Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Somehow we landed in 6NT

The title refers to the excellent and entertaining book of that name by David Bird.  It's full of interesting 6NT hands from top level play and contains many instructive quizzes on how to play such hands, generally based on constructed deals.

The general rule that I've worked out for deciding when to bid 6NT at matchpoints, as opposed to 6 of a suit, is this (leaving aside for now any indications such as a Lightner double):
  • if you're in 6 or 6♠, and it looks like you'll take the same 12 tricks in NT (and you have good stoppers in any enemy suit, if any), then bid 6NT;
  • if you're in 6♣ or 6, stay where you are, unless you're fairly sure that you'll make the same number of tricks (or more) in notrump.
The reasoning behind this is that most players, at the club rather than the Blue Ribbon pairs, will not find the minor suit slam in the first place so you might as well maximize your chances of making it by playing in a suit (you usually have decent trumps when you're at the six level in a minor).  On the other hand, even the weakest pair in the field will be in 6 of a major when they have a fit with 30+ hcp.  That's when you have to get an edge with the extra 10 points.

A couple of interesting hands came up last night at the club.  On the first hand, all are vulnerable and you LHO deals and passes.  Your hand is ♠9432 AQ942 AQ2 ♣K.  Partner bids 1♠ and RHO passes.  Without going into detail, you discover that partner has both black aces and at least Kxx, a void in diamonds and is enthusiastic about slam.  You will be declarer if the contract is in notrump.  Let's say you know that he doesn't have the ♠K.  Which slam do you want to play in?

I think this is a clear case for 6NT.  If they lead a diamond, your otherwise wasted Q will become a trick.  If they don't you should have time to develop at least four spades, five hearts, a diamond and two clubs.  As it happens, the ♠K was onside and we made 1460.

Of the 16 results on this board, 2 pairs failed to reach slam at all (one of these was a good pair who perhaps had a misunderstanding).  13 pairs played either 6 or 6♠.  Only one pair bid 6NT.  Unfortunately, not us.  So, bidding 6NT was worth 6 matchpoints out of 15.  Why only 6?  Two declarers in 6♠ apparently eschewed the trump finesse because a heart ruff was looming.  That's the only explanation I can come up with for not taking all the tricks.

The second interesting board had a somewhat shorter auction.  Red versus white, you pick up ♠T76 AJ52 QJ76 ♣AK and again you are fourth-in-hand.  This time, dealer does not pass.  In fact, he opens with 5♣!  Partner contributes 5 and RHO passes.  What's your call?  Obviously nobody will be bidding again unless you choose 6♣.

Assuming that partner isn't a lunatic, you're surely going to bid a slam of some sort.  Which is it to be.  My favorite partner (the one I'm married to) suggested 7 which would have scored a nice 14.  My actual partner chose a more conservative 6 which was worth 10.5.

I'd like to think that if I had held this hand at the table, I'd have bid at least 6NT, if not 7NT, which would have scored either 14 or 14.5, respectively.  After all, I have two stoppers in the enemy suit and nothing that partner could ruff in my hand, and not much that could be profitably ruffed in partner's hand.

I would have been interested to follow this board around the room to see exactly what transpired at each table.  The deal itself looks like something from one of those goulash tournaments that are popular online:















Just look at that club suit in the West hand!  Nine of them to the T - two straight flushes back to back!  Had I held this hand, there's no way I'd have opened only 5 clubs!  Without the Q, I'd be bidding 7♣, but with the actual hand, I think 6♣ is about right.  That would make it quite awkward for North, although I think 6 would still be the choice of the brave.  But getting to play 6X would have been worth 10 matchpoints for the preempter.

If you're still with me, there's just one other interesting hand that might also make 6NT on really really bad defense.  I held this hand: ♠T732 T543 4 ♣JT86 as dealer with nobody vulnerable.  Not much to write home about!  I passed, although a psychic 1♠ or 1NT couldn't possibly have yielded a worse score.  LHO opened 1NT (11-13 if I recall correctly), partner showed a single-suited hand and they ended up in 3NT after opener admitted to at least four hearts.  Partner led a diamond (what else?) and dummy came down with ♠AQJ6 J6 QJ8 ♣K932.  The Q was played from dummy and I followed suit.  Declarer played the 9.  The J was led to partner's Q.  He was looking at an original diamond holding of KT7652 with another certain entry (the A).  If my holding was 43 as appeared possible, another low diamond would force the A and all the diamonds would now be good.  Unfortunately, declarer was hiding the 3 and so was able to make three diamond tricks when partner continued the suit.

But now take another look at my hand.  Do you see that I'm triple-squeezed at trick 3?  Fortunately, I know my squeeze defenses and I was careful to give declarer a trick in his hand (by pitching a heart) so that the squeeze didn't become progressive.  As it turns out, with partner holding the HA, the hand can never make 12 tricks but that fatal weakening of our hearts did allow declarer to duck a heart and claim the rest.  Kudos to the declarer for a well-played hand and a deserving top.

Never a dull moment at the bridge club!

1 comment:

  1. Great tips and tricks to score at bridge. I hope to try them in my game next time i'll be playing with my friends and enjoy more than before.