Join Bridge Winners
Revenge of the Machines
(Page of 15)

Good morning.

As you might know, I had a nice run in November winning the Fall NABC Robot tourney. In preparation for the Columbus NABC (both the real and the virtual), I find myself playing more Challenges on BBO.  

While I frequently will challenge friends, one of the fun things about BBO these days is a little activity called a "Star Challenge". You can match wits against a random star player. I have played these against all kinds of players - some are household names (if your household is into that kind of thing), and some seemed to get their credentials from winning the 1979 Sub-Saharan Mixed Pairs and their skills are suspect. Most of the people you encounter are pretty good however, and it's a good way to keep your skills sharp. 

The maximum number of boards is 8, but you can choose between IMPs or MPs (effectively BAM). Unfortunately, the only format is Best Hand, which is exploitable to a degree. 

If you are squeamish about showcasing your lack of chops, and tarnishing your fragile ego and reputation, try a random challenge, or a robot challenge. 

I encountered this hand yesterday. See what you think.

In 3rd seat you pick up: 

South
K542
AJ86
KQ97
J

Your call? 

South
K542
AJ86
KQ97
J

If you think this is a WTP 1 opening, think again. 1N is possble - while we are a little light, we can handle any call partner throws at us - a club transfer will  put us in a 6-1 fit, but that can't be terrible. 

Still, our lack of intermediates told me a prosaic 1 was fine. The bidding proceeded: 

W
N
E
S
P
P
1
P
2
P

And now? 

W
N
E
S
P
P
1
P
2
P

2 is somewhat unexpected from a passed hand. The description isn't clear if partner can have a major.

You glance at the descriptions: 

2 shows 5, so that's out. 

2M shows 4, but 16 "total" points. A slight overbid. 

2N tends to show a balanced hand, but doesn't deny a 4 card major. Not a terrible call, but our hand is oriented toward suit play. 

Make your choice. 

W
N
E
S
P
P
1
P
2
P
2
P
2

It's IMPs, and we are vulnerable, so we opt for the mild overbid of 2. Partner now tries 2. You double check the description and it confirms "4 and 5+". Perfect, let's just jam this into game and not risk getting dropped in 3. 

North
K542
AJ86
KQ97
J
South
A103
Q32
3
A109765
W
N
E
S
P
P
1
P
2
P
2
P
2
P
4
P
P
P

Hey bro-bot, where's your 4th spade? Maybe mixed up with a club? 

To avoid giving you bridge-induced vertigo, I have flipped North and South. The opening lead is the 6. After cursing your virtual partner, think about the play. 

North
K542
AJ86
KQ97
J
South
A103
Q32
3
A109765
W
N
E
S
P
P
1
P
2
P
2
P
2
P
4
P
P
P

Lead: 6

On a good day (and we will need a good day), we will need spades 3-3 and some luck in diamonds and hearts. 

A crossruff seems unlikely - they have already drawn one of our trump, and will certainly play a 2nd when we lose a diamond.

What about clubs? The spots give us some interesting options. You can try it for yourself but unless clubs, hearts and spades are all 3-3 and the diamond A is on, this does not seem to work, and seems like an awfully large parlay.  

One possibility is 3 on the board, a ruff in hand, 2 (assuming the A is on), A and conjuring up three heart tricks. That gets us to ten. Beyond that, there are some squeeze possibilities lurking. 

This may be one of those hands where you just spend 20 minutes and need to eat an energy bar afterward before losing four tricks. But let's try our best.    

West
North
K542
AJ86
KQ97
J
East
Phil
A103
Q32
3
A109765
W
N
E
S
 
P
P
1
P
2
P
2
P
2
P
4
P
P
P
D
1
4 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
6
2
J
A
3
1
0
3
6
K
A
2
1
1
9
3

Not committing to a certain path, you win the spade in hand and track the , noticing the 6 from LHO. RHO grabs the Ace (booo) and expectedly plays a trump back in our face. And? 

West
North
K542
AJ86
KQ97
J
East
Phil
A103
Q32
3
A109765
W
N
E
S
 
P
P
1
P
2
P
2
P
2
P
4
P
P
P
D
1
4 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
6
2
J
A
3
1
0
3
6
K
A
2
1
1
9
10
Q
K
1
2
1
7
J
3
5
3
3
1
2
5
J
4
1
4
1
4
8
5
7
2
4
2
3
A
2
J
3
5
2
7

Q76 would we a weird lead from West, but a low spade from QJ9 from East would also be unexpected. Without much hope we try the T. Nope, Q, and we win the K. 

We take our diamond ruff. Something interesting happens on this trick: 

7, J, 3, 5. 

Notice that LHO echoed in 's and RHO followed the 2nd round with the J. Could this mean they are 6-2?  

We need the heart hook and take it. Success! We draw the trump and they do fall 3-3. More success! RHO wins the 8 and exits a low club. We win the Ace. No club pictures from LHO. 

North
5
A86
Q9
Phil
Q3
10976
W
N
E
S
P
P
1
P
2
P
2
P
2
P
4
P
P
P

Time to reconstruct. 

1. Spades are 3-3

2. Diamonds appear to be 2-6. 

LHO didn't lead a stiff club and RHO led low club. Clubs appear to be 2=4, because 1) RHO would have exited a high club from KQxxx, or LHO would have followed with an honor with a stiff. 

How about:  

3=2=6=2 / 3=4=2=4? 

Here's the construction I had in mind: 

West
K
10xxx
K
North
5
A86
Q9
East
109x
Qxx
Phil
Q3
10976
W
N
E
S
 
P
P
1
P
2
P
2
P
2
P
4
P
P
P
D
1
4 South
NS: 0 EW: 0

You need five of the last six tricks. You have four (1, 2 and a ). Do you see a way to create a 5th? 

West
K
10xxx
K
North
5
A86
Q9
East
109x
Qxx
Phil
Q3
10976
W
N
E
S
 
P
P
1
P
2
P
2
P
2
P
4
P
P
P
D
1
4 South
NS: 0 EW: 0

We can win the A and play the Q, but RHO does not feel any pain and can release a small club. Our last trump forces RHO to relinquish either a long heart or a club, but because of the blockage a heart is safe. 

What about - ruff a club (the King expectedly drops). If we cash the A dropping the King, we can cross to the heart and play a club but then Righty just cashes the heart. 

Back to the drawing board. There is a way, I promise. Keep working. 

West
K
10xxx
K
North
5
A86
Q9
East
109x
Qxx
Phil
Q3
10976
W
N
E
S
 
P
P
1
P
2
P
2
P
2
P
4
P
P
P
D
1
4 South
NS: 0 EW: 0

How about: extract LHO's club and exit a low heart to LHO's King who is left with all diamonds and forced to lead one. 

West
10xx
North
A8
Q
East
109
Q
Phil
Q
109
W
N
E
S
 
P
P
1
P
2
P
2
P
2
P
4
P
P
P
D
1
4 South
NS: 0 EW: 0

On the Q, LHO is in a squeeze. A heart lets you win the A8 and the club lets you win the Q and T. 

A forced endplay followed by a squeeze to overcome the blockage. 

All hail the reigning lord of the machines!

I ruff the club and exit the low heart. RHO plays the Ten (haha, I get you bot, playing the T from T98 left) I triumphantly duck and.....

....LHO plays a small  

WTF? 

My head is spinning. The room is spinning. Where did I go wrong here? Was LHO 3=3=5=2 and RHO JTx?  Were diamonds 4-4 all along? What exactly is going on? 

LHO cashes a club and gives me the last two. Down 1. 

I quickly lose interest. But after recovering I look at the full hand. Repeated here (flipped back to North being declarer) for the reader's over-developed sense of schadenfruede. 

West
J98
104
AJ842
843
North
A103
Q32
3
A109765
East
Q76
K975
1065
KQ2
Phil
K542
AJ86
KQ97
J
W
N
E
S
P
P
1
P
2
P
2
P
2
P
4
P
P
P
D
1
4 North
NS: 0 EW: 0
6
2
J
A
1
1
0
3
6
K
A
0
1
1
9
10
Q
K
3
2
1
7
J
3
5
1
3
1
2
5
J
4
3
4
1
4
8
5
7
0
4
2
3
A
2
J
1
5
2
6
K
5
4
3
6
2
6
10
3
7
0
6
3
8
7
Q
8
2
6
4
9
A
2
Q
3
7
4
Q
4
9
10
3
8
4
9
8
10
K
3
9
4
N/S -50
13

West
J98
104
AJ842
843
North
A103
Q32
3
A109765
East
Q76
K975
1065
KQ2
Phil
K542
AJ86
KQ97
J
W
N
E
S
P
P
1
P
2
P
2
P
2
P
4
P
P
P
D
1
4 North
NS: 0 EW: 0
6
2
J
A
1
1
0
3
6
K
A
0
1
1
9
10
Q
K
3
2
1
7
J
3
5
1
3
1
2
5
J
4
3
4
1
4
8
5
7
0
4
2
3
A
2
J
1
5
2
6
K
5
4
3
6
2
6
10
3
7
0
6
3
8
7
Q
8
2
6
4
9
A
2
Q
3
7
4
Q
4
9
10
3
8
4
9
8
10
K
3
9
4
N/S -50
13

Now on this layout, I never really come up for air, but the robots sure had some fun at my expense. Notice the weird falsecard in the diamond suit from AJxxx and the echo from T65. 

Looking forward to the Spring NABC. Maybe I can track down Uday's laptop and insert a special thumb drive containing Not-Petya. 

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