Join Bridge Winners
Big Decision
(Page of 9)

In a semi-final match in the Senior trials, you have to find the best continuation opposite partner's strong 1NT opener.

Both vul, East deals. As North, you hold:

North
K75
J108
J6
KQ874
W
N
E
S
P
1NT
P
?

1NT: 14-16

Available to you which might be of use are:

2: Puppet Stayman. Partner will bid a 5-card major if he has one, otherwise he will bid 2. On a hand such as this, if you choose to bid 2 you will not be able to stop short of game if partner bids 2.

2: Size ask. Partner will bid 2NT with a minimum, 3 with a non-minimum.

Your call?

North
K75
J108
J6
KQ874
W
N
E
S
P
1NT
P
?

It is true that you have an aceless 10-count, and if partner has a minimum the combined count will be 24 HCP. You do have that good 5-card club suit, which is a definite upgrade. Vulnerable at IMPs you have to drive this hand to game. It might turn out to be a poor game, but unless you happen to be wide open in one of the red suits 3NT figures to have some play even if partner is minimal. You can't risk bringing back +150 lose 10 to the comparison with this hand.

Is it worth searching for a 5-3 major-suit fit? It looks like it is. While you can't be sure, on balance it appears that if partner has a 5-card major then 4 of the major figures to be better than 3NT. The nice part about bidding puppet Stayman with this hand is that the opponents get virtually zero information of value. All they will find out is that partner doesn't have a 5-card major. Your clubs are so strong that you don't have to worry about 2 being doubled for a lead. If your minors were reversed, it would be another story. Now the danger of a lead-directing double would be great, and it would probably be better to simply bid 3NT.

You bid 2. The auction concludes:

W
N
E
S
P
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
3NT
P
P
P

2: Asks for 5-card major

2: No 5-card major

Over you go into the South seat to play the hand.

West leads the queen of spades. Standard leads.

North
K75
J108
J6
KQ874
South
843
A642
AQ2
A96
W
N
E
S
P
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
3NT
P
P
P

Your play?

North
K75
J108
J6
KQ874
South
843
A642
AQ2
A96
W
N
E
S
P
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
3NT
P
P
P

Whatever is going on in the spade suit, it can't hurt to duck this trick. This may help block the suit or prevent the suit from running if West has 5 spades. You may be facing a big problem next trick.

You play small. East plays the 10. West continues with the 2. What do you do?

North
K7
J108
J6
KQ874
South
83
A642
AQ2
A96
W
N
E
S
P
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
3NT
P
P
P

This is the big decision. If West has the ace of spades, you must go up king. If East has the ace of spades, going up king is likely to cost the contract.

West clearly hasn't led from a 3-card suit, or he would have continued with the jack. Suppose he chose to lead the queen from QJxx, which he might. You can block the suit by ducking, but that won't help you. You will have only 8 tricks even if both minor suits behave. West must have some red honor, since East is a passed hand. So you will have no chance. If West has led from AQJx you need to go up, of course, but it is very unlikely that West would have chosen such a lead. The lead would have a high probability of giving up a trick without the benefit of establishing the setting trick.

The important scenario is when West has led from a 5-card suit. If that is the case, East has either A10 doubleton or 109 doubleton. East would not have squandered the 10 from 10x at trick 1, since at that point he doesn't know where the ace is. If you have A8xx, playing the 10 would be needlessly giving up a trick.

From a sheer restricted choice point of view, A10 doubleton is twice as likely as 109 doubleton, since from 109 doubleton East might play either honor. There are two countering arguments. One is that East would play the 10 from 109 doubleton, since that would be a clearer signal to his partner. In general, one signals with the higher of touching honors. Remember, East doesn't know at trick 1 where the ace is, so he isn't thinking deception.

The other argument against East having A10 doubleton is that with that holding he might have overtaken at trick 1 and returned the suit. This could gurantee a set if his partner has QJ9xx and a sufficiently quick entry, while playing small could give you a chance to make if you guess right at trick 2. Whether or not he should overtake would depend upon the rest of his hand, but it is certainly possible that he would overtake. In addition, he might have to think about it, and you might pick this up at the table.

One argument for playing small is that if you are right and East has A10 doubleton, probably all you would need is the clubs to split. The spade suit would no longer be a major threat, and you will be able to afford to lose a diamond. If East returns a heart you can probably make by going up ace, running the clubs, and taking a diamond finesse. East would have to have found a small heart shift from KQxx, and that is not likely. On the other hand, if you go up king and are right you still aren't home. You would have only 8 sure tricks, and would need either the diamond finesse or a possible end-play as well as the club split. While you might be able to read the end position, that is far from sure.

Another point to consider is West's continuation of the 2 of spades rather than the jack. Suppose West started with AQJxx. Leading the 2 might give you a chance to make even if you mistakenly duck if you have enough tricks in the red suits. West may be able to tell from his hand whether or not this is possible. Leading the jack doesn't give you that option. Of course if you think you might have enough tricks even if the king of spades loses, then leading the jack will force you into the correct play while leading small gives you a losing option.

Might West be afraid to lead the jack from AQJxx for fear you started with 98xx? No, if you had that you would have covered the queen of spades on the opening lead.

Given the above analysis, what would West lead at trick 2 from an initial holding of QJ9xx? He knows the position, and could lead either the jack or small. He should probably lead whatever he would have led had he held AQJxx.

The decision is difficult. Probably the most important factor is East's failure to overtake at trick 1, a defense which from his point of view could have been necessary. It looks like the percentage play is to go up king.

You choose to play small. East wins the 9, and and returns the 3. What do you do?

North
K
J108
J6
KQ874
South
3
A642
AQ2
A96
W
N
E
S
P
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
3NT
P
P
P

It looks grim. There are two possibilities.

One is that West has the singleton king of diamonds. If you drop it, you have 9 tricks assuming the clubs split.

The other possibility is that East has made a mistake and underled the king of diamonds. Not likely, but conceivable. Depending on what East holds in hearts, he may think it possible that his partner has the ace of diamonds or even the queen. If East has the king of diamonds and the KQ of hearts, he might think a diamond shift is his only chance.

A singleton king of diamonds in the West hand is very unlikely. It is better to hope that East chose to underlead the king.

You play small. West wins the king and runs the spades, East showing out on the third round. What do you discard?

North
K
J108
6
KQ874
South
3
A642
AQ
A96
W
N
E
S
P
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
3NT
P
P
P

The opponents have cashed 6 tricks, and you have 6 top winners. This means that 4 club tricks are all you need. You can afford to discard a club and a heart from dummy, and two hearts from your hand. You need to keep all the clubs in your hand in case East has singleton 10 or jack of clubs.

You discard a heart and a club from dummy, and two hearts from your hand. East discards 2 diamonds and a heart. West shifts to the 5, and you win East's queen with your ace. What next?

North
J
6
KQ87
South
6
AQ
A96
W
N
E
S
P
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
3NT
P
P
P

You might as well cash your diamonds. It doesn't look like there can be a heart-club squeeze, but you never know.

You cash your diamonds, discarding a heart from dummy. The clubs are 3-2, and you are down 2. The full hand is:

West
AQJ62
95
K1074
32
North
K75
J108
J6
KQ874
East
109
KQ73
9853
J105
South
843
A642
AQ2
A96
W
N
E
S
P
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
3NT
P
P
P
D
3NT South
NS: 0 EW: 0
Q
5
10
4
0
0
1
2
7
9
8
2
0
2
3
2
K
6
0
0
3
A
K
3
3
0
0
4
J
8
5
2
0
0
5
6
4
9
4
0
0
6
5
10
Q
A
3
1
6
A
4
J
8
3
2
6
Q
7
J
7
3
3
6
9

Critique the defense.

 

West
AQJ62
95
K1074
32
North
K75
J108
J6
KQ874
East
109
KQ73
9853
J105
South
843
A642
AQ2
A96
W
N
E
S
P
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
3NT
P
P
P
D
3NT South
NS: 0 EW: 0
Q
5
10
4
0
0
1
2
7
9
8
2
0
2
3
2
K
6
0
0
3
A
K
3
3
0
0
4
J
8
5
2
0
0
5
6
4
9
4
0
0
6
5
10
Q
A
3
1
6
A
4
J
8
3
2
6
Q
7
J
7
3
3
6
9

It is clear for West to lead a spade. He can see a quick way to defeat the contract on a spade lead.

Whether West should lead a spade honor or a small spade is not clear. Dummy presumably doesn't have 4 spades, since there was no attempt made to locate a 4-4 spade fit. If declarer doesn't have 4 spades, it is definitely right to lead an honor. However, if declarer does have 4 spades leading an honor may fatally block the suit. The deciding factor is West's king of diamonds. That card may be the entry for the defense, and if that is the case it would be fatal to lead a small spade if declarer has the 10. If West had no high cards outside of spades, a small spade lead would probably be better.

East's play of the 10 looks right. If he plays the 9 West will think that declarer has the 10, and if West has led from QJ8x he will be afraid to continue the suit when he gets in.

Which spade West should continue with is not clear. The small spade has the advantage of giving declarer a losing option of ducking and still making. However, declarer might deduce that this is the reason for the small spade. It is probably better for West to continue with the jack of spades, the card he is known to hold.

East's diamond return might seem automatic, but it isn't. The danger is that declarer started with AK10 of diamonds. Declarer can go up ace, unblock the jack, and eventually squeeze-endplay West if he reads the position. Consider the effect of instead returning a small heart. In theory declarer could let this ride, but in practice that isn't going to happen. Declarer will win the ace of hearts and run his clubs. West will keep all of his spades and discard his hearts, keeping the diamonds guarded. Declarer can now end-play West, but he won't know that. He will think that West has a heart honor left, so he will either take the diamond finesse or play for the drop, both of which will fail.

Should South have opened 1NT?

West
AQJ62
95
K1074
32
North
K75
J108
J6
KQ874
East
109
KQ73
9853
J105
South
843
A642
AQ2
A96
W
N
E
S
P
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
3NT
P
P
P
D
3NT South
NS: 0 EW: 0
Q
5
10
4
0
0
1
2
7
9
8
2
0
2
3
2
K
6
0
0
3
A
K
3
3
0
0
4
J
8
5
2
0
0
5
6
4
9
4
0
0
6
5
10
Q
A
3
1
6
A
4
J
8
3
2
6
Q
7
J
7
3
3
6
9

South is in the 14-16 range, and aces are good things. However, South is 4-3-3-3, and has no 10's. Those are serious downgrades. Quite possibly South should have treated his hand as a 13-count and opened 1, which would have resulted in a comfortable 1NT contract. The actual hand basically needed a 3-2 split and two finesses to make, which isn't very good even vulnerable at IMPs.

At the other table, 3NT was also reached after a 1NT opening and 3 puppet Stayman call. West led the Rusinow jack of spades, and East played the 9. When West continued with a small spade, declarer read the position and went up king. Declarer continued his good card reading by running his clubs, West discarding 2 diamonds and a heart. Declarer led a small heart off dummy. East split his honors, probably wrongly as it told declarer too much about the hand. Declarer won and exited with a spade, end-playing West.

It is always important to put yourself in the mind of the opponents to see what they are thinking. On this hand East's failure to overtake the spade at trick 1 or even think about it was the inference which was missed by declarer.

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