Join Bridge Winners
Indulgent
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Playing a strong club based system comes with its share of action.

Try this problem:

South
A
AJ764
AQ82
K87
W
N
E
S
P
P
P
1
1NT
2
P
?

What would you bid?

South
A
AJ764
AQ82
K87
W
N
E
S
P
P
P
1
1NT
2
P
?

The natural action appears to be 3

All will be ok if we hit a fit. But it is not a risk-free action. 

On days when partner does not have a prime fit, bidding 3 risks a raise on a doubleton. Partner might prefer a delicate raise of a potential six card suit to bidding 3NT with questionable stoppers.

Situations like these come up often in strong club interference auctions. There are no clear answers and one has to hedge and fumble around a bit. There is no way to “beat the average”. We are usually way behind the guys playing natural in any objective assessment.

One hopes to navigate these well enough to break square. Our system notes in this area feature this advice: “Expect to lose imps. Have a good attitude”

I decide to hedge with 2NT.

This ensures that the 5-4 heart fit will be found.

It also ensures that the 5-2 heart fit will be avoided.

On the 5-3 heart fit days, we’ll just have to try and make our contract.

Partner raises to 3NT and we face a play problem.... 

North
KQ732
K92
J7
952
South
A
AJ764
AQ82
K87
W
N
E
S
P
P
P
1
1NT
2
P
2NT
P
3NT
P
P
P

The lead is the 3, fourth best, to the queen and king.

We have three spades, two hearts, a diamond, and a club for seven top tricks.

The 3 lead suggests the defense have setup exactly three winners in that suit.

If we can lose one trick while building two, that should do the job.

What is your plan?

North
KQ732
K92
J7
95
South
A
AJ764
AQ82
87
W
N
E
S
P
P
P
1
1NT
2
P
2NT
P
3NT
P
P
P

The obvious candidate appears to be a morton-forkish low diamond towards the jack.

West rates to have the K.

If he rises, he gives up two tricks.

If he ducks, we can switch to hearts.

However, East might have the K. The defense would win that trick and cash three club winners.

We would now need the heart finesse or read the endgame if a squeeze operates on the fourth club.

How about trying hearts directly instead?

North
KQ732
K92
J7
95
South
A
AJ764
AQ82
87
W
N
E
S
P
P
P
1
1NT
2
P
2NT
P
3NT
P
P
P

The entry situation creates some limitations. Unblocking the A and playing a heart to the nine seems like a good approach.

A heart finesse, if required, can be taken on a later round.

We rate to score three spades, four hearts, a diamond, and a club for nine tricks.

While there are some foul-heart-split layouts where this will not be immediately successful, this approach seems better than the diamond play.

However, there is a bigger danger than the foul heart split.

Can you spot it?

North
KQ732
K92
J7
95
South
A
AJ764
AQ82
87
W
N
E
S
P
P
P
1
1NT
2
P
2NT
P
3NT
P
P
P

There is always a risk in taking led cards at face value.

While West will usually have four clubs, there is some chance he has a five card suit. There is a variety of reasons he might choose to lead the 3.

He might wish to make a deceptive lead.

He might be concerned the actual fourth-best lead would be an ambiguous card for partner to read.

He might feel that the 3 emphasized the attitude aspect of the lead.

If West does have five clubs, ducking a heart or a diamond leads to the defense cashing out four clubs and a red-suit trick for down 1.

Is there a way to cater to this possibility?

North
KQ732
K92
J7
95
South
A
AJ764
AQ82
87
W
N
E
S
P
P
P
1
1NT
2
P
2NT
P
3NT
P
P
P

I decided to play back a club. It preserves most of our chances and keeps the club position in check. The discard on the thirteenth club would commit declarer to the red suit he wished to attack. But at least that choice is made at trick five and not at trick two.

If clubs are 5-2, the play could develop along these lines

West
98
5
K10943
AJ1063
North
KQ732
K92
J7
952
East
J10654
Q1083
65
Q4
South
A
AJ764
AQ82
K87
W
N
E
S
3NT
P
P
P
D
11
3NT South
NS: 0 EW: 0
3
2
Q
K
3
1
0
7
10
5
4
0
1
1
A
9
5
8
0
1
2
J
2
4
2
0
1
3
4

If West cashes the last club winner, East will eventually get squeezed in the majors. With the aid of the heart finesse, declarer will have nine winners.

If West does not cash the last winner, declarer can aim to duck a trick into the East hand. 

The trick-two club play makes its impact. The defense can no longer cash their five winners. 

At the table....

West won the J and promptly switched to the 10.

The trick went 10-J-K-A.

The position now was:

North
KQ732
K92
7
9
South
A
AJ764
Q82
8
W
N
E
S
P
P
P
1
1NT
2
P
2NT
P
3NT
P
P
P

With three spades, two hearts, two diamonds and a club taking our trick total to eight, notching up the ninth trick appears simple: give up a diamond using dummy’s 7 to build our 8.

Seems fail-safe?

North
KQ732
K92
7
9
South
A
AJ764
Q82
8
W
N
E
S
P
P
P
1
1NT
2
P
2NT
P
3NT
P
P
P

My paranoid brain was still concerned about the defense cashing out four clubs and a diamond.

A practical player would know that the lack of club continuation by West at trick three marked him with four clubs.

But those with a taste for esoterica would be unwilling to fully commit to such logic.

Can declarer do better than a diamond back?

North
KQ732
K92
7
9
South
A
AJ764
Q82
8
W
N
E
S
P
P
P
1
1NT
2
P
2NT
P
3NT
P
P
P

I decided to play yet another club!

This would ensure that the club position was fully exposed.

If West did turn out to have five clubs, East would come under some squeeze pressure. 

For example, the play could develop along these lines:

West
98
Q5
10943
AJ1063
North
KQ732
K92
J7
952
East
J10654
1083
K65
Q4
South
A
AJ764
AQ82
K87
W
N
E
S
3NT
P
P
P
D
11
3NT South
NS: 0 EW: 0
3
2
Q
K
3
1
0
7
10
5
4
0
1
1
10
J
K
A
3
2
1
8
J
9
5
0
2
2
A
2
4
4
0
2
3
6
7
6
2
0
2
4
9
3
5
A
3
3
4
Q
3
2
3
3
4
4
6
5
K
8
1
5
4
K
6
7
8
1
6
4
Q
10
8
4
1
7
4
9
10
12

By cashing the clubs, West creates the setting for a show-up squeeze on East.

At trick 12, East's last card is known to be a spade. Declarer can rise with the A to drop the doubleton Q.

If West elects to not cash the clubs, declarer can duck a heart into the East hand. Due to the communication disruption of the trick-two club play, the defense would no longer have the option of cashing five winners.

In real life...

North
KQ732
K92
7
9
South
A
AJ764
Q82
8
W
N
E
S
P
P
P
1
1NT
2
P
2NT
P
3NT
P
P
P

Clubs were 4-3.

West won and cashed the thirteenth club.

When he exited a spade, i was able to build a diamond trick and take my nine top tricks.

A simple hand after all.

Was all the fuss worth it?

We play bridge for a variety of reasons: competitive, excitement, uncertainty, entertainment.

Once in a while, a hand comes up that allows one to revel in some aesthetic pleasure.

When that happens, why not indulge oneself!

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