Monday, April 6, 2009

Playing for down one

In an online bridge mini-tournament Sunday evening, my left-hand opponent opened 3 Pass Pass to me. I held:
A 7 5 A 10 9 3 9 7 K Q J 5.

After I made a takeout double, partner basically located our heart fit and drove to slam. Right-hand opponent doubled -- oops.

West led the K, and these were all four hands:

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

Yes, we've overbid, but when playing online in a short match (12 boards), you have to go for it. It's pretty much potluck (as is the IMP Pairs at the NABC, by the way, for similar reasons).

I knew (from the Lightner double) that RHO was void in diamonds, so the contract was hopeless. Could I hold it to down one? I played the A and East ruffed and exited with a low club, my J taking the trick. Now it was easy to draw trumps and lead up the the J. That was a discard for my losing spade (after I took the finesse for the king).

Deep Finesse says that East-West can set me two after I play the ace at trick one. East can exit with a heart or one of the spade intermediate spots and I can't develop enough tricks.

To hold it to down one, I need to give up on making it and duck the opening lead. If West continues with a diamond (a shift isn't any better), I can duck if it's a low one or play the J if he leads the 10.Let's say East ruffs (discarding isn't any better). If he makes the safe heart exit, I can draw trumps, ruff a club, and take the spade finesse. Let's say he covers it (ducking works out the same).

I can now ruff a second club and cash the A to discard a low spade. When I lead the 5 from dummy, this is the position:

J 6 2
--- 10 9 8
--- ---
Q 8 6 ---
10 3 A 9
A 10

East is squeezed in the black suits.

[There are offshoots of this line of play (depending on whether East covers the Q or not).]

For down one, we scored minus 9.82 IMPs. Down two doubled was minus 13.10 IMPs, so it could have been worse.

When I looked at the results later, I wasn't surprised to see that nine pairs went set in 6. I was shocked, however, to see that 10 pairs went set in four!! You can all the results here.


  1. My DW played bridge a ton in college and was quite good. She tried to teach me to play and gave up after 3/4 lesson. Yet, she is not good at poker and has no interest. M, how do the required skills differ in these two games that you play?

  2. Wow, Crash, that's a good question. I should probably give it some thought and make a post out of it.

    Off the top of my head, poker is an individual game, whereas bridge is a partnership game -- without a good partner with whom you communicate, you're nothing.

    In poker deception is important, in bridge you can't use deception in the bidding or on defense (most of the time) because yuo fool your partner.