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:


I raised to 2S with:


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:


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:


Score up 650--win 11 imps!

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


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' I in trouble? All pass...well, probably not too much trouble...

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


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'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:


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

x x

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:



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:


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:

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:


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:


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:


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:


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:


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:


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:


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:

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:

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:


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:


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:


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:



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!