Thursday, December 30, 2010

Forcing or Not

Had an interesting situation come up in our weekly IMPS game yesterday. My partner and I had an lively discussion on whether this auction was forcing or not, I thought it definetely was, he did not. No one vul, you open 1S and it goes 4H on your left. Partner bids 4S and it goes 5H on your right, is a pass forcing or not?

My contention after the fact was that since the opps had pre-empted, and we had bid a game over it, we by force came into a forcing auction. Otherwise, there is no real intelligent way to try to bid. And it will not be the first time I have given up -550 for 5H doubled making. But what are your thoughts, since 4S can be made on a very wide variety of hands, does my first comment apply, should this become a forcing pass auction?
The hand worked out, since I had a small doubleton Heart, I assumed partner had a singleton and a good hand. I bid 5S and partner was able to claim quickly, even though he did have a doubleton Heart as well and had thought the pass was not forcing, since we were not vul and I had not shown a strong hand in bidding 4S.
Not really sure what is best with my hand after 5H P P back to me. I had Q53 76 AJ94 KJT6. If partner has anything like a good hand with short Hearts, 6 might even be right, but I was worried if he thought it was a forcing pass situation, so decided to bid 5S, hoping for 2 things, get a discussion going on what is a forcing pass situation, and not insult partner if he had intended it as a forcing pass :)

Monday, December 20, 2010

What Suit to Play IN?

Playing IMPS in a local qualifying game for the CNTC’s against a good pair, you pick up the following hand with your side Vul vs NV, 76 AJ65 K6 AKJT4. The auction starts with 2H (standard weak 2) on your left, 2S by partner, 3D on your right. You have an awfully good hand, that has actually improved on the auction with the 3D bid on your right, coupled with partners probable shortness in Hearts (3D tends to be lead directional with Heart Support). So now what?

Possible bids that come to mind here are 3H, 4C, 3S (an underbid), Double and perhaps even 3N. What do they have going for them. First, 3H sets up a game forcing situation, which you want, but does nothing to help you find where to play the hand, which is bad. You are not certain which of Spades, Clubs, or NT is right, and partner will play you for Spade Support now. 4C shows your suit, but does it do justice to your hand. Or do you need to, since it should be forcing and you can bid again later. 3S is a bid I do not like, it tends to imply better Spades, with a lot less high cards, and it is not really forcing. 3N is a weird bid, that may work, but you may have to take the first 9 tricks on a Diamond lead, and that may not be possible without very good Spades in partners hand. Double is an interesting bid, except if they are left to play there. It should show values, but does it mean more penalty or action on this kind of auction. And can/should partner pass it? Plus will the opponents, or will RHO always run back to Hearts if LHO passes? Too many questions not to make Double a little scary.

At the table, the person holding this hand elected to start with 3H, setting up a force. This now went 4D on their left, 4S by partner, 5H on their right. This is good in that it confirmed partner should be very short in Hearts, but there are a lot of points and/or distribution in this deck. And we are back at the crux of the matter, you are still not certain what to play the hand in. Although a free 4S by partner goes a long way to letting you know where partner wants to play the hand.

I think options at this point boil down to Double, which should get fairly messy even NV, 5 or 6 Spades, depending on how much you trust partner, or perhaps 5N, hopefully offering partner a choice of slams, in Spades and the only remaining suit, Clubs. The question about that is, are your Clubs good enough to offer partner a choice of where to play the hand or not? I am not sure what is best here, but with partner bidding freely to 4S, I think I like double or 6S the most, with it being a toss up between them.

At the table, this hand actually bid 6C now. The reasoning was that since the opps had an announced 2 suited fit, it made sense that our side also had a 2 suited fit, so partners hand should have Clubs. If you are going with that reasoning, 5N makes more sense, since partner can bid 6C with Clubs, and Spades without Clubs. On this hand, 6C became the final contract, and partner put down AKQJT4 4 J985 83. 6S has a lot of play and will make on most lines of play with the A of Diamonds onside and Clubs behaving. 6C was not a success with the Q of Clubs offside and declarer losing control of the hand and eventually going down 2.

The last question on this hand, do you agree with the 2S and 4S bids on this hand, especially where 4S is made as a free bid. I actually held this hand and felt that with the solid Spades, after the 3H cue-bid, I wanted to bid where I wanted to play, expecting some values in partners hand. After partner later bid 6C, I thought I had shown the Spades, and expected partners hand to be almost a twin to mine, but in Clubs. The only worry I had was partner having a singleton Spade and the opps leading that suit early to cut communication, perhaps for that reason, I should consider 6S more, since transportation should be less of an issue. It certainly would have worked well here, but not sure about in the long run, when I assumed partner was not offering me a choice of locations to play the hand.

Friday, December 17, 2010

2 Suiters in the Statosphere

Playing IMPS in the local team game, you hold the following hand NV vs Vul. 8 AKJ86 A AKJT63. Partner opens 1D in first seat, and after a Pass on your right, you bid 2C, GF. This now goes 2S on your left, Pass by partner, 3S on your right. What now?

First, it would be nice if those pesky opps would stay out of your auctions and let them stay uncomplicated. And second, there are a lot of points in this deck, or distribution. You are aware that partner and the person on your left like to bid, but the person on your right is pretty reliable. So does that say anything about the hand. Partner is unlikely to have psyched in first seat, that is not his style, so you can rule that out to start, and the person on your left is frisky, but not crazy, so EW should have a lot of Spades and shortness somewhere. Question is, how does that help you.

The person at the table now bid 4S with this hand, trying to show the hand strength, but I think that gets you to high early. I actually like a Pass with this hand, to see what partner does. I think that will leave you much better prepared to bid something reasonable. Over the 4S bid, partner bid the expected 5D, and over 5H, now bid 5N, which is a something bid. At this point, this hand guessed, and bid 6C, which bought the contract. The opening lead was the K of Spades and dummy tracked with AJT 953 KQJ864 8, not the dummy of your dreams. Since this person was unsure of what 5H meant, they did not correct 6C to 6H. Although I feel a bid of 6D might be warranted, since this hand is going to be useless in Clubs for the most part.

At the table, it looks like you are now prevented from setting up the Diamonds for any Heart pitches, but you have to try and make it. You can win the A of Spades, and decide what rounded suit hook to take, but the Hearts only need to be 3-2 with the Q on side to avoid a loser there. The Clubs need to be 3-3 or 4-2 with a tripleton or doubleton Q on side to avoid that loser. So it appears the Heart hook is the winner, and it actually works on this hand. Add that to a 4-2 Club break with no ruffs coming, and 6 Clubs can come home with the Heart hook. In the interests of safety, I will not reveal the line taken at the table, except to say that it did not make.

Back to the bidding, the reason I like a Pass over 3S is that partner is going to do 1 of Double, bid 3N, or bid 4D. Either of the first 2 are things you like, since you can bid 4H or 5H (my preference) over them to show a massive 2 suiter, on the Pass and Pull is stronger theory. And over 4D, if you bid 5H and partner bids 6D, you are fairly happy to pass with the A of Diamonds and all of the tricks in your hand. The direct bid of 4H over 3S does not begin to do your hand justice in my opinion.

The question asked at the table was if the Pass had to be forcing. If you are playing 2/1, it does, since you are below game, you are in an absolutely forcing auction.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

What to Bid

What to bid with Ghoulies is always a problem, especially at Teams. So when this hand came up in the first round of the TUE-WED KO's, it was bound to present lots of problems and opportunities at the same time. First published in the Daily Bulletin for the Orlando NABC's

None Vul, you pick up QJ98743 -- -- QJ9642 in 4th seat, and here this unlikely start in front of you, 1H by LHO, 1S(!) by partner, 3S (Splinter) by RHO, so what now?

I have given this hand to several people I respect, and most have groaned and been very unsure of how to proceed, with bids ranging from pass to an immediate 7S. The consensus seems to be 6S. But what would you bid, think about it before reading the rest.

At the table, this hand decided to make the consensus 6S bid, which went P, P to his RHO. This person had an interesting problem as well, but decided against the bold 7H call with 5 A97654 AT632 A, not fully trusting partners pass of 6S, and Doubled, hoping to get a couple of A's. Declarer quickly claimed making 6 for -1210 their way, when he held the AK of Spades and the K of Clubs.

Here was the full deal


--                                           5
KQJT8                                  A97654
KJ875                                   AT632
T53                                        A


The result at the other table was the same -1210 for a weird kind of push board. The auction started the same, but this S bid 4C over 3S, trying to find out if he should save over 7H or not. When RHO bid 4H over that, he also leaped to 6S, which was doubled and claimed.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Hang em High

Playing on the last day of the Orlando NABC in the AX Swiss Teams, you pick up the following nice hand with everyone Vul AQ975 A42 AK AQ7. You are getting ready to decide how to bid this when partners open 2D (Weak) in 2nd chair in front of you, the opponents both passing. This now presents the problem in a totally different light. Systemically, there are 3 primary things you can do here, bid 2N (OGUST) to ask partner what kind of pre-empt this was, although you have some idea looking at the AK of Diamonds, or you can bid 3C, asking if partner has a high card feature in their hand. The last option you have, is to bid 2S to check if partner has any Spades support, this is forcing for 1 round.

You decide on option 3 and bid 2S over 2D, and partner surprises you by bidding 4H. You are not a regular partnership, and have not discussed this, but that certainly looks like Heart shortness with Spade Support, which is about as good news as it is possible to get on this hand. You bid 4N now, RKC in Spades, and partner shows in with 5C (1/4). This is certainly starting to look serious, the only question now is, how good are partners Diamonds?

Working under the assumption that partner should not open a very bad Diamond suit in 2nd seat, the non-weak pre-empt seat, and certainly should not bid 4H with something like Kxx x Jxxxxx xxx, I think you should gamble out 7D here. You can not count 13 tricks if partner has bad Diamonds or Spades go 4-1, but even with Spades bad, there is an extra chance, partner can ruff out the Spades and take the Club hook, if needed, for trick 13. All in all, I think your odds for 13 tricks come in somewhere in the high 80’s, certainly not absolute, but pretty solidly in your favour.

At the table, this hand bid only 6D, making 7 when partner held Kxx x QJT98x xxx and even though Diamonds were 4-1, Spades being 3-2 meant an easy claim early on the hand. At the other table, this hand passed, and now there was no practical way to find out about the massive Diamond fit and count 13 tricks after a 2C opener, Spade bid and raise. So a possible big pickup went out the window. Who says that weak 2D bids have no value.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Qualifying for Day 3 in the NA Swiss Teams

We had lots of earlier opportunities to qualify to play in the third day of the NA Swiss Teams in Orlando at the NABC’s, but had decided to defer the decision to this point in time (in other words, we had been doing the wrong thing a little too much). We needed a large win in the last round to leapfrog into a qualifying spot, and had been having a good round when this board came up as the last board of the set.

Vul vs Not Vul, you pick up A AK532 A KQJT843 and hear the auction go 1D by LHO, P, P to you? The opps are playing a standard 5 card major, strong NT, 2/1 system, so the Diamond bid can often be made on a 3 card suit. Any ideas on how to bid this monster in anything remotely like a sane auction?

The biggest problem is that most people play 2N in balancing seat as a standard 19/20+ balanced hand, not as unusual. So you can not use that to describe your hand. And just bidding 1 of your suits at the game or slam level is like rolling craps. Hint, discuss with you partner what 1D – P – P – 2N really means to that person.

After discussion with quite a few people after the fact, the consensus seemed to be that 2D followed by 3C over partners probable Spade bid was the best way to start. It should be forcing and show a good 2 suiter, probably in Hearts and Clubs like you have since you did not raise Spades. At least this way, you have a hope of getting your hand across to partner.

At our table, I opened a 12-14 HCP 1NT and after a long period of thought, my RHO leaped to 6C, since he could not think of a way to describe this hand over 1N. I had many scattered values, and did not want him to score ruffs in dummy, so I led A and another Club. When dummy contained a pair of pointed Jack’s with 2 small Clubs and 1 small Heart, there was no way to make the slam, and we got an eventual Heart winner for down 1.

At the other table where they opened 1D, our partner bid 2N, and then over partners 3H transfer into Spades, also leaped to 6C. This convinced my counterpart to protect his Heart holding with the same A and another Club, resulting in a push board, and us failing to qualify by 3 VP’s, despite having a 5-3 W/L record for the day.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Never Relax

Played this hand in the last match of the first qualifying day for the North American Swiss in Orlando last week. It was one of the most annoying bridge hands I have had for a while, mainly because I had worked out virtually all of the hand, then wound up completely falling asleep at the end and destroying everything I had done up to that point.

With everyone Vul, I picked up the following hand, 4 KQG843 KJ3 KJ5 and heard the auction go 1C on my left, 1S by pard, P on my right. We play transfers to overcalls at the 2 level, so I bid 2D as a transfer to Hearts, showing 5+ Hearts and 8+ HCP’s. Partner refused the transfer and bid 2S. This tends to show 6+ Spades and usually less than 2 Hearts, and does not promise extra values. I decided that at IMPS I wanted to play this hand in game, and wanted to protect my Diamond and Club values, so jumped to 3N on the hand, ending the auction.

The opening lead was the 3 of Clubs, and dummy tracked with AKJT95 6 A964 93, not a bad buy here, I put up the 9 of Clubs, and RHO made (what I thought anyways) was an error by covering with the Q, since that left very little available to be in his hand. I could now play his partner for virtually every card left, allowing me to keep the positional second Club stopper alive. I did not want to commit to the Spades yet, I was worried that RHO might have the J of Spades, so decided to start on the Hearts first. If they are 33, I have no worries on the hand. So I led the K of Hearts, which held the trick, and then the J of Hearts, also holding the trick as RHO shed the 10 of Hearts. I kept on with the Q of Hearts, won by LHO with the A as RHO pitched the 2 of Spades, a very strange card. I had pitched 2 small Spades on the 2 Hearts. LHO still retained the 9 of Hearts, so it looked like he was something like 2425, 3424, or possibly 2434.

LHO now returned the 3 of Spades, and I won the A while RHO followed small. This is where I started to lose the hand, LHO must have the Q of Spades on the hand, both for a real opener and because I need him to stay on lead to protect Clubs. So the easy play here is a small spade off board. This works anytime LHO started with Qx or QJx of Spades, the only holding it fails to is Qxx and that meant that RHO had pitched a Spades from Jxx looking at that dummy, something I considered highly unlikely. Instead, I cashed the K of Spades off dummy, pitching a low Heart, while LHO followed with the Q. And now I started to give myself doubts, did RHO pitch a Spade from Jxxx and now had the J. So I came off board with a Diamond to the K and played the 8 of Hearts to LHO’s 9. And at that point, I did something really stupid, I kept the Club on board and called for another Spade pitch.

LHO had now worked out all he needed, and cashed the Spade J, squeezing me in the red suits, before exiting with the Q of Diamonds, forcing me to lead away from my Jx of Clubs, since I had pitched trick 9 with that last Spade pitch from dummy.

Needless to say, partner was not very pleased with this, and with good reason. Pitching a Club and Diamond off board at any time and keeping as many Spades as possible means I can almost never go down on the hand. The only thing I could think of later was that when RHO played the Q of Clubs, then pitched a Spade, I relaxed on the hand since I did not think I could go down anymore, and stopped counting on the hand. I had worked out basically exactly what they both had, within 1 optional card, and thought everything was rosy. Goes to show, can never lose concentration on a hand, especially if it appears to be going well.

The 1 good point about it was that the 3N did not cost us too greatly, we wound up in a dead tie, which meant both teams easily qualified for day 2. If I had made it, the Australian team we were playing would have had a good chance of being eliminated from day 2. So they were very appreciative, it was just my team mates that were not as happy for some reason.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Scissor You

Scissor You

Going to present some hands from the NABC in Orlando that just completed. This hand from the Evening Session of the 2nd day of qualifying for the North American Swiss Teams gave a chance for declarer to make one of the more interesting plays available in Bridge.

NV vs Vul Opps, you pick up AJ7 KJ983 753 K4 and open 1H in 2nd seat. It now goes 2C on your left, 4C (Splinter), Double on your right. You bid 4H which ends the auction and the opening lead is the K of Diamonds. Dummy comes down with KT42 QT54 AJ86 8. Plan the play before reading the rest.

The only way to make the hand now is to exercise a scissors coupe on the opponents. You need to win the A of Diamonds at trick 1, and play a Club towards the K at trick 2. If you do anything else, including playing a Heart, your LHO will play a second Diamond and then lead a Club to RHO to get a Diamond ruff. Playing the Club before the Diamonds are unblocked kills the entry to RHO's hand prematurely and prevents the ruff, giving you enough time to play the rest of the hand.

Here is the complete hand


Q63                                              985
A76                                              2
KQ                                              T942
QT953                                         AJ762