Minutes from the 2019 AGM now published.
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Not everyone was playing a strong 1N opener on Monday, but table 9 was and this is the auction from that table. The 2♥ bid showed hearts and a minor; overcalling at the 2-level (whether over a suit opened or over 1N) is never appropriate on a 5332 shape, and this pair were using a 2♣ overcall to show the majors and 2♦ to show a single suited major hand - so this was a two-suiter.
Against 2♥ South sensibly kicked off with ♠A, since this was the one suit declarer did not hold! Partner encouraged and three rounds were played, declarer ruffing the third. From declarer's perspective there were two minor suit aces and the heart king still to lose, so making the contract was well in sight. The play, however, in spades has created a problem. If declarer plays ♥A and a heart to the jack losing to the king then a fourth spade might set up the ♥T for south. The same trump promotion happens if declarer plays ♥A and ♥Q losing to opener's king. What about if South has the heart king? Now ace and queen will run into a possible trump promotion, but ace and small to the jack works out OK.
An alternative was to cross to dummy in diamonds and take a heart finesse. Can one tell where the heart king lies? The spade honours are known, and the ♣A is placed with North to give a trick for the club king. There are ten points not accounted for, and North has promised 5-7 of them. So the answer is no. But there was another catch with the heart finesse - using dummy's diamonds to do that means that there is no further guarantee of getting to dummy to play clubs.
With that in mind, declarer duly chose to play ♥A and a heart towards the ♥J. South won the heart king, but all there was now for the defence was the minor suit aces, and East-West scored +110 and rather a poor score for North-South. What can North-South do about this?
As illustrated, there was no more they could do in defence, provided declarer thinks things through. But what about the bidding? They did indeed miss the boat there; the 1N opener needs to look carefully at their shape when the opposition have come in, and be ready to make a takeout double with the right sort of holding. Here a double would have given South an uncomfortable feeling but either 2♠ or 3♣ as a contract would work out fine.
This hand from Monday presented some non-uncommon questions, of which the first was in the bidding - and it is whether or not you leave 1N in this poistion of if your take it out .... at the event in question any takeout would be natural and non-forcing.
In a more general context two other issues apply
So - given here you have the choice, do you pass or do you bid?
At the table, there were two who chose to pass, and two who chose to bid - which suggests it is quite a close choice. A similation of 25 suitable East hands opposite this particular West hand shows that on 17 of them you would be better having taken out - and this would be equally true playing teams or match-points, as generally the success of the contract was the issue. A larger sample might be more definitive, but this is quite strong evidence that taking out is better, and this will guide me for the future. Of the 17 hands taking out, there were 2 which preferred to play in diamonds (the others in spades) and on those partner might well have opened 1♦ rather than 1♣.
Defending against 1N, and having heard his only suit bid on his left, South led the ♥5. When North played the queen, East could not tell who had the king, and didn't want to duck in case South had led from the king. But after the ♥A what was East to do? He didn't want to finesse spades immediately into North and see a heart return, and couldn't lead diamonds usefully, but a club towards the J7 would gain whenever South had the ♣K so he tried that. Unfortuately that lost but North continued with ♥K and ♥T, which was helpful to declarer in clarifying the suit and cutting off South. Declarer, sad to say, had not been watching carefully enough to realise that this sequence of plays means that North has the two missing hearts - would you have noticed?
It was now time to play spades, finessing - so East thought - into the safe hand. He started with the ♠9 and South played small and it won the trick. Any gain for South by ducking here was an illusion, as if East lacks the ♠T then running the ♠9 is a no-win line nd East would be playing the jack. East played a second spade (the ten) and South covered and declarer - still concerned about hearts with South - played the ace. [Ducking at this point would have resulted in 10 tricks and a complete top] Declarer now miscounted his tricks and cashed out but when the ♣T dropped he had 8 tricks.
As noted, declarer had the chance of ten tricks and had every reason to get that right. If South has been more alert and covered the ♠9 the best that declarer can do is 9 tricks and that involves cashing out the clubs early, since the fourth club squeezes South and enables an end-play to get a diamond trick. If North had kept communications open, by playing the ♥T to the jack and keeping the ♥K as an entry, then declarer would have been held to 8 tricks. Finally, if declarer had ducked the ♥Q on the first round, North would always be cut off and declarer gets 9 tricks. [And if you must know - a top spade at trick one from South can hold the declarer to 8 tricks - so you might say the par result was achieved!]
Those who played in 2♠ foud life less complicated and both clocked up an overtrick to score +140 and beat those in 1N.
And they teach this game to children !
This is another example of the variations which occur in any bridge game but seem nagnified in an Individual competition.
Every table of which we know started with two passes and the choice was with East .... what would you do?
There is no doubt that you are going to bid hearts - the question is at what level. Here are the stories from three tables with different openers ....
East opened 1♥ : over this South was fortunate in being able to bid 2♥ showing at least 5-5 with spades and a minor. Now West showed a little support with 3♥ (a risk in a 4-cd major system but the fact of the 2-suited overcall seriously increases the odds on partner being distributional also) and North now bid 3♠. This seems on the cautious side, as you would always bid to the 3-level if partner had overcalled 1♠ and when partner is 5-5 or better, one level higher is usually right. After 3♠ it went 4♥ from East, passed round again to North who continued with 4♠. He was allowed to play there and found no difficulty in making an overtrick, losing only to the ♥A and the ♣K. East, it seems, had run out of steam!
East opened 4♥ : over this South was fearless and bid 4♠. This could have been a disaster but if you don't bid in these circumstances the opposition will steal many contracts from you, and you cannot afford that. West continued with a well judged 5♥ and now North should have bid 5♠ but chickened out, and when this came back round to South she doubled. The contract went one down, which was good for East-West as North-South could have collected +650.
East opened 3♥ : over this everyone passed; declarer found he had missed an easy game and the contract made for +170 to East-West. But that was a top!
Your choice sometimes depends on how you think the South player might react; against an aggressive player you will open as high as you dare, but against a cautious player you don't need to take as many risks.
What will you open next time you have a hand like this in third seat, non-vulnerable?
The County Individual does offer the opportunity for some strange results, a good instance of which is this board where - across the five tables in play - one contract made and at the other tables the hand was played in four different suits by four different declarers, all going down. It wasn't down to unfamiliar partnerships - it was just that there weree a lot of choices to make.
It started simply enough with a 1♠ opener from South but the next hand found three different options - here's how they panned out ...
When West passed : North bid 2♣ and over East's jump in hearts, tried 4♠ , to what looks like the optimal contract on this hand. West was unable to lead partner's suit, so out came the ♣9 which was ruffed, and followed by the heart ace and a ruff, another club and then a third heart. South judged well to ruff with the ♠T and when that held there was only the ♦A to lose, but that was 4♠-2.
When West passed at another table : North bid a natural 2♣ and East introduced the heart suit, but just at the two level. The auction crawled forward from that and came to a stop in 3♠ by South, and the single instance of a contract making, when West made an unusual lead of ♦Q lead and East inevitably overtook this to play hearts.
When West bid an unusual 2N (this choice has some flaws, particularly if partner has to choose between a doubleton club and doubleton diamond and settles for clubs) : North ignored the fact that West has clubs and bid 3♣, over which East now bid 4♥. The East hand would merit bidding game in hearts most times, but when partner has promised length in both minors, and the opposition have promised values, this might be OTT. It did however have just the right effect, as when passed round to North, out came 5♣ and that was the final contract. It looks to be a safe place but the heart ruff at trick two beat it by one trick.
When West chose to bid 3♦ (as a preemptive bid this had the right effect, giving North a problem) many would have bid 4♣ but Tony Hill judged well to produce a negative double, and it went P-P-P. The lead was a high spade, followed by a trump to the ace. The ♥A took care of West's second spade, and this was followed by a spade ruff, a club ruff and a spade ruff. Declarer exited in clubs but the defence were careful to cash their tricks in the right order and declerarer was held to 7 tricks. This didn't look a bad result, until you see the ruffs which beat the spade and club games.
The fifth table played 3♥ doubled going down, but we don't have the story from there (yet).
Did you notice how nobody played in 3N, the only game which was making?