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In a round-robin match in the Open Trials, you have to evaluate your hand opposite partner's limited opening bid.

N-S vul, East deals. As West, you hold:

West
AQ84
842
752
Q96
W
N
E
S
1
P
?

1NT would be semi-forcing.

2 is a wide-range bid. It is not at all constructive, and might be quite weak. Partner is expected to pass unless he has some distributional features which might produce a game.

Your call?

West
AQ84
842
752
Q96
W
N
E
S
1
P
?

There is no reason to do anything but raise. Even if partner would be passing 1NT, either contract might be better. The raise gets your hand off your chest and puts partner in position to compete or move to game with an appropriate hand. Also, and potentially important, the raise blocks a 2 of a minor overcall.

You bid 2. The bidding continues:

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

2NT: Presumably minors

3: Assumed a long/help suit game try

Double by you would be penalties. It isn't totally clear what the distinction between pass and 3 is, but your general principles in this type of situation are that return to the trump suit is the weakest action. Partner's 3 call would have forced you to the 3 level if South had passed, and you would have 3 available as a Last Train call. The 3 call robs you of that, but it gives your side the option of defending 3 rather than playing 3.

Your call?

West
AQ84
842
752
Q96
W
N
E
S
1
P
2
2NT
3
3
?

At first glance this hand doesn't look so good. 4-3-3-3. 8 HCP, when partner has a maximum of 15, and probably less if he is distributional since he didn't open 1. Your queen of clubs is in front of the opponent who has shown the minors. xxx in hearts when the auction indicates that the hearts could be splitting badly. How can there be a game?

A more careful examination of the auction and your hand reveals another story. Parner is presuably short somewhere, since with a balanced hand he almost can't have a game try or he would have opened 1. His long/help suit game try along with South's 3 call indicate that his shortness is in diamonds. In effect, he has made a short-suit game try in diamonds, although his bid didn't directly have that meaning.

Now things look different. You have nothing wasted in diamonds. Your queen of clubs may be working opposite his club holding, even with North having clubs. Your spade holding is great. If partner has the king of spades, your queen of spades is a full trick. Otherwise, the odds are that the spade finesse is onside since North has at least 10 cards in the minors. Your heart holding is bad, but partner knows about the likely bad heart split and he isn't expecting more than 3-card support from you. All things considered, your hand could be a whole lot worse. You are worth accepting.

You choose to bid 3. The bidding continues:

W
N
E
S
1
P
2
2NT
3
3
3
3
P
4
?

Your call?

West
AQ84
842
752
Q96
W
N
E
S
1
P
2
2NT
3
3
3
3
P
4
?

What in the world are the opponents doing? It doesn't matter. You have enough so that they aren't making 4. Also, it is important to let partner know that you have a real hand so if they run to 5 he can double if appropriate. You must double.

You double. The bidding concludes:

W
N
E
S
1
P
2
2NT
3
3
3
3
P
4
X
5
X
P
P
P

Your lead. Third and low leads. In the trump suit you tend to play suit-preference, including opening leads.

West
AQ84
842
752
Q96
W
N
E
S
1
P
2
2NT
3
3
3
3
P
4
X
5
X
P
P
P

The auction screams for a trump lead. You have the spades bottled up, and partner has the hearts. The danger is that dummy's long clubs will be ruffed with declarer's short diamonds.

It isn't clear which trump to lead. You have club strength, arguing for leading the 2. But you have spade strength, arguing for leading the 7. Partner probably is going to take any spot you lead with a grain of salt as he doesn't know what you can or cannot afford, so it isn't likely to make much difference.

You choose to lead the 2.

West
AQ84
842
752
Q96
North
7
A
AQJ1086
J7432
W
N
E
S
 
1
P
2
2N
3
3
3
3
P
4
X
5
X
P
P
P

Dummy's queen wins, partner playing the 3 and declarer the 4. At trick 2, declarer leads a small club from dummy. Partner wins the king, declarer playing the 5. Your agreements are UDCA after trick 1. Which club do you play?

 

West
AQ84
842
75
Q96
North
7
A
AJ1086
J7432
W
N
E
S
 
1
P
2
2N
3
3
3
3
P
4
X
5
X
P
P
P

Your theoretically proper play is usually to help partner out as much by giving him the right count. You can easily afford the 9 here and it isn't going to make any difference to declarer. So, why should you not do so?

Let's project how the play is likely to go. Suppose partner has AK10 of clubs. He will lead a spade to you, and you will play another trump. Declarer will win in dummy, and play another club. You would like partner to duck so you can win your queen. But can partner risk doing this? From his point of view declarer could have queen-doubleton, and ducking would hand declarer a no-play doubled contract. You would have played the 9 from an initial holding of 9xx, so this is entirely consistent.

Is there any way you can convince partner to duck? Perhaps there is. Suppose you play the 6. At partner's point of decision he will know for certain that declarer didn't start with queen-doubleton, since that would give you 9xx and you would always be playing the 9 from that holding. Therefore, whatever is going on it can never cost partner to duck, which gives you the desired result.

Is there any downside to doing this? Yes. If partner has AK10x of clubs and you play the 9 he will go right and duck, since if you have a doubleton it must be Q9 doubleton. However, if you play the 6 partner may fear that you have 96 doubleton and go up ace to make sure of defeating the contract (remember, he doesn't know that declarer has only 3 trumps). Your queen of clubs will come down on the third round of clubs, so you will get only 2 club tricks. Still, you will defeat the contract, since declarer will be able to ruff only one club in his hand.

It looks more likely that partner has 3 clubs. If he were 2-6-1-4 he might have bid more aggressively. And if South had 6 spades, South might have acted over the 1 opening. Thus, playing the 6 appears to be the percentage play.

You woodenly play the 9. Partner shifts to a spade to the jack and your queen. You lead back a trump. Declarer wins in dummy, and leads another club. As feared partner grabs his ace, and you only defeat the contract one trick. The full hand is:

West
AQ84
842
752
Q96
North
7
A
AQJ1086
J7432
East
532
KQJ975
3
AK10
South
KJ1096
1063
K94
85
W
N
E
S
 
1
P
2
2N
3
3
3
3
P
4
X
5
X
P
P
P
D
5X South
NS: 0 EW: 0
2
Q
3
4
1
1
0
2
K
5
9
2
1
1
2
J
Q
7
0
1
2
5
J
5
9
1
2
2
3
A
5

Should declarer have played differently?

 

West
AQ84
842
752
Q96
North
7
A
AQJ1086
J7432
East
532
KQJ975
3
AK10
South
KJ1096
1063
K94
85
W
N
E
S
 
1
P
2
2N
3
3
3
3
P
4
X
5
X
P
P
P
D
5X South
NS: 0 EW: 0
2
Q
3
4
1
1
0
2
K
5
9
2
1
1
2
J
Q
7
0
1
2
5
J
5
9
1
2
2
3
A
5

Certainly he should. West is marked with the ace of spades, as there is no way East would risk underleading the ace of spade here as that might be the setting trick. All declarer has to do is win the second diamond in his hand and take a ruffing finesse in spades, coming to 6 diamond tricks, 1 heart trick, and 3 spade tricks for down 1. But this is available only because South's spade spots happen to be so good. If East had one of those spots the ruffing finesse wouldn't produce enough tricks, and the suggested defense would defeat the contract 2 tricks.

What do you think of the N-S bidding?

 

West
AQ84
842
752
Q96
North
7
A
AQJ1086
J7432
East
532
KQJ975
3
AK10
South
KJ1096
1063
K94
85
W
N
E
S
 
1
P
2
2N
3
3
3
3
P
4
X
5
X
P
P
P
D
5X South
NS: 0 EW: 0
2
Q
3
4
1
1
0
2
K
5
9
2
1
1
2
J
Q
7
0
1
2
5
J
5
9
1
2
2
3
A
5

The early bids are fine enough. North's 3 call is weird. You would have to ask him why he chose it. South understandably thought North was 3-0-5-5, hence South's 4 call.

Is East's 3 call accurate?

 

West
AQ84
842
752
Q96
North
7
A
AQJ1086
J7432
East
532
KQJ975
3
AK10
South
KJ1096
1063
K94
85
W
N
E
S
 
1
P
2
2N
3
3
3
3
P
4
X
5
X
P
P
P
D
5X South
NS: 0 EW: 0
2
Q
3
4
1
1
0
2
K
5
9
2
1
1
2
J
Q
7
0
1
2
5
J
5
9
1
2
2
3
A
5

It looks right on target. Even though East has only 13 HCP, if West has the right cards game will be good. West simply failed to recognize that he had the right cards.

In fact, the play didn't go quite this way. West did lead the 2, and since the opening to the screen was on his side he also raised the screen. Unfortunately, East simultaneously led the king of hearts out of turn. Normally a lead out of turn wouldn't matter with screens -- one just picks it up. However, this time West had no way of knowing what had happened on the other side of the screen and the leads happened to be at the same time, so the screen was up when the king of hearts was on the table. The ruling is that the 2 is the opening lead, and the king of hearts is a penalty card. So, when declarer led a club from dummy at trick 2 East won the king and had to play his penalty card. Thus, West never had a chance to make the clever 6 play which might let him get in to draw the third round of trumps.

The morale of the story is this: If you are going to make an opening lead out of turn with screens, make sure you are on the same page with your opening lead. If both players had led a trump, there would have been no penalty card.

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