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15: Miscellanea

Seminar Fifteen: Miscellany

Opening Leads Introduction

Because of last minute venue alteration, Rob couldnít attend and as he had prepared the topic we had a session of miscellany and revision. However Lyn passed round a one page summary of opening leads. While nothing it said was wrong, it had the limitation of brevity and failed adequately to distinguish between leads against suits and NT. 

Hugely important is listening to the auction, what the opponents say and what they donít say. And especially what your partner says. In competitive auctions, an overcall is as often lead directing as a serious attempt to play the contract. If you want to win the post-mortem, you have to have a very good reason to do other than lead partnerís suit.

In rubber or teams bridge, the odd overtrick is pretty unimportant; risks can be taken if it might make the contract go off. In pairs, make the lowest risk lead; one overtrick can be the difference between an average and a bottom. Of course, if you can make a low risk lead which takes the contract off so much the better in any scoring.

The first principle on Lynís sheet was unarguable: lead the top of a sequence of honours. From KQJ, possibly with further spot cards, leading the K drives out the Ace and establishes one or two slow tricks. Partner will look at dummy and their own hand and recall the auction and recognise this top of sequence lead for what it is.

Just by way of anticipation, another common leads is high for hate, usually the second highest card. If the most useful thing you can do by the second trick in the suit is give partner a count play a higher card to show an odd number, a lower card to show an even number. Conversely, if you lead a low card, partner will expect you to hold an honour; low for like.

Competitive Auctions Continued

Last week I introduced two-suited overcalls: Michaels Q-bids and Unusual NT. These promise at least 5 cards in each of two suits with the points concentrated in the these suits in a hand typically worth around the opening bid range, maybe less with better shape and favourable vulnerability.

The Michaels bid shows as many majors as possible. That is, a Q-bid of a minor promises both majors; the Q-bid of a major promises the other major and one unspecified minor, bid NT to enquire which.

The way I play it, the UNT (2NT or more over a one level bid or even 1NT by a passed hand) shows as many minors as possible. Over a minor, it shows the other minor and and unspecified major; partner Q-bids the minor to enquire about the major. Others play the traditional way where UNT shows the 2 lowest unbid suits. Roy and I used UNT with him playing one way and me the other but luckily scrambled to safety last Thursday.

Overcalls show at least a five card suit and, as explained above may be lead-directing and opponents auction-space-consuming as well as suggesting a playable contract.

The takeout double shows a hand which wants to compete but has nothing particular of its own to say. It promises 4-card support for all unbid majors. Doubles of a suit are for takeout not for penalties.   We can discuss to what level to take this policy; Derek Pattersonís card says up to 7H.

Doubles of NT are for penalties. We should discuss further if a weak partner should run from this penalty double; as usual, there is no right answer.

The example hand from Monday, one hand held a sound opening bid with 5H headed by AK, 4S, 1D and 3C. Over an opening 1D I strongly recommend bidding 1H; it suggests a good lead if we lose the auction; it promises the five card suit; it doesnít waste much opponents space but so far itís unclear to which side the hand belongs so it may be our space we are saving. If the auction returns to this hand at a low level, a double now shows the strength and the shape and on the night allowed the play of a 4-3 fit in Spades.

At Lynís enquiry, I recommend that a jump overcall (eg bidding 2H over the opponents 1D) should be weak, similar to a weak 2 opening but keeping in mind that one opponent has shown opening strength and the risks of a penalty double are greater. We can discuss another time how to reconcile the policy that doubles are for takeout with the possibility of a penalty double.

Practice Hands

These were hands 3, 10 and 12 from Chislehurst on 16 October. You can find the entire hand on their web site; Iíll just show two hands from each.

Hand 3

Teresa chose to pass with

S: J T 8 7

H: A Q J 6

D: K 9 8 4

C: T

I think thatís right. 4-4-4-1 hands are tricky to describe properly and this has only 11 HCP and fails the rule of 20.

Lyn bid 1H with

S: 2

H: K 9 4 3 2

D: A Q J 6

C: A 8 4

Again the exact description with a comfortable rebid in D over whatever partner responds. I think at this point, Teresa should come alive. An opening bid opposite a near-opening bid with a fit suggest game. Maybe the club singleton is significant? Tell partner the strength (as good as possible for a passed hand), the fit and the singleton with a splinter bid. A splinter bid (a double-jump-shift) presses into service an otherwise useless bid to say: I have 4-card support; we should be in game; I have a singleton (or void) in the named suit. 

The double-jump-shiftóPass, 1H, 4Cóshould be unmistakeable. What would this unopposed auction mean: Pass, 1H, 3C? What can it mean? W passed originally, so doesnít have an opening bid but now has found a jump-shift. It must agree hearts; the West hand is improved by hearing E open in Hearts. But it can hardly be a running side suit and heart support or it would have been worth an opening bid. So, if you think your partner will get it, I think this is a more economical splinter, allowing the partnership to Q the impressive diamond controls and maybe find the slam.

Six hearts is, of course, easy, unless perhaps the diamonds break 5-0, which they didnít. Lose the AS, claim. In fact none of the 18 tables bid the slam, one pair stayed out of game, one made 13 tricks (!) and one only 11 (!!).

Hand 10

E opened 1C with

S: A 8 6 4

H: A K

D: K 3

C J T 8 6 5

Thatís normal, it allows a safe rebid of 1S over whatever partner says. 1NT would mislead about strength and shape, 1S makes for a tricky rebid.

But W has

S: K Q J T 9 7 5

H: T

D: 4

C: A K 7 3

This is a good hand for a jump shift for this one has a self-supporting suit and a fit for partner matching both our criteria for a jump shift in a hand which can insist on playing in game after partner has opened. While W is confident of game, there is no need to hurry. An immediate bid of 4S would show a weaker shapelier hand (or maybe someone who doesnít trust their partner).

After 1C, 2S, E agrees the suit, 3S. Again, no need to rush, W has established a game force and E has an extraordinarily good hand to cooperate in slamming, apart from the flimsy clubs.

We explored the possibility of Q-bidding; W can show the AC and E the AH (which denies the AD). On reflection, this is unnecessary and may help the defence. W cares only about aces and can bash straight into RKCB. E shows his two key cards, no QT, by bidding 5H and W settles for 6S. Against a not-diamond lead, play is trivial; chuck Wís diamond loser on the second H and play the clubs right for an overtrick. Most of the stronger section were in slam, most of the weaker section not, one was in 6C.

Itís a risk offering play suggestions but I think the right way to play clubs without loss is as follows (percentages rounded for simplicity). If Clubs break 4-0 (10%) you have a loser whoever holds Q 9 x x, so assume they donít. Lay down the A to cater for a singleton Q (one chance in 4) in a 3-1 break (50% probability) and see if the cards played offer any clues (they donít). Then finesse by leading the J (you have plenty of entries in trumps) playing for S to hold the 3-card suit rather than the Q dropping in N which would require a 2-2 break (40%). Slam made.

Hand 12

West opened 1NT with

S: A 2

H: A 8 7 6 5

D: K T 3

C: K 9 4

East harboured mild hopes for a slam and made the club suit transfer of 2S

S: Q 6

H: K J 4

D: A 4 2

C: A Q J 7 2

S, with 6 S to the K J T, might consider doubling this artificial bid for the lead. Vulnerable against not, S canít afford to bid the suit.

W likes Clubs, Q x x is enough to like partnerís mST (minor Suit Transfer), and shows it by ďsuper-acceptanceĒ which, as I play it, is bidding the intermediate strain, in this case 2NT. Had the mST been 2NT showing D, 3C is super-acceptance, 3D showing dislike. Some players reverse these meanings recalling that a major suit transfer is often made on weakness and thereby keeps the NT openerís stronger hand concealed. This is illogical. Do not use mST for a weakness takeout, you arrive at the 3-level on less than half the points! For a weak takeout to a minor, wait till doubled then run! So the 2S/2NT bidder is probably the stronger hand and may prefer to declare the slam, if there is one.

So far the auction has gone 1NT, 2S (=C), 2NT (agrees C). On this hand E has tenace positions in S and H (recall, a tenace is a holding such as KJ or AQ which you hope will score two tricks when the missing card is well placed). This suggest E may be well placed to win a trick on the opening lead. Using RKCB commits the partnership to a slam as E knows W has the KC and hence at least one key card. This could be why at Chislehurst only two pairs bid a slam. But because I knew the software said a slam was makeable, we did too. An opening D lead to the T and A left declarer relying on the (successful) H finesse which brought home all 13 tricks by means of 5 clubs, 2 Diamonds, 5 Hearts and a spade. Slam made, 6NT beats the 6C we were in.