Thursday, November 15, 2007

Old Dog Still Has Legs

By Bob Klein:

One of the oldest in the bridge player's bag of tricks is to double a strong 1NT holding a solid 7-card suit and nothing else. It shouldn't work against experts or even advanced players, but sometimes people get caught in the net. Even when the opponents have a good clue that this could be happening, they don't always see it. I've seen on more than one occasion when the auction proceeds redouble, all pass.

Last night I held xx/AKQTxxx/xxx/x. Both sides vulnerable. RHO opened 1NT, so I tried a double. LHO, with a balanced 10-count including Jxx of hearts, passed. Many would redouble. My partner, who was broke, ran to 2C. This came to me and I bid 2H. LHO, with his 10-count, bid 2NT. This came around to me and I doubled again. Now he really should have smelled a rat. He had stoppers in all the other suits. Yet he passed and they went for 800.

There are two lessons from this. First, if RHO doubles 1NT, never redouble to play with an unstopped suit. Second, if partner doubles and RHO redoubles, don't pull it. Let partner bail out if his double was this type.

Sounds like a bundle of imps to me. Thanks to Bob for letting us in on one of his tricks...don't fall for it!

See you at the table!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Hospital bridge

Bridge is a constant as we move through this ordeal. Two of our bridge friends from Santa Rosa, Chris F. and Joanne P., traveled to the city for a game with us. They were impressed with our digs--private room with bath, shower, refrigerator, cot, decent food and great views of the city by the bay.

I opened 1C with:

A9xx
Axx
xx
AJxx

Frank bid 1H, I bid 1S and he bid 2S. I jumped to 3N, showing a relatively balanced hand and inquiring whether partner had 4 card support or not. He surprised me by bidding 4H (an alternative contract?) and I signed off in 4S.

A club lead revealed a satisfactory dummy:

K10x
KQ10x
Axxxx
x

A9xx
Axx
xx
AJxx

I won the CK and decided to try to ruff a couple of clubs: club ruff, heart ace, club ruff…All was going fine until I played the spade K and the Q fell on my right. I could tell (from comments and mannerisms) that it was a singleton, so I played two more rounds of hearts and all followed. I had won 7 tricks and these were the remaining cards:

S ----
H 10
D Axxxx
C ----

S A9x
H ----
D xx
C x

As I called for the ace of diamonds I realized that I had been lazy and hadn’t taken time to completely count the hand. Sure enough, LHO ruffed it. (A count would have revealed that LHO had 5S, 3H, and at least 4C…therefore at most 1D.) The play was a little careless and I needed to engineer a good recovery. LHO cashed a club and exited with a club which I ruffed, bringing about a cute ending:

I held A9 of spades and a small diamond.
LHO held Jxx of spades.
When I exited with my losing diamond LHO was forced to ruff it and lead into my spade tenace. Making 4.

As it turns out, nearly any play works--the key is to not cash the spade ace, thereby preserving the endplay on LHO.

***********
We switched partners and played for fun--dropping a few tricks here and there. Partner opened 1H and RHO overcalled 1S. I passed with:

xxx
xx
KQxxxx
xx

LHO bid 2H, showing a good hand, presumably with spade support. Pard passed, looking disappointed and starting to lose interest. RHO bid 3C--presumably showing a good hand with clubs as well as spades. Not a bad bid EXCEPT for the fact that it kept the bidding low and got me thinking…maybe I could now come in with my diamond suit and maybe even wake up my partner--3 diamonds! LHO bid a quick 4S and pard, clearly interested, bid a firm 5 diamonds! Everyone passed. Well, this is an interesting development…it is easy to see why partner came to life:

----
AJ10xx
AJ10x
Kxxx

xxx.
xx
KQxxxx
xx

I ruffed the spade lead and started trying to figure out how to make my contract. The key is clearly to keep LHO out of the lead to avoid a club lead through the K. I therefore played the heart ace and continued with the J, hoping that RHO would need to win the king and I could set up my hearts without LHO gaining the lead.

Alas, LHO won the HK and made the obvious play of leading a club through. RHO now need only cash the A and Q of clubs to beat the contract. The ending went awry, but the interesting points included: 1) staying alert for the possibility of getting into the bidding, and 2) utilizing an avoidance play in an effort to keep the danger hand out of the lead.

*********
Health update: Frank is doing well and hopes to be back home in a couple of days. Maybe we’ll see you Wednesday night!

See you at the table!

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Guest: Bob Klein

Here are two cute hands submitted by Bob Klein, one of my partners:

AQxxx
Ax
Axx
AQx

Both vul, RHO opens 2D weak. You double, ptr jumps to 4H, you bid 4S, ptr rebids 5H. Now you can bid 6H or 6NT. I tried 6NT to protect my AQ holdings from opening lead, but 6H could be right. Anyway, in 6NT the lead is a diamond. Dummy has:

x
KJxxxxxx
xx
Jx

AQxxx
Ax
Axx
AQx

You duck the diamond and he continues a diamond. (If he shifts to a spade, you have to guess what to do, but he didn't). Now you cash the ace of clubs and run the hearts. At trick 11, RHO has to keep a diamond, so has to pitch a black card, leaving him with just one black card and a diamond. You pitch your diamond, then LHO has to come down to 2 cards.

At trick 12, you lead the spade off the board. If RHO had the king, it shows up. If his last card isn't the spade king, you know his last card is a diamond, so since LHO's last 2 cards have to be the black kings he has been squeezed in the black suits and your ace will drop his king. This line loses if RHO started with the K of clubs, but is better than just guessing which king he holds.

In 6H, you have the alternative line of playing spade ace, spade ruff, heart ace, spade ruff with the jack before running the hearts in case RHO has Kxx of spades, but this loses when LHO has Kxxx of spades and also the K of clubs.

**** Well done Bob!

2. How would you like to have been dealt:

KQTx
void
AKxx
AKQxx

You open 1C, LHO bids 2NT for red suits, then partner jumps to 4S? Nice hand. You can fool around with 5NT to make sure ptr has the spade ace, but I just bid 7S which was of course cold.

**** I would have liked it a lot Bob...thanks!

See you at the table!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

What to open? (2C, 4S, or 1S) *

Question: A friend sent in this hand and asked: What would you open with this hand after 3 passes to you? He noted that it was played online with a variety of opening bids. Apparently some folks opened 4S, some opened 1S and jumped to 4S, and some opened 2C.

AKJ10xxx
QJX
AJ
K

Answer: Good question. This hand is not quite good enough for a 2C opener and far too good for a 4S opener. That leaves only the opening bid of 1S. Of course you will undoubtedly hold your breath until partner bids and then breathe a sigh of relief! But in actuality, if partner doesn’t have enough to bid, you probably can’t make a game.
An opening bid of 4Spades should not have any more than a minimum opener in high card points. The bid is preemptive in nature, not strength showing. It shows a long, good suit without a lot of outside cards. In general, if I can open 1S, I prefer that to opening 4S so that I can leave room for partnership bidding.
If you are not vulnerable, a Four-Bid tends to be weaker and more preemptive. It can be especially effective if the opponents are vulnerable -- the higher you bid, the tougher you make it for them to find their best contract. Non-vulnerable Four-Bids can be made with hands where you have little hope of making the contract unless partner has a very good hand. A good guideline is to have about 7-8 playing tricks.
Some examples of non-vulnerable Four-Bids:
AJ987xxx /x/QJ4/x
x/AKQJ9xx/x/J10xx
xx/Void /KJx /QJ1097xxx
A vulnerable Four-Bid may still be made to preempt the opponents, but you should have more playing strength -- about 8 or 9 tricks in your own hand. You can open a vulnerable Four-Bid with hands like:
AKQ10xxx/Void/xx/QJ10x
x/KQJ8xxxx/Axx/x
Void/x/Kxx/KQ987xxxx
An opening bid of 2C should ideally have only 4 losers. This hand has about 5. Give yourself the ace of clubs or the king of hearts and this hand would qualify. I hate to open 2C with 2 quick losers in any suit.

Normally when you open 2C you would rebid 2S with a very strong hand and good spades. Frank and I have a variation on the 2C bid which would actually work well for this hand. We open 2C and then jump to 4S! This shows a hand that is not as good as a standard 2C opener, and yet a hand where you want to take your chances in game. We play a lot of imps and can’t afford to miss games, so if we have a hand that we’re afraid might get passed in 1S, and yet is not quite as good as a standard 2C opener, we open 2C and jump to 4S. We alert and describe this bid.

Speaking of standard 2C openers, I have been involved in many discussions about the number of high card points required. Just when we thought we were clear that a 2C opener needed at least, say, 18-20 points, our opponents at a tournament got away with opening 2C with a long suit and about 10 points! We were damaged when they described it as “strong” and the director failed to give us redress.

Tip: Even if your opponents open 2C, if you have a good hand, bid it!

Thanks to Corrick B. for the problem. He also provided the other hand and noted that the HK was offside so the hand only made 5.

Q7
Axxx
Kxx
Qxxx

AKJ10xxx
QJX
AJ
K

For a thorough discussion of these and many other bridge conventions check out Karen Walker’s website: http://www.prairienet.org/bridge
See you at the table!

Monday, August 6, 2007

Opening Leads *** good, short

I have been paying extra attention to opening leads to prepare for writing on the subject. It is one thing to read and re-read a table of leads. It is quite another to take all of the relevant factors into account and choose a really good lead.

Here are a couple of basic principles that should nearly always be followed:
  • Lead your partner's suit. We sometimes make risky bids in order to get our partner off to the right lead. Do your partnership a favor and lead it!
  • Lead the unbid suit. Listen to the auction and notice particularly if the opponents fail to bid notrump. That is usually because the unbid suit is not stopped. Lead it.
Here is a great post from another blog on this subject. Enjoy!

Squeezing The Dummy: The Lead's The Thing

See you at the table!

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Asking or Telling? good topic and advice *****

We had a good auction to a slam last night at handicapped teams and it got me to thinking about asking bids, telling bids, and the rare bid that does both!

As dealer, vul., I picked up:

Kxxx
AK10xxx
x
AQ

Needless to say, I loved this hand and could envision a heart slam without any difficulty. However, when I opened 1H, Frank responded 1 spade! I had mixed feelings about letting go of my heart vision and entertaining a new vision of a spade slam. Although I pondered a few bids, one bid was a standout: 4 diamonds. This splinter was a telling bid--that I had a great hand, shortness in diamonds, and expected to make a game in spades opposite as few as 6 points and 4 spades. Let's see what he would do with this information.

4NT he bid, RKC for spades. I was happy...we were clearly on our way to slam and this lovely hand would pay off. I answered 5C showing 3 controls and he now bid 5NT. This is the interesting bid that both asks and tells. While we all learned early on that 5NT asks for kings, most experts also play it as a telling bid: It tells partner that the partnership has all of the first round controls, as well as the trump king and queen, and asks partner to bid a grand slam if her hand is suitable.

If responder isn't sure whether to bid the grand or not, she can respond with kings (number of kings or specific kings, depending on your agreement). The information conveyed by the king response may be enough to enable the 5NT bidder to bid the grand.

Looking at my hand, and armed with the knowledge that partner had at least 4 spades to the AQ, the DA and some other values, I bid it: 7 spades! My hand was so rich in entries, and it was very likely that the hearts could be set up if necessary.

Kxxx
AK10xxx
x
AQ

Frank held:

AQxxx
x
Ax
KJxxx

As you can see, barring a terrible trump break, or a ruff on the opening lead, it would be an easy make. As it turned out, suit breaks were normal and the grand rolled home. Plus 2210 won us 13 imps.

*Asking or telling?*

Stayman is an asking bid: Do you have a 4 card major?
Transfers are telling bids: I have at least 5 of this major.

Some other asking bids are blackwood, new minor forcing, 2NT response to weak two bids and cue bids in response to overcalls (how good is your overcall?)

Jacoby 2NT both asks and tells:
  • Tell me about your hand.
  • I have a game forcing raise in your major.
Often I must decide whether to ask partner about his hand or tell him about mine. For example: Is it more important for me to know about his opener (in which case I'll bid Jacoby 2NT) or is it likely to be more valuable to tell him about mine (in which case I can splinter)?
It's getting late. I'll gather some good example hands and continue this discussion at a later time.
See you at the table!

Monday, July 30, 2007

Bidding and balancing over 1 Notrump *** good advice

There are many conventions for getting in the bidding when your opponent opens 1 notrump. The problem is that they are under-utilized because people are intimidated by the announced strength of the 1nt opener. Too many hands are played in 1nt when the opponents should have gotten into the bidding.

When you think about it, after 1nt, pass, pass—your side will have about half of the deck. The points will be divided roughly equally. If the opener has a maximum of 17 and his passing partner has a maximum of 7, one side has 24 and the other side 16.

At the other extreme, the notrump opener could have 15 and his partner 0. Now the defending side has 25 points and can probably make a game.

Now look at the average. The notrump opener has 16 and the passer has 5. Now both sides are relatively equal. The opponents of the opener need to get into the bidding! The hand does not “belong” to either side and the part-score battle should begin.

There are various ways to get into the auction. Today I’ll discuss the balancing seat because I think that is the easiest. Once the hand is passed around to 4th seat, quite a bit of information is known. The balancer knows that their side may have as many or more points than the opener’s side. (Pay attention to the action of the responder of the opening bidder…was he thinking about bidding?)

  • If you have a decent suit, bid it.
  • If you have a convention, use it.
  • If you have a good hand, double. (Don’t just sit there!)
  • Bear in mind that the hand will play well because you know where most of the points are.

Having written the above, I was waiting for a hand so I could "practice what I preach". The cards obliged and I picked up this hand at matchpoints the other day playing with Bob K. With both vulnerable, LHO opened 1NT and it went pass, pass to me. I held:

J9x
Qxxxx
xx
AKx

Not too impressive, but about what might be expected. I didn’t like my heart suit too well, but felt I needed to get into the auction, so I showed a “one suited hand” and landed in 2H. No one doubled. I liked my chances when I saw the dummy:

10x
KJ
Kxxx
QJxxx

J9x
Qxxxx
xx
AKx

As you can see, our side has exactly half the high card points. The spade K lead was overtaken by the Ace and a club returned. (Now I have only 1 spade loser.) The opponents probably could have managed a club ruff to hold me to two, but I ended up making 3 for plus 140 and all of the matchpoints. (Making two would have been the same score.)

I’ll admit that I wouldn’t have made the bid, vulnerable at teams, for fear of going for a big number, but it certainly worked well at matchpoints! Larry Cohen writes about this subject and when I e-mailed him to ask whether it was in one of his online articles he said no, look in his book: To Bid or Not to Bid.

Let me know if you start bidding more against strong notrumps and get good results!

See you at the table!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Notrump Games ****good cuebid example

A couple of the notrump games we played last night at handicapped teams had some interesting bidding aspects.

1. I opened 1D with this attractive collection:

AQJ
xx
AKQJxxx
x
LHO bid 1H and Frank bid 2C. Now I need to be careful about my rebid--to be certain that we get to game, and the correct one, at that! Three diamonds is an underbid with this 4 loser hand, so I settled on 2H. It is game forcing and generally asks partner to describe his hand. Frank bid 2N--the bid I hoped to hear and I bid 3N--hoping that we weren't underbid. My hand was a pleasant sight for him and he had to lose two hearts--making 5.
2. As dealer vulnerable, I found myself looking at:
AJ9
9x
Qxx
KJ10xx
I hate these hands. If I open, then I worry that we'll get too high so I keep the brakes on. If I pass, then I worry that we'll miss game so I get overly aggressive! I decided to pass and Frank opened 1H. Now I can't bid 2C because that is Drury, so I temporize with a forcing NT. He bids 2D and I start wondering whether he has a full opener because he is in 3rd seat. Nevertheless, since we can't afford to miss a vulnerable game I jump to 3NT.
Dummy isn't bad:
xxx A10xxx AKx Qx
I duck the H lead and RHO thinks for a while before returning the SK.
AJ9 9x Qxx KJ10xx
This is encouraging. I win the Ace, knock out the club ace, the SQ is indeed on my right, the clubs break well and I score up 630. Win 10 imps. I know I must sound like a broken record, but this is what imps are all about--bidding games!
In retrospect I think I should have opened the hand because as 11 point hands go, this is a good one. I have a good 5 card suit, my honors are in my suits and I have good spots.

See you at the table!

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Discourse on Defense ***good advice--add Smith Signals

I have been looking for some good defensive hands which can be explained relatively simply. Bob Klein and I had a couple yesterday at matchpoints.

What things do we think about as we are defending a hand? I have been asked this question and will present my thoughts in a stream of consciousness fashion as I describe these hands.

1. After LHO opened 1H and RHO responded 1NT I couldn't get into the auction with the hand below. Partner hesitated for a while before passing. Had he doubled I probably would have left it in as I had a great lead, had tricks, they were vul., etc.

KQJ10
Axxx
Jx
108x

I lead the SK and see:

xxx
QJ10xx
K
AKxx

My hand: KQJ10
.................Axxxx
.................Jx
.................108x

Declarer wins the second spade and leads a D to the King. Partner thinks a while before winning and returning a spade.

As I cash my spades the defense is becoming clear. Declarer has diamonds and possibly no way to her hand now that the spade ace is gone. Maybe we can keep her on the board. I need to lead a club and it is important that I choose the right one. I can't waste the 10 and the low one looks too encouraging, so I settle on the 8. Declarer plays the K and partner plays the J. Maybe partner also has the club Q so that declarer can't get to her hand in clubs.

She leads the HQ from the board and it holds. I can't win it because she might have started with Kx of hearts and be able to get to her hand with the HK. She plays another H and partner now wins his King, declarer discarding a diamond. Now our preparation pays off as partner returns the CQ. Declarer wins the ace and then exits with a club to my 10.

We have now won 3 spades, 1D, 1H and 1C. When I cash my HA she is down 1. As the dummy is now good I play the DJ to finally let her into her hand in case partner has another diamond trick. He doesn't and down 1 is above average.

This is a fun and effective defense--locking declarer either in his hand or on the board--whatever it takes to prevent declarer from taking all his tricks! The situation comes up frequently.

It is important to keep counting our defensive tricks.

2. Here is a variation on the same theme. RHO opens 1NT, his partner bids Stayman, he shows hearts and they end up in 3NT. I am on lead with:

Qx
10xx
98x
AJxxx

As I finger my 4th best club I consider the fact that my partner didn't double the 2C (Stayman) bid. My second choice would be the D9, but I decide to go with the club. Dummy hits with:

K10xxx
AJx
x
K10xx

I note that there wasn't a transfer bid and that they might have missed a spade fit. They may be in an unusual (anti-field) contract. This can be good or bad, but it is important to stay focused and alert. Declarer plays low and wins partner's club 7 with his 8.

The first thing I do is count the points so that I know how many my partner has. Let's see--declarer and dummy have 26-28 combined and I have 7. That leaves partner with 5-7. I always get this count right away. Getting the count is easiest at the beginning of the hand and necessary for best defense. It also helps you prepare for any key plays.

Declarer plays 4 rounds of hearts before starting on spades. I note that this is probably not best for him...he should be trying to set up the spades first and then using hearts as entries to the spades. He could also try for an extra club trick. He finally starts spades by leading the J from his hand. I cover with the Q and partner wins the Ace.

Here are the remaining cards--dummy is nearly decimated.
10xxx
-----
x
K10x

My hand: x
..................----
.................98x
.................AJxx

Partner returns a diamond. Declarer wins the ace as I discourage. I don't really need to discourage as partner should know my remaining cards-as I know his. I think he has 2-3 points left in diamonds and he should know that I have the AJ of clubs because declarer is not playing clubs.

Declarer leads a spade to the 10 and partner wins the next spade trick with the 9. Now partner finally returns his remaining club and I win my ace. Note the timing. We were careful not to give declarer a second trick in clubs. I don't take my ace until dummy has no more entries.

I return the diamond 9 and declarer eventually has to give partner two tricks in diamonds. Down 1 for a tie for top.

Declarer's hand:
Jxx
KQxx
AKxx
Qx

The opponents should have been in 4S and the declarer didn't give the hand best play...but it is still important to be attentive and defend correctly to take advantage of the situation.

To summarize, count your partner's points, try to figure out what declarer is trying to do and then work to thwart his plan, don't waste your honors and pay attention to signals and timing.

Good defense can be challenging, but also very satisfying.

See you at the table!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Bidding over Preempts--good advice **

 couple of weeks ago: bidding over preempts. I have a couple of hands from the Palo Alto sectional.

1. LHO opens 3S, pass, pass to you and you hold:

QJx
AQJ10
Axx
KQx

You don't really want to start with a double because that will take you past 3NT. So there is no plausible alternative but to bid 3NT yourself. That's what I did and it was a push board. Partner had enough cards to bring home the contract.

2. RHO opens 2S and you hold:

x
10x
AQJxxx
AQ98

I overcalled 3D, LHO jumped to 4S and partner bid 5D. Careful play brought home the contract. I hoped that we would win some imps but it, too, was a push board.

OK, these weren't too tough. Send me some tough ones.

The were certainly some difficult ones recently in the Senior Trials. I've never seen so many hands played at the 5 and 6 level. One of the commentators pointed out that it is not good form to drive to an unmakeable slam after the opponents preempt and take up all your bidding room. Just settle for your game. He added that it was psychologically damaging to your match to get too high after being preempted. Sounded like good advice to me.

I've learned that you have to give up looking for the perfect contract when the opponents preempt. Just make a practical bid, try to get to a decent contract, and move on to the next hand.

And of course there is the old adage: "The 5 level belongs to the opponents". You have often done your job when you have pushed them to the 5 level. Just sit back, defend as as well as possible, and hope they go down.

After a preempt it may seem dangerous to bid...but it is usually equally dangerous to pass! When you find yourself in that impossible situation the preempt has been effective. I have found that it is usually right to bid. Just do it and hope you don't hear a loud double!

Finally, if you find that bidding over preempts is especially troublesome, fight back...step up your own preempting!

See you at the table!

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

A Perfect 4th

A perfect 4th of July includes meditation, a swim, kibitzing some good bridge online, writing in my blog, firing up the grill for some good food and an extravagant fireworks show complete with music.

Now down to business... I think that Flannery is a fun convention to play although many experts don't like it because it gives away too much information. Flannery is an opening bid of 2 diamonds which contains 11-15 points, 5 hearts and 4 spades. It has several follow-up bids to enable you to get to the best contract.

We play a standard Flannery defense which rarely comes up (because not too many folks play Flannery!) Last week at the club, however, my RHO dealt and opened 2D, Flannery, and I was looking at:

x
Jx
AK10xxx
Qxxx

With both vul. at imps I thought I would look for a fit and started trying to remember the Flannery defense. Ah...yes...Double = strong NT, 2H = takeout and 2N is for minors...So I bid 2N!

LHO jumped to 4H and Frank bid 5D. This seemed promising but RHO then bid 5H.

It turns out that 5D is a make and 5H went down 1 for plus 100. It was hard to evaluate this result, but I thought it was probably good as I didn't expect my opponents to find the 5D game. Wrong! Our counterparts bid 5D and made it so we lost 11 imps when our relatively inexperienced teammates failed to find the 5H call.

With this result under our belt I felt confident in our use (and effectiveness) of the defense, so when the same hand came up in the first round of the KOs in Palo Alto I trotted it out. RHO opened 2D in third seat and with favorable vul. I bid 2N:

x
xx
Kxxxxx
AQxx

The auction was the same--4H by LHO and 5D by partner! But wait...RHO stopped to double this time instead of bidding 5H.

This time the result wasn't so hot either. Frank went down 2 for minus 300 and a loss of 9 imps when 4H went down at the other table. (At least 5D made the week before!) This time Frank held:

Kxxxx
Ax
QJx
9xx

x
xx
Kxxxxx
AQxx

When I asked him how this hand compared to the one last week he said that he had more diamonds (4-5) last week and thought the game would make. This time he thought it would be a profitable save against 4H but, as it turns out, all the cards were wrong. As sometimes happens, the cards were wrong for both sides so that neither game made!

Hmmm...maybe I'll tuck the Flannery defense back into the dark recesses of my memory...:-)

Senior Trials update: The online kibitzing of the senior trials has been fun today with a strong match between Assemi and Kasle. I was rooting for our friends Farid Assemi and Ed Wojewoda but they lost a close one. Unfortunately, our friends Gene Simpson, Hamish Bennett and Fran Dickman also lost.

Well...better go fire up the grill...

See you at the table!

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Double Game Swing *

We had an interesting double game swing hand last night at teams, although its potential went largely untapped.

With no one vul, I dealt as North and opened 2H with:

x
K987xx
Kxx
Qxx

Not such a great hand, but a good way to kick off the last match of the evening at the local club.

Frank, my partner, bid 2N, asking about my hand. I hardly had time to worry whether my hand was “bad” or “good” under our modified Ogust convention before my RHO bid 4D!

I passed, Frank bid 4H and RHO doubled! All passed and Frank put down:

Axxx
Axxx
Jx
xxx

x
K987xx
Kxx
Qxx

Not too bad for a doubled 17 point game. RHO won the diamond lead with the Ace and made life easy for me by cashing the AK of clubs. Trumps were 2-1, no ruffs were lurking and I scored up 590—a good way to start the match.

At the other table, there were 3 passes and a 1D bid by the person holding the cards of my RHO. My hand overcalled 2H and it went pass, pass, double. LHO bid 2S and RHO ended up in 4D down 2. Our counterparts didn’t find the 4H game. Neither side found the 4S game!
The other two hands were:

West (My RHO)
KQ
Q
AQ109xx
AKxx

East (My LHO)
J109xxx
J10
xx
Jxx

As you can see 4S will often make, although good defense will beat it. The top losers are the major suit aces and the DK. The diamonds set up easily with the Jack falling doubleton.

The 3 point hand with the long spades is actually pretty powerful opposite a strong hand with tolerance for spades. At both tables the 20 point hand was bid strongly, but at one table the weak hand passed 4H doubled and at the other table 4D was passed. It is probable that 4S would fare better than either of those contracts even if it didn't make!

Take another look at the potential of this 3 point hand, and the next time you hold one like it, think long and hard before passing short of a 4S game on a similar auction.

Think how satisfying it will be after the match when your teammates announce “plus 590” to be able to respond “plus 420--win 14”!

See you at the table!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Table Feel + J.Lall hesitation piece

I have always been interested in the concept of "table feel" at bridge. Here is a definiton from http://bridgehands.com/: Table Feel - A player's cunning ability to draw inferences from the aggregate factors of bidding and play.

There isn't a lot written on the subject in the bridge literature. I know that it is something that can be developed--with a lot of bridge experience. It takes paying attention and concentrating--even when a hand seems boring or even when you are dummy. Keen observation reveals what players are most likely to do in certain situations...

I rarely play online bridge because there is no table feel. I don't realize how much I rely on it until I try to play online bridge. Hesitations are meaningless. I hate to make all bids strictly by the book--I like to take a look at what is going on at the table. Similarly with the play of the hand. I hate to make all plays strictly based on the odds--I need to get a feel for things!

Here is a hand from Sacramento where I made my contract and my world-class opponent went down.

Q10x
J8xxx
xx
AJx

Jxx
AQ10
Axx
KQ9x

I opened 1N, Frank bid 2D (transfer), RHO doubled, I bid 2H, Frank bid 3 and I bid 4. The auction was the same at the other table. I won the D lead and pondered the play.

I needed the H finesse to win or else I was going down (losing 1H, 2S and a D). When I led a club to the board for the H finesse, RHO dropped the C10.
I knew it was a singleton! He was a world champion himself so he played in tempo. Nevertheless I picked up something in his mannerism (or in the air!) that convinced me.

With the hearts being Jxxxx facing AQ10 in my hand the normal play would be to lead low to the 10 or Q and then repeat the finesse. In this case, however, the only re-entry to the board was a club and I was sure that RHO only started with one. Therefore I needed to make a strange looking play in the trump suit--I had to lead the J and throw the 10 under it. This crashes 2 honors, and if trumps do not break 3-2, will likely cost a trick and the contract. I didn't like the play but there was no alternative. Happily, RHO covered the J with the K, trumps broke 3-2, I threw the losing D on the good C and gave up 2 spades. Plus 620.

I was surprised when we compared scores and I learned that my counterpart had gone down. He too got a D lead and led a club to the board for a H finesse. He played a low H off the board, however. The finesse won and when he tried to return to the board with a club to repeat the finesse, RHO ruffed the club!

We won 13 imps and won the match. Would that my card reading, or table feel, were always that good!

Send me your stories about table feel and I'll publish a collection. I'll close with an interesting and related article from a fellow bridge blogger, Justin Lall, a very good player. Click on the link below.

See you at the table!

Squeezing The Dummy: How To Read Your Opponents... Hesitations?

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Unusual Symmetry/two 5 level bids ****Symbols

I liked my hand so much that, after 2 passes, I decided to open 2C in the first match at Wed. night teams:

♠ Q109
AKQ10xx
A
♣ AJ10

Frank bid 2D, waiting, and RHO doubled. I bid 2H and LHO bid 4D. Frank's hand was now looking mighty impressive:

♠ Ax
Jxxxx
xxx
♣ Kxx

Before you read on think for a moment what you would bid...

We are obviously in the slam zone. He just needs to know about my diamond holding.

He had the 5H card out on the table in a flash! A bid of your suit (the one you and your partner have bid and raised) at the 5 level asks about your controls in the opponent's suit. With first round control you bid 6 of their suit and with second round control you bid 5N. Without 1st or 2nd round control you merely pass and play at the five level.

(This bid is also used when you and your partner have bid 3 suits in the course of an auction and have agreed on a trump suit. A jump to the 5 level asks about 1st or 2nd round control in the unbid suit.)

Under most circumstances I would have cue bid 6D showing the DA (opponent's suit). In this case, however, with partner being passed, with my hand being minimum for my bidding and with both opponent's bidding, I elected to bid 6H.

I'm happy with dummy. Now I just have to make it...

♠ Ax
Jxxxx
xxx
♣ Kxx

♠ Q109
AKQ10xx
A
♣ AJ10

I clearly need to combine my chances. I win the D lead and play a couple rounds of hearts. RHO discards an encouraging spade so I decide to go for the spade play first. I can fall back on the club finesse if necessary.

First, I need to strip the diamond suit, however, in preparation for a possible endplay, so I lead a H to the board and ruff the last D. Now for the big play: spade to the A and spade back...

The K is played! I claim--I'll pitch a club from board on the SQ.

Plus 980 wins us plenty of imps.

Interestingly, the same bidding situation in reverse played itself out at the other table on the same hand! This time the person who held the cards of my RHO opened 1S. My hand doubled, the next player bid 2S and the person holding Frank's hand jumped to 4H!

Now the person with my cards: Q109, AKQ10xx, A, AJ10 needed to know about spades. 5H was once again the bid to ask about controls in the opponent's suit...in this case spades! A 5H bid leads to the slam.

Unusual to see the same rare (5 level asking) bid available to North at one table and South at the other, asking about different suits, on the same hand!

*****
The evening had gone well and in the 4th and final match I opened 1D in 3rd seat nonvul:

♠ xxx
Kxxx
KJxx
♣ Ax

A little light but good things can happen. LHO overcalled 1S and I was not too pleased to see Frank jump to 5D! I was less pleased when RHO doubled. (Why can't my partners ever take a joke...)

Dummy wasn't as bad as I feared:

♠ Ax
x
109xxx
♣ KJxxx

♠ xxx
Kxxx
KJxx
♣ Ax
The lead of the heart queen improved the situation considerably. RHO won the heart ace and shifted to a spade. I won the ace, came to my hand with the club ace (RHO playing the queen!) and pitched the last spade from the board on the heart king.

I ruffed a spade to the board to tackle the diamond suit. RHO surely had one of the diamond honors for his double, if not both. I led the 10 of diamonds and let it ride. LHO played the ace! Things were looking up.

I ruffed a H to the board in order to lead diamonds again and the queen came up on my right. Diamonds split 2-2, and I could ruff and pitch the remaining hearts and spades from my hand. Plus 550 with our 19 points.

Our teammates made 1 notrump on the same cards. Plus 90. Win 12.

See you at the table!

Friday, May 25, 2007

Team Tactics II

In looking over our card from the other night I need a calculator to add up all the imps we scored from bidding our games while our opponents failed to bid theirs. At first glance it is about 50 imps. This is during a session of 4 six board matches.

Here is a good rule of thumb for bidding games at imp scoring. When you are vulnerable, bid a game if you have a 37.5% chance to make it. If you are not vul. you need about a 45% chance. (Compare matchpoints where you want a full 50% chance.)

Be aggressive with touching honors, good spots, long suits and aces. If it's close, bid the game. The defenders do not always defend perfectly and you can often win a trick on the opening lead or in the play.

Always try to get in the auction. That's why we have overcalls and balancing bids. Don't compete too aggressively when you're vulnerable, but don't let them steal from you, either. It sometimes feels like a fine line between possible actions. It may be dangerous to bid on but it may be more dangerous to pass and let them steal the hand. This bidding judgment is refined over the years through bitter experience for most of us. :-(

I like to say "if you bid 'em up, you need to play 'em up"! Work on your declarer play. Write down the hands and study them later. How could that hand have been made? I used to carry hands around on index cards trying to figure out the best line of play. Ask a better player--they are usually happy to give their opinion!

One more hand from Wed. night. LHO opened 1H and Frank overcalled 1 S with:

QJxxx
Axx
xx
Jxx

I raised to 2S with:

Kxx
Jxx
Jxx
AQ10x

We were plus 110 and our teammates were plus 110 in 2 hearts. Win 6 imps. There was apparently no overcall at the other table. Get in the bidding!

See you at the table!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Team Tactics

Team tactics was the theme tonight--no surprise! Frank and I have taught several lessons on team tactics--mostly to advanced players. Others--this is for you!

** BID!! We score oodles of imps by bidding games that other players don't. A couple of examples:

Hand 1. Pass, Pass, 1NT (13-15) by RHO and I doubled with this hand:

Axx
QJx
KQxxxx
A

I would have doubled a 15-17 NT as well. LHO and partner pass (there is some discussion that the pass by LHO forces the NT bidder to bid) and RHO now bids 2C. I bid 2D and Frank jumps to 3H! My hand looks just fine for hearts and we are vulnerable. The decision isn't even close--4H! Frank's hand:

Kxx
Kxxxx
x
Qxxx

Score up 650--win 11 imps!

Hand 2. Pass, Pass, 1C on my right and I hold:

Jxx
J10x
AKQx
98x

Not a very exciting collection, but I bid 1D. Hey--if nothing else I'll get partner off to the right lead! LHO makes a slow negative double and pard jumps to 3C: a 4 card limit raise. RHO bids 3S, LHO bids 4S and partner surprises me by bidding 5D! Now I must confess I am a little worried...we are vul and they aren't...am I in trouble? All pass...well, probably not too much trouble...

Dummy has an interesting collection which includes 5 card trump support :-)

x
AQxx
J10xxx
K10x

After a spade lead and a heart shift I am able to hold it to down 1. Our teammates made 4 or 5 spades for a net of 350 and 8 imps!

** Doubling

While it is dangerous to double part-score contracts at teams, it is often fine to double game contracts. If you're pretty sure it is going down, double it! You stand to gain more than you lose. (Just be sure they don't make a doubled overtrick!)

More on team tactics later...it's getting late!
See you at the table!


Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Country Club Bridge **

After a lovely lunch with iced tea and coffee we adjourned across the room to the best table: next to the windows and overlooking the well-manicured golf course. Our foursome consisted of my mom and Pat and Jo, two friends of the family. They were a little worried about playing with The Expert.

We decided to play 4 hands and then switch partners. I picked up a solid 19 count and opened 2NT:

Qxx
Kx
AK10x
AKxx

As we weren't playing transfers, partner bid 3N. The dummy came down and I saw that we belonged in 4S (from my side).

KJ10xx
x x
Qxx
Jxx

I won the heart lead and saw that I was going down. The momentum shifted back and forth. I noticed that if I had opened 1D then my partner would have played 4S and a H lead would probably have scuttled the contract.

Finally, after the SA was ducked twice (!), I had 9 tricks. Justice was served-in a manner of speaking-because 4S would have made.

We went on like this for a few hands when we decided that we needed to order some Pecan Balls. These turned out to be miniature nutty, chocolatey, whipped-cream-topped ice cream sundaes. Each time you took a bite it dripped down the glass. A sticky puddle soon formed under my confection.

As we dealt the next hand we seemed to be missing a card. We recounted our hands. We looked under the table and under the chairs. We recounted. We looked in our purses. I seriously pondered whether we could have played the first few hands with 51 cards. Finally, after a concentrated last effort, we discovered the stuck card. The table was sticky.

We switched partners and kept going. We talked about reverses, signals and suit preference signals. We talked about golf, the beautiful weather, the California wine country, blogs and men. I landed in 6NT after a quantitative auction:

KQ10x
Qxx
J9
AKJx

AJ
AJx
KQxx
Qxxx

After a S lead I could only count 11 tricks but something good could happen in diamonds or the heart finesse could work. I cashed a few tricks and led a D to the J which held. Now…what to pitch on the spades? I finally fell back on the H finesse. It lost and the DA was cashed. There was silence. The Expert had gone down in a slam.

The penultimate hand had great potential:

AKJ9xx
K
A9xx
Jx

RHO opened 1H and I overcalled 1 S. LHO bid 2H, pass, pass to me. I really liked my hand so I bid 2S. LHO doubled! 3 passes.

Dummy wasn’t much:
Void
xxxx
J10xxx
K1098

LHO must have all of the spades. I lose a H and manage to lose only 1C and 1D but can’t avoid losing 3 spades. (LHO had 6) Down 1. (!)

We hugged our goodbyes. Thanks--we’ll do it again!
Next time they probably won't be worried.

See you at the table!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Night games **

The Wednesday night team game was mostly about bidding games (as usual)! Frank and I like to bid thin games and they all came home! Here are some of the best...

Hand 1

RHO opens 1H and I hold:

Qxx
Kxx
A109x
Kxx

so I double...Not the most shapely takeout double, but these kind of doubles work for us. LHO bids 2H and Frank surprises me by jumping to 3NT! Everyone passes and a H is led. Here is his hand:

Jx
Ax
Kxxxxx
Jxx

Not many high card points, but a source of tricks in diamonds. Also all of my values rate to be working as I am positioned behind the opening bidder. It turns out we have 6 D tricks, 2H tricks and can score the CK by leading to it late in the hand. Win 9 imps.

Hand 2

Frank opened a light 1S in third seat with:

Kxxxx
x
KQxxx
xx

Only 8 HCP, but 6 losers. We play Drury so we are theoretically protected from getting overboard. RHO overcalls 2C and I hold a pretty good hand:

AJxx
AJ9x
10x
10xx

so I bid 3C. LHO now gets into the action with 3H. Frank passes, denying a good hand, and RHO bids 4H! I can't stand it...I double. Frank can't stand it...he pulls my double and bids 4S. All pass. Trumps break 2-2, diamonds break 4-2 and you can't touch it. Plus 620. Win 10 imps.
Hand 4.Finally, imagine the surprise of our teammate, Laura C. when she held this rock and heard the following bidding:

AKxxx
----
AKxxxx
Kx

1D by Laura, 3H by her LHO, 3S by her pard, Tom G.! Yep...she had intended to reverse into spades but her partner bid them first! She didn't hesitate about bidding blackwood and settling into a good slam. Tom held:

10xxxx
Kxx
Jx
AQx

An easy make. At our table Frank overcalled 4H and made it more difficult for them. They missed the slam and we picked up 13 imps.
See you at the table!

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Afternoon slams **

I played two sessions today and had a couple of interesting slams in the afternoon playing with Dave P. He opened 2C and I held:

Qx/10xx/KJ9xx/A9x

so I bid 2D waiting. He bid 2S. I liked my hand and my spades so I bid 3S. He bid 4C and I bid 4D. He bid 4H, next hand doubled and I bid 4S. He bid 5S. I wasn't sure what he was asking but I still liked my hand so bid 6.

His hand: AKJ10xx/void/Ax/KQJxx

It was an easy make (actually makes 7) but only one other pair bid it. I think the key is opening 2C and raising spades early.

Hand 2. Pard opened 1H and I held:

KQ10xx/x/AKx/J10xx, a decent opener

I bid 1S and pard jump shifted into diamonds--3D!

Well, this is interesting. We surely have a slam, just need to find a good spot. I bid 4C, temporizing--tell me more partner. He bid 4H so I bid 4N, blackwood. He showed 4 controls so I bid 6N. We surely can find 12 tricks somewhere!

His hand: ..................................................My hand:
A .................................................................KQ1oxx
AKxxx .........................................................x
Q9xx ...........................................................AKX
AQ9 ............................................................J10xx


Opening lead was HQ so I won the A, cashed the SA, came to my hand with a D and counted my tricks. If the SJ didn't drop and the diamonds didn't break there were squeeze possibilities. I took the C finesse and it lost and a H came back. I cashed the clubs and when I played spades the J dropped and 12 tricks were easy.

See you at the table!

Monday, May 7, 2007

Restricted Choice **

In the local team game last Wed. night I landed in 6 spades with the following combined trump holding:

Q7 in dummy
K98xxxx in hand

The bad news was I was missing both the A and J of trump. The good news was that I had 9 of them and no other losers in the hand. It was critical to hold my trump losers to one. To go down in a slam (especially if the other team makes it!) is to lose the match.

I came to my hand and started by leading low toward the Q. The J was played on my left and RHO won the ace. I returned to the board to lead toward my hand. RHO followed low and the moment of truth had arrived. Play for the drop of the 10 or follow the rule of restricted choice and finesse the 9?

I thought for a while and decided I couldn't ignore the rule of restricted choice. I played the 9 and LHO showed out! Whew! Slam bid and made. We won 17 imps on the board as the other declarer, in 6NT, played for the drop and went down.

The concept of restricted choice is elusive and complex. Wikipedia has a rather simple explanation: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Principle_of_restricted_choice_(bridge)

If you google it you can find many references but most of them are difficult reads. A simple rule of thumb would be: If you are missing 2 touching honors and one opponent plays one of them, play the other opponent for the other honor.
See you at the table!

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Blame it on Frank (Dedication)

I wanted to tell you how/why I started this bridge blog. I often play bridge on Friday afternoon and I always go to dinner with Frank Friday night. For years I have tucked my score card in my purse to share the hands with him over dinner. (As I have always written down my hands I can remember them.) I recount tales tragic and hilarious and we discuss bidding, play and defense. I share spectacular plays, silly defenses, outrageous bidding, friendly gossip--you name it. It makes for a fun and interesting time.

This past Friday after I gave him my hands he said: "You should put these in a blog!" I laughed it off, but by Sunday had decided to give it a go. I like the immediacy of this forum. I have hands saved but will never get around to writing a book, so this should be fun.

See you at the table!

Four Tops *

I had 4 interesting notrump hands Friday that resulted in top boards...(well 3 tops and 1 tied for top...:-) Debbie T. was my partner.

Hand 1. The bidding goes 1 H by my LHO, Double by pard, Pass to me and I held:

9xx
QJxx
Axx
10xx so I bid 1NT.

Partner bid 2NT and I bid 3! Partner rates to have a good hand and I like to bid a lot--especially when I am going to be declarer.

I get the KH lead and see this dummy:
KJx
xx
Kxx
AKQxx

9xx
QJ52
Axx
10xx

We have 25 points. If clubs run I should have an easy time of it. I encourage hearts but LHO isn't fooled and shifts to a spade. I duck and RHO wins the Ace! Things are looking pretty good. She shifts back to a heart, I play the Q, LHO wins the A and falls from grace by returning a low heart to my 5.

Now I have 2S (I'll hook the J), 2H, 2D and 3 clubs. Clubs don't run and I make 9 tricks for a top.
Positional considerations.

Hand 3. I picked up the following 19 count:

Q
AQ9
AKxxxx
Axx

I opened 1D and pard bid 1H. Now I have a rebid problem. I am too strong to rebid 3D and don't have a convenient jump shift, although 2N is a possibility. I decided to emphasize the strength of my hand by a jump shift into clubs--3 clubs! This was what partner needed to hear to get to 3NT--the top spot. She made 5, but just bidding and making 3NT gets the top board.

Hand 4. This is my favorite. It was the last hand of the day and our game wasn't so good--I estimated in the low 50%. We needed a top to be in the money.
Partner opened 1D and I held the following:

Kx
Kxx
K10xxxx
xx

We weren't playing inverted minors so a 2D bid wasn't available. I loved my D holding and wanted to protect my major suit kings so I thought I should maybe bid 1 or 2NT. Instead--looking for that top--I bid 3NT! I hoped my partner had a sense of humor.

The dummy was quite suitable:

10xx
A10x
AQ9x
Kxx

Kx
Kxx
K10xxxx
xx

I got a low H lead, ducked and the J came up. Good--I'll finesse the Q later. I won my HK and started playing diamonds hoping to get some useful information about the location of the black aces. It looked like I had 9 tricks and a good board but at matchpoints you are always looking for that extra trick.

I ran my diamonds and hooked the H10 for 9 tricks. I then came off the board with a low club which my LHO had to win and in the end I scored the SK for 10 tricks and a top.

See you at the table!