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 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 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.