Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Board 6

Board 6
Opponents vulnerable

♠ J 9 7 4 3 K 9 8 5 K Q 7 ♣ 3


After two passes, LHO opens one club--pass--one diamond. I double, opener rebids two clubs, and partner bids two spades. RHO bids three hearts. I was prepared to bid three spades over three clubs on the strength of my fifth spade. But I see no reason to bid in a forcing auction. Three spades would invite partner to save over three notrump, and I don't think I want to do that with more high cards in their suits than in ours. I pass, and LHO bids three notrump, which ends the auction. Partner leads the five of spades:


NORTH
♠ A Q 2
J 6
A 9 6 5 3
♣ 9 5 2




EAST
♠ J 9 7 4 3
K 9 8 5
K Q 7
♣ 3


West North East South
Pass Pass 1 ♣
Pass 1 Double 2 ♣
2 ♠ 3 Pass 3 NT
(All pass)


When the opponents show two suits, it seems more natural to me to cue-bid the suit you have rather than the one you don't. So, if I chose to cue-bid, I would bid three spades with North's hand. More likely, I would simply bid two notrump or three notrump and not worry about hearts. Since partner is short in spades, he's likely to have some heart length, and the hand will probably play better from my side whichever major they lead.

Who has the four-card heart suit? Declarer or partner?

----

It's hard to say. Partner might have bid two diamonds with four-four in the majors. Then again, with king fourth of spades and four weak hearts, it might be better to bid two spades to help me on opening lead. Whether declarer can have four hearts or not depends on what he thinks one heart means over my double. I would play it as natural myself. Even if you assume hearts aren't playable, I think it helps partner to evaluate if you simply bid out your shape. But who knows? Jack may think it's a cue-bid. In short, I don't think I can rule out a four-card heart suit in either hand. I think I need to be prepared for declarer to be either 1-4-2-6 or 1-3-3-6.

Could partner have bid a three-card spade suit?

----

I hope not. With three-three in the majors, I should hope partner, if he chose to bid at all, would bid two diamonds to ensure finding an eight-card fit. Since I'm a passed hand and partner couldn't act over one club, we're not apt to bid a game. How good partner's hand is is largely irrelevant, so cue-bids should be used to find the right strain rather than to show strength. Of course, Jack may not think this way, so I'm not going to rule out a three-card spade suit either. I think I have to consider that declarer may be 2-4-1-6. And, of course, he may have a seventh club.

We must also assume partner has a club entry. If declarer's clubs are solid, he has at least nine tricks. Partner would seem to have a maximum of nine high-card points. If he has the spade king and the requisite club entry, that leaves him with at most an ace unaccounted for.

Declarer plays low from dummy at trick one, I play the jack, and declarer plays the eight. If you continue spades, what are you playing for?

----

Primarily, you are playing for partner to have a second club entry. You are also playing for partner to have four spades, which we have judged to be likely but not certain. Perhaps we can find a defense that doesn't require a second club entry.

If you shift to hearts, what are you playing for?

----

For partner to have ace fourth of hearts or queen-ten third or fourth. Partner's two spade bid and declarer's three notrump bid and declarer's duck at trick one all point away from partner's having ace fourth of hearts, so I'm going to discount that possibility. Queen-ten is more likely, but , since it requires partner to have two cards instead of one, it is probably less likely than finding partner with a second club card. I think a spade continuation offers a better chance than a heart shift.

My choice, then, is between a spade and a diamond. When might a diamond shift work?

----

It will work quite well if we catch partner with jack-ten fourth. We can set up enough tricks in diamonds to beat him and won't need a second club entry. Also, a diamond shift won't hurt if I catch partner with at least three diamonds headed by the jack or ten. In that case, provided partner has a second club trick, either a spade continuation or a diamond shift will work. If he doesn't have a second club trick, neither play will work.

While finding partner with four diamonds is possible, it's still a long shot. And I'm more confident of finding partner with four spades than I am of finding him with jack or ten third of diamonds. So, all in all, the odds seems to favor playing a spade. But, before I make up my mind, I need to consider that duck at trick one more carefully. It surprised me, and whenever declarer's play surprises you, it's time to stop and think about it. The first thought that flitted through my head when declarer played low was, "What? Partner bid a three-card spade suit?" I quickly realized I was jumping to a conclusion, but there's a reason I jumped: Ducking opposite a doubleton is fairly routine; ducking opposite a singleton isn't. If you have another spade, you can always take the finesse later if you need to. If you don't, you are burning your bridges by ducking. Unless one spade trick is all you need, you may regret your duck later. Is one spade trick all declarer needs? He may not even know. It depends on how many club tricks he has, and it may depend, as well, on whether I have the heart king. Another thought now occurred to me, and I'm annoyed it took so long. If declarer had a singleton spade, we may be able to hold declarer to no spade tricks by knocking out the ace of diamonds. I said earlier that if I play a diamond and catch partner with honor third, I need him to have a second club entry. Maybe that's not true. Maybe I can construct a hand where a single entry suffices. I come up with this one:


NORTH
♠ A Q 2
J 6
A 9 6 5 3
♣ 9 5 2


WEST
♠ K x x x
10 x x
10 x x
♣ A 10 x


EAST
♠ J 9 7 4 3
K 9 8 5
K Q 7
♣ 3


SOUTH
♠ x
A Q x x
J x
♣ K Q J 10 x x x


A spade continuation fails, but a diamond shift works just fine. Declarer is cut off from the ace of spades and, provided we don't let him reach dummy with the nine of clubs, he has no way to come to nine tricks. In fact, it occurs to me that a diamond shift may work even when declarer has three diamonds:



NORTH
♠ A Q 2
J 6
A 9 6 5 3
♣ 9 5 2


WEST
♠ K x x x
10 x x x
x x
♣ A J x


EAST
♠ J 9 7 4 3
K 9 8 5
K Q 7
♣ 3


SOUTH
♠ 8
A Q x
J 10 x
♣ K Q 10 x x x

Declarer has the nightmare diamond holding: jack-ten-third. A spade continuation works, of course. But a diamond shift isn't fatal. If declarer ducks and I work out the position, I can shift back to spades and beat him two tricks. If he wins, he finds himself in a position similar to that on the previous layout. As long as we keep him out of dummy and, at some point, play a heart through dummy's jack to keep me from being endplayed, declarer can't take nine tricks.

So it turns out a diamond shift works on a lot more layouts than I thought. In short, a spade continuation requires partner to have a second club entry. A diamond shift works on many of those same deals and also works on a number of deals where partner has only one club entry. I'm convinced. I shift to the king of diamonds--four--deuce--ace. Declarer plays a club to the jack and queen. Partner returns the seven of clubs, declarer plays low from dummy. I play the nine of spades to show an even number, so partner will know declarer is out of spades if, in fact, he is. Partner already seems to know what's going on, though. I suspect partner is playing a club back to give declarer his club entry to dummy before he's prepared to use it.

Declarer wins the club with his king and plays the four of clubs to partner's ace. I pitch the three of spades. Partner plays the eight of diamonds to my queen; declarer drops the jack. I return a diamond to partner's ten, and partner exits with a heart. Declarer is stuck in his hand and must lose another heart for down two:


NORTH
♠ A Q 2
J 6
A 9 6 5 3
♣ 9 5 2


WEST
♠ K 10 6 5
10 7 4
10 8 2
♣ A Q 7


EAST
♠ J 9 7 4 3
K 9 8 5
K Q 7
♣ 3


SOUTH
♠ 8
A Q 3 2
J 4
♣ K J 10 8 6 4


Partner made a nice play returning a low club.

This board illustrates why I am using random deals for this blog. You would not find this deal in a bridge book or article. Problem deals tend to have clear-cut solutions, though they may be difficult to find. This deal does not. There are a lot of things to think about, a lot of ambiguity, and no clean, linear path to finding the solution. In fact, the solution I settled upon may even be wrong. Still, at the table you encounter this type of deal quite often.

I expect to pick up three IMPs for the extra undertrick, but we do better. In the replay, the auction begins the same way, but my counterpart bids three spades over the three heart cue-bid. I've already stated why I think that is wrong. South bids three notrump and, after two passes, East bids on to four spades, apparently discouraged of his defensive prospects by his partner's failure to double. North doubles, and the defense takes the obvious six tricks.

Me +200
Jack -500

Score on board 6: +12 IMPs
Total: +31 IMPs

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