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Tales of Akarana 7

The five level’s for the opposition….but the 4 level?

One board at Akarana demonstrated that the famous saying of the 5-level belonging to the opposition does generally hold true, while another challenged whether the same might hold true for the 4 level.

Let’s give you two hands and two bidding sequences and see what you make of them:

West          North         East            South


1Spade-small              2Heart-small              2Spade-small           4Heart-small

4Spade-small              Pass            Pass         5Heart-small


and with both sides vulnerable, as West you hold:

Spade-small AQJ732           Heart-small 7            Diamond-small 74           Club-small AK82

while, a little later, this was the situation:

West          North         East            South

                                      1Spade-small              Pass

1NT            2Heart-small              2Spade-small              3Heart-small

Pass            Pass          4Club-small              4Heart-small


and with just the opposition vulnerable, as West you hold:

Spade-small 76           Heart-smallQ7543             Diamond-small Q2          Club-small K975

There is an awful lot of bidding going on. Which way now?

Proving “The Law”

In our first example, it would seem we have 9 or 10 spades while the opposition would seem to have the same number of hearts. That is a maximum of 20 tricks. For our side to make 11 tricks in spades, they will be two down in 5Heart-small. If they make 11 tricks, we will be two down in 5Spade-small. Both sides may also make 10 tricks. You can gain (-500 against -650 or +650 against +500) by bidding on though if there are only 19 tricks, or where neither 5 level contract makes, this could be a big losing action.

It does look that defending 5Heart-small is the most sensible option. Whether you decided to double 5Heart-small maybe a different matter but if you think you were pretty close to making 4Spade-small, then perhaps you should. Even if you did not, this time your partner might choose the red card for you:

Board 7
South Deals
Both Vul
6 5
A 5 4
K J 8 2
9 5 3 2
A Q J 7 3 2
7 4
A K 7 6
W   E
K 10 9 4
K 3 2
9 6
J 10 8 4
Q J 10 9 8 6
A Q 10 5 3


Just 19 trumps but surely South’s extreme shape (and the double fit) adds up to a 20th? 5Heart-small  was just one down, thanks to the Heart-smallK scoring a trick while 4Spade-small, but no more, was also an easy make. Two pairs pushed on to 5Spade-small, once a lucky make, while 4 more defended 5Heart-small twice doubled. The other 6 tables saw 4Spade-small as the contract, twice doubled. Maybe I could encourage a few players to invest in Larry Cohen’s “Law of Total Tricks” book or at least ask the South players to re-evaluate their hands!

We cannot expect to get all such decisions right but this board does seem to be pretty close to a textbook example of one side pushing to and the other bowing out at the 5 level.

Jack’s the key.

Five trumps headed by the queen and partner bidding furiously. It seems obvious to reach for the red card and double 4Heart-small. Yet, the opposition are no beginners and are also bidding very aggressively. Also, you have honour fourth in your partner’s second suit..while apart from the queen, your hearts are not robust. The opponents should have a double fit in the red suits. So, a little illogically perhaps, I opted for 4Spade-small. Was I right? It came down to who held the Diamond-smallJ.

Board 18
East Deals
N-S Vul
J 9
K J 10 9 8
K 10 7 5 3
7 6
Q 7 5 4 3
Q 2
K 9 7 5
W   E
A K Q 10 3 2
J 9 4
Q 10 3 2
8 5 4
A 6 2
A 8 6
A J 8 6


Swap the Diamond-smallJ and 10 around and 4Heart-small will be an easy make despite the trump break. Only three rounds of spades tests declarer who will play two rounds of trumps, finessing, then run the diamonds, losing just two spades and a trump.

However, on the actual hand, North has to lose a diamond and can duck the Diamond-smallQ (unless West unblocks a round earlier) and can escape one down.

Meanwhile, good club guessing limits 4Spade-small also to one down. Most pairs played in spades though only three at the four level with one declarer bringing this contract home. Only three played in hearts, twice making eight tricks and once nine, all three minus scores for the declarer.

So, maybe, the 4 level should also belong to the opposition though the first hand above shows that that statement is an exception which proves the rule.

Richard Solomon


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