Sunday, December 20, 2020

Take Your Only Chance

 Here's an interesting slam I played with the robots the other night.

The bidding was unremarkable.  North bid 4, Gerber, after I opened 1 and then jumped to 2NT.  I responded 4, showing one ace, and North jumped to 6NT.

A spade was led and I counted my tricks.  With decent breaks plus a finesse, the slam should make.

Problems started developing, however, when the diamond suit didn't break.  Then the heart suit didn't break. All of  sudden the contract was in trouble.  

Having won 6 tricks (1 spade, 3 hearts and 2 diamonds) it was difficult to see a path to 12 tricks.  Studying the remaining cards, I saw a glimmer of hope.

If the KJ were on my right, I could take a double finesse to land the contract.  Slim chance, but the only chance. I had the entries I needed. (Be careful to save entries in case you need them.)

I led a club from North and inserted the 10 which held!  I returned to the board for a finesse of the Q--and--Success!

The score of plus 990 was worth 10.3 IMPs.  Out of 15 players, 7 bid the slam and only 3 made it.

Never give up on your contract if there is a possibility of making it!

See you at the table.

Monday, December 7, 2020

Grand Slam Trump Coup

I had a fun hand with the BBO robots the other night.  A grand slam with a dollop of extra drama--in order to bring it home I needed to execute a trump coup!

As often happens, it was the last board of an Instant IMP Tournament. I was lying second and figured that I could win with a big final board.

I knew there was a strong possibility of a high-scoring board when my robot partner opened 1 and I held a gorgeous 20-count.

I responded 1.  Partner bid a pedestrian 2.  Now what could/should I do?

I have found that straightforward bidding works best with the robots so I went directly to 4NT, RKC for diamonds.  This bid should elicit the information I need.

A rich 5 bid from North (two aces plus the Q) and it was Show Time.

I pondered my options.  The most obvious bid was 6NT.  I assumed (hoped!) that North had 6 diamonds and I could count 12 tricks. I scanned my hand and reviewed the info for the possibility of a 13th trick. I believed that a 6NT bid would be a small plus, not the big score I was seeking, as many would get there.  

What about 7NT?  What about 7?  I loved all of my aces and kings and eyed the 10 as a possible asset.  If I played in diamonds maybe I could ruff out a trick in one of the majors.  

With nothing to lose but 30 minutes and $1.25, I made my decision and jumped to 7!

The North hand was suitable, but let's look now at the play.

East led the 10 and I paused to count my tricks. An easy 13 tricks if diamonds break 3-2.

I won in the South hand and started on diamonds.  All followed to the K and when I led the 2, LHO played the 10 and, to my horror, East showed out!.  It appeared that West had a diamond trick...but wait...West's remaining diamonds are the J and the 8.  Hmm...maybe something can be done.

I next played the A, followed by the K and ruffed a heart in the North hand.  Now a club to my hand and another heart ruff.  As you can see, I am busy shortening the trumps in the North hand.

Here was the situation and I needed a bit of a miracle in spades.

I played the J and it was covered with the Q!  I won and played another spade honor, all following.  Finally, I played that serendipitous 10 and pitched the Q.  Now the only two cards in the North hand are the Q and 9 and I have to win both of them when I lead a black card from the board.  West's trump are couped and the supposed diamond winner disappears!

I knew that the score of plus 2140 for 7 making was huge, and in fact, it netted 13.9 IMPs for the win.  A few players bid and 6NT and won 3.7 IMPs.  No one else bid the grand.  There are not 13 tricks available in notrump.

Another .90 masterpoint gained as well as a good story!

See you at the table!

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Losing Trick Count in Slam Bidding

This is a tale of two slam hands.  One successful, one not.  They were played on the same day--one at matchpoints and one at IMPs.

This first one was at matchpoints.  After partner opened and we located our heart fit, I barreled into slam.  It was only after I went down, earning a score of 46%, that I took a closer look at the hand. 

As you can see, I have a 7-loser hand.  Unusual to have 19 points and 7 losers, but there you have it.  True, the honors held by the opponents could have been better positioned, but in actuality, we had no business being in slam.  I violated my own rules and pushed on without paying enough attention to Losing Trick Count. As partner had not shown more than a minimum 7-loser hand, I should have settled for game.

Next we have another instant tournament, this one at IMPs.

Here I have only 16 points, but hold a nice 5-loser hand.  When partner showed a limit raise or better in hearts with the cuebid, I bid RKC, checking on keycards. Even though partner denied an ace, I judged that slam was a good bet and bid it. As you can see, partner has quite a good hand and slam made easily.

The score of plus 1430 was worth 9.6 IMPs.  Approximately 1/3 of the field bid it.

Don't forget to pause in the bidding and count your losers.  It will usually guide you to the right contract!

Happy Thanksgiving! See you at the table.

Sunday, November 8, 2020

Execute this Endplay with Me

I played a hand this week which is a great example of an endplay if you need to brush up on your skills in this area.

Playing IMPs in an Instant Tournament, I opened 1NT with my balanced 16-count and West, LHO, overcalled 2, showing spades and a minor.  North now bid 3, showing at least 5 diamonds and a game-going hand.  I signed off in 3NT. West led the K and, surprisingly, East, RHO, showed out on the trick. Very interesting.  Now I know that West started with 6 clubs, and presumably, 5 spades.

Before I played to trick one, I counted my tricks and only came up with 8.  Where would I get the 9th? Although ordinarily I might duck the opening lead to try to induce West to continue clubs, which would give me an extra trick, that wouldn't happen now that East showed out of clubs.  So I won the A and started thinking.  Hoping that West might have a good holding in diamonds, I led a diamond to the 9, losing to the 10--no help in the diamond suit.  East returned the J which I won with the K.  Now it was time to run my four heart tricks to see what would happen.  Undoubtedly this would put pressure on West.

West discarded 2 clubs and 1 spade on the hearts.  I then cashed the A and West discarded another club.  Now the stage was set.  Do you see it? (Visualize the endgame before the spade trick.)

I should be able to throw West in with a spade for the endplay. I played a spade to the A and now exited with a spade to West.

Voila!  When West wins the spade, a second spade can be cashed, but now clubs have to be played--resulting in my getting a club trick.  The 9th trick and my contract!

Plus 600 was worth 11. 6 IMPs as only one other person made the contract.  

Two-suited overcalls by the opponents make counting easier in the play of the hand.  Work on your declarer play--that's where success lies in bridge!

See you at the table!

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Grand Slam Bidding Tactics

 It's always fun and exciting to bid (and make!) a grand slam.  Here are a couple that came up this week, playing with the BBO robots.

The first one is from a BBO Challenge that I issued to my friend Bob Klein. This is a fun feature I recently discovered.  You and the person you challenge play the same 8 boards at your own convenience. After they are concluded, BBO posts the scores, including the result on each board.  You have 2 or 3 days to respond to and finish the challenge. It's interesting tactically to compete against only one person.

When my robot partner, North, opened 1, I certainly envisioned slam with my 17 count, 5-loser hand. I started with a game-forcing 2, then North made an interesting 3 bid, described as a strong 5-5 or better hand. I now showed my spade support with 3♠, and North bid 4.  I elected to take control with 4NT, RKC, and was pleased with the 5 response which showed two controls (known to be aces) plus the trump queen.

With nothing to lose, I tried 5NT, inquiring about kings.  North responded 6, showing the K.  This was enough for me to jump to 7. Perhaps the diamonds would set up if I needed more tricks.

East led a diamond.  I discarded a heart from North on the A and paused to count my tricks. It looked like I would be able to pitch four hearts on the minor suit winners, barring any terrible breaks. I started with a spade to the A, followed by the Q, RHO showing out.

Now I unblocked the K and J from the North hand and came back to my hand with the ♠K, drawing the last trump. So far, so good.  Now I could throw the other three hearts on the ace and queen of clubs and the king of diamonds.  The score of 2210 felt very good.  I wondered whether Bob would get there.

The next day the scores came out and it was a push board.  We both bid the grand! The match was very close with mostly push boards, but I won a few IMPs on a part-score hand.

2. This next hand, from an instant IMP game, illustrates two bidding tactics:  a) how to attempt to recover after a misbid and b) how to bid when you are behind in the match.

As I sat there admiring my 24 point, 3-loser hand and thinking about how to proceed, I noticed that the bidding had started without me!  Apparently my finger slipped and I accidentally opened 1 (instead of 2)! Robot Partner bid 1 and now I was in a fix.  Could I recover, and if so, how? Perhaps a convoluted RKC auction, including king inquiries, would give me the information I needed. 

The factor that tipped the balance was the state of the match.  This was board 10 (of 12) and my score wasn't very good.  I needed a high-scoring board to finish in the money.  It was late and I didn't want to bother with a long auction, so I just jumped to 7 and hoped for the best!

East led a club and the whole hand depended on the spade finesse.  After drawing trump I led a spade to the queen and it held!  13 tricks was an easy matter, and the score of 2210 was worth 12 IMPs and catapulted me to third place.

Bridge can keep us entertained even when we're just sitting at home!

See you at the table!

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Losing Trick Count & Slam Bidding

 Although, technically speaking, we don't use Losing Trick Count until we find a trump fit with partner, I find myself automatically making note of the number of losers in my hand as a secondary evaluation tool when gauging the strength of my hand.  Here are a couple of examples from a recent game.

I started off this instant IMP game with a bang--bidding good-scoring slams on the first two boards.

I definitely had a powerhouse on the first board.  Only 18 points, but 4 losers.  I deemed it worth a 2C opener.  Robot partner bid 2D, waiting, and I bid 2S.  Partner now bid 3S.  This bid shows some values--more strength than jumping directly to 4S.  

With an expert partner, I might begin a cuebidding sequence, but with the robots, I just jumped to 4NT, RKC.  Partner bid an unexpected 5NT, showing an even number of keycards plus a void.  I signed off in 6S and got a friendly and surprising lead of the SK!

Studying the hands, I wasn't impressed with pard's 5NT bid, but it looked like I was in good shape, nevertheless. I won the SK as East played the S9. I pitched two diamonds on the Ace and King of hearts and started a cross-ruff.  

I ended up taking all of the tricks for the score of plus 1010.  8 out of 15 pairs bid the slam and I won 6.1 IMPs.

Board 2

I barely had time to catch a breath before the next powerhouse came onto my screen!

This time I opened 1H and some serious competitive bidding ensued.  LHO bid 2D and Robot partner bid 2S.  (Wow!)  RHO made a nuisance bid of 4D bid and I paused to analyze my hand.

I expect partner to have at least 5 spades and at least 10 points.  With my 5-loser hand and diamond void, I figured that slam should be a good bet.  Without any clearcut way to obtain more information, I simply jumped to 6S. 

East led a diamond, and again I started a cross-ruff. I ruffed all the diamonds in my hand and was pleased to see trumps break 2-2 and clubs break 3-2.  

I ended up taking all 13 tricks for a score of 1460.  As only 3 pairs out of 15 bid the slam (and also made 1460) I got a great score of 11.43 IMPs.

This set me on the winning path of 48+ IMPs for the 12-board session with no minus scores!

Don't forget to use Losing Trick Count as a most effective hand evaluation tool!

See you at the table!

Sunday, September 6, 2020

A Fun Counting Endplay

Keep practicing counting out the hands.  The effort will bring great results!

Here is a fun one I had today. I was playing an instant IMP tournament and was lying fourth in the field.  I clearly needed a big finish and this was the last board.

 My hand was the right strength for a balancing 2NT and my robot partner raised me to 3NT.

The diamond lead was friendly, but there was still work to do. On the run of the diamonds I pitched a trick in each suit.  I then put LHO in with a spade.  A second spade was cashed and I ducked it.  A club shift came next.  I inserted the jack and RHO won and shifted back to a spade, LHO showing out. 

NOW I HAVE A COUNT ON THE HAND. LHO started with 6 hearts, 3 diamonds, 2 spades, and therefore, only 2 clubs.  Let's see how I can use this information. These are the cards remaining.

Now that I know what LHO holds, I can make my contract.  What should I do next?

First, I must play a club to eliminate LHO's exit card.  I played a club to the ace and now I know that LHO has all hearts left. With this information I can simply play a heart to the 9.  LHO will win, but will then have to lead into my heart tenace (heart AQ),

This is exactly what transpired and the score of plus 600 was worth 10+ IMPs. This was the big finish I was looking for, and it catapulted me to the top of the field for a win!

See you at the table!

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Unusual Response to RKC

I had an interesting situation with the BBO robots recently when I bid RKC, Roman Keycard Blackwood.  Here is the hand.

After partner passed, RHO opened 1 and I made a takeout double. I was pleased and surprised to hear my robot partner jump to 3.  I wasted no time bidding RKC.  Partner responded 5, showing two keycards plus the Q.  

Now, as you can see, I actually held the Q.  What was going on?  I went ahead and bid 6♣, and then understood the bidding when the dummy came down.  With the great extra length in clubs, partner evaluated that it was equal to the possession of the Q.  This is an expert bid and I was pleased to see it utilized by the BBO robots.  

When partner bids RKC, Roman Keycard Blackwood, and you have extra length in the trump suit, so that you are relatively certain that the partnership holds at least 10 trumps, you can go ahead and show the queen of trump in your response. This information can be quite helpful for a partner contemplating bidding a slam, but concerned about losing a trick to the queen of trump.

The play was straightforward. The score of plus 920 was worth 94% of the matchpoints.

Here is another hand I played at matchpoints, where I had some difficult decisions to make. Although my robot partner was a passed hand, I thought I should try to get into the auction when RHO opened 2 and I held: K43, AQJ9, 5, A9865.  No good bid, but I tried a takeout double.  

Partner bid 2NT, Lebensohl, which requested a 3 bid from me. I figured that the robot would correct to 3, in all likelihood its suit, after my bid of 3♣, and that presented a dilemma. I would be happy to hear a heart bid, but a 3 bid would be disastrous.  With no good options I considered a pass. If partner had diamonds, 2NT could actually be the best spot.  Accordingly I passed.

I was quite pleased to see the Q in partner's hand. A spade was led and I took a heart finesse, hoping that if West won, a spade would be returned.  Instead a couple of diamonds were played and then a spade switch.  After all was said and done, the robots didn't manage to cash their diamond tricks and I actually took 9 tricks.

The score of  plus150 was worth 96.5% of the matchpoints.

As they say, "It's better to be lucky than good!"

See you at the table!

Saturday, August 8, 2020

More about BBO Robots

Jordan Chodorow, winner of the recent 3-day 2020 NABC Robot Individual, has created a YouTube video entitled "Win an ACBL Robot Daylong With Me".  He has some really good tips about playing with the robots.  Check it out.

While Jordan discusses playing matchpoints, I have been writing recently about playing IMPs, a totally different strategy.

Here is a recent hand where bidding and making a vulnerable game netted 9+ IMPs.  After my partner overcalled, and eyeing the vulnerability, I decided I needed to bid game.  Most players bid 2NT with my hand and played there.  Not a winning strategy, vulnerable at IMPs, where bidding and making game is richly rewarded.

I took four diamond tricks, three hearts and two clubs to make my contract. 

Next is a tricky play problem. As is often the case, paying attention to the bidding is key.

I got a heart lead from RHO, East, and, as I figured that LHO, West, (the non-preemptor) rated to hold the spade honors, played the 7 and let it ride.  It won, and I next played the 9, covered with the ♠Q and won with the ♠A, RHO following. I now know that LHO started with 4 spades and probably 3 diamonds.  Next I played on hearts and noted with interest when RHO showed out.  Now I have a count on the hand.

LHO, West, started with 4-5-3-1.  Let's see how to best use this info.

I decided to play my hearts and make a critical discard of a diamond from the North hand.  My plan was to go ahead and lose the two spades and 1 diamond.  I couldn't play on spades again without getting into trouble.  If LHO won the ♠K, he would play on diamonds and North would be forced to ruff.  This would leave West with the outstanding trump and I would go down.  A lot.

Instead, I pitched a diamond on a heart and started playing on clubs.  LHO could ruff in at any time, but when a diamond was returned, I would still be in control.

Plus 420 was worth 10.4 IMPs.  The contract of 4 (or 4) went down 14 out of 15 times.

See you at the table!

Friday, July 31, 2020

Robot Bridge on BBO

I found the BBO interview with the man who won the recent 2020 NABC Robot Individual quite interesting and have posted part of it below:

Jordan Chodorow is a bridge player, film critic, crossword champion, tax expert, lawyer,  and winner of the 2020 NABC Robot Individual tournament on BBO. Here’s how jcwla won the title – and some questions about where he finds time for all of it.
JC: I’ve entered all of them. To me, robot bridge is the purest, truest form of bridge. Don’t get me wrong; I love live bridge and other forms of bridge on BBO, but they contain a huge element of chance (whom you play which boards against, which system they’re using, how they choose to evaluate a hand, what mood they’re in…). And a club game? You’re a leaf in the wind.
AJC: Did you have a playing, preparation or practice routine for the Bot Individual?
JCAlmost every day, I play the five 12-board ACBL daylongs and the 18-board daylong. I won half a dozen of those in the week leading up to the NABC, so I was in good form. 
To that, I would only add that the top 40 finishers in this event hold a combined 38 NABC+ and 18 NABC titles, with many more among the remaining 3,202 players. That kind of competition is as serious as a heart attack.
After I read it, I contacted him and we had a brief correspondence regarding the topic of robot bridge. I told Jordan that I agreed with him and also enjoy playing with the robots.  I noted that I appreciate playing the relatively simple convention card used by the robots, and having the opportunity to use old-fashioned hand evaluation skills, such as Losing Trick Count, to get to the best contract. I also opined that I find it to be a luxury be able to take all the time I want to play a hand.  During the ordinary time limits and general chaos of a "live" bridge game, it's not unusual to miss the best play due to too-quick calculations and analyses.

I was also interested in his preparation routine for the tournament, and found it impressive.

That being said, here are a few hands from a "near-miss" win in a robot IMP game I played with 482 players.  As you can see, although I racked up 45.34 IMPs in 12 boards, I missed winning by less than 1/2 of an IMP!  As a confession, I had the win locked up, then got distracted by an incoming text, and pulled the wrong card on a hand I was playing.  This costly error lost a lot of IMPs, and I am chagrined to admit that one of the things I most emphasize with serious bridge students is:  STAY FOCUSED!

1. Although some slams were bid, this 3NT contract scored a hefty 9 IMPs.

I had a good auction with the robots and was able to get to the best contract of 3NT. I received a spade lead and got off to a good start by inserting the ♠10, won by the ♠A.  This gave me 2 spade tricks.

3 clubs, 3 diamonds, 1 heart and 2 spades led to a good score of plus 600. (An alternative line of play would be 4 clubs, 2 diamonds, 1 heart and 2 spades.)

About half of the field in my section got to the game, but only two pairs made it.

2. Another 9.8 IMPs beefed up the IMP total with this slam.

After I opened 1♠ and partner bid Drury, I looked at my 4-loser hand and wasted no time asking about keycards.  My hand was suitable for this inquiry and I was comfortable that my kings were protected from attack on the opening lead. The 5 response gave me the information I needed to bid the slam.

A club was led, and in the fullness of time, East made a fatal discard of a club which enabled me to score the slam rather easily.  Barring that, discarding a club on dummy's hearts, plus a winning guess in diamonds would bring it home.

Four pairs out of nine in my section bid the slam, and only two pairs made it for plus 1430.

3. And later, another slam.  Bidding and making slams is how you rack up big scores in these events!

I liked the bidding on this hand.  After North passed and I opened 1, North responded with 3, a "fit-jump", showing good heart support as well as diamonds.  As I had the K and another great 4-loser hand, I bid 4NT, asking for keycards.  The 5 response enabled me to bid the slam.

Again, I had a spade guess on the opening lead.  I finally decided that "no one" would underlead a king in this auction, so inserted the ♠10.  This eliminated my spade loser and the score of plus 980 topped the section and scored 7.6 IMPs.

Although 45 total IMPs and a virtual tie for the win was very good, I'll pay more attention next time to eliminate silly errors and try to get the outright win!

Let me hear from you. How do YOU like playing with the robots?

See you at the table!

Monday, July 20, 2020

New! "Bidding Secrets of the Experts" now available on Bridgebee!

My new advanced/intermediate lesson, "Bidding Secrets of the Experts" is now available on

It's a topic I have wanted to write about for a while.  Experts have many bids in their arsenal that are not taught in lessons, and are even difficult to find in books.  They are certainly outside the "four-corners" of the convention card.

It is not easy for intermediate, or even advanced students to learn these "secrets", but I was able to include many of them in this 10-lesson set.  Check it out!

See you at the table!

Friday, July 17, 2020

Squeezing out IMPs

I've been writing up a fun set of hands for BridgeBee entitled "Expert Bidding Secrets".  It will be available soon on their site.

Played an instant IMP game the other night and had this fun hand.

I opened 1 and got to declare 4♠  with a diamond lead. I drew trumps in two rounds and cleared diamonds ending on board.  How can I get 10 tricks?

I tried a low heart to the 9, trying to sneak through a trick.  East won the 10 and returned a heart which I won with the A.  I tried a club to the 10.  No luck.  East won the J and returned another heart to the J, K and I ruffed.

Now I think I have a count on the hand.  West started with 2 spades, 6 diamonds, probably no more than 3 hearts, and therefore 2 clubs.

Thinking about the cards that East has left, I think I see can see the light at the end of the tunnel. East should have Kxx and a heart left.  If I cash my two spades East will be squeezed!

Here is the ending:

I cash the A and East pitches a club.  On the 8 he pitches another club.  Now when I lead my 3 the ♣K is played, perforce, and I win the last two tricks with the A and Q.

(If East had discarded one club and a heart, then my last heart on the board would be good.)

Plus 620 was worth 10 IMPs, part of a 41 IMP total and an easy win.  Out of the 15 individuals in the game, only six bid game and only two made it.

It's why we play this game!

See you at the table!

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

A Wild Ride in an Instant IMP Game

I often play in ACBL instant games on BBO as they are quick and I like to see how my placement moves up and down throughout the 12 boards.  This game was wild as I made it to the top spot early, then plummeted to the bottom, will see.

I was in first place by board 3 as my robot opponents overbid and went down four in 4.

Then...disaster on board 5.

I jumped to 4 with the strong South hand and went down 3 for -300.  This was a loss of 12 IMPs and plunged me to the bottom of the pack.  I looked at how pairs got to the best spot of 4 and saw that at other tables, my hand made a jump rebid of 3.  I think my hand is far too strong for that, but when North then rebid 3, South had an easy 4 bid. With an expert partner I would rebid 3, a strong jump shift, but I was worried about doing that with the robots.

I started making a comeback with hands like these. Here are a couple of 3NT hands that won IMPs.

Plus 600 won 10.6 IMPs. As you can see, I only had to lose 3 spades and 1 heart.

Plus 430 won 6 IMPs on this board.

I regained first place with the penultimate board.

A tricky 4, but if you keep in mind that you have 3 trump tricks to lose, and so can lose no others, it gives you a guide to the play.  I ruffed 2 diamonds and was happy to see trumps break 3-2.

Plus 420 was worth 9 IMPs and I was back in first place for the final board.

The situation was simple.  If I got a good score, I would win.  If not, I wouldn't. The last hand was amazing.

With my 24-point monster, I was unsure what to rebid after I opened 2.  You can never be sure of bidding with the robots (unlike humans..ahem...), but at least you can click on all of the bids to see what they are supposed to mean.

At any rate, I rebid 3NT, and my robot partner transferred me to spades.

The J was led, covered with the Q and K and won by my ace. At first glance I could see there was plenty of work to do, but I had no idea what was in store for me.

I started with the A, followed by the 3 which West won with the K.  And then the sky fell...RHO showed out! Spades were not only 5-1, but West started with the KJ1092!

Before I could bemoan my fate, West returned a diamond which I won with the 10.  Was there any hope for this doomed contract?

I started thinking about all of the possibilities and realized that it was noteworthy that West hadn't cashed (or returned) a heart.  With nothing better to do, I cashed a high diamond, and...East showed out! 

Wow!  Now I have a count on the hand! (Pause here if you are practicing counting.)

West started with 5 spades, 4 diamonds, presumably only a singleton heart, so therefore, 3 clubs.  Maybe there is something I can do. Maybe I can score some of those spades with ruffs.

I cashed another high diamond and ruffed a diamond with the 6.Then came the K and A followed by a club ruff with the ♠7.  I now have 9 tricks and...drumroll please...the Q is my 10th trick!

Plus 620 was worth 8.8 IMPs.  One other person made 4 and a few made 3NT (the best contract).  All others went down. Looking back on the hand, the West hand, that held all of the good spades, couldn't use them as I went back and forth to the board cashing my minor suit winners and ruffing them.

Needless to say, I won the instant IMP game and retired with my hard-won .90 masterpoint.

See you at the table!

Thursday, July 2, 2020

New Bridge Teaching App

Have you heard about Baron Barclay's new bridge teaching app, bridgebee?

Here is how they describe it:

BridgeBee provides interactive, teacher-guided playable hands focusing on specific topics and strategies. This gives players a streamlined learning environment which allows them to strengthen their abilities in the most efficient and enjoyable way possible. Its modern design is easy to use for both players and content creators. Teachers who are already involved in creating lessons through BridgeBee include Robert Todd, Marti Ronemus, Jennifer Jones, and Patty Tucker.

I had fun writing a couple of lessons (which went live today) on Losing Trick Count. There are new lessons each week, and often an opportunity to play a hand before you buy the lesson.

Check it out!

See you at the table!

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

NABC Robot Individual Practice hands Day 2

The second practice day had its ups and downs.  The robots misdefended on a few boards and I received good scores.  On one hand they took the first 5 tricks in 3NT and I went down, whereas the contract was made at other tables.

Here are a couple of fun hands that contributed to my 62% score.

1.  On this hand, after two passes, East opened 2 and I was faced with a typical bidding dilemma:  Should I offer a meek pass or an aggressive overcall?  I opted for a 2NT overcall and my robot partner raised to 3NT.

A heart was led which I won in my hand with the J.  When West won the A a spade was then led which I won with the A. Now I can start counting my tricks.  2, 3, 2, and if the diamond finesse works, I will have 9 tricks.

The finesse worked, and I also got an extra club trick.  The 10 and 9 fell doubleton, making the 8 good on the board.

Plus 630 was worth 90% of the matchpoints.

2.  On this hand I had to decide what to open with my unbalanced 20-count.

I decided 2NT would be about right.  North bid 3, transfer, and I figured my hand was even more valuable in hearts, so I jumped to 4. The A was led and the dummy was--in a word--disappointing.

West shifted to a diamond won by East and a diamond was continued, which I ruffed.  I was pleased to see trumps break 2-2 and when West won the A he shifted to a club, which was quite helpful. The defense was friendly, but the hand can often be made as a spade can be ruffed on the board and a successful club finesse taken. Most other pairs played in 1, but a hand that opened 2 played 3.

I scored up my plus 420 for a 97% score.

I guess the moral of this story is Bid 'Em Up!

See you at the virtual table!

Monday, June 29, 2020

NABC Robot Individual Practice hands

I enjoyed playing in the free practice games over the weekend for the upcoming ACBL NABC Robot Individual July 11-13. Here are two hands from the first practice session where I scored 67%.  The robots helped me on some hands and aggrieved me on others.  Here are a couple of hands where I helped myself.  On both hands it was important to be alert and focused in order to make the right play.

1. First is a defensive hand where I had to be on my toes to beat the contract.

Despite my opening the bidding, the opponents got to 4 without any trouble. Partner led the 10, which I encouraged, and declarer won the Q. Declarer next led a trump to the Q and I won the A.  I returned the 9 which declarer won.  Now he cashed the K dropping partner's J.  That meant that my 10 was good, so I had another spade trick.

It looked like I also had a club winner and a diamond winner--which would be enough to beat the contact.

Now declarer played two rounds of hearts, ruffing the third round on the board.  Next came a club from the board.  This was the position when I won the J.

This was the moment to be extremely careful and think through the play. Pause and decide, dear reader...what should I play next?

If you're not alert, it may seem normal to play another club, forcing declarer to ruff.  But if you do that, look what happens.

Declarer will simply ruff, then throw you in with a trump, the 10, and you have no choice but to lead a diamond away from your K into the AQ tenace!  You would be well and truly endplayed and would hand declarer the contract!

No.  Instead, I looked ahead to see what was coming, and FIRST cashed my high trump before exiting with the K.  Now declarer is forced to take the losing diamond finesse and the contract goes down.

Beating 4 got an 84% board, whereas carelessly letting it make gets a 37% score or worse!

2. Next is a hand where I had to, first, get to the best contract, and then make it!

Jumping to 4 may be a little aggressive, but bidding and making tough contracts is how you get good scores!

I got the 9 lead and paused to consider the dummy.

The contract didn't look that great--with possible losers in each suit.  Plus, the ♣A needed to be on my left, etc.  But, back to the opening lead. Maybe it could be helpful.  What do I play from the dummy?

Actually, as often happens, the declarer's play to trick one is the key to the hand.

Question: What do I want to happen at trick one?  Answer: I really, really, REALLY want East to play the K which will set up the whole diamond suit and give me a chance of making the contract.  So, I played the Q at trick one.  East now made the ordinary and expected play of covering the Q with the K, which I won.

This was a good start as it gave me tricks as well as an entry to the board, should I need it.

During the play, I drew trump, lost the A and got to the board with a diamond to pitch a heart.  I only lost 1 spade, 1 heart and 1 club--so I made 4.  This was worth 87.5% of the matchpoints.  Only 4 of 13 pairs in my section bid game, and only two pairs made it.

At the end of the day I was in 78th place out of a whopping 2223 players.
On Day 2 my score was 62% and I ended up in 54th place overall, out of 1803 players.

The ACBL seems to be doing what it can to keep us entertained and winning points during these trying times. The prospect of winning a national event from the comfort of home certainly has its appeal!

See you at the virtual tables!

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Fun on BBO

By Bob Klein

Jenn and I were playing in Walter Schafer's IMP Pairs game on BBO.  The first three hands I picked up in this week's game were unbelievable.  The first two were 3-loser hands that were nearly identical, followed by a 4-loser beauty.  Here are the three hands.

Board 1

Board 2

Board 3
On Board 1, I was dealer and opened 2 Clubs,  LHO came in with 3 Diamonds.  This was passed back to me.  I bid 3 Spades.  Jenn now gave me a cue bid of 4 Diamonds, which showed a good hand with a spade fit.  I bid 4NT, RKC.  Jenn bid 5C to show one keycard, so I bid 6 Spades. 
I got a trump lead and looked at

KT43        AQJ96
K9852      A
  JT7           K9
5               AKJ72

The play was easy.  I won the lead, played ace of hearts, ace of clubs, ruffed a club,   pitched a diamond on the king of hearts, played a trump to hand, (they split 2-2)  played king of clubs, ruffed a club, all following, and claimed as the clubs were now set up.  As this was a strong field, most people got to the slam and we made a small IMP pickup.

On Board 2 I opened 2 Clubs in second seat.  Jenn bid 2 Hearts showing at least 5 hearts with 2 of the top 3 honors.  I bid 2 Spades, she bid 3 Diamonds, I bid 4 Clubs to show my second suit.  She gave a preference to 4 Spades.  I wasn't sure what to do, but with this great hand I just decided to jump to 6 Spades and hope for the best.  Once again I got a trump lead and looked at

K5                AQJ875
KQ954        void
K932            A9
85                AKJT6

Jenn had a great hand for me, covering two of my losers  with the spade and diamond kings.  There was nothing to the play.  I drew trump, got to dummy with the king of diamonds and played the clubs, giving them one.  We won a few more IMPs on this one, but still most of the field got to the slam.

On board 3, I got a spade opening on my right.   I considered bidding 3NT immediately, hoping for a spade lead and 9 easy tricks. I decided instead to start with 2 Diamonds instead and see what happens;  LHO raised to 2 Spades, passed back to me.  Now I bid 3NT expecting a spade lead.  LHO doubled.  Now I was uncomfortable.  He was an expert, presumably knew what I was doing, and was likely prepared to lead something else.  So I retreated to 4 Diamonds.  Good thing.  Jenn had the king of spades and nothing else, so 3NT would have gone down a lot. We won about 4 IMPs as there were people in 5 diamonds going down.                      

This is a fun game.  Some of the opponents are world champs and most of them are strong players.  I am happy that we get to play in it.  

Ditto Bob--Thanks!
And Congratulations to Bob for making Grand Life Master recently!

Monday, June 15, 2020

Accidental Genius

Bridge can be rewarding, frustrating and even quite amusing!  I have been playing a lot of IMP games with the BBO robots because I can fit in a quick 12-board match almost any time.  These matches are quick because you can frequently claim halfway through the hand. The robots know immediately whether your claim is valid.

Here are a couple of entertaining hands that both turned out to be matchwinners.  On the first one I made an unusual play which worked out great.  On the second hand a card turned out to be in the wrong defensive hand; but what initially looked like a disaster also turned a triumph.  I have decided that these two hands have earned me the title of Accidental Genius!

A normal auction and a normal 4lead.  For some reason I decided to win the J with the A.  Look what happened next.

I counted my tricks and things didn't look too bad, so I played on clubs to drive out the A.  A diamond was returned to the Q and then a funny thing happened.  East shifted to another suit! I happily took my 11 tricks and went on to the next board.  When the scores were posted at the end of the day, it turned that I had won 10.2 IMPs on this board.  I had to look at the hand to see what happened.

As you can see, my winning the opening lead with the A blocked the diamond suit!  Now West can't get in and cash the diamond tricks.  What a play!

2. In another BBO IMP match, on a different day, I found myself in what appeared to be a hopeless contract, with some "creative" bidding by my robot partner.

Check out the N-S hands and the bidding.

Strange bidding, to say the least.  I guess I need to exercise restraint with my lead directing doubles.  After the 3 bid by North, I had nowhere to go, so I tried 3NT. So here I am in a seemingly impossible game. The declarer was technically North, but the humans always play the hand.  East led a club and I won the K with the A.  

I expect East to have spades and a minor after the delayed Michael's bid.  Even if I can manage 5 heart tricks (unlikely) I can only count 8 tricks.  Well let's see what happens.

I decided to lead a spade from the board.  When East played low, I figured that West must have a spade honor so I went up with the A which dropped the J. Now I played a heart to the 9, in a desperate effort to win some heart tricks.  Much to my horror, East won the Q!

Now, East got busy cashing tricks.  First came the king and queen of spades which gave me a spade trick.  Next came the Q which gave me a club trick.  I love these tricks are being set up like magic.

Finally East exited with a club which I won in dummy with the J, pitching a diamond from my hand.  Let's cash the K, get to hand with the A and claim! Nine tricks (2 spades, 4 hearts, 1diamond and 2 clubs) plus 600, netted 12.2 IMPs and was another unlikely matchwinner.

Here the accidental genius was losing a trick to the singleton Q! (It was actually quite an effective avoidance play, as bad things happen if West gets the lead and plays clubs.) Then, amazingly, East robotically(!) cashed winners, until finally, Voila! The contract came home!

As I said, bridge can be quite amusing.

See you at the virtual tables!