Join Bridge Winners
Missed Opportunity
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In a semi-final match in the Senior trials for USA2, you have to find the best action with a minimal balanced hand.

E-W vul, East deals. As South, you hold:

South
AQ92
K9
9862
A75
W
N
E
S
P
?

Your opening 1NT range is 10-12. 1 is 13-15 if balanced.

Your call?

South
AQ92
K9
9862
A75
W
N
E
S
P
?

There is nothing about this hand that calls for a downgrade. It is clearly too strong for a 10-12 notrump.

You open 1. The bidding continues:

W
N
E
S
P
1
P
1
X
?

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

Redouble would show 3-card heart support. 1 would imply an unbalanced hand.

Your call?

South
AQ92
K9
9862
A75
W
N
E
S
P
1
P
1
X
?

1NT would show 13-15 balanced. However, this is not necessary. You can simply pass, which shows the same thing. Partner will know that you have this hand, since if you were distributional you would have shown your shape.

Passing has a lot going for it. If partner has a good hand, there is a decent chance that the opponents don't have a home and you can nail them for a number at this vulnerability when you might not have a game. If partner is weak and balanced, you will be doing just as well defending. If partner is unbalanced, he will be able to compete appropriately.

You choose to bid 1NT. The bidding concludes:

W
N
E
S
P
1
P
1
X
1NT
P
3NT
P
P
P

West leads the 2. Attitude leads.

North
K1053
A8732
Q10
K4
South
AQ92
K9
9862
A75
W
N
E
S
P
1
P
1
X
1NT
P
3NT
P
P
P

What do you do on trick 1?

North
K1053
A8732
Q10
K4
South
AQ92
K9
9862
A75
W
N
E
S
P
1
P
1
X
1NT
P
3NT
P
P
P

If the spades are 4-1 you know from the bidding it will be East who has 4 spades, so you have 8 sure tricks. The ninth will have to come from one of the red suits. Meanwhile, the club lead has hit a soft spot.

You can build a diamond trick by force. East is pretty much marked with the AK of diamonds for his takeout double. If West has jack-doubleton of diamonds, you will be in fine shape by going after diamonds. Also, if East has all the diamond honors and only 3 clubs, you can hold up a round in clubs and shut West out.

Hearts also present a possibility. It is unlikely that the hearts are splitting considering East's takeout double. However, East might hold a stiff honor in hearts (or a doubleton with two honors, which you would have to guess), which will allow you to power home a third heart trick.

Whichever suit you go after, it can't be right to duck the first trick. That can't do you any good, and if you do that you will not be able to take advantage of a favorable heart lie since the opponents would have 3 diamond tricks, 1 heart trick, and 1 club trick. You must win the first trick with the king of clubs, so you can duck the second round of clubs if need be.

You win the king of clubs. East plays the 6 (UDCA).

What do you play now?

North
K1053
A8732
Q10
4
South
AQ92
K9
9862
A7
W
N
E
S
P
1
P
1
X
1NT
P
3NT
P
P
P

It looks best to try hearts first. If East produces an honor, you will only need to guess whether it is singleton or doubleton to make the contract. If East plays small, you can reconsider your chances.

You lead a heart from dummy. East plays the 5.

What do you play from your hand?

North
K1053
A8732
Q10
4
South
AQ92
K9
9862
A7
W
N
E
S
P
1
P
1
X
1NT
P
3NT
P
P
P

East's small heart eliminates the possibility of a stiff honor or two honors doubleton. There is always the possibility that the hearts are 3-3, but it is hard to imagine East having anything resembling a takeout double with 3 hearts. You need to turn your attention to diamonds.

If West has jack-doubleton of diamonds, you will be okay. You can duck a round of clubs. Then if the clubs are 5-3 West will not have an entry, and if the clubs are 4-4 the opponents can take only 2 clubs and 2 diamonds.

Even if East has the jack of diamonds, you still have chances. You are dead on a 4-4 club split. But if the clubs are 5-3, you will eventually score a diamond trick. All the opponents will get are 3 diamond tricks and 1 club trick.

You cannot afford to duck a heart, as this will be the fifth trick for the defense. Also, you cannot afford to run the spades first. West wouldn't be under any real pressure, and you may need the spades for communication so you can collect your tricks.

You choose to play the 9. West wins the 10, and continues with the 3 to East's 10. Do you win or duck?

North
K1053
A873
Q10
4
South
AQ92
K
9862
A7
W
N
E
S
P
1
P
1
X
1NT
P
3NT
P
P
P

Your chances are a lot worse since you lost a heart trick, but it is still possible to make the hand. Now you need the clubs 5-3 with West having jack-doubleton of diamonds. East's takeout double would be strange, but that is all you can hope for. You must duck this trick and pray.

You choose to win the ace of clubs. You cash one high spade, and unblock the king of hearts. Not unexpectedly, East shows out, discarding a diamond. You cross to dummy with the king of spades, West discarding a diamond. All you can do is cash the ace of hearts and take the marked spade finesse to cash out for down 1. The full hand is:

West
4
QJ1064
543
Q932
North
K1053
A8732
Q10
K4
East
J876
5
AKJ7
J1086
South
AQ92
K9
9862
A75
W
N
E
S
P
1
P
1
X
1NT
P
3NT
P
P
P
D
3NT South
NS: 0 EW: 0
2
K
6
5
1
1
0
2
5
9
10
0
1
1
3
4
10
A
3
2
1
Q
4
3
6
3
3
1
K
4
3
7
3
4
1
2
5
K
7
1
5
1
A
8
7
6
1
6
1
5
8
9
4
3
7
1
A
3
10
J
3
8
1
9

As the cards lay there was no play for the contract.

N-S play 2-way Checkback after the 1NT call. Should North have adopted this?

West
4
QJ1064
543
Q932
North
K1053
A8732
Q10
K4
East
J876
5
AKJ7
J1086
South
AQ92
K9
9862
A75
W
N
E
S
P
1
P
1
X
1NT
P
3NT
P
P
P
D
3NT South
NS: 0 EW: 0
2
K
6
5
1
1
0
2
5
9
10
0
1
1
3
4
10
A
3
2
1
Q
4
3
6
3
3
1
K
4
3
7
3
4
1
2
5
K
7
1
5
1
A
8
7
6
1
6
1
5
8
9
4
3
7
1
A
3
10
J
3
8
1
9

North knows there is no 5-3 heart fit from South's failure to make a support redouble, but a 4-4 spade fit is possible. North knows that the spades are likely to split badly and that East will potentially be overruffing the hearts, which makes the 4-4 fit less attractive. In addition, the direct 3NT call doesn't tell the defense anything about the hand.

Despite these arguments, North should have probed. The knowledge about South's hand isn't likely to be important. West is going to lead his best minor regardless, and knowing declarer's distribution isn't likely to make much difference. Also, North doesn't have to commit to playing 4 if there is a 4-4 fit. North can bid 2, game-forcing checkback, and if South bids 2 North can raise to 3. This will give South the option of suggesting 3NT if South's hand is notrump oriented. On the actual hand South would have chosen 4 with his strong trumps and primes, and 4 should make taking 5 spade tricks, 2 heart tricks, 2 club tricks, and 1 diamond trick.

What do you think about East's double?

West
4
QJ1064
543
Q932
North
K1053
A8732
Q10
K4
East
J876
5
AKJ7
J1086
South
AQ92
K9
9862
A75
W
N
E
S
P
1
P
1
X
1NT
P
3NT
P
P
P
D
3NT South
NS: 0 EW: 0
2
K
6
5
1
1
0
2
5
9
10
0
1
1
3
4
10
A
3
2
1
Q
4
3
6
3
3
1
K
4
3
7
3
4
1
2
5
K
7
1
5
1
A
8
7
6
1
6
1
5
8
9
4
3
7
1
A
3
10
J
3
8
1
9

The East hand is certainly a model for this action. East has support for all suits other than hearts, which will permit his partner to compete intelligently and possibly win a part-score battle.

There are two downsides to the double. One is that if N-S win the contract the double may give declarer a blueprint on how to play the hand. The other is the danger of going for a number if the hand is a misfit. This danger is greater due to the vulnerability. In fact, the double did give N-S the opportunity to collect a number. South's failure to pass over the double was a missed opportunity.

At the other table, the auction started the same. Here N-S did not miss their opportunity. South passed, West bid 2, and North made a card-showing double. South judged well to pass, and after the king of clubs lead declarer was held to 3 club tricks and 3 diamond tricks for down 2.

Sometimes the information from the auction makes it clear that what would normally be the percentage line of play simply can't succeed. When that happens, it is important to look for an alternative. Even if the alternative is unlikely to succeed, it is better than conceding.

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