Sunday, November 30, 2014

A baby throw-in

The NABC Fall Nationals are back in District 25 (New England) -- at the Providence Convention Center. It's a terrific site to play in, and the city has some old world charm and is easy to get around. Last evening they put on their "Water Fire" show (kind of a son et lumi√®re) especially for us bridge players and I loved it. It was a bit too cold to hang around for a long time but we should come back in the summer to see/hear the whole thing. Being so much further south than Boston (!), Rhode Island even provided snow-free conditions which would not have been the case in Massachusetts.

Kim and I entered the Life Master pairs but a few too many errors, together with some appalling luck left us well below the cut (for example, on the very first board our opponents reached a making 6NT on a combined 30hcp with two totally balanced hands). Thus, we "qualified" for the Saturday compact KO with our teammates Don and Daniel.

Our team total was 10,000 which put us in bracket 3 [wow! do we really have a five figure team total these days?]. The opening three-way was uneventful, winning one and losing one (the latter due to some carelessness -- you have to play every board to its full potential!) The result of the second match was unfortunately based on a director call -- and subsequent appeal decision. I hate it when that happens, but in truth it was a clear-cut issue. The auction had started on my left (we were white, they were red) with 1NT (14-17). Partner bid 3D and RHO bid 4D (transfer). LHO completed the transfer and now RHO bid 5D. This call (they had no particular agreement as to what it would mean) put LHO in the tank for 20-30 seconds and he came out with 5H. RHO then bid the slam. We called the director over and all were agreed there was a break in tempo (BIT). At least our opponents were good enough not to say "I didn't notice a break in temp" and "no, I didn't hesitate," as would typically happen at a club game.

The slam made but the director rolled it back to 680. At the other table, the bidding started out the same but they stopped in 4H making 710. We won the match by two, pending the appeal. This being a regional event, the director-in-charge heard the appeal (a slightly less formal process than for NABC+ events). After a very professional handling of the situation by the director, the other team withdrew.

After the dinner break, we faced a team of Swedish/Finnish juniors. We were very impressed by their comportment at the table and we enjoyed this match very much. They played a very complex big club relay system at our table which sometimes propelled them to 4NT contracts. Indeed the twelve boards we played included three 4NT contracts: one of ours, making; two by them, one failing by one trick (11 IMPs to us), one by two tricks (3 IMPs). I also made two doubled contracts which between them were worth 27 IMPs. I had to apologize for one of these as it was a bidding error by me that turned out luckily. But there is a lesson here for my LHO. After 1C -- 1D (both alerted), I bid 3D with my seven diamonds to the ace and not much else. Reasonable, right? Well, no, because we play suction in this situation and Kim alerted. LHO doubled and all passed. Dummy had enough for me to make nine tricks. The moral of this story is this: when RHO makes an artificial bid that could possibly have been intended as natural but is going to be taken out by your LHO, wait until they get into trouble before doubling. I was happy to note that we didn't need that lucky result for the win.

The other hand, referred to in my title was this:
I like to read humorous bridge books, especially those by David Bird and Victor Mollo. But whereas at the Griffins and St. Titus' Monastery, endplays arise on every other board, they don't seem to come up so frequently at my table. This is one that not only legitimately won us the match but pretty much made my day. Note that on my lead of the club four, East has a choice of poisons: he can let the four win and I throw a losing diamond, or he can win and then be endplayed. Very satisfying.

At the other table, the auction was identical, except for the final double. And the play to the first three tricks was also identical. My counterpart went down two (no helpful double), all the same. I told my teammates that the contract was always cold. Not so. At trick two, if East leads any black card, I can no longer make the hand, as you can see by pressing the GIB button in the replay.

A note on the bidding. Kim hates it when I steal the contract from her. So I do it with great trepidation. Here you can see that my decision was probably wrong (again!) for her notrump contract would make actually make ten tricks on the likely heart lead. But on a club lead, I think we'd be in trouble. In any case, if I had passed, there'd be no story.

I entitled this blog "A baby throw-in" because that's how the Hideous Hog would describe it. He would undoubtedly claim at trick four (he can't claim until the trump king falls otherwise the later throw-in will only generate one extra trick and two will be needed). Remind me not to make such heavy weather of it next time :)

Monday, November 3, 2014

Using double or redouble to ask about partner's hand

Here's the type of auction for which many pairs do not have a good understanding of how best to compete:
The situation arises when West's bid is ambiguous (for example, it doesn't specify a suit, or shows only one suit of two). Click each bid to see its meaning. Is partner showing clubs? The majors? Could it be some sort of rescue request?

In my partnerships, this redouble has a very simple and clear meaning: "I have decent values and I'd like you to further describe your hand at your next turn." Without the redouble, South might bid a major and you (West) might feel that your hand wasn't good enough to bid 3. But partner is saying: I really want to know what your hand is.

This hand came up at a sectional tournament, playing against two good matchpoint players. I was East. South passed and West now bid 2. Two passes followed and now South decided to bid 3♣. This went pass-pass and I finished proceedings with double. We scored 500 (could have been 800) for a clear top. It turned out that North made a somewhat over-enthusiastic Stayman bid and South, expecting his partner to have a bit more, decided to bid his clubs with only an 11-count. Here is the whole hand:
It was good that we have the rule that all doubles after a redouble are for penalty, so there was no doubt what the final double meant.

The double can be used for the same thing. Here's an example using the same hand, just a slightly different treatment for the West hand:
Again, just to be clear, East's double says nothing about clubs—it asks partner to state which of the three hands he actually has: 2 would show both majors (pass or correct), 2♦ would show diamonds and pass would show clubs.

This seems like a simple, effective, agreement. Yet in my experience it is quite rare. Maybe even unique. Without it a distributional but weak responder can easily preempt the other side out of a good contract. Suppose in the actual hand (first example), North had simply transferred to spades with a 2 call. East doesn't double because his double would show good hearts. South bids 2♠. Is West really going to come in with 3? I don't think so.