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In a round-robin match in the Senior Trials, you face a common competitive decision.

Both vul, North deals. As East, you hold

East
A65
QJ976
Q
A643
W
N
E
S
1
?

Your call?

East
A65
QJ976
Q
A643
W
N
E
S
1
?

You have support for all the unbid suits, However, the two-card differential in the majors makes overcalling 1 more attractive than a takeout double. If you double, it may be difficult to show your 5-card heart suit later. If you overcall 1, you can bring the other suits into the picture with a later takeout double of diamonds if you so choose.

You bid 1. The bidding continues

W
N
E
S
1
1
1
P
2
?

Your call?

East
A65
QJ976
Q
A643
W
N
E
S
1
1
1
P
2
?

Normally it is wrong to sell out at the 2-level with a singleton in the enemy suit if you have anything resembling a decent hand. Here, however, the warning signs are up. Partner didn't raise, so either he has at most 2 hearts or you are completely outgunned. South has spades, so you don't want to be playing there. You might catch your partner with some clubs, but he needs 5 clubs for competing to 3 to be really attractive. The vulnerability is the worst for part-score competition, since if either your contract or their contract goes down you will have done basically as well by defending. All things considered, it looks right to go quietly.

You pass. The auction concludes

W
N
E
S
1
1
1
P
2
P
4
P
P
P

Partner leads the 8.

North
2
1054
AK10852
KQ7
East
A65
QJ976
Q
A643
W
N
E
S
1
1
1
P
2
P
4
P
P
P

Declarer plays small from dummy.

You play suit-preference at trick 1. 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. After trick 1, UDCA.

What do you play?

North
2
1054
AK10852
KQ7
East
A65
QJ976
Q
A643
W
N
E
S
1
1
1
P
2
P
4
P
P
P

You certainly like hearts, and the 6 is your most encouraging card. No reason not to play it.

You play the 6. Declarer wins the ace, and leads a diamond to the ace, partner following with the 7. Declarer continues with the king of diamonds off dummy. What do you do?

North
2
105
K10852
KQ7
East
A65
QJ97
A643
W
N
E
S
1
1
1
P
2
P
4
P
P
P

It appears that declarer is hoping to discard a loser. Clearly you should ruff small.

You ruff small. Declarer overruffs with the 8, partner playing the 3. Declarer now leads the 8. Partner plays the 5, and dummy the king. Do you win or duck?

North
2
105
10852
KQ7
East
A6
QJ97
A643
W
N
E
S
1
1
1
P
2
P
4
P
P
P

There is no reason to duck, since declarer will then be leading a spade through you which you won't like. You must win this trick.

You win the ace of clubs. What do you lead?

North
2
105
10852
Q7
East
A6
QJ97
643
W
N
E
S
1
1
1
P
2
P
4
P
P
P

All the indications are that declarer started with 3 hearts. Partner led the 8. Also, declarer was rushing to take a discard on the diamond, and he would have no reason to rush to discard a club. You want to establish your heart trick as soon as possible.

You lead the queen of hearts. Declarer wins the king, partner playing the 3. Declarer leads the 2 to dummy's queen, partner playing the 9. Now declarer leads a spade off dummy. Are you ready to play smoothly? Do you win or duck?

North
2
10
10852
7
East
A6
J97
64
W
N
E
S
1
1
1
P
2
P
4
P
P
P

If partner has a singleton king or queen of spades, you must duck. A count of the hand indicates that declarer doesn't have 8 spades. He is known to have 1 diamond and two clubs, and from his line of play and the opening lead he clearly has 3 hearts. You don't have to worry about crashing partner's honor.

If partner has Qx of spades, you would give declarer a guess by ducking. There is no need for that. By going up ace and playing hearts, you will get the promotion and have a sure thing. The is clearly what you should play for.

You win the ace of spades and play hearts. As expected, the jack of hearts cashes. On the fourth round of hearts declarer ruffs with the jack, and partner overruffs with the queen for down 1. The full hand is:

West
Q9
83
J9763
J1095
North
2
1054
AK10852
KQ7
East
A65
QJ976
Q
A643
South
KJ108743
AK2
4
82
W
N
E
S
1
1
1
P
2
P
4
P
P
P
D
4 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
8
4
6
A
3
1
0
4
7
A
Q
1
2
0
K
5
8
3
3
3
0
8
5
K
A
2
3
1
Q
K
3
5
3
4
1
2
9
Q
3
1
5
1
2
A
3
9
2
5
2
J
2
6
10
2
5
3
9
J
Q
9

Could declarer have done better?

 

West
Q9
83
J9763
J1095
North
2
1054
AK10852
KQ7
East
A65
QJ976
Q
A643
South
KJ108743
AK2
4
82
W
N
E
S
1
1
1
P
2
P
4
P
P
P
D
4 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
8
4
6
A
3
1
0
4
7
A
Q
1
2
0
K
5
8
3
3
3
0
8
5
K
A
2
3
1
Q
K
3
5
3
4
1
2
9
Q
3
1
5
1
2
A
3
9
2
5
2
J
2
6
10
2
5
3
9
J
Q
9

Not realistically. If he takes a trump finesse first, he won't get back to dummy in time to take the needed heart pitch on the diamond. His line was virtually cold on a 4-2 diamond split. He was very unlucky to go down.

Do you agree with West's opening lead?

West
Q9
83
J9763
J1095
North
2
1054
AK10852
KQ7
East
A65
QJ976
Q
A643
South
KJ108743
AK2
4
82
W
N
E
S
1
1
1
P
2
P
4
P
P
P
D
4 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
8
4
6
A
3
1
0
4
7
A
Q
1
2
0
K
5
8
3
3
3
0
8
5
K
A
2
3
1
Q
K
3
5
3
4
1
2
9
Q
3
1
5
1
2
A
3
9
2
5
2
J
2
6
10
2
5
3
9
J
Q
9

East did overcall 1. That doesn't make a heart lead mandatory. East was overcalling because hearts is his longest suit, not because it is his strongest suit. If East had Jxxxx of hearts and AQxx of clubs, he would still have overcalled 1.

Both the heart lead and the club lead are attractive. West may be in only once, so he needs to take his best shot. While the club sequence could be the winner, the heart lead is probably percentage. The key is that West has a doubleton heart, along with a trump holding which might be promoted. In fact, that is exactly what happened.

If East were going to duck the spade off dummy, it might be important for him to do so in tempo so as to not give away the location of the ace. However, if East decides to go up ace of spades, he can take his time about it. There won't be any gain from playing the ace quickly, since declarer will know East has it whether East plays quickly or not. Thus, if East is not prepared but his instinct is to play the ace, he might as well stop and think about it. He will lose the deceptive value of playing small quickly, but it might be that playing small is correct even with the deceptive value lost.

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