Join Bridge Winners
A Curve Ball
(Page of 7)

In a Rosenblum round robin match, partner throws you a curve ball.

N-S vul, West deals. As West, you hold:

West
AQJ953
A86
93
A4
W
N
E
S
1
P
2
2
2
P
4
4
?

1: Strong, artificial, 16+ points
2: Natural positive, 5+ clubs, 9+ points
4: Solid suit, minimum of AKQ10xx, usually better. A suit that expects to run with no losers.

Available to you are:

Double: Optional, like a normal forcing pass.
Pass: This requests partner to double unless he has a hand which would not have sat a penalty double. If you aren't planning on passing the double, you have various possible followups depending on the logic of the auction. 5 would be a slam try. 4 would be an offer to play, but not as strong a suggestion as an immediate 4 call. 4 would be a heart Q-bid. This structure is called pass/double inversion. The idea is to give you more different types of slam tries. Since partner will be doubling most of the time when you pass he won't be getting in the way of your planned auction, and if he doesn't double that may tell you what you need to know.
4: RKC for clubs. Normal responses (even though responder is known to have AK of trumps he still counts them in his response). However, since he is known to have the queen of trumps, he doesn't show that as a queen. Instead, he calls the jack of trumps the queen. This way you can determine whether the suit is truly solid.
4: To play
4NT: Slam try in clubs. Says nothing about controls.
5: To play, no slam interest

Your call?




West
AQJ953
A86
93
A4
W
N
E
S
1
P
2
2
2
P
4
4
?

What is going on? Partner has promised the ace of clubs, but you are looking at it. Are there two aces of clubs in the deck? You check the backs of the cards, but they are all the same color.

Could partner have made some kind of mistake, such as forgetting the meaning of the 4 call or pulling out the wrong bid from the bidding box? Possibly. But this isn't the sort of call that one makes accidentally. If partner weren't on sure ground about the meaning of 4, he simply would have made another call. It is possible he pulled out the wrong bid, but you can't act on that assumption without totally guessing.

It is better to assume that partner knows what he is doing and made the improper bid intentionally. If you bid as though partner has made a mistake, you will be in the blind as to what mistake partner made. Instead, accept that partner has knowingly thrown a curve ball at you and it is your job to field it.

It is very dangerous for the partner of the strong club opener to tell a lie such as partner has told. You happen to own the ace of clubs, so you know he has lied. From partner's point of view you don't have to have that card, so you will have no reason to think that he has anything other than what he has described. If you think he has a solid club suit when the ace is missing, that could be a major disaster. With something like AKQJx, Axx, Ax, xxx you would bid an immediate 7NT, and be rather disappointed to get doubled and go down 6. Therefore, partner must know that you won't be able to do this.

Perhaps partner has the ace of diamonds. He might figure that since you are missing this ace you will have to bid RKC, and then you will find out that a keycard is missing (although not the keycard you think). But this isn't safe, since you might have a diamond void. If you hold, say, AKQJxx, Axxx, --, xxx you will have no hesitation about bidding 7.

So how can partner take this risk? The answer must be that he has the king of spades. If you don't hold that card you won't be able to count 13 tricks even knowing that he has solid clubs. You will be bidding RKC, planning on following up with a specific king ask. His response will take you by surprise, but if you trust his response you will know that he doesn't have the ace of clubs which he has promised. You will have to decide which of his bids to believe, but you will believe the RKC response. Early bids might be imaginative, but one never lies in response to an RKC call made by a totally unlimited hand.

Why did partner do this in the first place? He must have decided you probably have the ace of clubs, considering the overcall and your 1 opening. Given that, he felt that you could work out his hand better than if he had made a normal 3 rebid. He judged that if you didn't have the ace of clubs you would still probably land on your feet even though you would think he had that card.

So, what should you do? He appears to have the king of spades and a slew of clubs to the KQJ. If he has the ace of diamonds, you have a laydown grand. If not, you may be off 2 diamond tricks. You are clearly worth at least a slam move.

One possibility is to invite partner with 4NT, or pass followed by 5. If partner has the ace of diamonds he will surely bid 5, and then you can shoot out the grand. Otherwise, partner will guess what to do. The problem is that he doesn't know what to base his guess on.

A second possibility is to pass, planning on following with 4 when partner makes his expected double. This approach will avoid slam off two quick diamond tricks. If partner has the ace of diamonds, he can still Q-bid 5 on the way to slam.

A third idea is to drive it in with RKC. If partner does have two keycards, you can then check for the king of spades. You think partner should have that card, but he might not see things the way you do. If he has only one keycard then you bid the club slam, which will depend on his diamond holding and the lead. It is important to remember that you opened the bidding 1, so you will be declarer. LHO doesn't have the high cards, so he will be guessing which red suit to lead.

An even more enterprising concept is to fire out 7! The idea is that if the hand is what you think it is with partner holding the king of spades, it might be a 5 or 7 hand depending on the lead. There are a couple of strikes against this gamble. One is that LHO didn't raise hearts. This puts some hearts in partner's hand, making it more likely that he does have a singleton diamond. The other strike is that the opponents might not get to the small slam at the other table, or your teammates might take a relatively cheap save against the slam. If your counterparts aren't in a small slam your odds on bidding the grand go way down, so even if it is a 5 or 7 hand you won't gain much by bidding the grand. At the other table they probably won't have the information you have, so they might not get to a slam.

RKC looks like the best idea. Worst case is that you are off 2 diamond tricks, and they still have to find the diamond lead. If partner has the ace of diamonds you can check on the king of spades, so you won't have the accident of bidding a grand on a finesse.

You choose to invite with 4NT. The bidding continues:
West
AQJ953
A86
93
A4
W
N
E
S
1
P
2
2
2
P
4
4
4NT
5
P
P
?


Partner's pass is a normal forcing pass. Your call?


West
AQJ953
A86
93
A4
W
N
E
S
1
P
2
2
2
P
4
4
4NT
5
P
P
?


Bidding 5 should be pretty safe if partner has the king of spades he should have for his unusual 4 call. However, slam is still a serious possibility.

The chances of partner having a singleton diamond have definitely improved. While it is difficult to read too much into his forcing pass, perhaps he would have doubled without a singleton diamond. More important, you have the information from North's 5 call. The opponents definitely have at least a 9-card diamond fit, and their diamonds could easily be 6-4 or 5-5. In addition North is now known to be shorter in hearts than diamonds, so from his point of view he is likely to find a heart lead more attractive than a diamond lead.

What about doubling? That is pretty risky. South must have a lot of distribution for his 4 call. He is certainly at least 6-5, and 6-6 wouldn't be shocking. In addition, North might produce a heart void. You have no guarantee that your three aces will all cash. Considering that you should have a sure plus score in 5 and a very good chance in 6, doubling can't be right.

5 would be a conservative call. The odds have to favor bidding 6. The chances that either partner has a singleton diamond or that North misses on the opening lead make bidding slam a good gamble.

You choose to double, ending the auction.

W
N
E
S
1
P
2
2
2
P
4
4
4NT
5
P
P
X
P
P
P

Your lead?


West
AQJ953
A86
93
A4
W
N
E
S
1
P
2
2
2
P
4
4
4NT
5
P
P
X
P
P
P


There can't be a rush to cash a black ace. The only way you could lose one of them is for dummy to be void in hearts, your ace of hearts gets ruffed out, and one of dummy's black suits gets pitched on declarer's good hearts. If that is the case it is only an overtrick -- you were never defeating 5. A trump lead could be critical to stop heart ruffs in dummy.

You lead the 3 of diamonds.


You
AQJ953
A86
93
A4
Dummy
10642
Q
J1086
9632
W
N
E
S
1
P
2
2
2
P
4
4
4NT
5
P
P
X
P
P
P


6 from dummy, 4 from partner, 7 from declarer. Declarer leads the 4. You win your ace, partner playing the 9 (upside-down count and attitude). What do you do now?



You
AQJ953
86
9
A4
Dummy
10642
J108
9632
W
N
E
S
1
P
2
2
2
P
4
4
4NT
5
P
P
X
P
P
P


Either black suit may be going on the hearts if you don't cash. The ace of clubs might not live. The ace of spades certainly will. In fact, partner might have the singleton king of spades.

You lead the ace of spades. 8 from partner, 7 from declarer. Now what?

You
AQJ953
A86
93
A4
Dummy
10642
Q
J1086
9632
W
N
E
S
1
P
2
2
2
P
4
4
4NT
5
P
P
X
P
P
P


Declarer can't have king-doubleton of spades. Even if you forget about the inference that partner should have the king of spades for his 4 call, declarer would have drawn another round of trumps if he had king-doubleton of spades. Your only hope is that the ace of clubs lives.

You lead the ace of clubs. Nothing matters. Declarer ruffs, and easily sets up his heart suit. The full hand is:


West
AQJ953
A86
93
A4
North
10642
Q
J1086
9632
East
K8
J93
4
KQJ10875
South
7
K107542
AKQ752
W
N
E
S
1
P
2
2
2
P
4
4
4NT
5
P
P
X
P
P
P
D
5X South
NS: 0 EW: 0
3
6
4
7
3
1
0
4
A
Q
9
0
1
1
A
2
8
7
0
1
2
A
4


What do you think of partner's 4 call?



West
AQJ953
A86
93
A4
North
10642
Q
J1086
9632
East
K8
J93
4
KQJ10875
South
7
K107542
AKQ752
W
N
E
S
1
P
2
2
2
P
4
4
4NT
5
P
P
X
P
P
P
D
5X South
NS: 0 EW: 0
3
6
4
7
3
1
0
4
A
Q
9
0
1
1
A
2
8
7
0
1
2
A
4


It was imaginative, that's for sure. Partner worked out that his king of spades was protection against you doing something silly like leaping to 7NT off the ace of clubs and going down many. It was pretty safe. Unless you were willing to bid a grand without the ace of clubs on what might be a spade finesse, you would have to bid RKC and then ask for specific kings. When he showed only 1 keycard instead of the 2 he promised you would sit up in your chair and hopefully believe the RKC response rather than the 4 call. More often than not you would own the ace of clubs, and then you should have a pretty good picture of his hand.

Even if partner's 4 call is a good bid in theory, there is always the danger that you won't be able to figure out what he is doing. In baseball you can have the best curve ball in the world, but if your catcher can't field it the curve ball will be a losing proposition. The same is true in bridge.

16 Comments
Getting Comments... loading...
.

Bottom Home Top