Join Bridge Winners
Table Feel
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In a round-robin match in the Bermuda Bowl, you have to decide if and when to enter the enemy auction.

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

East
72
KJ42
K8
A9654
W
N
E
S
1
?

Some of your bids have the following meanings:

1NT: Strong NT

2: Michaels, both majors

2NT: Hearts and clubs

Your call?

East
72
KJ42
K8
A9654
W
N
E
S
1
?

Nothing fits the bill. This is not the heart suit or the hand to overcall on a 4-card suit. The club suit is really weak for a 2-level overcall, and the hand isn't so strong that action is a must. A takeout double with a doubleton spade is out of the question. 2NT shows the suits you have, but you really need to be at least 5-5 for that.

While you hate to pass, it isn't terrible. Depending on how the auction goes, you can choose to enter later and perhaps in a more descriptive manner. If the opponents show extra strength or start bidding your suits, you will be happy you stayed out.

You pass. The bidding continues:

W
N
E
S
1
P
1
P
2
?

Your call?

East
72
KJ42
K8
A9654
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
P
2
?

Now a takeout double is a perfect description of your hand. It shows the other two suits, in particular, exactly 4 hearts (since you didn't overcall 1). The only question is whether it is worth committing your side to the 3-level.

It looks right. You are short in spades, which is very important. None vul, which makes competing more attractive since if one or both sides go down it is only 50 a trick. You can't be sure of catching a fit, but the odds are that you will get something decent. Even if there is no great fit it will be difficult for the opponents to double you, and you may push them one level higher.

Of course you aren't in the balancing seat. South is unlimited, which means the opponents may be headed for game. This makes doubling a bit riskier. Still, if they have a game they probably aren't going to stop off to double you unless you run into a trump stack. The odds still favor doubling.

You double. The bidding concludes:

W
N
E
S
1
P
1
P
2
X
2NT
3
3
P
4
P
P
P

2NT: Artificial, looking for more information.

3: 4-card support.

Partner leads the 7. 3rd and 5th leads. Upside-down count and attitude signals after trick 1.

North
QJ84
A106
QJ104
Q10
East
72
KJ42
K8
A9654
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
P
2
X
2NT
3
3
P
4
P
P
P

Low from dummy. You win the king, declarer playing the 3. Your play?

North
QJ84
A106
QJ104
Q10
East
72
KJ42
K8
A9654
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
P
2
X
2NT
3
3
P
4
P
P
P

Who has the queen of hearts? If declarer has it, it may be necessary to cash out before declarer discards a losing minor suit card on the third round of hearts. If partner has it there is no urgency about cashing, and a more passive trump shift might be right.

Is there a hand where a trump shift is necessary to defeat the contract? Yes, there is. Declarer might have AK10x xx Axx 87xx, leaving partner xxx Qxxx 98xx KJ. That hand is consistent with everything you have seen so far. You shift to a trump. Declarer wins, and plays a club. You win the first round of clubs, and play another trump. Declarer wins, and plays a club. Partner wins the king, and plays a third round of trumps. This leaves declarer a trick short -- all he has is 5 trump tricks, 3 diamond tricks, and 1 heart trick. A diamond shift gives declarer a fourth diamond trick, and anything else other than a trump gives declarer time to get 2 club ruffs in dummy.

Partner should have the queen of hearts. He bid 3, so you know he has heart length. If his heart holding is 987x he should be leading the 9 rather that the count card 7, since knowledge that he has nothing in hearts figures to be more important to you than knowing how many hearts he has. Therefore, your theoretically correct return is a trump.

At the table, your table feel tells you that declarer has the queen of hearts. It is hard to define, but it was the way he called for a small heart from dummy. It wasn't the careful tempo duck, making sure first that there was no damaging shift. It was more of the "okay, you get this trick but then my queen is good" duck. It came pretty quickly, while if he had two small hearts he would probably have given it a bit more thought since ducking wouldn't be an automaticplay.

Let's assume that you believe declarer has the queen of hearts in spite of partner's opening lead. How do you defend?

North
QJ84
A106
QJ104
Q10
East
72
KJ42
K8
A9654
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
P
2
X
2NT
3
3
P
4
P
P
P

This is an entirely different situation. Now it may be necessary to cash out. If partner has the ace of diamonds and declarer has a doubleton diamond, it will be necessary for you to cash your diamond tricks before a diamond is discarded on the third round of hearts. Similarly, if partner has the king of clubs and declarer has a doubleton club it will be necessary for you cash your club tricks. That will only be 3 tricks, but partner might also have the king of spades.

The best bet is to lay down the A. This will get a signal from partner. If partner has the king of clubs, he will encourage with his smallest club. If partner doesn't have the king of clubs, he will discourage with his highest club.

You lead the A. Declarer plays the 7, and partner plays the J. What do you do now?

North
QJ84
A106
QJ104
Q
East
72
KJ42
K8
9654
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
P
2
X
2NT
3
3
P
4
P
P
P

The jack of clubs could be from KJ doubleton, but if that is the case and partner has a trump trick it won't matter what you do. Otherwise partner doesn't have the king of clubs. Therefore, it is clear to shift to a diamond.

It is interesting to note how well-placed you are after leading the A. If partner plays the 2, he will definitely have the king. If partner plays a club higher than the 3, either he will not have the king or declarer will have 3 clubs and your club trick won't run away. The only ambiguoussituation would be if partner plays the 3 and the 2 is still missing. Then partner might have either Kxx3 or 32 doubleton, and you will have to judge which. This illustrates why declarer must conceal the 2 if he holds a small doubleton in clubs. He does not want clubs continued, so he signals discouragement using the enemy methods.

Which diamond should you shift to? It looks natural to lead the K, so you can get a ruff for a 2-trick set if partner has Axx. But your goal is to set the contract 1 trick. There are two reasons for leading the 8. One is if declarer has Axx or Axxx of diamonds and is off the king of spades. He may decide that you have a singleton diamond, and choose to go up ace of diamonds and bank on the spade finesse. The other reason is that if partner holds Axxxx of diamonds he might think you have a singleton king and overtake. He might do this if he decides that with king-doubleton you would have led a small diamond. He shouldn't make this mistake on this hand because if declarer has 3 small diamonds the defense will always have 2 diamond tricks coming, but there is no reason to give him a problem.

Is there a danger that partner won't think you have the king of diamonds and won't return a diamond? Actually, he probably won't think you have the king when you lead the 8. But he will have no choice to return a diamond anyway, playing you for a singleton diamond. He can see that there is no other possible trick for the defense in hearts or clubs, so he will definitely do the right thing.

You lead the 8. Partner wins the ace, and returns a diamond to your king. Declarer has the rest. The full hand is:

West
103
9875
A9732
J2
North
QJ84
A106
QJ104
Q10
East
72
KJ42
K8
A9654
South
AK965
Q3
65
K873
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
P
2
X
2NT
3
3
P
4
P
P
P
D
4 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
7
6
K
3
2
0
1
A
7
J
10
2
0
2
8
6
A
4
0
0
3
3
10
K
5
2
0
4
4

Note that declarer erred by playing the 7 under the ace. He should have encouraged in clubs by playing the 3, his smallest club. To see the difference, suppose West had held 42 doubleton of clubs. West would play the 4, of course. East would see that there are two smaller clubs missing, so if West's 4 were his smallest club then declarer had at least 3 clubs and the king of clubs wouldn't run away. If declarer plays the 3, and West plays the 4, East wouldn't know whether the 4 is from 42 doubleton or it is West's smallest club hence encouraging.

What do you think about West's opening lead?

West
103
9875
A9732
J2
North
QJ84
A106
QJ104
Q10
East
72
KJ42
K8
A9654
South
AK965
Q3
65
K873
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
P
2
X
2NT
3
3
P
4
P
P
P
D
4 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
7
6
K
3
2
0
1
A
7
J
10
2
0
2
8
6
A
4
0
0
3
3
10
K
5
2
0
4
4

As discussed, if West chooses to lead a heart he should lead the 9. Since West has bid hearts, East won't play West for shortness. The information that West has nothing in hearts figures to be more important than the count in the heart suit. Had West led the 9, the winning defense would be trivial to find.

Is a heart lead best? With West's diamond holding he can anticipate that dummy's diamonds will be established for discards, so it is clear to make an attacking lead. East can be expected to hold 4 hearts, so a heart lead can establish 1 trick at most. In addition, if the enemy hearts are 3-2 it is possible that the opponents will own the third round of hearts and can use that for a useful discard. The actual deal is an example of this.

A club lead looks more promising. The J may be of use for setting up club tricks. The enemy clubs might be 3-3, so a club lead may work to establish the third round of clubs. Also, since West has a doubleton club it is possible that West will be able to get a club ruff or overruff on the third round of clubs, and West has a perfect trump holding for that purpose -- no natural trump trick, but a trump honor which can be worth a trick via a trump promotion.

On the actual deal, it would have been very difficult to defeat the contract if West had led the J. East would have to win and lead back the 8, and West would have to win that and shift to a heart. East might visualize this defense, but he might decide to play his partner for 5 hearts and 3 diamonds in which case the K is the winning shift. If East does find the 8 shift, West would have to play for this hand rather than play East for a singleton diamond. West might find this. A diamond ruff won't defeat the contract unless East also has the ace of spades. If East has the ace of spades and a singleton diamond, he might cash the ace of spades before shifting to a diamond in order to clarify the position. In practice it is unlikely that both defenders would get this right, so 4 probably would have made on a club lead.

Do you agree with West's 3 call?

West
103
9875
A9732
J2
North
QJ84
A106
QJ104
Q10
East
72
KJ42
K8
A9654
South
AK965
Q3
65
K873
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
P
2
X
2NT
3
3
P
4
P
P
P
D
4 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
7
6
K
3
2
0
1
A
7
J
10
2
0
2
8
6
A
4
0
0
3
3
10
K
5
2
0
4
4

West knows his side has only an 8-card heart fit since East didn't overcall 1. However, West also knows the opponents probably have a 9-card spade fit. If East had 3 spades and the values to act, he would have made an initial takeout double of 1. Therefore, bidding up to 3 is okay from a trick-total point of view.

What good does the 3 call do? It isn't exactly a lead-director, but since West will be on lead that won't matter. The bid has two possible advantages. One is that it uses up bidding space and takes the opponents out of whatever their planned structure is with the 2NT ask. The other is that it tells partner something about the hand. This may make a difference, as seen from the way the play went. At the other table South went right to 4 over the double. West did lead the 9, but East didn't realize there was danger of a discard on the third round of hearts and failed to find the winning defense.

The issue of how much to trust one's table feel and go against what would otherwise be the percentage play is often a difficult problem. On this deal I was fortunate that my sense that declarer had the Q was so strong that I never even thought about the inference from the opening lead. I simply defended the hand on the assumption that declarer had the Q. Had I stopped to think about the inference from the opening lead which says that partner has the Q, I have no idea what I would have done. But good advice is: Go with your gut feeling. One picks up more at the table than is realized, since it is often at a sub-conscious level. It takes a lot of courage to back this, since sometimes your table feel will be wrong and you will look like an idiot. On balance, you will find it a winning approach.

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