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Prepare the Auction
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In a Round of 16 match in the Open Trials, you have to decide the best approach to take with a huge hand opposite partner's opening bid.

None vul, South deals. As North, you hold:

North
K72
A62
AKQ7
KQJ
W
N
E
S
1
P
?

Some possible available calls are:

2 of a minor is 100% game-forcing. 2 does not promise a 5-card diamond suit. If you bid 2 of a minor, partner's 2 rebid would show a 6-card suit and his other suit bids would not show extra strength or shape.

2NT is a raise, limit or better. Follow-ups will define opener's strength and shape to some degree.

4NT is regular Blackwood, not RKC.

Your call?

North
K72
A62
AKQ7
KQJ
W
N
E
S
1
P
?

You aren't going to hold a 22-count and hear partner open the bidding very often. Even opposite a light opening bid this hand is a slam drive. The question is what is the best way to prepare the auction to get to the right slam.

The book bid is 2. However, you are in charge of the auction. You aren't required to follow any book. You can bid the hand any way you want. The only requirement is that what you do works.

What information do you need? Obviously keycards. If partner has 3 keycards and the queen of trumps, you can count 13 tricks on a 3-2 heart split. If he is missing a keycard or the queen of trumps, you almost certainly want to play a small slam.

Which strain do you want to play? Notrump is almost certainly better than hearts. If the hearts come home, you will be able to take the same number of tricks in notrump. If the hearts are bad, notrump may have chances while hearts doesn't make. It is possible to construct hands where diamonds is the right strain. For example, if partner has something like Ax KQxxx Jxxx Ax you would like to get to 7. The problem is that only the most sopisticated relay systems might be able to determine which red jack partner has, and if partner has the jack of hearts and not the jack of diamonds you want to be in notrump. Thus, there isn't any great value in locating a diamond fit.

The above analysis shows that there isn't any particular reason for making a 2/1 response. Your goal is to make an RKC call for hearts, which will get the information you need. You can't make an immediate asking bid, as that would be regular Blackwood. But you can set hearts as trumps with a Jacoby 2NT call. Obviously partner will expect a considerably different hand than this, but you don't care what partner thinks you have. Whatever partner does, you can follow with RKC and your goal will be accomplished. Partner won't be involved in the decision-making process.

What can go wrong if you bid 2? Suppose partner bids 3 or 4, splinter in support of diamonds. You can no longer arrange to set hearts as trumps for RKC. You will have painted yourself in a corner, and will have to guess your way out of it.

There is one other reason to bid 2NT. Suppose you bid 2, and partner has something like Jxx KQxxx Jx Axx. Partner has a normal 2NT rebid. Obviously you belong in 6NT, but from your side, and that is no longer possible. By bidding 2NT you make sure you grab the notrump, which is what you want to do.

You choose to bid 2. The bidding continues:

W
N
E
S
1
P
2
P
2
P
?

2: Natural, does not show extra strength

Your call?

North
K72
A62
AKQ7
KQJ
W
N
E
S
1
P
2
P
2
P
?

It is clear to bid 3. Even though you are likely headed for notrump, you need to establish hearts as trumps so you will be able to bid RKC for hearts.

You bid 3. The bidding continues:

W
N
E
S
1
P
2
P
2
P
3
P
4
P
?

Some of the bids available to you now are:

4: Last Train

4: RKC for hearts

4NT: Asking for a spade control (same for 5 or 5).

Your call?

North
K72
A62
AKQ7
KQJ
W
N
E
S
1
P
2
P
2
P
3
P
4
P
?

It is clearly right to bid 4, RKC. That will get the information you need.

You bid 4. The bidding continues:

W
N
E
S
1
P
2
P
2
P
3
P
4
P
4
P
4NT
P
?

4: RKC for hearts

4NT: 0 or 3 keycards

Your bids now mean:

5: Asks for queen of trumps

5: Asks if partner has 0 or 3 keycards

5: Signoff

5: Asks for specific kings

5NT: Pick a slam

6 anything: Offer to play

Your call?

North
K72
A62
AKQ7
KQJ
W
N
E
S
1
P
2
P
2
P
3
P
4
P
4
P
4NT
P
?

There can be hands where you don't know whether partner has 0 or 3 keycards for his response, but this isn't one of them. Partner isn't close to an opening bid if he has 0 keycards.

It is clear to bid 5, asking for the queen of trumps. If partner has it, 7NT will be at worst on a 3-2 heart split. If he doesn't have it you don't want to be in a grand, and you can work on finding the best small slam.

You bid 5. The bidding continues:

W
N
E
S
1
P
2
P
2
P
3
P
4
P
4
P
4NT
P
5
P
5
P
?

5: Asks for queen of trumps

5: No queen of trumps

Available to you are:

5: Asks for specific kings

5NT: Pick a slam

6 anything: Offer to play

Your call?

North
K72
A62
AKQ7
KQJ
W
N
E
S
1
P
2
P
2
P
3
P
4
P
4
P
4NT
P
5
P
5
P
?

Obviously you are going to choose 6NT rather than 6. If 6 is making, then 6NT will make. It is quite possible that 6NT makes with 6 going down when the hearts are 4-1 and there are enough tricks in the other suits to get up to 12.

Before you leap to 6NT, stop, look, and think. Might there be an even better contract? If so, is there any intelligent way to determine this without jeopardizing getting to 6NT.

Could 6 be best? Picture partner with Axxx Kxxxx J10x A. There are only 11 sure tricks in notrump -- you would need either a 3-2 heart split, a 3-3 spade split, or a squeeze. However, in 6 you can pitch two spades on the clubs and ruff a spade, taking 2 spades, 2 hearts, 3 clubs, and 5 diamonds unless one of the pointed suits splits 5-1.

You can't afford to bid 6 yourself, suggesting that as a final contract. Partner may think your diamonds are better, and leave you there when the trumps are insufficient. However, what you can try is 5NT, pick a slam. Partner knows he has shown 4-5 in the majors and implicitly the ace of clubs, so he can't have more than 3 diamonds. If he has J10x of diamonds it might occur to him to bid 6 when you ask him to pick. He isn't likely to do so with less. If he doesn't bid 6, you haven't lost anything as 6NT will always be there.

You choose to bid 6NT ending the auction.

W
N
E
S
1
P
2
P
2
P
3
P
4
P
4
P
4NT
P
5
P
5
P
6NT
P
P
P

A review of the auction shows that partner bid notrump first, so over you go to his side to play it.

West leads the 10.

North
K72
A62
AKQ7
KQJ
South
AJ43
K8753
A852
W
N
E
S
1
P
2
P
2
P
3
P
4
P
4
P
4NT
P
5
P
5
P
6NT
P
P
P

East plays the 6, and you win the jack. How do you proceed?

North
K7
A62
AKQ7
KQJ
South
A43
K8753
A852
W
N
E
S
1
P
2
P
2
P
3
P
4
P
4
P
4NT
P
5
P
5
P
6NT
P
P
P

You have 12 top tricks, with a 3-3 spade split or some kind of squeeze for #13. The first order of business has to be to unblock the clubs.

You play three of rounds of clubs. Both follow to the first round. On the second round, West discards the 2, and on the third round he discards the 5. What next?

North
K7
A62
AKQ7
South
A43
K8753
A
W
N
E
S
1
P
2
P
2
P
3
P
4
P
4
P
4NT
P
5
P
5
P
6NT
P
P
P

You might as well cash the king of spades. If both opponents follow, which seems likely, you can claim. If somebody shows out, you have sufficient communication for whichever squeeze you choose to try.

You cash the king of spades. Both opponents follow, and you claim the rest. The full hand is:

West
1095
QJ94
J10852
6
North
K72
A62
AKQ7
KQJ
East
Q86
10
9643
109743
South
AJ43
K8753
A852
W
N
E
S
 
1
P
2
P
2
P
3
P
4
P
4
P
4N
P
5
P
5
P
6N
P
P
P
D
6NT South
NS: 0 EW: 0
10
2
6
J
3
1
0
2
6
Q
3
1
2
0
K
4
5
2
1
3
0
J
7
8
5
1
4
0
K
8
3
9
1
5
0
5

N-S did well to avoid 6, which would have failed due to the 4-1 heart split.

Do you agree with West's opening lead?

West
1095
QJ94
J10852
6
North
K72
A62
AKQ7
KQJ
East
Q86
10
9643
109743
South
AJ43
K8753
A852
W
N
E
S
 
1
P
2
P
2
P
3
P
4
P
4
P
4N
P
5
P
5
P
6N
P
P
P
D
6NT South
NS: 0 EW: 0
10
2
6
J
3
1
0
2
6
Q
3
1
2
0
K
4
5
2
1
3
0
J
7
8
5
1
4
0
K
8
3
9
1
5
0
5

West has a difficult opening lead. He would like to make a safe lead, but anything he chooses might either blow a trick in the suit or give declarer something he wouldn't have found on his own. The spade lead looks best. The only time it gives declarer something he can't easily do for himself is when dummy has KJx or AJx and the spots to finesse for the 9 of spades. Perhaps West should lead the 9, which isn't likely to matter to partner but might mislead declarer if it makes a difference.

How was South's bidding?

West
1095
QJ94
J10852
6
North
K72
A62
AKQ7
KQJ
East
Q86
10
9643
109743
South
AJ43
K8753
A852
W
N
E
S
 
1
P
2
P
2
P
3
P
4
P
4
P
4N
P
5
P
5
P
6N
P
P
P
D
6NT South
NS: 0 EW: 0
10
2
6
J
3
1
0
2
6
Q
3
1
2
0
K
4
5
2
1
3
0
J
7
8
5
1
4
0
K
8
3
9
1
5
0
5

It looks accurate. The 2 call is clear as this doesn't show extra strength. South has considerably better than he might have, so he is easily worth his 4 call in case North has slam ambitions. After that, his bids were forced responses to North's inquiries.

At the other table, 6NT was declared by North with a club lead. Declarer chose to immediately duck a heart. He won the diamond return, and tested hearts. When they didn't split, he was reduced to a spade finesse, which succeeded. I don't think that was the best line of play. It is interesting to determine what his best line of play is.

When you are captain in the auction, you don't have to follow any rules. It is your job to figure out what approach is likely to work and act accordingly. This hand is a good example of this principle.

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