Join Bridge Winners
Easier Than Eleven
(Page of 9)

In a semi-final match in the Senior Trials, you face a difficult constructive bidding problem.

None vul, East deals. As North, you hold

North
AJ
QJ
Q982
AJ972
W
N
E
S
P
P
P
?

Your opening 1NT range here is 15-17.

If you open 1 and rebid 2, you could be 5-4 either way.

Your call?

North
AJ
QJ
Q982
AJ972
W
N
E
S
P
P
P
?

The hand is quite notrump-oriented, and if you have a game the most likely game by far is 3NT. As far as strength goes, it is fine for a 1NT opening. 1NT looks better than 1.

You open 1NT. The bidding continues:

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

2: Transfer

3: Natural, forcing to 3 since partner is a passed hand. If partner were not a passed hand, it would be a game force.

Your call?

North
AJ
QJ
Q982
AJ972
W
N
E
S
P
P
P
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
3
P
?

This is not an easy call. Your spade holding may be inadequate for 3NT. You don't have 3-card heart support, so you don't like bidding 3. You can raise clubs, but that flies past a possible 3NT contract. The best bet seems to be 3, which gives partner a chance to rebid a good 5-card heart suit and keeps 3NT in the picture.

It is true that 3 is supposed to be forcing. However, partner didn't open the bidding. You are allowed to use your head.

Consider a prototype hand for partner, something like xx Axxxx xx KQxx. He can't have much more than that, or he would have opened the bidding. Opposite that hand you have no game, and even 4 needs the heart finesse. Partner could be 5-5, of course, but even then you can easily have 3 losers. The percentage action figures to be to pass.

You choose to bid 3. The bidding continues:

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

Your call?

North
AJ
QJ
Q982
AJ972
W
N
E
S
P
P
P
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
3
P
3
P
4
P
?

You now know more about partner's hand. He appears to be 5-5. He probably doesn't have a good heart suit, since with that he might have bid 3. He probably doesn't have anything in spades, since with that he might have bid 3NT or at least bid 3.

Game prospects are still marginal. A likely sort of hand for partner would be xx Kxxxx x KQxxx. There are three losers in clubs. It might well be right to pass.

What about 4? 10 tricks are easier than 11. Your nice heart intermediates will fill partner's heart suit, particularly if he holds the 10 of hearts. Even without the 10, 4 may have better chances. On the example hand of xx Kxxxx x KQxxx, at least 4 has a chance while 5 does not. Partner will know you don't have 3 hearts since you didn't bid 3 last round, and he will know that you have interest in 4 even though he didn't bid 3 over 3, so he will play you for a chunky doubleton. If you aren't going to pass, 4 is your best shot.

You choose to bid 5, ending the auction.

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

You picked it, so over you go to play it.

West leads the king of spades.

North
AJ
QJ
Q982
AJ972
South
108
A10653
K
Q10863
W
N
E
S
P
P
P
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
3
P
3
P
4
P
5
P
P
P

You win the ace, East playing the 4. Standard leads and carding.

How do you start?

North
J
QJ
Q982
AJ972
South
10
A10653
K
Q10863
W
N
E
S
P
P
P
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
3
P
3
P
4
P
5
P
P
P

If there is no defensive error, it appears you need both the heart finesse and the club finesse. If there is some reason you could play for a singleton king offside, but it is unlikely you will find a reason to do that.

One possibility is to try to steal a diamond trick. The problem is that your auction was very informative. The defenders know you are 5-5 in hearts and clubs. It is hard to believe East would make the mistake of ducking the ace of diamonds, or that the opponents would fail to cash their spade trick.

Another possibility would be to take the heart finesse now. The problem is that you don't have a quick entry to your hand. East would not only have to have Kxx of hearts, but he would have to make the mistake of ducking the first round of hearts and covering the second round. That would be a pretty bad mistake. Meanwhile, you might be going down in a cold contract if West happens to have a singleton heart.

It looks better to take the straightforward line of playing a diamond.

You lead a diamond off dummy. East wins the ace, West playing the 6. East leads the 2 to West's queen. West comes back the jack of diamonds. What do you do?

North
QJ
Q98
AJ972
South
A10653
Q10863
W
N
E
S
P
P
P
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
3
P
3
P
4
P
5
P
P
P

You want to lead clubs from your hand. There is no rush to take a discard. If you win in dummy, West might be overruffing the third round of diamonds. You must ruff this trick.

You play small from dummy and ruff. Which club do you lead?

North
QJ
Q9
AJ972
South
A10653
Q1086
W
N
E
S
P
P
P
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
3
P
3
P
4
P
5
P
P
P

The percentage play in clubs is to take the finesse. However, if you are considering getting information which might justify going against the perentages, there are a couple of different approaches.

The normal play is to lead the queen of clubs. If West doesn't cover, you might read that he doesn't have king-doubleton.

A different approach is to lead the 6 of clubs. If West has 54 doubleton he won't be expecting you to have this club holding, since with queen-fifth he would expect you to lead the queen. Consequently it might not occur to him to randomize his play if he has 54 doubleton, which may change the odds.

You choose to lead the queen of clubs, West plays the 4. Do you finesse or go up ace?

North
QJ
Q9
AJ972
South
A10653
Q1086
W
N
E
S
P
P
P
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
3
P
3
P
4
P
5
P
P
P

Finessing is right if West had an initial holding of K5, K4, or K54. Going up ace is right only if West started with 54. The fact that he has played the 4 doesn't change these odds. Even if you somehow knew that the clubs weren't 3-0, finessing would still be a 2 to 1 favorite vs. playing for the drop. It is a restricted choice situation. With 54, West could have played either the 5 or the 4. With K4 doubleton he had no choice. He had to play the 4.

If West didn't know that you had 5 clubs, he might consider covering from king-doubleton. Since he knows you have 5 clubs, it is inconceivable that he would have any difficulty ducking.

Unless you have a very strong read that West doesn't have the king, it is clear to finesse.

You let the queen of clubs ride. East wins, and returns a heart. You play small. The king is onside, and you are down 1. The full hand is

West
KQ753
984
J7
54
North
AJ
QJ
Q982
AJ972
East
9642
K72
A106543
K
South
108
A10653
K
Q10863
W
N
E
S
 
P
P
P
1N
P
2
P
2
P
3
P
3
P
4
P
5
P
P
P
D
5 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
K
A
4
8
1
1
0
2
A
K
6
2
1
1
2
10
Q
J
0
1
2
J
8
3
3
3
2
2
Q
4
2
K
2
2
3
2
3
4
6

Unfortunately for declarer, this would have been a good hand to apply the Rabbi's rule: When the king is singleton, play the ace.

How was South's auction?

West
KQ753
984
J7
54
North
AJ
QJ
Q982
AJ972
East
9642
K72
A106543
K
South
108
A10653
K
Q10863
W
N
E
S
 
P
P
P
1N
P
2
P
2
P
3
P
3
P
4
P
5
P
P
P
D
5 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
K
A
4
8
1
1
0
2
A
K
6
2
1
1
2
10
Q
J
0
1
2
J
8
3
3
3
2
2
Q
4
2
K
2
2
3
2
3
4
6

South might have opened multi. None vul. it isn't so bad. However, this hand has so much potential for playing in clubs that the offbeat preempt is just too big a position.

Over the 3 call, there wasn't much South could do but bid 4. His heart suit isn't good enough to make the suggestion of playing in a 5-2 fit. He obviously can't bid 3NT. And his spades aren't even worth keeping the 3NT option open with a 3 call. If North can't bid 3NT over 3, 3NT can't be right. However, South's hearts are good enough to pass if North had bid 4, and on the lie of the cards that would have been the winner.

At the other table North also opened 1NT and South showed hearts and clubs, invitational. North leaped to 5, and the good 4 contract was missed. On the spade lead, declarer won and did try the queen of hearts at trick 2. East alertly covered, and declarer eventually lost to the king of clubs for down 1.

It is important to have an open mind and keep all options open in the bidding. Playing a 5-2 fit with a known 5-5 fit is unintuitive, but North had the information to know that it might be the correct action to take.

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