Friday, December 27, 2013

The little club that could

The Norman bridge club (usual game: 3.5 tables) is cleaning up in the ACBL's nationwide Mini-McKenney races.

In the 5-20 race, recently graduated OU student Kyle Olson is second with 248 points.

In the 20-50 race, current OU student Eric Genheimer is first with 396 points. But his position is precarious enough that he is off to Kansas City to play in the last regional of the year.

In the 200-300 race, OU professor Christian Remling is first with 404 points.

In the 500-1000 race, husband-and-wife duo Janet and Don Davis are 14th and 15th with 384 points, but looking to move up after the Kansas City regional.

Although no longer part of the Norman bridge scene, Jay Barron is a former OU student who learned bridge in Norman, so I'll brag on him anyway.  Jay played in the Phoenix nationals with Zia Mahmood and they placed 12th in the Blue Ribbon Pairs.

Congratulations, everyone.  It's been great playing with you all year.

p.s. Obviously, most of their points were gained at tournaments. Our club games award 0.8 for winning, so even if you win every week, it adds up to only 40 points.

p.s.2.  Final updates:
5-20 points KYLE OLSON With 336.79 points   ---KYLE WAS 2ND IN THE ENTIRE COUNTRY   
20-50 points ERIC GENHEIMER With 511.55 points ---ERIC WAS 2ND IN THE ENTIRE COUNTRY  
500-1000 points JANET DAVIS with 500.11 points ---JANET WAS 6TH IN THE ENTIRE COUNTRY

Sunday, December 15, 2013

What to do when your partner is being boneheaded

One of my favorite partners asked if I wanted to play in the unit's Christmas game.  We don't play together too often because, to play with him, I'd have to play at the Oklahoma City club, which is a 80-mile round-trip from Norman.  So, the last time we played together was about six months ago. Luckily, permission to play on Saturday evening was forthcoming, and I played in my first Christmas party game.

The club was jam-packed.  Good food, good bridge, and (spiked) egg nog to follow. What's not to like?  There were three sections of 14 tables each.  This is, by far, the largest club game I have ever been to.

I started the game in a stupor. Maybe it was the tryptophan.  In a clear-cut auction, after partner had signed off in 5S, I pushed to 6S on the strength of a void.  It turned out that we were off two cashing aces.  The next board, I bid 4S over the opponents' 1H, tempted by the favorable vulnerability. I got doubled, down 2, when they had nothing their way.  And so on.  The first six boards, I estimated that my decisions had gotten us six zeroes (the hand records show that we were 33% on those boards).

"Sorry," I told partner after the sixth board, "that I am playing so poorly. I hope you didn't have any expectations for this evening."

"Don't worry," he said, "I have seen experts take a view on hands with voids. There's a fellow in California who recommends that you take a leap in that position. It just didn't work this time."  Did I mention that he is a favorite partner? This is why.  Of course, he knew that I knew that one doesn't take "views" at matchpoints. You want to be in field contracts and win on cardplay.  But, it was still nice of him to say that.  One of the things about having a good, supportive partner is that it allows you to settle down.

The seventh and eighth boards were against one of the best pairs in the area.  We got two average boards against them.  Those average boards on a table we knew everyone was getting clobbered were the turning point.

On the back half, the opponents gifted us eight tops and near-tops more than making up for the slow start.  We finished with a 61% game, good enough for second overall (missing first by just half a board).

All but two of our tops were on defense -- a measure of how important it was that partner (rather than berating me for my boneheaded decisions) calmed me down. Here's an example of a cold-top (click Next to see the play; I was west):

Yes, declarer can keep this to down 1, and 2H can even make. Tops in matchpoints are often opponents' gifts, and this was no exception.

So, what do you do when your partner is being an all-around idiot?  Calm him down with some cockamamie story about a Californian expert.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Be kind and bid iffy slams

With a few minutes to kill, I found myself playing with a random partner and opponents on BBO.  I was North.  After 3 passes, what would you open?

Yes, the bidding is a little aggressive but I was in slam and got the lead of the Queen of spades.  Click on my username (to hide the other hands) and click Next to view the opening lead.  What are my chances?

"4H was a shutout bid," partner griped as soon as the lead hit the table.  He thought the slam was iffy. And it is. There are three losers: two spades and a club and only two diamond discards.  Got any bright ideas?

Q from QJ.  Could I hope that East  had 4 spades? If so, West would have the doubleton king. Maybe he also has the king of clubs ... The odds of a 2-4 spade break is about 32% and the king being with west is 50%, so this is ... what ... a 16% slam?  A 16% chance is better than none!

I took the ace, pulled trumps, unblocked the diamonds, led a heart to dummy and took away all of west's exit cards. Then, threw him in with (what I hoped) was his doubleton king.  It was. He led a club.  I let it ride to the queen and the slam was made.  (click "Next" on the diagram to watch the play as it unfolded).

"Sorry," said West, presumably to his partner.

"Tough to unblock the king of spades," I replied kindly (I thought).

"If I throw the king of spades, you'll establish the spades and use them to discard the club loser in dummy," West countered.

Well, that was true -- if he unblocked on the first trick, I could totally establish my spades.  Even I know that much.

But what if he unblocked the king of spades on the 4th diamond? Would I have known what to do? I need to switch plans, throwing my low club and play a spade from dummy. East can take his spade, but my hand is now good.  I am not sure I would have found the play, but this teaches me to watch out if a better defender sees the endplay coming and takes countermeasures. (Once he sees the endplay looming, West should anyway throw the king of spades, hoping his partner has the 10 of spades.)

Moral of the story? There are two.

  1. Be kind to your opponents on BBO. You never know what you might learn.
  2. Bid iffy slams. Playing them is good practice.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Directing a bust

Because the director of our club was thinking of playing in the Nationals in Phoenix, he asked me to take the ACBL director's test so that I could fill in for him.  I did, and as a certified director of 3 weeks' standing, I showed up to direct this Wednesday's club game.

Well, some sort of word must have gone out. Three of our regulars are in Phoenix. Another bowed out at the last minute. A quartet we can normally count on didn't show up.  Long story short, only 8 players showed up. Well, we can't do a 2-table game (the minimum movement is a 3-table Howell), so I gave them the option of playing an imps cross-teams.  One of the eight said he was not interested and went home, so I played with his partner.

We played 12 boards with the teams (initials only):
     (A) Lak + P, J+C  vs.  (B) A+L, M+B
Then, we switched and played 12 boards with the teams configured as:
     (C) Lak+P, A+L   vs.  (D) J+C, M+B
My team won the first match, and tied the second.  Overall, it turned out to be quite a fun evening.

P. normally plays Precision, so that was what we decided we would play. We had no time to fill out a convention card and so we decided to  "just play bridge".  It was going fine, until we ran into a pickle on this hand.

I was South and opened a precision 1H (11-15, 5+ hearts).  West preempted, North doubled. I assumed that was takeout and showed cards.
All Pass

I was 6-5 in hearts and spades, so I bid 3S and partner raised me to 4.  My hand was too good to pass 4S, so I bid 4NT (5D should probably be exclusion, but we had not discussed this).  Partner responded 5D (1 keycard). Assuming that the keycard was not the Ace of diamonds, I asked about the queen of trumps. If he had responded King of Clubs, I'd have bid the grand but as it was, I contented myself with bidding 6S.

West led the Ace of diamonds (Ace from AK) and this was the hand that partner had:
Lead: A
AKx xxx


Partner thought we were playing 1430. His 5D was zero keycards, not one.

Anyway, assume that you are in 6S.  Can you make it?

Yes, if West has a singleton spade honor.  If she has the singleton Ace, then I can pick it up by playing low from both hands and finessing the queen on the second round.  If she has the singleton Queen, I need to plop down the king and then give up a spade trick.  What's more likely?

I decided that with a singleton Ace, West would have had 11 points and was more likely to bid 2D than to preempt 3D.  So, I played her for the singleton Queen.

Success! Plus 1430.

Our opponents got fixed, but they were quite gracious about it.