Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Meeting people

Going to US nationals means, among other things, meeting old friends and new interesting people (and reconnecting with those you haven't seen for a while). One of my rising favourites is a relatively new acquaintance, Migry Zur Campanile from Israel. She's one of the best female players there is and her articles in Bridge Today is a great read.

Here's a deal from San Francisco (Women's BAM) where she showed off her lead capabilites. As I have a soft spot for great leads, I got to share this one:

The auction was:
pass - pass - 1D - pass;
1H - pass - 1S - pass;
1NT all pass

What would you lead from:


Migry tabled the J of diamonds, a great choice from that holding, which is often overlooked by lesser players. Actually one of Gunnar Hallberg's favorites also. Layout:


The J went to declarer's K and after a club ducked to the queen, Val Westheimer could reach Migry's hand twice for diamond lead through and down 1 was good for a win on the board.

Check Migry's website at www.migry.com.

Monday, December 10, 2007

San Francisco NABC

Bob, Fred, I and Jerry

San Francisco was a great place for the US Fall Nationals. We did so and so, nothing I would call a success but I guess we didn't embarass ourselves totally either. We won a 1-session BAM, a top-bracket consolation knockout (losing our first match on American soil a mere 14 hours after a 20 hour trip and 9 hour time-zone skip) with Mårten Gustawsson and Gunnar Andersson.

The Blue-Ribbons had us finish 31th out of 104 reaching day 3 (416 pair entering) and the North American Swiss saw us fade to 28th place day 3 (160 teams entering, 40 made it to day 3), playing with Robert Bitterman, Jerry Helms, John Diamond and Brian Platnick.

In the Swiss, a distributional layout started off day 3. The first 2 days boards were shuffled each match but the final day all matches played pre-duplicated boards. South, all white (deal rotated):


The auction went:
1H - pass - 2D - 2S;
pass - 4S - 5D - pass;
6H - pass - pass - X all passed

1H was 11-15 5+suit, 2D was artificial gameforce with at least 3 hearts, pass after 2S denied shortness in spades and 5D was natural. 6H was a reasonable guess, or so I thought.

West obviously thought X was a general vote of mistrust for the contract and failed to lead a diamond, which of course would have resulted in a swift 2 off, instead opting for a surprise attack in clubs. This was lucky for us and I managed to take the first round finesse in diamonds after collecting the trumps for +1310 (need to, no re-entry otherwise after drawing trumps) for +9 imps vs 6D making at the other table.

Britain's David Bakshi found the text-book switch to a heart at his table against 6D, removing the entry to dummy prematurely and declarer was not prepared to finesse in trumps first time around and went down. Well done David!

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Overcalling for the lead - the other way around

Most are familiar with light overcalls with good suits to help partner finding the best lead. What may be overlooked is that overcalls may be made for the opposite reason, to find out what YOU are going to lead.

Still 1st division in Denmark, round-robin 36 board matches. I was dealt this one (red/white):


After pass on my right, I passed and LHO opened 1C. My RHO responded 1D and I slipped in a seemingly meaning-less 1S, Lauria-style (he's overcalling-crazy btw - and ranked no 1 in the world).

The next hand doubled, showing a good hand without suitable rebid and after partner passed and the guy on my right rebid 1NT, leftie raised to 3NT.

So now we pretty mych know a spade lead is unlikely to be successful. Therefore I led a heart.


Jackpot and we cashed out for +50 and 11 imps vs 520 and the other table.

If you think the opponents messed up an easy board, you are maybe correct, but this was arguably one of the best pairs in Denmark and when playing good opponents you certainly need to 'shove' them a little bit.

For whatever reason we won the imps, and you might come to a different conclusion than I do as to the reason for that occurence, we happily took them.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Analysing the auction

Blind leads aren't always that blind. While there may not be much useful info at first glance, there can be inferences to guide you when taking a closer look. Here's a lead problem from the first division in Denmark against declarer Lars Blakset.

My hand:

The auction went:
1S - 2D (FG)
2NT - 3S
4S - 4NT (showing 3+ aces)
5C (cue) - 6S

So, what do we know? What would you lead?

Declarer seems to have hand with scattered minimum strength from 2NT-rebid and refusal to cuebid after 3S. Dummy jumped to slam after hearing a 5C cue. That indicate tricksource and weak clubs. So, I tabled the K of clubs. This was the layout:


Declarer can always make the hand by finessing in spades but went for the percentage line of AK of trumps and running diamonds, pitching clubs. One down when the diamonds didn't break and the trump queen didn't come down. After anything but a club lead, declarer can take the trump finesse in comfort and then try to run diamonds, combining the chances. With a club lead it was decision time right away.

Reaching for opp's bidding motives, i.e. why they bid the way they did can provide the crucial indicators. As always, buyer beware, remember some people just can't be trusted!

Friday, August 31, 2007

Aggressive action

Round of 16 of Spingold we looked horns with Glubok-Ozdil and Coren-Rosenbloom, who the previous round beat 4th seeded O'Rourke (Jacobus, Bocchi-Duboin, Greco-Hampson). We were ahead by 22 going into the last quarter.

This last set Freddan and I played G-O and on the first board they bid good slam cutting the lead to 11. We were 'solid' at both tables the rest of the way going 74-0 on the remaining boards.

Here's a bidding decision from halfway in the set. I had:


All vul and Melih started on my right with 1S. Brian bid 1NT, partner doubled and RHO bid 4S in tempo. What's your call? Is this a problem?

I guess pass would be the mainstream choice, some lunatic might try 5D. I made an aggressive penalty double without trumps because this is a situation where partner wouldn't act on marginal values unless defensive tricks ('grave-yard'). This collected +500 and 7 imps (same contract undoubled at other table) on this layout.


Swap the red kings and 4S makes but I still feel in retrospect that this was clear odds-on double.

Auction analysis often provides the key to going the right way in marginal situations.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

High flyer

Often some of the biggest results come when you've exposed yourself to a sizeable minus and the opponents misjudge and suffer instead. Some people are willing to take risks like that, by choice, others wouldn't dream of it.

What would you do with the following hand after partner opens a mini-NT (10-12) in 1st position with all white and the next hand passes?


Pass, transfer to clubs or go for the juggler with 3NT? Maybe you could catch the next guy with an awkward hand, passing it out. Maybe they bid 4M and are cold for slam.

Kit Woolsey, who's a pretty experienced guy by any standard belongs to category 1; he's willing to shoot it out. He is the one who wrote about 'loading the dice', the 'double flaw' theory etc (classic instructions!) about taking positions, in one of my all-time favorite bridge books "Matchpoints".

Kit bid a confident 3NT in a flash with his LHO on the same side of the screen.

I had xxxx/AKQ9x/AKx/Q and could see that 3NT was very likely to be based on clubs but also that the 'clear-cut' X might not be a winner. 3NT could make with a spade lead or they could escape to 4C when even 3NT undoubled would be a better score for us. On the other hand partner would be more likely to find a heart lead from shortness after X.

Brushing negative thinking aside I reached for the obvious X and another one after the 4C-runout, leaving it to partner to sweat it out.

This time, I can tell you, he wasn't exactly sweating...


Kit didn't buy a great layout for his crew and this went a mere 6 down for -1400 with 4S going down in other direction. Wolff-Morse played 3NT, holding the loss to 14 imps.

As crazy as the 3NT-bid may seem at first sight, it could easily have turned out a winner. What if the K of hearts had been with my partner? Would I have doubled with xxx/AQxxx/AKx/Q? Probably not.

When they try to gun you down, don't be intimidated.
Turn the table.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

What does he have?

Still 2nd set, Woosley-Stewart. Apart from light initials actions going bad, most things go right. Here's a play problem.



Stewart opens 1D on my left, playing Precision and after two passes I jump to 4S (white/red). He's not done and comes back with 5D. Freddan bids 5S (instead of X) and I'm left to play it after K-Q of diamonds are led (divides 7-3).

How to go about it? Play for clubs breaking (ditching your heart loser) or getting hearts right for a club discard?

Starting on trumps , LHO shows out 2nd round and we're reached the crossroads. The answer lies in the 5D-bid at unfavourable vulnerability vs a weak hand. That hand must have at least 11 cards in two suit and not an 'empty' secondary suit (i.e. KTxx or similar). So we play on hearts and make the contract.


Put yourself in opp's position and see what hand(s) would be most likely for the auction.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Lights out

I'm in favor of light opening bids but sometimes they go sour in unexpected ways. A bit unusual, this was the theme twice in the same set vs Stewart-Woolsey in the Spingold quarter-finals. First board of the 2nd set (we sat out the first), I opened 1H in first position white/red with:


This pinpointed the heart situation and propelled them to a cold 6D after a 2D overcall when our teammates went down in 3NT on a heart lead after having the auction to themselves, costing us 16 imps.

Later, my partner had also in first position (red/white):


We open hands like this routinely and have the system to prevent us from getting to high without reason. This time it caught Woolsey with:


He jump overcalled 2H (favourable) and when we got to 3NT this was easily defeated on a heart lead.


At the other table my hand could open 1NT and after 3NT and a high spade lead, it was imperative for West to find the heart shift. That wasn't a clear by any standards and the game came home for 12 imps away.

I'm sure the Granovetters would enjoy these boards... ;-)

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Lethal lead

Still Swiss practise session, we sit down against the fierce Jon Baldurson of Iceland. 1NT (13-15) to your right, 3S from Jon (your LHO), showing 1-3-(54/45) and 3NT concludes the bidding. Your lead from:


Freddan chose a killing heart on this layout:

Teammates were +180 for a 6 imp win. Still could have beaten it with a heart shift on a spade lead but if partner had Qxxx then a spade continuation might be required if declarer has four hearts. Partner needs Jx or xxx in diamonds for us to beat it.

Always satisfying to watch partner hitting perfectly!

Monday, August 6, 2007

Close call

Spingold day 1, we got a bye because only 74 teams entered (we were no 13 seed). We did a practise session with the team at a Swiss. Freddan did well on this hand. He had:


Partner opened 1D and he relayed to find out that my hand was 1-4-4-4 and 11-13 and placed the contract in 5C as I had bid NT on the way as a conventional reply(wrong-siding 3NT). Herbst (of Israel, can't tell which one of the brothers ;) led a trump.



Frederic won with the ace in dummy and led a spade to the king and ace and another trump return, taken in hand. The early play had revealed that the remaining trump was with RHO. He now ruffed a spade in dummy and led the queen of H. This lost to the K and LHO continued with the queen of D.

He won in dummy, entered his hand in hearts to ruff the remaining spade, led a diamond to the K and cashed the trumps, squeezing West in the red suits for +400.

At the other table, the auction was 1C - 3NT and as West had AJx/K9xx/QJTx/xx this was an easy +430 and we lost an imp.

There are worse ways to lose an imp.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Spingold semi

Nashville was a pretty good tournament. We lost in the round of 4 to Nickell, the defending champs and repeat winners, after leading with 30 halfway and by 15 going in the last quarter. Somehow they always get the set of boards they need and a Meckwell rally turned around the match.

Teammates were great to be around and it was a lot of fun, apart from the strong disappointment after the last loss of course.

I know Meckstroth a bit from various occasions we've met over the years but only played short matches and pairs against him and Rodwell before. Playing 16 set boards against them at this stage was an interesting and quite different experience. Hard to explain without getting into 'psycho babble'.

Next time...

Thursday, July 19, 2007


I'm leaving for Nashville tomorrow and after returning home for just a couple of days, leave for the National pairs here in Sweden. I'm not bringing my laptop so there probably won't be any postings in a couple of weeks or so. Back to normal 2nd week in August.

I'll probably have lot of material then and just need time/energy to write it up. (Still have many deals from Turkey, btw.)

See ya.

More lead theories

When Johan Bennet (European Pairs Champion, Cavendish winner, Bermuda Bowl bronze) was doing his deep thinking about leads and doing simulations, almost 15 years ago, he came up with another one I've practised faithfully ever since. And this has been a big winner over the years. Trust me.

It concerns what lead strategy you should adopt after (1NT) all pass. He purposed this algorithm:
a) With a 5-card suit, lead it.
b) With 4333, lead the 4-card suit.
c) With 4432, lead the weaker 4-card suit.

Where the break-off point is concerning c) when the suits get closer to each other in quality hasn't been discerned. Some things are too tough to call.

I'm not breaking down the details, but higly recommend this approach. An important side-effect is that it also makes it easier for partner when making decisions later in the deal if you know this algorithm is followed. After 1NT-opening, not much information is disclosed on suits lengths.

The secret is out.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Rare species

Some people use an opening bid of 4NT to ask for specific aces (5C-reply denying one). I used to play that one to but can only vagely remember one occurence in the 80's. In the last Swiss match from the second qualification stage in Turkey, I had this animal against the Auken team from Denmark:


I noticed I was in 4th position with all white and thought that this hand almost was a match for that convention, but usually someone finds a bid before that.

After three passes to me (surprise ;), I opened a strong 1C and got a 0-8 1D-reply. Still no opposing intervention. I now could roll out our 'little' version of the specific ace-ask, a jump to 3NT in this auction is just that (1H is relay with strong hands).

Partner replied 4C, no ace, and I called it quits in 4S. Dummy had:


The queen of clubs didn't come down doubleton and +450 was worth +11 imp when my hand drove to slam vs a weak 2 in H.

Eric Kokish sometimes refer to "the great shuffler in the sky" who distributes the opposing hands and determines the outcome of a contract (and where the imps end up).

In my mind, the great shuffler got this one right.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Hot shot

There were an almost inordinary number of interesting lead problems in Turkey. Some were solved to satisfaction, some were not. We got the majority right but leads are a tricky business. Here's one of the easier. You have:


The auction goes:
- 1D
1H 1S
2C 2N
3D 3N

What's your choice?

It's often correct to attack dummys first suit in these sort of auctions as you know declarer is short (no preference). I led the queen of hearts and hit the jackpot.


That's a way to keep partner happy ;-)

At least two players I know of (Bertheau & Martens) led a low H from the other hand after 1D-1H;1S-3N. Not so against teammates in our match after same auction.

I don't like that auction even if practical bidding surprisingly often, at the table, gets better results than a scientific, explorative approach. Against us North should have jumped to 5D over 3N as the stiff H was pinpointed.

When you're going scientific, don't forget to think.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Too much

Competing against a strong 1C-opening is a delicate business. You try to make life difficult for the strong side by taking away space and/or add some confusion to the mix. There are two inherent dangers to this task: getting caught for a number or revealing to much information that can be used to find/avoid level/strain or helping out declarer.

It's often a matter of providing just the "right" degree of annoyance. Here's a deal from the Antalya round-robin where opponents went to the well one to many. I had:


Partner opened 1C and my RHO overcalled 1NT showing C & H or D & S. I passed as our agreement is that any action is forcing to game and the next guy jumped to 3C (pass/correct). Freddan jumped to 4H and after pass, I couldn't find reason enough to bid. I had a seriously good hand but partner may be just taking a shot at game, hoping/expecting something useful in dummy. With a very strong hand, partner do have the option of doubling 3C.

When my LHO backed in with 4S (now knowing that his partner had D & S) and partner pushed on with 5H, I was handed a blueprint (partner void in spades, not too much in D) and I had an easy raise to 6H.


I would've just overcalled D's with that East hand. I don't know the auction at the other table but slam wasn't reached.

There's a fine line between competeting and overcompeteting. Try not to cross it.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Busy summer

On another note, we've taking a trip to the Summer NABC in Nashville.

We're playing the Spingold with Roy Welland, Christal Henner, Antonio Sementa and Chris Willenken.

Sounds like fun to me.

Forensic analysis

An interesting deal for me, on the topic of bidding judgement, was this one. It's from the first half (bd 6) of the Open Team semi-final against the Indian team Texan Aces and it was a disaster for us.

What would be your action (vul/nonv) after 1C (16+ unbal / 17+ bal) from partner, negative 1D reply from you (any 0-8) and your LHO preempts with 3C which is followed by two passes?


I thought this was difficult. The choices are pass, X and 3D. Let's break it down.

Pass: Kind of feeble since partner may have passed with a decent hand. The vulnerability favors action in the sense that the award for a making game is premium compared to defending, but negative in the sense that an opposing penalty double risks a larger minus score. Our values are very defensive oriented and the lack of controls (no ace or king) makes it less likely that we'll make a game, either off in top tricks, defensive ruffs or a losing finesse into the non-preempter. We do have internal fillers in hearts to help overcome a bad break in that suit should it become our trump suit.

3D: Pathetic suit and risks losing the heart suit on a 4-4 fit. Also makes it impossible to defend 3C X if partner is loaded behind declarer. Does make it easier to reach 3NT if that's our best spot. Lack of aces/kings suggest that 3NT may make more often than 4H.

X: Most flexible call as we can defend right there, play a suit contract at the 3-level and it brings in several suits in the equation. Big downside is that you suggest/promise length in a suit which you don't have. If partner bids spades, we have to pass. With spades and another suit, we're probably ok if it's the majors as partner will bids hearts at 3-level and use the cue-bid at the 4-level to locate the best fit. Partner's pass however makes it less likely to find both majors unless minimum with short diamonds (which would be ok btw as we won't have much wasted then). If partner has 4-4 in spades and diamonds, he's going to bid 3S if not interested in game which's a con.

What should it be?

Eric Kokish has written "when in doubt, choose the most flexible action". There's a lot to that piece of advice and I X'ed.

Let's look at this auction from the other end of the table. You have:


What would be your call over 3C ? I think most would pass, as would probably I. If you'd gotten a 3C-opening on your right, I think you should overcall 3NT.

After 3D from partner, you should bid 3NT, burying spades. The semi-flat shape and lack of aces is worrying for 4S and the biggest warning sign of all: Kxx in the suit your RHO has preempted in.

What to do if partner X's ? Your choices are 3S, 4S and 3NT. What are the factors on this hand?

Let's give partner a semi-suitable hand:


What contract do you want to play? Well, as long as the preempter doesn't hold two aces, 3NT is going to make. How about 4S? That's going down whenever there's a ruff available. If partner has 4 card spades, 4S if better if he has an ace (by my estimations). Whenever partner has 3 card spades, you want to play 3NT. Give partner:


4S has no chance, 3NT makes with spade queen onside. We can go on like this, but my money is on 3NT. The Kxx of clubs is worthless in 4S. Either partner is short or he's got length and then there's a ruff and the lack of aces will kill us.

Sometimes partner also X's with less attractive shape. Say you've got:


You don't really want to sell out to 3C, do you? If partner has one of these, we must play in 3NT. So, for my money, I believe 3NT is a clear winner after X. And it's all in that Kxx of clubs.

At the table, I chose X, Freddan responded 4S and opp's X'ed for -500. Freddan suggested that I should have bid 3D and that he should have bid 3S.


At the other table, Craig overcalled 4C after (1S) - pass - (1NT) - ? and got out for -300. Teammates expected a pick-up from that one with 3NT on for +600.

So what happened in the other match? Since that was on BBO viewgraph, I've pulled the details from the archive. Let me tell you, this was not an easy deal to cope with.

Ramondt-Westra (Dutch Orange 2 team) opened 1NT and sold out after 1NT - pass - pass - 3C for +50 our/their way. Pachtman-Ginossar for the event winners Bessis (France/Israel) ran into the same 4C-overcall after 1S-1NT as the Texans did against our teammates, but after X then Ginossar tried 4H on my hand and also lost -500.

Teammates turned out, in practise, to have the worst result of all tables in play, losing imps to all the others in spite of getting it absolutely right to the extent that they could. Had Craig settled for 3C, I'm sure opener would've tried 3NT and the loss would have even greater. It's not a fair game in that sense; sometimes you can't win, just minimize the loss.

The bulletin provided their usual insight (duh!) reporting that "Wrang/Nilsson's strong club methods proved unable to cope with high-level club interference." As I've demonstrated this had very little to do with methods (after the 1C-opening) and everything to do with bidding judgement. Judgement that was not as fine-tuned at this point as it had been most of the week so far.

Time to close this casket.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Facts and the bulletins

Craig/Scottish legend Irving Gordon/PO Sundelin

Apparently, bulletin staff don't always know what happens on a deal and assumes something. Time is short when you've got a report to write you may be forgiven, I guess. Case in print from the semi-final. I had:


The bidding started on my right with an 2S showing 8-11 hcp and a (5)6 card suit (according to cc). LHO raised to 4S and it was my lead.

A blind lead from the minors did not attract my attention. I've seen more than a few of these where 4 tricks were cashable and the wrong lead resulted in overtricks instead, for example if a strong diamond suit would hit in dummy. I led therefore the ace of hearts. Dummy went down with:


Partner discouraged with the 7 and I promptly shifted to a diamond to dummys ace, partner signalling strength this time. Declarer played a spade to hand, partner following (declarer only 5) and led the T of clubs. What do you do? Quick decision!

I played low as I could see only one heart, one diamond and I figured a club misguess was our best shot. Declarer ran it and made 10 tricks on this layout:


Declarer could now repeat the club finesse but it didn't matter, it's easy to ruff your losers in dummy and come to 10 tricks. A misguess was our only shot. This deal cost 6 imps when our comrades missed this one in the first half against Texans.

According to the bulletin, I shifted to a low club in trick 2 and they claimed that a diamond lead and passive defence (including club cover) sinks the contract.

Think again.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Antalya - day 5

Bronze team

Championships are officially over for us!

We got a bronze medal after a comeback win against the Polish open team (for Bermuda Bowl in Shanghai) in the quarter-final and losing against the Indian team Texan Aces (who beat Dutch Orange 1 comfortable in their QF) by 50-something in the semi.

The match against the poles was a real emotional outburst in the second half when we started coming back after being 26 down at the half. Freddan and I played very well and got them by bidding and playing practically double-dummy.

Here's a cool hand from the second half. I had:


Red/white and a 11-14 Precision-style 2C-opening on my right, first position. I overcalled 2H, a bit agressively but you have to get in the auction. Next hand bid 4C, partner bid 5C showing void with support and tghe next hand passed. I was always going to slam now but wanted to check a bit for the grand slam so I tried 5D. Partner jumped to 6H and when the next hand sacrificed, after a tank, I bid 7H.

I figured we needed the grand making to be able to win the match (deja vu from Spingold QF against Zia; see 'Down memory lane' post). This is what I got:



I counted the hand and finessed LHO for the queen of diamonds to pick up 16 imps vs 4S X going for 800 at the other table !

After a short break we had to go back in for the semi and it felt like we were a spent team and the Indians were on a roll. It was over pretty quickly. Teammates were ok, Freddan and I got a few wrong. It wouldn't have mattered, I think.

Big thanks to our teammates who played very well and are absolutely fabulous guys to be around.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Antalya - day 4

Where are the always stunning Lavazza girls who usually serves coffee at these events ??

The Norwegian match was a riot. We were up 63-2 at the half and they almost conceded but the 3rd pair wanted to play some so we played on pretty quickly (and sloppy) to end the match at 103-25.

Here's a nice system triumph on board 5 of the match. Freddan had:


Partner opens 1D in 1st position (nv vs v) showing 11-13 balanced/5M332 or 11-15 unbal with a 4-card major and the next hand X's. What should you do?

At the other table they bid 1S and rebid 2H over 1NT and went 1 down for -50. Freddan passed which could systematically conceal a constructive hand and the auction went (1S) - pass - (1NT=18-20) - ?

Frederic wielded the axe and led a low spade.


Spade went J, Q, K and declarer continued with ace of diamonds and the queen. I won and shifted to a low club. +800! Not a reason to abandon that treatment...

Second match (round of 16) we played the top ranked Bulgarian team which was a real close match. Our team were down 6 at the half and 18 with 2 boards left.

Not a lot happened at our table. We were pretty solid and only missed one chance (that I can think of at this moment) to gain imps.

There were a lot more action at the other table and Alon & Craig came through in the end with 2 big results after having recorded -670 on an early board in the set. They bid, and made, a grand from the wrong side of the table (a ruff was available for the defence) which they missed against us (it was right-sided at our table; no ruff possible).

On the last board Freddan made 2S for +110 and Alon got to 3NT vulnerable the other way and made it on misdefence. Win by 5.

Die another day.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Antalya - day 3

Freddan checks when Fredin-Fallenius practise bidding.

We ended nr 6 in the Swiss and picked a Norwegian team for the knockout tomorrow. It was a little rollercoaster today with a huge loss against the Mahaffey team at table 2. We met Fredin – Fallenius and lost about all 50 imps right there at our table. They did everything right and we got a few wrong. 0-53!

Then we played the De Botton team with Hacketts and Sandqvist-Malinowski and won 62-0! Out of 10 boards, teammates doubled Nick & Arthur no less than 6 times, all contracts going down in various numbers !!

The last match we beat Denmark with Auken - SC et al 24-6 to finish in a top position. (Left out a few less interesting match results ;)

Here’s board 2 from Apteker-Mahaffey (N-S/E):



Auction went:

1C – (p) – 1S - (2S)
p – (p) – 3C - (p)
3H – (p) – 3S - (p)
3NT all pass

1C was balanced or clubs, 1S was relay with balanced invitation or any strong hand.

Low spade lead to the ten and ace. Fredin cashed the queen of clubs and when the 9 came from RHO (me), he played a club to the 7 and picked up JTxx and 13 imp when the next hand discarded, with both red kings onside.

Alon didn’t copy that one after a similar auction and went 2 down. When opp's get those hands right, it's hard to win.

We're still standing and ready for the showdown tomorrow.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Dummy play

The great Dane - Niels Krojgaard.

Another interesting deal from the last evening match was this 3NT against the great Dane. After 1S-1NT;3H-3NT, I got a low club (attitude) lead and looked at the following:



I won the ace and ducked a spade from dummy to the 2, 7 and J. West cashed the ace of D, got a discouraging high diamond spot and got out with a low spade which I won in dummy.

When I now cash my spades, East discards an encouraging H and some low diamonds. With one spade left in dummy this is the position:



What should I discard on the last spade?

I could now instead leave the spade trick and play two rounds of heart ending in my hand and win if West had the K of D (3-2-3-5).

If heart were 1-5 I should cash the last spade throwing my small heart and would win if:
a) West had the minor suit K's (reading the end game depending on West's discards - which minor to exit in)
b) West's singleton is Q/J/T, with East having to give dummy two hearts in the end after winning the diamond (this wouldn't work if West kept diamonds then but he had discarded one on the spades).

I believed hearts were 1-5 from the play but wasn't certain about the high diamond. I went for option no 2, cashing the last spade (stranding the heart K), and made it when Niels had the remaining honors. Full hand:


+600 was worth +10 imps vs a spade partscore.

Deals like this makes the time spent on a card game worth it.

Antalya - day 2

Playing area.

Teammates had a bit of a rough day, especially in the morning match which we lost 7-23. We still won our group pretty easily and headed in to the Swiss A with 6 VP carry-over.

Swiss A consists of 7 rounds and 27 of 42 qualifies for the knockouts starting Monday (remaining 5 from Swiss B). We started at table one and won against a Russian with 17-13 and then lost to a Danish team (Pharmaservice) with 14-16. These were both high-scoring matches, 35-27 and 34-37 over 10 boards each!

Lead after opp's short auction goes 2C (Precision-style) - 3NT from:


Leading a spade seems rather clear, but which one?

I tried a high one and this was the layout.


Lousy bidding from the Russians with 6D on, which our teammates bid very competently. After a high spade, playing upside down count & attitude, the danger of blocking the spades loomed ahead if partner encourages with the 2. Freddan overtook with the ace in tempo and returned the 9.

Not really complicated, but yet so beautiful...

Friday, June 22, 2007

Antalya - day 1

Just before kickoff. Alon/me/Craig/Frederic

We started today with 4 matches out of a total of 7 for the first roundrobin stage. 3 qualify directly and the remaining have another go in the repecharge. We are seeded 3rd in our 8 team group and have started well, amassing 90 out of 100 VP (best in any group so far). Tomorrow we face stiffer competetition (top seeds)

Our teammates have played very well. Craig has lots of robber bridge in London under his belt and has represented South Africa many times internationally. Here is a couple of deals where he showed his mettle.

First a lead against a slam after this auction:


(1D) - 2H - (2S) - 3H
(4H) - pass - (6S) all pass

You have:


Craig first played it cool with 3H to see what was going on (prepared to go on to 5H later) and then he led a club after listening to the auction, which was the killing shot on this layout:


As we played 5S for +680 this meant +13 imp instead of -13 imp.

Then he stuck his neck out in the 'grave yard' (se previous posts) by doubling nonv vs v after:
pass - (1S) - pass - (1NT);

... with x/K9876/Q9xx/K9x. This collected +500 when partner held QTxx/JT/AKx/AT8x!

We never exposed ourselves to this as I opened 1D instead on AKJxx/Qxx/Jxx/Jx. Next hand overcalled 1NT and Craig's hand drove to 4H going 2 down for +12 imp.

So far so good.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

3NT as takeout - revisited

Checking the bulletin from 3rd Open European Ch in Turkey today I came across this one from the mixed R32 match. You have:


The auction went pass from RHO, pass by you and 3S from LHO (Soulet) and partner X's for takeout. You are red against white, what would be your choice?

Espen Erichsen chose 3NT and made it after some discomfort (missguessing clubs) on a high spade lead for +600 on this layout.


This was a 10 imp gain when a modest 2S-opening by Tor Helness at the other table was passed out for -150. Excellent off-shape takeout X of 3S by the way with a doubleton heart ;-)

If you played the Marston 3NT takeout reply convention, you would have passed 3S X, probably cursing the convention, and collected +800.

Another way to win with a convention; when it prevents you from choosing a bid that would lead to a lesser score. Funny game.

I'm leaving for Turkey myself tomorrow. Play starts Friday for Open teams and we're on team Apteker if you want to check up on us. I'll try to post everyday if I can find Internet access without too much hassle.

Monday, June 18, 2007


You don't win the datum in a national playoff without getting some deals right yourself. Here Freddan made short work of a game with perfect play.



After dummy showed 16-19 with 4 hearts and a longer undisclosed minor, South invited and game was reached from the weak side. West led a low ambiguous spade spot, declarer won with the ace, unblocked the J of C and led the 9 of H. West won the king and shifted to a low diamond ruffed in dummy.

Freddan now abandoned trumps and just pumped clubs. That was a winner on this layout (the only other declarer in 4H went 3 down with same lead).


It would have been better for the defence to continue spades, but it's not always easy to find the optimal continuations even for very good players (West is on all-time high top 10 master point list in Sweden).

With dummys trump length preserved it would have been human to fall prey to the temptation of another round of trumps, going down when East can draw two rounds and play a diamond with a trump left to prevent the club suit running and dummy now without entries.

Freddan's table presence is excellent and I'm sure he would have gotten it right anyway.

Such a joy to be the dummy ;-)

Thursday, June 14, 2007

3NT as takeout

Paul Marston was, and is, an innovator. He's the father of the Moscito system (still evolving) and had various bidding ideas back in the day. One of the early ones I saw from him was using 3NT as takeout in reply to partner's X of 3M.

If he still uses that convention, I don't know. Here are three deals from 1985-86 Australian Bridge magazine featuring Marston-Burgess, from actual play or bidding contests.

Deal 1


(3H) - X - (p) - 3NT
(p) - 4D all pass

Deal 2


(3S) - X - (p) - 3NT
(p) - 4D - (p) - 4H
(p) - 5C - all pass

Deal 3


(3H) - X - (p) - 3NT
(p) - 4C - (p) - 4H
(p) - 5H - (p) - 6C
all pass

Impressive (although the last one looks a bit weird to me). With a natural 3NT-reply I guess you'll pass.

I've never used this one myself but I like it. I've wanted to play it but no partner has been willing. It seems like a useful tool to sort out a potential messy situation. The times I've bid 3NT natural in this auction are so few I can't now remember a single one right now but I'm sure there has been some over the years.

If you try it, pls send deals where it came up, good or bad.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

I am the judge - 1

I got this deal in my mail and was asked for an opinion about it.


1C - (2S) - X - (p)
3H - (p) - 3NT - (p)
4D - (p) - 4H - (p)
5D - (p) - slooooooooow pass - (p)

1C was 17+, 2S weak and X was 7+.

Suits broke normally and a making slam was missed. Should any critisism be handed out?

What about X? Information about the definition of 2NT is lacking. Had that been natural and gameforcing that would have been a winner. 3NT I don't like even if natural. Takes away so much space from a strong hand that hasn't had the chance to start describing its suits/features.

3H was pretty clearcut and 3NT was obvious in spite of heart support with KQx in spades and minimum values without any aces/kings in other suit(s). 4D was another no brainer. Then what?

I think East had an interesting choice over 4D. 4H was an ambiguous bid that could have been made on KQx/Jx/Jxx/QTxxx or similar. It doesn't guarantee 'real' heart support, more like Hx but have have xxx (as here). QTxx in diamonds is a really, really good holding. For game purposes H's are fine, for slam we'd want to play in diamonds.

I like a simple raise to 5D, which I'm sure would be a real minority view in a bidding poll. Everybody and his mother would consider a 4H-call a nonproblem. But 5D shows real diamonds, i.e. 4 or more, while limiting the hand and the lack of black suit cuebid suggests bad outside values. It conceals the heart length which may be important for both positive and negative inferences for partner (e.g. with AKxxx in H he may assume no losers). But 4H does nothing good for diamonds.

I'd therefore have prefered 5D to 4H, but 4H is acceptable. Maybe. The diamond QT is a strong indicator that partner has lots of aces/kings. Why?

Partner is likely to have either strong/semisolid suit(s) and is looking for A/K fillers or has lots of A/K's and is looking for fit. Diamond QT indicates the latter and that fitting length may be more important than fitting controls. If partner's hand is in between, he'll pass 5D.

What should West bid over 4H? Now the lack of confirmed fit comes breathing down his neck. Over 5D it would have been an easy raise to slam. After 4H, it's uncomfortable. He might have tried 6D (or 4S) but 5D is a forward going move and stresses the length/fit issue as he passes both 4S/5C where he clearly is able to cuebid at least one of them. He is afraid that while there may not be a lot of quick losers, it's also a matter of counting your winners and without prime fit, 12 tricks may be too far off.

He lacks interior spot cards to help overcome a potential bad break in either red suit. But he has all six aces! Partner will be conservative when faced with a marginal decision without any of them (which he obviously can't have when we're looking at all of them ;).

I think West could have done more over 4H but I like 5D as this should be "fit-asking". I think East failed to draw the correct conclusions about the bidding at that point when he really should have raised to 6D.

What about a jump to 5D over 3NT? I think that should show a minimum but good 5-6 hand, like x/AKJ9x/AKJTxx/K. A hand that needs a fitting hand with outside aces for slam and can't pass 3NT in comfort because slam may still make and 5D may be the game to play.

West: 15%
East: 85%

This is the technical assessment of the auction.

Adjustment may be called for depending on your judgement of East's ability. Sometimes you have to take responsability, being the captain in the auction, and be willing to take the blame for a bad call if things go wrong because the technical and theorethically "correct" auction may not get the job done with the partner you have.

You need to know his strengths and weaknesses and use that knowledge. Therefore West maybe should get a bigger percentage for not just driving to slam (maybe 30-35%; with some East players even a lot more perhaps reversing the verdict). With some players West would get close to 0%.

Do remember that positive expectations goes a long way to getting good table results.

Send me your slam auction mishaps for clinic review. Names may be withheld.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Magic layout

The magic layout didn't come up in my 6C (a contract which certainly didn't deserve to make) but some got saved on this hand. Without making excuses for not winning the event by playing better ourselves I do notice that this hand, from the 2nd last match, spelled m-a-g-i-c for the other medal winners.



At our table West opened 1NT and I overcalled 2C for majors. Freddan jumped to 4H and made +650 on a club lead and cross-ruff. Our opponents got to 3NT against teammates which of course made on a club lead when the diamond suit was running.

Sjöberg-Axelsson, for the event winners (one VP ahead of us in final standings), won 11 imps for +660 (vs +150) and the 3rd placers (whom we beat on imp quotient) won 10 imps for +690 (vs +200).

Changing the diamond layout would've made at least a 5 VP difference in our favor (each table going several down in 3NT vulnerable for sizeable swings in all matches; number of VP's depending how many down).

And I would have one less story to tell.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Bidding decision

Finding some more deals from the disappointing GNT, I had this hand:


I opened 1D (11-13 bal/5M332 or 11-15 unbal with 4-card M) and rebid 2C, showing 4 hearts and 5+ clubs, after partner's 1S-response. With a maximum 4-6+, a had a 3C-jump available.

Freddan bid 2D, artificial gameforce with 5+ spades (with GF and only 4 spades, our intial response is 2C), and I rebid my clubs. Should this hand take further action after partner bids 3NT?

For many I think this would be an automatic pass, but I was concerned that 3NT might not make if partner doesn't have the ace of clubs. Spade lead or red suit lead and spade shift and this hand may be a dead duck.

There was also the possibility that partner had fitting extra values and slam would be making but his lack of sufficient club support forced him to fold in 3NT. He didn't bid 3NT directly, so there had to be some reason, which could be anything from right siding 3NT to exploring slam if I had a maximum with 3-card support (yes, we actually don't raise directly with 5431's, which probably put us in a 1% minority, but there are logical reasons for that of course).

The fact that the heart suit was kind of feeble pointed against a club contract but those could be discarded on dummy's high cards (possibly) if partner couldn't provide any help in that suit. Of course 5C could be down with 3NT making but the risk of the reverse outcome with the added chance of a making slam made a 5C jump a winning call in my view. I obviously had to have a self sufficient suit for that and I hadn't jump rebid 3C to show max so partner should know I wasn't trying for slam. With some "semi" slam interest I could try 4C + 5C over 3NT (still protected by failure to rebid 3C in a strong club context).

My 5C put partner a bit on the spot with J98xx/Axx/ATxx/A. He later agreed that he should have passed but at the table he felt compelled to raise to 6C with all those aces, not quite drawing the conclusions I hoped for.

6C went down of course, when the magic KQ pointed (to the left) in hearts failed to materialize. Played at 10 tables, two went down in 3NT on a spade lead (see!), one went down in 5H (?!), three made 5C (hearts played for two losers) and three made 3NT with an overtrick after a non-spade lead.

Did I make life to hard on partner? Maybe. On the other hand I don't have to change a whole lot in partner's hand for slam to be making. He did have 3 aces but otherwise a dead minimum for a gameforce against 11-15. With KQxxx instead of Jxxxx in spades, 7C would make with spades 4-3, and he would have bid the same way.

C'est la vie.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Look no further

Almost as if by syncronicity, this deal showed up at the ongoing US trials for Shanghai.

Auction (Stansby-Rosenberg) was 1C-1S; 1NT (weak) - 3NT. What would you lead from:


Even with a thorough comprehension of canapé leads, it would be hard to not lead a diamond at the table. Teammates might be less than forgiving if a club is wrong.

Nerves of steel would have gotten you the prize as the canapé lead, once again, was the trick winning move.


The diamond lead gives away a trick and the contract immediately. After a club lead, declarer can still make it but may go down by finessing in diamonds at some point. The long suit lead also gives away information which helps declarer with the heart position, info which would be lacking after a club lead. We'll never know if Stanby would've had made it (given the chance) as the actual West led a diamond.

And another deal went to the evidence room.

Thanks to 'free' for reporting the deal; I haven't gotten around to the USBF deals just yet.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Going for the canapé lead?

At the Swedish GNT, on viewgraph, I had the following collection:


The auction was 1D by partner, 11-13 bal/5M332 or 11-15 unbal with 4-card M (any 4441 or m-canapé), X by RHO, I passed and LHO jumped to 3C. RHO concluded with 3NT and I had to find a lead.

Thinking about the canapé lead theory and feeling that the diamond suit was pretty anemic (partner hadn't promised any diamonds but was unlikely to hold a void on the auction), I led a spade. This seemed like the best chance to build tricks with known strength in partner's hand (he could also have 5-card spade suit in our system).

This really struck out and let the contract make on this layout.


This time we got no second chances to beat the contract. Tempo and a trick was lost. Was this unlucky or was justice made? I think it was unlucky but maybe I'm not totally objective. X implied shortness in diamonds so partner was very likely to hold at least three. 3NT was pretty aggressive and this time he was empty in H's.

This was sort of a reverse situation of the canapé lead theory in the way that the long suit would not give away a trick if partner was short. The 3C jump implied a source of tricks and that we needed to attack and it was the short suit lead that was the more attacking option. What about that.

I still like my lead. In theory anyway.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Canapé leads

A topic that resurfaced in BBO forums last year http://forums.bridgebase.com/index.php?showtopic=16087 was the question about what to lead vs 3NT with 5-4; the longer or the shorter suit?

The question was first raised on a blog http://freebridge.blogspot.com/2006/08/what-lead-with-5-4-against-nt.html and I commented, referencing Paul Marston from a long time ago. Paul, I even talked to him in person about his hypothesis at one time, claimed that leading the shorter suit will collect more tricks.

As I recently found the original article from Australian Bridge (February 1986) I thought it would be interesting to re-visit this theme. Paul was playing with Stephen Burgess, a very successful partnership, at the time and this was a joint observation. The main reason why long suit leads work out badly is that partner is usually short in the suit. "This should be no surprise, because if the opponents have no good fit, nor do you."

"Ideally you would know when to take the risk associated with an attack and indeed it will often be clear that you must start aggressively by leading your long suit. The enemy bidding may have been very strong, or your cards may be lying very well for declarer and you will sometimes conclude that you muct pin all your hopes on your long suit lead striking blood. These clear situations, however, are not common so you will ususally have to fall back on general principles."

"The 4-card lead has a balance of aggression about it. It may be hitting at declarer's weakest point and, if it is, the declarer will be helpless. The defenders will have good communications since both probably hold four cards in the suit, rendering such standard techniques such as the hold-up play useless."

So what was his verdict on canapé leads back then? Paul analysed a 500 deal sample (notrump hands of about game strength where the leader had a 4-card suit and a longer side suit), the 4-card lead took more tricks overall (773 vs 746 on the 180 deals where the lead mattered) and the 5-card lead beat 3NT more often (52 vs 40).

A potential problem is that partner may not later realize that you have another longer suit that should be attacked upon gaining the lead.

I've used canapé leads to good effect many times, more than once regretted occasions when I didn't honor this advice. Paul concluded:
"Canapé leads are a winning style overall, but not on every single hand."

Further down the road:
Johan Bennet has done general simulations (back in ca 92/93) on whether you should attack or not with a 5-card suit after 1NT-3NT (disregarding presence of 4-card side suit). His finding was that with an ace somewhere (not necessarily in led suit), you should lead the 5-card suit, otherwise go passive. To summarize his findings: you need an entry.

I always keep these observations in mind. Maybe you should too.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

No more?

Yesterday I got a SMS from our family doctor asking about the lack of updates here. I guess I should be thankful someone reads it. "Is it dead?", he asked (typical medical qustion ;).

No, but it's definitely slowing down. It takes time and effort and I now need a little rest from this. I've started a book project and is doing some teaching over the Internet. It all takes time and I'm not a full-time pro; I've got 3 little kids, a house and a full-time day job. Something's gotta give.

I'll write when I feel like or when I've played or read/watched something that can be written about.

In a few weeks I'll be going to Antalya, Turkey, for the 3rd Open European Championships. We'll be playing the team event with a couple of South Africans (Alon Apteker & Craig Cower) who's on their Open Team for Bermuda Bowl in Shanghai this fall. That should be a lot of fun and expect a report from that.

We're also booked for the fall NABC in San Francisco (the team events; anyone for the Blue Ribbons?).

Look back here from time to time (or use RSS feeds). I might go back to "posting frenzy" again if the mood comes back.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Meet the 'raccoon'

"What did you do on board 21?" Teammates had played a partscore in spades and we were +800. They were naturally curious. "The raccoon", I replied. My hand was:


We were white vs red and RHO opened 1NT showing 13-16 (only a major if max). I contemplated overcalling a constructive 2H, but settled for the semi-obvious double in the end. They were vulnerable after all.

Bidding continued pass - pass - 2H! That's the raccoon! A bid that makes you mentally do a raccoon imitation, more or less, seriously rubbing your eyes in circles. Did my eyes just trick me! An unexpected bid in your best suit at a level and the foam starts to appear in your mouth. A raccoon is of course normally followed by a penalty double, if possible.

Partner did not have much, so it wasn't a 4-figure score but who cares. You still love that little creature.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Reasoning methodology

A slightly lively auction ended with you having to select a lead against a doubled slam.

2H - (2S) - pass - (3H);
pass - (3NT) - pass - (6S);
X all pass

Partner opened 2H showing 9-12 and 6-card suit. After an overcall and ambigous cuebid, LHO jumped to slam, which partner expressed an opinion about. What do you make of this situation?

Partner is likely to have a minor suit void and the ace of hearts (he knows that's cashing from the bidding). It's not obvious to us which minor he's void in, so how should we reason? Are there any clues?

Go about it this way: If I hit the wrong minor, will we have a chance to recover? With this hand a club lead stands out. If partner has a diamond void, our holding in that suit is so strong that it's unlikely that declarer has 12 tricks (at least not without a serious sweat ;).

So it proved this time.


Freddan led a club for the reasons stated. Declarer went 2 down after ruffing in dummy and trying to cash the ace of diamonds..

'Recovery reasoning' (i.e. if my choice is wrong will we still have a chance?) is a helpful tool when deciding what to lead but also when trying to find the right shift when defending.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Revealing silence

A recurring theme in bridge books are when pointless (according the the authors anyway) actions by opponents reveal the distribution and honor location, thereby mapping the play for declarer. Sometimes it's the other way around. Here's a hand from match 1 against Enjoy Lavec. Freddan had:


In 4th position after three passes he opened 1H (11-15 5+suit). I responded 3C, minisplinter, and he continued with 3S, cuebid. I bid 3NT showing some slaminterest and after 4C, I bid 4H. Should you make another try for slam? If so, how?

Freddan tried 4S and I jumped to 6H.



Low diamond lead to the ace and another, ruffed in hand. Trump extracted (West discarding a diamond; looks 5-3) and you have a choice whom to play for the king of clubs.

As no opposing bidding despite both high cards and distributions, with LHO having KJxxx in diamonds and a likely spade H, a regular club finesse looks like a safe bet as he'd taken action over 1H with that K as well. And so it proved.

It was a classic case of 'the dog that didn't bark'. Watch those dogs.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Winners and losers

There are winners and losers both on and off the table. This weekend we ended up in the latter group in the most exciting finish in the history of the event. Decided on the last board, the event ended with home team SanSac winning one VP before 2 teams (who played each other in the last round), with my team catching silver on better imp quiotient!

It looked like we controlled the event after 3 days but ended with 2 losses for a very disappointing finish. Frederic and I won the datum but faded in the end, playing well below our standard the last day. Time for confessions.

My single biggest weakness is playing too fast at times. Then things go wrong. Here is a classic mistake from the last match.



After a 1D opening on my right, showing 11-13 bal or 11-15 unbal with a 4-card major (same as our 1D-opening), I overcalled 2S, CJO (se previous posts on that subject). LHO made a negative X and partner jumped to 4S ending the auction. I got the 5 of H lead (3rd).

This is a real simple hand. Just grab the K in dummy and start setting up diamonds with the ace of H as a re-entry. Lapsing in concentration and playing to fast I inserted the 9 instead to the J and my ace.

At this point I realized my mistake but figured that I was still in the game. I now decided to finesse in hearts (with QJ, RHO might have 'false-carded' with the Q) to get rid of the club loser and go for the cross ruff.

This day justice was served when the lead was from 765, diamonds where 4-2 and spades 2-2 with split H's. I ended up -50 instead of +420, if playing correctly at trick 1, with the rest of the field going 3 down in 3NT the other way, never getting spades in the picture. 12 imp swing; shame on me.

Congratulations to Magnus Berg, Carl Ragnarsson (3rd win in a row), Torbjörn Axelsson, Emma Sjöberg (22nd birthday yesterday), Petter Fryklund and Erik Fryklund (20 years old).

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Playoffs weekend

2006 winners (L to R): Håkan, Anders Palmgren, Peter Fredin, Carl Ragnarsson, me

This afternoon the playoffs for the Swedish Grand National Teams start. 10 teams playing a round-robin through Sunday. Swan is broadcasting the event:

I remember last year fondly. Playing my 12th playoff, I finally found myself on a winning team after being runner-up 7 times!

This year my teammates are Håkan Nilsson-Gunnar Hallberg, Fredrik Björnlund-Krister Ahlesved and Frederic Wrang. Only Håkan and I remain from last year.

Time to go to war.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Defending T-Walsh

T-Walsh has for some unknown reason (to me anyway), internationally, become the name for transfer responses to 1C (natural/balanced).

This transfer treatment to 1C was likely developed independently in various parts of the world. In Sweden Nilsland/Wirgren/Lindkvist, "the Scanians", developed it in the mid-80's. Nilsland-Wirgren played it in their highly sophisticated system Super Standard (collecting bronze in Rosenblum 1986). This system was published in a book 1990 (still available as e-book from Scania Bridgekonsult).

The question today is how you should defend in 4th position after 1C - pass - 1D/H - ? There is no clear 'standard way' or established 'best practises' but here is my prefered defence:

X = general strength, doesn't promise length in other suits, typically balanced or strong unbalanced. Next X is T/O from both, a subsequent 3rd X is penalty from both regardless.

1-lvl cue = 8+hcp, 4-card other major & 5+minor. Lowest club-bid is pass/corret, NT-bid asks for long minor.

1NT = constructive overcall in bid suit: 1C - p - 1D - 1NT = 5+D or 1C - p - 1H - 1NT = 5+H (also works for 1C - p - 1S - 1NT = 5+S).

"cue" = ca 9-13 hcp w/6+suit, natural: 1C - p - 1D - 2D or 1C - p - 1H - 2H.

2-lvl cue = ca 12-16 hcp w/6+suit, natural in shown suit: 1C - p - 1D - 2H or 1C - p - 1H - 2S.

As always as long as you have an agreement, you´re ok most of the time.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Bid with me

Playing imps, I had:


RHO opened 1C (all vul) and I had my first choice: X or 1D.

I like overcalling 1D and dislike doubling with 5332, but this hand would be overdoing it. Bad diamond suit and not enough to take unilateral action again. Better double and be done, which I believe would be an easy majority vote anyway.

Next hand raises to 2C and partner cuebids 3C which RHO doubles. What does partner have? Even for long-standing partnerships, how many knows exacly what partner has? With both M's, why not make a responsive double? Many questions, how about some answers...

This was a regular partnership, but this sequence was not discussed and it wasn't an auction we had encountered before. I figured partner wanted to create a gameforce immediately and didn't guarantee both M's, but strongly suggested it.

Does the double of 3C change anything? Yes, without it, I would bid my suits up-the-line. Now I think 3D should show 5 cards, as I could pass otherwise. I also think 3D denies a M. With a major I could also pass and besides, I'm a strong advocate for overcalling with 5431's so I'm unlikely to have a M once I show 5D's.

I wouldn't treat this as a Manco/Mancoff situation with bids showing/denying certain holdings in enemy suit. Partner is looking for M-fit, not stoppers for 3NT. Partner continues with 3H. What now?

I think this shows 5+suit as I don't have 4, but I'm not sure partner shares my view. Well, he's up to something but I just raise to 4H. I think my diamond suit should be better for 4C. Partner isn't done and tries 5C, doubled once again! What is going on?

Partner is clearly interested in slam, but what does he want from us? I don't think it's clear but chose XX to show first-round control and partner bid 5D. No escape - what's your choice?

With a spade control and prime trumps H's, we're now required to bid slam. Does it matter which one? Not being sure if partner had gotten the message about 3D, I decided to jump to 6D despite the weak suit, offering a choice. I hadn't overcalled 1D, had I?

Partner passed, club lead and dummy surfaces with:



Considering the opponents relative silence with an 11-card fit, I play for the trump queen to drop with it does and all the tricks, and a 12 imp gain.

This was a tough hand, and I'm not sure if the relative mild opposing bidding made it easier or more difficult. I didn't really envision his hand, but sometimes you don't have to.

There are situations where the key is trying to figure out partner's hand but there are also situations where this isn't necessary. Evaluate your holdings within what partner can expect and trust partner knows what he's doing.

Be flexible. Don't get stuck trying to figure out partner's hand when you don't have to.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Invite paradox

Sometimes hands come up that are a bit paradoxical. Take this hand:


Partner opens 1NT showing 14-16. Now you have enough to invite game, but only in NT. Your values are to slow for 4S with only one K and no A's. 4S may be a make, but will be against the odds, imps or mp's.

So, try Stayman and pass over 2S and bid 2NT over 2D/2H! Isn't that a kind of paradox? Partner's hand when this one came up:


After a trump lead with both minor finesses off, 8 tricks was the limit. Maybe one should even pass 1NT, but I think that's a bit to pessimistic.

When inviting, to what contract? Controls, i.e. aces and kings, are very important, especially in 4M/5m. In 3NT you can survive with compensating middle cards, lot's of 9/10's.

Take into consideration that hand evaluation may differ even at game level.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Listen to the auction - part 2

You have:


Auction starts on your left by Fred Stewart with a multi 2D showing a weak 2 in either major or some strong alternatives. Kit Woolsey on your right bids 2S, to play in spades and may have game interest in hearts, and he jumps to 4H over Fred's 2NT showing H's and better than minimum. What do you lead?

A member of the Australian OzOne squad chose a passive T of clubs in a BBO practise match against a Bramley squad, resulting in -650. I think a spade is clearcut when you think it through. What does Woolsey have if he doesn't have any game interest vs a weak 2 in spades? Spade honors? Not.



Even with a spade lead, East may go wrong. He may cash the ace of clubs, hoping for 2 spades, a club and a heart instead of shifting to a diamond (fearing that the club in dummy goes away on a diamond H). After a club lead, it was all over. No second chances.

At the other table, the contract was a heart partscore and letting the game make made a 17 imp difference. Not that it mattered that much in a practise match. Ususally hurts anyway ;)

Listen, think, lead...

Friday, May 4, 2007

Another signalling situation

Partnership agreement check. This one was put up on a Swedish bulletin board by Jan Lagerman.


West/NS, auction:
1H - (X) - 4H - (4S) all pass

You lead the obvious high club and partner plays an inconclusive 5 of clubs, playing upside-down attitude, as declarer follows with the queen. What's next?

We can see 3 tricks for the defence (the other high club is cashing since partner would have played the 7 with 75432) and the setting trick must be a club ruff or the K of diamond (if partner has it). So, we cash the ace of H and awaits partner's signal. So far - so good.

The issue is how partner's signal should be interpreted. Either...
a) suit-preference -> low H = club ruff and high H = shift to D
b) attitude -> low H (encour.) = shift to D and high H (discour.) = club ruff

Playing standard attitude and suit-preference, these signals will be the same this time (high H disc = club ruff works out for both 'schools' regardless) but with upside-down attitude you better know how to handle this as it points in different directions.

Our preference/agreement is attitude and partner will know what to do.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007


Playing online creates its own breed of mistakes. sometimes players are 'multi-tasking' and concentration lapses causes mishaps. Mis-clicking is, I believe, the most common one. Here's one from the highest level.

I was watching part of one of the weekly Cayne matches on BBO the other Sunday - a real treat. The matchup I kibitzed was Helgemo-Helsness vs Fantoni-Nunes. One one deal, Geir had this hand:


Partner opened 1S and Geir responded 2C (red/white) when Fantoni overcalled 2D. Tor jumped to 4D (splinter) and Geir trotted out Blackwood. Fantoni wasn't done and came back in with a re-raise to 6D! Tor passed, showing odd number of key-cards. What would you bid?

Double seems kind of obvious, knowing that slam can't make when partner only has 1 ace. Helgemo passed! Which was a better decision than doubling as it turned out that 6D was cold!!


Who would have thought that 6S was a winning sacrifice?

Pass looked really weird, even if you sometimes get the feeling that Geir really can see through the backs of the cards. Checking the evidence (emailing Tor), it turned out that Geir indeed had mis-clicked, intending to double.

You got to pick your occasions for those.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Controlling the losses

Facing a couple of Austrians in a team game, I came across the following collection, red vs white:


LHO opened 2H (weak) as dealer and RHO responded 2NT, forcing. What would you do?

I think most would bid 4S, but I'm very hesitant these days to be aggressive in 4th position after both opp's has gotten a bid in there. The odds for getting good dummies or pressuring opp's into overbidding has seriously decreased. I repeat: seriously decreased. It has finally hit me how much, after spending a considerate amount of time looking through these auctions (actions).

This time though, I probably should have bid 4S anyway. I settled for 3S. I was vulnerable against not and not having doubled 2NT, partner should expect more playing tricks than honor strength. The next hand bid 4H and partner was on the spot with:


I think double is the correct call, but maybe I'm just influenced by what was right this time. I try to look at each call objectively when analysing an auction, post-mortem, but it's not always easy to do that. At some subconscious level, there is always the risk of a biased view. I'm not sure what I would have done over a double. 4S looks a bit tempting, doesn't it?

Anyway, partner hoped for a different kind of hand with me; at this vuln, the 2NT call may have been a semi-psyche with a prime fit and I could easily have had a stiff H. He tried 5C, immediately X-ed, I retreated to 5S and the inevitable X followed.

K of heart lead. This did not look good.



As always, it's not over til' it's over. RHO fell for the old 'play to fast' trap. Sensing blood, he quickly overtook with the ace and shifted to a low spade. Where would we be if our opponents, even the competent ones, played well all the time?

I ducked in hand (with no expectency of a 2nd spade trick, i.e a spade holding without the J, East would have just cashed the ace) winning in dummy as West discarded. The extra entry meant that I could setup club tricks with the ace of diamonds as re-entry to discard hearts and got out for -200. This proved to be a push when the other table played 4S X.

Stop to think both when things look good and when things look bad. Every trick makes a difference. (Sometimes even obvious things need to repeated out loud! ;-)

Friday, April 27, 2007

Listen to the auction

Leading against slams may be nerve-wrecking, especially if you get it wrong. Anonymous auctions can be a nightmare and may be a pure guess without any attractive holdings. Often the opponents have had some sort of long(er) dialogue which means that there are pointers in the right direction available. Sometimes it's downright obvious, sometimes almost obvious; take a little time and the 'solution' stands out.

Take this hand:


Auction (with you silent!):

2C - 2D;
2S - 3C;
3S - 3NT;
4C - 4H;
4N - 5D;
6S all pass

2C strong, 2D waiting, 3C second negative (I guess), 5D 0 keycards.

What do you lead?

Let's see. Declarer has a seriously good hand and launched into Key-Card Blackwood after learning that dummy had a heart control but lacked a diamond one. And we have 2 aces. Don't you think declarer is void in diamonds and has pretty good black suit holdings? I think the heart lead stands out; it's only a matter of which one to pick. This time it didn't matter as long as you picked the right suit.


When this hand came up in the Bermuda Triangle Teams Cup final last weekend, no other than Adam Zmudzinsky didn't lead a heart, going for the 'auto-pilot' high diamond instead. Declarer guessed hearts for +10 imps.

Wait a second. Was this a mistake or a deliberate choice by Zmudzinski? Maybe he didn't miss the fact that declarer was void, maybe he just tried to lead safely; going for a layout where the heart lead would cost a trick, even knowing the king would be in dummy.

I think it was a mistake (xx in clubs increases chances of club length in dummy; declarer not likely to have genuine 2-suiter) and that a low heart is indicted. Whether the mistake was based on faulty reasoning, according to me, or not listening to the auction, i.e. missing the 'pointers', we'll never know.

On some layouts where a low heart lead is 'wrong', the trick may come back. Say declarer has Qxx vs KTx in dummy and no discards coming in other suits. After winning the queen he's likely to lead low to the T next time. If declarer has Jx vs Kxx(x), a low heart gives him a losing choice.

Everybody makes mistakes; mistakes that could have been avoided. Even the very best.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Great service!

One of my new favorite guys are Masakatsu Sugino from Japan. He's the author of PS-bridge, an utility to create PDF-outputs from PBN-notation (and indirectly from all kinds).

The best part is that he [automatically] creates and publishes PDF's of all vugraph matches from BBO!

No need to sit at the computer with .lin-files. Just print them out and study the action at your leisure - when commuting or whatever.

Even better is that he's a real service-minded guy with a desire to widen the audience. I contacted him about doing conversions for other stuff. The weekly Cayne-matches with high-profile players were my first thought. Getting the .lin files is the issue though. BBO is contacted and hopefully will provide those (anybody else out there who has collected them?).

My other suggestion was the Oz-one team BBO practise games, where files were published on their site (see links). Voila! Less than 24 hours after my intial contact, they're up!

Keep up the good work! The bridge community is grateful for your efforts.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Partscore advice

Every now and then I witness people getting this one wrong after partner opens 1NT. It concerns how to handle 5332-hands with a major suit and scattered strength. Here's a piece of advice you can take to the bank. Don't try to use your judgement, just transfer or bid your major (depending on your NT-methods).

You can't get 100% right, but it's so overwhelming, you can stop reading. In one recent international match (names withheld;), our contestants were dealt:


... and faced a 14-16 1NT-opening across the table. This seemed like an occasion to forego this advice and both passed. After the defence collected 5 diamonds and 2 spades with 9 tricks cold in a heart contract, another deal went to the evidence room. This time partner held:


It's impossible to know what is right on any given hand, therefore consistency is needed. Always opt for the major.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Trust your partner - or use your brain

I failed to solve the following defence vs a partscore. The auction:

(1C) - 1H - (X) - pass;
(1S) - pass - (pass) - X;
(pass) - 2C - (2S) all pass

(1C) = 17+
1H = natural, not trash
(X) = any 0-4

I balanced with double, but sold out to 2S. Partner led the 8 of D, playing Scheider-Rusinow (1 or 3 higher).


I won the ace and returned the 3 for partner to ruff. Partner shot back the 2 of C to my ace and declarer's T. How to continue?

Well, as I knew declarer had only 5 trumps (possibly 4) and another high diamond, I continued diamonds for partner to ruff without really analysing the deal. Auto-pilot. So wrong!

There wasn't really any need to analyse the deal; just follow the directions. Freddan's low club meant he didn't want another ruff. So, shift to hearts.


Now declarer can't reach dummy to finesse in trumps without me getting the over-ruff for the setting trick. If I decided that partner may have led the wrong club and analysed the deal, this would also be the indicated shift. The fact that no other pair beat the contract either is a poor consolation (and certainly no excuse). Competing to 3C would have been even better.

Follow partner's advice. Or use your brain. Hopefully one of them steers you in the right direction...

Monday, April 23, 2007

Going passive or active?

When leading, a lot of players always opt for longest/strongest, others always look for the most safe alternative. Some well-known names, Tony Forrester and Peter Fredin comes to mind (among others), would rather drink toilet water than lead away from a K vs a suit contract.

I'm in the mixed zone. The auction influences the choice to a large extent, as it should of course, and I also look for 'middle of the road' vs NT, i.e not most attacking or the safest.

I'm more passive vs suit than NT as long suit tricks come into play in the latter case. By this I mean that even if the lead costs a trick, it may come back later, if you can cash established tricks (with no little trumps out there preventing that ;-)

Freddan had to find a lead vs 3NT from:


The auction went 1S (4+) - 2C (gameforce with bal or clubs) - 2NT - 3NT. What would you lead?

Here the choice comes down to a heart or a diamond. Frederic started with the 7 of D (not risking a beer on that one ;) playing Schneider-Rusinow, a choice I like without any useful heart spots. That was a real killer on this layout:


South somehow managed to open with 1S instead of 1H. After the diamond lead, we beat it which only happened at a couple tables in the rather large field (50+ tables).

Too many players are addicted to aggressive leads. A lesser number are addicted to passive leads. Stay away from addiction and when in doubt: go passive.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Attention to detail

Last weekend was a qualification weekend for the Swedish GNT. 10 locations, 6 teams each, round-robin with the winner coming through for the play-off in May (also round-robin format). We won our heat and I'll share some interesting deals. The deals were duplicated across the field and imps-across-the-field (IAF) tabulated (we ended up a bit over +0.7; solid but not more).

First a 3NT (dealer S/E-W vul).



At many tables, after a strong 1C (or 2-way) and a negative 1D-reply, East preempted with 3H and South tried 3NT.

After the H9 lead to the ace and a low club shift to the J, club back to the ace and another one, many declarer won the K and finessed in diamonds. When RHO turned up the Qx and cashed a couple of clubs, the declarers blamed their bad luck thinking they went with the odds. With the known long H's and 4+ clubs, they surely did, didn't they?

Well, let's say you like to be thorough and cashed a couple of high hearts and the ace of spades. Now you find spades 5-0 and hearts 2-6. How about those odds? Do you play East for 0-6-2-5 or 0-6-1-6?


Declining the finesse is now the indicated play. At our table declarer 'guessed' right for +430. Yes, guessed, because he didn't cash his plain suit winners. Our teammates got doubled in 3NT and ran to 4D, also doubled. This made for +610 and +5 imps.

Sometimes bad luck is just justice in disguise.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

The grave yard - part 3

Finding examples for the fact that acting with shortness in opened major after (1M) - p - (1NT) is seriously dangerous is rather easy. This is something that even the world champions seems to have failed to grasp. The only good results come when you can catch the opponents, which of course happens from time to time. It's more frequent that you get spanked.

Here's a deal from the Cayne team game at BBO the other weekend.


Reisig and Nunes had this hand as dealer, white vs red, and passed but neither could resist a take-out X after (1H) - p - (1NT) came around to them. This certainly looks attractive with the best possible shape, 4 card spades and favorable vulnerability. So, how bad did it end?

Full deal:


Helness-Helgemo nailed Fantoni-Nunes in 2S after XX by Geir for 3 down and +500 with no game on for their side. That was good (bad) for -14 imps!

At the other table Seamon-Cayne extracted +1400 vs 3D! East, Garozzo, first tried 2D then 2S and got preference to 3D. Losing that many tricks looks like a 'misclick' or two; I guess the 'great one' didn't give it his best effort.

My view should be pretty clear by now.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The grave yard - part 2

As much as Duboin showed good judgement in the earlier post (by passing after RHO X), he couldn't restrain himself when he was in the same position on this deal from Yeh Bros in China this spring vs USA2.


Imps/red vs white and the bidding started the familiar (1S) - pass - (1NT) - ?

Duboin overcalled 2C, which was followed by a take-out X and all pass.


Soft defence by Grue-Cheek resulted in only two down, -500, but still a 12 imp loss when teammate Madala went two off in 3NT the other way. The auction started 1S - 2C at that table so getting into that auction wasn't an alternative.

When bad results happen, you may want to take stock and reflect if it was bad luck, a random result or an anti-percentage action that caused it. If you can't decide for yourself, ask around.

Always look out for the potential misfit auction and remember that sometimes, it's wiser to fold.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The grave yard

Here's a field excursion to the Europeans Teams Championship last year in Warshaw. It's from match 22, board 7 (W/all, deal rotated) and our contestants were dealt:


The auction went (1S) - pass - (1NT) to you. What's your call?

This is an auction that frequently causes trip to the cementary. The primary danger sign is shortness in LHO's major suit. Here's the full deal:


This is what I've got:
In Netherlands - Belarus, both Muller and Zhuravel doubled but Medusheusk and Ramondt saved them by bidding 2C, leading to 2S.
In France - Germany, Mouiel doubled but Marsaal didn't. Elinescu bid 2C over X.
In Spain - Polen, Tuszynski and Wasik both doubled once again leading Skrzypczak and de Pablos to bid 2C. At this table Wichmann wasn't satisfied which this and doubled 2S on the way out for -670.
In Israel - Italy, Laura and Liran both doubled but here Duboin knew to pass (Fohrer didn't) and collected +400 on defence vs 2D.
For Sweden Björnlund doubled, that was passed out and desperate defence resulted in -580 (2S went down at the other table).

So why is this a dangerous auction? Well, if I have a stiff and they haven't located a prime fit then partner as probably 4+ cards in that suit and the risk of not finding a prime fit our way has increased (a lot). This is a potential misfit auction and those must be handled very carefully without extra values. Any marginal call should be avoided and X is, in my view, a clear anti-percentage action on the hand in question.

Frankly, I'm a bit surprised that so many felt compelled to double and I'm even shocked to see so many 2C calls (after X). As for our contestants, some were punished, most were unscattered. The datum in Warshaw was N-S +100 (lots of declarers went down in 2S).

Monday, April 16, 2007


2006 winners of Chairman's Cup in Sweden. Johan to the far right.

Two weeks ago we suddenly lost a dear friend, fine player, excellent bidding theorist and very popular bridge teacher/educator, Johan Ebenius (1965-2007).

We became friends almost 20 years ago and as a partnership we played the Junior European Championships, notched up two wins in the Swedish first division and a win in the Chairman's Cup at the Swedish Bridgefestival (a 6-day round-robin/knock-out team event with international participation) last summer.

As a tribute to him I'll share a deal from the 2005 first division (which we won).

S/all vul


We were playing the Swedish 2-way Club and I opened as North with 1C (11-13 bal or any 17+), East overcalled 1H and Johan passed as South. After 2H and X, Johan bid 2NT as Lebensohl (to sign-off in 3C) and West competed with 3H after 3C by me.

Johan was the most aggressive balancer/part-score fighter I've ever seen. Something deep inside him made it very hard for him to pass at times; he persisted with a 3S-balance on the way out! Even knowing his style, I couldn't resist raising to 4S. This wasn't a good contract and looking at all four hands it's not hard to find a way for the defence to beat.

West led a low H and Johan went to work. He won in dummy and discarded his remaining heart after 3 rounds of diamonds as West ruffed. West now continued hearts and it was all over. Johan ruffed in hand, led a club to the the K and ruffed a diamond with the queen of S, followed by spade to the ace and a low to East's king. Dummy could later ruff and extract the outstanding trump and enjoy the last diamond for a sweet +620.

Rest in peace. We all miss you.