Sunday, December 20, 2020

Take Your Only Chance

 Here's an interesting slam I played with the robots the other night.

The bidding was unremarkable.  North bid 4, Gerber, after I opened 1 and then jumped to 2NT.  I responded 4, showing one ace, and North jumped to 6NT.

A spade was led and I counted my tricks.  With decent breaks plus a finesse, the slam should make.

Problems started developing, however, when the diamond suit didn't break.  Then the heart suit didn't break. All of  sudden the contract was in trouble.  

Having won 6 tricks (1 spade, 3 hearts and 2 diamonds) it was difficult to see a path to 12 tricks.  Studying the remaining cards, I saw a glimmer of hope.

If the KJ were on my right, I could take a double finesse to land the contract.  Slim chance, but the only chance. I had the entries I needed. (Be careful to save entries in case you need them.)

I led a club from North and inserted the 10 which held!  I returned to the board for a finesse of the Q--and--Success!

The score of plus 990 was worth 10.3 IMPs.  Out of 15 players, 7 bid the slam and only 3 made it.

Never give up on your contract if there is a possibility of making it!

See you at the table.

Monday, December 7, 2020

Grand Slam Trump Coup

I had a fun hand with the BBO robots the other night.  A grand slam with a dollop of extra drama--in order to bring it home I needed to execute a trump coup!

As often happens, it was the last board of an Instant IMP Tournament. I was lying second and figured that I could win with a big final board.

I knew there was a strong possibility of a high-scoring board when my robot partner opened 1 and I held a gorgeous 20-count.

I responded 1.  Partner bid a pedestrian 2.  Now what could/should I do?

I have found that straightforward bidding works best with the robots so I went directly to 4NT, RKC for diamonds.  This bid should elicit the information I need.

A rich 5 bid from North (two aces plus the Q) and it was Show Time.

I pondered my options.  The most obvious bid was 6NT.  I assumed (hoped!) that North had 6 diamonds and I could count 12 tricks. I scanned my hand and reviewed the info for the possibility of a 13th trick. I believed that a 6NT bid would be a small plus, not the big score I was seeking, as many would get there.  

What about 7NT?  What about 7?  I loved all of my aces and kings and eyed the 10 as a possible asset.  If I played in diamonds maybe I could ruff out a trick in one of the majors.  

With nothing to lose but 30 minutes and $1.25, I made my decision and jumped to 7!

The North hand was suitable, but let's look now at the play.

East led the 10 and I paused to count my tricks. An easy 13 tricks if diamonds break 3-2.

I won in the South hand and started on diamonds.  All followed to the K and when I led the 2, LHO played the 10 and, to my horror, East showed out!.  It appeared that West had a diamond trick...but wait...West's remaining diamonds are the J and the 8.  Hmm...maybe something can be done.

I next played the A, followed by the K and ruffed a heart in the North hand.  Now a club to my hand and another heart ruff.  As you can see, I am busy shortening the trumps in the North hand.

Here was the situation and I needed a bit of a miracle in spades.

I played the J and it was covered with the Q!  I won and played another spade honor, all following.  Finally, I played that serendipitous 10 and pitched the Q.  Now the only two cards in the North hand are the Q and 9 and I have to win both of them when I lead a black card from the board.  West's trump are couped and the supposed diamond winner disappears!

I knew that the score of plus 2140 for 7 making was huge, and in fact, it netted 13.9 IMPs for the win.  A few players bid and 6NT and won 3.7 IMPs.  No one else bid the grand.  There are not 13 tricks available in notrump.

Another .90 masterpoint gained as well as a good story!

See you at the table!

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Losing Trick Count in Slam Bidding

This is a tale of two slam hands.  One successful, one not.  They were played on the same day--one at matchpoints and one at IMPs.

This first one was at matchpoints.  After partner opened and we located our heart fit, I barreled into slam.  It was only after I went down, earning a score of 46%, that I took a closer look at the hand. 

As you can see, I have a 7-loser hand.  Unusual to have 19 points and 7 losers, but there you have it.  True, the honors held by the opponents could have been better positioned, but in actuality, we had no business being in slam.  I violated my own rules and pushed on without paying enough attention to Losing Trick Count. As partner had not shown more than a minimum 7-loser hand, I should have settled for game.

Next we have another instant tournament, this one at IMPs.

Here I have only 16 points, but hold a nice 5-loser hand.  When partner showed a limit raise or better in hearts with the cuebid, I bid RKC, checking on keycards. Even though partner denied an ace, I judged that slam was a good bet and bid it. As you can see, partner has quite a good hand and slam made easily.

The score of plus 1430 was worth 9.6 IMPs.  Approximately 1/3 of the field bid it.

Don't forget to pause in the bidding and count your losers.  It will usually guide you to the right contract!

Happy Thanksgiving! See you at the table.

Sunday, November 8, 2020

Execute this Endplay with Me

I played a hand this week which is a great example of an endplay if you need to brush up on your skills in this area.

Playing IMPs in an Instant Tournament, I opened 1NT with my balanced 16-count and West, LHO, overcalled 2, showing spades and a minor.  North now bid 3, showing at least 5 diamonds and a game-going hand.  I signed off in 3NT. West led the K and, surprisingly, East, RHO, showed out on the trick. Very interesting.  Now I know that West started with 6 clubs, and presumably, 5 spades.

Before I played to trick one, I counted my tricks and only came up with 8.  Where would I get the 9th? Although ordinarily I might duck the opening lead to try to induce West to continue clubs, which would give me an extra trick, that wouldn't happen now that East showed out of clubs.  So I won the A and started thinking.  Hoping that West might have a good holding in diamonds, I led a diamond to the 9, losing to the 10--no help in the diamond suit.  East returned the J which I won with the K.  Now it was time to run my four heart tricks to see what would happen.  Undoubtedly this would put pressure on West.

West discarded 2 clubs and 1 spade on the hearts.  I then cashed the A and West discarded another club.  Now the stage was set.  Do you see it? (Visualize the endgame before the spade trick.)

I should be able to throw West in with a spade for the endplay. I played a spade to the A and now exited with a spade to West.

Voila!  When West wins the spade, a second spade can be cashed, but now clubs have to be played--resulting in my getting a club trick.  The 9th trick and my contract!

Plus 600 was worth 11. 6 IMPs as only one other person made the contract.  

Two-suited overcalls by the opponents make counting easier in the play of the hand.  Work on your declarer play--that's where success lies in bridge!

See you at the table!

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Grand Slam Bidding Tactics

 It's always fun and exciting to bid (and make!) a grand slam.  Here are a couple that came up this week, playing with the BBO robots.

The first one is from a BBO Challenge that I issued to my friend Bob Klein. This is a fun feature I recently discovered.  You and the person you challenge play the same 8 boards at your own convenience. After they are concluded, BBO posts the scores, including the result on each board.  You have 2 or 3 days to respond to and finish the challenge. It's interesting tactically to compete against only one person.

When my robot partner, North, opened 1, I certainly envisioned slam with my 17 count, 5-loser hand. I started with a game-forcing 2, then North made an interesting 3 bid, described as a strong 5-5 or better hand. I now showed my spade support with 3♠, and North bid 4.  I elected to take control with 4NT, RKC, and was pleased with the 5 response which showed two controls (known to be aces) plus the trump queen.

With nothing to lose, I tried 5NT, inquiring about kings.  North responded 6, showing the K.  This was enough for me to jump to 7. Perhaps the diamonds would set up if I needed more tricks.

East led a diamond.  I discarded a heart from North on the A and paused to count my tricks. It looked like I would be able to pitch four hearts on the minor suit winners, barring any terrible breaks. I started with a spade to the A, followed by the Q, RHO showing out.

Now I unblocked the K and J from the North hand and came back to my hand with the ♠K, drawing the last trump. So far, so good.  Now I could throw the other three hearts on the ace and queen of clubs and the king of diamonds.  The score of 2210 felt very good.  I wondered whether Bob would get there.

The next day the scores came out and it was a push board.  We both bid the grand! The match was very close with mostly push boards, but I won a few IMPs on a part-score hand.

2. This next hand, from an instant IMP game, illustrates two bidding tactics:  a) how to attempt to recover after a misbid and b) how to bid when you are behind in the match.

As I sat there admiring my 24 point, 3-loser hand and thinking about how to proceed, I noticed that the bidding had started without me!  Apparently my finger slipped and I accidentally opened 1 (instead of 2)! Robot Partner bid 1 and now I was in a fix.  Could I recover, and if so, how? Perhaps a convoluted RKC auction, including king inquiries, would give me the information I needed. 

The factor that tipped the balance was the state of the match.  This was board 10 (of 12) and my score wasn't very good.  I needed a high-scoring board to finish in the money.  It was late and I didn't want to bother with a long auction, so I just jumped to 7 and hoped for the best!

East led a club and the whole hand depended on the spade finesse.  After drawing trump I led a spade to the queen and it held!  13 tricks was an easy matter, and the score of 2210 was worth 12 IMPs and catapulted me to third place.

Bridge can keep us entertained even when we're just sitting at home!

See you at the table!

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Losing Trick Count & Slam Bidding

 Although, technically speaking, we don't use Losing Trick Count until we find a trump fit with partner, I find myself automatically making note of the number of losers in my hand as a secondary evaluation tool when gauging the strength of my hand.  Here are a couple of examples from a recent game.

I started off this instant IMP game with a bang--bidding good-scoring slams on the first two boards.

I definitely had a powerhouse on the first board.  Only 18 points, but 4 losers.  I deemed it worth a 2C opener.  Robot partner bid 2D, waiting, and I bid 2S.  Partner now bid 3S.  This bid shows some values--more strength than jumping directly to 4S.  

With an expert partner, I might begin a cuebidding sequence, but with the robots, I just jumped to 4NT, RKC.  Partner bid an unexpected 5NT, showing an even number of keycards plus a void.  I signed off in 6S and got a friendly and surprising lead of the SK!

Studying the hands, I wasn't impressed with pard's 5NT bid, but it looked like I was in good shape, nevertheless. I won the SK as East played the S9. I pitched two diamonds on the Ace and King of hearts and started a cross-ruff.  

I ended up taking all of the tricks for the score of plus 1010.  8 out of 15 pairs bid the slam and I won 6.1 IMPs.

Board 2

I barely had time to catch a breath before the next powerhouse came onto my screen!

This time I opened 1H and some serious competitive bidding ensued.  LHO bid 2D and Robot partner bid 2S.  (Wow!)  RHO made a nuisance bid of 4D bid and I paused to analyze my hand.

I expect partner to have at least 5 spades and at least 10 points.  With my 5-loser hand and diamond void, I figured that slam should be a good bet.  Without any clearcut way to obtain more information, I simply jumped to 6S. 

East led a diamond, and again I started a cross-ruff. I ruffed all the diamonds in my hand and was pleased to see trumps break 2-2 and clubs break 3-2.  

I ended up taking all 13 tricks for a score of 1460.  As only 3 pairs out of 15 bid the slam (and also made 1460) I got a great score of 11.43 IMPs.

This set me on the winning path of 48+ IMPs for the 12-board session with no minus scores!

Don't forget to use Losing Trick Count as a most effective hand evaluation tool!

See you at the table!