Thursday, 19 December 2013

Kind of a Big Deal - Deal of the Week #12

Who knows what tomorrow will bring so I'm going to go ahead with a big hand from today for the Deal of the Week. It features lots of high level high pressure bidding decisions.

N deal, All vul
♠ A
♥ K Q J x x x
♦ T x x x
♣ A K
♠ K Q J x x x x x
♥ x x
♦ x
♣ x x
♠ T x x
♥ x
♦ A 8 7 x
♣ Q T x x x
♠ x x
♥ A T x x
♦ K Q J x
♣ J x x
4♠1 5♥2 5♠3 x4

Here's the monster auction, all the way up to a final contract of 6♦, played by South. North opened 1♥, and South replied 2♦, ignoring the Heart fit (better to support Hearts straight away). Then the bidding took off. West saw all his Spades and came straight in with 4♠. North wasn't going to let this go, and bid over it with 5♥. East, with my encouragement, bid 5♠. South doubled it, and North went into a think. He came out with a bold 6♦ bid, which was passed out.

There's lots of big decisions there. For better or worse, here's what I would have done for those six numbered bids.

1 I agree with 4♠. Even if partner has absolutely nothing, you're only three off.
2 I'd bid 5♦ here, as you know you have a Diamond fit.
3 I agree with 5♠. You've got a couple of tricks for partner (♦A and a Heart ruff).
4 Not sure! You have a defensive hand, but 6♥ can't be far off.
5 I'd pass the double. Given your previous bidding, you have a defensive hand, with ♣AK.
6 He wanted to double, I advised against it. Likely you have one trick, and partner has none.

So after some hair raising bidding, it finished in 6♦ by South. North must have been worried about trumps, but when South has ♦KQJx it looks good. But the trumps split 4-1, and unfortunately declarer drew all four rounds. East wisely withheld his Ace, and won the fourth round of Diamonds then the defence took loads of Spades as declarer was out of trumps too. Of course once a defender is down to the bare Ace of Trumps declarer is best just to cash all his other winners (in Hearts), and at some point the defender will get his one and only trick.

With this and a series of other vulnerable penalties I think AP and TB will win the week, to get back within one of JW and NC.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

School Bridge Club

Today was the last meeting of my school Bridge Club. We’ve not got too far in bidding sophistication, but we have fun, and cakes. The emphasis lately has been on getting the game bonus.

♠ x x
♥ K J T
♦ K J x x x x
♣ Q x
♠ A J x x x
♥ A x
♦ A T x
♣ x x x

We play twelve points to open, and East has 13 so opened 1♠. West replied 2♦, and because he has a balanced hand East rebids 2NT. After I explained the value of the game bonus, West raised to game straight away.

It’s not a great contract, but has chances, especially on a non-Club lead. If the Diamonds split there’s 9 tricks. At the table South lead a Heart, and I helped declarer to put in the Ten. With a little help he realised that he was getting three Heart tricks, whether North plays the Queen or not. North did play low, so declarer won in dummy, leaving him just the singleton ♥A in hand.

Now I told declarer to start playing his long suit, and so he cashed the A♦ and K♦. Diamonds split 2-2, and that should mean six Diamonds tricks and the contract in the bag.

But declarer made an error, a classic blunder. He won the third round of Diamonds with the ♦T in hand, playing low in dummy. He was now stuck in his hand, with no more diamonds to lead to dummy, and the Hearts were blocked too. He tried to continue with Diamonds from table, but I reminded him he was in his hand. ”I’ve got a plan”, he said cunningly, and cashed the ♠A. I’m not sure what his plan was, and I went to look at another table. Whatever his plan was, it didn’t work, and he went off one.

Glasgow Division Two: Team Rowan vs Kirkintilloch

Team Rowan won this match 11-5, although me and Anna were outplayed at our table, by Al and David. On the very first board one of them made an illegal bid, by trying to bid 1NT in response to their partner’s overall of 2♦. This lulled us into a false sense of security.

In the first half of the match me and Anna declared six contracts, and went down in all six of them. The worst was when I stretched with a nice 5 count opposite my partner’s strong NT, and ended up in 4♥ doubled with 20 points and a 4-3 fit. Of course we were vulnerable, and as I started to lose trump control I realised this was going to be a very bad one for us. I played it carefully for two off and -500, a moral victory in avoiding -1100.

In the second half things were more even. On one hand Anna had a Diamond suit of AKQxxx and shrewdly let the opponents play in 3NT. She cashed the first six tricks, and we got two more after that for 3NT-4. Then Anna actually made a contract, which is more than managed all night. My highlight was on the very last board, when I decided that rather that going for a game bonus I’d double them and go for penalties instead. This is because I’ve been reading an old book by Ely Culbertson, who says that doubling the opponents is the most profitable bid in bridge. This is aggregate scoring:

W deal, All vul
♠ Q J T x x
♥ K T x
♦ x x
♣ Q x x
♠ K x
♥ A x
♦ K J x x x
♣ K J x x
♠ A x x x
♥ x x
♦ A Q T x
♣ x x x
♠ x x
♥ Q J 9 8 x x
♦ x x
♣ A T x

I opened the West hand 1♦ and North overcalled 1♠. Anna had the East hand, and decided that rather than showing Diamond support she’d show her Spade stop, so bid a natural 2NT. South came in with a bold 3♥, and I had a decision to make. I’ve got 15 points and I know that partner has 10-12, so we’ve got enough for 3NT, and I’ve got a Heart stop too. But I thought that since we’ve got so many points, and the opponents don’t have a Heart fit (as far as I know) I should go for the big score and try for penalties. So I hit them with what I hoped would be a killer penalty double.

I went for a K♠ lead, as partner should have some Spades for the 2NT bid. When dummy came down I was a bit worried about the good Hearts, was hoping partner had them. Anna played the ♠9 on the first trick (giving count), and seeing the good Spades in dummy I had to switch. I switched to Clubs, which gives declarer an easy second Club trick. When I was back in with the ♥A I had another chance, and this time I did find the Diamond switch, else declarer can actually make the contract by setting up dummy's Spades. After taking the second Diamond Anna greedily cashed her spades;A. This was the setting trick, but set up the Spades in dummy so we never got any Clubs at all. So in the end we just got our five top tricks for 3♥x-1 and +200, but with better defence we get a Club trick too, for 3♥x-2 and +500.

At the time I was worried those three good Hearts in dummy meant declarer might make 3♥, but actually those Hearts are good news for us. It means that North-South have good enough Hearts that 3NT for East-West is failing on a normal Heart lead. So getting +200 meant that was probably a good board for us, even if we could have taken more tricks (and can actually make 5♦).

The most exciting hand of the day was this zinger. It generated some discussion after the match, meaning I can report what happened on some other tables too. First here's me and Anna in defence:

E deal, Love All
♠ x
♥ A T 9 x x
♦ A K 9 x x
♣ x x
♥ Q x x
♦ Q T x x x
♣ A x x x x
♠ 9 7 x x x
♥ x
♦ J x
♣ K Q J T 8
♠ A K Q J T 8 x
♥ K J x x
♦ x
♣ x

South opened 1♠. I think they were playing Strong Twos on our table, but it's maybe not enough for 2♠. Anna sitting West found a nice bid of 2NT, which is a bid she’s famously forgotten a few times. We play it here as showing both minors at least 5-5, and either a weak or strong hand. North came straight in over this with 3♥, and it came to me as East. We’ve a big Club fit, so I’m definitely worth at least 4♣. But I’m a big fan of pre-sacrificing and went for 5♣. Over this South instantly bid 5♠, which was passed round to me. I have five trumps, and did consider a double, as it’s not often you get five trumps in defence. There’s also a good argument for bidding 6♣, as with all my Spades partner probably has none.

Against 5♣ Anna wisely lead her A♣, then another Club. South ruffed this, and drew all five of my trumps. He then played a Heart to the Ace, and lead a Heart back towards his King. He conceded a Heart along with the one Club for 5♠=.

If I did bid 6♣, and played there doubled it’s two or three off. There’s two Diamonds and a Heart to lose, and maybe another Diamond too depending on what happens. But a &6clubs; bid might also push them to 6♥ or 6♠, and they might well make it. You can take the Heart finesse, and in 6♠ declarer should play West for long Hearts when she shows up with no Spades. Also, if you’re prepared to run all of your trumps then you also make it without needing the Heart finesse, as West will be forced to throw away too many Diamonds or too many Hearts, and you get your twelfth trick with a squeeze. 6♥ is harder, and needs an immediate guess for who to finesse Hearts.

Each hand in the league matches is played by four tables. What happened on the other tables?

On Trish’s table she opened 4♠ and played there:


On a Diamond lead she threw away her losing Club, then guessed Hearts for 4♠+3

On Jill and Aileen’s table they sat East-West like us. East opened a Lucas 2♠, showing 5 Spades and a minor. Apparently it ended with them sacrificing in 7♣x:

[not sure what happened here]
7♣ x

After the event Trish contacted John Matheson and asked for his recommended auction from North-South, assuming no interference. Here's what he suggested:


South chooses to play in Spades, so that when you run them you have a chance to find out about the Heart suit.

Overall then, another good win, 11-5.

Winter Pairs Round Four

The Winter Pairs is the best four results over several months. Anna and I now have three good scores to our name, after a big night last Wednesday. We both bid pretty wildly, but we got away with it. Against Norman and John I overbid the first board, which worked out well, then successfully underbid the next, for two good scores.


Here’s the first of these boards. Norman opened a strong NT, and Anna paused for a while before passing, looking like she was going to bid but finally deciding not to. John also passed, and I came in with a controversial Crowhurst 2♣, showing majors. In normal circumstances I think my bid is just about OK, but after Anna’s big pause I should probably pass. I should pass not because Anna’s pause has suggested my bid (I’m pretty sure I’d do it anyway), but because after her pause, which suggests bidding, I have an alternative bid of Pass, and if there’s any sensible alternative I should take it.

As John states on his blog here, my bid didn’t actually affect the score that much. Either we get +140 for 2♠+1 or we get +100 for beating 1NT by one trick. Both of these beat all the East-Wests losing points by going down in 3♦, so Anna’s dodgy Pass had already won the Board.

My overcall was lucky, finding partner with good Spade support and some distribution. Next on Board 24 hand I compensated by underbidding. Anna opened with 1♠, and I had 13 points. Even after she rebid Spades I only invited to game, and we stopped in 3♠. After we had failed to bid a game, I was hoping that everything would break badly, and it did, combined with some deadly defence from John and Norman. Anna finished on 3♠-2, which was actually good news as it meant I’d guessed right not to bid 4♠.

Here’s a couple of hands where me and Anna showed a lack of partnership trust.


I swithered for a long time then bid a dubious 1♥. South overcalled 1♠ and Anna gave me a generous raise to 3♥. North bid 3♠ and I didn’t really know what I was doing and bid 4♣, thinking this might help Anna on lead if we were in defence. South bid 4♠, and Anna doubled. This was a well thought out double. Anna knew the opponents had some Diamond length (I had Hearts and Clubs), and was planning to lead A♦ and another. Then when she got in with her AS she could cross to my hand and get a ruff. In fact, on this layout, she could have got two ruffs for 4♠x-2.

But I was anxious about defending with a ten card Heart fit, and removed her double with a reckless 5♥. This was passed out. After a Diamond lead I took the Ace, and cashed the AS, discarding a Diamond with the air of someone discarding his last Diamond loser. My simple ruse worked, and later when North lead a Club I was allowed to discard dummy’s losing Diamond on a Club. So after misbidding I got a very undeserved top for 5♥=. That’s how you do it.


Next it was Anna’s turn to bottle it. South opened a weak NT and Anna overcalled 2♥, showing Hearts and a minor. Her hand is a bit too good for this bid, but the alternative of double isn’t very nice either. I was planning to pass this as East, expecting partner to make it. But over Anna’s 2♥ North came right in with 2♠. I still passed, and Anna came back in again with 3♦. I corrected this to 3♥, and now South chose to show some support with 3♠. With all his points in Spades this seems quite a reasonable bid (and I might have raised Spades before with that South hand), but actually it could be expensive. Anna passed 3♠ and I doubled it. I doubled as partner has shown a good hand, and I can see a couple of Club tricks for myself, and maybe partner can get a Club ruff too. In fact defending 3♠x we take two Hearts, three Diamonds and two Clubs, for 3♠x-4 and +1100. But since she had a distributional hand and a Spade void (and hadn’t looked at the vulnerability), Anna removed my double by bidding 4♥.

With both finesses onside, this made twelve tricks, for 4♥+2 scoring +480. This was a good score, as most East-West pairs weren’t in game. We wouldn't have been in game either, but for the intervening bidding from North-South, who can count themselves unlucky for pushing us into a making game.

So, you can see we made a few mistakes but got away with it. Don’t think we’re going to make it to Peebles, so apart from one more league match this could be our festive retirement until the New Year – or beyond, as there’s no Winter Pairs in January.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Two weeks in a day - Deal of the Week #11

Friday lunch time I substituted for NC at the culmination of the week's lunch time bridge. They'd have done better without me. First of all I needlessly powered us into a 5♣ contract (3♣ would have been enough for the rubber), then needlessly played my Ace of Clubs when I was already winning with the Six. I blame it on the tough match at Maccabi the night before.

Luckily, 5♣ still made, so NC and JW were still all set to win the week. Then I was foolish again. On the very last hand TB took a wild gamble on 6♥, knowing he needed a big score to overcome his deficit. I played right into his hands and doubled. My partner was astonished. Of course TB redoubled. It would have been hugely embarrassing if 6♥xx made, but TB really was pushing it, and to my relief the contract went four off.

Later on Friday TB suggested we play another whole week's worth of bridge. "It's only a game" said JW, and agreed to the double or nothing. To add extra spice both BM and SG made their competitive debuts on the bridge table.

Having had a few drinks I can barely remember any of the hands, including the ones I attempted to write down or even photograph. I do remember it came down to this deal though, with JW and NC needing a game. I've lost my bit of paper but I think it looked like this:

♠ A K x x x
♥ x
♦ x x x
♣ J x x x
♠ Q J x x
♥ A J x x x x
♦ K x
♣ x

NC sitting East opened 1♥, and JW sitting West replied 1♠. NC then asked me about his rebid. He only has 11 points, but it's a great hand once you have a Spade fit. "Have you heard of the Australian Ron Klinger" I asked? He had, and based on the distribution NC jumped to 3♠. JW had been accepting every invitational bid all day (down one is good bridge) and had no trouble accepting this invite too, with a good trump suit.

The defence started on Clubs, but with a singleton in dummy, and North having the ♦A, the defence could only come to two tricks. 4♠+1, based on a combined 19 count, was a great result.

That was enough to clinch it, so JW and NC won a second week on the same day.