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Common Game 2013-09-22 Board 9
West
108754
98643
76
8
North
KQJ9
AKQ5
853
J3
East
A632
J72
Q9
6542
South
10
AKJ1042
AKQ1097
D
9

Analysis by David Loeb

Pairs playing a 1NT range less than 15-17 will have an edge on this hand. North will open 1. South will set trump and use Exclusion Key Card Blackwood Roman Keycard to find the Ace. South wants to be in 7 anytime partner has 4+s or three to the Queen. There is no way to ask if you have 4+ s or the Queen. There is only one distribution where South will open 1 with a 3 card suit. If 4432 with 3 small s, 53% of the time you will have no losers. So South forgoes the Queen ask and bids the grand directly.

Playing a 15-17 HCP range, it is more difficult to bid the grand. Over 1NT, South must plan the auction carefully. Some partnerships use a 3 response to show both minors and game forcing values. Some use a transfer to s followed by 3 to show both minors and force to game. South needs to consider their follow up to partner's likely 3NT response. It is difficult to find out about the Queen unless s are set as trump and you play Exclusion RKC. To do so, South needs to forgo playing in s. Can that cost a trick? Yes. If partner has 2s and a fit, you may be able to ruff a to set up the suit for no losers. Depending on South's choice, the auctions will take varied paths:

1 Suited Route (worth considering if playing Exclusion RKC):
1NT-2NT (transfer to )
3 (don't like or not suitable for accepting an invite) - 4 (Exclusion RKC)
5 (1 or 4) - 5 (Queen ask)
6 (no Queen) - Pass (North can easily have two small or 3 small in s)

2 Suited Route:
1NT-2 (transfer to )
2NT (don't like or not suitable for accepting an invite) - 3 (natural GF)
3NT (to play) - 4 (patterning out, looking for slam)
4NT (to play) - 5 (trying for a grand, 5NT would be pick a slam)
6(prefer s, no help in the minors for 7) - Pass

Declarers will have no trouble taking 13 tricks. Proper technique is to play for the drop in s. 53% chance of picking up the suit without a loser. On this hand, declarer cannot go wrong. Both the finesse and the drop work.

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