Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Invitational or competitive?

Yet another hand that shows why you need good partnership agreements ...

You hold a poor 4-count with both majors when partner doubles for takeout:
You bid 1H, but west competes to 3D over which partner bids 3H.

Is this invitational or merely competitive?

You pass and dummy hits with 19 points. Even if you had known that partner meant it as invitational, would you have accepted?
West leads the Ace of diamonds on which his partner discourages. He nevertheless continues the King. You ruff, and lead to the King of clubs.

What next? Can you make 4H if you had bid it? Try to plan out the play without getting all tangled up!

I think that if any two of the three suits break favorably (3-2 in spades, 3-2 in hearts, 3-3 in clubs), you can make the contract.  So, 4H is odds-on. My line is to take the heart finesse now (with the jack) and discard the third diamond on the queen of clubs. If the jack falls, I have a spade discard as well, so only one spade loser. If the jack doesn't fall, I play on spades and hope they split 3-2. The full hand:
Would your line have worked?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Know the scoring table

Another wild hand at the same club game (we are vulnerable against not):
West opens a weak 2H.  Partner doubles and I get ready to bid 3S when East bids 2S!  Discomfited, I double. That's the wrong call, of course. I should bid 3C now, getting my other suit in.  Anyway, partner now bids 5D.

East doubles.  Your call.  What do you do?

At the table, I passed.  Partner should be able to make 5D and I do have a good card for him. Partner did make his contract ... with two overtricks!  But 5DX with 2 overtricks is still less points than the minor suit slam.  So, it was only an average-plus board.

Partner doubled because he has at least two places to play (with a strong single-suiter, he would have just bid 4D or 5D).  As long as East was not psyching, his two places to play are the minors. 4NT might have been more descriptive than the initial double, but partner was probably concerned about losing all that bidding space. I should bid 6C now. A doubled game with overtricks is still not worth as much as a slam.  Just because they double you in a game contract doesn't mean you stop trying for slam.

The full hand (no I don't know what east was thinking with his bids either), but he did keep us out of slam:

Never put down a 7 card suit ...

... in dummy unless it's trump. On this deal, sitting South, I managed to pass three times with 7510 shape, with the predictable bad consequences. The first pass seems alright, with 5 spades: if partner bids spades at any point, I'm going to raise him to 4 in an instant. Also, RHO has already passed, so a 3 club preempt may just hit partner. The second pass is already very questionable (I was enjoying watching the opponents bidding out their misfit, but that shouldn't prevent me from making the obvious looking 2 club call). The final pass is the real culprit. It's clear partner is not going to enjoy this dummy, so time to correct to 3 clubs, the only reasonable contract. I had foggy thoughts about "not getting higher if the hand is a misfit", but here I have the club fit in my own hand already. Plus, passing violates the rule quoted above.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Anything is better than conceding

You are in 3NT. Scoring is matchpoints.  East leads the King of diamonds and when you duck that, he continues with the queen of diamonds, west discarding a heart.

How do you continue?

I didn't see any squeeze, since East can save his diamond winner and West his heart winner. So, I claimed 11 tricks.  Next hand!

Not so fast. It turned out to be quite a bad board because declarers who played it out often got West to misdefend. East tried to keep his heart honor guarded and let go his diamond winner, setting up declarer's diamond 8.  Playing against a disparate field, anything is better than conceding.  Play it out.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

You need agreements on how to evaluate hands

Playing online with a trustworthy partner, but one with whom I have few agreements other than that we are playing 2/1 udca, I pick up:
What do you open?

I opened 1NT and heard back 2NT.  In the absence of any agreements, this should be invitational (9-10 high-card points).  Would you accept?

On the plus side, I have four prime cards and a 5-card suit.  The five card suit has no texture though. But since partner likely doesn't have the missing ace, he's bidding on quacks and that might be the reason for his reluctance. I'd love quacks! He may even have a bad 11 points.  I think I have talked myself into raising.

I raise to 3NT.  Lefty leads the 6 of hearts (presumably 4th highest) and I see:
Looks like partner has stretched his holdings as well. He doesn't have quacks. Only jacks. What are my chances? I decide to duck a spade into west's hand and hope for a defensive error.  It doesn't work.  East gets in, leads a heart through my king and we are down 1.

Where was the problem? Firstly, opening 1S would have worked out better. Partner would have bid 2S and you need to now pass. However, 3NT is itself not such a bad bid. Give partner the Queen of spades or the Queen of diamonds instead of the jack of hearts and 3nt has a lot of play. The problem is in the lack of agreements and I'm not talking about bidding systems. You and partner also need to agree on how you evaluate your hands. If one side is counting length points and emphasizing Aces and Kings, the other side should discount unsupported jacks. Contrarily, if one side is counting jack-doubletons in NT games, the other side should also stick to Milton Work's high-card points.

The Too Late Now moment occurred even before we sat down to play.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Don't signal with the setting trick

Partner and I are playing upside-down count, attitude and discards (low=like).

Click on the south hand (this covers up the other hands) and play along with me by clicking "Next".  Can you spot the card I should not have played at the time that I play it?

It was the discard of the 3 diamond -- I wanted to tell partner that it was safe to lead a diamond, but that discard gave declarer his second diamond trick. I need to throw away a club. Declarer can still make if he finesses the spade 10 and carries out a second spade finesse. But as he played it, 3H should go one down.

My discard of the 3 diamond cost 5 imps. I had enough information to have gotten a count of the hand at that point. partner must have 6 clubs and 3 hearts. If he has three diamonds, it doesn't matter what I do, but if he has only two diamonds, then declarer has four and I should keep my 4-card suit intact.

Not only was my signaling card ill-advised, the signal information was also wrong.  Partner should not lead diamonds. If we fail to capture an honor with our two diamond honors, declarer gets two diamond tricks.

Don't signal with the setting trick especially if your signal is also wrong advice!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Getting a child started with bridge

This may be a mishap, but I have started to teach my 9-year old bidding (we play a variation of whist at home already, so he's familiar with card-play) and this is a simplified bridge bidding system for beginners that I came up with.  It is based on 5-card majors and weak 2s (unlike classic Goren)  but has no artificial bids other than 2C.  The idea is to get to a decent contract in a total of 3 bids.

Comments on the bidding system are welcome.

p.s. In case you are curious, the variation of whist that we play with 3 players is as follows:

  1. Deal out the cards in 4 stacks.
  2. Everyone calls out their point count.
  3. Whoever has the highest point count is declarer.
  4. The 4th stack (remember that we play with 3 players) is dummy.
  5. Declarer chooses a trump or no-trump.
  6. I specify the level of the contract.  If they have 20 points, they have to make 8 tricks in a trump contract or 7 tricks in a no-trump contract. And one more trick for every 3 points above it (so 26 points would be 10 tricks if there is a trump or 9 tricks if there is no trump).
  7. We lead and we play out the hand.  Declarer wins the hand if they make the level they "ought" to make. Defenders win if declarer doesn't.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Make general rules for unforeseen situations

Just when we thought we were nailing things down pretty nicely in the context of a 2/1 bidding system, we ran into a couple of disasters this evening.  On the one hand, it felt great to use a Lebensohl auction to reach a 4H contract that no one else in the room reached (we made it, and it contributed to our 57% game). And on the other, we felt rather stupid to have these kinds of snafus (we were half-a-board shy of coming in first, and these boards would have made the difference).

I'll omit who did what and simply present the bidding on two of our disasters.  Post what you think in the comments.  Our new agreement to deal with these situations is also posted in the comments.

First hand:
Is 2NT forcing? Game forcing? Can it be passed?  What would you do with the South hand?  Is that what your partner would also do?

Second hand:
Is the 4D forcing?  Game forcing? Can it be passed?  What would you do with the North hand? Is it what your partner would also do?

If you and your partner disagree, then it's time to have some general agreements in place to deal with unforeseen situations.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Should you give partner what he wants?

After a 1S-4S auction, partner leads the 6 of hearts:
Now, what do you play next?

Obviously partner wanted a ruff.  I cashed the Ace of hearts and played a heart. It was too late now. Declarer ruffed with the jack of spades and partner over-ruffed. with the queen. Partner's king of spades got finessed and declarer dumped a club loser on the good king of hearts.

I should have thought harder. Partner has a singleton heart (with a doubleton, he'd have led the 10).  He also has 4-5 spades, so I had to be careful to not have him ruff with a natural trump trick. The winning play is for me to lead a club now. Alternately, I could have lead the 9 heart for partner to ruff low. Partner gets one more spade and declarer has no place to park his losing club.

This is the complete hand.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Count your tricks

You are in 3NT (scoring is match-points).  North over-called 2D in the second round but leads the 2 of spades.  South can not beat the 9 of spades that you play from dummy. How do you play?

I got mesmerized by dummy's heart suit, and ducked a heart when north went up with the 10 of hearts on the first round.  Hearts didn't break 3-3 and then I lost track of the hand. I can still make if I guess the clubs right. But there was a simpler line, obvious in retrospect if I'd inferred north's hand.  He has 4 spades (lead) and 5 diamonds (bid).  He has 10 points (Ace spades, A-Q diamonds). He probably has 2-2 in hearts and clubs and should not have any other honors.

Now, it is easy to count my tricks and keep south off lead.  I have three spade tricks, two hearts and three clubs.  The club suit (not the hearts) is the best place to get the  ninth trick.  I should lead a club to dummy and finesse on the way back.  Even if it happens to lose, the contract is now cold. The complete hand.  North had only 4 diamonds, but the line would have still worked.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Visualization and thinking ahead

We're playing in a Pairs game (matchpoints), I'm sitting South. Both sides are vulnerable. How do you like the NS bidding?

(1) First of all, 2NT is just awful. True, I don't have a bid that describes this well and obviously can't pass with 12 HCP facing a first seat opening bid. So I just thought this lie (about the spade stopper) is as good as any. I should have thought about the likely consequences. If we have a game on, partner is probably just going to raise me to 3NT, and then I have the spade lead to look forward to. Especially funny if partner puts down Kx in spades and 3NT from his side would have been cold.

The right bid is 2S. Partner would normally expect 4+ card diamond support, but we do play that a cuebid could also be a strong hand that doesn't know what else to bid. Are there any likely disasters coming after this bid? Not at all: On a bad day, partner might blast to 5D, expecting 4 diamonds in my hand, but even then I'm putting down solid values.

(2) After partner's 5D bid, what is the situation? EW clearly have their bidding shoes on, but even so you must give them credit for 9 spades, giving partner a void in spades. In other words, partner's shape is 0-5-6-2 at least. How can slam not be on opposite this and with three prime cards (A, AK) and decent diamond support. Pull the 6D card out of the box!

(3) One round previously, what was the situation after partner's surprising 4H bid? This bid would clearly be absurd on just 4 hearts. You have all the information at this point already - make it 6D!

(4) Now what does this say about partner's 5D bid? It's not giving me additional information, I already knew after his 4H that he's 5-6 in H/D (OK, I wasn't listening carefully, but partner should trust me anyway). More to the point, it takes away the option to double 4S, which, from N's point of view, may very well be our only plus score at this point (remember, N should place some of my points in spades, where they are wasted). North should pass here and can safely do so since this pass is clearly forcing.

Just some basic principles (think ahead, visualize, don't say it twice), but you do need to keep a clear head to get it right at the table.

By the way, the scores on this board for NS were 1460, 720, 710, 710, 640 (us), 640 (someone else played in 5D). This is easy to explain:

(1) It's not mandatory for E to overcall. An uncontested auction would start with 1D-1S. This is disappointing for N. Do you bid 2H anyway? I think this would be a really bad idea. We play a reverse shows 16+ HCP, so you're telling a big lie. Also, S seems to have wasted values in spades and the whole deal seems a misfit. Time to get real with 2D. I then have an easy 3NT call.

My 1S bid hopefully talks the opponents out of a spade lead, so 3NT makes 7 if you find the Q of hearts, and that's good for +720.

(2) In the above auction, it sure doesn't feel good in N's seat to pull the second card out of the bidding box and his 5 card major is still a well kept secret. I guess some experts will tell you that for such reasons, you should open 1H instead (I don't like it, there is potential for a slam, and you want to describe your hand accurately). I think I'd call my hand a 3 card limit raise then, which we bid by starting with a forcing 1NT and jumping to 3H then: 1H-1NT-2D-3H. I think it's not terrible to call it quits with the N hand after trying 3S-4C-4D-4H (club losers a major concern if partner has only 3 trumps). 4H makes 7 or +710.

Finally, let's say you do bid your way to 6H and make 7: that's +1460.

One more thing: note how EW's interference actually makes it easier for us to reach the slam.

(Sorry for the long post.)

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Use the auction to find the killer lead

Playing online and sitting south, I needed find a lead against 3NT.  The 2S is alerted as a long, strong suit. What would you lead?

I chose to lead the 4th highest club and it was too late now. 3NT could no longer be beaten.  The full hand is:

If you found the King of clubs, congratulations. It removes dummy's entry to the spades. King diamond would also work, although if declarer ducks, you have to now switch to the king of clubs. In the comments, can you explain the reasoning by which you arrived at the killer lead?

Friday, November 4, 2011

To bid or not to bid ...

Sitting west, you deal and pass.  Leftie bids 1S, partner doubles (takeout) and rightie raises to 2S.

What do you do?

On the plus side, you have no wasted spades, you have a double fit and a singleton.

On the minus side, you have 5 high-card points and are vulnerable.

What would you do?

I passed.  We held them to 2S+1, for 51%.  4H makes, for 96%. 3H+1 would be 88%. 3D= would be 79%. Even if you go down 1, you would get 68%. Here's the complete hand.  It's a bidder's game, especially when you are playing with a deck that has only 3 suits. I should have ventured a bid.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Consider opponent's problems

Second hand, I open 1H and left-hand opponent overcalls 2S.  That should be a weak 6-card suit and I find myself in 3NT.  I get the lead of a small spade. Dummy comes down and I see that partner has the Queen of Spades as well, but no entries.  How would you play?

Me, I played it badly: I reasoned that I probably had only one entry to dummy. So, I cashed my King of spades, took my five hearts and then broached diamonds. Of course, I had only 7 tricks and after giving me the queen of spades, they took the rest. There are two lines that win here:
  1. After cashing the king of spades, lead towards the king of clubs.  This wins if North has the Ace of clubs, as is likely. He must have some points somewhere.
  2. Don't cash the king of spades. Instead, start working on diamonds.  The opponents will lead spades for me. What else are they going to lead?
Obviously, the second line is best but it was hard to see at the table. I needed to stop thinking about getting to dummy to cash the Queen spade and realize that any other suit that the opponents lead will lead to my ninth trick in that suit.