, it didn't matter who had the K of Diamonds, easy matter to play 3 rounds of Hearts and claim when RHO was forced to win the 3rd Heart.

Turns out this was an easy hand with any kind of technique (duck an initial Diamond) since KTx were onside in LHO's hand and the K of Clubs was onside. But I thought it was still a neat technical hand for counting and extrapolating the opps hands to make it this way. And next time, the K of Diamonds will be in RHO's hand and this was the only way to make it

Monday, August 24, 2009

Different Problem

Playing IMPS on BBO with a partner you have had no discussion with, you hold the following hand All Vul, 8 A9853 AKJT974 -- and hear it go 1D on your right.

You decide to overcall 1H, not much else seems right, and it goes Pass on your left, 2C by pard, Pass on your right. You rebid 2H and it goes Pass on your left, 4H by pard, Pass on your right. Now what?

Not sure what is right or makes sense on this hand, freaks make it tough to decide what, if anything, is right. Plusses on this hand are you have a fit, you have a real source of tricks outside of your Heart suit, and you have the potential for a good opening lead for your side if LHO leads his partners suit. Minuses are the void in partners suit, the loser in Spades to potentially go with a secondary loser somewhere and the fact partner did not show primary support for Hearts (by a cuebid or something), only secondary support, even if did jump to 4H. I do not honestly know if I would bid again on this hand or go for the Vul game, I think it is close either way.

Anyways, at the table, this hand decided to jump to 6H, which went double on his left, Pass all around. The opening lead was a Diamond, and this dummy hit.

QT3 QT4 6 AQJ875

RHO played low on the diamond and declarer won the 9. There are 3 problems on the hand, how to play the Hearts, how to finish setting up the Diamonds (assuming opener has the Qxx remaining), and how to get to dummy to pitch the Spade on the A of Clubs. Points 2 and 3 can probably be covered together by ruffing a Diamond, then playing the A of Clubs, but that then leaves the Hearts.

If you ruff a Diamond, how are you going to play the Hearts. LHO almost has to have the KJx for the double, and if he has KJxx, not sure I see too many ways to make this. So if you ruff a Diamond, then ruff a black card back to your hand to lead a Heart, it does not take much work to figure out that winning the K of Hearts and tapping your hand with another black card means you are short 1 trump to do everything. (Try it, cant get back from dummy after playing a Heart to the Q)

Next, if you lead a Heart, with that Heart holding in dummy, it looks like you will force LHO to win the K and lead a Spade, which will set you right away.

The only option that might work is a bit of misdirection. If you lead out the A of Diamonds at trick 2, it will be very hard for LHO not to ruff it. And if he does ruff with anything other than the K, you have him. You can now overruff, play the A of Clubs for a Spade pitch, play a Heart back to your hand, and ruff the necessary last Diamond now. Now when you ruff a black card back to hand, if LHO started with the hopefull KJx of Hearts, you can exit a Heart, win the return and run the Diamonds to make the slam. LHO can always defeat this, if paying attention, by either refusing to ruff, or by ruffing with the K of Hearts again and playing a Spade, but there is nothing that can be done if he decides on that course anyways. At least this puts out a psychological ploy that LHO will assume that you assume that the A of Diamonds will not get ruffed. It looks like you are trying to get a couple of fast Spade pitches off dummy. Of course all of this is based on a supposition of what LHO doubled 6H on. But it turns out that was the exact hand LHO had.

Of course all of this works better than the way the declarer at the table played the hand. Won the 9 of Diamonds at trick 1, ruffed a Diamond at trick 2, took the Spade pitch, and ran the Q of Hearts at trick 4. LHO took his 2 Heart tricks and went home with +200. The result at the other table, they played in 2H making lots. 4H would have won 10 IMPS, 6H only got it up to about 15, instead of losing 9 IMPS as happened in real life. Looking at gain/loss on this hand, 6H gambled 19 IMPS to gain an additional 5, 4-1 against.

Still not sure what the best bid or line for this is, but sure makes up an interesting and fun hand.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Tough Play Problem

Watching another Cayne match on BBO and saw this really interesting play problem come up. You are in 4S, all Vul, after you opened 1D (Precision) and JEC on your left overcalled 1H.

KQ74 KJ A87 J984

J985 A864 KT K52

The opening lead is the 2 of Spades, which RHO will duck whatever you play. The obvious problem is how to avoid 3 Club losers to go with the Spade loser. But you have real interesting spot cards in the suit to offer a few ways to play it. You also have a lot of entries to each hand to do almost anything you desire in terms of leading them. You also know that the opps are never going to break that suit for you, and you have no real way of throwing them in for it other than a Spade, and with the first round being ducked, you are almost sure any Spade played by you will go A and out a Spade.

Will let you decide on line of play, then say what the declarer here did and what I kind of think is right.

At the table, declarer led a second Spade, that went A on your left and another Spade. The Heart hook to the J worked, and he now led a Club to the K, loosing to the A and going down 1 when QT were in the other hand.

I think the spot cards in Clubs are the key. If RHO has either of the T or Q, are you not guaranteed a Club trick if you run the 8 off of dummy, covering whatever RHO plays? This only loses when the hands are reversed, and RHO ducks the A twice. But it is at least a 2-1 favourite to win on this hand.

Any comments?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Canadian Slams

This post is not even about my slams, even though they are often as bad. A comment I heard a while ago comes to mind on this post. Know why Canadians play the hand well, have you ever seen the contracts they get to :)

Watching a couple of Cayne matches on BBO, against 2 sets of Canadian International Experts, I saw the following 2 hands.

The first, Not Vul vs Vul, you pick up this hand A754 Q8 AK7 A532 and open 1C Precision. Partner makes a positive response of 1S and I guess they are not playing any kind of control or asking bids, just stone age precision, so this hand made a mild overbid of 3S. Partner now bid 4D, cue bid in your AK, making your hand worth less, so this hand Cue Bid 5C. Partner raised this to 6C, so this hand made a grand slam try with 6D, but partner signed off in 6S, passed out. Partners hand was KJT83 A97 J T876. Obviously this hand had very little play.

On this hand, I have to give most of the blame to East after the 1C opener. The 3S bid was a mild overbid, but quite survivable. But I really think you must have a LOT better hand to bypass 4S and cuebid 5C. On this hand, I really think that after 1C and 4S, with partner showing that at least some of your hand is wasted, you should be content with 4S. If partner can not bid over that after the previous bidding, are you missing anything?

The second hand was KQ2 JT73 AKQ87 9, vul vs not, and the auction proceeded 3S on your left, 4H by partner, pass on your right, 4S Key card in Hearts by you, 5H by partner showing 2 with the Q, 6H (???) by you. A Spade was led, LHO took the A, returned a Club, and RHO took that A, down 1.

Excuse me, is'nt Blackwood designed to keep you out of these things, not get you into them? Anyways, enough on that for now, just have to hope some of these people remember to start doing these kind of things against me when I get to play them :)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009



I am annoyed about this hand. Playing BBO last night with a pick up partner in a team game, I picked up A 9873 AK52 7532 in 2nd seat, no one vul. After pass on my right, I decided to open 1D with the AAK, even with bad suits and spot cards.

Opps passed throughout, pard bid 1S, I bid 2C, pard bid 2H, and I raised to 3H, I thought patterning out. Pard bid 3S and I thought about bidding 4S, but finally decided to bid 3N, ending the auction. Then partner put down this truly amazing dummy on this auction. QJ7643 AK42 7 K9. That is right, he had an unbalanced hand with 4 Hearts???

3N was not a success on the Q of Diamonds lead and I eventually went down 4, double dummy guess I can hold it to 2 down, but I did not read the hand best. 4H was cold for at least 1 overtrick with everything favourable in it.

I asked partner why he did not bid 4H or ever show Hearts. His answer was that I could not hold 4 Hearts, even for the 3H bid, since I had shown 5-4 in the minors and then bid 3N. I had to be 1354. And it was somehow my fault for not getting to 4H.

I did not have any method of answering that, so I finished the next, thankfully last, hand and just left. I still do not know how his reasoning went on that hand. Hopefully I never will.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Nice Suit

Playing IMPS on BBO, with a pickup partner, Vul vs Not, my partner picked up AKQJT6 J9532 43 -- in first seat. She decided to open 1S (which I totally agree with) and I bid 2D. You had said you are playing 2/1 as a general approach, but did not discuss too much else.

She now bid 2S, which I like, to emphasize that Spade suit. I bid 3D, she now bid 3H, and I bid 3S. She decided she liked her hand and cue bid 4C, which went double on her left, 4H by me, P to her. What to do now. Here is the auction

1S P 2D P
2S P 3D P
3H P 3S P
4C * 4H P

At this point, she bid 6S, showing confidence in partner. The opening lead was a Spade and this dummy tracked. 53 A AKJT95 JT73. When the Q of Diamonds dropped, the hand quickly made 7. Shows the power of fits and good suits. I really like the 6S bid, although it gets a little more exciting if W can ever find a Heart lead to knock out the entry.

Here is his hand he had to lead from on this auction, any clues as to that being the killer. 874 K8 876 KQ952. Looks to me like leading the Heart could be the only way it makes on a lot of hands.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The cost of extravegance

Watching one of the Jimmy Cayne matches on BBO earlier this week, this time he was playing a group of Canadian Experts, all recognized with the star indicating International Experience. The match was very close when this defensive hand came up. This person held JT8xxx KQx x AKx and after P by partner, 1D on his right, overcalled 1S. This went 2D on his left, P by partner, 2N on his right. He now passed and LHO bid 3N, ending the auction.

The lead was the J of Spades and this dummy appeared. Qx AJT QJxxx 9xx. Declarer put the Q of Spades up, partner won the A of Spades and returned the 9 of Spades, declarer winning this with the K of Spades. At this point, the person playing the hand fell asleep, since he ‘Knew’ it was going down. Cayne played a Diamond to the Q which held, then the J of Diamonds, on which partner threw a little Heart, and this hand threw a little Club. Cayne proceeded to run some Diamonds, and this hand threw the small Heart, a small Spade, and then decided to announce to the world what was going on and threw the A of Clubs. Cayne finished the Diamonds, and it dawned on West he had a problem. With the AJT of Hearts in dummy, he had to keep the KQ, so he had to now pitch Spades. After the last Diamonds, Cayne led the Q of Clubs to the K, won the Heart return with the A and cashed the J of Clubs for his 9th trick, making +600.

The discussion among the Kibitzers at that point was almost funny. They were praising Cayne for making it, quite a few stated it was nice the way he operated the squeeze, and 1 person said the hand was so easy that his Aunt Ethel would have made it.

Since no one was looking at the root of the problem, I sent in a message that it was nice that West had squeezed himself and the hand should ALWAYS be set. This caused a flurry of comments that I was wrong, so I asked what happens if the 5 card ending West comes down to is the J of Spades, KQ of Hearts, and AK of Clubs, how does Cayne make it since they have 1 trick in already. After some convincing, most finally agreed that the hand should go down, but wondered how you could spot that in the play.

So now I have to stand on my soapbox for a second. If you want to learn how to play bridge, you have to beat this hand, and how you beat it is simple, you count. Declarer is known to have 6 Diamonds when partner shows out on the 2nd Diamond. He has the K of Spades in and the A of Hearts on dummy for 8 tricks. But where is number 9 coming from, you have double control of all suits except Hearts, but have that under control. If so, what happened to this West that he lost that 5th trick. The answer is in tempo. There are 2 pieces to the play and defence of every hand, tricks and tempo. Tricks are easy, that is what everyone knows, the highest card played in a suit takes the trick, easy. Tempo is a little less well known, but actually more important. Tempo controls when you win those tricks you have, and when you allow the opponents to win the tricks they have coming. The person that controls the tempo of a hand is usually better placed to control how many of the tricks their side will take of the number they are supposed to be entitled to.

So back to this hand and how tempo effects it. When this West looked at his hand, all he saw was lots of tricks, so since he knew the hand was going down, he could throw anything he wanted, hence the A of Clubs. The problem was in the tempo, yes, he had a Heart trick coming for trick 5 on defence, but he had to surrender the lead, the tempo, again to get it. And Cayne took nice advantage of that fact to earn a nice plus for his side. If he keeps the 2 high Clubs, the defence goes the same up to the time Cayne leads the Q of Clubs. But know West wins the Club, plays the K of Hearts to set up the Heart trick, and regains the lead (tempo) with the 2nd Club winner to cash out for down 1. You can even earn some style points here, win the first Club with the A, cash the Spade, and exit the Q of Hearts, so you can claim at the end with a pair of Kings.

But the trick is simple and very hard, since even this expert got it very wrong. Always Count first, but then stop and envision how the play, or the tempo of the hand, is going to go. If you can work out declarers distribution and how they are going to play the hand, it actually makes envisioning a defence on the hand a lot easier. Sometimes you may not like the answer, that declarer is going to make the hand, but that also then allows you to do something special to put declarer off, or give them a loosing option. But do it in tempo of the hand as well, always keep the running totals in your head, so when you have to drop a card to give declarer a problem, you do it without hesitating. Waiting 2 minutes to count out a hand and then dropping a suspicious looking card may not tempt declarer to go wrong.

Last, I do recommend watching some of Cayne’s regular matches on BBO if you want to see some good bridge. He plays with excellent team mates, usually against top flight competition, and the bridge is usually very good. And it is nice that he promotes the game by putting on these matches most evenings. Look for JEC and join the crowd of kibitzers at his table.

Friday, July 17, 2009

BAM makes for strange bids

Playing BAM in a close match with a pickup partner, you hold 92 K94 K873 KQT9 and hear it go P on your left, 1D by partner, P on your right. You have not really discussed what minor suit raises were, other than BWS.

At the time I thought that the 2 main bids available were 2N and 3D, showing a limit raise. I briefly thought about 1H, but thought at the time it was too dangerous. Since this was BAM, I went for what would score the best if it worked and bid 2N, which went all pass. I got a Spade lead, pard had a pure square hand, and I lost 5 Spade tricks and the Heart A for down 1, what I thought was not going to be a good score at the time, since we can easily make 3D on the hand.

At the other table, my hand must have had the same bidding problems, but decided to make the 1H bid. This now went 2H by his pard, 2N by him, and 3H by his pard, which he passed. The problem for me was 3H easily made 4, since it was a perfect Mosian (Pard had great spot cards in Hearts QJTx), the hand with the short Hearts ruffed the danger suit, Spades, so the trump length could not really be attacked. This got them a score of +170, something that was almost impossible to push on this board unless they got in trouble or I bid the same 1H bid.

I thought at the time that this was a little unlucky, but because of the way it worked out, have thought about it a lot since. I don’t play BAM enough to know everything about it, just that you push beyond anything else for the ultimate edge in score, minors are bad in MP’s, they do not really exist at BAM. So I started to consider what bad things can happen if you bid 1H at the table. First, if pard bids 1S, you are perfectly placed to bid 1 or 2NT. Next, if pard raises Hearts, you can bid Diamonds or NT as the person at this table did, and if pard insists on Hearts, is it that bad? If partner bids 1 or 2NT, you can decide what to do, but will either raise or pass, again no real problem, and if partner bids either minor, you are well placed now for support. As I went through it, strange as it seems, there was very little down side to the bid. And it is really hard to argue with that +170, and even harder to match or beat it.

So the main conclusion that I can come to is to consider stepping out of line to play in a major or NT any time I am playing BAM. About the only time you would want to play in a minor is when there is a slam involved and the minor is the only place it can make. Or at least do not put your partner in a position where they can not maneavour the contract into a major if it is available.

Of course the next thing that brings up is that BAM is the perfect place to play 4 card Majors. This problem never surfaces then since opener will open 1H and thereafter NT and the minors never enter the picture as possible landing spots. Play a Weak NT system with 4 card majors and include the notion that 1 of a Major – x – 1NT (or 2NT if cheapest) shows a strong NT same as over a minor, and all these problems vanish. And it can be one of the most aggressive systems to bid with going, since it is almost impossible to shut you out of a major when you have one, and you get the pre-emptive value of a weak NT in there.

Try it, you might like it :)

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Bad Bid

Playing IMPS in our regular game this week, I picked up this hand QJxxxx x Jxx Txx Vul vs Not. Pard opened 2C (strong and forcing, but could be as little as 20 bal, since we use 2N as something else) and RHO bid 2H. I personally never like passing on weak shape hands like this since there is too good of a chance of being shut out, so I fearlessly wandered in with 2S. This went 4C (Alert, fit showing jump) on my left, 4H by pard, 5C on my right.

I decided at the table that my 2 options were pass and bid 5S, and finally decided to bid 5S, since it seemed likely all pards cards should be working and there was a good chance for a singleton Club over there on this auction. Pard put down a good but unlucky dummy and I had to go down 1.

The problem was when I started thinking over the hand after, I have come to the conclusion that I should probably double 5C rather than allowing it even to go to partner, something that I had rejected at the table too quickly. There are a couple of reasons for this, first, if they play in Clubs and partner has the A of Hearts, he will have a good chance of working out I must have a singleton on this auction, and A and out a Heart will make this VERY MESSY. Second, I have Spades and a singleton Heart, but have shown that when I bid 2S, why rebid the same thing. Last, I have a lot of loosers to be headed to the 5 level on my own. So all in all, I think I rejected the correct bid, double, too fast. And as my pard said after, with a singleton Club and a perfect hand, pard will not let me off the hook after having bid my 2S to start.

It turns out neither opp has a real pull to 5H, so they will likely play in 5C doubled, which if pard finds the Heart plays, will probably go for something around 1400 non-vul. Much better than my -100. But I think I deserved not to make it, the more I think about it.

And the final reason to double, MB was the one that bid 5C on my right. Remember the rule, when in doubt, Double MB, worry about other stuff later :) Hi MB :)

Strange Pass

Watching a friend play the other night on BBO and kibitzed this hand. Playing IMPS, No one Vul, you pick up 73 A92 AK94 A875 and hear partner open 1S in first seat. I think you need to make a 2/1 into a minor here, and since neither is particularily great, I would probably pick the cheaper with 2C, but my friend bid 2D. This worked out quite well as pard now bid 3C, making your hand a gold mine.

S now bid 3H and heard pard bid 3N, showing a Heart card. At this point, I think that you need to tell pard about the Club fit, I really like 4C now, and see what pard does. It never occurred to me to Pass? This person is usually an aggressive bidder, it just seems to me that Pass is an extremely pessimistic point of view on this hand.

Not sure what partner will bid over 4C, probably 5C, since he has an aceless hand, but good shape. If feeling agressive, you might even get a 4D call from pard. The hand opposite is KQT96 K7 2 KQT93. Since nothing bad happens in Clubs, six is a claim on all leads.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Tale of 2 Slams

Had 2 slam (?) hands last week that left me shaking my head a little. On the first, you hold Q97 AKT75 Q5 J83 and hear partner open 1C. You respond 1H and partner now bids 2D, to which you force with 2S to see what is going on. Partner now bids 3C, supposedly showing a good 6-4.

Over 3C you bid 3S again, somewhat ambiguously, and partner now bids 3N. Do you bid on?

Personally, I think you should bid again on this hand, partner has shown a good 6-4 with the reverse and rebid the first suit, then bid NT, presumably showing something in Spades like the A or K. If partner has the A, with a 6-4 hand, how many loosers can there be in Clubs? You have the AK of Hearts to cover the other 2 major cards, partner needs an entry and at worst it is on a hook, and that is with a poor reverse. Any kind of real reverse and partner should be almost able to claim on the opening lead. I think the correct bid here is 4C, showing the Club fit and making a forward going bid.

It turns out partner will force to a slam over that, and it is 1 of the claim versions. Partners hand is Ax x AJTx AKQTxx. The Diamond hook is for 7 on the hand. I think the pass of 3N that occurred at the table is certainly being pessimistic.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

The second hand you hold Axxx 987 x KQxxx and after passing hear it go 1H by partner and a 1S overcall on your right. You bid 3C showing a fit jump in Clubs and Hearts. It now goes 3S on your left, 4C by partner, pass on your right, your call?

I think here that you have shown your hand pretty well with the 3C bid, since you have only 3 Hearts and no honour in the suit. Cue bidding at this point will only get you in trouble unless partner can bid again. I think that now 4H should be your bid and unless partner makes another move over that, you are not missing anything.

At the table, this hand bid 4D, co-operating with the slam, and heard parter bid 6H over that. The opening lead was a high Spade and partner held x AKTxx Kxxx Axx, a good hand, but way overboard on this hand. This shows the reason for needing the Heart honour to bid on with that hand. With Qxx of Hearts instead, this becomes a reasonable if not great slam.

The real tragedy on the hand was the defence though. After winning the A of Spades, declarer played a Diamond to the K and A. At this point a Grosvenor card came back, the J of Hearts. Declarer thought for a while, won the A of Hearts, ruffed a Diamond, hooked the Heart on the way back, and claimed 6 when the Hearts and Clubs behaved. This was so totally bad that it almost defies words, but it did happen and had to be explained to the partners of the person the returned the J of Hearts how the slam made missing the QJxxx of Hearts and both honours not being onside :)

So it was a boring match, loose 12 on the first slam, win 12 on the second, next board, what is the problem? :)

Thursday, June 11, 2009

How good a passed hand?

Had this hand yesterday playing IMPS that my partner and I screwed up. I was in 3rd seat, no one vul, and picked up AJ4 J72 A KQT862. It went P - P to me and I opened 1C, P, 1S by pard, P. I liked my hand, but dont like to get to overboard when I don't know where we are going to play the hand, so bid 2C. This went P 3C by pard, P back to me.

This now makes my hand very good. Pard not only was able to take another call, but raised clubs. I decided to show my Spade support with 3S now and it went P - 4C - P back to me. So partner likely has 4 not too great Spades, since did not bid 4S, and at least 4 Clubs, with probably 8-10 HCP in hand is first estimate.

I have 5 1/2 loosers so need partner to have 3 cover cards to make 5C a reasonable shot. If I give her the A of Clubs and the K of Spades, I still need a Heart card for 5C, or Heart shortness with Club length. I finally decided that was a lot to ask from a passed hand that could only bid 4C on this auction and since we were not vul, I passed, not without some trepidation.

LHO led the A of Hearts and partner put down a most unexpected dummy, K873 -- T974 AJ754. Of course my decision to pass 4C was very wrong, when the Spade hook was on I made all 13 tricks. But I also think partner must take a stronger action over my 3S. When I rebid Clubs, then made a forward going move supporting Spades over 3C, her hand became an absolute gold mine. I think the 2 bids available over 3S should be 5C or my personal favourite, 4H. It turns out that if she bids 4H, that is such a great bid for my hand, there is a good chance we may get to the slam now. The problem with 4C is it can be made on so much worse of a hand, that it does not convey the playing strength of that hand once the double fit is found.

We wound up loosing 6 IMPS on the board, but had a chance for at least a push if not a nice pickup, when the opps played it in 5C. I think people are still under valuing the power of a double fit. When you find that you have 1 in an auction, I think you can usually count on a full extra trick from the hand, provided you play in the correct suit, the 1 that splits between you evenly, most times :)

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Which Suit?

Playing teams where you are vul and opps are not, you pick up – AKQJxxx Kxx KJx in 3rd seat. You are playing a weak NT, 5 card major style system, and partner opens 1C in 1st seat. This goes P on your right, 1H by you, 1S on your left, P by partner (denying a strong NT) and 2S on your right. You bid 3S which goes P on left, 3N by partner, and P on your right. What would you call?

This pretty much confirms partner has an unbalanced hand with Spades, so the most likely holding is shortness in Hearts at this stage, since with shortness in Diamonds and length in Hearts, you would have gotten a raise over 3S. The problem is what to bid, and how high. 3NT will probably play OK, since you have a source of tricks, but can you make a slam and where is it best played. Partners probable hands are 3-1 or 4-1 in the majors, with likely longer Clubs than Diamonds, hence almost certain to have 5 Clubs on all hands. (With 4144 he would likely have opened 1D) So lets give him probable holdings in the 3145, 4135, 3136, or 4126 area for the majority of the time, with a void in Hearts a possible variation on any of the above hands. He obviously has at least 1 high honour in Spades for 3N, and probably less than 15/16HCP, since he passed over 1S and only bid 3N after a cue-bid.

The thing that this gives you is you almost certainly have 1 or 2 - 8 card fits, the first in Clubs and the hopeful second in Hearts. At this point, I like bidding 4C to show partner the good Club support, and get that suit back in the picture for a possible slam. We can decide what to do after we see what partner does to that. 4C now goes P – 4D by partner, and 4S on your left, back to you. So far you know partner liked your 4C bid (he took a cue-bid) and RHO was content to let you play in 3N, but not at the 4 level. But at this point, you can almost claim 6C if partner has any club honour and the A of Diamonds, with your Heart pitches and void, how can you safely explore now for 7? If you trust partners cue-bid, there is a very nice bid available now, why not bid 5N, GSF in clubs, the last agreed suit.

If partner has any hand with the A of Diamonds and the AQ 5+ of Clubs, I would like to take my chances in the Club grand at this point. So let partner in on the plan. It turns out partner will bid only 6 Clubs, since his hand was ATxx x AQ QT9xxx.

And now comes the last decision by you, and perhaps the most critical one. When partner bids 6C, do you convert to 6H with the solid suit, or leave it in 6C. Playing MP’s, that is a no-brainer, you go to 6H, but in teams, the decision is not as clearcut. Yes, 6H may gain 2 imps on 6C when it makes, and in a close match, all imps are important. But is 6H always going to be as good of a contract as 6C. If partner has 1 Heart, instead of the void, then the 2 contracts are probably going to be similar, unless partner has something like 5 small Clubs. So you have to balance the probabilities a little here, and make your decision. Plusses for 6H include 2 imps, you know you have good trumps, you can not get tapped in Spades very easily, and even if partner’s 4D was on air (why though?), the K of Diamonds is protected from the opening lead. Minuses include the possibility of only having 7 trumps and being at the mercy of a 5-2 Heart break, and the remote possibility of a Club ruff. All in all, I think the plusses would out weigh the minuses here and most people would bid 6H.

Unfortunately, this is the hand it is wrong on. 6C is the only makeable slam since the defence against 6H goes A of Clubs, Club ruff, down 1. So how did you do? If you passed 3N or 6C, you won a pile of Imps, but if you bid 6H, you pushed the board.