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Preconceived Notion
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In the fifth session of the Cavendish pairs, you have to decide how brave to be over an opening bid.

N-S vul, East deals. As South, you hold:

South
Q652
A1098654
63
W
N
E
S
1
?

3 is defined as a preemptive jump overcall, even at adverse vulnerability.

Your choice?

South
Q652
A1098654
63
W
N
E
S
1
?

The hand is pretty weak, and the spade holding doesn't figure to be of value on offense. The vulnerability argues for conservatism. Perhaps it is right to keep quiet. If partner can't act this probably isn't your hand, and if the opponents declare your silence will be helpful since they will have no clue about your unexpected distribution. Still, one hates to keep quiet on this sort of hand. If your side does have a heart fit it could be very important for you to get into the auction. If you pass, it may be difficult for you to recover later when partner is strong enough to act. Also, bidding may make it more difficult for the opponents to find their best contract.

Overcalling 2 isn't too dangerous as far as going for a number there. This does get the heart suit in, and takes valuable bidding space away from the opponents who may have a minor-suit fit. The big danger is the third opponent. Partner is going to play you for more strength than you have for a vulnerable 2-level overcall. That will be okay if partner has a heart fit, but if partner has a good hand without a heart fit he may simply bid too much.

A 3 weak jump overcall is a possibility. This won't mislead partner about your hand type. It isn't likely to get your side to the wrong strain since this hand almost certainly belongs in hearts if your side declares. In addition, 3 consumes even more space than 2, making it very difficult for the opponents to bid constructively. If you catch a fit, the preempt can work very well. The big downside is that you may go for a number. At this vulnerability, that is a serious danger. The opponents will be on the lookout to get you if they can, and you don't have the heart intermediates. In addition, if you don't catch a heart fit your spade holding is awful for offense. Preempting with 4 cards to an honor in opener's suit is often considered a death wish, and this hand may well qualify.

There is no right answer here. You simply have to do what works.

You choose to bid 3. The bidding concludes in an unsatisfactory manner.

W
N
E
S
1
3
X
P
P
P

West leads the K.

North
J97
QJ
J10632
Q92
South
Q652
A1098654
63
W
N
E
S
1
3
X
P
P
P

East plays the A. How do you play the hand?

 

North
J97
QJ
J10632
Q92
South
Q652
A1098654
63
W
N
E
S
1
3
X
P
P
P

There can't be any gain to discarding a club. That will only trade losers, and it will tell the opponents everything about your hand. It must be right to ruff.

What does the enemy distribution look like? It appears from East's play of the A that he has a doubleton diamond. East must have at least 3 hearts, probably 4, for his pass of the negative double. East also has at least 5 spades. This leaves West with at most 2 singletons in the majors, perhaps less. It is worth noting that West didn't lead a spade. With 2 small singletons in the majors he certainly would have led a spade. This indicates that either his singleton spade is an honor (probably the K as a singleton A would be an attractive lead) or he is 6-6 in the minors.

While you will probably have to lead a major eventually, you don't have to do so immediately. It looks better to play on clubs first. Perhaps East will be kind enough to lead a major for you. At worst they will give you a ruff, which can't be bad.

You lead the 3. West plays the 4. What club do you play from dummy?

 

North
J97
QJ
J1063
Q92
South
Q652
A109865
63
W
N
E
S
1
3
X
P
P
P

There is some argument for playing the Q. The opponents will probably continue clubs. After that you would probably prefer West to be on lead. But this doesn't appear to matter much.

A more important consideration is that East might have AK doubleton. While apriori this is an unlikely holding, the information you have makes it quite possible. West may be 6-6 in the minors, and it is quite possible that he has the singleton king of spades. This means there is a good chance that East has AK of clubs for his pass of 3H doubled.

You choose to play the Q. East wins the king. He cashes the A, West playing the J. East cashes the A, West discarding a club. Now East now shifts to the 2. What do you do?

 

North
J9
QJ
J1063
9
South
Q65
A109865
W
N
E
S
1
3
X
P
P
P

It now appears that West's distribution is 0-1-6-6. You got a break when East cashed his A. It looks like East has Kxx. If so, you can just duck, repeat the heart finesse, and lose only 2 more spade tricks for down 1.

There is something wrong with this equation. If that is the hand, why is East defending this way? He certainly has the count of the hand at this point having seen his partner show out of spades. All he had to do was to cash his A and give West a spade ruff. West can then exit safely with a minor-suit winner. You can ruff and then ruff a spade to get to dummy, but you won't have enough trumps in dummy to pick up East's king of hearts. This is a pretty obvious defense, and you would expect East to find it.

Is it possible that West has a singleton K? That would give East AK10xxx xxx Ax AK. He might have taken a shot and passed the negative double with all those quick tricks. His play of leading the ace of spades might not have been too good, but at that point he didn't know the full hand and may have thought his partner had a doubleton spade. If he had that hand, his heart shift would be consistent since he knows that he can score 2 more spade tricks by preventing a spade ruff in dummy. On the other hand, if he does have the king of hearts his heart shift would be foolish. It must be right to play West for the singleton king of hearts.

You choose to play small. It is not the winning action. West wins his king, puts down a high club, and eventually you have to lose 2 more spade tricks for down 2. The full hand is:

West
K
KQ9874
J108754
North
J97
QJ
J10632
Q92
East
AK10843
732
A5
AK
South
Q652
A1098654
63
W
N
E
S
1
3
X
P
P
P
D
3X South
NS: 0 EW: 0
K
2
A
4
3
1
0
3
4
Q
K
2
1
1
A
6
J
2
2
1
2
2
5
K
J
0
1
3
10
5

The mistake made by declarer (yes, it was me) is a common mistake. When the dummy came down, it appeared likely that East has all the missing hearts, or at a minimum Kxx. This was a reasonable assumption. The mistake was failing to change this preconceived notion even though the evidence of the play makes it clear that East doesn't have the K.

Should the defense have been better?

 

West
K
KQ9874
J108754
North
J97
QJ
J10632
Q92
East
AK10843
732
A5
AK
South
Q652
A1098654
63
W
N
E
S
1
3
X
P
P
P
D
3X South
NS: 0 EW: 0
K
2
A
4
3
1
0
3
4
Q
K
2
1
1
A
6
J
2
2
1
2
2
5
K
J
0
1
3
10
5

There wasn't any particular reason for East to overtake the diamond lead. He would be happy to leave West on lead to see what West wanted to do. In particular, he would want to know if West is really void in spades. East has club entries, so getting in is no problem if that is necessary.

When in with the king of clubs, East should not have put down a high spade. Certainly his partner didn't have a singleton spade. Presumably he was playing declarer for 2-7-0-4 shape, and thinking it best to cash two spades and lead a third spade while West still had a trump left. This doesn't seem likely considering the bidding, opening lead, and declarer's line of play. The actual layout where West is void in spades is more consistent. Had East led back a trump without touching the spades, declarer would have had no realistic chance to drop the singleton king of hearts.

The 3 preempt was not a success on this hand, since N-S went for 500 and E-W can't make a game due to the bad diamond split. Still, both East and West had to make inspired decisions to collect their great result. Neither the negative double nor the pass was at all clear, and if either player does anything else E-W will be headed for a minus score. Of course, North didn't have to have such good heart support. All things considered, that Qxxx is probably sufficient to make the 3 call anti-percentage.

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