Join Bridge Winners
Solid Suit
(Page of 10)

In a round-robin match in the Bermuda Bowl, you have to find the best way to handle a slam potential hand.

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

South
K1098
AK4
AKQ82
9
W
N
E
S
1
P
2
P
2
P
4
P
?

1: 16+

2: 9+ points, 5+ clubs. Natural bidding follows.

4: Solid (or almost solid) club suit. At least AKQ10xx.

Available to you are:

4: Solid suit RKC for clubs. Since partner is already known to have the queen, he will treat the jack of clubs as the queen when responding to RKC.

4, 4: cue-bids for clubs

4NT: Diamond cue-bid for clubs

Your call?

 

South
K1098
AK4
AKQ82
9
W
N
E
S
1
P
2
P
2
P
4
P
?

Solid suit RKC looks perfect. You want to know about the ace of spades, and you want to know if partner's clubs are truly solid. This will give you the information you need to get to the right contract.

You bid 4. The bidding continues:

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

4: Solid suit RKC

4NT: 2 keycards, no jack of clubs

If you aren't bidding a slam now, available to you are:

5: Signoff

5: Asks for specific kings, does not guarantee all the keycards

5, 5: Grand slam try in clubs

5NT: Pick a slam

Your call?

South
K1098
AK4
AKQ82
9
W
N
E
S
1
P
2
P
2
P
4
P
4
P
4NT
P
?

It would be cowardly not to bid a slam. Even if partner has the minimum holding of AKQ10xx, the chances of picking up the suit without loss are about 50%. He might have AKQxxxx. The opponents might miss on the lead, which could give you a chance to discard his losing spades on the diamonds.

The question is which slam to bid. If partner has AKQ10xx of clubs and nothing else, you may need to ruff a diamond to establish a long diamond to get up to 12 tricks -- 6 clubs, 4 diamonds, and 2 hearts. However, if partner has a queen or two, 6NT will be safer and might make even if the clubs don't come in.

There is a further consideration. You may want to protect your king of spades. You have to be careful to remember who has bid what. He has the club suit, but you were the first person to bid clubs. Also partner just bid 4NT, so he is the first to bid notrump. Consequently, if you want to protect your king of spades you need to play in clubs.

You can't tell from looking at your own 13 cards. But it is possible to bring partner into the loop by bidding 5NT pick-a-slam. It will certainly be clear to partner what you are trying to do. If he has the seventh club, he will pick 6 -- he also knows it has to be better to play from your side. If he has nothing on the side, he will bid 6 since he can't have anything which makes notrump better. But if he has a couple of side queens, he should have the presence of mind to pick 6NT. At any rate, it can't hurt to try. If partner can't figure out what you are after he will certainly bid 6, and nothing will have been lost.

You bid 5NT. The bidding continues:

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

Your call?

 

South
K1098
AK4
AKQ82
9
W
N
E
S
1
P
2
P
2
P
4
P
4
P
4NT
P
5NT
P
6
P
?

Naturally you must pass. This was the game plan when you bid 5NT. Hopefully partner worked out what you were doing.

You pass, ending the auction.

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

West leads the 2.

North
632
105
75
AKQ1084
South
K1098
AK4
AKQ82
9
W
N
E
S
1
P
2
P
2
P
4
P
4
P
4NT
P
5NT
P
6
P
P
P

What do you play from dummy?

North
632
105
75
AKQ1084
South
K1098
AK4
AKQ82
9
W
N
E
S
1
P
2
P
2
P
4
P
4
P
4NT
P
5NT
P
6
P
P
P

If the diamonds are no worse than 4-2 you have 12 tricks provided you get the clubs right. If you get the clubs wrong, you probably aren't making.

Would West lead a club from Jxxx? He certainly might. He can deduce that you aren't void in clubs, since if you were you would have passed 5 if you were off an ace since there would be a likely club loser. Therefore, leading a club is safe, and could talk you out of taking a club finesse you might have taken otherwise.

If West has Jxxxx of clubs, you will have a decent chance to make via a trump coup if you take the finesse. Furthermore, if you finesse and lose there is some chance that East doesn't have the ace of spades and misguesses his return. If that happens and the diamonds are 3-3, you will survive. But if you go up ace of clubs and that is wrong, nothing will save you except an awful defensive blunder. These factors appear to argue for finessing if you believe this particular West is capable of leading from Jxxx.

There is, however, one overriding factor. If West has Jxxx of clubs and the ace of spades, he certainly would have led the ace of spades for fear of losing it when he has a trump trick coming. The lead of an ace against a slam won't look too suspicious. But if he doesn't have the guarded jack of clubs, it wouldn't be automatic for him to lead the ace of spades.

To put it another way, assuming your play in the club suit matters, there are 4 possible club and spade layouts:

1) West has Jxxx(x) of clubs and West has the ace of spades

2) West has Jxxx(x) of clubs and East has the ace of spades

3) East has Jx(x) of clubs and West has the ace of spades

4) East has Jx(x) of clubs and East has the ace of spades

Initially, these 4 layouts are about equally likely. However, 1) has been eliminated, since West would have led the ace of spades if that were the layout. Therefore, it is more likely that East has the jack of clubs.

You go up ace of clubs, and of course play top clubs. What do you discard from your hand?

North
632
105
75
KQ1084
South
K1098
AK4
AKQ82
W
N
E
S
1
P
2
P
2
P
4
P
4
P
4NT
P
5NT
P
6
P
P
P

You should discard 2 spades. Your 98 of spades can't possibly be of any value for making the contract, but the small heart might come in handy in some variations.

You discard the 8 and 9.

What will you do if it turns out that West did start with Jxxx of clubs?

North
632
105
75
1084
South
K10
AK4
AKQ82
W
N
E
S
1
P
2
P
2
P
4
P
4
P
4NT
P
5NT
P
6
P
P
P

It won't help you to run the diamonds. Even if the diamonds are 3-3, West will be able to ruff in on the fourth round of diamonds and you won't have had a chance to discard all of your spades. You could be tricky and pitch a heart and a spade, but East will have had so many opportunities to give a signal that it would be hard for the defense to go wrong.

You are better off playing a fourth round of clubs, discarding a heart. If East failed to discard an encouraging spade on the third round of clubs, his discard now might not be readable. This would take diamonds 3-3, East holding the ace of spades, and West failing to find the spade shift. Not likely, but possible.

Another try would be to lead the 10 and pass it. If East has QJ of hearts without the 9 he might think you are fishing for a revealing split when you have AK9 with an alternative option in some other suit available, so he might well duck. He will not be expecting you to be leading the 10 and passing it as a total bluff. In theory he might be able to work out that the double heart finesse can't really help you so he should cover, but in practice he won't be expecting this play and he will have to make a split-second decision. If this works and the diamonds are 3-3, you will have enough discards. Of course this does risk going down an extra trick in what might be a normal contract, but there is no guarantee that slam will be reached at the other table and if slam isn't reached you could care less about an extra undertrick. This is probably your best shot.

As it happens the clubs are 3-3, with East having Jxx. What do you do now?

North
632
105
75
1084
South
K10
AK4
AKQ82
W
N
E
S
1
P
2
P
2
P
4
P
4
P
4NT
P
5NT
P
6
P
P
P

Obviously you will go after diamonds, ruffing the fourth round if necessary to establish the long diamond for your twelfth trick. If the diamonds are 5-1, you will have to rely on the spade finesse. However, it can't hurt you to play one more round of clubs, discarding a heart. You wouldn't expect an opponent to discard a diamond from length, since he heard you bid diamonds. But the fourth round of clubs might put some pressure on anyway. Suppose East's hand is QJ Qxx J10xxx Jxx. He can't discard a diamond. He doesn't know your major-suit holdings, and he may think he has to hang onto Qxx of hearts and discard a spade. If that happens, you will get a spade trick. Not likely, but it can't hurt to try.

You lazily just go after diamonds. They are 4-2, so you can ruff the fourth round of diamonds to establish the long diamond for your twelfth trick. The full hand is:

West
74
8762
J1093
532
North
632
105
75
AKQ1084
East
AQJ5
QJ93
64
J76
South
K1098
AK4
AKQ82
9
W
N
E
S
 
1
P
2
P
2
P
4
P
4
P
4N
P
5N
P
6
P
P
P
D
6 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
2
A
6
9
1
1
0
K
7
8
3
1
2
0
Q
J
9
5
1
3
0
5
4
A
3
3
4
0
K
9
7
6
3
5
0
Q
10
2
5
3
6
0
2
J
4
7

What do you think of West's opening lead?

West
74
8762
J1093
532
North
632
105
75
AKQ1084
East
AQJ5
QJ93
64
J76
South
K1098
AK4
AKQ82
9
W
N
E
S
 
1
P
2
P
2
P
4
P
4
P
4N
P
5N
P
6
P
P
P
D
6 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
2
A
6
9
1
1
0
K
7
8
3
1
2
0
Q
J
9
5
1
3
0
5
4
A
3
3
4
0
K
9
7
6
3
5
0
Q
10
2
5
3
6
0
2
J
4
7

West was thinking it would be best to go passive since he had good control of the diamond suit. But this probably wasn't a good idea. West might picture this exact club layout from the auction, and figure that a club lead would only induce declarer to get the clubs right. Also, a major-suit lead might knock a critical entry out of declarer's hand. It looks better for West to pick a major suit to lead.

Do you agree with North's bidding?

West
74
8762
J1093
532
North
632
105
75
AKQ1084
East
AQJ5
QJ93
64
J76
South
K1098
AK4
AKQ82
9
W
N
E
S
 
1
P
2
P
2
P
4
P
4
P
4N
P
5N
P
6
P
P
P
D
6 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
2
A
6
9
1
1
0
K
7
8
3
1
2
0
Q
J
9
5
1
3
0
5
4
A
3
3
4
0
K
9
7
6
3
5
0
Q
10
2
5
3
6
0
2
J
4
7

It looks perfect. The jump to 4 showed his whole hand, and made reaching the slam from the right side of the table possible. Without that call it would be difficult for South to know that a slam is even a possibility.

North was correct to bid 6, of course. He didn't know what South had, but he did know that whatever South was looking for North didn't have it.

The opportunity to use solid-suit RKC is rare, since one must have first shown a solid suit which doesn't happen often. But when it comes up, it makes sense to be able to distinguish between a solid suit and a truly solid suit.

5NT pick-a-slam is perhaps the most valuable slam-bidding tool of all. If North had held the major-suit queens he would have known to pick 6NT, and that would be considerably better than 6. The opportunity for this bid comes up often, and getting to the superior slam can swing a huge number of IMPs.

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