Sunday, October 24, 2010

Jennbridge: An Interesting Hand at the Club

By Bob Klein.  Kathy and I were having a ho-hum game at the club Friday until the last hand of the day.  With neither side vulnerable, I was dealer and picked up:

♠  K87
♥  AT5
♦  AKQ765
♣  J

I opened 1 Diamond.  LHO passed, and Kathy bid 2 Clubs, a game force.  How should I proceed?

I had several choices.  I could rebid 2 Diamonds, 2NT, 3 Diamonds or 3NT.  I decided that a NoTrump bid would be best, since I didn't want to bid diamonds and have partner bid NoTrump, which could wrong-side the contract.  If I had been playing with Jenn, I would have bid 2NT since we discussed the pros and cons of bidding 3NT in this position and decided that it took up too much space.  However, I hadn't played with Kathy in a long time, and decided to make the value bid of 3NT, which showed about 18-19 HCP.  (I only had 17, but with the great suit and jack in partner's suit, I felt I could upgrade.)  Now Kathy bid 4NT, inviting slam.  Since it was the last board, and not much had been happening for us, I said "what the heck" and just took a shot and bid 6NT. 

LHO led the Jack of Diamonds, not a good sign.  When the dummy came down, I was looking at:

♠  JT
♥  Q642
♦  void

♣  AKQ9643

♠  K87
♥  AT5
♦  AKQ765

♣  J

Well, I wasn't going to make it by running diamonds, but I had a chance because Kathy gave me 7 good clubs.  The suit looks solid, but because she had no entries outside, I had to hope clubs were 3-2 or there was a stiff ten, since I had to overtake the Jack to get to them.  Assuming the clubs ran, I had 11 tricks: 7 clubs, 3 diamonds and the Ace of hearts.  The 12th trick had to be in spades, since if I lost a heart they would cash the Ace of spades for down one.  So I had to win trick one and immediately run the clubs, coming down to

♠ K8
♣ none

and hope I could guess the spades. 

Now psychology came into play.  The clubs split 3-2, so I ran them.  During the run of the suit, LHO played high-low in spades.  I asked what their carding agreements were, and they said standard.  So, should I believe this as an honest signal, assume he was trying to fool me, or just ignore it and flip a coin? 

LHO was a good Flight B player.  If he had been an expert, I would have had a real conundrum.  He would know I wouldn't expect an honest signal, so he might just give me one, since I'd likely assume he was lying!  I didn't think this opponent would play such a deep game, but would he try to fool me, or perhaps give an honest signal to help partner with discarding?  Finally, I decided on the latter, ran the spade jack and was rewarded when he won it with the Ace.  6NT bid and made, for 8 out of 8 matchpoints. 

Good luck!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Jennbridge: Final Qualifying Round

Picking up the penultimate board of the third and final qualifying session of the World Mixed Pairs, I was pretty confident that we would be in good shape with a good round;  not so sure with a bad round.  We had to deal with an unusual bid and also make a critical decision in the play.

Board 25. Unfavorable vulnerability.

I had a nice hand and opened 1club after RHO passed.

♠ K109
♣ K87

LHO then bid 2 clubs, described as a 2-suiter with spades.  Partner, Bob bid 2 diamonds.  RHO bid 2S and I bid 2NT.  Pard bid 3D, and although we had a later discussion what our bids meant over this relatively unusual treatment, I bid 3NT.

♠ 54
♣ A3

♠ K109
♣ K87

Later, when we discussed the bidding, I noted that I thought Bob's 2 diamond, followed by 3 diamond bid showed weakness, as it would have over a Michaels cuebid.  Therefore, I meant my 2NT bid as strength-showing. He thought his bidding showed 10 + points as it would have over an overcall and therefore took my 2NT bid as nothing more than a minimum.  Check out your agreements with your partner!

A spade was led and RHO won and returned a spade to my king.  I cashed the heart ace to get a look at the hand and RHO showed out. As LHO obviously had hearts and spades, I had to play the diamonds carefully--playing RHO for all of them.  I led a diamond to the king and LHO showed out.  I ran the 10 of diamonds, won the ace and went back to the board with the club ace to run the diamonds.

After reviewing this hand, and unable to accurately reconstruct it even with the hand records, I finally realized that an odd thing happened on the run of the diamonds.  Due to the lateness of the hour (and possibly due to the fact that Bob was studying the score handout, trying to calculate our percentage), dummy's cards weren't played properly and I only made two discards on the diamonds. 

I came down to these cards:

♠ 10

♣ K

When I led a club to my king, LHO showed out.  She had discarded several hearts and the queen or jack of spades.  I had to decide whether to cash out for 10 safe tricks or to go for the endplay for the extra trick.  LHO rated to have the remaining spade honor, but if RHO had it, holding myself to 9 tricks would net a pathetic score. This situation, (trying to decide whether to go for a top and risk a bottom) is not for the faint of heart. I finally decided I had to go for it so I closed my eyes (not really) and played the spade.  LHO won and led into my heart tenace.  Making 5 the hard way.  After the game I was rather surprised that plus 660 didn't score better than 68%, and only now realize that making 5 would have been relatively easy if we had kept better track of the cards (6 diamonds, 2 hearts, 2 clubs and a spade).

LHO (South):  QJ876/Q109865/void/Q5
RHO (North): A32/void/J854/J109642

All was well that ended well, as we played in the finals starting later that evening.

Go Giants!
See you at the table!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Jennbridge: Handling Difficult Auctions

Here is the first of two hands from the final qualifying session of the World Mixed Pairs where we had to deal with unusual bids:

Board 4, All vul.

♠ A10763
♣ AQ83

I was rather enamored with this hand, especially when partner opened 1 diamond, but then RHO overcalled 1NT, alerted as unusual, for the two lower unbid suits!

Well, this throws a wrench in the bidding.  My only forcing call is double, so that's what I do. 

LHO bid 2 hearts, partner passed and RHO bid 3 clubs.  These bids were alerted and complex explanations were forthcoming, but I wasn't really very interested as I was busy thinking about what slam to bid.  At this point we were in undiscussed territory and I wasn't about to make a bid I thought was forcing only to have a bidding accident.  I couldn't really show my spades and so I just bid what I thought I could make...

Six notrump!

A heart was led and Bob put down this dummy:

 ♠ K9
♣ 6

♠ A10763
♣ AQ83

That 7 card diamond suit was a beautiful sight, and a quick count of my tricks revealed that I had 11.  A successful club finesse would land the contract, but as this was a qualifier for a world championship matchpoint game, I studied the hand for overtrick possibilities. 

After the run of the diamonds these cards were left, RHO having discarded the queen of spades along with 2 hearts and 3 clubs.

 ♠ K9

♣ 6

♠ A107

♣ AQ

I took the club finesse, lost a spade at the end and claimed my 1440 for 82% of the matchpoints.   Before I learned of the good score, however, I worried a little about not taking a club finesse, then leading a spade to the 9, and claiming all 13 of the tricks.  This would have been a disaster, however, if RHO started with the unlikely holding of QJ of spades.

LHO (South) held:  J8542/6542/109/52
RHO (North) held: Q/KJ1098/4/KJ10974

See you at the table!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Jennbridge: World Mixed Pairs Finals ****

We had a below average and an average game in the final two sessions of the World Mixed Pairs and finished above average--in the top third of the field. Bob says we should be proud, as dozens of stellar pairs finished behind us, but I can’t help feeling disappointed after our great start.

It was actually a fun event. We used screens in each session and used special World Bridge Federation convention cards . The men always sat North and West and the women South and East. In the 3 qualifying sessions we sat East-West and in the 3 final sessions we sat North-South.  We never played the same pair twice.

I’m writing up hands on the flight home and will be posting some of my favorite hands from the finals. It seemed particularly tense in the last session as each pair was jockeying for position and each hand could mean the difference between several places in the standings. These two hands feature interesting card combinations.

Board 4.

I opened one heart with:

♠ A104
♣ K642

Partner responded 2 hearts, constructive, showing 3 trumps, 8-10 points and 9 losers. As I had the right loser count and was looking for a good board I made a help suit game try of 3 clubs. Partner accepted by bidding 3 notrump. With my singleton I wasn’t especially interested in notrump so I corrected to 4 hearts. A diamond was led and the dummy was not something to dream about:

♠ Q862
♣ Q95

♠ A104
♣ K642

Barring some incredible luck I had two club losers and at least one spade loser, along with assorted handling problems. I won the diamond ace and made what turned out to be a key play: a low spade to the ten which forced the king.

LHO continued diamonds which I ruffed. I started trumps by playing a heart to the jack and a heart back to my hand and my problems were compounded when LHO showed out on the second heart.

I next tried a club to the queen which lost to the ace. RHO returned the 9 of diamonds (diamond 10 left in dummy) and I paused to consider the play. If I ruffed, I would be left with fewer trumps than my RHO which couldn’t be right, so I elected to pitch a losing club. LHO won the diamond and paused to consider the defense. He couldn’t continue diamonds without giving me a ruff/sluff and was probably reluctant to return a club, so he exited with a low spade. I played low from the board and won the jack with the ace.

I couldn’t afford to lose any more tricks with the remaining cards:

♠ Q8

♣ Q95

♠ 4

♣ K6

I started thinking about the spades. What spade would RHO have played on the previous trick if she had started with J9x? As the jack and 9 were equals once the ten had been played, she probably would have played the jack, the card she was known to hold.  Her in-tempo play and my partial count on the hand, however, caused me to strongly suspect that she started with the jack doubleton of spades.  This meant that LHO started with K9xx of spades and I could finesse the 8. I therefore drew the remaining trumps, cashed the club king and led a spade to the 8, winning the last two tricks and scoring up my game! This was worth 82% of the matchpoints.

LHO held K953/9/KJ8753/73

RHO held J7/8532/Q92/AJ108

Board 11.

Playing 3 notrump with these cards I got a diamond lead:

♠ J963
♣ A1082

♠ A4
♣ Q954

With 8 winners available and only one more diamond stopper, the problem was how to play the club suit for at most one loser. Usually in this situation, it is right to lead the queen from your hand and then, if it loses, later lead toward the 10, a double finesse. This caters to the club honors being divided or LHO holding both honors, a 75% chance. Before starting on clubs, however, I decided to cash my 4 heart tricks to see if I could learn anything useful. Hearts broke 3-3 and on the 4th round of hearts LHO discarded the 3 of clubs!

Surely he wouldn’t throw a club with anything useful in the suit, looking at A1082 in the dummy, so I decided to change my plan and play clubs differently. Accordingly I led a club to the ace and was rewarded when RHO followed with the jack and then the king on the second round of clubs. She started with KJ doubleton! Scoring 430 was worth 76% of the matchpoints.

LHO held: Q75/1093/J642/763

RHO held: K1082/765/Q1097/KJ

Stay tuned for more hands from Philadelphia.  The world championship events will continue through Oct. 16.  For more information, daily bulletins and results, check out:

See you at the table!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Jennbridge: High or Low?

Jenn and I are in Philadelphia playing in the World Mixed Pairs. We played 3 qualifying sessions, and managed to qualify for a 3-session final. We're off to a good start: we had a 60% game in the first session and are running fifth overall.

Here are two eerily similar opening lead problems that were very instrumental in our being able to qualify. I held one of them and got it right; the other one was held by a well-known Washington, DC expert who didn't. In each case, you hold a spade suit headed by the AKQ. Do you lead the ace or a low one?

1. You hold:


You are in second seat, both vulnerable. RHO deals and passes. You open the bidding with 1 Spade. LHO doubles, partner passes, RHO bids 1NT, and everyone passes. Do you lead the ace or a low spade?

2. You hold:


You are in first seat, none vulnerable. You open 1 Spade. It goes pass, pass, 1NT by RHO. You pass. LHO raises to 2NT and RHO accepts the invitation with 3NT. Do you lead the ace or a low spade?

It turns out that in both cases, it was necessary to underlead the AKQ.

Consider the first hand. What do you expect the distribution of the spades to be? LHO doubled, so he is likely to have a singleton. RHO bid 1NT, so he is likely to have 4 spades. This leaves partner with a likely doubleton. Your hand has no outside entries. The plan is to have partner get in with something, then lead his other spade to you so you can run the suit. Your lead is rewarded in a different way. Dummy had the stiff ten, partner had J8 and RHO had 9532! So we took the first six tricks. Jenn signalled what she wanted me to shift to (she had an ace), so we took the first 7 tricks for down one, which got us 79% of the matchpoints.

Now consider the second hand. Again, what do you expect the distribution of the spades to be? RHO should have 4 spades for his 1NT balance; the remaining spades are likely to be 2-2. Your hand has a potential entry with the king of diamonds, but if LHO has the ace, you'll never get to use it. So a low spade again is indicated. Fortunately for us, and unfortunately for the DC expert, he chose to lead the ace, then the king, and found the spade suit to be T8 in dummy, J3 in partner's hand and 9642 in my hand, so once he led the ace, the spades blocked and couldn't be run for 4 tricks. The fourth spade trick was crucial, as I was able to set up 9 tricks without him ever getting in again. We got 89% of the matchpoints at a crucial time near the end of the last qualifying session.

Wish us luck!