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Dummy Strand
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In the seventh segment of a trials match, you pick up a distributional freak.

None vul, East deals and passes. As South, you hold:

South
7
KQJ1063
AK7632

You can open either a limited 1 or a strong artificial 1. In theory, your 1 opening starts at 16, but of course you may choose to open 1 lighter with appropriate distribution. Also available is a 4 Namyats opening, which shows a self-sufficient heart suit and a very good 4 opening.

Your choice?




South
7
KQJ1063
AK7632
W
N
E
S
P
?


If you open 1 you can follow with 3 over partner's likely 1 or 1NT response, showing a maximum 5-5 at least. But does this do justice to this hand?

The real issue here is: do you want to try to describe this hand, or do you want to take control of the auction and find out what partner has? If you want to describe, you should open 1. However, it seems clear that you aren't going to be able to describe a hand like this. It is better to open 1 so you can make the decisions yourself. You may not be able to find out what you need to know, but if you try to describe partner will never play you for anything like this.

You open 1. The auction continues:

W
N
E
S
P
1
P
1
P
?


1: Artificial, 16+ points

1: 5+ spades, 9+ points

2 would just be a natural force. Also available is 3, which shows a solid or semi-solid suit and sets trumps.

Your choice?



South
7
KQJ1063
AK7632
W
N
E
S
P
1
P
1
P
?


It is almost certain that hearts will be trumps. Your heart suit doesn't need support. Still, it could be important to determine partner's heart length, since that will give you an idea about the feasibility of ruffing a club in his hand. Also, if you go slowly with 2 and partner bids 2 or 2NT, you will now have a chance to show the secondary club suit and partner's reaction to that may help you make your later decision.

You bid 2. The auction continues:

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


In your style, responder strives to bid out his shape. If he had 6 spades, he probably would have rebid 2. He could easily be 5-4 for this 3 call, or he could be more distributional.

Your calls are natural here. 4 would show a club suit.

Your bid:




South
7
KQJ1063
AK7632
W
N
E
S
P
1
P
1
P
2
P
3
P


While showing clubs at the 3-level would have been convenient, bidding 4 is inconvenient. You know that you can always play in hearts. You still want to find out what kind of heart support you are getting. You know he doesn't have 3 trumps, but there could be a big difference between a singleton and a doubleton. It is better to bid 3 and see his reaction. With a doubleton heart he will raise (or Q-bid 4 if he has extras). Without a doubleton heart he will bid something else.

You bid 3. The auction continues:

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


4 by you now would be a slam try in an unspecified major. 4 of either major would just be to play, showing no slam interest. 4NT would be RKC for spades.

Your bid?


South
7
KQJ1063
AK7632
W
N
E
S
P
1
P
1
P
2
P
3
P
3
P
3
P
?


You are getting a lot of information about partner's hand. He would have bid 2 instead of 3 if he had 6 spades, so he is rebidding a good 5-card spade suit. Why didn't he do something else? If he had a doubleton heart, he would have supported hearts. If he had a club stopper, he would have bid 3NT. The indications are that he is 5-1-5-2, or possibly 5-1-4-3 with 3 small clubs.

Slam prospects are getting dimmer. Still, he could have the queen of clubs and an ace. Even just the singleton ace of hearts will probably be enough, since you are likely to get a diamond lead. Unfortunately partner isn't going to know which cards in the side suits are valuable and which are worthless, but he will like holding aces. In particular, the ace of hearts will look big to him. It must be worthwhile to bid 4, slam try in one of the majors. Partner can bid 4 to find out which suit you are making your slam try in. If partner is able to drive to slam when he hears you make a slam try in hearts, slam will probably be a good bet.

You bid 4. The auction continues:

W
N
E
S
P
1
P
1
P
2
P
3
P
3
P
3
P
4
P
4
P
?


If partner wanted to hear which suit you were making your slam try in he could have bid 4. His 4 call is a definite rejection of a heart slam try. If your slam try were in spades you would bid 4, and if he liked his hand for spades he could move on.

Your bids would mean:

4: Slam try was in spades
4NT: RKC for hearts
5m: Q-bid, hearts is trump

Your bid?





South
7
KQJ1063
AK7632
W
N
E
S
P
1
P
1
P
2
P
3
P
3
P
3
P
4
P
4
P
?


At this point it is time to quit. Partner has shown no interest in a heart slam. A hand such as KQJxx, x, KJxxx, xx would be quite consistent with his auction, and opposite that hand 4 is the limit. While there are some hands where slam is good and partner wouldn't be making a move, the odds favor passing.

You choose to take a rosy view of the hand. You bid 4NT, RKC for hearts, planning on gambling 6 if partner shows an ace. Partner has an ace, and you bid slam. The full auction is:

W
N
E
S
P
1
P
1
P
2
P
3
P
3
P
3
P
4
P
4
P
4NT
P
5
P
6
P
P
P


West leads the 6 (3rd and 5th leads, upside-down attitude, standard count), and you get:

North
AKQ103
4
J8543
95
South
7
KQJ1063
AK7632
W
N
E
S
P
1
P
1
P
2
P
3
P
3
P
3
P
4
P
4
P
4NT
P
5
P
6
P
P
P

East plays the ace, and you ruff. What do you do now? Do you see any legitimate play for the contract, and, if so, should you take it?




North
AKQ103
4
J854
95
South
7
KQJ106
AK7632
W
N
E
S
P
1
P
1
P
2
P
3
P
3
P
3
P
4
P
4
P
4NT
P
5
P
6
P
P
P

It is clear that if you lead a trump the opponents can win and return a spade, ending your chances to make. Therefore, if there is a legitimate way to make it must involve ruffing a club in dummy. Dummy's heart spot isn't much, but if one opponent has a doubleton club and specifically A2 doubleton of hearts dummy's 4 of hearts will be as good as the 9 of hearts.

Can this work? Let's say you play AK of clubs and ruff a club, catching the magic heart holding. The opponents won't overruff, of course. Now you are stuck in dummy, and need to ruff something back to your hand. This will leave you with only 4 trumps, and the ace of hearts is still out there. When you lead a heart they will win and tap you with a diamond, so you would then need the trumps to be 3-3. Unfortunately the required heart holding was one opponent having A2 doubleton, so the trumps aren't 3-3. That plan won't work.

Is there any chance of combining this approach with discards on the spades? You would need 3 discards. On the third round of clubs, whoever has the doubleton club can discard a spade. It doesn't look like there is a legitimate play for the hand. Even if some unlikely holding existed, it is surely better to simply lead a high trump. Maybe the defense won't be perfect. While it will be easy for West to find the spade shift, it might not be so easy for East. He doesn't know that you have a singleton spade, and from his point of view a spade shift might give you what would otherwise be a guess.

Suppose when you lead a high heart, East wins and returns a club. When you run your trumps, the defenders discard only diamonds. How should you play the spades?




North
AKQ103
4
J854
95
South
7
KQJ106
AK7632
W
N
E
S
P
1
P
1
P
2
P
3
P
3
P
3
P
4
P
4
P
4NT
P
5
P
6
P
P
P


You need all 5 spade tricks to make the hand. It won't help if West has jack-fifth of spades, and if West has jack-third of spades you will always make. The relevant distribution is when West has 4 spades. On that basis alone, it would be percentage to take the spade finesse.

There is, however, an important consideration. Why didn't East return a spade? He can see that a spade return would be effective if you have a singleton spade, so he must have feared that you had a doubleton spade and a spade return would give you the spade suit. If he has Jxxx of spades you have no chance. He might have avoided a spade return if he has a small doubleton, but as we have seen you can't make the hand if that is the case. He also might have avoided a spade return if he has Jxx. But with 3 small spades, he would always return a spade. He would know that the defense has no chance if you have a doubleton spade, so the only hope would be that you have a singleton spade. Since he didn't return a spade he doesn't have 3 small spades, so you should play for the drop.

In fact, West wins the heart and, as feared, leads a spade. Any thoughts?




North
KQ103
4
J854
95
South
QJ106
AK7632
W
N
E
S
P
1
P
1
P
2
P
3
P
3
P
3
P
4
P
4
P
4NT
P
5
P
6
P
P
P


Clearly if you play a second spade your hand will be an open book and the defense can't make a mistake. Your only chance to make the contract is to ruff a diamond and run all your trumps, stranding the good spades in dummy. If the same player holds 3 clubs and the guarded jack of spades, he may believe your shape is 2-6-0-5 and wrongly discard a club. He might get some help from his partner, but that isn't clear. His partner might be following to all the trumps and thus not have a discard to make. Perhaps his partner will be able to help out with some suit-preference signal, but that isn't clear at all. For example, suppose East's hand is Jxxx, xx, AQxx, Jxx. Will it be so obvious for him to discard a spade and guard the clubs? It won't be obvious at all. From his point of view, your hand might be xx, KQJ10xx, --, AKxxx. It is easily worth risking going down an extra trick or two in order to give yourself this chance to make.

You ruff a diamond back to your hand, and run your trumps. Unfortunately the defense doesn't have the hoped-for discarding problems, and your top clubs are the last tricks you take. The full hand:

West
J98
A5
Q962
J1084
North
AKQ103
4
J8543
95
East
6542
9872
10
AKQ7632
South
7
KQJ1063
AK7632
W
N
E
S
 
P
1
P
1
P
2
P
3
P
3
P
3
P
4
P
4
P
4N
P
5
P
6
P
P
P
D
6 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
6
3
A
3
3
1
0
K
A
4
2
0
1
1
8
A
2
7
1
2
1
4
7
6
2
3
3
1
Q
5
5
7
3
4
1
J
9
8
8
3
5
1
10
J
J
9
3
6
1
A
8



While it wasn't successful on the actual hand, the dummy strand pseudo-squeeze has a better chance than might be imagined. For example, suppose West's 4 of clubs were the 4 of spades, giving him 4 spades and 3 clubs. On the run of the trumps he would have to come down to 6 cards. If he comes down to 3 spades, you will be cold unless you don't have another spade. Coming down to 2 clubs will always be safe unless you are 6-6. East will be following suit, so he won't have a chance to make a helpful discard. East's spade count can't be trusted, since East will not necessarily give an honest count since he may think it is necessary to deceive declarer. It is true that East's trump plays should help. If East has a club guard he should play his trumps from the bottom, while if he doesn't have a club guard he should play them from the top. Still, there is a fair chance that the defenders won't get it right on that layout.

The concept of the 4-level Q-bid being a slam try in an unspecified major comes up quite frequently, both in Precision and Standard. There is never a difficulty making a slam try in a minor -- you simply bid 4 of the minor which is forcing and take it from there. However, 4 of a major isn't forcing, so when either major could be trumps it is necessary to both be able to sign off in either major and make a slam try in either major. When partner's last bid is 3 there is no problem, since you can bid 3 to set spades as trumps, so a Q-bid must be for hearts. But if partner's last call is 3 or 3NT it is necessary to use 4 of a minor. When neither minor is a possible trump suit, you can play that 4 is a slam try in hearts and 4 is a slam try in spades. When diamonds have been bid, as on this hand, then 4 is an unspecified slam try in a major (with a diamond slam try you would simply bid 4D), and partner can ask which suit by bidding 4. However, if 4 is the only available artificial call (as would be the case here if partner's suit were clubs), then partner can't ask which suit. Instead partner bids first rejection -- that is, he bids 4 of the lowest major in which he wouldn't accept a slam try. 4 might show no interest in either major or it might show interest in spades but not in hearts. 4 shows interest in hearts but not in spades. If partner is willing to accept in either major, he must bid something higher than 4.

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