Friday, December 24, 2010

Jennbridge: Defensive Problems

An up-and-coming player who held my cards in the team game last night asked how we managed to score up 500 when she and her partner only got 50 defending the same contract.  Here's what I told her.

Vul. vs. non-vul., I loved my hand and was a little surprised when RHO opened 1 diamond.

♣ KJxxx

I doubled and LHO bid 1 heart. Bob, my partner, now made a free bid of 1 spade. RHO bid 2 diamonds and I jumped to 4 spades. I was surprised and annoyed as it was passed around to RHO who now bid 5 diamonds. Even though I have a powerhouse 4 loser hand, I decided to take the "sure money" and doubled.

I led a spade honor and declarer ruffed. Dummy had:

♠ Jxxx
♣ xx

I figured we were making 4S (we were) so we needed to get the maximum we could out of 5 diamonds doubled to compensate.

I hoped that Bob had one of the round suit aces and I had two chances to figure out which one. I won the first diamond and shifted to hearts. Bingo! He won the heart ace and returned a club--just what needed to be done. He knew I had a really strong hand and had to have club values.

Now when I won the second diamond I was able to cash my king of clubs and--a bonus--give him a club ruff!

If he hadn't been able to get in with a heart, I would have been forced to try leading a club next--looking for the setting trick. I knew he had a few values because he made a free bid.  I didn't want to lead a club first, because if I led into declarer's ace-queen it would be a disaster.

Just like we form a plan for the bidding and the play, we can make plans for the defense.


Here's another defensive problem from an earlier match.

I opened 1 diamond with:

♠ AKxx

LHO overcalled 1 heart, partner passed and RHO bid 1NT.
I passed, LHO bid 2 clubs and all passed.  Bob led a club (trump) and dummy held:

♠ xxx
♣ Kxx

When declarer tried to ruff the third heart in dummy, I overruffed.  With these cards remaining we had to get the timing right if we were to have a chance to beat the contract:

♠ AKxx

♣ x

I lead the spade king to get an attitude signal from partner.  He discouraged.  As diamonds was my only other viable choice and he knew it, he must want a diamond shift.  He must have the king.  Even though I was looking at QJ10xx of diamonds in dummy, I underled my ace of diamonds to his king and he returned a diamond to my ace, all following. 

Now was the time to be careful.  Before I gave him his diamond ruff I had to cash my other spade honor.  Otherwise declarer could just throw her losing spade away on the good diamonds.  I therefore cashed the ace of spades before returning a diamond--giving my partner an uppercut and scoring the setting trick.

Down 1 netted us 5 imps.  This exact situation comes up frequently on defense and it's important to get it right.  Lead an honor to get an attitude signal from partner.  This should enable you to cash your tricks in the right order AND to cash all of your winners before administering the coup de grace.

Merry Christmas!

See you at the table!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Jennbridge: A Gerber Bluff

At last night's team game at the club, Jenn made an amazing bid that won 9 IMPs for our team. With only our side vulnerable, she was dealt this in third seat:

♠  K
♥  Jxx
♦  KQxxx
♣ Kxxx

I dealt and opened 2 Diamonds, a weak 2 bid, and her RHO passed. Now stop and consider this situation. We have 11 diamonds between us. Since I would not have bid 2 Diamonds in first seat with a 4-card major, the opponents must have a big double major suit fit with at least 9 spades and 8 hearts, and likely more. We have little defense against a major suit contract. LHO must have a big hand and will want to get into the auction.

The best result possible here is to buy the contract for 5 Diamonds undoubled. You don't expect to make it missing 3 aces, but it probably will only be down 1 or 2. If I had held these cards, I would have just bid 5 Diamonds, making RHO guess whether to come in at that level, but announcing our big fit. After this, we would run the risk of either being doubled or pushing the opponents into a makeable game, or, worse, slam.

Jenn found an ingenious way to achieve the ideal result. She decided to play a poker game with the opponents by bluffing strength. The best way to make a show of strength is to ask for aces. Now, it just so happens that Jenn and I play a convention which enables us to use a variation of RKC after partner's preempts that is an improvement over traditional Blackwood. It is often referred to as preemptive Gerber. So she bid 4 Clubs, which I alerted as our version of RKC. This had the intended effect of silencing LHO. I made the expected response, showing one keycard without the queen of trumps*, she rebid 5 Diamonds, and everyone passed. The two hands were:

♠  K
♦  KQxxx
♣ Kxxx

♠  xx
♣ QJTx

We lost the 3 missing aces for down one, -100. Our teammates played it in 5 spades, making seven for +510, so the team was +410 for 9 IMPs.

* The responses to 4C are: 4D is no keycards (first step), 4H is one without the queen (second step), 4S is one with the queen (third step), 4NT is two without the queen, 5C is two with the queen, and 5D is the AKQ. If the opening preempt is 3C, then 4D becomes RKC for clubs and all responses are one step higher. (You don't want to use 4C over 3C as RKC, since it is better used as a continuation of the preempt.) This sometimes enables getting out at the 4-level when you don't have the cards for slam, which you cannot do using standard Blackwood.

Good luck!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Jennbridge: Michaels and Leaping Michaels

A direct cue bid in a suit the opponents have opened is known as a Michaels cue bid.  If the opponents open one of  minor, a cue bid of 2 of that minor shows the majors; if they open one of a major, it shows the other major and one of the minors.  A jump cue bid, conversely, asks partner to bid 3NT with a stopper in the opener's suit.

When they open with a weak 2 bid, it gets more complicated.  Jenn and I, along with many pairs, use a convention sometimes called Leaping Michaels.  With a 2-suiter including the other major and a minor, we jump to 4 of the minor.  For example, if RHO opens 2H and I have 5 clubs and 5 spades I can jump to 4 clubs to show the 2-suiter.

So, having this agreement, what does a direct cue bid of 3 of their suit mean?  I confess that I had not discussed this with Jenn or any of my other partners.  Does it still show a 2-suiter, but perhaps weaker than a jump to 4 of a minor, or does it ask partner to bid 3NT with a stopper, just as if the opponents opened 1 of the major? 

I was playing on-line the other night.  RHO, non-vul vs vul, opened 2 Spades.  I held:

♠  K
♥  A8
♦  AKJT8753
♣  84

It looks like 3NT would have a good chance if partner had, say, Qxx of spades, as diamonds are likely to run.  If not, 5 Diamonds may be right if partner has something useful in hearts or clubs.  Since I was playing with a pick-up expert partner, I probably shouldn't have risked a 3 Spade cue bid, but I did, hoping partner would be familiar with Leaping Michaels and interpret this as asking for a spade stopper.  A more practical solution would be to just bid 5 Diamonds or 3NT and hope for the best. 

Unfortunately, LHO raised to 4 Spades and partner, holding

♠  A43
♥  K9764
♦  2
♣ QJT2

bid 5 Hearts, which went down.  5 Diamonds or 5 NT would have made, and we'd even have done well doubling 4 Spades, which would have gone for -500.  He expected me to have hearts.  I asked him if he played Leaping Michaels and he did, but he said, correctly, that to expect him to work out that this wasn't showing hearts put too great a strain on a casual partnersship.  If you were playing with your regular partner, would you have gotten this right?

Good luck!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Jennbridge: Round One Stories

The Experts, Bob and Jenn vs. Gary R. and Larry H., faced off in the first round of the afternoon STAC game today.  While the game was being organized, Gary and Bob shared hands from the Fall NABC in Orlando.  Gary gave us this play problem from a pair game.  He found himself in 7 notrump with these cards:

♠ KJxxx
♣ KQJ10xx

♠ Ax
♣ Ax

How would you play it after the jack of diamonds lead? (Answer below).

2. Bob followed it up with a hand that helped his team get to the finals of the North American Swiss.  At favorable vulnerability, what would you do with this hand after your partner opens 3H and your RHO jumps to 4S?

♠ Jx
♣ AKxxx

Answers below:


1.  There was general agreement that we would cash the top 3 diamonds (LHO started with 5), then the ace of hearts, then start running clubs.  Either LHO will be squeezed or there will be a double squeeze.  The ace of hearts is cashed before the clubs are run because 4 discards are needed on the clubs and the queen of hearts serves as a threat card (Vienna Coup). Quite possible that RHO will be squeezed in hearts and spades and be forced to unguard spades to hold the king of hearts.  If the heart king doesn't appear, the queen is discarded.

Then LHO will be squeezed in diamonds and spades.  Cute hand.  Gary made it for a great score.

2.  If you double 4 spades, you are minus 990.  If you bid 5 hearts and then double 5 spades, you are minus 850!  The only winning action is to push on to 6 hearts over 5 spades.  Both 5 hearts and 5 spades make.   Quite an interesting hand!  Bob bid 5S over 5H and scored up 850.
E-W Vul♠ —
J 10 9 x x x x
x x x
♣ Q x x
♠ K x x
Q x x
J 10 x x x
♣ x x
♠ A Q 10 x x x x x
A x

♣ J 10 x
♠ J x
A K Q x x
♣ A K x x x

See you at the table!