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.

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