Saturday, May 30, 2009

An Unusual Auction

Playing at Bills club last week in the weekly team game, this unusual auction came up. Imps, All Vul

2N P 3C P
3H P 6H P
7H P P P

North said before 7H that if you can bid 6H, I can bid 7. Of course it made, but the question from everyone is why did N bid this 7H. He is a very good player, and seemed to think it was a decent shot. I am sure not everyone would agree but I will try to re-create his reasoning. I partially agree with him, but not sure if the percentages are right for a bid of this type or not.

N’s hand was AK AKxxx Kxx Axx, he is max for his action, with the doubleton and 5th heart, all good things. The main point is partners action and implied hands. I believe his reasoning was that partner probably had both majors (maybe a false assumption) and in the range of 11-12/13 HCP for this bid, with no great feature to show on the way. Or at least I think that is the most probable hand on this auction. If partner has 9 cards in the majors, and the Q of hearts, A of diamonds and K of clubs, you will probably have excellent play since you will cover all 4 of partners minor suit cards, and have no quick loosers in the majors. The only question will be if you have enough winners.

I think the real question comes up when either partner is 4-4 in the majors or has any hand with hearts and not holding spades. (Holding xx QJxx AJxx Kxx or worse x QJxx AJxx Kxxx, what would your auction be?) In both of those cases, with your flat distribution, I really think that the grand quickly becomes against the odds, unless partner holds an undiscosed running suit in addition to hearts. So the question becomes, how often will partner hold a hand with 54 or greater in the majors for this auction vs holding a hand with 8 or less cards in the majors.
I may get ambitious and run a hand analysis on probabilities, but just a rough guess, I would say the grand is slightly over average, but definately not near 60%. And since the odds of it being bid at the other table are fairly low, given the probable constraints on partners hand from bidding 6H with no try of any kind, you should be more in the 75% + range to bid on. It worked this time, but not sure how it would pay off in long run.

Hiding Information from the Opponents

Imps, All Vul 2nd seat after RHO passes you hold

X KQ8xxxxx Kx Kx

Playing with someone that you do not play Namyats with. Although that is an interesting discussion point, does this hand qualify for a 4C Namyats bid? I believe it does, no void, 4 loosers, 8 ½ - 9 winners, at most 1 suit with 2 quick loosers. But anyways, not playing Namyats, I still open these hands 4H and not 1H, I really do not want the opps to find out about any kind of fit since I have almost 0 defence and all offence, and I know I want to play it in hearts. I expect partner with like 3 aces to think about moving. I may occasionally miss a slam, but much more common is to have the opps take a making sack in the other major.

At my table, this went P-P-P, LHO led the A of clubs, and I claimed 5 at trick 2 when nothing got ruffed and partner put down Axx AJT9 Qx xxxx, a very adequate dummy. This story has nothing to do with our table but rather what happened at the other table and how the play went.

At the other table, they also opened 4H, but LHO make what I think is a good double with KJ9x – AJ9xx ATxx. Partner now bid 4N to find out what they can make, and after learning of 1 KC, bid 5H. The other good part about 4N is it does not allow RHO to bid 4S, especially good since it is not possible to beat 5S on this hand by E-W.

But on to the play problem, how to play this hand in 5H after the 9 of spades lead when LHO doubled.

Axx AJT9 Qx xxxx

X KQ8xxxxx Kx Kx

The main point on the hand is the club and diamond suits, and they play the same regardless if LHO doubled or passed. There are 3 cases, 2 of which do not matter. Case 1 involves the A of clubs on your right, which means you always make 5H, case 2 involves the A of clubs on your left and A of diamonds on your right, which means barring some catastrophic blunder by the opps, you are always going down, so the only case that has any relevance is where both Aces are on your left. In this case, you need to strip the hand, have LHO duck the first diamond, then throw that person in to be endplayed in clubs.

At the table, the declarer took a line that I think has to fail 95%+ of the time against any reasonable defender. They won the A of spades, ruffed a spade, heart to the A, and ruffed the last spade, now led a diamond. The endplay is so obvious on this line that the defence should prevail almost all the time, this time happened to be the 1% when LHO fell asleep and let themselves be endplayed anyways, but that is irrelavent to the discussion.

I think the main point to this hand is concealing your intention from LHO as long as possible. You need to get a diamond past their hand prior to their being aware of the danger. And ruffing any spade is tantamount to saying an endplay is coming. I think the only reasonable line is A spades at trick 1, heart to K at trick 2, concealing the spade situation, and now diamond towards Q at trick 3. This makes it much more difficult to win the diamond A since there are so many hands where it is wrong. Now in the likely situation where LHO ducks, it is easy to win the Q, ruff a spade, heart to board, ruff the last spade, and play the K of diamonds out of hand, completing the endplay.

This will likely not matter in a normal game at the local bridge club. But when you are playing in higher stakes games, you have to expect the people you are playing against to count and pay attention. So the object of this is you have to not allow them to have any more information prior to the crucial decision than you have to give out. On this hand, the spade and heart positions are known at trick 1 really only to you (although good defenders can work most of it out based on a count signal in spades at trick 1), your task is to make it as difficult for the defence as possible. So make them make all decisions early and on incomplete information if possible.

Decisions Galore

Playing IMPS, you hold the following hand, neither side vul:

AQJT95 93 8 KT74 in first chair.

The first decision comes early, do you open and if so what? There are 4 criteria to apply to hands when deciding what to do, HCP, Looser Count, Playing Strength, Pre-emptive value. I have only 10 HCP, but this is a very good playing strength hand, with only 6 loosers, something I will never get across to partner if I open 2S. I even have a little defence, so I open 1S. This goes P on my left and 2D (GF) by partner, P on my right, so this is now easy, I bid 2S, min with 6 spades. P on my left, 3H by pard, P on my right and next decision point. The hand has definitely not got any better on the auction, but I am still going to play this hand in game, partner made a 2/1 GF bid, and I have no compelling reason to override that. The question is where. I think there are 2 main options here, jump to 4S showing a weak hand with good spades, essentially ending most auctions, or bid 3N showing the clubs stoppers.

The biggest problem with 3N may not be tricks, it may be getting to my hand to cash spade winners if anything bad happens. 1 local expert put it very well, you have to envision the play of the hand when you are bidding it. I am not sure I like my vision of 3N, but I finally decide to bid that anyways to show my club stopper, really hoping partner can bid over that, as now bidding 4S will really describe my hand well. And there is the the 1 benefit, 9 tricks is 1 less than 10. Alas, partner and both opps pass and I have bought the contract in 3N.

LHO leads the 3 of hearts (4th best) and I see this dummy.

4 AJ85 AQJ73 J65

I don’t have many solid tricks (3), but a lot of potential. To start a hand, I usually like to make up a logic tree to indicate the main line and optional branches I will take. Here, the main line looks like set up spades, force an entry in clubs, and see what else is required for 9. Option 1 is diamonds, option 2 is hearts and scramble. So first order of business is the heart suit and that lead, how to keep loosers down. In theory, the 3 indicates an honour, but this particular LHO does not necessarily require that, and he is a good player. Since I am going to have to survive several heart leads, the J is staking too much at trick 1, and I like to allow the opps to make errors later, so I play low at trick 1. It is amazing how often that is right in totally hopeless scenarios, and here I have the 9, so it is fairly easy. RHO wins the K of hearts, but I do not totally believe that. Based on speed of play and intangibles, I am going to place the Q of hearts as a distinct possible on my right, but not the 10, so not bad so far.

But now RHO makes an unexpected and not that welcome shift, to the Q of Clubs. This may present me with some club tricks, and definitely modifies my logic tree quite a bit, since the spade suit went down to a middle priority set up and the clubs with a scramble situation may now be the best line. This is because it looks like RHO is trying to cut me off from my hand and the spade suit, a nasty possibility now. I have nothing better to do and I can not allow too many clubs tricks to be set up, so I play the K of Clubs, somewhat surprisingly holding the trick when LHO plays low. I have to admit that I now thought the A of clubs was likely on my left, and my chances in this contract had gone way down, but I needed some spade tricks for any play, so I played the somewhat sneaky J of spades, holding the trick. I now played the A of spades, pitching a diamond, and the Q of spades, pitching another diamond from board, as LHO won the K and RHO pitched a club (!). I was now working on more of the scramble line than the spade line, but decided my chances were not that much worse than when this hand started. I still only had 3+2 loosers around (K Hearts, K Spades, A Clubs as definites, Q Hearts, K Diamonds as possibles), so get rid of 1 possible looser and I was in business.

LHO now played a 2nd heart and when I played low, RHO won the Q (I was right). RHO now returned a heart to board while I pitched a good spade. Now came decision time, how to play the clubs. But first, I needed to strip any other exit cards from the opp so I cashed the last heart, pitching my diamond (didn’t need it as spades are good, and the club suit was still blocked, so a club pitch was out), and leaving this position with the lead on dummy. Remember, I have lost 2 hearts and a spade now, with the A of clubs still outstanding in 3NT.



I now led the J of clubs off of dummy and it held the trick as LHO pitched a diamond. This was great news, since I now had a slight chance. But I was worried RHO would win the next club and strand me on the dummy with a diamond for down 1. But best chance, I led the club off dummy and RHO won the A. He then led a club to my hand and I was able to claim making 3.

The reason that he led the club back was back was RHO had no winning choices. His original hand was xx KQxx Kx AQ9xx, he currently had -- -- Kx xx, all loosing choices. But it emphasizes the need to have cashed the last heart, else RHO could have won the second club and exited the heart, stranding me on board to lead a diamond off.

Here was the full initial hand

K8xx xx
Txx KQxx
Xxxxx Kx
X AQ9xx

It turns out that even with every red suit card offside, the K of spades off side, you can still almost always make 3N on this hand, and that 4S is almost always down, since they get the K spades, A clubs, a club ruff, and some red card.

Raise after a Double

Had this hand on BBO last week that just perplexed me. Guess I have a different attitude on certain types of auctions.

Playing IMPS, No one vul, I held this hand in 4th seat, K975 KQ53 A9 KJ7. It went P P 1D to me and I thought this was a pretty automatic double. This went P 1S by pard P back to me. Now the 1 place I am fairly conservative is after I make a TO double, I really feel that you need a real hand to make free raises here. But even with the balanced hand, this is a clear raise. The principle that knowing where all the values are makes the hand easier to play sort of comes into play here, assuming partner is not completely bust. I assume partner is limited to 5-6 HCP or support points, but there are certain hands in that range that still have play for game, and this is IMPS. So I bid 2S here, which ended the auction.

Now for the strange part, my RHO went to lead and I saw partners hand, and have to admit I was rather perplexed. My parner (a pick up partner), held AJ654 652 KT7 T2, a full 9 count with a 5th Spade? I would have jumped over the original double with that hand and accepted any game try from partner at all. I thought the pass of 2S was one of the strangest things I have ever seen.

As soon as the lead was made, my partner asked if I had misbid? I asked the same question, then asked if he thought the 2S bid was weaker than I held. His immediate response was yes, he felt the free 2S bid here was limited to 12-13 HCP, with anything more, I was expected to jump. I dont know about the rest of the bridge community, maybe I am old fashioned here, but I really feel that this is a strange way of looking at the world. After a TO double by partner, I jump with any 8+ support points and consider game with any 11+. A 1 level bid should be limited to 7 support points or so. This lets both sides place the contract in a reasonable manner, and does not place to much strain on the doubler to raise with minimal hands. Definately cuts down on the -1100 scores when the opps loose patience and pard has 0.

But to make a long story shorter, my partner really felt it was my fault for missing this easy game. Whereas I feel it was almost completely his. As I said, when partner doubles and makes a free raise of my simple 1S bid, I go to game with that hand.

Let me know what you think.