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I’m flattered, but ya’ll could have answered the question

instead of just mentioning my name a few times.

But since I was mentioned, I responded to the question “Is Contract Bridge Still Alive?”


Written by taogaming

March 9, 2017 at 9:17 pm

Posted in Bridge


Playing (poorly) at a Swiss I pick up:


My LHO is a (quote) life master (unquote) who is not at all good and (vhoje moi!) mentoring new players. She may even teach lessons. A nice woman, but just full of bad ideas and because she’s a life master she has a following amongst the other dear hearts who are just starting out.

She opens 1 Heart which is passed around to me.  With this partner I haven’t played much but he’s an expert. We did make out a card and our balancing NT is 11-14. Over a major that can stretch upwords a point or two, but even discounting the compact spade honors I like the fact that my hand is bulky. I think its too much.

I double, planning on bidding 1NT over 1S to show a good hand.

LHO bids 2 Hearts then partner bids 3 Diamonds. RHO passes and that’s enough for me to shoot 3 No Trump. Even if we’re light on points I know a lot about the hand. It goes all pass and I get a small spade lead.

          Dummy S: xxx H:A8x D:K9xx C:xxx

Spade 4 led

          My hand S:KQJ H:QTxx D:AJT C:KJx

This goes to my hand and I win RHO’s Ten with the queen. OK, I have 24 HCP and I RHO will have roughly 4 at most. I could attack hearts, but I think that I’m going to want to endplay LHO in hearts and clubs. I could finesse into the safe hand (LHO) in diamonds, but I think I’m going to finesse against LHO, even though she’s likely shorter in diamonds. RHO may have the queen, but even if I used my entry and finessed, I couldn’t do it twice. I may want to finesse in clubs. And LHO has the bulk of points.

The Diamond queen is points. Maybe she has it.

I lay down the diamond ace and LHO plays a small heart. Well, I was right about her more likely to be short in diamonds. I let the diamond jack ride to RHO and he returns a small spade without much thought.

That has to be good for me, much better than a club through. LHO wins the spade ace and I don’t see how I’m going to make this, even assuming an endplay or squeeze for the final trick. Hurm. Two spades, three diamonds, if the club queen is onsides then perhaps….

I hadn’t gotten far when LHO tabled the club ace. I follow all low. Next comes … the heart nine?!

I maybe played poorly earlier, but now I see nine tricks. I let the heart ride to the ten (LHO shows out, of course). Small heart from hand and LHO has to split and play her jack. I win on dummy and cash the diamonds (pitching my club jack) and then I can lead the heart eight and when she wins I show my hand of good spade king, good heart queen and good club king. The opponents just shrug and score it up. Her partner isn’t good enough to realize she’s given the hand away.

Later on, same match.

RHO had opened 1 Spade and I’m looking at: S:xx H:AQJx D:Qxx C:xxxx.

With nothing to see, I move along and pass. She goes into a communion with her bidding box and emerges with Four NT.

RHO answers 5 Clubs and she grumbles, grouses and then bids six spades.

Her entire demeanour indicates she’s gambling (she lacks a poker face, but at least I can say that I don’t think her partners can read her. There’s nothing unethical going on here).  I ask what five clubs shows and she says “We play 1430” (so five clubs shows one or four).

Honestly, getting barely by in a solid Flight A event feels better than crushing team, because what I do may work or not for entirely random reasons. At least if I lose at the NAOP’s, I feel like I deserve it. Here I make 3N because she can’t defend passively, and now I’m on lead and I can’t tell anything from this auction. Ugh.

This slam was not rationally bid, therefore it comes down to a simple cost-benefit. If it turns out we can beat the slam cashing the first two hearts, I will murder myself if we don’t.

If my heart ace gets ruffed by dummy on opening lead (and I swear … scout’s honor, that this thought crossed my mind before I led it) then I will simply shrug and say “What can you do against lunacy? It gets lucky sometimes.” More rationally, the heart lead may set up declarer’s king, but if partner has an entry I don’t care if I get one heart or two, and if I give up the timing … oh well.

I lead the heart ace and she grimaces and says “I guessed wrong,” as she tables dummy.

Dummy has (and let us pause to savor this) S: AJx H:Kxxxx D:Kxxxx C:–

Right idea, but I misguessed her void. (Do not bid Blackwood with a void is apparently another lesson she has missed). All thankfully follow and partner is violently discouraging hearts and it suddenly hits me what she meant.

She was guessing whether her partner had one or four key cards.

She doesn’t know that she could just sign off, safe in the knowledge that a partner staring at four key cards the Spade King and three aces (plus who knows what else), might push onto a slam after a strong auction by partner and should let the auction drop.

Then again, if she doesn’t know that, how could the person (who — again — she is mentoring) know?

I lead a diamond to the king and partner takes his ace and shifts to a club. RHO wins the ace and I’m now expecting down two (since that’s he keycard) but no, RHO shows up with both remaining key cards so they are only down one. I missed if he apologizes for pulling out the wrong bid.

We destroy this team but now I’m feeling guilty that I didn’t sign up as a mentor.

That conflicts with game night….

Written by taogaming

January 15, 2017 at 10:49 pm

Posted in Bridge

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.

Written by taogaming

January 8, 2017 at 10:21 pm

Posted in Bridge


(I’ve been putting my bridge posts on BGG for a while, so one here).

Good ideas slowly gain ground. I’ve maintained that Raptor 1NT overcalls (which show a 4 card major and longer minor, and merely competitive values) are a big improvement over the typical 1NT overcalls (which show 15-18 balanced). Balanced NT openings aren’t exactly rare, but once an opponent overcalls they are decidedly rarer. I think raptor shows up about twice as often. And at matchpoints (where frequency matters and fights for part scores are vicious) its a big deal.

I explained Raptor on Bridgewinners a while ago, if you care.

A few years ago, we were the only pair playing Raptor. Now there are four. Us, and the three strongest pairs in the city.  We sit down against one of them (Terry and Carolyn) in round two. Terry is to my right, and is not only a strong player, he’s very creative. In fact, earlier against Hank he Raptored to show a 4=5 hand and actually had 3=6 (but a strong three card suit and a very weak 6 card minor).

I hold S:KQ H:Txx D:KQTx C:KJxx and open 1D. Carolyn bids 1NT and Terry alerts. Hank passes, Terry doesn’t seem to care about any four-card major and bids 2C and plays it there.

I lead the DK and Carolyn says “I lied by a card.”

She puts down S:Jxxx H:KJ D:AJx C:A9xx

Ah, the actual 1N overcall. Any convention gives something up, and this is it. (Hank and I started making off shape doubles when holding 1N overcalls, but after some consideration we’ve now usually just passing and wait, although with 3=4 in the majors a double is possible. The opponents often get into big trouble, and you can just double openers 1N rebid fairly easily if you like.

Terry isn’t tickled with this. There isn’t much to the play but he scrambles home for 2C on his 4-3 fit for 90 points, but 1N would make 2, so he gets a touch below average.

Two hands later another interesting and apparently non-Raptor hand shows up.

I hold S:J9x H:Tx D:KJ C:Q87xxx. Partner opens 1H (which is capped at 17 HCP) and Terry doubles.

I bid 1S, and Hank dutifully alerts. Carolyn passes and Hank bids 2D. Terry asks and is informed (correctly) that my bid showed clubs. (Another place we play transfers … this lets me show clubs cheaply and Hank can reject with 1N. Or I can redouble to show spades and Hank can bid 1S with only three card support and 2S with four).

Well, I don’t like diamonds (actually, I don’t dislike them, but better to be in my 5-2 major fit than a 5-2 or even 4-2 minor fit) so I retreat to 2H. Hank isn’t done, he bids 3C.

Terry considers this and bids 3S.

What do I know? By agreement, Hank’s bid shows extras. He’s 15-17, or maybe a touch lower with 0=5=5=3 shape, perhaps. He could be 1=5=4=3, but that hand may have just jumped in clubs right away. I suspect he’s 1=5=5=2 and hoping the minor plays better.

I think Terry got all of that (faster than I did) and has inferred that his partner has five spades and not many points. He didn’t come in over 2D, so I don’t think he has a monster. And Carolyn heard him pass, so she shouldn’t hang him. And what’s annoying — I think he’s right. I take the push to 4C (if partner has three clubs that is right. If he only has two, then it’s probably wrong). Carolyn doubles and I watch the hand (as Terry leads a club). Hank wins the club king and cashes the ace and Terry …. discards. Odd. Hank struggles for a bit and goes down 1, revealing a maximum 2=5=4=2.

The second spade was the difference. There were only 16 total trump, not the 18 I’d hoped for (or 17 I’d expected). Ouch. As it turns out Terry’s 3S should be borderline, but dummy has no entries so it would go down two. In glancing at the hand later, I realize something — Terry had a raptor hand!

S:KQxx H:KQx D:AQ9xx C:x

Towards the upper range of a Raptor, but still good. I’d hate to double and then have partner bid 3C. I guess they play equal level conversion.

Next round I pick up a potential Raptor hand:

S:Q H:J8xxx D:AQJT9 C:9x.

I’m in opening seat, but this isn’t up to standards. Move my Spade Queen into hearts and I’d probably do it. I pass and hope to treat this as a 4H+5D hand by raptoring. Given the disparity in suit strength, that seems right. LHO opens 1S and partner doubles. RHO bids 2S and I make the overbid of 4H. LHO bids 4S and partner doubles and I decide to sit with it. My hand may be useless on defense, but I’m not sacrificing.

It makes 6, although with perfect defense we can hold them to five.

In hindsight, 3H was enough. Partner can hear my 3H bid and move forward or not and I have not much defense if they go to 3S or 4S. If I bid 3H and they go to 3S and I’m feeling frisky, I can pull to 4D.

A few rounds later, I pick up another Raptor potential hand.

S:KT8x H:3 D:KQJ9x H:x

RHO opens 1H and so I bid 1NT. Hank Alerts. My LHO asks and then bids 2H. Hank bids 3 Spades, which should be a mixed raise … 4 or 5 spades, some values. Its not much strong than a 2S bid, but indicates that he thinks we won’t buy the contract in 2S. We don’t buy it in 3S either, but no way I’m sacrificing in 4S. We’re white vs red, true, but Hank saw that as well as I did. Besides, Hank is probably short in diamonds. I lead a diamond honor and dummy hits with S:AJxx H:xxxx D:xx C:A9x.

There’s nothing to the play, in that declarer is cold for five hearts if he can see through the back of the cards, and can make four hearts on a wrong guess. However, declarer actually trumps one of his own winners and somehow managers to lose a club trick with A9x opposite KQJxx with a 3-2 break.

I don’t think that the convention that won the board.

Later on I pick up S:7 H:QTxx D:AQJ9xx C:Kx.

No reason you can’t raptor with 4=6. But unfortunately its my LHO who opens 1S and RHO bids 1N. Now I simply bid 2D and give up on the heart suit. Nothing horrible happens and I make 4.

I actually pick up a sixth hand that qualifies, but I’m dealer and have enough points to open. And at that point the tired little raptor went home to bed, exhausted from all the times he was called upon….


Written by taogaming

December 17, 2016 at 10:36 pm

Posted in Bridge

Tagged with

A stray bridge hand and snide comment ….

Written by taogaming

December 8, 2016 at 9:10 pm

Posted in Bridge

Finally …

Playing bridge online, I’m getting mostly good boards (the result of bad opponents) but not doing anything particularly well. Then comes the last hand.

S:xxx H:K87643 D:xx C:AK

Partner opens 1 Diamond (nobody vulnerable). We play weak NT at this vulnerability, so partner either has 15+ HCP or an unbalanced shape. RHO doubles. I’m not playing anything fancy so I just bid 1 Heart. LHO passes, partner bids 2 Clubs, and RHO passes.

Since we play that the fourth suit is an artificial game force, 3 Hearts should be invitational. I suspect partner has a weak hand with a stiff heart, but he could have 15+ with a stiff heart (or less and willing to shoot out 3N knowing where the points are).

I bid 3 Hearts and play it there.

LHO leads the Diamond Jack, and I see

     Dummy S:KTxx H:J D:AKQ9 C:xxxx
Diamond Jack Led
     Hand  S:xxx H:K87643 D:xx C:AK

I win the diamond ace.

I don’t like my chances. And I hit pretty much a maximum pass (I may have risked 3N with partner’s hand. Go down in game!)

Back to the task at hand. The doubler should (in theory) be short in diamonds, but he doesn’t have to be stiff. Perhaps I should lead clubs but — right or wrong — I cash the King of Diamonds (all follow) and then lead the queen and RHO ruffs with the deuce.

Perhaps I should pitch my losing spade. (One of them, anyway). But maybe something good will happen if I give the opponents some chances to go wrong. I over-ruff and lead a small heart. LHO gives a small hitch and plays the ace, then leads a club.

Can LHO really have his hitch? That would mean something like Ax of hearts (AQ would play the Queen, obviously). That also means that RHO doubled with 3 hearts, but sometimes you do that. I don’t think I’m making it unless LHO has his hitch.

I cash the heart king and both follow (LHO with the Ten, RHO with the Nine).

I have a shot. I cash the other club and then lead a spade to the ten. RHO wins the jack then plays the club queen and this is the position.

     Dummy: S:Kx H:-- D:9 C:x

                               CQ Led

    Hand: S:xx H:87 D:-- C:--

Now I’m golden. I ruff the club, then lead my last heart, pitching dummy’s diamond as LHO shows out. RHO wins with the queen and then leads the ace of spades and then the queen of spades to dummy’s king. Making three exactly.

I probably should have just cashed two clubs and then crossed in diamonds to ruff another club to start shortening my hand right away. And RHO only needed to cash his good trump when he was in with the spade jack to avoid the endplay.

I did a lot of questionable things, but at least I read the position correctly. Finally….

Written by taogaming

November 30, 2016 at 10:51 pm

Posted in Bridge

That old Black Magic

Playing on BBO, you pick up a healthy hand. (IMPs, both vulnerable)

S:AJx H:xx D:AKQ9x C:A9x

Sadly, your RHO opens 3 Hearts. Well, there’s not much to be done about that, so you double.

LHO passes and the Center Hand Opponent bids 3 Spades. RHO has nothing to add, so its back to you.

No doubt about it. This is a sticky situation. You have a good hand, but only three spades. Partner may have four spades and a decent hand (7-9ish HCP) or five spades and slightly less. Or partner may be broke. You can’t tell. Well, maybe you can.

The old black magic applies here. Partner paused a bit before bidding 3S, which implies having a choice of bids. Now, strictly speaking, you are not allowed to take advantage of that information if you noticed. (But plenty of novice players — and some not-so-novice ones, take full advantage of “That old black magic.”)

My opponent holding these cards bid 4 Spades.

Now, I have no idea if this particular player noticed a hitch or just decided to take a shot at game. I noticed the hitch, but on BBO you can’t trust pauses too much. Some people get distracted. Network lag may play a part. For all I know, this wasn’t black magic, but just obliviousness.

I will say that four spades did not fare well.

LHO led the heart ace, then another heart (the Jack), ruffed by RHO (declarer playing the queen). RHO led the diamond Jack into dummy, and declarer crossed to his club king to lead a spade.

LHO showed out.

In real life, dummy would have to wait and wonder if spades broke 5-0 or 6-0 (whether declarer had 4 or 5). But on BBO, you can choose to reveal the hand at any time.

                  S:AJx H:xx D:AKQ9x C:A9x

S:-- H:AJT98xx D:Tx C:Jxxx    S:KQT7xxx H:x D:Jx C:QTx

                  S:xxx H:KQx D:8xxx C:Kxx

Spades broke 7-0. Offside.
The poor declarer had her hitch, a tough decision between the three unappealing bids of 3N (light on points), or 3 Spades or 4 Clubs. 3N would succeed because I couldn’t have led a spade and declarer can simply take 1S+1H+5D+2C=9 tricks. Four spades went down five.

I’ll never know if dummy was using black magic but — if so — justice was served because sometimes black magic summons demons.

The full hand record is online (for a few days, at least).

Written by taogaming

September 21, 2016 at 10:15 pm

Posted in Bridge