Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Magic in the Trump Suit (Part 1)

Today, searching for a problem hand to give a friend, I stumbled upon some fun play problems. The two I happened upon were on Vugraph in the Nordic Junior Championship Round 9. I was commentating the open room, where Declarer, an Icelandic Junior, went down in a makeable 7D contract by playing carelessly, the other room played 6S making with an overtrick for a 14 IMP swing. Had he made the contract, they would have won 9 IMPs instead. Here was the hand:

You receive the 6H lead, Plan the play.

This hand looks pretty easy unless Diamonds are 4-1. If diamonds are 4-1, you need RHO to have the 4 card Diamond suit, so you can lead through him, eventually finessing him out of his trump trick by ending in dummy at trick 11. This is called a trump coup. In order to successfully execute a trump coup, you need to shorten your hand to the same number of trumps as defender with long trumps. In addition to shortening your hand, you need to be in dummy at trick 11, in other words, you need to be able to lead through the defender with long trumps. Sometimes it will take a little foresight to shorten your hand successfully... This may mean making a play before you know about the bad split as a precaution, so that you have sufficient entries later.

Solution: Win the opening lead with the King in hand, play a trump to the queen and ruff a club to begin shortening yourself simply as a precaution, since anything but a 4-1 Diamond split will see the contract home. Now when you play another trump to dummy and receive the bad news, you will have sufficient entries to execute the trump coup. Now ruff another club from dummy, and play the Jack of Hearts, ducking from dummy, leaving this position:

Cash the Ace of spades from your hand, lead a spade to the queen and lead all your top hearts. North cannot ruff, because then he will give up his trump trick, so North must pitch. You also pitch when North pitches. You repeat this 3 times, pitching the rest of your spades from your hand, ending in dummy at Trick 11 to lead a trump through North, whose trump trick magically disappeared!

The full deal:

The key to the hand was a "what can go wrong" mentality. Ruffing a club before playing the 2ND trump from dummy gives you enough entries to shorten yourself and use this fun technique.

Monday, May 18, 2009

USBF Trials for Turkey - Sunday

We're in! The trials are over, and it was very close for us. We were leading the event for 3 rounds, then we played Bryan Delfs and Andre Asbury... We had several bad boards against them, and then we played Kevin Fay and Jason Chiu the last 2 rounds (it was a swiss movement with playbacks). The first round against them went OK, then the second round, almost nothing went our way. One of our last 4 boards was dreadfully interesting:



I'm not too happy to admit to being either one of the people in this auction, however I am guilty as West. I should have probably bid 2S instead of 3C, and looking back on this... 4S was absolutely awful. Kevin couldn't help doubling, and this was a quick Zero when we were -2.

The next one Jason declared well and the 3rd one I misplayed in 1NT... We needed a top on the last board to qualify. We had the opportunity:



2H Doubled made with an overtrick, which was enough to make us Qualify to go to Turkey!! I was not so worried about the trials itself, I was way more worried about the form of scoring. Having to play Matchpoints was tough for me, since my system and everything about how I play is so tailored towards IMPs. The qualifiers are in bold below:

  1. Justin Lall-Jeremy Fournier 171.76
  2. Matt Meckstroth-Kevin Dwyer 168.66
  3. Kevin Fay-Jason Chiu 156.39
  4. Alex Hudson-John Marriott 155.93
  5. Owen Lien-Zach Brescoll 155.56
  6. Adam Kaplan-Cameron Shunta 148.98
  7. Michael Lieberman-Alevtina Asarina 148.14
  8. Andre Asbury-Bryan Delfs 147.73
  9. Dan Wolkowitz-Peter Zoogman 146.16
  10. Robert Glickman-Sam Katz 145.46
  11. Monica Guo-Argenta Price
  12. Brad Haas-Blake Haas 129.68

For the hands in detail:

Session 1:
Session 2:
Session 3:

Sunday, May 17, 2009

USBF Trials for Turkey - Saturday

Yesterday was the first of wo days of the USBF Trials to go to Turkey in August, I played with Cam Shunta. We had a shaky first session, and had a couple fixes... One where the opponents had a misunderstanding and wound up in 3NT +3, where everyone else was in 4H +2. Unfortunately the trials were Matchpoints, so we got some Zeros on boards like that. The first session we were at 10th, then we and a strong 2nd session, which felt like at least 65% or more... Turned out it was only 55%, so we are going in to today's final session in 6th place. They are sending 2 teams: The top 6 Qualifiers, so that's our goal today. We had a few good boards yesterday... One of them we fixed our opponents, on an amusing misunderstanding:
(Hands Rotated)


1C was strong, 4C was intended as just to set trumps and initiate cuebidding... Cam took it as minorwood. I then took 4D as a cue, and "cued" 4H, which he took as a Queen Ask. He now "showed" the K-H and the Q-C which pushed us too high, since at this point I figured out what he was doing... I confidently bid 6C which I hoped was on a finesse. Well, I was somewhat happy when I saw dummy... I got the Ace of Heart lead, and a Diamond switch... So now all I needed to do was get the Club situation right. I figured that LHO had to have the King of Spades, otherwise he would have switched to a Spade, I also saw the King of Diamonds on my right at Trick 2. When I led the Jack fo Clubs from my hand, LHO hesitated for about 2/3 seconds... Not enough to judge the situation on, especially online. I also thought that LHO might have only bid 1H with Kx Axxxxx xxx Kx or something, so I decided to fly ace after about 4 minutes, and I think that was the first correct guess I have made in ages... But it was a good time to guess well, and I guess all's well that ends well... Even slams off 2 keycards.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Adapting Conventions to Precision (Part 2)

A few weeks back, I was thinking about how useless standard Jacoby 2NT is when playing precision. Even Swedish was not much of an improvement, since it still was made for hands up to like 20 HCP. So over the course of the next few days, I devised a structure for Jacoby that fit perfectly with a precision system. Since 1M openings are limited to 15 HCP, with this structure you can show your HCP range within 1 point, and show shortness or the lack thereof and all below 4M. So, here is another improvement for all you precision players:

1M - 2NT:
3♣: 10-11 HCP or 8-9 HCP with Distributional (5-5+) opener
-----3♦: Asking
--------3♥: 10-11 HCP with No Shortness
--------3♠: Distributional Opener (5-5+) 8-9 HCP
--------3NT: Relay Asking 5 Card Suit
-----------4♣: 5♣ + 5M
-----------4♦: 5♦ + 5M
-----------4♥: 5oM + 6M
--------3NT: 10-11 HCP with ♣ Shortness
--------4♣: 10-11 HCP with ♦ Shortness
--------4♦: 10-11 HCP with oM Shortness
--------4♥: 8-9 HCP 6+M-5+m
3♦: 12-13 HCP with Shortness
-----3♥: Asking
--------3♠: ♣ Stiff
--------3NT: ♦ Stiff
--------4♣: oM Stiff
--------4♦: Stiff in Both Minors
--------4♥: Stiff Minor + Stiff oM3♥: 14-15 HCP with Shortness
-----3♠: Asking
--------3NT: ♣ Stiff
--------4♣: ♦ Stiff
--------4♦: oM Stiff
--------4♥: 2 Stiffs
3♠: 12-13 HCP without Shortness
-----3NT: Asking
--------4♣: 5332
--------4♦: Side 4 Card Minor (22)
--------4♥: Side 4 Card Other Major (22)
3NT: 14-15 HCP without Shortness
-----4♣: Asking
--------4♦: 5332
--------4♥: Side 4 Card Suit (22)
4♣: 12-15 HCP with ♣ Void
4♦: 12-15 HCP with ♦ Void
4♥: 12-15 HCP with oM Void

I may post some other systems and things later on, but I don't have too many other significant improvents on a precision system that I have come up with... I'm playing the junior trials this weekend, and we will be using these systems... I'll have more on that when the time comes...

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Adapting Conventions to Precision (Part 1)

Today I was talking with Cam Shunta about our system over a precision 1D opener, and I had recently been given a system over 1D where 2H shows a 10-12 Bal. w/o 4 Card Major and opener could bid his hand accordingly or decide where to play the Notrump... with 2S being a relay to 2NT to right side the contract. I then told him that I have developed a relay using 2S, but since we are playing precision it really didn't do much good... We started playing around with ideas, and he came up with a brilliant one: Use 2H as a size ask, so that we could still get out in 2NT with the ugly 11 opener opposite a 12 count. Everything followed from there... We could now also put slam hands into the 2H bid, since with a balanced 19 count, you need to know whether partner has the balanced 11 or the maxed out 15. I figured out a basic structure, which I will add to later on, and everything fit beautifully! So, for all you precision players out there, here is the structure:

1♦ - 2♥ -
-----2♠: 10-11 HCP
--------2NT: Signoff (10-12)
--------3♣: Stayman (18+)
--------3♦: Signoff (10-12)
--------3♥: 5+♥ (18+)
--------3♠: 5+♠ (18+)
--------3NT: Signoff (18-19 HCP)
-----2NT: 12-13 HCP
--------3♣: Stayman (18+)
--------3♦: Signoff (10-11)
--------3♥: 5+♥ (18+)
--------3♠: 5+♠ (18+)
--------3NT: Signoff (12/18)
-----3♣: 14 HCP
--------3♦: Stayman (18+)
--------3♥: 5+♥ (18+)
--------3♠: 5+♠ (18+)
--------3NT: To Play (10-12)
-----3♦: 15 HCP
--------3♥: 5+♥ (18+)
--------3♠: 5+♠ (18+)
--------3NT: Signoff (10-12)
--------4♣: Stayman (18+)
-----3♥: 5♥ 6+♦
--------3♠: Size Reask (18+)
--------3NT: Signoff with Double ♠ Stopper; 2♥ and 3♦ (10-12)
--------4♣: Cuebid (18+)
--------4♦: Minorwood (18+)
--------4♥: Signoff (10-12)
--------4♠: Kickback 1430 (18+)
--------5♦: Signoff (10-12)
-----3♠: 5♠ 6+♦
--------3NT: Signoff with Double ♥ Stopper; 2♠ and 3♦ (10-12)
--------4♣: Size Reask (18+)
--------4♦: Minorwood (18+)
--------4♥: Cuebid (18+)
--------4♠: Signoff (10-12)
--------4NT: 1430 for Spades (10-12)
--------5♦: Signoff (10-12)

Most of this is self explanitory, however there are a few clear advantages at Matchpoints and even at IMPs. First of all, you can stop at 2NT in many auctions where it would otherwise be very difficult... In addition to getting to 3NT whenever you have the values to be there, with no guesswork. It also gives you a scientific way to ask about size below 3NT when you have a slam invitational hand. Along with all this, 2H is a bid so rarely used anyway, that it's not much of a loss, and a big gain. Responder's NT ladder with no 4cM also changes: With 6-9(Bad 10) responder bids 1NT. With (Good)10-12 responder bids 2H. With 13 HCP responder bids 2NT (With 10 opener passes, and anything else, opener bids on). With 14-17 responder bids 3NT. Finally, with 18+, responder starts with 2H and rebids accordingly (I have yet to define the 4C-4NT bids in many auctions, and I will put them in when we figure out what they should show.) This is one of a few system modifications that we have made to accomodate limited openings, more to come later.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

A Wild One

Yesterday I played 2 sessions at the club with Steve Wallis. We met an hour or so before the game to discuss the system we were going to be playing... Precision. We finished our discussion, and began playing, and had a 65% game. We then went to the St. Petersberg bridge club for the owner's 60th birthday... We began playing that night against the owner and his wife, and they bid 2 slams the first two boards, and we set both. Then they began cuebidding on the 3rd board, and stopped in 5, which made 6 on a finesse. Our first 8 boards seemed to be all tops, and then we got this board:

What would you open the south hand?

I was West... and of course didn't double. Defending 6C Undoubled give us a 4 on a 6 top. It's been a while since I've seen a 10 card suit.

Things went downhill after this board. I found myself in a tough position two boards later, and made a very bad bid:

Partner opened a 13-15 1NT and RHO bid 2S. I couldn't double. I couldn't tank then pass. I had to do something. I didn't want to commit to game, or 3NT. I finally figured something out. If I bid 3C, then maybe, just maybe partner would realize that I was in such a bind and bid 3 of a red suit, which I could pass. Sadly partner foiled my plan by bidding 3NT with his 2443 hand. We can only make 3 of either red suit, but without negative doubles, it's nearly impossible to find.
I couldn't do anything right it seemed... I was on lead 14 times last night. I led the right card twice, and gave up an overtrick/the contract at least 5 times. Despite all that we still managed a 50% game that evening.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Just a Nice Auction

I was playing a few days ago with Andy Hung and we had agreed to finish after Board #12. I look at my hand for the last board and see a nice 24 count:


The opponents pass throughout, I opened 2C and Andy bid 2D waiting and GF. I bid 3C, he bid 3D. I bid 3NT, he bid 4C, I bid 4D, he bid 4S, I bid 5H and he bid 7C. It's nice when you can claim a contract without playing to the first trick:


The next time we played we couldn't finish on such a high note, but Andy did finish with a really tough 3NT... :)

Thursday, May 7, 2009

A Few Good Stories

I have so many amusing stories from at the table play. Most of them involve big numbers, but some are just plain funny or ironic. I have always been amused by how some people can be so brilliant away from the table, and yet make fools out of themselves when at the table.

The first one comes from Gatlinburg this past year in the Zip KOs:
All Vulnerable at IMPs, my partner dealt and I held:


I was playing with my father, and he opened 2H, RHO passed, I passed and LHO reopened with a double which was passed back to me. I should have let this go, and accepted my -800, however I chose to try to rescue with a XX. Over my XX, my father held Qx KJ9xxx xxx Qx and saw nowhere good to go... and passed. 2H Redoubled quickly went for 1600, and needless to say, I was in bed early that night. This brought about a new adage that I do not recommend you follow: "When in doubt, pass an SOS Redouble"

My next story was actually published in the bridge bulletin about a year back. I am known in the area for making unmakable contracts, several years back I was playing in a local sectional with Jim Somma, who is one of my local partners. On the ride to the event, we had discussed Minorwood for minors and Kickback for hearts, and I didn't think much of it. We started playing, and the 3rd board in, we change for the next round and sit down to play two ladies. I picked up Kxx AT9 AKQxxx x and opened a strong club. Partner bid a natural and GF 2C, I bid 2D and he bid 4D, which he thought was Kickback, I thought was Minorwood... We eventually wound up in a confidently bid 7NT, and my LHO thinks for a moment before passing and leading a diamond. I see this dummy:



Somehow partner was convinced I had lots of things I didn't have... Anyway, I won the opening lead and led the Queen of Hearts, covered with the king. I proceeded to cash all my red suit tricks, and LHO was squeezed!! My 13th trick was the 8 of clubs, and on that, RHO played the Queen of spades, I played the king, and LHO turned over the ACE!!! She glanced at her partner and said simply: "Gee, I guess I should have cashed this".

The next one is from a Regional in Palm Beach Gardens, where me and Jim were playing in a Knockout Match. Our very first board, I open 1C strong and he bids 7NT. I had 15 HCP with 5-5 Majors and he had 25 HCP. The very next board I open 1C again and he bids 2C, which we had changed to a transfer to Diamonds. I accepted the transfer, he bid 2NT, showing 2 of the top 3 honors with 5D, I bid Minorwood (4D) and he bid 4NT which I comfortably passed. My RHO who was on lead turned to me and asked "Were any of those bids natural?" and I replied a calm "No". She eventually chose a small heart from K98x, I held AQJx and Jim had Txx. It was the only lead that lets 4NT or even 3NT through. How sweet it is.

Finally, the next morning in Palm Beach Gardens, playing in a side pairs, I opened a strong club and LHO turned to my partner and asked "What's that?" he informed them we were playing a strong club, and she then proceeded to ask "How do you know that?". Jim bid 1D and my RHO asked what it meant... I answered that it was Negative 0-7 HCP, and RHO said "Are you sure?" and called the director on me, saying that I was guessing what my partner's bids meant, even after I answered yes. LOL. We of course took 3 tops off these people, but it's amazing what fools they can make of themselves.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

A Classic Beer

Today, playing online with Doug Dey, I saw an opportunity to build up my bank of alcoholic beverages that people owe me. I was declarer in 4H:

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Wisdom Gone

Well, the procedure was a breeze, and the aftermath is really the hard part. I'm currently on 3 different medicines... An extreme painkiller, a swelling reducer and an antibiotic. I'll be somewhat tired and stuff for the next couple days, but overall I'm doing pretty well. I will probably just play bridge (badly) tommorow, watch some TV, and rest... Starting tommorow I can have some other things other than a breakfast shake, so I am looking forward to that. Anyway, I'll probably be posting more hands tommorow...

Monday, May 4, 2009

Ugh. Wisdom Teeth.

Well, tommorow morning I am going to the dentist to get all four of my wisdom teeth pulled. My appointment is at 9:30 AM, and it should only take an hour or so, but the effects of the Anesthesia won't wear off for a while, so I won't be playing much bridge tommorow, or potentially Wednesday either... or at least not well. Anyway, I have the Trials for Turkey coming up soon, and I'll post more on that later.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

With Garozzo

Today I was asked by Valerie Westheimer to play with her in a match with our teammates as Benito Garozzo and Federico Primavera. I gladly accepted, and we started at 4:15PM today, I had made sure I didn't stay up past midnight last night so I had a brain. Anyway... We started playing and I was immeadiately put to the test with two tough hands.

The first one the auction went 1H by me, 1S by Val, 2C by me and 2H by Val. She was put in an awful position with A9xx xx KJTxxxx - and had to bid 2H once she committed herself with 1S. Arguably 1NT may be a better call with her hand, although it will often miss spade fits which may make game, when instead we are in a diamond partial. I liked 1S, but had a challenge in 2H, with my Qxx AKQ9x x Q9xx. I won the trump lead in hand and ruffed a club in dummy. I then led a small spade which RHO won with the king. Now, he made the mistake of returning the Jack of spades, which allowed me to win in hand, draw trump and lead a spade to my 9, making 3S, 5H, 0D, 1C Ruff... for an overtrick. Needless to say, this was a push, since they raised Spades with my hand instead of bidding 2C.

The second board of the 20 boards, I opened 1D on Ax Tx AQT9x Qxxx, LHO bid 2C and Valerie made a Negative Double. I opted for 2D which became the final contract. I received the Ace of Club lead and dummy held KQxx A9xxx 8 8xx. LHO then switched to the Queen of Hearts, which I won in dummy and played 3 rounds of Spades, all following, and pitched my heart. I then ruffed a Heart, and exited a club. LHO won, and returned the Jack of Spades, which RHO ruffed with the 6, and I overruffed and exited another club. Now LHO can hold me to 2 by cashing his last club, but instead led a trump, which I won in hand and exitted my final club and RHO ruffed perforce. Finally RHO had the Kx of Diamonds and I had the AT and finessed the Ten to make 3. Once again we only won 1 IMP, since they played 2C making 2 at the other table, but these small hands where I can salvage a plus score certainly are fun! In the end we wound up winning against Israel by 12, but it was a lot of fun, and I hope to do it again soon! Also, I promise I will start using handviewer shortly, which will make it much easier to visualize the hands, I just need to work out a few kinks with it...

Friday, May 1, 2009

Playing JEC

Me and several other Juniors (Cam Shunta "goon1407", Jakob Rohde "jakob_r", and Robert Stephens "rob88s") had the honor to play Jimmy Cayne today. We were down 20 after the first 3 boards, but recovered and were leading for several boards 29-24. Then Jimmy got to declare 4 hands in a row, where I started dropping defensive tricks like they were going out of style. It seemed that I couldn't guess anything right. In the end we wound up losing by 38 IMPs, which was respectable, but it could have been much better. On the first board I was put to a guess, and failed. Here was the hand: (8S lead. Opponents play Standard Carding and 4th best leads. What's your T1 play?)