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.

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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? :)