Sunday, March 20, 2016

Lead Trump, Conversation Continues..

 In my previous blog we analyzed how effective trump leads are against auction that promise a two suited hand where the hand that is short in trump is poised to ruff losers and has reluctantly agreed to the trump suit. Ex 1S 1N, 2C 2S.

There are some other situations where a trump lead is either automatic or highly likely.
  1. Opponents have landed into an artificial suit due to bidding misunderstanding.
  2. The auction has been passed for penalty after a TOX. Partner of the TOXer has strong trump, he/she expects to pull trump as defender.
  3. Against a grand slam. This is considered a safe lead.
  4. When opponents have bid two suits and landed in a third.
Aside from these basic occasions to effectively lead trump,  trump leads are very common against part scores when opponents have overcalled.  The defense should have lots of opportunities to get in with side suits and breaking your own suits often reveals lots and gives declarer significant timing to  set up ruffs in dummy. If the advancer has given a four-card raise, you may not have enough trumps to do any damage to the offense.  You may want to think of something else.

When a part score has been X'd for penalty either outright or converted to penalty by a TO action, trumps are usually led at the first convenient opportunity.  Failing to do so by opening leader usually means one of two things.
  1. Opening leader risks losing a trump position from his/her holding, or 
  2. The opening leader prefers a tapping defense.
Figure it out and go for the huge set. Leading trumps will get you lots of mp and imps if it's done after carefully assessing the bidding, and analyzing the source of tricks for the defense.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Trump Leads --Against Two Suiters, They Are Practically Automatic!

Trump leads against two suited hands rank to be very effective. They are the most effective when the hand that is short in trump has agreed to the trump suit under duress, the partnership has languished in a part score, you have meaty cards in the second suit promised in the bidding and the tapping defense is out of the question.

So let's go through an example.  You open 1S (AQ432, K5,87, KT97) and lefty overcalls 2N for the minors.   Your rho bids 3d and the auction stops there.  You expect the dummy cards to be some type of two suiter in clubs and diamonds.  Those clubs of yours are going to score if they can't be ruffed in the declarer's hand and due to the nature of your partner's pass, a tapping defense is unlikely.  Lead trump.

Here's another example.  Rho opens 2D Flannery showing hearts and spades.  You pass holding KJ95,A43,Q543,J6.  Lefty bids 3H and the auction stops there. The last thing you want to happen is for your spades to be ruffed out in declarer's hand.  Lead trump.

There are lots of auctions like this where you will find

  1.  Two suiter promised either in dummy or declarer's hand
  2.  The non length trump hand has not aggressively supported the trump suit 
  3.   Part score contract meaning the defense has values 
  4.   Tap suit is not indicated or works as well as trump leads.  
  5.   You have meaty cards in the promised second suit

Here are some "automatic trump" leads for me considering the above qualifications are met.

  1. 1N 2C, 2H all pass.  Dummy has three suits and shortness in clubs.  Lead trump
  2. 2D flannery .
  3. 2D showing a 4441 hand
  4. 1N 3H showing invitational in majors
  5. 2 level preempt, new suit by responder and raise by opener. You know opener is 6/3 at least and short in other suits.  Lead trump
  6. Auctions that start with a TOX. Most of the time dummy has shortness in the opener's suit so why not start pulling dummy's trump? 
  7.  1n in the hot seat usually denote week two-suiters.
  8. Two level overcalls followed by 2 NT show 6/4 two suiters although not necessarily weak hands.
Don't forget auctions where two suits are bid outright as opener (1S 1N!, 2C 3C) or where two suits are bid naturally as overcalls.   Envision the ruffs in the non-length-trump-suit hand and go for the trump leads to prevent that offense.

I once led trump against a strong jump shift auction against a vul game score at imps. We happened to beat it at our table! WIN!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Lebesohl -3N and Stayman Responses

Hi all,

My last post explained how lebesohl can differentiate invitational versus game forcing hands in a major in response to partner's no-trump opening when the opponents have interfered.  Just a quick reminder that X's remain penalty unless you deem that X of artifical 2C is Stayman. One does not usually play "stolen bid X's" with this treatment. One now has the option of using a direct X  as penalty.

i Lebesohl also has the possibility of differentiating semi balanced hands with a stop in the opponent's suit from those semi-balanced hands that don't have a stop.  Remember, the 2N bid is now used as a relay, not to play.

If partner opens 1 NT and you hold:  A43,A65,K543,J43 you have an easy response: 3 NT.  If the opponents should overcall 2H one might also bid 3N however, what would one do with this hand?  A43,T65,K543,A43?  This hand does not have a stop in the opponent's suit but does have game going values. Counter-intuitive though it may seem, going through the 2N relay shows a stop in the opponent's suit and bidding 3N directly denies  a stop. Using "slow show stop:" lebesohl (not everyone's choice but the one I discuss here) I would relay through 2N with the first hand and bid 3N directly with the second hand.  If neither one of you have a stop in the opponent's suit it's hairy to start scrambling at the four level, but it's better than playing a hopeless NT contract.

Folks pretty commonly use a queue bid of the opponent's suit as Stayman in these sequences even if not playing lebesohl.   One can direct Stayman or "slow show stop" Stayman using lebesohl. Here's an example.

If you hold A876,A643,76 K76 and partner opens 1N, you know what to do.  2C Stayman and place the contract according to what partner bids.  If opponents overcall  2D you can bid 3D. This would deny a stop in opponent's suit.  Bidding 2N! with a relay to 3C! and then bidding 3D! Stayman shows this hand:  A876,A643,K76,76. 

If opponent's use artificial bids such as transfers, one used lebensohl to show stops in the known (shown) suit, e.g. 1N (2D! transfer) one would show a heart stop with this hand?  A76,K54,AK54,J54 by going through 2N! 3C! then Q bid hearts.

Review points:

1)  Lebensohl uses a 2N relay to 3C,. Opener has no other option but to bid 3C
2)  You have a choice,  but I've discussed "slow show stop" -so if you're using lebsohl to show/deny stops,  going through the relay shows a stop.
3)  Texas transfers are on over opponent's interference call up to 3C. One needs 4d over 3D interference to show majors.
4)  All three level bids are game forcing
5)  If you use lebesohl to differentiate between invitation and game forcing major suit hands --the "stop" idea is lost
6) If you use lebensohl, use it when lho opens and partner overcalls and rho raises!

One last thought. Don't use a convention when one isn't necessary.  If partner opens 1 NT and rho overcalls 2H and I hold Q54,8,Q87,AKQJ65, I would bid 3C (game forcing with a club suit). Partner can clearly bid 3 NT if he/she thinks it's right. In the meantime I've bid my beautiful club suit!

 Please comment or ask questions if the spirit moves.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Lebensohl Over NT Inteference, Single Major Suit Hands

Hi all, Every developing player should develop a working knowledge of a treatment called lebesohl. The origin of the name is lost in bridge lore, but its use and effects are embraced by many advanced players.

Lebensohl can be used in many bridge auctions and situations, but the basic concepts entails giving up the natural 2 no-trump bid to differentiate responder hands-most notably over no-trump interference. A 2 no-trump bid as responder becomes an automatic relay to 3C to opener. This relay is called the "slow" relay, so when one says "slow shows stop" one means that the relay through 2N! 3C! has been used.

We all have our basic sequences over no-trump openers down by now, the Stayman bid, transfers, Texas and quantitative bids. Pesky opponents don't always give you free reign to execute your machinery, however, and you need to be prepared to use lebensohl to differentiate between different types of responder hands.

Let's look at a basic hand you might hold over partner's 1 no-trump call: AK654,A76,K6,986. The bidding might go: 1N 2H!, 2S 3N --partner is asked to place the contract in spades or no-trump. Now suppose an opponent has overcalled hearts naturally. 1 n-trump (2H). With this hand using lebenshol, one can comfortable bid 3S game forcing in spades. Opener can then place the contract in 3 no-trump or four spades. Note, all three level calls using lebensohl are game forcing.

Now, let's look at an invitational hand in spades over partner's no-trump opening: AK654,Q74,87,987. Without interference the auction might go: 1N 2H!, 2S 2N inviting partner to play 2N, 3N, 3S or 4S. If you get two hearts interference, however, one cannot jump to 3S --that would be game forcing. The opponents have taken away the transfer call so one option is to bid 2N, relay to 3C and now bid 3S. This shows an invitational hand with spades.

Holding majors as responder, lebensohl relays are used to differentiate between game forcing and invitational values.

Please note that Texas transfers still apply. Should you have a hand like this: AQJT54,Q8,J34,J54, feel free to Texas transfer (4H!) over any interference bid.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

If you're going to preempt, choose the level and preempt!

In third seat partner bids 4S all nv at imps. (4N) and you hold Axxxx,xxx,Qxx,KJ and pass. lho bids 5C and you forge on to 5S. Opps X and you're down two.
Teammates are down one in five diamonds.

You hold Qx,xxx,KJxxx.Axx and partner preempts 2D same all nv at imps. (X) 5D (6S) down two. Teammates are defending 4S making.

Holding AJ98x,KQ,xxx,Axx partner preempts 3H (P). Not knowing if it would make you bump the preempt to 4H. Perhaps you can goad them into bidding 4S! Passed to the balancer who X's. Cute, after passing over 3H. Lefty tanks forever and finally emerges with 4S. Partner bids 5H. Anyone XX ing over the balancer? If so, what does that mean?

sooooo your analysis is???


ok, so here are some of my thoughts. I fielded these hands with a top flight A player so perhaps my thoughts are not mainstream.

so on the first hand it's kind of curious why one would compete to 5S after the opps bid 5C. Surely, one doesn't think this contract can be bought for 4N? 4N in this position is a TO bid. Lefty is forced to bid the longer minor, for pass, or correct to perhaps hearts.

So why not jam the auction to 5S in the first place? Is one going to sell out to 5D or 5H? That way the opps have to guess at the six level whether to bid on or whether to stop and saw off 5S.

Note that is precisely what happened on the following hand. My partner started the jam with 2D. I was willing to take the save at the five level but didn't mess around with 3d, then 4d then 5d. I blasted right away and forced my lho to guess. The guess was totally wrong and we won big time on this board.

as for the last hand, once again, opener didn't make a decision at the first opportunity to determine how high he/she wanted to preeempt -but bothered to get there on the second round. (holding 8 hearts).

It's just confusing to me and gives opponents multiple opportunities to get it right --whether to bid to their game, their slam or to saw you off.

any comments?

Monday, September 12, 2011

Action Doubles --what do they look like?

Action X's appear in a variety of sequences. Mostly instigated by responders to opening bids, they can roughly be described as communicating the following: "Partner, this is our hand, I have invitational strength but no clear direction, please help"
Responder usually has some values and has marginally described the nature of his/her hand previously in the auction.

Witness this: you hold AJ,KT5,AJ43,T932 and open 1D. Lefty overcalls 1H, partner makes a neg X and rho bids 2H. You pass having no clear call and partner X's. Given your heart cards, this X is not made on a heart stack. Partner is saying "I have invitational strength and have no clear direction as to where this hand belongs".

The other day, partner held this hand. AJ3,AT,KQ875,943 and opened 1D. I bid 1N and it gets passed to the balancer who bid 2H. I X that contract. I surmise that my X was not based on a heart stack, I denied four of them with my 1N bid. Thereby my hand is limited to 6-10 hcp. Presumably if I want to continue this auction I have about 10 hcp. So this X also says "We have the majority of the points here, pard, we need to compete, but I have no clear direction for this hand, can you help?". Another auction might be (1H) 1N (P) P, (2H) P (P) X. In this case, advancer has clearly defined his/her hand somewhat --less than invitational strength, and certainly no appreciable spades. Certainly the 1N overcaller holds all the hearts. So this bid is saying "We have the majority of the points, but I have no clear direction, what are your thoughts, partner --we should be competing somewhere".

With all these X's it is easy for opener to convert to penalty if opener has a really good holding in opponent's suit. It's not so easy if opener has a marginal holding in opponent's suit. With the marginal holding, opener has to decide whether to go for the golden 200 at mp or whether to risk 2HX vul making (perhaps on less than optimum defense) at imps. In other words, watch the type of scoring and vulnerability when making these decisions.

With the hand up above AJ3,AT,KQ875,943 (1D 1N, P (2H) X) you may wish to competed to 2N at mp. (+120 is a great score) and you probably won't beat 2H more than one trick. (+100 nv). At imps, one might want to compete to 3D which has less risk of going down!

These auctions are important to practice within you partnerships and your low level defense needs to be solid. I made a "no direction X" once against vul at mp in a major event. I tracked a trump on the opening lead and walked away with +200 and almost all the matchpoints. My friend at the other table had the same auction, tracked her minor suit and opponents scored up 2SX making.

Look for opportunities to field these auctions! Fielded right and defended right, these auctions will get you lots of mp and imps. Trust me, I know.

Warning! The discussion above has nothing to do with what folks call "Do Something Intelligent Doubles". Please don't use that phrase with me. My doubles are clearly defined as to shape and strength. I may ask for "cooperation" dependent on what you hold but you won't have any guesses as to "what's intelligent" for the most part. I've seen huge errors made on this concept. Define your doubles, precisely in every sequence possible! Makes "so-called intelligent" decisions" a lot easier!

I hope this is helpful! And please ask if you have further questions.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Roman Keycard Blackwood-Beyond the Basics

Hi all,

One of the first conventions that usually gets embellished once we move from the novice level to the serious player is our ace asking convention Blackwood. Most of us quickly adopt an ace asking convention which includes the trump K and we call that convention Roman Key Card. We now consider the trump K the fifth ace and define our responses as if there were five key cards in the deck --four aces and the trump K.

There are two major types of response categories to 4N ace ask--0314 and 1430. The former shows zero or three key cards with the first step: 5C. The latter shows 1 or 4 key cards with the first step 5C. Since the partnership often signs off after "zero" responses, it makes sense that the key card positive responses remain the lower steps! Why? because further queries about the Q of trump can then be made at lower levels. The last two responses, 5H and 5S are the same in both methods: i.e. two key cards w/out the Q versus two key cards with the Q.

So with the trump K already located with the partnership or the opponents, advanced partnerships often play "specific K" responses to 5N, king ask. Responder bids K's up the line. Imagine how helpful it would be if I held AQJT(x)(x) of clubs and partner bids 6C! If instead my other length side suit is diamonds, I can continue asking for the dK by bidding 6D. "I heard about your CK, do you have the DK also?" The asker continues asking. Respond "yes" to the specific DK query by bidding 7. Respond "no" by signing off in six. Remember asking for K's promises all the key cards. If all the key cards are promised with the 5N query responder has a right to blast to the grand holding a solid side source of tricks -for example Qx,AQxx,AKQJT9,x in a heart contract. If my partner bid 5N, K ask with the hand above, I'd just bid the grand.

Over the 4N responses (5c,5d) there is often still room to determine whether the partnership holds the trump Q. For consistency sake and to pass along the most information possible, answers to the Q query are the same as answering to specific K's. Bid the next suit up to ask. If responder has the trump Q and the CK ,he/she bids 6C. If his/her cheapest K is the diamond K, he/she bids 6D. Pretty slick how that works. No Q? Sign off in the trump suit. For the Q ask, the partnership does not promise all the key cards, so be careful about blasting to the grand. The query could be made trying to figure out if the contract belongs in 5 or 6.

There are actually ways to show useful voids during key card queries. Most universal is a 5N answer to 4N query meaning even number of key cards and a useful void. With an odd number of key cards, bid the void suit at the six level.

Hope this is helpful,that you always get to the right level in your high level contracts and there is never a surprise when dummy hits the table. Please ask if you have further questions.

P.S. If you engage in an ace asking auction and out of the blue a bid comes up that you don't recognize, it probably means that partner couldn't bid 5N asking for Kings because he/she wants to play no trump. Here's an example in a confirmed hearts auction.

1H 2N! (Jacoby), 4H 4N (ace asking), 5C 5S --now in this auction spades is not K ask, it is not queen ask and no one starts queue bidding at this point. Perhaps partner is saying --bid 5N, that's where I think this contract belongs. Opener bids 5N and it should go all pass.