Third Hand High? OMT

We have one more thing (OMT) on the hand from yesterday.  Our opponents bid three no trump and it was crucial that we do not play third hand high to limit their club winners one and transportation to the dummy.  The hand in case your forgot:

North: S 7, H A Q 7 6 4, D K Q 5 3, C K 8 5
East: S Q 8 5 4 3, H 5,  D 8 4, C J 6 4 3 2
South: S A K J 10 6, H J 3 2, D J 10 6, C Q 7
West (MWG) S 9 2,  H K 10 9 8, D A 9 7 2, C A 10 9

Whoops: We just noticed that we left off the spade trey from our partner’s hand on the earlier post.  It doesn’t matter to the play of the hand.

What if opponents bid four hearts as most did.  Should we as West play third hand high?  Absolutely.  You have four defensive winners, two minor aces and two hearts,  in your hand and you need to make sure you keep them.  It is not a bad idea to play the ace of diamonds on the second trick.  Then all you do have to cover the heart jack when it is played.

So in four hearts West plays the ace of clubs and returns a little one that dummy wins with the queen.  What should declarer do?  Answer play a little heart to the ace and then a little heart to the jack.  This makes the contract against a singleton king and and three-two trump split.  It is down one as the cards lay but the only hope against the distribution is to guess it and then find a way to get West to lead a trump.  The defense couldn’t miss against four hearts as the cards lie.  It could against three no trump.

Third Hand High?

Here is one we messed up on defense in the interesting hand below. It has a declarer question too.  North dealt and opened a heart.  We were E-W and passed every bid.  South bid a spade and N bid a no trump.  Here is where opponent’s system made things interesting.  South could pass but 2C means pick a part score contract and 2D means pick a game contract.  2D led to North picking 3 NT and South left it at that.  Everyone else was in 4 hearts down one.   It is a matchpoint game and only E-W side is vulnerable in case you wanted to know that.

The hands (S= spade etc.):

North: S 7, H A Q 7 6 4, D K Q 5 3, C K 8 5
East: S Q 8 5 4, H 5,  D 8 4, C J 6 4 3 2
South: S A K J 10 6, H J 3 2, D J 10 6, C Q 7
West (MWG) S 9 2,  H K 10 9 8, D A 9 7 2, C A 10 9

Correction: we left out the three of spades from partner’s (East) hand.

Partner makes the standard lead of the fourth best club, the trey.  Declarer plays low from the dummy and the we choke.  Our explanation is that we choked because our spade holding made us think that declarer can run five spades.  That would mean our discard on the fifth spade would be hard and it was possible that partner had five clubs K-J.  No it wasn’t really possible given the bidding.

Sidebar One: When we played the A of clubs on the first trick and then led the 10 it resulted in declarer four spades, two hearts, two diamonds, and two clubs.  We got minus 430 and a zero in the watchpoint competition.  End sidebar One.

If we correctly play the ten of clubs on the first trick then it gets interesting.  Should declarer play his king?  No if he plays his king then his best hope is to finesse the spade jack and hope for a three-three split.  The finesse holds but the split doesn’t materialize and now declarer is in big trouble.  He could lead a spade for down two (we get a spade, a diamond, and four clubs but we like to think he desperately leads a little heart hoping MWG holds two hearts: king and a little one.  The finesse works but when our partner shows out on the ace then we win the last seven tricks for down three.  Either way (plus 100 or plus 150) we get a top score.

Sidebar Two: What happens if the spades run?  Then declarer makes the contract by refusing the first club.  He still goes down one if he goes up on the first trick.  End Sidebar Two.

Third hand high is a general rule.  It this case waiting to cover dummy’s honor was the way to go.


Bridge Error

We were playing a hand in a pairs game at favorable vulnerability recently when we picked up a hand with six hearts headed by the KQJ and four spades with the ace and three little ones.  Our left hand opponent (LHO) dealt and she opened a diamond.  Our partner bid two spades indicating a weak hand with six spades.  Our memory is cloudy but our right hand opponent bid three of a minor (diamonds or clubs).

The our analysis was right.  We almost all the major cards, they have almost all the minor cards, they have enough points for a minor game, and being quality opponents they will bid it.  They might even see the small slam that was obvious to us and bid that.  Despite this good analysis, the hands revealed that we make ten spade tricks and they make 12 diamond tricks, we proceeded to make at least two and perhaps three wrong bids.

We passed on our first bid instead of bidding four spades.  It was within the realm of possibility that it would get doubled and we make a top.  It is more likely that LHO will bid five diamonds as she did.  We should have bid five spades with our second bid after five diamonds but didn’t because we felt they would make six diamonds and we would force them to bid it.  This was stupid.  If five spades was a good sacrifice over a diamond game then six spades would be a better sacrifice over a diamond slam.  Assuming the courtesy double (see ACBL scoring), we lose either 100 for down one doubled or 620 for a diamond game with an overtrick at the five level.  So five spades was the right bid because we are 520 points better off.  We lose 300 for down two doubled or 1370 for opponents making a small diamond at the six level.  So if they bid six diamonds then six spades is the right bid.  For novices at scoring, you get the tricks plus the game plus the slam to get to 1370.

We feel good about the analysis but really bad about the thinking.



Knowing and understanding the scoring system is important.  The right decision in bridge depends on whether you are playing match points or IMPs.  The right decision in golf could depend on stroke play versus match play.  Scoring is an important reason for the effectiveness of capitalism.

Today at the Dell Technologies Championship we saw an odd example of that.  Justin Rose birdied the 15th hole to go four under and improve his Fed Ex standing from ninth to first.  The odd part about the projections is that the PGA tour projects a tie for X as everybody getting X.  In real life they have a playoff for first and everything else gets divided up so if there is a three way tie for second then those three guys split points (or money) for second, third, and fourth.  So when Justin tied for first then all four tied got first place points and Justin is currently first in Fed Ex standings.

Scoring is critical.  Pay attention to get ahead.

Open And Closed

The folks over at Unherd have a number of articles on open versus closed led by Peter Franklin’s The Deeper Meaning Of Open And Closed.  Many other folks have made our point that leftist claim to be more open minded but really aren’t.  We are sure that Jonah Goldberg has plowed this ground but we are not willing to spend the time to find it.  Peter starts off:

Following Brexit, Trump and the formation of a populist government in Italy, there would seem to be an open-and-shut case for open-and-closed.

Then he follows up with the obvious.  Open and closed terminology is a brush to try and discredit the right:

At least the terminology of left-and-right sounds neutral to modern ears.1 The language of open-and-closed, by contrast, is one-sided in the impressions it conveys – and is intended to convey.

Yup.  The problem is that it isn’t representative or even useful.  Folks that have a consistent world view have effective ways to focus.  In the current terminology, they have closed minds.  The most obvious example of folks with a consistent worldview would be academics.

If you ask a physicist about perpetual motion they will immediately dismiss the idea because it is contrary to the laws of physics.  Well, at least Newtonian physics as we are not up to date on our physics.  The point is that academics, like other experts, have a framework for identifying interesting questions.  They have a closed mind towards others.

Another example would be the opening lead of a king against a three no-trump contract in bridge.  A novice declarer might win the first trick with his ace but a more expert declarer is unlikely to win that first trick.  Here we have a slight difference between the (expert) physicist and the bridge expert.  The bridge expert is open to a couple of alternatives, the most likely concern is if a change of suits on the second lead would cause problems.  It is highly likely but not certain that the expert will quickly decide to refuse the first trick.  If the dummy has two small cards in that suit and the declarer has the ace plus two small cards then the decision to duck approaches certainty.

What is true in our political environment is that folks on the left are open to one set of things and folks on the right are open to another set of things.  It is because they often have a set of principles that they use to think about problems.

Sidebar: Yes there are folks that are unprincipled generally.  Jonah Goldberg writes about principles and bigots at NRO.  Yes there are difficult political decisions that test an individual’s principles.  We think that untested candidates are in vogue because they have not had to make those difficult decisions. It is not our preference but that is what we see.  End Sidebar.

Although there are many ways to slice and dice each wing, those sets don’t have much overlap.  For example, consider Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez as Charles Cooke does at NRO.  To the left, her hyphenated name and ethnicity are enticing.  Her socialism is exciting.  Her behavior can be used to castigate The Donald.  To the right, to overstate it slightly, socialist is another word for a fool.  Her behavior that Charlie describes buttresses that initial take.  Neither side has claim to being the open side or the closed side.  When they have principles they are different and that is part of what causes our disagreements.  The other part is lack of principles.

Bridge Dilemma

Last week in our duplicate club game we had great but insufficient information.  We were West and South had bid One No Trump and there was no additional bids.  We won the tenth trick and it stood that we had four tricks and declarer six.  Our hand contained two clubs, the ace and ten, and the jack of diamonds.  The dummy, North, had no significant cards.  Our partner surely had three clubs including an honor.  Declarer had the queen of spades and two clubs including an honor.  Our opponents use 15-17 HCP for One No Trump openers and two queens or queen and a king would fit in her hand.

Here is the first step of the dilemma: Who has the king of clubs?  If South has it then I should lead the spade and we get the last two tricks as South is endplayed.

Sidebar: South is endplayed because if she leads the king we play the ace.  If she leads low we do too and East wins the 12th trick and we win the last with the ace.  End Sidebar.

But if East has the king then we should lead the ace followed by the ten and we get the last three tricks.  But if South has the king that action leads to South getting two of the last three tricks.  In party bridge you should lead the ace because of the scoring but duplicate has ordinal scoring so there is no obvious reason to play it either way based on scoring.

The night was not going well so we led the jack and, of course, South produced two black queens and we ended up with one instead of three.  We had really good information about everybody’s hands but not quite enough.

Free Finesses

The the bridge table yesterday we saw an example of how costly a free finesse could be. We were defending four spades and partner (West) led a diamond.  Dummy tabled the ace and three little ones.  Declarer had the queen and jack.  It was unlikely that partner led away from the king but declarer must have thought, “What is the worst that could happen?”

Sidebar: Because they are the only pair that regularly plays a version of precision they were the only pair to have the opportunity to make that mistake.  End Sidebar.

Declarer found out by playing low.  We produced the king of diamonds followed by the singleton ace of clubs and led a little diamond.  Partner ruffed the diamond and produced a club for us to ruff.  Trying to turn five into an unlikely six became down one as declarer ruefully claimed the rest of the tricks.  Free, finesses and otherwise, can be very expensive.