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.