Monday, December 1, 2008

Which contract do you want to play?

Kate and I held these hands last night, playing online bridge. What contract would you like to play at tournament IMPs?

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

Playing 3NT was the most common result. Notice the diamond problem. If West leads one, and East has the king, the defenders can clear the suit and you don't have nine tricks without knocking out the A. What about letting North play it? If East leads a diamond, you have a nasty guess. In other words, you want the hand to declare it that makes the defender with the K on lead. You can't know this, obviously, and so 3NT is dicey.

Kate and I avoided this by playing 4 in the Moysian fit. It's not iron-clad, but still looks safer to me than 3NT. Here's our big club auction:

North South
1
1NT 2
3 3
4 Pass

1 was artificial showing 16+ high-card points.
1NT promised a notrump-type hand with 9 to 13 HCP.
2 was an inquiry.
3 showed the uppper range, 11 to 13 HCP, and two suits, one of them clubs.

West led the 7 and I ducked it around to my 8. I drew trumps in three rounds and knocked out the A. West won the second round (East showed a singleton!) and he exited with the 2. East played the jack and I won the king.

Now the hand was set up for a Vienna Coup. I cashed the A, ran clubs, then cashed my high heart. If West had the K and four spades, he was history. If East had the K J and long spades, he was toast. It would have made a better story if one of those had happened, but, in fact, there was no squeeze and I made only five for a score of plus 450.

Here are all four hands (rotated):

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

You can see that if East had split his spade honors at trick one, I might be able to concede a spade later to set up a discard for my losing diamond, and still make five. In any event, 10 tricks was never in jeopardy after trick one.

Making 4 with an overtrick was a 2.54 IMP pickup. A total of 73 tables played this deal, and the most common result was 3NT by South (rotated), making five. Eight times 3NT was played by North, and seven of those times it went set. East led a low diamond, and declarer played the queen from dummy, oops!

One pair played 4 and was defeated. Also, eight pairs bid slam and went set -- 29 HCP and not particularly good distribution isn't enough. Did I say not enough? Two pairs bid and made 6. One opened the North hand 1, so was declarer. He got the Q lead, but the contract could still be set. When West was in with the A, he returned a spade and East covered! This provided a discard for the diamond loser.

Another North opened 1 and a diamond was led. He played low from dummy and was allowed to win his 10. That avoided the diamond loser, but he still had a spade problem. As he drew trumps and ran hearts, however, East discarded two spades (to save the J!) to allow the contract to make. Never underestimate online players.

If you have a strong stomach, you can look at all the results, if you click here.

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