Sunday, October 30, 2011

Avoid a trump coup

Hi, this is Lak's partner. After an eventful auction, we are defending against 5Hx in the same team event. Lak leads the K of diamonds, declarer ruffs, plays the ace of clubs and concedes a spade, partner plays the 8. What now?

At the table, I thoughtlessly play small, sort of expecting N to return a trump, but I'm also quite happy for now with the diamond continuation. Too late now! Declarer ruffs, then ruffs two spades in dummy and pitches one on the K of clubs. I have to ruff the Q of clubs, declarer overruffs, plays the ace of trumps and throws N in with her last spade. To add insult to injury, that completes a trump coup as declarer has KJ of hearts left behind my QT - 5 hearts made. (Click "next" to follow the play.)

I need to overtake the spade at trick 3 and return a trump, the standard defense against a cross ruff. Declarer cannot avoid losing a total of three spade tricks - down 1.

When opponent plays second hand high ...

Playing a team-game, we bid to 4S on this hand (I am South):

and get the lead of a low heart. Follow my play by clicking "Next". See if you can spot my misplay before it is obvious.

The answer is in the comments.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Infer the distribution

You are South here. At a club game, partner judges well to bid to 3H over their 3D:

You get the lead of a King diamond and then opponent switches to a low heart. You play low from dummy and East inserts the Jack of hearts. Opponents are not experts -- they do not play Rusinow or anything. How do you play?  (The bidding shown is slightly wrong. It is East who bid 3D over 2H)

I read the diamond situation as Ace of diamonds to my right. I took the heart with the Ace and gave up on getting two diamond ruffs (so would have only one loser anyway). Instead, I finessed the 10 of hearts and played the King to pull the last trump.

I then played a club to my Ace and a low club. What should you play from dummy?
West has already shown up with 5 points (heart queen, diamond king) and probably has one spade honor to get to 8 points. She also must have no more than 3 spades since with 4, she'd probably have doubled (negative). That means West's distribution ought to be 2-3-4-4 or 3-3-4-3. If East has a guarded queen, I have no hope of making the contract,  and so I need to play the King for the drop.

It was still a top board for us because everyone else was in 3D making. Still, I should learn to infer a count of all four suits and high-card points. This sort of half-assed play will not do.

p.s. You can click on "Next" above to see how the play should have gone after the helpful lead.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Capitalize on the lead

After a competitive auction, where you bid only when absolutely forced to, you nevertheless find yourself playing 3S.  The opponents bid diamonds and you get a Q-diamond lead.

What's your plan?

I was still steaming over being put in an untenable contract that I saw the lead, but it never registered. I pulled two rounds of trump and attacked clubs. Down 1.

The lead of the queen was a defensive error; I should have capitalized on it.  North is now marked with the king of diamonds. I should play a low diamond towards the Jack and discard a club on the Jack of diamonds.  Then, we lose only one spade, one heart, one diamond and one club (at the table, I guessed the club ace right, since north overcalled). 3S should be made after the lead.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Don't get forced

With both my regular partners out of town, I was partnered in a club game by the club director.  We had a good game (65%, for top position), but the reason it was great was that I was playing opposite a better player. He'd tell me when I misplayed a hand.  This was one of the two hands I misplayed:

I find myself in 3H and get the lead of a club queen. East cashed his Ace, led back a club. I led a diamond toward the king.  West took her Ace and led a club forcing me to ruff. Now, I led a spade toward the King.

What now?

I cashed the king of diamonds, discarding a spade thinking hazily about cashing side-suit winners before a cross-ruff. That was the wrong line for two reasons: (a) my trump spots are too low, so defenders will overruff and (b) the King of diamonds is needed to stop a forcing defense in diamonds.  I went down when East overruffed dummy and kept leading diamonds.  West finally got her 9 of hearts for down one.

What should I have done? I needed to take a spade finesse, giving up the spade queen.  Then, pull two rounds of trumps and either discard a spade on the good King of diamonds or ruff a spade high depending on when the defenders take their Ace.  In fact, it is better if I don't lead diamonds at all and immediately get to work on my spades.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Retain your entry

Playing online with a pickup partner, I was subjected to the same defensive error ... twice! See if you can spot what that is. Obviously, I didn't say anything at the table and it appears that partner did not notice his misplay on his own.

You are East and you overcall 1S over 1C and the opponents bid 4H.  Your partner leads a low diamond:
Declarer leads a low club to his queen and then leads the Jack of Hearts to your Ace.  What now?

At the table, my partner (East) cashed a spade. I discouraged and he led back a diamond. It was too late now, of course.  I think it should be obvious that declarer has a singleton Queen of clubs that he's just unblocked. The clubs are threatening: it appears that declarer's spade losers may vanish on the clubs.  But ... your partner led a low diamond after you overcalled a spade. What kind of partner does not lead partner's suit? A partner with a singleton, that's who.  Keep your Ace of spades as a entry. Lead back a high diamond. Partner ruffs, leads a spade and you lead one more diamond for down 1.

A few hands later, this comes up.  You are North.  Your partner (me) opens 1 heart.  West makes a take out double. You bid 1S over that.  East bids 2C, you bid 2H, West raises to 3C and I double. This should be penalty and you pass.
I lead a low spade. In with the Ace of spades, what do you do now?

At the table, partner cashed his Ace of hearts. I discouraged and he switched to a spade, but it was too late now. They got out for down 1. Again, I think this should be obvious. Partner can not have three or more spades; he would have supported your spades (since your overcall over the negative double showed 5).  Partner can not have a doubleton because declarer helpfully played the two. So, partner must have a singleton spade.  Keep your Ace of hearts as an entry for a second ruff. Lead a high spade.

When partner's lead indicates that he wants a ruff, retain an entry to your hand.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Partner could make a mistake

Playing with a regular partner, I am defending against 2H.

Partner leads the 6 of spades to my Ace. I return a low spade. Declarer takes it with the Queen under which partner plays the 5 of spades.  Declarer then plays a low heart to my Ace.

In a unbid suit, the 6 of spades should normally be from an honor.  But the 6-5 is what partner would play if he had a doubleton spade.  So ... what do you play when you are in with the Ace of hearts?

Well, partner has no spade honor. That's obvious, thanks to declarer playing the Queen of spades (King of spades would have been a better play).  He must have a doubleton!  I played a third spade.  It was too late now.  Declarer took the trick, pulled trumps and finessed clubs twice, discarding two diamonds, and losing only one spade, one heart, one diamond and one club.  2H+1 was a near-bottom board for us.

I could have devoted the problem a little more thought.  Even if partner has doubleton spades, declarer has a 5-card spade suit, and his minor suit losers will go away on them.  I need to switch.  But it is more likely that partner lead top of nothing from 6-5-2 or plumb made a mistake (that's what happened on this hand).  A minor suit switch is called for.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Setting up partner's slow winner

En route to a 88% game in an online individual tournament, I pick up this hand and partner does well to not compete to 2S:
I start off with a lead of 8S.  Partner cashes her two top spades and leads back a small diamond to my Ace of diamonds. I cash the Queen of Spades.  Partner discards the 8 of diamonds.

What should you lead next?

Without thinking about it, I lead back a diamond and now, it was too late. Declarer was able to get out for down 1.

There is no diamond ruff to be had. If partner had had a doubleton, she would (should) have led the 8 of diamonds and discarded the 6 of diamonds under the Queen.  So, partner and declarer both have only diamond each. If declarer has 6 hearts and 2 clubs, there is nothing to be done. But if partner has a slow club winner, it is now or never.  Dummy's diamond winners are not cashing unless declarer can pull trumps.  So, I should lead a club now to set up partner's Queen of clubs.  When declarer takes the losing finesse, I should lead a second club.

On the actual layout, this also has the nice side-effect of taking out declarer's entries to the good diamonds while partner retains a trump.  Partner then gets one more trick with her queen of clubs.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

To cover or not?

Playing in a team match online (as a sub), I land up in 3NT.  West leads the Jack of hearts.
Should I cover with the Queen or not?

Thinking hazily, I figured that West would lead Jack of Heart from one of two holdings:  Jack-high and KJ10. If he's leading from KJ10, I should cover and if he is leading from Jack-high, I should wait.  I thought it was 50-50.  I covered and it was too late, since East took his King heart and drove out my Ace.

My analysis at the table was wrong, of course. There are more ways for West to have Jack-high hearts than specifically KJ10. Moreover, the opponents have 7 hearts and they're likely to be split 5-2 or 4-3.  Holding up the queen could either freeze the suit (if east has the king and 5 hearts) or drop the king (if either player has king-doubleton).

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Getting too greedy

If you find yourself in London on a hot summer Sunday, what do you do?

I've done all the touristy things in London already, so I went to the Acol Bridge Club.  First, I went to the website to make sure I wouldn't have to play Acol there, but it turns out that you can play anything. The system is named for the club, not the club for the system. Apparently the club used to be on Acol Road and the bidding system was created by fellows who played at that club.

Anyway, I showed up for their lunch duplicate and I got matched with a nice musician/paramedic. We had a decent game (51%), not bad for a walk-on partnership.

The hand above is the one that stands out for learning potential.  Sitting East, I bid 1NT and it got passed around to North to who bid and got to play 2S. I lead a sneaky 10S; declarer failed to cover and now I had 4 spade tricks, 1 diamond trick and 1 club if I lead the King of clubs now.  It should be down 1.

But ... if I can make declarer play clubs, he could go down 2. I pulled four rounds of trumps planning to lead a heart, so as to not be end-played, but my partner threw away diamonds on my trumps. Declarer happily took three diamond tricks, discarding his two club losers.

Instead of getting 18/25 matchpoints for getting them down 1, we got a dead bottom for letting them make the contract.  This doesn't quite meet the theme of this blog, because it was not one moment of careless play, but I should have taken the sure line to get them down 1. I needed to be less greedy.