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Combine Approaches
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In a round-robin match in the Open Trials, you have to find the best way to proceed after partner's weak notrump.

None vul, West deals. As South, you hold:

South
J9852
AQ10
6
A752
W
N
E
S
P
1NT
P
?

1NT: 10-12

You play 2-way Stayman. Available for this hand are:

2: To play. Partner will never bid over this.

2: Game-forcing Stayman. You will be able to find out partner's exact shape or close to it if you so choose.

2: Non-forcing Stayman. Partner will bid a major if he has one, 2 otherwise. If partner is 4-4 in the majors, he will bid 2NT with a minimum, his better major otherwise (planning on following with the other major if you bid 2NT).

After your 2 bid, if partner bids 2 and you bid 2 that is to play. It would be assumed that you have 5 spades and 4 hearts. If partner bids 2 and you bid 2, that shows a 4-card spade suit and is non-invitational -- partner will pass unless he has a doubleton spade in which case he will pull. In order to invite in spades, you would need to bid 2, then 3.

Your call?

South
J9852
AQ10
6
A752
W
N
E
S
P
1NT
P
?

Your side has a maximum of 23 HCP. Clearly you can't afford to bid 2, since if you don't strike a spade fit you will get too high.

It seems reasonable to simply bid 2. The problem is that if partner does have 4 spades, you hand goes way up in value. That fourth spade is huge opposite your hand. Not only does that fourth spade probably mean one less trump loser, but the long spade holding can be used to ruff your losing clubs. That fourth spade is likely to be worth 2 extra tricks.

Will bidding 2 work? If partner bids 2, you can sign off in 2. It would be expected that you have 4 hearts for this sequence, but since partner will be passing you can have anything you want. If partner bids 2 you will have to pass since a 2 call by you would show only 4 spades, but a 4-3 heart fit figures to play okay. If partner bids 2 (or 2NT showing both majors with a minimum), you can reasonably shoot out game. Since with 4-4 in the majors and a non-minimum partner will be bidding his better major, you will likely be hearing 2 rather than 2 if that is his hand. It looks like 2 will work quite well.

You choose to bid 2, ending the auction.

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

West leads the 10. Standard leads.

North
74
K63
A1085
KJ64
South
J9852
AQ10
6
A752
W
N
E
S
P
1NT
P
2
P
P
P

Your play?

North
74
K63
A1085
KJ64
South
J9852
AQ10
6
A752
W
N
E
S
P
1NT
P
2
P
P
P

While West could be leading away from the queen of clubs, that isn't likely. A club lead from Q109(x) wouldn't appear particularly attractive, and he probably would have found something else to lead. It looks better to not take the club finesse, since it is more likely that East has the singleton or doubleton queen.

If you are planning on drawing trumps, it makes sense to win the first trick with the king of clubs. Leading the first round of trumps from dummy is better than leading from your hand. If East has the 10 of spades you prevent the opponents from scoring a cheap trump trick, which may make a difference if the trumps are 3-3 and the opponents can get a ruff. Also, if East has any 10-doubleton, a lead from dummy will hold your trump losses to 3 tricks.

An alternative to the trump-drawing approach is to scramble home ruffs. If everything works, you could score 3 diamond ruffs, 2 clubs, 3 hearts, and the ace of diamonds. That's 9 tricks, so you might be able to afford something going wrong. That approach is a definite possibility. If the scramble approach is to be taken, it is right to win the first trick with the ace of clubs since dummy entries will be needed.

When will the trump-drawing approach fail? You can afford to lose 4 trump tricks and a club trick, so the trump-drawing approach will fail when West has led a singleton club and the trumps are 4-2. There is also some danger of being tapped out if the opponents switch to diamonds quickly enough, in which case you won't be able to score your long club.

When will the scramble approach fail? The danger is that an opponent will ruff the third round of hearts or West will overruff one of the diamonds. If that happens too soon the opponents may be able to draw your trumps and you will be a trick short.

The best option looks to be to combine approaches. Win the opening lead in your hand, and lead a club back. You don't mind if West ruffs this, since he will be ruffing air. If West shows out you know you have two club losers, so you should try to scramble home enough ruffs via ace of diamonds, diamond ruff, 3 rounds of hearts ending in dummy, and another diamond ruff, which comes to 8 tricks -- 2 spades, 3 hearts, 2 clubs, and 1 diamond. West may be able to thwart this with his discard on the second club, but it is the best you can do.

If both opponents follow to the second club and the queen doesn't fall, you can continue clubs, setting up the long club. Now you are ready to draw trumps and claim. The only possible danger will be getting forced in diamonds, but if the opponents try that you might be able to slip back into the scramble approach.

You choose to win the king of clubs in dummy. East plays the 3. What do you lead at trick 2?

North
74
K63
A1085
J64
South
J9852
AQ10
6
A75
W
N
E
S
P
1NT
P
2
P
P
P

Clearly you were planning to draw trumps for this play at trick 1, and you are in dummy, which is where you want to start the first round of trumps. Leading a trump is clear. You might as well lead the 7, since you are planning on riding it and this will keep the high trumps in your hand. If East has 103 doubleton, it might not be obvious to him that he needs to cover the 7 to establish his partner's 6.

You lead the 7. East wins the ace, West playing the 3. East returns the 9. What do you do?

North
4
K63
A1085
J64
South
J985
AQ10
6
A75
W
N
E
S
P
1NT
P
2
P
P
P

The opponents failed to find the diamond shift, so you are no longer in danger of being forced. A 4-2 trump split and a 3-2 club split will see you home. East might have started with A10 doubleton of spades, so you prefer to lead the second round of spades from dummy. Since you no longer want diamond ruffs, dummy entries are not a concern.

You win the heart shift in dummy, and lead another trump. East wins the queen, and shifts to a diamond to West's jack and dummy's ace. What next?

North
63
1085
J64
South
J98
AQ
A75
W
N
E
S
P
1NT
P
2
P
P
P

The trumps may be 3-3, but you cannot safely play for that. If you cross to your hand and lead a trump, if the trumps are 4-2 the defense can draw two trumps, tap you with a diamond, and you won't get your long club. You have to play on clubs now before you lose control.

You lead a club to your ace, both opponents following small, and continue with a third round of clubs. East wins the queen, and leads a diamond which you ruff. And now?

North
63
108
J
South
J9
AQ
7
W
N
E
S
P
1NT
P
2
P
P
P

Once again, it is not safe to play a trump since if the trumps are 4-2 the opponents will draw your trumps and cash diamonds. You must forget about the possible overtrick.

You cash your hearts, and lead a club. The trumps are 4-2, and you make 8 tricks. The full hand is:

West
K1063
742
KJ43
108
North
74
K63
A1085
KJ64
East
AQ
J985
Q972
Q93
South
J9852
AQ10
6
A752
W
N
E
S
P
1NT
P
2
P
P
P
D
2 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
10
K
3
2
1
1
0
7
A
2
3
2
1
1
9
10
2
K
1
2
1
4
Q
5
6
2
2
2
2
6
J
A
1
3
2
4
9
A
8
3
4
2
5
3
6
Q
2
4
3
7
8
4
5
3
5
3
A
4
3
5
3
6
3
Q
7
6
8
3
7
3
7
11

Should E-W have defended differently?

West
K1063
742
KJ43
108
North
74
K63
A1085
KJ64
East
AQ
J985
Q972
Q93
South
J9852
AQ10
6
A752
W
N
E
S
P
1NT
P
2
P
P
P
D
2 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
10
K
3
2
1
1
0
7
A
2
3
2
1
1
9
10
2
K
1
2
1
4
Q
5
6
2
2
2
2
6
J
A
1
3
2
4
9
A
8
3
4
2
5
3
6
Q
2
4
3
7
8
4
5
3
5
3
A
4
3
5
3
6
3
Q
7
6
8
3
7
3
7
11

West's opening lead is questionable. With West's trump holding there probably isn't any need for club ruffs. Declarer doesn't have 4 hearts since he bid 2 rather than 2, but he might have 4 clubs. Thus, a heart lead looks both safer and more productive.

When East is in with the ace of spades, he knows (or can assume) that declarer is 5-4 in the black suits. It is hard to see how his heart shift can accomplish anything good. A diamond shift looks better.

Declarer can still make on a diamond shift, but he must be careful. He will win the ace, and play another spade. East wins, and continues diamonds. Now if declarer ruffs and plays ace and a club, West gets to discard a heart, and when the defense forces declarer again, declarer is a trick short. Instead, declarer must revert to the scramble approach of cashing his good club and hearts before taking his second diamond ruff.

It is important to be able to use your tools effectively. The reflex thought looking at the South hand is that South can't bid non-forcing Stayman with 5 spades and fewer than 4 hearts, so South can't afford to probe for game. One must think out of the box to realize that bidding 2 will work with the methods in use.

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