Monday, May 24, 2010

Match 2 - Board 4

Board 4
Both sides vulnerable

♠ A J 9 4 Q J 8 7 3 A 2 ♣ A 3

One diamond--pass--one spade to me. I think the best way to handle this hand is to bid one notrump, hoping to be able to introduce hearts later. (In other words, bid it like a two-suiter, showing your higher-ranking "suit" first.) If you can get the heart bid in, partner will have a fair picture of your hand. The primary advantage to bidding one notrump is that partner might be able to raise with a hand where he would pass a two-heart overcall for lack of a fit. One notrump overcalls are frequently the easiest way to reach game on power.

I know that many players treat a one notrump overcall in sandwich position as unusual, but that makes no sense to me. Yes, a natural notrump overcall can be dangerous. But that just means you don't use the bid indiscriminately. Frequently you will have a six-card minor to run to if you're doubled. This time, safety is provided by the five-card heart suit and your spade length (which increases the chance that you will find partner with heart support).

Over one notrump, LHO bids two diamonds, which is passed around to me. This couldn't have worked out better. I bid two hearts. LHO bids three diamonds, passed around to me again. If partner sees no reason to act, I can hardly argue. I pass, and partner leads the ten of spades.

♠ Q 7 6 5 3
K 10 5
6 5
♣ 10 4 2

♠ A J 9 4
Q J 8 7 3
A 2
♣ A 3

West North East South
Pass 1 ♠ 1 NT 2
Pass Pass 2 3
(All pass)

This must be a singleton. Why would partner lead a doubleton in dummy's suit in preference to my suit? On the other hand, how could South bid this way with three spades? Even if he chose to rebid diamonds rather than raise spades the first time (not a choice I would make), surely he would bid two spades rather than three diamonds at his next turn.

Is it possible to construct a layout consistent with partner's lead, partner's bidding, and declarer's bidding? Perhaps declarer failed to support spades because he has seven diamonds. That gives him 3-1-7-2 or 3-2-7-1 (giving partner 1-4-2-6 or 1-3-2-7 respectively). Partner must have, at the very least, four high-card points, since declarer didn't bid three diamonds the first time (or double one notrump). Is it conceivable partner would fail to bid with 1-4-2-6 or with 1-3-2-7 and four high-card points? Maybe--if he has diamond wastage. Perhaps something like:

♠ 10 x x x x Q J ♣ J x x x x x

In any event, I'm sticking with the idea that partner's spade is a singleton. If I'm right, we have five easy tricks. If I'm wrong, perhaps persisting in spades to promote trump tricks for partner is the right idea anyway. I take the spade ace, and declarer unimaginatviely plays the deuce. (Declarer should infer the stiff spade also. So he might try the effect of dropping the king from king third as if he were unblocking from king doubleton for a dummy entry.)

I return the spade four (suit preference for clubs). Declarer plays the eight. Partner ruffs with the seven and shifts to the six of clubs. Surprise! I wasn't sure Jack would understand the spade four. I was half expecting him to return a heart, in which case I would have to hope declarer had bid this way with only six diamonds. I take the club ace, and declarer drops the five.

Partner shifted to his lowest club. It can't be from seven, since it's inconceivable he has king-queen-jack seventh and didn't bid. Can partner really have five clubs? That would give declarer 3-1-6-3. If that's his shape, I should return a club. Then, when I take my diamond ace, I can give partner a spade ruff and get a club ruff for down two.

If I return a club and it turns out that partner, for some reason, has led lowest from queen-jack sixth, I could be letting declarer make this. But if other pairs are making heart contracts our way, there could be a big difference between plus 100 and plus 200, so I decide to take the risk. I play the three of clubs.  Declarer plays the jack, a card I wasn't expecting to see. That means partner is about to win this trick.  And he does--with the king. Partner returns the nine of clubs. I ruff as declarer follows with the queen. I play the spade nine, and partner ruffs declarer's king with the eight of trumps.

We're beating this at least three. If partner has a stiff queen of diamonds left, we can take two more tricks for down four. Partner can lead a club for me to ruff with the ace, then score his queen on an uppercut. But partner shifts to the six of hearts, so the ace of diamonds is the only trick we have left. Down three. Plus 300.

♠ Q 7 6 5 3
K 10 5
6 5
♣ 10 4 2

♠ 10
9 6 4 2
J 8 7
♣ K 9 8 7 6

♠ A J 9 4
Q J 8 7 3
A 2
♣ A 3

♠ K 8 2
K Q 10 9 4 3
♣ Q J 5

Both declarer's three diamond bid and partner's pass are incomprehensible. I guess partner was right not to compete to three hearts, which is probably what I would have done. Plus 300 is better than plus 140 or 170. But it seems awfully pessimistic to expect three hearts to go down, so passing is not an option at matchpoints. If partner chooses to defend, he must double.

We earn two out of twelve matchpoints for this result. We are the only pair not to reach four hearts. Fortunately, one declarer managed to go down. I imagine everyone else overcalled two hearts with my cards. South bid something (two spades, three diamonds, or a support double), and West raised hearts. Since East held substantially more than he had promised, he was trapped into bidding on. So he reached an anti-percentage game that happened to make. That's why I prefer the one notrump overcall: I can get my strength into the auction and not have to guess how high to bid later on.

It may seem strange to gloat about staying out of game when we wound up with only two matchpoints. But look at the odds we were getting. We get two matchpoints when four hearts makes and twelve when it goes down. I'm not going to bother calculating the chance of game with these cards, but I'm pretty sure they're less than 57%. So, in the long run, we did the right thing not to bid game. Of course, had we doubled, we would be getting twelve matchpoints whether four hearts makes or not.

Score on Board 4: +300 (2 MP)
Total: 30 (62.5%)
Current rank: 2nd


  1. If partner doubles 3D, do the opponents run to 3S? If 3S is then doubled, down 2(?), are the long-run percentages similar to what happened here, in terms of suggesting that 4H is still the wrong bid in the long run?

    Thanks for a great blog!

  2. South passed up two opportunities to support spades at the two level. I doubt he would repent at the three level. But, just to make sure, I rebid the hand and had partner double. Both North and South passed.

  3. I put this into Bridge Baron. When I held your cards, I (being one of those cretins who think a 1NT overcall there should be for takeout) doubled preparing to show a strong heart overcall. LHO made a support redouble, partner bid 2H, RHO bid 2S, and I bid 4H. (Game on this auction, where partner is virtually marked with 0-1 spade and 4+ hearts requires any one king from partner.) LHO took the red vs. red dive, and partner doubled(!). I led the QH (getting a low H spot from partner), won the first diamond off dummy, and played ace and a club (deducing from dummy and his heart signal that he had the CK). Partner gave me my club ruff, I exited with a diamond, and scored up two more trump tricks for +800.

    In the replay, this hand overcalled 2H, heard a support double on his left, saw 2S on his right (partner was very unenterprising), passed (!), and passed again when 3S from LHO came around to him.

    He too led the HQ. Here, though, declarer played a spade off dummy to the Q and Ace. The SJ was won by the K, and the KD was led off dummy. Now this hand won, and remembering partners C9 discard on the second spade, cashed his high spade, played ace and a club, got his ruff, and exited a diamond. Forced to play a diamond to partner's jack, declarer lost a trick with his HT at the end for -3.

    Nice defense by my computer opponent, but I'm pretty sure the spade off dummy at trick two was a mistake. I will have to speak with my teammate after the session about the wisdom of setting up the side suit before attacking a short and leaky trump suit.

    Baron's use of the support double led to a vastly simpler (and superior, until the decision to venture past the 2-level) auction. But why on earth any of the four players with the opposing cards thought it was wise to get past the 2-level with 18 HCP and no interior trump spots is beyond me. My RHO, under my understanding of the popular use of the gadget, didn't even promise a 5th spade by retreating to 2S on the auction at the other table. I suppose I will have to discuss bidding with my teammates as well.

    I have never liked support doubles, I am a raiser on 3 in competitive auctions, at least to the 2-level. My early mentor, Steve Labins, repeatedly preached that 4-3 fits were OK at even levels (2, 4, and 6). And he taught me that, unless you have an extra trump, the way to suggest competing further was to double - when we have a 4-3 fit the opponents' contract usually plays abominably. Of course he knew at the time that I could defend, so he could tell me this. I would not teach a beginner support doubles or 3-card competitive raises.

  4. I have found your blog only lately and started to replay your deals.
    On this deal I think your assessment of game in hearts is too pessimistic.
    If you look only at the East-West cards you may be right, but once South denies 5 or more cards in spades the odds change. The H9 in dummy is an important card.
    Assume East overcalls 2H and South makes a support double and West raises hearts.

    I simulated such a scenario with the following assumptions for North-South (leaving the East_West hands as they are):

    South has at least 11 and North 5 HCP
    South has exactly 3 cards in spades and a minimum of 4 cards in diamonds with diamonds at least as long as clubs.
    Given those assumptions I simulated 1000 deals and game made double dummy 73.8% of the time.

    I do not see why the double dummy result should favor declarer here very much.
    Declarer will sometimes have to guess whether to play for clubs breaking or ruffing the fourth spade, which requires North to have the H10.
    However, the opening lead will often give declarer a trick in spades or diamonds, obviating the need to ruff the 4th spade.

    Rainer Herrmann

  5. Zar points to the rescue. 34 + 18 = 52 = game. Plus some for the superfit, spade honours onside, and so on.

    Of course, N/S also have enough Zars for 3D, except for all the ruffing going on. Gotta watch out for those side-suit splits.

    Oooh. Big earthquake here as I write. Coolness.