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The Blue Card
(Page of 10)

In a semi-final match in the Senior trials, you face an interesting responding decision.

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

North
KJ974
K752
4
KJ3
W
N
E
S
1
P
?

Available heart raises are:

2NT: Limit raise or better. If partner has a minimum he will bid 3, and then 3 by you would show a limit raise. Any other sequence by either of you will force to game.

3: To play, non-invitational

4: Any strength. Might be weak, might be game-going values with no slam interest. Partner must pass. Partner is limited, since he didn't open 1.

You do not play any kind of Bergen raises. 3 of a minor would be to play.

Your call?

North
KJ974
K752
4
KJ3
W
N
E
S
1
P
?

There is no point in introducing the spade suit with the known 9-card heart fit. You are clearly too strong to give up on game with a 3 call, and you aren't making a slam opposite a limited opening bid. It is between bidding 2NT or 4.

On value, the hand is about worth a limit raise. The problem is that partner can only base his decision on high cards, while the location of his high cards will be the key to whether or not game is good. Opposite Qx QJxxx xxx Axx you want to be in game, and that isn't even an opening bid. Opposite xx Jxxxx KQJ AQx game is an underdog, and that is an above-minimum opening bid in Precision.

It doesn't pay to take an invitational route with a distributional hand unless you have a way to show partner what your distribution looks like. On this hand, it looks best to just bid 4. If it is a poor contract, big deal. In addition to 4 probably being where you belong, there is the chance that the opponents might have an accident. They don't know whether you are weak or strong, so they may step in at the wrong time.

You bid 4. The bidding continues:

W
N
E
S
1
P
4
X
P
P
?

Your call?

North
KJ974
K752
4
KJ3
W
N
E
S
1
P
4
X
P
P
?

The opponents did step in. Is it time to put the blue card on the table?

Has the auction changed your chances of making 4? A little, but not too much. East has some high cards, but you knew the opponents had some high cards when you bid 4. It is true that the high cards are behind you, which might not be so good, but that might not matter. West doesn't need a trump stack to pass. He doesn't have spades, which you knew, and his pass might be a least of evils call with the alternative being flying to the 5-level in a sketchy minor suit.

Will a redouble by you drive the opponents to a better spot? Not likely. There is a good chance that they don't have a better spot, particularly since you have 4 nailed. Even if they do better in 5, they aren't likely to go flying there just because you redouble. They can't know whether or not they have a fit, or whether or not 4 is making. All they know from your redouble is that you aren't weak, but that won't tell them what to do. They will almost certainly shrug and play it here.

What do the numbers look like? While 4 could go down 2 on a bad day and could make an overtrick on a good day, the most likely results by far are making or down 1. Suppose the contract is 4 doubled at the other table. If you redouble and go down 1 you are -200 vs. -100 for a 3 IMP cost. If you redouble and make, you are +880 vs. +590 for a 7 IMP gain. If 4H is undoubled at the other table, when you are down 1 you are -200 instead of -100 (vs. -50), -4 IMPs instead of - 2 IMPs, for a 2 IMP cost. If 4H makes you are +880 instead of +590 (vs. +420) + 10 IMPs instead of +5 IMPs, for a 5 IMP gain.

The bottom line is that if you discount the chances of going down 2, you are getting better than 2 to 1 IMP odds on the redouble. It looks like a good bet.

You choose to pass, ending the auction.

W
N
E
S
1
P
4
X
P
P
P

You didn't have the confidence in partner to redouble, but let's see how you yourself do at the helm.

West leads the 3. Standard leads and carding.

North
KJ974
K752
4
KJ3
South
52
AJ1098
AQ1096
9
W
N
E
S
1
P
4
X
P
P
P

East plays the jack of diamonds, and you win the queen. How do you attack the hand?

North
KJ974
K752
KJ3
South
52
AJ1098
A1096
9
W
N
E
S
1
P
4
X
P
P
P

You will probably be ruffing a diamond or two in dummy, but there is no rush to do so immediately. You need to find a way off dummy. It is better to attack one of the black suits.

Clubs looks like the best prospect. Even if you lose a finesse, you haven't lost two spade tricks yet. You will later be able to ruff clubs back to your hand if you go into crossruff mode. Also, East will have to lead something, and anything he leads will be of value.

You lead the 9. West plays the 10. What club do you play from dummy?

North
KJ974
K752
KJ3
South
52
AJ1098
A1096
9
W
N
E
S
1
P
4
X
P
P
P

East was the one who doubled. He has most of the strength. The jack is the percentage play.

You play the jack of clubs. East wins the queen, and returns the 3. You play the 8, West plays the 4, and you play small from dummy. What next?

North
KJ974
K75
K3
South
52
AJ109
A1096
W
N
E
S
1
P
4
X
P
P
P

The bidding indicates that West started with Qxx of trumps. East appears to have minimal values for his takeout double, so if he had a doubleton heart he might not have bid. Also, if West had only 2 hearts he might have bid 5 of a minor, since he will think it likely that his partner has a singleton heart.

It looks tempting to cash the ace of diamonds and crossruff. How will this work? Ace of diamonds, diamond ruff, club ruff, diamond ruff, club ruff, and diamond ruff with the king of hearts. You will be down to AJ tight of hearts in your hand, needing to score two more trump tricks, but you might not get them. If West is now out of clubs (either because he started with only 3 clubs or he was 3-4 in the minors and discarded his last club on the fourth round of diamonds, East can win your necessary spade exit, shove a club through you, and the opponents may have a defensive trump coup.

A better idea is to simply lead a spade to the jack. East may have the queen, but what can he do? Anything he does will give you a trick, and that will be your tenth trick.

You choose to lead the ace of diamonds. West surprises you by ruffing, and you overruff. How do you recover?

North
KJ974
K5
K3
South
52
AJ109
1096
W
N
E
S
1
P
4
X
P
P
P

That was unexpeccted. You can be pretty sure that East's distribution is 3-1-6-3. He wouldn't have made a takeout double with a doubleton spade. If he had 4 spades and 2 clubs that would give West 7 clubs, and West would have bid 5 rather than passing the double.

With your ace of diamonds not scoring, the crossruff won't do the trick. Even if you score all of your trumps separately, you will still be a trick short. You need to get some tricks from the side suits.

The plan will be to end-play East. This should be feasible, since anything he leads will give you a trick. It will be necessary to draw West's last trump, as otherwise East will be able to exit with a small diamond. You play a heart to your ace, and a spade to the jack. East can win the queen, but he is dead. If he continues spades, that sets up dummy's spades. If he leads a small diamond, you win and lead another spade, again end-playing him. If he exits with the ace of clubs, you ruff, ruff a diamond in dummy, cash the king of clubs discarding your other spade, ruff a spade back to your hand, and knock out the king of diamonds. He has no defense.

You choose to ruff a club back to your hand. Now what?

North
KJ974
K5
K
South
52
AJ10
1096
W
N
E
S
1
P
4
X
P
P
P

You can still recover. Simplest is to lead a heart to the king and play the king of clubs, discarding a spade as East wins his ace. East will be out of clubs, so he will again be end-played. If he leads a spade, that will establish dummy's spades. If he leads a small diamond you win, play a spade to the jack and queen, and once again he will be end-played.

You instead choose to ruff a diamond, and ruff dummy's last club. You lead the 9, discarding a spade. East wins, and exits with a diamond, ruffed and overruffed. You have to lose 2 spade tricks for down 1. The full hand is:

West
863
Q64
3
1087542
North
KJ974
K752
4
KJ3
East
AQ10
3
KJ8752
AQ6
South
52
AJ1098
AQ1096
9
W
N
E
S
1
P
4
X
P
P
P
D
4X South
NS: 0 EW: 0
3
4
J
Q
3
1
0
9
10
J
Q
2
1
1
3
8
4
2
3
2
1
A
6
7
2
1
3
1
3
6
9
2
3
4
1
6
6
5
5
1
5
1
K
A
10
4
3
6
1
9
8
4
K
2
6
2
8
10
Q
K
1
7
2
9

How was the defense?

West
863
Q64
3
1087542
North
KJ974
K752
4
KJ3
East
AQ10
3
KJ8752
AQ6
South
52
AJ1098
AQ1096
9
W
N
E
S
1
P
4
X
P
P
P
D
4X South
NS: 0 EW: 0
3
4
J
Q
3
1
0
9
10
J
Q
2
1
1
3
8
4
2
3
2
1
A
6
7
2
1
3
1
3
6
9
2
3
4
1
6
6
5
5
1
5
1
K
A
10
4
3
6
1
9
8
4
K
2
6
2
8
10
Q
K
1
7
2
9

West's singleton diamond lead was automatic. East was right to put in the jack of diamonds. It was inconceivable that his partner would be underleading an ace on this auction. By playing the jack East found out who had the queen, which helped him on defense. East did well to shift to a trump, which was his only safe shift.

Do you like the E-W bidding?

West
863
Q64
3
1087542
North
KJ974
K752
4
KJ3
East
AQ10
3
KJ8752
AQ6
South
52
AJ1098
AQ1096
9
W
N
E
S
1
P
4
X
P
P
P
D
4X South
NS: 0 EW: 0
3
4
J
Q
3
1
0
9
10
J
Q
2
1
1
3
8
4
2
3
2
1
A
6
7
2
1
3
1
3
6
9
2
3
4
1
6
6
5
5
1
5
1
K
A
10
4
3
6
1
9
8
4
K
2
6
2
8
10
Q
K
1
7
2
9

East has a real problem over the 4 call. If he passes he may find that North has a weak hand and that E-W have been blown out of a game. If he doubles he may find that North has the balance of strength, and he could be headed for a disaster, defending 4 doubled or redoubled making or going for a number in some contract. On the actual hand, that is exactly what could have happened.

West also had a problem. It isn't difficult to construct layouts where both 4 and 5 make, particularly if East is void in hearts. However, 4 tricks are easier than 11, and West's only high card is in the enemy suit. Passing and hoping for the best looks like the percentage action.

At the other table, North took a slower route and East was able to get his hand off his chest at a lower level with a 3 overcall, so N-S got to the normal 4 contract. The first 3 tricks were the same, but warned about the bad diamond split, declarer properly led a spade at trick 4. East tried cashing the ace of clubs, and declarer wound up with 11 tricks.

The business redouble of a game is a lost art in today's world. Normally it isn't a good idea, since the doubler has some idea of what is going on and will have good reasons for doubling. However, on auctions such as the actual auction the opponent is flying blind, and there is no reason to think that he has a lock. North made East guess at a high level, and he should have made East pay the maximum when East guessed wrong.

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