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Gatlinburg Deals
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The best thing about the Gatlinburg Regional, in my opinion, is the large number of top players who attend. This deal arose in a Swiss match against two well-known experts, though not an established partnership. The layout is approximate—I was dummy and I never verified all four hands:

West
x
Qxx
10xxx
AKQJx
North
K10x
xxxxx
K9x
xx
East
xx
Kxx
AJxxx
xxx
South
AQJxxxx
AJ
Q
xxx
W
N
E
S
1
2
2
3
4
P
P
P
D
4 South
NS: 0 EW: 0

West started with the K (they normally lead ace from ace-king but hadn't discussed what they lead in a bid-and-raised suit), then the Q. East's second club was suit preference, but he had to guess whether to ask for a heart or a diamond. He guessed diamonds, which could have been necessary, but today it cost the contract.

The solution seems to be for West to give suit preference with his second club honor, so East will know how to signal: it's easy to request a heart shift when West shows a card there. I don't recall seeing a deal where both players needed to give suit preference on the same trick.

There are some issues, however: East doesn't know for certain that West has AKQ—declarer might be holding up with Axx. East's spots might not be totally readable. And it's difficult to navigate such a subtle carding situation in tempo, particularly as an irregular partnership.

Better might be for West to lead the Q, which should be readable even if it's anti-systemic, then follow with the A or K to signal the location of his side card.

Another deal from the Sunday Swiss:

North
AQxx
10x
AJxx
A9x
South
KJxxx
Jx
Q97
10xx
W
N
E
S
1NT
2
2
3
3
P
P
P

Partner dealt and opened 1NT, and East overcalled 2, showing hearts and a minor. I bid 2, West raised to 3, and partner's 3 bid ended the auction.

I ducked the Q lead, and West continued with a low club at trick two, won by dummy's A, while East followed low. I cashed dummy's AQ, as West discarded a heart, then led a heart from dummy. East won the K, cashed the A, and exited with his third spade, as West discarded a diamond. I won in hand, leaving:

North
x
AJxx
9
South
Jx
Q97
10

East is probably 3=5=1=4 or 3=5=0=5. The former is more likely on the dealing probabilities and based on the fact that West didn't bid more, but the latter is suggested by West's low-club play at trick two. The obvious line is to finesse the J, then exit with a club to endplay whichever defender wins it. But something is funny: East is a strong player, so why didn't he cash the third club before exiting with the spade? Couldn't he see the endplay coming?

How do you continue?

I considered the possibility that East was attempting some deception (perhaps holding the singleton K?), but that seemed too esoteric to play for, so I went for the obvious. The J held, and the third club effected the endplay for +140. The full deal:

West
x
Qxxx
K10xxx
QJx
North
AQxx
10x
AJxx
A9x
East
10xx
AKxxx
8
Kxxx
South
KJxxx
Jx
Q97
10xx
W
N
E
S
1NT
2
2
3
3
P
P
P
D
3 South
NS: 0 EW: 0

East failure to play a third club was due to West's carding. He thought that West would have continued with the J from QJx, so his actual low-club continuation showed four, and he didn't want to help me with my elimination. Even if he had continued with the third club before playing spades, 3 would have sailed home: I would have run the Q, picking up East's singleton 8 or 10.

West would have done better to bid 4, either immediately—as West did at the other table—or over 3. With clubs and hearts splitting, 4 is an easy make. At the other table, North bid 4 over 4, which went down one.

 

Here's a question of tactics:

South
KQx
Kxxx
xxx
Jxx
W
N
E
S
2
P
?

Partner opens 2 at favorable vulnerability in first seat, and RHO passes.

What call do you make?

There have been some discussions about psychs recently. Would you consider 3NT—which my teammate selected—a psych? Maybe, maybe not, but it caught a big fish:

West
AJx
xxx
AQ
Kxxxx
North
xx
Qxxx
KJxxxx
x
East
1098xx
AJ
10x
AQ10x
South
KQx
Kxxx
xxx
Jxx
W
N
E
S
2
P
3NT
P
P
P
D
3NT South
NS: 0 EW: 0

3NT drifted down four. Who should have acted? West knows he might be being stolen from, but doubling risks getting his head handed to him.

At the other table, South passed 2, so I had an easy 2NT balance. We reached 4, making five after a club lead. I probably would have bid a boring 3 with the South cards, but that probably wouldn't have worked: West doubles and East bids 4. Sometimes swashbuckling actions have big payoffs.

 

A variation on the theme:

West
xx
AKJ10xxx
xxx
x
North
QJx
Qxx
xxx
10xxx
East
A10xxxx
x
x
AKQxx
South
Kx
xx
AKQJ10x
Jxx
W
N
E
S
3
P
3
3NT
P
P
P
D
3NT South
NS: 0 EW: 0

My partner, South, overcalled 3NT over 3, which ended the auction and lost six top tricks. East's final pass seems a bit timid—I prefer double. But even then, we would have stood our ground, and -300 would have been worth 8 IMPs against our teammates' +650 in 4. I like 3NT much better than the 4 call selected at the other table. What's a heart stopper between friends?

By far the most exciting deals of the week occurred in a knockout match. On the first board I held:

South
AQJ9xx
xxx
J108x

With both sides vulnerable, East opened 1, and I overcalled 2. West raised to 3, North bid 4, and East bid 4.

What call do you make?

 

When I gave the hand as a problem, I got some votes for 4 (does that show this degree of diamond fit?), 4NT (is that Blackwood?), 5 (does that show a club control?), and 5. I tried the simple-soul 5, thinking that buying it there wouldn't be too terrible, and the opponents might yet compete. Sure enough, 5 passed back to East, who bid 5.

What now?

 

Partner seemed to be very short in hearts, so I bid 6. Maybe it would make, maybe 5 was making, maybe both. East said double, led the A, and partner, with

North
Kx
x
AKxxxxx
xxx

quickly claimed seven: +1740. Our teammates bought it for 6 undoubled. Diamonds were 2-0, so they just lost two spade tricks for -100 and 17 IMPs to the good guys.

I don't know what will happen if you take stronger action than 5. Partner will likely bid slam, but you are unlikely to be doubled, and East might well save in 6.

 

The fun wasn't over yet. Three deals later I picked up:

South
AQx
Q
AKQJxxxxx

I don't think I'd ever picked up a solid nine-card suit before, but there it was. Even better, partner opened 1 in first seat (both sides vulnerable), and East jumped to 3.

Again playing the straight man, I decided to bid 4. There were several votes for 5, Exclusion Blackwood, but I don't see how to get back to clubs after that start. There's something to be said for a psychic 5 call, but since I was never planning on playing in spades, I didn't see much upside.

West passed, partner bid 4, and East passed. I chose another unimaginative call: 6, which East doubled. I declined to send it back, so all eyes turned to West's opening lead. I suspected that East had a spade void, but I hoped that my AQx meant that West would have enough spades to think East's void was in hearts.

West's agonized lead was a heart, and dummy hit with:

North
K10xxx
AKQx
Jxx
10

 

Making seven, another +1740. At the other table, North-South bid all the way up to 5, so we picked up 15 IMPs.

6 was cold on any lead, because East had misread his hand: his two low spades and a club void looked like a spade void and two low clubs. All the double accomplished was preventing West from laying down the A.

 

Making an overtrick in six of a minor doubled is a rare enough event—when's the last time you've done it twice in four boards?

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