Join Bridge Winners
In a Hurry
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In a Round of 16 match in the Open Trials, you face an opening bid evaluation problem.

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

West
A8
A875
A8
97653
W
N
E
S
?

Your 1NT opening range at this vulnerability is 10-12. If you open 1 (Precision) and rebid 1NT or raise partner's major, that shows 13-15 balanced.

Your call.

West
A8
A875
A8
97653
W
N
E
S
?

Aces are undervalued in the Goren point count, and you have 3 of them. In addition, you have a 5-card suit. Even though you have no tens, your hand is too strong to open a 10-12 notrump.

You open 1. The bidding continues:

W
N
E
S
1
1NT
X
2
?

1: 11-15, 2+ diamonds. 13-15 if balanced.

DBL: Penalties. Creates a force. Subsequent doubles by either partner are penalty.

2: Diamonds and a higher suit.

Your call?

West
A8
A875
A8
97653
W
N
E
S
1
1NT
X
2
?

If you had diamond length, you would double. Without diamond length, you must pass and give partner a chance to double. Partner will know you have 13-15 balanced.

You pass. The bidding continues:

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

2: Pass or correct

Your call?

West
A8
A875
A8
97653
W
N
E
S
1
1NT
X
2
P
2
P
2
?

Once again, if you had spade length you would double. Since you don't, all you can do is pass and give partner a chance to double.

You pass, surprisingly ending the auction.

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

Your lead. Third and fifth leads.

West
A8
A875
A8
97653
W
N
E
S
1
1NT
X
2
P
2
P
2
P
P
P

You know a fair bit about this hand. Partner figures to have exactly 3 spades. With more he would have doubled, and with fewer he wouldn't have sold out. Partner also has a minimal double of 1NT, else he wouldn't be quitting.

The opponents appear to have found a 4-4 spade fit. North also has at least 3 hearts, since he was willing to play in hearts if that is South's major. Quite likely North has a doubleton diamond, since with 3 diamonds he might have passed 2 particularly since he hasn't been doubled yet.

It is often thematic for the defender with the doubleton trump to go after ruffs. The problem here is that dummy also probably has a doubleton diamond, and diamonds is declarer's side suit. Leading the ace of diamonds doesn't seem right.

Leading trumps against low-level partials is often correct, particularly when your side has the balance of strength. Here, however, your lack of spots indicate that it will be the opponents who will benefit from trump leads, since then their suits will be set up. Also, since the opponents have a 4-4 fit you aren't going to be able to stop them from getting at least one ruff in each hand.

A club lead is safe enough. But what will it accomplish? It is hard to see how that can be productive.

What about a heart? If you do choose to lead a heart you would like to underlead your ace if that is safe, since you are leading through the strong hand. Partner might have a doubleton heart, and a low heart lead could generate a third round ruff. The big downside of underleading an ace is that one of the opponents has a singleton and you lose your ace. That can't be the case here. North doesn't have more than 4 hearts, since he bid 1NT rather than overcalling 1. Partner doesn't have 4 hearts, since he failed to double 2. That marks declarer with at least 2 hearts. A low heart lead is relatively safe, and might be quite productive.

You lead the 7.

West
A8
A875
A8
97653
North
KQ32
K1093
KJ4
KQ
W
N
E
S
1
1NT
X
2
P
2
P
2
P
P
P

Small from dummy. Partner wins the queen, declarer playing the 6. Partner returns the 4 to your ace, declarer playing the jack. What next?

West
A8
85
A8
97653
North
KQ32
K10
KJ4
KQ
W
N
E
S
1
1NT
X
2
P
2
P
2
P
P
P

You certainly struck gold with your opening lead. Not only did you cause declarer to misguess the hearts, it appears that partner has the doubleton. The 2 is still missing, which would be consistent with partner's return of the 4 from an original holding of Q42. Would partner have returned a heart if he were the one with the 3-card holding? Probably not. Declarer is known to have diamonds, so there is no great value in ruffing out dummy's fourth heart. Even if partner has Jxx of spades so a fourth round of hearts will promote a trump trick, there is no rush to play hearts now. Partner can simply play ace and a club sticking declarer on the board, and there won't be much declarer can do. It is a good bet that partner is the one with the doubleton heart.

It looks automatic to give partner a heart ruff now, and possibly promote his jack of spades if he has it on the fourth round of hearts. However, you don't have to be in a hurry. You hold the boss ace of trumps, so the heart ruff won't run away from you. Dummy does have 3 diamonds, so you might consider going after the diamond ruff you rejected on opening lead. You could play ace and a diamond, win the first round of trumps, give partner a heart ruff, and get your diamond ruff.

Who has the queen of diamonds? There are only 10 unseen high-card points, and partner did double 1NT. His double is thin enough, but without the queen of diamonds he would have at most 8 HCP and would not have doubled. Partner is marked with the queen of diamonds, so your side always has 2 diamond tricks coming. Thus, perhaps giving partner his heart ruff now is the right idea. Partner can dump declarer on the board with ace and a club, and declarer will have to lead the king of spades off dummy. You can win, and the fourth round of hearts will promote partner's jack of spades if he has it.

There is one other possibility. How about underleading your ace of diamonds. It worked once, and it might work again. If declarer misguesses, partner wins the queen, diamond to your ace, heart which he ruffs, diamond ruff, club to his ace, a fourth round of diamonds which you ruff with your ace of spades, and the fourth round of hearts promoting his jack of spades. Sweet.

What happens if declarer guesses right and goes up king of diamonds. You can still collect everything. Say he leads the king of spades. You win, cash your ace of diamonds, and give him a heart ruff. When partner leads his good queen of diamonds you ruff it, and play the fourth heart through. It looks like underleading the ace of diamonds is the right play.

You choose to lead the 8. Partner ruffs and plays ace and a club, declarer following. Declarer leads the king of spades off dummy to your ace. What do you play?

West
8
5
A8
765
North
Q32
K
KJ4
W
N
E
S
1
1NT
X
2
P
2
P
2
P
P
P

It has to be right to try another heart. This might promote partner's jack of spades. The diamonds can wait.

You lead a heart. Partner ruffs, and declarer overruffs with the 9. Declarer cashes the 10, partner discarding a diamond. Now declarer leads a diamond. Do you win or duck?

West
8
5
A8
765
North
Q32
K
KJ4
W
N
E
S
1
1NT
X
2
P
2
P
2
P
P
P

The most you can get is 2 diamond tricks. If you duck, you run the risk of declarer going up king and exiting with a diamond, which would end-play you. You must go up ace and exit with a diamond.

You go up ace, and play a diamond. Declarer finesses, and he is down 2. The full hand is:

West
A8
A875
A8
97653
North
KQ32
K1093
KJ4
KQ
East
754
Q4
Q973
AJ84
South
J1096
J62
10652
102
W
N
E
S
1
1NT
X
2
P
2
P
2
P
P
P
D
2 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
7
3
Q
6
2
0
1
4
J
A
9
0
0
2
8
10
4
2
2
0
3
A
2
9
Q
2
0
4
4
10
3
K
1
1
4
K
5
6
A
0
1
5
5
K
7
9
3
2
5
10
8
2
3
3
3
5
2
A
4
7
0
3
6
8
J
Q
10

How was declarer's line of play?

West
A8
A875
A8
97653
North
KQ32
K1093
KJ4
KQ
East
754
Q4
Q973
AJ84
South
J1096
J62
10652
102
W
N
E
S
1
1NT
X
2
P
2
P
2
P
P
P
D
2 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
7
3
Q
6
2
0
1
4
J
A
9
0
0
2
8
10
4
2
2
0
3
A
2
9
Q
2
0
4
4
10
3
K
1
1
4
K
5
6
A
0
1
5
5
K
7
9
3
2
5
10
8
2
3
3
3
5
2
A
4
7
0
3
6
8
J
Q
10

Declarer would have done a trick better by going up king of hearts at trick 1, but that would have been double-dummy. While West might be underleading the ace of hearts on this auction, he could just as easily be underleading the queen, in which case taking the finesse might make the contract.

Declarer handled his heart spots well, concealing the 2. This left the position ambiguous to West. Had declarer mistakenly played the 2 on one of the first two rounds, West would have known for sure that his partner had the doubleton.

How was the N-S auction?

West
A8
A875
A8
97653
North
KQ32
K1093
KJ4
KQ
East
754
Q4
Q973
AJ84
South
J1096
J62
10652
102
W
N
E
S
1
1NT
X
2
P
2
P
2
P
P
P
D
2 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
7
3
Q
6
2
0
1
4
J
A
9
0
0
2
8
10
4
2
2
0
3
A
2
9
Q
2
0
4
4
10
3
K
1
1
4
K
5
6
A
0
1
5
5
K
7
9
3
2
5
10
8
2
3
3
3
5
2
A
4
7
0
3
6
8
J
Q
10

While North's 1NT overcall was descriptive, it might have been better to make a takeout double. This will get the partnership to a major-suit fit if there is one, as well as minimizing the chances of going for a number when South is broke. A 1NT overcall is one of the more dangerous competitive bids, particularly when the overcaller doesn't have a place to run when doubled.

South did well pulling out of 1NT doubled. South could see that this was not likely to make, and that it is better to try to find another home which might not be so easy to double. N-S were fortunate to be playing a runout structure which allowed the 4-4 spade fit to be found.

Do you like East's auction?

West
A8
A875
A8
97653
North
KQ32
K1093
KJ4
KQ
East
754
Q4
Q973
AJ84
South
J1096
J62
10652
102
W
N
E
S
1
1NT
X
2
P
2
P
2
P
P
P
D
2 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
7
3
Q
6
2
0
1
4
J
A
9
0
0
2
8
10
4
2
2
0
3
A
2
9
Q
2
0
4
4
10
3
K
1
1
4
K
5
6
A
0
1
5
5
K
7
9
3
2
5
10
8
2
3
3
3
5
2
A
4
7
0
3
6
8
J
Q
10

While the penalty double of 1NT might look light, it is actually sounder than if E-W were playing a standard structure. The key is that the opening 1NT range is 10-12, so if West has a balanced hand his strength is 13-15 which figures to be sufficient to defeat 1NT. If West doesn't have a balanced hand, he can always pull the double.

East's double created a force, so West is not permitted to sell out undoubled. However, East knows that West is limited, so there is no game. Therefore, East is free to violate the force he has established if he is in the balancing seat. The question is whether he should do so.

If playing matchpoints, East would have a trivial double of 2. The opponents are outgunned and presumably have at most 8 spades, so 2 figures to go down more often than not. Since E-W figure to make a part-score, it would be vital to go after the magic +200.

At IMPs, the odds change a lot. The gain from doubling and getting a 1-trick set is relatively small, while the cost if 2 doubled makes is large. Still, if 2 is a good favorite to go down and there is some chance of a 2-trick set, it may be correct to double.

Assume the contract is 2 undoubled at the other table. If you double and they make, you lose 11 IMPs (-670 vs. -110). If they go down 1, you gain 3 IMPs (+200 vs. +100). If they go down 2, you gain 7 IMPs (+500 vs. +200).

On the actual hand, West had a minimal 12-count -- his expected range is 13-15. West had a minimal spade holding -- he could have held 3 spades. Even so, 2 is always down 1, and with the inspired heart lead it went down 2. This is an indication that maybe doubling is the percentage call, even though occasionally it will cost a lot of IMPs.

At the other table, after the same start East passed the 1NT overcall and played there undoubled. The defense set up their clubs but was unable to establish either of East's queens in time, and declarer got out for down 1.

It is easy to fall into the trap of rushing to give partner a heart ruff. West was so proud that the underlead worked out so well. It takes a lot of patience to sit back and work out the correct defense in this sort of situation.

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