Tuesday, December 28, 2010


So as Andre has pointed out recently there are many parts of standard bridge that people seem to skip over or never get to. I’ve witnessed a lot of confusion about 4NT being quantitative or ace-asking – especially after a 1NT opener. When asked about some auctions after a 1NT opener the only person under the age of 18 who knew the correct answer was Adam Kaplan; I guess juniors are the worst at trying to skip steps, and in the process missing a lot of important concepts.

I’ll start with transfers: 1NT-2D;2H-4NT. This should be a quantitative 4NT with a 5 card heart suit. Opener can now choose to pass or sign off in 5H/6H/6N. To ask for aces in Hearts a Texas Transfer and then bid 4NT.

The principle is also the same for Stayman. Bidding 4NT before a major has been agreed on is quantitative and shows the other major. 1NT-2C;2H-4NT shows a quantitative invite and a 4 card Spade suit. 3 of whichever major opener did not bid is artificial agreeing on opener’s major and at least mild slam interest. This bid is where all of the polled youths were not sure of the correct meaning. 4NT after 3 of the other Major is now, of course, ace-asking.

This bidding is simple, yet I see it confused at the club quite frequently. I know there are some advanced standard bidding concepts that I know, but this is a very good example of how people need to fully learn some detailed rebids.

Anyway, Andre and I are off to play in Charleston with a couple of Atlanta juniors.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Knowing When a Sluff-Ruff is Right

Things tend to come in threes. Since I was twice irked by takeout doubles of 1NT last week, I guess I kind of knew a third one would be coming soon, and it came last night. My LHO picked up Kxxx, AQx, Ax, Txxx, and I opened a 15-17 1NT. Obviously, dude doubles, partner transfers to hearts, and RHO bids 2S, which is passed out. So they have reached a 2S contract that most tables wouldn't reach after my hand opens 1NT. However, my masterminding skills were in top form last night and I actually had a rather mundane 14 count: AQx, Tx, K9xx, KQxx, so the field will be bidding 2S as well, after a takeout double of a 1D opening.
Anyway, the more interesting part of this deal is the defense. I led a heart which declarer took with the jack and then led the jack of spades. I rose with the ace and played another heart. Declarer took this in hand and led a small spade to dummy's K, failing to pin partner's now-stiff 9. Now she played ace and a diamond, partner winning with the jack. Partner now led a low club to my Q. I then cashed the spade queen but now what? I have a partial count on declarer's hand: 4 spades, 3 hearts, and 2 or 4 diamonds (if partner's first play on diamonds to accurately be showing odd count is accurate), so declarer has 2 or 4 clubs. If he has 4 clubs, giving him a ruff and a sluff here cannot help him. If he has 2 clubs, giving him a ruff and a sluff also will not help him unless partner has the ace of clubs. Can partner have the ace of clubs? Would declarer have bid 2S on JTxx, KJx, xxxx, xx? I think not. The fact that declarer has only 4 spades should indicate more high cards. And partner might have taken more action with the ace of clubs and QJ of diamonds.
So, I continued with a low diamond, expecting partner to have only the jack left (in which case tapping the dummy is clearly best regardless of who holds the club ace), but knowing that she may well have Jxx left and this be a sluff-ruff. The latter is in fact what she had. I'm making sure I get my second club trick. After the hand, I get a strange look or disapproval from dummy, as if I had misdefended. We teach and are taught that sluff-ruffs are bad bad things to do, but when it is right, and you can work it out that it's the right play, it's sweet. Of course, you have to be counting and trusting partner's signaling and visualizing cards in declarer's hand that are consistent with the bidding, and playing out what might happen if you make a particular play. -110 was worth a top as most of the people were -140 or -170.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Double of 1NT

Let's go over the double of 1NT. This is about as annoying, maybe more annoying, than people not knowing about responsive doubles. Most players, even inexperienced players have some sort of agreement about what they play over the opponents' NT openings - DONT and Cappelletti are two of the most common ones, and in those systems X is a one-suited hand (in DONT) or a penalty double (in Capp). But if you haven't talked about your defense to NT, it shall be assumed you're playing natural suit overcalls, but what does that mean for double? A "natural" double of 1NT is a penalty double. Unquestionably. And responder is supposed to pull only if very weak and with a long suit.

Lately, I have seen a lot of people play something like a takeout double of 1NT, which is kind of silly. Twice in the last 3 days at the bridge club, my opponent made a "takeout" double of my partner's 1NT and when LHO bid a suit, RHO bid 2NT. Both times, I had enough points to know our side had over half the high cards so I doubled, later to find that the doubler has something more like a minimal takeout double of the suit her partner bid. Why don't people know that doubling 1NT is basically a penalty double and that doubling and then bidding 2NT, shows about 20 hcp?

Apparently beginning bridge teachers and books do a really crappy job of teaching the concepts behind doubling. It's pretty simple. If the opponents have bid one suit, double is takeout (or negative or responsive if your partner has opened or overcalled). If you double NT, it is penalty. Doubling and then bidding a new suit or NT shows a huge hand - too big to overcall. This is standard. Learn standard so that I don't keep getting irritated with such silly auctions, and pissed off when such an auctions gets me a zero.

On another note, Saturday afternoon, Sean and I got a near-top for going down 6 vulnerable in 5S. We may have run to our better fit (6C) if the lady with KT9xx of spades found a double, which I may have been able to hold to -2. But the field was in 4H or 5H making 5 the other way. It's not often you can go down 6 and get a good score.

Online last night, Sean and I had another score that you rarely see: +4000. 2NTXX -7. LHO decided to open 2NT with 8 solid clubs and not much else. Partner had AKQTxx of diamonds and dummy came down with Jxxx of diamonds, so after cashing a high diamond, he underled his honors and my 9 won trick 2 so we wound up taking 6 diamonds, then ran 5 hearts, and had the ace of spades. If declarer guessed correctly to play the jack at trick 2, it would have been -1280 for us, quite a large swing on that one play.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Breaking Up a Double Squeeze for 6NT

Last night was the annual Christmas party at the local club. I must say, my partner and I had copious amounts of alcohol - he finished a bottle of wine by himself, and I had several glasses of pepsi and malibu, not to mention all the food from the potluck. Clubs really should do this more often - have potluck dinners. As usual, my dish was one of the few empty ones at the end of the night, and it's not because I didn't make enough; it's just that good.

Anyway, on to the bridge... I had another issue with people now knowing what a responsive double is. My LHO, one of the better players at the club who has 2000ish masterpoints, held xx, AKxx, AJxxx, xx, and the auction went 1C-1S-3C to her. This is a clear responsive double situation but she chose 3D instead, which was passed out (ugh. surely 3D should be forcing here) and they couldn't help but make 3. Fortunately 3NT and 3M were just about as cold so I couldn't really complain about the result. It was just another instance of my being frustrated by the fact that people just don't know about responsive doubles.

More interesting was this hand where we bid to 6NT.
Dealer: E
Vul: EW
6D in the 5-3 fit has a sure club and diamond loser, 6C in the 5-2 fit has 2 sure club losers, 6NT is makable on a double squeeze but I'm totally not convinced that's the right line, but 6S in the 5-1 fit makes pretty easily since spades split 4-3 by either ruffing a heart in dummy or ruffing out a club to set up a long club.

In 6NT, north led a diamond, which is probably best. If nothing else, it cuts down on entries for a later squeeze. I tanked for awhile, took the ace and continued with the CK and CQ, both holding. I tanked again. Now I could play for clubs to be 3-3 or play for something good to happen in diamonds. It turns out I should then lead a diamond and south won't be able to take a club now, but I decided it's not very likely north led from 2 small and ducked the club ace twice, and squeeze possibilities looked grim now. This was not against a good pair. So, I played for clubs to split and went down 1.

Let's see how the squeeze could materialize. If north takes one of the first 2 clubs and leads another diamond, I can cash the 3rd round of clubs, run the spades and reach a 3 card ending. On the last spade at trick 10, north, must unguard hearts to keep from making dummy's club good, therefore dummy can throw away the club. Now, south must also unguard hearts to keep from making dummy's diamond good, and the heart ten would take trick 13. Making 6. Simple.
Dealer: E
Vul: EW






But, is the squeeze still there if north ducks clubs twice? You can't rectify the count now without risking losing both club tricks or a club and a diamond. So, on the run of the spades, you can reach this ending with one spade left to cash:
Dealer: E
Vul: EW



North can safely pitch a diamond and south a heart. The best you can do now is play AK and a heart and hold south doesn't unblock the Q to get himself endplayed. I think I would have been able to execute the squeeze if north had cooperated, but she made what turned out to be an excellent duck of clubs twice.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Bridge Pros and Prostitutes redux

I've been thinking about an article I wrote a couple of months ago comparing bridge pros to sex workers. I still think the two jobs are very similar in that they both take advantage of the fact that there are some rich people willing to blow lots of money (well, it would be lots of money for the average person) to be treated well.

However, in light of some recent personal non-bridge adventures, I have come to realize that I have no problems with people performing a service for a fee and taking advantage of the rich, lonely, horny people to a point. We all need money so if someone wants that lifestyle and can find ways to get it funded, what's wrong with that? It's the other negative behavior that often is associated with prostitutes, strippers, and professional card players that bothers me - things that aren't directly to the job like excessive drug use, mental illness, instability, becoming too involved with the job that they fail to be prepared for life if/when they can no longer find clients, failure to realize that turning a hobby into work may cause the hobby to not be fun anymore, and generally being an unproductive to society.

There are some very respectable pros - people who give back to the bridge community, play in clubs, have no difficulty being nice to and even playing with bad players for free, and I guess these people happen to also be the ones that teach beginners rather than just play for masterpoints. And I know at least 2 strippers who are awesome people and clearly very good, caring, even religious people and not into drugs or gangs or things like that. I can't say I know any prostitutes but I assume that like strippers and bridge pros, a small percentage of them are also good sane people who I might not mind having as a friend.

In other news I looking forward to ST@Cs this week. With 345 mp for the year, I need some mp to catch bob jones for the 1000-2500 unit 114 mini-McKenney and playing 5 sessions in Macon/WR gives me a decent shot at 30 or more mp. Maybe.
Sent from my iPhone


I was declarer in 4h after lho opened 1D and led a low D to rho's J and my A. I immediately led a low club. Lho rose with the ace and shifted to the SK. So now there's no potential second spade loser and I dont need to ruff a diamond in dummy, but I still need to bring trumps in for one loser. What's the best way to do this?

After winning the SA, I led low toward dummy and lho played the jack. If that's a stiff, I need to take a double hook through rho. But even if it's QJx or QJ I can take a finesse and be okay as long as no spade ruff is available. When lho has Kx of spades and 3 hearts or rho with xx of spades and 3 hearts, they could then score a ruff to set the contract. I took the HK and let the ten ride. Lho won the Q, led a spade to partner and got a ruff. I still don't know what's right in this context but I still like my play.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Thoughtful Discarding

One of the annoying things about playing bridge at an out of town club is that people always ask why you are there. The people are always super nice and accommodating, but explaining to the people at each table where you are from and what you are doing at a bridge club 200 miles from home gets old. Anyway, Sean and I found ourselves at the 22 table Charlotte club game Saturday, before going to the VT-FSU game that night.

We found ourselves defending after north had opened 2C, showed, hearts, blackwooded, and landed in 6NT. Declarer was visibly disappointed with dummy, Sean led a passive heart, and I didn't give my sequence of discards enough thought.

Dealer: N
Vul: EW

Declarer has 10 top tricks and chances for an extra trick or two in spades and clubs. I had it in my mind that I might want to duck a club finesse at some point - might be right if declarer had Jx but if that's declarer's club holding, he has already misplayed the hand by squandering dummy's heart entry. My next thought was that I have lots of diamonds so I'll pitch a nebulous diamond, so I played the 4th highest, which I think was the 4. Sean is in a bit of a dilemma about what to pitch on the 4th heart. Keeping length with dummy's clubs is important if declarer has anything but 2 small clubs. After my nebulous diamond discard, Sean pitched a diamond as well. Even if I wanted to encourage in a black suit, I may well not have enough length to do so safely. My second discard was probably the worst one, the 2 of diamonds, confirming that I dislike diamonds but still doing nothing to suggest what black-suit valules I have. However, once letting go of one diamonds, Sean probably should continue pitching diamonds to avoid unguarding his spade Q or club J. If the diamond discard was wrong, then it's too late to fix it.

I don't think there is a layout of the cards that would make it important for me to hold Txx of spades so I kind of think the spade 10 should be my first discard (playing upside down) followed by a low spade and a low diamond. That makes it clear that Sean must protect his spade honors while not suggesting that I have clubs under control, and therefore he would pitch 2 diamonds on the last hearts. Any encouraging club discard may convince Sean to discard a club as well. And Sean also must hold all 4 clubs or else declarer could come home with 3 club tricks via a double finesse and then the low one would be good, too.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Play in 4H?

After a miserable first session, the second session of the LM pairs for my dad and I started out okay and when Grue went down in this 4H contract against us on the 4th round, I got a little optimistic, but then things really fell apart. I was glad to see Grue misplay one, although on a closer look, it's not as clear-cut as I thought at the time.

Dealer: N
Vul: EW


Pass4Pass Pass

Double showed a 1 suited hand (clubs). My dad led a diamond which Grue won with the 10 and with almost no thought played the king of hearts. I won and led a club through to get my ruff for -1. Clearly the contract could have been made by cashing two spades to pitch a club from dummy or even make an overtrick by cashing the SK and coming back to hand with a diamond to pitch 2 clubs on the AQ. At the time I though this was a pretty obvious play but it's not really. The diamond lead, which looks like it's probably from shortness so getting trumps in asap may be the way to go, basically playing for either east to have the heart ace or west to have the club ace, not unreasonable at all. Fooling around trying to use a diamond entry to get to cash 3 spades is too dangerous, and cashing the AQ of spades, squandering a potential spade trick, could cost an overtrick. On the other hand, if the diamond lead was from the Q, the defense has already given you a slight advantage over the field so playing safer to make 4 may be right. So, I still think the right play is the play the AQ of spades, pitching a club from dummy at tricks 2 and 3, so you can ruff the 3rd club high later, but I'm not so sure any more.

We got 47 out of 64 matchpoints as weak notrumpers might wrongside the contract and go down immediately on a club lead from my hand.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

More on Responsive Doubles

The weekend in Orlando didn't yield many things that I would want to blog about - I spent most of the time at the bridge table being frustrated. In the second round I made a claim - a totally legitimate and proper claim, stating that I was pitching 2 losers from my hand on good cards from dummy, and then showing my hand. LHO pitched a bit of a fit because I played before she did and then didn't understand that me stating a line of play and showing all my cards face up on the table was a claim because I didn't use the word claim.

On Sunday, I pitched a fit because we had an auction 1S-2H-2S-X-all pass. I was the 1S bidder and I checked their meticulously filled out convention cards to see if responsive doubles were marked. Both cards identically showed the only doubles they played are negative through 3S, so I felt no need to ask as this is more than enough information to indicate that RHO, the doubler, has the spade stack. I proceeded to misplay it, eventually letting rho trump something with her singleton trump and going down in what is a cold contract if I take a normal line of play or if the doubler actually has 4 or 5 trumps. I guess I could have asked but I hate asking if it's something that's clearly on the card. After the hand, I question them about the double and they say it was a negative double and that they do not play responsive doubles (and don't understand how that is relevant here), I tell them they are wrong and summon the director. He quickly agrees that my assumption about who had the long trumps is reasonable and says he'll look at it more closely. Eventually the director ruled that other people went down in 2S and that I, as the seeded pair playing against a pair that was clearly not very sophisticated at bridge, could/should have done more like ask a question, to protect myself from being misled, so the result stood. Grr. In a more serious game, I think that one I may have taken to a committee.

Responsive doubles are takeout doubles when the opponents have bid and raised a suit and partner has bid something or doubled in between. Why doesn't everyone know this?

Quick quiz to name what kind of double is applicable in various situations:
1S-X-2S-X     responsive
1S-2H-X         negative
1S-X-2H-X     penalty
1D-P-1S-2H-X  support (penalty if you don't play support doubles)
1D-1S-3D-X   responsive (penalty if you don't play responsive that high)
1D-X-1NT-X  penalty (many people wrongly believe this is negative as well)
1D-1S-2H-X   snapdragon would apply (but penalty is standard)
1H-1S-1NT-X penalty
1S-2H-2S-3H  maximal (the only way to invite to game as 3S is just competitive), but penalty if you don't play this

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Fourth Suit Forcing Auctions

Fourth suit forcing to game is something most players play nowadays but I think many people don't know some of the implications of bidding fourth suit. Why do we bid fourth suit forcing? Because we want to be in game but don't know what strain we should be in or because we want to make a forcing raise but bidding 2, 3, or 4 of the suit would all be passable, and/or because we want to make a slam try.

Take this auction for example: 1C-1H-1S-2D-2NT-3S. Opener has a balanced minumum with 4 spades and a diamond stopper. Many people do not know what responder is showing here. He is making a slam try in spades. He could not bid 2S (nonforcing), 3S (inv), or 4S (sign off) so the only way to raise spades and have it be forcing is to bid 4th suit and then bid 3S. A good hand for this would be: AJxx, AKxx, Kxx, Ax. Take out a king and it's a simple 4S bid over 1S. Likewise, responder has to bid fourth suit to make a forcing club or heart raise.

As with new minor forcing, many people think of 4th suit as just showing a good hand with a 5 card major, which it frequently is, but people need to keep in mind that it could be a hand with too much to just jump to game, and/or a forcing hand that does not have the 4th suit stopped.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

AJB Sweep of District 7 NAP Flight C

For the second straight year, teenagers from the Atlanta area won 1st and 2nd on the flight C district 7 NAP. In fact, this year they took 3rd as well. Congratulations to this year's winners who will represent GA, SC, NC, and eastern TN at the spring NABC in Louisville: 1st Saachi Hingorani and Aashna Choudhary; 2nd Angie Green and Mili Raina, who I was going to play with in B but there's a conflict w/ B and C at the nationals; 3rd Ricoh Das, who I also play with/teach, and Murphy Green.

Atlanta Junior Bridge is clearly doing some good things that will hopefully lead to more success in youth and junior international success in the coming years. I just hope getting beaten by kids doesn't discourage the older players who are new to bridge or duplicate bridge from continuing to learn the game. And I hope that they don't get used to winning every - it gets a harder to win in flight B, and much harder in flight A. The winners have been unable to tell me a favorite hand from the tournament for me to write about but see some of my previous and upcoming posts for a few of my interesting struggles with the same hands in flight A. The results and hand records can be found here.

Monday, November 22, 2010


I witnessed this auction in the NAP game on Saturday. So much for scientific bidding. 1C was precision and 1H was 8+ hcp with 5+ spades. And it's another of my bad boards. I found myself on lead with Tx, Txxx, xxx, Jxxx and for some reason chose to lead from the jack, the only lead that gives him the contract. Declarer's hand: AKJxx, AKx, AQ, AKT.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Defensive Struggles

The District 7 NAP finals got off to an ominous start for Emory and I and my defensive mishaps did not improve the rest of the day.

We started against the McLaughlins and they reached 4H after Mark opened a 5-10 weak 2 and then after a 2NT inquiry said he had a good weak 2. He could have shown a weak 2 he is ashamed of, a minimum, a super max, or a solid suit.

Dealer: S
Vul: E-W

A trump lead stands out to me but apparently lots of people chose a more aggressive lead as we got 2.5 out of 8 when my subsequent defense gave him a trick. He played 4 rounds of hearts and then took a spade finesse and led a club to his K and my ace.

By this point I am pretty sure from partner's signaling that declarer is 3-6-2-2. I can see that if he ever gets back to his hand, a repeated spade finesse will provide 1 discard but the only back to his hand is to trump a minor suit. So if I cash a club he will easily be able to trump the third one and pitch a diamond loser on spades. A spade lead is obviously out of the question. A diamond lead appears to be able to hold him to 4 if partner has the Q, for he will again be stuck on dummy and have to lead a minor suit to us and we can then cash a winner in the other minor. But if declarer has the DQ, a diamond lead would give him a 12th trick. So the question becomes whether a 10 count with KQT of hearts and Kx and Qx in the minors would be a super max or just a decent weak 2. Obviously there are better 10 count weak 2's (HAK and Kxx on the side) but this still is close to the best hand he could have and open a weak 2. So I played partner for the DQ and he made 6. In retrospect, we are probably above average already for having made a good opening lead and I should make a passive club continuation.

A couple of rounds later, we came up against the eventual winners Owen Lien and Kevin Wilson, and after two fairly average boards, we had this annoying one.
Dealer: E
Vul: E-W

Pass 4All Pass

We cashed our 3 black suit winners (A, A, then K). Kevin led the jack of hearts off the dummy and Emory followed low, at which point he tanked for a few minutes and eventually dropped my stiff K. Yes, I could have bid a little more aggressively and help get us to 4 but I really think I bid enough and 4 is probably the most common spot. Playing for the stiff K offside is definitely anti-precentage and even more so when I have shown at least 5-5 in spades and a minor. The reasoning for choosing this play is beyond me - because he didn't think I would bid Michaels vulnerable with only two Axxxx suits, as if the singleton K makes my hand so much better. Argh.

On the next board against a different pair Emory opens 2, RHO looks for a few seconds and then says, "is that a weak 2" and I respond with a Sean-like response (see paragraph 4 in the Alert Procedure post 2 weeks ago) "I didn't alert it so it probably is." She comes back with, "Well, I'm still allowed to ask." Me: "Yes, but you're not allowed to suggest what you may or may not think it means." We wind up getting to 3NT going down 1 when LHO, holding KQT4 and the A, finds the correct play of a low heart at trick 2 after the K held trick 1. The lady's hand who asked about 2: xxx, Jxx, Axxx, Txx.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Responsive Doubles and Other Competitive Doubles

Online I ran across a few situations where there was some confusion as to what double means: when the opponents interfere after a 2/1, when the opponents preempt after 1X-P-1Y, and the misuse of responsive doubles after 1M-X-2M.

A responsive double is generally defined as a double when the opponents have bid and raised a suit and partner has either made a takeout double or overcalled. When partner has overcalled, for example 1D-1H-2D-X, the double is clearly takeout for spades and clubs, without heart support. When partner has doubled and the opponents bid and raised a minor, for example 1D-X-2D-X, the double is clearly asking partner to bid a major, presumably showing 4-4 in the majors and not suggesting clubs at all.

There apparently is some confusion, at least amongst some juniors that I was watching yesterday, about what a responsive double means when it goes 1S-X-2S-X. This responsive double is not takeout for 3 suits. That would be a bit too vague as the chances that responder is 1-4-4-4 is minimal and with any other takeout shape, you're really not any more likely to find the best fit by passing the decision of which suit back to partner. A responsive double in this situation (1M-X-2M-X) should be takeout for the minors, i.e. "I don't have support for the other major and want to compete to 3 of a minor but I want you to pick which minor." This is based on the idea that if the responsive doubler has 4 of the other major, he would just bid that suit because the original takeout doubler is extremely likely to have 4 as well.

A second double that I have come across lately is 1H-P-2C-2S; X. We are in a game force and this guy comes in a bids. This is a penalty double, probably something like KJx, AKxxx, Axx, xx. It may make sense for this to just show extra values or show some club support or something else that probably is only useful for marginal slam hands, but being able to punish the opponent for sticking his neck in our auction.

The third double is in an auction like 1D-P-1H-2S; X. This time we are not in a game force and this is too high to be a support double (committing to 3H with a minimum could be dangerous). Penalty doesn't make as much sense here because we don't have as good an idea of where we are headed with this auction when we do have a good hand. This double should be just general extra values, probably a hand that would have rebid 2NT if RHO had passed, maybe a hand like Qx, Axx, KQJx, AQxx.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Clarity of Revoke Laws and Offender's Obligations

Since we are on the topic of ethics lately, here's another one. A few months ago I posted about the one and only time I revoked, http://bridgemaniacs.blogspot.com/2010/06/catching-revoke.html. For the few of you who read this but not bridgeblogging.com, I'd like to direct you to an article about the 1983 Bermuda Bowl in which Zia "got away with" a revoke while playing for Pakistan against Sweden. http://cam.bridgeblogging.com/?p=568#comments

Personally, I don't care what the actual rule book says. If a clear error (all 4 players agree the wrong score was awarded) can be corrected, it should be corrected. If I were the director, equity would be restored for the revoke in both my case and Zia's even if it is not quite consistent with the laws. There must be some clause in the bridge laws that says common sense and reasonable morality takes precedence over some silly rules about how much time can pass before changing a score or who can/should bring attention to a revoke. I guess there should technically be some limit, but during the same session or in the break between that session and the next is certainly acceptable - just don't go trying to change a score 3 days later when everyone has left.

I also disagree that a player is not obligated to "draw attention to an infraction by one's own side." This seems rather inconsistent with the law that a player must announce any failures to alert or wrong alerts at the end of an auction (if on is the declaring side). While it is the opponents' fault for not catching the revoke, I don't think they should be obligated to be the ones to point it out. Bridge is kind of like golf and tennis - gentleman's games (at least it should be) where people are expected to conduct themselves with class and play honestly and police themselves for the most part.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Latest GIB Lunacy

So, the robot didn't really do anything strange at my table. We had a sane auction to 6NT. With other players I'm sure I could have gotten to 7D or right-sided 6NT, but 3D over 2D apparently wouldn't have been forcing so the only way to blackwood in diamonds would have been 4NT immediately over 2D. Anyway, the lunacy is in the traveller. I sat west while most of the humans playing with 3 robots sat south. Check out the traveller and notice that every other table played 1D so the GIB really passed 1D with a 17 count?


Saturday, November 13, 2010

Genius or Stupidity?

For the most part I leave hand analysis to Andre. He has been playing for almost twice as long as I have and is clearly a better player. At the Atlanta sectional, however, I was faced with quite the defensive dilemma. I picked up J9x T9xx A98 xxx and after a simple 1NT-2C;2D-2NT;3NT auction by the opponents I was on lead. My fourth best Heart hit the table and the dummy set down: QTxx J8xx xxx KQ.

Low Heart from dummy and partner’s King gets taken by the Ace. Declarer quickly cashes his clubs from dummy and then leads a small diamond from the board to his King and my Ace. So what do I know? Declarer has AC, AH, KD, QH. He has 2-4 HCP still unaccounted for. He is likely to have 5 Clubs since he doesn’t have a 4 card Major. That gives him 8 top tricks: 5 Clubs and the AQJ of Hs. He also could now have a good diamond trick – or two. And what is the situation with Spades? Why did he take this line?

Playing IMPS I have no real need to worry about possibly giving up an overtrick if it means having a chance to defeat the contract. I decided my only shot was that he had stranded himself from the Jack of Hearts. Does he have xxx AQ KQx ATxxx? I concluded that if he had a spade honor then he couldn’t have another diamond honor and he wouldn’t ever play into a diamond suit that he has completely unguarded. And I played him for the above hand. I exited a passive Club hoping that we had two more diamond tricks and two spades. It might have been better exit a diamond at this point but I’m not sure it makes much difference. I think a club is slightly better in case declarer only has four and has to lead diamonds out of his hand.

It turns out, however, that my partner wasn’t able to scream for a diamond lead quite loudly enough for me to figure it out. He has Kxx Kx QJxxx Jxx. Declarer gave us pretty much the only shot at beating the contract: because of the diamond spots without declarer leading them it is very hard for Andre and me to unblock the suit. Even on a club lead, declarer can set up his Queen of Spades.

So why did he take this line in IMPs? I can’t answer that question at all. He has 9 quick tricks after my free finesse of partner’s King of Hearts. My question is slightly different: What about matchpoints? Is this play genius or beginner? It will gain matchpoints any time the AD is onside, and even when it is offside how often will they be able to figure out the Diamond situation? Of course there is that unlucky time when LHO will have AQJxx of Diamonds, but otherwise will the opponents ever be able to figure out the cards you are holding? I know that as a defender I was very upset that I couldn’t figure it out, but I don’t see any way that I should have – if anyone does I would love to know.

So, is this a play that experts in the Open Pairs would be doing or would you always cash out? I’ve given the hands below if anyone has any interest:

Dealer: South
Vul: none

Friday, November 12, 2010

Pre-Alert: Canape, Variable 1C Openings

Last weekend, I sat at the bridge table with the Feagins 3 times - once as a kibitzer and twice as an opponent - and each time (over a mere 14 boards) they had a bidding misunderstanding. This is easily one of the top 3 or 4 pairs in Georgia and a pair that has been playing together longer than I have been alive, maybe even twice that long. So, bidding misunderstandings happen even for the best and most experienced partnerships. The one against us in the Sunday Swiss epitomizes one of the main difficulties of playing against a mulit-meaning 1C opening such as Polish or Swedish and some problems with the ACBL pre-alert system.

We got to the table and, per ACBL procedures, pre-alerted that we play canape. I also mentioned we play a variable 1C opening and they quickly agreed to treat it as natural. I normally don't mention the 1C opening in a pair game because it's not a pre-alertable and can take up a lot of time, but in an 8 board match, I generally try to mention it to them as a courtesy. A couple of boards into the round, Sean opened 1C, alerted and explained as balanced 12-14 or unbalanced 17+ or any 18+. Jack overcalled 1H, I passed, and Claudia bid 2C. What happened with the rest of the hand is unimportant. The point is that they didn't know whether 2C was natural or a cuebid showing heart support, even after agreeing before-hand that they would treat our 1C as natural. In my opinion, and the opinion of most people, you should play "imaginary cuebids" to show a good heart raise. Opener is very likely to have a weak balanced hand, and you definitely need constructive bidding available. There are several specialized defenses to multi-purpose 1C openings, but I don't think any of them are worth playing - just assume it's a "could be short" 1C and bid naturally.

ACBL laws and most directors I have asked clearly state that canape is pre-alertable but any system with 1C as a forcing opening is not pre-alertable, whether it is precision, polish, swedish, or some similar variant. Most good players know what methods they use over a big 1C opening, over a standard 1C opening, and over a "short" 1C opening, but I have found that most do not know what they do over a variable 1C opening even though such systems are fairly common worldwide. In Poland, 1C is a typically a balanced 12-14 or 15+ with long clubs or any 18+. In Sweden, it is a balanced 11-13 or any 17+. In the Asbury-Gannon Swedish Canape system, it is a balanced 12-14 or unbalanced 17+ or balanced 18+.

The purpose of pre-alerting is to allow the opponents to discuss how they will defend against a system or convention that is highly unusual. Canape is definitely unusual and the fact that we can frequently open the bidding and conceal a 5 card side suit is unexpected (which therefore could never be alerted in the bidding), but there's not really anything the opponents could have to discuss about their bidding. Bidding is still natural (opening 4 card majors is and never will be any sort of an alert). The canape rebid of a 5 card side suit is definitely alertable, but there's still nothing the opponents should do different from standard, at least in what their bids mean. A variable 1C opening seems to need a pre-alert more than canape, at least in the US where most players are unfamiliar with such systems. Without a pre-alert, the opponents will be caught off guard and frequently do not know whether to treat 1C as "could be short", natural, or big, opening up many potential cases of mis-information, bad alerts, failures to alert, and general confusion.

I sometimes want to tell people what our 1C opening is and then tell them that they need to decide how they are going to defend against it but that is very time consuming, especially when playing only 2 or 3 board rounds. And sometimes I think that when I alert one club and explain it I should suggest some defense or tell them they can discuss what they play over it at that time even thought neither of those are technically allowed. But it would eliminate the need for a director call for misinformation or having all of us at the table just unsure about whether he had a takeout double of 1C, or the majors, or a strong hand, or just clubs. In a way, though, the lack of an agreement probably keeps many people from entering the auction and gives us a slightly unfair advantage, even though I'm sure we are following the alert procedures properly. The fact that our 1C could be a flat 12 count probably keeps out some of the ragged nuisance overcalls and preempts that people often make against a strong club because you don't want to deceive partner who may well hold a very good hand if we have the weak NT variety.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Thank You Partner

After winning two out of our first rounds in the Sunday Swiss, Andre and I sit down to play another eight board round. I pick up QJ9xxxx KJ Kx Jx and open 2S showing 9-12HCP and 6 Spades. Andre bids a forcing 3 Hearts and I raise him to four. When I put down the dummy he was clearly visibly upset, and he proceeded to go down a mere 300. I still don’t necessarily disagree with my bidding, but that isn’t the main point of this post.

From this point on Andre looked very annoyed and thought that I had misplayed a 3 Heart contract two boards later although the hand is unmakeable. Nonetheless, I could feel the pressure of him thinking I am playing poorly and being upset with my bridge game. It had been a long weekend with some disappointing results, and I do not blame Andre for being upset; I know for a fact that if my partner does something that I strongly disagree with and it turns out poorly that I can make faces with the best of them. All of this said I think that Andre and I are one of the better partnerships when it comes to getting annoyed with our partner.

When one of us gets mad we’ll say something along the lines of “and the reason was?” or “why?” and the other will respond with a few words about their thinking or just a simple apology and asking to talk about it later. We might remain annoyed for a board or two, but we soon will discuss the hand and move on. In the worst case we will each go walk separately for a few minutes between rounds, and come back to the table with a little clearer of a mind to focus on the upcoming boards.

I think one of the most important things when it comes to getting annoyed with partner is to not make a scene at the table. Put a note next to the hand on your score card and discuss the hand after the round. Andre and I will have a maximum of a few sentences interchanged before one of us says “let’s talk about it later”. This does a few things: helps let you focus on the current board rather than continue to argue about the previous one and it also is a lot more considerate to your partner. He or she shouldn’t have to be berated in front of two other people; if you don’t come to an agreement quickly then talk about the hand privately and discuss what went wrong. Andre and I were playing in the Swiss and one of the opponents made a bid that they disagreed on and the bidder got mocked and insulted by her partner. Andre and I strongly believe that she was correct and that her partner was extremely rude. Trust that your partner had some reason for taking the action that they did and discuss it afterwards if you disagree.

Your partner is trying to work with you. If you get mad at them they are going to play worse, and they are going to start dislike playing with you. Also, when you act inconsiderate to your partner at the table people build quick impressions of you. Remember to try and keep a good mood and through a joke around every few hands even if your partner is the only one who gets it; bridge is a game – enjoy it.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Hesitation After a Gambling 3NT

There are some little old ladies who you will never be able to educate about hesitations and the fact that bidding after partner hesitates to clearly show values is unethical. This incident last night is also why bridge games should have non-playing directors. But in a fairly small club with games of normally 6-8 tables such as Warner Robins.

Last night, I picked up xx, xx, AKQJxxxx, x and opened 3NT, alerted and later explained, in 2nd seat both vul. I know this alert might require a little extra time for a beginner and this lady was probably only slightly past the novice stage, but she took close to 1 minute.. much too long. Partner passed and, whether you know the Gambling 3NT convention or not, based on the alert that I have a solid suit with no A or K outside the suit, common sense should tell you that my partner has a decent hand, else he would "correct" to 4 of my minor. Anyway, passed hand RHO chimed in with 4S. Her hand: xxxxx, AKxx, x, Jxx.

Now, a director should have been called after the tank pass over 3NT to protect our side from RHO making a borderline bid, which would likely be based on the fact that the hesitation indicates LHO has a good hand. But I was the only director at the club that night and my partner and I were probably the only 2 people that have any significant knowledge about hesitations and the ramifications thereof. Anyway, dummy wasn't as good as it should have been for the tank but did include 3 spades. Fortunately the contract went down 3 doubled against our non-making 3NT (we could lose 4 hearts and a spade if they lead them immediately).

Monday, November 8, 2010

Alert Procedure

This is Sean. Andre invited me to post on his blog whenever I have something I think is relevant, and after this last weekend of unsuccessful bridge I did take away some possible posts. After this weekend in Atlanta, I walked away with more gripes about our opponents than usual. We started the weekend with an argument with a good Atlanta pair who were extremely rude and refused to check the seating chart or explain that they asked the director for that particular seat - the directors had accidentally forgotten when placing the seating assignments so they reassigned us. From that point it might have been impossible for me to feel good about my opponents, but there were a lot of things that stuck with me more than usual.

Although I am a junior and may make some borderline tactical and psychic bids, I still view myself as a very ethical bridge player. During the Sunday Swiss my RHO picked up: ♠xxx Qx Qxxx ♣Txxx. I preempted a 9-12 2♠ in first seat R/w: 2♠-[X]-P-[2NT]*;P-[3NT]-X-?. 2NT was alerted as Lebensohl. 3NT should show a very strong hand: 22-25 Balanced ((too strong for 3NT over 2♠)). The only real options here in my mind are pass or a penalty redouble; I can’t imagine anyone pulling 3NT. At the table, however, 2NT was not alerted by LHO. This makes it pretty clear to pull to 4 of a minor which is what occurred at the table. I called the director after the bidding and she told us to call again if we feel we were harmed. We got 1100 against a possible 1400 in 3NT so we didn’t call the director because it wasn’t worth the time. I believe that the director should have been much harsher on this point, however. In my eyes it is a pretty clear violation of the rules and thus cheating. It is illegal to compensate for partner’s lack of an alert. This was clearly the least ethical thing I saw all weekend, but there were also some other minor irritations.

I feel strongly about people using proper procedure when it comes to alerts. If I alert my partner’s bid and you are my LHO then don’t ask what it could be and don’t expect a response. This might annoy many people who are trying to get the information, but it is very easy to give away information while asking. Since it isn’t your turn to bid it you can simply be asking to give partner information or ask for the benefit of partner which is illegal. I feel extremely strong about asking solely for the benefit of partner because of an incident in the Mini-Spingold in New Orleans. Also if you look at my convention card and then put it down and ask a question such as “do you play 2/1” or “so that was ____?” then I feel extremely torn at answering. Is it possible that you looked at my card and were unable to find the 2/1 box? I doubt it. You can only be asking because you don’t think partner has the sense to ask or look for themselves. However, I am a junior and any action that seems to be taken as offensive such as not answering this type of question becomes the fact that I am rude and inconsiderate.

The correct way to ask what an alert or bid is to ask “please explain” or “what is ____”. Almost any other way could accidentally be revealing information about your hand to partner. Take for instance the auction 1H-[P]-3♣*. Let’s say you ask “is that Bergen?” That implies that you know that your right hand opponent doesn’t have a club suit because you must have the suit. If you ask “is that a fit jump?” it implies just the opposite – you have club shortness. Simply ask what 3♣ is if you are thinking of entering the bidding. If you aren’t thinking about entering the bidding then wait for the auction to end and your partner to select his lead; you are entitled to the information, but you want to make sure you don’t give the opponents a chance to exchange any information they don’t deserve or know.
The worst of these scenarios may be when my partner makes a bid such as a natural weak 2 opener and my RHO thinks for a while and says “2 is natural?” I always want to respond “yes, but his diamond suit isn’t nearly as good as yours.” When asking questions in this fashion you are telling your partner that you have reason to believe that 2 can’t be natural such as a good diamond holding.

If the opponents do not alert an alertable bid then the director is going to be forced to bend over backwards to help your side. Had you been told that their 2 opener was Flannery or Mini-Roman and you would have bid then the director will adjust the score to make sure you were not harmed. Not asking will also give you the added benefit of the opponents having a misunderstanding and giving you a good result while you have no way to be harmed because the director will adjust the score in your favor had the information helped you. Asking in these situations goes from a net gain to the only help from asking is so help let your opponents “wake up” and to get yourself in trouble by incidentally giving partner information about your hand that will give the director a reason to rule against your side.

Alert procedure is very easy to follow and should never be misused. I feel very strongly about how alerts should be done and it is a major pet peeve of mine when someone doesn’t do it correctly. On different tone, I dislike all announcements – most of all a natural 1NT, but that is a relative side point.

-- Sean

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Declaring the Odds

Here is one hand that I spent a long time thinking about the percentage play to make the contract, and I tried to calculate it mathematically but I don't trust my combinatorics skills anymore. In an otherwise flat match, I was in 4H - making would mean winning the match (against a team I want to beat more than any other - Emory, Bob Heller, Owen, and Warren Roberts) by 1 and going down would mean losing the match by 10 imps, since 3NT managed to make at the other table (possibly with a low diamond lead from the KQ or blocking diamonds or not leading a diamond - I don't know - perhaps Emory will share how he was allowed to make it)



West led a big diamond and the contract looked unlikely to make but I pondered upon the 2 main options I had:

One line is to play a heart from dummy immediately toward the 9, conceding a diamond loser but allowing myself to finesse trumps. This wins whenever hearts can be picked up for 1 loser and picking up clubs for 1 loser. Basically, needing a 3-2 split with KQ tight or KQT, or HT(x) onside, and the suit combination table says this is 27%. From that 27% we have to subtract the chances of having to lose 2 club tricks. Initially when I did the calculations I thought this was about 50% but it's closer to 10% that you'll have to lose 2 club tricks. Either LHO will lead a club for you after taking the first heart (and may then get to ruff one if he had a stiff) or LHO will lead something else in which case you can pitch a club on the spade K (creating an extra loser when spades are 5-2 and the one that ruffs is not doing so with a natural trump trick. I guess this brings it down to about 24%.

Another line, which is the one I chose, is to take the diamond ace, spade ace and queen, cross to the club ace and play the spade K to pitch the diamond loser. When that held, I led a club toward the queen. Even if LHO ruffs, he is fairly likely to have started with 3 or 4 trumps - it would only cost if a hand with only 1 or 2 hearts gets to ruff in. So, this line makes the contract when: spades are 4-3, the club K is onside, and they don't get to ruff a club with a doubleton or singleton heart. Plus the spade J may drop tripleton and then you can lead the 4th spade to pitch a club so you don't need the club to be onside, hoping again that they have to ruff with the long trumps. My math shows this line to be about 24% as well so I guess it's a play question no one is going to win.

LHO had 2 small clubs and Qx of hearts so I went down when he got to trump a club and RHO still had 2 natural trump tricks with KTx and me having no more entry to finesse.

Overall this sectional in Atlanta was somewhat disappointing at least as far as bridge results are concerned. 5 sessions and less than 5 masterpoints, almost all of which came in the Saturday night single-session Swiss game during which (and for an hour and a half before and afterward) I was drinking copious amounts of the free beer. Sean and I continued our streak of getting blitzed in the first round of Sunday Swisses. But we did not continue our streak of placing overall despite horrendous starts.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Questions from Non-Bridge Friends About Traveling to Tournaments

Whenever I tell my non-bridge friends that I’m going to or have gone to a bridge tournament for a few days, I invariably get the same questions
“Who did you go with?” This is fairly simple and straightforward and so far this year I’ve been to 14 different tournaments and played with 10 different partners, spent 34 nights in hotels for these tournaments, and taken 14.5 vacation days for bridge (out of the 17 vacation days I have for this year, not counting the carryover of 8 from 2009, and used no vacation for anything else). By the end of the year, that will be up to 17 tournaments, 12 different tournament partners, and 40 hotel nights.
“Did you win?” This can be a little hard to answer without going into much detail since we typically play more than one event and have many various degrees of winning, so my answer is usually somewhat vague. “8th in flight A” or “I got one section top but otherwise didn’t do anything” or “I barely scratched” is a bit difficult for some people to grasp. But “I won one event and was around the middle of the pack in another event” is something normal people can comprehend.

“What did you win?” These imaginary things called masterpoints that we collect to show how long and how well we’ve been playing. What’s the point of that? Pride. Self esteem. Bragging rights. I dunno. I don’t understand the system either.

“Why do you like to play even though it’s mostly old people?” Well, there are some young people. Since most of my non-bridge friends are highly intellectual people (almost entirely engineers, computer scientists, future doctors and lawyers), they should understand the intellectual stimulation that bridge can provide but many do not understand how going on a trip to play some card game for a weekend can be more fun than getting drunk at bars, waking up at 1pm, and being a lazy bum watching tv and movies during the day Saturday and Sunday (or chores around the house for the married ones).

“You travel so much. How do you afford it?” Lots of reasons but mainly I’m just a smart spender. My house isn’t cluttered with material things that I buy on a whim. I don’t have a bunch of expensive electronics, I don’t normally buy drinks except in 12 packs, I spend lots of time looking for good hotel and flight deals, I have a good job and rental income, I have no dependents. I really don’t know.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Monogamy in Bridge

We've all heard the saying "Bridge is like sex - If you don't have a good partner, you better have a good hand." But there really aren't many similarities between the two. Bridge players need not, in fact should not, be monogamous with their partners while in sex and relationships, monogamy is generally encouraged.

It is true that some people do well with just one bridge partner, and I see many happy couples who play almost exclusively with their spouse, but I think these people are in the minority. It takes 2 special people to get along with each other well enough for this, and even if I could get along with a spouse/significant other well at the table, I think I would still want more variety. It is well-known that established partnerships have better results than casual partnerships or pick-up partnerships from having more solid agreements, less bidding misunderstandings, and generally more comfort at the table. There are several auctions and defensive signaling situations that a first time partnership, or even a partnership that plays once in 3 months, will not have a solid enough foundation to handle well.

However, I think all good bridge players need 3 or 4 regular partnerships. For one, it is good to have a break from being across the same person all the time. Even if you have yet to get tired of each other, playing with other people for awhile will help prevent that from happening. You learn different things from different partners, you get to play different systems, and just gain a wider bridge knowledge. Likewise, once one has reached some substantial level of mastery, it is good to play a variety of different systems - no so much to master several different systems but to learn about them and be ready when the opponents play some strange system. I mean, surely it is easier to defend against precision if you have at some point played precision, and it is easier to defend against canape if you have played canape enough to learn some of the little nuances that aren't always alerted or even practical to alert all the little negative inferences that can sometimes be available to someone playing a "foreign" system.

I tend to think I have 4 regular partnerships with a couple more probably in the works - Sean, Emory, Joel, and my dad - and with these people I play 4 fairly different systems: canape Swedish club, 2/1 with lots of gadgets, 2/1 with lots of gadgets and a weak NT, and simple 2/1.

Does this having multiple partnerships transfer to romantic relationships as well. I think no, but who really knows? People in committed monogamous relationshipsare often seen seeking intimacy in other places, so maybe monogamy in romance is not our natural tendency either.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Doubling Partscores Without a Trump Stack

Around the middle Georgia clubs, I am regarded as one of the 2 or 3 best players, and am also known to be very aggressive in bidding. And I can get away with it here because I play the cards substantially better than all but maybe 1 other person, who is usually my partner. But really, it's just that I sometimes add a couple of points to my hands with the expectation of the opponents slipping a trick or two. Anyway, here are two hands where I made a close matchpoint double. In addition to these two, we also defended 2DX earlier in the session, but that one wasn't close at all as it got us 1100 and we had no game.

rst one I won't bother showing the whole hand but I held Axxx, Kxx, Kxx, QTx. Both vulnerable, partner opened 1NT, RHO bid 2D diamonds and a major, which I doubled. LHO redoubled, which was passed out. I lead a low trump and dummy comes down with a 5-3-2-3 2 count. We proceed to take 2 diamonds, a club, heart, and spade for -760 when 3NT our way has 10 easy tricks. I'll write that one down as being bad luck that the 2D bidder had 6 solid diamonds to the Q and 5 semi-solid hearts missing only the K. And how dare my LHO not take a preference to the major. 2H would go down because declarer gets tapped out of trumps (if we lead a black suit instead of trumps) but still be a bad score because there's no way it's going down 3 to make up for our +630.

A few rounds later, we come across this deal.
Dealer: South
Vul: Both

Pass1 11

Yes, I could have made a support double, and perhaps I would have doubled 3 with my partner's hand, and the double of 3 is clearly questionable. Anyway, after we cashed the first 4 tricks - AK, A, A, and then a , declarer took the line that I think is the way most people who listened to the bidding would take - a first round finesse of the 10, which led to down one here and +200 for us. By the way, I'm glad partner didn't lead another diamond, which I think is the right play at trick 5 (give me as little as 9xxx of spades and a trump promotion by leading a 3rd diamond would be the only way to surely set it), for declarer then would surely pick up the spade suit for no losers.

After the hand, east (one of the better players in the club), asks why she took the first round finesse in spades - well, I doubled so I'm more likely to have the Q. East then uses the argument that he would have played for the drop because he's playing against me and that I would double even with a bunuch of little trumps. It is true - I don't always have a trump stack when I double a partscore against vulnerable opponents in matchpoints - I do know what a matchpoint double is and how to shoot for the +200 that is sure to be a good matchpoint score while protecting our potential +110 or +140 on a hand where going -140 will be a bad score anyway. That wasn't exactly the case here. I had nothing to protect against. I just had a nuisance of 4 trumps and an indication that the hand is splitting badly for them (partner definitely has diamonds behind the diamond bidder), and it's likely a misfit (I've raised on one less trump than expected and it seems like she's running from 3D). Eventually, east said he would play the ace first because he wouldn't want to look silly losing to a stiff Q, and finessing the first round only helps if I have exactly 3 to the Q. With Qxxx, I get my trump trick no matter what. As it turns out, there were 2 other +200's on the hand and no other plusses for us but a few 110's and 90's for EW. So the double gained 1 matchpoint and whether they made 140 or 730 would make no matchpoint difference.

So, is it more likely that the doubler on this auction has doubled on exactly Qxx or has doubled on some hand without the Q? I dunno. It's close, but apparently the fact that I was the doubler makes it less likely that I hold the Q. I wouldn't blame west; she thought about the bidding enough to figure out that I was more likely to have the Q - something many novices and casual players wouldn't think about. Perhaps a better question is why west didn't open 2.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Sometimes the Defenders Can Execute a Squeeze

I had an interesting hand as declarer, but it's probably more interesting a defensive hand or double-dummy problem.


RHO opened 2S and I bid 3NT. LHO led a low spade and I took RHO's king with my ace. I tested diamonds and they split well but sadly my diamonds were too good to gain an entry to take a 3rd high club. So, 5 diamonds, 2 clubs, and a spade - where is my 9th trick? Well, they have to make 3 discards each on the diamonds while dummy can safely shed another club. The opening lead marks lho with Qxx of spades (probably) so if I exit with a spade, they won't be able to untangle the suit, but then if they just put me back in with a club, I'll have to untangle the spades for them or give up the heart suit. So, against best defense, this is really unmakable. What three pitches do you make from LHO's cards: Q9x, AQxxx, Jx, Jxx?

On the actual hand, he pitched 3 hearts, so I then exited with a low heart, which he won and then tried to cash out the spades. They set up my T of spades for trick #9, but even if he makes a passive club exit after winning the HQ, I can lead another heart and then dummy's HT would have been my 9th trick. It's a little hard to see, but he needs to hold 3 hearts and depend on partner to hold Txx as the club stopper. Ducking spades twice doesn't really change the situation - lho still needs to keep a low heart so his p can get on lead with the jack - the defense needs 3 heart tricks and 2 spade tricks while keeping enough clubs to keep declarer from being able to overtake the CQ and cash clubs.

Maybe it isn't so hard to find that defense. The fact that I took trick 1 indicates that I probably have a second stopper, and it's safe to assume I have the ace of clubs and king of hearts, but definitely not 3 clubs, for I've already shown up with 4 spades and 5 diamonds. 3 clubs would leave me with a singleton king of hearts, not very likely. So, just hope partner can count too, and holds onto clubs when you start pitching them asap, before partner gets a chance to. My best chance now is to play the AQ of clubs (to take away lho's safe exit cards) and then leading a low spade. LHO has to go up with the Q and play another spade, squeezing dummy in hearts and clubs! When RHO wins the jack of spades, he has a losing spade, a losing club, and a heart while LHO still has AQx of hearts. Dummy has to come down to Tx and the CK. West scores the last 3 tricks with hearts. Kinda cool!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Wins by Stratification

When I started playing bridge, I was almost always in flight A because I played mostly with my dad, so we would frequently place in the low overalls in the pair games. Being in that position (6th or 7th or so) might pay 2 or 3 masterpoints, and in a 2 session regional pairs, would usually be a score around 54-55%. That was right about where we belonged. I used to scoff at the fact that pairs in B and C could win more points than that for a lower score, and how some even won a masterpoint for a 45% game because they are flight C. There really should be some cutoff for the lowest score you can have and still win masterpoints. I kind of think anything below 50% should not win, regardless of your strat. Why do we want to reward people for playing below average bridge? And don't people feel ashamed to win points for having a bad game?

I guess it was after I had been playing 3 or 4 years that they started having the A/X stratiflighted games, and my dad and I were eligible for X. That 54% game that got us 2.5 masterpoints in the open pairs frequently placed 2nd in X for 10 points. I'm not totally sure I like this format of having A/X play separately from B/C because it takes stratification to an extra level that allows even more people with below average scores to win masterpoints, but it has gotten me a good bit of extra points and sort of gives us a handicap for our normally below average teammates. Stratiflighted events do one very good thing - people can play in the main event (whether it be the 2 session pairs or the swiss teams) and still play with peers, and it allows people with fewer masterpoints to play up and play with the top players, and also the the top players don't have to deal with any novices. Plus it allows the flight A game to be mid-chart. Bracketed knockouts don't generally allow people to play up, which kind of bothers me and has often been the reason I chose to play in A/X pairs instead of a knockout where my partner and I might be in the 3rd or 4th bracket.

This weekend with Sean in Columbia was no exception. We won a side game and then played the A/X pairs, had 53.4%, and placed in the low overalls (tied for 8th) but since we were in X, that was 3rd in X and worth over 4 points. It still amazes me how much easier it is to get a good score in side games than in open pairs. Then Sunday, we played in the A/X Swiss and had 56 VPs on a 60 average. (It was quite a feat to get back to almost average after 1 and 0 VPs the first 2 rounds) What did that get us? 10.86MP for 2/3 in X!!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Is Being a Bridge Bum Equivalent to Being a Prostitute?

Many of the bridge players I spend my time around now are bridge pros or are thinking about being pro or are closely related to pros, yet I still do not understand the whole concept of paying someone thousands of dollars to be your partner. On some level it's a lot like prostitution - selling yourself to someone to play together, just engaging in a different activity together - maybe prostitution for the mind instead of the body. This is part of why I didn't develop many junior bridge partnerships and a reason I lack respect for many of today's top junior players. By the time many of the juniors get good, they seek out people who would pay them to play. Do I blame them for this? I guess not, but I want the people I associate with to be good people, people that are productive members of society rather than people who help rich guys spend their money. Sorry - having some astronomical IQ and going to a community college part time with no career goals, skipping that school for weeks at a time to play bridge, and spending rich old men's money is not being productive to society.

I see lots of 20-somethings getting paid to play, and many of them I know are not better players, better partners, or better bridge teachers than me. Am I jealous of them? In some ways I am jealous that that lifestyle allows them more free time and doesn't require waking up early on weekdays but that sort of party lifestyle and laziness gets old. And I guess I am kind of jealous that they are getting apparenty more respect in the bridge world. But I reiterate that I do not want that profession or lifestyle and as a whole I am sure it would be unfulfilling. As much as I like bridge and as much fun as it can be to go to tournaments, it would severely take the fun out of it if bridge tournaments became work rather than a vacation.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Bridge is Easy

Sometimes bridge is an easy game. I could do no wrong last night. No matter how much my partner and I played less than optimally, we came out smelling like a rose. Sometimes that happens.  After the first round in which we missed 2 cold games, due partly to mis-sorting and partly due to unclear bidding understandings and partly due to conservative judgment. The third board was what seemed to be a relatively flat 3NT.  Anyway, we wound up with 12 out of 15 matchpoints that round, and a few rounds later, I did something I’m not sure I’ve ever done – pulled the wrong card from my hand. It was the ace of diamonds instead of the deuce of hearts. I was declarer and on lead and I had all but one of the tricks regardless of what I led, so it wasn’t a big deal.


But the hand I want to share today took place last weekend. LHO dealt and the auction went 1C-1NT and you hold:






You lead a small spade and here’s the dummy:






Dummy plays the J, partner wins the K, continues the T and then the 9, declarer taking the ace on the third round. Declarer then leads a low heart toward dummy. Suppose you win the J and cash the queen of spades, seeing dummy discard a heart, declarer a club and partner the deuce of clubs. Playing upside-down count and attitude (no special first discard like odd/even or lavinthal), What is the deuce of clubs trying to indicate to you? What do you lead next? Is declarer actually trying to set up hearts or is he throwing you in with hearts in hopes that you’ll help him out with the diamond suit, holding something like Qxx of diamonds? If he’s trying to get help in the diamond suit, why didn’t he cash some clubs first, to take out some of your safe exit cards? Would you ever play low on the heart lead?


Regardless of what carding system you use, I think a club discard when dummy holds AKQx should probably be suit preference for which red suit he prefers. At least that’s what helps here, and I can’t imagine a time when count or attitude in clubs would be important.