Changing My Ways?
Our team in Springfield, Missouri [from Left: Bob Hampton, Gavin Wolpert, LC, Steve Weinstein, Alan Sontag, David Berkowitz]
Am I getting wiser (or just older)? In the Springfield, Missouri regional (June, 2008), I held this hand:
J 9 6 5 3
A Q J 7 6 4
I was the dealer with both sides vulnerable? What should I do?
I was playing with Dave Berkowitz, my regular partner. Because we play a strong club, I couldn't open 1. My only choices were 1 or 2, natural.
What if we were playing Standard? Then my choice would be between 1 and 1. Opening 1 really distorts the picture. It feels wrong to open in a weak five‐card suit and then hope to bid clubs a few times (the auction might get out of hand).
Alternatively, opening 1 and maybe having to reverse into hearts (after, say 1—Pass—1—Pass) does not appeal.
In our Precision system, the choices were also ugly. I don't like 1 (for the reasons stated above) and a natural 2 feels like it will preempt our own 5‐card side suit of hearts.
So, I did the mature thing. I passed! I must be getting old. Passing a 6‐5 hand with 11 HCP? Maybe I am getting Roth‐like (the late Al Roth would never open such a hand). I decided it might be easier to describe this hand by passing now and later entering the auction.
After my pass, LHO and partner passed. RHO opened 2NT, 20‐21. Now what?
Have you ever discussed with your partner what methods you use over 2NT? We use the same methods (DONT) as over 1NT. I chose to bid 3 to show a 2‐suiter (clubs and another suit). Not only might this lead to a profitable contract, but many opponents might not be able to cope with the interference (it being such a rare occurrence after a 2NT opening).
LHO passed, partner passed, and now a very strange thing occurred. RHO, who had opened 2NT, balanced with a bid of 3! My other suit!!
I passed (delighted), LHO passed, and partner doubled. This must mean he had a decent hand and interest in competing. He wanted to hear my other suit. If it were hearts, I'd pass—which I did.
The result was a bloodbath. This was the full deal:
|8 5 4 2|
J 9 8 5 2
J 9 6 5 3
A Q J 7 6 4
| ||J 9 7 6 3|
A K 10 3
10 3 2
| ||A Q 10|
A K Q 8 2
Q 7 6
|Larry Cohen|| ||David Berkowitz|| |
* any suit
I led my singleton diamond. I did get endplayed at some point, but still we scored 800 (the other table played in a partial). Maybe I will continue to pass such hands in the future.
Trust Thy Partner
|J 7 5|
Q J 9 7 4 2
|K 10 8 3|
K J 9 4 3
| ||A Q 6 2|
K Q J 8 7 6 2
| ||9 4|
A K 10
A Q 10 8 7 2
|Larry Cohen|| ||David Berkowitz|| |
For advanced to expert players:
You see the diagram and the bidding. I'll give you the first few tricks and then ask for your comments. West led the 10 (East playing the deuce), declarer winning the A. Next a spade went to West's eight, dummy's 5 and East's 2. Standard signals were in play. What has gone right/wrong so far, and what happened next?
First, the bidding. South's 1NT is very wrong. He is way too strong. I'd prefer either a 2 overcall or a double (notrump can always be reached later if correct—and probably best to play it from North's side, given South's lack of tenaces in spades and diamonds). After North's transfer to hearts, the auction was fine until South stuck his head on the chopping block with 4. He was apparently trying to catch up for his earlier underbid. In four hearts doubled, South has to lose two spades, a diamond and a club. He could have gone down only one by drawing trump. However, if trumps were 3‐1, he'd have had to use up all his trumps. He'd be left with dummy's third spade to lose. So, rather than draw trump, declarer started spades. He wanted to make sure of ruffing a third spade in hand.
When West played the spade eight and dummy played low, East made a good play. He played the spade deuce. Normally, this would be count (odd number), but East was pretty sure to have 4 spades from the auction. What else could this deuce (in combination with the diamond deuce at trick one) mean?
I'm not big on suit‐preference signals, but here, East had to be screaming for clubs. Just the shear fact that he left West on play smelled of something fishy.
West got the message. He shifted to the 9 (another suit preference play). East ruffed and underled the spade ace. West won and issued another club ruff for down two and 500 to East‐West.
South made lots of errors on this deal (including not putting up the J on the first round of the suit), but it still took lots of trust by East‐West to extract the maximum penalty.
How would East‐West do in spades, you ask? It takes perfect defense to beat a spade game. South leads a high heart and North signals with the Q to show the jack. Now, South must underlead to North's J for a club play. Declarer (East) has to ruff. He knocks out the A and South taps declarer by playing the A. Now, East is a trump short. He can't draw trump and use the diamonds. On any other defense, East loses only the top three red cards and can eventually draw trump and make 620 (probably 790) in 4 (doubled).
Most of my bridge playing is in top events against experts. Every now and then I get to relive the fun of my earlier bridge days when I face weak opponents. There is a certain art form required in such situations. One of the tricks in my arsenal involves suits such as:
I feel that against weak players I can cross to dummy and lead the Jack. Usually, RHO will cover with the queen if he holds it. At the worst, he will give the show away by deciding whether or not to cover. I feel that I should always guess this suit against inexperienced players. (There is nothing wrong or unethical about "reading" the table. The only slimy potential here is if RHO huddles over the jack when he doesn't have the queen.)
I've even picked up this suit against weak players:
I lead the 10 out of my hand with just the right amount of body English. LHO will often cover with the jack (or queen), setting up a finesse against his partner's other honor. Maybe everyone can learn from such ploys (to not ever be taken advantage of, or maybe to pull off one of these coups yourself!).
At the Springfield regional, I got to roll out my bag of tricks against weak opposition on this deal:
|J 8 7 3 2|
9 6 5 3
| || |
| ||K Q 4|
A K Q 8 7 4 2
The auction was a bit ridiculous, as I was allowed to play 4 with the South hand. Trust me when I tell you that the opponents had a cold slam in either minor. So, the obvious ‐100 for 4 down one would be a great result.
Anyway, West led a diamond to East's king. Next came the A. Do you see any chance to make 4? I could have conceded down one, but I decided to invest an extra 100 points to try to make the contract. On the second high diamond, I nonchalantly threw away a low spade!
East couldn't wait to switch to spades. He played a low one (from 10xx) to my queen and West's ace. West was now looking at KJxxx and didn't want to play one into my possible AQ (I had opened the South hand with a strong club). He continued spades and I claimed 10 tricks for a gaudy 620. Such a ploy would never work against decent opponents, of course.
It turns out that our teammates had a big accident on this deal at the other table. They played in only 4 making six for 170. So, my efforts were rewarded with a large pickup.
Next month, when I have some deals from the Las Vegas Nationals, I will probably be back in my self‐deprecating mode – showing you deals where I was the goat instead of the hero. See you then.