Wednesday, April 7, 2010

A (doubled) grand old time in Toronto

I just got back to the States from the Canadian Nationals (also known as the Toronto Regional).  My partner and I had a great time, and a bit of success - two Blue Ribbon quals is a good tournament. in one knockout, we played a round-robin and these two hands came up:

In a forgettable auction, we got to 6NT from the North side after East had bid hearts. This was viciously doubled by East. I have a rule... if the person on lead against 6NT thinks you're going down, he's probably right, and often VERY right. (I get to some baaaad slams.)

I pulled to 7♣, which got doubled in a rage on my right. My LHO was a very ethical player, though... he took inferences only from the auction and not from his partner's table action. So he read this as a Lightner double, and led dummy's suit (spades). I tucked in the nine which brought down the queen. A 3-2 club split later, I racked up 1630 for 7♣X nonvulnerable!

East here made two huge mistakes. First, he was on lead against 6NT with a solid six-card suit. This should be a situation that you dream about... but he got very greedy. He wanted to turn +250 into +1100. Then he regretted his decision so much that he forgot what a double of a slam means when you're not on lead.

Let's look at the IMP math here. His teammates were in 4♠ just making for +420. Adding 250 to that gets us 670, or win 12 IMPs. Adding 1100 would make it 1520, or 17 IMPs. So he was trying to gain 5 IMPs, at his great risk. The actual +1630 gave us 15 IMPs - so he lost 27 due to the double. Even if his partner had led his suit, we would have gone down 300 in 7♣X... for the same 12 IMPs! Not a very good trade...

Later in the session, this hand came up:


I know some very fine players who would open the South hand 1♡. I strongly disagree, but when you pay your entry fee, you can bid whatever you want! It was a fun auction:

I decided not to defend with my 8-5 hand. As it turns out, I could have doubled 6♠ for a fine score - +1400. But that would have lost an IMP! At the other table, my friend Ranald was in 6H just in for 1430. I decided that I didn't need much to make 7♢ a good contract, so I just up and bid it. My LHO doubled and led the ace of clubs. I ruffed in hand, and could see that a successful heart finesse would bring it home. The trouble with finesses, though, is that they sometimes lose. So I looked for a better way to go about it.

The diamond spots looked nice - with a good trump break I'd have three entries in the diamond suit. So I led the king of diamonds to the ace (showing off a bit), and they broke 1-1. Nice! I ruffed a club, went back to the board with the seven of diamonds, ruffed another club, and went to the board with the eight of diamonds. These cards were left:
I cashed the king of clubs, hoping the queen would fall for my 13th trick. Sadly, my RHO showed out, so clubs were 5-3. Hmm... my LHO had 5 clubs and overcalled 1♠. He must be 5215 or 6115! He'd pitched a heart on one of the diamond leads, so he had at most one heart left. I pitched a heart on the ace of spades, cashed the king of hearts, and led a heart to the jack, knowing it would win. +2330, for win 14!

Finesses only work 50% of the time. They should be your last resort.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Bermuda Regional 2010, Part Two: KO

The Myers team, accepting the Knockout trophy from new ACBL President Richard DeMartino

The main event at the Bermuda Regional is the four-session Knockout that's held Monday through Thursday across the afternoons. This is a truly international event - this year's KO featured teams from the USA, Canada, Bermuda, England, and Austria!

Our toughest competition came from the Hansen team, all from Austria. They had a great showing in the North American Swiss Teams at the Honolulu NABC a few years ago, so they showed up for the KO wearing their lucky Hawaiian shirts!

Andreas Babsch played this hand fabulously against me:

Bill Souster started with the king of clubs. I played the discouraging / suit preference / whatever three of clubs, and Bill dutifully led a diamond, which I ruffed. I attempted to cash the ace of clubs, but Babsch ruffed with the king. He now led a spade to the ten, holding, then overtook the king of diamonds with the ace! He pushed the ten of diamonds through Bill, ruffing on the table when covered, then came back to the ace of spades. He led winning diamonds through Bill, and eventually he took his one trump trick and conceded. Well done! My teammate Ian Harvey played the hand along similar lines, but was playing from the North side - so didn't have to deal with the diamonds ruff. Well played Andreas - tough way to lose an IMP!

On the final board of the last match against the American-Bermudian Petty team (Vera Petty and Roman Smolski, Bermuda, Margie Sullivan and Steve Rzewski, Massachusetts, and  Burt Newman and Ed White, Michigan) the match was no longer in danger (but we didn't know it at the time). So tensions were very high when Bill was declaring 4S:

I gave Bill a very pushy limit raise, and he had an easy raise to 4S. Margie led the king of hearts. Bill saw that it would be easy with a winning trump finesse, but that lost.  He ruffed the heart return, drew trump, cashed the ace of diamonds, and led toward the king of diamonds. He was hoping to find a 3-3 diamond split for a club loser... but Margie's discard dashed that hope as well. He saw one chance, and took it: he won the king of diamonds, ruffed the last heart from the dummy (eliminating that suit from both hands), and led a low club toward the jack. Margie was stuck - she won the queen of clubs and had to either lead away from the king of clubs or give Bill a ruff and discard. Way to go!

A well earned celebratory drink after the big win
Left to right: Joe Wakefield, Jean Johnson, Alan Douglas, Ian Harvey, Bill Souster, McKenzie Myers

Thanks to Barry Rigal for some of the pictures.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Bermuda Regional 2010, Part One

I just returned from the fabulous Bermuda Regional. It was a successful week - my team won two of the three main events - but more importantly it was an incredible amount of fun. I played with Jean Johnson, one of Bermuda's top players, and Bill Souster, a former Bermudian now living in Wales. Both of my partners played admirably.

The Bermuda Regional has a schedule unique to the ACBL: what's known as a "horizontal" schedule. This means that the midweek championship events go day-to-day rather than in the same day. Bermuda is also a Saturday to Friday regional, also (I think) unique in the ACBL. The main events in Bermuda are:

  • Saturday Evening Charity Pairs
  • Sunday Afternoon - Evening Swiss
  • Monday - Thursday Afternoon KO
  • Monday - Tuesday Evening Pairs
  • Wednesday - Thursday Evening Pairs
  • Friday Afternoon - Evening Swiss
I played the pair events with Jean and platooned the team events with Jean and Bill. The tournament started well with Jean and I coming in third in the Charity Pairs.

In the Sunday Swiss, we weren't quite finding the groove yet, but we did get this hand right:

I played this hand with Bill in our first match together. He showed great restraint in not forcing to slam after my one-level overcall. He was very surprised that I wasn't even cold for five...

The opponents led two rounds of clubs. I pitched a heart, went to the king of diamonds, and finessed the ten of diamonds on the way back, which won, lefty pitching a club. I then cashed the ace of diamonds. I was hopeful for a 3-3 spade break to pitch my second heart loser, but queen - king - ace of that suit showed a 4-2 break (LHO holding 4). My next attempt was to play a top heart, hoping RHO would win and be endplayed into leading another heart or giving me a ruff-sluff. RHO did win and conceded. As it turned out, if she had ducked, my last try would have been successful - ruffing a spade to hand and leading a heart to the ten.

More hands and results soon!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

"Simple" suit combination problem

You hold:




in trumps, and you need to hold it to no losers. How do you play it?

That's a relatively simple one, you say. Cash the A. If the nine drops on your right on the first round, after cashing one round, come down to the queen and push the ten through LHO's probable J654. If RHO played the 9 from J965, he deserves his trick. (Be on the lookout for this suit combination as defender. You'll earn massive props from expert opponents and lots of imps if you learn to drop the nine smoothly from J9xx.) If no jack or nine drops on the first round, take the second top trump. You'll be able to find out if J9xx is on your right - you finesse the ten. If it turns out that J9xx is on your left, too bad - you gave it your best shot.

Is it ever right to do something different? Here's the whole hand:

West started with the ace of hearts against 4S, low all around, then the ace of diamonds, low all around again, then a diamond to East's king. East led back the queen of hearts! This ran around to the king on the board. Are you still satisfied with the suit combination solution from above?

My partner thought for quite a while (which is more than most would) about the problem, but decided that any other play would be too anti-percentage. It turned out, though, that the reason that West went with the "granny-defense" of cashing his aces and the king of diamonds was that he had a sure trump trick - J965. Was pard right in going with the odds, or was the ace-cashing enough to tip him off to the winning play (low to the queen, then push the ten through planning on later finessing against the nine)?

I'm just starting on Twitter - you can follow DoubleSqueeze at

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Construction time!

Everyone's vulnerable at matchpoints. Here's the situation:

What's partner's hand / handtype? What do you do? In the words of Bob Hamman, what the hell is going on here?

Thursday, November 26, 2009

San Diego

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! The San Diego Fall NABC starts today. I'll try to post some interesting hands and goings-on from the tournament. If you're here, say hi!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Grande Opening

Last week I was lucky enough to be able to attend the grand opening at the Boca Grande Duplicate Bridge Club in Boca Grande, FL. An impressive twenty tables were in play - fifteen in the Open game and five in the 0-20 game. Congratulations to Jay and company for getting such a fabulous game going!

Everyone's favorite hand from Wednesday was Board 23, in which East held one of the most powerful hands I've seen at the table in a while:

  Board 23 S-AQT983 

   Dlr: S H- 

   Vul: Both D-98 


 S-642     N S-KJ5

 H-754  W     E H-AKQJ63

 D-632     S D-AQ5

 C-JT93  C-A







If E-W had the auction to themselves, it would probably go something like this:

2C [strong, artificial, and forcing] - 2D [waiting; no good 5-card suit to show];
2H [natural and forcing] - 3C [cheapest minor showing a really awful hand];
3NT [offer to play] - Pass [yes, there's a heart fit, but with no ruffing value and no tricks, it's best to stay at a low level].

In modern bridge, one almost never has a hand this nice all to himself. Somebody will preempt, or open light, or overcall your 2C opening. As it happened, I held the North cards and opened 1S in third seat. [Incidentally, I think this hand is an opening one-bid in first or second seat also. A good main suit, great shape, and defensive tricks all add up to an opening. At favorable vulnerability, I would probably open 4S in third chair.] East had an easy double on the first round. South passed, and West showed her suit with 2C. I bid 2S [I still really like my hand!] and East had a tough call, but finally came out with 4H. We defended this well to set it two tricks.

Here's what I would be thinking with the East hand:

OK, my right-hand opponent has opened 1S in third chair. I have an easy double.

Now partner's shown a bad hand (surprise!) with some club length, and righty's bid his spades again.

 4H seems like the automatic bid here, but could anything be better?

Well, pard seems to have length in my shortest suit. That's not so good. And on the auction, I doubt he has as many as 4 points.  Bad things could happen in 4H as well - I don't have the ace of spades, and if my LHO is short there, they could get some ruffs in. So 4H may not be the right spot.

How many tricks would I have in notrump? Well, six hearts and two minor-suit aces are pretty sure. If South is a good partner and leads North's suit, I now have nine tricks with the king of spades as well. North probably has the queen of spades, too, so if he continues the suit I can take the jack of spades too! Looks like nine pretty sure tricks. What could go wrong? Well, if they knock out my ace of clubs and partner doesn't have a second club stopper, I might go down. But since partner's bid clubs and my RHO has bid spades, I think it's pretty likely that a spade will get led. It's not perfect, but I think this has the best shot. 3NT!

The important lesson here is: Try to mentally play out the hand during the auction. You'll be amazed at what you can come up with.

Next time you're in SW Florida, pop down to Boca Grande - it's one of the most beautiful places I've ever been, and some of the friendliest bridge players I've ever met.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Hot Defense

The other day, my partner and I found the only sequence of cards to defeat the opponents' game:

I was fooling around a little bit in third seat, opening my three-card club suit rather than my four-card diamond suit. I figured I could happily pass anything partner bid at the one-level. The opponent climbed up to 4S, and I decided to try a deceptive lead through the strong hand. I knew that West had a quite good hand and that partner had some values, so it wasn't a stretch to find dummy with KJxx of diamonds and partner with the queen. So I tabled a low diamond. When KQTx came down on the table, I no longer liked my lead. But partner was up to the task! The king of diamonds held trick one. When declarer led a low spade from dummy partner hopped up with his king, returned his second diamond, and got his diamond ruff. My ace of trumps was the setting trick. Nice play, pard!

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Mathematics of Fits

The other day, my partner held


and opened the bidding 1H. My RHO passed, I bid 1NT, and my LHO bid 2S, which was passed out. It made on the nose and we went -110.

After the hand, I told partner that I would have made a takeout double with her hand. She said that she didn't think that our side had a fit.

Stop! Time for some very easy math.

How many spades do I have? Well, I bypassed 1S to bid 1NT. So I shouldn't have more than three.

Next, how many non-spades do I have? At least ten.

Can you arrange those ten cards into three suits in any manner in which we don't have at least an eight-card fit? Well, three spades (from the auction), two hearts (giving us only a seven-card fit there), four diamonds (giving us only a seven-card fit there), three clubs (only seven there)... that leaves one card left over. We have to have an eight-card fit somewhere!

In fact, we can generalize this further. If the opponents have a nine-card fit, that gives us four cards in that suit out of our twenty-six total. Twenty-two cards are left for the other three suits. So our fits in those suits are, if the hands fit as poorly as possible, are 8, 7, 7!

If they have an eight-card fit, that gives us five there and twenty-one in the other three. The worst possible case is that the other three suits split 7-7-7. It's much more likely that we have an eight-card fit or longer, though.

Long story short: If the opponents have a nine-card fit, we definitely have an eight-card or longer fit. If they only have an eight-card fit,we probably have one too. Compete!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Advanced Losing Trick Count

See Friday's post for a quick brush-up on the Losing Trick Count.

The LTC is certainly not infallible, especially in its simplest form that I’ve given you here. It tends to work quite a bit better when you introduce the concept of “cover cards”, which I’ll illustrate quickly with hand (C) from earlier:

(C) ♠AQ7632 ♥AT762 ♦5 ♣6

Let’s say responder has one of these two hands:

(C1) ♠K98 ♥KQ5 ♦98432 ♣A2

(C2) ♠984 ♥Q53 ♦KQJ42 ♣KJ

Opposite hand (C1), 6S looks great—on normal splits, we’ll lose only the ace of diamonds.

Opposite (C2), we’ll probably lose a spade, a heart, a diamond, and a club and go down in game!

What’s the difference here? Both hands have the same shape, the same HCP, and the same number of losers! What’s going on?

Well, hand (C1) has four cover cards, and (C2) has only one! Cover cards are defined as cards we know will cover (take care of) one of partner’s losers. Hand (C1)’s cover cards are the king of spades, the king of hearts, the queen of hearts, and the ace of clubs. Hand (C2)’s only cover card is the queen of hearts. So, opposite a major two-suiter, we’d much, much rather hold (C1) than (C2).

How do we know what’s a cover card? Listen to the auction! The auction on Hand (C) would start (opposite either hand) with

1S – 2D – 2H – ?

Hand (C1) is an amazing hand opposite the major two-suiter. Responder should jump to 3S, forcing to game and starting a cuebidding sequence:

1S – 2D – 2H – 3S – 4C – 4H – 4NT – 5D [Blackwood] or 5H [Keycard] – 6S

Hand (C2) is an awful hand opposite the major two-suiter. Responder should attempt to sign off as soon as possible!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Losing Trick Count

The Losing Trick Count (LTC) is an old, old method of evaluating your hand. It was first published in 1935 under the miserably long title of “The Losing Trick Count, as used by the leading contract bridge tournament players, with examples of expert bidding and expert play.” This book didn’t make much of a splash, but Ron Klinger’s fabulous 2001 book Modern Losing Trick Count took the bridge world by storm. Here’s the basic idea behind the LTC:

When you have a good fit (8+ cards in one suit between the two hands) with your partner, you can evaluate your “losers” to see how powerful the fit is.

Count one loser for every missing ace, king, or queen in your hand. Only count one loser for a singleton, and two for a doubleton. Never count the fourth (or higher) card in a suit as a loser. Here are a few example hands:

(A) ♠AQT94 ♥A853 ♦Q2 ♣75

This hand has seven losers: one in the spade suit (missing K), two in the heart suit (missing KQ), two in the diamond suit (missing AK), and two in the club suit (missing AK). 1+2+2+2 = 7. Your average minimum opening hand (and minimum game-forcing hand over partner’s opener) will have seven losers.

(B) ♠KQ652 ♥AK32 ♦52 ♣83

This hand has the same shape and same HCPs, but only six losers: one in spades (missing A), one in hearts (missing Q), and two in each minor suit (AK in each). 1+1+2+2 = 6. The LTC says that hand B is one trick stronger than hand A.

(C) ♠AQ7632 ♥AT762 ♦5 ♣6

This is a great hand with only five losers: one in spades (missing K), two in hearts (missing KQ) and one in each minor (A in each). This has fewer HCP than hands A and B, of course, but much more playing strength.

(D) ♠Q632 ♥KJ62 ♦76 ♣A52

How many losers does this hand contain?

REMEMBER: Only use the LTC when there’s a known trump fit!

A good rule of thumb: Take your number of losers, add the number of partner’s losers (let’s say I have 7 losers, and partner’s opened the bidding and shown a minimum: assume 7 losers, therefore 14 total) and subtract that number from 18. This figure tells you the contract you’ll make most of the time. In this example, you have 14 – subtract from 18. That leaves you with 4—you’ll be able to make four of your suit on most layouts of the cards. Bid game!

When you’ve opened the bidding with a 5-loser hand and partner’s given a single raise (9 losers), you have 14 total again. Bid game!

When you’ve opened the bidding with a 6-loser hand and partner’s forced to game (7 or fewer losers), you have at most 13 total losers, quite possibly less. Time to make a slam try!

Tune in Monday for a more advanced use of the LTC.

Thursday, June 4, 2009


At all white at teams, you hold

AKQT862 5 AQT8 5

and RHO opens 2S! What's your bid?

If you pass, everyone else does too. What's your lead?

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Brilliant defense

England's Michelle Brunner, in the 2007 Venice Cup (Womens' World Team Championship) found a very clever defense to defeat a grand slam:

North-South had blasted their way to seven clubs on the uncontested auction

1C (1) - 1D (2)
2S (3) - 2NT
3C - 4C
5NT - 7C

(1) Strong, artificial, and forcing
(2) 0-7 HCP
(3) Huge hand with long spades

Michelle's partner led the jack of hearts, declarer covered with the queen, and Michelle ducked! She knew there were plenty of spade winners to cover the losing heart, so wouldn't be giving a trick away. Declarer's 5NT was asking for good trumps, so she knew that the only trick for their side could possibly be in the club suit. When she ducked smoothly, declarer found herself very conveniently in dummy to take the trump finesse...

Friday, May 8, 2009

Deja vu?

Last week I played the Fort Lauderdale Regional with Robert Todd. One afternoon, he showed me his latest article for the Sunshine Bridge News, ACBL District 9's bimonthly magazine.

Follow this link for that article. Read it before the rest of this one!

Two boards into the next session, we had this eerily similar defense:

N-S wound their way to 3H over our 3D. I started out with the queen of diamonds. Robert overtook with the king and switched to a low spade through declarer. South misguessed, playing low, and I won with the queen. I shot a spade to Robert's ace, and he returned the eight of diamonds (suit-preference) to my known jack. I then gave him a spade ruff for the first undertrick. My queen of clubs late made for a very satisfying down two.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Bridge on TV

...but not where I can see it, of course.

England's SkyTV has put together a celebrity bridge competition for their SkyArts channel. You can read all about it here.

Also, here's a short video of the introduction to the programme.

Does anyone know how we could see full episodes of this show?

Monday, May 4, 2009

Time off again...

The Southeastern Regional is over. We had a fabulous time in Fort Lauderdale, making new friends and playing some good bridge. I have a few hands to share... but right now, time to rest. What a week!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

A couple of nice auctions from the club

Board 11
Dlr: S
Vul: None



We were N-S and bid this one uncontested:

P - 1C [16+ any];
1N [8-10, 5+H] - 2S [natural];
4C [splinter raise; usually 4531 or 4621] - 4N
5C [one keycard] - 6S (all pass)

Making 7 easily on the trump finesse and hearts coming home. Only three of 22 pairs bid this 26 HCP slam.

Board 18
Dlr: E
Vul: N-S





This time we had opponents to deal with:

(1D) X (1H) 2C;
(2D) 3C (3D) 5C (all pass)

With trumps breaking 2-1 and spades setting up for a heart pitch, 5C was easy. [5D is a maker if they guess trumps correctly.]