Wednesday, May 25, 2011

All Red Hand

Here’s the hand I was dealt in a team game:

I was in first seat. I had a one loser hand with 16 high card points and two voids. There are three possible ways to bid this hand.

  1. Open 2 Clubs. This is a one loser hand. You will rarely see a more powerful hand. In normal bidding unless partner has a five card suit headed by 2 of the top 3 honors, she’ll respond with a 2D waiting bid. What’s your next call? Normally with a heart suit like this you would jump to 3H next, which says “hearts is trump,” asking partner to bid her aces and kings up the line. That lets out finding a diamond fit. As the cards actually lay, partner would respond 4C, showing the ace of clubs. That’s meaningless to you so you would probably close out in 4H or 6H. And that assumes no bidding by opponents.
  2. Another way to bid it is to open 1 Heart. With only 16 high card points, it’s extremely unlikely that it will be passed out. If partner has 5 points or less, that means that opponents have at least 19 HCP between them. Somebody is going to make a call. But what’s your next bid? Do you ignore your hugely strong heart suit to jump shift into diamonds? If partner has 3 diamonds and 2 hearts, she’ll support diamonds when the hand should probably be in Hearts. Do you jump to four hearts? Another downside to either 2 Clubs or 1 Heart is that it allows opponents an opportunity to find a 5-5 or better fit in the black suits. If you get into a competitive auction, they could sacrifice at 6 spades (maybe it won’t be a sacrifice; it might make) and force you to choose whether to defend with a hand that doesn’t have that much defense if they have major fits in both black suits, or go to seven, which you might not make.
  3. I didn’t want opponents to communicate, so opened 6H and it was passed out, even though opponents did have a 10 card spade fit.

Here’s the layout:

It’s cold for 6 hearts and 7 diamonds. 7 diamonds is hard to find if you open 2 Clubs. However, if you open 1 Heart it’s possible with the following bidding:

Me    Partner
1H    2C
3D    4D
4H    5D

Do you bid 7 diamonds? Partner could only have 3 diamonds without the queen, which means you have to find the queen. There’s really no way to tell that partner has 4 diamonds. One way would be to give up on hearts when you find a diamond fit and bid 4N, roman key card blackwood. No matter what partner responds (you don't care about aces or the king of trump), you bid the next higher suit, asking for the queen. If partner responds with the queen, you could then bid 7. But you still don't know that she's got four diamonds, which is important because you might have to trump out the hearts if they split 4-1, which they do. You would be in a dilemma because you would have to pull trump before running the hearts and if she only has three, you might have to play all three to pull trump and then you'd have a heart loser.

But, of course, you don’t know this when you’re in first seat and know that there’s a possibility of a huge spade or club fit for opponents. I didn’t want them to communicate, so shut them out with my 6H bid, which won the day since at the other table they opened two clubs and ended in 5 diamonds, making 7.

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Sunday, May 8, 2011

When you bid you must take into consideration how your partner will interpret it

In a recent game I, sitting West, had the following hand:

Although partner bid Clubs, and I had a doubleton, I led my Ace of Spades. I wanted to see Dummy and I wanted Partner to know I had the King of Spades. Here was Dummy:

Wow. I’m thinking my partner is sitting behind North with the AQ of Clubs. Why else would she take a free bid at the three level when she couldn’t open? She’s telling me what to lead when I get in, and she probably has six clubs and will not mind playing the contract in three clubs if she gets the bid. When I lead my Ace of Spades, she plays the Queen. This cannot be a singleton because if it were, it would mean that opponents held 8 spades between them. Since dummy only has 3 spades, if partner’s Queen were to be a singleton, it would mark opener with 5 spades. Clearly, from the bidding, that was highly unlikely, so partner was initiating a high – low discard to show a doubleton. Declarer must hold four spades. So the question was, should I lead the King and then give partner a ruff?

Since she bid Clubs freely at the three level, what is she telling me with her club bid? When I see the KJ on the board, the only conclusion I could draw was that she had to have the AQ. Otherwise, why bid Clubs? I wanted to maximize our tricks. If I give her a ruff right off the bat, she doesn’t have a lead back since if she sets up their diamonds, our club tricks will go away as declarer sloughs the clubs in her hand on her diamonds. If she takes her ace of clubs it makes the King on the board a trick. So to lead my King of Spades and then another spade for her to ruff at this point would be to end play my partner. The only lead is to switch to a club immediately, let her take her ace and queen and get back to me with her last spade to my King to give her a ruff. That would give us the first five tricks.

So I led a Club and the trick was won on the board with Dummy’s jack! I was stunned. This was my partner’s hand:

When you bid, you must realize that your partner is going to hear you. My partner did not have a bid with this hand. She only had one trick. Her club suit was horrible. If I’m on lead, unless I have a better lead in my hand (which I did), I’m probably going to lead it. What’s the point of bidding Clubs? It doesn’t describe her hand and it misleads her partner. She’s not in the passout seat, so she’s not balancing. Opponents could be moving on to game or slam. This isn’t a good enough hand to open. It’s not a hand to preempt in first seat, and it’s not a hand to overcall. It’s as weak an 11 HCP hand that you will ever see.

Because I listened to her overcall and didn’t give her a ruff, we only took our two aces and my king, so they made four. Had she kept quiet and passed, we would have taken the extra trick, because I would have had no reason to switch to Clubs and I would have given her her ruff, which is what everyone else who played the hand did.

The moral is; don’t bid unilaterally, especially in a situation like this when you are interfering in what is basically a noncompetitive auction. Your partner is listening to you. Before you make a bid, think of the conclusion your partner will draw from your bid. If it’s not the one you want, don’t make the bid.

For my next column I will be discussing the following hand I opened sitting first seat nobody vulnerable:

How do you bid this hand? Give me progressions of the anticipated bidding to the final contract. You don’t know the other hands, so you have to plan this before you make your first bid. Please answer by blogging in this blog.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

How to make a contract when it appears you have too many losers

Can you make 4 spades here?

Opening lead KD

I had this hand in a club game several years ago. After I made four spades, my opponent, a lady who was an experienced, accomplished player, asked what they did wrong since I was the only one to make four spades. I told her that as the cards lay it could not be beaten if it's played correctly. Although this seemed an easy hand to me, it was clear that to the majority of players in that game, it was not.

When you are playing in a no trump contract, the first thing you do is count your winners and then try to figure out where you’re going to get the tricks you need to make your contract.

In a suit contract, on the other hand, the first thing you do is to count your losers. If you have too many losers to make your contract, you have to figure out where you’re going to be able to get rid of a loser before your opponents take it. Here it looks as if you'll lose one card in each suit.  How can you lose only three tricks, making 4?  You should be able to see it immediately.

Give up?  Win the first trick with the ace of diamonds and force out the Ace of spades because you must keep control of the lead after you lose the ace of spades.  Do whatever you need to draw trump. 

After you lose the ace of spades, you then lose the diamond.  It still looks like you're going to lose a club and a heart.

You start with the clubs.  Play the king, then lead low to dummy. Play low from dummy.  They will get in and lead a heart, which you win.  Then you play to dummy's ace of clubs.  If clubs split 3-3, you can throw your losing heart in your hand on the last club, allowing you to trump the third heart still on the board.  If clubs don't split 3-3, you have to lose a heart in addition to the three you’ve already lost.

The lesson here is to count your losers, 4, which is one short of the 3 tricks you can lose and still make your contract, and then visualize the best way to get rid of one of those losers, allowing you to take an extra trick with this hand at the first trick. The four clubs on the board and three in your hand should shout at you that if they split 3-3, that’s your ticket home.