Thursday, March 25, 2010

An Unusual Ruff

Playing in our weekly IMPS League Wed Night, I had a situation come up that I think is unique in my too long bridge history. I opened 1 of a major (not a psyche), wound up playing in the other major, and scored a ruff of the first major in my hand as the contract going trick.

With no one Vul, I picked up this hand in 3rd seat, K432 AQ87 Q42 85 and heard it go 2 passes to me. I don’t normally like to open that light, even in 3rd seat, but wanted to get in the majors if possible, so opened 1H. This went 2D on my left (so much for even holding a bad opener) and partner made a neg double, passed back to me. I had an easy 2S bid, which partner raised to 3S, ending the auction. The opening lead was the Q of Spades (ouch) and this dummy appeared, A875 953 K2 QJT4, not bad, but this is still going to need some work. I actually agree with 3S by pard, since I do not tend to open light in third seat, he has a good hand, it was my problem for doing it this time.

I won the K of Spades in my hand, did not want to duck in case that was a singleton, and led a Club out of my hand. LHO won the K of Clubs, while RHO played the 2, and continued with the 10 of Spades to the A on board, RHO following. I continued the Q of Clubs off board and LHO won the A (Nice Hand) and led out the J of Spades, RHO pitching a Diamond. Finally, LHO exited a Club to board, RHO following. I pitched my 2 little Hearts on the 2 Clubs, hooked the Heart (LHO at least did not have that card as well) and claimed, giving up a Diamond to the A to LHO and ruffing the losing Heart on board in my hand, after having opened 1H.

The other nice hand was a great defense by my partner. I held K98 QT52 K983 64 all Vul and heard it go a Strong (15-17) NT on my left, passed to me. Not liking total suicide bids, I asked partner to lead, and got the 4 of Spades (3 and 5). Dummy tracked with QJ6 J843 75 K752 and declarer put up the Q of Spades, covered by the K and A. Declarer played a med Club to the K and back to the 10 and Partners J, after some thought, partner played the 10 of Spades, which held the trick. Next, partner led the 2 of Spades to the J on Board, declarer also following. When Declarer now played a small Club off board, I played a small Diamond (lavinthal), indicating a preference for a Heart switch. This went to the Q and partners A, and partner cashed the 13th Spade, with all 3 of us pitching small Hearts. Now partner made a great play of the K of Hearts, which declarer won with the A, and led his remaining small Club to the 7 on board, partner pitching a small Heart while I threw a second Diamond. When declarer came off board with a little Diamond, I flew with the K and declarer won the A (not wanting to be endplayed into playing Hearts from my side). A small Diamond went to my partners Q, and I claimed the last 2 tricks with the QT of Hearts over the J, for down 1.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Teams Action

Playing with a good partner in a team game on BBO, had the following 2 interesting hands come up. First, you pick up 983 A AKJT753 J3, All Vul, and open 1D in first seat. This goes P and pard jumps to 4S, P back to you, so now what.

I know this is a sign-off in Spades, but I have an awful good hand in support of Spades, basically a 2 loser hand. If partner has AK 7th of Spades and a singleton Club, then slam is a pretty good option. So the question is, do you proceed forward and if so, how. Answering the second and easier question first, if I am going to bid, I would bid 5H over 4S. This has to be a cue-bid in support of Spades, else why introduce a new suit at the 5 level, and would let partner decide somewhat intelligently based on his Club holding (I hope). That is, if it is read correctly, I have played in these kind of less than elegant contracts at the 5 level before.

But back to the first part of the question, should I bid on. I think this is the tougher question and is based on how much you really trust partners bid. I think the bid should show solid or semi-solid Spades, and no control in any outside suits, basically 2+ losers in each. Otherwise there is no intelligent way for partner to bid. If that is the case, I should not bid on, since I do not have control of all outside suits, and my 5H bid would pinpoint the problem to the opps. After some anguish, I did pass at the table, and the opening lead was a Club, the opps cashing 2 Clubs winners and partner claiming right after with AKQJxxx xxx x xx, about what he should have.

The second hand, you hold QT62 AQ K7 A7432 No one Vul, and hear it go P – P – 2S to you. I thought the options here were P and 2N, I did not plan on doubling and hear partner jump in Hearts, or bid 3C on that suit. P is probably the better call on this hand, if partner can not act, you will stay out of the trouble you might get into over 2N, and if partner has enough to act over 2N, he will balance with a Double on many hands. With all that, I decided to bid 2N anyways, and partner raised this to 3N, ending the auction. The opening lead was the Q of Clubs, and partner put down a nice hand K KTxxx Q9xx Kxx, looks like passing 2S would have definitely worked well, but we are in 3N.

I played low on the Q of Clubs, planning on ducking it to start, and RHO played the 9 of Clubs on it. Wanting to help them a little with their signalling, I played the 4 of Clubs, and LHO continued the J of Clubs. I played the K on that, and RHO surprised me by also following, giving me 4 Club tricks to start. Communications were going to be interesting on this hand since most values and tricks were in short suits, so I decided to start unblocking with the K of Spades, figuring if RHO won the A, any shift would be good. Sure enough, he won and played a low Diamond. That got me up to trick 8 with no problems, but I needed to work out number 9 now, the K of Hearts could provide it, but communication was going to be a problem. This is where I did not do well on the hand. I need to try and force a late entry to dummy, so I should rise with the K of Diamonds, hoping that LHO wins it. If he returns a Diamond, I am back to the same position, but any other return leaves me with 9 tricks now.

LHO inserted the 10 of Diamonds, and I won the Q, even though in retrospect it is probably better to duck this. Now I was on board and decided to see what the opps would pitch on the Clubs, so I ran the 3 Club tricks, pitching 2 Hearts from board, and coming down to this position and needing 4 more tricks.



LHO had pitched a Spade and a Heart on the Clubs, while RHO pitched 2 Spades and a Heart. I assumed now that LHO was down to Jxx of Hearts and AJx of Diamonds, while RHO maintained Jxx of Spades with 1 Heart and 2 Diamonds. Playing for that, I cashed the 2 Hearts, the J did not appear and RHO pitched a Spade, then the Q of Spades, on which LHO threw a Diamond, and finally the K of Diamonds. All was going well until RHO won the A of Diamonds (oops), cashed the J of Spades and exited a Diamond. The lack of the K of Diamonds play should have cost me, but LHO, in a fit of sleepiness and generosity, threw the J of Diamonds on the J of Spades instead of the J of Hearts, and let the 9 of Diamonds score the last trick for making.

Partly OK played, but not thinking on the nice small Diamond return by RHO when in with the A of Spades should have cost me. I kept assuming that LHO had the A of Diamonds and was on his way to being endplayed, but there is still no reason not to play the K of Diamonds and start to find out. On this hand, when it wins, I have a better assumption of the correct position of the Diamonds, and can easily end-play RHO for trick 9 by ducking a Diamond after cashing out.

Friday, March 19, 2010

A Proper Expert

Playing with a new person from Canada in a pick up game last night, I got reminded that the term ‘Expert’ is vastly overused on BBO. This lady describes herself as Advanced on her Bio, but she was far more of a pleasure to play with and way mode advanced than a lot of Experts I have played with, I hope I get the chance to have another game with her.

The board that most impressed me was a tough contract I placed her in, that she handled very well. (I only overbid a little, honest) I held the following hand, with no one vul, AT86 AJ953 AQ95 --- and heard partner open 1D in first seat, a definite good start. I bid 1H and partner bid 1N, so I reversed into 2S, trying to create a forcing auction, and partner jumped to 3N, I assumed showing a min, with at least some wastage in Clubs, and probably somewhere around a 2254 or 3244 type hand. I persisted with 4D, and partner bid 4S, which I hoped and assumed was encouraging, so ended the auction with a jump to 6D. The 4S bid and lack of any Club bids were the encouraging things partner had done. Now all my advanced level partner (I had looked previously) had to do was make the contract I had dumped her in.

The opening lead was a small Diamond, and she held QJx Kx KT8x QTxx, a min, but some nice cards in our 3 suits, and the non-Club lead actually helps the timing now. She let the Diamond ride to the 8 in her hand and set about on the side suits immediately, not pulling trump as I feared she might. The Q of Spades lost to the K on her right, and a Diamond came back to the J and boards A. She now played a Heart to the K and back to the A (I assumed to ruff 1-2 Hearts, rather than try to guess the Q), and the Q dropped on her right. Ruff a Heart high, pull the last trump, and claim. I thought her timing on a tough hand was excellent and congratulated her on her timing and line of play on the hand. At the other table, the auction started the same, except after 2S, the other hand bid 2N, my hand bid 3D, and the other hand jumped to 6D (!). This caused my hand to start thinking, and he went on to 7D, down 1.

The next hand, partner held KQTx QJxx Jx Axx and over 1D – 1H by the opponents, came in with a 1S bid, that bought the hand. The opening lead was the 10 of Hearts and dummy came down with 98x xxx A10xxx Jx. The AK of Hearts were cashed on her right, and a third Heart ruffed by LHO. LHO cashed the A of Spades, and switched to the K of Clubs. She allowed this to hold, won the Q of Clubs with the A, and ruffed a Club on board. Now when she played a Spade to her K, LHO showed out, leaving her with these cards, QT Q Jx --opposite 9 – Atxx -- with the lead in her hand, for a fun ending. She played the J of Diamonds letting it ride, losing to the Q, but now when a Club came back, she lost control of the hand and went down 1. I told her after, if she cashed the Q of Hearts, A of Diamonds, and exited a Diamond, she must win the last 2 tricks to make the hand exactly, sort of a trump coupe aided by the opps.

Another point that I hound on, but it is important, you can get a pretty good inferential count on this hand at this point. You know that RHO has 4 Hearts and 4 Spades, and RHO opened 1D with 9 cards in the minors. If LHO has 2 Diamonds, then RHO opened 1D with 4 Diamonds and 5 Good Clubs, not impossible, but more probable that Clubs are 4-4, making RHO either 4414 or possibly 4405. In either case, you need to get your A of Diamonds before it is not available.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Many Interesting Occurrences – 1 Hand

Had the following hand occur last night in our IMPS game. It was amazing to watch all of the things that happened on just 1 hand. I held the following: K 9xx ATxx QJTxx with no one vul and passed in second seat. Partner opened 2C in fourth seat and when RHO passed again, I bid 2D, which we play shows real values with no good single suit (would have shown the Clubs if I had 6). This was doubled on my left and partner now bid 2S. I bid 3C and partner bid 3S.

At this point, I like my hand, I just wish I had a second Spade to go with the K. But with partner rebidding the suit, I thought the K was worth more than 2 or 3 small, so I cue-bid 4D, hoping partner would appreciate the joke. Partner bid 4H and I signed off in 4S, assuming if he did not bid again, I was not going anywhere. Partner now came up with a 5C bid.

I was fairly sure partner did not have great Clubs on this hand, since he did not raise them at any point. But I wanted to offer a choice of contracts, hoping partner could read I had decent Clubs and short but good Spades (that is a real reach to hope that, but hey) and bid 6C. Partner thought about this a while, and finally passed 6C, and my RHO led the K of Diamonds (!). This was partners hand, AQJT9x KQT Qx AK. I have to admit I would have passed 4S on the hand with the Qx of Diamonds, but the Club cards are nice and I did show a good hand with a Diamond control.

The problem now was 6C, and although the Diamond K had set up the Q, it had severed late entries to the board. Nice to be in 6C instead of 6S on that lead though. In 6S on the K of Diamonds lead, you really have no play, the Clubs are cut off, and playing a Heart allows my LHO to win the A and give his partner a Diamond ruff. You gotta love that double of 2D on 5 or 6 to the J, it was certainly effective. But back to the play in 6C, partner won the A of Diamonds, led to the A and K of Clubs, which got interesting when my LHO pitched a Diamond on the second Club, then back to the K of Spades to pull trump.

Now for the second interesting part, instead of dumping the 3 Hearts on the Clubs and leading back to the Q of Diamonds to claim 7, how about we throw the 10 of Hearts and the AQ of Spades (for dramatic effect) on the Clubs, and lead a Heart off board for making 6 (!) At IMPS it does not really matter, especially when the opps at the other table stopped in 4S, making 7 when our partner could not find the inspired singleton K of Diamonds lead to cut off dummy at trick 1.

Just another ordinary hand.

Friday, March 5, 2010

3NT Woes

Playing in a pickup team game on BBO last night, I had 2 very interesting 3N hands that I would really to have done better on. I guess I was very much in Zia’s heat 3 mode, since I worked out what the opponents had to hold, what the probability of them holding that was, how I had to make it, did not do that, and managed to butcher both of the hands, somewhat to my partners dismay.

First hand, Vul vs Not, you hold this nice collection AQ2 AKQ9 KT7 AJ4 and open 2C in second seat after a Pass, planning to rebid 2N on the hand. Your LHO kind of gets involved with a pre-emptive 3D, which gets passed back to you. The 2 options here look like double and 3N, and I finally decided on the latter due to the vulnerability and flatness of my hand, and not wanting partner to have to play 3N, if that is the final resting place, on a Diamond lead through my hand.

The opening lead was the J of Diamonds and this hand hit from partner T987 Jxxx xxx Tx, not the world’s fair, but a couple of useful spot cards, just have to figure out how to use them. If I win this, I have 7 winners, and if the Spade hook is on, up to 8. I figured that I needed 1 of the KJ of Spades on my right, or the KQ of Clubs there, or a Diamond Ax or Qx there, to have a chance. But when RHO played a low Diamond on the first trick, the option of his having honor doubleton, as remote as it was with the 3D bid, went out the window, I was going to have to rely on 1 of the other scenarios. Problem was, in blissful ignorance, loving the smoothness of my deceptive play, I decided to duck the Diamond lead, whereupon LHO switched to a Heart, making the full punishment play. When RHO played low, at least I won the A, not the 9, and ran 4 rounds of Hearts ending on board, LHO starting with 2 and making 2 Diamond pitches, RHO pitching a Spade. I now led the 7 of Spades off board, and when RHO played low, made the silly play of the Q of Spades, hoping he started with 3-4 Spades. This held, but LHO pitched a Diamond on the A of Spades, and when the smoke cleared. I was down 2 on a hand it is hard to work out a way to go down on. Everything was as I hoped, RHO had KJxxx xxx x KQxx, so almost any reasonable line makes 9 tricks, mine took 7.

So with that over, I picked this up on the next hand, NV vs Vul, AKT73 A2 AQ73 A4 and opened 2N in first seat. The opps were silent and partner transferred to Hearts with 3D and then bid 3N over my 3H bid. I finally decided to leave this in 3N on the hand, and got the Q of Spades opening lead. Partner put down xx KTxxx Jxx Qxx and RHO followed with the 4 of Spades to the first trick. They were playing UDAC signals, so I played the 3 of Spades on that, too let LHO know his partner did like Spades. Sure enough, a small Spade came back and RHO pitched a small Club, while I won the 10 of Spades.

I now had lots of options for some more tricks, setting up Hearts, setting up Diamonds, the 1 thing I did not want to try was the Club suit, I decided the small Club was an honest card and I was going to play RHO for the K of Clubs for the time being. As I said, I was not doing while on the thinking department, so instead of playing the Q of Diamonds out of my hand to try and set up Diamonds, and to keep options open for later by possibly setting up a late Heart entry, I played a Diamond to the J, losing to the K on my right, and back came another Diamond. I won the A of Diamonds, cashed the Q of Diamonds, and LHO threw a Club, so no 3-3 Diamond break.

At this point, I am up to 8 tricks, with an endplay leading to a Club winner the best chance for 9, with a possibility of a third Heart trick also in the mix. I think that at this point, cashing the 2 winning Hearts, and then throwing RHO in with a Diamond gave me the most options, but instead I immediately threw RHO in with that Diamond, and since I had not done any stripping in Hearts, he led 1, threatening my communications. So I won the A of Hearts, and cashed the AK of Spades, RHO throwing a Club and a Heart, as did Dummy. At this point, I convinced myself that RHO was down to Kxx of Clubs and a Heart honor, so I should throw him in by ducking a Heart and let the forced Club return run to the Q. But I finally convinced myself this was wrong again, played a Heart to the K, dropping the Q, and a Heart to LHO’s J, who cashed the Spade, and led a Club finally, with RHO having the K, so down 1, sigh. I was right at each stage, and did not play accordingly, that is really annoying. Like I said, when you are in Heat 3, just go with the flow, do not try to think, because every thing you think of will be wrong.

Turns out we won the stupid match in spite of me. We only lost 7 IMPS on those 2 boards, instead of winning 20, and then won the match on the last 3 boards. First, the opps with our cards at the other table doubled 3H holding Kx in Hearts and some scattered values, and it made, then did not push to a bad but makeable 4H, and my partner made an inspired trump guess in 3H on the last board to make it for the final 1 IMP pickup.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

How Good is Your Hand?

Playing IMPS the other night, I had this hand come up, with no one vul. I held 9x Kxx AQx KJ9xx and opened a 12-14 HCP 1NT in first seat. Partner bid 2H, transferring to Spades, and I dutifully bid 2S, which I like to play denies any really great interest in Spades, certainly true with my hand. Partner then bid 3C, which is natural and GF, and created a problem for me.

I really like my hand in support of Clubs, it is worth more than the 13 HCP it started life with, but is partner looking for game or something more. If partner has any slam interest, my hand is really good, but if he is only interested in game, I would like to suggest 3N rather than 5C. For this reason, I finally decided to bid 3N, since I had values in both red suits. I could have cuebid 3D, but that has a chance of getting us to 5C with my Heart card being led through if partner has nothing in Hearts. If you are playing with a regular partner, do you have a method of showing primary Club support, but stoppers in both side suits, like in this hand, below 3N?

I was really hoping partner could bid over 3N, and he did, coming through with 4C. Now my hand has grown up, and playing a little catch up, I cue bid 4D. Partner cue bid 4H, and I think I dropped the ball here. I would have liked to bid 4N (DI), but I was not playing with a regular partner, and I assumed he would take it as RKC, something I did not want to do. After the fact, I think I should have bid 6C now, since my hand has to be perfect for partner, but I chickened out and only bid 5C. Thankfully, partner liked my 4D bid enough to raise to 6C, and pretty well claimed at trick 1 when nothing got ruffed. Partners hand was KQxxx Ax K AQxxx, so there was not much to the play of the hand. I think this is the kind of hand partner should have for 4C and 4H, which is why I was annoyed at myself for only bidding 5C, I put a lot of pressure on partner to raise to 6C. If he did not have the K of Diamonds, he might not, and it was really not necessary to making 6C.

At the other table, they bid to 6NT (unknown auction, although it probably started similar since they also play a weak NT), a contract I can see my hand wanting to get to to protect the red suit holdings. The problem with 6NT is that it is basically a straight 50-50 shot at winning 2 IMPS for 990 - 920 vs losing 14 IMPS when the A of Spades is offside, since with no Spade spot cards, there is no other source for a 12th trick. Fortunately for their side, the A of Spades was onside today, so the other team won 2 IMPS.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Imps Strategy - Pressure the Opps

Playing IMPS in our Wed League, an interesting situation came up that I have seen a few times before, but that rarely seems to be used as effectively as it should be. Everyone Vul, you hold J9xx x KQT9xx xx. The auction proceeds 1H on your left, Double by partner, 2D (alerted) on your right. 2D turns out to be a good Heart raise, to be expected from your hand.

At this point, I know quite a bit about the hand, some of it the opps know, some of it they do not. First, they have a 9-11 card fit, depending on how many Hearts partner has, I will assume for the time being a 10 card fit on average. Second, they have a double fit (highly likely) in Clubs and Hearts, to go with our double fit in Spades and Diamonds. Third, the 6th Diamond in my hand, along with virtually no values outside of Diamonds, adds up to a -1 or -2 trick defensive value, in other words, my hand will detract from partners defensive tricks, not add to it. Now to what the opps don’t know, they do not know they have a double fit, and they do not know the size of their Heart fit, since it could be on an 8 or 9 card fit, the extra 2 card chances are known to me due to my shortness in Hearts and my partners probable shortness based on the TO double.

The thing I do know, is I do not want the opps to have any room to find out the information that is currently known to me. If they find out about the double fit and size of the Heart fit, there is no way we will buy this hand, they could be cold for a slam based on my hand.

So at the table I jumped to 4S at this point, based on our double fit and wanting to apply maximum pressure on the opps. I do not feel any number of Diamonds will help us, we are not taking any tricks in Diamonds, we will not play there, and if you bid Diamonds now, and then Spades, the opps may define that a double fit our way strongly implies a double fit their way, increasing the value of secondary cards in Clubs. A possible action by LHO if I double or bid 3D is for him to make a 3C or 4C bid, showing where his length is. Now it might not be possible to shut RHO out of the hand.

The 4S bid bought the hand at our table, primarily due to my partner having a lot of Aces. The opening lead was a Diamond, and he put down ATxx Axx Jxx Axx. The Diamond A was won on my right, a Diamond returned for LHO to ruff, and the K of Clubs return guaranteed 1 down at this point. But the ruff in Diamonds guaranteed that there was no way for them to go down in 4H, which was bid and made at the other table, for a substantial pickup our way.

This hand is all about pressure and determining early what the opps probably hold, and how the auction is likely to go. It turns out the 4S bid was enough here, since my partner had 3 tricks against 5H, but without 1 of the Aces, we still have a good sack and 5H will now make.

The last time I got to do something like this, with 4 Spades and a hidden 6 card minor in my hand, was substantially funnier. Similar auction, with a leap to 4S, except LHO led the doubleton in my suit, RHO winning the A and returning the suit. Now when I gave up a trump trick to RHO, LHO pulled out a trump preparing to ruff the opening lead suit, as RHO led their suit to get in for the ruff his way. There was a lot of laughing after when I ran the hidden 6 card suit they had set up, pitching several losers from dummy.