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All comments by Steve Bloom
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Slam? Or game?
21 hours ago
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Robots are interesting, and frustrating.

Betty and I have been playing with them recently - she says it is solitaire. Two things have become obvious.

(1) On multiple occasions, Robot partner has supported our suit, and sold out to four of a major. I have that set in my hand, and so I double. Now partner “saves”. What makes the save more attractive once partner doubles?

(2) Then we had this lovely auction.
1 1
1 2
?

I thought our hand was worth a try for game - which turned out to be accurate. Five diamonds and 3NT were cold. So I tried 3. Robot bid six.
21 hours ago
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Another option: Play for three cards well-placed. Spade to the queen, which holds, heart ace, diamond king, diamond finesse, run diamonds. If West has the spade ace and club king, West is strip-squeezed, and you will make the slam.

With a less revealing auction, this feels like the best chance. However, the bidding tells you a lot.

(1) West has a heart fit. West was willing to compete higher if East held hearts (and East would bid more at favorable with seven hearts).

(2) West prefers spades to clubs.

(3) West did not want to boost up the auction facing the black suits.

For the squeeze to gain over the three-three spades + diamond queen drop, West would need a hand like A10xx xxx xxx Kxx, A10xx xxxx xx Kxx. Both hands would like to compete facing the black suits, and would probably bid two hearts (P/C) and not one spade.

So, I go for the three-three split.

As to your auction, I can't imagine playing any sort of club system where I can't show my six card suits. Why, with the South hand, wouldn't I show my six-five shape? Why, with the North hand, wouldn't I show my club suit? You are in a game force and the opponents subside at the one-level. Plenty of room to explore minor suit slams, but neither player can show a six card minor suit? I don't get it.
Jan. 21
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Perfect analysis.
Jan. 21
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Thank you, Michael. Of course Qxx is better than xxx. It might mean the difference between keeping control and losing it, or it might lead to a squeeze or an endplay. Hey, opponents have been dealt AK-tight, and the Qxx might be worth a full trick by force.

You always have to construct possible hands for partner and run through mental simulations. Partner makes a short-suit try in diamonds, and I hold K10x xxx xxxx KJx. I would reject, and I would reject holding the diamond queen. Give me a fourth trump, and I accept. So, it is close. My simple simulations made game poorish with the first hand, but reasonable with Kxxx xxx xxx KJx.

You also have to know partner's tendencies. Mine is aggressive, so I don't go crazy accepting game tries. Playing opposite one of my old conservative team-mates, I accept with no thought with either two-king hand.
Jan. 21
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“ Declarer is known to have started with Jxx, and will have played one of the x's.” On this hand. What if the suit is ready to run - if West has KJx? Now, if declarer plays the proper spot, West can't tell if partner has led from A1097 or A7xx.

Sometimes you can't avoid that ambiguity, but, in many cases, you reason: Partner would play the ten from H109, so can't have that …
Jan. 21
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I disagree. West could easily hold KJ10, and the defense is easy, until East cashes the spade ace.

To me, this is simple: East plays the ten from A109, low from A10, and highest from A with no ten. So, from A975, East should lead the nine. As Kit says, from AJ, East just cashes the heart ace first.

The choice, at the table, of the spade seven must be from A754. Of course, when South follows with the five (and helpfully discarded the four earlier), West knows that something has gone wrong, but deciding what broke? Who knows? So, you take the easy route, and set the contract only one trick.
Jan. 20
Steve Bloom edited this comment Jan. 20
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So? Ax xxxxx Kxx QJx. Your bid?

Even with a 2-4-3-4 shape, it is usually best to bid 2NT, scrambling. Partner won't bid diamonds with 4-4 in the minors. Where do you want to play if partner is 4-1-5-3?

At this vulnerability, partner will have 0 or 1 hearts, but, at different colors, my passed hand partner would happily double two hearts on lots of 4-2-4-3 or 4-2-3-4 hands. Again, how do we get to the right minor suit?
Jan. 19
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No.
Jan. 17
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Whether the bid is comparable depends on their methods. For us, double shows hearts and three hearts shows spades. So double is “comparable” while three hearts is anything but.
Jan. 17
ATB
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“Is this an area that machines will have an edge over humans?”

Not for some time. Humans, playing against humans, make mistakes. They seldom find two ruffs against that four spades, even if they should. Humans, seeing the favorable vulnerability, remember when their partner opened three hearts on J109xxxx and out, and don't double four spades, and don't bid that cold game.

Humans, when the auction turns competitive, and they have a big fit, sometimes push to the five level, when they were right to defend.

Humans make errors. When you bid against them, they make more errors. When they make more errors, you win. Get the point?

Doubling, with the East hand, gains a lot when it is right. When it is wrong, it should lose, but, sometimes, it wins even then.
Jan. 16
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The defense has been remarkably poor, so I am not playing either opponent to make a good play. I know the shape - the spades and diamonds are marked, and West would never worry about ducking the club holding QJ-third. So, I have a full count on the hand.

West started with K?? in hearts, and East ?J8 in hearts. Someone has the queen, and restricted choice tells me nothing. West might have won the queen, not the king, or East might upper-cut with the queen, not the jack.

If East holds the heart queen, I must exit the three. If West holds the queen, I must exit with the five or six. Looks 50-50 to me.

What about the defense? West should likely have shifted to a trump after the second diamond, particularly with strong clubs. Shifting to trumps is less attractive looking at KQx in trumps. That suggests that West has the heart queen. Moreover, East would (and should) have put up an honor holding QJ8 in trumps. Again, that says that West has the queen. But … would East, having butchered the hand at every chance, really play the heart eight from J82 or J84? I think they are still asleep, so I exit with the heart three.
Jan. 15
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True. Partner will need to have started with five diamonds for that to work. Looks like heart six at trick two is best.
Jan. 15
ATB
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Let's play that game. Give West a similar hand, but 2-2-4-5. Now, five clubs needs luck in the trump suit. It may or may not make. If E-W bid a marginal game, and it goes down, would anyone really care?

Of course, with that 2-2-4-5 AK A hand, West might opt to defend, and collect 100 rather than 50. Would anyone post a different ATB had they collected 100 while missing a borderline game?
Jan. 15
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If partner has an ace, we are mostly safe (except in the unlikely case where declarer started with AKQ in diamonds).

Assuming the lead was third best, we know partner has KJ9 in hearts, and, likely, KJ9x. So, let's assume that declarer has both minor suit aces, and running spades, and try to set the contract without risking playing a club, and seeing declarer run clubs.

I see two simple ways: Return the heart six at trick two. Partner will win with the king or jack, and return a heart to our ace. Now, thanks to that suit preference signal, we know which minor suit to play.

Or, even simpler, play a diamond at trick two, keeping the heart ace to protect partner in the ending.

Update: Thanks to a comment below, there is a third option: Let the heart nine hold. Then we get help even earlier.
Jan. 15
Steve Bloom edited this comment Jan. 15
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Well, if it is your style to bid on hands like x xx Jxxxx Jxxxx, then, may I play many matches against you.

For starters, I suspect it is wrong to cue-bid over 1m on a hand like Jxxxx Jxxxx xx x, but there are ways that can gain, and there are many strong pairs that bid that way. 2NT, however, is a different critter, because:

(1) It forces your side to the three-level.
(2) Lacking major suits, you are usually outbid, and the information leaked helps their card play.
(3) Most importantly, it is incredibly easy to bid over a 2NT call. You have lots of options: Direct bids, delayed bids after a double, after a pass, after a cue-bid. Look through hand records of major events, and see how well pairs bid after a 2NT interference. Then compare and see how well they bid after a three club call. A simple pre-empt eats up bidding room, but 2NT allows for so many variants, it has very little pre-emptive impact.
Jan. 14
ATB
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Taking the three choices, in order:

Opening pass. Reasonable. But I don't hate an opening either.

Pass over three hearts. Looks too conservative, but I get it.

Pass over four hearts, by East. Clearly wrong. When they deal you a 5-4-4 hand, you double. Even better, as a passed hand, partner can't go crazy. Doubling has many, many ways to gain, and really only one way to lose - and that is if four hearts, undoubled, was our cheapest minus score.
Jan. 13
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Of course, if West has two small spades and only two hearts, we shouldn't have cashed the spade ace. The 2-2 splits are a wash - cashing the ace gains when West has two hearts and one trump.
Jan. 13
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@Craig: Yes, that will work, unless South decides that declarer started with three spades.

@Hans: I wouldn't call a ten count extra values. The negative free bid denies a game force. Certainly, looking at two queens and a jack, I have no reason to suspect that my opponents are grossly outgunned.

Will two hearts go down more than 50% of the time? Maybe. So, at matchpoints, passing could be right (or could turn +110 into +100, or beat them at the two-level when they were going higher). I hate the IMP odds. Even here, where defending was right, it takes very careful defense to set two hearts, and careful defense to set two spades. As the play went, South might have made two spades.
Jan. 13
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Thanks. Fixed. I think, in my own head, that declarer is always South.
Jan. 13
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