Saturday, July 31, 2010

Not so fast (updated)

Here is a hand I enjoyed playing from our first-round loss in the Spingold. I was in 3C with

963 6542 QJ K873

KT54 7 K5 AQJ962

on the uncontested auction 1C-1D!(hearts)-1S-2C-3C. I considered the 3C bid very close; apparently at the other table they thought a long time and passed. Anyway, it’s nice to see the opponents can make 4D and probably 4H. Could I make 3C? They led a heart to the A and the DA. I dropped the DK in case I needed the entry; since I did this in tempo, I guess they were afraid I was 4-2-1-6 and they fatally played a second heart. I ruffed with the 9, played a diamond to dummy for a heart ruff, and played the CQ to the K, very pleased when lefty had stiff T. I could claim now; I eliminated the last heart with a high ruff, crossed to the C8 pulling the last trump, and led a spade planning to cover RHO’s card for the endplay. The opposing spades were AJx/Qxx so this was a very nice result requiring a little help from the defense. Fun. But on later sober reflection, I realized I played this hand wrong! Do you see why? Answer tomorrow.

The result was a 1-imp pickup when our teammates didn’t get in the auction either and were -90.


The actual right way to play: I should use my trump entry before the diamond entry. This works just as well when the T drops, but leaves me better placed when it doesn't to make against both A onside and Qx or Jx onside, because I find out the trump position earlier. Work it out.

Friday, July 30, 2010

A 5-or-7 hand, at the one-level

I was kibitzing a hand from the Spingold QFs where Fantoni, in a 3-card ending, wound up having to guess whether the opposing trumps were initially 97/KJ54 or 95/KJ74. This was necessary in order to get out for 800 instead of 1100 in 1S doubled! In particular, declarer’s trumps were initially T863/AQ2. LHO had earlier overruffed declarer’s 8 with the 9, righty had ruffed a plain suit with the 4, dummy had ruffed with the A to avoid an overruff, and RHO had just ruffed ahead of declarer with the J, leaving a remaining trump position of


x Ky


where {x,y}={5,7}. Now RHO led a suit where declarer and LHO but not dummy were void. To take 2 tricks, declarer must ruff with the 6 if x=5, but with the T if x=7. Yikes! The commentators were all saying this was a pure guess. A waste of time to even think about it, right? What possible inference could there be about the 5 and 7? There is one clue, though…do you see it? Answer below.

The key is to ask yourself whether either defender had a choice of how to defend with either holding. For lefty, there is no inference whatsoever as he had no choice from either 97 or 95. RHO, though, could have ruffed with the 5 or 4 from KJ54, but his choice would be restricted to the 4 from KJ74. That’s right, restricted choice operates on the 5 and 4 spots! Declarer should therefore play righty for KJ74 and ruff with the 6. By the way, it’s a very good habit to play randomly from equivalent spots when you are not signaling…this doesn’t require that you foresee esoteric positions like this, it’s just good general technique that minimizes declarer’s information.

In real life, Fantoni ruffed with the T and was punished with -1100. At the other table, oddly, they got to 2H-X in a slightly stronger 4-3 fit and did two tricks better for -800. You can see the hand record here.

Thanks to vugraph operator Dan Wolkowitz for the joke in the title. He’s the best I’ve seen at operating accurately and making good comments at the same time.

Monday, July 12, 2010

The patient lived, but...

Some of you saw the NYT column where I was in 6C with
x Axxxxx Kxx K92
Ax Kx AQJx AT543

after LHO overcalled 1S and righty bid 4S, and Franco did very well to pull my double to 5C. Unfortunately, I didn't play this hand well. My problems started when lefty led a diamond which I wrongly assumed was shortness, so that he (if anyone) was likely to have trump length. I then debated whether I was willing to safety the trumps (CA, club to 9) and decided it wasn't worth the extra risks and I should just stick to basics and play for clubs 3-2 after which it's a claim. BUT having decided that, I should make sure to also make against stiff Q or J of trumps. (For instance, CK, SA, spade ruff*.) However, with the idea of lefty having the trumps being an idee fixe, and thinking I was just banging down AK trumps anyway, I started trumps with CA and another, lefty having stiff J as it happened. Now, since I couldn't ruff a spade, I was forced to rely on hearts 3-2, and fortunately they were, but unfortunately I'm the kind of person who is haunted by this kind of thing anyway. For the record, my play blows the slam about 4% of the time, but more than that it's just ugly. Naturally I'm hoping this confession will be good for the soul.

*Best start is actually CK, C2...rho might split from QJxx. If no honor appears, you have a close decision whether to go up A or hook the T. Probably the T, but depends how you read the opening lead.

To cleanse the mental palate, here's a bread-and-butter, but non-routine, hand from the R16 that I played right:

Q9853 QJxx x Kxx
AJT74 --- AKxx Axxx

I was in 6S at white/red, after P-P-1S-(2S)-4S-(5H)-6S-AP. They led HK. Try it if you like. More next time. Update: see lengthy analysis on this hand in the comments.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Deep Six

After a slight bidding mishap in the round-robin, we wound up in a 6nt that (after a somewhat marked double-hook against an overcaller in his suit) required 5 tricks from AKJ62/T87 with plentiful transportation. Thanks to those juicy middle spots, you can pick up all 4-1 breaks with the Q onside after cashing the A in case of stiff Q, then running the T. In fact lefty did have Q9xx and we made it. I record this hand only because I can’t recall another instance of making a slam because of a crucial 6-spot.

Of course you can pick up Q9xx double-dummy without the 6, but only at the risk of blowing to 9x offside. This is hand 50 at Given the luck involved, I’m happy to report that both teams involved were going to qualify by at least 10 VPs regardless of the outcome on this hand.