Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Decisions, decisions

This hand from a bbo match presented a number of interesting decisions. Spoilers are embedded so you may want to cover things up as you go…or just enjoy the story.

Neither vul, partner dealt and bid 3h. Second hand doubled. I held:

♠ K972
♥ Q
♦ AJ832
♣ AJ9

What is your plan?

(a) bid 4h
(b) pass planning to double anything
(c) pass planning to double some things, bid over others
(d) xx inviting partner’s input

I chose (b), with much less than 100% confidence, on the basis that game wasn’t certain and +300 seemed like a reasonable expectation, with a sufficiently small chance of -530. I would expect substantial expert support for (a). I don’t like (d) because partner is unlikely to be able to help you, and you might help the opponents.

Lefty bid 3S which I doubled. RHO ran to 4D, doubled more happily. I led HQ and visible was



Dummy won HA, 2 from partner (udca, standard suit-pref), and ran D9, partner following with the 7. Your plan?

I think ducking this to get a signal from partner on the next trick is best, but I won and tried a spade – small, ten, queen. At tricks 4 and 5 I ducked the DT and DQ, partner pitching hearts up the line. Now declarer played A and a spade, and I was in with 6 tricks to go, now holding 9 – A8 AJ9 with J 9 – T765 in dummy. Your move?

Partner seems to be 2-7-1-3. I think he should certainly not pitch this way with 3 small clubs, so he has Kxx or Qxx. Perhaps Qxx is more likely, because he might have pitched a small one from Kxx. Do you see how to guarantee 5 of the last 6, for down 4, when partner has Qxx?

The (actual) ending:
Dummy: J 9 – T765
Me: 9 – A8 AJ9 Partner: -- KJT -- Q32
Declarer: -- 7 K6 K84

The CJ to create an entry to partner is a nice try, but declarer can counter by ducking. You must play A and a diamond, giving up your trump trick – partner must be careful to pitch one club, keeping Qx with two heart winners, to avoid a throw-in, and declarer is dead. (After CJ ducked, do you get a second chance to play diamonds? Interestingly, no – you have stripped an idle card from partner and he is strip-squeezed.)

At the table I fell from grace and led the C9. I could say I was playing partner for CK, but that doesn't hold up -- you can't get 1100 anyway so your play is irrelevant. Getting 800 when he has CQ is clearly the issue – the fact is if I had thought of the right play, I would have done it. It went 9,T,Q,K and I was endplayed again with a club for down 3.

Declarer had AQ4 73 KQT64 K84. Final result: +500, win 2 against -420 (3h-x-4h at the other table.) Win 9 would have been so much nicer.

Footnote: More double-dummy madness: suppose declarer gives you back the trump trick, playing DK under the A. Partner must adjust his discards, keeping 3 clubs and one heart when you cash D8, then you must exit CJ. Going back, the order of partner’s discards in the main variation must be club last.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Opening leads

As a counterweight to all this deep analysis, here are a couple of opening lead problems. In a 20-board match the other day on BBO, interestingly we made all 12 of our contracts, and the opponents made 6 of 8 -- no misdefense, just a lot of winning finesses! The two outliers hinged on these opening leads:

1. Both vul, opps bid uncontested 1nt-2d-2h-3h-4h
You hold: KJ862 K KT4 J742

2. Neither vul, opps bid uncontested 1s-2d-2nt-3d-3s-3nt-4nt-6nt
You hold: J83 K92 5 QT9762

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Fun with KT doubleton

A few years ago in a New England knockout, I failed to falsecard from KT in a suit where dummy had Q9x and declarer AJ8xx. It looked like a potential game swing away, but an accomplished player at the other table missed the opportunity also, for a push. Alan Applebaum (who was declaring for our team at the other table) told me afterwards that ever since someone pulled that one against him many years ago, his alertness goes up the minute he picks up a hand with KT doubleton. Seems like a good tip. Like most little points of bridge technique, it didn’t come up for a few years, until…

Playing a compact ko match against some French internationals in Houston, I held QJxx KT Axx Q8xx. White v. red, lho dealer, the auction went P-1D-P-1S-X-XX-2C-X-AP, where the XX was support. Hoping that partner had stuff in hearts, I led a trump, and dummy had xx AJ87x xx KTxx. Dummy played low, partner won the A and led a low spade, declarer winning the K. Declarer led a low heart and I played the K – note that aside from the falsecard possibility, this would be the normal communication-cutting play if declarer held 9x or xx. In fact declarer held Kxxx Q9x xx J9xx. After long thought, he played a low heart to the 9 and T. We cashed our pointed winners and tapped the dummy, and with no hand entry he had to give me two more trump tricks, for down 2, a juicy 500. Notice that double-dummy, my brilliant K lets declarer make an overtrick instead of going down 1 (it gives him a hand re-entry and unblocks the hearts. He had just blown the contract dbl-dummy, less than a second earlier, by blocking the hearts. After H9!, T, J, he can exit with CT and the defense has no answer.) If you make declarer’s H9 a low spot my play would look bad for sure, so I can’t put this on the personal highlight reel without reservations, although it was certainly good fun.

Justice in bridge is very long-term. We won that earlier New England ko match despite the missed opportunity, but the 11 imps won on this hand (vs. 3nt -1) were not enough to win the 12-board match.

Friday, March 20, 2009

A hand from the Spring NABC

I hate to say it, but for most bridge players I know, disappointments stick in the mind at least as long as triumphs. It's particularly disappointing to miss a pretty play that would have paid off. The pangs almost always hit me immediately after a hand -- the one area I consider myself truly world-class is the post-mortem :-). But in this case, what with the hurry of that inexorable 15-minute pairs clock, the tension of being close in a national final, and the need to keep moving on to the next hand, there wasn't much time for analysis, and the painful feelings didn't strike until five days later. I was back home coming out of the shower when I remembered this hand from the second final session of the NAPs, and realized that not only was it makable, but I should have made it:

Dummy: K975 842 84 QJ94

Declarer: AQ2 AJ973 K5 AT5

With RHO dealer, neither vul., the auction went P-1H-P-2H-X-4H-AP, and the S3 was led, which could systemically be three small or honor-third. Plan the play. Extensive analysis in the comments.