Join Bridge Winners
Ugly Call
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In a semi-final match in the Senior Trials for USA2, you must find the best approach with a mis-fitting hand.

None vul, South deals. As South, you hold:

South
AKJ7
AJ82
Q10654
W
N
E
S
?

If you judge to not open a strong 1, you must open 2, which shows 11-15, short diamonds, no 5-card major, no 6-card club suit.

Your call?

South
AKJ7
AJ82
Q10654
W
N
E
S
?

2 gives partner a very accurate description. Since you are 5-4-4, even if he doesn't know which suit to choose he won't be far wrong. The problem with opening 2 is that partner won't be playing you for this much strength. You might be opening 2 with an ace less.

Opening 1 figures to be comfortable enough. You are a point shy, but that won't make any difference since you will be in charge of the auction. Over a negative 1 you can bid 1 (which can easily have a longer minor), and you will probably be able to find a home. If partner makes a positive response you may get too high if he is minimal, but that will happen only if the hands don't fit well.

It is a close call. However, the 2 opening is so accurate with your distribution that it is probably the better start.

You choose to open 1. The bidding continues:

W
N
E
S
1
2
2
P
?

1: 16+ points

2: Natural game force

Natural bidding follows.

Your call?

South
AKJ7
AJ82
Q10654
W
N
E
S
1
2
2
P
?

It may look like 2 is a space-saving call. The problem is that partner will be thinking you have a 5-card heart suit, since without a 5-card major you could always bid 2NT, 3, or even 3 in a pinch. He will raise on 3-card support.

How will this hand play in a 4-3 fit? Not well. Clubs will be getting overruffed. Your heart suit isn't too strong.

2NT may look like an ugly call, but it is your best bet. This tells partner that notrump is playable. You are forced to game, and if you don't have a major-suit fit that game will have to be in notrump even with your diamond void. If partner has a 4-card major he will rebid 3 of that major, and you will still get to a 4-4 major-suit fit.

You choose to rebid 2. The bidding continues:

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

Your call?

South
AKJ7
AJ82
Q10654
W
N
E
S
1
2
2
P
2
P
3
P
?

This is your last chance to get to notrump. You must bid 3NT. It is too bad if you have a 4-4 spade fit, but partner will not interpret a 3 call as suggesting a possible strain since he will think an 8-card heart fit has been found. You hope that if partner has 3-card heart support his hand will be junky enough so 3NT will appear to him to be better than 4. You don't have to worry about missing a 4-4 heart fit. If partner has 4 hearts he will go back to hearts, since he thinks you have a 5-card suit.

You choose to bid 4, ending the auction.

W
N
E
S
1
2
2
P
2
P
3
P
4
P
P
P

West leads the ace of clubs.

North
842
1094
KJ964
KJ
South
AKJ7
AJ82
Q10654
W
N
E
S
1
2
2
P
2
P
3
P
4
P
P
P

East discards the 8 (UDCA). West continues with the 9, East ruffing with the 6.  East returns the 3. Your play?

North
842
1094
KJ964
South
AKJ7
AJ82
Q106
W
N
E
S
1
2
2
P
2
P
3
P
4
P
P
P

It is hard to see any layout where you have a chance to make, since East is overruffing dummy. You should aim to cut your losses.

You could take the spade finesse. However, West's ominous 9 at trick 2 looks like suit-preference for spades. West might be faking that, but it doesn't look right to make this assumption. You can probably take the spade finesse later if you so choose.

You win the ace of spades. West plays the 9. Now what?

North
84
1094
KJ964
South
KJ7
AJ82
Q106
W
N
E
S
1
2
2
P
2
P
3
P
4
P
P
P

Drawing trumps doesn't make any sense, since you still have plenty of losers to dispose of. Your best bet looks to be to play the queen of clubs, discarding a spade from dummy. East will ruff, of course, but now there will be only 4 enemy trumps outstanding, a number you can work with.

You lead the queen of clubs, West playing the 8. You discard a spade, and East ruffs with the 5. East returns the 5. Do you finesse or not?

North
8
1094
KJ964
South
KJ7
AJ82
106
W
N
E
S
1
2
2
P
2
P
3
P
4
P
P
P

There is no reason to change plans now. You can ruff your losing spades in dummy with the short trumps. Unless East led low from a doubleton spade, he will not be over-ruffing you.

You go up king of spades. West drops the queen. Now what?

North
1094
KJ964
South
J7
AJ82
106
W
N
E
S
1
2
2
P
2
P
3
P
4
P
P
P

That helps matters. Now you have to ruff only one spade and one club in dummy to take care of your black-suit losers.

The problem with ruffing a black suit now is that East can overruff if you ruff a club, and West can ruff high ahead of you if you try to ruff a spade. This means you don't have a convenient way to get to dummy to take a heart finesse, so you would probably have to lose a trick to both the king and queen of hearts. It looks better to lay down the ace of hearts. If this drops one of the honors, you can take the safer ruff and probably get out for down 1. If both follow small, you will have to decide what to do.

You lay down the ace of hearts. West plays the 3, and East the 7. And now?

North
109
KJ964
South
J7
J82
106
W
N
E
S
1
2
2
P
2
P
3
P
4
P
P
P

You can play safe for down 2 by ruffing your black losers in dummy. The opponents will score their high trumps separately, but that is all they will get.

If you play a trump and the outstanding trumps are 1-1, you have a good chance to get out for down 1. East is down to 106 of spades, so if he wins the king of hearts he can't afford to play a spade. West strangely squandered his 8 on the third round of clubs, so if he wins the king of hearts, he can't afford to play a club. That means that whoever wins the king of hearts will have to play a diamond, which may let you score a diamond trick.

If the remaining trumps are 2-0, playing a trump won't work well. The defender will draw your trumps and play a diamond. You will have to lose at least one more trick for down 3, and possibly 2 more tricks for down 4 if everything is wrong.

What do you know about the enemy distribution? West started with 6 clubs and 2 spades, but you don't know anything more than that. His shape might be 2-1-4-6, 2-2-3-6, or 2-3-2-6. East might have doubled 4 if he started with KQxxx of hearts, but even that isn't clear. Any of these distributions is quite possible.

Since you won't necessarily get out for down 1 even if you split the hearts, it looks like the percentage action is to settle for down 2.

You choose to lead another heart. Your luck is in, as West has the queen and East the king. East returns the 6. What do you do?

North
10
KJ964
South
J7
J8
106
W
N
E
S
1
2
2
P
2
P
3
P
4
P
P
P

Unless West is playing a remarkably deep game. his queen of spades play is honest. It is safe to finesse the 7.

You play the 7. When it holds you have the balance, ruffing your losing club in dummy. The full hand is:

West
Q9
Q3
Q53
A98732
North
842
1094
KJ964
KJ
East
10653
K765
A10872
South
AKJ7
AJ82
Q10654
W
N
E
S
1
2
2
P
2
P
3
P
4
P
P
P
D
4 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
A
J
8
4
0
0
1
9
K
6
5
2
0
2
3
A
9
2
3
1
2
Q
8
4
5
2
1
3
5
K
Q
8
3
2
3
A
3
4
7
3
3
3
2
Q
9
K
2
3
4
6
7
8

Could the defense have improved?

West
Q9
Q3
Q53
A98732
North
842
1094
KJ964
KJ
East
10653
K765
A10872
South
AKJ7
AJ82
Q10654
W
N
E
S
1
2
2
P
2
P
3
P
4
P
P
P
D
4 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
A
J
8
4
0
0
1
9
K
6
5
2
0
2
3
A
9
2
3
1
2
Q
8
4
5
2
1
3
5
K
Q
8
3
2
3
A
3
4
7
3
3
3
2
Q
9
K
2
3
4
6
7
8

The opening lead looks normal, since anything else is very dangerous. After that, most of the plays were routine. At the end East should have led a small diamond rather than the 6, since giving declarer the free spade finesse is a concession. Had East led a small diamond, declarer would have had no choice but to discard. Perhaps East forgot the spade spots, or perhaps he was hoping declarer wasn't noticing.

Do you agree with the E-W bidding?

West
Q9
Q3
Q53
A98732
North
842
1094
KJ964
KJ
East
10653
K765
A10872
South
AKJ7
AJ82
Q10654
W
N
E
S
1
2
2
P
2
P
3
P
4
P
P
P
D
4 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
A
J
8
4
0
0
1
9
K
6
5
2
0
2
3
A
9
2
3
1
2
Q
8
4
5
2
1
3
5
K
Q
8
3
2
3
A
3
4
7
3
3
3
2
Q
9
K
2
3
4
6
7
8

West's overcall looks right. On a bad day this could go for a number against nothing, but normally interfering with a strong club opener if possible pays dividends.

East can probably expect to defeat 4, and he thinks he wants a club lead. That is some argument for doubling. However West could be a lot lighter for the overcall, and the club lead might be the losing lead. Also, West won't necessarily know that East is doubling partially on a club void -- he might simply be doubling on a trump stack. East is probably right to not double.

What about North's bidding?

West
Q9
Q3
Q53
A98732
North
842
1094
KJ964
KJ
East
10653
K765
A10872
South
AKJ7
AJ82
Q10654
W
N
E
S
1
2
2
P
2
P
3
P
4
P
P
P
D
4 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
A
J
8
4
0
0
1
9
K
6
5
2
0
2
3
A
9
2
3
1
2
Q
8
4
5
2
1
3
5
K
Q
8
3
2
3
A
3
4
7
3
3
3
2
Q
9
K
2
3
4
6
7
8

The 2 call is marginal. North could have doubled, which would show about 6-8 points. North chose to bid because his diamond suit might be lost otherwise and his king of clubs is favorably placed. Had North doubled and South chosen to pass that would have been a bonanza for N-S. However it wouldn't be so easy for South to pass, since for all he knows North has a 5-card major but is not strong enough to bid 2M which would be game-forcing.

At the other table, South chose to open a Precision 2. This left North with an annoying choice, since anything he does could land in a 6-card fit. North chose to try 2. That would have been fine if South had passed, but holding a maximum with 4 hearts South moved forward with 3. North naturally passed, and the 6-0 club split sent the contract down 2.

It is a good idea to avoid bidding notrump with a void, since hands with voids generally belong in a suit contract. Sometimes you don't have a choice, since 3NT might be the only playable game. When that happens you have to make the ugly call. This hand is a good illustration. 3NT has chances to make, while games in suit contracts have virtually no chance.

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