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24th March 2020
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Master Bridge was a TV series created and broadcast in England in 1983. You can see all 14 episodes here. For a 2019 update you can check this out. The Pakistani expert, Zia Mahmood, stars in both series.
The Office is closed. But please feel free to email the Office for any help you may need. And please let the Office know of anyone who you think would welcome a helping hand.
It has been a very interesting week and substantially different to expectation.
Patrick is now at home all day. On the plus side I can hear the TV without the noise of the dealing machine, but the downside is missing everyone we see at the bridge club. The other plus was going out for a wonderful meal on Wednesday night, marred when my son rang me (a rare event) to ask how I was. Perplexed I asked “Why?”. Answer… the TV said to ring and talk to someone elderly!!!
A bit tongue in cheek, but we have many wonderful members and want to stay in contact with them over this time, so perhaps we should take a minute to ring and say Hi.
With the current Covid19 restrictions it seems appropriate to talk about Restricted Choice. You may have heard that term applied to bridge before, but do you know what it means? This is a hand from Tuesday evening, the session immediately before the choice of playing bridge at the club was so suddenly restricted:
Only one pair bid the very lucky 6NT. It needs the heart suit to be either 3-3 or a short jack. It also needs the diamond finesse to work and, most unlikely of all, it needs 4 tricks from the spade suit. The chance of all those things happening together is less than 3%, but on this occasion the cards are indeed distributed in just the right way.
For the pair in 6NT if they had made 12 tricks it meant the difference between an ice-cold top and a complete bottom. Even for the pairs in 3NT it was important to make that extra trick, because 12 tricks were worth an 80% score and anything else was below average.
The key moment comes when declarer cashes the Ace of Spades in the South hand and sees the jack drop from East. The chances of East holding specifically a singleton Jack or specifically Queen-Jack doubleton are approximately equal so you might think this is just a 50/50 guess like calling heads or tails at the start of the evening to see who sits North/South. However, you would be wrong.
The term restricted choice here is used to say that if East had the singleton J they would have no choice other than to play it. If they had QJ doubleton then sometimes they will play the Jack and sometimes they will play the Queen. That sounds very confusing to some people and they have trouble understanding how it could make a difference. Maybe if I explain it a different way it will help.
The following 3 holdings are all about the same likelihood to be dealt:
If you held the North/South cards hundreds of times, none of those possibilities would come up very often, but if you played them often enough so that East played an honour on 30 occasions you would expect that of those 30 occasions it would be;
A singleton Queen 10 times
A singleton Jack 10 times
Queen-Jack doubleton 10 times
If you finesse every time that you see East drop an honour card, without worrying about whether it was a Queen or Jack, then you will be right 20 times out of 30.
If you keep hoping that East has been dealt Queen-Jack doubleton, playing for the drop, then you will only be successful 10 times out of 30.
This situation arises more frequently when you have a 9 card trump fit:
If you play the Ace and East drops an honour then taking the finesse for the other honour will work twice as often as playing for the drop.
It is important to realise that this is only important when you are missing those two cards (the Queen and Jack) that are of equal value to the defence because they are consecutive.
If your suit is:
Now, if you play the Ace and East drops the 9, then that is completely irrelevant. In this situation the odds are almost equal. If you have absolutely no clues then you have a very slightly better chance by playing for the drop. It is only a very small difference though. Experts will go with any hunch they have in this situation, rather than rely on the pure statistical chance, because the difference in those chances is only about 1%