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All comments by Kenny Horneman
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The expert play generally would be to randomly play the Jack or 10 from JT, unless playing against very weak opponents. More importantly, this isn't actually a case of restricted choice. In the standard restricted choice of a nine card fit missing the QJ, the only relevant cases are the singleton Queen, singleton Jack, and QJ. Under the assumption that a good defender would play either the Queen or Jack when holding both, the appearance of an honor is twice as likely to be due to a singleton vs. a hand holding QJ. In the current situation, a good defender will play either the Jack or 10 from a JTx holding, as well as JT or a singleton honor. Finessing is right when the original holding was a singleton (two cases) but wrong when West holds JT (one case) or JTx (three cases). Thus, finessing is a 2:1 bad choice against good defenders.

Curiously, an example of actual restricted choice involving the Jack and 10 is found in the spade suit on this hand. If E/W were declaring and needed to bring in spades for no losers and North ducked twice, restricted choice would suggest finessing the 9 after seeing the Jack or 10 drop (JTx being impossible after North follows low the 2nd time.)
Dec. 20, 2019
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It's hard to be critical of any bid by a 7-5 hand after the opponents have shown a six card holding in your second suit. Certainly it should be clear to South that North has a lot of hearts, and that the spade losers can't all be ruffed. But it's also not clear that 3 was intended as non forcing or why North didn't double. At this vulnerability, South is just guessing. I'm a little surprised 4 didn't make. The defense has to start with a spade to the King, a small spade ruffed with the Queen and then a low club to hold declarer to nine tricks, and this seems an unlikely defense.
Dec. 3, 2019
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That is incorrect. Declarer retains the A in hand and thus only needs to cash the retained high in dummy before returning to the A to cash the 10.
Aug. 15, 2019
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Actually, declarer has two choices, as a ruffing finesse in s allows declarer to finesse either defender for the King. It's still best to start s with the Queen, but in a weak field, if it isn't covered, it's best to win the Ace and take the ruffing finesse, which has the added benefit of making 7 when it's right. Better still against weaker defenders is to lead three rounds of trump before leading the Queen and observe the three opponents discards. Odds favor one or both opponents giving away the situation with their discards.
June 13, 2019
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Full analysis from The Common Game:

A NT game should be by far the most common E/W contract, though I expect many expert pairs to be playing at the four level on the bidding shown. East will certainly be interested in a ♣ slam, but most pairs will not have a good way to invite a ♣ slam without showing an unbalanced hand. One possible approach is to transfer to ♣s, and if partner super accepts, to use 4♦ as keycard asking in ♣s, and 4NT as a balanced slam try. Similarly, opposite a non-super accept, 4NT would be a balanced slam try. An easier approach for less experience partnerships is to not show ♣s at all when the hand is balanced, and to just make a quantitative raise to 4NT. However, it is best if using this approach to agree that when the 1NT opener has a maximum, that they only bid 6NT with a 4333 hand, and otherwise they bid a natural four card suit at the five level and a natural five card suit at the six level, allowing E/W to still back into a 4-4 or 5-3 minor card contract when the NT opener has a ruffing value. Whatever your approach, on this particular hand, West has a minimum and no ruffing value, so should reject any slam try. If N/S do get to slam it will be a disaster, as even the ♠ finesse will not get the N/S hands up to 12 tricks. Curiously, if West is declaring 4NT North might lead a low ♥, and now declarer has a chance to take 12 tricks, as they will score a ♥ at trick one, and can take the ♠ finesse later if they so choose. Knowing that South is marked with a Queen at most, North might lead a high ♥ instead. As some declarer's will also not risk the ♠ finesse, +690 should be an excellent score for E/W.
June 13, 2019
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Full analysis from The Common Game:

Even if both sides get into the bidding, the final contract will stay low on this hand. North has a normal 1♦ opening and aggressive East players will double this. The East hand would be a better double if the ♦Queen were in ♥s, or if the hand had one more ♥, or was a Queen stronger overall, and thus many players will pass. If East passes, South will still respond 1♠, and many North players will raise to 2♠ even with only three card support. Unless you have the agreement that a raise always promises four card support, this is a perfect hand to raise. North isn't strong enough to make a “reverse” bid of 2♥, so if you aren't able to raise to 2♠, then the alternatives are 1NT or 2♦ (I would choose 2♦ if those were my choices, but 2♠ looks like a clearly superior action, particularly at matchpoints.) As most experts will raise on hands such as this, it is often common to use a 2NT bid by responder to ask about opener's major suit raise, allowing the opener to confirm whether they have three or four card support, and also whether they have a minimum or maximum for their raise. This is a useful area of bidding to discuss with your regular partners.

How will a 2♠ contract fare? Careful play from declarer will result in eight tricks. The defense can either lead ♠s, which will allow declarer to pull trump and set up the ♦ suit, or stay off from trump, in which case declarer can set up a crossruff. Fortunately for declarer, East has the ♦ shortness on the hand and dummy has better trump sitting over East, so that the defense can never score a ♦ ruff. Although 2♠ looks fairly normal, +110 should still be a good result for N/S.
June 13, 2019
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Full analysis from The Common Game:

As most West players will be opening 1NT, the final contract will depend in part on the N/S agreements, and whether North decides to bid at all given their “Swiss Cheese” hand. It looks likely that E/W will be in 2♠ whatever North decides to do. East could eye their ♥ suit and just choose to defend if North bids 2♥, but this is a risky choice. After all, the vulnerability favors N/S and even setting North by two tricks will be a poor result if E/W can make 2♠. East will know that N/S have at most an eight card fit, thus reducing the likelihood that E/W have a big ♠ fit, but East will also know that their side has at least a seven card fit. It turns out that 2♠ will be a poor contract for E/W, particularly if East has to declare it on the bidding shown. If South leads their singleton ♥, then declarer looks like they will have three ♠ losers, one ♥ loser, a ♥ ruff and a ♣ loser. Both sides have some communication issues but declarer also has chances to go wrong in the ♦ suit. If West is the declarer in 2♠, then North might lead a ♦, and now declarer's prospects are much better. Certainly any E/W pair who go plus in a ♠ contract will be well above average. If East allows North to play 2♥, or if North foolishly competes to 3♥ and gets doubled, E/W will have an excellent score, as East is likely to lead a ♠, making it easy for E/W to get a ♠ ruff and hold declarer to seven tricks.
June 13, 2019
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As far as what to do over 2, sophisticated pairs might have a way to show an invitational raise to 3 (2nt then 3 or double then 3 are possible.) Absent that, I think 3 is way too pessimistic. Game is likely to have excellent play opposite as little as qjxxx in s, and might make opposite even less. The Ace is not as undervalued as normal given that South is less likely to have low honors given the 2 rebid, and also North's holdings in the other suits will promote low honors in South's hand as well (which is just another way of saying that North's hand is so good that it's irrelevant that the Ace is singleton.
June 13, 2019
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The full analysis didn't make it from The Common Game. Here it is:

I expect most N/S pairs to get to 4♥ on this one, though some especially conservative bidders might only play in game. After West opens 1♠, North has a normal double and South should bid 2♥. North has an excellent hand in support of ♥s. Jumping to game looks normal, as game will have play opposite even some very minimal hands by South, but even if North only invites, South is good enough to accept a game try, having nothing wasted in ♠s and some useful spot cards in the minor suits. Certainly N/S will need to get to game to score well. With the ♦Queen onside, the ♥ suit breaking, the ♦ suit breaking, there are plenty of tricks with only the ♣Ace and a trump to lose. Although +650 looks normal to me, there will be some who don't get to game and others who might lose a trick to the ♣Jack. There are seven losers in a ♠ contract, so if E/W compete and are doubled it will only be a good result if they are at 3♠ or lower.
June 13, 2019
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I'm not sure I see how it's possible to play the hand as a cross ruff and still make two club tricks. It also doesn't look possible to set up the club suit and pull trump even after South plays the Ace.
May 30, 2019
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I'm not sure how cashing a second hurts the defense against 4. Even if declarer makes the anti percentage play of cashing two high trump, the defense still has two tricks, unless West also leads the Ace at trick three.
Jan. 24, 2019
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1-1-2-2-any-3 looks normal to me, but I can't imagine bidding 4 over 3 with the North hand. I would choose 4, 4, 4NT and 6 before I would choose 4. I wouldn't even accept a sign off from partner if I cue bid four of a minor and partner bid 4. Given that you thought about bidding over 4 on your auction at the table, it should be clear to drive to slam if partner shows a stronger hand by starting with 2.
Nov. 16, 2018
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1 was certainly a risky bid, since the bidding pretty much makes it likely that your partner has about 5-9 HCP and not four \ss and not four \cs and the opponents have a misfit (no double by partner, no 2 by partner, no raise, no 1NT, no new suit by West). Plus you have good defense and terrible offense. You certainly wouldn't have been happy if West had come back in with 2. As it happens, 1 should have gone down, since West should have discouraged s and the defense should have been A, AK, ruff, , ruff with a still to lose. Even after the defense continued s, East can hold you to seven tricks by either giving a ruff or just switching to a after winning the first . I'm glad the 1 worked out well for you but I do think that it was a risky bid, given the inferences you had available from the bidding.

By the way, I don't know if you've ever done this sort of post analysis to gauge how risky an action turned out to be, but here are the results for this hand for N/S:

+110 = 82%
+100 = 65%
+90 = 50%
-100 = 23%

So you risked losing 15% on any reasonable defense and losing 42% on good defense, to gain 17%. This doesn't make 1 a bad bid, per se, since you don't know what the hand is when bidding, but over time, this type of analysis can refine your judgment. You might well have been losing a +200 on this hand. (Note, vulnerability is certainly important here, and when in a partscore battle, both vulnerable is the most dangerous vulnerability to be aggressive.)
March 9, 2018
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With an LTC of five, the South hand is more like a 4 rebid than a 3 bid. I would certainly bid 4 if East had bid 2, or at IMPs, and do not find it an objectionable bid even at matchpoints. Note that the South hand is actually better than an LTC of five would indicate, thanks to the presence of the J and the JT.
March 9, 2018
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The main potential benefits are that South might switch to another suit (unlikely, but what would you do as South if your club suit was AKxxxx?) or that South will lead back original fourth best from T9x or fail to unblock the suit if the finesse loses. The suit blocking is a lot less probable if you take the first . Neither of these are likely, but what is the downside to ducking? The possibility that by winning the first and the finesse losing that North will switch to a despite you playing a to the King? This seems less likely than either of the two possibilities mentioned above, though none of them are all that likely. It's also at possible, though again unlikely, that North has seven or eight s.
March 9, 2018
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Whether you play the Ace or not depends on whether you believe it more likely that West is leading from the stiff 10 or the QT9. The answer to this question will depend partly on the bidding, whether North has bid s naturally and whether East has ever bid, showing either one or two suits.

As it happens, on the actual hand, I think both plays will work out the same, though I may have missed something. If declarer plays low, East can ruff, lead a to West and get a second ruff, but now the defense is done. Any other play by E/W will have a similar result as declarer can duck a themselves. If instead, declarer plays the Ace at trick one, this at first looks like an error, but how should the defense continue? Let's say East leads a high and West overtakes and leads another and East tries to cash a second . Declarer ruffs, cashes one high , leads a to dummy to play the Queen. East does best to duck, but it won't matter. Declarer can ruff a , ruff a , ruff a and finish pulling trump. The play is similar on other defenses. Double dummy, I think the defense prevails if East leads a to West and West plays the Queen, a play which might be found by an expert defender, but will be pretty unlikely at most tables.
Feb. 9, 2018
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With a 4333 hand, a K of dubious value, and a really poor suit I think it's reasonable to pass 2. As I mentioned in my analysis, I'm not even sure South should raise if North advances 2s over 2 after an initial 2 bid. A South pass should not have ended the bidding, however, as I think North has a pretty clear second double. They can still correct s to s. If they weren't planning to act again over 2 because they are worried 3 would show a better hand and that double would invite a bid, then they should have bid 2 in the first place. Doubling the first time pretty much obligates you to double the 2nd time with this strong a playing hand.
Jan. 26, 2018
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The East hand, like most highly distributional hand, is impossible to bid accurately. There are two approaches on the hand. One is to assume that it's our hand, and start with 1, planning to bid some larger number of s next. On the actual hand, this might work out well, as West will bid 2NT or 3NT depending on how light their overcalling style is, and if East bids 5 next, West can bid 6. The other approach is to assume that it is the opponents hand and just bid 5 right away. Bidding 5 has the big advantage that it will make it hard for the opponents to bid if they are making something in the major suits, and may even escape undoubled. However, 5 is off on trick taking ability by about two tricks. At this vulnerability, 5 would be correct with the same hand, and two fewer s. So, it gives up much chance to get to slam intelligently. Should West raise to 6 after a 5 bid? For sure, having three Aces is not sufficient. Using the “Rule of 2/3/4” for preempting, a jump to 5 at this vulnerability should be within four of making, so three aces alone would suggest that 5 is going down (see my comment above about 5 being an underbid by two tricks.) The addition of the King, means that 5 should be making, assuming a normal preempt. It is true that preempts to game level, in both majors and minors, sometimes have fewer losers than expected, as it is rarely right to preempt higher than game level, but this is certainly not typical. Viewing it another way, if West tries to count tricks, they should expect an eight card suit from East at this vulnerability, so unless East has a suit headed by the AK, it looks like slam will not be good odds. Further, with a an eight card suit headed by the AK, East will be much less likely to preempt, due to the fact that 3NT might well be the right contract for their side, and also since their hand is (slightly) better on defense.

All of that being said, which of the approaches would I choose? At matchpoints, with the opponents having already opened the bidding, odds favor that this is their hand, and I would choose 5. Playing IMPS, 5 still looks best on average, but if I were desperate for a good board, I might start with 1, hoping that the hand is ours and that we can correctly judge the right level, or perhaps that I get doubled at some point. After a 5 bid, I would not raise to 6 with the West hand at either form of scoring, unless, again, I needed a good board at IMPS.
Jan. 26, 2018
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Doug, -200 was certainly a common result on the board, and there were plenty of -300 scores as well, most likely due to playing 4. The Kaplan and Rubens method for hand evaluation is a formula for calculating hand strength that gives slightly higher values to Aces and Kings, lower values for Queens and Jacks, partial points for 10s and 9s, and makes adjustments for distribution. I think it might also adjust for honors being located in long suits and short suits. It tends to be a more accurate evaluation of the worth of a hand. An easy to use implementation of it can be found here:

http://www.jeff-goldsmith.org/cgi-bin/knr.cgi

That link also provides Danny Kleinman's HCP evaluation. I know less about that, but there is a link for a further description. The DK evaluation of the North hand here is 17-, i.e. a poor 17 count. Both evaluations put the hand at being worth between 16 and 17 points, which is about what my own instincts suggest as well.
Dec. 7, 2017
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As it happens, I don't ever choose hands for my analysis based on the hands themselves. I believe that almost every bridge hand is interesting in some way, and in fact have yet to find a hand that didn't have something worth noting in five years and 1000+ hands of commentating. Certainly some hands have more interesting points than others, but often the more mundane hands are the most instructive, as they illustrate principles that come up far more often than the wilder hands.

That being said, one of the appeals of playing bridge is that not only are the common hands usually interesting in some way, but you also get to encounter exciting hands that are well outside the normal, such as the current hand. I don't, really see a good way to get to 6D after the 1NT overcall. I'm not sure I would have bid 1NT with the East hand, although it looks like a reasonable double to me. Whether East doubles or bids 1NT, I can't imagine not bidding with the West hand, and not continuing to bid if East isn't able to start doubling. 4C over 3H, then 4S over 4H and maybe even 5S if the opps bid at the five level and partner can't double. For sure, I'm not passing 3H.

The only possible way I can see N/S getting to slam, is if South decides their hand is worth a 4D “picture” bid. If East had passed, this would normally show a four card heart fit, a running diamond suit and the values for game. I don't think any but the most advanced partnerships will have discussed whether this agreement would still hold over a double, much less over a 1NT bid, particularly a vulnerable 1NT bid. If South is able to make a 4D bid showing this, maybe North will bid 5C, South will bid 5S and North can offer 6D (assuming West is happy to just let all of this bidding happen, and assuming that 6D is an offer to play even after N/S have found a heart fit.) Even in that circumstance, South has to make the difficult matchpoint decision to leave it in 6D and not bid 6H. As with many distributional hands, there isn't necessarily any intelligent way to get to the right spot, but that's the only halfway reasonable way I can see it might happen on this one.
Oct. 19, 2017
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