Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Keep the kibs from chortling

I was playing a friendly table with a pickup partner against two experts.  Because the experts some times play in the Jimmy Cayne matches, they are well-known in BBOland.  Therefore, our table had something like 50 kibitzers and I had to hope the kibs were not being too harsh on pickup-pard and me.

After three passes, North-South vul, it comes around to me and I hold:
What's your bid?

I have 15 high-card points and a semi-balanced hand. But I do have spades and an easy club rebid, so I have an easy 1S bid.  Partner now raises to 2S.  What do you do?

My KQ tight and J-doubleton are poor values, but I let my good club and spade spots convince me to make a 3C game try.  Partner accepts and we are in 4S.  I get the lead of a low spade and this is the dummy:
Plan the play.  Do you have a chance to make this thing?

Well, there is no need to put off pulling trumps, so I pulled trumps.  What's the right way to play clubs for only one loser?

First of all, there is no harm in seeing who has the Ace of hearts.  I therefore led a low heart to my King. North won the trick and returned a heart.  Now, clubs.  How do you play it?

Taking the suit by itself, the best way is a low club to the Ace (to capture any singleton honor) and then a low club to the 10, finessing the Jack with south.  But table feel told me that the expert sitting north had chosen a passive spade lead because he expected club tricks to be coming his way.  Ergo, he rated to have KJx of clubs.  I therefore led a low club to the 9, was gratified to see it hold the trick. I then played the Ace of clubs and another club.  North took this trick and returned a heart for me to ruff.  He was not breaking diamonds.

So, now you have to play diamonds for one loser.  You lead a low diamond towards dummy and north plays low.  Your call.  Make the right decision and you get a few imps for pulling off this thin game.  Maybe the kibs stop chortling.

I made the wrong decision at the table because I thought that North's passive defense must have been predicated on holding three suits he could not lead away from.  So, I put up the king.  Better than vague psycho-babble would have to count the points that North had already shown up with:  KJ of clubs and A of hearts.  With the Ace of diamonds, that would be 12 points and he would have opened.  Ergo, south had the Ace of diamonds.  Putting up the King has no chance. I should put in the 9 of diamonds and take my only chance.

The whole hand was: (click Next to see the play)

p.s. After I wrote the blog, I noticed that North had not played a low diamond, but had put in the 10 of diamonds.  I had no chance on this deal.  There's a reason he's an expert and I am not.  But if he had played low, I should have put in the 9.


  1. I might be inclined to play something along these lines: win the spade, give up a heart, win the major suit return -- let's say it is a second spade, cash high heart, finesse the C9, ruff a heart, play CA and a third club. If North has a hand similar to his actual hand, but with only a doubleton spade, would the partial strip work?

    Btw, I agree with your later thought that the 6+ loser West hand is not worth a game try.

    1. The partial strip line would work if North were 2-4-4-2, but that line would look very foolish if North turned out to be 4-4-2-3 and North had the Ace of diamonds all along.

      Perhaps the best line is to combine the two chances. I should drive out the heart ace immediately, and take my line if South shows up with the Ace of hearts and take your partial strip line if North does.