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Some Hands from the European Championships
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A friend of mine came to me in a local bridge tournament asking if I had seen the statistics from the European Championships. Yes, I told him. Did you notice that you were plus on butler but you were minus on the hands where you were the dealer. Was this because you had too many problems in competition due to your four card major openings?

Luckily, I had not only seen the statistics but also analyzed the hands so I was in a pretty comfort spot telling him that the root cause was not our system but the fact that we had our worst butler disasters on hands where we were dealer but not necessarily active in the hand at all.

Some of the big losses were

  • My idiotic declarer play in a game giving away 10 IMPs (nothing to do with the system)
  • Opponents relayed to a reasonable slam where there was a killing lead but it was basically impossible to find
  • Opponent dropped my singleton trump king (Kxxx missing) after a defense which gave a good pointer to the declarer (nothing to do with hcp disclosure)
  • I misguessed a two-way finesse in a slam

We had one competitive problem where the root cause was the four card major opening but the problem surfaced only after my RHO psyched. This time the psyche got LHO to overbid and I was able to whack the final contract, which was destined for 800 until I failed to kill the looming endplay (I should have; it was a blunder).  

Some of the problem hands follow. In most of them, there are neither right nor wrong answers; some options just would have worked. 

In the first match there was a high/low decision:

 

West
AQ
K9832
AK
KJ42
W
N
E
S
P
2
X
P
2NT
P
?

Partner's pass promised 0-8 hcp and 2NT Lebensohl limited the hand to 0-4 equivalent. Options are the default 3, which may get passed or 3, which shows a strong hand and 5+ hearts; raise to 3NT is possible but quite gambling. What would be your plan?

West
AQ
K9832
AK
KJ42
W
N
E
S
P
2
X
P
2NT
P
?

On a lucky day, partner holds Axxxx in clubs, clubs run and there are easy 9 tricks.

I decided to bid 3 with the following plan: we are not vulnerable so I might as well protect my probable plus in 3, if partner holds clubs. If partner converts to 3, I would bid 3 showing something like my hand and at the same time probably not risking plus as my diamond support would be quite short.

3 went all pass; partner held T64 7 T982 A8753. North had a club trick in the form of Q92 so there should be only 8 tricks in NT. 3 made 130.

On round six I didn't go low:

North
K1062
Q
K103
A8542
South
AQ98
87543
J8
K9
W
N
E
S
1
2
X
P
2
P
3
P
4
P
P
P

Partner's expectation is 9-11 BAL with 44 majors so I thought I had some shape extras; in retrospect, my hand was lousy and I should have passed.

West leads the J, which looks like a singleton and more or less dooms the game as the best I can hope would be 5 trump tricks (after drawing trumps), 2 clubs and 2 diamonds. However, if the defense would ruff a losing club with the long trump, I might manage to get one trick more. So I decided to go after my diamond tricks by winning K (East playing the 7) and leading the 8. West grabs the A as East plays the 9. West continues with the K and East plays the T.

This certainly looks like defensive cross ruff now. West continues with the 2. If West has 7 diamonds, he certainly did not lead from Jx from dummy's probable suit. I decided that the only realistic chance to make was a defensive accident where East held Q9 originally and was hoping for J for West so I went up with the K, which East ruffed (3). West ruffed (5) the 3 return and followed with the Q, which East ruffed with 4 and I overruffed. The position is the following:

North
K1062
A85
South
AQ9
8754
W
N
E
S
1
2
X
P
2
P
3
P
4
P
P
P

Assuming that East's ruff is reasonable, and certainly not from original J743, there is a neat way to score the rest of the tricks (and actually, it was the first time for me I ever executed the coup in the play). Can you spot it?

North
K1062
A85
South
AQ9
8754
W
N
E
S
1
2
X
P
2
P
3
P
4
P
P
P

I cashed the Q hoping that East would discard and, indeed, East discarded a heart. I ruffed a heart to dummy and continued with the K for my first ever entry shifting trump squeeze in live play in the following position:

West
J
7654
North
K10
A85
East
A10
Q106
South
A9
875
D

Obviously, if East had followed to the Q, I would have had the rest with a simple cross ruff.

Same match, some hands later:

North
KJ74
97
J943
A94
South
Q98532
QJ42
KQ
K
W
N
E
S
1
P
P
1
P
2
P
3
P
4
P
P
P

West leads the A (6 from East). East continues with 2 to 4, T and K.

Is there anything worth trying?

North
KJ74
97
J943
A94
South
Q98532
QJ42
KQ
K
W
N
E
S
1
P
P
1
P
2
P
3
P
4
P
P
P

I have made my fair share of stupid plays and I have seen even the best players in the world make blunders; both on BBO vugraph and at my table.

So I just decided to try one of the oldest ruses of the game: I led the Q. Three small diamonds followed.

On round 7, there was a bidding problem:

South
108
AK9654
Q8
QJ6
W
N
E
S
2
3
?

Partner's weak two promises 5-8 hcp and 6 card suit but it can be pretty weak in playing strength. What now?

South
108
AK9654
Q8
QJ6
W
N
E
S
2
3
?

It looks like this is a part score hand as we have about 17-20 hcp. We have no guaranteed 9 card fit and my quacks put my offence-defense-ratio to totally wrong quadrant for bidding. Typically East has something like an opening hand and the best West can do is to dream about a game.

So I decided to pass with the intent to defend 3 and knowing what to lead. However, West thought quite a while (my screenmate) and bid 3NT passed to me. What now? Double is a potential choice trying to attract a heart lead but, OTOH, my hearts are such, that there's no guarantee that a heart lead might even be the right lead.

Anyway, X would have been the winning action as partner had Qx and KJxxxx. 3 on the round before would have prevented 3NT but 3M costs either 500 or 800.

On round 9 I had a 16 IMP guess for a missing queen.

North
3
KJ6
K108642
Q42
South
KQ5
A107
AQJ75
A3
W
N
E
S
2NT
P
3
P
3
P
4
P
6
P
P
P

Partner made an aggressive slam try in diamonds; my hand is not as maximum as it looks because QJ are wasted but my options were 4NT to play, 5 to play and 6 to play.

West considers his lead for a good while and leads 6. The good news is that now I'm on the guess. The bad news is that it's for the contract. East wins the A and continues with a spade. West is void in trumps and discards two spades on the two obligatory trump rounds. I cashed the A, discarded the last club from dummy on the last spade and ruffed a club. Nothing special happened. On the 3rd round of trumps, West discards a heart (known to be safe as everybody, dummy included) knows that it's about the heart guess. West originally had 5 spades and it looks like his distribution is 5-4-0-4.

What would be your guess?

North
3
KJ6
K108642
Q42
South
KQ5
A107
AQJ75
A3
W
N
E
S
2NT
P
3
P
3
P
4
P
6
P
P
P

West had an opening lead problem and seems to be the one holding originally 4 hearts. However, he was not forced to disclose that to me as my shape was known (otherwise I would have 12 tricks with a ruff). OTOH, I always had the option to cash all my trumps forcing the one with 4 hearts to disclose the fact. I decided to play West for the Q.

Wrong!. 16 IMPs away, as at the other table 6 was played by North and the club lead (from K) forced declarer to let the lead run to the Q.

In the same match I had a bidding problem:

South
8
AJ10873
QJ96
K5
W
N
E
S
P
1
P
1
P
?

With 6-4 we normally rebid the 6-carder with minimum and reserve 2 rebid for hands, which are going to bid 3 equivalent later.

So in the range of 9-14, where would you put the hand above when 1 range is from xxx Qxxx AKx xxx to AKxxx AKxxxx x x?

South
8
AJ10873
QJ96
K5
W
N
E
S
P
1
P
1
P
?

I chose 2 and partner tabled Axxxx - ATxxx, Qxx. I played safe to make 8 tricks on K lead. At the other table the play in 5 took about 15 minutes for 11 tricks; the auction there was 1-1-2-5.

On round 16 one more bidding problem:

South
A82
Q98
852
AQJ3
W
N
E
S
P
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
2NT
P
?

What would you do?

I decided that I'm worth a game bid. The next question was which game would be the best. With my bad shape and potential 2nd source of tricks, I decided to go for 3NT. West's opening lead was 3.

West
KJ63
432
A64
K42
North
97
AKJ75
QJ109
76
East
Q1054
106
K73
10985
South
A82
Q98
852
AQJ3
W
N
E
S
P
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
2NT
P
3NT
P
P
P
D
3NT South
NS: 0 EW: 0

In theory, both games depend on the club finesse. However, in practice, nearly nobody found the spade lead against 4. From declarer perspective a diamond ruff does not sink the 4 contract as a spade can be discarded on the clubs, if the finesse works.

From round 20 the most frustrating hand from my perspective can be found from here: https://bridgewinners.com/article/view/a-new-lesson/

In the final round (33) I had another bidding problem:

West
AJ109
AK5
Q32
K82
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
1
?

Partner has promised 7-9 hcp, any shape. At this point your options are

  • 1NT = good stopper in spades, balanced hand, FG (17+)
  • Pass = F1R, no good suits, either no -stopper or 15-16 NT
  • X = for penalties

West
AJ109
AK5
Q32
K82
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
1
?

I was tempted by the vulnerability and the spades and decided to X for penalties. In practice, it worked, as we collected 500. In theory, 1NT was the proper bid as 3NT most likely makes (and with spade lead would be easy) and 1X was makeable with good guesses.

I played 336 boards during the event. I made at least one idiotic declarer play, at least one brainless defense and lots of smaller mistakes during auction, play and defense. Most of the points we lost were in the high level coin flips but the flips were balanced by about an equal amount of winning flips.

Plan for developing 1: practice more those high level  bidding decisions trying to rig the flip just a little more towards our side.

Plan for developing 2: try to avoid idiotic plays (have been trying this for decades but still they don't seem to go away)

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