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Extra Trick
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In a semi-final match in the Senior trials for USA2, you face a common competitive decision.

N-S vul, North deals. As East, you hold:

East
AJ9
975
K7532
107
W
N
E
S
P
P
4
X
P
?

DBL: Primarily takeout

Your call?

East
AJ9
975
K7532
107
W
N
E
S
P
P
4
X
P
?

This is difficult. You don't have any particular surprises for South. He can see the vulnerability, and he is bidding 4 with his eyes open. He won't be too frisky with this call. Also, if you have a good diamond fit you might be making 5.

On the other hand, 4 tricks are usually easier than 11. Your hand is relatively junky, and from the information you have you can't expect that 5 is making. Even if South has his bid he usually won't have 10 tricks in his own hand, and dummy doesn't have to provide any help. Your three trumps at least indicate that there won't be any surprise ruffs in dummy. Also it is possible that South is stretching a bit, and +500 isn't out of the question.

There could be a lot of IMPs riding on this decision. On balance, it looks like passing is the percentage action.

You pass, ending the auction.

W
N
E
S
P
P
4
X
P
P
P

Partner leads the queen of clubs. Standard lead, but could be from AKQ.

North
KQ103
2
QJ6
98432
East
AJ9
975
K7532
107
W
N
E
S
P
P
4
X
P
P
P

The queen lead asks for a suit-preference signal. 10, 9, 8 are by priority suit-preference high. 2, 3, 4, are by priority suit-preference low. 6, 5, 7 are by priority encouraging. If partner has AKQ of clubs and decided he would prefer a standard attitude signal, he would lead the ace.

Which club do you play?

North
KQ103
2
QJ6
98432
East
AJ9
975
K7532
107
W
N
E
S
P
P
4
X
P
P
P

Partner has certainly led from AKQ. You have a clear preference for spades. You don't have to worry about spots. Even if partner plays a second high club and it is ruffed, you know there is only one dummy entry. Partner probably won't be able to read your signal at this point since he may think you have a singleton, but no harm will be done.

You play the 10. Declarer plays the jack. Partner continues with the king of clubs, which declarer ruffs with the 3. Declarer leads the ace of hearts, partner playing the jack. Now declarer leads the 2. Partner plays the 4 (UDCA after trick 1), and dummy plays the king. Do you win or duck?

North
KQ103
QJ6
984
East
AJ9
97
K7532
W
N
E
S
P
P
4
X
P
P
P

At this point you know a lot about declarer's hand. He certainly has an 8-card heart suit, both from the bidding and his willingness to stop drawing trumps after one round. Even the most "I never show count" players will be giving an honest count in the spade suit here, since from partner's point of view you may need to know exactly when to win your ace of spades. Partner defintely has an even number of spades. If partner has a doubleton spade declarer's shape is 4-8-0-1 and the defense has no chance, so you can assume declarer has a doubleton spade. Partner must have the ace of diamonds for his double. Therefore, declarer's hand is a virtual lock to be xx AKQ10xxxx xx x.

The defense has 4 tricks off the top. Declarer has 9 top tricks. Is there any way for the defense to get an extra trick?

It can't accomplish anything to duck this trick. Declarer will just have his 4 losers with no possible way to dispose of them. Your only chance is to win the ace of spades and hope declarer is willing to risk going down 2 by taking a spade finesse in order to try to make his contract.

You win the ace of spades. Now what do you do?

North
Q103
QJ6
984
East
J9
97
K7532
W
N
E
S
P
P
4
X
P
P
P

Obviously you can just play king and a diamond and get the hand over with. How can you give declarer a chance to take the spade finesse without risking an accident which allows the contract to make?

One possibility to consider is returning a trump. But this can't work. Declarer will win and run all of his trumps coming down to a 3-card ending. Partner will have to keep a club and his ace of diamonds so he will be forced to discard down to a singleton spade, and declarer will know that. Meanwhile, partner might do something silly like discarding his ace of diamonds which would squeeze-endplay you if declarer reads the position. You don't want to take that kind of a risk when you are looking at a sure set.

Returning a small diamond is safe. Partner will never lay down the ace of clubs which would set up dummy's clubs. Partner will either return a diamond or a spade. If partner returns a diamond, it won't matter. You will have achieved the down 1 you always had. But if partner is able to find the spade shift, you will have achieved your goal of giving declarer a chance to go down 2 without jeopardizing the sure set.

Which diamond should you return? You should return your smallest diamond. If you return a high spot, partner might get it in his head that declarer has the king and that he should duck his ace for some reason. If you lead the 2, partner will have to win his ace. Partner will think you have the king, but maybe he will work out to lead a spade anyway.

You lead the 2. Partner wins the ace, and leads the 10 to your king. Declarer has the rest. The full hand is:

West
7654
J
A104
AKQ65
North
KQ103
2
QJ6
98432
East
AJ9
975
K7532
107
South
82
AKQ108643
98
J
W
N
E
S
P
P
4
X
P
P
P
D
4X South
NS: 0 EW: 0
Q
2
10
J
0
0
1
K
3
7
3
3
1
1
A
J
2
5
3
2
1
2
4
K
A
2
2
2
2
8
A
6
0
2
3
10
J
K
6

Passing the double was a winning decision and swung quite a few IMPs. 5 would not have succeeded.

Should West have led or defended differently?

West
7654
J
A104
AKQ65
North
KQ103
2
QJ6
98432
East
AJ9
975
K7532
107
South
82
AKQ108643
98
J
W
N
E
S
P
P
4
X
P
P
P
D
4X South
NS: 0 EW: 0
Q
2
10
J
0
0
1
K
3
7
3
3
1
1
A
J
2
5
3
2
1
2
4
K
A
2
2
2
2
8
A
6
0
2
3
10
J
K
6

West could lead the ace of clubs and get an attitude signal. This may help him determine how many clubs will cash, if he can distinguish between East having a doubleton club vs. a tripleton club. It is probably more important to get the suit-preference information, even though East may be limited in his signaling ability if he is short in clubs.

Trying to cash a second club is clear. Declarer's jack could be a falsecard. If declarer is ruffing the trick West can be sure that East has the ace of spades from East's suit-preference signal. East would never have played the 10 of clubs from 107 doubleton without the ace of spades.

Should West have found the spade shift? Yes, he should, if he trusts his partner. While West doesn't know too much about the hand, he should know that his partner knows the whole hand. East knows the club and heart positions, and since West gave count in spades East knows that suit also. If it were right to duck the ace of spades, East would have done so. If it were right to cash out the diamonds, East would have led the king of diamonds and a diamond. The hand West should be worried about is declarer holding: xxx AKQ10xxxx x J. If that is the hand, returning a diamond gives declarer his tenth trick. It is necessary to return a spade and put declarer to a guess. It wouldn't work for East to play king and a diamond, since declarer would ruff and West would be caught in a show-up squeeze.

Do you agree with West's takeout double?

West
7654
J
A104
AKQ65
North
KQ103
2
QJ6
98432
East
AJ9
975
K7532
107
South
82
AKQ108643
98
J
W
N
E
S
P
P
4
X
P
P
P
D
4X South
NS: 0 EW: 0
Q
2
10
J
0
0
1
K
3
7
3
3
1
1
A
J
2
5
3
2
1
2
4
K
A
2
2
2
2
8
A
6
0
2
3
10
J
K
6

It is a little light. But holding a stiff heart and 4 spades one has to make this call. If 4 doubled makes, the cost of doubling is only 5 IMPs. When you defeat 4 or partner profitably bids something, the gain from doubling vs. passing can be quite large.

Do you agree with the 4 opening?

West
7654
J
A104
AKQ65
North
KQ103
2
QJ6
98432
East
AJ9
975
K7532
107
South
82
AKQ108643
98
J
W
N
E
S
P
P
4
X
P
P
P
D
4X South
NS: 0 EW: 0
Q
2
10
J
0
0
1
K
3
7
3
3
1
1
A
J
2
5
3
2
1
2
4
K
A
2
2
2
2
8
A
6
0
2
3
10
J
K
6

There is no right answer. On a different day the bid will work well. The bid has the advantage of putting a lot of pressure on the opponents. East chose rightly to pass, but that could have been quite wrong on a slightly different layout.

At the other table, South went slower with a 1 opening. He competed to 3 over the enemy 3, which was an accurate decision. I would expect the 4 opening to be more popular, but this time the slow route was more successful.

If West had found the spade shift, should declarer have fallen for it? Not really. Declarer also knows that East knows the whole hand, and if East didn't have the jack of spades East certainly would have led the king of diamonds to make sure the defense got their tricks. Still, it is always tempting to try to make a doubled contract, even though an extra 300 points are risked and the defense would have had to made a mistake for the contract to make.

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