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!

Sunday, September 6, 2020

A Fun Counting Endplay

Keep practicing counting out the hands.  The effort will bring great results!

Here is a fun one I had today. I was playing an instant IMP tournament and was lying fourth in the field.  I clearly needed a big finish and this was the last board.


 My hand was the right strength for a balancing 2NT and my robot partner raised me to 3NT.

The diamond lead was friendly, but there was still work to do. On the run of the diamonds I pitched a trick in each suit.  I then put LHO in with a spade.  A second spade was cashed and I ducked it.  A club shift came next.  I inserted the jack and RHO won and shifted back to a spade, LHO showing out. 

NOW I HAVE A COUNT ON THE HAND. LHO started with 6 hearts, 3 diamonds, 2 spades, and therefore, only 2 clubs.  Let's see how I can use this information. These are the cards remaining.


Now that I know what LHO holds, I can make my contract.  What should I do next?

First, I must play a club to eliminate LHO's exit card.  I played a club to the ace and now I know that LHO has all hearts left. With this information I can simply play a heart to the 9.  LHO will win, but will then have to lead into my heart tenace (heart AQ),

This is exactly what transpired and the score of plus 600 was worth 10+ IMPs. This was the big finish I was looking for, and it catapulted me to the top of the field for a win!

See you at the table!

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Unusual Response to RKC

I had an interesting situation with the BBO robots recently when I bid RKC, Roman Keycard Blackwood.  Here is the hand.



After partner passed, RHO opened 1 and I made a takeout double. I was pleased and surprised to hear my robot partner jump to 3.  I wasted no time bidding RKC.  Partner responded 5, showing two keycards plus the Q.  

Now, as you can see, I actually held the Q.  What was going on?  I went ahead and bid 6♣, and then understood the bidding when the dummy came down.  With the great extra length in clubs, partner evaluated that it was equal to the possession of the Q.  This is an expert bid and I was pleased to see it utilized by the BBO robots.  

When partner bids RKC, Roman Keycard Blackwood, and you have extra length in the trump suit, so that you are relatively certain that the partnership holds at least 10 trumps, you can go ahead and show the queen of trump in your response. This information can be quite helpful for a partner contemplating bidding a slam, but concerned about losing a trick to the queen of trump.

The play was straightforward. The score of plus 920 was worth 94% of the matchpoints.


Here is another hand I played at matchpoints, where I had some difficult decisions to make. Although my robot partner was a passed hand, I thought I should try to get into the auction when RHO opened 2 and I held: K43, AQJ9, 5, A9865.  No good bid, but I tried a takeout double.  

Partner bid 2NT, Lebensohl, which requested a 3 bid from me. I figured that the robot would correct to 3, in all likelihood its suit, after my bid of 3♣, and that presented a dilemma. I would be happy to hear a heart bid, but a 3 bid would be disastrous.  With no good options I considered a pass. If partner had diamonds, 2NT could actually be the best spot.  Accordingly I passed.



I was quite pleased to see the Q in partner's hand. A spade was led and I took a heart finesse, hoping that if West won, a spade would be returned.  Instead a couple of diamonds were played and then a spade switch.  After all was said and done, the robots didn't manage to cash their diamond tricks and I actually took 9 tricks.

The score of  plus150 was worth 96.5% of the matchpoints.

As they say, "It's better to be lucky than good!"

See you at the table!

Saturday, August 8, 2020

More about BBO Robots

Jordan Chodorow, winner of the recent 3-day 2020 NABC Robot Individual, has created a YouTube video entitled "Win an ACBL Robot Daylong With Me".  He has some really good tips about playing with the robots.  Check it out.

http://youtu.be/HDO9pY1b6bc

While Jordan discusses playing matchpoints, I have been writing recently about playing IMPs, a totally different strategy.

Here is a recent hand where bidding and making a vulnerable game netted 9+ IMPs.  After my partner overcalled, and eyeing the vulnerability, I decided I needed to bid game.  Most players bid 2NT with my hand and played there.  Not a winning strategy, vulnerable at IMPs, where bidding and making game is richly rewarded.

I took four diamond tricks, three hearts and two clubs to make my contract. 

Next is a tricky play problem. As is often the case, paying attention to the bidding is key.

I got a heart lead from RHO, East, and, as I figured that LHO, West, (the non-preemptor) rated to hold the spade honors, played the 7 and let it ride.  It won, and I next played the 9, covered with the ♠Q and won with the ♠A, RHO following. I now know that LHO started with 4 spades and probably 3 diamonds.  Next I played on hearts and noted with interest when RHO showed out.  Now I have a count on the hand.

LHO, West, started with 4-5-3-1.  Let's see how to best use this info.

I decided to play my hearts and make a critical discard of a diamond from the North hand.  My plan was to go ahead and lose the two spades and 1 diamond.  I couldn't play on spades again without getting into trouble.  If LHO won the ♠K, he would play on diamonds and North would be forced to ruff.  This would leave West with the outstanding trump and I would go down.  A lot.

Instead, I pitched a diamond on a heart and started playing on clubs.  LHO could ruff in at any time, but when a diamond was returned, I would still be in control.

Plus 420 was worth 10.4 IMPs.  The contract of 4 (or 4) went down 14 out of 15 times.

See you at the table!

Friday, July 31, 2020

Robot Bridge on BBO


I found the BBO interview with the man who won the recent 2020 NABC Robot Individual quite interesting and have posted part of it below:

Jordan Chodorow is a bridge player, film critic, crossword champion, tax expert, lawyer,  and winner of the 2020 NABC Robot Individual tournament on BBO. Here’s how jcwla won the title – and some questions about where he finds time for all of it.
JC: I’ve entered all of them. To me, robot bridge is the purest, truest form of bridge. Don’t get me wrong; I love live bridge and other forms of bridge on BBO, but they contain a huge element of chance (whom you play which boards against, which system they’re using, how they choose to evaluate a hand, what mood they’re in…). And a club game? You’re a leaf in the wind.
AJC: Did you have a playing, preparation or practice routine for the Bot Individual?
JCAlmost every day, I play the five 12-board ACBL daylongs and the 18-board daylong. I won half a dozen of those in the week leading up to the NABC, so I was in good form. 
To that, I would only add that the top 40 finishers in this event hold a combined 38 NABC+ and 18 NABC titles, with many more among the remaining 3,202 players. That kind of competition is as serious as a heart attack.
After I read it, I contacted him and we had a brief correspondence regarding the topic of robot bridge. I told Jordan that I agreed with him and also enjoy playing with the robots.  I noted that I appreciate playing the relatively simple convention card used by the robots, and having the opportunity to use old-fashioned hand evaluation skills, such as Losing Trick Count, to get to the best contract. I also opined that I find it to be a luxury be able to take all the time I want to play a hand.  During the ordinary time limits and general chaos of a "live" bridge game, it's not unusual to miss the best play due to too-quick calculations and analyses.

I was also interested in his preparation routine for the tournament, and found it impressive.

That being said, here are a few hands from a "near-miss" win in a robot IMP game I played with 482 players.  As you can see, although I racked up 45.34 IMPs in 12 boards, I missed winning by less than 1/2 of an IMP!  As a confession, I had the win locked up, then got distracted by an incoming text, and pulled the wrong card on a hand I was playing.  This costly error lost a lot of IMPs, and I am chagrined to admit that one of the things I most emphasize with serious bridge students is:  STAY FOCUSED!


1. Although some slams were bid, this 3NT contract scored a hefty 9 IMPs.


I had a good auction with the robots and was able to get to the best contract of 3NT. I received a spade lead and got off to a good start by inserting the ♠10, won by the ♠A.  This gave me 2 spade tricks.

3 clubs, 3 diamonds, 1 heart and 2 spades led to a good score of plus 600. (An alternative line of play would be 4 clubs, 2 diamonds, 1 heart and 2 spades.)

About half of the field in my section got to the game, but only two pairs made it.


2. Another 9.8 IMPs beefed up the IMP total with this slam.


After I opened 1♠ and partner bid Drury, I looked at my 4-loser hand and wasted no time asking about keycards.  My hand was suitable for this inquiry and I was comfortable that my kings were protected from attack on the opening lead. The 5 response gave me the information I needed to bid the slam.

A club was led, and in the fullness of time, East made a fatal discard of a club which enabled me to score the slam rather easily.  Barring that, discarding a club on dummy's hearts, plus a winning guess in diamonds would bring it home.

Four pairs out of nine in my section bid the slam, and only two pairs made it for plus 1430.


3. And later, another slam.  Bidding and making slams is how you rack up big scores in these events!


I liked the bidding on this hand.  After North passed and I opened 1, North responded with 3, a "fit-jump", showing good heart support as well as diamonds.  As I had the K and another great 4-loser hand, I bid 4NT, asking for keycards.  The 5 response enabled me to bid the slam.

Again, I had a spade guess on the opening lead.  I finally decided that "no one" would underlead a king in this auction, so inserted the ♠10.  This eliminated my spade loser and the score of plus 980 topped the section and scored 7.6 IMPs.

Although 45 total IMPs and a virtual tie for the win was very good, I'll pay more attention next time to eliminate silly errors and try to get the outright win!

Let me hear from you. How do YOU like playing with the robots?

See you at the table!

Monday, July 20, 2020

New! "Bidding Secrets of the Experts" now available on Bridgebee!

My new advanced/intermediate lesson, "Bidding Secrets of the Experts" is now available on bridgebee.app.

It's a topic I have wanted to write about for a while.  Experts have many bids in their arsenal that are not taught in lessons, and are even difficult to find in books.  They are certainly outside the "four-corners" of the convention card.

It is not easy for intermediate, or even advanced students to learn these "secrets", but I was able to include many of them in this 10-lesson set.  Check it out!

https://bridgebee.app/sets/157/expert-bidding-secrets



See you at the table!

Friday, July 17, 2020

Squeezing out IMPs

I've been writing up a fun set of hands for BridgeBee entitled "Expert Bidding Secrets".  It will be available soon on their site.

Played an instant IMP game the other night and had this fun hand.


I opened 1 and got to declare 4♠  with a diamond lead. I drew trumps in two rounds and cleared diamonds ending on board.  How can I get 10 tricks?

I tried a low heart to the 9, trying to sneak through a trick.  East won the 10 and returned a heart which I won with the A.  I tried a club to the 10.  No luck.  East won the J and returned another heart to the J, K and I ruffed.

Now I think I have a count on the hand.  West started with 2 spades, 6 diamonds, probably no more than 3 hearts, and therefore 2 clubs.

Thinking about the cards that East has left, I think I see can see the light at the end of the tunnel. East should have Kxx and a heart left.  If I cash my two spades East will be squeezed!

Here is the ending:


I cash the A and East pitches a club.  On the 8 he pitches another club.  Now when I lead my 3 the ♣K is played, perforce, and I win the last two tricks with the A and Q.

(If East had discarded one club and a heart, then my last heart on the board would be good.)

Plus 620 was worth 10 IMPs, part of a 41 IMP total and an easy win.  Out of the 15 individuals in the game, only six bid game and only two made it.

It's why we play this game!

See you at the table!

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

A Wild Ride in an Instant IMP Game

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

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

Then...disaster on board 5.


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

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



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



Plus 430 won 6 IMPs on this board.

I regained first place with the penultimate board.


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See you at the table!

Thursday, July 2, 2020

New Bridge Teaching App

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



Here is how they describe it:

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

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

Check it out!  https://bridgebee.app

See you at the table!

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

NABC Robot Individual Practice hands Day 2

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

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

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


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

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

Plus 630 was worth 90% of the matchpoints.

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


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

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

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

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

See you at the virtual table!

Monday, June 29, 2020

NABC Robot Individual Practice hands

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See you at the virtual tables!

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Fun on BBO

By Bob Klein

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

Board 1
AQJ96
A
K9
AKJ72

Board 2
AQJ874
void
A9
AKJT6

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

KT43        AQJ96
K9852      A
  JT7           K9
5               AKJ72

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

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

K5                AQJ875
KQ954        void
K932            A9
85                AKJT6

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

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

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

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

Monday, June 15, 2020

Accidental Genius

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

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


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

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

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

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

Check out the N-S hands and the bidding.


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

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

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

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



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

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

As I said, bridge can be quite amusing.

See you at the virtual tables!

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

A Losing Trick Count Primer

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

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

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

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

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

K742
J
A1074
K1076

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

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

So, what should you bid?

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


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

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

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

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

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

Claim your spot at the top of the field!

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

See you at the virtual tables!

Sunday, May 31, 2020

75.7% Game, Part 3

Reprints of score recaps from the recent 75.7% game in case you are just tuning in to the story...


Here are the last 4 boards of the 75.7% Daylong MP game I won recently. Looking them over for brilliant bidding and play, I just don't see it.  More likely is that the stars aligned and everything fell my way for one brief 12-board session!
Bd. 9


It seems pretty straightfoward to get to 4S on these cards.  I have a 4 loser hand and actually consider 4S to be an underbid.  Bidding with the robots, however, requires that all bids be relatively simple.

The HQ was led and won by South, my hand. On BBO, playing with robots, the human is always the declarer (luckily!) when possible. I won in my hand and made what could be described as the key play in the hand--I ducked a spade. I expect to have two spade losers and need to retain trump control.  This is accomplished by ducking a spade, then later cashing the SA--leaving one trump outstanding. This play generally gains in the long run.

The spade trick went 2,3,8 with East winning the S10.  Now East shifted to the 6D which I trumped in my hand.  Now I led a spade to the ace, leaving the SK outstanding, and started playing clubs.  On the third club honor I discarded a heart from the North hand.  Now I just cross ruffed, with East taking the high trump whenever he chose.  

Making 4S, 420 was worth a 79.5% board.  As it turns out, only half of the pairs in my section got to game and only two pairs made it!

Bd. 10

After I opened 1D and partner responded 1H, I elected to bid 2H which was passed out. I received a favorable lead with the CA, followed by a club continuation which I won on the board with the queen.  A heart to the Ace followed by a heart to the King revealed that I had no heart losers.  The hand was coming together nicely.  I drew the last trump, cashed the last club and gave up two spades and one diamond. The S9 was doubleton so I had two spade tricks.

Plus 140 was another 79.5% board.  Most of the pairs were in hearts, with only about half making their contract.  The breakdown: one 170; three 140; two 110, with the remainder being minus scores in 2H, 3H and 4H.

Bd. 11

Not too difficult to get to 3NT, with the monster hand I held.  I elected to rebid 2NT with my singleton CA, and after a Stayman auction, settled in 3NT.

The S10 was led which I won in my hand and, needing heart tricks, then led a heart to the queen and ace. Now East shifted to the CK.  Luckily dummy had a club stopper, and I won the CA, perforce. I now continued with the HJ, won by East.  The CQ was cashed, followed by a diamond shift. I now have only 3 tricks and the opponents have 3 tricks--I'm scrambling for 6 more!

I cashed the remaining two diamond honors and played the SK.  LHO followed with the S9 and I started hoping that spades were 3-3.  When I led my last spade toward the Q, all followed. The deuce of spades was my 9th trick! I led a heart back to my hand hoping for another heart trick, but it was not to be.

Plus 400 was worth 73.75%.  Another good score.  Most pairs got to game but most pairs failed to make it.  One pair got a top score playing the 4-3 fit in spades. Some played in a heart game and went down.  Others went down in 3NT.

Bd. 12


After many really good scores, amazingly, the best score was on the last board!  Like I tell my bridge students:  first, you have to get to game; and secondly, you have to make it!

After two passes, East opened 1C and I overcalled 1S.  West made a negative double and partner made a very interesting bid:  2D! Wow. I figured the odds were good that I no longer had any diamond losers, and all of a sudden my hand shot up from a good 5-loser hand to a tremendously powerful 3-loser hand.  East bid 2H and I needed to find a way to get to game.

Uncertain of the best strain, and trying to keep the bidding simple, I decided to try a jump to 3S.  Surely that would be a show of strength.  I was delighted when partner, North, raised to 4S.

I got a club lead and dummy was suitable.  East won the CK and made the losing play of trying to cash another club, which I ruffed.  I crossed to dummy and successfully finessed the SQ.  I then cashed the SA and saw that I had a spade loser.  That was fine as the hand was shaping up nicely.  Now all I had to do was keep playing diamonds until East ruffed in.  My losing heart would go on the long diamond in dummy, and that is what happened. Note that if East doesn't ruff the diamond until the fourth time they are played, then I will have to lose a heart.

Anyway, all was well that ended well.  I made 5 and the score of 650 was worth 90% as no other pair in my section made 5. Actually, only 3 pairs out of 12 even got to game!  There were several part scores in both spades and diamonds.

I thought I had a good game, but was dumbfounded to learn later that my score topped the field with a 75.7% game.

Keep striving.  An early partner of mine from Louisville used to say modestly about her bridge:  "Even a blind squirrel finds an acorn sometimes!"

See you at the virtual tables!

Friday, May 29, 2020

75.7% Game, Part 2

Continuing with the boards from the 75% game...

At Matchpoints you are rewarded for plus scores and generally punished for minus scores.  Boards 3 and 4 were the only two minus scores in the game.


On Bd. 3 I made the wrong bid:


5D was a bad bid at matchpoints (perhaps not so bad at IMPs where the rewards of bidding game are so high).  I fell in love with my 18-count and couldn't bring myself to pass partner's preemptive 3D bid.  In retrospect, 3NT was the winning call.  Even pass would have netted a good score.

Bd. 4 was a flat 50% board as all E-W pairs bid and made 4S.

Next come 4 boards in a row, all with the unimpressive score of plus 110, but all resulting in huge percentage scores.(!)

Bd. 5

I won the spade lead in my hand and led a diamond which West won with the Ace.  West continued spades.  East won the ace and shifted to a club which I ducked to the CQ.  West continued with a club to my jack. Now it was an easy matter to draw the last trump, ruffing my last diamond and losing two hearts.   Plus 110 scored an amazing 87.5%.

Two other pairs were in 2S and went down; other pairs were in 1NT, 1H, 3S or passed out.

Bd. 6 

East led the D10 which I ducked to West's King.  West followed with the A,K Q of spades and shifted to a club with East winning the ace.  I had all the rest of the tricks.

Plus 110 was worth 79.5% of the matchpoints.  It appears that at other tables E-W competed to 3C and either played there or forced N-S higher for minus scores.

Bd. 7

When my 1D opener was passed I was a little sorry that I hadn't opened 2NT. West led a club won by East who shifted to the 8 of spades. West won the queen and shifted to a heart which I won on the board.  I next ran the D9 and West won and shifted to a club, 10, Q and K.  I am starting to get some tricks going. The defense is friendly.

I cashed the A,Q of diamonds which revealed the 4-2 trump break and started on hearts.  West ruffed the third heart and I overruffed.  I then led the S10 from the board and it went J, K and A.  Now the dummy is good.

Plus 110, making 3, was worth an amazing score of 96.8%! One pair scored 120, a few were plus 90 in diamonds, and others got too high.

Bd. 8:  The last in the string of high-scoring plus 110 scores.


After a routine 1D, P, 1S, P, 1NT, East balanced with 2C.  Unwilling to risk letting 2C be the final contract, I bid 2S which was the final contract. Partner North only had 4 spades, but had 10 points.

East led the singleton HA and shifted to a club. I won the CA and played another club which West won. West cashed the DA and then gave East a heart ruff.  East returned a diamond to my king and I led a spade to the queen and cashed the ace.  When the smoke cleared I had 8 tricks.

Plus 110 was worth another 87.5% board.  Several pairs played spade contracts at the 1, 2 and 3 level--half making and half going down.  There were a couple of club partscores.

I have to admit that I'll give the humble score of 110 more respect in the future!
Stay tuned for part 3. The last 4 boards are more interesting as they involve 3 out of 4 game bids.

See you at the virtual tables!

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

75.7% game in Daylong Pairs

I have been enjoying playing in the ACBL Daylong games which consist of one human and three robots per table. The games are generally 12 boards, either IMPs or Matchpoints. You can join whenever it is convenient and play at your own pace--even play a few boards now and the rest later.  The matchpoint games seem to be quite popular as there are now four per day. Plus...they only cost $1.35.

A loosely-held goal of mine during this time of quarantine has been to crack the top 10.  Well..I did it in fine fashion recently. The stars aligned and I found myself on top of the pack with a 75.7% game in a Daylong MP game with 520 pairs!

As 70% games are rare and 75.7% games rarer still, I thought I'd present some of the hands. The robots are better than they used to be and can give you a decent game from time to time.  Beware making any obscure takeout doubles, and note that their defense is not always the best (except when they are YOUR opponents, of course)!  


 Here is the score sheet from the session.


 You need some luck to have a big game! The first two boards are defensive problems. Let's take a quick look at board 1 and you can see how the robots misdefended:


I received a helpful heart lead, then took a winning finesse of the spade jack.  On the run of the hearts the West robot fatally pitched a spade, and then on the run of the spades West fatally pitched a diamond.  West held on for dear life to the K84 of clubs, so I only lost one spade trick and was able to score 12 tricks for +490 and an 86% board. Good start!

On Bd. 2, I had an interesting defensive problem.




We weren't able to bid our spade game, so needed to take the maximum number of tricks in 4Hx.  East ruffed the third spade and ducked a diamond to North's J.  North returned a club to my K and West's Ace.  West now ruffed a club and ruffed a diamond.  When declarer tried to ruff a club back to his hand, it was time for me to pause and try to work out the best defense.

The good news was that I now had a count on the hand. East started with 6 hearts for the weak-two bid, and had only 2 spades and 1 club.  That meant East started with 4 diamonds.  How would you defend?

I decided to overruff the club with the HJ, then cash the HA and play my last heart to cut down on dummy's ruffing power.  This would cause East to lose an extra diamond trick at the end.

Down 3, +500 was worth 84%, as one pair bid and made 4S, and other pairs either failed to either bid of make 4S, or made fewer tricks in 4Hx.

Stay tuned and keep playing.

See you at the virtual tables!