Sunday, January 2, 2011

Match 2 - Board 35

Board 35
Opponents vulnerable

♠ J 8 2 8 6 4 A K J 8 7 4 ♣ 9

This is an awkward hand when you aren't playing weak two-bids. It's dangerous to pass with a suit like this, and the hand is too good to open with a non-vulnerable three diamonds. So one diamond wins by default. It's only a tad light for a one-bid. If the spade jack were the queen, I would open one diamond even if a weak two diamonds were available.

I bid one diamond, LHO doubles, partner bids one spade, and RHO passes. I raise to two spades. I believe a two-diamond rebid should flatly deny three-card spade support. While I do have concrete reasons for believing this, it would be hard to do the argument justice in a few sentences. Perhaps I'll devote an entire post to it at some point.

LHO doubles again, and partner bids four spades. RHO, who wasn't willing to bid at the two level, now chimes in with five clubs.

Is a pass by me forcing? I don't think so. Nothing about this auction indicates it's our hand. But, more importantly, I don't care. As is almost always the case, I would make the same call either way. I know many people would double if they thought pass was forcing, because they have a "bad" hand. But that doesn't make sense to me. In a high-level competitive auction, "pass" should mean I have better offense than defense, and "double" should mean the opposite. And this should be true whether pass is forcing or not. With a singleton in the opponents' suit and all my high cards in my own suit, I have much better offense than defense. So I can't even consider doubling in front of partner. I pass, and partner doubles.

What should I lead? Our agreement is to lead ace from ace-king. Even when I have that agreement, I generally have a further agreement that, at the five level or higher, we lead king from ace-king and that partner is supposed to give count routinely. Jack doesn't play this way, however, so I lead the diamond ace.

♠ K 6
K Q J 10 7
10 2
♣ A Q J 4

♠ J 8 2
8 6 4
A K J 8 7 4
♣ 9

West North East South
1 Double 1 ♠ Pass
2 ♠ Double 4 ♠ 5 ♣
Pass Pass Double (All pass)

What was the double of one diamond all about? One heart seems pretty normal. Would North really worried one heart was going to be passed out and that he would have missed something if it were?

What kind of hand does South have to bid five clubs when he wasn't willing to bid two clubs on the previous round? I doubt I would bid his hand this way whatever he has. But clearly he doesn't have much in the way of high cards. In fact, if he has enough shape to bid at the five level, I doubt he has either ace or the club king. Any one of those cards would give him an easy two club bid on round one.

Partner plays the nine of diamonds and declarer plays the six. If partner were carding sensibly, I would know to try to cash another diamond. Partner would not have queen-nine fourth of diamonds and the ace-queen of spades and encourage at trick one. But Jack's carding isn't so context-sensitive. His diamond card here simply shows or denies the diamond queen. So all I know is that either he has the diamond queen or the nine is a singleton.

When does my play matter? (A) If declarer has a singleton diamond and partner has the ace-queen of spades, I must shift to a spade. (B) If partner has a singleton diamond, I must cash the diamond now. Otherwise I will lose it, since I have no entry. In all other cases, I don't think it matters which suit I play next.

Let's try to construct scenario (A). Declarer will have something like

♠ x x x x x x ♣ x x x x x x x

and partner will have

♠ A Q x x x x A x Q 9 x x ♣ K

It's hard to believe partner wouldn't have made a slam try with that. Given all the high cards partner must have, perhaps there is an inference he does have a singleton diamond and that the misfit persuaded him to bid conservatively. So let's try (B).  Declarer will have something like

♠ Q x x Q x x x ♣ x x x x x x

and partner will have

♠ A x x x x x x A x x 9 ♣ K x

Note that I had to give declarer the singleton queen of spades.  If partner had the spade queen, he would have a slam try despite his singleton diamond. (In fact, it's not so clear he wouldn't have made one even with this hand.)

While it is true that (B) is more consistent with partner's bidding, it's also true that an error on my part would be less costly on (B) than on (A). If I mistakenly shift to a spade on (B), I convert 800 to 500. If I mistakenly play a diamond on (A), I convert 500 to 200. Since we are non-vul, 500 is the number to aim for. Can I adjust (B) so that the wrong shift would net a mere 200?

Let's give declarer

♠ Q x Q x x x ♣ x x x x x x x

and partner

♠ A x x x x x x A x x x 9 ♣ K

We're really reaching now. We have to deal out two singleton honors to make this scenario plausible.

(A) is looking like the more likely scenario, provided we can construct some layout where partner doesn't have such a clear slam try. Let's try taking away a spade from partner's hand. That gives us

♠ x x x x x x ♣ x x x x x x x


♠ A Q x x x A x x Q 9 x x ♣ K

Holding three spades does make declarer's save less attractive. But this is still the most believable construction I've come up with so far.

All right. I've convinced myself. I shift to the deuce of spades. (By the way, in this situation, it is critical that partner has count in spades right away. So I would never lead a hard-to-read third best from four. I would lead my highest spot from four and my lowest spot from three.)

Declarer plays the six from dummy, partner plays the ace, and declarer plays the nine. Oh, well. Let's hope partner doesn't have a singleton diamond. No, he doesn't. He returns the diamond deuce. Declarer ruffs, plays a club to the ace, dropping partner's king, and loses a trick to the heart ace for down one. It didn't matter what I did at trick two. But, given how hard I had to work to construct a  hand where it did matter, I guess that's no surprise.

♠ K 6
K Q J 10 7
10 2
♣ A Q J 4

♠ J 8 2
8 6 4
A K J 8 7 4
♣ 9

♠ A 7 5 4 3
A 9 5
Q 9 5 3
♣ K

♠ Q 10 9
3 2
♣ 10 8 7 6 5 3 2

We collected only 200, but the save was a phantom. Four spades is down two on a heart lead and down one (after imaginative play by declarer) on a club lead. As expected, I don't care for declarer's bidding. I would have bid two clubs on the first round. And, even if I hadn't, I would not have bid five clubs on the second round holding queen third of spades.

The results are a little surprising. One pair bid a spade game and made an overtrick. Two other pairs played a spade partscore, making five and tieing our result. Everyone else went down in a variety of diamond contracts our way, probably the result of an ill-advised three-diamond opening.

It's hard to see why every declarer who played spades made eleven tricks. I guess the queen of spades lead lets declarer make eleven tricks. But that seems unlikely. How about a rather silly singleton diamond lead? Declarer wins and plays ace and a spade. Instead of shifting to a heart, North gives his partner a ruff with his natural trump trick (or perhaps with a non-natural trump trick if South hopped with the spade queen on the second trump). South then returns a heart. This is how the play went at three tables? I'd almost rather believe they all led the queen of spades.

One other point worth thinking about. I should have followed Lowenthal's Second Law of Opening Leads: "The lead of a low card promises an honor sequence somewhere in the hand - either in the suit led or in some other suit." If I'd led a spade at trick one, I wouldn't have had any problems on defense. Partner would have cashed whatever spades were cashing and would have shifted to a diamond. I must admit a spade lead never occurred to me. But perhaps it should have. How hard is it to envision my trick two problem?

Score on Board 35: +200 (9 MP)
Total: 291 (69.3 %)

Current rank: 1st

1 comment:

  1. I don't know about the play, but I can see:

    West South East North
    .3S....All Pass

    As a reasonable auction. There is no reason not to show a five-card major that can stand a lead from partner in this situation. East knows that Diamonds are safe, but 140 beats 130 if there is a 5-3 fit. Anyone who plays 2S as forcing to game on this auction shouldn't. It is much more useful forcing to 4 of a minor. Even if you do play that, match point scoring favors passing 3 Spades.

    Oh that auction, is the singleton Diamond a much better lead? Still not great, but a Heart feels sort of like giving up, and a Club is way too dangerous. A Club may give declarer immediate Heart pitches in dummy. South doesn't especially want to get a ruff, unless it can cut declarer off from dummy, and with South's trump holding, there is a lot to be said to for allowing declarer to waste one of his (assumed precious) dummy entries on a trump finesse.

    One last bit of absolution for South. There are five Clubs not visible when declarer plays Ace and another Spade. Ducking is just wrong. If East has a more usual 2S bid, AKxxxx seems likely. Now ducking risks one and possibly two tricks, while the benefits of playing the 10 are non-existent.

    Now it is time to convict North. ;-) Seeing the Queen of Spades fall under his King won't seem surprising. It is right not to lead a Heart, but the Ace of Clubs has to be 100% right. Partner should have lead the Ace of Hearts if he had it, and declarer could have developed a Heart pitch on the King of Clubs by force at trick one if it seemed right. But you don't want partner to have a problem if he can ruff a diamond, and there is no way he can ruff Diamonds twice, so holding onto an entry is silly.

    The difference between making four or down one in three depends on the choice between a Heart lead and a Diamond. Making five always requires bad play by North.

    Of course, I would lead a Heart. My partner may have thought a Heart lead to be important against a Spade contract by East. Holding three Spades, South can figure from the bidding, that a singleton or void in Spades in the North hand is pretty likely, so he has one shot at lead direction. Lead a Heart to improve partnership amity, or at least not make it worse.