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Kobayashi Maru
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Playing teams event against expert opponents, you run to the following decision point:

South
Q87
AQ4
J109
Q875
W
N
E
S
1
P
1NT
2
3
P
?

Your 1NT denied majors and promised 6-11 hcp. Partner's 3 is competitive showing playing strength instead of high cards.

South
Q87
AQ4
J109
Q875
W
N
E
S
1
P
1NT
2
3
P
?

At this point your options are either feeble pass or gutsy 3NT.

You have decent diamond fillers, a side quick trick and flimsy stoppers in the black suits. If you bid 3NT, it is possible that the defense runs five spade tricks from the top. On the other hand, your high card strength makes it more likely that West holds both top spades.

This is a bidding situation, where your expected value for pass and 3NT is often about the same. You might be cold, you might be dead from the start, or you might reach a game on a finesse or some other luck issue.

In the long run, I believe that it is better to put pressure on the opponent in the form of forcing them to defend game, where defensive mistakes are more costly.

You bid 3NT. Nobody doubles and West leads the T promising 0 or 2 higher. Dummy tables the K first, so you don't need to suffer long fearing loss of five or more fast spade tricks.

North
K
J82
AK65432
63
South
Q87
AQ4
J109
Q875
W
N
E
S
1
P
1NT
2
3
P
3NT
P
P
P

The K wins, East following with the 5 (upside down count).

At the first glance it looks like nine tricks: K, seven diamonds and the A. However, the diamonds are blocked!

What now?

North
K
J82
AK65432
63
South
Q87
AQ4
J109
Q875
W
N
E
S
1
P
1NT
2
3
P
3NT
P
P
P

There are at least three layouts letting you make:

  • Q is singleton allowing you to run the diamonds by winning the 2nd round in hand
  • West holds Q in any length; you can enter your hand with the A and run the J
  • West holds AJTxxx Kx x AKxx equivalent; you cash a diamond (to check if the Q falls) and then play a heart to the Q establishing J as an entry. In some other layouts West needs to find the right defense after winning the K

What would be your choice?  

North
K
J82
AK65432
63
South
Q87
AQ4
J109
Q875
W
N
E
S
1
P
1NT
2
3
P
3NT
P
P
P

You will never go one down in this contract; you either make it or go down a lot - luckily only 50 points a piece.

The spades are either 6-3 (East having 5xx) or 7-2 (East having x5). This slightly suggested that the diamond finesse would fail.

I went for the combination play of cashing the A and when both defenders followed low, I played a heart to the Q and West's king. Time stopped.

Finally West continued with the 2 and the defenders took 5 spades, 2 clubs and a heart for four down.

Luckily, the full hand was:

West
AJ10962
K95
8
AJ2
North
K
J82
AK65432
63
East
543
10763
Q7
K1064
South
Q87
AQ4
J109
Q875
W
N
E
S
1
P
1NT
2
3
P
3NT
P
P
P
D
3NT South
NS: 0 EW: 0

I would have gone at least five down with the first round diamond finesse.

Our teammates bought the hand with 3 making, so the loss was only 2 IMPs.

Sometimes all plans fail; the title should have prepared you.

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