Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Bidding Poll #1

In the uncontested auction, 1H-1S-3NT-4H, what kind of hand does responder have?
a weak hand with 4S and 3H
a simple raise with 4S and 3H
a limit raise with 4S and 3H
some hand with less than 3H
a doubleton spade and lots of hearts
other free polls

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Worst Bid

I've been having trouble sleeping tonight, which is strange because I'm not really bothered by anything. It's been a good, relaxing day. Anyway, I've been looking back at a few more hands from Reno and found the worst bid of the weekend. The bids of forgetting partnership agreements don't qualify because they don't show poor bridge judgment. The winner: xx, Axx, Qx, KQJTxx.
Both vul, RHO deals and opens 1D, you bid 2C, LHO bids 2D, RHP bids 3NT. Then you double. A couple of minutes later, I'm scoring up +1150 as I had 11 top tricks. We only got 62 out of 64 matchpopints for that. Hmm.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Tx is a Stopper

This hand comes from the final of the Vanderbilt KO where at this table Chip Martel and Lew Stansby, 2 long-time American experts, are going against Michel and Tomas Bessis, a father-son pair from Paris. Michel and Tomas are fairly new to the big spotlight in bridge, but this hand helped seal their victory.

Tomas’s youth (and flare) really showed in the bidding as he took a chance on 3NT after a couple of weak responses from partner and lacking a stopper in the opponents’ suit. The whole match was being broadcast online on Bridge Base so I was able to see it from home along with thousands of other people.

Anyway, Martel led the 3 of spades (they lead 5th best) so Tomas was marked with 2 spades. Stansby thought surely one of his spades is the ace so he inserted the 9, losing to the 10. Tomas, now looking at 7 tricks needed something really good to happen to reach 9 tricks so he established a couple of club tricks by playing the AK and then another club, which Stansby won with the K. At this point, he has to figure out what’s going on with the spades. Did Tomas bid 3NT without a stopper or did Martel overcall on a 5 card suit headed by the jack. In the end, he believed the young Bessis and led back a low spade, thinking Tomas’s ace would pop up. This actually blocked the spade suit and allowed the defense to take only 2 spade tricks. If Stansby plays the K of spades, and then a low spade, Martel has 2 more spades to cash and the contract would go down 1.

Sometimes you get lucky and Tomas Bessis certainly did here, the defense would have had to do very well to beat him on the board. Given Martel and Stansby’s system, they could have gotten it right. According to their convention card, they play Smith echo, which means that at your first opportunity, you play a high spot card if you liked the opening lead and a low spot card if you disliked the opening lead. At Martel’s first opportunity, on the second round of clubs, he played the 8 of diamonds, followed by the 6 of diamonds to confirm that the 8 was high. That should indicate that his opening lead was from the ace instead of just the jack.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Ethical Drury Dilemma

Here is another hand from the Reno tournament that posed a potential ethical problem. This one actually came up immediately after I played 2 spades in our 2-2 fit, not that that is really relevant. It's just a bit ironic. I picked up KJTxx, Ax, Kx, xxxx and it's pass-pass to me so I open 1S. Partner bids 2D, which I properly alert as a limit raise with 4 spades. I duly bid 2S showing no interest in game. The ethical dilemma for me would be what to do if partner then bid 3C. Am I obliged to go back to spades or is it reasonable and ethical to assume partner forgot drury and just pass? I am thinking I would be permitted to pass and assume partner forot drury if that's what I choose to believe.

I am never one to believe that my partner has forgotten a convention but what would 3C mean here if 2D was Drury? I've already said I don't have a real opener so you're not supposed to bid again. That's part of the convention - it allows us to open really weak hands in 3rd seat and still not get too high when responder has a maximum pass with 4 trumps (a hand that normally would force to at least 3 but we can confidently stop in two). So maybe in these circumstances, when his bid does not exist if had been following our conventional agreements, I might believe that partner has forgotten our convention and I think that is totally ethical.

The real ethical dilemma might be for partner who held: void, xxx, AQTxx, ATxxx. Clearly he forgot that 2D was Drury. He is not allowed to be "woken up" by my alert so he is required to bid as though he didn't hear the alert. Does this mean he should bid 3C or is passing 2S now an acceptable and ethical call? Without an alert, passing 2S is a reasonable action - it's a misfit, if we bid again we may just get into more trouble so let's just keep it low and hope partner has a really good suit. With the alert, 2S looks like a less attractive spot to play because opener is not showing any extra spade length that might have been shown with a normal 2S bid. So, does the unauthorized information that responder has (that partner is expecting 4 card spade support instead of a diamond suit) prohibit him from bidding 3C or require him to bid 3C? Amongst people who do not play Drury, I expect many will bid 3C but some will pass so both are logical alternatives. I'm not sure what the UI suggests here. On one hand, it suggests biddind 3C because the hand will play better in a minor because opener does not have 6 spades that were supposedly "promised" from responder's unbiased point of view. On the other hand, it suggests passing to get out before getting into more trouble.

At the table, the director was never called and I played 2S down 2. This would be a difficult one to rule on but I think if I was the director called to this one, I would just let the result stand.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

What does a Hesitation Suggest

I was involved in more director calls about hesitations last week than I think I ever have been. I was never the hesitator. According to the director's handbook, there should only be an adjusted score due to a hesitation when: 1) a call was made with undue hesitation (typically more than 10 seconds), 2) could the innocent side have suffered damage? 3) were there logical alternatives to the call chosen by hesitator's partner, AND 4) could the hesitation demonstrably suggest the call chosen would be more successful than the logical alternatives?

I seem to have not brought back hand records but in one case, my LHO held: x, AKQxxx, Kx, AQxx at unfavorable vulnerability. I opened 3S, he bid 4H, partner bid 4S, long hesitation-pass by RHO, and then this guy bids 5H. I think the hesitation certainly suggests that he has values. Is pass a logical alternative in this case? If so, he should be required to pass. I would say pass is a logical alternative, despite the huge hand. 4S could easily be making 5 on this auction (sans hesitation) with the DK and CQ finessable and bidding again opposite an partner with virtually nothing could garner -800 or -1100. Anyway, the director ruled that pass was not a logical alternative and the hesitation did not suggest 5H instead of double or 5C. Eh. They made 5 and we got a really bad score. But then again, partner should have bid 5S with 4 spades and a stiff and only the A of diamonds for defense.

One or two other hesitation calls turned out to be nothing and then this one in the final session of the Red Ribbons, which was possibly the most miserable session of bridge followed by the most miserable night I've had in a long long time. I held approximately xxxxxx, xx, Qxx, xx. None vul., partner opens a strong NT, RHO bids 2NT, I pass, LHO bids 3C, partner checks the CC finding a slew of other information about their defense against NT openings but no information about the 2NT bid, then asks and is told it shows the minors. For some reason, she then takes another 15 seconds to pass. What could the NT opener have to think about in this situation? Bidding a 5 card major, doubling (which I guess would be penalty), or just general confusion? Anyway, director is called on the hesitation and when 3C gets back to me, I bid 3S anyway. I think it is a normal action. Maybe if we were vulnerable this wouldn't be a good bid but white, it seems normal to compete to 3S. However, I wouldn't argue much about pass being a logical alternative. I did argue that the hesitation suggested bidding 3S would be better than the logical alternative of pass. If anything, I think the hesitation might suggest good clubs and therefore indicate that bidding again would not be better than passing. The director said that it doesn't matter what the hesitation suggests as long as it could suggest something, so he supposedly polled 3 peers (yeah, nice sample size), two of whom passed and 1 bid 3S. Therefore he decided both are logical alternatives that could have been suggested by the hesitation and the result we get should be the worse of the two. So, he adjusted it from 3S down 1 to 3C making 5, which was still a good score because they were cold for 5H, but I don't like the ruling.

Your thoughts, please?

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Reno recap and the impossible 2S bid

So much for getting caught up on sleep and playing midnight games with Dana, the two things I was looking forward to the most.

It was a very very frustrating time for several reasons, mostly surrounding the difficulties in getting along with dana and mila, our varying expectations and unclear communications, but it was very action-packed and I had many good times - just not the good times I was expecting. I remember when I used to be content just hanging out with my partner and/or parents for dinner and after the games and have only brief interaction with others during the bridge games. But it takes a lot more to satisfy me nowadays, which I tend to view as a good thing. I kind of want those days back instead of this sort of associating with lots of people but mostly being lonely.

I did play 2 midnight games and won them both and picked up another 7 or so points for the 64% session Mila and I had in the red ribbon pairs. The other 3 sessions of the Red Ribbons were pretty bad. In the next to last round of day 1 of the open Swiss with my dad, I picked up: Ax, T, KTxxxx, ATxx. Partner opens 1H and I start thinking "yay, i hope i get to use the impossible 2S bid here." Sure enough, he rebids 2D and I rebid 2S, showing basically a strong diamond raise.

What else could 2S be here? Anyway, it went all pass and partner came down with xx, KQJxx, Qxxx, Kx. They didn't lead a trump and I managed 6 tricks in the 2-2 fit for a push, against 3NT
down 2 at the other table.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

How Did I Miss This

I don't quite understand what I was thinking on this hand. It really frustrates me when I clearly misdeclare a hand. I misdefend a good bit and make a one or two bad bids each session, but taking a clearly inferior line of play just doesn't happen. This one actually is pretty simple. For me it should have been easy. I wouldn't expect any beginner to make 5 on it but most of the people at the club made 5, which is more likely attributable to a bad opening lead.



I had no useful spots. In 4H, I got the HJ lead, which is certainly the best the defense can do. Anyway, like an idiot, I won, led a club to the K, and ducked a spade. Back a second trump, I trumped a club, played A and a spade, and just made 4 when spades were 3-3 and hearts 3-2. After the hand, I wondered why everyone else made 5 and really couldn't figure it out.

15 minutes later I was washing my hands and it suddenly hit me that I should have cashed my two top clubs earlier, pitching spades from dummy and then scoring 2 spade ruffs in dummy. Getting to my hand isn't a problem because I had easy diamond ruffs to get back. And there's no reason to draw trumps or worry about losing trump control since I would be taking all 4 of my side-suit winners immediately. So, with everything splitting nicely, I should come to 11 tricks: 3 clubs, 1 spade, 2 spade ruffs, 3 diamond ruffs, and 2 top trumps. If not for the trump opening lead, 6H is makeable via an additional club ruff in dummy. I suppose the only time this line is worse than the one I took is when clubs are 6-2 or worse.

Side question: After having trumped 1 spade in dummy, is it safer to try to trump a second spade or to try for a club ruff? Essentially, is a 3-3 break more or less likely than a 4-4 split?

Monday, March 15, 2010


The beginning of the auction was P - P - 1S (by moshel). What this guy was thinking and what my robot was thinking by bidding 5H over my redouble I have no idea. I lucked out that my robot proceeded to make 7 for 1740. I should have just passed 5DX and taken +950 or 1150 if for no other reason than they might run to 5S which reasonably might be expected to be down only 2.

Moral of the story: Be very conservative when playing with robots. They can't take a joke or a psyche or a sacrifice, and be sure to check the little blip that explains what it thinks your bid means.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Eyes on You

Continuing with the defensive theme, here's a fun hand from earlier today. NS vulnerable, I was west and opened 1NT, south bid 2H and my partner doubled. Standard practice is for the double to be for penalty but I kind of think the double should be for takeout except at matchpoints when the opps are vul, which was the case here. I guess this hand really wasn't too hard to defend after getting off the the right opening lead but it seemed hard at the time and based on the traveller with lots of 110's and 140's for NS.

This auction certainly calls for a trump lead. I mean, that's normally right when you double a partscore, especially without a trump stack. I guess a lot of people are unaware of this strategy so that makes it worth writing about. This is one of those matchpoint doubles that is really only going to gain much in that kind of game, when the opponents are vulnerable but if wrong, will be a big loser at any form of scoring. So, at imps, this would be a very bad double. Anyway, once I get off to the heart lead, we have to keep playing passive defense. East leading clubs when he is in is safe this time but with safe exit cards in hearts and diamonds (after declarer led a diamond to the K at trick 2, which, btw, I agree with), there's no reason to help declarer out. That is all for today.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Defensive Hands From the Local Club

I've been wanting to write about defense for awhile because it is the most important part of bridge and the hardest. And that is probably because people don't teach defense as much as they do declarer play or bidding. because it is hard to find good examples. So, even though I don't have many good ones to write about, I'm going to anyway.

So, let's start off easy. I was on lead against the auction 1NT-2C; 2D-3NT holding: xx, xx, A9xx, AKQxx. Dummy hits with a 4=3=4=2 10 count with the T9 doubleton of clubs. Partner plays the 8 which should be count. (We were playing standard signals so 2 or 4) When partner leads an Ace you're normally supposed to unblock an honor or give count. So at this point I can almost surely place declarer with Jxxx of clubs. Without the stayman auction, it might be reasonable to exit with a major and hope declarer misguesses something and lets partner score the Q he might have. But knowing declarer doesn't have a 4 card major, I can safely give her a club and all she can come to is 4 spades, 3 hearts, and a club.

This second hand kind of bugged me. I was declarer in 4H against the only pair in the room that defended decently. First try to look only at the north hand and the bidding. What would you lead against 4H?

No lead looks attractive but the black cards look most unattractive. As long as the defense never leads a black suit, declarer needs an endplay and then maybe a good guess to bring in 4H. So, I thought 4H making 4 should be at least average. At the club, there were 4 pairs in 4H making 5, 1 in 3NT making 4, and me, in 4H down 1. Is it really that tempting to ever lead a black card against 4H? The opening lead against me was the 8 of diamonds. I won in hand with the A and led the 10 of hearts, LHO rose with the ace and led another red card. After pulling a 2nd round of trumps and cashing the diamonds, I led a spade to the K. They won the ace and played a spade to the 10 and then the Q, and I was stuck with a club loser now for down 1. Leading AK and another club is probably a better way to endplay someone but then I still have to guess whether south is leading from the A or Q when she is in the the CQ.

Moral of the story: when the bidding tells you partner has next to nothing, be passive on defense, especially when dummy is balanced, and just accept the fact that in weak fields, there is no field protection and some bad defenders will screw you over sometimes.

I think 3NT making 4 is actually somewhat reasonable. If east passes and west opens a 15-17 1NT, a club lead from north is the norm. With that start, declarer should come to 4 hearts, 3 clubs, 3 diamonds.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Best Hand I've Ever Held


I had this in money bridge in BBO earlier today.
Partner opened 2S and eventually I bid 7H, making when hearts and diamonds both split 4-1 or better.

Friday, March 5, 2010

This one had some real potential to be a good swing for us. Result was down 3 for -1600, but if I don't redouble and just play the 4-1 fit, -500 would have won a couple of imps against the Dana and Jon's 4H or 3NT. Of course, they can defend a trick or two better. And we're really in business if Sean pulls to 3S, down 2 if they get 2 diamond ruffs.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

To finesse or squeeze

Slam Hands are fun to write about, especially when there's a squeeze. In this hand, Ramesh and I got to 6D. 1C was 16+, 2C was diamonds and game-force, 2H natural denying 3D, 4D keycard for diamonds, 4H 1 or 4. Taking 4H as 0 or 3 and forgetting that I would have bid 2D earlier with any 3 card support, he signed off. 7NT is a good contract. too bad diamonds split 5-1, leaving you with only 12 tricks.
The question is, in 7NT, do you play for a straight up heart finesse for the 13th trick or try some other line of play?

Once you run the 4 diamonds and spades, you find spades to be 5-2 and then on the run of the clubs, you find west with 4, meaning hearts started out 3-3. You need to cash all 11 winners except the A of hearts, ending in the south hand. The 3 card ending looks like this:
N - S5, HA, HQ
E - HK, H6, DT
S - HT, D3, CT
W - ST, HJ, H7

When south plays the good club, west must hold his good spade or north's 5 will be the 13th trick. So when west discards a heart, north discards a spade. East must hold the good diamond or south's 3 will score the 13th trick. So when south leads a heart at trick 12, the K is surely dropping under the ace regardless of who has it because each defender had to hold another winner and therefore has only 1 heart. A double squeeze!

Of course, if west had been on opening lead and led a heart, that kills the squeeze immediately because declarer needs to heart ace as an entry late in the hand.

Out of 16 tables, only 2 made 7 - 1 got a heart lead away from the king and one got east to pitch a diamond on the 3rd spade. The vast majority got a spade lead and only made 6. Not one west out of 9 led a heart. A club lead also cuts cummunication enough to defeat 7NT, but not if declarer is really thinking ahead and cashes the KQ of spades immediately, goes over the the diamond K, and cashed the A of spades, pitching a heart, before testing diamonds. Really, that can't lose anything, except maybe a minute or two when diamonds split nicely.