Wednesday, June 12, 2019

The Vienna Coup

Looking at the MITDL Bridge Club's web site recently, I was a little embarrassed to note that there's a link there to my blog claiming that it's updated every week. Those were the days! This is my first post for nine months!

Today I had the pleasure of playing with Harrison Luba a.k.a. The Twerp. He's currently a freshman in High School and is an incredible player already. Like most Juniors, he believes that all doubles are for takeout unless it's blindingly obvious that they're for penalties. Those of you who follow (or attempt to follow) my blog know that I have a set of very specific (although quite simple) rules on this. So, we had a couple of bad scores today (-730 and -670) due to differences of opinion about doubles. Well, I will admit that perfect--I would claim double-dummy--defense by me would have turned the second one into +200 (and 8/11 matchpoints).

We mostly make up for these setbacks with many tops of our own. Here are a couple which are entirely due to Harrison's good play.

First board. The unopposed auction is short and sweet: 2C--2D--2NT--7NT.  The lead is a small club, if I recall.

83 Q432 AQT6 AQ2

AKQJ4 AK6 J7 K95

Maybe there was some slight overbidding going on but don't worry. The play's the thing. There are an easy twelve tricks on top. The diamond finesse is a 50% shot. But, and Harrison figured this out in a couple of milliseconds: the spades will furnish three discards from dummy. That makes a Vienna Coup possible (cash DA and then pitch all of dummy's small diamonds).

But you need the same player to have the DK and the heart length. Doesn't that bring the probability down to 25%? No, that's the beauty of an automatic squeeze like the Vienna Coup, i.e. where dummy has an idle card and so doesn't have to commit a threat card before RHO plays. We can victimize either opponent this way, which means that the probability of success is back up to 50%. Indeed, the diamond King was off-side. But that player also had five hearts. Scoring up 1520 for all the matchpoints.

One other pair got to a making 7S but most were in 6NT making 6.

Two boards later. Partner's arithmetic seems to have gone off the rails a little and we end up in 4NT when everyone else will be in 6NT.

AK32 A862 J3 AQ2

QJ4 KQ7 AK85 963

The helpful lead is a small diamond which allows dummy's jack to score a trick. Now, we're up to 11 tricks. This time, the chances of making 12 tricks are basically 36% for a 3-3 heart split plus a few more percentage points for the same player having four hearts and KJT of clubs (or a very small chance of one player having a singleton club honor). Because that would allow for another Vienna Coup, either opponent will do as victim. The probability of success here is going to be something like 36% (hearts split) plus 64% x 12.5% (three specific cards in same hand as the heart length). That gives a total of 44%, not too bad actually. 

And so it proved. Harrison rectified the count at trick 2 by ducking a club to RHO's ten. He could always take the club finesse later if he wanted to. As it turned out, RHO had five hearts and the club ten. Maybe she'd have the K and J too.

This is where the beauty of a squeeze comes in. A finesse risks losing the lead, even to a stiff honor. But squeezes (mostly) don't give up the lead--you just keep playing and either the last trick comes out right or it doesn't. 

Harrison worked out one other thing. Almost everyone will be in 6NT and if the finesse of the king is on (and they receive a helpful diamond lead) they'll have 12 tricks in the bag. We basically cannot outscore those declarers. But, if the CK is indeed offside (knowing that RHO has the heart length), then we will likely outscore any pair that's not in slam and certainly all of the pairs that did bid the slam.

It's always fun and educational when I play with Harrison. I enjoy it to the max while I can!

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