Join Bridge Winners
Smoke It Out
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In a Round of 16 match in the Open Trials, you have a systemic strong 1 auction.

Both vul, South deals. As South, you hold:

South
AQ
J984
K52
AK54
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
P
?

1: Strong, artificial

1: Either 9-12 balanced or a positive with clubs.

1NT by you would be an artificial ask. Partner will bid 2 if he has the club positive. If he has the balanced hand he will make a bid which starts to show his shape.

Other calls by you would be natural.

Your call?

South
AQ
J984
K52
AK54
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
P
?

The 1NT ask is clear. You don't have anything particular to show, and you want to find out what partner has.

You bid 1NT. The bidding continues:

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

1NT: Artificial ask

2: Balanced, 9-10 HCP, 4 spades, fewer than 4 hearts.

2 by you would ask partner how many controls he has, and go into an asking sequence.

2NT by you would ask partner to clarify the rest of his shape.

Your call?

South
AQ
J984
K52
AK54
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
P
1NT
P
2
P
?

You don't need to find anything more. You know that 3NT is almost certainly where you belong.

You bid 3NT, ending the auction.

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

West leads the 3. Standard leads.

North
KJ85
A3
Q1084
1082
South
AQ
J984
K52
AK54
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
P
1NT
P
2
P
3NT
P
P
P

What do you play from dummy?

North
KJ85
A3
Q1084
1082
South
AQ
J984
K52
AK54
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
P
1NT
P
2
P
3NT
P
P
P

You have 8 sure tricks after knocking out the ace of diamonds. The ninth trick will probably come from the diamond suit, but there is a possibility with the club suit.

West has led his smallest club, so he is likely to have at least one club honor. If he has QJxx, you can make immediately by playing the 10. Q9xx or J9xx is more likely, and if he has that you can insert the 8 and then you will be able to lead up to the 10 and establish a third club trick. That looks like the better bet.

You play the 8. East covers with the 9. What do you play from your hand?

North
KJ85
A3
Q1084
1082
South
AQ
J984
K52
AK54
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
P
1NT
P
2
P
3NT
P
P
P

A double hold-up might prevent the opponents from getting 2 club tricks, but that isn't so important. You can afford to lose 2 club tricks and 2 diamond tricks while you go after your second diamond trick. What you can't afford is to get a heart shift now or later, and lose 2 diamonds, 2 hearts, and 1 club.

Which club should you win with? If this were a suit contract, your most deceptive play is to win with the ace. West isn't underleading an ace and East isn't not playing the ace if he has it, so if you win with the king both defenders will know you have the ace. In a notrump contract, that is not so clear. West might well be underleading an ace, and there may be positions where East will retain his ace. It is generally correct to win with the king from an AK holding if you wish to conceal what you have. If you win with the ace, East might wonder why you didn't hold up from something like Axx, but if you win with the king he can't draw that inference since you had to win the trick if you had Kxx.

You win the king of clubs. What do you do next?

North
KJ85
A3
Q1084
102
South
AQ
J984
K52
A54
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
P
1NT
P
2
P
3NT
P
P
P

You must attack diamonds. The best start is to lead the king of diamonds. The ace is out against you. If you can smoke it out, you will be better placed with fluid entries to dummy. If they let your king hold, which is likely, you may be facing a difficult decision, but that problem hasn't happened yet. Since you have plenty of hand entries, there is no rush about finessing for the jack of diamonds.

You lead the king of diamonds. West wins the ace, East playing the 6 (UDCA). West continues with the queen of clubs, East playing the 6. Do you win or duck?

North
KJ85
A3
Q108
102
South
AQ
J984
52
A54
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
P
1NT
P
2
P
3NT
P
P
P

It appears as though West started with QJ73 of clubs, and that you could have done better at trick 1. Once again, you cannot afford to duck a club trick since a heart shift might be fatal.

You win the ace of clubs. What next?

North
KJ85
A3
Q108
10
South
AQ
J984
52
54
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
P
1NT
P
2
P
3NT
P
P
P

It is clear to continue your diamond attack with another diamond finesse. You don't have to unblock the spades yet, since if the diamond finesse loses you will have an entry to dummy in both red suits and the opponents can't knock out both entries at once.

You lead a diamond. West plays the 9. You try the 10. East wins the jack, and shifts to the queen of hearts. What do you do?

North
KJ85
A3
Q8
10
South
AQ
J984
2
54
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
P
1NT
P
2
P
3NT
P
P
P

You are looking at 9 tricks, so take them. At the end you can lead up to the jack of hearts, which will produce a tenth trick if East has the king of hearts and another heart left.

You win the ace of hearts, unblock the spades, lead a diamond to dummy and take your winners. East does have the king of hearts but he started with 3 clubs, so the defense gets the last 2 tricks and you just make your contract. The full hand is:

West
9742
752
A97
Q73
North
KJ85
A3
Q1084
1082
East
1063
KQ106
J63
J96
South
AQ
J984
K52
AK54
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
P
1NT
P
2
P
3NT
P
P
P
D
3NT South
NS: 0 EW: 0
3
8
9
K
3
1
0
K
A
4
6
0
1
1
Q
2
6
A
3
2
1
5
9
10
J
2
2
2
Q
4
2
A
1
3
2
5

What do you think of West's opening lead?

West
9742
752
A97
Q73
North
KJ85
A3
Q1084
1082
East
1063
KQ106
J63
J96
South
AQ
J984
K52
AK54
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
P
1NT
P
2
P
3NT
P
P
P
D
3NT South
NS: 0 EW: 0
3
8
9
K
3
1
0
K
A
4
6
0
1
1
Q
2
6
A
3
2
1
5
9
10
J
2
2
2
Q
4
2
A
1
3
2
5

West's opening lead was very reasonable. Dummy has four of his only 4-card suit, so a spade lead can't be productive. He needs to strike his partner's 5-card suit in order to have a good chance to defeat the contract, and clubs is as good a shot as anything. Since he has the queen of clubs, he needs to hit less strength in the club suit if he hits that 5-card suit than he needs if he leads a heart. A diamond could be right also, but aces are meant to capture kings and queens.

How about the subsequent defense?

West
9742
752
A97
Q73
North
KJ85
A3
Q1084
1082
East
1063
KQ106
J63
J96
South
AQ
J984
K52
AK54
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
P
1NT
P
2
P
3NT
P
P
P
D
3NT South
NS: 0 EW: 0
3
8
9
K
3
1
0
K
A
4
6
0
1
1
Q
2
6
A
3
2
1
5
9
10
J
2
2
2
Q
4
2
A
1
3
2
5

West might have given declarer some headaches if he had ducked the king of diamonds. West knows that declarer has the ace of clubs, since his partner would certainly have played it at trick 1. Declarer didn't start with AKx, since with that declarer would have tried the 10 from dummy. However, declarer might have started with AK tight, with West hitting the gold he was aiming for. If that is the layout, ducking the ace of diamonds (which would commit him to ducking the next round also) might blow the defense when the contract is beaten by winning the ace and continuing clubs.

There was no reason for West to play the 9 on the second round of diamonds. Declarer is going to finesse whichever diamond West plays. Playing the 9 simply tells declarer that dummy's 8 will be good.

At the other table, West found the 2 lead. East won the queen, and chose to shift to a club which was ducked to West's queen. West went back to hearts. Declarer led a diamond to his king, which West ducked. Declarer now unblocked the spades, and led a diamond which West ducked again. The defense was poised to take 5 tricks if declarer went wrong, but declarer made an inspired guess to go up queen of diamonds, and that resulted in an overtrick when the clubs split 3-3.

We recently added the 2-way 1 response to our existing structure of transfer positive responses to 1. It works quite well, getting the notrump played from the strong hand almost all the time while retaining our full structure both when responder has the balanced hand and when he has clubs.

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