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Surprise Jump
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In a round-robin match in the trials, you have to figure out what is going on when partner makes an unexpected call.

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

South
A2
4
AKJ9652
1043
W
N
E
S
1
P
2
P
3NT
P
?

1: 16+ points, artificial
2: 5+ diamonds, 9+ points, game forcing
3NT: 20-21 balanced, notrumpish hand

If you want to show a rebiddable diamond suit, it must be done conventionally. 4 and 4 would show 4 hearts and 4 spades respectively. 4 shows a rebiddable diamond suit. 4 shows a secondary club suit. Other calls would be natural, with no particular agreements.

Your call?

You certainly can make a slam. The question is whether or not there is a grand slam. It must be right to show the rebiddable diamond suit. Hopefully partner will be able to take over with 4, RKC, after which he will pretty much know your whole hand and be able to place the contract.

You bid 4. The bidding continues:

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

This is unexpected. The 6 call doesn't have any particular definition, so it is up to you to figure out what partner is doing.

Your call?

South
A2
4
AKJ9652
1043
W
N
E
S
1
P
2
P
3NT
P
4
P
6
P
?

What is going on? Logically this 6 call can only be an offer to play. But what kind of hand can partner have for this surprise jump which is consistent with his 3NT call? Keep in mind that he didn't have to make the space-consuming 3NT bid. He could have taken it slowly with a 3 call.

Perhaps he has 3-3-2-5 shape with 5 solid clubs. Even if he has this sort of hand, his bid is unlikely. Your 4 call doesn't necessarily show any extra strength, merely a distributional hand with a long diamond suit. He has no idea that your hand is anywhere near as strong as it is, nor does he know that you have any club support.

Assuming he has a hand like this, what must it include? Surely he must have the missing aces, as otherwise he wouldn't be close to a 6 call. In addition, he figures to have the Q, since if he doesn't have it you could be off two diamond tricks. Your hand could be A and QJ10xxxx. If he has these cards along with solid clubs, the grand slam will be laydown. He can't have 6 clubs, or he certainly would have bid 3 instead of 3NT. Even with that hand, his sequence doesn't make much sense. Why wouldn't he bid RKC, which would allow him to bid a grand when he finds you with your 3 keycards?

There is one other possibility. Partner might have gotten the coding confused and thought that you had shown both minors. Normally you don't bid on the assumption that partner has made a mistake. However, when the auction totally doesn't make sense, you should take this possibility into account.

Suppose partner does think you have a club suit. What must he have for his 6 call? Certainly the missing aces and some good clubs. You can't tell about his diamond holding, but even if he has two small diamonds a grand slam won't be terrible. It is easy to construct hands where a grand is laydown or very good. In the worst-case scenario it doesn't appear that the grand can possibly be worse than a club finesse or a diamond split. The odds favor bidding the grand.

Is there any argument for bidding 7NT? Not really. If the diamonds don't run, you almost certainly won't have 13 tricks in notrump unless partner has a tremendous source of tricks, and if he has that he will be able to bid 7NT himself over 7. There can be plenty of advantage to having a trump suit, since a ruff might be needed to develop the thirteenth trick.

What will partner think when you jump to 7? Probably that will wake him out of his lethargy. If it doesn't, he will probably pass on the principle that nobody invited him to the party. If he doesn't pass you will just get to 7NT, and that may be fine.

You bid 7, ending the auction.

W
N
E
S
1
P
2
P
3NT
P
4
P
6
P
7
P
P
P

West leads the 3.

North
KQ6
AQ10
Q7
AQJ87
South
A2
4
AKJ9652
1043
W
N
E
S
1
P
2
P
3NT
P
4
P
6
P
7
P
P
P

Do you finesse or not?

North
KQ6
AQ10
Q7
AQJ87
South
A2
4
AKJ9652
1043
W
N
E
S
1
P
2
P
3NT
P
4
P
6
P
7
P
P
P

The contract will probably ride on your decision. If you finesse and win, you have 13 tricks. If you finesse and lose, you are down.

If you refuse the finesse, the contract will probably depend upon the club finesse. There may be some squeeze chances if the same opponent has both kings, but since the chance of this isn't any better than the club finesse you might as well assume you will be taking the club finesse when judging your trick one play.

So, it comes down to a simple question. If the kings are split, is it more likely that West has the K or the K? The only information you have to go on is the opening lead.

Suppose you decide that if West has one king he is equally likely to lead from the king as he is to lead something else. If that is the case, there is an interesting restricted choice application which argues for taking the heart finesse. The logic is as follows: If West chooses to lead from a king, he can only lead from the king he has. However, if West chooses to make a passive lead, he could choose either of the side suits where he doesn't have the king. Thus, if West has the king of clubs and not the king of hearts, if he makes a passive lead he will lead a heart half the time and a spade half the time. But if West leads away from a king, he can only lead away from the king he has.

Will West lead away from a king on this auction? It could be a winning lead if it talks you into a losing line of play. However, for all West knows you have the ace of his king suit and the lead hands you the contract. Also, you may have no choice but to play him for the king, and once again the lead may give you your thirteenth trick. The auction is clearly guesswork, so there is no reason to think that you have 13 tricks and that there is need to be deceptive. It seems unlikely that West would risk underleading a king under these circumstances. It looks better to assume East has the K.

You go up A. East plays the 5. What is your plan?

North
KQ6
Q10
Q7
AQJ87
South
A2
AKJ9652
1043
W
N
E
S
1
P
2
P
3NT
P
4
P
6
P
7
P
P
P

If East has both kings, you can make the hand via a trump squeeze. You run all your trumps but one, discarding 4 clubs from dummy. Then you cash your spades discarding a club, reaching the following end position with the lead in dummy.

North
Q10
A
South
2
104
W
N
E
S
1
P
2
P
3NT
P
4
P
6
P
7
P
P
P

East is squeezed. He must blank one of his kings. If he comes down to a singleton K, you ruff out his K, cross to the A, and your Q is good. If he comes down to a singleton K, you cash the A, ruff a heart, and your 10 is good.

There are two reasons why this is inferior to the simple club finesse.

First of all, even if East has both kings you will have to guess which king he has blanked. Against an average defender this is usually easy, since they will delay the evil moment as long as possible by coming down to Kx in both suits, so their final discard will be the king they blank (probably after much thinking). A top defender will see the position coming up, so he may discard in a deceptive way, blanking one of his kings early. Therefore, even if East has both kings you aren't guaranteed to make the contract with the trump squeeze.

The other reason goes back to the opening lead. You have decided that West chose to make a safe lead. If West has the K, he would have to pick between a spade lead and a heart lead. However, if East has the K, West might have led any of the side suits. Therefore, West would lead a heart 1/2 the time when he has the king of clubs, but only 1/3 of the time when he doesn't. Since West did lead a heart, the same restricted choice argument makes it more likely that he has the K.

Making the contract on a trump squeeze would make this a good newspaper hand. However, your job is to find the best percentage play to make the contract, not to get your name in the newspapers. The club finesse is clearly the better percentage play.

Assuming you will reject the trump squeeze unless you get some information which causes you to change your mind, how can you maximize your chances to make the contract?

North
KQ6
Q10
Q7
AQJ87
South
A2
AKJ9652
1043
W
N
E
S
1
P
2
P
3NT
P
4
P
6
P
7
P
P
P

Barring a defensive error, the only hope is an unlikely doubleton K. However, you can put as much pressure on the defense as possible. Your best play is to run 5 rounds of trumps, discarding 3 clubs. Maybe one of the opponents will think you have 4 spades so he has to guard spades, and he may make some discard which gives something away. You can't lead a sixth trump without throwing something importantfrom dummy, but maybe this is good enough. You will be down to 7 cards. West might have the J, and if he has that he will have to keep it guarded to prevent you from crossing to the dummy and smothering his jack. If he also thinks he needs to guard spades, he may come down to a singleton club. If you read this, you still have time to reject the club finesse and go for the trump squeeze. Otherwise you will just try to ruff out the K, and when that doesn't work you will take the club finesse.

At the table, you fail to put the pressure on. You draw trumps, cross to the K, and lead the 10. East goes up king, and you can claim. The full hand is:

West
10543
J98732
K52
North
KQ6
AQ10
Q7
AQJ87
East
J987
K65
10843
96
South
A2
4
AKJ9652
1043
W
N
E
S
1
P
2
P
3NT
P
4
P
6
P
7
P
P
P
D
7 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
3
A
5
4
1
1
0
Q
3
2
2
1
2
0
7
4
A
7
3
3
0
K
8
7
8
3
4
0
J
3
8
10
3
5
0
2
4
K
7
1
6
0
10
K
7

East shouldn't have gone up K, of course. However, with the club finesse on you were always making.

Suppose dummy didn't have the Q. Would you have any real chance to make on the heart lead other than taking the heart finesse which you think is offside?

West
10543
J98732
K52
North
KQ6
AQ10
Q7
AQJ87
East
J987
K65
10843
96
South
A2
4
AKJ9652
1043
W
N
E
S
1
P
2
P
3NT
P
4
P
6
P
7
P
P
P
D
7 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
3
A
5
4
1
1
0
Q
3
2
2
1
2
0
7
4
A
7
3
3
0
K
8
7
8
3
4
0
J
3
8
10
3
5
0
2
4
K
7
1
6
0
10
K
7


Yes, there is a legitimate chance. If East has the K, all you need is for West to have the J and you will have a rare double trump squeeze. As before, win the A, run all your trumps but one, and run the spades coming to the same 3-card ending as before. If East blanks his king of hearts, you ruff it out. If West blanks his jack of hearts, you lead the queen smothering the jack. If both opponents hold 2 hearts they will both be down to 1 club, so you cash the ace of clubs, ruff a heart, and your club will be good. You will have to read the distribution, of course.

Looking at North's hand, it is clear that he got confused and thought your 4 call showed a secondary club suit. Assuming that the 4 call did show both minors, do you agree with North's 6 bid?

West
10543
J98732
K52
North
KQ6
AQ10
Q7
AQJ87
East
J987
K65
10843
96
South
A2
4
AKJ9652
1043
W
N
E
S
1
P
2
P
3NT
P
4
P
6
P
7
P
P
P
D
7 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
3
A
5
4
1
1
0
Q
3
2
2
1
2
0
7
4
A
7
3
3
0
K
8
7
8
3
4
0
J
3
8
10
3
5
0
2
4
K
7
1
6
0
10
K
7


It is almost always wrong to leap to slam unless you are sure that it is the right contract. There is usually some way to gather more information or to bring partner into the picture in order to determine if there is a better contract.

This hand is no exception. North cannot be sure that 6 is the right contract. The South hand is unlimited, so there might be a grand. On the other hand, N-S could be off two keycards. Both 4NT and 5 would be signoffs over 4, so there isn't any way to invite. However, 4 RKC is certainly better than blasting to slam.

After the RKC call, North will bid the slam if South responds 5, showing 2 without the queen of trumps. If South responds 5, showing 1 or 4, North will pass. The interesting case occurs when South responds 4NT, showing 0 or 3. It looks like North should then ask for kings, and bid the grand if South has the K. However, South might have 0 keycards! A hand such as J K KJ10xxx 109xxxis barely possible -- South might have chosen to stretch for a positive response with such a hand.

The answer to this dilemma is that North should assume 0 keycards and bid 5. If South has 3 keycards he should move on, showing a king if he has one. South should know to do this. 3 keycards have to be enough. It is impossible for North to have a balanced 20-21 count with 0 keycards and be able to bid RKC once South shows the minors. Thus, the reason for North's signoff must be that North is afraid South has 0 keycards.

We do not have a strong 2NT opening, since we believe that our bidding will be more accurate if we open strong balanced hands 1. The jump rebid to 3NT over the 2 of a minor response showing 20-21 points is what we call a mid-range bid. 2NT is a split-range bid, showing 17-19 or 22+. Responder assumes 17-19, and with 22+ opener moves beyond 3NT. Plugging the gap with the mid-range call solves a lot of responder's problems.

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