Join Bridge Winners
Waiting Game
(Page of 8)

In the semi-finals of the open trials, you must decide which opening bid will work better with a medium hand.

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

North
A10976
AK75
72
A8
W
N
E
S
P
P
P
?

Your opening 1NT range in 3rd and 4th seat is 15-17, and opposite that you play Puppet Stayman. Otherwise, you could open a limited 1, 11-15, or a strong 1, 16+.

Your call?

North
A10976
AK75
72
A8
W
N
E
S
P
P
P
?

While the strength is right in your 1NT range, the hand is not right for this. 5-4 in the majors, all primes, and a worthless doubleton. Also, if you open 1NT and partner bids Puppet Stayman, you will be forced to bury either the 5-card spade holding or the 4-card heart suit -- you can't show both.

You have only 15 HCP. But what a 15! 3 aces and a king. 5-4 shape, and nice intermediates in the 5-card suit. This hand evaluates to well over 15 points. If you open 1, you may well miss a good game.

Opening 1 may get you too high when partner has a minimum positive response, since you will then be forced to game. But sometimes thin games make. It has to be right to open 1.

You open 1. The bidding continues:

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

2: 5+ diamonds, 8+ points, game-forcing

Your call?

North
A10976
AK75
72
A8
W
N
E
S
P
P
P
1
P
2
P
2
P
2NT
P
?

If you have a 4-4 heart fit, 4 figures to be better than 3NT. But with 4 hearts partner could have bid 3, bidding out his shape, rather than 2NT. Would he always do so? Not clear. With a good club stopper he might think it more important to make the cheaper 2NT call, showing the stopper, and leaving you room to bid 3 if you had 4 hearts. If he bids 3 and you don't have a club stopper, you will be in trouble.

Another argument for bidding 3 is that partner may have been forced into bidding 2NT on xxx in clubs simply because he couldn't do anything else. If that is the case, either 4 in a 5-2 fit or 4 in a 4-3 fit will probably be better than 3NT.

The argument for bidding 3NT is that it doesn't tell the opening leader anything about your hand. If the opening leader has a choice between hearts and clubs, you would much prefer a heart lead. However, most of the time the opening leader will just lead his longest suit. It looks better to try to bid accurately to get to the best strain and not worry about giving the opponents information.

You choose to bid 3NT, ending the auction.

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

Over you go to partner's seat to play it.

West leads the Q(standard honor leads, UDCA).

North
A10976
AK75
72
A8
South
K2
1043
QJ864
K109
W
N
E
S
P
P
P
1
P
2
P
2
P
2NT
P
3NT
P
P
P

Do you win this or duck?

North
A10976
AK75
72
A8
South
K2
1043
QJ864
K109
W
N
E
S
P
P
P
1
P
2
P
2
P
2NT
P
3NT
P
P
P

Going after diamonds for the bulk of your tricks will be fine if it works, since you will have 3 diamonds, 2 clubs, 2 spades, and 2 hearts. You won't need anything else. However, that needs diamonds 3-3 with at least one of the honors onside. If you go after diamonds and that fails, you aren't going to have time to recover.

It looks better to plan on taking the bulk of your tricks in spades. Assuming you play spades from the top, probably best, you will need to find the suit 3-3 or catch honor doubleton. Getting 4 spade tricks only gets you up to 8, but there are chances in the heart suit. The suit might be 3-3, or East might have 9x or 8x and you will be able to finesse the 7 on the third round. Also, the opponents might break clubs or diamonds and allow you to score your ninth trick there before they get 5.

Now, should you win the first trick or not? The big advantage to playing the waiting game and ducking is that West might not read the position and wrongly continue hearts. He probably shouldn't get it wrong. He heard you rebid 2NT, and with a worthless doubleton in hearts you would have found some other call -- either 3 with a 6-card diamond suit or 3 with a 4-card club suit or 3 with 3 spades. So, you can't really expect West to make this mistake.

The real problem with ducking the first trick is that you don't want the club shift through dummy's ace-doubleton. If the opponents are shifting to clubs, you would rather it were East who is breaking the suit. Of course East can lead his honor from something like Qxxx or Jxxx, but that might not be too obvious.

It might not make a difference. But it is probably better to win the first trick and go after spades.

You choose to duck. East plays the 6. West shifts to the 5. Now what?

North
A10976
AK7
72
A8
South
K2
104
QJ864
K109
W
N
E
S
P
P
P
1
P
2
P
2
P
2NT
P
3NT
P
P
P

If you are going to pin East's hoped-for 9x or 8x of hearts, you will need to lead hearts twice from your hand. You have only two hand entries. Thus, the best plan looks to be to win the club shift in your hand and lead the 10. West will have to cover, and you can take it from there.

You play low from dummy, and win East's jack with your king. As planned you led the 10. It goes jack, king, 9. Where to from here?

North
A10976
A7
72
A
South
K2
4
QJ864
109
W
N
E
S
P
P
P
1
P
2
P
2
P
2NT
P
3NT
P
P
P

If you are going to hook the 7, you must cross to the king of spades and do so. The spade suit will just have to take care of itself.

The question is whether to hook the 7 or just play for the hearts to be 3-3 if West follows small on the third round of hearts. There are several reasons to take the finesse. West might not have led from a 3-card suit. If East had 986 of hearts he could have played either the 8 or the 9 on the second round, so restricted choice argues for the finesse. Finally, if East started with 98x of hearts he probably would have played the 9 on the first round to clarify the position to his partner.

You cross to the K, and lead a heart. West follows small, and you finesse the 7. It wins. You try ace and a spade. The spades split 3-3, and you have 9 tricks. The full hand is:

West
J83
QJ82
K
75432
North
A10976
AK75
72
A8
East
Q54
96
A10953
QJ6
South
K2
1043
QJ864
K109
W
N
E
S
 
P
P
P
1
P
2
P
2
P
2N
P
3N
P
P
P
D
3NT South
NS: 0 EW: 0
Q
5
6
3
0
0
1
5
8
J
K
3
1
1
10
J
K
9
1
2
1
6
4
K
3
3
3
1
4
2
7
3
1
4
1
A
5
2
8
1
5
1
10
Q
4
J
2
5
2
7

What do you think of West's opening lead?

West
J83
QJ82
K
75432
North
A10976
AK75
72
A8
East
Q54
96
A10953
QJ6
South
K2
1043
QJ864
K109
W
N
E
S
 
P
P
P
1
P
2
P
2
P
2N
P
3N
P
P
P
D
3NT South
NS: 0 EW: 0
Q
5
6
3
0
0
1
5
8
J
K
3
1
1
10
J
K
9
1
2
1
6
4
K
3
3
3
1
4
2
7
3
1
4
1
A
5
2
8
1
5
1
10
Q
4
J
2
5
2
7

West's hearts are a lot stronger than his clubs. Still, it is only a 4-card suit, while clubs are a 5-card suit. On the auction is is hard to imagine that the opponents could hold only 4 hearts between them if they are bidding sensibly, so West isn't going to be hitting 5 hearts in the East hand. In addition, any lead from an honor holding which isn't a solid sequence risks blowing a trick in the suit, as it did here. These factors indicate that West may be better off leading a club.

It should be noted that while North's 3NT call probably wasn't a good idea, it was successful this time. Had North bid 3 West certainly would have led a club, and 3NT probably would not have made.

South had the option of responding 1NT, which by a passed hand shows 8-10 balanced. Should he have done that instead of 2?

West
J83
QJ82
K
75432
North
A10976
AK75
72
A8
East
Q54
96
A10953
QJ6
South
K2
1043
QJ864
K109
W
N
E
S
 
P
P
P
1
P
2
P
2
P
2N
P
3N
P
P
P
D
3NT South
NS: 0 EW: 0
Q
5
6
3
0
0
1
5
8
J
K
3
1
1
10
J
K
9
1
2
1
6
4
K
3
3
3
1
4
2
7
3
1
4
1
A
5
2
8
1
5
1
10
Q
4
J
2
5
2
7

If South's diamonds weren't so strong in the intermediate department, a 1NT response would probably be better as that tends to lead to more accurate auctions. Here, however, the diamond suit is the real emphasis of the South hand. North has most of the high cards and is in control of the auction. Focusing on the strong diamond suit is more likely to help North evaluate than focusing on the balanced nature of the hand. Furthermore, South will probably be able to show that he is balanced later on if he bids 2, but he might never get to show the diamond suit if he bids 1NT.

The importance of opening the North hand 1 instead of 1 is well illustrated by the result. If North had opened 1, the partnership wouldn't have come close to getting to game. Sorth would be in the driver's seat, and he would know that there is no game opposite the limited opening bid. It is true that 3NT is no bargain. However, this is the type of game you must bid if you are going to win IMP matches. You can't afford to come back to the comparison with +150, lose 10.

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