Thursday, January 14, 2010

Board 79

Board 79
Our side vulnerable

♠ J 9 8 4 2 K J 10 8 5 2 2 ♣ 6

Length in both majors and only seven losers. Looks like an opening bid to me. I open one heart. I used to open hands like this routinely when I played Acol. In fact, when people used to ask my partner and me for the lightest hand we could open, we would respond, "six small, six small, singleton, void."

A brief digression. This hypothetical minimum opening actually came up once, but I didn't hold it. My RHO held it. Neither vulnerable, the auction began one club--pass to her, and she was looking at a 6-6-1-0 Yarborough. She passed, thinking I would surely balance (Who sells out to one club?) and she could find a more descriptive bid later on. I had a pretty good hand, but, of course, but I had club length and was short in both majors. If my partner couldn't muster up a non-vulnerable overcall over one club, I didn't think we were missing anything. I passed, and we defeated one club with the opponents cold for four spades. I wanted to say something about an opening bid opposite an opening bid producing a game, but it struck me as an ungracious remark, so I restrained myself. It was hard, though.

Back to the matter at hand. LHO doubles one heart, and partner bids two notrump, showing a limit raise or better. RHO bids three clubs. I bid three hearts. We are forced to three hearts, so I could pass. But I think the distinction between pass and three hearts should be hand type. They both show minimums (a refusal of partner's game try), but I believe pass should show more defensive values and three hearts should show more offensive values. There is no doubt which category this hand falls into.

LHO doubles again, and partner bids four hearts. RHO bids five clubs, I pass, and LHO raises to six. Partner doubles, and everyone passes. I lead my singleton diamond.


NORTH
♠ A Q 10 7
A
A Q 10 3
♣ K Q 7 5


WEST
♠ J 9 8 4 2
K J 10 8 5 2
2
♣ 6




West
North
East
South
1
Double
2 NT
3 ♣
3
Double
4
5 ♣
Pass
6 ♣
Double
(All pass)


Partner probably has both pointed-suit kings. I have to hope he has the diamond jack as well. If so, whether we can beat this or not depends on declarer's club length. If declarer has six clubs (and two hearts), that gives him five cards in the pointed suits, and we should be OK. If he has seven clubs, he can strip squeeze partner to make this if he works it out. And he might well work it out. The diamond lead marks me with a singleton and makes it easy for declarer to count the hand. Our only chance is that he plays me for the spade king instead of playing for the strip squeeze. Since declarer doesn't know how the heart honors are distributed, that's possible. Perhaps he will play partner for

♠ J x x K Q x x K J x x x ♣ x

It's hard to see why partner would double with that. But it's also hard to see why he would double with the hand he does have.

All this becomes moot quickly. Declarer plays the queen of diamonds. Partner wins with the king and returns a diamond for me to ruff. I shift to a spade. Declarer rises with the ace and takes the rest. Down one.


NORTH
♠ A Q 10 7
A
A Q 10 3
♣ K Q 7 5


WEST
♠ J 9 8 4 2
K J 10 8 5 2
2
♣ 6


EAST
♠ K 5 3
Q 9 7 4
K J 8 6 5 4
♣ --


SOUTH
♠ 6
6 3
9 7
♣ A J 10 9 8 4 3 2



Eight clubs!  He was cold.  This deal illustrates a flaw in the way computers approach the play of the hand. A human approaches a play problem abstractly. When does finessing the diamond queen lose? When does rising with the ace lose? If you ask yourself those questions, it's pretty easy to decide what the right play is. But Jack has no way of answering those questions. He must generate layouts, then examine each play against each layout to see what works most often. He has no way of even knowing that the finesse is risky unless he happens to generate a layout where the play loses. As well as Jack can determine, if he finesses, he always makes six and sometimes makes seven. So why shouldn't he finesse?

We were headed for a serious disaster. Declarer should have made seven. Should I have pulled? Unless they find the ace of spades lead, I will go for 800 in six hearts doubled, winning four imps instead of losing six (assuming six clubs making seven at the other table). But it doesn't make any sense for me to pull. I certainly wasn't going to save if partner had passed six clubs. Why should I save once partner announces that he thinks they're going down?

I'm sure many people would simply look at my opening bid and assign me the blame, looking no further. (Seems unfair. I bid up to three hearts, which I would probably make.  How can you criticize my auction?) But I think partner's double is to blame. Why double with no aces and a trump void? He has both less defense and more offense than I expect him to have. If he passes and I bid six hearts, won't he suspect I've done the right thing? As it happens, I would pass also, and we would have achieved a normal result. I don't think much of the two notrump bid either, but that's more a matter of methods than judgment. I would prefer a fit-showing four diamonds, a bid that isn't in our repertoire.

At the other table my hand passes, and North opens two notrump. South raises to three. After a diamond lead, they make six.

It seems to me that South's hand is worth six clubs over a two notrump opening. He has seven playing tricks, and a typical two notrump opening has five honor tricks. That adds up to twelve. I would just bid Gerber and drive to six clubs unless we were off two aces. (Sometimes it's more useful to think of the honor-trick requirements for partner's bids than to think of the point-count requirements. It can be quite tedious to start envisioning random 20 to 22-point hands to decide what you can make.)

That brings us to North's two notrump opening. Given that I have no problem with off-shape one notrump openings, it may surprise you to learn that I have no use at all for off-shape two notrump openings. In general, two notrump openings lead to rather awkward auctions. Any time partner's hand is good enough to investigate slam, you are much better off opening one of a suit. In the old days, when a two notrump opening showed 22-24 HCP, the reason for opening two notrump was that you were afraid that, if you didn't, partner would pass and you would miss a game. That is no longer true playing 20-22 two notrump openings, where partner pretty much needs a hand worth a response to produce a game. Furthermore, if partner does have a bad hand, you will frequently be too high in two notrump. You are more likely to go plus opening a one-bid. As far as I'm concerned, there is no reason ever to open two notrump unless you would have a rebid problem with another opening. Since I have plenty of suits to bid with this hand, I see no reason not to start with one of them. I doubt we would have any trouble reaching six clubs after an opening bid of either one diamond or one club.

Me: +100
Jack: -490

Score on Board 79: +11 IMPs
Total: -116 IMPs

3 comments:

  1. LOL@ the opening 1 bid. Though I knew you were going to open 1H even before I started reading. Just goes to showw that your friends and former bridge partners know you too well . Happy Birthday!! You could have taken the day off. We would understand

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  2. What about hands like AQ.KJx.AQ.KJ9xxx? Wouldn't you open this 2NT because of the tenaces and weak clubs? These clubs are too weak for me for a 1C-3C auction (or, worse, 1C-1S, and a reverse into a non-suit followed by a guess after partner's 2S rebid to show 5).

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  3. Yes. I would open two notrump precisely because you have no good rebid after a one club opening. Perhaps I was wrong to say I object to "off-shape" two notrump openings. What I actually object to is opening two notrump when you have a sensible alternative.

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