Jeff Lehman

Practice your Bridge Endplay Technique

How is your technique for eliminations/endplays at trump suit contracts?

The morning club matchpoint duplicate game of January 4 gave declarers two opportunities to practice good technique.  That proper technique on neither board, if properly defended, actually should produce an extra trick is disappointing, but the techniques exercised by declarers are, nonetheless, instructional.

Board 17 was declared by fellow blogger Robin Hillyard of Carlisle, MA.

 
17
None
North
N
North
KJ
Q10653
Q107
A74
 
W
West
76542
74
KJ32
J10
9
E
East
A10983
AKJ8
A94
5
 
S
South
Q
92
865
KQ98632
 

 

W
West
N
North
E
East
S
South
1
1
2
31
Pass
4
All Pass
(1) weak

Robin (East) won the 9 lead to the 4, 3, and jack.  Robin cashed the A at Trick 2, getting the good news that spades were splitting.  Recognizing that endplays work better when declarer and dummy hands are mirrored, Robin went about equalizing the club length between dummy and his hand.  The next several plays:

  • Cash A
  • Cash K, pitching a club (the key play)
  • Ruff a heart, thus eliminating the heart suit

The position now is:

 
17
None
North
N
North
K
Q
Q107
A74
 
W
West
765
KJ32
J
9
E
East
10983
A94
5
 
S
South
865
KQ863
 

Robin led a club from dummy in the shown position.

If South wins, South can play a diamond through dummy and declarer will be held to ten tricks, losing not only a trump and a club, but also a diamond.  Fortunately for declarer, at the table North (not a member of my partnership!) rose with the A.  And had no answer: he could cash the high trump but then was faced with losing options of offering a ruff sluff by leading a heart or club (in which case Robin would discard his third diamond from hand while ruffing in dummy) or leading a diamond into dummy’s tenace.  Making eleven tricks.

 

Board 15 was declared by me.

W
West
65
Q975
K976
AQ4
4
E
East
K103
AK632
A3
932

 

W
West
N
North
E
East
S
South
Pass
Pass
Pass
1
Pass
21
Pass
4
All Pass
(1) 4-card limit raise

South led a spade to North’s ace and North returned a spade to my (East’s) king.

I drew the opponents’ trumps with the AK.  I began the elimination of the pointed suits:

  • A
  • K
  •  ruff in hand
  •  ruff in dummy
  • A (the key play)
  •  ruff in hand

The position now is:

W
West
Q
Q4
 
E
East
6
93

 

 

 

 

 

I led a club toward dummy’s queen.  The hoped-for position is that dummy’s Q loses to a doubleton K of North.  Unfortunately for me, but not unexpected, South held the K, and even Aunt Matilda and Uncle Hortense can make eleven tricks, losing only the A and the K.

 
15
N-S
South
N
North
AJ72
J8
QJ85
1087
 
W
West
65
Q975
K976
AQ4
4
E
East
K103
AK632
A3
932
 
S
South
Q984
104
1042
KJ65
 

 

You might have noticed that both Robin and I sat East.  Did we have a chance, then, to replicate each other’s technique?

No, we did not.  My pair did not play Board 17, and, while Robin declared Board 15, he heard a different auction and received a different lead.

Beware the Newbies

At the club matchpoint game, we are facing a pair whom I have not before seen.  The vibe I receive is that they are novices.

Their auction proceeds 1NT (convention card in my sight reports 15-17, although there is no announcement), 2NT, 3NT.

In passout seat, I hold 

W
Me
J103
K9
632
86432

 

From the auction, I think I know that the opponents do not have extras.  With the bulk of my side’s strength lying over declarer’s, I do not think this hand will play well for declarer (although I am somewhat concerned with partner’s being on lead, because his leading from strength might give away a trick).  I decide to double.

When dummy shows with:

N
Dummy
96
Q86
KJ87
AQ107
 
3
E
Me
J103
K9
632
86432

 

I begin to ask the meaning of the (unalerted) 2NT bid.  But I reconsider, given my read that the opponents are novices.  I’ve been had.  -950!

Creative post mortem

Chronicling this debacle from a recent matchpoint club duplicate:

 
1
None
North
N
North
72
Q109752
A63
K8
 
W
Me
K1053
KJ42
A10762
A
E
Partner
J96
A43
1087
QJ95
 
S
South
AQ84
KJ86
Q95
43
 

 

W
Me
N
North
E
Partner
S
South
2
Pass
41
Dbl2
Pass
Pass3
Pass
(1) an overbid, it seems to me, with more than 6 losers and plenty of defense
(2) takeout
(3) (after break in tempo).  I prefer 5♣.

 

Trick 1.  A, 6, 2 (discouraging), 2.  (1-0)

  1. 3, 8, 6, 5. (1-1)
  2. J, 7, 7, 4. (1-2)
  3. 3, T, K, 9. (1-3)
  4. 8, J, 4, A. (2-3)
  5. 2, 3, T, Q. (2-4)
  6. 5, J, A, 7. (2-5)
  7. 6, 8, 9, K. (3-5)
  8. 4, 2, Q, 8 (3-6.)

Claim ten tricks -590 for my side on defense.

Not waiting as long as I should, I complained to partner:  Why would you lead the A instead of Q?  (A pointed suit opening lead is best, but who could possibly project that?)  Even once you did, how can you continue hearts instead of leading pointed suits, taking me off the endplay? 

Partner responded:  Endplay?  Why did you not rise with the A and exit a club (because declarer could be on a KJ guess?)?  Could you not have led back the J instead of the 2 — this would, one would note, allow partner to win the third round of diamonds with the T (because you might hold the A and we could have three diamond tricks coming?)? 

And, why did you pass my takeout double anyway?

Well, I have to give partner credit for creativity in the post mortem.  But my feelings about the bidding and play remain as stated.

If only I could peek …

Having received some help from the defense of an inexperienced pair, I was in great position to land a no-play slam on Board 24 of today’s matchpoint duplicate.

W
West
QJ108
J5
AKQ7
AJ2
 
E
East
AK742
K76
10865
8

 

I responded 1 to partner’s 1 opening bid.  Partner chose to rebid 4, presumptively denying a hand that could splinter.  Recognizing the potential of slam but running out of science to begin to describe my hand, I bid 4NT keycard.  Receiving a “two with” reply, I jumped to 6.

South chose to lead the A and then follow with a small heart as her partner played up the line.  Surprisingly, the J won Trick 2.

Expecting an easy time at the play, I reconsidered after the Q from dummy revealed that South was void in spades.

I next played the A and ruffed a club.  I led a spade to dummy and ruffed another club.  I cashed my remaining high spade and knew that I was now facing a potentially key decision.

If one opponent owns Jxxx of diamonds, my best chance now is to cash the K to pitch dummy’s fourth diamond.  A diamond to dummy would then allow me to draw the last trump and claim.

On the other hand, if hearts are 6-2 (would the inexperienced North player have high-lowed if owning a doubleton heart?), a lead of K to pitch a diamond will be ruffed for the setting trick.  In that case, I should now lead a diamond to dummy, without first playing the K.

The odds favor playing diamonds, I think, but the signaling favors playing hearts.

I played a diamond to dummy, winning the trick with the A but seeing no J.  I drew the last trump, pitching a small diamond from hand, and cashed a second high diamond.  And North failed to follow …

-50.

I don’t really wish I could peek.  But it would be nice to have taken advantage of the defense from the first two tricks to score +980.

However … when engaging a post mortem with benefit of the hand records, my partner on the hand, Barry Black of Brookline, MA, made a point I had not considered: if I were going to play for a twelfth trick in diamonds and not hearts, why not draw all trumps right away and then play on diamonds? This line would establish a twelfth trick in diamonds not only when diamonds are 3-2, or 4-1 with the stiff jack, but also when …

 

 
24
None
West
N
North
9653
982
9
K9754
 
W
West
QJ108
J5
AKQ7
AJ2
A
E
East
AK742
K76
10865
8
 
S
South
AQ1043
J432
Q1063
 

Oh! A 4-1 diamond break with a stiff nine, allowing me to have played two rounds of diamonds and then enter hand with a club ruff  to take a proven diamond finesse against the J.  THAT was not a blip on my radar screen!

By the way, would I have had choices how to play the hand, had South — even after having led the A at Trick 1 –, continued with the Q to blot the jack and establish her  T at Trick 2?

 

 

Crocodile Hunger

Here was Board 14 of Tuesday’s club game.

 

 
14
None
East
N
North
KJ9
Q732
J1074
Q9
 
W
West
AQ42
A86
9
A10742
4
E
East
76
KJ9
KQ52
K653
 
S
South
10853
1054
A863
J8
 

East was declarer in 3NT after an auction of 1-1; 1NT-3NT.  South led a small heart, small from dummy, queen from North, king from declarer.

Declarer ran five clubs.  North pitched his three remaining hearts, East pitched a small diamond and South pitched his two remaining hearts and a diamond.

 

 
14
None
East
N
North
KJ9
 
J1074
 
 
W
West
AQ42
A6
9
 
4
E
East
76
J9
KQ5
 
 
S
South
10853
 
A83
 
 

At this point declarer could settle for ten tricks by establishing a diamond trick (with a heart entry to such trick should a high diamond honor lose to the A) and refusing the spade finesse (1+3+1+5).  However, at matchpoints it is difficult to avoid the temptation for an extra trick by taking the spade finesse.  Alas, there is a potential danger in the parlay of establishing a diamond trick AND taking the spade finesse.  What if the A is held by South, South chooses to withhold the ace, the spade finesse loses to North, and North then returns a diamond through the remaining high diamond honor of East?  In that case, the defense might win THREE diamond tricks and a spade trick, holding declarer to only nine tricks.

At the table, declarer chose to lead not a diamond at the shown position, but rather to lead a heart to his jack and take the spade finesse, losing to North’s king.

North might possess enough clues to choose to now return the J.  East opened 1 and yet has four clubs, leaving East with no more than five major suit cards.  South’s failure to have discarded a spade suggests that South holds exactly four spades and is maintaining parity with dummy’s spade length.  If South were dealt four spades, then a return of the J both unblocks the spade suit and could possibly pin a doubleton T in declarer’s hand.

At the table, however, North chose to return a diamond to declarer’s high honor and South’s ace.  South returned his smallest remaining spade to dummy’s A, giving North a second opportunity to jettison the J.  North instead played the 9.  Declarer now cashed the A, and, being locked in dummy, presenting North with a third opportunity to discard the J.  That opportunity was declined, and a third spade from dummy placed North on lead with the J.  With only diamonds left in North’s hand, the forced diamond return provided declarer a steppingstone to the stranded diamond winner.  Ten tricks.

Had North jettisoned the J on the second round of spades, a third spade from dummy would have allowed South to execute a Crocodile Coup by opening the jaws of his T to swallow his partner’s 9 and then closing the jaws to cash the 8, winning three spades as well as the A.  Sadly, however, the crocodile remained unfed.

Aces are Not Meant for Kings

N
West (me)
AJ5
A8532
AJ74
7
 
10
E
South (dumm
9743
K
KQ1085
AK4

 

 

After an auction of 1 by South in third chair, 1 overcall by me as West, and 1NT by North, all passed at today’s club duplicate, Board 17.

(Disregard the automatic table positions of the diagram.  The hand with five diamonds is in South position and is the dummy.  The hand with four diamonds is in West position.)

Partner led the T.  Declarer called for dummy’s king, of course.

Do you have a memory about a mistake you made in bridge, a mistake so costly that you feel that the lesson was learned well enough that you are unlikely to ever repeat the mistake?

I probably should own a boatload of such lessons.  But one that did resonate happened on the getaway day Swiss at a NABC a long time ago.  I remember declarer in a 3NT contract attacking a suit where dummy’s holding was a stiff king.  Thinking no more deeply than what better present for my ace can there be than to capture a king, I won the ace right away.  That play subjected my poor partner to a progressive squeeze and on a hand where we should have scored -600 — had I only ducked the king and forced declarer to use an entry to his hand to continue the suit — we scored -690.

Well, this time I knew to duck the K.  And declarer now played the K from dummy.  This king, too, I ducked, so as to retain an AJ tenace position over the Q.

Declarer shrugged his shoulders and finally continued A and K.  I pitched a heart on the second club. Declarer now played a third club toward his hand.  Feeling in danger of being endplayed, I discarded my J.  Declarer played the 8 from his hand, partner winning the 9.  Partner returned the J and I discarded a diamond as declarer won the Q.  Declarer chose now to finesse in diamonds (a spade exit should work the same.)  I won the J, cashed the A and exited my preserved small spade to partner’s T.  Partner cashed a long club and the K.  At this point declarer has won the two red kings and three clubs, while our side has won two clubs, three spades and the J.  With two tricks remaining, partner leads a heart and I claim my two red aces for down two tricks.

 
17
None
North
N
North (decl
Q82
QJ64
93
Q862
 
W
West (me)
AJ5
A8532
AJ74
7
10
E
East (pard)
K106
1097
62
J10953
 
S
South (dumm
9743
K
KQ1085
AK4
 

 

 

Anticipating Problems of Partner

Karen Walker has presented a long-running series in Bridge Bulletin entitled “Habits of Good Bidders”.  One theme she has presented is that good bidders make the bid their partner wants to hear.  Stated otherwise, good bidders make bids that anticipate the problems of their partners.

Here are a couple of examples from recent play.

 

First example.  At none vulnerable, your RHO opens 1 in second seat.  You hold AKJ42, K9854, J82, —.  Assume that your partner has convinced you to play a version of Michaels called weak/strong Michaels (not my favorite agreement, but that is neither here nor there).  Holding the neither-weak-nor-strong version, you are forced to overcall 1.  Your LHO passes and your partner raises to 2.  Now opening bidder bids 3.

Do you follow through with your original intention to show your heart suit?

No.  Assuming you agree you do not have enough for a game try, 3 is not the bid that your partner wants to hear.  To your partner, 3 must show a game try.  After all, what other bid is there between 3 and a competitive 3 in order to show a game try?  (Double, I assume, would be for penalty; elsewise, 3 is nearly riskless.)

 

Second example.  Dealer before you opens 1.  You overcall 1 on KT9632, 9843, A3, 5.  LHO passes and partner cue bids.  Assume your partner, who has convinced you to play new suit advances as nonforcing constructive (again not my favorite agreement; why do all of these matters keep coming up?), cue bids 2.   RHO passes. 

Considering you might have overcalled on a 5-3-3-2 hand, you have some extras.  Do you show them by bidding above 2?

No.  Because partner has not promised spade support, bidding above 2 on a 7 point hand is not the bid your partner wants to hear.  Partner might have a strong hand with no club stopper, meaning that under your partnership’s agreements, cue bidding was partner’s only option.  Bidding 2 seems to keep all options open and thus should keep partner happy.  (If partner has a limit raise in spades, he will next offer 2 and you can then, after hearing about the fit, choose to upgrade your seven loser hand if you feel that is appropriate.)

 

I highly recommend Karen’s articles.  In fact, I so much support the theme of telling partner what he wants to hear that it colors my choices of conventions and treatments to play and conventions and treatments to avoid.  I tend to disfavor methods that I perceive as short-sighted in favor of methods that anticipate problems of partner.  Maybe someday I will be motivated to write more about this.

Greed Punished

Board 10 at today’s club matchpoint duplicate seemed pretty ordinary … for awhile.

West, a novice, is a student of East.

After two passes, West opened 1.  My overcall of 1NT ended the bidding.

 

N
North
AK2
Q10
QJ98
KQ105
6
S
South
9865
K92
K
J9743

 

I won the heart opening lead cheaply with the T in hand.  (Remember North is declarer.)  Naturally, I attacked clubs, playing high clubs from my hand.  East showed out on the second round, pitching one of each red suit until West won the club ace on the third round.  West quickly cashed the A and played back a second diamond.

By winning this trick with my queen and forcing out the A, I have ten tricks assured (2+2+2+4).  Before embarking on that line, however, I took stock.  East had not opened a weak 2 and so rated to have only five hearts, apparently to the AJ.  East had shown up with a singleton club.  East had failed to lead her partner’s suit of diamonds, which implied a lack of either or both of length and strength in diamonds.  This seems to mark East with 4=5=3=1 or 5=5=2=1 distribution.

If the T is onside and I win a finesse of the 9, East is ripe to be squeezed in the major suits.  After four rounds of diamonds (losing one), three rounds of clubs (losing one), and one round of hearts, everyone is down to five cards.

I envisaged this ending:

 
10
Both
East
N
North (decl
AK2
Q
5
 
W
West
 
E
East
xxxx
A
 
S
South (dumm
98
K
J9
 

 

East can discard a spade on the first club winner, but then has no good discard (while I can discard my Q) on the second club winner, making eleven tricks for me on a hand where I am off three aces.

Back to the position at Trick 6: even if the 9 should lose to the T, I can recover to make ten tricks on the same squeeze, unless  East immediately cashes the A.

So … I took the diamond finesse and lost to the T.  After some thought, East cashed the A and held me to nine tricks.

All props to East, Jori Grossack, mother of US junior internationalists Adam and Zach Grossack (who are also NABC+ Fast Pairs champions).  Her sons should be proud.  I?  I am just greedy.  And punished.

 

My Theory: A Proposed Objective for UI Rulings

 
(submitted to Bridge Winners, too) 

Partner B makes a successful auction choice after Partner B has received Unauthorized Information from Partner A (such as by Partner A making an out-of-tempo call).  The opponents request a ruling to overturn the table result from the successful auction choice.  What should be the objective of the bridge ruling?

I would submit that the objective should be to adjust the result if Partner B failed to choose, from among all Logical Alternative (LA) bids available to him, the LA that is made least attractive by the UI.

Maybe you reject that objective altogether.  Maybe you think that objective has potential merit, but wonder:  what factors could determine the LA that is made least attractive by the UI?  I think the factors are the following:

  1. The actual hand held by Partner A
  2. The relevant bridge knowledge of Partner A
  3. The knowledge of Partner B about the relevant bridge knowledge and proclivities of Partner A
  4. The actual hand held by Partner B
  5. The relevant bridge knowledge of Partner B

By looking to Factor 4 and (by reference to the “class of players” to which Partner B belongs) looking to Factor 5, current bridge law, I think, defines the LAs of Partner B pretty adequately.  However, I do have a quarrel with the ineffectiveness of current bridge law to define, and to require the selection of, the LA that is made least attractive by the UI.  (Please note that, in spite of some attempts by others to characterize this approach as “shoot it if it hesitates” or “(disallowing Partner B to) take a winning action whichever way he goes “, the approach of foisting upon Partner B the LA made least attractive by the UI is not foreclosing the AB Partnership from keeping its good table result: if the good table result is the product of Partner B having chosen to make the LA that is made least attractive by the UI, AB retains its good result.)

Looking at Partner A’s actual hand (Factor 1) might provide the most useful clue as to what might have caused Partner A’s call to be made out of tempo and thus which LA is made least attractive to Partner B by the UI.  However, Factor 1 is not addressed by current law.  Not seeing the actual hand of Partner A can cause some to speculate about the nature of the problem of Partner A when a look at his hand would cause such speculation to be re-directed and refined by fact. 

Although the scope of potential inferences from Partner A’s out-of-tempo call could be severely limited by Partner A’s general bidding knowledge, current bridge law, by not referencing the “class of players” to which Partner A belongs, does not directly address Factor 2.  A consequence is that some of the hands of Partner A that Partner B can be argued to have been contemplating can include hands that attribute a degree of bidding sophistication to Partner A without considering whether Partner A is likely to possess such sophistication. 

And by failing to consider the specific knowledge held by Partner B about Partner A (Factor 3), current bridge law seems to act as though the bidding choice of Partner B is as if in a bidding poll rather than as opposite a real person Partner A whose skill sets and even whose proclivities from out-of-tempo calls (Is Partner A conservative or aggressive?  Is Partner A evaluative or a point counter?) might be known to Partner B.

The proposed objective eliminates the oft-debated oft-confusing Law 16 language negating Partner B’s choice of a LA “that could demonstrably have been suggested over another … (LA by the UI)”.  The proposed objective is more consistent with – but less amorphous than – Law 73C which places upon Partner B an affirmative obligation “to carefully avoid taking any advantage from … (UI)”.

Better Lucky than …

When partner and I are not on the same wavelength with our bids, we usually receive what we might have earned, a bad board.  But not all of the time …

At Monday morning’s matchpoint club game Boards 17 and 23, we recovered from bidding errors nicely (Board 17) and spectacularly (Board 23).

W
West
KQ8
AQ973
32
K73
 
E
East
A632
K
A1076
Q542

 

 

W
West
N
North
E
East
S
South
Pass
1
Pass
1
Pass
1
Pass
21
Pass
2NT
Pass
3
Pass
3NT2
All Pass
(1) 4th suit artificial and game forcing
(2) Non-serious 3NT

Our auction was pretty normal through 2NT: 2 (alerted) was artificial and game forcing and 2NT was promising a diamond stopper and giving the best description of my hand.  For some reason, partner now chose to bid 3.  That choice induced me to think that partner had four spades and that the motivation behind his choice of 2 was to show a hand that was too strong for a raise of 1 to 4.  We play non-serious 3NT in game forcing auctions where we have shown an 8+ card major suit fit and so 3NT was what I bid next.  When 3NT was not alerted, I suspected something fishy.  But the 3NT bid ended the auction, too.  Before the opening lead was made, I undertook to explain the meaning of all of our side’s bids to the opponents, including explaining the apparent forget about the meaning of 3NT.

No matter.  When partner faced a dummy with only three spades, we had reached the normal contract, albeit in a weird way.

 

On Board 23, I had to cope with a third hand all vulnerable preempt of 2 before my nice hand.

E
East
AK643
Q83
AKQ82

 

I decided to bid 3, thinking that our agreement is that 3 is Michaels, showing 5 spades and 5 of a minor.

Partner surprised me by now jumping to 5!  Opposite a Michaels’ call, where I had not promised any diamonds, partner must have a pretty spectacular suit, perhaps something like KJT9-seventh at a minimum, I was thinking.  My hand is huge opposite such a hand: first and second round control of every side suit, an unexpected Qxx of trumps when I might well have been void!  If a grand slam is making, I would not be the least surprised.  Both absence of tools to investigate a grand slam and matchpoint expectation odds caused me to take the easy route and just raise 5 to 6.

 

W
West
J97
10752
AKJ64
10
K
E
East
AK643
Q83
AKQ82

 

 

 

 

Well, a couple of problems with our auction.  First of all, because I could have chosen to bid 4, Leaping Michaels, my thinking that 3 was Michaels was wrong.  Instead our agreement is that 3 is a stopper ask, the kind of bid I would make with, say, long and solid clubs and hopes for nine tricks if only partner can stop the heart suit.  Second of all, I don’t understand the reasoning behind partner’s 5 call, whether my 3♥ is taken as a stopper ask (as per our agreements) or as Michaels (as I thought it to be).

Partner won the feels-like-a-singleton spade lead.  He then played the ace of clubs and ruffed a club in hand and a heart in dummy.  Next he played the king of clubs to pitch a heart (the suit split 4-3) and drew trumps.  A second spade to dummy yielded five diamonds, four clubs, the heart ruff, and two top spades for +1370  and 12.5 of 15 matchpoints.  (An admission: the opponents went wrong in the end and so we actually scored +1390 for 14 matchpoints.)

We were awfully lucky on each hand to receive fair to outstanding results when we had erred in the auction.  Well, if one pair has to be lucky, I am surely glad that it is my pair …