Wednesday, August 27, 2008

When to break the rules

Maxims are general truths or proverbial sayings. Following them is usually a good idea, but not always. Take, for example, the adage "Never give the opponents a ruff and a sluff." That's a good rule, but blindly following it can take you down the road to disaster.

Playing online last night at OKbridge, on board #7 I picked up:
K Q 10 8 2 A K 9 7 A 9 8 3.

We were playing a big club system and I had 16 high-card points. I decided not to open 1, however, because I was three-suited. Opening 1 in our system promises at least four cards (rare in most versions of Precision Club) -- by doing so, I can begin showing my suits. Left-hand opponent overcalled 1, partner made a negative double and RHO raised to 2. What now?

Sure, I can jump to 3, but if partner passed, I'd be nervous that I missed game. She can hardly play me for a hand this good and the opponents bid and raised my singleton, further improving my hand. I bid 4.

J 6 5 3
7 3
J 6 3 2
Q J 10
2 A 9 7 4
A K Q 10 9 6 J 8 5 4
10 8 5 Q 4
K 7 4 6 5 2
K Q 10 8
A K 9 7
A 9 8 3

Partner didn't have anything extra, but I don't mind her negative double. She knew we had a combined diamond fit of at least eight cards, so that was her safety net. When you pass with a borderline hand like this, sometimes it just creates a bigger problem on a later round of bidding.

West led the A and then the king, ruffed. I led the Q which was ducked and followed with the K. East took this as West showed out.

When you have four of the opponents' trumps to the ace, it is generally best to duck until the third round. Even though she won the ace prematurely, she could have ensured a set by leading a heart. If I ruff in my hand, it sets up her 9 and the discard does me no good. If I ruff in dummy, she has more trumps than either my hand or dummy.

Instead, she shifted to a club. I played low and West won his king. According to Deep Finesse, he can still defeat me if he leads a heart. Unfortunately for him, the axiom about giving a ruff and a sluff was too well ingrained. He exited with a club.

I played the A K and the queen dropped. It was now a simple matter to cash the 10, lead a club to the queen, draw the last trump with the J and claim.

What's the lesson point? A statement such as "Never give the opponents a ruff and a sluff" is a guideline, not a rule. If you think of it as a rule, then knowing when to break the rules is paramount.

This was a 10.36 IMP pickup. Roughly one-third of the 71 tables played a heart partial making 140. Another one-third played in 4 or 4 down 100. You can see what all the pairs did if you click here.

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