Jeff Lehman

Spot Cards Speak

North deals.  With your side silent, the auction progresses 1 by North, 1NT (not forcing) by South, 4 by North.

You lead the J and see:

 
1
None
North
N
North
 
W
West
J
E
East (you)
AQ98
7
964
J10865
 
S
South (dumm
752
52
Q753
KQ73
 

You are playing standard carding.

  1. J, 3, 4, A.
  2. K, 7, 2, 3
  3.  Q, 9, 5, A
  4. 4, J, Q, 2

What do you play and why?

 

Do you remember the club spots played at Trick 1?  If so, you realize that the only unseen clubs are the 9 and the 2.  Where might they lie?

You can be sure that declarer owns the 9.  After all, your partner would not have played the 4 at Trick 1 from a holding of either 942 (he would have played the 2) or 94 (he would have played the 9).

Who owns the 2?  Well, if partner were dealt the 42 doubleton and thus declarer were dealt the A9 doubleton, then declarer might have tried to discard a spade on the third round of clubs before giving up the lead to the A.  Thus, all indications are that partner was dealt the 4 singleton and you must give him a ruff right now.

If you fail to give your partner a club ruff at Trick 5, declarer will arrange to finesse you out of your T8 and pitch a losing diamond on dummy’s fourth club.

 
1
None
North
N
North
J
KQJ10864
A2
A92
 
W
West
K10643
A93
KJ108
4
J
E
East (you)
AQ98
7
964
J10865
 
S
South (dumm
752
52
Q753
KQ73
 

The spot cards spoke.  Were you listening?

PS: If West were dealt 42 doubleton (so that declarer were dealt A9 doubleton), a club return by you would deny declarer the ability to pitch a loser on the third round of clubs … assuming your partner has a third heart.  

Carefully planned hand

W
West
753
K96
J1095
A65
A
E
East
64
AQ1073
K7
QJ32

 

 

W
West
N
North
E
East
S
South
Pass
Pass
Pass
1
1
2
2
3
All Pass

South begins with the three top spades, North following suit with the J on the third round.  You ruff the third round in your hand.

Assume that your objective on this hand is to make your 3 contract.  (In point of fact, the hand arose in a club matchpoint duplicate and both sides are vulnerable, and so your targeted number of tricks might well be eight and not nine.)

How do you continue?

You have lost two spades and with surely at least one loser in each minor suit, you must assume that trumps split.  Given that South passed as dealer holding AKQ, you can be pretty sure that the K and A are with North.  If clubs are 3-3, holding your club losses to one is automatic.  But if clubs are 4-2, you will need to lead toward the QJ twice.  And you need to lead toward the K once, too.

How can you produce enough entries to that dummy to allow for three leads toward your hand?

Well, if the 9 is a second entry in the trump suit, you will have the extra entry you need.

One possible play line is this (remembering that three rounds of spades have been played, and that you have ruffed the third):

  1.  A
  2. small heart to dummy’s 9, hoping that the J is onside, with each opponent following suit
  3. small toward your QJ, winning the trick
  4. K, drawing the last trump
  5. second small toward your QJ, North winning the K but leaving you with stiff ace opposite Jx.
  6. Win return with A
  7. Lead J toward your king, with North hopping with the A
  8. Claim last three tricks with long heart, K, and J

As it turns out, luck is with you, the whole hand (Temple Reyim club game, morning of October 14) being:

 
23
Both
South
N
North
J98
52
AQ42
K1087
 
W
West
753
K96
J1095
A65
A
E
East
64
AQ1073
K7
QJ32
 
S
South
AKQ102
J84
863
94
 

 

 

 

Greed, not Good.

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:

N
North
KQ72
QJ3
K98
Q84

.

 

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):

 
22
E-W
East
N
North
KQ72
QJ3
K98
Q84
 
W
West
AJ9
A52
AQJ43
32
Q
E
East
1053
107
7652
AJ96
 
S
South
864
K9864
10
K1075
 

 

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:

 
22
E-W
East
N
North
K2
K9
8
 
W
West
A
AQJ4
Q
E
East
105
7
A9
 
S
South
86
10
105
 

 

 

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.

 

 

Well bid hands at the Club IMP pairs

Partner Len Aberbach of Wayland, MA, helped bid to great contracts on two hands in today’s club IMP pairs event.

Board 14:

W
West
J765
Q6
863
AQJ2
A
E
East
9
KJ1093
AK7
K1075

 

W
West
N
North
E
East
S
South
1
Pass1
1
Pass
2
Pass
3
Pass
3
Pass
32
Pass
4
All Pass
(1) surprising pass
(2) suggesting the weakness of his spades

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.

 
14
None
East
N
North
Q42
A2
QJ952
986
 
W
West
J765
Q6
863
AQJ2
A
E
East
9
KJ1093
AK7
K1075
 
S
South
AK1083
8754
104
43
 

 

 

Board 8:

W
West
K8764
QJ4
KJ
AJ9
8
E
East
Q2
A876
K1086543
W
West
N
North
E
East
S
South
11
2
Dbl2
Pass
2NT3
Pass
3NT
44
Pass5
Pass
5
All Pass
(1) Playing 1NT as 12-14
(2) negative
(3) suggesting a 15-17 balanced hand with diamond stopper
(4) yes, really!
(5) the key call

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. 

 
8
None
West
N
North
AJ105
K52
AQ1092
2
 
W
West
K8764
QJ4
KJ
AJ9
8
E
East
Q2
A876
K1086543
 
S
South
93
1093
876543
Q7
 

 

 

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.

 

To the last board …

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.

N
North
KQ4
QJ742
K85
AQ
 
S
South
A987
A53
AQ43
109

 

North
South
11
22
2NT3
3
4
4
44
55
6
All Pass
(1) Playing weak notrumps
(2) game forcing and natural
(3) 15-17
(4) keycard
(5) 0 or 3 keycards

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.

 
North
4
(J)
Q
 
S
South
A9
4

As declarer advanced the J, no show up of the K, but …

 

 
28
N-S
North
N
North
KQ4
QJ742
K85
AQ
 
W
West
1052
K10
10976
KJ53
3
E
East
J63
986
J2
87642
 
S
South
A987
A53
AQ43
109
 

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.

 

 

Would have been more interesting …

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. 

 
17
None
North
N
North
AQ85
A52
A2
AQ76
 
W
West
10432
J10
KJ943
32
J
E
East
J96
K986
10875
J5
 
S
South
K7
Q743
Q6
K10984
 

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.

 
17
None
North
N
North
AQ85
5
 
 
W
West
10432
K
J
E
East
J96
9
10
 
S
South
K7
7
Q
(K)
 

 

 

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). 

 
17
None
North
N
North
AQ85
5
A2
 
W
West
10432
K94
J
E
East
J96
9
1087
 
S
South
K7
74
Q6
(K)
 

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!

Woulda’, coulda’

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.

W
West
98
KQ9843
84
A106
6
E
East
AJ742
A5
AQJ
KQ8

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.

  1.  6, 8, Q, A
  2. A, 2, 3, 6
  3. 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.
  4. 9, K, 4, 5
  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). 

 
9
E-W
North
N
North
KQ10
6
109632
J953
 
W
West
98
KQ9843
84
A106
6
E
East
AJ742
A5
AQJ
KQ8
 
S
South
653
J1072
K75
742
 

-100 scored 2.5 mps.

But let’s get back to the possible continuation had I been declaring a contract of 6.

 
9
E-W
North
N
North
10
963
J953
 
W
West
K984
8
A106
6
E
East
J74
QJ
KQ8
 
S
South
3
J7
K5
742
 

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. 

 
9
E-W
North
N
North
9
J9
 
W
West
K9
A
6
E
East
74
8
 
S
South
J7
7
 

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%.

 

 

Using clues

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:

Hand 1

In fourth chair I opened 1 on the following hand:

N
North
KJ9xxx
AKQ10
Axx

 

 

 

 

The auction proceeded:

W
West
N
North
E
East
S
South
Pass
Pass
Pass
1
2
Dbl1
42
(1) negative
(2) weak

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:

N
North
KJ9xxx
AKQ10
Axx
 
S
South
Ax
7xxxx
Axxxxx

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

W
West
N
North
E
East
S
South
Pass
Pass
Pass
1
2
Dbl1
42
5
Pass
5
Pass
5
Pass
6
Pass
6
All Pass
 
(1) negative
(2) weak

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.

 

Hand 2

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.

I held:

N
North
A108xxx
KJx
Q9xx

 

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 6is 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.

W
West
N
North
E
East
S
South
1
21
32
Dbl
3NT
Pass
Pass
4
Pass
Pass
4
Pass
5
All Pass
 
 
 
(1) Major suits
(2) inventive

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.

 

 

 

Suddenly developing strip squeeze

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.

 
14
None
North
N
North
A4
K1053
107
KQ986
 
W
West
QJ73
J872
QJ2
A7
10
E
East
K1092
AQ6
AK84
104
 
S
South
865
94
9653
J532
 

 

W
West
N
North
E
East
S
South
1
Pass
1
2
Dbl1
Pass
3NT
All Pass
 
 
(1) support dbl

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: 

 
14
None
North
N
North
K105
KQ
 
W
West
Q
J87
7
 
E
East
10
AQ6
10
 
S
South
94
532
 

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.

 

 

Squeeze them both

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.

 

W
Board 3, Reyim
1-22-16 am
 
E-W
South
N
North
972
987
QJ643
32
 
W
Declarer
AQ63
A64
A72
Q85
9
E
Dummy
K4
K53
K109
AKJ76
 
S
South
J1085
QJ102
85
1094
 

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 A.

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).

 
3
E-W
South
N
North
87
QJ6
 
W
Declarer
AQ63
6
9
E
Dummy
K4
K5
10
 
S
South
J1085
Q
 

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:

 
3
E-W
South
N
North
87
Q
 
W
Declarer
Q6
6
9
E
Dummy
K5
10
 
S
South
J10
Q
 

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.

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