Seven Notrump

In which some people who play bridge blog about it.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

A hand

South Dealer

None Vulnerable

10 9 5 4
J 9 5
J 10 5 4
6 3

Q 6 3
A K 7
K 9
K Q J 9 7

A 8 7
Q 10 8 4
A 8 3 2
A 4
K J 2
6 3 2
Q 7 6
10 8 5 2

South: Pass
West: 1♣
North: Pass
East: 1NT
South: Pass
West: 3NT
All pass

East dummy, 4♦ led

This is the first practice hand I dealt and wrote out the play for recently--the first time I'd done so since I was a teenager. The division is fairly cut and dried; in basic numbers, West has 19 points, East 15--18 and 14 if you discount doubleton points, which you might be tempted to here. Any and all decisions here are mine and mine alone (by "practice hand" I mean I did it as an exercise, alone), and that's what I'm putting it up here for--to be scrutinized, picked apart, shown my flaws in logic and play.

I'm especially curious about the bidding. I learned to play bridge from my family--mother, aunts, uncles, grandfather--who were largely taught by my grandmother's family, the Whites. Barbara, my mother's mom, doesn't play, though her first (and long-since ex) husband Pito learned. My mom, her brothers James, Bob, and Tom, and if I'm remembering correctly my aunt Cathy all play; Mom's ex-husband Chris played some as well. There may have been satellites--friends and cousins--that did too, though I'm less sure of that. At any rate, there was very little "official" about their play; every game was contract and not rubber, for example, and some of their "rules" would get them kicked out of any halfway upstanding bridge club--slamming a discard on the table to signal ownership of the next high card, for example. It was, as they used to refer to it, "kamikaze bridge." And while I don't slam cards on the table, I was also taught to play in a very straightforward manner, one that didn't include conventions like Stayman.

Oddly, given the family's discarding propensities, bidding for slam never really came up either. The goal with us was generally to bid and try to make game, each and every time. (Some of the rubber games I've played more recently involved stopping at, say, a two-bid to finish incomplete game from the prior hand.) So when I do these practice hands, I generally tend to halt bidding once game is made. And obviously my seeing both hands affects the bidding as well.

I think that's the case here. West's one-club bid is straightforward: clubs are long and strong (K-Q-J), with 19 points total, an ace, two king stoppers, and a potential queen stopper in the support suits. I'd conceive it as a signal to go higher, but also as an "I actually have clubs" bid more than a "name your suits" one. East, meantime, has three aces and even-enough distribution; low suit is A-4 of clubs, support everywhere else, a perfect match. 1NT is the obvious response.

West has no four-card suit beyond the initial bid, and I'd like to think I'd go 3NT instinctively as a result. Certainly, a 1NT response to one club is offering a nice array of stuff, and 3NT fits it perfectly. But I'm also tainted by seeing all the cards, so maybe I'm kidding myself here.

My play-out is where my lack of polish comes into full view, though: my North leads the diamond 4, for no better reason than it was the card at the end of my hand at the time. Granted, I'd probably do something similar during actual play; with a bunch of losers like North's, why not? Still, there might have been something better to do. At any rate, it was led, and dummy took it with the Ace, followed by the same suit's 2 led to West's King, the heart 7 to dummy's Jack, and spade 7 to South's King. It's the only trick N-S made; South switches to the Heart 3, West cashes both high hearts before taking dummy's spade Ace. Dummy comes back with the heart 10--and because there are no other hearts, the 10 carries the trick. Clubs then fall for four consecutive tricks, and West takes the last one with the Queen of spades. Bid 3, made 6.

It's entirely possible this is how a real hand would play out, but I'm curious: Would you have bid for slam? Opened differently? Defended harder? The comments box is wide open.


  At Tuesday, June 27, 2006 11:22:00 AM, Blogger Paul said:

Sitting East in this deal I'd respond 3NT. To me, East's 1NT response is limiting, indicating no more than 10 points.

(As I play, the 1NT response can be used semi-artificially too, without a legitimate no-trump holding: if, say, opener bids 1S and you have good long hearts, fewer than 3 spades, and only 9 points. Bidding a new suit at the two level would show more than 10 points, and passing would show fewer than 6, so 1NT is the proper bid.)

  At Tuesday, June 27, 2006 2:31:00 PM, Blogger M said:

What would you think of a 2NT response? I suppose that's benefit-of-hindsight (not to mention benefit-of-seeing-all-the-cards), but since six were made 2NT seems like a good nudge for slam.

  At Tuesday, June 27, 2006 2:41:00 PM, Blogger Paul said:

2NT is sound but a little conservative. You know opener has a minimum of 15 points; you have 14; that's definite slam territory.

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