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.


  1. If West unblocks the SK and East, under a different construction of the hands, should happen to hold the CK, East can be subjected to a squeeze without the count (i.e., strip squeezed). After one round of spades, two rounds to draw trumps, four rounds of diamonds, and two more rounds of trumps, everyone is down to four cards. North holds ST, the squeeze heart, and Ax of clubs while South holds two spades, and CQx. East, who holds SQ and CKxx, has no answer to North's play of the last heart: a spade discard establishes the ST and a club discard subjects East to being endplayed with the SQ to lead away from CKx into the split tenace.

    1. Ah, I missed this. Since I have both the 10 and the 9, I can establish spades by just giving up a trick to the Jack. But the spade 9 is pure gravy -- as you say, East would be squeezed in the blacks if he had the king of clubs.

  2. Your random partner has a pretty standard limit raise in hearts (Drury presumably). 4H is a pretty big misbid. How to follow up after the Drury response, when having slam aspirations, is an area for partnership agreement.

    1. Easy-peasy:

      1H - 2C (Drury)
      2S (help-suit game try) - 3H (no help in spades)
      4H (sign-off)

      With help in spades, the auction could go:
      1H - 2C
      2S - 4H


    2. I think if my pard bid like this THEN made a comment as he did, after the hand, I'd find an excuse to quit. Life's too short.