Join Bridge Winners
Forcing Game
(Page of 8)

In the round of 16 of the open trials, you face a difficult competitive decision.

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

East
J6
J7
A1092
AQ872
W
N
E
S
1NT
P
?

1NT: 10-12

You play 2-way Stayman. 2 of a major or 3 of a minor bids are to play. 2NT shows an invitational hand in some suit. To invite in notrump, you must bid 2 followed by 2NT. 2 followed by 3 is a signoff, but will always have at least one major.

Your call?

East
J6
J7
A1092
AQ872
W
N
E
S
1NT
P
?

If you are going to do anything, 2 followed by 2NT is the most sensible course of action. But is the hand worth any move at all? Your side has at most 24 HCP, so even if partner has a maximum game is probably so-so at best. If partner has less game may be hopeless and 2NT may be too high. Your long and strong club suit is good and your diamond spots have potential, but you are still just a bit short of an invite.

You pass. The bidding continues:

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

2: Spades and a minor

Available to you are:

Double: Penalties
2NT: Takeout, presumably minors
3: To play

Your choice?

East
J6
J7
A1092
AQ872
W
N
E
S
1NT
P
P
2
P
P
?

It looks pretty reasonable to try 2NT. Your side has the balance of strength. Unless your partner has 4 spades, the opponents have at least an 8-card spade fit. You might have anything from a 7-card fit to a 9-card fit in a minor. If partner is 3-3 in the minors he will bid 3, which will be right. Furthermore, even though 2NT is for takeout partner is allowed to look at his hand. If he is weak in the minors and strong in spades, he may choose to pass 2NT. It is seldom right to defend at the 2-level when you are short in their suit, your side has at least half the deck, and you probably have a fit of your own. Even the vulnerability is the best for competing, since if you are wrong and both contracts go down 1 you lose only 3 IMPs, while if you are right you gain 2 IMPs if one contract makes and gain 6 IMPs if both contracts make.

You choose to pass, ending the auction.

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

Partner leads the 3. 3rd and 5th leads, UDCA.

North
108
A10542
Q763
J6
East
J6
J7
A1092
AQ872
W
N
E
S
1NT
P
P
2
P
P
P

Dummy plays small. Which heart do you play?

 

North
108
A10542
Q763
J6
East
J6
J7
A1092
AQ872
W
N
E
S
1NT
P
P
2
P
P
P


If partner has led from a 5-card suit you do better playing small, since that will let your side continue hearts safely. But this doesn't seem likely, as it would give partner only 3 spades (he wouldn't have opened 1NT with 5-4 in the majors), and declarer wouldn't have shown a 2-suiter with 6 spades. You can assume that partner has led from a 3-card suit.

Partner would have led an honor from KQx, so declarer has Qxx or Kxx. This means that you cannot legitimately prevent declarer from running the heart suit without loss. But you may be able to make life more difficult for declarer, since he won't know the suit is running.

What happens if you play the jack? If declarer has Qxx he will know that the suit is running. He won't know for sure if he has Kxx since you might have QJ doubleton, but he will assume that the finesse is on since that is by far the percentage play.

Playing small is better, particularly if you are able to do so without giving the show away. Declarer may think your partner has KJx of hearts, and misjudge the play. More important, this makes declarer's entry situation to dummy more difficult. If you play the jack of hearts, declarer can win, hook the 10, and be in dummy to lead a club through you which you would not like. By playing small, you take this option away from declarer unless he is willing to sacrifice a heart trick.

You play the 7. Declarer wins the 8, and leads the 3 to the
4, J, and Q. What do you return?

 

North
108
A1054
Q763
6
East
J6
J
A1092
A872
W
N
E
S
1NT
P
P
2
P
P
P

You know a good bit about this hand. Declarer has spades and a minor, and also has 3 hearts. His minor must be clubs, since partner doesn't have a singleton diamond. And declarer can have only 4 clubs, since partner doesn't have a singleton club. Therefore, declarer's shape must be 5-3-1-4, leaving partner with 4-3-4-2 distribution.

Declarer has already shown up with the Q. He appears to have the king of clubs, since if partner had that card he would have gone up king. Declarer also probably has a decent spade suit. Partner has 10-12 points, and they have to be somewhere. All indications are that partner has the king of diamonds.

If partner does have the king of diamonds, the forcing game has a lot of potential. You can lead a diamond to his king, and he can push a diamond back through dummy's queen. Declarer will have to ruff, and that will get him down to partner's size. Partner should have some trump entry, and when he gets in he can put another diamond through and take control of the hand. This looks like a promising defense. Even if declarer has a stiff king of diamonds the trick will probably come back in the long run.

You lead a low diamond. Partner wins the king, and leads the jack of diamonds. Low from dummy, low by you, and declarer ruffs. Declarer leads the 10, 5 from partner, and you win your ace. What do you do now?

 

North
108
A1054
Q7
East
J6
J
A10
872
W
N
E
S
1NT
P
P
2
P
P
P

You can't lead another diamond without setting up dummy's queen, and a heart or club return won't do your side any good. A trump return looks best. Partner has to have the A or K to get up to his 10 HCP. When he gets in he can lead another diamond through.

Leading a small trump is probably best. If declarer has KQ of trumps, he will be reluctant to play small, which would risk losing to the jack and giving the defense complete control.

You lead the 6. Declarer plays small. Partner wins the king, and leads another diamond through declarer. Declarer ruffs, and cashes two top trumps. He then leads a good club. Partner ruffs and leads a diamond to your ace. You have to give declarer the last 2 tricks, but that is still down 1. The full hand is:

West
K952
K93
KJ54
54
North
108
A10542
Q763
J6
East
J6
J7
A1092
AQ872
South
AQ743
Q86
8
K1093
W
N
E
S
1NT
P
P
2
P
P
P
D
2 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
3
2
7
8
3
1
0
3
4
J
Q
2
1
1
2
8
K
3
0
1
2
J
6
9
3
3
2
2
10
5
6
A
2
2
3
6
4
K
8
0
2
4
5
7
10
7
3
3
4
A
5
10
J
3
4
4
Q
9
4
2
3
5
4
9
9
5
7
0
5
5
4
7
A
11

Do you agree with declarer's line of play?

 

West
K952
K93
KJ54
54
North
108
A10542
Q763
J6
East
J6
J7
A1092
AQ872
South
AQ743
Q86
8
K1093
W
N
E
S
1NT
P
P
2
P
P
P
D
2 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
3
2
7
8
3
1
0
3
4
J
Q
2
1
1
2
8
K
3
0
1
2
J
6
9
3
3
2
2
10
5
6
A
2
2
3
6
4
K
8
0
2
4
5
7
10
7
3
3
4
A
5
10
J
3
4
4
Q
9
4
2
3
5
4
9
9
5
7
0
5
5
4
7
A
11

It is a difficult hand. Bringing in the heart suit without loss would be nice, but giving up on the club finesse and guaranteeing two club losers leaves declarer badly placed. The danger from the forcing game has to be apparent. Perhaps a better line of play is to try the 10 at trick 1. This will give declarer an extra entry for two club plays if West has KJx of hearts. If the 10 doesn't hold, declarer can cross to the A and pass the J, hoping to scramble home with enough winners if the Q is onside. Still, the way the play went declarer would have made if the spades were 3-3 or if West didn't have a fourth diamond, so his line of play is reasonable.

Declarer was certainly right to duck East's spade shift. East had already shown up with the ace of diamonds and AQ of clubs. West had to have the K.

What do you think about West's opening lead?

 

West
K952
K93
KJ54
54
North
108
A10542
Q763
J6
East
J6
J7
A1092
AQ872
South
AQ743
Q86
8
K1093
W
N
E
S
1NT
P
P
2
P
P
P
D
2 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
3
2
7
8
3
1
0
3
4
J
Q
2
1
1
2
8
K
3
0
1
2
J
6
9
3
3
2
2
10
5
6
A
2
2
3
6
4
K
8
0
2
4
5
7
10
7
3
3
4
A
5
10
J
3
4
4
Q
9
4
2
3
5
4
9
9
5
7
0
5
5
4
7
A
11

West has a difficult lead problem. Either minor suit could run into declarer's side suit. A heart lead from the king could cost a trick, and there doesn't appear to be any need to set up heart tricks quickly.

It isn't clear, but I think I would go for a trump lead. The trumps are probably 5-4-2-2 around the table. It isn't likely that the trump lead will cost a trick, and it might be productive if dummy has a doubleton in declarer's side suit.

So why didn't I compete over 2 (yes, I held the East cards)? It is difficult to put into words, but at the table I had the impression that the opponents didn't have a great spade fit so I thought our best chance for a plus score was on defense. This turned out to be a winning decision, since we defeated 2 and it doesn't look like 3 will handle for 9 tricks. Had East held a third (or even fourth) spade, my decision could have been way wrong. Sometimes you have to act on your sense at the table, even if it appears to be an anti-percentage action.

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