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Percentage Shift
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In a Round of 16 match in the Open Trials, you have to decide whether or not to stick in a light third seat opening.

None vul, West deals. As East, you hold:

East
J64
J103
75
AK864
W
N
E
S
P
P
?

In third seat, your 1NT opening is 15-17.

While 2 guarantees a 6+ card suit in first or second seat, in third seat you are permitted to open 2 on a 5-card suit if it seems appropriate.

A 1 opening is assumed to be 11-15, 2+ diamonds.

Your call?

East
J64
J103
75
AK864
W
N
E
S
P
P
?

The club suit is decent, but there are no intermediates. The 5-3-3-2 shape isn't attractive. In addition, you have some support for both majors. There are too many strikes against a 2 opener.

While nobody could criticize passing, why not open 1? What bad can happen? You can pass a 1 of a major response. Since a 1 opener doesn't promise more than 2 diamonds, partner isn't going to go overboard supporting diamonds. Partner is a passed hand so he can't be driving to game or even inviting game unless he finds a fit, and he isn't going to find that fit as you won't be supporting him. Neither side is vulnerable, so if you wind up in some contract down a couple the opponents will be able to make something and you won't be losing anything. You are a queen lighter than partner will be expecting, but so what? He can't have a hand to bury you.

What is the gain? Simply that you get the opening bid rather than the opponents. Any pair bids more accurately when they get to open the bidding. This is a clear upside to opening. Since there is no real downside, you should open 1.

You choose to pass. The bidding concludes:

W
N
E
S
P
P
P
1NT
P
4
P
4
P
P
P

1NT: 15-17

4 Transfer

Partner leads the 2. Third and fifth leads.

North
A73
A98654
108
J9
East
J64
J103
75
AK864
W
N
E
S
P
P
P
1NT
P
4
P
4
P
P
P

Which honor do you win with?

North
A73
A98654
108
J9
East
J64
J103
75
AK864
W
N
E
S
P
P
P
1NT
P
4
P
4
P
P
P

If you plan to cash a second round of clubs, the order in which you play your club honors is clearly suit-preference. Many players don't realize this, or don't act upon it. They will win the king automatically, then stop and think, and then cash the ace. If their suit-preference is high, they will have misled partner.

If your plan is to shift, of course you win the king of clubs. This shows partner where the ace is. Winning the ace and then shifting denies the king.

On this hand, it might be difficult to work out what to do at trick 2. You don't have a clear suit-preference signal to give. In addition, once partner sees your king of clubs hold he will know you can't have much else. Therefore, you might as well win the king of clubs.

You win the king of clubs. Declarer plays the 5. What do you play at trick 2?

North
A73
A98654
108
J
East
J64
J103
75
A864
W
N
E
S
P
P
P
1NT
P
4
P
4
P
P
P

This is difficult. It appears as though anything might be right. You need to find the percentage shift or continuation.

You don't know very much. You can be pretty sure that partner and declarer each have 3 clubs. If partner has a singleton club that would give him at least 10 cards in the pointed suits, and with that he probably would have been heard from in the bidding. Partner presumably has 5-7 points, but you don't know where they are.

It is hard to see how a trump shift can ever be right. Declarer is assumed to have 3 clubs. If he has a doubleton trump, he doesn't have any ruffing value. If he has 3 trumps, a trump shift isn't going to accomplish anything.

A spade shift could be right. Declarer's hand might be: Qxxx KQ AKJx Qxx. If that is declarer's hand, you need to establish two spade tricks before your ace of clubs is knocked out. However, that is a very specific hand. A spade shift away from the jack could blow a trick in several variations. It can't be percentage.

When is a diamond shift right? Declarer would have to have the queen of clubs, else cashing the ace of clubs and shifting to a diamond is just as good. Partner would have to have the king of diamonds, else an immediate diamond shift won't be necessary. In addition, there has to be a fourth trick. It is possible. Declarer might hold something like KQx Kxx AQxx Qxx. That is perfectly consistent. Would partner have led a club holding 10xxx Q KJxxx xxx. He might. He has to lead something.

When is cashing the ace of clubs necessary? When declarer has AKQ of diamonds, and a losing club goes on the third round of diamonds while you ruff with perhaps a natural trump trick. For this to matter, you probably need to have 2 trump tricks. Declarer might hold: Kxxx Qx AKQx Qxx. That would give partner Qxx Kx Jxxxx xxx. Once again, partner might lead a club from that hand.

If you do shift to a diamond, you should shift to an honest 7. You don't want partner to think you have a singleton diamond. Granted with that you should be cashing the ace of clubs first, but you want to leave as little doubt as possible.

Which is percentage? Not clear, but probably the diamond shift. The reason is that for cashing out to be necessary partner needs the specific heart holding of Kx to get the needed two trump tricks, while for the diamond shift to be right partner has various trump holdings such as stiff king, stiff queen, or queen-doubleton which will produce one trump trick.

You choose to cash the ace of clubs. Declarer plays the 10, and partner the 3. What do you do next?

North
A73
A98654
108
East
J64
J103
75
864
W
N
E
S
P
P
P
1NT
P
4
P
4
P
P
P

It is possible to construct a hand where a spade shift is right. Declarer could hold Qxxx KQx KQJ Q10x. That is a specific layout, giving partner exactly the king of spades and the ace of diamonds. Also, consider that partner played the 3. If he started with Q32 he had no choice, but with 732 he did have a choice, and his card would clearly be suit-preference.

A diamond shift can gain on several layouts, the most obvious one being partner holding AQ of diamonds. It is clearly right.

This time it might be right to lead a dishonest 5. The count isn't likely to matter to partner. However, if declarer has some choice of plays he might misjudge and play you for more than a doubleton diamond if you lead the 5 and follow with the 7.

You choose to shift to the 7. Declarer plays small. Partner wins the king, and returns a diamond. Declarer wins, cashes KQ of hearts, queen of clubs discarding a spade, and tries to cash a diamond. You ruff, and he is down 1. The full hand is:

West
K92
72
K9432
732
North
A73
A98654
108
J9
East
J64
J103
75
AK864
South
Q1085
KQ
AQJ6
Q105
W
N
E
S
P
P
P
1NT
P
4
P
4
P
P
P
D
4 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
2
9
K
5
2
0
1
A
10
3
J
2
0
2
7
6
K
8
0
0
3
4
10
5
A
3
1
3
K
2
4
3
3
2
3
Q
7
5
10
3
3
3
Q
7
3
4
3
4
3
Q
3
7
J
2
4
4
8

How was West's lead and defense?

West
K92
72
K9432
732
North
A73
A98654
108
J9
East
J64
J103
75
AK864
South
Q1085
KQ
AQJ6
Q105
W
N
E
S
P
P
P
1NT
P
4
P
4
P
P
P
D
4 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
2
9
K
5
2
0
1
A
10
3
J
2
0
2
7
6
K
8
0
0
3
4
10
5
A
3
1
3
K
2
4
3
3
2
3
Q
7
5
10
3
3
3
Q
7
3
4
3
4
3
Q
3
7
J
2
4
4
8

The opening lead is pretty much a guess. Leading away from either king into the strong notrump opening is risky, but might be necessary if declarer has the necessary winners and tricks need to be established quickly. On this hand, leading away from either king would have been fatal.

West played the proper club on the second round of clubs, suit-preference for diamonds.

West's diamond continuation was clear. Even if East had the queen of spades, returning a spade couldn't accomplish anything. West can see that the diamond return might scramble declarer's communications, which is exactly what happened.

Should declarer have played differently?

West
K92
72
K9432
732
North
A73
A98654
108
J9
East
J64
J103
75
AK864
South
Q1085
KQ
AQJ6
Q105
W
N
E
S
P
P
P
1NT
P
4
P
4
P
P
P
D
4 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
2
9
K
5
2
0
1
A
10
3
J
2
0
2
7
6
K
8
0
0
3
4
10
5
A
3
1
3
K
2
4
3
3
2
3
Q
7
5
10
3
3
3
Q
7
3
4
3
4
3
Q
3
7
J
2
4
4
8

Declarer was a little unlucky. Still, he should have listened to the bidding. East has already shown up with the AK of clubs. If East has the king of diamonds, East certainly would have opened in third seat. Declarer should go up ace of diamonds and discard the losing diamond on the queen of clubs. He will still have to judge what to play for, and he may take a losing line by leading the jack of diamonds (covered), ruff, KQ of hearts, and discard a spade on the queen of diamonds. However, he does have some winning options available, and he might choose one of them.

How was North's bidding?

West
K92
72
K9432
732
North
A73
A98654
108
J9
East
J64
J103
75
AK864
South
Q1085
KQ
AQJ6
Q105
W
N
E
S
P
P
P
1NT
P
4
P
4
P
P
P
D
4 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
2
9
K
5
2
0
1
A
10
3
J
2
0
2
7
6
K
8
0
0
3
4
10
5
A
3
1
3
K
2
4
3
3
2
3
Q
7
5
10
3
3
3
Q
7
3
4
3
4
3
Q
3
7
J
2
4
4
8

North might have opened a weak two. That is more a matter of style than anything else.

North might have chosen to transfer and then bid 3NT. His hand is balanced, and 9 tricks are often easier than 10. That would have been the winning choice on this hand, since 3NT is always making.

At the other table, South also declared 4 after North opened multi. Here West chose to lead a diamond, so declarer had no difficulties.

Defense can be difficult. When faced with a choice between play A and play B, you must construct consistent layouts where play A defeats the contract while play B fails, and construct consistent layouts where play B defeats the contract while play A fails. If you are unable to come up with one of these constructions, your problems are solved. If you can construct winning layouts for both plays, you simply have to choose the play which appears to cater to the greater number of layouts.

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