Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Board 51

Board 51 (Click to download pbn file)
Opponents vulnerable

♠ J 9 7 6 5 2 3 10 8 7 ♣ J 5 3

Time to see if partner can take a joke. I open two spades. LHO passes, and partner bids three spades. It would appear I've survived. RHO bids four diamonds, showing diamonds and hearts (leaping Michaels without the leaping part). I pass, LHO bids four hearts, and partner bids four spades.

Oh, please! How can this auction ever be right? Let's wait for our opponent to get both of his suits into the auction, then bid four spades. Notice how every time you take some questionable action, partner does something outrageous on the same deal? It's as if he senses you've given up yelling rights. Whatever happens on this board is going to be your fault, so he can do whatever screwy thing he pleases.

RHO bids five hearts, which ends the auction. Partner leads the king of spades.  Not much to the play.  Let's go straight to the full diagram:

♠ A 10 4
10 7
J 9
♣ K 10 9 8 7 2

♠ J 9 7 6 5 2
10 8 7
♣ J 5 3

♠ K Q 8 3
Q J 8 6
6 4 3
♣ Q 6

♠ --
A K 9 5 4 2
A K Q 5 2
♣ A 4

2 ♠Pass3 ♠4 1
Pass4 4 ♠5
(All pass)
1Hearts and diamonds

I know I made South the dummy. But most of this discussion is going to be about what happens at the other table, where South is declarer. So it's less confusing this way. At our table, declarer wins the lead with the spade ace and cashes the ace and king of hearts. Making five.

My two-spade opening seems to have kept them out of six hearts. I'm not sure whether I'm happy about that or not. In six hearts, declarer has two safety plays available: (A) Lead a low heart from dummy. If RHO plays an honor, win and lead low to the ten. If he plays low, finesse the nine. This works against a singleton honor on your right or against a singleton three, six, or eight on your left. (B) Cash the heart ace. If an honor drops on either side, play low to the ten. This works against a singleton honor on either side. After a spade lead, declarer should choose one line or the other. After a minor-suit lead, either line risks running into a ruff, so declarer might judge simply to play trumps from the top. (How's this for a nice defense? You lead a singleton diamond holding queen third of trumps. Declarer wins and cashes a high trump. You drop the queen. If you know you can't have any black suit tricks, you might actually be able to find that play.)

If you decide to take one of these safety plays, which is better? Initially, it appears that (A) works in more cases.  But, in fact, (B) gives you chances with any singleton on your left, since you might be able to manage a trump coup.

Say you get a spade lead. You ruff and cash a high trump. Everyone plays low, and you play a low trump to the ten. If LHO shows out, you win the return, play ace, king, and ruff a club, then play a diamond to dummy's jack and start running clubs. If RHO refuses to ruff, you have enough winners to pitch all your diamonds and finish with a trump coup.

After a club lead, you need some additional luck. You win with the ace, cash a high trump, and play low to the ten. LHO shows out. RHO wins and returns a club. You win in dummy and ruff a club, but you are an entry short for the coup. You must lead a diamond to the nine, ruff a spade, then play a diamond to the jack to execute the coup.

A diamond lead gives you a tough decision. Say you play the nine from dummy and it holds. You ruff a spade and cash a high trump. Everyone follows low. You can't play a low trump now. If LHO shows out, RHO simply wins and plays a diamond back, killing a critical entry. You must first play ace, king, and ruff a club. Then you play a low trump. Now if LHO shows out, the coup operates.  Since you don't even know you need a trump coup yet, this line is risky. Someone may ruff the second club or LHO may overruff the third round. Still, the ruff has to be with a doubleton trump for it to cost. So it might still be the right line.

The bottom line is, if Jack reaches six hearts, I fully expect him to make it if he receives a spade lead. I'm less confident, though still hopeful, if he receives a minor-suit lead. I wouldn't be surprised either to win or to lose 13 imps on this board. Let's see what happens.

My hand unimaginatively passes in first seat. South opens one heart in fourth seat and bids three diamond over his partner's one notrump response. North jumps to four hearts. By an unpassed hand, this should show a three-card limit raise. I'm not sure what it should show as a passed hand, since your failure to use Drury makes that hand impossible. To borrow an idea from canape systems, maybe it should be a splinter in support of diamonds, although obviously not without discussion. In any event, I don't understand what's wrong with three hearts with this particular hand.

Over four hearts, South bids Blackwood, I suppose as a vehicle for locating the trump queen for a grand. North shows his ace with five diamonds, then, over five spades, bids five notrump to deny the queen of hearts. South settles for six hearts, and West leads the three of clubs.

I was hoping for a spade lead. This doesn't look promising. Declarer plays the deuce from dummy, East plays the six, and declarer wins with the ace. He cashes the ace of hearts, then plays a diamond to the jack. It's looking even less promising.  West plays the seven; East, the three. Declarer ruffs a spade to his hand. He then plays a club to dummy's king and ruffs a club to his hand as East pitches the three of spades. Now, apparently trusting the opponents' count signals in diamonds, declarer cashes the ace and king of diamonds and plays a low heart to the ten. East can either lead away from his heart or play a spade, allowing declarer to reach dummy for the trump coup.

This was not one of the lines I considered. It avoids having to finesse the nine of diamonds, but it seems to have other flaws that are more serious. In my line, at the point I finesse the diamond, at least I know I have no other options. My teammate took risks that might have been unnecessary, since trumps could have been three-two all along. Furthermore, a diamond pitch by East on the third round of clubs surely would have put a stop to this. Declarer could still make six by cashing one more diamond and playing a trump, but that would be far too risky. West might easily be able to win the heart and give his partner a diamond ruff.

But I'm not complaining. As long as he made it, I don't have to defend my two-spade opening.

No post tomorrow. See you Friday.

Me: -650
Jack: -1430

Score on board 51: +13 IMPs
Total: +135 IMPs


  1. It's nice to be able to play bridge free of the restrictions of the Anti-Competitive Bridge League.

  2. I have really been enjoying your posts. I am not looking forward to the end of the match. What version of Jack are you using? I know you said once, but I haven't been able to find it.

  3. Glad you're enjoying the blog. I'm currently using Jack 4.01. Version 5.0 is due out shortly, and I assume I'll upgrade when it's available.