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In a round-robin match in the Senior Trials, you have an interesting problem opposite partner's 1NT opening bid.

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

North
A853
4
K10
1087432
W
N
E
S
1NT
P
?

1NT: 14-16

Available to you for this hand are:

2: Puppet Stayman. Partner will bid 2 if he doesn't have a 5-card major. You can then bid 2, showing 4 spades and fewer than 4 hearts, at least invitational values. If partner has 4 spades, he will bid 2 with a minimum, raise to a higher level with a non-minimum. If partner doesn't have 4 spades he will bid 2NT with a minimum (over which 3 by you would be an offer to play), 3 with a non-minimum. Over either of these, 3 by you would show heart shortness and a 5-card minor.

If partner bids 2, showing 5 hearts, a 3 bid by you would be artificial, showing 4 spades and some 5+ card minor, game-foring. The reason for this is that 3 would be to play, a hand with which you were planning on passing the likely 2 call. Your only non game-forcing call would be 2NT, natural invite.

2NT: Transfer to 3, must be accepted. After this, 3 of a major would show shortness in the major. You would be expected to not have a 4-card major for the 2NT call.

Your call?

North
A853
4
K10
1087432
W
N
E
S
1NT
P
?

Game in notrump is unlikely, and even if you have a club fit 11 tricks in 5 figures to be difficult. If you are to play in a partial, 3 is almost surely where you belong. Simply transfering to 3 and passing is reasonable.

The problem is that if partner does have 4 spades a 4 contract is likely to be pretty good. You are vulnerable, and you would hate to miss a vulnerable game. What happens when partner doesn't have 4 spades? Unless he happens to have 5 hearts, he will bid 2, and you can bid 2 showing 4 and invitational or better values. He will bid either 2NT or 3. If he bids 2NT, you can now bid 3 as an offer to play, and he is unlikely to have a reason to override this since he will have a minimum. If he bids 3, you can surprise him by passing. Only if he has 5 hearts and bids 2 will you not be able to get to 3 -- about all you could do is bid 2NT and hope to survive. Otherwise you can get to your spade fit if you have one, and probably get out at 3 if you don't have a spade fit. This looks better than giving up on spades with the 2NT transfer.

You choose to bid 2NT. The bidding continues:

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

2NT: Transfer to clubs, must be accepted

3 of a major would show shortness. Partner will assume from your 2NT call that you do not have a 4-card major.

Your call?

North
A853
4
K10
1087432
W
N
E
S
1NT
P
2NT
P
3
P
?

You made the decision to play in 3 when you bid 2NT. Any attempt to improve the contract figures to be disastrous.

You pass, ending the auction.

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

You transfered to 3, so transfer yourself to the other side of the table to play it.

West leads the 7. Third and fifth leads.

North
A853
4
K10
1087432
South
K102
K853
Q432
AK
W
N
E
S
1NT
P
2NT
P
3
P
P
P

What do you play from dummy?

North
A853
4
K10
1087432
South
K102
K853
Q432
AK
W
N
E
S
1NT
P
2NT
P
3
P
P
P

Assuming the clubs split, you have 5 club tricks, 2 spade tricks, and 1 diamond trick. One possibility for a ninth trick is to play for the ace of hearts onside. In order to do this, it may be necessary to win the ace of spades at trick 1. If you win the king of spades, you won't have a convenient entry to the dummy for your heart play. Furthermore, if you cash the AK of clubs you then won't have a convenient entry to the king of hearts, and if you don't cash the clubs you run the risk of enemy ruffs.

A better prospect for your ninth trick is in the spade suit. Your spots could come in handy. If you play small at trick 1, East will have to play an honor. It looks like the 7 lead might be a singleton or top of a doubleton. If so, you can beat East's honor with the king of spades, and later lead up to the 10 to develop a third spade trick. This looks more promising than leading up to the king of hearts.

You play small from dummy. East plays the jack, and you win the king. What do you do next?

North
A85
4
K10
1087432
South
102
K853
Q432
AK
W
N
E
S
1NT
P
2NT
P
3
P
P
P

You are going to have to make a spade play at some point, and when you do you can't afford to have any small trumps outstanding. It has to be right to cash two rounds of trumps.

You cash the AK of clubs. West plays the 5 and 9, East the 6 and the jack. What do you do next?

North
A85
4
K10
10874
South
102
K853
Q432
W
N
E
S
1NT
P
2NT
P
3
P
P
P

The most likely spade position is that West's 7 lead is a singleton or top of a doubleton. If that is the case, all you have to do is get to dummy and lead up to the 10 in order to get your ninth trick.

There is the possibility that West led from Q97x. If that is the layout, you will need to lead a spade from your hand. Unfortunately, a spade lead from your hand ruins your chances if East started with QJ9x. You can lead a spade towards the 10 and if that loses to West's queen you can follow with a spade Erom your hand, but you will need to be able to get to your hand to do that.

The natural play is to lead a diamond to the king. That might work if East has the ace of diamonds, but the opponents will still be able to play back a diamond and remove the hand entry. If West has the ace of diamonds he will certainly play small, and now there will be no chance for a later hand entry.

Leading a heart might be better. Suppose the opponents win, cash the high club, and continue hearts forcing you to ruff. You lead a spade to the 10 and it loses to the queen, and they continue hearts. You lead the king of diamonds, which they will have to duck. Now you run your trumps. If West started with Q97x of spades and the ace of diamonds, you will have him in a squeeze end-play.

If you are leading a heart from your hand, consider the effect of leading the king of hearts. It will appear to the opponent who doesn't have the queen of hearts that you hold this card, as otherwise why would you be making this play. Picture East holding both red aces and no queen of hearts. He will think it is vital to get his partner in for a diamond through your king, so if he started with Jx of spades a spade continuation will be a reflex action. It is true that if you had KQ of hearts you shouldn't have ripped away your hand entries prematurely, but the defender might not think along these lines and with dummy's apparent spade weakness he will think a spade lead is safe.

If you try this, would you be in danger of being tapped out? Suppose they win the ace of hearts, cash the good club, and force dummy with a heart. You ruff, and lead up to the 10. East wins, and forces you again. You still have a trump left, so you can unblock the 10, play a diamond, and you will be okay.

You lead the king of hearts. East wins the ace, cashes the queen of clubs, and returns a heart which you ruff. Now what?

North
A85
K10
108
South
102
85
Q43
W
N
E
S
1NT
P
2NT
P
3
P
P
P

You can't afford to delay. You must make your spade play now. If it turns out that West started with Q97x of spades, you still have the hope that the threat of the queen of diamonds being an entry will allow you to make.

You lead a spade. East wins the queen, and forces you with a heart. You ruff, lead a spade to the ten, and knock out the ace of diamonds, making the contract. The full hand is:

West
76
Q1092
AJ965
95
North
A853
4
K10
1087432
East
QJ94
AJ76
87
QJ6
South
K102
K853
Q432
AK
W
N
E
S
1NT
P
2NT
P
3
P
P
P
D
3 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
7
3
J
K
3
1
0
A
5
2
6
3
2
0
K
9
3
J
3
3
0
K
2
4
A
2
3
1
Q
2
5
4
2
3
2
6
3
Q
7
1
4
2
5
Q
7

How was the lead and defense?

West
76
Q1092
AJ965
95
North
A853
4
K10
1087432
East
QJ94
AJ76
87
QJ6
South
K102
K853
Q432
AK
W
N
E
S
1NT
P
2NT
P
3
P
P
P
D
3 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
7
3
J
K
3
1
0
A
5
2
6
3
2
0
K
9
3
J
3
3
0
K
2
4
A
2
3
1
Q
2
5
4
2
3
2
6
3
Q
7
1
4
2
5
Q
7

The opening lead looks reasonable. It is the safest lead, and leading the doubleton could set up a third round ruff.

East could tell from the 7 lead that declarer started with K10x, so he knew to not continue spades. His heart continuation is fine. He also knew not to duck the queen of spades.

Every partnership has various tools at its disposal. It is important to use your tools to maximize your chances of getting to the right contract. North had the tools to look for a 4-4 spade fit and likely still stop in 3 if the spade fit didn't exist. He had to project how the auction would go within his systemic agreements in order to give himself the most options.

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