In the first session of the Cavendish Pairs you are faced with a difficult competitive decision.
None vul, South deals. As West, you hold:
This one is easy. You don't have close to the right shape to make a takeout double, and with a 2-card differential in the minors unusual notrump is not in the picture. A 2♦
overcall is the only sensible choice.
You overcall 2♦
. The bidding continues:
If you choose to act, available to you are:
- 4NT: Takeout for the minors
- DBL: Takeout. In your style you would always start with a takeout double rather than a 2♦ overcall if you had 4 spades, so partner will not be playing you for a 4-card spade holding if you double.
If you choose to commit to a minor, 4NT is clearly better than 5♣
. 4NT says that your diamonds are definitely longer, while 5♣
would tend to show about equal length in the minors. It would certainly show a 5-card club suit.
If you try a takeout double, you need to decide what to do if partner bids 4♠
. You are a spade shorter than expected, so it might be right to get out of 4♠
. If 4NT would be interpreted as 6-4 in the minors that would be an accurate call, but partner might well take 4NT as RKC for spades. It could be argued that you can't really have an RKC call and have bid this way so far, but that sort of analysis is better saved for the post-mortem rather than risking a mixup. Bidding 5♣
won't be too misleading. Partner will know that you don't have 3 spades since you didn't pass 4♠
, and he will expect you to be short in hearts since with a doubleton heart you probably would have had enough. If you were 5-5 in the minors you might have bid 2NT immediately or bid 5♣
. Thus, your 6-4 shape is quite likely on this sequence.
Would it be right to pass 4♠
? Partner won't bid a weak 4-card spade suit since he knows you don't have 4 spades, but he will be expecting 3-card support. He will certainly bid any 5-card spade suit, and might bid a strong 4-card suit. Still, 10 tricks are easier than 11, and partner might even have 6 spades. It is probably right to pass 4♠
, planning on running if doubled. However, even if you are not planning to sit 4♠
, making a takeout double has to be be better than bidding 4NT. The reason is that partner might have a square hand or a defensive trump trick and choose to pass the double. North doesn't have to have 5 hearts for his call. If partner does pass, you will almost certainly have done the right thing. Otherwise if partner bids 4♠
you won't be any worse off than if you had bid 4NT over 4♥
Now, on to the bigger question. Should you take any action?
If you pass, you will be right when 4♥
goes down and you don't have a making game. That is certainly possible, but it is shooting for a thin target. If partner has an ace, all you need is a decent fit anywhere to probably make a game. For exampe, a hand such as Axxx, xx, xx, Jxxxx is great for 5♣
. If partner has the same hand without the ace of spades you won't make game, but then 4♥
is likely to make.
It is true that on a bad day you could go for as much as 500 if you act. If that happens the opponents will almost certainly be making 4♥
, so the loss will be small. Even if you are going down, it may be difficult for the opponents to double. The 4♥
call has a wide range, and the opponents may not know whether or not it is their hand.
The final argument against passing is the scoring table. If both 4♥
and your game go down 1, the cost of acting is 3 IMPs. If either contract makes, the cost of passing is around 8 IMPs. The odds must favor taking action.
You choose to pass.
Your lead. From an AK holding you have the option of leading either the ace or the king. If you lead the ace, partner will give a standard attitude signal. If you lead the king, partner will give a suit-preference signal.
Leading anything but a high diamond would be a needlessly big position. In general, if you are on lead with an ace-king holding against a suit contract you need a very good reason to lead something else. Such a reason does not exist here.
Which signal do you want? It looks like you want an attitude signal. The main consideration may be whether or not partner can ruff the third round of diamonds. In addition partner probably doesn't have many diamonds, so he won't have the flexibility to give a readable suit-preference signal.
You lead the ace of diamonds.
Partner plays the 3 of diamonds, and declarer the 5. Your agreements are standard signals at trick 1, upside-down after trick 1.
How do you continue?
The 2 of diamonds is missing. This means that either a second diamond trick will cash or partner is encouraging from Q32. In any case it can't be wrong to lay down the king of diamonds. Even if partner has queen-doubleton, you can get the trick back by playing a third diamond and letting partner ruff dummy's winner. For all you know partner's 3 of diamonds is a singleton.
You lead the king of diamonds. Partner plays the 2, and declarer the queen. Now what?
It is extremely unlikely that partner has a trump holding where ruffing will cost. Partner will need an ace to defeat the contract, but he might have either black ace. You don't need to guess. Simply continue diamonds, let partner ruff dummy's winner, and your tricks will come to you.
You play a third diamond. Partner ruffs, and declarer overruffs. Declarer cashes the ace of hearts, partner following small. Now declarer leads a spade towards dummy. You win your king, partner playing the 7. What do you do now?
There can't be anything more to this hand. Partner apparently has the ace of spades, and either it lives or it doesn't. Your play shouldn't matter, but in order to prevent partner from making a possible mistake you should continue spades. This will force partner to take his ace. If his ace is getting ruffed, you were never defeating the contract.
You choose to shift to the king of clubs. Declarer wins the ace, ruffs a club, and leads the queen of spades. Partner wins his ace for down 1. The full hand:
It was necessary to play the third round of diamonds if you don't shift to a spade. That comes as no surprise.
It is worth noting that declarer didn't just concede. Instead he crossed to dummy with a club ruff and led the queen of spades, making it look like he was taking a ruffing finesse in spades. Of course it would be a blunder for partner to not play the ace, but you never know. Anything is better than conceding.
As it turns out, passing 4♥
was the winning decision. 4♥
goes down as does 4♠
, or 5♦
. If you had doubled, partner would clearly have bid 4♠
. The 4-1 club split makes 5♣
impossible to handle. Despite this result, I'm quite convinced that selling out is a bad percentage action. Not only does selling out bet on a parlay of both contracts going down, it also lays roughly 2 to 1 IMP odds. When you bet on a parlay and lay odds at the same time, you better have a very high probability of being right. Looking at the West hand, there is no particular reason to think that either 4♥
is going down or that E-W don't have a makable contract. As is so often the case, it is a bidder's game.