Join Bridge Winners
Percentages Are Different
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In a semi-final match in the Senior Knockouts, you have to make the right evaluation vs. a Precision 1 opening.

Both vul, East deals. As South, you hold:

South
8
AJ9873
K954
K5
W
N
E
S
1
?

1: 11-15, 2+ diamonds

Your jump overcalls are defined as preemptive.

Your call?

South
8
AJ9873
K954
K5
W
N
E
S
1
?

Even vulnerable, this hand has far too much playing strength for a weak jump overcall. That bid could easily lead to a missed game. The obvious 1 overcall is best.

You bid 1. The bidding continues:

W
N
E
S
1
1
X
2
P
?

DBL: Exactly 4 spades

2: Invite+ in hearts

Your call?

 

South
8
AJ9873
K954
K5
W
N
E
S
1
1
X
2
P
?

You have only 11 HCP, but this is a power-packed 11-count. Your hand goes up considerably when partner has heart support. While game might not make if partner has the wrong cards, you simply must bid it. You cannot afford to bring back +170, lose 10, to the comparison with this hand.

You bid 4, ending the auction.

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

West leads the 2. 3rd and 5th leads.

North
AK765
642
Q10
Q106
South
8
AJ9873
K954
K5
W
N
E
S
1
1
X
2
P
4
P
P
P

What club do you play from dummy?

 

North
AK765
642
Q10
Q106
South
8
AJ9873
K954
K5
W
N
E
S
1
1
X
2
P
4
P
P
P

Let's suppose your goal is to take 2 tricks in the club suit. Which club should you play? Presumably East has the ace, and your hope is that West has the jack. However, you should play small rather than the 10. If East doesn't have the jack your play won't matter. East will have to play the ace, for fear his partner has the king. If East has AJ9 it also won't matter. But if East has AJ but no 9, East will have to play the jack when you play small since you might have 9-doubleton. Therefore, it is correct to play small.

Suppose instead, you have a worthless doubleton in clubs opposite the Q10x. Offhand it might seem right to play the 10, hoping West has KJ. But that isn't necessary. If East has only the ace he will not insert the 9, since from his point of view you could have jack-doubleton. The advantage of playing small is that East might have AK but no jack. Once again, he won't dare insert the 9, and now you will score a trick in the suit which you would not have scored if you had played the 10.

On the actual deal, you want East to put in the jack of clubs. This would let you pitch a club on the spades, and by ruffing a diamond or two in dummy you should emerge losing only 1 diamond and 2 hearts with reasonable luck.

Unfortunately East knows from the bidding that you have a singleton spade, and he can probably read from his partner's lead that you have a doubleton club. Even if he has the jack of clubs he will go up ace, unless he is convinced that you don't have the king. Which play is more likely to convince him of this? He should know that it would normally be correct for you to play small from dummy whether you have the king or not. But the position with 2 small opposite Q10x is probably less known. Therefore, your best chance is to play the 10 and hope that he thinks you have made the technically wrong play from this holding.

You play the 10. East wins the ace. Do you unblock the king?

 

North
AK765
642
Q10
Q106
South
8
AJ9873
K954
K5
W
N
E
S
1
1
X
2
P
4
P
P
P

You will need to hold your trump losers to 1 trick. If East has KQ10 of hearts, you will need to lead hearts from dummy twice. That is an incentive for unblocking the king.

The problem with this approach is your fourth diamond. If you unblock the king of clubs you won't have a club discard, which means that you will need to ruff a diamond in dummy. And if you successfully ruff a diamond in dummy, that will provide the entry for the second heart play. Therefore, it cannot gain to unblock the king of clubs.

You play small. East returns the 9 and you win the king, West playing the 4. Now what?

North
AK765
642
Q10
Q
South
8
AJ9873
K954
W
N
E
S
1
1
X
2
P
4
P
P
P

Your losing diamonds are taken care of by dummy's black-suit winners, so it all comes down to the trump suit. If West has 3 trumps, you are dead. If the trumps are 2-2, you can always make unless you take 2 finesses and lose to KQ doubleton. The main concern is that East might have 3 trumps.

You could simply cash the ace of trumps first, which would succeed if West has singleton king or queen. However, this loses when East has KQx or KQ10. KQx you would probably always lose to, but KQ10 you can do something about by leading first from dummy. The plan would be to finesse if East plays the 10, but go up ace if East plays small. The defenders could give you some headaches if East is sharp enough to play the 10 from 10x, K10x, and Q10x, but most defenders won't even consider playing the 10 from honor-ten-small and it wouldn't occur to most that there is a reason to play the 10 from 10-doubleton. So, in practice this shouldn't pose a problem.

The difficulty is that you might not have two entries to dummy, since one of the opponents might have a doubleton diamond. Your best play now is to lead a diamond to the queen. This runs the risk of finding East with Ax of diamonds and honor-ten-small of hearts. East would return a spade taking out the entry prematurely, and now you could no longer cash the ace of hearts first and then lead up to the jack when an honor falls since East would be able to overruff dummy. This distribution is possible if West's shape is 4-1-5-3, which would be consistent with the 2 of clubs opening lead. However, it seems more likely that West has a 5-card club suit for his lead, in which case you will be able to safely ruff a diamond in dummy if West plays an honor on the first round of hearts. If the queen of diamonds holds, you will be in better shape.

You lead a diamond to the queen. It holds. You lead a heart from dummy, and East plays the 5. What do you do?

North
AK765
642
10
Q
South
8
AJ9873
K95
W
N
E
S
1
1
X
2
P
4
P
P
P

If hearts are 2-2 it doesn't matter what you do. If East has 3 hearts, the a priori odds are that he is twice as likely to have honor-ten-small as he is to have KQx.

The percentages are different. West appears to have the ace of diamonds. East did open the bidding 1, and even for a Precision pair he is expected to have at least 11 HCP. Can he have them? If he has Q10x of hearts, he would have to have every other high card -- QJ of spades, jack of clubs, and jack of diamonds to get up to 11 HCP. That parlay is very unlikely. Even if he has K10x of hearts he needs almost every other missing high card. In spite of the initial apriori odds, it is far more likely that he started with KQx of hearts for his opening bid.

It is true that East could in theory work out to duck the ace of diamonds. In practice, that is very unlikely to happen. It is more practical to play him for not having made this play. If he doesn't have the ace of diamonds, it is clear to play him for KQ of hearts.

You play the jack of hearts and hold your breath. Success! West follows with the 10, and you claim the contract. The full hand is:

West
J932
10
AJ832
J42
North
AK765
642
Q10
Q106
East
Q104
KQ5
76
A9873
South
8
AJ9873
K954
K5
W
N
E
S
1
1
X
2
P
4
P
P
P
D
4 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
2
10
A
5
2
0
1
9
K
4
6
3
1
1
4
3
Q
7
1
2
1
2
5
J
10
3
3
1
4

Do you agree with West's opening lead?

West
J932
10
AJ832
J42
North
AK765
642
Q10
Q106
East
Q104
KQ5
76
A9873
South
8
AJ9873
K954
K5
W
N
E
S
1
1
X
2
P
4
P
P
P
D
4 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
2
10
A
5
2
0
1
9
K
4
6
3
1
1
4
3
Q
7
1
2
1
2
5
J
10
3
3
1
4

Clearly West will lead a black suit. He probably chose the club lead because often a Precision 1 opener's best suit is clubs. However, I think a spade lead is better.

First of all, the 9 gives some protection in case all partner has is one honor. For example, suppose East has Qxx in the black suit West chooses to lead. There will be a much better chance for the spade lead to survive than the club lead.

Secondly, the reason for leading a black suit is to establish tricks in that suit before they get discarded. West has the diamonds locked up, so he isn't worried about discards on diamonds. West also has good control of the later rounds of spades, so it might not be necessary to establish club tricks because they won't run away. However, West doesn't have any control of clubs, so there is a danger that spade tricks need to be established before they get discarded on the clubs.

Do you agree with North's bidding?

 

West
J932
10
AJ832
J42
North
AK765
642
Q10
Q106
East
Q104
KQ5
76
A9873
South
8
AJ9873
K954
K5
W
N
E
S
1
1
X
2
P
4
P
P
P
D
4 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
2
10
A
5
2
0
1
9
K
4
6
3
1
1
4
3
Q
7
1
2
1
2
5
J
10
3
3
1
4

North could have have bid 1, but why should he? He knows there is at least an 8-card heart fit, and there probably isn't a 9-card spade fit since South overcalled 1 instead of making a takeout double. The Q-bid is an accurate description of what North is trying to show -- an invitational hand in hearts

While the Precision 1 opener might not be a real suit, it is best to treat it as such when responding to an overcall. Having a Q-bid available is too important to give up, since without it hands like the North hand would be very difficult to handle. If North has a long diamond suit, that is just too bad.

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