Join Bridge Winners
The Dark Side
(Page of 8)

In a round of 64 match in the Spingold, you have the opportunity for an aggressive action as dealer.

N-S vul, West deals. As West, you hold:

West
AJ952
K94
107
J84
W
N
E
S
?

If you are willing to upgrade, your opening notrump range is 10-12.

If you evaluate this hand as a weak 2-bid, your only way to do this is a 2 opening which shows a weak 2 in one of the majors. At this vulnerability, partner will be expecting a 5-card suit more often than not.

Your call?

West
AJ952
K94
107
J84
W
N
E
S
?

Even though your opening bids playing a strong club are lighter than standard, opening this hand 1 would be pushing the envelope too far. That would cause partner to bid too many hopeless games.

Upgrading to a 10-12 1NT would be quite reasonable. Unfortunately, you are playing in an ACBL event, and the regulations make it very unattractive to take such an action with fewer than 10 HCP.

Opening Multi is quite possible. There is nothing wrong with the spade suit -- it is roughly what partner will be expecting. There are the usual pros and cons for a flaky preempt.

The pros are:

At favorable vulnerability, you have more to gain when the bid works well than you have to lose when it works badly.

You strike the first blow, disrupting the enemy's constructive auction.

You are bidding where you live, inducing partner to lead a spade if he is on opening lead which is likely to be best.

You might catch a fit, allowing your side to win a competitive battle.

You will have bid your whole hand, leaving you no later problems in the auction.

The cons are:

You might go for a number.

You might be landing in by far the wrong strain.

Partner may misjudge the auction, playing you for a more offensively oriented hand.

Usually the pros outweigh the cons. On this particular hand, there are a few more cons. They are:

The 5-3-3-2 shape. This is bad. There are two reasons. One is that suits will likely be splitting well for the opponents, so if they get goaded into a poor game that game is more likely to make. The other is that if the opponents choose to defend or defend doubled, all of their tricks will cash. 5-4-2-2 shape would be much better.

You have Kxx of hearts. If partner has 5 hearts and a good hand, opening Multi may cause you to miss a good 4 contract. If you had a worthless doubleton in hearts, the preempt would be more attractive.

Your suit is spades. It is generally less desirable to over-preempt with spades, since the opponents have less room to get in and you are more likely to be wearing it. Usually you prefer for the opponents to overcall when you preempt, since you then reap the gains from the preempt without suffering the losses.

These factors may be sufficient to make opening 2 anti-percentage.

You have recently come over to the dark side, so you do open 2. The bidding concludes:

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

Your lead. Attitude leads vs. notrump.

West
AJ952
K94
107
J84
W
N
E
S
2
3
P
3NT
P
P
P

Your king of hearts is terribly located for your side. It looks like you will need a lot of luck to defeat this contract. Hitting partner with a strong enough minor along with enough else just isn't going to happen. You need to defeat this in the spade suit. It is possible. South bid 3NT under pressure, so he might not have a great spade stopper.

You lead the 2.

West
AJ952
K94
107
J84
North
K6
AQJ653
Q2
AQ10
W
N
E
S
2
3
P
3NT
P
P
P

Dummy plays the king, partner the 10, and declarer the 3. Your agreements are upside-down count and attitude. No Smith echo of any kind. If partner's play in a suit declarer leads is judged to be pertaining to other suits, it is normal suit-preference.

At trick 2, declarer leads the queen of hearts off dummy. Partner plays the 8, and declarer the 2. Do you win or duck?

West
AJ95
K94
107
J84
North
6
AQJ653
Q2
AQ10
W
N
E
S
2
3
P
3NT
P
P
P

Can ducking gain? There can't be an issue with a dummy entry, since the ace of clubs will be there after declarer knocks out your king of hearts. What about an entry to declarer's hand if he has 10x? No, declarer wouldn't play the heart suit this way, since he would be risking losing the entire suit if an opponent has K9xx.

It is true that ducking is unlikely to cost. Declarer was unwilling to spend a hand entry to take the heart finesse originally, so he won't do so now when all the indications would be that your partner has the king of hearts. Declarer will probably just continue ace and a heart. This will get you a little information from everybody's discards, but that isn't likely to help you too much. Also, this deprives you the option of exiting with a heart if you determine that is the best defense.

At any rate, if you do choose to duck, you must do so in tempo. If declarer gets even a hint that you have the king of hearts, he will get to his hand and pick up the heart suit.

You win the king of hearts. What do you play now?

West
AJ95
94
107
J84
North
6
AJ653
Q2
AQ10
W
N
E
S
2
3
P
3NT
P
P
P

What's going on in the spade suit?

Would partner have played the 10 from 10xx? Perhaps. He can see that the 10 can't be a card of value. He might think he is showing an odd number of spades. Still, that doesn't seem too likely. Furthermore, if declarer started with Qxx of spades, would he have played the king of spades at trick 1? That would be a virtual concession, since East has to have some entry. His best chance would be to duck from both hands. If West has 6 spades and no entry this would nullify the threat of the spade suit, and declarer would have some chance to make.

Would partner have played the 10 from 10x? That is a real possibility. From partner's point of view, your spade holding might be AQ9xx. If that is the case, is vital for partner to unblock the 10 in order to run the suit if he gets in. Declarer probably would go up king if he has Jxxx. This looks like the most probable layout.

Where is the king of clubs? Partner has to have that card. If declarer has it along with the ace or king of diamonds, you aren't beating this hand. If partner has AK of diamonds and declarer has the king of clubs, he wouldn't have played the hand this way as he would be conceding down 1 if you opened a 5-card Multi. He would have crossed to the king of clubs and taken the heart finesse.

What about the diamonds? The ace and king of diamonds must be split for your play to matter. How about the jack of diamonds? If declarer has AJ, he is cold. If he has KJ his line of play makes no sense, since he is conceding down 1 if the spades are 5-2. He would have forced an entry to his hand in diamonds to take the heart finesse. Thus, partner has the jack of diamonds.

If partner has the ace of diamonds a club shift will be fine, but if declarer has the ace of diamonds a club shift won't work. You have shown up with the ace of spades and king of hearts, so declarer knows your partner has the king of clubs. Declarer will put in the 10 and make. Similarly, exiting with a heart will fail. Declarer will have no choice but to play you for the jack of clubs, by leading the queen off dummy and later finessing. You must shift to a diamond.

Does it matter which diamond you shift to? If partner has the 9, any diamond will do. But if declarer has the 9, your choice of which diamond to shift to can make a difference. If you shift to the ten and declarer has the ace it will go queen, king, duck, and declarer can then finesse the 9 for his ninth trick. If partner has the ace of diamonds, declarer will cover the 10 with the queen. Partner can still defeat the contract by ducking, but this won't be an obvious play, particularly since he will think you have the 9. It will be natural for him to win and return a diamond, and again declarer finesses and has 9 tricks. If declarer has the 9, you need to shift to the 7.

You choose to shift to the 10. It goes queen, king, duck. Partner returns a small diamond. Declarer finesses the 9, and has 9 tricks. The full hand is:

West
AJ952
K94
107
J84
North
K6
AQJ653
Q2
AQ10
East
104
108
KJ8643
K52
South
Q873
72
A95
9763
W
N
E
S
2
3
P
3NT
P
P
P
D
3NT South
NS: 0 EW: 0
2
K
10
3
1
1
0
Q
8
2
K
0
1
1
10
Q
K
5
2
1
2
3
9
4

Had West found the 7 shift, there would still be work to be done. Declarer knows that East has the king of diamonds, so he will play small from dummy and duck when East plays the jack. Now East has to be careful. Obviously leading the king of diamonds would be fatal. Not so obvious is that returning a spade is also fatal. West can't afford to cash two spade tricks, as that will establish declarer's ninth trick. But if West doesn't cash the second spade trick, he never gets it, and eventually either declarer's 9 or dummy's 10 will score. In order to defeat the contract, East needs to make the unnatural return of a small diamond. This cuts the communication, and while it sets up a diamond trick declarer can't get to his hand to cash it. Eventually, the defense will take 2 spade tricks and 1 club trick to defeat the contract.

Was East's carding okay?

West
AJ952
K94
107
J84
North
K6
AQJ653
Q2
AQ10
East
104
108
KJ8643
K52
South
Q873
72
A95
9763
W
N
E
S
2
3
P
3NT
P
P
P
D
3NT South
NS: 0 EW: 0
2
K
10
3
1
1
0
Q
8
2
K
0
1
1
10
Q
K
5
2
1
2
3
9
4

As discussed, East was correct to play the 10. If West had held AQ9xx, this could have been necessary to defeat the contract.

Regardless of signalling, East was correct to play the 8. If declarer started with 9x, playing the 10 could give declarer an important hand entry.

Do you agree with declarer's approach?

West
AJ952
K94
107
J84
North
K6
AQJ653
Q2
AQ10
East
104
108
KJ8643
K52
South
Q873
72
A95
9763
W
N
E
S
2
3
P
3NT
P
P
P
D
3NT South
NS: 0 EW: 0
2
K
10
3
1
1
0
Q
8
2
K
0
1
1
10
Q
K
5
2
1
2
3
9
4

Declarer can't afford to come to his hand to take the heart finesse. However, he might as well have played ace of hearts first. He doesn't need to get from his hand to run dummy's hearts, since he has only one hand entry which he will be using for a club play. There could be a singleton king of hearts.

How was the N-S auction?

West
AJ952
K94
107
J84
North
K6
AQJ653
Q2
AQ10
East
104
108
KJ8643
K52
South
Q873
72
A95
9763
W
N
E
S
2
3
P
3NT
P
P
P
D
3NT South
NS: 0 EW: 0
2
K
10
3
1
1
0
Q
8
2
K
0
1
1
10
Q
K
5
2
1
2
3
9
4

The answer might depend upon the N-S defense to Multi. If they are playing a defense where a 2 call is artificial, then North had to overcall 3. However, if North had a natural 2 call available, then 3 is a strong jump overcall. North's hand appears to qualify. He has a strong hand and a strong suit. He would be bidding 2 on a lot less.

South's 3NT call looks reasonable. 3NT probably won't make, but when it does make, the payoff is big. In addition, if 3NT isn't making there is some chance that 3 won't make either, so the cost of bidding will be small. Also, if North is distributional he can go back to 4, and on a good day that might make. Passing 3 is shooting for a thin target.

The logic behind the small diamond shift is quite clear, but this sort of play is difficult to find at the table. The diamond shift itself isn't too difficult, but seeing the need to avoid the natural shift to the 10 is not easy. One must really be on one's A-game to work this out.

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