Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Good defenders can help you place the cards

All non-vulnerable, in a robot tournament, my partner (North) opens 2H and this gets passed out:

Do you agree with my pass?  The 2H at equal vulnerability ostensibly promises to go down 3. I can see that I cover 3 of partner's losers, so I should probably bid 4H.

East leads the 10 of diamonds. I cover and West plays the Ace of diamonds and returns a spade.  East cashes the AQ of spades and returns a diamond to the 9, queen and king.  At that point, I lead the Queen of hearts and East covers.  These are the cards that have gone so far:

Now what?  I lead the 8 of hearts.  West plays low.  Finesse or not?  Think about it before reading further.

East and West are good defenders, so it is worthwhile to consider their play to the hearts. With 3 hearts to the King, East would never cover. (well, perhaps if he had KTx, he would cover because it makes no difference).  Ergo, East started with 1 or 2 hearts. If East had King singleton, West will always get a trick. So, the only case to consider is that East started 2 hearts.

If that is the case, West now has 2 hearts and East now has one.  The odds are 2:1 that West has the 10 of hearts. Take the finesse.

At the table, I didn't bid 4H, and I didn't take 10 tricks. The full hand is here (click Next to see the play).

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Get partner in

Now that BBO runs free daily MP tournaments, I try to catch them when I can.  Time constraints man that I've pretty much stopped playing the bridgez/wbridge5 one.

Here's a hand from yesterday's:

I started off with the Queen of spades lead and declarer (East) immediately led a heart. I ducked and the robot guessed right to go up with the King of hearts.

Next, three low clubs to my singleton King.  Nice playing by the robot ... I continued spades and after the robot ruffed in hand, the four of hearts was led.

What should I play?

I desperately need to get partner in to lead diamonds through. I need to duck this trick.  If declarer has the queen of hearts, I can't lose my Ace-of-hearts trick, but if partner has it, then he can lead a diamond through.

Beating 3C by two tricks (instead of one) was the difference between 68% and 38%.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Tactics gotta change

We played just team events in a local sectional.  Before the event, I asked my teammates:

Which event?  The open KO or the 0-2000 one?  i.e. do you want to play a few good teams and leave early or do you want to play a bunch of bad matches and possibly win?

Everyone voted emphatically to play in the open knockout.  The Seattle board has decided to play the open KO with no brackets, so we were playing very strong teams.   You know the old poker saying about looking around you, and if you don't know who the sucker is, it's you?  In this field, we could look at every team, and realize that we were the suckers.

The first round was a three-way with two of the strongest teams even in the extremely strong field; we ended up winning both those matches (one of them on a blitz, the other by a couple of imps) and that's when I thought we might have a chance.  At the end of two-days, this was the scoreboard:

We were team Sieg.  We were lucky of course, winning the semi-final match by just two imps and benefiting from the opponents in all our matches guessing wrong more often than not on high-level contracts.

Each of the pairs in the teams we beat in the knockout would normally own us in club games. But knockouts is different, and bidding our hands to the maximum (but below game) and keeping them guessing worked out well.  We also went about manufacturing swings from board 1 so that we (the weaker team) could prevail.  This won't always work, but it's the only chance.

After winning the two-day knockout event, partner and I returned for an open board-a-match (BAM) event and promptly proceeded to gift away the first dozen boards.

Scoring matters, and it is best to take a deep breath before an event and think about how aggressively to compete and when to double to protect one's plus score.  The tactics that work in a 24-board knockout or 12-table club game do not work well at BAM.  We knew this, of course, but this was our first BAM, and we were playing as if it were matchpoints.

BAM, however, is different from matchpoints in one crucial way. A slightly-below par option will have plenty of company at matchpoints and end up with a 40% board, but it is disaster in a strong BAM field.  Time and again, we found ourselves too high and doubled on distributional part-score hands.  It took us some time to figure out the change in strategy -- of careful precise bidding, risky declarer play, and passive defense.  Our afternoon session showed improvement (55%) but the poor (46%) morning score could not be made up and we didn't scratch.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Cunning with a bad Trump split

I flew into London today (Sunday) morning, and since I have whole-day meetings for the next few days, I knew that I needed to get over my jet lag by being out-and-about on Sunday.

The Acol Bridge Club puts out quite a nice lunch spread on Sundays -- the bridge is managed by former restauranteur Noorul Malik and partners are guaranteed.  Insisting on playing 2/1 in the land of Acol usually ensures a decent partner (how many bad bridge players will bother to learn a second bidding convention?)

I walked along the Thames from my hotel to Westminster and took the Jubilee Line to North London:




There were the usual questions one gets ...  Really, you play strong no-trumps? How long are you in London? Will you come back later this week? What is it with Donald Trump anyway?

I tried my best to answer the questions, trying tactfully to point out that the approval rating for Donald Trump is no crazier than the approval rating for "Brexit" -- the numbers are very similar and the type of person supporting Trump in the US is the same type of person who'd be supporting Brexit in the UK.

I don't know if it's a weakness of Acol, but our opponents were dying over themselves to rescue their partners whenever they held a singleton in their partner's suit (maybe it's bad memories of playing 4-1 fits?).  The rescues never ended well.  I'm surprised the practice was so widespread. Even my partner would occasionally forget that we were playing 2/1 and rescue me ... She was, however, good at reading spot cards so our defense was tight. We finished with 59%, good for fourth place.

As with the bridge bidding, there were subtle differences in the language between the USA and the UK. Slightly different connotations for the same words.  For example, after I brought home this 4H contract for 27/30 masterpoints, the opponents said that I had played the hand "cunningly."  Turns out that this was not a slur -- they were being very appreciative of my skill.

The hand itself would probably be an average board in a strong field (click Next to see the play), but few declarers could change course and handle the 4-1 trump split:


In fact, looking at the hand, now, after the King of diamond lead, I can make 5H!  Can you see how? Leave a comment if you figure it out.

The bridge game ended at 4, and with a couple of hours to kill, I wandered around the National Gallery.  A few of the paintings that caught my eye today:

The Grand Canal of Venice is often painted, but this is the first time I'm seeing it with a regatta. The colors add drama to the scene and in person, the boats shimmer with energy.


This is the standard pyramid shape of many portraits (including the Mona Lisa), but the hat adds a second geometric interest to the composition. Your eye is drawn to a diagonal formed by her right elbow and left shoulder. I'm surprised more painters don't do this.


The scene here is supposed to be of an angel coming to Joseph in a dream, pointing to Mary, and saying that she will bear a child while still a virgin.  In person, though, Joseph's slumber is quite comatose and the angel's arm is in the same position it would be if she had slapped him into that coma. Meanwhile, Mary looks on with a wry smile. Is the painter an atheist having fun?


Walking out of the gallery and back to the hotel, I got to capture the framing afforded by the half-open gate and the rainy evening sky of Big Ben:


And that is how I bridged over jet lag.  Tomorrow, I'll know if I've been successful.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Undiscussed bids in the slam zone

Playing with an occasional partner in a strong club game, we have already had a couple of misunderstandings. In spite of that, we are doing well (we'd finish with 54%).

As East, I picked up:
E
North
A
AQJ63
953
QJ103

South dealt and passed and the bidding goes:
West
East
2NT1
32
3
?
(1) 20-21
(2) transfer to hearts

What's your rebid holding my cards?

I decided to pattern out, and bid 4C.  Partner, unsure what this was (cue-bid self-agreeing hearts?) kept the bidding open with 4H and that's how we ended up in 6H for this result:


I should have kept it simple.  Knowing that we were going to slam anyway, I should have simply bid 5NT over 3H.  Partner could bid 6H with 3 of them, bid 6NT with his actual holding.  If partner decides to scramble to 6C or 6D, I can pass 6C or correct 6D to 6NT.

4C, undiscussed, was simply too risky.


p.s. Thanks to John Goold for putting his Bridge Blogging Tools on the cloud. The hand diagrams in this post were formatted using his tools.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Sticking to a plan

Playing matchpoints, West has opened 1S over which partner (North) overcalled 2D.  They land up in 4S and partner leads the Ace of diamonds and I see:

Dealer: W
Vul: None
North



West



East
♠ AKxx
♥ xxxx
♦ x
♣ xxxx
South
♠ x
♥ Axxxx
♦ Jxxxx
♣ xx

Bidding:
 1S - 2D - 4S
HTML Bridge Hand Layout Creator



With a singleton on the board and declarer having a singleton, I pretty much have to show suit preference.  So I played the Jack of diamonds to tell partner about my heart honor.

Partner duly switched to the ten of hearts and I won with the Ace.  Now what?

Partner needs a club through, I thought, and led a club.  This was horribly wrong.  Can you see why?

The answer is in the card that partner led -- he led the 10 of hearts.  That denies KQJ of hearts.  Declarer must have those 3 hearts.  So, the ten must be a singleton!  I needed to give partner a ruff.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Rectifying the count

At matchpoints in a strong club game, I was West and playing in 3NT after an auction that went 1NT-3NT.  North led the 3 of spades (3rd and 5th leads at NT):



Questions (at the table, I got this wrong):

  1. Do you go up with Jack of spades, or duck?
  2. What's your line?
Who has the 5-card spade suit? Assuming that North had a choice of major leads if he had 3 cards in each, it is more likely that he has the 5-card suit, and that the 3 is his 5th highest card.

Given that North has the 5-card suit, he would have led the King from KQ10 (internal sequence). So, South has one of these three honors.

Who has the 10? The odds are 4-2 that North has any specific card. So, let's put the 10 of spades with North.  Now, do you go up with Jack of spades?

Interestingly, it doesn't matter because you are going to duck this trick and win the spade continuation. Otherwise, you have no safe way of rectifying the count.

Having thus rectified the count, can you win all the remaining tricks on a squeeze? I'll leave it as a puzzle for you -- you can try to play out the hand on BBO.  Post your answer as a comment.