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One day in the regional pairs
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You are playing in the final session of a 4-session matchpoint event; you were in the top half of the field going in, and are doing OK but not great.  West is a low-level and sometimes overaggressive pro. East is someone who thinks West is worth paying.  They do not look happy.  Your partner, North, sees:

North
543
A43
432
AKQ2
W
N
E
S
1
1
4
?

Opponents have no agreement about 4 (nor, judging from their convention card, about much of anything else).  Your overcall style was once considered aggressive, but is fairly middle-of-the-road now; you can expect around 8HCP minimum.  Your call?

 

Double wins when neither side can make game; bidding on wins when somebody can make.  Passing will lose compared to the winning bid but beat the losing bid.  You might consider that if your goal is a 52% game (for example, the final qualifying session in an event with no carryover), but not now.

Double looks like the percentage action to me.  The high cards seem to be about equally divided, and there probably aren't enough total tricks to warrant bidding 4 over 4.  On any given day, of course, bidding might work better.

Your partner, who you have bamboozled into thinking you play hands well, bids 4.  This is firmly doubled by the client sitting East.  Let's see if partner's confidence is justified.

North
543
A43
432
AKQ2
South
AK1096
105
Q75
J43
W
N
E
S
1
1
4
4
X
P
P
P

West leads the K.  It's quite possible West has 7 hearts, so you can't seriously consider ducking; East plays the 7 under the A.  Now what?

Drawing trumps is in order, but how?  East doesn't have much of a double in any case, but he seems more likely to have 4 good trumps than not.  You lead the 3 on which East plays the 2; with some trepidation, you insert the 10; West plays the 8.

There's not much choice for the next few tricks:

3, 6, A, 5

4, J, A, 6

4, 7, K, 9

5, 7, 9, 8

K, 9, 2, Q

North
43
43
Q2
South
6
10
Q75
J
W
N
E
S
1
1
4
4
X
P
P
P

Now what?

You can play a club to the Q, leading a diamond (East must have the AK) if somebody shows out.  This is a strong line.  It makes when clubs are 3-3, or East has 4-1-6-2 (he must give you the Q), or East has 4-1-4-4 (he can win the K and lead the 4th club, but you can discard your heart and score the Q).  It will not work if East has 4-2-5-2; he wins the diamond shift and exits a heart.

There is better.  You should lead your heart now.  Say West wins and continues hearts.  You ruff and lead the J in this position:

North
43
Q2
South
Q75
J
W
N
E
S
1
1
4
4
X
P
P
P

If West follows, overtake, then if clubs are not 3-3, lead a diamond; East should have all diamonds left, and must give you the Q.  If West shows out on the J, East must be down to AK xx; you let the J hold, lead a diamond, and collect the Q at trick thirteen: a steppingstone.  As long as East has no more than two hearts, East-West cannot do anything to beat you.  (Oh, OK, if East has 4-2-3-4 with a high enough heart to win the heart trick, a club shift will beat you.  That layout is not consistent with the auction, and the other line doesn't work either.)

The heart lead in this position is unusual; it is needed, basically, to take the second heart out of East's hand.

The full hand is as follows, so you needed to play it right.

West
8
KQJ986
98
10876
North
543
A43
432
AKQ2
East
QJ72
72
AKJ106
95
South
AK1096
105
Q75
J43
W
N
E
S
1
1
4
4
X
P
P
P
D
4X South
NS: 0 EW: 0

An alternative defense is to play three rounds of diamonds immediately, ruffing your Q, then shift to (say) the K.  Does that beat you?

 

It shouldn't.  Draw trumps using two clubs as entries, as before.  You reach this position:

West
Q
108
North
4
Q2
East
7
106
South
6
10
J
W
N
E
S
1
1
4
4
X
P
P
P
D
4X South
NS: 0 EW: 0

The last spade squeezes West in hearts and clubs.

If you made 4, +790 is a fine score, if not as good as the +800 available from 4X.  If you went down, -200 is a very poor score, and you get to listen to West explaining to East why 4 was such a brilliant bid.

 

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