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Three hands that split the field sorting the sheep from the goats

Poll: rate these hands (10 member(s) have cast votes)

Hand 1

  1. Intermediate (1 votes [10.00%] - View)

    Percentage of vote: 10.00%

  2. Advanced (1 votes [10.00%] - View)

    Percentage of vote: 10.00%

  3. Expert (8 votes [80.00%] - View)

    Percentage of vote: 80.00%

Hand 2

  1. Intermediate (8 votes [80.00%] - View)

    Percentage of vote: 80.00%

  2. Advanced (1 votes [10.00%] - View)

    Percentage of vote: 10.00%

  3. Expert (1 votes [10.00%] - View)

    Percentage of vote: 10.00%

Hand 3

  1. Intermediate (3 votes [30.00%] - View)

    Percentage of vote: 30.00%

  2. Advanced (7 votes [70.00%] - View)

    Percentage of vote: 70.00%

  3. Expert (0 votes [0.00%])

    Percentage of vote: 0.00%

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#1 User is offline   pilowsky 

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Posted 2020-August-28, 01:22

What's the word for that space in between success and failure? That instant just before you discover that you played the wrong card and the contract will fail. I guess Stephen would call it a comma; my partner said "mediocrity".
I often think of Mr Verloc in Conrad's "Secret Agent"
"...watching the carving knife fall in a manner leisurely enough for him to form an elaborate defence."
Unfortunately, back in the real world, I once again found the right spot and teetered off the wrong side of the cliff.

These three hands - all makeable on the lead seemed makeable to me at the time but on reflection look pretty hard. One thing that would interest me from the panel: how would you rate these hands compared to the classifications on BBO?

1. The first one nobody made at the time. So, I gave it to the robots to play. Here's the hand with my bidding.

The K is led.

The first time I gave this to the robots they also went down 1. The second time I let them bid it on their own and they made it with a K lead. But they did not choose an optimal line.
Any good thoughts?

2. 'Snatching defeat from the doors of perception'. My next brutal lesson in card play arrived as usual, on Board 12 just when things were looking promising in a 12 board IMPs tournament. I managed to find myself in 6.
Half the field found the winning line - I was not one of them. Placing me in the intermediate group again.

Here's how the winners played it. Here's how I played it.
Here is a side by side comparison of the moment when things go wrong.
You can guess what I did next Posted Image
Posted Image


3. Last but not at least.
Another Heart contract where the advanced players find the winning line and the other half of the field don't.
After the same bidding sequence, we find ourselves in 4]N. East leads the 10.
I draw trumps drastically narrowing my options until my hopes hang by a thread.
I lead the J hoping for the finesse and I'm doomed.
The advanced players, on the other hand, don't try the finesse.
They ditch the J on the Ace to create two extra winners.

winners. me.

The deal 10 led.

non est deus ex machina; även maskiner behöver lite kärlek.
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#2 User is offline   Cyberyeti 

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Posted 2020-August-28, 03:01

Hand 1 is really tricky, you have to determine that S has 5 spades and not 6, guessing N has 5 hearts is not so tough

Hand 2 is very simple, unless dummy has a suit that is cashing and you can only get there once (so you don't want opps to ruff with the master trump cutting you off from the rest) or you are executing an endplay, it is almost never right to lead out the 3rd losing trump as you did, spade to the ace, club ruff, spade ruff and claim.

Hand 3 somewhat depends on your opps, but with only KQ8xx I would say the overcaller is odds on to hold 2 of the 3 remaining high cards vulnerable (With KQ8xxx and one card he might have tried 2), so playing for the K that side is optimal. If you're going to do that, you have to delay drawing trumps for entry purposes.

Hand 2 I'd place below intermediate in difficulty, a decent beginner should get this right.
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#3 User is offline   digiharuka 

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Posted 2020-August-28, 03:28

Hand 1: I voted expert.

Hand 2: Q does not drop, your last step is loser ruffed.
Win lead, AK, 4 to A, minor back to hand; defend side can win Q anytime, but T can ruff by J.
I voted intermediate.

Hand 3:You have 6, A and A, you need 2 more: 2 or 1

There are 3 routes to make the contract: East holds K - finesse; the one holds KXX/KX/K; mark West has K - ruffing finesse
If East holds K, finesse Q, A, ruff, A, ruff with high, clear trump and T.
If the one holds KXX, A, ruff, A, ruff , clear trump and QT.
(edit after Stephen post) ruffing finesse West K, clear trump, T discard 1, exit and Q the 10th trick.
No matter which route, tackle before trump(entry for ruffing/cash ). **
I voted advanced.

**: What about clear trump after finesse K? East can duck, and you have no entry to cash .
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#4 User is offline   Stephen Tu 

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Posted 2020-August-28, 11:00

Hand 2 is very basic, either of two elementary principles should have seen you bring the contract home:
1. Count your tricks, count your losers. 5 diamonds, 4H (if hearts 3-2 and Q doesn't drop), 2 spades. That's 11 and you need 12, also the question "what am I doing with my 3rd losing spade?". So you need a ruff, don't draw the last trump until you have used it to ruff. Generally if you need to ruff something you should ask yourself if you can afford to draw any trumps, how many you should draw, and should you draw trumps right away. Often it is right not to touch trumps at all until you have gotten your ruffs in. Here it is not; a diamond ruff is threatened so you do want to draw two rounds to get the little ones out, and you can afford to draw 2 since you only need 1 ruff and dummy will have 1 left, and you don't have to let an opponent in to give them an opportunity to play a third trump. But then only the Q is out and you can maneuver to ruff the spade or just run diamonds and ruff the spade at your leisure later (if west ruffs in at any point there is still a trump in dummy to ruff with). After you get better and can visualize how the board plays out automatically, just claim as soon as the trumps split.

2. There is a general principle that if a single opponent only has high trump(s) left, STOP PLAYING TRUMPS. This is almost always right, unless you are running a side suit in dummy, and dummy will be out of fast enough side entries or trump entries after the opp trumps in, and you don't want your opp to cut you off from that suit by trumping at the appropriate time.


Hand 3 is more or less a straight guess of who has the CK, whether you take a straight finesse or a ruffing finesse. Against very conservative opps there is something to playing the overcaller for the CK, but I don't think that inference is worth much on this hand. The stronger reasons for playing the ruffing finesse are:
1. Particularly against robots, there is an element of if East doesn't cover the CJ he doesn't have it (CK). Robots are pretty bad at realizing times when not to cover an honor with an honor to give declarer a guess, since their core thinking process assumes declarer is always guessing right. Since East will cover a decent chunk of time, odds are you should play West for it.
2. Playing the ruffing finesse, you more or less guarantee only down 1 at worst, since you are pitching a spade on your 2nd club if not covered, you'll lose 1 sp, 2d, 1c. Taking the straight finesse you'll lose spade ruff in addition if wrong (or just 2 spades by force). This isn't a lot but still 1 IMP [edit: deleted nonsense about MP that doesn't apply this hand].

Note that this *is* considered a type of finesse, you are pushing the QT sequence (since you had CJ) through west hoping he has K, pitching if not covered, ruffing if covered to establish the other for a pitch. You are then losing only one spade and 2 diamonds, plan should be to draw trumps then establish the diamond winner. The example player you linked to actually misplayed; he would have been in trouble had west been 5=1=5=2. After the ruff finesse, he should have just drawn all trump, CT pitch a spade loser, then work on establishing diamonds.

You could probably really benefit from studying Bill Root's "How to Play a Bridge Hand", and/or Mollo & Gardner's "Card Play Technique".
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#5 User is offline   pilowsky 

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Posted 2020-August-28, 14:07

View PostStephen Tu, on 2020-August-28, 11:00, said:


You could probably really benefit from studying Bill Root's "How to Play a Bridge Hand", and/or Mollo & Gardner's "Card Play Technique".


Thanks for all of that. Immediately after looking at these three hands, I began rereading Bill Root's book. It was the first Bridge book I bought - from Elizabeth's second-hand shop on King St Newtown fwiw. Could not agree with you more.
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#6 User is offline   johnu 

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Posted 2020-August-28, 15:41

Hand 1 - Board 14. Borderline expert. Win A, play to K, lead a diamond pitching a spade. Many variations, but you are planning to pitch losing spades and maybe a club on diamonds, and North has to let you promote 8 into a trick eventually. Losing a diamond and 2 hearts (You win AK and 8) North is endplayed when they win with a trump because they can't play a club without letting you have an extra trick in clubs.

Hand 2 - board 12. Maybe a beginner level mistake. Count your tricks if hearts break 3-2. 4 hearts, 5 diamonds, 2 spades for 11 tricks. You could take a ruffing finesse in clubs which is 50/50, or you could ruff a spade in dummy with the J if trumps are 3-2, or with a small heart if trumps are 4-1 with queen singleton. Assuming trumps are 3-2, A, 2 high trumps, ruff spade with jack. Concede a trump.

Hand 3 - board 10. Maybe a intermediate level mistake. Although it doesn't really matter on this hand, you should cover 10 on opening lead. This prevents West from immediately cashing 2 spades if they gain the lead. Playing overcaller for most of the missing high cards is something that may taught in some beginner classes.
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#7 User is offline   nige1 

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Posted 2020-August-28, 18:45


Pilowsky 'The first one nobody made at the time. So, I gave it to the robots to play. Here's the hand with my bidding.'


+++++++++++++++++++
Summarising the expert comments above ...
A successdul line is A, K, K, to A (north discarding), A, ruff, exit with J ...

Pilowsky ''Snatching defeat from the doors of perception'. ... I managed to find myself in 6. Half the field found the winning line - I was not one of them. Placing me in the intermediate group again.'


++++++++++++++++++++
Stephen Tu explains a simple winning line is: A, AK, A, K, ruff...
Pilowsky ' Another Heart contract where the advanced players find the winning line and the other half of the field don't.After the same bidding sequence, we find ourselves in 4]N. East leads the 10. I draw trumps drastically narrowing my options until my hopes hang by a thread. I lead the J hoping for the finesse and I'm doomed.The advanced players, on the other hand, don't try the finesse. They ditch the J on the Ace to create two extra winners.'
++++++++++++++++
Stephen Tu explains why the ruffing finesse is slightly better. Sure enough: A, A, Q ruffing finesse ... brings home the bacon, as the cards lie.

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#8 User is offline   Zelandakh 

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Posted 2020-August-29, 20:19

The DD line on Hand 1 is more or less impossible to find. You basically need to have peeked to know their distribution to get it 100% correct.

Playing the third heart on Hand 2 is a serious mistake. This is not a difficult hand and I would expect an average player to make this easily.

On the third hand you have 3 ways of playing the clubs. You can take a straight finesse hoping to find East with K, or a ruffing finesse against West, or you can play to ruff out the clubs. As they lie, the first of the these lines fails and the others work. FwiiW, I like the last of these lines in a vacuum but putting the Q up on the second round to induce a cover is a no risk play, particularly against robots that are probably incapable of ducking. My guess is that the winning declarer would have ruffed a low from West rather than taking the ruffing finesse, which of course still works. This is just a good, practical way of combining chances.
(-: Zel :-)

Happy New Year everyone!
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#9 User is offline   johnu 

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Posted 2020-August-29, 21:54

View PostZelandakh, on 2020-August-29, 20:19, said:

The DD line on Hand 1 is more or less impossible to find. You basically need to have peeked to know their distribution to get it 100% correct.

Once you play to K you know the heart position 100% and you know you have to lose at least 2 hearts, and have 2 losing spades and a probable losing club. South overcalled 1 so you know 100% that a double spade finesse is doomed to failure. Unless the club queen is doubleton you have a possible club loser. You can see after the opening lead that you can set up diamonds for 3 pitches for the black suit losers after a loser on loser play on the 2nd round of diamonds. I would expect a pretty good player to find a reasonable line of play based on the bidding and the opening lead.
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#10 User is offline   Stephen Tu 

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Posted 2020-August-29, 22:21

View Postjohnu, on 2020-August-29, 21:54, said:

Once you play to K you know the heart position 100% and you know you have to lose at least 2 hearts, and have 2 losing spades and a probable losing club.
Heart to K is fatal on this board against best defense. Check a solver. The DD line against the DK lead is as nige1 described. Setting up diamonds for pitches doesn't work, you lose diamond and 3 trump tricks as long as North refrains from trying to ruff your diamonds.

I don't think most will find DD line at the table.

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#11 User is offline   Huibertus 

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Posted 2020-August-30, 10:04

Hand 1, advanced. It's clear you need to elope trumps and it's clear N should not be allowed to ruff one of your high . Easily overlooked at the table, but it does not require expert skills to recognize the right play.

Hand 2, intermediate. Straightforward, after T1 run, so if you ruff a spade you can afford to lose a trump, but not a trump and Club ace on a ruffing finess but hey you dont need a club trick as you are assuming are 3-2 anyway (you don't have the entries to finess twice in so if they are 4-1 you are down anyway) So the succesfull play is automatic.

Hand 3, intermediate. Both can have K, But if W does not have it, East might have led clubs, and W might have decide to double 3 with AKXX , I would prefer the winning play, but that will fail sometimes where the losing play wins, it's close.
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#12 User is offline   Huibertus 

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Posted 2020-August-30, 10:19

View PostStephen Tu, on 2020-August-28, 11:00, said:

You could probably really benefit from studying Bill Root's "How to Play a Bridge Hand", and/or Mollo & Gardner's "Card Play Technique".


Very much seconded, two mandatory books for player that want to advance. Studing these will advance your play more then years of practise at the table.
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#13 User is offline   miamijd 

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Posted 2020-August-30, 12:56

First one is tough, but the start isn't hard. You know South has at least 5 spades and that North (for his double) has all 5 hearts and very little else.

So you have to make two spade tricks, and the only way to do that is to lead up to the second spade. Win the D; A of spades; club up; spade. If North ruffs (not best), it's very easy (play it out). Assuming he pitches a club, then win the Ks; club up; D ruff. Now you have to play a club and hope that North has the Jc. If so, he's going to be endplayed.

Second one is VERY easy. Beginner level. You have a heart loser (hopefully no more than one) and a spade loser. Where is your spade loser going? Ah - you can ruff it. OK, should you risk leading up to the Jh to account for QTxx on your left? No, because RHO might win and give LHO a D ruff. So AH, KH, and now play off winners (including ruffing the third spade). Easy peasy.

Third one is basically a guess for the Kc. Flip a coin. You can't try to establish the fifth club for a second chance, because you will be too short of trump if the K is fourth and will lose control before you can establish your diamond trick.
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#14 User is offline   bluenikki 

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Posted 2020-August-30, 13:52

View Postmiamijd, on 2020-August-30, 12:56, said:

Third one is basically a guess for the Kc. Flip a coin. You can't try to establish the fifth club for a second chance, because you will be too short of trump if the K is fourth and will lose control before you can establish your diamond trick.


The lead of the queen is necessary only if club Kxxx accompanies 5+ spades. Odds against.

Ruffing low works against Kxx or Kx in either hand. It is not even a *bridge* certainty that the club king is with the overcaller. He could have both diamond honors instead.
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#15 User is offline   Cyberyeti 

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Posted 2020-August-30, 13:57

View Postbluenikki, on 2020-August-30, 13:52, said:

The lead of the queen is necessary only if club Kxxx accompanies 5+ spades. Odds against.

Ruffing low works against Kxx or Kx in either hand. It is not even a *bridge* certainty that the club king is with the overcaller. He could have both diamond honors instead.


He could indeed, although I'd suggest that he's odds on to have 2 of the 3 cards, but also if you're wrong taking the straight finesse you are -2, whereas if you're wrong taking the ruffing finesse you're -1.
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#16 User is offline   bluenikki 

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Posted 2020-August-30, 14:52

View PostCyberyeti, on 2020-August-30, 13:57, said:

He could indeed, although I'd suggest that he's odds on to have 2 of the 3 cards, but also if you're wrong taking the straight finesse you are -2, whereas if you're wrong taking the ruffing finesse you're -1.


I'm definitely not arguing for the simple finesse.

I'm arguing for leading a low club at trick 3, ruffing with the 8. Then ruffing a low club high.

The goddess Bridget gave us three trump entries to the long suit; maybe she was hinting.
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#17 User is offline   Cyberyeti 

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Posted 2020-August-30, 15:03

View Postbluenikki, on 2020-August-30, 14:52, said:

I'm definitely not arguing for the simple finesse.

I'm arguing for leading a low club at trick 3, ruffing with the 8. Then ruffing a low club high.

The goddess Bridget gave us three trump entries to the long suit; maybe she was hinting.


That's massively below 50%
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#18 User is offline   Stephen Tu 

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Posted 2020-August-30, 15:18

View Postbluenikki, on 2020-August-30, 14:52, said:

I'm definitely not arguing for the simple finesse.

I'm arguing for leading a low club at trick 3, ruffing with the 8. Then ruffing a low club high.

The goddess Bridget gave us three trump entries to the long suit; maybe she was hinting.


Ruffing finesse gains if West has CKxxx or CKxxxx. Trying to ruff out the K gains when East has Kx or Kxx. (when analyzing in terms of making; ruffing low also gains you an overtrick if West has CKx)

Assuming spades are 5-2 and the first club isn't ruffed, the ruff finesse is a little bit less than 6% better than trying to ruff out the K; the relevant combos are 17.59% vs 11.65%.

If we assume that West has SKQ and a diamond honor from East's not leading a diamond honor, and think that West will overcall independent of having CK, and East won't mistakenly cover CJ (playing vs humans, or if we are underestimating GIB), arguably it's best to simply play East for the CK and take the simple finesse, since East simply has more vacant spaces. Here having a wide aggressive range for overcalling helps the defense since opener can't peg the location of the high cards.
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#19 User is offline   Cyberyeti 

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Posted 2020-August-30, 16:23

View PostStephen Tu, on 2020-August-30, 15:18, said:

Ruffing finesse gains if West has CKxxx or CKxxxx. Trying to ruff out the K gains when East has Kx or Kxx. (when analyzing in terms of making; ruffing low also gains you an overtrick if West has CKx)

Assuming spades are 5-2 and the first club isn't ruffed, the ruff finesse is a little bit less than 6% better than trying to ruff out the K; the relevant combos are 17.59% vs 11.65%.

If we assume that West has SKQ and a diamond honor from East's not leading a diamond honor, and think that West will overcall independent of having CK, and East won't mistakenly cover CJ (playing vs humans, or if we are underestimating GIB), arguably it's best to simply play East for the CK and take the simple finesse, since East simply has more vacant spaces. Here having a wide aggressive range for overcalling helps the defense since opener can't peg the location of the high cards.


If you think E will overcall on KQ empty to 5 and K vulnerable then yes. I think a lot of people won't. Not sure if GIB will.
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#20 User is offline   Stephen Tu 

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Posted 2020-August-30, 16:53

View PostCyberyeti, on 2020-August-30, 16:23, said:

If you think E will overcall on KQ empty to 5 and K vulnerable then yes. I think a lot of people won't. Not sure if GIB will.


I tested, GIB will overcall on KQxxx xx Kxx xxx at a bidding table.

I think nearly everyone will overcall holding DAK as West which hasn't been ruled out at all. I think very many would overcall with the dA without the DK. Certainly with some bit of shape like KQxxx xxx Axxx x, no? And I think a lot would still overcall with just the DK and some shape, maybe dropping the 5332 flat ones.

I don't know about you, but so few people go about head hunting at the one level (for good reason, partner may not have the right hand to reopen with dbl, at 1 level often hard to get penalty > than your 3nt or other game, especially if you might drop a trick in the defense) that I try to get away with murder and overcall on just about anything. Even when they have me dead to rights it seems 90% of the time I get away with it, they choose to bid NT or neg double instead of trap passing, or opener doesn't reopen or reopens with not a double. I regret it like once every 3 years or so (in terms of going for number at 1 level, of course there are other hands which induce bad lead or some later over competition, but partners are aware I don't have to have much and LOTT protects me more often than not, and I think I am quite a bit ahead net by jamming their auctions and avoiding later balancing decisions vs passing, and getting lead directors in).

So I don't think there's much slotting the CK into the West hand, much less than you think, apparently.
It would be different if East had laid down a diamond honor to start with, of course.
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