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Prepare the Ending
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In a round of 16 match in the Open Trials, you must make the right evaluation opposite partner's show of strength.

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

South
1084
QJ1075
K43
J8
W
N
E
S
P
?

If you wish to preempt, you are playing Multi. A 5-card suit would not be a surprise in your style.

Your call?

South
1084
QJ1075
K43
J8
W
N
E
S
P
?

The heart suit is internally solid. That is an important feature when considering a marginal preempt. You are a lot less likely to get caught when you are in trouble. An enemy heart stack will consist of small cards which don't look too strong on defense. Also, if you do get caught, those heart spots will cut down on the damage.

There are several factors to take into account. They are:

Vulnerability. None vul is okay for marginal preempts. If the hand turns out to be a part-score battle and the preempt lets you buy the contract that may be the best vulnerability, since it is 50 an undertrick for both sides. However, you would prefer favorable vulnerability. You will be doubled less often, since the opponents won't want to pass up a vulnerable game and they need to defeat you 4 tricks to compensate for that game. Also, if the vulnerable opponents have an accident your gain is more likely to be in double figures than when they are also non-vulnerable.

Position. Second position is the worst position to make a marginal preempt. The reason is that East has limited his hand by the initial pass, which puts a lot less pressure on the opponents. West goes into the hand knowing the limits of his partner's hand, which makes his decisions easier. Also East's actions will be easier since he will be bidding in the context of a passed hand, while if he weren't a passed hand he could have anything.

Shape. This is the most important factor of all. 5-3-3-2 is absolutely terrible shape for a marginal preempt. The flat shape means that if you do get caught you lose everything which isn't nailed down. Also, the flat shape means that suits are splitting for the opponents, so it will be hard for them to make a mistake whatever they do. Make one of your small spades a small diamond, giving you 5-4-2-2 shape, and now opening Multi would be far more attractive and probably the percentage call. As it is, this is not the hand to open.

You pass. The bidding continues:

W
N
E
S
P
P
1
X
P
?

Your call?

South
1084
QJ1075
K43
J8
W
N
E
S
P
P
1
X
P
?

Passing can be considered. Hearts is by far your best suit. Still, that would be too big a position. West has the hearts behind you, and his suit is probably at least as good as yours. Partner might have anything, including a heart void, since he isn't expecting you to pass. You might have a cold game, or 1 might be making easily. Passing simply isn't a good bet.

There are hands where it is right to bid a 3-card suit in response to a takeout double, but that should be avoided if at all possible. Partner will always play you for at least a 4-card suit and will act accordingly both in competition and in constructive bidding. On this hand you have a perfectly satisfactory 1NT call available. You have hearts stopped, and partner will be playing you for about this strength. With a king more you would be thinking 2NT. With a king less you might bid a 3-card suit as the lesser of evils.

You bid 1NT. The bidding continues:

W
N
E
S
P
P
1
X
P
1NT
P
2NT
P
?

Your call?

South
1084
QJ1075
K43
J8
W
N
E
S
P
P
1
X
P
1NT
P
2NT
P
?

This looks close. It is tempting to bid game. You could have worse after the takeout double of a major. If the alternative is to bid a 3-card suit, you would rather lie about a queen than about a trump.

Still, your hand really isn't as good as it looks. Your fine heart suit is probably only going to be worth one trick at most. Your king of diamonds is your only entry, and that only if partner has the ace. Even with partner having his expected 17 or 18-count, nine tricks could be hard to come by.

You never like stopping in 2NT. But on this hand it really feels like 8 tricks are about what you can expect to take.

You pass, ending the auction.

W
N
E
S
P
P
1
X
P
1NT
P
2NT
P
P
P

West leads the 3. Attitude leads.

North
AK62
42
A752
AK10
South
1084
QJ1075
K43
J8
W
N
E
S
P
P
1
X
P
1NT
P
2NT
P
P
P

East plays the 8. Which heart do you win the trick with?

North
AK62
42
A752
AK10
South
1084
QJ1075
K43
J8
W
N
E
S
P
P
1
X
P
1NT
P
2NT
P
P
P

Often it is very important which of equal honors you win the opening lead with, in order to deceive one or both opponents about your holding in the suit. On this deal it isn't likely to matter much. You know that West has the remaining hearts from the bidding and lead. He will know that you have QJ107 whatever you play, since all his partner could produce was the 8. As for East, he doesn't have a heart to return so whatever he thinks about your heart holding isn't likely to affect anything he does.

You choose to win with the queen of hearts. How do you continue, and what is your general game plan?

North
AK62
4
A752
AK10
South
1084
J1075
K43
J8
W
N
E
S
P
P
1
X
P
1NT
P
2NT
P
P
P

Prospects look good. You have 7 top tricks, and a potential eighth trick if either diamonds or spades split 3-3. You also have the club finesse if neither suit splits. But you might be able to do better.

East is out of hearts. If spades and diamonds aren't splitting, he must guard at least one of these suits, maybe both of them. There must be potential to strip these cards out of his hand and force him to lead a club which will give you your eighth trick.

How do you prepare the ending? Since the king of diamonds is the only entry to your hand and you have no diamond spots, it seems clear to start with spades. Ideally you would like to duck a spade to East. If West gets in he can afford to cash one heart and lead a club through dummy which will make your life more difficult. However, you might not be able to prevent West from getting in.

Let's suppose you lead a spade up, and West plays a spot which might win the trick. In order to best keep control of things, you will want to win the ace of spades and then duck a spade. The worst variation appears to be that West wins the second round of spades, cashes one high heart with East discarding a club, and now leads a club though dummy. What will you do on this trick?

North
K6
A752
AK10
South
8
J107
K43
J8
W
N
E
S
P
P
1
X
P
1NT
P
2NT
P
P
P

You might have to take the club finesse later, but you don't want to commit to that now if you don't have to. It is clearly right to win the ace of clubs. It also may be important to drop the jack from your hand, so if East is later forced to lead a club up to dummy the suit won't be blocked.

After winning the ace of clubs and dumping the jack, how will you proceed? Be sure to consider as many possibilities as possible.

North
K6
A752
K10
South
8
J107
K43
8
W
N
E
S
P
P
1
X
P
1NT
P
2NT
P
P
P

The first step is to cash the king of spades to find out the story in the spade suit. If the suit splits 3-3, you have 8 tricks.

If West has 4 spades, cash two top diamonds and lead a third diamond. West can't have 4 diamonds. If the diamonds are 3-3 you are cold. Otherwise, East will be end-played into leading a club.

If East has 4 spades, your best play is to cash two diamonds ending in dummy and throw East in with a spade. If East started with 4 diamonds or 2 diamonds, he will be end-played and forced to lead a club. If he started with 3 diamonds he will have a diamond exit to West, but that makes your long diamond good and the defense can take only 2 hearts, 1 diamond, and 2 spades. The bad variation occurs when East started with 5 diamonds and 4 spades and kept all of his diamonds. Now you would like to take the club finesse, but you can't get back to your hand. All you can do is cash the king of clubs and hope East started with Qxx.

Suppose East started with 5 spades. He wins the second round of spades and returns a spade which you win, West discarding hearts. What is your best chance?

North
AK62
4
A752
AK10
South
1084
J1075
K43
J8
W
N
E
S
P
P
1
X
P
1NT
P
2NT
P
P
P

East's extra spade means you can't afford to cash two diamonds and throw him in with a spade, since if the diamonds are 3-3 and West has the high diamond the defense can take 3 spades, 1 diamond and 2 hearts. However, since West hasn't cashed any hearts you can afford to lose more tricks in the minors to East. Your best bet is to play three rounds of diamonds. This makes if diamonds are 3-3, and if East started with 4 diamonds he will be end-played after taking 3 spade tricks and 2 diamond tricks. If West started with 4 diamonds he can cash his red-suit winners, and you will have to bank on the club finesse.

If you are able to duck the first spade trick to East, you are better placed in all variations. The difference is that West doesn't cash that one round of hearts and lead the club through. For example, suppose East has 5 spades. East returns a spade, and you get the news. Now you can afford to duck a diamond and keep all options open, which you couldn't do when East won the second round of spades since East could win and cash his spades, getting off the end-play. Best for the defense again is for West to win, cash a heart, and lead a club. You win, and cash two diamonds ending in your hand. If East started with 4 diamonds and discarded a club on the heart trick you won't have your end-play, but you are in position to take the club finesse which is a favorite to succeed. Otherwise either the diamonds are 3-3 or you can end-play East. You are similarly better placed when the spades are 4-2 and you can duck the first trick to East.

For these reasons, you best bet is to lead the 8. This acomplishes the goal of losing the spade trick to East on the 5-1 splits unless West has specifically the singleton 9. It also works on the 4-2 splits unless West has specifically Q9 or J9 doubleton.

The above analysis is nice. Unfortunately at the table you foolishly lead back the jack of hearts at trick 2. West wins the king, East discarding the 7 (standard carding). West shifts to the 9. What do you do on this trick?

North
AK62
A752
AK10
South
1084
1075
K43
J8
W
N
E
S
P
P
1
X
P
1NT
P
2NT
P
P
P

The indications are that the club finesse is offside. It is clear to win the ace of clubs and keep your options open. Of course you should unblock the jack so things will go smoothly on a later finesse or end-play.

You win the ace of clubs, but carelessly fail to unblock the jack. What do you do now?

North
AK62
A752
K10
South
1084
1075
K43
J
W
N
E
S
P
P
1
X
P
1NT
P
2NT
P
P
P

You are now probably going to need either spades or diamonds to split 3-3, although there are still end-play possibilities. In addition, there is the danger that you test the wrong suit first and West puts another club through. You could now go down even if one of the suits is 3-3.

Instead of ducking a trick, you are better off playing ace-king and a third round of one of the suits. If West has the 4-card holding in the suit you attack and the other suit is 3-3 you will be okay since West will not have another club to lead through dummy.

It is better to play diamonds first. You have no diamond spots, but your spade spots may be of value if the opponents are forced to break the suit.

You play king of diamonds, ace of diamonds. Both opponents follow. You play a third round of diamonds. East has 4 diamonds, and cashes them as West discards 2 hearts and you discard a heart from your hand. East now shifts to the jack of spades. What do you do?

North
AK62
K10
South
1084
107
J
W
N
E
S
P
P
1
X
P
1NT
P
2NT
P
P
P

It has to be right to duck. In addition to a 3-3 spade split, you will make if East has QJ or J9 doubleton of spades. You will also make if East started with 4 spades, as you can end-play him. The end-play will succeed, since you can discard the blocking jack of clubs on the fourth spade.

You duck. East continues spades. The spades are 3-3, and you have 8 tricks. The full hand is:

West
Q97
AK963
Q8
962
North
AK62
42
A752
AK10
East
J53
8
J1096
Q7543
South
1084
QJ1075
K43
J8
W
N
E
S
P
P
1
X
P
1NT
P
2NT
P
P
P
D
2NT South
NS: 0 EW: 0
3
2
8
Q
3
1
0
J
K
4
7
0
1
1
9
A
3
8
1
2
1
2
J
K
8
3
3
1
3
Q
A
6
1
4
1
7
9
4
6
2
4
2
10
5
9
5
2
4
3
J
4
7
2
2
4
4
5
8
9
A
1
5
4
K
3
10
Q
1
6
4
10

Do you agree with North's 2NT call?

West
Q97
AK963
Q8
962
North
AK62
42
A752
AK10
East
J53
8
J1096
Q7543
South
1084
QJ1075
K43
J8
W
N
E
S
P
P
1
X
P
1NT
P
2NT
P
P
P
D
2NT South
NS: 0 EW: 0
3
2
8
Q
3
1
0
J
K
4
7
0
1
1
9
A
3
8
1
2
1
2
J
K
8
3
3
1
3
Q
A
6
1
4
1
7
9
4
6
2
4
2
10
5
9
5
2
4
3
J
4
7
2
2
4
4
5
8
9
A
1
5
4
K
3
10
Q
1
6
4
10

Many players would bid 3NT on the North hand. That is what happened on the same sequence at the other table, and 3NT was down 1. It is an example of what I call the "expert's error". The expert judges that on balance they would like to be in game over the range of hands South is likely to hold for the 1NT call. That is an accurate assessment, and if North had to make the final decision 3NT would be the right choice. But North doesn't have to make the final decision. By inviting, North gives South a chance to look at his hand, and South will go unless he has a minimum. The proper question North should be asking isn't whether 3NT is a favorite over the range of hands South has for the 1NT call. It should be whether or not 3NT is a favorite over the range of hands where South would be passing an invitational 2NT. If the answer is yes, then North is correct to bid game. But if the answer is no, then inviting is the proper course. On the actual North hand with the lack of spots, it looks like if South is rejecting then game doens't figure to make.

It would be nearly impossible for a player to go through the full analysis of the play of this hand with all the possible branches at the table. What is important is to know what you are trying to accomplish. At the table South just played a card at trick 2 with no real plan in mind, and he was fortunate to survive. Once South sees that he should be aiming for an end-play on East which involves stripping East of one of the pointed suits and throwing him in with the other suit, it will also be clear that South does not want West to get the lead and push a club through. With this plan in mind, leading the 8 becomes a natural play even without going through all the various possibilities.

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