Seven Notrump

In which some people who play bridge blog about it.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Playing it safe

This is based on a recent hand, loosely recalled.

Lead: ♠ 3
♠ A Q J 8
♥ 6 5 2
♦ A 8
♣ 9 6 5 4
♠ 7 2
♥ A K Q 8
♦ K Q 7 5 3
♣ Q 2

West leads the 3 of spades against a no-trump game. If the distribution's good -- if West has the king -- it's possible for declarer to take 11 tricks: finesse the queen in dummy, then (crossing first to your hand) lead again to dummy's spades, repeating the finesse. You'll make three spade tricks, five diamond tricks, and three hearts.

BUT if East has the king, playing the queen on the first trick gives up that trick, followed by a likely four club tricks, and the contract is set. You can draw your own conclusion regarding the relative virtues of locking in the contract versus risking your neck chasing after overtricks.


  At Monday, September 25, 2006 10:21:00 AM, Anonymous Bryan said:

Hey Paul.

In duplicate, I'd say DEFINITELY try the finesse. For contract bridge... well, I'd still go for it. Regardless, you need to hope for a favorable diamond break to make the contract. I think based on the conventional "4th highest of longest strongest" lead, chances are better than not that the king of spades would be in the West's hand, especially considering the amount of high card clubs remaining in the deck. (You'd think that a club lead would have been made if West had any strength there...) And I don't know the numbers, but I'd say that this gamble could be not much worse than hoping for the favorable diamond break. Am I close?

See you tonight!

  At Wednesday, September 27, 2006 4:39:00 PM, Blogger Paul said:

That's good thinking. It looks impossible, on closer analysis, to make the contract without the spade finesse! Diamonds just aren't going to fall right -- in the best case, they're split three/four, and the lowest possible hand with four of them has the 2-4-6-9, which wins a trick unless you find and finesse against the 9 right away...

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Gadget of the day: Roman Key Card Blackwood

Here's another one. I for one know that I haven't been bidding slam nearly often enough, so pardon me while I try to rectify that a bit. We all know classic Blackwood, the 4NT slambound bid that asks partner about aces (what the Germans call Assfrage). In Roman Key Card Blackwood (named for the Italian bridge team that used it to win embarrassingly many international tournaments in the '60s), the 4NT bid after determining a trump fit asks not just about aces but about the five key cards, namely the aces plus the king of trump. This approach gives a more accurate sense of how high to bid the contract. So, as I learned it, responses to 4NT in RKCB go like this:

5C: 0 or 3 of the 5 key cards
5D: 1 or 4 key cards
5H: 2 or 5 key cards and not the queen of trump
5S: 2 or 5 key cards with the queen of trump

There are some possible additional steps after that, but methods vary so perhaps let's take it slow for now. What do you think?


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Sunday, September 10, 2006

Gadget of the day: Jacoby 2NT

Seriously, though, there are a couple of gadgets I think we could usefully incorporate into our bidding that might help out in some hazy situations. We all know and revere Oswald Jacoby for his famous transfers, but he devised a forcing response system too that sounds very handy.

As I understand it: Opener bids 1 of a major suit. With 12 points (some say stronger) and 4 cards in opener's suit, respond 2NT. That is considered forcing to game, and asks for a clarifying rebid from opener along the following lines:

  • 3 of the initial suit: no singleton, 6 or more trumps and 18+ points, slam-hoping
  • 3 of another suit: a void or singleton in that suit
  • 3 no trump: no singleton or length, but 15+ points
  • 4 of the initial suit: no singleton, no more than 14 points, limiting
  • 4 of another suit: 5 cards in that suit

That seems promising to me. I guess if responder really definitely wants to play NT she can bid 3NT directly. Talking about singletons so blatantly in front of the opponents is kind of begging for an ace lead, but I wonder how it would play out in practice. Anybody up for giving it a try?


  At Tuesday, September 12, 2006 5:26:00 PM, Blogger Bryan said:

I like that... I might get confused considering that I usually take a 1 major-suit opening to mean the bidder has 5 of that suit. Otherwise, it seems highly useful...

  At Tuesday, September 12, 2006 5:44:00 PM, Blogger Paul said:

Yeah, that's how I understand it. Opener has 5 of the bid suit; if responder has four of the same suit he says 2NT to see if slam is a possibility.

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Saturday, September 09, 2006

Pass pass pass slam

Okay guys, I've been reading up on bidding systems, and I've decided that the next time we play I'm bidding according to the Eclectic Symmetric Pass system, in which I open one heart regardless of distribution if I have 0 to 7 points, one spade if I'm 4-4 in the minors, and pass if I have 13 or more points. Got it?

I read over this collection of bidding systems and I'm pretty impressed. They're categorized by opening style, into "Standard Systems," which we've been using; "Strong 1C Systems," in which an artificial club opening shows extra strength (this incidentally is the collection's author's recommendation); "Weak/Strong 1C Systems," wherein the one-club opening has multiple possible meanings, inferrable from context -- for example, in Cloudberry, my 1C bid means I have either 8-10 points and a balanced hand, OR 17-plus points. Hmm. Then we get to "Artificial 1C/1D Systems," a wide variety of systems involving artificial 1D responses to 1C openings; and "Strong Pass Systems," -- such as Eclectic Symmetric Pass -- in which you pass to indicate strength, and bid to indicate weakness. Presumably the "responder" doesn't pass too, but still this last category is a little fringy-sounding to someone raised on a standard system.

It'd be interesting to play around with some of these ideas, maybe a strong 1C, if we feel up to it. I'd love to have a better way to show 18-21 points than opening one of my suit and hoping the bidding comes around again.

What we need first though, grrr, is a system for actually getting four people at the same table at the same time!


  At Saturday, September 09, 2006 1:42:00 PM, Anonymous karyn - said:

In my bidding system a 1c opening means you have a small penis.

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Monday, September 04, 2006

Double trouble

In honor of my newly improved posting system* -- now with bidding diagrams! -- here is a case in which bidding plays a critical role.

♦ Pass♠ Pass
♠ Pass♠ Dbl
Lead: ♣ K
♠ A 10 4
♥ 10 6 4
♦ A K Q 10
♣ 7 4 2
♠ J 8 7 3 2
♥ A 7 2
♦ 7 3
♣ K J 10 8
♠ --
♥ J 9 8 5 3
♦ 8 5 4
♣ A 6 5 3
♠ K Q 9 6 5
♥ K Q
♦ J 9 6 2
♣ Q 9

After trumping the third round of clubs, South's usual play would be to lead three high trumps, which in this case would go down. West would be left to win a trump trick plus a heart and two clubs. Playing the spade king first to test the suit would also lose a trump trick.

But West's double led South to guess, correctly, at the dangerous trump split. So South led the 9, which was covered with the jack and the ace, and the details of how the contract was made are left to the reader. If West had held her tongue, the contract would have neatly gone down.

Doubling a contract when holding a void or singleton in trump, which I've been doing for years but which we may call a Matos double after certain notable recent instances, is therefore doubly clever. East is privy to the same information as West in this deal, and a double from that side would yield no useful clues.

*Tell me if the diagram looks funny on your browser. The posting tool should work in the comments too, so hop right in if you have something to say!


  At Wednesday, September 06, 2006 12:41:00 AM, Anonymous evany said:

I love the new posting tool, so awesome!

  At Wednesday, September 06, 2006 8:51:00 AM, Blogger M said:

A Matos double, eh? Try a Caroline double, pal.

  At Wednesday, September 06, 2006 10:26:00 AM, Blogger Paul said:

Hi Evany!

We could call it a Caroline double, but historically coups and conventions are named not after their inventor but after the person who made them famous. Caroline may have used the Matos double but she isn't classically known for it. I'm sure we can find other wrinkle to name after Caroline. Anyway, now that it's been carved in the cold blue pixels of the web, everyone's calling it a Matos double.

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