Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Minor errors

At match-points, you have to be extra careful when the opponents have gone out on a limb.  Small mistakes on those hands can you cost dearly, turning a top into a bottom.

Hand 1:  
I was West and held  ♠62 8732 T4 ♣AJT76  and passed.   North opened 1S, partner doubled, and South bid 3S (preemptive).  I may have 4 hearts, but definitely do not have enough to bid at the 4 level and so I passed.  Partner now leads the Ace of hearts (A from AK) and dummy comes down with ♠T754 Q5 Q7632 ♣98.  What heart do you play on this trick?

It pays to be clear on what your defensive agreements are.   Ours are that we signal upside-down attitude on trick 1 (so the 2 would encourage and 8 would discourage) unless a switch is clearly warranted in which case we signal suit preference.  I didn't want partner blowing a trick in diamonds by switching, so I encouraged a heart continuation with the 2.  Unfortunately, this was the hand:


and on the third heart, declarer pitched a club and made 3S.  Since everyone else was in 2S making 2, 3S down 1 would have been a top.  3S making was a well-deserved bottom.  I should have discouraged hearts and left it to partner to figure out what suit he needed to switch to.

Hand 2:  
I was West and held ♠AK73 A943 J6 ♣943.  North opened 1C and South bid 2H described as 5 spades and 4 or 5 hearts. I passed of course and North bid 2S which was passed out.  Partner led the 9 of spades and dummy came down with  ♠JT862 K752 K3 ♣72.  Plan the defense.

This is an unfamiliar auction, but it pays to apply some bridge logic.  First: how much does partner have? The opponents passed out 2S, so it is highly likely that they have only 18-22 points.  Partner must have 6-10 points.   Second: how are the hearts distributed?  From partner's lead, he probably has a doubleton in spades, leaving declarer with only 2 spades himself. This means that he has 2 or fewer hearts (with 3, he would have left it at 2H for the possible 8-card fit).  So, declarer's points are in the minors.  The defense is now clear.  Play the two top spades, lead a heart.  You will come to 2 spades and 3 hearts in your hand, and partner's minor suit winners will be the setting tricks.

This was the full hand:

I failed to analyze the auction at the table and led a top club back.  At this point, partner could have done the same analysis and led the Q of hearts to pin the Jack, but he didn't sniff out the distribution either (it's much easier from my side, so I should have been leading the defense on this hand). The upshot was that instead of going down 2-3 tricks, they made 2S.  Another top converted to a bottom.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Teaching Bridge to Tech Savvy People

The technology company that I now work at has occasional "game nights", and at the most recent one, I taught a few of my colleagues how to play bridge. Because it is a tech-savvy audience, I decided that I would teach them to play online, and forgo a detailed explanation of the rules.

Naturally, I put together a slide deck (here), and the size of the slide deck was the subject of some ribbing. What kind of game needs a 60-page slide deck?  (In my defense: the 60-slide deck was for three sessions; we just did session 1 or 20 slides on the first day.) People took photographs of me going through the slide deck to send out on internal chat.

We bridge players feel BBO is the best thing since sliced bread, but that is because we value it for what we can do on the site.  Yesterday, I saw Meckwell play and last week, I played with a college classmate who lives in India.  So it was funny to see my colleagues' reactions to the site.

The first comments came regarding the password. "I can't use the password that my password generator creates. Why on earth won't it accept special characters?" Then, once they were on, "man, this site must have been designed 10 years ago." "Do they really still use Flash?"  "Someone wrote this 10 years ago and they're making hand over fist now."

The lessons themselves went well, and they were up and playing bridge in about 20 minutes.

They played approximately 15 boards, and no one made a single contract.  The winning pair was jubilant nevertheless.