Thursday, October 25, 2012

Jennbridge: Defending against 3NT

The defense of a bridge hand has been called the "Achilles heel" of all bridge players.  I agree.  I find it easier to defend the contract of 3NT rather than a suit contract, however, as partner's hand is so well-defined.

Here's a hand from a pair game at a recent regional.  With none vul., partner passed, RHO opened 1NT and I held:

♠ Q105

While I could have made a bid showing hearts and a minor, I elected to pass and LHO bid 3NT.  I led the fourth best 5, and saw this dummy:

♠ 984

                         ♠ Q105
                         ♥ AQ852 
                         ♦ 10

The jack won the trick as partner followed with the 7 and declarer played the 6.  I paused before moving on to the next trick, as is my habit, as this is the best time to study the hand.  This is the time to count the points to determine the number of points partner is likely to hold.  It is important to do it at the beginning of the hand, because as the hand progresses there are new problems and issues to focus on which may make it difficult to reconstruct the initial hands.

So, the opponents hold between 24 and 26 points and I hold 12.  That means my partner holds 2-4 points.  With this in mind I proceed with the defense.

Declarer plays 3 rounds of diamonds ending in her hand with the ace and then leads a club toward dummy.  What do you do?


At the table I grabbed the ♣K and led a spade, convinced that partner held either the ace or king of spades.  Partner obliged by winning the ace and returning a heart, enabling me to cash out the heart suit for a two-trick set and 32 out of 38 matchpoints. (9 pairs made 3NT, 13 pairs were down 1 and 8 pairs were down 2.)  Here is the whole hand--I was East:

All Western Open Pairs, Afternoon Session 1 of 4

Board 8
West Deals
None Vul
K J 7
K 10 6
A 9 8 5
A 7 4
A 6 3 2
9 7
7 6 3
10 6 5 3


Q 10 5
A Q 8 5 2
K J 9 8

9 8 4
J 4 3
K Q J 4 2
Q 2
NS 2N; EW 3♣; N 2; EW 1♠; EW 1; S 1; Par −100: N 3×−1; NS 3N×−1

Some pointers for defending notrump contracts:
  • First, it's usually right to lead from length. 
  • Second, it's vital to determine partner's strength--this should be done at trick one.
  • Third, absent a signal from partner, an educated guess needs to be made about the location of partner's values.  In this case it was apparent that partner had nothing in hearts or diamonds.  The way declarer played the hand caused me to conclude that partner's values were probably in spades.  Therefore a spade play from my side rated to be safe.
  • Fourth, stay alert and don't let declarer steal a trick.  As you can see, if I duck the ♣K, declarer can score 8 tricks and and get a much better score.  (Or consider this horror if partner and I are both asleep...I duck the ♣K and partner then ducks the ♠A, handing declarer the contract!)
 Go Giants!  See you at the table!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Jennbridge: Losing Trick Count--October Update

Here's the latest news on Losing Trick Count. If you're attending the Fall NABC in San Francisco you are welcome to attend a free presentation on Losing Trick Count which I'll be giving with Gene Simpson on Wed., Nov. 28 at 9: 15 a.m.  I've prepared a 2-page handout and am looking forward to it.
  • In the works is a project to have LTC Vol. II translated into Japanese! 
  • Baron Barclay is now selling LTC Vol. I and Vol. II.
 Here are some recent comments from readers:
  • Ruth in Ontario and Maureen in St. Louis both write:  Please send me Vol. II.  I enjoyed your first volume very much. 
  •  From Vickie in Oregon:  I have benefited from the ideas in Vol. I.  Thanks for putting this in a booklet form--great information.  Please send a copy of Losing Trick Count, Vol. II.

Andres from Canada writes:  What is the difference between LTC Vol. I and Vol. I?

In response I sent him the following:  Losing Trick Count Vol. I explains how to count losers, when to count losers and why to count losers and also includes an "optional refinement" section on incorporating losing trick count with elements of Bergen raises.  The second part of the booklet presents actual hands played at both matchpoints and team play which illustrate the principles.

This booklet explains the basics of LTC and includes actual hands played at all levels of competition from the local duplicate to the World Mixed Pairs. Using only these basics will greatly fine-tune your bidding and hand evaluation. 

Losing Trick Count, Vol. II contains the six Bridge Bulletin articles *expanded* along with New Topics and More Great Hands. New topics include additional ways to use Losing Trick Count:
  •   LTC Bidding Chart
  •   LTC in opening 1NT
  •   LTC in opening 2 Clubs
  •   LTC & Reverse Drury
  •   LTC & Inverted Minors
  •   Preemptive Gerber
  •   New hands using LTC in notrump auctions
  •   A Note on Cover Cards
  •   Adjustments to LTC
  •   Why Deduct the Losers from 24?
  •   Using LTC with Bergen Raises
  •   New Great & Fun Hands

I'll close with an anecdote.  In a recent team game my partner overcalled 1♠.  Both opponents were bidding and I made a cuebid showing a limit raise in spades--an 8-loser hand.  Partner stopped short of game and we lost 10 IMPs as our counterparts bid it.

It wasn't until the next day that he made a confession:  He actually had a 6-loser hand, but he "didn't like it" so he didn't bid game when I invited!  Luckily there is a happy ending.  We won the event despite this hand and he vowed that henceforth he would faithfully follow Losing Trick Count principles--a method that has been proven time and again to be effective.

See you at the table!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Jennbridge: A Fine Sectional

The weather is usually lovely in Santa Rosa and this past weekend was no exception.  Our unit produces a sumptuous display of food, and the repast, combined with gracious hospitality, makes the sectional a popular event.  Even the timing was right, as we were able to finish in time to watch the Giants' playoff games!

Larry Hansen and I won the two-session pair game on Saturday and here's one of my favorite hands.

Bd. 31, 1st session. Vul. vs. not vul., partner, South, dealt and opened 1 and I responded 1♠ with this hand:

Q 9 8 7 3 2
5 4 3 2
J 3

The next hand doubled, partner rebid 2♣ and it was back to me. My hand was weak, but my 6-card spade suit had some texture, so I bid 2♠ which ended the auction.

The A was led and it was apparent that I had some work to do.

♠ A
♣ AJ1082

♠ Q98732
♣ Q

LHO continued with the K and when she then produced the Q, I had to decide what to do. I elected to ruff it with the A and start on clubs.  I led the A and then played the J, pitching my last heart.  My plan was to pitch a diamond on the 10 if necessary.

After LHO won the club, she made an unusual play:  she cashed the K before continuing with the J. (Diamonds were discarded from the board on these two tricks while RHO played the 10.)

I ruffed the heart and paused.  It was time to assemble the clues in an effort to solve the mystery. I decided that the play of the K, followed by another heart was revealing and probably indicated that she started with the singleton K.  I then looked at my spade spots and, rather than cashing the Q, considered whether an endplay might be available on RHO--who presumably held the rest of the spades.

If my deduction was correct, then RHO now held the J10xx of spades and proper timing of the play might enable me to pick them up for only 1 loser.  These cards remained:


♠ Q987

I first had to guess whether to take the diamond finesse or attempt to pitch a diamond on the 10.  RHO's carding throughout the hand led me to believe he held another club, so I led a diamond to the ace and when I played the 10, RHO followed as I pitched my losing diamond.  So far, so good.  Now RHO should be down to all spades, so no matter what I led off the board, he would have to play a spade.  I played a diamond, and he in fact played a low spade which I won.  

Now there was trump parity, and my Q98 was sitting behind RHO's J106. To complete the impending endplay I exited with the ♠8 which he won and was forced to lead a spade back to my Q9 tenace.  "Nicely done", he said.

A lot of work for plus 110, but that is why we play this game.  We received the decent score of 11.5 out of 17 and a good story as a bonus!

Here is the whole hand:

Stratified Open Pairs, Morning Session 1 of 2

Board 31
South Deals
N-S Vul
Q 9 8 7 3 2
5 4 3 2
J 3
J 10 6 5 4
9 7 6
10 9
7 6 3


K 7 5 4
K 9 5 4

10 8
A Q 8 6 2
A J 10 8 2
NS 2♠; NS 3; NS 1N; NS 2♣; NS 1; Par +110

If you have any good hands or stories from the tourney, feel free to send them to me.

See you at the table!