Al The Plumber

#20101214: PLAY OR DEFEND OR? – Part III

BUT FIRST — as another great public service, I interrupt your web caste to bring you a couple of startling news bulletins:

  1. The ACBL insane asylum just announced a huge surge in lifetime residency contract declarations made on behalf of players who recently have gone plumb loco.  For some unknown reason, they no longer are playing with a full deck.

    Attempts to jettison the massive overflow, and squeeze them into similar WBF joints hit a huge pot hole.  All of them went up in smoke, because the other outfits for misfits all claimed similar inadequacy.


  3. The stock prices of producers of anti-depressants and analgesics have doubled and redoubled in recent days!  Even The Donald’s bids have been over-trumped.  The flood gates of bills are wide open.

    Furthermore, the jumps in the bidding are almost Stauberian.  Short sellers are being buffetted unmercifully, despite their claims that the whole stampede is based on a bunch of unwarranted, high-handed psyches.  However, it is obvious, even to kibitzers, that the companies are no longer vulnerable to ruff times.


OK, so much for obviously unrelated news stories.  Let’s get on with the hand.  If you need a refresher, here are links to Part I and Part II


It seems inevitable that many people want to know the origin of a hand, what happened in real life, etc. This was a deal (on BBO) from the 12/12/2010 Challenge Match. Please go to the latter website for additional info and comments about the hand. You may also add your own remarks.

I’m also now cluttering up so you can also find this hand on the new “Al the Plumber” blog there. Caveat emptor: Incidentally, these two sites are normally free. However, I’ve heard that suddenly my referrals are being re-referred to Bill Gates and Warren Buffet to finance a “nominal” membership fee. The above bunch of words to the wise should be sufficient.

I’m usually exhausted from having to bid my cards and those of my partners! Accordingly, I seldom kibitz online bridge battles, but “serendipity” struck on that day. I decided to multi-task my usual Comedy Central studies w/ some online hands. This was one of the hands that I happened to watch.

In the above diagram, Ben Handley-Pritchard and Tom Townsend were N-S. Steve Weinstein and Gavin Wolpert were E-W. The bidding proceeded:


North East South West
1 X
2 (1) Pass 2 Pass
3 Pass 4 (2) Float


(1) = I thought this was supposed to be a constructive raise.

(2) = Accepting his own invitation? Or maybe 2 was constructive or better? Looking for 3N??? Whatever. (By the way, I usually accept my own invitation by not telling everyone I’m inviting, and just accepting immediately.)

Wolpert led the DA and Weinstein played the 8. I’m not sure what they were playing, but W switched to 5, and it went 4, 7, K. Perhaps he was hoping to establish a heart trick before S could dump one on a diamond. S played the CK, which held after W tanked for a while. A low club went to E’s J. S ruffed the diamond return, and then he hit a low club in dummy.

Obviously, W had started with Axxx of clubs. Assuming spades were 3-2, which was necessary to make the hand, S was basically gin. All he needed was W to have either 3 or 4 hearts (and technically not exactly 2 diamonds which was “impossible”). OK, all of this was “certain” based on the bidding and play.

He just could play hearts. If they were 4-2 and E didn’t ruff, or 3-3, he could play high spades ending in dummy, and pitch the CQ on the 4th heart. If they were 4-2 and E ruffed, N was in an automatic H-C squeeze on the run of the spades.

Kibitzers were encouraged to sort of violate “Zero Tolerance”. Presumably, the players couldn’t “hear” the remarks. Anyway, some of us mentioned at one point or another, that it was “cold” in a couple of ways. Unfortunately, Townsend had a blind spot and wound up down 2. Moreover, the hand swung the match.

I had a hunch that a spade lead might cause problems, and started checking out various lines, rather than kibitzing or watching TV much during some of the hands. Of course, it is dubious in real life even though it might be the winner by stopping ruff(s) or whatever. E.g., change the hand a bit, and it lets the contract make — plus everyone will call you a moron saying, “My great-great-great-great-… grandmother who never played bridge and has been dead for a zillion years could have beaten it!”

After Gavin was done playing, I kidded him by e-mail that I thought the “obvious” spade lead would beat it legitimately (assuming the best defense — not so easy!) He said the lead was “not inconceivable”, but obviously, it’s tough in real life. In any case, I thought it would be a good doubledummy problem. Coincidentally, Jason Feldman from highlighted it as a single dummy play problem from the match.


It’s virtually inconceivable, but in case someone somewhere is sick of this hand by now, I’ll add just a subset parade of cases, including some of the more troublesome lines. I’ve replied to some e-mails privately, and I believe that others will be answered here. If you have more comments/questions, please send them on.

S “has” 10 tricks (or maybe even more — except for the defense’s 3 Easy Pieces!) — 2 high spades, 4 hearts, 1 club, 1 club ruff in dummy, and 3 diamond ruffs. BUT — how does he go get ‘em? In addition to ruffs, one of the things he may want to angle for is a H-C squeeze on W. Please keep in mind that he may have to duck a spade early, or lose a third spade to E when he can’t do any damage. Furthermore, he’s got to be careful in the diamond suit. He can’t afford a diamond uppercut. Also, he may have to play a diamond himself to snip the defenders’ phone line. (As a couple players pointed out, this is one reason that a diamond lead at T. 1 is dubious. Why do something declarer must do himself?)

The defenders may have to do such things as stop the squeeze, not let declarer get to dummy to cash the 4th heart after they have no more spades, squelch a possible dummy reversal, etc. Let’s take a look at some lines:

I. The Actual Winner for the Big D! Spade lead:

A. Ducked in Both Hands – Spade Continuation by Defense

1. Declarer Plays 3 Rounds of Hearts

E ruffs 3rd round. Defense has 2 cashable A’s. DOWN!

2. Declarer Plays a S, D, or hi C

E always get in somehow and plays a trump, if he has any left. Declarer is left w/ zip. DOWN!

B. Declarer Wins Spade Anywhere

1. Declarer Plays 3 Rounds of Hearts.

E ruffs, W takes 2 top tricks and leads 4th heart for E to ruff. Defense must get another trump trick. DOWN!

2. Declarer Plays a Hi Club. W Wins and Plays another Trump.

i. Declarer Plays a S or D – Similar to I.A.2. DOWN!

ii. Declarer Plays a Hi C and Ruffs Another.

W can always get in to cash the 4th club before any squeeze can be executed. DOWN!

3. Declarer Plays a Diamond. IN YOUR FACE! – Defense plays another one, tapping declarer.

i. Declarer Plays a Hi Club. W wins and Taps Declarer w/ His Last Diamond.

But now what? As in the above situations, he can’t play 3 rounds of hearts. He had better at least draw another round of trumps to stop a merry crossruff. Even so, if he then plays hearts to set up the A for a club pitch, E dumps his last club on the 3rd round. Then declarer can’t get to dummy to cash the HA. DOWN!

If declarer ruffs the 3rd round of clubs after cashing the 2nd hi trump, E has control of the situation. DOWN!

Gee, the defense has the upper hand so we can stop here. However, that was so much fun that I’ll conclude with a some prospective defensive lines that fail.

II. Defense Starts w/ 2 Rounds of Diamonds (Assume A, then low). Declarer Ruffs and Ducks a Trump Trick, Won by Either Hand

A. Defense Returns a Diamond

Declarer starts hi clubs. Regardless which one W wins and what he returns, S can always manage his entries to ruff a club in dummy, draw trumps, etc. Then W is in a H-C squeeze, as w/ other lines. MAKING!

B. Defense Returns a Trump

Declarer play is similar to II.A.1. MAKING!

C. Defense Returns a Heart or Club

Similar to II.A.1. MAKING!

D. Defense Runs out of Letters and Concedes! MAKING!

III. Defense Starts w/ a Heart or a Club

I’m exhausted! I hope I haven’t screwed up too many of the above cases. I leave the others as exercises for masochistic readers!

I now select “ADIEU” from the bidding box.

Al, the Plumber of the Depths of Lunacy!

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