Sunday, October 24, 2010

A Playing rule -- Everybody Loves Playing Rules

I hate to divert my energies from competitive bidding. We'll be back to that topic shortly. But speaking of competitive bidding, I was just reading Mike Lawrence’s 2009 rewrite of his legendary book, The Complete Book on Overcalls. This revision has been 30 years in coming, but it was long overdue. Mike was always an advocate of very disciplined overcalls, and very slow to change his mind about principles that had worked for him 30 years ago. His new revision does make some concessions to the need to compete in matchpoints, but he stops short of jumping on the Bergen-Cohen bandwagon.

The rewrite is a good and necessary one and will reestablish the book to it’s former prominence. But do you think his heart was really in this project? Here’s a quote from page 16:

“Good matchpoints is almost never good bridge. You have to learn to play badly. Things that are theoretically wrong, at matchpoints work a high percentage of the time.” Gee Mike. I’ve been saying that for some time now, you reading my blog?

Now for a little dancing music. In the heat of battle, as declarer it is frequently difficult to figure out the best way of playing card combinations. You are counting cards, counting points, reviewing the bidding and calculating the odds, my gosh, even back in the old law office they gave us yellow pads. There are so many Mnemonic (thank God for spellcheckers) assists in the bridge universe that Ron Klinger wrote an entire book about them in 1998 titled Better Bridge with a Better Memory – How Mnemonics Will Improve Your Game. According to my count there are Bridge Rules numbered from 1 to 23. Since you already know the Rule of 11, let’s start with the Rule of 12.

The Rule of 12 is a rule that you can put into play immediately. Hardly a hand goes by that you do not have to make some decision about finessing. How many times have you had a finessing layout, and wondered if it is safe to start the finesse by playing a high card, (often a Ten or Jack) and letting it ride or whether it is prudent to start with a low card and re-enter. Well if there wasn’t risk, we wouldn’t give it another though; who likes to burn entries getting back to take the finesse a second time, or worse yet, have your re-entry trumped by opponents.

Assume you are declarer and you in the dummy ready to finesse:


Also assume you have one more dummy entry, but you would rather not use it at this time. Is it safe to play the Q, and if successful, play a small card to the Jack or is there risk in that line of play?

Rule of 12 to the rescue. Here is the Rule: Add the cards you hold in the suit and to the number of cards in both hands that are sequential and if they equal 12 then it is safe to start with the high card. If not, there is some risk associated with starting with the high card.

In the above case we have 8 total cards in the suit and 3 sequential cards so we fail to meet the Rule of 12. What is the risk? Suppose I show you the rest of the suit.

9876 *******K
The 9 promotes to a trick if you start with the Queen or Ten. Note that if I give dummy the 9 and put the 5 in West’s hand, we would meet the rule of 12 and it would be safe to roll the Queen.

Is this distribution probable? Not probable but possible, and when it makes a difference and you play it correctly it is guaranteed a good board. Many players just play the higher card hoping for the best.

The rule works in the same way whether the suit is 7, 8 9 or 10 cards in length. Add to the length of the suit the number of sequential cards. Do they equal 12? If the suit is AJT3 opposite Q92, lead the 2. If the short holding is Q98 lead any card, your total is 12.

What if you don’t have an entry back to the dummy? Lead the top card and hope this is not a computer hand.

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