Analyses 7U01 by Richard Pavlicek
September 12, 2001
I hope you enjoyed playing in this ACBL Instant Matchpoint Pairs, an annual event inaugurated in 1987 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the ACBL. Regardless of how well you did, try to find time to compare your results with my analyses in this booklet. You may find some helpful tips, or even discover that some of your results beat my predictions. Determine your matchpoint scores from the tables (top is 100); double-dummy par scores are shown in bold.
I welcome any feedback questions, criticisms, or whatever about the analyses. If you wish a reply, please contact me by e-mail (email@example.com).
Also, if you have access to the Internet, please visit my web site (rpbridge.net) where you will find a large assortment of complimentary bridge material quizzes, puzzles, humor, articles, systems, bidding practice, and more. Each month I also have a new participation project, and for September its a bidding poll. So stop by and vote!
Richard Pavlicek of Fort Lauderdale FL is one of the leading ACBL bridge players. He has won 10 North American championships including the coveted Vanderbilt Cup (1983, 86, 95), the Reisinger Cup (1982, 83, 84, 90), the Grand National Teams (1973, 97), and the Open Swiss Teams (1992).
Mr. Pavlicek is the author of a variety of bridge booklets and lesson materials, and hosts an instructive web site dedicated to the advancement of bridge. He and his wife Mabel are successful bridge teachers in South Florida.
For the 15th year in a row, Pavlicek, a respected bridge analyst, has focused his highly skilled critical examination on each of the 36 deals in the ACBL Instant Matchpoint Pairs.
Bang! And theyre off! Lets begin with some fancy footwork, using the popular Cappelletti convention:
After Souths routine opening, it is doubtful whether West should bid at all, but the hand fits nicely to Cappelletti. Two clubs shows a one-suited hand (any suit) and East is obliged to bid 2 unless he has a good six-card suit of his own. This is passed around and, voila, perfect spot. West was lucky to buy the contract so cheaply, but it happens. Curiously, if West passed 1 NT, East might be the one to use Cappelletti and bid 2 for the majors. Neat; I found two ways to declare diamonds with a blank ace.
The success of 2 hinges on the heart guess, which declarer is likely to get wrong unless the defense gives it away by covering the J with the ace (or South leading a heart). Note that a spade ruff yields nothing extra since South always gets exactly two trump tricks. Down one, however, is above average for East-West since 1 NT would make.
Many Souths will play in 1 NT. After a diamond lead, spade switch, and a club to the king, West must return a low spade and East must duck to hold declarer to his contract not easy, so most will come to eight tricks.
Despite the 11-card club fit, many North-South pairs will aim for the more rewarding game in notrump, perhaps with this auction:
The diamond situation is a little frightening, but 3 NT is a sound venture. To be defeated, East must lead a diamond from five or six cards and West must hold the ace. (Please dont tell me youd lead the A because Id never believe it.) After the probable spade lead, declarer has 10 top tricks, and accurate defense will keep it to that. Nonetheless, many declarers will win more, either from a diamond lead or from a discarding error on the run of the clubs.
Heres a puzzle: If East leads a low diamond, can North win 12 tricks? At first glance it looks promising; declarer has 11 top tricks and West is in trouble guarding both major suits. Alas, no. After running the clubs, West holds K-Q Q-J-4. If declarer plays ace and a spade, West avoids the endplay by leading a low heart to block the suit. Further, East must hold tight to his 7-5-3 to prevent the establishment of dummys six. (If you switched the 6 and 7, 12 tricks would be cold.)
Expect some action here. North will often use a Michaels cue-bid to show a two-suiter with spades, which might lead to this battle:
South obligingly shows his spade support, and West competes with his own two-suiter. North, comforted by the vulnerability, takes a shot at game, and East competes with his great diamond fit. As it happens, 5 would be a good sacrifice, but bidding five over five is seldom right.
In diamonds, 11 tricks are routine, and some may steal 12 if the defense is weak. After the K lead, South should overtake and lead a club (or North should cash his A anyway) but say two rounds of spades are led. The A reveals the bad split, and declarer leads the 9. Last chance! If North ducks, declarer can establish his hearts and win the rest. Clearly, this should never happen; but then, drivers shouldnt exceed the speed limit either.
In spades, the limit is nine tricks, assuming the defense forces North to ruff. After the J falls on the first round of trumps, declarer should play ace and another club; ruff the red-suit return (high if a heart) and lead a club. East can ruff, but declarer can handle the rest with careful play.
This excellent grand should be easy to reach if West opens the bidding. Here is one possible approach, using simple Blackwood:
Wests 2 rebid is atypical, but bidding 1 NT with a worthless doubleton spade or raising with three low hearts is unappealing. After 2 (fourth suit forcing) elicits a heart preference, thats all East needs to drive the hand to seven. The real trap is to avoid the temptation to bid 7 NT.
In hearts, 13 tricks will usually be made. After discovering the 4-0 heart break, declarer can simply ruff a spade and pick up trumps with a finesse. But is this the best play? (North might be short in spades.) If South leads a club, there is no other choice; but after the Q (or a diamond with North ducking), there are excellent squeeze chances after using one club entry to pick up the trumps. Alas, all the squeezes fail. On further consideration, the spade ruff is the proper play because if a squeeze works, it would also work for those in 7 NT, and they would beat your score.
After a routine weak two-bid by East, I would expect this competitive auction at many tables:
Of course, many players dont use weak two-bids in diamonds. If East passes, the bidding is likely to begin: 1 1 1 2 (everybody has a suit) then South will raise spades; West will raise diamonds, and the same contract is reached if North misjudges to compete. Another possibility is a 3 opening, certainly reasonable at the colors, after which South may double and North will bid the same.
Either side wins exactly eight tricks, losing the first five. Against diamonds, North-South have an easy cash-out. Against spades, East will lead his singleton heart for a similar result. It is difficult to imagine any other defenses, but some of the past results suggest I may be missing something. Ah! So thats it! The scores were processed in Tallahassee and they counted the dimpled chads.
In my dreams, East would pass and Id play 3 NT from the South side with a low heart lead. Queen! Making five. Talk about crucial plays at trick one. [Wakes up.] Where am I?
With 27 HCP and no suit fit, most East-Wests will reach the obvious game. This auction should be common:
Wests choice of rebids is debatable, but the simple 3 NT seems best (unless 2 NT is forcing). The odds are high that notrump will be the final strain, and its important to be declarer with the tenuous spade holding.
In notrump, assume North leads a club (a spade is poor with declarer marked for the king). Declarer has eight tricks with the club finesse, but producing a ninth is a nightmare. If declarer starts by leading diamonds (regardless of where he wins the club) he is doomed. The defenders have opportunities for error, but declarer cannot succeed on his own.
Can 3 NT be made? Yes, at double-dummy. One way is win the 10 and lead spades from hand (dummys 6 can be established by force). Did you find that? I think not. Another, having at least a hint of sanity, is to win the club in dummy and lead a low heart; West takes the king. This leads to an ostrich-like ending, but with South out of the picture, declarer can succeed against any defense.
There are some who will open the South hand (rule of 20 diehards?), but most will pass. This auction should be common:
After Norths weak two-bid is doubled for takeout, South has a number of options. My own choice would be the stampede bid of 5 , hoping it to be a good save against 4 and with some chance of luring the opponents to bid higher. Ouch; pick up the pieces. West has the wrong heart holding for this charade, and routine defense takes us for 800. (Now you see why I write about these events instead of playing in them.) Another possibility is to pass quietly, or perhaps raise to 3 , so as not to push the opponents into a game they will probably make.
Against spades, North will lead a club. From declarers point of view this has singleton written all over it, so the obvious move is to play a pair of aces immediately. How sweet; with diamonds also friendly, thats 11 tricks. Bridge is such an easy game. If declarer ducks the club lead, he will have to drop the K to make 10 tricks, a guess that seems indicated with North marked for the A.
After a routine opening bid and takeout double, South might consider a penalty pass (down two is par) but this will be more likely:
Norths raise to 2 is atypical (four trumps would be expected), but game is still possible and its the most sensible way to proceed. I suppose a good case could be made to pass 1 ; indeed, this time for sure.
In spades, eight tricks should be won, though the play is delicate. Suppose West leads a club (what a horrible hand to lead from) won by the king, then a diamond is led to the 10 and ace. Assume a club return to the ace, then K-Q (pitching a club and heart). If declarer next leads the last diamond (perhaps a poor choice) to pitch a heart, West ruffs and returns the Q to the ace. Declarer must now make the key play of ruffing a club before exiting with a heart to West; this way, if West returns a low heart for East to ruff and clear trumps, declarer can win in dummy and score the good club. If trumps are not cleared, declarer can ruff the third heart with the J and East can only make his king.
Notrump is a better spot for North-South. Eight tricks are always there, and if West leads a heart, the defense cannot stop nine.
Assuming East opens with his three quick tricks, West has an interesting rebid problem. I would treat the hefty suit as a six-carder:
Considering the poor alternatives, 2 stands out a mile. As a parallel to Johnnie Cochrans infamous, If the glove doesnt fit, you must acquit! I hereby suggest, If your suit has the meat, you must repeat! Well, at least thats as good as the old story about a diamond in with your hearts, and it leads to the optimum contract.
In hearts, nine tricks should be made. After the K lead, assume North shifts to a trump, ducked by South. Declarer should now play three rounds of diamonds immediately, so if the defenders persist with trumps, dummy will have the established diamond as a ninth trick.
If East passes originally, the weak notrumpers may steal the show. When South opens 1 NT (12-14, or even 10-12) it is likely to be passed out. This is routinely down one, but thats certainly better than defending against a heart partscore.
A borderline game for East-West might be reached if West takes a rosy view. Heres one scenario, or a gross overbid (you pick):
Two clubs is reverse Drury, and 2 shows a normal opening. When East returns to 2 , West may well pass; but the hand is worth more than its point count (good shape, texture and controls) so a stab at game is reasonable. I dont like the idea of a further game try, as the information may help the opponents. Close games so often depend on the lead.
And so it does. It takes a diamond lead to set 4 ; otherwise, declarer can lead a spade up and lose either no spades or no diamonds according to Norths play. I believe a diamond lead is correct, but the many alumni of the never-lead-from-a-jack school would let this one make. Realistically, of course, this will usually just decide an overtrick in a partscore.
Some North-South pairs may compete in spades, where eight tricks are routine. A bid of 3 over 3 would be a dynamic push, scoring 75 percent if left undoubled but offering East-West two ways to get a good score.
With 34 HCP, most North-Souths will routinely reach slam. I like this simple auction:
Not elegant, but practical. A good case could be made for South to rebid 2 with such lopsided holdings in the majors, but this might lead to the lower-scoring 6 . Also, some may open 1 , which might result in North declaring 6 NT.
In notrump, 12 tricks should be won, and it all hinges on the club suit. The proper technique is start clubs by leading low from the North hand. As East, if you held K-7, would you duck smoothly looking at A-Q-6-4-3-2 on your right? Many would not, which shows the advantage in this technique. In this layout East should play the J, which wins, then declarer eventually will take the normal club finesse for his 12th trick.
Can a grand slam be made? Not in notrump. If declarer eschews the club duck for a simple finesse, East must cling to his heart stopper to prevent a squeeze against West. Curiously, 13 tricks are available in diamonds with double-dummy play. Can you do it?
Some North-South pairs will overbid to this lucky 3 NT, but most will correctly avoid it. Heres a sensible auction:
Souths 1 response shows five cards (with four he would double) so there is no reason to check back for three-card support. (North should have raised with three, unless his hand was extremely notrump oriented.) Therefore, the only concern is whether it is worth a try for game. The diamond fit is a plus, but the lack of spade texture is a minus. With 2-2 shape on the side it seems right to leave notrump alone and go low.
In notrump, nine tricks should be won. A likely defense is a high-heart lead, a club switch and a heart back. After taking the first four tricks, the defenders may as well fold up their cards. No other defense does better; if declarer is given a heart or club trick early, he can rattle off 10 tricks.
In spades, 10 tricks can be won. Assuming the defense begins with two high hearts and a low heart, South could ruff successfully with the seven. Nonetheless, a more logical play is to concede the ruff and pitch a diamond, hoping to pitch another diamond on the third club and avoid the diamond finesse. Hence, nine tricks seem likely.
Norths choice of openings will dictate the show, but it wont be easy for East-West to find their spade fit. Here is one scenario:
Another possibility is for West to make a responsive double of 2 (showing both unbid suits), then East would bid 4 . With freakish shape, however, I prefer to bid the suits naturally.
If North instead opens 4 , the task is even tougher. I suppose East should double (optional as I play), but this might go terribly awry if partner bid diamonds. This time you land on your feet as West takes it out to 4 . Oh, how we love to skate the thin ice.
In spades, almost all roads lead to the obvious 11 tricks, losing a heart and a spade. After ruffing the second heart lead, the proper technique is debatable. If you immediately play two rounds of spades and North has three to the king, he could draw a third trump and lead a heart to put the contract in jeopardy. I slightly prefer crossing to the A and leading a low spade.
In hearts, only eight tricks can be made (seven if you misguess spades) so anyone who sacrifices in 5 will regret it.
North-South have the majority of high cards, but Wests opening bid will keep them silent. This should be a common auction:
Some might argue that West should pass 1 NT since he opened light, or that East should raise to 3 to invite game; but I prefer the sequence shown. From Easts point of view, game is certainly possible ( A-x-x-x-x K-Q-x-x-x K-x x would be sweet) but it would also be reached on many unsuitable hands, and even three may be too high. The odds do not justify the push, or to invent another Cochranism, Avoid the fuss, and take the plus! or so East would expect.
Against hearts, North should definitely lead a low trump, then three fast rounds leave declarer with only seven tricks. An eighth trick can be made (and perhaps should be since declarer lacks the entries to establish spades with a 4-3 break) by playing ace and another club to Norths queen; then the J can be led to smother the 10. Nonetheless, this play certainly has a double-dummy tinge.
A few Souths may open the bidding, but most will pass. This auction should be common:
Wests weak two-bid may not be the textbook variety, but its typical for the vulnerability. As comedian Professor Irwin Corey might describe it: The weak two-bid is a two-part convention. The first part: weak yes, weakness is innate to all humanity; the antipathy of strength; the quality that binds our souls as we marvel the universe. Uh, Professor? You said there were two parts. Oh, the second part: to bid why the hell not!
North has a close choice of actions. The takeout double is preferable with only two hearts (with three I would prefer 2 NT since the king could be held up in the play). South cue-bids 3 to explore for the best game (better than jumping in spades) and is happy to pass when North offers notrump.
Talk about friendly layouts. With four finesses working and the Q tumbling down, 12 tricks are easily made. Perhaps we should bid these slams to teach West a lesson. Or if you really want him to fold up his tent, how about a grand slam in clubs?
Despite the lack of two defensive tricks, most Wests will heed the point count and open the bidding, often producing this auction:
After the negative double locates a second trump fit, East could hardly pass, so the marginal game is reached. Make that submarginal, as needing the preemptor to have the K is clearly a long shot. I guess this provides us all with a lesson why there are quick-trick requirements for opening bids. Hmm. I can almost picture Culbertson and Goren giving each other the high fives as they stop in a partscore.
In hearts, nine tricks are likely, but an expert declarer might win only eight based on the bidding. After trumps are drawn and three spades cashed, it will be apparent that North has a doubleton diamond (assuming seven clubs) so K-J-x is a likely holding for South. Hence, it is reasonable to play ace and another diamond; then when South follows low, play him for K-x-x instead of J-x-x. Been there, done that. (Note that when North wins the second diamond, the forced club return does not help since you can pitch only one diamond.)
I suppose there will be Easts who open (mini-Flannery, anyone?) but the norm should be something like this:
Souths three-card raise is preferable to 1 NT with a worthless doubleton heart. Easts back-in with 3 looks frivolous, but its a good matchpoint tactic. In light of Easts spades, a heart fit is extremely likely, and balancing offers several chances to gain. Essentially, its the winning action if either 2 or 3 makes. Should North compete to 3 ? The diamond fit provides a case for it, but the flat shape suggests otherwise.
In hearts, nine tricks are easy with a correct spade guess, and most will get it right because of Souths opening bid. If declarer leads a club early to get some clues, it would be shrewd for South to put up the queen, feigning strength (perhaps K-Q?) which, combined with the A-K, might cause declarer to misguess spades. But I dream a lot.
In spades, the best North can do is to win seven tricks, but most will win less. If declarer plays ace and another spade to the queen (ouch), East can draw trumps and run the hearts, holding declarer to just four tricks.
After two passes, West has an interesting choice of openings: 1 , 2 and 3 all have merit. Lets try the middle of the road:
I think most experts would treat the North hand as balanced and bid 2 NT, but with such a flimsy heart stopper it might be more prudent to bid 3 . Of course, prudent bridge expert may be an oxymoron. Whatever North chooses should end the bidding.
Notrump is treacherous. On Easts heart lead, declarer should hop with the ace and lead a diamond; low, king, jack (or 10). This is a routine falsecard, else declarer has no losing option. Declarer now knows someone is falsecarding, but he doesnt know who. Assuming the defenders are of about equal caliber, Id be inclined to get this right and lead a low diamond (the seven from A-7-3 seems far less likely than Easts play). Whew! Eight tricks. If declarer goes wrong in diamonds, he wins only half that; or to put it another way, the defense makes 3 NT.
North can also win eight tricks in diamonds.
In hearts, West is likely to win nine tricks on the friendly lie. It takes an unlikely spade lead (and subsequent ruff) to hold it to eight.
Fasten your seat belts! Many tables will witness some wild rides, and this could be one of the roller coasters:
Wests 3 NT is a matchpoint fantasy, or should that be lunacy, but alls well that ends well. East wisely accedes to clubs because of the likelihood that Wests bid was based on a long suit. It is tempting to correct 6 to 6 (indicating both red suits), but it would be disastrous here. Knowing your partners style would certainly help (this West obviously has no style, hehe, so it must be right to pass).
In clubs, 12 tricks should be made, but there are dangers. Assume the K lead won by the ace, then a club (dubious) to the queen, and a diamond. Declarer must now take the straight diamond finesse to succeed. (If declarer plays A, Q to pitch a heart, North returns a spade and its hopeless.) A better play, I think, is the A at trick two, then the Q and pitch a heart (if South follows low). This fails only if South is void in diamonds, and with that he would probably have made a Lightner double.
East has an unusual responding problem after his partners 1 opening. It seems too good for 4 , so I would take this route:
Four clubs is a splinter bid, showing an excellent spade fit and a singleton or void in clubs, then West signs off with his scrawny opener. Note that a slam would be good opposite many suitable minimums, e.g., A-K-x-x-x A-J-x-x x x-x-x, is on a finesse for a seven. Another approach is to respond 2 , but this seems counterproductive as it reduces the chance of a favorable diamond lead and leaves South a window to overcall.
In spades, the lead is crucial. A heart holds declarer to 10 tricks; anything else offers 11. I think its a close choice between the K and 10; perhaps the K is better at IMPs, and the 10 at matchpoints. If North leads a black suit, declarer might even win 12 tricks by leading the 8 and luring North to duck (from Norths viewpoint South could have 10-x).
Some Souths will get in their heart bid, leading to a sacrifice in 5 (or pushing East-West to the now-doomed 5 ). Nine tricks seem likely, but if South leads a club to the ace at trick two, East can ruff and return a low diamond; then perfect defense holds declarer to eight tricks.
Those who play one notrump forcing will be caught in the middle with the North hand. This would be my choice:
Alternatively, North could respond 2 (only because hes a passed hand) but this might lead to an inferior matchpoint score if South opened light and passed. After responding 1 NT (6-12) North cannot bid 2 over 2 as this shows a weaker hand, usually with six diamonds. The 2 NT rebid gets the strength about right, albeit with doubts about the proper strain. If South had a stiff heart, you would surely regret this decision.
Against notrump, East has a close choice of leads. The 10 would be my normal choice, but with three or four clubs marked in dummy, the 2 seems better. Regardless of the lead, declarer is able to win nine tricks by guessing diamonds (and scoring the Q), but this is surely double-dummy. After a heart lead, a more normal play is to cash the A and take the losing finesse; then, after running the hearts, East can exit with the K to hold declarer to seven tricks.
Almost everyone would approve of this weak two-bid, despite the adverse vulnerability. A probable auction will be:
South could have reaped a bonanza by passing the double (a cool 800 as East can win only five trump tricks with sound defense), although this seems unwise with only K-5-4 in trumps. Bidding 3 NT has its drawbacks, too (only one spade stopper, no assured source of tricks), but only a devout pessimist would settle for less.
In notrump, South should win 10 tricks. Assume the 9 lead; 10, jack, duck (key play); then East plays ace and another spade (pitch a heart from dummy). The J is led; king, ace; then the clubs are run. In the five-card ending West must keep 10-8 J-8-4, then declarer can safely establish a heart trick. No doubt, some Wests will abandon the diamond stopper and allow South to win 11 tricks (a clear defensive error since a count of Souths pattern reveals four diamonds and they must include the ace).
A cute but dangerous swindle is for West to duck the J. Declarer might assume the K is offside and hop with the ace to avoid being set two.
I might as well continue the weak two-bid epidemic (as yet there is no known cure) with this ghastly deed by North:
In third seat it seems right for North to do something, and preempts are a winning way. What may look treacherous to you is seen differently in the eyes of the opponents. Far more often than not, the preemptor inflicts his damage and escapes without a bruise. (Keep reading, folks. Im working on a story for the parole board at my next pardon hearing.) East routinely doubles, and South ups the ante to 4 . West now has a close decision in my view, but suppose he guesses right to double.
In spades, North can win eight tricks, though some will win nine by guessing the trumps after a club lead (or if the defense slips after a diamond lead). Note that three rounds of diamonds ensures two trump tricks because West can overruff dummy twice.
Down one or two doubled in 4 is no bargain in the scoring department, but its better than letting East-West play 4 which is cold despite three trump losers. Never underestimate those 4-4 fits.
A typical two-over-one game force sequence should land most North players in the obvious spade game:
Norths second bid is debatable. Many would prefer 2 as a waiting move, but my preference is to bid naturally by shape. Hence, 2 would show six cards (rarely a meaty five) and 2 NT is normal with 5=3=3=2 shape. (Sure, Id like a better heart stopper; but remember, youre dealing with the same guy who bid 2 on the last board.) Souths preference to 3 is forcing (unlimited) and North indicates a minimum by bidding game.
If East leads the K (seems obvious to me) 4 is doomed, barring the double-dummy club finesse. Proper technique, I think, is to win the second heart (by ducking theres a chance East might switch) then cash the A-K and play clubs from the top. A close second choice is to cash only one top spade, but this also fizzles when the short-trump hand is able to ruff. Alas. Maybe this was the origin of, Down one is good bridge.
North might fare better in 3 NT. Assuming no club hook, only a diamond lead (followed by a heart shift if declarer holds up) will always defeat it.
Most East-West pairs will have an unopposed walk to the obvious 3 NT, though the paths will vary by system and style. I prefer this route:
Wests response in the major is the practical approach. Strict up-the-line bidders may respond 1 , but I dont like this because (1) it complicates the auction, (2) it gives more information to the opponents, and (3) it allows North a convenient window to bid hearts (hopefully, not on this deal).
Speaking of North, there are a few (no doubt, mistaking nonvulnerable for invulnerable) who will cast their fate to the wind, opening 2 or 3 . Justice should be served if it goes: P P Dbl, and East converts to penalty. In hearts, North can win all of three tricks. Hmm. What a surprise.
In notrump, 12 tricks can be won. After a low club lead from South, all declarer has to do is take a few finesses and establish a second club trick; and if South ducks his A, hell be squeezed for 13 tricks. After a passive lead its more difficult, but a strong declarer may find the delayed-duck squeeze: In the ending West holds Q-9 8-2, East: A 3 Q-10, and South: J-10 A-J; then the A destroys South.
This awkward deal will test the slam bidding skills of most East-West pairs. I would suggest this auction:
West seems to be worth a slam move over 4 , and there is no perfect solution. Blackwood is surely wrong lacking control in either unbid suit, so the choices are 5 and 5 . Most experts would interpret 5 as a trump inquiry since you cannot pinpoint a single unbid suit, so 5 should deliver the message, You need control in both unbid suits to go to slam. And so East obeys, lacking diamond control.
Against spades, the A lead stands out a mile (100 miles on my auction) so declarer is swiftly held to 11 tricks just deserts for those who overbid to slam. Too many times, it seems that slams off two cashable tricks are allowed to make, so its refreshing to see some equity. On second thought, over 1 , maybe West should just bid 6 NT (no Blackwood as South could double 5 ) obvious Q lead; thank you very much. Or better yet, bid 7 , though you better have a good story for the ethics committee.
Another weak two-bid (even sensible this time) is likely to propel most East-West pairs into game. This sequence should be common:
Despite being off four tricks, Norths heart lead allows a quick discard, and 10 tricks come rolling home. I can hear the postmortem already. North: How can you open two hearts on such a crappy suit? South: Come on; theyre expecting a heart lead. Only a fool would lead one. And so on, maybe ending with something constructive like Your mother wears combat boots! Ah, the good old days when zero tolerance only meant putting up with partners bottom boards. Seriously, of course, a heart lead is normal even if South never bid. Only a devout ace-grabber would beat this one.
Heres a cute swindle for 11 tricks: Pitch your diamond and lose the spade finesse, then North returns a spade won in dummy. Next lead the J and put up the king (no playacting please). North might think you misguessed and return a club. Ouch. Good-bye A.
A few North-Souths may buy the contract in hearts (perhaps doubled), where the limit is eight tricks. Hence, there is nothing to be done over 4 but have your head handed to you.
This slight misfit should lead to a variety of games (3 NT, 4 and 4 ) depending on judgment. My vote goes for this sequence:
Some might argue that South is not worth a jump shift, but a mere 2 seems pessimistic. The key bid is Souths raise to 4 ; the K may solidify partners suit, and the control-rich hand is likely to play well in spades.
The spade game is no bargain, but 10 tricks should come home. After a diamond lead, ducked, and a diamond back, the K is led to the ace. East shifts to a heart (best) to the king, the J goes to the queen, then a heart. The spade lie presents no real threat, so anything sensible works.
Other games should fail. In 3 NT, declarer lacks the entries to develop spades, and even the double-dummy play of leading the J (to lose only one club trick) will not produce a ninth trick against accurate defense.
In hearts, even a friendly diamond lead, won by the queen, is not enough to give South 10 tricks. When declarer leads clubs, West should not ruff in front of dummy (just pitch a spade); if two clubs are ruffed, declarer will eventually lose three trump tricks.
This excellent slam will be tough to reach without a suit fit, but the solidity of the clubs may inspire some to push. Heres a sound sequence:
The key bids are Norths jumps to 3 NT (maximum values for 2 with a diamond stopper) and 6 to show a self-sufficient suit. Souths final correction to 6 NT seems clear, since North certainly must have something besides A K-Q-J-10-x-x to justify the aggressive bidding, and whatever it is should provide a 12th trick in notrump. I suppose its possible that North could have the J instead of the queen, in which case 6 has the extra chance of establishing the spades, but this seems too remote to worry about at matchpoints.
In clubs or notrump (or even diamonds, if you want to be sporting) there is nothing to the play 12 cold tricks after forcing out the A. Easts singleton heart poses no threat to 6 as the cards lie but portends another reason for preferring notrump.
By the way, did I mention weak two-bids? The timid may wish to close their eyes, but Im a bidder with the South hand:
West has an awkward hand, but 2 NT seems best despite the singleton club. Another reasonable choice is to pass, hoping (dreaming?) partner will reopen with a double, or if not, take your plus at 50 a trick. The five-card diamond suit persuades me to take the offensive view and bid.
In notrump, eight tricks can always be made; and if North leads the K, it offers up nine: Win the A; continue diamonds; win the club return (best) and continue diamonds. This gives you eight tricks with both major-suit finesses. If North leads another club, you can win the queen; or if North defends passively, you can lead the Q-J (duck when North covers) to establish a ninth trick in spades.
In hearts, South can be held to five tricks with perfect defense: Cash the A; Q, king, ace; club ruff; J; A and a diamond. When West wins his first heart trick, a third diamond is uppercut by East, allowing West to win all his trumps. (Maybe I should have thought about this before making the egregious 2 bid.)
A 27-point grand! Realistically, however, North-South will do well just to reach six. I would bid this way:
Two clubs is reverse Drury, and 2 shows a normal opening bid; then 2 is natural, guaranteeing a spade fit. As North, it seems far-fetched to consider a grand slam opposite a passed hand, so I would just bid 6 after a routine check with key-card Blackwood (5 shows two key cards plus the Q or extra length). Note that Souths fifth spade is effectively the same as the queen since the queen is a big favorite to drop with 10 cards.
In spades, the play is trivial. With trumps 2-1, 13 tricks are on ice.
A few Norths may unwisely place the contract in 6 NT. If East leads the K, it is probably right to play for all the tricks (rather than concede a club to increase your chances for 12) to beat those in 6 . What luck! Declarer is unduly rewarded by the magic heart lie. Justice at the bridge table is like an honorable politician more often the exception than the rule.
Attention, all passengers! This stop for Lake Placid and Dullsville. All standard bidders should end the auction in one bid:
After a routine diamond lead and continuation, declarer is destined to win seven tricks. The diamond suit is blocked, but Norths side entry allows the defense to win the first six tricks. Even if South fails to return a heart after winning the third diamond, declarer has only seven tricks (with the spade finesse) so the outcome should be the same.
Those who play weak notrumps have the edge here. After a 1 opening, if North overcalls 1 (dubious with such a poor suit) East-West may be steered into a superior club partscore, where nine tricks can be won. Further, if North fails to bid, East may become declarer in notrump. South would hardly find a diamond lead, so nine tricks can be won by guessing hearts albeit, difficult if North ducks the first heart smoothly.
In clubs (Im getting desperate folks), nine tricks will usually be won, but perfect defense will force declarer to guess hearts. Besides ducking the first heart, North must also unblock in spades if declarer attempts an elimination and throw-in.
If North plays in diamonds
do I really care? Next board.
Competition should be keen with each side having 20 HCP and a suit fit. I would expect this auction at an expert table:
Norths double is negative (at least 4-4 in the majors) and Easts jump to 3 is weak. South would like to compete but wisely passes, having opened light. Norths second double is still negative suggesting a further desire to compete, and South happily bids hearts. Wests push to 4 is dubious but feels right with such a control-rich hand after the opponents have landed in a likely good spot. Finally, North-South judge well to give up.
In diamonds, 10 tricks cant be stopped because of the blockage in clubs. After the K lead, it does South no good to overtake, so declarer can later pitch a club on the K and ruff three spades in dummy (the last with the J). The defenders get only two clubs and a trump trick.
In hearts, only seven tricks can be made legitimately, but the winning defense is not easy (West must lead or shift to the A) so many will win eight. Curiously, eight tricks can always be made in spades.
Four by one hands are often awkward to bid because most system structures do not cater to them. Sometimes you have to bend the rules:
Ostensibly, 2 NT shows a balanced hand (18-19 HCP) but it seems like the best workaround. The alternatives, a reverse bid of 2 or a jump shift to 3 , would be steps in the wrong direction by exaggerating your diamond length. It looks like youre headed for notrump, so why not bid it? A possible downside is that partner may have six spades and insist on 4 , but this could just as easily be an upside. Six-one major fits have a pretty good track record in my experience (compare Board 28).
In notrump, nine tricks can be won. This is easy after a helpful club lead (see, it pays not to advertise): Win the Q with the ace, force out the A and establish a second club trick. If West finds a passive lead (any suit but clubs) declarer can still prevail, e.g., by leading the J and capitalizing on the sturdy club spots, but there are pitfalls: West may lead spades twice and force declarer to put up the queen to succeed. In practice, however, there are ample opportunities for misdefense, so many will win 10 tricks.
Wow! Is this an instant matchpoint game, or a seminar on how to abuse weak two-bids? Sorry, folks, I guess I have no scruples:
Many would disapprove of Wests opening with a side four-card major, but in my view it is acceptable if the side major is weak (J-x-x-x or worse). But then, I havent been attending the WTBA meetings my doctor ordered. East judges well to pass despite 15 HCP there rate to be at least four top losers. Souths reopening double is doubtful (many will pass) but feels right as a passed hand. North bids his clubs, and East competes.
In spades, the limit is eight tricks if the defenders cash out (or win two clubs and lead a diamond). After the likely J lead, this seems obvious, so anyone beyond 2 is headed for a minus. Of course, if North were to lead a trump, declarer can win 10 tricks: Draw trumps (overtake second round), pitch the club losers, then lead hearts three times to establish the fourth.
A few Easts may steal the show in notrump (nine tricks after a diamond lead), and even if South starts with a top heart, the club shift is far from obvious (assuming North never bid).
A big finish! Reaching this laydown club slam is a challenge, especially if East is enamored by his long heart suit. Heres a sound sequence:
Wests hand is a bit hefty for 3 , but it seems wise on a potential misfit. East marks time with a cue-bid, hoping to hear a heart preference (it might happen by the year 2020), then shows the club fit. After West cue-bids the A, Easts 4 is questionable I think it is logically forcing, but many would disagree then West bids the obvious slam. If West had first-round spade control (e.g., A-x x A-x-x A-K-x-x-x-x-x) he would bid 4 over 4 , leading to a cold grand slam.
In clubs, 12 tricks are a cinch, and many will win 13 when North fails to cash the A. Its certainly a difficult lead choice.
In hearts, some will win 12 tricks after a diamond lead yields a quick discard (nice bid, North). A spade lead, of course, holds it to 11 tricks, and an inspired club lead holds it to 10 if North cashes his ace.
This was a wild set of deals! The average high-card points and freakness* for each player is summarized below:
The table shows that North-South held slightly more high cards, but the remarkable aspect is the last column. The average freakness of a bridge hand is 2.98, so all four players (particularly North and West) had wilder distributions than normal. Oops. There goes our old story line that computer deals are truly random. Seriously, of course, it just happens this way sometimes; the deals are not rigged or chosen.
The freakness of a bridge deal is simply the sum of the freaknesses of each hand. The theoretical average is 11.93, and these 36 deals came in at a hefty 13.36. Does this mean we are due for some flat deals next year? No, I think its just that global warming thing.
*A measurement I invented to rank the 39 hand patterns on a linear scale. My formula counts 1 point for each card over four or under three in each suit, plus 1 extra point if the hand has any singleton (or 2 extra points if the hand has any void). Hence, 4-3-3-3 = 0; 4-4-3-2 = 1; 5-3-3-2 = 2; 4-4-4-1 = 3; 5-4-2-2 = 3;
ending with 13-0-0-0 = 20.
© 2001 Richard Pavlicek