Sunday, June 26, 2016

Fourth from Longest and Strongest?

By David Neuman

             A maxim dating back to the early days of contract bridge is to lead the “fourth highest” from your “longest and strongest” suit against a notrump contract.   This maxim has been under attack in recent years, most vocally by the expert and theorist Kit Woolsey.   Noting that expert practice is increasingly to shy away from leading broken four-card suits, Woolsey has theorized that such a lead is a losing tactic when trying to defeat the opponents’ 3NT contract.  

If your objective is to defeat 3NT, Woolsey advises to look for a 5-card suit.  If you see one in your hand, lead it.   If not, look for one in your partner’s hand.   Woolsey’s point is that trying to defeat three notrump by leading a broken 4-card suit is often futile.  At its worst you are handing declarer an extra trick without gain, and even where the lead is successful in establishing the suit, it is unlikely that the lead will establish enough tricks to defeat the contract.    As one example, suppose declarer’s side is wide open in the suit, so the lead enables the defenders to cash the first 4 tricks.  The defense still need another trick to defeat the contract.  So even if you had led another suit, if the contract can be defeated you will have another opportunity to run your 4-card suit.

            The following deal, taken from a qualifying round in the recent California Capital Open Swiss Teams in Sacramento, is a good illustration of this principle.    As West, I was on lead against 3NT, holding AQ94, 8742, 862, 103 (spots approximate), after the following auction:


West   North  East     South

Pass     1D        Pass     1H
Pass     2D        Pass     2NT*
Pass     3NT     (all pass)

                                    *Alerted as forcing

            Spurning the “obvious” spade lead, I led the 10 of clubs.  This was the layout:


                                                            North
                                                            62
                                                            95
                                                            AKQJ73
                                                            AJ2
                        West                                                   East
                        AQ94                                                   10753
                        8742                                                    AJ
                        862                                                      104
                        103                                                      K9765 
                                                            South
                                                            KJ8
                                                            KQ1063                      
                                                            95
                                                            Q84    

            Declarer ducked the club in dummy.  My partner, Bob Klein, won the king and, seeing no future in the club suit, shifted to the ten of spades, covered by the jack and queen.  I returned a heart to Bob’s ace.  Another spade through declarer’s K8 gave us four spade tricks to go with our club king and heart ace, to defeat the contract by two tricks.

            This resulted in a gain of 13 IMPs.  At the other table, my counterpart led the four of spades (fourth from longest and strongest!).  Jennifer was the declarer and she now had eight tricks, and had the timing to establish her ninth trick in hearts to make the contract.   The spade lead was “successful” in that it established the spade suit for the defense, but after the lead declarer had 9 tricks and made his contract. 

            One might say of the spade lead that the operation was successful, but the patient died.


           


Monday, June 6, 2016

The Black Widow

By Bob Klein

Hi again everyone.  I haven't posted for a while but I plan to start doing so again.

Jenn and I just finished playing as teammates in Sacramento.  I played with Dave Neuman; she played with Erwin Linzner.  We finished fifth overall in the 2-day Swiss Teams, due in large part to this hand.  We were in the final match.  We were sitting seventh overall going into the last round.  Our opponent was Debbie Rosenberg and some of her students.  Debbie was sitting to my right.  I was dealt the following with our side vulnerable:

S void
H KJ532
D AKT9
C Q962

I opened 1 Heart.  Dave and I were playing Precision, so this showed less than 16 HCP.  LHO overcalled 1 Spade.  Dave bid 4 Clubs, a splinter bid showing at least 4 hearts and shortness in clubs.  Since I was void in the opponents' suit, I decided to show some slam interest with a 4 Diamond cue bid.  Dave bid 4NT, RKC for hearts.  I replied 5NT, which showed him 2 keycards and a useful void
(a void in the opponents' suit is always considered useful).  Dave signed off in 6 Hearts.  LHO led the ace of clubs, and I looked at

                                            S KQJ74
                                            H AQT7
                                            D Q53
                                            C T

                                            S void
                                            H KJ532
                                            D AKT9
                                            C Q962

     The dummy was disappointing.  Dave clearly was hoping I had the ace of clubs, so we could use the spades after losing to the ace.  My void wasn't all that useful, and there was no obvious path to 12 tricks.  It looked like I would have to get 4 diamond tricks, 5 heart tricks in my hand, and either 3 club ruffs in dummy or perhaps 2 ruffs and a trick with the club queen.

     LHO shifted to the 6 of hearts at trick 2.   I would have liked to win this in my hand to start ruffing the clubs, but there was a problem.  Look at those heart spots.  I was missing the 8 and 9.  If I played dummy's seven and won in my hand with the jack, I could not use dummy's remaining trumps to ruff, as this would promote the 9 if the suit split 3-1.  So I had to decide if I could prevail if I won in dummy.  This would require using an extra entry to my hand to begin ruffing clubs.  Fortunately, my void did serve a useful purpose:  it enabled me to reach my hand by ruffing spades.  So I won with dummy's ace, ruffed a spade and ruffed a club.  On this trick, LHO dropped the jack.  Now things were looking better.  His opening lead was more likely from AKJ than from AJ.  I played a diamond to the ace and ruffed another club.  Sure enough, the king fell.  Now that the queen was good, I was up to 11 tricks, and just had to negotiate the diamonds for 4 tricks and I would have 12.  So I played dummy's last trump, LHO showing out.  Now I could see my way to the right ending.  Can you see it?

     At this point, the remaining cards were:

                                     S KQJ7
                                     D Q6

                                     H KJ
                                     D KT9
                                     C Q

     LHO has shown out of both hearts and clubs.  This meant that RHO began with 3 hearts and 5 clubs.  If she had as many as 4 diamonds, this leaves her with only 1 spade.  When I ruffed a spade in this position, RHO followed.  Now I knew for sure that she didn't have 4 diamonds.  Since LHO was marked with the ace of spades, if he had 4 diamonds he would be subject to a squeeze.  I cashed my last trump to leave this position:

                                     S KQ
                                     D Q6

S A
D J73                                                   immaterial

                                     D KT9
                                     C Q

Now came the queen of clubs, the deadly black widow!  LHO was smitten.  He couldn't throw the ace of spades, so he had to play a diamond, so my diamonds were good and the slam came home.  We won 14 IMPs.  I was pleased that when it was over, Debbie said one word: nice.

Good luck!


Sunday, January 31, 2016

Gone Boating

Ahoy Friends...Folks want to know where I've been and why I haven't been writing in the blog.  Here is the answer! I've been living part-time on a 34 foot trawler in Sausalito for the past year and a half and playing less bridge.



Last summer a friend and I motored up through the Delta to Sacramento where I played in the Sacramento Regional for a couple of days.  When I told my bridge friends that I arrived by boat they couldn't quite understand...:-)

Hope to get back to bridge writing soon.  I did play in the fall NABC in Denver, gave a talk on Losing Trick Count and placed 7th in the Women's Pairs playing with Margie Michelin.

See you at the table!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Jennbridge: A Good Bidding Sequence

Our expert opponents graciously complimented us on this bidding sequence at the recent San Francisco regional. (Bd. 4,  session 1, Thursday stratified open pairs)

Q J 9 2
K Q 5 2
K Q 9 6 3

Sitting North and playing with Mary Omodt as my partner, RHO passed and my first decision was what  to open. As I expected spades to be bid by either my partner or the opponents, I thought that the bidding would be likely to proceed more smoothly by opening 1, then rebidding clubs. According, I opened 1

Partner responded 2, an inverted minor bid, showing a limit raise or better in diamonds.  RHO now came to life with a bid of 2.  Although I only had 13 HCP, once we had found a fit and the opponents bid spades, my hand kept improving.  I now was pleased to bid 3 which I hoped would convey some useful information to partner.

LHO bid 3 and partner now made a key bid:  4

Wow. This hand may be going somewhere as I held a powerful, though aceless, 4-loser hand. Accordingly, I made what I expected to be a very descriptive bid:  4.  Partner now had the information she needed to jump to 6.

Board 4
West Deals
Both Vul
Q J 9 2
K Q 5 2
K Q 9 6 3
Q J 10 5 4 3
8 5 3
3
7 5 4

N
W
E
S

A K 8 2
10 6 4
J 8 6 4
8 2

9 7 6
A K 7
A 10 9 7
A J 10

The bidding :         P, 1D, P, 2D*, 
                               2S, 3C, 3S, 4H,
                               P, 4S, P, 6D

I ruffed the spade lead and took all of the tricks.  Plus 1390 was worth 17 out of 20 matchpoints.

See you at the table!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Jennbridge: A Bidding Question

By Bob Klein.
Playing matchpoints in a club game, you hold, in first seat with both vulnerable:

♠Txxxxx
Axxx
Qxx
♣void

You deal and pass.  LHO opens 2, weak.  Your partner, a very good player, overcalls 2♠.  Now, while you are thinking about how many spades to bid, RHO comes in with 4♣! What is your call?


It looks like your choices are to raise spades or cue bid.  Since you are a passed hand, partner cannot expect too much from you.  On the other hand, your hand has the loser count of a good opening bid! (Only 2 losers in spades due to the massive trump fit, 2 losers in hearts and 2 1/2 in diamonds--6 1/2 losers.)

With the 11-card or longer fit opposite partner who has come into the auction vulnerable, I decided that this hand had too much slam potential to bid only 4♠.  Since the opponents had bid 2 suits, I couldn't make a slam invite by jumping to 5♠, since that bid asks partner to go to slam if he has a control in the opponents' suit.  So I had to do something else.  I considered bidding 4, but finally decided that the best choice was to bid 5♣. This would clearly show a big spade fit and club control with interest in a possible slam. Given the 4♣ bid and my original pass, I hoped that partner would interpret this as showing a void.

My bid worked like a charm.  Partner, holding:

♠AKJxx
Kx
AJx
♣xxx

bid 6♠, which was an excellent contract.  It happened to make seven because of the particular lie of the diamond spots.  My RHO led the stiff ten.  My diamonds were actually Q87 opposite AJ4 so the suit came in for no losers.  The first trick went ten, queen, king ace so there was a marked finesse of the nine.  The ten had to be a singleton since his RHO surely had 6 diamonds for a vulnerable weak two bid. Nobody else bid the slam so we got a cold top.

RHO could have made my life much more difficult if he had bid 5♣ instead of 4, holding:

♠x
Jxx
T
♣AKJT9xxx.

I wouldn't have the cuebid available so I would have just settled for 5♠, which partner surely would have passed.

Good luck!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Jennbridge: Cincinnati Bridge

Once I got to the bridge club it was great.  Navigating the sub-zero temperatures to get there was another story, however. Once there, I told stories about the 70 degree weather last week in Santa Rosa...sigh...   I started my bridge career at the Cincinnati bridge club about 25 years ago and it was good to see old friends.

Playing teams with partner Joe Fisher as well as Norm Coombs and Larry Klein, we picked up some Imps on this hand.  I dealt and opened 1.  (Had we been playing Flannery, I would have opened 2!)

♠A10xx
AQxxx
Jx
♣xx 

Partner bid 2NT, Jacoby.  I jumped to 4 showing a minimum with no singletons or voids.  Partner, undaunted, bid 4NT, RKC.  I responded 5, 2 keycards plus the trump queen, and he rolled into 6.

A diamond was led and he laid down a nice 5-loser hand.  (deduct a loser for the 5th trump)

♠Kx
Kxxxx
A109
♣AKx

♠A10xx
AQxxx
Jx
♣xx 

There was nothing to the play--draw trumps, ruff 2 spades and lose a diamond.   We won 13 Imps on that one.

Another amusing hand found me playing and making 1 for plus 80 while our teammates bid and made 5 for a 12 Imp gain.

Going back Saturday for more.  The temperature is expected to be in the balmy 40's!

See you at the table!



















































Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Jennbridge: Putting on the Pressure

As we all know, it pays to make life difficult for the opponents! In a recent regional team game, white against red, partner passed and RHO opened 3.  I studied my hand:

♠10xx
Void
QJ10xx
♣AQ10xx

My first thought was that I "knew" what was going to happen.  I was relatively sure that LHO would raise to 4 and they were favorites to score up a vulnerable game.  What could I do with my minor-suited hand?  How could I both announce my minors and jam the auction?

What about an overcall of 4NT?  Wouldn't that inject surprise, take up bidding space, and describe my hand all at once?  Partner was an experienced player and familiar partner--surely he would read it.  If things went awry I could always scramble, bidding the minors later...

4NT!  Pass by LHO, 5♣ by partner, pass, pass, PASS!  Wow--this auction has a good sound.  At least we're not in trouble.

Partner's hand was suitable:

♠10xx
Void
QJ10xx
♣AQ10xx

♠Kxx
xxxx
Kx
♣KJxx

A spade was led, and in the course of time the opponents took two spades and a diamond for down one.  Sure enough, when we compared scores, our teammates announced "plus 620" and we replied "minus 50!" We love those 11 imp gains.

Keep up the pressure!

See you at the table.