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MONDAY LEAGUES: Div 1 2, and then Div 1A, 1B, Div 2A, 2B
CLEVERLY TEAMS : Div 1, North, South
There was nothing exciting in the results on the traveller for this board, but there were some interesting points in the play.
After the bidding as shown, South led the ♠7 and the first task for declarer was to spot that you really want to play clubs next and therefore want to be in dummy (West). Playing the ♠8 lets you do this without giving away any information. Once that card wins (or you win in hand and cross to the ♥J), you run the club nine and it loses to the queen. South now switches to the ♦Q.
What does this tell you about the hand? [Hint : something about spades and something about clubs] And how do you proceed?
The key fact to notice is that South has given up on spades. There is no reason for South to do so holding four to the ace, as ducking another spade will allow cashing two spades when either defender gets in. Ergo spades must be 5-2 (or 6-1).
And if South had long spades, they would still be useful if South had an entry. You can deduce therefore that the club ace is with North.
Clearly the defence can set up some diamonds but you can always make your contract. If you play out clubs you will get two club tricks to go with one spade, four hearts, and two diamonds - nine tricks, as required. If you can get a second spade trick in you are even better off. So you win the diamond and try leading a club through North, who ducks. Now you can set up your ninth trick in either spades or clubs. North is not likely to duck again, so you switch to spades and lead towards the ♠Q4. If South ducks that you will win and go back to clubs and you have ten tricks before they set up diamonds.
At the table Toby sitting South was alert to this and quickly rose with ♠A but unforunately had no diamond to play. So you could knock out the club ace and gather ten tricks.
Was there a stronger defence? The answer is yes - North should have risen with the club ace on the first round, and played a second spade. This would be vital if South had the club king and declarer the club queen. It might also be vital if South's spades were king high and declarer had the ace. Today it holds declarer to nine tricks, and this game is matchpoints, so it could be considered vital here too. Well done if you found that!
This hand - on which every table made 13 tricks - provided a difficult bidding exercise. Only one of the twelve tables in two events which played the hand ended in the top contract of 7N, with people playing at every level between 3N and the grand slam.
The successful auction was Ashok Kwatra & John Skjonnemand, who made it very easy by bidding 2♣ - 2♠ - 4N - 5♣ - 5♦ - 6♠ - 7N. The two spade positive is scorned by some as lacking two of the top honours in spades, but the fact is that a sequence like 2♣ -2♦-3♣-3♠-4♣ will leave you uncomfortable, so the alternatives don't always work well. The 2♠ response to 2♣ is not forcing to slam, and you easily have enough values to cope with 4N if you end up there, so you should be safe. After 2♣ -2♠ we find one of the few times where a leap to 4N is ace-asking rather than quantitative (since 2N would have been forcing, quantiative can wait). After finding one ace (from five) with 5♣ the 5♦ ask is about the trump queen and 6♠ shows that and denies any outside kings. Provided the spades behave, South can now count 13 tricks, and in fact the extra spade delivers a fourteenth.
If North starts 2♦ and South shows a very strong balanced hand, the future isn't so clear. Opposite most 3-card spade holdings North is very interested in a slam, but opposite say Ax or Kx you really don't want to be slamming - you want to stop in 3N or 4N. Can we do that? It is tricky - you need to show the spade suit and then get a reaction from partner. The winning result comes if North transfers into spades and South breaks the transfer with a 4♣ cue bid : North can return cue bid and now South takes charge to bid the grand as already illustrated.
If South accepts the transfer (3♥-3♠) then it is more tricky. The options to suggest slam interest by North now are 4♠ (if you have agreed this is strong than bidding spades at the four level over 2N), or 4N (with the danger partner bids 6N on a maximum with no spade fit), or 5♠ (but if partner is negative you are playing in spades when you want to be in NT). A final option might be 3♥-3♠-5♣ if that is known to show short clubs and long spades (same downside as 5♠). A tough choice.
I think this means that 2♣ -2♠ gets my vote !
BTW : two pairs reached 7♥. We know that in one case the pair were heading for 6♥ but in response to a 5N ask for kings, North misbid with 6♠ and South felt forced to bid 7♥ as they were now too high for 6♥. Lucky them!
The winners of the first session of this series were Ian and Val Constable. They declared on round two that they had scored 0% on round one, but this was the only board of the three on which they scored zero. The key point in the bidding comes at the point shown. West passed initially with short spades and now doubles for takeout. North surely wants to play the hand, and with spades as trumps. The question is how high to bid?
The losing trick count ranks North as a 7-loser hand, which makes bidding game reasonable. There is also advice from the Meckwell stable that when your six card major is supported, you should bid game. So 4♠ it must be. Surprisingly only two tables got to game, the others stopping in partscores. But does game make?
The answer is yes, although there are some traps. It is normal for East to lead a heart and it looks to be pointless to play small but you need to, as it helps later. If the king were to lose to the ace, West could return a trump and declared would end up a trick short. In practice, when the king was tried, West played a hopeful second heart and now declared could recover. The recovery comes from ruffing three diamonds with dummy's three trumps. Declarer sets up the fifth diamond, but never gets to cash it. What happens is that the defence, having had all their diamonds and hearts ruffed away, have no defensive tricks but the three aces and they are forced to give declared the ♣K as the tenth trick.
If the initial heart is ducked, West does best by playing a spade and East plays ace and another, but when declarer now plays ♦Q covered and then leads the ♣Q, West has to win but is end-played. This is where retaining the ♥A matters.
So 4♠ is not only the inevitable contract, but always makes. The fact remains that only John Polhill bid and made it; the Constables were not responsible for their zero!
This hand was played in NT (sometimes 3N, some 4N, some 6N) at all tables in the teams game on Monday. What was curious was that the two tables who played in 6N both went off, while all those who played in lower contracts made 12 tricks. How does that happen? Here's one story in 6N ...
Declarer had the♠J led against 6N and the drop of the queen from North suggested that the suit was breaking 5-1. Declarer needs two heart tricks (maybe 6N was a bit high?) and played that suit next, winning with the king. Correctly delaying the decision in clubs until more was known, declarer returned to dummy in diamonds and led another heart won by the ace. The diamond return now showed up the 1-6 diamond split.
When you add together the spade split and the diamond split you find out that North had 6 cards in hearts & clubs, while South had 7 cards in diamonds & clubs. This changes the odds in favour of South having longer clubs, and declarer played the clubs by ♣A and then he finessed losing to the jack and that was one down.
In fact, the odds have changed but not by enough; it seems to take a 4-card difference here to justify finessing. What would have been a better answer is to cash the ♥Q before making the decision. When North shows up with exactly three hearts, then you know North's shape to be 1363 and South to be 5413, and you know that the clubs are breaking! So you play the suit from the top.
This hand proved too difficult for all but one table in the teams game on Monday.
It looked like a total failure for East-West when the above auction occurred at my table, as even when having to lose to the ♦Q there were still 12 tricks there for declarer.
What happened? The 2♥ opening showed less than an opening bid with 5-5 in hearts and a minor. The East hand is strong and probably wants to play in diamonds but spades is also possible. To double feels wrong as surely partner will bid clubs, but - as for (but not quite the same as) doubles of opening 1-level bids, doubling and then bidding a suit shows a hand too good to make an overcall that might be passed. That sequence cancels the takeout message. Once could invoke that here, but ...
Even with a simple 3♦ overcall, and more assuredly after double then 3♦, the West hand will try 3N and when that happens will East argue? In practice East did not argue andand the defence quickly cashed their top five clubs to put the contract down. Four tables played 3N going down.
Which is why the 3♦+3 score of +170 turned out to be an excellent result on the day. You never can tell!
Last night saw the first session of the Summer Teams. All the slam or potential slam hands were East-West, and so the pairs sitting in that direction had more control over the team's destiny than had North-South. The two teams which bid up on this hand both benefited from a very king layout of the cards, while the two teams who suffered as a result languished one place above bottom.
The key to bidding this hand accurately is having the tools, and only two pairs out of eight managed to land in the preferred contract. The first tool needed is the ability to show a balanced 26-count below game. The increasingly standard technique for doing that goes under the tag of "Kokish". It involves opening 2♣ and over partner's 2♦ (negative / neutral) bidding a two-way 2♥ bid. This is either a heart suit or a game forcing balanced and partner asks with 2♠, over which 2N now shows the game forcing balanced. Any other response to 2♠ says that 2♥ was natural.
Hurdle number one overcome, you can now investigate the best game to play in. This would not be possible if you had to leap to 3N to show this strength. The tool needed is some form of 5-card Stayman, which here would be 3♣ asking and 3♠ showing five of them (still in a balanced hand). At this point West can raise to game and mission is accomplished.
Without this last tool, you would be forced to raise 2N to 3N, which is a playable game, but nowhere near as secure as the 4♠ game. It has lots of chances. If the spade queen falls singleton or doubleton you are home, and if not you need some luck with the minors.
Those who reached the slam needed the spade suit to break evenly with a doubleton queen (a 27% chance) and on top of that the heart ace onside. Those who bid a slam should worry that they have used up a whole month's worth of good luck!
This hand proved surprisingly diffiicult to bid. Across 24 tables in play, the four-four club fit was never reached. Two tables played in 4♥ making, three tables played in spades (one making, two going off) and all the rest played in 3N, seventeen times by East and twice by West. How did that come about?
The inevitable start to the bidding is 1♠ - 2♣ (although I suspect when West played 3N it was because East respsonded 2♦). West has a choice now, and for most the preference was to show the heart suit. And that is the right thing to do, as it is possibe that partner has bid 2♣ on a 3433 shape and you have no club fit, making it too early to raise clubs. And if you have a fit in both suits, then hearts is the preference. Now, over 2♥, what is East to do?
It seems that seventeen Easts looked no further than the possibility of a diamond stop and bid 3N. End of the auction. Was that the right bid?
As the results indicate, no. East is right to think about 3N but the diamond holding is too shaky, partner might be better placed as declarer (say holding ♦Kx), and partner might have a 5-card heart suit to show. All these considerations say that East should continue with a Fourth Suit Forcing 3♦ bid and over that, West can now show club support. [Those for whom - in the modern style - the initial 2♣ bid was game forcing, could choose 2N rather than 3♦]
That way we end up in 5♣ or 6♣ making twleve tricks while the other languish in 3N going down. Isn't bridge an easy game after all?
This was the problem facing some Wests on Monday night. At matchpoint pairs you don't want to sell out at the 1-level if the opponents are going to have an easy time, and it looks here like their spades are going to make tricks. But you have no five card suit to bid, and 1N or a take out double looks odd with a singleton club. What's your poison?
The answer to me is actually a take out double, but invoking the concept known as EQUAL LEVEL CONVERSION.
ELC is a declaration that when a takeout double gets a suit response, and doubler now removes to another suit at the same level, it is not showing extra values but simply says that the doubler is unsuitable for that suit and wishes a choice to be made between the other two. It was a very common approach some years back but it can run into problems (say when partner gets too excited and introduces the unwanted suit at a high level, or when the opponents now bid one of your offerings) and for that reason its use has become limited. But there are two situations where it is justified
a) it is safe when the hands are known to be limited, as here, since you can trust that your bidding will not get too high.
b) it is often needed when the takeout double is made at a higher level. Suppose you had ♠T3 ♥KQJ7 ♦AQJ54 ♣Q6 and you hear the bidding go 1♠-P-2♠ and you want to bid? Or the same hand with a 2♠ opener in front of you? Passing is way too dangerous, but if you double partner might bid clubs and leave you uncomfortable. And partner could pass a diamond overcall with a singleton diamond and five hearts. On both these auctions doubling and converting clubs to diamonds is the answer.
Back to today's hand : this is a candidate for a double with ELC and if you look at all four hands it seems that double hits the jackpot - but that is an illusion. Partner will pass the double but South will not, and when South bids 2♣ things get awkward. Partner might try a penalty double, but you have to remove that. If you were sufficiently imaginative, you would try to maneouvre to play in spades now, but chances are you will end in 2N which is still quite acceptable.
The winners on today's hand were those who passed out the 1♠ opener, as it went down three. It's a difficult game.
While many succeeded on yesterday's hand, this was only in the optimal contract at one table.
The bidding starts as shown. What should West be thinking at this point and what is the best bid? Answer if you can ignoring the previous sentence.
The first thing to register here is that partner's second double is still for takeout. At this level, you are not expected to take out into a failing contract, but partner is showing extra attacking (rather than defensive) values, andd is encouraging takeout.
Your values and shape are far from exciting with half your HCP in the opponent's suit, so my instinct would be to defend as taking four tricks in defence will be a lot easier than making eleven tricks yourself. But if you do bid which suit do you choose?
The answer to that question is that you don't choose. In situations like this, unless you have a strong preference, you should be asking partner to choose, and 4NT here is just like the unusual 2N, showing two places to play and asking partner to pick. Today 4N would get a 6♣ response from partner and now you are in the slam bid at only one table.
You are in reality not likely to get to this slam after the bidding starts as shown, which illustrates well how important it is to cramp the auction, as the 4♠ bid did. However you are likely to collect +500 against 4♠ so all is not lost.
For once we must report on slam bidding success, as on this hand the majority of the field (4 out of 6) got to the good grand slam in hearts. Why one competent pair ended in 7♣ is a mystery.
The bidding was perfectly natural; North started with the longest suit (advisable in first or second seat with this shape unless the longer suit is positively weaker than the other) and South bid clubs. Over a 2-level response it is right for North to reverse, while that is not so clear after a 1-level response. When the game forcing (the 21st century approach) fourth suit bid of 2♠ comes, it is easy for North to describe the shape of the hand and now South was off to the races. The ace ask of 4N showed two of the five key cards, and South now confirmed the remainder (and the trump queen) with 5N. A lesser diamond suit would have received a response at the six level but here North made the offer of which suit to play by bidding 7♦.
South chose 7♥ and that despite the fact that there were prospects in 7N. There was a slight extra chance of 7♥ making (not enough to justify avoiding 7N at pairs scoring). After the trump lead, to take that extra chance, declarer needs to draw two trumps with the QJ (in case hearts are 4-1), and then test diamonds. If diamonds break go back to trumps, but if they don't break and the same hand has long diamonds and the long heart, then you can ruff the diamonds good in dummy. You deserve an extra star for playing the hand like that, but in practice all declarers scored just +1510.
We should not dismiss this as too easy a hand, as the Gentle Bridge duplicate playing the same hands saw 7 pairs in game and one in a small slam.
During last week three county players - Richard Chamberlain, Paul Denning and Patrick Shields - played in the Teams game at the two-yearly European Open Championships, held this year in Montecatini in Italy. Patrick & Richard played together in the Seniors teams, while Paul played with Adrian Thomas and two Welshmen in the Open Teams.
This was hand 5 in the first of the Swiss Teams matches in the Open, Ladies and Seniors Teams. Twice (across 178 tables) East-West were allowed to play the hand and for the remainder, 40 pairs played in hearts, one played in 4N, one North played in 5♦, and the remainding 134 in spades. The play is clear enough in spades - you just draw trumps and take the heart finesse (twice). It loses and you always end up with 12 tricks. The fact that three pairs managed 13 tricks must be put down to someone revoking!
The play in 6♥ is not to simple, and nearly half the thirty declarers in 6♥ failed to make 12 tricks. Nine of the failures were when East was on lead and played the ♠T at trick one, and now when partner won the ♥K and could see the long spades and no diamonds in dummy, the spade ruff came fast. All declarers who had a club or heart lead succeeded, but ten declarers (mostly South) were faced with a diamond lead. They had to ruff in the South hand, and then cross to the North hand to try the heart finesse. When this lost and West played a second diamond it looked like curtains, but it wasn't. A number settled for going down, but those more awake ruffed the second diamond, and cashed the ♥A to see the ten fall. Now over to the North hand with a top black card to draw the last trump with the ♥8 and there were 12 tricks.
But of course you don't want to play in hearts. So how should the hand be bid? There is an old saying "what do you call an 8-card suit" and the answer is "trumps". The secret to this hand is for South to ignore the heart suit. In reponse to partner's opening, show good long spades and slam interest. If you do, the North hand should be middling cooperative, since the top spades and the club ace are excellent cards, although there is not much else. The most convincing sequence I have found was when 3♠ set the suit and North cue bid 4♣ over which South leapt to 5♦ as Exclusion Blackwood (ace asking but ignoring diamonds). Now North showed two key cards but not the queen of trumps (with 5N) and there was room (6♣) to ask for kings and North denied any, so that 6♠ was known to be the right contract.
Although a lot of pairs got to spades, only 90 of them (exactly two thirds) reached the correct level, with 3 bidding the grand slam (down) and 41 stopping in game. So even at this level bidding a small slam in spades when the grand slam is on a finesse proved too difficult for half the field.
This hand was played in 3N at nine of the eleven tables and all but one of them by North. The bidding shown will have been very common. The one variation is that West might consider a double; as well as getting partner off to the right lead, there is a chance of a decent penalty as it looks like all suits are breaking badly and the opposition are (or at least North is) limited in strength. But it is dangerous, and wasn't chanced at any table.
The diamond lead was found at all but two tables and was a bit unlucky as the North's who ran that round (expecting the leader to hold the jack for a small card led) gained a bonus trick from the lead. The next step was to play on hearts; sometimes the right action when declarer goes to knock out an ace is to dis-oblige, but not always. Declarer would be moderately happy with ducks here as it unblocks the suit. When East rose with the ♥A it has the potential to make life awkard. East expected partner to have good spades on this auction, but felt the spades could wait. It was more important to take out North's club entry before the hearts were unblocked.
So he led his highest club (the five) but partner did not read it correctly and covered the ♣9 with the ♣K, and declarer could now set up the clubs and overtake the second heart with the king to get entry to them. Could West have known? The answer is yes; declarer surely has 10 hcp on this bidding and that means partner can have at most 5 hcp, and partner has already shown up with the ♥ A and almost certainly the ♦ J. Which places all the clcub honours. Notice how awkard it becomes for declarer if the ♣9 is allowed to hold. Overtaking to set up the suit loses two club tricks, while letting the ♣ 9 win cuts you off from hand. :(
Could East have made it easier for partner? The answer is yes; a spade switch after winning the ♥A and then rely on partner to play a club. Much safer.
In fact no heroics were needed by EW to beat this hand; even after the gift of a diamond lead, declarer only had prospect of 8 tricks and was always going to struggle. Still 44% of declarers did succeed, which might justify the assertion that declarer play is easier than defence.
This hand produced many swings in the Pairs League last week. There were three tables bid and made game as NS, and five tables bid and made game as EW. So this hand had a serious impact on people's results.
The auction as shown was a typical start, although North might have chosen to open a large number of diamonds opposite a passed partner. Over 1♦ East could overcall in hearts or show a two suiter. It is often awwkard when you show a two suiter with a six card major, as partner will never know to support with a doubleton. Here the were two upsides in East's mind; the first was that the bid shuts out the spade suit to a serious extent, and the second was that partner will evaluate his or her hand differently if you have shown 55+ iin shape, usually bidding to one more than the "level of the fit" (ie bidding to 4-level with 9 trumps) and that often works out well. There was also the consideration that game on power (eg opposite a doubleton heart) was not likely opposite a passed partner, so it would need a good trump fit to justify bidding game.
Over 2N, South chose to bid 3♠ although for most people that would show five, but here it was all or nothing as the suit would never get into the equation otherwise. Since it was forcing the bidding to a high level opposite a third-in-hand opener it has a strong implicaiton of a diamond fit to which opener could return in emergency. Both West and North were immediately appraised of the double fit and both bid game. After the 4♠ call, it felt unusual for East to bid in front of partner, but since West could forecast the 4♠ bid coming, a bid of 4♥ would be pointless if the preference was to defend 4♠; it must have some connotations of continuing and with the extra shape, East could sensibly bid 5♥. Holding extras in hcp cbut not in shape, East would double and leave it to partner.
There wasn't much NS could do over 5♥ and the choice of 5♠ was no surprise. The defence started with two aces and then a second heart, and when North had to ruff, there was no way to pick up the trumps. In fact, West was a bit too cautious in not doubling 5♠ as the +150 collected was a poor return against making 5♥ .
We could argue that the par result was achieved here (if we get a double). FIve other tables were allowed to play in 5♥ (perhaps South never got the spades in) and only one other tables played in 5♠ (after ♦Q lead, North made that contract).
Can you remember your stories on the hand?
This hand presented a trap into which a number of people fell. Having seen the opposition bid 2♥ many Norths simply overcalled 3♦ and found themselves playing there, where two much better alterantives were available. What went wrong?
The common wisdom is very much that your first priority is to bid your long suit, and you can later double to show partner extra values and flexibility - and this applies fully when the overcall is at the one level, but things change when the bidding starts higher.
The key point about a 1-level overcall is that you are very likely to get a second chance. When they have opened, as here with 2♥, an overcall of 3♦ could well end the auction, and you don't want it to be a silly contract when that happens.
Bidding a suit at the 3-level of higher (and the 2-level to some extent) is very committal, you need to be sure it is a safe place. Double is your more flexible choice, and since your singleton here is in their suit, it is clearly an option. After 2♥-X it is very handy for South's 3♣ bid to show some values (South bids 2N first on all negative hands) and over 3♣ is it quite in order now for North to show the diamonds (forcing opposite a positive response) and South will guide the pair either to 3N or to 5♣.
3N makes easily (on a heart lead) when declarer ducks one round of clubs.
5♣ seems to be harder work, but here - as often - setting up the long side suit is what matters and on a heart lead declarer should try ♦A and a ruff before two trumps ending in dummy for another diamond ruff. The heart ruff in dummy and the ♠A are enough entries to set up the diamonds.