Second in our direction at the club. A STAC, even. What could POSSIBLY be more fun, short of full on root canal.

We had a half table, as did the novice game (no wisecracks yet, please) so the director asked anyone to volunteer to switch from either game to the other. I always volunteer (before someone else volunteers me) but a novice pair came to our table. We had to make two sets of three boards, and they were about as pleased about that as we were.

4) 4th, both
8542 K2 QJ7 K754

P-1N-P-P, 2C-P-2D-?

As I was picking up their card to see what 2C means, LHO bid 2H. Turns out 2C shows a single suited hand, and this time it was hearts. Well, the director asked us to be nice to them, so instead of calling the director I just doubled 2D and he bid 2H again.

So, what does my double of 2D normally show? What about after I already know he'll pull to 2H? Better not ever, ever discuss this with a partner, since that would be illegal! You're not allowed to have agreements about what things show over irregularities.

BTW, in a real event I would have called the director, not just to protect my rights, but to protect the opponents' rights, too. Either pard or I would be able to accept the 2H bid, and they have the right to know we're not discussing whether or not to accept his call (another no-no). Here, I just thought they'd find it annoying, and it would contribute to our predestined late play warnings. Not to mention that I wasn't going to do anything except pass or double, so he'd just bid a penalty free 2H anyway.

I suggest that doubling 2D shows something in diamonds, and some cards so pard can pass 2DX or double his real suit. I don't, necessarily have my call (yes, pard's 1N shows 10-12), and I was, perhaps, catering to these particular opponents.

After not accepting the 2H call, I think doubling 2D should show the same as I described above. I suppose I could accept 2H with a blizzard, not accept but pass 2D with a cooperative type hand (some flat 11-13 HCP hand, when I wouldn't mind pard taking a swing at down one doubled anywhere, even the two level if he has three trumps), and double 2D with real diamonds, interested in competing. As always, I could pass (or accept 2H) and double later for pure penalty.

But it's illegal to have these agreements, so I hope nobody I play with reads them.

This came up a few weeks ago at the sectional, and, when I pointed out these agreements are illegal, an opp (a director, who appears to know the laws and the reality of tournament bridge) agreed but pointed out that many pros have agreements anyway. I think it's stupid to have them illegal, since all it does is prevent the "ethical" pros from explaining their agreements to the opps. They're just going to have agreements anyway, and call them "bridge logic" (the MOST odious term. Why don't they ever discuss "bridge arithmetic"?).

Anyway, RHO pulled to 2N, I doubled (incorrectly, as it turns out, since they have eight tricks), and we were +200 after she slopped a trick.

5) 3rd, unfavorable
QJ73 9 87542 AJ8


Well, it turns out that this particular night at the club would be quite interesting, indeed. Recalling the director's request, I didn't holler "DIRECTOR!" and, instead, I just made a negative (?) double. We play 1D-1H-X denies four spades, so I hoped pard wouldn't think that applies here, but IT'S NOT LEGAL TO DISCUSS IT!

Pard bid 2C and made two. She held 64 KJ652 AQ Q765. What do you think?

I think 2C promises five clubs, since, with a non-descript hand, she could punt with one heart! Unfortunately, it's NOT LEGAL TO DISCUSS IT! Still, I don't blame her for not bidding 1H, since we were using bidding boxes and it would have been awkward.

7) 1st, both
K86 QJT98 T82 82

P-1D-1S-2C, 2S-3C-P-5C, P-6C-P-P, P

Your lead?

It was a five or seven hand, and I led a heart for +100. Yay! Pard even said nice lead. LHO, while defending his auction, even said nice lead. I usually reserve "nice lead"'s for leads of unsupported kings (the lead I wanted to make) rather than prosaic sequences like Queen Jack Ten Nine Eight.

18) 2nd, unfavorable
J6 632 9732 A984

The opps bid: 1S-2C, 2H-2N, 3N-P. They weren't playing 2/1. Pard led a fourth best D5, and dummy tabled AK543 AK87 84 J3.

I played D7 (no beer tonight...) and declarer won DA. He led a small club and pard won the king as I failed to make a Smith echo. She plugged away with D6-8-9-K, and declarer played a club to dummy's jack and my A (pard followed).

Now what? Dummy's down to SAK543 HAK87. The rhythm suggests a diamond continuation, but can that be right? Pard would have led the queen from QJT, and declarer would have won the ten or jack at trick one if he'd started with AKJ or AKT, so pard has to have JT65 (or T65) and declarer has DQ and three clubs in his hand. Why should I put declarer in his hand to take four winners?

Declarer's hand was 98 954 AKQ QT762, so any major suit card works now. I led a spade for down one.
I still owe you a ton of deals from the nationals, but you'll have to wait. For now, two mildly interesting deals from a swiss teams.

17) 2nd, none
QJ8 KTxxxx Jx xx

P-P-1C-3D, P-P-X-P, 3N-P-P-P

Your lead? I couldn't imagine I could set up pard's suit AND find him with an entry, so I tried a heart.

As you have already guessed, I knocked out his side entry before establishing his (establishable) suit.

I like a good joke as much as anyone, so I was a good sport when he asked "Would you have led a diamond if I'd jumped to 3H?"

Ho, ho, ho.

11) 3rd, none
Kxx KQxx Qxx K9x

1C-1H, 2H-3N, P

QJT AJxx xxx AJx
Kxx KQxx Qxx K9x

I won the spade lead, then played HK, HA (they broke), HJ so I could duck or overtake, depending on whether RHO followed. That way someone would have to make two pitches before seeing his partner's first pitch. The tossed some pointy cards, so I led a spade, they cleared spades, and I ducked a diamond, hoping for an endplay. LHO got stuck and had to lead a club, but she had neither club honor so I ended up down one, for a push. I think 3N is a better contract than 4H, but I'm open to comments.

About the auction:

We play 1C-1H, 2H-2N as a natural game try, forcing one round. So, what's the difference between that and a jump to 3N (assuming you drive to game later)? I think the 2N bid, ostensibly a game try, allows pard to jump to 4H, so it should say you want to play any game (if you get to game) in 4H if pard has any four trumps. A jump to 3N should say that NT might be the right strain, regardless the number of pard's hearts, if he has a slow hand.
I have hand records for a lot of events, so I'll just crack out the stray team deals now. But first, an anecdote:

Playing against a couple with a bridge column, with a ton of defensive carding agreements, I asked what their agreement was when splitting honors on a lead off dummy, and how they played Smith Echo (it wasn't obvious, since they play reverse smith by one partner and "standard" by the other). I was treated to an outburst about how "you" (not "me" but men in general) have all kinds of blah blah, but she just plays cards, and she's "just sick of this" and then her partner piped in that he's probably only needed to smith twice, ever. That's fine, but it seems pretty weird to keep two versions of smith on your card when you don't even play one.

One of them accused me of not having a sense of humor (I don't think it was mean spirited, and might have been a joke, though I don't know how I would be expected to get it, lacking a sense of humor). When I admitted I have no sense of humor, blaming my religion, they gave me a Moshiach wallet card ( ). Oooooookay...

The next day I asked what the card says, since I'm not fluent in Hebrew, and they just walked away (perhaps to compare with their teammates, and urge I understand).


26) 1st, both
Txx AJT9x Q9xx x

P-1N-X-2C, X-2H-P-2S, X-P-P-P

1N was weak. Double of 1N was penalty. Double of 2C was takeout.

Pard had Axx xxx KJ KQJxx.

-670 didn't score as well as I'd hoped. I felt that pard didn't have a penalty double of 1N when he couldn't set 3N. We (I) could have set it a trick, and that would have been better.

These particular opponents were SO pleased with themselves, not just because of that board, and kept congratulating each other. Then came:

33) 2nd, none
9xx AJ9x xxx Jxx

They bid 1D-1S, 1N-3N, P

I went passive and, when in with CJ, looking at HTx in dummy, decided I only needed pard to have HKxxx to set the contract. In fact, declarer won the HQ and, when pard got in, I scored three more heart tricks to set the contract. Declarer informed his partner he had had no chance to make. I suggest that, perhaps, HT from dummy on the first heart lead might have been a bit luckier.

18) 2nd, unfavorable
Tx Kx AKxx JT98x

P-P-2H-X, P-3N-P-P, X-P-P-P

+1350. Neat. I don't know what else to say, except that we won the ko match on this, fairly random, board.

11) 2nd, none
KJx KJxx Qxx Q98

This is, by far, my favorite board of the tournament, +1350's excepted.

P-P-1S-X, P-1N-P-P, P

I didn't do the calculation in my head, but I figured the Kaplan and Rubens hand evaluator would give this hand about 10 points (it turns out I was optimistic, it's only worth 9.65). Still, I wavered when dummy tabled a healthy 14 HCP hand. Oops, playing at the ONE LEVEL, at IMPs, with 26 HCP and all suits stopped (and a 4-4 heart fit...)!

I made +150 but they can always hold me to eight tricks, and 4H is down off the top.

To be fair, at the other table I opened, so LHO didn't open 1S, so it wasn't quite so obvious how lousy 4H is when pard has Tx AQxx AKx Jxxx.
Just a few deals, before I start slogging through the hand records from last week.

12) 4th, unfavorable
Ax Qxx Qxxxx KJx

P-1D-X-XX, P-P-1S-P, P-X-P-P, P


Ok, this looks like a lucky (stupid?) result, so I'd like to explain my methods before you judge me.

a) I play that the redouble sets up cooperative doubles. If you pass and then double, that's absolute penalty. Partner should never play you for that unfavorable (that is, he should pass your double, but he shouldn't balance in case you were trapping).

b) When I pass 1S, I'm denying a cooperative double (think KTx), so when pard doubles Ax is pretty, pretty good. In fact pard had KQJx, and we drew trump.

I think this is the opposite of a system Ed Manfield wrote up in the Bridge Worlds in the early 80's, and I like this better. I've heard that Marshall Miles plays this way (though I don't want to libel him, it's just what I heard and I don't know the details) though I still thought I was pretty clever with the inversion, until I saw it written up in the Bridge Journal from the early 1960's!

Some complain that you rarely have them nutted, and when you do you might pass the double and pard bids in front of you. I can live with that, since frequency is what's important. I get to redouble without absolute control of two of the three suits, and that lets me show my values more frequently.

This works over Michaels or Unusual 2NT, too. When I pass and double, they're in trouble. If I double and double, it's cooperative.

17) 3rd, none
AQJxx Ax ATxx Kx

P-3C-3N-P, P-P

It's uncomfortable to bury the spades, but it looked like the only shot at playing 3NT.

xx 9xx KQJxx JTx
AQJxx Ax ATxx Kx

LHO led his stiff club and RHO won his ace, then shifted to a spade. I put in the queen, losing to the king, and then ducked LHO's HK. He shifted to a diamond and I won the ace. Now what?

I can count 2S, 1H, 5D, and 1C, and I've lost 1S, 1H, and 1C. If the spades are 3-3, I could have won the first heart and taken 11 tricks, but how likely is that? I ducked a heart so the timing would be right for a squeeze. RHO seemed to have 7C, and rated to have a few pointy cards, leaving him only two hearts. If LHO had played another spade at any point I'd have needed 3-3 spades, but he hadn't. I cashed HA, CK, and ran the diamonds coming to:

Sx H9 CT

and LHO had to keep HQ, so he had to unguard the spades. +430.

One comment about nationals. Most people play A from AK against suits, though a small number play Rusinow. A few people have other agreements. One I hear see somewhat frequently is A asks Attitude, K asks Count (or Kount. How clever.). Someone played something that sounded very interesting:

A from AK, but K from AKJ or from AK if you plan to shift to a singleton at trick two. When my partner leads an A and shifts, I never play him for a singleton. That means no ruff when the disobey me and peek at dummy before leading their stiff, but it sometimes means their AK go away. Not optimal. Maybe this has some merit.

Not sure whether the AKJ part is worth playing, but I'm certainly open to comments. Anybody?
Just pointed out to me:

Monday night my partner had a non-material throw in.

23) 3rd, both
9xxx QJx Ax Qxxx

1C-P-1S-2D, 2S-3D-P-P, X-P-3S-P, P-P

2S promised four. The double of 3D was undiscussed.

DK lead:

AQxx Kx Tx AJ9xx
9xxx QJx Ax Qxxx

She won the first diamond, finessed SQ (RHO dropped the ten), SA (LHO dropped SK but he's good enough to do that from KJx, RHO followed small but she's good enough to play this way from JTx although it would be suit preference) and led HK losing to HA (possible defensive error). RHO won HA, cashed DJ, exited a heart. Pard cashed a third heart, pitching a club as LHO pitched a diamond, and led CQ-K-A-x. Now what?

It's hard to believe RHO wouldn't have cashed SJ, so she seemed to be 2=6=3=2 or 2=6=4=1. Just in case she's 3=6=3=1 it seems safe to exit a trump. She won and...was caught in a non-material endplay!

She could exit a red card, giving up a useless ruff-sluff, but pard ruffed and could take the club hook. +170.

Nicely played.
Wow. The best thing happened: a north-south bump on the last round, so we could leave early! And this morning I woke up to find we'd scored 70%!

We only had six tops out of 24, but nothing below a 25% board (though we left quite a few matchpoints on the table). Here are a few deals:

5) 3rd, unfavorable
AKTx K7 AJxxx Tx

P-1N, 2C-2S, 4S-P

QJxx AJ9xx K Jxx
AKTx K7 AJxxx Tx

LHO led H8 and my nine held (they lead 3rd and low). I cashed SQ, SA, HK, DK, and led HA. RHO ruffed and I overruffed, so now I could count 4S in my hand, 2D, 3H, and two diamond ruffs for 11 tricks. I had to preserve entries to enjoy the long heart, and I had to leave a trump out (he ruffed a winner but I got two ruffs in return). Neat hand.

20) 4th, both
Kx Kxxx Qxxxx Qx

P-1D-P-1H, P-1S-P-1N, P-P-2C-2D, P-P-3C-?

1D may be as few as two, but promised a sound hand. 1S showed shape. So, pard was 4=1=4=4 or had at least five diamonds.

At matchpoints, opposite a sound opening, it seemed clear to double 3C. If pard had six diamonds she'd pull, with 4=3=5=1 she'd use her judgement, and with 4=2=5=2 3CX rated to fare poorly. I could only dream about 4=1=4=4.

Dummy tabled some values, along with honor FOURTH of trump. We nipped it a trick, routinely, and scored a top. RHO quoted The Law and LHO started laughing, pointing out that they hadn't scored a single matchpoint, and question the authority of the law. Good times.

22) 2nd, favorable
KQJxx Tx Kxx xxx

P-P-P-1C, 1H-1S-P-2N, P-3H-X-3S, P-3N-P-P, P

Notes on the auction:

a) 1S promised 4+ spades.
b) absent competition, 3H would have been a transfer. In comp it was undiscussed, but intended and interpreted as a cue bid / checkback.
c) I meant 3N as a choice of games, but pard was confused and passed.

As usual when I play 3N instead of 4M, it makes the same number of tricks if a key finesse is off, one fewer if the finesse is on. Of course it was on, so we got a 3/8. Playing 4S would have gotten us 6/8.

All in all, it was fun to win, but I really liked going home early. And the brownie bites they put out at the beginning of round six. I stared at them during all three boards, then RAN over to grab the last one.
Steve got a partner for Sunday, but he only has 1100 masterpoints. In fact, they wanted to play in the Blue Ribbon pairs this month, but he doesn't have a Q. On MY team! On the bright side, he has a great sense of humor and he knows C++ so I can live with him.

Oh, he also brought back a pretty good card each round. That's important, too.

13) 2nd, both
AJTx Qx AQxxx A9

Ah, the first board of the day. And it's a good hand. Sweet.

P-1D-2C-X, P-3C-P-3H, P-3N-P-P, X-P-P-P

We had discussed that a jump to 3M here is natural and forcing. I can jump to 3H with both majors. We hadn't discussed, explicitly, that 3C would say to bid 3N with a stop, 3S with spades, and 3H otherwise, but the first board of the day seemed like a good time to spring this particular surprise. Note that I can't afford to try 3S, since pard won't bid 3N without a club stop.

Should partner have pulled 3NX to 4S holding 9xxx ATxxx x J8x? Or not doubled 2C? Sure, but that's water under the bridge. 1400 later she said "Sorry" and I said "No problem" and we started the next board.

I try really hard to be a good partner, but it's not that difficult when you hear "sorry, my fault". It's much more difficult when pard comes up with excuses or, much worse, blames you. That leads to fisticuffs...

14) 2nd board of the day
The opps bid 2N-3N, P. 3N shows 5S and 4H but opener forgot. No problem, as they made game anyway. Looks like I have a long day in store.

9) 2nd, unfavorable
AKJx J Axxx KQxx

1D-1N, 2C-2D, 2S-3D, P

1N was 6-11, but 2D was more like 6-9, and 3D was more like 6-7. No WAY do I have a strong jump shift. Pard tabled a max:

98x K9x KQTx 9xx. Not sure I would have bid 3D, but we were +130 to win eight IMPs, so what do I know.

12) 4th, favorable
Q9 ATx KQJTx Axx

We have six minutes on the clock and have to get the RESULT turned in before the buzzer. Pard and an opp have been particularly slow, so I don't have any time to spend on the hand that matters. Note that there's a 2 VP penalty for a second late report (the first is a warning) but there's NO PENALTY for dropping a board so you finish on time. Bizarre.

Pard opens 1D, may be as short as two with a strong NT, and I get to wheel out a neat-o toy. I bid 2H showing either a 16+ notrump hand or a strong jump shift in hearts. I wasn't crazy about bidding NT with Qx or Axx in the majors, but the 9 and T swayed me. Pard relayed with 2S and I bid 2N, showing this hand. Pard jumped to 4N, quantitative, and still thinking about the lose 18 on the first board, I tried 6D. Pard sat for THREE MINUTES and bid 6N. Won't have a lot of time to play this one. The opps wanted me to explain the auction, and I said that 2H could be various types of hands but once I bid 2N it was 16+, balanced. Well, that's what I would have said if they'd let me finish my explanation.

TIME PRESSURE, people! Just let me answer...

Anyway, LHO led a club and dummy tabled Ax Qxxx Axxx KQJ.

Ax Qxxx Axxx KQJ
Q9 ATx KQJTx Axx

Ten tricks seemed pretty easy (our teammates were -430) but I needed more. I won the club in hand and led a heart at trick two. Let's put LHO to the test right away. He hopped HK and returned a club. I cashed HA and RHO dropped the jack, so I claimed 12 tricks. Well, that's what I should have done. Instead I cashed out the SA and minor winners, to set up a major suit squeeze. Wasted everyone's time and got us each a late play warning, while the HJ was dropping all the time!

After the event was over, LHO asked what would have happened if he'd ducked. I said I'd have won HQ, HA, CAKQ, DAKQJT and he would have been strip squeezed. If he stiffed his SK I'd drop it. If he kept no hearts I'd run hearts. If he kept one heart I'd throw him in to lead away from SK. He asked if I'd have gotten it right at the table, so I said "No, of course not. Way over my head. :-P"

10) 1st, both
xxxx A9xxx J AKx

1H-X-2N-P, 4H-P-P-P

2N showed 3+ hearts, at least invitational. With the quicks I bid game. LHO cashed a high spade and shifted to a trump, RHO following.

x KQJxx Axxx Jxx
xxxx A9xxx J AKx

I have 5 hearts, 3 ruffs, 1 diamond, and 2 clubs, making five. Since LHO was 5=1=4=3 with CQ I could have made six on a trump squeeze if she had shifted to a dimaond. I'd ruff three diamonds, getting to dummy with trump, trump, and spade ruff, then cash two more trumps, coming to:

Hx CJxx

If LHO kept CQxx I'd ruff out the long spade. If not, I'd drop CQ.
I told her she made a nice shift, but I guess shifting to a diamond would have been a little weird.

We went to the break with a slight lead, and Steve bought lunch/dinner in honor of Alan's birthday (I shouldn't say which one).

13) 2nd, both
QJ8x ATx Ax 9xxx

1N-2C, 2S-2N, 3N-P

LHO led D8, fourth best, and dummy tabled:

T9x Q98x QT AKQx
QJ8x ATx Ax 9xxx

A note on the auction: 1N was 10-12. We agreed that pard can invite with 13 and a major, not 4-3-3-3. She had a clear invite anyway, with all the texture. I always accept with a non-minimum. So, here we are in a 24 point game, just as we expected.

Rule of 11 said it didn't matter which diamond I played, but just in case he'd led from DK98 I put in the queen. It might have been smarter to win DT to discourage a continuation in case RHO got in, but it turns out this was even better.

At trick two I led a heart from dummy and RHO impressed me with his learning. He flew second hand high with the HK, to clear diamonds before I knocked out his partner's entry. Very nice. As it happens, that let me make an overtrick, but I still paid him the compliment. At the other table they played 3N the other direction and the diamond lead set the contract two tricks. Later, LHO asked if the 10-12 always rightsides the contract and I told him about putting the AKxxxxxxx or AKQxxxxx on lead. Ugh.

29) 2nd, both
AQTx Q8xx xx Kxx

1N-2D, 2H-3D, 3H-4C, (X)-XX-4D, 6H-P

I was pleased RHO doubled 4C, since I hadn't known what to bid otherwise. Pard had, of course, x AJT9x AKJxxxx -. We won two IMPs when our counterparts were in 6D, but we could easily have won 17 IMPs when 6H makes and 6D goes down, roughly 25% of the time. Oh well.

30) 1st, none
Axx Ax KJxx Kxxx

1C-P-1H-2S, P-P-X-P, ?

1C can be a weak NT, 13 to a medium 15. What now? I tried 3N and went down. 5D is cold. Pard overbid, a bit, with xx Kxxx AQxxx Qx or something like that, but I didn't find 5D. They got to 5D at the other table, though.

We won the event and Alan had a happy birthday. Still no blue ribbon Q, though.
My partner and his friend had to cancel, so I had to play with her partner. Luckily, we're fairly well acquainted, and the substitution worked out ok. We finished 6th in the afternoon, 5th in the evening. :-/

15) 2nd, favorable
7 K54 A873 AT873

1S-X-4S-X, P-?

Pard's double is "responsive". My partner bid 5C here, and we ended in 5DX -100, against our own +100 defending 4S. I think you need more shape to bid out at the five level, particularly at matchpoints.

22) 2nd, favorable
K7642 3 A643 KJ2


The crazy person dealt this hand made a takeout double. This deserves to end in disaster, and it did...for us. His partner bid 4C and we couldn't set it enough to make up for the string of 140's across the room.

17) 1st, none
97 97653 J9763 7

P-1C-1S-1N, P-3N-P-P, P

You lead S9 and dummy tables JT3 Q 4 AKQJ6532

T1: S9-T-K-4 |
T2: SA-8-7-3 |
T3: DQ-5-?

On opening lead a queen demands the jack or attitude (if it's from QJ). With a small stiff in dummy, and declarer ducking with eight club winners in dummy, what's going on?

I think it's obvious pard has DAKQx, so you should encourage for down three.

24) My opps played 3N on a wacky, uncontested auction:

92 KJ92 65 AQT85
AKJ Q4 AQ42 KJ97

I led a (helpful) spade from Q6543 A865 JT7 2 and declarer played two rounds of hearts, as I ducked. Now she didn't know pard's HT was dropping, and she was afraid to take the diamond finesse, so she only took 11 tricks. A matchpoint win for us.

Now for a little comic relief:

The top seed came to our table. RHO, Mark, is a funny guy and we tease each other all the time. I sat, staring at the board, as the other three players each took a hand out of a pocket and started sorting cards. Mark teased me and I called the director.

Mark: I was just kidding. I didn't mean anything.
Len: No problem. That's not why I'm calling.
Mark: ?
Len: Your partner just sorted my hand.

No lie. LHO's cards were still in the board, and he was sorting mine, and nobody else had noticed. The director said we should try to get a bridge result on the board, so we started the auction. I made an alertable call and LHO asked what it meant. I pointed out that he knew my hand...

We ended up in 2H +170, and I think it was all perfectly normal. More funny than usual, though.
But first, results from Monday's swiss. The deals were ridiculous, but here's the strangest distribution of matchpoints I recall:

Number of boardsMatchpoints per board

That's 67%, an average of 5.4/8, SD of 2.9 matchpoints per board on an 8 top.
In our last round we scored 0, 0, 8. That's an SD of 4.6, the "best" you can do in a three board round. (For math geeks, I'm using the unbiased estimator for the population SD, because it's bigger and more impressive. I have no idea which population I'm estimating...)

Here are some deals from the swiss. We blitzed the winners, and needed them to lose by 17 in the last match. Or so we thought. They lost by one IMP, but finished over two minutes late, for a two VP penalty. If they had played seven IMPs worse, or three minutes slower, we would have won the event.

We spent Saturday night in Livermore, with a friend and former partner of my partner's. On the drive back to the game, she said to her "The three years we played bridge together were the worst years of my life." She wasn't blaming my partner, just making an observation about other stuff, but I think it might, possibly, not have been phrased optimally.

Then she blitzed us. And lost the rest of her matches. I'm not sure what lesson to take away.

1) 4th, none
Tx KTxxxx Kxx Qx


2N is 19+ to 21-. My partner transferred and raised to 4H, a mild slam try in our methods. I had the full 19, so I jumped to 6H and made seven on a non-diamond lead. With some partners I play a direct 4D as the mild slam try, and RHO might well have doubled with her DQT, then if LHO underled his DA he'd have set the contract. Freaky.

11) 4th, none
KQ852 J93 52 642


I raised to 2H, pard bid game and went down. My teammate said she liked my 2H bid (the correct statement to make at the end of the third match regardless of her true opinion) but I didn't. I wrote to Kokish about this sort of thing a while ago, and it went something like this:

a) I said "standard" is for 1H-1S, 1N-2H to show the same hand as 1H-1S, 2D-3H, normally played as a three card limit raise (with at least four spades), then asked if that makes sense.

b) He said no. He said burying a good five card spade suit isn't productive, so he plays 1H-1S, 1N-2H can be this hand.

Or course he doesn't "play" at all, so that's a bit misleading.

c) I pointed out that he bid 2H with a hand like this in the CTC in the late 70's and, cheerfully, he pointed out that some time had passed. He also granted that with a good eight count or so you can't afford to bid 1S and now you have to raise hearts directly.

I'm not convinced of much, except that I can't hope for anyone to remember the Kokish treatment, or even agree to it.

13) 2nd, both
T93 J74 63 Q9873

Pard opened 2N 19+ to 21-, and I passed, suggesting he'd take an odd number of tricks. I was right. The number was eleven, though. Weird.

14) 1st, none
T82 T8xx Axx AKx

1C-1S, 1N-2D, 2H-3N, ?

I learned from the Culbertson blue book, so I don't pass hands with three quick tricks. On the other hand, I wasn't too optimistic about taking ten tricks (I mean, sure, pard's unlimited, but if he has a ton of extras either game will make). I passed. At least that would save us from pard's delay of game penalty.

AK976 Qxx KJT xx
T82 T8xx Axx AKx

Be careful what you wish for. I wished for, in order:

a) 3N to be a better contract than 4S
b) A club lead

I got both. I SHOULD have wished that I win IMPs. Oops.

I won the first club, ran S8, and it held. Neat. I led ST-x-? I couldn't, really, afford to rise, so I ran it to RHO's J. Shoot. He played to his partner's HK, and he cleared clubs and I ran the spades, as RHO pitched three diamonds. I played LHO for the DQ but RHO had stiffed it and claimed the last three tricks, and I lost two IMPs against 4S -1! Sigh. LHO gave him a hearty "Nice defense!" but if I had any class I would have played for the red strip squeeze. Of course I could always have guessed DQ, but he made it difficult.

28) 1D-P-1S-2H, X-3D-4S-P, P-?

a) What does 3D show?
b) Did it set up a force?

In my opinion, 3D is natural. In my opinion, pard would NEVER play 3D to be natural, and he probably thought it was the same as 2S: a strong heart raise. In my opinion, that sets up a force.

Pard did think it was a cue bid, but didn't think it set up a force, so we missed our unfavorable sac, and our six IMP gain. Well, we won one IMP anyway, so...

For those paying attention, yes, we were unfavorable on board 28, since we changed directions this match. For those really paying attention, yes, we changed directions so a teammate wouldn't have to play against her father. Of course that meant I had to play against him, but that's what happens when you neglect to make yourself captain.

We went into the last match in third place, playing the second place team. Due to the spread, we knew that a loss meant third, a win meant second, a big win might mean first. So here were the first two boards:

5) 2nd, favorable
Qxx AKTx AKx xxx

(2S)-2N-3C, 3H-3S, 3N-4C, 4D-4H, P

3C was Stayman, the rest undiscussed. Pard thought 3S showed a slam try in hearts, and I suppose that's "clear". It seems pretty obvious that it's my fault we stayed out of slam.

x QJxx xxx AKQJx
Qxx AKTx AKx xxx

I got a trump lead, and a trump continuation on a spade play, and the hearts were 4-1, but it was still easy to make six. Ugh. Hard to say pard underbid.

[BTW, I think clubs and hearts are round, diamonds and spades are pointy. Rounded and pointed are verbs. Does anyone refer to hearts and diamonds as reddened? I supposed clubs and spades are blackened, at least in New Orleans...]

6) 1st, unfavorable
AQJTxxx A Kxxx K

1S-1N, 4S-P

x Qx Axxx ATxxxx
AQJTxxx A Kxxx K

LHO had DQTx and CQJx(x), so on a heart lead I won, fooled around in trumps, ruffed the heart return, cashed CK, and ran trumps for the minor squeeze (minored squeeze?) to make six. If he'd switched to a diamond when he got in, I'd have had to play for the positional squeeze, and that would have worked. It takes a diamond opening lead and continuation to set 6S.

I was a little disappointed during the next six boards, but it turns out we picked up 23 IMPs on them. And we won one IMP on each of the first two boards! Shows what I know...
Love those 10:30 AM starts. Especially when pard is a half hour late, after driving 300,000 miles from Fresno (and forgot to pay the entry).

6) 2nd, favorable
P-3S-P-4S, P-P-P

J KQ5 AJ983 A542
KQ97652 A3 76 J8

They lead C6. Over to you.

a) It could be stiff, so you don't want to duck to RHO and see the second club ruffed.

b) It could be doubleton, so you might want to win the first club, cash three hearts pitching your club loser, and play trumps.

c) It could be 3rd best, and you might want to play trumps before giving someone a heart ruff.

I won CA, SJ (RHO dropped the ten), HA, SQ (RHO pitched), and drove out SA. C, C, and S8 was promoted. Sigh.

13) 3rd, both
K75 K6 J8 AQJ942

P-P-1N-P, 2C-P-2D-X, XX-P-P-P

Pard tabled AT43 843 A962 K8. Deep finesse would only make two (+760) but I eked out a few overtricks for my second +1560 this year. That matchpointed pretty well. RHO was quite philosophical about it, comforting her partner who committed the double with QJ82 AT97 KQT5 5. She's a keeper.

17) 3rd, none
Q7 JT3 AKT8 AQ53

P-1N, 2D-2H, 2N-4H, P

They led a trump:

T65 AK976 J62 J7
Q7 JT3 AKT8 AQ53

It looked like the trump finesse was off, so I hopped HA and...what? I can't afford to draw a trumps and lose a diamond because they'd cash three spades. I didn't have the tempo to ruff a spade. I wasn't sure I could afford a club loser, but it seemed like my best shot, so I won DA and lead a club, LHO hopping CK to play another heart. I dropped the HQ, unblocked CJ, drew the last trump and cashed two clubs pitching spades. Then I played spades to take the (losing) diamond finesse, making four.
1) 3rd, none
KTxx JTxxxxx xx -

1S-X-3H-5D, P-P-P

3H was fitted, invitational or better! Was I supposed to bid 3S? 4S? By agreement, 3H does not set up a force. Pard had AJxxxx Q KT QJxx. Should she double 5D showing extra values? Should I pass that? We went +200, but +500 would have been better. Going down in 5S would have been worse.

11) 1st, none
Tx x KQJxxx T9xx

3D-3N, P

Pard had KJx Qxx Axx KQxx. Where's the feet? Even if, first seat white, I delivered the proverbial DKQJT987, where would she find another two tricks? As it happens she went down three.

19) 1st, favorable
K AQxxx AJT7 KJx

1H-1S, 2D-3C, 4N-6D, P

4N was quantitative.

Axxxx 9 Axxxx Ax
K AQxxx KJT7 KJx

I won the spade lead in hand and cashed DK. This was the first board of the night, and when pard's nemesis, on my left, showed out on the first round of trumps, I was afraid it would be a long, long session. Luckily, for the first time ever, RHO had the shape I hoped (3=3=4=3) and I eloped 12 tricks.

SK, DK, HA, H ruff, CA, CK, H ruff, SA, S ruff, C ruff, S. RHO ruffed small and I overruffed, then led a heart and won the trick (that means I played the trump ace. Somebody I know finds that unbelievably funny, though I'm not sure why), RHO underruffing, and gave RHO trick 13 with DQ. +920 for 6.5/8.

20) +1700. Enough said.

I bet you're wondering why LHO is pard's nemesis?

21) It went 1D-2C-P-? and LHO, with four clubs and an opener, jumped to 4C, for +130, leaving us a paltry 2/8 matchpoints. Sigh.

24) 4th, none
K98x Q Axx Qxxxx

1C-1H-P-1N, P-P-P

xxx AKxxx QJ87 x
K98x Q Axx Qxxxx

LHO led a club to his partner's king. He returned SQ, ducked. He played SJ-x-A-x, and LHO returned ST! Weird, but nice. I cashed my long spade, won HQ, led to DQ, cashed HAK, DA, and led to LHO's DK. He had to give me CQ at trick 13. +120.
Three sectional matchpoint pairs deals:

25) 3rd, favorable
AK75 6543 3 7652

1D-P-1H-1S, 2H-2S-X-P, 3H-P-?

2H showed four hearts and extra values (a 15+ to 17 NT or equivalent in shape) so I thought I'd try for +200 doubling 2S. Pard pulled, so now what? I thought game should have good play, so I bid 4H and they led DA, pard tabled:

4 AKT9 QJ972 QT3
AK75 6543 3 7652

I don't think pard had a 1D opening in our system, but I rarely get a vote.

Opening leader continued DK and I ruffed. Ok, not the best defense, but I still haven't made the contract. I played HAK (they broke), ruffed a diamond, cashed SAK pitching a club, ruffed a spade, cashed DQJ, then led CQ. RHO, down to HQ and C8, staring to her right at dummy's HT and CT, drew the last trump! A fratricidal idiot squeeze! Her partner stewed and pitched his CK, so I made 4H. I guess he didn't want her to score trick 13 in case she had the long spade. 17/17.

26) 2nd, both
72 Q86543 AJ 752

Same opps bid 1S-2D, 3S-4C, 4H-5C, 6C-6S, P (2D isn't forcing to game).

What's your lead? Opps in stratified pairs don't bid slam without going through Blackwood very often, so I was afraid she had a diamond void.

And the DA went away. -1460. 2.5/17.

29) 3rd, both
K J9765 A KQ6542

P-P-1C-1D, X-P-?

Would you open 1C? What would you bid over pard's negative double. 1H is a punt. 2H shows you'd cheerfully raise a 1H response to 2H. I suppose three or four hearts would be the value bid, but my pard likes to bid a lot, so I gave her some room with a 2H call. She jumped to 4H with:

Q983 A842 K964 7

How would that play opposite a normal hand, like Kxx Jxxx Ax KQxx? With decent breaks a spade lead would probably set me two.

Deals from the sectional Sunday swiss:

32) 3rd, unfavorable
K Txxx AQ97 AK52

RHO opened 1N and played there. I led C2. Dummy tabled CQ98x and declarer played small. Pard ducked with CJx. I think I show a good suit when I lead a minor against notrump, particularly since we agreed to lead 9 from 98xx or 7 from 97xx, etc, so I think pard shouldn't have ducked. The didn't even, necessarily, cost a trick, but when declarer fired back CT I hopped king and, finally, saw pard's jack. Oops.

15) 4th, favorable
AKJxxxx ATx KJ A


I doubled and bid 4S over pard's 1H. Seemed right at the time, though it looks a little goofy in retrospect.

Txx Jxxxx xxx Qx
AKJxxxx ATx KJ A

I got a trump lead and RHO popped SQ. Now what? It sure looks like LHO has DAQ, so I don't want RHO to get in. If hearts break 3-2, with split honors, I can always make if I guess the shape. I can draw trump with ST and lead through RHO's doubleton honor, or i can lead a small heart from hand through LHO's doubleton honor, then finesse through his partner or play for the drop, depending on whether he flies second hand. Of course he might have HKQx, but he might not.

Knowing these opps (before they match they told my partner I was the third best player in the bay area, after the two of them. I'm not sure what they meant, best at what?) I was pretty sure I had a better line available. I cashed CA, drew trump with ST, and ran CQ pitching a heart. He was "endplayed" and exited a heart that, for no particular reason, was ducked to my T. +420 for a...push. RHO and I raced to tell LHO the good news: if he'd exited HK from HKx(x) he'd have set the contract.

Luckily, some weird stuff happened at the other table, and we got blitzed by exactly 28. They won the event and we ended up fifth. But we got pumpkin cheesecake pie at the split.

Pwned again.

9) Unfavorable, 2nd
QJxx ATxx Ax xxx

2S-P-P-X, ?

I wanted to try Stayman with a stopper, but hearts didn't rate to be better than NT, so I just Lebensohled into 3N. As expected, pard tabled an 11 count.

xx K9x QJxx KQTx
QJxx ATxx Ax xxx

Fine. I didn't really want to play 3H anyway. Maybe I should have swung for +200. I got a diamond lead and won DQ. I won SQ and CK. So far, so good. Another spade and RHO hopped then got (too) busy with HJ from HJxx. I ended with 4H, 1S, 2D, 2C. An easy +600 for win 11.

11) None, 2nd
xx - JT9xxxx KT9x

1H-3D-X-4D, 4S-5D-6H-P, P-P

5D was...enterprising. Your lead?

Pard found a club, declarer played the hand better than expected, and I looked like a genius for not doubling with DA and HKxxx, holding the loss to 11 IMPs. Easy come, easy go.

34) 1st, favorable
Axxxx AT Qxx Axx

1N-4C, 4N-7D, P

Pard was super happy with this deal, for a few reasons:

a) He got to lead DQ off dummy, stare at his RHO's discard, shrug, play DA, and smile as LHO dropped the king. What a showman.

b) He got to lecture our teammate, who often complains Gerber is useless.
"We have this GREAT convention that got us to 7D! I bid 4C and pard shows how many aces he has...etc."

12) 3rd, favorable
AKQx AKxxx Txxx -

P-P-1H-P, 1S-2C-?

4C seems obvious, but if LHO took an unfavorable sac in 5C and we got +200 (or -750 or even -50 in 5S) I'd have a long ride home (with her and pard!). So, since pard's a passed hand and slam's unlikely, I tried 4S, showing a balanced 20 count. Pard tanked about a minute then passed.

I'm on a bridge mailing list. Most of the traffic consists of someone sending out a list of problems (read: errors their partner made) and collating the responses. Fred, from Australia, always posts problems that start like this (note, this is real. At least I didn't make it up):

"Favourable vul
Partner in first seat opens 2C = 0-4HCP almost any distribution

You hold QT9642 AQ54 void 432

a) next hand doubles – what do you bid?"


Anyway, here's a little something from the real world, where we're rightside up.

Playing in a sectional matchpoint pairs against weak opposition:

15) 1st, unfavorable
T53 KQT76 K972 9

P-1C-1N-3S, ?

It seems ridiculous to bid 3N or 4H, but pass doesn't seem right, either. I decided to double and blame pard. +300 against our red game. Should pard pull with:

AJ A95 AQJ5 JT54

or should RHO be locked up, bidding 3S with:

97642 8 64 K8632

LOVE those spots...
Technically third, by one VP, after teammates lost in committee.

20) 4th, both
Kxx xxx AKTx Axx


I passed and we were +200. Win nine IMPs after the opps got to 4H for another 200. Good luck? Sure. Good judgement? Maybe. Mostly it was a (hidden) win for the 10-12 NT, since pard denied one I felt safe waiting for a balance (almost opener with short clubs will double) or pass.

2) 2nd, unfavorable
AJx Kxx Axx KJTx

1N-2C, 2D-2S, 3S-4S, P

a) This NT was 15-17, unfavorable
b) 2S was a mild invite with 5+ spades
c) 3S was was discussed (by me) and undiscussed (by pard). Do you think it's forcing?

I don't see the point of an invite over an invite, so I play 3S as choice of games. I think 2N, to play, won't be right very often. 3C/D/H to play don't
make any sense at all. Maybe 3S should be an invite over an invite...

Still, if we can't remember 3S is forcing, who wants to come up with another four bids to remember.

5) I defended 1H. In the end position I knew the distribution, but I didn't know who had the high trump. Dummy and declarer had one trump each (dummy's was small) and pard had two trumps and a winner. If I play a winner, dummy will follow, declarer will ruff, and pard will claim down one. If i give pard a ruff, declarer will follow and pard can play a trump or give up a ruff sluff (making either way) when declarer has the high trump, or draw trumps and claim when she has the high trump. So...-80 vs. +50 vs. -100. Hmm.

I chose to play for down one and, of course, pard had the high trump. Then declarer, a teammate from the week before, patiently explained to me how I might have set it two tricks. I bit me tongue, since at least two people at the table are super slow and I wanted to finish the round.

+3 on the board, +26 on the set. Down two would have picked up an IMP but not a VP.

29) 3rd, both
Ax AJ9x Kxx AKxx
Txx Qxx AJxx xxx

1C-1N, 2N-3N, P

Opps led and cleared spades, and it looked like LHO started with five. The diamond finesse worked but LHO pitched a heart on the third round. I led to HJ, holding. Now what? I couldn't imagine LHO pitched from HKxx at IMPs, so I considered playing him for 4=4=2=3 (maybe they falsecarded in spades) with some black blockage so he'd be endplayed (or his pard might have HT). That could easily lead to down two, but it makes sense to play for +600, even somewhat against the odds.

I couldn't stand it: I cashed HA, LHO dropped his majesty, and RHO raised his eyebrows. Weird, since this is a good pair.

30) 2nd, P-1N-2D-3C, 4S-P-P-X, P-P-P

1N was 10-12. Pard doubled with x Qxx Axx AQxxxx.

-590. I'm not sure what's right over 4S, though I'm leaning towards a resulting 4N.
Even when I grind out a 38% (ok, just below 38%) at the club, I still find interesting deals. That doesn't keep me from hating the experience, though. Check out this round from heck:

22) 1st, unfavorable
xxx QJxxx xxx xx

P-P-1N-2D, ?

2D showed the reds, so I was thankful and passed. -130, for a zero. Declarer had a stiff heart king.

Declarer: I haven't played Brozel in years!
Bitter defender: And counting...

23) 4th, both
xxxxx AQxxx A xx

1D-2C-5D-X, P-P-P

+500 for a 2 (on an 8 top). I don't mind when the opps find a good sac, except when they open 1D on ATx JT9 Jx KQTxx. Seriously, where's the feet?

24) 3rd, none
Jx KQTxxx xx Qxx

P-1N-X-2N, P-P-P

I led HK and dummy tabled a flat 13 count. Declarer showed 13-15 HCP. He thought that, with a doubleton heart, it would be too forward to drive to game with 26-28 HCP! I mentioned that I NEVER score well when the opps take this type of position. I was wrong. I got 2.5/8, our best board for the round.

19) 4th, both

P-1D-1N-P, 2S-P-3C-3D, P-P-4C-P, P-4D-X-P, P-P

2S was a transfer to clubs.

On the first board of the night, in 4DX, pard had no chance. Then they let her make six, and she split the difference, making four (setting up a long heart in dummy, returning to dummy, and abandoning it, facing her hand and conceding a side loser) for +710. Making five wouldn't have made a difference, still 6/8 (TOUGH field) but she would have made six if she'd played the NT overcaller for his bid. I wouldn't have, though, since he'd already shown a small doubleton in the suit she opened.

27) Pard had to negotiate a singleton king opposite AQJx (no side entry) for a winner and a pitch. 1.5/8.

29) 2nd, both
xx KJTxx AKQx Jx

1N-2C, 2H-4N, ?

1N was, nominally, 15-17. I decided that I had a lot of playing tricks, so I should accept. In reality, I decided that someone might (just might) be blackwood happy. So, I bid 5H (about to claim it was natural, if necessary) and pard boosted to six. She tabled AKQ AQxx Jxx Axx and, when the opening lead wasn't ruffed, I took as many tricks as the people in 7N. As the good lord is my witness, that was a 25% board. Maybe I'll open 2N next time, so we can get to 6N.

33) 2nd, none
AKx QJx AKxx Axx

P-2N-3C-3D, P-?

I decided that 3D was, probably, a transfer, but that I could afford to "cue" 3H in case it was natural. Pard bid 3N and, with trepidation, I passed. Pard tabled Qx AKTxx xxxx Tx on the CK lead.

Sweet. If the diamonds don't break I take the same 11 tricks as the declarers in hearts. That's at least an even money bet on a 32% chance, much better than I'd done all evening. On the auction, I thought the odds were much better than that.

Luckily, everything broke and I got a tie for bottom. 2.5/8. There were FOUR other tables in NT? B I Z A R R E.

Oh, and here's the actual bridge problem of the evening.

11) 4th, none
Axx Axxx xx AKxx
KJT98 Kxx A QJxx

P-1N-3D-3S, 4D-4S-P-P, P

Guess the queen. What excitement. 2/8.
My wife and I were invited to a Halloween party featuring the marquee bridge event of the fall: the Panette Individual. Seven tables, no partnerships, lots of drinking, and good, tight bridge.

3) 1st, favorable
764 J74 KT87 K63
K853 52 AQ4 AJ42

1C-1D, 1N-P

In real life I might have tried 1S over 1D, when not playing Walsh.

I won the SQ lead, ran four diamonds, and judged that LHO had something like his actual hand: JT9 AQT6 J6 Q987. I unblocked CK and exited a spade. RHO won and returned CT. I hopped CA and threw LHO in with the last round of spades. He cashed CQ, HA, and played HQ at trick 12. Now his partner can overtake and let me score HJ at trick 13, or duck and let me score CJ at trick 13. Pard entered a +120 below an unblemished string of 90's.

Taxonomically, what should I call that sequence of plays? My favorite part is that LHO was probably the only one in the room to score CQ, and he scored one fewer trick than the other defenders.

21) 3rd, unfavorable
T86 K53 T53 T764

I'm not proud of this board, I'm only including it as a curiousity. It was my last board of the evening, and I was afraid I needed a good board to win. P-P-? I couldn't stand it, and opened 1C. That was a mistake. Pard, with AJ 9762 Q642 A95, and a distinct lack of humor, committed this auction:

P-P-1C-X, XX-1S-P-2S, X-P-3C-P, P-P

She doubled 2S!!!!! Ugh.

I fought like CRAZY to take my fifth trick and got out for -400. Pard, near tears (well, not really), apologized profusely. I told her things would be ok. Except for the single 180 (and we might have beaten that, too, if she'd passed 2S) our 400 beat all the 420's.

So, I won the individual, and my wife was second! Yay! That's a $15 Jamba Juice gift card for me (I would have gotten it even I'd gone down 1100, because she doesn't like Jamba Juice), much better than silver points.

On the way out the door, pard suggested, in front of the opps, that I should thank them for their letting me win the event. I suggested that they might not appreciate said thanks, though a high five might be appropriate.
Tx AJTxx AJx xxx
KQx KQxx xx AQTx

Play 4H on a diamond lead. The double finesse in clubs is 76%, but you get an extra chance: play spades first. If the ace is onside (it was) you can pitch a club, and make even when both club honors are wrong (they were). An you lose one IMP when you're teammates are, improbably, -650. Oh well.

5) 2nd, favorable
Qxx AJxx Txxxx x
AJxxx T AQ8 QJTx

1S-2S, 3C-4S, P

Ok, it's a slimy game. You get a diamond lead, and win your eight. Now what?
I'll give you a hint: that was the only diamond trick I scored.

RHO had four spades, so I won HA, played to CQ and A, they ruffed a diamond loser, and tapped me in hearts. I cross ruffed the round suits and gave RHO another diamond ruff, then he had to lead from SK at trick 12.

On one board I didn't write down (and waited too long to write up) an opponent executed a dentist coup on himself. That was neat.

I've been told by experts that top players don't preempt when completely bankrupt. That is, 1S-X-3S is more likely to be Kxxx x xxxx xxxx than xxxx xx xxxx xxx. Fine, that sounds great and I talk the same game. But does the auction matter?

12) 1st, favorable
Txxx x Txxxx T9x

P-1C-1S-2H, ?

Once the opps had a power auction, and I had negative defense for pard's measly one level overcall, I fell from grace and jumped to 3S. Pard was soon in game (doubled). Oops. I was ashamed to put down the dummy since I was the one who'd insisted jumps show...something.

+590. Shows what I know. I'm receptive to comments...
I've written more than one whiny email to Eric Kokish begging for sympathy because I can't find a decent partner who's not wedded to fast arrival. All the gold/diamond/emerald life masters I've gotten dates with are IN LOVE with burning bidding space to tell partner...nothing very interesting. Ok, whatever. For the most part, I don't sweat it because those auctions aren't terribly frequent. I've started a new partnership with a pretty good player (Grand LM!). Good enough, in fact, to win a sectional swiss with me. Even though we No big deal, right? It never comes up. Anyway, going into the final round, playing for the event, we faced these two deals:

16) 3rd, unfavorable
ATxx AKx Axxx xx

1S-2N, 3H-3S, 4C-4N, 5S-5N, 6D-6S, P

Pard dealt, opened 1S, and the opps were silent. I prefer 3C as the forcing raise, since it's useful to have a forcing, natural 2N, but when I have the raise 2N Jacoby works fine. Pard bid 3H, showing at most one heart. Ugh. It would be great to know whether he had extras, but standard Jacoby doesn't cover that. In my regular partnerships, even when I play standard Jacoby, I can punt with 3S here, and pard can either make a cooperative noise with 3N non-serious, or he can make a serious control-bid, showing extra values, at the four level. We didn't have that agreement. Instead, we played fast arrival. Did that apply here? If so, what did 3S and 4S mean? Where do you draw the line? How good a hand can I have to make a fast arrival 3S instead of making a control bid? I just don't get the point...

Anyway, here I thought that 15 HCP in the form of 4 quick tricks had to be good enough to try 3S (stronger than 4S?) leaving room to discover pard's putative club control below game. He bid 4C (extras? Minimum? No interest in slam at all, but felt he had to show club control because I was unlimited?) and now what? A red control bid might get him to sign off, afraid I couldn't control the other. I still wasn't sure I'd show extras, so, just in case he had, I certainly couldn't sign off in 4S. I got to do what everyone always does, successfully, against me: Blackwood with a doubleton. I found we had all the key cards, and the trump queen. I got to bid 5N specific king and found our tenth trick. Yipee. I'd promised all the keys, so I could sign off and let him bid grand if he felt like it. He didn't, and he made exactly six.

A few boards later:

21) 2nd, favorable
KQT9x xxxx Qx Ax

1S-2D, 2H-2S, 2N-3D, 4S-P

If the last auction made me uncomfortable, this one was EXCRUCIATING! I'd have preferred to open a 10-12 notrump, but I felt that 1S, willing to pass 1N semi-forcing, might win a partscore battle. Pard forced to game with a natural 2D. 2H on four to the deuce was pretty gross, and pard showed spade support with 2S. Great. Is that SUPER FAST ARRIVAL, showing a 25 count, since it is stronger than 3S, and 3S is stronger than 4S? Even if we had to play this method, it would be much more useful with some (any) discussion.
On the other hand, what am I supposed to do? Would 3S by ME be fast arrival? I'd LITERALLY vomit if I bid 4S with this hand (how could partner ever play me for this hand?). 2N wasn't appealing, but what's left? Over his 3D I was in, essentially, the same position. I swallowed my pride and jumped to 4S, hopeful he'd pass and be right. And he did. +450.

We need to talk.
Here are a few deals from clubs and sectionals. Even though I'm an A's fan, the title wasn't a Raiders reference.

Playing 10-12 notrumps brings a lot of fun and excitement to a dull club or sectional session. When they smack you for penalties, especially at matchpoints, trying to get out for a few points less than their game is a big thrill. More on that, later. My favorite part, though, is talking about the runout sequences after the game. Here's my favorite so far:

1N-X-2C-X, XX-P-2D-P, P-X-P-P, XX-P-2H-P, P-X-P-P, 2S-P-P-X, P-P-P

If I had wanted to stretch things out, I could have redoubled and let pard play 2S. We made 2SX, btw, but that's not the fun part. I think they're cold for 4H anyway.

Yesterday I played swiss and we had this auction:
1C-P-1D-P, 1H-1S

RHO insisted that 1S showed primary clubs, otherwise he would have bid the previous round. Fine, as long as you've read all the bridge world magazines from the early 60's (he has, I have) and so has your partner (his hasn't, mine haven't). Oh well. Last week I had this auction:

P-1C-P-1H, P-1S-2D with 62 9 AJ975 AKQ93, and pard wanted to know why I had passed the first round. Sigh.

11) 1st, none
AQ972 T J864 Q43
- AK52 AKQ93 AJT6

1D-1S, 2H-3D, 4C-4H, 5H-6D, P
How do you play on a spade lead? If you play SQ, RHO covers. Since it was matchpoints I wanted to try to make seven, so I ruffed, HA, H ruff, DA, H ruff, DJ (trumps were 3-1), SA pitching a club, run CQ. Turns out RHO started with three diamonds and a stiff club, so I was about to go minus, but LHO didn't return a club. Weird. Against expert opps, perhaps LHO might have ducked the first club from Kxxx, and then given his partner a ruff. Against near experts, if they tried this, they'd probably give away the show.

So, did I misplay it?

3) 1st, favorable
AKx KQ97xx Tx Tx
QJx T8x QJx KQJx

We bid 1N-2D, 2H-4H, P. Even though we don't play 4H as a slam try, I still think it was an overbid, though I guess I would have bid 4H, at matchpoints, just to stay with the field.

Please note that I only opened 1N because it was 10-12. I wouldn't have considered a 12-14 NT or, heaven help me, 1C. I canvassed a few people around the room and they all opened. Monkeys.

Anyway, half the field went down, the rest made four or five (not all in game) or squeezed out a +1400. Just another day at the club. I, however, was the only player with the mad skillz to find a way to go down three. Observe:

LHO cashed DAK, CA, so now, at best, I can swing a 2.5 on an 11 top. Then he exited with a club and I led to HK as RHO pitched. Oops. Luckily, I'm all about the Dentist's coup. I know that if I play a spade to my hand and lead HT LHO can win HA and exit a spade, locking me in dummy for down two. I won't fall for that. The correct play is to cash SA, SQ, THEN lead HT. When LHO has a doubleton spade he has to exit a minor, and I can pitch SK, win in hand, and draw trump with a marked finesse. Note that, on the auction, it's far more likely LHO has three spades, but if I cash SA, SQ, CK pitching SK, I can't win ANY plain suit exit in hand since dummy will be trump tight.

Here's a hand I played a few weeks ago, and pard put it on his blog.

23) 1st, both
Txx xxxxx xx xxx
AKQxxx AQ xx AJT

1S-P-P-2D, 3D-P-3S-P, P-P

They cashed two diamonds and RHO played S9. I cashed SAK (trumps broke 2-2) and I had a decision to make. I had one entry to dummy, so I could take the heart hook, or I could try to catch CKQ on my right (or a doubleton honor). The heart hook seemed more promising. So, to enjoy the vig, I led CJ and stared down LHO. He won CQ and was endplayed. He exited a club and I could go to dummy for the heart hook anyway (it was off) trying to make four. Please note that I'd go down without the extra chance in clubs. Also note that if LHO ducked (not smoothly) I could win RHO's round return and try to throw in LHO in that suit, if I judged the card's lay foul. Also, also note that if LHO ducked smoothly I can finesse the round suit RHO returns and still get to dummy to try the other finesse. Pretty sweet, I thought.

I have a convention I insist on with all my partners: Keller. Like Helen. No talking about bridge during a session. Part of the reason is that when you spot analyze a hand (ok, maybe not when YOU do, but when my partner or I do) you might make a tiny (or huge) error and look stupid. Even worse, you might be right and make partner feel bad. Not what you want to do during a session. Finally, the main point of a post-mortem is to improve, and attacking before he gets to write down the score fires off defensiveness that gets in the way. I mention this because pard's congratulations on my brilliance went like this:

Why didn't you go to dummy, take a club finesse, and enjoy the 100% play?

He sounded so convincing I panicked and told him my play was better since I had significant chances to make an overtrick, at matchpoints. True, but more importantly his play was 24%, since they could exit passively in diamonds after I play off dummy's last trump.


Oct. 2nd, 2007 11:46 am
Check out tomorrow's daily bulletin at the Bermuda Bowl. Read "The Expert Play". I've been meaning to write up this card combination for a while, but Chip Martel scooped me!

When you play a 4-4 (or 5-3) trump fit missing the AJT, how do you play the trumps? Everyone knows you lead through the doubleton ace. That's easy. If you don't know where the ace is? Lead through the doubleton. If you don't know where the doubleton is? Lead through the ace. If you have no idea what's going on? Hmm?

Everyone thinks this is easy. You guess a direction, lead up to an honor, then duck on the way back, hoping you caught a doubleton ace. Fair enough. But you can do better. Note that both declarers in the Bermuda Bowl led from dummy. Katz unblocked the jack (a play I've made many times, with the same result, but Chip wasn't around to document it), The Expert Play. Also note that the US declarer continued a small trump out of hand, according to plan. If the hand were a touch different it would have been safe to go to dummy and lead the second trump from dummy. It doesn't give up any technical chance, and it tempts the Master Trump holder to fly from ATx in second seat. That's another reason it's important to make the Ralph Katz Memorial Unblock.

I've run this gambit several times (Grant Baze held his jack and his partner hopped with the ace) but the most frustrating was in the finals of a bracket II ko. In 2S my opp ducked the second trump with ATx without batting an eyelash. I went +110. I asked why she hadn't hopped and she just stared at me, vacantly. We tied the match and lost the playoff.


1) Nice play, Ralph. You belong in the Bermuda Bowl. Check to see if I'm available for 2009.

2) I don't know how often the master trump syndrome pays off, especially in the Bermuda Bowl, but if you have the entries take a swing at it.

3) A not especially related play, but one that's even more fun, comes up in situations like this:


When declarer cashes the ace, drop your queen. If they finesse against your putative jack, you "winkle" a trick for your partner. Make sure to unblock, now and then, when the suit lies:


Only do this against good players, though, or it might cost you. It's worth a laugh and, if you're lucky, declarer will turn a really peculiar shade of red.
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