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Right Contract for the Right Player

Match point, not vulnerable, partner deals and opens 1NT.

Looking at your 72 9 AKJT7532 T3, what is your bid?

3NT ought to be easy -- partner rates to have some stoppers in the other three suits to take at least one trick before opponents set up a running suit. But what about a slam?

It depends only on how many Aces partner has, and since partner opened 1NT, we can bid 4 (Gerber) to ask for Aces. If partner has none, we will have to sign off in 4NT and hope for the best. If partner has two, 6 is likely right, the only problem is that we will be faced with an immediate guess when the opening lead goes through KJxx in the 1NT opener. There does not seem to be a way to right side the contract. Perhaps signing off in 4NT is still the best option.

Partner replies 4NT -- three Aces! Now it is time to choose between 6 and 6NT. If partner has one King, you have 12 tricks from the top to make 6NT. Of course, partner may have a five card suit with AK, and you can ruff to set up the fifth card and make seven, but this is too big a dream. If partner has no King, you will have to rely on a finesse or an end-play to bring the slam home. If it works, 6NT would be a top board while 6 could be below average at match point. On the other hand, if the finesse loses, 6NT could be down several since your only stopper in their suit will have been knocked out by the opening lead, while 6 still has a chance if partner has a five-card suit where you can ruff to set up one more trick. What is your choice?

If partner the 1NT opener declares, the opening lead might provide a free finesse. If the contract is 6NT, partner will certainly play it. Can we let partner play 6 as well?

The answer is Yes. Just bid 5 to ask for Kings. If partner has no king, the response will be 5, letting partner declare 6 if you choose the slam of an extra chance.

Partner shows no King, so you bid 6. RHO leads J, and you put down the dummy proudly.

Partner wins the Ace, draws trumps, then finesses in clubs. When that holds, she claims 12 tricks. Partner holds

A853 A82 Q4 AQ64

So much for the wasted mental energy. Now you start wondering whether you should have bid 6NT instead.

Soon the game is over. Much to your relief, you discover that you are the only pair reaching a slam on this board. All is well.

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