Saturday, August 23, 2008

A 7-5 Beauty

Today I picked up, in second seat, non-vulnerable vs vulnerable playing with Jenn:


RHO passed. How should I plan the bidding? It is hard to describe a hand like this. One option is to open 1 Diamond, then jump shift in Spades, then bid Spades again. The other is to open 2 Clubs, then bid Diamonds then Spades. Since this hand is so strong (2 1/2 losers), I decided to open 2 Clubs. I surely didn't want everyone to pass if I opened 1 Diamond! LHO passed and Jenn surprised me with a response of 3 Clubs. This showed a hand with a good club suit, usually 6 cards with 2 top honors. Now I was sure that my club loser was covered. I bid 3 Diamonds, and she surprised me again with a raise to 4 Diamonds! So I knew that she had at least xxx in Diamonds. So there would be no diamond losers unless she didn't have the Queen and the suit split 3-0. I thought there were excellent chances to avoid a Spade loser: I could ruff one or two in dummy if needed to set up the suit, or else if Jenn had AQxxxx or better in Clubs, the Clubs could provide discards for any losing Spades. So I decided to just bid 7 Diamonds.

LHO led the Ace of Hearts, not really expecting it to cash. Jenn had a suitable dummy:



I was surprised that Jenn had only one Heart. The opponents held 12 between them and never bid. The vulnerability had kept them silent. Jenn's Diamond holding was excellent, but her doubleton Spade meant that I had to work to avoid a Spade loser. So how would you play it after ruffing the opening lead?

There were 2 possible approaches, as I had considered during the bidding: ruff enough Spades to set up the suit, or set up dummy's Clubs using her trumps as entries. There was some risk associated with either approach. If diamonds split 3-0, I couldn't ruff spades with the Jack and Queen since the Ten would be promoted. If Spades were 5-1, I couldn't cash 2 rounds before ruffing. On the other hand, if I went after the clubs, if that suit split 4-1 I might not have enough entries.

I decided to test the trumps by leading a low one from hand. LHO followed with the Ten to dummy's Queen and RHO's 2. Now the Spades can be ruffed safely without fear of an overruff, so the contract will come home as long as spades were 4-2 or better, a very good chance, and either clubs were 3-2 or LHO had a stiff club and falsecarded the Ten from T8 of Diamonds, a very unlikely combination. (If RHO had a stiff club, I could safely overruff the second club to hand.) So I played a club to my King, played AK of spades, ruffed a spade with the 9, ruffed a club back to my hand (everyone following), ruffed another Spade with dummy's last trump, ruffed another Club in hand with the Ace, drew the last trump and claimed.

It turned out that any line would have succeeded, as the entire hand was:




It is interesting to note that if my LHO had interfered with our auction with a preempt of 3 Hearts, it could have been hard for us to bid this. Jenn would have bid 4 Clubs, then RHO could make life difficult with 4 or even 5 Hearts. I would have to introduce my Diamonds at the 5 or 6 level, and we would have been guessing. I think that in the long run, especially in matchpoints, it pays to interfere with the opponents whenever possible when they open 2 Clubs. Here, even with unfavorable vulnerability, they are safe at the 5-level (-800) against a Diamond slam (-920) or even have a good save (-1400) vs our grand slam (1440).

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Confessions of a Bungler

By John Kozero

Time to ‘fess up to what my regular partners have long known: I am an inveterate bungler whose only saving grace is that, amazingly, I happen to be just plain lucky almost ALL of the time.

Take this hand for example from a recent pairs game:

S: Void H: AQJ97 D: A1095 C: K1062

No one vul, I open 1H in first seat. Lefty bids 1S, partner Bob K. bids 2S. Righty passes. I like my hand. Even if partner has only an average limit raise, there are fine slam possibilities here (even a 9-counter like K 4th of H, KJ of D and the Q doubleton of clubs would work for slam). So I let pard in on my slam aspirations by bidding 3S (which guarantees at least second round control of spades). Pard cues a club control which increases the chances that he has more than a bare limit raise.

I cooperate with a 4D cue in return to see if I can elicit one more minor suit cue from him. Instead he launches into Old Black, which leaves me in a quandary. Clearly we’re committed to 6, but if we’re missing the ace of spades, pard will not be able to read my void and we might miss a good play for 7.
Counterbalancing that is the fact that I have been somewhat aggressive in my bidding this 14-pointer and pard might take me for more than I have. Worse still, I have totally forgotten how to handle RKC responses that include a void. Arrgghhhhhhh, I’ve bungled another bidding sequence!

So I just cut the Gordian Knot and bid 6H, hoping pard will read my void and carry on to 7 with a mountain outside of spades, and pass with all other hands. He passed, the K of spades is led and I see we are in a decent slam. Pard puts down:

S: AJ84 H: 8642 D: K32 C: A4 looking at my
S: Void H: AQJ97 D: A1095 C: K1062

Lefty is marked with almost everything, so I expect a heart loser. There are possibilities to ruff out the Quack in clubs or to squeeze her in at least two if not three suits. That’s where I made my first mistake: I took the ace of spades and pitched a diamond.

I then played a heart to the A (Righty playing the 3) and hoped the Rabbi’s Rule ("Drop the offsides K whenever it is singleton.") was working. It wasn’t. But Lefty played the heart 10. She’s an honest citizen who would normally not venture the 10 from K105 so my luck was running and I could play another heart to force out the K. That was my second questionable play.

Lefty took her K (and her pard followed) and exited the Q of clubs. I took the two toppers in clubs and ruffed the third. Down came Lefty’s J of clubs making my 10 good to pitch a diamond and ruff the last one. Making 6 for a top on the board.

"Boy, I sure made the right choice in tossing a diamond at trick one," I said. Bob smiled the way an indulgent parent humors a backward child, and diplomatically offered: "Well, yes, you might have ruffed Trick One and postponed the decision on which minor to toss."

How right he was. Keeping that AJ tenace in place would have been a potent threat for two pitches if I had endplayed Lefty with the K of hearts. Since I was convinced the hearts were two-two, I could have ruffed a round of clubs prior to putting Lefty in with K of hearts. (I could discount the possibility of a second round ruff with the other small trump because that would mean Lefty would have started with six clubs as well as at least 5 spades.)

Then after being thrown in with K of hearts, if Lefty was out of clubs, she must lead either a spade allowing me to pitch both losing diamonds or to impale the opposition's QJ of diamonds on the sharpened bamboo stakes of my Kxx looking A109. That would have retained the actual possibility of the club Quack coming down in three rounds setting up my 10 but still keeping all other threats (such as a pointy-suit squeeze) wide open.

Oh, well. If given the choice, I’ll take the kiss of Lady Luck over the impersonal logic of competent declarer play any day…..especially considering how neatly my luck manages to irritate and frustrate my opponents.