1100 Collection

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 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 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 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 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?