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Find that Ace
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In a Round of 16 match in the Open Trials, you have to decide how high to bid over an enemy opening bid.

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

West
K6
J954
AJ9653
7
W
N
E
S
P
1
?

2 would be defined as a weak jump overcall.

Your call?

West
K6
J954
AJ9653
7
W
N
E
S
P
1
?

If partner weren't a passed hand, a preemptive jump overcall would be dangerous. You might have a heart fit, and you could easily miss a vulnerable game.

With partner being a passed hand, it is another story. It is unlikely that you have a heart game, as your side has less than half the deck in high cards. If you do have a big heart fit, it is likely the opponents have a spade fit and can outbid you. Thus, the major downside of preempting isn't nearly as great as it would be if partner were not a passed hand.

In addition, partner being a passed hand increases the chances that the opponents have a game. That is more of an argument for making some preemptive overcall rather than a simple 1 overcall.

How high should you go? The extra level from preempting to 3 could make a difference disrupting the enemy auction. You have extra playing strength with the 6-4 shape if you have a fit. On the other hand, 3 might simply be too high. You could go for a big number, or you simply might be overcompeting on a part-score hand which is a misfit. If partner has some diamond support, he can always up the ante if you bid 2. That is probably the right level to go to.

You bid 2. The bidding continues

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

Your call?

West
K6
J954
AJ9653
7
W
N
E
S
P
1
2
P
3
3NT
?

You have bid your hand. Partner knows much more about the hand than you do. If there is something to be done, it is his job to do it. You are done.

You pass, ending the auction.

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

Your lead. Attitude leads vs. notrump.

West
K6
J954
AJ9653
7
W
N
E
S
P
1
2
P
3
3NT
P
P
P

A small diamond lead is the natural lead. Partner may have the king of diamonds, or he may have an entry before declarer can run 9 tricks. This could be necessary if partner has 10xx of diamonds and declarer KQx.

While you can't know for sure, this sort of auction sounds like declarer is bidding 3NT on a long running club suit. If declarer has a balanced hand either he would have opened 2NT or, if weaker, he wouldn't be risking 3NT without a source of tricks. Declarer is likely to have the king of diamonds, since if he has a long club suit that decreases the chances that he has room in his hand for 3 diamonds. If you lead a diamond you may be giving declarer a diamond trick, and that trick might be his ninth trick.

It could be right to lay down that ace of diamonds. Declarer just might have tried 3NT on a stiff king. However, that would be a big position. If declarer has Kxx of diamonds, you may have blown any chance to defeat the contract.

It may be necessary to find that ace in partner's hand. There is a good chance he has an ace in one of the majors. If declarer has solid clubs and the king of diamonds, he won't have both major-suit aces or he would be too strong for a 1 opening. Also, if that is his hand he will definitely have 9 tricks if you give him a diamond trick.

Which ace should you play partner for? It looks best to play him for the ace of spades. The reason is that if he has the ace of hearts, a spade lead might still leave declarer a trick short since you have the king of spades. However, if partner has the ace of spades and you lead a heart, declarer is likely to have 9 tricks in hearts and clubs.

If you do lead a spade, which spade should you lead? The normal lead from king-doubleton is the king, of course. The reason is that this will unblock the suit. Here, however, unblocking the spades isn't important. If you hit gold, you are planning on defeating the contract with diamonds, not spades. There are two reasons why leading small is better. One is that if dummy has Q10 and partner the J, declarer is put to a guess. The other is that if the spade lead is wrong, leading the king might give declarer 3 spade tricks and the contract, while leading small might give him only 2 spade tricks. It is true that your king will be dropping, but declarer doesn't know that and may play for a different end position.

You lead the 6.

West
K6
J954
AJ9653
7
North
10754
K102
42
8653
W
N
E
S
P
1
2
P
3
3NT
P
P
P

Partner wins the ace of spades, declarer playing the 3. Partner shifts to the queen of diamonds, declarer plays the king, and you win the ace. How do you continue?

West
K
J954
J9653
7
North
1075
K102
4
8653
W
N
E
S
P
1
2
P
3
3NT
P
P
P

Partner isn't going to be raising to 3 with queen-doubleton of diamonds. Your diamonds are running. It has to be right to lay down the jack of diamonds now.

You lead the jack of diamonds. Partner follows with the 7, and declarer discards a heart. What next?

West
K
J954
9653
7
North
1075
K102
8653
W
N
E
S
P
1
2
P
3
3NT
P
P
P

With partner having 4 diamonds, the rest is easy. You cash your king of spades, and cross to partner with a diamond. He will cash whatever winning spades he has, and lead a diamond back for you to run your diamonds.

You cash the king of spades (declarer playing the queen), and lead a diamond. Partner wins the 10 of diamonds, cashes the jack of spades, and leads the 8 of diamonds. You overtake and run the diamonds for down 5. The full hand is:

West
K6
J954
AJ9653
7
North
10754
K102
42
8653
East
AJ982
Q83
Q1087
2
South
Q3
A76
K
AKQJ1094
W
N
E
S
P
1
2
P
3
3NT
P
P
P
D
3NT South
NS: 0 EW: 0
6
4
A
3
2
0
1
Q
K
A
2
0
0
2
J
4
7
6
0
0
3
K
5
2
Q
0
0
4
6
3
10
7
2
0
5
J
4
7
7
2
0
6
8
9
9
7

3NT made, but not by the declaring side.

How do you like East's defense?

West
K6
J954
AJ9653
7
North
10754
K102
42
8653
East
AJ982
Q83
Q1087
2
South
Q3
A76
K
AKQJ1094
W
N
E
S
P
1
2
P
3
3NT
P
P
P
D
3NT South
NS: 0 EW: 0
6
4
A
3
2
0
1
Q
K
A
2
0
0
2
J
4
7
6
0
0
3
K
5
2
Q
0
0
4
6
3
10
7
2
0
5
J
4
7
7
2
0
6
8
9
9
7

East's queen of diamonds shift was a good play. He knew the diamond position had to be what it was, but West might not know. The queen of diamonds shift had to clarify things. East knew that West would know the diamonds were running, so West would be sure to cash the jack of diamonds. After that, there would be no problems.

What do you think of South's bidding?

West
K6
J954
AJ9653
7
North
10754
K102
42
8653
East
AJ982
Q83
Q1087
2
South
Q3
A76
K
AKQJ1094
W
N
E
S
P
1
2
P
3
3NT
P
P
P
D
3NT South
NS: 0 EW: 0
6
4
A
3
2
0
1
Q
K
A
2
0
0
2
J
4
7
6
0
0
3
K
5
2
Q
0
0
4
6
3
10
7
2
0
5
J
4
7
7
2
0
6
8
9
9
7

It looks reasonable. South knows that 3NT is probably where they belong, but there might be a slam. Opening 2 is possible, but opening 1 is probably going to lead to a smoother auction since South can then rebid 3NT which will show something like this. On the actual auction South's 3NT call is clear, and is quite likely to succeed. South was unlucky that West found the killing lead.

How about East's auction?

West
K6
J954
AJ9653
7
North
10754
K102
42
8653
East
AJ982
Q83
Q1087
2
South
Q3
A76
K
AKQJ1094
W
N
E
S
P
1
2
P
3
3NT
P
P
P
D
3NT South
NS: 0 EW: 0
6
4
A
3
2
0
1
Q
K
A
2
0
0
2
J
4
7
6
0
0
3
K
5
2
Q
0
0
4
6
3
10
7
2
0
5
J
4
7
7
2
0
6
8
9
9
7

East has enough length and strength in the majors so his 3 call has a good chance of ending the auction. Still, East has a remarkable hand opposite a 2 bid. With East being a passed hand, West could have quite a wide range for his call, and there could be a vulnerable game. If East is willing to risk contracting for 10 tricks, which he might have to do anyway if South re-opens, East could try a very descriptive 4 splinter. Admittedly it is pretty unusual for a passed hand to be making a splinter bid opposite a presumably weak jump overcall, but this has to be the hand for it. West will certainly be able to make the proper evaluation. This looks like the best action.

East's pass of 3NT is scary. East can recognize the danger of a running club suit, and that the contract might be cold or might be making if West finds the wrong opening lead. If 4 would be going down a couple of tricks doubled then bidding on might not be so good, but that isn't the case here. 4 could easily be making, and if it is going down the opponents aren't likely to be able to double anyway. It can't be right to risk an adverse game swing when such an attractive alternative is available. If East wanted to gamble a bit he might double 3NT, since then it wouldn't be so attractive for South to sit it. However, passing has to be wrong.

At the other table, West overcalled 1, and N-S competed to 4 over 3. This went down 1 trick.

At IMPs, it is important to make sure you are on the right side of potential big swings. It is worth risking a small loss in order to avoid a possible large loss. East was lucky that his pass of 3NT worked out so well. West might have found a different opening lead, and then East's pass would have cost double figures, letting the opponents make 3NT when E-W make 4.

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