Join Bridge Winners
Three Decisions
First Decision

It's IMPs, with both sides vulnerable, you pick up

East
54
AJ1063
AQ103
54

You open one heart, and South overcalls two diamonds.  After double, pass, you have your first tough decision.  Do you defend or bid?

 

The choices seem to be pass, two hearts, or two notrump.  I don't like this last, but the other two seem very close.  Indeed, at the table, one player passed while the other bid 2.

If I knew that my choice would end the auction, I would prefer passing to two hearts.  Here is one way to look at it:  Partner rates to hold two hearts and two or three diamonds.  If we bid two hearts, we are hoping to win eight tricks in our seven card trump suit.  Passing sets an easier target of six tricks, in our six or seven card trump fit, although one in which we know diamonds are stacked offside.   It is close.  If we bid, and are wrong, we'll go -100 or -200.  We make +110 or +140 if right.  Passing risks -180 or -380, with gains of +200 or +500.  Those numbers look better.   Passing has much more of an upside than declaring two hearts.

However, bidding needn't end the auction.  Say we bid two hearts and partner corrects to two spades.  That rates to be a fine contract.  Likewise, if we bid two hearts, South, holding extra values or distribution, may bid again.  No one likes to sell out to two of a major.  Bidding may see us defending three diamonds rather than two.  Bidding, even if wrong, may turn out well.

That is so often true that I consider it a maxim of competitive bidding.  If several options are possible, and passing, ending the auction on defense is one of the options, then I never pass!  Passing has only one way to gain - that defending will net us our best plus or lowest minus score.  Think of how many ways to gain if you bid:  (1) You may end up in a better spot.  (2) You may end up in a poor spot, but make thanks to favorable defense or a lucky opening lead.  (3) They were is a poor spot, but would make thanks to your poor defense, or partner's stupid lead.  (4) You bid to a poor spot, but they bid one more for the road, and that is one too many.

Bidding poorly, but bidding, keeps up the pressure, and wins much more often than it should.

Whatever your choice, take the seat of the player who passed, and try to set two diamonds doubled:

Second Decision

West
North
QJ82
KQ874
4
Q103
East
54
AJ1063
AQ103
54
South
W
N
E
S
1
2
X
P
P
P
D
2X South
NS: 0 EW: 0
9
K
A
5
2
0
1
1

 

Now you have three options.  You can continue hearts, or shift to either black five.  Which do you choose?

Since you hold the trump ace, there isn't any hurry in giving partner a ruff.  You hold four winners, and setting up partner's two black suit tricks seems like a good plan, so it must be correct to shift.  The choice between the black suits, however, looks a bit random.  Assuming that partner holds four spades, then there is no hurry to play spades.  But, a two level negative double sometimes delivers extra spades.  Consider this possible layout:

West
K9763
92
52
K972
North
QJ82
KQ874
4
Q103
East
54
AJ1063
AQ103
54
South
A10
5
KJ9876
AJ86
W
N
E
S
1
2
X
P
P
P
D
2X South
NS: 0 EW: 0
9
K
A
5
2
0
1
1

Only a spade shift will set the contract.  Notice, if partner holds four spades and five clubs, a spade shift won't  hurt.  So, I think a spade shift is percentage.  I have given this hand to many fine players, and every one of them shifted to a club at trick two.  Who am I to argue with all those masterpoints, so I will concede, and let you (force you to?) shift to the club five, which was the card chosen at the table.

Third and Final Decision

West
North
QJ82
KQ874
4
Q103
East
54
AJ1063
AQ103
54
South
W
N
E
S
1
2
X
P
P
P
D
2X South
NS: 0 EW: 0
9
K
A
5
2
0
1
5
A
9
3
3
1
1
2
K
10
4
0
1
2
J
Q
4

How do you defend now?

 

You have learned a lot.  For starters, Partner is asking for a spade back, so South holds the singleton heart.  Next, no South, anywhere, would play clubs this way with Axx.  So partner holds six clubs.  Why partner is defending this way is quite a mystery, but if you ruff this low, declarer will surely overruff, and make the contract.  Ouch.  Suppose you discard?  South will get to discard two spades, but the hand will still be set if partner holds the spade ace.  That is better.  Can we beat the hand if partner holds the spade king?  Let's hypothesize this layout:

West
K1093
92
2
KJ9876
North
QJ82
KQ874
4
Q103
East
54
AJ1063
AQ103
54
South
A76
5
KJ98765
A2
W
N
E
S
1
2
X
P
P
P
D
2X South
NS: 0 EW: 0
9
K
A
5
2
0
1
5
A
9
3
3
1
1
2
K
10
4
0
1
2
J
Q
4

What if we trump with the diamond ace?  Interesting!  Declarer will probably throw a spade, and then, when we play a spade, North will never gain the lead.  We get our trump tricks back.

Or do we ...  What if South discards the spade ace.  Partner can win the spade and lead another club, as we pitch our spade away.  That still works.  Looking good.  What if South underruffs?  Partner wins the spade, and plays a club.  Oh, South can still make the hand.  Do you see how?  Follow the play below:

West
K1093
92
2
KJ9876
North
QJ82
KQ874
4
Q103
East
54
AJ1063
AQ103
54
South
A76
5
KJ98765
A2
W
N
E
S
1
2
X
P
P
P
D
2X South
NS: 0 EW: 0
9
K
A
5
2
0
1
5
A
9
3
3
1
1
2
K
10
4
0
1
2
J
Q
A
5
2
1
3
5
6
K
2
0
1
4
8
4
4
6
3
2
4
7
3
Q
3
2
2
5
J
A
8

Unfortunately, the spectacular play, trumping with the diamond ace, will still cost the contract when partner holds the spade ace, assuming declarer finds this underruff line.  So, discarding might be the best pure shot.  In practice, though, you have to judge your declarer, and partner.  Would declarer find the winning line if you trump with the diamond ace?  Would you?  And what of partner.  Partner has defended poorly, but this panic defense, trying to kill the discard, strongly suggests the spade king, and not the spade ace.   If that is true, then trumping with the ace offers your only chance, and that is my preferred defense.  One last question:

Are you sorry you passed out two diamonds doubled?

 

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