Join Bridge Winners
Shut Him Up
(Page of 9)

Early in the second quarter ofa Rosenblum match, your partnership faces some high-level decisions.

None vul. As West, you hold:

West
Q1053
QJ85
J1075
5
W
N
E
S
1
P
1NT
2
4
?

1NT: Forcing

Your call. If you bid 4, does that create a force?




West
Q1053
QJ85
J1075
5
W
N
E
S
1
P
1NT
2
4
?


Bidding anything but 4 would be a big position. You have good spade support, and you don't know who can make what. 4 is likely to be where you belong, and if there is more competition perhaps partner will know what to do.

Each partnership should have firm and unambiguous rules about when a force is in existence. One of my main rules is that when we haven't shown invitational strength and game is bid under fire (i.e. you couldn't compete at a lower level) then you are not in a force. That is exactly what has happened here.

You bid 4. The bidding continues:

West
Q1053
QJ85
J1075
5
W
N
E
S
1
P
1NT
2
4
4
5
5
6
?


Bid, pass, or double?



West
Q1053
QJ85
J1075
5
W
N
E
S
1
P
1NT
2
4
4
5
5
6
?

It certainly can't be right to bid 6 in front of partner. You aren't making that, and for all you know 6 is down off the top. The opponents haven't exactly had a scientific auction, and they may think (rightly or wrongly) that they are the ones saving.

The question is whether to give partner a chance to save or to shut him up with a double. Your hearts represent considerable defense, and this partner can't expect. You can easily be defeating 6 due to these hearts even if you can't cash the first 2 tricks.

What it boils down to is this: If you pass and partner starts thinking, will you be saying to yourself: please don't save, partner. If so, then you should be doubling. If you are willing to hear partner take the save, then passing is fine. My assessment is that I would not be happy to hear partner take a save. Also, if they are the ones saving partner might not be able to double, and your double could turn +50 into +100 or +100 into +300.

You choose to pass. So does everybody else.

West
Q1053
QJ85
J1075
5
W
N
E
S
1
P
1NT
2
4
4
5
5
6
P
P
P


Your lead. You lead 3rd and 5th best.

Before choosing which suit to lead, there are a couple of questions worth answering:

Assuming you choose to lead a spade, which spade should you lead?




West
Q1053
QJ85
J1075
5
W
N
E
S
1
P
1NT
2
4
4
5
5
6
P
P
P


It is hard to see how leading the queen can ever be inferior. For that to be the case declarer would have to have the stiff king and dummy jack-doubleton, and even then the discard would have to make a difference. It is extremely unlikely that declarer would have bid 6 holding the stiff king of spades.

Leading the queen can gain. Declarer could hold stiff jack and dummy the king. Partner could hold AJ and dummy the king, and leading the queen will solve any problems partner might have. Most important is that if partner has AK, you will hold the trick. If a diamond shift is right, it should be from your side. Also, if it is a question of whether to cash a second spade or shift to a diamond, you will be better placed than partner to make that decision. He will presumably give count on the queen of spades lead since attitude can't make sense, and you will then know whether or not a second spade is cashing. Considering that you have 4 spades you already know that a second spade isn't likely to be cashing since partner wouldn't have bid 5 on a 5-card suit, but if you had Qxx of spades it could make a real difference.

Assuming you choose to lead a diamond, which diamond should you lead?




West
Q1053
QJ85
J1075
5
W
N
E
S
1
P
1NT
2
4
4
5
5
6
P
P
P


It is unlikely that the jack of diamonds is going to come into play. Count is more important to partner here, as he may need to know whether to cash diamonds or spades. From a 5 or 6-card holding, you would lead a count card -- low from 5, third best from 6. Partner knows this. Therefore, from the 4-card holding you should lead the jack and partner will know that you don't have more than 4 diamonds.

Now on to the bigger question. What do you lead?




West
Q1053
QJ85
J1075
5
W
N
E
S
1
P
1NT
2
4
4
5
5
6
P
P
P


Even though you have a strong heart holding, a trump lead is not a good idea. If partner has something like Jxx of trumps, a trump lead may allow declarer to score a cheap trump trick and then ruff a heart in dummy high enough to avoid an overruff.

Could a spade trick run away if you lead a diamond? Sure. But since partner is marked with at least 6 spades for his 5 call, only 1 spade trick can run away. It won't be discarded from dummy on the hearts unless declarer can draw trumps and set up the hearts without losing the lead, and if he can do that and your side can't win the first trick on a diamond lead you were never defeating the contract. It is possible that a spade could go from declarer's hand. He might be 1-6-0-6, with dummy having the ace of diamonds and partner having the ace of hearts or clubs. But declarer could also be 0-6-1-6 with dummy having the ace of spades. Partner's 2 overcall shows spade length, but it doesn't guarantee any particular strength in the suit.

Could a diamond trick run away if you lead a spade? Sure. The difference here is that a second round diamond trick might be running away, while that isn't the case with spades. For example, suppose declarer's shape is 0-6-2-5, dummy's shape is 3-2-3-5, and the opponents have the missing high cards in hearts and clubs. If you lead a spade, declarer can ruff, draw trumps, and set up the hearts for two diamond discards from dummy, taking a total of 8 trump tricks and 4 heart tricks. The diamond lead might get the first two tricks. Or, on the same distribution partner might have KQ of diamonds and ace of clubs, in which case the diamond lead is needed to establish a diamond trick in time. The conclusion is that a diamond is the percentage lead.

You choose to lead the 5.

West
Q1053
QJ85
J1075
5
North
94
643
K864
8632
W
N
E
S
1
P
1NT
2
4
4
5
5
6
P
P
P


Partner wins the K, declarer playing the jack. Partner shifts to the 10. It turns out there is nothing to the hand. Declarer is always down 2 on any sensible line of play or defense. The full hand is:


West
Q1053
QJ85
J1075
5
North
94
643
K864
8632
East
AK8762
10
A93
1094
South
J
AK972
Q2
AKQJ7
W
N
E
S
1
P
1NT
2
4
4
5
5
6
P
P
P
D
6 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
5
4
K
J
2
0
1
10
2


What do you think of partner's heart shift?




West
Q1053
QJ85
J1075
5
North
94
643
K864
8632
East
AK8762
10
A93
1094
South
J
AK972
Q2
AKQJ7
W
N
E
S
1
P
1NT
2
4
4
5
5
6
P
P
P
D
6 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
5
4
K
J
2
0
1
10
2


Partner was correct to not try to cash his ace of diamonds. Declarer would have to have 7 hearts in order to be able to discard dummy's diamond losers, which is clearly impossible. If dummy's shape were different there would be a danger of losing the ace of diamonds from partner's point of view, since he doesn't know you have the hearts locked up. This illustrates why you are better off leading the queen of spades rather than a small spade, since you will be in a better position to know what to do at trick 2 if your queen of spades holds.

His heart shift was a greedy attempt to get a 2-trick set. But it was not 100% safe. Declarer could conceivably have held J3, AKQJxx, --, AKJxx, in which case the spade trick would go away. It wasn't likely since declarer didn't open 2, but it was still possible. The gain from the extra 50 points doesn't justify the risk of letting them make a slam.

If you had doubled 6, then the heart shift would be right. The gain from the extra undertrick is now meaningful. In addition it is inconceivable that you would have doubled with nothing in hearts, so if another spade is cashing it won't go away.

What do you think of the enemy bidding?




West
Q1053
QJ85
J1075
5
North
94
643
K864
8632
East
AK8762
10
A93
1094
South
J
AK972
Q2
AKQJ7
W
N
E
S
1
P
1NT
2
4
4
5
5
6
P
P
P
D
6 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
5
4
K
J
2
0
1
10
2

I have never understood the attraction of responding 1NT with a weak hand and 3-card trump support. If you are that afraid of the raise turning partner on too much, simply pass. In my mind, one should always set trumps as early as possible if it can be done conveniently.

The 4 bid is fine. 5 is probably okay. 6 is a reasonable gamble. If North produces the ace of diamonds it might make. If not, maybe 6 will be a decent save against 5.

What about partner's 5 call and his final pass?




West
Q1053
QJ85
J1075
5
North
94
643
K864
8632
East
AK8762
10
A93
1094
South
J
AK972
Q2
AKQJ7
W
N
E
S
1
P
1NT
2
4
4
5
5
6
P
P
P
D
6 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
5
4
K
J
2
0
1
10
2


5 is certainly a reasonable shot. If the enemy bidding is to be trusted you have a singleton club, so if you have side cards in diamonds then 5 might make. Also, 5 might be making. It is only because your side strength happens to be in hearts that both contracts fail by a trick. An added bonus is that even if bidding 5 is wrong, the opponents might misjudge and go one level higher. If he bids 5, the opponents may be facing the last guess. This is exactly what happened. Bidding five over five is usually wrong, but there are exceptions and this hand appears to be one of them.

It is interesting to look at the odds on partner's potential actions over 6. First, let's look at the 6 bid. It is pretty inconceivable that 6 will make, and it will surely be doubled. Let's estimate that 6 goes down 2 for -300. Then:

If 6 is making, bidding 6 gains 12 IMPs (-300 vs. -920)
If 6 is down 1, bidding 6 costs 8 IMPs (-300 vs. +50)

Thus, defending lays 3 to 2 IMP odds, so if 6 and 6 doubled are the only two possible results at the other table he should bid 6 if he believes 6 will make at least 40% of the time.

It isn't quite that simple. There are other possibilities. From the action at your table it seems pretty sure that the auction will get to at least the 5-level at the other table.

Suppose the result at the other table is 5 undoubled down 1. Then:

Bidding 6 results in a 6 IMP loss (-300 vs. -50)
When 6 makes, passing loses 13 IMPs (-920 vs. -50), costing 7 IMPs vs. bidding 6
When 6 goes down, passing wins 3 IMPs (+50 vs. -50), gaining 9 IMPs vs. bidding 6

So if 5 is the contract at the other table, the odds are 9 to 7 against saving instead of 3 to 2 in favor of saving.

Suppose the result at the other table is 5 making 5 or 6. Then:

Bidding 6 results in a 3 IMP win (-300 vs. -400 or -420)
When 6 makes, passing loses 11 IMPs (-920 vs. -420), costing 14 IMPs vs. bidding 6
When 6 goes down, passing wins 10 IMPs (+50 vs. -400), gaining 7 IMPs vs. bidding 6

So if 5 is the contract at the other table, the odds are 2 to 1 in favor of saving instead of 3 to 2 in favor of saving.

How high the bidding will soar at the other table is anybody's guess. I would judge that 5 is a more likely final contract than 5, so saving is a little less attractive than it would be if the contract were definitely either 6 or 6 doubled at the other table.

So, what are the chances that 6 will make? Apriori, the odds that declarer has the necessary shape to make 6 are very small. 5-5 and 6-5 hands are much more common than 6-6 hands. The fact that he did bid 6 increases the chances that he has the necessary distribution, but that still isn't the way to bet since he may simply have been saving with a shot at making (which is exactly what he was doing). On the information partner has it is hard to imagine that 6 will make more than 1/3 of the time, so it is better to defend than to save.

Should partner double since he thinks 6 is going down? If 6 is making, the double costs 5 IMPs (-1090 vs. -920). If 6 is down 1, the double gains 2 IMPs (+100 vs. +50). It is true that if 6 is down 2 the double gains 5 IMPs, but that doesn't look likely since if you had some defensive help you might have doubled 6 yourself. Thus the odds are well against the double, so he would have to be pretty sure that 6 is going down to make doubling percentage.

It is interesting that while partner knows for sure that passing isn't the best action, it is still his percentage action. Sometimes it is right to settle for half a loaf.

There is one other strike against doubling, and it is a big strike. You might think it is a Lightner double, calling for an unusual lead. Since partner is looking at a singleton heart, you could easily have enough hearts to think he has a void. While on this sort of, nobody knows who can make what auction, a double of the final contract might simply be to increase the penalty, as long as the opponents aren't clearly saving the opening leader should assume that the double is Lightner since getting a lead which swings the contract is far more important than collecting an extra 50 or even 200 points. Thus, partner shouldn't double unless he is sure that a heart lead won't cost the contract. On his actual hand a heart lead could be a huge disaster, so he should not double even if he knows that both aces are cashing.

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