Sunday, December 31, 2006

Worst bridge of 2006

Since we're all celabrating, I thought it was time for a laugh and post the worst bridge hand I've encountered in 2006. It happened quite recently and it's unbelievable what errors happened. If you know the site (the name speaks for itself), this is one which is even worse than what you get there!

Here's the hand, I'm sitting South as usual:


It looks pretty innocent, but wait until you hear what happened with it.

It all begins with the auction:
1! - pass - 1! - 1
1NT - 2 - 3 - pass
3NT - all pass

I have an easy opening, since we're playing a strong system. My partner shows 0-6HCP and RHO intervenes with . I have no problem with a rebid, and here we get our first two blunders: LHO supports with Tx while Vulnerable!!! Quite amazing since you know all finesses will be wrongsided and you don't even have an 8 card fit, but some people will do anything. Next mistake is the 3 bid from my partner. Since we play Lebensohl here, 3 shows a good hand while he intended just to fight the partscore battle. Dbl or 2NT would've done the job a bit better. Now obviously I like my Qx and raise to 3NT since I'm quite confident that I'll make it when s come in.

Now you better imagine (or put up) some music from horror movies.

LHO leads the T and I duck. It's a hopeless contract, but why not try to make the best out of it. A is continued and I take my Ace. Next step was imo to try and cash some s so I play A followed by a small . LHO hesitates, telling me where the K is, and decides to play low. This is the only thing that's done right, but includes the error of giving the position of the K. I'm in dummy and let 6 run for LHO's King.

Lets make it a bit of a quiz: can you figure out what card West played now?
For some reason she decides to return a diamond right into my finesse! Thanks, but I'm still nowhere. What else is there than to play another ? LHO takes her K.

Here comes blunder number 5, can you guess it?
She returns a heart to my J in dummy! Dummy was completely dead, so that's another trick for the good guys. I discard a and RHO has discarded 2 s by now. Still not home, I play my 2 remaining s and RHO gets it in her mind to discard another ! Probably she trusted her partner's raise too much, but this meant my 8 got promoted to my 9th trick.

Unbelievable: it took 1 mistake from partner to get me to a hopeless contract, and it took 4 and a half blunders from the opponents to actually make it! Only 1 thing was done right, but if LHO made the mistake of taking K immediately she wouldn't have had the opportunity to give dummy an unreachable trick. I prefer the latter for this article. Also my play was proven to be poor by GIB's double dummy analyzer.

Lets see how it went trickwise:
- If I duck T I have a possibility to go -2. Otherwise I can go -5 according to GIB!
- 2nd trick has to be taken, what I did. That's 2 things right, but now it starts...
- My only chance for -2 is to go for the s which I didn't do. This costed me 1 trick.
- to my Q was another trick I threw away.
- Now I got back a trick with almost every card I played.
So basically I should've gone -4 thanks to my poor play as well. However, taking the right line of play to go -2 would never bring my contract home...

All other tables made 1NT-1, I made 3NT= in the same direction.

That's it for 2006, I hope you've enjoyed my articles (why doensn't anyone sign my guestbook?), I'll probably keep encountering lots of interesting material to post on my blog next year, and you all have my best wishes for 2007!

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Newest MOSCITO verions

MOSCITO is a completely artificial system, but it tends to show suits whenever it can. It's imo more "natural" than precision, because after every limited opening a 4+ card suit is known (precision 1 is usually 2+, but in some variations it can be even shorter). Australia's Paul Marston is the main ambassador of the system, his current CC can be found here

The latest changes are the following:
- 2/1 responses have always been a problem. He went from NF to GF and now he uses transfers (from 1NT and up). These are handy particular in constructive auctions where you want to show a side suit before supporting, or when you want a natural auction. It also gives the possibility of 2 kinds of 2-level raises: transfer to the Major is 9-11 and constructive, 2M is 6-9. Relays are great for slam investigation, but for games they don't have an edge. You can't find stoppers for 3NT, so sometimes you get to wrong games. This is imo a big improvement, because it still keeps the possibility to signoff (although I think he uses them only with good hands).
- He now uses the step-relay over 1 and 1 openings as 2-way: either GF relay or a normal 1NT response. He uses a natural relay scheme, which allows him to play this way. With an artificial relay scheme (like I play) it's nearly impossible to handle. What can responder do after 1-1-2 (showing a single suited hand with 6+) when you know 2 is a relay? With natural responses it's easy most of the time. The relay structure has lost some efficiency imo, but the tradeoff is probably worth it.
- 1-1 as any GF (except 5440's) and 1-1 as double negative, other responses are semi-positive. I always liked this structure, because you get lots of interference over 1 openings. When responder shows a negative, RHO can ruin the auction and cripple our abilities to fight partscore battles. When you know that opposite a 15+HCP 1 opening, responder has a semi-positive hand most of the time, and rarely a double negative, then it pays off to get those semi-positives in right away (I think it's GF 30%, SP 60%, DN 10% or similar). There's hardly a tradeoff, it's a pure improvement: the relays for GF auctions go 1 step up, but those for semi-positives go down at least 1 step. So percentagewise the relay structure improves.
- 4M-6m hands are now always opened in the minor. Before, you had a choice of opening the Major, usually it depended on the suit quality of the Major. I still like the MAFIA approach, but handling competition is probably one of the reasons why he changed. Missing a nice 6-3 minor fit to play in a 4-3M fit isn't always the best choice.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Kickback Turbo

Since Fantoni-Nunes use Turbo for their slam investigations, many people wonder what it is exactly, and how it works. Short: it is a cuebidding method, where skipping the 4NT bid means you have an odd number of keycards, while bidding 4NT shows an even number of keycards (similar principle like serious 3NT). There are a lot of different situations where Turbo can be bid lower (like when a fit is established at the 2-level, 3NT will usually be the "Turbo-bid") but this doesn't change much to the method. Usually it's clear how many keycards your partner has exactly because of the auction. Finding the trump Queen is done in several ways. Usually you can just continue cuebidding and suddenly stop at 5-level. Now your partner knows you were looking for the Queen, otherwise you'd just signoff immediately. Another way is to bid 5NT, asking partner to bid grand slam if he holds the trump Q.

I've noticed there are some problems with the normal method, and I'm not sure how Fantunes cope with that. For example, if you set as trump with 4, you can't figure out if partner has the Q when you are at the Turbo-stage. A simple auction, typical for their system:
1 - 3
4 - 4!
4! - 4NT*

3 shows 10-14 with 5+ and 5+
4 sets trump
! is cuebid
* is an even number of keycards

Opener can't know for sure to go past 5 with a keycard missing and not holding the Q. Responder can't go past 5 because they might be missing 2 keycards.

The problem is typical for fits, and sometimes comes up with fits as well, if you can't bid a cue in between.

Me and one of my f2f partners have found a solution to this problem: we play Kickback Turbo. It uses the same principle but other bids to skip:
- With a fit: 4
- With a fit: 4
- With a fit: 4
- With a fit: 4NT
4NT becomes the cuebid in whatever suit the Turbo-bid was. So in our auction from above, we get:
1 - 3
4 - 4*
4! - 4!
4NT! - ?
Now, since opener kept cuebidding after knowing the number of keycards, responder should go past 5 if he holds the Q, because opener was still looking for slam. If responder bids 5 he denies the Q and opener can make the right decision.

We use some other slam tools as well. Once we have set trumps, we have 3 main stages:
- serious or no serious slam interest
- number of keycards (odd / even) = Turbo
- looking for trump Q
Whenever we're at a pretty low level, all these bids go down a bit. We use following bids whenever they are available: 2NT, 3 trumps, 3NT, Kickback-Turbo-bid, 5NT. So for example, if you set trumps with 2:
- 2NT is frivolous, no serious slam interest
- 3 = Turbo
- 3NT denies the Q
if you set trumps with 3:
- 3NT is frivolous
- 4NT is Turbo
- 5NT asks the Q

Kickback Turbo doesn't have an immediate disadvantage imo. It is more difficult sometimes, because you have to think about the cuebids in another order (if partner skips the Turbo-bid, it doesn't mean he doesn't have a cue in that suit, you have to wait until you hear 4NT or not). Once you get used to it, you don't make mistakes against that anymore.
The advantage is clear: you show your number of keycards lower, and can more easily investigate about the trump Q. By using this method, you don't even lose any cuebids before the critical level!

Monday, December 18, 2006

Declare or defend?

A little quiz today. Look at following hand:


Short question: when you're West, looking at all hands, do you want to declare 5* or defend 4, and why do you think you're right?

Ok, the quiz has been solved. You want to declare 5* because 4 is laydown. In the comments there was suggested to endplay East. There are several ways to do this (basicly after you've played you'll run trumps and endplay East):
- you can start with a small to the King. Then you have 2 ways of endplaying him: either with or with .
- you can also start with a small and let it run! Later you play Q and East can't make a good decision.
The only thing you shouldn't do is start with Q, since East can hold up and there's no way to endplay him anymore.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Lead directing psych

Yesterday I was playing with some friends and at one point I got the following hand:
We're NV vs V, RHO opens in 1st seat with 2NT (20-21). What do you bid and why?

I thought opponents might have 4 or a slam in , so why not mess up their auction. If they bid to 4, the contract will be wrongsided and partner can immediately give me a ruff. Perhaps I can even reach his hand for another ruff for -1. So I bid 4 which turned out to be a success. If opponents don't double (unlikely) I'll be happy to go -9, otherwise I can safely return to 4H. It's always exciting to bid natural with a void, especially if you expect partner to have lots of support and he should have the discipline not to raise...

The entire auction went:
2NT - 4! - Dbl - pass
pass - 4 - Dbl - pass
pass - pass

Now the psych has been exposed, but opponents can't make things right. South did a great job not to bid 4 at any time, and take his money on 4x down as much as possible.

The full hand:


As you can see, when is played by South a lead will defeat the contract if I can manage to play low when declarer plays (I should be able to find that, but we'll never know for sure). 4 by North is laydown. 4x-2 cost us 300, which is way better than 4=. Some however got to 6 or 6, I've even seen a 6NT!

Monday, December 11, 2006

Guard squeeze

This weekend I had a bad day in competition. Half the match I was asleep, got a game handed over to me but didn't accept their offer, and left lots of overtricks to opponents. We still managed to win 15-15 (0-3 in imps) but that no consolation price... Anyway, I still had some good moments now and then: a suicide criss-cross squeeze for -1, and here a guard squeeze, also for -1:


I end up in 3NT by South. LHO leads a so I like it pretty much if behave. I take the first trick with Q and immediately play a small , but RHO shows out! Quite a disappointment, since I don't see an immediate way to 9 tricks now. 3 + 1-2 + 3 + 1 = 8-9 tricks, but losing 2, 2 and at least one in another suit will get their trick total to 5 more quickly...

I play the Queen to keep control which LHO takes the K, and he continues T. Now I'm in my hand and decide to make it a bit hard on LHO: I play a small . GIB says I can make only 7 tricks if he takes the J, so here's a little mistake from LHO: he plays small! He didn't have much information and it looked like I needed 3 tricks at that time so he wanted to block my suit. Now however he has to guard the Jx... I switch to to the Ten and Ace. LHO again plays a high . So I continue to RHO's King (LHO discarding a ) who plays a small . I already know everything I need to know: LHO has a 3-5-1-4 distribution, discarded a after asking them, so he has the K. I can easily squeeze or endplay him, so I take A and now it's time for some magic: the 3rd squeezes LHO. He has:
Here are his options:
- If he parts with a , I'll endplay him in to bring me the final 2 s.
- If he parts with a I can take my tricks.
- So the only alternative left is discarding K and hoping his partner has QT behind the J.

On one of the s RHO discarded a , so after I play A and small to his Q, he still had to bring a last .

3NT-1 still won us some imps, unlucky my squeezes were for -1 every time...

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Quite an interesting holding

Here's one from this weekend. Dummy holds:

You hold:

Because of the auction you know that LHO (= declarer) has 5-6 s. He leads Q from dummy (fixed typo tnx to Binkley). What should you do?

I had a split second to decide what to do without giving away too much information, and played low because it just felt right. Afterwards I thought about the holding, and realized low was indeed the best. There are a few interesting holdings partner can have:
- x or void: it doesn't matter, you won't make a trick.
- A: if you cover, you give away a trick.
- J: if you cover, you'll make 1 trick. If you don't cover, you'll make 1 trick as well, unless LHO decides to play the Ace dropping partner's Jack (but why would he play like that?).
So it only matters when partner has the A stiff.

What about when LHO only has 4-5 s? Then partner can be singleton or doubleton.
- xx or x: doesn't matter, you won't make tricks.
- Jx or J: doesn't matter, you'll make 1 trick.
- Ax: again it doesn't matter.
- A: if you cover you give away a trick.
So again, the only situation it matters is when partner has the singleton Ace, and you still shouldn't cover... Nothing changes!

There are even extra (small) advantages of not covering: in some rare occasions, you'll be able promote your 9.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

One of those which can win matches

Playing a team match, you pick up this lovely collection:
You're in 3rd seat, V vs NV, and you're playing a light opening system. The bidding starts:
pass - 1 - ?

I guess most will bid a simple 2. Bidding any higher with 3 Aces and such distribution is quite useless. So we continue:
pass - 1 - 2 - pass
2 - 3 - ?

Now what?
I know partner has less than 10HCP, and I thought partner had a good holding, and probably some tollerance as well. Since I have such control over all the suits, I decided to just bid 4, my partner can bring home tight contracts.

Here's the full hand:


The play was quite easy, and we made 11 tricks. The other table didn't find 4 so we won bigtime with this board.

My partner decided not to open 1 with 10HCP although we usually open 5 card Majors with 10-14HCP with very few exceptions. I guess he didn't like his slow values, although he has both Majors and no bidding problems can occur. After a 1 opening I think I'll start slow but we'll still end up in 4.
I don't know why opponents didn't find it...