RedZ Common Game Analysis June 14, 2021

Board 1 – EW should have the auction to themselves, E opening 1S, W responding a forcing 1NT and E rebidding 2H. W will content herself with 3S showing a three-card limit raise (the fitting major cards are nice, but the hand still has eight losers even counting Kxx as only two and Kx as only one). Still, E will accept holding a small side singleton and game will be reached. South has a tough lead: a singleton ten of trumps does not appeal; neither does a heart from jack-empty-fifth into declarer’s second suit; empty aces (and leads away from aces) are generally discouraged; and the club king is high-risk/high-reward. What’s the upshot? A heart lead may give declarer enough information to play spades for no losers; a trump lead certainly will; a diamond lead will eliminate a minor loser; and a club lead won’t come to much. Left to his own devices, E may lose zero or one spade; zero or one heart; one diamond; and one or conceivably two clubs if he times the hand badly. I’d be delighted to post +420 on this board. If S bids Michaels 2S over 1S (?!), N/S may take the sac, which “works” this time with matching stiffs.

Board 2 – A chance for North to test her hand evaluation: 24 hcp, plus at least one for possession of all four aces (exceedingly rare and powerful), but minus something for the short spade honors and lack of intermediates. The Kaplan & Rubens Hand Evaluator (Google and bookmark it) puts it at 23.5. Back at the ranch, meanwhile, W will interrupt N’s daydreaming with a third-chair 1C, and now N will double and over S’s 1D will bid according to her earlier hand evaluation: 1NT is out (double followed by 1NT would show just more than a direct 1NT overcall, say 19-21), so it’s either a conservative 2NT (showing about 22-23) or an aggressive 2C cuebid-then-2NT (showing about 24-25). Those less experienced players who throw their hands up and jump to 3NT will wish to adopt the above methods after seeing dummy. In the play, you cash your diamonds and put the opponents in in the round suits, inviting them to lead spades for you. When they do, you’re up to eight tricks for a creditable result.

Board 3 – Losing Trick Count (LTC) practitioners who see eight losers in the South hand (three spades, two hearts, a diamond and two clubs) may find an ultra-conservative pass, but most Souths will open 1C and hear 1S from partner. E with three small diamonds and spade wastage has nothing to say, and S will raise to 2S. Back to LTC, where with nine losers N has a minimum response despite the 9 hcp and passes. Now E either lets it go or comes in with a now-or-never double, and it will take either good methods (perhaps 2NT by W as a scramble denying a five-card suit, 3C by E, 3D by W, and an inferential 3H by E) or a bit of luck to land in 3H rather than 3D. I would not bid be tempted to bid again as N/S (well, maybe slightly tempted as S if they stop in 3D), and now the result comes down to whether E/W lose zero or one (or two???) hearts and one or (if they’re trumps) two diamonds to go with their three black losers. If N/S do compete to 3S, the friendly fall of the club jack-ten and the spade queen-ten should see them home. I would expect +140s if N/S declare and +100 or +200 if E/W do. If E/W make 3H against you dropping your queen-jack, either hold your cards back or make an offering to the bridge gods for better luck.

Board 4 – Many possible auctions. If W has a weak 2D available, she will surely make it, and it may go 2S by E, 3C by S, and either 3H or a doomed-to-heartbreak 3NT by N. With E’s only trump the ace, 4H has just the three obvious losers. E is more likely to make a jump in spades (likely inspiring after-the-hand partnership discussion of meanings) than to pass 2D, and this may block N/S. If W does not have a weak 2D available, N will probably pass behind her and E’s big spade bid will have more to commend it. If spades become trump, good defense will hold declarer to two via some combination of black-suit tricks. E simply has no parking place for his long club.

Board 5 – E will open 1H and S will overcall 1S. W will raise to 2H (despite “living in” the minors, supporting takes priority over doubling), and now the spotlight hits N, who will choose between 3S and a fifth-trump-and-stiff-heart 4S. Either wins the auction, but with the club ace onside, 4S wins the day.

Board 6 – The freaks come out at…bridge? E has choices with his 5-6 pointy freak, but a weak 2D (intending to come in spades later) appears to be in favor. S will offer 2H, W has nothing to say, and N will raise to 3H or perhaps a hungry 4H. If E now sees his plan through, E/W will not stop short of 4S (or, if necessary, 5S) for a good board; if N/S are allowed to play hearts, with E going quietly after either this start or an original pass, they win the board in the auction.

Board 7 – West opens 1C and N either overcalls 1S or doesn’t. If she does, E gets his hand off his chest with a simple club raise and S with nine losers contents himself with a single raise despite 10 hcp. If N doesn’t overcall, E may offer a noncommittal 1D over 1C and hear a 1NT rebid from W. If W instead rebids 1H – not my bridge; it’s important to put your hand in a box for partner, and 1C-then-1H should guarantee an unbalanced hand – then, if N still doesn’t overcall, E will correct back to 2C. The possible contracts, then, are 1NT or 2C by West and 2S by North. The play in clubs is of greatest interest, as the hand with the fourth trump has the short spade and E/W may lose trump control despite the 3-3 break.

Board 8 – E opens 1C, W responds 1D, E rebids 1H (a game-forcing 2H would be a massive overbid), and W (knowing her partner’s hand is unbalanced for this sequence) should offer 2C. (Second choice: 2H.) Over either, E will offer 2NT, and W will either pass or raise to game. While an original spade lead by S seems routine (if N grabs the ace, E can unblock an honor to create a second dummy entry that may prove useful for a finesse of the club ten), a S who trusts E/W’s expertise will place E with a stiff diamond and lead the DT after winning the club ace. Any South who finds the DT on opening lead (by listening to the auction and noting that W’s 1D response to 1C will sometimes be a place holder lacking the strength for 1NT), I want as my partner. The effect is devastating despite W’s diamond quality.

Board 9 – N/S should have the auction to themselves. Most Norths will open 1C, hear a 1H response, and rebid either 1NT (best) or 1S (should promise unbalanced hand). The 1NT rebid will end the auction. Over a 1S rebid, South will offer either 1NT or 2NT, over the latter of which it is barely conceivable North may raise to game. If North opens 1NT – either upgrading for three aces or coming within a slightly lower-than-standard notrump range – game will be reached after a Stayman auction. Key round cards lie favorably, but those in game may need a good diamond read – placing the queen with W when E shows 10 hcp in the majors and the long spade – to bring it home.

Board 10 – E has a good 1NT opening and now the hand becomes a test of E/W’s slam bidding. A common start will be 2C, 2D, 3C, 3D or 3NT and now W may either blast (6NT more likely over 3D, 6C perhaps more likely over 3NT) or persist with a forcing 4C. Marty Bergen advocates aiming for a suit slam on most such hands (bidding 6NT only as a matter of pure point count or when you can count twelve top tricks), but it may test W’s stomach not to bid 6NT with this big a hand opposite partner’s 1NT opener. In truth, some luck factor will inevitably be involved, as (for example) 6C could fail with a slightly different trump split. This time, everything makes, even a – let’s call it – esoteric 6H.

Board 11 – The West hand is awfully rich for a nonvulnerable 3C, so let’s assume a 1C opener. N either passes or makes a Steve Robinson “in and out” double. Over either, E offers 1S and (if S passes or, N having doubled, is able to make a red-suit-showing rather than penalty double) W offers 2C. (If S bids 2 of a red suit, some Wests will pass and some will persist with 3C). Clubs has four side losers and a trump loser; hearts has six losers; and diamonds is too ugly to discuss. I’d settle for any plus either way.

Board 12 – Cue up the old standard “Change Partners,” as each player would rather be facing a different companion hand. Nevertheless, E/W can make game on the strength of W’s suits and E’s minor stoppers, though I expect most to fall short of the hand-record optima at the table. The West hand is a rare exception to the hard-and-fast rule that a 2C opener requires top honors in at least three suits. If I opened one of a major and partner were to pass (unlikely, to be sure), I would promptly expire.

Board 13 – S opens 1S in third chair and W either doubles or (more likely at the club level) overcalls 2H. N passes and E musters a single raise of hearts or a 1NT response to a double. The spade position creates a second trump loser to go with three top pointed tricks against hearts, while 1NT comes in even if N gets in to lead a spade through. A victory for the flexible double.

Board 14 – W opens 1C in third chair and N either inserts a featherweight 1H or (more likely) passes. (1H overcalls often allow opponents to sort out their spade holdings more easily, so make them judiciously.) If N passes, E is the 1H bidder, while if N overcalls, E bids 1NT in preference to a club raise. Most roads lead to 3NT, with 5C possible but generally shunned at matchpoints. Against 3NT, S will lead the H8 and E’s heart spots make the contract unbeatable.

Board 15 – At unfavorable vulnerability, does N dare to preempt 3C? So long as partner understands that my preempts are extremely wide-ranging once she’s passed, I’d do it in a blur. E doesn’t care, opening 1NT if possible or doubling 3C. Over 1NT, W will probably Stayman, prepared to invoke Smolen but instead finding spades and probably settling for game. The 3C preempt may fail spectacularly here, as the West hand is fairly massive opposite a double of 3C and I would expect a substantial minority to reach slam after that start. Here, not only is the spade king doubleton onside, but the fall of the diamond queen under the ace allows S’s ten and nine to be double-finessed. Meanwhile, if S is on lead and tries the club ace, no soap.

Board 16 – W will open 1NT and N would have to be awfully hungry to introduce spades. E will transfer to hearts and W should super-accept with four and a non-minimum. When partner transfers, trump is the suit you are happiest to be weak in, so W should super-accept even if doing so shows a maximum. Now the camera pans to E, who either goes or doesn’t. Are we late enough in the game that state of our game comes into play in the decision? In the play, you want to clear clubs early to prevent an easy exit in that suit. Many iterations in the pointed suits, including W’s nine and eight of spades factoring in and the possibility of S’s leading a diamond to N’s queen, followed by the ten back to S’s ace and a ruff for N.

Board 17 – If E opens, the most likely auction is 1C-1D-2D-2H-2NT-3NT. If E passes, W will open 1D and E will either make an inverted or limit raise or perhaps offer a 3H splinter or, if available, a 2H mini-splinter. (A 2C response is also imaginable.) If E does pinpoint heart shortness, W will do well not to insist on notrump despite her ace-queen. She can develop nine tricks, but N/S get five first.

Board 18 – Three passes to N, who opens 1C. E overcalls 1H, S responds 1S, W passes, and N either bids 1NT (the contract in which her heart holding will hold greater value) or (more likely) passes 1S. (Raising would be famished with this – charitably – nine-loser collection.) Does E, having passed originally, now come in again with a double? I don’t score consistently well letting the opponents play one of a suit, so I would, and now it’s possible E/W buy the contract in N’s original suit, clubs. Still and all, N knows she’s on an eight-card spade fit and will probably – reluctantly – compete to two. The long diamond sets up and all is well.

Board 19 – E/W will probably have the auction to themselves: 1H-1S-2D-3H-4H. N will probably lead DK and W may duck (Bath Coup). A club play may follow, removing a late entry to dummy but establishing a pitch for a losing diamond. That, together with a spade finesse if necessary, should see declarer home. In isolation, best play in trumps is jack, covered all around, followed by a subsequent finesse for the ten, here losing. In the event, few will both have and choose to use the dummy entries to play them that way. (Please tell me you didn’t break trumps for declarer.) I would expect most to lose one trick in every suit but spades.

Board 20 – Are you a bidder or a passer? W has only a king, but seven decent spades, so some of those who can’t make themselves open 3S will compromise with 2S. E will force to 4S opposite either, while if W passes, E opens 1NT and W swats away S’s heart interference with a Texas transfer. No defense prevails.

Board 21 – Approximately 70% of experts would open the E hand 1C and rebid 2C over 1S, while 30% would open 1D and rebid 2C, risking a “false preference” into a 4-2 fit to tell partner about nine of their cards. Over 1C-1S-2C, W will force with 2H if possible (else 2D) and most roads will probably lead to 3NT. Over 1D-1S-2C, W will bid a 4SF 2H, E will offer 2NT, and W will raise to 3NT. Without great extras or an eight-card-fit suit, most pairs will not sniff at slam. Here, thanks to the solidity of East’s clubs, which come in, 6H does not even require finding the diamond queen. The minor slams do.

Board 22 – E opens 1D. S overcalls 1S. (Not close. A large part of this game is, who’s got the spades?) W jumps to some number of hearts, and N probably supports spades unless that number was four. Most roads will lead to 4H by W, which with trumps splitting makes despite three spade losers. 3S is ugly for S, what with four top losers and three ruffs, but even doubled is a win against E/W’s game. That N/S are “cold” for 3NT tells you all you need to know about evaluating your results based on what “the hand record said we could make.”

Board 23 – N opens 1D in third chair, and most Easts can’t bid 2NT, which would show clubs and hearts. E may be irritated to have to bid 2C, but remember (as Sabine Auken noted in her great book I Love This Game) that 2C over 1D (and 2D over 1C) are wonderful overcalls that often give even expert opponents irresoluble problems. Here, S had a normal 1H response over 1D, but goes quietly over 2C. W now shows enormous support (either with some club raise or a fit-jump into spades, if applicable), and 5C should be reached at most tables. N rates to have the CK, so declarer will probably use dummy’s spade entry for the losing trump finesse. At this point, if S started with a diamond lead to partner’s queen and declarer’s ace, he’ll have to switch to hearts now or kiss them goodbye forever. North’s only chance at a signal is to have played the club nine rather than the seven under the jack.

Board 24 – E opens 1C in third chair, S either passes or (with only one suit of value) helps partner out with a 1H overcall, and W either responds 1S or makes the negative double. If S overcalled, N raises to 2H (or an annoying 3H), and E bids 3D over 2H or 4D or a card-showing double over 3H. If N/S have been silent, the auction is 1C-1S-2D-3C-?. Most roads lead to 4C, though a minority will stretch to game. (Neither E nor W has a penalty double or penalty pass of hearts.) There’s nothing to the play, just three top losers in clubs or six in hearts.

Board 25 – Most Easts will not open 2H with a good four-card spade suit, leaving S to open 1C in third chair (lots of third-chair openings today). Here’s a great opportunity for W, opposite a passed partner who knows not to punish her, to make that enervating 2D overcall of 1C. N, who had the world’s easiest 1S response to 1C, is now totally flummoxed, with nine hcp but no clear bid. E will now admit to 2H and a heart partial (or even game, which almost makes) is in view. If the auction starts P-P-1C-P-1S, E will again admit to 2H, S may make a support double, and a club partial is in view, though it’s hard to imagine W’s not competing to 3H. It takes an unlikely (but not unthinkable, especially given the inference from E’s delayed heart bid) spade lead to hold clubs to nine tricks.

Board 26 – If E opens 1D, S will overcall 1H, W will bid 1S, E will raise to 2S, and W will either blast or investigate game, the vast majority getting there. If E opens 1NT (K & R has it at 15.05, appraising the diamonds as sparkling), 4S will always be reached. With three top losers in the reds, it comes down to the play in trumps, and if W reads N’s heart lead as from three, that may leave just enough more spaces in the N hand to convince W to take the winning hook.

Board 27 – We end not with a whimper but with a bang. West preempts either 3D or 4D. Over the latter, N probably bids 5C; over the former, N may start with a double and rebid clubs. E bids 5D without blinking and now it’s anybody’s guess. This time, N/S need to stop and take the money. Getting to the par contract of 5H would be yeoman’s work missing the ace, queen, jack and nine.