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All comments by Kit Woolsey
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Greg …

If West has Axxxx of hearts and a trump trick, he has a trivial heart shift at trick 2 – that can never lose. Kxxxx of hearts is possible. Declarer's hand would have to be exactly KQJxxxxx AQJ x x. That is a very specific hand.

I don't see how Rusinow leads solve the problem. If West had QJ doubleton of diamonds he would lead the queen, and you could be faced with the same sort of dilemma. On this hand it works out okay to win the ace since you have the 10, but if dummy has the 10 overtaking the queen would not be safe.

The gain from Rusinow leads comes from avoiding the AK ambiguity with standard leads, which most pairs resolve by leading ace from AK – paying off to when they choose to lead an unsupported ace. If the lead might be from a doubleton honor, Rusinow leads involve potential ambiguity. I think if you play Rusinow it should apply only when the opening leader is known to have at least 3 cards in the suit. Then there is no ambiguity.
April 11, 2011
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There are several interesting issues here:

1) Can East afford to overtake the king of diamonds? That would be disastrous if West has KJ doubleton, and might cost a key trump promotion if West has KQ doubleton. This construction would give West 2-4-2-5 shape. Not everybody would make a takeout double with that, but some might. However, with KJ doubleton of diamonds and QJ9xx of clubs, it is 100% that West would lead the queen of clubs rather than the king of diamonds. This eliminates the big disaster from the overtake, so if East judges it best to overtake and do something he can do so in reasonable safety.

2) Assuming East isn't overtaking, what should his signal mean? Attitude is the default signal for most pairs. However, when third hand has extra length and the opening leader will know it, then 3-way signals should apply. That is the case here. Assuming West has KQJ of diamonds (if West has a doubleton diamond he will continue diamonds regardless, and if West has 4 diamonds it won't matter what signal East gives), West will know that East had a choice of 3 spots to play, and East will know that West will know this. My agreements under these circumstances, playing upside-down signals, are that low is encouraging, middle is suit-preference low, and high is suit-preference high. The reason for this is that in case of ambiguity as to whether attitude or suit-preference applies, the deuce means the same thing regardless of the interpretation.

3) Should East overtake and shift to a heart? Without the 9 of hearts this defense would be very clear. But the 9 of hearts is a fat card. While it isn't a lock that declarer has 4 hearts (West's shape could be 1-5-3-4), most likely that is the case. As pointed out, if declarer has solid spades and something like AJ8x of hearts, declarer may well (in fact, probably should) lead a heart to the 7 as his best chance to take a second heart trick. So overtaking and shifting to a heart is far from risk-free.

When does the overtake and heart shift gain? There are 3 possible cases:

a) West has AQ of hearts and declarer has solid spades. Who has the 8 of hearts? If West has AQ8x, defending passively will suffice – the defense will always come to 3 heart tricks. If declarer has the 8 of hearts the heart shift probably won't be necessary, since declarer will finesse West for the 9 of hearts. Of course if West has AQxxx of hearts, then the overtake and heart shift is necessary, but with a decent 5-card heart suit West might have preferred to overcall.

b) West has Kxxx of hearts and a trump trick. Here the overtake and heart shift is clearly necessary.

c) West has Axxx of hearts and a trump trick. The overtake will simplify the defense, but West is still allowed to find the heart shift on his own.

On balance it looks like overtaking and shifting to a heart loses more often than it gains, keeping in mind that West might also have KQ doubleton of diamonds and a promotable trump holding.

4) If East isn't overtaking, which diamond should he play? I think he should play the 9 of diamonds, which by my agreements would be suit-preference for clubs. Even without prior discussion, I think West would come to that conclusion. It is clear that a club shift can't be necessary, since if the defense has a club trick coming it isn't going anywhere. This signal simply tells West where the king of clubs is, and it is up to West to work out the best defense in light of that knowledge.

5) Should West find the heart shift? I think so. He can see instant defeat if East has a doubleton heart, and if East has Qx or Jx of hearts East certainly wouldn't have overtaken and shifted to a heart. The heart shift will cost when East Qxx, Q9x, or J9x of hearts (yes, East can insert the 9, but West will be committed to winning the ace of spades and continuing hearts going for the ruff). But with these heart holdings East can see that a heart shift is wrong, so he should overtake and lead back a diamond or a trump in order to prevent West from wrongly breaking hearts.

So, my conclusion is that West gets the lion's share of the blame. Sorry about that Kevin.
April 11, 2011
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Andy …

My agreements are that in a constructive auction artificial calls above 3NT are never choice of strains unless slam is totally out of the question. Does the fact that both hands are limited make slam out of the question? I don't think so.

Suppose you held AQJ Ax AKxxx xxx. The bidding would have gone as it did. What would you bid now, knowing that partner has 4 spades, 5+ diamonds, and at most one club, along with enough strength to invite game opposite your 17-19. You wouldn't just make a slam try. You would bid 6. If partner has the king of spades slam is virtually cold, and if he doesn't it will be on a spade finesse.

The above is an extreme example. But it illustrates that even with both hands limited slam may still be in play if the mesh is right. Furthermore, the strong hand knows whether or not the mesh is right. If it is possible to construct a hand where the you would just bid a slam, there are certainly many hands where you would want to invite a slam. That's what 4 should mean. Clearly the invite must be in diamonds, as that is the only good fit.

Even if 4 were choice of strains, I don't think it is the right idea. 4 could be the right contract even if partner has 3 small hearts. Partner will not be in position to make an intelligent decision. It is up to the strong hand to make the choice here.
April 10, 2011
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Mike ….

You sum it up very well. I think upon close analysis you will find that we aren't as far apart as it may seem.

It can be assumed from the enemy bidding that North has a diamond void as part of his 4 call, and because of that void North might be stretching a bit. We need only look at North hands which would not be accepting an invite, since if North is accepting it won't make any difference whether we invite or just bid the grand.

An important issue is just what set of hands North will consider an acceptance. This appears to be where our real disagreement lies. I think North should be accepting on a wider set of hands than you do, and our respective choices of inviting vs. bidding the grand are consistent with our individual concepts about which hands North should be accepting.

It is perhaps instructive to examine what might be considered worst case scenarios for both of us.

For your action, the worst case scenario looks like Axxx KQJ KJ10xxx. The grand has no play, and North probably has his 4 call (this hand certainly is at least as good as the actual North hand).

For my action, the worst case scenario looks like AQ10x Kxx Kxxxxx. North won't quite have an acceptance by my lights, and the grand is very good.

My approach does have one final factor in its favor. Partner gets to make the last mistake!
April 9, 2011
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Regarding Mike's points:

Can South make a grand slam try with K9xx, AQJ, xxx, QJx?

Of course South is interested in a grand with that hand. However, off AQ of spades and AK of clubs, it would make a lot more sense for South to bid 5 instead of 5NT, and if North doesn't come back with 6 South can forget about a grand as North would surely bid 6 with AQ of spades, AK of clubs, and first round diamond control. While I don't care for the 5NT call anyway, If South follows it up with a 6-level Q-bid I think he must have the missing controls when North is looking at what is needed for a grand.

Is it not reasonable for North to say to himself “SK, HA, CA, CQ - surely he'd bid a grand himself with that?”

No, I don't think that is reasonable. The key is that North is looking at the queen and jack of spades, and these are cards he does not need for his bidding. If South has SK, HA, CA, CQ North could still hold !AJxx KQ A KJxxxx or the like and have a real 4 bid. So I do not think that South should be driving to a grand by himself with those cards.
April 8, 2011
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Mike ..

Let's suppose that North accepts an invite with AQJx Kxx Kxxxxx, and is “unlucky” enough to find South with only a doubleton club. What is South's shape? Not 4-4 in the majors, since he would have responded 1. Not likely 4 diamonds considering the enemy bidding. Therefore South is a big favorite to have 5+ spades, turning the no play grand into an excellent grand.

We could go on and on with hand constructions, proving nothing. Sure, if North accepts the invite on the sort of hand I think he should accept, sometimes he will get to an inferior grand. Bidding isn't a perfect science.

It is simply my judgment from constructing various hands which North might have and how I believe North should react to an invite with these hands that on balance South does better by inviting than by blasting out the grand himself. One can certainly disagree with this assessment.
April 8, 2011
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Nice hand Adam. It is interesting that it is almost a double-dummy problem. You probably have no chance on a 4-1 trump split, and if East has a singleton in either minor it is hard to see how you can legitimately survive. East figures to have a club honor since West didn't lead a high club. So the hand pretty much has to be what it is.

While in theory it doesn't matter, it feels better to me to attack clubs first East may win the first round of clubs, and he won't be able to put a heart through. This may give you a chance to survive some of the bad splits. Of course if you are hell-bent on discarding dummy's third heart :)
April 7, 2011
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It would be nice to know for sure the meaning of 5NT and 6. But for the sake of argument, let's assume that 5NT is pick-a-slam, and 6 is choosing clubs.

Suppose South bids 6 over 6. If North has the sixth club that will be huge and North won't need more than AQ of spades, king of clubs, king of hearts, and diamond void to make the grand good. But North will recognize the value of the sixth club and bid the grand with those cards, expecting it to be at worst on a 2-2 club split and quite possibly cold or much better.

What if North has only 5 clubs? As discussed, he pretty much needs AQJx KQxx KJxxx to make the grand good. Suppose he does hold these cards. He can work out that South must have king of spades, ace of hearts, and ace of clubs to justify the grand slam try. There may be a third round club problem. But maybe not. South might have the queen of clubs. South might have a doubleton club. South might be able to discard his losing club on the hearts (remember, North doesn't know that South has only 4 spades). The worst the grand can be is on a club finesse, and it might be much better, so North will bid the grand.

That is why I think South should make a 6-level Q-bid. North will probably react properly. If North has the hand South needs, North will probably know that South must have the necessary cards to make the grand a good bet. If North doesn't have what South needs, North will not be confident enough to bid the grand. It isn't 100% that North will do the right thing, but by looking at South's hand and constructing various hands North might hold and how North will react with them it appears to me that North will get it right most of the time. Thus, a 6-level Q-bid is better than blasting out the grand.
April 7, 2011
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My preference is that after an overcall of a strong 1, responder's jump to a suit show a long suit but less than a positive response. This is exactly what South has. I can't think of any other worthwhile use for the bid. An immediate 3 call describes South's hand while there is a chance to do so (before West jams in a 3 bid), puts the strong 1 opener in the driver's seat, and leaves the opponents with the last guess as it should be.
April 7, 2011
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Martin's idea is interesting, but it isn't tax-free. There are two quite reasonable interpretations for this sort of jump, depending on the partnership's general agreements.

Let's look at the actual auction 1-(1)-1-(3);? as an example. The other illustrations he gives are similar and follow the same pattern.

One reasonable use for 4 would be a splinter. This would be the same meaning that would exist if there had been no interference. The logic would be that 3 must be forcing to the 4-level since a preference to 4 might be necessary, so the unnecessary jump above 3 of partner's suit is a splinter.

If the 4 call would not be a splinter by the partnership agreements, then it could quite reasonably show a 5-6 hand. It is true that the 5-6 hand can be shown by bidding 3 and then following with 4, but that assumes the opponents will be polite and not be at 5 by the time the auction comes around to you next.

If Martin's idea is to be adopted, it is necessary to spell out very carefully the conditions under which it applies. If there is any ambiguity in these rules, there is danger of a big accident. From looking at his examples, it appears that the concept applies if and only if the following two conditions exist:

1) RHO has just done something other than double or pass
2) The bid is a single jump reverse into a new suit.

There might be other sequences where one would want to use it, but trying to spell out every possible sequence is impossible and hoping that partner is on the same page for undiscussed sequences is very dangerous.
April 6, 2011
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Martin –

North: AQJx Kxxx KJxxx

South: K9xx Axx xxx AQx

I count 5 club tricks and 2 heart tricks, so 6 trump tricks will be needed. That means 2 diamond ruffs in dummy. Assuming the opponents aren't foolish enough to lead a diamond, declarer will need 3 entries – two for the ruffs, and one to get back and draw trumps. He can't afford to overtake the trump, so 2 of these entries will have to be in clubs. Declarer will need 3-2 splits in both black suits. Not a grand you want to be in, particularly since it is possible the small isn't reached at the other table.

April 5, 2011
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Since North might want to bid 3 competitively on a minimal opening with 4-card spade support and offensive orientation, there is definitely a strength difference between 4 and 4. 4 could be a balanced 19-count too strong for 3, or it could be a hand such as North has – a gambling type of call. 4 should really show the goods. It is definitely a spade raise with slam potential. North simply doesn't have that strong a hand.

Most expert pairs play that 5NT is pick-a-slam if that is a possible interpretation, and it is certainly a possible interpretation here. If South has weak spades, he could be very interested to hear if North has a preference for a different strain. Since that meaning doesn't appear to be consistent with South's actual hand, it is possible that the partnership has a different interpretation of the 5NT call, and we would need to know what that interpretation is in order to analyze the rest of the auction intelligently.

Assuming South is willing to commit to a small slam and wants to bring North into the picture on the grand slam decision, how should he do that? Probably best to start with a forcing pass and see what North does now. But most important, South needs to arrange to make a 6-level Q-bid. This will unambiguously convey his intentions, and North can look at his hand in the right light.

If South's 5NT call is pick-a-slam, North is quite correct to bid 6C IMO. The authors are not correct with their statement that North has already guaranteed a 5+ card club suit. North could easily have a huge 4-4-1-4 hand and have bid this way.

After all this, the biggest error was the leap to 7. As always, it is wrong to leap to slam unless you know you have the necessary information or are unable to either gather the information or get input from partner. That is not the case here. South does not have to make the final decision between 6 and 7 by himself. He could and should have suggested a grand slam with 6 or 6. It doesn't matter much which. 6 has the advantage of leaving partner a last train 6 call, but if you don't want to hear that then 6 is better forcing partner to make the final decision. On this hand, South pretty much needs to find AQJx KQxx KJxxx to really want to be in a grand. If South makes a move and North is looking at such a hand, North will say to himself: What more could I have? and bid the grand. If North has anything less, he won't drive it in by himself. Thus, South should elicit North's opinion rather than make the final decision himself.
April 4, 2011
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Steve is probably right in theory that ducking the second diamond is wrong due to the danger of a spade shift. In practice, it will almost be a reflex for West to continue diamonds.
April 3, 2011
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Steve means it. It is a simple matter of logic.

Proof:

There are 2 possibilities.

1) Steve means it.

2) Steve is bluffing. If that is the case it is the greatest bluff ever seen, demonstrating that Steve is the best poker player in the world. Therefore, Steve would not be wasting his time at a trivial game such as bridge.

QED
April 1, 2011
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Peter – 2 opening bid. I admit I initially thought the same thing.

Roger – I use firefox and it works fine with me. So your problem is something else.
March 30, 2011
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Hermann –

What you say is true if the defender knew that declarer was 6-6 in the blacks. But declarer might be 7-5, in which case the only possible chance for the defense is the club shift. I am confident that any expert defender would shift to a club unless he got careless.
March 29, 2011
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I agree that ducking the first trick is clear on a heart lead. However, if a trump came back I would not be so complacent as to assume the hearts will run. My expert opponents would be able to count that I had 12 winner with the hearts splitting (assuming no trump loser) if they defended passively, so they would try to do something about that. East would return a club, hoping I am void in diamonds and that the club return will knock the entry off dummy before trumps are drawn. When this doesn't happen the reason must be that the hearts are 5-1, so I will rely on the club finesse for my twelfth trick.

After coming to this conclusion, I looked up the play at Hampson's table on the BBO archives. It turned out that the king of hearts was offside, and that Stansby (who held king-doubleton of clubs) did, in fact, return a club. So I would have been right against Stansby – if he had returned a trump, the hearts would not have been splitting. However, the king of clubs was offside, so if I had been declarer and Stansby had returned a trump I would have gone down.

What would Hampson have done had Stansby returned a trump? We will never know. Hampson wasn't faced with the problem, and probably didn't give it too much thought since he didn't need to. However, he might have some comments to make.

Bonus question: Which club do you think Stansby returned from his king-doubleton – the king or a small club? And which do you think he should return?
March 29, 2011
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Bob,

No, there is no reason to think that East had any unauthorized information. Tom could tell us more accurately since he was at the table, but I would bet that the heart shift came after the expected 20 or 30 seconds or so. Also, keep in mind that the opening leader is allowed to think about the hand at trick 1 just as much as the other players. His proper procedure if the first trick was played quickly is to not turn over his card until he has planned out his defense. In this way, no information is conveyed.

I believe that what Steve and Kevin are saying is that some partnerships simply would never get this wrong. East would always “know” whether the heart shift was a singleton or not. It shouldn't be that way in Utopia, but in real life we all know this is the case. Steve and Kevin are saying that they are pleased to see that Versace-Lauria are not one of those partnerships.
March 29, 2011
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Jeff,

Of course it is possible that West holds x xx Kx AKJxxxx or x xx x AKJxxxxxx. That was the reason that everybody shifted to the 9 of hearts. My argument is that if declarer holds one of these hands he will always guess the hearts right. Declarer knows that West can't know whether or not declarer has a singleton heart and another loser in diamonds or trumps, so West would never risk underleading the ace of hearts. That was the point which the West defenders missed.
March 29, 2011
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The ethical implications are as follows:

Let's suppose that from East's point of view West might have either the singleton 9 of hearts or Q9 doubleton. Then:

1) Suppose West shifted to a singleton 9 of hearts in 2 seconds. East would have the unauthorized information that West probably had a singleton heart, since with Q9 doubleton West would have had something to think about while with the singleton 9 of hearts the heart shift is pretty clear. East should not be permitted to return a heart.

2) Suppose West thought for 2 minutes before shifting to the 9 of hearts from Q9 doubleton. East would have the unauthorized informtion that West probably had Q9 doubleton of hearts, since with a singleton 9 of hearts West wouldn't have had that much of a problem. East should not be permitted to cash the diamond.

The above assumes that either singleton 9 or Q9 doubleton are reasonably likely. If the bridge analysis indicates that there is a clear inference one way or the other, then East is entitled to make the proper bridge play. In other words East is still allowed to play good bridge even with the unauthorized information.

As to what speed of West's play gives East unauthorized information, that is for the director and/or committee to decide. Similarly, whether East has a clearly correct play from the bridge analysis is also for the director and/or committee to decide.
March 29, 2011
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