Declaring

Jun 282002
 

None Vul
IMPs
Dealer: West
Lead: C8

Maestro
S J 10
H A K Q J 6
D 3 2
C K Q 10 3
trixi
S A Q 6 5 2
H 8 5
D K 9
C A J 5 4
[W - E] mjg
S K 8 7 3
H 9 7 3 2
D Q J 8 5
C 8
che23
S 9 4
H 10 4
D A 10 7 6 4
C 9 7 6 2
West
1 S
Pass
Pass
North
2 H
5 H!
Pass
East
4 S
Dbl
South
Pass
Pass

 

This was one of the hands on which Gerard lost 80 IMPs without making a mistake. Perhaps if we analyze the hand in some detail we can discover where his partner went astray.

Gerard, looking at three quite likely defensive tricks against four spades, and six tricks declaring five hearts, opts for the sacrifice. After all, he wasn’t vulnerable, and four spades was making. East opens his singleton club, West wins the ace. At this point the defense can take the first six tricks, and a diamond later on, for down five: return a high club, two spade entries, three club ruffs. Alas, West cashes the spade ace, then returns a club. East ruffs, cashes the spade king, and exits with a trump. Looks like down three. But our hero draws two rounds of trump, crosses to the diamond ace, and takes the club finesse, allowing East to make his last trump for down 4 and -11 IMPs. Where did Gee’s partner err? All suggestions are welcome.

Jun 302002
 

N/S Vul
IMPs
Dealer: West
Lead: SQ

ahmed1
S Q J
H K 9 8
D K 9 8 6 5 2
C K 2
Maestro
S A 10 5 4
H Q 5
D A Q J 10 7 4
C 5
[W - E] petit_g
S K 8 7
H J 7 6 4 3 2
D
C A Q 9 7
brando
S 9 6 3 2
H A 10
D 3
C J 10 8 6 4 3
West
1 D
1 S
2 D
3NT
North
Pass
Pass
Pass
Pass
East
1 H
2 C
2 H
Pass
South
Pass
Pass
Pass
Pass

 

Grand un petit Gee reach 3NT on a, shall we say, optimistic auction. North opens the spade Q; Gee wins in hand and plays the HQ. North errs by rising with the HK and continuing with the SJ. Gee wins the spade on board and plays a third round, which South covers with the 9. Now he leads the diamond 10, which holds, and the diamond J, which North wins as Gee discovers the bad news, South discarding a small club. North returns the club deuce, the club queen holds, and the moment of truth has arrived. Gerard’s only chance is to find either defender with the stiff heart A — which, as it happens, is the layout. Then the J will draw the last heart and he’ll be home with nine tricks. (If North has the stiff A and leads a D, West can simply play his last spade and South will be forced to lead a club to the board.) Gee cogitates on this carefully, then plays the heart J. Down 1. The zero percent play.

Moral: Some is sometimes better than none. None is never better than some.

Jul 012002
 

Both Vul
IMPs
Dealer: East
Lead: HK

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

Rdbl
3 C
3 H
Pass

North

Pass
Pass
Pass
Pass

East
1NT
2 S
3 D
4 D
South
Dbl
Pass
Pass
Pass

 

1NT was weak, lubac’s double was DONT, showing a one-suited hand, and two spades was…well, never mind what two spades was. Four diamonds, however, is unbeatable on the layout, presuming the planets are in normal alignment. South leads out two top hearts and, stuck with the stiff spade K, switches to clubs, as good as anything. Gee wins the club in hand, plays the trump A, and plays a small trump! This wins whenever the K is doubleton. Unfortunately, the diamond Q or J also wins whenever the K is doubleton, plus all those other layouts when the K is third. “Darn,” said Gerard when the diamond 10 held the trick, “but with only one entry it was the only logical play I think.” “Was that a misclick?” his partner asked. “A misclick is one thing but intentionally is…” He decided not to finish the sentence.

Moral: The whole is greater than the part.

Jul 092002
 

None Vul
IMPs
Dealer: South
Lead: CJ

seawind
S A 8 6 5
H 6
D K 10 8
C J 10 9 8 4
Maestro
S K
H A Q J 4
D 7 6 3
C Q 7 6 3 2
[W - E] ahmed1
S Q 9 4 2
H K 8 5
D A Q J 9 2
C A
agamawi
S J 10 7 3
H 10 9 7 3 2
D 5 4
C K 5
West

1 C
1 H
1NT
Pass

North

Pass
Pass
Pass
Pass

East

1 D
1 S
3NT

South
Pass
Pass
Pass
Pass

Today Gee, sitting West, is declaring 3NT after a normal auction and receives the normal lead of the CJ. Let’s do the novice thing and count our tricks. Four hearts, one club, nice looking diamond suit in dummy makes nine unless South has four or more including the K and the 10. Five clubs to the Q in hand, they’re not gonna run clubs out on you. So the novice might play DA and a D honor, which wins between 80 and 90% of the time. The novice might even be right. But Gee is no novice. At trick 2 he leads a low spade off the board! North takes the ace and returns the S8, confirming the old adage, “Both sides lead same suit, one side crazy.” Gee wins the Q, and now the defense has three tricks established and one in. It’s still not too late to make by finessing twice in diamonds, but Gee now cashes four hearts and takes one diamond finesse. It holds, but he’s squandered his entry to repeat the finesse, and the DK fails to drop when he cashes the A. Down one. Some guys just have no luck.

Jul 102002
 

None Vul
IMPs
Dealer: East
Lead: S2

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

1 S
2NT

North

Pass
Pass

East
1 C
1NT
Pass
South
Pass
Pass
Pass

Continuing our series on dummy play, we find Gee declaring 2NT after a quiet auction, although passing 1NT might be better with West’s grungy 11. Timo, sitting South, opens the spade deuce, as good as anything, which Gee wins in hand with the J. We pause to count tricks. Three or four spades, depending on the location of the K. Two hearts can be established, plus the DA and at least one club. So you might expect the SQ at trick 2 to find out how the spades lie. If it holds, then there’s time to set up two hearts and a club for eight tricks. If not, then you decide which minor suit to play on.

But this is a superficial view. Gee sees more deeply into the hand and plays a low club at the second trick. North wins the A and returns a low heart. An average player might win this in hand and take the spade finesse, but Gee, apparently certain that North holds the SK, wins it on board with the J and leads the S9. Alas, it turns out that South made a sneaky lead from an honor against no trump. Timo wins the K and leads a second round of hearts, ducked to Gee’s 10. Gee now leads to the SA and, neglecting to cash the fourth spade, leads the C7. This line would succeed if North had begun with exactly AJ9 in clubs, but no luck. Timo wins the CJ and Gee loses two more hearts, a diamond and a club at the end for down 2.

Jul 112002
 

None Vul
IMPs
Dealer: West
Lead:C10

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

 

Today we see Gee at the wheel of an interesting double squeeze. North/South reach a reasonable contract of 6NT after a rather ambitious auction. South’s 2H is either fourth suit forcing or a reverse but seems an overbid in either case.

Gee, declaring 6NT, receives a club lead. At first blush it looks like he needs five tricks in the red suits. Gee leads a low diamond off the board at trick 2, blocking the suit but hoping against hope, I suppose, that East will fly with the ace if he has it. East doesn’t play the A but he does play the 10. Gee covers with the J, which holds. West wins the second diamond, East discarding the H5, and returns a club. A spade would be better, and a heart with the diamonds blocked is interesting, although the hand can still be made (the squeeze still operates because West has only two hearts).

But now the hand is cold. Declarer can run the clubs, cross to the HA, and cash a diamond to come down to this four-card ending:

S A K 6 5
H
D
C
S ?
H ?
D 8 5
C
[W - E] S ? ? ?
H ?
D
C
S 8
H Q
D K 2
C

 

West can have at most two spades remaining, and if East has the HK the last diamond winner will force him to unguard the spades, giving Gee his 12th trick. So the squeeze always works if the HK is with East, and it also works if the HK is with West either stiff or along with four or more spades.

So Gee runs the winners and makes six, right? Not exactly. He discards the HQ on the last club, keeping his two dead spades. Down 1. Musta misclicked.

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 192002
 

N/S Vul
IMPs
Dealer: East
Lead: CK

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

1 S
4 S

North

Pass
Pass

East
1 D
2 D
Pass
South
Pass
Pass
Pass

Each declarer play is like a battle. Prepare for battle. Count your winning tricks, your loosing [sic] tricks. Make a plan of attack to better your chances of winning the remaining ones.
–G. Cohen, Bridge Is A Conversation

Sticks and Wheels, for now, is at an end. Today we have a sort of intermezzo while I contemplate our next theme.

Some Wests might trouble to show the clubs on the second round to reach an excellent 3NT by East, but Gee, shrewdly aware of how much better off the partnership will be if he plays the hand, leaps to 4S instead.

North leads the CK, best for the defense, and Gee wins the first round. To the unpracticed eye this may look like a zero percentage play, but it wins if clubs are 5-1 and South has the short trump, which happens at least once for every five or six times this play loses.

Declarer is due to lose at least one trump, probably two, and this leaves the question of what to do with the club losers. Diamonds come to mind, and Gee promptly finesses the DJ, which holds, improving declarer’s prospects considerably. He now plays off his two top trumps, both defenders following. So far so good: as long as one defender can’t ruff in before the fourth round of diamonds declarer has time to discard two clubs and make, conceding two trump tricks and a club. Sure enough, that’s the layout. (If trump were 3-3, of course, then a first round club duck might have come in handy.)

So Gee repeats the diamond finesse and makes, right? Um, actually, Gee leads a heart and finesses the queen! It holds, and he can still survive by returning to his hand with a heart ruff and repeating the diamond finesse. Instead he cashes the HA, discarding a club, and cashes the DA. Unlucky again; the DK doesn’t drop. When he leads the DJ and South discards a small heart, he still has at least a theoretical chance if he ruffs in hand and plays a trump: South may have erred by not ruffing and trump may be 3-3. But real experts hate to take advantage of defensive errors and Gee instead elegantly discards the C7, guaranteeing defeat.

Jul 232002
 

None Vul
IMPs
Dealer: West
Lead: C3

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

 

Occasionally one’s partner will make bidding errors. That’s part of the game. But it’s important to put them behind you and keep your mind on the play, as Gee demonstrates for us in today’s hand.

The bidding all looks reasonable to my inexpert eye — East’s 1S reply over the overcall is perhaps a bit thin — but Gee does not agree, as we will see shortly. Nonetheless he refuses to let this affect his play. East leads his stiff club, and West returns the C2 for a ruff. A diamond back to the ace leads to another club ruff, for down 1, ordinarily, as East exits with a trump. Gee wins in hand, ruffs a diamond, and then makes the key play of ruffing a club winner to return to hand, leaving himself nothing to discard the last diamond on, and down 2.

After the hand Gee and his partner have a friendly colloquy about the bidding, which stimulates some discussion in spec:

Gee: Why not support double?
Bachelor #1: Support doubles by the advancer! A new treatment!
sensj: Support double is only if you are responder…here you show a 5-card suit
Gee: ???
Gee: no
Gee: I overcalled and 1 spade was after you…double by you shows 3 in support
Bachelor #1: everybody making notes?
Gee: geez, guys…read more books…i dunno
Bachelor #2: wow!
Bachelor #3: what is this “read”?
Bachelor #3: we are WRITING
Gee: then specs make nasty comments about me for my partner’s bad bidding
Bachelor #3: yes, it’s all partner’s fault
Bachelor #2: hahahahaha
Bachelor #3: i will have to call my pd from today and let her know it was all her fault
Bachelor #2: wait a moment, how did he go down?
Bachelor #3: unreal
Gee: sensj…I am sorry…nothing to do with you, but with my previous partners… I am upset at what happened earlier and by hearing specs’ comments…specs who also think they know but actually don’t know much for some of them
Gee: I should stop after this hand and relax for a while

And so shall we.