Important news! The Thursday morning classes are now just $10! And it still includes an entry into the afternoon game! This is the best bargain in town. We are going over the convention card AND discussing the various conventions and agreements as we go. This week we will be discussing several of the "underdiscussed" boxes on the back of the card.
On the first two Saturdays in June, we are continuing the convention class...
"The conventions you really need to know"
We have covered Stayman, Transfers, Negative Doubles, Weak Raises, and Two-Suited Bids (Michaels and the Unusual Notrump). This Saturday we will discuss bidding over the opponents' Notrump bids and the Jacoby 2NT major suit raise!
The focus of these classes is for our newer players to learn the conventions that "everybody knows" AND for the slightly more experienced players to get a VERY solid review.
1PM to 3PM, and just ten bucks!
We want to encourage you to play in the Wednesday AM and/or Friday AM "Chat" Games. Designed for newer players, these games encourage questions!
AND THERE'S MORE!...
Merry's ONLINE classes are restarting NOW!!!! See below!
From Merry (paraphrased):
My Wednesday class is Morning Musings and for my first topic I have made a PowerPoint to explain how to fill out the new convention card and also discussing the new alerting procedures. I figure it will take one or two sessions, probably two, to do the PowerPoint. ...
The class is free and will be from 9:30 to 10:30
FINESSING, part four
One of the first plays that we all learn(ed) is the finesse. Three weeks ago I discussed the "lobbing" finesse, then the "pusher" finesse,and then the "two way" finesse. Now it is time to learn that...
TWO finesses are better than one!
If you are missing one honor card, if the finesse works, it may be repeatable.
You hold xxx, and dummy has AQJxx (or vice versa). You lead to the Queen (or Jack) and it wins. If possible, come back to your hand and repeat the finesse. (Don't assume it will automatically win again -- some tricky players will let you win the first one, knowing you are likely to try it again! This is frequently a good play.)
If you are missing two honors, it is usually correct (mathematically) to take two finesses!
You have xxx and dummy has AJT. Lead towards the dummy and finesse the Ten (or Jack). It will probably lose. But then you are set up to do it again. If EITHER the King or Queen is "onside", you will take two tricks in the suit --roughly 75% of the time!
Curiously, even if you have as many as NINE cards in the suit, it is still right to take two finesses when missing the King and Queen.
xxxxx opposite AJTx. Assuming the first finesse loses, it is correct to take the second finesse rather than hoping the suit divides two-two. The math is more complex than you might suspect, but think about it this way: 75% (one finesse will work) is better than hoping for the 2-2 split (originally about 40%).
This situation extends down to the QJ missing.
xxx opposite AKT9
Lead to the ten or nine, and assuming it loses, try it again. It is roughly 75% that one of the finesses will work -- much better than playing for a 3-3 break. And, once in a while, BOTH honors will be onside, which means you can take ALL the tricks (assuming you can get back to your hand for a repeat performance!) Work it out at the coffee table with a deck of cards sometime. :)
That leads us to the King and Jack missing:
xxx opposite AQT (either or both holdings may be longer)
The correct play is to take TWO finesses. Play to the Ten first. If it loses to the Jack, try again next time by playing to the Queen. 50% that exactly one will work, but here is the key -- 25% of the time, BOTH the King and Jack will be onside, and you do not need to lose ANY tricks. (If you start by finessing the Queen, it will win, but now you will lose an unnecessary trick to the KJ.)
TWO finesses are better than one!
EIGHT EVER, NINE SOMETIMES?
When looking for a Queen, should you play for the drop or take the finesse? One of the first rules I was taught was “eight ever nine never”… if you have eight cards in the suit, take the finesse. If you have nine, play for the drop. Later in my bridge development, I wondered why “they” say this, because “they” also say that “odd suits split evenly and even suits split oddly” which means that 3-1 breaks are more common than 2-2 breaks. So why do “they” say to play for the drop? I eventually decided that their reason is that since I will guess wrong on half of the 3-1 breaks, I may as well play for 2-2 all the time. Having reached this conclusion, I faithfully played “8-ever-9-never” for many years.
But I was wrong -- wrong about the way I was playing AND wrong about the reason “they” created the rhyme. Their reason has to do with the “theory of vacant spaces”. On a typical hand, I have won the opening lead, cashed the Ace of trumps in my hand and led towards the KJ on the board. I have nine total cards in the suit.
Question: Why DO “they” say I should play for the drop?
Answer: LHO (left-hand-opponent) has played three cards (two trumps plus the opening lead). RHO has played at least two cards. RHO, therefore, has 11 unknown cards (also known as “vacant spaces”) while LHO has 10. The odds are 11 to 10 that RHO has the missing card (Queen). This is the main mathematical principle for why “they” say to decline the finesse and play for the drop. The “eight-ever-nine-never” rhyme came later as a mnemonic, and the explanation is (was?) unknown to most of us.
Ah, but what if there has been bidding? Suppose RHO opened with a weak two, probably indicating six cards in a suit where you are missing eight. Now RHO has only 5 unknown cards: 13 minus 2 (cards played) minus 6 (cards in the side suit). LHO has 8 unknown cards: 13 minus 3 (cards played) minus 2 (assumed cards in his partner’s suit.) Therefore the odds are 8 to 5 that LHO has the missing Queen – take the finesse!
At this point, I am sure some of you are saying “Duh, Jack! I already knew to play the preemptor’s partner for the trump length”. Yes, I am sure you did. Many (if not most) people get this right at the table. But it’s a good way to explain the concept. If you begin to use “vacant spaces” in your play, you will find that it comes up on nearly every hand. On that same hand, let’s say that the preemptor shows up with a singleton in another suit where you were missing six cards. That changes things! You know seven cards in his hand, and seven cards in the other hand. The vacant spaces are six-to-six, so play for the drop! (Two singletons are unlikely, true?) Or let’s say there is NO bidding but the opening lead and subsequent tricks show that a side suit splits 5-3 with 5 on your left. If you use “vacant spaces” as your guide rather than 8-ever-9-never you will finesse RHO for the missing Queen, since he has 10 unknown cards to LHO’s 8.
The math isn’t complex. The idea is not hard. It is reasonably easy to teach. And it works. Often. VERY often. Most importantly: YOU CAN DO IT! Since I started using “vacant spaces” for my guessing, my “guessing” has improved dramatically. You only need three things:
1) You need to decide to try it. (Try it, you’ll like it!)
2) You need to maintain the courage to play these percentages and not be DIS-couraged when the “old” way would have worked better on a particular hand.
3) You need a partner who will not scold you for doing it “wrong”. That might just be the toughest challenge of them all. :)
Once you become comfortable locating those Queens, you might find you start locating Jacks, Kings, and even Aces this way as well. (You might even find that you are starting to count the hands out better, but ssshhhh… don’t tell anyone. Except me -- let me know how it goes!)