Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Warning: This Post MAY Wreck Your Life

At one point in the Ozone program, I set myself the goal "Every hand I defend, I shall not play to trick 2 unless I have given declarer a hypothetical shape".

At the end of each session then on, I started mentally recreating my thought processes at the table. It was easy to assess whether or not I was really clued into the hand at trick 2. I discovered that my hit-rate varied between 60 and 90 percent or so. There were a vast number of reasons for failing to crunch the numbers : from wondering about the previous hand to thinking about getting lunch; from a sense of being in a daze to semi-consciously skipping counting.

Intrigued about similar mechanisms employed by others, I quizzed some of the top technicians around. Not only did they count every hand, but they counted all the time. They started during the bidding, made the lead with a shape in mind, quickly reassessed at trick one and stayed on the ball all the way.

I found this strategy a lot easier to emulate. Some of the reasons are

  • The mental burden is lesser as the effort is distributed over a period of time.
  • It is easier to incrementally adjust previous beliefs than to start an exercise from scratch.
  • The whole playing experience is smooth as one is continuously "thinking" .
  • The is a diminished need to identify the key moment in a hand (to stop, think and count).
I wish somebody had told me about this years ago.

Inculcating this approach takes a fair amount of mental discipline but improving efficiency using this method is probably easier.The demands on the energy are greater but somehow our attitude and resolve drive the outcome a lot more than our perception of our own energy reserves. Reminds me of Rodwell.

Here is an example of counting-in-action :

We pick up

LHO opens a strong no-trump.
I find giving 4333 shapes to no-trump bidders to be the most flexible. Since we are short in clubs, we expect length in declarer's hand there.

RHO bids stayman.LHO bids 2H.

RHO bids 3NT.
10 points in dummy, 15 in declarer's hand plus 13 in mine. Partner has two

LHO passes.
No four spades

...................... (East)
...................... 9xxx
..................... AKx
...................... Jx
...................... Jxxx


Partner leads the club 2.
Dummy has 9 points. Good. Partner can have 3.Since partner has four clubs (C2 lead),so does declarer.
"2434" or "3424".

I can see more spades between me and dummy (seven) than diamonds (six). So its more likely that declarer has fewer spades.

Club - 2- x- Ace - x.

Declarer seems to be in good luck in the club and heart suits. Looks like a time to be active.
2434 declarer. Q10xx in spades in partner's hand should be enough to do the job. If I switch to a spade, that gives declarer 4 hearts, 3 clubs and 1 spade for eight tricks. I can rise diamond ace to get our 5 winners ( 3 spades and two aces) before he gets his ninth.

Here, it is important to control the impulse as chesss adage goes "If you find a good move, look for a better one".

What about the diamond switch ?
Partner needs to have only the diamond queen. If declarer's shape is 3424, we do not even need the diamond ten to beat this contract ! Our diamond switch would give declarer 4 hearts, 3 clubs and 1 diamond. We can hop in with the spade ace and get our 5 winners (3 diamonds and two aces) before he gets his ninth.

Are we really at the crossroads ?

There is a (relatively) simple answer to this problem which is......?


  1. Great post. I will (tell myself that I will) do this in my next game.

    Why would our buddy lead from 10xxx in clubs instead of Qxxxx or Q10xx in diamonds?

    He's got them spades.

  2. You take your time when to write a post, but when you do, it was well worth waiting for. super post

  3. Excellent insight piece for the improving player. Quite the topic of conversation at the club last night.

  4. On the assumption that I never partner Maraton who sometimes leads 4 card suits ahead of
    5 card suits, declarer has 4 hearts, 4 clubs (C2), 3 diamonds (no diamond lead) and thus only 2 spades. I play SA next. If declarer plays a lower spade than the nine, my spade continuation will do. Peter Gill.

  5. This is an interesting hand.

    Even if partner had led the D2, it seems right to cash the SA first, and see declarer's card before continuing - for exactly the same reasons as for when partner led a club. If declarer plays SK or SQ, you can lead a diamond. If declarer plays low, you continue spades. If declarer plays the S10, it doesn't look as though you were beating the hand, anyway.

  6. I guess the right answer is spades (I was convinced from the comment about why would partner lead a club from 10xxx if he held Qxxx or better in diamonds? Whereas holding QTxx of spades partner might expect this to be dummy's suit and so try to find some other suit, clubs). Can the Imp Chimp confirm it?