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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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”

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”

The Operation was a Success, but the Patient Died

A few weeks ago I was on my way out of the bridge club around 12:30pm after a morning commitment there. A couple of afternoon players were caught in some wicked traffic, so I stuck around to fill in for a board or two until they arrived.

I end up with Tom Snyder (also filling in) and Janet Case as my opponents for the first board of the session. Having no agreements whatsoever with my partner, I was hoping for a ho-hum hand, without much headache. Of course, the bridge Gods were not amenable, and I sort my cards into the following hand:

Screen Shot 2018-05-13 at 3.54.27 PM

To my surprise, my partner (North) opens 1♣ in first chair! Tom Synder on my right overcalls 1. I decide to start with 1♠, unsure what I’d do later. Janet Case raises to 2 on my left, and partner surprises me again with a 2♠ bid! Tom Terrific competes to 3 on my right, and I decided that my hand is worth bidding 3♠, but no more. I buy the contract there. To recap:

Screen Shot 2018-05-13 at 3.58.45 PM

Janet leads the 4 on my left and I am left with this pair of hands:

Screen Shot 2018-05-13 at 3.59.40 PM.png

I sit for a minute, trying to wade through the mud and figure out the right line of play. I ultimately decide to ruff dummy’s diamonds in my hand. The alternative would be to pull trumps and try to set up my clubs, but it’s unlikely I’ll have an entry to the club suit after all of that is said and done. So, I ruff the first diamond in hand, play a heart to dummy, and ruff another diamond. I play another heart to dummy, and ruff that last pesky diamond.

I reach the following position:

Screen Shot 2018-05-13 at 4.12.48 PM

Now seems like a good time to pull trumps, with dummy looking better and better. So, I play the ♠Q out of my hand, West plays small, I play small from dummy, and East wins the ♠A. He now plays the ♣J, I cover, and West wins the ♣A. She now plays the J, which I attempt to win with the Q in dummy, but to my dismay, East ruffs it! He now plays a club, and I win that in my hand. Here is the position:

Screen Shot 2018-05-13 at 4.16.49 PM

I have lost 3 tricks (♣A, ♠A, and small spade used to ruff) and the opponents are still getting a heart. The opponents have 2 more trumps. I cannot afford to lose any spade tricks, but I am unfortunately stuck in my hand, and have to get to dummy. I play a small ♣ and West plays the ♣T – Which spade do you play?

Continue reading “The Operation was a Success, but the Patient Died”

An Italian Elopement

In Italy, they call it “fuga d’amore” (flight of love); in the United States, an “elopement”, but in any event, I extended the offer to each of my three daughters ($5,000 and a ladder to be precise), but none of them would take me up on it.   In bridge, it means something else.

I am in the Ichnos bridge club in Cagliari, Italy playing with the club president, Giancarlo Garbati, desperately trying to make a good impression so one of these Italian bridge sharks might want to play with me in the future.   I am dealt the following hand, neither side vulnerable:

Elope_South_Only

My Right Hand Opponent (“RHO”) opens 1♣.  In the States, I might overcall 1♠ with my opening hand and a good 4-card major non-vulnerable.  But I do not want to press my luck in a foreign country and so I pass.   My LHO bids a heart, partner passes, and my RHO bids 1♠; I pass, RHO bids a no-trump, then two passes to me.

I ask my RHO in my broken italian the minimum number of clubs that the opening club bidder might have and am told 2.    The devil makes me do it — I bid 2♣, a horrible bid on any continent.  This is passed out without a double.  My LHO leads the ♠9 and the following dummy comes down:

Elope_N_S

Playing the first part of this hand is pretty much forced so I don’t have to think too far ahead.  The lead of the ♠9 is an obvious doubleton:  My RHO’s 2nd bid was 1♠ — he must have exactly 4 spades since with 5 he would have opened a spade and with 3 he would have never have bid spades at all.  So my LHO has done me the kind favor of establishing 3 spade tricks in my hand once East takes his Ace, which he does.  However, I’m going to have to draw West’s trumps before enjoying those spades or else spades will be ruffed.  So I must draw some trumps first.

West takes the ♠A, me unblocking the Queen, and returns a spade.  I win on the board with the ♠J and take the club finesse, winning.  I cash the ♣A and then the play the ♣5, hoping West started with ♣10xx and would have to take the trick.  That works out.  West wins ♣10, cashes the ♦A, East following small, and plays the ♥8.  Here are the cards remaining:

Elope_After_7

Now I am at a crossroads.  How do you have proceed if you were playing this hand?  Click on the link below to see the answer.

Continue reading “An Italian Elopement”

Introduction to an Endplay

Players at most levels have experienced an endplay, and have often even heard the term thrown around. Generally when a defender gets endplayed, you can tell by the level of discomfort and squirming as they try as they might to find some way out of it. Alas! There is often no way out of it.

When you are endplayed, there is often no way around it; there is usually no reasonable way to avoid it. What a powerful play! Let’s introduce a fundamental endplay technique, for when a contract SEEMS impossible to make, but in reality, it is makable. Endplays are an intermediate+ concept, but players with less experience may find this interesting, at the very least to assuage your misery when you are endplayed by an opponent, as you will understand there was really nothing you could have done to avoid it.

For this basic endplay, you need a lot of trumps in both hands – generally at least a 5-4 trump fit, or perhaps 5-5. Your basic premise is to FORCE the opponents to play a suit that you don’t want to play. Their only other option would be to give a ruff/sluff, also giving you the contract.

Take the following pair of hands:

Screen Shot 2018-04-29 at 6.29.29 PM.png

We land on our feet in 4in the East. We have no information from our opponents on the auction. South leads the ♣T – we have to make our first assumption. Does South have the ♣K after he leads the Ten? Nope. So, we count 1 club loser.

The red suits are looking solid, so we look to spades for losers there. The spades are what is known as a “frozen suit” – the first side (defenders OR declarer/dummy) to lead this suit takes one fewer trick in the suit than if the other side broke open the suit. This takes some logic-ing, but if you think critically, you will see that if declarer leads spades himself, we will often lose the ♠A, ♠K, and ♠10. If the defense leads spades from either North or South hand, we can play second hand low to force one of the big honors, then only lose the ♠A and ♠K.

So, to recap: As East (declarer), we have one club and three spade losers – one too many! Try to put on your thinking cap and see how we may play to FORCE the defenders to give us a trick, either by leading spades, or by giving us a ruff/sluff late in the hand.

One you have a plan, see below for the solution. Continue reading “Introduction to an Endplay”

The Italian Intrafinesse

Ciao a tutti da Italia!

I am here in Italy, on the island of Sardegna (Sardinia, in English), in Cagliari, a   beautiful city found on this island not well-known to most Americans.   Bridge is very popular in Italy; Cagliari, a city the size of Charlotte, has 3 active bridge clubs.  Of course, I wanted to try the game while I was here.

I did not know anyone, so I got in touch with the President of one of the clubs, a Mr. Giancarlo Garbati, about finding me a partner.  Mr. Garbati did me the honor of agreeing to play with me the first evening I could play.  Mr. Garbati emailed me a convention card and so I boned up on multi 2♦ openings and overcalls and other conventions while not widely played in the United States, are popular in Europe.  Of course, I wanted to acquit myself  well by playing competently with Mr. Garbati my first session there to enhance my ability to find a partner on some later day.

I happened to have plenty of opportunity that day, as there were many challenging hands in respect to bidding, play and defense.  The following was my second hand out of the box (East-West vulnerable):

IntraFinesse_S_Only

As South, I opened 1♠, West overcalled 2♥, my partner bid 2♠, and East competed to 3♥.  My best bid now?

With my American partners, I would not have bid 3♠ with my very nice hand.  3♠ by me would have shown no game interest.  Instead, I would have made a so-called “maximal” double of 3♥.  This is played by many experienced players as a general game try.  I did not do that here as I had no idea how Mr. Garbati would take the bid. So, I just gambled and bid of 4♠.

When this bid was passed out, West led the ♥A and the following dummy came down:

IntraFinesse_NS

It is easy to that I have a sure loser in hearts, one in clubs and possibly two diamond losers — one too many.

After winning the 1st trick, West shifted to ♣9 (clearly a doubleton at most), won by East with the ♣A.  East continued a low club, I played my ♣K and West thankfully followed.  I cashed the ♠A, everyone following.  These are the cards remaining after 4 rounds:

IntraFinesse_After_4

Looking at the diamonds it appears that the only way to avoid a 2nd diamond loser is to go to the dummy and lead low to the ♦Q, hoping that the King is on my right.   If this is indeed the lies of the cards, no matter whether East plays the King immediately, or ducks and allows my Queen to win, the defenders can win no more than 1 trick in the suit.

But where is the diamond King?  And if it is West’s hand, is there any way that I can play the suit to avoid two diamond losers?  How would you play the hand?  Click the link below to see the solution. Continue reading “The Italian Intrafinesse”