Saturday, December 21, 2019

When Stuck, Make the "Least Bad" Bid + A Nondescript 9 Pt. Hand has Exciting Elements

It often happens that you don't have a good bid available; nothing describes your hand accurately. You are either too strong or too weak, or don't have the right distribution, etc., etc. In that case you may be forced to choose the best of several bad options.  Here is an example:

I held this hand recently in a club pair game.

                        ♠ 2
                        ♥ A J 10 3
                        ♦ K 10 5 4 2
                        ♣ J 3 2 

LHO dealt and passed and partner opened 1. RHO passed and I bid 1NT, forcing.  Partner rebid 2 and it was back to me. I couldn't think of a good bid. All bids were flawed.  A pass of 2 was both conservative and may be a poor fit, as partner may not have many clubs.  2 or 2 might be good places to play, but not worth committing to.  With no good bids, I thought about 2NT.  I would prefer to have a little more strength, but the distribution was good.  Also, I thought, 2NT was unlikely to be a worse score than any of the other possible misfits.  So, I trotted out 2NT--the "least bad bid".

Partner raised to 3NT and I awaited my fate. Sitting North, I received a spade lead and paused to count my tricks and study the hand.

                        ♠ 2
                        ♥ A J 10 3
                        ♦ K 10 5 4 2
                        ♣ J 3 2         
♠ 8 6
K Q 8 4
J 9 7 6       
K 5 4

 ♠ Q 10 9 7 4
  7 5
   A 8 3
 ♣ 9 8 6
                       ♠ A K J 5 3
                       ♥ 9 6 2
                       ♣ A Q 10 7

Hard to tell what would happen as each suit had problems as well as possibilities.  I won the A and played the 9.  West played an honor and I paused again.  She probably had both honors, and as transportation was a problem I decided to play low.  Furthermore, she was more or less endplayed as any thing she did at this point was likely to help my cause.  In fact, she returned a diamond which I ducked to East's ace. East returned a diamond and I won the J with my K. and now I had two diamond tricks and the contract was starting to look promising. 

It was time for the club finesse and I led the J from my hand.  West won and returned a diamond which I won with the 10. Now I should have plenty of tricks:  At least 2 hearts after a finesse (assuming both heart honors are onside), 2 diamonds, 3 clubs and 2 spades.  And HELLO--a bonus trick as West is squeezed on the 4th club fro dummy and needs to discard a heart in order to retain her winning diamond. 

The final tally was 2 spades, 3 hearts, 2 diamonds and 3 clubs for 10 tricks (430) and a top. One other pair played in 3NT and made 3.  The most common contract was 2 or 3.

It never fails to amaze me that a nondescript nine point hand, when looked into deeply, can yield up so many fascinating elements:  an impossible bid, an endplay at trick two and even a squeeze at the end! And let's not forget another reason we like bridge--sometimes we get to be courageous, creative  and lucky!

See you at the table!

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Use Losing Trick Count for Accurate Hand Evaluation

I often run across hands where there is a total failure to use the simple hand evaluation tool of Losing Trick Count.  Here are two hands I played recently where the use of LTC gets you to the right contract, yet it was not used. One of these hands was even held by a flight A player who generally uses LTC.

1.  I played this hand in Terra Linda recently as East.

Dlr: N Vul: NS

                        ♠ A J 10 8 6
                        ♥ A J 8 2
                        ♦ K 6 3
                        ♣ 6          
♠ 4 3
K 6 5
9 4 2       
Q J 10 5 3

 ♠ Q 7
  Q 9 7 4 3
   J 10 8
 ♣ A K 9
                       ♠ K 9 5 2
                       ♥ 10 
                       ♦ A Q 7 5
                       ♣ 8 7 4 2

North opened 1 and I overcalled 2 with a less than optimum hand.  South bid 2 and pard bid 3.  Amazingly, everyone passed and I played in 3.  Down 4, minus 200 was, not surprisingly, an 85% board as NS can make a slam in spades!  What happened?

The answer is that South under-valued his hand and failed to make a limit raise.  He actually has a 7-loser hand, so could even consider forcing to game! Whether or not he forces to game, he should start with a bid of 3, showing a limit raise or better in spades. Admittedly, slam is not a good bet, as it depends on not losing a spade trick, but game should be easy to reach.

It is also possible that there was no competitive bidding at most tables, but that shouldn't be a reason for South to fail to use LTC and be very competitive with this hand.

2. I held this hand recently as North. After two passes I opened 1.  Pard bid 2 and that was the final contract.

Dlr: S Vul: None

                         A K Q 8 5
                        ♥ 5 3
                        ♦ 9 5
                        ♣ K 10 3 2         
♠ 9 6 2
A 10 9 8 4
J 5 2       
A 6

 ♠ J 3
  K Q 7 6 2
   K 10 4 3
 ♣  5 4
                       ♠ 10 7 4
                       ♦ A 8 7 6
                       ♣ Q J 9 8 7

A club was led and I made 5.  It always makes 4.  After the hand I asked my partner why, with 8 losers, he didn't bid 2, Drury, showing a limit raise. He admitted that he should have. Interestingly, most pairs didn't properly evaluate their hands and failed to reach game so our score was about average.  It was definitely a lost opportunity, however.

Stay alert (as I tell my bridge students) and don't forget to use LTC for accurate hand evaluation!

See you at the table!