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Spades Tips and Strategies
Spades Column of the Month -- February 2005
By Joe Andrews
Hands of the Year -- The Lighter Side of Spades!
The setup, from last month’s column:
Here are four hands which were submitted to me by players who read this column; all of these hands actually occurred in the MSN Games Spades area. How would you bid and play the cards in each case? Assume you are the dealer, and a game has just started (first hand).
And now, the answers!
Here are the results, as they actually occurred. Please note that we will be using “LHO” to designate the left-hand opponent, and “RHO” for the right-hand opponent.
J 9 8 6 5 4 2
J 8 7 3
The preceding bids were 3, 3 and 2. Buoyed by his partner's bid of three, our hero (we will call him this, as opposed to merely "South") bid 5, pushing the total to 13. Some conservative players might have considered a call of four. In any case, a small diamond was led by Partner, followed by the nine, the (lone) Queen, and the Ace. The LHO then led the King of diamonds, and this was won by our hero with the four of spades. The King of hearts was tabled and it walked, as partner was marked with the Ace. Next came the eight of clubs, drawing the nine, King, and Ace, in that order. Another diamond was led, and our fellow ruffed in with the five-spot. (Partner probably had no decent cards in diamonds, as indicated by his first lead of this suit). The time had come to explore the spades suit. The deuce of spades fetched the three, the Ace, and the King from the RHO (an obvious singleton). Partner grabbed the Ace of hearts as the other two followed, and our hero tossed the three of clubs. A low diamond was then ruffed with the six of spades. Why had partner not continued spades? Perhaps the Ace was a "stiff" as well! Now the eight of spades was played, and out came the ten and a meaningless heart discard from partner. The suit was breaking 7 - 4 - 2 - 2, and that spelled trouble!
Our hero's side had scored the Ace and King of hearts, the Ace of spades, and three small ruffs. Six tricks were in the bank. The combined bid was eight. The LHO still had the Q 7 of trump over the J 9. The spade Queen was cashed, another red suit lead forced the spade Jack (partner had nothing), the club suit did not break favorably, and the good guys fell one trick short.
The moral of the story? Do not push the total bid to 13 unless you have a good reason for doing so, such as an endgame bagging or score situation.
A K Q J 9
A K Q 9
The bids were 4, Nil (by partner), and 4. Our hero just loved his "no-trump" balanced powerhouse; surely he could take five tricks with this collection! And there was a good chance to set the opponents while covering the Nil. Out came a very brisk bid of five! (When will they ever learn?) He was oblivious to the fact that his opponents' bids were surely based on long spade suits. As a mater of fact, West held the Ace and five small spades and East held the K-9-8-7-6 of spades. Partner led the six of diamonds. The Ace won, and the Ace of hearts was immediately tabled. It was rudely trumped by the deuce of spades. And when LHO played the Jack of clubs, this was equally rudely ruffed with a low spade by the RHO. Back and forth went the cross ruff for a total of eight ruffs: four in hearts and four in clubs. Now the Ace of spades was led, and it felled the King. (The Jack of spades had been used in an earlier ruff.)
A low spade was played, and the Queen won. Our hero could cash another high diamond; however, that would be the end of his trick total. The Nil was in, but the loss of the cover bid held the net gain to +50. And the opponents scored +82, and a profit on the hand.
A Q 9 7 5 2
K J 9 2
I would call this "a bad day for finesses." The bids were 5, 1, 2. Once again, a five bid was irresistible. After all, the spades were long and pretty decent, and the club King might be useful, as well. A set was in the bag. Partner led the Queen of clubs, and the RHO rose with the Ace as "his nibs", the King, crashed down. The ten of diamonds was next, and when our hero tried the Queen, the LHO won the King and exited with a club. Partner popped up with the Jack of clubs, and when the RHO followed, our hero tossed the heart deuce and proclaimed "I knew that Jack was good, and I remember everything."
Next came the ten of clubs, and away went the nine of hearts as, this time, the LHO ruffed with the spade three. Another diamond was played and it was taken by the Ace. The spade Ace was cashed, and it drew a small spot from the left, a low-suit discard from partner, a small spot from the RHO, and a grimace from our hero! The spade Queen was pushed, partner showed out, and the RHO won the King. A small heart from the right was covered with the Jack, and the LHO inserted the Queen. It won, and a brutal Ace of hearts was cashed. Because the spade suit was breaking 6-5-0-2, West was sure to win two more trump tricks, as he held the Jack and ten. And that added up to eight tricks for his side, and one trick short for the "good guys."
The most glaring error here was the play of the spade suit. A better line was Ace, followed by a low spot, hoping to crash two enemy honor cards together... while saving the Queen of spades!
8 7 5 3 2
5 3 2
J 4 3 2
The bids were 5, 1, and 6 (which came around to our hero). With 5 spades, he was reluctant to bid Nil; however, in a moment of serendipity (and foolishness), he called NIL!! The opening lead was a small club, and partner won the Ace and returned the Jack. LHO took the King, and continued with the deuce. Partner's ten was ruffed by RHO's four-spot. Our hero carefully inserted the spade three under this trick. The heart six by the RHO was ducked with the five-spot, and LHO won the Ace. The heart Jack was covered by partner's Queen as RHO took his King. A third round of hearts was won by partner's ten, as everyone followed. When partner led the 13th heart, RHO cut with the six, and away went the trump deuce. Because partner held three middle trump, the Nil came home!
There is much to be said here. The Nil bid was atrocious! The club ruff by the RHO on the second round of the suit was dreadful. And the lead of the 13th heart by partner was adventurous and left a lot to be desired. Thus, it's a miracle the Nil came home, thanks to the efforts of all four players!
The History of Spades (January 2005 Column) -- Thank you!
Last month, we presented a timeline for the game of Spades, and I have since received some very positive comments. Incidentally, I chose not to list defunct Spades-related web sites, paid-membership Spades organizations, or any proprietary online gaming sites. I do appreciate the nice comments, and I will add historical Spades accomplishments to the list, as events occur.
John (Galt) Strichman -- Leading by Example
We have a special bonus for you in this month’s column: a hand analysis by John (Galt) Strichman, noted Spades expert and my personal friend. Check out the link above, and enjoy!
Live Spades Events
The Spades Connection
5th Anniversary Commemorative Event
March 10-13, 2005 - Nashville, TN
You still have plenty of time to register for this classic live Spades tourney. Come and join your friends for lots of fun and great Spades competition! It looks like this will be another monster turnout, and that can only mean more Spades and more fun! +Doll, +Catladie, and their dedicated staff go all out to keep the games moving and provide a great time for everyone! Your registration fee includes three fantastic meals. I've been there, and let me tell you, this show rocks! A free Duplicate Spades Tourney will also be conducted with prizes for the top two teams. Here’s the link; nail down your spot today!
The Spades Connection
Grand Prix: World Series of Spades VI
September 16-18, 2005 - Cleveland, OH
Last year, 50 teams (100 players) participated. This year's field will be expanded to 64 teams (that's 128 players)! The progressive Swiss-Paired format features a seven game qualifying schedule, plus playoffs. A special exhibition Duplicate Spades event will also be conducted. GP Invitations are be based on qualifiers at live Spades events, as well as designated online tourneys. In addition, a few at-large invites will be reserved for past Champions, and twelve players from the MSN Games. The March 2005 Spades Connection event in Nashville, Tennessee is also one of the qualifying tournaments.
So if you want to be a part of the '05 GP World Series, please send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, ASAP. Spaces are limited. Good Luck!
Grand Prix - The World Series of Euchre, Spades & Hearts
See you in March! Stay warm!