Stuart King

A Close Match

This week we didn’t play in the Wednesday evening duplicate, instead having a match in the first round of the Knockout plate.

I should probably first tell you about the university team. There is only one partnership in it you could begin to call regular, and that is Mine and Mungo’s. There are three other players in the team, Max, who has been playing a few years now, and Deb and Ian, started to play this time last year and played very little over the Summer break. All this means is that the team is always myself and Mungo along with whichever of the other three can make the match. This week it was Max and Deb, who somehow hadn’t played together since May!

The boards for the match weren’t particularly interesting, that combined with the fact they were hand dealt (and so I had to write down the hands I thought were interesting enough to write about) means this post will be shorter than the last 😉

The first board of the match my partner made a tight 4 which failed at the other table, this was cancelled out two boards later when Max and Deb got a touch overboard, reaching 6NT going down while our opponents stopped in a comfortable 3NT. towards the end of the set came an interesting hand. second in hand vulnerable against not I pick up the following;

Q97

JT43

Q3

K852

   

Partner opens 1 and I respond with the obvious 1. After 1, 1NT partner jumps to 3.

Here I made a mistake. I bid 4. Here’s my reasoning. My hand is good, but I certainly don’t want to encourage slam with so few controls, partner needs a lot for that, something like AKxx/x/AKxxxx/Ax as a minimum. So the question has become what is the most likely game? 3NT, 4 and 5 all still seem viable. I was scared of 3NT as the round suits look so open, they can probably take a few heart tricks, or at least cross over in hearts, then lead clubs through me, which would be bad. for some reason I also thought that 4 would always be as good as 5, which it probably isn’t as partner can easily be forced . In short I have the wrong hand to play in the 4-3 fit.

I think I should definitely bid 3, tentatively suggesting a possible trump suit and still leaving 3NT in the picture. It might not even need to suggest a trump suit and it could just be me looking for 3NT but being worried about the round suits (if partner goes past 3NT I can always just correct to diamonds). Enough about my terrible bid, on to my partners play to make it!

North lead the 3 and this is what Mungo saw;

West

KJT3

A6

AK9742

Q

East

Q97

JT43

Q3

K852

What do you think of your chances? And how would you play?

For starters we would have liked to be in 3NT, but theres nothing we can do now. From the way Mungo played it I imagine his thoughts were something like this. I have 4 easy tricks outside trumps, if I can cross ruff I might be able to make it, and if the opponents play on trumps I can set up diamonds.

At trick one South takes the Club ace and switches to a Heart when partner drops the Queen. Mungo jumps up with the Ace crosses to the Q and throws his remaining heart on the K and ruffs a Heart. After cashing a second round of Diamonds he leads a third round to which North follows, what do you ruff with? Mungo choose the Seven, which was over ruffed with the eight. The defence then continued attacking with a heart which partner ruffed and continued his crossruffing. It was all in vain though when, two tricks later, North overruffed with the Ace and returned a trump, Partner then could help but lose four tricks with South holding four trumps. The complete hand was

Dealer:

Vul:

North

A2

K985

J65

J763

 
West

KJT3

A6

AK9742

Q

East

Q97

JT43

Q3

K852

  South

8654

Q72

T8

AT94

 

Obviously this is an incredibly complicated hand in 4 and partner gave it a great try. I have looked at this hand using deep finesse and I’m only a little closer to finding the best line. On this layout, double dummy, the defence can always prevail providing they start by crossing to the A and switching to a heart, then, whatever declarer does they have the counter measure. I would incourage you to look at it yourself!

As with all deals, it gets a lot more complicated if you start rearranging the opponents cards, particularly the pointy cards. Hands played in 4-3 fits are almost always very interesting!

we lost a suprising 5 IMP’s on that board. Given we lost 100 points at our table, that means we lost between 70 and 110 at the other. Hard to work out how right. the opponents somehow stopped in 2 at the other table and only made 8 tricks…

In spite of this set back we won the set by 5 IMP’s.

The second half of the match didn’t contain anything particularly interesting. There was one hand where we poked at a slam in the bidding, stopping in game, but the play was about as routine as it can get.

We ended up marginally losing the match, mostly by bidding a couple of borderline games that weren’t at the other table, and going one off for around 6 IMP’s out. Grrr….

Back. With some hands.

Hi all.

I first want to apologise for such a prolonged absence. I’d like to say I’ve been so incredibly busy with my PhD that I haven’t had time to play and write, and while that is certainly partially true, I really could have made more of an effort. Hopefully that will happen now 😀

With the new adademic year starting, the University Bridge Club has a lot of new members and so Mondays sessions are spent teaching them. On Wednesdays, however, the more experienced amoung us head to the local Club for an evening duplicate. In order to get myself back into writing about bridge I’m forcing myself to write about a couple of the more interesting hands that come up each week.

Oh before I start I should say that the Wednesday night field is VERY mixed ability; ranging from almost complete begginners to a couple of pairs who would be comfortable competing at all but the very highest of levels. With that said here are a couple of interesting hands that arose last night.

I’ll start with the very first hand of the evening. In third seat, game all, I pick up this reasonable collection:

A5

KJT86

T5

A742

After two passes I open the bidding 1 . Partner responds 1NT, which shows 4+ spades and a responding hand (we play Kaplan inversion, i.e. swap the meaning of 1 and 1NT over 1). Remembering partner passed as opener, would you bid on?

Personally I don’t feel strongly one way or the other, at pairs the extra ten points for being in NT could lean it in the direction of a pass. Notwithstanding that I bid 2, partner corrected to 2 which ended the auction. LHO tables the 7 and dummy comes down.

Declarer

A5

KJT86

T5

A742

Dummy

QJ943

A9

Q64

986

Ok, how do I make it? For starters the lead looks an awful lot like a doubleton. It could be a singleton but I’ll worry about that possibility after I’ve found a way to make it when it’s doubleton. Everything will be easy if i can pick up trumps for no loss, if thats the case though I’ll be losing to all those making an extra ten points in NT. At the table however I looked no further than thi. I choose to play RHO for the Q as I would still have chances of a trump coup if he had four hearts. with that in mind I played the Queen covered by the King and won with the Ace crossed to the A and took the losing finesse leaving the contract no chance.

What I should have done was think a little bit more! I thinka better plan is to play for an elopement with my small trumps. Having won the A in hand at trick one I should assume the lead to be doubleton and cross to the J and play a third round throwing a diamond to prevent an over ruff. Whatever the opponents now do I simply finesse LHO for the Q creating two entries to dummy to ruff two diamonds.

Yes I still have to rely on the Q being in the right hand, but this time I’m out scoring the 1NT’ers who are probably cashing the A and then finessing (picking up a singleton queen).

Notice however it was a defencive error that lead to the chance to take this line. If the Queen isn’t covered trick one I never have enough entries and have to play my original line. Does that mean that RHO should cover when holding the Q and duck when not? That hurts my brain.

The full hand was:

Dealer: North

Vul: Both

North

QJ943

A9

Q64

986

West

72

Q764

AJ932

QT

East

KT86

52

K87

KJ53

South

A5

KJT86

T5

A742

We now move on to a hand played in a later round. As dealer, NV against V, I held

AT976

J

QJT9

AT3

and opened 1. LHO overcalls 1NT (16-18) and after a stayman enquiry, overcaller showing 4 spades (don’t ask), they end in 3NT. Partner lead the 3 and dummy tables the following interesting collection.

Dummy

2

A6432

A72

J976

As you can probably tell, our opponents this hand were not the greatest, but they seem to have ended somewhere reasonable. The question is though, how do you defend?

Knowing my partner has at most three HCP and three spades I started thinking. How can I defeat the contract? There seemed to me to be two main options. Firstly to continue attacking spades, and second to switch to a diamond. Even if partner held exactly K83 – a long shot at best – a spade continuation wouldn’t work. If partner held the K however a diamond switch would be necessary. With that in mind I took my Ace and switched. Needless to say partner didn’t hold the King and the contract made.

This was the full hand:

Dealer: East

Vul: N/S

North

2

A6432

A72

J976

West

J83

QT98

654

542

East

AT976

J

QJT9

AT3

South

KQ54

K75

K83

KQ8

As you can see my line of defence allows declarer to win and play on clubs for the contract (thanks to the 3-3 break). If I instead go passive and play the 9 Declarers job is a lot harder. His best try is to win and try setting up hearts. When you take the first two rounds with the Ace and King discovering the 4-1 break you have one small hope left. You force out the club Ace and win the diamond return, reaching an endposition something like this:

Dealer: East

Vul: N/S

North

643

7

West

Immaterial

East

AT

QJ

South

Q54

8

Now, whichever hand your in, you lead a diamond, and because of the fact East holds precisely QJT9 he has to win and give you a trick with the Q. I think you’ll agree this would be hard to find at the table. Should I have ducked? Or was I right to try the diamond switch?

The final hand of this post was the final hand of our evening. Mungo and I were dealt the following:

Me

AJ

KQJT872

AT74

Mungo

AKT7532

KQT

A53

A quick count of tricks will tell you that 7NT is on ice, would you get there?

Our auction was as follows:

West North East South
Pass
1 Pass 1 Pass
3 Pass 4 Pass
4 Pass 4 Pass
5 Pass 7 Pass
Pass Pass

Everything in the first two rounds of bidding was natural. 4 and 4 were both Italian style cuebids as was 5 though that showed an odd number of key cards by skipping 4NT. Partner then knows enough to bid 7. But how do we get to 7NT? Agreed 7 is a good contract, but this is pairs so clearly we want to get to 7NT when we have 13 top tricks. Mungo doesn’t quite know enough, I could have a six card diamond suit, in which case we need a club ruff for 13 tricks. Even if he continues to cuebid, how can he find out about the seventh diamond? He could have diagnosed 7NT if I held the K, but I don’t. It seems very difficult to find out unless your playing some sort of relay system. Thoughts?

Some Thoughts on Bidding 1

Having recently started a new partnership I’ve been spending an unduly large amount of time thinking about bidding methods the last month or so. When Mungo and I first played together before christmas we didn’t really agree to much, only that eventually we’d like to sit down and discuss what we think we should play and that in the meantime we’ll play a relatively simple system (emphasis on relatively).

So we’ve sat down several times now and discussed each of our styles and our own thoughts on what constitutes a good bidding system. Mungo is very keen to play some sort of strong club system as that is what he played with his old partner. I don’t particularly mind what I play and am happy to oblige, however I have never played a serious strong club system, or to put it more acurately I have never played a strong club system seriously, mostly because I’ve been unable to find a willing partner!

I am trying to approach constructing a bidding system from a blank slate, without some preconceived ideas influencing my thoughts (alot easier said than done!). With that in mind the first thing to ask is what I want from my system, what are important things to consider when building a system?

I’ve been thinking about this this in a slightly different way, I think people obsess over the bidding and ignore the actual hands they are bidding! This tends to lead to very restrictive systems where your bids are almost chosen for you. I’ve tried to reverse this and ask how do the hands want to be bid?

The first hand types I thought about are big two suiters, opening these a strong 1 feels really wrong to me. Don’t get me wrong this could work really well if the opponents leave you alone but so does pretty much anything! These hands want to show their suits and they also have the property that a fit in either of the two suits massively improves the hands playing strength, so if we raise agressively then we can get away with just bidding our suits as if we have no fit then we won’t be missing anything.

This fits in well with a second hand type, weak unbalanced opening hands. How do these hands want to be bid? Well what can we expect from the auction? I expect that the opponents are likely to bid so I want to take up a fair amount of space to make it dangerous for our opponents to come in.

AJT5

7

KQJ74

K85

Take a hand like the above. Opening 1 will almost always lead to the opponents bidding hearts, say something like

West North East South
1 1 1 2
2

Whatever happens next the opponents are in a reasonable competitive position, they know they have a fit and can take competitive decisions accordingly. Open the hand 1 and North might not be able to bid 2 and even if North can, they can only find out about a fit at the 3 level, and if partner will raise to 2 on Hxx and little else this will put South in a horrible position

West North East South
1 pass 2 ?

When E-W can hold nothing more than a good 4-3 fit and N-S could still potentially have enough for game it makes Souths life pretty difficult. As is well known, the spade suit is all powerful in competitive auctions so why not use that principle when our hand indicates the auction will be competitive? I think these sorts of hands want to be opened the highest ranking suit they would welcome a raise on Hxx and out in. So something like

T642

7

AKQ74

AJT

might still want to be opened 1 as we really do not want a raise on Hxx opposite. Precisely where the line is between opening 1 and 1 isn’t clear but it’s good to have options holding something like

K942

7

KQJ74

AJT

Yes this does put quite alot of strain on 1 but it’s just something I’ve been wondering about. Is this kind of flexibility possible? is the strian to much? Do we lose more than we gain concealing the diamonds if partner doesn’t have a fit? Perhaps we might also unexpectedly gain by putting the opponents off when partner has very few spades? what other possible problems are there?

A Bridge App

Hey all,

Just a quick post about an iPhone app I’ve come across.

I periodically search Apple’s App Store for bridge related apps and until recently the only apps I have found have been, well, not that great. They usually have a badly designed interface and are fairly buggy. Being able to acurately choose from 13 cards on such a small screen is a difficult problem to solve. The guys at GOTO Games seem to have solved this problem really well in their FunBridge app. You choose the suit you want to play firstly and the app then displays the cards in your hand of that suit. This really helps aviod the problem of choosing the wrong card because it’s too small to acurately tap it.

As you can probably tell I really like the interface and think the developers have done a really good job with that. The app currently only allows you to play with a computer partner and opponents, and to save space it actually does the processing on one of their servers which means you need an internet connection to play. As you can imagine the computer isn’t that good, it makes some, shall we say, interesting decisions particularly in the bidding and defence, but then, other than Chthonic, I’ve not heard of a good computer bridge player.

In spite of it’s flaws, I’ve found myself playing this quite alot, when I’ve had a couple of minutes to burn I just play a couple of hands on my phone, and if the developers keep working out the bugs this could become great!

Hello World

Having spent the last week or so becoming accustomed to WordPress I thought it was time to actually sit down and write my first blog.

First things first, I’m Stuart King, a PhD student in Mathematics at the University of Bristol. I learnt to play bridge a little over 5 years ago when I was an undergraduate at the same institution. I have been devoid of a regular partner since James Boulton – with whom I learnt the game – moved to the North of Scotland a little over 2 years ago. Since then I’ve been playing bridge semi-regularly with a lot of different partners.

This September, however, has seen somewhat of a revival of the university club. Where last year we struggled to get a four together this year we regularly get 3 tables attending our Monday evening teaching session. As such I have started a new serious partnership with Mungo Jackson, we’ve only played together a few times but we seem to gel resonably well.

My blog is going to be me rambling about whatever bridge related things I happen upon, I imagine that will mostly be interesting hands that come up (and usually how I butchered them!) and the evolution of my new partnership and our bidding methods.

I’ll end this post with a hand that came up a little before Christmas, it was one of the first times Mungo and I had played together at the local club. We hadn’t really had much a system discussion, we were playing some flavour of SAYC when I picked up this lovely hand as East, third in, game all:

4

KJT832

AQT742

Partner, helpful as always, opens the expected 1♠. My 2 prompted the equally obvious 2 rebid from partner. Having already decided on my plan of bid diamonds then clubs over and over until P gets the message, I plodded on with 3, forcing to game. 3 showed 5-5 in the majors, and as per the plan I continued with clubs. Partner then bid 4NT. What does this mean? Well it certainly wasn’t RKCB, as one of our few agreements was that we only played Blackwood if we had explicitly agreed a suit beforehand. I guess it was an attempt to play but I saw no reason to stray from The Plan and bid clubs yet again. Partner, after a short think raising to 6! This was the bidding;

West North East South
1 Pass 2 Pass
2 Pass 3 Pass
3 Pass 4 Pass
4NT Pass 5 Pass
6 Pass Pass Pass

Firstly was my plan the right thing? What would you have done? Secondly what do you expect (hope) partner holds?

It turns out Partner did get the message and was holding about as perfect a hand as you could imagine for the bidding:

KQ863

QT963

A

KJ

Do you agree with Mungo’s bidding? I really like the 4NT, it must show cards in my suits, I don’t like my 5, I really should realise whats going on and bid 6.

The play wasn’t quite so interesting. After receiving a non-trump lead I set about ruffing two diamonds in Dummy and claimed shortly after the queen dropped on the second round of the suit and I discovered trumps weren’t 5-0.

Needless to say this was a good score for us, but do we really belong in 6? On a trump lead I need diamonds 3-3 or the queen to drop,  which is it a little over 50%, so I think that we do.

What do you think?