Join Bridge Winners
Only Shot
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In a Rosenblum round robin match, you face some low-level competitive decisions.


Both vul, North deals.  As West, you hold:


West
AJ75
KJ4
J8
AQJ2
W
N
E
S
P
P
1
?


Your call?


West
AJ75
KJ4
J8
AQJ2
W
N
E
S
P
P
1
?
 

The strength is perfect for a 1NT overcall, and the hand is balanced. However, you have no diamond stopper, and you have support for the majors. A takeout double is clearly better.

You double. The auction continues:

West
AJ75
KJ4
J8
AQJ2
W
N
E
S
P
P
1
X
1
P
1NT
?


Have you had enough?



West
AJ75
KJ4
J8
AQJ2
W
N
E
S
P
P
1
X
1
P
1NT
?


It is seldom right to sell out at the 1-level with a strong hand, but this looks like the time to do it. There are several factors which argue for passing:

1) Partner had a chance to bid 1 and didn't do so. On this auction he would stick in a 1 call on just about any hand with 4+ spades unless he is really broke. That makes it less likely that your side has a decent fit.

2) The opponents don't appear to have a fit. This gives partner at least 3 hearts, maybe 4, as well as probably 4 diamonds. This reduces the probability that partner has 4 or more clubs. If North goes back to 2, you can reconsider.

3) Both sides are vulnerable, which makes defending more attractive if the decision is close. If either side goes down 1 trick, you will have done fine by defending.

You pass, and nobody has anything else to say.

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


Your lead. Against notrump, your honor leads are ace from AK and Rusinow (second highest from a sequence, including interior sequences), with king being the power lead. Your spot card leads are attitude leads.




West
AJ75
KJ4
J8
AQJ2
W
N
E
S
P
P
1
X
1
P
1NT
P
P
P


Nothing is attractive. AJxx is a terrible holding to lead from. That would be very likely to blow a trick. In addition partner failed to bid 1, so he is unlikely to have 4 spades. The opponents have bid both red suits, and you have dangerous holdings in those suits.

A club lead will cost a trick if declarer has the king. If that is the case, it will be difficult to get partner in to lead clubs through. Perhaps dummy or partner has the king, in which case the club lead won't cost a thing. At least the club lead has the prospect of setting up the fourth round of clubs, and perhaps forging an entry to partner's hand.

Since you play Rusinow leads, your proper lead if you lead a club is the jack. There doesn't appear to be any reason to do otherwise.

You lead the jack of clubs.


West
AJ75
KJ4
J8
AQJ2
North
K98
Q1095
K5
8654
W
N
E
S
P
P
1
X
1
P
1NT
P
P
P


Partner plays the 9, and declarer the 7. While you normally play upside-down count and attitude signals, at trick 1 you use standard signals.

What do you do now?




West
AJ75
KJ4
J8
AQ2
North
K98
Q1095
K5
865
W
N
E
S
P
P
1
X
1
P
1NT
P
P
P


Partner clearly has the king of clubs, and it might be K9 doubleton. It has to be right to lead to his king of clubs to unblock the suit in case he has a doubleton. He will have to work out what is best when in with his king of clubs.

You lead the 2 to partner's king and declarer's 10. Partner leads back the 3 to your queen, declarer discarding the 7. It is certainly right to cash the good club now, since declarer will have more discarding problems than partner will have and you will get information from the discards. Partner discards the 6 of hearts (upside-down signals on discards also), and declarer discards the 3 of diamonds. Now what do you try?




West
AJ75
KJ4
J8
North
K98
Q1095
K5
W
N
E
S
P
P
1
X
1
P
1NT
P
P
P


Time to take stock. Declarer clearly has both missing aces and at least one of the missing queens, quite likely both of them. Declarer is known to have started with 2 clubs. He doesn't have 4 hearts or he would have raised, and he isn't discarding down to a singleton ace of hearts, so he must have started with 3 hearts. The indications are that declarer started with 5 diamonds and 3 spades, since with 4 spades he might have bid 1 and he probably would have discarded a spade rather than a diamond.

You can definitely take 4 clubs and 1 spade, and you will certainly get your king of hearts. What about declarer. He will be cashing his ace of hearts and leading a heart towards dummy, and that will give him 3 heart tricks. If he has both queens, he can also take 3 diamond tricks and 1 spade trick. This seems quite likely. If he had only a 10-count, he probably would have passed 1 since he has 3-card support.

There is one possibility. What if you lead the jack of spades. Declarer will duck this to his queen. When he plays ace and a heart, you can win your king and lead a low spade. If declarer thinks you have J10 of spades he will duck, and you will run the suit. Declarer probably shouldn't fall for this, since with J10x or J10xx of spades you would have led a spade rather than a club from AQJx. However, it is the only shot. Perhaps declarer will decide that you don't have the ace of spades because you failed to take another call. This will also succeed if partner happens to have the queen of spades.

Can a diamond shift work? It may scramble declarer's entries. If declarer is worried about getting to dummy for the hearts he might win in his hand, after which you will be able to prevent him from scoring the third diamond trick. But declarer won't do this. He will win the king of diamonds and count on the king of spades for his entry. The diamond shift will be successful if partner has Q10 of diamonds since declarer will have only 6 winners, but that isn't very likely. The jack of spades shift is the only real shot.

You choose to shift to the J. Declarer wins the king in dummy, and leads a heart to his ace and a heart towards dummy. You win your K, partner following. What do you do now?




West
AJ75
K
8
North
K98
Q10
5
W
N
E
S
P
P
1
X
1
P
1NT
P
P
P


It is too late to shift to spades. Your only hope is that partner has the queen of diamonds. If he also has the 10 it will be okay to continue diamonds, but if declarer has the 10 of diamonds that will just give declarer a free finesse. Declarer may not be sure of the diamond position. Your best bet is to exit with a heart. You can't prevent declarer from reaching dummy with the king of spades, so this doesn't cost anything and makes declarer work for his seventh trick.

You exit with the jack of hearts. Nothing matters any more. Declarer has both queens, as expected, and he cashes the good hearts and knocks out your ace of spades for his seventh trick. The full hand is:

West
AJ75
KJ4
J8
AQJ2
North
K98
Q1095
K5
8654
East
1064
632
10762
K93
South
Q32
A87
AQ943
107
W
N
E
S
P
P
1
X
1
P
1NT
P
P
P
D
1NT South
NS: 0 EW: 0
J
4
9
7
0
0
1
2
5
K
10
2
0
2
3
7
Q
6
0
0
3
A
8
6
3
0
0
4
J
K
2
4
1
1
4
5
2
A
4
3
2
4
8
K
9
3
0
2
5
J
Q
4
2
1
3
5
10
6
9
5
1
4
5
8
10
Q
A
0
4
6
10


Your only shot was to shift to the jack of spades. The ploy probably wouldn't have worked and would cost an overtrick if it failed, but there was no other way to defeat the contract.

Why do we play standard signals at trick 1 and upside-down signals afterwards? The reason is that there are several positions where it is necessary to give a standard signal. Against a suit contract, on the lead of an ace from AK, if dummy has xxx and third seat has J10x the jack cannot be spared since declarer might have Q9x. Against notrump, on the queen lead (Rusinow) if dummy has a singleton and third seat A10x, it is necessary to play the 10 for unblocking purposes in case the opening leader has KQ9xx and declarer J8xx. While sometimes upside-down signals would work better it is difficult to define every position in advance, so we find it easier to always play standard signals at trick 1.

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