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In a round-robin match in the Open Trials, you have to decide how aggressively to respond to partner's takeout double.

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

South
10
J765
AK43
10632
W
N
E
S
P
1
X
1
?

Your call?

South
10
J765
AK43
10632
W
N
E
S
P
1
X
1
?

It looks like you have the values for a 3 call. You have good primes, a singleton, and a potentially important jack of hearts. Partner won't play you for much more than this since you didn't open the bidding. Still, a 2 call looks better. Partner doesn't have to have 4 hearts, and trying to take 9 tricks in a 4-3 fit with a weak 4-card holding could be quite difficult. If partner has 4 hearts he is allowed to bid, since you do have some values for the 2 call. Also, considering your singleton spade it is quite likely the opponents will compete to 2 over 2. Now you can bid 3, and you will get to the right strain when partner has 3 hearts and 4 or 5 diamonds.

You bid 2, ending the auction.

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

West leads the king of clubs.

North
AQ42
K93
Q876
A4
South
10
J765
AK43
10632
W
N
E
S
P
1
X
1
2
P
P
P

Do you win or duck?

North
AQ42
K93
Q876
A4
South
10
J765
AK43
10632
W
N
E
S
P
1
X
1
2
P
P
P

There doesn't appear to be any upside to ducking. West might have 6 clubs, which would mean your ace of clubs would get ruffed out. Ducking in order to cut communication to West's hand isn't important. Also, if you duck and West continues a club to dummy's ace, what next?

You win the ace of clubs. East plays the 9 (UDCA). What do you lead from dummy?

North
AQ42
K93
Q876
4
South
10
J765
AK43
1063
W
N
E
S
P
1
X
1
2
P
P
P

Playing 4-3 fits can be tricky. Sometimes it is right to just draw trumps. Sometimes it is right to go after ruffs. Sometimes a combination of these approaches is best.

If it isn't clear what to do, it is usually a good approach to establish some tricks in a side suit. This puts you in position to go into either crossruff mode or pull trumps mode depending on what happens.

On this hand your side suit tricks are already there. You would like to be able to draw trumps and run the diamonds. Unfortunately, your trump holding is so weak that if you try drawing trumps the opponents might complete the job and then cash a lot of club tricks.

On the other hand, if you try to cash diamonds you are simply letting an opponent score a small trump ruffing your good diamond.

The best bet appears to be to lead back a club. You will be happy to ruff a club or two in dummy. If you get overruffed that might not be so terrible, as East could be overruffing with a natural trump trick. You can afford to lose a few trump tricks as long as you don't lose more than 1 club trick.

You lead a club from dummy. East discards the jack of diamonds. Which club do you play from your hand?

North
AQ42
K93
Q876
4
South
10
J765
AK43
1063
W
N
E
S
P
1
X
1
2
P
P
P

West knows what you have in clubs, so it won't matter to him. By playing the 10, it may appear to East that you have some good club intermediates. If you play small, East will know that his partner has clubs completely covered.

You play the 10. West wins the jack, and shifts to the king of spades. You win dummy's ace, East playing the 3. Now what?

North
Q42
K93
Q876
South
J765
AK43
63
W
N
E
S
P
1
X
1
2
P
P
P

That makes things easier. Now one of your small clubs can go on the queen of spades.

What is the enemy distribution? West's failure to make a support double and his king of spades shift indicates that he has a doubleton spade. East's jack of diamonds discard looks like a doubleton, since it wouldn't make much sense to discard from J10x. That makes East's likely shape 6-4-2-1.

West has to have one of the heart honors for his opening bid, probably the ace. It looks right to cross to your hand and lead a heart up to the king. Once you get a couple of trumps out of the way you will be in good shape. East will get an overruff in clubs, but that will be with a natural trump trick.

You cross to the ace of diamonds, and lead a small heart. West plays the 4, and dummy's king loses to East's ace. East leads back a spade. You discard a club, winning in dummy. Now what?

North
42
93
Q87
South
J76
K43
6
W
N
E
S
P
1
X
1
2
P
P
P

West has to have the queen of hearts for his opening bid. Your read of the distribution is that West started with queen-doubleton. Simply pass the 9. East will get one overruff in clubs with his natural trump trick, after which your hand will be good.

You lead the 9, letting it ride when East plays small. West wins the queen, and leads a high club. You ruff, East overruffs, and you claim the rest for an overtrick. The full hand is:

West
K9
Q4
952
KQJ875
North
AQ42
K93
Q876
A4
East
J87653
A1082
J10
9
South
10
J765
AK43
10632
W
N
E
S
P
1
X
1
2
P
P
P
D
2 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
K
A
9
2
1
1
0
4
J
10
J
0
1
1
K
A
3
10
1
2
1
6
10
A
2
3
3
1
5
4
K
A
2
3
2
5
3
9
Q
1
4
2
9
2
6
Q
0
4
3
Q
3
8
8

Could the defense have been improved?

West
K9
Q4
952
KQJ875
North
AQ42
K93
Q876
A4
East
J87653
A1082
J10
9
South
10
J765
AK43
10632
W
N
E
S
P
1
X
1
2
P
P
P
D
2 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
K
A
9
2
1
1
0
4
J
10
J
0
1
1
K
A
3
10
1
2
1
6
10
A
2
3
3
1
5
4
K
A
2
3
2
5
3
9
Q
1
4
2
9
2
6
Q
0
4
3
Q
3
8
8

West could have continued clubs. This would allow his partner to overruff dummy or discard a diamond, depending on his trump holding and how high declarer ruffs in dummy.

Shifting to a spade is reasonable. However, West should have shifted to the 9. West can draw the same inference about the distribution from East's discard of the jack of diamonds that South drew. South's shape has to be 1-4-4-4. South might be reluctant to take the spade finesse. If South fails to do so, the defense will be much better placed. The king of spades shift was a concession.

Was East correct to sell out to 2?

West
K9
Q4
952
KQJ875
North
AQ42
K93
Q876
A4
East
J87653
A1082
J10
9
South
10
J765
AK43
10632
W
N
E
S
P
1
X
1
2
P
P
P
D
2 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
K
A
9
2
1
1
0
4
J
10
J
0
1
1
K
A
3
10
1
2
1
6
10
A
2
3
3
1
5
4
K
A
2
3
2
5
3
9
Q
1
4
2
9
2
6
Q
0
4
3
Q
3
8
8

East does have 6 spades. However, West has not raised spades or made a support double. West has at most a doubleton heart, so with 3-card spade support West certainly would have acted. West might have a singleton spade with 1-2-4-6 shape, in which case bidding 2 figures to work out very badly. East has good heart spots and there is a reasonable chance that the opponents are in a 4-3 fit. Defending looks okay. On this hand a 2 bid would have pushed South to 3, and that probably would have made.

Should North have made a takeout double or overcalled 1NT?

West
K9
Q4
952
KQJ875
North
AQ42
K93
Q876
A4
East
J87653
A1082
J10
9
South
10
J765
AK43
10632
W
N
E
S
P
1
X
1
2
P
P
P
D
2 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
K
A
9
2
1
1
0
4
J
10
J
0
1
1
K
A
3
10
1
2
1
6
10
A
2
3
3
1
5
4
K
A
2
3
2
5
3
9
Q
1
4
2
9
2
6
Q
0
4
3
Q
3
8
8

North has the right strength for a 1NT overcall, and one doesn't live in fear of the club suit when an opponent opens 1. Still, the takeout double looks better. North has support for all the other suits. Overcalling 1NT could result in missing a superior spade or diamond contract.

When there is doubt about the best strain, it is often right to make a mild underbid if that maximizes the chances of getting to the right strain. If you land in the wrong strain, at least you are at a lower level so you may make anyway. This hand is a good illustration. 3 would have been in quite a bit of jeopardy. Diamonds is the better strain, and if the opponents compete a diamond partial will be found.

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