Thursday, October 22, 2009

Board 28

Board 28
Our side vulnerable
♠ A 9 4 Q 9 7 5 4 2 -- ♣ A 7 5 3

LHO opens one diamond, which is passed around to me. I bid one heart, and partner bids three notrump. With most weak notrumps, I would expect partner to bid merely two notrump. It's possible he has a hand at the very top of this range. More likely, though, he has a hand in the strong notrump range that was somehow unsuitable for an immediate one notrump overcall. And the likeliest reason for it to be unsuitable would be a singleton heart. This is a long-winded way of saying that correcting three notrump to four hearts might not be such a good idea. Still, passing three notrump with a diamond void doesn't feel right either. I decide to hedge my bets by bidding four clubs. If partner has the good weak notrump, he can bid four hearts on his doubleton. If he has a singleton heart and club support, he can bid five clubs. And if he is stuck with, say, a 4-1-5-3 pattern, he can bid four diamonds, over which I will bid four hearts.

At least that's what I thought at the time. In retrospect, I don't think I gave enough thought to how five clubs would play. It's pretty hard to construct a 3-1-5-4 where five clubs is much of a contract. Nor am I sure how happy partner would be to let me play four hearts when he's 4-1-5-3. He might decide that, if I couldn't rebid hearts right away, I'm not willing to play opposite a singleton. Five clubs in a four-three fit rates to be a pretty ludicrous spot. If I could bid this hand again, I would just bid four hearts. I think I succumbed to flexing disease. But I needn't have worried. Partner bids four hearts over four clubs, and West leads the seven of spades:


NORTH
♠ Q J 8 5
K 8
A J 10 4
♣ Q J 4






SOUTH
♠ A 9 4
Q 9 7 5 4 2
--
♣ A 7 5 3



West
North
East
South
1
Pass
Pass
1
Pass
3 NT
Pass
4 ♣
Pass
4
(All pass)

I play the queen of spades; East plays the three. I still don't know how the spades lie. This carding is consistent with king-ten fourth in either hand or with West's holding a singleton. The only thing I can be fairly sure of is that spades aren't three-three. My first instinct is to ruff a diamond to my hand and play a heart to the king. But if this loses to the ace, I'm down. East will play a spade back, and I can't get to dummy to pitch my spade on the ace of diamonds. Some players will not pass partner's opening bid with an ace. (If you want to see Chris Willenken go berserk, just try passing his opening bid with ace.) But I know from past experience that Jack is not a member of this cult.

Do I really have to cash the ace of diamonds and pitch a spade now? On a strategic level, this seems wrong for a lot of reasons. It destroys my tenaces in two suits. It gives the opponents a suit they can tap me with. And it commits me to pitching on the diamond ace before I'm even sure what I want to pitch. If East has the king of clubs, perhaps I should be leading ace and another spade, eventually pitching two clubs on the jack of spades and the ace of diamonds.

I shouldn't have too much trouble making this hand if West has the king of clubs. In that case, it won't hurt to cash the diamond ace now and give up all these intangible strategic assets.  But if East has the club king and clubs aren't 3-3, I have two clubs losers. I would prefer, in that case, to maintain as much flexibility as possible. Perhaps I shouldn't worry too much about East's holding the club king. If he does, that means West has king fourth of spades, which increases the odds that his heart ace is doubleton. If I have only one trump loser, I can afford a second club loser. Instinctively, it still feels like the wrong thing to do. But analysis tells me it's right. So I cash the diamond ace--three--spade nine--diamond nine.

I lead the jack of diamonds (if East covers, this will serve to kill diamonds as a tap suit)--seven--heart four--diamond deuce. I now play the deuce of hearts--ace--eight--three. There could be a problem here. If this is a stiff ace, I have to hold myself to one club loser after all.

West continues the tap. He plays the five of diamonds--four--queen--five of hearts. It looks as if diamonds were 6-3, but I still don't know what's going on in the spade suit. In any event, I need to work on clubs. I play the three of clubs--king--four--six. West plays diamond king as East pitches the eight of clubs. I ruff, and I'm down to this position:


NORTH
♠ J 8 5
K
--
♣ Q J






SOUTH
♠ A
Q 9
--
♣ A 7 5



I play a heart to dummy's king. If they don't break, I intend to try to cash a club. If it cashes, I'm home. I can play dummy's last club, then a spade to my ace. East can ruff whichever of these he pleases, but, with no more diamonds, he can't tap me again. If he ruffs the first club, however, I'm going down, since the clubs are blocked. As it happens, everyone follows to the heart. My contract is now safe. I play the queen of clubs. Everyone follows to that as well. I play a spade to my ace, draw the last trump, and claim. Making five.


NORTH
♠ Q J 8 5
K 8
A J 10 4
♣ Q J 4


WEST
♠ 7 6
A J
K 9 8 6 5 2
♣ K 10 2


EAST
♠ K 10 3 2
10 6 3
Q 7 3
♣ 9 8 6


SOUTH
♠ A 9 4
Q 9 7 5 4 2
--
♣ A 7 5 3



Given that the king of clubs was on my left all along, I came a lot closer to going down in this contract than I would have liked. It occurs to me that I flexed in the auction but not in the play.  That's atypical of me on both counts.  I'm curious to see how Jack declares.

At the other table, the auction begins the same way, but South simply removes three notrump to four hearts. West leads the seven of spades, and dummy's queen holds. Jack plays a low diamond from dummy at trick two. East hops with the queen. Declarer ruffs and plays a heart. West rises with the ace and plays the six of spades--jack--king--ace. Declarer leads a heart to dummy to pitch a spade on the diamond ace, ruffs a spade to his hand, and draws the last trump. He's now down to this position:


NORTH
♠ --
--
J 10
♣ Q J 4






SOUTH
♠ --
9
--
♣ A 7 5 3



He plays a club to dummy's jack, then plays the diamond ten, pitching a club from his hand. West is in with the king of diamonds but must either lead away from his king of clubs or play a diamond to dummy's jack, allowing declarer to pitch his club loser. Making the same five I made on a radically different line.

My opponent was certainly better placed than I was for the very reasons I was uncomfortable with my trick two decision: Diamonds weren't available to the defense as a tap suit, and retaining the spade tenace gave him some extra chances. Note that at the point he ruffed a spade to his hand, he had eight-five of spades in dummy behind East's ten-deuce. If he needed to, he could have established a spade trick by taking a ruffing finesse against the ten. This threat might have come into play if East hadn't hopped with the diamond queen at trick two.

All this sounds more like analyzing a chess position than discussing a bridge hand. Bridge analyses tend to deal with specifics. But sometimes, when there are lots of things that could go wrong and you don't know enough about the hand to know what to cater to, declarer play can become more chess-like than it normally is.

Is Jack's line better than mine?  Possibly.  This is, after all, exactly the kind of problem Jack should be good at solving: lots of possible layouts with constraints that are hard to quantify.  But the fact remains that if East had held the heart ace, Jack wouldn't have been very happy with his line.  So I'm still not sure.

Me: +650
Jack: +650

Score on Board 28: 0 IMPs
Total: +76 IMPs

2 comments:

  1. I think that putting East on the Ace of hearts is a pipe dream. There is no way West is leading a spade from K10xx when he has KQ Diamonds . Even if Jack is incapable of leading a low Diamond from that holding he certainly has to think a high Diamond is safer than a low spade. So my gut tells me he is leading from a dbltn spade and NOT from K10xx unless he has no safe trump to lead or East has a high Diamond. This pretty much marks West with the trump ace. I think this is the first hand that Jack " outplayed " you . As for the bidding . If I am going to bid I just cant imagine making 5C opposite a 3NT bid with wasted Diamond cards and a singleton heart . Where are the tricks coming from? Perhaps we need to reconsider passing 3NT

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  2. These thoughts did occur to me. But I didn't think West would lead a diamond from ANY holding after North's jump to three notrump. Nor did I think he would lead a trump from Jx or 10x after we backed into four hearts. So a spade, the "unbid" suit, seemed to me like his most likely choice, and I didn't give it much weight. But you may be right. I think my four club bid is proof enough that I wasn't thinking too clearly when I played this deal.

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