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23 May 19 : minutes of the 2019 AGM have been published,
This hand was a good exercise in watching the pips. The bidding was as shown and partner leads the ♦7 on which declarer plays small from dummy, and the ♦9 from hand when you win the ace. What next?
The key to this hand is watching which card partner led. The most common style in this country is small from an honour, and second best from a bad suit. Here after the first round, the choice is whether partner had KQ87 and led small or partner had 8752 and led high. You cannot rule out either of these but there was a chance of leading a top diamond with the first and since declarer has about 13 hcp compared to partner's about 7 hcp, the odds clearly favour the weaker hand.
So you want to switch, but to which suit? Clubs are about to be cashed and you are playing for declarer to have two diamond winners, so it must be a major. Partner chose not to lead hearts, so that's not too promising. So it has to be spades. The spade layout is a text-book situation - you must lead the ♠J to avoid declarer running a small spade round to the ten, and so setting up a trick with the queen. When the ♠J holds (covering it would be fatal, as John Stirrup realised), you need to continue the suit and partner wins the ace and returns one.
It is disappoining when declarer turns up with four spades, but you win the king and try a heart. Declarer claims the rest but reward comes in the form of 14/16 matchpoints, because the other diamonds leads did not find the spade switch, and the heart leads gave declarer both a trick and a tempo.
There was one team from Gloucestershire in the Swiss Teams at Stratford this weekend. John Atthey, Richard Chamberlain, Patrick Shields and Garry Watson came equal 3rd of the 35 teams present, winning 5 matches and losing the other two by just 6 imps and 7 imps.
An early gain was a result of finding the winning lead on this hand. The bidding was as shown; there were two suits shown by the opposition, and two unbid suits.
One should not reach automatically for the longest suit, without considering how this might beat the contract. And since declarer has bid diamonds, and then no-trumps, the most likely weakness in the hidden hand is hearts. So spades, hearts and clubs are all options. What do you fancy?
The winning choice is a club lead, and it was found. But why?
All the suits held have the potential to give away a trick, and there is a real worry that with a diamond fit delivering tricks for declarer, there is a need to set up the defensive tricks quickly. The best chance of setting up tricks is finding a 5-card suit for the defence. What suit will that be?
It is unlikely to be spades as partner had the chance to bid 1♠ and didn't. It is not likely to be hearts after that was bid by East. So the suit has to be clubs. Hence the lead of ♣ 2 which meant that when the diamond ace was dislodged, the clubs were there to run. Of the Norths on lead, only 3/12 found the club lead. At the other table, 3N made to give the Gloucestershire team 13 imps.
It is perhaps too often that you see the same hand played in a part-score at one table, but in a slam at another. On this hand the diamond contracts were at the two level, the three level, the five level, and the six level. As well as two tables in club partscores and one table in 3N.
What comes as a surprise is that there was only one table with the bidding as shown. Let's look at the options. West must open the longest suit and the hand is not strong enough to consider anything except 1♠, so that is easy. In response, East is not strong enough to bid at the two level, and so must bid 1N. West clearly must move on, and the only question is which suit to bid. The normal pattern with 4-4 is to bid suits up the line, and here that means 2♣. Bidding diamonds would only make sense if you were committed to continue with 3♣ on the next round; you might do that with this shape, but it would need to be a stronger hand than this.
Over 2♣ what should East do? Clearly neither of partner's black suits is an attractive option, and the East hand's only chance of generating tricks is in diamonds, so what else can East do but bid 2♦? So every auction should start this way, and the spotlight is on West who should be thinking - this 2♦ bid is just about as good as good news ever gets.
From West's perspective, what shape can partner have? Any East hand with two or more spades would prefer to bid 2♠ and a hand with four clubs would always play there, and even a 1453 hand would just prefer to play in 2♣ . All of this tells you that East must have six (or seven) diamonds. Now where are the losers when playing in diamonds?
You expect zero or one trump loser, no heart losers, no spade loser and at most one club loser. How can you not force to game now? And what about more? You cannot be sure about going higher, but you cannot ignore the possibility. As always when you don't know how high to bid the answer is to involve partner, and you can do that easily here. As well as raising diamonds directly, you have the option here of jumping in hearts (the fourth suit). The jump would show shortage, and since 3♥ would show shortage, then 4♥ must be the extreme version of that, promising a void. Very appealing! What better way to engage partner than by fully describing one's hand?
Over 4♥ East can now feel very enthused. Partner clearly has a 5044 shape and extra values. Both the ♦Q and ♣A are great cards, which could have turned out to be in hearts instead, in a hand of the same shape. Is there any alternative to bidding the slam? ( Of course, you must play carefully to make it).
This is the hundredth contribution since Garry Watson and Patrick Shields started this back in February. Please let us know if it is proving interesting and useful for you.
This hand was played in spades at all but one table and missing two aces and the KJ of trumps, making game comes down to finding the right play in spades. Three tables had a trump lead, for which one hopes declared said thanks, but the most common choice was a heart.
The favourite play with this spade combination is to take a double finesse but on this hand you lack the two entries you need to the dummy. You are forced into playing spades from hand. There are two options : ace and another towards dummy, or small to the queen and then using a diamond entry (not certain but not unlikely) to lead back for a finesse through the AT9.
If we forget the 4-1 breaks then ace and another to the queen will lose to xx or Jxx onside (6 cases) while to the queen first will lose to Jx or Jxx with West (also 6 cases). Cashing the ace first does also work for any singleton honour, so that choice wins.
But after ace and another there is a choice - you can play the queen next or the eight. The odds are even, and on the basis that West might rise with Kxx while they won't with Jxx, it looks better to play the eight. But of course you now lose two trumps. What is surprising is that every table managed ten tricks, so why did nobody go wrong? Please let us know.
Those who had the lead of ♦A and another also all got the spades right, but they had a good reason for that. Can you see why?
There are many hands where the outcome at the table differs from the possibilities suggested by the software which analyses hands for us. Sometimes there are good reasons why we cannot do as well - like dropping offside kings - but it can be instructive to look at the reasons for the difference. This hand offers such opportunities.
South as shown opened with a strong (Benji) bid but more people opened 1♥ since the danger of the hand being passed out is so low. Both East and West got to say their piece, and at this vulnerability it would be wrong for them to bid more. Where South opened 1♥ and West overcalled 2♣ we can see why East leapt to 4♠ but over a more descriptive weak jump with 3♣ (which needs about this strength at this vulnerability) East would know not to bid 4♠ .
But now to the defence of 4♥. Every West defending hearts started with the ♠6 to the ace and got a ruff. They looked no further than the ♣A next and that was the last defensive trick. How could they hold hearts to 9 tricks as advertised? The answer is to underlead the clubs so that partner can play a third spade to give you a trick with the ♥Q. Can this be found? It all comes down to which spade East returns.
East knows partner is going to ruff this trick, and should signal with the spade they lead to show where East's high cards are. Note that this is different from telling West which suit to return. If the ♠5 is returned, then West should be confident that East holds the king (or exceptionally a void) and be happy to play back the ♣J.
But in practice the majority of the field bid on over 4♥ and only the gross overbidding of 5♠ got the punishment it deserved. Those who allowed spade declarers to make 9 tricks need to look how they could have done better, and then ask whether they should have done better.
The bidding of this hand was not a success at any of the seven tables in play on Monday. The most common starting sequence was as shown, but what is West to do next?
The most common choice by far was to bid "what you think you can make" with 4♠ and that ended the auction every time it happened.
The alternative is to double again in order to bring diamonds into the picture. This doesn't preclude playing in spades, but you might need confidence that partner won't pass if you want to double and then bid 3♠. Current wisdom is that this would be forcing and must be suggesting there are alternative places to play. Over 3♠ East will continue either with 3N (most likely) or 4♣ but both of these give West an opportunity to show diamond support. Whether or not West can resist rebidding the spades is not clear.
One pair did reach diamonds : after the same first five bids as above, East ventured 3♦ and then bid 3N over partner's 3♥. At this point West decided to take a chance on 6♦ but that was too high and South cashed two winners. This was a very curious case where bidding a slam missing two cashed aces actually scored above average - as every other table saw East-West go minus in spades (and one pair was in 5♠-2). It seems odd that six out of seven pairs preferred to play in a 6-card fit rather than a 9-card fit, with such meagre interference from the opposition.
This defence on this hand did not go well at most tables. You have opened a very sound weak two (a bad four card major on the side is very much accepted these days, and getting in first helps so much). On your lead of a top heart, partner shows a doubleton. Over to you ...
The key question is what to expect of partner outside hearts. It looks likely (but not certain) that partner has a singleton spade, but even a doubleton and a weak hand would justify the raise just to make life difficult for the opposition, so you don't know much about values. You are expecting declarer to have all the top spades, so you have a trick in that suit, and two heart tricks. The heart tricks will not disappear unless declarer has a singleton diamond, so you don't have to cash. What might partner have that is useful? Only the ♣K is really an option, and you might need to takcle that before decalrer can discard losing clubs on diamonds.
Most players pushed out a club at this point and declarer drew trumps and soon had 10 tricks (which two careless defenders allowed to become 11). But two defenders continues with the second top heart and then a third. East can now ruff the third heart with the ♠9 and declarer has a dilemma. The contract can be made by over-ruffing and playing a small spade to the ♠T but the game is match-points and this gives up all chance of an overtrick. So these declarers cashed spade from the top and found they now had two spade losers. Well done to West who had now defeated the contrct.
The heart raise in the auction shown had in a way backfired; without the raise the first heart from East could have been a singleton, which makes West much more inclined to cash a second one. After the second one is cashed, it is late for a club as the ♥Q provides a discard (for something) and a third heart stands out as the normal play.
Top score however went to people not playing the hand in spades; one way to get to the easy 3N is the auction that goes 2♥ - P - P - 2♠ - P - 3N - end. Two tables managed to play in 3N and made 11 tricks for a shared top.
The winners of the GCBA Spring (Swiss) Pairs are Roy Collard & Val Constable. They had won 5/6 matches in the first two evenings to give leave them (and John Councer & Mark Rogers, who had to drop out) a good margin ahead of the rest of the field. In the final session, Roy & Val clocked up 30 VPs, just enough to stay ahead of their main rivals Joe Angseesing & Keith Stanley who collected 42 VPs. The margin was just 6 VPs as the last match started with the board on display.
The bidding shown was that of the winners, and against Roy's 3N, Garry Watson led a small heart. This was ducked to the ♥9 and a heart came straight back, removing declarer's dummy entry. Using then entry wisely, Roy took a diamond finesse and then tried a spade to the king. When West signalled an odd number, East knew to win the first round of the suit - and at this point declarer was completely cut off from the North hand.
But what could East play next? It had to be one minor suit. Patrick Shields exited with a small club (expecting declarer to be a 1246 shape) and here Roy made the key play of inserting the ♣T. He was expecting to lose a trick in the suit anyway and this was the only realistic chance of anything good happening. And it did! He won the ♣T and played out the ♣A, ♣K and a fourth club. This set up the long club and put East back on lead.
Since a major suit would clearly be fatal, East played a second diamond. Roy finessed the ♦J this time, and cashed the ♦A to find that he was up to 8 tricks now. He had two winners in dummy but couldn't get to them, and he could set up the fifth diamond by giving a trick to the king. It looked easy but there was a trap - which Roy spotted. If he cashed his club and then gave up the diamond, East would be left on lead to play a major suit, but this would be in a 1-card ending, and he needed dummy to have a winner in the major suit still held by East. Would Roy know which it was? This is a dangerous position, but Roy avoided all danger by not cashing the long club he had just set up. Instead, he exited with the fourth round of diamonds first, which meant East was end-played in a 2-card ending, and dummy could keep a winner in both majors and not have to guess.
Well done, Roy, because going one off in this contract would have cost 4 VPs, giving them the same score as Joe & Keith who would have won the trophy because they won their head-to-head match.
The only Gloucestershire represenative at the EBU's National Swiss Teams in Solihull over the weekend was the team of Ashok Kwatra & David Simons, Pam Pearce & Steve Sasanow. They were lying fourth overnight, and slipped back to 11th on the Sunday but that was still a good result in a field of 40 teams from all over the country. On the hand shown Pam & Steve combined well to bid a slam that was bid by only one third of the field. The key is that the opening bid is not a minimum hand; despite having just 11 hcp, when you apply the Losing Trick count, it is a 5-loser hand. That might exaggerate its value a little, but for sure it is a trick better than any minimum opening bid. Pam chose 4♠ at this point, and Steve then proceeded to the slam via Blackwood.
That hand was from the last match and gained the team 10 imps in a in against a team whose memebers have in the past played for Scotland and for England in the Camrose.
In the previous match this problem came up : dealer opened with ♠ AKQT42 ♥ Q5 ♦ A95 ♣ Q6 and heard the bidding start as 1♠ - P - 2♣ - 3♥. The intervention makes the forcing nature of 3♠ not so clear (unless 2♣ has been forcing to game) and both tables chose 4♠ to avoid missing game. In both cases partner, with ♠ 93 ♥ A ♦ QJ76 ♣ AKT953 came out with a reluctant pass and when spades behaved but clubs did not, declarer could still muster 13 tricks. It was a flat board, and here just over a third of the field managed to reach the slam (actually 12 played at 6-level, 4 at 4-level).
Count it have been done better? Unless 2♣ was game forcing then West does have a problem; it is usually important to show a 6-card or 7-card suit and so you might want to bid 3♠ on quite limited hands. But that would be landing on a pinhead, and there are hands which need to show long spades but don't want to commit to spades. Life becomes difficult if 3♠ is not forcing, so it should be, but who has ever discussed it - so the jump to 4♠ is reasonable. [The only other option is the uniquitous takeout/values double but partner will never read you for this shape] So after 4♠ might responder continue? I think the answer has to be yes; slam is not certain but a try must be made and there is only one try availabl, bidding 5♥, and on today's hands partner would clearly accept. Bridge is a difficult game, particularly if the opponents make jumps like 3♥. [One should be grateful however that the hand did not bid 4♥]
This hand from last night's event proved a surprisingly difficult slam to bid in the top division, where only one out of four tables reached slam. In both of Division Two and Division Three there were two tables bid slam. Slam is not certain but needs just the clubs or the hearts to come in.
How best to bid is it not clear. The sequence shown treats the transfer break (not to 3♠) as showing a top end 4-card ssupport with values in the suit bid (2N would show scattered values). Over this South expresses slam interest with 4♣ and can then afford to bid 4♠. Because North heard a slam try made opposite a weak NT, and this hand has such good controls (K-AQ-A) it must match South's hopes. Which is why North can just bid the slam now, and because partner offered the chance to stop in 4♠ North knows that the grand slam is too much.
But what were the bidding sequences in practice? I did learn of one sequence 1♣ -1♠ -2♠ after which the necessary 3♣ try (or perhaps a 4♦ splinter would have worked better) got a negative 3♠ response (on a hand way too good for that) and then gave up with 4♠.
Of course both of the finesses might have been failing, and we would find 6♠ going off, but you do want to bid this sort of slam every time it comes up.
This hand produced quite a variety of scores on Monday. It is hard to see how so many tables played the hand in 4♥ undoubled (stories, please). Given South surely opened it must mean that neither North nor South bid after that!
The expected bidding sequence is as shown, and now South has a difficult choice to make. Where South settled for 4♠ this brought forward 5♥ from the other side and double seems inevitable. But that is only two down.
One South (an Indian gentleman) was more enthused as South on the above sequuence and over 4♥ he chose 5♥. The sense that there was a contract for North-South is correct, but the bid unfortunately by-passes both 4♠ and 5♦. Looking at it from a positive persepctive, South can see only four losers and if partner has three of the required cover cards (♠K, ♦A, ♦Q, ♣A) then there is an easy slam. The catch is partner might only have two (but here the singleton spade and long diamonds compensate for one each). A double (always takeout) would have been more flexible over 4♥ but the cue got the job done, when partner bid 6♦. Over this East not unreasonably bid 6♥ (a decent sacrifice) but South was having none of that and continued with 7♦. The grand slam is indeed an excellent contract and deserves all the match-ponts.
One table saw West overcall 3♥ and that was too much for North who passed (correctly); East raised to 4♥ and South doubled. This was passed out, but really it should have been removed as double in these circumstances is always showing a generally good hand, and not showing values in their suit.
Partner has opened 4♠ vulnerable, so your two aces must mean game was likely to make. On that basis you need to be doubling when the opponents bid on. Your double of 4N first was intended to get partner engaged, as you might have been uncomfortable doubling clubs; but it is easy to double 5♥ when you get the chance. You start, naturally, with the ♠A and partner plays the four; your carding is low for even and low to encourage. But if partner thinks you might have a singleton then the signal should be a suit preference. What comes at trick two?
The bidding by South (4N) shows a two-suiter and that is clearly hearts and clubs. Partner should be thinking of the problem you would have at trick two with a singleton spade ace, and so the ♠4 will be a signal; with enough intermediate spades to play this is clearly a signal for clubs. So West switched to a club, which declarer won with the king in order to play a heart. East rose with the ace, played over to the ♦A and got a club ruff. West later made the ♥Q to put the contract three off.
Was that good enough? Not quite - our team lost 7 imps. In the same contract at the other room, the defence had started with ♠A and a second spade. Declarer ruffed and tried to cross to dummy with a small diamond, but the ace rose and he now got to dummy with a top club. Declarer led hearts and East rose with the ace. He had little choice but to play a third round of spades which was ruffed and overruffed (with the ♥T). This was followed by a club ruff and another spade; the over-ruff this time was with the ♥Q. The defence here made two aces and four trump tricks, for down four.
It can be a tough game. Did the second West see all that happening, or did they just play a second spade without thinking?
The same hands were played a four venues; across the field 32 pairs were allowed to play in spades (6 doubles, and making), while 20 pairs sacrificed (and 4 were left undoubled) in three different suits. Playing in 5♥x, the results were down two 3 times, down three 6 times, down four 3 times.
Today's hand shows up a simple technique, which a surprising number (7 out of 19) missed in the Spring Fours last weekend. The contract was easily bid (at every table except the one which tried 3N and went off), and was never in doubt with four trump tricks and three sets of ace-king outside. The opening lead was the ♥Q won by the ace, and declarer played the ♠9 which held, and then a second spade which West won with the ace, while East discarded. West returned a second heartWwon by the king. What do you do now? Do you settle for losing a heart and a spade, or do you try to do better?
Guess what - you try to do better. Making a trick from the ♣J and discarding a heart on the third club is possible, but dangerous as the club finesse might lose. A better alternative is to aim to make all your trumps. If you continue at trick five with two top diamonds and a ruff, and then play two top clubs and a ruff, you find you are left with ♠KJ ♥8 in hand. It is now easy to exit in hearts and wait for your two spade tricks. The overtrick won't often swing a match, but there are enough matches won by just one imp that a couple of these extra tricks can be vital. And tomorrow the same technique might be vital to make your doubled contract!
This hand was from round four of the Spring Fours and a number of declarers slipped up. There's what happened : after West opened 1♥, North made a takeout double. East felt it was a good raise and so chose 2N, but South had five card "support" for partner's implied spades and could not resist bidding 3♠. when this came back round to East he bid 4♥ as a two way shot - it might make but it was probably a decent sacrifice over 3♠. North had heard his vulnerable partner bid and had soem defensive values, so he doubled.
Against 4♥x, North started with the spade ace. The discouraging signal from partner was a disappointment, so he now switched to a diamond. This ran to the king at both tables in our match, and one South returned a spade, the other a diamond. Could it make a difference? And if we accept the unfortunate lead, has declarer been on the ball so far?
When South returned a diamond, declarer won that, tried the ♥A in case of a singleton king, crossed to the ♠K and cashed the winning diamonds. North could ruff in, or wait and be thrown in (with the ♥K) and was then forced to lead from clubs. Leading a club or giving a ruff-and-discard was worth an extra trick to declarer.
When South returned a spade to the king, declarer won that, tried the ♥Q, unsuccessfully, and could only cash the ♦A and exit in hearts. North continued diamonds and declarer was forced to tackle clubs for himself, and had two losers there. That was down two for -300.
Could declarer have done better? As always - yes. When the diamond switch comes at trick two, where do we think the king is? For sure North is not leading away from a king with A2 in dummy, when he might find his partner with the jack and declarer with the queen-ten. The answer is to recognise that and to rise with the ♦A at trick two. Whatever you choose to do after that (and I'd favour a diamond) you will be able to end-play North on the second round of hearts.
Saving that undertrick gets you a score of -100 and not -300. It might feel bad going minus at all, but in fact North-South are almost certain to make 3♠ and with the cards lying so well they can make 4♠ today. The defence do best of course by not leading a spade; a diamond lead at trick one means it is much more difficult to place the king, but again rising with the ace saves a trick.
This hand was an interersting play and defensive problem, and in practice many errors were made. Here's is what happened at two tables.
Both tables had West playing in 1N and North led a heart. The defenders cashed five rounds and declarer had to discard three times from dummy, and twice from hand. It was easy to throw two clubs from West and a diamond from dummy and then a club and then he threw a spade. North played a spade and South won the ♠K. He hadn't noticed how North had carefully played the ♥8 before the ♥T (a suit preference signal for clubs) and he played a diamond through. Declarer failed to realise that South had passed initially and shown up with 9 hcp already, so that North really had to have the ♣K and probably the ♦Q also. [Actually a club return would never be from the king, so that would have been rather a strong signal as to where the ♣K was]. West was able to lose to the ♦Q but then have three diamond tricks to go with two spades and the club ace for down one.
Another West did a little better; he did not discard any spades from dummy, choosing one club and two diamonds. When the North finished the hearts and played a spade, South won and returned a diamond, but this time Steve Peterkin had spotted where the missing high cards were. He won the ♦A, carefully cashed the ♣A (Vienna Coup, setting up the squeeze) and then cashed his spades - three of them. This created too much pressure for North who had to keep the ♣K and so threw away a diamond. Steve could now drop the ♦Q to make his contract on a squeeze.
But could the defence have done better?
The answer (of course) is yes. What South needed to do was not win the first spade. Ducking the ♠T restricts declarer to just two spade tricks. Declarer can give up a diamond but that is just three red suit tricks to go with two spades and a club.
Funny, when 1N going one off seems so boring, but sometimes it isn't!
The Spring Fours is the EBU's top quality double elimination teams game, held every year in Stratford at this time of year. It attracts top teams from all the home countries and this year also had players from Brazil, Bulgaria, Denmark, France, Germany, Israel, Norway, Poland, Slovenia and the USA. Despite the attractions of the Cheltenham Congress one team from Gloucestershire did go to Stratford, with John Atthey, Paul Denning and Patrick Shields joined by Filip Kurbalija from Cardiff.
The standard is as high as you get in this country, and the competition lasts four and a half days. It is all a series of 32-board matches, and once you lose twice you are out of the main event and into one of the secondary events. The players are all very friendly and you should feel encouraged to attend (a most unfortunate clash however still exists). The last rounds of this year's event, featuring Zia's top seeded team, the Engliash national team, the Irish National team, and the team organised by Andrew Black will be broadcast on BBO today (Tuesday) starting at 1000 hrs. Well worth watching.
This hand was curious, as when you look at the East-West hands you see 25 hcp and you expect everyone to bid game. But if you look at the game prospects, they are not great. After one round of diamonds there might be no entry at all to the West hand and you have to lead hearts and clubs away from East's honours. If fact 3N can be made but it needs East to win the trick one diamond with the ace and lead a club to the king. Not everyone found that.
When you have the auction shown do you feel good or bad? The answer should be neiether, as you have made a normal action and what you find when you look at the traveller is that only 11 out of 32 tables bid to game and four of them went down. So the average result was a few hundreds plus to East-West. If North-South had opened a weak 1N then the auction would have been different but again if East did anything other than double, you would expect the contract to be a part-score.
There was another hand a few rounds later when after P-1♣ you have to bid with ♠ AKQT87♥65♦A653♣K and your 1♠ overcall was passed out. Declarer then proceeded to collect 13 (yes 13) tricks, for a flat board, as exactly the same had happened in the other room. When you look at the traveller you find 16 others in the same contract; on that hand we must presume a club raise by South gave East-West a second chance, or again a weak 1N opening (which is what RHO held) might catch a double and propel East-West to game.
It is odd that on both hands the 1N opener makes it easier for East to show its strength; in a way the 1♣ opener is more disruptive. Funny game!