Sunday, 29 September 2013

Dunbar Congress

I played in the Dunbar Congress today with Martin Stephen's dad Peter. Martin would have been playing, but he was busy running 26.2 miles along the side of a Loch, and costing me nearly sixty quid in the process... 

So, anyway, as I'm now sitting on a train home with nothing much else to do, here's a second post in 24 hours, specially for Jake. 

We didn't do spectacularly, although we were 10th in the pairs out of about 50, despite about three cold bottoms (at least one each, plus one bidding misunderstanding), with about 56%, which was not too bad. The teams doesn't use pre-dealt boards for some reason - I strongly suspect the reason is that Dunbar Bridge Club just doesn't have enough boards. Anway, between that and the fact I was rushing to get on a train, I don't remember much from the teams. Here's one interesting hand from the pairs. I'll give it first as a defensive problem:

None Vul.N Deal

               ♠ K J 9 5 3
               ♥ 9 7 3 2
               ♦  Q 
               ♣ Q 9 3

♠  4
♥  K Q 8 6 
♦  6 5 2
♣ K T 6 5 2


West showed a diamond singleton and a raise to 3 or more spades, East showed basically a strong no trump with 4 (or more) spades. You choose to lead a spade, presumably to try and prevent the opponents from ruffing, or because you like leading trumps, or because you once read somewhere that leading trumps is often effective when the trump suit is 4-4-4-1, which is at least possible on this auction, or because it just fell out of your hand. Anyway, for whatever reason, you lead a trump. Declarer wins the A, draws one more trump with the queen, partner following, and plays a club towards the queen. What do you do now?

Well, unless you went up with the club king and switched to heart, you just let this contract through.... 
None Vul.N Deal
♠ 6 2
♥ A 4
♦ K J T 9 8 7 
♣ J 7 4

♠ K J 9 5 3
♥ 9 7 3 2
♦  Q 
♣ Q 9 3

♠ A Q T 8 7 
♥ J T 5 
♦ A 4 3
♣ A 8
♠  4
♥  K Q 8 6 
♦  6 5 2
♣ K T 6 5 2


If you lead any card that isn't a small heart, or if you let the queen of clubs hold, declarer is now cold for 10 tricks. Admittedly, this defence might have been easier to find if you'd found a different lead, and if you lead the K of hearts, you can just give partner a ruff on the third round to take it an easy one off. But given the suboptimal lead, should you recover later? Honestly, I don't know. It does seem like there are some layouts where switching to a small heart leaves you looking very silly (swap the red aces), but I'm not sure you give away anything more than an overtrick on those layouts. On the other hand, you are playing pairs.

Is this one of those hands where making the defence decide what to do early on, before they can signal to each other, or find out too much about your hand, is just winning play for declarer?

Saturday, 28 September 2013

Martin's house (a win at last)

Thursday evening was spent at Martin Stephen's house, a training match for the Merchiston Bridge Club. Three out of the 8 people there were people I went to university with, and I think 4 of them have played at least at junior international level, so there were some reasonable players in the room.

Martin was playing with Kris, who was a first year when I was at Edinburgh, and is apparently still there. Jake Corry (Northern Irish Junior international) was playing with Jun (Scottish Junior international), and Martin's wife Sally was playing with her regular partner Sue. I was partnered with Scottish senior international Yvonne Wiseman (bizarrely, the only place I can find a reference online to her having won the Lady Milne last year is on the Edinburgh university chemistry page...)

I have, I think, played one board with Yvonne about 6 months ago, but as she turned up about an hour late, and the other team were already well into their second board, our system discussion consisted almost entirely of agreeing a no-trump range and that we were playing better minor. This didn't have too much effect on the result, and we won the match by a comfortable 78 IMPs, although to be fair, I don't think the teams were very fairly matched. It was mostly a friendly game (although Yvonne was quite pleased to gain bragging rights over Jun, who I think has been one of her partners in the past).

Jake brought pre-dealt boards from the Melville, along with print-outs of the hands to facilitate post-match discussion. Unfortunately, I seem to have managed to mislay my print-out somewhere between Haymarket station and getting home, so wrote these hands out from memory... I then found the print-out just after I'd finished writing the post, and fixed the spot cards in the play hand. Nothing else was materially wrong - I'm quite impressed I managed to remember the hands for nearly a full two days.

First a bidding problem, from the West hand.
♠ Qx
♥ x
♦ AKxx
♣ KJxxxx


We are playing better minor, so I don't even know if partner has 4 diamonds. I decided I really wasn't sure what 4N would mean, so punted 5 clubs. We still weren't sure what 4N would mean in discussion after the match. Is it Blackwood in diamonds, or does it show two places to play - if the latter, it pretty much has to be clubs and diamonds, as I didn't double. It wouldn't actually have mattered, as Yvonne happened to have AQx in clubs and Qxxx in diamonds for her weak NT, and either 5 clubs or 6 diamonds was cold (in 6 diamonds you could pitch all of Yvonne's spades on clubs and ruff a spade - another illustration of the benefits of a 4-4 fit). 

I don't actually remember the auction or the result at the other table, but after E opened a weak no trump, it was always going to be tough for them to find 5 of a minor without some advanced system.

Second, a play hand:
All Vul.N Deal
♠ Q J T 3 2
♥ J T 9 4
♦ A
♣ K 4 3

♠ A K 6
♥ K 8 6 3
♦ J T 7 3 2 
♣ Q

♠ 9 5
♥ A Q 5 2  
♦ Q 9 4
♣ A T 6 2
♠  8 7 4
♥  7
♦  K 8 6 5
♣ J 9 8 7 5


I wasn't really sure what to bid in this auction. I was pretty confident we wanted to play in 4 hearts, but jumping straight to that level on these sorts of hands really fixes partner if she has, say, a huge hand with clubs. 2 spades seemed like a reasonable compromise, and we ended up in the good 4 heart contract anyway.

This was another game swing to us on the play of the hand. After a spade lead (same at both tables, although actually it was played the other way up in the other room) Yvonne drew two rounds of trumps and started playing on diamonds (planning to get rid of her clubs on the long diamonds. As it happens, our less-experienced opponents crashed their diamond honours on this first trick, but it wouldn't actually have mattered. After avoiding a club lead, Yvonne's plan is pretty much always going to work - she'll lose at most three diamond tricks (including a ruff) or two diamonds and a heart. At the other table, Jun played of the ace of clubs trying for for club ruffs, and ended up losing two diamonds, a club and a heart.

Finally, another hand for bidding.
♠ A Q J x x x
♥ x
♦ A x x  
♣ J x x
♠ T 9 x x
♥ A K Q x x 
♦ x
♣ A T x 




As you can see, 6 spades an excellent contract looking the two hands, but both players seem to have bid reasonably. Yvonne suggested afterwards that maybe she should have bid 3 spades on the second round with such pure values. Otherwise, a more experienced partnership might have had methods for exploring rather than just jumping to 4? Or perhaps bidding slam on the combined 25 count is just too much to ask?

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Kenmure at home: Two defences (one good (?) and one not so good)

So, today was a home match against Kenmure, which is a team run by Bobby Moore, who is a regular at the various Glasgow bridge clubs (I think mostly the GBC), and who I've played with a couple of times. Last year, Kenmure had no sort of regular line up, and I even played in about 3 of their matches (with a different partner each time), so we had no idea what to expect. Norman and I played at table one, against Ian Burn and Stuart (I'm afraid I don't know his surname), who are a good pair, and we had a lot of fun. Here's two hands where I'm not sure what I should have done in defence, and one play hand.

NS Vul. E Deal
♠ 9 6 5 2
♥ T 4
♦ J T 7 5 2
♣ 8
♠ A K J
♥ Q 7 5 3 2 
♦ 9 8 4 3 
♣ J

♠ Q 7 
♥ K J 9 8
♦ A Q 
♣ Q T 9 6 4  
♠ T 8 4 
♥ A 6
♦ K 6 
♣ A K 7 5 3 2


1 -3-
So, this hand was interesting. Norman led the 8 of hearts, and I won with the king, and then started to think about the hand... If I can make the K of diamonds, we just need to make one more trick to beat this, so I decided to try and give Norman a ruff leading the 2 of clubs, so he'd know to switch to a diamond. Unfortunately, this sequence of plays makes it pretty obvious Norman has led a singleton, and Ian ruffed with the Q of hearts and played a heart to the J, making 11 when I for some reason forgot to give Norman a ruff with his ten...

The interesting part about this is that I have several choices at trick two, and two choices at trick one. I want to try and give Norman a club ruff. I know he can ruff a club, and declarer doesn't. How should I go about this? Well, there are two strategies I might try - I could win the first trick with the ace of clubs, instead of the king, so declarer places Norman with the King, both making it harder for him to set up clubs later, and less likely he'll ruff high, or I could try winning the first club with the king and then "cashing" the ace. Not sure how likely this is to catch declarer napping. 

As it turns out, looking at the hand again, I don't think we can beat the contract even if I do manage to give Norman a club ruff. He'll return a diamond, but then the diamond Q goes away on the third spade, and I think it's all over, but still, it would have been nice to see these options before the board had finished...

Second board is another one where I'm not sure how I should defend although, again, I think declarer might have done better... 

All Vul. W Deal
♠ Q 7 4
♥ A K T 7 6 4
♦ -
♣ 8 5 3 2
♠ A 6
♥ 3 2
♦ T 9 7  
♣ A Q T 9 6 4

♠ 5 2
♥ Q 8 5
♦ A Q J 8 5 3 2
♣ J
♠  K J T 9 8 3
♥  J 9
♦  K 6 4
♣ K 7

I led the J of hearts, and Norman cashed two hearts, and played the heart ten. At this point, I pretty much know what's going on, and I can see that declarer is probably destined to make this contract. If I over-ruff, and play back a spade (presumably that's what the ten of hearts is asking for), he'll have no choice but to try and get rid of his losing spade quickly, and my club king is either onside, or dropping on the second round, so I ruff with the 6, letting declarer over-ruff in dummy. Declarer now took a diamond finesse, and I returned the club 7, hoping he might read the position wrong. He did, went up with the ace, and pitched a spade on the Q of clubs on the way back - one down. To be honest, I've no real idea if my "deceptive" play paid off here, or if declarer should have done better. 

Finally a hand where I found the play interesting (which may be a good indication of what stage my bridge education is at)
♠ A 7 4 3 
♥ Q 8 6 5 4
♦ 8 7 
♣ 5 4
♠ K 8 6 5 2
♥ A 7 3 
♦ K 9 2
♣ J 8 

Sitting East, you play in 2 spades after LHO and partner both pass, RHO opens, and you overcall 1 spade, partner raises and it's passed out. the defence cashes the first 4 tricks in the minors, and then play a third diamond. When you cash the top two spades, you find out they break, and now you just have to play that heart suit for one loser.

I played A of hearts, and then when the T appeared on the second round from LHO, ducked in dummy. I think this is right, as you make any time RHO doesn't have exactly KJx, which is a holding I don't think you're ever going to be able to deal with. If RHO wins this trick with a doubleton honour, he's endplayed.

Anyway, that was tonight's match. I'm going to Edinburgh tomorrow to play a friend teams match, and then playing in a one day Congress in Dunbar (I think) on Sunday, so I might even manage to make two posts this week...

Edited to add: 

Today's lesson is, don't post after midnight. The E hand in the third board had 14 cards, and the W hand on the first board had 12 when I first posted this. This explains Phil's comment below...

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

The Manning Foster Cup: Not quite as many errors as last week

So, after last week's total disaster at the Maccabi Bowl, this week could hardly fail to be at least somewhat better. It was, but not a lot. We were playing in the Manning Foster Cup, which is the Buchanan's annual club teams of four competition (presumably named after this guy, who was apparently editor of bridge magazine, and a pretty good player in his day - no idea why a club competition in Glasgow is named after him - I sometimes like to look up people that things are named after, seems respectful somehow). 

As I said, our results were not spectacular, and unfortunately most of the interesting hands were defensive errors from Norman. It wouldn't feel charitable to write a lot of them up. This one has an interesting point on signalling though:

NS Vul. S Deal
♠ 6 5
♥ A T 4 2
♦ Q 7 4 3
♣ K J T 
♠ T 4 2
♥ K Q 8 7 
♦ A K 6
♣ Q 8 7 

♠ A K J 8 3
♥ J 9
♦ T 5 2
♣ 6 5 3
♠ Q 9 7
♥ 6 5 3
♦ J 9 8 
♣ A 9 4 2

Bidding was pretty normal on this one, W opened 1NT, and East transferred into his good 5 card spade suit. Norman led a diamond, T, J A. Declarer finessed, in spades, and I played a diamond back. Declarer won, drew trumps, and ran the J (Norman pitched the 2), which Norman won, and cashed his diamond.

This was crunch time. If declarer started off with something like xxx xxxx AKx AQx, then Norman should play a heart back now, I can cash my heart, and lead a club through, and we make two club tricks to go with one spade, two hearts and one diamond. However, Norman should have known this was not the case. We play attitude signals when following suit in a suit contract (first card is attitude, then current count), so my 6 of hearts showed lack of interest in hearts, and it should have been relatively easy to place me with the club ace (remember, we've already seen 7 of declarer's points, so give him 5 in hearts, and he can't have 4 more). Also notice that playing a club also works if I have the queen and not the ace.

I've never really been sure why we play attitude signals when following suit, but this is a good example of where they would have been more useful than count signals. (playing count, I'd play the same card from 6 5 3 as from K 5 3). 

I'm not sure if it should be possible to figure out my club holding anyway - perhaps declarer's lack of interest in the club finesse or his running the J of hearts missing the AT is a good enough clue, but the carding should definitely have made it easy. In fairness to Norman, I forget about 20% of the time that my first card is attitude, and give count anyway, but I think it's still odds on to play me for the A.

Finally, it's worth noting that declarer can always make his contract if he sets up a heart before we set up our diamond. I think this is actually pretty clearly the best line for declarer, but that's no excuse for us not taking our chance to beat him.

Thursday, 12 September 2013

The Maccabi Bowl (a comedy of errors)

Inspired by Danny Hamilton's bridge blog, I've decided that writing up a few hands every now and then is probably a good way to learn, and also may possibly be of interest to someone else. I'll start with a few from the Maccabi Bowl, which is some sort of Glasgow teams competition. Norman McGeagh (my regular partner) and I played with our team-mates from Hillhead, Babs and Isobel. We did absolutely terribly, and I don't think we even won one of the 12 two-board matches we played, which is quite impressive, if you ask me. Anyway, enough with the pre-amble, on with the bridge (thanks to Danny for the HTML table used below).
EW Vul. S Deal
♠ x
♥ K Q 6 5 4
♦ K x
♣ Q T 8 7 2
♠ 8 x x
♥ A J x
♦ A 8 7 x x
♣ K x

♠ A J T 9 x
♥ x
♦ Q J T x
♣ A J x
♠ K Q x x
♥ T 9 8 x
♦ x x
♣ x x x

I'm not sure I have the auction exactly right, but Norman opened 1 diamond, North showed 5-5 in the rounded suits, and I ended up playing in 4 spades. This kind of looks straightforward. I have only two losers (two spades and a diamond) and after I knock out the diamond king, at least 11 winners (3 spades, 1 heart, 4 diamonds and three clubs (assuming the finesse is right, which it is very likely to be on the bidding). However, I managed to go two off - I finessed in spades (!) and couldn't quite manage to cope with the resulting heart force. Now you see how the hand might actually be a little tricky. If I don't draw trumps, South is going to ruff a winning diamond with a small trump, and be left with two trump tricks, to go with North's diamond king. If I do try to draw trumps, South forces me in hearts, and makes a small trump anyway. How do I get around this? To be honest, I'm not sure.

I suspect a sensible line (mine was clearly not sensible!) is something like spade to the A, then take a diamond finesse (which, again, is huge odds on given the bidding). Assuming the diamond finesse is right, you just lose three trump tricks. DealMaster says 10 tricks can be made even with the diamond finesse wrong, but I still haven't quite figured out how - it feels like maybe I have to do something like shorten my trumps by ruffing hearts and elope with dummy's 8 of trumps at the end, but I don't see how that can possibly work, as there's nowhere for the diamond losers to go, so nothing I can elope with, so I'm sure there's a much simpler solution (it's going to be that sort of bridge blog...). 

The next hand was a little bit wilder, and had a couple of interesting defensive points.
None Vul. E Deal
♠ A K J x x
♥ A
♦ T
♣ K Q J x x x
♠ x
♥ Q T x x
♦ A x x x x
♣ A T x

♠ x x x
♥ K x x x
♦ K Q J 9 x x
♣ -
♠ Q T x x
♥ J 9 8 x
♦ x
♣ 9 8 x x

North decided that he was going to struggle to get a two-suiter across if he opened 2 clubs (which I think is pretty standard thinking), and also that he really didn't have that many high-card points, so it wasn't likely to be passed out, and opened his 3 loser hand at the 1 level. Having passed on the first round (we play a multi, and Norman strongly objects to pre-empting in a minor with a 4 card major on the side), I couldn't resist coming in now. With two aces and 5 card support, Norman jumped to 5 diamonds. North was now able to show his strength, and bid 5 spades. South didn't find the "master bid" of 6 (I imagine he would have with a void diamond), and so that's where we played.

I led the 2 (!) of diamonds. Norman won with the ace, and switched... to a heart. 5 spades made for not very many IMPs for us. As Norman himself quickly pointed out, he should have cashed the ace of clubs and given me a club ruff. Not only had North shown at least 5 clubs on the bidding (leaving me with at most one), the 2 of diamonds was also a pretty clear suit preference signal, coming from a presumed 6 card suit headed by the KQJ. Pretty defnece that didn't quite come off... 

Talking of pretty defences. Try to beat 5 diamonds with the NS cards. It has to go heart to the Ace, small spade to the queen, heart ruff. Anything else, and declarer can just draw trumps and play a small heart of dummy to the K, making whenever north has the A of Hearts singleton or doubleton. Finding that defence at the table would be a good deal harder than finding the one we missed.

Anyway - that's my first bridge blog. I'm going to try to write up at least one hand a week for the next month or so - we're playing in some Buchanan teams event next week, again with Babs and Isobel, and then I think it's a match the week after, and the second round of the winter pairs the week after that (where Danny and Anna are going to be tough to catch, given their 67% in the first round). Let's see if I can stick to my update schedule.