Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Splendid Splinter, Redux

You hold, in first seat with neither side vulnerable:

♠  void
♥  Axxxx

♦  Kxx
♣  xxxxx

You pass. LHO opens 1 Spade.  Partner overcalls 2 Hearts, and  RHO passes.  What would you bid? 

You have great trump support, a void in the opponents' suit, and 7 losers overall.  As partner's bid  promises opening bid values, you surely want to be in game.  You could just bid 4 Hearts.  But since you want to be in game, you have a chance to show partner what you have along the way - a splinter bid of 3 Spades.  Since you are a passed hand, partner won't expect more than this.  If you bid 3 Spades, its effect is magical.  Now put yourself in partner's chair.  He holds

♠  J9x
♥  KQJTxx
♦  Axx

♣  A

Surely partner has the ace of hearts.  She has at most one spade.  So your only losers are two spades and two diamonds.  The hand is worth a slam try, so you cue bid 4 Clubs.  Partner responds with a cue bid of 4 Diamonds, which has to be the king.  Now I think there is enough information to just go ahead and bid 6 Hearts.  However, if you want to really be on the safe side, you can bid 4NT, RKC for hearts. 

Now go back and look at that first hand.  You would like to show the void.  However, the way to show a void with one keycard is usually to jump to the 6-level in the void suit.  Here, you would have to bid 6 Spades, which is higher than slam in your suit.  What many experts do in this situation is to jump to 6 of the trump suit, showing one keycard and a void in a higher-ranking suit.  You could do this, or, to be on the safe side, just show one keycard.  I would show the void, since this may be what partner needs for a grand slam.  Whatever you do, partner will put it into 6 Hearts. 

It is quite possible that a 3 Spade splinter bid will encourage LHO, holding

♠  AQxxxxx
♥  void

♦  Qxxxx
♣  KQ

 to compete with 4 Spades.  But partner would cue bid 5 Clubs and the slam would still be reached.  Now you will be either +980 or +500 if the opponents save in 6 Spades.   
Looking at the two hands together,

♠  void
♥  Axxxx

♦  Kxx
♣  xxxxx

♠  J9x
♥  KQJTxx
♦  Axx

♣  A

you see that 12 tricks are easy (just ruff all the spades in dummy), and 13 are possible if you can ruff out the club suit and set up dummy's long club.  Dummy has plenty of entries to do this.

What actually happened was that we lost the battle but won the war.  My partner (not Jenn) missed the opportunity to make the splinter bid, bidding 4 Hearts to end the auction.  However, things turned out good for us anyway.  Nobody in the field (it was bid 9 times) got to the slam.  Clubs were 5-2, so the hand should only make six, but at our table, our opponents misdiscarded and I ended up making 3 diamond tricks for  +510, a top on the board.   Fortunately this was a pairs game.  If it had been teams, it would have been a lost opportunity to win 11 IMPs. 

Good luck!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Jennbridge: Two from the Sacramento Swiss **

Jenn and I had fun at the Sacramento regional this past week.  We placed in a pair game, then finished in the top 10 in the main event, a two-day Swiss Teams containing most of the good teams in N. California, plus a few pro teams.

The first hand clinched a spot in the finals.  The second got us a nice match win on day two. 

1.  It was Round 6 of 7.  We needed 4 or 5 VP to qualify.  Our opponents were Jill Meyers and Jill Levin, two world champions.  I held, both vulnerable:

♠   AK754
♥   T83

♦    A65
♣   K7

Partner deals and passes, as does RHO.  I opened 1 Spade.  LHO passes, and partner bids 2 Clubs, which we play as reverse Drury, showing a limit raise.  RHO doubled, showing clubs.  I liked my hand, so accepted with 4 Spades.   Everyone passed,  LHO led a low club, and I looked at: 

♠ QT6
♥ KJ
♦ K9742
♣ Q54

♠ AK754
♣ K7

RHO won the ace and returned a club.  My plan was to draw trump and try to duck a diamond into RHO, so I could eventually pitch my heart losers on dummy's diamonds, losing a heart, diamond and club.  So I played the ace of spades and a spade to the queen.  RHO showed out on the second spade, pitching a club.  So my plan wasn't going to work, since I couldn't lose a diamond as that would give me a loser in each suit.  I had to use the club queen to discard my diamond loser, and somehow hold the heart losers to one. 

I played a diamond to the ace and a heart to dummy, planning to finesse the jack, hoping for LHO to have the queen and RHO the ace.  However, LHO hopped up with the ace and, after considerable thought, returned a heart.  I won the king and played the queen of clubs, pitching a diamond.  She ruffed and played her last trump, keeping me from ruffing the last heart in dummy.  Now there were 3 tricks remaining.   I had a spade, the heart ten and a low diamond.  Dummy had the king and two low diamonds.  So I played the last spade and hoped for the best.  Eureka!  LHO discarded the heart queen, so my ten of hearts became good for the fulfilling trick.  It turned out that LHO was squeezed between the red suits.  Her last 3 cards were the heart queen and two diamonds.  She had to protect the diamonds, so she hoped her partner had the heart ten.  Game made, 12 big IMPs won and a spot in the finals assured!

2.  Jenn heard me open a strong 2 Clubs, and looked at:

♠  962
♦  T32
♣ KJT87

The hand and club suit aren't good enough for a natural 3 Clubs, so Jenn bid 2 Diamonds, waiting.  I replied 2 Hearts.  Now Jenn had a problem.  She thought the hand was too good for a second negative, but she couldn't bid 3 Clubs, as that would have been an artificial second negative in our methods, denying a king or 2 queens.  So what should she do?  She had to improvise with 2NT, even though this risked wrong-siding the contract if we ended up in no-trump. 

Now let's look at my hand.  I held:

♠  A8
♥  AKJ86
♦  AKQ
♣ AQ2

Not a bad collection!  27 HCP with a 5-card suit.  When I heard Jenn reply 2NT, I really didn't know how strong her hand was.  She could have had as little as the king of clubs and nothing else.  However, since the hand has such great potential, I just decided to take a shot at 6NT.  I figured that if she had a really good hand, say three of the missing kings and queens, she might raise to seven.  So Jenn played it in 6NT.  This proved easy to play, as when she cashed the heart ace, RHO showed out, so she had a marked finesse and was able to claim.  6NT bid and made, and 13 IMPs won.  Jenn's counterpart at the other table treated her hand as a second negative, so they stopped in 3NT. 

Good luck!