Linda Lee — My personal bridge blog

BBO Commentary

I enjoy doing commentary on BBO matches as a rule.  There are a number of reasons.  In most of the matches the bridge is quite good and in some very good.  Usually the players have something at stake in these matches, they are important matches, and they are taking it very seriously.  That can sometimes be true of the spectators as well.  Its usually fun to exchange ideas with the other commentators and most important of all I love bridge, watching it, playing it, writing about it and so on and I am happiest when I am doing this in an active way.

But I have been thinking about the deficiencies in this commentary.  While pretty well all of the commentators would be considered experts of some sorts some are just not as good as others.  This is especially true when discussing the play and defense.  Most commentators, me included, do not learn enough about the systems of the players we are watching to comment properly on the bidding although at least here the comments are generally more incisive.  More people can bid well than can play well.

I think a fair number of the commentators discuss the deal with double dummy analysis.  But the players are not playing double dummy and they are trying to make the best play on the information they have.  Also when the talk gets into hypotheticals the on the spot analysis is not always right.  Here is a case in point from yesterday’s Italian Cup.  (I have rotated the deal).


s_thumb52[2] Q954
h_thumb52[2] KQJ9
d_thumb52[2] AQJ3
c_thumb52[2] J
West   East
h_thumb52[5] 104
d_thumb52[5] K102
c_thumb52[5] AQ7

At our table North opened 1d_thumb52[2] and  East overcalled 1h_thumb52[2], 6s_thumb52[2] was reached from the South hand.  Barring an immediate ruff the only thing that will beat this contract is a 4-1 spade break (or 5-0) with West having the spade length.  Unfortunately yesterday the spades did break badly and the contact went down. 

6NT played from the South hand is a slightly better contract and that might have made all the difference yesterday. 

Let’s look at the play in 6NT.  The opening lead was the h_thumb52[5]5 won by the h_thumb52[5]A.  Let’s suppose that a club comes back now against your 6NT contract.  You win the c_thumb52[5]A of course and suppose you decide to play some red cards first.  It can’t really cost anything as long as you keep one entry to dummy outside of spades in case the spades don’t break and you need a finesse. So you can play off four rounds of hearts and a total of two rounds of diamonds.  East follows to all but West as expected shows out in hearts and discards a diamond and a club on the hearts.  You don’t know much more than you knew in the first place. 

However, if as might be suggested by the auction East  has the c_thumb52[5]K than you will surely squeeze East if he is the one that has four spades.  In that case the squeeze will work just as well as cashing the s_thumb52[2]Q and finessing the spades.  If the situation is reversed, West has the c_thumb52[5]K and the spade length the squeeze will still work.  So that playing the remaining diamonds works anytime either hand has four spades and the missing club honor while the finesse works whenever East has four spades regardless of who has the c_thumb52[5]K. 

The odds that North has long spades are made less by the knowledge that he has five hearts but it is true that he is quite likely to hold the top club from the bidding.  I think that playing the finesse is marginally the better line unless something during the play suggests to you otherwise in which case you just might play the squeeze.  I think this is a borderline decision and I am happy to hear from dissenters. 

As it turned out West did have all the spades and the c_thumb52[5]K and 6s_thumb52[5] failed in both rooms.  I did try to explain that there was a squeeze in 6NT although you might not play it on squeeze lines.  East had made a scary overcall on

h_thumb52[2] A8763
d_thumb52[2] 98
c_thumb52[2] 1086432

I found that the other commentators didn’t see the squeeze possibilities and that I had some trouble explaining it to them.  Still I think that it is fun to comment on BBO and if you don’t think the commentators are very good you can always do what I do some times… ignore them.


W.E.CoyoteDecember 11th, 2009 at 10:20 pm

Your analysis of this hand leaves much to be desired. You mention about an impossible spade break (hard for a suit to break 4-1 or 5-0 when you have a 9 card fit). And as for the squeeze, one would have to guess that west stiffed his club king in the ending as it would come down to choosing to finesse the club or play for the overcaller not have that card.

However, the point of the post was to deride the quality of commentary on BBO and you certainly have some kismet going on here with this analysis.


ross taylorDecember 16th, 2009 at 5:11 pm

Hi Linda – Having immersed yourself in “all things LOVE” for a while, your antenna are highly in tune. You have come to that zone only a few people reach where they understand there are end game possibilities in an extraordinarily high percentage of the hands they play.

And you see it quickly now. I am very confident your game has improved and will improve – which is fantastic because the one thing I have noticed coming back after a long absence is that the vast majority of good players did not evolve much in their games – other than to acquire some new bidding methods, which I don’t really count

The actual hand is a tad confusing since your text talks about having an eight card spade fit, yet the diagram suggests you have a nine card spade fit – and neither you nor dummy had 14 cards.

Based on the nine card fit (if that was the case) I can see no good reason to take the club finesse in 6NT at trick 2.

lindaDecember 17th, 2009 at 7:09 pm

Yes there is a nine card fit. THe suit did break 4-0

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