Saturday, December 11, 2004 7:22 AM
Hand Evaluation – Visualization ( Thinking in Patterns )
Thinking in patterns is more than important to reach another level in Bridge . Thinking in patterns is Bridge. You make logical Bridge decisions based on the hand patterns shown on the auction. This is the Sherlock Holmes aspect of fact finding to solve the case. This Bridge logic is the fun part of the game of Bridge to exercise our minds . When you are at an NABC & the experts are tanking , this is what they are thinking about in most situations. Drawing logical conclusions from translating the bidding or leads & signals into hand patterns.
One of the greatest mysteries to me is that I know a number of local experts who apply patterns as a matter of course when they are playing the hands. They play the hand “double dummy” because they have everybody’s distribution “read” . Squeezes , endplays , finding cards all stem from thinking in patterns in the first instance. You know LHO is 4-4-3-2 so he will be squeezed in the two 4 card suits he is holding. RHO has pre-empted & shown up with 3 clubs so along with his 7 card suit he is 7-3-2-1 so you strip him of the two cards & the one card & throw him in with his suit so he is end played . He must give you a ruff & discard. You know that a finesse is twice as likely to succeed as RHO has twice as many cards in that suit as his partner and on & on.
These same experts have not trained themselves to think in patterns on defense or during the bidding. Translating bidding into patterns is a must have skill. Partner bid 2♥ as a WJS, you hold ♥KQxx and are on lead . Your mind can come up with imaginary demons when you do not translate bidding in patterns automatically. You lead the heart K against 3NT & a stiff jack appears on the dummy & declarer wins the Ace. You get in with a side suit so now you start to worry. Maybe declarer started with A10x so I cannot lead a heart. Maybe I must switch to a spade to come through the heart. This is silly paranoia. Applying patterns the hearts are 6-4-2-1 or may even be 7-4-1-1 . You cash the heart queen and take all your heart winners. A diamond life master switched & they made the contract. He has not trained himself to “think in patterns” on defense , yet his declarer play is double dummy via hand patterns .
Kiz Fung at the Toronto NABC used the bidding & the art of applying patterns to come up with a nice defense against 3♠ . She held ♠Jx ♥Axxxx ♦Kx ♣Axxx & the bidding went
Kiz found the excellent lead of the ♥A & I held ♠xxx ♥x ♦AQ10xx ♣Jxxx . The dummy comes down with ♠xx ♥KQJ10 ♦xxx ♣KQxx so Kiz knowing that I doubled 2NT, it is obvious that I hold ♦ cards as there is nothing left for my double looking at the board. Kiz accordingly switched to the ♦K which won. I won the 2nd diamond with the queen but instead of cashing my ♦A , I led the ♦10 forcing Kiz to ruff as declarer had the ♦J . Kiz realized I must want a ♥ return for this play , so she returns the ♥ two for me to ruff. I ruff & return a ♣ as ordered for another ♥ ruff . When the smoke clears declarer is down 3 vul for a clear top for us. As expected from the auction , opener had ♠AKQxxx ♥xxx ♦Jxx ♣x
Same theme of thinking in patterns led to another top by Kiz Fung. The auction went
P-X-P-P Kiz had ♠QJ109xxx ♥Kx ♦xx ♣xx so what is going on ? Kiz is on lead so who has the spade stopper ? The re-opening doubler should not have the spade honour , as he is most likely just re-opening with HCP’s . Opener did not convert for penalty on equal vul so he probably has the one ♠ stopper ( Sherlock Holmes deduction ) . The double of 3NT by partner when the opponents have had a strong auction & you have pre-empted is very clear . He wants you to lead your ♠ suit. Kiz leads a spade & we get +500 for another top. I held ♠Axx ♥J10xx ♦Kx ♣K10xx for the double & as expected the ♠K was doubleton on the board & the re-opening doubler had a stiff ♠. If it were the other way around , the opener would simply not pull 3♠X to 3NT on equal vulnerability.
Sometimes reviewing the bidding & applying patterns can assist you in interpreting partners bid. The auctions goes 1♦ & Kiz Fung doubles with a 4-4-2-3 opener . Responder bids 1NT & I leap to 4♦ but open now bids 5♣ . What does my 4♦ bid mean ? Kiz had 4♠ & 4♥ so there are 18 major suit cards left in the deck. The 1NT bidder denies the majors & opener shows a two suiter in the minors in any system. Partners 4♦ bid must mean both majors with values for a major suit game. Could partners bid mean an 8 card suit in diamonds ? Opener has diamonds , Kiz has 2 of them & the 1NT bidder has shown some length in diamonds. There are only 13 ♦’s in the deck so partner wanted to bid his two suited major hand in one bid. I held a 6-5 in the majors with a minor void so 5 of a major makes 6 with the wrong opening lead. Partner could easily be 6-5 in the majors with a void in ♦'s so 5 of a major is laydown but so is 5♣X.
In the bidding , when partner & the opponents are bidding , get into the habit of translating their bids into patterns . Partner opens 1♣, bids & rebids diamonds. You know he is at last 6-5-1-1 so you rebidding your spade suit loses its significance. When the opponents overcall a suit & raise it with you having 3 , apply a pattern like 5-4-3-1 or 6-3-3-1 . Is it not nice to know that partner has a singleton there during the auction ??
Applying patterns is a must have skill in Bridge . All Bridge thinking depends on this visualization skill. When you have troubling sleeping or during commercials train yourself in patterns . 5-4-3-1 , 6-4-2-1 , 7-2-2-2 , 4-4-3-2 , 5-4-2-2 . There are not that many. The next step is remembering to actually apply them at the table. It may take you years to perfect the habit but believe me your game will jump at least one level. When an expert does not do it all the time on defense , it is just plain laziness as they have the patterns memorized for declarer play.
A player who does not think in patterns missed beating a vul game . They are in 4♥ with ♥AKxxx opposite ♥Jxx & he held ♥Qxxx . Declarer cashed the ♥AK & found out the bad news . They threw the defender in with a spade who had the ♦K to tap declarer the same length as he was. He has the club Ace & another diamond to ensure that they would lose control of the trump suit. As he does not think in patterns visually , he could not even see this line of defense. You cannot play the game of Bridge without memorizing & applying patterns in all facets of the game. It is impossible,
A veteran player tonight made a “baby” defensive error because he does not automatically think in patterns . He opened a weak 2♦ with ♠xx ♥Axx ♦K109xxx ♣xx & ended up defending 4♠. Partner lead the ♦A & they play Gartaganis ( known count signals ) so he encouraged in diamonds by playing a middle one. Alternatively , he could have demanded a heart switch by playing the ♦10 in case partner has a stiff ♦A. Partner switches to a trump so by disobeying your diamond signal the diamonds are obviously 6-3-3-1 with partner holding the stiff Ace. Later in the play , you get in with a heart & the dummy is dead if the original ♦ pattern was 6-3-3-1 but he cashes his ♦K to give the opponents a board entry & an impossible game. A baby error induced by not applying patterns rears its ugly head still again.
The auction goes 1♣-P-1♥-P
You are on lead with ♦AQxxx so with the auction screaming for a diamond lead , you lay down the Ace. Partner encourages so you continue with 4th best with partner winning the ♦K . You have ♦Kxxx & the board & declarer two each so what is the diamond distribution ? You know declarer is minimum 5-4 in the blacks from the bidding so giving declarer the rest of the diamonds means there are 14 cards in declarer’s hand as well as an unannounced ♥ void . You do not translate the bidding into a pattern so you return a diamond , giving declarer a sluff & a ruff to make a vulnerable game.
Thinking in patterns helps you avoid bidding errors. ♠Qxx ♥KQxx ♦xx ♣KQxx you hear the bidding go 3♣-P-P-4♣ by partner. You bid 4♥ so partner bids 4♠ which is the standard way of showing a huge two suiter after the opponents pre-empt. You now apply patterns to visualize partner’s hand & she could be 6-6 in spades & diamonds or 7-5 in spades & diamonds or minimum 6-5 in spades & diamonds. Knowing all this , how valuable are your two KQ combinations in partners known singletons or voids ? They are merely duplication of value. Accordingly , you pass 4♠ & pick up +650 as partner was ♠KJ10987x ♥x ♦AKQJ10 ♣void.
Thinking is patterns helps you recognize duplication of value like the auction above.. You open 1NT with ♠KQJ & your partner subsequently shows a 2 suiter in the reds & Q bids spades as a slam try. You now realize your spade holding is severe duplication of value so you shut the slam try down by retreating to game.
Thinking in patterns is supposed to prevent such baby Bridge errors. However , it is more than that. Thinking in patterns helps your opening leads , defensive play , bidding & declarer play. Thinking in patterns is how you play Bridge , period. Whenf you do not think in patterns , give up all aspirations of becoming an expert or even a good Bridge player . It is not going to happen.
My latest attempt to get partners & team mates to think in patterns is to use golf as an analogy to memorize the 13 most common patterns. Ask your caddy for a 4 iron. This means the patterns with a 4 card suit as the longest 4-4-3-2 , 4-4-4-1 & 4-3-3-3 . Ask you caddy for a 5 iron this means the 4 most common patterns with 5 as the longest suit 5-3-3-2 , 5-4-2-2 , 5-4-3-1 & 5-5-2-1 . Ask your caddy for a 6 iron which means the patterns with 6 as the longest suit 6-3-2-2 , 6-3-3-1 , 6-4-2-1 , 6-5-1-1 . Finally ask your caddy for a 7 iron 7-2-2-2 or 7-3-2-1. Memorizing these paltry 13 patterns will change your Bridge game dramatically . Just do it.