Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Don’t You Hate it When You Get Things ‘Almost’ Right

Playing in our IMPS League Weekly Game, I had a neat defensive problem come up that while we almost succeeded, the patient wound up dying anyways at the end.

Our Vul opps got to 3N on the simple auction 1H-1N-3N (4 card majors, 1N is not forcing). Partner led a Small Club, and the Club suit was

KJx              Tx

I won the A, and led my middle Club back, declarer inserted the J, losing to the Q, and partner returned a 3rd Club, clearing the suit and setting up 2 tricks for us. The only problem remaining was to get partner in to cash them.

The interesting part of the hand is the battle in the Heart suit between declarer, having to set up a third trick in the suit, vs us, trying to force an entry to my partners hand to cash Club tricks. The other 2 suits are irrelevant to the story since they were going to provide a set (5) number of tricks for declarer, or enough tricks for us to set the contract, there was no way for declarer to set up any more tricks in those suits.

The Heart suit was, with the spots being of prime importance:

742       AQ65

Declarer won the third Club in hand, and led the 7 of Hearts, partner put the 9 on this, a somewhat unusual card, and declarer played the Q. I survived the first hurdle by pitching the J of Hearts on this. (If I play low, declarer can always play for this position and keep partner off lead by leading up to the Heart A, and ducking if partner plays low, I will not be able to duck any longer) Declarer now came back to hand in Spades, and led a low Heart. Partner, worried about me having JT doubleton of Hearts, played the K now, forgetting that declarer never raised Hearts on the auction, something he probably would have done with 4, even if they were bad. Declarer played the A of Hearts on this, and I made the same mistake that partner did, playing declarer for 4 Hearts rather than the actual position, and did not follow through with pitching the 10 of Hearts.

When I played the actual low Heart, declarer came off board with a low Heart, hoping for something good, and it came up when I had to win this trick, giving declarer a lucky third Heart trick and the contract.

I really found this hand annoying for myself, since I had found the pitch of the J of Hearts under the Q, then did not follow through with the subsequent pitch of the 10, leaving the 8 of Hearts as the boss Heart for partner to cash the 2 Club tricks.

Of course, this might have been a little easier with the 8 of Hearts at the first Heart trick, but that does not really matter. When partner played the 9 and the K, I have to play him for the 8 as well, since there is no way for me to beat the contract if I win any Heart trick. Since it is IMPS, an overtrick from pitching the 10 of Hearts is not really going to matter.

At the other table, it was played from the other side, so there was no Club lead, so out partners easily made an overtrick with more time. This could have allowed us a big swing in the match, instead of winning 1 IMP.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

How Good of a Suit Do You Need to Play In It?

Playing IMPS in a pickup team match on BBO, you pick up this hand NV vs Vul, Q AKQJ87 J6 AT92. Partner opens 1S in 2nd seat and you bid 2H. Partner now jumps to 3S.

At the table, I was not sure where we should play yet, so I bid 4C, hoping partner could make a Diamond Cue-Bid. Partner decided to be nice today, and bid 4D, over which RHO decided to wade in with 5D. I was hoping I was right on partners hand now, that he had a good Spade suit and the A of Diamonds, so I jumped to 7 Spades (Not Hearts), since I thought it might be easier for him to get to his hand in Spades, than me to get there in Hearts on a Diamond lead. Turns out this was important, since partner held AK98742 96 A Q63.

We actually got a Club lead, but on the normal Diamond lead, 7H has no play, while 7S is still cold on the 3-2 Spade break.

The other thing I was considering was 7NT, which is what they played in at the other table, however on the same Diamond lead, it eventually went off 3 tricks. Nice to win 17 IMPS every once in a while.

To Bid or Not to Bid

Playing in our weekly IMPS league, had a few hands come up that presented problems (opportunities) for all involved.

The first hand, you pick up this hand all Vul. A A54 J8xxxx xxx and hear it go P, 1S, 2S (Michaels) to you. You decide not to take a call here, and it now goes 3H, 4D, 4H back to you. I think this is a pretty easy 5D call here, which goes, P, P, 5H back to you, so what now?

First, do you even know who is sacrificing on this hand, or is anyone? The person on your right must have a pronounced 2 suiter to be bidding this way, and partner is probably fairly distributional as well. You have 2 fairly sure defensive tricks, but negative defense in Diamonds. (I count negative defense when you have a holding that will subtract from partners expected defensive tricks, here you do not expect to cash very many Diamonds) I would expect that you will beat 5H about 50%-75% of the time based on the 2 tricks that you have and 1 hopeful trick from partner.

The next question is, what are your chances in 6D? If you receive a Heart lead, and partner can pull trump and set up Spades for Club discards, fairly good, but will you receive a Heart lead on this hand? Give partner a hand like KQxxx --- AQxxx Kxx and you are a favorite for 6D, since 2 Clubs can not cash, even with less in Clubs, you would make on a Heart lead. However, I would expect a 6D bid will not receive a Heart lead in many instances, so would not count on those versions very often. All in all, I would bet that it is about 50-50 as to whether doubling 5H vs bidding 6D is better, and the payback on 6D is a lot higher, so the nod has to go in that favour. At the time, I thought 6D was a funny bid, but looking at it in retrospect, it is probably a close choice.

In reality, it is the winning choice, 6D goes down 2, but 5H was not going down on this hand. Rho was 1-7-0-5 with the AK of Clubs. At the other table, the auction went 1S-4H, and the 1S bidder did not take any action over 4H.

The next hand, All Vul, you pick up T9842 A5 AQJT6 J and hear it go 4H in first seat on your right, your bid? This has put you under tremendous pressure, and it is usually right to get in the auction with a good 2 suiter, but does this Spade suit qualify you? Think about what you would bid (in tempo remember) and I will tell you what happened at the 2 tables next.

At my table, my RHO bid only 3H, giving me almost the same problem. I decided this hand did not qualify for any sane bid, so passed, which went P on my left, 4C by partner, P on my right. I bid 4S, which went Double, P, P back to me. I did not relish running to partners suit with a singleton, I was not sure he would thank me, so decided to sit it out, at least partner would not have to play it. The opening lead was the Q of Hearts and partner put down an amazing hand, A65 3 87 AQTxxxx. The K of Diamonds was onside, and the defense made a small error in the Spade suit, allowing me to make an overtrick for +990 and a loss of only 7 IMPS.

Finally, you pick up xx KQT8xxx Ax Kx and open 1H in first seat, all Vul. Partner bids 2C over this and you rebid 2H, partner now bidding 2S, back to you.

At the table, my partner decided to slow things down with a 2N bid here, which got raised to 3N. Worried about being able to take 9 quick tricks after the expected Diamond lead knocks out his A, he opted to run to 4H, which bought the contract. The opening lead was the K of Spades, and this dummy tracked, A9xx --- Q9x AQT9xx.

Partner ducked this trick, and won the A on the Q of Spades continuation. He came to hand with the K of Clubs to play the K of Hearts, won by the A on his right, and he ruffed the Spade continuation (A Diamond switch would have been nastier). He now continued the Q of Hearts and when the 9 dropped under this, was able to drive out the J, win the now Diamond continuation, pull trumps, and run the Clubs for making 4. 3N was definitely easier though.

At the other table, this hand decided to bid 3H over 2S on the same start to the auction. He now received a 4H bid, a bid I really like, but decided that if partner had Heart support and a good hand, he had a great hand. 6H was not a success.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Those Pesky Opponents

Playing IMPS in our weekly game, had 2 interesting hands come up where you have to judge what level to play a hand in a competitive auction, always one of the toughest parts of the game. As the title suggests, why can’t the opponents get out of our beautiful auctions and allows us to make our own errors in our own way.

On the first hand, No one Vul, you hold AJx ATxxx J A9xx and hear it go 1S on your left, double by partner, pass on your right. This is certainly a GF hand, so you decide to start with 2S to at least start to set up a forcing auction. Partner bids 3D over that, and you now show Hearts with 3H. Partner bids 3S over that, so now what?

At the table, this hand bid 4C, and partner bid 4H, again back to you. What do you know about the hand. Partner has Diamonds and Hearts (presumably 5/6-4), and a good hand, due to the 3S bid on the way to 4H, and should have short Spades (since I can not see a 3S bid on this auction on 2 small missing all those A’s).

Since you have all A’s and the 5th Heart, I think you have to take another call here, if not just drive to a slam. At the minimum, a 4S call to invite moving forward. At the table, this hand passed, stating afterwards they were worried about what LHO (A solid bidder usually) had for the 1st seat opener.

In actuality, there is almost nothing to the play. Partner puts down x Qxxx AKQxx QJx. On the Spade lead, you win, cash the A of Hearts, the J of Diamonds, and a small Heart. When Hearts are 2-2, you can claim, and have lots of play even if Hearts are 3-1, as long as opener does not have the singleton. At the other table, they had an uncontested auction and did not reach the good slam, so it wound up a push board, but had chances for an easy 10 IMPS.

The second hand, you are Vul against Non-Vul opps (as we call it, terrorist vulnerability), with AQx AKx Jxx Qxxx, no spot cards. Partner opens 1D in first seat and it goes 3H on your right, your call.

I think this is a very tough problem, you have a good hand, but too much of your strength is in Hearts, and you do not have a 4th Spade or any shape. When I held this hand, I thought the choices were between Double and 3NT. And the problem with a Double is what am I going to do when/if partner bids 4S over it, I will be essentially guessing on where and at what level to play the contract.

I finally decided to just bid 3N at the table, which ended the auction. Partner also had a problem hand, and took a while before passing. We had a long discussion afterwards on what or even should he can bid over 3N, with no firm conclusion. Basically the 3H bid was perfectly timed to give us no room to both show extra values for our previous bidding. Partner held Kxxx x KQTxx AKJ, so slam was a claim, just giving up the A of Diamonds on a perfect fit. We also decided that the most likely person that can move on this hand is this hand, which can bid 4H over 3N, under the assumption that 4N is safe and is to play. On this hand, 4H will easily get us to some slam, pretty much all of which make.

As for the original problem, there was some discussion at the bar after about the merits of Double vs 3N, and a few of the Doublers said that over 4S they would basically give partner a choice of slams, 6D or 6S. I think this is being far too optimistic, what is partner to do after the auction 1D (3H) Double with something like Kxxx x AQxxx Kxx or worse Kxxx x AKQxx xxx except bid 4S, and this will create a very poor slam. The more I think about it, the more I think 3N is the only viable bid over 1D (3H), anything else leaves you really guessing. And if partner can not move over 3N on some hands, you may have to accept that sometimes pre-empts work.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

A Difference of Opinion

Playing in our weekly IMPS game, had the following interesting hand come up. All vul, I picked up AJ2 T863 T9 QJ84 and heard it go 1D by partner in first seat, 1S overcall on my right. This is the poster child for a negative double, and LHO bid 3S, pre-emptive over it. Partner now cue-bid 4S, pass back to me.

I felt I needed to slow the hand down a little here, my values did not appear well placed, so I bid 4N. Since we do not have any suit agreement yet, just values, I hoped this would imply values in Spades. Partner now bid 5C over that, and I felt I had a problem. I assumed from this auction that partner was a good 6-4 or perhaps 5-4 in the minors. My hand was actually not that bad, considering. If partner had a 6-4 hand something like x AK AQxxxx AKxx, then slam was a good prospect. The question was, how much less could he have for the 4S bid and the 5C follow up?

I finally decided that he had to be showing 1 of the very good variations, and raised to 6C, ending the auction. The opening lead was a Spade, and partner won the A while following with a little Spade. He now played the Q of Clubs off dummy, which held, then a small Club to the K and A. Finally, another Club to board, RHO following while LHO pitched a Spade. I thought with bad Clubs, he had to have a great Diamond suit on this hand, but he now ran the 10 of Diamonds, losing to the Q on my right. Back came a Heart, and based on a confidentiality agreement with pard, I will not disclose the rest of the play, other than to say it made 6:)

Turns out partner held x AKQ AJxxx ATxx. I think that is a 4C bid (or double) on this auction, your suits are too poor to force to game, and partner is not shy, will bid most games that have a shot. I think the Q of Hearts has to be in 1 of the minor suits to bid 4S.

It turned out we did not have to bid the poor slam to win the hand though. At the other table, strange things occurred, and when the opponents did not overcall, the auction proceeded 1D-1H-2C(!)-P. So bidding and making game would have won us almost as many IMPS as the slam. This is not something you expect that often, I guess the big hand assumed if partner could not bid over 2C, they were not missing much, but after 1D-1H, I think that hand improves too much not to try 3C.