When No Hope Exists

Playing with Zachery Brescoll at a recent club game, I picked up the following hand (which I have modified slightly for pedagogical effect):

180712_Deception

After my RHO passed, I had to decide what to open.  Zach and I play a strong club system, so I can’t open this 1♣.  Instead, I opened the hand 1, which shows a wide variety of opening hands without a 5 card major.

After my LHO passed, Zach responded 1♠, my RHO overcalled 2, and it was up to me.

Playing precision club, I can jump to 3♠ with this hand, which does not show 16-17 points, but rather shows a sound opening bid with shortness somewhere.  The bid has a slightly pre-emptive quality, as I expect that if partner has a very weak hand, the opponents can make something.

Over my 3♠  jump, my RHO passed and Zach bid 4♠ (Holding the hand shown below, don’t try this at home!)  With Zach playing the hand, his LHO (my RHO) led the ♣10.  Here were Zach and my hands:

180712_Deception_NS

Zach made 4♠.  How did he make this apparently hopeless contract?  (The protected ♣Q was on his right, behind the ♣AK).   Click the link below to see the answer.

Continue reading “When No Hope Exists”

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The Many Faces of the Suit Preference Signal

At this past Saturday’s game at the club, the North hand had an AVERAGE 13.02 HCP and so Peter Shwartz and I, playing East/West, had plenty of opportunities to practice our defense.  I, playing West, picked up the following hand:

180630_Suit_Pref_West_Only

The bidding proceeded as follows:

180630_Suit_Pref_Bidding

I led the obvious lead of the A and the dummy below came down:

180630_Suit_Pref_Dummy

Peter then played the  2 declarer following low.  What was Peter trying to tell me?  (We play upside-down count attitude signals).

Typically, partner’s obligation when you lead the Ace of a suit is to give an attitude signal, but there are several exceptions to this, this hand illustrating one of them:  when the dummy shows up with the protected Queen, there is typically little point in continuing the suit, since the play of the King will just promote dummy’s Queen to winning rank.  An attitude signal is useless here and so Peter’s signal defaults to the 2nd signal in the signalling hierarchy — count.  So the 2, playing upside-down count, gave EVEN count (HoLe — HIGH odd, LOW even).  But which is it?  Did Peter start with 2, 4 or 6 diamonds?

Well, it can’t be 6 since else declarer would have ruffed but did not.  2 or 4?  Sometimes this is a tricky determination to make but here it is easy.  I know from the bidding the Peter is void in hearts and so if he had only 2 diamonds, he would have been 6-5 in spades and clubs and certainly would have bid something.  Moreover, even if for some reason, he did not bid this 6-5 hand, he has no hearts and so there is no point trying to give him a ruff.  I might as well assume he has 4, not 2, diamonds.

I’m still on lead.  What do I do next?

Since Peter has 4 diamonds, declarer has another diamond and so I am at a grave risk of allowing the declarer to quickly promote the diamond Queen on the board.  It’s time to “go active” and try to promote our tricks before declarer can promote hers.   So I must shift — but to what?  Spades or clubs?

If partner has the KQJx of spades, I must knock out declarer’s spade Ace right now;  but if partner has AJ(10)x of clubs, I don’t have to act immediately as I will get back in the with the ♦K soon enough.  So a spade shift is best.  I shift to the ♠6, my middle spade, planning to play the ♠8 on the next round of the suit to show 3 of them (MUD — middle up down to show 3 without an honor in the middle of the hand).

Dummy ducks, Peter plays the ♠9 and declarer the ♠A.

Now declarer plays the inevitable 9, dummy following low and Peter playing the 5.  What do I do after winning the K?  The following cards remain between my hand and dummy:

180630_Suit_Pref_Aft_4

Click the link below to see the answer.

Continue reading “The Many Faces of the Suit Preference Signal”

Being a Pessimist: The Avoidance Play

Enough bidding problems for the time being.  Let’s discuss a play problem.  We have had several articles in which our readers have been presented with a shaky, even hopeless, contract, and the issue was how to play the hand to maximize your chances.  The “big idea” of those articles was that you place the cards in defenders’ hands in the most favorable manner that would give you the best change — i.e., you put on your optimist’s hat.

This article presents the opposite.  How should you plan a hand that appears to be rock-solid?

Here is a hand which illustrates the point.  How would you play the following 3NT contract after the auction shown.

 

SiMS_SouthNorth

West leads the ♦10.  You play the ♦Q which wins.  How many sure tricks do you have once the ♣A is driven out?

I count 8:   2 clubs; 2 diamonds; one heart and 3 spades.   You need one more.

Knowing that you have to drive out the ♣A eventually, you lead a low club from dummy to the ♣Q, which holds.

You are playing matchpoints, and so you should be prepared to take reasonable risks to maximize overtricks.

How would you play the hand going forward to maximize your chance of overtricks that does not unduly risk the contract?   Click on the MORE button below for the answer. Continue reading “Being a Pessimist: The Avoidance Play”

The Control-Showing Redouble

As luck would have it, another hand popped up illustrating yet another meaning of the redouble when I was playing with Peter Shwartz the other day at the club:

As North, I held the following hand with Peter Shwartz being the dealer:

180611_Rbld_Cntrl_N_Only

Peter opened 1♦, my right hand opponent (“RHO”) overcalled 1♠, and, with my decent hand and 5 hearts, I bid 2♥.  (2/1 Learners please note:  a 2/1 bid over an overcall is NOT game forcing, but is forcing for 1 round, and so should only be made with a 10+ point hand.)  My LHO passed, and Peter bid 2♠!

What does Peter’s 2♠ mean?

Since our opponents bid spades naturally, it can not possibly be a natural bid.  In this position, this 2♠ cue-bid sets up a general game force.  It says nothing about Peter’s spade holding nor whether Peter has a spade control; it just commits us to game.  We now can “go slow” and explore slam possibilities as they present themselves.

My response to Peter’s cuebid is pretty much automatic:  most of the time I will bid 2NT as a “waiting bid”.  This does NOT show a spade stopper, but rather gives Peter a chance to describe his hand.  I don’t yet know WHY Peter wants to force to game and the 2NT waiting bid gives him a chance to tell me.  For example, if he has a really good diamond suit, he can bid 3♦; if he had heart support, he can now bid 3♥, setting hearts as trumps and expressing slam interest (with no slam interest, he would have made a direct jump to 4♥).  Peter would be confident that in either case, I could not and would not pass his bid.  (He could also rebid 3♠ to ask for a spade stopper for no-trump).  Occasionally, I might do something else instead of bidding 2NT:  for instance, if I had really long, good hearts and nothing in diamonds, I might just rebid my hearts to get that point of across.

Before I could even settle on my best course of action, my RHO slapped his double card on the table.  Here is the bidding so far:

180611_Rbld_Cntrl_Bddng_to_Dbl

If you were in my shoes, what would your  next bid be?  Would you have just made the default waiting of 2NT here, or is there some other, more informative bid you can now make in this situation?  Click the link below to see the answer.

Continue reading “The Control-Showing Redouble”

The S.O.S. Redouble

We don’t know why, but our most popular columns have concerned the rarest of bridge bids — the redouble.   Let’s continue our discussion of the topic, picking up where Julie left off last week when she “Stuck it to the Man.”

You are West.  You pick up the following pretty collection of cards:

180505_Redouble_West_Only

With the other side vulnerable, the starts with a pass on your left, then pass by partner and a 3♣ opening preempt on your right.

What is your best bid?

A.  Pass          B.  3♦        C.   3♠
D.  3NT          E.  Dbl

With 16 high-quality high card points, you have to bid something.  But what?  3♦ is out given its only a 4-card suit.  3NT looks tempting — you have a stopper, after all — but you are light on high-card points and there is a serious problem:  on a club lead, holding the singleton Ace, you won’t be able to hold up playing the Ace.  Particularly with partner passing on the first round, it is likely that you will have to give up the lead at least once to establish your long suit (whatever that may be), in which event the opponents will rattle off their long clubs.

So it’s between 3♠ and a double.   Each could work out.  Personally, I have discovered through hard experience that holding 5-3 in the majors, it is better to bid your 5 card major here.  Partner is more likely to have 3 spades than 4.  Responding to a take-out double, he won’t bid your long suit holding only 3.  More likely, he will bid his 4-card heart suit and you will end up in a 4-3 fit instead of a 5-3 fit.  Bidding this particularly weak 5 card suit could be wrong if partner has short spades and long hearts, but it appears to be the least of evils.  So you bid 3♠.

Oops! Wrong choice — your left-hand opponent slams his double card on the table.  Then two passes to you.  What do you do?

Since a preemptive opening shows a weak hand, doubles of overcalls of a preemptive opening are ALWAYS for penalties.    With your terrible 5-card spade suit, you have dug yourself into a hole.   Here is the bidding so far:

180505_Redouble_Bidding_Doubled

Is there any way you can dig yourself out of this mess ?  Click the link below to continue.

Continue reading “The S.O.S. Redouble”

Discovery Plays: Finding the Honor

Last week we discussed the importance of improving your inference-making skills at the bridge table on defense.  We invite you to challenge your inference-making skills again this week, but this time as the declarer.

Here are two hands from a recent Saturday game at the club.  For each hand, you are West.  How would you play the following 4 contract after the bidding and opening lead shown?  On North’s lead of the ♣K, South plays the ♣5, discouraging.

1805_FindQueen_EW

180520_Find_Queen_Bidding

Unless you are extremely lucky in spades, you must find the Q to make the hand.  How do you proceed?

For the 2nd hand, you are playing 3♠ after the following auction and opening lead.  Opponents open a convenient minor, with a club opening promising at least 3 clubs.

180520_Find_Jack_EW

North leads the ♣2.  South wins with the ♣A and returns a low club.  You take your ♣K, North following low.  You play the  ♠K,  North the ♠2 while South takes the ♠A.  South returns the 8.  You try the Q, but it loses to the King.  North then plays the ♥J.    These are the cards remaining when you take the K in hand:

180520_Find_Jack_EW_Aft5

What do you do next?  You have lost 3 tricks already and must also lose a club.   You must pick up the ♠J to make the hand.

Click on the link below to see the answer to both problems.

Continue reading “Discovery Plays: Finding the Honor”

Where’s the Ace?

No great heroics or clever tricks on these hands — just the everyday but all-important business of making inferences on defense.  And we also offer some general words of advice to all of our aspiring players.

Here are two hands that came up this past Thursday evening game.  See if you can draw the correct inferences from the bidding, the cards shown, and the cards led to come up with the proper defensive play at a critical juncture in each hand.  Assume that your partner is a competent defender.

Hand 1:  You are East.  You are defending a 2♥ contract after the auction shown below.  Partner, playing standard leads, leads the ♦3.    Dummy (North) plays the ♦2.  What do you (East) play, having the hand shown on the right?

180517_7_Opening_Leader_Only

Hand 2:  You are West.  You are defending South’s 3♥ contract having the hand and after the auction shown below.  Not really wishing to lead anything, you finally settle on the ♠Q:

180517_8_3rd_Hand_Only

The lead does not work out so well for you:  South takes the ♠K in hand (exposing your remaining spade honor to a finesse) and promptly leads the ♥Q.  Your play.

Click on the link below to see the solution to both problems.

Continue reading “Where’s the Ace?”