Wednesday, February 19, 2014

A trick behind the field

The director of our club said that he'd been trying to get C. to play the Norman game.  Ever since his regular partner could no longer drive at night, C. had never been to the Norman night game.  Would I play with him?

Would I?  Of course I would. C. is one of the best players in the area.

We got together a few minutes before the game to go over the card.  "No inverted minors," he told me.  And  no Michaels.  Over a preempt, double was penalty and a cue-bid was takeout.  This was going to be interesting.

As it turned out, our bidding was fine although partner was unhappy about a couple of light openings in 3rd seat (I posted one of them on Bridge Winners just to see how egregious it is).  For the most part, I remembered the new system, and our contracts (the two light openings aside) were reasonable.  My play on the other hand ...  On pretty much every hand I played, I was one trick behind the field.  Defensively, I let them make a couple of contracts that would have been easily down had I counted out the hand.  And partner noticed every single mistake.  I wanted to hide under the table.

Take this hand for example.  Partner opens 1C ("could be as short as 2"). I respond 1D and he bids 1H.  I am not sure what would be forcing now, so I bid what I think I can make:  3NT.
Lead: Q

The 3NT is probably wrong-sided, but that is neither here nor there.  The lead is the Queen of clubs. How would you play the hand?

Well, we know who has the Jack of clubs.  But I can take only one of three finesses: clubs, hearts or spades. Deciding that the opponents would probably lead clubs for me, I decide to set up a heart trick by taking the heart finesse.

That's wrong of course. I need to take the spade finesse, because if it wins, I remain in hand to take another one.  And if the Jack gets covered, I have just created an entry in the 10 of spades.  Thus, every other declare made 10 tricks in NT while I made just 9.

We ended the night with 43%. My worst club game in ages and probably partner's too. I doubt he's coming back.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

In which partner makes a thoughtful bid ...

The most annoying mishaps are those where partner makes a thoughtful bid and I fail to take advantage of the information proffered.  After the disastrous board, when I go back and look at all four hands, I realize that all the clues were there thanks to partner's excellent bid.  Too bad I was clueless at the table where it counted.

Take this hand I played online in a matchpoints tournament. I picked up, vulnerable against not with partner (East) the dealer:

Partner opens 1S and South overcalls 2C.  What's your bid?  In competition, we play pretty much Robson-Segal's system (Partnership Bidding at Bridge). These are your choices:
  1. 2S is a minimum raise
  2. 3C is a limit-raise or better
  3. 3S is preemptive with 4 spades.
Not on the table are 2NT (which would be natural, non-forcing, showing stoppers in clubs and denying support in spades) or any diamond or heart bid which would be negative free bids (at the 2-level) or fit jumps (at the 3-level).

It's a close call between 2S and 3C. I do have a 4th trump, but the quacks are not pulling their weight.  So, I go the low road, and bid 2S.  It gets passed to South who competes with 3D.  Now, do you bid 3S, to show the 4th spade? I decided to pass, reasoning that the 3D bid has just made my hand worse (agree?).  If South has 5 clubs and 4 diamonds, then partner probably is 5-3-3-2.

 But partner now makes a thoughtful 3H bid.  What's that about?  What's his hand?

Obviously, he has 4 hearts, but is 3H a game-try? Of course, not. He passed the previous turn.  He wants to be on the 3-level, so he has no defense against 3D, but wants to suggest where his points lie.  So, what's his hand?  He must be 5-4-1-3 to wish to compete (5-4-2-2 and he'd probably pass).  The bid is more about what to do if the opponents compete to the next level.

I bid 3S, of course and now, North bids 4D.  Back to me.  What's my bid now?

At the table, I failed to take the inference offered by partner's heart bid.  The opponents have a 10-card fit in diamonds.  They are going to be cross-ruffing clubs and hearts. I need to pass, but instead, I doubled to "protect our equity".  Disaster ensued, of course.

This was the complete deal.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Squeezed without the count

The weakest declarer in the room is declaring 3NT. This is not meant to be disparaging. It's simply that he is here to have fun. He likes the crowd. It's a friendly club game.  So why bother counting side-suits?

Somehow though, the play has me caught in a vice. This is the end-position as declarer plays the 10 of hearts.  What should I play?
Board: 16
Vul: N-S
Dlr: North
Poor Me
Lead: 4


What should I throw?  At one level, it doesn't matter. If I bare the king of clubs, declarer can throw a diamond and when the king of clubs shows up, he can claim.  If I throw a diamond, he can throw a club, lead to the Ace and both diamonds are good. In other words, I am squeezed.

But I have a chance. Declarer has certainly not been counting.  He's going to throw the same card regardless of what I throw.  Knowing this, what do I throw? Hmm ... 10 of clubs and 7 of diamonds ... I decide that he will be throwing a diamond, so I throw one too.

Declarer throws a ... club.  I still don't know why, because he then proceeds to face his cards and claim two tricks, saying "I get two tricks and you get one."

"No, we don't," I tell him, "You get all three."

"The king of clubs is not gone" he insists, turning to my partner, "you have the king of clubs, right?".

"It doesn't matter," I tell him, "because whatever you lead now, you will be in dummy and are not getting back to your hand. The 7 of diamonds is good. You will get all three tricks."

"Really?," he asked puzzled.

"Yes, you get all the remaining tricks."

So, what is this play called? Not "squeeze without the count" ...