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Unusual Transfer
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In a Round of 16 match in the Open Trials, you have the option of taking advantage of some non-standard treatments.

E-W vul, North deals. As North, you hold:

North
6
643
K10963
K987
W
N
E
S
?

A 2NT opening would show both minors, less than an opening bid. Partner would be expecting at least 5-5.

Your call?

North
6
643
K10963
K987
W
N
E
S
?

At any other vulnerability, opening 2NT would be a bit rich. If you are vulnerable and it goes badly, the cost of going for a number or missing a game or simply getting too high on a misfit is fairly large. If the opponents are non-vulnerable, the gain when they have some kind of accident due to the 2NT opener isn't so great.

Favorable vulnerability compensates for a lot of sins. It is simply a matter of numbers. If you toss the ball in the air with a bid such as 2NT and it works badly, most likely the cost will be the order of 5 IMPs or so. However, if it is the opponents who have the accident, the gain rates to be in double figures. This makes the 2NT opening appear to be the percentage action.

You choose to pass. The bidding continues:

W
N
E
S
P
P
1NT
P
?

1NT: 15-17

You have available Puppet Stayman opposite partner's strong 1NT. A 2 call asks for a 5-card major, and is at least invitational unless you pass a 2 response (showing no 5-card major). If you do bid 2 and partner upsets your plans by bidding 2, 3 by you is then to play.

Your call?

North
6
643
K10963
K987
W
N
E
S
P
P
1NT
P
?

If your 5-card suit were a major, you would certainly transfer. You wouldn't have any game interest unless partner happened to have a super-accept, but 2 of the major simply figures to be a better contract than 1NT on balance.

The same is true with this hand when your suit is diamonds. The Puppet Stayman call serves as an unusual transfer. Of course there is the danger that partner crosses you up by having a 5-card spade suit, but if that happens you just have to bid 3 which might be as good as 1NT anyway.

You don't have to worry about East bidding over your 2 call. He passed initially, and your 2 call is presumed to be at least invitational. The same is true for West. If he couldn't bid over 1NT, he isn't going to bid over 2.

East might find a balance once you pass 2, just as he might if you pass 1NT. If that happens and the opponents land in 2, you can then bid 2NT. Since you definitely have 5+ diamonds for your pass of 2, this sequence will logically show exactly what you have, so partner will be well-placed to choose the best contract. The same cannot be said if you pass 1NT and East balances into 2.

You choose to pass, ending the auction.

W
N
E
S
P
P
1NT
P
P
P

You picked 1NT, so you get to play it.

West leads the 4. Standard leads and carding.

North
6
643
K10963
K987
South
KQ5
KJ87
875
AQ2
W
N
E
S
P
P
1NT
P
P
P

East plays the jack. Which honor do you win with?

North
6
643
K10963
K987
South
KQ5
KJ87
875
AQ2
W
N
E
S
P
P
1NT
P
P
P

You should win with the king. This leaves West in the dark about the location of the queen. If you win the queen West will know you have the king, since his partner didn't play it.

You win the king of spades. How do you start?

North
643
K10963
K987
South
Q5
KJ87
875
AQ2
W
N
E
S
P
P
1NT
P
P
P

West is sure to have the ace of spades, since East would have played it if he had it -- he can't see your hand. This means the opponents have 4 spade tricks and 2 red aces, so you don't have much margin for error. You will pretty much need the ace of diamonds onside to have a chance, and you may have to guess the hearts right. You will also need to bring in the club suit for 4 tricks.

One approach is to try running the clubs. Assuming they run, you will force some discards out of the opponents, which may be helpful. You would then be forced to make your heart play and get that right, and then lead up to the king of diamonds. The probem is that even if everything works, the opponents might get 2 heart tricks before you can get your 7 tricks, unless East has both heart honors and you choose to play the jack. Also, running the clubs first tips the opponents off as to what tricks you have, so they can probably figure out the hand.

Another approach is to lead a diamond to the king before running the clubs. Assuming this wins, you can then take your heart guess. You could still go down with everything working if the opponents are able to score 2 diamond tricks, but this won't be obvious for them to do since they won't see the need to cash out.

If you are going to run the clubs, you should definitely start with the queen. Both opponents might think their partner has the ace, and that it is important to signal their count in the suit. If an honor falls from East on the second round of clubs you will have a guess, and that signaling information might be helpful to you.

If you are going to lead a diamond to the king before running clubs, an interesting ploy is to first cash the queen of clubs. When you then shift to diamonds, it will look to both opponents as though you are trying to smoke out the ace of clubs so you will have an entry to dummy's diamonds. If they think this is the case, they will never get the cashout right.

You lead the queen of clubs. West plays the 4, and East the 3. Now what?

North
643
K10963
K98
South
Q5
KJ87
875
A2
W
N
E
S
P
P
1NT
P
P
P

Making the diamond play appears to be a better bet. The opponents will know less about the hand, and are more likely to fail to cash out when they need to do so.

You choose to try to run the clubs. When you play the ace, West plays the 5 and East the 10. When you lead the third round, West follows with the 6. Do you finesse or play for the drop?

North
643
K10963
K9
South
Q5
KJ87
875
2
W
N
E
S
P
P
1NT
P
P
P

This is a restricted choice situation. All other things being equal, East is about twice as likely to have started with honor doubleton than he is to have started with J10x.

All other things aren't equal. From the opening lead of the 4, West appears to have the 5-card spade holding, which makes it more likely that he started with 3 clubs than with 4. West did play low-high in clubs, for whatever that is worth. Finally, it appears that you are in a normal contract, and every undertrick counts. If you finesse and are wrong, not only do you take 2 club tricks instead of 4 but you might not get to dummy for a heart play. All these factors appear to argue in favor of going against restricted choice and playing for the drop.

You go up king of clubs. East plays the jack. When you cash the thirteenth club, East discards the 2, you discard a diamond, and West discards the 2. You now lead a heart off dummy. East plays the 5. What do you play?

North
643
K10963
South
Q5
KJ87
87
W
N
E
S
P
P
1NT
P
P
P

Even with the clubs coming home, you still need the ace of diamonds onside. If East has that card, the opponents can always take at least 4 spades, 2 diamonds, and 1 heart.

Given that West has the ace of diamonds, it is more likely that East has the ace of hearts. If West has all three aces, he might have found a bid over the 1NT opening. But perhaps not. West appears to be 5-3-3-2 with a poor 5-card suit, not a hand where an overcall would be appealing.

The problem with going up king of hearts is that even when it works it might not. When you then lead a diamond towards dummy, West will know he has to take his ace, since the king of diamonds will be your seventh trick. West also knows from his partner's spade discard that you figure to have the queen of spades, since if East had the queen of spades he probably wouldn't have discarded a spade. West should have no difficulty finding a heart shift. The hearts might be blocked if West started with Qxx, since he did discard a heart. However, East might have AQx.

Playing the jack of hearts looks more promising. Assuming the ace of diamonds is onside, if East has the queen of hearts then playing the jack will make the contract. If West wins the ace of hearts, he will not be able to get his partner in for a spade through, and will have to let you score the king of diamonds.

You choose to play the king of hearts. West wins the ace, and shifts to a diamond. You try the king, but East wins the ace, leads a spade through, and the defense has the rest for down 2. The full hand is:

West
A10743
A92
42
654
North
6
643
K10963
K987
East
J982
Q105
AQJ
J103
South
KQ5
KJ87
875
AQ2
W
N
E
S
P
P
1NT
P
P
P
D
1NT South
NS: 0 EW: 0
4
6
J
K
3
1
0
Q
4
7
3
3
2
0
A
5
8
10
3
3
0
2
6
K
J
1
4
0
9
2
5
2
1
5
0
3
5
K
A
0
5
1
4
K
A
7
2
5
2
9
8

It is instructive to see just how much better a contract 2 is vs. 1NT. Even with South having secondary spade cards and the diamonds lying terribly, 2 has a good chance to make while 1NT had little play.

It is important for a partnership to take full advantage of the tools they have at their disposal. Passing 1NT looks so automatic on the North hand, since you aren't used to having a way to get to 2. This is a feature which is unique to Puppet Stayman. It is not one of the main advantages of Puppet Stayman, but when the hand comes up for it one must make the most of the opportunity.

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