Sunday, February 27, 2011

Match 2 - Board 43

Board 43
Neither vulnerable

♠ A K 9 4 A K 3 8 4 ♣ A 10 6 4

I open one spade in first seat; partner bids four notrump. Back on Board 108 of the previous match, I took Blackwood off our convention card when I discovered I was unable to raise opener's two notrump rebid to four without hearing how many aces he had. So, whatever this bid means, it's not Blackwood. I suppose it shows about 17 or 18 high-card points, probably with a 3-4-3-3 pattern, since he would surely make a two-over-one response if he had a biddable suit. In any event, it seems clear to raise to six notrump. Everyone passes, and West leads the three of diamonds.

♠ A K 9 4
A K 3
8 4
♣ A 10 6 4

♠ Q 6 5
Q J 10 2
A Q 9 2
♣ J 7

West North East South
1 ♠ Pass 4 NT
Pass 6 NT (All pass)

Four notrump? This hand arguably isn't even worth three notrump. Is this partner's way of insisting I put Blackwood back on the card? I don't have a clue what partner was thinking about.

RHO plays the diamond king. How are the diamonds divided? Jack tends to lead high from worthless holdings against notrump. I can't imagine he's leading from a jack on this auction, especially when he has a perfectly safe heart lead. So he must be leading from the ten. Even leading from a ten isn't that attractive, so I suspect he's short in hearts. He might prefer a diamond lead from ten third or ten fourth to a heart lead from two small. (I don't agree with this preference, by the way. I know some people shy away from small doubletons against six notrump for fear they will pick off partner's queen or his jack fourth. But I think that fear is misguided. If partner has length in a suit, declarer may well get a count and guess to finesse against partner anyway. Picking off partner's doubleton queen or jack, on the other hand, could be a disaster. That's a finesse declarer was apt to get wrong if left to his own devices.)

I have ten cashing tricks. If I can manage four spades trick, I have eleven. To come to twelve, I'm going to need a second club trick. Ostensibly, I need to hope West has both club honors. But, in practice, the double finesse may work even when the club honors are split. If West has the queen of clubs without the nine, he may not cover the jack for fear I'm fishing with king-jack-nine.

I take the diamond ace and play the jack of clubs. West plays the queen, I duck, and East plays the three. West now plays a card I'm surprised to see: the jack of diamonds. Surely he has the diamond ten as well. He really led low from jack-ten fourth against this auction? I'm glad he told me. I never would have figured it out. Now that I know he guards diamonds, I rate to be able to make this provided the club king is onside. If spades are three-three, I have twelve cashing tricks. If West has four spades, I can squeeze him in spades and diamonds. And if East has four spades, West probably has club length. So I can squeeze West in clubs and diamonds.

East plays the five of diamonds. I win with the queen and play the six of spades--deuce--ace--three I cash the heart ace--four--deuce--six, then the heart king--five--ten--seven. I'm virtually certain from West's weird opening lead that he doesn't have another heart. That means the opponents aren't giving honest count, and I don't blame them. I play the four of spades--eight--queen--seven. I'm down to this position

♠ K 9
♣ A 10 6

♠ 5
9 2
♣ 7

The moment of truth has arrived. If spades are three-three, I can cash my tricks in any order. If not, I must retain the entry in the suit West is squeezed in. If he has

♠ J 10 7 2 7 6 J 10 x x ♣ K Q x,

I must play a club to the ten, cash the club ace, then run hearts to squeeze him. If he has

♠ 7 2 7 6 J 10 x x ♣ K Q x x x,

I must play a spade to the king and run hearts. Is there any indication which hand West is more likely to hold?

While I find a diamond lead strange with either hand, I can almost think of a reason to produce it with the first hand. With stoppers in three suits, West is going to be in serious trouble on the run of the hearts. Perhaps it makes sense to attack declarer's communications in an attempt to break up a squeeze. Of course, if I were to lead a diamond for that reason, I would lead the jack, not a low one. The last thing I would want to do is to force partner to part with a diamond honor.

I decide to go for the spade-diamond squeeze. I play a club--deuce--ten--king. The opponents cash their two diamond tricks, and I'm down three.

♠ A K 9 4
A K 3
8 4
♣ A 10 6 4

♠ J 10 7 2
7 6
J 10 7 3
♣ Q 8 2

♠ 8 3
9 8 5 4
K 6 5
♣ K 9 5 3

♠ Q 6 5
Q J 10 2
A Q 9 2
♣ J 7

At least I was right about West's pattern.

It occurs to me that, if West did have the hand I was playing him for, it would be a nice play to drop the jack or ten of spades under my queen. In theory, I wouldn't even need the squeeze now. I could finesse the spade and take four spade tricks. But I would never do that, since I would look pretty foolish if spades were three-three all along. So, in practice, the play would simply convince me that West didn't have four spades, and I would play for the wrong squeeze.

We are, of course, the only pair to go minus. Three pairs made four notrump; three pairs made five. Anyway, partner gets his wish. If that's what he thinks a natural four notrump bid looks like, I'm putting Blackwood back on the card.

Score on Board 43: -150 (0 MP)
Total: 334 MP (64.7%)

Current Rank: 1st

Post Script

In playing around with this deal afterwards, I discovered I could have made it. If, at trick two, I lead a heart to dummy and play a low club toward my jack doubleton, East hops with the king. I'm now cold on a spade-diamond squeeze against West if I work it out.

I had fleetingly thought about playing clubs that way. If both club honors on onside, it's just as good as leading the jack, and it gives East a chance to make a mistake when the honors are split. But I've never seen anyone make that mistake outside of the novice game. So leading the jack appeared to have better swindle potential.

Why did East hop? The only reason I can think of is he actually thought his partner might hold the diamond queen. It would be right to hop if I held

♠ Q J x Q J x x A J 10 x ♣ Q x.

I'm annoyed with myself. I should have found this line. I had my head in the sand, playing as if I were playing against a human. While a human might sometimes choose not to cover the jack of clubs, Jack would always cover. He assumes declarer is double-dummy, so he would not worry about taking away a guess. He would cover because it's right any time his partner has the king. Furthermore, while hopping with king fourth of clubs is a mistake a human would be unlikely to make, it is a mistake Jack could make quite easily. Jack doesn't draw inferences from his partner's plays, so he has no compunction about playing his partner for the diamond queen. I played correctly against a human but incorrectly against Jack.

Playing bridge is all about seeing the deal through your opponents' eyes. Doing this can be a little harder than normal when your opponent is a computer. But, after playing 171 boards against Jack, I understand how he "thinks" sufficiently that I should be more adept at it than I was on this deal. It would have been quite a coup to bring this contract home. The next time I'm faced with a problem like this, I'm getting it right.

1 comment:

  1. Fabulous story.

    Your posts are terrific - instructional, amusing, and thoughtful. Keep 'em coming.

    On a side note, I recall beating up on the GIB's on OKbridge many years ago, and picking off the program's weaknesses was a major factor. It's interesting to see that Jack has some of the same problems, and those haven't gotten better in the last 15 years.