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Trick 12 Decision
(Page of 14)

In a semi-final match in the Senior trials for USA2, you have a chance to employ one of your specialty sequences.

N-S vul, South deals. As North, you hold:

North
QJ82
K10853
2
KJ3
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
P
1
P
?

1: 11-15, 2+ diamonds

1: 4 spades, singleton or void in hearts or clubs. Any strength (a 2 call would be an artificial heart raise).

Available relevant calls are:

1NT: Artificial inquiry, used to get to 2 of a minor or for invitational sequences. Opener will bid 2 with 3-card support, 2 with 6+ diamonds, and 2 with anything else (which will always be a hand with heart shortness).

2: Pass or correct to 2, depending upon which minor opener prefers.

2: Artificial game force, asking for description.

2: Non-invitational raise. Opener will move only with an unexpectedly strong playing hand.

Your call?

North
QJ82
K10853
2
KJ3
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
P
1
P
?

You clearly aren't worth a game force with this aceless 10-count. You could take the low road and simply bid 2, but this could lead to a missed vulnerable game. Best looks to be to take the invitational route with 1NT. The nice thing about this sequence is that if partner is rejecting you will be able to stop at 2 rather than face the jeopardy of the 3-level.

You bid 1NT. The bidding continues:

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

1NT: Artificial inquiry

2: Heart shortness, fewer than 6 diamonds

2 of a major by you is invitational.

Your call?

North
QJ82
K10853
2
KJ3
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
P
1
P
1NT
P
2
P
?

As planned, you bid 2, showing an invite in spades. The bidding concludes:

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

You invited the game, so over you go to prove you can make it.

West leads the 5. Fourth best leads. UDCA signals.

North
QJ82
K10853
2
KJ3
South
K953
Q
AKJ65
842
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
P
1
P
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
4
P
P
P

Your play?

North
QJ82
K10853
2
KJ3
South
K953
Q
AKJ65
842
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
P
1
P
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
4
P
P
P

If you could afford to lose 2 club tricks as long as you won 1 club trick, it might be right to play small. It would be difficult for East with AQ9 to insert the 9 of clubs.

You don't have that luxury on this hand. There are 3 sure aces to lose, so you cannot afford to lose 2 club tricks. You must get this right now.

It is conceivable that West might underlead an ace on this auction, although it wouldn't be all that attractive. He would have no problems underleading a queen. It has to be percentage to play the jack. If West got you, he got you.

You play the jack of clubs. East wins the ace, and returns the 9 to dummy's king, West playing the 7. What do you do next?

North
QJ82
K10853
2
3
South
K953
Q
AKJ65
2
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
P
1
P
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
4
P
P
P

Clearly you have to dispose of your losing club before you lose the lead. You may be short on tricks, so there is something to be said for taking the diamond finesse. However, it doesn't look right to stake the contract on this finesse. The queen of diamonds might drop tripleton. Even if it doesn't, you will have a reasonable chance to ruff 2 diamonds in dummy establishing the long diamond. This will potentially give you 5 trump tricks, 3 diamond tricks, 1 club trick, and 1 heart trick. There may be problems, but that looks like the better chance.

You cash the AK of diamonds, discarding dummy's club. East plays the 4 and the 8, West plays the 3 and the 7. Now what?

North
QJ82
K10853
South
K953
Q
J65
2
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
P
1
P
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
4
P
P
P

It must be right to continue with your plan of setting up your diamonds. Entries to your hand are limited, so you must ruff a diamond now.

You ruff a diamond in dummy. West follws with the 9, and East the 10. What next?

North
QJ8
K10853
South
K953
Q
J6
2
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
P
1
P
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
4
P
P
P

You aren't ready to draw trump yet, as you need to ruff another diamond as well as set up a heart winner. It is clear to lead a heart. On a good day you might steal your singleton queen.

You lead a heart. East plays the 7, and West wins your queen with the ace. West leads the queen of clubs. How high do you ruff?

North
QJ8
K1085
South
K953
J6
2
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
P
1
P
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
4
P
P
P

If the opening lead is an honest fourth best, East has another club. You will still have to ruff a diamond in dummy, and if East is out of diamonds you would like to be able to ruff with an honor. Now is the time to score your 8.

You ruff with the 8. East follows with the 6. What next?

North
QJ
K1085
South
K953
J6
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
P
1
P
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
4
P
P
P

Instead of drawing trump which might have let you establish the long diamond, the defense has forced dummy to ruff the club. You can no longer establish the long diamond, but you might not have to do so. You can now shift into crossruff mode, hopefully scoring enough trump tricks. The 10 is a danger card, but maybe you will be able to get around that.

The best bet looks to be to cash the king of hearts discarding a diamond and ruff a heart small. One of dummy's trumps can be used to ruff your last diamond, and the other high trump in dummy will take care of your other small spade. The question will be whether or not you can score the 9 at the end. This will depend on the lie of the cards and how the defense goes.

You cash the king of hearts discarding a diamond, and ruff a heart small. East plays the 2 and the 4, West the 6 and the 9. And now?

North
QJ
108
South
K95
J
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
P
1
P
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
4
P
P
P

Your jack of diamonds isn't high, so you can't afford to play a trump, You have to ruff the diamond in dummy.

You ruff the jack of diamonds in dummy. West discards the jack of hearts, as East follows with the queen of diamonds. What next?

North
Q
108
South
K95
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
P
1
P
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
4
P
P
P

West's heart discard is unfortunate. Without that you could lead a heart from dummy, and if West still has a heart you will definitely be able to score your 9. Now leading a heart would risk getting overruffed. You do better leading the queen of spades and seeing what happens. West appears to have started with 2-4-3-4 shape. If he has the ace of spades maybe he will win it, and your problems will be solved.

You lead the queen of spades. East plays the 6, and West the 4. When you lead a heart from dummy at trick 12, East ruffs with the 7. This is it! Do you overruff with the 9 or the king?

North
108
South
K9
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
P
1
P
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
4
P
P
P

It is rare that the middle of trick 12 is reached without the fate of the contract being decided, but this looks like one of those hands. What can you deduce?

If West has the A10 of spades you are down, so you can assume these cards are split. Let's look at the hands East and West would hold and see if they would have done anything differently. West's hand is Hx AJ9x 9xx Q10xx, and East's hand is Hxx xxx Q10xx A9x, where the H might be the ace and might be the 10.

Would anybody have bid differently? If West has the ace of spades it is conceivable that he might have overcalled 1 on a 4-card suit, but most players wouldn't do so. If East has the ace of spades, it is clear that neither opponent would have a bid.

What about the opening lead? West's club lead looks pretty reasonable whether he holds the ace of spades or the 10 of spades. He might have led a trump from either holding, but his xxx in diamonds would indicate that an aggressive lead is better. No clue there.

East's club return at trick 2 is automatic whichever spade holding he has.

What about West's club play when in with the ace of hearts? West could see that if the defense drew two rounds of trumps you would be able to establish your long diamond and discard your club on the king of hearts. West's club play prevented this. No inference there.

Somebody ducked the ace of spades. Was this the right or wrong play for either player?

Suppose East started with Axx of spades. If he had A10x he would have had no choice but to win the ace and led a low spade, since ducking would be a concession. Therefore, if he wins the ace of spades from Axx and leads a spade, your proper play would be to finesse. The 10 of spades would be equally likely to be in either hand. East would always win the ace from A10x but might duck from Axx. This means that if East is on the ball he will win the ace of spades from Axx, since you will then take the percentage play and finesse.

Suppose West started with Ax of spades. At first glance it might seem that it could be necessary for him to win the ace of spades, since his partner might have started with 109x. However, close analysis shows that this is not the case. If West ducks you would have to lead a heart off dummy, and East would ruff with the 9 of spades. If you overruff, he overruffs. If you underruff, he discards. This would be a defensive smother play, an almost unheard of position. Therefore, if West started with Ax of spades he should duck.

Since East should win the ace of spades if he has it and West should duck the ace of spades if he has it, that means in theory your correct play is the 9 of spades. But this is in theory. You are not playing against computers. You are playing against human beings, and even though they are experts they are fallible. While East's correct play is to win the ace of spades from Axx, the natural-looking play is to duck. While West's correct play is to duck the ace of spades from Ax, the natural-looking play is to win since the potential smother play position isn't likely to be seen.

There is no correct answer to this problem. It is scary to play expert opponents to make a mistake in a simple end position. However, that is likely the proper thing to do.

You choose to ruff with the king of spades. Success! The full hand is:

West
104
AJ94
973
Q1075
North
QJ82
K10853
2
KJ3
East
A76
762
Q1084
A96
South
K953
Q
AKJ65
842
W
N
E
S
 
1
P
1
P
1
P
1N
P
2
P
2
P
4
P
P
P
D
4 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
5
J
A
4
2
0
1
9
8
7
K
1
1
1
2
4
A
3
3
2
1
K
7
3
8
3
3
1
5
9
2
10
1
4
1
3
7
Q
A
0
4
2
Q
8
6
2
1
5
2
K
2
6
4
1
6
2
5
6
3
9
3
7
2
J
J
J
Q
1
8
2
Q
6
5
4
1
9
2
8
7
K
12

Could the defense have improved?

West
104
AJ94
973
Q1075
North
QJ82
K10853
2
KJ3
East
A76
762
Q1084
A96
South
K953
Q
AKJ65
842
W
N
E
S
 
1
P
1
P
1
P
1N
P
2
P
2
P
4
P
P
P
D
4 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
5
J
A
4
2
0
1
9
8
7
K
1
1
1
2
4
A
3
3
2
1
K
7
3
8
3
3
1
5
9
2
10
1
4
1
3
7
Q
A
0
4
2
Q
8
6
2
1
5
2
K
2
6
4
1
6
2
5
6
3
9
3
7
2
J
J
J
Q
1
8
2
Q
6
5
4
1
9
2
8
7
K
12

As discussed, if East had won the ace of spades at trick 11, declarer would probably have gotten the ending wrong.

When West was in with the ace of hearts, he might have shifted to a trump. Dummy would play small, since declarer needs to win in his hand. Then:

If East makes the natural play of ducking, declarer wins the 9, ruffs a diamond, king of hearts, heart ruff, club ruff, and a heart through East lets declarer score the tenth trick.

If East wins the ace of spades and returns a spade, declarer can make by winning the king of spades, ruff a diamond, king of hearts discarding a club, heart ruff, 9 of spades, and declarer's hand is good.

The winning defense is for East to win the ace of spades and return a club. This forces declarer to take the crossruff approach. Declarer ruffs in dummy, king of hearts, heart ruff, and diamond ruff in dummy. But West discards his last heart on this trick, and declarer is forced to come off dummy with a heart and allow West to score the 10. The difference between this position and what actually happened is that the ace of spades is out of the East hand, so declarer is unable to exit from dummy with a spade. There is probably enough information for the defenders to work this out, but it is such an unnatural defense that it is difficult to fault them for not finding it.

Do you agree with South's bidding?

West
104
AJ94
973
Q1075
North
QJ82
K10853
2
KJ3
East
A76
762
Q1084
A96
South
K953
Q
AKJ65
842
W
N
E
S
 
1
P
1
P
1
P
1N
P
2
P
2
P
4
P
P
P
D
4 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
5
J
A
4
2
0
1
9
8
7
K
1
1
1
2
4
A
3
3
2
1
K
7
3
8
3
3
1
5
9
2
10
1
4
1
3
7
Q
A
0
4
2
Q
8
6
2
1
5
2
K
2
6
4
1
6
2
5
6
3
9
3
7
2
J
J
J
Q
1
8
2
Q
6
5
4
1
9
2
8
7
K
12

South's first three bids are automatic. South has a better hand than he might have, and his diamond suit is a potential source of tricks. That vulnerable game bonus is sufficient justification for South to shoot it out.

As a point of interest, we play that if South does anything but pass that is game-forcing. On the rare auctions such as this where we are able to invite game in a major without going above 2 of the major, we do not have counter-invites above 2 of the major. The gain from being able to stop safely at the 2-level when not bidding game is greater than any fine-tuned decision as to whether or not to stop.

At the other table, 4 was also reached. The lead was also a small club (the 7 instead of the 5, since there the defenders were playing third and fifth leads). Remarkably enough the play was identical, card for card. This is rather amazing considering the complexity of the hand. It is also worth noting that two top-level defenders didn't realize that it was correct to win the ace of spades at trick 11. That indicates that the winning guess at trick 12 was the practical play, although not the theoretical play.

Our approach of always bypassing a 4-card spade suit with a balanced hand will cause us to miss a 4-4 spade fit. But this will only happen on a part-score hand, since if responder is stronger we will find the fit via 2-way checkback. While the 4-4 fit will usually be better, sometimes 7 tricks are easier than 8. We find that the gain from knowing that opener is always unbalanced when he rebids 1 more than makes up for this loss.

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