Monday, September 27, 2010

Lazy Play

Playing in our local regional this last week, you are in the 2nd last match of the Swiss Teams. You are currently leading the field, but there are a lot of teams snapping at your heels, so any slip up and you will find yourself looking up, not down.

The first board of the match, you pick up JTxxx AKJTxx Ax --- and hear the rather surprising auction, 1H (3D) ? to you, what now. This particular North player had the ability to use 5C as exclusion key card, to find out scientifically what to do, but finally decided to play pressure bridge and leapt to 6H, which went all Pass. The opening lead was the K of Diamonds, and it turns out you are off the AK of Spades, but due to a fortunate lie of the Clubs, partner is able to pitch 4 Spades on the Clubs and make 6H. The result, a push board, it was the identical auction and play at the other table.

Now for the other problem on the board. Sitting in East chair, you hold AKxx x Txx 9xxxx and hear the above auction, 1H (3D) 6H to you. Do you double, and if you do, what do you think the chances are partner will find a Spade over a Club. And finally, will 2 Spades even cash. These are the kinds of decisions, especially on board 1 of the match, that can give you even more grey hairs. Personally, I think I would chance the double, it sounds like your RHO is prepared for a Diamond lead, and without partner knowing there is a profitable other lead, they will probably try a Diamond or maybe a Trump. The risk of not doubling is that if you have 2 Spade tricks to cash, they may go away, the risk of doubling is that partner leads the wrong suit, or that you did not have 2 tricks to cash at all. But I think the risk/reward ratio is in favor of the double, since if you double and it makes, either since it was always cold or partner leads the wrong suit, you give up 5-6 IMPS, but if the double causes it to go down, you stand to gain 13 IMPS. If the double was neutral, in that it was always going down or always making, it is about even.

Now for the board that gave this article it’s name. Later in the same match, V vs Not, you pick up this fine hand, AJ AT3 AKT7 QJT8 and open 1C in first seat. This goes P, 1H by partner, Double on your right. We play a redouble shows 3 card support (not my favorite, but the condition of contest), so I thought the options were between that and a flawed 2N bid. Since I have good 3 card support, only 1.5 stoppers in Spades, and a ruffing value in support of Hearts, I thought it was fairly lopsided in support of the redouble to start. This now went 1S on my left, 4H (!) by partner, 4S on my right.

I have an awful good hand on this auction, the question is can we make a grand slam? I would need partner to have 6 Hearts to the KQ and the AK of Clubs to be able to count 13 tricks, and the 4S bid tends to be warning of some not to friendly breaks here. So deciding not to play partner for the perfecto, I bid 6H, which went around to RHO, who not being done, bid 6S. Wanting to get partner in on any decisions, I passed, but partner reopened with a double, ending the auction.

Partner led the K of Clubs and this dummy tabled, KQTx x QJ9xx xxx, certainly had her bidding shoes on. I signaled encouragement, and partner continued with the A of Clubs (oops, looking like the perfecto, sigh) and another Club, everyone following. I now cashed the A of Hearts, and continued with the Ten, declarer ruffing on board. Declarer played the J of Diamonds off board, and I won the K as partner played a high Diamond (standard count). So I am pretty sure I have an exact count on the hand, and continued my last Heart, LHO and partner following, ruffed on board. Declarer exited the K of Spades off board, as I won the A, and then did not stop to think like I should have. I know declarer started with 5323 distribution, and partner was 2623. Unless we manufacture something, we are only getting the A of Diamonds at this point, since declarer is almost all trump now. But there is one small chance, if you look; if partner has the 9 of Spades, it is higher than all of declarers trumps, and he will score it on 2 rounds of Diamonds. In addition, he can then play a Heart to give me an uppercut in trumps, for the full +2000 on the board. But, being lazy on the board, I returned the pedestrian J of Spades, and watched partner follow suit with the 9 (of course) as declarer claimed -1400 on the board. Fortunately, they missed the grand at the other table as well and we only lost 2 IMPS on the board. But chances like these have to be taken advantage of when they come up if you want to win, especially when there is no downside, as happens here.

The last part, which kind of surprised me, occurred at the end of the first match we played. It was an Ax event, and we were playing a local team, that usually plays in Flight B, except they had 1 person on their team that forced them to play in A flight. When they played a really good match, we scored it up as a dead tie. I went back to their table to compare before turning the result in, but they said they had us winning by 12. Looking at their score card, I saw they had marked 1 game as making, when our partners said they had gone down 1. I pointed this out, and the NS at the table thought about it and went ‘Yea, we did set that’. We marked it up as the draw, and they thanked me for being honest. Not sure what they expected, but I can not see too many people actually taking the win here, especially against a newer team like we were playing. Or maybe I am wrong and that does happen too often. We wound up winning the event in the end, but if we had taken that win and won, I would not really have felt very good about it.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Fargo Regional

Just returned from the Fargo Regional where had a really great time. The food and hospitality was great, and the bridge was mostly fun. Except for a couple of hands that I wanted to report on, where I did not do as well as I could/should have.

The first hand occurred during the finals of the SAT/SUN KO’s. We were playing a pair of very nice, but highly aggressive ladies and this was the final board of the 2nd session. Up to that point, I thought we were doing pretty well, but that does not excuse my hideous transgression on an interesting board. I opened a 12-14 HCP point 1NT with the following hand AT83 KJT A8 7543. Partner responded 3C, which we play as GF Puppet Stayman (4 and 5 card majors) as opposed to 2C which would be standard Stayman. This was doubled by RHO and I bid 3D, showing a 4 card major and denying a 5 card major. Partner bid 3H, showing Spades, and I signed off in 4S. RHO decided to double this, ending the auction. On the plus side, we had discussed this auction before, and had decided that the 3D bid showed a 4 card major, while pass denied it. And I was glad partner did not bid 3S showing Hearts, (or worse 3NT) as I would probably have had to bid 4H on the hand, with my less than elegant Club non-stopper.

The opening lead was the J of Clubs, dummy came down with 7642 AQ8 KQ653 Q, and the Club Q was won by RHO’s A of Clubs. A second high Club came back, which I ruffed on board, and when I led a Spade off board, RHO popped with the K. I still could not tell if RHO had long or short Spades on this hand, but if the K of Spades was singleton, I could at least hold the damage down, since I had to duck 1 Spade anyways to have any chance. If Spades were 3-2, I was in good shape, but I expected them to be 4-1, I was just not sure of what direction. If it was LHO with 4 Spades, I was probably not going to make this hand, but might get out for 1 down if I played carefully. RHO persisted with another high Club, which LHO thankfully followed to, and I ruffed it and led the last Spade off dummy. RHO now flew with the Q of Spades, and I won the A, LHO pitching a small Heart, and showing me where the J9 of Spades were, still in RHO’s hand.

I now led the A of Diamonds, and then the small Diamond to the KQ on board, pitching my little Club from my hand. Both opponents followed to the Diamonds, making the 2 remaining Diamonds on board good, and giving me a perfect count on RHO’s hand, 4135. The trump coupe looked simple now, cash the Heart, and run the 2 Diamonds on dummy through RHO. It looked so simple that I called for a Diamond, since order did not matter!!!!!!! As soon as I called for the Diamond, even before RHO threw the Heart, I was quite aware of what I had done, not sure if it was a mechanical error, or just thinking of the ending before I had completed the setup, or what. But RHO did not show any mercy, pitching the Heart, and now being able to ruff in on the first Heart with the 9 of Spades for down 1.

Fortunately, we had a good set for the rest of it, and combined with the +32 from the first half, we easily survived the –12 on this hand when the declarer at the other table did not make my error in the same contract.

The other hand was against a well known couple from the US, and involved an inferential decision that I still think I have to make right. I was quite annoyed at myself at the time for following through with my original plan during the hand. I held 92 AJ9 AT98 AK43 and opened 1D in first seat. Partner bid 1S and I rebid 1N showing a strong NT. Partner bid 2C, invitational Stayman, and I bid 2D, denying 3 Spades or 4 Hearts. Partner now bid 2N and I went on to 3N primarily on the strength of my spot cards.

The opening lead was the 5 of Clubs, low from an honor or 2nd from no honor, and dummy tracked with AKT75 T743 J65 7. It looked like I was going to have to decide if I wanted to try to set up Spades, which would require a quite favorable position in the suit, or use the 2 entries to try to set up a red suit, and then hope for an end-play for the other red suit. RHO played the J of Clubs, which I ducked, and then won the 8 of Clubs return with the A as LHO followed with the 6. I thought the odds of the Spade suit were low, but slightly higher than the other line. I wanted to catch LHO early to see his reaction as well, so I played the 9 of Spades almost immediately after winning the Club. Sometimes a card like this will get a small reaction, and I was hoping I might get some kind of a read. LHO was a good player, and played low without any thought at all. So that ruled out any 2 or 3 card holdings in his hand with an honor, as he would have covered. That left only 3 cards to 2 honors, or 4 cards to an honor in his hand that would give me any play.

I decided to continue on with my original play, and ducked the Spade now, which I really think is and was wrong. This wound up going very bad, and I eventually drifted off 3 on the hand. The hand was actually makeable even with the Club lead and lack of entries if I just follow my instincts and play for a little luck. Win the Spade on board, and play a Heart to the J, losing to the K on my left. Win the Club return, play a Spade to the A, and another Heart to the 9, which holds. Cash the A of Hearts, dropping the Q on my right, and exit the Club to LHO. Now when he has only 2 Spades, he is endplayed into leading a Diamond, play the J off board, and when it holds, cash the 10 of Hearts and the A of Diamonds for 9 tricks.

Of course, this was much easier after the fact, but as soon as LHO ducked the Spade, every instinct at the table was telling me to go for line 2, and I stupidly ignored them, sigh.

On a more positive note, we did do a few things right during the weekend, and 1 of the good results occurred early in the same final session of the KO’s where I screwed up the trump coupe in 4S. I picked up JT83 KQ43 A87 Q9 with neither side vul, and heard my RHO open 2H in first seat. I passed, LHO passed, and partner re-opened with a double. RHO passed, and I decided the best chance for a decent plus was go for the penalty, and also passed, ending the auction. I think this is a bit of a lead problem, and since I was a min for the penalty pass, decided we needed to set up some tricks early, so led the Q of Clubs, a lead that tends to do very good or bad. At least I thought if LHO had solid Clubs or something, I was going to ruff in early. Dummy tracked with Qx J KJTx J8xxxx, actually quite a nice buy for declarer on this auction. Declarer played low on the Club, partner signaled he liked it, and declarer ruffed it, both good and bad for us, since we had started the tap on declarer, but we might need some of those tricks later.

Declarer now led a Spade, I played low, and partner won the Q with the K of Spades, to lead a Heart to my K. I returned my last Club to partners 10 and declarers ruff, shortening declarer to the same length in trumps as I had. Declarer now played a Diamond, which I ducked, and won the J as partner showed an even number. I won the K of Diamonds with the A as all followed, and realized the hand was now fairly easy for the defence, I led the J of Spades and a small Spade to partners A, declarer following, and on the A of Clubs, over-ruffed declarers 9 of Hearts with the K, to give partner a Diamond ruff. Now a final Club gave me another trump trick for a nice +500 and a 12 IMP pickup when even with partners nice hand, nothing makes on the defensive cross ruff.

All in all, it was a fun tournament. I had not gone to Fargo for the labour day regional for a while, and got to see a bunch of people I had not seen for a few years, as well as play a bunch of bridge. We had a couple of great meals, including one at Ushers in Moorhead that was so grat we tried to go back 2 nights later, only to find out they were closed on Sundays. The turnout this year was down, a symptom everywhere, but with the great site, great hospitality (free lunch every day and something at the end of the day for a snack) and good bridge there, hopefully more people will decide this is a good tournament to come back to and let them build up again.