Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Bidding in competition

Everyone at the table is bidding and you have a decision to make after the opponents' 2S:

Partner's 2H shows 6-10 points and only three hearts.  What is your call?  How do you evaluate your hand? Do you have extras? Is it worth bidding at the 3-level red-against-white?

Here's the full hand:
It turns out that partner was also max (with a bit more shape or 1 more point, he'd have bid 2D, a limit raise in hearts). I passed and we got them down 2, but 100 was worth only 7% of match-points. Do you have any gadgets that help in these kinds of situations?

If you bid 3H, good defense should give you only 9 tricks or 140, for 55% of matchpoints. If you doubled 2S, partner would leave it in.  300 is a near top.  88% of matchpoints. If you can get to 3NT (I don't see how), you get 100% of match-points.

But really, my question here is:  how do you handle these competitive situations?

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Double disaster

At the club yesterday, partner and I were headed for first place when we ran into a bottom on the very last hand of the day (we ended up with a 61% game and a tie for second) .

I was sitting south and that was the auction at our table. Partner opens 1D, East overcalls 1S, I bid 2H, West jacks up the auction with 3S, partner passes and it is decision time for me.

Since partner didn't raise my hearts, he has at most two of them. And it appears that he has at most 2 spades. So, he must have 9 cards in clubs and diamonds. Since he has only two hearts, I should be able to get two heart tricks (most likely split is 4-2) and if he has the Ace of diamonds, there is a diamond cross-ruff also possible. We have the majority of high-card points. And so I doubled.  The double was cooperative; partner could have pulled it. But he had two good defense, so he didn't.

This was a disaster on two levels:

  1. As you can see, 3S makes. I played the Ace of hearts and seeing the establishable club suit in dummy, I played the king of diamonds, small diamond and partner later got his ace of spades. 3Sx and made was a bottom board for us.
  2. Our opponents on this table didn't play Michaels. At other tables, the auction went 1D-2D showing 5-5 in the majors. Now, the distributional nature of the hand would be crystal clear and since NT doesn't promise a stopper in *both* their suits, I can now bid 2NT. If West passes, 2NT or 3D makes (in fact 3NT makes). But West usually bids 3S and gets to play it. A heart lead is natural and South doesn't know who has the missing heart.  If he plays another heart, the contract makes with an overtrick.  So, my double converted what would have been an average+ board for us (3S making) into a bottom.
Other than getting opponents who play Michaels, I don't see what I could have done differently.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Opponents may give you a chance to improve your bid

This hand, I played in 3S doubled down 1 for a bottom board.  The problem was the bidding. See it?

When I bid 1S, I'd prepared my second bid and decided that it was borderline between 2H and 3H.  So when west preempted diamonds, I decided to upgrade and bid 3H.  I was answering the wrong question. The 3D had opened up the opportunity to show 3 suits with a takeout double.  The opponents had given me a chance to improve my second bid, but I didn't take it.

Partner would have left the double in and decent defense would have 3D down at least 2. The full hand:

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Sometimes the inferior line gets an overtrick

At a club game, we got a bottom on this board (I'm sitting south). Neither partner nor I could figure out what I'd done wrong.  It was only when recreating the hand that I realized what had happened.

Opening lead is the 9 of hearts. How do you play?  (Click on South to hide every one else's cards. click "Next" to see how I played it).

Everyone else, when in dummy, must have immediately taken a spade finesse and made 4S+1 when the Queen of spades turned out to be with East.  On the other hand, I came to hand with the Ace of spades and finessed East for the spade queen. I believe that this is a better line because it leaves the diamond king protected. If clubs break 3-3, I can discard a diamond on the fourth club.

Everyone who played the inferior line made an over trick. Or am I missing something?

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Too much science or too little?

This is either a question of too much science or too little, in the bidding.

Here's the hand and the actual auction:
I open 1C even though I have a bear of a rebid problem if partner responds 1S or 1H. I am not strong enough to jump or reverse, so I will have to bid 2C. And 2C seems awfully weak for a hand with such playing strength.

Nevertheless, I open 1C.  Lefty overcalls 1S and partner bids 2D.  This is, of course, music to my ears.

Probably best at this point is 4NT, RKC for diamonds.  But I decided that I'd wait to see where partner's 10+ points were.  So, I made the only other forcing bid available to me. I bid 2S.  First mistake: too much science. Just check for aces already.  Partner would have bid 5S (2 aces + queen of trumps). And we'll be in 6D. If partner has zero or one ace, he bids 5C or 5D and we are not too high.

Anyway, I bid 2S and partner trots out 2NT. From his point of view, my 2S is a search for 3NT.  He is telling me that he has spade stoppers.  From my point of view, this is the worst possible news. If partner has KQ of spades and a smattering of heart and diamond honors, 5D is the best we can do.  I duly bid the diamond game.  Second mistake: too little science.  I still had Gerber (4C) available to me.  I could have cheaply checked for aces by bidding 4C.

Anyway, 5D making 7 was a near-bottom.  All the new partnerships bid the slam.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Whose is the most egregious bid?

Look at all four hands and the auction.  Who made the most egregiously bad bid?

I think it's a tough choice.  Everyone at the table (except my partner) is overbidding like crazy.  What was West's 3S? And why is East raising to 4H? And look at me -- bidding 5D with an aceless wonder and no two pictures in the same suit!  On the other hand, is partner underbidding? Should he have raised to 4S?

A diamond lead now should lead to one down.  But the opponents defended the only way I could make my inane bid. West led the Ace of hearts, then switched to his diamond.  This is an obvious singleton since East can see the deuce in his hand. Yet, when he was in with the ace of trumps (I'd run my jack), he led back a heart and I quickly pulled trumps, and dropped my losers on the long diamonds. 5S making was naturally a top board.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Do you sacrifice at the 5-level holding two aces?

Holding this hand, what do you do at this point?
Holding two aces, do you sacrifice at the 5-level?

If it helps (and this is a blog about mishaps after all), at the table I reasoned that I had reasonable defense against 5H (if partner has 4 spades and 6 points) passed. The full hand was:

5H was lay-down although a couple of declarers managed to go down by tackling clubs before pulling trumps.

Score for reasonable actions:
  1. Pass and 5H makes = lose 5 imps
  2. Double and 5H makes = lose 8 imps
  3. Bid 5S and make it = gain 10 imps
  4. Bid 5S and get diamonds wrong = gain 3 imps
It is still a bidder's game.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Grand slam when a misplay doesn't cost

Sometimes, misplays don't cost you.  Here's one (click on "lakshmanok" in the hand diagram to hide the other hands and click "next" to follow the action")

After a straight-forward 2/1 auction and checking for aces and kings, partner puts me in the grand  slam.

It seems to be a straight-forward guess for the queen of diamonds.

I play out the hearts and clubs and learn that East started with four hearts and two clubs. His lead of the 9 without the 8 seems to indicate that he has two spades, so he must have all five remaining diamonds.

I have misplayed the hand.  I should have ruffed my club loser before pulling hearts to cater to the 5-0 diamond distribution.  Resigned, I play my King of diamonds and to my shock, west plays the queen underneath!  The grand slam contract was cold all along.  Of course, if East had four spades, I would played him for the diamond queen (3-2 odds) and gone one down.

p.s. my first grand slam (as declarer) as far as I can remember ... most of my regular partners don't bid grand unless they can count 13 tricks.