Saturday, March 12, 2016

Unblocking on defense

With many of the good players in Reno for the nationals, the field at a monthly Swiss club game was rather weak.  We lost imps on only two boards the entire night and since these were in separate matches, it didn't hurt our cakewalk.

See if you would get the defense right on this hand.  North deals and opens:

N    E    S     W
1D  P   1S     P
2H  P   2NT  P

I was sitting West, and held:

West (me)
♠ Q954
♥ AJ82
♦ AQ
♣ J75

Do you agree with  my bidding?  I debated doubling 1S (negative, showing hearts and clubs), but my flat hand was not very appealing and so I decided to sit out the auction.  After North reversed with 2H, I was glad I hadn't gotten involved.

So, now it's my lead.  What would you lead?  The choices (in my mind) were between a low heart and a club.  The problem with a heart is that it could blow a trick if their heart honors are split -- declarer can run it to the honor in his hand, and then finesse towards the honor in dummy.  So, I lead the five of clubs.

Dummy came down, and this what I saw:
Initially, I thought partner would have nothing, but it appears that they may have overbid this thing. Partner might have a king somewhere.

On the 5 of clubs, declarer played the 9 of clubs from dummy and partner contributed the 8 of clubs. Because neither attitude nor count is useful in clubs, I took that as suit preference.  So, when declarer led a diamond to the board, I hopped up with the Ace of diamonds and led a spade.  Declarer now took four club tricks, with both partner and me discarding an encouraging heart on the fourth club.

King of diamond, felling my queen and then a diamond to partner's Jack on which I discarded a low (encouraging) spade.  I was down to:

West (me)
♠ Q9
♥ AJ8

Partner now led the Jack of spades through declarer.  Declarer played the King.  What do you do?

I played the 9 of spades and was promptly endplayed when declarer exited to my queen after cashing a diamond (on which I threw the 8 of hearts).  He got his heart King to make 3NT.  I needed to unblock the Queen (the Jack should promise the 10 of spades) or discard it on the fourth diamond, and then I get partner to push a heart through.

Partner did well to lead the Jack of spades -- it would be required if I held the King and declarer the Queen in that suit.  Because I had the unblock available if I held the Queen instead (as here), the hearts could wait.

This was the full hand:

Dealer: N
Vul: EW
North (dummy)
♠ A
♥ T964
♦ K942
♣ AKQ9
West (me)
♠ Q954
♥ AJ82
♦ AQ
♣ J75
♠ JT87
♥ Q53
♦ JT5
♣ 864
♠ K632
♥ K7
♦ 8763
♣ T32

 N    E    S     W
1D  P   1S     P
2H  P   2NT  P
HTML Bridge Hand Layout Creator

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

The fewer the trumps ...

I was in Las Vegas on work, and decided to look up an old friend and catch an evening of bridge.  It was nice to see another Oklahoma exile and realize how far I'd come since the last time I'd played with him ...

We got to one poor 4-2 contract but, surprisingly, it turned out to be an average board because most others in our seats got to a poorer 5-1 one!  This was the hand:

Dealer: W
Vul: EW
♠ A53
♥ 9
♦ AK1093
♣ A965
♠ K2
♥ AK54
♦ J875
♣ JT3
♠ QT76
♥ J63
♦ 64
♣ KQ74
♠ J984
♥ QT872
♦ Q2
♣ 82

 1D - P - 1S - P
1NT - P - P - X
P - 2C - allpass
HTML Bridge Hand Layout Creator

After West opened 1D, partner (North) had no good bid and passed. East bid 1S and West bid 1NT.  This runs around to me (South).  What would you do in this situation?

I decided to double for takeout, and partner played the 4-2 fit in clubs.  Surprisingly, this turned out better than other tables' 2H doubled.  Their vulnerability argues for me to pass 1NT.  At least, I now know enough to not bid 2H in this situation -- West is very likely to have 4 hearts in this auction.  Five years ago, I'd have bid 2H.  Progress!

Talking of progress, I was very happy that I was able to make 6H-doubled on this hand.  See if you can find the line:

Dealer: N
Vul: NS
♠ AK432
♥ KJ54
♦ T874
♠ 986
♥ T863
♦ K5
♣ AKJ6
♠ T75

♦ QJ62
♣ Q97542
♠ QJ
♥ AQ972
♦ A93
♣ T83

1S - P - 2H - P
4C - P - 4NT - P
5H - P - 6H - X
HTML Bridge Hand Layout Creator

Partner's 4C was a splinter.  With my poor holding in clubs, I got excited and propelled towards 6H, which West doubled.  She then laid down the Ace of clubs.

What's your line? This is what I did:

  • Ruff the club in dummy
  • Low spade to Queen
  • Ruff another club in dummy
  • Jack of hearts, learning of the 4-0 break
  • Low spade to Jack
  • Ace of diamonds
  • Ruff final club in dummy.  At this point, dummy has AKx of spades and three diamonds.  I have four hearts and two low diamonds.
  • Ace of spades, throw a diamond
  • King of spades, throw another diamond.  West ruffs, but that's it.
This depends on West having at least 3 spades.  Do you see a better line?

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Forcing them

Playing in a sectional tournament, we had a horrible first session (47%) and a great second session (60%) to average out at an okay 54%.  Going back and looking at the near-zeroes in the first session, I notice that I got a couple of defenses wrong, and got suitably punished.

See if you would do better in the West seat.

Here is one board:

 Q J 10 4 7 2 K 9 3 Q 10 3 2
 A 8 6 5 A 10 5 3 J 7 2 7 6
 2 K J 9 8 6 4 Q 8 6 5 4 K
 K 9 7 3 Q A 10 A J 9 8 5 4

North is declaring 4S after partner (East) opened 2H and South doubled for takeout.  I furthered the preempt by bidding 3H and North bid 4S.

East leads the 8 of hearts and after taking the Ace of hearts, what do you do?

At the table, I led back a club and N-S wrapped up 11 tricks.  Holding 4 spades, I needed to be thinking about a forcing defense. I should lead back a heart (!) making South ruff once.  Then, when declarer is pulling trumps, I should duck twice, take the third spade and lead another heart, forcing North to ruff. At that point then, South will have give me another spade trick.

Most of the field was not in 4S, so holding them to 4S would still have been below average, but as it was, letting them make 5S was a bottom.

This was the second defensive board I didn't get right:

 Q 4 2 K 8 3 J 8 A Q 10 9 2
 9 8 10 9 4 10 9 2 K J 7 6 3
 K 10 5 3 A Q J 6 Q 6 5 8 4
 A J 7 6 7 5 2 A K 7 4 3 5
North opened 1C, partner doubled for takeout and N-S had a tortured auction to 2S (North bid 1C, East doubled, South bid 1S, North bid 2C, South bid 2D and North bid 2S, all-pass).

Sitting West, what do you lead?

At the table, I thought I needed to cut down on ruffs and led a spade.

This is bad for several reasons: one is that my clubs and partner's diamonds are in finessing positions, so declarer doesn't need ruffs.  Second, the auction implies a 4-3 fit, and so partner has 4 spades. I need to lead the 10 of hearts so we can take our tricks, and let declarer navigate the bad split with no throw-in suit.

Both of these hard to defend, but I had the clues in the auction to make the right lead at the table.