Main   Analyses 7R01 by Richard Pavlicek  

ACBL Instant MP Pairs

The 36 deals in this collection were played September 20, 1995 in the ninth annual “Instant Matchpoint” Pairs, a continent-wide event conducted by the American Contract Bridge League. The analyses were written by Richard Pavlicek and originally published in a souvenir booklet given to each participant after the game.

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

July 15, 1995

I hope you enjoyed playing these deals, and have the time to compare your results with my analyses. Who knows? You might even find that you quashed one of my predictions with some spectacular bid or play. Good for you!

For the sake of curiosity, this year I added a statistical analysis of the 36 deals (see the boxed text after the last deal). The breakdown shows that East had the best in the way of high cards (10.64 average HCP), and North had the best in the way of shape (3.28 average freakness). By totaling the average freakness of all the players (11.83) and comparing it with the theoretical average by my formula (11.92), it shows that the deals were slightly less freakish (more balanced) than expected — so you can’t complain about “wild computer deals” here.

I also included a trivia quiz (different from last year) and a few other odds and ends in the boxes at the bottom of each page. I hope you enjoy them.

Attention, Internet surfers! I now have a Worldwide Web site, where you’ll find a variety of complimentary bridge material. Check it out. The URL is http://rpbridge.net

Richard Pavlicek


Standard bidders are likely to begin with a sequence like this:

West

Dbl
Dbl
North
Pass
1 NT
Pass
East
Pass
Pass
?
South
1 C
Pass
Board 1
None Vul
S J 5 3
H J 5 3
D K 10 2
C K 9 7 6
N-S
...
+800
...
+500
...
+480
...
+380
...
+300
+280
...
+200
MP
100
99
98
97
96
95
94
93
92
91
89
85
84
N-S
...
+180
...
+150
+140
+130
+120
+110
+100
+90
...
+50
...
MP
83
79
75
72
69
68
67
65
57
51
49
43
31
N-S
-50
...
-90
-100
-110
...
-140
-150
...
-200
...
-300
...
MP
29
27
23
16
9
7
6
5
4
3
2
1
0
S A Q 4 2
H K Q 4
D A Q 7 4
C Q 3
TableS 9 8
H 9 8 7 6
D J 6 5 3
C 8 5 4
S K 10 7 6
H A 10 2
D 9 8
C A J 10 2

What East should do now is debatable. Passing and leading a heart could be the winner, as perfect defense will get two hearts, three diamonds and two spades before declarer can enjoy a spade trick.

If East pulls the double, he can score plus 90 in 2 D; but more likely he will try 2 H (my choice) which is destined to go down one. The logic in choosing hearts over diamonds is dubious with such a weak hand, but I expect to win the postmortem with, “My hearts were a solid sequence!”

Weak notrumpers will show a profit here. South will open 1 NT and West’s double is likely to end the auction (this double is more penalty oriented). With West on lead 1 NT can always be made, even with double-dummy defense.


I’ve always felt that major-suit game tries should not reveal declarer’s hand. Hence, the simple route:

West

Pass
Pass
Pass
North

1 D
2 H
4 H
East
Pass
Pass
Pass
All Pass
South
Pass
1 H
3 H
Board 2
N-S Vul
S A 9
H J 5 4 2
D Q J 10 3
C A Q 3
N-S
...
+650
...
+630
+620
+600
...
+180
MP
100
99
98
97
84
72
67
66
N-S
+170
...
+150
+140
...
+120
+110
...
MP
58
54
52
44
40
39
37
36
N-S
+90
...
-100
...
-200
...
-300
...
MP
35
34
24
6
3
2
1
0
S 10 8 7 6
H A Q
D 8 5 4 2
C J 7 5
TableS J 5 2
H 8 7 6
D A 9 7 6
C K 9 2
S K Q 4 3
H K 10 9 3
D K
C 10 8 6 4

Those who play informative game tries may bid 2 S (natural) or 3 C (help suit), either of which may clue West into the killing club lead. Especially note that it is often effective to lead an announced “help suit.”

On a spade lead, declarer should win in hand and lead the D K to East’s ace. The best defense is a heart switch, then a club through the A-Q. Do you finesse? Or hop, and play for a 4-4 diamond break? I would go by West’s count signal in diamonds, which should be honest here. Using standard signals, West would play the D 5 (likely the start of an echo) so I’d hop and cash.

Weak notrumpers may right-side 4 H from North to protect the C A-Q. Ironically, however, East is likely to lead a passive trump; then West, a club shift.


Most East-West pairs will reach 3 NT, though routes will vary. Here’s one possibility if North is silent:

West

Pass
1 H
2 NT
North

Pass
Pass
Pass
East

1 C
2 S
3 NT
South
Pass
Pass
Pass
All Pass
Board 3
E-W Vul
S 7 3
H 10 6 4
D A 10 7 3 2
C K 9 5
N-S
...
+500
...
+300
...
+200
...
+100
...
-50
...
-90
-100
MP
100
99
98
97
96
95
94
93
92
91
90
89
88
N-S
-110
-120
-130
-140
-150
...
-170
-180
...
-200
...
-500
...
MP
87
86
85
84
83
82
81
80
79
78
77
76
75
N-S
-600
-620
-630
...
-650
-660
...
-690
...
-800
...
MP
72
62
48
33
32
20
4
3
2
1
0
S 6 4
H A 9 8 5 3
D K 8 4
C 10 8 6
TableS A K Q J
H J
D Q 9 6 5
C A Q J 7
S 10 9 8 5 2
H K Q 7 2
D J
C 4 3 2

At the vulnerability it is tempting for North to open 1 D (or perhaps an ugly weak 2 D) in third seat. East would double, then follow up with a notrump bid after West bids hearts, resulting in the same contract but with East declaring.

After the normal diamond lead to the jack and king, West can win 11 tricks by immediately returning the D 8. If North wins and shifts to a heart, declarer can win the ace and run the C 10 to pick up that suit.

Many will win only 10 tricks (or less). For example, if North covers the D 8 with the 10 to force the queen, it is dubious for declarer to cross to the H A to lead clubs; more likely, he will concede a club trick. Also, when East declares, 10 tricks is the maximum barring the gift of a low heart or club lead.


Here’s another third-seat opening-bid issue, and this time I vote for action:

West
Pass
Pass
North
Pass
Pass
East
3 C
Pass
South
3 NT
Board 4
Both Vul
S K Q 9 6
H J 8 3 2
D K 8 6
C 6 4
N-S
...
+750
...
+690
...
+660
...
+630
+620
+600
...
+500
MP
100
99
98
97
96
89
82
69
55
45
40
39
N-S
+400
...
+300
...
+210
+200
...
+180
...
+150
+140
+130
MP
38
37
36
35
34
33
32
31
29
27
24
21
N-S
+120
+110
...
-100
...
-200
...
-300
...
-500
...
MP
19
18
17
13
10
8
6
3
2
1
0
S 10 8 5 4
H A 10 7 6 5
D Q 5
C 9 2
TableS J 7 3
H 4
D 9 7 3
C A Q J 8 5 3
S A 2
H K Q 9
D A J 10 4 2
C K 10 7

East is about a trick short for 3 C, but the preemption and lead direction are hard to resist — or at least that’s how I’d explain it to my parole officer. Further, in an event like this it is ineffective to play down the middle; you have to roll the dice once in a while.

South’s 3 NT is a slight stretch but almost automatic for a seasoned player. Good partners always lay down a helpful dummy when you overbid, and this occasion is no exception. “Thank you, partner…”

After the C 9 lead, East should play the jack to retain communication. If declarer takes this he can win only nine tricks (and must play diamonds right to succeed), so he should counter by ducking the first trick. Now the club threat is nullified, and declarer can win 10 tricks by forcing out the H A.


TopMain


I have been told I don’t give enough coverage to weak notrumpers, so here’s an attempt at retaliation:

West

Pass
North
1 NT
Pass
East
2 H
South
Pass
Board 5
N-S Vul
S Q 9 3 2
H A 9 8
D J 9
C K Q 3 2
N-S
...
+300
...
+200
...
+150
...
+120
...
+100
+90
...
MP
100
99
98
97
96
95
94
93
92
91
89
88
N-S
+50
0
...
-90
-100
-110
-120
-130
-140
-150
...
-170
MP
78
69
68
67
65
56
46
45
33
22
21
17
N-S
-180
...
-200
...
-300
...
-400
-420
-430
...
-500
...
MP
13
12
9
8
7
6
5
4
3
2
1
0
S K J 6 5 4
H 4 3
D A K 4
C 9 5 4
TableS 10 7
H K Q J 6 2
D Q 6 3 2
C A 7
S A 8
H 10 7 5
D 10 8 7 5
C J 10 8 6

North’s 12-point opening (10-12 or 12-14, take your pick) is frightening at the vulnerability, but difficult to punish as the cards lie. Note that if doubled, the best North-South can do is escape to 2 C, which (doubled) goes for 200. Weak notrumpers exhibit a good case that it’s tough to catch them speeding.

East’s 2 H overcall is a little shabby, but here works better than most two-suited gadgets, which would have a tough time reaching this optimum spot. Nine tricks should be won after the likely club lead. Note that the spade guess is irrelevant — if declarer puts up the S K, he will have to lose a diamond trick.

No doubt many East-West pairs will get overboard, sometimes to 3 NT, which is routinely defeated with an original club lead (or timely club shift).


Most North-South pairs should reach the spade game, commonly after this auction:

West

Pass
All Pass
North

1 S
East
1 C
Pass
South
1 H
4 S
Board 6
E-W Vul
S A Q 10 7 6
H
D Q J 6 4 2
C Q 7 5
N-S
...
+800
...
+690
...
+650
...
+590
...
+500
...
+450
...
+420
MP
100
98
97
96
95
94
93
92
91
90
89
81
69
57
N-S
+400
...
+200
...
+170
...
+140
...
+110
+100
...
-50
...
-100
MP
45
44
42
40
39
38
37
35
34
32
31
25
17
13
N-S
-110
...
-130
...
-150
...
-200
...
-300
...
-710
...
MP
11
10
9
8
7
6
5
4
3
2
1
0
S 9 5 3 2
H Q 9 7 2
D 10 5
C A 10 4
TableS
H K 8 6
D A 8 7 3
C K J 8 6 3 2
S K J 8 4
H A J 10 5 4 3
D K 9
C 9

At some tables West might complicate the issue with a pathetic negative double of 1 H (or worse, a 1 S bid), perhaps quelling the game aspirations for North-South. I wonder: Would you reach 4 S if West responded 1 S? Pretty tough, I think.

Regardless of the lead or defense, 11 tricks should be won in spades despite the 4-0 trump break. Declarer can establish the diamond suit with a ruff (high), ruff one club, discard a club on the H A and still draw all of West’s trumps. Of course, some declarers will be careless and hold themselves to 10 tricks, and a few will do even worse.

Bridge teachers note: This is an excellent lesson deal on trump handling and control.


With great fits on both sides and the HCP about even, a lively auction should transpire. Here’s one scenario:

West

2 D
4 S
Pass
North

2 H
Pass
Pass
East

2 S
Pass
Dbl
South
Pass
4 H
5 H
All Pass
Board 7
Both Vul
S 10 4 3
H K J 10 7 4
D A
C Q J 7 6
N-S
...
+800
+790
...
+620
...
+500
...
+300
...
+200
...
+170
MP
100
99
98
97
92
85
84
83
82
81
80
79
78
N-S
...
+140
...
+100
...
0
...
-100
-110
...
-130
-140
-150
MP
75
71
66
64
62
61
60
48
32
31
29
27
26
N-S
...
-170
...
-200
...
-500
...
-620
...
-790
-800
...
MP
25
23
21
18
16
15
12
9
3
2
1
0
S K 9 7
H 9 2
D K Q 10 9 4 2
C 5 2
TableS Q J 8 6 5
H 3
D J 8 7 3
C A K 10
S A 2
H A Q 8 6 5
D 6 5
C 9 8 4 3

East’s spade suit is atypical for a response to a weak two-bid, but the diamond fit ensures safety. This allows West to take the sacrifice (?) in 4 S, one level lower than East would have done in diamonds. South now has a tough decision. I think many will push to 5 H, and East should double based on his fast club tricks.

Against hearts, East leads the C K and West signals with the five, but the situation is not clear — West could have J-7-5. Obviously, East must continue clubs to hold declarer to nine tricks.

What about that 4 S sacrifice? Assuming the H A lead, South is unlikely to find the killing diamond shift, unless North can signal it. Should North drop the H K? That would work well here; but what if East held Q-x? I’m betting that 4 S makes.


South’s “aces and spaces” are not ideal for declaring notrump, but it’s hard to fault this simple auction:

West
Pass
Pass
North
Pass
4 NT
East
Pass
All Pass
South
2 NT
Board 8
None Vul
S K Q 3
H 10 9 7 4
D Q 8 4
C K J 10
N-S
...
+990
...
+920
...
+490
...
+460
...
+430
MP
100
97
94
93
92
77
61
40
23
22
N-S
+420
+400
...
+240
...
+210
...
+170
...
+150
MP
20
19
18
17
16
15
14
13
12
11
N-S
...
+110
...
-50
...
-100
...
-150
...
MP
10
9
8
7
4
3
2
1
0
S 9 8 7 5 2
H Q J 8 3
D 10 2
C 9 4
TableS J 10 4
H K 6
D J 9 7 5 3
C Q 6 2
S A 6
H A 5 2
D A K 6
C A 8 7 5 3

The 4 NT response is quantitative based on a 20-22 range, and South rejects. Having already promoted his 19 points into 20, it’s time to draw the line.

The only play problem is how to tackle clubs, and the lie of the cards unfortunately rewards the wrong play. Proper technique is a club to the jack, as this caters to more 4-1 breaks (3-2 breaks are a wash). The essence of this strategy is that declarer can pick up Q-9-x-x with West, but he cannot pick up the same holding with East. Protect yourself: If you made 12 tricks on this board, claim that West played the C 9 on the first round to give you a legitimate alternative.

Should West by chance find a low heart lead, South should duck and win the second round before taking the recommended club play. This yields the same 11 tricks, since East will have no more hearts.


TopMain


East-West have the values for game, and I consider this a sound auction:

West

Pass
4 S
North
1 H
Pass
All Pass
East
Dbl
3 S
South
3 D
Pass
Board 9
E-W Vul
S J 7 5
H A J 9 8 4 3
D Q 5
C A 10
N-S
...
+500
...
+200
...
+130
...
+110
+100
...
-50
...
-100
-110
MP
100
99
98
97
96
95
94
93
81
71
70
69
67
64
N-S
...
-140
-150
...
-170
...
-200
...
-230
...
-300
...
-500
...
MP
63
56
48
45
43
36
32
29
28
27
25
24
22
20
N-S
-600
-620
...
-650
...
-790
-800
...
-850
...
-990
...
MP
19
14
9
8
7
6
5
4
3
2
1
0
S 10 6
H 7 5 2
D A 8 2
C K 9 8 3 2
TableS A K Q 9 4 3
H K Q 10
D 4
C Q J 6
S 8 2
H 6
D K J 10 9 7 6 3
C 7 5 4

East is too strong for an overcall, so he doubles. South’s bid is weak (does anybody still play strong jumps over a double?). Over 3 S West has a tough decision, but to pass is an insult to partner; considering the alternatives, I like the simple raise.

So much for good bidding. The singleton heart lead will quickly flatten 4 S. Even if East falsecards with a high honor, North should not be fooled on the bidding. North should return the H 3 as suit preference for clubs, and South gets two ruffs.

The only makable game is 3 NT, which is a reasonable venture on the auction. Basically, it gains over 4 S when hearts are 6-1 or a diamond is not led; while it loses when hearts are 5-2 and a diamond is led. Of course, this is purely academic, since I see no logical way to bid it.


Here’s an exciting deal that will be a thorn for Easts who are quick to double:

West

3 H
North

4 S
East
1 H
Dbl
South
2 S
All Pass
Board 10
Both Vul
S Q 7 5
H
D A K J 9 7 4
C A Q 8 7
N-S
...
+1400
...
+1100
...
+990
...
+800
+790
...
+650
...
+620
MP
100
99
98
97
96
94
91
89
84
82
79
76
71
N-S
...
+500
+400
...
+300
...
+200
...
+170
...
+140
...
+100
MP
66
65
60
57
51
48
44
40
39
38
37
36
35
N-S
...
-100
...
-200
...
-300
...
-500
...
-800
...
-1100
...
MP
34
30
24
19
14
13
11
8
6
4
2
1
0
S
H J 7 5 2
D Q 8 5 2
C K 10 5 3 2
TableS K J 9 3
H A K 10 6 4
D 10 3
C J 4
S A 10 8 6 4 2
H Q 9 8 3
D 6
C 9 6

South’s jump overcall is quite a rag, but experience has shown that the worst bids often produce the best results. Nice dummy, partner! East’s double is probably the right strategy — at least you won’t get any argument from North-South.

The hand plays like a dream, in fact 11 tricks can’t be stopped. Ruff the heart lead, cash two diamonds to throw a club, and ruff a diamond (East cannot gain by ruffing with the S J). If South now continues: heart ruff, C A, etc., he can be held to 10 tricks. The key is to negotiate more ruffs in hand, so cross to the C A (no finesse) and continue the crossruff, as East is helpless.

The matchpoint difference in the scores of 990 and 790 is more meaningful than usual because of the East-West group going for 800 in 5 H.


Many North-South auctions will be uncontested, but I vote for some intervention by West:

West

Pass
Dbl
Pass
All Pass
North

1 D
Pass
Pass
East

Pass
2 C
3 C
South
Pass
1 S
2 D
3 D
Board 11
None Vul
S 9
H A Q 4 3
D K J 7 6 5
C Q 9 4
N-S
...
+400
...
+300
...
+150
...
+130
+120
MP
100
99
98
97
96
95
93
89
85
N-S
+110
+100
+90
...
+50
0
-50
...
-100
MP
56
27
25
24
23
22
16
10
7
N-S
...
-150
...
-200
...
-300
...
MP
6
5
4
3
2
1
0
S A 10 3 2
H 9 6 5 2
D 10
C A 7 6 5
TableS K 6 5
H J 8 7
D A 9 4
C K 10 8 2
S Q J 8 7 4
H K 10
D Q 8 3 2
C J 3

If you don’t care for the double, remember that matchpoints only occasionally resembles bridge. As a passed hand, the double is fairly safe, and here it allows East to compete with the assured club fit.

The play in diamonds should always produce nine tricks (but we know better). With a heart lead it seems that declarer can benefit by taking three fast hearts to throw a club. Not with sound defense; e.g., West takes the first spade and returns a trump, which East ducks, and the limit is still nine tricks.

North-South pairs who play in notrump can be held to seven tricks with a club lead (unless the defense fails to cash out upon winning the D A); though eight tricks come home with a heart lead (note the H 10 is trick).


With 26 HCP, two balanced hands and no 8-card major fit, almost all East-West pairs will reach 3 NT. Standard bidding dictates this route:

West
1 C
2 NT
North
1 S
Pass
East
2 D
3 NT
South
Pass
All Pass
Board 12
N-S Vul
S A 10 9 5 3 2
H 10 7 3
D 7
C A 4 2
N-S
...
+670
...
+200
...
+150
...
+110
+100
...
+50
MP
100
99
98
97
96
95
94
93
87
80
58
N-S
...
-90
-100
-110
-120
-130
-140
-150
...
-170
...
MP
37
36
35
30
26
21
18
17
16
15
14
N-S
-200
...
-400
-420
-430
...
-450
-460
...
-500
...
MP
13
12
11
9
6
5
4
3
2
1
0
S K 6
H K Q 4 2
D A 10 8
C 10 9 7 6
TableS J 8
H A J 9
D K Q 9 5 3
C K 8 3
S Q 7 4
H 8 6 5
D J 6 4 2
C Q J 5

If North overcalled 2 S instead, East would bid 3 D and West 3 NT. In either case, West shouldn’t bid hearts because East failed to make a negative double, and he shouldn’t raise diamonds because of his crucial spade holding for notrump.

Alas, 3 NT is doomed unless declarer is inspired. Assume the S 10 lead: jack, queen, king; then the D 10 to the king. I doubt that one could logically apply Zia’s award-winning tip, “If they don’t cover, they don’t have it!” so it would be a deep position for declarer to finesse the D 8. I wouldn’t, and I’d be down one — of course, all my partners have learned to predict that before the opening lead.

The few timid East-West pairs who miss game will be rewarded, as will those reaching a 4-3 heart fit (North will likely lead his singleton to make 10 tricks easy).


TopMain


After a strong notrump by North, East may pass at the vulnerability, leading to this transfer sequence:

West

Pass
Pass
North
1 NT
2 H
4 H
East
Pass
Pass
All Pass
South
2 D1
3 NT
Board 13
Both Vul
S K 9 2
H Q 10 9
D 8 6
C A K Q J 8
N-S
...
+800
...
+750
...
+690
+680
...
+660
+650
MP
100
99
98
97
96
95
84
79
72
43
N-S
...
+630
+620
+600
...
+500
...
+230
+210
+200
MP
18
17
16
15
14
13
12
11
10
9
N-S
...
+170
...
+150
...
-100
...
-200
...
MP
8
7
6
5
4
3
2
1
0
S 7 6 3
H 8 7 4
D 9 5 3 2
C 7 4 2
TableS A J 10 5 4
H A 2
D Q J 10 7
C 10 5
1. Jacoby transfer
S Q 8
H K J 6 5 3
D A K 4
C 9 6 3

Four hearts looks cut-and-dried for 11 tricks, but there is a good chance to win 12. Assume the normal D Q lead, then a heart to the queen, ace. If East makes the instinctive play of another diamond, North can score a diamond ruff, then overtake his heart to draw trumps. This risks disaster if hearts are 4-1, but I’d certainly go for it — especially when you consider that some pairs will be making 11 tricks in 3 NT.

East may overcall if playing an appropriate two-suited convention such as Astro, Brozel or Cappelletti. This appears to be a bad decision facing West’s Yarborough, but the defense can only get 500 (against 2 D or 2 S) with best play. Chances are, most Souths will give up on the penalty and just bid their game.


West’s strong hand is not good enough for 2 C, so many will conduct this natural auction:

West

1 H
3 D
North

Pass
Pass
East
Pass
1 S
3 NT
South
Pass
Pass
All Pass
Board 14
None Vul
S J 8 3
H K 5 4
D 7 4
C A 8 7 4 2
N-S
...
+150
...
+100
...
+50
...
-110
...
-130
-140
-150
MP
100
98
97
96
95
91
87
86
85
84
82
80
N-S
...
-170
...
-200
...
-230
...
-400
-420
-430
...
-450
MP
79
78
77
76
75
74
73
70
59
50
49
45
N-S
-460
...
-480
-490
...
-920
...
-980
-990
...
MP
41
33
29
21
8
6
5
4
1
0
S K Q
H A 8 6 3 2
D A K Q J 9
C Q
TableS A 7 6 5 4
H 10 7
D 10 6 2
C K 10 9
S 10 9 2
H Q J 9
D 8 5 3
C J 6 5 3

Again the story is overtricks. After the likely club lead to the ace and another club, East must decide whether to try the club finesse to make 11 tricks or hope the spades break 3-3 to make 12. Assuming the lead is a low club, South is a big favorite to hold the jack, so the better play is to hop and cash — especially when in view of all four hands.

No doubt some East-West pairs will bid a slam, probably when West takes a too rosy view of his hand. Only an unlikely heart lead will stop 6 NT, and 6 D or 6 S can always be made. No justice, as any slam requires at least a 3-3 spade break (about 36 percent). To the slam bidders, I say this: If you bid one at my table, let it be six hearts; and if you like, I’ll even underlead the C A.


It’s hard to imagine any auction ending below 4 S, and this should be a common one:

West

1 D
All Pass
North

1 H
East

4 S
South
Pass
Dbl
Board 15
N-S Vul
S 6
H K Q 9 5 4 3
D A 9
C A 5 4 2
N-S
...
+800
...
+500
...
+300
...
+200
...
+150
...
+100
MP
100
99
98
97
96
93
90
89
88
87
86
72
N-S
...
+50
...
-100
...
-140
...
-170
...
-200
...
-300
MP
58
35
20
19
18
17
16
15
14
13
12
11
N-S
...
-420
...
-500
...
-530
...
-590
...
-800
...
MP
10
9
8
7
6
5
4
3
2
1
0
S
H A J 10
D K J 8 7 5 3
C Q 10 9 6
TableS K Q J 9 8 7 5 4
H 7
D 10 6
C K 3
S A 10 3 2
H 8 6 2
D Q 4 2
C J 8 7

South’s double is speculative, of course, but I think it’s the right strategy. North’s vulnerable overcall rates to supply at least two tricks, so take your best shot for a good score.

As expected, 4 S is routinely down one — possibly two if declarer were to misguess diamonds, but this seems unlike on most lines of play. Note the substantial scoring difference between plus 50 and 100 for North-South, so the double is indeed fruitful.

Here’s a cute play: Win the H A, ruff a heart and lead the nine of spades. As South, I admit I would play low expecting partner to win with a singleton or doubleton honor. Of course, if East ever really tried this, you can be sure spades would be 3-2, or a singleton 10.


The negative double should allow North-South to find their spade fit on this typical auction:

West
Pass
Pass
North
1 H
2 S
East
2 C
All Pass
South
Dbl
Board 16
E-W Vul
S K 7 6 2
H K Q 10 8 5
D A 9
C 7 6
N-S
...
+800
...
+500
...
+300
...
+200
...
MP
100
99
98
97
96
95
94
93
90
N-S
+170
...
+140
...
+110
+100
...
-50
...
MP
89
88
75
64
55
41
37
29
22
N-S
-90
-100
-110
-120
...
-150
...
-180
...
MP
18
10
6
5
4
3
2
1
0
S J 10 5
H 7 6 3 2
D 6 5 4
C A 9 3
TableS A 3
H A 9
D J 7 3 2
C K Q J 10 8
S Q 9 8 4
H J 4
D K Q 10 8
C 5 4 2

After three rounds of clubs, North ruffs and makes the obvious spade play, low to the queen (East is marked for the S A once West reveals the C A). Then it is routine to duck the spade return and bring home nine tricks. East can be a pest by leading a fourth and fifth club, but South takes the ruffs and West cannot score his trump.

Some East-West pairs, unfazed by the vulnerability, may compete to 3 C, which can be set two tricks. The defense must lead trumps after winning each diamond trick to stop a diamond ruff (or a dummy reversal), so you can be sure many declarers will be allowed to escape for down one. The moral: If you’re going to misdefend, you had better double — else save the embarrassment by bidding and making 3 S.


TopMain


Bid ‘em up, I say. Sound weak two-bidders please close your eyes:

West

3 S
North
2 H
Pass
East
2 S
Pass
South
2 NT
Pass
Board 17
None Vul
S J 10 7
H Q J 10 6 5 4
D 9 6 3
C 10
N-S
...
+420
...
+300
...
+200
...
+170
...
+150
+140
...
+110
MP
100
99
98
97
96
95
94
93
92
91
90
89
88
N-S
+100
+90
...
+50
...
-50
...
-90
-100
-110
-120
...
-140
MP
85
82
81
74
66
60
55
54
50
43
39
38
31
N-S
-150
...
-170
...
-200
...
-300
...
-500
...
-800
...
MP
16
10
9
8
7
6
5
4
3
2
1
0
S 6 5 2
H K 3
D Q 10 4 2
C A 7 6 4
TableS K 9 8 4 3
H A 8 2
D A 8 7
C Q 9
S A Q
H 9 7
D K J 5
C K J 8 5 3 2

East’s overcall is not much better than North’s opening. South tries for game with a forcing 2 NT (he’s not in on the joke yet), and West raises spades. North’s pass should be fair warning for South to give up.

In spades, all roads lead to nine tricks unless declarer does something terrible (like a spade to the king after South ruffs with the queen). On a heart lead and three rounds of hearts, whether South ruffs or discards, he must sooner or later lead a minor suit to help declarer. Essentially, the defense will make three trumps and one minor-suit trick.

In hearts, North can win only eight tricks (seven with a diamond lead), so 4 H doubled is not a wise move. After the likely spade lead, declarer must immediately lead a club from dummy to build communication and play accurately thereafter, so many will do worse.


Despite West’s third-seat opening, good North-South bidding should reach the best contract:

West

1 D
Pass
All Pass
North

Dbl
3 C
East
Pass
Pass
Pass
South
Pass
2 S
3 NT
Board 18
N-S Vul
S A J 9
H A K 2
D J 5
C K 10 8 6 2
N-S
...
+1100
...
+800
...
+750
...
+660
+650
...
+630
+620
+600
...
MP
100
99
98
95
93
92
91
90
89
88
86
83
72
66
N-S
+500
...
+300
...
+210
+200
...
+180
+170
...
+150
+140
+130
+120
MP
61
57
56
55
54
53
52
51
50
49
47
43
40
37
N-S
+110
+100
+90
...
+50
...
-100
...
-200
...
-300
...
MP
32
28
26
25
24
23
15
6
4
3
2
0
S Q 6 4
H J 9 6
D K 10 6 4
C A Q 4
TableS 8 5 3
H Q 8 5 3
D 7 2
C 9 7 5 3
S K 10 7 2
H 10 7 4
D A Q 9 8 3
C J

South’s jump response to the takeout double is invitational. North’s 3 C bid indicates acceptance without four spades (South will often have only four spades), and South has no problem choosing 3 NT.

The play offers many twists and turns. Nine tricks can always be made, and a favorable lead could yield more. Assume West finds the most effective heart lead, ducked to East, and a heart is returned. The D J is led to West, then another heart. South can now succeed by setting up diamonds and later playing West for the S Q and C A, or in various other ways.

What if West ducks the D J at trick three? Again there are many paths, but probably the simplest is to lead to the D A, finesse the S J and run four spade tricks. Then exit with the C J


Whether West elects to overcall or double, East-West are apt to get overboard. I would be in this camp:

West

Dbl
North

Pass
East

2 NT
South
1 C
All Pass
Board 19
E-W Vul
S J 2
H Q 7 2
D J 10 9 6
C 8 4 3 2
N-S
...
+500
...
+300
...
+200
...
+120
...
MP
100
99
98
97
96
91
87
86
85
N-S
+100
+90
+80
...
-50
...
-90
-100
-110
MP
71
57
54
53
47
41
36
24
14
N-S
-120
-130
-140
-150
...
-180
...
-300
...
MP
9
8
6
5
4
3
2
1
0
S K 7 6 4
H K 6 3
D K Q 5 4 3
C J
TableS A 10 8
H J 8 5
D A 7
C Q 9 7 6 5
S Q 9 5 3
H A 10 9 4
D 8 2
C A K 10

The 2 NT response is invitational, and West certainly has no extras (if he has a double at all).

As South I would lead a spade: low, jack, ace. Say, declarer now leads the S 10: queen, king; then a spade to the nine. South cashes the C K then exits with either red suit (it isn’t necessary to lead a heart). Declarer now has six tricks and he can make seven with the H K, but that’s the limit. The same result should occur if declarer leads diamonds at trick two. There is no legitimate way to establish and enjoy additional tricks in spades, hearts and diamonds.

Weak notrumpers will open the South hand 1 NT and probably play it there, as West’s hand seems too barren to compete. This can always be set one trick, or more if declarer misplays hearts by running the H 10.


This auction should be repeated at the great majority of tables:

West
1 D
2 D
North
Pass
Pass
East
1 H
Pass
South
Pass
Pass
Board 20
Both Vul
S A 10 4
H K 2
D Q 9 4 3
C K 10 3 2
N-S
...
+500
+400
...
+300
...
+200
...
+140
MP
100
99
97
96
93
90
81
73
72
N-S
...
+110
+100
...
-90
-100
-110
-120
-130
MP
71
70
55
40
27
14
11
10
9
N-S
...
-180
...
-200
...
-500
...
-600
...
MP
8
7
6
5
4
3
2
1
0
S 7 2
H A J
D A K J 10 8 7
C 9 8 6
TableS K Q J 5
H Q 8 4 3
D 6 5
C J 7 5
S 9 8 6 3
H 10 9 7 6 5
D 2
C A Q 4

After the probable club lead (least of evils), accurate defense will inflict a two-trick set. South wins the C A and should shift to a heart. It makes no difference how declarer plays, but assume he hops, cashes the D A and leads a spade. North wins, cashes both of his kings then puts South on lead with a club. Now a third heart lead promotes North’s D 9 — if West ruffs with the jack, North discards a spade.

Question: Which side can make 1 NT? The answer is neither. It looks like North might, but the killing defense is a diamond to the king and a spade switch (continuing diamonds is inadequate). If North ducks, the defense shifts back to diamonds; if he hops, he cannot score both a heart and a diamond trick. None of this is realistic, but I needed to fill this space with something.


TopMain


Using the popular “one notrump forcing” convention the obvious auction is:

West

Pass
Pass
North
1 S
2 C
3 NT
East
Pass
Pass
All Pass
South
1 NT
2 NT
Board 21
N-S Vul
S A Q 9 5 3
H 5 4
D A 9
C K Q J 4
N-S
...
+750
...
+690
...
+660
+650
...
+630
+620
MP
100
99
98
97
96
87
80
78
65
46
N-S
+600
...
+210
+200
...
+180
+170
...
+150
+140
MP
35
30
29
28
27
26
24
22
20
18
N-S
+130
...
+110
...
-100
...
-200
...
-300
...
MP
16
14
13
12
9
6
3
2
1
0
S K 8 6 2
H 9 6 2
D J 10 7 6 3
C 2
TableS 7 4
H A K J 8
D Q 8 4
C 9 7 5 3
S J 10
H Q 10 7 3
D K 5 2
C A 10 8 6

The 2 NT rebid is invitational, suggesting 11-12 HCP, but South uses good judgment to upgrade his 10 points (S J-10 especially should be golden). North has more than enough to accept.

After a diamond lead to the queen and king, declarer can set up the spade suit, so East-West will get one spade and two heart tricks (whether they cash them or not). Ten tricks seem to be routine.

How about 11? Look more closely at the spade suit when South leads the jack. If South held J-7 or J-4, West should cover with the king, after which declarer would almost surely win and later finesse the nine. Only when South holds J-10 is it right to duck. With 2-to-1 odds in favor of covering, here’s one more opportunity for the experts to bite the dust.


The East-West cards provide a sound play for 6 D, and I would suggest this auction:

West

1 S
3 D
4 C
6 D
North

Pass
Pass
Pass
All Pass
East
1 D
1 NT
3 NT
4 H
South
Pass
Pass
Pass
Pass
Board 22
E-W Vul
S 10 4 3
H K J 8 6 4
D 8 5 2
C 7 5
N-S
...
+200
...
+100
...
-170
...
-190
...
-240
...
MP
100
99
98
97
95
94
93
92
91
90
89
N-S
-600
-620
-630
-640
...
-660
...
-690
-710
-720
...
MP
88
87
86
85
84
81
76
58
42
39
38
N-S
-1100
...
-1370
...
-1390
...
-1430
-1440
...
-1470
...
MP
37
36
35
34
30
28
27
15
3
1
0
S A Q J 2
H 10 7
D A Q 7 6
C A J 6
TableS 6 5
H A Q 3 2
D K J 9 3
C K 8 3
S K 9 8 7
H 9 5
D 10 4
C Q 10 9 4 2

The jump to 3 D is forcing in my methods. East tries 3 NT with both unbid suits stopped, and West cue-bids 4 C. East now cue-bids 4 H, which provides the spark for West to bid the slam.

Essentially, 6 D requires one of two finesses (spades or hearts) and reasonable breaks. On the friendly lie of the cards, all 13 tricks should be won. Declarer does not even need the successful club finesse — he should draw only two rounds of trumps (D A-K) as he finesses in the majors, then the defense is helpless.

I wish I could switch some cards here to punish the greedy bidders who reach 6 NT. Alas, three out of three finesses work, so 12 tricks are a breeze. It makes me nauseous.


This should be a partscore battle between diamonds and spades, something like:

West

Pass
2 S
3 S
North

1 D
3 D
All Pass
East

1 S
Pass
South
Pass
2 D
Pass
Board 23
Both Vul
S 9 5
H A 10 7 3
D A 8 7 6 4
C A 6
N-S
...
+500
...
+200
...
+140
+130
+120
+110
MP
100
99
98
97
96
95
94
93
87
N-S
+100
+90
...
-100
-110
...
-140
...
-170
MP
70
58
57
54
46
42
27
12
9
N-S
...
-200
...
-300
...
-500
...
-620
...
MP
8
7
6
5
4
3
2
1
0
S 6 4 3 2
H K 8 4
D 5
C K 9 7 5 4
TableS A K Q 10 8
H Q 5 2
D Q J 2
C 8 3
S J 7
H J 9 6
D K 10 9 3
C Q J 10 2

Note that it is West, not East, who should push to 3 S. East’s balanced shape and D Q-J-x suggest defending, although 3 D is easily made.

The fate of 3 S should depend on South’s opening lead. If he chooses a diamond to North’s ace, declarer can later establish a diamond with the ruffing finesse to provide a heart discard from dummy — nine tricks. With any other lead, the contract should fail.

The defense is severely tested after the C Q lead (my choice), ducked by declarer. South must now switch to a heart, which is finessed to force the queen. If declarer next draws trumps and ducks a club to the blank ace, North must then underlead his D A to reach South for another heart lead.


As a member of the “bid now, pay later” club, I could not resist a weak two-bid as West:

West
2 S
Pass
North
Pass
Pass
East
Pass
Dbl
South
3 D
All Pass
Board 24
None Vul
S Q 10
H K J 10 2
D 6 3
C 9 8 7 4 2
N-S
...
+800
...
+500
...
+300
...
+200
...
+150
...
+130
...
+110
MP
100
99
98
97
96
95
92
91
90
88
86
85
84
83
N-S
+100
+90
...
+50
...
-50
...
-100
-110
-120
...
-140
-150
...
MP
76
71
70
65
59
54
48
39
29
27
26
23
18
15
N-S
-200
...
-300
...
-400
...
-470
...
-500
...
-550
...
MP
14
13
12
9
8
7
6
5
4
2
1
0
S A J 9 7 4 2
H 9 8 7 6
D 9
C 6 3
TableS K 5
H Q 5 4 3
D K Q 10 7
C Q J 10
S 8 6 3
H A
D A J 8 5 4 2
C A K 5

East’s double is aggressive but follows sound matchpoint strategy — an attempt to get 300 instead of 100 to beat the likely East-West partscores of 110 or higher. And so it does.

Regardless of the lead, South is destined to lose three trump tricks, two spades and a club. Note that if the defenders lead trumps to prevent a spade ruff, this costs a trump trick so the result is the same.

I think I’ll save this deal as an example for those who never open a weak two-bid with a side four-card major. The contention is that they are likely to lose their 4-4 fit. What a shame to miss playing this deal in hearts.

Curiously, West cannot be set in 2 S if he guesses to drop the S Q after the 10 appears. Some may even win nine tricks if South fails to cash his four top tricks and becomes endplayed.


TopMain


Most North-South pairs will reach the ill-fated 4 S, some after this standard auction:

West

Pass
Pass
All Pass
North
Pass
2 C
2 S
East
Pass
Pass
Pass
South
1 S
2 H
4 S
Board 25
E-W Vul
S 8 3 2
H K 5 3
D J 10
C A K 10 7 4
N-S
...
+800
...
+500
...
+430
+420
+400
...
+200
...
+170
...
MP
100
99
98
97
96
95
94
93
92
91
90
89
88
N-S
+150
+140
+130
+120
+110
+100
...
-50
...
-100
-110
...
-150
MP
87
86
81
80
78
75
74
59
44
30
15
14
11
N-S
...
-200
...
-300
...
-500
...
-670
...
-800
...
MP
10
9
8
7
6
5
4
3
2
1
0
S Q J 10 4
H 4
D A 9 7 6 3 2
C 8 5
TableS 7
H Q J 8 7 6
D Q 8 5 4
C Q J 2
S A K 9 6 5
H A 10 9 2
D K
C 9 6 3

West will usually lead the D A, and South ruffs the continuation. The proper play I think is to cash one top spade, then lead a club to the 10 (West might have Q-J-x). No matter what East returns, declarer can cash the second top spade and lead clubs to avoid a heart loser — down one.

Note that it does not help West to lead a heart. Declarer simply captures the jack with his ace, and the heart suit is dead for the defense. When East wins a club, he could kill dummy’s entry by return the heart queen — but that’s not all it kills.

Those who go down two in 4 S can only blame themselves, and those who make it can probably thank West for underleading his ace.


I’ve already suggested a few controversial two-bids, and now I’ll move up a notch:

West

Pass
North

3 NT
East
3 S
All Pass
South
Pass
Board 26
Both Vul
S A 10
H A 6 4
D J 10 5 3
C A K 8 2
N-S
...
+500
+400
...
+300
...
+200
...
+120
+110
+100
+90
...
MP
100
95
92
91
90
89
82
76
75
74
64
55
54
N-S
-100
-110
...
-140
...
-170
...
-200
...
-300
...
-400
-500
MP
51
42
37
35
32
31
30
28
23
19
15
14
13
N-S
...
-620
...
-670
...
-730
...
-800
...
-1100
...
MP
12
11
10
9
8
7
6
5
3
2
0
S K 2
H K Q 9 5 2
D Q 4 2
C J 10 4
TableS J 9 8 7 6 5 4
H 10
D A K 7
C 5 3
S Q 3
H J 8 7 3
D 9 8 6
C Q 9 7 6

East’s hand would not appear in any textbooks on preempting, but once again it pays to be undisciplined. The essence of a preempt is to make your opponents guess, so the more your hands vary, the more difficult it is for them to guess right.

What should North do? If he doubles, South would bid 4 H (yuk), so 3 NT seems to be a better choice. Perhaps North should just pass. Wait! There’s another option I overlooked: “Double. Your lead partner!” — yep, works every time.

Against 3 NT East will lead a spade (why not with two entries). The play goes queen, king [expletive deleted], and the best declarer can do is cash out for down three. Even guessing spades leaves declarer down two.

Those who play in spades will win exactly eight tricks barring a defensive error.


North has an awkward hand to bid, but the positional value of his major-suit queens makes 1 NT a standout. This should lead to a competitive auction:

West

Pass
2 S
3 S
North

1 NT
3 D
All Pass
East

2 D1
Pass
South
Pass
Pass
Pass
Board 27
None Vul
S Q 9
H Q 5
D A K 9 8 7 4
C A Q 10
N-S
...
+500
...
+300
...
+200
...
+180
...
+150
...
+130
MP
100
99
98
97
96
95
94
93
92
91
87
82
N-S
+120
+110
+100
+90
...
+50
...
-50
...
-100
-110
...
MP
74
63
54
50
49
45
41
37
34
32
29
28
N-S
-140
...
-200
...
-500
...
-530
...
-570
...
MP
22
9
7
6
5
4
3
2
1
0
S 8 7 5 4 3
H A J
D 6 2
C 9 5 4 2
TableS A J 6 2
H K 9 7 6 3
D Q 10
C K 8
1. Cappelletti (majors)
S K 10
H 10 8 4 2
D J 5 3
C J 7 6 3

Assume East-West are playing Cappelletti (or similar) where 2 D shows both majors. West is happy to bid spades (perhaps he should jump to three), North shows his real hand, and West competes to 3 S.

Three spades is right on the money. With trumps 2-2, West can easily manage nine tricks as long as he doesn’t get careless. Translation: Draw trumps.

Those who play in diamonds can also win nine tricks. Assume East leads the ace and another spade. Declarer should immediately lead the C J (he may never get to dummy again), then later his only option is to drop the D Q. The sparsity of entries turns out to be a blessing, as declarer might otherwise play East for a singleton D 10 after he showed both majors.


The first round of bidding looks routine, and I think North should pass 2 S (unless forcing by system):

West
1 H
Pass
North
2 D
Pass
East
Pass
Pass
South
2 S
Board 28
N-S Vul
S 6 4
H Q 8 6 3
D A K Q 10 6 3
C 2
N-S
...
+800
...
+750
...
+690
...
+660
+650
...
+630
+620
+600
MP
100
98
97
96
95
94
91
90
88
87
86
85
80
N-S
...
+500
...
+300
...
+200
...
+170
...
+150
+140
+130
...
MP
77
76
75
74
73
72
71
69
65
61
53
45
40
N-S
+110
+100
...
+50
...
-100
...
-200
...
-300
...
-500
...
MP
38
36
35
34
33
27
20
14
9
6
3
1
0
S A
H K J 10 7 5
D 9 5 2
C A Q 7 3
TableS 8 7 5 3 2
H 9
D J 8 4
C K 6 5 4
S K Q J 10 9
H A 4 2
D 7
C J 10 9 8

A spade contract plays fairly well. West will probably lead a diamond as the least of evils. If declarer pitches two clubs then leads a club, the defense is helpless to stop nine tricks — not a great result, but 140 neatly slips past those making 130 in diamonds. Some will do even better against weak defense; and what about the all-time weakest defense: S A and a heart switch!

An interesting contract is 3 NT by South, which is laydown on a heart lead. It looks like West must lead a club to the king for a heart shift, but East could never know this. In view of dummy, he would return a club; then West can still defeat 3 NT with a diamond switch. Try it, and you’ll see that no matter how many diamonds are cashed, declarer cannot discard effectively, and the defense can prevail. An original diamond lead also does the job.


TopMain


This auction is likely to occur at many tables:

West

1 S
2 NT
North
Pass
Pass
All Pass
East
Pass
1 NT
South
1 H
Pass
Board 29
Both Vul
S 10 8 7 5 4
H 10 6 3
D Q J 10 3
C 6
N-S
...
+730
...
+670
...
+500
...
+300
...
+200
...
+140
...
+110
MP
100
99
98
97
96
95
94
93
91
84
77
76
75
74
N-S
+100
...
-80
-90
-100
-110
-120
-130
-140
-150
...
-170
-180
...
MP
66
58
57
55
53
49
41
34
29
25
17
16
13
12
N-S
-200
...
-500
...
-600
...
-630
...
-750
...
-800
...
MP
11
10
9
8
7
6
5
4
3
2
1
0
S A K 9 6 3
H J
D A 9 2
C Q J 8 5
TableS Q
H Q 9 4 2
D 8 6 4
C A 10 9 3 2
S J 2
H A K 8 7 5
D K 7 5
C K 7 4

Perhaps West should bid 2 C at his second turn, but I prefer the straightforward game invitation at matchpoints. East surely has minimal values and declines.

The H K followed by a diamond shift would send declarer packing, but let’s defend without mirrors: On a low heart lead won in dummy, the C Q is led and South should duck to get more information. On the next club North should discard the diamond queen and South wins the king. Next comes the H K10 from North to clarify that East has another stopper — then a diamond. Nine tricks for declarer.

East-West pairs who play in clubs will not fair as well, with 10 tricks the limit on the unfriendly lie. It would be sound bidding to reach 5 C, an excellent contract with a heart lead, but not so good with a diamond lead because of entry problems.


This rates to be a trouble deal for North-South. If East opens 1 C, I would get caught in this fray:

West

Dbl
North

2 S
East
1 C
Dbl
South
2 D
All Pass
Board 30
None Vul
S Q J 9 8 7 2
H K Q 9 7 5
D J
C J
N-S
...
+470
...
+300
...
+150
...
+100
...
+50
...
-90
MP
100
99
98
97
96
95
94
89
84
71
59
58
N-S
-100
-110
-120
-130
...
-150
...
-200
...
-300
...
-400
MP
54
48
39
32
31
29
27
27
26
23
20
16
N-S
...
-430
...
-490
-500
...
-800
...
-1100
...
MP
14
13
12
11
8
5
3
2
1
0
S 6 3
H J 10 8 4 2
D A 7
C Q 7 4 3
TableS A K 10 5
H 3
D K 8 6 3
C A K 8 5
S 4
H A 6
D Q 10 9 5 4 2
C 10 9 6 2

West’s negative double is not classic but protected by the club fit. Perhaps North should pass to see what develops — nah, I’ll do my own development. East has a luscious penalty double, and West should pass unless he believes that his double showed spades.

In spades, North can manage six tricks after the C K lead. Assume a heart shift (six, 10, king); D J to the ace; spade to the jack, king; C A, ruffed; heart, ruffed; D K, ruffed; then North leads a spade to East. The defense eventually runs out of exit cards, and West is forced to lead a heart.

Can East make 3 NT? Yes, but it takes double-dummy play. After a low diamond lead to the king, declarer cashes the C K and leads a heart to begin to sever the enemy communication. Later the S 10 can be finessed, and South can be endplayed (note club spots).


In third seat North will usually open 1 C, leading to this simple auction:

West

Pass
North

1 C
East

1 NT
South
Pass
All Pass
Board 31
N-S Vul
S 6
H 9 7 6 3
D A 10 9
C A Q 10 7 2
N-S
...
+300
...
+110
+100
+90
...
+50
...
MP
100
99
97
96
94
93
92
82
74
N-S
-90
-100
-110
-120
-130
...
-150
...
-200
MP
70
64
55
38
20
19
12
11
9
N-S
...
-300
...
-400
...
-500
...
-800
...
MP
8
7
6
5
4
3
2
1
0
S 8 7 5 3
H A 10 8 2
D K 7 5
C 6 4
TableS A J 2
H K Q
D Q J 6 3 2
C K 9 8
S K Q 10 9 4
H J 5 4
D 8 4
C J 5 3

The vulnerability and flat distribution should deter South from bidding — good thing, since West would surely double 2 S, which can be defeated two tricks with sound defense.

Against 1 NT assume South leads the S K and East wins. (It would be foolish to duck and receive the obvious club shift.) The D Q is ducked, then North takes the D K with the ace. The club return is ducked to the jack, then on the next club North must not take the ace — else South gets caught in an end position. As diamonds are cashed, South must discard spades, and North hearts to hold declarer to eight tricks. No doubt some Souths will pitch a heart, allowing declarer to overtake the second heart for nine or 10 tricks.


Bridge is a bidder’s game, so how about this stretch to the limit:

West
1 C
Pass
All Pass
North
1 D
3 S
East
1 H
Pass
South
1 S
4 S
Board 32
E-W Vul
S A 5 3
H 10 9
D A 10 6 5 2
C A J 2
N-S
...
+500
...
+420
...
+300
...
+200
...
+170
MP
100
98
96
89
83
82
80
77
74
61
N-S
...
+140
...
+120
+110
+100
+90
...
-50
...
MP
47
41
34
33
30
25
20
17
11
9
N-S
-80
...
-100
-110
...
-150
...
-300
...
MP
8
7
6
5
4
3
2
1
0
S K 9 4
H K Q 8
D J 8 3
C K Q 7 5
TableS 8 6
H J 7 6 4 2
D K Q 7
C 9 4 3
S Q J 10 7 2
H A 5 3
D 9 4
C 10 8 6

The 3 S and 4 S bids are both reasonable, though aggressive. I doubt North-South would bid past 2 S in an uncontested environment, but competitive auctions have a propelling nature.

Assume West leads the H K, ducked, then the H Q to South’s ace. Declarer finesses spades twice (ducked by West) and concedes a diamond. If a third heart is led, declarer can ruff with the S A, establish diamonds with a ruff, and concede a trump.

What if West shifts to the C K at trick two? North wins the ace and a diamond is ducked. Best defense now is to clear clubs. Declarer must be careful to unblock the C J and win the third club in hand, then the S Q is led. If West covers the first or second spade, declarer can ruff a heart; if West refuses to cover, the diamonds come home with the S A entry.


TopMain


Despite the 11-card trump fit, I would expect many East-West pairs to gamble on notrump, perhaps with this lively auction:

West

1 NT
North
Pass
2 D
East
1 D
3 NT
South
Dbl
All Pass
Board 33
None Vul
S J 9 7 5 3
H A Q J 4
D 5
C 9 4 2
N-S
...
+590
...
+420
...
+300
...
+170
...
+140
...
MP
100
99
98
97
96
95
94
92
90
76
62
N-S
+110
+100
...
+50
...
-50
...
-90
-100
-110
-120
MP
61
56
54
46
39
36
32
31
26
17
10
N-S
...
-150
...
-300
...
-400
...
-490
...
MP
8
7
6
5
4
3
2
1
0
S A Q
H 10 5 2
D 10 9 7 3 2
C Q 7 5
TableS K 4
H 6 3
D A K Q J 8 4
C J 6 3
S 10 8 6 2
H K 9 8 7
D 6
C A K 10 8

South’s double is on the light side but ideal in shape; West makes a matchpoint notrump bid; North cue-bids to show both majors; and East… well, he paid his entry fee too. None of these calls are clear-cut, but neither are they out of line.

Against 3 NT, North-South can cash the first six tricks with a club or heart lead, but after a spade lead they must settle for the last five. Observe that North-South do not receive a good score for either down one or two, because they are cold for plus 140. Even if 3 NT is doubled, East-West have an escape route to 4 D, down only one regardless of the defense.

In spades (or hearts) North-South have an easy nine tricks, and some will be given 10 when the defense leads a second diamond.


Virtually all roads lead to 4 S (or perhaps 5 S), and I would bid this way:

West

1 S
4 S
North

Pass
All Pass
East
1 H
2 S
South
Pass
Pass
Board 34
N-S Vul
S 8
H 10 8 7 2
D A J 3
C K 10 6 5 4
N-S
...
+100
...
+50
...
-200
...
MP
100
99
98
96
95
92
88
N-S
-230
...
-450
...
-480
...
-500
MP
86
84
63
40
28
10
7
N-S
...
-650
...
-800
...
MP
4
3
2
1
0
S A K 10 9 5 3 2
H K
D 9 7 5
C 9 3
TableS Q J 6
H A J 9 5 3
D K Q 10 4
C Q
S 7 4
H Q 6 4
D 8 6 2
C A J 8 7 2

The controversial call is East’s raise to 2 S, which I especially like at matchpoints, not only to reach a high-scoring strain but to simplify the bidding. West might have only four spades, but I have no aversion to Moysian trump fits — when chosen diligently they produce far more good results than bad.

Some pairs may consider a slam here (especially when East complicates the bidding), but they will land safely in 5 S when two aces are found to be missing.

The play looks clear-cut for 11 tricks, but North-South must take their two tricks immediately. Suppose a club is led to the ace. If South returns anything but a diamond, declarer has the rest — hearts set up with a ruff to pitch three diamonds. The winning defense is hardly obvious; in fact, if North held the H K, it might be necessary for South to return a heart before the D A is dislodged.


South has two reasonable opening bids; I have no quarrel with 1 S but slightly prefer:

West

Pass
Pass
North

3 C
3 NT
East

Pass
All Pass
South
2 NT
3 S
Board 35
E-W Vul
S 7
H 10 9 7 5
D 10 7 5
C K 9 8 5 4
N-S
...
+800
...
+500
...
+400
...
+200
...
+180
MP
100
99
98
97
96
89
82
81
80
79
N-S
...
+150
...
+120
+110
+100
+90
+80
...
-50
MP
78
74
70
65
57
53
52
47
42
31
N-S
...
-100
...
-150
...
-300
...
-500
...
MP
18
12
6
5
4
3
2
1
0
S K J 9 4 2
H K 8 4 2
D A
C Q 10 2
TableS 10 3
H J 6
D J 8 6 4 3 2
C J 6 3
S A Q 8 6 5
H A Q 3
D K Q 9
C A 7

North uses Stayman hoping to find a heart fit, and then retreats to 3 NT — not a glamorous contract, but we’ve all been in worse.

West has a tough lead problem, as spades were bid on his right, and hearts were implied by the Stayman bid. At double-dummy a heart or a club honor is best (the defense prevails); but I must admit I would try a spade, which goes to the queen.

South also has problems. It does no good to establish clubs without an entry, so he should lead hearts: ace then queen (or optionally, queen first), which is rewarded. When West wins the H K, it makes no difference, but he will surely continue with a spade honor. South now can establish his ninth trick in diamonds (second round finesse) or in spades with the potent spot cards, while the defense can win only four tricks.


The trend on borderline hands is to bid, so I’m sure most Wests will open. Standard bidders may witness:

West
1 D
Dbl
North
2 D
Pass
East
Dbl
3 D
South
2 S
All Pass
Board 36
Both Vul
S 10 9 7 5 2
H A K 9 7 4
D 8 5
C 2
N-S
...
+730
...
+670
...
+500
...
+200
...
+140
...
+110
MP
100
99
98
97
96
95
94
93
92
87
81
73
N-S
+100
...
0
...
-100
-110
-120
...
-150
...
-180
...
MP
71
69
67
65
52
46
42
39
37
31
30
28
N-S
-200
...
-500
...
-600
...
-630
...
-800
...
MP
23
17
15
13
8
4
3
2
1
0
S A 8 4 3
H Q 10 5
D K 7 6 2
C K 8
TableS K
H 6 3 2
D A J 10 9 4
C Q J 9 3
S Q J 6
H J 8
D Q 3
C A 10 7 6 5 4

North’s 2 D is a Michaels cue-bid (both majors); East doubles to show a good hand; South chooses his better major; and West doubles (penalty) holding four spades. East should not sit for the double with the undisclosed five-card diamond fit, though it might be better to pull it to 2 NT at matchpoints.

The fate of 3 D should be quickly sealed with three rounds of hearts, ruffed, then the C A and a club ruff — down one.

East-West pairs who play in notrump should win nine tricks with a spade lead (or the H K); eight tricks with a low heart lead if West declares, but only seven if the brutal H J is led against East.

In spades, North-South can win nine tricks (except on a club lead), but this requires a double heart finesse if the defense leads two or three trumps. Realistically, the norm is eight tricks. TopMain

© 1995 Richard Pavlicek