The Tao of Gaming

Boardgames and lesser pursuits

Mac Daddy Bridge

Yesterday Hank and I qualified for the finals for the North American Open Pairs, the Mac Daddy event (of the ones that I attend, anyway).  Last year we came in 6th (after some bad results that I detailed in a geeklist). We qualified with a small margin of error (hindered by a few blunders and several legitimately unlucky results). In the early going today things are not improving, but I pick up a hand guaranteed to brighten some spirits.

S: AK H: A6 D:Q65 C:AQJT96

I could open this 2 No Trump and call it a balanced 21-22 count, but it wouldn’t take much to make a club slam, so I put this into a Polish 1 Club opening.

LHO bids 1 Heart and this gets passed back to me. I bid 3 Clubs which shows a great hand with clubs. LHO asks and is told that 3 Clubs is “almost forcing,” rather like an Acol 2 bid. He passes, Hank bids 3 Hearts, asking if I have a heart stopper.

I do, so I bid 3 NT, ending the auction. LHO doesn’t seem to care, he’s leading the heart king.

          Dummy: S: T982 H:J93 D: AJ4 C: 832
Heart King led
          My hand S: AK H: A6 D:Q65 C:AQJT96

Nice hand, partner. I particularly like the heart Jack. I win the ace. At IMPs, my hand is easy. Lay down the club ace, continue clubs. I’ll take five clubs (six if the king is singleton), and two hearts, two spades and a diamond. Assuming the heart queen is onside (pretty safe, given the auction and opening lead) this guarantees the contract.

At matchpoints, it’s not so easy. I could finesse in diamonds and win, then finesse in clubs (twice if necessary, thanks to dummy’s 8). That would get me 12 tricks if both finesses are on. Or I could go down if they aren’t.

Could they both be wrong? Sure, give overcaller QJx KQTxx xxx Kx. Of course, the auction would be the same if the minor kings were reversed. I seriously have no idea if I should play this wide open.

On the other hand, the opening lead has given me a trick. If my hand opens 2N, I suspect there won’t be any interference, and LHO may be reluctant to lead from strength. (He may have been reluctant to do so in this auction, but an attacking lead may be called for, particularly if he isn’t looking at the club honor).

I think about it, but I don’t see any clear indication. I decide that since I may be a trick ahead of the game, I’m going to play it safe. I lead the club ace (all follow small) and then the club queen. LHO wins with the king (Good decision!) as RHO follows, so clubs were 2-2.  LHO gives it some thought then cashes the heart queen, then exits a heart. I win in dummy and toss a small diamond. RHO followed twice, so hearts are five-three.

I could take the finesse in diamonds, but I’m in no hurry, I play two rounds of clubs. RHO pitches a two spades and LHO tosses a diamond, then a heart. I play another club and LHO pitches a diamond and RHO pitches another spade.

Has something good happened in spades? I don’t think so, but lets check. I cash one spade and both opponents follow low. Here’s the current position

Dummy S:T9  D:AJ

Declarer S:A D:Qx + a good club

Perhaps I should cash the spade ace, playing to squeeze LHO, but  I don’t think that works. He has a heart left and three cards. If he has Kx of diamonds the finesse works. If he has QJ (or Qx or Jx) of spades left, then he’s out.

But there is … as befits the Mac Daddy … a Criss-Cross squeeze possibly.

I could lead a club and then pitch dummy’s diamond jack. Now, if either opponent started with QJ of spades and the king of diamonds he can’t keep everything (or if he started with Honor-x-x-x-x of spades + Kx of diamonds).

If he pitches his small diamond I cash the ace of diamonds dropping the king, then use the spade ace as my entry to the queen. More dramatically if he pitches his last spade spot (from Hxxxx) I play the spade ace fetching  both spade honors (one from each opponent) setting up the spade ten, with my diamond ace as the entry.

And the criss-cross squeeze works against either opponent…..

If I read the end position correctly.

I think I’ve got the suits of the discards right, but I haven’t been watching the spots … not that I think I’d get a good read on those.  Can a Criss-Cross work? LHO can’t have started with five spades (he’s already shown up with five hearts, two clubs and two diamonds. He’s got a heart and three cards left, and if they include the QJ of spades he’s bared his (assumed) diamond king.

Can RHO have it? Well, that would be 4-6 points and a heart fit, which may have raised hearts. I could cash the spade king to get a better read, but I didn’t think it would help and it would risk losing more than one trick if the diamond finesses is off.

In fact, if I cash the king of spades and LHO shows out, I’ll know that RHO has S:H D:?x and LHO has H:T D:?x. If I’m wrong with the finesse I lose two tricks.

So, still undecided, I played my final club, hoping for a read on some squirming by LHO. But he pitched his heart, leaving him with three unknown cards. Decision time.

If I pitch the diamond jack I’m playing for the criss-cross. I have to be able to read the hand.

At this point I decide that a) I still might be ahead of the field, b) LHO did bid and c) I’m not entirely sure I’ve counted correctly, so I probably won’t be able to read the hand, so I pitch a spade and take the diamond finesse.

After it looses, and I claim the rest. As we’re putting the cards away, I ask RHO — would the Criss-Cross have worked?

“Oh, yes.”

At Trick 11, here would be the position (with RHO to play to trick 10).

          Dummy S: T9  D: AJ

LHO S:J D:xx                RHO S:Qx D:Kx

          Me:   S: A  D:Qx

I could have simply played for RHO to not have discarded deceptively, and cash the ace of whatever suit he pitches.  Should I have played for the Criss-Cross? Honestly, I’m still not sure. If spades are 4-3 (quite possible) it only works if the K of diamond hand has both queen and jack. The fact that LHO discarded two  diamonds (and no spades) should maybe place him with Hx of spades. (With 1=6 spades, perhaps I’d have heard a weak jump shift), but I’m not sure if these are trustworthy inferences.

And that’s how my day went, full of interesting card plays that I did not get right (as well as more mundane mistakes).

We end up twelfth-ish.

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Written by taogaming

January 8, 2017 at 10:21 pm

Posted in Bridge

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