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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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Bridge Big: Parakeet

Hi all

I have a story about green parakeets. Some night earlier this week I was gazing out of my window and I could swear I saw this green flash. It took my attention and I kept watching. Turns out (after exercising some Google muscle) it is a well documented phenomenon. Sometime in the 70’s pet owners set free their boy & girl parakeets in Amsterdam. Those freebirds (cue Lynyrd Skynyrd) had a lot of little baby birds and now there are flocks of them throughout the city. London has a similar thing. I spot them regularly now, flying over canals, in between buildings, nesting in the big trees or in the parks. Pretty and awesome.

I have to confess my Bridge Big adventures sound very successful all the time, but truth is slightly different. Especially in the last couple of weeks I’ve been bleeding IMPs left and right. My gains have completely evaporated and now I’m struggling not to enter the deep red end. René tells me I still do pretty good, considering the caliber of players lurking around. Every day there are top level players from all over the globe. 

Here’s a nice little deal where I picked up a nugget or two.

South
65
KQT
AKQ4
K974
West
North
East
South
 
 
Pass
1NT
DBL1
2
Pass
2
a.p.
 
 
 

1. Penalty

LHO starts with the (unhelpful) Jack of and this is what I see:

North
KT972
752
52
T62
South
65
KQT
AKQ4
K974

Not the coldest of contracts so to say.

I win the lead and start on trumps, a low one to the 9. East wins it with the Jack and switches to a . LHO winning the Queen. Back comes another and I pick up my original plan: trumps. Low to the Ten wins the trick. So my LHO started with AQ-4th. Can I defuse that dirty little bomb?

Yes, sir!

I run dummy’s Ten of and LHO wins it with the Ace. Not wanting to open up any other suit he passively returns his last (breaking 3-3). This is the position now:

North
K72
752
-
-
South
-
KQT
A4
K

I put the King of on the table and West wins it with his Ace. He switches back to for my Ace while I discard a from dummy. Still one trump too many in dummy to pull off a coup. I ruff my King of in dummy while West sheds a . Ruffing a winner instead of a loser just feels nicer, I bet the Hideous Hog would approve. I cross back to my hand with the Queen of and the coup is complete with lead in South:

North
K7
-
-
-
South
-
T
4
-

West just gets his Ace of trumps, I take 8 and €3.80.

East Dealer
NS Vul
North
KT972
752
52
T62
West
AQ83
AJ6
JT3
AQ5
East
J4
9843
9876
J83
South
65
KQT
AKQ4
K974
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Bridge Big: Amnesty

Hi all

My apartment in Amsterdam is a charm. I’m so happy with it I could burst with joy. I zig and zag thru the city on my way to work, or get lost going home after the Monday night bridge club, or just feel super snazzy on my purple street bike. Who needs a car when one can bike thru one of the coolest cities in the Netherlands? Yesterday when I biked home after work I saw this poor dude working a sweat uphill with a cute girl on the back of his (less flashy) bike, she seemed unimpressed by his efforts as she was completely immersed in some app on her smartphone. I thought it was a pretty funny sight, true in any era, guys go all in anytime for girls’ favors.

I haven’t been playing a lot at Bridge Big lately, mostly due to work and getting acquainted with Amsterdam. Here’s a nice deal. Why do I only pick up +800’s in pairs and not when playing Cash games?

South
A6
A6
AT962
QJ98

This is what I hear:

West
North
East
South
1
pass
2
pass
2
pass
2
pass
3NT
pass
pass
???

I swung a speculative axe at it.

It wasn’t because I particularly wanted a lead, I’d rather preferred a lead actually. I thought it was just too high. My partner leads a and I scream at my monitor. Why? Why? Why? You idiot, you have zero entries for your suit!

 
East
QT87
J
QJ7
AKT42
South
A6
A6
AT962
QJ98

I win my Ace and declarer drops his King. Ohhhhhhh. Trick one, ladies and gentlemen, we have a count! From here all is clear, I switch to a for dummy and next the Jack of wins the trick. When declarer asks for a I rise and clear my suit. After the dust clears declarer has scrambled together 6 tricks so we write +800 and a clean top.

West Dealer
NS Vul
North
J95432
T742
53
7
West
K
KQ9853
K84
653
East
QT87
J
QJ7
AKT42
South
A6
A6
AT962
QJ98

Okay, I forgive my partner. You can lead like a simpleton but when you bring that all important Ten of to the defence I’ll offer amnesty for your sorry ass any day. Just imagine the excruciating pain I would have been subjected to had declarer put me through the wringer of six rounds of . Surely less than pretty.

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Bridge Big: Siren

Hi all

I’m excited about moving into my apartment in Amsterdam next week. No more 3 hour commutes. Yay! It’s tiny but that’s okay, I don’t need a lot of room. My only (returning) pet peeve is the low-hanging shower head. Don’t constructors/builders/architects take the taller slice of the population into account? A long hot shower in a semi-crouch just isn’t that appealing.

Talking about showers, here’s a deal on Bridge Big where my partner gave me warm and fuzzy feelings. I pick up a decent 15-count and I wonder whether I’m going to open 1 or a strong NT. My partner is way ahead of me. 

South
KQJ76
K82
Q6
A84
West
North
East
South
pass
1
pass
1
pass
2
pass
41
pass
4
pass
42
pass
6
DBL
pass
pass
6NT
DBL
a.p.

1. Revealing my slam ambitions with a crude jump
2. Go ahead partner, you do the Ace asking. I don’t like to do that when holding only one key card myself. 

For some reason or another East decided to alert us of  a bad split. I don’t know why partner ran to 6NT but I’m not unhappy with my balanced collection. I usually prefer strain-strain-strain over NT. East leads the Ten and this is what my partner sees:

North
A3
AQ63
A2
KJ976
South
KQJ76
K82
Q6
A84

Plenty of tricks and plenty of play. Combined with East screaming like a madman about the sanity of our contract my partner had no problems executing a safety play in the suit. He won the Ace and immediately ran the Jack. When East covered it was all over: +14 IMP and €9.97 come to papa! 

West Dealer
NS Vul
North
A3
AQ63
A2
KJ976
West
9854
74
JT97543
-
East
T2
JT95
K8
QT532
South
KQJ76
K82
Q6
A84

SuitPlay by Jeroen Warmerdam tells us the suit should be tackled by running the 6 or the Jack first, completely equal in odds (97,1739%) to take four tricks.

When I showed my friend Dennis this deal he offered another approach to bring home twelve tricks. Assuming East holds the King for his insane double, you can crush him by running your and and then place West with Ace and a . That’ll probably work out, too. 

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Bridge Big: Scrubbed

Hi all

I’m getting my feet wet not just playing online. Sessions at BC Star and BCO, interacting with my bridge buddies (close by & far away) and tournaments all over the Netherlands in various degrees of success. I feel like I’m getting back into shape. 

This deal is from Bridge Big. Afterwards I felt scrubbed, not only from losing a few pennies, but because I was on the receiving end of competent declarer play.

West
North
East
South
 
 
1
pass
2NT1
pass
3
pass
4
pass
4
pass
4
pass
4
a.p.
 

1. Invitational+ with fit

I watch the auction unfold and though I’m afraid they’ll end up in slam (never good for your wallet unless they go down) the opponents screech to a halt in 4. Now what to lead?

South
K
QT94
QT87
Q954

I decided to lead a , but I don’t claim it’s clear-cut or obvious.

West
AT4
K32
K932
A82
South
K
QT94
QT87
Q954
 

My lead doesn’t work out as my partner is only able to contribute a measly little pebble, declarer’s Jack winning the trick. Next I have to surrender my King when declarer leads a small . In rapid succession declarer plays four more rounds of trumps (me discarding a bunch of unimportant ), the King of , Ace of and a low . I throw my Queen hoping to seduce declarer into thinking dummy’s 9 is good. On the Ace of declarer pitches a and finding a discard becomes a little sweaty.

West
-
K3
9
8
South
-
QT9
T
-
 

My sweaty discard turns into a full blown nightmare when declarer asks for dummy’s and ruffs it with his last trump. I’m dead.

West Dealer
NS Vul
North
8763
J5
54
JT763
West
AT4
K32
K932
A82
East
QJ952
A876
AJ6
K
South
K
QT94
QT87
Q954
 

I lost €0.52 but that’s really just pennies compared to the pain of being subjected to what seems a very conscious and well executed backwash (?) squeeze.

Noteworthy metamorphosis: Unemployed ⇒ Employed.

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Bridge Big: Round-the-clock

Hi all

Here’s another cute deal from Bridge Big. No Cash Game but a deal from a daily Round-the-clock tournament. My performance was less than stellar, so after 20 deals I had collected some 53%. Not enough to win me any money. This deal I was firing on all cylinders, though. 

South
AKQT94
-
KT542
Q2
West
North
East
South
 
 
pass
1
Double
Redouble
pass
pass
2
Double
pass
3
pass
4NT
pass
51
pass
6
a.p.
 

1. I didn’t dare to show my void (with 5NT) in a pick up partnership

3 is not very scientific, but it does show extras and will probably lead to the most likely game. My partner grabbed the bull by the horns and suddenly I was at the helm in 6. West leads a and this is what I see:

North
J76
KJ84
AQ
A743
South
AKQT94
-
KT542
Q2

Easy. I win the in dummy, draw two rounds of trumps (leaving trump Jack in dummy). I cash the other high in dummy, cross to my hand with a ruff and ruff a with the Jack. Again I cross with a ruff, extract the last outstanding trump and rattle off my winners. This is the position and I know it:

North
-
K
-
A7
South
Q
-
-
Q2

On my last trump I know West is in pain with King doubleton in and the Ace. So I take 13.

East Dealer
EW Vul
North
J76
KJ84
AQ
A743
West
2
AQT3
J973
K985
East
853
97652
86
JT6
South
AKQT94
-
KT542
Q2

It was just an inch away from a top. I quickly scan the result whether I recognize my partner or opponents, but the Brit, Norse and Turk have inconspicuous nicknames. To my random Norwegian partner: thank you for putting me in a nice slam and giving me the opportunity to shine.

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Bridge Big: My First Money

Hi all

Here is a deal from my first session on Bridge Big. As I wrote in my previous article Bridge Big is an online platform to play duplicate bridge for money. It’s low-threshold to start playing, but let me warn you, it’s not a casual game or for the faint of heart. The founders intend it to be a platform for serious & competitive bridge. Just like the game deserves. Go check it out.

Anyway, sitting South (White against Red) I pick up a wild hand:

South
A
-
JT9853
AJ8752

Oh boy! How am I going to sell this baby in an individual tournament setting? I decide to open 1 and this is what happens next:

West
North
East
South
 
 
 
1
Double
21
2
5
a.p.
 
 
 

1. Extraordinary

Partner raises? Partner raises? What? Come again? I end the auction with an uncivilized leap to 5.

LHO leads a trump and this is what I see:

North
J876
QT54
K762
9

I gasp as I see partner’s beautiful raise. I hold high respect for players and partners who support with support. I am slightly annoyed by the lead, though. If the opponents can play two rounds of trumps my contract depends on a 3-3 break in , or KQ tumbling. On a side note, the bidding is a little weird, NS hold a combined 16-count while East only bid 2. Who’s hogging all those digital face cards?

I duck in dummy and East wins his Queen. Just as I’m about to resign to my fate of down one East finds a shift to a . From there it’s easy, I ruff three in dummy and East gets to score trump Ace one day or another. Making.

This was the full deal:

West Dealer
NS Vul
North
J876
QT54
K762
9
West
Q954
AJ96
4
KQT4
East
KT32
K8732
AQ
63
South
A
-
JT9853
AJ8752

Kudos to West, a Dutch player by the way, for finding the killing trump lead. (When reviewing your results you can see the names of your partner and opponents.) Too bad his partner didn’t reward him for it. I imagine making a virtual high-five with my Bulgarian partner when the EUR 1.14 gets added to our individual accounts. Suddenly I wish I were playing for 5 EUR per IMP, perhaps when I find that money tree in my backyard.

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+Jannes van 't Oever