Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Spades to Bridge

For the last couple of years, 3-4 days I play spades during lunch with co-workers. There are often two tables of us, sometimes with an extra player or two, and I've tried on occasion to get them to learn bridge, but there's something about the mentality of people where I work that makes them not want to exert much brain power and bridge is definitely more intense than spades. There are really only two of them who would be decent at bridge - the ones with good card sense, the ones that actually understand basic card play techniques.

Any bridge lessons quickly lost their interest, but I still try to teach them how to play the cards properly. I can tell which ones would be decent at bridge by how well they pick up on things like finessing, leading top of a sequence, establishing tricks in a suit, and to a lesser extent drawing trumps. Of course, spades is much more random than bridge. Two or three of them do consistently play pretty well - they can execute basic plays like finessing with AQ, playing second hand low, leading sequences to establish tricks, but the others just don't get it. They remain stuck in the idea that things like cashing unsupported aces, leading unsupported kings and queens, and playing second hand high are good strategies. Why do some smart people - even engineers who naturally are good with numbers and spatial relations - have such difficulty with bridge?

In my previous office, we had regular scrabble games. It was also a bunch of engineers but generally an older group than the mostly 20- and 30-somethings in the spades group, but I was still by far the best player. I guess it's understandable that engineers may not make great scrabble players, but they refused to learn bridge as well. I guess I did get one lady to come to a bridge class for a week or two but then she quit. Anyway, they've all heard me talk about how great a game it is and are well aware that I travel a lot to play and sometimes make it financially beneficial, so hopefully someday these people will cross over into bridge.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

You know you're playing a high level of bridge when you execute squeezes like they're routine and the opponent being squeezed concedes rather than agonizing over the discard. The latter happened twice last week. Then there was that one time an expert opponent erroneously tried to concede... no further details.

Anyway, Jonathan's pictures from the Dallas NABC are up so there's actually a photographic record that it happened. http://imageevent.com/jon911/2014dallasspringnabc
I really do like that he does this. Many of us bridge players, myself included, get home and realize we didn't take enough pictures. I particularly like picture #80 of Cristal and me. Being an editor of the District 7 News, it is particularly nice nice to have easy access to the photos.

Over the 10.5 days, I ate probably 26 meals (lunch only on 4-5 days I worked out in the morning) including 13 free meals at the hotel and 7 Chipotle burritos.

Next up on my bridge calendar: maybe a Gainesville sectional this weekend, maybe some sectional next weekend, maybe Gatlinburg in 3 weeks, maybe some sectional in May or June, I'm not sure, but I'll consider reasonable suggestions/offers. All I know for sure is I have definite plans for the Columbia regional July 7-13 and tentative plans for the Vegas NABC July 17-27.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Hello from Dallas

Success at the bridge table has been hard to come by, but it’s been an interesting week in Dallas for the NABC. Jonathan (and possibly others) has been wondering why I keep meeting different women for lunch or drinks or whatever, whether it’s Meg or Cristal or one of the others. They’re all taken or otherwise off limits, though. This is a problem that exists in my real life as well, and I don’t dislike that problem, but it would be nice to befriend some lady who isn’t off limits.

Anyway, we missed making the first cut in the Platinum Pairs by about 1/3 board. At least we did better than Capp and Meck. Then we had plenty of opportunity to knock off the 15 seed Schwartz in the Vanderbilt. Neither pro pair (Boye Brogeland and his partner, Lotan Fisher and Ron Schwartz) had a good day, Jonathan and I took care of business but teammates let us down a lot in the first and fourth quarters. Oh well. Here are a couple of interesting boards.

AQJx, AKxxx, AJxx, -
At my table the Israelis had a cute auction:
1S-2H-2S-3D natural game try
4D natural raise promising 5 diamonds
5C exclusion for diamonds
5H 1 key card

Apfelbaum and Shuster had a less scientific auction: 2D-5NT; 7D. The hand with long diamonds was -, xxx, KQTxxx, xxxx

There are two legitimate lines:
a) cross ruff, cashing the 3 major suit tricks on the way, needs the hand behind the long diamonds to have 4+ spades (quite likely)
b) take a ruffing finesse in spades, then draw trumps, and ruff out a heart to come to 2 spades, 6 diamonds, 1 club ruff, 4 hearts.
Both lines require 3-2 hearts and they both work in this case. I have no idea how they went down at the other table.

Another hand I liked was when I held 7 solid clubs and a side K and found myself on lead against Lotan’s 3NT after a 1D-1S; 3NT auction.

Well, I guess that’s all for now. Good night.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Hands from Hilton Head and Valentine's Day weekend

It's February 13 and I am dreading the next few days. Tomorrow is Valentine's Day - arguably a single person's least favorite day - and it's a 3 day weekend with no real plans. Last year, I took off to play 2.5 days at the Palmetto, FL regional before coming home to play/work entirely too much at the Macon regional. I'm debating about what to do this weekend. I made some mild attempts at a typical Valentine's Day activity but to no avail, and my friends have been useless at finding me another date. I'm thinking Mercer baseball season opener on V-Day, then dog park, then bar. Saturday, direct bridge in Macon then go to the dog park and have a relaxing evening at home. Drive to Atlanta Sunday morning to see the first few innings of GT's baseball game, then go to some Husky owner meet up at a dog park in John's Creek, hike at Sweetwater State Park Monday morning and visit the Sweetwater brewery in the afternoon, and of course eat lots of Chipotle burritos while in Atlanta. Who wants to join me on any of this?

I played three days at the recent Hilton Head regional. Results were respectable but below expectations. The bar is pretty high these days. Anyway, Emory and I were 6th two days in a row in the Open Pairs, followed by 7th in the Swiss with Bob Simkins and Denny Cahan. Here are a few interesting hands.
Dealer: S
Vul: EW


I got the T lead, which I ducked once just in case he had tried something like a preempt on a five-card suit. I won the club continuation, seeing LHO shed a spade. How would you play this one? Would you play it any differently in an IMP game?

Playing wide open, I would double-hook hearts, and in matchpoints I think it is a reasonable line of play, especially given that it seems like most if not all of the field would reach 3NT.

However, even in a reasonably strong field, this isn’t quite an automatic enough contract to not take a safer line of play. So when I led the J at trick 3, LHO covered and I ducked. A diamond at that point would put me to the test because that would take out the only entry to my hand – cashing both top diamonds and hoping hearts run would be the only chance, and it’s close whether to play to drop the J or play a heart to the 9. Playing hearts from the top wins when RHO started with Tx or Txx with RHO, and ensures no worse than -2. Finessing wins when LHO started with KTxx, gets out for -1 when LHO started with KTxxx, but risks -3 when RHO has the T.

I was faced with a slightly different dilemma. My LHO confidently returned the Q, squashing RHO’s ten. Now, I had the option of leading a spade back and setting up a marked finesse for LHO’s 3rd high spade, assuming RHO’s T was not from T9 doubleton (I was pretty sure it wasn’t). That would now ensure -1 at worst (with a bad heart split and not finessing the 9). Furthermore, the 5-1 spade split means the available spaces for hearts is now almost even so odds of RHO having 3 hearts go back up a little.

On the actual deal, my LHO took my 8 with the 9 and still didn’t lead a diamond, which would force me to cash my DAK, then take a spade finesse and almost certainly lead to -1. Instead she led a low heart, opening the door to an overtrick (I otherwise wouldn’t be able to lead toward the 9 and the 7 for finesses), but I took the AQ and gave up a heart to just make my contract. Should still be a good score even though double dummy the contract is cold by simply playing a heart to the 9 at almost any point in the play.

With a combined 25 hcp, stoppers in all suits, and no eight-card fits, I would expect most pairs to reach 3NT, and expect making 3 and down 2 to be the most common results. It’s kind of interesting to look at the results on this board from the 4 different levels of pair games:
In A/X: 17 out of the 24 pairs that played the board were in 3NT. 2 made 4, 6 made 3, 2 were -1, and 7 were -2.
In the side game, only 15 out of 36 pairs reached 3NT: 3 made 3, 6 were -1, and 6 were -2.
In the Gold Rush, 10 out of 32 reached 3NT with 3 making 4, 4 making 3, 1 down 1, and 2 down 2.
In the 299ers, 5 out of 23 were in 3NT with 3 making, and 2 down 2.


In the Sunday Swiss, I picked up -, AKJxxx, QJx, AJxx and partner opened 1NT. Do you have the methods to intelligently investigate for slam/grand slam? As little as xxxx, QTx, AKxx, Kx, a 4432 12-count is pretty much lay-down for 7H but as much as AKQJ, xx, Txxx, KQx, a 4432 15-count, would be a bit of an underdog to make 5. Michael Seamon, playing with a client, jumped to 7. I transferred to hearts, then bid clubs, partner supported hearts, then we cuebid and stopped in 6H, expecting to be off a minor suit king, which we were and the finesse was off.

In another deal last night, I held AJx, -, T9xxxx, KQxx and saw my partner open 1. So I splintered 3, which was doubled and passed back to me so I redoubled, theoretically showing first round control. Partner bid 4. I think 4 here ought to be exclusion (really, in this particular situation any ace-asking bid, even 4 minorwood or 4 kickback ought to be Exclusion key card) but 5 definitely would be. Over one of the lower key card bids, I would have room to find out about the K but over 5-response, I no longer had room to do that below 6 so I gambled and bid 7. Even if partner didn’t have the K, either the finesse might work or he might be able to discard his spades on my clubs (if he has at most 5 black cards, fairly likely on the auction).

Another interesting one from the Sunday Swiss was when I picked up AJxxx, Ax, -, AKxxxx. It’s kind of impossible to accurately bid this hand, especially playing DONT. I started with double, theoretically showing a one-suiter. It went P-2-X, so I bid 3 and it went 3-P-P so I bid 3. The auction couldn’t have progressed much better for getting to show this monster 6-5. Partner, with QTx in both black suits and nothing in the reds, understandably bid 5 and took all of the tricks.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

My motivation has been really lacking in the last couple of weeks, in almost all aspects of life. I briefly entertained the idea of hosting a Christmas party last weekend but could motivate myself to do the work and invite people. I didn't put up a single Christmas decoration for the first time since I've been out of college. I have hardly posted to facebook or twitter since the Phoenix trip, and obviously haven't written much.  I guess it's a sign I've been satisfied. In other news, I figured out today that there are a few pieces of software the IT department lets us upgrade, so I was able to upgrade to IE 10 (from IE 7). That allows me to read bridgewinners.com, but they still won't let us use any other browser.

So, to help prepare for Myrtle Beach starting Thursday, here’s a fairly simple squeeze and endplay from the Christmas Party at the Macon bridge club last week. I was in 3NT as west. I’m having a hard time reconstructing the auction, but I think it started P-1-X-P; 1, so I had a good idea of where the missing honors were.

Dealer: N
Vul: NS


Anyway, north leads a 4th best spade to south’s Q. There are 7 sure tricks, and there is potential for another trick in all suits. At trick 2, I led a diamond to the ace and then the Q, seeing north shed the 2. In with the K, south cleared spades, giving me trick #8 in the process. I discarded a pair of clubs from dummy. Since the DT fell stiff, I would have a 9th trick in diamonds via finesse for the 9 but the suit is blocked (just switch the 8 and 7 and my troubles would be over). Regardless, it’s time to cash hearts. As expected, south discards on the third round so we know south’s distribution: 3-2-5-3. At trick 9, we cash the 4th heart and holding 954  AQ, she has no safe discard. If she discards a club, I play a low club off dummy and the K becomes the 9th trick. If she discards a diamond, I play J and a diamond to her 9 and she is endplayed to give dummy the K at trick 13.

Merry Christmas! And good luck if you’re going to a bridge tournament between Christmas and New Year’s Day. Sean and I will be trying to repeat as winners of the MABC New Year regional in Myrtle Beach.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Interesting Squeeze

I’m on the airplane headed toward Phoenix, not studying system notes as I probably should be, but watching Castle reruns and contemplating a 1NT contract I played at the club Tuesday, how I’m going to spend the next two weekends in GA, and what class I’m going to take in spring semester.

Here’s the bridge deal. First it’s a bidding problem. What do you bid with 8xxx, KTx, Kx, A9xx after partner opens 1D and RHO bids 1S in matchpoints with favorable vulnerability? 1NT looks reasonable and was my action, but I wouldn’t argue with double. Heck, some days at these colors I might even try a pass for penalties. 1NT buys it and my dummy is KJ, A9xx, AQT9x, xx. Best defense will hold this to 7 tricks unless you guess to finesse diamonds for an 8th trick but the defense I got was far less than stellar.


The ST was led and RHO took the AQ9 before shifting to a low club. LHO took my 9 with the 10 and fired a low heart through, the 8 winning the trick in dummy. Now, if diamonds were 4-2, I’d have the rest of the tricks but as implied earlier, LHO had 5 of the suckers and I found this out when I played a diamond to my K.

Here’s where it gets interesting. Assuming either opponent can hold a club stopper, which is likely the case, there’s a double squeeze on the run of the diamonds (a heart was pitched on the third spade), but we kind of have to guess the rounded suit distribution.

LHO is initially squeezed upon cashing the spade.at trick 7 – he had to hold 3 diamonds for sure so either voided himself of clubs to keep a heart stopper or kept honor doubleton of clubs and a stiff heart. That could be difficult to figure out, but it’s a two card difference in the two different holdings.

RHO gets squeezed at trick 9 upon cashing the last good diamond. Before trick 9, dummy had A9x of hearts and Ax of diamonds while declarer has KTx of hearts and Ax of clubs.

If LHO had unguarded hearts, RHO must now keep all his hearts, so the low club will be good at trick 13.

If LHO had unguarded clubs, RHO must keep two clubs so is squeezed out of his heart trick. Now a heart to the K at trick 10 and the ace of clubs at trick 11 will squeeze LHO again in the pointed suits. Dummy pitches behind LHO at trick 11 with AT of hearts and a diamond while LHO has Qx of hearts and the J of diamonds.

If only LHO can guard clubs, there is a simple minor suit squeeze against him. If only RHO can guard clubs, he can’t guard hearts (he would have 10 black cards plus 1 diamond) so there’s a simple red suit squeeze against him.

Whew. I think I got that right.