Join Bridge Winners
Odd-Even Discards
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In a round-robin match in the Berumda Bowl, you have discarding decisions to make from a very weak hand.

E-W vul, South deals. As West, you hold:

West
10972
543
1086543
W
N
E
S
2NT
P
3
P
3
P
4
P
6
P
P
P

3: Transfer

4: Q-bid

Your lead. Third and fifth leads.

West
10972
543
1086543
W
N
E
S
2NT
P
3
P
3
P
4
P
6
P
P
P

You don't have much to go on. A diamond lead is safest, since this doesn't give declarer anything he couldn't do himself, but it could guess the diamonds for declarer on some layouts. You have a partial sequence in spades, but a spade lead could cost if you hit KJ8 in dummy and Axx in declarer's hand. A club lead is pretty safe, but even that could hit AJ doubleton in declarer's hand and Kxx in dummy when declarer otherwise would not have finessed.

Diamonds is your shortest suit, so that is the most likely to set up tricks for your side. It also might be a side suit for declarer and set up tricks for him. Partner didn't double the 3 transfer call so his diamonds can't be too strong, but he might not be able to double if his diamonds aren't long enough.

One other possibility is going for a club ruff. Partner might not make a Lightner double with a club void, since that could chase the opponents into a cold 6NT. Also if declarer fears that somebody has a singleton club he might not be willing to take a safety play in trumps, which could make a difference if partner has something like QJxx.

Anything could be right. However, it looks like the club lead has the most going for it.

You choose to lead the 3.

West
10972
543
1086543
North
Q83
QJ9542
982
9
W
N
E
S
2NT
P
3
P
3
P
4
P
6
P
P
P

Partner wins the A, declarer playing the 6. Partner returns the 7. Declarer thinks for a long time, and finally plays the J. You follow with the 5. Now declarer plays A, K, 10. Partner follows to the first two heart tricks with the 7 and the 8. Your agreements on trump plays are suit-preference. Your agreements on discards are odd-even first discard. Odd is encouraging, even is discouraging with suit-preference implications. After you have discarded in a suit, your next discard is standard current count.

What are your first three discards?

West
10972
4
1086543
North
Q83
QJ9542
9
9
W
N
E
S
2NT
P
3
P
3
P
4
P
6
P
P
P

Your discards at this point aren't likely to make much difference. You can easily afford to pitch two clubs and a diamond without giving anything away. It doesn't look like you want to discard a spade early, as that may help declarer in the spade suit.

You discard the 4, 4, and 3 on the first three rounds of hearts. On the third heart, declarer plays small from dummy, and partner discards the 4. Declarer plays a fourth heart to dummy. What do you discard now?

 

West
10972
10865
North
Q83
QJ9
9
9
W
N
E
S
2NT
P
3
P
3
P
4
P
6
P
P
P

Things are getting more serious. But now you know a lot more about the hand. Declarer is known to have 5 hearts. He also must have started with KJx of diamonds considering what happened in the diamond suit. He must have at least 2 spades, both from the bidding and from his line of play -- if he had 4 clubs and a singleton spade he wouldn't be playing extra rounds of trumps. Therefore declarer can have at most 3 clubs, so whatever is going on it can't cost to discard a club.

You discard the 5. Partner discards the 6.

Declarer now leads the 9 from dummy. Q from partner, and declarer wins the K. You have another discard to make. What do you choose?

 

West
10972
1086
North
Q83
J9
9
9
W
N
E
S
2NT
P
3
P
3
P
4
P
6
P
P
P

At first glance it may appear that partner is abandoning spades and keeping clubs, so you must keep spades and abandon clubs. Not only did partner discard two spades, but his first spade discard was an even spot card and you are playing odd-even discards.

This makes no sense. If partner doesn't have the K, you can see from looking at dummy that declarer could have claimed a long time ago. Partner must have the K.

What is going on in the spade suit? If partner started with 5 spades that gives declarer a singleton, and again he would have had a claim. If partner started with Kxxx of spades that would give declarer AJ doubleton and the hand would be cold, not to mention that partner wouldn't have discarded down to Kx of spades in case declarer had AJx. Similarly, partner isn't discarding down to a stiff king of spades.

There is only one logical explanation for partner being able to discard two spades and declarer not having a claim. Partner must have started with KJ64 of spades. Since his spots were the 4 and the 6, he didn't have an odd spot he could discard to show he liked spades.

Whatever reasons partner has for his discards, it is clear that you don't have to guard spades. You must throw your spades and hang onto your clubs in case you need to be the one who guards clubs.

You mistakenly discard another club. This is very costly. Declarer cashes the A and runs dummy's hearts. Partner is squeezed in the black suits. The full hand is:

West
10972
543
1086543
North
Q83
QJ9542
982
9
East
KJ64
87
AQ107
QJ2
South
A5
AK1063
KJ6
AK7
W
N
E
S
2NT
P
3
P
3
P
4
P
6
P
P
P
D
6 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
3
2
A
6
2
0
1
7
J
5
8
3
1
1
A
4
2
7
3
2
1
K
4
4
8
3
3
1
10
3
5
4
3
4
1
6
5
Q
6
1
5
1
9
Q
K
6
3
6
1
A
2
3
J
3
7
1
3
7
J
Q
1
8
1
9
2
5
10
1
9
1
9
11

Do you think East should have discarded differently?

 

West
10972
543
1086543
North
Q83
QJ9542
982
9
East
KJ64
87
AQ107
QJ2
South
A5
AK1063
KJ6
AK7
W
N
E
S
2NT
P
3
P
3
P
4
P
6
P
P
P
D
6 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
3
2
A
6
2
0
1
7
J
5
8
3
1
1
A
4
2
7
3
2
1
K
4
4
8
3
3
1
10
3
5
4
3
4
1
6
5
Q
6
1
5
1
9
Q
K
6
3
6
1
A
2
3
J
3
7
1
3
7
J
Q
1
8
1
9
2
5
10
1
9
1
9
11

The squeeze danger was apparent to East. He was afraid that if he didn't discard spades West might think that East had Kxx of spades and that it was necessary for West to hang onto 10xx. He might have dumped his queen and jack of clubs immediately in order to force West to guard clubs, but this would hand declarer the contract if declarer had the 10. Even good declarers have been known to mis-time squeezes. East felt that discarding 2 spades would make it apparent to his partner that he had KJ of spades without giving anything away to declarer.

What do you think of declarer's line of play?

West
10972
543
1086543
North
Q83
QJ9542
982
9
East
KJ64
87
AQ107
QJ2
South
A5
AK1063
KJ6
AK7
W
N
E
S
2NT
P
3
P
3
P
4
P
6
P
P
P
D
6 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
3
2
A
6
2
0
1
7
J
5
8
3
1
1
A
4
2
7
3
2
1
K
4
4
8
3
3
1
10
3
5
4
3
4
1
6
5
Q
6
1
5
1
9
Q
K
6
3
6
1
A
2
3
J
3
7
1
3
7
J
Q
1
8
1
9
2
5
10
1
9
1
9
11

Declarer handled the hand very well. Many would have gone up K and settled for down 1, but declarer saw that he had a chance if the diamond finesse was onside. In addition to a possible pseudo-squeeze there could be a real squeeze if one defender had the only club guard along with the K. East did well to return a diamond and force declarer to make an immediate decision, and declarer got that right.

In addition, declarer's technique was fine. He arranged to play as many trumps as he could, and he did so in such an order that the player with the void in trumps, who had to make the most discards, was forced to make his discards before he could see his partner's discard on the fourth trump. Declarer also knew to cash the A before finishing trumps, a classic Vienna Coup. The only improvement would have been to cash the K before playing the fourth round of trumps. This way West would be forced to make his one more discard before seeing East's second discard. West should be able to work out that one spade discard is safe. Declarer can't have 4 spades. East wouldn't have immediately discarded down to king-doubleton, so declarer doesn't have AJx.

What do you think of the N-S bidding?

 

West
10972
543
1086543
North
Q83
QJ9542
982
9
East
KJ64
87
AQ107
QJ2
South
A5
AK1063
KJ6
AK7
W
N
E
S
2NT
P
3
P
3
P
4
P
6
P
P
P
D
6 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
3
2
A
6
2
0
1
7
J
5
8
3
1
1
A
4
2
7
3
2
1
K
4
4
8
3
3
1
10
3
5
4
3
4
1
6
5
Q
6
1
5
1
9
Q
K
6
3
6
1
A
2
3
J
3
7
1
3
7
J
Q
1
8
1
9
2
5
10
1
9
1
9
11

It was bad. I don't know the range of the opening 2NT call, but even if it could be as high as 24 points the North hand doesn't look worth a slam move. And if North does choose to make a slam move 4 looks wrong, since South will think that shows club length and will mis-evaluate his hand.

In addition, South should not jump to 6. I'll grant that South is worth driving to slam, but what is the rush? North's hand is unlimited, and for all South knows a grand slam could be laydown. It can't hurt South to bid RKC and then ask for kings. Maybe North will have enough to bid the grand himself once South shows that the partnership has all the keycards. Or maybe South can take a reasonable shot at the grand if North has the ace of diamonds and the king of spades. Whatever approach South takes, it can't hurt to try. Nothing bad can happen. 6 isn't going to run away from South. Any time in the auction South mouths the magic words "six hearts", the auction will come to a close. Leaping to slam is almost always wrong, and this hand is no exception.

This deal demonstrates the weakness of odd-even discards. You are at the mercy of the spot cards you are dealt. This is true to some extent playing standard or upside-down discards, but it isn't as bad. You always have a highest spot. You always have a lowest spot. Consequently, you can always give the signal you want to give relative to your spot card holding. Partner knows this, and can generally work things out from there.

Clearly this accident shouldn't have happened if West had been thinking clearly. But it did happen, and this sort of accident does happen. West saw East's even spade spot cards and stopped thinking. If E-W had been playing standard or upside-down discards, there wouldn't have been a problem. East would have discarded 6-4 (or 4-6 if playing upside-down), and even if West were brain dead he would know he didn't need to keep spades.

The advantage of odd-even discards is supposed to be the suit-preference inferences when an even spot is discarded. However, these inferences are available only if partner knows you have enough length in the suit to have at least 2 even spot cards, since if you have only 1 even spot card it must be discarded if your goal is to deny strength in the suit. If partner has that knowledge of extra length, standard 3-way signalling (high for suit-preference high, low for suit-preference low, middle for encouragement) works as well or better.

For example, suppose you are known to have length in a suit, and your holding is either Q1097653 or Q976532. You have one discard to make, and you want to give a suit-preference signal playing odd-even discards. On the first holding, you must discard the 6 (your lowest even spot) for suit-preference low. On the second holding, you must discard the 6 (your highest even spot) for suit-preference high. If partner cannot see the missing even spots, he cannot tell which signal you are giving when you discard the 6. When you have a known 7-card suit and are unable to give a clearly readable signal, there must be something wrong with your signalling methods.

We played odd-even discards for several years, and not once did I find any advantage from the suit-preference implications. After this tournament we dumped odd-even discards, and have had no problems.

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