Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Online bridge!


How is YOUR online bridge coming along? Don't be left out...it's fun and "everyone is doing it"! We bridge players are kinda lucky as we can continue to engage in one of our favorite pastimes during this difficult period of time.

Here are some of the things I am doing:
  • I am enjoying playing in the ACBL "Support Your Clubs" games at Bridgebase.com at 2:00 or 4:30 PDT. (The morning game is too early.)  I enjoy the two-hour matchpoint games from the comfort of my home. Plus it's not too difficult to win a master point (or a few).
  • Bridgebase.com is full day and night, it seems, with tournament games all day, including speedball games, kibitzing of high-level matches, playing with robots--individually or with friends, and much more. 
  • Helping some of my social bridge and rubber bridge friends sign up and learn to set up tables so that they can continue to play during this period while we are at home.
  • Learning to set up team games.  Tonight my Santa Rosa "Jenn" team will play a knockout match against another Santa Rosa team.  If this goes well, I plan to set up a Sonoma County vs. Marin County match! Contact me if you want to schedule a match.
  • Bridgewinners.com has some knockouts going and I am a member of a team which is participating.

Stay well. See you online!
BBO user name:  Jenn
Jennife574@aol.com

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Bridge Tips When "Stuck" at Home, Part II

Now that we've had over a week without going to the bridge clubs, many of us have taken to online bridge at bridgebase.com. I have never been a huge fan of online bridge and haven't played in online tournaments for years, but am becoming reacquainted.  I prefer being physically "at the table" with the opponents as I'm able to pick up a lot of information during the bidding and play. On the other hand, playing online in the quiet of your home eliminates the noise and chaos of the clubs.  I had a great hand yesterday which I'll share in a moment.

Here are some additional bridge resources if you have extra time for reading.

1. There are some great bridge blogs out there.  Many of the top bridge writers have compiled rich resources:  Larry Cohen (larryco.com), Richard Pavlicek (rpbridge.net), Eddie Kantar (kantarbridge.com), to name a few.

I also enjoy checking out the material at the Bridge World website: bridgeworld.com.

2. Need some new bridge books (or other bridge supplies)?  I received an email from Baron Barclay this morning that they are offering Free Shipping on books! They agree that "It's the perfect time to stock up on new reading material." (baronbarclay.com)

3. Play exercises:  The quintessential Bridge Master play program is now available for free at the bridgebase site. (It used to cost a pretty penny to purchase.) You can find it under the sign-in page of bridgebase.com and play hands without signing in.  I love to practice playing tough hands before a big tournament.  Bridge World has some great exercises on their site as well--on play, bidding and defense.

OK--back to my amazing hand from my first online outing at the Daily "Support Your Club" ACBL Black Point Games at bridgebase.com.  There are 3 daily games for $5 each, with $4 going to your own bridge club.

Tracy Bauer and I were having a decent matchpoint game when I picked up this hand:

K1063
void
A1065432
94

As I sat there admiring this dramatic hand, my partner opened a surprising 2NT!

Wow--what to do?  Even though my initial thought was getting to 6, I took the typical meandering route. I started with 3, puppet stayman, in case there was a spade fit.

Partner, not unexpectedly, bid 3, showing a 5-card heart suit (and no help).

Without a lot of agreements or exotic conventions to fall back on,  I then bid 4--hopefully natural and forcing!

4 from partner.  I had been hoping to maneuver the auction into a position where I could ask for aces or key cards, but hadn't found a way. Unwilling to risk a bidding accident by making an obscure bid, I simply jumped to 6.

Let's see.  The K was led and the dummy looked good.

A74
AKQ109
Q98
A5

K1063
void
A1065432
94

I won the A, pitched my losing club on the A and led a diamond off the board.  The J came up on my right and I was in good shape as I won the A and LHO followed.

I left the high trump outstanding and returned to the board to pitch losing spades on the high hearts.  "Nice bid" said partner, and it did, indeed, feel like a good score.

When the next round started the scores appeared and we got a 100% board--a nice feat with over 400 pairs!

Hope to see you online!  My user name is Jenn.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Bridge Tips When "Stuck" at Home


A warm hello to fellow bridge players!

Although most of us love our homes, we really love going to our bridge club, seeing our friends and trying to play our best!  Is there anything we can do to enjoy bridge and keep our "edge" while the bridge clubs are shuttered?  Tired of moping and cursing fate, I fired up my trusty computer and put on my thinking cap!

What can we do to stave off boredom, and maybe upgrade our game at the same time? For starters, this can be a good time to catch up on our bridge reading and do some playing online.

Bridge Reading

Bridge Bulletins:  Most of us have several Bridge Bulletins at home and they are a wonderful resource - entertaining and instructive for players at all levels.  Sometimes it's challenging to keep up with our reading, including the Bulletins. The interactive features are great: The Bidding Box, It's Your Call and Challenge of the Month can keep us busy for a while and give us plenty to think about.

The interesting and talented contributors can help us improve our game.  I always turn first to George Jacobs because his columns are so entertaining!

With extra time at home we can peruse the tournament reports and admire the excellent, creative and bold play of the top experts at tournaments--and maybe pick up a few tips.

Bridge Books:  Most of us have good bridge libraries.  We can pull out our old favorites and refresh all aspects of our game:  Bidding, Play and Defense.We love bridge books--we're just usually too busy to read them!

Flash cards: A good time to pull out our flash cards and study card combinations.  Nothing can improve your game quicker than good play!

Play online.

I enjoy the Just Play Bridge feature from the ACBL website.  It is easy to play several hands quickly.  The bridgebase robots are generally only average bidders, i.e., you often get to the correct contract. (Don't expect adequate defense, however!) Here's a hand I played recently.

I picked up this amazing hand. None vul.  My robot partner passed and RHO opened 2. My bid.

A
AK8654
void
KJ10963

I can't make any fancy two-suited bids with the robot as my partner, and can't risk not getting to game, so, with this great 3-loser hand, I simply jumped to 4 - a practical bid.

LHO bid 4 and it was back to me. Not finished, I now bid 5, LHO doubled and you'll never guess what my robot partner did. The robots aren't reliable about taking preferences when it's indicated, so my expectations were not high.

7!! bid the robot! Pass, pass, double from LHO!

7x was the final contract. To say I was shocked by the bidding was an understatement.  OMG was my actual thought-- I hated to see the dummy--to see what kind of trouble I was in.

The 4 was led and I couldn't believe my eyes.

96
QJ107
10876532
Void

A
AK8654
void
KJ10963

Incredibly, it looked like the contract had chances--particularly with the double of my 5 bid by LHO, followed by the final double of 7. I drew a round of trump, then played the K which was covered and ruffed.  A heart back to my hand drew the last trump. Now I laid down the J and held my breath.  It was COVERED and I ruffed high, both opponents following.  Now the high clubs would draw the remaining clubs and my hand was good.

Now here's a score for you:  Plus 1770!

I closed my device and quit while I was ahead.

While we're "sheltering in place" (stuck at home), feel free to send me hands, questions or comments.

Stay well!

Jenn
Jennife574@aol.com 


Monday, March 9, 2020

As The Auction Proceeds

One of the most interesting aspects of bridge is curiosity about how the auction will proceed.

As dealer, I picked up this hand yesterday in the first match at the Santa Rosa sectional team game.

AKQJxx
void
Qxxx
Qxx

Was it a good hand or not?  Maybe I only have 6 tricks.  My minor suits could be worthless.  Let's see how it goes.

I opened 1 and LHO overcalled 2.  Now partner made the greatest bid--a negative double!  This shows cards in both minors--just what I'm interested in!

RHO bid 3 and I knew just what to do, vulnerable at IMPs.  I jumped to 4 rather confidently!  All passed and I awaited the dummy.

x
Qxxxx
J1098
AKx

AKQJxx
void
Qxxx
Qxx

Bingo!  This should be easy--even though LHO started with the K, followed by the A.  Even if there is a diamond ruff lurking, the contract should be safe with a reasonable trump break.

The 4♠ contract made easily and we were rewarded with a double-digit swing and a big match score. This kicked off a good day which resulted in a second place finish.

It pays to stay alert to how the value of your hand increases or decreases during the course of the auction.

See you at the table!


Thursday, January 2, 2020

Classic Rewind from 2007

Here are a couple of gems from the knockouts at the Sacramento Regional. The first hand was from the semifinals.

Both Vul. As dealer I opened 1 diamond and heard 3 hearts on my left. Pass, pass to me.

Ax
x
AJ98x
AKJxx

Think about your next call before reading on.

I thought briefly about 4 then decided I was too strong and reached for the stop card: 5. Frank studied his hand and raised me to 6!

He had the "fitting cards" as he likes to say. He banked on my being short in hearts and figured his K and clubs were golden.

10xx
Jxx
Kx
Q1098x

Ax
x
AJ98x
AKJxx

Now all I had to do was to make it.

The K lead was overtaken by the A. I ruffed the continuation and studied the hand. The key was clearly the diamond suit. I started trumps and LHO showed out. Hmm...that gave him more room for diamonds. The bidding and play strongly suggested he had 7H. Probably didn't have too many spades. How many diamonds did he have? I had to get the diamonds right to pitch my spade losers from the board and ruff my spade.

I drew trumps in 3 rounds and led a D to the K. A diamond back to my hand and did not see the Q or the 10. It was decision time. Play the Ace or finesse the J? I knew the match was close and this hand would likely win or lose it.

After a couple of minutes of thinking I played the ace and when I led another D to ruff, the Q came up on my left! Diamonds were 3-3! I returned to my hand and pitched my spades on my good diamonds. Making 6 felt like a very good score with these cards.

Sure enough when we compared scores we said: "plus 1370" and our teammates said "minus 150!" The person with my hand only rebid 4 and played there. Win 15. We went on to win the match by 1 imp.

The Finals

A tough match against a tough team which included Mike Lawrence and Harvey Brody. We had beaten them the first evening in the quarter finals but they survived and now we faced them again.

The match seemed to be going our way. We were practicing what we preach: bidding and making our games and beating theirs! Then I picked up a nice but rather innocuous looking hand:

xxx
xxx
Kx
AKQJx

We were vul and they were not. The bidding got off to a normal start and then quickly spiraled out of control. 1 by me, 1 on my left, 4S by Frank (what the heck is that...a splinter?), 4N on my right! I'm not sure what anyone is doing but I do have good clubs so I venture a 5 call. It goes Pass and Frank bids 6!

It doesn't stop there. RHO goes into the tank and pulls out the 6 card! 3 passes to Frank who starts thinking. He thinks for a long time. Finally he makes his bid: 7! The opponents pass slowly and I can't wait to see this...

Mike L. leads the A and I see the following:

Void
AJx
AJxxx
109xxx

xxx
xxx
Kx
AKQJx

I think to myself: "Maybe he should have doubled instead of bidding 7!" But now I have to see if there is a way to make the darned thing. At least we're not down off the top.

Does something look familiar? It's virtually the same diamond suit as the club small slam from the semifinals! (see above)

I ruff the A and play a round of trumps, both following. Good...I need to do a lot of ruffing and didn't want to see another 3-0 trump break. I pull the last trump and pause to consider the play. If I can bring in the D suit I can throw my H losers from my hand and maybe make this improbable grand slam.

(Meanwhile Frank left the room after bidding 7 and a well-known player was turning the dummy. I don't think he could stand the suspense! )

I played the K and the 10 came up on my right. Hmm...what is his D holding? I led a D to dummy, thought a few moments and played the Ace. The Q dropped on my right! Could it be? I pitched a H on the J, ruffed a D to my hand, returned to the HA and pitched my last H on the good D. I showed my hand and claimed. The opponents looked sick. Frank had returned and looked happy. I was amused and delighted.

We compared scores: "Plus 2140" we said, "minus 300" said our teammates. Win 18 imps.

We didn't win the match but this hand was certainly the high point.

It is only as I finish writing up these hands that I notice another striking similarity: Each of these slams was bid with only 23 high card points.

I'll have to have a talk with Frank about how many points he needs to bid a slam...:-)

Stay tuned for hands from the California Capital Swiss in which we placed third.

See you at the table!

Saturday, December 21, 2019

When Stuck, Make the "Least Bad" Bid + A Nondescript 9 Pt. Hand has Exciting Elements


It often happens that you don't have a good bid available; nothing describes your hand accurately. You are either too strong or too weak, or don't have the right distribution, etc., etc. In that case you may be forced to choose the best of several bad options.  Here is an example:

I held this hand recently in a club pair game.

                        ♠ 2
                        ♥ A J 10 3
                        ♦ K 10 5 4 2
                        ♣ J 3 2 

LHO dealt and passed and partner opened 1. RHO passed and I bid 1NT, forcing.  Partner rebid 2 and it was back to me. I couldn't think of a good bid. All bids were flawed.  A pass of 2 was both conservative and may be a poor fit, as partner may not have many clubs.  2 or 2 might be good places to play, but not worth committing to.  With no good bids, I thought about 2NT.  I would prefer to have a little more strength, but the distribution was good.  Also, I thought, 2NT was unlikely to be a worse score than any of the other possible misfits.  So, I trotted out 2NT--the "least bad bid".

Partner raised to 3NT and I awaited my fate. Sitting North, I received a spade lead and paused to count my tricks and study the hand.

                        ♠ 2
                        ♥ A J 10 3
                        ♦ K 10 5 4 2
                        ♣ J 3 2         
♠ 8 6
K Q 8 4
J 9 7 6       
K 5 4
      N
 W

E
      S
 ♠ Q 10 9 7 4
  7 5
   A 8 3
 ♣ 9 8 6
                       ♠ A K J 5 3
                       ♥ 9 6 2
                       ♦
                       ♣ A Q 10 7

Hard to tell what would happen as each suit had problems as well as possibilities.  I won the A and played the 9.  West played an honor and I paused again.  She probably had both honors, and as transportation was a problem I decided to play low.  Furthermore, she was more or less endplayed as any thing she did at this point was likely to help my cause.  In fact, she returned a diamond which I ducked to East's ace. East returned a diamond and I won the J with my K. and now I had two diamond tricks and the contract was starting to look promising. 

It was time for the club finesse and I led the J from my hand.  West won and returned a diamond which I won with the 10. Now I should have plenty of tricks:  At least 2 hearts after a finesse (assuming both heart honors are onside), 2 diamonds, 3 clubs and 2 spades.  And HELLO--a bonus trick as West is squeezed on the 4th club fro dummy and needs to discard a heart in order to retain her winning diamond. 

The final tally was 2 spades, 3 hearts, 2 diamonds and 3 clubs for 10 tricks (430) and a top. One other pair played in 3NT and made 3.  The most common contract was 2 or 3.

It never fails to amaze me that a nondescript nine point hand, when looked into deeply, can yield up so many fascinating elements:  an impossible bid, an endplay at trick two and even a squeeze at the end! And let's not forget another reason we like bridge--sometimes we get to be courageous, creative  and lucky!

See you at the table!

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Use Losing Trick Count for Accurate Hand Evaluation

I often run across hands where there is a total failure to use the simple hand evaluation tool of Losing Trick Count.  Here are two hands I played recently where the use of LTC gets you to the right contract, yet it was not used. One of these hands was even held by a flight A player who generally uses LTC.

1.  I played this hand in Terra Linda recently as East.

Dlr: N Vul: NS

                        ♠ A J 10 8 6
                        ♥ A J 8 2
                        ♦ K 6 3
                        ♣ 6          
♠ 4 3
K 6 5
9 4 2       
Q J 10 5 3
      N
 W

E
      S
 ♠ Q 7
  Q 9 7 4 3
   J 10 8
 ♣ A K 9
                       ♠ K 9 5 2
                       ♥ 10 
                       ♦ A Q 7 5
                       ♣ 8 7 4 2

North opened 1 and I overcalled 2 with a less than optimum hand.  South bid 2 and pard bid 3.  Amazingly, everyone passed and I played in 3.  Down 4, minus 200 was, not surprisingly, an 85% board as NS can make a slam in spades!  What happened?

The answer is that South under-valued his hand and failed to make a limit raise.  He actually has a 7-loser hand, so could even consider forcing to game! Whether or not he forces to game, he should start with a bid of 3, showing a limit raise or better in spades. Admittedly, slam is not a good bet, as it depends on not losing a spade trick, but game should be easy to reach.

It is also possible that there was no competitive bidding at most tables, but that shouldn't be a reason for South to fail to use LTC and be very competitive with this hand.

2. I held this hand recently as North. After two passes I opened 1.  Pard bid 2 and that was the final contract.


Dlr: S Vul: None

                         A K Q 8 5
                        ♥ 5 3
                        ♦ 9 5
                        ♣ K 10 3 2         
♠ 9 6 2
A 10 9 8 4
J 5 2       
A 6
      N
 W

E
      S
 ♠ J 3
  K Q 7 6 2
   K 10 4 3
 ♣  5 4
                       ♠ 10 7 4
                       ♥
                       ♦ A 8 7 6
                       ♣ Q J 9 8 7

A club was led and I made 5.  It always makes 4.  After the hand I asked my partner why, with 8 losers, he didn't bid 2, Drury, showing a limit raise. He admitted that he should have. Interestingly, most pairs didn't properly evaluate their hands and failed to reach game so our score was about average.  It was definitely a lost opportunity, however.

Stay alert (as I tell my bridge students) and don't forget to use LTC for accurate hand evaluation!

See you at the table!