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.