Linda Lee — My personal bridge blog

There is no snow in Costa Rica

I have had a few people asked me about my blog and why there have been no recent posts.  This made me feel good because it means some people actually read it.  Yes, I have been away in sunny Costa Rica.  If you want a great holiday that is the place.  It has everything.  In the highlands where we spent our time it is warm to hot in the day, every day and cool at night.  There is little rain except for 3 weeks in the rainy season (maybe you shouldn’t go then).  There are beaches, jungles, volcanoes, hot springs, incredible variety of species of animals and plants (do you like monkeys or toucans?), great coffee, bananas and pineapples and friendly people.  Wow!

Did I think about bridge – no way baby!  However the subject did come up when I returned and had lunch with Lynn Beglan, a former work colleague of mine.  It turns out that Lynn who always loved horses and riding is now competing seriously.  When we compared notes it seems that Lynn also has the same type of performance anxiety issues that bridge players have and the same type of issues in putting mistakes behind her so she doesn’t blow the next thing.  Apparently dressage requires enormous concentration and is done in small stages.  When you make a mistake in one stage you have to take your mind off the mistake and move it to the job at hand.

I have this problem sometimes.  When I get a poor (or even a strange) result on one hand I have to figure out what I could have made, what par was, what I should have done…. blah, blah, instead of thinking about the current hand. 

One thing I have noticed in playing with Isabelle is that both of us tend to go forward to the next hand without worrying about something we did on the previous one, or even some misunderstanding we had.  This is truly awesome.  There seems to be a need to talk something out at the table – in case it comes up in the next 3 boards – that is totally unnecessary in my opinion and distracting.

Last night we had a hand in a practice set that I thought was instructive.  It made me go back to our notes and realize how sparse they were in the area of balancing.  Here is what happened at the table.

I held S void H AQ63 D QJ97 C 109842.

A random player on my right (I mean someone unknown to me) opened 1S vulnerable against not.  I passed although I think in retrospect I should have doubled with this shape.  It went pass and Isabelle balanced with double.  What should I bid?

When you look in our system notes it says that we bid 1NT with 11-15 and 2NT with 20-22 and that we try to double even if a bit offshape in case partner is trapping and not much else.

There is a lot more about normal takeout doubles though.  Over a takeout double 2S would show values, but is not a game force and ask partner to pick a suit.  I decided not to punish partner in case she didn’t have 4H and I bid 2S.  Do you like that bid?

Now partner bids 3NT.  What does that mean and what should you do?  What would 2NT mean?  Does it still show 16-19 as it would after a different bid by mean.  I think it must be a game force.  So what is 3NT?   If partner had bid 3H would that show 5 or might partner bid it on 4 if I am asking partner for a suit.

We still haven’t answered all these questions and I would be interested in input from anyone on what these auctions ought to mean and how they are affected by bidding in the balancing chair.

Suffice it to say that we didn’t get it right at the table.

The very best news though was that not one word was said about our bad result and it really didn’t seem to make any difference at all as we went on to the next board.  Can we really handle it just the same in a serious match?  Probably not, but awesome anyway.


Cam FrenchMarch 17th, 2008 at 5:30 pm

Yes I like 2S as it establishes a force. After that, as you noted, it is the “undicovered country” and even seasoned partners have roads of discussion that are less well- travelled. If, philosophically you embrace fast/slow arrival, then that is a guide that sugeests (on this hand and with this agreemnt) that 2NT (forcing) is stronger than 3NT.

Without prior discussion, and not privy to your approach, if sitting opposite you or Isabelle I would assume that showed extras, a disinterest in bigger things and the opponents suit wired, like AJ98. In any contract, the opening bidder is offside and the hand may not play as well as we might have imagined, especially with no interference.

I pass.

Great topic for discussion, thanks for bringing it up. BTW a “random” intimates (which is why you clarified) a pre-set level of ability to go along with unfamiliarity.

I was playing in the Nationals this past week, the field was certainly random and I needed to play this for one loser.



The opponents seemed random enough. My radar was humming (or so I imagined) and I detected nothing beyond fatigue.

I played Ace from the dummy and low to my hand.
At this stage of the hand, a sound player would realize this is the critical junction, and this player presumably knew that.

He played low under the ace, and low again smoothly. Should I finesse or rise?

The trouble is, good players think randomness is a great thing – and sometimes it is. But here, it is a liablity. I know Hamman or any good player would play low smoothly, so I play the King. I also know that any random player could flinch, if only for a moment and betray their position.


do I play them to be good?
Do I play for a random player to have made a good play?
Or do I play for the random player to have acted randomly? In that case, he had nothing to think about – say Jxx and therefore played low smoothly.

I played him to be a pooch. He wasn’t, I was.

My radar was off for that one….. 🙂


lindaMarch 18th, 2008 at 10:34 am

You have my sympathies. When you play against someone you don’t know it seems logical to assume that they are not one of the elite of bridge but still they can be good enough to make a nice play.

I got someone a while back in a national board of match mixed teams when declarer led towards KQ10 in the concealed hand. I sat over him and when he led to the queen I ducked it. Later on in the hand he led another one from dummy and Ray of course played low. Which one of us was an ace ducker? He played the MALE to have ducked and put up the king (to lose the board).

It is a good play to duck the king smoothly (perhaps even harder if you had not cashed the ace first). Unlucky Cam.

In this auction I think 2NT should show the balanced hand in the in-between range. If you had 11-15 or 20-22 with a balanced hand and stoppers you would already have bid notrump so after partner ASKS you to bid a suit bidding notrump it seems to me must show a clear notrump bid and if you had such a hand why didn’t you bid notrump in the first place – out of range. The value of bidding 2NT is that partner who it seems likely has an unbalanced hand can still explore for the right strain.

3NT which takes up so much space should be pretty specific. Perhaps it should show more than 22? Maybe 18-19 and no more than 3 in unbid majors. I like this better than using it to show the more common lower point ranges.

MichaelMarch 25th, 2008 at 4:52 am

Cam with your holding isn’t the correct play low to the 9 on the first trick (and if you lose to the J then low from hand to the T, if you lose to the K then play Q from hand next) rather than ace and then low to your hand?

I know I’d evaluate starting with the Q versus A and then low (like you did) versus low to the 9 to begin. I think the first two produce similar chances and the last (low to the 9) is the best.

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