The Tao of Gaming

Boardgames and lesser pursuits

Heat 1

I had an arranged bridge partnership for the weekend, as I was skipping this years North American Open Pairs. My partner (from CA) was described as a nice expert and she was. After going to the wrong hotel (this tournament was in the same place for a decade …. ), I arrived in time to make a card and sit down to a simple sectional pairs game.

Not much happens in the early rounds,

Then I pick up (Red vs White):

S:KQ8xx H:Txx D:– C:ATxxx

My RHO gets things off with a 3D preempt. Since I have diamond shortness, it’s my obligation to stretch. There’s something to be said for double, but with 5=3 in the majors I bid 3S. If partner bids 3N I think I may pull, but she bids 4D as a slam try and I slam on the brakes with 4S.

LHO leads the diamond three and I see this in dummy:

          S:AT9x H:AKx D:KJ852 C:9

3D led

          S:KQ8xx H:Txx D:--  C:ATxxx


I think I’ve done well. I only have one loser (and third round at that), but winners seem thin on the ground. I cover the diamond 3 with the 5 (maybe RHO will mess up and play too high) but he’s there with the 6 and I ruff.

I could start ruffing clubs before pulling trump but I don’t think my communication is great. After some thought I pull a round of trump with my ace(*) and when both follow I risk playing a club ace and ruff a club with the spade ten. RHO plays the CJ on this. I play a spade to my king and both follow. Ah, that’s great. I ruff a club and RHO pitches a heart. I play AK of hearts and RHO follows with the jack once and then pitches a diamond. Now I only have two trumps and four losers, but I know everything.

                   S:-- H:5 D:KJ82 C:--

S:-- H:Qxx D:-- C:KQ                  D:AQT97

                   S:Qx H:T D:-- C:Tx 

RHO has only diamonds left.I lead the diamond deuce to his seven (pitching a heart) and when he cashes the diamond ace instead of ruffing I pitch a club. He’s forced to lead to my king, allowing my to dispose of my last club.

Not difficult, but I’m pleased to find this double loser-on-loser endplay.

(* Update) — I realized that starting with the ace was stupid, I’m not actually sure I did it, but maybe. Clearly if anyone has four trumps it is likely to be west, so I should have started with the King. So let’s all pretend I did that. Maybe I did, who knows?

Later, a near slam hand:

S:Jx H:AKJxx D:AKJ C:xxx.

Partner (in second seat) opens 1C, I have an easy 1H bid and partner bids 1S. I bid 2D, artificial and forcing to game. Partner bids 2H, showing 3 card support and I set trumps and show slam interest by bidding 3H. Partner bids 3S (first or second round control) and I bid 4D (ditto, also denying a club control). Partner bids 4H and we’re done. LHO (a relative novice) leads the nine of clubs and I see:

S:KQ9x H:Qxx D:xx C:AQJT

I see that slam was roughly 50/50, and with that lead the club king is likely off sides. I’m a bit stuck because there’s a chance that LHO has the king is has done something weird. I decide to risk the ruff and play the queen.  It loses and when a club comes back LHO follows low. I pull trumps (which break) and then lead a small spade to my queen, planning on claiming +650 when the ace takes it. But it holds. Hm. Now I have a chance for six. I cross back to the diamond ace and play two rounds of trump, pitching spades. When I play a club to dummy I see LHO follow, meaning he led top of nothing. I’m really starting to like my chance for six, now. My gut is that LHO has the diamond queen and is squeezed. When I cash the clubs I come down to an automatic squeeze position in spades and diamonds.

Dummy has the spade king and a diamond and two good clubs. I run the clubs and come down to KJ of diamonds. LHO has a good poker face, but my vibe is telling me he’s got the queen. Since he led top of nothing from xxx, he was looking for a safe lead, so there’s also a restricted choice argument. (If he had nothing in clubs and diamonds, he’d pick randomly, at least from my point of view. But if he had the diamond queen and decided to lead nothing, his choice was restricted). I lead a diamond to the king and am rewarded when the queen falls. +680.

Later on I’m defending a game with a 2C opener declaring on my left, trumps are pulled, and partner has only room for one card.

Dummy has T8x of hearts and I have J9 tight. When declarer leads the low heart off the board I’m ready and fly with the jack. This is the position I’m hoping for:


        CHO: Kxxx

Declarer: AQxx   Dummy:T8x

        ME:  J9

(The ace and king could be reversed). Declarer covers my queen and partners king wins. Partner exits safely and declarer, having no place to discard her two small cards, takes the ‘marked’ finesse of the heart 8 and is off. Note that if I’d followed with the 9 then declarer would simply drop my jack (or go back and finesse by leading the T or 8. Since that was bound to work, my falsecard gave declarer and obvious (and losing) alternative.

Sadly, I’m off by a card since declarer only has three hearts (AQx), but I’m still happy to have spotted the mandatory falsecard. As the day goes on I realize I’m in Zia’s “Heat 1,” where everything you do seems to work out, your analysis seems sharper. I’m in a good mood, and that makes it easy to play well. Even though our scores are only mediocre (our opponents are bidding their thin slams, and there are a few questionable bids by each side), but I’m in the zone.

Then, my LHO is a solid local expert who has been an expert for my entire bridge playing career, I decide to make a sign-off on a not-so-borderline invitational hand, because the signoff will accurately show my shape and the invite will see partner force to game before I can provide the news. (This follows Woolsey’s advice of “when choosing between two bids and one is a mild over/underbid, make the one that shows your shape.” I had lobbied for the convention to let me show that at a low level, but we’re playing a simpler one where partner may jump with a maximum hand before I can finish….)

Since I’m in the zone, my underbid gets a lead directing penalty double from the S.L.E. (she doesn’t expect us to end up there, and she’s right), meaning everyone who is going high will get massacred with bad breaks and offside suits.

Even more amazingly, my RHO (an imaginative and sometimes flighty player), misreads the double is takeout and informs my partner as such. So partner passes and when he bids I come out of the woodwork and make a double that must be penalty. The smoke clears at 1700 points, although 500 was enough to make the top cold. LHO is still griping (justifiably) at her partner when I pick up.

S:Kx H:QJ8 D:AKJx C:JTxx

This is an easy 1NT, so I have an easy auction. Partner will be captain. The auction proceeds:

--- --- --- ---
X*   P  2C** P  (*Alerted as Meckwell, either a long minor or both majors. **Forced relay)
2H*  X  2S** P  (*Both majors, **Correcting to preferred major)
 P  3S*  P  3N  (*Do you have spades stopped. 3N= Yes)

I get a small spade lead and see that this is as touchy a contract as the auction (coupled with my tenous spade stopper) imply.

Dummy has S:J9x H:KTx D:xx C:AK987

I call for a low spade and gratefully cover RHO’s queen with the king. Nobody is vulnerable, so LHO may have risked the bid with only 4=4 in the majors, but in any case the club finesse isn’t likely to work. Still, its my obvious source of tricks to attack first. I carefully lead the club jack. LHO plays the deuce. She can see dummy so she may have ducked the Qxx, but I fly with the ace and play the king, finishing the unblock with my ten. LHO shows out on this, so I lead another club and RHO wins the queen, LHO discarding two hearts, presumably encouraging. RHO continues with spades and LHO wins the queen and knocks out the jack (as I pitch a diamond). When I cash my two clubs RHO follows with a discouraging heart and then pitches his fourth spade.

That confirms what I already knew. He doesn’t have the heart ace. People with sure entries don’t pitch winners.

I get rid of my low diamond on the fifth club and LHO (after pitching a diamond on the fourth), pitches her fourth spade.

I run through the bridge syllogism again.

RHO pitched a spade winner, therefore RHO does not have the heart ace. And since LHO pitched a spade winner, LHO does not have the heart ace.

Maybe I have it? I double check. Nope. I can’ t quite work out why its going on, but that’s not necessary. I simply lead a heart and when LHO wins she returns one and I can pitch my jack of diamonds and avoid the finesse. Ah, now I know. If she kept the spade winner and pitched a diamond, her queen would fall under my AK. And if she pitched a low heart she’d be endplayed after cashing. But in either case she’d have held me to 3N instead of letting me make an overtrick. An uncharacteristic mistake, probably caused by fatigue and annoyance at partner.

In both matchpoint sessions we do OK, but in the Swiss teams the next day I confirm I’m in zone one, as our pickup team just gets edged out of first with a 5-1 score, the loss being very narrow match 13-15 (mostly decided at the other table). I’ve often been in zone three (where you seem snakebit at the table), so its nice to have some time in the sun.

Written by taogaming

January 20, 2020 at 7:00 pm

Posted in Bridge

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