Snazzy

Hi all

My trip to The Netherlands was great. I saw my family again, got to hang out with wonderful friends, played both top and bottom bridge, bought some snazzy shoes and the 2 weeks just flew by. Of course I didn’t forget to bring treats back to Berkeley, so if you get to see me I might offer you a “stroopwafel” or black liquorice if you’re lucky.

Something totally random… my friend Wouter wore a t-shirt with the following text:

Haikus are easy
But sometimes they don’t make sense
Refrigerator

I think that’s just plain awesome!

Here’s a deal from a Friday night (Patton at BCO). I wasn’t successful in bringing the contract home, but in the post mortem I spotted a rare bird.

North
62
2
T87
AKJ9753
South
AKJT83
KJT5
A3
Q
West
North
East
South
 
 
 
1
pass
31
pass
4
a.p.
 
 
 
  1. Invitational with

Perhaps my jump to 4 was a bit … unilateral, in retrospect bidding 3NT certainly has some appeal.

Anyway, my LHO thinks about her lead for a while and then puts down the Ace. Hmmm, leading an unsupported Ace? A low follows and I rise with dummy’s Ace intending to pitch a couple losers in my hand. But… East ruffs.

Excuse me?

Back comes the Queen and I’m in reasonable trouble. I have a and two losers, and then there’s the issue with trump Queen too. I let all the information sink in, and I figure West has led the Ace for a peek. Her switch worked out miraculously, I can’t draw trumps anymore and enjoy dummy’s suit.

All is not lost, though. Dummy can take care of my losers. But when I set out to ruff both of them, West ruffs the second one in front of dummy and I’m down one, losing the Ace, a ruff, a ruff, and a . Sigh!

This was the full deal.

South Dealer
All Vul
North
62
2
T87
AKJ9753
West
74
A9
K642
T8642
East
Q95
Q87643
QJ95
South
AKJT83
KJT5
A3
Q

Now let me tell you that West’s Ace of handed me the contract. If, a big IF, I had assessed the deal correctly.

So Ace of , then a ruff and a switch for my Ace. Now I ruff exactly one in dummy and then I drop all trumps on the table. On the play of the last this is the position:

South Dealer
All Vul
North
T8
KJ
West
K64
T
East
Q8
J9
South
3
KJ
3

West can miss a , so can dummy, and East has to let go of a (else my suit comes in). Now I exit with my 3, and West has an insolvable problem. Playing low will get East placed, while rising will eat East’s Jack, skyrocketing dummy’s Ten to stardom. And I can shake hands again with the King who was locked away like Rapunzel.

I guess this bird is called a winkle squeeze with a stepping stone element.

Pathway

Hi all

My preparation for the Swiss teams last Sunday in Santa Clara consisted of hitting the freshly powdered & sunny slopes in Sugar Bowl on Saturday. Sanne and I took an obscenely early ski-bus to Tahoe and spent a wonderful day racing down amazing slopes (Trailblazer!). Of course I got wiped out in some unprepared pillow of fluff, where I had to clean the snow from the inside of my glasses. (Un)fortunately there are no pictures of that event…

Michael Bodell and I teamed up with Eugene (Bridge Winners) and Helen. The slow start was largely due to opponents stumbling into a vulnerable 3NT with a 6-4 fit. There were no ten tricks in a contract and some stiff King was required for there was no entry to take a finesse. Argh! We picked up some steam to end with 81 VP out of 7 matches (20 VP scale).

In round 5 after 6 boards I see only scores in the opponent’s column. We didn’t make a single contract and all theirs got home. Last board, we need a pickup. The opponents have an easy auction.

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

Michael leads the Ten. This is what I see:

North
AK
76542
J73
AQ6
 
East
8643
K8
Q4
J9754

Hmmm, hiding that poor 5 card suit, eh? I don’t know whether I would have done that myself.

Declarer takes his time and plays low in dummy to his Ace. It looks like Michael has led the highest one from an internal sequence. Do we have enough time to unblock our position? My holding suggests declarer will have 5 tricks there, so if South has the King 9 tricks are unavoidable. So I’ll assume Michael is holding that one. That means declarer has the Ace to get to opening values, and is either 5-2-3-3, 5-3-2-3 or 5-3-3-2.

Declarer crosses to the Ace and requests a low from dummy. The neurons in my brain are firing rapidly, new pathways emerge, logic clicks. If I play low declarer will for sure take some (double) finesse. Maybe Michael will win it but the position remains unresolved.

So I sacrifice my King by playing second hand high. This has unexpected results. Declarer wins his Ace but looks a little befuddled. With his entry removed prematurely he has to choose between setting up the in dummy and abandoning his , or give up the suit altogether. Or so I imagine his train of thought… His Jack wins the trick too, but Michael wins the third with his Queen.

North
K
76
J7
AQ6
 
East
864
Q
J974

Michael has a full grasp of the situation too, and plays a for my Queen. I get to nail the coffin closed by fixing declarer in dummy with a . Declarer loses track completely and ends up down 2.

South Dealer
NS Vul
North
AK
76542
J73
AQ6
West
95
Q93
KT9852
K2
East
8643
K8
Q4
J9754
South
QJT72
AJT
A6
T83

Our team mates brought home 4 with an overtrick, so we score up 13 IMP.

There were several routes available that would have led to success. E.g. declarer could have cashed both when fixed in dummy with the King, effectively strip squeezing and then end playing Michael in to lead away from the King. Or declarer, after winning the Ace, could have unblocked the other in dummy before playing again.

Recognizing that not inserting my King was not going to win either left or right, was my learning moment of the day.

Camouflage

Hi all

I’ve got a small … riddle for you. I’m pretty sure it has crossed the vast social lands of Facebook and Google+ several times, but I assure you, you don’t want to miss out on this one. First you’ll look at it and wonder what it is and then it’ll dawn on you. Promise!

Here’s another small success from our too short performance at the GNT Open qualifiers. Deceptive Maneuvers in the Dark, with Lew Stansby starring as unsuspecting victim. I’m sitting East.

West
North
East
South
 
 
1NT1
pass
pass
22
pass
2
a.p.
 
 
 
  1. 11-14
  2. &

Geoff leads a trump and this is what I see:

North
AQT4
A8753
Q7
Q8
 
East
J83
T6
AK853
KJ2

Geoff wouldn’t easily lead a trump from an honor card so declarer has KQJ, either third or fourth. I see we can take at most four tricks in the minor suits, so somehow we’ll have to conjure two tricks from the suit. I will assume Geoff has both the Ace and King.

But how do I convince declarer that I’m holding that King?

A cunning plan develops in my head. All I need is a clear moment to execute my devilry.

Lew wins the trump lead in his hand with the King and plays a to dummy’s Queen.

Ding-Ding-Ding!

This is the opening I was hoping for! I win it with my Ace. I return my trump via Geoff’s  9 for dummy’s Ace. When Lew asks for the 7 I play low smoothly, via the 9 for Geoff’s Ten. A proper switch to a and my Jack wins the trick. Next my King smothers the Queen in dummy and a third gets ruffed in dummy.

I can see declarer’s train of thought. This gentleman on my right wearing those brightly colored pants has shown up with the Ace and the KJ, so East needs the King to make up for his weak NT. What are my options?

This is the position now, with the lead in dummy:

North
AQT4
87
 
East
J83
K85

Declarer has lost four tricks so far, so has to limit his losers to one. Lew crosses to a high trump in his hand and plays a to the Ten for my Jack.

Ka-Pow! I flick the King on the table for dummy to ruff. With no way back to his hand Lew has to surrender a trick to Geoff’s King. And down 1 it is.

East Dealer
NS Vul
North
AQT4
A8753
Q7
Q8
West
K92
94
T62
AT943
East
J83
T6
AK853
KJ2
South
765
KQJ2
J94
765

Hehehe, a successful ambush by a guy who usually wears yellow, purple or orange pants. Beware!

Weapon Grade

Hi all

I played with Geoff and Michael & Michael in the GNT Open qualifiers. Our total number of masterpoints matched us to the second seed, a 6-bagger with Lew & Joanna Stansby. The first 3 rounds we had some problems of getting scores in the right side of the scoring column. We kept bleeding little drops of imps, but then in the last quarter things turned around. Unfortunately the 40something IMP we clawed back was not enough to offset a win.

I picked up:

South
AKQJT97
A5
A54
6

Not too shabby! I hear Geoff pass in first hand and RHO opens 1NT (14-16). Our defensive agreements say Astro, so I have a penalty double to my avail. A prime, Class A weapon grade penalty double, so to speak.

LHO passes, and Geoff runs to 2, showing a very poor hand.

I waste little time and jump to 3NT. Thinking I have nine tops, and if they lead a then either Geoff can put down a very slow stopper, or perhaps the suit will split friendly. When West leads a I claim 9 and we’re off to the next board.

This was the full deal:

North Dealer
EW Vul
North
942
Q9632
QJ543
West
43
T8763
J87
972
East
8652
KQJ
KT
AKT8
South
AKQJT97
A5
A54
6

At the other table East opened 1NT, South passed (?!?) and West transferred to . In the rebound South jumped to 4, and found a very lucky doubleton King to score his tenth trick. So I lose a gut wrenching IMP.

Sinkhole

Hi all

Currently in The Netherlands there’s the buzz of a possible “Elf Steden Tocht” (a 200 km ice skating tour thru eleven cities). Well, here in Berkeley, CA that feels like an event on another planet. It did stir the old viking in me, though. My appetite for snow and cold was in slumber for a long time, perhaps it’s time to check out Tahoe for my cold cravings.

Here are two deals from Quicktricks, I was playing with Jo Ginsberg.

South
K5
75
T52
QT9762
West
North
East
South
1NT1
pass
2
pass
2
pass
32
pass
43
pass
4
pass
4NT4
pass
55
pass
6
a.p.
 
 
  1. 12-14
  2. 5-5 GF
  3. Cuebid agreeing
  4. RKC
  5. 3 Key cards

I let the auction sink in and finger my cards. Of course I’m going to lead a minor, but which one? I’m holding six myself, so the odds declarer (Geoff) has shortness there seems … plausible. I lead a .

West Dealer
NS Vul
North
J863
Q9
KJ983
K4
West
QT
J643
AQ74
A53
East
A9742
AKT82
6
J8
South
K5
75
T52
QT9762

Geoff competently wrapped things up. He won my lead with the Ace and ran the Queen to me. I continued but he ruffed and drew trumps. He crossed to dummy in and rode the Ten. Then after ruffing a his other two high provided parking spots for both losers in dummy.

Big kudos for my teammates who replicated the auction, play and result.

Here the ground we stood upon fell apart.

South
AQJ73
A85
AKQT8
West
North
East
South
 
pass
3
41
5
pass
pass
DBL2
pass
5
pass
63
a.p.
 
 
 
  1. 5-5 + Major
  2. Extra values
  3. I totally & utterly zoned out

Why did I zone out? Because I haven’t disclosed what my Major is, thus 5 is pass or correct. Jo ended up playing in a silly 4-3 fit while we had a massive 5-5 fit between us.

North Dealer
NS Vul
North
T9652
AKJ64
92
84
West
4
QT73
J543
AT72
East
K8
92
76
KQJ9653
South
AQJ73
A85
AKQT8

She collected 11 tricks on the devious lead of a small by East. Our opponents got to the small slam in , on a 6 board match that’s almost impossible to recover from.

Stratosphere

Hi all

Here’s a deal from the San Francisco Sectional. Geoff and I reach heights where the air gets very, very thin. I pick up a decent hand, but the auction that follows doesn’t give me warm feelings.

South
JT84
KQJT4
AKT8
West
North
East
South
 
11
pass
2
pass
22
dbl
2
pass
3
pass
3NT
pass
…5
a.p.
 
  1. 8-17 hcp systematically
  2. Any minimum

Perhaps I should have smelled a rat and pass out 3 but I still visualized game to be reasonable. I’m surprised by the jump to 5, curious I wait for dummy.

North
5
KJ864
A986
753
South
JT84
KQJT4
AKT8

Of course West starts with a trump so ruffing all my losers is going to get difficult. I’m in a terrible spot. And I make a mental note to tell Geoff his hand doesn’t qualify for opening in my standards, or our standards for that matter. Add a couple of spots to the suit, then maybe if not vulnerable.

Anyway, I’d better make a plan. My best chance is to find QJ-third onside. Perhaps I can set up a to pitch a from dummy so I can tackle 3-3. Not that it brings my odds for bringing this baby home anywhere close to 50%.

I win in dummy with the Ace and request the 5. East rises with the Ace and returns her trump, fortunately they break 2-2. Now let’s see if I can work something in the suit.

But wait… if I play a top from hand then it doesn’t matter what West does. Covering and forcing me to ruff will leave me an entry short to finesse twice in later (East will split) if my experiment is fruitless. While if West ducks then it doesn’t gain me anything, with the miniscule exception of finding East with exactly AK9 or AQ9.

A cunning plan fosters in my mind… I check whether West is awake. I put down the 8 intending to let it ride, playing West for any Honor-9 combination. Later I can take a ruffing finesse against his honor, and I have one trump left in dummy to establish my (just depending on a 3-3 split).

But no, West covers the 8 with the 9 and I’m forced to ruff. So far my experiment in the suit… The hook against QJ is all I have left.

North Dealer
NS Vul
North
5
KJ864
A986
753
West
Q9732
932
73
962
East
AK6
AQT75
52
QJ4
South
JT84
KQJT4
AKT8

It works… for +600. Not happy with the bidding, but the result is nice to surprise your team mates with.

Monterey – Part 2

Hi all

So it’s Saturday evening now. After a wealthy dinner at Montrio we get to sit down against two lovely ladies. I had my guard up a bit, because it’s still the finals of a two day KO. I’d better not be lulled into a false sense of comfort.

We start good by extracting +800 from a phantom sacrifice. And then Geoff and I Beowulf to slam on the cards below.

North Dealer
NS Vul
North
KJ653
T4
AJT
842
West
84
K762
K87
J965
East
7
Q9853
Q9642
T3
South
AQT92
AJ
53
AKQ7
West
North
East
South
 
pass
pass
11
pass
12
pass
13
pass
34
pass
4
pass
4
pass
4NT
pass
55
pass
6
a.p.
 
 
 
  1. 15-17 bal, or stronger any shape
  2. 6+ hcp
  3. Natural, 18+
  4. Maximum/slammish raise
  5. Two keys with trump Queen or extra length

When West led a trump, I needed either the to break or the double finesse in . I’m glad they didn’t lead a ! A tentative estimate puts us now at +20, I think. But the ladies proved to be a lot more resilient than expected.

West Dealer
NS Vul
North
T983
953
76542
A
West
54
AJ762
KQJ942
East
J6
KQT84
AK8
873
South
AKQ72
QJT93
T65
West
North
East
South
1
pass
1
2NT1
4
4
dbl
pass
5
a.p.
 
 
  1. Unusual

5 went down one silently, but at the other table they maneuvered a contract of 5 in the South hand. So East gets his two tricks, but West not the ruff he was looking for: 13 imp down the drain.

In addition they brought home a sharp 3NT and outbid us on a couple of part scores, so after the first 12 boards a boatload of imps has crossed the table: 42-42.

The second half starts of poorly for us when I find the single lead that lets them make their game. Then the ladies hopscotched into 6 with two top missing. But on a non- lead all losers went away… Geoff and I now both sit at the table like hawks, waiting for an opportunity to pounce. And the opportunity gets there…

Sitting in 3rd seat, all red I decide to open a Beowulf 2 (showing 8-12 hcp, exactly 4 crd suit, unbalanced).

South
64
A975
T9864
AK

My LHO overcalls 3, passed to me… I know we’re good. She misplayed a bit and went down four, for +400, no game for anyone in sight. A funny side note: Because in the US we’re not allowed to play any conventions over an opening like this, all bids after that have to be natural. So without a blush or embarrassment I could have doubled 3 for penalties. Now how’s that if you have opened weakly in 3rd chair?

We have a lock. We win the finals by 89 to 77. That’s quite rich over a 24 board match.

Monterey – Part 1

Hi all

Back from Belize safe & sound. In a nutshell: snorkeling, sea turtles, eagle rays, I kissed a shark, Maya ruins (Caracol), roasted pig on the beach, termites taste minty – carrotty (really!), ATM cave, slightly tanned, donated a lot of blood to local mosquito population and I had the most amazing smoked pork chops ever at Erva’s in San Ignacio.

Barely back from Belize and I’m headed for Monterey again, attending the Clambake Regional. Geoff and I teamed up with Grant and Jessica (picture probably in the next issue of the Bridge magazine). We entered the Friday – Saturday KO, and after a pretty flat round robin we picked up steam. Here’s me drawing nine out of the fire with bare hands.

West
North
East
South
 
 
 
11
3
3
pass
3NT
a.p.
 
 
 
  1. Could be light (8-17)

Geoff took a flyer when he bid 3, hoping to find me with some kind of fit. Well, this is what I saw after West leads the Jack:

North
KT8763
T5
Q7
A52
South
4
AJ643
A84
QJ84

Ugh! 3NT needs a lot of work with only 3 tricks from top. Fortunately I’m not vulnerable, so damage control is not a top priority.

I request the Queen from dummy and it wins the trick. A to my Jack survives as well, and prospects look a little bit less bleak. A second back to dummy and East wins his Queen (West has followed suit with the 8 and 9). A surprising Ten of hits the table that gets covered around to dummy.

A back to the 8 and it wins, 7 tricks in the pocket now. I check whether the break, but they don’t. One last resort, if the break 7-1, I can endplay East. I cash my Ace and exit with another one.

North
KT87
7
South
4
6
A8
4

East grumpily cashes his trick and the Ace, but then surrenders a to dummy’s King. The Ace is the entry to my free , and that’s trick number nine.

South Dealer
– Vul
North
KT8763
T5
Q7
A52
West
J5
98
KJT9632
K3
East
AQ92
KQ72
5
T976
South
4
AJ643
A84
QJ84

Thank you!

Grinding Diamonds

Hi all

Sanne and I are mere hours away from our trip to Belize. Snorkeling gear packed, sun screen & glasses, and no phones or digital communication equipment at all. Just us, the beach, Maya temples and a couple of malaria mosquitoes. Life’s good.

Here’s a cute deal from a home knock out. After the busy auction below I found myself defending.

West
North
East
South
 
 
 
1NT1
pass
2
Double
2
Double
pass
2NT
pass
3
a.p.
 
 
  1. 11-14
 
East
A4
KQ5
QJT72
JT8
South
T985
A72
K94
AQ4

Geoff (North) leads the 3 (3rd and low) and I zone out to figure out a defence. I win the Ace and declarer drops the Jack. If I switch to now, it’ll be too late. My king is very poorly placed, and if declarer has a problem, the in dummy will provide a parking spot. No, I need Geoff to hold the King, accompanied by three little ones.

Play proceeds, Ace (Geoff encourages), Queen, and a third for Geoff. In full grasp of the position he puts down the poisonous 13th . Declarer has an unsolvable problem. Ruff low in dummy and my 9 forces out the Ace. Ruff high and I will refuse to overruff. Promoting a trick for my 9. Down one, left and right.

South Dealer
All Vul
North
762
T8643
62
K952
West
KQJ3
J9
A853
763
East
A4
KQ5
QJT72
JT8
South
T985
A72
K94
AQ4

Happy holidays all!

Seattle – Honor Society

Hi all

I don’t often put brands, recommendations or advertisements here, but for Tap House in downtown Seattle I make an exception. With 160 beers on draft it was a pleasure to cool off after a day of bridge. The picture below shows their Honor Society selection. I’ve experienced most of them from bottle, but some of them I didn’t even know existed on draft. The Gulden Draak was out of this world!

This deal is from the Open Swiss. I wasn’t full awake yet (no beer cause!). Geoff leads a high-ish after the opponents bid 1NT – 4NT – 6NT.

 
East
KQJ
AT
K652
QJT7
South
AT743
8763
74
95

Declarer wins the in dummy and asks for the King. Sleepily I win my Ace and return a . Subsequently I see declarer hooking the Ten and then squeezing Geoff out of his red suits so the suit comes in for 4 tricks and the contract.

The solution is easy: duck the Ace twice. The count not rectified, declarer is unable to get to more than 11 tricks. I’m glad the opponent in my seat was just as awake as I was.

West Dealer
NS Vul
North
82
K952
J983
863
West
965
QJ4
AQT
AK42
East
KQJ
AT
K652
QJT7
South
AT743
8763
74
95

6 is on ice, though. And in my mind a Baron-esque sequence should get an IMPs player to the safest contract. Here’s what I suggest:

West
North
East
South
1NT
pass
4NT1
pass
5NT2
pass
6
a.p.
  1. Quantitative
  2. Accepting the quantitative raise, requesting to bid four card suits up the line

Cheers!