Join Bridge Winners
Kill the Threat
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In a round-robin match in the Bermuda Bowl, you must decide whether to risk doubling the opponents into game.

Both vul, West deals. As West, you hold:

West
AKQ3
AQ764
K4
92
W
N
E
S
1
X
P
2
?

1: 16+

DBL: Majors

P: 0-4

Double would be takeout. 2NT would be natural.

Your call?

West
AKQ3
AQ764
K4
92
W
N
E
S
1
X
P
2
?

What started out as a nice hand went down the drain quickly. North has both of your suits, and the opponents have bid to the 2-level in one of them. Partner is broke. Your side doesn't figure to make anything, and you have reasonable defense against 2. Passing is clear.

You pass. The bidding continues:

W
N
E
S
1
X
P
2
P
P
3
P
P
3
P
P
?

Your call?

West
AKQ3
AQ764
K4
92
W
N
E
S
1
X
P
2
P
P
3
P
P
3
P
P
?

The question of whether to risk doubling the opponents into game on a hand where you expect they are going down but can't be absolutely certain is a difficult one. Obviously you don't want to bring back a -730 to the comparison. On the other hand, if you never double a part-score without the absolute nuts you will be missing some good opportunities to collect IMPs.

One important consideration when considering doubling a part-score (or doubling any contract) is whether the double may help or hurt your chances of defeating the contract. If the double alerts declarer to a bad split and perhaps allows him to find a successful line of play he wouldn't have found without the double, then the double is a lot more questionable. On the other hand, if the double is more likely to get partner off to the right lead or might mislead declarer into worrying about non-existent bad splits, the double is more likely to be correct.

On this hand, it doesn't appear as though the double is likely to affect the result. Declarer will soon find out about the bad trump split, and advance knowledge of that split probably won't affect his line of play. Declarer already knows that you have the bulk of the outstanding strength whether you double or not. Thus, the double has to be evaluated simply on the chances of the contract making.

How good are your defensive chances? You have 3 sure spade tricks and a virtually certain heart trick. You can wipe out heart ruffs in declarer's hand in one stroke if necessary. Your K might score. Your fourth trump will be a big nuisance to declarer. Partner is weak, but he is allowed to have a helpful card or two.

The big danger is the club suit. If declarer has a long club suit, he may be able to draw trumps and run the clubs, coming to 9 winners, while you don't have a point of attack. Still, the odds are against this. Partner figures to be void in spades and probably doesn't have too many hearts, so he figures to have some club length. Any strength at all from him in the suit will almost certainly end declarer's chances. The opponents appear to have a 5-4 spade fit, but sometimes an opponent stretches and they have only 8 trumps. Partner might hold something in diamonds, which will allow you to establish a diamond trick or force a ruff which will harm declarer.

What kind of IMP odds are you getting on the double? Let's suppose that the contract is 3 undoubled at the other table. If 3 doubled makes, you lose 11 IMPs. If it is down 1, you win 3 IMPs. If it is down 2, you win 7 IMPs. If we expect that down 1 is the average result, then we might have a frequency distribution which looks like:

3 makes 25% of the time

3 down 1 50% of the time

3 down 2 25% of the time

So if we play the board 4 times with this frequency distribution, our IMP results would be -11, +3, +3, +7 for a net of +2 IMPs or +1/2 IMP per board. This may surprise people that on balance doubling would show a profit.

From the above analysis, a good rule of thumb is: If you believe the contract is more likely to go down 2 than to make, it is right to double.

You don't have a lock. But it looks like the contract will go down far more often than it will make, and it could easily go down 2. The odds appear to be good enough to double.

You double, ending the auction.

West
AKQ3
AQ764
K4
92
W
N
E
S
1
X
P
2
P
P
3
P
P
3
P
P
X
P
P
P

Your lead?

West
AKQ3
AQ764
K4
92
W
N
E
S
1
X
P
2
P
P
3
P
P
3
P
P
X
P
P
P

Any approach could be right. It could be key to draw trumps and prevent heart ruffs. It could be right to lead diamonds in order to establish a diamond trick or force a ruff. It could be necessary to lead clubs in order to cut communication. It might be right to establish a heart trick.

Fortunately, you don't have to make a commitment right away. It is clear to lead a high spade and take a look. The appearance of dummy and partner's signal will give you a much better idea of what approach to take. You will still have 2 high trumps, so you should have time to carry out the best plan. The lost tempo isn't likely to cost.

You might as well lead the Q. This won't help declarer any, and it will tell partner what is going on in the trump suit.

You lead the Q.

West
AKQ3
AQ764
K4
92
North
96542
K1083
AJ
K3
W
N
E
S
1
X
P
2
P
P
3
P
P
3
P
P
X
P
P
P

Partner follows with the 8, and declarer plays the 7. How do you continue?

 

West
AK3
AQ764
K4
92
North
9654
K1083
AJ
K3
W
N
E
S
1
X
P
2
P
P
3
P
P
3
P
P
X
P
P
P

That was a pleasant surprise. The 2 bidder has only 3 spades, which will make the defense a lot easier.

You can wipe out the threat of ruffing hearts by continuing trumps. But there is no rush to do that. Declarer won't be ruffing hearts without you getting in with the ace, and then you can play trumps if that is right.

A diamond shift looks attractive. That will set up a trick if partner has the queen, which is likely. But there is no guarantee that partner has the queen, and if declarer has the queen you will have lost a tempo and given declarer a finesse he would otherwise have to spend an entry to take for himself.

The real threat is the club suit. If declarer has good clubs that club suit will run once you are out of trumps. You can kill the threat by shifting to a club. When in with a trump, you can play another club. That will take care of declarer's hand, and you will take whatever red-suit tricks are coming your way.

You shift to the 9. Dummy wins the king, partner playing the 8 and declarer the 4. Declarer leads a spade to his jack, partner discarding the 2. You are playing odd-even first discard. Odd is encouraging. Even is discouraging, with suit-preference tendencies if possible.

How do you defend?

 

West
AK3
AQ764
K4
2
North
9654
K1083
AJ
3
W
N
E
S
1
X
P
2
P
P
3
P
P
3
P
P
X
P
P
P

It is clearly right to win this trick. You want to be ruffing declarer's good club with your 3, not a spade winner.

It looks like a reflex play to continue with your plan of killing declarer's hand by leading another club. However, this would be a bit hasty. Declarer might win, and continue clubs. You would be forced to ruff small. Dummy would overruff, and put you in with your last spade. Since partner has presumably denied the queen of diamonds with his 2 discard, you would not have a happy exit.

The better play is to cash another high spade before leading the second round of clubs. This is just as effective for killing the club threat, since you can ruff the third round of clubs with your 3 and subsequently keep declarer out of his hand. The difference is that declarer can no longer throw you in with a spade, so he will have to break the red suits himself which is what you want.

You carelessly lead the second round of clubs before cashing your high spade. It goes queen from partner, ace from declarer. Declarer leads the J. You naturally ruff with the 3. Dummy overruffs, partner playing the 10. Dummy now leads a spade to put you in, partner discarding the 10 (standard remainder count). What do you play now?

 

West
AQ764
K4
North
9
K1083
AJ
W
N
E
S
1
X
P
2
P
P
3
P
P
3
P
P
X
P
P
P

The evidence points to declarer's shape being 3-2-2-6. Declarer wouldn't have bid 2 if he were 3-3 in the majors. Partner's play in the club suit indicates that he has no more clubs, and his current count 10 discard indicates that he started with 7 diamonds.

If partner has the Q, a diamond shift will be fine. But if declarer has it, a diamond shift will give him an entry to his good clubs. Partner's first discard indicates that he does not have the Q.

If partner has the J, a small heart shift will be fine. But if declarer has it, a small heart shift gives him an entry to his clubs and allows him to make.

You could cash the A. But then you would be in the same position. You still won't be able to safely lead a small heart, and if you lead the queen that might crash partner's jack and cost the defense a trick.

Your best bet is to lead the Q. Dummy will win, but will then be forced to lead a red card. If partner has the jack of hearts that will be great, as he can safely lead a diamond and the defense will get 2 heart tricks and 1 diamond trick for down 2. If declarer has the jack of hearts you can win the second round of hearts and keep declarer out of his hand.

You shift to the Q. Dummy wins the king, partner playing the 5 and declarer the 2. Declarer leads a heart to his jack, partner following with the 9. You win your ace, and put declarer back in dummy with a heart. He has to give you a diamond trick for down 1. The full hand is:

West
AKQ3
AQ764
K4
92
North
96542
K1083
AJ
K3
East
8
95
10987652
Q108
South
J107
J2
Q3
AJ7654
W
N
E
S
1
X
P
2
P
P
3
P
P
3
P
P
X
P
P
P
D
3X South
NS: 0 EW: 0
Q
2
8
7
0
0
1
9
K
8
4
1
1
1
4
2
J
K
0
1
2
2
3
Q
A
3
2
2
J
3
5
Q
1
3
2
6
10
10
A
0
3
3
Q
K
5
2
1
4
3
3
9
J
A
0
4
4
4
9

Declarer could still get out for down 1 if West had defended correctly. Leading either red suit from dummy would have succeeded.

What do you think about the N-S actions?

West
AKQ3
AQ764
K4
92
North
96542
K1083
AJ
K3
East
8
95
10987652
Q108
South
J107
J2
Q3
AJ7654
W
N
E
S
1
X
P
2
P
P
3
P
P
3
P
P
X
P
P
P
D
3X South
NS: 0 EW: 0
Q
2
8
7
0
0
1
9
K
8
4
1
1
1
4
2
J
K
0
1
2
2
3
Q
A
3
2
2
J
3
5
Q
1
3
2
6
10
10
A
0
3
3
Q
K
5
2
1
4
3
3
9
J
A
0
4
4
4
9

North's double showing the majors is certainly reasonable.

South's jump to 2 is too much. It is true that there is value to preempting against an enemy strong 1 opening. On this auction, however, it isn't as valuable as usual. For starters, West knows that East is broke, so unless West is so strong that he has game in his own hand, he will know that there is probably no game. Also, E-W don't have a major-suit fit, so if they can't make 3NT on power, their only possible game is 5 which would be difficult to reach even with no preemption. 2 might simply be too high if North has 4 spades, or as happened, it may encourage North to compete to 3 on the wrong hand.

North's 3 call is reasonable. He has every reason to believe that his side has a 9-card spade fit, which is an indication that competing to 3 is likely to be a decent decision. In fact E-W can make 3, so 3 would need to be doubled and go down 2 tricks for there to be a serious cost to the call.

Odd-even discards work fine on this hand. East is able to discourage in diamonds and show a preference for clubs over hearts with the 2 discard. However, this is readable only because East is known to be long in diamonds, so West knows that East probably has a choice of even spots to discard if East wishes to discourage.

One problem with odd-even discards is that if you aren't discarding from known length partner won't know that you have a choice of even spots. Without the suit-preference information, odd-even discards aren't any better than standard or upside-down discards, since all you can infer for sure is the same encouraging or discouraging information. Even if you know about extra length, the suit-preference information might not be easy to read. For example, suppose you have a known long suit which is Q1097653. You have only one chance to discard, and you wish to signal suit-preference low. Naturally you would discard the 6, your smallest even spot. But what if your holding is Q976532 and you wish to signal suit-preference high. You would again discard the 6, your highest even spot. If partner can't see the 10, 6, and 2 he will not be able to read the discard of the 6. When you are known to have a 7-card suit with 6 available discards and still can't transmit the desired information, maybe there is something wrong with your signaling methods.

If you want to give a 3-way signal with your first discard, I think it makes more sense to break the spot cards into 3 even groups as we do with our suit-preference signal at trick 1 -- 10, 9, 8 suit-preference high, 2, 3, 4 suit-preference low, 5, 6, 7 encouraging. We do this when we are assumed from the auction to have at least a 6-card suit, but it is quite playable to always do this with your first discard since you have a choice of which suit to discard from and you are usually discarding from a long suit. Most of the time you will have a spot card in the desired category, and when you don't partner can often read your least damaging discard anyway. This is better than having the suit-preference signal depend on the relevant ranks of the even spot cards in the suit, which will sometimes be totally unreadable.

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