Stuart King

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?


4 Comments

Jeff LehmanNovember 3rd, 2011 at 7:12 pm

I enjoyed the hands, and hope that you begin to blog more frequently.

The views of a non-expert:

On the hand played in 2H, seems reflexive for third hand to duck the play of the SQ, in order to retain the KT tenace over the remaining SJ. As declarer, I am sure I would start hearts with the ace and a finesse. Should I find queen fourth in the slot, I have chances of still making five trump tricks, whereas that result seems less likely should queen fourth be before the doubleton heart holding.

I would not worry about alternative contracts: with most pairs playing 1NT forcing without Kaplan Inversion, I think my contract is normal.

On the hand defending 3NT, I do think that withholding the SA at Trick 1 seems to be the more highly indicated defense. Not being convinced that declarer has nine tricks yet established, and considering the high possibility of his holding the SKQ, I would be reluctant to play the ace on possible air to establish a second spade trick for declarer. Somewhat of a similar theme to the first hand, in the desire to keep a possible tenace position in spades, making declarer’s play of the spade suit unattractive.

On the grand slam hand, I would be thrilled to reach 7D. I have convinced myself that I might reach that contract in my most sophisticated partnership … but I might be self-deluding. Well done by your partnership!

Stuart KingNovember 10th, 2011 at 11:39 am

Hi Jeff,

I agree with you that it seems correct to duck there, but as I said the field was quite mixed. With the duck the way I played the hand is basically the only chance, I guess what I was mostly unhappy about was that I didn’t realise the consequences of the mistake and consider the second line at the table.

I think your right about not worrying about people in 1NT. Good on them for getting there! Playing in the UK, with Acol predominant, the usual auction is probably leading people to the same contract. I guess it’s actually quite difficult to stop in 1NT on those cards.

On defending 3NT, having thought about it more I definitely agree with you. I should work out that partner all but certainly has hearts stopped (with the terrible heart pips in Dummy and Declarer having denied 4 hearts he has to hold precisely KQT for him not too), and so even if partner has the DK it probably isn’t vital to switch to it!

Thanks for your thoghts and comments,

Stuart

Matt BlakeleyNovember 5th, 2011 at 3:08 am

Thanks, it was a nice read.

On the last board, what was your percentage score for the hand ? In a mixed quality field, I’d expect any grand slam to score well…

One route to 7NT may be via Exclusion Blackwood ?

1D – 1S

3D – 5C

5NT* – 7D

7NT

*2 key cards plus trump queen, excluding AC.

West with a 7th diamond and heart ace can bid 7NT now. Easy looking at both hands of course…

Stuart KingNovember 10th, 2011 at 12:06 pm

Hi Matt,

Our score on the last board was an out right top, nobody else had bidd the slam. Looking at the travellers online all the other pairs I would have expected to reach the grand were sitting the other direction!

In this particular partnership we currently don’t play any form of Blackwood (or, *shudder*, gerber…). Mostly because we wanted to play Turbo 4NT and so to avoid confusion initially we play no Blackwood at all. We’re actually thinking about adding it in a few situations but we are both quite busy right now and can’t seem to find an afternoon/evening to meet up and discuss it!

Thanks for your thoughts and comments,

Stuart.

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