Sunday, August 28, 2011

Event 3 - Match 1 - Board 4

Board 4
Both sides vulnerable

♠ J 7 4 2 A 9 7 5 4 ♣ J 8 6 5

Partner opens one diamond, RHO doubles, and I bid one spade. Partner raises to three spades, and RHO bids four hearts. I wasn't bidding if she passed, and I have no surprises on defense. So I pass. Partner goes on to four spades.

I've never cared for auctions like this. As far as I'm concerned, once you've made a limit bid, you're out of the auction unless partner invites you back in. But, putting my personal bias aside for the moment, this bid might be excusable if three spades was based primarily on shape. Perhaps partner is six-four in diamonds and spades. Excusable or not, I still wouldn't do it myself. If partner knows I'm capable of this kind of auction, it puts too much pressure on him to make close penalty doubles. RHO passes, I pass, and LHO bids on to five hearts. Partner doubles.

I suppose I should be grateful for partner's break in discipline on the previous round. But this double makes no sense at all. It's not as if he needs to double to stop me from bidding five spades when I wasn't willing to bid four. So he must be doubling to increase the penalty. If he expects to beat them only one, the imp odds on doubling are rather poor. And if he expects to beat them more than one, why did he sacrifice on the previous round? Unless partner misbid earlier, this double is sheer bravado.

Everyone passes. What should I lead? Partner's likeliest pattern is 4-1-6-2. In general, it's dangerous to lead a weak nine-card fit. If the opponents have bid a lot, the suit rates to be three-one. So, unless there is some urgency to cash your ace, there is probably nothing to gain by leading the suit. And it may help declarer by setting up pitches for him. For example, I might catch dummy with king third and declarer with a singleton queen. Leading a weak eight-card fit is both more likely to be productive (since you are more likely to have tricks to establish in that suit) and, in my experience, tends to be safer as well.

Note this caveat applies only to weak nine card fits. If I had the king or queen of diamonds, I would lead a diamond. With no fillers in diamonds, however, I lead the four of spades.

♠ 10 9
10 7 6 5 4
10 6
♣ K 10 9 4

♠ J 7 4 2
A 9
7 5 4
♣ J 8 6 5

West North East South
Phillip Sophie Jack Jacinta
Pass 1 Double
1 ♠ Pass 3 ♠ 4
Pass Pass 4 ♠ Pass
Pass 5 Double (All pass)

It appears partner has a void in hearts. He's probably 4-0-6-3, leaving declarer with 3-6-2-2. Perhaps that explains his four spade bid. Some players advise you to "bid one more than normal" with a void in the opponents' suit. Although that rule seems dangerous to me. Once you internalize it, your idea of "normal" changes, and you wind up with infinite regression problems.

Partner plays the spade king and declarer wins with the ace. So much for spade tricks. It's a good thing I have the spade jack, else my lead might have allowed declarer to pitch one of dummy's diamonds away, which would be quite embarrassing after my lecture about opening leads.

A typical jump raise by opener contains about three and half honor tricks if balanced and about three honor tricks with a shapely hand. (I know it's old fashioned to think in terms of honor tricks instead of high-card points. But I often find honor tricks easier to work with in contructing hands, particularly when you are trying to count tricks on defense.) The king of spades is half an honor trick. Partner should have about two and half left. There are various possiblities. He might have (1) king-queen of diamonds and the ace-queen of clubs, (2) the ace and king of diamonds plus both minor-suit queens, or (3) both minor-suit aces and one of the minor-suit queens. It would be highly optimistic to count on a second-round diamond trick on defense. So, given partner's double, (1) and (2) seem unlikely. If partner has (3), what does that leave declarer?

♠ A Q x K Q J x x x K ? ♣ ? x

where one of the question marks is a queen. Personally, I would overcall one heart with that hand rather than double one diamond. But some people think 17 high card points is too much for a simple overcall. Perhaps Jacinta is one of them.

The problem with this construction is that it doesn't matter what I do. We will take our three aces and perhaps partner's club queen. Nothing is going away. For it to matter what I do, I need to credit declarer with one of the aces. I need to consider (1) and (2), even though they each give partner a less attractive double.

If partner has (1), then declarer has,

♠ A Q x K Q J x x x A x ♣ x x

If I don't switch to a club on winning the heart ace, declarer can strip the hand and endplay partner.

If partner has (2), declarer has,

♠ A Q x K Q J x x x x x ♣ A x

Now switching to a club costs a trick. The diamonds aren't going anywhere, however. Is there anything to gain by not cashing them? Maybe. If declarer happens to have the eight of spades, refusing to cash them gives her the option of trying to make the hand by finessing partner for the spade jack. If she does that, she'll go down two instead of one. So opposite this hand, my best play on winning the heart ace is to return another heart.

Fortunately, partner can help me when I win the heart ace. If he wants a club switch, he will pitch a discouraging diamond.

Declarer leads the deuce of hearts. If I need to switch to a club, I can't afford to duck this. Declarer has no need to play a second heart. She can simply strip the hand and play ace and a diamond. Accordingly, I hop with the heart ace. Partner follows with the three.

So declarer bid this way with a five-card heart suit? That means I get no signal from partner. But it also gives declarer an extra minor-suit card, which means I don't have to worry about case (1). There is no endplay, since declarer either has a third diamond or a third club (in which case a ruff sluff doesn't cost).

Since there is no reason for me to play a club, my choice is between cashing partner's diamonds or going for the sucker play by exiting with a trump. Is there any risk in exiting a trump? Some. If declarer has ace-queen third of clubs, she can finesse me out of my club jack, pitch a diamond from her hand, and make this. But if she has that hand, partner has an inconceivable double of five hearts:

♠ K x x x x A K Q x x x ♣ x x

Inconceivable or not, am I willing to bet the contract that partner doesn't have that? And how likely is my ploy to work anyway? For a heart exit to gain, not only must declarer have the spade eight, but she must also play me to be an idiot, failing to cash partner's diamonds for no reason.

On second thought, playing me to be an idiot might not be such a bad idea, because I am an idiot for even thinking about this. We pushed the opponents to the five level, doubled them, and now I'm going to risk letting them make it in search of an extra undertrick? That makes no sense. I play the seven of diamonds. Partner wins with the queen, cashes the ace, then shifts to the six of spades. The six, eh? That means declarer does have the eight. Declarer hops with the queen and claims. Down one.

♠ 10 9
10 7 6 5 4
10 6
♣ K 10 9 4

♠ J 7 4 2
A 9
7 5 4
♣ J 8 6 5

♠ K 6 5 3
A K Q 2
♣ Q 7 3 2

♠ A Q 8
K Q J 8 2
J 9 8 3
♣ A

Partner bid this way with a 4-1-4-4 pattern? I guess I can't argue. He was right. Four hearts is making, and four spades is a good save. I'm lucky we weren't sitting in opposite seats.

Would the sucker play have worked? One of the nice things about Jack is you don't have to speculate about such matters. You can find out. I replay the deal, exiting with a trump after winning the heart ace. Jacinta indeed takes the spade finesse and goes down two.

As one might expect, however, my "error" did not cost much. Our teammates were allowed to play four hearts, making, so we pick up 13 imps. The extra trick would have been worth an additional two imps, whereas allowing them to score this (were that possible) would have cost 19 imps. Given that risk-reward ratio, I think I did the right thing.

Table 1: +200
Table 2: +620

Result on Board 4: +13 imps
Total: +12 imps

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