Join Bridge Winners
All comments by Steve Bloom
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I play a strong club system, but with a natural diamond. In a typical 5-card major, short diamond structure, 1D - 1H - 1NT is well defined, but 1D - 1S - 1NT could include many off-shape hands with four hearts. It sounds as though you play canape, and would open those hands 1H. So opener will always be balanced.
Again, why tell the defense about opener's hand when searching for the best game? I would use:
2H = two spades. Responder can show four hearts (or any other suit), or bid 2NT to ask for a five card minor.
2S = 3 spades, less than 4 hearts.
2NT=3 spades, 4 hearts.
If responder is just probing for game, say choosing between 4S and 3NT, then you want to tell the defense as little as possible about opener's distribution when opener does not hold three spades.
If opener's hand could include many 4-5 hands and some hands with a singleton spade, then you need a more sophisticated structure. Maybe:
2H = unbalanced, <3 spades.
2S = balanced, 2 spades.
2NT = 3 spades, <4 hearts.
3C,+ describing various hands with 3-4 in the majors.
Again, responder can describe over 2H or relay with 2S to ask for a full description.
Feb. 9, 2012
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Victor, likewise, on the posted layout, it is safe to return to hand with a club ruff, but such lines cost the contract when spades are splitting and hearts are 4-2. As a play problem, declarer wants to succeed against friendly splits, but leave open options when East has four spades. That is not hard, provided declarer uses a diamond entry to reenter hand, and starts spades by ducking the first round.
Feb. 9, 2012
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Sure, but any reasonable line succeeds in 6H when both major suits split. The suggested line works when spades split, when West has a singleton honor, when East mistakenly splits in spades, or when East has QJxx in spades and at least four diamonds.
Feb. 8, 2012
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Victor, yes the squeeze line works when East has slightly different shapes, including 4-2-4-3 and 4-2-5-2.
As to Barry's comment, I think he was talking about the play in spades, not hearts.
Feb. 8, 2012
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I hadn't thought of this, but it seems like a decent structure:
After 1C - 1D - 1S:
1NT = balanced or clubs.
2C = diamonds
2D = hearts
2H = good 3 card spade raise
2S = normal raise
Opener can choose to pass 1NT.
A similar structure (1NT=C or bal) works over 1H.
Feb. 7, 2012
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Jeff, thanks. I think it appeared in an old Bridge World. I'll try to find it.
Feb. 7, 2012
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The final contract after many of these sequences is 3NT, and you have found a way to tell the defenders declarer's exact distribution. That has to be very bad for your side.
If 2D is an artificial GF, then a simpler useful space approach might be better:
2H = 2 hearts. Responder now describes in various ways, though you need a bid to ask for a 5 card minor.
2S = 3H, less than 4 spades. 2NT = relay, with hearts as trumps. Other bids describe, and deny 5 hearts.
2NT = 4 spades, 3 hearts. 3C = relay.
Feb. 7, 2012
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Great story. Does anyone remember the details of a similar story from an old world championship? I remember vaguely that a Blue Team star (Belladonna??) was down to a two card ending. He had Q10 of trumps left in hand, with the K,J, and a low spot outstanding. He couldn't find any clue for playing either the queen or the ten, so he shuffled up his cards, and offered them to his left-hand opponent. Pick one? No! He tried his RHO. No! He tried his partner. NO!!
But there was a kibitzer …
If anyone recalls the complete story, let me know.
Feb. 7, 2012
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3NT is the obvious spot on the first hand, and would make easily. On the second hand, 4H seems normal, and that would make whenever trumps split, and in some other cases. On the hand as given, it is important for East to pretend to have a third spade. Why not unblock on the second round of the suit? If Joe thought that spades were 4-3, he might try to set up a red suit squeeze, leading a third spade himself at some point. Ouch!
Feb. 7, 2012
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Remember, the double shows extra values, not a trump stack. Though I would bid 3D with the second hand, partner can consider slam when I double 4S. We must be in the slam zone on HCP alone. Getting to 7 won't happen (and they probably have a 1400 save in 7S). The other hand is a real problem, but partner wasn't bidding a slam over 5H. If I double and partner does bid 5H, I have an easy raise.
Feb. 6, 2012
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It is hard to construct a hand for partner with only 4 hearts where I want to be at the 5-level. Give partner a nice hand like xx KQxx Axxx(x) Jx(x) and I'll probably make 5H, unless trumps are foul. In the meantime, we have 500 or 800 against four spades. Give partner a similar 3-4-4-2 hand, and we murder 4S, yet might go down in 5H. All this is assuming no wastage in spades. Sometimes part of partner's values were Kx in spades.
So, to me, double is automatic.
Feb. 6, 2012
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No, you haven't really given up on 3-3 clubs. You still have a full count on the hand, and East is marked with both kings, so you can squander a club trick and still make the hand on an endplay. The best line is to win the trump in hand, ruff a spade, cross in clubs, and run trumps, throwing three diamonds. If, as here, East discards the spade king, you make an overtrick. If not, test clubs and drop the diamond king or throw East in as needed.
Both Victor and I chose to test clubs early. Your line is better, because the club chances are still preserved, and East will often discard the spade king, giving us an extra trick.
So long as you keep all of dummy's clubs, testing clubs can be postponed. Again, you played it very well, and would have won a well-deserved IMP against me.
Feb. 5, 2012
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Nicely played. I agree with Victor, and opted for his line of play, but yours is better, and will often land an overtrick. In the ending you achieved, if East throws another diamond, that holds you to four, and, just to be safe, you should cash the club, so you will still make the hand (with the endplay) if East showed up with an unlikely 3-2-5-3 shape.
Feb. 5, 2012
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Randy,
the IMP odds given in the article are accurate, and worth considering, but there is more to bridge than percentages. Consider the 10-6 vulnerable IMP odds for bidding a game cited by all the authorities. You have a standard auction, 1S - 1NT - 2C - 3S and judge, correctly, that game will need 3-2 trumps and some other luck. Let's call it around 33%. So you correctly pass, while the player in the other room overbids to 4S. What happens?
In 6 hands, game makes 2 times, goes down one 3 times, and down two the other time, so you lose 10,10, and gain 6,6,6,3. +1 IMP for your better bidding over 6 boards.
Now let's give you sharp aggressive teammates, who double 4S whenever trumps are 4-1. Now you gain 9 IMPs for being conservative. Good! Justice.
Consider two other pairs, the LOLs and Meckwell. The LOLs stop in 2S on every hand. They are +3 against you, and +5 against the overbidders (their teammates never double). Meckwell force to game with the responding hand, and, since that hand is unlimited, your teammates don't double them, so they are only -1 IMP.
These are more accurate odds. But, at the table, other things happen. Sometimes, when the finesse was off, you get a lead from that, and make the hand anyway. Occasionally you get very lucky in a side suit, and make the hand without the finesse. On other occasions, the 4-1 trump split dooms the hand, but you get doubled, play the hand knowing that trumps are foul, and make it anyway. Meckwell sometimes pick up that trumps aren't splitting because your teammate wanted to double, and land the hand. Suddenly the overbidders are actually +IMPs! That isn't fair.
Then there are these comical hands: Fairly often Betty and I have overbid to a silly game, down 2 when trumps go 4-1 and the finesse loses. We come back and say, sheepishly, “sorry, -200”. And hear, “win 6, they missed that game?” Sure enough with the unfavorable lie of the cards, our opponents were cold for 4H. We hadn't even thought of that.
I am not suggesting that you start bidding like a maniac, but, on close hands, you might adjust your thinking. If you are just barely worth a 3-level limit raise, then go low, and stay at the two-level, like the LOLs. If you are slightly better, then force to game. It is much better to bid 1S - 2S - P or 1S - 4S then to go slow and help the defense in the play.
Feb. 3, 2012
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Randy, you got me curious, so I ran a quick simulation of that bidding problem (Qxx K10xx xx KJxx) where Andrew recommends giving up when vulnerable. I ran off 24 hands. On 5 of these, partner would have bid differently, but that left 19 in play. Passing lost between 21 and 33 IMPs versus bidding. Two hands would be pushes if RHO led well. In both cases, 2S was easy. On the first, RHO held A9872 QJ8 AJ87 10, and had to avoid a heart lead to beat 3C. On the second, he held AK1074 J93 10742 5, and only a heart lead beats 3C. Do you know anyone who would make the right lead on both of those hands?

On another hand, 3C was going down two, so maybe experts would nail me for 500, but I doubt they'd double (2S was going down, so 3C down two undoubled would cost 6 IMPs. A double would make it 11). Even if they did, and led perfectly on these two hands, bidding was still up 16 IMPs in 19 hands.

Against normal, slightly imperfect opponents, bidding gained about 1 1/2 IMPs a board.
Feb. 2, 2012
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No change. If Meckwell want to double me for 1 trick sets in vulnerable part-scores, more power to them. I'll happily take two -200s and one +670 against them.
Let me rephrase this. You get to play a 64 board match against them, and on every board you hold Qxx K10xx xx KJxx, and hear the auction start
1C 1S X 2S
P P ?
and you pass 32 times (whenever you are vulnerable). My bet is that you will lose the match by 50 or more IMPs!
You are giving so-called world class pairs too much credit. They make plenty of bad opening leads and misjudge lots of competitive auctions. If you go passive against them, they can't make those mistakes, and they will really kill you.
A few years back, I played a KO against Meckstroth. He bid to a poor slam, that would probably go down against any sort of sane defense, but my teammates let him make it easily. They apologized for the defense, but said, “It didn't matter. He always knows where every card is, and would have found the winning line anyway.” Nonsense! But if you play with that attitude, he doesn't need to be a genius to win.
Feb. 2, 2012
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If it is close at all, then BID! Suppose you bid and are wrong, because both contracts were going down. You are slated to lose 3-5 IMPs, but a funny thing happened. At one table, declarer got a friendly lead, and made the contract, while at the other table the defense slipped up. Sound familiar? Defense is hard - harder than declarer play. So your poor bid won six IMPs. Or maybe at your table they misjudged the bidding and also bid one more.

In my view, passing out a low-level partscore has very few ways to gain, and many ways to lose. Overbidding, on the other hand, should always lose, yet often gains.

Recently, at matchpoints, I made a very poor bid after 1NT - 3NT, trying a four heart overcall on a nice 6-4 hand. Wrong! They had me for an easy 500 with 430 their limit. But, they pushed on to 4NT, which would of course make on any lead but a heart. We collected 50 with 430 or 460 scoring up at every other table. Bad bids often win. Bad passes never win!
Feb. 2, 2012
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Fascinating problem. Partner is much more likely to hold the heart ace rather than the diamond ace (he has more hearts, and might have led a diamond holding Ax). But, partner needs the heart ten and perhaps the nine as well for a heart shift to work. If we play partner for a diamond card, he might still do the wrong thing, but we might beat the hand when partner has Kx in diamonds. It looks like a toss-up between leading the heart jack or a low diamond.

It might help to know how often partner would lead a diamond from Ax, or how often partner would lead a diamond from xx. At the table, I suspect you could read something from partner's tempo. Would partner automatically lead a club from xx A10xx xx Q10xxx, or consider a diamond lead? Would partner automatically lead a club from xx 10xxx Ax Q10xxx or consider a diamond lead? So there might even be ethical problems. This one is too tough!
Feb. 1, 2012
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(1) All mail vanished. I cannot find any old messages.
(2) All my polls are gone. I tried to access the current poll - Four Part - but couldn't find it. In my profile, I have no polls, ever.
Help!
Feb. 1, 2012
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Sathya, the play is much easier on a diamond lead, even followed by a heart shift. Declarer has two squeezes to play for after one diamond, heart shift, but at least one of these fails on an initial heart lead. I sent you a private message describing those different endings.

This is a very pretty hand.
Jan. 28, 2012
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