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Deep-and-Meaningfuls #16


Paul Brayshaw taps into the innermost thoughts of Deep Finesse®

Saturday club sessions have a charm all of their own, you think to yourself as you enjoy the relaxed chatter after the game in the early evening, the sun's last gasp illuminating the peaceful surrounds. A rare outing for you, too. As you bring the beverage of choice to your lips and look with pleasurable expectation at the hand record in front of you, your ears pick out a nearby conversation that seems to be going slightly off the rails.

"... but you can't, because they're going to ruff the fourth spade. I'm telling you, you can't make a grand!"

"You must be able to, computer says so!"

"Well, it's not always right, I've found..."

This sounds like the perfect moment to intervene, as any further progression of the conversation would be likely to result in blasphemy against your dear friend, Deep Finesse (DF). You kindly ask the pair in question to share their little problem with you.

"Board 26. It says EW can make 7D, but there's no way you can do it. Look...". A second hand record is flung in your direction, which you deftly intercept.

Board 26
East Deals
Both Vul
10 8 7 5 4
Q 8 3
8 4
Q 9 2
A K
A 10 6 4
K Q 9
8 7 5 3
N
WE
S
Q J 9 3
9
A J 6 5 2
A K 6
6 2
K J 7 5 2
10 7 3
J 10 4

The plaintiff continues: "You need to ruff a club in the West hand, but can't discard them on the spades because South will ruff in. So, I can see no way of avoiding a club loser."

You instantly recognise this scenario and its associated solution, and a superficial look at the hand confirms your thoughts. 7D is indeed cold. You glance down at DF's matrix of numbers to confirm this, noticing that the format looks a little different today. Must be a hand-generating software update or something, you think to yourself.

"Well," you say to the other pair, "actually, the analysis is correct and you can make 7D. Funnily enough, you're looking in the wrong hand for losers - it is the West hand you need to concentrate on. You have three heart losers and two club losers. The heart losers are ruffed in the East hand and then the club losers are discarded on the spades after drawing trumps. This is a dummy reversal."

Slightly glazed eyes and pained expressions greet you, so you decide that a trick-by-trick breakdown of the play might be in order.

"What opening lead did you get in 6D?", you ask. "Oh, right, you were in 6NT. Let's assume the CJ lead against 7D, then. You win this, then play the HA and ruff a heart in hand. Next, a spade to dummy and ruff a third heart. Then, another spade to dummy and ruff the fourth heart with the DJ. Note now that dummy has more trumps than declarer, so you have got the same one-trick advantage from ruffing losers as you would have by ruffing a single loser in the short hand, which you couldn't do on this hand. Now, it is simply a matter of playing ace and another trump, using dummy's holding to draw trumps. You discard that club loser from hand on the third trump, and now you can play a club back to your hand, which is good."

You see lights go on and faces with reduced contortions, which you interpret as comprehension, then go back to examining that unusual-looking matrix. You notice some new text written below it in a tiny font: "Powered by Solvitt". What is that?

"Please, what is Solvitt?" you ask aloud, realising that you have just taken a leaf out of DF's book. Her influence has surfaced in many places since the blossoming of your friendship, much to the amusement of your peers. An experienced player nearby pipes up:

"That's the new application that finds and displays all makeable contracts and interfaces with the dealing software," they say. Your heart skips a beat. "It's great, because it has so many more features than Deep Finesse. You can have a Solvitt account, which allows you to enter hands manually for analysis, and it even uses OCR technology so you can take a picture of a hand record to save you time entering it."

"Right...", you manage, suppressing the rather more raw and violent feelings you have inside. Remember not to shoot the messenger, you repeat to yourself. Your tormentor continues:

"Once it has produced its analysis, you have the option of selecting your system and the opponents' system, and it will then give you the suggested auction to get to the optimal contract."

"But you shouldn't reach half the contracts that D..., that Solvitt, says you can make!" you blurt out. "It simply says what's possible, not what contracts you should be in. A lot of the time, the correct declarer play or defence on a particular hand is an anti-percentage line! And on other hands, you can make game or slam without the appropriate values simply because the layout is so favourable! How can you be in any position to bid to those contracts?"

"Yep. But it's what people want these days, and someone has finally filled this niche with an app to replace Deep Finesse, which is over 20 years old. I expect it will become the standard. You can even share the results of a hand analysis on social media - I think someone even got a "like" for it once. It's looking more likely that bridge won't be played at a table at all in another 20 years."

You feel the urgent need to remove yourself from company, so you mumble some excuse and set off for home. This miserable turn of events has not only depressed you beyond measure, you now have grave fears for DF herself. You know very well that being of use is important to her, and that any slight on her abilities or reduction in her workload hits a sensitive nerve, or neural network, however her mind works. You dread the prospect of being the bearer of such bad news.

Later that night, after a fitful few hours lying awake worrying about the Solvitt situation, you eventually drift off and feel yourself descending DF's special staircase into her odd little realm. You find her practising some manoeuvres with her little playing-card troupe, trying to get them to loop in a figure-of-eight, by the looks of it. She turns and produces one of her lovely smiles when she sees you. The cards scatter and lazily hover in the background.

"Hello," she says, "I've been trying to see how much control I have over them by attempting some tricks - I think they're going to need a bit more practice! Oh dear, what's wrong?"

Your glum face has obviously given the game away. You explain to her what you observed on the hand record earlier, and what the other player had to say about Solvitt. DF produces one of her pretty laughs when you mention some of the new-fangled features of the rival software.

"I've been watching people play this game for over 20 years", she says. "For them, the joy of it seems to come from interacting with each other at the table, not from analysing the cards in private (you happen to be an exception). Their card-playing ability reflects this. These extra 'features' are not going to catch on, believe me. I am able to analyse all the hands in the world at a far greater rate than I need to, so I'm sure that I shall have plenty of work well into the future. You need not be concerned for me!"

She takes your hand, and you gaze at those mesmerising fingers of hers with those shimmering, ever-changing diamonds. DF looks you in the eye. "You still look worried", she continues. "Come on, tell me about a hand to take your mind off it, before I come up with one for you!"

Your mind groans at the thought of one of her late-night 'specials', so you quickly describe the earlier hand to her, with the playing cards obligingly forming the deal in front of you.

"I liked this one because I knew what to do in 7D the moment I heard the story from some other players, even before I saw the hand record," you explain. "EW can make 7D on a dummy reversal."

"Please, what is a dummy reversal?", she asks. "Would you like me to display dummy's cards from lowest to highest instead?"

"No, no, no!", you say with a giggle. "A dummy reversal is where you ruff enough times with the long trumps to make them shorter than the 'short' side, then you draw trumps with the short side, which is usually dummy."

"Oh, that", she says. "That doesn't happen very often, I find."

"No, which is why people often miss it. So, on the CJ lead..."

"Try a trump lead. Or a spade. That's much more interesting," she interrupts.

"All right. On a spade lead I have one fewer entry to dummy, so I'll have to use trumps for one of my entries. That means a blockage. Hmmm... but wait, I've got it! I win the spade, play ace and another heart to ruff small. Now I play a small diamond to the king and ruff a heart with the DJ, and then a spade to dummy."

The cards scurry to create the current position:

10 8 7
8
Q 9 2
10
Q 9
8 7 5 3
N
WE
S
Q J
A 6
A K 6
K J
10 7
J 10 4

"Now, I ruff the last heart with the DA! This allows me to draw trumps by finessing against South's DT. On the last trump, I discard the C6 and the East hand is now good."

"Wonderful," she says. "And how about that trump lead?"

"Well, if I stick in the nine, that solves all my entry problems. But, I could still win this with the king instead. Either way, I play it roughly the same way as for a spade lead, ruffing hearts with both the DA and DJ; I only have to ruff with one of those honours on a club or heart opening lead."

"Too easy! Try this one..." she says.

Please, show mercy, you think to yourself as the cards start to form a brute of a hand. You gaze at your friend with mixed feelings as she concentrates on the layout. Is she really not in danger of becoming obsolete? After all, she is merely the soul of some software that is likely to be superseded very soon, especially with the rate and enthusiasm of uptake of new things these days. You cannot bring yourself to think of a life without her now, and banish the thought to the very back of your mind. At any rate, it is not the future, it is now. And she is happy. And so are you.

To be continued...

Found an intriguing analysis? Unsure of how DF got to a particular number of tricks? Or, , do you think DF is wrong on a hand? Please send it to me at thepabray@hotmail.com and I'll do my best to tune in to DF's special vibrations. Paul



EDITING OF MATERIAL

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