Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Asleep at the switch

To my faithful readers: for some reason, Blogger/Blogspot has "fixed" something that wasn't broken and needless to say they haven't provided any explanation for it. The upshot is that I can no longer post hand diagrams (I can only link to BBO for rendering in a separate window). I've tried BridgeBlogging but apparently they unimpressed by my material (and were insufficiently polite to mention that fact to me). Anyone got any ideas whither I could transfer my bridge blog?

Meanwhile I still suffer the craziness of sitting at random tables when I have a few minutes to spare but no more. The errors that players make simply astound me. Was I ever that bad, I wonder? No, I don't think so. At least, I hope not!

Here's the latest misdemeanor: random hand at random table. Notice how disciplined I was not doubling 5D, although it certainly looked like it was going down. One ill-advised player did double 5D (see below). When dummy came down, I was surprised how good it was, but this kind of leap to game is not at all uncommon for beginners. Especially after a weak-two opener, they just don't know if, say, 2S would be forcing. Other declarers might be in 6D going down, so it was important to ensure that this contract didn't succeed.

Notice what happens at trick 7. West (declarer) takes a no-win "finesse" of the CQ (is there a name for this type of finesse? Chinese finesse?). I'm flabbergasted at how common such finesses are at these tables. My guess is that there's one every second or third board, especially when my partner is declaring.

But wait, apparently such a finesse can win! All you need is for the one with the K not to cover. Of course, this could never happen if that person was fourth-in-hand. Especially if he/she was looking at the J also. But nevertheless, my partner was asleep at the switch. After that, we have no defense. I get my two trump tricks and that's it. Perhaps I should have ruffed the club continuation which would require declarer to think about the play. But I can only ever come to two trump tricks if declarer plays correctly.

Take two. Things could have been worse. Really, you ask? Look what happened at this table. I have taken the liberty of assigning names from S. J. Simon's Why You Lose at Bridge. It's hard to count the total number of errors ("chucks" in Simon's terminology) committed here. I could post an ATB on BridgeWinners, I suppose but there's really just too much sin all round. First, do we agree with The Unlucky Expert's opening bid 1D? It's a tough call. 2D, the bid at my table, is flawed for various reasons, notably the void, the bad suit and too many stray queens. But is this hand good enough for 1D? Zar says it is (28 before any negative texture adjustment which meets the threshold of 26). KR puts it at 11.8 which is not quite an opening bid for most of us, I think.

In any case, 1D seems reasonable. Mrs. Guggenheim responds 2C which is just plain bizarre when she has more spades than clubs. Maybe she just wanted to announce the strength of her hand immediately, and a two-bid sounds so much stronger than a mere one-bid. Mr. Smug now says 3S, an appalling bid--but quite normal for Mr. Smug. Perhaps not the worst bid in the history of bridge, but certainly a doozy! The Unlucky Expert, who by rights has nothing to say, naturally bids 4D (to show his six-card suit)--Mrs. Guggenheim must have been just itching to double. Futile Willy, under the mistaken impression that his partner has something, decides to double this (cold) contract. Does he really think that he's getting this freely bid contract down more than one? Particularly, when he has such good support for his partner's "suit." Wouldn't you think that Mrs. Guggenheim would be ecstatic for her partner to be in 4DX? No, the scoring table was never her strong point and she decides to "take it out" into the diamond game.

The rest of the auction is inevitable and hardly worth mentioning. Futile Willy, his manhood so dreadfully impugned by Mrs. Guggenheim's 5D, must double again. And, when this comes around to the Unlucky Expert, he just knows that the contract is cold as Mrs. Guggenheim always has her bid if she bids a game. The fact that his own bidding has hitherto shown a decent hand with good diamonds is immaterial. He redoubles.

Now for the play. It would never occur to Futile Willy to lead low from Qxx of his partner's suit so he leads the SQ. No matter, it makes no difference this time. Declarer takes dummy's ace and crosses to his own HA. Based on the auction, he can be pretty confident that a finesse of the nine will succeed and indeed it does. Of course, he still should be down at this point but he knows the caliber of his opponents and is not worried. He decides to sneak a club through Mr. Smug who surely has the CK for his ridiculous spade bid. The latter, confident that his king cannot "go away" (does he imagine that declarer started with five clubs and never raised his partner?) plays low smoothly. At this point, The Unlucky Expert could claim but naturally he drags it out to the bitter end to extract the maximum degree of squirming from his two gentleman opponents.

This hand would have been a pretty good "Goulash" hand. 16 tables played it and the range of scores was +1600 (4SXXE-4) to -800 (the latter being our heroes' result). That's a spread of 29.8 IMPs! The par result is actually 400 E/W for 3NT which cannot be touched. This was reached by the perfectly appropriate auction (N/S silent): P--1S--2D--3D--3NT.