Al The Plumber

Regarding the 2/24/11 NY Times column on viable trump fits

Hi Phillip & Various Internet Victims! Regarding your column on viable trump fits:

Wow!  I am only one day behind (original version was written 2/25).  Due to time spent on my “analyses” of the world lun-a-thon, that is probably a record for me.

Anyway, tears & years ago, I was kicked out of ACBL Nationals and World Championships for egregious overbidding and “unviable” trump fits before I was able to attain The Holy Grail.  Of course, that is THE 0-0 TRUMP FIT! A few have reached it, but usually it was a disaster, generally doubled, and I believe at least once REDOUBLED at the 4 level!  Now that I’m playing in “The Big Time” sometimes, maybe I can finally reach my goal.

Naturally, I am interested in only getting good scores for such scientific “efforts”.  (In bowling terms, any doofus can both keep the ball in the gutter, and live there too.)  My “best” fit with any pard, regardless which of us was declarer, was a 1-0 with Paul Tobias who has a statistics Ph. D.  Perhaps he can demonstrate the merits of such techniques without revealing our secret formulas.  They would be extremely dangerous if they fell into the hands or bidding boxes of unscientific bidders.

We also saved at the apparently magical 4 level before the opps bid it.  However, they could have safely gone to 5.  -400 (yes, we were nonvul & undoubled) got us the substantial majority of the matchpoints.  I think we might have done even better, but we got fixed somewhat by the field.  For example, a few maniacs sitting the other way may have gone on to the unmakeable 6 contract.  In addition, Paul was hoping to hold it to -350 by ruffing with my stiff Q.  My RHO unsportingly ruffed before me with the K, and then the opps drew our trumps, oops, I mean TRUMP, but the matchpoint score was not affected.  (Not too amazing!  : )


I’m virtually certain, with some combo of pards, we have been in every possible trump fit of 6 cards or less (except the 0-0) — some multiple times.  Often these have been good results!  I must admit that some that were reached unintentionally (!) were not usually great.  However, some incredible disasters may have been a complete nullo bidding-wise, but not always score wise.  Even a matchpoint top or a super IMP result popped up here & there!

The 5-0 is one that I have bid to make from time to time, even at fairly high levels such as 4 of a major.  Sometimes, a very strong trump suit in a 5-0 is good enough to beat out minor games & 3NT, and occasionally, it is the only makeable game!


Finally, re: your “advice” not to make a habit of playing the 4-2:

Here is one of times that I tried it.  Before I was kicked out, I played in a Natl Mixed BAM event with Judy Landau.  Per ACBL regulations, I swear on my ACBL Gold LM Card (wherever it may be), that I was interested in this pixie bombshell, uh, I mean woman, purely for bridge purposes./

We had a big club fit and probable game (or maybe higher) values.  Both opps had bid spades.  I might be able to recall the exact auction if I cogitated long enough, but we started Q-bidding and it looked like 5 was gin or close to it.

She Q’d 4, an unbid suit. I passed! She almost had a heart attack with her Ax!  I had KQJT.  I had Jxx of spades, and as the auction progressed, it appeared that she probably had a dub.  I figured she could control spades in the short hand, then draw trumps if they broke & sometimes even if they didn’t, and runs tons of club tricks.  I did not know if she had 1, 2, or 3 hearts.  Presumably she had less than 4, because she had a chance to make a neg X and hadn’t.

All of this was wonderful except the hearts broke badly, the opps defended correctly, & she couldn’t make it.  5 was cold.

Maybe your advice is right!  : )

Best regards,

Al the Plumber

PS: I believe an ex-countryman of yours, a Mr. Reese, once suggested playing 6 in a 2-2 fit.  At least as the cards were distributed, it would make on a non-trump lead.

Of course, many believed that he was not only a bridge expert, but also an expert in signaling heart distributions. In fact, another ex-countryman and your NY Times predecessor, a Mr. Truscott, was so impressed by his system that he wrote a whole book about it. (Not that you’re likely to be too surprised by any of this!)

Now — a possible surprise.  Perhaps, Reese’s methods were even better than Truscott realized. Maybe Reese knew the opps’ distros also!


Now to those of you who have survived the letter:

There are various 4-2 & 5-0 trump fits that were played with the intention of those spots being the best contracts and at least plausible reasons to believe they could make.  Do you know of any such deals with worse trump fits?

Obviously, zillions were played because of mistakes, short suit psyches, pards having less trumps than expected, etc. Furthermore, some of those may have made. While they may be interesting, and may be reported, I’m most interested in the other type, which probably is quite rare. I would guess that at least there have been some such 4-1 fits, perhaps on auctions similar to the one that I had. A 4-1 would be even more unusual, if it were known to be that during the auction.

Thank you.


Steven GaynorFebruary 28th, 2011 at 11:07 pm

Some years ago we were at a big Chicago regional. We won the first two matches of the Swiss on Sunday and were now matched up vs. Howard W. and Ralph K. We were going to show Howard that there were still some people in MN who can play. Partner opened 2C and I held: Jxx, x, QJ97653, Ax. 2D from me, 2S by pard. In our system 3C shows a side Ace and a fit, so I bid that. Then he bid 3H, I bid 4C, he bid 4D, I bid 4H, all cue bids as far as I thought until partner passed 4H.

Partner held: AKQx, KQJx, A, KQxx. He was just bidding naturally. Now the good player that he is he calmly went about his business, lost three trump tricks and made 4H. Since no slam is cold that should not be so bad, but…. the bidding at the other table went 2C-2D-2N-6D (silent opps).

There was no heart lead and the loser there goes away on the 3rd club. We lost the match by 5.

Al StauberMarch 1st, 2011 at 8:54 am

What a pity!

Furthermore, even after the non-heart lead, 6D is not exactly gin.

BTW, Ralph & I once won a Spingold (not as pards). We were down by a mere 35 going into Q4. Needless to say, I had to loosen up from my usual “conservative” bidding. After 4 boards we were ahead & one was a push! (3 gains of 13 ea.) We won by about 15.

A “key” board was one in which I got a bit enthusiastic on my 6 count opposite pard’s jump shift. Anyway, 6D was maybe about 40% & made. That was one of a mere 4-5 slam swings at our table! (The others were gin or very good.)

At the other table, Woolsey-Manfield got to only 4D after a screwup!!! If only I had known! I only had to bid 5D to win, & we would have lost if 6D had gone down.

Moral: It’s better to be lucky like Ralph & I are, rather than good like MN folks are!


Al the Plumber

PS: Our luck ran out at the World Championships. I guess we played too well!

JohnMarch 1st, 2011 at 11:03 am

My personal record is 3D redoubled in a 2-1 fit, and partner claimed that he knew my redouble was conventional when he passed. I don’t remember the exact hand or the bidding, but I did need 3 trump-tricks with A (singleton) to Jx, so I quickly gave up on the chance of both the Q and the K dropping under the A (in other words, if my LHO had risked the very dangerous lead of a trump from Qxxxx after his partner double this would not be a story). 3D RD was worth a top, since strangely noone had bid 6C. This slam required the same 2 finesses, but did not depend on the lead or that both opponents had exactly 3352 shape…

JohnMarch 1st, 2011 at 1:44 pm

Last weekend I actually played another less than normal trumpfit. With an inexperienced and irregular partner I risked 2D over RHO’s 1D with K98xx, K98xxx, J, x (none vul). I managed to stay cool when partner didn’t alert (as per Norwegian regulations) and passed. RHO, who happened to be European Champion (and among other things winner of a North American Open Pairs) Jørgen Molberg asked and partner honestly replied “We have not disussed any artificial meaning for that 2D!”. He passed and after a trumplead Dummy appeared with xx, AJxx, 9xxx, xxx. They drew trumps and since hearts were 3-0 onside the faith of the contract depended on the location of the spade A. When it was onside I scored a trick for -350 (I couldn’t just claim 8 down, since it could well be that 400 from 5C/D was a normal score!). Even though -300 in 6H X was the par score this was worth a fair plus.

Al StauberMarch 2nd, 2011 at 4:28 pm

That sounds like my kind of bridge!

However, I’m not so sure about playing in Norway. If I get a COLD BOTTOM on a BOARD OR ELSEWHERE, will I ever be able to thaw out again — preferably while I’m still alive?

Dying of heatsroke in Florida,

Al, The Plumber of the Depths of Lunacy!

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