Friday, 27 September 2013
As before, let's suppose that when declarer leads from his Axxx, the next hand plays the king from K10 with probability p, similarly from Q10; he plays the 10 from 107 or 106 with probability q, and the king from KQ with probability half.
The critical holdings for second hand are KQ, K10, Q10, 107, 106, and 1076.
Declarer's options are:
a) LHO plays the king or queen. (a0) declarer tries to pin the ten: for every six times there's a critical layout this succeeds 2p times. (a1) declarer tries to drop the other top honour: this succeeds 1 time.
b) LHO plays the ten, and the jack loses to the queen or king. (b0) declarer finesses against the remaining honour: this succeeds 2q times. (b1) declarer tries to drop the other honour: this succeeds 2(1-p) times.
c) LHO plays low, and the nine loses to the queen or king. (c0) declarer tries to pin the ten: this succeeds 2(1-q) times. (c1) declarer tries to drop the other honour: this succeeds 1 time.
So the combined successes per six critical layouts are:
a0b0c0: 2 + 2p
a0b0c1: 1 + 2p + 2q
a0b1c0: 4 - 2q
a1b0c1: 2 + 2q
a1b1c0: 5 - 2p - 2q
a1b1c1: 4 - 2p
If the defender adopts p = q = 0.5, each of these combinations succeeds three times. If he adopts some other strategy, declarer can do better than that by making the appropriate choice. If the declarer wants to save his energies for something other than divining the defender's habits, he can lock in three chances of success by adopting a0b1c1 or a1b0c0.
In my previous post, with the defence holding the eight, I recommended rising with K10 or Q10 at least half the time. Since the defender cannot tell whether declarer has the eight, he should in practice rise exactly half the time.
How do you make this sort of choice? It's easy to come up with ways to do it: my method is to look at the sum of dummy's spot cards in the suit and the board number; I rise if the sum is even. But now I've told you all, I'll have to change it to something else.
Monday, 23 September 2013
The technician will advise you to take an intrafinesse by leading towards dummy's jack. If LHO has K10 he will win the trick with the king, and you can subsequently run the jack, pinning his ten. Similarly if he has Q10. Or if he has 108, you can cover his eight (or ten) and subsequently pin his ten (or eight). (There is no winning line if he has 106, this is different from a combination where declarer or dummy has the eight.)
However, against expert opponents life is harder. They may play the ten from K10 or Q10 or 108 or 1086. and they may play the eight from 108 or 1086. So what is the correct combination of plays?
I'll attempt a game-theoretic analysis. Assuming that declarer starts with a low card towards the jack, there are five, equally likely, holdings for LHO where a successful play is available but might not be found - the four I listed above, plus KQ. Let's suppose that the defender follows a mixed strategy: he plays the king from K10 with probability p, similarly from Q10; he plays the ten from 108 with probability q; and the ten from 1086 with probability r (and otherwise the eight: it's a mistake to play the six, which gives declarer no losing option). And he plays the king from KQ with probability half (other approaches may be as good, but symmetry considerations say they can't be better).
To start with, let's assume that the values p, q, r are all known to declarer, who follows a pure strategy - this assumption is unjustified, but it's a useful starting point.
a) LHO plays the king or queen. (a0) declarer tries to pin the ten: for every five times there's a critical layout this succeeds 2p times. (a1) declarer tries to drop the other top honour: this succeeds 1 time.
b) LHO plays the ten, and the jack loses to the queen or king. (b0) declarer tries to pin the eight: this succeeds q times. (b1) declarer tries to drop the other honour: this succeeds 2(1-p) + r times.
c) LHO plays the eight, and the nine loses to the queen or king. (c0) declarer tries to pin the ten: this succeeds (1-q) times. (c1) declarer tries to drop the other honour: this succeeds (1-r) times.
So the combined successes per five critical layouts are:
a0b0c0: 1 + 2p
a0b0c1: 1 + 2p + q - r
a0b1c0: 3 - q + r
a1b0c1: 2 + q - r
a1b1c0: 4 - 2p - q + r
a1b1c1: 4 - 2p
We can simplify this somewhat by putting s = q - r, getting:
a0b0c0: 1 + 2p
a0b0c1: 1 + 2p + s
a0b1c0: 3 - s
a1b0c1: 2 + s
a1b1c0: 4 - 2p - s
a1b1c1: 4 - 2p
We note that by making the appropriate choice from each pair, declarer can make the value of s irrelevant, and that it can't help the defender to choose a value other than 0, but may hurt him.
Putting s = 0, we see that a0b1c1 succeeds 3 times, but a1b1c1 will be better if p < 1/2 . So overall a sound strategy for the defender is to rise with K10 or Q10 at least half the time, and to choose between the ten and the eight on the same basis with either 108 or 1086. If the defender follows this strategy, a sound strategy for declarer is to play for the pin if LHO plays the king or queen, but for the drop if LHO plays the ten or eight.
This morning I was watching the final round of the World Championship round robin stage on BBO, when the following deal came up:
Board 4 ♠ K 10 9 5 Game All ♥ 4 2 Dealer West ♦ Q 9 8 7 ♣ Q 8 6 ♠ Q J 4 ♠ A 8 2 ♥ K J 8 3 ♥ A Q 10 6 ♦ 6 3 ♦ A 10 ♣ J 9 4 3 ♣ A 7 5 2 ♠ 7 6 3 ♥ 9 7 5 ♦ K J 5 4 2 ♣ K 10 Robson Fritsche Forrester Rohowsky West North East South Pass Pass 1♣ Pass 1♦ (hearts) Pass 4♥ All passRohowsky for Germany led a diamond to the queen and ace. Forrester drew trumps and exited with a diamond, won by South who played a spade. Three rounds of spades put North on lead to concede a ruff and discard, which did the defence no harm. Declarer now needed to play clubs for one loser, so he led towards dummy, South playing the ten, and North beating dummy's jack with the queen. North returned a low club. The Vugraph commentators thought declarer would have to get it right, apparently not seeing the possibility of playing South for 108. But Forrester got it wrong.
Tony Forrester and Andy Robson - it's an old and successful partnership, but the two were selected primarily to play with David Gold and Alexander Allfrey respectively - have been England's leading pair in the Butler rankings, so Tony won't mind my saying that I think he was wrong in theory as well as in practice on this one - strategies including b0 are never best.
One interesting aspect of this is that the same hand was played 22 times in the Bermuda Bowl, 22 times in the Venice Cup (for women), and 22 times in the d'Orsi Trophy (for over-60s). In the Bermuda Bowl, 4♥ was played 21 times: four declarers went off; it was played all 22 times in the Venice Cup where five declarers went off; in the Seniors only 18 pairs reached 4♥ and six of them went off. Perhaps it matters which hand is dummy: in the Bermuda Bowl all twelve West declarers, with A752 in dummy, made the contract, but only four out of nine Easts. In the Venice Cup, fourteen out of seventeen West declarers made the contract, and three out of five Easts. But in the d'Orsi Trophy four out of eight Wests succeeded, eight out of ten Easts. Overall, West was 30/37 (81%), East 15/24 (63%).
BBO's vugraph archive (in the future you may need this link) records the play at fourteen tables, including the one above: alternatively one can find a record of the play at the same matches by following links from the results tables I linked to above (apparently play is recorded in seven of the 33 matches in each round).
This lets us see how two other declarers went off. Multiple world-champion Lorenzo Lauria played the hand as East on a trump lead, He drew trumps in three rounds and played ace and another diamond. North overtook his partner's jack to switch to the ten of spades, won in dummy. Declarer now unexpectedly played ace and another club and went off. However, this surprising line is not much worse than the recommended intrafinesse strategy - it makes against KQ doubleton in either hand and K or Q singleton with North. And perhaps there's some chance of success if North has king doubleton.
Furuta Kazuo played the hand as East for Japan on a spade lead to the nine and ace. He drew trumps, knocked out the king of spades, won the diamond exit, and led a club towards dummy. South rose with the king, cashed the king of diamonds, and exited with a spade. Declarer now played for the drop in clubs. This might be right in theory if South would play the ten from K10 sufficiently often, but having gone off I wouldn't want to advance that argument too loudly in the post mortem.
We have the play in 4♥ at nine other tables (both pairs in the Seniors match on record went off in 3NT). Interestingly, whereas all three East declarers above went off, the nine declarers who played the hand as West all made it. Usually the play involved leading a club off dummy in the middle of the play, won by South's king, and later leading the jack to pin the ten. One notable exception was in Netherlands v Monaco: Verhees ducked the diamond lead, won the continuation, and immediately led a club off dummy. Geir Helgemo, arguably the world's best player of the cards, won with the king and continued with the ten of clubs. Two other Souths also continued clubs when in with the king, but much later in the play. Paul Thurston, South for Canada, put the ten in when a club was played off dummy at trick ten, but Kevin Bathurst for USA1 dropped his king. And the play went wrong when France declared against England in the Venice Cup: North led a spade to declarer's queen, declarer drew trumps and played ace and a diamond, won by South who played a second spade to dummy's ace. Declarer now cashed dummy's ace of clubs, apparently a horrible line since unlike Lauria she didn't have the entries to take advantage of a singleton honour with North, but in practice an easy way to succeed because South dropped the king.
Most of the declarers fiddled about in diamonds and spades, hoping to learn something, but it seems to me that all they achieved was making it easier for the defence to read the position - a couple induced North to switch to a club, but that didn't help. I like Verhees' line.
Tuesday, 25 June 2013
My team guessed much better than our opponents on this board from the Pachabo (where the scoring is an unusual mixture of aggregate and point-a-board).
Holding the South cards, you view to try 3NT when left-hand opponent's pre-empt is passed round to you. This gets doubled on your right, now what?
The auction started the same way at both tables. Against us, South decided to run to 4, but unluckily she found East at home in diamonds, and lost 1100 (she could have got out for 800 if she'd ruffed the third heart with a middle trump). For us, Cath bravely stood the double, and the contract turned out to be unbeatable. Julian passed too (which looks right to me). West led a heart, which would have taken nine tricks if East had had a second spade. But he had only one of them, so he ducked at trick one and Cath cashed her nine tricks, reasonably refusing the diamond finesse.
Sunday, 23 June 2013
This deal was an early play problem. If I've remembered the auction at our table correctly, South's overcall was aggressive but North gave her some latitude (he may have been unclear about what slam tries were available - note to self: discuss this with partners).
But it's a play problem. At both tables, West led the four of hearts to East's king and East returned the ten of hearts, suit preference for diamonds, won in dummy (one day I'll play in a game where East gives false suit preference, reasoning that West can't be ruffing the trick or declarer wouldn't have ducked. But not yet.) Once you've placed the ace of diamonds, the ace of clubs has to be with West, so you know the hand is pretty much as in the diagram. How do you play? If you like this sort of problem, think about it before reading on.
At my table, declarer, fearing club forces if she played on diamonds, cashed one trump then tried the effect of playing a club herself. I didn't cover, so Jonathan won the trick with the ten of clubs. He read me for the ace of diamonds, but could see no fourth trick for the defence if he played a diamond - declarer could afford to ruff a heart return high - so he defended well by returning a trump. Declarer won in hand and played the king of diamonds, which I ducked, and a second diamond to the jack and my ace. I knew enough about the hand now to lead the queen of clubs: in desperation declarer tried covering it and went two off.
At team-mates' table, declarer played a diamond off dummy at trick two. East rose with the ace, so declarer unblocked the king, ruffed the heart return high, drew trumps and made eleven tricks.
Well played, but what if East ducks the diamond? You continue the suit, knocking out the ace, but East switches to a club (it needn't be the queen) and again you can't enjoy dummy's red cards. So what's the right line?
It's strangely difficult to see, but when the king of diamonds holds, declarer should change tack by playing a trump to dummy and discarding his remaining diamond on the ace of hearts. If West ruffs, declarer has two trump entries to dummy to ruff down the ace of diamonds and run the suit (or one trump entry and a club ruff, if he's carelessly blocked the spades). If West discards a diamond instead of ruffing, he'll have the same losing option when declarer next runs the queen of diamonds. And if he declines that one too, declarer ruffs out the ace of diamonds, draws trumps ending in dummy, and makes an overtrick.
Friday, 21 June 2013
These hands come from last Saturday's Garden Cities Trophy Final. On the first one, either East has passed by mistake, or, much more likely, his opening bid was a misrepresentation. Partner is therefore likely to have a few high cards, making double a reasonable call. But no one has much experience of this position, and the player at the table elected to pass, scoring +150 instead of the +500 or +600 (in 3NT) which were available, and losing 11 imps.
On the second, there's no particular reason to suspect anything afoot, but as it happens East, the redoubtable Gunnar Hallberg, has introduced a diversion on a 3325 5-count, and found his partner with 1543. Each side can make nine tricks in its major suit fit. But the spade spots were too few for me, so I lost 6 imps.
It's unusual to see two outright psyches like this in one afternoon: they're rather rare nowadays because they're more dangerous than the once were - the modern partner will often compete to what he thinks is the level of the fit. Norberto Bocchi, the Italian world champion, wrote an article recently decrying a different sort of psyche - a safer and therefore more common one - in which a player asks a question in the bidding without having any real interest in the answer, in order to deceive his opponents about the nature of his hand: Bocchi's example is a long-suit game try on a hand which is always going to bid game anyway and hence need not have the long suit it represents. In Bocchi's opinion, this sort of "controlled psych" should be banned. I respectfully disagree; there's no need to ban anything, all we need is full disclosure: if a bid is simply an asking bid then it should be explained as such. If it shows something - the game try presumably promises at least game-invitational values, and partner can double on that basis if opponents bid - then that should be explained also. Players have got used to saying whether a Stayman enquiry promises a 4-card major, then can cope just as well with specifying whether a long-suit game try actually promises a holding in the suit bid, or if, more precisely, it asks partner to evaluate his hand opposite an invitational hand with such a holding.
I'm against banning things, and in favour of fair play.
Incidentally, the 1 psyche above is a bit safer if you're playing fit jumps. Does anyone object to fit jumps on that basis?
Wednesday, 5 June 2013
At this point I had eight top tricks, with a 3-3 spade break the only simple chance for a ninth. However, I saw that if West was 4324 I could strip the hand and exit with the fourth round of spades, making the jack of clubs at trick 13. So I tried the spades, then cashed my red winners ending in dummy. The last of these was a heart, perforce, on which West discarded the jack of diamonds instead of a club as he should have done, so I did indeed make the jack of clubs at the end.
West, the dominant member of the opposing partnership, told his partner she should have covered the queen of diamonds. But it was I who was in need of instruction: obviously I should have cashed the hearts before the spades. At this stage, West can't afford to throw a club, and does have to discard a diamond. (There are other ways to squeeze West, but this is the simplest.)
The standard was quite mixed, and there was instruction of a different sort available on other hands also:
I led a spade, and declarer, a very inexperienced player bravely stepping into the lions' den, won the third round. I was feeling confident until something about declarer's demeanour disturbed me. Perhaps she didn't know enough to take the club finesse...
There was no attractive downgrade available for my 16-count, so I opened a club despite the singleton king of spades. South bid two clubs, alerted by North. Jon enquired, and was told that two clubs showed a strong hand. North ought to have known that we were playing a strong club system since we'd had a long strong-club auction to five clubs on the previous hand, but something made him remind her of our system, and she corrected the explanation to "clubs". After one more round of bidding it was obvious to him that South had nothing of the sort, so he clarified matters by bidding four clubs. It now seemed likely to us both that South too had forgotten our system and ignored our alert, and attempted to make a Michaels cue-bid. Some Norths might have worked that out also, but this one passed and I bid the obvious game. South led the ace of hearts, so we were swiftly one off. Which gave us a fair matchpoint score, since four spades is easy to make.
Subsequent conversation revealed that North in this long-standing partnership had no notion that they might be playing Michaels, whatever the meaning of the one club opening.
Thursday, 23 May 2013
The team I was on came fourth in the Crockfords final: we should have played better. Especially, we should have defended better. On this hand, we won the board in the auction and lost it in the defence at both tables.
At the first table, our West opened in third seat - not my choice with that poor suit - and opponents bid to 4♠, an unlikely contract even without the 5-0 break. However, East naturally led the king of hearts. Declarer has a chance now - he needs to draw trumps, knock out the ace of clubs, and end-play West in the red suits. However, with the bad spade break entries are a problem. He started, far-sightedly, with a club to the ten. West ought to duck this - necessary if Declarer's spades are one spot stronger - a difficult but not impossible play. At the table, West won and returned a club. Declarer won that and played on spades: East now needs to do the right thing. Because East has got the eight of spades, declarer needs two entries to hand, one to play the fourth round of trumps and one to play the fifth. But he can't afford to use the ace of diamonds because that would break up his strip-squeeze. So, to beat the contract East must duck three rounds of spades. I think he ought to see this, but it's not easy.
At the second table, I tried a heavy raise to 2♠, and was lucky to hit the right layout for my action. East helped us in the auction by radiating uncertainty before bidding 3♣. I led the jack of spades - perhaps a trump is better. East won, and has two reasonable ways to play the contract for two off. One is to ruff a spade, play a heart to the king, ruff another spade, play another heart, and come to a heart ruff, the ace of clubs, and a late diamond trick. The other is to play on diamonds. However, if you choose the diamond play, you should lead a low one. Our declarer selected the ten, a card he should have saved so that he could take two more finesses later. The ten of diamonds ran to the ace, and North should now switch to trumps. Instead, he tried a low heart, on which declarer strangely played low, again booking himself for three off. I won the queen and switched to a trump. Declarer took the second round and played a heart off dummy: North unaccountably ducked, giving declarer two tricks - the king of hearts and a heart ruff - to leave him one off. So perhaps declarer knew what he was doing after all.
Of course there were other hands, on at least one of which I perpetrated a misdefence at least as horrible as this. But the rest of the play on it was less interesting...
Wednesday, 10 April 2013
Playing imps, we each took a liking to our hand, and arrived in a thin game. East led the jack of spades, what's your line? You're going to have to make an early club play, and you'll probably need to get it right.
Click here to show (or hide) the answer
There's a slight inference that East is more likely to have the ace of clubs, in that West seems to have the ace of spades and at least some of the diamond honours, so there are some hands with the ace of clubs where he would at least have thought about bidding. But that's pretty thin. More persuasive is that the subsequent play may well be easier if you guess correctly to play the king than if you guess correctly to play the jack.
Consider for example the actual layout (I can't help being swayed by a sample of one). Win the first trick with the king of spades, play a club to the king, ruff a club, ace of diamonds, diamond ruff, and so on to take the first eight tricks, then exit in spades, coming down to two hearts and two spades in hand, two hearts and two clubs in dummy. West will lead a heart, and you will have to work out whether to run it or rise with the ace and try to make the queen en passant. But you should have a pretty good count on the hand, plus perhaps some help from the tempo, so that won't be very hard.
On the other hand, swap the east-west club honours, and play a club to the jack and ace. West cashes the ace of spades and switches to the king of diamonds. You win, ruff a diamond, cash the king of clubs pitching a spade, ruff a club, ruff a diamond, ruff a club, and...I hope you've kept the three of hearts or you've gone off. This is the position:
To make the contract from here, needing three more tricks, you ruff a spade high in dummy. West overruffs and leads the queen of diamonds, which you ruff low and win in dummy for a trump coup. Or if West discards, you lead whatever you like from dummy, and when West splits you play the three of hearts.
Which is elegant, but you need to work out early enough that you should keep the three of hearts. And what if East has got the singleton jack or king of hearts? It's better to play the easy line of trying to win the king of clubs at trick two. And you don't need to see this end position, as I didn't, to work that out.
Wednesday, 3 April 2013
In our system invitational hands with five hearts go through Stayman. South's 2NT wasn't alerted: our opponents showed no sign of knowing what they were doing and neither of us felt inclined to pursue a legal remedy. Jonathan doubled North's 3 to show values, and guessed to double 4 too. There was nothing in the play - minus 710.
Perhaps you hate the system, so imagine East started with a transfer to hearts, and West bid 3 over South's 2NT. When East comes to decide what to do about South's 4, he might consult the so-called Law of Total Tricks: each side is known to have a nine-card fit. If the Law holds, then if there are ten tricks in clubs East should pass, if there are nine tricks East should double, and if there are eight tricks East should bid. Knowing the extent of the fit doesn't seem to help. (As it happens the Law is very nearly right: with West as declarer there are eight tricks in hearts on a diamond lead, but if East manages to bid the suit first he can make nine by end-playing South).
2 by East would have been conventional, and he didn't want to pass, so he bid clubs at the lowest level. West, expecting a respectable hand opposite, bid 3NT. Jonathan doubled this - he could pass, but double at least invites my opinion if East removes 3NT, as seems likely. When I had expressed no view about 4, Jonathan guessed to double anyway. That seems reasonable to me - perhaps the field is defending 1NT making eight tricks on the wrong lead, but it scored another -710.
I opened light in third hand, and was surprised when 2 came back to me. It seems obvious to bid 2, but looking at it again, partner, who has passed with some values, has at most two spades and at most three hearts. With most of his cards in the minors, most of his values are likely to be there too, and they may be of little use in a heart contract. Meanwhile, opponents may well score better in 2NT than in 2. So I passed. I was completely wrong: we can make 2, and 2 is their last making contract.
Incidentally, I would have doubled 1 with the North cards, and bid 1NT as South. Also completely wrong, it's two off.
Defending 2 I took the ace of spades at trick one and switched to a diamond. Declarer won in dummy and led a club. I rose with the ace and played a spade, consistent with my bidding but inconsistent with the lie of the cards. I should have played a heart, holding declarer to eight tricks: on reflection this is fairly obvious.
I welcome comments explaining how and why we should have got any of these auctions right.
Saturday, 23 March 2013
A hand very similar to this came up in the Camrose: I've taken it from Andy Robson's column in today's Times. South's 2 opening was more constructive than a traditional weak two, so when he next showed a non-minimum hand with a club feature, North had no difficulty bidding 6
West found the heart lead against 6, to the jack and queen. East switched to a club, won in dummy. Declarer, Tom Townsend, must not have fancied his chances when West discarded on the second spade, but surprisingly West had a singleton club too, so declarer could ruff two hearts and take four rounds of clubs before crossing to the ace and king of diamonds for the trump coup.
I'm surprised by East's club switch at trick two - Robson comments that East sensed "a lack of concern in declarer's manner". Fair enough, but then why switch to a club? If the ace of hearts isn't a winner, the only other way to beat the contract will be with a trump trick, so East should switch to a diamond to take out a late entry to dummy. To play the trump coup, declarer needs to take four rounds of clubs, ruffing two hearts along the way, before entering dummy. After a diamond switch, the only late entry to dummy is the second round of trumps, so declarer would have to play on clubs before discovering the bad trump break. Since this is a good idea only if West has two black singletons, and goes off any other time clubs are 4-1, it would be a remarkable view - East's diamond switch is suspicious, but could just as well be a bluff.
But it does take some imagination to place declarer with the 6-5 hand where the diamond switch may gain. And it needs West to have the QJ of diamonds too, or the switch sets up two diamond discards, so declarer no longer needs to take four clubs tricks and the trump coup operates routinely. East may have supposed that in that case West would have preferred a diamond lead. It's time to confess that I've swapped the five and jack of diamonds from the actual deal.
Incidentally, in the other room South opened 1, West made a (very) weak jump overcall in diamonds, and North bid 6NT. East led a diamond, and with eleven top tricks declarer chose to play East for the ace of hearts, making the contract on a strip squeeze.
Update: I checked with Tom, who points out that on the actual deal, rather than my invention, he could make 6S with East holding 3 clubs and no Q, by taking a diamond finesse so as to be able to discard two clubs on dummy's diamonds. And also that the play in 6NT described by Robson was dreamt up for the entertainment of his readers. The truth is recorded under Match Five, Stanza 2, board 28, here.
Thursday, 21 March 2013
Jon's double of East's conventional 2 bid showed values, which he was rather short of, and switched us from take-out to penalty doubles - he would be happy to defend two spades doubled, but unwilling to double for penalties himself. When he next bid 3, I counted five club, two spade and (wrongly) two diamond tricks, and bid a confident 3NT. I suppose West could have passed the doubled transfer bid to show heart values, but East chose to lead the jack of hearts anyway. At first sight, this looks like a hit.
East won the first two tricks with the jack and ten of hearts, then, still reluctant to lead away from the queen of spades, switched to the queen of clubs. The hand plays itself from here - West is a strong favourite to have all the missing high cards in the red suits, so I just ran the clubs ending in dummy, and watched the discards. West could afford one diamond discard, but needed the rest of his red cards, so he threw two spades. Now the two top spades confirmed West's exact hand, and forced him finally to discard a heart. I exited in hearts, ducked the king of diamonds, and took the last two tricks with the jack and ace.
East's opening lead looked good, but in fact it gives the contract, which has no chance on a spade lead (if declarer runs the clubs the defence must keep three diamonds each and all their spades). After the heart lead, switching to spades at trick two wouldn't help: once one round of hearts has been played declarer can lose a heart to West in the end game. Nor is a diamond switch any good - unusually this squeeze works with no winner in the threat suits.
Wednesday, 20 March 2013
North's slightly off-centre 3 opening pushed us into the best contract - normally one would want to play in four of a major, but when all the suits are breaking badly, no trumps plays better. For what it's worth, I wouldn't open 3 on the North cards, but might well open 3 given a chance with the South hand.
South led the queen of clubs, North overtook, and I ducked, hoping to find North with a doubleton club. A singleton was even better for me. North switched to ace and another diamond, South discarding a club. I cashed the ace and king of hearts, North discarding a diamond. This showed up an obvious flaw in my vague plan to take a spade finesse through South's presumed length: North was now known to have started with seven diamonds, one heart, and presumably one club, so four spades. Instead, I played a spade to the ace, noting South's nine, and successfully ran the six. I could then duck a spade to North, win the diamond exit discarding dummy's last spade, then cash the ace of clubs and the king of spades to squeeze South, making the last trick with dummy's eight of clubs.
If South has a small singleton spade, I can make only nine tricks. After winning the ace of spades, I cash the queen of hearts, the ace of clubs, and, if North has kept all her spades, the jack of diamonds. Then I duck a spade to her. She has one diamond left to cash, then has to lead into the split tenace in spades. (If North unexpectedly follows to the ace of clubs, play king and another spade next instead.)
The overtrick was pointless, alas. We were playing Butler (i.e. imped) pairs, and it was worth nary an imp. It's not my favourite form of the game.
This hand doesn't show our system to best advantage. Jon was maximum for his 1NT response, so he jumped to 3 in case we had enough for game. We didn't have enough for game, but we didn't have enough diamonds for 3 either, so I tried 3, and chose to remove 3NT; perhaps it's better to take my chances there. By the end of the auction I had systemically shown four spades, three hearts, five clubs, and one other card which ought systemically to be in a spade or diamond (unlikely to be a diamond as a matter of bridge logic).
Against 4, East sensibly led a trump, which went to the nine and king. I tried a spade to the four, queen and ace. West, who knew a lot about the hand, now went subtly wrong by switching to a diamond - a simple trump continuation is good. I discarded a club from hand, and won with South's ace. The best play now is to ruff a diamond, cash the queen of hearts, and lead the ten of spades, choosing between running it and trying to ruff down the jack of spades, in both cases needing the diamonds blocked.
However, I went wrong myself by leading the jack of clubs from dummy at trick four, giving West another chance to beat the contract by putting in the queen, leaving me in the wrong hand to take the diamond ruff I needed to block the suit. Instead he took the ace and forced my hand with a diamond, getting me back on the winning line. I needed to guess the spades, and got it right, thinking that East might well not have petered with jack to four - I was lucky about this too, while I was dithering about it, I cashed the king of spades, and only then noticed that the ruffing finesse would no longer help.
Wednesday, 6 March 2013
Jon has presented me with a Blueish Club bidding system, which I'm gradually getting to grips with. At matchpoints, and single dummy, you might be happy to reach 6NT on this deal and guess which finesse to take, but on the actual lie 6 by West is the only making slam. 4 in our auction showed a good 4-card suit and 14+ high-card points: when Jon invited me to pick a slam I thought that with my minimum values a diamond ruff might well be needed.
We were lucky that the conventional 1 opening right-sided the contract, that I stumbled upon sensible calls despite being a lot less certain of the meaning of the auction than I've made out, and that 6NT couldn't be made. But still, it's satisfying to make a Moysian slam.
However, one West had bid and made 6NT, presumably on the ace of spades lead. That would be the best lead if East rather than South held the queen of diamonds.
Thursday, 21 February 2013
North led 8 against 3NT, to the 3, 9, and K. Presumably because he expected diamonds to be 7-1, declarer led a club to dummy's jack. Then he cashed dummy's top hearts, pitching a spade while North threw a diamond, and the ace of clubs, then came off dummy with a spade. South split his honours and declarer won with the ace.
Now he had a decision to make. If clubs were 3-3, he should cash the king of clubs, but on the actual lie he should endplay North with a diamond exit. How can he tell?
Diamonds are almost certain to be 6-2, or South would not have split his spade honours. So North is 2263 or 1264. But which? Experienced opponents won't have been helpful with the club count, but there are two clues: first, even third in at green North might not have opened 3 with the balanced hand. Second, at matchpoints, North would probably have pitched a spade if he had two, rather than a diamond, not wanting to lose an undertrick if South had the ace of spades.
Wednesday, 20 February 2013
North led 7 against 3, and declarer made ten fairly routine tricks. But it could have been held to nine - south must take A and switch to Q, later getting a spade ruff.
I don't think I would have found this defence, but it does look possible. North is quite likely to have K and A - this declarer would have opened any 11-count. The play is likely to cost a spade trick only if North has 10xx or perhaps three small in the suit.
Friday, 1 February 2013
South did the wrong thing on this deal, and my partner did very well to take advantage.
We play a strong-club system, and open four-card majors ahead of five-card minors, so we found our heart fit at once. Against 3, North led out two top clubs, South pitching a diamond and declarer ruffing. Declarer played a spade to the queen and ace, noting North's 2 showing odd count. South cashed A and continued spades; declarer finessed, cashed his remaining spade, cashed K, and ruffed a diamond. Now a club, ruffed and over-ruffed with A, a diamond ruff, and a club exit to endplay South.
Declarer reasoned that North's apparently painless decision to continue clubs at trick two suggested that she didn't have short spades. South simplified the play by cashing A, but his decisive mistake was the diamond discard at trick two. He should have thrown a spade (or he can ruff in). That's a difficult play to find - why shouldn't partner have 9xx - but a logical one: you can beat the contract with three aces and two trump tricks, and shortening your spades guarantees the trump tricks.