Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Cute defensive hand


This hand is adapted from a Swiss event last week at the NYC regional.

 Dummy:     QT8x  xx   AKJx  Jxx

You:  9xx  AKT  xx K9xxx


The opponents reach 4S via a Stayman auction:  1NT-2C-2H-3NT-4S.  You choose to lead a diamond.  Dummy wins, partner encourages.  A heart is ducked to your T and you play another diamond – after some thought declarer, an expert, wins and ducks another heart.  You get out with a third heart, ruffed in dummy.  Declarer runs the CJ to your K and you exit a club which he wins with the A.  Now he leads the HQ.  You are down to 9xx ---  ---  xxx and dummy now has QTx  ---  Jx   x.   What is going on, and what do you do?


Answer: Declarer must have started with AKxx  Qxxx  xx  AQx.  So, he could pull trumps and claim, but he is afraid you have 4 trumps (especially since he infers you have only 3 hearts and 2 diamonds) and hoping to get some information when he leads the HQ.  Discard, and he may assume you didn’t want to ruff from Jxxx and hook the ST, going down in a “cold” contract.


At the table, I actually had J9x of trumps (that’s the “adapted” part of the story), so there was no way for declarer (Gavin Wolpert) to go down at this point.  He did say he was indeed planning to hook the trumps if I discarded.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

GNT district final -- slam hand

On Saturday our team (me/Jiang Gu, Josh Sher/Mike Prahin) lost the 56-board District 3 GNT final by about 20 imps.  Good luck to Bob Heitzman/Jeff Aker and Bruce Rogoff/Josh Parker at nationals.  We picked up some imps on the following hand:


I held Txx AK  AQx  Kxxxx, partner opened 1H, and the auction was uncontested:




Fortunately we had agreed that 2H here only shows 2.  I think this is a useful bid to have for hands where other bids are misdirected, and I think jumping to 3H over 2D when you want to show 3 and set trumps is fine – still plenty of room to cuebid.  Anyway in our cuebidding style 4C should deny any (1st or 2nd-round) spade control, so I was sure partner had one to make another try with 4D.  I had terrific red-suit cards I hadn’t really promised, so I was sure we belonged in slam.  I decided to bid 6D; it seemed clear this would show 2-3 in the reds and let partner make an intelligent choice.  After some thought, he passed with:  A  J9xxxx KJTx Ax.  There is not much to choose between 6D and 6H, both good contracts; 6D might survive 4-1 hearts if they don’t lead trumps, so it looks a little better, but it could be in trouble if diamonds are 5-1 with hearts 3-2.  Of course at the 7-level, diamonds would be much better – 7D is about 60%, but on this kind of combination can you really be sure your counterparts will reach 6?  They didn’t in this case.  Also 60% is just barely high enough even if we are sure they bid 6; and it’s quite hard for either of us to know enough to give us that 60% -- the DT is crucial, for instance.  So in practice it's a bit academic that 7D is a "good" contract.

At the table, the hearts were Qx and diamonds broke normally, so you’re making 7 of anything – we picked up 12 imps.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Overruffs looming (Updated)

Here’s a hand from a Thursday match on BBO I worried for a few days I should have played a bit differently:

Dummy:  932   986  AJ9732   4

Declarer: AQT75  AQ5  Q  AT53


At both vul, I dealt and the auction was 1S-2C-2S-P-4S-P-P-P


The play began unobjectionably, I think:  CK to the ace, DQ to the K and A, heart to the Q and K, HT to the A, club ruff low (rho played the J), DJ pitching a heart (they follow small).  Now the position is:


Dummy:  93              9     9732    --

Declarer:  AQT75    ----   -----    T5


And you’ve lost one trick.  Your move?


(I suppose I should cash the DJ earlier in case clubs were 7-1 and I never get back to dummy.  But we would get to this same crossroads.)  

Update: After a little more thought, I really don’t think my play was wrong.  Anyway, here is what happened:  I realized that the contract was unmakeable if lefty had Kx in trumps (must lose overruff, trump king and club or the equivalent.)  Since I need rho to have the SK, and I can score at most one club ruff anyway, it looked right to play a spade to the Q at this point rather than guess if a red-suit ruff was safe, and that is what I did.  Indeed this line makes easily if lefty has xx in trump, or stiff J.  I didn’t notice until later that you won’t make if lefty has Jx trumps, because there is always a promotion – but no other play will make either, so my original logic and intuition still seem sound.  You also can’t make on any line if lho has small stiff.


  So what happened at the table?  Why, the one case I didn’t mention, of course:  lho had stiff K.  So I was down 1.  Of course you can cater to stiff K if you choose; but I don’t see any line which caters to both stiff K and xx on the left – xx is 3 cases, so must be more likely than stiff K even though the individual cases are less likely because of the club break.  Except that stiff K happened – that makes it more likely J.


At the other table, there was an interesting variation.  Declarer in the same ending ruffed a heart small which lived, then ruffed a club with S9, overruffed by J.  A trump came back and he had to guess; he finessed, playing lefty for 8x, so that was a push.  I think he actually should have played for the drop at this point.  Suppose lho indeed started with 8x  Kxx  Kx KQxxxx.   RHO has just given you an unlikely gift by playing a trump – if he played the DT, partner’s 8 is eventually promoted (or declarer can pull trump and lose 3 tricks anyway.)  So, going back to the 7-card ending, my play must be right – it caters to all cases of xx (meaning 86, 84 and 64) on the left rather than basically committing you to play for stiff K (or 64) as well as risking 5-2 hearts.

Phew!  After a few days of worrying about this hand, I think my conscience is clean.  Now someone can tell me I’m wrong.