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Hard work in 1N
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BBO Challenges are a great and cheap way to keep your own game in shape. While I sometimes will challenge friends, I will frequently start an Arena Challenge, where you get to play against a random stranger. I have played utter beginners as well as some Bermuda Bowl competitors. So like Forrest Gump, says, "its like a box of chocolates, you just never know whatcha gonna get".

Slogging through an 8-board Matchpoint Challenge, you pick up: 

South
AK42
KJ43
A10
A74

Your call? 

South
AK42
KJ43
A10
A74

You could open 2N, but the advantage in opening a lite 2N is not the same as opening 1N. When you open 1N, many good things can happen. Not only can GIBs misdefend but you can also steal the part score. This does not happen after 2N. 

Any other ideas? 

South
AK42
KJ43
A10
A74

Yes, you might consider opening your shorter minor. If partner gives you a preemptive raise, you can trot 3N. You are in no different territory if partner responds a major or 1N and you might get misdefense. 

However, its head-to-head matchpoints and we don't want to randomize the result on our first opportunity. So we settle for 1. LHO overcalls 1

Passed back to you. Now what?  

South
AK42
KJ43
A10
A74
W
N
E
S
1
1
P
P
?

If the opponents were vulnerable, pass would have a lot of appeal. They can easily be in a 5-1 (or a 5-0) fit and we are collecting 100 per undertrick. 

However, at this vulnerability, bidding is more attractive. Not only would we have to get them down 2 to beat our 1N, but if they happen to make 1 and we can hold it to -1, -50 rates to be good. About the only time bidding is incorrect is when no one can make 7 tricks or if we go down -2 and they make exactly 80. 

Additionally, 1N may get partner to compete with long diamonds, which could be our best spot. 

You bid 1N and it ends the auction. 

North
965
72
J76542
K10
South
AK42
KJ43
A10
A74
W
N
E
S
1
1
P
P
1NT
P
P
P
?

The opening lead is the 6, 7, Q. 

What's the story in the heart suit? Do we win our King or is there a case for ducking? 

North
965
72
J76542
K10
South
AK42
KJ43
A10
A74
W
N
E
S
1
1
P
P
1NT
P
P
P
?

6, 7, Q, ?

RHO has two cards higher than the 6, the QT, Q9 or Q8, so LHO has not led from 6. We can safely win and duck RHO's next card which will guarantee two stoppers, assuming LHO has exactly 5. 

Now what? 

North
965
2
J76542
K10
South
AK42
J43
A10
A74

We have six toppers: 2 + 1 + 1 + 2.  Diamonds could be a nice source of tricks, but we are an entry short to establish and cash them. 

Spades might be 3-3, and we can establish a trick by ducking a round. Note that our spots aren't quite good enough to establish a trick by force. If we had AK82 we have an extra chance to bring down honor-honor doubleton. Not here however. 

By ducking the first round, we don't condemn ourselves if spades are 5-1 however. So we play a small one from hand. 

2. 2, 8, 9, T. 

3. 8, 3, 5, 2. 

4. 3, A, Q, 6

North
6
J76542
K10
South
K4
J4
A10
A74

If spades are 3-3 now they will be later. But do we really think they are? If LHO has QJ8, it's a big play to duck. While its not likely we would have AKTx (we would have played for Hx), its hard to make this play in practice. 

Other ideas? 

North
6
J76542
K10
South
K4
J4
A10
A74

We may be able to create an endplay against LHO who appears to be 2=5 in the majors. 

It's unlikely that LHO has a singleton diamond honor, but KQ tight could still be possible. By playing the T from hand, we force LHO to reveal a little about his hand. If he rises with an honor, we can place KQx or possibly Hx (RC would tend to dictate Hx by the way). 

5. T, 8, 2, Q

What's our read? 

North
J7654
K10
South
J4
A
A74
W
N
E
S
1
1
P
P
1NT
?

Qx AT9xx xx Qxxx isn't much of an overcall, but it seems like RHO would take a call with JTxx Qx KQx Jxxx. 

It seems a lot more likely LHO started with 2=5=3=3 or 2=5=4=2. Can we get home with these shapes? 

West
A10
K9
Qxx
North
J7654
K10
East
10
3
Jxxxx
South
4
J4
A
A74
D

We exit a spade. Assuming West is 2=5=3=3, what can he do? 

A. Pitch a heart. We win the return, play a heart. 

B. Pitch a diamond. We make many. 

C. Pitch a club and reduce to 0=2=1=2. This is the best play since it requires us to read the ending. 

Note 2=5=4=2 makes no difference. Instead of a club, he will discard a diamond. 

In practice, West pitches a club and East returns a club.

Careful now. Win the Ace in hand, unblock the A, cross to the K, and endplay West with the K. 

The entire hand: 

West
Q8
A10965
K98
Q93
North
965
72
J76542
K10
East
J1073
Q8
Q3
J8652
South
AK42
KJ43
A10
A74
W
N
E
S
1
1
P
P
1NT
P
P
P
?
D

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