The 36 deals in this collection were played September 22, 1994 in the eighth annual Instant Matchpoint Pairs, a continent-wide event conducted by the American Contract Bridge League, and sponsored in 1994 by Vantage Travel Services. 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.
Many people are curious how the matchpoint tables are prepared. The deals in this event were previously played in a British tournament, from which I received a list of frequencies for each result. Most of the deals were played over 1000 times! Here is the procedure I use to create the tables:
1. I eliminate all results that occurred only once. These are flukes, like the wise guy who made four hearts redoubled with two overtricks, or the birdbrain who went for 1700 against a partscore.
2. The remaining results, and all possible gap results are matchpointed (by computer of course), and each matchpoint score is increased by 1/2 to allow for the end gaps. This produces an actual top that is one greater than the true top.
3. The matchpoints are scaled from the actual top to a 100 top and then rounded to the nearest whole number. The conversion to a 100 top allows the scores to be considered as a percentage.
4. For practical purposes, I set a limit of 40 results (including gaps) on each deal, so some tables must be edited further. This is done by combining one or more of the rare results into gaps.
5. The process could end here, but scaling and rounding often produce the same matchpoint score for different results. For example, the rounded scale might produce 100, 100, 99, 99, 92, etc. To remove the replicated scores, I smooth it out to 100, 99, 98, 97, 92, etc.
6. Finally, when analyzing the deals, I sometimes make minor adjustments when I believe the scores do not accurately reflect what would occur in an ACBL tournament. For example, on Board 10 the calculated matchpoint score for 3 NT making six was 95 for N-S. This seemed like an injustice, especially for E-W who would receive only 5 matchpoints for doing nothing but making a normal opening lead. I felt this result would be more common in our country and adjusted it to 88 matchpoints. Do you agree?
Almost all North-South pairs will reach 4 , often after this auction:
Souths final bid is a sign-off, not a slam try. The philosophy of most good pairs is to bid 3 (forcing) or improvise some other bid if a slam were possible.
After the likely heart lead, routine play brings home 11 tricks. The proper play of the spade suit is to finesse deeply, then the queen. This assumes East will falsecard with the 10 on the second round. If he would not falsecard, the best play for five tricks is the ace on the second round. The logic is that West must hold either J-10 or K-J doubleton to succeed, and restricted choice favors the latter. Of course, if declarer takes this position, he risks a big disappointment if West shows out.
Flim-flam award: How about the club eight lead? Sure enough; declarer has a logical path to go down one probably with nightmares the rest of the week.
Forcing notrump advocates are likely to produce:
Perhaps North should bid 4 on the third round because of his honors in partners suits; but considering the doubtful K, the conservative view is reasonable. South, of course, is happy to get out below game.
South can win nine tricks in spades. Assume the 4 lead; queen, king, ace; diamond finesse; A; heart to king, ace. If West now leads a second trump, declarer has enough time to lead a third trump and give up a diamond. West can make things awkward with a heart return, but declarer can still prevail: Win the Q; ruff a diamond; exit with a heart to East; ruff the club return, and lead a trump to West. If West leads the A, ruff and lead your last trump (North wins the last two tricks); if West instead leads a low club, win the king and lead the good heart to nullify Easts low spade.
Souths opening bid violates the textbooks (he lacks two quick tricks) but most will do so, especially at the vulnerability. Heres an auction using 3 NT to show a balanced forcing raise:
Even if South passes originally, the same contract is likely to be reached after 1 (better minor) by North, 1 by South; 2 , 4 .
Four spades should be down one with the club finesse losing, but declarer has a good chance to succeed with a clever play. Assume West makes a passive trump lead. Win the K and immediately lead the 9 to the queen note the waste of a club spot to conceal the suits potential for discards. When West wins the K, he is likely to continue with another trump. Thank you, sir. Unblock the J; lead a third trump to hand; discard two diamonds, and lead a heart.
On an expert plane, West should not fall for this ruse. Declarers line of play, together with Easts count signal in clubs, makes the diamond switch stand out.
Almost every table should duplicate this first round of bidding:
The diversions will be at Wests second turn, where his reasonable options are 2 , 2 (my choice) and the latest fad, a support double.
I do not favor the support double, as it takes away a useful penalty double (especially at the two level) and its advantage is dubious. Differentiating between raises with three or four cards is just as helpful to the enemy in deciding whether to compete, and it paints a picture for the opening leader. My philosophy is to raise with three cards as judgment dictates; then the occasional 4-3 fits reached are likely to be superior contracts.
After a spade lead, East can always win 10 tricks in hearts; however, this requires double-dummy play if the defenders tap dummy exactly once. To succeed, declarer must force out the top spade (if not previously cashed) then run the J; or if South has led the A, play to squeeze North in the minors.
A weak two-bid by North and a raise by South may provoke West or East into a doubtful action. Heres one possibility:
Wests double is surely an overstatement but reasonable at the vulnerability with two sturdy major suits; Easts jump to game is irrefutable. A great contract is reached, unless the defenders find their spade ruff.
After the K lead, is it logical for South to shift to a spade? At IMPs, yes, because the contract is obviously unbeatable if North lacks a major ace. (The spade shift also works if North has A x-x.) But at matchpoints this could easily give away an overtrick; for example, if East holds A-x-x A-x-x-x-x x Q-x-x-x, the diamond loser will go away. Perhaps in an event like this, in which high scores are necessary to win, South should ignore the concern about overtricks and aim for the set; but its hardly clear. The best choice might depend on the state of your game at the time.
This deal may revive some bad memories, especially for those who become declarer, as it is easy to get into trouble. A sensible auction:
After a high club lead, ruffed, declarer wins the A and ruffs a diamond. Trying to ruff another diamond is fatal (North uppercuts in clubs, and South pitches on the third diamond); so the sensible course is to draw two trumps and lead the J. South wins, cashes his top spade and exits safely in hearts; six, seven, 10. Bonus time! Finish trumps, then exit with whichever red suit North blanks for a well-earned overtrick.
In diamonds North can win seven tricks. Assume three rounds of spades, ruffed and overruffed, then a club. East ruffs and shifts to the J, then declarer must lose three more trump tricks (or two trumps and a heart) depending on the play.
Some Souths will play in clubs, a lovely contract from Wests point of view. After three rounds of spades and three rounds of diamonds, declarer will emerge with just five tricks, and one headache.
West has an awkward rebid after the 1 response 2 is an underbid, 3 an overbid, and a spade raise is misdirected. I would get too high on this one:
Easts spade rebid is also doubtful but hard to fault. The only sensible alternative is to pass.
On a good day 4 would roll, but it has no legitimate play as the cards lie. Some might swindle 10 tricks with this line: Win the A; lead a spade to the king (ducked) then a club to the jack, ace; ruff the heart return; throw a heart on the K; ruff a club; force out the A, and finesse the diamond return. To defeat the contract, North must now return a diamond into dummys tenace obvious for an expert, but some will lead a heart.
In clubs, West can be held to just seven tricks: North leads the 10 (South ducks); then on winning the A, he gets a spade ruff and exits safely in hearts. Declarer still has to lose two diamonds and a club. Considering this ill fate, I like Easts spade rebid even more.
Norths club suit is flimsy, but it is surely the right tactics to open 3 . This poses a problem for East, as a takeout double begs for trouble with a singleton spade. Reasonable solutions are a brazen 3 NT, or 3 on a four-card suit (for the postmortem slip the A in with your hearts); but I think most experts would bid 3 . This should produce:
After a spade lead, declarer should hop with dummys king not based on hindsight, but because North made a weak opening, and the entry to dummy is desperately needed. After that its smooth sailing for 10 tricks: Lead the Q, king, ace; force out the K, and use dummys remaining entry to pick up clubs. It makes no difference if South cashes one or both of his spade winners.
Declarer was lucky to catch Norths singleton Q, but nine tricks would be easy any time the king held. If declarer ducked the spade lead, he would lose his spade trick and the entry to dummy, though nine tricks (10 at double-dummy) still come home as the cards lie.
Now, if you could only double 3 for penalty.
Most Norths will open 1 (Roth-Stoners excepted). Heres a probable auction playing two-over-one game forcing:
After a spade lead to the ace and a spade back, declarer has eight tricks. It is possible to establish three more in hearts, but they could not be enjoyed, as the defenders would win a heart and the rest of their spades. The only chance is to develop an end position.
One way to make 3 NT is to cash all your minor-suit winners ending in dummy then exit with a spade. West must win (else East is endplayed) then after cashing his spades must lead a heart, and dummys 10 is played.
Another way is to cross to dummy and lead the 10. West must cash all his spades (else hearts can be set up), then declarer can squeeze East in the red suits.
The optimum contract is 4 (Norths heart rebid was a step in the right direction). Declarer can pitch a spade on the K and win 11 tricks with a lucky heart guess, or 10 by leading to the Q (better percentage play).
After a light third-seat opening by West, North-South should reach game with this auction:
North uses good judgment not to rebid his hearts; the raise to 3 NT seems correct at any form of scoring, and especially at matchpoints.
Should West find the killing spade lead? It often pays to lead an undisclosed second suit when opponents bid notrump knowing your first suit, but I wouldnt here. The potential in diamonds far outweighs the potential in spades. Further, Wests singleton heart increases the chance that East has a heart stopper, and there is no indication in the bidding that South has a running club suit. I must admit that I would hand over 12 tricks with the a diamond lead.
Those who play 4 (or 3 NT by North) should not be so lucky. After a diamond lead by East, the perspective is different. West can see the running clubs in dummy, so it is probably right (surely at IMPs) to grab the A and switch to a low spade.
After a third-seat 1 opening by North, some might consider the East hand strong enough to double before bidding spades. If the K were in clubs I would agree, but in this case I would overcall:
Wests raise may appear on the weak side, but his hand has far more potential than its point count indicates. The four low hearts mark East with heart shortness, so the minor-suit honors rate to be working; and the fourth trump adds a degree of comfort.
The play in spades is basically a finessing drill. After ruffing the second heart, proper play is to cash three diamonds to pitch a club, then lead a club. This allows you to reach dummy with a club and take the spade finesse for 11 tricks.
The recommended line of play is not foolproof. On a bad day North might ruff the third diamond, or get an overruff (if it were possible to misguess clubs) only to discover that plunking down the A would have dropped the king.
Easts proper opening is debatable. Holding aces and spaces suggests 1 , but rebid considerations suggest 1 NT. I slightly prefer the latter:
West has a routine Stayman response, then he invites game in notrump. Perhaps East should rebid 3 over 2 NT to show five this should be considered forcing to offer a choice of games but the drawback is the additional information given to the opponents.
Souths choice of leads should affect the result. After a spade lead, declarer can capture the queen and return the 9 (ducked); then A, 10 losing to North. On a heart shift declarer can win the second round and make 10 tricks, but it seems wise to cash out for nine.
A heart lead is more effective, but declarer can still get home (even after losing a club) by capitalizing on the lucky spade lie and Souths entryless hand.
The best lead is the Q (of course you found it). To succeed now, declarer must finesse North for the Q, which is surely double-dummy.
Wests hand is a bit hefty for an overcall, but without support for the unbid major it seems unwise to double and bid diamonds later. I prefer to start small and hope for a chance to act again:
Well, I got my second chance; alas, the auction is too high to justify a club bid. It would be reasonable to double 4 (especially in this event) but the prudent course is to pass.
West leads a high diamond and, assuming standard count, can tell by Easts spot that it must be a singleton. (Upside-down signalers could not be sure here, but in fairness the situation is reversed when East has a high singleton.) Actually, its not really important whether a second diamond will cash, because the appearance of dummy makes a trump shift obvious. West should lead ace and another spade.
Declarer has no chance after two trump leads. All he can win are five spades, two hearts, one club and a ruff; down one.
The East-West bidding will vary according to system and judgment. I like this standard auction:
West is conservative with his 16-point hand because of the flat shape and three low cards in partners suit. Most experienced players have reached enough poor slams over the years to heed such warning signs. West also judges not to show a spade preference, as the same number of tricks should be won in notrump.
After a diamond lead to the ace and a diamond back, declarer should duck (finesse). Shortly thereafter he will claim 11 tricks for a slightly above average result.
Declarer could win 12 tricks by refusing the diamond finesse, thanks to the friendly major-suit lie, but this seems double-dummy. (Note that Q-J doubleton isnt required, as North would be squeezed holding any four hearts.) Hopping with the K would cost a trick if the spade finesse lost. Perhaps the only logical path to 12 tricks would occur if South shifted to the J at trick two (a reasonable alternative).
On Board 3 or 9, I would make a borderline opening bid, but here I draw the line. The South hand has too many defects (bad suit, wasted honors, lack of two quick tricks) and the vulnerability is unfavorable.
I would come to life, however, in the North seat with an aggressive preempt. The 3 opening is risky at the vulnerability, but its effectiveness is proved once again. Easts routine takeout double leads to an unglamorous 3 contract. If you are wondering if West should pass the double, forget it unless you see a way to beat 3 (North might even win 10 tricks).
Against 3 North leads the K, and declarer
yuk, pretty ugly. I suppose a realistic line is a spade to the 10; then a diamond to the king, ace. Assume the defense continues with a spade ruff; diamond queen; spade ruff; club, ruffed in dummy. Declarer cannot avoid the loss of three more tricks. That amounts to down three, but not a disaster.
Borderline Opening Bids seems to be the theme for this set of deals. I think most Norths will open 1 , after which the bidding will take many turns. The best way to describe the East hand is an unusual notrump overcall showing the two lower unbid suits.
If South butts in with 3 (reasonable if nonforcing by agreement), West should compete to 4 (the plus value of four trumps and K-x outweighs the negative aspect of the spade strength). East then is worth a raise to game at least this is clear looking at all four hands. In the real world I would expect most East-West pairs to stop short.
There is little to the play in diamonds, which seems foolproof for 11 tricks. Scanning past results, however, reveals a disturbing number of minus 130s North-South. Is the defense that good across the Atlantic? Or did some declarers misguess trumps and lose to the singleton king onside? Well never know, but I guess its feasible if declarer crossruffs and never leads a trump.
Another one! A strong case could be made for passing Norths barren collection, but I would open (now theres evidence for passing). A likely auction:
Wests overcall is not a thing of beauty but hard to resist. Perhaps East should bid 3 NT with all his sturdy spot cards, but 2 NT it is probably right especially if Wests overcall is typical for his style.
After South leads the Q, he may never respect his partners bid again. East wins the king and pounds away spades, deceptively pitching a club from dummy. When North wins the A, a heart shift is difficult (East might have the J) so most will lead a club; jack, ace. Now declarer has 11 tricks with the diamond finesse that will soon become indicated. Thats pretty good mileage for a combined 21 HCP!
Even if North finds the heart shift, declarer can take nine tricks (four spades, four diamonds and a heart) but some will then lead a club to the king (North did open the bidding, remember) and wind up with only eight. At least this would justify the bidding.
This auction seems etched in the cards:
Norths balancing 1 NT shows 11-15 HCP (with 16-18 the proper action is to double first). Easts double is optional essentially showing 18+ HCP and West correctly passes with his flat hand.
After the 4 lead, declarer wins cheaply and attacks diamonds. East should then realize he must find West with the A or K. A king is more likely, so he shifts to the J; queen, king; then a spade return allows East to run his suit. East is eventually endplayed, so declarer escapes for down one. (If East wins the first diamond, declarer can still negotiate the endplay.)
Some Easts will play in spades, where eight tricks are likely. It is possible to win nine, even after an unhelpful diamond lead: Win the A, exit with a diamond, and ruff the diamond return; then exit with a low spade. Assuming a heart switch, win the K and exit with a heart. If the defenders return a trump (best), declarer has to backward-finesse clubs (run the J then if covered finesse the nine).
Some North-South pairs will get overboard on this misfit, probably to a doomed 6 . Heres a well-judged auction to the best contract:
North expects to find a singleton heart (or void) in dummy, so he wisely rejects a move toward slam.
Exactly 11 tricks should be made in hearts. Curiously, East can lead any card in his hand and the outcome is the same even the 5 doesnt help declarer provided West covers the jack and East shifts to a spade. After the normal spade lead, declarer wins the ace and rattles off diamonds, throwing away losers. Note that if West ruffs the fourth diamond, it costs him a trump trick (declarer can either overruff or discard).
The few Souths who declarer 3 NT may be blessed with a club lead, resulting in 11 tricks and an undeserved 86-percent score. After a spade lead, however, the most declarer can generate is 10 tricks, which succumbs to all the 4 bidders justice at last.
Reaching a minor-suit game is difficult. Like aiming for the outer ring of an archery target, even when you hit it you feel that youve missed something better. Heres a sensible auction with East-West silent:
Many East-West pairs will be in the bidding. A few deranged Wests will open 1 ; some Easts may open in third seat; otherwise, West may overcall 1 . I guess they should be in the bidding since 4 makes, provided declarer leads a low heart to the king.
Against 5 the only troublesome lead is a trump. Declarer should not ruff a heart immediately, since he cannot ruff the other. The obvious solution is to lead clubs twice toward the K-Q to develop a discard, or give up a spade first and make the club plays next.
Some pairs no doubt will reach 3 NT (is this not true for every deal?). By North this has chances (e.g., a low heart lead); but Souths who declare will discover that what they see (eight tricks) is what they get.
Noting the favorable vulnerability for East-West, I can picture this scenario at some tables:
Easts 2 bid is not your classic weak jump overcall; but the way some activists bid today, the sixth spade and 3 HCP might be considered extras. North reopens with a takeout double, which South wisely converts to penalty. Meanwhile, West is wondering if he took his cards out of the wrong board.
Perfect defense will set the contract two tricks. After the 9 lead to the jack, North cashes the K, and South discourages with the four. North must now shift to a spade (or cash the A then shift) so South can lead a second heart before declarer is able to discard on the diamonds. If North errs by leading three rounds of clubs (or cashing the A and giving South a ruff), declarer escapes for down one.
Having sat quietly through all this, West may deliver the parting shot, Sorry, partner. Next time Ill try to have a better hand for you.
East-West pairs who play strong notrumps are likely to duplicate this auction:
East may feel he should do something with 6 HCP, but there is no sensible action to take. If you were thinking of a negative double, forget it. This is a penalty double situation (barring unusual agreements).
North can be held to eight tricks with a heart lead (or a diamond lead and a heart switch), but East will most likely choose the 10. This allows declarer to finesse in clubs and later discard a heart on the third club to win nine easy tricks.
A clever but risky matchpoint tactic by North is to double the 1 NT opening. Assuming this is passed out, North should lead the A to cater to K-x or J-x in any hand. This could be a disaster if West held K-J-x, but as the cards lie nets a sweet 500 with East-West vulnerable (unless South carelessly pitches a diamond, then 200). Thats the way to win big events.
East only has 19 HCP, but with a good-textured five-card suit I think its worth 2 NT especially in fourth seat. At least this simplifies the bidding:
With an unattractive hand to lead from, most Souths will choose a low heart, which works out best. After winning one of his stoppers (ace or queen), declarer attacks diamonds, then South drives out the other heart stopper. Eleven tricks are now cashable with the Q falling, but this is hardly a routine play at matchpoints. The final tally will vary from 9 to 12 tricks, depending on declarers play and Souths discarding.
Consider a plausible scenario if declarer wins the Q first: On the fourth diamond East throws a club, as does South; on the last diamond East throws another club (the 10 for show). If South carelessly copies again, declarer has a new winner. After cashing clubs, declarer should deduce that South must have the Q (else why pitch his club stopper) so 12 tricks roll home.
Hearts vs. Spades would be a great boxing card because it usually means action. To wit:
There will be many diversions: North might open 3 (I like it), South might jump in spades (a direct 4 is reasonable), or West might think he is too weak to bid. The deal belongs to East-West (5 is unbeatable), but most tables will play 4 , often undoubled.
Four spades can always be made, but its doubtful that declarer should succeed against sound defense. Assume a heart lead and continuation, ruffed. Proper play is a low diamond to prepare for a ruff, which West wins and accurately returns a trump. To succeed, declarer must ruff a diamond immediately a dubious play because it leaves the last diamond naked else run the 10. A more likely play is to lead the 10 to the king, ace. Now East leads a second trump, and declarer is knocked out. If he ruffs a diamond, he is stranded in dummy (down two with the club ruff); if he runs trumps, West clings to all his clubs.
Some Souths who overcall will see the flashing blue lights in their rear-view mirror. Caught speeding:
Playing negative doubles, West should pass 1 and wait for East to reopen. West should not be concerned that the penalty will be insufficient, since the offensive potential of his hand is poor.
South should be held to five tricks. After the J lead (queen, king) East returns the 2 (least of evils) to the queen, ace. Declarer leads the 3 to the 10, king; West wins the K and returns a diamond to Easts nine; then the A is ruffed and overruffed. West now must help declarer with a spade or heart return, but the defense can win three more tricks one way or another.
Many East-West pairs will play in notrump, usually taking eight tricks. Nine tricks might be won from the East side after a low heart lead: Win the 10; lead a diamond to the jack, queen; win the likely club return, and finesse the 9 (double-dummy maybe). Running diamonds forces South to let go a spade; then a spade to the king, spade duck establishes the queen.
South has a borderline 2 (versus 2 NT) opening. Taking the optimistic view, Id bid this way:
Three diamonds is a Jacoby transfer bid, then the raise to game is a mild slam try. The logic is that if there were no hope for slam, North would bid 4 over 2 NT as a Texas transfer to 4 . South has already stretched for his 2 bid so wisely rejects.
Eleven tricks should be won in hearts. It is possible to win 12 after a non-trump (assume a spade) lead: Force out the A; win any return (say, a spade); run the J (optional); cash A-K and K, throwing a diamond; ruff a minor; spade to hand; overruff a minor, then cross to the A. Elegant, yes, but also four-eyed. The coup is impossible to execute if declarer makes the normal play of cashing the A early.
A better score will go to those who play in notrump. The same 11 tricks are available provided declarer wins the A and overtakes the J to establish the suit.
A Stayman sequence should be duplicated at many tables to reach the normal spade game.
This contract should make 10 or 11 tricks. Assume a heart lead, ducked to the king; West shifts to a diamond the 10 is proper to cater to A-J-x or K-J-x in North. Declarer wins the A, draws trumps, runs hearts to pitch a diamond, and leads a club. West should grab the A (even on a low club) and return a diamond to tap North, holding declarer to the minimum.
If West instead returns a heart (hoping for a ruff), the tempo shifts to declarer. Trumps are drawn, then a club is led to the queen, ace. Declarer wins the A and cashes the hearts to pitch a diamond, but now he has the luxury to try the club finesse (better than trying to ruff out the J) for an overtrick.
Another predicament would occur if East led the 9 originally. West must take the ace and shift to a diamond to hold declarer to 10 tricks.
Wests bid could be dubbed the unusual preempt because it looks more like an unusual notrump than a typical preempt. Nonetheless, getting in the first blow is a big advantage, and hard to resist at the vulnerability. This is likely to produce:
Assume the J lead is ducked to the king, the Q is won by East, and another diamond is led. West must win the A and switch to a club (perhaps he should have done this earlier), else declarer will have time to set up both majors. This defense should be obvious because it is futile to establish the diamond suit without an entry. Assume declarer wins the K and leads a spade to the jack, king. East should place West with the J (else he would lead high in this situation) so he returns the Q to scuttle the contract. Declarer must hold up on this trick to escape for down one.
Many North-South pairs will play in a major suit, hopefully under game. Nine tricks are available in hearts with careful play, but only eight in spades after an early heart ruff.
A preemptive overcall by West makes it awkward for North-South. Heres one way to cope with adversity:
Norths double is negative (showing four spades), and South has a tough problem. It is reasonable to bid 3 NT, gambling on clubs, or perhaps even 4 to shoot for a top in a 4-3 fit (also North might have five spades). But my vote goes to 4 NT Blackwood, intending to play 6 if North has two aces (a fair chance), otherwise 5 .
Five diamonds is virtually effortless for 11 tricks, and only a gross defensive error will allow more.
The excitement will peak when South declares 3 NT. What a difference a lead makes! South has 11 tricks with a heart lead; 10 tricks with a spade lead (he can win 11 in the ending); but he gets skewered with a club lead down four!
Four spades by South (not North) can always be made, even after a club lead and a heart switch to tap North. Declarer must not draw trumps (the A can be cashed) and lead minor-suit winners to tap West.
Most Wests will open 1 to prepare for a convenient rebid. Here is a rather tame auction utilizing a Michaels cue-bid by North:
Two diamonds shows both majors (typically at least 5-5 shape but occasionally 5-4), then East and South compete. Many East-West pairs will compete further, perhaps driving North-South into 4 , or themselves into 5 .
Actually, both sides can make a game. Five diamonds requires only a successful club finesse, which is marked on the bidding. Four hearts requires declarer to cash the A first, and then follow the normal restricted-choice principle and finesse.
It appears that the Law of Total Tricks took a vacation on this deal. The combined total of 18 trumps produces 21 tricks. Oh, well; I guess you could claim that 18 is approximately equal to 21. Ask any 18-year-old when someone questions his I.D.
Reaching this borderline slam will take aggressive bidding, perhaps by East if he appreciates the value of his fitting heart honors:
Wests 3 preference allows East to picture short clubs in dummy (West suggests 3=5=4=1 shape, though 2=5=4=2 is possible); but his Q-J provides the main stimulus to launch into Blackwood.
After the Q lead, there are several paths to success. Best is to rely on normal breaks in the major suits: Win the A, then cash A-K and Q-J. Once everyone follows you are home. Cross to dummy with a diamond (I hope no one ruffed a club) and lead the good hearts. South can win only his high trump.
An alternate line (necessary on a diamond lead) is to ruff a club; ruff a diamond; ruff a club; ruff a diamond, and lead a club. If South ruffs, he spends his trump trick; otherwise, you ruff and return to the Q, etc.
South has an awkward decision after Wests opening bid is raised to two. Overcalling 3 is reasonable, but it might lose the heart suit. I prefer:
Fortunately, North has a heart suit, and the double leads to a profitable sacrifice. The danger in doubling is that partner may bid too many clubs of course, you would correct to diamonds, but that could also be a disaster. Nonetheless, I think the risk is warranted.
Five hearts should be down two with careful play. Win the first or second spade, cross to the K and lead a diamond to the jack, queen. The rest is easy. This line of play looks lucky (if West had a second trump he could get a ruff); but the 3-1 trump break was predictable, and drawing a second round makes declarer susceptible to a trump promotion or club taps in dummy.
Four spades is a routine make, though it could be beaten with the Western Union defense: North leads a club, then South underleads his A to obtain a ruff. Keep an eye on that pair!
It is rare when a common bidding sequence offers five reasonable options. Consider Souths predicament after the 1 overcall: It is sensible to bid 1 NT, 2 , 2 NT (limit), 3 (limit), or trap pass. I slightly prefer the conservative raise, which might lead to this:
In diamonds declarer can win 10 tricks with almost any play (clearing trumps, for one), and I see one line of play to win 11: Assume the 10 lead; jack, queen, ace; lead a spade to the ace; ruff a spade; cash the K, and lead the losing heart throwing a club. East is caught in an unusual three-suit squeeze involving the trump suit: If he discards a black suit, declarer can establish a long card in that suit; if he ruffs, he wastes his trump trick. This variation of the backwash squeeze might be called a frontwash squeeze.
Those who play in notrump should be held to eight tricks, although some will be given nine when West leads a heart, or if East cashes his spades prematurely to establish Souths eight.
Exciting distribution should induce a spirited auction, perhaps something like:
Wests first double is negative (indeed very negative) to show four spades, and his second double is mainly out of fear to stop East from bidding. Note that 5 would be cold if North held the A (as might be expected) and either hand held a singleton club. But to quote Joey Silver of Montreal, thats Bridge in the fast lane.
I can sympathize with North-Souths fate, going for 500 against a nonvulnerable game. One could argue that North shouldnt bid at all; but I doubt theres a creditable South player in the world who wouldnt bid 5 . It was just a great setup.
Those who play in spades can win 10 tricks. It looks like 11 with the spade finesse, but declarer cannot get to dummy unless South foolishly leads a second diamond or a trump. When South leads the A, North can help matters by playing the jack, an obvious suit-preference signal for hearts in view of dummy.
A routine spade game should be reached at almost every table, usually after this auction:
Four spades hinges on the club guess, and most will get it right. Assume North leads the J to the king, and declarer leads the 10 to the king, ace. If South leads a club, declarer should finesse the jack. This is the proper guess if for no other reason than to play for split aces. South might have bid or doubled if he held both missing aces plus the known Q (and implied Q or J); hence the A is more likely to be with North.
Another reasonable tactic is to duck the J lead. This risks a possible ruff if North has led a singleton; but the advantage is that declarer might avoid the club guess, and he might steal a top. Note that if North fails to shift to a heart, declarer can make an overtrick.
North-South have a good sacrifice in 5 (down two, maybe three) but how do you find it? This reminds me: It must have been a bridge player who came up with AT&Ts latest catch number, 1-800-COLLECT.
Another borderline opening. Despite only 11 HCP and fewer than two quick tricks, West should open (look at those tens). This produces a short skirmish:
Easts double is chancy but stands out at matchpoints in the quest for 200 a prize trophy on partscore deals. If East passes 2 and collects only 100, it will often be below average due to a proliferation of scores such as 110 and 120.
East leads a heart, ducked to the king. Some Wests will now shift to a club looking at three-small in dummy. Not well judged; declarer wins, crosses to the A and leads another club. Declarer now wins two club tricks early, and he can ruff the last club in dummy after leading one round of trumps to blot out the 7. Making 2 .
It should be no surprise that Norths side suit is clubs. Two spades is easily defeated if West leads any other suit at trick two. A diamond is probably best to attack dummys entry. The only way declarer can lead clubs twice is to overtake the Q, then West can push a heart through to allow East to ditch a club. Down one.
© 1994 Richard Pavlicek