In a quarter-final match in the Senior trials for USA2, you must decide whether or not to open a marginal preempt.
E-W vul, South deals. As South, you hold:
If you wish to open a weak 2, your bid is a multi 2♦.
Opening multi with a 5-card major is quite permissable. The big drawback with this hand is the 5-3-3-2 shape. This shape means that suits are splitting for the opponents, so anything they do is likely to be right. If partner competes or bids a game, the 5-3-3-2 shape means you have more losers which need to be covered than if you were more distributional.
Against this, there are a couple of positive factors. Spades is where you live, and you don't have any unexpected defensive tricks. Thus, if partner competes or saves he will probably be right. The other factor is the vulnerability. If you have a bad result due to the preempt, your cost will probably be about 5 IMPs, but if the opponents have a bad result your gain will probably be around 10 IMPs. That is the deciding factor.
You open 2♦. The bidding concludes:
2♦: Weak 2 in a major
3♥: Pass or correct
West leads the ♦2. Standard leads and signals.
Do you win or duck? If you win, what do you do next?
There is no need to win this trick. Ducking keeps better control of the hand. It retains an entry to dummy which might be needed later, and forces the opponents to commit before they know much about the hand.
You duck. East wins the jack and you play the ♦10. East returns the ♥4. What do you play?
Playing small is clear. West will have to play an honor, and dummy's ♥10 will be good for the third round of the suit.
You play small. West plays the king, and you win the ace. What now?
It looks natural to play a heart, setting up a discard on the third round of hearts. But this doesn't figure to work. It will be obvious what you are doing, and the opponents will surely shift to clubs. It won't be difficult for them to untangle and get 3 club tricks.
A better idea is to create a diversion. Attack clubs yourself. It will look like you are setting up dummy's clubs or perhaps are trying to steal a singleton king. The opponents may block the suit, or may fail to realize what you are up to.
Which club should you lead from dummy? It might be best to lead the 10. This may induce East to cover from KJ8, which would block the suit. On the other hand leading the ♣10 is an unnatural play if you are short in clubs, and this may ring an alarm bell. When you are trying a swindle it is important to make your plays appear as normal as possible.
You lead a small club from dummy. East plays the king, and West the ♣8. East continues with the queen of clubs. West overtakes with the ace, and leads back the ♥9 to East's queen. East leads the ♥5. You discard your last club, and West plays the ♥6 as dummy wins. What next?
So far so good. One club ruff will set up the clubs, or you can ruff your losing diamond in dummy. Since you have two dummy entries, it can't hurt to lead a spade to the king and see if anything exciting happens.
You lead a spade to the king. East plays the ♠3, and West the ♠6. And now?
If the spades are 3-2, you can simply cash the queen of spades. Then spade to ace, ruff a club, and dummy's clubs will be good.
What if East has Jxxx of spades? You could find this out by leading a spade to the ace. If West shows out, you can ruff out the jack of clubs, cross to the ace of diamonds, and lead a good club through East. If East ruffs, you overruff and ruff your last diamond. Otherwise, you discard your diamond and make on a trump coup. Alternatively, if both opponents follow to the second round of spades you can ruff a club to set up the clubs and draw the last trump.
The danger is that West has Jxx of spades and a doubleton club. If that is the case, West will be able to overruff the third round of clubs.
Can West have a doubleton club? It seems likely that he would have cashed the jack of clubs before playing the heart if he started with AJx. But if East started with KQJ of clubs, it would be trivial for East to play a third round of clubs rather than a heart. It must be West who has the missing jack of clubs, which makes leading a spade to the ace safe.
You choose to lead the queen of spades. Both opponents follow. You cross to the ace of spades, ruff out the jack of clubs, and have the rest of the tricks. The full hand is:
Where could the defense have improved?
East's heart shift doesn't make sense. It could have cost a trick outright if declarer has Jxx and West has K9x, or if declarer has K9x and West Jxx. There is no great threat of discards in dummy. East should simply return a diamond and let nature take its course.
East knew the story in the heart suit. He should have cashed his queen of hearts before continuing clubs. There is no rush in the club suit. If declarer had Axx of clubs and Jx of hearts, declarer would certainly have continued hearts.
In spite of what East did, West still should have gone right. East would never have continued with the queen of clubs if he started with KQx.
Do you like North's 3♥ pass or correct call?
If N-S were playing weak 2-bids instead of multi and South opened a weak 2 in either major, North would have raised to 3. This is essentially the same situation. North expects to make 3 much of the time, and also expects E-W to have at least a partial in their best strain. The 3♥ call makes it much more difficult for E-W to find out where they belong. On this deal it turned out to be a losing action in theory, since both 3♥ and 3♠ should go down 1 and N-S might have bought the contract for 2♠. On balance, the 3♥ call figures to have a better fate.
At the other table, South passed and later overcalled. E-W were pushed to 3♥, which went down 1.
The key to a successful swindle is that it must look like a normal play. If there is something out of the ordinary, the alarm bells go off in the opponents' mind and the swindle is not likely to work. As long as everything appears normal, a swindle has a good chance to succeed.
Plus... it's free!