Friday, October 2, 2009

Board 14

Board 14
Neither side vulnerable

♠ 9 8 K Q J 8 6 A 8 ♣ J 8 6 4

RHO passes, and I open one heart.  LHO overcalls with one notrump, and partner raises to two hearts.  RHO bids two spades.  Everyone passes, and I lead the king of hearts:

♠ Q 10
A 4 3
Q J 2
♣ A K 10 9 2

♠ 9 8
K Q J 8 6
A 8
♣ J 8 6 4

1 NT
2 ♠
(All Pass)

Declarer plays the three from dummy; partner plays the deuce; declarer, the seven.  Partner's discouraging heart should show a tolerance for the obvious shift, diamonds, so he should have the diamond king.  If I play ace of diamonds and a diamond to partner's king for a ruff, I will have to count on partner for two trump tricks in order to beat this.  Is there anything else to play for?


I could play partner for a singleton club and the trump ace.  I play a club, partner wins the first trump and plays a diamond to my ace. If he plays a high diamond, suggesting that I not return the suit, I give him a ruff.  He cashes the diamond king, and we cross-ruff two tricks for down two.  If he plays a low diamond to my ace, suggesting that I do return a diamond, I comply, get my ruff, and hope he has a second trump trick. This defense requires partner to have either two trumps trick or one trump trick plus a singleton club.  But it does require him to have the ace of trumps.  Otherwise, I lose my diamond ruff.

If partner were a sophisticated signaler, I would have doubts about the club shift.  If partner has a singleton club, the trump ace, and no prospect for a second trump trick, he can see the need for a club shift, so he would encourage at trick one.

If this seems weird to you, let's digress a bit.  When dummy has a source of tricks, as it does in this case, most often the opening leader will be faced with a choice of continuing the suit he led or of shifting to the fourth suit, in this case, diamonds.  The leader will usually have some idea about the lie of the suit he led, if only from how the play to the first trick goes.  He will often be completely in the dark, however, about the lie of the fourth suit.  So, most of the time, the most useful information partner can communicate is whether or not it looks right to him to shift to the fourth suit.  If it does, he should discourage in the leader's suit.  If it does not, he should encourage.  Encouragement, in this case, simply says, "Shifting to diamonds looks like the wrong idea."  It says nothing about whether the leader should continue hearts, or shift to clubs, or perhaps even shift to trumps.  Sometimes the alternative defense is obvious; sometimes the leader has to do the best he can.

I should point out that not everyone cards this way.  Some would say that, if a heart continuation is illogical, East's card should be suit preference: low for a club shift, high for a diamond shift.  Let's call this the contextual method.  To my mind, the contextual method is more susceptible to an accident than is pure attitude.  If it's absolutely clear that a heart continuation is illogical, it doesn't make any difference which method you play.  Either will work.  But if it's not clear, attitude is clearly superior.  Playing attitude, there may be some ambiguity about what a high card suggests, but both partners know for sure that a low card suggests a diamond shift.  Playing the contextual method, if one player thinks a heart shift is logical and the other thinks it isn't, both a high card and a low card are certain to be misinterpreted.

On this deal, if partner encourages, the first thing I would consider would be a heart continuation.  Since partner probably has four trumps, perhaps he wants to tap declarer out.  Let's see how that would go.  I continue hearts.  Partner wins a trump and plays a third heart, which declarer ruffs.  When I get in with the ace of diamonds, I play a fourth heart, promoting a long trump in partner's hand.  But we still need three tricks.  Where are they coming from? Unless partner began with AKJx of spades, we don't have them.  Since a tap is unlikely to work, and I know partner doesn't want a diamond switch, I'd try a club.

This deal, then, is a good example of the advantage of playing attitude.  At first blush, a heart shift is indeed logical.  Partner could be interested in tapping declarer out.   But, once you look into the problem a little deeper, you see that a heart continuation is probably fruitless.   Given that, how should partner ask for a diamond shift playing contextual signals?  Do you really want him to go through the thought processes of the last paragraph before he even knows whether his card should be suit preference or attitude?  Do you want to have to go through all that yourself before you know how to interpret his card?  Are you confident both you and partner, looking at different information, would even reach the same conclusion about the efficacy of a heart shift?

Playing contextual signals, this deal is a nightmare whatever shift third hand wants.  Playing attitude, you know you'll get it right at least half the time.  If third hand wants a diamond shift, he'll get it.  If he wants something else, he might or might not get it, depending largely on the analytical skills of the opening leader.

All of this, of course, is irrelevant playing with Jack.  Jack's attitude signals aren't about the deal as a whole but about the suit led.  He is simply telling me he doesn't have a heart honor, which I already know.  I simply have to find the play that works most often without any meaningful assistance from partner.

It doesn't seem unlikely that partner has two trump tricks.  Since I have no particular reason to think partner has a stiff club or the trump ace, it seems that a diamond shift will work more often.

I play the diamond ace--deuce---three--seven.  Terrific!  Partner doesn't have the king of diamonds.  With my entry gone, I have nothing better to do than to continue diamonds anyway.  Eight--jack--four--five.  Declarer plays the ten of spades from dummy--king--deuce--eight.  So partner has ace-king of spades.  If he has AK76, declarer is down one.  If he has AK7x, we still have a shot.  Partner plays the six of diamonds, declarer plays the ten, and I ruff.  I continue with the queen of hearts to dummy's ace.  Declarer ruffs a heart to his hand, cashes the queen of clubs, and plays a spade.  Partner takes his ace and leads a club.  Declarer pitches a diamond, pitches his last diamond on a high club, then coups partner out of his seven of spades.  Making two.

♠ Q 10
A 4 3
Q J 2
♣ A K 10 9 2

♠  9 8
  K Q J 8 6
A 8
♣ J 8 6 4

♠ A K 7 4
10 5 2
6 4 3
♣ 7 5 3

♠ J 6 5 3 2
9 7
K 10 9 7 5
♣ Q

In retrospect, I think I misdefended this one. I now think that a club shift was the percentage play.  By shifting to a diamond, I was playing partner for the king of diamonds and two spade tricks.  Consider the holdings he might have for that to be the case.  With AJ7x, A76x, or KJ7x, he would have two trump tricks by force.  He might also take two trump tricks with AJxx, A7xx, or KJxx, depending on how cleverly declarer plays.  Note that, in most of those cases, partner has the ace.  In the rest of them, declarer would probably attack the suit by leading low toward dummy.  In other words, provided partner has the king of diamonds, a club shift will seldom preclude my getting a diamond ruff. 

A club shift, then, will work on many of the same hands a diamond shift will work on plus those hands where partner has a stiff club and no second trump trick.  My mistake was the result of laziness.  I thought in general terms such as "hands where partner has two trump tricks."  If I had stopped to think about the specific holdings where that is true and then thought about how the play would go in those instances, I would have seen that, most of the time, it is not necessary to shift to a diamond immediately to get my ruff.

That's my second mistake in cardplay for this match (that I've noticed).  The first was on board one.  Like the first mistake, this one didn't cost.  That's the secret to winning bridge.  Make only mistakes that don't cost.

The auction was the same at the other table, and the defense started the same way.  The only significant difference was in the end position.  East, perceiving he was about to be couped, played the four of spades back instead of a club.  Declarer wasn't fooled.  He finessed and claimed.  Making two for a push.

Me  -110
Jack -110

Score on board 14: 0 IMPs
Total: +36 IMPs

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