Join Bridge Winners
Out of the Books
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In a semi-final match in the Senior trials, you have to field a curve ball from partner.

None vul, West deals. As East, you hold

East
A96
A63
K975
652
W
N
E
S
P
P
?

Your 1NT opening range is always 15-17 in third and fourth seat. A 1 opening is defined as showing 11-15, 2+ diamonds.

Your call?

East
A96
A63
K975
652
W
N
E
S
P
P
?

Even though partner is a passed hand, indicating that this probably isn't your hand, it is clear to open 1. Nothing bad can come of this. Partner can't bury you, since he has no idea whether or not there is a fit. You could be lighter and open 1 with little risk, simply to rob the opponents of getting the opening bid.

You bid 1. The bidding continues

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

Partner's 3 call is out of the books. It is not defined in your notes. Partner should know this, so he will be expecting you to be on the same wavelength figuring out what he is doing.

Here are some potentially relevant features from your methods.

If partner were not a passed hand, 2 would be a negative free bid, non-forcing. 3 would be a game force showing a good 6-card heart suit.

In general, you do not play fit-showing jumps in competition. However, you have the agreement that if a jump by a passed hand would have been natural and forcing if made by an unpassed hand, then the jump is a fit-showing jump, showing that suit and fit for your suit. However, your 1 opening is not defined as showing a diamond suit.

You play a very aggressive preempting style. None vul. in first seat, partner will tend to open 3 or 2 multi on most hands with a 6-card or longer heart suit which aren't strong enough for an opening bid.

What would your guess be about partner's hand? And what call do you make?

East
A96
A63
K975
652
W
N
E
S
P
P
1
2
3
3NT
?

If partner has 6+ hearts, why did he pass as dealer? The most likely reason is that he also has 4+ spades and didn't want to lose the spade suit. He might have a 5-card minor and have chosen to keep that in play, but normally a 5-card minor wouldn't stop him from preempting in a major.

If partner doesn't have 6+ hearts, the only hand he could have to justify this call would be a red 2-suiter. He may have decided that for this type of situation the meaning consistent with your agreements would be fit-showing, and even though your 1 opening didn't guarantee a diamond suit he judged that this would be a winning call and that you would interpret it properly.

One thing you can be sure of is that partner has at least 5 hearts. Otherwise his bid makes no sense at all. In addition, he must have an unusually offensively oriented hand of some sort. Otherwise, he would simply have bid 2. He must have at most a singleton club, maybe a void, as otherwise it would be hard to justify his call. In addition, North's 3NT bid figures to be based on a club fit.

What are you going to lead against 3NT if you choose to defend? Not clear. One thing which is clear is that if you touch the wrong card you might not have a chance to recover.

How are your chances in 4? Not clear. However, you either have a 9-card heart fit or a good double-fit. You have no club wastage. 4 could come home, and certainly won't be terrible.

Your percentage action has to be to bid 4. While it is possible, perhaps likely, that both 3NT and 4 are down, you don't have enough information to bet on that. If either contract makes, bidding will be much better than passing. Even if you are going down, the opponents aren't likely to have enough information to double. It is even possible you could push them to 5. As is so often the case, bidding is the sensible safe action. Passing is too risky.

You choose to pass. The bidding continues

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

Your call?

East
A96
A63
K975
652
W
N
E
S
P
P
1
2
3
3NT
P
P
4
5
?

You now have a good idea about what partner is doing. If he had a red 2-suiter, he certainly would have bid 4 instead of 4. He must have long hearts. His reason for not preempting initially figures to be that he has a side 4-card spade suit.

Partner has to have something special to compete to 4 on his own, particularly since he doesn't know that he will be getting any support. He must have decided that if you had a stiff heart and 4 spades you would work out to yank to 4. He likely is void in clubs for this aggressive action. That is confirmed by North's unexpected 5 call.

You certainly aren't going to compete to 5. Even with partner having a club void, he would need to have opening bid values for 5 to be a good contract. You have plenty of defense against 5.

The question is whether or not to double. You don't have to worry about partner taking any more action. He has done his all. There is no need to double just to shut him up.

You have plenty of defense against 5. Two aces, both of which are likely to cash. The king of diamonds by itself might be a trick. In addition, partner has to have something outside of hearts for his bidding, and anything he produces is likely to be worth a trick. Most important, North is flying blind. He can't really be expecting to make 5, since he is a passed hand. From his point of view he is probably taking a save against 4, and it isn't necessarily a phantom save since 4 might be making. 5 is far more likely to go down than to make, and could easily be going down 2. Doubling is a must.

You choose to pass, ending the auction.

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

Partner leads the king of hearts.

North
J4
J54
J832
AKJ8
East
A96
A63
K975
652
W
N
E
S
P
P
1
2
3
3NT
P
P
4
5
P
P
P

Your play at trick 1 is defined as suit-preference. High spot is suit-preference high. Low spot is suit-preference low. Middle spot is encouraging.

UDCA after trick 1.

Which heart do you play?

North
J4
J54
J832
AKJ8
East
A96
A63
K975
652
W
N
E
S
P
P
1
2
3
3NT
P
P
4
5
P
P
P

It is now virtually certain that partner has 4 spades. In addition to the clue from partner's failure to preempt, declarer wouldn't have passed 3NT if he were 6-5 in the black suits. Also, dummy's strong club holding clarifies that partner has the club void he figured to have. Partner's shape is likely 4-6-3-0, giving declarer 4-1-2-6.

Declarer will be ruffing spades in dummy, so it would be nice to be able to draw his trumps. However, you don't have the needed third entry. You would have that only if partner has the ace of diamonds. If partner has that card declarer must have KQconsidering partner's initial pass, so declarer would only need to ruff one spade in dummy.

Given that, there is no need to overtake the heart. You might as well play the 6, which partner will read as encouraging. It won't really matter, since partner will always be continuing hearts regardless of what you play.

You play the 6. Declarer plays the 7. Partner continues with the 9 to jack, ace, and ruff. Declarer leads a club to dummy, partner playing the 8 as you follow. Are you ready for the next trick?

North
J4
5
J832
KJ8
East
A96
3
K975
65
W
N
E
S
P
P
1
2
3
3NT
P
P
4
5
P
P
P

Declarer leads a small spade off dummy. Quick! Do you win the ace or play small?

North
J4
5
J832
KJ8
East
A96
3
K975
65
W
N
E
S
P
P
1
2
3
3NT
P
P
4
5
P
P
P

Partners's hearts are known to you, so his heart plays should be suit-preference. His choice of the 9 at trick 2 followed by the 8 discard suggests something in both spades and diamonds.

There can't be any gain for winning the ace. Declarer could have K10xx of spades. Granted he doesn't figure to misguess, but it can't hurt to try. Also declarer might have Qxxx, and going up ace will set up a spade trick for him.

You choose to go up ace of spades. Declarer plays the 2, and partner plays the 3. What do you lead now?

North
J
5
J832
KJ8
East
96
3
K975
65
W
N
E
S
P
P
1
2
3
3NT
P
P
4
5
P
P
P

It is hard to see how anything can matter. You might as well play a trump. This will force declarer to take his spade ruffs before you get in again. Also, a heart lead would remove partner's heart exit if that makes a difference.

You choose to lead a heart. Declarer ruffs, plays king of spades, ruffs a spade, and claims down 1. The full hand is:

West
Q1073
KQ10982
Q104
North
J4
J54
J832
AKJ8
East
A96
A63
K975
652
South
K852
7
A6
Q109743
W
N
E
S
P
P
1
2
3
3NT
P
P
4
5
P
P
P
D
5 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
K
4
6
7
0
0
1
9
J
A
3
3
1
1
9
8
A
2
1
2
1
4
A
2
3
2
2
2
3
7
2
5
3
3
2
K
7
J
6
3
4
2
6

Do you agree with the N-S auction?

West
Q1073
KQ10982
Q104
North
J4
J54
J832
AKJ8
East
A96
A63
K975
652
South
K852
7
A6
Q109743
W
N
E
S
P
P
1
2
3
3NT
P
P
4
5
P
P
P
D
5 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
K
4
6
7
0
0
1
9
J
A
3
3
1
1
9
8
A
2
1
2
1
4
A
2
3
2
2
2
3
7
2
5
3
3
2
K
7
J
6
3
4
2
6

South's 2 overcall is reasonable. He might have bid 3, but he didn't want to shut out the possibility of a spade fit.

North's 3NT call was imaginative. It was sort of a 2-way shot. 3NT might make on a good day, and if it goes down a few tricks maybe 3 will be making. Still, a less imaginative 4 raise might be better.

North faced a blind guess over 4. He had no idea what he was up against, nor exactly how well 5 figured to fare. He knew he had a good fit, and that West had some kind of distributional hand for his action. Bidding one more in this type of situation is quite reasonable.

What do you think of West's actions in the auction?

West
Q1073
KQ10982
Q104
North
J4
J54
J832
AKJ8
East
A96
A63
K975
652
South
K852
7
A6
Q109743
W
N
E
S
P
P
1
2
3
3NT
P
P
4
5
P
P
P
D
5 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
K
4
6
7
0
0
1
9
J
A
3
3
1
1
9
8
A
2
1
2
1
4
A
2
3
2
2
2
3
7
2
5
3
3
2
K
7
J
6
3
4
2
6

Even playing light opening bids, West's hand just isn't worth a 1 opening. You have to draw the line somewhere. The fact that West has no aces makes a big difference.

West could open 3 or multi. However, that would shut out almost any possibility of finding a spade fit. Also, if the opponents have a spade fit East will be short in spades and badly mis-evaluate.

While one doesn't like to pass, sometimes the alternatives are worse.

West took a risk throwing the 3 curveball out. He knew East would know it had to show hearts whatever other interpretation East came up with, so nothing terrible figured to happen. Most likely the call would just have a preemptive result, which is probably fine.

The 4 call was a gamble. Holding the void in clubs and no entries to the heart suit, West believed that 3NT was likely to make.

At the other table, West opened a weak 2. East raised to 3, and South doubled. West violated the principle that the preemptor doesn't bid again, and bid 4 which ended the auction. Declarer misguessed the jack of diamonds, got tapped, and did not have time to set up a spade trick so went down 1.

Regardless of how solid a partnership is, there will be sequences which are not defined in the partnership agreements. Each partner must be cautious about adopting such a sequence, estimating the likelihood that his partner will be on the same page and the potential damage if there is a mixup.

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