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Worthwhile Gamble
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In a round-robin match in the Open Trials, you have to decide what to do opposite partner's Multi.

E-W vul, West deals. As East, you hold:

East
K1097
4
AK932
QJ7
W
N
E
S
2
P
?

2: Weak 2 in a major

Any 2 or 3-level major suit bid by you would be pass or correct. 2NT would be an inquiry about partner's suit and strength.

Your call?

East
K1097
4
AK932
QJ7
W
N
E
S
2
P
?

If you were non-vulnerable, there would be a lot to be said for passing 2. Partner's suit is almost certainly hearts, and if he happens to have spades the opponents will be able to make a ton of hearts so you won't mind being dropped in 2 at 50 a trick. Partner may have a 5-card heart suit for his non-vulnerable Multi, so if you bid 2 you may be stuck in a 5-1 heart fit, possibly doubled. It is better to play a quiet undoubled 2 even if it is a silly contract. It is a lot more difficult for the opponents to compete intelligently when you pass 2 than when you make a pass or correct bid of 2, since they won't know what suit your partner has.

Vulnerable is another story entirely. Partner should have a decent 6-card suit, so hearts is likely to be a better strain than diamonds. Furthermore, 100 a trick adds up quickly if 2 is a silly contract. The pass or correct bid of 2 looks better. Also, if partner does happen to have spades you will find that out, and you can move towards game or even bid game as you see fit.

You bid 2. The bidding continues:

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

2: Pass or correct

Since your 2 call only forced the partnership to the 2-level, partner's pass over 2NT says nothing about which major he has. He must pass regardless of his hand.

Double would suggest partner avoid leading his suit.

Your call?

East
K1097
4
AK932
QJ7
W
N
E
S
2
P
2
2NT
P
P
?

While partner hasn't shown which suit he has, the enemy bidding makes it virtually certain that partner has hearts. If partner has spades, it is hard to imagine the opponents playing in 2NT. They have too many hearts for this.

Doubling the opponents into game can be quite costly. The difference between -120 and -490 is 370 points or 9 IMPs. It clearly isn't worth doubling for the purpose of getting a 1-trick set, since that would gain only 2 IMPs. Even with a 2-trick set, doubling gains only 5 IMPs. The IMP odds are way against doubling.

The main reason for doubling isn't so much to increase the stakes but to improve your chances of defeating the contract. You know for certain that a heart lead will not be best, and partner is likely to lead a heart if you don't double. If you do double, partner will stay away from a heart lead unless he has a solid sequence. You will welcome a spade or diamond lead. Even a club lead may be fine, since partner will probably be leading his longest and strongest side suit. As long as partner doesn't lead a heart, your chances of defeating 2NT will go up considerably.

Even with the more favorable opening lead, you still have to defeat 2NT often enough to make the double a worthwhile gamble, since that potential 9 IMP loss is staring you in the face if 2NT doubled makes. Partner did open at unfavorable vulnerability, so he doesn't have a piece of trash. He should have a decent heart suit, and quite possibly a high card outside of hearts. Any side card he has will be great for you. You have every suit under some control. You have a potential source of tricks with your 5-card diamond suit, while the opponents might not have such a source of tricks. South is coming in blind, and may catch a barren dummy. You figure to be a good favorite to defeat 2NT doubled, quite possibly more than one trick.

What if they run to 3? You can't double this, but you don't need to. You have plenty of defense, and a good chance to defeat them. You won't mind if they run. The object of doubling 2NT wasn't to get a big plus score. It was to increase your chances of getting any plus score.

You double, ending the auction.

W
N
E
S
2
P
2
2NT
P
P
X
P
P
P

Partner leads the 5.

North
Q432
J
Q75
108542
East
K1097
4
AK932
QJ7
W
N
E
S
2
P
2
2NT
P
P
X
P
P
P

Declarer plays the queen from dummy. You cover with the king, and declarer follows with the 6. How do you continue?

North
432
J
Q75
108542
East
1097
4
AK932
QJ7
W
N
E
S
2
P
2
2NT
P
P
X
P
P
P

Partner has led his smallest spade. It can't be a singleton, since declarer wouldn't have played the queen and then ducked if that were the case. Partner must have the jack, or declarer wouldn't have played the queen. Thus, partner must have started with J85 of spades.

It looks like partner has at least a doubleton diamond. If partner has a singleton diamond that means he has at least 2 clubs, which would give declarer a maximum of 3 clubs. A diamond return would kill dummy's clubs for good as well as probably setting up your long diamond.

On the other hand, a spade return is just as effective for setting up defensive tricks since that establishes two more spade winners. You will definitely get 2 diamonds and 3 spades, and declarer will have to give you a club trick if he is to make use of dummy's clubs. The spade return doesn't give declarer a trick, while the diamond return does. Returning a spade is clearly right.

You choose to return the 2. It goes 4, 8, queen. Declarer now leads a small club off dummy. What do you do?

North
432
J
75
108542
East
1097
4
AK93
QJ7
W
N
E
S
2
P
2
2NT
P
P
X
P
P
P

This is not the time to take a chance. You have a sure set by splitting. If you play small and declarer has AK9x, he might be able to work out your shape and insert the 9. It's too bad if partner has something like stiff king of clubs and you blow an extra undertrick. It cannot be right to risk a sure set after having doubled them into game.

You split your club honors. Declarer wins and continues clubs, partner showing out on the second round. You win the third round of clubs, and cash your diamonds. Declarer has the rest. The full hand is:

West
J85
K986532
J8
6
North
Q432
J
Q75
108542
East
K1097
4
AK932
QJ7
South
A6
AQ107
1064
AK93
W
N
E
S
2
P
2
2NT
P
P
X
P
P
P
D
2NTX South
NS: 0 EW: 0
5
Q
K
6
2
0
1
2
4
8
Q
1
1
1
2
Q
A
6
3
2
1
K
2
4
7
3
3
1
9
3
5
Q
2
3
2
5

If East had properly continued spades, there would have been a good chance for a 2-trick set. Whether declarer goes after hearts or clubs he has only 6 sure tricks.

Do you agree with declarer's line of play?

West
J85
K986532
J8
6
North
Q432
J
Q75
108542
East
K1097
4
AK932
QJ7
South
A6
AQ107
1064
AK93
W
N
E
S
2
P
2
2NT
P
P
X
P
P
P
D
2NTX South
NS: 0 EW: 0
5
Q
K
6
2
0
1
2
4
8
Q
1
1
1
2
Q
A
6
3
2
1
K
2
4
7
3
3
1
9
3
5
Q
2
3
2
5

Declarer's play of the queen of spades at trick 1 was unrealistic. West certainly has the king of hearts. How could East have anything resembling a double of 2NT if he doesn't have at least the king of spades and the AK of diamonds? Declarer should play small from dummy and win the ace of spades at trick 1, whatever else he does.

Do you like West's opening lead?

West
J85
K986532
J8
6
North
Q432
J
Q75
108542
East
K1097
4
AK932
QJ7
South
A6
AQ107
1064
AK93
W
N
E
S
2
P
2
2NT
P
P
X
P
P
P
D
2NTX South
NS: 0 EW: 0
5
Q
K
6
2
0
1
2
4
8
Q
1
1
1
2
Q
A
6
3
2
1
K
2
4
7
3
3
1
9
3
5
Q
2
3
2
5

It was certainly effective. In addition, it was probably correct. Of course West will never lead a heart after the double of 2NT. East has to be prepared for any other lead. Given that, West might as well lead from his stronger fragment, since that will need less in the East hand.

Do you agree with the N-S bidding?

West
J85
K986532
J8
6
North
Q432
J
Q75
108542
East
K1097
4
AK932
QJ7
South
A6
AQ107
1064
AK93
W
N
E
S
2
P
2
2NT
P
P
X
P
P
P
D
2NTX South
NS: 0 EW: 0
5
Q
K
6
2
0
1
2
4
8
Q
1
1
1
2
Q
A
6
3
2
1
K
2
4
7
3
3
1
9
3
5
Q
2
3
2
5

South has a difficult problem. He would like to make a takeout double of 2 if that is West's suit, but if he passes and West's suit is hearts, the auction is about to die and N-S may miss a game. Most pairs play that the double of the pass or correct bid is a takeout double of that suit, and South doesn't have a takeout double of hearts. The 2NT bid is okay on values, but if West does have spades the spade stopper might not be adequate. Multi does create some intrinsic difficulties for the opponents.

Should North have run to 3 after 2NT got doubled? That is a difficult problem. North doesn't have much, and knows that 2NT might be in trouble. On the other hand South might not fit clubs, and North could be running from the frying pan into the fire.

What do you think of the 2 opening?

West
J85
K986532
J8
6
North
Q432
J
Q75
108542
East
K1097
4
AK932
QJ7
South
A6
AQ107
1064
AK93
W
N
E
S
2
P
2
2NT
P
P
X
P
P
P
D
2NTX South
NS: 0 EW: 0
5
Q
K
6
2
0
1
2
4
8
Q
1
1
1
2
Q
A
6
3
2
1
K
2
4
7
3
3
1
9
3
5
Q
2
3
2
5

Opening a weak 2 (or multi) on a 7-card suit is usually not a good idea. However, a 3 preempt at adverse vulnerability on this ragged a suit is too rich. One hates to pass when one has only one thing to say. The 2 opening looks reasonable.

If East had not doubled 2NT, West might well have led a heart, and after that it would be fairly easy to make 2NT. It takes courage to make such a double since you are doubling them into game and the game may well be making. As seen on this hand, the double may gain quite a few IMPs by turning a minus score into a plus score.

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