Join Bridge Winners
The Real Danger
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In a Round of 16 match in the Open Trials, you have to find the best call in a Puppet Stayman auction.

N-S vul, South deals. As South, you hold:

South
K975
AJ83
J5
AQ5
W
N
E
S
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
2
P
?

1NT: 14-16

2: Asks for 5-card msjor

2: No 5-card major

2: 4 spades, fewer than 4 hearts, invitational or better

For hands with spade support, you have available:

2: Minimum, might be a 3-card suit if the 4-3 fit looks better than notrump.

3: Game-forcing, 4-card spade support, suggesting that 3NT might be better.

3: 4-card spade support, game-forcing, possibly primish for slam purposes, possibly some notrump interest.

4: Not primish, no interest in 3NT.

Your call?

South
K975
AJ83
J5
AQ5
W
N
E
S
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
2
P
?

You have 15 HCP, a couple of aces, and a decent spade suit. Opposite an invite, you aren't going to risk missing a vulnerable game. Since you have a weak doubleton it is likely that 4 is better than 3NT, but you don't have to make that final decision. By bidding 3, you give partner the option of bidding 3NT, which would probably be right for you to pass since he would likely be 4-3-3-3. Also, if partner has slam interest your hand isn't bad for that, and you give him room to cue-bid.

You bid 3. The auction concludes:

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

West leads the 4. Third and fifth leads. Standard carding.

North
QJ62
K95
KQ42
87
South
K975
AJ83
J5
AQ5
W
N
E
S
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
2
P
3
P
4
P
P
P

Small from dummy, East plays the queen, and you win the ace. How do you start?

North
QJ62
K9
KQ42
87
South
K975
J83
J5
AQ5
W
N
E
S
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
2
P
3
P
4
P
P
P

The heart lead could be from a variety of holdings, but there is a heart ruff threatened. You aren't going to be playing on a crossruff line, so it has to be right to play at least one round of trumps. If you don't knock out the ace, you can decide whether to continue with trumps or play something else.

You lead a spade towards dummy. West plays the 10, you play the queen, and East the 3. What next?

North
J62
K9
KQ42
87
South
K97
J83
J5
AQ5
W
N
E
S
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
2
P
3
P
4
P
P
P

Can that 10 be a falsecard from A108? Realistically it can't be. Even if one could demonstrate that such a falsecard can't cost, it simply isn't the sort of play a player will make. He won't have worked this out, and he won't see any particular reason to falsecard. You can take to the bank that West has either a singleton 10 or A10 doubleton.

The opening lead of the 4 tells you something. The opponents play third and fifth leads, and there is no reason for them to make a dishonest lead on this auction. You can be confident that East doesn't have a singleton heart, so he can get only 1 heart ruff.

Suppose you now knock out the ace of diamonds. Worst case scenario is diamond to jack, holding, and diamond to king and ace. East returns a club. If you finesse and it loses, West can lead a heart, and if West started with A10 doubleton of spades and 4 hearts, East will get a heart ruff for the setting trick. You could refuse the club finesse, winning the ace and playing a trump. However, if the trumps are 4-1 East will duck the second trump, and if you play a third trump he can play the fourth round, leaving you a trick short. This is a real danger.

Suppose instead you play a trump. This is fine if trumps are 3-2. If they are 4-1, you can now go back to diamonds. Worst case is East having the ace of diamonds, so he can win and pull all of your trumps. However, West will have had to made 3 discards along the way. He certainly guards at least one of the red suits, probably hearts. He will be under a lot of pressure, particularly if he holds the king of clubs. Quite likely he will let go a heart, and you will be cold. If he doesn't discard a heart he almost certainly has the 10, and you can finesse him for that. This just isn't the real danger.

You lead a spade off dummy. East rises with the ace and returns a spade which you win in dummy, West discarding the 2 and 6. What do you do now?

North
6
K9
KQ42
87
South
K
J83
J5
AQ5
W
N
E
S
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
2
P
3
P
4
P
P
P

The heart discards make you cold, with 3 spade tricks, 4 heart tricks, 2 diamond tricks, and 1 club trick. All you have to do is knock out the ace of diamonds.

You choose to lead a club to the queen. It holds. And now?

North
6
K9
KQ42
8
South
K
J83
J5
A5
W
N
E
S
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
2
P
3
P
4
P
P
P

You are now looking for the overtrick. You can draw the last trump and knock out the ace of diamonds. Instead, you foolishly play ace of clubs, ruff a club, and lead a diamond. East wins the ace, forces you with a club, and gets his trump trick, so you make 4. The full hand is:

West
10
7642
10963
10642
North
QJ62
K95
KQ42
87
East
A843
Q10
A87
KJ93
South
K975
AJ83
J5
AQ5
W
N
E
S
 
1N
P
2
P
2
P
2
P
3
P
4
P
P
P
D
4 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
4
5
Q
A
3
1
0
5
10
Q
3
1
2
0
2
A
7
2
2
2
1
4
9
6
J
1
3
1
7
3
Q
2
3
4
1
A
4
8
9
3
5
1
5
6
6
J
1
6
1
2
A
5
3
2
6
2
K
9

Declarer was fortunate that East didn't have 5 clubs. If that had been the case, ruffing the club would have cost the contract.

Could the defense have improved?

West
10
7642
10963
10642
North
QJ62
K95
KQ42
87
East
A843
Q10
A87
KJ93
South
K975
AJ83
J5
AQ5
W
N
E
S
 
1N
P
2
P
2
P
2
P
3
P
4
P
P
P
D
4 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
4
5
Q
A
3
1
0
5
10
Q
3
1
2
0
2
A
7
2
2
2
1
4
9
6
J
1
3
1
7
3
Q
2
3
4
1
A
4
8
9
3
5
1
5
6
6
J
1
6
1
2
A
5
3
2
6
2
K
9

An interesting and unusual falsecard would be for East to play the 10 at trick 1. This can't cost regardless of where the jack is, and might convince declarer to finesse the 9.

It wouldn't matter on this hand, but normally it is better technique to duck the second round of spades. Holding onto that ace of trumps gives the defender more control of things.

West would have made things more difficult for declarer by discarding clubs and holding his hearts. However, from his point of view declarer could have 4 clubs and 3 hearts, and the chances of defeating the contract are better if this is declarer's distribution.

One of the advantages of puppet Stayman is that the opening bidder can have a say in choosing between 3NT and 4 of a major. With normal Stayman, if responder has a balanced game force with a major he has to guess what to do immediately. If he bids Stayman he is committing to playing the major, since unless the partnership is doing something very unusual he can't offer a choice. If he bids 3NT that is that, when the major might be better. Puppet Stayman allows responder to describe his hand, and then opener, who has the majority of the high cards, can make the final decision. Even with a 4-3-3-3 hand it becomes profitable to bid Puppet, since opener's hand might be very suit-oriented with a 4-4 major-suit fit.

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