Sunday, January 7, 2018

Jenn's Tips: Avoidance Play

Here is a play-of-the-hand tip for up-and-coming players.

How do you play this routine 3 notrump contract after a lead of the ♠5 to the 10 and your ♠Queen?


♠ KQ6
♣ A75

It appears that the lead is 4th best and that left hand opponent (LHO) has the ♠ Ace. After the first trick, your hands look like this: 

♦ A742

♠ K6
♣ A75

First you count your tricks.  Your sure tricks are 3 clubs, 2 diamonds, 2 hearts and 1 spade – for a total of 8. What is the best way to get your 9th trick?

Although clubs could break 3-3 for a 9th trick, the quickest and easiest way to a 9th trick is to play on hearts. Once the Queen is knocked out you will have 3 heart tricks.

How should you play your hearts? You can finesse either way and can start in either hand. Does it matter?

Absolutely! If your right hand opponent (RHO) gets in with the Q, she will return a spade through your king. Your LHO will then win all of his spade tricks and you will go down.

Whereas...if you LHO wins the Q, he will be helpless to take any tricks other than the ♠Ace and you will make your contract!

You must play the hearts so that LHO has the opportunity to win the trick if he has the Q. If he doesn't have it--fine, you will score at least 9 tricks. You must AVOID the dangerous opponent-which in this case is RHO. You must avoid letting RHO get the lead as she will cause you major problems. 

This is a classic avoidance play that comes up frequently. It also comes up in various guises, so be on the lookout. Take pains to keep the "dangerous opponent" off the lead!

See you at the table!

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Happy New Year

Happy New Year! I have a backlog of hands to write about. Mostly endplays—my favorites! They come in so many shapes and sizes and are always fun and satisfying to execute.

Here is an interesting one from a few weeks ago at an evening club team game. Sometimes it’s difficult to recall the exuberance that led you to bid game with sketchy values such as the following, but it undoubtedly had to do with vulnerability! 

I get a club lead at 3NT after a weak 2♠ overcall on my left and pause, as is my custom.



I don’t see a lot of  tricks, but I have been in plenty of worse contracts. I call for a low club, and to my shock, RHO discards a ! "Holy cannoli" (or something similar) I say to myself…"LHO is 6-5"! The opening lead reveals that LHO started with 5♣ and almost certainly has 6♠. This immediately gives me some ideas regarding how to play the hand. 

Let’s see…I have 4♣ tricks, 2tricks and can surely get two spades on an endplay. Hearts are hopeless; maybe something good will happen in diamonds.
I take my 4 club tricks and play the K. LHO follows with the J! A diamond to the 10 (restricted choice) wins as LHO shows out. 8 tricks--almost there. When executing an endplay you need to carefully watch the opponents’ discards so that you can strip them of exit cards as necessary.  As my plan is to throw in LHO at the appropriate time for him to give me a trick with my ♠Q, I next play a heart trick to strip him of his now known singleton .  RHO wins and, apparently reluctant to cash hearts and give my a heart trick, exits with a diamond to my ace. Now the stage is set.

These are my remaining cards. RHO has discarded a ♠ early in the hand on the run of the clubs, so I know he has only 1 left.



I also know that LHO has only 1 ♣ and the all the rest spades in his hand, so I carefully cash the ♠A (removing any possible entry from RHO’s hand) and then exit with a low spade. LHO wins, cashes the 13th ♣  (on which I pitch my ) and ♠K, then has to lead a spade to my ♠ Q—my 9th trick!
We won imps. I love these hands that are so easy to count!

See you at the table!

Monday, November 13, 2017

Still using LTC

News Flash! I will be giving a talk on Losing Trick Count at the upcoming Fall North American Bridge Championship in San Diego. My time slot is Fri., Dec. 1 at 9:15 a.m. If you're at the nationals, stop by and say hello!

I never get tired of writing about losing trick count. Here's a hand I held recently at the club.  With no one vul., I dealt and opened 1♠.


LHO overcalled 2 and partner jumped to 3♠, preemptive.  RHO bid 4 and it was my bid.

Although partner has shown a weak hand, now that we have a known fit, I can confidently employ losing trick count.  This will enable me to properly evaluate my hand in order to decide what to do.

Although my hand has only 13 high card points, it is actually a fairly powerful hand distributionally, and has only 5 losers (4 1/2 adjusting for aces).   Partner will have 9 or more losers.  With 8 losers he would have invited game.   All things considered, it looks like 4♠ has a good chance of making, so I bid it.



Curiously, the ace of clubs is led, followed by a diamond shift.  It is a good bet that the ace of clubs is singleton and the opening leader is trying for a ruff.  After winning the K, I come to my hand with a spade and pitch a club on the A.  I exit with a club, LHO showing out and RHO winning.  RHO now returns a trump and trumps are 2-2.  I cross-ruff the hand and the long club in my hand is my 10th trick (7 trumps, 2 diamonds and 1 club).

I was a bit surprised to see that plus 420 was a tie for top.  Looking into the matter, I learned that only 1/3 of the field bid 4♠.  The use of losing trick count principles should make bidding the spade game relatively easy despite having only 18 high card points between the two hands.

As Ron Smith (well known bridge pro...:-) points out in his blog regarding my losing trick count booklets: "I'm glad Jenn is doing what what she is doing. Point count has been done forever but it only works on balanced hands. When you have distributional hands, point count doesn't work. I evaluate using Losing Trick Count in almost every hand."

See you at the table!

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Fourth from Longest and Strongest?

By David Neuman

             A maxim dating back to the early days of contract bridge is to lead the “fourth highest” from your “longest and strongest” suit against a notrump contract.   This maxim has been under attack in recent years, most vocally by the expert and theorist Kit Woolsey.   Noting that expert practice is increasingly to shy away from leading broken four-card suits, Woolsey has theorized that such a lead is a losing tactic when trying to defeat the opponents’ 3NT contract.  

If your objective is to defeat 3NT, Woolsey advises to look for a 5-card suit.  If you see one in your hand, lead it.   If not, look for one in your partner’s hand.   Woolsey’s point is that trying to defeat three notrump by leading a broken 4-card suit is often futile.  At its worst you are handing declarer an extra trick without gain, and even where the lead is successful in establishing the suit, it is unlikely that the lead will establish enough tricks to defeat the contract.    As one example, suppose declarer’s side is wide open in the suit, so the lead enables the defenders to cash the first 4 tricks.  The defense still need another trick to defeat the contract.  So even if you had led another suit, if the contract can be defeated you will have another opportunity to run your 4-card suit.

            The following deal, taken from a qualifying round in the recent California Capital Open Swiss Teams in Sacramento, is a good illustration of this principle.    As West, I was on lead against 3NT, holding AQ94, 8742, 862, 103 (spots approximate), after the following auction:

West   North  East     South

Pass     1D        Pass     1H
Pass     2D        Pass     2NT*
Pass     3NT     (all pass)

                                    *Alerted as forcing

            Spurning the “obvious” spade lead, I led the 10 of clubs.  This was the layout:

                        West                                                   East
                        AQ94                                                   10753
                        8742                                                    AJ
                        862                                                      104
                        103                                                      K9765 

            Declarer ducked the club in dummy.  My partner, Bob Klein, won the king and, seeing no future in the club suit, shifted to the ten of spades, covered by the jack and queen.  I returned a heart to Bob’s ace.  Another spade through declarer’s K8 gave us four spade tricks to go with our club king and heart ace, to defeat the contract by two tricks.

            This resulted in a gain of 13 IMPs.  At the other table, my counterpart led the four of spades (fourth from longest and strongest!).  Jennifer was the declarer and she now had eight tricks, and had the timing to establish her ninth trick in hearts to make the contract.   The spade lead was “successful” in that it established the spade suit for the defense, but after the lead declarer had 9 tricks and made his contract. 

            One might say of the spade lead that the operation was successful, but the patient died.


Monday, June 6, 2016

The Black Widow

By Bob Klein

Hi again everyone.  I haven't posted for a while but I plan to start doing so again.

Jenn and I just finished playing as teammates in Sacramento.  I played with Dave Neuman; she played with Erwin Linzner.  We finished fifth overall in the 2-day Swiss Teams, due in large part to this hand.  We were in the final match.  We were sitting seventh overall going into the last round.  Our opponent was Debbie Rosenberg and some of her students.  Debbie was sitting to my right.  I was dealt the following with our side vulnerable:

S void
H KJ532
C Q962

I opened 1 Heart.  Dave and I were playing Precision, so this showed less than 16 HCP.  LHO overcalled 1 Spade.  Dave bid 4 Clubs, a splinter bid showing at least 4 hearts and shortness in clubs.  Since I was void in the opponents' suit, I decided to show some slam interest with a 4 Diamond cue bid.  Dave bid 4NT, RKC for hearts.  I replied 5NT, which showed him 2 keycards and a useful void
(a void in the opponents' suit is always considered useful).  Dave signed off in 6 Hearts.  LHO led the ace of clubs, and I looked at

                                            S KQJ74
                                            H AQT7
                                            D Q53
                                            C T

                                            S void
                                            H KJ532
                                            D AKT9
                                            C Q962

     The dummy was disappointing.  Dave clearly was hoping I had the ace of clubs, so we could use the spades after losing to the ace.  My void wasn't all that useful, and there was no obvious path to 12 tricks.  It looked like I would have to get 4 diamond tricks, 5 heart tricks in my hand, and either 3 club ruffs in dummy or perhaps 2 ruffs and a trick with the club queen.

     LHO shifted to the 6 of hearts at trick 2.   I would have liked to win this in my hand to start ruffing the clubs, but there was a problem.  Look at those heart spots.  I was missing the 8 and 9.  If I played dummy's seven and won in my hand with the jack, I could not use dummy's remaining trumps to ruff, as this would promote the 9 if the suit split 3-1.  So I had to decide if I could prevail if I won in dummy.  This would require using an extra entry to my hand to begin ruffing clubs.  Fortunately, my void did serve a useful purpose:  it enabled me to reach my hand by ruffing spades.  So I won with dummy's ace, ruffed a spade and ruffed a club.  On this trick, LHO dropped the jack.  Now things were looking better.  His opening lead was more likely from AKJ than from AJ.  I played a diamond to the ace and ruffed another club.  Sure enough, the king fell.  Now that the queen was good, I was up to 11 tricks, and just had to negotiate the diamonds for 4 tricks and I would have 12.  So I played dummy's last trump, LHO showing out.  Now I could see my way to the right ending.  Can you see it?

     At this point, the remaining cards were:

                                     S KQJ7
                                     D Q6

                                     H KJ
                                     D KT9
                                     C Q

     LHO has shown out of both hearts and clubs.  This meant that RHO began with 3 hearts and 5 clubs.  If she had as many as 4 diamonds, this leaves her with only 1 spade.  When I ruffed a spade in this position, RHO followed.  Now I knew for sure that she didn't have 4 diamonds.  Since LHO was marked with the ace of spades, if he had 4 diamonds he would be subject to a squeeze.  I cashed my last trump to leave this position:

                                     S KQ
                                     D Q6

D J73                                                   immaterial

                                     D KT9
                                     C Q

Now came the queen of clubs, the deadly black widow!  LHO was smitten.  He couldn't throw the ace of spades, so he had to play a diamond, so my diamonds were good and the slam came home.  We won 14 IMPs.  I was pleased that when it was over, Debbie said one word: nice.

Good luck!

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Gone Boating

Ahoy Friends...Folks want to know where I've been and why I haven't been writing in the blog.  Here is the answer! I've been living part-time on a 34 foot trawler in Sausalito for the past year and a half and playing less bridge.

Last summer a friend and I motored up through the Delta to Sacramento where I played in the Sacramento Regional for a couple of days.  When I told my bridge friends that I arrived by boat they couldn't quite understand...:-)

Hope to get back to bridge writing soon.  I did play in the fall NABC in Denver, gave a talk on Losing Trick Count and placed 7th in the Women's Pairs playing with Margie Michelin.

See you at the table!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Jennbridge: A Good Bidding Sequence

Our expert opponents graciously complimented us on this bidding sequence at the recent San Francisco regional. (Bd. 4,  session 1, Thursday stratified open pairs)

Q J 9 2
K Q 5 2
K Q 9 6 3

Sitting North and playing with Mary Omodt as my partner, RHO passed and my first decision was what  to open. As I expected spades to be bid by either my partner or the opponents, I thought that the bidding would be likely to proceed more smoothly by opening 1, then rebidding clubs. According, I opened 1

Partner responded 2, an inverted minor bid, showing a limit raise or better in diamonds.  RHO now came to life with a bid of 2.  Although I only had 13 HCP, once we had found a fit and the opponents bid spades, my hand kept improving.  I now was pleased to bid 3 which I hoped would convey some useful information to partner.

LHO bid 3 and partner now made a key bid:  4

Wow. This hand may be going somewhere as I held a powerful, though aceless, 4-loser hand. Accordingly, I made what I expected to be a very descriptive bid:  4.  Partner now had the information she needed to jump to 6.

Board 4
West Deals
Both Vul
Q J 9 2
K Q 5 2
K Q 9 6 3
Q J 10 5 4 3
8 5 3
7 5 4


A K 8 2
10 6 4
J 8 6 4
8 2

9 7 6
A K 7
A 10 9 7
A J 10

The bidding :         P, 1D, P, 2D*, 
                               2S, 3C, 3S, 4H,
                               P, 4S, P, 6D

I ruffed the spade lead and took all of the tricks.  Plus 1390 was worth 17 out of 20 matchpoints.

See you at the table!