Join Bridge Winners
Getting the Maximum
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In fourth seat, you face the first of several decisions with this hand in a Rosenblum match:

Vul E-W, South deals. As East, you hold:

East
AQ76
Q872
A108
96
W
N
E
S
2
2
3
?

2C: Precisioin, 11-15 points, 6+ clubs or 5 clubs with a 4-card major

Available to you are the following:

3 of a new suit would be natural, forcing.

3 would be a limit raise. If you just wanted to compete to 3, you would double. Double is a relay to the next cheapest suit. It is assumed to be a weak hand somewhere, although if you follow with 3NT or a Q-bid that turns it into a normal responsive double. We have found that the ability to distinguish between a limit raise vs. a competitive raise plus the ability to bid the third and final of some other suit is more valuable than a 3-level responsive double on a hand which isn't strong enough to drive to game.

4 is what it sounds like.

4 would show some slam interest. It does not say anything about clubs.

What call do you make?



East
AQ76
Q872
A108
96
W
N
E
S
2
2
3
?


While 4 might go down if partner has a minimal overcall and the wrong hand, you must drive to game with these cards. Stopping on a dime at 3 is cutting things too thin. Vulnerable games are meant to be bid.

The real question is whether you are worth a 4 Q-bid. It doesn't look likely that there is a slam considering the opening bid. But 4 is not a slam commitment. All it says is that you have some real values. You might have bid 4 as a gamble with a singleton club and an ace less. It is important to let partner know you don't have that sort of hand, so if he has the goods he can launch into RKC which you would love. Picture partner with something like KJxxxx, AKx, KJx, x. He could hardly do anything if you just bid 4, yet slam is is quite good, needing either a heart split or a diamond finesse (or maybe a squeeze). If you bid 4, he can take control.

Naturally after your 4 bid you will do no more. If partner comes back with 4 of a red suit, you will sign off at 4, You are minimal for the 4 call. You need for him to be able to bid the slam himself.

You choose to bid 4. The bidding continues:


W
N
E
S
2
2
3
4
P
P
5
?


In your partnership agreements pass by you would be forcing since you voluntarily jumped to game non-preemptively. By contrast, had North bid 4 then your 4 call would not create a force since it was bid under fire -- your alternative would be to defend 4. Also, had North made a strong call such as 3 then your 4 bid would be preemptive, so it wouldn't create a force. On the actual auction, you are in a force. It could be the opponents hand if you were weaker and more distributional, but definitionally you are in a force.

Do you double, pass, or bid?




East
AQ76
Q872
A108
96
W
N
E
S
2
2
3
4
P
P
5
?


It can't be right to bid 5. You could be down off the top, losing 2 clubs and an ace when partner has a perfectly normal overcall. You have enough strength that it is virtually impossible 5 is making.

On the other hand, you don't want to shut out the possibility of 5. Your hand is as strong as it possibly could be for the 4 call -- as discussed, you probably should have Q-bid instead. Therefore, it must be right to pass the decision to partner. He could have something like KJxxxx, KJx, KQx, x where 5 is cold and the penalty against 5 won't adequately compensate. If you double he will have no choice but to pass on such a hand, but if you make a forcing pass he might make the winning decision to bid on.

You choose to double, ending the auction.

W
N
E
S
2
2
3
4
P
P
5
X
P
P
P


Partner leads the 5 (3rd and 5th best leads), and you see:


North
J654
Q9632
J754
East
AQ76
Q872
A108
96
W
N
E
S
2
2
3
4
P
P
5
X
P
P
P


As a point of interest, partner would lead 5th best (not lowest) from a 7-card suit. This is quite readable if partner is known to be long in the suit. There are two lower spot cards so it won't be mistaken for the lowest, and there are at least two higher spot cards so it won't be mistaken for third best. If partner wants to make an alarm clock lead from a long suit, he leads his lowest card in the suit (as would 4th best leaders), and this will usually be readable.

Dummy ruffs. You play suit-preference at trick 1. 10, 9, 8 (by priority) are suit-preference for the higher suit. 2, 3, 4 (by priority) are suit-preference for the lower suit. 6, 5, 7 (by priority) are encouraging. If you don't hold a spot which corresponds to the signal you want to make, then you choose the least damaging card. With two spots in the same category, you choose the higher priority if that is the signal you wish to give, but the lower priority if that is not the signal you wish to give. On this hand, you would play the 6 if you wanted to encourage in spades, but you would play the 7 if you wanted to signal for something else.

Which spot do you play?



North
J654
Q9632
J754
East
AQ76
Q872
A108
96
W
N
E
S
2
2
3
4
P
P
5
X
P
P
P

It probably won't make much difference particularly since partner might not able to read your spot anyway. However, you have no objection to having spades continued and you don't particularly want any shift, so it looks like the 6 of spades is best, definitely encouraging.

You choose to play the 7 of spades. Declarer follows with the 4. At trick 2, declarer leads a low heart off dummy. You play upside-down count and attitude signals (but standard current count on later plays in a suit), so it is routine to play the 2.

Which heart would you play if you were playing standard signals?




North
J654
Q9632
J75
East
AQ6
Q872
A108
96
W
N
E
S
2
2
3
4
P
P
5
X
P
P
P


This is a legitimate problem. If you play the 2, partner is likely to think you have an odd number of hearts and may misdefend based on that assumption. If you play the 8, it might turn out that you are wasting a potentially important spot card. For example, suppose declarer has K1093 and partner has the singleton ace. Declarer will finesse the 10. If you kept your 87 of hearts, you will always have a second heart trick coming. However, if you spend the 8, declarer can pick up the entire suit by leading the jack on the second round, and if you cover he can follow through by finessing you out of the 7.

Your proper play is the 2 of hearts. If there is any doubt, saving a potential trick always overrides any signal. Partner must be aware that you may have this problem.

This heart position illustrates the main advantage of upside-down count. From 3-card holdings you can almost always spare your middle spot if not your highest, and those positions where you must retain your two highest spots are easy to see. From 5-card hodings you can almost always spare a relatively high spot card. It is 4-card holdings where a seemingly unimportant spot card may actually be important. Being able to play low from a 4-card holding to show count avoids this pitfall, makes your count signal easier to read, and saves the mental energy of having to work out (in tempo) whether or not a higher spot can be afforded.

You play the 2 of hearts. Declarer plays the 10, and partner wins the king. Partner returns the 2 of spades. Dummy ruffs, you play the 6, and declarer plays the 10. Declarer leads another low heart off dummy. Which heart do you play?



North
J65
Q9632
J7
East
AQ
Q87
A108
96
W
N
E
S
2
2
3
4
P
P
5
X
P
P
P


You have Q87 left. If you hadn't already shown count in the suit your proper play would be the 7, standard remainder count. But partner already knows the count in the heart suit, so showing the count again is not necessary. It is more important to show him what you have in the suit. Quite possibly declarer holds A109x and will finesse again. If that is the case you will now have the fourth round of the suit covered, but partner won't know that unless you tell him. By playing the 8 you tell partner you also have the 7, since otherwise you could not afford to play the 8.

It is to be noted that if you card properly partner will always know whether or not you control the fourth round of the suit. If you had Q732 your proper play would be the 7. This would deny the 8, since with Q872 you would play the 8 on the second round. From Q832 you would have to play the 3, of course. But partner would know you have the 8, since he knows that from Q732 you would have played the 7 to deny the 8. The general principle is one which applies to any signalling situation: When signalling with a high spot card, always signal with the highest spot you can afford.

You play the 8 of hearts. Declarer plays the 9, and partner ruffs. Partner returns the queen of clubs to declarer's ace. Declarer leads the 4 of diamonds. Partner wins the king. Which diamond do you play?



North
J6
Q9632
J
East
AQ
Q7
A108
9
W
N
E
S
2
2
3
4
P
P
5
X
P
P
P


Of course you play the 8 of diamonds. If partner has the jack of diamonds, your 10 will be important. As always, never waste a potentially important spot for the purpose of signalling.

You play the 8 of diamonds. Partner returns the 7 of diamonds, and dummy plays low. Do you play the ace or the 10?



North
J6
Q963
J
East
AQ
Q7
A10
9
W
N
E
S
2
2
3
4
P
P
5
X
P
P
P


The count of the hand is now clear. Declarer's shape must be 2-4-2-5. Partner's 7 of diamonds return would be consistent with an initial holding of K75, since he would be leading top of a remaining small doubleton.

If partner has the jack of diamonds, putting in the 10 is clearly the winner. You knock out dummy's last trump, and the defense cannot be prevented from scoring a heart trick. If you go up ace of diamonds, that is your last trick. Dummy's jack of clubs will be an entry to the good queen of diamonds.

What if declarer has the jack of diamonds? By playing the 10, you let him score his doubleton jack. But that won't matter. You still have the ace of diamonds, and since declarer is in his hand he can't establish the diamond suit and get back to it. You will still get your heart trick. So putting in the 10 of diamonds won't cost a trick even if declarer has doubleton jack. It has to be the right play. It is a case of heads you win, tails you break even.

You play the 10 of diamonds. As hoped, it holds. You lead back your last trump, and come to a heart trick in the end for down 3. The full hand is:

West
KJ98532
K
KJ7
Q3
North
J654
Q9632
J754
East
AQ76
Q872
A108
96
South
104
A1093
54
AK1082
W
N
E
S
2
2
3
4
P
P
5
X
P
P
P
D
5X South
NS: 0 EW: 0
5
4
7
4
1
1
0
4
2
10
K
0
1
1
2
5
6
10
1
2
1
5
8
9
3
0
2
2
Q
7
6
A
3
3
2
4
K
2
8
0
3
3
7
3
10
5
2
3
4
9
8

Why didn't partner make your life easy by leading the jack of diamonds instead of the 7? Because it wouldn't have worked! Declarer ducks, and you have to duck also. Now partner is in, and he doesn't have a trump to lead. If he leads a spade, declarer gets a sluff and a ruff. If he leads a diamond your ace is ruffed out, and the jack of clubs is an entry to the good diamond. Partner worked out that the only way to get the maximum at this point was to hope that you had the 10 of diamonds and would be shrewd enough to play it.


Could partner's defense have been improved on?


West
KJ98532
K
KJ7
Q3
North
J654
Q9632
J754
East
AQ76
Q872
A108
96
South
104
A1093
54
AK1082
W
N
E
S
2
2
3
4
P
P
5
X
P
P
P
D
5X South
NS: 0 EW: 0
5
4
7
4
1
1
0
4
2
10
K
0
1
1
2
5
6
10
1
2
1
5
8
9
3
0
2
2
Q
7
6
A
3
3
2
4
K
2
8
0
3
3
7
3
10
5
2
3
4
9
8



His spade lead and spade continuation were fine. After ruffing the second round of hearts he could have simplified matters by leading a diamond to your ace and getting another ruff, but he couldn't be 100% sure you had the ace of diamonds. You might have started with ace-doubleton of clubs, and two rounds of trumps would put an end to dummy. It was even possible that declarer had a third spade. He knew from your play of the 8 of hearts that it wouldn't be necessary to get a heart ruff if the dummy could be killed. So his queen of clubs return was fine.

At the point declarer led the diamond towards dummy, partner had a count of the hand. Declarer couldn't have a third spade or he would have ruffed it in dummy. The hearts are known to be 4-4 from your plays in the heart suit. If declarer is 2-4-1-6 nothing will matter -- the defense will get a heart and a diamond trick whatever he does. The relevant shape for declarer is 2-4-2-5.

It is unlikely that declarer has ace-doubleton of diamonds given the auction -- you wouldn't have had much of a 4 call without the ace of diamonds. Also if declarer had the ace of diamonds you must have the king of clubs, so declarer would have played ace and a diamond to force an entry to dummy for the discard rather than risk you going up king and returning a diamond which would shut out dummy. Partner should have ducked the diamond, which works even when declarer has the 10. You win the ace, knock the last trump out of dummy, and now partner will have a safe spade exit when in with the king of diamonds so the defense will get their heart trick. Partner simply hit the panic button, making sure of taking the setting trick when he should have been going after the maximum. Fortunately he realized his error and found the small diamond return rather than the fatal jack, hoping that you had the 10 and would be shrewd enough to play it.

What do you think of declarer's line of play?


West
KJ98532
K
KJ7
Q3
North
J654
Q9632
J754
East
AQ76
Q872
A108
96
South
104
A1093
54
AK1082
W
N
E
S
2
2
3
4
P
P
5
X
P
P
P
D
5X South
NS: 0 EW: 0
5
4
7
4
1
1
0
4
2
10
K
0
1
1
2
5
6
10
1
2
1
5
8
9
3
0
2
2
Q
7
6
A
3
3
2
4
K
2
8
0
3
3
7
3
10
5
2
3
4
9
8



Declarer didn't do very well, but his line of play was quite reasonable. He could see that the two spade ruffs would probably be his only two dummy entries, so he would need to use these entries to take two heart finesses. If the hearts had split 3-2 with one of the honors onside and the trumps had also split, he would have been down 1 instead of down 3. However, declarer should have led the jack of hearts off dummy at trick 2. It is virtually impossible for you to have a singleton heart on the auction, so this play has nothing to lose. You shouldn't cover with Q87x or K87x, but defenders do make mistakes. If he leads the jack and you do cover, there will be a big crash. Even if you properly duck declarer might come out a trick better, since he will have the heart spots to pick up the suit. Partner will still be able to defeat the contract 3 tricks by leading a diamond and getting another ruff, but he will have to find this defense.

How might the auction have gone differently?


West
KJ98532
K
KJ7
Q3
North
J654
Q9632
J754
East
AQ76
Q872
A108
96
South
104
A1093
54
AK1082
W
N
E
S
2
2
3
4
P
P
5
X
P
P
P
D
5X South
NS: 0 EW: 0
5
4
7
4
1
1
0
4
2
10
K
0
1
1
2
5
6
10
1
2
1
5
8
9
3
0
2
2
Q
7
6
A
3
3
2
4
K
2
8
0
3
3
7
3
10
5
2
3
4
9
8



If you had made a forcing pass over 5, partner certainly would have doubled. Other than his seventh spade, his hand is a piece of junk.

Suppose you had bid 4 instead of 4, and North once again saves at 5. Now you should double, since your hand is minimal for a Q-bid. You do not want to give partner any more encouragement.

The real culprit in the auction is North. He knows that your side is likely to bid 4. He knows that he has a decent save against 4 which he will certainly take. Therefore, he should bid 5 directly over the 2 overcall. Look at the problems this creates for E-W. They don't know that North is saving -- North might be bidding to make. If East passes it isn't a forcing pass, since there is no evidence that the hand belongs to E-W. What would East do on his actual hand? Double is the winning action, but East might well have taken the push to 5. If that happens the 5 save becomes my definition of a good save -- one which generates a plus score.

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