Sunday, 31 March 2013

Three Big Hands

For the third week in a row, me and Anna are chancing our arm at the St. Andrew's Bridge Club Friday night Matchpoint. The first time we went we came 5th, then 4th, so looking for a podium finish tonight. Full results available here.

It was a memorable night in that, after much discussion, one of the opponents bid a Multi Two Diamonds against us. I'd say our defence to it went well, in that me and Anna were on the same wavelength, but badly, in that I ended up playing the contract in the suit that the opponent had six cards of. 2♠ with a 6-0 Spade break didn't go well (Board 11).

But, as with so many of the hands, it was hard to tell what was going to be a good result. In general, the opponents underbid against us. Sometimes this was good. One pair were playing a bizarre system. I was so keen to interfere I doubled one of their artificial 1♥ bids as I had five Hearts, and Anna found a 2♥ bid. This seemed to throw their system (which is what we were hoping for), and they ended up underbidding into 4♠+2 (Board 6). In fact their elaborate system didn't seem to help them. On another auction they had six bids each (Anna ran out of pass cards), before one of them simply punted 6♥, which went one off (Board 5).

On one hand I opened with 10 points, Anna replied with 5 points and I ended up (mis)-playing a very odd 2♣ on a combined 15 count. Surprisingly though, this turned out to be a bad board for us as the opponent's, with a combined 25 count, can't make any game (Board 10).

On the hand below we were guilty of underbidding, through a misunderstanding (deal is rotated to make declarer South):

Board 12
EW vul
N deal
♠ K 7 6 4
♥ A T 9 6 4
♦ T 3
♣ A 7
♠ J 9 3 2
♥ Q J 2
♦ 9 8 7
♣ J T 2
♠ A Q 8 5
♥ K 8 5
♦ Q 5 4 2
♣ 8 4
♠ T
♥ 7 3
♦ A K J 6
♣ K Q 9 6 5 3

Anna, sitting North, decided to make another one of her dodgy openings. Rule of 20 no doubt. Of course it's a classic Flannery opening. After opening she was then desperate to put the breaks on, but I was having none of it. Over her 3NT I refused to give up. I've got a five loser hand, and we still might have an eight card Heart fit. On the other hand, I suppose, partner's shown a minimum and I've only got 13 points. I bid 4♣, natural. This was sadly passed out.

It should be forcing though. The general rule is:

Bidding on after 3NT (undoubled) shows interest in slam.

Because any time we're happy to have a go in 3NT, we're certainly not going to stop below game. Further bidding is all natural, including 4NT.

After 3NT is bid naturally, 4NT is also natural.

So Anna's options after my 4♣ bid are: 4NT (to play); 4♥ (to play); 5♣ (to play); anything else shows interest in slam.

Anyway, the actual contract was 4♣ by South (me). I got a Spade lead, and played low. Later, I led a low Spade from dummy towards my hand, intending to ruff, and East was duped into playing the Ace. That meant 12 tricks. Not sure how, but 4♣+1 for +170 gave us 57% of the matchpoints.

On this next hand, there was certainly no underbidding. Anna bid boldly, more boldly than anyone else and we were the only ones in 4♥. Unfortunately, it went two off vulnerable for a bad board, but I liked the bidding (deal rotated).

Board 26
All vul
N deal
♠ T 5
♥ A 7 3
♦ K 6
♣ A T 7 5 3 2
♠ J 9 6
♥ T 6 5 2
♦ Q T 9 4 3
♣ 8
♠ A K
♥ J
♦ A J 7 2
♣ K Q J 9 6 4
♠ Q 8 7 4 3 2
♥ K Q 9 8 4
♦ 8 5
♣ -
2♦- 4♦4♥
-- -

This time I opened light, with the North cards. If I don't open then East opens 1♣, Anna bids Michaels 2♣ and if we're lucky we end up defending 3♣. However, after I opened 1♣ East has a bit of a problem. He's got what I would call a bad 19 points. The normal option I think is double then rebid 1NT, but he found the wacky alternative of 1♦. Anna overcalled 1♠, which for us shows at least five Spades. Although East had made a simple overcall with 19 points, West only needed 3 points to raise, and he bid 2♦. I passed and East made a natural raise to 4♦ (3NT is another option, with our suits, Clubs and Spades, well covered). Anna had a good think over 4♦ and then came in with 4♥, based on her very distributional hand. Six-Five, come alive..

I wasn't sure whether to pass, or correct to 4♠, but reasoned that Anna might be 5-5 so left her in 4♥. Then I started to get worried that actually she's got a monster hand, East's 4♦ was pre-emptive, and we've missed a slam. So I was quite relieved when West lead the ♦Q, and the defence took the first two tricks. I certainly wasn't worried we'd missed a slam when East then cashed his two top Spades, so the contract was already one off.

East exited with a Club, and declarer was now in control. The defence have actually been quite kind in setting up the Spades, so it's just a case of drawing trumps. Anna played the ♥A first, so later had to lose a trump trick to West. I think the right way to play trumps is to play the King first, then you still have the option of finessing either opponent. In this case, East drops the ♥J. The question now is, what's more likely, East started with ♥J, or ♥JT? The Principle of Restricted Choice says that even when East has ♥JT, the ♥J will only appear half the time (as East has an equal choice whether to play Jack or Ten), so actually the ♥J is much more suggestive of a singleton.

If missing two honours and an opponent drops an honour on first round, finesse the other opponent.

This works best if you are missing the Queen and Jack, so the situation is something like:

Q65 J

After you play the Ace, East drops the Jack. Now you finesse West for the Queen. Of course, it could be that East started with QJ, in which case you'll lose out, but the odds favour a second round finesse.

In the situation of the actual deal, you are missing the Jack and Ten, and the layout of the Heart suit is:

T652 J

After you play the King, East drops the Jack. So now you can finesse West for the Ten. But there is an extra wrinkle here. If East is a good player, he might play the Jack from something like JT5. The layout could be:

62 JT5

Now suppose when you play the King East drops the Jack. You then finesse for the Ten on the second round and feel foolish when it loses. The Jack from East is called a falsecard, in fact in this case it's an obligatory falsecard, because if East has those trumps he should always drop the Jack (or Ten) on the first round. If he simply plays the ♥5 on the first round, declarer will certainly play trumps from the top, for no loser, as it's his only option. But if East plays the ♥J on the first round declarer now has two possible options, and might make the wrong choice.

Anyway, on this occasion declarer chose to play for the drop, and lost a Heart trick. 4♥-2 was -200 and a bad score, as most of the other tables East-West were only getting 130 for 3♦+1.

Now here's one hand where we got it just right.

Board 2
EW vul
S deal
♠ A 7 5
♥ 8 6 3
♦ 6
♣ K Q 5 4 3 2
♠ Q J 8
♥ K J T 9 4
♦ T
♣ J T 9 6
♠ 6 3
♥ 5 2
♦ J 9 8 5 4 3 2
♣ 8 7
♠ K T 9 4 2
♥ A Q 7
♦ A K Q 7
♣ A
-3♣- 3♠

I had the bumper South hand. I could have opened 2NT, but since we don't play Puppet Stayman I was worried we'd never find the Spade fit. So I decided to upgrade and open 2♣. Whenever you've got a massive hand you can always find reasons to upgrade.

Anna was able to give a positive reply, which is quite strict in our system. You need to have a very good suit - six cards with two of the top three honours or a solid five cards, and an outside Ace or King-Queen. I rebid 3♠ and Anna bid 4♦, which is a cue bid agreeing Spades (because it's beyond 3NT). I was a bit embarrassed about the quality of my Spades, and wasn't quite sure what was going on. I cuebid 4♥ just to buy some time, hoping Anna would then take over. She did, bidding 4NT as RKCB 1430. Unfortunately I now had to decide what the trump suit was. I decided it had to be Spades so bid 5♣ showing 4 keycards. I took my time here, as the last two times I've replied to Blackwood I've somehow got it wrong. After that Anna pulled out a 5♦ bid to ask for the trump queen, I denied it, and so she bid 6♠. That part of the auction was quite slick.

6♠ is a great contract, and looks even better when West leads the ♥J. In principle, if I only lose 1 trump, I now have 12 top tricks (4 Spades, 2 Hearts, 3 Diamonds and 3 Clubs), so don't need to ruff anything. But with only the Ace of Spades entry to dummy I can't draw trumps nicely and then cash my clubs, so I decided instead to ruff a Diamond. I cashed the Ace of Diamonds, then lead the ♦7. To my surprise, West ruffed! My first thought was that West had revoked, then I admitted to myself that possibly he had only one Diamond, and East had seven.

West had ruffed with the Eight of Spades, which caused me a problem. I can only afford to lose one trump trick in total. My first thought was to overruff with the Ace, then try and work out how to play trumps. I decided not to do this, as it took away an entry to dummy, so instead just threw away a Heart from dummy, letting West win this trick. He returned a Club, which I won in dummy. It was now just a case of getting the Spades right. I cashed the Ace in dummy, and West dropped the Jack. Was this another case of Restricted Choice, meaning I should now finesse?

The Principle of Restricted Choice says that West playing the ♠J on the second round is much more suggestive of him having started with exactly ♠J8, where he must play the Jack on the second round, than ♠QJ8,where he could play the Jack or the Queen on the second round.

But I had another clue. Before ruffing my Diamond with the ♠8, West thought for a long time. If he started with just ♠J8 there would be nothing to think about, it would be clear to ruff with the ♠8 to force dummy's ♠A. But because he'd started with ♠QJ8 it was much harder. So, based on West's thinking time, I decided to play offthe ♠AK, which worked gloriously.

Another tiny hint, telling me that West had the Jack and Queen, was that he dropped the Jack on the second round, and not the Queen. I think most defenders when they have consecutive cards prefer to play the lower one. So dropping the Queen would strongly suggest not having the Jack, but dropping the Jack isn't as informative.

QJ8 63

Note that the best way to play trumps in isolation, is low to the Ace then finesse the Ten. That would have failed here, as after I finessed the ♠T West would win his ♠J and could exit in Hearts. Then I'd be stuffed, with not enough tricks and no way to dummy without West being able to ruff with his ♠Q.

6♠= was a great result. Unfortunately it was a slow one and since we'd started the round late we had a very rushed last hand, rapidly conceding 3NT+2 (Board 3) to give back the points we'd just gained, such is the nature of Matchpoints.

In the end though, we finished on 55% so did indeed finish 3rd overall.

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Matchpoint Monday

Matchpoint Monday at the Buchanan, 45 pairs playing in three different rooms. I'm impressed how many people there are, and comment on this excitedly. Unfortunately this is only met with grumbles like "There used to be 70 pairs, in the good old days...". If you talk to someone old at the club about bridge it never takes long before they mention how there used to be 300 tables etc.

Me and Anna were in it to win it, and got off to a decent start when Anna made some good opening leads, and good decisions.

A test came with this hand, where Anna was sitting West.

♠ J T 8 7
♥ T 8 7
♦ J 7 4
♣ T 7 2

An easy pass to begin with, but then...

--x -

Partner has made not one, but two takeout doubles. Should you bid now, with four card Spade support?

Anna decided that with so many losers it was best to pass. This worked well, as we took 4♥ off, and can't make 4♠. This was the full deal (Board 27).

No-one vul
S deal
♠ Q 2
♥ A K 9 4 2
♦ K 6 5 2
♣ Q 3
♠ J T 8 7
♥ T 8 7
♦ J 7 4
♣ T 7 2
♠ A K 6 5
♥ -
♦ A T 9 8 3
♣ K J 9 4
♠ 9 8 3
♥ Q J 6 5 3
♦ A
♣ A 8 6 5
--x -

4♥x-1 gave us +100, for most of the matchpoints. The usual result on other tables was 4♥-1.

Then things started to go bad pretty badly. After about ten hands, I stopped writing down the scores and went to get a whisky. The lowlight was when the opponents had a weird auction (at one point South audibly muttered "Three Diamonds?. What the fuck is Three Diamonds?") and ended up in an un-makeable 4♥. Declarer took his nine winners, then gave up the lead. I could have just cashed the last four tricks for one off, but instead played a card over to Anna who was endplayed into giving declarer his tenth trick (Board 7). Very poor.

Next, a tough decision. Would you cover the Queen of trumps, led from dummy, with the West hand?

K 9 7
Q 3 2

Apparently, you should, as it saves a trick. Here's the full deal (Board 18).

NS vul
E deal
♠ A 8
♥ A J 8 5 4
♦ A 9 8 3
♣ 5 4
♠ K T 7 4
♥ K 9 7
♦ K 7
♣ K Q J 8
♠ 9 5 3
♥ T 6
♦ Q J 6 4 2
♣ T 9 7
♠ Q J 6 2
♥ Q 3 2
♦ T 5
♣ A 6 3 2
--3♣ x

Anna opened 1♣, and the opponents were soon in 2♥. This was about to get passed out, when I came back in with a very bold 3♣ as East. This was pretty reckless, and I was extremely worried when South doubled me. Luckily they went to 3♥, which is a normal contract. But we bodged the defence. Firstly not covering the ♥Q cost a trick. Secondly, me hopping up with ♦J also cost a trick.

After that was a hand where Anna tried to ruff with a Diamond, when Hearts were trumps. The opponents were very nice though and let her change it. It didn't help us though - this was the hand where declarer has the singleton ♣K on the table. Both me and Anna had a chance to cash a Club, but didn't, and before long our Club trick inevitably disappeared and declarer made an overtrick to give them a top (Board 24). It was not going well.

We had a very poor round against Norman and Anne. To be fair Anna gave a good defence to 2♠ to take it off two (Board 15), but then it went awry. With a big decision to make Anna decided the five level belonged to her, and bid 5♠ over Anne's 5♦. This went one off for another dud result (Board 14).

The only highlight was the quality of my chat. Anna had warned me about mentioning to anyone that I'm interested in going to a real-life auction this Friday, but I decided to bring it up anyway, and hit the jackpot. Edith and Nancy are regulars at McTeers, and gave me all sorts of tips.

Later I gave Anna a powerful pep talk, and things picked up. At least the results did, some of the play was still very dodgy. This was a rather bizarre auction, that ended up nicely (Board 12).

NS vul
W deal
♠ A K 2
♥ A 8 7
♦ A 9 4
♣ K T 9 4
♠ Q T 6 5 4
♥ Q J
♦ K Q J 8
♣ Q 7
♠ J 9 7
♥ K 2
♦ T 7 6 3
♣ 8 6 5 2
♠ 8 3
♥ T 9 6 5 4 3
♦ 5 2
♣ A J 3
-3NT- 4♥

West opened 1♠ and Anna overcalled 1NT. This should really be only 15-17, stronger hands double then bid No Trumps. The risk of overcalling 1NT with 18 points is missing game, which was about to happen here. I had the South cards and decided I would just transfer into 2♥, then pass. But Anna ignored my transfer altogether and put herself into 3NT. I corrected into 4♥, and luckily Anna had three of them. After winning the slightly odd ♦Q lead I played Ace and another Heart (slightly better is to finesse on the first round just in case West has KQJx), then got Clubs right for an excellent 4♥+1.

Overall we finished 22nd out of 45 pairs, with 50.3%. Full results here.

Monday, 25 March 2013

Vanderbilt 2013

At Achray House near Loch Earn me and Anna watched some of the North American Bridge Championships. The winning team featured Sabine Auken, from Germany, and Roy Welland. Here's a hand which prompted Anna to say "looks like magic, they must be cheating".

EW vul
W deal
♠ 4 2
♥ 9 6
♦ J T 9 5
♣ K Q 7 6 4
♠ J 5 3
♥ Q 5 4 3
♦ K Q 8 6 3
♣ 2
♠ K Q 8 6
♥ A T 7 2
♦ A 4
♣ 9 8 5
♠ A T 9 7
♥ K J 8
♦ 7 2
♣ A J T 3
1♥-2♥ 2♠
- 2NT - 3♣

This is a board from the Semi-final. Everyone plays Strong NT and 5 Card Majors, so East opened 1♣. West replied 1♥, and East raised to 2♥.

South now knows that East has a minimum opener, and knows West isn't too strong as he's a passed hand. South can't double though (that would show minors), so comes in with 2♠. North replies 2NT, and South correctly interprets this as minors and bids 3♣, passed out.

One expert commentator said "NS seem to be on the same wavelength here", and the other added "it's like stealing, well done by South".

3♣ made. On the other table EW played 3♥+1, so overall it was a 7 IMP gain for Team Auken, who went on to win the semi-final and the final.

Better late than never

Friday night at St. Andrews! No time to finish dinner, we had to get to the Bridge Club. Made it at 1905, but they'd already started! Apparently, on a Friday the start time is 1900 and not 1915.bLuckily, they had 8 1/2 tables so were happy for us to join and make up 9 full tables.

We got off to a good start. "I wish you hadn't come" joked an opponent on the first table. On the first board, defending 3NT, Anna lead the ♠4 and dummy came down. I sat East.

♠ T 9 5
♥ A 3
♦ 5 3
♣ K J T 6 4 3
♠ A Q 6
♥ 8 7 6 5 2
♦ A 8 7 6
♣ 8

I took the A♠, and played the Q♠. Declarer was forced to play the ♠J from hand and Anna followed with the ♠2. I now knew for certain that we had three more Spades to cash, and the contract was going down. So what did I do? I cashed the Ace of Diamonds, then gave Anna her Spades. That was my highlight, on the very first board.

Later, concentration flagged a little. I was sitting North, and struggled with the extra responsibility of working the BridgeMate, and being in charge of all the boards. At least, when I accidentally brought out Board 13 for the second time, I was the first to notice I had the same cards.

Here's my lowlight:

NS vul
E deal
♠ A
♥ T 7 5
♦ K 9 8 4 2
♣ A J 5 2
♠ Q 8 2
♥ K Q 8 2
♦ T 6 5
♣ T 9 8
♠ -
♥ A J 9 6 4 3
♦ Q 7
♣ K Q 7 6 4
♠ K J T 9 7 6 5 4 3
♥ -
♦ A J 3
♣ 3
--5♥ x
xx 5♠ - -

What an exciting auction! East opened 1♥. Anna weighed in with 4♠, at unfavourable vulnerability. But did she realise it was unfavourable vulnerability? I had a pretty nice hand in North, but didn't really know what to do. I shuffled around a bit, then passed. When it got back round to East, she also shuffled around a bit, then came up with 5♥. Looking at all four hands, bidding 5♥ looks a bit mad. If she was going to bid again, why not bid 5♣?

I decided I couldn't let 5♥ go, so doubled it. This was very foolish. As Anna pointed out to me later, it's likely everyone's got a very distributional hand and my two Aces and a King don't mean much. West could have let 5♥x go, but decided to redouble, with chunky Heart support.

I got a bit scared, and thought about escaping into 5♠. An extra reason for doing this is that now West has shown Heart support I can be pretty sure that partner is short in Hearts, so don't need to worry about my three Heart losers. But basically, I bid 5♠ because I got scared 5♥xx was going to make. West passed out 5♠, which seems a bit inconsistent - if you're not prepared to double 5♠ you shouldn't really redouble 5♥ (I've made that mistake many times, as Anna will tell you).

Anna made 12 tricks, losing one Spade only. 6♠ is an excellent contract, as it only fails if you are unlucky and have to lose a Spade and a Diamond. No way we're ever bidding it though.

Full results here (results are correct, but hand records are wrong).

Final note - we now have a new defence to the Multi Two Diamonds. It's this: double shows either a weak NT hand, or 20+ points. Let's see if Anna prefers this to the old defence, which was simply that double shows Diamonds.

Crush the Opposition

There's been a few hands with Anna lately where I've made a bold penalty double of a partscore. Not unreasonably, Anna has taken these doubles as takeout and she's bid on. This is a shame, as it means we missed out on a chance to crush the opposition.

So, I've been thinking about when we can safely make a penalty double.

1. After partner opens/overcalls 1NT, your doubles are penalties.

If partner opens 1NT, then you know he's got points and a few cards in each suit.


South has

♠ K 9 8
♥ Q 6 4 2
♦ A 4 2
♣ J 3 2

Time to double for penalties. If partner has overcalled 1NT it's the same, but he has an even stronger hand, so you need less. For example:


With the hand below, South can also double for penalties.

♠ J T 9 4
♥ A 4 3
♦ Q T 4
♣ 5 4 3

2. If partner's already doubled for penalties, your doubles are penalties.


South can bid, if he has a very long suit and doesn't want to defend. A balanced hand with a few points Should double:

♠ A J 2
♥ Q T 3
♦ 8 7 6 2
♣ T 3 2

3. After partner preempts, your doubles are penalties.

Partner has described his hand well with the preempt, so the only possible meaning for your double is penalties. You need a really good hand here though, as partner doesn't have much.


South has:

♠ Q J 9 8 3
♥ 5
♦ A K 3
♣ A Q 3

and can double for penalties. I was on the wrong end of a double like this against Jake, in the second hand here: Weighing In.

Saturday, 9 March 2013

Friday night fools

At the end of a long week me and Anna took on the Friday night game at St. Andrew. We were both very tired. On arrival I claimed I'd never been there before, but I have, several times.

For the second session in a row I bid a Grand Slam while missing a key card. Last time I played it and got away with it, this time I landed Anna in it. She didn't like it. This was her trump suit in 7♠:



The only hope is to play for a singleton King (or singleton Jack). Anna played for a singleton King and cashed the Ace. The King didn't drop and my foolish bidding had doomed us again.

The good news was that we didn't lose all the Matchpoints as some people went down in 6♠, because the King-Jack were both offside. Anna wisely said that if she was in 6♠ she still would have cashed the Ace first, rather than finessing twice. I disupted this, thinking the finesse was better. Just now I looked up the correct way to play this combination on Suitplay. Anna was right of course, with nine trumps holding AQT9 between the hands you cash the Ace first, with only eight you finesse.

Here's a hand where we were both a little silly (Board 2 here).

NS vul
E deal
♠ 9 4 2
♥ Q 9 5 4
♦ T 9
♣ 8 7 5 2
♠ A K 7 5 3
♥ A T 6 3
♦ 8 6 3
♣ K
♠ J T 6
♥ J 8 7 2
♦ Q 5 4 2
♣ Q J
♠ Q 8
♥ K
♦ A K J 7
♣ A T 9 6 4 3
1♠-2♠ 3♣
3♥ - 4♥ -

South opened 1♣. I was sitting West and overcalled 1♠. Anna was very courteous and gave me a courtesy raise of 2♠. South came back in with 3♣ and I had a decision to make. With a sixth Spade I'd bid 3♠ straight away. As it is I have 14 points but lots of losers. I didn't like my three small Diamonds, but in the end I liked the idea of making a descriptive 3♥ bid so much I went for it. Anna had a total minimum but liked the double fit so much she found a raise.

That was the final contract, 4♥ by West. North lead a Diamond, and when I saw dummy it was pretty clear I was going loads down.

The defence was good. They quickly took three Diamonds. Then South shrewdly cashed her Ace of Clubs. This was necessary to stop me throwing away a losing Club on a subsequent Diamond lead (Anna pulled a similar move later on in the evening). So the defence already had four tricks. Then South played the killer fourth Diamond through. I was on the ball (it was still early) and envisioned the Heart layout. I ruffed with the Ten and West over-ruffed with the Queen. I then won the Spade return, cashed the Ace of trumps, dropping Souths's King and finessed North. Bingo! Still two down though.

Such is the power of a double fit that even though we went two off, we didn't get too bad a score on the hand. -100 compared well with -110 for North-South making 11 tricks in Clubs. Overall me and Anna got 48%, for 5th place East-West pair.

Notes from Norman

These are some things I learnt from Norman's bridge class at the Buchanan Club last Thursday.

1. Strong replies to 1NT.

We play that any three level response to 1NT is a slam try with a good six card suit and a good hand. For example:


What about opener's next bid? It works like this:

3♥/3♠ Natural, showing 5 card suit and suggesting 5-3 fit
3NT Jx or worse in responder's suit
Anything else Cue Bid, with Qx/xxx or better in responder's suit.

The auction at the top actually happened with me and Norman. I was the 1NT opener who had to rebid. I had ♠KJx ♥KQx ♦xxxx ♣AJx . What's my bid? With Norman's help I got it right on the third attempt (4♣).

2. Finesse or Drop?

In the hand above I actually ended up in 6♦ (as did Anna on the other table). We had one clear trump loser, so needed to play this Spade suit for no loser.



It looks like with only six cards the only sensible thing to do is finesse. But actually, you can do better. Norman's advice is this. Play off all your other winners, so you're down to just the Spade suit. This is risky, as if you now lose the lead you'll lose the rest, but is the best chance to make your slam. As you're playing off winners count the Spades being discarded. If there's four enemy Spades left you play for the drop, if there's five Spades left you finesse.

As it happened I got a nice Spade lead and made the slam. Anna didn't and had to finesse and go one off.

3. Check your checkback

After the following type of auction:


What can East rebid with extra length in Majors?

2♣ Checkback, with 5 Spades or 4 Hearts (or both).
3♥ 5 Spades 5 Hearts or better
3♦ 5 Spades 5 Diamonds or better

As a follow up point on Checkback, suppose the auction is:

1NT-2♣ -

West is being asked if he has three Hearts or four Spades. What should he reply if he has both? The surprise answer is that he should bypass bidding 2♥ and go for the 4-4 fit by bidding 2♠. That way if you have a double fit you play in the 4-4 fit and not the 5-3 (note this is different from normal Stayman, where if you've both Majors you bid 2♥, the lower bid).

4. Jumps to the five level.

This causes a lot of confusion. I think it's always going to be a bit confusing. Here's a summary of what it means when you jump to either 5 trumps or 5NT.

In an auction where it's not clear what trumps is:

5NT Pick a slam

In an uncontested auction when you've agreed trumps:

5 trumps Small slam invite. Bid 6 with 'good' trumps.
5NT Grand slam invite. Bid 7 with two of AKQ in trumps.

In a contested auction:

5 trumps Small slam invite. Bid 6 with second round control (King or singleton) in opponent's suit
5NT Grand slam invite as before.

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Gone to Gorenberry

In a cottage in the Borders last weekend. To my surprise, after batting around a balloon for about twenty minutes, we played a few hands of bridge.

There were some good hands, and powerful bidding:

Love all
E deal
♠ A J x x x
♥ Q x x
♦ Q x
♣ J x x
♠ Q T x
♥ x x x
♦ K x x x x
♣ x x
♠ -
♥ A K J T x x
♦ A x x x
♣ A x x
♠ K x x x x
♥ x
♦ J x
♣ K Q T x x
-3♠4♥ 4♠
- - -

I had a monster hand as East. We were playing with no conventions, certainly not Reverse Benji, so I had an easy 1♥ opening bid. Andy sitting South was bold enough to overcall 1♠. West passed. As we were all playing with simplified bidding Anna supported Andy with a nice bid of 3♠. Although this takes up space it quite suited me, as I could then show all the power of my hand by coming in again with a big 4♥. The only downside was that it might have given the impression that you just bid wildly with a monster hand regardless of what partner has (and everyone knows I never do that).

Andy's instinct was to come in again with a bid of 4♠. This was queried but someone (Louise?) checked his hand and gave him the all clear. 4♠ it was, passed out.

In the play Neil was advised to lead a Heart. I won this first trick with the ♥T, and tried another Heart, which was ruffed. Anna moved round from dummy to advise Andy on the play. Four losers were detected. After drawing trumps (finessing West) there was a desperate attempt to set up Clubs to avoid Diamond losers. I ducked the Ace of Clubs on the first round (don't know why), but won the second Club and brilliantly switched to a Diamond. One off!

Consolation for Andy (who played well), is that 4♥ makes easily.

Monday, 4 March 2013

Too good for Benji

Went for a romantic night out with Anna at the Bridge Club last Tuesday. She didn't fancy the No Fear Tournament, so we headed upstairs to Norman's class. Tony had saved a seat for Anna, and when Norman asked Anna where she was going to sit Tony quickly offered the spare seat and Anna sat down. I sat on another table, back to back with my date. How did this happen?

It was a typical madhouse at Norman's Class. On Anna's table Alan was on fine form, and on my table Elma and my partner were in a riotous mood too.

Here's a board where, with Norman coaxing the bidding along, we got to the right contract:

Love all
S deal
♠ K Q J x x
♥ 9 x
♦ J T x x
♣ x x
♠ A x x x
♥ K J x x x
♦ x x
♣ Q J
♠ x x x x
♥ x x
♦ K Q x x
♣ 9 x x
♠ -
♥ A Q T x
♦ A x x
♣ A K T 8 x x
1♥1♠- 3♣
- - -

I had the big South hand and didn't know what to open. I thought the hand was strong enough, and the Clubs good enough, that I ought to open a Reverse Benji 2♦. Norman advised against this though, saying that as my hand also had good Hearts I'd be better opening 1♣. I approved, as I never like opening Benji Twos.

West overcalled 1♥, partner bid 1♠ and I had another dilemma. Norman says never to bid 3NT with a void in partner's suit so I went for 3♣, passed out.

I could potentially lose two Diamonds, two Hearts and a Club, but actually it went a lot better than that. West led the ♠A, which I ruffed. I now had three top Spades in dummy, but no way to reach them. I played two rounds of trumps, then gave up the third round of trumps to East. She recklessly played a low Diamond, which I won in dummy, and cashed three my three Spade winners, throwing two Diamonds and a Heart. The only suit left was Hearts, and I still had ♥AQT in hand. Playing up to the Queen forced West to win and lead round another Heart into my Ace-Ten. So I made 11 tricks, just losing one Heart and one Club.

On the other table Tony and Anna had the same North-South cards. Tony was South and opened 2♣, and despite Anna doing all she could to slow down the auction, ended up in 5♣. Tony did not get such a favourable defence and finished in 5♣-2, duly recorded by Alan in his score sheet.