Wednesday, July 8, 2020

A Wild Ride in an Instant IMP Game

I often play in ACBL instant games on BBO as they are quick and I like to see how my placement moves up and down throughout the 12 boards.  This game was wild as I made it to the top spot early, then plummeted to the bottom, then...well...you will see.

I was in first place by board 3 as my robot opponents overbid and went down four in 4.

Then...disaster on board 5.


I jumped to 4 with the strong South hand and went down 3 for -300.  This was a loss of 12 IMPs and plunged me to the bottom of the pack.  I looked at how pairs got to the best spot of 4 and saw that at other tables, my hand made a jump rebid of 3.  I think my hand is far too strong for that, but when North then rebid 3, South had an easy 4 bid. With an expert partner I would rebid 3, a strong jump shift, but I was worried about doing that with the robots.

I started making a comeback with hands like these. Here are a couple of 3NT hands that won IMPs.



Plus 600 won 10.6 IMPs. As you can see, I only had to lose 3 spades and 1 heart.



Plus 430 won 6 IMPs on this board.

I regained first place with the penultimate board.


A tricky 4, but if you keep in mind that you have 3 trump tricks to lose, and so can lose no others, it gives you a guide to the play.  I ruffed 2 diamonds and was happy to see trumps break 3-2.

Plus 420 was worth 9 IMPs and I was back in first place for the final board.

The situation was simple.  If I got a good score, I would win.  If not, I wouldn't. The last hand was amazing.


With my 24-point monster, I was unsure what to rebid after I opened 2.  You can never be sure of bidding with the robots (unlike humans..ahem...), but at least you can click on all of the bids to see what they are supposed to mean.

At any rate, I rebid 3NT, and my robot partner transferred me to spades.

The J was led, covered with the Q and K and won by my ace. At first glance I could see there was plenty of work to do, but I had no idea what was in store for me.

I started with the A, followed by the 3 which West won with the K.  And then the sky fell...RHO showed out! Spades were not only 5-1, but West started with the KJ1092!

Before I could bemoan my fate, West returned a diamond which I won with the 10.  Was there any hope for this doomed contract?

I started thinking about all of the possibilities and realized that it was noteworthy that West hadn't cashed (or returned) a heart.  With nothing better to do, I cashed a high diamond, and...East showed out! 

Wow!  Now I have a count on the hand! (Pause here if you are practicing counting.)

West started with 5 spades, 4 diamonds, presumably only a singleton heart, so therefore, 3 clubs.  Maybe there is something I can do. Maybe I can score some of those spades with ruffs.

I cashed another high diamond and ruffed a diamond with the 6.Then came the K and A followed by a club ruff with the ♠7.  I now have 9 tricks and...drumroll please...the Q is my 10th trick!

Plus 620 was worth 8.8 IMPs.  One other person made 4 and a few made 3NT (the best contract).  All others went down. Looking back on the hand, the West hand, that held all of the good spades, couldn't use them as I went back and forth to the board cashing my minor suit winners and ruffing them.

Needless to say, I won the instant IMP game and retired with my hard-won .90 masterpoint.

See you at the table!

Thursday, July 2, 2020

New Bridge Teaching App

Have you heard about Baron Barclay's new bridge teaching app, bridgebee?  https://bridgebee.app



Here is how they describe it:

BridgeBee provides interactive, teacher-guided playable hands focusing on specific topics and strategies. This gives players a streamlined learning environment which allows them to strengthen their abilities in the most efficient and enjoyable way possible. Its modern design is easy to use for both players and content creators. Teachers who are already involved in creating lessons through BridgeBee include Robert Todd, Marti Ronemus, Jennifer Jones, and Patty Tucker.

I had fun writing a couple of lessons (which went live today) on Losing Trick Count. There are new lessons each week, and often an opportunity to play a hand before you buy the lesson.

Check it out!  https://bridgebee.app

See you at the table!

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

NABC Robot Individual Practice hands Day 2

The second practice day had its ups and downs.  The robots misdefended on a few boards and I received good scores.  On one hand they took the first 5 tricks in 3NT and I went down, whereas the contract was made at other tables.

Here are a couple of fun hands that contributed to my 62% score.

1.  On this hand, after two passes, East opened 2 and I was faced with a typical bidding dilemma:  Should I offer a meek pass or an aggressive overcall?  I opted for a 2NT overcall and my robot partner raised to 3NT.


A heart was led which I won in my hand with the J.  When West won the A a spade was then led which I won with the A. Now I can start counting my tricks.  2, 3, 2, and if the diamond finesse works, I will have 9 tricks.

The finesse worked, and I also got an extra club trick.  The 10 and 9 fell doubleton, making the 8 good on the board.

Plus 630 was worth 90% of the matchpoints.

2.  On this hand I had to decide what to open with my unbalanced 20-count.


I decided 2NT would be about right.  North bid 3, transfer, and I figured my hand was even more valuable in hearts, so I jumped to 4. The A was led and the dummy was--in a word--disappointing.

West shifted to a diamond won by East and a diamond was continued, which I ruffed.  I was pleased to see trumps break 2-2 and when West won the A he shifted to a club, which was quite helpful. The defense was friendly, but the hand can often be made as a spade can be ruffed on the board and a successful club finesse taken. Most other pairs played in 1, but a hand that opened 2 played 3.

I scored up my plus 420 for a 97% score.

I guess the moral of this story is Bid 'Em Up!

See you at the virtual table!

Monday, June 29, 2020

NABC Robot Individual Practice hands

I enjoyed playing in the free practice games over the weekend for the upcoming ACBL NABC Robot Individual July 11-13. Here are two hands from the first practice session where I scored 67%.  The robots helped me on some hands and aggrieved me on others.  Here are a couple of hands where I helped myself.  On both hands it was important to be alert and focused in order to make the right play.

1. First is a defensive hand where I had to be on my toes to beat the contract.


Despite my opening the bidding, the opponents got to 4 without any trouble. Partner led the 10, which I encouraged, and declarer won the Q. Declarer next led a trump to the Q and I won the A.  I returned the 9 which declarer won.  Now he cashed the K dropping partner's J.  That meant that my 10 was good, so I had another spade trick.

It looked like I also had a club winner and a diamond winner--which would be enough to beat the contact.

Now declarer played two rounds of hearts, ruffing the third round on the board.  Next came a club from the board.  This was the position when I won the J.


This was the moment to be extremely careful and think through the play. Pause and decide, dear reader...what should I play next?

If you're not alert, it may seem normal to play another club, forcing declarer to ruff.  But if you do that, look what happens.

Declarer will simply ruff, then throw you in with a trump, the 10, and you have no choice but to lead a diamond away from your K into the AQ tenace!  You would be well and truly endplayed and would hand declarer the contract!

No.  Instead, I looked ahead to see what was coming, and FIRST cashed my high trump before exiting with the K.  Now declarer is forced to take the losing diamond finesse and the contract goes down.

Beating 4 got an 84% board, whereas carelessly letting it make gets a 37% score or worse!


2. Next is a hand where I had to, first, get to the best contract, and then make it!


Jumping to 4 may be a little aggressive, but bidding and making tough contracts is how you get good scores!

I got the 9 lead and paused to consider the dummy.

The contract didn't look that great--with possible losers in each suit.  Plus, the ♣A needed to be on my left, etc.  But, back to the opening lead. Maybe it could be helpful.  What do I play from the dummy?

Actually, as often happens, the declarer's play to trick one is the key to the hand.

Question: What do I want to happen at trick one?  Answer: I really, really, REALLY want East to play the K which will set up the whole diamond suit and give me a chance of making the contract.  So, I played the Q at trick one.  East now made the ordinary and expected play of covering the Q with the K, which I won.

This was a good start as it gave me tricks as well as an entry to the board, should I need it.

During the play, I drew trump, lost the A and got to the board with a diamond to pitch a heart.  I only lost 1 spade, 1 heart and 1 club--so I made 4.  This was worth 87.5% of the matchpoints.  Only 4 of 13 pairs in my section bid game, and only two pairs made it.

At the end of the day I was in 78th place out of a whopping 2223 players.
On Day 2 my score was 62% and I ended up in 54th place overall, out of 1803 players.

The ACBL seems to be doing what it can to keep us entertained and winning points during these trying times. The prospect of winning a national event from the comfort of home certainly has its appeal!

See you at the virtual tables!

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Fun on BBO

By Bob Klein

Jenn and I were playing in Walter Schafer's IMP Pairs game on BBO.  The first three hands I picked up in this week's game were unbelievable.  The first two were 3-loser hands that were nearly identical, followed by a 4-loser beauty.  Here are the three hands.

Board 1
AQJ96
A
K9
AKJ72

Board 2
AQJ874
void
A9
AKJT6

Board 3
A8
JT
AKQJT543
Q
.
On Board 1, I was dealer and opened 2 Clubs,  LHO came in with 3 Diamonds.  This was passed back to me.  I bid 3 Spades.  Jenn now gave me a cue bid of 4 Diamonds, which showed a good hand with a spade fit.  I bid 4NT, RKC.  Jenn bid 5C to show one keycard, so I bid 6 Spades. 
I got a trump lead and looked at

KT43        AQJ96
K9852      A
  JT7           K9
5               AKJ72

The play was easy.  I won the lead, played ace of hearts, ace of clubs, ruffed a club,   pitched a diamond on the king of hearts, played a trump to hand, (they split 2-2)  played king of clubs, ruffed a club, all following, and claimed as the clubs were now set up.  As this was a strong field, most people got to the slam and we made a small IMP pickup.

On Board 2 I opened 2 Clubs in second seat.  Jenn bid 2 Hearts showing at least 5 hearts with 2 of the top 3 honors.  I bid 2 Spades, she bid 3 Diamonds, I bid 4 Clubs to show my second suit.  She gave a preference to 4 Spades.  I wasn't sure what to do, but with this great hand I just decided to jump to 6 Spades and hope for the best.  Once again I got a trump lead and looked at

K5                AQJ875
KQ954        void
K932            A9
85                AKJT6

Jenn had a great hand for me, covering two of my losers  with the spade and diamond kings.  There was nothing to the play.  I drew trump, got to dummy with the king of diamonds and played the clubs, giving them one.  We won a few more IMPs on this one, but still most of the field got to the slam.

On board 3, I got a spade opening on my right.   I considered bidding 3NT immediately, hoping for a spade lead and 9 easy tricks. I decided instead to start with 2 Diamonds instead and see what happens;  LHO raised to 2 Spades, passed back to me.  Now I bid 3NT expecting a spade lead.  LHO doubled.  Now I was uncomfortable.  He was an expert, presumably knew what I was doing, and was likely prepared to lead something else.  So I retreated to 4 Diamonds.  Good thing.  Jenn had the king of spades and nothing else, so 3NT would have gone down a lot. We won about 4 IMPs as there were people in 5 diamonds going down.                      
A8
JT
AKQJT543
Q

This is a fun game.  Some of the opponents are world champs and most of them are strong players.  I am happy that we get to play in it.  

Ditto Bob--Thanks!
And Congratulations to Bob for making Grand Life Master recently!

Monday, June 15, 2020

Accidental Genius

Bridge can be rewarding, frustrating and even quite amusing!  I have been playing a lot of IMP games with the BBO robots because I can fit in a quick 12-board match almost any time.  These matches are quick because you can frequently claim halfway through the hand. The robots know immediately whether your claim is valid.

Here are a couple of entertaining hands that both turned out to be matchwinners.  On the first one I made an unusual play which worked out great.  On the second hand a card turned out to be in the wrong defensive hand; but what initially looked like a disaster also turned a triumph.  I have decided that these two hands have earned me the title of Accidental Genius!


A normal auction and a normal 4lead.  For some reason I decided to win the J with the A.  Look what happened next.

I counted my tricks and things didn't look too bad, so I played on clubs to drive out the A.  A diamond was returned to the Q and then a funny thing happened.  East shifted to another suit! I happily took my 11 tricks and went on to the next board.  When the scores were posted at the end of the day, it turned that I had won 10.2 IMPs on this board.  I had to look at the hand to see what happened.

As you can see, my winning the opening lead with the A blocked the diamond suit!  Now West can't get in and cash the diamond tricks.  What a play!

2. In another BBO IMP match, on a different day, I found myself in what appeared to be a hopeless contract, with some "creative" bidding by my robot partner.

Check out the N-S hands and the bidding.


Strange bidding, to say the least.  I guess I need to exercise restraint with my lead directing doubles.  After the 3 bid by North, I had nowhere to go, so I tried 3NT. So here I am in a seemingly impossible game. The declarer was technically North, but the humans always play the hand.  East led a club and I won the K with the A.  

I expect East to have spades and a minor after the delayed Michael's bid.  Even if I can manage 5 heart tricks (unlikely) I can only count 8 tricks.  Well let's see what happens.

I decided to lead a spade from the board.  When East played low, I figured that West must have a spade honor so I went up with the A which dropped the J. Now I played a heart to the 9, in a desperate effort to win some heart tricks.  Much to my horror, East won the Q!

Now, East got busy cashing tricks.  First came the king and queen of spades which gave me a spade trick.  Next came the Q which gave me a club trick.  I love these plays...my tricks are being set up like magic.



Finally East exited with a club which I won in dummy with the J, pitching a diamond from my hand.  Let's see...next cash the K, get to hand with the A and claim! Nine tricks (2 spades, 4 hearts, 1diamond and 2 clubs) plus 600, netted 12.2 IMPs and was another unlikely matchwinner.

Here the accidental genius was losing a trick to the singleton Q! (It was actually quite an effective avoidance play, as bad things happen if West gets the lead and plays clubs.) Then, amazingly, East robotically(!) cashed winners, until finally, Voila! The contract came home!

As I said, bridge can be quite amusing.

See you at the virtual tables!

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

A Losing Trick Count Primer

Let's not forget to use Losing Trick Count while we're playing from home on BBO! I have been playing more hands during this time and still find reasons to use the great hand evaluation tool of Losing Trick Count in nearly every session. It takes the guesswork out of bidding and helps you get to the right contract consistently!

Remember--if your partner opens the bidding and you have a 7-loser hand with a fit, do your best to drive the bidding to game. If you have a fit with an 8-loser hand, invite game.  If you have a fit with a 6-loser hand, consider slam, and with a 5-loser hand, head directly to slam (after prudently checking on controls).

The math? Add your losers to partner's losers and subtract from 24.  That number is the Losing Trick Count--the number of tricks you can expect to make on the hand--barring bad breaks or the bad placement of every possible card.

Here is a hand I played recently where LTC was not used and the result was disappointing.

I opened 1 and partner held this hand.  What would you bid?

K742
J
A1074
K1076

Well...the first thing you do when the answer isn't "clear-cut" is count your losers.  You have a great fit. How many losers do you have?

The answer is 7:  two spades, one heart, two diamonds and two clubs.

So, what should you bid?

The answer is:  make a game game forcing bid. It could be Jacoby 2NT, it could be a splinter in hearts.  It really doesn't matter--the important thing is to convey to partner that you have a fit with a game-forcing hand.


After partner made only a limit raise, I started counting my losers.  I really wanted to go to slam, but needed the proper loser count.

I came up with 5-5 1/2:  one spade, 1 1/2 losers in hearts, one diamond and two clubs. Not quite enough for slam.  Partner's limit raise showed 8 losers, which, added to my 5 losers, equaled 13.  24 minus 13 =  11 tricks--not enough for slam.

Recounting my losers, I reluctantly gave up on my slam vision and settled for the pedestrian bid of 4.

I was disappointed when I saw the dummy!  Partner actually had a 7-loser hand and should have found a bid other than a limit raise.  I would then drive to slam which would make. Some might explore for slam with my hand anyway, but it didn't seem correct to me.

Out of approximately 90 pairs, only 17 got to slam.  They were rewarded with the great score of 90.7%.  The rest of us were consigned to below average:  46.5%. (Ugh...!)

Claim your spot at the top of the field!

Need a refresher on how to count losers?  Grab one or both of my books on the subject--available on this blog.

See you at the virtual tables!