Wednesday, December 23, 2009

More Adventures in Slam bidding

Last night, my partner at the local club picked up:
AKQ, AKx, Qx, AKQxx.

Playing a standard system, what's your plan on how to bid this monster? After partner makes a negative response, denying any A or K or 2 queens? How about after partner makes a semi-positive response showing 1 king?

Suppose you open 2C, partner makes a negative 2H, and you bid 3C, you would expect partner to bid 3M with a 5 card suit but would you expect partner to bid 3NT with any other balanced hand or bid 3D as sort of "I don't have a major to bid"? Is 3C even forcing? My instinct would be to bid 3NT over partner's initial response. And most of the time that will probably work well. This is why the strong artificial 2C opening is one of the worst bids in bridge. You're up to 3C and you have no idea if you have a fit or if this is a partscore, game, or slam hand. I think responder has to bid again over 3C and 3M should promise 5, 3D is sort of a last train bid, and 3NT should imply some length, but not strength in diamonds.

How about if the 2H response showed 1 control (1 king)? I still think 3C is the best rebid by opener. Now, you're almost surely going to slam, and this leaves the most options open for which strain. 2NT shuts out the club suit.

At the table, I held:
JT9xx, Jxxx, x, JTx.

Now, how do you get to the cold slam in spades?
At my table, I responded 2H, showing 1 control (I forgot what system we were playing) and from there it was easy because partner was able to play me for 5 spades and the king of diamonds.

But if I correctly make a negative response, how can opener raise spades and ask if I have shortness in diamonds? If the auction started: 2C-2D(no A or K); 3C-3S, what is 4H? A cue for spades? A second suit? Is it forcing? If it is forcing, 4H, followed by 5S would get the message across that I want to be in slam if you have 2nd round diamond control.

Anyway, this would be a fairly easy hand in most precision systems. In the system I use most, the auction would look something like: 1C-1D-1H-1S-2C-2S-3S-4D-6S. 1C 16+. 1D 0-7. 1H 20+. 1S 0-4. 2C I don't care, we're still going to game. 2S 5 card suit. 3S raise, still some slam interest. 4D cuebid (can't be an A or K so must be a singleton).

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Bidding adventures

Not a whole lot excitement has gone on lately in my bridge world. A couple of nights ago, I had a couple of adventures in slam bidding. You pick up: S-AJ, H-ATxx, D-AKQxx, C-Qx. How do you bid this hand after partner opens 1H? My partner held this hand and started with Jacoby 2NT, I bid 4H, he cuebid 4S, and I signed off in 5H, and he left it there. LHO then cashed the AK of clubs and the hand was over. At the club several people blasted into blackwood without concern that they didn't have a club control. with 32 hcp and all the keycards but 1, you should be in slam, right?!

Another potential slam hand both my partner and I overbid. I held:
S-AKJxxx, H-Axxxx, D-void, C-xx, and partner had:
S-Qxx, H-Kxxx, D-xxxx, C-Kx
My rho opened 1D, I bid 1S, lho bid 2D, partner raised to 2S, rho bid 3D, I bid 3H (basically a helpsuit game try), he signed off in 3S, then I cuebid 4D, which basically is first round control and confirming that 3H was really a help suit slam try. He bid 4H and I bid 4S, finally thinking I got across the message that I have a hand with good major suit holdings, a void in diamonds and no club control. Partner, though, decided the club K was enough to keep bidding. So, he bid 5C and I went on to 6S. Hearts didn't split so it seems that we would be down 1 or two depending on the position of the club ace. However, lho revoked on the 2nd spade trick and the ace of clubs was onside, so the revoke penalty allowed us to make the improbable contract.

In another interesting hand from Friday night, my partner picked up:
S-QJTx, H-Qx, D-J9x, C-A9xx
The auction went, starting on his left: 1C-1D-1NT-2D; 3C-3H-4C-?? Matchpoints, both vul, what do you do over this? Is partner or rho the crazy bidder at this table. There can't really be 55 hcp as this auction would indicate. My partner doubled, which I think is correct, even though you can expect partner to be at least 6-4 in the reds with a void in clubs. There should be enough to set 4C. Anyway, partner leads the J of hearts and dummy is xxx, Axxx, Qxx, KTx. Declarer wins the K in hand and plays a club to the K, partner playing an encouraging diamond. What do you lead after taking the Ace of clubs? Or do you duck the club? Ducking will almost certainly lead to defeating the contract because declarer will play AK and another spade, and partner shows out on the 3rd spade, so you know to play A and a club to prevent a spade ruff. But it seems so counter-intuitive to lead trumps to keep the 4333 dummy from ruffing, especially when spade and heart leads are both attractive. If partner has a spade honor, you'll beat the hand no matter what but when partner has grossly overbid his 8-count, you have to figure out a way to beat the contract assuming partner has no help in spades. And leading trumps is the only way to do that.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Sometimes it just doesn't pay to count

I encountered this hand last night. I was west in 6H after opening 1H and hearing 3C from north. North led Ace and 8 of clubs. Plan the play.


















Basically the contract hinges on picking the diamond suit up for no losers. Obviously taking a straight spade finesse will work here as you'll get 3 pitches on the AJT of spades and then can ruff dummy's last 2 diamonds, but that's not a reasonable line of play. Given the preempt, south is a favorite to have diamond length. So, I think I'm going to eventually play the ace of diamonds and then finesse south for the Q. But to try to get more of a count of the hand, I decided to ruff a couple of spades in my hand. When the K fell on the 2nd round, I thought I had a whole count on the hand. North must be 2-1-3-7. So, after pulling the last trump, I cashed the king of diamonds and played low to the ten. No one else in middle Georgia would have found that line of play, but I am convinced it is correct. It just happens to be wrong when north preempts 3C on an 8 card suit.

As a side note, it would be the right play to play the K of spades from Kxx or Kxxx. North knows west's shape is 1-5-5-2 and setting up 2 spades can't possibly help declarer, so he might as well try to mislead declarer about his distribution in case there is a guess in diamonds.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Are You Serious?

In the midnight game Friday night, we were playing against a pair of sober guys, but at least they were accepting of the laughing and some silliness that is natural at midnight games. We had just been laughing about something and on about the 4th board, I opened 1H, Sean bid 1S, alerted by me. After a couple of seconds, rho asks did you alert? yes. what does 1S mean? he promised only 3 spades. (slight hesitation, still a lot of giggling going around) are you serious? yeah. okay. A couple of hands later, I open 1D, partner responds 1S, alerted as promising only 3, and I rebid 1NT, alerted. the opponent asks again what it means? he has exactly 5 hearts and at least 2 spades. (another couple of seconds hesitation) are you serious? yeah. that's our system. that was amusing.

Swiss Team Success

We're not talking about the first 3 sessions of bridge at the San Diego NABC: 2 slightly below average sessions in the LM Pairs and losing by 1 imp in bracket 2 of a KO. The last 3 sessions, however, were pretty memorable and competition was much much weaker. Sean and I won the Saturday night side game and had 2 below average boards for the session. On one, we didn't bid a cold 4S with 14 opposite 9 hcp and nothing special in distribution. The other bad board was when Sean preempted 3D with AKQxxx and out, doubled and down 3. We got 1.5 out of 22 matchpoints on those two but bridge was easy otherwise despite consuming large amounts of rum throughout the session.

Sunday we played Swiss Teams with Giorgia and her partner. It got off to a very gloomy start, not unlike the last time Sean and I played in a Swiss game together with Megan and Patrick in Athens.

Board 1 was boring but on board 2 I picked up at none vulnerable: x, JT8xx, x, AKJxxx. I opened 1H, promising 4 and the auction proceeds 1S - X (3 card H support) - 2H; 4H - 4S - P - P; 5H - P - P - X; all pass. Probably not the best bidding in the world but I really thought 5H would be a good save over 4S. And it would have been good if I had just played for down 3. I got tapped out and lost trump control when I tried to draw a 2nd round of trumps. If I just play for hearts to split 4-1 and start running the clubs after the first round of trumps, I can never lose more than 3 hearts, a spade, and a diamond. But I was greedy trying to go down only 1 or 2 and wound up down going down 5 for -1100 against +420 at the other table. In matchpoints it's right to play a second trump as down 2 would be close to a top while down 3 or more would be basically a 0. But in imps, down 3 is only a 2 imp loss compared to a 3 imp gain for down 2 while down 5 as we saw was -12 imps.

On our third board, I picked up ATxx, x, xxx, AT9xx at favorable vulnerability. Partner opened a big club, rho bid 1S and I passed showing 0-7hcp or a trap pass. Partner, obligated to reopen with a double with almost any balanced or takeout double-shaped hand, did reopen with a double which I sat for. I think the chances of getting 500 or 800 are excellent and bidding/making slam are unlikely. Plus I was eager to make up for the previous board. But this bidding is not unreasonable at all and we would have had no trouble setting the contract 1 trick if I just led a minor suit card to start the tapping game. But I decided to start with my singleton heart and was unable to get enough heart ruffs to set the contract. Declarer was 6-4 in the majors. I don't totally disagree with partner's reopening double on J, xxx, AKQJxx, KQJ, but I probably would have just bid 2D. Anyway, we got desperate toward the end of the hand and allowed an overtrick for -360 while we are cold for 6 of a minor. So, 3 boards into it, we've blown at least 25 imps.

Fortunately, the rest of the day was smooth sailing and we finished 5th out of 67 with 134VPs out of a possible 180.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Another Possible Exclusion Example

I didn't play this hand and I don't know if I would have come up with a good way to bid this but you hold:
void, A, KQJxxxxx, KQxx.

Partner opens 1C. What's your plan?

Basically you want to be in 7NT if partner has 3 aces, 7D (or 7C) if partner has both minor suit aces aces, 6 of a minor if partner has one minor suit ace, 6NT if partner has a minor suit ace and AK, K in the majors. This also would be a good hand for strong jump shifts. The partner of the person that told me this hand but 1D to start with, which makes it very awkward to keep making forcing bids later and eventually get to bid any kind of blackwood. I liked the idea of starting with an inverted 2C. After opener's rebid, try 4S, which should be exclusion keycard blackwood for clubs. I think that would be true even if opener rebid 3NT. In the actual hand, opener would rebid 2S on Axxx, Jxx, A, AJxxx. Now you might interpret 4S as a possible attempt to play 4S, but that doesn't make sense either because responder would have bid 1S initially with 4, and opener is only promising a stopper in spades with the 2S rebid. Anyway, after a 5D response to exclusion (2 w/o the queen), responder can confidently bid 7D. Opener now, can infer that we have 5 running clubs, 7+ running diamonds, and the ace of hearts, so opener can correct to 7NT with the ace of spades.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

New Adventure

The trip to Spartanburg for the D7 NAP finals was fun, although the bridge was not good for my partner or me. A pair of 65% games were there for us if Sean and I played decent, but I could tell that it was going to be bad from the beginning when I misdefended 3 times in the same hand to let them bid 3NT and make 6. The opening lead was unfortunate, but probably common, then I didn't split the KQ of hearts, but we still would have held him to 5 if I had paid more attention to partner's discards at the end. It was the kind of day where people gave us tops and then we gave them right back to finish the flight B NAP with a mediocre and disappointing 53.9%.

We had spent so much time discussing our system and having clever little bids, non of which came up. Lots of 12-15 NT openings but very few canape openings.

I may post some hands over the weekend but I'm kind of busy with rehearsing for a play the 2nd week of December. Except for the fall nationals, I'm pretty much done with bridge until after Christmas. It's been a long time since I've done well at a bridge tournament and I need a new adventure.

To read about my thoughts on this play I am in and other travel and relationship adventures in my life, check out Je Veux Voyager.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Unusual bridge scores at the club tonight

-250 is one of those scores in bridge that tends to be very good because you’ve stolen something from the opponents or very bad because someone forgot a convention and the opponents didn’t rescue you. There’s only one way to get this score, by going down 5. We opened 1 weak NT 4 or 5 times tonight and except for the one hand where we went down 5, the results were pretty much on par. This one was a victory for the 11-14 NT. I opened Txx, ATxx, KTxx, Ax in 1st position none vul. I found lefty with a ratty 13-count including 5 spades to the KJ and he opted to pass, partner passed, and rho couldn’t come in with a 4333 13-count. I wouldn’t say either of them misbid their hands – they are both very marginal for interfering over 1NT, even a weak NT. They defended very well and all I took was the 2 aces. Needless to say, their side was cold for 5S with the diamond hook on.

-630 and -650 are both very normal, common scores, when the opponents are vulnerable, but when they're non-vul, you can be pretty sure these scores will get you a zero. None vul, I picked up: x, xxx, AQJxx, AKJx. RHO opened 1H, I overcall 2D, partner bids 2S, which I think shows some values and probably tolerance for diamonds, RHO bids 3H. I took another look at this maximum overcall and singleton in partner’s suit and doubled. Declarer’s hand: Axx, 8 solid, x, x, and dummy was nice enough to provide the K of spades for the 10th trick and 630 the hard way. My double is definitely a bit aggressive and if they were vul. I think it would be very reasonable at matchpoints as there rates to be a big MP difference in +200 and +100 but not between +100 and +50. I mean, it sounds like our side has 23-26hcp and no fit and no stopper in hearts, and they’re at the 3 level. There were 3 590's for 4HX making, so if I let partner compete to 4D, I could double 4H for 1.5 matchpoints on 5 top.

On the other amusing hand from tonight, LHO opened 1D, partner bid 2D Michaels (both majors), RHO bid, 2S (natural). My hand is: xx, QTx, 8xxxx, Axx. The auction progressed: P by me – 3D – 3H – P; P – 4D – P – P; 4H – 5D – P – P. What now? What is going on here? As you may have been able to guess, I doubled and they made 6, hence the 650. Declarer was 1-1-7-4 with the A of hearts, and dummy 5-3-1-4 with the A of spades, and, of course, they had all the high diamonds and clubs except the A. I guess I should get the picture that partner has a weak 5-6 or 6-6 hand and my 5 little diamonds won’t be any trouble for declarer. Once I bid 4H, I need to bid 5H, which is down 1, maybe 2 (I don’t remember whether we would be able to get out for only 1 spade loser or not). I doubt they take the push to 6D.

Friday, November 6, 2009

When People Don't Defend Like I Would, It Makes Me a Bad Declarer

Here is a hand I played Tuesday night at the Robins Bridge Club that kind of irked me because, again, I over thought the hand. But I still believe my play was not wrong, at least if I was in good competition.










I was in 3NT with the south hand and got the Q of spades opening lead, which I ducked and he continued. If diamonds come in for 1 loser, I have 8 tricks and might be able to get a 9th in clubs as long as they can only take a total of 2 spades, a diamond, and a club. I decided I should plan to take the double hook in diamonds. I may wind up scoring no diamond tricks on the hand but it seems right – I don’t want to cash all the diamonds as soon as they force me to dummy with the ace of hearts. I could just see that if I played AK and another diamond, they would sitck me in dummy with a heart and I would have to make 4 pitches then, having to unguard my hearts or clubs and any competent defenders would figure out the situation.

So I led a diamond and west, after about 5 seconds of thought, plays the jack. I think it is probably wrong to split the honors with QJxx, might be right to split with QJx, but can never be wrong to play the jack from QJ, Jx, or J. If anything, playing the jack from Jx may force me to win and establish and cash the diamonds sooner than I want. Or it could cause me to make an unnecessary guess in the suit later in the hand. Anyway, I ducked and he returned a heart. I played a club to my Q and LHO’s A. Back a spade to my K and now I have the guess in diamonds. LHO follows low to this trick. I can make the rest of the diamonds by playing AK if they originally were 3-2 either way or I can make it by finessing the 10 if LHO started with QJxx. I decided to play for 3-2 since I would not have played the jack earlier from that holding but would from Jx. I went down 2, losing 2 spades, 2 diamonds, the king of hearts, and the ace of clubs. 3 people went down 1 and 3 people made 3NT. If I win the J of diamonds with the A and go ahead and set up the suit, I’ll be down 1 unless they misdefend.

Clearly I thought about the hand a lot more than anyone else at the club. I can’t trust people, even against the top players at this club, to defend like I would or defend well.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

6-0 trump splits are fun

...when you have the 6 trumps on defense.

So, results from the Augusta regional were not favorable for me at all. My partner and I did not play badly at all. After every match we thought we had a good chance at winning. In the first KO, we were knocked out of a 3 way when we were all 1-1 but we were -8 imps and that was the lowest, average in the BAM, then in the Saturday Compact KO, we barely survived the first round three way by losing by 23 and tying, and then lost in the 2nd round. Apparently the tiebreaker when you tie in a compact KO is BAM against the team you tied with. Then we won 3 matches and were dead average in the Sunday Swiss.

Anyway, here is my favorite hand from the tournament:

Dlr: S

















Against one of the top pairs from Atlanta, I opened 1H, after 2 passes, south balances with a double and I redouble, showing extra values. North bids 1S, passed back to me, and I bid 2D. North, quite reasonably decided his hand is worth a nother call so he bid 2S, which partner doubled. Partner started with a trump and when I won the first heart, I led a club, and declarer eventually finessed diamonds and came up to 4 tricks for -800. Disappointingly, at the other table EW somehow made 4H so it was only 5 imps our way.
A couple of rounds later, against Sontag, my partner had a defensive lapse, I guess is what you'd call it. They were in 3NT and our side hadn't bid. I led the 4 of spades and dummy had the singleton J. You hold A972 and an outside A. Declarer drops the 8 under your ace (from the auction declarer could have had 4 spades). Which spade you lead back at trick 2? Clearly since I am writing this, not the 2. I had led from K6543 so the suit blocked when he returned 4th best and the contract made.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Winning a Beer Declaring 1S

Most days I don't pay any attention to the beer card - I mean, it's just some ordinary spot card, but tonight I was noticing opportunities to win a beer. (In case you don't know, if you win trick 13 with the 7 of diamonds without taking an inferior line of play to do so, your partner owes you a beer.)

So, I think tonight was the first time I consciously did that. It was the last round in a 4 table game at the Robins club and Joel and I were around 70% (we finished 69.64%) and playing the 2nd best pair in the room. Here is the hand:

Dlr: W
Vul: All

I opened 1S and got to play it there. North led a low heart and south continued a heart at trick 2. I then played AK of spades and then A of diamonds. Seeing the good break, I led a 3rd round of spades, which south won and made me ruff a heart. I gave south his last spade, and he made me ruff another heart. Now dummy's clubs were all gone and all I needed to do was play the Q of diamonds, diamond to the J, 10, and 7. Granted, the defense could have cashed 2 clubs at any point and then led more hearts to prevent me from being able to score the 7 of diamonds at the end, but I think this still counts. It's not totally obvious to south that pumping me isn't the right defense. North could have had the Q of diamonds and only 1 club honor, right? Maybe.