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On the first board of the second quarter of a Rosenblum match, you pick up a better than average hand:

E-W vul, West deals. As South, you hold:

South
K4
AQ84
K75
AKQ4
W
N
E
S
P
P
P
?

Available are:

1: 16+ points, artificial (other openings are limited)

2NT: This is defined as showing both minors, less than an opening bid.

3NT: The end of the auction.

Your choice?


South
K4
AQ84
K75
AKQ4
W
N
E
S
P
P
P
?

Obviously 2NT in fourth seat showing both minors and less than an opening bid makes no sense, but you don't change your definitions in midstream. For now, this is a bid you just don't make.

There is no reason to blast out 3NT when other contracts might be right. Opening 1 is fine.

You open 1. The bidding continues:

W
N
E
S
P
P
P
1
P
1
P
?

1: Artificial, 0-7 points

Your defined notrump ranges are as follows:
1NT opening: 15-17 (in 3rd and 4th street you use a higher range than 14-16, since opposite a passed hand game is unlikely with 14).

  • 1 followed by 1NT over 1: 18-19
  • 1 followed by 2NT over 1: 20-21
  • 1 followed by 2 over 1 (an artificial big hand -- partner must bid 2S) followed by 2NT: 22-24
  • 1 followed by 2 over 1 followed by 3NT: 25-27

You could also bid 1, which is forcing and shows 4+ hearts, but with only 4 hearts you would be expected to have a longer minor.

What do you choose?



South
K4
AQ84
K75
AKQ4
W
N
E
S
P
P
P
1
P
1
P
?


It is certainly right to show one of the notrump ranges. The question is whether you want to call this hand 20-21 or 22-24.

It is close. The Goren count is 21, but there are plenty of reasons to upgrade. You are 4-4-3-2, which is considerably better than 4-3-3-3. You don't have a minor honor in your doubleton, so everything is working. You have 2 aces and no jacks, which is good. By my modified point count (ace = 4 1/2, king = 3, queen = 1 3/4, jack = 3/4 -- a more accurate count which reflects the undervaluation of aces and the overvaluation of minor honors in the Goren count) your hand comes to 21 1/2 points.

The one bad part about this hand is the lack of intermediates. Those missing 10's and 9's could play an important part in your trick-taking potential. I believe this deficit drags the evaluation back down to 21, so the hand is only worth a 2NT rebid. Add in some intermediates in the long suits, and the upgrade would be correct.

You choose to take the high road and bid 2. The bidding concludes:

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


2: Artificial strong hand. Possibilities are:

  1. 22+ balanced
  2. Long minor, game-forcing
  3. 5-5 majors, game-forcing
  4. Some 4-4-4-1 27+ points

2: Artificial ask
2NT: 22-24. Follow-ups are same as standard 2-2;2NT sequence.
3: Regular Stayman.

West leads the J. Opponents are playing standard leads, upside-down count and attitude signals. You can see that you will have your work cut out.

North
QJ95
6
9642
9853
South
K4
AQ84
K75
AKQ4
W
N
E
S
P
P
P
1
P
1
P
2
P
2
P
2NT
P
3
P
3
P
3NT
P
P
P

East plays the 7. What honor do you win this trick with?



North
QJ95
6
9642
9853
South
K4
AQ84
K75
AKQ4
W
N
E
S
P
P
P
1
P
1
P
2
P
2
P
2NT
P
3
P
3
P
3NT
P
P
P


Winning with the ace would be bad technique. That would advertise possession of the king, since otherwise you would probably hold up.

Whether you win with the king or the queen depends upon which opponent you wish to deceive. If you win with the king East knows where the queen is, since his partner led the jack. If you win with the queen West knows where the king is, since his partner didn't play it.

It probably doesn't matter much on this hand, but West is more likely to have problems than East, so perhaps winning with the king is better.

You choose to win the king of clubs. What do you do at trick 2?


North
QJ95
6
9642
985
South
K4
AQ84
K75
AQ4
W
N
E
S
P
P
P
1
P
1
P
2
P
2
P
2NT
P
3
P
3
P
3NT
P
P
P


Certainly you will be attacking spades. The question is whether or not to unblock the clubs first. You can assume that the clubs are 3-2, both from the opening lead (West would have led low from J10xx) and because if the clubs are 4-1 you don't have a chance anyway.

It may be right to cash the high clubs early. But for now, leading out the king of spades is best before the opponents know anything about the hand. You know you have a club entry to dummy, but they don't know that. Since they think dummy is entryless, they will be focusing on taking their ace of spades at the right time. The person with the ace of spades can signal randomly, but his partner will be forced to show honest count. This information may help you to judge the later play.

You lead the king of spades. West plays the 8, and East the 6. Now what?


North
QJ9
6
9642
985
South
4
AQ84
K75
AQ4
W
N
E
S
P
P
P
1
P
1
P
2
P
2
P
2NT
P
3
P
3
P
3NT
P
P
P


Now you have to decide whether or not to cash some clubs. There are arguments both ways.

Suppose West has A10xx of spades. If you lead another spade, West may grab his ace thinking that this is your last spade and that you don't have a dummy entry. That would be great. If you cash your top clubs, he will know dummy has an entry.

On the other hand, suppose again that West has A10xx of spades and ducks the second spade. You continue with a high spade hoping to smother the 10, but no luck. Now you need both red-suit finesses onside. The problem is that after West takes his spade winners he can exit with a club, and you will have only 1 dummy entry and need to take 2 finesses. If you had ripped out West's clubs, he would have to give you one of the finesses.

Perhaps the best plan is to cash the ace of clubs and see what happens. West won't dare falsecard the 10 from J10x, since for all he knows his partner has queen-doubleton. Therefore, if he drops the 10 of clubs it can be believed and you don't need to cash the queen. If he doesn't drop the 10 of clubs, you should probably cash the queen to get it out of his hand even though this will tell the defense that you have a club entry to dummy.

You choose to lead a second round of spades before playing any more clubs. West plays the 7. What do you play from dummy?



North
QJ9
6
9642
985
South
4
AQ84
K75
AQ4
W
N
E
S
P
P
P
1
P
1
P
2
P
2
P
2NT
P
3
P
3
P
3NT
P
P
P


If you had no other information and the contract depended entirely on getting 3 spade tricks, the percentage play would be to play the 9. This gains when West has the 10 with 4 or 5 spades, while losing only when East has the 10 with 2 or 3 spades.

There is more involved than just the spade suit. If you play the 9 of spades and it loses to the 10, you clearly have no chance. However, if you play the queen and the spades don't come in for 3 tricks, you still have a chance if the red suits are kind.

Furthermore, you do have some information about the spade suit. While the player with the ace can and should show false count, his partner needs to give honest count here. Thus, it appears that the player with the ace has 4 spades, but we know nothing about the 10 of spades. There are two possibilities:

a) East has Axxx of spades. If West has the 10 of spades there is no need to finesse, since the 10 will be coming down. If East has the 10 of spades, obviously finessing is wrong.

b) West has Axxx of spades. That makes the small spades 3-3, so it is equally likely for each opponent to have the 10. Therefore, going up is just as good percentage-wise as finessing, and is overall better since there is life after death if it is wrong.

The conclusion is that it is wrong to take the spade finesse.

You choose to play the queen of spades. East wins the ace, and leads back the 2 of hearts. What do you do now?


North
J9
6
9642
985
South
AQ84
K75
AQ4
W
N
E
S
P
P
P
1
P
1
P
2
P
2
P
2NT
P
3
P
3
P
3NT
P
P
P


It looks like East started with Axxx of spades, but you have no clue about the location of the 10. If the 10 is falling you will need only 2 tricks from the red suits, but if the 10 isn't coming down you will need 3 tricks from the red suits.

There is a catch. East has shown up with the ace of spades, and he passed in third seat. If he had two aces and a king, he surely would have opened in third seat. Therefore at least one of the red-suit finesses is offside. If you finesse the queen of hearts and it holds, you can be sure that the ace of diamonds is offside. Therefore, you will need the 10 of spades to come down.

Could it be right to duck the heart shift? Looking at your two hands it would appear that this would cost you the chance to take the heart finesse. But the defenders don't know that. Ducking can gain in two ways.

West might have the king of hearts and continue hearts. Suppose he has something like K107x. From his point of view his partner may have found the killing shift from Qxxx, and setting up the heart suit is necessary before you have a chance to turn your attention to diamonds. Your hand might be: Kx, AJxx, KQJ, AKQx.

If West doesn't have the king of hearts, he can prevent you from taking 2 heart tricks if he shifts. But he doesn't know that. From his point of view, if he wins a cheap heart trick it means his partner did a good thing and continuing hearts will set up tricks for the defense. It won't occur to him that continuing hearts can cost, since you had the opportunity to take a finesse and didn't do so.

How can this help? Suppose West's hand is xxx, J9x, AQJ10, J10x for example. He wins the 9, and continues with the jack of hearts. You win, cash the ace of hearts, run the clubs ending in dummy, and cash the jack of spades. When the 10 doesn't come down, you lead a diamond from dummy. Since the ace has to be offside, you duck and hope that West will be end-played. If he has all the diamond honors he will be. Otherwise the defense can escape the end-play, but West will have to be alert to discard a high diamond and East will have to play a high diamond from his doubleton.

It should be noted that in this variation if you had held K9x of diamonds, finding West with AQJx would be sufficient -- he wouldn't have to hold the 10 of diamonds. The reason is that in the ending West would be the victim of a 1-suit squeeze. If he comes down to AQJ of diamonds, you just duck a diamond into him. If he unblocks an honor and East plays the 10, you cover and your 9 holds up.

If you don't take the heart finesse, it is probably right to play the 4 rather than the 8. You want to appear to be weak in heart spots, so West will be encouraged to return a heart.

You choose to finesse the queen of hearts. It holds. Now what?



North
J9
9642
985
South
A84
K75
AQ4
W
N
E
S
P
P
P
1
P
1
P
2
P
2
P
2NT
P
3
P
3
P
3NT
P
P
P


You could try for the end-play by ducking a heart, but that risks the opponents taking 3 diamond tricks when the 10 of spades was coming down all along. Your best bet is to hope for the 10 of spades to come down. It has to be right to cash the ace of clubs first, as this leaves you more options.

You cash the ace of clubs. West plays the 10. Does this change things?


North
J9
9642
98
South
A84
K75
Q4
W
N
E
S
P
P
P
1
P
1
P
2
P
2
P
2NT
P
3
P
3
P
3NT
P
P
P


If the 10 of clubs hadn't fallen you would have had no choice but to cash the ace of hearts before continuing clubs, as otherwise you might not get it. Once the 10 of clubs falls, you can afford to cross to the 9 of clubs, as you will have an entry back to the ace of hearts. This keeps alive the slim hope that the ace of diamonds is onside. There is no real risk of an extra undertrick, since the opponents won't be able to take more than 4 diamond tricks or 3 diamond tricks and the 10 of spades.

You cross to the 9 of clubs, and cash the jack of spades. When the 10 doesn't drop, you try a diamond to your king. As expected it fails, and you are down 1. The full hand is:

West
873
J1075
A1083
J10
North
QJ95
6
9642
9853
East
A1062
K932
QJ
762
South
K4
AQ84
K75
AKQ4
W
N
E
S
 
P
P
P
1
P
1
P
2
P
2
P
2N
P
3
P
3
P
3N
P
P
P
D
3NT South
NS: 0 EW: 0
J
3
7
K
3
1
0
K
8
5
6
3
2
0
4
7
Q
A
2
2
1
2
Q
5
6
3
3
1
A
10
5
2
3
4
1
4
3
9
6
1
5
1
J
2
8
3
1
6
1
2
Q
K
A
0
6
2
8


The concept that your opponents don't have the same information about your hand that you have is an important one for successful card play. Often they can be induced into making an error when they have a different picture of the hand. On this deal nothing was likely to matter. You were destined to go down on any reasonable defense.

Do you agree with partner bidding Stayman over 2NT? What do you think he should have done had you instead shown the 20-21 range?



West
873
J1075
A1083
J10
North
QJ95
6
9642
9853
East
A1062
K932
QJ
762
South
K4
AQ84
K75
AKQ4
W
N
E
S
 
P
P
P
1
P
1
P
2
P
2
P
2N
P
3
P
3
P
3N
P
P
P
D
3NT South
NS: 0 EW: 0
J
3
7
K
3
1
0
K
8
5
6
3
2
0
4
7
Q
A
2
2
1
2
Q
5
6
3
3
1
A
10
5
2
3
4
1
4
3
9
6
1
5
1
J
2
8
3
1
6
1
2
Q
K
A
0
6
2
8


Opposite the 22-24 range, it is clear for partner to bid Stayman. If he catches a 4-card spade suit 4 will almost certainly be a good contract, and if there is no 4-4 spade fit there is a reasonable chance that 3NT will make on power.

Opposite the 20-21 range, it isn't so clear. Now it is unlikely that 3NT will come home. Still, it is probably right to bid Stayman. There are hands you could hold where 4 makes but 2NT doesn't. Also, if you have no major he could reasonably pass 3. This could be disastrous, but the odds are that you have at least 4 diamonds if you have no major, and 3NT doesn't figure to have much play on a heart lead.

It might seem as though using 2 for the biggie cramps our auction, but in fact we are no worse off than Standard players after the 2-2 start. The reason is that with a game-forcing hand and a major we rebid 1 of the major (forcing) and follow up appropriately. Thus we won't have a major as our primary suit after 1-1;2, so our rebids will be basically the same as after Standard 2-2.

We use 2NT to show both minors less than an opening bid not because we think this is particularly valuable tool -- sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. The real reason is that we don't like a strong 2NT opening when we have a forcing 1 available. It is fundamental that slam bidding is better when the strong hand is captain. Yet, after a strong 2NT opener, the weaker hand has to be captain. When we have a balanced 20-21 and partner doesn't have a positive response it doesn't matter who is captain, since we probably aren't in the slam zone. But when we do catch a positive response we are much better placed that those who open a strong 2NT. Responder has bid his suit, a game force has been established at a low level, and the strong hand is in control of the auction. We lose out on the 25-27 hands since we don't have Kokish available, but these are relatively rare.

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