Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Teaching Bridge

Unfortunately, I live in an area where the demand for bridge teachers is very low. While the local Wednesday night bridge game regularly has 13 tables, it had been difficult to recruit new dupllicate players in the Macon/Warner Robins area.

This past spring, I offered an 8-week series on beginning bridge free of charge. The ACBL and the local duplicate bridge club paid for advertising and instructor fees. We advertised in all the local newspapers and through word of mouth and wound up with 12 people the first week. Not bad for this being the first formal bridge class in this area in the 2+ years I have been here. 10 people managed to stick to it all the way to the end of the beginners course, but only 2 have since played at the duplicate club.

I started another free beginnig bridge series on September 14 and have had 7 participants. In a area of 200,000, including Macon, Warner Robins, and Perry, I guess that's about what would be expected. Any other ideas of how to get more people interested? Would trying to work with the schools to maybe teach maybe the math team work? I've seen that it cen definitely work in Atlanta but there is a much larger base of people.

I am an ACBL certified teacher and club director. I would be willing to teach online on Bridge Base, play a session and provide hand analysis/feedback to a student.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Forcing Pass

There are several situation in bridge where a pass can be forcing. There's the forcing pass bidding system in which you pass as dealer with all good hands and bid something with bad hands. That system is illegal in most duplicate bridge games.

A forcing pass situation occurs more frequently in normal bidding when your side has bid a game and the opponents have taken a sacrifice, or at least what appears to be a sacrifice. In an auction such as 1H-3D-4D-P; 4H-P-P-5D; P here by opener is forcing. Opener's side has bid game with the intentions of making it (The cuebid of 4D indicates strength and heart support whereas 3H and 4H would not have shown as much strength), so we have to either double them or bid again. How do we decide what to do? With my regular partners, we tend to double with hands that do not think 5H has much chance to make, usually based on slow values or lots of values in the opponents' suit. We bid again with particularly distributional hands. We pass with hands where we don't have a strong opinion either way - more or less an average hand for the auction so far. We also pass with hands that are interested in slam. This pass and pull (pass 5D now but then pull partner's double to 5H) shows interest in slam and probably first round control in the opponents' suit.

Since slams can often be made on much fewer than 33 points with such distributional hands, it is often useful to have a way to distinguish between bidding 5H to make and bidding 5H as an invite to 6. But we must know for sure that a forcing pass situation in in effect. As a general rule, passes in direct position are forcing when we have bid game and expect to make it and the opponents take another bid. In the auction 1H-1S-3H-3S; 4H-4S-P, this pass is not forcing for responder has not shown any values. 3H was a preemptive raise so if responder does have some good defensive values, he needs to double to show that because opener will not be expecting responder to have any defensive values. A situation that is a little ambiguous is if the auction starts 1H-1S-2S where responder has made a limit raise and opener has declined to accept the invitation to game. If the opponents later bid 4S, is passing over 4S by either partner forcing? I think so, but many good bridge players think it wouldn't be forcing because we never bid game or were in a game forcing auction. My thinking is that this is a very distributional hand for the opponents to be sticking their neck out at 4S when we have announced that we have over half of the high cards. So, if they can make 4S, surely we can make something so we must double to protect what we could have made or bid on to 5H.

Forcing passes may also occur after a 1NT opening is doubled for penalty. Many strong notrumpers play stayman and transfers on after their 1NT is doubled in direct seat, but when responder has a balanced yarborough, it can be very difficult to find a playable suit. I am a big fan of weak notrumps and the following runout structure, and I don't see why usign the same structure over strong notrumps wouldn't work well. We will assume an 11-14 1NT range. After 1NT-X:
Pass = forces redouble to sign off in 2C or 2D or 2H (with a 5 card suit) or leave 1NTXX in (with 9+hcp)
XX = please bid your lowest ranking 4 card suit. I have no desire to play 1NTX with 4333 shape or possibly 4432.
2C = 4-4 in clubs and another suit. opener passes with 3+ and bids 2D with a doubleton.
2D = 4-4 in diamonds and a major.
2H = 4-4 in the majors
2S = to play

You will almost always be able to find at least a 4-3 fit and be relatively safe if the opponents double again. Knowing your runout system is crucial when playing a weak notrump because all too often you will open a flat 12 and catch partner with a flat 3 count and desperately need to escape to a better contract.

Friday, September 18, 2009

My Bad Declarer Play

It's rare that I totally misplay a hand. I mean, to misguess something or take the wrong finesse is totally acceptable but I can't remember the last time I so obvioiusly misplayed a hand twice in the same session, like I did Tuesday at the local club.



The deuce of hearts, playing 4th best leads, was led against my 4S contract. I managed to go down in this contract despite spades being 2-3 and hearts 4-2. How could I possibly lose more than 1 club and 1 spade? I started out intending to duck a round of spades as some sort of guard against a 4-1 split. But when I led toward dummy at trick 2, lho played the 10, I won and led back a spade and rho played the jack. Hmm. Now I decided spades would be 3-2 so I can win this and take a diamond finesse to possibly discard my other club loser. But when the diamond finesse lost to east, she (a weak player) led back another heart without drawing a trump or leadind a club to dummy's weakness. Little did she know that was the winning defense at this point. I could have salvaged it (for making only 4 instead of the 5 that i was entitled to after the opening lead) by winning in dummy and playing the ace of diamonds. Instead I played the A from my hand and then led another heart, ruffed, and now a club. Looking back at it now, I still don't see how I went down because the 8 of spades now is an entry to the 2 good red cards, but I know I got the hand right because I took the time to copy it down before leaving. Anyway, if they would just lead clubs from the beginning, this wouldn't have been an issue at all.

A few weeks ago, against another weak pair, I held some hand with 6-4 in the majors and made a weak jump overcall in the 6 card suit. At the other table in the team game, my counterpart bid michaels, his partner picked the 4 card suit, and our teammates wound up playing the hand in game and at our table they made a partscore. My partner had 4 small in my 4 card suit and KQ in my 6 card suit. Anyway, at some point in the hand, our teammates had to decide whether my hand was 5-5 and the hand opposite mine bid hearts with 3 dead instead of spades with KQx, or whether the michaels bidder was 6-4. I would play the michaels bidder was 5-5, and my teammate who played the hand thought the same thing and went down in the contract. So, think like a bad player. Are bad bridge players more likely to pick 3 small over KQx or to bid michaels on 6-4 hands? I don't know, but the teammate who was dummy was very adamant that a bad player would always pick his better suit if the lengths are equal. What do you think?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Junior bridge in Atlanta

Every time I go to a tournament or even a club game in Atlanta now, I see teenagers playing. Lots of them. And I think to myself, why were there no people my age in this area playing when I was a teenager or a college student? I mean, Brian Levy played for awhile and was pretty good but college life took over his life apparently more than it did mine. And at Tech, Mike Rice was there for a year or two while I was and we tried to have a bridge group but it was just too hard to get enough interest. My last year at Tech, Richard Starr and I taught a class at the student center for free. I thought that might drum up some interest, but we had maybe 6 people show up and there was some talk of re-starting a GT bridge club but it never happened. I blame it on computers and tv and the multitude of other things young people can do now.

So, I continue to be impressed by the work Patty Tucker has done with Atlanta Junior Bridge in getting so many kids interested in playing. I guess it is unrealistic to expect many people to stick to it, given the number or people I personally talked to about learning bridge. She got hundreds of kids in summer camps and it seems like a good 10-15% of them actually are playing in tournaments now. I suppose those are good numbers. But simple reaching out to them is a big thing.

In Macon/Warner Robins, it is going to be a lot harder because of the much smaller base of people. If we expect that 10% of the people we teach will actually like it enough to continue, in WR, that's maybe 2 or 3 people. And it's hard for them to continue unless they have more peers.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Atlanta Regional 2009

Bridge tournaments make people fat. Even me. I went to the gym yesterday and I was a whole 6 pound heavier than the same time 5 days ago. And I only spent 3 days at the tournament over the weekend. In those 3 days, I had several big meals, at least 10 alcoholic drinks, 10 cans of mountain dew, 5 bowls of ice cream, and no exercise. So, for anyone who goes to a bridge tournament with me in the future, try to not let me do that. Help me stick to: only 1 big meal per day, drink water during the bridge sessions, go jogging or something like that in the morning or between sessions.

Now, on to some bridge from the Atlanta regional. I played with Bryan Delfs and we teamed with Emory Whitaker and Joel Haywood. We really thought we would bring Emory down to bracket 2 for the first time in decades. He has twice as many masterpoints as the other 3 combined. But, alas, 11800 for the team still got us in bracket 1 of the weekend KO. We survive the first 2 matches with relative ease and then none of us could do anything right in the 3rd round. I don’t remember many interesting hands from the first 2 days but in the Swiss team game Monday we had at least a couple of interesting hands.

My partner and I somewhat ambitiously got to 3NT both overbidding our 11 point hands (1D-1H-1NT-3NT) on the following hands:


LHO led the 6 of spades, east played the 8, I won the T and played the K back, east dropping the J. It was a fortunate spade position and one round of hearts was ducked and then west won with the A and led another spade. East won and played back a club to the 8, 10 and A. Now, with 3 spades, a heart, a club in the bag and the club suit now wide open, I need to collect 4 more tricks. Diamond ace, low to Q and E shows out. So about all I can hope for if the west’s original hand was xxxx, Ax, Jxxx, KQT. In which case I can put him in with a club and he will have to lead back a diamond into me at trick 12. they could have certainly defended better, and I suppose that once they ducked a heart, I should play a diamond to the 9 as a safety play for 4 diamond tricks, but still, I was glad I got the end situation right, for +13 imps.

On the last hand of the day, we picked up these hands:


At our table, Bryan opened 1NT, east showed a hand with a long minor or both majors, I transferred to 2S and then splintered 4D, and Bryan signed off in 4S. He casually made 5 after spades split 4-0 and clubs 5-1 for +650. At the other table, our teammates didn’t bid and they got to 6S by S after a 1D opening. 6S made at the other table, thanks to the AQ doubleton of diamonds with east. But you have to start right away by trumping a diamond at trick 2, after a heart lead, to maintain enough entries to ruff out the ace of diamonds. East was somewhat offshape for shoring both majors as he was 4-6-2-1. It’s all easy after you lead a diamond and the Q pops up for you to ruff. -13 imps for the somewhat lucky slam. A push would have gotten us a win in the last round and probably gotten to 6th or 7th overall. As it stands, we were just a bit above average in the A/X Swiss. It was a very fun 3 day weekend.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Declarer Play Problem

Last night at the club I had what I found to be a very interesting declarer play hand. I spent probably 8 or 9 minutes on it and still got it wrong. And I've been trying to think of how I could legitimately make this and I can't find a way.

xx KTx
9xxx AQx
J9xx AT
QJ8 97xxx

East opened 1C and I wound up in 4S. West leads the club queen. How do you play this hand? I kept thinking I should be able to make this contract but I have yet to find a way to legitimately do it. The bidding and opening lead pinpoints all the honors, so I figured if I could hold my losers to a spade, a heart, and a diamond. But there really aren't enough entried to dummy to lead toward the diamond Q, lead toward the heart K, take a spade finesse, take a ruffing finesse in hearts.

I guess the line I took needed east to be 2-4-2-5 to work, which is certainly possible. I won trick 1 in dummy and played a heart to the K and a heart ducked to east's Q. I won the club return in my hand and played the jack of spades, which east won and led a 3rd round of clubs, ruffed with the 9. I had already lost 2 tricks and have 1 more sure loser and I need to figure out something to do with the last diamond. I can set up a heart for a diamond discard, and then lead a diamond from dummy toward my Q and then duck the next round. But I need 2 entries to dummy to do that. I chose to finesse the 8 of spades to create that second entry but when east won and led back his 3rd trump, I was down 2. Another option I considered at that point was to play a spade to the Q and then lead a diamond. If east was indeed 2-4-2-5, he could promote west's possible 10 of spades for their 4th trick. does anyone see a better line of play? It seems like taking a spade finesse right away might work, but then there's still the problem of getting to dummy again to lead the red suits. I may get spades right but wind up with 3 diamond losers. Maybe it's right to go ahead and strip out the club suit and then play the ace and jack of spades.

Exclusion Blackwood

Last week at the Warner Robins club I had a chance to use exclusion keycard Blackwood for the first time in a very long time. And my partner actually recognized it. Exclusion Blackwood is typically a jump to 5 of a suit to ask about aces of keycards no counting the ace of the suit bid, presumably because the one asking is void in the suit. Normally you would have agreed on a trump suit prior to making this bid. Responses are the same as key card blackwood - 1st step 0 or 3, 2nd step 1 or 4, 3rd step 2 without the Q of trump, and 4th step 2 with the Q of tump. I held:
My partner opened 1♠, I responded 2NT, Jacoby, partner said 3 (shortness), and I bid 5, exclusion keycard for spades. He responded 6 showing 2 keycards with the Q and I could confidently bid 7♠. It's virtually cold even if he only those 9 high card points but he had the singleton Q of diamonds to go along with it.

I'm wondering whether 1♠-2NT; 4♠-5 would be exclusion keycard or just first round control of hearts. The 5 bid wouldn't be a jump, which is generally part of Exclusion Blackwood. Also, would 1♠-5be exclusion keycard blackwood or exclusion regular blackwood. My partner at the time seemed to think it would not be keycard, which I tend to disagree with, but I don't know.