Friday, November 23, 2012

Some column appearances

Minor appearance in the NY Times bridge column this week.

And, while I'm at it, here's one from May. Read more!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Signal Jamming

From Philly LM Pairs 1st Semi, Board 7 (both Vul), hands rotated:



Lead: C8

The opponents play 4th best from suits they like, udca, odd-even, and original smith.

You win trick one in dummy while RHO plays the ten. It seems clear that LHO started with AK98 of clubs (and maybe a 5th or 6th; I guess I don't know if the CT was count or attitude). What do you do?

 [My html hack for expanding posts doesn't seem to be working any more, so stop here if you want to make a plan before reading on.]

There's a technical line for making 9 tricks, which may be right at matchpoints: if LHO has SA and 4 diamonds to go with 5 clubs, he'll be squeezed out of the setting trick on the run of the hearts and you can then set up spades. This obviously also succeeds if clubs are 4-4 all along.

It might also be right to play RHO for SA and try to steal a trick. If he has enough of them, leading SQ at trick 2 might induce a duck fearing stiff K with partner.

 But, I don't think either of these lines is right at matchpoints. Our strong NT style is a hair lighter than some, and not everyone will avoid the 5-3 spade fit (though I agree with North's action -- note that it's a clear winner on a non-club lead for starters). So most of the field rates to be plus 620 and we need to try to take 10 tricks.

[Last chance to ponder once more]

The best line I could come up with is to place RHO with SA and try to create a difficult-to-read smith situation. So I led D4 to the K (RHO played the 2 and LHO the 7 -- if LHO had the 2 I may have switched plans). This was as I hoped: from RHO's point of view, there were 2 outstanding spots lower than the seven, making the card difficult to read. I then led a spade to the Q and Ace.  I also liked that I blocked 2 suits, which is a little counter-intuitive and may be harder for the defense to work out.  Sure enough, RHO took some time to think...

 ... and led a club. Down 1.

In retrospect, it's a bit hard to imagine a layout from RHO's point of view where a club was wrong.  Perhaps I should have tried one of the other lines and at least secured a plus score. Read more!

A Deep Finesse Gem

From the LM Pairs in Philly, 2nd Semi board 7 (hands rotated):

KQ43        65
T9654       AQ7
952         QT76
8           J532

Deep Finesse asserts that 3N is cold. Try to work it out on the HT lead around to the HK. Hints later. Read more!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Play or Defend?

A Q 7 3 2
A Q 6
5 2
K 10 7
K 7 5 4 3
8 7 6 4 3
A 9 4

The South hand was given to me as a "pure bidding problem", but this turned out to be a very interesting play hand.  At IMPs, would you overcall after 1♦ on your right?  Does it matter whether partner is a passed hand or not, or what the colors are?

FWIW, I think I would basically always overcall.  LHO makes a negative double, and you wind up in 4.

Anyway, say you receive the lead of the stiff K.  RHO is 4=2=5=2 with ♠K and a club honor.   Would you rather play or defend?

Here's one way to make on a guard squeeze with a delayed duck element:  they play a trump at trick 2, you win in dummy, play another diamond, they play another trump.  Now ruff a spade, ruff a diamond, ruff a spade, draw the last trump (pitching a spade) to come down to:

K 10 7
8 7
A 9 4

RHO must keep 2 spades or the queen is good.  If he bares his club honor, his partner is exposed to a finesse, so he must be down to one diamond.  Duck a diamond (the 8, of course) and you have the rest.

Since you're out of trumps, the ♠A is a key card:  you need to hold that to keep control of the suit lest RHO come down to one diamond but be able to cash the SK when thrown in.

You also can't rectify the count in any way since every card in dummy is busy.

I have not checked with deep finesse, but I believe the defense can break this up.  How?  Answer below...

The hint is in the position requirements I pointed out.  One approach is to attack the ♠A:  after winning trick one, LHO can lead a spade.  You play *low* and ruff, and play a 2nd diamond.  If RHO wins this, there's not much he can do except play a red card which puts declarer in control of reaching the desired end position.  But, what if LHO ruffs the 2nd diamond to lead another spade?  Not good enough:  declarer can ruff in hand, ruff a diamond, and overtake a trump to get back to hand and play the last trump.

So that fails.  What about rectifying the count for declarer?  By playing trumps twice, the defense can eliminate dummy's trump winners. Now when declarer goes to ruff a diamond, LHO can ruff in front of dummy for the defense's third trick.  This breaks up the squeeze position above:  declarer can still arrange to ruff a diamond but then dummy is squeezed before RHO.

However, it looks like declarer has another resource:  LHO can't break the club suit and so must play a spade when in with his last trump.  Declarer ruffs that, ruffs a diamond, ruffs a 3rd spade and now dummy is good.

But why can't LHO break the club suit?  Declarer had to pitch one on the ruffed 3rd diamond, so in fact LHO could break clubs, and declarer is an entry shy.

Maybe declarer can counter this by arranging to ruff 2 spades before playing the 3rd diamond?  Now the defense declines to ruff, and declarer has only the ♣A as reentry.  But, that card is also essential to the squeeze position as it gives force to the delayed duck menace.

So, actually, in the end I think the defense can survive with an unusual ruff in front of dummy to squeeze  dummy play. Read more!