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In the fifth session of the Cavendish pairs, you have to make a high-level decision opposite partner's preempt.

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

East
AQ92
Q4
AJ73
876
W
N
E
S
1
4
P
P
4NT
P
5
?

Your call?

East
AQ92
Q4
AJ73
876
W
N
E
S
1
4
P
P
4NT
P
5
?


Your hand is so strong that passing can't be the perfect action. 4 might well have been making. 5 doesn't figure to make, but it should be down 2 at the most, maybe down 1. Thus, if 5 is making you have a decent save. If 5 isn't making, the perfect action is to double simply to collect a bigger number.

Even though passing can't be the perfect action, it might still be the percentage action. For example, suppose you estimate that 5 is down 2 or 3 and that 5 is will make half the time and be down 1 half the time. Doubling is against the odds, since you lose more by doubling when 5 makes than you gain when it goes down. However, saving is also against the odds, since if you are +100 half the time it can't be right to go for 300 or 500. However, on this hand where you expect 5 to be down 1 or 2, it can't be right to pass. You have to decide whether or not you think 5 is likely to make and act accordingly.

Does 5 figure to make? You can't really tell. South clearly has a lot of minor-suit cards, and is likely to be void in hearts. However, you have plenty of defense. Your two aces will certainly score. Your diamond holding is going to be a big nuisance to declarer unless he gets good trump support. You might get 2 spade tricks. Partner might contribute some defensive help. They can't be favorites to make. Doubling has to be the percentage action. They aren't making any overtricks, they aren't redoubling, and they could easily be going down more than 1 trick.

There are two other reasons why doubling is right. One is that you might be making 4 for +420. If that is the case you have a score to protect, and it is vital to double and perhaps collect 500 rather than defend undoubled and collect only 200.

The other reason for doubling is that the opponents are guessing. Sure, South has a lot of distribution, but he has no idea what he will catch in dummy. Your decision might be different if the opponents had a chance to exchange information and make an informed decision to compete to 5. If he catches badly, 5 could go down a lot. The 4 preempt made South guess. If he guessed wrong, which might well be the case, you must make him pay for his wrong guess. Make 'em guess, and then make 'em pay.

You double, concluding the auction.

W
N
E
S
1
4
P
P
4NT
P
5
X
P
P
P

Partner leads the ace of hearts.

North
10643
J1032
105
KQ3
East
AQ92
Q4
AJ73
876
W
N
E
S
1
4
P
P
4NT
P
5
X
P
P
P

You play small, and declarer ruffs with the 5 of clubs. He leads the 9 of clubs to dummy's king, partner following with the 4. Now he leads the 10 of diamonds off dummy. How do you defend?

 

North
10643
J103
105
Q3
East
AQ92
Q
AJ73
87
W
N
E
S
1
4
P
P
4NT
P
5
X
P
P
P

What does declarer's hand look like? He must have 6 clubs, since with 4-0-4-5 shape he would have doubled or bid 4 rather than 4NT. He could be 3-0-4-6, but 2-0-5-6 is most likely considering that he risked the 5-level with not too many high cards and might have doubled instead of bidding 4NT with a 3-card spade holding.

If declarer has KQ9xx of diamonds and is planning on running the 10 of diamonds, you are in trouble if you duck. But nothing else will work either. If you win the ace, declarer can play king of diamonds, ruff a diamond, and lead up to his likely king of spades. If you cover with the jack, declarer can win, knock out your ace of diamonds, and ruff a diamond in dummy to establish the suit and give himself a dummy entry for a spade play.

The conclusion is that you must play small. It is possible that partner has the queen of diamonds, in which case you are okay. You can overtake the second diamond, lead a trump, and declarer will have to lose a trick to your jack of diamonds. Also, if declarer has KQ9xx of diamonds he might not led the 10 ride. If declarer doesn't have the 9 of diamonds you do best covering with the jack, but that is only if declarer can see your hand. In practice he will have let the 10 of diamonds ride if he has KQxxx with no 9.

You play small. Declarer wins the king. He leads the 10 of clubs to dummy's queen, partner pitching a heart, and leads a diamond from dummy. How do you defend?

 

North
10643
J103
5
3
East
AQ92
Q
AJ7
8
W
N
E
S
1
4
P
P
4NT
P
5
X
P
P
P

It would be nice if all your defensive problems were this easy. Clearly you must win your ace of diamonds and lead your last trump, both preventing a diamond ruff and keeping declarer off dummy.

You win the ace of diamonds, and play a trump. Declarer wins, plays the queen of diamonds (partner discarding a heart), and leads a diamond to your jack, partner discarding another heart. What now?

 

North
106
J103
East
AQ92
Q
87
W
N
E
S
1
4
P
P
4NT
P
5
X
P
P
P

Of course there is no need for you to break the spade suit. By leading the queen of hearts, you force declarer to ruff and lead spades from his hand.

You lead the queen of hearts. Declarer is down 2. The full hand is:

West
J85
AK98765
64
4
North
10643
J1032
105
KQ3
East
AQ92
Q4
AJ73
876
South
K7
KQ982
AJ10952
W
N
E
S
1
4
P
P
4NT
P
5
X
P
P
P
D
5X South
NS: 0 EW: 0
A
2
4
5
3
1
0
9
4
K
6
1
2
0
10
3
K
4
3
3
0
10
5
Q
7
1
4
0
5
A
2
6
2
4
1
8
A
6
3
3
5
1
Q
7
3
7
3
6
1
8
8
4
J
2
6
2
Q
9

Clearly declarer badly misplayed the hand. All he had to do was lead the king of diamonds out of his hand at trick 2. The best you could do is win the ace and lead a trump. He wins, queen of diamonds, diamond ruff, heart ruff, diamond ruff, and spade to the king making the contract. This is a pretty easy line of play. Somehow he got mesmerized by the possibility of leading up to his diamond honors twice and the possibility of using the 3 of clubs as an entry if the clubs are 2-2.

Do you agree with partner's opening lead?

 

West
J85
AK98765
64
4
North
10643
J1032
105
KQ3
East
AQ92
Q4
AJ73
876
South
K7
KQ982
AJ10952
W
N
E
S
1
4
P
P
4NT
P
5
X
P
P
P
D
5X South
NS: 0 EW: 0
A
2
4
5
3
1
0
9
4
K
6
1
2
0
10
3
K
4
3
3
0
10
5
Q
7
1
4
0
5
A
2
6
2
4
1
8
A
6
3
3
5
1
Q
7
3
7
3
6
1
8
8
4
J
2
6
2
Q
9

Partner has the same information from the bidding that you have. South is likely 5-6 in the minors for his 4NT call, and he could easily be void in hearts. North has at least as many clubs as diamonds. East could well have some diamond strength as part of his double. How will declarer play the hand? Most likely he will be setting up his diamonds, ruffing as many in dummy as possible. The defense should be preventing this line of play. This indicates that West should lead a trump. Even if declarer is 1-1 in the majors, it is unlikely that dummy will have enough strength in spades to discard the losing heart. The trump lead will pick up any holding that partner might have, but most likely declarer would be able to do that himself. It does look like it is the winner.

The trump lead puts declarer in the same position he foolishly put himself in when he led a trump to dummy. He can still make the hand by riding the 10 of diamonds, which is probably the right line of play, but he might get it wrong.

This deal is an example of the huge luck element in an IMP pair game, even in a quality field such as the Cavendish. One would expect just about every declarer in the field to make 5 after getting the heart lead. We happened to be in the right place at the right time, against a declarer who blanked out and didn't see the obvious line of play.

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