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Dodge a Bullet
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In a round-robin match in the Open Trials, you have to figure out the best way to dodge a bullet.

Both vul, West deals. As South, you hold:

South
97542
K2
543
1054
W
N
E
S
1
1NT
X
?

Your runout structure when your opening 1NT is doubled for penalties is as follows:

Pass: Non-committal. The 1NT bidder may pass it out. He is on his own.

Redouble: Forces 2. Assumed to be a 1-suiter in clubs, diamonds, or hearts.

2, 2, 2: That suit and a higher suit.

2: To play

Partner will never go to the 3-level regardless of what you do. Consequently, you are free to bid something you don't have if you see fit.

You can assume the same agreements when your 1NT overcall is doubled.

Your call?

South
97542
K2
543
1054
W
N
E
S
1
1NT
X
?

You certainly aren't going to pass and risk playing 1NT doubled. Partner may have 3 or even 4-card spade support. If there had been no double you would have transferred to 2. The double makes it even more important to get out of 1NT.

If partner's 1NT opening bid had been doubled for penalty, it would be clear to bid an immediate 2. The opponents will not have gotten together yet, and they don't know that they have the balance of power. You wouldn't want to give fourth seat a chance to double something to show that he has some strength.

This auction is another story. East's double announces to his partner that this is their hand. They are not going to sell out to anything undoubled. They are simply going to double something you bid if they have a trump stack. Given that, you can maneuver freely. Best is to start with 2, ostensibly showing clubs and another suit. If partner pulls that means he has some spade support, which is nice. Otherwise, if they double you run to 2. And if they double that, you run to 2. Taking this sequence means that they will have to have a double of all three suits, and they might not have that. Also, this sort of sequence sounds suspicious, as if you are trying to get them into a doubling rhythm. If they think that, they may fail to make a marginal and successful double.

You choose to bid 2. The bidding concludes:

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

West leads the jack of diamonds. Standard leads and carding.

North
K3
J874
KQ6
AQ82
South
97542
K2
543
1054
W
N
E
S
1
1NT
X
2
X
P
P
P

You cover with the king, and East wins the ace. East returns the queen of hearts. Do you cover or duck?

North
K3
J874
Q6
AQ82
South
97542
K2
54
1054
W
N
E
S
1
1NT
X
2
X
P
P
P

East shouldn't be shifting to the queen of hearts from queen-doubleton, since that might blow a trick and he has a profitable diamond return. Presumably West has at least 3 trumps, since he was the one who doubled 2, so if East ruffs a heart it will not be with a natural trump trick. If there were some way you could draw a couple of rounds of trumps, you might consider ducking this trick so you can score your jack of hearts later. The problem is that you don't have an entry to your hand to lead up to the king of spades, except by ruffing a heart, so it doesn't look like you would ever get to cash the jack of hearts anyway. Also, players do make mistakes. It looks better to cover.

You play the king of hearts. West wins the ace, and continues with the 10. Do you cover or not?

North
K3
J87
Q6
AQ82
South
97542
2
54
1054
W
N
E
S
1
1NT
X
2
X
P
P
P

This is the same sort of problem. While your jack of hearts will probably be ruffed out if you cover, you just aren't going to be able to make use of it anyway. West will go back to diamonds, and then where are you? Also, there is the chance that East has erred and led from queen-doubleton.

You play the jack of hearts. East ruffs with the 8, and returns the 2 to West's 8 and dummy's queen. What next?

North
K3
87
6
AQ82
South
97542
5
1054
W
N
E
S
1
1NT
X
2
X
P
P
P

You would like to score as many small trumps as possible. It looks clear to lead a heart off dummy. If East ruffs high, you can discard a losing diamond.

You lead a heart. East ruffs with the queen of spades, and you pitch your diamond. East now leads the 9. What do you do?

North
K3
8
6
AQ82
South
97542
1054
W
N
E
S
1
1NT
X
2
X
P
P
P

If West started with a doubleton diamond, it might be a good idea to discard a losing club on this trick. However, if West has another diamond you want to ruff and score a small trump.

The bidding and play make it appear that West has 6 hearts and 4 spades. There are two clues which indicate that he has another diamond. One is his opening lead. If he had a singleton club, he probably would have preferred to lead that instead of Jx of diamonds. Perhaps not if he has a singleton king of clubs. but that doesn't give East much for his double of 1NT.

The second clue is East's low diamond return. If East started with A109xx of diamonds, he certainly would have returned the 10 or 9 rather than a small diamond, since he couldn't know that his partner's other diamond is the 8.

This analysis shows that West has the 10 left. Ruffing small is clear. You can then lead a club up. If West ruffs, he ruffs air. If he discards, you score your ace of clubs, get to ruff a heart, and the king of spades is your fifth trick. You can never do better than that.

You foolishly discard a club. West wins the 10, and plays ace and a spade, East showing out. You still have 2 more spades and a club to lose for down 4. The full hand is

 

West
AJ106
A109653
J108
North
K3
J874
KQ6
AQ82
East
Q8
Q
A972
KJ9763
South
97542
K2
543
1054
W
N
E
S
1
1NT
X
2
X
P
P
P
D
2X South
NS: 0 EW: 0
J
K
A
3
2
0
1
Q
K
A
4
0
0
2
10
J
8
2
2
0
3
2
4
8
Q
1
1
3
7
Q
5
3
2
1
4
9
4
10
6
0
1
5
A
3
3
2
0
1
6
6
8

How was the defense?

West
AJ106
A109653
J108
North
K3
J874
KQ6
AQ82
East
Q8
Q
A972
KJ9763
South
97542
K2
543
1054
W
N
E
S
1
1NT
X
2
X
P
P
P
D
2X South
NS: 0 EW: 0
J
K
A
3
2
0
1
Q
K
A
4
0
0
2
10
J
8
2
2
0
3
2
4
8
Q
1
1
3
7
Q
5
3
2
1
4
9
4
10
6
0
1
5
A
3
3
2
0
1
6
6
8

The defense was fine. It is thematic defending low-level partials for the defenders to try to get ruffs in the hand with the shorter trump holding. That is exactly what they did.

What do you think of North's 1NT overcall?

West
AJ106
A109653
J108
North
K3
J874
KQ6
AQ82
East
Q8
Q
A972
KJ9763
South
97542
K2
543
1054
W
N
E
S
1
1NT
X
2
X
P
P
P
D
2X South
NS: 0 EW: 0
J
K
A
3
2
0
1
Q
K
A
4
0
0
2
10
J
8
2
2
0
3
2
4
8
Q
1
1
3
7
Q
5
3
2
1
4
9
4
10
6
0
1
5
A
3
3
2
0
1
6
6
8

It is not without risk. If East has the balance of strength and N-S don't have a good runout spot, the overcall could go for a number.

Passing is even riskier. A vulnerable game might be missed, or a part-score battle might be lost. If North passes now, he is not going to have an easy entry into the auction later.

What about the E-W auction?

 

West
AJ106
A109653
J108
North
K3
J874
KQ6
AQ82
East
Q8
Q
A972
KJ9763
South
97542
K2
543
1054
W
N
E
S
1
1NT
X
2
X
P
P
P
D
2X South
NS: 0 EW: 0
J
K
A
3
2
0
1
Q
K
A
4
0
0
2
10
J
8
2
2
0
3
2
4
8
Q
1
1
3
7
Q
5
3
2
1
4
9
4
10
6
0
1
5
A
3
3
2
0
1
6
6
8

It is fine. Even for a sound opening bid style, the West hand is a clear opening bid. Two aces, three tens which combine with the other honors, and the nice 6-4-3-0 shape. This hand is a lot stronger both in playing strength and in defensive potential than many 12-counts.

The subsequent penalty doubles were also correct.

It is worth noting that had South tried scrambling with 2, he probably would have escaped unscathed. West would never be sitting a penalty double, so West would likely bid 2 immediately.

Declarer lost focus by failing to ruff the diamond, needlessly going down an extra trick. This is a common trap when you are in a hopeless contract. That is the time to dig in and try to minimize the loss.

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