Ante Meridiem

Hi all,

I played both the Butler Pairs (with Kees) and the Open Pairs (with René) in Scheveningen. Last time I played there is a long time ago, in my greener junior years. Both tournaments (not limited to those) I suffered from the same affliction. Years from now scientists will confirm the existence of the “ante meridiem syndrome,” I’m sure. Before lunch I can summon no magic, none at all (emphasised with swiping arm movement). At best I’m rubbing against Zia’s second heat. After lunch the gloves come off. Butler before lunch: +3. After: +49. Pairs before lunch: 47%. After: 60%.

So far I’ve tried to remedy that with varying amounts of coffee, light or heavy breakfast, holistic herbalism, divinatory shamanism and [insert random “ism” here] …  It seems a Karapet-esque curse. 

Here’s a cute deal:

South
AJ7
JT864
75
AQ8
West
North
East
South
 
pass
1
1
DBL
RDBL1
2
pass
pass
2
a.p.
 
  1. raise with top honor

West leads the 9 and this is what I see:

North
9542
A72
A64
642
South
AJ7
JT864
75
AQ8

We’re deep in the afternoon already, so things click. West is holding exactly four , that leaves East with two. The 9 has the smell of a doubleton, so the layout condenses to West having a 4-3-4-2 and East with a 2-2-4-5. I have two losers in , one in and one in . That means I have to tackle the trump suit for one loser.

The double finesse only works if the 9 is doubleton. I can do better.

I win the lead with the Queen and duck a to East. The King of hits the table and I win the Ace, West completing the doubleton echo. I cross to the Ace of and request a little trump away from the Ace. East gives away the show by rising with the King.

Later I finesse against West’s remaining Queen doubleton, losing just one trump. Taking eight, for a 3 IMP gain.

North Dealer
All Vul
North
9542
A72
A64
642
West
KT83
Q95
K983
93
East
Q6
K3
QJT2
KJT75
South
AJ7
JT864
75
AQ8

Magnus is performing at Paradiso September 26th. I invite you.

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M

Hi all

I’ve enjoyed way too many “M”‘s in Finland: Munkki, Muikku, Marimekko, Marieke, Makkara, Mansikka and more. The weather wasn’t very cooperative, the worst summer in 40 years I’ve heard. It had no impact on my mood, though, I was up all the time. I could even muster a teensy smile when I had to pump the air bed in the middle of the night for the third time. Brand new with a cursed tiny leak. Marieke still cracks up when she so vividly remembers me “enthusiastically” pumping the air bed while fending off waves of interested mosquitos.

Here’s a nice deal from HOK last Monday.

South
AQ72
KQ3
AJ85
Q3

Just a random balanced 18-count. With a former world champion on my left of course things don’t get to pass uncontested.

West
North
East
South
 
 
pass
11
12
DBL3
pass
1NT4
pass
3NT
a.p.
 
  1. 16+
  2. Majors or minors
  3. Any 5-7
  4. 17-19 bal

West leads the 4 of (odd leads) via the Jack for my King and this is what I have to work with:

North
3
95
KT962
K8765
South
AQ72
KQ3
AJ85
Q3

Here’s an excerpt of my train of thoughts (cravings for beer, improper thoughts and other non-vital musings omitted): The suit is my main source of tricks. If I find the Queen I still need to avoid East gaining the lead because of my single positional stopper. So West needs to hold the Ace of . To even get close to nine tricks the hook needs to be onside.

Because West is holding both Majors (the leads suggests it) I’m going to take a finesse against East’s presumed Queen-third. West discards a on the second round of

That’s hurdle #1. 

Three more rounds follow, West discards some more and finally a . Hurdle #2 coming up: The 3 to my Queen survives, West surrendering the Jack. This is the position now:

North
9
K8765
South
A7
Q3
Q3

Trivially academic by now. I cash the Ace and exit with the  3 towards the King. If West ducks I have nine already and if she rises she can pick her poison granting me my contract with either round Queen. 

East Dealer
NS Vul
North
3
95
KT962
K8765
West
J654
AT764
7
AT2
East
KT98
J82
Q43
J94
South
AQ72
KQ3
AJ85
Q3

Taking 9 was good for the same number of IMPs.

I leave you with a recommendation to watch the Danish/Swedish crime drama “The Bridge”. In a genuine Netflix binge Marieke and I finished season one in three days or so. What a ride!

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Double

Hi all, 

I wonder what I should share with the world today. The Imitation Game (about Alan Turing’s life) was a more than satisfying movie experience, or my attempt at spicy chicken soup (chili, sesame, garlic and ginger are such a tasty marriage), or my upcoming holidays in Finland (I haven’t been there in more than 20 years), or the odd news of the day that watching cat movies might be beneficial to my and your day.

Or I could just share two nice deals from last time at HOK. All good things come in two, not?

South Dealer
– Vul
North
T83
AQT932
7
K97
West
AQ965
5
AT652
J4
East
74
KJ876
4
AQT63
South
KJ2
4
KQJ983
852

South decided to pass first hand, though it seems like a very reasonable weak two or even preempt to me. I could even be persuaded to open 1. Kees opened 1 and North decided to overcall 2. Oh boy! Oh boy! Oh boy! I pass and patiently wait for hammerfall. South introduced his beautiful (though I might consider a natural 2NT myself). North had but a meager singleton and seemingly carefree rebid his suit. 

I said “No!” and pressed my X on the table, disclosing my trap pass.

Kees won my lead with his Queen and switched to the Jack of . Three rounds stand up and I move back to , completing my echo. The third round I ruff with the 6 and I get a strong Lavinthal signal from Kees, so I play my stiff for his Ace. A fourth round of (yes, in the triple chicane!) and my trumps get blessed with golden rays of sun. Declarer in panic ruffs with the 9 which I overruff with the Jack.

Now here’s the creamy cherry on top:

South Dealer
– Vul
North
AQT32
West
6
5
T65
East
K87
63
South
4
QJ98

Kees ruffs my 3 with the 5 in front of declarer, promoting my K87 into two more tricks. Dust settles and we write down 6: +1400. Double digits imps, anyone?

A walk in the park:

North Dealer
NS Vul
North
J9642
873
JT9
T9
West
Q73
5
AK743
6543
East
AKT
AQ42
Q
AKQ82
South
85
KJT96
8652
J7
West
North
East
South
 
pass
11
pass
22
pass
23
pass
34
pass
33
pass
3NT5
pass
43
pass
46
pass
43
pass
47
pass
78
a.p.
  1. 16+
  2. 8+ hcp, 4-5 or 5-4 minors
  3. Relay
  4. 8-11 hcp, 5-4
  5. 3-1-5-4
  6. 1 Ace
  7. 1 King
  8. That’s all I need

Declarer play pretty much took place during the bidding. If Kees had held just the Ace of and the stiff King of taking thirteen would still be odds on. Here the Queen of just made life a little easier. Picking up a hand with 50% face cards usually gives me a warm glow inside, but more than 60%? It’s like being on a diesel powered acid trip (or so I imagine). Another double digit pickup, for there was only one other pair that reached the grand. 

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Pale

Hi all,

I’ve been deeply engrossed in Game of Thrones lately. The books I have read already a couple of years ago, now I’m catching up with the series. Varys, Tyrion and Arya, yeah! I seek opportunities at the bridge table to quote GoT. Like saying “Winter is coming” when putting down a terrible dummy. Heh! I kill myself! And now for something completely different (a larch, anyone?) … I suggest you take a look at this YouTube clip. None of it has to do anything with Westeros or its amazing characters, it might actually invoke a genuine “WTF?”. Ohh, do I miss the days when I burned thru seasons of Red Dwarf for the first time.

Here’s a nice deal from the Patton series at HOK. 

North
5
643
AKJT853
74

Kees (South) opens a 10-12 NT first hand and I have to decide whether to undertake immediate action or take the low road. My RHO passes and a glimpse to my left reveals an opponent intensely studying her cards. Alright, let me take you out for a spin: I pass. LHO flicks an “X” on the table and partner and RHO have nothing to add. 

Okay, I think I have a nasty surprise for my LHO.

West starts with the Jack of and with an evil grin I put down my dummy:

North
5
643
AKJT853
74
South
K962
J87
Q4
AQT3

East lets the Jack slide and Kees takes his King. I swear East turned a whiter shade of pale when the dreaded Queen hit the table. Six more followed in rapid succession and East had no discards to spare. She decided to abandon the suit altogether so four more came rolling in. This was the full deal:

North Dealer
– Vul
North
5
643
AKJT853
74
West
JT73
A95
972
852
East
AQ84
KQT2
6
KJ96
South
K962
J87
Q4
AQT3

So the result was 1NT! making 6. I add another rare bird to my book of bizarro scores: +680 in a NT contract.

“A bruise is a lesson… and each lesson makes us better.”

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Hot Stuff

Hi all,

I have another city trip under my belt, this time I spent a couple of days in Copenhagen. I met up with teammates who happened to have scheduled their holidays parallel with mine. Strolling around in Copenhagen with the sun on our faces while discussing bridge. Yes please, any day. On Saturday I had a lovely evening where my girlfriend had her graduating performance at the Complete Vocal Institute. Unbridled enthusiasm, a mountain of talent and just a pinch of stage nervousness blended for a silver lined day.

Here’s a nice deal where I was handed a gift or two and then demanded another. Again I was playing with René, the founder of Bridge Big.

South
K7
AJ8
KQ5
AJT62

I hear my RHO open a weak 2 in and I have a problem. I’m top heavy for a 2NT overcall, but I see no good alternative. If I start with a double we might end up in some awkward 4-3 fit if partner starts with a Lebensohl response. So I choose 2NT, René raises me to game.

North
9643
Q52
AJT84
5
South
K7
AJ8
KQ5
AJT62

West leads the Ace and switches to a low that runs to my Ten. Thank you! I probably wouldn’t have been able to do that myself. I can easily set up a trick to take ten, but I’m hungry for more.

I overtake my King of with dummy’s Ace and a towards my Jack wins the trick. From here it’s plain sailing, I cash the King and Ace and rattle off the remaining . This is the position with one more to go:

North
9
Q5
8
South
A8
J6

On the train East has been discarding a string of . On the last East discards her black Jack and I honor it with mine. Now I exit with the 9 to East and out goes my last . East is placed and has to return a into my split fork. Hot Stuff! +660 feels good.

East Dealer
NS Vul
North
9643
Q52
AJT84
5
West
A
T764
763
KQ843
East
QJT852
K93
92
97
South
K7
AJ8
KQ5
AJT62

Here’s me enjoying a Three Floyds Majsgoop (a surprisingly hoppy barley wine) @ Mikkeler “Welcome Beer Geeks” Bar in Copenhagen. Wonderful! 

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Splendor

Hi all, 

The madness of King’s Day is behind us. I never would have guessed Amsterdam would turn into such a steaming brew of people wearing various kinds of orange attributes. This Tuesday it is quite visible the city itself is suffering from a major hangover. Mental note for 2016 and above: increase personal crumple zone on this particular date. Other highlights from these past couple of weeks: for the first time in my life I visited Rome. Such splendor! The Pantheon, the Borghese Gardens, the Castel Sant’Angelo, the coffee & food… There might have been a small tear in the corner of my eye. This is what happiness is.

I have played a lot of bridge lately, so let’s cut to the chase. 

West
North
East
South
 
 
pass
1
pass
2
pass
21
pass
32
pass
43
pass
4
a.p.
  1. Denying a 6-crd suit, balanced or not good enough for a direct raise (the “Schuler Shift”) 
  2. Pinpointing the problem
  3. Weak hand with fit

After René bid 4 I had a pretty good idea of what was opposite of me. After a brief moment I opted for the 5-2 fit. West kicked off with the Ace of and this is what René had to work with:

North
A8
764
KQ86
KJ85
South
KQT64
9
T97
AQ94

René observes dummy for a while and I see he is immersed in projections and calculations. He ruffs the King of and immediately plays a towards dummy. West jumps in with the Ace and continues with the Queen of . She meets her demise with another little trump. Now things move quickly, René cashes both top and King and Ace of . Everybody following suit. A third towards dummy and West discards a after a significant ponder.

Now 3 rounds of trumps show that there’s still one out there. It is of no importance or consequence, there are ten tricks with 5 trumps, 3 in and 2 in .  

East Dealer
EW Vul
North
A8
764
KQ86
KJ85
West
J952
AKQ8
A43
62
East
73
JT532
J52
T73
South
KQT64
9
T97
AQ94

One wonders what would have happened had West ruffed the third . This would have been the position:

North
A8
8
J
West
J95
8
East
73
JT
South
KQT
Q

West could have exited with her 8 of but then dummy could have ruffed with the 8 of while René sluffs his winning (the other way around is possible and spectacular, too). His three top trumps bring home the contract then. Any inconsiderate remarks by East regarding the non-complexity of the deal were cast aside when the score for the deal showed, a flawless 100% for NS.

Why do I like this deal so much? I enjoy thoughtful bidding and watching competent declarer play (postponing drawing trumps until the very, very end). 

Last but not least: if “The B Movie Orchestra” is in your neighborhood, you should go check them out. The solid band plays brilliant tunes of old movies and blends them with fragments of said movies. The whole thing is a feast for the ear as well as the eye.

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Commandments

Hi all

Sunday a week ago I played the “chilly winter bar drive” in Leiden. I wasn’t in great shape, but I did prepare well: a motherload of paper hankies and throat relief tablets in every single pocket on me. I was croaking about an octave lower than usual. The one thing I forgot (of course!) were my sunglasses, it was unexpectedly perfectly sunny. Our opposition was less than stellar during the day and Marianne and I were quite in sync. No deep psychological mind games or feeding partner riddles (such masochism!), just straightforward bridge.

South
QJ9643
AQ8
83
83
West
North
East
South
 
 
1
1
1NT
4
a.p.
 

I ask whether the 1NT call promises a stopper and I’m informed it just shows 6-9 hcp. West leads the 9 of with a strong thumb on it. Even the players at the table next to us know it’s a singleton.

North
K82
432
AQ74
AK5
South
QJ9643
AQ8
83
83

That’s a fine call by Marianne, no beating around the bush. So how do I prevent that pending ruff? Assessment mode: I’m fairly sure these little old ladies are superbly familiar with common bridge commandments. More than is actually good for them. Let’s see if she knows her “Thou shan’t play thy face cards prematurely”. Radiating charming innocence left and right I cross to the Ace (RHO drops the Jack) and ask for a low trump. Lady East plays low without a care in the world and my Queen wins the trick.

*Ba dum tss*

Another round of trumps loses to the Ace and when East continues the attack West shrugs apologetically and discards. I’m a big game hunter now. I try the hook and when it wins I visualize a double squeeze with as pivot suit. I cash King (East discarding) and now the train of trumps first squeezes West out of and then East. This is the thumb screw position:

North
A7
5
South
4
8
8

Here’s the full deal:

East Dealer
All Vul
North
K82
432
AQ74
AK5
West
T5
9
KT9
QT97642
East
A7
KJT765
J652
J
South
QJ9643
AQ8
83
83

Of course my swindle could have backfired epically. Suppose East had risen with trump Ace, gave West a ruff, then received a ruff herself to cash the setting trick with a high . Man! I would have been disgusted. I score my two overtricks with a smile, I graciously accept Marianne’s compliments for declarer play and we continue our solid game.

Now if only I hadn’t balanced on some crappy hand (down three not vul) this story would have had a perfect finish. I am so sorry Marianne. Second place out of 300+ pairs just doesn’t cut it glamour wise. We shared stories and beer with the good folks of Bridge Big, they do play analog tournaments, too. Good times.

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Coif

Hi all

The current crisp weather here makes my inner viking smile. How can one complain when you can resolve the tingling of skin with glühwein and hearty soul food? Style wise I’m in heaven, next to wearing my near-endless supply of stripy shirts, I get to wear stripy coifs as well. Yay me!

My team is doing well in the Amsterdam regional competition. With just two matches to go we’re in first place, but the margin is only marginally wider than the skin of my teeth. I don’t feel pressured or nervous, I can look back on a solid season, and as Kees and I are scheduled to play the last two matches I have promotion in my own hands.

Here’s a deal from a regular Monday night. I have lost a bit of sleep over it for sure.

West
North
East
South
 
 
 
1
pass
2
3
3NT
pass
4
pass
4
pass
4NT
pass
5
pass
6NT
a.p.
 

Briskly we bid to the NT slam and when West leads a I see I’m not cold. 

North
AQ5
A6
AT86
K973
South
J964
K9
KQ54
AJ8

I win the lead in hand and my to the Queen loses to the King. Back comes another and West discards a . When I cross in I see West has started with all five of them. No problem, I still have four tricks there. I cash some more pointed suits which leads to this position:

North
K97
South
AJ8

So far I have lost only one and I have to extract three tricks from this combination (dummy’s 4th went away on my 13th ). I have full count, East is 3-8-0-2 and West is 3-1-5-4.

This is easy, there are only three relevant positions: Qx, Tx, or QT in East. 

At the table I led a low towards my hand and East offered nothing of interest. Scratch that QT! Which one is it? Do I play East for the Queen or the Ten? My kingdom for divine inspiration! I could feel the electric zing in the air, the tension of knowing there actually is a right decision. 

South Dealer
All Vul
North
AQ5
A6
AT86
K973
West
732
4
J9732
T654
East
KT8
QJT87532
Q2
South
J964
K9
KQ54
AJ8

Of course I picked the wrong one.

Why, oh why was I torturing myself, seeking where there is nothing to be found? The odds are firm for this one, cashing Ace and King works 5 times out of 15 combinations, while running the Jack only works for 4 combinations out of 15. My probe for more information was moot, especially against a crafty defender who might surrender the Ten of voluntarily.

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Degrees of Freedom

Hi all

2015 is approaching fast. I can’t believe it’s already 4 months ago since I wrote my last story. Is it the Amsterdam vibe that’s propelling me forward at ludicrous speeds? I do have embraced Amsterdam, I frequent fancy bars and restaurants, local breweries know me by my first name, and I mesh well with the people here.

About a week ago I passed my ITIL Foundation exam. Stuff about IT services management, best practices, delivering value, plan-do-check-act cycles and more. It wasn’t too hard, but dry it certainly was *cough*. I don’t recall ever having read such dense and uninspiring material. Oh well, I passed so I can allow myself a not too smug little fist pump, not?

My bridge has been quite good (barely any Bridge Big, though), I feel confident at the table and Viking stunts are abundant. Here’s a deal from a recent match:

South
AKQ9
J84
AJ
8753
West
North
East
South
 
 
pass
1NT1
pass
22
pass
2
pass
33
pass
3
pass
34
pass
45
pass
4NT6
pass
57
pass
6
a.p.
 
  1. 14-16
  2. Transfer
  3. Puppet to 3
  4. Slam try with singleton
  5. Not interested
  6. Keys?
  7. Two without trump Queen

Kees found his hand too heavy with potential to stick to just game so I end up at the helm in 6. West leads a low and this is what I see:

North
6
AK9753
Q62
AQ6
South
AKQ9
J84
AJ
8753

I win the lead cheaply with my Jack. If trumps break 2-2 I’m cold for 13. But as soon as I play a trump to dummy I see bad news, East is holding all four of them. Suddenly even taking just 12 is challenging. East rises with his Queen when I continue with a trump towards my Jack and switches back to .

Now let’s play close attention to that !

I’ll boldly state that most players would switch to seeing that singleton in dummy, trying to stifle declarer’s transportation and communication. Little glory in switching back to . On a return I would have had no chance but to cash my trump Jack, pitch a and a on my top and take a hook to get to 12 tricks. No more than 50% chance of getting home safely.

On a return I quickly visualized a four-card ending with both minor suit Queens and two black 6’s in dummy opposite AKQ9 in my hand. Now if both opponents are holding one King, neither one of them can hold a four-card suit (a Double Whammy!). It is a Single Whammy! against an opponent who is holding at least one King and JT-4th of , or any 5-crd suit. To me the squeeze approach feels easily more than 50%, but calculating this is currently beyond me.

This was the full deal:

East Dealer
NS Vul
North
6
AK9753
Q62
AQ6
West
J854
KT753
KJ94
East
T732
QT62
984
T2
South
AKQ9
J84
AJ
8753

Down one. No magnetic squeeze whatsoever in sight. A pedestrian finesse would have worked out. Life’s just too cruel sometimes.

So back to that return by my opponent. It offered me a chance to go wrong. An extra degree of freedom to hang myself. To me this is beautiful bridge, one deal you actively funnel your opponents into losing plays, another you gently create opportunities for those same opponents to go wrong.

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Bridge Big: Wave

Hi all

I haven’t been very active on the bridge front lately (live or online), my mind has been occupied with work (WebLogic .. arrrrrr … ) and personal distractions. Serious, probably yes; dramatic, no. No worries, I feel .. lighthearted, unchained, on top of my wave and at ease.  

Nira probed me for a deal and who am I to let her down. Here’s me on defence (rotated for convenience).

West
North
East
South
 
 
pass
1
DBL
RDBL
2
pass
pass
2
pass
4
a.p.
 
 
 

Sitting West I start the defence with a low and now we move to declarer’s seat.

North
T82
KT3
QJ2
KJT8
South
AK953
4
AT86
A42

Declarer took a successful finesse against the Queen, crossed to a high trump catching nothing but grit. The tiny towards dummy gets captured swiftly and West reverts back to . This is what’s left:

North
T8
KT
QJ2
K8
South
A953
AT86
A

Declarer decided to guard against a bad trump split by running the Ten now. I agree, I applaud players who harden their contracts with hard hats and thoughtful safety measures. Unfortunately it wasn’t as thoughtful as expected. West (I) won the trump with the Queen and promptly gave East a ruff. A loser was unavoidable so we write down 1 and €8.55 gets added to my account.

Full deal:

East Dealer
NS Vul
North
T82
KT3
QJ2
KJT8
West
Q4
AQ52
K73
Q763
East
J76
J9876
954
95
South
AK953
4
AT86
A42

So what was declarer to do when in dummy with the Ten? For sure you can insert a safety measure! The one thing you have to do first is jettison the Ace on the King of . Now you can run trump Ten and if it loses West has no damaging return. You give up a trick and claim ten with four trumps, two clubs, three diamonds and a heart.

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