Thursday, September 10, 2009

Speed up, then slow down

Bridge players are taught to pull trumps when they first gain the lead. They hear: "Get the kiddies off the street." That's generally good advice, but not always, and that's what makes bridge the ultimate card game. For every rule, there's an exception. For every maxim, there are times when that advice won't work. Poker players like to say: "It depends." But in bridge, it really depends. There are just so many variables.

Playing online Tuesday night with Kate, I held:
A Q J 4 3 J 8 6 2 A 8 2 Q.

With both sides vulnerable, there were three passes to me and I opened 1. Both opponents were silent, and partner bid 2. In our methods, this showed invitational values and three-card spade support. What would you do?

The singleton Q may not be worth much, and I suppose I should have re-invited. Bidding 2 doesn't promise extra, however, and has the disadvantage presenting a revealing auction, making it easier for the defense.

Playing online in a short match (this was a 12-board mini-tournament), it pays to take the agressive route.

If you were driving a Mercedes Benz on the German Autobahn, would you go 55 or would you step on the gas? When I got out of college (back when dinosaurs roamed the earth), I travelled in Europe for several months. While hitchiking, I was picked up by a German, and he was driving a Mercedes (it purred like a kitten), and it was, indeed, on the autobahn. At one point, I looked at the speedometer and saw he was going 160!! Later, I realized that it was kilometers, so "only" 100 mph.

I don't have a Mercedes, but I can drive fast too, and so I bid 4.

West led the 8. Here are all four hands (rotated):

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

When I checked the results later, many declarers went set. They won the opening lead, were in a hurry to draw trumps, then gave the contract some thought. Wrong. Go slower. Do your thinking at trick one.

I could see I had a club loser and two heart losers (barring a miracle). Therefore, I assumed the diamond finesse would work. That would be three losers, but how many winners did I have? I had five spades, three diamonds and (most likely) only one heart trick. But wait, maybe I could ruff a heart in the dummy, even after this pesky trump lead.

I led a heart to the 9 (maybe ace is safer), and East won with the K and returned the 3. I took the ace, and led a third round. East ruffed this, and the contract was cold. Ruffing was a thoughtless play -- if I had the Q, I wouldn't have played this way.

At first it looked like East could lead another trump at trick three. Then when West wins the heart continuation, he could underlead his A to allow East to win and lead a third round of trumps. Deep finesse says the contract is always cold, however, and I'll let you figure out how I could have countered this defense.

For bidding and making 4, we gained 5.33 IMPs. This deal was played 77 times and 18 declarers went set in 4. Three declarers were in the ha-ha 6 contract. A few were in spade partials, and one brave pair bid and made 3NT. If you don't believe me, you can check all the results here.

Handviewer presentation:


  1. How close is it? If you trade dummy's 7 of clubs for east's 5 of clubs, the trump switch at trick 3 now works, according to GiB.

    (Hit the GIB button here:

    Good on you if you could see this endgame at the table, or even double dummy:

    I was feeling badly at first that I couldn't see how to survive the third spade after exiting a club.

  2. I liked the comment on the Mercedes and the Autobahn!

  3. Play a club at T2

    T1: S->J
    T2: CQ->either defender
    T3: S->T
    T4: C ruff
    T5: D finesse
    T6: C ruff
    T7: DK
    T8: C ruff
    T9: HA
    T10: SK
    T11: DA
    T12: uncle

  4. Nice. Simple, clean dummy reversal.

  5. Thanks for the comments. I didn't even think about the dummy reversal, good job!