Main   Analyses 7N65 by Richard Pavlicek  

ACBL Instant MP Pairs

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.


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

West

Pass
North
1 D
1 NT
East
Pass
All Pass
South
1 S
Board 1
None Vul
S 10 9
H K Q 9 7
D A 5 4 2
C A 10 3
N-S
...
+380
...
+150
...
+120
+110
+100
MP
100
99
99
95
90
73
53
49
N-S
+90
...
+50
0
-50
...
-90
-100
MP
39
30
27
24
21
18
17
9
N-S
-110
...
-150
...
-200
...
MP
3
2
2
1
1
0
S A 8 4
H 8 6 4
D 9 8
C K Q J 8 4
TableS K Q 6 3
H J 10 3
D K 7 6 3
C 6 2
S J 7 5 2
H A 5 2
D Q J 10
C 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.


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:

West

1 D
2 NT
North

Pass
All Pass
East
Pass
1 NT
South
Pass
Pass
Board 2
N-S Vul
S K 10 8 6
H 10 9 4
D K 7
C A J 10 5
N-S
...
+100
...
+50
...
-90
-100
-110
-120
-130
-140
-150
MP
100
99
98
97
95
95
95
91
86
79
70
57
N-S
...
-170
-180
...
-200
-210
...
-300
...
-400
-420
-430
MP
49
44
35
32
31
24
17
17
16
14
9
6
N-S
...
-450
-460
...
-500
...
-800
...
-1100
...
MP
6
5
4
3
3
2
2
1
1
0
S A J 4 2
H A Q J 3
D A 5 4 2
C 3
TableS 9 7
H 8 6 2
D Q 10 8 6
C K Q 9 8
S Q 5 3
H K 7 5
D J 9 3
C 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.


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:

West

Pass
2 S
All Pass
North

1 NT
Pass
East

Pass
4 S
South
Pass
2 C
Dbl
Board 3
E-W Vul
S A 2
H K J 8
D A 9 6 5 4
C A 9 5
N-S
...
+920
...
+800
...
+650
...
+550
...
+500
+490
...
+460
...
+430
+420
+400
MP
100
99
99
98
98
98
97
95
94
93
90
89
88
87
84
77
65
N-S
...
+200
...
+170
...
+150
+140
+130
...
+100
...
-50
...
-100
...
-140
-150
MP
60
55
51
49
48
45
41
40
40
39
39
36
33
31
29
29
28
N-S
...
-170
...
-200
...
-300
...
-620
...
-790
...
-930
...
-1070
...
-1100
...
MP
26
26
25
24
23
22
22
20
19
12
6
4
2
2
1
1
0
S K J 10 9 6 4
H Q 10 7 6 4
D
C Q 7
TableS Q 8 7 3
H 9
D Q 10 3
C K 10 6 4 3
S 5
H A 5 3 2
D K J 8 7 2
C 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.


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:

West
Pass
1 H
1 NT
North
Pass
Pass
All Pass
East
1 C
1 S
South
Pass
Pass
Board 4
Both Vul
S Q J 7 2
H A K 8 4
D J 10
C 10 8 3
N-S
...
+400
...
+300
...
+210
+200
...
+180
...
+150
MP
100
99
98
96
94
93
82
72
72
71
69
N-S
+140
...
+120
+110
+100
+90
...
0
...
-80
-90
MP
68
68
67
65
49
33
30
26
21
21
16
N-S
-100
-110
-120
...
-150
...
-200
...
-670
...
MP
10
6
3
2
2
2
2
1
1
0
S 9 8
H J 7 6 5 3
D A 4 3
C Q J 9
TableS A 5 4 3
H Q 2
D Q 8 7
C A 6 4 2
S K 10 6
H 10 9
D K 9 6 5 2
C 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?


TopMain


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:

West

Pass
Pass
North
Pass
1 NT
3 NT
East
Pass
Pass
All Pass
South
1 S
2 NT
Board 5
N-S Vul
S 8
H Q J 7
D K 10 9 8 4
C K 6 4 3
N-S
...
+630
...
+600
...
+300
...
+200
...
+180
MP
100
86
72
69
65
64
63
63
63
60
N-S
...
+150
...
+130
+120
+110
+100
...
+50
...
MP
57
57
56
55
52
49
45
43
42
41
N-S
-100
...
-200
...
-300
...
-400
...
-470
...
MP
36
31
21
11
8
5
3
2
2
0
S J 6 2
H A 9 8 4 3 2
D Q J 7
C 9
TableS K 10 7 4
H 6 5
D A 3
C 10 8 7 5 2
S A Q 9 5 3
H K 10
D 6 5 2
C 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.


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

West

1 C
?
North

1 H
East
Pass
Dbl
South
Pass
Pass
Board 6
E-W Vul
S K J 7
H A 10 8 4 3 2
D 9 5 4
C 3
N-S
...
+500
...
+300
...
+200
...
+100
...
-110
...
-130
-140
-150
MP
100
99
99
98
98
96
94
85
76
75
75
72
68
64
N-S
...
-170
-180
...
-200
-210
...
-300
...
-500
...
-600
-620
-630
MP
61
61
60
59
57
55
54
54
53
52
52
45
35
31
N-S
...
-650
-660
...
-680
-690
...
-750
...
-800
...
-1100
...
MP
29
23
12
5
5
4
4
4
3
3
3
2
0
S A 6 5
H K
D A K 6 2
C A 9 7 5 2
TableS Q 9 4 2
H J 9 6
D Q J 3
C K J 10
S 10 8 3
H Q 7 5
D 10 8 7
C 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.


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

West

Pass
Pass
North

2 C
3 NT
East

Pass
Pass
South
1 D
3 D
?
Board 7
Both Vul
S K 8 7
H K Q 9
D 7 6
C K 9 6 5 4
N-S
...
+1540
...
+1440
+1430
...
+1370
...
MP
100
99
99
98
96
96
93
89
N-S
+1320
...
+690
...
+660
...
+620
+600
MP
89
89
81
73
61
49
43
30
N-S
...
-100
...
-200
...
-400
-500
...
MP
23
14
4
4
3
3
2
0
S J 10 5 3
H 10 8 5 4 3 2
D 3
C A 2
TableS 6 4 2
H A J 6
D 10 5
C Q J 10 7 3
S A Q 9
H 7
D A K Q J 9 8 4 2
C 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.


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:

West
2 H
4 S
North
Pass
Pass
East
3 S
Pass
South
Pass
Pass
Board 8
None Vul
S 10
H 4
D A Q J 8 2
C J 10 9 7 5 3
N-S
...
+550
...
+500
...
+150
...
+110
+100
...
+50
...
-50
...
-100
...
MP
100
99
99
98
98
98
98
97
94
91
84
77
76
74
70
66
N-S
-140
...
-170
...
-200
...
-250
...
-300
...
-420
-430
...
-450
...
-480
MP
66
65
65
64
63
62
62
61
57
53
41
28
27
23
19
13
N-S
...
-500
...
-650
...
-730
...
-750
...
-790
-800
...
-1100
...
-1400
...
MP
8
7
7
6
6
5
5
5
5
4
3
2
2
1
1
0
S 8 5
H A Q J 6 3 2
D K 9 7
C 6 4
TableS A K Q J 6 3
H 10 8
D 4 3
C A 8 2
S 9 7 4 2
H K 9 7 5
D 10 6 5
C 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.


TopMain


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

West

1 H
4 NT
6 S
North
Pass
Pass
Pass
All Pass
East
1 D
1 S
5 D
South
Pass
Pass
Pass
Board 9
E-W Vul
S 10 7 4
H 4 3
D J 10 7 4 3
C 8 6 3
N-S
...
+200
...
+100
...
-680
-690
MP
100
99
99
98
97
92
88
N-S
...
-720
...
-1400
...
-1430
-1440
MP
87
87
87
86
86
48
6
N-S
...
-1470
...
-1700
...
-2000
...
MP
3
3
2
2
1
1
0
S Q 9 5 2
H A K J 6
D 9
C A K Q 5
TableS A K 6 3
H Q 5 2
D K Q 5 2
C 10 9
S J 8
H 10 9 8 7
D A 8 6
C 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.


Most strong-notrumpers will boringly duplicate this nothingness:

West

Pass
North

Pass
East
1 NT
South
Pass
Board 10
Both Vul
S J 9 8 7 5
H Q 6 5 4
D K
C 9 5 3
N-S
...
+300
...
+200
...
+140
...
+110
+100
...
MP
100
99
99
96
94
94
93
91
86
83
N-S
+80
...
-70
-80
-90
-100
-110
-120
...
-140
MP
79
75
75
69
55
40
32
22
15
15
N-S
-150
...
-170
...
-200
...
-300
...
MP
12
9
9
8
6
3
2
0
S 6 4
H J 8
D 9 7 6 5 3
C Q J 8 2
TableS Q 10 2
H A 10 9 2
D A 8 4
C A K 7
S A K 3
H K 7 3
D Q J 10 2
C 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.


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:

West

2 D
North

Pass
East

3 D
South
1 H
All Pass
Board 11
None Vul
S Q 4 2
H K 4
D 10 8 2
C 10 8 7 6 4
N-S
...
+150
+140
...
+100
...
+50
MP
100
99
98
97
95
93
84
N-S
...
-50
...
-100
-110
...
-130
MP
75
72
69
66
37
11
8
N-S
...
-150
...
-470
...
-500
...
MP
5
4
2
2
1
1
0
S A K
H 10 9 6
D K Q 9 7 4 3
C 5 2
TableS 10 8 7 6
H 7 3 2
D A 6 5
C A J 3
S J 9 5 3
H A Q J 8 5
D J
C 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).


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

West
Pass
Pass
Pass
Pass
All Pass
North
1 S
2 H
4 D
5 H
East
Pass
Pass
Pass
Pass
South
2 D
3 H
4 NT
6 H
Board 12
N-S Vul
S A Q 8 6 2
H A 9 8 3
D K J 10
C 3
N-S
...
+1430
...
+1400
...
+990
...
+800
...
+690
+680
MP
100
98
96
96
95
95
95
95
94
94
88
N-S
...
+660
+650
...
+630
+620
+600
...
+300
...
+200
MP
83
81
63
46
45
35
26
25
25
24
24
N-S
...
+150
...
+100
...
-100
...
-200
...
-300
...
MP
24
23
23
22
22
15
9
5
1
1
0
S K 10 9 5 3
H 7
D 6
C Q J 8 6 5 2
TableS J 4
H K 10 4 2
D 9 8 7 5
C K 7 4
S 7
H Q J 6 5
D A Q 4 3 2
C 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.


TopMain


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

West

2 NT
3 D
4 C
North
Pass
Pass
Pass
Pass
East
Pass
3 C
3 S
4 S
South
Pass
Pass
Pass
All Pass
Board 13
Both Vul
S 8 7 5 3
H A Q 10 5
D J 5
C Q 9 6
N-S
...
+400
...
+300
...
+200
MP
100
99
99
98
97
87
N-S
...
+100
...
-100
...
-140
MP
77
59
41
41
41
39
N-S
-150
...
-600
-620
-630
...
MP
38
38
26
9
2
0
S K Q J
H K 8
D A 9 8 4
C A K J 8
TableS A 10 9 4 2
H 9 7 6 4
D 10 6
C 5 2
S 6
H J 3 2
D K Q 7 3 2
C 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.


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

West

1 NT
2 D
North

Pass
Pass
East
Pass
2 C
2 NT
South
Pass
Pass
All Pass
Board 14
None Vul
S 10 8
H J 8 7 5 3
D J 9 7
C A K 4
N-S
...
+180
...
+150
...
+100
...
+50
MP
100
99
98
97
96
93
89
77
N-S
...
-50
...
-80
-90
-100
-110
-120
MP
65
65
65
64
50
34
31
19
N-S
...
-150
...
-300
...
-500
...
MP
8
5
2
2
1
1
0
S K 3 2
H A K 9
D K Q 10 3
C 9 7 5
TableS A 7 5 4
H Q 6 4 2
D 8 6
C Q 3 2
S Q J 9 6
H 10
D A 5 4 2
C 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.


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?

West

Pass
North

1 C
East

4 D
South
Pass
?
Board 15
N-S Vul
S J 10 7
H 8 7 6
D A K 3
C A Q 5 4
N-S
...
+800
...
+630
+620
...
+500
...
+300
...
+170
...
+150
+140
...
MP
100
99
98
97
96
95
94
93
91
89
89
88
88
86
85
N-S
+100
...
+50
...
-100
-110
...
-130
...
-150
...
-200
...
-300
...
MP
72
59
59
58
52
45
44
39
33
32
30
25
20
17
13
N-S
-400
...
-500
-510
...
-570
...
-610
...
-800
...
-1100
...
MP
11
8
8
5
4
4
3
3
3
2
1
1
0
S K 3
H K Q 9 5 2
D 6
C J 7 6 3 2
TableS 9 8 6
H A 10
D Q J 10 9 8 7 5 4
C
S A Q 5 4 2
H J 4 3
D 2
C 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.


Many tables will duplicate this auction:

West
Pass
Pass
All Pass
North
1 D
2 NT
East
Pass
Pass
South
1 S
3 NT
Board 16
E-W Vul
S A K
H K 3
D A J 9 3 2
C K 6 5 2
N-S
...
+1200
...
+1020
+1010
...
+940
...
+920
...
+650
MP
100
99
99
98
97
97
95
94
90
87
87
N-S
...
+520
...
+490
...
+460
+450
+440
+430
+420
+400
MP
87
62
38
29
20
20
19
17
11
6
5
N-S
...
+200
...
+170
...
+150
...
-50
...
-100
...
MP
5
4
4
4
3
3
2
2
2
1
0
S 8 7 4
H A Q 7 6 4
D K 6 5 4
C 4
TableS 9 6 3 2
H J 9 8 2
D 8
C 10 9 8 3
S Q J 10 5
H 10 5
D Q 10 7
C 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).


TopMain


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:

West

Pass
North
5 D
East
Pass
South
Pass
Board 17
None Vul
S
H 3
D A J 10 9 5 3 2
C Q 9 7 6 3
N-S
...
+800
...
+570
...
+550
...
+510
+500
...
+470
...
+400
...
+300
...
MP
100
99
99
98
98
98
97
95
93
92
92
92
91
91
85
80
N-S
+150
...
+130
...
+110
+100
...
+50
...
-50
...
-100
...
-140
-150
...
MP
79
78
78
77
77
73
69
65
61
58
56
44
31
29
27
26
N-S
-170
...
-250
...
-300
...
-420
...
-500
...
-530
...
-800
...
MP
26
25
25
25
16
7
6
6
4
2
2
1
1
0
S J 10 6 4 3
H Q 6 4
D K Q 8
C 10 5
TableS 9 8 7
H A K J 9 8 2
D
C K J 4 2
S A K Q 5 2
H 10 7 5
D 7 6 4
C 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.


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:

West

Pass
Pass
North

2 C
4 H
East
Pass
Pass
All Pass
South
1 NT
2 H
Board 18
N-S Vul
S K Q 3
H A 8 3 2
D J 9 6 4 3
C 6
N-S
...
+800
...
+660
+650
...
MP
100
99
99
98
59
20
N-S
+630
+620
+600
...
+500
...
MP
17
12
9
7
7
7
N-S
-100
...
-200
...
-500
...
MP
4
2
2
1
1
0
S 9 7 6
H 9 6
D 7 5 2
C A Q 10 9 2
TableS A 10 8 5 2
H J 10 4
D 10 8
C J 7 3
S J 4
H K Q 7 5
D A K Q
C 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.


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

West

Pass
Pass
Pass
North

1 D
1 S
4 S
East

Pass
Pass
All Pass
South
Pass
1 H
3 S
Board 19
E-W Vul
S A J 9 6
H J
D A 8 5 4 3
C A 10 8
N-S
...
+590
...
+450
...
+420
...
+300
...
+200
...
MP
100
99
99
98
98
89
81
80
80
80
79
N-S
+170
...
+150
+140
+130
...
+110
...
+90
...
-50
MP
77
75
74
71
68
67
65
64
63
63
48
N-S
...
-100
...
-150
...
-200
...
-380
...
MP
33
20
6
4
2
2
1
1
0
S 10 8 7 4
H A Q 7 6 4
D
C Q J 9 2
TableS K
H 10 8 5
D J 10 9 7
C K 7 5 4 3
S Q 5 3 2
H K 9 3 2
D K Q 6 2
C 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.


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

West
1 C
Pass
North
Pass
Pass
East
1 NT
South
Pass
Board 20
Both Vul
S Q 4 2
H K J 2
D A 9 3
C 8 7 6 4
N-S
...
+670
...
+200
...
+110
+100
...
0
MP
100
99
99
98
97
92
85
83
79
N-S
...
-90
-100
...
-120
-130
...
-150
...
MP
75
68
58
55
43
32
31
19
6
N-S
-180
...
-200
...
-400
-500
...
MP
5
3
2
2
2
1
0
S J 10
H A 7 6 4
D 10 8 7
C A K 10 3
TableS K 6 3
H Q 10 5
D K 6 2
C J 9 5 2
S A 9 8 7 5
H 9 8 3
D Q J 5 4
C 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.


TopMain


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

West

1 NT
North
Pass
Pass
East
Pass
Pass
South
Pass
Pass
Board 21
N-S Vul
S Q J 8 7
H 9 5
D 5 3 2
C A Q 4 3
N-S
...
+100
...
+50
...
-90
MP
100
97
95
84
73
68
N-S
-100
...
-120
...
-150
...
MP
64
63
44
24
13
2
N-S
-180
...
-400
...
MP
2
1
1
0
S K 9 2
H K Q J
D K J 9 8
C K J 10
TableS 10 6 5 3
H 10 7 6 2
D A Q 6
C 9 5
S A 4
H A 8 4 3
D 10 7 4
C 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.


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:

West

Pass
North

Pass
East
Pass
Pass
South
2 S
Board 22
E-W Vul
S A
H A K 10 7 4
D Q 9 8 6 2
C 8 2
N-S
...
+1100
...
+800
...
+670
...
+500
...
+480
+470
...
+450
...
MP
100
99
99
98
98
98
98
97
97
97
96
95
94
94
N-S
+400
...
+300
...
+230
...
+200
...
+170
...
+140
...
+110
+100
MP
93
93
91
89
88
87
83
80
75
69
63
57
48
36
N-S
...
-50
...
-100
...
-150
...
-200
...
-300
...
-500
...
MP
34
23
11
8
5
5
5
4
3
3
2
1
0
S K 2
H 6 3 2
D A J 7 4
C K Q 6 5
TableS J 10 8 4
H Q J
D K 5 3
C J 9 7 3
S Q 9 7 6 5 3
H 9 8 5
D 10
C 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.


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:

West

Pass
Pass
All Pass
North

1 H
1 NT
East

Pass
Pass
South
Pass
1 S
2 S
Board 23
Both Vul
S K 10
H K J 9 7 4
D 10 9 3
C K Q 5
N-S
...
+870
...
+670
...
+500
...
+300
...
+200
...
+140
MP
100
99
98
94
90
89
87
86
84
81
77
77
N-S
...
+110
+100
...
+80
...
-90
-100
-110
-120
...
-150
MP
76
55
31
27
26
25
25
21
17
16
15
15
N-S
...
-200
...
-300
...
-400
...
-600
...
-800
...
MP
14
13
12
8
5
3
2
2
1
1
0
S Q 9 8 3
H Q 6 3
D Q J 8
C A 7 6
TableS 2
H A 10 8 5 2
D A K 6
C J 10 8 3
S A J 7 6 5 4
H
D 7 5 4 2
C 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 makeH 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.


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

West
1 C
1 S
North
Pass
Pass
East
1 H
2 S
South
Pass
All Pass
Board 24
None Vul
S Q 8 5
H 7 4 2
D A K 10 8
C 9 8 7
N-S
...
+100
...
+50
...
-100
-110
...
MP
100
99
98
80
61
61
60
59
N-S
-140
-150
...
-170
...
-200
...
-400
MP
52
45
44
37
31
29
28
27
N-S
-420
...
-450
...
-480
...
MP
16
4
3
1
1
0
S A 10 9 2
H K
D 7 5 4
C A Q J 5 3
TableS K 7 4 3
H Q 8 6 3
D Q 3
C K 10 4
S J 6
H A J 10 9 5
D J 9 6 2
C 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 bidS 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).


TopMain


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:

West

Pass
Pass
Pass
Pass
Pass
North
1 H
3 C
4 D
4 NT
5 NT
7 NT
East
Pass
Pass
Pass
Pass
Pass
All Pass
South
2 C
3 H
4 S
5 S
6 D
Board 25
E-W Vul
S 9 5
H A J 9 6 3
D A J
C A K Q 2
N-S
...
+1520
+1510
...
+1440
...
MP
100
98
95
93
92
90
N-S
+1020
+1010
...
+940
...
+520
MP
84
60
42
31
20
18
N-S
+510
...
+440
...
MP
8
1
1
0
S J 10 4 3
H 7 5
D K Q 9 4 3
C 9 3
TableS Q 8 7 6 2
H 10 8 4
D 7 6 2
C 6 5
S A K
H K Q 2
D 10 8 5
C 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.


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:

West

1 S
2 D
3 H
4 H
North

Pass
Pass
Pass
All Pass
East
Pass
2 C
2 H
3 S
South
Pass
Pass
Pass
Pass
Board 26
Both Vul
S 10 6 4 3 2
H
D Q 7 3
C A 8 7 5 4
N-S
...
+800
...
+780
...
+500
+400
...
+300
...
+200
MP
100
99
98
98
98
97
95
94
91
88
78
N-S
...
+100
...
-200
...
-600
-620
-630
...
-650
-660
MP
67
54
40
39
39
38
30
18
15
10
5
N-S
...
-690
...
-790
...
-950
...
-1100
...
-1440
...
MP
5
4
3
3
3
3
2
2
2
1
0
S K Q 9 7 5
H A J 8 5
D A 6
C K J
TableS A J 8
H K Q 4 2
D J 4
C 10 9 6 2
S
H 10 9 7 6 3
D K 10 9 8 5 2
C 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.


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:

West

4 D
North

Pass
East

5 D
South
3 S
All Pass
Board 27
None Vul
S A
H 9 8 4 2
D K 8 7 2
C 9 6 5 3
N-S
...
+150
...
+100
...
+50
...
-100
-110
...
MP
100
99
98
98
98
97
96
94
92
92
N-S
-150
...
-300
...
-400
-420
-430
...
-450
-460
MP
75
57
54
51
34
15
14
13
12
10
N-S
...
-490
-500
...
-550
...
-610
...
MP
8
8
7
7
4
1
1
0
S 9 7 3
H K
D A Q J 9 6 5
C A Q 4
TableS J 10
H A Q J 7
D 10 4 3
C K 8 7 2
S K Q 8 6 5 4 2
H 10 6 5 3
D
C 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.


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

West
Pass
Pass
Pass
All Pass
North
Pass
1 S
2 NT
East
Pass
Pass
Pass
South
1 D
2 C
3 NT
Board 28
N-S Vul
S K J 5 2
H A 8 4
D 7 4 2
C K J 5
N-S
...
+720
...
+690
...
+660
MP
100
99
99
96
93
92
N-S
...
+630
+620
+600
...
+170
MP
90
81
71
38
5
5
N-S
...
+130
...
-100
...
MP
4
4
4
2
0
S 8 7 6 4
H K 10 3 2
D 8 5
C Q 9 7
TableS A 10 9
H Q J 7 5
D J 9 6
C 10 8 6
S Q 3
H 9 6
D A K Q 10 3
C 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.


TopMain


Using the Jacoby transfer, I would bid this way:

West

Pass
Pass
All Pass
North
Pass
2 D
2 NT
East
Pass
Pass
Pass
South
1 NT
2 H
3 H
Board 29
Both Vul
S 10 9
H K Q J 9 2
D 10 5 4
C J 9 8
N-S
...
+790
...
+650
...
+620
...
+200
MP
100
98
97
97
96
89
81
78
N-S
...
+170
...
+140
...
+120
+110
+100
MP
76
60
44
34
24
24
21
15
N-S
+90
...
-100
...
-200
...
MP
12
11
7
3
2
0
S A Q 6 2
H 5 3
D K J 9 6
C 5 4 2
TableS K 8 7 4 3
H 10 8
D Q 7 3
C K 10 7
S J 5
H A 7 6 4
D A 8 2
C 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.


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

West

Pass
3 D
North

1 S
4 S
East
Pass
1 NT
All Pass
South
1 C
2 S
Board 30
None Vul
S A 8 5 3
H A 6
D Q 8
C K J 8 3 2
N-S
...
+800
...
+630
...
+590
...
+500
+490
+480
...
+460
+450
MP
100
99
98
98
97
96
95
93
90
89
88
86
79
N-S
...
+430
+420
...
+300
...
+200
...
+100
...
+50
...
-50
MP
73
72
52
34
32
30
29
29
28
27
26
24
18
N-S
...
-100
...
-150
...
-250
...
-300
...
-470
...
-600
...
MP
12
9
6
5
5
4
4
3
3
2
2
1
0
S K Q 4 2
H J 10 7
D K J 3 2
C 10 6
TableS 6
H K 9 8 4 3 2
D 10 9 6 5 4
C 7
S J 10 9 7
H Q 5
D A 7
C 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.


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

West

Pass
North

Pass
East

Pass
South
1 NT
Board 31
N-S Vul
S A J 8 2
H 5 4
D 9 8 4 3
C 10 8 5
N-S
...
+160
...
+120
...
+100
+90
MP
100
99
96
93
90
87
82
N-S
...
-100
...
-120
...
-150
...
MP
79
67
56
53
50
47
44
N-S
-200
...
-300
...
-500
...
MP
30
15
10
4
1
0
S 9
H J 8 7 6 3
D K 10 7 6
C A 3 2
TableS K Q 5 4
H A 2
D J 5 2
C J 9 7 6
S 10 7 6 3
H K Q 10 9
D A Q
C 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.


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

West
Pass
Pass
North
1 NT
East
Pass
South
Pass
Board 32
E-W Vul
S K 10
H A Q 8 6
D J 7 5
C A K 9 8
N-S
...
+420
...
+170
MP
100
93
85
62
N-S
...
+140
...
+90
MP
38
30
21
15
N-S
...
-50
...
MP
10
4
0
S J 9 4
H 7 4 2
D K Q 8
C Q J 6 3
TableS A 8 3 2
H 9 5
D A 9 6 4 2
C 7 5
S Q 7 6 5
H K J 10 3
D 10 3
C 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.


TopMain


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

West

1 D
Pass
North
Pass
Pass
3 C
East
Pass
2 D
Pass
South
1 C
Dbl
?
Board 33
None Vul
S 10 6 3
H 8 5 3
D J 6 2
C J 7 4 3
N-S
...
+180
...
+140
+130
MP
100
99
96
93
87
N-S
+120
+110
...
-50
...
MP
73
50
38
30
21
N-S
-100
...
-130
...
MP
13
4
1
0
S A 5
H K Q 10
D K 10 8 7 5
C 10 9 8
TableS Q 9 7 2
H J 7 6 4
D Q 9 4 3
C 2
S K J 8 4
H A 9 2
D A
C 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.


East has a slight rebid problem after this start:

West

1 H
North

Pass
East
1 C
?
South
Pass
Board 34
N-S Vul
S 4 3
H 8 6 3 2
D J 6 4 2
C A Q 2
N-S
...
+150
...
+50
...
-150
MP
100
99
99
97
96
96
N-S
...
-400
-420
-430
...
-450
MP
95
88
80
54
28
27
N-S
-460
...
-490
...
-520
...
MP
15
3
2
1
1
0
S K J 10 8
H A 10 7 5
D Q 10 8 5
C 8
TableS A 7 5
H K
D A K 3
C K 10 7 6 5 4
S Q 9 6 2
H Q J 9 4
D 9 7
C 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.


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:

West

Pass
4 S
5 S
North

1 H
5 H
All Pass
East

1 NT
Pass
South
Pass
3 H
Pass
Board 35
E-W Vul
S
H K Q J 5 2
D A 9 7 5
C 10 9 8 6
N-S
...
+590
...
+400
...
+200
...
+100
...
-100
...
-140
...
-200
...
MP
100
99
99
98
98
97
95
92
89
88
86
86
86
85
85
N-S
-300
...
-500
...
-620
...
-650
...
-680
-690
-710
...
-790
-800
...
MP
82
78
77
75
68
60
49
39
27
16
14
13
12
12
12
N-S
-850
...
-990
...
-1050
-1070
...
-1190
-1200
...
-1390
...
-1430
...
MP
11
11
10
10
9
7
7
5
3
2
2
2
1
0
S A Q 8 7 6 2
H
D 8 3
C Q 7 5 4 3
TableS 10 9 4
H A 7 4
D K Q 10 6
C A K J
S K J 5 3
H 10 9 8 6 3
D J 4 2
C 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 doubleS 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.


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

West
1 S
3 NT
North
Pass
Pass
East
1 NT
Pass
South
Pass
Pass
Board 36
Both Vul
S 3
H A 8 5 4
D 5 3 2
C K J 8 7 4
N-S
...
+800
...
+600
...
+500
+400
...
+300
MP
100
99
99
98
98
98
96
95
93
N-S
...
+200
...
+100
...
-120
...
-140
...
MP
92
77
62
51
40
40
40
37
35
N-S
-170
...
-600
-620
-630
...
-650
...
MP
33
31
24
13
6
2
1
0
S A K J 8 6 5
H J 10 7
D K
C A Q 10
TableS 9
H K 9 6 3
D A Q 10 8 7
C 6 3 2
S Q 10 7 4 2
H Q 2
D J 9 6 4
C 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.


TopMain

© 1990 Richard Pavlicek