Monday, November 16, 2009

A better line for today's NYT hand

Many of you are probably regular readers of Phillip Alder's fine column in the New York Times. It's hard to say that someone misplayed when they executed a successful compound squeeze, but I think that is true in today's hand. First look at and see what you think. Then, here is the message I sent to Alder:

Hi Phillip,

It appears that once West pitched a club on the 3rd trump and then turned up with 4 spades, a simple 100% line was available. If declarer, after 3 trumps and 2 spades, just played CA, CK, club ruff, then if West guards clubs there is a simple squeeze (cash last trump then hearts) and if East guards clubs a standard double squeeze with hearts the common suit. In practice, of course, clubs would simply split. The club pitch is vital to this being 100%; it means declarer will always know who guards the last club. Note that Bertheau’s compound squeeze line is not 100%, as declarer can guess wrong as to which suit West has unguarded.

Therefore, the club pitch by West is an error, although understandable since declarer’s hand was completely unknown. To avoid giving declarer a sure-thing line, West must first pitch a heart. A club pitch on the 4th trump would be OK, since any pitch by declarer weakens his hand in a way that kills some variant of my 100% line.


Sunday, November 15, 2009

Establish your tricks -- lead trumps!

When balancing or competing against the opponents' 2S, one thing you fear is that your side has 3 7-card fits to choose from at the 3-level -- usually not a fun choice. But sometimes the opponents let you off the hook.

North: KTxx QJxx xx AKx
West: xxx AKx xxx Q9xx East: Ax xxxx AKxx Jxx
South: QJxx Tx QJxx Txx

At neither vul in a close sectional KO final, North opened 1C and raised partner's 1S to 2S, and East (Marty Harris) entered with a double. I guess (?) that most good players would favor this action at these colors, even though it is far from safe. I (West) bid a scrambling 2NT, preferring this to 3C in case partner is 2=4=5=2 or the like -- I also see a case for 3C, putting the ruffs in the short hand if (as here) we have a choice of 4-3 fits. Seemingly we were headed for -100 in 3D, but North came to the rescue with a 3S bid -- he had told his story sufficiently already, don't you think?

So, my lead against 3S. It seemed unlikely hearts were going anywhere, so I avoided the AK lead and tried a trump. This was a success when Marty won and found the club shift. Now it was routine to take 6 tricks for +100, and win 5 when our teammates played 2S for +110 on the HA lead. It's cute that we must avoid touching either of our AK holdings to get all our tricks, and that my trump lead allows a succesful active defense while the HA blows a tempo! My satisfaction with this is far out of proportion to the 1 extra imp it gained.

Alas, this hand was not enough, and we lost the match by 6.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Follow-up to lead problems

1. I didn't find it at the table, but on later consideration I think DA as Pretender suggests is clearly the best shot, trying for a simple path to 4 tricks. It does clear up a guess when partner has Jxx, but so be it. This was the winning lead at the table. Even though declarer had only 3 diamonds (6=3=3=1) and can pitch the third, your trumps are promotable when partner turns up with Jx and the HA.

2. I led the CQ, and clubs were the only losing lead. I still think maybe it was normal, but perhaps there is a good reason to make a different guess. Mojo, why is a heart so obvious?