Join Bridge Winners
An Embarrassing Result
(Page of 8)

In the quarter-finals of the Open Trials, you have to find the best sequence after partner's positive response to your strong 1 opener.

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

South
K2
Q75
A1042
AKJ10
W
N
E
S
P
1
P
2
P
?

1: Strong and artificial

2: 5+ hearts, 9+ points

Available to you are the following:

2: This asks partner how many controls he has. After that, you can follow with asks about hearts or any other suit if you wish. The call does not necessarily show heart support. You are in complete control of the auction, and you will place the contract when you find what you need to know.

2NT: Natural. Natural bidding follows. Partner will not be expecting 3-card heart support.

3: Natural raise, bringing partner into the loop. Partner's bids below 4 are short or long suit slam tries. Partner will assume you have a minimal balanced hand, since you didn't control ask or splinter.

Other non-jumps would be natural, 5+ card suits.

South
K2
Q75
A1042
AKJ10
W
N
E
S
P
1
P
2
P
?

While 3NT could be the best game, you simply aren't going to be able to find that out. It is best to commit the hand to hearts, possibly backing into 6 of a minor if that seems right. 2 and 3 are the logical choices.

The question of whether to take control or bring partner into the loop is often a difficult one. The general principle is that the hand with the source of tricks should be taking over since he will be best able to count the winners. Hands which are control-rich but trick-poor should try to have partner be in control of the auction, since partner may know what to do.

This hand is a little of both. There are a lot of controls, which argues for bidding 3 and hoping partner can take over. Still, making the control ask bid could well be right. The key is that AKJ10 of clubs. If you can find partner with the necessary controls and trumps, then if you ask in clubs and discover he has the queen of clubs you will be able to count 4 club tricks. For example, suppose you find he has 4 controls. You ask in trumps, and find he has AKxxx. This means he has the king of diamonds, but no ace of spades. You ask in clubs, and find he has the queen. Now you can count at least 11 tricks (5 hearts, 2 diamonds, 4 clubs) assuming no heart loser, so you will need at worst the ace of spades onside or led. For this reason, the control-ask 2 is probably best. If the AKJ10 of clubs were AKxx, then 3 letting partner take over would probably be better.

You bid 2. The bidding continues:

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

2: Control ask

2NT: 3 controls (ace = 2, king = 1)

3 would ask about his exact heart holding, after which you could follow up with an ask about his strength and/or shortness in any suit you choose. 3, 3, and 3 would ask about clubs, diamonds, and spades respectively. 3NT and 4 would be to play -- partner must pass.

Your call?

South
K2
Q75
A1042
AKJ10
W
N
E
S
P
1
P
2
P
2
P
2NT
P
?

You know partner has just an ace and a king. That doesn't figure to be enough. Sure, he could have a magic hand such as xx AKxxx x Qxxxx and 6 makes, but you aren't going to be able to find that out. 4 is almost certainly where you belong, so you should bid it.

You bid 4 ending the auction.

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

West leads the queen of diamonds:

North
94
AKJ93
653
742
South
K2
Q75
A1042
AKJ10
W
N
E
S
P
1
P
2
P
2
P
2NT
P
4
P
P
P

East plays the 9. Standard leads and carding.

Your play?

North
94
AKJ93
653
742
South
K2
Q75
A1042
AKJ10
W
N
E
S
P
1
P
2
P
2
P
2NT
P
4
P
P
P

The club finesse will get you up to 10 tricks if it wins. But if it loses, that is instant defeat. Are there other chances?

There is potential to get a second trick out of the diamond suit. That will get you up to 9 tricks, so either the spade finesse or the club finesse will be enough. The problem is that you won't be able to try them both. Still, you would have the extra chance of playing for queen-doubleton of clubs with the spade finesse in reserve.

At any rate, it can't hurt to duck this trick. You don't want East to get in with his king of diamonds. Even if the lead is a singleton, you are still okay. Worst case is West leads a spade to the ace and East leads a high diamond through so West can ruff out your ace, but since you are scoring a spade trick you will still make if the club finesse wins. Otherwise West will almost certainly continue diamonds, and how he continues diamonds may give you a clue as to what to do next.

You duck. West continues with the jack of diamonds, East playing the 7. Your play?

North
94
AKJ93
65
742
South
K2
Q75
A104
AKJ10
W
N
E
S
P
1
P
2
P
2
P
2NT
P
4
P
P
P

Unless the opponents are doing something very strange, it is clear that West started with either QJ doubleton or QJ8 of diamonds. This means that you can always set up a diamond trick and discard a loser. But you don't know which black suit you have the loser in, and you can't try both suits. If you win, draw trumps, and play a diamond, East will win and you go down if the ace of spades is offside. You could instead choose to take the club finesse, but if you do and that is offside you will go down.

How about ducking the jack of diamonds? If the diamonds are 3-3, this is the best play. If West continues diamonds or shifts to a heart you will be able to draw trump, discard a club on the third round of diamonds, and try to drop the doubleton queen of clubs, with the spade finesse in reserve if the queen of clubs doesn't drop. If instead West shifts to a black suit, your problems are over.

Suppose West has QJ doubleton of diamonds. If West has the ace of spades you will have done well. Either black suit shift gives you the contract, and West might panic and shift since he will know you have established a diamond trick. If West exits with a trump you can draw trumps, take the diamond finesse, discard a club on the fourth round of diamonds, and try to drop the queen of clubs before taking the spade finesse. Or you may deduce that the ace of spades is offside from West's trump shift and decide to discard a spade and bank on the club finesse.

The big danger with ducking the second diamond is that East has the ace of spades. If West shifts to a spade he will get a diamond ruff and you will have the embarrassing result of having gone down in a cold contract. Still, if this is the case West will have a blind guess about which black suit to shift to, and if he misguessess you will be cold.

It isn't clear. But all things considered it looks like the percentage play is to risk the embarassing result and duck the second diamond.

You duck. West shifts to a spade. East wins the ace, and returns the 8. What do you play?

North
9
AKJ93
6
742
South
K
Q75
A10
AKJ10
W
N
E
S
P
1
P
2
P
2
P
2NT
P
4
P
P
P

Your only play to make is that diamonds are 3-3. Finessing the 10 is a concession for down 1. But you have to be realistic. The parlay of West making a non-systemic lead of the queen from KQJ and East signaling encouragement with 987 tripleton just isn't going to happen. Going up ace risks down 2 if the club finesse is offside. Sometimes one just has to be practical, even if it means giving up on making the contract.

You finesse the 10. West ruffs, and you have the rest for down 1. The full hand is:

West
J8653
62
QJ
9863
North
94
AKJ93
653
742
East
AQ107
1084
K987
Q5
South
K2
Q75
A1042
AKJ10
W
N
E
S
P
1
P
2
P
2
P
2NT
P
4
P
P
P
D
4 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
Q
3
9
2
0
0
1
J
5
7
4
0
0
2
3
4
A
2
2
0
3
8
10
6
4

The queen-doubleton of clubs onside along with the ace of spades onside makes this as embarassing a result as possible. One of those which is difficult to explain to teammates.

Was West lucky finding the spade shift, or was there rationale behind the choice?

West
J8653
62
QJ
9863
North
94
AKJ93
653
742
East
AQ107
1084
K987
Q5
South
K2
Q75
A1042
AKJ10
W
N
E
S
P
1
P
2
P
2
P
2NT
P
4
P
P
P
D
4 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
Q
3
9
2
0
0
1
J
5
7
4
0
0
2
3
4
A
2
2
0
3
8
10
6
4

If East's 7 means suit-preference then West should have shifted to a club. Declarer is known to have the 10, since East signaled with the 9 on the first round. In practice East probably isn't thinking suit-preference with his second diamond play, so West is really on his own.

Since West knows declarer has the 10, the diamond position is known. East has to have a black ace for the defense to have a chance. If declarer has the ace of spades but a spade loser and East has the ace of clubs, declarer wouldn't have ducked the second diamond. He would have won, drew trumps, and led up to the 10 to get rid of his losing spade. He would have a spade ruff for an entry to dummy for whatever club play is necessary. Therefore, it must be the ace of spades declarer is missing, so West's play was not just a good guess.

At the other table, East opened the bidding a Precision 1. South overcalled 1NT, and landed in 4 after a transfer auction. There declarer knew the ace of spades was onside, so it was easy to duck the first diamond, win the second, draw trumps, and lead up to the 10 planning on discarding a club and taking the spade finesse.

Was North worth a positive response?

West
J8653
62
QJ
9863
North
94
AKJ93
653
742
East
AQ107
1084
K987
Q5
South
K2
Q75
A1042
AKJ10
W
N
E
S
P
1
P
2
P
2
P
2NT
P
4
P
P
P
D
4 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
Q
3
9
2
0
0
1
J
5
7
4
0
0
2
3
4
A
2
2
0
3
8
10
6
4

Technically North is a point short. But with all values concentrated in the 5-card heart suit, it has to be right to make the positive response. The hand is worth driving to game opposite a strong 1 opening, and showing the heart suit immediately will make the subsequent auction a lot easier. If North's values were more scattered, it would be better to respond 1.

We have been playing transfer positives to our 1 opener, and find they work quite well. All bids from 1 through 2 show a positive response with 5+ in the next higher suit, except a 1 response which shows 9-14 balanced. Opener has the choice of bidding the next step (responder's suit) and taking control with a series of asking bids or making a natural bid of his own with natural follow-ups. When opener has a fit he will usually take the asking bid approach, automatically making him declarer if that suit (or notrump after the 1 response) is the final strain. Having two approaches available is very helpful for the 1 opener. We lose some space when responder's suit is hearts, but we can live with that. Otherwise the transfer positive gains a critical step vs. natural responses, as well as usually right-siding the contract.

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