Sunday, May 2, 2010

Officially Old

It's official.  I've joined the ranks of the oldies by playing in my first "Seniors" event. I think having events limited to Seniors (55+) is completely daft – the vast majority of players qualify to play in such events – such events simply exclude something like of 20% of active players, the ones that are the future of bridge.  But there you are, we in New England have a Seniors-only Regional and we're not going to give it up.  So, Len and I drove the two hours each way to Chatham, a beautiful spot at the elbow of Cape Cod, for a two-session pairs game.  We played badly in the afternoon, with more than our fair share of bad luck, but recovered in the evening to get a section top, not quite sufficient comeback for an overall award.

The crowd is slightly different.  Many of the contestants seem to be of the more social bridge types, including quite a few pairs who appeared to be couples.  Table etiquette wasn't always perfect.  There was an unusually high number of director calls.  But I thought the standard of play was a little better than I expected.

An interesting situation came up.  Only we are vulnerable and LHO deals and opens 2♣ (strong and artificial).  Partner passes and RHO bids 2, artificial showing 0-3 hcp.  Our hand is ♠A64 KJ964 9 ♣AQ72, a hand we would have opened had we been first to speak.  We can assume that LHO has at least 18hcp (although stranger things have happened) and probably not more than 25hcp.  So they have 18-26, leaving partner with 0-8.  A priori, any hand that falls with in a range is more likely to be at the "ten" end of the range than the other end.  So let's tentatively assume that partner has 5cp.  Chances are he's going to be on lead against a spade, diamond or notrump contract, at least based on our hand.  We want to help him avoid giving anything away on the lead.  How about a lead-directing double?

Our first thought is that the vulnerability is wrong for us, but that's misleading.  We are very unlikely to be declaring so our vulnerability is not relevant.  However, there is just a possibility that they may "send it back", i.e. redouble and needless to say, if they make 2XX, it will be very bad news for us.  Not quite such bad news when they are not-vulnerable, but it won't matter much, at least, not at matchpoints.  2XX will beat any other game contract (640) and two overtricks (1040) will beat any slam they could legitimately make (which does seem pretty unlikely, given our hand).  Still with their (estimated) 21 hcp and at least a 5-0 split against them, worrying about 2XX seems unduly pessimistic.

Still, there are other dangers in doubling for a heart lead.  Declarer might have A, Q and T sitting over us.  But, if that is so, declarer could have taken that finesse for himself, assuming that he has some way of reaching dummy,  Besides, there's a possibility that dummy, or even partner, will have the Q or T.

On balance, I think I might risk the double.  However, you could accuse me of having 20-20 hindsight, since this action would have worked well for several reasons.

But, let's say we go with the conservative route and pass (bearing in mind that we have to pass quicker than it takes you to read all this, lest our hesitation suggest a heart lead).  LHO now bids 3 and this is passed out.  Partner leads the ♠2 (3rd and lowest) dummy comes down with  ♠JT9 T82 63 ♣JT986.  Now, how are you feeling about passing over 2?

Anyway, you win your A (declarer playing the Q) and return the 6, declarer playing the K.  I think switching to trumps looks better given that we can't ruff the third spade, even if partner has the K.  Declarer starts the trumps with the A, all following (partner plays the 4) and continues with the Q, partner winning with the K.  It's a pity partner didn't lead a club at the beginning as he might now be getting a club ruff.  Meanwhile, we need to make a discard to help partner decide what to continue.  What should it be?  Partner might be thinking that we started with A6 of spades, in which case, we can't stop declarer getting to dummy for a finesse in hearts or clubs.  Pitching our other spade would clarify the position.  But actually, we have stuff in hearts and we wouldn't be unhappy with a heart lead.  It's important to note here that our discard will be telling, not asking.  If we play an encouraging heart, partner is not commanded to lead that suit.  We are simply informing him where we have values.  As it turns out partner has the HQ and will be happy to lead a low heart.  A trump continuation by partner will also be safe.

Unfortunately, we decide to discard our lowest heart and partner thinks that perhaps the safest lead is to give declarer his spade, as he assumes that declarer will likely want to finesse a heart to his Q.  Disaster!  Partner gives declarer access to an otherwise unreachable dummy for a pitch and to finesse against our clubs.  Instead of going plus like everyone else, we are minus 130 for a very round zero.

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