Al The Plumber

Extreme Bridge #6: Part 3

Part 3

(Click this link to read Part 1)
(Click this link to read Part 2)

Sorry this part got delayed — partly because some sites and pages that posted the problem were out of sync, plus I was exhausted from overbidding, as usual.

As some of you have guessed, I was the culprit who was West.  The deal was played years ago, and I was playing with Warren Rosner who tragically passed away last year.  He had put up with my bridge and other antics since we were in college!  He’s probably counting his lucky stars up there somewhere that he won’t have to hear me for the zillionth time ask questions such as, “Why did you lead the HQ from xxx QJT876 xx xx against 3NT when a low one probably would have fooled the declarer?”  With us vul and quiet (rare for me, but they already had picked off two of my suits), the bidding by them went 1C-1D-1N-3N.  Dummmy on his left had something like HK9xx, naturally I was void, and declarer had HAxx.  The next time that you think you had really bad luck on a lead, think about this one!

Anyway, my West hand for Extreme Bridge #6 was:



Despite the lack of some exotic play like an inverted triple squeeze with a rotating periwinkle, I think there are more interesting points to this deal than there appear to be at first sight. “Unfortunately”, I often can concoct such things about loads of deals.  I staged lots of drone attacks long before drones were commonplace. 🙂

First of all, many people questioned aspects of the bidding and play that took place on the actual deal.  Some were:

1. Why didn’t S bid 3S instead of 3NT?  I don’t know.  Ordinarily, I would have, especially on a hand that looks suit oriented due to all those controls, but maybe the declarer was shooting???

Other slight possibilities are that he pulled the wrong bid from the bidding box or that he didn’t see the cards properly.  (This might have been the case for another situation that I’ll mention later.)  He was an excellent player, but EVERY player except you and me, of course, makes mistakes.  Some that aren’t mechanical types of errors even go undetected after hordes of players and analysts examine the hand in post mortems — even with computers.  BTW, don’t tell anyone else about us, and just let them think we might be screwing up when we play them!  Sometimes we can use that to our benefit.

2. Some people said they would open either version 1S, or at least would do so for the second one.  Today anything that vaguely resembles a 1NT opening is opened as such by loads of experts and other players.  Some players did this many years ago, but I think that the tendency has become stronger over the years.  Sometimes it works well for various reasons, e.g., just because the defenders often find out little during the bidding. 

However, with such great controls, I think there is a good chance that 1NT might make it more difficult to reach the best contracts, e.g., good slams — although for some layouts, the opposite is true.  In addition, the hand with the AJT43 of spades is such a powerhouse for a 15-17 1NT opening that I would open 1S instead.  If anyone wants to count points, I’d promote for the controls, good 5 card suit, etc.  It’s better than lots of 18 point hands that huge numbers of players would open with one of a suit, and then jump to 2NT or raise 1NT to 2NT.  I’ll use the polling feature to see what others think.

3. Maybe S should hold off taking the DA, instead of taking it to try to block the suit.  Then sometimes W might discontinue the suit because he can’t read the spot cards, W might have 5 solid diamonds except for the DA but have no outside entry, etc.  Then again, W might have bid with a good 5 card diamond suit, perhaps with other excuses.  Who knows?

4. Maybe S should discard the CT instead of a low one.  It seems like that could work out either way, sometimes depending on defensive mistakes, telltale hesitations, etc.  Also, if a spade-club squeeze develops, sometimes it will not matter.

5. Maybe S shouldn’t cash the 3rd round of hearts to get more information.  Sometimes it risks down 2 if things go wrong.  However, maybe someone has been lulled to sleep by the 3N bid (instead of a supposedly “normal” 3S), you’re behind the 8 ball already if straightforward play makes 4 or 5 spades, you can get more info than 4S declarers can because there probably won’t be any opposing ruffs in NT!, etc.                     

Now, I’ll switch to W’s viewpoint: 

1. As some people said, it was strange that S discarded a club and spade.  Since he evidently held only 5 red cards, eons of bridge experience or 1st grade math would indicate that he held 8 black cards — presumably 4 spades since he didn’t rebid them and therefore also 4 clubs.  BUT — then how does he expect to make it with a virtually certain club loser even if he has the CT? (Or maybe no club loser but a losing spade to be used for an endplay instead.  Whoopee-doo!)  That also might result in down 2 instead of down 1.  If he really had 4-4 in the black suits, he probably would plan to develop one of them, and discard twice from the other.

As previously mentioned, the most likely possibility is that he has 5 spades, but he chose not to show them.  Possibly he is shooting, just loves 3NT so much, etc.  Errors such as those stated above, and later realizing the correct hand are slight possibilities.  Similarly, perhaps he thought he had 4 spades, later realized he had only 3, and he really has 5 clubs.  Sometimes when opponents do unexpected things, it pays to be alert for their possible errors.  Otherwise, they may be the ones who are laughing at the end of the deal! 🙂  However, many times there may be no reasonable way to take them into account.  

2. Assuming S has 5 spades, he knows that a significant percentage of the field may be in 4S, but a fair number probably will play 3NT because spades never get bid, or they will get there in various ways even if they are bid and raised.  He doesn’t know it, but 4S usually is making assuming he has as little as the SA, which is virtually certain on the bidding.  Many declarers probably will lead to dummy and then toward the AT or AJ.  (Occasionally, 4S may go down if E has the QJ and declarer concocts a safety play for down 1, a low spade is started from dummy instead and E pops the Q from QT, etc.  However, 4S has pretty decent chances on various layouts even if there is a sure spade loser.  For example, there may be an endplay to avoid a club loser, declarer might be able to trump two diamonds and his last losing club will go on a defender’s trump at trick 13, etc.)

3. If the declarer has SAJ, he may try to do something different from what the 4S declarers rate to do.  Playing to drop the doubleton Q is one obvious possibility.  3NT making 3 isn’t going to be all that wonderful if they make 4S or more.  Of course, he has to be somewhat cautious because he might wind up losing to both the 4S and the 3NT declarers.  Getting part of a loaf usually is better than none at all.  Naturally, if he really is shooting, a partial as in loaf may not be of much interest!

4. After running the diamonds, we probably weren’t getting any more tricks if S planned to play either of us to have Q dub, or for Warren to have the SQ (assuming S didn’t play for highly dubious situations such as restricted choice regarding the possibly missing QJ AND a black suit squeeze).  At least he was not making 4!  I got out with a heart, and declarer played another round so he seemed to be looking for info and/or hoping the defense would screw up.  It wasn’t a big surprise.  So why not give him some info/hope, mess with his head, etc.? 😉 I was hoping too.  

BTW, I presented the S hand with the SAJxxx first to see what many players would do.  A fairly large percentage played the SA, and then when E played the T, played W for Qxxx originally.  Some others went to dummy with a club, then led a low spade intending to finesse for the Q, but said they might change their mind if the T came up.     

If declarer had the J, with other things being equal, of course the odds were against my partner’s spot being the T.  However, as indicated above, I thought that declarer might have opened 1S with that hand, particularly playing with an expert partner who presumably has some idea how to play NT contracts, so that affects the odds.  (Of course, I guessed wrong about that part!  What else is new?)  As far as I knew, he wasn’t a shy bidder. 🙂  Regardless if I discarded a club or made the technically “idiotic” spade discard, with him having the red suit count, and if only missing the Q in spades, etc., I judged (guessed again?) that he probably would play me for the Q (guarding against me having started with 4 or even 5 spades) if he were about to finesse someone.  Maybe the spade discard portion was just a matter of the number of levels of he knows that I know that he knows … 🙂

I couldn’t dawdle or else I’d probably have to explain to a committee why it took so long to pitch a spade from xxx!  In addition, I figured that no amount of time would help so despite all the preceding rambling, I just played a spade without a loss of tempo.  He played me for the Q and went down 2.  Warren and I needed almost every matchpoint that we scraped up on this and all the other deals.  We won a squeaker by less than 1/6th of a board. 

5. Alan Truscott asked us for a deal for his NY Times column.  Even though I’ll probably never know whether my discard changed declarer’s play on that layout, we asked Alan if he wanted to use that deal.  He liked it and called it a Psychological Double-cross.

BTW, bridge journalists sometimes say to me that they don’t want a “book” about a hand, tons of “wonderful” drivel that didn’t happen to matter on an interesting deal, etc.  I can’t imagine why they think I might give them such things! 🙂 (Naturally, it’s obvious they often have a pretty limited amount of space, and even less when they have to report results, make announcements, etc.)

At the point where I had to discard on the heart, holding S865 and CQJ76, Truscott wrote as follows:

“The obvious discard was a club, leaving South to guess the position of the spade queen. But Stauber threw a spade, a play one would expect from a beginner.

No expert would throw a spade from three small cards in such a position, thus indicating the right way to play spades. Or so South thought. He concluded, as Stauber meant him to conclude, that Stauber had begun with four spades including the queen.”

Hey, that reminds me.  I’ve got to leave to play in a Novice Pairs event.


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