Pinch no Duck

Hi all, 

The tan I acquired in Mexico in February is gone, I’m back to my pale white self. Highlights from this year’s trip are Alux in Playa del Carmen, heavenly roasted pork everywhere, meeting mi novia’s loved ones, live music and beers in La Negrita Cantina in Merida, seeing fireworks in Guadalajara, tequila in Tequila, cenotes and much more delicious pork. Is it obvious I am a total and absolute fan of the Yucatan kitchen?

Bridge wise I’ve been busy, Pairs with René, HOK Patton with Kees & Erik, bringing home gigantic chocolate bunnies from Easter bridge, flirting with Viking Precision again and more. 

South
983
QJ52
73
AK94

Here’s a cute deal from the Patton series at HOK. The number of poor decisions my LHO made is quite .. staggering. 

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

West leads the 7 and this is what I see:

North
AJT4
A986
QT
Q63
South
983
QJ52
73
AK94

That lead has the smell of a doubleton. With 4 losers in the pointy suits I will have to tackle the trump suit for no losers. I duck the lead and East wins the Queen. Next comes the King of and another for West. A tinier hits the table and the high-low confirms my original suspicions. I rise with the Ace and cross to my hand with a

It’s “trump tackling time” (copyright and patent pending). 

Because of the nice spots there is a layout that works for me: King-doubleton on my left and Ten-third on my right. My Queen of gets covered with the King to dummy’s Ace. Now I’m just going to run the 9 of and I’ll get home with 9 tricks.

Nice dream .. East decides to show out on the second round of ! This is the position:

North
JT
986
Q6
South
8
J52
A94

My chances of making are shot to hell. Damage control. I let the 9 run to West’s Ten and she goes in the tank. I expect her to return a trump, but she surprises me with a instead. Now it’s easy, I pitch a from dummy and ruff with my Jack of . With my 5 of I take the hook against her 7 of trumps and then the 8 of kills East in a black suit squeeze. My holding proves to take another 3 tricks.

This was the full deal:

South Dealer
– Vul
North
AJT4
A986
QT
Q63
West
72
KT74
AJ8642
5
East
KQ65
3
K95
JT872
South
983
QJ52
73
AK94

West could have ducked the first trump, the second trump, or played back a trump .. everything leads to my defeat. Instead she gave me a finger by giving me a ruff ‘n sluff and then I took the whole arm in a blaze of glory of squeezy awesomeness. 

I’ve watched a couple of episodes of Black Mirror, leaving me in varying degrees of unease and unsettlement. But .. the song below (featuring in multiple episodes) touches me every time I hear it. 

Trust

Hi all, 

On the brink of 2017/2018 I reach out to you. Like seasons nightmares pass too, I’m in a good place. Just as finding a beautifully marbled pebble on the beach that wows you for a second, I uncovered a little .. truth that is still reverberating in me. It was there all the time, I just never saw it clearly. If I ever get to write my opus magnum, my odyssey, this will certainly be a key element. 

Here’s a deal from a HOK club night, I was playing with Gerrit.

South
AKT9854
K932
Q7
West
North
East
South
 
 
11
1
5
DBL
pass
52
pass
63
DBL
a.p.
  1. Usually unbalanced
  2. I have offence not defence
  3. There!

I chose to overcall just 1 but when the auction gets back to me we’re already at the 5-level. Wait! What? We’re white against red and .. Wait! What? Vulnerable opponents usually don’t fool around, at least not against me they don’t. 

A few seconds tick by and I decide my suit is worth more in offence than in defence, I bid 5. Gerrit smoothly raises me to slam and East finishes the auction with a smack.

West leads the 2 of and this is what I see:

North
J
A864
732
AKJ96
South
AKT9854
K932
Q7

There is a small issue in the trump suit but the suit takes care of any losers I might have. This slam looks pretty good. I call small from dummy and East ruffs. Wait! What?

I have a moment of revelation, the full distribution of the deal is crystal clear to me after three cards have been played. East is 4-4-5-0 and West is 1-1-5-6. Does that match with the bidding? Yes it does! I unblock my Queen of to have a finessing position left against the Ten. East tries to cash her Ace but I answer it with a small trump. 

I cross to the Ace of and run the Jack of . For the length of a heartbeat I fear West might hold the stiff Queen but I stick to my perceived odds. I cast a small sigh when West follows with a small one. I cross to my hand by ruffing another and my two top trumps take care of the outstanding trumps. I claim the remainder.

East Dealer
EW Vul
North
J
A864
732
AKJ96
West
7
4
KJT94
T85432
East
Q632
QJT5
AQ865
South
AKT9854
K932
Q7

5 would have gone down only 1, for a measly 200 points. Gerrit showed skill and trust for raising me to slam. It’s a nice feeling when your partner is on the same wavelength as you are.

Happy New Year’s Day! And when that’s through, happy days throughout the year, too. 

Mexican Epiphany

Hi all,

At the moment I could easily talk about ghoulish nightmares, perfecting insomnia, regret squared nay cubed, dark times for the soul, and much, much more from unhappy places. I’m sorry.

Let’s instead try to seek out some happy memories. 2017 started for me by travelling to Mexico. Almost 4 weeks of holidays: Playa del Carmen, Cozumel, Mexico City and in/around Merida.

I picked up a few Spanish words which are grafted onto my soul permanently: cochinita, amorcita, gato, cerveza, taquito, carnitas and .. zapateria. Rosetta Stone will keep adding to my vocabulary, but those few first words mean the world to me.

Fabi picked me up at Cancun airport and seeing her again after a 5 month hiatus was absolutely wonderful. No more random noise in my head, no stones weighing on my chest, feeling immensely free with the Mexican sun on my face. Writing this makes me smile and glow.

Summary: drinking every Mexican artisanal beer I could get my hands on, Maya temples, snorkeling in Cozumel, dancing a little with Fabi on the streets of the Yellow City (Izamal), swimming in multiple cenotes (looking at you Il Kil), seeing flamencos, eating way too much fantastic food, finding out reggaeton isn’t too bad when you’re hanging out with friends, visiting the Frida Kahlo museum, doing an ad hoc photoshoot in front of bridge related artwork in Mexico City, tasting mescal, getting killed by the habanero in my huevos motuleños and so much more. By itself it was close to the perfect holiday, I dare say. Fabi pushed it beyond that. I can’t wait to go back.

I know you’re not here to read about my holidays, you’re here for bridge. This is me (South) and Wouter in full sync:

South
KQT4
AJT983
A65
West
North
East
South
 
 
pass
1
pass
1
pass
1
pass
21
pass
32
pass
3NT
pass
43
pass
44
pass
45
pass
4NT
pass
5NT6
pass
7
a.p.
 
  1. Game-forcing
  2. Extra length in
  3. Patterning out/control showing/extras
  4. Setting trumps
  5. Cue
  6. Two keys with a void

This was the full deal:

East Dealer
All Vul
North
A5
K943
KQ
KJT82
West
762
AJ852
762
Q4
East
J983
QT76
54
973
South
KQT4
AJT983
A65

Some extra notes, I knew Wouter had some extras or he wouldn’t have taken the 2 checkback route. Second, our generic approach is to never cue shortness in partner’s suit. After my response to his Blackwood question Wouter had no problem visualizing the 4-0-6-3 or 4-0-7-2 distribution in my hand.

West spoiled the play by leading the Ace of . On a passive (trump) lead I would have needed to find the Queen. I have an uncanny knack to lose queens, bridge or otherwise.

I leave you with a few words of wisdom: Don’t antagonize the baby barracudas.

Doctor

Oh little sicky, seems to be the pain
Got all these herbs, don’t mean a fucking thing
I am the little witch, with the magic tricks
Mistrust the white house, come and get your fix
It’s not about the numbers, what you feel is real
Crystals, rays of light, the taste of orange peel

South
AQT73
5
AQ5
KQ62

That’s a decent 17-count. I open 1 and this is what happens:

West
North
East
South
 
 
 
1
pass
31
pass
42
pass
43
pass
64
a.p.
 
 
 
  1. 6-crd suit, exactly invitational
  2. Slam try
  3. Cue
  4. Somebody pinch me, I must be dreaming

We don’t cue singletons in partner’s suit, so I could picture Kees with King-small in , AJ-6th in and possibly some useless red quack. Sometimes it’s so easy to count to twelve: 

South Dealer
NS Vul
North
K6
962
J8
AJT843
West
954
KJ843
K742
7
East
J82
AQT7
T963
95
South
AQT73
5
AQ5
KQ62

A perfect dream.

You might wonder why I didn’t splinter in to get my slam aspirations across. I thought any pointy King would make slam pretty much lay down. If Kees had something like a 2-3-2-6 with the King instead of the King, he can discard his loser on my Queen. But if I splinter in he might be unable to show it.

Surreal.

Sovereign

Hi all, 

It is somewhat confronting when you move an age range in some random online survey. Fresh decade? Affirmative.

Snippets of news for the readers that stuck with me after 6 months of silence. Good things come from & go to Mexico. Purchasing a new kitchen proved to be more of an ordeal than initially considered. Everything should be installed by the end of this month. Two new bridge books in my library: I Love This Game by Sabine Auken and Winning Suit Contract Leads by David Bird. Hopefully some technique, insights and statistics will rub off on me. 

Here’s a nice deal from a Pairs tournament. I was playing with René.

North
KT73
AQ82
AQ62
3
South
A8652
K974
AQ64

This is how we bid it:

West
North
East
South
 
1
pass
1
pass
3
pass
4
pass
4
DBL
6
a.p.
 
 
 

When East revealed values with his lead directing double, René considered that good enough news to leap to slam. Now how to play it?

René took stock for a minute or two and combined a boatload of chances in his plan. He took the lead in dummy and immediately ruffed a (West echoing high-low). Next he played two rounds of trumps ending in dummy. Alas, West remains with a trick in trumps. Next he ruffed another in his hand and cashed the King. West pitched a when René played a towards dummy. Dummy’s last  ruffed (West following) and a 3rd towards dummy. West had nothing to gain by ruffing in the air, so he pitched another . This is the position by now, West having a trick in trumps waiting:

North
T7
8
3
South
9
AQ6

René placed West with a trump. Stripped from everything but he had to play into René’s AQ-combination. Away went the loser.

West Dealer
NS Vul
North
KT73
AQ82
AQ62
3
West
QJ4
3
9753
KJT82
East
9
JT65
KJT84
975
South
A8652
K974
AQ64

You take at least 12 when trumps split, or when the suit comes in and if push comes to shove you have a hook as backup plan. René’s addition of the avoidance in the suit and foresight of placing opportunities (after stripping the suit) are marks of genuine expert play. Kudos!

Streams

Hi all,

At work I found a tiny corner where I get my daily shot of streams of consciousness. What? Yes, the tiny corner is dusty and mouldy and no one likes to visit it: passwords and password policies. We used to create somewhat short (technical) passwords, choosing one word and then replacing the odd consonant or vowel with a number and sprinkle it with a special character or two.  Our new policy is longer (thus stronger) passwords loosely based upon regular words concatenated with dashes or underscores.

I have to say, a moment of free association every day feels surprisingly liberating. Here are a few examples:

  • enterprise-voluptuous-hummingbird
  • reflection-seismology-apologetic
  • deduction-magnify-gastronomy

Readable, transportable and much, much stronger than, say: “Diff1CulT?”

Anyway, let’s talk bridge. René and I participated again in the 2nd Division Pairs competition (every year two weekends in April) and these are our statistics: Above average in 7 out of 8 sessions. Win 2 out of 8 sessions. Average: 54.74%. Yes, we ended up first with a fair margin to the runners-up. Next year: First Division. Booya!

North
A84
43
AK94
T976
South
K6
J8
QJT872
J82
West
North
East
South
 
 
pass
pass
1
pass
1
2
2
3
3
pass
4
5
DBL
a.p.

West kicks off with the 7. Losing two tricks in and three in I may not, -500 loses to their +420 in 4

Let’s assess our assets. The opponents have nine together and have been raised. I’d say West is 4-6-1-2. My only way of getting rid of a loser is to have West give me a ruff ‘n sluff. So let’s prepare a little ground work.

Silkily smooth I ask for the Ace in dummy and follow up with a small . East jumps in with the Ace to switch back to . I win, draw two rounds of trumps ending in dummy, ruff a and exit with the Jack of . Fingers crossed.

West doesn’t look too happy after cashing Ace and King of and there it comes: the ruff ‘n sluff. Down two. 

East Dealer
– Vul
North
A84
43
AK94
T976
West
J973
KQ9765
5
AK
East
QT52
AT2
63
Q543
South
K6
J8
QJT872
J82

Of course West could have led initially. Of course East shouldn’t have risen. But .. to keep fighting for -300 while staring in the ugly face of demise, needing two errors in defence and it happens to work out: fist pump yeah.

Delicate

Hi all,

House of Cards – Season 4: Complete. Must see: Affirmative. Counting down to April 24th now for Game of Thrones – Season 6.

Here’s a nice deal from an evening at HOK. At my table both declarer and defence botched things up, but during the post mortem we spotted a delicate beauty to it. South gets to declare 4 after West crowded the auction by preempting in .

East Dealer
NS Vul
North
8732
5
AK83
KQ63
West
9
AKJT873
J94
T2
East
AJ64
962
QT2
974
South
KQT5
Q4
765
AJ85

West leads a top and switches to .

Plan A:

Declarer wins in dummy and plays a trump to the King. The Queen of gets ruffed in dummy and another trump to the Ten. Declarer crosses to dummy in to play dummy’s final trump. Leaving:

East Dealer
NS Vul
North
8
A83
Q63
West
JT87
J9
T2
East
AJ
9
QT
97
South
Q5
76
AJ8

When the 8 is played from dummy East will rise and play the 9, tapping declarer. 

Result: Failure.

Plan B:

Declarer wins the in dummy and plays a trump to the King. Next he crosses to dummy in to play another trump towards the Ten. Again declarer can cross in to play a 3rd round of trumps. Leaving:

East Dealer
NS Vul
North
87
A83
63
West
 
KJT87
J9
East
AJ
96
QT
9
South
Q5
Q
76
AJ

When the 3rd round of trumps is played from dummy East rises with the Ace and fires back the Jack of trumps. Leaving declarer with four inescapable losers.

Result: Failure.

Plan C:

Declarer wins the switch in dummy and continues with the other top and exits a to East. East might try the forcing game by switching back to which declarer ruffs in dummy. Now it is time to tackle trumps by playing one to the King, cross in and another trump to the Ten. Leaving:

East Dealer
NS Vul
North
8
8
Q63
West
JT87
T
East
AJ
9
97
South
Q5
AJ8

On track declarer cashes a top in hand before crossing to dummy in .  The thirteenth now neutralises East. If East decides to postpone the inevitable by discarding a , South can discard his last . Coup complete.

Result: Success.

As long as declarer sets up a winner in dummy declarer can always get to 10 tricks.

Vanilla

Hi all, 

Some random tidbits:

  • I saw Deadpool in the theatre. Verdict: Awesome!
  • My friend Petra made me a salad with blood orange & asparagus and combined it with salmon & vanilla mayonaise (!). Mind blowing.
  • Kees and I adopted a new system: Terrorist Moscito. Light & possibly canapé Major suit openings, boatloads of symmetric relays and gadgets to my heart’s content.
  • After 2 months in my apartment I can genuinely say it fits me like a glove. Home.

Here’s a nice deal. It was the first board in one of the last matches in the teams season. Viking style.

North
AQ4
A
AQ5
AK9742

Quite a pure 23-count. What a hand to pick up first thing.

West
North
East
South
 
11
pass
12
pass
1NT3
pass
3NT4
pass
43
pass
45
pass
4NT3
pass
56
pass
5NT3
pass
6NT7
pass
78
a.p.
 
  1. 16+ hcp
  2. or balanced
  3. Relay
  4. 8-11 hcp, 5 crd suit and 6 crd suit
  5. 5-6-2-0
  6. No Aces
  7. King & King
  8. That’s all folks!

It takes years of playing a relay system but some day it will pay off. This was one of those days.

It’s so nice to visualise the declarer play during the auction. I knew Kees could set up my suit by ruffing twice and then draw trumps to claim the remainder. This was the full deal: 

North Dealer
– Vul
North
AQ4
A
AQ5
AK9742
West
853
73
87643
J86
East
J6
K854
J92
QT53
South
KT972
QJT962
KT

Kees took some time after West led a , but decided any alternative plan, like setting up the suit, would run into transportation problems as well as significant dangers of running into (over)ruffs.

He ruffed two in his hand, drew trumps and found the friendly split in . Taking all.

Now at the other table the opponents found themselves in some hot water after North opened a multi 2 (intending to show a strong hand with ) and South asking with 2NT (because of a presumed 11/12 crd fit). Nobody knew how or what to bid next, so with awkward jumps things crash landed in 6NT. I guess somebody was very, very happy with that T9 combination.

Cheers!

Home

Hi all,

It looks like it has finally happened. After some 20 years of paying rent I have finally transitioned to mortgage status. My. Own. Place. This is the street, very close to everything interesting, silent enough for peace of mind. It’s tiny, but then again, I have little possessions anyway and without room I won’t have the opportunity to hoard a lot of stuff. Neat place → neat frame of mind.

Here’s a nice deal: 

West
North
East
South
 
 
 
1
1
21
32
4
a.p.
 
 
 
  1. Limit+, usually 3-crd support, low ODR
  2. Good raise

This is what Kees had to work with:

North
7
KJ6
AK72
T9763
South
KJ5
AQ9742
863
Q

Of course the North hand isn’t exactly “low ODR” with a stiff , honour cards in trumps and prime outside values. Anticipating some heavy competition I decided to take the low road, I didn’t want to encourage Kees to bid up to the 5-level.

LHO kicks off with the 3 of trumps. The battleship plan of ruffing two in dummy has been torpedoed from the start.

Of course a mundane finesse against the Queen is the straightforward option, you will be able to claim six trumps in hand, the King of , a ruff in dummy and two top .

Kees looked a little bit deeper and found a path that would lead to ten tricks without a hook.

Trump 6 in dummy won the trick and Kees played a towards his Queen, East rising with the Ace. The Queen switch he won in dummy. Next he ruffed three in his hand using both trumps in dummy as entries (trumps splitting 3-1 and splitting 3-4). Leading to this position:

North
7
A72
T
South
KJ5
86

Kees crossed to dummy with a , pitched his remaining on Ten and played a to his Jack, completely unconcerned whether the hook would win or lose. West, stripped from everything but , was placed to surrender the game-going trick to Kees’ King.

South Dealer
– Vul
North
7
KJ6
AK72
T9763
West
AT962
T83
95
K82
East
Q843
5
QJT4
AJ54
South
KJ5
AQ9742
863
Q

Of course the more mundane plan would have worked out as well. Taking home ten was good for a three IMP pickup, our teammates took the sacrifice in 4

My dad took my brother and me to see Star Wars – The Force Awakens (the full Dolby 3D experience) on first Christmas Day as present. How thoughtful and sweet! And what a ride it was, just seeing Ford/Fisher/Hamill again was worth it alone. I think J.J. Abrams did a fantastic job. 

Cheers to the New Year. May it be a memorable & happy one.

Triple 13

Hi all,

My 39th is closing in on me rapidly but celebrating isn’t really on my mind. Triple 13, interprime, semiprime and emirpimes (google challenge), who knows what to expect!? I hope I feel like it next year, perhaps round numbers make for a better party.

Spectre, James Bond instalment #23, I have scheduled sometime this week, I’m looking forward to get blown away.

First board of the evening:

South
AKQ832
A8743
8
4
West
North
East
South
 
 
 
11
2
2NT2
pass
43
pass
4NT4
pass
55
pass
56
pass
.. 6
a.p.
 
 
 
  1. Only a shadow of a shadow away from a 1 opener
  2. fit, usually 4-crd suit, high ODR
  3. Splinter, non-minimum
  4. RKC
  5. 0 or 3 keycards
  6. Probe

Kees bids 5 in tempo. What? Is he signing off? Of course not!

Tick-Tock. Tick-Tock. Tick-Tock. Time trickles by as I mentally thumb through our agreements.

The fog clears away, I remember something. 5NT confirms the presence of three keys but denies the possession of trump Queen. With a slight smile I bid 6. Kees gives the auction a stare and then throws the green. 

This was the full deal:

South Dealer
All Vul
North
JT64
K5
AQ54
A92
West
7
QT2
KJ9
KQJ865
East
95
J96
T7632
T73
South
AKQ832
A8743
8
4

We’re cold for 13. 

I needed one more cycle. One more hard thought about the auction.

  1. 5NT shows three keys without trump Queen
  2. 6trump shows three with trump Queen

With this hand I could/should have bid 6, showing three keys, trump Queen and second round control in . Kees could have leapt to the grand with confidence, not afraid of some slow loser.