The 36 deals in this collection were played September 23, 1993 in the seventh 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.
This looms as an unlucky deal for aggressive bidders. Its hard to fault this North-South auction:
Even if East gets into the fray with a spade bid, the same final contract may be reached.
The play in 3 NT contains a cute defensive technique. Assume East leads the 5; ace, six, seven. Declarers only legitimate chance is to cash the A (no luck); then a diamond is conceded to West who returns the 3; jack, king. East should return the eight to Wests queen, and then underplay Wests three with his deuce to force a club return to extract the maximum set; down three.
South can win nine tricks in diamonds, but many will win 10 when the defense fails to attack hearts in time.
In spades East-West can win nine tricks. Note that declarer can avoid a club loser regardless of the defense, since North can be kept off lead.
Having just got a poor score with bold bidding, South should keep pushing. If this also goes sour, he can begin his postmortem, But partner, I had four nines
The fate of 3 NT depends mostly on the defense. If East leads a low heart, North gets his queen and has an easy route to nine tricks if he plays spades properly (ace then king).
After any other lead (excluding the ridiculous Q or K) the defense can always prevail. The most trying defense (perhaps unrealistic) occurs if East leads the K; club shift won by the king; 9, jack, queen, ace; then East must shift to a low diamond. When West wins the Q, a heart back ensures defeat.
This deal also contains interesting play variations in spades. Nine tricks can always be won, but this requires double-dummy play if West starts a club (best).
A classic, Howard Schenken approved, weak two-bid should start and end the bidding at many tables.
The defense can be vicious: A; K; Q ruffed with 10 and overruffed; A; K; diamond ruff; heart ruffed with 9; and East must still get two more trump tricks down three.
If East chooses to balance with 2 NT (poor judgment I think), West should raise to game.
Can East make 3 NT? Not with a heart or the Q lead; but suppose South leads a spade (Ill make him a hero with the queen): North sheds a heart (best); East wins the king and leads the Q, which North must duck (else declarer can establish three clubs) then the 9 as North ducks again! OK, if you want to play that way, declarer now leads a spade to South, squeezing North out of a diamond; then declarer will win a ninth trick in spades or diamonds.
I wouldnt expect this auction to be duplicated at most tables, but it looks sensible to me:
Easts 1 NT rebid is not according to system but rather the least of evils. West tries to sign off in clubs; East invites game with his extra values, and West finally gets his message across good partnership bidding.
After the K lead, ruffed, a spade is led to Norths king. If North shifts to a trump to reduce the crossruff, East should fly with the ace (how sweet); diamond ruff; spade ruff; diamond ruff; spade ruff; draw trumps and South can be endplayed in diamonds for a heart lead 11 tricks. If North leads his heart at trick three, the same road is available, but more likely East will try to ruff all his diamonds and wind up with only 9 or 10 tricks.
East-West pairs who play in notrump can win at most eight tricks (heart lead, A) and might be brutalized with the K followed by a spade switch.
A routine 4 contract should be reached at most tables, perhaps on this standard auction:
The favorable heart position allows declarer to win 11 tricks, but this is double-dummy. Even after the best defense of a club shift at trick two, declarer would be foolish to rely on a double heart finesse. A better play is to win the A and lead a heart to the jack; when this wins, cash the A and run diamonds hoping to discard Norths clubs in time. This yields 10 tricks.
If West cashes both spades before a club shift, another possibility arises: Lead the Q before trumps. This works well as the cards lie but is dubious, as it might cost the contract if East had a higher heart spot.
Some North-South pairs may ignore their heart fit and try 3 NT. This yields 10 tricks with best defense (club shift) and best play (double heart finesse), but I expect a lot of variety in the range of 8-11 tricks.
Almost all North-South pairs should reach the obvious 3 NT with 26 HCP. A popular auction will be:
Some Norths may prefer a 1 response instead of 1 , but the rest of the auction should be the same. In either case declarer will have an easy time scoring up 11 tricks if East leads a red suit.
Now consider the J lead; queen, king, ace. When West wins the A, he returns the 8, which declarer should duck. (Assuming East has the 10, covering could only gain if West began with K-8-7; but then East would not lead the jack from J-10-6-4-3.) When East wins the third spade, he might try a deceptive 6; but declarer should finesse, since West would likely have overcalled if he held any more high cards. Declarer can win 10 tricks.
Those who reach 3 NT from the South side can win 11 tricks with all-out play. In fact, after a spade lead, West must shift to a diamond when he wins the A to break up a crisscross squeeze for 12 tricks.
Most North-South pairs will play game in hearts, often after this auction:
Accurate play brings home 12 tricks. After a spade lead declarer can ruff two spades in dummy (returning to hand with the Q and a club ruff) and later finesse in diamonds. An original trump lead makes it tougher, but declarer can still cope: Win the Q; A; spade ruff; then a low club if West ducks, declarer gets his two spade ruffs; if West hops and leads a trump, declarer can discard a spade on the K.
Would you like to sacrifice in 4 ? Its not so easy to get out for down two (minus 500). After a heart lead and a low trump shift (best) one successful line is to win with the jack and lead a diamond to the 10, jack. South cannot lead clubs or diamonds without loss; so a heart is ruffed; K, ace, ruff; heart ruff; 10 to queen, etc. Another winning line (surely double-dummy) is to start clubs early by leading low to the 10-9-3.
Most Norths should buy the contract here, especially after the direct route:
A case can be made for opening 1 or a conservative 3 , but either would be thrown out of court in my jurisdiction. The immediate 4 makes it most difficult for the opponents.
There is nothing to the play. Regardless of the lead (well, except for the K) North should win 10 tricks, losing the obvious two diamonds and a spade. I noticed on the frequency charts of past results that a surprising number of players made 11 tricks. Could the defense be that bad across the pond? Or has British declarer play reached a new plateau?
It is apparent that East-West have a great sacrifice in 5 (down one). This would be found if West chose to open 3 (reasonable at matchpoints) or maybe if North opened 1 allowing East to start the ball rolling with a 1 overcall. After the 4 opening, the only logical avenue would be if East made an aggressive double (takeout or optional).
After a weak 2 by North, should East bid his lousy suit or make a takeout double?
I prefer the overcall, but make the spades J-x-x-x-x (no 10) and I would double. The overcall works better here, as it allows West to diagnose the fit immediately. After a takeout double West might cue-bid 4 and then pass 4 , but this is a blind stab; more likely the final contract would be 5 for an inferior matchpoint result.
The play problem in 4 is to guess the trump suit, and the bidding guides the way. After winning the A, declarer should cross to the A and lead a low spade; nine, 10, king; then ruff the heart return. Declarer now leads the 7 (psychologically better than the five) and South plays the three. If South held all of the missing trumps, it would better to let this ride; but in that event South might have played the eight to avoid a loss of tempo. Hence, the superior play is the ace and great the fall thereon to make 11 tricks easy.
Note that if North won the Q on the first trump lead, declarer would have a simple finesse against South.
Here is one of many routes to 4 :
Some Wests will respond 1 , but I like 1 with the meaty suit and lack of secondary heart honors (compare Board 6). Suggesting diamond strength often aids later decisions, and here subdues East after one slam try.
Assume South defends passively with a diamond lead. Declarer can win 11 tricks: K; J (South cannot gain by covering); heart to 10; then finesse and run clubs. If South ruffs, declarer will later discard a spade on the fourth club. If North covers the first or second club (blocking the suit) and South sheds a diamond on the third round, declarer wins K-Q and ruffs a diamond. South now can overruff and shut out the last club; alas, all for naught as South is endplayed in spades.
If declarer does not finesse South in hearts, he can win only 10 tricks, and some will botch the play to be set.
If West is declarer, three rounds of spades ( J lead) holds him to 10 tricks (except at double-dummy).
The late Sonny Moyse would like this deal. Nine cold tricks in notrump, yet 10 in his favorite kind of trump fit. Im not sure if Moyse would open the South hand, but I know he would make the three-card raise.
One indication for the raise is the possibility of a heart ruff in the South hand; another is that Souths quick heart stoppers may not provide enough time in notrump, and South is not strong enough to bid 2 NT anyway. Further, in an instant matchpoint event, you need to mount a big score to win. Did I spell opportunity?
Some Souths will use a support double to show three spades, but I dont like this gadget. I feel the information is just as helpful to the enemy, while a penalty double is valuable behind the bidder. I prefer to raise with three or four trumps and let everyone guess.
Of course the great majority of players will play in 3 NT, which is undeniably sound (especially at IMPs or total points) and easily made by forcing out the A. Too bad
should have listened to Sonny!
Heres a wild one. If West favors aggressive preempts surely his hand is at least a queen better than Bergen standards it is easy to predict this auction:
Norths final pass assumes the popular treatment that Souths double is penalty oriented. In expert circles, however, it is usually optional, in which case North should probably bid 5 , an easy make on the layout.
In 4 East is routinely down two. He must lose three hearts, a spade and a club as long as North leads a trump at some point to prevent a heart ruff. Minus 300 is a good score for East-West; and if North bids 5 , East would do well to bid 5 to dish out 500 instead of 600.
It is evident that the optimum contract for North-South is 4 NT (or even 5 NT if necessary) but this cannot be reached. Why not? Because virtually all good players treat 4 NT or 5 NT as some kind of takeout device over an enemy spade preempt. And so it should be. Even if South were able to bid 4 NT as a natural bid, would it be justified on the South cards? Hardly.
It is hard to predict an auction here, as there are close decisions (and potential disasters) for either side. Here is one possibility using the forcing 1 NT response:
The friendly breaks allow East-West to win 10 tricks: Win the A; cross to the K; lead the 10 losing to the king; lose two spades; win the A; A; A; diamond ruff; draw the last trump and claim. North can alter the play with a fourth spade lead (South throws his last diamond) but declarer can cope.
The above auction made it rather easy for East-West to find their heart fit; but what if South passes 1 ? I must admit I would bid 2 as West, and I dont see a rational sequence thereafter to reach hearts. Help!
By the way, if you dont like 1 NT forcing, test your play in 1 NT with the 7 lead. Did you call for the queen? Yeah, sure you did. You would finesse the 10, and when the smoke clears you are down four.
The play in 2 is also a nightmare; down three.
Most tournament players open 2 NT with 20 points (though Norths barren hand is arguably an exception) so I would expect this Jacoby-transfer auction:
Souths 3 shows five or more hearts; 3 is forced; then 3 NT offers a choice of games.
Assume East leads the 7 to the queen. The contract is hopeless, so wave your magic wand: Win the K and return a club! Would East play the jack? Maybe, if he has crocodilian heritage; but he will likely play the nine. West shifts to a spade to the king, and North wins two hearts as West ducks. Now cash the A! If West plays low, cross to the A and lead a diamond to the queen; later West is given his fourth spade and he must give South a heart as your ninth trick. If West drops the K under the ace, then cash the top spades and put East on lead with a club for a diamond endplay. Cute.
Somehow, I still predict down one.
Many will disdain Souths weak two-bid (poor suit, support for hearts) but one cannot wait for ideal hands. The advantage of the first strike is evident:
West wants to show both minors. He cannot bid 2 NT or 3 NT (these are natural) so his options are to overcall in one suit and hope to bid the other later, or to bid 4 NT. I prefer the latter, and East bids his better minor.
Assume South leads his diamond; king, ace. If North gives the ruff, declarer can succeed (ruff one diamond with the Q and discard one on the K). The winning defense is a spade return to the ace. East next leads the 10 and South must pitch a heart, after which declarer is out of resources; down one.
East, holding strength in both majors, might take the view to pass 4 NT. After West recovers from the shock, he should grab the opening spade lead with the ace, unblock hearts and lead the K; 10 tricks.
If you passed the South hand as dealer, you probably had the displeasure of leading a spade against 3 NT.
Some Souths will open 1 NT to avoid an awkward rebid problem, but this looks wrong to me (clubs are too weak, hand may be too strong). I prefer:
South is disappointed when his manufactured 2 bid is dropped; but when the dummy is tabled he should be pleased with the contract.
Assume West leads a trump (a good strategy). This may appear helpful to declarer, but not really. South can win nine tricks in several ways, but the only way to win 10 is to take the heart finesse. An original club lead allows South to ruff a club in hand, after which 10 tricks can be won by taking the diamond finesse.
The result of a notrump contract depends mostly on Wests lead. After a diamond lead (yuk), South can win nine tricks. After the K, eight tricks (win A, lead 10). After a low spade or the 10 (my choice) again there are eight tricks (duck a diamond). A club lead will hold declarer to seven tricks with best play.
I would expect this auction at many tables:
Wests jump rebid invites game, and East judges well to decline, influenced mainly by his singleton heart.
Assume North leads a diamond and the king is taken in dummy. Best play is to cash the A, throwing a club, then lead a spade to the 10. This is the only chance to take the spade finesse (the Q is unlikely to provide a later entry since South rates to have the ace). It is true that all hell might break loose if North had the J, but everything is friendly; nine tricks.
Another way to succeed is to strand the A in dummy and clear trumps. This might avert a trump promotion on certain layouts, but it seems inferior since it requires a favorable club lie. Then again, its hard for the defense to diagnose, so take full credit if you found it.
Notrump bidders will not be pleased. The prayers for a 3-3 heart break will go unanswered, and the best East can do after a diamond lead is to win seven tricks.
I suppose there are Easts who disapprove of this weak two-bid; or all weak two-bids; or heart suits in general. (Spare me.) The popular auction will be:
Two notrump is forcing; 3 shows a sound opening with a feature (ace, king or queen) in spades, and West places the contract. A case can be made for West not to try for game, or for East to rebid 3 ; but either of these decisions seems timid.
With the A offside, the contract is destined to go down one. Too bad; but Id still want to be there. This reminds me of what one of my partners joked to me, Down one may be good bridge, but I wish you wouldnt be so good all the time. I quickly repaired that image, of course. Next time I went down two.
Note that 3 NT should also fail. North is likely to lead the Q, which is no problem as long as he wins the first diamond lead and shifts to clubs.
On this typical major-suit partscore battle, heres a spirited auction with a competitive double:
Norths light opening is justified in third seat, and the 1 response shows at least five spades. Souths double says, I want to compete but Im not sure what to bid. This is the usual expert treatment of doubles of raised suits below game, since an outright penalty double is relatively rare. North is allowed to pass the double with good defense, but here he runs for cover in 3 .
This contract can be set off the top. After leading the A West should shift to the Q (probably regardless of Easts signal) since he will never get another chance, and his weak diamonds suggest that suit will be usable. Against softer defense, South can win 9 or 10 tricks.
Note that 3 makes (provided East is careful), so the auction is well-judged all around except perhaps that East could double 3 to achieve the true par result.
This deal belongs to North-South, but at most tables East-West will do all the bidding. A likely auction:
The good news is that the Q and K-Q are onside. The bad news is that it probably doesnt matter. Assume North leads the 4 to the queen, ace. Your play? With the shortage of entries to dummy, I think I would just lead the K; assume North wins and shifts to a spade, ducked to the jack; then South clears hearts. East leads the J to the queen; South leads a club to North; 13th heart; spade. Declarer does best to win the ace and lead a club (North ducks if West plays low); then another club. Declarer will get a diamond at the end, but thats down two; minus 200.
The defense could be more damaging (down three) if South shifts to a club before clearing hearts. This allows North to make a second spade lead while South still has an entry.
The moral: If your opponents are vulnerable, let them steal all the deals without a trump fit.
Most North-South pairs should reach this sound 4 contract. A standard auction:
Over 1 North should not introduce his lousy heart suit, but he is elated to hear South bid it next.
After the normal diamond lead, declarer is not tested. Whether he leads hearts, spades or ruffs a diamond, he will end up with 10 tricks barring a defensive error.
If West is inspired to lead the J, the proper play is to win the ace and cash three spades (throwing clubs). Here is the reasoning to verify: The lead is likely to be a singleton (else why not lead partners suit) so East is marked with 5-5 in the minors. If Easts majors are (1) x-x A, it is right to lead spades; if (2) x A-x, it is right to lead trumps. Case 1 is more likely.
Those who play 4 from the North side have a better chance for an overtrick. East might lead a club, or he may shift to same not realizing that declarer cannot get enough discards on the spade suit.
Those who play two-over-one game forcing and 1 NT forcing may conduct a strained auction:
North is too weak to respond 2 ; then after the 1 NT response, he is too strong to bid 2 . A raise to 3 is undesirable since opener often has three cards. Despite the doubtful spades, I prefer 2 NT to invite game.
The bidding may be ugly, but it cleverly conceals the North-South assets. East is likely to lead the 2 (thank you), ducked to the king, eight; then West is likely to lead the 10 (thank you), jack, ace. Declarer now can win eight tricks against any defense; easily on a diamond return, not so easily if East shifts to the K (best) or a heart. The winning defense is a club shift at trick two; if West leads the queen, East must overtake and return the suit to kill Norths entry (even if it costs a club trick).
Those who use Flannery (my least favorite convention) will open 2 . Im not sure what North is supposed to do, but a conservative 2 seems wise.
Standard bidders are likely to bid this way:
Easts shape is atypical for 2 NT, but its clearly the most practical rebid. West then indicates 5-4 in the majors, and East denies either fit with 3 NT.
Assume a heart lead, won by the eight. Declarers best play is a spade to the king (North should duck as this gains a trick if East has K-x). Then declarer leads clubs until South takes the ace. On a heart return, declarer can win 12 tricks North is squeezed as clubs and hearts are run, then a diamond finesse nets the rest. South can deduce the layout from declarers failure to continue spades, so he should lead a spade, 10, queen; then North should cash out to hold it to 10 tricks.
This deal (like Board 11) offers an opportunity to play a 4-3 major fit. On a luckier day 4 would net 11 tricks, but the 5-1 trump break and trump leads limit declarer to at most 10 tricks. You win some, you lose some.
Al Roth will cry blasphemy, but Im sure most players will open the West hand. After that, its anyones guess. Heres one possibility:
Easts pass of 2 is debatable game is possible opposite some openings but seems reasonable with his dull pattern and lack of spot cards. South should balance with 2 (easily makable), then I think East should bounce back with 2 NT. Perhaps North should double 2 NT with his spade stack.
Assume South leads the J to the king, then the spade finesse is lost. North returns a spade to the ace, then the diamond finesse is lost. Declarer eventually can win a sixth trick (either the Q or the J) but that is all; down two, but not a terrible result unless doubled.
Those who play in diamonds can win seven tricks. North should clearly lead a trump, which limits declarer to one ruff; but the long spade can be established.
And the Roth auction? Passed out.
A borderline slam decision for North-South, although neither player should be overly pleased with his hand. Heres a sensible auction using 1 NT forcing:
After a diamond lead, declarer should unblock the top diamonds and lead the 8 to the jack, queen. Assume a club return (best) to the king; then a spade finesse is lost to East, and a club is returned to the ace. Declarer leads the 7 to the ace and cashes the Q. The earlier appearance of Wests 9 suggests the simple play of taking the trump finesse; 11 tricks.
An original spade lead makes it tough. Declarer can still win 11 tricks if he wins the A to finesse through West obviously correct if he attended the pre-game hand-record party. More likely he will win 10 tricks.
The best contract is 3 NT. If West leads the 4, declarer should take the ace and lead a heart to the jack. If West takes the queen, declarer should win 11 tricks; but if West ducks (a difficult play), declarer will be held to 10 tricks, except at double-dummy.
A near-classic preempt by East should produce this auction at many tables:
Opening lead tip: Avoid leading your own suit against 3 NT after you have preempted; declarer is marked for a stopper and partner is likely to have a singleton. Hence East should speculate with a spade lead. Deadly! While the contract can be made at double-dummy, it is almost sure to fail. Predictably, declarer will try to develop the heart suit, after which the best he can do is down one.
Souths 3 overcall, while hard to resist, is a dubious action. Had he passed, would you believe that nine tricks can be made in diamonds? Believe it, but by the defense. South leads a top heart then shifts to the 10; jack, king. North must return a spade to the king, then another club allows North to win all of Easts black cards. Next comes a fourth club, ruffed and overruffed; and East still has to lose two trump tricks. Down five! It is amazing how often a sound preempt can be crucified, while trash preempts seem to be untouchable.
Good bidding in almost any system will produce:
The key bid is 3 , which guides the partnership into the best contract. East should not fear a heart raise since West is unlikely to have four hearts after his 2 bid.
Assume North leads a club to the queen, ace; then declarer starts a diamond. If North plays a high honor (best), declarer does best to duck; but this would cost if North had a singleton. It seems right to win the ace and lead the jack to North. Now a heart shift makes declarer win the K to drive out the 10, then the A (kiss the lady good-bye) to run diamonds. Declarer now needs two more tricks from A-Q J-10 easy with North out of hearts, but declarer may go wrong.
I suspect that most who fail will do so because they mismanage their own entries or lose the timing. Another potential cause is an original heart lead (declarer must then set up spades to succeed).
As East-West did you find your spade fit? I hope not. Heres a well-judged auction:
Souths weak jump overcall is perhaps a little risky at the vulnerability, but few will pass. Wests flat shape and secure heart stoppers suggest the natural 2 NT bid rather than a negative double to show four spades.
After a heart or diamond lead, it is simple to force out the A and develop the other red-suit winners; nine tricks. Even an original club lead makes no difference as long as declarer doesnt waste the 10 at trick one.
In spades, however, things are not so cozy. Accurate defense can score a heart ruff and a diamond ruff, in addition to the four tricks available at notrump. This holds declarer to seven tricks.
Bridge can be frustrating sometimes. Here it is better to reject a 4-4 spade fit to play in notrump, while on Board 11 it was better to reject notrump to play a 4-3 spade fit. Oh, the fascination of the game; we take our bruises and keep coming back for more.
How well do you know the negative double? Heres an expert auction to illustrate a delicate follow-up:
If Souths first double is negative, does this mean his second double is more negative? In a sense, yes. Almost all experts treat it as takeout oriented, showing greater strength (about 10+ HCP). North then takes a stab at 3 (a 4-3 fit may be the best contract) and South corrects to notrump. The subtle inference is that South is willing but not delighted to play 3 NT; hence North may remove it with four hearts, or great distribution.
South has nine tricks, and the defenders must discard well to hold him to that. Assume a spade lead, ducked; then a spade to the ace. On the clubs East should discard the 8, two spades (keeping a low spade to reach West) then the 2; West should discard the 2.
North-South cannot make 4 (trumps are too weak), but 5 or 5 can be made without a heart lead.
At most tables a routine Stayman auction should lead to the notrump game:
Assume South leads the 2, won by the king. It is tempting to lead the Q to repeat the finesse; this gains if North has K-x-x but costs when South has the king (a spade return kills dummy). So lead a low club to the jack, king (if South ducks, lead ace and another). Duck the next spade, then win the ace and run clubs. North can throw a heart without pain, but then what? If he throws another heart, declarer throws a diamond; then a heart or two can be set up. If North throws a diamond (best), declarer throws a heart and leads three rounds of diamonds. This establishes a ninth trick, and North must unblock to avoid being endplayed for an overtrick.
Four-eyed intrafinesse fans will notice another way to make 3 NT (when South takes the first club). Cross to East and lead the 8, running it to the 10 if South plays low. Later lead the Q to smother the jack.
This deal is the only real slam opportunity of the event. I like this auction:
The key decision is Easts 4 cue-bid, rather than a cowardly retreat to 4 . East should visualize the slam potential despite having only three diamonds. When West shows the A, East takes the intelligent shot.
After a spade lead the best plan is a crossruff: Win the A; cash two hearts to pitch a spade; spade (not a heart) ruff; A; club ruff; spade ruff. As long as the spade is not overruffed, 12 tricks are assured.
If South leads a trump, declarer can win all 13 tricks. Cross to the A; club ruff; A; heart ruff; club ruff; heart ruff; draw trumps and the East hand is high.
Those in 4 will also be challenged. After a spade lead declarer must duck; win the trump shift (forced to prevent a spade ruff); cash a second trump, and lead diamonds. Declarer can rid his spade loser on the fourth diamond. An original club lead will defeat 4 .
Many Wests will have to choose between an underbid and an overbid. Is this like choosing between sickness and health? Hmm
let me think about it.
Over 3 a bid of 3 should be interpreted as competitive rather than a try for game. Wests hand is nearly worth 4 anyway, so its wise to take the overbid.
Those who use the maximal double (game try) may attempt to use it here; but in my philosophy this applies only when both opponents have acted. Hence a double of 3 should be for penalty.
After a heart lead it would be an error to draw trumps, as declarer will get tapped out when he tries to set up a 10th trick in clubs. Proper play is to lead a club immediately; ruff a heart; lead a club; ruff a heart, then lose a third club. Now declarer cannot be tapped and the rest is easy. Even if clubs did not split, declarer could handle a fourth club lead by ruffing with the J.
North-South have a profitable save (5 down three) but anyone who bids it should consider saving his empty skull for a brain implant.
Michaels cue-bid fans may get in trouble here. The East hand is arguably too weak for any action, but I would fall victim to this debacle:
Two spades shows at least 5-5 with hearts and a minor, and 3 shows a long suit. (If West wanted to find Easts minor, he would bid 2 NT or pass the double.)
As usual vs. doubled partscores, North should lead his trump; jack, queen, ace. Declarer leads a diamond to the 10, ace; trump return is won by the eight; then a diamond to the king. North leads a spade to the ace; South returns a spade, 10, jack; then South ruffs a spade. Declarer must still lose another spade; down two, minus 300.
The toll wouldnt be bad if North-South had a game. Well, they would have bid a game if East had kept his mouth shut. What game is that? Four hearts of course, probably down three. I must say I have learned from this deal. Next time I hold the East hand I will think seriously about passing then I will bid 2 .
Heres a lively auction:
Norths final bid is chancy, but it seems timid to sell out to 3 when it takes so little to make 3 a viable contract. The singleton jack is a welcome sight.
Assume East leads the J and West wins two hearts. If West shifts to a diamond, it looks like 3 can be set; but declarer can counter any move. For example, if East wins the first spade to lead a diamond, declarer can win and lead clubs (West can ruff only with the A).
Did you spot the killing defense after the heart lead? West must shift to a diamond at trick two (not cashing a second heart); then West grabs the first spade and leads a diamond into the jaws of dummy. Take that! Declarer now cannot stop East from getting a diamond ruff.
Those who play in 3 should be down one. Note that three rounds of clubs will promote a trump trick.
If South plays in clubs, he can win only his eight top tricks barring a defensive error.
This lackluster deal deserves a similar auction:
After the 1 overcall, South should not pass because game is possible. The sensible response is 1 NT, rather than bid the weak heart suit (compare Board 21).
Assume West leads the 2 (what else?) to the queen, king. All roads lead to down one with best defense, but heres one that might succeed: Lead the 3 to the king, ace; then on the club run pitch a spade from dummy and a diamond from hand. If West then cashes the A or leads a heart, declarer can win seven tricks. West instead must lead a spade or his low diamond.
When analyzing some alternate contracts, I noticed a curious feature of this deal: There are four seven-card suit fits (majors N-S, minors E-W) and each produces exactly seven tricks with best play. One could argue this is the quintessential example of the law of total tricks, but I dont buy that. To me its just a definition of the word lackluster.
Opening 1 as West will not be everyones choice, but most will succumb to the point count:
The jump to 3 is based on the popular use of limit jump rebids by the responder; opener then passes with his bare minimum.
The above bidding is not my recommendation. I prefer to play second-round jumps forcing, so as East I would manufacture a bid of 2 (new minor forcing) and bid 3 (invitational) at my third turn. I am convinced this is a superior structure; however, until the bridge community is converted, it remains a minority view.
Nine tricks is the limit in hearts with accurate defense. Assume a club lead (my choice) to the queen, ace; then declarer ducks a heart to the jack. South must now shift to a diamond, else declarer will be able to establish the spade suit for two diamond discards. (It may appear that the K return will also work, but declarer could duck this and win 10 tricks.) Once the A is forced out, the defense will get two diamonds and two hearts.
© 1993 Richard Pavlicek