Monday, August 25, 2008

Sometimes, it's not your day

Some friends and I played in a Swiss Team game yesterday at a sectional tournament in Tupelo MS, a town about 95 miles from Memphis.

Trivia time: Who knows what Tupelo is famous for?

Answer: It's the birthplace of Elvis Presley.

The setting:
At the dinner break we had three wins and one loss. Obviously our team couldn't lose any more matches to have any chance for first place. The fifth round we played against a weak lesser team, who was also from Memphis. The fourth board, you hold:
10 8 7 3 2 A K Q 10 A K J 4.

The bidding:
You open 1 and partner bids 2NT, a Jacoby raise. You rebid 3, showing shortness. Partner continues with a 4 control bid.

This hand shows the power of Roman Keycard Blackwood -- you can check on trump quality. You bid 4NT and partner bids 5 which shows 0 or 3 key cards. Good, partner has the A and the A K. You may still have a spade loser, so you bid 5, asking for the trump queen. Partner gives you 6 which shows the queen, but denies a side king. What would you do now?

You can count five spades, three or four hearts, one diamond and two clubs. It can be helpful to consider what partner may have and how the play will develop. With that in mind, you realize that if partner has three low diamonds, you can ruff them in your hand to take six spade tricks, counting the two ruffs in your hand and the four in her hand. You may be able to discard clubs on your hearts and ruff your club loser. Partner may have the Q. Seven is probably a claimer, and should be on a club finess at worst. There have to be so many plays for the grand slam that you bid 7, ending the auction.

The deal:
West leads the Q and here's what you see (low spots approximate):

A K 9 6 5
J 4
A 9 6 5 2


10 8 7 3 2
A K Q 10
K J 4

The analysis:
Ouch. Partner also has diamond shortness -- so much for ruffing two of them in your hand. She made a nice bid, however, showing you the trump queen. She knew you had a combined 10 (or more) trumps, so her fifth spade was (almost) as good as the queen. A 10-card fit will split 2--1 78% of the time. They will split 2--1 more often than that when the boards are hand-shuffled (as these were), but that's a blog post for another day.

The play:
You test trumps and they do indeed split 2--1. So far, so good. You play an extra round of trump, you take your four heart tricks, and then you can't put it off any longer -- you have to play the club suit. You lead the 4 to the ace and play another, putting in your J. It loses to the queen and you are minus 50.

The postmortem:
The result on the board was a loss of 11 IMPs, and we lost the match by 2 IMPS. This was particularly annoying because at the other table they only bid to 4, making plus 480!

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