Two Problems from a Money Game

All problems at straight IMPs for money.

Today's panelists: Adam Wildavsky, Barry Rigal, Roberto Scaramuzzi, Joel Wooldridge, Ed Davis, Kent Hartman, Mike Shuster, Robb Gordon, and Walter Hamilton.

  1. both vul, you hold

     S:AQx H:AKQxx D:10xx C:xx

    Partner opens 1NT (15-17).
    What's your plan?

    2D: followed by 4NT. Mike mentions wanting a natural 3H:.
    2D:-2H:-5NT pick a slam. Will settle for D: H: S: but not clubs. This hand equates closer to a slam drive than a Q4NT sequence to me.
    Bid 2C:, then 4C: (Gerber). Subside in 4H: or 4N if we don't have enough, otherwise bid 6H: or 6N.
    Transfer to hearts, then bid 3NT. When partner bid 4H:, I cue bid 4S:.
    Any agressive move, even my wimpy one; partner had  S:KJx H:xxxx D:AJx C:AKx and drove to slam. The opening leader had D:KQx and led one, but he'd've been endplayed anyway. Good D:10!
    Looks like I undervalued my hand. K&R calls it 16.45, which is just about where the panel seems to evaluate it. I thought it was a little less, a slam invitation if and only if partner fits hearts. AKQxx causes there to be enormous value in the 3rd heart or in Jx...the problem with my approach is that I was never getting to slam vs. Jx. Partner could have  S:KJxx H:Jx D:AKxx C:Axx, and slam is frigid. On a non-club lead, we even have a small play for the grand.

    On the other hand, with the actual cards, slam isn't great. We have pretty much no wasted values (the S:J only), partner should like his hand for slam (aces, 16 HCP, and four trumps) and slam is still marginal. Without the D:10, it'd be awful. With the D:9, it'd be pretty good.

  2. favorable, you hold

     S:xxx H:Axxx D:K10xxx C:x

    Pass3NT All Pass

    OK, so you are a wimp for not doing something in 3rd chair. Now what?

    Looks like two camps. There are the H:A leaders who go "by the book," and the small diamond leaders who don't believe this time. First the Ace men.

    H:A. I expect LHO to hold C:AKQxxxx. If RHO has a stiff club it doesn't rate to matter what I lead but if the clubs run I want to try to beat it off the top. A heart lead is wrong when declarer holds the H:K, the D:A, a spade stopper, and no D:Q. Tough!

    If I need to switch at trick 2 I don't rate to have a guess - spades will only be right when partner holds AKQxx or so.

    I am sure this position might equate to a gambling 3NT auction -- lead H:A and shift to D: if necessary. If partner could see my hand this would be good. But with H:Qxxx and D:AJx he might be forgiven for encouraging -- unless I lead the H:A really really slowly. I guess that is best.
    nothing clear here, but I lead my ace and look around.
    H:A 100, D:x 70.
    H:A Maybe I'll know what to do at trick 2.

    The diamond leaders either hope partner has a club trick or that 3NT was very unsound to start with.

    Small diamond. I'm afraid H:A (my second choice) will set up two tricks for declarer.
    I'm leading diamonds. I think it's too much to lead hearts, or the H:A from this hand. I'm definitely not leading spades or clubs. My stiff club gives me hope that partner has something over the club suit, and if we establish diamonds, my HA will seal the deal.
    Presumably LHO has an outside card and RHO has a club filler and a max pass. It is unclear whether we will need to beat this off the top at this point. I can see both a diamond and a heart (the ace, too) blowing the ninth. Anything could be right, but I can't see leading a black suit. The heart ace seems wrong and a low one worse.

    I'm going to start with a diamond, because if I chose a heart, I wouldn't know whether to start with the ace or a low one.

    I lead a small red card. With Bettie and John, it's a heart. With my other partners, it's a diamond. [I wasn't playing with a Bettie or a John, so I'm calling this a diamond vote. --Jeff]

    Ed considers bidding. And goes for it!

    If I bid it rates to be -300 or -500 in our best fit or -800 on a really bad day or in our non-best fit (e.g., partner bids 4S: over my 4C: bid with 4=3=4=2). Of course, some of the time we might be lucky and get a plus score against 4NT or 5C:. If we assume that twe go for an average of -400 80% of the time and get +100 20% of the time when we bid, then we get the following:

    Decision to Bid = +100 * .20 + -400 * .80 = -300

    Decision to Pass = -600 * P3nt + 100 * (1 - P3nt)
    where P3nt = probability of making 3NT

    If they make 50% of the time, our expected value is -250.
    If they make 60% of the time, our expected value is -320.
    The breakeven percentage on our bidding occurs when they are 57% to make.

    I don't have a strong feeling either way. It is probably right to play double as a passed hand in front of the long suit means just what you want it to mean with this hand, i.e., short clubs, tolerance for defending or playing (ok, I suppose I could have more). The better the team I'm playing against, the more I like double. I've got to do something to keep partner from thinking I'm a wimp, don't I?
    [Hmmm... I bet partner would bid 4H: with his actual hand. I don't remember the details, but I think we'd lose 1C:+1D:+3S: or so. ...No, we'd not play 4H:. We'd defend 5C:. That's cold. Ick...bidding works out very poorly. --Jeff]

    5 for H:A, 5 for a diamond.
    Heart. Partner has H:KQxxx and declarer has 11 tricks off the top otherwise. This is the "book" lead, of course, as just about every panelist knew. Half the panel rejected it anyway.
    I think either lead could work, but I'd judge that there is no chance if we hit it wrong---I don't buy the argument that if we give up two tricks it'll be a big loss. I think that if we lead a diamond and declarer has the D:A, he'll make upwards of 90% of the time. RHO isn't an idiot; he knows that he needs aces to take side tricks. I'm a convert. I like the H:A lead. I think my shortness in clubs doesn't suggest a bad break for them; it suggests that clubs are completely solid. In fact, they were; dummy had 8 totally solid. My main reason for not leading a heart was that it's often simply not going to be good enough; even if partner has the H:KQ, we haven't beaten it unless he has five of them, by no means sure. On the other hand, if he has D:AJ or D:AQ tight, I'll really wish I had kept my entry if their diamonds are 3-3. OK, I'm waffling, too. No one knows what to do!

Jeff Goldsmith,, March 11, 1999