Thursday, May 29, 2008

Another Squeeze with an 8-card suit

Last week, I partnered John Kozero when he made an overtrick on a squeeze with an 8-card suit in a pairs game at the club. Yesterday, another partner, Dave Neuman, executed a squeeze with an 8-card suit when the stakes were much higher. We were playing in a knockout match in the regional in Sacramento. Our teammates were Pat and Jerry Scoville.

First the bidding. Both sides were vulnerable. I held:

S Qx
D xxx
C QTxx

Dave dealt and opened 1 Spade. RHO passed. I bid a forcing 1NT (we play 2/1 game forcing). LHO came in with a preemptive 3 Diamonds. Dave now jumped to 4 Spades. What should I do? Since I had about as much as I could have for a 1NT response, and all of my values were outside of diamonds, I decided that slam was possible, so I invited slam with 5 Spades. This told him that I didn't have a control in diamonds but had a good hand. Dave accepted the invitation and bid 6 Spades. The opponents led diamonds. Dave held:

S AKJTxxxx
H xx
C Ax

Dave ruffed the second diamond. There were 11 top tricks. There were two chances for a 12th trick: Dave's LHO could hold the QJ of hearts, so he could finesse twice, or hold any hand with 5 or more hearts and the King of clubs, in which case he would be squeezed. Dave decided to go for the squeeze. So he ran all but one of his trumps, then cashed the Ace of clubs. With 4 cards left, this was the position:

S -
D -

S x
H xx
D -
C x

When Dave led his last spade, his LHO, who had 3 hearts left and the King of clubs, had to pitch a heart. Dave now pitched the Queen of clubs and took the last 3 tricks with the AKT of hearts. This gave us a 13-IMP swing which helped us win the match. At the other table, our teammates preempted with 4 Diamonds, which proved to be more effective. Opener bid 4 Spades and they didn't get to the slam.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Follow-up to Forcing 1NT: An interesting example

In Friday's club game, I picked up this hand:


Partner, John K, dealt and opened 1 Heart. We play 2/1 game forcing, so I bid a forcing 1NT. John rebid 2 Clubs. Now I could have shown a strong club raise with an artificial call of 2 Spades, since this could not be natural (since I would have bid 1 Spade initially), but (a) we hadn't discussed this treatment, and (b) I had stoppers in the unbid suits, so I bid 2NT, which showed a hand of about this strength and invited John to bid 3NT with something extra. John instead rebid 3 Clubs. What now?

John showed 5-5 or longer in his suits and a fairly weak opener. So he had at most 3 losers in Spades and Diamonds. With my King and Ace, I thought I could cover 2 of the 3 losers. He surely had most of his points in his 2 suits. If he had as little as Axxxx or KQxxx of hearts and Kxxxx of clubs, there is a good play for 5 clubs, since there would be only 1 heart loser and no club losers if the suit split 2-1 which is very likely. Even if clubs split 3-0, he might have the Jack also so we would pick up half of those hands as well. So I thought that 5 Clubs would be a favorite to make, and partner might not be able to raise 4 Clubs when game was on.

Since this is matchpoints, I had to also consider our prospects in 3NT. We should get 5 club tricks, my ace of diamonds, a spade if that suit is led, and whatever else we can score depending on where partner's cards are. I decided that it was likely that we had only one combined stopper in either spades or diamonds, so we would have to take 9 tricks on the run. I didn't like our chances of that happening.

So I chose to bid 5 Clubs. This hit the jackpot, as partner's hand was:


The clubs split 2-1 as expected, so we lost only a heart and a spade. 3NT would have had no play with a likely diamond lead, and with this 10-point minimum, John may well have passed a 4 Club invitation.

When we checked the traveler at the end of play, 3 pairs reached 5 Clubs, one went down in 3NT, one made a club partial and the other 3 passed out the hand! I think that the pairs who passed it out undervalued both hands. Dealer's hand should be opened since it has a good 5-card major and meets the rule of 20 (total points + length in the 2 longest suits = 20 or more). My hand, which shouldn't be opened in first seat, is a good third seat opener (it is usually good tactics to open light in third seat to preempt the opponents).

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Length vs. Strength

In Friday afternoon's STaC pairs game, I picked up this hand:

S J8
H T7642
C T8

I dealt and passed. LHO passed. Partner opened 2 clubs. RHO passed. I bid 2 diamonds, which showed some values (2 hearts would have showed a really bad hand). LHO passed, partner bid 3 clubs and RHO passed. What do you bid?

My first thought was to show the 5-card heart suit by bidding 3 hearts. But then I thought some more. What is partner likely to hold, and how can my bidding help him? What do I know about this hand vs. what does partner know? Which one of us can best place the contract? Even if we have a heart fit, do we want to play in hearts?

Partner is showing a big hand with a club suit. He has nothing much in diamonds, so he has to have points in the majors. Even if he has 3 good hearts, say AQx, we may have one or two heart losers in a heart contract. Plus, if we play it in hearts, I will have to declare so the opening lead will come through partner. All things considered, I thought that any contract should be played by partner, and that the most likely contracts for us would be 6 no-trump or 6 hearts. So I decided to bid 3 diamonds. My plan was to bid 6 no-trump if partner bid the expected 3 no-trump, or 6 hearts if partner bid 3 hearts.

Partner duly bid 3 no-trump which I raised to 6 no-trump. This got us a cold top on the board, since the entire hand was as follows:

S J8
H T7642
C T8

S T754........ S K962
H K3........... H QJ965
D JT932..... D 75
C 97............ C 65

D 86

6 no-trump made 7. West led the Jack of diamonds. Partner won the ace and ran the clubs. East had to guess whether declarer had the AQ of spades, in which he had to hold spades and discard hearts, or AKx of hearts and Ax of spades, in which case he had to hold hearts and pitch spades. He eventually threw spades so we had an easy 13 tricks. The most popular contract was 6 clubs.

Note that even if partner's majors were reversed, the best contract is still 6 no-trump. But if he had that hand, if I had bid 3 hearts we would have gotten to an inferior 6 heart contract.