Some problems from the Palm Springs Regional

Panelists: David Caprera, Mike Shuster, Barry Rigal, John Jones, Joel Wooldridge, Curt Hastings, and Bobby Bodenheimer
  1. Both vul, you hold

     S:A109x H:10x D:Jxx C:Axxx

    1D:! 1H: 3D:! ?

    1D: was 2 or more. 3D: was preemptive.

    Double seems close enough to perfect. If partner is out there on poof, this will discourage him from doing so in the future.
    X. What's the catch?
    Dbl. Takeout. Yes I am minimum but I can't sell out here. And no I would not be surprised to discover this is how to turn a plus into a minus.
    Double (responsive) is completely obvious, a textbook hand. [Your partner] (who failed to alert) apparently played it as some sort of cooperative for penalties. Or maybe he just forgot to alert and made a winning decision. [He forgot to alert. --Jeff]
    Double. I don't want to sell, and partner is short in diamonds (hopefully), so we have somewhere to play it.
    Double. I kind of hope partner passes, actually.
    I think Dbl is the only bid here. Not pretty, but I must say something to partner with this holding, and this is the most attractive bid.
    What's the problem?
    double. Partner has nowhere to go so you get +500.
    Too easy. This was the most interesting bidding problem of the month. And it wasn't very interesting.

  2. S: Ax
    H: Jx
    D: A432
    C: AK10xx
    S: 108
    H: x
    D: KQ10xx
    C: 9xxxx
    S: KQJxx
    H: K109x
    D: Jxx
    C: Q
    S: 97xx
    H: AQ87xx
    D: 5
    C: Jx

    North East South West
    1NT 2D:! Dbl Pass
    Pass 2S: Dbl All Pass

    1NT was 15-17. 2D: was the majors. Pass of the double was "no preference" (not diamonds).

    T1: S:x-8-A-x
    T2: S:x-x-x-10
    T3: D:K-A-x-x
    T4: H:J-K-A-x
    T5: C:J-x-K-x
    T6: C:K.
    Making 2. N/S -670. 800 is available on any number of defenses.

    a) what would you lead?

    Sympathetic to the Spade lead.
    trump X
    D:5. When partner can overruff hearts why kill his trump holding?
    I would lead a trump, not a D: (even after having seen the result)
    stiff diamond
    A spade or a diamond. Probably a spade. I have a lot of sympathy for the spade lead: South knows that West has at most 3 cards in the majors and wants to cut down on heart ruffs.
    What is the pass of 2D: about? We know RHO has at least four hearts. Partner has at least two, so dummy can't have more than one. He ought not have more than one spade, therefore! That means that ruffs in the dummy are probably not very relevant. Most likely, we are in a 4-3 trump fit, breaking 5-1 offsides. It's likely to be more important to create tricks with trumps than to prevent dummy's taking one. In any case, we have the H:A, so we ought to have time to shift. I think a diamond lead is a standout.

    b) assign the blame for this 30 IMP debacle.

    800 is nice, but I think that North should duck the DA to ensure the set. As for opening 1NT, that too contributed to problem. So I guess I would give north 80%.
    North 100% South didn't do anything wrong that I can see. North should duck the first round of diamonds. It could blow a trick, but whenever East has 2 diamonds, it is going to save.
    North did not need to return a trump (the C:K looks clearer) at trick two and might then work out to give partner a diamond ruff. Winning the D:A is a clear error — but I might have done the same...
    [John was the declarer at the table. --Jeff] Several normal looking but not right on this hand decisions combined to yield a terrible result. (East-West's bidding and play affected the result also. My line was certainly not safest for down 2, which I estimated would be a 12 IMP loss (I thought teammates would likely be - 100 in 4H:, and it might be worse — I didn't know about the 6-2 H: break). As I previously said, I underestimated my chances for down 1 if I pulled trumps. In retrorepect, my line of play was clearly wrong, but giving [your partner] a defensive problem worked.)

    Assess the blame, well, double looks juicy; pass of double is 100%; it's hard to assess any blame on the bidding. The trump lead looks right, although it turns out to be a much easier hand to defend w/ a D: lead (-500 for certain /w -800 available), thus I give part of the blame to the opening lead. Winning the DA could be right, but could also be wrong (ducking might blow a trick if declarer has a stiff), and the defense is easier if he gets an accurate count on the D:. Thus I certainly give a significant part of the blame to the win of the D:A at trick 3. Returning a H:, not a D: for pard ruff, wrong but the 5D: could well have been from J65 (declarer played 9 from J96 with the 7&8 in the dummy). The H: is wrong, but not unreasonable, thus gets a small part of the blame. The C:J is all that's left, thus no blame there. The C:K is right (as opposed to the D: ruff) if declarer is 5512 (quite possible). Part of the 30 IMP swing has to go against the EW pair who scored -650, which would be a certain loss at an IMP pair type of scoring. Score the blame as:

    opening lead 20%
    winning D:A 50%
    failing to find ruffs 10%
    declarer's strange play 10%
    teammates lousy score 10%
    [North: 60%, South: 20%, others: 20%, so I'll call it 75/25 --Jeff]
    As I said each decision individually could have been correct.
    I think that taking the D:A was a premature play, however this was partially caused by the direct spade return (maybe the C:K was better, in case partner is void). [BINGO! --Jeff] Still, the distribution of this hand is difficult to work out. Declarer could be 6-5-1-1. In which case the correct defense is to win the D:A directly and continue clubs to cause declarer to open up the heart suit, which is why the H:J play is inconsistent with the defense. I still think the majority of the blame has to be put with South for the poor choice of opening leads. He can see that the worst possible scenario for his opening lead would be dummy's having 2-0 in the majors, and declarer's winning trick 1, taking a ruff, returning to the club A, and taking a ruff. However, this would still leave declarer with 2 hearts (maybe 3), and would therefore not likely cost much. Also, it could be very important to ruff out declarer's minor suit holding in diamonds first, before drawing trumps. So, I'd make it out about 70% South for the opening lead, and 30% North for the lack of consideration at tricks 2 and 3. Most of the beat was thrown away with the first 2 tricks. However, 2 tricks could have been spared if North ducked the D:A, and then later played it down after winning the C:K, which is why I'm assigning the, I think, high % of blame for North.
    This is tough - there is no single "criminal action"

    The lead was questionable — south has too many hearts, and NS are unlikely to have some other source of tricks. That means the strategy of killing declarer's side suit by a combination of drawing dummy's trumps and tapping the closed hand isn't best.

    So NS should be trying to set up tricks and hoping that any heart ruffs that could have been prevented are unproductive ones. That means D: lead, here. Could lead to ruffs, pitches of clubs, or setting up NS's slow tricks, which might be needed to play later, while declarer plays hearts.

    North could have done other things, such as cashing 1 high club to get some more count information.

    North also might have inferred that south had 1, not 3 diamonds, from the bidding and dummy.

    Finally, North might have taken the safe route of ducking the D:A. While N has a source of tricks, if S has spades, hearts, and 3 diamonds, he will run out of things to play later, anyway, and might be forced to concede the trick that would be saved by grabbing the D:A.

    So, 60% N, for a variety of misdemeanors, although the lead was the worst action.

    I give North all the blame. Given the lead, the defense seems reasonable up until the Diamond A. An argument can be made for taking the Ace, although I don't think it's a very good one. His trick is not going away. However, leading the H:J back seems really foolish. I can't figure out what North was thinking about the defense at tricks 3 and 4 that would lead to a good set. The heart tricks will take care of themselves.
    I'm convinced the lead was bad, but after that, the defense was all North's, and a fair number of undertricks are still available. North's taking the D:A immediately then shifting assumes declarer has a stiff diamond. Is that possible? Partner looks to have four trumps and at least five hearts (or declarer would have preferred hearts). If declarer would have preferred hearts with 5-5, then he's 5-4. In that case, if partner had a tripleton diamond, he would have a club void. Why would he lead trumps then? In any case, cashing a club would allow North to figure out the count and start getting the defense on track. Since what North mostly did was follow partner's lead in the defense, and I am convinced that the lead was an error, South has to get a substantial amount of the blame. Yet North really should have been thinking harder and reacting less, so he gets 60% in my book. That's a little harsh on South for a lead that seems obvious, but on reflection was ill-judged, but I was South, so too bad.

    c) In 4H: N/S, do you take the offense or defense?

    Declarer but I might need to play it by north. Can't be bothered to use Deep Finesse.
    I'm not sure. I started to say declare, but just thought of a defense declarer may not be able to refute. It may well matter which hand declares.
    4H: is a make, with either defender on lead.
    I take the offense. It's a touch and go hand, but I'd try to play it as a cross-ruff and see if I could bring it off. It's a difficult hand to defend.
    I think it's cold on any lead, but a shift or lead of the HK makes for some non-trivial variations.

  3. S: Kx
    H: Kxx
    D: AQxxxx
    C: Kx
    S: QJ109xx
    H: A9xx
    D: x
    C: xx
    S: Axxxx
    H: J10
    D: Kx
    C: AJ9x
    H: Qxxx
    D: J10xx
    C: Q108xx

    North East South West
    1NT Pass 2S:! Dbl
    3D: Pass* Pass 3S:
    All Pass

    2S: was alerted and explained as Minor Suit Stayman. (One might question the wisdom of this choice, but N/S open 1NT frequently with 5-card majors, so letting the opponents bid spades might not be so bad.) East's 2nd pass was rather pregnant (and ridiculous—she has an obvious 4S: bid), agreed all around.

    The director was called after the 3S: bid. The hand was played out; 3S: made 5. The director was summoned after the hand. He ruled 3D:+3 for +110.

    Each side appealled. E/W wanted +200. N/S wanted +130.

    How do you rule?

    Not unreasonable for W to have passed 3D: so they don't get the 200. On reasonable defense I think E-W score four tricks on defense. But any east that is going to pass with that hand is so per se unreasonable that one might assume they would lead the D:K and when in with the C:A continue with the H:J ducked around. Making 6? But I would only give them 3. [The latter part is tongue-in-cheek, folks. --Jeff]
    -130 E/W, +130 N/S. Play could easily go...

    S:Q ruffed
    Diamond hook
    spade ruffed
    club to king and ace
    H:J to the H:K
    club finesse

    The lines of play to 10 tricks if East shifts to the H:J do not strike me as "at all probable" but the H:J shift won't be found often enough to deprive N/S of the +130.

    Furthermore, E/W get 2 pp's.
    1) for taking blatant advantage of UI
    2) for abuse of appeals process

    Each of these penalties are so incredibly egregious to be 3/4 board a pop. [Way too harsh. But 3/4 of a board is only 2 IMPs at teams, so that comes to roughly 1 VP, which isn't all that big a deal after all. --Jeff]

    Tough. I'd rule against both pairs I think, but might give both sides N/S +110
    Not 110, that's for certain. If we roll back to 3D:, declarer gets the 10th trick by setting up clubs. Remember the questionable trick should normally be given to the nonoffending side. Plus I'd guess that a good declarer normally scores up +130. I'd sooner give +150 than 110 given that a opponent who is confused enough to not bid over 3D: might possibly be confused enough to lead the D:K to try to get a ruff thinking the contract was different and that it was pard who bid D:.

    On the other hand, 3S: is not all that clearly an unacceptable bid. It's what I would bid if pard's pass came in tempo. I expect pard to not have a spade fit but to have a significant amount of high cards, enough to give us about half the deck. 3S: is safe because of my S:T9, I'd figure I'd make it about as often as not, and some of the time I won't make 3S: then 3D: will make. Plus they will take the push to 4D: sometimes when it is wrong.

    Is it clear enough to bid when pard's pass is slow (pard may be thinking of doubling, not bidding)? I felt infuenced by having overheard the original protest and the director's ruling, so I asked several players in the Wed. Night Swiss Game at Candy's, asking several players 1 or 2 at a time, initially withholding the slow pass info. Everyone except 1 person thought it was clear to bid (there were a couple of 3H: biders — a call I don't like). Thus I think 3S: has to be considered if the 3S: bidder is good enough to know what he is doing in a balancing situation such as this. Thus I would ask the 3S: bidder why he bid, and if I got an anwser I deemed acceptable I would allow 3S: for +200. Otherwise -130.

    Defense of S:A, winning the C:A, and then continuing with a spade (totally reasonable de), would make it difficult for declarer to take more than 9 tricks w/o taking the club finesse. So I'd rule +110 for North/South. I don't even consider the 3S: contract, since West has a very questionable balance. Only not vulnerable at matchpoints would it be considerable, since he has no reason to think that he's not going down at least 1 in 3S:. In fact, if West was NV in matchpoints, I consider it barely odds on to balance, and would accept the result of +200 for east/west.
    Regarding the auction, bidding is too rich for me. If dummy has, say, S:Kx, and some low minor stuff, you could emerge with 6-7 tricks pretty easily.

    Also, keep in mind that west doubled the first time, instead of bidding 3S:

    Regarding the number of tricks taken by NS in diamonds, 10 tricks isn't so unreasonable, without permiting N/S to take the C hook (it jeopardizes 3D:) For example:

    After S:A-ruffed, losing D: hook, H:J->K, D:A, C:K->A, H:T-ducked, and now the clubs can be ruffed out to pitch the losing heart. This is not hard to find.

    On a heart lead, there is some chance of the defenders scoring 2 heart tricks by way of a ruff, is this at all probable/likely? it takes a non-spade lead and other conditions. So, in any diamond contract, I'll rule 10 tricks.

    So, for the result, EW -130, NS +130.

    No frivolous.

    I reprimand E/W for a frivolous appeal. I also let the director's ruling stand. It seems to me that against reasonable defense 9 tricks is the most one can get. I'm not sure what the law is on this but I don't see it being reasonable to give N/S more than this.
    This is the only one to which I'm pretty sure I know the answer. Let's do it step-by-step.

    Was there an infraction? If so, it was misuse of unauthorized information by West. To determine that, we ask:

    Was there a hesitation? Yes, all agreed. Did the hesitation demonstrably suggest the action taken over other logical alternatives? What else could East be thinking about but bidding spades? Surely, it's 90% or more that he has spades, so the hesitation clearly suggests bidding spades. Is passing a logical alternative to bidding 3S:. Of course it is; many would pass. (I think most would pass, but that's irrelevant). Therefore, there was an infraction.

    Did the infraction lead directly to the non-offending side's bad result? Yes, no question. If West had passed, N/S would have been plus at least 110. N/S didn't do anything goofy after the infraction, so it's only the infraction that hurt them.

    Therefore, an assigned adjusted score is in order. Which score? E/W get the least favorable score at all probable. N/S get the most favorable score that was likely. If West had passed, the only two reasonable scores seem to be +110 and +130 for N/S. What would have been the result? Obviously, East will lead the S:A. Partner has doubled for a spade lead, so surely that lead is most likely. To make ten tricks, North needs either to play clubs immediately, or to cash the D:A and then play clubs. Or, if he takes the diamond finesse and East does not play hearts (seems unlikely, but surely possible), or if he guesses to risk his contract later to take a club hook, he'll make ten tricks. None of these sequences of play seem likely by themselves, but the combination of plays available seems pretty likely. I'd guess that ten tricks will be made somewhere around 35% of the time. That's "likely" enough by the laws, so I'd award +130 N/S to both sides. It's close though; it's reasonable to judge that +130 isn't likely. It is clearly, however, at all probable, so it is reasonable to award N/S +110 and E/W -130. There is no question that E/W should not get better than -130.

    In other words, I think it's roughly a toss-up between a split score of +110/-130 and a single score of 130. Judging exactly what the likelihood of ten tricks' being made is a difficult problem and there's room for individuality among committees there. Neither ruling would be wrong in my opinion.

    Are the appeals meritorious? N/S's clearly is; I think they ought to get their request. At the very least, their opponents' score should be changed. E/W's, however, is not. Any good player should know not to bid 3S:. I would give E/W an appeal without merit penalty. Is West's infraction severe enough to suggest some sort of disciplinary penalty? The mildest such penalty is to send the case to the recorder. I think the answer to that is probably "no." West honestly thought his 3S: bid was clear enough to bid despite the hesitation. He's allowed to misjudge. In general, what to do about it really ought to depend on what he says during testimony. If he says, "I knew that there was a problem, but I am convinced that no one would pass and even to consider passing seriously would be an error, so I bid despite partner's hesitation," then the committee tells him, "sorry, we disagree with your judgment." If he says, "I would have bid 3S: without the hesitation, so I bid it now," then the committee explains the rules to him. If he says, "3S: is the right bid. You )*(*&*(&s are accusing me of cheating!" then the committee gives him a procedural penalty (a small one, just to let him know he needs to change his attitude and start learning about these issues) and sends this to a recorder, as it is likely there is a pattern of these problems if the offender is clueless and antagonistic.

    The committee had some experience. The chair was Tony Glynne; the other two players were Becky Rodgers and Corinne Kirkham. They ruled +110 N/S, but Glynne dissented, wanting to rule -200 N/S. Their reasoning for +110 instead of +130 was that they thought the S:A lead was not likely. I think they were badly mistaken in that respect. Glynne's dissent is scary; the basic ruling seems to be a slam-dunk. The only issue is the overtrick, which is close enough that I could be persuaded that N/S only should get +110. It is not close enough that E/W should not be -130. Best I can tell, the committee never considered the possibilty of a split score — that bothers me. Perhaps they did, but didn't mention it. I inquired and got no response, so my guess is they didn't.

    Which brings up something that's bothered me for a long time. Many times I have sat in commitee meetings (on either side of the fence) and the committee chair quickly submits a diatribe about how there will be no discussion after the ruling. To some degree, that makes sense; we can't have someone giving ACs grief after a ruling or no one would ever serve. But there should be room for discussion as long as it's kept to a minimum and is done in a reasonable tone. In particular, if a committee awards some sort of penalty to an offender, I think he ought to be able to ask for an explanation if he is confused. Also, in this case, I think it would have been appropriate for me to be able to ask, "are you sure that E/W shouldn't be awarded -130; isn't ten tricks at least 'at all likely'? I am not arguing about N/S's +110." If they considered that and rejected it, they can explain, "no, we figured that nine tricks would happen more than 90% of the time, so we awarded a single score." In general, however, I think the issue isn't one of effectiveness, but of rudeness. I feel very rude when my chair announces there'll be no discussion, etc.; I feel offended when someone else does it to me. Perhaps the tone is more of an issue than the actual statements; I've found committees to seem very arrogant when they make that announcement. Perhaps this can either be done better or done away with.

  4. S: AJx
    H: Q98x
    D: A108x
    C: 108
    S: Kx
    H: AKx
    D: 9xxx
    C: AJ64

    You open a strong (15-17) NT. Partner bids Stayman. RHO (Meckstroth) bids 2S:. You pass, pass, 3NT, all pass. You get a medium spade spot lead. You win the S:K in hand and play a diamond to the 8. Meckstroth wins with the D:Q and continues with the C:9. Your turn.

    I guess I play C:A, hope to duck a second D: to east, and with the C: continuation by east hope to either set up a round suit squeeze if they don't cash or guess the hearts right. A heart continuation by east finds me playing a club myself.
    C:A and duck another diamond. If Meckstroth has C:H9x I just screwed up, but I tend to believe that 2 diamond tricks and 4 heart tricks are my best shot.
    Tough! I duck; Jeff has a club honor I believe so I will play him for it. Now at the table, would I be so sure? No. But it is a problem.
    Cute play problem. It appears as though nothing is foolproof, even if you assume that Meckstroth has to have 6 spades. My first thought is that winning the C:A at trick 3 is free. WRONG, it's not. Jeff might have something like K92. He might well defend that way too.

    I suspect I would duck the club and win the second spade (provided lefty's 2nd spade is lower than his first). Heart to ace, diamond toward dummy, flying ace unless K appears on left. Assuming that I have to win the D:A and both follow, I still have some guessing to do. How about duck a club, (that insures at least the 8th trick if lefty doesn't have a 3rd spade). If lefty wins and makes a neutral return. I cash H:AK, C:A, pitching dummy's last spade, and now must guess. Hopefully something good will have happened by now (yeah like lefty produces a 3rd spade HEHE). Obviously if Jeff has a singleton small heart I need to find lefty with the long D: (unlikely but not quite impossible — Jeff could be  S:QT98xx H:x D:KQ C:9xxx). If a heart honor drops from Jeff's hand on the second round I should have a complete count and be able to get the 9th trick in H:. Otherwise, it's cash the C: and hope for 3-3 H: if that's what Jeff's hand counts out to. If nothing good happens and lefty has H:JTxxx, as the Beatles sang, "I'm down, I'm really down". Interesting hand. I suspect if you went wrong, Meckstroth bid 2S: on a 5 bagger and you choose to pay to that holding.

    C:4. for 2 reasons: 1) I don't know if my LHO has another spade to lead...and Meckstroth might not have 3 diamonds, and my LHO could have Kx, in which case when I cross to a heart and lead a diamond up, He'll be forced to play the D:K, and I'll avoid letting Mecky back in. The big gain of playing low is that Meckstroth has 7 spades, or that he's underlead C:KQ9 (maybe Q9/K9) playing for me to be worried about another spade being returned and that I'm about to fly A.
    I duck the club. The spot meck played is pretty much irrelevant.
    It looks to me like the best line is to win the Ace and lead another diamond. Letting the club run around to the 10 wins only if RHO has KQ9, but it doesn't hurt to win the Ace in that case either. Losing the club seems to lose an important tempo.
    duck. RHO was  S:Q109xxx H:Jx D:KQ C:Q9x. Winning and ducking a diamond lets them cash three clubs and two diamonds. Ducking leads to nine tricks.
    Very difficult. Either play could win, but I think ducking has more ways to win and RHO is more likely to have been dealt a club honor than not, particularly since he could use some values for his bid.

Jeff Goldsmith,, Feb. 6, 1996