Join Bridge Winners
The Missing Trump
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In a round-robin match in the Senior trials, you must decide how to proceed on a strong 1 auction.

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

South
AQ2
AQ10864
A102
3
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
P
1
P
2
P
?

1: Strong, artificial

1: 0-8 HCP

1: 4+ hearts, forcing

2: 3-card heart support, 6-8 HCP

Available to you for this hand are:

2: Non-forcing, might be 4-card heart suit. Partner is permitted to bid again with a maximum.

2: Unspecified short-suit game (or slam) try. Partner bids 2NT to ask, after which 3, 3, and 3 would show short suit game tries in clubs, diamonds, and spades respectively.

Other bids are all game forcing.

Your call?

South
AQ2
AQ10864
A102
3
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
P
1
P
2
P
?

You certainly aren't going to quit in 2 with this fine playing hand. There are perfectos which make slam, but those would be almost impossible to locate. The question is whether you should blast to 4 or make a short suit game try in clubs.

Vulnerable games are meant to be bid. A key jack in partner's hand may make 4 a good contract, and partner might not be able to determine this. Blasting to 4 also has the advantage of not revealing the nature of your hand to the opponents.

In general, it doesn't pay to take an invitational sequence on a distributional hand, since partner won't be able to evaluate properly anyway. The exception occurs when you are able to describe your distribution. Now partner can evaluate properly. You have a short suit game try available, which give partner a perfect description of your hand. There is no need to get to a hopeless game when partner has something like xxxx KJx xxx Qxx.

Another nice feature about making a short suit game try is that since your short suit is clubs the luck of the coding is such that partner isn't forced to make the final decision. If he isn't sure he can hedge with 3 last train. Thus, if you make your short suit game try and partner growls 3 back at you, you can be pretty sure that you don't want to be in game. Partner can see the vulnerability, and he also knows that vulnerable games are meant to be bid.

A final argument for the short suit game try is that it might get you to a better game than 4. If partner chooses to bid 3NT with the knowledge that you are short in clubs, it is a pretty good bet looking at your hand that 3NT is better than 4.

You choose to bid 4, ending the auction.

South
AQ2
AQ10864
A102
3
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
P
1
P
2
P
4
P
P
P

West leads the 3. Third and fifth leads.

North
K6
J72
QJ854
852
South
AQ2
AQ10864
A102
3
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
P
1
P
2
P
4
P
P
P

What do you play from dummy?

 

North
K6
J72
QJ854
852
South
AQ2
AQ10864
A102
3
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
P
1
P
2
P
4
P
P
P

It can't hurt to play the queen. If it covered that is fine. If not, you might as well win in dummy.

You play the queen. It holds, East playing the 6. Now what?

North
K6
J72
J854
852
South
AQ2
AQ10864
A10
3
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
P
1
P
2
P
4
P
P
P

The contract looks secure. Is there any reason not to go after your overtrick by taking the heart finesse?

There are some dangers. One is that West has led a dishonest fourth best and has the singleton king of hearts. He wins, diamond ruff, club over, diamond ruff down 1. That isn't likely. West isn't going to be leading a dishonest card in the blind on an auction such as this.

A more realistic danger is the heart finesse loses, West crosses to East with a club, and East returns a small diamond. If you go up ace and West has a singleton, he ruffs and you are down. If you finesse and West has led from Kxx he wins and gives his partner a diamond ruff for down 1.

Can you do better by refusing the heart finesse and playing ace and a heart? In some layouts that would be an unsafety play, giving the opponents a ruff to set the contract when they wouldn't have had one had you taken a winning finesse. But here it is quite safe. The key is that if the hearts are 3-1 you will know where the missing trump is. Now, when East shoves a diamond through you know what to do. If East has the missing trump you go up ace, since West can't be ruffing. If West has the missing trump you finesse, since if West has Kxx of diamonds he won't be able to give East a diamond ruff. Either way, the contract is cold.

Is it worth taking the slight risk of going down for the overtrick? It might be if you were definitely going to gain a trick when the finesse wins and not cost a trick when it loses, although it generally isn't worth thinking about overtricks unless you know the contract is 100% secure. But here taking the finesse might let the opponents score a ruff which would not otherwise have been available, so you can't even be sure that the finesse won't cost a trick. Playing ace and a heart is clearly right.

You choose to ride the jack of hearts. West wins the king, and leads the queen of clubs. East wins the ace, and returns the 7. What do you do?

North
K6
72
J854
85
South
AQ2
AQ1086
A10
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
P
1
P
2
P
4
P
P
P

This was the danger situation. You better get this right, or you are down.

It has to be percentage to finesse. West would have a normal singleton lead. However, a blind lead from Kxx would be very risky. In addition, West's shift of the queen of clubs indicates that West has some kind of club sequence, and that would have to be a more attractive lead than a diamond lead from Kxx.

You play the 10. West ruffs, and you have the rest. The full hand is:

West
109843
K93
3
KQ107
North
K6
J72
QJ854
852
East
J75
5
K976
AJ964
South
AQ2
AQ10864
A102
3
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
P
1
P
2
P
4
P
P
P
D
4 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
3
Q
6
2
1
1
0
J
5
4
K
0
1
1
Q
2
A
3
2
1
2
7
10
3
4

As can be seen, game would not have been missed had South made a short suit game try. North would have loved his hand.

Do you agree with the lead and defense?

West
109843
K93
3
KQ107
North
K6
J72
QJ654
852
East
J75
5
K987
AJ964
South
AQ2
AQ10864
A102
3
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
P
1
P
2
P
4
P
P
P
D
4 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
3
Q
6
2
1
1
0
J
5
4
K
0
1
1
Q
2
A
3
2
1
2
7
10
3
4

Garozzo says that when you have a singleton against a suit contract, lead it. That looks right here. In addition to partner having the ace of diamonds, West is likely to get in with his king of trumps and get a ruff if he catches East with a black suit ace.

West made a good play when he shifted to the queen of clubs. This forces East to win since East will think declarer has the king, and East will have no choice but to return a diamond. If West plays the king of clubs East will duck, and a smaller club risks declarer having AJ.

Bids such as the 4 call are common errors, even among experts. They can see that most of the time they will want to be in 4, so they go ahead and bid it. They fail to realize that they have a descriptive invitation available, and that if partner then rejects 4 doesn't figure to be a good contract.

Any time you are considering making a final conclusive action in the auction, stop, look, and think. Is there a possible alternative contract which might be superior? If so, is there an intelligent way to determine if the alternative contract is superior?

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