Andre Asbury

Endplays 101

If I were to write a book on endplays, this one would certainly be one of the first hands I write about.

Dealer: North Vul: Both North  
West East
KTxxx Jx
KQ xx
xx JTxx
AJxx Qxxxx

I was declarer in 2H and got a low spade lead after west had overcalled 1S. The play is pretty straightforward and this is an easy endplay to execute. At trick two, you lead a heart, and at trick 3 lead another heart. West comes back with another spade and you cash the top diamonds to see if they break and allow you to pitch a spade loser, which they don’t. Now, you could lead up toward the club K for an extra trick, but you have an easy endplay by exiting with a spade. West is now in with the SK and has to concede a sluff-ruff or give you the CK. Either way, your club losers would be reduced to 1. I did modify the hand slightly from the actual layout when I played the hand last night, in which east has a heart honor and could spoil the endplay by shifting to a club.

Several Squeeze Possibilities

From the club game last night came one interesting hand. I had been drinking rum and coke all afternoon and evening so my focus wasn’t there nearly as much as it will be Friday for the Nail LM Pairs, but it doesn’t take much focus to win that game, and I was able to recognize the squeeze on this hand.

Dealer: W

Vul: none











Our auction got us all the way to 2 after LHO had overcalled diamonds but when dummy came down I was kind of wishing we had bid more. The defense started with A and K. I crossed to the K and led a low . East was a little helpful going up with the ace and returning a trump. This opened up a number of possible squeezes for an 11th trick. The Q return would have thwarted any legitimate squeeze chance but that defense would be too much to expect from these opponents – I’m clearly trying to trump a heart in dummy and they best way to keep me from doing that is to lead a trump, but it’s too late for that to do any good.  Anyway, this is about recognizing a squeeze and assuming spades split 3-2 and hearts split 4-3, I have 10 tricks: 6 spades, 1 heart, 1 heart ruff, and 2 clubs. So I won the trump in dummy, played a heart to my K, ruffed a heart, ruffed a diamond, and then ran trumps.

With 3 cards to go I have left a trump, 9 and the J. In dummy, I have Ax and 9. If north started with 4 clubs, he is squeezed in clubs and diamonds and it is a show-up. If south started with 4 hearts and 4 clubs, he is squeezed and also just a show-up squeeze. If clubs started 3-3, it is a double squeeze. North must hold the top diamond, south much hold the top heart, and neither defender can protect clubs. So, this is actually a fairly easy squeeze to execute once the defense helps out by keeping transportation open. Note that if south takes the second heart (and still returns a trump), only the club-heart squeeze works, because the diamond threat in dummy goes away when I have to ruff both diamonds to get to my hand to ruff a heart and pull the rest of the trumps. See you in Orlando.

AJB Dominates D7 North American Pairs

For the second straight year, teenagers from the Atlanta area won 1st and 2nd on the flight C district 7 NAP. In fact, this year they took 3rd as well. Congratulations to this year’s winners who will represent GA, SC, NC, and eastern TN at the spring NABC in Louisville: 1st Saachi Hingorani and Aashna Choudhary; 2nd Angie Green and Mili Raina, who I was going to play with in B but there’s a conflict w/ B and C at the nationals; 3rd Ricoh Das, who I also play with/teach, and Murphy Green.

Atlanta Junior Bridge is clearly doing some good things that will hopefully lead to more success in youth and junior international success in the coming years. I just hope getting beaten by kids doesn’t discourage the older players who are new to bridge or duplicate bridge from continuing to learn the game. And I hope that they don’t get used to winning every – it gets a harder to win in flight B, and much harder in flight A. The winners have been unable to tell me a favorite hand from the tournament to write about but see some of my previous and upcoming posts for a some of my interesting struggles with the same hands in flight A.

What’s a Max Weak Two?

The District 7 NAP finals got off to an ominous start for Emory and I and my defensive mishaps did not improve the rest of the day.

We started against the McLaughlins and they reached 4H after Mark opened a 5-10 weak 2 and then after a 2NT inquiry said he had a good weak 2. He could have shown a weak 2 he is ashamed of, a minimum, a super max, or a solid suit.

Dealer: S

Vul: E-W






















A trump lead stands out to me but apparently lots of people chose a more aggressive lead as we got 2.5 out of 8 when my subsequent defense gave him a trick. He played 4 rounds of hearts and then took a spade finesse and led a club to his K and my ace.

By this point I am pretty sure from partner’s signaling that declarer is 3-6-2-2. I can see that if he ever gets back to his hand, a repeated spade finesse will provide 1 discard but the only back to his hand is to trump a minor suit. So if I cash a club he will easily be able to trump the third one and pitch a diamond loser on spades. A spade lead is obviously out of the question. A diamond lead appears to be able to hold him to 4 if partner has the Q, for he will again be stuck on dummy and have to lead a minor suit to us and we can then cash a winner in the other minor. But if declarer has the DQ, a diamond lead would give him a 12th trick. So the question becomes whether a 10 count with KQT of hearts and Kx and Qx in the minors would be a super max or just a decent weak 2. Obviously there are better 10 count weak 2’s (HAK and Kxx on the side) but this still is close to the best hand he could have and open a weak 2. So I played partner for the DQ and he made 6. In retrospect, we are probably above average already for having made a good opening lead and I should make a passive club continuation.

A couple of rounds later, we came up against the eventual winners Owen Lien and Kevin Wilson, and after two fairly average boards, we had this annoying one.

Dealer: E

Vul: E-W





















West North East South
Pass 1
2  2 Pass 3
Pass   4 All Pass   

We cashed our 3 black suit winners (A, A, then K). Kevin led the jack of hearts off the dummy and Emory followed low, at which point he tanked for a few minutes and eventually dropped my stiff K. Yes, I could have bid a little more aggressively and help get us to 4 but I really think I bid enough and 4 is probably the most common spot. Playing for the stiff K offside is definitely anti-precentage and even more so when I have shown at least 5-5 in spades and a minor. The reasoning for choosing this play is beyond me – because he didn’t think I would bid Michaels vulnerable with only two Axxxx suits, as if the singleton K makes my hand so much better. Argh.

On the next board against a different pair Emory opens 2, RHO looks for a few seconds and then says, “is that a weak 2” and I respond with a Sean-like response (see his post on Alert Procedures) “I didn’t alert it so it probably is.” She comes back with, “Well, I’m still allowed to ask.” Me: “Yes, but you’re not allowed to suggest what you may or may not think it means.” We wind up getting to 3NT going down 1 when LHO, holding KQT4 and the A, finds the correct play of a low heart at trick 2 after the K held trick 1. The lady’s hand who asked about 2: xxx, Jxx, Axxx, Txx.

Latest in GIB Lunacy

GIBs are wonderful creatures – they mostly play decent bridge and allow me to play bridge when I don’t want to deal with people or when a partner and I want to practice together but want to take our time discussing system and take breaks whenever we feel like it or just don’t feel like finding opponents on BBO.  They do some strange things but none stranger than this one a few days ago. I am extremely surprised by this little glitch. (Yes, I have to start out every complaint/criticism with a compliment)

So, the robot didn’t really do anything strange at my table. My GIB and I had a sane auction to 6NT. With other players I’m sure I could have had a better auction but this one was certainly adequate. Anyway, the lunacy is in the traveller. I sat west while most of the humans playing with robots sat north/south which makes for some interesting comparisons sometimes.

Check out the traveller and notice that at every table 1D by east was passed out, all with a GIB in the west seat. Fred Gitelman says GIB is known to have some issues in this area and they are trying to fix it.

Conditions of Contest Need to Be Adhered To

By and large, the ACBL and USBF do a great job running tournaments. The events are completed in a fair and timely manner 99% of the time. Reading Judy’s blogs the last couple of weeks about the complaints about a the way an event was run in Las Vegas recently reminded me of the one and only time I have had a major gripe about the way an event was run. This was in May 2009, before I started blogging, in the trials to send 2 teams to a junior world championship in Istanbul. It was to be a 3 session matchpoint trial on Bridge Base. This was only the second time I even tried our for a junior team partly because I hadn’t a regular junior partner but mostly because it always interfered with school or work or just wasn’t somewhere that I cared to go to but Istanbul is somewhere I really do want to go to and I like playing with Bryan.

I arrived at the airport in Manila at 11pm after a 14 hour flight from Atlanta to Tokyo and a 4.5 hour flight from Tokyo to Manila. (Fortunately the flight I had purchased before the time for the trials was announced just did allow me to still participate) The first session was to start at 1am local time with the second session at 6am (1pm and 6pm Eastern Daylight time). So I got an ample supply of Mountain Dew and snacks and got to the hotel and got online just in time to play with Bryan Delfs. After the first two sessions, we were right around average – 10th out of 18 pairs, I think. 12 pairs made the cut to the third session with the top 6 after that making up the 2 USA teams. Needless to say, the final session Sunday would need to be a good one, but according to common sense and the conditions of contest, there would be carryover in accordance with the ACBL formula. So, theoretically, our 4 board deficit behind 1st place would be reduced to about 2 boards but we were never told anything about how much the carryover actually would be. The conditions of contest also stated that the final session would be a round robin or a howell movement to allow us to play as many of the other pairs as possible. I can’t find a final conditions of contest now but the draft conditions of contest are still available on the USBF website.

I slept from about 9am to noon, went out around Manila all day and got back in time for the 1am start to the final session. What happened with the final session was very disconcerting to me. They ran the event as SWISS PAIRS WITH PLAYBACKS – not a round robin or Howell. Making it even worse, the Swiss pairings were based on NO CARRYOVER from the first day. Not only does this not follow the conditions of contest but it’s just a bad movement. We were leading the field most of the session so kept having to face other pairs who were doing well even though overall we were nowhere near first. We had one playback and that was having to face Justin Lall and Jeremy Fournier, clearly the top pair in the event, each of the last two rounds. Making things even worse, the final event standings had FULL CARRYOVER from the first day and they didn’t even tell us that they were doing this before hand. Had they fixed any of the three gross errors (allowing playbacks, swiss pairings without carryover, or applying carryover formula after the cut), we surely would have gotten into 6th place. As it stood we were less than a point out of 6th, which went to Cam Shunta and Adam Kaplan.

When I questioned the USBF coordinator, all they said was that they changed their minds about the carryover and that the BBO software wouldn’t allow them to run a Howell movement, and I didn’t push the issue any further. The final results of the event are here.

Wins By Stratiflication

When I started playing bridge, I was almost always in flight A because I played mostly with my dad, so we would frequently place in the low overalls in the pair games. Being in that position (6th or 7th or so) might pay 2 or 3 masterpoints, and in a 2 session regional pairs, would usually be a score around 54-55%. That was right about where we belonged. I used to scoff at the fact that pairs in B and C could win more points than that for a lower score, and how some even won a masterpoint for a 45% game because they are flight C. There really should be some cutoff for the lowest score you can have and still win masterpoints. I kind of think anything below 50% should not win, regardless of your strat. Why do we want to reward people for playing below average bridge? And don’t people feel ashamed to win points for having a bad game?

I guess it was after I had been playing 3 or 4 years that stratiflighted games became more popular, and my dad and I were eligible for X. The 54% game that got us 2.5 masterpoints in the open pairs frequently placed 2nd in X for 10 points. I’m not totally sure I like this format of having A/X play separately from B/C because it takes stratification to an extra level that allows even more people with below average scores to win masterpoints, but it has gotten me a good bit of extra points and sort of gives us a handicap for our normally below average teammates. Stratiflighted events do one very good thing – people can play in the main event (whether it be the 2 session pairs or the swiss teams) and still play with peers, and it allows people with fewer masterpoints to play up and play with the top players, and also the the top players don’t have to deal with any novices. Plus it allows the flight A game to be mid-chart. Bracketed knockouts don’t generally allow people to play up, which kind of bothers me and has often been the reason I choose to play in A/X pairs instead of a knockout where my partner and I might be in the 3rd or 4th bracket.

This weekend with Sean in Columbia was no exception. We won a side game and then played the A/X pairs, had 53.4%, and placed in the low overalls (tied for 8th) but since we were in X, that was 3rd in X and worth over 4 points. It still amazes me how much easier it is to get a good score in side games than in open pairs. Then Sunday, we played in the A/X Swiss and had 56 VPs on a 60 average. (It was quite a feat to get back to almost average after 1 and 0 VPs the first 2 rounds) What did that get us? 10.86MP for 2/3 in X!!

Inferences From Canape Bidding

The notes I wrote on my personal scorecard during the Rosenblum are surprisingly not filled with notes and score estimates and marks for which ones might be blog-worthy despite playing at a slower pace than ever before. I guess that should mean that I was concentrating on actually playing rather than winning the post-mortem or finding something interesting to write about on here. I guess we just played some solid defense – and we did have to play a lot of defense. I declared a miniscule 16 hands over the 96 for which Sean and I were in, and he declared only 17. Here is board 20 from the 8th qualifying round against the China Geely Auto team.

The declarer north should have been able to make this 4SX contract against us, given the bidding (and the appropriate alert explanations). Granted, if south had not jumped straight to game, I would have bid hearts and then making the proper inferences would be easier.

Dealer: S

Vul: EW





















West North East South
1 1 X 4
X Pass Pass Pass

It’s not an easy hand under any circumstances, but our bidding certainly helped us here. Partner correctly led a diamond. I took the Q, A, and the heart A and then led another heart, forcing dummy to ruff. How do you plan to take all the tricks from that point. 1D was showed an unbalanced hand with 11-16 hcp, 4+ diamonds, not exactly 4 of either major, but possibly a 5 or more in a major. The double showed 6+ hcp and 3+ hearts. On my side of the screen, I was asked but I don’t know about the other side, which included the declarer.

When north played the ace of spades, partner dropped the Q. Obviously, playing the other high spade will lead to victory but that’s definitely not right. He then played the ace of clubs, under which I played the Q. I was kind of thinking that I need him to play me for a stiff club and Jxx of spades (assuming he also knows I am 5-4 in the reds) and to next finesse into partner’s now stiff J. But he continued with another high club. Now I was sure he would get it right. I am marked with 2-5-4-2 shape, and with north-south only having 18 hcp, it’s nor unreasonable that I doubled on high cards rather than a possible spade trick. But he continued playing me for Jxx of spades by ruffing a club (as I parted with a diamond), then ruffing a heart to lead another heart, attempting some sort of coup since he could not set up clubs and get to them or trump all the hearts and pick up trumps if I had 3 trumps. That would have worked if I started with something like 3-4-4-2 or 3-3-5-2, neither of which are possible distributions for a 1D opener in our canape system. Maybe he didn’t ask about the alerts on his side of the screen.

Note that standard bidders don’t really have any chance to defeat 4S as I would open 1H and get a heart lead, so this can kind of count as a win for canape. We would never get a diamond led through the K and declarer would surely disobey the rule of restricted choice just to avoid letting east in to lead a diamond.

Please Don’t Gloat

Do you ever play against people that just really irritate you? Of course, we all have, whether it be for the place they keep their convention card, the fact that they don’t know what a proper takeout double is, the way they turn the played boards, the way the place the cards on the table, their poor analyses of the hands, the fact that they criticize partner at every opportunity, the way they don’t claim when they have all trumps and aces left, or simply the way the look at you. Most of those are just little pet peeves that are generally nothing to legitimately be concerned with but sometimes it can be down right rude and improper.

Take, for example, a player who is in 2SX making an overtrick when the defense has no chance to set it. The player goes on and on during the hand and after about how it was cold and how his partner made a good bid and how they just got a top and that the opponent made a stupid double. Or maybe the player who was just defending 3HX and set it for 1400 but goes on for awhile about how they should have gotten it for 1700. Or maybe, a player psyched or semi-psyched a 1S overcall and got the opponents to a doomed 3NT instead of the makable 4S. After the hand, the pair praises each other for their “good bidding” and tells the opponents they should have bid 4S or how they got a top by screwing the opponents by making a bid or play that was onorthodox. Just accept your good score and move on. You can laugh about it and talk about how you “got ’em” after the round is over but while you’re still at the table, spare them the embarrassment. Would you like it if your opponents shoved your bad boards in your face like that? No, you’d want them to keep quiet and move on.

This all qualifies as gloating. It is rude, and is something I have very little tolerance for unless everyone at the table is drinking. It is probably not as bad as the angry player who critiques his partner after every hand or gives unwanted lessons, especially bad lessons. It is just bad etiquette and very unsportsmanlike. It is also the reason there are many bridge players, particularly juniors, who I have lost respect for or refused to play with. You can be confident and show that you’re a better bridge player without having to tell people about it all the time. Let your score do the talking. If you beat ’em by 50 imps while being pleasant the whole time, they’re realize that you’re good, and they’ll respect you more than if you beat ’em by 30 (after dropping 20 imps by doing silly crap and not getting away with it) but make sure they realize when you’ve stolen a good board from them.

Do You Go to NABC’s Just for the Discounted Marriott Rate?

Chris Moll is one of the pros I like the most. He is pleasant to his partners, jokes around at the table, knows a little about all walks of life, and actually has good advice, not just about the technicalities of playing cards but about life. Last weekend, I was more of an observer in a conversation between Chris Moll and the Jengs’ parents about bridge. He was saying how years ago when he had a job in the financial industry, he would have to be careful about when he took off for bridge tournaments. It would be irresponsible to take off for a week and a half at the end of the month when things in his office were busy, but as long as he made sure to get his work done and get it done on time, they would let him go away to bridge tournaments whenever he wanted. That’s the way things should be, at least with people in professional jobs until proven to be abusing the system. Most of us don’t have that sort of flexibility with our jobs. Most of us have to show up at the office unless we’re on vacation and then only have a limited amount of vacation each year. But if you’re a lucky one that gets flexibility to work your own hours, don’t abuse the privilege – keep work a priority.

He had another take on bridge that I appreciated hearing. It can be a wonderful game and you can meet all kinds of wonderful and fascinating people and there’s something in it for everyone. Just find the part you like and enjoy it. Some people go to tournaments for the intense competition, some people go for the social aspects, some people go because it’s how they get paid, some people go for post mortem at the bar, and some people go as an excuse to travel. I’d say I go to tournaments more for the social aspects than ever before. That probably has to do with the fact that I am playing with more young people now and that I don’t have as much of a social life at home now. Lots of people attend national tournaments just to be part of the group but spend the whole time playing side games and regional events. Some sightsee and kibitz the whole time. Some play mornings while some struggle to get up for the afternoon games. But whatever you like about bridge, even if it’s just the discounted hotel rates at the Marriott in cool cities, go for it.

Some people get irritated with Moll’s table talk and dry sense of humor, something I generally appreciate but in day one of the Wernher Open Pairs, his table talk got to me a bit. We came to his table and I was in a pissy mood from the previous round and I apparently didn’t put it behind me soon enough. On the first hand, he ended up in 5D doubled and I held something like void, Axxxx, 9xxx, Qxxx. Anyway, partner led the K of spades and a couple of seconds after dummy came down with a heart void and a few small spades, Moll suggested that I ruff. Honestly, I had not decided yet and I tried to ignore the comment but he had that look of “let’s go ahead and get this hand over with”. I had 4 trumps and I know I would be ruffing a loser. If I discard, maybe partner will get in with the something and be able to cash a spade. That was my first thought, actually, but upon a more in depth look, it is clear that my trumps aren’t going to take tricks and the only important thing is to cut down on ruffs, so ruffing and leading a trump is the clear winner. I felt rushed and discarded before I was actually ready so he scored all 4 ruffs in dummy, enough for 11 tricks via 9 ruffs and 2 aces. It was maybe partly an ego thing of trying not to look like my dad who might actually need a long time to think about the situation. I should be able to know that ruffing and leading a trump is right within 2 seconds and Moll thought so too or else he wouldn’t have made that comment. I know he respects me a lot as a player and a person and I’ve never known him to be give bad advice or deliberately comment to steer me in the wrong direction, so next time, maybe I should just follow his advice blindly. If it’s not optimal, maybe I can call the director and get an adjustment.

Normally I don’t have a problem letting go of hands and moving on to another one. I may not be very pleasant at the table for a round or two after something really annoying happens but my mind is usually still on the current bridge hand. And me being intimidated is unheard of. Fortunately, since that hand got over quickly and the next one was short and boring, I got to take a nice long walk around the hotel to come back and make the previously-blogged-about 4S against Howard and Dari and finished up the session strongly.

Bottom line: Don’t let yourself be intimidated or rushed by someone who is better or thinks he is better than you. You are entitled to think unless it’s the fast pairs or midnight game, then yes, you deserve to be rushed a bit and the intimidating people aren’t so intimidating when they’re drunk. And don’t comment about the current deal in a serious game unless you’re claiming. It’s just impolite.