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Hand of the Day
HotD-tue : League 8 : 19feb18 : B4

This hand from last night produced a big variety of scores - at least one table played in every denomination!  The bidding shown was at table 5 and seems inevitable; but, amazingly, there was no other table in the same contract. The contract looks sensible, but it became more tricky when North led the Q at trick one it was ruffed by South, who returned the K.  You win this with the ace, and the next step is to draw trumps; when you play the ace of clubs and over to the king, South shows out.   You draw the North's last trump with the jack, and lead a spade.  South plays small - what's your choice as West?

Let's count our tricks first. There are five trumps in the West hand and one ruff in East, plus the two top hearts and the diamond ace - a total of nine.  You need two more tricks (from spades).

The key to the answer here is counting out the opponents' shape.  North has shown up with 8 hearts and 3 clubs and a diamond, and so has at most one spade.  Alternatively, South has only one card in the rounded suits, and has at most 6 diamonds - and so must have at least 6 spades.  You only have one trump left with which to ruff a spade in dummy, and you need to make two tricks with spades in order to achieve your game.

If North has the singleton ace of spades your ♠7 or ♠J will force the ace, setting up the king but how can you get a second spade trick?  The answer is that you cannot make another trick without South winning the queen - and then the contract is down.

If North has a singleton queen of spades - what can you do?  Clearly the spade king is the winner here, dropping the queen and allowing you to set up a trick from the JT as your eleventh trick.

If North has no spades or a small spade - you can win with the ♠T , but what then? It seems very much like you will still lose two tricks to South - but look what happens when you exit with a top spade.  South wins and has the choice of leading from the other top spade or leading from the diamond queen.  Either option gives declarer the necessary 11th trick. 

When you add all this together, you are going to make the contract is all cases but one, and the play which covers all but one of the layouts is to rise with the spade king. Very well done by Tony Letts to find this and make his game.

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Plan the Play

West leads the Q. Plan the play.

It is lazy to rely on hearts to produce the twelfth trick. If spades are 4-3 then the suit can be establisjed for a discard. The play should go as follows: win the diamond and play ♠A. Cross with a trump to ruff a spade. Next ruff the K and a further spade ruff high. If spades have broken 4-3 then draw trumps and you can throw 2 hearts on the good spades in dummy, conceding just one heart trick. Of course, if the spade suit does not ruff good, you will fall back on playing hearts and hoping for a favourable position in that suit.

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Combine your chances

West leads the ♠Q. How do you play?

If you draw trumps and take a diamond finesse, East will win and return a club and you don't know whether to play for the diamonds to break or for the club finesse to be right. A better line is to start the diamonds by leading the 6 from dummy.  East cannot rise with the King without conceding the contract, and you now have time to test the diamond position before committing to the club finesse. If the trumps are 2-1 you can do even better by plaing on elimination lines. Ruff aspade high at trick 2, cross to a trump and ruff another spade high. A further trump to dummy allows the last spade to be ruffed. Then play a diamond to the Ace and continue with the 6 towards your queen.  On this line you win whenever diamonds are 3-3, when either defender has singleton or doubleton K, and when the club finesse is right.

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Dilemma

Partner leads the ♣T against 4♠, declarer playing the Knave from dummy.  Do you win or duck? If you win this trick, what do play at trick 2?

Should you play partner for a singleton club, or should you duck, playing partner to have a doubleton club and a quick spade entry? Often these dimemmas are a complete guess, but here there is a logical answer. Suppose partner has a doubleton club. In this case, declarer will not be able to discard a diamond from dummy and in due course you will make 2 Aces, a diamond and a spade trick (or possibly 2 diamonds and no spades). If partner has a singleton club, it is imperative to give him a ruff.  You don't know partner has a singleton, but you do know that winning the Ace and returning a club is most unlikely to cost the contract.

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Retaining an Option

West leads the ♣9 against your slam. Plan the play.

The lead marks East with the ♣A, which means it is highly likley that West holds A and K.  Suppose the first trick goes ♣9KA ruff.  After drawing trumps you can catch West on the horns of a dilemma by leading the 9.  If West beats air with the Ace, you will have 3 discards to dispose of your losing diamonds. If West ducks, the King wins in dummy, and your second heart is ditched on the top club. The flaw in the above analysis is that East can duck your ♣K at trick 1, forcing you to make your discard prematurely.  The way to counter this is to play low from dummy at trick 1. Later you put the heart through West and only then set up your club trick for a discard.  

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HotD-thu : CBC Pairs League : 14feb18 : B3

There were a few points worth discussion on both the bidding and the play on this hand from the opening session of the Spring run of the popular Pairs League.

In the bidding it is important that the opener shows a good fit when partner transfers into spades, and 4 does that and highlights the lack of a club control at the same time. It remains a preference that the strong hand is declarer and this is best accomplished by a re-transfer.  If the East hand had a heart cue bid to make, the answer is to bid 4♠ if you would be willing to pass that if partner bid it over a cue, and to bid on after 4-4♠ to show a cue that wasn't willing to stop.

In the play the first question is the opening lead.  Into a very strong hand, the key is not to give away any tricks, and the majority found a spade lead. The three who led a club or a heart all ended with 4♠ making.  After a trump lead and a second round, declarer can see the potential for two losers in diamonds and two losers in clubs. The first step therefore must be to try the heart finesse, aiming to throw a loser on the third round.  When this fails North again has a key choice to make.  A heart lead leaves all the work for declarer to do.  A diamond lead turns out much the same, although it is not without dangers.  A club lead however puts declarer to an immediate test.  Since declarer could have on a guess for the club queen (holding say AJ2) nobody ever leads away from the queen in this position, so declarer should place South with the queen and rise with the king, making the contract.

So best if North finds a red suit return. After that the best declarer can do is to guess the clubs. There bid nothing useful as a clue.  Of the Wests playing in 4♠ on a trump lead just over half made 10 tricks.

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HotD-wed : Winter Pairs 5 : 12feb18 : B12

The travellers posted on the internet after each of our bridge games regularly produce surprises.  Look at this board - where no East is recorded as playing the hand in spades. Whether playing a strong 1N opener or a weak 1N opener, it is surely right to open the West hand with 1♣ and North will pass.  It has long been an accepted principle that you bid the higher of two 5-card suits first (to make it easier to bid the other later).  Yet it seems that most Easts decided to ignore that and preferred to bid the stronger heart suit, before the higher ranking spade suit.

The difficulty with that approach is evident in one stand-out result on the traveller - the case where South played the hand in 2.  How could that happen - that East-West miss a 9-card spade fit?   Let's look at what happens if East bids 1 and South (perhaps not everyone's choice) overcalls 2    For West to bid spades at this point is a serious overbid and will get the partnership too high too often.  Once West passes it round to East - what can East do?  To double will encourage partner to bid too much in clubs, and to bid either hearts or spades now will seriously distort the description of the hand.  So both East & West pass - and score -90 instead of +450.

Unfortunately most times that people bend the "rules" and bid the lower suit first, the opposition do not interfere and they manage not to get into trouble.  This hand illustrates why you must bid the higher suit first, but I fear that only one pair will have noticed and learned!

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HotD-tue : Winter Pairs 5 : 12feb18 : B10

There were four hands last night wih excellent slams to be bid, but of the 24 opportunities (each board played 6 times) only 8 opportunities were taken up.  Across those hands, only one pair had no chance to bid any slams (unlucky for Anne & Peter) but every other pair had at least one chance and the highest success rate goes to Ian & Val Constable bidding two out of three. Bidding a slam last night scored you either 100% or 90% or 70% on the board - never a bad result.  Pairs 3 and 10 were unlucky that two slams were bid against them.

Everyone who had the opportunity failed on at least one of the candidate slams.  This is not all criminal, as sometimes the bidding of the opposition can work against you, as illustrated by the hand shown.  After the bidding starts with either 1♣ or 1N from East and South shows the majors, it is impossible for West to do other than jump to a game in a minor before the North-South players can get together.  Indeed the par result comes from North-South sacrificing over whatever minor suit game or slam is bid.  It coul dbe that the one pair who bid the slam did so over a 5 or 5♠ bid by the opposition.

There was one quite anomalous result - and it is one to learn from. East opened 1♣ which was the system opening on weak NT openers as well as club hands, and over that South bid 2♣  not realising that against such an opener the partnership played 2♣ as natural (usually 2 is used fo rthe majors inthese cases).  West bid 2 and East faced a dilemma.  With the clubs sitting over, nothing looked appealing and he guessed a pass.  When this was passed out, partner was not pleased!   It is not clear who was at fault here, as when the 1♣ opener might be a weak NT, the West hand in these cirumstances needs to be able to make a non-forcing bid at the 2-level in order to compete the part-score.  If indeed 2 is non-forcing, then West needed to bid 3 to ensure that partner bid again.  Whether South should have protected after 2 - P - P is a question to ponder, but clearly here passing was a winning action.

A stunning defence

You lead the 7, won in dummy with the King. At trick 2 declarer runs dummy's ♠8 to partners 7 and your Queen. What now?

Partner can't hold much but he could have a singleton ten of hearts and it looks from his ♠7 that he has 3 spades. If so try the effect of switching to the K.  When you win the next trick with the ♠A and continue with J, partner can ruff dummy's Queen and this sets up your 9 as the setting trick.

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The Clues are There

West leads the Ace of hearts. East encourages and wins the next 2 tricks with the King and Queen of hearts. At trick 4 he surprises you by contuing with another heart.  How do you plan the play?

You might be tempted to ruff in dummy, discarding your diamond loser from hand, but you should regard East's actions with suspicion. He is not out to do you any favours for sure.  He would not be giving you a ruff and discard if he was looking at the K in his hand. The danger of discarding a diamond is that West might do the same, and if spades break 4-1, with West holding 3 diamonds, you will be stuck in dummy with no way to reach hand to draw the remaining trumps without suffering a diamond overruff. The winning line is to ruff the fourth heart in hand, draw trumps and later take the diamond finesse. It will not help West to overruff you at trick 4.

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A Pointer from the Play

West leads the 4 which runs to your Knave.  How should you continue?

If hearts are 4-4 you can safely knock out the ♠A.  However, if hearts are 5-3 you will now go down when the diamond suit was breaking. You can't tell how the hearts lie and you cannot combine the chances.  The best line is to play diamonds in the following fashion. Start by leading the Queen from hand and watch the small cards.  Not knowing the location of the diamond Ace, the defenders will be anxious to give honest information at this stage. If the 2 appears on the first round, I would be inclined to play the suit for 3-3 and later overtake the J with the King.

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Sole Concern

Partner leads Ace and another club against 5♦. Your King wins the second trick as South follows.  How do you defend?

At this point your sole concern is to preserve your possible trump trick.  If say you return a neutral heart, declarer may win and lay down a top diamond. When the ten falls he may enter dummy with a spade and view to run the 9 and pick up your holding.  You can prevent this by returning a spade at trick 3.  There is an interesting corollary of this play.  Suppose you held xxx in diamonds and partner has Jx.  A spade return at trick 3 might induce an astute declarer into thinking that you hold Jxxx in trumps and be tempted into a first round finesse holding AKQTx

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HotD-thu : Swiss Teams 5 : 05feb18 : B19

This hand was most commonly played in 4♠ making, but there were many defenders who felt they should have done better (and it was surprising that so many found the spade fit).

The first question is what South should open; if you have a weak 2 option this hand seems ideal, and if you haven't then the weakness in the majors, and the quality of the diamonds, makes this an easy 3 opener at this vulnerability.   Surely over such an opening West will pass and East will find a take-out double.  Over that, West needs to consider how the penalty will fare against the potential score for a vulnerable 3N, and one might expect the latter to dominate. You need, however, to factor in the fact that while the diamond contract will surely go down, you wan't always make 3N.   If partner is good enough to make 3N easy, then there must be a chance too of collecting +800 (keeping the opener to five trump tricks r four trumps and one outside trick).

Only two pairs defended diamond contracts, and they both lost out to 4♠ making at the other table.

Defending 4♠ there were leads of a small heart from South three times, and a less obvious lead of the A from North twice.   After cashing the ace, West continued at table 3 with a heart ruff for partner, but that was ruffing a loser. Declarer won the return of the ♣T and had an easy time - drawing trumps, losing one club and ruffing the fourth heart.   With a trump back after the ruff, declarer has a lot more to do. Given the need to draw trumps, declarer can ruff the fourth heart but not the fourth club.   

After a heart lead from South at table 13, North won the Q and A, and thought it safest to cash the  A before giving partner the ruff to beat the contract.  When the  A was ruffed the defensive ruff disappeared.  There are now 9 tricks in sight (club finesse and give up a diamond) but somehow declarer managed 10.  

How others made their 10 tricks would be interesting to hear.

Curiously the two tables where East-West's game went down were both in the same match, as were the two tables where East-West played in a part-score.  So both of htose matches had a flat board.

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HotD-wed : Swiss Teams 5 : 05feb18 : B16

The opening bid on this hand divided the population on Monday (and half the field ended in a part-score, half in game).  The hand is formally in the range for a Weak Two opening (decent 6 card suit, 9 HCP) but at the same time it is a seriously constructive hand (7 losers) and has more potential than many opening bids.  

Opening at the one level is possible, the danger being that partner takes you seriously, and pushes to game on a misfitting 12-count. 

Opening at the two level faces the danger that partner, with a suitable hand, discounts any chance of game.

Is there an alternative?  There is - and it was found at some tables - the alternative being to pass. Coming into the auction later on a hand like this can give you a better chance of honestly reflecting what sort of hand you have.  In practice pass led to partner opening the bidding, and then volunteering some spade support in competition while the opposition bid hearts.  Isn't it easy to bid game now?  That's how it went ...

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HotD-tue : Swiss Teams 5 : 05feb18 : B8

It was no suprise to see all but two tables play this hand in clubs, when North holds such a long and strong suit.  The par contract is in fact 5♠ doubled down two, so well done to team 8 who at least got to play the hand in spades.  It was curious to see that there were three pairs who stopped in 4♣ and two who bid 6♣.  You would have expected those who stopped out of game to regret their decision, and in a way they did, but two cases of 4♣ making an overtrick were in the same matches as 6♣ going down one, so those two teams actually gained 5 imps for stopping in 4♣ on the board!

The opening bid with the North hand deserves some discussion. Three choices are known to have been taken (did anyone open 5♣ as the fourth?).  Of the known openers the highest was 3N, which shows a solid running minor and little else. Usually it has a 7-card suit and usually it does not have a king outside, but one can see how keeping the opponents out of the majors was appealing to North. It would have had more appeal first in hand, but has less after one of the opponents has passed.  The downside of preempting partner emerged when partner took it out to 4♣ (pass or correct) and that ended the auction; that is how two Souths got to play the hand with eight trumps lying in dummy, but in a part-score.

The lowest opening was of course 1♣ and that is recommended on this hand, You have more HCP that your RHO and you just don't know whether to play in clubs, or to allow partner to play in 3N.  Partner in 3N is of course more comfortable that you playing in 3N, as any major suit tenaces will be protected.  The auction should start 1♣ - P 1 and at that point West is entitled to enter the auction.  For most people 1N here, by a passed hand, promises 5-5 in the unbid suits and this looks to be a perfect decsription.  Exactly how the auction will continue is far from clear but there should be a strong bid from North and another from South, and it is hard to imagine other than a 5♣ contract at the end.

The final opening bid of which we have news is 2♣.   There are two reasons why it is wrong to open with 2♣ on hands like this.  The first is that if you do this but also open 2♣ on a 4315 hand with 23 hcp, then partner is going to have enormous difficulty working out what to do later in the auction. The correct rationale for opening at the two level - given hands nearly always bid more clumsily with less space - is that you are scared that your 1-level opening will be passed out and you miss a good game.  That is never going to happen on this hand.  But there is a second reason this is wrong - and that is because the use of 2♣ or 2 to show multiple hand types is restricted, because this is a conventional opening.  The restriction is that if the hand might be based on any of the four suits, then the hand must contain 16+ HCP or 5+ controls (A=2, K=1).  This hand fails on both counts, and the rules are that when you are found to be using an unlicensed convention your best possible result is -3 imps.  It is nice when the regulations actually push you in the direction of good bidding!

 

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How's your card reading?

West leads the 8. You duck trick 1 and win the second heart, West discarding a diamond.  You lead the K and West takes his Ace and returns the J, which you duck.  Your Q wins the next trick, East following. You then lead a club to dummy and cash the ♠A.  East follows to both these tricks but discards a heart when you play a club to your Ace.  What now?

Have you counted the hand? East shape is known to be 2731.  The spade finesse is likely to be right but this does not give you the contract as you only have 3 spades, 1 heart, 1 diamond and 3 club tricks.  The only chance is to drop a doubleton ♠Q.  Hence cash a top spade, then a spade to the ten and a club to dummy to make the fourth spade trick.

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A Simple Defence

West leads the 6. Declarer ducks in dummy and you win the Queen.  Now what?

There is not much future in returning partner's suit as it is unlikely that West will have the 2 entries required to establish and cash his tricks. On the bidding, there is a good chance that declarer will hold only a doubleton spade and you should switch to Ace and another spade. Provided West has a quick entry, this will give the defence 5 tricks.  Declarer would have done better to have won the first diamond, but you won't be successful at this game if you don't take advantage of opponents mistakes

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Draw the right inference

West leads the T and you see that prospects are not that great. At trick 1, East produces the Q and you win with the King.  Both opponents follow on your spade to the Ace, and on the second round of trumps, East produces the ten.  Over to you.

The normal percentage play is to finesse, but there is something a little odd about the early play.  Why did West lead a diamond from a ten high suit if holding the AK.  The most likley explanation is that West is missing the K and hence must hold the ♠Q else East would not have passed his partner's opening bid. The correct play is therefore to rise with the ♠K in the hope of dropping a doubleton Queen.

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Plan the Play

Wst leads the ♣J.  You win the Ace and play a spade to the King and Ace, win the club return with the King and cash the ♠Q, on which West discards a club.  How do you continue?

East passed originally and has shown up with ♠A and ♣Q.  If East has the A then he won't also hold the K, and the contract will succeed easily.  However, If East has the K then West will hold the A and the contract is in danger.  If this is the layout, then you can make if East holds the Q without the T - giving East a flat 11 points on which he may not have opened. The correct play at this point is to lead the 5 from hand.  West cannot profitably rise with the Ace and so you finesse the 9. If that draws the Queen, the opponents cannot attack hearts before you set up a diamond for a heart discard.

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HotD-thu : League 7 : 29jan18 : B2

This hand produced a double figure swing in every match but one on Monday, and in that match it was flat in a slam which might have gone down.

The first quesiton on the hand is how should West respond to a 1♠ opening from partner.  Clearly you are going to raise to the spade game, and you will at least splinter on the way - but with two aces and a void, are you too strong to splinter?  The reason for asking is that the splinter bid leaves partner in control, so will this hand match expectations?  If you would bid the same way with a small heart rather than a void, then the answer is probably no. If you can distinguish between voids and singletons in your raises to game, then you will be able to match expectations.  If you are too strong to splinter, you need to start with 2N to show good support (or some other force).

Whatever you choose, North will not resist showing hearts, and indeed some Norths (and this might be over-doing it) introduced the heart suit at the five level.  East, with a minimum opener, will attempt to sign off, and that should be the end of it, but in six cases it was not, and - sometimes over a raise to 5 by South - West jumped to the slam.

Declarer in a slam is looking at a loser in each minor, and just enough trumps in dummy to ruff the losing hearts. The only answer is to set up a winner in one minor to take care of the loser in the other. The best line in a slam on a heart lead is to ruff, and lead a small diamond away from the ace. Even though the ten loses to the king and the queen is now dropping - the slam is in trouble if South wins the K and plays a club.  The reson is that declarer cannot combine taking three heart ruffs with drawing trumps before cashing the J.   But there is an answer - declarer needs to win the ♣A, take one heart ruff while drawing trumps, and then run the trumps to squeeze South in the minors.  It takes a minor suit lead at trick one from South - ignoring partner's suit - to beat the slam.

Well done to the three who bid and made it.  I trust those who bid and and failed did their best.

In the other direction, two pairs got to play in 5 doubled, and, despite three losers, both of them made their contract.  In each case their +850 combined with a team-mates' +450 for a 15 imp swing.

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HotD-wed : League 7 : 29jan18 : B4

This was a curious hand from Monday; by contrast to yesterday's hand, everyone played in the same demonination on this hand (clubs) and at only (?) three different levels - partscore, game and slam !

But the first question is what you say over the opposition's weak 2♠ opening?

It is clear with this sort of shape you are not going to let the opposition play in game in spades, but you don't know which suit you want - you need to get partner involved. 

There is a very easy way to do that - and we can see evidence of it being used at three (only three?) tables.  These were the times when North bid 4N over 2♠ it show the minors, and South now picked clubs.  Of course the five pairs who stopped in 4♣ cannot have bid this way.  When partner bids 5♣ over your 4N, you don't have a good sense of how many tricks you will make, but you need two covers cards from the three gaps you have (A,A,♣Q) and that is too much to ask of partner.  So pass seems prudent.

Even then your trials are not over.  The winning lead against a strong two suiter is often a trump, as the declarer may need to ruff out the non-trump suit to make their tricks.  That is the case here and three tables found the club lead that makes declarer stop and think.  On a club lead, it looks right to knock out the A next, but then they play a second club. You cash the other top diamond and see the 9 drop from the hand which opened 2♠.  You are now in the fortunate (or is it unfortunate?) position of having a choice of plays.  You can ruff the third diamond and hope the suit breaks 3-3, or you can take a ruffing finesse against the jack, through the hand which - on the basis of vacant spaces and the spade distribution - is more likely to hold both the missing cards.

Sad to say the ruffing finesse is the losing option and your game goes one off if you choose that.  It is most surprising that there was only one declarer who ended in that position.  My partners are often unlucky.

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HotD-tue : League 7 : 29jan18 : B6

It is not often you come across a hand where the North-South pair have chosen to play in all five denominations, and at all levels from 2 through 6, but here we have one!

There were two violations of Burns' Law ("thou shalt have more trumps than the opposition") took place and it is hard to believe they were deliberate. The lowest contract of any pair was 2♣ which we can only assume was an accident with checkback or fourth suit forcing; we currently lack the details to help you avoid this one in the future!  There are three unavoidable trump losers, and declarer made 10 tricks.

The other violation of Burns' Law was a 4♠ contract, and for this one the best guess is that South had opened 1♠ and a later 4♠ cue bid was interpreted as an option to play, and that "option" was accepted. The trump quality here was rather better than in clubs and there was little difficulty achieving 11 tricks.

Of the remainder there was only one denomination with only one supporter - this was the 6 contract reached by team 5.  Their bidding started with a strong NT over which North showed his suits, and after 1N - 2  - 2  - 3  - 3N,  he raised to 4N showing slam interrst and no fiurther shape to show.  This was min-interpreted as asking for aces, and the 5 response was mis-interpreted as showing delayed diamond support.  The 6  contract was playable but the winning line was odds against (run the J on the first round).

More common that these three suits was the choice of playing in hearts, and there was one team in each of 4, 5 and 6.  They all made 11 tricks.  The pair stopping in 4 got there after South de-valued the opening hand and trerated it (being aceless and with KQ-doubleton) as a weak NT. After North had shown his suits, South felt uncomfortable bidding 3N with such good hearts and the possibility of finding a singleton club opposite, and chose to show heart support.  With a club to lose, the heart slam just depended on playing either spades or diamonds for four tricks.  This was achieveable in either suit but in practice the losing option is more attractive.

And finally we get to the six teams who played in 3N at four different levels.  The 3N choice does seem rather pessimistic and the 6N choice by three teams seems a little ambitious with a combined 31-count and no fit.  (One of these was after the same mix-up which led to 6). It was however the most consistently successful contract, making on all three occasions,  Two are recorded as having a diamond lead away from the queen, which does indeed make the contract straightforward. Why someone would lead from a queen against 6N when there were two other suits without queens, is a mystery.

Two pairs showed evidence of triying for slam, but stopping out, as the sample bidding shown with the hand illustrates. It is impossible to argue with this evaluaiton and stopping in 4N is indeed going to be the best place the greatest part of the time, as even with all finesses going wrong there are always 10 tricks. 

What is amazing is that there was only one pair played in 4N.

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Counting is key

On a low club lead, East wins the knave and continues with the Ace, West discarding the ♠3.  The ♣K follows and your 5 is overruffed with the 9. West now returns the ♠T. You win and draw the remaining trumps with the king and ace (West held  QT9 originally).  How do you continue?  

You have already lost 3 tricks, so need the diamond finesse. The diamond pips are such that you can avoid a loser in the suit even if the suit breaks 4-1. If you lead the Q at this point, this will be covered and you will not know what to do after returning to hand with a spade. East might be 2227 or 3217 shape. In order to reveal the distribution you must cash the ♠A before playing the Q. Now you return to hand with a spade ruff and see how many spades East started with, allowing you to take a deep finesse on the next round if you know that East started with a singleton. West cannot split his 98 as you still have a trump entry back to hand.

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Count the Shape

West leads the 10 against your game. You draw 2 more rounds of trumps in hand (West started with 3), and then finesse the ♣Q successfully.  The ♣A is followed by a club ruff (West following with the ♣K.  What now?

You may have been tempted at this point into playing off 3 rounds of diamonds and hoping that West has to win and give you the ♠K.  However, this would be poor play as West is known to hold 3 hearts, 3 clubs, and surely 5+ spades for his vulnerable overcall.  The winning line depends upon assuming that West holds the Ace of spades (a pretty good bet) - simply cash the  AK and exit with the ♠K.  Now you will either lose 3 spade tricks or 2 spades and a diamond trick (depending on who wins the second round of spades) but then either opponent must conced you a ruff and discard for your contract. 

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Count the Points

West leads the ♣K and you win with the Ace.  Both opponents follow when you csh the ♠A and West plays the queen on your next trump, as East discards a club.  How should you continue?

You have a club loser and a probable diamond loser, so need to avoid losing 2 hearts. It looks tempting to throw West in with a club at this point, but he may be able to safely with a diamond, and you may later lose a diamond and 2 hearts. Provided diamonds are 3-2, you can make sure of the contract by taking the diamond finesse at this point. West is marked with 7 points in the black suits and passed originally.  If he has the K then he can't hold the A. If the Q holds, continue with the A and if the King has not dropped, exit with a club.  West will then have to open up the hearts or concede a ruff and discard. 

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Careful with Your Defence

You start with the King of Diamonds and partner plays the 9 (highly encouraging in your style).  Assuming partner has the A, how do you see the defense developing?

At the table, this contract slipped away from the defenders.  West followed with the 2 at the second trick, which East won with the Ace. East now underlead his A, but South guessed correctly to rise with the King, cashed the Ace of trumps, and then discarded his second heart on the clubs. Who was at fault?  West rather than East - knows he has a trump trick and hence should continue at trick 2 with the Q.  When this holds, a heart switch forces East to take his Ace and the contract is beaten. (Note that a heart at trick 2 might be a mistake:South might hold  AKT, instead of the ♣K, and now a diamond will go away from dummy on the third round of hearts. This is quite a common situation. When you hold a trick that partner does not know about, aim to prevent him making a dangerous play. 

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How do you play?

Plan the play on the lead of Q

With so many trumps on the table, you may think it unnecessary to give up a diamond trick, and there are certainly many chances on this hand. The heart finesse could be right, the Ace of diamonds might come down in three rounds, and it might be possible to establish a spade trick in one way or another. However, you can make a virtual certainty of the contract by discarding a heart from dummy on the opening lead. East wins and returns a heart and you rise with the Ace, draw trumps and discard another heart on the K, losing just a diamond and a spade.

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Place the Lead

West leads the ♠3 to Dummy's Ace and Easts ten. You continue with the King os spades and East discards the 2. What now?

Your potential losers are 2 hearts, 1 diamond and 1 club. It would be unwise to put the contract at risk by finessing the club to East. Your contrcat is safe on the reasonable assumption that West holds the A. Just run the ♣J at trick 3. Suppose West wins and returns a club. Win the Ace in dummy, return to hand with ♠Q and lead a nlow diamond towards dummy. West cannot afford to win the Ace, so must duck. When the King wins the trick, you cash 2 more clubs, throwing a diamond from dummy. Now exit with a diamond and West must open up the hearts or concede a ruff and discard.

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County Pairs Board 19

Board 19 from Monday's pairs has some points of interest. The bidding will probably start P-P and North has a decision to make. The North hand would be too strong for a preempt in first or second position, but once partner has passed, anything goes. 4 has considerable merit but I guess most people would opt for 3♥.  East is minimum for a bid of 3NT but no other option is particularly appealing. A double might work when partner holds spades but does not work very well otherwise and in any case will 4♠ be that great a contract with this flat hand and suits probably not breaking.  2 tables played in clubs going down whilst 2 Easts played in 3NT making. At my table, South decided that it would be too difficult to set up and cash partner's hearts, and opted to lead a diamond.  This made it easy to establish 9 tricks.  At the other table where 3NT was played successfully, a heart was led and one can only assume that the defense managed to get their wires crossed subsequently - South not finding the spade switch when in with the ♣K.  On a heart lead declarer should play the Queen from dummy as this forces North to win the first trick. North wins and returns a heart.  Here North has a chance to give a suit preference signal - the J to show spade values and the T with a diamond card. When declarer plays clubs, South can gain more information by ducking the first two rounds of the suit and winning the third. This allows North the opportunity for 2 discards.  By discarding 2 diamonds, North is making it very clear that his only possible entry is in spades and a defensive mishap is avoided. 

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Manage your Entries

West leads the ♣J against 3NT.  Where do you see 9 tricks coming from?

A quick count of tricks show that you will need 3 spade tricks to fullfil your contract. Unfortunately, the club lead has knocked out one of dummy's entries, and if spades are 4-2, you lack the entries to dummy to set up and cash the spades unless you play carefully. Suppose you play a top spade at trick 2.  The defence can duck this trick, win the next spade, return a club, and unless spades are 3-3, you will be limited to 2 tricks in the suit.  The winning line is to simply duck a spade completely at trick 2. Now you can win any return and force out the ♠A, with the heart entry remaining in dummy. Now provided spades are not worse than 4-2, you have 3spades, 3 clubs, 2 hearts and a diamond.

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When you can't see anything else

On your lead of the ♣K, East plays the 4 and south the 9.  Since the ♣3 is missing, you know another club is cashing so you play the ♣A, 6 from pertner, 10 from declarer.  What now?

It looks as if East is concealing the ♣3 - probably because he does not want to encourage a switch.  It looks as if there cannot be any tricks for the defence outside of the trump suit.  When there is only one thing to play for, you must go for it and play partner for ♠ Tx.  Continue with a third club at trick 3.  When declarer leads a spade towards dummy, rise with the Ace and play a fourth round of clubs to promote a second trump trick for your side.

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How do you play this slam?

West leads the ♣10 against your slam.  This looks like a singleton so how do you set about making your contract?

If clubs were 3-2, the slam would be laydown, but the lead looks like a singleton so you will need to conjure up an endplay to make this contract. Win the lead and ruff a heart.  You can use 2 trump entries to dummy  to ruff 2 more hearts.  Now provided the trumps were not 3-0, you can play 3 rounds of spades, ruffing in dummy, and then exit from the table with a low club.  East can win the trick, but then has to lead a club or give you a ruff and discard.  

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Plan the Play

West starts with a top heart against your game.  Plan the play.

Given that West is a strong favourite to hold the ♠A, this contract is 100%.  Ruff the opening lead, Play a trump to hand and ruff another heart.  A second trump to hand allows you to play a spade to the King and a second spade.  Even if West has ♠AJx, all he can do is cash a second spade and then either play a club round to your hand, or concede a ruff and discard enabling you to get rid of your losing club.

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HotD-thu : League 6 : 15jan18 : B6

This hand was played by all teams in 3N and almost all of them by South. The leads varied and two successes came from diamond leads by West, which we can only begin to justify if rather than bidding 1North sensibly treated hearts as more important and bid 1 en route to 3N.  Of the remainder, there were four heart leads and six spade leads.  In either case the key issue is how declarer plays the club suit.

One choice seen was to start with small to the queen which lost to the king, and after that the defence had two chances to play spades before declarer could set up a ninth trick.  Not a winning choice.

Keith Stanley started by winning in South and cashing ♣A before crossing to the North hand before leading a second club.  With a choice of playing West for either KJ or JT doubleton, restricted choice tells you to go for the former, and Keith duly did this to pull in five club tricks and his contract.

The final option is to start clubs by leading small to the nine. This gains when the jack-ten are sitting under the ace-queen, and still keeps the finesse of the king as an option. When the nine loses to the jack, you win the return and try a second club.  You cannot afford two club losers, so you need clubs to break 3-2, and if East follows small you are back to choosing whether West started with KJ or JT, and should get that right.  It is more difficult if East plays the ten on the second round; here there are three Jx doubletons to consider against one KJ doubleton, so finessing the queen is indicated but fails. 

The bottom line is that 3N expects to go down, but it would be very easy for East to miss the vital play and now 3N makes!

 

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HotD-wed : League 6 : 15jan18 : B2

This was the problem faced at a number of tables on Monday; would you take out partner's double, as requested, or pass for penalties?

Here's the case for passing : your side clearly has the majority of the high card points, and they are at three level.  You also have four trumps, and you are expecting a club lead which can hardly do any harm to the defence. What could be easier?

Let's look at the case of bidding : if we disregard our diamonds, then we have a minimum hand (11 HCP) and no fit for the majors partner is suggesting.  The only valid option seems to be 3N, but we have a lot of tricks to find outside clubs.  Not terribly convincing.

It is no surprise that the majority chose to pass, but should the -670 they wrote down a few minutes later be a surprise? 

What we haven't examined yet is the case against passing partner's double : the two major factors we need to ponder are the knowledge which South has of the vulnerability, and what our defensive tricks will be.  Being vulnerable against not, South should be thinking of making say seven tricks when they bid 3 as any fewer would be embarrassing even if not doubled.  If dummy produces just two tricks, say from the major suit kings, then this 3 contract might make.  From the defensive perspective, we'll surely have at least one club and at least one diamond, but will we have more? 

This thinking led a few Easts to bid 3N as the least bad option. Success or failure was then in the hands of South.  When a low diamond was chosen, that was declarer's ninth trick (after playing out the ♠ST) and a score of +400 to East-West.  

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HotD-tue : League 6 : 15jan18 : B1

The first board last night was an uncommon shape, but was amazingly amenable to a very accurate description.  You might wonder first how often a 7600 shape comes up.  The answer is one hand in 17970, which means that in Cheltenham Bridge Club, playing 200+ deals every week, we should see perhaps three of these in an average year.  They won't all be as strong as this hand, and it might be that you are not in the seat which holds this hand (and nobody gets to all sessions).

When you open up this hand as North, there is only one thing you want to know - if partner has the club king I want to be in a grand slam, and if not then I want to try playing 6 (not 100% guaranteed but a decent chance).  Despite the strength of the hand, the best approach on hand like this is to start by bidding your longest suit.  Opening 1 and bidding 6♣ on the next round gets you to the right level, but will partner know what to do?

You would not bid like this without 12 tricks, and so you must have only one loser.  If that loser was an ace then you would have opened 4N to ask partner for specific aces.  So partner will know that the major suit aces are of no value, but if looking at the club king, partner will know that this is the loser held by North, and will produce a raise to the grand slam. If the loser was elsewhere, then North would have taken another route to slam, as you could never jump to 6♣ with only five of them.

Sometimes bidding is easier than it looks!

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Shaping Up

West leads the ♠Q, won in dummy.  A low diamond is played at trick 2 and you smoothly duck.  Declarer rises with the K and then exits with the 9, on which partner plays the Queen.  How do you defend?

South must be credited with 7 spades.  He has made a diamond and has 2 Aces in dummy so that is 11 tricks.  The first conclusion therefore is that South must be void in clubs if you are to have any chance.  The second conclusion is that South must hold the Q, else West would have led a heart from KQ.  Now things are beginning to shape up.  If you let partner win the Q, South will doubtless try to bring down the ♣K in 3 rounds, reducing West to Kx and ♣K in front of dummy's A7 and ♣Q, with atrump to come. To defeat the impending squeeze, you must overtake the Q with the Ace and switch to a low heart.  Even if South holds  QTx, you are still giving yourself the best chance (he might play the Queen).

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How good is this game?

West starts with 3 top diamonds.  East follows once, and then pitches 2 clubs.  You ruff in at trick 3.  How do you rate your chances?

It looks like East is now out of clubs so trying for club ruffs in dummy is no good.  You lead a top spade and West follows with the Jack.  On a second top trump, West discards a club.  Now the hand is easy.  Simply play a top club from hand.  If East ruffs if he must lead a heart into your AQ for 2 discards.  If East declines to ruff a club, you exit with a low trump to achieve the same result. 

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A Sure Thing?

You get the lead of the ♠6, East contributing the ♠J.  How do you play? 

The bidding marks the missing Kings with West.  The lead indicates that West has at most 5 spades.  A simple line therefore is to win the ♠Q and cash just enough diamonds to exhaust West of that suit and then exit with a spade.  Having cashed his spade tricks, West will have to lead away from one of his Kings to give you a ninth trick.  Is this contract 100% on the play to trick 1? - No not really- it is just possible that West holds a 6 card spade suit and has led his fifth highest to fool you!  If that is the case, remember to congratulate him on his defence.

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Seize your Chance

West leads the ♠2.  Which card do you play from dummy?

You must appreciate that the correct play from dummy is the Queen, playing West to have led from Kxx.  There is no point in playing low in dummy as even if you find West with ♠Jxx, East will simply play low and allow you to score the ♠10, but denying you an entry to dummy's hearts.

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HotD-thu : Camrose, match 1 : 5jan18 : B11

This hand is not just a hand of the day - it must surely be the hand of the year, and we probably haven't seen the like of it for more than a decade. It arose in the randomly dealt hands in the recent home internationals, played just outside Belfast.

The opening bid isn't much of a problem for you, but it should ring some alarm bells. You are clearly aiming for seven spades, but before you jump there you might want to ask - what could go wrong?

There are two things which might go wrong - you might have a bad break and a trump loser, or you might find that they take a ruff at trick one before you get to draw trumps. In practice five of the six players with this problem leapt to 7♠, the other one bidding 5 and then 7♠ over partner's 6♣ bid.  After your leap to slam, the bidding goes P - P - X  with double asking for an unusual lead.  East led a club and the four heart opener ruffed that for down one.  Sad!

After the event, the discussion turned to his to bid the hand better.  Two strands of thinking developed -

a)  if you can persuade partner to bid spades before you then this hand can go down as dummy and the preempt is on lead and a minor suit ruff is now inconceivable.

b)  if partner is very short in spades, then 7 might be easy while in spades you have a trump loser.

Can you make handle either of these options?  A takeout double over 4 is a dangerous choice as partner might pass.  The cue bid over 4 is read by partner as showing spades and a minor, so it might work but here it got a club response.  The final thought is bidding 4N which, because it bypasses spades, shows the minors.  If over this partner preferred diamonds, there would be a very good case for bidding 7 .  When partner bids clubs on today's hand, you could always try a cue bid of 5 and here partner will cue bid 5♠. Just what you want! You raise to 7♠ and partner scratches his/her head.  With any luck they can't find anything to do and they pass.

This is all a bit fanciful, but I bet the players concerned won't bid 7♠ on the first round next time they have this hand!

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HotD-wed : Winter Pairs 5 : 08jan18 : B19

Not everyone was playing a strong 1N opener on Monday, but table 9 was and this is the auction from that table. The 2 bid showed hearts and a minor; overcalling at the 2-level (whether over a suit opened or over 1N) is never appropriate on a 5332 shape, and this pair were using a 2♣ overcall to show the majors and 2 to show a single suited major hand - so this was a two-suiter.

Against 2 South sensibly kicked off with ♠A, since this was the one suit declarer did not hold!  Partner encouraged and three rounds were played, declarer ruffing the third.  From declarer's perspective there were two minor suit aces and the heart king still to lose, so making the contract was well in sight. The play, however, in spades has created a problem.  If declarer plays A and a heart to the jack losing to the king then a fourth spade might set up the T for south.  The same trump promotion happens if declarer plays A and Q losing to opener's king.  What about if South has the heart king?  Now ace and queen will run into a possible trump promotion, but ace and small to the jack works out OK. 

An alternative was to cross to dummy in diamonds and take a heart finesse.  Can one tell where the heart king lies?  The spade honours are known, and the ♣A is placed with North to give a trick for the club king. There are ten points not accounted for, and North has promised 5-7 of them. So the answer is no.  But there was another catch with the heart finesse - using dummy's diamonds to do that means that there is no further guarantee of getting to dummy to play clubs.

With that in mind, declarer duly chose to play A and a heart towards the J. South won the heart king, but all there was now for the defence was the minor suit aces, and East-West scored +110 and rather a poor score for North-South. What can North-South do about this?

As illustrated, there was no more they could do in defence, provided declarer thinks things through.  But what about the bidding?  They did indeed miss the boat there; the 1N opener needs to look carefully at their shape when the opposition have come in, and be ready to make a takeout double with the right sort of holding.  Here a double would have given South an uncomfortable feeling but either 2♠ or 3♣ as a contract would work out fine.

 

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A frisky contract

How do you assess your chances on a trump lead?

You have 12 tricks on top.  The trump lead deprives you of a heart ruff so you will have to look elsewhere for your extra trick.  Whilst the club suit offers the best chances (you will ultimately take a club finesse if nothing exciting has happened), you should give yourself an extra chance (albeit slim). Draw trumps, cross to dummy with a heart and play Ace and another diamond, ruffing.  If a top honour falls you can go back to dummy with a club to lead another diamond.  If either defender started life with  KQx, you have your thirteenth trick.

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A defensive problem

You start with 2 top diamonds, declarer ruffing the second round.  South now draws trumps in 3 rounds and finesses the ♣Q.  Partner wins the ♣K and returns the 5.  How do you defend from here?

This one should be easy.  On the bidding it is very unlikely that East holds the K  You should appreciate that partner is trying to kill dummy's entry to the club suit and you must play your ten of hearts on this trick.  You know that declarer has 2 clubs and a 4 card heart suit.  Even if partner does by some miracle hold the K, then you will still collect 2 hearts tricks to beat the contract.

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What's the Best Chance?

West leads a heart against your game.  What is the best chance in this contract?

You have a heart and a club to lose so it appears that you need to avoid a diamond loser.  The diamond finesse is a 50% chance - better than trying to drop a singleton King.  However, the best chance is to enter dummy with the A and take a spade finesse.  This represents the same 50% chance as the diamond finesse but you have the added bonus that you might drop the K, thus increasing the overall chance of success.

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Plan the Play

West leads a low heart against your slam.  East contributes the 10.  Plan the play.

One line might be to draw trumps and try to get the diamond suit right - but I wouldn't fancy the diamond guess if West follows with small cards.  If trumps are 2-2 then you would have 2 dummy entries to take a double diamond finesse - a 75% shot.  You could also get your entries to dummy by ruffing a heart and later using the ♠Q as a second entry. Either line might fail if diamonds are 4-1 and the defence can manage to get a ruff.  An alternative play is to just cash 2 more hearts, throwing diamonds from dummy, and then play Ace and another diamond.  This line works whenever diamonds are 3-2, and also in many cases when they are 4-1 and you can engineer 2 ruffs in dummy.  This is the best percentage line.

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HotD-thu : Individual : 01jan18 : B6

This hand from Monday presented some non-uncommon questions, of which the first was in the bidding - and it is whether or not you leave 1N in this poistion of if your take it out ....   at the event in question any takeout would be natural and non-forcing.

In a more general context two other issues apply

  • anybody playing a strong NT will have heard partner open 1N and now be transferring into spades, and sometimes you might want to play with the field, and
  • with most modern approaches - with most forms of checkback - you are not able to offer partner a choice between diamonds and spades

So - given here you have the choice, do you pass or do you bid?

At the table, there were two who chose to pass, and two who chose to bid - which suggests it is quite a close choice.  A similation of 25 suitable East hands opposite this particular West hand shows that on 17 of them you would be better having taken out - and this would be equally true playing teams or match-points, as generally the success of the contract was the issue.  A larger sample might be more definitive, but this is quite strong evidence that taking out is better, and this will guide me for the future.  Of the 17 hands taking out, there were 2 which preferred to play in diamonds (the others in spades) and on those partner might well have opened 1 rather than 1♣.

Defending against 1N, and having heard his only suit bid on his left, South led the 5. When North played the queen, East could not tell who had the king, and didn't want to duck in case South had led from the king. But after the A what was East to do?  He didn't want to finesse spades immediately into North and see a heart return, and couldn't lead diamonds usefully, but a club towards the J7 would gain whenever South had the ♣K so he tried that.  Unfortuately that lost but North continued with K and T,  which was helpful to declarer in clarifying the suit and cutting off South. Declarer, sad to say, had not been watching carefully enough to realise that this sequence of plays means that North has the two missing hearts - would you have noticed?

It was now time to play spades, finessing - so East thought - into the safe hand.  He started with the ♠9 and South played small and it won the trick.  Any gain for South by ducking here was an illusion, as if East lacks the ♠T then running the ♠9 is a no-win line nd East would be playing the jack.  East played a second spade (the ten) and South covered and declarer - still concerned about hearts with South - played the ace.  [Ducking at this point would have resulted in 10 tricks and a complete top]   Declarer now miscounted his tricks and cashed out but when the ♣T dropped he had 8 tricks.

As noted, declarer had the chance of ten tricks and had every reason to get that right.  If South has been more alert and covered the ♠9 the best that declarer can do is 9 tricks and that involves cashing out the clubs early, since the fourth club squeezes South and enables an end-play to get a diamond trick.  If North had kept communications open, by playing the T to the jack and keeping the K as an entry, then declarer would have been held to 8 tricks.   Finally, if declarer had ducked the Q on the first round, North would always be cut off and declarer gets 9 tricks.  [And if you must know - a top spade at trick one from South can hold the declarer to 8 tricks - so you might say the par result was achieved!]

Those who played in 2♠ foud life less complicated and both clocked up an overtrick to score +140 and beat those in 1N.

And they teach this game to children !

 

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CHRISTMAS QUIZ ANSWERS

These are available now for downloading (click on the title bar) - but do look at the problems before you do so.

Each answer is on a fresh page, so if you can't resist knowing the answer to problem number one, you just need to show a little restraint to keep yourself from seeing the answer to number two, etc.

Very many thanks to Garry Watson for generating these problems and providing solutions - they were a tough set, but just what we need over a holiday period.

HotD-wed : County Individual : B28

This is another example of the variations which occur in any bridge game but seem nagnified in an Individual competition.

Every table of which we know started with two passes and the choice was with East ....  what would you do?

There is no doubt that you are going to bid hearts - the question is at what level.   Here are the stories from three tables with different openers ....

East opened 1 : over this South was fortunate in being able to bid 2 showing at least 5-5 with spades and a minor.  Now West showed a little support with 3 (a risk in a 4-cd major system but the fact of the 2-suited overcall seriously increases the odds on partner being distributional also) and North now bid 3♠.  This seems on the cautious side, as you would always bid to the 3-level if partner had overcalled 1♠ and when partner is 5-5 or better, one level higher is usually right.  After 3♠ it went 4 from East, passed round again to North who continued with 4♠.  He was allowed to play there and found no difficulty in making an overtrick, losing only to the A and the ♣K.  East, it seems, had run out of steam!

East opened 4 : over this South was fearless and bid 4♠.  This could have been a disaster but if you don't bid in these circumstances the opposition will steal many contracts from you, and you cannot afford that.  West continued with a well judged 5 and now North should have bid 5♠ but chickened out, and when this came back round to South she doubled.  The contract went one down, which was good for East-West as North-South could have collected +650.

East opened 3 : over this everyone passed; declarer found he had missed an easy game and the contract made for +170 to East-West.   But that was a top!

Your choice sometimes depends on how you think the South player might react; against an aggressive player you will open as high as you dare, but against a cautious player you don't need to take as many risks.

What will you open next time you have a hand like this in third seat, non-vulnerable?

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HotD-tue : Individual : 01jan18 : B27

The County Individual does offer the opportunity for some strange results, a good instance of which is this board where - across the five tables in play - one contract made and at the other tables the hand was played in four different suits by four different declarers, all going down. It wasn't down to unfamiliar partnerships - it was just that there weree a lot of choices to make.

It started simply enough with a 1♠ opener from South but the next hand found three different options - here's how they panned out ...

When West passed : North bid 2♣ and over East's jump in hearts, tried 4♠ , to what looks like the optimal contract on this hand.  West was unable to lead partner's suit, so out came the ♣9 which was ruffed, and followed by the heart ace and a ruff, another club and then a third heart.  South judged well to ruff with the ♠T and when that held there was only the A to lose, but that was 4♠-2.

When West passed at another table : North bid a natural 2♣ and East introduced the heart suit, but just at the two level. The auction crawled forward from that and came to a stop in 3♠ by South, and the single instance of a contract making, when West made an unusual lead of Q lead and East  inevitably overtook this to play hearts. 

When West bid an unusual 2N (this choice has some flaws, particularly if partner has to choose between a doubleton club and doubleton diamond and settles for clubs) : North ignored the fact that West has clubs and bid 3♣, over which East now bid 4.   The East hand would merit bidding game in hearts most times, but when partner has promised length in both minors, and the opposition have promised values, this might be OTT.  It did however have just the right effect, as when passed round to North, out came 5♣ and that was the final contract.  It looks to be a safe place but the heart ruff at trick two beat it by one trick.

When West chose to bid 3 (as a preemptive bid this had the right effect, giving North a problem) many would have bid 4♣  but Tony Hill judged well to produce a negative double, and it went P-P-P.  The lead was a high spade, followed by a trump to the ace.  The A took care of West's second spade, and this was followed by a spade ruff, a club ruff and a spade ruff. Declarer exited in clubs but the defence were careful to cash their tricks in the right order and declerarer was held to 7 tricks.  This didn't look a bad result, until you see the ruffs which beat the spade and club games.

The fifth table played 3 doubled going down, but we don't have the story from there (yet).

Did you notice how nobody played in 3N, the only game which was making?

 

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Christmas Quiz 10

Your strong NT is overcalled with a bid showing 9 cards in the majors. West leads the ♠ K and continues the suit when you duck, East showing an odd number. You cash 2 diamonds and West follows. How do you play the club suit and why?

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Christmas Quiz 9

You lead the 5 against 3NT.  East plays the 9 and declarer wins with the King. South leads the A, East playing the 3, and follows with the 5.  How do you play to this trick?

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Christmas Quiz 8

You declare 6♣ after a strong club auction.  West leads the ♠K.  You win and return a spade.  East discards a heart on this trick and West switches to a trump. You win in dummy with the ♣8 and run the Q successfully.  Plan the play from here (trumps are breaking 3-2)

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Christmas Quiz 7

Partner finds the lead of ♣2 against 3NT which goes to the 3,10 and 5.  Your club King is allowed to win the next trick.  What is your next move?

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Christmas Quiz 6

You play in 4 on the lead of the ♣Q.  When you play trumps, they prove to break 3-1.  How do you set about making 10 tricks?

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Christmas Quiz 5

You lead the J against this game, on which East plays the 5 and declarer the Ace.  South plays off AK and a third spade, East discarding 2 low hearts and the ♣5.  How do you plan the defence?

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Christmas Quiz 4

West leads the ♠6 to East's Ace.  East returns the ♠Q. Plan the play.  Trumps are 3-1 with East holding a singleton.

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Christmas Quiz 3

What is the best line of play in 3NT on the ♠J lead?

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Christmas Quiz 2

West starts with K.  You win and lay down the ♠A, both opponents follwing small.  Play from here.

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Christmas Quiz 1

West leads the K.  Clubs break 2-1.  Plan the play.

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THE CHRISTMAS QUIZ
The 'Hand of the Day' feature will continue over the Christmas period in the form of ten puzzles for you to solve.  A different puzzle will appear each day, and for each puzzle that you attempt, you should post your answer using the form that appears alongside that day's puzzle (please mark it with the puzzle number).  Solutions submitted this way will only be visible to the puzzle setters, not to any other quiz entrant.
 
The final puzzle will be published on New Year's day and solutions will be accepted at any time up until midnight on 2nd January 2018.  A solutions sheet will be posted to the website on January 3rd.  It does not matter whether you choose to post your solutions each day, or wait and submit several at a time - either way, please only use the form on each puzzle for your submissions.  It does not matter if you cannot solve all of the problems, just do what you can.  If you do attempt all of the problems, you will end up having posted 10 separate forms.  Please note that each competitor will only be allowed one attempted solution to each problem. 
 
Hopefully the puzzles will help you improve your bridge thinking skills and hence your game.  We will accept donations of unwanted Christmas presents, but whatever comes in, there will at least be a (low value) prize in the form of a pre-owned bridge book for the winner of the quiz.  In the event of multiple entrants achieving the same score, then the winner(s) will be selected at random.  
 
We hope that as many of you as possible will find the time to enter - but in any case that you enjoy the puzzles.
A Sure Thing?

West leads the ♠K against your slam. You win and play the ♣K, East showing out. Can you ensure the contract?

The contract is now a sure thing. Draw three rounds of trumps. Only East can hold diamond length and you can cater for him having all 5 missing diamonds. Play the 10 towards dummy. If West shows out, duck the trick to East. If East wins, you later have a ruffing finesse against him. If he ducks, you can later ruff a diamond and concede just one trick in the suit. Anything less than a 5-0 diamond split makes your task easier. You can also succeed by leading the 2 towards dummy provided you rise with the Ace when West shows out.  A small diamond towards your ten places East in the same dilemma as before.

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HotD-thu : League 5 : 18dec17 : B11

It was curious to see how small differences in judgement can change the result dramatically. 

One table started with the auction shown.  The strong NT got an overcall showing one major, and South settled for 2 as a place to play.  This was passed round to East who, naturally enough, made a takeout double.  Paul Denning at this point recognised that the opposition were about to stop in 2♠ and he didn't want that so he bid 3 .  This did push West into bidding 3♠ but it also allowed North to revalue his hand; the likelihood of short spades with South so enthused him that he bid game, and there the matter rested. The defence started with a top spade, ducked, and when the club switch was not found, declarer had no trouble ruffing a spade and then playing the NT opener for the heart queen, to clock up 10 tricks.

Another table also started with a strong NT and now North overcalled 2♣ showing either single suited hearts or four hearts and another suit. South bid 2 to ask and North now bid 2 . East doubled and at this point the auctions diverged when South passed, thinking that pass and then 3 would describe the strength of this hand well.  But the auction proceeded 2♠ - P -3♠ - P -4♠  - end.  The lead was a top heart then a trump, and declared continued trumps to make the spade game. 

So South's choice over the double meant game in one direction of the other!  The swings in the two matches concerned were 12 imps and 14 imps.

 

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HotD-wed : League 5 : 18dec17 : B19

This is the board from Monday which saw the greatest number of imps change hands, averaging almost 10 imps per match.  Here are some of the stories ...

T8 : South produced an opening bid! The choice was 2 which showed a bottom-end weak two bid in some major.  This presented a serious headache for West, who got by the first round with a value showing double.  North was expecting partner to have spades but would rather play in diamonds, so he chose 2 (pass or correct) since on the next round he could bid a non-forcing 3♦. Over the 2 bid, East now had a real problem.  The East hand is enormous, and East's first thought was about 3N.  A club bid might be passed, and a jump club bid goes past 3N.  What could he do?   Because double would show hearts, he had the option, which he took, to cue bid 3.  There was no chance of this describing the hand, but at least he promised values.  The problem goes back to West, who still doesn't know which suit South holds, but he could bid a natural 3♠.  What can East now do?  With a fixation still on 3N he had no choice but to bid it. West raised to 4N to show some extras, and that got passed out. The spotlight now shifted to South, but the clubs looked more appealing than the diamonds so out came ♣J and declarer said thank you and cashed his winners.  All that happened because of that opening bid!

T5 : South passed and it was West who opened 1♠ and now North overcalled 2 which pushed East into bidding 3♣. It could all be natural now, 3 - 3♠ - 4 - 4♠ - end.  This is quite a sensible contract, but the trumps are lying badly.  North started off with a club which cuts declarer off from dummy, and forced him into cashing three rounds of clubs immediately (ditching diamonds).  The third of these got ruffed with North's ♠K.  Now came A ruffed by declarer who could have generated 10 tricks by pushing out the top hearts, but he lost his way and went one off.

T5 : here South opened 2♠ showing a weak two bid (!) and West, treating the hand as too good for a simple overcall, doubled. East bid a (non-forcing!) 3♣ and now West showed his hearts. East felt unable to bid 3N but he had extra strength, so he jumped to 5♣.  West didn't fancy clubs, so he leapt to 6N and this got passed out. The spotlight now fell on North, who just led his partner's suit, but the spade king was just what West wanted to see. So slam was bid and made, but only at this table.

Any more stories?

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HotD-tue : League 5 : 18dec17 : B16

The leading teams in Division One last night continued their winning ways, but this hand - the ppenultimate one at table 8 - could have turned that result around. The bidding was as shown, to an over-ambitious 4 game. South should really have settled for a raise to 3.

East led a low spade (playing third and fifth in partner's suit) and this ran to the king. West tried the K and then played a second spade to the queen.  From North's perspective, the failure of West to continue diamonds suggested that East held a diamond honour, and East's 9 (on their advertised carding) suggested an odd number of diamonds.  Since a 4-1 heart break means a sure loser there, the assumption has to be that the heart suit is breaking and the queen can be captured. 

So making 4 all comes down to how to play the club suit. If West has 3 diamonds and East has 5, then West will be a 5233 or 5332 shape and presumably too strong for a weak 1N opener.  With 17 hcp missing and a diamond honour with East, that would mean the club king is offside. In that case the contract cannot make.

So let's suppose West has 5 diamonds. In that case the West shape is 5251 or 5350; can the contract be made?  Clearly the clubs can be played for no loser in either case.  If we assume that West would have tried harder to put East on lead with a diamond if holding a void club, we are down to choices of playing West for either

♠ K9742  Q8  KQ874 ♣ K

or

♠ K9742  Q8  AK874 ♣ 4

or some variants of these.  You might have to consider entry problems too if finessing East  for any high cards.  Both options listed give East a pass over the 1♠ opener.  Can we improve on a guess?

 

The only key which might help is the location of the diamond ace.  Look what happens if you cross to the heart ace and lead a second diamond.  If/when West plays small, North's jack will force the ace. You now know where the club king and the heart queen are (from East's earlier pass of 1♠), so you can drop both of them to make your game. Easy?

The downside of doing this is that if West rises and lead a third diamond, you have to ruff that in dummy and you no longer have the entries you need to pick up ♣Kxxx   onside.  The winning play is for West to play the queen, and create for you some doubt about who holds the ace. 

At the table declarer took the losing club finesse, and lost 6 imps instead of gaining 7.  

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How do you defend?

Your partner leads the 4. Declarer wins the first trick with the K and plays a club to dummy's 8. How do you see the defence unfolding?

You plan to return partners suit. It looks like East has led from Qxxx. If you win the first club with the Knave, South will have no option but to enter dummy with a spade and take a winning heart finesse for his contract. If you win with the King, declarer might decide that he should play on clubs for his contract rather than risk a heart finesse. If he does play this way, you will defeat him with 3 clubs and 2 diamonds. 

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How do you Play?

Against your 4NT contract. West leads the ♣9. You win and finesse the J, but this loses to the Q and East returns the ♠J. Play from here.

This hand hinges on the heart suit. If you needed 3 tricks from hearts, your next play should be a heart to the King. On this hand however, you only need 2 tricks in hearts to fulfill your contract and the correct play is to now run the 8. If this loses to the 9, you can later set up 2 more heart winners. If you make the mistake of playing a heart to the King, you will be limited to one heart trick if the cards are as shown.

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Defend like a Champion

West begins with King, Ace and another diamond. You ruff with your lone trump, and South follows, having begun with Q98. What do you play now?

From your point of view, you don't want declarer to discard a losing heart on the fourth diamond. Whilst you don't know how the spades lie, the best defence at this point is to return the ♠K. This denies declarer an entry to dummy. At the table, declarer won the ♠A and played another spade, but West ruffed. 2 rounds of hearts followed by a third spade promoted an extra trump trick for the defence, giving them a penalty of 1400.

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Counting is key

North shows touching faith in your bidding and blasts a grand slam.  West leads the ♠3.  How do you plan the play?

The contract hinges on how you play the diamonds.  You might expect East to be short in the suit as he has pre-empted in a different suit, but this is not certain.  Win the spade lead and play 1 top diamond: lets say they both follow but no Queen appears.  Now you should cash your heart and club winners in dummy and watch what East plays.  You can infer from the lead of a low spade that East has 7 spades and West 3.  When you play off your winners, you count how many clubs and hearts East held.  If he totals 3 cards in these suits, he figures to hold 3 diamonds and ultimately you will finesse the J.  If East shows 4 cards, you play to drop the diamond, and with more than 4 cards in hearts and clubs, you resign yourself to failure.  Counting is the key.

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Sixes and Sevens

Todays hand offers opportunities to shine in both bidding and play. Once South opens 2NT, North is obviously slamming. One possible route to a grand slam would be for North to start with a transfer to spades and then jump to 5♣. A jump to a new suit in this situation is artificial - if you just had a big hand with spades and clubs then you would have continued with a natural and forcing 4♣ bid.  5♣ in this sequence is exclusion Blackwood and asks for key cards but with the proviso that partner will ignore any key cards in clubs.  South will hence show 3 key cards which North knows to be the ♠AK and the A. North can now bid 7♠. The first question is how you would play this hand on a trump lead, both opponents following to the first spade?

Clearly there is no problem if the diamonds break. If trumps are 2-2 then you can cope with a 4-1 diamond break by ruffing a diamond in South.  If trumps are 3-1 (they are), then you may get away with cashing 2 trumps and then playing diamonds. If the player with the third trump also has 4 diamonds, then you can still ruff that suit good.  However, there is an additional chance in your grand slam - can you see what that is?

If one player holds Kx then you can ruff a heart in dummy, setting up 2 hearts and a club winner for diamond discards. Well played if you spotted this line.

However, your bidding is not up to reaching the grand slam and you play in 6♠. How do you play on the lead of a heart if trumps are 3-1? 

6♠ is 100% once there is no trump loser - it is just a matter of counting your sure tricks. You have 6 spades, 3 diamonds, 1 heart and 1 club on top and you always have an extra trick in hearts irrespective of who has the K.  Just draw 3 rounds of trumps and lead the Q, throwing a diamond from dummy.  This gives you 12 tricks no matter how the opposing cards lie. The diamond suit is an illusion on this hand as you don't need to generate any extra tricks in the suit. Somehow this is not easy to see at the table.

If you look at the full deal, you will see that the diamonds break 5-0 on this hand, so 7♠ looks doomed as the King of hearts does not drop doubleton. However, this hand shows the fascination of the game in that the grand slam can still be made on the above layout. Can you see how?

Win the trump lead and test the heart suit  to see if the King falls. When it doesn't, you just run all the trumps.  East comes under pressure in 3 suits. He cannot discard 2 diamonds without immediately conceding defeat so say he bares the ♣K. You cross back to hand with the A and play off 2 clubs to squeeze East again.  

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HotD-wed : Winter Pairs 4 : 11dec17 : B23

This hand was possibly the wildest hand of Monday night. The auction shown was all natural and replicated at a number of tables.  At this point it is clear to West that partner will be short in spades (although a void isn't certain), and that you have two playable suits.  The danger of bidding 5♣ is that partner will stick it even if very short in clubs (eg a 1651 shape), and the danger with 5 is the trumpsuit is not sufficiently robust.  The records suggest that two Wests chose one way, and two chose the other.

When West bid 5,  the North-South pairs both bid on and one played 5♠-1 while the other heard a continuation of 6 and got to double that for down two (should be down one).

When West bid 5♣, it was clear for North to double and there the auction ended, for a score of +200 to North-South.  This was cheaper than the spade game many people made (it takes a heart lead overtaken and two diamond ruffs to beat 4♠), but does not compare well with the option of making a vulnerable 5.

One other option over 4♠ would be 4N, provided this is interpreted as (my preference) two places to play and here it would be clubs and diamond, or clubs and hearts.  East on this hand easily selects diamonds, but West corrects to 5 to show this hand shape.

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HotD-tue : Winter Pairs 4 : 11dec17 : B22

It was surprising to see that this hand was played in spades at all tables last night, but that some made 8 tricks, some 9, some 10 and even one made 11 tricks.  The computer analysis says that there is 9 tricks there for the taking - so what should we have expected?

Bidding first.  Missing three aces and needing at least a club finesse means that game is odds against, and at matchpointpairs you really want every game to be 50% or better.  Looking at the bidding shown, it cannot be criticised until we come to the leap to 4♠.   Choosing 3 at this point would have been more descriptive, and could prove very useful if partner was a 5341 shape.  Today partner would have stopped in 3♠ since the news of heart values was bad news.

The opening lead against North's spades varied : every suit except trumps was led (after bidding which suggests a ruffing value in dummy that would be best removed!).  The four tables with the T lead presumably did not have the bidding shown, for with a long suit trial bid from North a diamond would be deemed too helpful to declarer.  Witha diamodnlead, declarer would naturally try hearts, but there is then no way to avoid a diamond ruff which beats the game.

At other tables, after leading A which held, East could see no attractive continuation and played a second heart.  Declarer liked that, and quickly tried K and Q, throwing clubs.  Since there were only two discards the losers which might go were a club or a diamond;  the instinct is to ditch clubs but in fact the ♣ A is onside 50% of the time, while the fourth diamond is a winner only 36% of the time - so it should have been a diamond which was discarded.  After East ruffed the third heart, it was a club to the ace, and declarer was left with a diamond and a spade still to lose.  Down two was not a good result.

After a less attacking club lead, West needs to switch to a spade at trick two to stop declarer making ten tricks.  Any other continuation allows declarer to both take a club ruff and reach the A to discard the losing diamond.  Both clucb leads resulted in 9 tricks, so well done that defence.

 

 

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Prize-winner

You start with the ♠6 against 3NT. Partner plays the 2 and declarer the 5.  On a diamond from dummy, East plays the 3 and South the Queen.  What now?

It is clear that South holds ♠AQx and it is going to be impossible to beat the contract unless you can shut out dummy's diamonds.  The way to do this is to play the Q, a little known blocking play.  If the Queen is covered by the King, partner must play his part and duck.  To lead a low heart instead of the Queen is not so effective.  South will let it ride round to his 10 and will subsequently enter dummy by finessing the J  

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How do you Play?

West leads the ♣10.  Plan the play.

Count your tricks as always.  The club lead means you have 5 spades, 2 clubs and 2 diamonds so you are on trick short.  The extra trick might come from a successful diamond finesse, or the cards might lie in such a way that you make a heart trick.  However, a little thought will show that you will always make a heart trick if the opponents lead the suit rather you you having to broach it yourself.  You should therefore draw trumps and cash your clubs before playing 3 rounds of diamonds, refusing the finesse.  Whoever wins this trick will have to open the hearts or give you a ruff and discard.

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Make the Right Assumption

West starts with the K.  Plan the play.

This is an example of a second degree assumption.  If you are to have any chance of making the contract, the A must be with West.  If this is the case he cannot hold the ♠A - else he would have had enough to open the bidding.  Since you can only lead trumps once from dummy, you should win the heart and lead a spade, playing the King if East plays low.  You hope the full layout is akin to that shown. 

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HotD-thu : Swiss Teams : 4dec17 : B9

This was a curious hand from Monday; it wasn't the only time that both sides played the hand in hearts (B19 had North in 3 and West in 2, both doubled and going down) but it seems a bid more strange when we have two North-South pairs playing in hearts, while in the other direction we get one pair playing in a heart partscore, one in a heart game, and a third in a heart slam.

Here's how some of that happened.  The cases of North playing hearts both arose on the same sequence - the one illustrated.  Was this reasonable?  It's hard to deny's North's viewpoint that the opponents are comfortable in 2, and the North hand isn't suitable for a takeout double.  Bidding 2 must therefore be a reaonable option. South, on hearing 2 will be sure that isn't the ideal spot, but might be scared of digging a bigger hole, and the fact is that the opponents haven't doubled yet.  The problem is that North could have a few more HCP at this point, and either 2N or 3♣ could be a vialble contract.  But it's hard to criticise passing, and in fact losing -100 or -150 as they did is only a tiny bit below the Butler datum for the hand (-90) so there can be no complaint.

At another table, South decided to bid 2♣ over the opening 1; it's a little stretch but it does take away 1-level major suit bids from West and this is often useful.  It backfired here as it forced West into a takeout double (suggesting both majors) and that meant it was easy for East to bid 3 showing extras and hearts.  This was the final contract and initially there was a regret at not bidding game, but when it turned out that only a helpful club lead lets game make, it felt that justice had been served.

Another table it started 1 - P - 1♠ - P - 2 - P - 2.  This last bid is treated as a one round force by most players these days, and that makes it rather an overbid here.  It would not have been so bad had partner made a measured raise, but the East hand - thinking that it was so much better than a 2 rebid might be - immediately jumped to 6 and the opposition passed that out.  Definitely a partnership in harmony, when they both overbid by quite as much!

What should have happened?  Limited hands with 5♠ 4 are known to be a bidding problem when partner opens and rebids a minor.  The worse case is a 5=4=4=0  shape opposite a 0=4=4=5  shape where the bidding goes 1♣ - 1♠ - 2♣ - P  and you play in a 5-0 trump fit with two eight card fits on the side. In recognition of this it is now common (particularly in the US) to play that a 2 responjse to either 1♣ or 1 openings is a limited hand with five spades and four or five hearts.  It goes by the name of "reverse Flannery" in some circles, and is part of the Bridge World Standard (you can find this on the internet) which has recently been revised following an extensive poll of experts and readers.

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HotD-wed : Swiss teams : 4dec17 : B10

All pairs sitting East-West were left frustrated on Monday when they finished this hand - even the pair who did actually gain 13 imps. Thie bidding shown was a common start to the auction.  The question is what should the next two bids be?

The dilemma faced by East is not an uncommon one - the problem being that East doesn't know whether West is seeking out the right game (in which spade support is what matters) or fishing for a slam (in which case club support is what matters).  The most sophisticated bidders have a tool to deal with this problem - in these circumstances they bid 4-of-the-other-minor who show support for both suits.  Then it is up to opener to signoff if game was all that was wanted, and to cue bid if slam was the intention.

Without that tool (and here the 4 bid still leaves an awkwardness) all Easts we know of chose to bid 3♠.  At this point - given there are 12 tricks on top - it must be right for West to tell partner that some slam consideration is due, and that is done by bidding either 4♣ or 4 over the preference for spades. East has an ENORMOUS hand now - brilliant controls and lots of points in partner's suits - and having heard partner make the smallest of slam moves opposite a hand which could have been so much less suitable (even though the worst opener could have bid 4♠ on the previous round), East cannot now stop short of slam. If you are always bidding slam you should allow for partner trying for a grand slam, but with a 5-3 spade fit in sight (West knows that East didn't break the transfer request) West can see that the limit is a small slam.  Yet only one pair managed to get this far!

[The 4♣ and 4 bids here have been discussed in a previous column, and using them to bid out shape is often of greater value that use as a cue bid; here 4♣ could show the 5-5 shape, or 4 could show shortage but common to both is that a slam is on the horizon, and either option will enthuse East]

The winning contract however is 7♣ and it seems we are nowhere near that on the above sequence. As an alternative East might have bid 4♣ over partner's 3♣ and this would be followed by West cue bidding 4, hearing 4, and now possibly checking on aces.  All key cards and the trump queen are shown by 5♠ and West might well envisage the possibility of partner having the ♠K (ie perfect cards).  A try with 5N could be considered worthwhile, as even if partner bids the grand with the wrong king, the slam should be no worse than 50%, but this isn't satisfactory.

One table started 1(!) - 1♠ - 1N(12-14) - 3♣  which promised 5-5 shape (else the bidding goes through checkback) and game forcing values.  Here supporting clubs is easier since it is a known 9-card fit, and ending in 5♣ is not a worrying option.  Cue bids of 4 and 4 should follow.  From the reasoning above, East should drive to the slam. 

Is it possible to bid the grand slam in clubs?   Once we get to the 4 cue in the above sequences West might take control but a smart West might also recognise the dilemma of not knowing the right level after 4N-5♠ and for that reason prefer to continue the cue bids with 4♠.  East now, in driving forward, should check on aces and after a 5 response from West, East has room for a 5♠ cue bid (or an asking bid would have the same effect) allowing West to bid the grand.  The bottom line is that it is rarely impossible to bid to the right contract, but sometimes a few good views need to be taken en route.

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HotD-tue : Swiss Teams : 4dec17 : B4

This was a fascinating hand at some tables last night, but a very boring hand when West got to play in 3N as there were ten top tricks there. You have the same tricks in diamonds and the problem is, playing in 5, to conjure up an eleventh.

The leads found in practice were a small spade (twice) and a small diamond (six times) but both were equally passive and left declarer in charge.  The spade loser is inevitable and it comes down to how to avoid two heart losers (and make two tricks from heart plays).  The answer has to involve some form of elimination and then end-play. Declarer cannot waste too many dummy entries, but if clubs are played in time, two rounds can be ruffed and declarer ends with trumps in each hand and ♠J4J83  opposite ♠A6A72.   The start has to be the spade ace if that didn't go at trick one, and then another spade.

The bidding and the play makes you quite certain that North had two hearts and South has five. When the win the second spade and play hearts you have two options. If North has doubleton honour then ace and another end-plays that hand.  If North has a small doubleton, then when South is on lead they will be stuck. But which is it?

There are 10 ways North could have doubleton honour, and 10 ways they  might have doubleton small.  Problem not yet  solved. We have to look to the bidding for clues. We need to ask whether North would have overcalled 1♠ with a 6-count and 5224 shape.  The answer, at this vulnerability, is probably not.  So when West gets the chance, it should be ace and another heart.  North wins and gives you a ruff and discard.  You ruff in either hand,  and discard a heart from the other.  You deserve your +600 for doing that.

 

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Spot the Danger

West cashes the A and switches to the ♣K.  Plan the play.

With West marked with all the missing high cards, the danger is that spades break badly.  You should therefore win the ♣A and play a spade towards dummy.  When the Jack holds, return with a diamond to play another low spade towards dummy's Queen.  All that West can do is win one spade, one heart and one club trick.

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How do you defend?

You lead the ♠K and this holds trick 1.  How do you plan the defence?

It is difficult to see declarer succeeding unless he has a solid club suit.  Since you know that as the cards lie, he cannot overtake in clubs, you must attack South's only possible entry - the A.

At trick 2 switch to the K and if this is ducked, continue with another heart.

If instead you play a second spade at trick 2, declarer wins, cashes dummy's clubs and returns to hand with the A to take his remaining club tricks.  In the endgame you will have to concede the ninth trick.

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Careful Play Needed

After West has opened with 1♠, he leads the ♠5 against 3NT.  Plan the play.

On this hand it is all too easy to allow the first trick to run round to your hand and to win cheaply with the ♠10.  This is careless play.  If your ♠10 is forced out at trick 1, when you knock out the ♣A, West will win and play ♠ AJ.  This sets up another spade trick for when he wins the A.  On the reasonabkle assumption that West hold all the missing Aces, you must play the ♠Q from dummy at trick 1.  Now West cannot attack spades again without conceding 3 tricks in the suit, bringing your total winners to 9.

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How do you Play?

West leads the ♠4 to East's ♠10.  Plan the play.

If South held ♠Kxx, it would be easy to see the need to duck.  There are 2 diamond honours to knock out and this can be done safely if they are divided or if East holds both.  By ducking the first spade, declarer ensures that East will not have a spade to return when he gets in with his diamond honour.  A little thought will show that with West marked with the ♠K, the ♠QJ are effectively the same as holding the King - hence you should duck at trick 1.  If you win trick 1 and play a diamond, East can win and return his spade and West will clear the suit with a diamond entry to enjoy the established spades.  If you duck trick 1, East will return a spade, but you have 2 spade stops and now East is out of spades when he wins his diamond trick.

[If West held both diamond honours, there must have been a good chance of the hand opening the bidding]

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HotD-thu : Mixed Pairs : 27nov17 : B25

Yesterday's assertion that there was only one good slam on Monday was false.  This hand was an excellent slam, and was bid by three pairs.  It seems very hard to bid it with any certainty. Here are some stories -

Table 1: North here opened a strong (15-17) 1N and partner responded with a five card major ask. This struck gold with a 2 response. Since there is no value in investigating spades after partner has shown five hearts, 2♠ is available here (at the 2-level!) as a slam try in hearts. This got 3♣ from opener, 3 from responder and now 4 .  It is reported that the bidding continued 5 - 6 .  Whatever it meant, it was successful.

Table 2: North here opened a more standard 1 and heard partner bid 2♣. This left North with a difficult rebid, and this North chose 4♣.  This gets the extra strength across but it goes above 3N which could be a disaster. South now saved the day with a leap to 6.  This is hard to justify with only an ace more than promised already, but it was successful and hearts did score better than clubs.

Table 7: North opened 1 but this time South responded 2 (a better suit but still an unusual choice).  North had extras to show and bid 3♣ over which South tried 3♠ (fourth suit forcing).  This got doubled by West, and passed back to South who now owned up to the club support with a 4♣.  North now bid 4 and South asked for keycards and bid 6.  Who can argue with success? There will be times when 6♣ is much safer, but today hearts works just as well and scores better!

Table 9: here the bidding started with a very reasonable 1 - 2♣ - 3♣  after which South bid the inevitable 3N. This wrapped up 13 tricks, which at least beat the heart games. 

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HotD-wed : Mixed Pairs : 27nov17 : B23

This was the one excellent slam from Monday, and it was bid at only two tables.

At table 4 Laura Pollo started with 1♣ to which Ashok replied 1 .  Over the 2♣ continuation it went  2♠(worried about hearts) - 3N(heart stop and maximum) - 4♣ (support)  and then into the slam.  Doesn't it look easy?  

The other table at which it was bid was where the Angseesings (the other trophy winners, collecting the Flitch) were sitting.  Their bidding started 1♣ - 2N  where the 2N showed 16+ in a balanced hand. It proceed 3♣ - 3 - 4♣  with the last bid indicating slam ambitions since it had gone past 3N.  And thence to slam.  Doesn't it look easy?

My mistake on the hand was opening 1N over which partner decided that game was enough.  The hand screams no-trumps, but 14-hcp and a good six card suit is just too strong. The right answer was to open 1♣ and to rebid 1N, after which the other hand will drive to slam.  [LATER:  simulation shows that opposite a weak NT the 18-count will find partner to be a minimum 76% of the time (fewer than average points are there to go around), and of the rest you want to stop out of slam more often than not. This confirms that this South hand is too good for 1N]

Notice how 6♣, the only slam bid in practice, is much safer than 6N.  At matchpoints you might be tempted by the latter but as we see from this example, the repeated failure of players to bid slams means that the safest slam is the right answer, as it is nearly always a good score.

How did others get to stop in game with two such good hands?

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