Archive for February, 2009

Why is it so? Australia vs Netherlands Yeh Cup

7 October 2008:
Email from Sartaj Hans during the 2008 Olympiad:
Heading of email: Brazil vs Italy.
Body of email: ‘And you guys can tell me why the final score was 97-4’

28 February 2009:
Yeh Cup 16 board segment
Australia 12 vs Netherlands 71

What I wanted to say at the time Italy trounced Brazil was ‘because it is easy for that to happen’, ‘because that can happen to anybody’. It is especially easy in teams because there is much more luck in IMPs teams bridge than in either rubber bridge or duplicate. I dare say if matches were long enough, the luck element would be negated, but unfortunately no teams bridge is accorded the dignity of the long run, so I wouldn’t like to hazard a guess as to when the long run kicks in.

We are left with short matches in which one person’s decision is matched against one other person’s decision.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting for one moment that Australia didn’t ‘deserve’ to lose. The other side played substantially better. But that doesn’t actually explain the scoreline. Bridge isn’t so kind a game that playing substantially better counts for much as a rule.

In this match, for example, Netherlands bid to 2 six diamond contracts neither of which was bid by Australia. One of them was a 50% contract and made. The other was less than that – it required a non-lead combined with a card onside and a failure to find a difficult defence. It made. Those two boards swung 50 IMPs. Reverse them both and the match is close to even.

That’s teams bridge for you!


February 28, 2009 at 11:42 pm Leave a comment

Still shopping

What can I say….still shopping! Actually, with the Yeh Cup and then Surfers on, it seemed like a good idea to abandon theory about how to play bridge better and just look at some good players in action, so please drop in over the 10 days or so to look at a hand or two. I’ll hope to have something up later today….

February 26, 2009 at 9:26 pm Leave a comment

Fabulous suits

Sorry, have to go shopping….I don’t think I’ll get back to the Suicide Point before tomorrow (well, some would say that’s what shopping is….). What fabulous comments the last couple of posts have received. I hope to summarise them all and ask some questions about them in a post over the next few days. Thanks for all your erudite contributions to what seems to me quite an important topic.

Meanwhile, something to entertain, I hope. If I happen to receive sympathy from Markey, that’d be a bonus!


My partnership has been attracting these sorts of hands lately (being actually, a while ago now):

s AQJ109876543
h1 AK

Playing Butler, RHO opens 1D.

Without thinking about it, I saw this hand as having a loser, the spade king and bid 6S. It was only as LHO began thinking that I realised 7S was clearly odds on.

Eventually LHO doubled and this was passed back to me: what now? Is there a room full of players getting to declare 7S redoubled? Could I run from 6S doubled to 7S, hoping to get to send that back?!! Should I redouble 6S, hope the opponents run and then inveigle my way back to 7S redoubled? Eventually I decided on redouble and there the contract stayed. Dummy came down with a spade void and they were 2-0. Lucky. I don’t know if it was because the field was weak or because it is so hard to evaluate a suit, even though a simple one, that is so rarely held. Making 6 redoubled was worth only 4 IMPs.

What should you bid with this hand? The direct 7S looks auto to me. But it is one of those hands that suits the devious, the creative, the lurkers. I asked Jonathan Mestel, the English chess Grandmaster who plays bridge also what he would do with it and after due reflection he wanted to make every bid possible. His favourites were 1H! and 1NT!!

When the pair that won the event came to this hand, my hand also played 6S redoubled….bidding the good grand would have lost them the event. Meanwhile….

s Jxxx
c AKQJ109843

Your shot first in hand playing IMPs. This was from the Swiss of the 1999 National Open Teams. Lots of players opened 6C, lots of others 5C.

My partner’s auction is not for children. Simon Hinge opened 1C and over my 1H response bid 1S. This rather excited me holding:

s AKQx
h1 AKJ10xx
d1 10xx

I bid 3D fitshowing and now Simon jumped to 6C. He had to have 1st round diamond control and his keenness to suggest clubs as the final contract was understandable given my spade holding. So, 7S from me.

He ruffed the opening diamond lead and spades were 4-1. Two down with 15 tricks in clubs. In retrospect, much as I don’t like partner’s auction (his hand isn’t a hand with spades and clubs, it is a hand with clubs, clubs and more clubs) it could have got us to the right place. After the jump to 6C it is not so hard from my hand to reason thus: partner must have bid 6C with the expectation of a spade loser…therefore he definitely has no club loser.

Sorry partner, I wasn’t up to it.

February 24, 2009 at 10:31 pm 1 comment

Suicide? Indeed, Holmes.

There is an interesting discussion going on in comments of the previous post on the issue of whether bridge players should be allowed to know what the score is while they are playing. Go here to take a look.

h1 AQ3

The contract, if you recall from yesterday, is 4S by East. Partner opened 3D, you bid 4D over 3S by RHO and 4S by West ends the auction.

I don’t know about anybody else, but I felt strongly that I should begin with a diamond. In my view it’s is about the only time it is wrong to lead from an AK holding. The reason it is wrong is that partner is most likely short but you won’t be able to tell how short. You will have no idea whether or not to continue the suit. Whereas if you lead partner’s suit and he shifts to one, you will know how to follow up.

Now I have to confess that for me this was most certainly the suicide point. I led a club with great misgivings and indeed, after the end of trick one I didn’t have a clue what to do….shift to a diamond? Or continue the suit I had already messed up?

A clear head would probably come to an easy conclusion that it is best to keep playing clubs from the top. Not only is partner on the vulnerability likely to have 7 diamonds, given what you can see of that suit, but in fact if you DO have 4 tricks including a diamond, you probably can’t get them.

Suppose declarer is:


Shifting to a diamond doesn’t help – declarer will get his 10th before you get your 4th. He’ll rise, eliminate the majors and throw North in with a diamond. End of the penny section.

So that’s how a clear head would figure it out. But I had a head swimming with thoughts as to how I was being punished for breaking my own principle. Clear it was not. Eventually I shifted to a diamond and that meant +620. A flat board as it happens when the same tricks one and two occurred.

Phil Markey in his comments to the last post commented that there are all sorts of reasons why mistakes are made – of course. Some of them don’t have a solution which can be put into play at the table. If you are tired you are tired. Your fault, no doubt, but the time to address it was last night when somebody said let’s go to the bar. You might let something that happened on the preceding board affect your play on this one. And, again, like this one you might let the development of the hand to date affect your thinking adversely.

More tomorrow.

February 24, 2009 at 1:34 am 8 comments

Have you ever played real bridge?

Sorry, but before we get to the suicide point, first I have to share something interesting which happened on Saturday.

So, what’s real bridge? Real bridge is when you know what the score is all the time and can play accordingly. Is there another sport in the world which considers it inappropriate for the players NOT to know what the score is? Do tell if there is one. I’m supposing there isn’t.

The great thing about bridge online is that you can play teams bridge like it used to be played in the 1930s – you know what the score is all the time. Brilliant! Of course, it means there are all sorts of situations you face which are unfamiliar territory and I want to share this one with you.

You are playing Singapore, it’s the last board and you know you are exactly 1 IMP down.

You pick up:


and think to yourself, as the auction begins 1C P 1H to you, ‘Hmmm. A part-score hand, perfect for the purposes of trying to get that IMP back.’ You double, promising at least 4-4 in the other suits, but not 5-5 shapes, LHO redoubles and partner bids 1S. You raise to 2S over 2H at your next turn, sit back, and to your surprise the opponents bid to 6H, LHO jumping to 4D over 2S.

So, the question is, 1 IMP down, this is the last board, do you double 6H?

And while you are considering that particular dilemma, what do you lead on this lot:


Again you are playing Singapore online. In first seat all vul partner opens 3D. RHO bids 3S and over your 4D LHO ends the auction with 4S.

What do you lead?

Back to the first hand. I said ‘pass’ over 6H. I wasn’t just worried about 6H making via the double. What if LHO ran to 6NT and partner led the suit we’d bid and raised? That might be disaster.

Except that THIS was the layout:

s Q764
s AK52
h1 Q95
s 10
d1 A982
c 643
s J983

One way or another it drifted 3 down for +300 to us. ‘Easy game’ I thought ‘Yep, those Singapore kddies get just what they deserve’….until we discovered that in the other room bridgeboy, holding my cards, had doubled 6H after a similar auction and gotten +500 for his troubles.

That’s what real bridge is like…maybe you are glad you don’t play it!

Okay, now the opening lead problem.


You are defending 4S on the auction:

3D 3S 4D 4S

All Pass

Let’s say you began with a top club, queen from partner. This is dummy:


Welcome to suicide point. What are you thinking of next? Come back tomorrow for more.

February 23, 2009 at 3:28 am 18 comments

The critical point. Or not.

A while ago I posted a couple of hands – here – which were about the ‘critical point’ – aka the suicide point…it’s that point where you THINK everything is over.

I’m reminded of an absolutely classic case of thinking the critical point of a hand is over. It was the first round of the Australian Playoff in 2005.

Round one
Board 5
Dealer South
NS Vul


Joe Haffer
S 84
H J107432
D 32
C J63


S QJ10953
H A6
D K5


H —
D QJ9864
C K942


Nick Croft
S 76
H KQ985
D A107
C 1087

One way or another I found myself in 7S by West. As you can see, it needs a bit. A 3-3 club break, 2-2 trumps, plus a diamond trick. Yeah, well, I’ve been in worse. I won the heart lead, drew two rounds of trumps, 4 rounds of clubs pitching the king of diamonds and South was a very sad little sausage. Way too sad to pop the ace of diamonds on the queen next. His sense, naturally enough, was that the critical point of the hand was over at trick one when his partner failed to begin with a diamond.

I vaguely recall writing an article about The Suicide Point in Bridge Today years ago. I’ll try to find it to reproduce it here. As I said before, this is really easy to write about, but oh-so-hard to address at the table. Still, being aware of it will be the first step. There IS a Suicide Point. Some ideas for dealing with it on Monday.

February 20, 2009 at 2:10 am 2 comments

Damned if you do….

Sorry, but my filing system is not what it should be. The hands I had in mind for today are – well – SOMEWHERE.

But this is something interesting from this year’s NOT – well, it’s not the NOT, really. Actually only 16 teams or so are allowed to play the National Open Teams now….it does make you wonder, doesn’t it? Still, from the event we all still call the NOT, even though it’s not.

Round 12
Board 19
Vul EW
Dealer South






c J6542



Against us in slam Bruce Neill went quickly down when he finessed the opening ten of hearts lead at trick one. In the other room, Lazer, on the same heart lead to 6NT decided to play for the given heart position. Then he played spades beginning with the queen to make his slam. Nicely done by Warren.

I was sitting there thinking how lucky it is that we don’t play the nine from those holdings – well, we do sometimes, not not as a matter of course. Anybody who did routinely lead the nine from Q109 would have been severely punished for doing so.

Not long after, the theory is tested again, well almost.

Round 13
Board 13
Vul All
Dealer North

c J1098

Round 13, board 13 – this deal had to be unlucky for somebody and that was us. Wally Malaczynski was declarer and just a little overboard in 6S by North. I led the normal club, Wally won and played 2 rounds of spades to dummy. He got the bad news, played a diamond and Simon had to decide what to do. He ducked and that was the end of that. Slam making.

Still, for me it raised again the issue of the opening lead from sequences. Change these cards a little – so that the opening leader leads the D10 to 6S. Low from dummy and??? Hmmm. If partner has the queen, we have to play low. If partner does not have the queen we have to rise. The way to make sure that partner in 3rd seat gets this right is to play that the ten denies the queen, ie if on lead with Q109 to make the very opening lead which the night before costs the contract – the NINE.

Damned if you do? And damned if you don’t!

Tomorrow? An example of the Suicide point.

February 19, 2009 at 4:42 am 2 comments

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