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Tithonus Gets His Layout
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It was one of those days at the office. Matchpoints were rolling off other ends of the table. It becomes challenging to attempt to right the ship when there are a lack of opportunities. But the Great Shuffler often provides. Eventually, we got to this hand:

It was passed around to me and I opened 1NT. LHO paused for thought and passed. Partner bid 3NT. LHO led the A.

Partner tabled the opening bid that she passed.

West
North
103
5
KJ94
AQ10852
East
South
A754
QJ83
AQ8
K3
W
N
E
S
P
P
P
1NT
P
3NT
P
P
P
D
3NT South
NS: 0 EW: 0
A
5
2
1

The opponents were employing standard carding. The 2 appeared on my right. What card do you play?

When the 2 appeared, I took my handoff the 8 and followed with the 3. It was a little hard to mess up that signal. West will not hold six hearts to the AK and pass non-vulnerable twice. The lead is most likely from a five-card suit if West was catering to the possibility he could drop a doubleton queen. At that moment, I was hoping for a low heart continuation and not king and another. Playing the 8 and trying to convince West he could clear the suit would provoke king and another. If I have three cards, East has four. They have the communication.

West glanced at the cards and shifted to the 2. Low from dummy and queen from East. Your play.

If the clubs are running, it is time to take the ace and cash out. The problem with this most simple of plans - take all your tricks before it is too late - is that it already appears to be too late. Especially today, one of those days.

West
North
103
5
KJ94
AQ10852
East
South
A754
QJ83
AQ8
K3
W
N
E
S
P
P
P
1NT
P
3NT
P
P
P
D
3NT South
NS: 0 EW: 0
A
5
2
3
0
0
1
2
3
Q
2

Most of the world leads a fourth-best heart. Certainly in this clubby universe. I once received a ten lead from AKQ10xx. RHO opened a minor, I overcalled 1NT, all pass and the 10 hit the table in a flash. RHO held the jack. And sadly one more card. The Bridge Gods were apparently reserving the lesson for another day. Or perhaps against a more favored opponent.

On the lead of a low heart, with 3-2 clubs, declarer takes the first 12 tricks. Against this unlikely lead and shift, we are receiving a poor result for only 11 tricks. Are there any other chances?

Looking at the spade queen on my right it appears that West has led from the jack. It seems highly unlikely West would shift to a suit of KJx(x). West seems either oblivious that AQxx Qxxx AQx Kx could be a claim, willing to bet on the A/J with partner, or...

Maybe the clubs are 1-4.

If West held four spades, then Jxxx AK10xx is a “majors” bid for most in today’s game. The suits are disparate, but partner is unlikely to correct hearts unless he likes spades. Advancer always passes when he hates both of the suits and lets partner suffer. West did pause for thought. 35(23)? Maybe. But not likely. Suppose West, in addition to Jxx of spades, holds four little diamonds. The hand has some shape. But with suits like AK10xx 10xxx playing DONT, people are often reluctant to start with a horrible 4-baggerfor fear they are left there.

Maybe it is not too much to ask of the Great Shuffler for West to be 3-5-4-1. Given the table action and the odds that if clubs are running, we are getting socked anyway, it seems a reasonable chance. The hand is not makeable against 4-5 majors and clubs not home. But against 3-5Ms, it is makeable without the long clubs. There is one problem. Do you see the issue if this is the layout?

West
Jxx
AK10xx
xxxx
x
North
103
5
KJ94
AQ10852
East
KQxx
xxx
xx
Jxxx
South
A754
QJ83
AQ8
K3
W
N
E
S
P
P
P
1NT
P
3NT
P
P
P
D
3NT South
NS: 0 EW: 0

There are just 8 tricks without the long clubs. If we play on hearts for a ninth, the defense will take three spades to go with their A-K of hearts. Ducking the spade allows the run of the diamonds to exert pressure. On the last diamond, East cannot pitch a spade or there will not be five defensive tricks to cash. This forces East, who also has to guard clubs, to pitch a heart. Now the defensive communications are jammed. After spade duck and then win ace, cash diamonds, this is the position with the lead in dummy of the K.

West
J
K1076
7
4
North
K
AQ10852
East
K9
9
J976
South
75
QJ8
K3
D

Presumably East discards his heart. Declarer returns to his hand with the king of clubs and plays a spade. If West is allowed to win, he can cash his heart but cannot reach partner. If East overtakes, he cashes his spade but cannot reach partner's heart. Instead he is endplayed and forced to lead into dummy's clubs.

It seemed that there was a reasonable chance for 1-4 clubs. Plus, I am getting odds, given that 11 tricks is likely to be a poor result. So I ducked the spade. At the table,East switched to the 9. Covered and won by West, who tried another heart. Wow. Ten tricks and a great result if clubs are 1-4. Cash the club king, play a club up, andWest discarded a diamond!

(Tada!)

Well, almost. Clubs were 1-4, but the singleton was the jack.

MyBolsTip is when asking the Bridge Gods to deliver a layout, be more careful thanEosand I were when beseeching deities.

For the record, had I just cashed out, it would have been a 30% board instead of the 15% result. It seemed decent odds. About 4 to 1 on what I thought was better than 50/50 to happen. Twelve tricks were made at eight tables. Perhaps players looking at theBridgemate results wondered what idiot could not take his elevencashers. But hey, this is a tough game.

"Fixes"

My next tip is do not complain about “fixes”. Such talk offends the Bridge Gods. The Gods of Olympus hated hubris. The Great Shuffler hates whiners.(*)

(* True Fact. I often whine about not getting hands and it never helps.)

There is always variance. Stuff happens. If it did not, we would have stopped playing this game a long time ago. But humans have a funny way of looking at results. If a player does something weird and it works out, they feel validated. But the poor results never seem to be classified by those same players as a by-product of their off-beat actions.

Many poker players never seem to take any responsibility for their "bad beats". The last poker bad beat story I would ever listen to, or rather the start of the story was:"it was folded to me on the button and Ilimped my pocket queens...". Now, I just wave people off. Bridge players still tell me about their fixes. If I listen, it is just to see how culpable they may be. (Not that I point it out.)

We all have bad beat stories that are not our fault. I flopped aces full of kings, my opponent called my bets pre-flop, turn and river. He also caught runner-runner for a royal. The only reason this hand annoyed me was the casino had just changed the BB Jackpot from my aces full of kings to quads. (Great Shuffler hates me.) It is all part of the game.

This bridge "bad beat" had its origins in partner's peculiar choice to pass. If she opens the hand like a normal person, I respond 1 like a normal person. We get to 3NT and even weak players know that if a heart is to be led, it must be a low one now. Our actual auction makes the A more attractive.

Now, you might want to post back: "But Westcould have had four spades and a small stiff club. Now the auction might deter the heart lead and attract a fatal spade lead!".

That is cherry picking. Players do thatall the time. It proves nothing. The best play is determined by all of the billions of possible things that might have otherwise happened. Here is the math on all those billions of possibilities. We decided to open certain hands because we believe that opening is, on balance, more likely to succeed than not opening. Ergo, when a player willfully takes the action less likely to succeed, you are not ever allowed to complain about how that did not succeed. Nor are you allowed to take credit when your flight of fancy wins.

Yes, But What About “Those Days”?

The best part about playing with students and clients is that it keeps me trying harder to focus on the task at hand: what is in front of me now. It is all too easy to lose discipline. Most players stress results and this adversely effects their game.

I often hear justifications for attempts at swings as “we were having a bad game anyway”.

So now that you turned that into a really bad game, are you happier?

Every decade or so, a team with Zia makes a huge 4th quarter comeback. First, you aren’t Zia. Secondly, that Zia’s team might put together an 80-2 set (or whatever) is not unsurprising, Third, if Zia had a chance to bet after three quarters, he would bet the other team. Because almost all the time, the other team is going to win.

If you have been hitting the ball into the woods, take the stroke and the drop. Try to straighten out your swing. You are not Rory, either. If you were good enough to hit it out of the woods, you would have hit the fairway to begin with. Practice normal shots first.

The pairs game you are playing is not do or die. It is about doing the best you can do. So just keep trying each hand to do the best you can do.

The purpose in my reviewing this sort of hand after the game is to check my thinking. Was I on tilt a little bit when I ducked the ace of spades? Was I thinking clearly and did this play have edge, or was I trying to hit the ball too hard because “it was one of those days”?

The Truth About Bridgemates

Do not believe the percentages. Yesterday, we were having a really bad day. I just could not believe some of the table results. The opposing players accepting the input announced “we got 100%” as if it were a mantra. As this club uses the Common Game boards, I started wondering how low we could score across the universe. I thought if I did log on to see something like 1535 of 1535 I should take a screen shot and make myself a memento of the moment.

We finished with no zeros. Four ties for bottom, though. I had no idea how other results gained a couple MP. And actually, as bad as the game was, it was a board out of cashing in 4th place. The Great Shuffler may hate me, but the Bridgemates love me. I cannot tell you how many times it seems that I never had a board above average, yet we end with 54%.

About a week or two ago it seemed like one of those days, for the second day in a row. The last board was against a fair pair. LHO can be silly aggressive if provoked. The day before, playing with another partner, he doubled our cold 4 “sacrifice”. No one else was in the auction and 4 was an easy make. The penalty double was ridiculous. But then partner misplayed it for down one. OK, still a top. Then another misplay for -2. Still a top. Then partner made a third hopeless play for a third undertrick and a zero.

This history is the data bank of annoyances. We try to erase this information, but it was yesterday. Today we have this:

South
Qx
xxx
AQ9xxx
xx
W
N
E
S
P
1
?

What is your call?

I fired 3. This is normally not my style. I think I was thinking that I wanted to provoke LHO into another one of his horrible doubles.

The board prior to this one involved his view of doubling. We were vulnerable and they were not. I opened 1NT. LHO doubled. Alerted and explained as a one-suited hand. Partner bid 2 and I announced “transfer”. This was passed back to me. I had a 15 count with 4-3 majors. I bid 2S. LHO bid 3. Passed around to me. So I bid 3.

Since no one could possible guess the rest of the auction, here it is. P-P and RHO balanced 4. This was passed around to partner. Never one to miss a chance to torture me, she bid 4.

This was passed to me. I really hate trying to figure out an auction that should never happen, ever. So I certainly do not want to know fornexttime. I eventually bid 4. LHO bid 5. I might have doubled for the extra 20% to make it a top. But partner is better than 20% to bid again.

After the hand, LHO was complaining that his partner did not double 4. RHO held A9xxx of hearts, three little diamonds and out. Why? You kind of hope I do pass. LHO claimed if RHO doubled 4, he would have doubled 4 and not bid 5. Meanwhile, I was thinking that I could have not seen any hand, just looked at the bidding cards and bet against 4 making or 5 being reasonable on any level.

Anyway, back to this hand. Over 3, Lefty did auto-double. When this was passed to RHO, he tanked forever. Eventually he decided - somewhat randomly, but he has no faith in partner either - to float the double holding:JxxKQ Jxx KQ10xx. So if partner held as little as A109xx Axxx x xxx they were out a vulnerable game versus 3-X making. But LHO was 4-4 in the majors with 8 HCP and 10xx of diamonds. (??)

Well, I got the horrible double. Another request granted! The Bridge Gods listened.Frown

That was a bottom for us. A normal 2 bid would have led to 3 and enough points for first overall out of 36 pairs?!

Instead we finished 1st in section and second overall. (Bridgemates love me, no other explanation.)

The question is not whether it was "unlucky" to find a passed-hand partner with 11 points and a stiff K. The questions iswhether my 3 bid was me legitimately stepping out under the right conditions, or me being bored and annoyed. Trying to over-swing and hit the ball too hard. I am pretty certain that ducking the ace of spades was well thought out. But honestly, I am still not sure about 3.

My teacher often described the mind as “our own little monkey that will run off and create all sorts of mischief and problems if you do not watch it carefully.” I know plenty of players who insist they never let circumstances affect their judgment. They claim this because people lie. Mostly, they tell themselves lies that they want to believe and then they do.

Final Observation - (feedback?)

On a separate note, I have played with partners who make the most horrible 3-level WJO overcalls. Hands like Q9xxxx and maybe some scattered random points.

This is not my style. If partner wants to do it, it is OK by me. I certainly do not need to do this to win in the games I play in. But I have noticed that overall, the somewhat normal 2-level WJO, upgraded to the 3-level, is less successful overall than the just totally awful hand jumping to the 3-level.

Anyone have experience or data on this?

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