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Hand of the week 07 August 2019

Crumbling cookies

South side story

From a NS point of view, this is a perfect auction. South opens 1, intending to jump in NT if no fit is found, but West scuppers that with her 2 overcall. Holding a weakish hand but with good spade support and just 8 losers, North jumps (semi-preemptively) to 3 and South raises to game. 

West leads the A and down goes dummy. Looks good, doesn't it? You're going to lose two hearts and a club, and the rest are yours: 5 spades, 3 diamonds, a club and a diamond ruff. 10 tricks. All you have to do when you get the lead is clear trumps, force out the A and ...

But sadly, you don't get the lead. West cashes her AK, then switches to a low club to East's Ace. East returns a low club, up goes your K ... and West ruffs. Her club was a singleton, and you're one off.

Let's have a look at the whole deal and switch focus.

West side story

You're West and it's your opening lead. With a singleton, you'd normally lead that against a suit contract, but holding the AKQ the A is a no-brainer: it allows you to take a look at dummy while keeping the lead - you can lead your singleton club later. But when? Best to cash your K first so that, if partner has the A, she won't be tempted to lead you back another heart.

And the rest is history. West's two heart tricks, East's A and (providing East returns a club) the fatal club ruff.

Moral

So should NS have stopped in 3? Not a bit of it! 19 times out of 20 you'll make it. Any nitwits who stop below game will be getting an utterly undeserved top on this board, but you can console yourself with the thought that the other 19 times they'll be earning a thoroughly deserved bottom. It's just the way the cookie crumbles.

In Box and Bath

In Box, every NS pair was in 4, going off each time - well defended, EW!

In Bath, every pair but one reached 4♠, mostly going off, but a couple made it (thank you, defenders!). And the other pair? You've guessed it: they stopped in 3♠ and cleaned up with 80%. indecision

Hand of the week 31 July 2019

Tricks on the side

East was doubtless imagining herself as declarer in spades when she picked up her hand ... but your opening weak 2 bid turned that on its head. Why bother with spades when you have a 10-card heart fit? There's another reason for preferring hearts as trumps, of which more later.

North leads the A and your splendid dummy is revealed. How many tricks do you think you can make? And what's the best line to take? You're playing pairs, remember, so you want as many overtricks as you can ...

Well, you're certainly going to make your contract. You have 6 heart tricks, the two black aces and at least two diamond ruffs in dummy. That's 10. Add a third diamond ruff (pefectly possible with careful planning) and you've got 11.

Any advance on 11? Well ... how about 13? 

How's it done? Pretty simple, actually, if the spades behave themselves. It's just a question of setting up your side suit: if you can (1) get rid of all their spades (2) clear trumps and (3) make sure you still have an entry to dummy, you can bang out a vast number of spade tricks that no-one can ruff, throwing away any losers you have left in your hand. 

Let's do it. Take a look at the full deal.

  • Ruff the opening lead in dummy and lead a trump to your K: both defenders follow suit – only one trump left now. 
  • Now a spade to the A and ruff a second spade in hand. Both defenders follow suit. How many spades do they have now? That's right – just one. Let's get rid of that ...
  • ... and take out their last trump at the same time: a small trump to dummy's A. Now ruff a third spade and watch North's K drop harmlessly to the table.
  • And that's it. You have FOUR spade tricks in dummy waiting to be cashed. How to get there?
  • Ruff a diamond with dummy's last trump. Then cash your spade tricks, throwing losers from hand. You can even discard your A if you like, as you already have 13 tricks without using it. Not bad for a combined 19-count.

So why didn't anyone do that in Bath?

Two reasons. First, they were playing Teams, not Pairs, and in Teams overtricks are less important. Second, North's takeout double suggests that he has 4 spades, which makes it more difficult and dangerous to ruff them out – or even 5, making it all totally hopeless. Better to play safe and go for the diamond ruffs in the short trump suit. But playing Pairs, and without that double from North, I reckon you should go for 13.

In Box and Bath

In Box, every West was in 4, all making, but only one with an overtrick.

In Bath, it was much the same story, except that one or two were pushed up to 5 by South's bidding diamonds. Plus nearly everyone made overtricks. At one table, South somehow got away with sacrificing in 6 (which went 3 off) without being doubled. How come? I suppose East must have decided that she must have a heart void. But even so ...


NOTE  If you've got a double fit with nothing to choose between the suits except their distribution – say 5-4 and 6-2 – it's usually better to make the more balanced one trumps. Why? Because you're aiming to clear trumps and set up your side suit – as here – and an unbalanced side suit will give you more discards than a balanced one. This hand's a great example.

Hand of the week 24 July 2019

Gotta say something ...

Here's an awkward situation. With game-going points and 4 hearts, you're all set to find out if you have a heart fit (in which case you'll bid 4) or not (3NT, then) ... when South butts in over your Stayman 2 with a 2 overcall. Two passes later, it's up to you to rescue the auction. What are the options?

Pass isn't one of them: with 25 points between you, you're not going to let them get off that lightly. What about a penalty double, then? With them vulnerable and you not, that could be profitable: getting them 2 off would net you +500 – better than making game. But will they go two off? If South's got a good suit, it might be only 1 off, and that's not enough ...

What about 3, then? It's a possibility. But partner already knows that you have 4 hearts. If she had 4 as well, wouldn't she have dragged up a 3 bid instead of passing?

As so often happens, the best option is the much-forgotten cue bid: bid South's suit – 3. 'Come on, partner, I've got game-going points here. If you can help with the spades, I reckon we can make 3NT.'

And sitting behind South with KQx (have a look at the whole deal), partner duly bids 3NT.

Questions

  • How does partner know my 3 is asking for spade stops rather than showing spade stops?
    Because if you had spade stops, you'd simply have bid 3NT yourself. It's a question, not a statement!
  • What if partner can't help in spades?
    You've still got lots of points. If partner's short in the majors, she'll have a 4- or 5-card minor, so you can probably survive in 4
     or 4. Or maybe even 4 on a 3-4 fit.

Does it make?

As it happens, yes. North will probably lead top-of-sequence K, but because of South's singleton can never get in again to cash her diamond winners. The heart finesse loses, but no matter. If you lead spades twice through South, you end up with 2 spade tricks, 3 hearts, 3 clubs and a diamond. Contract made.

Also as it happens, 2 by South goes 2 off, so doubling it gets the best result on this hand: a 500 penalty instead of just 400 for game.

In Box and Bath

In Box, 3 pairs were in 3NT, but only one made it. (The other result was 3 by South, going 3 off. Undoubled, luckily! Vulnerable against non-vulnerable, South shouldn't really be pre-empting with 3 – which goes for -800 if it's doubled – 2 is plenty.)

In Bath, 7 of the 11 EW pairs ended up in 3NT, all bar one making. Those who ventured into hearts went off. And one hapless (reckless?) South went 4 off in 4♠X for -1100. Ouch.

   The previous featured hand – Game contract or penalty? – is now on the Beyond basic bidding Improvers' Page.   
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Calendar
Wed 21st Aug 2019
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Wed 28th Aug 2019
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Wed 4th Sep 2019
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