The Tao of Gaming

Boardgames and lesser pursuits

The amazing session — Intro and Round #1

There’s a local sectional this week, and I’ve been playing a session a day. Tonight’s session contained a bestiary of odd hands, bizarre contracts, fumbles, flusters, what-the-hells. I picked up a constant stream of huge hands, heard unexpected bids, and was perpetually astonished. I’m just going to write the whole thing up over the next few days. If you don’t play bridge, then learn. These will be worth it.

Background — I’m playing with Betsy. Betsy is a recent Life Master, but I’ve been playing longer. You’ll see flaws a plenty from everyone, but since Betsy’s my partner (and we’re both Flight C players, the weakest flight) you’ll see more of hers and mine. Of course, my mistakes are all tactical judgements that may not have worked at the time, and in no way indicate a lack of skill on my part. (I apologize to Betsy for that).

I have a tendency to take a position on a hand when I could just inform partner (“masterminding”). I’m sitting East most hands (so Betsy is West and our opponents are North-South). I’ll give the score after each hand. 8 is top in a board (but because there is a half table the computer does bizarre fractional stuff). We’re playing 2/1 (Lawrence style) with not too many gadgets. I firmly believe in getting in and out, so I’ll open light routinely. Betsy is more disciplined than that.

First Hand — I pick up  S: Q7532
 H: Q75
 D: 853
 C: 62

Betsy deals and opens 1Club. North passes and I do too. (I could bid 1 Spade, and arguably should, but we open light and I want to get my weakness out of the way. I’m perfectly willing to believe that it’s better in general to bid one spade, but I always seem to get too high, and rarely get passed out in 1C when our opponents should defend it). South balances with 1 H: and Betsy bids 3Club. She gets to play it there. To my surprise, undoubled. I don’t really watch the play carefully, but she makes 3 clubs exactly. Double Dummy play can can make 3 spades (since she has K84), but since spades break 4-1 with North having AJTx, down one (or more) is probably the real world result.

As it turns out, we get a frigid top score for this. A perfect 8. But it’s not terribly interesting.

The fireworks start … now. Next board (#29), both are vulnerable and I pick up
 S: AQJT87
 H: AQ82
 D: J
 C: A5

I’m second seat, but I don’t get to open. North opens 1D. I have an easy Double. South bids 1NT, North bids 2 C:, I bid 2 S: and south competes to 3 C:.

It’s arguable that I’ve bid my hand, but I give another push with 3 S:, which floats.

Earlier today, I’ve been re-reading Hand Evaluation by Mike Lawrence, and he points out how difficult (and how important) it is to know when to bid with bad hands. Dummy has a monster:
 S: 953
 H: K43
 D: T5432
 C: T8

Result — 3 Spades making four (with the spade finesse losing) but hearts breaking 3-3. +170 is only slightly below average at 3.5.

Board #30 — I pick up (as dealer)  S: Q943
 H: K54
 D:
 C: KJT842

Lots of potential here, but if partner has long diamonds I’m in trouble. Despite having only 9 HCP, this hand has an easy rebid (the only really annoying bid would be a weak jump shift), and has 6.5 losing tricks (using Losing Trick Count). It does lack defense I’d like for an opener, but when I open it’s so I don’t have to defend.

EAST South West North
---------------------
1C    P    1D   Double
P[1] 1N   P    3H
Float

[1] I now realize that my easy rebid assumes that either partner or N/S bid, but not both. For my first pass, I’m sticking with my philosophy that having opened light, I should let partner know. My hand has downgraded significantly … North stepped into a live auction announcing the major suits. I believe him. So, do I bid two clubs to show the six card suit and risk partner going on with something, or risk letting partner play a massacre of 1 diamond? Like all right thinking players, I let partner hang and hope that they can’t catch us. The rest of the auction is fairly normal, and let’s look at the full hand:



 S:AKT
 H:AQJ86
 D:AJ84
 C:6

 S:J86
 H:T2
 D:KQ953
 C:Q93


 S:Q943
 H:K54
 D:
 C:KJT842

 S:752
 H:973
 D:T762
 C:A75

Poor south. If only he’d known partner had four good diamonds, he could have passed. As it was, he had an unenviable choice. He decided to bid NT, which I wouldn’t do. If I’d bid two clubs he’d have passed thankfully….

Declarer won the club jack with the ace and hooked the heart and ruffed the club return and pulled trumps. Unfortunately, without a way to finesse in diamonds, he had to play them the wrong way and managed to go down one. +50 was worth 5.5

Don’t worry, round two doesn’t have anything namby-pamby, like four point hands for me…. To be continued.

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Written by taogaming

April 26, 2009 at 1:07 am

Posted in Bridge

11 Responses

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  1. Hate, hate, hate the opening bid on the last hand. When you open purely offensive hands like that with a 1-bid you make it really hard for your partner (and you!) to judge both constructive and competitive auctions correctly. For example, give partner a normal 3NT response like KJx Axx Kxxx Qxx, and now you’ve essentially gone minus for no good reason — but if you pull 3NT to 4C partner will show up with something like Jxx Axx KJTx AQx. Or, you open 1C, the opponents compete to 4H, and partner doubles. Does partner have KJx Ax xxxx Axxx where 4H might very well make when the opponents hold two black singletons, or does she have them practically set in hand with Axxx QJx Axxx xx? I would much rather open 3C than 1C if operating under an “in quick, out quick” philosophy. Yes, you may languish in clubs when spades are right, but at least then
    * if partner bids 3NT, you’re confident she’ll make it
    * she won’t double them in a making 4H
    * the opponents lose 2 whole levels.

    It’s self-defeating to go “in quick” if by doing so you make future rounds coinflips for your side!

    Eugene Hung

    April 26, 2009 at 2:55 am

  2. Hate, hate, hate the opening bid on the last hand. When you open purely offensive hands like that with a 1-bid you make it really hard for your partner (and you!) to judge both constructive and competitive auctions correctly. For example, give partner a normal 3NT response like KJx Axx Kxxx Qxx, and now you’ve essentially gone minus for no good reason — but if you pull 3NT to 4C partner will show up with something like Jxx Axx KJTx AQx. Or, you open 1C, the opponents compete to 4H, and partner doubles. Does partner have KJx Ax xxxx Axxx where 4H might very well make when the opponents hold two black singletons, or does she have them practically set in hand with Axxx QJx Axxx xx? I would much rather open 3C than 1C if operating under an “in quick, out quick” philosophy. Yes, you may languish in clubs when spades are right, but at least then
    * if partner bids 3NT, you’re confident she’ll make it
    * she won’t double them in a making 4H
    * the opponents lose 2 whole levels.

    It’s self-defeating to go “in quick” if by doing so you make future rounds coinflips for your side!

    Eugene Hung

    April 26, 2009 at 2:55 am

  3. I totally understand the point, and the fact that I don’t have a single defensive trick is a huge flaw in the opening. As a matter of taste, I dislike 3C under the theory that if I preempt I shouldn’t be ecstatic if partner wants to play in a major.

    Passing does have the advantage that I’ll be much better placed if partner opens. I can still bail on a misfit, support either major, respond 1S over 1D. I’m somewhat stuck over 1NT. If the opponents open, I may be able to bid 2C, but that strikes me as risking a much bigger penalty than opening. Another option is to just give up if partner can’t bid (or overcalls diamonds).

    They all have their issues. I have no idea which issues should bother me more. (And I don’t want to give the impression that I thought about all of this at the table.

    Another reason to stay silent is if I think that’s the fields decision. I could easily be swinging everything by opening (as you pointed out).

    Here’s an interesting question — How much stronger would you have to be to open? Is Kxxx/Kxx/–/KJT8xx ok? Or how about Q9xx/Kxx/–/AJTxxx? That club ace starts to look like a defensive trick …. is that enough? What if you switch the Heart King to the Ace? I think the last two hands (with an Ace) are a big improvement (despite only being 1 HCP higher), what if replaced the highest spade/heart pip with the respective Jack, or the club jack with the club queen?

    On my side, how much weaker would I go? Not too much. Since I’m planning on rebidding the clubs, I did consider the fact that they had a decent play with merely the stiff Queen (or even 9) opposite. If I drop the CK to the CQ would I open? I probably shouldn’t. (With two kings I can pretend I almost have a defensive trick, even though it’s more like .7 of a trick. With 1 King ..) If I add the point back somewhere? What about Q9xx/KJx/–/QJT8xxx? Sorely tempted.

    Brian

    April 26, 2009 at 11:12 am

  4. The aceless 9-count, in my opinion, is too weak to open. It’s close, though. Opening 3C is silly; you have a game force opposite a 1S opening and a GF or good limit raise vs. a 1H opening. If you had the same high cards and 6430 shape exactly, opening would be pretty reasonable.

    With the caveat that opening style doesn’t have absolute answers, I’ll give you my opinions and suggest a tool later.

    Here’s an interesting question — How much stronger would you have to be to open? Is Kxxx/Kxx/–/KJT8xx ok?

    Yes. That’s good enough.

    Or how about Q9xx/Kxx/–/AJTxxx? That club ace starts to look like a defensive trick …. is that enough?

    Yes. The ace in your long suit is a very valuable card.

    What if you switch the Heart King to the Ace?

    Also good enough. Aces are important.

    I think the last two hands (with an Ace) are a big improvement (despite only being 1 HCP higher), what if replaced the highest spade/heart pip with the respective Jack, or the club jack with the club queen?

    Probably good enough. Close in each case, but just above my personal line.

    On my side, how much weaker would I go? Not too much. Since I’m planning on rebidding the clubs, I did consider the fact that they had a decent play with merely the stiff Queen (or even 9) opposite. If I drop the CK to the CQ would I open? I probably shouldn’t. (With two kings I can pretend I almost have a defensive trick, even though it’s more like .7 of a trick. With 1 King ..) If I add the point back somewhere? What about Q9xx/KJx/–/QJT8xxx? Sorely tempted.

    That’s 14 cards. I don’t think you should go any lighter. A rule of thumb is if the auction gets competitive and partner doubles thinking he has them nailed, do you think that will be a disaster? Also, while I’d open Kxxx Kxx — KJ10xxx, I would not open — Kxx Kxxx KJ10xxx. Having four spades is a significant plus value for opening; if the auction does not go your way, you may be able to stop at the two-level if you have spades, whereas partner may push to the three-level if they have spades.

    In 1982, Edgar Kaplan published an article quantifying his opening bid judgment. I very strongly agree with him in this case. I built a CGI which implements it. You might find it helpful. You might also find the algorithm useful. Years ago, I found it to be a great learning tool for hand evaluation. Now, I’m pretty much in sync with it without having to do the actual calcuations.

    JeffG

    April 26, 2009 at 2:23 pm

  5. The aceless 9-count, in my opinion, is too weak to open. It’s close, though. Opening 3C is silly; you have a game force opposite a 1S opening and a GF or good limit raise vs. a 1H opening. If you had the same high cards and 6430 shape exactly, opening would be pretty reasonable.

    With the caveat that opening style doesn’t have absolute answers, I’ll give you my opinions and suggest a tool later.

    Here’s an interesting question — How much stronger would you have to be to open? Is Kxxx/Kxx/–/KJT8xx ok?

    Yes. That’s good enough.

    Or how about Q9xx/Kxx/–/AJTxxx? That club ace starts to look like a defensive trick …. is that enough?

    Yes. The ace in your long suit is a very valuable card.

    What if you switch the Heart King to the Ace?

    Also good enough. Aces are important.

    I think the last two hands (with an Ace) are a big improvement (despite only being 1 HCP higher), what if replaced the highest spade/heart pip with the respective Jack, or the club jack with the club queen?

    Probably good enough. Close in each case, but just above my personal line.

    On my side, how much weaker would I go? Not too much. Since I’m planning on rebidding the clubs, I did consider the fact that they had a decent play with merely the stiff Queen (or even 9) opposite. If I drop the CK to the CQ would I open? I probably shouldn’t. (With two kings I can pretend I almost have a defensive trick, even though it’s more like .7 of a trick. With 1 King ..) If I add the point back somewhere? What about Q9xx/KJx/–/QJT8xxx? Sorely tempted.

    That’s 14 cards. I don’t think you should go any lighter. A rule of thumb is if the auction gets competitive and partner doubles thinking he has them nailed, do you think that will be a disaster? Also, while I’d open Kxxx Kxx — KJ10xxx, I would not open — Kxx Kxxx KJ10xxx. Having four spades is a significant plus value for opening; if the auction does not go your way, you may be able to stop at the two-level if you have spades, whereas partner may push to the three-level if they have spades.

    In 1982, Edgar Kaplan published an article quantifying his opening bid judgment. I very strongly agree with him in this case. I built a CGI which implements it. You might find it helpful. You might also find the algorithm useful. Years ago, I found it to be a great learning tool for hand evaluation. Now, I’m pretty much in sync with it without having to do the actual calcuations.

    JeffG

    April 26, 2009 at 2:23 pm

  6. I’ve used that cgi script in the past.

    The 14 card hand should be Q9xx/KJx/–/QJT8xx. I typed an extra x. (None of my examples should change shape).

    One other point that occurred to me at lunch, is that I may not have opened at IMPs. At Matchpoints I will often gain a small bit by opening, but I’ll sometimes give up a phone number (probably by partner doubling a cold contract and I have to sit or run, or by getting two high when partner has a solid hand).

    Incidentally for those who wonder, the original hand evaluates (using the algorithm Jeff linked to) to 11.95 HCP. Switching either king to an ace makes it makes it 13.75 for the club Ace and 13.25 for Heart. Opening a minor suit is mandatory at 13.5 (optional at 13.0).

    Brian

    April 26, 2009 at 2:45 pm

  7. I’ve used that cgi script in the past.

    The 14 card hand should be Q9xx/KJx/–/QJT8xx. I typed an extra x. (None of my examples should change shape).

    One other point that occurred to me at lunch, is that I may not have opened at IMPs. At Matchpoints I will often gain a small bit by opening, but I’ll sometimes give up a phone number (probably by partner doubling a cold contract and I have to sit or run, or by getting two high when partner has a solid hand).

    Incidentally for those who wonder, the original hand evaluates (using the algorithm Jeff linked to) to 11.95 HCP. Switching either king to an ace makes it makes it 13.75 for the club Ace and 13.25 for Heart. Opening a minor suit is mandatory at 13.5 (optional at 13.0).

    Brian

    April 26, 2009 at 2:45 pm

  8. I wouldn’t open 9 count, because of the lack of quicks, and not pre-empt with it because of the reasons mentioned by others. Just as importantly I’d never pass the South or West hands after partner goes by him or herself to 3 of a major. Both the North and East hands seem close to a minimum for the calls, and you have good support in both cases. What does it take to show support these days?

    And how come north finessed H into the opening bidder instead of D through the D bidder? E still roughs and later gets his HK, but…

    Tibor

    April 26, 2009 at 3:44 pm

  9. Just as importantly I’d never pass the South or West hands after partner goes by him or herself to 3 of a major.

    Actually, re-reading the auction I’d have been the one bidding 3S with the West hand, competing after South had bid 3C. Partner is showing a rock to double and bid, vul, and my HK looks lovely, as do my three trumps.

    Tibor

    April 26, 2009 at 3:54 pm

  10. Opening a minor suit is mandatory at 13.5 (optional at 13.0).

    Note that Kaplan played K/S, which uses sound minor suit openings. Strong NTers these days open a little lighter.

    JeffG

    April 26, 2009 at 4:33 pm

  11. For the record, I don’t open 3C with your hand either, but if somebody removed all the pass cards from my box, 3C would hit the table over 1C. I’m all for a philosophy of disrupting the opponents — but I suggest doing so in a fashion that is less likely to matter for your side.

    Aceless hands are overvalued by the point count. Also, as JeffG points out, spade length is often the critical factor for deciding whether or not to open.

    Eugene Hung

    April 26, 2009 at 7:57 pm


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