1100 Collection

Jul 132002
 

N/S Vul
IMPs
Dealer: West
Lead: H4

Maestro
S J 8
H A K Q J 10 8
D Q 7
C Q J 6
samir
S A K 9 5 2
H 3
D A 9 3 2
C K 10 3
[W - E] ecam
S Q 10 4 3
H 4 2
D K J 6 4
C A 9 7
stans
S 7 6
H 9 7 6 5
D 10 8 5
C 8 5 4 2
West
1 S
Pass
Pass
North
2 H
5 H
Pass
East
4 S
Dbl
South
Pass
Pass

 

This week’s hands shall be devoted to what I expect to become an ongoing feature in this space, the 1100 Collection. Down 4 doubled vul or 5 non vul. Sticks and Wheels™. Of course I’m not talking about going for 1100 against the opponents’ vulnerable slam; any idiot can do that. Sticks and Wheels, judiciously employed, can be a deadly weapon at the game or even the part-score level.

Today we see Sticks and Wheels used to great effect against a non-vulnerable game. Gee, sitting North, makes a perfectly fine 2H overcall over West’s first-seat spade opener. A quick raise to game by an unpassed East (3H is the book bid in 2/1, 3S in SAYC, but 4S worked out OK this time), two passes back to our hero…Reader, ask not for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for Gee. Holding six heart tricks, a bag of potpourri and a petrified starfish, he rises to the occasion with a 5H bid. The dream dummy nearly prevented this hand’s inclusion in the 1100 Collection, but luckily the defense slipped and opened the clubs, allowing him to escape for 1100. Bean counters who carp at the resulting 12 IMP loss are missing the point. If you can’t appreciate the beauty of bridge, why play at all?

Jul 142002
 

E/W Vul
IMPs
Dealer: South
Lead: HA

garyyang
S J 9 5
H A K 9 8 5
D A 5
C A 4 2
Maestro
S A K Q 3 2
H Q J 2
D Q 3
C K Q J
[W - E] philou
S 10 8 6 4
H 7 6 4
D J 9 7 4 2
C 3
groll
S 7
H 10 3
D K 10 8 6
C 10 9 8 7 6 5
West

1 S
Dbl
4 S
Pass

North

Dbl
Pass
Dbl

East

Pass
2 S
Pass

South
Pass
2 C
Pass
Pass

 

The freely bid Sticks and Wheels is exceptionally rare, even among master practitioners. It requires an exquisite combination of bad luck and bad judgment, and even then you usually have to be vulnerable.

Today Gee, sitting West, opens 1S second seat. Many players would simply overcall 2H with North’s hand but he doubles instead. East of course passes, and Gee doubles South’s 2C, one assumes for takeout with a plan to bid spades over a diamond response. North passes to await further developments, which indeed are forthcoming. Gee, vulnerable and holding a fistful of losers opposite a partner who couldn’t bid over 1S-X, jumps to 4S!

Ordinarily 4SX goes down 2, which is a disastrous but not world-historical loss against 2C making 4, but on this day the planets are aligned. North opens with three rounds of hearts, South ruffing the third. The club return is taken by the CA, and three more rounds of diamonds promote North’s SJ for the seventh defensive trick, down 4, 1100. That is artistry.

Jul 152002
 

E/W Vul
IMPs
Dealer: South
Lead: SK

janiner
S 10 7 6
H Q 9 5 4 3 2
D K
C 8 6 2
mantle
S A K 8 5 4 2
H A
D 10 5 3
C K 9 3
[W - E] sudhir
S Q 3
H K J 8 7
D Q 8 7
C Q J 7 5
Maestro
S J 9
H 10 6
D A J 9 6 4 2
C A 10 4
West

4 S
Pass
Pass

North

Pass
Pass
Pass

East

Pass
Dbl

South
1 D
5 D
Pass

Sticks and Wheels, as we have seen so far this week, comes in many forms, but one can discern, over time, certain leitmotifs: favorable vulnerability, a phantom sacrifice, unilateral action, a slipped trick or two in the dummy play. Today’s hand, elegant in its purity, emphasizes all of these traditional elements. It is, as it were, Sticks and Wheels Classic.

Gee, sitting South, opens 1D in first seat with a sub-minimum and nothing in the majors. West shuns the conventional 1S overcall in favor of a more dashing 4S. Two passes to Gee, who likes his trump spots, discounts his two aces on defense, factors in his partner’s silence, and bids 5D. The student should note, first, that accurate defense defeats 4S: the DK lead, followed by a club shift (D2 presumably played to the first trick as suit preference), produces four tricks for the defense. The dummy play is the final point of interest. West begins with three rounds of spades, dropping East’s Q and forcing him to ruff with the D8, overruffed by declarer with the 9. This costs the defense their natural trump trick. Fortunately Gee, instead of pulling trump, plays a heart, wins the trump return, crosses to the CA, and plays a second round of hearts, allowing East to continue with a third round and promote West’s D10 for Sticks and Wheels, down 5.

Jul 162002
 

E/W Vul
IMPs
Dealer: East
Lead: CA

Maestro
S 5
H Q J 10 7 5
D K Q 9 8 5 4 3
C
wygbe
S K Q 10 3
H A 6 3
D A 7 6
C Q 5 3
[W - E] vrees
S A J 2
H 9 8 2
D J 2
C A K 9 4 2
marcj
S 9 8 7 6 4
H K 4
D 10
C J 10 8 7 6
West

1 S
3NT
Dbl

North

2 D
4 H
Pass

East
1 C
Dbl
Pass
Pass
South
Pass
Pass
Pass
Pass

Many Sticks and Wheels hands, for all the suspense that they provide in the bidding, lack it in the play, where it’s usually a question of 800 vs. 1100 at the most. But in today’s hand the play supplies most of the excitement, and the outcome is in doubt until the last possible moment.

Our protagonist, in fourth seat, chooses 2D over 1C-P-1S, eschewing the four or five ways to show a two-suiter in this position. East puts in a support double, showing three spades, and West makes the obvious jump to 3NT, which is cold. Gee now, finally, bids his shorter, major suit at the four-level, forcing his partner to the five-level to show a diamond preference. His partner passes, reasonably, and fortunately too, because 5D is always down 1 or 2 and then I would have no hand to show you.

Best for the defense is to play black suit winners at every opportunity. Declarer eventually loses control of the hand and probably goes for 800. And the defense gets off to a good start by leading the CA. Gee makes the desperation play of discarding his spade loser, praying not be tapped, and his prayer is answered, as East switches to trump, apparently to prevent diamond ruffs. West takes Gee’s HK with the A and returns a club, but with trump breaking it’s too late. Gee ruffs, pulls trump in two rounds (making it clear to both defenders that he began 1-5-7-0), and plays the DQ, which holds. The J does not drop.

So what’s the diamond layout? Declarer needs to find either defender with Ax or Axx. The defenders know he has seven diamonds. Therefore either defender, holding Ax, would win the first diamond to protect a possible Jxx in his partner’s hand. Therefore declarer must play for Axx by leading the DK, squashing the presumed Jx and making the hand.

It is with some chagrin that I report that Gee led a low diamond, losing to the J, was tapped out of his last trump and proceeded to go for yet another Sticks and Wheels. Is playing for the defenders to make the zero percent play itself a zero percent play? This philosophical question is of some interest, and perhaps I will take it up another time.

Jul 172002
 

E/W Vul
IMPs
Dealer: South
Lead:H3

okcu
S A Q
H 2
D K 10 8 7 3 2
C A K 10 9
Maestro
S K 9 7 5 4 3
H K 9
D 9 5
C 6 5 2
[W - E] shosha
S J 10 2
H A Q 10 7 5
D Q J 4
C 8 7
balahe
S 8 6
H J 8 6 4 3
D A 6
C Q J 4 3
West

Pass
Pass
2 H
Pass

North

1 D
2 C
Dbl

East

1 H
Pass
Pass

South
Pass
Pass
Pass
Pass

Balancing the opponents into game is one thing; I myself do it twice a week. But balancing one’s partner into Sticks and Wheels is one of the finer points that separate the EXPERT from the Small Time Club Player™.

Gee is West on today’s deal. N/S have a cold club slam on 24 points and an eight-card fit, but it is the rare pair that will reach even the good 5C contract (which essentially requires 3-2 splits in both minors), let alone the low percentage slam (as above, plus the SK onside).

Our N/S is not one of those rare pairs. North opens 1D third hand, East inserts a fairly grungy 1H vulnerable overcall, and the hand is passed back to North, who reopens with 2C. East passes, and although one can argue for 3C or even 2NT by South (3NT makes on the layout), or 1NT in the first place, South passes as well and leaves matters in our hero’s hands.

It would be grievously unjust to call Gee’s 2H balance a zero percent bid. If East holds Ax AQJxx xxxx Kx, just possible on the auction, and hearts are exactly 4-2, 2H makes and 2C makes as well. There are a few other possible East hands that break even as long as you’re undoubled, where 2H is down 1 and 2C makes. Then there are still other possible East hands, like the actual one.

Against 2H doubled South opens a low trump, won by East in dummy with the 9. It’s probably best to play a diamond immediately, not that it matters on the layout, but declarer instead cashes the HK, getting the trump news, and leads a diamond. South wins and shifts to clubs. When the smoke clears the defenders make two diamonds, two clubs and two spades and three trump for — say it with me brethren! — Sticks and Wheels.

Jul 182002
 

E/W Vul
IMPs
Dealer: West
Lead: CJ

drkangel
S K 6
H Q 3 2
D 7 5
C K 10 7 6 5 4
demolay
S Q 7 4
H A J 10 6 5
D
C A Q 9 3 2
[W - E] Maestro
S A 9 5 2
H 8 7
D A K Q 10 8 4 3
C
waso
S J 10 8 3
H K 9 4
D J 9 6 2
C J 8
West
1 H
2NT
4 S
5 S
6 S
Pass
North
2 C
Pass
Pass
Pass
Pass
Pass
East
2 D
3 S
4NT
5NT
7 D
Pass
South
Pass
Pass
Pass
Pass
Dbl

 

Today I shall necessarily be brief, for before us is the Auction That Passeth All Understanding.

Our hero sits East. After a perfectly sane 1H opener from West and a rather less sane 2C overcall from North, Gee responds 2D. This is the last bid of his that I understand. Doubtless this is due to my own limitations. West rebids 2NT. He has no attractive alternatives, and one can sympathize. (3NT may well make at the table. 4H is somewhat better, but no game is cold.)

West has now shown no fit — with four spades he would probably bid them over 2D — and a minimum hand. Lesser players would content themselves with a simple 3NT here. Gee, however, bids 3S, and West raises to 4 — assuming that his partner would never introduce a motheaten four-card suit at the 3-level. A pause ensues, and 4NT emerges. Blackwood with a void is again perhaps not every player’s choice, but true masters adopt, quite properly, a Nietzschean contempt for the silly “rules” that constrain the rest of us. West dutifully responds 5S, with spades agreed. It is possible to construct a West hand on which six diamonds makes, something like QJ10 Axxxx Jx AJx. But Gee, missing a key card but nonetheless dissatisfied with a mere small slam, proceeds to 5NT, asking for specific kings. West denies an outside K with 6S, Gee signs off in 7D, South doubles, and the rest is silence.

The diamond grand is off only one if spades and diamonds both break 3-3 (or the DJ drops second) and the SK is onside. On the actual, rather more likely distribution we have…well, you all know by now what we have. Don’t you?

Jul 252002
 

N/S Vul
IMPs
Dealer: West
Lead: DQ

janiner
S A Q 6
H A 6 4 3 2
D A 3
C Q 8 2
jmiran
S 9 7 2
H
D K 10 8 6 4 2
C A K J 6
[W - E] pkchance
S J 10 5 3
H K Q J 9
D Q J
C 10 7 3
Maestro
S K 8 4
H 10 8 7 5
D 9 7 5
C 9 5 4
West
1 D
4 C
Pass
North
1 H
4 H
Pass
East
Dbl
Dbl
South
3 H
Pass

 

Yesterday’s lesson in hand evaluation continues. Today we see the other side of the coin.

Although many players might double with the North hand it is difficult to quarrel with the heart overcall. Some players would bid 1NT with East’s hand, but he thought it more important to show the four spades with a negative double, and again this is difficult to fault.

Gee, sitting South, holds what appears at first blush to be an eleven-loser hand with four small trumps and no ruffing values whatsoever. But on closer inspection, the hand reveals itself as eleven losers with four small trumps and no ruffing values whatsoever. Some players might venture a raise to 2H; more conservative players might pass. But Gee knows the Law: four hearts plus five hearts make nine hearts. He raises to 3.

Sure enough, his brilliant gambit pays off, as West bids 4C. Four of either minor is off 2 on moderately alert defense. But North bids 4H, alas. She envisions a South hand like Kxxx Kxxx xxxx x — here the heart game is cold unless trump are 4-0 — or even Jxxxx KQxx xxx x, where it is an underdog but has chances. Of course East, who has been laying the weeds with three heart tricks, promptly doubles, and North finds the dummy somewhat, shall we say, disappointing. The usual result would be -500 or -800 (against an E/W partial), but the catastrophic trump split produces seven tricks for the defense, down 4, for a score with which we are all, by now, distressingly familiar.

Yet it is the mark of the expert to extract something from every disaster. After the hand Gee asks his partner gently if she understood that 3H was a weak bid. Her reply is unrecorded, but clarifications like this cannot help but improve partnership understanding for the future.

Aug 052002
 

None Vul
IMPs
Dealer: East
Lead: DA

Maestro
S 10 8 5 2
H 10 8 4 3 2
D J 4
C 5 2
fifee
S Q 6
H A 9 7 5
D K 9 6 5 3 2
C 6
[W - E] swizzle
S A K J 9
H Q J
D A 10
C K J 7 4 3
curtisxx
S 7 4 3
H K 6
D Q 8 7
C A Q 10 9 8
West

1 D
Pass

North

3 H
Pass

East
1 C
Dbl
South
Pass
Pass

 

In a recent column Gee’s partner made a second-seat vulnerable overcall of 1H with 3S, holding KQxxxxx Qxxx x x. In the post mortem Gee remarked that it was “unexpected that my partner made a pre-emptive overcall with 7 and a 4-card suit.”

OK then. Today we take a closer look at 3-level overcalls. East opens 1C, South passes, West replies 1D. The ordinary player might pass, would pass, with the North hand. Gee calls 3H.

Now I know what you’re thinking. If the 3S overcall was wrong how can this one be right? Look more closely. The 3S overcall was made with seven to the KQ; Gee’s is with five to the 10. All the difference in the world. And sure, Gee has an outside four-bagger, but it’s only headed by the 10, and it’s in a suit the opponents haven’t bid. No comparison there.

Gee is also not vulnerable, giving him an extra margin of safety. And finally his 3H was in fourth, not second seat. His partner having passed makes it almost certain that the opponents have at least a game. And they do; 3NT makes 4 or 5.

The opponents, however, double instead of bidding their NT game. The play is lengthy and sanguinary. The defense leads the DA, cashes the SK and leads a second diamond, won by West with the K. West cashes the SQ and gives East a third-round diamond ruff. East cashes a third round of spades, West sluffing her stiff club, and gives West a club ruff, Gee playing CQ from dummy. Gee ruffs the fourth-round of diamonds in hand with the deuce (discarding his last club doesn’t help), and the HQ from East forces the HK from dummy. West still has two trump tricks coming, for down 5.

These expert bids work out every once in a while, I know they do. Don’t they?

Aug 082002
 

E/W Vul
IMPs
Dealer: South
Lead: D5

maureen
S 6 4
H A K Q
D A J 7 4 2
C A K 10
Icecarr
S A 3
H 10 7 6
D Q 6 3
C 8 7 6 5 2
[W - E] Maestro
S Q J 9 8 7 2
H J 9 3 2
D 10
C Q 9
martial
S K 10 5
H 8 5 4
D K 9 8 5
C J 4 3
West

Pass
Pass

North

2NT
Pass

East

3 S
Pass

South
Pass
Dbl

 

The Bones Principle, as enumerated by its inventor, runs as follows: “When defending versus Gee, if he is to play the hand, wait until he stops bidding; then, no matter your hand or the auction, double for penalties. It will be the winning action in about 90% of the cases.” However, he also carefully notes that the Principle “is more aptly applied to those hands where, if you were to look at your hand and the auction, you would never double against an advanced declarer.”

With these discriminations in mind, let us consider South’s double of Gee’s 3S bid in today’s auction. (I know it’s my duty to consider the 3S bid itself — red vs. white, six-bagger to the QJ9, South passed making slam unlikely, and hey wait! isn’t that a four-card outside suit? — but I just don’t have the heart today. Sorry.) Is the double an application of the Bones Principle? Yes and no. On the one hand, South waited until Gee was finished bidding, assured himself that Gee would declare, and doubled. On the other hand, with South’s holding, opposite a 2NT opener, he is assured of a good-sized penalty even with Soloway declaring.

To be scrupulous, then, what we have is an application of what I would call Bones’ Lemma: If Gee has finished bidding and is to declare, and you expect to defeat the hand regardless, then double emphatically.

A casual inspection indicates three hearts, a diamond, two clubs and a trump for the defense, for 800. One line, and one line alone, yields Sticks and Wheels. Gee wins a second diamond after the defenders have cashed four red tricks, leads a low trump to the ace, and finesses the 9 on the way back, playing South, the doubler, for a stiff. 1100. It’s on purpose, I just know it is.

Aug 122002
 

None Vul
IMPs
Dealer: East
Lead: D8

jhemmer
S A Q 6 5
H A 8 4 2
D 8 3
C A Q 7
Maestro
S K 10 2
H Q J 10 3
D K
C K 9 8 6 3
[W - E] justinl
S
H K 9 7
D A Q J 10 6 5 4
C J 4 2
danb
S J 9 8 7 4 3
H 6 5
D 9 7 2
C 10 5
West

1 H
3 C
4 H
Pass

North

Dbl
3 S
Dbl

East
1 D
Rdbl
4 D
Pass
South
Pass
2 S
Pass
Pass

 

In an earlier installment we had a demonstration of how to get tapped in a 5-3 fit. Today we have another rare variation: getting tapped by discarding your stopper in the suit.

East’s redouble is support, showing exactly three hearts; and South’s jump to 2S is preemptive. North raises to 3S over Gee’s 3C, and East rebids his diamonds at the four-level. 4D makes without any trouble, except on an unlikely club lead, but Gee, aware of his sure touch in Moysians, corrects to 4H. The spade game also makes, extremely luckily, for N/S, with the trump and diamond finesses both on; but North wisely opts for the certain plus by doubling.

North leads the D8, best for the defense, and here we should pause to consider how the play might proceed in a parallel universe of accurate declaring. The bidding and opening lead indicate that North is 4-4-2-3 with all three aces. Declarer plays three rounds of diamonds, discarding a spade and club. North’s best play is to discard a spade on the third round, retaining trump control. A fourth round of diamonds is ruffed by South and overruffed by declarer with the 10. North must refuse to overruff and discard a club. Now South plays a heart to dummy, ducked by North, and a fifth round of diamonds, which South can no longer ruff, discarding a club. North ruffs in and plays a low heart back, but eventually is endplayed in the black suits for down 1. (Update: My original analysis was wrong. Thanks to Ira Chorush for this improved version.)

In the actual universe the play goes somewhat differently. Gee wins in dummy and plays two rounds of trump ending in dummy, North correctly ducking. Now Gee shifts to diamonds. He discards a spade on the first round. He discards a spade on the second round. North ruffs in, cashes the trump ace, cashes the SA, dropping Gee’s now-bare SK, and leads another spade. Gee could hold it to down 4 by ruffing the fourth round of spades, and leading a low club, forcing North to concede a club trick. Instead he ruffs immediately and leads a club into North’s tenace. Down 5, not vulnerable. And you know what that means.