Join Bridge Winners
Awful Contract
(Page of 11)

In a quarter-final match in the Senior trials for USA2, you face a difficult competitive decision.

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

North
AK86
J82
AKJ1052
W
N
E
S
P
?

A 2 opening shows 6+ clubs, 11-15 HCP

A 1 opening shows 16+ points

Your call?

North
AK86
J82
AKJ1052
W
N
E
S
P
?

On some distributional hands it might be right to open a suit rather than 1 even though the hand is strong enough for a 1 opener. The main danger with opening 1 is enemy competition, which may make it difficult to find your fit. At adverse vulnerability, that danger is the greatest.

Still, this hand is just plain too strong to open 2. You have game or near game in your own hand if you have any kind of a fit. Opening 2 puts partner in the captain's chair, and he will never play you for anything close to this. You have to open 1, and if there is competition you just live with it.

You open 1. The bidding continues

W
N
E
S
P
1
1
X
4
?

DBL: 5-8 HCP If he had passed, that would show 0-4 HCP or a trap. If he had bid anything else, that would be a natural game force.

You are defined to be in a force over the 4 call. You play a treatment called pass/double inversion. It is as follows:

If you pass, partner assumes you are making a penalty double. Partner will double unless he has a hand which would not have sat a penalty double. After partner's expected double, if you bid a suit that shows a flexible type of hand with more than one place to play.

If you double, that is like a forcing pass. With partner having not bid a suit, as in this auction, it amounts to a takeout double. Partner will have the option of passing or bidding on, just as he would opposite a standard forcing pass.

If you bid a suit immediately, that shows a complete 1-suiter with no interest in playing in any other strain.

The advantage of this treatment is that you have two ways of showing a hand on which you are not willing to defend, without the risk of partner crossing you up. Playing normal forcing passes you might not get a chance to pass then pull, since partner might not double. Playing pass/double inversion partner will usually double, and when he doesn't you will have found out a lot about his hand.

Your call?

North
AK86
J82
AKJ1052
W
N
E
S
P
1
1
X
4
?

You have a strong club suit. However, it isn't good enough to justify committing to clubs by bidding 5. Both majors are potentially in the picture.

Double is reasonable. If partner passes, that could be right. If partner bids a major (hopefully spades) that could also be right.

On the other hand, you have a diamond void and a hand with a lot of playing strength. Also you could easily have a game or slam in clubs, and you aren't going to find that strain if you double. Passing and then pulling to show a flexible hand with more than one place to play looks better.

You pass. The bidding continues

W
N
E
S
P
1
1
X
4
P
P
X
P
?

Your call?

North
AK86
J82
AKJ1052
W
N
E
S
P
1
1
X
4
P
P
X
P
?

Obviously you are going to follow through and pull. The question is should you pull to 4 or 5?

If you bid 5, you will lose the opportunity to play in the lower 4 contract. However, that sequence will sound like you are 5-5 in the black suits, and partner may pass leaving you in a contract you can't handle when 5 is cold.

Bidding 5 is more descriptive. This clearly shows a longer club suit. Partner will know that you have other strain(s) in mind also, else you would have bid a direct 5. However, you didn't double, which means that you are especially offensively oriented -- probably with a diamond void. Partner should work out that you are very likely to have this 6-4-3-0 shape. He won't know which is your 4-card major, but otherwise he should have a good picture of your hand.

You bid 5. The bidding continues

W
N
E
S
P
1
1
X
4
P
P
X
P
5
P
5
P
?

Your call?

North
AK86
J82
AKJ1052
W
N
E
S
P
1
1
X
4
P
P
X
P
5
P
5
P
?

It appears that partner has at least a 5-card heart suit. He wasn't able to bid it on his first response, since that would have shown a stronger hand. Passing looks clear.

You pass, ending the auction.

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

Unfortunately, as you will see, you are required to go over to play the hand.

West leads the 3. Third and fifth leads. Standard carding.

North
AK86
J82
AKJ1052
South
Q1072
Q764
K102
43
W
N
E
S
P
1
1
X
4
P
P
X
P
5
P
5
P
?

What do you play from dummy at trick 1?

North
AK86
J82
AKJ1052
South
Q1072
Q764
K102
43
W
N
E
S
P
1
1
X
4
P
P
X
P
5
P
5
P
?

This is an awful contract. You clearly have no play to make. It is a matter of minimizing the damage.

Ruffing the opening lead can't work. There aren't enough trumps in dummy, and eventually you will have to lose at least one diamond trick anyway. You are better off discarding a club and letting them have their ace of diamonds. This way you get to score your king, while keeping some trumps in dummy.

You discard a club. East wins the ace, and returns the 8. Do you win the king or not?

North
AK86
J82
AKJ105
South
Q1072
Q764
K10
43
W
N
E
S
P
1
1
X
4
P
P
X
P
5
P
5
P
?

You will certainly want to ruff the 10 in dummy, and this is a good time to do so. By retaining the king of diamonds, you keep some control of the hand which may guard against being forced.

You play the 10. West plays the jack, and you ruff. What do you try now?

North
AK86
J8
AKJ105
South
Q1072
Q764
K
43
W
N
E
S
P
1
1
X
4
P
P
X
P
5
P
5
P
?

Playing 4-3 fits can be tricky. Sometimes is is right to play on a crossruff. Sometimes it is right to draw trumps. Sometimes it is right to work on setting up a side suit. Sometimes the right line of play is a combination of these themes.

On this hand, assuming the spades behave decently you don't have any black suit losers. Thus, if you can draw trump you will be in good shape. Unfortunately the trump suit is very thin, and there is the danger of getting tapped in diamonds. Still, drawing trumps looks like the right idea. You don't want the opponents scoring their trumps separately.

The best way to attack the trump suit looks like leading up to the jack of hearts. It is quite possible that West has AK of hearts, and he might hold AKx. If that is the layout, you might get out of this mess for down 1. Crossing to the queen of spades is okay, since entries to your hand aren't really a consideration.

You choose to lead the jack of hearts off dummy. East covers with the king, West playing the 3. East continues with a diamond to your king. What do you try now?

North
AK86
J8
AKJ10
South
Q1072
Q764
43
W
N
E
S
P
1
1
X
4
P
P
X
P
5
P
5
P
?

The auction and the opening lead indicate that the diamonds are 5-5, but you don't know anything else about the defender's holdings. Crossing to dummy and leading a trump to the queen will work very well if East started with AKx of hearts. However, if East started with king-doubleton, that approach would allow West to draw trumps and cash a couple of diamonds for down 5. That is too big a risk to take. It looks better to play some black suits and force an opponent to ruff while you still have a small trump in dummy to stop the force.

It is probably best to play on clubs first. If somebody ruffs the second round that defender will be ruffing from at least an original 3-card trump holding, and since he won't be able to force your hand you will keep control. On a good day you might find East with queen-doubleton of clubs, in which case you will be able to put a good club through him. The problem with playing spades first is that the player with a doubleton spade might also have a doubleton trump, which could cost you an extra trump trick.

You choose to play AK of spades, and then AK of clubs. East ruffs the second round of clubs, and leads a spade which West ruffs with the ace of hearts. East still has a trump trick coming, and you are down 3. The full hand is

West
J9
A3
J7643
Q976
North
AK86
J82
AKJ1052
East
543
K1095
AQ985
8
South
Q1072
Q764
K102
43
W
N
E
S
P
1
1
X
4
P
P
X
P
5
P
5
P
P
P
D
5 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
3
2
A
2
2
0
1
8
10
J
2
1
1
1
J
K
4
3
2
1
2
9
K
4
5
3
2
2
2
9
A
3
1
3
2
K
5
7
J
1
4
2
A
8
4
6
1
5
2
K
5
3
7
2
5
3
4
Q
A
6
0
5
4
Q
10
5
6
3
6
4
Q
11

Do you like the E-W auction?

West
J9
A3
J7643
Q976
North
AK86
J82
AKJ1052
East
543
K1095
AQ985
8
South
Q1072
Q764
K102
43
W
N
E
S
P
1
1
X
4
P
P
X
P
5
P
5
P
P
P
D
5 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
3
2
A
2
2
0
1
8
10
J
2
1
1
1
J
K
4
3
2
1
2
9
K
4
5
3
2
2
2
9
A
3
1
3
2
K
5
7
J
1
4
2
A
8
4
6
1
5
2
K
5
3
7
2
5
3
4
Q
A
6
0
5
4
Q
10
5
6
3
6
4
Q
11

East's overcall is normal. It is vital to compete vs. a strong 1 opening bid if you have a hand with which it is reasonable to do so.

West hit just the right level with his 4 call. If he had bid less, N-S would have had room to find their spade fit and get to the proper 4 contract. If he had bid more, N-S would have been forced to double and collect a reasonable profit.

What should South have done differently?

West
J9
A3
J7643
Q976
North
AK86
J82
AKJ1052
East
543
K1095
AQ985
8
South
Q1072
Q764
K102
43
W
N
E
S
P
1
1
X
4
P
P
X
P
5
P
5
P
P
P
D
5 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
3
2
A
2
2
0
1
8
10
J
2
1
1
1
J
K
4
3
2
1
2
9
K
4
5
3
2
2
2
9
A
3
1
3
2
K
5
7
J
1
4
2
A
8
4
6
1
5
2
K
5
3
7
2
5
3
4
Q
A
6
0
5
4
Q
10
5
6
3
6
4
Q
11

South's first double was systemically correct, and his second double was forced. It was his 5 call which was the disaster. South thought that since North had shown two places to play, 5 was pass or correct. Unfortunately, South didn't realize that since he hadn't had the opportunity to show a heart suit, 5 could be interpreted as long hearts. South might have passed 5, but if South chose to play in a major he should have bid 5. This logically would ask North to pick a major. It couldn't be a slam try in clubs, since if clubs is to be the trump suit the 5 call would commit to a small slam. South couldn't really be trying for a grand slam, since his hand is limited and North was willing to stop in 5 opposite that limited hand.

At the other table, after a natural 1 opening bid South made a negative double of 1 and North bid 4. On the ace of diamonds lead declarer had a difficult play problem, and he misjudged and went down 1 trick.

When you land in a silly contract, it is very easy to lose focus since it may appear that the result won't matter much. It take a lot of effort to play this sort of hand for the maximum result, but it is important to do so. Sometimes the result at the other table isn't what you think it will be, and each undertrick costs real IMPs.

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