Join Bridge Winners
On an Assumption
(Page of 10)

In a semi-final match in the Senior Trials, you face a common responding problem.

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

South
1096
KJ98652
A73
W
N
E
S
1
P
?

A 1NT response would be semi-forcing. Partner will usually pass if he is 5-3-3-2, but he will bid a 3-card minor if at the top of his range. He will never pass with any other distribution. If partner rebids anything other than 2, you do not have a way to invite in diamonds. If partner rebids 2, a 2 call by you would be conventional.

A 2 call would be a natural game force.

A 3 call would be to play, showing no game interest. Partner will normally pass.

Your call?

South
1096
KJ98652
A73
W
N
E
S
1
P
?

While it is possible you have a game, the odds are well against it with partner having a limited opening bid. You simply aren't strong enough to respond 2.

There doesn't appear to be much point in responding 1NT. Even if partner rebids 2, you are still going to sign off in 3. The only real gain from a 1NT response would be if partner rebids 3 showing a maximum 5-5, since now 4 might be a decent contract. In most other variations where partner rebids something you will just get to 3. Should partner pass 1NT, that might be a very bad contract.

It looks best to bid an immediate 3. This is likely to be where you belong, and if you belong somewhere else that will be difficult to determine. While partner will normally pass he is allowed to look at his hand, and if you hit him with a good fit he might find a raise. In addition, bidding 3 makes it more difficult for West to get into the auction, and the opponents might have a good fit of their own.

You bid 3, ending the auction.

W
N
E
S
1
P
3
P
P
P

West leads the 6. Standard leads and signals.

North
K9862
AQ5
74
QJ4
South
1096
KJ98652
A73
W
N
E
S
1
P
3
P
P
P

Your play from dummy?

North
K9862
AQ5
74
QJ4
South
1096
KJ98652
A73
W
N
E
S
1
P
3
P
P
P

It is clear to play the queen of clubs. While you are never going to get more than 2 club tricks, you want to get them quickly before there is any danger of a ruff.

You play the queen of clubs. It holds, East playing the 2. Which club do you play from your hand?

North
K9862
AQ5
74
QJ4
South
1096
KJ98652
A73
W
N
E
S
1
P
3
P
P
P

While it isn't likely to matter, you might as well play the 7. Concealing the 3 could cause an opponent to misread the club position.

You play the 7. What do you lead from dummy at trick 2?

North
K9862
AQ5
74
J4
South
1096
KJ98652
A3
W
N
E
S
1
P
3
P
P
P

You are conveniently in dummy, and you need to play trumps towards your hand. You may have a guess in the trump suit.

You lead the 4. East plays the 3. What diamond do you play?

North
K9862
AQ5
74
J4
South
1096
KJ98652
A3
W
N
E
S
1
P
3
P
P
P

If East started with Q103, you need to play small. If he started with Q3 or AQ3, you need to play the jack. If he started with A3 or A103, you need to play the king.

Clearly playing small is anti-percentage. Playing the jack is better than playing the king if East started with AQ103.

Might East have gone up ace from some holdings? Possibly if he doesn't have the ace of spades, since he can see value in putting a club through before you can lead a singleton spade up to dummy's king. However, he would be worried about giving away the position or crashing an honor, so he likely would play small from all holdings.

There is one other factor. How do the hearts lie? You don't know, of course. However, if one of the heart honors is onside you will lose only one heart trick, so assuming you don't have 3 diamond losers you will make your contract. Therefore, you should assume that East has KJ of hearts. He might or might not have the ace of spades. If he does have the ace of spades, then with the ace of diamonds in addition he might have taken some action over the 1 opening. Thus, in the variations where your play might decide the contract East is less likely than West to hold the ace of diamonds. That is even a stronger argument for playing the jack.

You play the jack of diamonds. West wins the ace, and shifts to the 3. What do you play from dummy?

North
K9862
AQ5
7
J4
South
1096
K98652
A3
W
N
E
S
1
P
3
P
P
P

West wouldn't be shifting to a small heart if he has both heart honors. He would be shifting to the jack, guarding against you having 10xx. Thus, that possibility is not an argument for playing small.

Your best play for overtricks is to finesse the queen and hope that something good happens in the end-game. That is unlikely, and overtricks shouldn't be on your mind anyway. Your goal is to make the contract.

The only danger to the contract is if East has Q10x of diamonds and both heart honors. If West has one of the heart honors, it won't matter whether you play the queen or play small now, since if you go wrong you can finesse later. If you play a small heart, it will be trivial for East to win the jack and return a club, and the contract will be in jeopardy. If you play the queen of hearts, he may have a problem. If he doesn't have the ace of spades, he might picture your hand as something like x xxx KJ98xxx Ax. If that were your hand it would be necessary to return a heart to knock out dummy's entry before you could lead up to the king of spades. Of course if you held that hand you wouldn't have played the queen of hearts, so he shouldn't get it wrong. However, it can't cost to give him something to think about.

You choose to play a small heart. East wins the jack, and shifts to the 10. Do you win or play small?

North
K9862
AQ
7
J4
South
106
K98652
A3
W
N
E
S
1
P
3
P
P
P

It is inconceivable that East has defended this way holding the king of clubs. It is clear to win the ace.

You win the ace of clubs, West playing the 8. You cash the king of diamonds, West discarding a spade and East playing the queen of diamonds. What next?

North
K9862
AQ
J
South
106
98652
3
W
N
E
S
1
P
3
P
P
P

You may be able to make without the heart finesse. Play another diamond, putting East in. If East doesn't have another club, he will be forced to play a spade. You can discard your losing club, and if West has the ace of spades you can later discard your losing heart on the king of spades.

You play a diamond. East wins, and leads a club to West's king. West leads a heart. You have no choice but to take the finesse. It wins, and you make. The full hand is

West
Q10543
K43
A
K865
North
K9862
AQ5
74
QJ4
East
AJ7
J872
Q103
1092
South
1096
KJ98652
A73
W
N
E
S
1
P
3
P
P
P
D
3 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
6
Q
2
7
1
1
0
4
3
J
A
0
1
1
3
5
J
9
2
1
2
10
A
8
4
3
2
2
K
3
7
Q
3
3
2
9
5
2
10
2
3
3
9
3
K
J
0
3
4
4
Q
8

How was the lead and defense?

West
Q10543
K43
A
K865
North
K9862
AQ5
74
QJ4
East
AJ7
J872
Q103
1092
South
1096
KJ98652
A73
W
N
E
S
1
P
3
P
P
P
D
3 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
6
Q
2
7
1
1
0
4
3
J
A
0
1
1
3
5
J
9
2
1
2
10
A
8
4
3
2
2
K
3
7
Q
3
3
2
9
5
2
10
2
3
3
9
3
K
J
0
3
4
4
Q
8

West didn't have an attractive lead. He could have led the ace of diamonds to take a look. The problem is that this would be doing what declarer is likely to want to do, as well as possibly costing a diamond trick on some layouts. Which king to lead away from is a tossup. Perhaps the best lead is a spade. This is unlikely to cost anything. West's hand indicates that dummy isn't going to be providing a bunch of discards, so there is no need for a risky lead away from a king.

West had another problem when he was in with the ace of diamonds. Obviously he couldn't play another club. A spade shift was possible, but this might allow declarer to ruff out East's ace-doubleton of spades and establish the king. Shifting to a heart looks best, hoping that East has the jack. However, West does better shifting to the king of hearts. If East has the jack it won't matter, since declarer will always be taking the finesse if he needs it. The king is the better shift if declarer has jack-doubleton, since then declarer will not be able to enjoy 3 heart tricks. Picture declarer with something like x Jx J109xxxx Axx, and it is clear that shifting to the king of hearts is better than a small heart.

At the other table South responded a forcing 1NT. North duly bid 2, and South was able to bid 2 to play. West led the ace of diamonds, and declarer scooped the diamond suit to make 10 tricks.

In Reese's book Master Play, one of the best chapters is Playing on an Assumption. The idea is to assume the opponent's cards lie such that your play will make a difference, and act accordingly. When the contract is in big trouble, assume their cards lie favorably. When the contract is likely to make, as here, assume the cards lie unfavorably. Since the contract was probably cold unless both heart honors were offside, declarer assumed they were offside and based his play in the trump suit on that assumption.

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