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.

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