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March 25, 2000
The Good Bridge Player and Bid and Play With me
The Scorecard is the publication for ACBL District 16. I was asked and consented to write a regular column aimed at the 0-299 masterpoint player. I will post my columns here as they may be of benefit to the same readers that benefit from my newsletter.
Scorecard, Volume 32, No 2 - March/April 2000
My good friend, Donna Compton, asked me to be the 299er editor for the Scorecard. Without a lot of questions I agreed. Later it came to me, "Just what is a 299er Editor?" Without knowing for sure what was intended, the purpose of this column will be to try and address the issues that can have a positive effect on the game of those players in the range of 0 to 299 masterpoints. That is a very wide range. Some topics that are appropriate for the 5 masterpoint player, will not be appropriate for the 250 masterpoint player. On the other hand, in my years of teaching both beginning and intermediate students, I have observed that most players in the 0-299 group are missing at least part of the basics. It is these fundamental concepts that I will cover.
So, if you think a particular topic is below your level, I say read it. Just don't tell your friends. Also, if you are looking to learn to recognize and execute a Winkle squeeze or learn the Canary Club, then this column is not for you. Go buy a book. I welcome criticism, both positive and negative. You are not really talking about competitive bridge unless you have some disagreement. The preferred method is by e-mail ([email protected]), so let me hear from you.
What makes a good bridge player? Good is relative term. Everyone cannot be a world champion, but everyone can be better tomorrow than they are today. All it takes is effort and time. By time I do not mean hours and days, but time in terms of numbers of hands. Experience is best measured in hands played and not hours spent. Playing once a month for 30 years is the same number of hands as everyday for 1 year. I think there are three basic ingredients to a good bridge player:
This may be the toughest element of the three. Bridge is a game of percentages. We play a suit or bid a hand in a particular way, not because we expect it to generate the desired result every time, but because it will generate the desired result the maximum number of times possible. We bid to the game level with 25 or 26 points because we expect to be successful more often than not (>50% success and <50% failure). If you have doubts about that being a winning strategy, then think about Las Vegas. It was built 400 miles out in the middle of the desert on the same basic principle. Be disciplined in your bidding and play. Play the hand using the available clues and the known strategies. If you and partner have agreed to open weak two bids with two of the top three honors then you must pass when dealt (AJ10764 8 J64 632). If you do not like the agreement, by all means change it, but until then abide by it to the letter. There are three other players at the table and only one is one your side. Being able to absolutely count on him/her is crucial and comes only through discipline.
Self doubt is a cruel demon. It is true in our sport as well as all of the others. If you do not believe in yourself then your judgment is clouded. When I first started to play duplicate bridge I attended a national tournament in Chicago. I over heard a top rated player talking to his protégé, "Look at that line of people buying entries. Did you know that over 80% of them do not believe that they can win? You know what else? They are right!" Something happens to inexperienced players when they sit down to play against better competition. They start doing things that they know are not in their best interest. They have already admitted defeat and sub-consciously make sure that it happens. If you find yourself in 3NT and need a successful finesse to make the contract then by all means take the finesse. As much as you may doubt it, the odds of a successful finesse (or suit break, or any thing else) are the same irrespective of your opponents. The greater your confidence, the greater your success rate. Everyone has heard the tale of the novice on lead against the club expert in a 6NT contract and holding two aces. When asked why she did not double, she replied, "No way, not against him. He always finds a way to make it!"
If you are going to advance your game then practice is required. No more pushing cards or coasting. Every hand is important. Home game, club game, sectional tournament, regional tournament, or national tournament it does not matter. Good game or bad game it does not matter. New partnership or old partnership it does not matter. Each and every hand that you bid and play must be done with your full effort and attention. There is something to be learned each time you play. Come away from every session with a self-lesson. Pick a hand on which you did poorly and ask yourself, "What could I or should I have done differently?" Look at the recap sheet and see what the winning scores were on that hand. Did you compete too aggressively? Were you too conservative? If you cannot determine for yourself, then find a more experienced player and ask. Put the time with your chosen mentor to good use. Have the hand(s) written out with spades, hearts, diamonds, clubs clearly labeled (in that order please). Write down the bidding including all passes. Effective practice and feedback is critical to developing your game. If you suddenly realize that you are not putting in full effort, then stop and take a moment to collect you thoughts. Anything else is a waste. Focus on your game and let partner worry about them self. Finding fault with partner does nothing to improve your game. Discipline, self confidence, and practice are absolutely fundamental to building a strong game. Without them you are lost.
Bid and Play With Me
Here Here is an interesting hand. Sitting South you pick up:
20 HCP plus a five card suit.
The auction proceeds:
A hand with practically all positives.
Is slam a possibility?
At the very minimum partner must have either the A or KQ of diamonds. Without either you have two quick diamond losers and slam is out of the question. You also have a spade loser unless partner has the A. If partner does not hold the K you have a 50% chance of a trump loser. 3 1/2 potential losers and partner will have to cover at least 2 of them to make 6 a 50-50 bet!
For example, if partner had the A and the A you will likely lose one diamond (after a diamond lead) and will now only make 6 if the trump finesse works. Add to all of this, there is the unlikely (but possible) club loser. Slam does not appear to be odds on unless partner is a maximum with mostly aces and kings.
How can we ask partner?
Game tries to the rescue!
Game tries you ask? Aren't we wondering about slam? What do game tries have to do with it?
Watch and learn ...
You must learn to think of responder's bids (Captain!) as TOOLS. Use the tools properly and you will find out what you need to know.
If you make a game try (2, 2NT, 3, 3, and 3 are all "game tries") and partner declines, then you can rest assured that slam is not in the cards. Partner would accept any game try that will give you a play for 6. Go back and look at what is required for slam.
Game tries were covered in detail in Issue #8.
3 won't work for our purposes since partner would decline by passing. For all other game tries partner declines acceptance by returning to three of the agreed trump suit (3 in our case).
3 is the best choice.
The auction continues:
Partner rejected our game try. Clearly slam is out of the question. It is time to let partner know that in fact it was a "slam try" not a "game try".
Continue on to game after partner declines the invitation. The only explanation is that your original intentions were slam not just game! West leads the 2 and dummy comes into view:
Opening lead: 2
Just make your contract, overtricks are not important. Stop and plan the play.
Your contract is 4 and you can afford three losers. You need ten tricks. Clearly the decision not try for slam was the correct one. You are off two quick diamonds. Potential losers (count with respect to declarer's hand):
You will need to dispose of at least one of these losers in order to make 4. What are the options?
Trumping the club in dummy appears as the best choice. What is the safest way to trump
a club? How many clubs do you need to trump?
You need to trump only one club and will need only one heart in dummy with which to trump it. Ideally you should play trumps twice before cashing two top clubs and then trumping the small club in dummy.
How can you play trumps exactly twice?
If you cash the A and play another, the defenders may win the K and play a third round to keep you from trumping a club.
If you leave too many trumps outstanding, the defenders may work out a way to trump the FOURTH club (your good trick!).
The spade lead is tempting. You might ride the spade to your hand (winning the J unless RHO plays the Q in which case you win the K). Now when you cash the remaining spade honor, the A in dummy is potentially available for a discard.
The spade is a red herring.
Win the A.
Play a heart finessing the Q.
If this loses to the K, the best the defenders can do is play a second round of hearts (leaving one in dummy for the club ruff).
If the finesse wins. Cash the A and proceed to trump the club.
After trumping the club, return to hand with the spade and finish with trumps.
This line of play is very high. I estimate over 80%.
General lesson to be learned:
Pulling trumps is the highest priority. Only leave trumps outstanding when you must and then leave outstanding the fewest number possible.
If you trump the club loser before pulling trump. look at what happens:
Win the spade. Cash two top clubs. Trump the losing club. Now play trumps. Even if you play the A and another, when West wins the K this is the position. The defender's have won one trick (K) and West is on lead:
LHO leads the J which RHO trumps. Now two diamond tricks sets you one!