Join Bridge Winners
Spots Matter
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In a semi-final match in the Senior trials, you face a difficult potential slam decision.

E-W vul, North deals. As South, you hold

South
A
K10
AQ753
KQJ72
W
N
E
S
1NT
P
?

1NT: 10-12

You play 2-way Stayman. 2 would be assumed to be at most invitational. 2 is game-forcing. Other suit calls would be non-forcing.

Your call?

South
A
K10
AQ753
KQJ72
W
N
E
S
1NT
P
?

Clearly you have to start with 2. Nothing else will give you the opportunity to explore.

You bid 2. The bidding continues:

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

With 4-4 in the majors, partner may bid either major first. He will generally bid his stronger major.

If you bid 2NT, that will ask about the rest of partner's distribution. He will bid naturally, rebidding 3 with 5 spades, 3 with 4 hearts, 3 of a minor with 4 or 5 cards in the minor, or 3NT with 4-3-3-3. After a 3 call you can relay with 3 and get his exact distribution. After a 3 call you can relay and determine if he has 4 or 5 diamonds.

On any of these auctions, once you have found as much as possible about partner's shape you play Mulberry. 4 is a relay to 4 for a planned signoff (or 4NT follow-up for RKC is what is defined as his shortest suit). 4 is a relay to 4 for a planned follow-up of 4, 4, or 4NT which will be RKC in partner's longest, second longest, or third longest suit respectively, or a follow-up of a 5-level call will be a very strong natural slam try. Bids of 4, 4, 4NT, 5, or 5 will be natural slam tries.

Any action other than 2NT is a natural call, with natural bidding after that.

Your call?

South
A
K10
AQ753
KQJ72
W
N
E
S
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
?

It seems like a good idea to bid 2NT. If partner produces 3 of a minor, you will be in great shape.

The problem is that partner might not produce 3 of a minor. If partner bids 3 or 3, it will be very difficult for you to produce a sensible auction, since you will have no idea which minor should be trumps.

Your club suit has more meat, so bidding 3 is a possibility. The problem with this is partner probably won't be introducing a 4-card diamond suit, and getting to diamonds if that is where you belong will prove to be difficult since partner will never think you have 5 diamonds.

The natural 3 call looks best. If partner raises, that will be fine. If partner doesn't raise you can then bid 4, being pretty confident that partner has at least 3 clubs. Your hand is so strong that if necessary you can just blast to slam which probably won't be worse than a finesse.

You bid 3. The bidding continues

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

4 now would be RKC for diamonds. 4 would be an offer to play. 4NT would be a heart Q-bid. 5 would be a Q-bid.

Your call?

South
A
K10
AQ753
KQJ72
W
N
E
S
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
3
P
4
P
?

Now you know you have a playable trump suit. This is a fine hand for RKC. If partner has only 1 key card, you want to stop in 5. Opposite 2 key cards, slam figures to be decent. Opposite 3 key cards, you can count 13 tricks with decent splits.

You bid 4. The bidding continues

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

4: RKC for diamonds

5: 2 key cards, no queen of trumps

5 would be a signoff. 5 would ask for specific kings, not promising all the key cards. 5NT would be pick a slam. 6 would be an offer to play.

Your call?

South
A
K10
AQ753
KQJ72
W
N
E
S
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
3
P
4
P
4
P
5
P
?

Obviously you will bid a slam since you are off only 1 key card. You know you have a diamond fit. Still, clubs may be a superior strain. Since you play that 6 is an offer to play, not a third round control ask, that has to be the right call. If partner passes he will have only 3 diamonds and likely 4 clubs, in which case 6 will probably be a better contract than 6. The downside is that partner bid clubs first, so you might be wrongsiding the contract. It would take a parlay for that to cost. The missing key card would have to be the ace of hearts. Partner would have to not hold the queen of hearts. The ace of hearts would have to be offside. North would have to find a heart lead. All these things could happen, but it is a longshot parlay. If partner is passing 6 he almost certainly won't have 4 diamonds and won't have KJx, so a 4-1 diamond split could defeat 6.

You choose to bid 6, ending the auction.

W
N
E
S
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
3
P
4
P
4
P
5
P
6
P
P
P

West leads the king of spades.

North
J976
A4
J92
A865
South
A
K10
AQ753
KQJ72
W
N
E
S
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
3
P
4
P
5
P
5
P
6
P
P
P

East plays the 4, and you win the ace. How do you tackle the hand?

North
J97
A4
J92
A865
South
K10
AQ753
KQJ72
W
N
E
S
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
3
P
4
P
5
P
5
P
6
P
P
P

It is all in the trump suit. You need to bring in this diamond suit for 4 winners. You can't survive a 5-0 split and you will make against any 3-2 split, so only the 4-1 splits matter. The four plausible ways to start are:

1. Cash the ace

2. Lead low to the queen

3. Lead low to the jack

4. Lead the jack

Every good player knows that with AQxxx opposite Jxx, the correct play for 4 tricks is to lay down the ace. This succeeds when either opponent has a stiff king. If one opponent has king-fourth, the suit cannot be brought in for 4 tricks. Leading low to the queen costs when this loses to a stiff king. Leading low to the jack costs when a stiff king is behind the jack. Leading the jack is even worse, since it costs when either opponent has a stiff king.

The actual layout is quite different. Spots matter. Those spots aren't x's. That is the 9 in dummy. That is the 7 in your hand. These spots may make a big difference.

For starters, you aren't going to be able to pick up the suit if West has K10xx unless you are playing with mirrors. Even if you lay down the ace, you will not know to finesse the 9 on the second round. Forget about these holdings and focus on the other 4-1 splits.

When does laying down the ace fail? It will work if either opponent has stiff king or stiff 10. It will also work if West has stiff 8, since you can then lead to the jack and come back with a finesse. The losing holdings are when East has K1086 or K1084.

When does leading low to the queen fail? When West has stiff king. It also fails when East has K1086 or K1084, since then East will get 2 tricks in the suit.

When does leading low to the jack fail? When East has stiff king. It also fails when East has K1086 or K1084, since you won't know to double finesse on the second round.

When does leading the jack fail? When West has stiff king. But that is all. If East covers, you plan to win and lead up to the 9. You will make if East's king is singleton, since all the defense will get is the 10. You will also make if East has K1086 or K1084. After it goes jack, king, ace, and low to the 9 and 10, you will know to finesse for the 8 on the third round. Consequently, crossing to the ace of hearts and leading the jack of diamonds is clearly the percentage play.

You choose to lay down the ace of diamonds. West plays the 8. What do you play from dummy?

North
J97
A4
J92
A865
South
K10
AQ753
KQJ72
W
N
E
S
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
3
P
4
P
5
P
5
P
6
P
P
P

If that 8 is a singleton, you will be leading to the jack on the second round and then finessing on the third round. You will have to get back to your hand to draw trumps safely. Presumably East will tap you with a spade, so you won't be able to get back that way. You will have to lead a heart to dummy to take the finesse. Presumably the king of hearts will be a safe re-entry, unless the hearts are an incredible 8-1. But you never know. There is no need to retain the 9 in dummy. If the trumps are 3-2 nothing matter. If West has played the 8 from K108x for some reason you still won't make, since you will never be leading low to the 9. Therefore, you should unblock the 9.

You choose to play the 2. East follows with the 4. What next?

North
J97
A4
J9
A865
South
K10
Q753
KQJ72
W
N
E
S
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
3
P
4
P
5
P
5
P
6
P
P
P

Of course you continue with leading a diamond to the jack. You expect to make now unless West made a strange and pointless falsecard.

West discards a heart, and your jack forces East's king. East returns a spade, which you ruff small. What next?

North
J9
A4
9
A865
South
K10
Q7
KQJ72
W
N
E
S
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
3
P
4
P
5
P
5
P
6
P
P
P

You have to cross to dummy to take the marked diamond finesse. It is clearly safer to cross with a heart than a club.

You cross to dummy with the ace of hearts, and lead the 9. East covers with the 10, and you win the queen. And now?

North
J9
4
A865
South
K
7
KQJ72
W
N
E
S
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
3
P
4
P
5
P
5
P
6
P
P
P

Your 7 is high. You better cash it. It would be nicer if you could keep the beer card for the end, but be glad you have it.

You cash the 7 and claim. The full hand is:

West
KQ102
J7652
8
1043
North
J976
A4
J92
A865
East
8543
Q983
K1064
9
South
A
K10
AQ753
KQJ72
W
N
E
S
 
1N
P
2
P
2
P
3
P
4
P
5
P
5
P
6
P
P
P
D
6 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
K
6
4
A
3
1
0
A
8
2
4
3
2
0
3
5
J
K
2
2
1
5
5
2
7
3
3
1
10
6
A
3
1
4
1
9
10
Q
2
3
5
1
7
7

Note East's cover of the 9. He knew that declarer would let the 9 ride, since West had shown out on the second round and declarer obviously had crossed to dummy to take the marked finesse. Maybe declarer would forget that his 7 was high. Stranger things have happened.

South was fortunate that the diamonds came home. 6 would have been a far superior contract.

Do you agree with North's bidding?

West
KQ102
J7652
8
1043
North
J976
A4
J92
A865
East
8543
Q983
K1064
9
South
A
K10
AQ753
KQJ72
W
N
E
S
 
1N
P
2
P
2
P
3
P
4
P
5
P
5
P
6
P
P
P
D
6 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
K
6
4
A
3
1
0
A
8
2
4
3
2
0
3
5
J
K
2
2
1
5
5
2
7
3
3
1
10
6
A
3
1
4
1
9
10
Q
2
3
5
1
7
7

When you are playing 10-12 notrumps and you are dealt one, you open it. North has no reason to do anything else.

The raise to 4 looks right. South had some reason to bid 3. If that reason was a possible diamond slam, North's support may come in very handy.

At the other table, North passed. South opened 1, jump-shifted to 3, and the good 6 contract was reached. When declarer drew trumps and led the jack of diamonds off dummy East naturally didn't cover, since his partner might have a stiff queen. That allowed declarer to take all the tricks.

When you think you have a good contract, before bidding it, look around and see if there might be something better and an intelligent way to find out. South's carelessness on this hand would have cost 14 IMPs on a different lie of the diamond suit.

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