Thursday, April 26, 2012

Update--"Partnership Bidding at Bridge" Book Review

I have been remiss in my postings for quite a while so I thought I would write a quick update.  I have today off from work, relaxing and taking care of a few neglected chores before starting play tomorrow in the United States Bridge Federation Open Trials, which is being held in Chicago's suburbs.  The winner earns a trip to Lille, France in August to play in the World Mind Games.

I haven't gotten to play much live bridge of late--I was only able to sneak away for 1 weekend of the recent NABC in Memphis.  Perhaps I can post a hand from that later on.  As usual I have been playing a bit on BBO and reading the Bridge World and from my growing library of material.  I have realized that when planning a wedding it gets much more difficult to plow through bridge books at my accustomed pace. 

On the bright side, I have bumped into a treasure recently that I can report on.  It is "Partnership Bidding at Bridge" by Oliver Segal and my friend from last year's Tangier rubber bridge excursion, Andrew Robson.  I have never read a book that has opened my eyes to so many possibilities in the auction.  The book is chock full of suggested sequences where you can show a fit for partner with a second suit or lead director.  Lots of tools to bid to the proper level efficiently and describe your hand at the same time, often making life awkward for the opponents.  There is also a fantastic section completely devoted to "pressure bidding"--the authors' term for preemptive bidding.  I have never seen such a complete discussion of the theory behind why we pressure bid and the partnership discussion necessary to do it effectively.  The recurring theme in the book is that in a competitive auction the goal should be to give your opponents the last guess.  The book can be hard to find since it is out of print, but usually there are a few copies available on Amazon.  I recommend reading it and shipping a copy to your favorite partner...the improvement your results will see by applying some of the principles may be topped only by your increased enjoyment of the game!  Good luck!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Borderline BAM Decisions--Updated

Here are two similar hands that came up in Seattle--how would you handle each situation? Each is rotated to make you South.

1. Dealer South, N/S game
You open 1NT, checked around to RHO who bids 2D showing the majors. LHO removes to 2S and partner doubles, passed to you.

2. Dealer East, E/W Game
East opens 1H, you overcall 1NT, passed back to East who bids 2D. This is passed to partner, who doubles. Back to you again.

After some debate I am still torn, but the only 2 real options in each case are pass and 2NT. Jonathan's point about partner having other options with more takeout-oriented hands is a good one. Also important to note in BAM/matchpoints, the opponents have jockeyed you out of your best-scoring partial, so you need to consider how any action you take may compare to what you may be able to score in 1NT.

What were the table results? Well, I regret to say that the first hand was the last of our qualifying effort in the Open BAM Teams event and I had a blind spot, bidding 3 Clubs. My RHO had a borderline balance (our teammate passed out 1NT for -150) and partner had a maximum pass with just enough to beat 2 Spades 2 tricks. Passing would have won the board and 2NT would have saved a half, but 3 Clubs lost it. As it turned out, a win on that board would have qualified us for the final. The second was from the 2nd semifinal session of the Reisinger Teams and this time I passed and led a trump. Unfortunately dummy was pretty good with 3 trump, a stiff heart and an ace...declarer (he had AKJxx of trump) emerged with an overtrick. Worse, 2nt was on our way. Our teammates played in the same contract on the same auction, but took a safe line to make 2 on a club lead. Another loss, but hopefully some experience gained!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Catching up--A Hand From Seattle

Unfortunately my postings have been few and far between this year. I've probably been playing as much bridge as usual but haven't had as much free time to chronicle it, spending old free time working on my real job and planning my wedding for September. This year has featured perhaps more bridge excitement than most, including a trip to Tangier, Morocco for high-stakes rubber play! Hopefully over the next few months I will get a chance to catch up and, of course, add some new experiences. First, a nice defense by my partner Howard Liu from the first qualifying session of the Reisinger Teams at the Seattle NABC.

First in hand he held: 3 K98 Jxxxx KJxx
He passed and heard this uncontested auction starting on his left: 1 Spade-2 Clubs-2 Hearts-2 Notrump-3 Spades-4 Clubs-6 Spades.
I led the 9 of diamonds and this dummy appeared:
Declarer won the ace, dropping the queen from his hand and played a low heart from the dummy, finessing the queen successfully. Now he cashed the ace of hearts, Howard following with the king! Declarer played a third heart, I followed suit with the Jack and declarer began thinking. Finally he ruffed low and had a near claim for making his slam--his hand was:
If he had ruffed with the jack, my ATx of trump would have been promoted into two tricks. I'm inclined to think that declarer would have gone wrong if he had timed the play "better." He could have discarded two losing hearts from his hand on dummy's extra minor suit winners before taking the heart finesse. Now in a similar position to the one he actually arrived at, he would be in much better shape, as he could ruff with the jack and make against most 2-2 trump splits (barring an unlikely promotion if the jack was over-ruffed). Unfortunately in the actual position, if declarer ruffed with the jack and suffered an over-ruff, the contract would be sunk as he would have no entry to dummy and thus no place to park his heart losers! Apparently he decided it was better to give Howard credit for making a nice play than to play for 2-2 trump with the ace in my hand. A pity, but still a fine effort by my partner.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

7-5 Come Alive?--Updated

Most have probably forgotten this hand as well, but here is the conclusion. At the table I held the 7-5 hand and, while my high card strength was considerably underweight for my bidding, my defense was actually quite good--two sure tricks and a side void. Partner's double here was clearly the "I doubt they can make it" variety, and with no certain fit, I decided not to argue. My partner had Qx xxxxxx AQJx x and we defeated the contract two tricks on the ace of clubs lead. One hand doesn't prove much, but overall I thought we judged this one pretty well.

I may never again have the chance to contemplate defending a 3-level partial with a good 7-5 hand, but I faced this situation on Friday evening as South, 4th in hand with only E-W vulnerable:
Surprisingly, the auction started quietly with two passes to my RHO, who opened 1 Diamond. I overcalled 2 Clubs, LHO made a negative double, partner passed and RHO bid 2 Diamonds. I bid 2 Spades, LHO competed to 3 Diamonds and partner doubled. What now?

Play 4 Spades--Updated

At long last, an update on this hand.

I believe that the line suggested in the comments is best--the key play is discarding from dummy at trick one. Now you can play a club up and decide the later play, taking tricks/discards on the clubs or playing on cross-ruff lines depending on how the opponents defend. Not a particularly difficult hand, but often it is right in this position to ruff preserving the ace to stop a later assault in this suit--I don't think that is right here because the third spade in dummy represents an "entry" of sorts to the long clubs. No guarantees on this hand (the suggested line worked on the lie of the cards, lho holding the ace-fourth of clubs) but it is a good example to remind us that there isn't a "rule" that will cover every situation in the play of the cards.

Suppose you hold this hand in 3rd seat:

Everyone has something to say: partner opens 1 Club, RHO overcalls 1 Heart, you bid 1 Spade and LHO cuebids 2 Spades. Now partner bids 3 Diamonds, you try 3 Notrump and partner corrects to 4 Spades. LHO leads a small you ruff or discard from dummy and what is your general plan?


Sunday, April 10, 2011

Problems From Louisville--Updated

I played four days at the recent NABC in Louisville with my friend Dr. Mohan. We played in the North American Pair event and the IMP Pair, failing to distinguish ourselves in either. A couple of interesting problems did come up--see what you think of these.
1) Matchpoints
RHO deals and opens 2 Hearts, weak. You overcall 3 Clubs and partner responds 3 Spades. Your call?

This hand is quite a bit more suitable than some that you might hold for play in spades. At the table I was considering that many times a 4 Spade bid would be based on just a doubleton trump. I doubted that my partner would move over a simple 4 Spades with AK-sixth and the ace of clubs. Against that the hand is missing the ace of clubs and is basically a minimum for the initial action (the 3 Club overcall). I decided to cuebid 4 Hearts on the way, perhaps a mild overbid. My partner and I weren't on the same page here and he drove to a hopeless slam.

2) IMPs
Partner opens 1 Club, which could be a doubleton if 4-4-3-2. RHO overcalls 1 Heart. You?

We play normal negative doubles, where a 1 Spade bid would promise 5 of them. The obvious choices seem to be Pass, 2 Clubs, and Double (despite the lack of the fourth spade). I think that pass is clearly wrong...Partner will often be passing out 1 Heart with some marginal 3 card holdings in the suit--in other words, hands that we should definitely be competing on. If I had held length in hearts with similar overall values passing would have much more appeal...if Partner chose to pass it out, I would expect to beat the contract. So the question became a choice between 2 Clubs and Double. Either could work but I figured 1NT could well be our best spot and 2 Spades was unlikely to be a disaster if we ended up there (we could also conceivably end in 1 Spade). I doubled, LHO raised to 2 Hearts and Partner bid 2 Spades, ending the auction. This went one down one on fairly normal play...2 Hearts was beatable double dummy but in practice would probably have made. It was basically a wash in terms of IMPs.

3) IMPs
Game all--You open 1 Spade, LHO overcalls 2 Hearts, Partner bids 4 Spades and RHO is there with 5 Hearts. What's your call?

This was the most dynamic hand of the tournament for me and I have determined that it was a situation that poker players call a "cooler". Bidding 5 Spades seems pretty normal and has been by far the majority choice of people I've polled. On this hand bidding vs doubling represented a difference of no less than 1000 points (5SX-1 vs 5Hx-3). My partner's hand was:
The 5 Heart bidder was 2-4-2-5 with the queen of clubs and the overcaller had AK of hearts, so after a club lead the defense takes the first 4 tricks and then plays a 4th club for an uppercut. Instead I was down 1 doubled in 5 Spades for a double-digit loss.

In retrospect, should I have gotten this right? Does partner rate to have a minor suit singleton for bidding 4 Spades red? If he has one, we will likely get at least 500 from 5 Hearts while prospects in 5 Spades are uncertain.

4) IMPs
You open 2 Clubs, partner bids 2 Diamonds (semi-positive). You bid 2 Spades and partner bids 3 Spades. What's your call/plan for the rest of the auction?

I'm not proud of how I bid this one, and perhaps the answer is that we needed better machinery. The 3 Spade bid promised just scattered values (likely a king somewhere) and any 3 trump and 3NT by me would have been undiscussed. I was unsure of how to get the information that I needed so I ended up bidding Blackwood, hoping to find the trump queen (with 4 trump Partner would have shown the queen). If he had it i could make a generic king ask/grand slam try of 5NT ...when he didn't have it I signed off in 5 Spades, figuring we likely needed 3-2 trump and something good to happen in the minors. I failed to take into account that 4-1 trump could also put me in jeopardy at the 5-level, which could be another argument for driving more aggressively towards slam and hoping for good breaks. Anyway, partner's hand was:
Trump were 3-2 and diamonds were 3-3, so 12 tricks could be made. Unfortunately the field bid this one and we lost around 8 IMPs.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Another Close Call

I returned yesterday from Orlando after another heartbreaking exit from the Reisinger Teams. My squad ended day 1 with 23.5 wins in 48 boards, which was half a board from qualification for the semifinal.

My favorite hand from the day came against the Diamond squad, one of the pre-tournament favorites. I held:
and opened the bidding with 1 Club. My partner responded 1 Spade and I rebid 1 Notrump, ending the auction. My LHO led the 3 of hearts and this dummy came down:
It looks percentage to play small from dummy, playing the opening leader for honor-9 instead of Queen-Jack, so I did, which fetched the nine from RHO. I won the ace and played on clubs, one to the king and another to the jack, both following. I was up to 9 tricks so I led a low diamond toward dummy, the jack losing to the queen. My RHO returned the queen of hearts which I won in dummy with the king. That left:

I started running my club winners, and my LHO's discards were coming slower with each round. Eventually he discarded spades each time, 2 low ones and the jack. I was pretty confident that he had started with 4-4-3-2 distribution at this point, so all that was left was to play my spade to the ace (LHO followed with the king) and the ten of hearts, which endplayed him to lead into my diamond tenace for 10 tricks. The defense was tough to find...he had to pitch one of his hearts and then follow to the spade with the king, leaving himself a smaller spade as an exit after winning the ten of hearts. The board was a win when the declarer in the same contract at the other table finessed clubs in the other direction and ended with only 8 tricks.

It was an enjoyable trip but was frustrating from a results standpoint...hopefully next year will bring more success at the table.