Analyses 7N65 Main


ACBL Instant MP Pairs


 by Richard Pavlicek

The 36 deals in this collection were played September 26, 1990 in the fourth annual “Instant Matchpoint” Pairs, a continent-wide event conducted by the American Contract Bridge League. The analyses were written by Richard Pavlicek and originally published in a souvenir booklet given to each participant after the game.

Regardless of whether you played in this event, these analyses provide instructive reading with many tips on bidding and play. To benefit even further, prepare these deals in duplicate boards (or have someone else do it) and play them. Determine your matchpoint scores from the tables (top is 100) then compare your bidding and play with my write-up. Double-dummy par scores are shown in bold.

Board 1

The 1990 ACBL Instant Matchpoint Game begins on a quiet note. Many Norths will play a peaceful 1 NT after this standard auction:

WestNorthEastSouthNorth dealsS 10 9
… 100
+380 99
… 99
+150 95
… 90
+120 73
+110 53
+100 49
+90 39
… 30
+50 27
0 24
-50 21
… 18
-90 17
-100 9
-110 3
… 2
-150 2
… 1
-200 1
… 0
1 DPass1 SNone vulH K Q 9 7
Pass1 NTPassPassD A 5 4 2
PassC A 10 3
S A 8 4TableS K Q 6 3
H 8 6 4H J 10 3
D 9 8D K 7 6 3
C K Q J 8 4C 6 2
S J 7 5 2
H A 5 2
D Q J 10
1 NT NorthC 9 7 5

If East makes the probable lead of the H J, declarer can win eight tricks simply by giving up a diamond trick. Of course, an inspired club lead (or the S K and a club shift) will scuttle the contract — down two, assuming declarer tries to succeed with the diamond finesse.

Some Wests will venture a 2 C overcall, which I think is sound matchpoint strategy due to the lead-directing advantage. You will go for a number occasionally, but in the long run you will gain. In this case it will buy the contract, unless East falls in love with his hand and tries 2 NT (down three), or South competes to 2 D (down one with perfect defense).

Two clubs can be defeated by leading four rounds of hearts (either early or after winning the C A); South uppercuts with the C 9 and North’s C 10 is promoted into the setting trick.

Board 2

After West opens 1 D in third seat, East’s textbook response is 2 D; but I see three good reasons to respond 1 NT: East’s hand is balanced, notrump will score more, and the tactical advantage of inhibiting the opponents from competing in a major. I like this auction:

WestNorthEastSouthEast dealsS K 10 8 6
… 100
+100 99
… 98
+50 97
… 95
-90 95
-100 95
-110 91
-120 86
-130 79
-140 70
-150 57
… 49
-170 44
-180 35
… 32
-200 31
-210 24
… 17
-300 17
… 16
-400 14
-420 9
-430 6
… 6
-450 5
-460 4
… 3
-500 3
… 2
-800 2
… 1
-1100 1
… 0
PassPassN-S vulH 10 9 4
1 DPass1 NTPassD K 7
2 NTPassPassPassC A J 10 5
S A J 4 2TableS 9 7
H A Q J 3H 8 6 2
D A 5 4 2D Q 10 8 6
C 3C K Q 9 8
S Q 5 3
H K 7 5
D J 9 3
2 NT EastC 7 6 4 2

The friendly lie of the cards allows East to win nine tricks — maybe 10 if South leads a club, or 11 if the defenders collaborate to give declarer three club tricks. Note that the diamond suit allows East to get to his hand twice for heart finesses.

Those who play a diamond partscore can win 10 tricks, perhaps 11 if the defense slips; but these scores will be under average.

The best scores for East-West will be unearned, either through a misadventure by the opponents (North-South will regret any contract they play, even undoubled) or by overbidding to 3 NT, a nice place to visit but you wouldn’t want to live there.

Board 3

An action hand! North-South can make 6 D (though it’s hardly biddable) and East-West can make 4 S. Here is an unfortunate auction for North-South:

WestNorthEastSouthSouth dealsS A 2
… 100
+920 99
… 99
+800 98
… 98
+650 98
… 97
+550 95
… 94
+500 93
+490 90
… 89
+460 88
… 87
+430 84
+420 77
+400 65
… 60
+200 55
… 51
+170 49
… 48
+150 45
+140 41
+130 40
… 40
+100 39
… 39
-50 36
… 33
-100 31
… 29
-140 29
-150 28
… 26
-170 26
… 25
-200 24
… 23
-300 22
… 22
-620 20
… 19
-790 12
… 6
-930 4
… 2
-1070 2
PassE-W vulH K J 8
Pass1 NTPass2 CD A 9 6 5 4
2 SPass4 SDblC A 9 5
PassPassPassS K J 10 9 6 4TableS Q 8 7 3
H Q 10 7 6 4H 9
DD Q 10 3
C Q 7C K 10 6 4 3
S 5
H A 5 3 2
D K J 8 7 2
4 S× WestC J 8 2

One could argue that South shouldn’t double (maybe true); but is South supposed to bid 5 D? Or if South passes, is North supposed to bid 5 D? I do not accept either of these bids as winning strategy, although my acceptance level has increased upon seeing this result. I attribute the disaster to the enterprise of East-West — especially note East’s jump to 4 S, which is well-judged despite the unfavorable vulnerability.

Four spades is easily made, as long as declarer establishes the club suit to discard two of his hearts.

In diamonds, 12 tricks can be won (albeit lucky). Pick up East’s trumps, finesse in hearts, cash the club ace, strip out the major suits, and exit with a club. The defense must either crash their club winners or concede a ruff and a discard.

Board 4

Back to dull city. I doubt that anyone is comfortable bidding the East hand, but all the third-seat propaganda will persuade most to open. A common auction:

WestNorthEastSouthWest dealsS Q J 7 2
… 100
+400 99
… 98
+300 96
… 94
+210 93
+200 82
… 72
+180 72
… 71
+150 69
+140 68
… 68
+120 67
+110 65
+100 49
+90 33
… 30
0 26
… 21
-80 21
-90 16
-100 10
-110 6
-120 3
… 2
-150 2
… 2
-200 2
… 1
-670 1
… 0
PassPass1 CPassBoth vulH A K 8 4
1 HPass1 SPassD J 10
1 NTPassPassPassC 10 8 3
S 9 8TableS A 5 4 3
H J 7 6 5 3H Q 2
D A 4 3D Q 8 7
C Q J 9C A 6 4 2
S K 10 6
H 10 9
D K 9 6 5 2
1 NT WestC K 7 5

North only has to lead the unbid suit, and West can win only five tricks — down two, and 82 percent of the matchpoints to North-South.

I question East’s 1 S rebid because, having opened light, he probably should pass 1 H. This is supported by the evidence that 1 H goes down only one trick.

Weak-notrumpers will show a gain here, assuming East has the courage for that bid with a sickly 12-count. The routine diamond lead from South gives declarer a trick — not enough to make the contract, only to avoid the debacle.

Did you notice that in each scenario East’s opening resulted in a minus score for East-West? Maybe East should pass because he has a lousy hand… Nah, who would ever think of that?

Analyses 7N65 MainTop ACBL Instant MP Pairs

Board 5

After two passes, South has the option of opening 1 S or 1 NT; I prefer 1 S, not so much because of the diamond weakness, but because there will be no rebid problem (as there might be if South held the heart suit instead). This auction flows smoothly:

WestNorthEastSouthNorth dealsS 8
… 100
+630 86
… 72
+600 69
… 67
+500 66
… 65
+300 64
… 63
+200 63
… 63
+180 60
… 57
+150 57
… 56
+130 55
+120 52
+110 49
+100 45
… 43
+50 42
… 41
-100 36
… 31
-200 21
… 11
-300 8
… 5
-400 3
… 2
-470 2
… 0
PassPass1 SN-S vulH Q J 7
Pass1 NTPass2 NTD K 10 9 8 4
Pass3 NTPassPassC K 6 4 3
PassS J 6 2TableS K 10 7 4
H A 9 8 4 3 2H 6 5
D Q J 7D A 3
C 9C 10 8 7 5 2
S A Q 9 5 3
H K 10
D 6 5 2
3 NT NorthC A Q J

Three notrump by North is fortunate. East’s normal lead is a club, after which routine play in the diamond suit (low to the 10 first) will bring home nine tricks. In fact, the defenders must shift to a spade (quite unlikely) after winning the first diamond trick to legitimately stop an overtrick, though I expect some declarers will miss the overtrick anyway.

Three notrump by South is ill-fated with a heart lead. West will set up his hearts before declarer can set up the diamonds — down two being the norm. Double-dummy it can be made: When West splits his diamond honors on the first round (best defense), duck and he will be entryless. If you played it that way, shame on you.

Board 6

West has an interesting hand to bid. What is your rebid after this beginning?

WestNorthEastSouthEast dealsS K J 7
… 100
+500 99
… 99
+300 98
… 98
+200 96
… 94
+100 85
… 76
-110 75
… 75
-130 72
-140 68
-150 64
… 61
-170 61
-180 60
… 59
-200 57
-210 55
… 54
-300 54
… 53
-500 52
… 52
-600 45
-620 35
-630 31
… 29
-650 23
-660 12
… 5
-680 5
-690 4
… 4
-750 4
… 3
-800 3
… 3
-1100 2
… 0
PassPassE-W vulH A 10 8 4 3 2
1 C1 HDblPassD 9 5 4
2 NT?Pass3 NTPassC 3
PassPassS A 6 5TableS Q 9 4 2
H KH J 9 6
D A K 6 2D Q J 3
C A 9 7 5 2C K J 10
S 10 8 3
H Q 7 5
D 10 8 7
3 NT WestC Q 8 6 4

A “reverse bid” of 2 D is not the same after a negative double; it should be a stab at the best contract, not strength showing. The options are 2 S (a 4-3 fit might play well), 2 NT (a stiff king will provide a stopper with the ace on lead), 3 D, or a cue-bid of 2 H. None of these is ideal, though I lean toward 2 NT.

Three notrump will bring home 11 tricks if declarer guesses clubs; and some will succeed after misguessing if South botches the heart suit. After the H 4 lead and the nine from dummy, South should play low; this gains against K-x or a singleton ace (as well as the actual lie) and breaks even against A-x.

Four spades should be made, often with an overtrick (especially if North leads his singleton club). Five clubs or 5 D also makes with a club guess, and this still places East-West above average.

Board 7

Some South players will face a Gerber-Blackwood dilemma after an auction that begins:

WestNorthEastSouthSouth dealsS K 8 7
… 100
+1540 99
… 99
+1440 98
+1430 96
… 96
+1370 93
… 89
+1320 89
… 89
+690 81
… 73
+660 61
… 49
+620 43
+600 30
… 23
-100 14
… 4
-200 4
… 3
-400 3
-500 2
… 0
1 DBoth vulH K Q 9
Pass2 CPass3 DD 7 6
Pass3 NTPass4 DC K 9 6 5 4
Pass4 NTAll PassS J 10 5 3TableS 6 4 2
H 10 8 5 4 3 2H A J 6
D 3D 10 5
C A 2C Q J 10 7 3
S A Q 9
H 7
D A K Q J 9 8 4 2
4 NT NorthC 8

In most partnerships 4 C would be construed as a club raise, and 4 NT would be quantitative; but all South wants to do is ask for aces. Endplayed in the bidding! There’s no solution at this point, other than to force with 4 C or 4 D, then guess whether to bid slam at your next turn. North should discourage with 4 NT, natural.

South should have foreseen this problem, which could be averted by rebidding only 2 D (forcing in most styles since a 2-over-1 responses promises a rebid). Then over 2 NT a jump to 4 C is clearly Gerber, and South can sign off in 4 NT after learning the bad news. Note that it is important to play this hand in notrump, even at the slight risk of disaster.

If East leads the C Q against notrump, West should win the ace and shift to a heart. Any other defense is hopeless in view of the dummy.

Board 8

This deal should provide a system exercise for weak two-bidders. I firmly believe that a new-suit response should be nonforcing (though opener may bid again) and use 2 NT as the only force. I would bid:

WestNorthEastSouthWest dealsS 10
… 100
+550 99
… 99
+500 98
… 98
+150 98
… 98
+110 97
+100 94
… 91
+50 84
… 77
-50 76
… 74
-100 70
… 66
-140 66
… 65
-170 65
… 64
-200 63
… 62
-250 62
… 61
-300 57
… 53
-420 41
-430 28
… 27
-450 23
… 19
-480 13
… 8
-500 7
… 7
-650 6
… 6
-730 5
… 5
-750 5
… 5
-790 4
-800 3
… 2
-1100 2
… 1
-1400 1
… 0
2 HPass3 SPassNone vulH 4
4 SPassPassPassD A Q J 8 2
C J 10 9 7 5 3
S 8 5TableS A K Q J 6 3
H A Q J 6 3 2H 10 8
D K 9 7D 4 3
C 6 4C A 8 2
S 9 7 4 2
H K 9 7 5
D 10 6 5
4 S EastC K Q

Three spades shows a self-sufficient suit and invites game, which West happily accepts with his maximum. With less substantial spades (and game-going strength) I would start with 2 NT and bid 3 S (forcing) next. This method is not mainstream. Consensus is to play “raise only nonforce,” so most will respond 2 S (forcing) and probably reach the same contract, or perhaps 4 H.

It appears that spades should play better than hearts (note the natural trump loser in hearts), but the gods of distribution are capricious. In spades (C K lead) East can win only 10 tricks no matter what he tries.

In hearts, ironically, 11 tricks can be won. Win the club lead; draw two or three rounds of trumps with a finesse; then run spades — declarer sheds his third loser as South ruffs the fifth round.

Analyses 7N65 MainTop ACBL Instant MP Pairs

Board 9

A cold slam for East-West, and many pairs will reach it via this route:

WestNorthEastSouthNorth dealsS 10 7 4
… 100
+200 99
… 99
+100 98
… 97
-680 92
-690 88
… 87
-720 87
… 87
-1400 86
… 86
-1430 48
-1440 6
… 3
-1470 3
… 2
-1700 2
… 1
-2000 1
… 0
Pass1 DPassE-W vulH 4 3
1 HPass1 SPassD J 10 7 4 3
4 NTPass5 DPassC 8 6 3
6 SPassPassPassS Q 9 5 2TableS A K 6 3
H A K J 6H Q 5 2
D 9D K Q 5 2
C A K Q 5C 10 9
S J 8
H 10 9 8 7
D A 8 6
6 S EastC J 7 4 2

Barring an unlikely enemy ruff, 6 S depends only on a 3-2 trump break (or a singleton honor in North). As the cards lie the play is trivial, the only technique being declarer’s vain attempt to steal a diamond trick.

The best contract is six notrump — not just at matchpoints but at any form of scoring — since declarer might succeed when spades are foul (note the club-finesse possibility). This advantage is easy to see after the fact, but difficult to judge at the table.

A fine partnership might reach 6 NT confidently if West bids 2 C (fourth suit forcing) at his second turn. Depending on system, East might then be able to jump to 3 H to show three hearts and “not a bare minimum,” after which West will use Blackwood. When an ace is missing, West can envision the likelihood that the same number of tricks can be won in notrump.

Board 10

Most strong-notrumpers will boringly duplicate this nothingness:

WestNorthEastSouthEast dealsS J 9 8 7 5
… 100
+300 99
… 99
+200 96
… 94
+140 94
… 93
+110 91
+100 86
… 83
+80 79
… 75
-70 75
-80 69
-90 55
-100 40
-110 32
-120 22
… 15
-140 15
-150 12
… 9
-170 9
… 8
-200 6
… 3
-300 2
… 0
1 NTPassBoth vulH Q 6 5 4
PassPassD K
C 9 5 3
S 6 4TableS Q 10 2
H J 8H A 10 9 2
D 9 7 6 5 3D A 8 4
C Q J 8 2C A K 7
S A K 3
H K 7 3
D Q J 10 2
1 NT EastC 10 6 4

After South’s normal D Q lead, declarer wins the ace and returns a diamond. If South takes this, declarer will establish the diamond suit to win eight tricks — perhaps nine if South switches to the S K and clears the suit. If South ducks, declarer lacks the entries to establish and win the long diamond; alas, now declarer can win the trick in dummy and lead the H J, still netting eight tricks with best play and defense.

Evidently, once South makes the textbook lead, he is destined for a bad result. Well… fourth-best anyone?

Weak-notrumpers or those who feel the East hand is too strong for a strong notrump (a reasonable view) will open 1 C (or 1 H by four-card major devotees). South may double 1 C, probably resulting in a 2 S contract by North, down one with routine play.

Board 11

Looking at the East-West hands alone, one would like to be in 3 NT; but not after a 1 H opening. This auction should be common:

WestNorthEastSouthSouth dealsS Q 4 2
… 100
+150 99
+140 98
… 97
+100 95
… 93
+50 84
… 75
-50 72
… 69
-100 66
-110 37
… 11
-130 8
… 5
-150 4
… 2
-470 2
… 1
-500 1
… 0
1 HNone vulH K 4
2 DPass3 DPassD 10 8 2
PassPassC 10 8 7 6 4
S A KTableS 10 8 7 6
H 10 9 6H 7 3 2
D K Q 9 7 4 3D A 6 5
C 5 2C A J 3
S J 9 5 3
H A Q J 8 5
D J
3 D WestC K Q 9

Three diamonds is cut and dried for exactly nine tricks unless South has an aberration, such as leading a fourth heart early to let declarer ditch his club loser.

A frisky South might double 3 D for takeout, after which North probably should try 3 H, rather than the four level in clubs. Three hearts is not a comfortable spot, but the cards lay friendly, so declarer is likely to escape for down one or two — better than minus 110. It pays to be frisky… sometimes.

Those who play Flannery (yuk — sorry, but I think it’s a terrible convention) will open 2 D to show four spades and five hearts. West may double to show diamonds (or bid 3 D if necessary by system), which will lead to the same contract, unless a superhero North competes to 3 H (or 3 S, which plays about the same).

Board 12

Here’s a route to the good slam using two-over-one game forcing and Roman key-card Blackwood:

WestNorthEastSouthWest dealsS A Q 8 6 2
… 100
+1430 98
… 96
+1400 96
… 95
+990 95
… 95
+800 95
… 94
+690 94
+680 88
… 83
+660 81
+650 63
… 46
+630 45
+620 35
+600 26
… 25
+300 25
… 24
+200 24
… 24
+150 23
… 23
+100 22
… 22
-100 15
… 9
-200 5
… 1
-300 1
… 0
Pass1 SPass2 DN-S vulH A 9 8 3
Pass2 HPass3 HD K J 10
Pass4 DPass4 NTC 3
Pass5 HPass6 HS K 10 9 5 3TableS J 4
All PassH 7H K 10 4 2
D 6D 9 8 7 5
C Q J 8 6 5 2C K 7 4
S 7
H Q J 6 5
D A Q 4 3 2
6 H NorthC A 10 9

Three hearts is game forcing, and North makes a slam try with 4 D (music to South’s ears). Five hearts shows two key cards (of four aces and H K), so South knows that a grand slam is out of the question.

Few people made 6 H when this deal was played in England. The normal play (assuming a club lead) is to win the C A and run the H Q to East’s king. Ruff the club return, cash the H A and lead the H 9 for a finesse (East ducks). The best play now is to overtake the second diamond (waiting until the third may allow East to ruff with a doubleton), but the surprising 4-1 break blocks the suit and dooms the slam.

Shame! Did you notice the heart spots? When West’s H 7 appears, declarer should unblock the eight (an equal spot with South); then ruff the club return with the nine. Trumps are now drawn without touching diamonds, and declarer succeeds with a spade finesse.

But what if East ducks the H Q? The plot thickens.

Analyses 7N65 MainTop ACBL Instant MP Pairs

Board 13

Most East-West pairs will reach 4 S after a 2 NT opening by West. A standard Stayman auction:

WestNorthEastSouthNorth dealsS 8 7 5 3
… 100
+400 99
… 99
+300 98
… 97
+200 87
… 77
+100 59
… 41
-100 41
… 41
-140 39
-150 38
… 38
-600 26
-620 9
-630 2
… 0
PassPassPassBoth vulH A Q 10 5
2 NTPass3 CPassD J 5
3 DPass3 SPassC Q 9 6
4 CPass4 SAll PassS K Q JTableS A 10 9 4 2
H K 8H 9 7 6 4
D A 9 8 4D 10 6
C A K J 8C 5 2
S 6
H J 3 2
D K Q 7 3 2
4 S EastC 10 7 4 3

West’s 4 C is an advance cue-bid, promising spade support and maximum values. Observe that 6 S would be an excellent contract if East’s hearts were A-x-x-x. East, of course, has no slam aspirations so he signs off in game.

After the D K lead, declarer has several reasonable plays, none of which will work against accurate defense. I think I would win the ace and return a diamond (might develop a trick with dummy’s 9-8). North will shift to a trump, then it’s curtains for certain; in fact, I may go down two after leading to the H K in vain.

Wests who play in 3 NT will succeed outright if North leads a heart (not my choice) or a club (not anyone’s choice). A spade or diamond lead and sound defense will defeat 3 NT, unless declarer is playing with mirrors.

Board 14

Many Wests will play a treacherous 2 NT contract after a routine Stayman inquiry:

WestNorthEastSouthEast dealsS 10 8
… 100
+180 99
… 98
+150 97
… 96
+100 93
… 89
+50 77
… 65
-50 65
… 65
-80 64
-90 50
-100 34
-110 31
-120 19
… 8
-150 5
… 2
-300 2
… 1
-500 1
… 0
PassPassNone vulH J 8 7 5 3
1 NTPass2 CPassD J 9 7
2 DPass2 NTPassC A K 4
PassPassS K 3 2TableS A 7 5 4
H A K 9H Q 6 4 2
D K Q 10 3D 8 6
C 9 7 5C Q 3 2
S Q J 9 6
H 10
D A 5 4 2
2 NT WestC J 10 8 6

After a heart lead, West should make 2 NT by leading twice toward the C Q, and twice toward the D K-Q; but many won’t mess with the tenuous club suit, and some may misguess diamonds (a second-round finesse of the 10 could be right). Many will waste their time trying to establish a spade trick. As usual, some will be aided by misdefense; e.g., North may lead a second heart, or South may grab the D A early. All considered, I would expect about half to succeed.

Those who disdain 15-point strong-notrump openings may claim this deal as evidence for their cause. West would open 1 D and stop comfortably in 1 NT after a 1 H response — then if West wins only seven tricks, he still goes plus for an average score. Look for this deal in the “Goren column” soon.

Board 15

East can put thorns in the sides of his opponents by bidding the right number of diamonds after North opens the bidding. I think four is “right,” not because of the actual layout but based on past experience. What would you do as South?

WestNorthEastSouthSouth dealsS J 10 7
… 100
+800 99
… 98
+630 97
+620 96
… 95
+500 94
… 93
+300 91
… 89
+170 89
… 88
+150 88
+140 86
… 85
+100 72
… 59
+50 59
… 58
-100 52
-110 45
… 44
-130 39
… 33
-150 32
… 30
-200 25
… 20
-300 17
… 13
-400 11
… 8
-500 8
-510 5
… 4
-570 4
… 3
-610 3
… 3
-800 2
… 1
-1100 1
… 0
PassN-S vulH 8 7 6
Pass1 C4 D4 S?D A K 3
PassPassPassC A Q 5 4
S K 3TableS 9 8 6
H K Q 9 5 2H A 10
D 6D Q J 10 9 8 7 5 4
C J 7 6 3 2C
S A Q 5 4 2
H J 4 3
D 2
4 S SouthC K 10 9 8

The best South can do is pass, but this is reserved for Chicken Little. A negative double (assuming you play them that high) puts you minus 510 as North’s only sensible option is to pass. Four spades will be set at least two tricks with sound defense.

Against 4 S West will lead his singleton diamond and East should play the four as suit preference. Declarer will probably cash both top diamonds to throw a heart, then the roof caves in: West ruffs; club ruff; H A; H Q; club ruff; diamond, ruffed low (better to ruff with ace) and overruffed; and yet another club ruff. Down four! Declarer can do two tricks better by playing ace and another spade immediately.

In diamonds East can win 10 tricks (luckily) with the S A onside and hearts 3-3.

Board 16

Many tables will duplicate this auction:

WestNorthEastSouthWest dealsS A K
… 100
+1200 99
… 99
+1020 98
+1010 97
… 97
+990 96
… 96
+940 95
… 94
+920 90
… 87
+650 87
… 87
+520 62
… 38
+490 29
… 20
+460 20
+450 19
+440 17
+430 11
+420 6
+400 5
… 5
+200 4
… 4
+170 4
… 3
+150 3
… 2
-50 2
… 2
-100 1
… 0
Pass1 DPass1 SE-W vulH K 3
Pass2 NTPass3 NTD A J 9 3 2
PassPassPassC K 6 5 2
S 8 7 4TableS 9 6 3 2
H A Q 7 6 4H J 9 8 2
D K 6 5 4D 8
C 4C 10 9 8 3
S Q J 10 5
H 10 5
D Q 10 7
3 NT NorthC A Q J 7

North’s pattern is atypical for the 2 NT rebid, but the future of the hand is likely to be in notrump and it is advantageous to become declarer with K-x in hearts. South should be concerned with the possibility of slam (fitting diamond honor, good texture), but the point count is known to fall short; a slam is likely to depend on a finesse at best (and so it does).

A few aggressive bidders will let ‘er rip to 6 NT (or 6 C or 6 D) and be rewarded with the D K onside.

North can win 13 tricks in notrump and surely will if East makes the staid lead of a club. A heart lead to the ace holds declarer to 12 tricks, or perhaps 10 if declarer elects to cash out. Curiously, after a heart lead in 3 NT, the diamond finesse is safe at IMPs (declarer will have nine tricks in the bag) but risky at matchpoints (declarer may lose his 10th trick).

Analyses 7N65 MainTop ACBL Instant MP Pairs

Board 17

I don’t know the correct way to bid a hand like North’s, or even if there is one; but my style is to strike the first blow at a high level. As long as I’m guessing, let the opponents guess too. It would be nice if a 4 NT opening showed both minor suits, but we all know that partner would answer aces. Therefore:

WestNorthEastSouthNorth dealsS
… 100
+800 99
… 99
+570 98
… 98
+550 98
… 97
+510 95
+500 93
… 92
+470 92
… 92
+400 91
… 91
+300 85
… 80
+150 79
… 78
+130 78
… 77
+110 77
+100 73
… 69
+50 65
… 61
-50 58
… 56
-100 44
… 31
-140 29
-150 27
… 26
-170 26
… 25
-250 25
… 25
-300 16
… 7
-420 6
… 6
-500 4
… 2
-530 2
… 1
-800 1
… 0
5 DPassPassNone vulH 3
PassD A J 10 9 5 3 2
C Q 9 7 6 3
S J 10 6 4 3TableS 9 8 7
H Q 6 4H A K J 9 8 2
D K Q 8D
C 10 5C K J 4 2
S A K Q 5 2
H 10 7 5
D 7 6 4
5 D NorthC A 8

Five diamonds should be down one, though many will go down two when North carelessly lays down the D A. After ruffing the second heart, proper play is to lead the D J. This guards against the actual lie, and retains the chance to avoid a club loser by establishing dummy’s fifth spade (with diamonds 2-1 and spades 4-4).

Some East players will bid 5 H, which South will surely double. This is down two off the top, and perfect defense sets it three: South leads four rounds of spades, the last being ruffed and overruffed. Declarer must use the H Q to get to dummy, after which he can discard one club on the good spade and take the club finesse; but he cannot avoid losing his last club.

Board 18

On the flattest board of the set, plus 650 North-South should be exactly average; but the occasional anomaly (primarily by notrump fanatics) earns North-South 59 percent. I recommend this auction:

WestNorthEastSouthEast dealsS K Q 3
… 100
+800 99
… 99
+660 98
+650 59
… 20
+630 17
+620 12
+600 9
… 7
+500 7
… 7
-100 4
… 2
-200 2
… 1
-500 1
… 0
Pass1 NTN-S vulH A 8 3 2
Pass2 CPass2 HD J 9 6 4 3
Pass4 HPassPassC 6
PassS 9 7 6TableS A 10 8 5 2
H 9 6H J 10 4
D 7 5 2D 10 8
C A Q 10 9 2C J 7 3
S J 4
H K Q 7 5
D A K Q
4 H SouthC K 8 5 4

South’s choice of openings is correct, even for those who play 15-17 notrumps. The hand contains several defects — a stray jack, A-K-Q tight, lack of texture — so it isn’t worth 18 points. If you’re not convinced, compare it with the East hand on Board 10. Which hand would you rather have? Despite the point counts, that hand is worth 18 and this one barely 17.

The few who played in 3 NT probably opened 1 C and jumped to 2 NT after a 1 D response. This contract can be held to nine tricks (East must shift to the C J when he wins the S A), but most will win 10 after an original club lead or less inspired defense. Still, plus 630 is a miserable score for North-South.

Board 19

Most Norths will play in 4 S after an auction like:

WestNorthEastSouthSouth dealsS A J 9 6
… 100
+590 99
… 99
+450 98
… 98
+420 89
… 81
+300 80
… 80
+200 80
… 79
+170 77
… 75
+150 74
+140 71
+130 68
… 67
+110 65
… 64
+90 63
… 63
-50 48
… 33
-100 20
… 6
-150 4
… 2
-200 2
… 1
-380 1
… 0
PassE-W vulH J
Pass1 DPass1 HD A 8 5 4 3
Pass1 SPass3 SC A 10 8
Pass4 SAll PassS 10 8 7 4TableS K
H A Q 7 6 4H 10 8 5
DD J 10 9 7
C Q J 9 2C K 7 5 4 3
S Q 5 3 2
H K 9 3 2
D K Q 6 2
4 S NorthC 6

Making 4 S is not so easy. Suppose East leads a club (the D J is a dubious choice in North’s bid suit). I would win the C A, plunk down the S A, and… what’s the problem? No, just kidding.

I think the correct play is to ruff a club at trick two and run the S Q to East’s king. Assume a heart shift, ducked to the queen, and a trump back to North’s ace; a diamond to the queen is ruffed (choose your own expletive), then a trump back puts declarer down two. The defense was excellent, of course, so I expect most will escape for down one.

Those who made 4 S probably encountered pathetic defense, such as the D J lead, ducked in dummy and ruffed by West; or perhaps a heart lead to the queen, followed by the H A.

Zia Mahmood’s bridge tip, “If they don’t cover, they don’t have it,” would work nicely (when the S Q isn’t covered, win the ace), but even Zia would hardly suggest it here, missing the S 10.

Board 20

West’s hefty 12-pointer definitely should be opened, and most will do so to produce this simple auction:

WestNorthEastSouthWest dealsS Q 4 2
… 100
+670 99
… 99
+200 98
… 97
+110 92
+100 85
… 83
0 79
… 75
-90 68
-100 58
-110 55
-120 43
-130 32
… 31
-150 19
… 6
-180 5
… 3
-200 2
… 2
-400 2
-500 1
… 0
1 CPass1 NTPassBoth vulH K J 2
PassPassD A 9 3
C 8 7 6 4
S J 10TableS K 6 3
H A 7 6 4H Q 10 5
D 10 8 7D K 6 2
C A K 10 3C J 9 5 2
S A 9 8 7 5
H 9 8 3
D Q J 5 4
1 NT EastC Q

After a routine spade lead, East should win seven tricks. Any attempt to establish more by playing on hearts allows North to win the H K and cash out six tricks for the defense. It is dubious for declarer even to touch hearts, since an unfavorable lie or a misguess could result in defeat when the contract was cold with the D A onside.

More propaganda for weak notrumps! If West opens 1 NT and plays it there, prospects are excellent to win eight or nine tricks. North is likely to lead a club, then a heart toward dummy establishes seven tricks. Declarer will always get an eighth trick in spades or diamonds, and the defenders must be on their toes to prevent him from winning a trick in both suits.

South can make 2 S with accurate play, though I see no sensible way for North-South to get in the bidding — especially vulnerable.

Analyses 7N65 MainTop ACBL Instant MP Pairs

Board 21

It was a great strain on my analytic powers to predict this auction:

WestNorthEastSouthNorth dealsS Q J 8 7
… 100
+100 97
… 95
+50 84
… 73
-90 68
-100 64
… 63
-120 44
… 24
-150 13
… 2
-180 2
… 1
-400 1
… 0
PassPassPassN-S vulH 9 5
1 NTPassPassPassD 5 3 2
C A Q 4 3
S K 9 2TableS 10 6 5 3
H K Q JH 10 7 6 2
D K J 9 8D A Q 6
C K J 10C 9 5
S A 4
H A 8 4 3
D 10 7 4
1 NT WestC 8 7 6 2

Against 1 NT the normal lead of a low spade to the ace and spade back holds West to seven tricks. Some Souths may instead shift to the C 8 — certainly reasonable, as it may be necessary to lead clubs twice through declarer, say, if North held the C 10 — after which West can win eight tricks, maybe nine of North shifts to a red suit after winning the C Q.

At some tables North may lead the S Q. According to tests I have done by computer, this is the correct opening lead from Q-J-8-7 (by a narrow margin). So much for computers! Here it gives declarer an easy ride for eight tricks.

Some diehard Staymanites will respond 2 C as East, intending to pass two of a major. Over 2 D their practice is to bid 2 H (at least 4-4 in majors), which opener must pass except to bid 2 S with a doubleton heart and three spades. Two hearts can be defeated with a spade lead (ace and another) or a club lead and spade switch.

Board 22

Howard Schenken, inventor of the weak two-bid, may turn over in his grave when South players open 2 S. Nonetheless, it has proved to be a winning tactic to get in the bidding first, especially at favorable vulnerability. More good things can happen than bad, though it doesn’t work this time:

WestNorthEastSouthEast dealsS A
… 100
+1100 99
… 99
+800 98
… 98
+670 98
… 98
+500 97
… 97
+480 97
+470 96
… 95
+450 95
… 94
+420 94
+400 93
… 93
+300 91
… 89
+230 88
… 87
+200 83
… 80
+170 75
… 69
+140 63
… 57
+110 48
+100 36
… 34
-50 23
… 11
-100 8
… 5
-150 5
… 5
-200 4
… 3
-300 3
… 2
-500 1
… 0
Pass2 SE-W vulH A K 10 7 4
PassPassPassD Q 9 8 6 2
C 8 2
S K 2TableS J 10 8 4
H 6 3 2H Q J
D A J 7 4D K 5 3
C K Q 6 5C J 9 7 3
S Q 9 7 6 5 3
H 9 8 5
D 10
2 S SouthC A 10 4

In spades South can win eight tricks with good guesswork. A likely line of play is: C K to ace; D 10 to king; spade to ace; diamond ruff; H K; diamond ruff; H A (restricted-choice principle to finesse is inappropriate, as East should falsecard with Q-J-x); diamond. If East discards, South ruffs low and later can win the S Q; if East ruffs high, South throws a club, etc.

The best strain for North-South is hearts. A trump lead and perfect defense will hold declarer to nine tricks; but many will win 10 or 11 when West misdefends by hopping with the D A, allowing declarer to establish diamonds with two ruffs.

Board 23

Speaking of lousy weak two-bids! One has to draw the line somewhere, and this South hand just doesn’t cut it vulnerable (I would open 2 S nonvulnerable). Here is a likely auction:

WestNorthEastSouthSouth dealsS K 10
… 100
+870 99
… 98
+670 94
… 90
+500 89
… 87
+300 86
… 84
+200 81
… 77
+140 77
… 76
+110 55
+100 31
… 27
+80 26
… 25
-90 25
-100 21
-110 18
-120 17
… 16
-140 16
-150 15
… 14
-200 13
… 12
-300 8
… 5
-400 3
… 2
-600 2
… 1
-800 1
… 0
PassBoth vulH K J 9 7 4
Pass1 HPass1 SD 10 9 3
Pass1 NTPass2 SC K Q 5
PassPassPassS Q 9 8 3TableS 2
H Q 6 3H A 10 8 5 2
D Q J 8D A K 6
C A 7 6C J 10 8 3
S A J 7 6 5 4
H
D 7 5 4 2
2 S SouthC 9 4 2

In spades South can win eight tricks in several ways. The best defense is three rounds of diamonds, West winning the last, then a low heart. Declarer is likely to misguess (East has shown D A-K already); club to king; S K; S 10 to West’s queen; then another low heart. If declarer misguesses again he is down; but that’s quite a parlay, so most will make 2 S.

Note that the 1 H opening steals East’s bid and keeps East-West out of the auction, probably for their own benefit. East can make 3 H with exacting play — lead spades early to obtain ruffs, then North can be endplayed twice to let East score all his trumps — but how many will do that? In notrump East-West can win eight tricks with best play all around.

Board 24

Standard bidding and good judgment will land East-West in the right contract:

WestNorthEastSouthWest dealsS Q 8 5
… 100
+100 99
… 98
+50 80
… 61
-100 61
-110 60
… 59
-140 52
-150 45
… 44
-170 37
… 31
-200 29
… 28
-400 27
-420 16
… 4
-450 3
… 1
-480 1
… 0
1 CPass1 HPassNone vulH 7 4 2
1 SPass2 SPassD A K 10 8
PassPassC 9 8 7
S A 10 9 2TableS K 7 4 3
H KH Q 8 6 3
D 7 5 4D Q 3
C A Q J 5 3C K 10 4
S J 6
H A J 10 9 5
D J 9 6 2
2 S WestC 6 2

East’s hand (a lousy 10 points) is worth only 2 S, and West is conservative holding three small cards in the suit that is likely to be led. Note that if West’s H K were in diamonds, he would bid again and an excellent game would be reached.

Unfortunately, reaching the best contract and winning the par number of tricks (nine) will score below average for East-West. Many will win 10 tricks when North fails to cash both diamonds, or if South ducks the first heart lead. Some will even bid 4 S and make it, although it is more obvious to take your tricks against a game.

A few Norths may overcall 1 D as a lead-director, but that is unlikely to affect the result. East will make a negative double, and West should compete as high as 3 S if necessary (though it would be sweet to double 3 D to teach North a lesson).

Analyses 7N65 MainTop ACBL Instant MP Pairs

Board 25

A laydown grand slam in hearts, clubs or notrump! But how many will bid seven? Previous results indicate very few; in fact, just bidding 6 H gives North-South above average. (East-West will cry there is no justice.) Here is an expert sequence using two-over-one game forcing and Roman key-card Blackwood:

WestNorthEastSouthNorth dealsS 9 5
… 100
+1520 98
+1510 95
… 93
+1440 92
… 90
+1020 84
+1010 60
… 42
+940 31
… 20
+520 18
+510 8
… 1
+440 1
… 0
1 HPass2 CE-W vulH A J 9 6 3
Pass3 CPass3 HD A J
Pass4 DPass4 SC A K Q 2
Pass4 NTPass5 SS J 10 4 3TableS Q 8 7 6 2
Pass5 NTPass6 DH 7 5H 10 8 4
Pass7 NTAll PassD K Q 9 4 3D 7 6 2
C 9 3C 6 5
S A K
H K Q 2
D 10 8 5
7 NT NorthC J 10 8 7 4

South’s 4 S cue-bid may seem aggressive, but North initiated the slam try with 4 D; South would be a coward to discourage with K-Q-x in partner’s suit and control of the unbid suit. Five spades shows two key cards plus the trump queen (to avoid ambiguity, it is a good agreement that when two suits are raised, the higher suit is the key suit). Five notrump asks for kings and 6 D shows one (the H K does not count as it is already known). North now can count 13 tricks if South has at least five clubs (very likely) or a queen to go with his side king (barring D K-Q doubleton) — an overwhelming favorite.

Board 26

It’s not nice to fool with Mother Nature, but the computer had a field day with this one. With normal breaks East-West would be on a club guess to make 6 H (or 5 S), but the dual 5-0 breaks put either major-suit game in jeopardy. I would bid this way using my version of reverse Drury:

WestNorthEastSouthEast dealsS 10 6 4 3 2
… 100
+800 99
… 98
+780 98
… 98
+500 97
+400 95
… 94
+300 91
… 88
+200 78
… 67
+100 54
… 40
-200 39
… 39
-600 38
-620 30
-630 18
… 15
-650 10
-660 5
… 5
-690 4
… 3
-790 3
… 3
-950 3
… 2
-1100 2
… 2
-1440 1
… 0
PassPassBoth vulH
1 SPass2 CPassD Q 7 3
2 DPass2 HPassC A 8 7 5 4
3 HPass3 SPassS K Q 9 7 5TableS A J 8
4 HAll PassH A J 8 5H K Q 4 2
D A 6D J 4
C K JC 10 9 6 2
S
H 10 9 7 6 3
D K 10 9 8 5 2
4 H EastC Q 3

Two diamonds is artificial showing a full opening, and 2 H shows four or more hearts with a spade fit. Three hearts is natural and forcing (slam is possible, as East could have S A-J-x H K-x-x-x-x-x D x-x C x-x); 3 S implies minimal heart length (preferring spades); and 4 H shows four trumps.

Four hearts by East (my auction) is easily beaten with a diamond lead, as North can deliver two spade ruffs (he knows South is void). Played by West it takes an original spade lead at double-dummy; but a diamond will suffice in practice, since declarer cannot know to hold up.

In 4 S (best lead, a diamond) West can win 10 tricks with careful play if he guesses clubs.

Board 27

Disciplined South players may not preempt because of the four-card major, but I think this flaw is acceptable when the suit is J-x-x-x or worse. Therefore:

WestNorthEastSouthSouth dealsS A
… 100
+150 99
… 98
+100 98
… 98
+50 97
… 96
-100 94
-110 92
… 92
-150 75
… 57
-300 54
… 51
-400 34
-420 15
-430 14
… 13
-450 12
-460 10
… 8
-490 8
-500 7
… 7
-550 4
… 1
-610 1
… 0
3 SNone vulH 9 8 4 2
4 DPass5 DPassD K 8 7 2
PassPassC 9 6 5 3
S 9 7 3TableS J 10
H KH A Q J 7
D A Q J 9 6 5D 10 4 3
C A Q 4C K 8 7 2
S K Q 8 6 5 4 2
H 10 6 5 3
D
5 D WestC J 10

North would trade his eyeteeth for any spade but the ace, as the audacious 5 D comes home without a hitch. A few Norths will double, hoping South will produce a trick (maybe by Christmas).

East-West can win the same 11 tricks in notrump. It is intriguing to note that with the D K offside, 3 NT is three times more likely to make than 5 D — it will succeed against any singleton spade honor (the spade suit will block). How do you get there? Write to me in a few years… I’m working on it.

In spades South can be held to just six tricks with this diabolical defense: H K; C A; C K; three good hearts (West throws his club); then a club promotes a trump trick. Observe that it’s virtually impossible to penalize 3 S as an opening bid; but if South passes and bids 3 S later, the ax may fall.

Board 28

Some Norths will open (fearless weak-notrumpers mainly), but being shapeless, textureless and vulnerable, pass is clear. This should lead to a standard auction:

WestNorthEastSouthWest dealsS K J 5 2
… 100
+720 99
… 99
+690 96
… 93
+660 92
… 90
+630 81
+620 71
+600 38
… 5
+170 5
… 4
+130 4
… 4
-100 2
… 0
PassPassPass1 DN-S vulH A 8 4
Pass1 SPass2 CD 7 4 2
Pass2 NTPass3 NTC K J 5
PassPassPassS 8 7 6 4TableS A 10 9
H K 10 3 2H Q J 7 5
D 8 5D J 9 6
C Q 9 7C 10 8 6
S Q 3
H 9 6
D A K Q 10 3
3 NT NorthC A 4 3 2

A few Souths will instead open an off-shape 1 NT — the spade holding is ideal (lead advantage), but the lack of a heart honor is a serious flaw. Even so, it’s a reasonable alternative in fourth seat after three passes.

In 3 NT with a heart lead, 10 tricks can be won by playing on clubs; but this is a poor line of play. Declarer should learn from the enemy carding that hearts are 4-4, in which case the contract can be assured by driving out the S A. (Even if hearts are 5-3, declarer is a favorite to succeed after a holdup, since the S A is more likely to be in the short-heart hand.) Messing with clubs will gain only if West holds Q-x-x (an 18-percent chance) and will cost the contract whenever the finesse fails.

Without a heart lead, 12 tricks can be won.

Analyses 7N65 MainTop ACBL Instant MP Pairs

Board 29

Using the Jacoby transfer, I would bid this way:

WestNorthEastSouthNorth dealsS 10 9
… 100
+790 98
… 97
+650 97
… 96
+620 89
… 81
+200 78
… 76
+170 60
… 44
+140 34
… 24
+120 24
+110 21
+100 15
+90 12
… 11
-100 7
… 3
-200 2
… 0
PassPass1 NTBoth vulH K Q J 9 2
Pass2 DPass2 HD 10 5 4
Pass2 NTPass3 HC J 9 8
PassPassPassS A Q 6 2TableS K 8 7 4 3
H 5 3H 10 8
D K J 9 6D Q 7 3
C 5 4 2C K 10 7
S J 5
H A 7 6 4
D A 8 2
3 H SouthC A Q 6 3

Two diamonds shows at least five hearts, and 2 NT invites game in notrump or hearts. The latter may seem aggressive with only 7 points but is warranted by the sturdy suit and scattered 10s and nines (notice later how the 9-8 of clubs perform). South prefers hearts, so he corrects to 3 H. (With a maximum, South would bid 3 NT or 4 H.)

West is likely to make a passive trump lead (I would), after which declarer can win 10 tricks if he makes the correct percentage play in clubs — run the jack; then if covered with the king, run the nine next.

If the opening lead is a diamond (or a spade and a diamond switch), declarer can win the same 10 tricks but probably should not. After drawing trumps and finding the 2-2 break, it is more sensible to exit with a diamond. This ensures nine tricks whenever the C K is onside, regardless of the location of the C 10.

Board 30

Some activists may open the East hand (3 H has merit), but here’s a more mainstream auction:

WestNorthEastSouthEast dealsS A 8 5 3
… 100
+800 99
… 98
+630 98
… 97
+590 96
… 95
+500 93
+490 90
+480 89
… 88
+460 86
+450 79
… 73
+430 72
+420 52
… 34
+300 32
… 30
+200 29
… 29
+100 28
… 27
+50 26
… 24
-50 18
… 12
-100 9
… 6
-150 5
… 5
-250 4
… 4
-300 3
… 3
-470 2
… 2
-600 1
… 0
Pass1 CNone vulH A 6
Pass1 S1 NT2 SD Q 8
3 D4 SPassPassC K J 8 3 2
PassS K Q 4 2TableS 6
H J 10 7H K 9 8 4 3 2
D K J 3 2D 10 9 6 5 4
C 10 6C 7
S J 10 9 7
H Q 5
D A 7
4 S NorthC A Q 9 5 4

One notrump is “unusual” (weak takeout for the unbid suits) since East is a passed hand, and West bids 3 D mainly to direct the opening lead. North-South basically ignore all this flutter and bid to their normal game.

Four spades is in no jeopardy as the cards lie — the defenders cannot get a club ruff, and the 4-1 trump break is harmless. The mirror distribution of the North-South hands limits declarer to 10 tricks barring a contribution, such as an original heart lead by East.

A few North-South pairs may stray to 3 NT or 5 C. Either contract can be defeated by leading the right red suit (not from the king).

At double-dummy East-West have a good sacrifice in 5 D or 5 H. Declarer must shun the finesse in both red suits and lead to the kings — a little far-fetched.

Board 31

Visions of Boards 10 and 21. At least this dull deal will be played by fewer pairs.

WestNorthEastSouthSouth dealsS A J 8 2
… 100
+160 99
… 96
+120 93
… 90
+100 87
+90 82
… 79
-90 78
-100 67
… 56
-120 53
… 50
-150 47
… 44
-200 30
… 15
-300 10
… 4
-500 1
… 0
1 NTN-S vulH 5 4
PassPassPassD 9 8 4 3
C 10 8 5
S 9TableS K Q 5 4
H J 8 7 6 3H A 2
D K 10 7 6D J 5 2
C A 3 2C J 9 7 6
S 10 7 6 3
H K Q 10 9
D A Q
1 NT SouthC K Q 4

Against 1 NT West will lead a heart; East wins the ace and returns a heart to the king, and declarer leads a spade to the jack and queen. East’s best lead now is a diamond, queen, king; and West returns the six, which East should read as fourth-best and withhold the jack. When East wins the S K, the defenders can cash out for down one. Other lines of defense allow declarer to succeed.

West might break the monotony with an overcall. Two hearts would be frightening, of course, but the hand is ideally suited for Astro at the vulnerability. Two clubs would show hearts and a minor, and East would respond 2 D (no heart fit) which is passed out — not a glamorous spot but it might make.

A few North-South pairs may find their spade fit. Two spades is likely to go down one, though it can be made if East leads a club by ducking to the 10.

Board 32

What? Another one? Standard bidders will get another chance to catch up on their sleep:

WestNorthEastSouthWest dealsS K 10
… 100
+420 93
… 85
+170 62
… 38
+140 30
… 21
+90 15
… 10
-50 4
… 0
Pass1 NTPassPassE-W vulH A Q 8 6
PassD J 7 5
C A K 9 8
S J 9 4TableS A 8 3 2
H 7 4 2H 9 5
D K Q 8D A 9 6 4 2
C Q J 6 3C 7 5
S Q 7 6 5
H K J 10 3
D 10 3
1 NT NorthC 10 4 2

In 1 NT North can win seven easy tricks after the opponents stop running the diamond suit. Wow.

Some South players may gamble a Stayman response (more sensible here than on Board 21) and locate the superior heart contract. Using a computer simulation, I calculate South’s chance of finding a 4-4 major fit at about 56 percent (of course, in some of those cases notrump may still be a better contract). So the gamble is reasonable provided your system has an escape route — that is, if North bids 2 D, South can bid 2 H to show a weak hand with both majors.

In hearts 10 tricks can be won thanks to the lucky club lie (East may even help by leading a club), though some declarers will mistime the play. For example, after a trump lead declarer cannot win 10 tricks if he draws three rounds of trumps immediately.

Analyses 7N65 MainTop ACBL Instant MP Pairs

Board 33

South may consider opening 2 C; but with clubs the main suit, 1 C is wiser. A likely beginning:

WestNorthEastSouthNorth dealsS 10 6 3
… 100
+180 99
… 96
+140 93
+130 87
+120 73
+110 50
… 38
-50 30
… 21
-100 13
… 4
-130 1
… 0
PassPass1 CNone vulH 8 5 3
1 DPass2 DDblD J 6 2
Pass3 CPassPassC J 7 4 3
PassS A 5TableS Q 9 7 2
H K Q 10H J 7 6 4
D K 10 8 7 5D Q 9 4 3
C 10 9 8C 2
S K J 8 4
H A 9 2
D A
3 C SouthC A K Q 6 5

South wants to bid again. North could have the right hand for 5 C (S Q-10-x H x-x D x-x-x-x C x-x-x-x) or some help in diamonds for 3 NT; but the prudent decision is to pass.

In clubs South can win nine tricks, though some will win 10 against weak defense. Note that declarer lacks the entries to capitalize on the favorable spade lie.

The best contract for North-South is 2 NT (please tell me how to get there). After a diamond lead — note that East’s correct play is the nine — South can score plus 120 if he guesses spades.

The deal actually belongs to East-West, who can make 3 D by holding the trump loses to one or by discarding a spade on the fourth heart. Accurate defense prevents declarer from achieving both goals for an overtrick.

Board 34

East has a slight rebid problem after this start:

WestNorthEastSouthEast dealsS 4 3
… 100
+150 99
… 99
+50 97
… 96
-150 96
… 95
-400 88
-420 80
-430 54
… 28
-450 27
-460 15
… 3
-490 2
… 1
-520 1
… 0
1 CPassN-S vulH 8 6 3 2
1 HPass2 NT?PassD J 6 4 2
3 NTPassPassPassC A Q 2
S K J 10 8TableS A 7 5
H A 10 7 5H K
D Q 10 8 5D A K 3
C 8C K 10 7 6 5 4
S Q 9 6 2
H Q J 9 4
D 9 7
3 NT EastC J 9 3

The sensible alternatives are a jump to 3 C (suit is too weak), a manufactured reverse of 2 D, or a jump to 2 NT. East’s choice will determine only the declarer, as all roads should lead to 3 NT.

If West instead responds 1 D (a matter of style), one of East’s options is eliminated. Then I clearly prefer 2 NT — the singleton H K has positional value; it may provide a stopper on its own (who leads aces?) or bolster any honor partner might have.

In notrump declarer should win 11 tricks without a heart lead, or if South leads the H Q — lead up to the C K and play clubs at every opportunity. After a low heart lead, declarer should win 10 tricks: four spades, two hearts, three diamonds and one club; it is possible to win 11 (e.g., by running the D 10 through North), but this requires a Mandarin ancestry… from Peking.

Board 35

Depending on system and style, the West hand might be opened 1 S, 2 S or 3 S; but the mainstream view is to pass. Here’s a feisty auction:

WestNorthEastSouthSouth dealsS
… 100
+590 99
… 99
+400 98
… 98
+200 97
… 95
+100 92
… 89
-100 88
… 86
-140 86
… 86
-200 85
… 85
-300 82
… 78
-500 77
… 75
-620 68
… 60
-650 49
… 39
-680 27
-690 16
-710 14
… 13
-790 12
-800 12
… 12
-850 11
… 11
-990 10
… 10
-1050 9
-1070 8
… 7
-1100 7
… 6
-1190 5
-1200 3
… 2
-1390 2
… 2
-1430 1
… 0
PassE-W vulH K Q J 5 2
Pass1 H1 NT3 HD A 9 7 5
4 S5 HPassPassC 10 9 8 6
5 SPassPassPassS A Q 8 7 6 2TableS 10 9 4
HH A 7 4
D 8 3D K Q 10 6
C Q 7 5 4 3C A K J
S K J 5 3
H 10 9 8 6 3
D J 4 2
5 S WestC 2

North-South, of course, are loose at the vulnerability. Especially note East’s forcing pass over 5 H; it implies a suitable dummy for spades and leaves West the final decision. West’s void and two-suiter clearly warrant the push. Some Souths will double 5 S expecting North to take more than one trick.

In spades (H K lead) West can win 12 tricks by double-finessing in trumps, but this is an abnormal play (unless South doubled). The best play for the most tricks is to finesse the queen; the safety play to guard against losing two trumps is to cash the ace. Either will result in 11 tricks, unless declarer leads a club too early, allowing South to get a ruff.

The sacrifice in 5 H would have been profitable — down three with best play and defense.

Board 36

The last deal is awkward in both the bidding and play. I’d probably bid this way but wouldn’t be proud of it:

WestNorthEastSouthWest dealsS 3
… 100
+800 99
… 99
+600 98
… 98
+500 98
+400 96
… 95
+300 93
… 92
+200 77
… 62
+100 51
… 40
-120 40
… 40
-140 37
… 35
-170 33
… 31
-600 24
-620 13
-630 6
… 2
-650 1
… 0
1 SPass1 NTPassBoth vulH A 8 5 4
3 NTPassPassPassD 5 3 2
C K J 8 7 4
S A K J 8 6 5TableS 9
H J 10 7H K 9 6 3
D KD A Q 10 8 7
C A Q 10C 6 3 2
S Q 10 7 4 2
H Q 2
D J 9 6 4
3 NT EastC 9 5

Three notrump is a slight gamble but may be the best rebid of a bad lot — the hand is a bit hefty for 3 S or 2 NT, and a fake jump shift to 3 C seems to misdirect its usefulness. Did I hear someone rebid 4 S? Please… not in front of the children.

Against 3 NT suppose South leads a diamond. The play might go: H J to the queen; club shift, 10, jack; diamond to the ace (discard a spade); spade finesse; S K; S A; H 7 to nine (North must duck); D Q; heart to ace, and North must give declarer his H K (else lead a club) — making 3 NT. Then again, the play might not go that way, so down one may be more realistic.

Those in 4 S can succeed (unless North underleads the H A) with inspired play. Assume a diamond lead to the king; heart to the king (North can’t gain by hopping); pitch two hearts; ruff a heart; S A (optional); C A, and exit in clubs. After ruffing back in, exit with a low trump to endplay South — as the crowd goes wild.

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© 1990 Richard Pavlicek