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Hand of the Day - apr17
How good is your play on a Sunday?

Against 4 West leads the ♣J.  You play low from dummy.  West wins the trick and continues with a second club to East's Q.  At trick 3 East leads a low club.  You ruff with J which holds, West discarding a diamond.  On the bidding, West must surely hold K, so his most likely heart holding is  KTx, with the discard being a classic defensive play to gather 2 tricks in the suit.  What now?

 

You know from the bidding  and play to-date that East is at least 5/5 in the minors.  West didn't bid 1♠ so East is probably 3055 shape.

The winning line is to cash the A and ruff a diamond, then play two rounds of spades and ruff a spade in hand. A further diamond ruff is followed by a second spade ruff. Then you can exit with the J and West, down to his original three hearts, has the choice of being endplayed if he won the K (he would have to lead from the T3 into declarer's A8) or ducking, in which case declarer's heart losers would be reduced to one.

Did you see that West has erred on this hand?  A spade discard (instead of a diamond) at trick 3 would mean that West could overruff a spade with T and exit safely - still taking a trick with K.

FORM
HotD-fri : Spring Teams 3 : 24apr17 : B23

This hand was another handsome gain for the winning team on Monday, but it was a very difficult hand both for declarer and defence.    Against 4♠ the defence started off with two rounds of hearts and this made things immediately awkward for Tony HIll.  There is surely a diamond to lose and you cannot let the opposition win that trick at a time when you have no trumps between the two hands.  If the trumps break 3-3 it is easy, but if they are 4-2 then you will have to lose a diamond before drawing trumps; in fact you must lose a diamond while there is still a spade (trump) in dummy to take any force.

Tony could see this issue and with a 4-2 spade break more likely than 3-3, Tony at trick three - having ruffed the second heart - started with the Q.     Can you see any defence when he has done this?    In practice the diamond was covered and then he continued with a diamond to the jack.  He won the club switch and drew trumps, making five spades, four diamonds and the heart ace for ten tricks.   Clearly they could have beaten him by taking a diamond ruff.  Could he have done better?

The answer to whether defence and declarer could have done better is, surprisingly, yes on both fronts.  The key from declarer's point of view is that you want to lose a diamond trick, losing the second round is dnagerous for theeye might ruff the third. You prefer to lose the first round, so that if they continue the suit you can win that and then draw trumps.  After leading the Q declarer can ensure the contract by ducking the diamond king and now relying on J onside.  Covering and continuing is a valid alternative but depends on the J being in the short diamond hand; that looks to be slightly lower odds (but can benefit from a misdefence, as occurred).

How can the defence do better? From defender's perspective there is an interesting dilemma; clearly when declarer plays the Q, he is expecting it to be convered or to be run to East's king.  If that's declarer's plan, perhaps yours should be the opposite ...  see what happens if West ducks the diamond (plays small from KJ3)  - declarer can no longer make the contract. Losing a diamond trick now allows the defence to knock out the ♣A entry, and after drawing trumps doesn't work either.  How about that?

You see the same concept at other times; for example, declarer doesn't draw trumps because the intent is a cross-ruff - so the defence play trumps whenever they can.

But ducking with KJ3 when declarer leads the queen remains in the VERY DIFFICULT category.

FORM

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HotD-thu : Spring Teams 3 : 24apr17 : B14

This hand delivered 10 imps to the winners on Monday, and took 10 imps away from the runners-up (but was not enough to affect the overall placings).  The contract was the same in both rooms, with the 4 reached in this auction after a 14-16 opening of 1N.

The contract was the same at 10/12 tables and the lead was always from South's club sequence.  From declarer's perspective there are prospect of two spade losers and anything from one to three heart losers.  With the possibility of a diamond ruff, you really must tackle trumps first and the question is how to play the suit.

There are few options which give you one loser, but one is finding a doubleton ten with North. In that case, small to the nine and an honour is followed by leading the jack to pin the ten and finesse the other honour.  Another is finding a singleton honour with South, but that does leave you the difficulty of coping with a 4-1 trump break and repeated clubleds. After winning the ♣K at trick one, this was the chance pursued by Patrick Shields but Alan Wearmouth did the right thing as North ducking the trick two heart, allowing the nine to lose to the ten and now the contract was always off.  Were he to rise with the queen, the contract was a likely make.

In the other room, Mark Rogers was concerned to keep entries to the long diamonds and won the club ace at trick one, so he tackled the hearts by leading first up to the ace and when the ten appeared he was suddenly in control, and he managed to keep his heart losers to just two. With the spades lying nicely, he made the game (by cashing the top three diamonds, set up a spade, and cross ruff).

In the heart suit, the best play for holding to only one loser is indeed cashing the ace first, while the best play for avoiding three losers is to start with small towards the J962.  The difficulty is knowing which matters to you more - which comes down to knowing how the spades will behave.

Tricky stuff.

FORM

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HotD-wed : Spring Teams 3 : 24apr17 : B1

This was a hand where fortune favoured the brave. It started with the opening bid and there were choices of 4♠ and 3♠ and even one 2♠ . Which is best? For sure, 2♠ doesn't come close with the spades a good trick better than most weak twos, and two singletons makes the shape another trick too good. What about 3♠? You have to compare it with a 7222 hand and the same high cards; such a hand would open with this spade quality, but this hand is seriously more useful, and has two suits to keep the opposition away from. Almost every 7411 or 7420 hand really wants to be opened at the 4-level, which makes 4♠ best here.

The traveller shows 8/12 Norths managed to find 4♠ but results varied, from making 3 times, down one four times, and down two once. What should have happened?  Declarer has good prospects of 6 tricks in spades, up to 2 in hearts, up to 2 in diamonds, and a faint chance of one in clubs.  The chance a second trick in hearts is 50%, and you have the same chance in diamonds; but the chance of an extra trick in clubs is worse, and the same is true in spades.  So declarer's best line is clearly to take finesses in the two red suits, after which you clock up ten tricks.  Well done to the three declarers who got that right. 

Why did the others go we wrong?  I heard of one distracted by the club suit, but maybe there are stories we have not yet heard?

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Play for the extra chance

West leads the J.  You have 2 spades to lose so must avoid the loss of 2 diamond tricks.  What is the best line of play?

Whenever you have a holding such as the diamond suit on this hand, it is better if the opponents open up the suit, rather than you have to do it for yourself.

You can take advantage of the favourable opening lead by discarding a club from dummy at trick on the second top heart, and then playing ♣A and a club to the King before leading the ♠Q from dummy.  On a good day, East might cover from Kx, clashing the spade honours, but on this occasion, East wins the ♠A and since anything else gives a ruff and discard, he exits with 9.  You cover with the 10 and this in turn goes J, A. Now you play a second spade which West wins, but he is in turn endplayed, forced to concede a trick to your Q (or allow you a diamond discard if he plays a side suit).  Either way you lose just 2 spades and 1 diamond. 

FORM

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HotD-fri : CBC Pairs : 18apr17 : B10

You might or might not bid this up to 7N, but even if you are playing in 6N at pairs, since you have twelve top tricks, it is all about making the thirteenth. So let's focus on that.  The lead against a no-trump slam by East was a heart on 12 of the 13 times that contract was reached. What does that tell us?

Quite a lot.  Firstly, since it is so dangerous to lead away from a king against 6N, we have a strong expectation that the heart king is with North. So we will not take the heart finesse. We also have an inference that South has the spade queen, as if both suits offered a safe lead, then South might have led a spade.

We don't need to rely on that yet to make thirteen tricks. The first step, here as so often, is to cash your long suit and watch the discards. Here we see North start with two heart discards from North and then North discards two spades (suggesting North started with exactly four hearts).  As declarer, East can alway afford one club and a heart and a spade.  South's first discard is a heart.  On the final diamond, North discards another spade, and East can throw another heart.

The key chances for East are now that the clubs break 3-3 making the ♣7 a winner, or finding the spade queen, or a squeeze once one of the black suits is cashed.  There is always one layout that can go wrong, but here if you cash the top spades first then North has to discard a club on the second one and now the clubs run, while if you cash one spade and then the clubs you find that North is holding the fourth club and the heart king, so you take the spade finesse with certainty to collect South's queen.

The grand slam wasn't certain, but there were plenty of chances and the defence couldn't avoid giving you some help as you went along.  This makes the grand slam worth bidding. In practice half the field made 12 tricks and half the field made 13 tricks.

FORM
HotD-thu : CBC pairs : 18apr17 : B10

Another fascinating hand from Tuesday evening at CBC was this board.  The auction shown is illustrative, as the only known auctions involved a strong 1N opening.   After the start of 1♣ - 1 - 1N showing 15-17 hcp, the West hand knows that there are at least 34 points between the two hands and therefore the hand must be played in slam.  How 7/24 tables in the pairs events managed to play in game remains a mystery.

Going higher than 6N is quite possible, as a long suit and 34+ hcp is worth more than two completely flat hands and 34+ hcp, but West cannot bid higher without first checking on aces.  To raise to 4N at this point would be quantitative, so West needs to get diamonds agreed as trumps first and then bid 4N.

The sequence shown uses a 2 checkback to ask about shape and creating a game force (2♣ would be the start for invitational hands) and then 3 to emphasise the suit.  East might actually support with two honours at this point but if East persists with 3N, West simply continues and once 4 has been bid, East should assume that the hand will be played in diamonds.

East's duty over 4 is to cue bid controls, and in the modern style either aces or kings are good enough, so the 5♣ cue bid denies the heart king. It frustrates West's intention to ask for aces but with at least 34 hcp between the two hands, West knows that they cannot be missing the ♣A and the K, and the latter is known to be missing.

So now we know about aces, but we still don't know whether a vital card like the K is missing.  What can West do now?   What about a cue bid of 5 and see what happens.  East replies with a cue bid of 6♣.  What can West deduce from that?  Firstly the presence of the ♣K, but secondly the absence of the ♠Q as East would cue bid that if held (having already denied the ace and king).

Does that tell us anything about the K?  The answer is yes, with similar logic to that applied already.  We know the ♠Q and K are missing, and that the defence have at most 6 hcp.  So West now knows that East has the K and the ♣Q and the Q.  At this point West can count twelve top tricks, and for a thirteenth there is the chance of the ♣J, a long club trick, a spade finesse or a heart finesse. 

Is that enough to bid the grand slam?  The answer is yes, because there are so many chances.  Should you make 13 tricks if you are in 7NT?  That's another interesting question and we'll discuss that one tomorrow.

Did anyone have a good bidding sequence to report?

FORM

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HotD-wed : CBC Pairs : 18apr17 : B4

The Welsh Cup semi-final, which was hosted at the Cheltenham Bridge club yesterday, shared some boards with the evening duplicate, including this.  There are a number of interesting points around the bidding.  First about the West hand; it is 22 points and in range for the common 20-22 point range for a 2N opener, but it is so much better than many 20-counts, in particular having no jacks, that it is really worth an upgrade and should be bid as 2♣-2-2N, treating it as a balanced 23-count.  The downside of that approach would be visible here, as it is easier for North to come into the bidding than it would be over a 2N start.

Opposite a 2N opener, the hand with 0256 shape must clearly investigate the minors.  If you are using 3♣ to ask and 3/3 as major transfers, you really need to use 3♠ to show both minors and get some feedback from partner about interest there.  Here 3♠ served that purpose and opener, despite the good spade holding, was wary about hearts and supported clubs.  This led to the excellent slam which will always make on a spade lead. In the match, on the bidding shown, the K was led.  A priori there was still an excellent chance of success, as either the ♠A with North (ruffed out to set up a discard for a heart), or the ♣K with South (finessable) would let the slam make.  The bidding made the spade option doomed but the slam was still respectable.  As you can see it failed.  The team however gained 3 imps when in the other room the contract was 3N and on a top heart led than went down two!

In the CBC pairs, 6♣ was only reached once in the 24 tables (and suffered the fate just described).  A comparable 6 was reached on two occcasions and it had the advantage of being played by East, and since they got the ♠A lead, they both made.  For the 3N contract there were 5 leads of a high heart all but one leading to defeat of the contract, and four leads of a low heart letting 3N make.  There were seven instances of the ♠J lead which also led the game make (although if South recognises that declarer has the ♠KQ, then a heart switch could beat the game - nobody found this).

Both 3N and 6♣ depended on the opening lead, but in the case of the slam only there were still good chances to make after the K lead, and if successful the rewards were greater.  It was suprising to see so few bidding the slam, although this does seem to reflect a loss aversion which manifests itself in our not chancing a slam as often as we should.    Or were people lacking the 3♠ gadget?

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HotD-tue : Swiss Pairs : 10apr17 : B20

Bridge hands always provide surprises, and this hand was one where many East-West pairs failed to get their tricks.  The auction shown was a 14-16 opener of 1N and when West protected with 2♠ it jostled North-South out of the 1N contract which was only making 7 tricks, into a better scoring part-score in hearts. The opening lead was the ♠A and after two rounds of spades the defence sat back and waited for their heart trick and their club trick.  The score of +140 to North-South seemed very much the par result.

But it turned out to be unique!  With a weak-NT base, most Norths opened the hand 1 and got a raise from partner. Not all Wests were as brave as Fan Huaiyu and without a spade bid to guide, East led a diamond. Declarer would naturally win with the king in order to play hearts.  Even if the ten is led, West should play low and East wins with the queen to continue diamonds.

It is not clear how, after this, declarer managed to either set up a club to discard a spade loser, or to set up a diamond to discard a spade loser.  But five declarers were successful in doing that.  Well done to them, and please share your secret as to how ...

FORM

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HotD-mon : Swiss Pairs: 10apr17 : B12

This hand provided some interesting opposrtunities for card reading.  And a lot of that was possible as soon as the opening lead was made - it was the J.    What can you deduce about the position of the high cards on this hand?   If you play the trumps without loser, what do you do next?

The two pieces of jigsaw that need to be put together are that North has the K and that South has not lead from the AK or from the ♣AK.   It is quite a deep position to judge not to lead an AK if you have one, so we deduce that North has an honour in each of diamonds and clubs, to go with the K, and so North cannot hold the ♠Q.  We therefore play trumps from the top (the finesse cannot work) and justice is served when the queen falls and we can draw all four trumps.  Now comes the question of how to play the club suit?  Clearly North has only three cards in the minors, and we cannot play diamonds without finding ourselves forced, so it has to be clubs and we see we can rarely avoid losing three club tricks. It is important however not to lose four club tricks and we can do this only if North has a singleton honour.  So the next play (necessary too for two club tricks) is a small club from both hands and again justice seems to be served when North wins the king. They play diamonds and then another heart, which we ruff.  We should now duck another club (no joy), and in due course knock out the ♣ A to obtain 8 tricks and the possibility of a few match-points.  In fact escaping for -50 gets just above average and you see that they can always make 3 (by setting up the T for a trick if not allowed a spade ruff).

FORM

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HotD-mon : Midlands Leagues Notts : B2

First of all well done to the Markham team who have now won their division and will get a go at the national playoffs in July.

This hand looks like it is all about the bidding but the play made a difference too. The decent slam was reached at the majority of the tables, and we might comeback to the bidding later, but for now consider the play in 6♠ on a red suit lead.

A good trump break is clearly wanted, so drawing trumps first looks right. After that comes the question of how to play the clubs. With five trump tricks and three in the red suits, you need four tricks and can afford one loser. No 3-2 break matters and there are some 4-1 breaks you can handle and some you cannot. Those you can handle are stiff king anywhere and singleton nine or ten with South. Small to the ace does that.

But what I saw was small to the queen. This is a textbook false card situation for South. Playing the deuce leaves declared no option but to try the ace next and that generates five tricks in clubs and thirteen overall. When the Notts man dropped the nine, declarer naturally played small to the jack next in case that had been a singleton. 

The result of all this was declared made 12 tricks and not 13. It scored at +980 as a flat board with the other two tables, but if it had been thirteen tricks it would have scored as +1 at both tables and the Dawes team would have won 11-9 as opposed to the 10-10 draw it achieved. It was only an overtrick but it did earn Nottinghamshire a VP.

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Thursday's Play Problem

After West's lead of the 10, declarer counted 11 sure winners and began to consider his options for making an extra trick. Clearly, a successful finesse in either major suit would do the job, but declarer took time to consider whether there was a better plan.  How would you play this hand?

Declarer noted that the heart suit had promise, so he proceeded to show that he would make 12 tricks if he could extract all of West's minor-suit cards.

Declarer took the diamond lead in hand with the queen and cashed the J. Next he played the ♣A, ♣K and a club to dummy's queen, pleased to see that the suit was 3-3. When both defenders followed to the K, declarer permitted himself a small smile as he continued with the A throwing a second low heart from hand.

Now declarer led a low heart from table with the intention of covering East's card. When East put up the 10, declarer played the queen. West won the trick with his king, but he had only major-suit cards remaining - and no winning option. If he chose a spade, declarer would make three spade tricks. When West exited with the 6, hoping his partner had the 9, declarer produced that card and claimed the slam. 

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HotD-sun : League 10 : 3apr17 : B9

This hand from the last league round was found tricky by a number of pairs, but some of the over-bidders got lucky when the cards were lying kindly and their ambitious contract made.  Others were not so lucky.

The illustrated bidding is a normal start and at this point he South hand begins to think about slams.  It would be easy to rebid hearts now showing six (forcing after the GF 2N rebid) but it's not a great description of the hand. If partner has shown 15+ then there is aslight dilemma : opposite 18-19 we want to be in a slam for sure, but opposite 15-17 there is still a chance and we must engage partner in the conversation.

One option some play over this 2N rebid is a 3♣ asking about range : partner bids 3 on the top half of the range, and 3 or 3♠ or 3N with the bottom half of the range.  Here you would find out that you have a max of 32 hcp between the two hands, which doesn't rule out a slam but makes it less likely.

There is no easy answer to the bidding (but please say if you see one).  The play in slam is interesting : in 6 you have no choice but to play for the trumps breaking and the king onside. Even that is not enough if a spade lead has been found, but this is too difficult and the the league winners failed to find this.  But they had a flat board when their team-mates played in 6N, which depended on the same favourable heart layout.

6♠ wasa more interesting contract.  After winning the minor suit lead, a spade towards the king (best odds in the suit being to finesse the ten) sees the jack appear, strongly suggesting that the suit is breaking 5-1.  Declarer can recover fromthe shock by now leading a heart towards the queen, and later leading hearts through West to neutralise West's trumps.  Entries to South must be preserved in doing this, and in particular the ♠T must be preserved as an entry.  Difficult, andnot found by the team in 6♠.

 

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HotD-sat : Cambria : 4apr17

This is the problem from the other table on the same board.  You can see that West here was rather more certain what the right contract should be.  The opening lead was a diamond and when South won that with the jack and looked at dummy, the one danger which was urgent was the heart ruff option, so South quickly played a spade.  You finesse this (the best odds) but it loses and now a heart comes back.  How do you plan to make this contract?

You have lost a spade and a diamond and it looks like a heart loser is inevitable, so you must avoid a club loser.  Step one is to win the A and take a club finesse.  Will that be good enough?  We don't know yet but the first hurdle is passed when the ♣Q wins.  Next step is to draw trumps and - as is so often the case - we do best to cash the rest of our long suit winners.  By the time we have played all the spades our hand is K9 ♣AJ and everyone is down to four cards. If we think the club king might be dropping we would cash the ace, but we haven't see enough club discards from North to make that credible. North had come down to J86 ♣6 with four cards to play, while South had  QT ♣K3.  

So we do what we can by playing the heart king and then the heart nine. When you played the K South had been aware of the danger, and played the queen (else an end-play is looming). Rats you think, but you still exit with the 9 and now it is the turn of North to stop and think.  Letting this run to partner's ten is not a good idea.  North needs to (and he did) rise with the jack to drop partner's ten and now he can cash the  8 as the settign trick.  Not often you get a chance for a crocodile coup, and well done Paul Denning for spotting it.

If it took all this to beat 4♠ maybe it wasn't a bad contract after all!

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HotD-thu : Cambria Cup : 4apr17

BTW : as part of the Youth Bridge weekend there is a pairs competition with hand commentaries at 1900 on Saturday at CBC, to which all club members are welcome.  Come and see how the youngsters bid!

This interesting play problem arose in a Welsh Mixed Teams match this week.  After 1♠ -1N, West wants to allow for either 3N or 4♠ as the final contract, and for that reason invented a 3♣ bid.  East did have club support but wasn't keen on a contract at the 5-level, and hedged sensibly with 3 after which it was easy for West to bid 3N.

The opening lead was a top diamond on which North discouraged, and so South switched. When the switch is to a heart (queen or ten is best to allow partner to keep the jack for later), declarer can see the potential for nine tricks but there is the danger of needing to lose a spade and a club en route, along with three diamonds.  There is only one entry to the East hand and only one finesse you can take.  Which do you choose?

Clearly either finesse might lose, but there are two reasons to steer away from the (auto-pilot) spade finesse.  The first is that if it fails your chance of dropping the club king is too remote and you will be held to five spades, two hearts and the ♣A for down one.  On the other hand, if the club finesse fails you have the chance of dropping the spade queen which would see you home with six spades, two hearts, and two clubs (or one if they cash their diamonds).  The second reason is that if the spade finesse succeeds you are still not home, as there might be ♠Qxxx onside and you still have to lose a spade trick; while a successful club guarantees the contract.

Justice is served if you take the club finesse, as that is the one which works and you can now clear the spades. 3N making!

You might want to ponder how a 4♠ contract would get on. We'll discuss that tomorrow.

FORM

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HotD-thu : Midlands League : 2Apr17 : B26

This hand had a few interesting features, this time in the play rather than the bidding.  The bidding shown was typical, with the 2N then 3N sequence by North showing a raise to game with a stopper in their suit and no four card major. The opening lead is one to ponder : clearly a diamond works brilliantly, but a heart was more common.  Should a diamond be found?  There is something about trying to set up this heart suit, with just a queen and a king as entries, which is not so appealing - so the answer is yes there is a case.

But let's go back to the heart lead.  From declarer's perspective there are now three top tricks in each of clubs and hearts plus the ace of spades, and an expectation of the fourth club being a trick too.  On that basis, the target looks to be obtaining one more trick from spades and we all take the double finesse to do that.  Running the ♠Q or ♠T also has the (seeming) advantage of losing the next trick to the safe hand - or at least the hand that cannot lead a diamond to good effect.

So declarer rose with the A and ran the ♠Q to West, who won continued with another heart.  Winning that in hand, declarer crossed to clubs to play another spade, and got a great shock. Suddenly there was one less trick in clubs. But the spades might break; when the ♠T was covered by the jack and ace it was back to the ♠9 only to find a disappointment there too.  Two options remained : lead up to the A or an end-play on West to lead away from the A, which he was likely to have for his bid.  That looked easy - cash some clubs ending in hand and watch what West discards.  If West has only one diamond left duck a diamond to the ace, and if West has two left then cash the top heart and exit in spades and wait for the K.   All very reasonable and that's what declarer did, but when West was forced to lead away from his QJ it was to his partner's ace and he could cash the ♣J to beat the contract. Sad.

In practice 6 of the 9 declarers as South made the game, and 3 did not.

 

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HotD-wed : Midlands League : 2Apr17 : slam disasters

One could say there were five slams in this match one would like to have been in (6♠ on board 2, 6 on board 6, 6♠/6N on board 16, 6 on board 20, and 6 on board 21).   Across those five boards (30 chances) the GCBA teams were in the favoured contract 12 times; this is not great, but the Notts teams only managed 9 times, so we can be considered adequately successful.  There were others hands on which poor (or more like hopeless) slams were bid :  board 8 by Glos, board 11 (twice by Glos and once by Notts but Glos also had two slam tries ending in a minus score), board 12 by Notts, board 13 (once each side).  And there is also the inferior 6 bid on board 16 by Notts which was successful (although beatable).

That comes to a total (across both teams) of  21/60  correct decisions on the good slam hands, and another 9 wrong decisions on non-slam hands.   Clearly we all need to do better.

Of the disasters board 11 was the most interesting. The simplest auctions were after a weak 1N opener from West.  East looked at 18 hcp and a five card spade suit and got excited.  The natural start was 2 as a transfer and then exuberance got the better of a number who continued with 4N.  The downside of this is that partner, without a spade fit, might well judge a 13-count or 14-count to be a maximum (remember many of us open 11-14 no-trumps these days) and you don't really want to be in a slam with a 31 or 32-count and no decent suit to run.

A better sequence is the one shown which, despite its appearance, does not give up on slam. What is key is that, in reverting over 3N, the opener should always cue bid en route to 4♠ when holding a maximum. That caters perfectly for this dilemma, allowing the East hand to continue opposite a maximum with a spade fit, but to stop in either 3N or 4♠ when partner is minimum or lacks a spade fit.   We know of some who started down this route but failed to read the 4♠ as minimum and, fatally, continued.

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HotD-tue : Midlands League : 4apr17 : B6

(oops - a day late - sorry, I forgot)

This proved the most troublesome of the good slams in this match, and it was bid at only 1/12 tables.  All tables we know of started with three passes to North who then had a choice of three bids : either a 1 opener, or a strong 2-level opener (there are a few who switch their weak twos in fourth to Acol twos) or a 4 opener.   Holding 18 hcp gives the others an average of about 7 hcp each, so you are not expecting to end up in a part-score here - game is very likely.  Of the three choices, generally it is the 1-level opening which allows most flexible bidding and discovery of the best contract.  The time to avoid a 1 opening is where there is a danger of it being passed out, to your embarassment;  this hand is not that time.

After a 1 opener, it is inevitable that South will bid 1♠ and now you have the rebid problem to consider. Since you never want to stop out of game on this hand, your choices are limited to 3♣ and 4.  When the former was chosen, partner continued with 3N (I'd prefer 3 myself) and over that the opener went back to 4.  This is middling descriptive in one way - it implies at least 10 cards in hearts and clubs and gives partner a chance to evaluate the ♠AQA  as being really useful cards.  Not enough to under-write a slam but enough - given partner's strong bidding - to allow a try.  A cue of 4♠ might have hit the jackpot here.  But of course, he passed.

After a start of 1-1♠-4 (a common sequence) all of the Souths passed but they began to think, rather too late, that maybe they should have continued.   What partner has shown here is a hand that always wanted to play in 4 but didn't want to just open 4 in fourth seat.  There is a feeling (but who had explored this sequence with their partner?) that this ought to be stronger than a 4 opener because it is interested in other things. This makes a strong case for the South hand continuing.  One could wonder if the North hand was too weak to open 4 but was encouraged by the 1♠ bid; such thinking used to have currency but of all the responses South could make, this is the least encouraging, so the logic might be flawed (and the alternative is too useful).

There were a few 4 openers and of course all those tables saw it followed by three passes.  No reports were heard of strong opening bids.

The one successful auction we can only report but will not comment upon : P-P-P-1   then  P-1♠-P-3(non-forcing)   then   P-3N-P-4♣ (cue)  and   P-4-P-4N(ace ask)   and so to slam ....

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