Join Bridge Winners
Overcompeting
(Page of 9)

With no one vulnerable, in a team game, you pick up

South
A1074
K3
QJ763
K6
W
N
E
S
1
?

East, the dealer, starts with 1, and you?

You have an obvious overcall of 1, and the auction continues, with everyone having a say:

South
A1074
K3
QJ763
K6
W
N
E
S
1
1
1
2
3
?

Your call?

This, too, seems pretty automatic. You have no special shape, expect for a four card side suit that you know is stacked behind you. Partner won't sell out if we have a nine card fit, and why should you buck the Law and overcompete on only eight trumps?

Well, three possible reasons:

  1. Long suits generate offense, and East, with six or seven clubs, rates to do well in a club partial.
  2. We have the queen and jack of diamonds, and no other queens or jacks. Lower honor cards in their suits do more on defense than offense - picture, say, Qxx facing Jx in their trump suit. That will win a trick on defense, but is often worthless when our side declares. Lower honors in our suits, rather than theirs, is called purity, and pure hands usually mean more total tricks than expected. From your perspective, this hand looks fairly pure.
  3. Vulnerability. At these colors, competing is very attractive. Let's say we bid, and are wrong - there are only 16 total tricks available. If these tricks split out 9-7, then overbidding won't cost any IMPs, 100 against 110, unless someone doubles. We will only pay out three IMPs if both sides are held to eight winners. In the mean time, whenever there are 17 total tricks, bidding rates to win 2 IMPs, for 110 against 50 one way or the other. The big pickup comes, of course, if both contracts make. Paying out three IMPs occasionally, picking up six, occasionally, but frequently winning two - nice IMP odds!

Right or wrong, you bid on to 3, which ends the auction. West leads the club four, and, partner tables a hand that makes your decision look pretty poor.

West
North
K53
9754
1082
A82
East
South
A1074
K3
QJ763
K6
W
N
E
S
1
1
1
2
3
3
P
P
P
D
3 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
4
1

Plan the play.

What do we know? East will hold six or seven clubs, and the contract is pretty hopeless if clubs are 1-7, so let's assume that clubs are 2-6. West would double one diamond with 4-4 in the majors, so we can rule that out. It is possible for West to hold only four spades, with, say, some 4-3-4-2 hand, but West rates to hold five spades.

We have a sure spade loser, two trump losers, and the heart ace to lose, so we will need that card onside, and we have to find some way to deal with our fourth round of spades. Seems like three possibilities:

First, we could try to ruff the spade on the table. We could win the club ace, say, try spade king, spade ace, spade. Most of the time, the defenders will be able to draw three rounds of trumps, so this looks grim. We would need some sort of blockage in trumps as well - maybe AK tight in diamonds on our right.

Could that work? Nah, the defense will keep playing clubs, and, sooner or later, promote the 9 for West.

Second hope: If East holds a stiff honor in spades, we might be able to strip out West's side cards, and duck a spade late in the day.

Could that work? Maybe.

Or, maybe we could set up a major suit squeeze on West.

Could that work? Well, if West is, say, 5-4-2-2, and we can isolate the heart menace, maybe.

Fortunately, we don't have to commit to the squeeze or endplay just yet, and we might learn more about the hand before deciding. So, it seems right to start on trumps, and delay the ending-choice.

So, how do we tackle trumps? And where do we win the first trick?

Leading a trump to the ten early would be fatal if West started with H9x. Repeated clubs will promote a third trump trick. So, we must start with an honor in hand. Winning the ace, and leading toward our queen-jack looks attractive, but, say we lose that trick to West, who continues clubs. If we play to the 10 next, we might see the 9 promoted by the next club. If we try a finesse of the 8 next, East might hold the 9.

All told, the second round of trumps should come from the table, so we should win this club in hand and lead a high trump. If West wins, to continue clubs, we can play a second round of trumps from dummy.

So, we win the club king, and lead the diamond queen, which runs to East's ace. Back comes the spade jack. Good news, in one sense, since now our endplay plan might work. However, if we plan to set up the endplay, we must win this trick with dummy's king. If we hope to squeeze West, we must keep the spade king on the table, either winning this trick in hand, or ducking all around:

West
North
K53
9754
1082
A82
East
South
A1074
K3
QJ763
K6
W
N
E
S
1
1
1
2
3
3
P
P
P
D
3 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
4
2
7
K
3
1
0
Q
4
2
A
2
1
1
J
3

Your choice?

For the squeeze to work, West needs to hold four hearts - so, presumably, 5-4-2-2 shape. Ducking the spade trick will rectify the count for us, but West can surely get in with the trump king, or a heart, and East will get a ruff. That's no good.

If we want to play for the squeeze, we will have to win the spade ace now. Say a trump to West, and a club to the table. We play a heart to the king, and another heart. If East wins, and tries a club, we discard a spade. Now we can win the third trump on the table, trump a heart, and squeeze West:

West
Q9862
QJ62
K4
43
North
K53
9754
1082
A82
East
J
A108
A95
QJ10975
South
A1074
K3
QJ763
K6
W
N
E
S
1
1
1
2
3
3
P
P
P
D
3 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
4
2
7
K
3
1
0
Q
4
2
A
2
1
1
J
A
2
3
3
2
1
3
K
8
5
0
2
2
3
A
5
6
1
3
2
4
8
K
2
3
4
2
3
6
5
10
2
4
3
Q
4
8

That would work, but East doesn't have to be quite so obliging. East might win the second heart with the ace and exit a trump. We can isolate the heart menace, but we can't rectify the count. For that matter, what if East wins the first heart to play the trump? Now we can't even trump a heart.

It looks like the squeeze should fail against good defense, so we should run this trick to the king, and try to set up our endplay. The plan is to ruff one heart along the way, hopefully reducing West to spades only. We should be able to bring about our ending if West was 5-3-3-2, without the heart ace.

The spade runs to dummy's king.

Do we play another trump, or is it time to lead a heart?

Heart. Leading a trump to the jack and king gets us in trouble if West holds the 9. West will play another club, and ... ?

If we try a heart at that point, East will win and lead another club, promoting the 9. If we draw the last trump first, we no longer have an entry to ruff a heart in hand, and can't strip West out of hearts.

We call for a heart. East thinks for a bit, then hops up with the ace, and returns the club queen. We win this on the table:

West
North
K53
9754
1082
A82
East
South
A1074
K3
QJ763
K6
W
N
E
S
1
1
1
2
3
3
P
P
P
D
3 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
4
2
7
K
3
1
0
Q
4
2
A
2
1
1
J
4
2
K
1
2
1
4
A
3
6
2
2
2
Q
6
3
A
1
3
2
5

Continuing with our plan, it seems obvious to cash the heart king, and lead a trump toward the ten. However, you choose to play a trump next. Is this a major blunder?

East follows with the nine, you cover, and West starts thinking. So, West was 5-3-3-2. Let's think along with him. If he wins, and plays a heart, this is trivial. Trump to the ten, heart ruff, completing the strip, and exit a low spade.

What if he ducks this trump?

West
North
K53
9754
1082
A82
East
South
A1074
K3
QJ763
K6
W
N
E
S
1
1
1
2
3
3
P
P
P
D
3 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
4
2
7
K
3
1
0
Q
4
2
A
2
1
1
J
4
2
K
1
2
1
4
A
3
6
2
2
2
Q
6
3
A
1
3
2
8
9
J
5
3
4
2
6

Also easy. Simply cash the heart and exit in trumps. West will be endplayed, and must play a spade now, or get out with his last heart, to get stuck in spades next.

West seems to have arrived at the same conclusion. He wins the trump king and plays a trump back. Uh, oh. There goes our entry to ruff out the heart. Are we dead?

Here is the full hand:

West
Q9862
QJ6
K54
43
North
K53
9754
1082
A82
East
J
A1082
A9
QJ10975
South
A1074
K3
QJ763
K6
W
N
E
S
1
1
1
2
3
3
P
P
P
D
3 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
4
2
7
K
3
1
0
Q
4
2
A
2
1
1
J
4
2
K
1
2
1
4
A
3
6
2
2
2
Q
6
3
A
1
3
2
8
9
J
K
0
3
3
5
10
5
3
1
4
3
7

This is the ending:

West
Q986
QJ
North
53
975
8
East
1082
J109
South
A107
K
76
D

Trump the club, and lead out the last trump. What can West do? If West ever discards a heart, cash the heart king, for the usual ending. If, instead, West keeps both hearts, set up spades, with the heart king for an entry.

So, back to my question: Did declarer blunder?

Well, crossing to hand to in hearts to lead a diamond up to the ten would cost the contract on this layout:

West
Q9862
QJ6
954
43
North
K53
9754
1082
A82
East
J
A1082
AK
QJ10975
South
A1074
K3
QJ763
K6
W
N
E
S
1
1
1
2
3
3
P
P
P
P
D
3 South
NS: 0 EW: 0

The line declarer chose would handle every 5-3-3-2 West hand. However, suppose we swap a small diamond and a small heart:

West
Q9862
QJ62
K4
43
North
K53
9754
1082
A82
East
J
A108
A95
QJ10975
South
A1074
K3
QJ763
K6
W
N
E
S
1
1
1
2
3
3
P
P
P
P
D
3 South
NS: 0 EW: 0

Here, it is crucial to cash the heart before leading up a diamond. West, after winning the king, must play a heart. The 10 lets declarer ruff out the fourth round of hearts (or discard!).

These various 5-4-2-2 hands seem more likely than the specific AK tight holding when West is 5-3-3-2. However, most Wests would not duck the first round of trumps on those hands (indeed, ducking was an error). That suggests that declarer judged correctly.

Correct or not, landing this contract, particularly via a strange strip-squeeze, was quite satisfying. It also earned 6 IMPs, when, not surprisingly, your team-mates bought the hand for 3, which was made easily.

It was a good time to over-compete, and, a really fine time if your declarer play was sharp.

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