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Subject: Inferences true, false and indifferent rss

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Brian Bankler
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When playing bridge, you try to build a fence around partner, to give him no chance to go wrong. Personally, for me a chance to go wrong is a practical certainty. And today is no different: I overbid to a terrible slam that almost makes on a miracle lie of the cards, but still goes off two. I misplay a hand.

But I make some good decisions, too. Sometimes I'm wide awake and can take advantage of inferences.

Playing against a strong, solid player I hear the following auction
1C on my right, 1H on my left, 1N on my right announced as 15-17 HCP, all pass. (The solid player likes her weak NT, and I don't blame her).

I have S:AT9 H:K32 D:AT952 C:Q7.

I could have overcalled 1D, but I don't think that's winning bridge. Not that the hand is too weak, or the suit too bad. It's just that diamonds are outgunned and my hand is balanced. After the auction I'm glad I shut up, because I've given nothing away. (I wasn't actually aware that the expert had convinced this partner to play weak NT, but that knowledge would have tilted my decision further towards pass).

I have a lot more information than the field. The typical auction will be 1N all pass (I imagine). They'll only know that declarer has 16ish. I know that:
a) Dummy has 5-8 HCP.
b) Dummy has 4 hearts or maybe five.
c) Declarer doesn't have four hearts.

I don't see how this helps me yet. I'm leading a diamond and I lead the 5. There's an argument for the Ten, but I think the five is better. There will be some hands where either is right. I think this hand the 5 is better. Doesn't make it right.

Dummy puts down S:J72 H:Q987 D:863 C:A32

The diamonds go 5-3-J and....

Declarer tanks. What's she thinking about? She must be worried about my lead and considering holding up. That gives her KQx of diamonds. (If she's thinking about holding up with Kxx, she's very brave). This is matchpoints, so she may decide to play the hand wide open and risk going down. At IMPs she'd play safe. That's probably what she's considering. Let's see....

If she attacks clubs, I'll dutifully follow suit. If she attacks spades first, I'll hold off as long as possible (unless my diamonds are set up). And if she attacks hearts....

If she crosses the clubs and finesses I'll likely win and play passively. No need to break a new suit. What if she lays down the heart ace? That would imply that she didn't have AJ or AJx and put the jack in partner's hand. Although she may have a problem with clubs and not be willing to give up the club ace.

If declarer lays down the heart Ace I think I'm going to throw my king under it. That would set up partner's (presumed) jack, and I know he has at least 3 hearts, so it won't fall under the queen. Now partner will have an entry to lead a diamond through.

Just as I've figured this out declarer emerges from her thinking and ducks the diamond. That is almost certainly the right play.

My inference is for naught, as the play proceeds down a different line. (Partner had noted my pass over 1D and wondered why I had not bid diamonds when I was marked with a near opening hand).

But throwing the heart king under the ace was correct and would have worked. Partner and opponents agree it would have been a nice play.

I hold S:Axx H:xxx D:Kx C:Axxxx

Partner opens 1S, RHO bids 2C and I bid 3C (limit raise or better). We used to play a system where 3C was always a limit raise, and I had another Game Forcing Raise, but I literally forgot it half the time. Its the one system I can't seem to remember, except tragically when (two years after we abandoned it) I got confused and thought we were still playing it.

Partner bids 4C, a slam try. But partner is limited. He almost certainly has a stiff club. Partner could have S:KQxxxx H:Ax D:Axxx C:x and another few cards.

But I have missed an inference. We play that 3N directly is a strong slam try and 4C is a mild one. Partner won't have those few cards. I cooperate with the slam try and we go down. Partner cue bid 4C in case I had a slightly stronger hand. (A down side of playing limit raise "Or better"). We are the only pair in slam. Looking at all four hands after the match, there is a way to make the hand against any defense (double dummy). It takes us a few minutes to find it. Down two, for zero matchpoints.

Later, I pick up S:-- H:86 D:AKJ9872 C:Txxx. I suspect it will be an eventful auction.

RHO opens 4 Spades.

They say "Don't pre-empt against a pre-empt" but this opponent may be bidding 4S to make. I can't tell. They also say "The hand with shortness should strive to act."

I bid 5 Diamonds.

LHO is in there with 5 Hearts.

Partner doubles.

This just shows a smattering of points and a dislike of diamonds. RHO runs to five spades and it goes pass-pass and partner doubles again, and the auction comes to an end.

This time my lead isn't hard. I lead the king of diamonds.

Dummy puts down a monster: S:QJ H:AKQJTx D:xx C:xxx

Kudos to dummy for finding a great bid (assuming she meant it as a slam try in spades, but if she got passed that might be OK as well). I win my diamond and cash the other one. This hand is easy, Partner is almost certainly showing out, at which point he'll discourage a club if he wants me to continue diamonds, encourage a club if he wants me to shift.

Partner plays a discouraging heart. Annoying. I believe that means its my choice.

Well, my spade position won't be improved by declarer ruffing, so I switch to clubs in case partner has KQ and a spade trick. Partner gets his spade ace, but we're missing the AK of clubs.

Partner looks surprised I don't have a club honor, realistically envisioning more points for my bid. Nope, declarer had them. I ask about partners spade spots.

"ATx".

"Discourage clubs, then." I reply.

Partner is good enough to realize that if he'd done that we'd get them one more trick. Either dummy doesn't ruff and he ruffs declarers diamond queen or dummy ruffs and he can discard, and his ten will set up. A simple oversight.

Here's a much more complex oversight:

I pick up S:A H:J9xx D:AQ8xx C:Qxx.

I open 1D and partner bids 1S. No bid is perfect, so I "mix a diamond into my spades" and bid 1N. I'm too weak to reverse and bid 2H and don't want to rebid a mediocre five card suit when I can play in 3 suits and no-trump. I suspect all experts would bid 1N and most would only apologize insincerely if called out, and use the "I mixed up my cards" excuse.

Partner bids 4S. Apparently I can play in all four suits. Ah well, the stiff ace is probably as good as two small. It turns out this is partner's hand to play. Let's look at his view.

LHO leads the diamond 9. I put down my hand.

Dummy: S:A H:J9xx D:AQ8xx C:Qxx

D9 led to the sound of ominious music

Declarer: S:QJ8xxxxx H:x D:KJT C:KT

That diamond looks like a stiff. Which means you'll lose the rounded aces, the spade king and a diamond ruff. Ugly. Hank plays the diamond ace, if diamonds do break 3-2 he wants to keep entries to pull trumps. Hank calls for the spade ace and it goes Ace-x-x-King.

I (as dummy) blink at this, and say to myself ("That's either really good or really bad.")

There's an inference here. Hank missed it. I didn't (in my defense, I was dummy). Some declarers noticed, but none found the right play.

Hank continued with a small club the king. LHO won the ace and led a small diamond, which RHO ruffed.

The inference was that LHO would be unlikely to lead a stiff diamond with the stiff king of trumps. Not only would that be a weird lead, 11 cards in two suits is rare and powerful, and we'd have heard it during the auction.

RHO led the heart king, which won but now Hank can ruff the second heart, pull trumps and claim. RHO started with Txxx but the ruff has shortened her trumps.

Most pairs are in four spades making when LHO didn't find the diamond lead. But LHO could have overtaken the heart king and given another diamond ruff.

RHO should have built a wall around partner by leading the heart Ten (She had KQTx). There's no real risk that declarer would let this float to the jack, risking another ruff if LHO had any honor. Declarer would play the ace automatically. And if partner had the ace, this would have built a wall and he would have had to return another diamond.

Declarer's incredibly subtle counter to that (which was theoretically findable) is to lead a heart at trick three, cutting the link between the two defenders. As we've seen, you don't mind one ruff. It's a natural trump trick anyway, but two ruffs is disaster. Leading a heart prevents two ruffs unless LHO has both aces, in which case you need a mistake.

When this play works 100%, it's called a "Scissors Coup" (Note -- Fixed the name, as per David's comment) as you cut the connection between the hands. In this case, it might have probably worked. Now (not knowing the position) RHO would split her honors (KQTx) and it would be just as hard to overtake.

In practice, LHO could still overtake, give a ruff asking for a club, then club, ruff. On the actual hand, who knows?

But if the aces had split, it would work. Another brilliant play that didn't occur.

Next hand.

I have S:xx H:Kxxxx D:Kxx C:xxx (ish).

RHO opens 1S. I have nothing to say. LHO bids 4 diamonds, a splinter bid (a game forcing raise to 4S showing 4+ spades, and a singleton diamond. Honestly, if you play any conventions the order to learn them is Stayman, Jacoby then splinters. Splinters are just that useful).
Partner doubles and I alert. RHO asks about that and I say "Asks for a club lead," because that's what it does.

(Doubling a splinter bid to suggest a lead isn't too useful, since you know dummy is ruffing the second round. You'd only want that if you had the ace and was worried about it going away, in which case you want to attack your other suits and use the ace to cash them. So we play that double asks for the lower unbid suit. Why lower? Because you could always bid your two suits and sometimes the lower suit you have to go up a level, so you'd be less likely to bid it).

RHO bids 4S and plays it there. I gratefully lead a club. (If partner were indifferent or desperately wanted a heart, he wouldn't have doubled).

Dummy is as advertised: S:Axxx H:QJTx D:x C:QJ9x

It goes club queen, king, small.

Partner returns a high heart, which goes small to my king. I now stare at the board.

Does partner have a stiff heart, or just want a club through again (presumably he still has AT of clubs behind dummy's jack-nine).
If partner has a stiff heart, declarer should have flown with the heart ace, but its matchpoints and he might have felt that partner was trying to bamboozle him out of a working finesse. I don't know how much I can read into that.

But I stop and think. Partner could have built a fence around me by winning the club ace, presumably denying the king. This is the exact same situation as the prior hand! Now I'd have no choice but to lead a heart. Partner has two hearts (not three, as then declare would have had to play his ace) and the AKT something in clubs. Pleased with my analysis I continue clubs.

Partner apologizes after the hand, because he had a stiff heart. We have the agreement to not win cheaply when switching to a stiff (for just these situations) so my losing play was the technically correct one. This is one of the rare times when partner played too fast at trick one (I'm usually the culprit) and -- worse for partner -- I'd pad attention.

Playing another session more inferential hands come up.

I pick up S:A H:xxx D:Qxx C:QT9xxx. The opponents have a fast uncontested auction, with my RHO opening 1D.

1D-1S;
3D-3N.


RHO is starting to put her bidding cards back but Hank doubles. It goes pass pass and I start putting my bidding cards away but LHO stops us and runs to 4D. This (finally) gets passed out.

I lead the spade ace, which asks for suit preference. Hank plays a middle card "Please continue spades" but I can't seem to find one. When declarer cashes her diamond ace she discovered that diamonds are breaking 3-0 and she has a diamond loser. She could make by taking the club finesse through me (she has Axx and dummy has KJx) but she plays Hank for more points and goes down when she has to lose a diamond, a heart and two spades.

"What was the double?" RHO asks. (RHO is a decent player, lots of masterpoints, but like many players she learned by osmosis). I can answer this one.

"Hank had spades behind the spade bidder and a diamond void, so those are breaking horribly. Obviously he didn't know that dummy had four diamonds. He figured I had 4 or 5, not just three."

"We can make 3NT" RHO complains. She's right.

Hank had good odds for his double, but today they were against him. But he had a second way to win (as Kit Woolsey writes in Matchpoints). 3N may make but the opponents may get nervous and run. Which happened here.

Afterwards comes a hand that was just fun.

I pick up S:xxxx H:xx D:x C:KQJxxx.

It's a bit rich to open 3C vulnerable, but its not the worst bid I ever made (even that day). LHO doubles.

Hank redoubles, which I alert. RHO asks.

"Shows diamonds."
"What length?"
"Could just be a nice 3-4 card lead directing bid if he has clubs. If he doesn't, its a real suit."

RHO passes and I pass.

I don't like diamonds and if Hank is void in clubs I'm not much better in diamonds. Even if we should go for a number, I bet they can't catch me. LHO looks at the auction with disgust and bids 3H.

Hank doubles again.

Well, if he wants to sit for that, fine. We both know our hands don't fit. Hank leads the club ten and I overtake with the king. This may be a fence building play, but we both know the score. Hanks short in clubs, I'm short in diamonds.

Declarer wins the club ace, but she doesn't know the score. She tries to sneak a diamond through Hank. He plays the ace and then leads another. It goes diamond ruff club ruff (Hank ruffing my good trick) diamond ruff. I lead a club even though dummy is out and Hank ruffs high and leads a diamond in case I have any hearts left.

I don't. +500.

Declarer can actually make three hearts by just slapping down the ace of hearts and a heart. No doubt she was discombobulated. It happens.

I get to a reasonable 3N that has no play and in fact requires a bit of thinking to escape for down one. Just unfortunate, they can establish a trick and have a sure entry.

Next I'm playing against two solid experts and I'm in another touchy 3N after an uncontested auction where I've revealed that I have a balanced 15-17 without a five card major.

I get the 3 of hearts lead.

Dummy: S:Txx H:9x D:AJ62 C:AQ73
H3 Led
Me: S:AKJx H:QTx D:Q9 C:K954

On the heart three lead it looks like I'm down if hearts are 5-3 with (A/K)Jxxx behind me. Oh well. It happens. RHO is thinking and eventually emerges with the 8 of hearts play. I win.

I'm not sure exactly how many tricks I'm gong to need, so I want to take two rounds of clubs now and discover if they are worth four tricks or only three. I play a club the the queen (pretending to finesse) and RHO plays the ominous Ten.

I play a club back to my hand and RHO discards a spade. I only have three club tricks, LHO has J8 in front of dummy's A7.

As to the spade, I doubt they are signalling honestly. I ignore it. It probably just shows length.

I play the diamond queen floated which holds.

Here's what would happen if I were awake. I'd think "That's odd. These are experts. I would expect LHO to cover routinely." I'm awake enough to have the "that's odd" thought, and even the "RHO has the diamond king" thought, but I play too quickly without restocking and I finesse again in case they've made a mistake.

They haven't and I'm off one.

After that I'm kicking myself, because I had a variety of plays available once RHO ducked. Now that I've gotten up to two diamond tricks, I could count. I know that LHO has 4 or 5 hearts, one diamond (probably two) and four clubs.

If I threw LHO in with a heart good things would probably happen and I'd have a chance to read the situation.

I have great odds, even against a 5-3 heart break. Just cash a spade, throw LHO in, and wait. Good things will happen. In fact, if I had cashed a spade, a great thing would happen. LHO had the stiff queen and now I can take 4 spades, 3 clubs, two diamonds (RHO having already ducked one) and a heart for an overtrick, with chances for another.

Instead I've gone down.

And I had another inference. If RHO had the spade queen, she would have probably not risked ducking the diamond queen, because she knows that the spade finesse is working Ugh.

We get another fun hand. Against a solid pair Hank opens 1 Spade and I bid 4 Diamonds, alerted. I've already exhorted you to play splinters, and we do. In fact, we play multiple types.

(But we play "Compressed splinters" which I don't recommend to the casual partnership. It frees up other bids for things, but it has a memory burden).

LHO asks Hank if its a splinter. "Nope."
"What is it?"
"A balanced raise to 4S showing an opening hand and bad trumps."

That is what I have.

S:Qxx H:ATx D:A8 C:KTxxx

(This is a variety of a convention called "trump swiss" in case you are wondering. It's pretty rare, but I read about it in the first system book I bought, Max Hardy's 2/1 GF aka "The yellow book." The reason we compress the splinters is so that we can play a few other systems as well with the extra bids we free up).

LHO doubles for the lead. Hank thinks for a bit and passes. Interesting. I alert.

RHO (who I play with sometimes) asks.

"At least mildly slammish, interested in knowing about my hand."

I redouble to show the diamond ace. Hank now bids 4S (Denying a stiff heart or the king of hearts).

There are a huge number of hands Hank could have, but this is easy.

I have defined my hand (balanced, roughly an opener). Hank wanted to show slam interest without the king of hearts. Whatever he has, I think he'll like my hand. He knows I have bad trumps, but I do have an honor (I'm allowed to have as little as xxx). He must have something in clubs, so my KT fifth is good. I have two key cards and the queen of trumps. I have a doubleton diamond (if he has Kxx and needs to ruff).

I could have another point, maybe two, but I think every single point I have is pulling its weight.

This goes to the theory of "The Box," (that Mike Lawrence gives in several books). I have boxed my hand. Partner has asked me a question. Within the confines of the box, my hand is practically perfect. If partner can ask, I think slam is odds on.

After checking for key cards and discovering that one is missing I bid the slam. On the diamond lead this rolls, as Hank had AKJTx Q9xx Kx QJ. Only an initial heart lead beats the slam, and then only if the king is wrong. It is, but because partner had asked for a diamond lead, leading a heart is now impossible. We make despite the fact that Hank had one of the ugliest possible hands.

To add insult to injury, Hank is only good enough to ask because we can exploit a system that let us use the space given by the double efficiently. (And if I didn't have the diamond ace, he could play for it to be onside, aided by the double). The double told Hank that slam was possible, in that I may have no diamond wastage. And if I had the ace, it let him show the heart weakness.

The kibitzer (and we do have one at this table) is duly impressed with our auction.

In thinking about it, since the heart king was wrong RHO had a chance to be the hero instead of the goat. If he doubled six spades it would be Lightner, requesting an unusual lead.

In this case, that should mean "Please not a diamond."

Partner might lead a club, but maybe not. It risks us making a doubled slam, but that would just make his zero "a bit rounder" as it turns out if we make any slam he gets a zero. (One other pair got to slam, but with no doubles, the natural lead was .... a heart. Off one).

Looking at the doubler's hand, I still have no idea why he doubled. He had xxx K QJTxx A9xx. With honors in all three suits, why request a specific one, and arguably the most dangerous?

Despite our mistakes (and we had plenty) a few tops like this slam is enough to let us tie for first.
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Brian Bankler
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I would not be surprised to find a lot of typos and hands with 14 cards, etc, despite going over this. My blind spots extend beyond the card table. Let me know when you find any.
 
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Joseph DiMuro
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Bankler wrote:
I would not be surprised to find a lot of typos and hands with 14 cards, etc, despite going over this. My blind spots extend beyond the card table. Let me know when you find any.


I did find a small one. Hand #1: Looks like you and your LHO both had the diamond 2.

Quote:
I have S:AT9 H:K32 D:AT952 C:Q7.

...

Dummy puts down S:J72 H:Q987 D:862 C:A32

The diamonds go 5-2-J and....
 
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David Goldfarb
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On the hand where you rebid 1N with a stiff SA, surely the heart play you talk about is a Scissors Coup (cutting communications) rather than a Dentist's Coup? A Dentist's Coup is where you cash some high honors in a suit before throwing an opponent on lead, hoping that you have extracted her exit cards and she is now endplayed.
 
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Brian Bankler
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Fixed both, thanks. Don't know why I kept calling it a Dentist coup.
 
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