Join Bridge Winners
Hobson's Choice
(Page of 10)

In a round-robin match in the Open Trials, you have to find the best approach with a minimal responding hand.

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

North
AQ
6543
J2
J10984
W
N
E
S
P
P
P
1
P
?

1: 11-15, 2+ diamonds. If balanced, 11-14 (due to passed hand status).

Your call?

North
AQ
6543
J2
J10984
W
N
E
S
P
P
P
1
P
?

Even with this very weak heart suit, it is right to respond 1. You could have a 4-4 fit. In a sense, the 1 opening is 1-level Stayman. Partner won't raise without 4-card support. If he passes you will have to scramble in a 4-3 fit, but your side will have the majority of trumps and you will only have to take 7 tricks.

You bid 1. The bidding continues:

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

1NT: 11-14. Doubleton heart, since with 3 hearts would have passed 1. Fewer than 4 spades, since with 4 spades would have rebid 1.

You do not play any kind of checkback by a passed hand. 2 of a minor is to play.

Your call?

North
AQ
6543
J2
J10984
W
N
E
S
P
P
P
1
P
1
P
1NT
P
?

Since you don't play any kind of checkback by a passed hand, 2 is simply to play. You are guaranteed support. Partner doesn't have 3 hearts (he didn't pass 1), he doesn't have 4 spades (he didn't bid 1), and he doesn't have 6 diamonds (he didn't rebid 2). He must have at least 3 clubs, and unless his shape is exactly 3-2-5-3 he will have 4+ clubs. With this weak hand and internally solid club suit, 2 figures to be better than 1NT even though you are contracting for an extra trick. In addition, if the opponents balance with 2 partner will be able to compete to 3 if he has 4-card support.

You choose to pass, ending the auction.

W
N
E
S
P
P
P
1
P
1
P
1NT
P
P
P

You dropped partner in 1NT, so go over to his seat and try to make it.

West leads the 10. Standard leads.

North
AQ
6543
J2
J10984
South
752
109
KQ64
AK63
W
N
E
S
P
P
P
1
P
1
P
1NT
P
P
P

Your play?

North
AQ
6543
J2
J10984
South
752
109
KQ64
AK63
W
N
E
S
P
P
P
1
P
1
P
1NT
P
P
P

Clearly you have no choice but to take the finesse. If it loses, things might not be pretty.

You try the queen of spades. It wins. What next?

North
A
6543
J2
J10984
South
75
109
KQ64
AK63
W
N
E
S
P
P
P
1
P
1
P
1NT
P
P
P

If the queen of clubs drops you have 7 tricks, so you must assume that it won't drop. If you go after clubs now and the queen doesn't drop, you will have only 4 clubs and 2 spades. The opponents will easily be able to establish enough tricks to defeat you.

It is better to go after diamonds first. The idea is to steal a diamond trick. If this succeeds, then you can go after clubs, and even if the queen doesn't come down you will have 7 tricks. There will be the danger that the opponents can cash 5 heart tricks in addition to the queen of clubs and the ace of diamonds, but you can't do anything about that.

If you lead a small diamond through the opponent who has the ace, he will be faced with a Hobson's choice. If he goes up ace he catches air, and you will have 3 diamond tricks to go along with your 2 clubs and 2 spades. If he ducks you will have stolen the diamond trick, and you can then turn your attention to clubs and have enough winners.

You have the entries to play the diamonds either way. You can lead a small diamond from dummy now. Alternatively, you can cross to the ace of clubs and lead a diamond up to the jack. Either way, your club entries will be sufficient to collect your tricks. You have to decide which opponent to play for the ace of diamonds.

The one piece of information you have for certain is that West has the king of spades. He is a passed hand. If he has something in hearts, then the ace of diamonds might get him up to an opening bid or some action over your 1 opening. In addition. suppose you lead a diamond to your hand and West does have the ace. That decreases the chances that he has the queen of clubs, since with that card also he very likely would have taken some action. Therefore, it would probably be right to take the club finesse. Your entries will be sufficient. West returns a spade. You win, lead a club to the ace (just in case), cross back to the jack of diamonds, and take the club finesse. These arguments make it clear to play East for the ace of diamonds and lead a small diamond from dummy at trick 2.

You lead a small diamond off dummy. East plays small. Which honor do you play?

North
A
6543
J2
J10984
South
75
109
KQ64
AK63
W
N
E
S
P
P
P
1
P
1
P
1NT
P
P
P

It probably isn't going to matter. You would like it if West ducks his ace, but it is hard to imagine he will. Still, playing the king is probably your best shot. He will know you have the queen since there is no way you are attacking the suit this way without the queen. If he thinks your diamonds are solid and you don't have an entry, maybe he can be talked into ducking.

You play the king of diamonds. It holds. What do you do next?

North
A
6543
J
J10984
South
75
109
Q64
AK63
W
N
E
S
P
P
P
1
P
1
P
1NT
P
P
P

You must go after clubs now. Continuing diamonds will only get you 2 diamond tricks, which aren't enough if the queen of clubs doesn't come down. Going after clubs will get you 4 club tricks at least, which will make the contract unless the opponents can run enough heart tricks to defeat you.

You will cash the top clubs, of course. But you should be careful to unblock the jack and the 10 from dummy. It won't matter if the clubs don't split. But if the clubs are 2-2, this will give you the 6 as an entry to your hand on the third round of clubs.

You cash the AK of clubs, unblocking the jack and 10 from dummy. The clubs split 2-2, East having the queen. What next?

North
A
6543
J
984
South
75
109
Q64
63
W
N
E
S
P
P
P
1
P
1
P
1NT
P
P
P

You can cash 8 tricks, of course. But with the 6 entry you can try knocking out the ace of diamonds for a ninth trick. If the defense continues spades, you will be able to cross to the 6 to collect your queen of diamonds and have 9 tricks. On the downside, if the hearts are 5-2 the opponents can cash 5 hearts and hold you to 7 tricks. In theory this would be risking the contract if the hearts are 6-1, but that is virtually impossible. Most likely the hearts are 4-3, and the opponents might not work out to cash or the hearts might block. The problem is that the opponents will have seen that you have the KQ of diamonds and the AK of clubs, so they should work out to shift to hearts. It is probably better to simply cash your 8 tricks.

You choose to lead a diamond to the jack. East wins the ace, shifts to a small heart, and the defense takes 4 heart tricks so you make 2. The full hand is:

West
K10984
AK7
1085
52
North
AQ
6543
J2
J10984
East
J63
QJ82
A973
Q7
South
752
109
KQ64
AK63
W
N
E
S
P
P
P
1
P
1
P
1NT
P
P
P
D
1NT South
NS: 0 EW: 0
10
Q
3
2
1
1
0
2
3
K
5
3
2
0
A
2
J
7
3
3
0
K
5
10
Q
3
4
0
4
8
J
A
2
4
1
2
6

N-S were fortunate that the spade finesse was onside. If it had been off 1NT would have gone down, and gone down several if the queen of clubs didn't fall. Meanwhile, 2 would have been a comfortable contract which could stand both black suits not behaving.

How was the E-W defense?

West
K10984
AK7
1085
52
North
AQ
6543
J2
J10984
East
J63
QJ82
A973
Q7
South
752
109
KQ64
AK63
W
N
E
S
P
P
P
1
P
1
P
1NT
P
P
P
D
1NT South
NS: 0 EW: 0
10
Q
3
2
1
1
0
2
3
K
5
3
2
0
A
2
J
7
3
3
0
K
5
10
Q
3
4
0
4
8
J
A
2
4
1
2
6

East has to duck the diamond. It can't be right to go up ace, since the defense isn't ready to take the setting trick. It looks ominous that declarer isn't attacking clubs, but maybe declarer has a doubleton club and KQxxx of diamonds. It is hard to see a layout where going up ace gains.

East has seen declarer show up with KQ of diamonds and AK of clubs. If declarer had a heart card, he would have opened 1NT. The low heart shift is clear.

Should E-W have been in the bidding?

West
K10984
AK7
1085
52
North
AQ
6543
J2
J10984
East
J63
QJ82
A973
Q7
South
752
109
KQ64
AK63
W
N
E
S
P
P
P
1
P
1
P
1NT
P
P
P
D
1NT South
NS: 0 EW: 0
10
Q
3
2
1
1
0
2
3
K
5
3
2
0
A
2
J
7
3
3
0
K
5
10
Q
3
4
0
4
8
J
A
2
4
1
2
6

While the West hand isn't worth an opening bid by most standards, West's failure to overcall 1 after having passed is strange. Perhaps he judged that since East passed in third seat that there was no point in entering the auction, but with a decent hand and a good spade suit it must be right to bid. There are many ways that overcalling can gain, and there is very little risk. On this hand East would have raised to 2, but with the clubs 2-2 and king of spades in front of the AQ N-S figures to get a plus score whether they declare or defend.

We adjust our structure quite a bit when we have passed in first or second seat. Since we open all 11-counts, we up our 1NT range to 15-17, since a 14-count isn't likely to produce a game opposite a passed hand. When third or fourth seat opens 1, we assume there is no game unless we hit some unexpectedly good fit, since once again the strength for game just isn't there. We are willing to drop the auction at the 1-level in any 7-card fit, since that is generally as good or better than contracting for 7 tricks with no trump suit since at least we have the majority of trumps. Therefore there is no need for any kind of checkback, since opener won't be rebidding 1NT with 3-card support. North should have taken advantage of this and gotten to the superior 2 contract.

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