Sunday, August 19, 2012

Some Days All You Get is an Intersting Hand!

Some Days All You Get is an Interesting Hand

As time keeps nibbling at your memory and focus, the results tell the story. So it is for me, and all I get many days are interesting hands to ponder. If you are able to retain your brilliant and clever partners through these tribulations, you also get reminded along the way of how fortunate you really are to hang onto them. 

If I had to judge last Friday by the result, I would have to say that it wasn’t even worth $1.50, but Board 27 provided both several bidding options as well as a platform for my partner, Mike Spitulnik, to demonstrate his declaring skills which are highly regarded here in our little Rochester bridge community. Here is the hand rotated to show South as the declarer. None vulnerable and West, as dealer, passes. Now it is up to North!

********* AQ94
********* AJ87



I am sitting North and have to make a decision, stay in tempo and try to salvage something from the day. I never really counted points on this hand, just calculated Losing Trick Count (LTC) and the Quick Tricks (QT). I remember my excellent Florida mentor, Pat Peterson, telling me about the 4+4 Rule. This bidding guideline says that you can open a hand with 2 clubs if you have four LTC and four QT’s. Playing rules always provide a good defense in the post mortems, so I opened 2 clubs. I felt comfortable with this because I never counted hcps nor considered what I was going to say as my dummy only came down with only 17. I am sure most opened my hand 1 diamond. Perhaps double dummy you can reach a spade slam, but 10 out of 14 failed. If you choose that route I think it needs to go 1d/1s/4h (splinter). This does not look good from South’s position since there are 7 hcps of duplication in hearts and good bridge says to bid 4 spades.

Mike and I were playing “2 diamonds waiting” so his hand is worth a positive bid and he correctly bid 2 spades so he could bid two hearts later if necessary and not take up unnecessary bidding space in a game force auction. With a heart void and no prior agreement of how to show it in our 1430 system, I decided that I wanted to control the hand from my side so I set the trump suit by bidding 3 spades. As Robert Burns wrote “The best laid plans of mice and men oft go awry.” Mike’s next bid was not 4 spades but rather 4 NT! In retrospect, I think he was justified in assuming “Captaincy” since I had already shown my hand and values and his hand was still unlimited. Now I am right where I did not want to be. How do you show a void when partner launches into key card not knowing you have one?

My friend and expert, Eddie Kantar, explains it this way:
(i) 5NT shows 0 or 2 keycards and a void somewhere.
(ii) 6 clubs shows 1 or 3 key cards and a club void.
(iii) 6 diamonds shows 1 or 3 keys and a diamond void.
(iv) 6 hearts shows 1 or 3 keys plus a void in hearts.
(v) 6 of the agreed suit shows 1 or 3 and a void in a higher ranking suit.

 You only use these responses so long as the response does not carry you beyond 6 of the agreed suit. If we had an understanding my bid would have been 6 hearts. Absent an understanding I bid 5 diamonds showing 1 or 3. Since our agreed suit is spades Mike could have employed a "Queen Ask" by bidding 5 hearts and my response would have been either 5 hearts denying the queen, or in this case 5 spades showing the queen. You can only use this Queen Ask when spades are the agreed suit, as a response of 5 hearts when hearts is the agreed suit is a close out.

Another approach to bidding Mike’s hand would be to ignore the key card ask entirely. I am suggesting something called the “Grand Slam Force” invented by Josephine Culbertson about 80 years ago, but still in the bidding vocabulary of experts. I have used this twice in my life and both times in the same afternoon. After I bid 3 spades setting the trump, a bid of 5NT asks partner to bid a grand slam with two of the top three honors in the trump suit, and otherwise bid a small slam. This is my chance to bid 7 spades! How can you justify foregoing a key card ask only to show the grand eloquence of your bidding style. Easy, partner did open 2 clubs and hopefully he has the values (hcps and/or distribution) to support it.

In real life, Mike was not going to give me the chance to "f-bomb" this up. After I showed 3 key cards Mike bid 7 spades in an effort to reclaim full benefit for his entry fee. With 14 tables, 2 played a small slam, we played a grand and the rest stopped at game. Mike was the only declarer to make 13 tricks which, according to the computer, can be made against any lead and from either side. Our opponent led the 8 of spades and who can blame her. Looking only at the N-S hands, see if you can do it. Did I not tell you my partner is clever! He is so modest he probably has already crawled under his desk.

Can I claim anything for myself? Well, blogger’s are not supposed to be self-aggrandizers, but in retrospect I think Pat Peterson’s playing rule led me to the best opening bid. First, Mike was assured that I had no more than 4 LTC. Since we have a fit, the LTC formula should apply. Since he has 6 LTC, we have together 10 LTC. To determine the number of tricks we are likely to take subtract the losing trick count from 24 or 24-10=14, a Grand with an overtrick yet! The 4 QT requirement assures him that this is not just some long suit, but rather I have some outside stuff as well.

How did we get catapulted into seven spades? Well we knew the hcp requirement was a number ending in 7, and in end result we found out that 27 seems to work as well as 37. Remember, this is discussion, not dogma, and as long as you bid and make 7 spades, do it your way.