The Invincible Zia tournament analysis – April

Named ACBL player of the year many times,world champion and member of the Hall of Fame, Zia Mahmood gives you a hard time every month during Funbridge Points Tournament!

Discover 3 deals analysed by Zia Mahmood from his March tournament.

Deal 9: Going for the jugular

S  Q 10 7
H  K 9 8 5
D  K 6 5 2
C   A 8
S  8 5 3 2
H  7 6 4
D  10 9 3
C  J 9 7
orientation S K 9
H A 10 2
D A Q 8
C K 10 6 4 3
S A J 6 4
H Q J 3
D J 7 4
C  Q 5 2
West North East South (Zia)

Contract: 2 ♣ by East. Lead: ♥ Q

I don’t think robots actually experience feelings of dread, but if I were West on this deal I would know what was coming as soon as North opened the bidding. My partner would overcall 1NT and get doubled, and we would have nowhere to go.

Luckily I was South, and happy to double East’s completely normal overcall. When it rescued itself to 2 ♣ I was not so confident, but it figured to be our hand and in such cases it’s important to protect the plus score you can achieve in a part score contract. Besides, with a robot opposite you don’t have to fear that partner will have the usual pile of junk human beings open non-vulnerable in third seat.

So I doubled again, and everyone passed. The books all tell you to lead partner’s suit, but when RHO has overcalled in no trumps that will often help him to take a finesse he couldn’t manage for himself. With LHO marked with almost nothing a heart lead looked safer – dummy wouldn’t be coming down with ♥ A 10 x or ♥ K 10 x.

Indeed, on a diamond lead declarer could have reached dummy in clubs to play a spade towards the king, making seven tricks for 100 to us – not a great pairs score. But on the actual lead of ♥ Q we held East to six tricks, 300 to us and an 88% board.

Deal 13: I’m only human

S  Q 8 6 5
H  9 4 3 2
D  J 7 3 2
C   2
S  A 7
H  8 7 5
D  K 9 8 5
C  A 10 5 4
orientation S K J 10 9 3
H Q 10
D Q 10 4
C Q J 7
S4 2
H A K J 6
D A 6
C  K 9 8 6 3
West North East South (Zia)

Some Easts might open the bidding, but robots are beings of iron discipline. Humans aren’t, as you will see. Not that my 1NT opening was unreasonable – if you open 1 ♣ and partner responds 1 ♠ you don’t have a sensible rebid. West passed, and North showed robotic unwillingness to gamble a Stayman 2 ♣ response and pass whatever I did. That would have worked fine, but so should what it actually did, which was to pass and hear East balance with 2 ♠.

Of course I should have doubled this for takeout (or passed, but you can’t go through life fearing that partner’s going to bid diamonds). But I didn’t know whether my partner’s programming would enable it to recognise a takeout double in this auction. Maybe it wouldn’t know to bid 2NT with a shape like the one it had, allowing us to find our 4-4 heart fit rather than our 4-2 diamond fit. Maybe this, maybe that, maybe the other… at least it couldn’t misunderstand if I bid 3 ♣.

It didn’t, but that didn’t help much. West didn’t double, but I still went four down vulnerable for minus 400 on what should have been a simple partscore deal. That was worth 3%, and deserved at least 4% worse than that.

Deal 8: 10 equals 98

S  K 9
H  K Q 9 7
D  J 6 5 3 2
C   J 3
S  5 3
H  6 5 4 2
D  Q 10 9 4
C  A 7 2
orientation S 2
H J 10 8 3
D K 8 7
C Q 10 9 8 5
SA Q J 10 8 7 6 4
C  K 6 4
West North East South (Zia)

I was a little surprised when my partner responded 2 NT to my opening bid of 2 ♣. I didn’t think robots – especially French robots – went in for that sort of thing, preferring the modern approach of bidding 2 ♦ so that opener can describe his hand.

At any rate, the obvious move was to bid my suit and, with luck, get to use keycard Blackwood later to find out about crucial cards like ♣ A and ♠ K. Partner foiled this plan with an inelegant leap to 6 ♠, and I wasn’t going to bid seven because with those two crucial cards even a robot would make a control-showing bid of 4 ♣.

Just in time I remembered that this was pairs. The extra 10 points for plus 990 in 6NT as opposed to 980 in 6 ♠ aren’t worth anything at IMPs or rubber bridge, but at match point scoring they’re absolutely vital. So I bid 6 NT, and was transferred to the North hand to play the contract. I was a little worried when I saw my partner’s hand – it looked as though a club lead would put 6 NT in jeopardy while 6 ♠ from what used to be my side was (almost) cold. But East led ♥ J and I hastily claimed 12 tricks for a 98% board.