Monday, November 3, 2014

No justice in the Swiss

On Sunday, I played in my first tournament since moving to Seattle.  It was a sectional, but it was as big as the OKC regional -- there were 52 tables in the Sunday Swiss!  We played in the AX session -- better to get schooled by good teams than to bulldoze bad ones.

We started off surprisingly well, pulling off convincing wins against two teams each of whose players had more masterpoints than the four of us combined.  The third match, I had my one major mistake of the evening -- I was South on this hand when West doubled my 3C bid:


 Q: How should I play the spades? How many spades can I safely ruff in dummy?

Answer: I can safely cash both the two top honors and ruff both low ones.  East must have 6 diamonds and 5 spades for his bids, and so West must have 3 spades inspite of her failure to raise, and even if East's division is 7-6, dummy's 10 of clubs allows for 3 ruffs.  At the table, I failed to draw the inference, went down one and proceeded to lose the match by 4 imps.  Had I got it right, we would have won that match too.

We blitzed match 5, but lost match 6 convincingly (i.e., by losing imps on pretty much every board).  In match 7, our opponents were bidding extremely chancy games and slams.  Unfortunately, one of their 25% slams happened to make.  Then, they are in another chancy 4H game. Here's what you (East) see after partner leads a low spade:


You win the Ace, of course.  What do you do next?

You know the club finesse is working, so how are you going to beat this chancy game? Note the inference available from the bidding -- because declarer has four diamonds, partner has 2 diamonds. I led a low diamond from my Q10xx.  Partner put up the King of diamonds.  Declarer proceeded to take a losing heart finesse.  Partner then led his diamond to me and got his ruff.  Down 1.  Here's the full hand (click Next to see the play):


At the other table, they were in 3H making 4.  Getting the defense right kept the overall loss to 4 imps, and that was enough for us to come in fourth overall (first in X).

Second in X?  The team we played last.  We ended up placing ahead of the team that beat us in the last round!  But then, we beat the teams that placed #2 and #3 in head-to-head matches too.  There is no justice in the Swiss.


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

A curious hand

We are playing at the table of the best pair in the room when partner deals and opens 2NT.  He is West and I am East:

♠AJ5
963
KQJT94
♣3
♠KQ8
KQ2
A5
♣AQT87
♠T76
AJT75
62
♣K95
♠9432
84
873
♣J642

North passes.  I transfer to hearts and then bid 3NT which partner corrects to 4H.  At this point, North comes to life and, taking advantage of the favorable vulnerability, bids 5D.   The bidding so far:
W
Pard
N
North
E
Me
S
South
2NT1
Pass
32
Pass
3
Pass
3NT
Pass
4
5
?
(1) 20-21
(2) transfer

What should would you do with the East hand?

I have more than the minimum, so I made a forcing pass.  Partner now doubles and it is decision time.  Do I have enough to pass and pull?   I decided that partner's double suggested that he had only 3 hearts and with the preempt, hearts were likely to break 4-1.  So, I settled for playing 5Dx.  Now, what should I lead?  This is my hand:

♠T76
AJT75
62
♣K95

At the table, I decided that the auction called for a diamond lead and led the 6 of diamonds that declarer covered with the 8 of diamonds.  Now, declarer had two entries to dummy and he used that to lead towards his spades twice.  That, and the 2-2 fit in diamonds meant he went down only 3 whereas everyone was making 12 tricks in hearts our way for a bottom board.

But note the curious nature of the hand.  If I had led a heart or a club, we come to four tricks. If declarer has to play diamonds, he has only one entry to board.  5Dx down 4 would have been a top for us.

We'd have finished 4 places higher and they'd have fallen four spots lower had I found the club or heart lead.


Monday, October 6, 2014

Being Hideous

Still trying to find my way around the Seattle bridge scene, I find myself partnered in an intermediate-level club game with a good player.  We're having a good game, sprinkled with the odd misunderstanding when this hand comes up.


Partner opened 1S and I decided that at matchpoints, 3NT was where I wanted to be. A little Hideous Hog of me, I know, but with a 4333 hand with overwhelming strength begs to be played in 3NT and my diamond holding is better if it gets the opening lead ...

I couldn't bid 3NT immediately over 1S because that shows 13-15 points typically and partner with a better hand can't move forward.  So, I temporized with a 2C bid. Partner bid 2H and now I was really in a pickle.  Do I raise his 2H to 3H, or continue with my original plan of playing in 3NT?  It is probably better to now bid 3H, but at the table, I bid 3NT.

Partner now bid 4NT, quantitative.  I misunderstood and showed 2 aces.  Partner thought this was slam confirmation and 3 hearts, so he bid 6NT.

The opponents inquired closely about our bidding and I had to own up to my 5H as showing 2 aces, not 3 hearts and confirming slam.  So, dummy came down and everyone at the table knew that I was in a poor contract.

RHO took his Ace of diamonds and returned a passive diamond.  What's your line?

When you are in a poor contract, you visualize a layout that will let you make.  I have 12 tricks only if both the spade king and the club queen are onside.  What about the ten of spades, though?  It has to be doubleton or West has to have it.  When LHO turned out to have QTxx of spades and the club finesse through RHO also worked, I apologized to the opponents (click 'next' above to see my line of play).


Saturday, September 13, 2014

Being evaluated

My first week in Seattle, I went to a bridge club that promised partners and ended up playing with someone who showed up without a partner.  The pickup partner was a very pleasant person, but not a great player. The game itself was also very uneven with lots of poor players. Norman Bridge Club, the club that could, has spoiled me, so I decided to look for another club.

Mercercrest was recommended on BridgeWinners and sure enough, when I asked whether I could play, I got a better response.  One of the rotating directors offered to play with me to see who I would best match with later.

Playing with an obviously better player, the first board of the evening has me opening 1C in 3rd seat with ♠543 J63 85 ♣AKQ85.   LHO bids 1H, partner bids 1S, RHO doubles and they end up in 3D.

Partner leads the Ace of spades. Dummy comes down with ♠QT8 QT KT932 ♣T62.  Seeing the queen in dummy, partner switches to the 3 of clubs.  Under your Queen of clubs, declarer drops the Jack.  What do you play next?

The Jack, I decided, could be a false card since declarer was protected by the 10 of clubs in dummy, so I attempted to cash one more club.  Disaster, as declarer proceeded to discard his spade on his good hearts.  The hand was:

♠543
J63
85
♣AKQ85
♠QT8
QT
KT932
♣T62
♠972
AK987
AQJ4
♣J
♠AKJ6
542
76
♣9743

Needless to say, trying to cash the Ace of clubs was a boneheaded move.  I simply needed to lead a spade to allow partner to cash her spade.  My Queen of clubs was clear, and so partner knows to lead back a club. Declarer's hearts are not going away if partner has a winner in that suit, but if declarer's hearts are solid, dummy's spades will vanish.

A few more such boards and I was thinking that things were not going well.  The partner I was going to be matched up with next time was probably going to be as poor a player I was being this evening. Towards the second half of the evening, though, I finally found my footing. This was the last board of the evening.

I was declarer on this deal:
♠K9
AJ
T7
♣AKJT973
♠T764
T874
AQ96
♣8
♠AJ53
Q5
KJ542
♣62
♠Q82
K9632
83
♣Q54

I had the North hand.  What would you open?

Most of the field opened 1C and played in 3C or 4C, making 4.  I opened it 2C (4 losers) and played it in 5C.  I got a trump lead.  Plan the play.

Most of the field took the losing heart finesse or mismanaged entries and made only four on the layout.

I decided that the key was to discard diamonds on dummy's hearts.  And if hearts are 4-2, you need two dummy entries. So carefully save the 3 of clubs.  Take the first trick with the 9 of clubs and play two rounds of hearts ending up in dummy. Ruff a heart with the Ace of clubs, and be happy that the hearts do not break 3-3. Play a club (not the 3) to the Queen and ruff the fourth heart high. Finally, play the 3 of clubs to the 4, and discard a diamond on the fifth heart.  Finally, lead a spade to the king.  It loses, but you have your 11 tricks for a top.  The nice, flashy declarer play won't hurt your case.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Flyer for a newcomer bridge game

I was standing in line for food at the Oklahoma City Sectional when the person ahead of me in line turned around and said in a disappointed voice: "I was hoping you would make me a flyer for my newcomer game, but then I heard you are moving to Seattle.  I really liked the Easybridge flyer you made and wanted to have some cute cartoons on my flyer too."

I am a sucker for praise (aren't we all?).  So, I agreed to make her a flyer.  This was what I came up with:

The two cartoons:


Here's the Word document in case you want to use it as a starting point.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Count the high card points

I got permission to say goodbye to all my bridge friends by playing two days (!) in the local sectional.  Our team was placed in the low bracket of the Saturday knockout.  No matter what we did, or how many mistakes we made, we would still win and win big.  The opponents were very friendly, but the bridge was a little miserable.  It's no good -- either for yourself or for your opponents -- when you win like that.

So, in the Sunday Swiss, we asked to be put in the AX of the Swiss. No more bunny hunting for us.  We did well, ending up with 120 victory points over the six matches.  But a team we beat by 12 imps in the head-to-head pipped us by finishing with 121 victory points.  So, we were third instead of second (first was at 145 VPs, well ahead of either of us, and we did lose a tight match to that team by 4 imps, so no heartache there ...).

Still, we could have been second in A instead of third.  By one measly victory point! Obviously, with that small a margin, every board would have made a difference.  But there are two boards I messed up that come to mind.

This was against the team that came in second. I was West and held:
W
Me
x
AK10xx
Axxxx
Ax
Lead: A
E
Pard
J10xx
9xxx
xxx
Kx


The bidding had gone:
W
Me
N
LHO
E
Pard
S
RHO
1
1
2
Pass
3
Pass
3
3
4
All Pass

LHO led the Ace of Spades and switched to the Queen of clubs.  How do you play the hand?  Decide before you go on.

Obviously, I have two losing diamonds with no place to go.  Hence, I need to play the heart suit for no losers.  The question then is the right play for the heart suit.  Did you just plop down the top two hearts because a 2-2 division is the most likely? Then you go one down.

What I needed to have thought about was the auction.  RHO passed on the first round and then bid 3S, so he is dead minimum but because he is willing to push us to game, probably thinks he has a heart trick.  From the lead, LHO has telegraphed the AK of spades, QJ of diamonds and probably the K of diamonds.  That leaves exactly the QJ of hearts and diamonds for RHO.  I need to go up with the king of clubs and hook the heart.  I need to take the view that hearts are 3-1 with QJx with RHO.

The board was a push because the other table also went down 1 in 4H.  But I should have made it.

We beat the very last team by 17 imps.  We would have beaten them by 25 imps if I had gotten this board right.  I was West and picked up, as dealer, this 7-5-1 hand.
W
Me
8xxxx
x
AJ109xxx
Lead: A
E
Pard
Q9x
Kxx
9xxxx
Kxx


I've got spades and this hand could very well make slam in either spades or clubs.  So, I passed. The auction now went:
W
Me
N
LHO
E
Pard
S
RHO
Pass
1
Pass
2
3
4
Pass
Pass
4
Dbl
5
Pass
Pass
Dbl

LHO led the Ace of diamonds.  I ruffed and led out the small heart.  LHO won with the Ace and played back a heart. I took this with the king, discarding a spade.  4H is cold for them. 5Cx is a good sacrifice if I can keep this to down 2.  The key then is to play the clubs for no losers.  How do you play this?

I played low to the Ace, and LHO showed out.  So, down 3.  Our teammates were in 5H making against our -500, so we lost 5 imps on the deal.

The key, as before, is to count out the high card points.  Where are the spades?  RHO probably has them, but did not introduce them.  LHO has A of hearts and AK of diamonds. I should play the spades before touching clubs.  I would have then discovered that RHO had AJ of spades.   LHO with AQ hearts, AK of diamonds and Kxx of spades.  Why would she leap to 4H?  Because she is void in clubs.  I should play low towards the King and pick up the Queen of clubs on a finesse back to hand when LHO shows out on the first round.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Oh so close

In New York on work, I got to play at the Aces Bridge Club in Manhattan with Bill.  We ended up with 69.58% to win it overall.

But because we missed that pyschologically important 70% mark by a whisker, all four of our bad boards really rankle.

Two bad boards came against Joel Wooldridge.  Yeah, this guy.  Multiple-national champion, and Bermuda Bowl silver medalist Joel Wooldridge.  Both boards were opening lead problems.  See if you would do better.

First board, I hold:
South
South
43
7
AJ95
Q108763

The bidding goes:
W
West
N
Pard
E
Joel
S
Me
Pass
Pass
Pass
1
2
3
5
5
Pass
5
All Pass

What do you lead?

I led the 7 of hearts. Which, in hindsight, is terrible.  Joel had made a slam try and subsided in 5S. It is obvious that partner is totally broke except for clubs. The slam try being in Diamonds, I can not plop down the Ace of diamonds - -AJ9 might well be worth two tricks. I need to cash our club trick in case it is going away and the lead a club for declarer to ruff and do what he will after that.  Leading the 7 of clubs stands out by a mile.  What was I thinking about the 7 of hearts?  Actually, I will tell you what I was thinking. I thought that if Joel had a club control for his 5C bid, it would the Ace of clubs, so partner might have the Ace of hearts. And with the slam try in diamonds and partner's preemptive jump, perhaps partner was short in diamonds ... i.e., I put partner with a hand like xxx Axxxx x Kxxx ... in which case the 7 of hearts would lead to Ace of hearts, heart ruff and Ace of diamonds. Maybe even diamond ruff to beat it two ... Very, very unlikely of course.  Much more likely that we have the two minor suit aces coming and maybe a slow diamond trick to beat the contract.   Leading a club would have given us a 56% board. Defending against Joel Wooldridge, a 56% board is victory. Leading the 7 of hearts, on the other hand, gave us a 20% one.  The full hand is here.  Incidentally, a 6C sacrifice would have been a good choice.

The second bad board, I held (everyone non vulnerable):
S
South
1083
K43
843
K743

The bidding goes:
W
West
N
Pard
E
Joel
S
Me
Pass
2
Pass
Pass
Pass

West has passed after a very long hesitation. What do you lead?

I led the 3 of clubs and Joel had no problems making 10 tricks.  This turned out to be a bad board, because the pass was well judged.  4H was going down one at most tables after a spade lead. I don't know if I should have gotten this one right.  Here's the full hand.

The third of the bad boards came against a Norman Bridge Club nemesis (long story) who bid 7NT against us and made it on a cold layout.  Got to take that bottom, but it's who the opponent was that doesn't sit well.

The final bad board was totally my fault in not being blood-thirsty enough.  Vulnerable against not, and holding:
S
South
QJ74
J5
AK5
J986

The bidding goes:
W
West
N
North
E
East
S
South
Pass
1
Dbl
RDbl
Pass
Pass
1
?
What's your bid now?

The redouble was great.  I needed to double 1S and let them play there.  They would have gone down 4 for a cool top, but the fact that we were vulnerable and they were not convinced me to remove to NT.  Bad choice. Once, I had redoubled, it was a penalty that I needed to be shooting for -- colors be damned.

So how can I have made three blunders in one evening and still ended up with a 69.6% game? Not for nothing does Michael Rosenberg call bridge a game of mistakes.