Bidding

Mar 112003
 

N/S Vul
IMPs
Dealer: West
Lead:SK

mcailean
S A J 10 6 4 3 2
H Q 10 9 2
D K
C J
fifee
S K Q 7
H A
D Q 9 8 6 4
C K 9 8 4
[W - E] simsim35
S 9 5
H J 8 6 3
D 7 5
C 10 7 6 3 2
Maestro
S 8
H K 7 5 4
D A J 10 3 2
C A Q 5
West
1 D
Pass
Pass
Pass
North
1 S
4 H
5 D
Pass
East
Pass
Pass
Pass
Pass
South
2 H
4NT
6 H

 

One infallible sign of the expert is his boldness. By visualizing hands instead of merely counting points, he often finds contracts from which the ordinary player would shrink.

Today, for instance, the STCP™, faced with the South hand after a 1D opener to his left and partner’s 1S overcall, might reason that only game is available and content himself with a simple 3NT, probably pulled by North to 4S, and making 4 or 5 either way. Gee, with a stiff in his partner’s suit, Kxxx in hearts, and a double stopper in both minors, is thinking bigger. He bids 2H.

North has a fine hand in support of hearts and raises to game, but matters don’t stop there. Gee visualizes a hand like — well, I’m not sure exactly what, but if I could do these things myself I would be the expert and he would write columns about me instead of the other way around.

Blackwood ensues, North dutifully shows his ace, and Gee plunges to 6H. West eschews the Bones double and leads the spade king.

Sure enough, 6H has some play. If West shows up with exactly three spades and the AJ tight of hearts the hand is cold. Win the spade, spade ruff, trump to the queen and she is helpless.

Luck, as usual, is not with our hero. But he does find an ingenious line for off 2. He wins the spade ace, cashes the diamond king, leads the club jack to the ace, and then plays a low trump. West wins her ace and returns a low club, and Gee misses his first chance to go down one by ruffing on the board. He ruffs a spade, takes the ruffing finesse in diamonds, which holds, and then attempts to cash the diamond ace, discarding a spade. East ruffs in and returns a club. Gee cross-ruffs the rest of the hand, losing the trump jack at the end.

The post-mortem is brief and pointed, as Gee advises his partner, “If you bid like that with me we will be in slam every time.”

Mar 042003
 

N/S Vul
MPs
Dealer: East
Lead: H3

eran1
S A Q 9 8 7
H J 7 6 4 2
D 5
C J 2
revokes
S 5 2
H 8 5 3
D J 9 8 6
C A K 7 4
[W - E] kathwei
S 10 6 4 3
H K Q 10 9
D Q 2
C 10 5 3
Maestro
S K J
H A
D A K 10 7 4 3
C Q 9 8 6
West

Pass
Pass
Dbl

North

1 S
3 H
Pass

East
Pass
Pass
Dbl
Pass
South
1 D
3 D
4 C
Pass

 

For the STCP™ bidding misfits often proves troublesome. A brief lesson from the master may clear up some of the subtler points involved.

Gee opens a diamond and jump rebids 3D over the 1S response, giving his partner a problem. Pass wins, as it so often does; 3D makes exactly three and there is no game on the layout. But North very reasonably chooses 3H to show his 5-5 hand in the majors; there could easily be a major suit game available if Gee holds three of either. East doubles, chancily, for a heart lead and it’s back to the maestro.

At this stage the STCP™, scenting a misfit and knowing his partner is at least 5-5, might take a simple preference to three spades to show his excellent two-card support. (With three in either major South should bid game.) This approach, however, hides the four-card club suit, in which you could conceivably have a seven-card fit (assuming North is void diamonds) that you may well want to play at the four-level. The maestro therefore spurns the spade preference in favor of four clubs.

West doubles, of course, and poor North, who figures Gee to be 1-1-6-5 with a hand not quite good enough for a three club rebid, passes.

A heart is led, and there appear to be eight tricks for declarer, the 4-2 fit notwithstanding: two spades, two diamonds, the heart ace, a diamond ruff (West figures to have both club honors on the auction), and two heart ruffs in hand. Yet is -500 enough to guarantee the zero? Why take chances?

Gee wins the heart ace, cashes the diamond ace, and leads…a trump! West rises with the king, marking the trump ace, and plays another heart. Gee ruffs, cashes two spades in hand, and makes the key play of a low diamond, ruffing with the jack as both defenders follow. He attempts to cash the spade ace, sluffing a diamond, but West ruffs, cashes the trump ace, and plays his last heart, and now, no matter what Gee does, the trump queen is his last trick. -800, and the zero is assured.

Who’s to blame? Let’s listen:

G: not better to play with a known 7 card trump than a probably 6 card trump suit? (Yes, this was Gee, not his partner. —Ed.)
eran1: but u must be 6-5 why no 3S? i take u 6-5-1-1
G: no, with 6-5 I bid D, then C then D again
Spec #1: huh????
G: with 5-5 I bid D then C then C
eran1: so why no 3sp?
Spec #2: lolol
Spec #3: did he just type that?
G: with 6-4, I bid D then D then C

See? Bidding misfits is easy!

Feb 132003
 

E/W Vul
IMPs
Dealer: East
Lead: S7

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

Pass
Pass

North

Pass
Pass

East
2 S
Dbl
South
3 C
Pass

 

Let’s say you hear a first-seat 2S opener, and you hold 15 points, 3 aces, a double stopper in spades, and your long suit, clubs, is 10xxxx.

2NT? That’s for STCPs™. The winning bid is 3C! This is passed by a startled West and unhappy North around to East, who makes a Bones reopening double with no extra values whatsoever. Reopening Bones, in this auction, instructs partner to bid with a long suit and no defense, and pass otherwise. West, whose long suit happens to be clubs, makes one of the world’s more obvious penalty passes, and here we are.

Even so, it looks worse than it is. With Qx onside in hearts and a spade lead an ordinary declarer will have trouble taking fewer than six tricks, for -500, an ordinary disaster. Gee, however, is no ordinary declarer.

The opening spade lead is ducked to Gee’s queen, and he promptly leads a trump. East wins the 9 and continues spades. Gee wins the spade ace for his second trick and plays another trump. West proceeds to draw trump. East tosses the diamond 3, showing a diamond preference, and three spades; Gee throws a spade and three diamonds from dummy.

West now shifts to the king of diamonds, taken by Gee with the ace. Three tricks for declarer. The black suits are known. West has five red cards and East has six. How are the suits laid out?

The diamond preference indicates at least the queen, probably the jack as well. (West might also have led diamonds holding KQJ tight.) West therefore holds either the stiff king or KJ. If KJ, hearts are 3-3, and East likely has the queen. (Otherwise he opened 2S unfavorable, and doubled 3C, with KJ10xxx xxx Qxx x. Bones, but still.) In any case there is no choice about how to play the hearts. Lead to the king and finesse the jack.

Gee diagnoses matters correctly, however, and places West with the stiff king, leaving East with two hearts. Now it’s a guess: if East’s hearts are Qx, declarer must finesse. But if they’re 10x, he must play the ace and the jack, pinning the 10. Well, I need not tell you which line our unlucky hero chose. It is true that if the pinning play fails you go down five instead of four on the finesse (West would be forced to lead another heart back eventually, allowing declarer to make two heart tricks.) It is true that if the hearts do happen to be 3-3 the pinning play cannot succeed. It is true that Gee’s line requires East to have made a reopening Bones double with KJ10xxx 10x QJxx x. And yet, so unlucky.

Feb 012003
 

N/S Vul
IMPs
Dealer: North
Lead: HK

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

Pass
Pass

North
1NT
3NT
East
3 D
Pass
South
3 H
Pass

 

In a court of law, where the defense is not obliged to tell a coherent story but only to cast doubt on the prosecution’s, a well-established technique is to argue in the alternative. The defendant accused of borrowing a tea-kettle and returning it broken might maintain that he never borrowed it, that it was broken when he borrowed it, and that he returned it in perfect condition.

Our hero is in a sticky situation after East’s preemptive overcall. Fortunately, he can bid in the alternative, with a three heart call alerted as “to play.” A spec wants to know how an ordinarily forcing bid can be to play. A more experienced spec explains: “Because he doesn’t have a good enough hand to force to game. With a better hand, 3H would be forcing.” This is bidding in the alternative.

North, however, is unfamiliar with the concept and bids 3NT. On a diamond lead this would roll home, but East finds the exceptional lead of the heart king, and the contract has no hope. Declarer can’t be blamed too severely for trying to make his contract by ducking the heart and finessing the jack on the second round. West promptly leads the diamond queen back through. North plays the king on the first round, which would make him look pretty foolish if diamonds were 7-1 but makes no difference on the actual layout. Down 4.

Our hero is nonplussed:

G: when I show heart, why are we playing in NT?
ralphm: why do you ask? i have 8x in hearts

Sigh. Doesn’t anybody understand that three hearts is not, in this case, a forcing bid? “Besides,” Gerard adds to the specs, “he went down four because of his poor play. 3NT is very makeable.”

Jan 192003
 

None Vul
IMPs
Dealer: West
Lead: SA

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

 

Remembering that your partner has needs, desires, and 13 cards has been stressed in these pages many times. Yet Gerard continues to find new ways to emphasize its importance.

Today’s auction will repay careful study. Note, to begin with, the unusual notrump balance. This has the dual merit of right-siding the hand if your partner takes it into his head to want to play notrump (as it happens 3NT has chances for North/South, especially with South declaring where a spade lead is likely), and sucking up as much bidding room as possible on a hand that is at least even money to belong to your side.

3H, too, has merits. When your partner can’t muster a response to an opener and the bidding shows length and strength behind you in both of your broken suits — then bid it up, by all means.

3HX goes for 500, maybe 800. But Gee bid 2NT in the first place with the intention of rebidding his lovely clubs, and no mere penalty double is going to change his mind. South’s 4H is a conventional bid that says, “You were an idiot not to leave in my penalty double.” Gee passes this, which beggars description. Expert table feel pays off again as East doubles. At this point I suppose 4NT asks to choose a minor, or maybe it’s to play, I just don’t know any more. In any case Gee naturally chooses clubs. The penalty double, marking the trump position, is a last nice idea to end the auction.

East cashes the spade ace and continues spades. Gee understandably inserts the 10, bringing down West’s spade queen. Every card is now marked, yet there is still a line available for off 2. Gee cashes the trump ace, East of course showing out, ditching a heart. He takes the heart finesse and cashes two spades, sluffing diamonds as West sluffs her last two hearts. The heart ace is ruffed low and overruffed. East rises on the diamond with the ace and returns another, the king holding. Now Gee leads a heart and makes the key play of discarding a diamond, allowing East to win the heart king, the only way of assuring himself both a heart and a trump loser.

The post mortem also proves instructive:

drduby: from now on we trust each other
G: I always trust you, pard
drduby: Except when I double
G: Yes
G [the meaning of his partner’s last remark having finally dawned on him]: He was not going to pass anyway

Jan 132003
 

Both Vul
IMPs
Dealer: North
Lead: S6

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

2 D
Pass

North
Pass
Pass
Pass
East
1 S
2 H
Pass
South
Dbl
Dbl

 

We begin with two questions. Assuming you have no dummy entries,

1. How do you play 9 opposite AQJ83 for no losers?

2. How do you play J2 opposite 109764 for two losers?

Answers below; first there is bidding to consider. No one could object to Gee’s first double, with 18 points and at least three-card support in all the unbid suits. West’s 2D is a weak bid, showing length, since he has redouble available to show a good hand. East makes the obvious rebid of 2H, putting matters back in Gee’s hands.

Four likely defensive tricks, spade and diamond honors favorably placed for the opponents, broke partner: double of course. How else is partner going to know you have 18 points? North, having been advised that Gee has 18 points, passes, not that he has any choice, and once again it is up to the maestro to lead.

Since North shows up with two defensive tricks after promising nothing, 2H, remarkably, should go down — one on best play, two if declarer misguesses spades, which is likely. The STCP™ might think to lead a trump to cut down on spade ruffs, but Gee has a better idea: he opens the six of spades! North covers the board’s 9 with the king. This is not the world’s best defensive play but perhaps he can plead deep shock. Declarer wins the spade ace and promptly leads his low diamond.

Gee goes up with the diamond ace and decides the time has come to kill the spade ruffs. He plays the trump ace, following with the trump king, in case a third round of trump should prove necessary; you can’t be too careful about these things. Bad luck: this squashes his partner’s natural trump trick.

Now Gee shifts back to spades, relieving declarer of the obligation to drop the 10. Declarer pulls the rest of the trump and scores the doubled uptrick, giving up a club at the end. On the bright side, the diamond king never scores, there are no spade ruffs, and East/West were apparently unfamiliar with the Bones Redouble.

Answer Key

1. Put Gee on lead.

2. Put Gee on lead.

Jan 102003
 

Both Vul
IMPs
Dealer: East
Lead: H4

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

2NT
Pass

North

4 S

East
Pass
Pass
South
1 D
Pass

 

It isn’t enough to take the practice finesse. You have to know which way to take the practice finesse.

North-South arrive at the spade game after a brief but instructive auction. Gee, North, with a four-loser hand and five-card trump support opposite his partner’s opener, concludes as captain that there is no reason to investigate slam. Accordingly he signs off with 4S, in a six-card spade suit to the KQ9 in which his partner, for all he knows, is void, spurning the more pedestrian bids of 3H, 3C, 3S, double, 4H, 4C, 5D, 6D and one or two others I’m sure I’ve overlooked.

Yet his effort to right-side the hand pays off. Gee ruffs the heart lead, slaps down the king of spades, both defenders following, and finesses the 10 on the second round. It holds and North-South chalk up a glorious 680. The diamond and spade slams are cold, unluckily; and Gee does make a handsome concession in the post mortem:

G: I was too conservative
peterw: did you peek at the SJ Gerard?
G: easy to know where the spades are :)))

Jan 042003
 

N/S Vul
IMPs
Dealer: East
Lead: C3

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

2 C
Pass

North

2NT

East
Pass
Pass
South
1 H
Pass

 

Today’s disaster begins with Mini-Gee’s mini one heart opener in second seat, holding no aces, no stiffs, and eleven points counting a loose jack. Perhaps he upgraded for the nine of the clubs, which, to be fair, does prove to be a useful card in the play. After 2C our hero has a problem. A negative double is out, because you never do that with a five-card major; and passing is for children. An unusual 2NT is all that remains; certainly it is an unusually bad bid, even by Chronicles standards.

Equally unusually, it is passed out. East is kind enough not to double, and neither mini-Gee, who probably regards the bid as a notrump game invitation that he’s happy to decline, nor West, the overcaller, has anything further to say.

East opens a low club, and West wins the queen and returns another to East’s jack and dummy’s king. At this point the diligent reader should pause and try to figure out for himself how declarer can take only two more tricks.

First he needs to open the suit where he can do himself the most damage. That would be spades. The maestro leads the SJ at trick 3, covered by the queen and ace, with East dropping the 6 for count. This play simultaneously kills the entry to his hand, preventing him from enjoying any diamond tricks.

It is now safe to lead diamonds, and Gee proceeds to run the DJ, losing to East’s queen. East now cashes three rounds of clubs and the diamond ace. Gee sluffs two spades — another vital play — and a diamond from his hand, and a heart from dummy. East, however, decides to give declarer a count. He sluffs a diamond on the last round of clubs, and then a spade, the 7 no less, on the ace of diamonds.

West now shifts to the S9, and Gee correctly covers, establishing his 5 as East wins the king and plays back a low heart, facing Gee with a heart guess he can’t get wrong, and doesn’t, as the HJ holds for the declarer’s third trick.

Dummy is now endplayed, as Gee leads a small heart off the board. East wins the queen as West follows. East cashes the ace, West discards a diamond, et voilà! a full count. East has already shown three clubs and two diamonds, and now four hearts. This gives him four spades, and all Gee has to do is hold on to that tiny five of spades for his fourth trick.

You didn’t really need me to tell you he discarded it, did you?

Jan 022003
 

E/W Vul
IMPs
Dealer: East
Lead: C9

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

Pass
Pass
Pass
Pass

North

2 C
2 H
3 D
Pass

East
Pass
Pass
Pass
Pass
Pass
South
Pass
2 D
2NT
3NT

 

Today we find the maestro declaring 3NT after a shrewd tactical bid. By refusing to support his partner with four Gee keeps the partnership out of a reasonable diamond slam that is probably down on the actual layout (table feel!) although it makes double dummy. And, of course, he right-sides the contract.

The best line after a club lead is a nice question, but it’s probably to discard a heart from dummy, win the club, and play the two top hearts. If an honor falls, you are cold. Cash the top diamonds and exit a heart: you will either have nine tricks, if the diamonds break, or the defense will have to provide your ninth, by leading a black suit.

If no heart honor falls on the ace and king, your chances are still good, but you need the diamonds to break. Cash four rounds of diamonds and play a spade honor. If East wins he is endplayed. If West wins he will be forced eventually to lead a spade back, and you can still make if the spade jack is onside. If the spade is ducked, exit a heart, with the same ending.

Even against perfect defense, this line wins close to 90% of the time: all of the heart 3-2 breaks (68%) and 40% of the heart 4-1 breaks (5%), and the rest of the time if diamonds break unless the spade ace is with West and the spade jack with East.

At the table, Gee wins the first club and finesses a heart to East, who returns a club. At this point a second heart will put him down, but that would be the logica continuation of mere bad play, and mere bad play is no concern of this site. No, Gee shifted to a spade, guaranteeing five tricks for the defense. So our Gee-spot becomes 90% – 0% = 90.

Not 100, I grant, but you can’t say he isn’t trying.

Dec 302002
 

None Vul
IMPs
Dealer: South
Lead: H4

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

Dbl
Pass
Pass
Dbl
6 S
Pass
Pass

North

4 S
4NT
5 D
6 D
Pass
Pass
Pass

East

Dbl
Dbl
Dbl
Dbl
Pass
Rdbl

South
4 D
Pass
Pass
5 S
Pass
Dbl
Pass

 

The Bones Principle lends itself to various extensions. Surely if it is sound to double any contract Gee chooses to declare, it is equally sound to ship back any double he chooses to make on defense. And who better to demonstrate the Bones Redouble than that legendary bonesmaster himself, Seaman Justin Lall?

After North’s four spade bid is sandwiched by two doubles, a lesser player might suspect foul play. But not Gee: he always trusts his partner, come what may. And again, an ordinary player might view the Seaman’s double of 4NT as a hint that something is amiss. To the Maestro this is nonsense. Partner bid 4NT, and he meant 4NT — RKC for spades. Gee passes dutifully. He holds the SK, they play DOPI, that is all he knows on earth and all he needs to know.

Naturally 5D, doubled again by the Seaman (his bidding line is Double-Double-Double-Double-Pass-Redouble, and even at Gee’s tables you don’t see that every day), must be a diamond cue. Spades have been agreed as trump, have they not? Gee signs off in 5S and awaits further developments.

Which are forthcoming: this time Janine doubles, North pulls to 6D, and the light begins to dawn, one would assume. 6D goes for sticks and wheels, but Janine makes the superficially foolish decision to pull to 6S.

Our hero doubles. His partner bid spades, he has Kx, how can they make 6S? The Seaman of course ships it back, and complains afterwards when Janine plays the trump ace and another trump, instead of taking the trump finesse for an overtrick. Didn’t Gee show one keycard? Can’t anyone be trusted any more?