Friday, 28 February 2014

No Miracle - Deal of the Week #17

With one hand left in the week JW and NC were well behind. The only way to overcome the deficit was to bid a slam. So that's what they did.

Dealer East
Love All
♠ J x x x
♥ J x
♦ A K T x
♣ Q x x
♠ A Q
♥ Q x x
♦ x x x
♣ x x x x x
♠ x x x x x
♥ x x
♦ J x x x
♣ K x
♠ K x
♥ A K T x x x
♦ Q x
♣ A J x

JW stretched slightly to open a strong 2♥, and NC stretched a lot to bid 6♥. Amazingly, the contract actually has a chance. JW had been on the tilt all week and I don't think anyone expected he actually had such a good hand.

West lead the ♠A and another Spades, which simplifies things for declarer. You need the rest of the tricks. First of all, that means no Heart losers. If the Heart suit was the only one you cared about, it's slightly better to cross to dummy and finesse. Eight ever, nine never. But you also need to get rid of your two Clubs losers. One goes on the extra top Diamond in dummy. To get rid of the other one you need to win either a fourth Diamond or the Club finesse. To combine your chances the best line is to cash the top three Diamonds, hoping the ♦J will fall, and if not then finesse Clubs. However, to do this you need to leave the Diamonds alone while you draw trumps. So, taking the hand as a whole, the best line at Trick Three is to play the Hearts from the top, overruling eight ever, nine never.

We'll never know what line JW would have taken, as after the opening lead of ♠A West showed his Hearts, and it was clear he was due a second trick.

So a valiant effort from North-South, but in vain as ID-AP win the week.

Saturday, 15 February 2014

At least we didn't redouble - Deal of the Week #16

Here's a bonus Deal of the Week from lunch time bridge, as requested by the defenders who bested me in 6♦x. I could have made it too.

Board 2
Dealer East
Love All
♠ Q
♥ x x x x x
♦ K T 4
♣ A K Q T
♠ x x x
♥ K J x x x
♣ J x x x x
♠ x x x
♥ Q x
♦ J 9 8 6 5
♣ x x x x
♠ A K J 9 8 x
♥ A
♦ A Q 7 3 2
♣ x

I've got the tremendous South hand. It's worth a 2♣ opening, as if partner has as little as the ♦K I can make a game and maybe even a slam. However, I decided that since it was a 2-suiter and distributional I'd start with 1♠, and hope it doesn't get passed out. AP sitting North replied 2♥, which in the local system just shows Hearts and 6+ points. I then rebid 3♦, and North bid 3NT. This is his only possible bid really, there's no way to get across his strength. I wasn't done yet and bid 4♠. To me this is a slam try, as I wouldn't remove partner's 3NT unless I was going for slam. I think AP took it just as looking for a better contract though, and corrected me to 5♦. I topped myself up to 6♦. JW sitting East thought for a while then doubled it.

NC sitting West lead a Club. Looking at dummy, things look very good indeed. In fact, assuming Spades split 4-2 or better, we've 13 top tricks (6 Spades, 1 Heart, 3 Diamonds and 3 Clubs) so could easily have made 7NT. The only thing that can go wrong in 6♦ is the trump suit. I figured for his double East must have trumps, either four or five of them. I therefore won the first Club in dummy and lead a trump up towards my hand. Cool as a cucumber, East played the ♦5. I can make things easy for myself here by playing the ♦7, but instead I foolishly played the ♦Q, and West showed out.

Having blown my ♦Q it looks like East is now booked to get two trump tricks. But my hope is to endplay him. If I can win all the tricks until he just has trumps left, and then let him win a trump, he'll have to lead away from his Diamonds which will cost him a trick. I'm looking to set up a situation like this, with three cards left and the lead in dummy. Note that East only has trumps left.

♠- ♥- ♦KT ♣T
♠- ♥- ♦J98 ♣-
♠9 ♥- ♦72 ♣-

If I just draw trumps then of course East gets two tricks. But if I play my ♣T then he is forced to ruff, and then lead away from his ♦J9 into dummy's ♦KT, and I'll only lose one trick and make 6♦x.

To get this to work I have to make sure East only wins a trick when he has just Diamonds left. This means guessing what his exact distribution is. Otherwise when he ruffs he can safely exit in another suit, then wait for his second trump trick. Unfortunately, this is what happened at the table. Because of the problem with entries I only managed to remove one Heart from the East hand, so when he came to ruff he still had a Heart. Again, the lead is in dummy, and I've not lost any tricks yet:

♠- ♥8 ♦KT ♣T
♠- ♥ Q ♦J98 ♣-
♠98 ♥- ♦72 ♣-

After I lead the ♣T from dummy JW ruffed it. He then safely exited with his ♥Q and got his ♦J later.

The defence celebrated wildly as I was left to rue another missed opportunity. "That's the kind of deal that can ruin your whole weekend" said JW.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Nearly of the week - Deal of the Week #15

Here's an interesting hand from this week's lunch bridge, featuring ambitious bidding from NC and JW.

Board 2
Dealer East
Love All
♠ x x x
♥ K x x
♦ K J T x x x
♣ x
♠ x x
♥ A J x x
♦ Q x x
♣ Q x x x
♠ Q T x x
♥ x x
♦ x x x
♣ K J x x
♠ A K J 9
♥ Q T x x
♦ A
♣ A x x x

NC opened 1♠, not my choice but I think on 4-4-4-1 hands anything goes really. JW replied 2♦, as in the local system there's no minimum points needed to respond at the 2 level. NC then rebid 2♥, and JW gave preference with 2♠. It could have ended there, but South made a little prod towards game with 3♠, and North couldn't resist.

West found the good lead of a trump. Although it's only a 4-3 fit, 4♠ isn't bad. It's certainly better than 3NT, which is where me and Anna would be (1♥-1NT;3NT). In 4♠ the only immediate losers are one Club and One Heart, with maybe a trump to come. There's two ways to play it. You either give up on trump control, and try and make the hand on a cross-ruff, which is going to be tough after a trump lead, but with this favourable layout might just work. The alternative, which NC went for, is to set up the Diamonds.

He won the Spade lead, and cashed the ♦A. I was sitting East. Whenever declarer quickly cashes an honour then thinks about what to do it's obvious it's a singleton, so in defence I knew that his ♦A was his only Diamond. Declarer then played ♣A and ruffed a club in dummy. He then shrewdly lead the ♦T, and discarded a Club from hand. He can afford this extra loser, but can't afford to start ruffing in hand, as he'll lose trump control. West won the Diamond and played another Club, ruffed in dummy. The Diamond's in dummy are now good, and I can see that if declarer can draw the last two trumps and get back there he's home. Fortunately, for the defence, West had the ♥A, so when declarer played a Heart West could win and play a Club. Since there were now no trumps in dummy I was able to win this with my ♣K and play another Club. Declarer had to ruff this, and then try and draw trumps. Unfortunately for him, the trumps didn't split, so the defence came to a fourth trick. In total we got one trick in each suit.

4♠-1. A good effort, especially seeing as NC was playing today without any carrots.

Friday, 7 February 2014

Winter Pairs - Round 4 Part Two

This is the my second featured hand from me and Anna's adventures at the Winter Pairs on Wednesday. This hand represented both a highlight and a lowlight. It was a highlight, as we were the only pair to bid and make 6♠. It was a lowlight as it took me so long to bid and play it - nearly the entire time that we were supposed to complete our two board round in.

Board 13
Dealer West
Love All
♠ A 8 3 2
♥ A J T 8 7 4 2
♦ 9 7
♥ Q 7 5
♦ K J 5 4 3
♣ K 7 6 5 3
♠ Q T 9 6
♥ 9 3
♦ 8 2
♣ Q J 8 4 2
♠ K J 7 5 4
♥ K
♦ A Q T 6
♣ A T 9

I was sitting South, and opened 1♠. West found a 2♦ bid, and Anna sitting North went for a big 4♣. This shows a singleton or void in Clubs, and sets Spades as trumps. I like getting the trump suit sorted early, and I think Anna was right not to bother showing her massive Heart suit. I re-evaluated my hand. The Diamonds have got worse with West's bid, but the Clubs have got better, as I expect partner to have a singleton. I cuebid 4♦, West doubled (just for fun I think), and Anna launched into Blackwood. I reckon she'd have been better off cue-bidding 4♥, then let me bid Blackwood and she can show her void. As it is, I replied 5♦, showing three keycards. This is nice for Anna, we have all the keycards, so she doesn't have to try and work out if one of my keycards is the ♣A. Although we've got all the keycards, Anna wisely reined herself in and only bid 6♠.

West lead a Diamond, and things look good. I have no immediate losers, and might only lose one trick in trumps. However, I've not many high cards, and I think to make it I'm either going to need to cross-ruff, or set up dummy's Hearts. After winning the opening lead with the A♣ (to preserve dummy's trumps), I unblocked the ♥K, then cashed the ♠A and saw the bad news. Although the trumps are 4-0, at least I know where they all are now, and I know the finesse will work. Rather than drawing trumps I crossed to dummy by ruffing a Club, then played ♥A and ruffed a Heart in hand. Dummy's hearts are now good, and I could cross-ruff my way along. Eventually East ruffed in, but was then down to two trumps so I could finesse her ♠Q and claim the rest.

What I didn't mention, is that I did all this very very slowly. At one point, the Tournament Director announced that there was two minutes left to finish the round. "Is this still our first hand?" I asked. "Yes", said the defenders and dummy together.

After four rounds we are currently in second place, behind Hugh McCash and John Di Mambro.

See the full results on the Buchanan website here here.

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Winter Pairs Round 4 - Part One

For the Winter Pairs you take your top four scores, out of seven I think. Last night was me and Anna's fourth, and in fact it's going to be our last one as we can't make any more. After a really up and down night, we finished on 54%. We bid two making slams, and one which went down one. Here's our bold bidding on the first one:

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

Anna has the big North hand. It's well worth a 2♣ opening as she can make game or even slam opposite lots of hands which might pass a one-level opening. I replied 2♦, which for us shows at least 5 points (we'd bid 2♥ with a really bad hand). Anna then bid a natural 3♣, and I bid a natural 3♥, which we've never discussed but I reckon should promise five Hearts. Anna raised me to 4♥, and I had a decision to make. I'd just read a blog post where someone in a similar situation to mine passed 4♥, and then struggled to make ten tricks (see here), but I decided to ignore that and bid on. 4NT was Keycard Blackwood. Anna showed three keycards, and since I had none, I bid 5♥. To my surprise, Anna then topped me up to 6♥. Highly irregular.

We do have a way to show a void after Blackwood and Anna should have bid 6♦ directly over my 4NT. She decided not to do this for some reason, and just showed her keycards. But then after both the opponents had doubled Diamonds, she reckoned that it was worth raising to 6♥.

I got a Diamond lead, which I ruffed in dummy. Everything's looking good, I just need to draw trumps. Ideally I'd lead the Queen from my hand, but was stuck in dummy so thought I'd just play safe by cashing the ♥A first. This worked fine, and I made it, but as Anna pointed out afterwards I risked going down if West had all four trumps. Perhaps I should have begun with a low trump to the Queen?

The second slam was the slowest hand I've ever bid or played. It's a zinger though, on a very distributional deal. I'll post that next time.