Monday, November 26, 2012

What to Lead?

What to Lead?
Here's your hand as West and dummy's which is your LHO:
West                North               East     South
                        1D                   P          1H
P                      1S                    P          2C
P                      2D                   P           2N
P                      3N                   P           P

                        ♠ AQ63
                        ♥ A
                        ♦ AJT942
                        ♣ 53

♠ T852                                   
♥ QT54                                  
♣ Q953                                    

You lead the club 3, partner plays the king and declarer plays low. Partner returns the club 4 and declarer takes the Ace. Declarer leads a low heart to the ace and a low diamond back to her King, and follows with the 3 of diamonds, losing the finesse to your partner's Queen and partner returns the Jack of Clubs which you overtake with your Queen and take the 9 as the ten fell from declarer's hand on the lead of the jack. Now, here's what's facing you: 

                        ♠ AQ6
                        ♦ AJT9
♠ T85                                     
♥ QT54                                  

You can lead either a spade or a heart. You've got your book, so all you need is one more trick to set the contract. What do you lead? You look at the board and realize that all four diamonds are good. If declarer has the king of spades, the hand is over if you lead a spade. But who has the king of spades? Maybe declarer has both the king of spades and the king of hearts. If so, the hand is over anyway. But if declarer has the king of hearts and not the king of spades, you can only set the contract if you lead a spade.

You shouldn't be tempted to lead through the void because declarer's first call was hearts and her second call of 2C should promise five hearts. Also, if she bid a five card suit, you can clearly see that she lacks the AQT. Did she bid a five card suit headed by only the J empty fifth? While that's not impossible, it's implausible. Further, if she lacks both the king and the queen, would she immediately lead to the singleton ace of hearts? Unlikely because that would give you two heart tricks if you got in.

Another factor mitigating against your leading hearts is that you are undoubtedly giving her two heart tricks because you will be leading into her KJ from your queen. Since you have the queen, that gives her two tricks to take and sluff her two losing spades on. The facts that she bid hearts, that you have the queen ten, and that she immediately led to the singleton Ace all mitigate towards the conclusion that she has the king of hearts and that your partner could have the king of spades.

In the actual hand, West led a heart from her queen-ten, giving declarer two heart tricks so she could sluff the two spade losers and make the contract. Here's the four hand layout:

                        ♠ AQ63
                        ♥ A
                        ♦ AJT942
                        ♣ 53

West                                        East
♠ T852                                     ♠ KJ4
♥ QT54                                     ♥ 973
  5                                          ♦ Q87
♣ Q953                                     ♣ KJ73

                        ♠ 97
                        ♥ KJ862
                        ♦ K63
                        ♣ AT8

By leading a spade, declarer either has to finesse immediately and lose the king, or go up with the ace, run the diamonds and then lose the last two tricks. But even if she finesses and loses the king, a savvy East will take the king and immediately return a diamond, putting her back on the board so she'll still lose two spade tricks and go down 2. A heart lead makes the contract.

This isn't even a thinker. You must lead a spade. If declarer has the king, then she makes the contract. The odds that she lacks the king of hearts (along with the Ace, Queen, and Ten), the suit she bid, are slim and none. So you have little to lose by leading the spade.

Friday, November 16, 2012

How to Play Against the opening lead of a Queen in No Trump

How do you bid this hand sitting in third seat after partner opens 1C and RHO passes?


The standard response would be to bid your four card spade suit. However, there are sound reasons that mitigate against this in favor of a 1N response. That sounds like heresy to most bridge players, since they are generally trying to find a major suit fit. However, when both hands have a 4-3-3-3 distribution, it is often better to play in No Trump even though you might have a 4-4 fit in a major suit.

Another reason to bid no Trump with this hand is that you have stoppers in all four suits. If you respond one spade it's likely your partner's rebid will be one no Trump, so she will be playing the hand if you go to three no Trump, which is probably the only reasonable game contract for this since you don't have a 4-4 fit in spades. And that's what happened with this hand. This hand responded 1S, partner responded 1NT and this hand jumped to 3N, resulting in big trouble because declarer did not have diamonds stopped. If you bid No Trump, you'll be playing the contract in 3NT, your LHO will be on lead, leading into you. A diamond lead cannot hurt you. Here are the four hands:


West                           East
KJ72                         AT5
Q97                          AKT8
K98                          763
AJ5                          Q98

West          North         East  South
                                  1C      P
1S             P                1N     P
3N             P                P       P

Opening lead: QD

You are playing East in 3N. How do you play against the QD lead? Assuming opponents are playing standard leads, the Queen could be from one of two holdings: QJT(x,x) or AQJx(x). You've got three diamonds on the board. If the lead is the second holding, the King will take the trick. If it's from the first holding North has the ace and if you play the King you'll lose your stopper. What to do? 

The way this should be played is that you duck the first trick. However, when the Queen holds and South follows with the Jack, you must go up with the King. The reason is that if you duck this and South wins and was leading from AQJ he will then play the ace, capturing your King and you lose the first five tricks. However, all is not lost if you play the King on the second lead and North takes it with the ace, because the odds are that if South started with five diamonds, North only has two and will not be able to return a diamond to South's hand for her to take her remaining three tricks. So you duck the first lead and go up with the second lead, which takes the trick.

Now the hand is pretty much cold. You've lost two tricks, but you've got three hearts, two spades, and a club, along with your diamond. That's seven tricks. You can afford to lose two more. When you lead your second heart and discover that South had a singleton, you can then finesse North's Jack and take four heart tricks. You have two finesses you can try, spades and clubs. You clearly cannot take a finesse into South and take the risk that it loses, because South will then set the contract by taking the rest of his diamonds. So you take the club finesse and it loses. That gives you a second club trick. So you end up taking four hearts, at least two spades, two clubs, and a diamond, making your contract.

However, if West bids this correctly and disdains responding with her four card spade suit, responding 3N instead of 1S, the hand is much easier because the lead will be into her, with stoppers in all four suits. Also, as the hands lie, she'll get a spade lead, which will give her a third spade trick without having to take a finesse. She will never have to touch the diamonds.

Alas, there is a big problem with responding 1N instead of 1S. Partner may pass your 1N bid. So, to avoid this, since you have 13 high card points, you must just jump immediately to 3N, avoiding the possibility of partner passing out the hand when you should be in game.

So there are two lessons here:

1. If partner opens a minor suit and your distribution is 4-3-3-3 with a four card major and you have a game forcing hand with stoppers and all suits, bypass your four card major and respond 3N.

2. When declaring in No Trump, if the opening lead is a Queen through Kxx on the board, duck the first round and go up with the King on the second lead of the Jack.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Take Advantage of Opponent's Tell

Here's a hand where we got to slam only because of my partner's fine forcing bid.

                        ♠ JT95
                        ♥ 65
                        ♦ JT82
                        ♣ 943

West                                        East
♠ K                                           ♠ AQ632
♥ 872                                       ♥ AKJT43
♦ AKQ9                                     ♦ 4
♣ QT865                                   ♣ J

                        ♠ 874
                        ♥ Q9
                        ♦ 7653
                        ♣ AK72

West                North               East     South
1D                   P                      1H        P
2C                   P                      3S        P
6H                   P                      P          P

Opening Lead AC

Bidding Commentary: I opened 1D. This is the only time when you may open a shorter minor, when you have an opening hand but are 4-5 in diamonds and clubs. You aren't strong enough to reverse if you open 1C and then make a 2D call on your first rebid, so you don't really have a rebid if you open 1C and partner responds in a major. So here you open 1D and your first rebid is 2C, showing a minimum hand, even though partner will probably think your diamonds are longer or of equal length. Partner had a huge, 4 loser hand, so instead of just reversing by bidding 2S, which would show an opening hand as responder, she jumped to 3S, game-forcing and slam invitational. That gave me the opportunity to go to slam. However, since she jumped, I don't have a forcing bid. I can't bid 4N because that would require her to respond as if spades, the last bid suit, were trump, since trump had not been agreed upon. If I bid 4H, she will just pass. We have never discussed what 5H would be here, so I couldn't do that. I took a chance, trusted her, and placed the contract in 6H, even though I had a bare opening bid with three of my points a singleton King (but it was in her second bid suit).
Play commentary: There are only two things partner had to do to make six. First, she had to trump one spade after getting rid of the singleton king on the board before cashing her Ace and Queen and before drawing trump. So she took the King, led a trump to her Ace and trumped a low Spade, because she could only discard two losing spades on the diamonds, and she had three losing spades in her hand. She then led her remaining trump on the board to her hand where she held the K-J. Her RHO hesitated and then played low. My partner didn't hesitate or think. The odds are that four cards will split 3-1 50% of the time (they divide 2-2 41% of the time and 4-0 9% of the time). But because my partner had played against her RHO often and knew her to be a player of low bridge integrity (I hesitate to use the word "cheater"), knew that her hesitation was a ploy to make my partner think she was hesitating trying to decide whether or not to play the Queen. It's a really stupid way to cheat because there's no reason to even think about playing the queen, but my partner told me afterwards that the reason she didn't play the odds and take the finesse was because of her RHO's illegal hesitation. It is illegal because you must play in tempo. While it is OK to think if there's actually a decision to be made, it's not OK to appear to be thinking when there's nothing to think about, in order to mislead declarer. Because of my partner's knowledge of her RHO, she immediately recognized her hesitation as what they would call in poker a tell.
In a nine table game, only one other pair bid slam.