Bones Principle

Jul 052002
 


An experienced Gerard spectator maintains that the best way to play against him is to wait until he finishes bidding, then double — advice that resembles “buy low, sell high” in that you’re never quite sure when he is finished bidding. Nonetheless the Bones Principle can be a useful heuristic, as today’s hand demonstrates.

E/W Vul
IMPs
Dealer: North
Lead: CK

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

Dbl
Pass
Pass

North
1 S
Pass
Pass
Pass
East
Pass
2NT
3 H
Pass
South
2 C
Dbl
Dbl

With both the North and South hands almost unlimited, at unfavorable vulnerability, and with a dead flat loser-rich hand, West makes a bold takeout double. (There are other possible adjectives here, like “suicidal.”) Nonetheless if Gee, sitting East, bids 2H, it’s unlikely that South, with his powerful hand, will allow him to play. His actual bid, however, is 2NT, which is promptly doubled. Now there’s nowhere to run but 3H, which loses three diamonds, three spades, a club and a trump for down 4. I book the blame for this disaster at about 50-50. Readers are encouraged to write in with their own assessments.

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 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 222002
 

Both Vul
IMPs
Dealer: South
Lead: S6

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

Pass
Pass
3 S
Pass

North

1 S
Pass
Dbl
Pass

East

2 D
Dbl
4 D

South
Pass
2 S
Pass
Pass

So many people sent me this hand from last night that I feel obliged to publish it. Besides, I kind of like it myself.

Gee, sitting East with 10 pts, 1-4-5-3 and five diamonds to the Q8, inserts a 2D overcall over North’s spade opener. Lesser players might double for takeout, or even pass. This sets the specs murmuring:

Bachelor #1: 2 vully D’s??? time for the bones principle
Bachelor #2: 2D? geesom

OK. I’ll settle for “geesom.” South raises to 2S, passed around to Gee, who reopens with a double. The spec buzz grows louder:

Bachelor #3: and a reopening dbl with 10 to back it up
Bachelor #1: after a spade pump gee would go for stix and wheels again
Bachelor #1: X???? lolol–this is insane

Poor West, who figures if his partner is willing to force him to bid at the three-level that they must have a pretty good shot at game, makes a 3S asking bid. Since Gee is almost certainly stiff or void on the auction this might be considered sub-optimal. Gee pulls to 4D, and the Bones Principle, which could have been profitably invoked at the two-level, is violated at the four-level as South neglects to double.

The defense taps Gee with spades, and he loses control of the hand pretty fast, winding up with two heart tricks, two spade ruffs and two club tricks for down 4. Sticks and Wheels if doubled, but we just finished a week of that, and you were bored with it anyway. After the hand Gee visits spec himself, where he overhears Bachelor #4 inquiring, reasonably, if O_Bones invented the Bones Principle.

Gee: please, spare me…the Bones Principle is as stupid as its inventor…when my partners overbid or don’t tell me their hand properly (90% of the time) I go to forbidden places. If he cannot see that, he should not pretend to be an “expert”…good night and god bless you all.

And God bless you all, and to all a good night.

Jul 262002
 

E/W Vul
IMPs
Dealer: South
Lead: DA

maher
S A K 9 7
H Q 10
D 10 9 6
C K 10 9 4
dickfu
S 2
H 7 6 5 4
D J 7
C Q J 6 5 3 2
[W - E] Maestro
S J 10 6 5
H A J 9 3 2
D 5 2
C A 7
egypt1
S Q 8 4 3
H K 8
D A K Q 8 4 3
C 8
West

Pass
Pass
Pass
5H
Pass

North

1S
4S
Rdbl
Dbl

East

2H
Dbl
Pass
Pass

South
1D
3S
Pass
Pass
Pass

 

Our series in hand evaluation — it seems I’m writing a series after all — continues. Today we see the importance of evaluating your hand in context. Vulnerability, type of scoring — these all count in expert hand evaluation, and lesser players often overlook them.

Gee, East, ventures a vulnerable overcall with an eight-loser hand and both the North and South hands unlimited. A shyer player might think twice; but Gee has remarked in another context on the importance of daring, and one can certainly not fault him for cowardice here. South’s 14 HCP are looking a great deal better on this bidding, with solid diamonds, 4-card support, a stiff, and the HK favorably placed, and he jumps to 3S, which his partner raises to game.

Back we come to Gee, who holds three defensive tricks. It is difficult to imagine, on the auction, that his partner holds more than one. With N/S not vulnerable, at IMPs, a double stands to gain 50 points. Or so the ordinary player might reason. Gee doubles. North, who holds a full opener himself and has heard his partner jump raise his suit, redoubles, as one might expect.

This faces Gee’s partner, who holds the zero defensive tricks that one might expect, with the attractive choice of losing the rarely-seen 880 (4S is cold on any defense) or taking the sacrifice in 5H. He takes the sac, which turns out to be a key decision.

South cashes two diamonds and shifts to a spade. North wins the SK and switches to trump. Gee rises with the ace and plays another trump. Trump break, but clubs don’t, and Gee is stuck with a spade loser at the end for down 3. But -800 beats -880, and an expert who would double 4S certainly appreciates the significance of saving 80 points at IMPs.

Aug 032002
 

Both Vul
IMPs
Dealer: South
Lead: C3

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

1 H
Pass
Pass

North

3 S
Pass
Pass

East

4 H
Dbl

South
Pass
4 S
Pass

Is he banned or isn’t he? Apparently O_Bones had (I use the past tense advisedly) a special exemption to join Gee’s table, provided he opposed him, of which he and Misu took advantage last night for a short but exciting grudge match against Gee and notorious Texas juvenile Justin Lall.

The first four hands were uneventful; and then this was dealt. Bones opens a perfectly sound 1H, and Justin makes a frisky but defensible vulnerable overcall of 3S. Misu makes the obvious raise to 4H. Now to Gee. He has a stiff spade A, indicating that the opponents may well have two spade losers. His diamonds figure to be worth no more than a trick on offense, with no entries save the spade, and worth that same trick on defense. His stiff heart indicates that trump may break badly for the opposition, yet he has no ruffing value. He adds all this up and comes to the obvious conclusion: bid the spade game. This is passed around to Misu, who has three defensive tricks opposite an opening hand and doubles. “Bones Principle,” types Bones to the specs, but this is perhaps not a classical application. If Misu had, say, 1/2 a defensive trick, and doubled anyway, then the Bones Principle would more properly apply.

Misu opens his stiff club and Justin surveys the dummy with, one surmises, some disappointment. “Interesting,” he remarks diplomatically. Bones wins the first two rounds of clubs with the queen and ace, Misu sluffing a low diamond on the second round, and makes the crucial error of shifting the H3. Misu is forced to win the H10, and two subsequent rounds of hearts set up Justin’s queen. He winds up down 800 instead of the 1100 the defense could have had if Bones had returned the HJ or H9.

“Sorry, missed stix & wheels,” says Bones to his partner after the hand, which is perhaps, just after beating the opponents for 7 IMPs, not in the best possible taste. The following colloquy ensues:

G: ugh bones… was unexpected that my partner made a pre-emptive overcall with 7 and a 4-card suit
misu: actually 8card suit wasn’t it?
misu: oh no 7
G: no enough of that BS, bones
G: I don’t take it lightly
O_Bones: what?
G: insulting me will not get you anywhere
misu: huh?
justinl: stix and wheels is a common term… don’t think he was badmouthing you G
O_Bones: what you chirping about now gee?
O_Bones has been disconnected.
justinl: i say it all the time
misu: gee what’s wrong?
misu: he should have returned the heart 9 and we would have got 1100
misu: that’s all he meant
O_Bones has joined the table.
O_Bones: correct
justinl: G, really don’t think it was meant as an insult, he could have beaten me 1100
G: no, that’s not all he meant
O_Bones: apologised to my pard for my weak defense
G: he meant he would have had something to add to aaron’s website to demonstrate how ridicule [sic] I am
O_Bones: we got only 8 BONES instead of stix & wheels, due to my defensive slip
G: end of the game all
justinl: let’s just give bones the benefit of the doubt and move on please, ok?
G: sorry justin
G: bye
justinl: bye

Fair-minded person that I am, I propose a compromise: I publish the hand on my site anyway, but without the customary Sticks & Wheels logo. Is everyone OK with that?

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 162002
 

E/W Vul
IMPs
Dealer: South
Lead: H3

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

2 C
3 D
Pass
Pass

North

Dbl
Pass
Dbl

East

Pass
5 C
Pass

South
1 H
2 H
Pass
Pass

 

Visions, as any visionary will tell you, arrive on their schedule, not yours. This led to disaster in today’s hand.

After South’s 1H opener our hero has choices. Some players, holding such good minor suits, would bid unusual 2NT, despite being 1-3-4-5, for its preemptive value. 2NT works out well on the actual layout, as the subsequent auction is probably 3S, all pass, down 1. But 2NT could also work out badly, and 2C, Gee’s actual bid, is perfectly fine. North makes a rather eccentric negative double; other possibilities are 2S, or even a semi-preemptive 3S if the partnership plays 2S there, as is customary, as a forcing bid.

East passes, South rebids his hearts, and it’s up to Gee. He has defense but should be willing to compete, even at unfavorable, to least the three-level in the minors. A modestly gifted visionary would double for minor-suit takeout. (E/W make three of either minor, and N/S can’t make more than two of anything.) But Gee is cursed with an untimely moment of blindness: he bids 3D, forcing his partner to take a club preference, if he needs one, at the four-level.

Naturally partner takes the club preference — in spades, as it were. The less said about the 5C bid the better, but the 4C bid he should have made doesn’t work out too well either.

When play begins Gee, too late, regains his vatic powers. As South cashes his second heart, dummy undummies: “Down 2.” “OK,” Tsen replies, “diamonds 3-3.” “Automatic down 2,” Gee insists, “even if diamonds are 4-2.”

This puzzles Tsen, who like most of us is not blessed with the ability to see through the backs of the cards. “If diamonds are 4-2,” he says, “I will ruff.”

“If you have any trump left,” says Gee. “Which you won’t.”

Update: My distinguished expert consultants, O_Bones and dross, inform me — but nicely! — that I’ve butchered this analysis. Although they agree with me that 2NT is a reasonable compromise bid the first time around, they think a double on the second round suggests three good or even four bad spades, i.e., three-suit takeout, not the minors. 2NT is their suggested rebid, even though it’s supposed to show 4-6. They also both agree with taryk’s 5C bid. Since Gee’s 3D bid should show a huge 5-6 hand, 5C looks, from East’s perspective, like a reasonable proposition.