Wednesday, April 29, 2020

This hand has everything!

Here's a fun hand I held the other day in a pair game on BBO. 

I sat East and the first task was to get to the right contract. After South (LHO) opened 1, I was too strong to bid 1NT in the balancing seat, so I doubled.  South now bid 2 and partner helped me out by bidding 3.  This bid showed some values which was just what I needed to bid 3NT!

The ♠K was led and the dummy was satisfactory.  This type of hand is always fun to play because you know where all of the values are located and can usually execute at least one endplay.

The first order of business was to duck the K.  South switched to the A, followed by another heart which I won with the K, perforce.  If clubs break I have lots of tricks, but it is not something to count on.  A club to my K, followed by the Q revealed the 4-1 break in clubs. South pitched a spade. OK...the next order of business is to get a count on this hand.

I led the 10 which won and North followed.  Perfect.  Now I know that South's distribution is 5-4-3-1. This will help in the play of the hand.  I exited with the J and South was endplayed for the first time, winning the Q. She shifted to a diamond which I won with the 9.

Now a club to the ♣A puts fatal pressure on South.  If she pitches a spade, I can throw her in with a spade by playing the A followed by the J.  She then has to lead diamonds again--giving me my 9th trick.

If, on the other hand, she discards a diamond on the ♣A (which she did), then I can simply play the A, dropping her K, and the Q is my 9th trick.

Tiptoeing through the bidding, then executing an endplay, a squeeze, and possibly a second endplay is why we play this game!

Plus 400 was a 100% board.

See you at the virtual table.

Monday, April 20, 2020

Jump Rebids by Opener after a 2/1 Bid

Here are a couple more slams that I enjoyed bidding recently. Lots of slams on BBO!

After I open 1 and my robot partner bids a game-forcing 2, note my jump to 3.  It shows a good hand and sets trump. The bid shows a long suit with no more than one loser. Playing with a good partner I would expect some cue-bidding to ensue, especially given that partner has a hand with prime controls and spade support.  

My robot partner merely raised to game, however, and it was up to me to bid RKC and hope for the best.  Once I learned that there were two aces, the slam was easy to bid.

Surprisingly, plus 980 for 6 was worth about 80% of the matchpoints!

This next one is a beauty and this time it was my partner's turn to make a jump rebid setting trump after I made a 2/1 bid.  Partner, Bruce Blakely opened 1, I bid 2 and he jumped to 3, setting trump.  This was rather astonishing as I had 4 key cards.

I duly bid 4NT and he responded 5, showing one key card, the A. I now bid 5, verifying that he had the Q.  He responded 6, confirming that he had the Q and additionally, the K.  This was enough for me and I jumped to 7!

There was nothing to the play as 13 tricks were there for the taking--even at notrump.

Plus 1510 was worth 88.5% of the matchpoints.

See you at the (virtual) table!

Friday, April 17, 2020

Slamming on BBO: IMP pairs

I find it rather amusing to play with the robots -- a quick way to knock off a few hands in the evening. Now there are several robot tournaments on BBO which are entertaining.  There is a "robot rebate" tourney that costs $1 to enter.  If you score 55% or higher your return is $1.50. There are also IMP pairs with robots.  This next hand is the first board of an IMP pair with robots tournament. 

As I was admiring this 5-loser beauty, my robot partner opened 1! Very promising, indeed. I bid 1 and pard rebid 2.  I needed to find a forcing bid while I elicited information.  I tried 2 and partner raised to 3. Doesn't sound like much of a spade fit.  I tried 4 and pard bid 4.  Wanting to go to slam with no idea of the correct strain, I gave up on science and jumped to 6NT.  At least my K wouldn't be picked off on the opening lead. 

I got a club lead and was immediately glad that I didn't insist on spades.

Before I had time to count my tricks and figure out the best line of play, RHO, after winning the  A, shifted to the Q!  My let me count my tricks.

Two hearts are discarded on the first two club tricks which makes everything else good!  12 tricks--COUNT 'EM: 1 spade, 3 hearts, 7 diamonds and 1 club.  In retrospect, during the bidding I reasoned that there had to be a slam--I just didn't know in what strain.  The expected club lead gave me the 12th trick.  6 is best and 6 has chances.  Lucky that the Q was in the pocket.

The score of 11.75 IMPs turned out to be the highest score (one pair bid 6) and a good start to the IMP pair tourney.

Next I will present the sad tale of the slam that wasn't bid!  The robots bid and play better than they used to, but...they will probably never have great hand evaluation or imagination!

You can see the bidding and the pedestrian final bid by North.  Really...only 4...with a 4 loser hand?!

Thinking through possible bidding sequences, I telephoned one of my partners. My partners like to play 2-way new minor forcing.  Using that, North can bid 2 over 1NT, seeking information.  The bid is game forcing and may permit the necessary exploration. We discussed that.

Partner's first impulse was to bid 2, a strong jump shift!  We hammered out an auction that would get us to slam. This may be the best:  1 P 2 P; 2N P 3 P; 4 P 5 by partner.  5 would be the magic bid that would ask partner whether she had two quick losers in the unbid suit --in this case, clubs.  With two quick losers in clubs, I would simply pass 5.  With my holding I would get to slam. (Some pairs would bid 6, showing the club ace.)

Apparently very few pairs got to slam as my score was .68 IMP on the board.

Would you and your partner be able to bid these cards to slam?

See you at the (virtual) table!

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Slamming on BBO: Matchpoints

It is often difficult, if not impossible, to elicit all of the information you would like before you bid a slam.  Should that prevent you from bidding it?

I will present, in this post and the next, several slams that my partners and I have bid recently on BBO ( in which we simply made an educated guess that the slam was likely to make, and bid accordingly.  Some of the factors used include calculating the odds and using the important hand evaluation tool of Losing Trick Count.

Here's another factor that I often use: "What is the state of our game?" If we are playing pairs and have a lackluster 50% game going, I usually decide that there is nothing to lose by taking a risk.  If it pays off, we could be in the money; if not, we're not much worse off than before. Interestingly, most of the games on BBO use barometer scoring, so you know exactly what your score is as the game progresses.

On this board my partner, Bob Klein, opened 2 with his powerhouse and I responded with 2, waiting.  He rebid 3 and it was up to me.  I don't have an easy bid.  I can't bid 3 as that would be a "double negative" signifying nothing (no values). My hand actually had some value, however, with the ace and king of diamonds, J43 of clubs and a possible ruffing value.  So I raised to 4.  Partner wasted no time jumping to 6.

He won the spade lead and ducked a spade, preparing to ruff spades.  The opponents shifted to clubs, but he was in control.  He had the timing to discard two hearts on the Ace and King of diamonds and ruff two spades.  Plus 920 was worth 98.65% of the matchpoints in a game with hundreds of pairs.

Next up is a hand I played with Bruce Blakely where we had some significant interference in the bidding.  I dealt and opened 1.                                                     

Next hand bid 2NT, unusual for the minors.  These bids are often effective as they take up a lot of bidding space and may test your response agreements with your partner.

Partner bid 3, next hand bid 4, and it was back to me.  I pondered my hand and the bidding.  My hand was very strong--containing 5 losers at most--fewer if you upgrade for three aces, a solid suit and two 10's.  My hearts were good and were situated in the right position.  If hearts broke badly, as was likely, they could be picked up with my holding as dummy.

I next considered partner's 3 bid.  He could have shown a stronger hand with hearts by bidding 3♣, as we were playing unusual/unusual.* So partner had hearts, but not a game-forcing hand.  He had at least 5 hearts, and quite possibly more.

I decided to explore for slam by bidding 4NT, RKC.  He responded 5, showing one key card, which I assumed was the K. I next bid 5, asking for the Q. He bid 5, denying the queen.  I still had a hunch that his hearts, combined with mine, would be good enough to pick up the suit for no losers, so I went for it...6 HEARTS!

He won the club lead with the A and led a heart to the K, all following.  Now he was able to breathe a sigh of relief as twelve tricks are in sight. A heart to the A draws trumps and he pitches his two clubs on the spades.  Spades break 5-2, but the bad break doesn't matter as he is able to give up a diamond and ruff his remaining two diamonds.

Plus 1430, 6 making, was another great score--a 96% board in a game with hundreds of pairs.. answer my initial rhetorical question: Don't be afraid to bid a slam you are pretty sure will make.  It can be fun and exciting--as well as give you some terrific scores and great bridge stories!

*Verify the version of unusual/unusual you and your partner are playing.

See you at the (virtual) table!

Friday, April 10, 2020

Uppercut with the three

Compliments of one of my partners, Allan DeSerpa. Thanks Allan!

See you online!

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Balancing in a Barometer Battle

We have been enjoying playing knockout matches with barometer scoring on BBO.  Instead of the typical situation of wondering and worrying about the state of the match, barometer scoring lets all participants see a running tally and the current score of the match after each board is played.

When you set up a team game on BBO, the barometer feature is already "checked".  To play without barometer scoring you have to "uncheck" the box.

We played a nail-biter of a knockout match last night--which wasn't decided until the last board. Bob and I finished our boards early and were a bit disheartened as our team was down 10 IMPs with 4 boards to play, and we really didn't see how they would be picked up.

I will keep you in suspense for a moment as I turn to the topic du jour. Looking over the boards today, I noted that one theme that emerged last night was BALANCING. It helped us pick up a couple of good scores, and factored significantly in the last board! I have come to believe that balancing is just as important at team games as it is at pair games.

*(An explanation for newer players: You do not want to sell out to a low-level contract, but want to find a way to get into the auction to push the opponents higher. So you often have to balance in order to push them higher.)

Here is an example from early in the match which led to a good result.


RHO opened 1, I passed and LHO bid 2.  After two passes it was my bid.  While I wasn't strong enough for an initial takeout double, the opponents' bidding is not strong and my partner rates to have some values.  Unwilling to let them play 2, I doubled.  Partner bid 3 and was able to play there.



As you can see, he had a good hand, and we actually have the majority of the points.  He had no trouble scoring up plus 130 and I was surprised to win 6 IMPs as our teammates were allowed to play 2, scoring plus 110.  6 IMPs is a good score on a rather nondescript hand--and quite important in a tight match!

The 24 board match was lively as several slams were bid. Our team led most of the way, but we were 10 IMPs behind, with 4 boards to play, when our table finished. Then, something good happened. Our opponents at the other table got too high and ended in 4x down 3 for minus 500, on a hand where I was down 1 in 3♠, for a 10 IMP gain. The match was tied.  On the penultimate board the opponents made an extra trick on a hand and surged back ahead by 1 IMP.  That was the situation, down by 1 IMP, as the last board came up, and once again, balancing was involved.

This was my hand, shown as North in the diagram below.


West, opened 1, I passed as North, East, bid 1 and West bid 2.  Now this time I'm not in the "balancing seat" (typically 4th seat), but I know that partner doesn't have much and probably won't be able to balance. I also have a decent hand with short spades and would love to show my values. I therefore made the "pre-balancing" bid of Double which asks partner to bid a suit.  As the opponents were playing Precision, I knew that West, the opening bidder, did not have a really strong hand. I just hoped that East didn't have a big hand either and that I hadn't stepped into trouble.  In fact, East passed and partner bid 3.  The bidding proceeded pass, pass and East then bid 3. So, we pushed them to the 3 level--let's see if that was worthwhile.

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

 ♠ Q 7 62
  J 2
   J 10 9 7
 ♣ A 10 2
                      ♠ 9 4 3
                      ♥ 8 6 5 3
                      ♦  A 6 4
                      ♣ Q 6 4 

Partner, South, led a heart. I won and shifted to the K.  Then a diamond to partner's ace who shifted back to a heart. In the course of time, declarer couldn't manage 9 tricks and went down 1. That didn't seem significant at the time we played the board, but, as it turns out, our teammates were permitted to play 2 and made it! That resulted in a gain of 5 IMPs.  So, after a competitive match of 24 boards, we eked out a 4 IMP win. If we had made it easy on our opponents and let them play 2, we would have lost the match by 1.

The opposing team has demanded a rematch and that will take place in due course...:-)

So today's message is: Be Brave in these Balancing Battles!

See you at the (virtual) table!

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Online bridge!

How is YOUR online bridge coming along? Don't be left's fun and "everyone is doing it"! We bridge players are kinda lucky as we can continue to engage in one of our favorite pastimes during this difficult period of time.

Here are some of the things I am doing:
  • I am enjoying playing in the ACBL "Support Your Clubs" games at at 2:00 or 4:30 PDT. (The morning game is too early.)  I enjoy the two-hour matchpoint games from the comfort of my home. Plus it's not too difficult to win a master point (or a few).
  • is full day and night, it seems, with tournament games all day, including speedball games, kibitzing of high-level matches, playing with robots--individually or with friends, and much more. 
  • Helping some of my social bridge and rubber bridge friends sign up and learn to set up tables so that they can continue to play during this period while we are at home.
  • Learning to set up team games.  Tonight my Santa Rosa "Jenn" team will play a knockout match against another Santa Rosa team.  If this goes well, I plan to set up a Sonoma County vs. Marin County match! Contact me if you want to schedule a match.
  • has some knockouts going and I am a member of a team which is participating.

Stay well. See you online!
BBO user name:  Jenn