Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Defeating an unbeatable contract

This is a story I got from a friend of mine, Alon Amsel.

You hold the following hand:
AQ9
98532
Q6
K85

LHO starts the auction:
1 - pass - 1 - pass
1NT* - pass - 2 - pass
pass - pass
(1NT shows exactly 4s)

What's your lead?

Alon thought as follows:
Declarer and I have 11s combined, which suggests dummy is short and probably has 3s. Also declarer's HCPs are all in which doesn't leave much room for HCPs in other suits. Moreover partner passed throughout, so he won't have lots of s, which means declarer doesn't have singleton . I expect to see the K in dummy (which will make it difficult for declarer to make the right decision) or with partner (take 3 quick tricks).

As a result of this reasoning, he lead the Q. This is the full hand:

Dealer:West
Vul:None
Scoring:imps
J872
J
KT92
Q764
K64
4
AJ853
AJ93
T53
AKQT76
74
T2
AQ9
98532
Q6
K85

As expected, the K was in dummy. Declarer played small (asuming South lead from QJ9 or something similar), and Alon continued with 9. Again declarer played small (still asuming South had QJ9) so North took the trick with J. This was followed by a high asking for a return. After taking his Ace, South continued with Q as requested. This made 3 + 1 + 1 + 1 = 6 tricks for 1 down.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Non simultanious double squeeze

Here's a hand from a while back, on a club evening.

The auction went:
2NT - 3!
3! - 3NT
(3 asks about 4 or 5 card M, 3 denies)

LHO leads 6 and you get the following dummy:
J863
752
AQ43
A6

KQ7
AKT
K8
KQ872

RHO produces the Jack which you take with the King. First step is to develop the s, so I lead K which held the trick. I continued with Q which LHO took with the Ace while RHO played the T. After some thought LHO continued with a .

Now what? Do you finesse or do you play for the drop? This is a pure psychological problem imo. After the T from RHO chances are big that I'll go for a finesse. So playing a now could be a desperate attempt to change my mind. On the other hand, RHO is a known false carder, with T9 he'd always play the T. So LHO may anticipate this, think that I'll go for the drop anyway, and try to change my mind by playing . Against these opponents it was around 50-50, so I just played the Jack and dropped RHO's 9.

Ok so far so good. At this moment you have 11 tricks, opps have 1 trick, and you may have some chances of making a 12th on the s or by means of a double squeeze. It's clear that LHO has s so it's very well possible that RHO has , in which case I can use the s as a double menace. If s are 3-3 then I'll still have my 12 tricks anyway.

For a simulanious squeeze, I can use the 13th to squeeze both opponents at once (after playing the top tricks of both minor suits, ending in dummy). For some reason I cashed the immediately, so that was no longer possible. However, a non simultanious double squeeze was still in the picture. Squeezing LHO would require a , and squeezing RHO would require a . Since I have K squeezing RHO is the last step.

So after cashing the 13th (discarding a ) I played A and AK. Now I lead Q in the following diagram:

Dealer:South
Vul:None
Scoring:MP
-
75
AQ4
-
-
Q9
T97
-
-
J84
-
J9
-
KT
8
Q8

On the play of Q, LHO is squeezed in and . He bares Q and dummy lets go a . Now I continued with AQ and RHO is squeezed in and . He decided to bare the J so I dropped both Q and J with my King.

The entire deal:

Dealer:South
Vul:None
Scoring:MP
J863
752
AQ43
A6
A52
Q963
T9762
4
T94
J84
J5
JT953
KQ7
AKT
K8
KQ872

Sunday, September 27, 2009

My luckiest hand ever

Last week I encountered a hand which is probably the luckiest hand I'll ever encounter. It was the first hand of a club evening, and lady Luck clearly had choosen sides.

It reminded me about hands played by the Hideous Hog in the book "Bridge in the Menagery" by Victor Mollo. He ends up in slams where he seldom has an 8 card trump fit, needs a poor trump break, and where opps have an important decision to make at trick 1 or 2.

This was my hand:
x
AKJT9
xxx
Qxxx

LHO started the auction:
1 - Dbl - pass - 4
pass - 4 - pass - ...

When is trumps we play Kickback RKC (4 is RKC, so you save a step and can always ask for the trump Queen). I wasn't sure if 4 was natural, but if it was we surely had slam. If it was Kickback, I should show my keycards. So I bid 5 showing 2 keycards without Q. Now partner bid 5, again, it could be 2 meanings. He could be running away to his own suit again, but it could also ask for Kings. Looking for grand slam after an opening is rare, but it was still possible. And my first argument still counts, so I responded to the King ask with 6, denying any outside Kings. Partner passed.

1 - Dbl - pass - 4
pass - 4 - pass - 5
pass - 5 - pass - 6
pass - pass - pass

LHO lead A and dummy came down:
AKJxxxx
x
Qx
KJx

One can hardly call this a GOSH. Anyway, that would be a discussion for after the game.

RHO played 2. LHO now started thinking, and eventually continued a . Ok, take it from here.

Since he continued , LHO couldn't have A. If that's the case, he should have the rest of the HCP (Q, Q, KJ and A = 12HCP), maybe not the J. The only way to win, was if Q would be doubleton, so trumps splitting 5-2. If we got that far, we still needed a 3-2 break. Chances were slim, but they existed.

So I cashed AK and saw the Q drop. First success! I drew the rest of the trumps (luckily I had JT9, although JT8 would be enough for a ruffing finesse), and took the finesse. 2nd success! Now A, fingers crossed for the 3-2 break. 3rd success, 6 made in a 5-1 fit with an A and AK outside, and trump Q offside. :-)

Afterwards we agreed that the Double was clearly wrong, and also that in such situations we better don't play Kickback RKC.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

"Either-Or" squeeze (2)

Here another Either-Or squeeze:

Dealer:South
Vul:n/a
Scoring:MP
AQ542
5
65
AK965
963
J43
984
QJ43
KJ87
KQ7
KQT7
T7
T
AT9862
AJ32
82


The auction went:
1 - 1NT!
2! - 2!
2 - 3
pass
(1NT was semi forcing; 2 Gazzilli; shows 8-11HCP)

This wasn't a great auction. I was sitting South and had a problem when partner showed <15HCP and (2)3+. I decided to just go for 3 and see what happens (this is less than invite, otherwise I would've started with 2 instead of 1NT). With the North hand I'd have rebid 3 instead of Gazzilli since it's 2 good suits and a perfect distribution for it.

Anyway, we got to a playable contract.

West lead 9 to the Queen which I ducked smoothly. 7 came back to T and J, and another was played to my AJ. East decided to play the T for my J.

Now I played A (East dropped the King), followed by AK and a ruff (East discarded J). I exited a trump to East's Queen. This was the situation:

Dealer:South
Vul:n/a
Scoring:MP
AQ5
-
-
96
963
-
4
Q
K87
-
K7
-
T
86
A3
-


East played his K but everything was already lost. I had a tenance against West and a tenance against East, so whoever held K would be squeezed.

An "Either-Or" squeeze is technically a simple squeeze (against 1 opponent), but you play it like a double squeeze. Cash your 2 trumps. On the last trump you can squeeze either opponent if he holds the K:

Dealer:South
Vul:n/a
Scoring:MP
AQ
-
-
9
K?6
-
-
Q
K?8
-
7
-
T
6
3
-


3+1 was a cold top. West should've played as soon as he won a trick to break up all communications. I don't know why he didn't.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Strip squeeze

During a MP tournament I picked up the following collection:
K6
AQT42
KQT4
K6

The auction went (uncontested):
1 - 1
2! - 2!
3NT
(2 Gazzilli ; 2 shows 8+HCP any)

I decided to make the practical bid of 3NT, instead of 3 which would show my distribution.

LHO lead the 3 and dummy comes down with:
AQJ2
K7
8652
T93

K6
AQT42
KQT4
K6

Suppose RHO takes A and returns a small . What do you do?

Your best chance is to play the King. Whenever the Q or J is in West's hand, you're losing 4+ tricks if you play low. When you play the King you only lose 4+ tricks if LHO has A.

At the table however, RHO won A and returned 7 for my King (LHO playing the 9). I played a to the King and a small back only to find out that RHO shows out! s are 5-1. Now what?

We have 10 tricks on top. Suppose we give LHO a , what will he do? He may play a in which case we make 11 tricks unless they cash the Ace, but he could also play something else.
We can also take the , return to dummy and play a to our King. But that's dangerous.
Our 10 tricks and the 1 trick opps already have makes a total of 11, that's 2 tricks remaining, which is good for an endplay. We can clear the s and the s, keeping count of the , and eventually endplay LHO with a so he has to play in our QT. If LHO has A he won't be able to defend against our line of play, and we have an additional chance he has QJ (in which case RHO will win A but will have to play to dummy's T9). This is definitely a better and safer way of getting a second overtrick.

So I played A, 4 rounds of s discarding 4 and 6, followed by the rest of the s.

On the last LHO was squeezed:

Dealer:South
Vul:None
Scoring:MP
-
-
8
T93
-
J9
-
A5
-
-
-
QJ87
-
QT
T
K

If he discards a small I'd still lead my K just in case LHO has any honour (if it's the Jack or Queen, I'll still make my 10th trick in dummy). This would only lose if LHO had no honours. In reality, LHO would be endplayed and would have to play into my QT.
If he discards a , my s are high.
So his only chance was to discard A, which didn't help.

3NT+2 obviously was a great score.

This was the full hand:

Dealer:South
Vul:None
Scoring:MP
AQJ2
K7
8652
T93
T43
J9853
J93
A5
9875
6
A7
QJ8742
K6
AQT42
KQT4
K6

Notice that if RHO would've returned a small at trick 2, we would've gone down 3!

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Gazzilli

I haven't posted anything on Gazzilli before. It's one of my favorite conventions which occurs when the auction starts 1M-1NT or 1-1. It's a very simple convention with big advantages, few disadvantages, and it comes up frequently.

A 2 rebid from opener is a 2-way bid, showing one of 2 hand types:
- 16+HCP, any distribution
- <16HCP, natural (or semi-natural if that fits your system)

Responder has only 1 strong response: 2 shows 8+HCP, any distribution. Any other bid shows less than 8HCP and is natural. In this case a preference should be given to a doubleton Major support.

Opener will now clarify which hand type he's holding:
- After 1M-1/NT-2-2, opener rebids 2M with the weak version. Any other bid shows 16+HCP and makes the auction GF. Bidding 2OM usually shows a 3 card suit, which makes finding 5-3 and 6-2 fits a lot easier.
- After any weak bid, opener will usually pass with the weak version. With 16-17HCP and misfit he'll also pass. With a very strong hand he can bid a new suit. With fit he can still invite or bid game.

Basic structure after 2:
2 = 8+HCP
...2M = <16HCP, (semi)natural
...2OM = 16+HCP, any hand with 3OM
...2NT = 16+HCP, balanced, no 3OM
...3m = 16+HCP, natural, no 3OM
...3M = 16+HCP, natural, no 3OM
...3OM = 16+HCP, 4OM
2M = <8HCP, 2-3M
2OM = <8HCP, natural, 0-1M
2NT = <8HCP, minors, 0-1M
3m = <8HCP, natural, 0-1M

There are some specific exceptions:
1-1NT-2-2 = <8HCP, 3 (1NT already denied 4) and both minors (5530 or 5431).
1-1NT-2-2-2 = 16+HCP, 4 (showing 3 is useless).

Obviously you can modify this structure a bit, for example use 1-1NT-2-2-2 to show 3-4. As a result, 1-1NT-2-2-3 will now show 5.
You can also use 1M-1NT-2-2-2OM as various handtypes (this saves space!).
If you play Kaplan inversion, it also has implications to rebidding 2OM after a 1 opening.

As usual there are a few (pretty rare) problem hands: <8HCP with 1=4=4=4 and the auction starts 1-1NT-2. Usually it's best to just bid 2 and hope for the best. Another one is after 1-1, when responder has a strong hand you may have some difficulties.

Playing Gazzilli frees up a few rebids for opener:
- Jump rebids (like 1M-1NT-3m) show a 5-5 with 2 great suits but less than 16HCP. If responder has honours in both suits, 4M in a 5-2 fit can be possible. A typical example is AKxxx-AQxxx opposite Qx-Kxx. 10 tricks are for the taking if both suits behave a little bit.
- 1-1NT-2 shows a minimum hand with 6-5.
- 1M-1NT-2NT: you can use this to show a GF hand with 6M-4m. Since these are difficult to bid anyway, you might as well make it easy using this tool.

In my current 2/1 system we play Gazzilli. The weak version can be with only 2s (5M332 or 4=5=2=2) because we prefer to have our 2 rebid natural with 4+ cards. Only exception we have to the 2 rebid is when we have 4=5=3=1 exactly. Playing 2 or 3 is acceptable since we have true ruffing value.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

A new approach (2)

2/1 GF except rebid is imo the way to go. Playing jumps as invitational loses too many options, and bidding 1NT with an invitational good 6 card suit can sometimes make it difficult to show your true strength later on. It also makes a semi forcing 1NT response possible, which can be a winner over forcing 1NT.

However there's always that 1 difficult auction: 1-2. With my new partner we respond as follows:
2 = any minimum without 4
2NT = 16+HCP, no singleton or void, not 4 (so 5332/54m22/6322/7222)
3m = 16+HCP, 4+m (not 5422, not 3)
3 = 16+HCP, 4 / 3 + singleton/void
3 = 16+HCP, 6+, 0-1, no side suit
3NT = not used!
4m = minimum, 4, 0-1m
4 = minimum, 4, 5422

3NT isn't used, but a useful agreement could be 5=4=2=2 with values in the short suits.

The 2NT rebid is a little homegrown tool, useful to find 6-2 or 5-3 fits while you know opener doens't have immediate ruffing value. This also makes our 3 rebid better defined: it always shows potential either by ruffing value or because of an extra trump.

After 1-2-2 (this is forcing for 1 round btw - opener can have up to 15HCP and can still have a 3 card fit), responder can just rebid 3 to show the invitational variant. With a GF responder can bid natural (except 3), or use 2NT as a relay to ask about opener's shape.
After any other rebid from opener the situation is GF.

There is 1 hand which may be difficult: opener is minimum, and responder has a GF with 6 and no fit. In this case, you can't find a 6-2 fit.

These days some pairs reverse the meaning of 2 and 2 responses over a 1 opening, to avoid similar problems. Although it has merit, it also brings many problems.
- For starters, there's no well defined structure after 1-2 showing (as an example, in IMP magazine there was an article on the switch: a few pages on continuations and theory after 2, and just one column on 2). Opener lost a lot of valuable space! Should he still be looking for a fit? Should he support with minimum hands? Etc. In my previous post I mentioned that we have described our 1-2 very well (usually 6+ cards), so we could get away with the switch.
- On the other hand, 1-2 (showing ) isn't perfect either. Do you want to be able to stop in 2 or not? If so, you'll need to find a way to show your 14-15HCP hands with 3 card support. But this will make things harder to support when you have 18-19 with a 4 card support! So while you're creating more space, you should actually give up on being able to play 2 and use this to show minimum hands with 2-3.

My conclusion on the switch is mainly that it doesn't fit well in a "2/1 GF except rebid"-structure. If 2/1 is an absolute GF, then it may make sense. I've also seen people include weak hands with 6+ instead of invitational ones. This is probably playable, since 2 rebid from opener isn't forcing anymore, but probably brings up some problems elsewhere in the system.
Either way, since you have to give up a lot (response structure + 1-2 continuations), it's imo not worth the trouble.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

A new approach (1)

It's been a while since I posted, but I decided to start over again. I'm not sure about the frequency, but it won't be as much as before.

The reason why I've been away for so long is that I started working almost 2 years ago. It's been a huge change for me! Before, I was studying, had much free time and played a lot of bridge. These days I'm working long days and play a lot less bridge. It took me a while to get used to it, but these days I'm playing more bridge and I have formed a new partnership.

I've always been a great fan of all sorts of exotic systems. My experience with them is that you can win bigtime when opps are silent, but usually you're badly placed in competitive auctions. MOSCITO for example is a great system if opps are quiet (you have relays and natural bidding available), but when they intervene you can have a hard time figuring out if opener has a 4 or a 5 card Major. Same goes for precision 1 openings, or Polish 1.
That's why my preference goes to natural openings these days (my friend Misho told me 6 years ago that I'd go back to natural, and I must admit that he was right), while continuations may be more complicated. With my new partner we decided to play some sort of 2/1 GF with many useful modifications. It's a combination between American, Italian and Dutch styles.

The natural openings prepare us well for a competitive auction. There's a lot of material on this subject, lots of people to ask for advice if something went wrong,...
Continuations are sometimes quite artificial.

Our 2/1 responses over a 1M opening are as follows:
2 = GF with / GF with fit / GF bal / INV with good 6+
2 = GF with 6+ / GF with 5+ and fit / INV with good 6+
2 = GF with 5+ / INV with good 6+

As this structure suggests, 2/1 is GF except when the suit is rebid.
More and more people are using the 2 response for more than just s. With strong hands without a good 5 card minor, or with strong balanced hands, or even with a 3 or 4 card fit they prefer to stay low and see what opener has. This is exactly why we use 2 as a GF relay.
2 is a special case. Opener doesn't have as much space available as after a 2 response, so we prefer to define 1M-2 a lot better. Basically you need a 6 card suit, although with fit in the Major a good 5 card suit is sufficient (you'll show your hand with your next rebid and let opener evaluate his hand).

After both 1M-2m responses, opener uses similar rebids in steps:
step 1 = minimum, not 4OM
step 2 = any strength, 4+OM
step 3+ = maximum, not 4OM
This saves space, and avoids ambiguity when responder rebids his minor.
When opener has shown his strength and/or shape, responder can decide if he's going to continue relaying (yes, also after 1M-2), describe his own hand, or just signoff.

Using relays combines natural systems with the best method for slam bidding. Although we don't have full relays (2 relay is mathematically too high so don't bother trying) we can handle most hands and have a pretty accurate picture of opener's hand. Responder can always break relays and go back to natural bidding, so this gives us a lot of flexibility.
I've found the relay structure with the Italians, although the Dutch also use very similar structures. You can make this as complicated as you want, for example with specific relays to show fit at low levels, but I won't go into detail at the moment. The basic 3-step scheme is the most important part.

An example hand:
Axxx
AKxxx
AKxx
-

Kx
QTxx
QJxxx
Ax

North starts the auction:
1 - 2
2 - 2
2NT - 3
3 - 4
4 - 4
4NT - 5
6 - 7NT

1 = value of 12+HCP, 5+
2 = GF relay except rebid
2 = any strength, 54+M
2 = GF relay without fit
2NT = 5440 or 6-5
3 = relay
3 = 16+HCP, 4=5=4=0
4 = since this can't be natural, it sets
4 = cue
4 = kickback RKC
4NT = 1/4 keycards (void is already known)
5 = K ask
6 = only K
7NT = you can count 13 tricks