Defense

Jun 272002
 

IMPs
E/W Vul
Dealer: East
Lead: CA

tiger
S A Q 9 3
H Q 10 4
D J 3
C Q 8 7 2
anders1
S 5
H 8 7 2
D 10 9 8 7 5
C K J 5 4
[W - E] Maestro
S K 8 7
H 9 5 3
D A K Q 6 2
C A 6
botzum
S J 10 6 4 2
H A K J 6
D 4
C 10 9 3
West

Pass
3 D
Pass

North

2 S
Pass
Pass

East
1 C
Pass
Pass
Pass
South
Dbl
Pass
3 S

 

The opener is Precision, showing 16+, and there are other points in the auction of interest, like the free bid of three diamonds and Gee’s refusal to raise with five to the AKQ. But today we will discuss the play.

An ordinary expert would defeat this part score. But there are ordinary experts, and there is Gerard. He gets the defense off to a good start by leading the club ace; unless they lead clubs early declarer can hold his club losers down to 2 and make. West encourages with the 5, wins the 2nd round and leads a low club for Gee to ruff. Now it’s time to analyze the hand. Three tricks in, two certain defensive tricks coming, playing IMPs…Gee underleads the AKQ of diamonds! Tiger wins the jack in hand, managing not to laugh, plays ace and another trump immediately, and claims. “Too bad my cute play didn’t work,” says Gee to his partner, who is too diplomatic to reply.

Update: Gerard complains that “when I passed a 3D bid after a negative response to a Precision 1C opener, you even find a way to make it look as if it is wrong.” And he has a point. The 3D bid is bad; the pass is arguable.

Jul 032002
 

E/W Vul
IMPs
Dealer: East
Lead: D5

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

2 S
Pass

North

Pass
Pass

East
1 S
4 S
South
Pass
Pass

Today we have a special treat. Guest commentary from Gerard himself! Last night I quoted Gee as follows: “Sorry partner, I knew it was a swing board and did not use it to bid 6.” I also claimed the hand in question never made 6. I now yield the floor.

How can you say it never makes? I am most upset by your commentary of it, which means, in plain English: This guy (me, Gerard) is a lunatic. He does not know what he is talking about!

Gerard continues:

31 tables played this contract so far, out of which, 2 bid and made 6, 23 did not bid slam but made 6, 3 made 5, 1 went down 1 in a 5 contract and 1 played the other side. This is a huge percentage of success for a board that cannot make. [Ed.–This summary is accurate.]

Just by looking at the results showing that 90% of the players made slam, don’t you think you look a bit ridiculous when you make fun of me in public by stating that I am a fool for thinking this contract makes?

Seems to me you are placing judgement on something way above your head. So I will try to spell it out for you.

Almost everybody made 6… I did not make 6, only 5… I was one of the 3 unlucky ones who had a nasty lead, and Genes was one of the 3 lucky ones who made an odd but lucky lead. Lucky because there is no logic to that lead, but it just happened to work. I played the hand in a 4 contract, but if I had followed my instinct and bid the slam contract, the lead might very well have been different, more similar to the other tables, in which case it would have made 6… Like everybody else…

I did not bid slam because I used my head instead of my gut feeling (By the way, you did not praise me for using my head either). [Ed.–I think it would be patronizing to praise what looks like an absolutely obvious four spade bid.] If I had used my gut feeling instead of my head, Genes would have used his head instead of his gut feeling and made one of the two logical but wrong leads available to him. Only two other players did the same thing as Genes did.

But this is what happens when you play with and/or against great players. [Ed.–Hmm. Wasn’t the diamond lead illogical but lucky?] Success or failure has to do as much with strategy, psychology and dare as with technique, and that’s why, you people come to kibitz us competitors at our tables.

In the case of this board, Genes succeeded by dare, I missed by lack of dare. [Ed.–I think Gee’s being a bit hard on himself here. I wouldn’t call four spades a cowardly bid.]

Yes, on paper and for you specs looking at all 4 hands, this contract does not make. At the table, we have to figure things out by ourselves, without help from anyone and we need to have a vision. We don’t use the paper. It is not always as clear as for you in specs. And even what is clear to me may not be clear to the opponents.

On paper, this contract does not make and Genes’ lead is a poor lead. In reality, that contract makes and Genes’ lead was a great lead. I maintain what I said. I did not dare continue all the way to slam, and I was wrong. If I had dared, Genes would probably not have dared making an odd lead and I would have had the big score, even if you, in spec, would have thought I was crazy. [Ed.–Seawind showed up with a near-maximum hand, along with the crucial ace of diamonds. We will assume Gee would check for aces before bidding six. Even so, it is very difficult to construct a hand on which slam is a favorite. The best I can do is Jxx Kxxx Axxx Qx, or the same hand with the diamond K. This is a barely conceivable two spade raise and slam is about 90%. On the actual hand, even if we assume no diamond lead, you need the HK onside, the CQ onside, and trump 2-1. I book six at about 20%.]

I made the comment to the specs, before the hand was played out, that it was a swing board. I knew it when you, upstairs, did not even have a clue about it. I know you did not, else you would not have written, sic: “discussing a hand on which six never makes.”

If six never makes, how come so many players made it? [Ed.–Because they didn’t get the best defense. However, I should not have said six never makes. I should have said six is an awful contract and cannot make without help.] And if so many made six, how come you, specs and critics, are unable to recognize it is makeable… It is written here, black and white on paper that the slam contract makes. Because you lack of imagination and foresight.

Against all odds, I had a sense that it could make and I stated it before the action took place to the specs and after seeing the results and realizing that on paper it could not make.

If I had dared, I would have won it. But I did not dare….this time!

Does that justify that you publicly denounce my stupidity and ridicule me for it?

It must hurt you badly not to be able to have these visions since you have this craving for making me pass for a fool and try to make me lose face in front of all the spectators who come to see me play. I say me… not you.

Looks to me that you need to demolish me so you don’t have to face your own limitations…

If I could do it all over again, I would bid 6S and Genes would not have made that lead. That same psychologic war takes place between all contestants in any competitive activity. The stronger the competition, the more intensely this intellectual confrontation plays out.

I am not ridiculous, or dumb, or a lunatic. I am a competitor.

Please correct your writing.

[Ed.–Ask and ye shall receive. I thank Gerard for his contribution, and so, I’m sure, do my readers.]

Jul 072002
 

None Vul
IMPs
Dealer: South
Lead: H5

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

1 C
Pass

North

Pass
Pass

East

1NT

South
Pass
Pass

 

Given a heart lead, can you find a plausible line on which 1NT makes 3? How about a line on which it makes at all?

Glad you asked. Declarer ducks Gee’s heart lead to nikkos’s Q and wins the return with the HA. There is now one heart left that Gee can’t see, the J (which declarer obviously has). I mention this advisedly. Declarer plays a low diamond from dummy, and ducks the 10 from nikkos, which Gerard, apparently in no hurry to run his hearts and with no certain outside entry, lets hold. No harm done, as nikkos finds the club shift, won by Gee with the K. And now the coup de grace: the H3! Declarer gratefully takes the HJ and runs the diamonds. Nikkos discards his club winners and eventually has to lead a spade when in with the CA, giving declarer nine tricks. It isn’t every day you see ten defensive tricks compressed to four. After the hand Nikkos asked Gerard why he didn’t return a club. “You didn’t play a club until trick 4,” said Gee.

Jul 202002
 

None Vul
IMPs
Dealer: South
Lead: C2

pierri
SK 10 9 7 4
H Q J 6
D 10 7 6 5
C 10
touchet
S Q 5
H 8 7 2
D A K 2
C 9 8 7 4 3
[W - E] kalligr
S A 3
H K 10 5 4
D Q J 8 3
C K J 5
Maestro
S J 8 6 2
H A 9 3
D 9 4
C A Q 6 2
West

Pass
3NT

North

Pass
Pass

East

1NT
Pass

South
Pass
Pass
Pass

Both teams engage in one board at a time intellectual confrontation at the end of which one will have the pleasure of playing the contract and the other will have the misfortune of having to defend it.
–G. Cohen, Bridge Is A Conversation

An ordinary multiple-trick defensive compression play usually involves a single, catastrophic error: the air rushes out of the defense like a balloon that you blow up and then forget to tie. Far rarer is what we have today, the defensive equivalent of a slow leak.

An undernourished fourth-seat 1NT opener by East followed by an equally undernourished raise to game by West leads to a hopeless 3NT. At least it appears hopeless — down 4 before a card is played.

Intermediates are generally taught to lead a spade against this auction, especially with a holding as good as 4 to the J. Gee opts instead for the expert lead of the C2. Declarer wins the J, dropping the C10 from North, and is now down only 3. Probably his best hope now is to lead back the CK from hand, preserving his dummy entries to cash the clubs and hoping that South has the SK and that the heart losers can be held to two.

The actual East crosses to dummy with the DK and leads a club, playing North to have ducked with A10 tight. North shows out, of course, discarding the S7, and Gee wins the CK with his A. He could of course duck the club, leaving East an entry short to cash the club tricks and guaranteeing a one- or two-trick defeat, but he generously refuses to profit from declarer’s misplay. Reading his partner’s discard as Lavinthal, Gee now switches to the H3! At this point Declarer has seven sure tricks and begins to hope. In fact it’s all over. The third club drives out the CQ — declarer overtakes in dummy so a duck makes no difference — and the defense can do no better than to cash their two heart tricks. The post mortem is, alas, lost to the mists of time.

Jul 212002
 

E/W Vul
IMPs
Dealer: South
Lead: H3

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

3 H
Pass
Pass

North

Dbl
3 S

East

Rdbl
Pass

South
Pass
Pass
Pass

In the absence of a post mortem, we are forced to speculate about the often-mysterious motives for Gee’s play. Today we are fortunate: he gives us a personal glimpse into the mind of a master.

West opens a reasonable 3H, doubled by North. Gee redoubles, passed back to North. 3H redoubled is down 1, but one can hardly fault North for pulling to 3S, which buys the contract.

Gee leads the H3, won by West with the K as North discards a diamond. West returns the CQ, as good as anything. Declarer wins the CA and leads a low trump. Gee wins the SJ, pauses, and returns the C7 into declarer’s marked tenace. Declarer wins in hand and plays A and another trump. Gee wins and, mindful of the danger in switching defensive strategies mid-hand, continues clubs with the J, which, it cannot be denied, shows a certain flair.

North wins and forces out the last trump. Gee leads…a low diamond. Minus 140. The post mortem:

YIGAL: Partner, why not play hearts?
G: Nirgr does not have any, and I would rather try to set up my diamonds.
YIGAL: But you have a trick in clubs…
G: Did not know which would work, diamonds or clubs, at the beginning of the play and picked the wrong suit…but what else is new?

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 092002
 

E/W Vul
IMPs
Dealer: North
Lead: SA

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

1 H
2NT
Pass

North
Pass
Pass
Pass
Pass
East
Pass
1NT
3NT
South
Pass
Pass
Pass

 

West’s opening 1H is the root of all evil in today’s auction. A more usual 1NT would provoke either a pass or, conceivably, an invitational raise by East (I would pass the East hand over 1NT); and with best play by both sides declarer most likely makes eight tricks.

On the actual auction, however, East replies a forcing 1NT. West raises to 2NT, for his second bad bid of the auction (2D is better), East aggressively accepts the invitation, and here we are, in another apparently hopeless 3NT.

A low spade lead forces declarer to fly the SQ from dummy for eight tricks, let alone nine, but Gee, South, opens the SA, on which North plays the jack, indicating possession of the 10. (Of course the J could be stiff, but in this case East suppressed a five-card spade suit over 1H.)

A low spade continuation beats the contract straightaway, and so does a switch to either minor, although the play is a little cloudier. Gee thinks matters over and switches to a heart. Declarer wins in hand and leads a low club toward the queen, pretty much his only quasi-legitimate chance for nine tricks. North wins with the CK, and now makes his crucial contribution to the defense by returning the DK, the only way to let the game make.

Declarer wins, plays back the D10, which North ducks to no avail, and continues a third round of diamonds. +600. This provokes a lively post mortem:

G: aren’t we playing udca?
lfisher: yes, i am
Spec #1: what did udca have to do with anything?
G: play 10, then small and finally J
Spec #2: G thinks JS is udca :)
Spec #3: oh my god
G: ok?
Spec #1: that is sick
Spec #3: and the heart switch and the non spade return and the diamond switch and…
Spec #4: I thought the spade J showed the spade T even with UDCA
Spec #2: absolutely
Spec #1: well that is in normal udca
Spec #1: but in GUDCA everything is upside down to begin with
Spec #1: and backwards also

Aug 112002
 

E/W Vul
MPs
Dealer: West
Lead: C3

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

 

Gee is partnering a student in today’s hand, from which we can now all learn, right along with peterw.

Today a reasonable auction leads to a terrible contract, which happens surprisingly often. 2NT, with 18 points and a stiff honor in partner’s suit, is West’s best rebid, and one can hardly blame East for raising to game with seven points and excellent spot cards.

Gee, sitting North, gets the defense off to a good start by leading the C3. Declarer inserts the C9, which seems best, and wins South’s 10 with the ace.

At this point the only faint hope for nine tricks is that both minor suits break. West leads the HQ, which is ducked, and continues with a low diamond to dummy’s 10. South wins the DJ and returns his last diamond. Declarer rises with the DK and plays two more rounds of diamonds, the last won by Gee with the queen. South sluffs two small hearts high-low, signaling an even count and declarer discards a heart and then, under pressure, a club from dummy, setting up three club tricks for our hero.

Three clubs and two diamonds beat 3NT. Or so the inferior player might reason. Even a garden-variety expert might cash the three clubs and allow his partner to discard to give a picture of his hand. Gee, however, shifts to a spade. South does well by inserting the S9, and declarer wins the SJ.

Declarer now cashes his last diamond and exits with a club. It’s still not too late to cash the setting tricks in clubs, lead a heart, and beat the contract two. Gee opts instead to win one club trick and lead a heart, endplaying his partner. This is indeed a lesson of sorts: my mother used to call it a “life-lesson.” Poor South bared his HA on the club — yes, he should have sluffed a spade — and is forced to lead a spade, conceding three spades, two hearts, three diamonds and a club to declarer, for nine tricks.

“One of the things that bugs me,” Gee says after the hand, “is when some specs make statements like it’s cold, it’s not cold, etc. They see all the cards. We, at the table, don’t.”

Aug 132002
 

E/W Vul
IMPs
Dealer: East
Lead: CA

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

2 H
Pass

North

Dbl

East
1 H
Pass
South
Pass
Pass

 

I’m getting kind of tired of sticks & wheels, aren’t you? Let’s try some defense today for variety.

Gee, sitting South, passes over 1H, and hears lefty raise to 2H and his partner double. This is a wet dream of an auction. Matching major-suit voids, as East-West are marked for the missing eight hearts, and a virtually guaranteed nine-card diamond fit. Five diamonds must be cold. Six diamonds is likely to have an excellent play; and even a diamond grand is possible if North holds something like Axxx — KQxx KQxxx.

A 3H cue bid seems indicated; or if not that, then something forcing, anything forcing. Gee passes for penalty. That last sentence deserves a paragraph to itself.

Gee passes for penalty.

There is only one possible way to follow a bid like that, and Gee finds it. He leads the CA, his partner signals with C8, and Gee plays a second round to North’s CK, declarer dropping CJ. North returns the SK, covered with SA and ruffed by Gee.

At this point the hand is almost an open book. Declarer must have four spades; with 5-5 in the majors and a minimum she would have opened 1S. Therefore she is either 4-5-2-2 or 4-5-1-3. The only missing honors are the SJ and the DK. If North doubled with eight HCP — rather unlikely, even at favorable and with perfect distribution — then you aren’t beating the contract anyway; declarer will get time to sluff two spade losers (in this scenario North holds SJ) on the spare minor suit winners. So you underlead the DA for your second spade ruff, right? Nah. You play the DA and another. Declarer ruffs the second diamond, pulls trump and claims.

Whose fault is this catastrophe? Gee explains his failure to underlead the DA as follows: “[It is] the play I would normally do, but I dare not anymore because if it does not work, aaron will kill me again, like he does each time I play an uncommon play and it does not work.”

You know those dictators-in-exile who are always getting sentenced in absentia by some toothless international court while they’re tanning on their hacienda in Uruguay? Today I feel a little like that. Could you rub on a little more sunscreen, sweetheart? You missed a spot.

Aug 172002
 

E/W Vul
IMPs
Dealer: East
Lead: HK

xarman
S K 7 3
H 10 8 6
D J 10 3
C J 10 8 4
icerock
S A Q J 9 4
H A 9 2
D A Q 8 6
C Q
[W - E] pq2
S 10 8 6 5 2
H 7 5 4
D 5
C K 6 5 3
Maestro
S
H K Q J 3
D K 9 7 4 2
C A 9 7 2
West

Dbl
4 S

North

Pass
Pass

East
Pass
1 S
Pass
South
1 D
Pass
Pass

 

Mystic bridge visions are not confined to the players.

Today E/W reach 4S after a quasi-normal auction. Gee, South, should double East’s 1S bid for takeout, but the final contract will be the same.

The spade game needs only the SK onside, and even on the actual layout it is cold on anything but a heart lead. A heart, however, is the obvious choice with Gee’s hand, and he leads one.

As declarer ponders his line, a veteran Gee-spec, who modestly prefers anonymity, suggests ducking, “to give Gee a chance to cash the CA.” The other specs scoff — “no way he’s gonna do that,” “nobody could be that stupid”: but they scoffed at Edison, they scoffed at Fulton…

Declarer ducks the heart, North playing the 8 to show an odd count. (This must be three. If declarer had one he would have no reason to duck: if he had five, the bidding would be strange and a duck would be too dangerous.) Gee cashes the CA and shifts to a low diamond. Declarer rises with the ace, ruffs a diamond, and cashes the CK discarding a heart loser. He loses the trump finesse, wins the trump return, ruffs his last two diamonds and claims.