Bridge Problems

Another Face of the Suit Preference Signal: Trump Suit Preference

Playing at the club this past week with my wife, Janet, I picked up the following uninspiring collection of cards:

180727_N_Only

Janet opened the bidding 1 and my right hand opponent (“RHO”) doubled.  My bid.

My mentor and partner Zach Brescoll has always advised me to respond to an opening bid with an Ace and nothing else, but there are exceptions.  One of them is when your right-hand opponent has made a take-out double.  Hearing the take-out double, you know your partner will always have a chance to bid again and so you need not stretch your values to keep the bidding open to protect your partner in the event that partner has a very strong hand.  Here, particularly, the takeout doubler is suggesting length in the majors and so neither of my two major suits look promising.  Had my RHO passed, I would have responded 1 in a heartbeat, but not now.  So I passed.

My LHO bid a quick 1♠, Janet bid 2♣, and my RHO raised to 2♠.  This ended the bidding.

Here is the bidding:

180727_Bidding

After some thought, Janet led the ♠7 — a trump.    The following dummy came down and declarer played the  ♠K.

180727_1st_Trick

My turn.  Time to plan a defense.  What can I figure out from the bidding, opening lead, and the dummy?

Partner opened a diamond and then freely bid 2♣, suggesting a sound opening hand with either 5-4 or 4-5 in the minor suits.  She made a passive trump lead, bringing to mind the old bridge adage — when in doubt, lead trump.  The trump lead pretty much rules out her having started with the AK or KQ, as with either honor combination she has an easy opening lead of a high diamond.  So I’m thinking she has the AQxx(x) or AJxx(x), with a high diamond honor being hidden in declarer’s hand.  She probably has the A and the ♣K — all holdings which she would be reluctant to lead away from, opting for the trump lead instead.   That would give her an opening hand.

Given her likely diamond holding, she is obviously searching for a way to get to my hand to lead a diamond through declarer’s diamond honor.  She would be delighted to learn that I have the ♣A, if I can tell her that I have it.

Is there any way to communicate my club holding to her?  Think and then click on the link below to continue.

Continue reading “Another Face of the Suit Preference Signal: Trump Suit Preference”

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Courteous Bids

The hand I selected to write about today exemplifies one of the most versatile – and underused – bids in all of bridge: The Cuebid.

I stumbled across this hand whilst killing time during an unfortunate cold that hit myself and Zach before last weekend. Trying to keep my mind off the unfortunate state of my sinuses, I took to Bridge Base Online (BBO) to play a few practice hands against robots in what they refer to as an “Instant Tournament.” These 8-board mini tournaments give the human player the best hand at the table (by HCP), and can be played at imps or matchpoints.

The following is my hand on one particular deal:

Screen Shot 2018-07-22 at 5.31.37 AM

Seems harmless enough, right? So, dealer (East) on my right passes, and I open a 15-17 1NT. My LHO Robot bids 2♠, which the bots play as spades and a minor. My partner bids 3, game forcing with 5+ hearts. LHO passes.

Screen Shot 2018-07-22 at 5.31.54 AM

What would you do now?

Continue reading “Courteous Bids”

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”

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”

Help Suit Game Trick

As many of you know, I run a teaching (“Barometer”) game a few times per month, on Saturday mornings and Thursday afternoons. They are both capped at 499 MPs, and consist of 12 boards. All tables play the same board at the same time, and I instruct on each board directly after playing it. To prepare for this game, Zach and I deal 12 random boards, and discuss together the best way to handle each one, which is what I teach at the game. The lessons that come up most often are things like competitive bidding, New Minor Forcing, 2/1 auctions, etc. But, occasionally, we get something freaky, like the following hand:

Screen Shot 2018-07-01 at 12.45.06 PM.png

Hands like this may look like an absolute nightmare to figure out, even to players with years and years of experience under their belts. It can be so tough to handle these types of hands in uninterrupted auctions, let alone if the opponents interfere!

So, let’s start to parse this out. I tend to preach opening these types of hands at the 1-level, in case any of you were tempted to open 2♣. Opening at the 2-level can really preempt us out of finding the best contract. So, we open 1♠ and hope for the best. To our surprise, partner raises to 2♠! The opponents are still silent.

Screen Shot 2018-07-01 at 1.45.52 PM.png

Now we may have visions for slam – partner is showing us 6-9(10) points, and a spade fit. So, it’s looking like no spade losers, but what about those pesky hearts? If partner had the ♠Q and K, it’d be hard NOT to make a small slam, and that’s only 5 HCP. But, if partner has the KQJ for his 6 points, it’s not looking great for the home team. So, how best to gauge all of this……

Think about what you would bid now, and when you are ready, click “Read more.” Continue reading “Help Suit Game Trick”

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”