Thursday, December 17, 2009

Adventures in Cyberspace ***

I sometimes play bridge on Bridge Base Online, a free service developed by Fred Gitelman.  It is a testament to the wonders of modern technology.  You can log in and play with people all over the world at any hour of the day or night.

The players identify themselves by a tag which may or may not resemble their real names.  They also indicate their skill level, which goes from Beginner to Expert and even World Class, and the country they live in.  Many grossly exaggerate their ability.  I have found that most of those who call themselves World Class are actually intermediate-level players at best; among the "Experts", some are really expert and others aren't very good.  So if you get into a game, don't take the skill levels too seriously.
I picked up this hand the other day at a table where all four players called themselves Experts:  I was in third seat.  My partner and I agreed to play 2/1.

♠  xxx
♥  void♦  AJT9xx♣ AKQx

Partner dealt and opened 1 Spade.  This looked good, as he bid the suit where I had 3 of my 5 losers.  I bid 2 Diamonds, creating a game force.  He bid 2 Hearts, I showed spade support with 2 Spades, and he jumped to 4 Spades.  Now what? 

I didn't think RKC would be a good idea because of the void.  If I bid 5 Spades here it should ask for trump quality, but since there was one unbid suit it could be misinterpreted as asking for a club control.  So I just gambled that he had decent spades and bid 6 Spades.  LHO doubled.  Oops!  Maybe I bid too much.  If he has the AK of spades, too bad.  If he has the ace of spades and a diamond void, I could remove to 6NT which might make.  However, since all the heart honors were missing, I thought that his double could be based on the ace of hearts and a spade trick, in which case I surely didn't want to play it in no-trump.  So I decided to tough it out and pass. 

A diamond was led.  My partner looked at:

 ♠  xxx
♥  void♦  AJT9xx♣ AKQx

♠  AQTxx
♥  JTxx♦  KQ
♣  xx

How would you play it?  Hopefully you would do better than my "expert" partner. 

Wherever you win the first diamond, RHO follows.  So his double wasn't based on a diamond void.  So surely he has the king of spades and the heart ace, and likely the heart K as well.  He probably has the spade jack also, but this isn't a sure thing.  If he has KJ9x of spades, you can't make it no matter how you play it, so assume spades are 3-2.  So here are some reasonable lines:

(1) Win the ace of diamonds, play a spade to the queen, cash the ace of spades, unblock the diamonds, play a club to dummy and run the diamonds until RHO takes his spade king.  This works if spades are 3-2 no matter who has the jack.

(2) Win the ace of diamonds, play a spade to the ten, play a club to dummy, play another spade to the queen.  If RHO has KJx of spades, you make seven.  If LHO has the spade jack and RHO a stiff diamond, you go down.

(3) Win the diamond in hand, play a club to dummy and a spade to the queen.  This works out the same as (1) but gives you an extra entry in case RHO has a stiff club.

(4) Win the diamond in hand, play a club to dummy and a spade to the ten.  If this holds, play another club to dummy and repeat the finesse. 

Any of these lines would succeed as the cards lay.  What you don't want to do is choose line (5), which my partner did.  He won in hand, ruffed a heart to dummy, and played a spade to the queen.  Now he didn't have the critical third trump in dummy to stop the hearts, so he went down three!  My LHO's hand was:

♠ KJx
x♣ xxxxx.

Yes, he made a bad double.  Since he really wanted a heart lead, he shouldn't have doubled, asking for a diamond lead!  (Note that a heart lead is quite troublesome as it taps dummy.) But he was another BBO "expert", so you don't expect miracles. 

 Good luck!


Saturday, December 5, 2009

Opening Leads: 3 Hands from the NA Swiss Teams

Here are three opening lead decisions I had to make in Day 1 of the North American Swiss Teams.  Two worked out well, one didn't.  On each one, if you get it right, they go down.  If not, they make their game.  Decide what you would lead in each of these before reading on.  All involve a decision on whether to make an aggressive or passive lead. 

1.  You hold, in second seat:
♠  Q9xxx
♥  xxx
♦  xx
♣ Kxx

RHO deals and opens 1NT, strong.  LHO transfers with 2 Diamonds, then over 2 Hearts bids 3NT.  RHO bids 4 Hearts, which ends the auction. 

2.  You hold, in 4th seat:

♠  KQxx
♥  xx
♦  xx
♣  J9xxx

RHO opens 1NT after 2 passes.  LHO bids 3NT. 

3.  You hold, in second seat:

♠  Jxx
♥  ATxx
♦  xx
♣ AKxx

 RHO opens 1 Club. LHO bids 1 Diamond.  RHO rebids 1NT. LHO  bids 2C, alerted as a puppet to 2 Diamonds.  After RHO bids 2 Diamonds, LHO now bids 3 Diamonds, and RHO bids 3NT.  Before leading, you learn that LHO is inviting 3NT with a diamond suit.  You also learn that RHO would bypass a 4-card major after 1C-1D, and that even after LHO's bid of 2 Clubs, RHO would not bid a 4-card major instead of accepting the puppet request. 

Problem 1. 

An aggressive lead would be a spade, a passive lead a heart.  I chose a low spade, which turned out successfully.  Dummy came down with 
♠  Ax
♥  KJTxx
♦  Q9xx
♣ xx

Declarer played a low spade, won by Jenn's king.  She played the ten of clubs.  Declarer finessed, losing to my king.  I now shifted to a diamond. Jenn had the KJ over dummy's queen as well as the ace of trumps, so we established a trick in each suit.  We actually set it two tricks, since I was able to get a diamond ruff as well.  Had I led a trump to start with, Jenn would have had to find the difficult defense of a spade shift from her king into the Ax in dummy.  At the other table, a trump was led and they didn't find this defense, so we won 13 IMPs. 

Problem 2

An aggressive lead would be a spade; a passive lead would be a club.  I didn't think that I would be able to set up such a weak suit as J9xxx, so I thought the best shot was to find Jenn with a spade suit such as Jxxxx or Txxxx, with the opponents' spades 2-2, or possibly 4 to the Jack or ten with an opponent holding Tx or Jx, respectively.  So I led the king of spades.  This turned out to be wrong, since the opposition had only 8 tricks if I made a passive club lead, and the spade lead set up the ninth trick.  Dummy held

♠  987x
♥  Axx
♦   Jxx
♣  KQT

 Declarer held:

♠ AJ
♦  Kxxx
♣ Axx

Jenn had:

♠  Txx
♥  J9xx
♦  AQT9
♣  xx

Note that declarer cannot set up a ninth trick in a red suit.  The spade lead allowed declarer to set up a second spade trick by winning the ace and playing back the jack.  Now, after Jenn wins her ten, the dummy has an established spade winner for trick 9.  My counterpart led a passive club, and we lost 12 IMPs. 

Problem 3.

It sounded to me like the opponents had a long diamond suit ready to run, so we might have to cash out our tricks right away, either in clubs, hearts or both.  So, in order to retain control, I led the king of clubs.  This catered to Jenn holding either good clubs or good enough hearts for me to get her in for heart plays through declarer.  This worked out very well, as she held QJTxx of clubs and the heart queen!  We cashed out the first 7 tricks for down three.  In this case, a low club would also have succeeded, but anything else would have been a disaster, as the opposition had 6 diamonds and 3 spades ready to cash.  This got us +300 and 10 IMPs, as our teammates played it in 3 Diamonds, making 3 for +110.  If we had gotten this wrong, we would have lost 10 IMPs instead, a huge 20 IMP swing. 

Good luck!