Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Textbook Problem

Yesterday I was fortunate to get dealt a cute textbook defensive problem. To see the hand record, click here.

After trick 1, you can tell partner has 5 clubs, so there are no pitches coming there. Time to go passive? Well, you know declarer has the 7 missing spades. He will discover the break, then, if possible, cross to dummy to finesse. But you can make that impossible by shifting to diamonds and taking out the entry now, which I did. Because we had 2 heart tricks coming this was only a 2-imp undertrick, but it was fun anyway. Even more fun if you swap the HJ and HQ though…

My play now doesn’t seem perfectly precise to me; if declarer had AKJxxxx Jx Q Jxx I would need to cash the CA and then play a low diamond so there is no endplay later. Always room for improvement! The DK felt sexy and worked on this layout, but with the J in dummy a low diamond is better. I also must point out my play would be a disaster if declarer had AKJxxxx J Qx Jxx. (We can infer from partner's non-heart lead he doesn't have QJxx(x) there, making the danger layouts less likely.) Perhaps I should cash the CA and hope partner gives a suit-preference signal. In any case, I enjoyed this hand. Usually declarer knows the most about the key issues of the hand; it's nice when you know the most as a defender and can take advantage.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Follow-up to post-preempt decision

Well, at the virtual table I passed here without much thought. As Alex mentions in the comments, I am in general a devoted non-sacrificer. But let’s revisit this. What is partner doing? Based on his failure to bid anything the first time, or to bid 4S the second or third time, we can be confident he does not have a diamond-suit-plus-spade-fit kind of hand. No, he has a bucketload of diamonds. In context, I think we have a nice fit; when I preempt, he must expect about 1 card in his very long suit on average. Two and a ruffing value (if they don’t pull my trumps) is a nice bonus. It was a bold action to save over 3nt, and he must have a very long semi-solid suit. Can we raise the sacrifice a level? In retrospect, I think we can. Of course, I have come under the influence of seeing the hand record, here.

As you can see, 5D gets out for 300 (4S goes for 500.) As a curiosity, check out the par on this hand. NS score highest in notrump, making 5 for 660. So is 5NT par? No, because we get out for 500 in six diamonds! A par sacrifice against 5NT must be a rare bird, and one I only recommend hunting with handy access to the hand records.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Funny post-preempt decision

In a friendly imp match on bridgebase, I had an interesting decision: White/red, I had AKT9xxx Txx xx x. I was second seat, and it went:





Any thoughts?

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Just another 2-imp swing

This hand is from a home team game. Play 5D on the SK lead:

Dummy: Axx QJ8xxx AJx x

Declarer: x Ax KQ9xxx Kxxx

Declarer opened 1D in second seat, white/red; the full auction was P-1D-1S-2H; P-3D-4C-5D; AP. Dummy had a tough call over 4C -- as it happens, even with partner having Ax in hearts, diamonds might be the best game. Discussion of the play below…

Vulnerable, LHO must have almost everything to bid at the 4-level; if he is 6-5, I suppose he could be missing the HK. Running the HQ next seems to cover almost every case. If it holds, you play a club to the K (to keep righty off lead in case hearts 4-1) then have enough tricks, with at least two club ruffs in dummy followed by pulling trumps; maybe 3 club ruffs if lefty has no trump to lead. If, more likely, the heart loses, your plan is to use the long hearts, which works unless the HK was stiff (lefty can’t have 4). You even survive diamonds 4-0 when hearts break. After unblocking HA, you play DK, DJ and start hearts; righty is helpless since you can overruff and pull his trump, and still have just enough pitches. I can also see an argument for starting hearts with the ace, in case lefty has stiff K. This may lead to more complicated play when righty has KTxx and they tap dummy, but I think you always survive.

At the table, LHO held KQTxx Kxx –- AQJTx. I don’t know declarer’s actual play, unfortunately, but he went down 1. Maybe he cashed a high trump from dummy before working on hearts, which looks natural but is fatal on the 4-0 trump break. The lesson is not to pull a round of trumps “just to check” unless you are really sure it doesn’t cost a vital entry; this is easy to miss here because you only need that entry on 4-0 trumps.

I was at the other table, and didn‘t make that 4C bid on the black two-suiter. Any opinions on that? We got lucky because my lefty bid 3NT over her partner’s 3D, down 2 on a spade lead when the heart hook lost. Win 2.

Wait, did I imply that 3nt is routinely down? After 3 rounds of spades, I’m finished if declarer just runs diamonds – no pitches avoid the squeeze/endplay, even if I unblock my spade spots so partner’s is highest. Work it out. Of course, I had only bid once, so this line wasn’t clearly marked. There is a mild inference from partner’s failure to raise, but hardly certain. To defeat 3NT legitimately, I need to somehow convince partner to switch to clubs at trick 3, which is presumably impossible, and he must produce the 9; I don’t know if he or declarer had it. As I said, just another 2-imp swing.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Not quite

(Some spots corrected from original post--thanks, Kenny.) I played in a Chicago-area sectional Swiss yesterday with Drew Becker and Kenny Zuckerberg/Bill Drewett. It was a good turnout numerically, with about 50 teams. As for quality: There were two teams in the (stratified) field with national-caliber players, but as for the rest …it felt as if every time we came back with a moderate card, our teammates had a 1400 and an 800 for a blitz, and vice-versa! I know there were some decent teams out there, but we didn’t seem to be playing them. After 6/7 matches we were undefeated, had beaten both good teams (in close matches) and had 101 VPS. In the Swiss I wrote about in July, 100 clinched for my team after 6, but that was a flighted regional; yesterday 101 was good for only a 1 VP lead over Katz/Demirev, Miller/Carmichael, and Lehman/Melson. They would be playing the other star team, so our chances were fairly good. Alas, we suffered our first loss by 1, they won by 2, and that made the final score 111-110. I was left to contemplate the overtricks I had blown against 2NT on the final board of the day. But if there was any justice, the imp my partner earned on defense against the eventual winners back in our second match would have proved decisive:

North: JT9x Qx QJTxx Ax

West: KQxx Kxx Axx KQx East: xxx xxx K9xx JTx

South: Ax AJT9x 8 xxxxx

Partner (West) opened 1NT, passed around to South, who balanced with 2C showing hearts and a minor; North bid 2D (denying 3 hearts) and South corrected to 2H and played there. Drew led a small trump; declarer won the Q and played ace and a club…and I won the trick, because Drew had dropped an honor under the CA. I managed to get a second trump on the table, and this defense held declarer to his contract. This was a 1-imp gain for our side (see comments for the sequence at the other table.). Sadly, this particular imp was not worth the VP we would need at the end of the day.

Of course, a diamond underlead could accomplish the same thing…maybe my club plays should convey suit-preference if partner doesn’t unblock, so he can underlead, but that is hardly routine. Finally, notice that if declarer decides that not letting me win a club trick is the vital issue, he needs to lead a club from hand so he can duck if partner splits. This might be the wrong play, of course; it could look bad on poor breaks.