July 16th, 2016 ~ Jeff Lehman ~ No Comments
On Board 22 of Thursday’s club game, I was on lead against a third seat 15-17 vul v not 1NT, passed out, with this collection:
I chose to lead the ♥Q, and received an encouraging ♥9 from partner, as I held the trick. I continued two more rounds of the suit, declarer winning the ace at last. The whole deal (partner South having chosen to pass in passout seat rather than bid 2♣ showing a two-suiter to include clubs):
Unable to repel the greed of finding my partner with Kx of diamonds, declarer chose not to start diamonds from the top but rather to lead a club toward dummy.
This card combination is a common one. With Qxx/QTx/Kxx/KTx second hand should normally rise with the high honor, appearing to some declarers as though he were splitting from a holding with both high honors; with KQx second hand should duck, because declarer’s percentage play is to finesse the nine playing second hand for QTx/KTx rather than KQx.
I played the ♣Q and declarer ducked. I continued a small club and declarer finessed the jack, losing to partner’s king. Partner ran two heart tricks. Dummy had pitched three diamonds; declarer had pitched one of each pointed suit; I had pitched the ♠7 and the ♦8. Next partner switched to a spade. Declarer chose to insert the jack, losing to my queen.
The position now:
A small spade now endplays declarer, who, having already lost four hearts, two clubs and a spade, will lose the ♦K and a second spade for -300.
Greed, (at least some times) not Good.
May 10th, 2016 ~ Jeff Lehman ~ 5 Comments
Partner Len Aberbach of Wayland, MA, helped bid to great contracts on two hands in today’s club IMP pairs event.
4♥ basically depends only upon trumps breaking no worse than 4-2.
Meanwhile, 3NT can be set whenever NS can win four spades before the ♥A is dislodged. Even if the ♠J wins a trick, when spades are 5-3 and the defense keeps its transportation fluid by allowing NS to win the first or second spade trick, NS can prevail. When EW attacks hearts – as they must – the defense will be in position to have won four spade tricks along with the ♥A.
The key bid was Len’s 3♥ call, warning me against notrump and presumptively showing Hx in hearts.
5♣ basically depends upon avoiding a trump loser. By contrast, 3NT can be set if North can reach South with an immediate major suit entry and then South can lead a diamond through West.
The key bid was Len’s pass of 4♦, when a double might have been the call I was anticipating.
Alas, neither of these two boards was quite the bonanza we had hoped for. On Board 14, 7 pairs allowed 3NT to make, so that our +420 gained against datum only +3.07. On Board 8, South had no entry and so 3NT by West made easily for one pair while two other pairs who reached 5♣ were doubled (OK, one pair went down in 5♣ and one pair went down in 6♣), and +400 won only 5.27 IMPs to datum.
April 11th, 2016 ~ Jeff Lehman ~ No Comments
Our team was playing well, and amicably, against excellent competition in the semi-finals of the District 25 Grand National Teams. We were playing in Flight A, limited to players with fewer than 6,000 masterpoints.
Unbeknownst to my partner and me, we had retained all but 5 of our 18 IMP halftime lead entering the last board of the session.
North-South are vulnerable, the diagrams notwithstanding.
The opponents seemed to have bid aggressively but well to reach 6♥. Winning the opening lead of the ♠3 (♠7, ♠T, ♠K) in hand, declarer assessed that if there were only one trump loser, the contract seemed to have several chances: the club finesse, diamonds splitting 3-3, spades splitting 3-3, or a finesse of the ♠J.
Sitting West, my partner, Wayne Burt of Pembroke, NH, won an early trick with the ♥K and found the return that most tests declarer, a club. Declarer, Dean Panagopoulos of Lynn, MA, considered the switch carefully and decided not to risk the slam on the club finesse. Instead, he rose with the ♣A, as I played an encouraging club. Declarer now played on diamonds, winning the third round in hand. West proved to own the fourth round winner in diamonds, however. Declarer was now down to a different combo shot for the contract: either spades split 3-3 or my hand, owning 4+ cards in spades and the ♣K, would be caught in a show-up squeeze. He played his other top spade winner in hand (both East and West following small) and his remaining trump winners.
As declarer advanced the ♥J, no show up of the ♣K, but …
Our teammates, reasonably enough, did not reach this slam and the 13 IMP swing was enough for our skilled opponents to come-from-behind and win. Congratulations to Dean Panagopoulos and his teammates: Yiji Starr of Wayland,MA, Glenn McIntyre of Bedford, MA, and Ron Mak of Manchester, NH. They went on to win the finals and will represent our district well in the NABC continuation of the event.
I also offer congratulations to my teammates in the semi-finals, Wayne Burt, Bob Bertoni of Haverhill, MA, and Peter Manzon of Waltham, MA, and also Joyce Pearson of Framingham, MA, who was able to fill in for Peter in the qualifying that preceded the semi-finals.
April 9th, 2016 ~ Jeff Lehman ~ No Comments
East sort of made this hand easy for me to be +490 in 3NT, but a little better defense at Trick 2 would still have allowed me to make twelve tricks.
I opened 2NT and partner looked for a heart fit before settling in 3NT.
Fortunately for me, East did not find a diamond lead, but instead led the ♣J.
I won the ♣J in hand and led a small heart from the ace. East rose with the ♥K and returned a diamond. Well, if hearts split I already have twelve tricks. More importantly, if hearts do not split, I have eleven tricks on top, the count rectified, and threats in all three non-club suits.
Reading West for the ♦K, I played a small diamond from dummy, winning the ♦A in hand. East was discovered to own four hearts, but no matter: with so many threat suits, a double squeeze (with spades as the pivot suit) had to work. When I ran all my rounded suit winners (last club shown below in parentheses, my discarding a heart on the last club), East did not pitch her winning heart and West did not pitch the ♦K and so the spades must be, and were, good for the twelfth trick (see below). Rewarding, but not really special.
Let’s go back and assume that East tested me by ducking the ♥K, allowing me to win the ♥Q at Trick 2. How might the play go from there?
Well, if I divine the heart position, I can catch West in a strip squeeze (“squeeze without the count”). After four clubs and two hearts, everyone is down to seven cards before I play the last club winner (shown in parentheses).
When I lead the last club from dummy, West can discard one of his diamonds, and I can discard my last heart. No problem.
But then I can continue four rounds of spades, throwing West into the lead while I discard dummy’s two hearts. He must lead away from the ♦K and I earn my twelfth trick that way.
Much better blog material, but then I can write about that line as conjecture, anyway!
March 19th, 2016 ~ Jeff Lehman ~ 1 Comment
I am not complaining: the 68.4% game that partner and I scored in winning yesterday’s “club championship” matchpoint game at the club is far beyond our normal score. Partner declared well, we conducted some good defenses, and we did not screw up every auction. But – truth be told – the largest contributions to our score were from the opponents conducting more-than-expected numbers of soft declarer plays and soft defenses. Well, that, and the fact that many of the normally contending pairs are in Reno at the Spring NABCs.
Still … there were a number of woulda’, coulda’ results: results that should have been much higher had we only performed to our best standard. A couple of those results merit just passing attention. One result is much more interesting and will be detailed.
On Board 14, partner’s overbid made it much easier to drive to a reasonable 6♠ contract. As the cards lie, all that is required to make the contract is to play this side suit for no losers: AJT8x opposite K9xx. The suit split 2-2. However, declarer concocted a reason to finesse the hand with two small for the queen and so went down one trick. The matchpoint difference between -50 and +980 (even +1010 was available on the defense received) was a whole board, or 11 matchpoints. Oh yeah, I was the subject declarer.
On Board 13, partner had several, uh, mishaps in the use of Suction over an opponent’s strong and artificial 2♣ opening bid. Had he bid a bit better, we might have scored +790 (10.5 mps) or +620 (10 mps). Even as the auction progressed after some initial misbids, -150 (8.5 mps) was easily available and +100 (9.5 mps) was possible. However, at the table -600 was the result. That scored 5.5 mps. Let’s say that that one cost around 4 mps.
Now to the most interesting board of the bunch, Board 9. Partner erroneously showed a heart/club two-suiter opposite my strong balanced hand. Had he shown his sixth heart, the probable result is that partner would have driven us to 6♥. As the auction unfolded, we were in 6NT instead. These were the cards.
6NT is actually a quite nice contract, not bad even with a spade lead and excellent without a spade lead. A little hard to imagine how 6♥ would be a better contract. Ah, but there was a way for 6♥ to be better.
Follow the first five tricks at the table in 6NT and then imagine that the contract magically morphed into 6♥.
- ♠6, 8, Q, A
- ♥A, 2, 3, 6
- ♥5, T, Q, ♦2. OK, the ♥T is not the best play by South, but it is the play one is not surprised to see at a club game.
- ♠9, K, 4, 5
- ♦T …
When North led a diamond at Trick 5, I had a table feel about the lie of the pointed suits. Accordingly, I rose with the ♦A and played more spades, hoping for some miracle misdefense, which was not forthcoming. I still limited my loss to down one trick (4+3+1+3).
-100 scored 2.5 mps.
But let’s get back to the possible continuation had I been declaring a contract of 6♥.
At Trick 6, I could play the good ♠J, discarding dummy’s last diamond. I could continue by ruffing a diamond in dummy, leading to a club honor in my hand and ruffing another pointed suit in dummy. A club to my other club honor in hand leads to this three card end position.
I could then lead a good spade and South would have no good answer. (I’d hope he discards, so that I could dramatically discard dummy’s ♣A.) +980 on the trump coup and, yes, all 11 mps for a net gain from our actual result of 8.5 mps.
Yep, the woulda’, coulda’ score would have exceeded 77%.
March 2nd, 2016 ~ Jeff Lehman ~ No Comments
Relating two slam investigations from this past Sunday’s sectional Swiss team event, where I was favored with receipt of clues from the auction to enable me to infer useful information about the hands held by my partner:
In fourth chair I opened 1♠ on the following hand:
The auction proceeded:
Partner’s negative double implies ownership of at least four hearts. The auction engaged by the opponents, when considered in connection with my three-card holding in clubs, strongly suggests that partner has extreme shortness in clubs.
Partner’s hand can range from something better than this slam suitable two count: Qx, xxxxx, xxxxx, x, to this slam unsuitable eight count: xx, xxxx, AKJxxx, x.
I hoped to discover whether partner had spade values or diamond values by bidding 5♣. Of course, I had to hope that partner would treat 5♣ as a cue bid for his “bid suit” of hearts.
Partner bid 5♦.
That is not what I had hoped to hear. Either 5♥ or 5♠ would have suggested better slam chances than 5♦. I bid 5♥.
Time to show partner’s hand:
With two aces and a fifth trump, partner – wisely, in my opinion – chose to bid on. At the table, he chose to bid 6♦ rather than 5♠ and so the grand slam was not considered.
6♥ made easily: I ruffed the club lead in dummy, drew all of the opponents’ trumps in two rounds, and established the spade suit by playing the ♠A, ♠K and ruffing a spade in dummy. I pitched a club on the ♦A and ruffed a diamond to hand to claim all thirteen tricks.
On a totally different auction – one not providing my hand with the clues about partner’s club shortness – the other table did not reach slam. 13 IMPs for my team.
My partner and I are playing a weak notrumps (12-14). Accordingly, an opening bid of 1 of a suit will either be distributional (some 5-4-2-2’s or, more frequently, a hand with a singleton or void) or, if balanced, be 15+ HCP.
Partner opened 1♣ and my RHO overcalled 2♣, showing the major suits.
Surely the opponents have at least a nine card heart fit. I can, of course, infer that both partner and LHO are short in spades. Partner’s projected spade shortness suggests that he might have long clubs. Partner’s heart holding is unknowable. He might have four nice hearts. Or he might have poorer hearts. Either way, my hand looks reasonable for game: perhaps 3NT if partner holds adequate hearts; perhaps 5♣ if partner holds weak hearts.
Inventing undiscussed bids is not a productive habit, but, particularly in an irregular partnership, how can I convey my club support and heart shortness at the smallest risk of being misunderstood?
I chanced a 3♥ bid.
LHO doubled and partner bid 3NT.
I passed 3NT but LHO now bid 4♥.
Partner, with an opportunity to double 4♥, instead passed 4♥. I inferred that while he had a heart stopper, his hearts were not exceptionally strong and long. So thinking, I felt committed to playing in a club contract.
In retrospect, I think it is too aggressive – given the risk of a spade void by LHO and/or a club void by RHO – to consider slam, but 6♣is still possible opposite a hand such as x, Kxx, ATx/Ax, AKJxxx/AKxxxxx. At the table, I bid 4♠ (ah, I might be further torturing my poor partner) and partner closed the auction with a 5♣ bid. Partner’s distribution was 0=3=4=6 with ♥KQT, ♦A, and ♣AK. He might also have owned the ♦Q (but I think he held ♦ATxx) and the ♣J: I do not recall. At any rate, he did make twelve tricks, taking a winning heart ruffing finesse.
My teammates — bless them! — were +200 on the hand (I do not know the details) and so this hand also sent 13 IMPs our direction, in a different match.
Drawing inferences from the auction – inferences that can be used to project partner’s holdings and the play and defense of the hand – is among the more appreciated attributes of bridge.
January 26th, 2016 ~ Jeff Lehman ~ 4 Comments
On Board 14 of yesterday’s club matchpoint duplicate, I misjudged the auction but then received a couple of breaks in the opponents’ best suit that allowed for a nice recovery.
My partner and I are playing a weak notrump. Accordingly, an opening bid of 1 of a suit will be either a distributional hand (meaning a singleton or void somewhere; a six card or longer suit; or some 5-4-2-2 hands) or, if a balanced hand, a strong hand (meaning 15 or more HCP).
Partner opened 1♦. I responded 1♥ on QJ73, J872, QJ2, A7. My left hand opponent decided to overcall 2♣ and my partner made a support double, telling me that he held exactly three hearts but otherwise not describing his hand. What should I bid?
I reasoned that 3NT could be a reasonable contract whether partner is strong and balanced or has long diamonds. If the former, I should be able to make on power; and if the latter, perhaps my diamond holding would solidify partner’s hand and help produce enough fast tricks to make game. I considered finding out a bit more about partner’s hand, but was finally persuaded to just jump to 3NT by two factors: (1) avoiding giving “information leak” to the opponents; and (2) placing the overcaller on lead, which could be critical if partner holds some innocuous club holding such as Jxx or Qx.
Well, the first factor did apply, as North decided not to risk a club lead but rather tried a safe diamond.
I won the diamond in hand and forced out the ♠A. North now led a club but it was the ♣6, forcing his partner to play the jack (causing dummy’s ♣T to become quite powerful). I won the ♣A.
After one club, three rounds of spades, and four rounds of diamonds, everyone is down to these five cards:
I cashed the spade in hand and North had no good discard. When he chose to discard a club, I threw him in with the ♣T and the forced heart return ran to my jack. A finesse of the ♥Q next produced eleven tricks for me: one club, four diamonds, three hearts, and three spades, losing only the ♠A and one club. 8 matchpoints on an 11 top, losing only to three pairs who, somehow, made twelve tricks in spades.
January 23rd, 2016 ~ Jeff Lehman ~ 2 Comments
Declarer on this hand at the club today made only 12 tricks in his 6NT contract. I cannot remember exactly what line he followed, but when the hand was over, I remarked to my partner that there must be an overtrick on a double squeeze with hearts as the pivot suit, because only I (North) can protect diamonds and only partner (South) can protect spades.
Board 3, Reyim
My remark is accurate, but it took me a while to see the winning line. Can you?
There might be more than one line that comes to thirteen tricks, but the one that I noticed first is this:
Win 5 rounds of clubs, pitching one of each red suit from dummy.
Play ♦A and then ♦K.
That’s 8 tricks in, with this the five card ending (my hand – North’s — need not come down to the shown five cards, but two of the five cards must be hearts and one of the five cards must be a high diamond).
Note that my partner, having to hold on to four spades, has been squeezed out of his heart guard.
Play ♠K and ♠A, reaching this three card ending:
The ♠Q finishes me off. Whichever red suit I play, declarer discards the other.
Declarer did not find this line. And I doubt I would have either.
January 20th, 2016 ~ Jeff Lehman ~ 1 Comment
Let’s assume that you subscribe to the view that the purpose of the ACBL master point award and rank advancement system is to increase the amount of bridge being played.
Perhaps you do not subscribe to that view. Perhaps you prefer an award system that acts more similarly to a rating system. Or perhaps you feel that the playing of bridge does not require any validation by the accumulation of master points and the advancement of rank. I don’t belittle your view, but this blog is about using master points and rank advancement to “put fannies in the seats”.
(By the way, the stated mission of the ACBL is “to promote, grow and sustain the game of bridge and serve the bridge-related interests of … Members”.)
How the master point award and rank advancement system can increase the amount of bridge being played requires taking a long-range view that considers the motivations of bridge players. Looking at players who are already ACBL members, one must be just as concerned with addressing motivations that extend the duration of time in which they remain interested in playing tournament bridge as with addressing motivations that promote the volume of tournament bridge they play currently.
What promotes interest in playing a game? An article I read about the popular Candy Crush game app (by Dana Smith from The Guardian, April 1, 2014) talks about the effect of games on the brain. Among the quotes from the article are these:
- Initially, the game allows us to win and pass levels with ease, giving a strong sense of satisfaction. These accomplishments are experienced as mini rewards in our brains, releasing the neurochemical dopamine … Despite its reputation as a pleasure chemical, dopamine also plays a crucial role in learning, cementing our behaviors and training us to continue performing them.
- As we play, the game gets harder, the wins (and those bursts of dopamine) becoming more intermittent.
- The reward schedule becomes unexpected: we lose more often than we win and we never know when the next triumph will come. Rather than discouraging us from playing, this actually makes the game more enticing than if we won easily.
Much of Smith’s writing is over my head. But I think, in layman’s terms, what is being said is that the pleasure of the game player is increased over the long term when the game becomes harder and the wins, although achievable, become less regular and thus more satisfying.
Accordingly, I think the master points award and rank advancement system should not only offer the opportunity for beginning players to enjoy some success but (the rank advancement system if not the master point award system) should also entice the no-longer-beginner player to improve enough to achieve some success in harder fields.
My proposal for master point awards and rank advancement focuses on retaining the interest of the no-longer-beginner player. Because I am personally disposed to be concerned about what I perceive as fairness, my proposal also addresses issues of equity.
- Amount of points.
- Should be directly aligned with an estimated measurement of the merit of the accomplishment. The measurement of the merit of the accomplishment, in turn, should be based upon three factors:
- Strength of the field. Perhaps that could be measured by the rank of the competitors: NLM<LM<gold LM, etc. Perhaps also there should be bonus measurements for certain accomplishments, akin to the seeding points for NABC+ events.
- Duration of the event.
- Size of field; that is, more precisely, the number of competitors.
- Other comments:
- Eliminate the consideration of tables from other events. Why should your award be affected by players against whom you are not competing? Of course, the absence of those players would be expected to affect your event’s strength of field measurement.
- Eliminate artificial caps on major events such as NABC events. Some have tougher or larger fields than others. Why should that not be reflected in the points awarded?
- Eliminate biases toward certain forms of scoring. Why should not awards for KOs. Swisses, pairs, even individuals be based upon how many competitors you beat and the strength of those competitors, rather than being affected by the form of scoring?
- Consider a player’s participation contribution. In a team event, each teammate should be awarded ¼ of the points awarded to the team. If the team has more than four players, each teammate should be awarded a portion of the team’s master points that reflects the number of boards or matches in which such player participated. In a pairs event, each partner should be awarded ½ of the points awarded to the pair.
- In considering the size of the field, apply a constant scale, such that – everything else assumed to be equal – an event with 20 tables in play awards to first place an amount twice that of an event with 10 tables in play.
- Pigmentation of points. Pigmentation should not only be based upon the type of tournament (club vs sectional vs regional vs national event) but also upon the strength of the field. Gold points, for example, should be awarded only in regional events and only to the extent one’s results exceed some threshold measuring the strength of field. Platinum should be similarly restricted, in unlimited NABC events.
- Rank advancement. Each rank advancement should, as is the case currently, be based upon accumulated total points and, for some more advanced ranks, accumulated points by pigment. (Should there be a parallel rank for those who have satisfied the total points but not the pigmentation points? Not sure. But for purposes of strength of field measurement, only the with-pigment ranks should count.)
- Application to flighted, bracketed, and stratified events
- Flighted and bracketed events continue to be offered, of course, with their total master points and the pigmentation of master points being determined as above.
- Stratified events require special attention. The best way to describe my proposal is by example. Assume an AX pairs event with the following conditions:
- A would award ten overall places
- X would award ten overall places
- The best finish by an X pair is 8th overall
- The second best finish by an X pair is 13th overall
- The award to the winner of the event is x mps.
- The award to each of the other nine pairs finishing in the top ten is determined by a formula (x)(.9)n-1 where x is the award to the winner of the event and n is the overall finish of the pair in question. Hence, if x = 20 mps, 2nd overall receives 18 mps and 3rd overall receives 16.20 mps, etc. (Yes, I am sure that this is not how overall awards are determined, but there must be some formula in place that calculates a pair’s overall award based upon a percentage of the award to the winner.)
My proposal is that the top X pair, who finished 8th overall, receives mps equal to (x)(.9)8-1. That is, such X pair receives more mps than if they had won X with a 9th overall finish but fewer mps than if they had won X with a 7th overall finish. My proposal is that the second top X pair, who finished 13th overall, receives mps equal to (x)(.9)13-1. That is, the second place X pair not only receives more mps than the 0 mps that would be awarded to an A pair who finished outside the top ten but also more mps than had such second place X pair finished 14th overall but fewer mps than had such second place X pair finished 12th overall.
Of course, the determination of what award equals x is significantly dependent upon the strength of the AX field. Hence, my hope is that under my proposal the two top X pairs (and, in fact, all X pairs who choose to enter the AX event) receive mp awards that are equivalent to the mp awards they might have expected to receive had they entered an event that was for X pairs only.
January 15th, 2016 ~ Jeff Lehman ~ No Comments
Would you be interested to play, and in interesting your friends to play, a game that operates like a big puzzle that:
- Requires players to satisfy an objective for each game
- Measures players’ satisfying an objective by earning a particular score
- Has only a few inviolable rules, rules that are easily learned by players
- Provides a strong sense of satisfaction as players’ performance improves, and awards advancement as performance goals are met
- Offers increasingly difficult competition as players’ skills and experience advance
- Produces more losses than wins, but does produce occasional, and welcomed, wins
- While being easy to learn, is hard to master, because it includes many strategies which must be employed at the right time
- Can become an obsession to the point that players’ sense of other responsibilities can suffer, if not monitored
- Played by players who have been recruited by other players
- Allows players to connect to others who share interest in playing
- Acts as an escape, a stress reducer?
Did you think I was talking about Bridge? I could have been.
The game is also:
- Particularly popular among young people
- Accessible through players’ cell phones
- Played by about 100 million people daily
So, I must not be talking about Bridge. Right. I am talking about Candy Crush!
As president of the charitable organization New England Youth Bridge, Inc. that has a mission of expanding the playing of bridge by youth, I would be excited if Bridge were able to tap into the audience that plays Candy Crush. Mark Raphaelson, a commenter on a Bridge Winners thread, advanced the concept of creating an app with bridge elements – he even coined a neat name for the app, Trick Taker. Perhaps the user might start by choosing how to unblock a suit or establish small cards in a long suit, advance to taking a finesse, etc. One would want the app to eventually be used to attract game players to play “real” bridge, either online or face-to-face.
Can that concept become a reality?
Maybe it could … with the help of a financial patron and the engagement of appropriate experts who are Friends of Bridge. Might you be, or know, that Patron? Might you be, or know, an appropriate Expert? Feel free to contact me, and I will try to connect you to others. What a legacy you might leave to the future growth of tournament bridge!
I foresee a few steps that would be required to bring a Trick Taker to reality in a way that could increase the number of youth who are exposed to bridge and who might choose to become duplicate bridge players. (And, the topic of creating apps that are attractive to youth not being a subject about which I know anything, I am sure that other steps will prove necessary.):
- Money that can fund the acts of exploring and potentially developing and marketing the app
- Expertise in identifying the operational elements and distribution networks that can produce a popular app
- Expertise in translating the identified elements into software that both teaches some elements of bridge and induces users to move from playing the app to playing duplicate bridge.