Monday, November 21, 2011

Planning the Play at the Outset

Today's hand deals with planning at the outset. Here's your hand, sitting West:


Here's the auction:

West          North         East  South
                                  P       P
4H             Dbl             P       P
Opening lead: Ace of Spades

The dummy comes down and here are your two hands:

West                   East
3                      652
QJT98654          A32
A7                    Q54
A3                   9842

Before you play you must analyze your cards. How are you going to make this hand? It looks as if you must lose four tricks, one Spade, one Diamond, and one Club. And since South sat for the double, she probably has the King of trump. There's no way to finesse it, so you have to lose that, too. How can you make it?

The answer is that you must play North for the King of Diamonds, and you must set it up before drawing trump. Why? Two reasons. You have to lose a Club and you need to keep the Ace before you set up a way to get rid of your three of clubs. The second reason is that if you lead to the Ace of Hearts immediately, you have no entry to the board, which is where you are hoping to get a trick if you can set up the Queen of Diamonds.

So you trump the second spade in your hand and lead immediately to your Queen of diamonds on the board. If South has the King, which is unlikely since North doubled, showing the good hand, you are toast. But if North goes up and takes the King, no matter what North leads back, you can make the hand. If he leads a Club, you take the Ace, take the Ace of Diamonds in your hand. Lead to the Ace of Hearts. Play the Queen of Diamonds and sluff your three of Clubs. You lose the King of Hearts, but you only lost three tricks, making four, doubled.

Here's the four hand layout:


West                           East
3                              652
QJT98654                  A32
A7                            Q54
A3                           9842


I'll close with a bidding commentary. When a player opens 4 hearts, a double by an opponent is for takeout. If a player opens 4 Spades, a double is penalty. If an opponent wants to make a takeout bid over a 4 Spade opener, he bids 4 NT. That asks partner to bid her longest suit. Here, after the hand was played, South asked me if she was correct to sit for the double and I explained her partner was asking her to bid. What should she have bid? Although a double often asks for the longest suit, it also generally implies four cards in the unbid major, so I would bid 4 Spades with her hand, even though she has 5 Clubs. If Partner doesn't have 4 spades, she will correct to her long suit. Here, NS is cold for 4 Spades. Actually they can make an overtrick, losing only the two minor suit Aces if they play the Diamonds correctly.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Managing transportation when playing No Trump

Playing and defending no trump is the most challenging part of bridge. It requires planning and doing things that are sometimes counter-intuitive. Here's today's hand:

 Dealer: East


South   West    North   East
P          1S        P          2H
P          2N        P          3N
P          P          P

Opening lead: 3C

First the bidding: When East reverses (bidding a higher ranking suit at the two level than the suit with which you opened the bidding at the one level; a "reverse" promises at least 17 HCP and is forcing for one round) by bidding two Hearts after her one Diamond opener, West is forced to bid again, so chooses the weakest response possible, considering that he has the unbid suit, Clubs, stopped. East likes her hand and raises to game.

Superficially, it looks like you can take three spade tricks, two or three diamonds, and a heart or two, plus one Club. But closer inspection shows that this is all dependent on transportation. You have to get rid of the Ace of Spades on the board before you take your King and Queen in your hand. Plus you have to take two diamond finesses for this to work. But your hand is woefully weak and the singleton Ace of Spades doesn't help transportation since your only real entries are spades. How are you going to get to your hand enough times to accomplish all this?

You take the first trick in your hand with the Club Jack. Then you take your first diamond finesse. If the honors are split, you can take three diamonds. When South wins the Queen of diamonds, she returns a spade to the board's singleton Ace. You now have to play South for the Ace and Jack of Hearts to get back to your hand. So you lead the Heart 6 to your Ten. South takes her Jack. Recognizing the transportation problems and wanting to keep the lead on the board, South takes her Ace of Hearts, figuring she'd then put the lead  back on the board (that would leave the KQ of Hearts on the board) and you'd be stuck with no way to get to your hand to take your two spades and the second diamond finesse.

Here is the key to the hand. You discard your King of Hearts on her Ace, so when she leads another heart, you are able to take the trick in your hand with your Heart Ten. Since you discarded your King from the board, you have the eight to play from the board to take the trick with the Ten in your hand (if you had discarded the eight on her lead of the Ace, you are left with just the King and the Queen on the board and you're blocked from returning the lead to your hand). That allows you to take the two spade tricks in your hand and the second diamond finesse, which works, and the King falls when you play the Ace, the diamonds splitting favorably, giving you your three diamond tricks. So you end up taking three spades, three diamonds, two hearts and a club, making three. If you do not discard your king of hearts on her Ace, the hand can't make, assuming a reasonable defense.