Seven Notrump

In which some people who play bridge blog about it.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Real Deal #2

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

This was from a few weeks ago at Felicity's place. Paul took the picture (which he can post if he likes). Sadly, I don't remember the bidding very well. At first relooko, I had guessed that N-S wound up with a four-spade contract, but that's due to the photo emphasizing that combination. Now it looks something like a free-for-all--and if I'm remembering correctly, it was bid that way too. Given the proclivities of the group playing that night, particularly Caroline and myself, I'll wager there was a penalty double involved as well. How would you have bid this?


  At Tuesday, August 01, 2006 10:32:00 AM, Blogger Paul said:

I was just the photographer, not a player on this one, so I don't remember anything about the bidding. 4S looks winnable but 5C not so much. Did someone go down doubled?

  At Tuesday, August 01, 2006 10:39:00 AM, Blogger M said:

I think they might have--either that or it was made doubled. Since Caroline and I were playing, and my propensity for doubling was reinforced for good that very night by hers, I'd think it'd have been nearly impossible for that not to have happened. IIRC, she and I were partners and were also N-S. If nothing else, the bidding here probably got really fucking woolly.

  At Tuesday, August 01, 2006 11:17:00 AM, Blogger Paul said:

Woolly indeed. Everyone has an opening bid, so who dealt ends up mattering a lot. East and South can both open 1NT, and West and North can both open preemptively with length. Any transfer bidding is going to get gummed up.

N-S has the advantage, I guess, with the major suit and with those lucky finesses. Either side could make 3NT too, looks like, especially if defenders take their high-card winners right away. E-W's diamond and club tenaces are perfect against South's leads. Pretty unlikely though that either side would wind up in such a moderate contract.

  At Tuesday, August 01, 2006 11:19:00 AM, Blogger Paul said:

(Well, maybe West and North oughtn't to open with so few points, but I'd be tempted.)

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A slam puzzle

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

The contract is 6 spades, whoo! You have two heart losers and club issues, as well as a possible diamond problem. West leads the king of hearts. How do you proceed?


  At Monday, July 31, 2006 6:13:00 PM, Blogger M said:

You could try throwing low to the heart king, then winning the next one with the ace (assuming they respond with another heart, which is likely) and drawing trumps out. But I really can't see any way of doing this without getting set. You'd need to finesse one club and diamond trick each--the diamond with dummy's jack, the club with your own jack--and the way the table is set up that's impossible. Or is there something I'm just not seeing? If there is, I'd guess it has to do with some sort of sloughing-off during obvious trick discards.

  At Monday, July 31, 2006 6:47:00 PM, Blogger Paul said:

You're right that finessing clubs and diamonds won't do it, and neither will trumping those clubs. There's another way to develop some extra tricks. It's actually possible to make all 13 tricks if you get lucky, but that's not worth shooting for.

The floor is open for suggestions!

  At Monday, July 31, 2006 6:58:00 PM, Blogger M said:

OK, one step at a time: First, do you let the heart king slide?

  At Monday, July 31, 2006 7:13:00 PM, Blogger Paul said:

I wouldn't -- I don't see what the advantage of doing that might be. Win the heart and save your one losable trick for a rainy day.

  At Tuesday, August 01, 2006 10:28:00 AM, Blogger M said:

OK, you take the ace. I'll wager it's jumping the gun to switch to trump to draw them out, because unless distribution is truly freakish (it's not, here) that's not going to be a problem. Cash the A-K of diamonds, then the club ace, leading back to dummy's trump. Then, I think I get this now, start cross-ruffing diamonds (from dummy) and clubs (from hand). Because we have all the high trump it won't matter what E-W has, as long as we throw higher cards. This is the strategy you're talking about, or close to it, then?

  At Tuesday, August 01, 2006 10:37:00 AM, Blogger M said:

that should be "leading another club to dummy's trump," btw

  At Tuesday, August 01, 2006 11:04:00 AM, Blogger Paul said:

That's good thinking ... let me see. I still see two heart losers. Can you give yourself an opportunity to discard somehow?

  At Tuesday, August 01, 2006 11:15:00 AM, Blogger M said:

If we're ruffing dummy's diamonds, the queen's going to shake out eventually; once that's finished, a lot of those diamonds are going to remain good. Maybe that's the point at which we can dump hearts.

  At Tuesday, August 01, 2006 11:24:00 AM, Blogger Paul said:

Exactly -- the defenders'll be void in diamonds after the third round, and you'll still have three in dummy. But those three diamonds aren't winners while there's still trump out on the street ...

  At Tuesday, August 01, 2006 12:32:00 PM, Blogger Paul said:

Here's a hint: the way I play it out involves only two ruffing tricks.

  At Tuesday, August 01, 2006 12:43:00 PM, Blogger M said:

You should probably just outline your play; I'm really interested to see it.

  At Tuesday, August 01, 2006 1:12:00 PM, Blogger Paul said:

Yeah. I was hoping someone else might come along and take a stab, but that could take months, and I have another hand I want to post.

My solution is below. There may well be other good solutions too. Anybody who wants to solve it for yourself, stop reading now.


I win the heart lead in my hand, pull one round of trump with the king, cash the diamond A-K and the club ace, and lead a low trump toward dummy. I'm depending here on West having the 10 so I can finesse the 9.

Fortunately the finesse works. That's crucial because I need two entries to the dummy. First I lead a diamond from dummy, drawing out the queen of diamonds, and ruff it in my hand with the jack; then I lead another low trump from my hand to the trump winner remaining on the board. The defenders are now out of trumps.

I throw two heart losers and a club loser on dummy's three good diamonds, and the queen of trump provides the winning trick. If careless defenders have discarded all their clubs by this point, my club jack can win the thirteenth trick -- if not, so be it.

Was that clear? I guess the take-home lessons from this hand are: Establish your long side suit and Pay attention to how you're going to get back to dummy. If I had just used dummy's ace as my first entry, I wouldn't have been able to get up there a second time and run my diamonds.

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Thursday, July 27, 2006


Ever have one of those days when the points are too evenly distributed, nobody bids, and you're throwing in hand after hand after hand? It's frustrating, but this isn't one of those bridge blogs where we just gripe all the time -- we offer solutions!

Goulash is a delicious Hungarian beef stew -- it's gulyás in the old country -- seasoned with a ton of paprika. For unknown reasons, it's also the name of a casual technique I learned from the estimable Mr. Jaffe to spice up dull passed hands. After the fourth pass:

1. Everybody group the cards in their hand by suit. Probably you've already done this.
2. Without shuffling, stack the four hands back into a deck.
3. Somebody cuts that deck to the next dealer.
4. Dealer deals out the deck, not one card at a time, but in groups: first 4 to everybody, then 5, then 4.
5. Now, somebody should have a biddable hand. Goulash dealing typically results in freakish distribution.


  At Thursday, July 27, 2006 4:12:00 PM, Blogger M said:

I'm sorry Ben didn't show this to us when we played on Sunday? Well, maybe he showed it before I got there.

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Monday, July 24, 2006

Honors bonuses

Since my post about opening hands in the 18-21 range provoked such an exciting range of responses, I hesitate to mention this next subject for fear of unleashing even fiercer bridge debate.

As you know, if declarer holds A-K-Q-J of trump in one hand and makes the contract, the side gets a 100-point bonus above the line. A-K-Q-J-10 of trump, or four aces at no trump, yields a 150-point bonus. BUT: is it proper/required for declarer to announce those honors BEFORE playing the hand, or not until AFTER, or is it a matter of choice?

Announcing beforehand mitigates the advantage of the honors, which could be considered either chivalrous or arrogant. Announcing afterward feels like a weird combination of gloating ("Ha, I won, and moreover give me a bonus!") and apologizing ("Yes, I made the contract, but I did have all the top trump honors.")

Wikipedia, that fount of all knowledge both true and made-up, says "a player must claim the honors bonus, at the latest before the next deal starts," which sounds like it's up to the individual. Bridge World implies too that it's a matter of choice, even as they ungallantly caution "don't help the opponents out by excitedly announcing your windfall during the play; wait until the play is over and they cannot make use of the information."

I guess I like the idea of announcing up front. It'd be a curious game anyway, or at least one beyond my minimal experience level, in which the fact that declarer held all those honors remained secret long enough to sway the outcome. What do you think?

(While I have your rapt attention, here are some other fascinating facts about honors bonuses. 1. They don't apply in "Chicago" bridge (or in duplicate). 2. If declarer fails to mention them before the next deal, they are forfeit (also according to Wikipedia). 3. The ACBL says "As there is no skill in scoring for honors, players often agree to play without the honor bonuses." Aha, but if you announce them before playing, that calls for at least a little skill!)


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