The following hands came my way at a recent Regional tournament
in Daytona Beach. These hands are much more ordinary and routine than
those usually shown on this site, and perhaps might not even be considered
column-worthy by many. Still, some readers may find them interesting
enough, so I offer them for whatever value they may have. Comments are
In a pairs game, with neither side vul, I pick up as dealer:
♠ --- ♥ AKQJ4 ♦ KQ863 ♣ KQ7
I open 1♥, LHO overcalls 1♠, my partner raises to 2♥, and RHO
jumps to 4♠. What call would you make?
I reasoned that partner had to have an ace and perhaps even a working
jack or two, since there are very few other high-card points out there that
could be in her hand. Of course, if she happened to hold the spade ace or
other honor wastage in spades, that would be bad luck, but the bidding
suggests otherwise. So I chance 6♥. The opening lead, somewhat to my
relief, was the ace of spades, but partner’s dummy was:
Some may elect not to raise to 2♥ with her hand, having flat
distribution and the queen of spades, which is likely to be a wasted value,
but I don’t object, in spite of my disappointment. The odds are against
my making this, but I have been in worse contracts. I have a chance if
the red suits break evenly and the ace of diamonds is on my right. I ruff
the opening lead with the jack of hearts, then continue with the ace and
king. I am happy to see both opponents follow; so I lead my low heart to
dummy’s 10, drawing the last trump and giving me access to dummy so as to
play a diamond. RHO follows low and I put up my king, which holds. So
I play my low club to dummy’s ace to lead a second diamond. RHO plays
the ace, and LHO follows suit, so I can claim 12 tricks now. A lucky hand:
I estimate this favorable layout to be about a 20% chance. The only point
here is to take care to ruff the opening lead high, so that you can use
the 10 of hearts as an additional entry to make two diamond leads. If you
were careless and ruffed the opening lead low, you would have only one
entry to dummy, in which case, you would use it to make one diamond
lead, then lead a low card back, hoping for RHO to have started specifically
with a doubleton A-x, making an already poor prospect considerably worse.
The remaining hands come from Bracket I team events. In a Compact
KO match, I pick up this hand, in 4th seat:
♠ AQJ4 ♥ AKJ6 ♦ AQJ8 ♣ 5
This hand type, the strong 3-suiter, is very difficult to bid
in standard methods. Either you start with an opening bid of 1♦ or a
strong and artificial 2♣. I suspect that most players would bid 2♣, not
being able to stomach the thought of hearing 1♦ get passed out. The 2♣ call,
however, has several disadvantages: (1) you have used more than a level
of bidding without yet naming any of your suits—-and you have three of
them which you would like to name, (2) rebidding suits naturally after
2♣ - 2♦ implies 5-card length, which you do not have, and (3) partner
won’t introduce new suits after a sequence like 2♣ - 2♦ - 2♥ unless he
holds 5-card length himself, making it very difficult to find a 4-4 fit.
On the other hand, if you open 1♦ and partner can dredge up a response,
or if the opponents overcall or pre-empt, you will probably be able to
make sensible follow-ups. If the bidding does go 1♦ - all pass, and it
turns out that you do have a game, hopefully you will have sympathetic
teammates. Players who use Precision or other strong 1♣ systems will
have an advantage here. Anyone out there with further suggestions, at
least for those who want to stick with standard methods?
However, I was somewhat relieved not to have this problem, since
my RHO opened 1♣ in third position, giving me an easy takeout double. My
LHO bid a pre-emptive 3♣, and my partner surprised me somewhat by calling
4♣, showing a willingness to play game, probably looking for me to choose
a major. As an aside, we had played a KO match against this same pair
earlier in the week, and on one deal they had talked me out of a slam by
taking several bids on weak hands, and the memory of that experience was
still fresh. So even if my partner may be pushing a little, I am going
to bid a slam here, and since my suits are virtually equal, I throw the
ball back at her with 5♣. The full auction was, with everyone bidding
clubs at some point:
P - P - 1♣ - dbl
3♣ - 4♣ - P - 5♣
P - 5♠ - P - 6♠
Partner’s hand was:
♠ K10762 ♥ 109543 ♦ 6 ♣ A4
The queen of hearts came down doubleton on her left, so 13
tricks were easy, and the board was a push. Do you think we should have
bid the grand slam?
Then later in the same event, but against a different team, I
pick up in 3rd seat, with nobody vul:
♠ 74 ♥ A109763 ♦ AJ42 ♣ J
My partner as dealer opens 4NT. I alert this call, and explain
to my opponents that partner has a two-suited hand with both minors and
great distribution, typically 6-6 (I’m not a strong advocate of this
treatment, but my partner likes it, and I go along). My RHO passes.
I decide to take the risk that my partner’s possible singleton is either
a heart, or that maybe I’ll get a heart lead and be able to discard her
losing spade, if she has one. So I call 6♦. This is passed out, my LHO
leads the king of hearts, and the dummy comes down:
Prospects look fairly good. I will need to set up the club suit,
and since the likely split is 4-2, I may need to ruff three times in my
hand, possibly using high trumps to prevent an overruff. I don’t think
I can afford to test trumps at this point, because if I play one high
trump and then a club, that hand may win and play a second trump, limiting
me to just two club ruffs. So after winning the ace of hearts, RHO playing
the 8, I play the jack of clubs at trick #2. LHO wins the king and plays
an insidious small heart, putting me at a crossroads: should I ruff low,
or can I afford to spare one of dummy’s high trumps? What would you have
done in my place?
The odds of a 5-1 heart split are very low, but seem enhanced
with the opening lead and continuation, and I would hate to go down at
this point by ruffing low and getting overruffed. Against that possibility,
I could afford to ruff high if either the diamonds divided 2-1 or the
clubs 3-3, which offers a very high combined chance. So I play dummy’s
10 of diamonds, and I’m a bit regretful to see RHO follow with the jack
of hearts. I lead a club and ruff low, both opponents following, ruff
a spade low in dummy, play a third club and ruff high, LHO showing out.
Another spade ruff and a 4th club, ruffed with the ace. Now I lead the
last (low) diamond from my hand, and… LHO shows out. Rats! RHO has to
get a trump trick now with his 98x. Figuring that I just lost the match,
I forget the pre-emptive effect that the 4NT call had on the opponents,
the full deal being:
♦ --- ♦985
At the other table, my partner’s hand did not open, and the
pass - 1♣ - 2♥ - 2♠
Our hands competed to 5♦, our teammates bid to 5♠ and the
opponents decided to let them play it there, making 12 tricks for +480
and a substantial gain on the board. Maybe that 4NT call isn’t such
a bad method after all.
In a 3-way match of a Compact KO, I hold, with both vul:
♠ AQ65 ♥ AK87 ♦ K2 ♣ 1052
My partner opens 1♣, I respond 1♥, and my partner raises to
2♥. How would you continue?
This hand feels too good not to make a slam try, with all its
controls and concentrated high-card strength. My partner and I have
recently decided to adopt 2NT as an asking bid here, after opener has
raised a major, a treatment which seems to be gaining favor with many
players. It is especially useful where partnerships have an agreed style
for opener to frequently raise responder’s major with 3-card support.
3♣ with minimum values and 3-card support,
3♦ = 3-card support, maximum values,
3♥ = 4-card support, minimum
3♠ = 4-card support, maximum.
The method is most useful when making game tries, but also can
work when you feel you are in the slam zone. in cases such as this one.
My partner responds 3♠ to my inquiry, the best hand possible,
so after checking for key-cards to find that we are only missing the
queen of trump, I bid 6♥. LHO leads the 9♣, and dummy shows:
This looks reasonably good. If the king of spades is onside,
I can ruff my small spades with dummy’s high trumps and can even stand
being overruffed with the queen of trumps. And if the king of spades
loses, I still have chances if the queen of hearts is onside, provided
RHO has four spades.
Well, you can guess that both cards were offside and I went down.
I wouldn’t mind this bit of bad luck normally—-but the effect is severe.
The slam was not bid at the other table, so we lose 13 IMPs on the board
instead of gaining 12 (had the slam made), and we lose the 6-board match
by -24 instead of winning by +1: a 25-IMP swing. I know that I am supposed
to disdain matchpoints and embrace IMPs, but the effect of one card offside
on this type of hand at this form of scoring seems highly punitive. In a
matchpoint event, I might be able to make this up on the next hand by
scoring an overtrick on a partscore, but this results in a huge deficit at
IMPs, especially in a short match.
But then fortune comes our way after all: this match was part
of a three-way round, we win our second match—-by all of +1---and it turns
out that the third team lost both of its matches. So we advance to the
next round, in spite of our net negative -23 IMPs. This somehow doesn’t
feel right either, but having endured my share of bad luck, I am happy
to accept the good, when it comes.
On another hand, still IMPs and both vul, I hold in 4th seat:
♠ 6 ♥ AQ9763 ♦ AJ952 ♣ 3
LHO and my partner pass, and RHO opens a 15-17 1NT. This is
certainly a hand where you want to be playing a method of showing a
two-suiter. My partner and I play Cappelletti, so I bid 2♥, showing
that suit, plus a minor. LHO bids a non-forcing 2♠, which is passed
back to me. I decide to continue bidding with 3♦, LHO passes, and my
partner shows interest and surprises me a bit by bidding 4♥, which is
passed out. The opening lead is a low diamond, and dummy comes down:
This hand is remarkably similar to one that was presented in
one of our earlier columns, and illustrates how to evaluate hands with
6-5 distribution. One should tend to bid these hands fairly aggressively,
if the honor cards are located in the long suits, and especially if the
honors provide good working combinations, along with good intermediates.
My partner figured that I was likely to have either extra shape or extra
values when I continued bidding by myself to the 3-level, vulnerable,
and guessed that I was likely to be 6-5. As a supporting hand, she
figured that her red honors—-notice even the importance of the lowly 10
of diamonds on this hand—-had to be worth their weight in gold, even
though her black kings could probably be put in the trash. A good
decision on her part.
As an aside: for those of you who like to read up on bridge
theory of hand evaluation, I highly recommend Mike Lawrence’s “I Fought
the Law…”, which presents a rebuttal of the Law of Total Tricks and offers
instead a method of predicting the trick-taking power of a hand by measuring
two different factors, which he calls the “Short-Suit Total” and
“Working Points”. The numerous examples may feel tedious at times, but
I found the arguments to be strong and compelling.
As to the play: the diamond lead was probably a singleton, so I
put up the queen to entice RHO to cover, but he didn’t bite and correctly
played low. I have only two black losers, so I can afford to give up the
king of diamonds, as long as the hearts don’t split 4-1, in which case I
would lose a heart. But LHO wouldn’t lead a stiff diamond unless he had
some trumps, so I decide that can’t be the case. I therefore play the
top hearts, and they do turn out to split 3-2, so I just give up the king
of diamonds and settle for ten tricks, the full hand being:
It is not a good idea to lead a singleton on opening lead into
a suit bid by declarer, especially if the bidding suggests that partner
might have finessable strength in that suit. Would declarer have possibly
gone down if LHO had led a spade? Probably not. Declarer would ruff the
second spade, and could start by playing the ace of trumps, then low to
the king. If LHO showed out here, declarer would know he would be losing
a trump trick, and would therefore take the diamond finesse. Once both
opponents follow to two heart leads, declarer can play it safe by ruffing
a spade, drawing the last trump, and just give up the king of diamonds.
I believe this would even be right at matchpoints, because you would have
to figure that you would be scoring well by just getting to game and would
therefore want to protect that score, rather than risk going for a top.
If on the diamond lead, you decided to get greedy, play only two
trumps, ending in the dummy, so as to repeat the diamond finesse, you
would go down. RHO would refuse to cover as before, LHO would ruff,
and the defense would play on black suits, forcing you to eventually
play diamonds out of your hand, to lose the setting trick there.
The tournament, scheduled in early November, lasts a full week.
The weather is very pleasant at that time of year, the ocean temperature
is quite tolerable for swimming, and you can walk for miles on one of
the most beautiful beaches I have experienced. You might want to consider
going. See you there next year?