Join Bridge Winners
Concealed Spot
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In the semi-finals of the open trials, you have a close choice of games decision.

N-S vul, West deals. As South, you hold:

South
KJ4
AKQ7
Q84
A52
W
N
E
S
P
P
P
1
P
1
P
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
3NT
P
?

1C: 16+
1D: 0-7
1NT: 18-19
2H: Transfer

Your choice?

South
KJ4
AKQ7
Q84
A52
W
N
E
S
P
P
P
1
P
1
P
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
3NT
P
?

This choice-of-games decision comes up all the time. Which is better on balance, 3NT or 4? To get a handle on this, we need to know what has to happen for one to be better than the other.

For 3NT to be better, both contracts have to take the same number of tricks, and that number has to be 9 for it to make a serious difference.

For 4 to be better, spades has to take 2 more tricks than notrump, and those numbers have to be 10 and 8 for it to really matter. Unlike at matchpoints, where the major is better if it takes 1 more trick, at IMPs the major has to take 2 more tricks before a meaningful gain is shown.

So, which is more likely on this hand, the same number of tricks or spades taking 2 more tricks than notrump? If partner has his expected 5-3-3-2 hand, it is hard to see how spades is going to take 2 extra tricks. However, since there are no ruffs in the short hand, it is easy to see how notrump might take the same number of tricks. Therefore, passing 3NT looks to be the superior action.

You pass, ending the auction.

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

West leads the 2. 4th best leads, UDCA

North
A10653
J
53
Q9743
South
KJ4
AKQ7
Q84
A52
W
N
E
S
P
P
P
1
P
1
P
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
3NT
P
P
P

East wins the K. Does it matter which diamond you play, and if so, why does it matter?

North
A10653
J
53
Q9743
South
KJ4
AKQ7
Q84
A52
W
N
E
S
P
P
P
1
P
1
P
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
3NT
P
P
P

You should play the 8. The concealed spot might make a big difference.

To see this, suppose West holds A1062. He leads the 2, his partner wins the king, and declarer plays the 8. His partner returns the 7, and declarer plays the Q. From West's point of view, this would be consistent with his partner having started with K74 and declarer with QJ98, so he may duck the second round of diamonds in order to keep the communication for winning 3 diamond tricks. His partner's return of the 7 from the actual holding of KJ97 is correct, but West might not read it.

On the other hand, suppose you wrongly play the 4. Now when East returns the 7, West will know it is East's lowest diamond, so West will have no trouble winning the ace and continuing the suit.

You mistakenly play the 4. East returns the 7. What do you play?

 

North
A10653
J
5
Q9743
South
KJ4
AKQ7
Q8
A52
W
N
E
S
P
P
P
1
P
1
P
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
3NT
P
P
P

Clearly you must play the Q. It is possible that East started with AKxx. East knows from the 2 lead that you have 3 diamonds, so East would underlead his ace in order to give you a guess if you have Q10x.

Playing small would be right if West started with Axx, since that would block the suit. However, there is no reason to think that this is the case.

You play the Q. West wins, cashes the 10, and leads a diamond to East's jack. What do you discard from dummy and from your hand?

North
A10653
J
Q9743
South
KJ4
AKQ7
8
A52
W
N
E
S
P
P
P
1
P
1
P
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
3NT
P
P
P

It is clear to discard a club from your hand. It isn't likely to matter much since East figures to return a heart in all variations, but you should probably discard one of each black suit from dummy. You need only 4 spade tricks to make the contract. East may think that you have only a doubleton spade from your 3NT call, and if you discard a spade he may talk himself into a spade shift to break up your communication.

You choose to discard two clubs. East shifts to the 5 which you win in dummy with the jack. You have to get the spades right. Which way do you go?

North
A10653
J
5
Q9743
South
KJ4
AKQ7
Q8
A52
W
N
E
S
P
P
P
1
P
1
P
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
3NT
P
P
P

The only real clue you have is the diamond suit. You know the diamonds are 4-4. That by itself doesn't mean anything. What is important is the opening lead. A10xx isn't a particularly attractive holding to lead from. West certainly doesn't have a 5-card suit. If West had 4 hearts or 4 clubs, he might have chosen either of those suits to lead from. Perhaps the reason he led a diamond was that it was his only 4-card suit. That would give West 3 spades, so if that is the distribution West is more likely to have the Q.

There is another reason to play West for the queen of spades. Suppose the opponent you play for the queen has 4 spades. You will have only 8 tricks. If West has Q98x of spades and the king of clubs, you can squeeze him in the black suits. This squeeze will not operate against East, since dummy has the threats in both suits and East discards behind dummy.

You lead a spade to the king, and ride the J. The finesse works and spades are 3-2, so you have the rest of the tricks. The full hand is:

West
Q97
1042
A1062
K108
North
A10653
J
53
Q9743
East
82
98653
KJ97
J6
South
KJ4
AKQ7
Q84
A52
W
N
E
S
 
P
P
P
1
P
1
P
1N
P
2
P
2
P
3N
P
P
P
D
3NT South
NS: 0 EW: 0
2
3
K
4
2
0
1
7
Q
A
5
0
0
2
10
3
9
8
0
0
3
6
4
J
2
2
0
4
5
7
10
J
1
1
4
3
8
K
7
3
2
4
J
9
5
2
3
3
4
7

West's actual diamond holding was A1062. If declarer had played the 8 at trick 1, West would have had to decide whether to play for the actual holding or for East having started with K74. West probably should get it right since there isn't much left for East to hold which would produce another entry, but we will never know if West would have passed the test.

Do you agree with West's opening lead?

West
Q97
1042
A1062
K108
North
A10653
J
53
Q9743
East
82
98653
KJ97
J6
South
KJ4
AKQ7
Q84
A52
W
N
E
S
 
P
P
P
1
P
1
P
1N
P
2
P
2
P
3N
P
P
P
D
3NT South
NS: 0 EW: 0
2
3
K
4
2
0
1
7
Q
A
5
0
0
2
10
3
9
8
0
0
3
6
4
J
2
2
0
4
5
7
10
J
1
1
4
3
8
K
7
3
2
4
J
9
5
2
3
3
4
7

Leading from broken 4-card suits is a losing proposition vs. 3NT. The diamond lead is very likely to cost a trick. The problem is that when the lead works, it doesn't. This hand is a perfect example. The lead struck as much gold as possible, but it wasn't good enough. The defense rattled off 4 diamond tricks, but it takes 5 tricks to defeat 3NT. If the defense has a trick in another suit, they will then be able to take 4 diamond tricks.

The only way the diamond lead can really win is if it strikes East with a 5-card suit. That isn't likely on the auction. South figures to have at least 3 diamonds, since he chose 3NT instead of 4, and if South had a doubleton diamond and 3 spades he would have chosen 4. And North doesn't figure to have a singleton diamond, since if he did he would probably have bid something other than 3NT.

What should West lead? There are arguments for both a heart and a club. Either lead has a much better chance of hitting East with a 5-card suit. The heart lead is safer, but it will take more in East's hand to establish the suit. The club lead is riskier, but it takes less in clubs to establish the suit. I believe both of these leads are superior to a diamond lead.

What do you think about North's 3NT call?

West
Q97
1042
A1062
K108
North
A10653
J
53
Q9743
East
82
98653
KJ97
J6
South
KJ4
AKQ7
Q84
A52
W
N
E
S
 
P
P
P
1
P
1
P
1N
P
2
P
2
P
3N
P
P
P
D
3NT South
NS: 0 EW: 0
2
3
K
4
2
0
1
7
Q
A
5
0
0
2
10
3
9
8
0
0
3
6
4
J
2
2
0
4
5
7
10
J
1
1
4
3
8
K
7
3
2
4
J
9
5
2
3
3
4
7

Clearly North should have bid 3. This would have let South know that North had a more distributional hand and that there was potential danger in the diamond suit. Had North bid 3, the superior 4 contract would have been reached.

The inference that West is more likely to have the long spades is a common theme. When an opponent leads from a known 4-card suit against 3NT, it is usually right to play that opponent for length in another suit since if he were short in the other suit he might have chosen a different lead. However, if the lead is from a 5-card or longer suit then it is usually right to play the partner of the opening leader for length in another suit, because there are more slots in his hand to hold the other suit.

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