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Good Preempt
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In a semi-final match in the Senior knockouts, you have to find the best approach opposite one of your specialty bids.

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

North
AKQ54
A108
4
10954
W
N
E
S
P
2
P
?

2: This shows a good diamond preempt, just under a minimum opening 1 bid or even possibly a minimum opening 1 bid. A prototype hand might be AQJxxx of diamonds and a side king.

Available to you are:

2NT: Asks about partner's diamond suit. If he has 2 of the top 3 honors, he shows his side stopper.

3: Asks about partner major-suit length. Partner bids a 4-card major if he has one. If not, he can bid 3 leaving you room to bid a 5-card major.

Other bids are as if partner had opened 3 (3 is to play, obviously). 3 of a major is a natural force, assumed to be a 6-card suit since you could have bid 3 to locate a 5-3 major-suit fit.

Your call?

North
AKQ54
A108
4
10954
W
N
E
S
P
2
P
?

The singleton diamond doesn't fit well with partner. 3 could easily be the limit of the hand.

On the other hand, partner has more than a normal preempt. He has a good preempt. A 1 opening and 2 rebid, or close to that. If partner had opened 1 and rebid 2 you wouldn't be stopping short of game. You are vulnerable, and missing a vulnerable game is quite costly. In addition, if no game makes it is possible that 3 isn't making either. Also, partner is allowed to have spade support, in which case you almost certainly belong in 4. Signing off in 3 shoots for a very thin target where there are 9 tricks in diamonds but not 9 tricks in notrump or 10 tricks in spades, and if you are right you win 5 IMPs while if you are wrong you lose 10 IMPs. That just isn't a good bet.

You could take the 3 route and find out if partner has 3 spades, getting to 3NT if he doesn't. But your spades are so strong that it is probably better to treat this as a 6-card suit and bid 3. If partner raises on a doubleton, that could well be the best contract. Otherwise partner will bid 3NT with some help in hearts and clubs, 4 with a 4-card club suit (over which you could take a shot at 5), or 4 (which you would pass since there almost certainly is no game and you might be too high already).

You bid 3. The bidding continues:

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

Your call?

 

North
AKQ54
A108
4
10954
W
N
E
S
P
2
P
3
P
3NT
P
?

Obviously you pass. 3NT has to be your most likely making game.

You pass, ending the auction.

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

Over you go to partner's seat to justify your bidding.

West leads the king of hearts.

North
AKQ54
A108
4
10954
South
10
J54
AQ10765
QJ3
W
N
E
S
P
2
P
3
P
3NT
P
P
P

Do you win or duck?

 

North
AKQ54
A108
4
10954
South
10
J54
AQ10765
QJ3
W
N
E
S
P
2
P
3
P
3NT
P
P
P

You will clearly have to establish the club suit. That will get you up to 2 club tricks, 3 spade tricks, 2 heart tricks, and 1 diamond trick. Most likely you will need the diamond king onside for your ninth trick. Possibly you could establish a long spade, but it doesn't appear that you will have time to do that.

Meanwhile, what damage can the opponents do? They can probably establish 2 heart winners, and they have their two top clubs. That should be all for them if the king of diamonds is onside.

West could be making a weird lead, but most likely he has the queen of hearts. If so, you can safely duck this trick. Can that help? It sure can. Entries to dummy are at a premium. If you win the ace of hearts, a spade shift by the defense will shut out dummy. It must be right to duck.

You duck the king of hearts. East plays the 9. Do you play the jack or small?

 

North
AKQ54
A108
4
10954
South
10
J54
AQ10765
QJ3
W
N
E
S
P
2
P
3
P
3NT
P
P
P

If you needed both the ace and 10 of hearts for dummy entries, it would be a good idea to unblock the jack. Should you play small, West could later deprive you of a second heart entry by inserting the queen when you led toward the A10.

On this hand that isn't an issue. You have the spade entry and the heart entry for the long club, and the defense can't take both of them away. It seems right to play small and conceal the location of the jack.

There is a small argument for playing the jack. You can be pretty sure that West is going to continue hearts whatever you play. It looks like you will want to win the second round of hearts and go after clubs. The more deceptive way to attack clubs is to lead them from dummy, since it will look like you might be taking some kind of finesse. In order to do this, you will have to win the second round of hearts with the 10. If you played small from your hand at trick 1, the defense will know you have the jack left. However, if you played the jack they may think you started with a doubleton heart and misjudge the hand in some way.

You choose to play a small heart. West continues with the 6. You play the 10, and East follows with the 2. How do you continue?

North
AKQ54
A10
4
10954
South
10
J4
AQ10765
QJ3
W
N
E
S
P
2
P
3
P
3NT
P
P
P

Clearly you are going to attack clubs. It looks best to lead clubs from dummy, as this will tell the defense less about your hand.

You lead a small club from dummy, and East plays the 2. Which honor do you play from your hand?

 

North
AKQ54
A
4
10954
South
10
J
AQ10765
QJ3
W
N
E
S
P
2
P
3
P
3NT
P
P
P

Picture West with something like Kxx of clubs. If you play the queen it will be pretty obvious to him that you have the jack, since you probably wouldn't be playing the suit this way without the jack. But if you play the jack, he may think you started with AJx. That could cause him to panic and shift to a diamond from something like KJx if he thinks the defense needs to cash diamond tricks. He shouldn't make this error since he can see that if the club layout is what he fears you would have 9 tricks if you have the ace of diamonds and if East has the ace of diamonds there is no rush. But it can't hurt to be as deceptive as possible and give your opponent a chance to make a mistake.

You choose to play the queen of clubs. West wins the king, and continues with the 7 to dummy's ace, East following with the 3. You naturally lead a club to your jack, holding as West pitches a diamond. You continue clubs. West pitches another diamond. East wins the ace of clubs, and shifts to the 9 of diamonds. What do you play?

 

North
AKQ54
4
10
South
10
AQ10765
W
N
E
S
P
2
P
3
P
3NT
P
P
P

You have no choice. You simply have to hope the king of diamonds is onside. You will go down 2 if the finesse loses, but clearly it is worth risking the extra undertrick to try to make the contact.

You finesse the queen of diamonds. It wins, and you have 9 tricks. The full hand is:

West
J7632
KQ76
832
K
North
AKQ54
A108
4
10954
East
98
932
KJ9
A8762
South
10
J54
AQ10765
QJ3
W
N
E
S
P
2
P
3
P
3NT
P
P
P
D
3NT South
NS: 0 EW: 0
K
8
9
5
0
0
1
6
10
2
4
1
1
1
4
2
Q
K
0
1
2
7
A
3
J
1
2
2
5
6
J
3
3
3
2
3
2
9
A
2
3
3
9
Q
8
7

Do you agree with West's opening lead?

 

West
J7632
KQ76
832
K
North
AKQ54
A108
4
10954
East
98
932
KJ9
A8762
South
10
J54
AQ10765
QJ3
W
N
E
S
P
2
P
3
P
3NT
P
P
P
D
3NT South
NS: 0 EW: 0
K
8
9
5
0
0
1
6
10
2
4
1
1
1
4
2
Q
K
0
1
2
7
A
3
J
1
2
2
5
6
J
3
3
3
2
3
2
9
A
2
3
3
9
Q
8
7

It looks right. Dummy has shows a spade suit, so a spade lead looks futile. West's weak diamond holding indicates that the diamonds will be running, so aggression is called for.

Given that West is leading a heart, it is clear to lead an honor. It would be disastrous to lose to a singleton or doubleton jack, particularly if you catch partner with 10xxxx. There is almost no layout where leading low gains.

Given the parameters for the 2 opening, do you think the South hand qualifies or should something else have been tried?

 

West
J7632
KQ76
832
K
North
AKQ54
A108
4
10954
East
98
932
KJ9
A8762
South
10
J54
AQ10765
QJ3
W
N
E
S
P
2
P
3
P
3NT
P
P
P
D
3NT South
NS: 0 EW: 0
K
8
9
5
0
0
1
6
10
2
4
1
1
1
4
2
Q
K
0
1
2
7
A
3
J
1
2
2
5
6
J
3
3
3
2
3
2
9
A
2
3
3
9
Q
8
7

The hand is junky enough that you can't be comfortable opening 1. Even if you get to rebid 2, partner will be playing you for a better hand than this. And if there is competition you might not have the opportunity to show this hand type.

If you were non-vulnerable, you would be uncomfortable opening 3. Partner will be playing you for potentially a lot less than this. Vulnerable vs. not and second seat, a 3 preempt figures to be a lot stronger. So perhaps that is the better evaluation. On this hand North would have passed a 3 opening, which would have been a more secure contract. But they still pay that vulnerable game bonus, so the 2 opening worked fine on this hand.

The reason we use 2 as a good diamond preempt is that it plugs an awkward gap, particularly when we are non-vulnerable. Our preempts might be quite light, so it is dangerous to open this sort of hand 3 as partner will be playing us for less. On the other hand, since we play 10-12 notrumps non-vul our 1 opening is assumed to be a balanced 13-15 until proven otherwise. If there is competition the opening bidder might not get a chance to prove otherwise, and responder will be playing him for a king more than he has. Opening 2 to show this hand type solves this problem. We could do it for clubs also, but that isn't so important since our 2 opener shows the long club suit so isn't misleading. It is the 1 opener with long diamonds which is the problem hand in Precision.

This may seem like a fairly simple hand. However, at the other table, a world-class declarer in 3NT got the queen of hearts lead and chose to win the first trick. After a club to the jack and king, West found a nice J shift. After that the defense was able to shut out dummy, and declarer was able to take only 8 tricks.

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