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Subject: Watch and Learn rss

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Brian Bankler
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I have some time to kill and can't find a partner, but I stop by the Bridge Club anyway to kibitz. There will probably be someone worth watching. And my luck (in that sense) is in. San Antonio has two players in the running for "Strongest player to never win a national championship" and one of them (Terry) is playing with his wife.

Terry has incredible card sense but more interestingly, he's prone to mastermind and willing to trust his judgement or just bluff his way through a hand, trusting his skill to guide him.

He also seems to have the good skill to tailor his bluffs to his opponent, which seems to elude me.

His wife Carolyn is a solid player, but not head and shoulders above me. She's better in some areas, worse in others. Her role in the partnership is to bid straight down the middle.

It's a small game (only five tables) but two other expert pairs. The other seven are novices or intermediates. I settle in behind Terry.

(All hands are in order Spades-Hearts-Diamonds-Clubs)

The first few hands are not interesting, T&C defend a few hands (well) but average-ish results. The next round they flirt with slam, but stop in 4N making six when an opponent with an ace and cashable trick ducks the ace. Terry runs off twelve tricks. One thing about kibitzing Terry is that he sees things relatively quickly, we often finish a round with 8 minutes left if he's declarer more than once.

Third round, and I'm reminded that Terry plays weak NT. He opens 1N with Jxx Qx AKTxxx Qx. Not standard, but the right number of points (12) and a surprise. It goes pass-pass-2C and Terry bids 2 Diamonds to show his long suit and gets to play it there. This makes (on the nose) after the opponents misdefend.

Next hand Terry picks up xx Txx Axxx AKQx and opens 1N again. This time LHO bids 2S and Carolyn bids 2N (Lebensohl convention). Terry alerts and explains to RHO ("If you pass, I have to bid 3C, and then she passes or shows her hand") but LHO bids 3S again. Everyone is satisfied. Carolyn leads a spade, the only lead to stop LHO from making five. He had a moose. AKQJT8 AQxx -- Jxx.

That hand shows the difference between the levels. All the experts who held the West drove to game (or doubled the opponents sacrificing). None of the weaker pairs did, they were too cowed by the opening bid (1D or 1N). If LHO bid 3H instead of 3S, he might have elicited another bid. These opponents may have been on unsure footing after a weak NT opening.

We move to the next round, and T&C sit down against some nice, gentle, incredibly terrible LOLs. But the less terrible one (Carol) has apparently learned that her partner Ruth is hopeless and is routinely underbidding. On the first hand she doesn't raise even invite partner's 1N when she's clearly worth blasting to game.

This is the sort of thing that can really hurt, an opponent randomly taking a position that's right. But as it turns out even Ruth can make nine tricks ("Well played," Terry says) so no harm.

Next hand, Terry has

Q9x -- KJxxx AKJ9x.

A clear 1D opening. LHO passes and Carolyn bids 1S. Ruth bids 2 Hearts. I have no idea if Terry plays that double would show 3 card support, but he bids 3 Clubs. Carol raises to 3 hearts and Carolyn doubles. Ruth passes and Terry contemplates for a second and passes with a shrug.

Terry leads the club ace and Carol has sandbagged him again. She puts down:

Ax A97 AQ98x xxx!

She was stuck over Terry's 1D bid and passed, and then just gave a squeek raise, and now things are looking dire. Carol pitches on the first club and Terry decides to continue with club king and club ruff. Not what I would have done (it sets up declarer's queen), but it does get partner in to lead a trump. I would have just switched to a spade.

In fact, Carolyn has only 4 HCP, but five hearts to the QJ6xx.

It shouldn't be enough, but poor Ruth gets discombulated by the 5-0 split and goes down one in a cold contract. The third hand has similarly poor play by the opponents and -- checking later -- I see that Terry scored three tops.

Next round -- Carolyn gets to a reasonable 3N but goes down on bad breaks, the opponents get to a reasonable 4S which should make, but goes down on bad breaks and some sloppy declarer play, then Terry picks up an ugly hand.

Kxx xx Qxxx KJxx

Carolyn opens 1 Diamond. Terry pauses for thought, and I am right there with him. 1N shows 6-9, but since they play a weak NT, Carolyn might have 15-17 balanced. In that case they will be playing the hand 'the wrong way' and probably a trick worse.

Terry would be declaring, which helps, but that may not matter. Sometimes its like the hand with Ruth. There are only so many ways to play the hand, and having the strong hand in dummy may be disaster.

Two diamonds is a strong bid in their system ("inverted minors" convention) but even if it were weak they might be playing in 2D instead of 1N, which scores much better.

So there's no real option, Terry will have to bid 1N and wrong side the contract. I have reached my conclusion when Terry grabs his bid -- 1 Spade.

That's why I'm kibitzing him, I suppose.

Carolyn raises to two spades, which ends the auction.

LHO leads the heart seven and Carolyn puts down:
Dummy -- QJTx A9x AK9xx x

(H7 led)

Terry -- K7x xx Qxxx KJxx

Terry ducks this smoothly and RHO wins the Queen and then switches to a club. Terry's Jack forces the ace and LHO wins and leads the HK. Terry wins the ace and then calls for the spade queen. That wins, but LHO plays "the ominous nine" (as Terry later called it). Terry continues with a spade to his king, winning as LHO shows out.

A 5-1 rail means that Terry is going down, its just a matter of how much. He crosses in diamonds, ruffs dummy's last heart, cashes the club king to pitch a diamond, then starts running the diamonds. LHO ruffs plays the spade ace. Terry discards (and Carolyn is an expert, so she is instantly aware of what he's done and looks annoyed).

Then RHO ... plays a small spade. Dummy is up.

If RHO just cashed a club or heart winner, dummy will have to ruff with the master spade then RHO can ruff the next diamond and cash another winner. I had thought RHO was an intermediate. I guess I was wrong.

Making three instead of down one, although I later check the hand record and see that RHO didn't have anymore hearts to lead, so on the actual position of the cards (with the convenient club break) it would have been making two.

Carolyn starts to say something, but Terry just shrugs and says "Alls well that ends well," He got pretty lucky to see such good spades in dummy. Even removing the Ten would have been ugly.

The next round Terry is sitting in a corner, so I switch to watching Carolyn. Terry plays in a reasonable 2S bid, not making any mistakes, which is good enough in this field. Then he opens 1N (weak) and Carolyn holds 9x 9x AK9xx 7xxx. It goes pass-pass and her LHO doubles. Her RHO bids 2 diamonds and she gives a flicker before passing. LHO retreats to 2N and it goes all pass. I would have doubled, since LHO won't have any communication and half the deck is against her, but it doesn't matter. Declarer fumbles and can guess correctly to get out for down two.

She chooses ... poorly and goes down four.

Carolyn then picks up x KQJ9 A QJT7xxx. Not too many points, but monstrous playing strength.

RHO opens 1S and she bids 2 Clubs. LHO raises to two spades and Terry raises to 3 Clubs. A slam is still in the picture, but it's unlikely (Terry won't have two aces and the club king.... but two aces including clubs and a fourth club gives slam play).

RHO passes Terry's bid and Carolyn bids 3 hearts. Terry retreats to four clubs.

Carolyn bids 4 diamonds and Terry .... goes into the tank, so I have time to think.

4 Diamonds is -- strictly speaking -- a gross overbid. If Terry had two aces he'd have come alive over 3 hearts and even two aces doesn't make a good slam. Carolyn should have just bid 5 clubs and settled for what should be a cold game. Terry is still thinking. In fact, he apologizes to the opponents.

If 4 Diamonds were kickback (moving the ace asking bid to the cheapest bid above four of an agreed suit) I assume he would have answered for aces, so I assume they don't play that. So ... what is he thinking about?

Terry passes.

He had decided that Carolyn was bidding out her shape to help pick between 4 hearts and 5 Clubs, and asking his preference. He took his preference ... by passing 4 diamonds.

Terry tables a dummy of xxx xx KJT9xx Kx. Given Carolyn's obvious anger at his pass, he knows that 4 diamonds isn't making. It goes down four. After the round they are fighting about this. Thankfully they don't ask my opinion.

Full marks to Terry for his gutsy 3 clubs raise. (2 of a minor overcalls should be six cards or a great five card suit).

I don't stay for the argument, but it ranges for the next several minutes. Neither side is strictly 'in the right' but I sympathize with Terry's pass.

Next round, I'm back behind Terry, and he picks up AQxxxx AKQ Kx xx. RHO opens 1C and Terry is far to strong to merely overcall, so he doubles. This goes pass-1H and RHO is back in with two clubs. Terry bids 2 spades and it goes pass-pass and RHO bids 3C. Terry pauses for a bit but passes and it gets passed out, and it turns out that RHO has a moose: xx -- ATxx AKQxxxx. If Terry had bid 3S he would have been raised to four and just barely made it. Bad luck, as partner had Kx of spades and out. Unlucky.

On board 26 Carolyn makes a good lead after opening a weak NT when Terry transfers to spades but then the opponents bid a confident 3N. She gives up a sure trick by leading the SQ from AQJx, figuring that Terry is broke (he is) and that 3N will make unless she conceded a spade right away (it does). Declarer gamely ducks this, but Carolyn leads the SJ. Declarer wins and tries to sneak a trick through, but Carolyn wins and plays the spade ace and a spade to Terry's T9. Down one when 3N makes everywhere else.

Terry does compliment Carolyn's lead.

Terry picks up AJ KJ9876 J8xx J. RHO opens 1D and Terry will bid 2 hearts, I think.

He bids Three and plays it there. The play has some interest.

Dummy -- KTxx Ax 9xx Qxxx

DA led

Declarer -- AJ KJ9xxx JTxx J


It goes diamond ace, diamond to the queen, diamond king (LHO pitching a club) and then ... club ace. RHO studies LHO's card and then.... switches to a spade. Terry's jack wins.

Terry leads a heart (2-A-4) and then a heart three. RHO plays the five.

Against an expert, the only thing you can be sure if is that RHO won't have Q53 exactly. Because an expert would have led a fourth round of diamonds to prevent you from taking the heart finesse. But ... this isn't an expert.

Terry eventually decides to finesse, and is correct. But RHO had QT53 (LHO shows out) so Terry is down one with an inevitable trump loser. He concedes down one. His pressure bid of three hearts instead of two costs him, because it turns out nobody could have made a move over two hearts, and it makes.

For the last two rounds T&C face the expert opponents.

Terry picks up KJTxxxx KTx Ax x and LHO opens 2N (20-21 HCP).

I would be tempted to blast 4S or bid 3S but Terry is content to pass. LHO bids 3D (transferring to hearts) and RHO bids 4H ("Great heart fit") and now Terry bids 4S. He can count on Carolyn to have a stiff heart, and is hoping for some spades. This gets passed around to RHO, who doubles, and so Terry plays 4H doubled.

Against this auction I can guess the opening lead and I'm correct.
LHO leads a trump, and Carolyn tables a great dummy.

Qxx x Jxxxx QTxx

Great because she can ruff a heart and -- more importantly -- she doesn't have enough defense to stop 4 hearts. RHO wins the spade ace and thinks ... I think if he had another spade he'd have led it without thought, so he has a stiff ace. (Experts routinely bid NT with stiff honors, and its now officially legal in the US to agree to do so). The defense gets it right and switches to a diamond. Off one.

Terry gets a great board, as they can make 4 or 5 hearts. I'm still not sold on waiting then going, but I have to admit it worked out. On the other hand several other pairs were allowed to play in 3 spades. I suspect they didn't face a 2N opening.

The next two hands belong to the opponents and they do the right thing both times (not getting to a hopeless game and getting to the right part score). Bad boards for T&C, but nothing much they could do.

In the final round, not only is everyone an expert, I've partnered with everyone (at least a few times). Tom was a regular partner for years, before our schedules got out of whack.

Terry picks up AKx Qx Ax AK98xx. Another monster hand.

RHO opens 1 Heart. Terry doubles. LHO bids 3 diamonds (weak with diamonds) and it gets passed back to Terry. He bids 3N.

This bid lands firmly in the "Hideous Hog" territory. (And if you haven't read the Bridge in the Menagerie series by Mollo, well, go do it!) 4C is the correct bid, but 4C isn't game. Terry doesn't have a heart stopper, but with the opponents not having a heart fit, Carolyn may have a stopper. Hearts are likly 2=4=5=2 around the table, or perhaps 1=5=5=2. Four hearts to the Ten and the queen of clubs make game an odds on favorite. Four hearts to the ten and three small clubs give game a chance.

And -- who knows? -- Your opponent may think you have hearts well stopped and look elsewhere. So, a hog bids 3N "fully intending to berate partner for not having a heart stopper, if necessary." (As Mollo might say).

But this opponent has been bamboozled a few too many times. She lays down the 8 of hearts.

Dummy shows up with 9xx of hearts. (Qxx 9xx KQxx xxx) RHO slaps down the heart king, ace, jack and Terry just shows his cards and asks "Down how many?"

Tom's answer is two, since hearts were 2-6. If Carolyn had doubled 3D then it would have been a massacre. (Either against diamonds or hearts). But perhaps they were playing double as responsive, and just because it works doesn't make it the right call.

On the next hand Tom opens and declares in 2N and Terry has

AJxx 7x 86x KJTx

Terry leads the heart seven and Tom wins and continues hearts. Terry pitches the diamond 8 on the second round of hearts. He simply revokes. I keep a stoic face. On the third round of hearts Terry follows and Tom says he revoked. Terry is confused, but Caroyln confirms to him that he revoked and so they finish the hand (which is routine, 2N making exactly) but with one trick transferred due to the revoke.

I suspect he got ahead of himself. I've done that.

Final hand of the day, Terry picks up KJ9xx ATxx x Kxx and opens 1S. Carolyn bids 1N (forcing) and Tom bids 2 Clubs. Terry bids 2 Hearts and LHO bids 3 Diamonds. Carolyn passes and Tom thinks for a moment and bids 3NT.

It sounds like he's bidding this on a diamond fit and some stoppers. Terry leads a spade. Diane puts down a good but not spectacular dummy. Txx Q6x AQTxxx x. I think her 3D was a bit pushy, but having passed over 1S she doesn't show much, just a good suit, hoping to hit a diamond honor in partner's hand.

Carolyn plays the spade queen. Tom wins the ace and says "I think I may need a revoke this hand."

"You may need two," Terry replies, and the laughter redoubles.

In fact Tom has made the a slightly less Hoggy 3N bid, he had a full stopper in spadse but was hoping for AKxxxx or so of diamonds. Carolyn has KJx behind dummy's suit and Terry has the club king waiting behind declarer's ace and when the smoke clears Tom is down five.

In the end, T&C finish above average but not even 3rd. Obviously the disasters hurt, but even some of the good boards remind me of a few things.

1) In a weak field, leaving the field can pin your entire score on one decision. Terry's 1 Spade (on three cards) was hoping to get back to the field (by having Carolyn bid 1N if the field would open it), but his three hearts pushed himself one higher. No doubt against the really solid players it would work, but this time it just turned an average into a near bottom.

2) Everyone makes mistakes. Not pleasant to revoke, but it happens. Stay cool.

3) It's fun to be a hog.
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Joseph DiMuro
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Bankler wrote:
Next round, I'm back behind Terry, and he picks up AQxxxx AKQ Kx xx. RHO opens 1C and Terry is far to strong to merely overcall, so he doubles. This goes pass-2H and RHO is back in with two clubs.


Something's not right here...
 
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David Goldfarb
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Presumably it was a 1H bid.

Also, a round or so later Terry played 4S doubled, not 4H.
 
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Brian Bankler
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Yes, a 1H bid. (Fixed. I'll check the other one as well).
 
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Walt
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In memorium. Bob Hoover died 25 Oct 2016 at 94. In WWII he was shot down in a Spitfire and stole an FW-190 to escape. He spent decades at air shows flying Ole Yeller, shown
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Thanks for that. Interesting. Why I played Precision Club. cool

I thought this was a mistake:
Bankler wrote:
Carolyn then picks up x KQJ9 A QJT7xxx. Not too many points, but monstrous playing strength.

RHO opens 1S and she bids 2 Clubs. LHO raises to two spades and Terry raises to 3 Clubs. A slam is still in the picture, but it's unlikely (Terry won't have two aces and the club king.... but two aces including clubs and a fourth club gives slam play).

RHO passes Terry's bid and Carolyn bids 3 hearts. Terry retreats to four clubs.

Carolyn bids 4 diamonds and Terry .... goes into the tank, so I have time to think.

4 Diamonds is -- strictly speaking -- a gross overbid. If Terry had two aces he'd have come alive over 3 hearts and even two aces doesn't make a good slam. Carolyn should have just bid 5 clubs and settled for what should be a cold game. Terry is still thinking. In fact, he apologizes to the opponents.

If 4 Diamonds were kickback (moving the ace asking bid to the cheapest bid above four of an agreed suit) I assume he would have answered for aces, so I assume they don't play that. So ... what is he thinking about?

Terry passes.

He had decided that Carolyn was bidding out her shape to help pick between 4 hearts and 5 Clubs, and asking his preference. He took his preference ... by passing 4 diamonds.

Terry tables a dummy of xxx xx KJT9xx Kx. Given Carolyn's obvious anger at his pass, he knows that 4 diamonds isn't making. It goes down four. After the round they are fighting about this. Thankfully they don't ask my opinion.

Full marks to Terry for his gutsy 3 clubs raise. (2 of a minor overcalls should be six cards or a great five card suit).

They have club agreement at 3 clubs. Carolyn bids 3 hearts to offer 4 hearts--she wants game. Again Terry goes to 4 clubs--so clubs it is. Carolyn has shown 4 hearts and at least 6 clubs. She just doesn't have enough cards left for a natural 4D! Four diamonds has to be a game-forcing cue bid, "I'm strong and have the A of diamonds." Since Terry didn't have an ace to cue bid, he needed to drop it in 5C. They're probably down one (instead of four), but if they can slough the loser spade, they can make. Given how disty the hand was, the opponents might have been able to make 4S.
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Brian Bankler
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Yes, I agree that Carolyn probably doesn't have natural diamonds for her 4D bid, Terry was clearly masterminding with his pass, thinking that 5C would be ugly and 4D would go plus.

I think the obvious bid over 4D is to bid 5C. Passing would have never occurred to me. I was just trying to figure out why he did.

But as I noted, I would have just bid 5C over 4C.
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