Join Bridge Winners
Hard to See
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Vulnerable against not, you pick up:

South
1092
A109
AK862
AJ
.

After a pass on your right, you open with a Precision 1. West passes, and partner responds 2, a natural game force.

South
1092
A109
AK862
AJ
W
N
E
S
P
1
P
2
P
?

Bidding diamonds looks pretty obvious now. However, we play that as both natural and asking, with step responses describing support and controls. On this hand, we would much rather hear natural bidding from partner. Step responses won't tell us much, and it may be hard to focus on a spade stopper without pretending that we have an unbalanced hand.

This is tricky. Do we complicate things by bidding 2 or get the general nature of our hand across with a 2NT rebid?

Your call?

3NT is the most likely game, but notrump looks better from partner's side. That argues for bidding 2. If partner shows support, we can follow up with 3, and get stoppers into the picture. If partner denies support, we can still bid 2NT, and we won't be any worse off. Clearly 5 is the right contract facing a hand like xx Kxx QJx KQxxx, and we have no chance to get there without introducing diamonds. Of course, such a delicate auction might land us in 5 facing xxx Kx QJx KQxxx. Oops!

Also, at these colors, people bid over 1 with any excuse. West's pass strongly suggests that West does not hold five spades, so the spade danger is greatly reduced.

The choice looks close, but, to me, 2 seems like the better bet. If partner has extras, and we should be sniffing at a slam, then suppressing our diamonds will not work out well. I would rebid 2NT if partner were a passed hand, but, facing an unlimited responder, 2 looks best.

Right or wrong, you choose 2NT and partner raises to game, so the auction was simple:

West
North
A63
532
Q7
Q10874
East
South
1092
A109
AK862
AJ
W
N
E
S
P
1
P
2
P
2NT
P
3NT
P
P
P
D
3NT South
NS: 0 EW: 0
4
1

West leads a diamond(!), so maybe hiding our suit will pay dividends. The opponents lead fourth best, and use upside down count, attitude, and upside down Smith. Plan the play.

West
North
A63
532
Q7
Q10874
East
South
1092
A109
AK862
AJ
W
N
E
S
P
1
P
2
P
2NT
P
3NT
P
P
P
D
3NT South
NS: 0 EW: 0
4
1

This is an easy problem, yet, no one at our club got the hand right. Hopefully you found the winning line quickly. It took me quite a while to see it.

I'll lead you through my muddled thinking: On most normal club breaks, there are nine obvious tricks - four clubs, three diamonds, and two aces. Since we may need two entries to develop the clubs, it seems natural to win the diamond in hand, and play club ace, club. The defenders will likely hold up, but we cross to the diamond queen and drive out the club king. Nine easy tricks.

Can anything go wrong?

Well, sure. Maybe the defenders will win the second club and lead a heart. Suddenly we won't have an entry to our ninth (diamond) trick. It won't be obvious to win that second club, but, if they do, Smith should make the diamond position pretty obvious, and the winning defense should be easy.

Okay, maybe blocking the diamonds is a mistake. Perhaps we should win the diamond queen, and start on clubs, overtaking the club jack if West plays low. This will set up nine easy tricks if clubs are 3-3, if the 9 is doubleton, or if West started with Kx in clubs.

Which line is better? Tough to judge. Do we give up some club chances, or hope for a mis-defense? Which is more likely?

West
North
A63
532
Q7
Q10874
East
South
1092
A109
AK862
AJ
W
N
E
S
P
1
P
2
P
2NT
P
3NT
P
P
P
D
3NT South
NS: 0 EW: 0
4
7
9
K
3
1
0
J
2

Well, if we are going to get tricky, maybe it is best to block the clubs as well. Suppose we win the diamond in hand, and advance the club jack? It will be much harder to read the position, and they won't have time to signal about diamonds. This looks pretty strong. If the club jack is ducked, we cash the club ace, cross to the diamond queen, and clear clubs. Easy. Yes, that looks pretty strong.

So, will they find the killing defense here?

West
North
A63
532
Q7
Q10874
East
South
1092
A109
AK862
AJ
W
N
E
S
P
1
P
2
P
2NT
P
3NT
P
P
P
D
3NT South
NS: 0 EW: 0
4
1

Oh, I got it now. Finally! I am such an idiot. There is no killing defense. If they win the club jack and lead a heart, I win, cross to the diamond queen, and then back to my club ace, to cash my diamond before crossing to the board in spades and running the clubs. Winning in hand and leading the club jack guarantees the contract on most club lies or when diamonds break 3-3.

Why was this so hard for me to see?

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