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In a quarter-final match in the Senior trials for USA2, you have to find the best way to handle a 2-suiter.

None vul, South deals. As West, you hold

West
KJ10543
6
4
AKJ87
W
N
E
S
1
?

2 would be Michaels, showing at least 5-5 spades and a minor. Can be any strength.

Your call?

West
KJ10543
6
4
AKJ87
W
N
E
S
1
?

Clearly Michaels is a candidate. However, your spades are longer than your clubs, which is not what would normally be expected. You might be able to show this with your next call.

How important is it to get the second suit into the auction? The bidding is likely to be competitive. Spades outrank both red suits, while both red suits outrank clubs. There is a lot to be said for burying the club suit and bidding some number of spades. This may work badly if partner has a stiff spade and 4-card club support, but even then you might survive, since if you buy the contract in spades it will be one level lower than if you buy it in clubs. Otherwise, there won't be much value trying to get the club suit into the picture. The problem is that when you bid 2 partner won't know which minor you have, and you are likely going to be bidding spades next to imply a 6-bagger. So how do you get to bid clubs?

If you do choose to bury the club suit, how many spades should you bid? You could go quietly and bid 1, but this gives the opponents badly-needed room. Probably the best bet is to blast out 4. The opponents will have no clue whether the hands fit well or not, so if they have a heart fit they will be guessing what to do. All you need to make 4 is a queen or two, which isn't asking much.

You choose to bid 2. The bidding continues

W
N
E
S
1
2
3NT
P
4
?

2: Michaels

3NT: Heart raise

Your call?

West
KJ10543
6
4
AKJ87
W
N
E
S
1
2
3NT
P
4
?

You have to accept the transfer and bid 4. You have no idea who can make what, but it is quite likely that 4, 4, or both are making. If partner is short in spades and has support for both minors, he can bail out to your minor if he so chooses.

You bid 4. The bidding continues:

W
N
E
S
1
2
3NT
P
4
4
X
4NT
5
?

4NT: Asks for your minor

Your call?

West
KJ10543
6
4
AKJ87
W
N
E
S
1
2
3NT
P
4
4
X
4NT
5
?

You are done. You have no idea whether or not 5 is making. You are happy to have pushed the opponents up to the 5-level, and you have described your hand pretty well. If there is more to be done, that is up to partner.

You pass, ending the auction.

W
N
E
S
1
2
3NT
P
4
4
X
4NT
5
P
P
P

Your lead. From an AK holding, you may lead either the ace or the king. If you lead the ace, partner will give a standard attitude signal. If you lead the king, partner will give a suit-preference signal.

West
KJ10543
6
4
AKJ87
W
N
E
S
1
2
3NT
P
4
4
X
4NT
5
P
P
P

When you lead from an AK looking for partner's attitude, the most important thing is usually whether or not you can give him a ruff. The queen might also be important, since you may need to know whether or not you can cash the third round of the suit.

On this hand, you know the third round of clubs isn't going to live. Partner must have at least 3 clubs for his 4NT call. While count might be the greatest value so you can determine whether or not the second round of clubs will cash, that is not your agreement. Suit-preference might be important. Since partner has some club length he may be able to give a readable signal. It could be vital for you to shift to either a spade or a diamond, and the appearance of dummy might not give you the answer. Leading the king, getting a suit-preference signal, looks best.

You choose to lead the ace of clubs.

West
KJ10543
6
4
AKJ87
North
AQ72
A543
J3
943
W
N
E
S
1
2
3NT
P
4
4
X
4NT
5
P
P
P

Partner plays the 2, standard attitude, and declarer plays the queen. What do you play now?

West
KJ10543
6
4
AKJ87
North
AQ72
A543
J3
943
W
N
E
S
1
2
3NT
P
4
4
X
4NT
5
P
P
P

There are three possible defenses. One is to shift to a diamond, hoping partner has the ace of diamonds. Another is to shift to a spade, hoping partner is void in spades. The third is to cash a second club, and hope parner produces a trick in one of the red suits.

The spade void doesn't look likely. Declarer figures to have some real shape for his 5 call. 3-1 in the black suits isn't real shape. Also, if partner is void in spades that gives him at least 10 cards in the minors. He knows you have a 5-card minor or longer. It doesn't look likely that he would have kept quiet with that kind of distribution.

Do you need to cash the second round of clubs? It is necessary only if declarer has a singleton spade and a doubleton club. Declarer heard his partner double 4, indicating defensive orientation. If declarer has a doubleton club, wouldn't he have probably passed 4NT to see what his partner had to say? Also, that gives partner 2 spades and 3 clubs. Partner heard you bid 4. You figure to have a 6-card spade suit for that call, since you have already shown 5 spades. If you have only 5 spades and are interested in competing, you probably would have doubled 4 instead of bidding 4 in order to keep more avenues open. So, with 2 spades and 3 clubs, partner probably would have sat the double rather than bid 4NT.

You need partner to have something in order to defeat this contract. There is no reason why that something can't be the ace of diamonds. A diamond shift looks best.

You choose to try to cash another club. It was a bad choice. Declarer ruffs, pulls a round of trump, and when he sees you follow, he claims, conceding a diamond. The full hand is:

West
KJ10543
6
4
AKJ87
North
AQ72
A543
J3
943
East
98
J102
A862
10652
South
6
KQ987
KQ10975
Q
W
N
E
S
1
2
3NT
P
4
4
X
4NT
5
P
P
P
D
5 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
A
3
2
Q
0
0
1
K
4
5
8
3
1
1
K
6
3
2
3
2
1
3

Was East right to run from 4 doubled?

West
KJ10543
6
4
AKJ87
North
AQ72
A543
J3
943
East
98
J102
A862
10652
South
6
KQ987
KQ10975
Q
W
N
E
S
1
2
3NT
P
4
4
X
4NT
5
P
P
P
D
5 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
A
3
2
Q
0
0
1
K
4
5
8
3
1
1
K
6
3
2
3
2
1
3

East does have 4-card support for his partner's minor. Whether the doubleton spade is good enough is unclear. There could be a good spade stack in the North hand. It doesn't seem likely that spades will take as many tricks as the minor, so East's 4NT bid looks okay. This time 4 doubled would have made, but South wasn't sitting for the double.

How was the N-S auction?

West
KJ10543
6
4
AKJ87
North
AQ72
A543
J3
943
East
98
J102
A862
10652
South
6
KQ987
KQ10975
Q
W
N
E
S
1
2
3NT
P
4
4
X
4NT
5
P
P
P
D
5 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
A
3
2
Q
0
0
1
K
4
5
8
3
1
1
K
6
3
2
3
2
1
3

The choice of opening bid is a matter of partnership style. More and more players are opening a 5-card major ahead of a longer minor. Major suits are where the games are.

North's 3NT bid apparently is systemic.

South might have bid 4 to bring North into the picture in case there is competition and let North know what the hand is about. South would feel more comfortable sitting for a double if he had shown his diamond suit.

North's double of 4 looks clear.

Once again, South might have bid 5, both to show diamonds and to suggest a possible alternative strain. On the auction, the danger of a diamond ruff playing in hearts should be quite apparent.

Note that if West had blasted out a 4 bid, both North and South would be guessing. They would probably get it right, but you never know.

At the other table, South opened 1 and had a chance to bid 2 on the next round. When hearts were raised and the opponents competed to 4, South made the remarkable decision of bidding 5 instead of 5. North naturally thought South was 6-4 and that the 4-4 fit might not handle well, so he passed 5. He was right for a rather unexpected reason.

One of the main advantages of suit-preference at trick 1 vs. suit contracts is the optional lead from AK. It is usually easy to determine which signal you prefer to get. Had West led the king of clubs there would have been no ambiguity about the 2 from East, and the diamond shift would be clear.

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