Friday, February 20, 2009

"Strip Squeeze" isn't as dirty as it sounds

Last night in the Swiss, I picked up Qxx 9x Ax AJTxxx at all red. Partner opened 1D (10-15 HCP, 2+ D), RHO overcalled 1S, I bid 2C, partner raised to 3C, and I put us in 3NT. The S9 was led, and I saw:

It looked like nine tricks if the club finesse was on, but a few other chances if not. I put up the ace of spades at trick one (trying to get LHO to continue the suit if she won a club trick) and led a top club from the board. This lost to LHO's king, and she duly continued spades. RHO won with the king and cleared spades, but five more rounds of clubs turned her hand to mush. In order to keep all of her spades, she had to either pitch her ace of hearts or come down to the stiff king of diamonds. She decided to stiff her king, but I was able to read it and play ace then queen of diamonds for my ninth trick. Had she pitched one of her spades, I would have thrown her in with the ace of hearts and forced her to lead away from the king of diamonds at the end. Here's the whole hand:

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Portland Regional Update

Hi folks---

Things are going well so far at the Portland Regional. Meg and I won Bracket 2 of the Monday-Tuesday KO with friends from Vancouver, BC, and we placed 3rd in the Wednesday Open Pairs. We start a new KO this afternoon. If you're around, please come check out my lecture this evening starting at 6:15 in the main playing area. I'll write up some of the more fun hands of the week when I get some time.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Oregon Trail Regional

The fabulous Oregon Trail Regional starts today. This tournament, held at the Vancouver, WA Hilton, would be one of my favorites even if it wasn't my "home" regional. There's lots of friendly people, nice giveaways, and a great playing site in a cool downtown area. Also, District 20 has a surprising number of excellent players, and the standard of play here is quite a bit higher than you'll find at the average regional. This is gonna be great!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Quick bidding problem from the Sarasota Regional

Via Robert Todd:

♥ none
♦ KJ7
♣ KJ753

All white at matchpoints, your partner opens 1C. RHO pops to 2H; you bid 2S. LHO jumps to 4H, which gets passed back to you.

(A) What's your call?

(B) LHO makes the cheapest heart bid (up to 6H) over your bid. Partner and RHO pass this too. Now what's your call?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Hands from the Charlottesville Regional

The Charlottesville Regional was a huge success! Almost 1600 tables, great people, great hospitality, and a great job done by both our directing staff and the hotel staff. Thanks again to Millard and his team of directors, as well as Mark and his team at the DoubleTree.

I’ve been so busy since the tournament that I haven’t had a chance to share all the tough hands that I ran across then! Here, almost a month later, are a few of the problems I faced.

In problems A and B you’re playing with an unfamiliar, but expert, partner. All problems are from knockout (IMP) play.

(A) Red vs. white

A652 3 AJ74 AQT9

You open 1D (promising 4+), LHO overcalls 1H, partner bids 1NT, and RHO raises to 2H. You’re up. [Double would be for takeout here.]

(B) All red

K763 QJ95 J8752 –

Partner opens a strongish (good 14 to 17) 1NT, and RHO passes. What’s your bid / plan?

(C) Red vs. white

A65 AJT65 – T9843

Partner opens 1S, and RHO sticks in a 2D call. Systemically, here are your choices:

2H, natural and forcing to 3H;
3C, natural and forcing to game;
3D, invitational or better spade raise;
3H, invitational with long hearts and a spade fit, at least nine cards between the two suits;
4C, game-forcing with long clubs and a spade fit, at least nine cards between the two suits;
4D, game-forcing spade raise with at most one diamond;
And, of course, Other.

What’s your call?

(D) White vs. red

A3 KQJ85 Q QJT62

You open 1H in first seat, and your LHO’s weak 3D bid gets passed around to you. What’s your call?

Friday, February 6, 2009

Play problem

You're playing IMPS, and the auction has gone:



1NT was 15-17, and 2S was natural. 2NT was lebensohl - it could have been lots of different handtypes, but after your forced 3C call, partner's 3NT bid revealed a raise to 3NT with a spade stopper.

LHO leads the king of spades, and you see:


What's your plan here?

First thing's first: Count your tricks. Ace of spades, ace of hearts, ace-king of clubs, and five diamonds add up to the nine tricks you need for 3NT. Great!

Next: Are there any problems that might arise? There's a big one, if you're not careful! Take a closer look at the diamond suit:



You can't run all five tricks due to the blockage in the diamond spots (unless the opposing diamonds break 2-2, which only occurs 40% of the time). Sadly, the defense has just started an assault on the side entry to the long diamond. On a heart lead, you could have won the ace, played four rounds of diamonds ending in your hand, then led to the ace of spades to cash the last diamond. But no use despairing of what could have been... can you see the way around the problem?

Just duck the first two spades! On the ace of spades you can drop one of your big diamond spots and the suit will now look like



Now, king, ace, and queen of diamonds will leave you in the right hand to enjoy the fifth diamond.

What if the defense doesn't do your dirty work for you? An astute West might switch after the first spade. If he switches to a heart, he sets up another trick for you there, so he'd probably lead a club. Win that club, cash two rounds of diamonds ending on the board (you never know-- they might be 2-2 this time) and duck a spade. Win the (likely) club return, lead up to the last diamond honor on the table, discard that offensive high diamond from your hand on the ace of spades, and claim your nine tricks.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Who says politicians can't play bridge?

Last week I found myself playing against the current ACBL President, Jerry Fleming, and a former ACBL President, Sharon Fairchild. Sharon and I had a game together two years ago, right after she started her one-year term, so I knew she was a sharp cookie. I hadn't played against Jerry enough to know much about his game.

My partner and I picked up these hands:


Here's the auction:



Jerry, on my left, led a fourth-best five of diamonds. I played the six of diamonds off the board, and was pleased to see it hold. I played off three rounds of hearts to see if my luck was in there too-- and it was! They split 3-3. Rather than figure out what to pitch on the next two hearts, I decided to leave them on the table with the spade ace to get to them later. Since anything that LHO led would be good for me, I led the jack of diamonds off the table (Sharon, East, pitching a discouraging club). West won and led the jack of spades, which ran around to my queen (Sharon playing the three smoothly). I pounded out the last diamond honor and West put another spade on the table. I could stick in the ten and take a whole lot of tricks if LHO had led from KJx or KJxx, as it appeared... would Sharon have made the good play of ducking from Kxx or Kxxx?

I said, "I'm making this play out of respect for you, Sharon," and hopped up with the ace of spades. I made exactly two.

Here's the whole hand:




A great smooth duck from Sharon. When did we let expert players go into bridge politics, anyway?

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Call to Juniors and former Juniors

Bill Pollack, President of the United States Bridge Federation, has sent out a plea to Juniors and former Juniors to help the USBF out in recruiting for the upcoming World Transnational Junior Championship in Turkey and for other Junior events. You can read his press release here.

The Junior programs in North America are dying. Please do anything you can to help.

By the way-- he mentions to contact him several times in his press release, but nowhere does he say how to contact him. Check out the USBF's Contacts page here.

Monday, February 2, 2009

A New Application of the Rabbi's Rule: From the Bermuda Regional Daily Bulletin

John Carruthers puts together the best bulletin in the business, and this year's in Bermuda was no different. Here's his statement on a play I made on Friday:

The Rabbi’s Rule states simply: “When the king is offside singleton, drop it.” McKenzie Myers, who is having a fine tournament, except perhaps for the following hand, helped Alan Douglas find a new application for the Rabbi’s Rule on the following deal from Friday’s Swiss Teams.




Douglas and partner Bill Tucker arrived in three notrump from the South seat. West, Malcolm Lewis, led the ten of spades and Douglas won the jack.. He immediately led a diamond to the queen – Myers played the three! No, he didn’t pull the wrong card, he was merely hoping to mislead declarer and talk him into using a hand entry to repeat the finesse. From his standpoint, Douglas was reluctant to use his heart entry to repeat the diamond finesse, which had no guarantee of winning a second time anyway. After due thought, he played the diamond ace, and the rabbi, wherever he is, smiled.

Check out all of the Bermuda bulletins at the Bermuda Regional web site.