Join Bridge Winners
Conclusive Call
(Page of 19)

In a round of 64 match in the Spingold, you face an interesting possible slam decision hand.

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

North
A64
KQJ2
A103
A63
W
N
E
S
1
P
?

Normal 2/1 game-forcing parameters. 2 would show a 5-card heart suit. 2NT would be a spade raise, limit or better. 3NT would be spade support, unspecified void.

Your call?

North
A64
KQJ2
A103
A63
W
N
E
S
1
P
?

While you never like bidding a 3-card suit, a 2 response looks right here. You might belong in hearts, and you want to give partner room to show a 4-card heart suit. If partner raises clubs you can always go back to spades, so nothing terrible is likely to happen.

A case could be made for bidding 2, showing a 5-card heart suit. You can picture hands where a 4-3 heart fit will do better than a 5-3 spade fit, since there may be a ruff in the short hand. However, it is probably better to not go for that.

You bid 2. The bidding continues

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

A 2 call by partner would guarantee 6+ spades. He would bid a 4-card red suit if he has one, and he would raise clubs with 4-card support. Therefore, he must be 5-3-3-2 in some order.

Your opening 1NT range non-vulnerable is 10-12, so partner's assumed strength is 13-15. He might be a bit lighter on a spade-oriented hand where he chooses to open 1 rather than 1NT, but he won't be much lighter.

If partner has 3 good clubs and is weak in a red suit, he might choose to raise to 3 rather than bid 2NT.

A 3NT call by partner would have been fast arrival. It would show the absolute worst possible hand in the context of the auction. The bid is almost never made, so you can't draw any great inferences from partner's choice of 2NT vs. 3NT.

At this point, bids of 3NT or 4 by you would end the auction. 4NT would be a natural invite. A 3 call is not necessarily a slam try. It shows 3-card spade support, but 3NT is still a candidate contract. The only inference partner could draw would be that you had some possible contract other than 4 in mind.

Your call?

North
A64
KQJ2
A103
A63
W
N
E
S
1
P
2
P
2NT
P
?

It looks right to bid a simple 3 and see what partner has to say. If partner persists in notrump that could easily be the best strain, and you could decide whether or not to invite slam. If partner doesn't bid 3NT, his call may be of value to you.

You bid 3. The bidding continues:

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

You do not play any kind of serious/non-serious 3NT. If partner had bid 3NT, that would have been an offer to play.

Assuming partner doesn't bid 3NT, he will tend to make a cue-bid on almost any excuse. Such a bid isn't a slam try as such. It simply says that his hand isn't terrible. If he had bid 4, that would show a terrible hand for slam within the context of the auction.

Your bids now mean as follows:

4: Last train. Says nothing about hearts. This simply says that you aren't willing to go past the 4 safety level, but you do have slam interest.

4: The end of the auction. Partner must pass. You might have never had any slam interest, and your reason for bidding 3 might have been that you were planning on passing if he bid 3NT.

4NT: RKC for spades

Higher: Normal slam tries

Your call?

North
A64
KQJ2
A103
A63
W
N
E
S
1
P
2
P
2NT
P
3
P
4
P
?

It is fundamental in slam bidding that the player with the source of tricks should be taking charge if he can. You have that source of tricks with your nice heart suit. Partner presumably doesn't have the king of clubs, but he has to have something. As little as Kxxxx Axx KQx xx gives you a decent play for slam, and that is a dead minimum considering partner has shown 13-15 and then showed some slam interest in that context. You have to be worth a slam drive.

Given that you are driving to slam, it can't hurt to bid RKC. You can't really be off 2 key cards, but you might as well make sure. Also, partner's response may be the key to finding a different contract than 6.

You bid 4NT. The bidding continues

W
N
E
S
1
P
2
P
2NT
P
3
P
4
P
4NT
P
5
?

4NT: RKC

5: 2 key cards, queen of spades

5NT would ask for specific kings. Partner will bid his lowest king. It would not necessarily show possession of all the key cards. Partner will assume you have them, but if he wants to bid a grand he will instead bid 6NT. That means he thinks you belong in a grand, but is giving you a chance to stop if a key card is missing or if you otherwise know there can't be a grand. This is a valuable adjunct, which can often get you to a superior 6NT contract when partner produces a critical king.

6-level calls would by your definitions be an offer to play. You do not play any kind of third-round control asks.

Your call?

North
A64
KQJ2
A103
A63
W
N
E
S
1
P
2
P
2NT
P
3
P
4
P
4NT
P
5
P
?

You may well belong in 6. But there is no rush to get there. 6NT might be better. If partner has the king of diamonds and not the king of clubs, which seems likely given his 4 call, you can count 12 top tricks if the spades come home (5 spades, 4 hearts, 2 diamonds, 1 club). If the spades aren't coming home you will have a spade loser playing in spades, but that might not be a loser in notrump if you have enough side tricks. Also, you could have a grand. Would something like KQxxx Axx KQx xx be such an unlikely hand for partner on the auction? It can't hurt to try 5NT. If partner has the above hand, he will bid 6. If you now choose to sign off at 6 he will know the queen of diamonds is a trick you weren't counting on, and you did have a reason for bidding 5NT. He will continue with 6NT, and now you can sensibly take your shot at a grand knowing he has that something extra.

You choose to bid 6, ending the auction.

W
N
E
S
1
P
2
P
2NT
P
3
P
4
P
4NT
P
5
P
6
P
P
P

You picked 6, so over you go to play it.

West leads the 5. Third and fifth leads.

North
A64
KQJ2
A103
A63
South
KQ983
A10
K82
J107
W
N
E
S
1
P
2
P
2NT
P
3
P
4
P
4NT
P
5
P
6
P
P
P

Do you win or duck?

North
A64
KQJ2
A103
A63
South
KQ983
A10
K82
J107
W
N
E
S
1
P
2
P
2NT
P
3
P
4
P
4NT
P
5
P
6
P
P
P

It would be hard to imagine West underleading the KQ of clubs on this auction. If the spades split you have 12 tricks, and if they don't split you can't afford to lose the first trick The opening lead could be a singleton. Also, if the trumps split badly you will still have some chances provided you haven't lost the first trick.

You win the ace of clubs, East playing the 2. How do you proceed?

North
A64
KQJ2
A103
63
South
KQ983
A10
K82
J10
W
N
E
S
1
P
2
P
2NT
P
3
P
4
P
4NT
P
5
P
6
P
P
P

Obviously you will draw trump. If the trumps split 3-2, you have 12 tricks.

If entries to dummy were an issue, your proper play in the trump suit would be small to the king. Then if West has a singleton jack or 10, you could cross back to the ace and take the marked finesse without having to use an extra dummy entry.

On the actual layout, that is not a problem. If you play ace of spades, spade to the king, and it turns out that West has singleton jack or 10, you can cross back to the ace of diamonds to take the spade finesse.

It is possible that East has all 5 spades. If that is the case, you are better off playing the ace first, since you will remain with your spade honors over his.

You cash the ace of spades. Suppose West does show out. What will you do next?

North
64
KQJ2
A103
63
South
KQ98
A10
K82
J10
W
N
E
S
1
P
2
P
2NT
P
3
P
4
P
4NT
P
5
P
6
P
P
P

You won't be able to directly pick up East's spades, but you can get off to a head start. You are in dummy, and you must take advantage of that to lead a spade through East. He will split, of course.

You lead a spade. East splits with the 10, and you win the king. Now what?

North
6
KQJ2
A103
63
South
Q98
A10
K82
J10
W
N
E
S
1
P
2
P
2NT
P
3
P
4
P
4NT
P
5
P
6
P
P
P

Your only real hope is to try to run the hearts now and pitch your clubs. This will require East to not ruff one of the heart winners. If he does ruff one of the heart winners you will be able to pick up his trumps, but you will have only 11 tricks. East might have at least 4 hearts, or East might fail to see that it is right to ruff, since ruffing will cost him his sure trump trick.

You run the hearts, discarding your clubs. Suppose East either can't ruff or fails to ruff. What will you do next?

North
6
A103
63
South
Q98
K82
W
N
E
S
1
P
2
P
2NT
P
3
P
4
P
4NT
P
5
P
6
P
P
P

You now need to take a spade finesse. This won't pick up East's trumps, but you will be left with a tenace over him.

You lead a spade. East plays small, and you win your 9. And now?

North
A103
63
South
Q8
K82
W
N
E
S
1
P
2
P
2NT
P
3
P
4
P
4NT
P
5
P
6
P
P
P

You are almost home. If you can score 2 diamond tricks, you will be in position to score 2 trump tricks in the end. However, you must be careful. East might have been dealt a singleton diamond, or he might have discarded down to a singleton diamond as you ran your hearts. You must lead a diamond to the ace. If this lives, you are there. You lead a diamond towards your king. If East ruffs he is ruffing air, and your hand will be good. Otherwise you win your king of diamonds, exit with a diamond, and score your remaining trumps at the end.

In fact, both opponents follow small to the ace of trumps. Naturally you continue another trump to your king, since you will be cold if the trumps split.

What will you do if West shows out on the second trump?

North
6
KQJ2
A103
63
South
Q98
A10
K82
J10
W
N
E
S
1
P
2
P
2NT
P
3
P
4
P
4NT
P
5
P
6
P
P
P

You still have a chance if you can score 4 heart tricks. You will have the AK of diamonds, and you can ruff 2 clubs with your small trumps.

Best is to cash the queen of spades, and then try to run hearts discarding your clubs. If East ruffs in you are almost certainly dead. There might be an unlikely squeeze, but that would take both a lot of luck and probably a mis-defense.

Suppose East has to follow to the hearts. What next?

North
A103
63
South
98
K82
W
N
E
S
1
P
2
P
2NT
P
3
P
4
P
4NT
P
5
P
6
P
P
P

You must get your two small ruffs in your hand, so you need to ruff a club now.

You ruff a club. Then what?

North
A103
6
South
9
K82
W
N
E
S
1
P
2
P
2NT
P
3
P
4
P
4NT
P
5
P
6
P
P
P

You need to cash the top diamonds and then ruff another club. You should do this in the order king of diamonds, diamond to ace, and then the club to score your last trump en passant. If you instead lead a diamond to the ace and ruff the club, East will be able to pitch his last diamond if he started with 4-5-2-2 shape, and you won't score your king of diamonds. In order to succeed, you need to find East with at least 4 hearts and at least 2 diamonds.

Suppose it is East who shows out on the second round of trumps. What do you do?

North
6
KQJ2
A103
63
South
Q98
A10
K82
J10
W
N
E
S
1
P
2
P
2NT
P
3
P
4
P
4NT
P
5
P
6
P
P
P

Once again, you will need to cash your red-suit winners and get two small ruffs in your hand. You cash the queen of spades, and run the hearts hoping West has to follow to 4 rounds. You ruff a club. Then what?

North
A103
6
South
9
K82
W
N
E
S
1
P
2
P
2NT
P
3
P
4
P
4NT
P
5
P
6
P
P
P

You will need for West to have started with 3 clubs so he can't overruff you on the next round of clubs. However, you can survive if his shape is 4-4-1-4. You must cash your king of diamonds and then lead a diamond up. If West ruffs he ruffs air, and you have the last two tricks. If he discards, you win the ace and get your club ruff. In order to make, you will need West to have exactly 4 hearts and either 3 or 4 clubs.

In fact, the trumps split 3-2. How do you continue?

North
6
KQJ2
A103
63
South
Q98
A10
K82
J10
W
N
E
S
1
P
2
P
2NT
P
3
P
4
P
4NT
P
5
P
6
P
P
P

The slam is cold and an overtrick is unlikely, so this isn't worth putting in too much effort. However, you might as well give it your best try. Naturally you draw the remaining trump. Best now is to cash the king of diamonds. If an honor drops from either hand, you can run your hearts discarding your clubs, ruff a club back to your hand, lead a diamond up, and if East dropped the honor make your best guess. Otherwise, cash one more trump discarding dummy's 10 and run the hearts, coming down to:

 

North
A
63
South
8
82
W
N
E
S
1
P
2
P
2NT
P
3
P
4
P
4NT
P
5
P
6
P
P
P

This will effect a trump squeeze if one opponent guards both minors. This end position also maximizes the chance of a defensive error. If you think the clubs are unguarded, ruff a club. If you think the diamonds are unguarded, cash the ace of diamonds.

The opponents have no difficulty holding what they need to hold, since East has 5 diamonds. The full hand is:

West
1052
9874
J6
K954
North
A64
KQJ2
A103
A63
East
J7
653
Q9754
Q82
South
KQ983
A10
K82
J107
W
N
E
S
 
1
P
2
P
2N
P
3
P
4
P
4N
P
5
P
6
P
P
P
D
6 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
5
A
2
7
1
1
0
A
7
3
2
1
2
0
4
J
K
5
3
3
0
3

Do you like West's opening lead?

West
1052
9874
J6
K954
North
A64
KQJ2
A103
A63
East
J7
653
Q9754
Q82
South
KQ983
A10
K82
J107
W
N
E
S
 
1
P
2
P
2N
P
3
P
4
P
4N
P
5
P
6
P
P
P
D
6 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
5
A
2
7
1
1
0
A
7
3
2
1
2
0
4
J
K
5
3
3
0
3

It looks reasonable, even though North responded 2. West knows trumps are splitting, and other suits are probably favorable for declarer also. This indicates that aggression may be necessary. Another factor is that South bid 4 rather than 4. If South had a club honor, he probably would have made the cheaper cue-bid, particularly since that honor might fill in partner's assumed suit.

How was South's auction?

West
1052
9874
J6
K954
North
A64
KQJ2
A103
A63
East
J7
653
Q9754
Q82
South
KQ983
A10
K82
J107
W
N
E
S
 
1
P
2
P
2N
P
3
P
4
P
4N
P
5
P
6
P
P
P
D
6 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
5
A
2
7
1
1
0
A
7
3
2
1
2
0
4
J
K
5
3
3
0
3

It looks fine. South could have raised to 3, but with honors in both red suits 2NT looks more descriptive. In particular, South very much wants to be declarer in 3NT with his A10 doubleton of hearts.

Even though South is minimal in point count, he has good trumps and prime cards. His hand is better than it might be for slam purposes, so bidding 4 would not be right.

Any time you are considering making a final conclusive call, it is a good idea to look around and see if you can find an improvement. Might there be a superior alternative contract? If so, is there an intelligent way to make this determination? When the answer to both of these questions is yes, it may be worth additional probing. It didn't matter on this hand, but with a slightly different South hand, a good grand could have been missed.

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