Saturday, January 15, 2011

Hostage Negotiation

I had a weird occurrence a few years ago.  I was playing in a regional tournament in Dayton, Ohio.  When away from the table, my career is one of criminal defense attorney.  These two worlds collided when I received a note from a tournament director that I had an emergency call (fortunately, at the end of the session).

I stepped outside to call and found out that a client of mine was holed up in his mother's house, police surrounding the house, in what might have been a hostage situation.  Apparently, a judge had ordered this man taken into custody for purposes of an involuntary commitment hearing, meaning a hearing to determine whether his mental illness would merit hospitalization against his will.  He refused to leave, yelling this out of the door, and the police were unsure whether he might be dangerous.  So, a standoff developed.  He demanded to speak with his attorney, and they tracked me down at this tournament.

So, I spoke with him.  The hostage negotiator had failed, but I succeeded in removing him peacefully from the house.  The trick was rather simple, actually.  When he told me what was happening, I acted excited and happy, which confused him at first.  But, I then noted that we would probably have a massive lawsuit if this was all unconstitutional, as he was claiming.  I started talking about what I would do with my one-third of the massive settlement, and this got his thinking about what he would do with all of his money.  In the end, he walked out peacefully, dreams of a vacation home in Barbados in his head, and all was well.  His medications were started overe again, and he was better.  Later, both of us laughed about it.  Good end to a possibly bad story.

Well, as a slight embellishment, I imagine a deal that happened on another day happening actually as the last hand of that day.  I held Q8xx in hand, 9xx on dummy, in 3NT, and I needed one trick from this suit to make the contract, without losing three.  There were no other options.  So, I tried the obvious small toward the Queen, hoping for A-K to my right.  No luck.  But, the card played were x-10-Q-K.  This was curious.  I expected a fair shot that LHO started with K-J-x-x and RHO with A-10 tight.

I then ended up with a ruse to extract the remaining Jack and Ace at the same time from the opponents.  A way to get the culrpit out of the holed up position.  Greed, plus a measure of crazy.  The line was rather simple, actually.  I unnecessarily set up LHO's suit for him by using the last stopper in his suit to cross to dummy in order to finesse the Queen in a suit in my hand.  However, my holding in that suit was A-K-Q-2.  Not a real finesse, of course, but who would open up LHO's suit to lead toward A-K-Q-2?  Sounds like A-Q-2 to me, eh?

That ruse convinced LHO that I did not have the King.  Because I had opened 2NT, he was assured that my holding in the critical suit was now A-Q-x-x rather than my actual Q-8-x-x.  Thus, I had accomplished two things at this point.  First, I created a false image for LHO of my hand.  Second, I gave him dreams of that house in Barbados by setting up his suit and lots of tricks for him.  Now for part three.

Small toward the remaining 9-x on dummy in that key suit.  What was LHO to think?  Surely, I was trying one of those sneaky plays, small to the 9 hoping for an unfortunate duck by LHO.  The combination of greed, thoughtful analysis by LHO, and a tad bit of crazy mixed in, resulted in a hop of the Jack, per force overtaken by RHO's Ace, and I actually ended up with TWO tricks from that suit, only losing two, as RHO had no entry to LHO's winners!

Sometimes bridge and life have parallels.  When faced with a problem, remember a few things about the other guy.  Most people are thoughtful and can be relied upon to work out that which you suggest by your clues.  Most people are greedy.  And, most people have a wee bit of crazy to them.  Capitalizing on all three is part of the game of bridge.

Too often, players are obsessed with odds and percentages and finesse tables and conventional wisdom and the like.  I have never seen a listing of holdings that cater to crazy, but it probably makes sense.

Could you imagine a table of finesse positions that includes x-x on dummy and 10-x-x in hand?  How do you play this for one trick?  The mathematician says, "No way."  The thinker realizes that LHO could have A-Q-9-x and be tricky.  If he plays you for K-J-10, he might duck the 10, trying to sucker YOU into what seems like a safe lead toward the Jack, allowing LHO three tricks!  So, small to the 10 is the line.  Does this work?  Sure, for one of my partners.  This is a "crazy line," but it is, in a sense, the RIGHT line.

Another I saw was Q-x-x on dummy and A-10 in hand.  Suit contract.  I needed two without losing one, in a slam.  the line is not in any book I have seen, but it seemed right and worked.

Small toward the A-10, playing RHO for K-J.  If he ducks, I finesse.  If he sticks in the Jack, cross back and lead small toward the 10.  If RHO buys that I might have started with stiff Ace, two tricks snuck through.  I made the slam that way.  Again, RHO was a thinker, and he had a little crazy.  This time, however, the "greed" was actually more like not wanting me to have anything.  Hoarding.  Selfishness.  He did not want to give me that Queen for free.

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