Linda Lee — My personal bridge blog

Rodwell Chapter 3 … Is it really only 22 pages

First I am going to start with the solution to the problem from Chapter 2.  I am not going to describe it as thoroughly (and brilliantly as Eric does in the book)   But here is my attempt.

The auction is simple: South opens 1NT 15-17 and it is passed out.  See if you can find the defense that might defeat the contract.















You lead a low diamond.  Partner plays the jack and declarer wins the queen. Declarer plays five rounds of clubs throwing a spade and exits a diamond.  What do you do?  I have given you lots of hints.  Can you find the right defense?  On the run of the clubs you throw two hearts and the Q.  You have arrived at this position













Eric had the idea that he could squeeze declarer if South held the two major-suit kings.  He would need East to hold the A and the AQ.  On the run of the diamonds South would have to keep three cards and therefore would have to unguard one of the major kings.  But the fly in the ointment is that partner will be squeezed in front of declarer.  On the last diamond East will have to stiff one of the major suit aces and now South will simply keep the right king.  The way to fix this so the squeeze will work is to cash the ♠A first (a Vienna Coup).  Now your J will act as the threat against South’s ♠K.  East can just keep hearts.  Playing a Vienna Coup as declarer is not that hard although it does require thinking the squeeze position through but figuring it out on defense is something to strive for.  (Mommy, will I ever be as good as that?)

Chapter 3 is only 22 pages but as I start to read it I think it is quite a bit longer.  Chapter 3 is really the first chapter to lay down the foundations of how Eric thinks about card play.  It is the first chapter that really introduces new ideas to me.  I think a lot of experts might want to put their bookmark on Chapter 3 right away and give the first two chapters a skip (at least in first reading).

It starts off with the idea of counting losers and counting winners.  Easy enough but Eric points out that there really are two types of losers; unavoidable losers which he calls hand losers and losers which represent a shortage of needed tricks which he calls squeeze losers.  Now bear with me here: if you take the number of losers you are allowed in your contract and subtract those unavoidable hand losers you have the number of surplus hand losers “L” you can have.  If you have one surplus hand loser ( Eric says you are +1L) you can afford to duck a trick, for example.  The defense will not be able to cash enough winners to defeat you when you do that.  This gives you options in developing enough tricks to make the contract.  If you don’t completely understand this it is the best I can do in a few words.  It is not that the concept is so difficult it is just that it is new to me (and perhaps to you).   When you read this section Eric explains it beautifully with the bonus of a lovely hand he defended with Jeff.

The next key concept is control units.  A control unit is something (trumping or a winner) that prevents the opponents from running a suit.  This all leads to developing a map.  When you are starting out it is hard to see how to play any hand.  An expert looks at a deal and often just “knows” what to do.  A beginner is overwhelmed by the possibilities.  But even the best players can have difficulty deciding how to proceed some of the time.  A map allows everyone to narrow the possibilities.  Simply thinking about things that way is quite helpful — helpful to me and to my future students too.

There is more, but now we have arrived at a counting all aspect of a hand tricks, distribution and points.  And that lovely idea of memorizing the way that four numbers can sum to thirteen.  I remember falling asleep thinking 4-4-3-2, 4-4-4-1, 4-3-3-3 and all that.  Eric points out that when somebody shows out in a suit you should stop and assimilate this information.  Eric uses a defensive hand to make his points. You see your hand and dummy and by counting the distribution and declarer’s winners you can figure out what to do.  Not much of this is new to me but it is interesting to see how Eric approaches planning the play or defense.

Visualization is something I have thought of in the last while.  I don’t always stop to visualize an opponent’s hand or the hand I NEED partner to have.  But when I have done a good job it is quite effective in figuring out what to do.  It does take me a while though.  So here I am; it is only page 63.  I haven’t learned much I didn’t know but the way of thinking about things and adding a vocabulary is helpful.   I am halfway through the chapter.  More basics to come.

I am going to work through an interesting looking example hand that puts many of these ideas together and then take a break to clear my head and get some exercise.  I just heard yesterday if you exercise 15 minutes a day it adds 3 years to your life.   Is that an excuse not to exercise more or a push to realize how important exercise is?

More later …

…. Back

It was a perfect day in Toronto but I am back from my walk and actually looking forward to the rest of the chapter.  Most of the rest of the chapter is about the mathematics of bridge.  Just like other sections of this book, others have written whole books on this topic.  If you hate mathematics Eric suggests you skip this section but he does say you will have to come back and face it some day.  Fortunately for me I have always found mathematics and especially probability interesting.  Eric does a great job of explaining a lot of concepts very quickly.  He covers everything from calculating the probability of a split, to working out the relevant combinations, vacant spaces, combing chances, restricted choices and the rest.  What I love is the use of real hands to explore the concepts.  This is not mathematics it is bridge and that makes it so entertaining.   This is more about thinking about what card combinations will help you on a particular hand and then deciding how to play a suit then it is working with formulas.

I find the section on working out probability of relevant combinations particularly interesting.  I have done this a number of times at the table.  When it doesn’t work out I usually spend the next day writing down all the relevant possibilities, developing the odds of each line of play and then working out whether I was right.  I chose to think of this as a way to learn rather than self-flagalation.

I have fun with a deal that describes a cash mirage and then ends up with cash and thrash (am I really going to talk like this?)

The last concept is trick packages.  The idea here is to look at each suit and possible number of tricks in each suit that together will meet your objective.  This allows you to look at different sets of tricks will let you achieve your objective.  The chapter ends with a hand that illustrates trick packages and also a number of other ideas from the chapter.

I finish the chapter feeling that I have starting to learn new things and that I have started to look at deals a bit differently.  I understand that I am still working on building blocks and that many of the ideas in the chapter aren’t new to me but there are a fair number of new ideas.  I think the vocabulary is part of what helps to learn and remember the concepts.  After all what would squeeze play be without BLUE and what would Rodwell be without cash and thrash and trick packages.

As a teacher I can see that these concepts could effect how I teach intermediate and advanced players to answer that challening question – how do I make a plan?

I feel I have done a good days work and the sun is still shining.

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