Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Book review: Setting Trick: Practical Problems in Bridge Defense by Ian McCance

2008, publisher Masterpoint Press

First a word about bridge books. There are too few good books on defense. This book should be on every serious bridge addict's shelf, together with Kelsey and Pottage.

Take the particularly thorny problem of bridge defense. If you are like me, you are a poor holder of cards and even the average card holder is twice as many times on defense as he or she is declarer. So sharpening your defensive skills should earn twice the reward. Moreover, the defender is at a great disadvantage in two respects. First, he does not know the combined assets of his army unlike declarer who can plan the play like a general in a theater of war. Second, he has to guess whether to go all out to break the contract or to prevent overtricks especially at matchpoint duplicate.

It is a concession to the difficulty above, that in this book you are told from the outset that you have to break the contract by a trick. This does not make the hands any easier.

We have read "Killing defense" by Kelsey, "Big Match" by Julian Pottage, and "Masterpieces of defense" by Pottage, but this book out-Pottages Pottage.

The choices to be made are the sort of choices one encounters every day.

Most examples are original, this one however is standard. In a trump contract ending where you have been stripped, you are on lead with J 4 2 in a plain suit, Dummy to your right has Q 9 7.
Your exit? You need two more tricks and partner has the Ace , and declarer knows it. Yes, it has to be the J.
You are catering to the layout
.........A 10 6 5

K 8 3................. Q 9 7

..........J 4 2

Declarer on a small lead captures the ten with the queen and finesses the J on the way back to lose only one trick. If we lead the Jack we give declarer a guess as to where the Ten is.

Another problem:

Dlr: E
Vul: Nil









"The bidding with South opening and becoming declarer is ONE CLUB - ONE HEART - TWO NOTRUMP (18-19) -THREE NOTRUMP.

Your SPADE NINE lead is covered by the JACK, KING, and ACE. Declarer produces the DIAMOND TWO. How will you defend?

The full solution:

Dlr: E
Vul: Nil

















"So, declarer has two or three tricks in spades, one in hearts and is likely to be well-upholstered in clubs. When he plays the DIAMOND DEUCE, it looks as if his remaining tricks have to come from diamonds, and here you know what's what because the auction has told you declarer has only two hearts.
It is likely that decalrer has Axx in DIAMONDS, and you have to remove the entry in hearts before diamonds are established. Take control - play the Diamond Queen and swithc to the HEART THREE. "

In yet another problem, you are led up the proverbial garden path, by being given a count of declarer's winners in a notrump game. They add up to nine. You are alert however, and you note that one of declerer's closed hand winners is stranded. What is your game plan you are asked?
Why do I need an active game plan?
Declarer might have played inaccurately or stranded a winner earlier in the play, but I still have to discard carefully to avoid becoming a stepping stone, lest he should recover in the later play.
I have to discard a King, hoping partner has the Queen, to avoid being used as a stepping stone. Neat stuff.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Book review. "Moments of Truth at the Bridge Table" - R.Jayaram

Batsford, 2003

This is one of three books by the author, an Indian bridge writer. The hands he has chosen are from the actual praxis of Indian experts in major tournaments. The analysis is the author's own, except where attributed to other experts.

Oddly, while the hands are themselves interesting, the analyses range from the ridiculous to the sublime. On the very first hand, where a 3-2 split is proven and the queen is outstanding after one round, when righty (who has three to left's two) follows with a small one one round two, the author avers that the probablity of the queen being with lefty has changed from 2/5 to 1/3. Every serious student of the game knows that the a priori odds are not changed with RHO following with a small one to the second round.

The bridge proof-reading, as opposed to the language-proofreading, is terrible. On one hand the defender is given the six and the four spots of spades, and the text says the declarer plays on trick two the four of spades. As it happens, this does not change the outcome of the hand or the analysis in a material way, but is distracting.

A final complaint. There must be tons of Indian bridge material. For writers like Jayaram and Paranjape to rehash the same hands from tourneys that we have read about seems like there is only a little material to go around, which is blatantly untrue.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Need for an "Alarm Clock" discard.

Dlr: E
Vul: Nil

















An alarm clock discard is the discard of an illogical honor card in a suit held by declarer that asks partner who is on lead in the middle game to wake up and cash tricks in a side suit. It is essentially a command to look elsewhere for tricks. Here is an example.

My RHO became declarer in THREE NOTRUMP after the following auction.


I led the King of Spades, which declarer won, He played a club to the Ace (wish trick, deuce, trey, four). When he played a club up, he finessed the nine. I pitched a diamond, Declarer cashes three rounds of diamonds. They break. He plays a SPADE, I win, and now I have to cash out for one down. I am staring at Q763 on my left, and I have KJx. Unbeknownst to me partner has AT9x.
We can cash 4 hearts. How do I know to do this? Simple. Partner should pitch the CLUB QUEEN, and alarm clock signal. This cannot mean interest in clubs, since declarer is marked with the club K (he started with K9x). Now I should switch with confidence to HK, then HJ and a third heart to take 4 fast heart tricks.

A trap that I sprung.

Dlr: W
Vul: N/S

















The bidding went, with my LHO West ending up in 3NOTRUMP, ONE DIAMOND by W, ONE SPADE by pd (N), DOUBLE (negative) by E, pass, ONE NOTRUMP (W), TWO NOTRUMP (E), THREE NOTRUMP (W), all passing.

Partner led a high spade. West won immediately. One can see that with the heart finesse on he has no problems whatever. However, he elected to play HA and another Heart up. Perhaps he wished to keep the diamond entries fluid and hoped to build a club, anticipating our inability to run the spades. I ducked the HQ smoothly.

If I had won the trick, I have no spades to play. We can get one club, one heart and two spades, that is all. So I had, by ducking, seized on the slender straw that declarer's unusual line of play had presented to us.

Now declarer had no way to make the contract. He played a club up to his King, and partner came in and cashed two spades.This set up a spade winner with declarer. A further heart from partner through the H:J9 to my H:KT would have set the unsinkable contract, but partner fell from grace, exiting with a club when declarer had built up his game with overtrick (two spades, two hearts, one club, 5 diamonds)

Welcome to Ramesh's BRIDGE BLOG

In these pages, I comment on hands from Bridge Base Online ACBL tourneys. I play in these with a variety of partners with different degrees of skill. I might present a hand or two from my collection of bridge books, every now and then. I am more interested in play and defense than in complex bidding systems, but I do follow the cut and thrust of Vanderbilt and World Championship Vugraph and try to keep abreast of expert practice in the obstructive and constructive bidding system department. I may also feature, newspaper-style, famous hands from important matches that I saw on Vugraph.

NOTE: For JUNE, I am experimenting with adding BBO's Handviewers, which make bridge movies embedded. Just
scroll down beyond the few sampled book covers and you arrive at the blogs that play themselves with the NEXT button. THANKS, BBO!!

About Me

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Bridge expert for 20 years. I started blogging about bridge only in 2009. Chess follower. Problem fan. Studied hundreds of composition themes in two-movers, fairy chess, the former from the Good Companion era to the modern style of virtual play. Big collector of chess and bridge rare books. My two game blogs bridge blog, and my chess problem themes blog chess expo

My alter ego, The Hideous Hog

My alter ego, The Hideous Hog