Saturday, July 28, 2012

Reverse by Responder

Most good players play that when opening bidder "reverses," it shows 17 HCP and is forcing for one round. A reverse occurs when the opening bidder bids an unbid higher ranking suit at the two level than she bid at the one level, like opening 1 club and then bidding 2 hearts at her second bidding opportunity. If she opens 1 heart and then bids 2 clubs at the two level at her second bidding opportunity, it is not a reverse. But what does a reverse by responder show? Here's a hand that occurred recently:

Dealer East. Nobody vulnerable.

                        ♠ AK73
                        ♥ KJT52
                        ♦ QJ53
                        ♣ Void

West                                        East
♠ J96                                       ♠ 854
♥ Q7                                        ♥ A83
♦ AKT842                                 ♦ 96
♣ 32                                        ♣ JT764

                        ♠ QT2
                        ♥ 964
                        ♦ 7
                        ♣ AKQ985


West                North               East     South
                                              P          1C
1D                   1H                    P          2C
P                     2N                    P          3N
P                     P                      P

Opening Lead: 9D

Bidding: South has a decision. Should this be opened 1C or 3C? She only has 11 HCP, but she's got a terrific six card suit. If all she had were 6 clubs headed by the AKQ, she could open this 3C, but there are two things that argue against this. The first is that the queen of spades gives her 11 HCP, which is too many points to preempt, especially when you are in second seat and are preempting your partner. Second, she has not one, but two three card majors. Many players don't like to preempt in a minor when they hold a three card major because it makes it hard, certainly improbable, to find a 5-3 fit in that major if partner has five of them. Here, since she has three cards in both majors, it argues against a preempt, so she opened 1C.
North properly bids her 5 card heart suit. South rebids her clubs. This yells at partner, "I have a weak hand whose only feature is clubs." Here's where North misbid. First, she must understand that a negative double by her (instead of bidding 1 heart) would promise two four-card majors. Over 1C-1D overcall, a 1 heart response could show only four hearts because she could have, for instance, four hearts and two spades. In this instance, she cannot make a negative double, so when she bids 1 heart, South doesn't yet know whether she has four hearts or five or more hearts. So she has to make another bid to show that she has five hearts.
Not understanding the rules about reverses, she bids 2N. How wrong is this? Let me count the ways. First, it tells South that she has 3 clubs, implies that she has all the unbid suits stopped, and is asking if south's club suit is really good to go to 3N because they should have six club tricks.  Second, she's void in partner's strong suit. That's a huge weakness in no trump. For one thing she might not ever be able to get to dummy's long suit. Secondly, almost certainly she won't get six, or even five, tricks in the long suit. Third, when responder bids 2N in her second response to an opening bid of one of a suit shows 11-12 HCP, so this is a big underbid since she actually has 14 HCP. Fourth, she didn't show her five card suit. Her bid only promises four hearts, so how is her partner to know she actually has a five card heart suit?
What makes this bidding so bad is that she had two tailor-made bids. The first is 2D, which is called "new minor forcing," and shows five cards in the major suit she bid, hearts and a minimum of 9-10 HCP. It says nothing about the diamond suit.
The second bid she has is to reverse into 2 spades, since she has four of them. This is the preferable bid because it shows her strength. New minor forcing only shows a minimum of 10 HCP. A reverse by responder shows a full opening hand. The rules for responder to reverse are lighter than for opener. If responder reverses, it only shows an opening hand. Here, responder has a good 14 HCP and four spades. She should reverse and bid 2S, which shows partner a game-going hand and five hearts.
No matter which route she takes, New Minor Forcing or a reverse, both show 5 hearts, allowing south to support her by bidding 3H, thereby showing 3 hearts in her hand, and North can go to game in hearts, which makes. 3N can make, too, but it has to be carefully played. Still, with two distributional hands (North has a void and south has a singleton), this hand should be played in a suit, hearts.
Here's how the bidding should have gone:

West                North               East     South
                                               P       1C
1D                    1H                    P       2C
P                      2S                    P       3H
P                      4H                    P       P

Sunday, July 22, 2012

To Pull or Not to Pull, That is the Question

One of the first and most basic rules of bridge is when you are declarer, "pull Trump as soon as possible." There are times, however, when you should not pull trump when playing the hand. Look at the following hand:

North Dealer
EW Vulnerable
                        ♠ A
                        ♥ 652
                        ♦ Q86432
                        ♣ 652

West                                        East
♠ K7                                        ♠ T98642
♥ 9874                                     ♥ AK
♦ 9                                           ♦ AJ5
♣ AKJT43                                  ♣ 98

                        ♠ QJ53
                        ♥ QJT3
                        ♦ KT7
                        ♣ Q7


West         North          East     South
                 P               1S        P
2C             P               2S        P
3H             P               3N        P
4S             P               P          P

Opening lead: KD

Bidding Commentary: You don't like to open a hand in a major suit lacking the top four cards in the suit, but, on the other hand, East has a 6 card major and 12 HCP. It's hard not to open that hand, so East opened 1S.

West's 2C bid showed at least 5 Clubs and 10 points. East's only call is to rebid his 6 card suit. West's second response of 3H normally shows hearts stopped, denies support in East's suit and asks East to go to 3N with diamonds stopped, which East did. West then correctly went to 4S since she did have two spades and did not have hearts stopped. East should have bid 3S after west showed he had 6 spades and a minimum hand. Had she done so. West would pass with a minimum hand and realizing that East probably didn't have 3 card support.

Play Commentary: South's lead of the King of diamonds was unorthodox without also having the Queen. East took the Ace of diamonds. If he pulls trump immediately, he is pretty much assured of losing three trump plus two diamonds. He has to ruff his two losing diamonds before pulling trump, utilizing the two trump on the board to trump diamonds, even though one of them is the king. (I have to digress here a bit. As the cards lie, the queen of diamonds is onside, so if North gets in, she will probably take it, making East's Jack good, holding the diamond loss to one, for down one. However, declarer has no reason to believe that South's opening lead wasn't a normal lead of top connecting honors. Who would lead a bare king? So declarer will play the hand thinking that the queen is on his left and thinking he has two sure diamond losers unless he ruffs them.)

When you are setting up a cross ruff, you should take your winning tricks immediately. Since you are leaving trump in the hands of your opponents, you don't want them sluffing cards in the suits in which you have winning cards while you are cross ruffing, and ruffing in when you try to take them. As you ruff, one of the opponents will run out of the suit and can get rid of cards in the suit you want to win with your aces and kings. So after East ruffs the 7 of diamonds on the board, he gets back to his hand with the king of hearts, ruffs the last diamond with the king on the board and gets back to his hand with the Ace of hearts.

Still avoiding trump, he plays to the Ace and King of Clubs, thereby taking all his winning tricks outside of the trump suit. At this point he has taken the Ace of diamonds, AK of Hearts, AK of Clubs (seeing the Queen fall from his LHO) and ruffed two diamonds on the board, so he has taken 7 tricks. He knows that South is out of clubs, so he ruffs a Heart for his eighth trick, breathing easier to discover that hearts broke. Now he's got 8 tricks. He needs two more and here's the final layout:

                        ♠ A
                        ♦ Q86
                        ♣ 6

West                                        East
♠                                              ♠ T9864
♥ 9                                           ♥
♦                                              ♦
♣ JT43                                      ♣

                        ♠ QJ53
                        ♥ Q

Now he can pull trump (having no choice since that's all he has in his hand), and leads the Ten. South plays low and North takes her singleton Ace. North leads the Queen of diamonds. East must trump with the six because he can't afford for South to win anything but the Queen or Jack. South takes the Jack and leads the Queen of hearts, allowing East to trump with the four, leaving him with the 9 and 8 of spades to South's Queen and five. East takes the last trick for his 10th, making the contract.

If East tries to pull trump before taking all his sure tricks and getting his two diamond ruffs, he will be down at least 1 and maybe 2.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

How to bid in the direct seat over a weak 2

There's a lot in this column, so bear with me.
Your RHO opens 2 Spades. Here's your hand:
What's your call? Many experienced players, counting the points and seeing opening hand values, will take action by making a takeout double. When this occurred and the player with the actual hand doubled,  doubler's partner jumped to four diamonds (the jump showed at least 10 HCP), the only suit for which doubler did not really have support, so he passed. Here's the entire layout:


West                           East
K972                        Q8
KT32                        A8
Q5                            AK842
A75                          KQ32

                 South (Dealer)

EW didn't find their cold games because they didn't bid in a way that would allow them to bid over the weak 2, so the weak 2 did what it was created to do, squeezed the bidding range so opponents failed to communicate. There are many different methods of bidding in the direct seat over a weak 2, so I'm going to tell you the one I use and I think it's the best.
The key is that if your RHO opens a weak 2, you only make a call if you have extra values, which means at least 15 HCP. With less, like with a typical opening hand with 12-14 HCP, you pass.
This means that if the weak two opening is passed around to 4th seat, the player in the 4th seat must make some kind of call with at least 10 HCP. With 9 HCP or less, she passes. With 10 HCP she must take action to protect partner who may have passed a minimum opening hand.
So here, after South opens 2S, West must pass with his 12 HCP. Here's how the bidding should go:
West          North         East  South
P               P               Dbl    P
3H             P               4D*   P
5D             P               P       P
* at least 17 HCP
I have to digress here to discuss takeout doubles. Generally, if a player doubles an opponent's opening bid, she promises either 1) one unbid four card major with shape or near opening values and support for all three unbid suits, or 2) a big hand if she doubles and then bids her own suit. So an auction of 1H-Dbl-P-2C-P-2D would mean that the doubler had at least a five card diamond suit and at least 17 HCP.
But savvy players today play that a double in this instance and then a bid of new suit shows one of two hands, either the big hand referenced above, or a simple opening hand with one four card major and a five card minor. If partner bids the four card major, doubler will either pass or support the major, depending on the strength of his hand. If doubler bids a new minor suit, he's promising no more than an opening hand with five cards in the suit he bids.

The point of the double is to discover whether or not partner has the same four card major that doubler has. If he doesn't, then doubler bids his five card minor. He could still have the big hand, but he might not. You won't know unless you continue bidding. However, this bid does not absolutely promise at least 17 HCP.
In this hand, East's double of the major suit opening of 2S, and subsequent bid of her own suit after partner bid the other major, hearts, showed a hand of at least 17 HCP, so West, with at least 29 HCP points between them (his 12 and partner's 17), can go to 5D with only two diamonds, since one of them is the all-important queen.
What if the East and West hands had been reversed with West holding the 18 HCP hand:


West                           East
Q8                            K972
A8                            KT32
AK842                       Q5
KQ32                        A75

                 South (Dealer)

West          North         East  South
3D             P               3N     P
P               P              

West would bid 3D over South's weak 2S opening bid, showing extra values. Since East knows that West is showing extra values, and since East has four cards in South's suit, including the King, it's pretty much a no-brainer to bid 3N, since you have at least 27 HCP between you (West's minimum of 15 and your 12). This is the great value of only bidding in the direct seat if you have extra values.
Assuming South leads the Jack of Spades, Declarer takes it with the Queen in dummy. Declarer knows that his RHO is out of spades at this point because if South had six to make her weak 2, Declarer and dummy have six between them, leaving only one in North's hand, so she need not worry about losing a trick to North and having a spade led back through her King. She tries the diamonds and finds that North has four diamonds, so she leads the AKQ and then throws North in with a diamond, setting up her fifth diamond in dummy. Clubs split, so she gets four clubs, four diamonds, two hearts and one spade, making five.
Either way, this hand must be in game and using this technique ensures game being bid. One important proviso. This is a special method of dealing with this problem and you must have a clear understanding between you and your partner. It won't work if one person isn't playing the same system.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Re-evaluating your hand due to bidding

Here's your hand, sitting West as dealer

♠ Q9653
♥ 942
♦ 5432
♣ 7

Here's the auction
West                North               East     South
P                      2D*                 2H       3D
* Weak

You've got 2 HCP, not a quick trick in sight. What do you do? The first thing is to think about the auction. North opened 2 Diamonds, so probably has six Diamonds. Your partner made a free bid over a weak two, which should show extra values. South made a simple raise to 3D, so probably has 3 diamonds. Your hand is looking much better. Because of your 4 small diamonds if North has 6 and South has 3, you know that your partner is almost certainly void in diamonds so will have no diamond losers. She will probably get a diamond lead, so will take the first trick. Your singleton club probably promises only one club loser (assuming opponents don't lead a trump). So she's got a great cross-ruff, utilizing your three small trump to ruff her club losers. She has to have values to make her bid. Given all that, your hand is worth a raise to 3 Hearts just to show her that you have three hearts.

Here's the entire layout:

                        ♠ A84
                        ♥ T7
                        ♦ KQJ876
                        ♣ 65

West                                        East
♠ Q9653                                   ♠ KT
♥ 942                                       ♥ KQJ53
♦ 5432                                     ♦ Void
♣ 7                                          ♣ KQJ843

                        ♠ J72
                        ♥ A86
                        ♦ AJ53
                        ♣ AT92

Here's the auction:

West                North               East     South
P                      2D*                 2H       3D
3H                     P                    4H       Dbl
P                       P                     P         
* weak
Opening lead Ace of Diamonds.

East trumped the Ace of diamonds, and led the King of Clubs, which South took. You have to get rid of the Ace of clubs before you pull trump. South took the Ace and, seeing the board now void in clubs and three small trump, led the ace of trump and a small trump, trying to cut down dummy's ruffing power. East then ruffed a small club, led to the King of Spades, pulled trump and ran the Clubs, surrendering a spade at the end, making 4 doubled. This was a team game and at the other table, NS was in 3 no trump, making 9 tricks off the top.

Bidding commentary: North's bid of a weak 2 is questionable because she's got an outside Ace. It's generally a bad idea to open a weak 2 with an outside Ace. When you open a weak 2, most of your HCP should be in your suit. An outside Ace gives you better defensive values than partner might anticipate. Because she has a six card suit, this hand could be opened 1D, due to the two doubletons, the strong diamond suit and the outside ace. However, even with a 2 diamond opening 3 no trump can still be reached. Since South knows North has six diamonds, he also knows they have six diamond tricks off the top since he has 4 diamonds to the ace jack. All he needs is to know about spades, so he should bid 2N, asking for a feature. When North answers 3S, showing the ace or king of spades, South can easily bid 3N. Regardless, the key to the hand is West's bid of 3H. No matter what NS have, East should always go to 4H after West's free bid.

Normally, you should bid your longest suit first, but here East was right to overcall Hearts, looking for a major suit fit. She can always bid her Clubs later, although if she overcalls 3 Clubs first and south bids 3D, West will pass with a singleton in her club suit, as will North. If East then bids 3H, West is unlikely to go to four.

Play commentary. 4H cannot be beaten as long as East trumps a club after getting rid of the Ace before pulling trump. If she doesn't trump a club, South's Ten will hold up and keep East from running the Clubs, which she must do to make the contract. If NS is in 3N, it is cold, running 9 tricks off the top, 6 diamonds and the other three aces.