Join Bridge Winners
Relay Double
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In a round-robin match in the Bermuda Bowl, you have to decide how far to compete.

E-W vul, East deals. As West, you hold:

West
AQ75
53
A83
AK86
W
N
E
S
P
2
?

2: Weak 2-bid

Your call?

West
AQ75
53
A83
AK86
W
N
E
S
P
2
?

This is a routine takeout double. No other action makes any sense. Your next bid might be difficult, but for now the takeout double is easy.

You double. The bidding continues:

W
N
E
S
P
2
X
3
P
P
?

Over the 3 call, double by partner would not have been a normal responsive double. It would have shown a weak hand but a suit good enough to want to compete rather than defend 3. You would be expected to bid 3 unless you had something unusual, and he would pass or bid 4 of a minor. An immediate suit bid by him would be invitational. We call this a relay double.

Your call?

West
AQ75
53
A83
AK86
W
N
E
S
P
2
X
3
P
P
?

If partner has something like Kxxxx of spades and out, it would probably be right to re-open with a double. Both sides would probably have 9 trumps, and there would be a decent chance that both 3 and 3 make.

Since partner had the relay double available, he doesn't figure to have this hand. If he did he would know that it was probably right to compete to 3, and he would have made a relay double. This inference makes re-opening with a double less attractive. Selling out looks best.

You pass, ending the auction.

Your lead. From an AK holding, you have the option of leading either the ace or the king. If you lead the ace, partner will give you a standard attitude signal. If you lead the king, partner will give you a suit-preference signal.

West
AQ75
53
A83
AK86
W
N
E
S
P
2
X
3
P
P
P

You have control of every side suit. In addition your tricks are off the top. You don't need to establish tricks before they are discarded on something. These factors point towards a trump lead, since declarer may be doing some ruffing in dummy.

Will a trump lead be necessary? You won't be able to draw more than 2 rounds of trumps. Suppose you lead a high club, and dummy has a singleton club. You will be able to shift to a trump. Declarer can ruff one club in dummy, but since you have both other aces he will not be able to get back to his hand without giving up the lead. When this happens you will be able to lead another trump, preventing a second ruff. Therefore, it doesn't appear that a trump lead is necessary.

Can a club lead be necessary? It could be. It is possible that your partner has a doubleton club and can ruff the third round of clubs.

Can a club lead cost a club trick? It could on certain layouts. But these layouts are unlikely. The club ruff in partner's hand appears to be the most likely relevant scenario, so the club lead looks best.

Assuming you are leading a high club, should you lead the ace or the king? Since you are interested in catching partner with a doubleton, the ace is the proper lead looking for an attitude signal. Partner will use his head. If dummy has something like J10xx of clubs partner will not encourage with Qxx since he knows you may be looking to give him a ruff.

You lead the A.

West
AQ75
53
A83
AK86
North
K8432
K86
Q1096
3
W
N
E
S
P
2
X
3
P
P
P

Partner plays the 2, and declarer the 4. While normally partner gives a standard attitude signal on the ace lead vs. a suit contract, when dummy has a singleton or void in the suit led your agreements are that you revert to suit-preference.

After trick 1, you play upside-down count and attitude signals.

Your play?

West
AQ75
53
A83
K86
North
K8432
K86
Q1096
W
N
E
S
P
2
X
3
P
P
P

If partner had a singleton spade, he would not have played the 2 suit-preference for diamonds. This scenario where dummy has a singleton club and 3 trumps is exactly the scenario you pictured when you determined that you could afford to lead the ace of clubs. A trump shift is obvious.

You shift to a trump. Partner's queen loses to declarer's ace. Declarer leads the 5 and ruffs in dummy, partner playing the 7 (standard remainder count). Declarer leads the 10 off dummy. Partner plays the J, and declarer plays the 4. What do you play?

West
AQ75
5
A83
K8
North
K8432
K
Q1096
W
N
E
S
P
2
X
3
P
P
P

Of course you don't overtake. Partner surely has another trump or he wouldn't have covered the diamond, and if declarer has 7 trumps he always has 9 tricks. Partner cannot fail to play another trump. You might as well play the 8 showing your count, although it isn't likely to matter.

You play the 8. Partner returns the 10. Declarer wins the king in dummy, ruffs a diamond to his hand, and leads the 6. What do you play?

West
AQ75
A
K8
North
K8432
Q9
W
N
E
S
P
2
X
3
P
P
P

Declarer can't possibly have a singleton spade and be playing the hand this way. He would have led a spade up before ruffing the club. It cannot cost to duck.

You play small. Dummy's king of spades wins, but that's all there is to the hand. Your side cannot be prevented from scoring 1 spade trick and 2 club tricks for down 1. The full hand is:

West
AQ75
53
A83
AK86
North
K8432
K86
Q1096
3
East
109
Q10
KJ752
Q1072
South
J6
AJ9742
4
J954
W
N
E
S
P
2
X
3
P
P
P
D
3 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
A
3
2
4
0
0
1
3
6
Q
A
3
1
1
5
6
8
7
1
2
1
10
J
4
8
2
2
2
10
2
5
K
1
3
2
6
2
4
3
3
4
2
6
5
K
7

Do you think East defended correctly?

West
AQ75
53
A83
AK86
North
K8432
K86
Q1096
3
East
109
Q10
KJ752
Q1072
South
J6
AJ9742
4
J954
W
N
E
S
P
2
X
3
P
P
P
D
3 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
A
3
2
4
0
0
1
3
6
Q
A
3
1
1
5
6
8
7
1
2
1
10
J
4
8
2
2
2
10
2
5
K
1
3
2
6
2
4
3
3
4
2
6
5
K
7

There was no need to put up the jack of diamonds. East can count that declarer has at least 7 trump tricks and 1 spade trick. If declarer has the ace of diamonds or a 7-card heart suit the hand is cold, so East must assume that West has the ace of diamonds and another heart. Given that, when West has a doubleton diamond, the defense will be more comfortable if East lets West win the first diamond trick. After the trump return, East will be able to win the second round of diamonds and play a club. If West wins the second round of diamonds he might not know it is safe to play clubs, so he might do something bad.

What do you think of declarer's line of play?

West
AQ75
53
A83
AK86
North
K8432
K86
Q1096
3
East
109
Q10
KJ752
Q1072
South
J6
AJ9742
4
J954
W
N
E
S
P
2
X
3
P
P
P
D
3 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
A
3
2
4
0
0
1
3
6
Q
A
3
1
1
5
6
8
7
1
2
1
10
J
4
8
2
2
2
10
2
5
K
1
3
2
6
2
4
3
3
4
2
6
5
K
7

If the contract were 2, ruffing the club in dummy would be fine. But the contract is 3. Ruffing the club gives declarer only 8 tricks, assuming the ace of spades is onside, with no real play for a ninth trick. In order to make the contract, declarer must get another trick from the spade or diamond suit.

One possibility is to lead a diamond at trick 3. If West has KJx or AJx of diamonds, this will succeed. West has to win and play a trump in order to stop declarer from ruffing 2 clubs in dummy (if West ducks, the position will come out the same). Declarer wins in dummy, ruffs a diamond, and leads a spade up. He will have 2 dummy entries (the king of spades and the club ruff), so when he gets to dummy he can smash the queen of diamonds through pinning the jack and the 10 of diamonds will be his ninth trick. That wouldn't have succeeded on the actual layout, but it is a quite reasonable approach.

Another possibility is to lead a small spade up at trick 3. This succeeds when the spades are 3-3 with the ace onside, as there will be adequate entries to establish and run the spades even if West ducks. There are also some chances if the spades are 4-2. Consider the actual layout. What would West do? Ducking is the successful defense this time, but that would be the losing play if declarer had a singleton spade and a doubleton diamond since now declarer would be able to ruff 2 clubs in dummy and make the contract. But look what happens if West goes up ace and leads a trump. Declarer wins in his hand, pushes the jack of spades through, and the 8 will score a trick. West would have a difficult problem, and would probably get it wrong.

I think the optional lead from AK is the most valuable part of suit-preference at trick 1. When you are leading an AK, you usually know whether you are going to want an attitude signal or a suit-preference signal, and you can lead accordingly. This hand is a good illustration.

The relay double is a little known tool, but it is valuable. Consider the actual auction. If East has a weak hand with long spades, he wants to bid the third and final spade. But if East has a 9 or 10-count with spades, he wants to bid an invitational 3. Playing standard methods, he cannot do both. The relay double permits us to have our cake and eat it too. On this hand there was no relay double, but from East's failure to make one West could infer that a re-opening double was probably not right.

We use the relay double any time we open the bidding 1 of a suit, make a non-jump overcall, or make a takeout double, and the next hand bids at the 3-level other than 3. It is like a good-bad 2NT, but since the competition took our good-bad 2NT away from us, we use the relay double instead to distinguish between a competitive hand and a constructive hand. We lose the negative or responsive double, of course, but our experience has been that at the 3-level a negative or responsive double with less than game-forcing values doesn't work so well. With game-forcing values and a negative double hand we can make our relay double and then continue with 3NT or a cue-bid, turning it into a normal negative double. While almost nobody plays this now, I predict that in 10 years it will be mainstream among experts as they realize how valuable it can be.

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