Jeff Lehman

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 …

Misjudging the Field

At Monday morning’s matchpoint club game Board 15, I held an exceptionally nice hand opposite partner’s second hand, favorable vulnerability opening 3 call.

E
East 
AQ943
AK
A743
A3

What do you think could be the best contracts?  What bid do you make to try to investigate those contracts?

Well, if partner has seven clubs made solid by your ace, 6 or a greedy 6NT look playable.  You would have eleven tricks on top with chances in at least the spade suit for a twelfth trick.

3NT holds little appeal to me.  If you have seven solid club tricks, then why not go for the gusto and try 6?  Partners have been known, yes – even in second seat –, to have preempted on suits that are not so good as KQ(J)-seventh.  Even QJT-seventh would not be a misbid.  If clubs are not solid, notrump looks pretty scary.  Where are your tricks if you have only one or two club tricks?

I decided to forego a notrump contract and focus on spade or club contracts instead.  Accordingly, I responded 3.  Partner raised to 4 and that was the last bid in the auction.  LHO led 2.

W
West
J105
Q4
Q
KJ108642
2
E
East
AQ943
AK
A743
A3

 

 

 

 

I was pleased to have avoided a diamond lead.  On the heart lead, if the black suits behaved, I could have twelve tricks, losing only to the K and pitching all three diamond losers on long clubs.  Or … I could play safely, as I would at IMPs, by taking a diamond ruff early and winning ten tricks by virtue of four spades, two hearts, A, diamond ruff, and two clubs. 

I chose the line for twelve tricks.  I won the heart lead with my king and began with A and a small spade toward dummy’s JT.  The T won the trick but RHO failed to follow suit.  Well, so much for having a third round spade entry to dummy.  Still, if clubs behave for no losers, I can still make twelve tricks.

Or … should I, having seen the 4-1 spade split, change plans and ruff a diamond with dummy’s remaining spade honor?  Further thought led to a conclusion that ruffing a diamond at this stage is not so safe, either.  When I eventually lose the spade king to my LHO, a switch to good diamonds of my RHO could result in the loss of not only two diamond tricks but also the promoting of a second trump trick in the form of the 8 of my LHO.

So … I went back to my plan to hope that clubs run and win twelve tricks that way.  Preserving my A, I played a third spade from dummy, overtaking with my Q as LHO won the spade king.  She switched to a diamond.  I won the A, drew the 8 with my 9 and played the A.  Disaster, as my LHO failed to follow suit!  No matter what happened now, I was destined to lose three minor suit tricks to add to the K.  Twelve tricks?  I did not even make ten tricks!

I think the most significant error I made in this hand is misjudging the field.  Out of 16 pairs, we were the only pair to play in 4!  3NT was by far the most popular contract.  If clubs run, the pairs in 3NT will make eleven or twelve tricks.  Perhaps, then, I should assume that clubs do not break, so that there might be no entry to the slow club suit winners and declarer is struggling for even nine tricks (on a diamond lead) or for only nine tricks (only two clubs, but also four spades and three top red suit tricks) on a heart lead.  Had I judged the opposing contracts better, I would have adopted my IMPs line and made ten tricks in 4 (for about an 80% board).

Are there any clues?

Playing in a sectional open Swiss, where you are facing a pair that has won many open regional events, you engage in a spirited auction, none vulnerable:

W
West
N
North
E
East
S
South
1
Dbl
4
4NT
5
5NT
Pass
6
Pass
Pass
Dbl1
All Pass
 
(1) after long hesitation

 

 

South leads a Rusinow K.

W
West
AQ9xx
A10xx
Q108x
K
E
East
KJ10x
KJxx
K97xx

 

The ruff/sluff lead takes care of any diamond losers: you can ruff the lead in dummy and pitch a diamond from your hand, with your other non-top diamond being eventually pitched on the fifth heart from dummy.  This contract appears to come down to not losing a trick to the J.

Are there clues as to the trump holdings of NS?

I submitted this hand to Bridge Winners asking the question in the title and not offering more than my side’s 26 cards, after I had chosen a play line that adversely swung 22 IMPs for my team.  (By the way, kudos to my partner and teammates who failed — well, at least in my presence — to have criticized my line of play.)  Oh yeah, we lost that match by 21 IMPs.

I led a diamond to my king at Trick 2 (not entirely safe, but perhaps South would have led a red suit singleton if owning one), so that I could lead a club through South at Trick 2, hoping that South might show a singleton J, or much less likely, a singleton A.  Well, the diamond was not ruffed (good) but the club lead produced only a small club from South (disappointing).  Dummy’s Q was topped by North’s A.

North returned a club.

What do you play?  What might have caused the hesitation of North?

I concluded that North might have been concerned that a double would telegraph a trump holding of AJx.  Accordingly, I ducked the club return …

… and lost to the doubleton J.  Converting +1090 into -100, when matched against my teammates’ -300, swung the board from a gain of 13 IMPs to a loss of 9 IMPs, a 22 IMP difference!

The publishing of this hand in Bridge Winners did produce a small consolation prize.  Kit Woolsey commented and independently inferred the same cause as did I for the hesitation of North.

Perhaps I am not as hopeless as I felt by going -100.

But I would still rather own the 22 IMPs.

 

Tools Still Require a Craftsman

If someone were to ask me to name a favorite convention, I might select takeout doubles or negative doubles.  But if those were excluded, I think I would choose splinters, one of the most useful tools to aid hand evaluation.

But any tool works best when wielded by a craftsman.

At a recent club game, responder was favored with a very nice hand opposite a partner who had opened the bidding with 1.

S
South
KJ6
AK
AQ84
8653

 

 

Playing 2/1, responder began well by choosing to bid 2 (where high cards by partner will help develop extra tricks) rather than 2 (where high cards by partner could well be wasted).  Opener rebid 2.

Responder now bid 2.  By partnership agreement, the 2 bid shows three card spade support and requests opener to describe his distribution.

Opener rebid 3, showing  a fragment in clubs.  3 is, in effect, a splinter in diamonds.  Opener has shown either 5=4=1=3 or 5=4=0=4 distribution.

3 is not, or at least should not be, the bid responder wanted to hear.  3, on the other hand, would be the magic bid.  (Opener’s other rebid choices: 3 shows a sixth spade; 3 shows a fifth heart; 2NT shows doubletons in each minor suit.)

Still, with 17 HCP, much more than promised by the sequence to date, responder is worth a control bid and chose now to bid 3, probably hoping to hear 4 from his partner.  Instead, however, he heard a (non-serious) 3NT from his partner, evidencing a minimum opening bid.

Even a control-rich maximum for his previous bidding, say, AQxxx, xxxx, x, AQx, would not provide an adequate play for slam, and so responder should sign off now in 4.  Perhaps not exhibiting the craftsmanship for operating the club fragment/diamond splinter tool used by the partnership, responder nonetheless control bid 4.  Perhaps more unadvisedly, responder then bid keycard over opener’s subsequent 4 bid, reaching 6 on this collection.

N
North (decl
AQ1094
QJ87
6
KJ2
 
S
South (dumm
KJ5
AK
AQ84
8653

 

 

Please notice how good would be slam had opener (hand marked North) shown a diamond fragment, rather than a club fragment, (that is, showing club splinter, rather than diamond splinter) by reversing opener’s minor suit holdings.

Continuing the building trades theme of this post, the opening leader East, having received an explanation of the declaring partnership’s bidding agreements (in effect, a blueprint), can be considered to be the building inspector, ready to identify the weakness in the hand construction.  With a minor suit cross-ruff being expected, leading a trump seems like a good choice.  Or, perhaps more trickily, leading a diamond to require declarer to make an early guess in that suit and complicating transportation between the two hands, might be considered.  Alas, opening leader East failed at exhibiting craftsmanship, too, and led the T.

(As an aside, which suit might be an attractive lead had opener shown a diamond fragment at his third turn?  I think then a club would be best, because when the declaring side has shown not only a spade fit but also a diamond fit, defense should attend to the risk that a losing club can be pitched on an extra diamond winner.)

The A by declarer’s (North’s) RHO West won Trick 1 and a heart was returned.  Declarer was fairly certain that he would find the Q onside and make the slam, but had nothing to lose by playing for a minor suit show-up squeeze just in case.  If West held Qx and Kx in the end position of declarer’s x, x, KJ opposite dummy’s AQ, xx, West would have no good answer to declarer’s play of the last spade and the pitch of a club from dummy.  Declarer would next play a diamond to the ace.  If the A does not fell the K, then a subsequent club from dummy will fell the queen.

As the hand lay, both minor suit finesses were onside and the J became the lucky declarer’s twelfth trick.

 
24
None
West
N
North (decl
AQ1094
QJ87
6
KJ2
 
W
West
632
5432
105
AQ97
10
E
East (leade
87
1096
KJ9732
104
 
S
South (dumm
KJ5
AK
AQ84
8653
 

 

But … both responder South and opening leader East need to refine their craftsmanship!

Pass or Respond?

In Tuesday morning’s club matchpoint game, partner and I were twice faced with the decision whether to pass or respond to partner’s opening bid, when holding a marginal hand.  Both times we were vulnerable.

S
South
QJ9
J987
853
J103

Board 12.  You are vulnerable in fourth chair.  Partner opens 1 and you?

 

 

 

N
North
9543
96
653
KQ82

Board 15.  You are vulnerable in third chair.  Partner opens 1 and you?

 

 

 

What do you prefer?

On Board 12, I sat South and passed.  That did not work well. 

 
12
N-S
West
N
North
AK2
AQ53
97
AQ65
 
W
West
763
K6
AJ6
K8742
 
E
East
10854
1042
KQ1042
9
 
S
South
QJ9
J987
853
J103
 

West smartly passed and our side missed a better score by playing hearts, where up to eleven tricks are possible.

 

On Board 15, partner sat North and responded 1.  That also did not work well.  The remainder of our aucton was, uh, weird, but we were definitely in the -200 or worse territory. 

 
15
Both
South
N
North
9543
96
653
KQ82
 
W
West
KQ6
Q104
AJ104
1096
 
E
East
1087
AK875
K8
543
 
S
South
AJ2
J32
Q972
AJ7
 

I strongly suspect that a Pass would have produced a 1 balance by East, and we would be off the big negative hook.

 

I favor pass with each hand, when we are vulnerable.  If not vulnerable, I slightly favor responding 1M with each hand.  Not sure if those are best, or even popular choices, but I do respect colors at duplicate.

With the growing popularity of systems where many balanced hands are opened 1 (even when owning only two clubs) and all one level responses are transfers – a system which I believe is not allowed in games that are restricted to General Convention Chart, unless authorized by the event sponsor – I wonder if responding becomes more attractive.  My general understanding of such systems is that opener completes the transfer with three cards in the suit shown by the transfer and bids to a higher level of the transferred suit when holding four cards in the suit shown by the transfer.  This would mean that, after responder passes the completion of the transfer, North would be playing some number of hearts on Board 12 (either 3 or 4) and South would be playing 1 on Board 15 (or, perhaps, EW would be playing the hand).

Senior Strip Squeeze

At Monday’s club game, I played 3NT from the East seat on Board 2 Section B, after North had shown diamond length.  South led the 5 (presumptively fourth best).

W
West
K94
AKJ4
Q972
87
5
E
East
J862
Q2
A86
AK62

 

I ducked the J from North and won the 4 return with the A, as South followed suit with the 3.

Needing spade tricks to make my contract, I advanced a spade toward dummy.  South followed small and I was off to a good start when the 9 drew the A from North.  North returned the T, won by my queen, South following suit.  I won the next four tricks with three more good hearts and the K from dummy.  I pitched two diamonds from my hand.  North pitched a diamond on the fourth round of hearts, while South followed suit to all the leads.

Having played two rounds of spades (losing one and winning one), four rounds of winning hearts and two rounds of clubs (losing one and winning one), I had reached a five card end position.

W
West
4
Q972
 
E
East
J8
A
K6

 

 

At Trick 9 I played a diamond to my ace.  As expected, South showed out, pitching the T.

So … South is down to two intermediate clubs and QT.  I cashed the K, and threw South in with a club.  She cashed the Q.  And then one more club!  Huh, what is going on?  How can I be down?  Somewhat sympathetically, my partner remarks, “Jeff, she pitched a spade”.  Yes, that is why this post is entitled Senior Strip Squeeze.  What I had seen as a discard of the T at Trick 9 was actually a discard of the T.  All I had to do was lead a small spade at Trick 10 and South’s Q would draw air and, when supplemented by my K, the J would be my game going trick.

 

 

Bridge Lessons for Youth

New England Youth Bridge, Inc., a tax-exempt charity, is pleased to offer to teachers of youth bridge programs  a set of lesson plans with teacher’s manual that are designed for use by school bridge clubs.  (Warning: the pdf file for the lesson plans is very long!)

NEYB subscribes to a bridge learning progression of:

  • Teaching play before bidding (that is, using mini-bridge)
  • Teaching declarer play before defender play
  • Teaching notrump play before trump suit play

Although I am the author of the lesson plans and teacher’s manual, the material was based upon several sources that I want to acknowledge and would recommend to both teachers and students of school bridge programs:

— Jeff Lehman

Payoff for Tempo Violators

Because my schedule often makes playing in tournaments difficult, I play a high percentage of games in clubs.  One product of that experience is that I observe quite a bit of Breaks in Tempo.  My perception is that partners of  the tempo breakers seem to make more frequent good decisions than they do when there is no tempo break. 

Hence, my joy at seeing a tempo break backfire at today’s club game.  The opponents are a pair on the line between low Flight A and high Flight B.

 
31
N-S
West
N
North (me)
AJ10
K97
AK9542
5
 
W
West
86
AQ862
86
AK74
5
E
East
K7543
J1054
10
J32
 
S
South (pard
Q92
3
QJ73
Q10986
 

 

W
West
N
North (me)
E
East
S
South (pard
1
2
2
31
Pass2
3NT
43
Pass
Pass
Dbl
All Pass
 
(1) I would prefer 4 here
(2) BIT … although I cannot explain why
(3) taking “advantage” of Unauthorized Information?

As you can see from my footnotes, I am not too keen on many of the calls in the subject auction.

Holding trump control and expecting some values from partner, I chose to lead not a high diamond, but rather my singleton club.  Seemingly unconcerned about my having led a singleton (but why would I lead from the Q when I could have led a diamond?), declarer played the jack from dummy and won partner’s queen with the ace.   Still not sensing the club singleton, declarer next led a small diamond toward dummy rather than playing on trumps in hope that I owned K doubleton.  I ducked that and partner won the J.  Partner returned an intermediate club, declarer covered, and I ruffed.  We still have coming to us the K, A, and a third round club winner for a satisfying +300 and all 11 matchpoints.  3NT has no chance, of course, on a heart lead.