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Hand Locked
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In a round-robin match in the Open Trials, you have to find the best response after partner's strong 1 opener and an enemy overcall.

None vul, West deals. As South, you hold:

South
52
KJ10843
4
J972
W
N
E
S
P
1
1
?

1: Strong, artificial

Available to you are:

Pass: 0-4 HCP or a trap

DBL: 5-8 HCP, any shape

2: Natural, game-forcing

3: 6+ hearts, less than a game force

Your call?

South
52
KJ10843
4
J972
W
N
E
S
P
1
1
?

You are too strong to pass, and you aren't worth a game force. Double describes your strength okay. However, 3 is better. That tells partner a lot more about the important part of your hand, and allows him to make an intelligent decision. Sure, double followed by 2 might let you stop in 2. But in practice, when there is any competition you can forget about making those low-level stops. If all you can make is 2, you can bet that you aren't going to be allowed to play it there.

You choose to double. The bidding continues:

W
N
E
S
P
1
1
X
2
P
P
?

Double by either partner or you would be takeout.

Your call?

South
52
KJ10843
4
J972
W
N
E
S
P
1
1
X
2
P
P
?

Here you are in the corner you painted yourself in. A 3 call doesn't have to have this much playing strength. On the other hand, if you bid 4 you may catch a bad fit and have no play. A takeout double won't accomplish anything.

The one clue you have is partner's pass over 2. If he were short in spades, he probably would have made a takeout double. He is probably relatively balanced in the 16-18 range. You don't know about the extent of the heart fit, of course, but there is a good chance he doesn't fit hearts very well and has some spade wastage. It looks like 3 is the better bet.

You choose to bid 4, ending the auction.

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

West leads the 3. Third and low leads.

North
QJ6
92
AKQ97
A104
South
52
KJ10843
4
J972
W
N
E
S
P
1
1
X
2
P
P
4
P
P
P

What do you play from dummy?

North
QJ6
92
AKQ97
A104
South
52
KJ10843
4
J972
W
N
E
S
P
1
1
X
2
P
P
4
P
P
P

The normal way to maximize your chances to get a spade trick with this card combination is to play small. If West has led from Kxx it won't matter. East isn't going to put in the 10 from A10xxx, since for all he knows you have a stiff king. Maybe he should, but in real life that just doesn't happen. The relevant case is when East has AK. If East has the 10, you will never get a spade trick. However, if East doesn't have the 10, when you play small he will be forced to play an honor since you might have 10-doubleton, and your spade trick will have appeared.

Getting a spade trick is not your goal on this hand. Your goal is to make it unattractive for the defense to cash a second spade. It is clearly right to go up queen of spades. You hope that East has AK and is unwilling to give you a spade trick.

You play the queen of spades. East wins the king. Which spade do you play from your hand?

North
QJ6
92
AKQ97
A104
South
52
KJ10843
4
J972
W
N
E
S
P
1
1
X
2
P
P
4
P
P
P

Since the opponents are playing third and low leads, it is clear to play the 5 and conceal the 2. If you play the 2, East will know that his ace will cash, since his partner's 3 would be known to be his lowest spade.

If the opponents were playing fourth best leads, you must play the 2. If you conceal the 2, East will know that his ace will cash, since his partner would not have led the 3 from xx32.

This illustrates the importance of determining your opponents leading agreements before you play a card.

You play the 5. East cashes the ace of spades, West playing the 4. East now shifts to the 3. You play small, West plays the queen, and you win the ace in dummy. How do you continue?

North
J
92
AKQ97
104
South
KJ10843
4
J97
W
N
E
S
P
1
1
X
2
P
P
4
P
P
P

Clearly you must pitch your clubs immediately before playing trumps. If diamonds split you have 3 discards available. Then you can ride the 9 of hearts and hope to find East with queen-doubleton.

Does it matter what order you cash these winners? If the diamonds split, it won't make a difference. But if the diamonds are 5-2, you may have to scramble in order to get out for down 1.

Suppose you cash the jack of spades and then try the diamonds. If East ruffs the third round, all you can do is overruff and exit with a club. The opponents will win the king, lead either minor, and you will be hand locked. You won't be able to get to dummy to take a heart finesse.

A better chance is to play the diamonds first. If they split, you can cash the jack of spades to discard your last club and hope for the best in the heart suit. But if East ruffs the third diamond you can overruff, play a club, and hope to get to dummy for a heart finesse. As an added touch, you can discard the jack of clubs first. Then you can lead the 9 of clubs. West can't afford to duck the king if he has it since you could overtake and discard your last club on the jack of spades, so if he doesn't play the king he doesn't have it and you can play small from dummy and force a dummy entry.

You choose to cash the jack of spades first, and then the top diamonds. East ruffs the third round of diamonds with the 5. What do you do?

North
92
Q97
104
South
KJ10843
J
W
N
E
S
P
1
1
X
2
P
P
4
P
P
P

Your only real chance for down 1 is that East started with Q5 doubleton of hearts, since you can't get back to dummy. In order to avoid potential uppercuts which might promote another trump trick for the defense, it is probably best to discard your last club.

You choose to overruff. What do you try now?

North
92
97
104
South
KJ1043
J
W
N
E
S
P
1
1
X
2
P
P
4
P
P
P

You might as well exit with the jack of clubs and hope for a defensive error.

You lead the jack of clubs. West wins the king, and leads the jack of diamonds. You ruff and try the king of hearts, but you are not in luck and are down 2. The full hand is:

West
1043
76
J8653
KQ6
North
QJ6
92
AKQ97
A104
East
AK987
AQ5
102
853
South
52
KJ10843
4
J972
W
N
E
S
P
1
1
X
2
P
P
4
P
P
P
D
4 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
3
Q
K
5
2
0
1
A
2
4
6
2
0
2
3
2
Q
A
1
1
2
J
7
2
10
1
2
2
A
2
4
3
1
3
2
K
10
9
5
1
4
2
Q
5
8
6
3
5
2
J
K
4
8
0
5
3
J
7
5
3
3
6
3
K
6
2
A
2
6
4
10

It wouldn't have helped to play the diamonds first. When declarer later leads the 9, West wins, leads the jack of diamonds, and East discards his last club, depriving declarer of the needed dummy entry. If East had held the king of clubs, it would have made a difference. On the actual line of play East would be able to exit with a club, and declarer would have nothing left but trumps so he would be forced to ruff dummy's good 10. If declarer still had a club in his hand, he would be able to get to dummy.

How was the defense?

West
1043
76
J8653
KQ6
North
QJ6
92
AKQ97
A104
East
AK987
AQ5
102
853
South
52
KJ10843
4
J972
W
N
E
S
P
1
1
X
2
P
P
4
P
P
P
D
4 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
3
Q
K
5
2
0
1
A
2
4
6
2
0
2
3
2
Q
A
1
1
2
J
7
2
10
1
2
2
A
2
4
3
1
3
2
K
10
9
5
1
4
2
Q
5
8
6
3
5
2
J
K
4
8
0
5
3
J
7
5
3
3
6
3
K
6
2
A
2
6
4
10

West probably should have led the 10. The card isn't likely to be of much value, but letting partner know where it is and that West has only 3 spades could be important. Since West raised, East will not think that West has a doubleton.

After that the defense was accurate. East could see the danger of a spade being discarded on the diamonds. While West might have raised to 3 with 4 spades, if the second spade doesn't cash, the contract probably can't be beaten. West's 4 on the second round of spades was suit preference, and East properly shifted to a club.

When you have a good descriptive bid to make, it is usually better to make it at once rather than go slowly and try to stop low. This is particularly true in competitive auctions. Had South bid 3 initially North would have had an easy pass.

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