Some problems from the Santa Clara regional 9/11: Answers

Today's Panelists: Josh Donn, Mike Shuster, John Jones, David Caprera, Barry Rigal, Kenneth Rexford, Len Vishnevsky, Kent Hartman, David Weiss, Fred Curtis
  1. None vul, matchpoints, you hold

     S:Jx H:10xx D:KJx C:109xxx

    CHO RHO You LHO
    1D: 1S: 2D: Pass
    2S: Pass3D: Pass
    3S: Pass3NT All Pass

    OK, you might not bid 2D:. It's not terrible. You might bid 3C: instead of 3D:. Fine. All irrelevant.

    RHO leads the H:K out of turn. Now you have a decision. Do you:

    a) accept the lead and put your hand down as dummy, or
    b) accept the lead and have partner put down the dummy, or
    c) have the H:K be a penalty card and let LHO lead what he wants, or
    d) forbid a heart lead from LHO for as long has he holds the lead and allow the H:K to be picked up, or
    e) require a heart lead from LHO and allow the H:K to be picked up?


    JOSH
    [A] C can't be right; LHO is too likely to know which major is best to lead after seeing the heart king. E is clearly bad since I'm better off letting the lead stay on the table than to let that suit be led from the other side (maybe partner has AJ doubleton). The others could all possibly be a good idea. I'll accept and put my hand down as dummy since more of our assets will stay hidden. I don't really know which major I want led, but all that logic about "if they don't know whose lead it is they don't know what to lead," yada yada yada.

    And sorry, but I think 2D: is absolutely terrible. Why overbid just for the purpose of lying about my shape? I could say I'm helping partner with the lead, but I'm probably going to be on lead.

    MIKE
    [D] I don't like [2D:]. Not because of the short diamonds, but because of the lack of overall strength. But you're right — it isn't terrible.

    [You might prefer 3C:.] No. 3D:.

    I know we are prepared for a spade, but I don't know about a heart. So I forbid a heart lead.

    JJ
    A—Put the dummy down. Goldwater knows best. If partner has no heart stop we likely won't make anyway. 9 runners are unlikely given that partner didn't jump to 3NT. BTW, I would not bid 2D:, I'm between a Jack and a Queen lighter than I would like to be with that shape. I agree it's not terrible though. I wouldn't bid 3C:. That sounds like values in clubs, with some kind of return game try. 3C: clearly looks wrong. It's different than raising partner's clubs.
    DAVIDC
    [A] I guess I don't understand the 3S: bid? Over 2S:, I would have bid 2NT with a spade check (first priority), so now partner bids 3S:. Is this a spade stopper looking for a heart stopper? I think not. We don't worry about unbid suits when they have bid only one suit. So, I think it is perhaps a half spade stop and I bid 3NT. (I am OK with bidding 2D: and don't have a strong feeling about 3D: or 3C:.) If I am right about partner's intentions, I am cheering for  S:Qxx H:AJ D:AQxxxx C:Ax and accept the lead and table dummy.
    BARRY
    Option D. Hearts looks their best lead.
    KENNETH
    D
    LEN
    A) by Goldwater's rule, but I don't feel strongly about it.
    KENT
    A. I didn't want to play this hand. Partner has the strong hand—this may be the killing lead, but I'll take my chances.
    DAVIDW
    [D] I would have passed, as I play 2D: is inverted (even over an overcall) — also my hand is terrible. The "problem" that arose at the table would not have occurred, sparing me from a decision type I have not thought about. Another virtue of playing on line is the elimination of irregularities. Ah well, I suspect a heart lead is terrible for us, while a spade lead is merely bad. Can't I make them lead a club? That might help us a little. I select D, which at least gets us back to where we were.
    FRED
    [D] Notwithstanding the famous dictum about accepting a lead from an opponent who does not whose turn it is, and despite my concerns about the meaning of our bidding, I am inclined to either put my hapless hand down as dummy or ban a heart lead. Part of my problem is that I really donít know what I have shown beyond diamond support as on this side of the Pacific, a cue bid of the opponentís sole bid suit ASKS for a stopper rather than telling (but if they bid 2 suits it shows). My inclination is to put my hand down but since my (expert?) partner envisaged an expected spade lead through his hand I should trust him and forbid a heart lead from LHO for as long as he holds the lead (but am I overdoing reliance on expertise?).
    JEFF AT THE TABLE
    A
    CONSENSUS
    ActionVotes
    A6
    D5
    Just about a 50/50 split.
    WINNING ACTION
    D, big time. Partner held  S:A10xx H:x D:AQxx C:AKQJ. Yeah, 5C: is cold. And we'd all bid 3H:, not 2S: with partner's cards. But we had our +600. All we had to do was bar a heart lead, which about half did.
    JEFF UPON REFLECTION
    It's hard to guess what to do after a lead out of turn when partner's bidding has been entirely uninformatory. Partner didn't have any way to expect that I'd have a decision this big, but 3NT is a silly contract. This partly stems from the original 2D:. If I'd passed, the auction would have gone 1D:-(1S:)-pass-(pass); 1NT-all pass. +120 isn't our best result possible, but it's better than -50. I might have opened 1C: with partner's hand—that'll get us to a great spot. If the lead is a high heart (probable), we can even make six.

    Partner argued that the opening lead was blasted out there, but all leads out of turn are fast or partner will beat you to it. So the argument that a fast leader knows what to lead directly contradicts Goldwater's Rule.


  2. IMPs, unfavorable, you hold

     S:AKQJ10xx H:xxxx D:xx C:

    RHO You
    1D: ?


    JOSH
    1S: since 4 seems like too random of a guess, especially with a lead coming [up to] my xx. If I later bid 3S:, will I really miss a game? They may make a lot of something, but I'm not going to concern myself with preemption at this vul.
    MIKE
    4S:. I can't really imagine bidding less.
    JJ
    4S:. 7-4 hands are just about the same playing strength as 8-card suits.
    DAVIDC
    Game in a major. (Use your judgment as to which.)
    BARRY
    1S: planning to bid 3S: at my next turn.
    KENNETH
    3S:. My meaning for a red-on-white 3S: is that I would open a solid-suit 4S: but for the opening to my right, which also allows 3NT gambling. It shows an offensive-oriented low-defense "intermediate jump overcall" hand with a solid suit, which is what I have. Holding a side Ace-King combo but no diamond stopper, partner will raise to 4S:. [Kenneth isn't using the same methods as the rest of us. --Jeff]
    LEN
    1S:
    KENT
    1S:. To steal a quote from Edgar Kaplan on an almost identical hand in the Bridge World, "Hard to see how they can keep me from taking seven tricks."
    DAVIDW
    [3S:] I like to bid 4S: in these situations, to give the opponents a tough problem, but here I think it is unnecessary. Over 4S:, anything they do is likely to be right. I have enough hearts that 3S: ought to do the job, without exposing me to an easy -500 or worse. So I bid 3S:.
    FRED
    [1S:] Yeah, I know someone who routinely treats these hands as if the Major was a minor by cueing 3D: (DAB), and it works quite frequently. That is one possibility as is the overbid of 4S: (protecting your tenaces I hear?) or the underbid of 3S: (which reflects the Honours but not the shape) or the "flexible" 1S:. I donít think there is real certainty with these hands and anything could be right — but the adverse vul and the potential for a heart contract and ownership of the boss suit while holding the low doubleton in their suit all point to the simple 1S: bid, but I would not crime a 3D: bid (unless partnerís spades were equivalent to my clubs, in which case acute embarrassment is possible) or 4S: but would refrain from 3S: as failing to give partner any clue beyond the knowledge of the strong suit.
    JEFF AT THE TABLE
    3S:. My red vs. white preempts are pretty sound. Maybe not this sound.
    CONSENSUS
    ActionVotes
    1S:5
    3S:3
    4S:3
    WINNING ACTION
    4S:. Partner had  S:x H:AKJx D:xxx C:xxxxx. Neither opponent has a useful bid over 1S:. They might act anyway, but probably not, so to get to game, you need to bid it yourself.
    JEFF UPON REFLECTION
    I'm OK with any of the three actions chosen. That 4S: happens to work best this time is essentially random. If you have the agreement that red on white 3-bids are rock solid (though perhaps not as solid as Kenneth's), then 3S: seems OK. If your preempts are a bit more varied, then I like 4S:. 1S: can easily work, but the offense to defense ratio of this hand suggests a preempt to me. So upon reflection, I think 4S: is best.

  3. IMPs, none vul, you hold

     S:xx H:9xx D:J10xx C:AJxx

    LHO CHO RHO You
    1S: 2H: Pass?


    JOSH
    3H:. Will often get too high, but may get to game that makes (or 3H:) and may steal the hand. I also like the doubleton spade because it will likely be led and partner won't be overruffed
    MIKE
    Pass. This isn't the time to be pushy. My bad trumps mean that a spade can be ruffed higher in front of me and I only have one other cover card. I don't need to be aggressive non-vulnerable, but I'd pass red, too. [I wouldn't. I'd bid red. But I think it's super close white. --Jeff]
    JJ
    3H:. Just barely, but we may have a game, and 3H: might occasionally make it a little harder to compete as he would like. I can always tell partner I thought we were vulnerable
    DAVIDC
    Pass.
    BARRY
    Clear cut 3H: by my standards — no idea whether to make life harder for them or easier for CHO. 2NT as a constructive 4-card raise and 2S: as limit means 3H: is obstructive. [I don't buy the last comment—there's a lot of room below a limit raise, and 2NT isn't relevant. --Jeff]
    KENNETH
    Pass.
    LEN
    3H:
    KENT
    Pass. If RHO has a penalty double of 2H:, partner should not be unhappy with the dummy. I don't think we have a game. I don't want to let LHO get aggressive with heart length and a good spade hand, playing RHO for heart shortness—I am more worried about helping the opponents get to a game that they otherwise couldn't bid.
    DAVIDW
    I pass smoothly, expecting LHO to reopen, whereupon I will bid 3H:. I have enough defense that I do not expect the opponents to make a game, and poor enough offense that I do not expect us to make one. So my target is to win the partscore battle. I will sell to an eventual 3S: unless partner has done something big (such as double or showing a second suit unasked).
    FRED
    Maybe too trusting a soul but this looks like 3H:. WTP?
    JEFF AT THE TABLE
    Pass
    CONSENSUS
    ActionVotes
    Pass5
    3H:6
    Another almost 50/50 vote.
    WINNING ACTION
    Bid. Partner has  S:Kxx H:KQ10xxx D:Ax C:KQ. 4H: wasn't totally cold, but with H:AJ tight onside, it was easy enough.
    JEFF UPON REFLECTION
    Shrug. Partner had a dead max (some thought more than a max). He won't all that often. Maybe I'm used to playing with folks who overcall a little lighter, but with just an ace and three small trumps, I've had bad results raising to the 3-level. If we were red, I'd bid for fear of missing game, but I think we'll go down at the 3-level substantially more often than we will find a good game (lose 4 or 5 vs. win 6), so white I think the odds are still in favor of passing. Red, when we get 10-5, I'll go with bidding, but it wouldn't surprise me a great deal to go for 500 in 3H:x or 4H:x often enough to wipe out most of the edge.

  4. Matchpoints, both vul, you hold

     S:x H:KQxxx D:J9xx C:Axx

    RHO You LHO CHO
    2S: Dbl 4S: 4NT
    Pass5D: 5S: Dbl
    All Pass

    What do you lead?


    JOSH
    C:A. Hopefully I'll know what to do after that if it's not too late. My caveat is that I never see how a trump is likely to help when we have so few, and then it so often turns out I wish I'd led a trump.
    MIKE
    Trump. Every trump we can draw is 300 more points for our side.
    JJ
    Spade—they have distribution [Right! --Jeff], but likely no trick source. [Wrong. R-O-N-G, wrong! --Jeff] Get the trump on the table and hope partner has one to lead when he gets in. If they have a trick source, it's clubs because partner had the reds, or hearts in dummy, but that isn't going anywhere.
    DAVIDC
    [D:x]. Whatever heart tricks we have don't look like they are going away. I lead D:x, and I don't see why it shouldn't be my low count card.
    BARRY
    Spade. The only way this will make is if declarer gets all the ruffs in dummy with, e.g. 4-0-6-3 shape facing 6-4-0-3.
    KENNETH
    C:A
    LEN
    H:K. I'm a farmer. Pard hasn't promised any known suit, so Axx and J9xx are highly speculative leads.
    KENT
    C:A. Sumner doesn't like leading from four to the jack; Roberto doesn't like leading from KQ(x)(x), neither likes leading a singleton trump, so I'll keep my partners happy. (Neither is keen on leading unsupported aces, but here it seems to be the least of evils.)
    DAVIDW
    I lead a trump, without too much conviction. It could be the right thing to do, if dummy needs ruffs, or it might simply avoid doing the wrong thing. I can envision hands where any of the four suits is best, but I have little basis for deciding which of them has been dealt.
    FRED
    [H:K] I donít think we have enough trumps to make the trump lead automatically correct (but I have been wrong before), and I fear that diamonds is their best suit [Huh? Partner surely has diamonds, right? He's either minors or reds. --Jeff], so I lead the top heart, prepared to apologize if the trump was the only winning lead. I am a trifle light and concerned that tricks may get away opposite the advertised weird shape (and partnerís presumed clubs and diamonds, but at least he is behind the strong hand) on my left. (I fear four spades and some long suit—if it is hearts my hand is bad anyway but that is not sufficient for me to lead the C:A to see dummy or our possible worst suit, diamonds.)
    JEFF AT THE TABLE
    Spade
    CONSENSUS
    ActionVotes
    C:3
    D:1
    H:2
    S:5
    Good—leads for all four suits!
    WINNING ACTION
    Diamond. The whole hand was (yes, this really happened, and the bidding was as described):
    S: AQ10x
    H: A10xx
    D: Q10
    C: Jxx
    S: x
    H: KQxxx
    D: J9xx
    C: Axx
    S: Jx
    H: Jxxx
    D: AKxxxx
    C: 7
    S: Kxxxxx
    H:
    D: x
    C: KQ10xxx
    In order to beat this, you need to lead a diamond. Partner has to win the Ace, not the King, and shift to his club. You can't read the spot, but there's nothing else to do but continue the suit once partner has denied the D:K, so he gets his ruff. Yes, you will fall out of your chair, but +200 is much better than -1050 and is worth the shock. Yes, it's possible to lead a club and beat it, but I don't see how you can figure out to continue clubs, and only Kent did. (We were playing upside down, and the 7 looks high.)
    JEFF UPON REFLECTION
    I'm still in for a trump lead. Most of the time, partner will have the minors for 4NT, particularly when I have five hearts. I have hearts reasonably well sown-up, and I am assuming he has the minors. So their primary source of tricks will be trumps. Lead one. I think this is the clearest answer of the four, despite its awful result.

    Some were a little surprised by partner's bidding; offering a choice between AKxxxx and Jxxx seems a little much, particularly if you plan (hope) to double at the 5-level and really want a diamond lead. On the other hand, who hasn't doubled with something like 2425 and a good but not great hand? Add in that partner may overcompete expecting that you have the minors (yes, he should know you could have the reds, but most of the time, you'll have the minors, since you will (particularly at matchpoints) bid 5H: with the reds a fair bit of the time), and I think 5D: is pretty clear-cut. I don't think 4NT is awful (as many think)—hearts scores more at matchpoints, right—but with all your high card in one suit and with marginal high card values, I think there's a really big chance that a 6-3 diamond fit will take more tricks than a 4-4 heart fit, and since I am not at all confident that we are taking 11 or more tricks, I'd go for the safety of the long suit. And if partner prefers hearts and they double, I know I've done the wrong thing.



Jeff Goldsmith, Sept. 12, 2011