Problems from the Queen Mary Regional '99: Answers

Today's Panelists: Barry Rigal, Brian Oxley, Ed Davis, Mike Shuster, Robb Gordon, Steve Altus, Walter Hamilton, Andy Lewis, and Joel Wooldridge.
  1. Favorable, MPs, you hold

     S:xx H:Kxx D:KQJx C:10xxx

    Pass2S: 3H: 4S:

    Dbl. Cards, reluctantly expecting it to end the auction, happy if it does not.

    Really??? I expect partner to pass this maybe 10% of the time. In general, I'd expect it to be much higher, but sensible opponents at unfavorable have either high cards or lots of trumps. If the former, partner is weak, therefore unbalanced. If the latter, partner is void in spades and probably will bid.

    Double. This is not a forcing pass situation, so I must show values.
    Double 100, 5H: 80, Pass 50, 5D: 20. I think double should be used to show cards rather than trumps. With that agreement, it is best to double on this hand and let partner make a somewhat informed final decision rather than bid 5H: yourself or pass. Of course, it would also be helpful to be at the table and to know the opponents style. In general, the weaker my RHO, the more inclined I would be to bid 5H: because I think the weaker players are more likely to be bidding with the idea of making. They are also more likely to have the extra spade length that I want them to have if I do bid 5H:. As to their being vulnerable and therefore bidding to make, partner knows this and can make the final decision using the additional knowledge of his hand type. If I did bid on, I would not bid 5D: lead-directing since it should be non-forcing (I may have a suit/hand too good to preempt at favorable vulnerability such as  S:x H:xx D:AKJxxxx C:JTx). Finally, if I thought partner would take my double as penalty, i.e., trumps instead of cards, I would bid 5H:.

    I'd assume that 5D: was fitted; if one decides not to bid earlier one ought to be consistent and not bid later on hands as Ed notes.

    You mean "lead-directing." It could be AKx or a void.

    I don't know if I'm beating this, so cheap insurance in 5H: seems indicated. If the bad guys only have 9 spades I've probably done the wrong thing. Who knows - maybe they won't double or they'll bid 5S:.
    Wait the required 10 seconds, then double. Card showing. -790. [Optimist! --Jeff]
    I guess I'm a bidder (just 5H:, not 5D:, I'd hate to give them 5H: as a cue) though it could certainly be a very bad score. [Agreed about 5D:. I hate 5D:, even though I very much like to make fit bids when they will help partner. --Jeff]
    5D: [without comment]
    5H:. My first thought was to take advantage of the vulnerability and double, but assuming RHO is a good player, he can see the colors too, and is therefore probably bidding to make (or go down at most 1). Although I have cards that might be useful on defense, I don't really have any surprises for him, so I think it's right to take the push. [Presumably, Andy thinks double is business. --Jeff]
    Double. No 2nd choice.
    Pass. 5H: breaks even usually, but can lose. 5D: loses big. Double gets snide comments from the opponents as partner (oops) passes it and you score -1390 the hard way. Told you Robb was an optimist. The layout was:
    S: AJxx
    H: ---
    D: xxx
    C: AKxxxx
    S: Q
    H: AQJxxxx
    D: 9xxx
    C: x
    S: xx
    H: Kxx
    D: KQJx
    C: 10xxx
    S: K109xxx
    H: xxx
    D: A10
    C: QJ
    Partner's 3H: bid isn't everyone's choice, but it was a big winner this time. Without the bid, the opponents might bid to a slam or even the laydown grand. 4S: was a massive underbid; 4H: at least should have been tried; that'd probably get them to the small. A 4C: bid would have possibly let them reach seven: 2S:-(3H:)-4C:-(4H:); 5C:-5H:; 6D:-7S:. I'd've possibly bid 5H: over 4C:, though, preventing the grand.
    I thought the double showed "convertible values" (great in the summertime!), but conversation with Mike convinced me that what I really had was a balanced raise. I have enough high card that if partner really is strong and moderately balanced, however, I don't want to play 5H:; I'd rather defend. I think it's pretty common that 5H: bidders will want to avoid bidding in front of partner; as a passed hand, this double really should mean just that.

    What are the chances that partner is balanced and strong? They seem pretty slender, and Mike believes his red opponents, so he just bids to prevent his partner from doing something goofy. I think he'd usually be right about that; partner almost has to have shape and is probably not very strong, either, but I'm not willing to trust the opponents. I put more stock in partner instead, rightly or wrongly.

    RHO laughed at me, calling my double, "a silly little bid." Too bad; I was thinking of playing with her sometime. If she's bad enough, however, to bid only 4S: on her hand, and if she doesn't understand why I doubled, I'm not interested. I'm definitely not interested in a partner who will laugh at the opponents when something bad has happened to them.

  2. Dealer, MPs, both vul

    Which of these hands would you open a 15-17 1NT?

    a)  S:109 H:AQ7 D:1098 C:AK97x
    b)  S:109 H:AQ7 D:1098 C:AK107x
    c)  S:109 H:AQ7 D:1098 C:AKJ7x

    You must be joking! (You are not I fear. [Nope. --Jeff]) At this precise vulnerability opening 1NT is suicidal (we may go for 200 against nothing, and +90 may be bad against +100 from something their way. Hand C has no rebid problem -raise hearts bid NT over spades, so although the HCP equivalent is about 1NT I'd still rather bid a good suit and get the right lead.
    Call me boring. None of them. [Boring! And without comment! --Jeff]
    c for sure and b is okay too.
    A is unthinkable and C obvious. I'd open 1C: on B, too unless I was feeling very frisky.
    Are you trying to trick me here?
    1. I can't count 15HCP in any of these hands, despite trying several times.
    2. The hands are all flawed for NT anyway.

    [In later discussion, Robb's main "flaw" is that the hands are very good for hearts. I agree that's a flaw. --Jeff]

    Only the last one. The opponents and the establishment don't tend to like the really big personal evalutations. I don't think T9 doubleton is that much stronger than 82 doubleton. [I don't care about the establishment...I belive in antiestablishmentarianism...or is that antidisestablishmentarianism...sesquipedalian Jeff.]
    None of them. Probably the last one evaluates to be within the right range, (and maybe the other 2 do as well; I'll check with your K&R evaluator, which I'm sure you've already done [Naturally. --Jeff]), and normally that would be enough for me, but here, with 2 suits totally unstopped, a suit I want led if we end up defending, and easy rebids (raise 1H: to 2, a slight underbid of 1N over 1S:, partner never responds 1D:), I think 1C: has more going for it. [If partner never responds 1D:, there's something wrong with the system. The ACBL won't let us play transfers.... --Jeff]
    Only c...and not always then. It would depend on my mood (not clear my side is best suited for nt).
    a) 15.05
    b) 15.55
    c) 15.80
    I had (a) and bid 1C:. I think (c) is clear and (b) is just about 50/50 in terms of values.
    b703[Mike feels "very frisky" often. --J]
    Opening 1NT on (a) would have got us to a very thin, somewhat lucky, and very cold game. +180 was a decent result anyway as the opponents gave us a trick and partner played it well.
    As far as pure evaluation goes, I think (b) is just about the borderline between a 1NT opening and a 1NT rebid. Robb mentions, and I agree, that there is vigorish to opening these hands 1C:. If partner responds 1H:, a raise to 2H: is a much better description of the hand than is a 1NT opening. I think that in (c), when partner doesn't bid 1H:, a 12-14 NT rebid is too much of an underbid to be worth the risk, but on (b), upon reflection, it's not, so a 1C: opening is preferable.

    I don't, however, buy the lead argument. We would generally rather have a heart lead than a club lead, so bidding clubs isn't critical. It's not a disaster if partner leads to one of our 109 suits, either, if he thinks that's the best suit to lead.

    It is the case that if the auction becomes competitive, we'd've liked to mention our strong five-card suit. Unfortunately, in Standard, a 1C: opening doesn't help much.

    The K&R counts for these hands really intrigue me. It seems to me that those of us who are amenable to "flexible" point count more or less think that (b) is just about borderline. Does that mean that a strong NT starts at 15.50 in K&R? We all think that (a) is too weak, so 15.05 is below par. I've often wondered how K&R points map to HCP; this is a pretty good indicator hand. Someday, I'll pose a problem to fine-tune the high end.

    I used to assume that 15-17 mapped to 15.0-17.99, but that doesn't seem likely, frankly, as K&R ratings seem to me to be a little higher than standard point count. It wouldn't surprise me to find that K&R's 1NT range was really 15.5-18.5. BWS plays "a good 15 to a bad 18." Curious.

    Remind me that if I'm ever opposite Robb or Barry, I have to count my HCP (or lie about miscounting them!) I suspect they'll take care to do that

  3. Matchpoints
    S: Qx
    H: Jx
    D: Q10x
    C: AKJxxx
    S: AK8x
    H: AKx
    D: Axx
    C: Qxx

    After 2NT-6NT, you get the lead of the S:10. Over to you.

    I thought there were two lines:
    1. The simple squeeze between spades and diamonds: cash the hearts and the D:A (a Vienna Coup) and run clubs coming down to:
      S: x
      H: ---
      D: Q10
      C: x
      S: AK8
      H: x
      D: ---
      C: ---
      If either player has four spades and the D:K, he gives. If RHO has six hearts and four spades, he's squeezed, but that's not real likely.

    2. The double squeeze around hearts: cash one high heart (sometimes there's a stiff H:Q), the D:A (again, the Vienna Coup), and the top spades, then run clubs coming down to:
      S: ---
      H: J
      D: Q
      C: x
      S: 8
      H: Ax
      D: ---
      C: ---
      If RHO has four spades and LHO the D:K, no one can guard hearts.
    On the face of it, line (1) is much better, but there are inferences from the opening lead; 109xx isn't a common lead against 6NT, and RHO didn't unblock the S:J, as he might from Jx, suggesting that he has at least three of them.

    The real point of the hand, however, is that we must cash two high clubs early. Finding out the club distribution should help us decide between these two lines. For example, when (as it turned out was really the case) LHO shows out on the first club, playing for the double squeeze must be grossly against the odds. If RHO showed out on the first round of clubs, I think I'd play for the double squeeze, as the spade lead from three seems more likely than from four once I knew LHO has four clubs. There's no funny restricted choice argument, as LHO might well have the D:J and thus not be willing to lead them.

    The panel had some other ideas.

    One option: Win in hand and lead a low diamond, as fast as the laws and the ethical guidelines will let me (my analysis took 10 seconds so they will be under pressure).

    Better probably is to ... play for the spade diamond squeeze. If LHO was someone I did not like but rated, I'd go for line 1 else line 2.

    [The double squeeze around hearts without mentioning the simple]
    S:Q dropping S:8, H:A, C:A, H:K, C:Q, D:A, run clubs pitching D:, D:, H: and play for D:Q or S:x to be good. This will squeeze either opponent holding 4+ spades and the D:K and is better than the double squeeze with hearts as the double suit (cash top spades and D:A, then run clubs) which requires LHO to have the D:K and RHO to have the long spades. Am I missing something here... this looks too clear?
    I guess there are a couple of different squeezes:
    1. Cash S:AKQ, D:A run clubs. A double squeeze will develop if the spades are on your right and the diamonds on your left.
    2. Win S:Q, Cash H:AK, D:A, run clubs. This will win whenever the D:K is with the long spades
    3. You could also try to run (2) by transfering the diamond menace first.

    It wouldn't surprise me if I'm missing a better squeeze. From these, (2) is vastly superior. If dummy had one more heart and one fewer diamond I'd like my chances better.

    [The transfer squeeze would have been fun, but I can't come up with any reason to prefer it. For what it's worth, there's also a transfer version of the double squeeze. Too bad LHO didn't show me her hand holding  S:109x H:Qxxx D:Jxx C:109xx. --Jeff]

    Win the S:Q, cash H:AK and D:A, run clubs discarding 3 red x'es. I was originally going to play for double squeeze but with spade length likely on my left, I think this is a bit better.
    I guess I'll play for diamonds on my left and spades on my right. You don't normally see the lead of the T from T9xx against 6NT. If I didn't have the S:8 I'd play for a straight spade-diamond simple.
    Win the S:Q, Diamond to the A, H:AK, run the clubs hoping the D:K is with the long spades.
    [The spade/diamond simple.]
    Best straight up percentage line would be to hope that the same person with the 4 spades has the D:K, so one should win the S:Q, cash off H:AK, and the D:A, then run clubs. However, maybe it'd be better to cash H:A, and a couple clubs, then the D:A...and if one has a strong feeling that the Spades are to the right, and the D:K is to the left, then go for the x-squeeze instead. Anyhow, I'll cash and unless there's a strong signal, play for the simple squeeze.
    I didn't think of the club cash, but agreed with Steve about the lead, and therefore played for the double squeeze. In practice, however, the hand was played at IMPs in an event we had already lost, so I had another motive: I much prefer double squeezes to singles; since I was just playing for fun, I might as well go for the most fun possible
    The simple squeeze. The opening leader had  S:J109x H:xxxxx D:KJxx C:---. Yes, she led the S:10 from that hand. Cashing even one round of clubs would have led me to the right conclusion.
    No one mentioned the club play, but perhaps some of the panelists think their line is best no matter what the club layout. I'm not so sure. ...Joel mentioned playing clubs, but didn't mention that someone might show out. I'm sure he thought of that, though, as he has surprised me before by finding a discovery play I didn't know was there.

    I, too, was sure there was another squeeze lurking there. The heart suit is a clash holding, right? I don't think there's a clash squeeze there of any sort, though. In real life, I think those generally come up only in blocked suit situations.

Jeff Goldsmith,, March 12, 1999