Join Bridge Winners
A Little Help
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In a round robin match in the Senior Trials, you face a delicate constructive bidding problem.

Both vul, East deals. As North, you hold

North
KQ
K87
AQ95
9853
W
N
E
S
P
1
P
?

1NT would be semi-forcing. 2 doesn't necessarily show a 5+ card suit. 2NT and 3NT are spade raises.

Your call?

North
KQ
K87
AQ95
9853
W
N
E
S
P
1
P
?

You have no choice but to start with 2 of a minor. Bidding 2 has the advantage of getting a 4-card diamond suit from partner at a low level, while if you bid 2 partner will have to go to the 3-level in order to bid a club suit. On the other hand, your diamonds are much better than your clubs, so you would prefer a diamond raise to a club raise. Also, bidding where you live may help partner with his future evaluations. 2 is probably better.

You bid 2. The bidding continues

W
N
E
S
P
1
P
2
P
2
P
?

2: Guarantees 6+ spades

3NT would show a strong desire to play 3NT. 4 would end the auction. 2NT would be natural, probing for the best contract. 3 may be bid with a doubleton since partner has shown 6 spades. It is not necessarily a slam try. 3NT would still be in the picture.

Your call?

North
KQ
K87
AQ95
9853
W
N
E
S
P
1
P
2
P
2
P
?

Setting the trump suit is the key to good constructive bidding. You know that spades is a playable strain, and you should take advantage of the knowledge that partner has 6+ spades with a 3 call. Anything else will just muddy the waters.

Bidding 3 doesn't convey any message other than that spades is a playable strain. 3NT may still be in the picture, and if partner does bid 3NT you may choose to pass. Slam may still be in the picture, and if that is the case you will clarify later. If you knew for certain you wanted to play 4 you would just bid it, so presumably you have some other possibility in mind.

Partner will first assume it is a choice of games decision, and he will bid 3NT if that is what his hand looks like. If you were slamming and are still interested, you can convey your intentions with a cue-bid. If partner isn't bidding 3NT, he will assume that you might have slam in mind. He will cue-bid something if his hand is decent for slam, but of course he will not go beyond 4 on his own since you might have been looking for a 3NT call. A 4 bid by him should show a terrible hand for slam.

You bid 3. The bidding continues

W
N
E
S
P
1
P
2
P
2
P
3
P
4
P
?

Your call?

North
KQ
K87
AQ95
9853
W
N
E
S
P
1
P
2
P
2
P
3
P
4
P
?

If you judge there can't be a slam, you should sign off in 4. Partner must respect this decision.

Is slam in the picture? It could be. Something like AJxxxx QJx Kx Ax makes slam near laydown. Partner could have a 7-card spade suit, in which case you will need one less side trick. Granted this would be a nice-fitting hand, but it does illustrate that slam is possible. You don't want to give up yet.

Clearly you aren't strong enough to drive to slam at this point. The right call is a 4 cue-bid. This conveys to partner that you do have some slam ambitions, a message which has not yet been sent. If partner is able to drive to slam once you peep, your hand will not be a disappointment.

You bid 4. The bidding continues

W
N
E
S
P
1
P
2
P
2
P
3
P
4
P
4
P
4
P
?

4: Last Train. Says nothing about hearts. It is simply a call which says he is better than a signoff, but presumably not worth going past the 4 safety level on his own.

Your call?

North
KQ
K87
AQ95
9853
W
N
E
S
P
1
P
2
P
2
P
3
P
4
P
4
P
4
P
?

Partner is still showing some interest. However, partner needs more than just some interest to make a slam. He needs either a complete maximum or a 7-card spade suit and some outside high cards. If he has either of these, he will be able to move over 4 since you did show slam interest with your 4 call. If he doesn't have this there won't be a slam, and 4 could be the limit of the hand. Bidding 4 looks clear.

You choose to bid 4NT, RKC. The bidding continues:

W
N
E
S
P
1
P
2
P
2
P
3
P
4
P
4
P
4
P
4NT
P
5
P
?

5: 2 keycards, no queen of trumps

Your call?

North
KQ
K87
AQ95
9853
W
N
E
S
P
1
P
2
P
2
P
3
P
4
P
4
P
4
P
4NT
P
5
P
?

Bidding RKC and then stopping short of slam when you are missing only one keycard is a cardinal sin. If that is your plan, you should have done something other than RKC. The main reason for RKC is to avoid a slam off two keycards. You have committed yourself, and you must bid the slam.

You bid 6, ending the auction.

W
N
E
S
P
1
P
2
P
2
P
3
P
4
P
4
P
4
P
4NT
P
5
P
6
P
P
P

You got yourself to slam, so over you go to prove you were right.

West leads the queen of hearts.

North
KQ
K87
AQ95
9853
South
AJ10853
A2
8
K642
W
N
E
S
P
1
P
2
P
2
P
3
P
4
P
4
P
4
P
4NT
P
5
P
6
P
P
P

Where do you win the first trick?

North
KQ
K87
AQ95
9853
South
AJ10853
A2
8
K642
W
N
E
S
P
1
P
2
P
2
P
3
P
4
P
4
P
4
P
4NT
P
5
P
6
P
P
P

The weak club holding makes this a dreadful contract. Is there any chance? It looks like you will have to assume both the ace of clubs and the king of diamonds are onside. Even if this is the case you have only 11 tricks, and the prospects for a twelfth trick look grim.

One possibility is West holding exactly KJ10 tripleton of diamonds. Extremely unlikely, but if that is the only chance you will play for it. However, there may be something better.

Perhaps there are some squeeze possibilities. The difficulty will be to correct the count. You could win the heart in your hand, cross to dummy with a spade, and lead a club to the king. East will certainly duck. Now you lead another club, hoping East has ace-doubleton. That corrects the count for a squeeze on West if West holds the only guard in one of the red suits. The problem is that East will see what is happening. He will be able to count 11 tricks for you, and he will know that his partner is under potential pressure. It will not be difficult for him to lead the red suit in which he doesn't have a guard, and that will chop the communication for any squeeze.

If there is no real squeeze, what about getting a little help from your friends? The opponents don't know much about your hand, so it might not be obvious to the defender who has 3 clubs that he needs to guard clubs. In particular, both opponents are going to be staring at that AQ9x of diamonds in dummy, and both of them may be thinking that they need to guard diamonds. This may be your best bet.

How will this work? You will have to run a lot of trumps, maybe all of them. You will need to retain all of dummy's diamonds to scare the opponents. That means you will need to discard at least two clubs from dummy, so you will need an entry to your hand in order to get to your long clubs. That indicates that it is right to win this trick in dummy.

You win the king of hearts. East plays the 3. What do you do now?

North
KQ
87
AQ95
9853
South
AJ10853
A
8
K642
W
N
E
S
P
1
P
2
P
2
P
3
P
4
P
4
P
4
P
4NT
P
5
P
6
P
P
P

As we have seen, leading a club to the king now doesn't figure to work. It is better to draw trumps without letting the opponents know anything more about the hand.

You cash the king of spades, and overtake the queen of spades. Both opponents follow. West follows to the third round of spades. What do you discard from dummy?

North
87
AQ95
9853
South
J1085
A
8
K642
W
N
E
S
P
1
P
2
P
2
P
3
P
4
P
4
P
4
P
4NT
P
5
P
6
P
P
P

In principle, your discards from dummy won't make a difference. There is no way the heart threat is going to be part of the end position, and you are going to have to discard a heart at some point. However, by discarding the heart now you might add to the deception. This sequence of plays of winning the first heart with the king and then discarding a heart from dummy suggests that you started with Axx, and you are keeping the heart threat in your hand. Clearly you have at least one diamond. If a defender thinks you started with 3 hearts he will conclude that you don't have 4 clubs, so if he has 3 clubs he will feel it is safe to discard a club and let his partner guard the clubs.

You discard a heart from dummy. East discards a heart. You cash two more spades, discarding two clubs from dummy. West discards a heart and a diamond, East discards two more hearts. What do you do now?

North
8
AQ95
98
South
5
A
8
K642
W
N
E
S
P
1
P
2
P
2
P
3
P
4
P
4
P
4
P
4NT
P
5
P
6
P
P
P

It looks like East has discarded all of his hearts, and is now down to 4 diamonds and 3 clubs. If he doesn't have the king of diamonds and believes you have Kx of diamonds, he just might discard a club on the next trick.

You can put pressure on him either by cashing the ace of hearts or by leading your last trump. The better play looks to be to lead the last trump. You want him to be thinking that you are keeping the heart threat in your hand, and that you are leaving the last heart in dummy as communication for that threat..

You lead the last trump. West discards a heart. What is your final pitch from dummy?

North
8
AQ95
98
South
5
A
8
K642
W
N
E
S
P
1
P
2
P
2
P
3
P
4
P
4
P
4
P
4NT
P
5
P
6
P
P
P

You must discard a club. You will need the heart in dummy to get back to your hand. Naturally you want to leave those 4 diamonds for East to stare at.

You discard a club. After a long huddle, East discards the jack of clubs. Maybe success.

You lead a diamond up. West follows small. Do you finesse or not?

North
8
AQ95
9
South
A
8
K642
W
N
E
S
P
1
P
2
P
2
P
3
P
4
P
4
P
4
P
4NT
P
5
P
6
P
P
P

You must finesse. You are out of trumps, and the ace of clubs still needs to be knocked out. You need to retain a diamond winner in dummy so the opponents won't be able to cash a diamond trick when they are in. The finesse is virtually certain to succeed, since East would have been able to discard a diamond if he had the king of diamonds.

You play the queen of diamonds. It holds. One more hurdle. You lead dummy's last club. East plays the queen. You hold your breath and play the king. It wins! You lead another club. The clubs come tumbling down, and you make. The full hand is:

West
742
QJ106
KJ73
107
North
KQ
K87
AQ95
9853
East
96
9543
10642
AQJ
South
AJ10853
A2
8
K642
W
N
E
S
 
P
1
P
2
P
2
P
3
P
4
P
4
P
4
P
4N
P
5
P
6
P
P
P
D
6 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
Q
K
3
2
1
1
0
K
6
3
2
1
2
0
Q
9
A
4
3
3
0
J
7
7
4
3
4
0
10
6
3
5
3
5
0
8
3
5
9
3
6
0
5
10
8
J
3
7
0
8
7
Q
2
1
8
0
9
Q
K
7
3
9
0
2
10
5
A
2
9
1
10

How was West's discarding, and should East have gotten it right?

West
742
QJ106
KJ73
107
North
KQ
K87
AQ95
9853
East
96
9543
10642
AQJ
South
AJ10853
A2
8
K642
W
N
E
S
 
P
1
P
2
P
2
P
3
P
4
P
4
P
4
P
4N
P
5
P
6
P
P
P
D
6 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
Q
K
3
2
1
1
0
K
6
3
2
1
2
0
Q
9
A
4
3
3
0
J
7
7
4
3
4
0
10
6
3
5
3
5
0
8
3
5
9
3
6
0
5
10
8
J
3
7
0
8
7
Q
2
1
8
0
9
Q
K
7
3
9
0
2
10
5
A
2
9
1
10

West's discarding looks okay. He saw that he could afford to discard one diamond, since if declarer had 10x of diamonds declarer would always have 12 tricks and if declarer had anything less a diamond discard couldn't cost. West didn't know until East has discarded all of his hearts that it was safe to pitch another heart. West couldn't know the club position, but since that looked like the critical suit West didn't want to discard a club.

The hand East was playing declarer for wasn't realistic. If declarer had Kx of diamonds declarer would have 11 top tricks, which would mean that unless declarer didn't have the king of clubs the hand is cold. It is hard to imagine South Q-bidding 4 with nothing in clubs when he could have Q-bid 4 showing a card in North's minor. In addition, if West had Jxx of diamonds West would have been pitching these to clarify the diamond position. East should have worked out what was going on.

How was South's bidding?

West
742
QJ106
KJ73
107
North
KQ
K87
AQ95
9853
East
96
9543
10642
AQJ
South
AJ10853
A2
8
K642
W
N
E
S
 
P
1
P
2
P
2
P
3
P
4
P
4
P
4
P
4N
P
5
P
6
P
P
P
D
6 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
Q
K
3
2
1
1
0
K
6
3
2
1
2
0
Q
9
A
4
3
3
0
J
7
7
4
3
4
0
10
6
3
5
3
5
0
8
3
5
9
3
6
0
5
10
8
J
3
7
0
8
7
Q
2
1
8
0
9
Q
K
7
3
9
0
2
10
5
A
2
9
1
10

South's first two bids are automatic. His 4 bid is fine. He has a club control, and he has far more than a minimum piece of garbage. His 4 Last Train call looks okay also. Even though South is minimal in high cards, he has a lot of primes. South isn't worth going past 4, but he is worth showing more interest than his 4 call showed. That is what Last Train is all about.

The decision about whether to play for a legitimate but unlikely holding versus playing for a defensive error is a problem which comes up all the time. Each case has to be analyzed on its own merits, with the likelihood of the defensive error taken into account.

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