Sunday, August 29, 2010

Beer Squeeze

From the Swiss team game today, this was one hand of particular
interest to me. 7C is virtually cold but it's awfully hard to get
there after it's 2H-P-3H to me. I just bid 3NT and that ended the
bidding. In NT there are only 11 tricks but sans heart lead I was
able to squeeze lho for a 12th trick.


Lho, not unreasonably fearful of leading into my AQ, started with a spade. I started by ducking a diamond. Unfortunately for them, I was able to cash all my winners except diamonds and on the last club, rho had to make dummy's spade ten good or let go of a diamond, making my 7 good to win trick 13.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Making Slams on Endplays are Just More Fun than a Simple Finesse

Last night turned out to be an interesting night at the bridge club. Here is one of my most interesting hands. First, it's a bidding problem, or rather, a question about what a particular sequence means.

The actual auction we had on the following hands was, with south dealer: 1NT-(2S)-2NT*-3C-4NT-6NT. 2NT was Lebensohl. What was 4NT? Playing Lebensohl, I reasoned that it should be quantitative with a spade stopper and that a jump to 4NT over 2S would be quantitative without a spade stopper. Of course, if I looked at my hand, I probably should have realized he can't really have a spade stopper since I had the AK. Anyway, I decided that any hand with clubs would have bid 3C over 2S, natural and forcing. And if he wanted to keycard in clubs, he would bid 3C and then 4C. Partner intended it as RKC for clubs.

6C is clearly cold with a diamond ruff providing the 12th trick but I was in 6NT, which is not a terrible contract either. How do you play to make it after west, who overcalled 2S leads a low spade and east contributes the J?

♠ T
♥ AJ8
♦ Kxx
♣ AKTxxx

♠ AK9x
♥ Txx
♦ AJ
♣ KQxx

You have 11 top tricks and 3 reasonable ways to get a 12th trick: D finesse, double H finesse, and endplay west to lead a spade into your K9 at the end. The diamond finesse is 50% a priori but given the overcall rates to be significantly less. The double heart hook a priori is 25% but probably more based on the bidding. You can play low to the 8, winning when west has K9 or Q9, or  you could play low toward the J winning when west has the K and Q. But if he has the KQ of hearts (or even just the K and doesn't unblock), you can make on an endplay by running the clubs, playing K-A of diamonds, then A and a heart. Needless to say, I took the latter line of play, which I do believe is the correct line of play. I'll make if west unguards his spades on the run of clubs or if west has KQ of hearts, or if west hold Kx of hearts and does not unblock. West had a beauty: Qxxxxx, QTx, xxx, x. I found the way to go down but I still believe it's the correct line of play.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Kickback's Superiority to Standard RKC

Kickback RKC is clearly superior to standard RKC, at least when hearts are trump. When spades are trump, kickback doesn't exist and when a minor suit is trumps, minor wood (4 of the minor) is better because you don't want to get confused with thinking 4H is to play or be confused about which suit is trump. But when hearts is trump, and you couldn't possibly want to play 4S, using 4S as RKC and 4NT as a spade cuebid is clearly better. You lose nothing by switching these 2 bids and gain the ability to ask for the Q when the keycard responder has a 2nd step (normal 5D) response. Here is an example. Playing kickback, puffy would have bid 4S as keycard and 5C would have been my 0 or 3 response. Then he could still ask about the Q and be able to stop in 5.

Friday, August 20, 2010

More Minorwooding



South deals. 1C-1S-2H-3C-3D-4C-4D-4H-4NT-6C

That's a good auction. 3C was forcing with clubs, 3D values, 4C rkc
for clubs, 4D 0 or 3, 4H Q ask, 4nt Q + HK and not SK.

Unfortunately, my partner and I weren't playing minorwood, or at least
I didn't think he would remember and might pass 4C so I just blasted
to 6C after he reversed.

That is all for now.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A Safety Play, In a Way

As we learn more about bridge, we may find the ratio of good plays to bad plays gets skewed more toward the bad side. This isn't because we're getting worse but because our standards are changing. Plays that we used to consider to be good become routine and plays that used to be considered double-dummy are now errors because some subtle signal or inference should have made the right play reasonably clear. The Macon sectional just ended and even though technically I am fourth on the masterpoint list for the tournament, I'm claiming a tie for first since I played most of the tournament with the first 3 players, all with 20.89 to my 20.51. So, I must have done lots of good things - they just don't stick out in my mind.

Anyway, this brings me to this deal, in the final round of the Sunday Swiss. We had to beat this team by 3 imps to win the event. I was in 3NT and got a 4th best spade lead from west. What's the best play to make this contract?

♠ AQx
♥ Axx
♦ KT9xxx
♣ x

♠ Kx
♥ Kxx
♦ AJx
♣ J98xx

It looks like you have to get your diamond suit set up and basically not allow then to take 4 clubs and a diamond on defense. As we all know, playing the AK first is the percentage play to take the most diamond tricks. You'll take 6 tricks 58% of the time. Finessing the first round is 50%, while playing and honor and then finessing is somewhere in between. Kind of a hidden thing here is whether is a dangerous opponent that you want to keep off lead. East is a slightly more dangerous opponent in that it will be easier for him to find a club lead than for west to find it. So, finessing diamonds through east is the way to go. But do you cash the K first or not? No, picking up the stiff Q with west is not as important as picking up Qxxx with east but a first round finesse also ensures that if you have to lose a diamond, neither defender will get a chance to give a signal first. So, proper play is to with the Q in dummy and lead the diamond ten, letting it ride if not covered. Since west has KTx in clubs, he could not effectively attack clubs and take 4 tricks. East had to be on lead to lead a low club for the defense to untangle their club tricks. I played AK of diamonds, and when west threw a discouraging spade or lavinthal showing clubs or something equivalent, they had no difficulty beating me a trick.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Polishish Canape Issues: Determining if Opener has a weak NT or a Strong Hand

When I first toyed with adopting a polish-like structure with canape about 3 months ago, I was really concerned that we would have difficulty distinguishing between the 12-14 balanced hands and the big hands in competition. That actually hasn't been a problem. With the 12-14, opener can just pass his rho is the one interfering or can raise partner's 1M response to 2M. With a big hand, opener should do something - anything - to show one of the big hands: cuebid for a strong takeout, jump raise or jump-shift to show support and a big hand, bid NT if balanced w/ a stopper, or bid a new suit. The only real difference from standard bidding is that a cuebid would not show support as a jump to 3M and all jump-shifts (fit-jumps) would be gf with support. I think we also decided that opener should be able to make a support double with a weak NT, so 1C-P-1H-2C-X = 3 card support, just as if it was a standard auction.

If lho of the 1C opener interferes, that's actually a little easier to deal with. Responder just bids as if partner opened a standard "could be as short as 2" 1C. Negative doubles are all on, negative free bids are on (for majors only), but 2C and 2D are both natural 1 round forces. Opener rarely has the big hand when lho and partner both bid, but there are still plenty of ways he can show a big hand - jumping and cuebidding, normally all below game and in a game-forcing situation.

If lho preempts, we even more bid as if we opened a weak NT. Lebensohl applies and opener bids over a signoff only if 17+ and obviously doesn't accept the relay to 3C is he has a big hand. But natural bidding takes over and we have yet to have any real problems that are worse than standard. I must say, in probably 25 sessions of playing this face to face, lebensohl after a 1C opening never came up.

Polish club is substantially superior to a strong club, in my opinion, because opponents don't so much go out of their way to make nuisance bids because they have to bid more constructively because it is still reasonably likely to be their hand. I probably should learn the Polish standard system WJ05, something I might be able to play with someone without weeks of discussion and practice.

Sunday, August 15, 2010


So, according to Dana, when an underage person scores a beer in bridge, it's an EABA, equally attractive beer alternative, and they can opt for a coke or juice or collect owed beers until of legal age.

I got my first defensive beer in a long time last night playing with Mili. My counterpart at the other table got an offensive beer on the same hand. We defended 2S down 3 while he declared 3S making 4. Here is the hand. Over last couple of weeks, I have collected 4 beers from her while she got one on me so if this EABA is ever going to have much effect, she'll have to do some catching up. :) Meanwhile, I am glad I didn't succumb to the pressure tonight to allow sean to score a defensive beer with dana as his partner. That would have meant me going down 5 instead of 4 and that just can't be had.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Lebensohl Over Reverses

There are some auctions that make me cringe every time they come up with a new partner, because I don't know what they will treat as forcing and what will not be forcing. One such auction is any reverse. If we ever get to the point of saying "Leb over Rev?" "Sure" then it's no problem, but I don't even know what standard is or if there is a standard of whether 1C-1S-2H-3C is forcing or not.

First of all, what types of hands should we reverse with? Time and time again I see players, even some reasonably experienced players, reverse with balanced hands - some 4432 18 count. With almost all of those that cannot raise partner's suit, 2NT is probably the right rebid. Reverses should be limited to strong distributional hands - at least 5-4 with at least game invitational values opposite opposite a minimum response. I'd say a minimum 1C-1H-2D reverse would be: Ax, xx, KQxx, AKTxx.

How does bidding continue after a reverse? As we've established the reverse (opener's second bid) is a 1 round force, but what bids by responder are now forcing? Let's stick with the 1C-1H-2D auction. I suppose in standard 2H, 2NT, 2C and 3D are all non-forcing, just taking a preference, and all good hands would need to jump or bid 4th suit (2S) but I'm not really sure. I think a lot of people are also unsure of what is forcing so opener winds up bidding 3NT over almost any or responder's rebids, often times getting to a no-play 3NT. I highly recommend playing Lebensohl over reverses. A 2NT rebid by responder is a relay to 3C, just as it is in the popular Lebensohl over 1NT interference. This is usually a way to get out at 3 of a suit with you have 17 opposite 6. Opener, however, does not have to bid 3C if he still wants to go to game opposite a 5 point hand that is likely trying to sign off in 3C. Perhaps more importantly, it allows responder to bid naturally and not worry about getting passed short of game. Making forcing raises in a minor suit is always kind of difficult - going through 4th suit and then supporting clubs puts you beyond 3NT and isn't very efficient. Therefore, it will improve your slam bidding, especially in getting to a minor suit slam, by being to establish a suit sooner. Responder rebidding his suit at the 2 level is still non-forcing and 4th suit is still artificial and forcing to game, theoretically denying 3 in opener's first suit and 4 in opener's second suit.

Using Lebensohl, you lose the ability to play 2NT but gain the clarity of being able to distinguish between a sign off and forcing hand with support sooner. 2NT generally is a poor contract when you are distributional. If you're going to play a partscore, you're usually better off playing in a suit, even if it's a 5-2 fit.

Lebensohl also can and should apply to after a weak two doubled. 2 of a new suit is non-forcing and 2NT again is a relay to 3C, usually trying to sign off in 3 of a suit with a really weak hand (0-7 hcp). This allows you to bid 3C or 3D directly over the double of 2H to show a hand with moderate values (8-11 or so). You give up getting to bid 2NT naturally but gain an extra level of figuring out advancer's strength. And, as in the case of a reverse, 2NT is not normally a good contract. If you have a natural 2NT (stopper in their suit and about 10 hcp), you probably should convert the double to penalty or bid 3NT.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

I'm having writer's block. Actually, I'm having a block of pretty much everything productive since the nationals: several long late afternoon naps, 3 sessions of bridge at the local club and lots of late nights playing online with mili, and catching up on reading blogs and thinking about upcoming trips during the 8-4 time periods. eh.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Do You Go To Tournaments Just for the Discount at the Marriott

Chris Moll is one of the pros I like the most. He is pleasant to his partners, jokes around at the table, knows a little about all walks of life, and actually has good advice, not just about the technicalities of playing cards but about life. Last weekend, I was more of an observer in a conversation between Chris Moll and the Jengs' parents about bridge. He was saying how years ago when he had a job in the financial industry, he would have to be careful about when he took off for bridge tournaments. It would be irresponsible to take off for a week and a half at the end of the month when things in his office were busy, but as long as he made sure to get his work done and get it done on time, they would let him go away to bridge tournaments whenever he wanted. That's the way things should be, at least with people in professional jobs until proven to be abusing the system. Most of us don't have that sort of flexibility with our jobs. Most of us have to show up at the office unless we're on vacation and then only have a limited amount of vacation each year. But if you're a lucky one that gets flexibility to work your own hours, don't abuse the privilege - keep work a priority.
He had another take on bridge that I appreciated hearing. It can be a wonderful game and you can meet all kinds of wonderful and fascinating people and there's something in it for everyone. Just find the part you like and enjoy it. Some people go to tournaments for the intense competition, some people go for the social aspects, some people go because it's how they get paid, some people go for post mortem at the bar, and some people go as an excuse to travel. I'd say I go to tournaments more for the social aspects than ever before. That probably has to do with the fact that I am playing with more young people now and that I don't have as much of a social life at home now. Lots of people attend national tournaments just to be part of the group but spend the whole time playing side games and regional events. Some sightsee and kibitz the whole time. Some play mornings while some struggle to get up for the afternoon games. But whatever you like about bridge, even if it's just the discounted hotel rates at the Marriott in cool cities, go for it.
Some people get irritated with Moll's table talk and dry sense of humor, something I generally appreciate but in day one of the Wernher Open Pairs, his table talk got to me a bit. We came to his table and I was in a pissy mood from the previous round and I apparently didn't put it behind me soon enough. On the first hand, he ended up in 5D doubled and I held something like void, Axxxx, 9xxx, Qxxx. Anyway, partner led the K of spades and a couple of seconds after dummy came down with a heart void and a few small spades, Moll suggested that I ruff. Honestly, I had not decided yet and I tried to ignore the comment but he had that look of "let's go ahead and get this hand over with". I had 4 trumps and I know I would be ruffing a loser. If I discard, maybe partner will get in with the something and be able to cash a spade. That was my first thought, actually, but upon a more in depth look, it is clear that my trumps aren't going to take tricks and the only important thing is to cut down on ruffs, so ruffing and leading a trump is the clear winner. I felt rushed and discarded before I was actually ready so he scored all 4 ruffs in dummy, enough for 11 tricks via 9 ruffs and 2 aces. It was maybe partly an ego thing of trying not to look like my dad who might actually need a long time to think about the situation. I should be able to know that ruffing and leading a trump is right within 2 seconds and Moll thought so too or else he wouldn't have made that comment. I know he respects me a lot as a player and a person and I've never known him to be give bad advice or deliberately comment to steer me in the wrong direction, so next time, maybe I should just follow his advice blindly. If it's not optimal, maybe I can call the director and get an adjustment.
Normally I don't have a problem letting go of hands and moving on to another one. I may not be very pleasant at the table for a round or two after something really annoying happens but my mind is usually still on the current bridge hand. And me being intimidated is unheard of. Fortunately, since that hand got over quickly and the next one was short and boring, I got to take a nice long walk around the hotel to come back and make the previously-blogged-about 4S against Howard and Dari and finished up the session strongly.
Bottom line: Don't let yourself be intimidated or rushed by someone who is better or thinks he is better than you. You are entitled to think unless it's the fast pairs or midnight game, then yes, you deserve to be rushed a bit and the intimidating people aren't so intimidating when they're drunk. And don't comment about the current deal in a serious game unless you're claiming. It's just impolite.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Down Again

This hand presents a real test of your knowledge of suit split odds and ability to set up squeezes but in actuality, the best line may be to simply draw trumps and take a straight up club finesse. I haven't worked through the exact odds of which line is superior and given a heart overcall, those odds are surely different and favor playing for one of the squeeze possibilities.

♠ Qx
♥ AJxxx
♦ AKxx
♣ Ax
♠ AJ9xxxx
♥ x
♦ Qx
♣ KJxx

A 3-2 trump split is almost required to make this contract, although it can probably be made if there's a stiff honor. Anyway, on the heart king lead, how would you play?

There are a few options: 1) ruff a club in dummy, which probably requires you to cash 3 diamonds, then place AK-ruff in clubs. 2) club finesse. Less than 50% given the overcall by west, but maybe not much less than 50% snce east surely has more clubs and west is a junior so may have overcalled on an 8 count. 3) Play to squeeze west in hearts and diamonds - needs west to have started with 5-4 in hearts and diamonds. 4) Play to endplay west early by cashing diamonds then throwing him in with A and another spade. He then would have to give you the J of hearts or a 3rd club trick if he started with Kx of spades and no more than 3 diamonds. If that fails, you can fall back on a club finesse. You can actually combine 2 and 3 into one line because the heart-diamond squeeze will still be in tact if the endplay fails. 5) play for a double squeeze. Ruff a couple of hearts, run trumps, west has to hold the Q, east has to hold the big diamond and then the club queen will fall doubleton from either hand. That requires east to have 4 diamonds, which probably is the most likely scenario and is the line the better players - david berkowitz and kevin collins, specifically, have suggested. But, alas, on the actual hand, the club finesse or the simple squeeze against west would work. But, really, this is one where table feel might be worth a lot since the percentage of these lines are pretty close. Watching how much east squirms on particular discards might help. A quick club discard first might indicate he started with 5 clubs while a slow club discard first might be from a 4 card suit, and a diamond discard by either opponent would surely indicate he started with 3 or fewer.

Time to Leave New Orleans

10 days at a bridge tournament is a long time. 24 sessions over 9 days: 5 with dad, 16 with Sean, 1 with Angie, 1 with Emily Shen, and 1 with Cappelletti Jr. While it has all been fun, in the last couple of days, people have finally started to annoy me. I'm glad Bryan came and hung out a lot on Saturday. It's really been a big party for me, how it is supposed to be.

It's after 6am this time and I didn't even drink tonight, the last night here, yet I am wide awake. It'll be hard getting back to a normal life. I am ready for this to be over but I also now most looking forward to the Atlanta regional in 4 weeks for this-light. The last day at a tournament is never fun as the inevitability of going home and being bored again looms heavily. 

I'm disappointed about how we finished in the fast pairs. I apparently suck at estimating scores in national events. We had scores of 59%, 51%, 48%, and 45% while I estimated 60, 56, 64, and 38. Way off, especially on the second day. Apparently, the 5 zeroes that we got in the first 6 boards weren't nearly zeroes and we still had a decent shot to place reasonably high if I had played the rest of the session well, but I was certainly on tilt and not getting rewarded for it after the unlucky start. In the second day of the Wernher, my estimates were equally off as well. What does this mean, if anything?