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In a round-robin match in the Open Trials, you face an evaluation problem.

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

South
KQ87
843
AK83
K9
W
N
E
S
P
?

Your opening 1NT range at this vulnerability is 10-12.

1 followed by 1NT would show 13-15.

1 followed by 1NT would show 16-19.

Your call?

South
KQ87
843
AK83
K9
W
N
E
S
P
?

You have a nice 15-count, with 4-4-3-2 shape and a lot of primes. Still, it is only a 15-count, with no 10's. There isn't sufficient justification for upgrading this to a 1 opening bid.

You open 1. The bidding continues:

W
N
E
S
P
1
2
X
P
?

Double: Assumed to be a normal negative double, virtually guaranteeing 4 spades. It could be a game-forcing hand with 5+ spades, since 2 would be a negative free bid. Partner will not have 5+ spades unless he has game-forcing or near game-forcing values, since with less he would bid 2 rather than make a negative double.

If you bid 2, you will be assumed to have 13-15 HCP and be balanced. You might be bidding 2 on a 3-card suit if nothing else fits.

If you bid 3, you will be assumed to be short in hearts or clubs, along with having a 4-card spade suit.

Your call?

South
KQ87
843
AK83
K9
W
N
E
S
P
1
2
X
P
?

Your technically correct call is 2. However, you are at the absolute top of your bid, and your hand got even better with the known spade fit. Bidding 2 is too likely to lead to a missed game. It looks better to bid 3. Partner will play you for a slightly different hand type, but that shouldn't matter.

You bid 3, ending the auction.

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

West leads the ace of hearts. UDCA.

North
AJ104
Q2
J54
J542
South
KQ87
843
AK83
K9
W
N
E
S
P
1
2
X
P
3
P
P
P

West continues with the king of hearts. East plays the 5 and then the 6. West now leads the jack of hearts. What do you play?

North
AJ104
J54
J542
South
KQ87
8
AK83
K9
W
N
E
S
P
1
2
X
P
3
P
P
P

You have adequate trump spots to ruff high, and the queen of diamonds might be doubleton. It can't be right to discard.

If you ruff with the ace, you are virtually advertising all the honors. It is better to ruff with the jack. West will know you have the queen when East doesn't overruff, but East won't know the position.

You ruff with the jack of spades. East discards the 3. What next?

North
A104
J54
J542
South
KQ87
AK83
K9
W
N
E
S
P
1
2
X
P
3
P
P
P

It would be possible to imagine some layouts where an end-play might work. If the diamonds are 3-3 and the opponent with the queen of diamonds has a doubleton trump, you could draw 2 rounds of trumps, play ace-king of diamonds and throw him in, forcing him to lead a club. This approach gives up on several other chances. In particular, the opponents might be able to play a third round of trumps, and you would lose the opportunity to take 6 trump tricks.

More straightforward is to simply play for the ace of clubs to be onside. If it is, you have 2 diamond tricks and 1 club trick, and you can probably maneuver to ruff the fourth round of diamonds in dummy if need be. You might have to deal with a possible promotion from the 9, but you can live with that.

If the club finesse is the approach, it is best to take it immediately. Drawing even one round of trumps may give the opponents the opportunity to prevent a ruff.

The club finesse is a big favorite to be onside. West did made a presumably weak jump overcall, and he has shown up with AKJ of hearts. Also, East appears to have club length from his club discard.

You lead a club to your hand. East plays the 6, you try the king, but unfortunately West produces the ace. West leads back the 10 of clubs. What do you do?

North
A104
J54
J54
South
KQ87
AK83
9
W
N
E
S
P
1
2
X
P
3
P
P
P

This is not good. Now it appears that you will need to find queen-doubleton of diamonds. However, that might not be enough. 3 diamond tricks won't make the contract. You still need to get 6 trump tricks.

The obvious possibility is to find the hand with the doubleton diamond holding a doubleton trump. This would let you cash AK of diamonds, draw 2 rounds of trumps, lead a diamond to the jack, and crossruff. The problem is that this layout can't be. East's club discard combined with West's club return make it clear that East started with 5 clubs and West with 2 clubs. That means West has 5 cards in the pointed suits, so he can't have both doubletons. You need to find something else.

How about getting 2 club ruffs in your hand? That will get you up to 6 trump tricks, so if the queen of diamonds is doubleton you potentially have 9 tricks. The problem is the entries aren't there to get 2 club ruffs and then get back to dummy to draw the last trump.

Perhaps you can enlist the aid of the opponents. Suppose you cover the 10 of clubs. It will be natural for East to win and continue clubs, hoping for a trump promotion. You can ruff high, spade to dummy, and ruff dummy's last club high. Unfortunately, dummy's 4 isn't large enough to draw the last trump. That doesn't work either. You might as well duck the 10. Maybe West will give something away.

You duck the 10. West shifts to a trump. What is your plan?

North
A104
J54
J5
South
KQ87
AK83
W
N
E
S
P
1
2
X
P
3
P
P
P

At first glance, it looks hopeless. Even if you catch queen-doubleton of diamonds you won't be able to cash the jack of diamonds without drawing 3 rounds of trump, and that will leave you a trick short.

If you can't find anything else, you could win the trump shift in dummy and ride the jack of diamonds. Maybe East will find a reason to not cover. That doesn't seem likely, and could result in an extra undertrick if West has the queen of diamonds and the diamonds don't split.

Suppose West does, in fact, have queen-doubleton of diamonds. That means that East needs to guard both diamonds and clubs. His distribution would be 2-2-4-5, so on the third round of trumps he will have to let something go. The question is whether or not you have the necessary entries to capitalize on this position.

At first glance it appears the entries aren't there. However, on the assumption that the queen of diamonds is coming down, the jack of diamonds will be a dummy entry if East unguards clubs. In your hand you will have a long trump, which will be an entry if East ungards diamonds. This is a classic trump squeeze. In the end position, you want to be in dummy. Dummy will be down to the stiff jack of diamonds and two clubs. In your hand, you will have a trump and 2 diamonds. East must come down to 3 cards. If he comes down to a stiff club, you ruff a club, cross to the jack of diamonds, and the last club is good. If he comes down to a stiff diamond, you cash the jack of diamonds, ruff a club to your hand, and your last diamond is good.

Assuming West has the doubleton queen of diamonds, the trump squeeze will operate whether or not you cash the AK of diamonds first. However, it is better to do so. If the queen of diamonds doesn't fall, you can give up a diamond trick, and ruff the fourth diamond in dummy for down 1. If you fail to cash the diamond honors and just draw trumps, that may result in down 2 if the diamonds don't behave.

You win the trump return in your hand, and cash AK of diamonds. The queen doesn't fall, so you give up a diamond trick and claim down 1. The full hand is:

West
93
AKJ1097
92
A10
North
AJ104
Q2
J54
J542
East
652
65
Q1076
Q8763
South
KQ87
843
AK83
K9
W
N
E
S
P
1
2
X
P
3
P
P
P
D
3 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
A
2
5
3
0
0
1
K
Q
6
4
0
0
2
J
J
3
8
1
1
2
2
6
K
A
0
1
3
10
4
7
9
0
1
4
3
4
2
7
3
2
4
A
2
4
7
3
3
4
K
5
6
10
3
4
4
3
9
J
Q
2
4
5
9

How was the defense?

West
93
AKJ1097
962
A10
North
AJ104
Q2
J54
J542
East
652
65
Q107
Q8763
South
KQ87
843
AK83
K9
W
N
E
S
P
1
2
X
P
3
P
P
P
D
3 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
A
2
5
3
0
0
1
K
Q
6
4
0
0
2
J
J
3
8
1
1
2
2
6
K
A
0
1
3
10
4
7
9
0
1
4
3
4
2
7
3
2
4
A
2
4
7
3
3
4
K
6
5
10
3
4
4
3
9
J
Q
2
4
5
9

Continuing hearts was certainly right. East might have held a promotable trump holding.

Leading the 10 looks right to clear up the club position. If West doesn't do this, East could have a problem if declarer leads a small club off dummy.

Do you like the 2 overcall?

West
93
AKJ1097
962
A10
North
AJ104
Q2
J54
J542
East
652
65
Q107
Q8763
South
KQ87
843
AK83
K9
W
N
E
S
P
1
2
X
P
3
P
P
P
D
3 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
A
2
5
3
0
0
1
K
Q
6
4
0
0
2
J
J
3
8
1
1
2
2
6
K
A
0
1
3
10
4
7
9
0
1
4
3
4
2
7
3
2
4
A
2
4
7
3
3
4
K
6
5
10
3
4
4
3
9
J
Q
2
4
5
9

If East were not a passed hand, overcalling 2 would risk missing a game. With East being a passed hand, that isn't much of a risk. West will always be competing to 2, so it is best to get there immediately. In addition to describing the hand type, the 2 call takes away enemy room. It had the desired effect, as N-S got a bit overboard. Had West overcalled 1, N-S would surely have stopped in 2.

How about North's auction?

West
93
AKJ1097
962
A10
North
AJ104
Q2
J54
J542
East
652
65
Q107
Q8763
South
KQ87
843
AK83
K9
W
N
E
S
P
1
2
X
P
3
P
P
P
D
3 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
A
2
5
3
0
0
1
K
Q
6
4
0
0
2
J
J
3
8
1
1
2
2
6
K
A
0
1
3
10
4
7
9
0
1
4
3
4
2
7
3
2
4
A
2
4
7
3
3
4
K
6
5
10
3
4
4
3
9
J
Q
2
4
5
9

Holding 4 spades and a doubleton heart, North has to make a negative double. He can't afford to risk 2 being passed out with potential for play in any of the other strains. If North had a third heart, it would be another story.

Clearly North doesn't have a game bid over 3 opposite South's limited opening bid. From North's point of view, 3 might be too high.

It is important to pay attention to detail when planning the play of the hand. If dummy had a high spade spot, covering the 10 with the hope of inducing a club continuation would have been a fine play. Since the entries aren't sufficient for this to work, covering would have allowed East to play a third round of clubs and destroy the potential trump squeeze.

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