April 24th, 2017 ~ Jeff Lehman ~ 4 Comments
Playing against two, well, rather unsophisticated players at a local club duplicate, we observed the following auction:
North’s bidding box cards were presented quickly and with relish. On the other hand, South evidenced a meekness about the whole situation. (I am not insuating any intentional Unauthorized Information being communicated by North; only that North, unintentionally but noticably, probably violated Law 73A2 by her mannerisms. Oh well, any violation was not relevant to the particular hand, I think.)
As West, I chose to lead a trump.
Dummy had the strength suggested by her bidding mannerisms:
Declarer called for the ♥Q, losing to East’s ♥K.
East switched to the ♣K. Should I as West encourage continuation of clubs or discourage in hopes of receiving a spade switch which I could ruff with my lowly ♥4? Thinking, perhaps unfairly, that: (1) partner might find it difficult to be thinking of the possibility of my ruffing a spade, looking at the quality of those spades in dummy; and (2) if partner has a doubleton club and was also dealt KTx of hearts, there might be a trump promotion from my winning the second club and leading a third round, I chose to encourage a club continuation. Partner did continue clubs, with the ♣Q. This gave me pause and I switched gears. Now I chose to play the ♣J on this trick, hoping that might be treated as an alarm clock by partner. Partner did, in fact, now switch to a spade and my ruff set the contract. That leads to the title of this blog entry “THIS dummy is not strong enough?”.
Actually, I had missed par by not underleading my ♣A (yeh, right) at Trick 1 in order to receive TWO spade ruffs! The whole hand:
April 24th, 2017 ~ Jeff Lehman ~ No Comments
From a club duplicate matchpoint pairs event. How should West play 2♥?
West has seven top tricks and a probable eighth trick if the ♠A is onside, as is likely. Is there any play for a ninth trick?
At the table, declarer received a heart lead. Thinking that if South owned no more hearts, a spade ruff might be available, declarer won the ♥A in dummy and led a spade toward his hand. South hopped with the ♠A and returned a second heart. Later on in the hand, declarer led a small club from his Ax holding toward dummy’s QTxx, hoping that North would err, inferring a club guess, and duck the ♣K, allowing the otherwise-entryless ♣Q to score.
This was foolish play by declarer.
Even had no trump been led, declarer will be unable to ruff a spade in dummy (unless a spade were led by North!). The only way that declarer can reach dummy is with the ♥A, and so declarer will be forced to lead a trump to dummy’s ace at some stage in order to lead a spade toward his hand. Even if South has no second heart, South can force an entry to North’s hand by the simple expedient of ducking the spade lead from dummy and allowing North to win the second round of spades with a lower card, at which time North can lead a second trump to eliminate the chance for a spade ruff. South ducking the first round of spade might also pay off if it contributes to declarer misguessing the suit, when holding the king and jack of spades.
Instead, declarer should have won the heart lead in hand and led ♣A and a small club. If clubs were/could be guessed correctly, declarer could use dummy’s ♥A entry to both cash an extra club winner (pitching a pointed suit loser) and lead toward the ♠K.
By the way, the bidding information suggesting that South had no more than three clubs increases the chances that South’s distribution is slightly flawed for the takeout double and hence might have compensating extra strength … so, had declarer correctly won the heart lead in hand, declarer should guess clubs correctly.
Alas, I was declarer and suffered a blind spot on a fairly easy deal.
What do you think about the bidding?
Not much, I would say. Let’s start with West’s decision to pass South’s takeout double. With options to bid, pass, or double, how can West show his general hand type?
I have heard players say that Pass is the weakest option. I disagree that strength is the primary consideration for opener’s actions. I think that opener’s choices should be dictated by his Offense-to-Defense Orientation. With a hand with a stronger offensive than defensive orientation (typically a hand with an extra long suit or a side five card suit and/or strength concentrated in its long suits), opener should bid. With a hand with a stronger defensive than offensive orientation (typically a hand where high cards appear to be equally useful on offense or defense), opener should strive to Pass (or, with extra strength, redouble).
The best action on the shown hand, which has some extra strength, but also has a very strong suit, is not totally clear, but, in retrospect, I think bidding 2♥ directly is a superior choice to the Pass chosen at the table. The fact that West has six hearts should not, IMHO, be conclusive for choosing to bid (if opener’s hand were, instead, something like KQxx, KTxxxx, x, Ax, a Pass is more attractive), but the concentration of heart strength in its length should have made 2♥ opener’s choice on the actual hand.
How about the bidding of responder?
I think responder erred, too. IMHO, responder should generally decide what to do by applying Total Tricks to the hand and projecting into opener’s hand exactly two card length in the suit bid by advancer. Taking that approach, responder would have concluded that the opponents had just contracted for eight tricks when holding only seven trumps and would have chosen to defend. Stated a different way, responder chose to contract for eight tricks with an expectation that his side had only seven trumps. With somewhat more strength, or maybe an extra intermediate club, or maybe if the opponents were vulnerable (placing +200 in his sights), responder might even have chosen to double advancer’s 2♣ call for penalty.
If opener had fewer than two clubs, opener would probably be well-placed to remove the penalty double and bid on, naturally.
Lessons learned. I hope.
January 27th, 2017 ~ Jeff Lehman ~ 1 Comment
A recent matchpoint session at the local club duplicate presented an extraordinarily high number of “double, pass, or bid on” competitive bidding decisions. With no promise that what worked best at the table is best in general, try your choices on the following hands.
The auction requires a lot of explanation. First of all, South’s double was alerted and described by North as showing four spades. Second of all, North had first bid an insufficient 2♣. When the director was called and explained the options, North changed his call to 3♣. Your call?
There’s more. After the auction is concluded, South corrected the explanation of her double, saying that double was “Do Something Intelligent” … just about my least favorite agreement, because I believe that it is difficult for partner to do something intelligent when he has been given, basically, only “pass the blame” information, nothing about suit lengths and very little about hand strength.
Anyway, do you change your call should the director allow the bidding to rollback to you?
Finally, an uncontested auction. Your call?
Double was the winner (+500 for better than 90% of the mps), even though partner’s 4♥ call was lighter than anticipated.
Raising to 3♠ was the winner, as partner went on to 4♠ and can make up to eleven tricks (+450 is a shared top).
Doubling was the winner (+300 for an unshared top).
5♥ was the winner . (Well-timed overcall, pard!) The opponents chose to double 5♥ rather than bid on to 5♠ . (Whether 5♥X goes for -100 or -300 — depending upon declarer’s ability to guess the clubs –, it scores more than 90% of the mps).
Doubling was the winner (+500 for an unshared top), as partner shows up with a ton of defensive values.
Raising to 4♥ was the winner on the 52-card layout. (+170 is a 23% board; + 620 is a 64% board.)
How did you do?
December 15th, 2016 ~ Jeff Lehman ~ 2 Comments
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:
You are playing standard carding.
- ♣J, 3, 4, A.
- ♥K, 7, 2, 3
- ♥Q, ♠9, ♥5, ♥A
- ♠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.
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.
October 17th, 2016 ~ Jeff Lehman ~ No Comments
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):
- ♥ A
- small heart to dummy’s ♥9, hoping that the ♥J is onside, with each opponent following suit
- small toward your ♣QJ, winning the trick
- ♥K, drawing the last trump
- second small toward your ♣QJ, North winning the ♣K but leaving you with stiff ace opposite Jx.
- Win return with ♣A
- Lead ♦J toward your king, with North hopping with the ♦A
- 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:
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%.