Stephen Cooper

WWDD [What Would DeepFinesse Do]

These days, there is a whole new category of analysis layered on to the post-mortem. Most of the time, the tipplers sharing your post-game stories can figure out the way to wring out the maximum trick total out of every hand. After all, they can see all the cards! Still, now and then, DeepFinesse silently taunts you with a quiet statistical observation – 3 can be made from the South side, or 1 is cold EW, but, despite group efforts, no solution is in sight.

My regular partner, Jordan, told me this story. It is from a sectional tournament in Toronto which took place early in the new calendar year of 2011. I was not a participant.

Let’s say you pick up: AQJxxxx, void, Axx, Axx. (Both Vul) Your partner opens 3, and RHO overcalls 4. For now, you decide that you might make game in your Major, so you bid that. For now. This is passed around to the overcaller, who now trots out a second suit -5! Not 4NT, which would suggest hearts, but a garden-variety, high level reverse. You decide that you should now show some support for partner, so you bid 6. LHO now comes to life with 6, which is passed around to you.

Let’s say you double – what would you lead?

Put that on the shelf for a minute, and let’s change partner’s pass over 6 to a 6call. (Or, maybe you bid it yourself, after partner’s forcing pass of 6. (Is it forcing?). You are now playing 6 on a Club lead….












Deep Finesse says you can make it. I guess it’s a double dummy problem, on the bidding? What kind of hand overcalls 4 and then comes back in with 5? Safe to assume he is void in both of the other two suits, and he was bidding his suits in natural order, longer first.

With a Club lead, can you make 6♠?



First, back to the lead problem. Note that you had better lead the Ace of clubs and give partner a ruff, or they will wrap up 6 (Which is what Jordan actualy did – he made 6x. But then he added – “We could not see how Deep Finesse makes 6!”)

As to the play in 6, here is a big clue if you have not yet solved it – I have not been totally honest with you. DeepFinesse actually says that it can only be made from the short side. Now can you make it?

That clue means that a trump lead will beat you. (Maybe a Diamond will beat you too – I’m not even going there; but the other guy has only hearts and clubs to choose from)

Got it? So you win the  club lead (A heart lead ends up the same), and ruff a club. Ruff a heart back to your hand, and lead a low diamond towards the dummy. This must be ducked or the slam makes easily. Use this entry to ruff a second heart. Now, ruff your last club with the King. This is a beautiful trick, indeed. You are setting up a trump trick for them, and, since he cannot give up a diamond or a spade, you force him to pitch an “idle” fourth heart on the third club. Now you ruff the third round of hearts in your hand, taking out his last heart, and draw trumps, throwing him in with the last trump to lead away from the Diamond King.

Now will you amend your bidding system to allow Spades to be played from the short side?

All Hail Deep Finesse.

The Marvelous Toy

The Marvelous Toy

“When I was just a wee little lad full of health and joy

My father homeward came one night and gave to me a toy”

I’m a player. I like games, and I like toys. Bridge is one of my favorite games, and allows me to try out many toys.

I recently came across a convention, a great new toy. (In the Sept Bridge World, page 20, and elsewhere) It may have been around for some time, under one name or another. In that issue, the author, Bennion, describes “Raptor” as a convenient part of the infrastructure supporting Transfer overcalls. I just liked the way the light bounced off the toy itself…

“A wonder to behold, it was, with many colors bright

And the moment I laid eyes on it became my heart’s delight”

I unwrapped the toy, took it out of the box, and read the instructions (carefully translated from the original Chinese): In overcalling position, use 1NT to show a 4-card major and a longer minor. There is always one known suit, and one unknown. I guess we can use it in direct or sandwich, but is probably best to save the natural meaning of 1NT in the balancing seat, where it is difficult enough to navigate.

As the author suggests, Raptor lets us onto the playing field a little more often, because:

The Major is too short (and perhaps, too weak) to overcall;

Even if you might bid it, you would never be able to show a longer second suit;

The minor might be biddable (or not), but to do so might make finding the major difficult or impossible;

A takeout double might be unavailable due to the wrong shape in the other unbid suit.

And what is the price of this amusement? You must stop playing (with) the strong 1NT overcall. Well, that toy has had its day and can be stuffed in the back of the closet, available if the new one falters. Seriously though, when you have a strong hand, you often have other options. What would you have done with that hand, and that shape, but no stopper? You can do that! You may be able to double (The Italians seem to have had some success in the past with off-shape doubles), overcall in a 4+ card suit, or “trap” pass.

What I read sounded reasonable in theory, but I never really know how much fun a plaything might be unless I try it out for myself.

So I unpacked my toy, attached it to my convention card, and waited. But not too long. When I get a new toy, I am impatient. I don’t want to wait until the perfect occasion arises to try it out. I need to jump right on it and ride it as soon as I can!

“It went “zip” when it moved and “bop” when it stopped

And “whirr” when it stood still

I never knew just what it was and I guess I never will.”

For example, I soon held: KJ, Kxxxx, Txx, xxx. At IMP pairs, with both Vul., it went 1S on my left, 1NT from partner (Ecstasy! Our toy!) and 4S on my right. (Villain! Getting in my way!) I would not let them stop me from my first chance to wheel out my new toy, so I bid 5H. This was doubled on my left, and pulled on my right. My partner doubled, and we took our Ace-King of Spades and side ace to beat it one to win 11. Pard had: A, JT86, AQ98xx, QJ. I was going for 500 or 800 depending on whether I guessed to double hook the diamonds (KJx onside).

A few hands later, my partner picked up: ATxx, Axxx, AQx, Qx. At IMP pairs, both Red, he heard me pass, then 1D on his right. Darn. We could no longer overcall 1NT with this. So he risked a slightly off-shape double. We never bid again and defended 3H for +100. At a few tables, 1NT doubled went for 500 or 800.

I was hooked. I loved my new toy.

But my partner did not share my infatuation. He picked up: 9632, Axx, void, KQJTxx. In a team match, with both Vul., he heard a third seat 1D on his right. He left the toy on the shelf, and overcalled a pedestrian 2C, not wanting to admit to his 4-card spade suit. When LHO raised to 2D, and I made a responsive double, he bid just 2S; he could have chosen a more progressive call. We rested there, and, facing my AJxx, Kxxxx, xxxx, void, scored up 170 with reasonable but normal splits. (I did not want to push facing what should have been at most 3 spades). Surely, though, had he trotted out the toy, I would have driven to game.

The moral? If you have a new toy, don’t wait for a sunny day – trot it out!

On the previous hand, when 1NT was not bid, the inference was that overcaller did not have as many as four spades. Later, I held: A9xxx, K, x, AQTxxx. IMP’s, both Vul., and 1D on my right, I bid 2C. When 2D by LHO was passed around to me, I could confidently bid 2S, knowing that partner would not play me for as few as 4 spades.

In another case, partner had x, Axx, AQ987x, xxx. After I passed, RHO opened 1S and he bid 2D. He heard me responsively double a 2S raise; Since I know he does not have 4 hearts, I should be quite prepared to hear him bid 3H now with 3.

So not using the toy should tell partner something as well.

When used, the bid may also have lead value. Holding KJx, xxx, JTxx, Jxx, you hear 1C on your left; and a “whirring” noise from your partner (1NT). When 2H is bid on your right, you compete with 3D. In case there was any doubt as to which major your partner has, opener then raised to 3H, which was passed out. A spade lead stands out, which proves two defensive tricks better than a diamond lead. Partner had: Qxxx, x, KQxxx, Axx.

But should you prefer it if something else also fits? What if the hand is very strong, or also suits a takeout double?

We had this pair of hands:

West had Axxxx, T9xx, x, QJx facing East’s x, AJxx, AJx, Kxxxx. In a MP Game, red vs. white, North opened 1S, and East ignored the toy to make a fairly classic takeout double. When South bid 1NT, West bid 2H. Opener now bid 3D. Should East continue with 3H, or does that show game-invitational values? Should West bid again? We meekly sold out, paying out 110 into our own 140. Again, I am sure that West would have competed to 3H if he had been confident of an 8-card fit. If only the marvelous toy had made some noise! (Better judgment may have achieved the same thing).

Are there any upper limits on the bid? There need not be; it can hardly be possible to pass it, when one suit is unknown. So partner tried it with: Kxx, AKxx, AJxxx, A over a 3rd seat 1S. When I bounced to 4H (!), and Opener rebid 4S all on his own, this hand presents an interesting Master Solvers type problem. The 1NT bidder’s continuations are analogous to those of a Micheals cue-bidders’, with one suit unknown. Although double would have resulted in a small plus this time, partner tried a slam, which went down on the Ace of Spades lead and a defensive cross-ruff, which beats even FOUR hearts. However, slam would have made on any other lead. I had: xxx, JTxxx, K, KTxx.

1 All quoted sections are from “The Marvelous Toy”, by the folk singer, Tom Paxton

I don’t have to show you any stinkin’ long suits!

To paraphrase the man from the movie, “Long Suits? We ain’t got no long suits! We don’t have to show you any stinkin’ long suits!”

Playing in Online mini-tournaments allows some scope for experimentation.

 At IMP’s, None Vul., I picked up: QT8743, QJ3, J3, 43. With the Swiss style pairing, we were fighting it out for first place in this, the final round. LHO started with 1NT which was passed around to me. Although my hand is weak, it has some playing strength, and partner is marked with some values, well-placed behind the opening bidder. Moreover, systemically, I am able to bid 2S, which will place Opener on lead, hopefully with some awkward choices. I clicked on the 2S button, and saw Opener double, Responder pull to 2NT, and Opener quickly raise to 3NT.

Turns out, accurate clicking is a difficult task. Opener had a gilt-edged 21 (!), Responder had a full 8 HCP, and 3NT was an easy make. “Sorry, partner,” she said. “I meant to open 2NT”. Nice balance by me.

Steaming slightly (Grosvenered in the bidding?) despite the normal result, I looked up at the last hand. K76, K7, T5, AQT532. Third seat, white against red, I saw 2 passes to me. Playing weak no-trumps, I “misclicked” (with malice aforethought) and opened 2NT (TWO!). LHO, (she who had opened 1NT with 21), now came in like a shot with 3S, holding AQ98xx, 854, AQ9, 4.!! I don’t get no respect. This overcall Red vs White into a 2NT opening!

Partner now chimed in with 4D. Hmmm. I don’t know if he thinks we play transfers here, but I have had enough fun for now. I pass, and we play 4D. Okay, he had hearts, but he had a side-suit of 4 Diamonds, so we were only down 3, -150 for my adventuring. They can make 2S. We lost 1.32 IMP’s and came second.

However, the icing on the cake was I got to comment when I put down the dummy: “Sorry, partner. I meant to open 1NT”.

Long suits? I don’t bid no stinkin’ long suits!

The next day, I picked up: Q8, Q5, AKJT754, 94. First chair, IMP’s, white vs. red. My favourite colours! Well, I had a balanced hand, 12-14 HCP, so I started with 1NT. LHO overcalled a natural 2C (Who plays that??!?), and partner transferred to hearts via a 2D bid (at the two level, I knew our system!). RHO raised to 3C. I could not bid 3D at that stage, as that might be interpreted as being based on heart support. In any event, pard is still there if he has a good hand, and I am hoping my 1NT has sufficiently murked up the waters (where are the Spades???). So I passed, and partner balanced with 3H, not forcing. It still didn’t seem time to introduce my suit, so I passed it around to LHO, who competed with 4C. Everyone checked, and they scored up 150. They were also cold for 620 in their 4-4 Spade fit.

Long suits? I don’t bid no….

Switching over to matchpoints, I picked up 5, 87, A63, KJT9762. With nobody vulnerable,  a 1D opening on my left is passed around to me, somewhat strangely. Okay, I fell from grace and bid 2C. Partner tried for game with 2NT, and you would..?? I raised! Partner had K862, 96, KJ42, A53. The opening Jack of hearts lead was overtaken by the Queen, and a Diamond switch was made. How do you play? Partner fell from grace, not reading that if anyone is short in clubs, it would be the opening leader. He went down 3, but they do make 4H.

Finally, the companion board. AT65432, J63, AT6, —-. White against red, partner passes and RHO opens 1NT. (I wonder how big THAT might be!). True to my credo, I passed to await developments. I doubted that it would go all pass, and I wanted to listen. LHO transferred to hearts, and partner now chimed in with 3C. Opener took the push to 3H, and it still did not seem time to introduce my long suit. The  auction ended abruptly, and I was on lead. I led the Ace of Spades to partner’s void, and we cross-ruffed happily for some time. Down 3, +300,  was a good pickup, particularly since the world was going set in any number of Spades.

Long suits? I don’t bid no stinkin’ long suits!


Online bridge can be a very social event. Sometimes, I am chatting with friends while still trying to play. My advice? TTYL, which translates into:  Talk To Ya Later, as every chat enthusiast knows! Best to focus on one thing at a time.

Now that I have set up my excuse, pick up the East cards and defend this hand:

















Dummy, North opened 1D, and raised his partner’s 1H response to just 3 (!). When South carried on to game, my partner led the 9 of Clubs. Declarer, perforce,  won the Ace, following with the Ten from his hand, and then played Ace and another Heart. Partner followed to the trump Ace with the Queen, and, on the second round of trumps, threw a conventional low, odd, club, indicating the Ace of Diamonds. You are in with the Ten. What is your plan? Decide before you read on…


It looked to me like 4 easy tricks. My two high trumps, the Ace of Diamonds, and a Diamond ruff. I saw the hand as an exercise in trying to make sure partner would win the second round of Diamonds, and not the first. Easy! Just play a Diamond, and he will duck the first round. How does he know to do that? Because if you had a stiff Diamond, you would cash your (marked) King of trumps first, and then play the Diamond back to partner. Textbook stuff.

Pleased with my analysis, I watched my partner take my Diamond switch with the Ace (“C’mon, now partner; the inference is clear – maybe he’s chatting, too?”), and switch to a Spade! (“Lovely”, I thought, “He has misread this and thinks I have the Spade King which must be established before my trump is knocked out.”) I did not see that coming. But, no, partner’s play was immaculate. The full hand:
























There never was a Diamond ruff to be had. In any case, my defense would only succeed if declarer had exactly 3 Diamonds. Even then, the winning defense would still work: Continue clubs at every opportunity. What is instructive here is the simple counting that would lead you to this answer: Declarer has the King of Clubs left, to stop one round; your side is in at the critical stage with the Ten of hearts, and will have two more chances to play Clubs, once with the other high trump, and once with the Ace of Diamonds. That is a total of three more chances to play Clubs. Both defenders have enough Clubs to play one when in. So, declarer will have to deal with three more rounds of Clubs. The first one he can win with the King, but both of the later two rounds must be ruffed, and he will run out. That will eventually promote your little trump to the setting trick.

But at least I had a nice chat!

More CNTC 2010 Semis

The Rest of the Match

In my first Post, I talked about how we fell behind by 63, and aired my thoughts on how one might reasonably engineer a comeback.

Although the final total was big, it all came in that quarter! Curiously, we beat them in the round-robin (okay, by 1); and over the other three quarters of the match, we were up by 9. But in that one quarter….

Where did their IMP’s come from?


There were plenty of big swings, so let’s consider first the classic “big-swing” situations: Slams. As it turns out, they did not beat us with slam bidding:

In the first quarter, our opponents lost 13 bidding a slam against us, down two, while our team-mates rested comfortably in game. There was one slam swing, earned by the Gartaganis team on declarer’s play, which I will give you next time I post.

In the 2nd quarter, which Jord and I sat out, there was one slam, and it was a push. The third quarter had one decent slam their way, which they missed, but our team-mates were in a part-score! The fourth quarter had two slam pushes, and our team-mates outbid them on another, reaching and making a good grand, when only a small slam was bid at our table. I also hoped for a pickup when our opponents reached only 5C with: 

West East
742 AK98
72 K
AKT863 742

6C needs only to pick up the Clubs, a decent chance (and this in the 4th quarter when we  were down 63, so you’d think we’d be gunning the engine a bit)…but our team-mates took a very negative view of things and stopped in 2H! The QJ of Clubs were doubleton, onside, so it was foolproof.

If not slams, then perhaps part-scores? I think they had slightly the better of the partscore battles, but no huge gains were made there, either.

The Play’s the Thing

The main difference was in the play, mostly at game contracts.

I will pose a few problems from various stages in the match…

Opening Lead Problems

Consider the following Opening Lead problems, with answers following here and there…

A] You, West, hold: 4, A962, AJ52, Q762. With both vul., You pass (Do you? It is easy to open it, playing Precision; I don’t know if that should have been a consideration for me, i.e., knowing my opponents will open. But it is not our partnership style…)) North opens 1D, 11-19 HCP, 4+D, and raises a weak-jump response of 2H to 4H. What do you lead? (Answer later…)

B] You, East, hold: J96, A962, KJ7, 743. Red vs white, partner opens 1S and there is a 2C overcall. You bid 2S which induces a responsive double. Partner’s 4S call is covered by RHO’s 5C bid. Do you pass or double? In either case, what is your lead?

This one needs a trump lead, followed by a minor brilliancy of partner ducking with his AKQ of Spades when the stiff is later led off the dummy, to allow you to get in to play a second round of trumps . The lead and the duck were both found at the other table for a well-earned game swing by the opponents. And they doubled, to boot, which we did not.

C] JT953, K876, 9, T65 You hear 1NT (strong) on your right, and with your pair abstaining, 2C-2H-3H-4H. What’s your pick? (Answer later…)

D] KJ98, 854, QT86, KQ. The bidding, with silent opponents: 1C-1H; 2C – 4H; 4S – 5C; 5D – 6D; 6H. 1C was the Polish all purpose opening. 1H was a natural positive. 2C was a natural one-round force. 4H was natural. 4S was RKCB for Hearts. The 5C response admitted to 1KC. The 5D response probed further, and the 6D bid showed the Q of trumps, along with the Diamond King. What would you lead?

Either a Spade or a Heart lead attack a critical dummy entry, preventing the Clubs from being set up: We earned a game swing when our partner’s stopped in 4H and we beat this slam on a Spade lead. They had: 


 The Play of The Hand [1]

From leads, let’s switch over to some declarer’s play situations. 


Directions are switched for convenience. South opened 1H in 3rd seat, both Vul, and took North’s preemptive raise over a takeout double to game. The opening lead was the King of Spades, and a low Heart was continued at trick two. If you duck in dummy, the Queen comes up. What is your line of play?

You have nine tricks: 6 Hearts in hand, the Ace of Clubs, and two ruffs in Dummy. You need to find one more trick.

At the table, declarer hoped the Queen of Diamonds was with the Doubler, (or, later, the Ace onside) and drew trumps before leading up towards the Jack of Diamonds. This is not hopeless, but it failed. Say, instead, Declarer wins the first Heart in his hand, plays Ace and a Club ruff, ruffs a Spade, and ruffs his last Club. He then leads a Spade off the board. If RHO plays low, he throws a Diamond, and LHO is endplayed if he has no more Hearts. He can play a Spade, setting up the last one with the Heart King serving as both an entry and a means to draw the last trump; he can give you your King of Diamonds; or he can give you a ruff-sluff. If he does have a second heart, you can always hope the Ace of Diamonds is onside.

If back at the time that you tried to duck the Spade into LHO you find RHO playing a Spade Honour, you ruff and can try your Diamond play at that time.

Doubler had: AKQJ, 3, AT9, KJ954 so he would have been end-played.

At the other table, the defense continued Spades at trick two which simplified setting up the long Spade.

 The Play of The Hand [2]

Here’s another hand to play:


South opened 1H in 2nd chair, none Vul. There was a 1S overcall. North doubled, and East Cue-bid 2H, a strong spade raise. South bid 3H and was raised to game. The opening lead of the Jack of Clubs (standard Honours) was covered by the Queen and King. The 7 of Spades was returned to the Ace, and a low club continued. How do you play? Declarer shunned the Club finesse. He drew 7 rounds of trump and tried to throw the opening leader in with a Diamond to lead from the Queen of Spades. Against weak opposition, this may work; but certainly, top-flight opponents can arrange to avoid an endplay when they own the AKQJ of Diamonds? This is one of those hands where if the finesse (in clubs) is right, you may not have to take it (perhaps, better put, you may get away with not taking it!).

A Diamond should be ducked early on. You hope LHO wins it, but if RHO does, you can hope that the Spades are a frozen suit. The bidding shows the suit to be 4-3. If RHO holds the Ten, neither defender can play spades again. Their best play is a Heart, and you can then ruff a club to try to clarify that suit. In the ending, LHO is squeezed in the black suits.

If RHO can win the Diamond and safely return a spade, you are down and will really regret not finessing in Clubs.

Much simpler to just finesse the  9 of Clubs. Is it really likely that LHO, with only 4 Spades, is also short in Clubs? He had: AQ86, 2, K74, JT764. At the other table, the squeeze was more relevant (although they stopped in two Hearts).  A low  Club was led, the Queen finessed. Later, on a similar defence as far as all relevant plays are concerned, the squeeze would eliminate one of West’s black suit winners.

Notice that on the run of the Hearts, West must throw some clubs, clarifying that he had not led from shortness. Moreover, the Diamond duck could still have been made to set up the squeeze even after a few rounds of hearts.

Bizzarre PS: On the BBO play record, it shows that West, on the last heart, threw the Ten of Clubs, setting up the Nine, which Declarer then threw on the same trick! I hope that was a transcribing error on both parts, because West should hold as his last three cards: Qx, –, —, T, with his partner holding 2 Diamond winners; and Declarer should not throw a winner from dummy to save a loser! Don’t tell me, I don’t want to know the Truth. I can’t handle The Truth.


The Play of The Hand [3]

and another:


Liking my controls and spot cards, I opened 1C and rebid 2NT over 1D, showing 18-19. Partner raised to 3NT, and I received the Jack of Spades lead. What’s your plan? I played three rounds of Clubs, all following, unblocking the 9 from my hand on the third round on which RHO pitched the 4 of Diamonds. This suggested to me that he held 5 Diamonds, so I played the Ace from dummy, hoping for singleton Q, J or 9. When the 9 dropped on my left, I led a low Diamond towards my KT, intending to finesse had he not split his Quack. Nine tricks in.

Defense counts, too…

Let’s segue to a defensive problem: 


You are East, and hear 1NT (15-17) on your left, the dummy bids 2C and, fearing the Spades, raises 2H to 3H. Opener carries on to game in Hearts, and your partner leads the Jack of Spades. Declarer wins the Ace and leads a low Heart to the Jack, which you win. What do you play next? At the table, East switched to Diamonds, which allowed it to make with little worry. The analysis looks like this to me: Partner is marked with 4H, and embarked on a forcing game (In fact, he did well not to lead his stiff Diamond, which I think makes life easy for declarer – this is Lead Problem “C” from above). All you have to do is continue Spades, and I think the defense must come to a long Heart and a Diamond trick, or the equivalent. Delarer will play a second round of trumps, ducked, but then partner can win a 3rd round and play more Spades, while if declarer switches, he can’t shut out a Diamond trick and partner’s long Heart.

 More Defense

Again you find yourself on defense:


Your partner passes, North opens 1D and raises a weak-jump-shift response of 2H to 4H. Partner leads the 4 of Spades. The King is played from dummy, and declarer will follow with the 5. (Your leads are 3rd from even #, low from odd). What is your plan to beat this?

 We got this wrong: You had better give partner a Spade ruff! He had Lead Problem hand “A”, above, [x, Axxx, AJxx, Qxxx]. He would have done just as well to lead a club and get a tap going, as it was hard to read the declarer’s 4 card spade suit on the side. But a Spade seemed likely to be readable, and would ensure (!?!) a beat if partner had ANY fast trick at all: At the other table, our partner’s defended 3C, making 5. I guess they must have opened my hand…


My First Post


CNTC Semis Janicki vs Gartaganis

This is a story in two parts. A disastrous 3rd quarter, followed by a 4th quarter with enough potential for a comeback.

Part One – I’ve Fallen and I Can’t Get Up!

It is funny how the downfall starts. The first slip-up of the second half came on hand #3. It was a lowly 1NT defense, but it set the tone for the quarter:

T953 K76
KJ984 763
K7 T86

  NS bid 1 (ambiguous) Diamond, 1S – 1NT. Note the system weakness, not allowing them to find a possible 4-4 minor-suit fit. (Our partners bid and made 2D). The 3 of Clubs was led, which was ducked to the Queen. The King of Hearts return was won by the Ace, pinning the Queen in dummy. The Diamond finesse lost, and the original 4th best Heart eight was played back. Declarer could not quite read the position, so he ducked. He could have won and played a Club to the King for his 7th trick, losing only 3H, 1D & 2C. With no more entries, West went back to Clubs, ducked around to the King. Now Declarer ran his Diamonds, and threw East in with a Club. In the 4 Card end position, Declarer is squeezed on the Ace of Clubs lead:





West East
Tx K7
J9 7



He has no good pitch.. He opted for the Spade Queen, but East did not read it and came back a Heart, setting up the 7th trick. This was a bad sign, if not a big loss.

Hand #2 was strange, and we need only look at the NS cards:







East Deals and passes. I understand this South hand was not opened at the other table, and subsequently ran into trouble handling the opponents’ Polish club sequence. IMHO, although I know some people don’t open,  I think you are better placed to open this hand. Our opponents opened 1S, heard a 2C overcall, and North made a limit-raise-or-better 3C cue bid. The opener rejected the invitation! This, too, seems to me to be a misjudgment. Give partner any hand with as little as four spades to the Ace, and any other 9 cards, and game has a play. You will lose two diamonds, and it doesn’t matter if he has 1,2,3 or 4 hearts – you must have a chance to play the suit for one loser. Place partner with the right couple of scraps and slam may have a play. In fact, he has shown a limit-raise or better, so he does not own just one high card. A six/five is a BIG hand with the high cards in the long suits, particularly if a fit is uncovered. Certainly, the hand must at least bid 3H to see how the hands mesh.

In any case, we lost a vulnerable game swing 680 to 230. 

On #6 the opponents bid to 3NT with scant values, 10 facing 12, and it can’t be beaten. On the next hand, they opened a weak NT, and found us with 1453 eleven HCP opposite 4333 thirteen, so we defended and beat it 3 vulnerable tricks, and we lost a vulnerable game. Perhaps this hand should have overcalled 2D (vulnerable, natural), over the weak NT – T, K982, KQ982, K93 ? It is not our style to balance with the other hand: A953, Q65, J54, AQ6

What would you do with: AKQTx, xx, AJ9, QJx? The opponents start a Big Club (16+) on your right, you overcall 1S, LHO passes, and partner boosts you to 4S, Red Vs White. Opener now bids 5H. I know we just bid a game, but is there any reason that pass must be forcing? Assuming it is not, what is your action?. In practice, the only real losing action is pass, which is what this hand did. Double can get 800, while 680 is yours for bidding (assuming you disdain bidding the slam on the diamond finesse through the big clubber).

As a technical point, playing standard leads, the correct spade to lead is the Queen. Partner signals encouragement holding the Jack, and you can cross over to his hand for leads through declarer.




Anyway I am more interested in talking about the approach to trying to overcome a 63 IMP deficit, and not so much in how we got there in the first place, which was through a bit of bad luck and even more poor team play.

Playing in a Texas Hold ‘Em Tournament, you sometimes find yourself running low on chips. Meanwhile, the blinds and antes are increasing, and you are running out of time. You are compelled to risk your remaining stack on somewhat less than ideal tickets. We found ourselves similarly placed – Our opponents had a tall stack of our IMP’s sitting on the table in front of them, and we were running out of chances to win them back.

When I was young, I used to think you had to psyche and go wild in such dire circumstances. I’m no longer young. I will try to illustrate what I think gives you the best chances…

Here is an example of swinging in declarer’s play: 



West East
Q96 543
54 KJ932
K65 97
AT843 K65

Playing in 3NT after the opponents have played three rounds of cubs. Declarer runs 5 Spade tricks, and then must decide which red suit finesse to take. You might take your shot at reading the carding and table action, of course. But usually, you will try the Diamond play, because if that works, you make all the rest, while the Heart finesse gives you just your contract.

When you are down 63, I think it is a good shot to try to do the opposite of what the other table would do. Here, the heart finesse was taken, and there was a game swing. (Should the other declarer also do “the opposite” of what he would normally do to try to duplicate YOUR action? Is he George Costanza from Seinfeld? He wants pushes; you want swings. This reasoning could make you dizzy; If you know his strategy and he knows yours,…).

(I heard how it was played in the other Semi, (by Darren Wolpert, I think); He tried the Jack of Diamonds early on, before running the Spades, to see if he would get a cover. Maybe he would get a hitch, although that may be harder to guage, depending on whether you share the same side of the  screen. When it was ducked smoothly, he went up Ace and later hooked the Heart. I like his play better than mine, but I was intentionally playing for a swing, so that adds a layer of intrigue.

This next one has tactical issues at both tables






West East
94 T53
KQ82 AT7
T65 982
KT87 A963


At our table, we bid 1S-1N-2N-3N and they must cash out fast to beat it. They led Club to the ace and a low club back, and found the switch to the Heart King. Declarer played the 6 to try to make their signal seem high (discouraging) but they saw through it. Would the 9 have been more convincing, perhaps portraying AJ9 ? In any case, they cashed out.

At the other table East was on lead against 4S on a similar unrevealing auction. East opted for the 9 of Diamonds, the very definition of a “passive” lead. I do not question the bridge judgment, but I do raise the MATCH judgment. Down 63 is not the time to be passive. They WANT us to be passive. Which Ace to lead ? How about underleading one of them? That does works sometimes, and you are trying to create swings in a sane manner. I think this qualifies. Or lead one, prepared to underlead the other if it looks right.

Similarly: KJ4, 952, J87, A962. Partner opens 1NT. This hand passed, I believe. I think it should bid 3NT. One table made 4 I think, and one made 2…

KQ5, KJ865, AK3, K5. 2C on your right, natural 11-15, 2NT on your right, some noise. You double, Opener rebids 3C and partner competes with 3D. This hand made the calculated conservative pass, and was plus 110. However, bid 3H and partner raises you. It is a lucky make. Isn’t that precisely what we are looking for? (I may show this hand some time: #30. It is very elegant make of 4H; Win the Spade lead, in hand, play two more rounds of spades ending in dummy, and hook the heart Jack. They win, and must play a Diamond) That is covered twice, and you exit a club for the final endplay)

742, KJ, 72, AKT863. Partner opens Flannery (Do we really need to play that?). At the table, the hand signed off in 2H, without exploring. Certainly various games loom large – 4H, 3NT, 5C. More importantly, SIX clubs has a good play with suitable hands facing. The hand must explore. And when it finds three clubs with opener, the methods should permit a slam exploration. In practice, 6C is cold. This is exactly the kind of hand we need down 63, not to hope that the hand is some horrible misfit with 2H being the limit. It’s too good a fitter for that anyway – it’s an opening bid in my book, facing an opening. Open + Open = Game.

AK92, J8, J7542, 54. Partner opens 1NT. Even this hand may just want to respond 3NT at this score of the match. Don’t invite. Don’t show them any info. Just try for a game. We need swings. I can understand 2C, intending to raise 2S to 4. With the actual layout, the only winning call is 3NT. Opening leader must be given the full chance to make the losing heart lead from AKxx as oppposed to the winning club lead from Kxxx. If you bid 2C, partner bids 2H and you negate the heart lead. But 1N-3N is hard to lead against. Did I mention, we were down 63?

Notice these are not wild flyers. I am suggesting bidding 3NT with NO EXPLORATION to help the top-flight opponents, with hands in the 24-26 HCP range and two balanced hands. This is not exactly off-the-wall bidding; it is just not scientific. And it is a little pushy. It puts us in a position to get lucky, which is what we need. We need to help luck along.

KQJ76, K5, JT9x, A6 Partner opens 1D. You bid 1S, he bids 2D. How about Blackwood ? Do you play 4H kickback ? This one is a little more pushy, but minimal exploration, minimal revelations to them. Check for controls if can be done cheaply enough. Slam depended on picking up Qxx of Diamonds onside (missing 4). Not ideal, and the lead could damage, (her, opene had Q of clubs, and opening leader had the kIng) but are we looking for some good shots, or trying to keep the loss respectable?

Late in the 3rd quarter, with no precise score but likely down a big load, this hand came up: 7, AQ8432, J965, A4. Partner opens 1S. If you are trying to be precise, you can bid 1NT, and bid a constructive 2H over his 2C. Then you can pass his 2S rebid. Of course, he may not bid 2C. This hand is an opening bid. Making a 2/1 GF with it may be a bit of an overbid due to the stiff Spade, but if you strike a fit it should help pave the way to the best game or slam. We ended up in 3NT down 3, winning 2 IMP’s against 3NT down 4. 2S was the limit

A good chunk of the possible comeback was available through better technical, analytical judgment in the bidding and play which I will not explore now. But these are my thoughts on tactical ideas.

That’s it for now.