The 36 deals in this collection were played September 26, 1991 in the fifth annual Instant Matchpoint Pairs, a continent-wide event conducted by the American Contract Bridge League, and sponsored by Royal Viking Cruise Lines. 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 1991 Royal Viking Pairs begins with a treacherous slam decision. I like this auction using two-over-one game forcing and Roman key-card Blackwood:
After the diamond raise West cannot be faulted for Blackwooding a slam would be excellent if East held as little as the A, K and K. West signs off in 5 when he discovers that two key cards are missing. Note: To avoid ambiguity when two suits are raised, I recommend you treat the higher ranking suit as the key suit; hence the K (not the K) is the fifth key card.
Alas, even five hearts is too high if declarer makes the normal matchpoint play of cashing the A, best play to win the maximum tricks. The safety play of finessing the 10 (or running the nine) would be appropriate at IMPs, except against a diamond lead when the danger of a ruff would be too great.
Back-to-back slam decisions! This time East-West are cold for 6 (seven with the diamond finesse), but it takes excellent bidding to get there with only 24 HCP. Here is an expert auction using two-over-one game forcing:
After the 2 response West establishes the spade fit at a low level. East describes his shape with 3 , West shows his heart control, and East bides time with 3 . (Some might advise a 4 bid to show the first-round control, but I reserve that bid to show the ace or king having a void in partners suit is a dubious asset.) The key bid is Wests second heart cue-bid, which relieves Easts concern about an opening heart lead.
Friendly breaks make 13 tricks easy. After a heart lead the proper technique is to lead a spade to the nine; ruff a heart high; diamond finesse; J; heart ruff; diamond finesse, and claim.
East-West are laydown for 10 tricks in spades, but active bidding by North-South leads to an excellent sacrifice. How about this auction:
Souths weak 2 opening with a five-card suit is controversial; but the meaty suit, favorable vulnerability and singleton spade make it clear-cut to me. Getting in the bidding first is usually an advantage.
Norths 3 response is intended as a lead-directing, defensive maneuver. Even those who play a new suit forcing (I do not) probably should bid 3 because they are protected by the vulnerability, the singleton spade and the heart tolerance. When East bids 4 , South should raise to 5 not the prettiest bid, but neither was 2 if were going to throw daggers.
East had better double 5 , which goes down three (500) assuming East gets a diamond ruff the obvious shift after an original spade lead.
Some East-Wests will push on to 5 , which has no chance aside from a defensive blunder.
The bidding should begin slowly but pick up fast:
Some South players may use a Michaels cue-bid, but I reserve that for a weak or game-going hand; hence I would overcall 1 intending to bid hearts later. West shows his heart suit before raising diamonds, North jumps to 4 as an advance sacrifice, and East doubles based on his singleton heart and partners 10 points.
Looking at four hands West should pass 4 doubled; but how often is it right to suppress six-card trump support for partner? No thanks; I would bid 5 as I intended all along. South probably should double on the It sounds like too much bidding principle and hope the setting trick appears it does in the A. Even if South leads a low spade, declarer cannot benefit because he is unable to reach his hand to shuck the club.
Those who play in 4 will suffer the foul breaks in hearts and clubs. Even the early play of a spade to the king does not spell relief most lines go down two.
The action continues! Heres a well-judged auction all around:
Easts preemptive jump to 3 may seem frightening, though its typical (at the vulnerability) for successful tournament players. The extra level of preemption as opposed to a mundane 2 makes it immensely more difficult for the opposition to contend. Yes, one could be doubled and go for 800 or more, but it seldom happens; the preemptor usually comes out unscathed, unless his partner does the scathing.
The key call is Norths pass over 4 . This indicates a willingness for South to bid further (compare Easts double of 4 on Board 4), and South gratefully obliges with 5 . At double-dummy West should continue to 5 , but the prospects of defeating 5 are too good to warrant a deliberate sacrifice, although not good enough to double.
The play in hearts is clear-cut for 11 tricks. A few might steal 12 by the risky play of leading a diamond before drawing trumps; if West ducks, its bye-bye ace.
At last, a peaceful partscore. In standard bidding its hard to imagine anything but:
Considering the weak-notrump systems and various defenses to 1 NT (e.g., Brozel users would double to show a one-suiter) many other auctions will occur, but the final contract is likely to be the same.
Against 2 East-West can win five tricks, but this is not so easy because of Easts aversion to lead a diamond with the queen in dummy. Assume a trump lead (my choice as West) to the ace, then the K as West follows with the five (discouraging). On the A an expert West would play the eight, his higher card to show preference for diamonds. (Without a high diamond West should play the seven, even with nothing in clubs, just to warn partner against a diamond shift.) Of course, it takes an expert to read this (or a lucky East who doesnt care) to get the diamond shift to hold declarer to eight tricks.
With an opening club lead it looks as if South can win nine tricks. Not true. Three rounds of clubs (throwing a diamond); heart to king; J, ruffed high as West sheds a heart; then West gets a heart ruff.
Back to the battlefields. West has a difficult Whos sacrificing against whom? decision that I suspect I would misguess at the table:
Easts jump to 3 is a limit raise sketchy, perhaps and South jumps to game as an advance sacrifice, which might make if North holds the right hand. West would have liked to bid 4 ; but what now?
A good philosophy when its not clear which side is sacrificing is to bid one more than you intended to bid if necessary to buy the contract; hence I would bid 5 . Observe that 5 is the right call if either 4 or 5 makes, while it is wrong only when both contracts fail. If you arbitrarily assume that either contract is 50-50 to make, you will be right 75 percent of the time.
So much for percentages; 5 is down one, as is 4 , with practically nothing to the play in either case.
As North I would double 5 (at matchpoints, not at IMPs), especially in an event like this where it is crucial to pile up high scores to win or place overall.
Based on 25 years (or minutes) of bridge experience, I will predict:
I suppose a few diehard Souths might balance with a double, lucking out as 1 NT should be set. North-South also can make 2 if they find a way to get there.
Against 1 NT assume North leads the 4 to the king, ace. Most Wests will attack diamonds by leading low to dummy. Put that queen back! North should play low, after which the defenders will get two diamonds, three spades and three clubs with routine play down two.
Can declarer do better? Maybe. Lead a club at trick two; low, queen, king. Assume the defenders cash their spades and shift to a heart. Lead another club, win the heart return and exit with a club. North or South must now give dummy the Q or lead diamonds, allowing declarer to escape for down one.
Hold on! The defenders should cash their club winners before exiting in hearts to make declarer lead diamonds from hand. If declarer tries to prevent this by cashing A-K immediately, the defense can set up a heart and a diamond trick before declarer sets up his fourth club a cute double-dummy exercise.
Assuming West stays out of the bidding, many Drury advocates will bid this way:
As a passed hand the 2 response is an artificial force to inquire if South has a full opening bid. Most Drury users play that it promises a fit (I am in the minority and do not), in which case South may as well bid 4 , since slam is out of reach.
Against a heart lead declarer forces out the A, wins the heart continuation and draws trumps. Eleven tricks can be made by double-finessing in clubs run the J; if covered, return to hand and run the nine but this is an inferior play. It gains only when West has both club honors and may cost the contract in the other cases.
As any reputable player should see, the contract is cold with the given defense. Declarer should lead diamonds to develop a club discard. The best technique is to save a heart winner in dummy then, after drawing trumps, cross to the heart not in clubs, else the opponents may establish a club before you establish a diamond and lead a diamond to the 10. This results in just 10 tricks as the cards lie; but if East held the Q, declarer would still have a chance for the overtrick.
Bold bidders have a knack for landing on their feet. Hows this for wriggling:
When South doubles 2 for penalty, West senses its the wrong contract; two of a red suit will surely be an improvement. Rather than guess which, he redoubles (S-O-S) to force East to choose. Voila, a 4-4 fit. South is less impressed and doubles again.
Bidding tip: It is a useful agreement that a redouble below game is a rescue when a nonforcing bid is doubled for penalty; or if any double is passed for penalty.
Two hearts can always be made. Assume three rounds of spades, ruffed and overruffed, then a diamond shift. Ruff a club; A; diamond ruff; club ruff; J (pitch a club). South can win only his natural trump tricks.
My fantasy trek in 2 will not be a common contract, as some North-Souths will collect numbers against less resourceful opponents. Others will play in notrump, where the par result is nine tricks with perfect play and defense a parlay like catching a unicorn and dodo bird in the same net.
Passed out! I could reduce my work by skipping this deal, but lets assume North opens light (third seat) and East makes a frisky overcall. What should South do?
Considering the alternatives, I would make a negative double yes, this shows four spades, although in this case it doesnt produce them. The double is flexible, as it allows you to reach 1 NT if North has a heart stopper, or maybe a 4-3 spade fit, either of which rates to provide more matchpoints than a club contract. There are risks of course like a 3-3 spade fit if North gets fancy too but Ill take my chances.
Wests hand is too good for 2 so he cue-bids 2 , a one-round force, which confirms a heart fit over the negative double. (Without a fit West would redouble to show strength.) East signs off in 2 , South competes to 3 , and West competes to 3 .
Three hearts is easily made with the friendly layout. The only foreseeable variation would be an overtrick if the defenders fail to cash their club tricks.
Norths 19 points on this deal are more of an obstacle than an asset, as many players will bid themselves into trouble. Heres a sensible auction all around:
West would have done better to pass 1 down two with routine defense but with four cards in each major and being a passed hand, the takeout double stands out. Norths 1 NT shows 18-19 points (assuming a 15-17 opening range). East gives a thought to defending 1 NT, perhaps doubling; but the point count is a bit thin, so he competes to 2 .
Did you notice that North-South missed a 4-4 heart fit? Good thing! They also missed minus 200, the probable outcome. Norths decision to go quietly over 2 shows good judgment.
East can make his 2 contract, but plus 90 will not bring any happiness. Even if he steals an overtrick, plus 110 will still be below average. When this deal was played in England, most North-South pairs went for 200 or more; and I suspect the same will hold true today on our side of the pond.
Another Drury exercise (compare Board 9), only this time for East-West:
Easts hand is too good for 2 so he uses the Drury 2 bid. West signs off in game, since theres little hope for slam opposite a passed hand. One could construct a hand for a laydown slam ( A-x x-x-x-x-x A-x-x K-x-x), but chasing rainbows invariably delivers the pot of gold to ones opponents.
Was I thinking about slam? Forgive me. Even game can be defeated with good defense. Norths standout lead is the 10, and dummy plays the king. South can deduce this to be a short suit either 10-x or 10-9-x because it is abnormal to lead the 10 from 10-9-x-x or 10-9-x-x-x (an x card is correct). Since South has no entry outside of spades, he should duck the first trick a signal with the seven is probably right, even though it may promote declarers fourth spade (a useless trick). As soon as North gains the lead in clubs or diamonds, a second spade beats the contract.
Against any other lead (or if South wins the first trick) 4 is easily made by establishing clubs.
After a third-seat opening by West, North-South are likely to reach a club partscore:
Souths hand is too good for a single raise so he cue-bids 2 , a one-round force, then bids 3 to invite game. North has a minimum two-level overcall so he passes a case can be made to bid 3 NT (especially in an event like this) but its clearly an overbid.
Against 3 assume East leads the 3 to the queen, ace. Declarers best effort is a club to dummy, then a diamond; king, jack, eight. Easts diamond spot is suit preference for a spade shift (compare the defense on Board 6). West leads a low spade to Easts king, then the spade return is won by the jack. West deduces from the bidding that North has no more spades, and exits safely with a diamond. Declarer cannot avoid losing a heart trick, so he is held to the minimum (plus 110), a good score for East-West.
Those who stretch to 3 NT will be pleased: Thanks for the 10, partner. The only defense to beat 3 NT is an original low-spade lead by East.
Using two-over-one game forcing and 1 NT forcing, East has a borderline decision after Wests 1 opening. Lacking suit texture and with a singleton spade, I would take the conservative route and bid this way:
Two notrump invites game, and West rejects with only 12 points. In my view West is closer to accepting look at all those spot cards than East is to forcing to game. I would not criticize a raise to 3 NT by West.
Conservatism pays off this time, as 3 NT should be defeated barring a defensive error. Assume South leads the 4; nine, jack, king. Declarers best chance is to try to develop the club suit with one loser and hope the opponents cannot (or do not) win three spade tricks so a low club to the 10, jack. This bears no fruit, and the inevitable result is eight tricks.
What about double-dummy? Declarer leads a spade at trick two. If South ducks, 3 NT can be made by stripping Souths hearts and clubs, then throwing him in with a diamond to get a spade at the end. But South can play double-dummy too: Hop with the A, then were back to the par result of eight tricks.
Like Board 15, one side has a 12-opposite-12 notrump decision, but this time aided by a sturdy six-card suit. Game should be reached, usually on this auction:
North may consider showing his heart suit over 2 NT; but South would not have four hearts, and it would only advertise the diamond weakness.
Assume West leads the 2; queen, ace. Running the club suit immediately is not wise, as South would have uncomfortable discards, and the lead would be in the wrong hand to attack spades. The correct play is a spade to the king. Assuming the clubs run, this guarantees the contract whenever West has the A; if East has the A, South will still succeed if he has a second diamond stopper, i.e., if East has the 10.
If you made 3 NT by attacking hearts, count your lucky stars. This is an inferior play, as it gives East two chances K or A to obtain the lead for the dreaded diamond through your J-9.
If West leads a spade originally, declarer can win 10 tricks by running clubs then leading a low heart; and a few will win 11 if East pitches a heart.
Should East open 1 or 2 ? Should he bid spades-clubs-spades? Or spades-spades-clubs? Or ignore clubs altogether? Nothing seems to work smoothly. Lets see what might happen after a strong 2 :
Not pretty, and perhaps deservedly down one. Essentially 4 requires 3-3 trumps (or Q-J doubleton).
Five clubs is the best game, but it requires exacting play, arguably double-dummy. Assume South leads a diamond (obeying Norths lead-directing double) to the queen, ace. Declarer cashes one top spade; spade ruff; club to 10 (North cannot gain by hopping with the ace); spade ruff with the king. If North overruffs, declarer can ruff the third diamond high and draw trumps; if North discards, another club is led.
What about 3 NT? The defense prevails. except after a low diamond lead won by the jack. Then declarer can force out the A and play spades from the top, eventually scoring the Q as his ninth trick.
In retrospect I am convinced East should open 1 , and West should pass. Found my level!
Assuming West has no morals about weak two-bids, the bidding might go:
Wests bid is not outrageous in third seat at favorable vulnerability indeed, some swordsmen would open 3 because its likely the opponents can make a game. North overcalls in hearts, and East raises to 3 . Souths raise to 3 is hefty, but hes concerned about his poor trumps and doubtful K (surprise, its a winner).
After any lead but a spade the play is simple: Force out the A-K, draw trumps and claim 11 tricks.
After an original spade lead declarer is subject to a tap and must play carefully to make 10 tricks: Win the A, give up a heart, ruff a spade, and lead a heart. If East ducks, simply run clubs and let East take two trump tricks whenever he wants. If East wins the second trump and returns a spade, ruff to leave one trump in each hand (East has two); run clubs until East ruffs; trump the spade return; cross to dummy with a diamond, and draw Easts last trump with the seven and you might want to thank West for having a singleton eight.
This deal belongs to East-West in a diamond partial, but competent North-South pairs will not go quietly. I would expect something like:
South uses good judgment to push to 4 ; it might even make if he catches North with the right dummy. Wests double is questionable but I think right assuming 4 is invitational; certainly its right this time.
Against 4 assume a diamond lead to the ace, then a low spade; queen, king, ace. Declarer ruffs the diamond return and leads a heart to East, who returns a club won by the king; another heart goes to East, then another club. Declarer probably should guess to play the ace based on Wests double and East leading clubs (if East held the Q, West might have led clubs). The result is down one or two accordingly.
Some East-Wests will push to 5 , perhaps as West on the auction shown. This would be the winning action if East held x K-x-x Q-x-x-x-x K-J-x-x, or various other hands, but East might have cue-bid 3 in some cases. Bidding game seems anti-percentage.
In diamonds 10 tricks are inevitable, unless South ducks a club led from dummy to hand over 11.
A weak 2 opening by West is against the norm too skimpy vulnerable, and a major Q-x-x is undesirable so the bidding is likely to go:
Easts conservative 2 (instead of 3 ) is based on three factors: the vulnerability, the doubtful spade suit, and holding three low cards in openers suit all of which are danger signs to an experienced player. Those who bid 3 would well deserve the minus 1100 they could be set.
It is unrealistic to double 2 for penalty, so most Souths will bid 3 (forcing) and North will bid 3 NT. Souths hand is ideal for a quantitative raise to 4 NT to invite slam, and North passes with a bare minimum.
Bidding tip: I recommend you treat 4 NT as natural (not Blackwood) whenever your side has previously bid notrump naturally and no major suit is agreed.
The play presents no problem with the friendly heart position; almost everyone should win 11 tricks, losing two aces. A few might win 12 if West ducks the first diamond lead, or if East refuses two spade leads, but its hard to find any merit in these defenses.
A case can be made for not using Stayman with the junky South hand, but most players will, and it leads to a superior suit contract:
The modern tendency is to bid hearts first over Stayman, resulting in 4 , where straightforward play brings home 10 tricks. Assuming a spade lead, declarer wins in hand and draws three rounds of trumps ending in dummy. A minor suit (makes no difference which) is led to the king, then the Q entry is used to lead the other minor suit.
Those who bid spades first over Stayman will reach 4 , which is likely to fail with the 4-1 trump break. Assume a heart lead, won in hand, then two top spades to reveal the bad break. Curtains! Declarer cannot afford to lead another heart (East can get a ruff) or another spade (East can lead a fourth spade), so the par result is down one.
At double-dummy 4 can be made: Win the heart queen at trick one, lead a diamond to the king, and exit with a diamond. The best defense is three rounds of clubs, which declarer must ruff high, then draw trumps with the discovered finesse through East.
Some Souths will use Michaels, but I prefer 1 because I want partner to prefer spades with equal length in the majors. Heres one reasonable auction:
East has a difficult choice of reopening calls: A double is dangerous with the singleton heart; 2 is pushy, plus the suit is anemic; 2 is stagnant; and pass is cowardly. I prefer 1 NT slightly off-shape, but my singleton is a stopper at least. This gives South another chance, so he opts for 3 , and North raises to game.
It appears that East did South a favor by reopening. Hardly; 4 is ripped to shreds by continued club leads. Assume South ruffs the third club high (West ditches spades) and leads a top heart to the ace. The fourth club is ruffed high (West throws his last spade), and dummy is entered with the 9. The J is overtaken with the queen as West ruffs, then a heart return clears trumps. The end result is down three, assuming East has kept a high club.
A better play is to cash the A at trick four, then crossruff. West should uppercut dummy on the second spade to ensure a trick for his 8 down one.
There are a number of ways to bid this deal, depending on both system and judgment; however, I believe that simplest is best:
Some will quarrel with Easts immediate raise its too flat; its too good; partner might have four hearts but the alternative of 1 NT is no salvation. If you later give a spade preference, partner will expect a doubleton (assuming five-card majors); and even if partner bids hearts, a raise to 3 may get you overboard.
Others will quarrel with Wests failure to search for an alternate contract it cant hurt to bid 3 because you can always play 4 . Nonsense! For every occasion you improve the contract, there are likely to be three occasions in which the information helps the opponents with their defense. I would bid 3 only if there were a reasonable chance for slam.
Game in either major suit easily produces 11 tricks, however, those who play in hearts can win 12 if North leads a minor suit. Note that in spades declarer cannot benefit from any lead (well, except the K).
Four-eyed bidders will point out that 3 NT is the top spot, with 11 tricks makable against any defense.
Visions of Board 11. No one has an opening bid, yet these deals usually get opened. Lets assume South had his Wheaties for breakfast:
Norths response is the one notrump forcing convention, which is only intended as forcing by a passed hand. This is analogous to a new-suit response, in that opener will pass if he opened light. (The 1 NT response should not contain a trump fit if you play Drury; see Boards 9 and 13.)
If East leads the J, North has an easy road to eight tricks: Win the queen, cross to dummy with a diamond, and lead the 9. Some will win 10 tricks if West fails to cover (my students know better) and East fails to shift to hearts.
An original club lead also gives declarer eight tricks, unless West is clairvoyant and plays the 5 as dummy plays low (then declarer can be held to his contract).
Double-dummy fans will love this defense: Q lead overtaken by West, who switches to a spade. The best declarer can do now is to cash out for down one (or exit with a heart for the same result). If he tries the club finesse, he is down two.
East is likely to buy the contract in 3 after a competitive auction, such as this bid-em-up special:
Souths negative double is the Its my turn variety, as Q-J-x in an opponents suit is undesirable on offense. Nonetheless, the fifth heart and K-10-x in partners suit offer some compensation; so Id be there.
Over Wests routine raise, North uses good judgment (I think) to compete in hearts, and East presses to 3 . South gives a thought to saying 4 , but he fired all his bullets last turn; enough is enough.
Three spades is easily made, as long as declarer does not foolishly lead trumps and expect to use the club suit. After a diamond lead the best technique is lead hearts, then eventually declarer will be able to ruff a heart and take the club finesse.
A heart contract plays surprisingly well for North-South. After the A lead 10 tricks can be won. Assume a trump shift (best) then the 2 lead by North: If East wins and leads a trump, declarer can draw trumps, run the diamonds (throwing clubs) and concede a spade. If East ducks, declarer can ruff out the K, draw a second trump and exit with a diamond.
Should South overcall in a topless suit? Should West respond on rubbish? Style and tactics will account for many different scenarios. Heres one:
South passes with his dubious lead-director, and West keeps the bidding open perhaps praying for a 1 rebid by opener. North doubles for takeout, and East judges well to raise with three trumps.
Bidding tip: Do not overlook the three-card raise as opener, especially when alternatives are doubtful. The fear that partner may have only four is unwarranted. Many 4-3 fits play well (especially if three-trump hand can ruff), and partner often has five cards anyway.
Over 2 South must choose between an underbid and an overbid. The conservative call is 3 , which easily makes 10 tricks. On the aggressive side, South might try 4 (poor without a singleton or void) or 3 NT right on the money in my view except for one small defect, it goes down with a heart lead. Thats partners fault of course, as any good partner would lay down 10-x-x when you overbid (compare Board 14).
Having suggested a few adventurous weak two-bids, heres one to appease the conservative crowd:
Easts hand is a bit hefty for an overcall, so he begins with a takeout double then shows his spade suit over the forced response. West now expects to reach game with an ace and a king, but he is not sure of the best contract. The 3 cue-bid is flexible, as East may bid 3 with three-card support; 3 with a six-card suit; 3 NT with a diamond stopper; or 4 with a secondary suit.
Four spades is easily made as the cards lie, but there is a trap. The defense is likely to begin with two top diamonds, then the J shift. Declarer has no problem if he plays the queen; but the jack might be a singleton, so he may take the ace and try the heart finesse before drawing trumps. Ouch! Not only does North win the Q but he gets a club ruff down two.
A better play (after winning the A) is to run all the trumps to reach a four-card ending. A keen declarer might even guess the position and make an overtrick, as South is legitimately squeezed.
Easy bidding, and an easy game for East-West. The vast majority will duplicate this auction:
Four spades produces an overtrick, as long as declarer plays the diamond suit properly: Low to the king first. Postponing the finesse for the jack until the second round guards against the actual layout.
A resourceful declarer might steal a 12th trick by enticing an error against weak opponents. Assume a club lead to the king, ace; draw three rounds of trumps, ruff a club (do not cash the queen) and lead a diamond. When South wins the ace, he might return a club pitiful, but stranger things have happened.
A few intrepid North players may disregard the vulnerability and cue-bid 2 as Michaels (at least 5-5 shape with hearts and a minor). South should then compete to 5 over 4 . This is an excellent sacrifice with routine play: Ruff the spade lead, draw trumps ending in North, and establish clubs down one, regardless of the defense. Perhaps West should ignore this detour and push onward to 5 , daring the opposition to make one more peep.
After North opens 1 , East is too strong for 2 , and a jump to 4 is misdescriptive. A strong cue-bid would be appropriate, but this is Michaels for most players. The normal course is to begin with a takeout double:
West ignores his longer club suit to show the unbid major (a dubious decision), and North competes to 2 . East pulls himself up off the floor from the shock and takes a chance with 4 . Meanwhile, South wont be muffled forever some players would have bid the first time and raises to 4 . This comes back to East, who feels he has too many hearts to double; so 5 .
Eleven tricks are cold in hearts. The only variation may occur if North inexplicably fails to cash two spade tricks then the fifth club can be established (using the trump suit for entries) to win 12 tricks.
East could have converted Souths free call of 4 into a free call of his own the 1-800 variety by doubling. After cashing a top heart, the defense can lead three rounds of clubs to allow East to score a trump trick. Oh, the price of raising with three-small.
Most North-South pairs will duplicate this standard auction:
Despite a point-count deficiency, North may consider slam. Its possible (as on Board 13) to construct a magic dummy; e.g., K-Q-x-x K-x-x A-K-x-x-x x, which offers an excellent play for 6 . Nonetheless, smart bidders will miss such slams as well as this one, which wont even produce 11 tricks.
Some timid Souths may deem their hand worth only a raise to 2 , but North will bid again anyway to reach the same contract.
Only an overtrick is at stake in the play. After a club lead, East must find the right switch when he wins the K. One possibility is to lead a heart to establish a third-round winner (if West has A-J-10 A-x-x) before declarer can establish diamonds; this is correct at IMPs (sets the contract) but a long shot at matchpoints. More realistic is to lead a diamond for the cash-out. Also, some players show suit preference at trick one when dummy has a singleton, in which case a low club by West directs the way.
How do you handle the West hand after a 1 opening? Something can be said for an immediate 3 NT, but a lot could be said against it. Most will double, and I can sympathize with West on this development:
Wests notrump prospects are dulled by Souths 2 , so he bids his club suit then tries a matchpoint double when South competes further. Surely, this is the ideal occasion to try for plus 200.
Wrong! Make that minus 670, assuming West is astute enough to shift to a trump else its minus 870 as 3 is untouchable. Oh well; maybe theres more to be said for that 3 NT bid.
Wests who play 3 NT will have varied results, mostly depending on the lead: The K of course is the killer; down two. After the 9 lead to the queen, declarer can cash eight tricks; if he tries for nine (e.g., by ducking the first trick) he might succeed then again he might go down three if South wises up. Finally, there are those who never lead their partners suit: 4, jack. Thank you very much; next deal.
Using strong notrumps and Jacoby transfers, many East-Wests will bid this way:
Two diamonds shows at least five hearts, East dutifully completes the transfer, and West passes to sign off. West would bid again over 2 if he were interested in game or slam. The Jacoby transfer is a flexible device, which I highly recommend.
The play in hearts offers nine tricks either by double-finessing in clubs or, more esoterically, by a squeeze. Assume the play begins with three rounds of diamonds, ruffed; a heart to the queen, ace; and a heart return. Best technique is to win the king (to unblock the suit) then lead the ace and another spade. Assume a spade return, ruffed; lead a low club to the queen, then run trumps to squeeze North.
Some North-Souths will not go so quietly. South may double 2 for takeout, North may balance on his own, or the East-West bidding may be different. Contracts of 2 NT and 3 can be made, but the top banana is 2 : Win the A; spade to 10, ace; heart ruff; A; heart ruff; Q; K; K, then run diamonds; if East ruffs he is endplayed in clubs plus 140.
Sensible bidding by East-West will lead to an easy partscore, though an onlooker might wonder, What happened to the majors?
West uses good judgment to pass the first time an immediate club raise would surely propel East into a hopeless 3 NT (down three). East also wisely rejects a stab at notrump over 2 or 3 , since one diamond stopper is not enough; clubs will not be running in light of Wests initial pass.
The play in clubs should produce 10 tricks. Dummys entries should be used to lead twice toward the K-Q; then theres no need to fool with the spades, although that suit is friendly too.
If North-South compete to 3 (or 3 ) East should double, hoping for plus 300. South appears to have only seven tricks in diamonds, but skillful play may produce eight: Assume the Q lead to the ace; diamond to ace; K; diamond return; draw the last trump; spade to jack, king; ruff the club return and run trumps to leave Q-6 A-9 in dummy. Declarer can win two more tricks no matter which four cards East keeps.
Most East-West pairs will have a simple auction:
In spades eight tricks are easy, but the battle for nine is interesting. Assume a heart lead; low, nine, king; A, then a club to Souths queen. Best defense is a diamond shift (before declarer can discard on the A), so North wins the A and returns a diamond to Souths queen. When declarer gets to dummy with a club ruff, he can throw his last club on the A and finesse in spades (per restricted-choice principles) to win nine tricks.
Are you convinced? Look again. On the first club lead South should duck (to save his entry) and let North win; then three rounds of diamonds as before. South wins the next club and leads a fourth diamond to promote a trump trick. If dummy ruffs high, North discards; else North ruffs with the eight-spot.
But wait! The final blow goes to declarer, who can drop the K under the ace to gain entry to dummy.
Meanwhile, back on planet Earth a few North-Souths may get in the bidding no doubt by some egregious action and land in 3 . Routine play leads to down one, a good sacrifice against 2 , unless West makes a matchpoint double. In the score box note the extreme difference between minus 100 and 200.
I have mentioned the Michaels cue-bid several times as an alternative (Boards 4, 22 and 28), but here I think it is appropriate:
Norths 2 shows a weak hand note the favorable vulnerability with both majors (usually 5-5 shape). East doubles to show strength, and South indicates his preference. East-West will not get rich doubling 2 , which might even make, so East ignores the distraction and tries 3 NT.
The play in notrump produces 10 tricks there is no way to make more and no way to make less. My scoring chart would be: 630 = 50; anything else, see a doctor. Past results from England ensure that I will eat these words, but I expect less deviation in ACBL-land.
Even Easts who receive a low club lead (normal if North doesnt bid) should make the same 10 tricks. Correct play is low from dummy, gaining if the lead is from Q-9 or J-9, which is twice as likely as Q-J.
I suppose a few pairs will play in 5 ; but at matchpoints you might as well bid 6 , then if hearts were 4-3 you would be headed for a great score.
Standard bidders should duplicate this auction:
Thankful to escape a club lead, declarer has to decide the best strategy after the 10. If this is a standard lead (i.e., might be Q-10-9 or 10-9-8) it is better to play the jack at trick one otherwise the finesse cannot be taken safely. If the lead is zero or two higher (i.e., cannot be Q-10-9) declarer should play low from dummy and win the ace; later the queen meets the guillotine.
Defensive tip: The above scenario is one reason why many top experts prefer standard opening leads. Leads that show or deny specific honors are often more helpful to declarer than to partner.
The heart guess is the only legitimate variation in the outcome, but I suppose some North players will donate a trick by throwing away too many spades.
The Greatest Con Job award goes to this line of play: Win the K and lead a club; four, jack, king. Assuming a non-club return, North can be squeezed down to one club and then thrown in to lead spades 11 tricks, and a couple of furious opponents.
© 1991 Richard Pavlicek