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Tales of Akarana

The Club Suit is not always short.

How many clubs do you need to hold in your hand before you get to be declarer in a club contract? We always seem to look elsewhere though the suit did get a little look -in this week.

Spade-small A32

Heart-small 2

Diamond-smallAQ4

Club-smallQ96432

You open 1Club-small(no matter how few you might be showing!) and hear left-hand opponent bid 1Spade-small and partner a forcing 2Heart-small. It’s going pretty badly for you so far! Everyone would surely agree that 3Club-small from you (after a pass on your right) is the bid you now make..and partner is free to pass that.

Yet, they do not. 3Diamond-small is their next offering.

West              North            East                South

                                                1Club-small                  1Spade-small

2Heart-small                  Pass                3Club-small                  Pass

3Diamond-small                 Pass                ?

We know that you would be free to pass a 3Heart-smallbid from partner but a change of suit? A one - round force? Game force? That beginners’ book you last read 500 years ago said a new suit at the 3 level is certainly forcing (except when it is not!). So, what now?

I took the realistic view that we were heading for game (we were!) and bid a 3Spade-small ask and partner closed the auction with 4Heart-small. We lost too many tricks too quickly:

Board 5
North Deals
N-S Vul
Q 7 6
Q 6
8 7 6 5 3
J 8 5
8 5
K J 10 9 4 3
K 9 2
A 7
 
N
W   E
S
 
A 3 2
2
A Q 4
Q 9 6 4 3 2
 
K J 10 9 4
A 8 7 5
J 10
K 10
West North East South
    1 Club-small 1Spade-small
2Heart-small Pass 3Club-small Pass
3Diamond-small Pass 3Spade-small Pass
4Heart-small  All Pass    

 

There were two hearts, a spade and a club to lose. Partner was heading for game though I feel 3Diamond-small need only be forcing to 3Heart-small. A shame I did not follow my belief. 9 tricks in hearts..10 in clubs but who wants 130 in the Teams environment when you can score 140!? Only one club contract played this time.

There were two on the next board when the club suit was much longer:

Spade-small K42

Heart-smallJ

Diamond-small 6

Club-smallAQ987642

Amazingly partner opened 1 of a black suit…1Spade-small of course! On your right came 2Diamond-small and it seemed that you really could mention your long suit at the 3 level. Partner bid a fairly unhelpful 3Spade-small and you made a slam try of 4Diamond-small which elicited a 4Heart-small cue-bid from partner. While you can add 3 points for a singleton, I am not quite sure of the wisdom of adding 6 for 2 singletons..especially with only 3 trumps!

So, you do not overbid your hand and call 4Spade-small which ends the auction. Clubs is dummy once again! So much for the rule (my rule!) that one never puts down a good 8 card suit as a side suit in a trump contract. The exception to my rule!

Board 7
South Deals
Both Vul
   
A Q J 6 5
A 6 2
9 7 4 3
3
 
N
W   E
S
 
K 4 2
J
6
A Q 9 8 7 6 4 2
West North East South
      Pass
1  2  3  Pass
3  Pass 4  Pass
4  Pass 4  All pass

The universal lead was a high heart. What to do? Playing Pairs, you might take the club finesse and on a blue-sky day (they all are at present), the clubs break 2-2 with the king on-side and spades 3-2 and you make 13 tricks. (Of course, you could draw trumps and then take the club finesse…pretty low odds of success.) Two questions, though:

  1. Do you want to make 13 tricks even at Pairs? The answer is surely no! Slam missed! Yet, ensuring you make your contract is good advice even at Pairs, certainly in Teams.
    2. Say the sky changes colour? What then?
    rain clouds.jpg

    Or in other words, down in 4Spade-small! That fate befell several declarers.

    The fact is you can afford to lose three tricks and you should not worry about losing one, even two cheap ones early because a lot of the time, you can recover. The club finesse worked but the spade break was not so kind:

Board 7
South Deals
Both Vul
8
K Q 5 4
K J 10 8 5 2
K J
A Q J 6 5
A 6 2
9 7 4 3
3
 
N
W   E
S
 
K 4 2
J
6
A Q 9 8 7 6 4 2
 
10 9 7 3
10 9 8 7 3
A Q
10 5
West North East South
      Pass
1  2  3  Pass
3  Pass 4  Pass
4  Pass 4  All pass

 

A successful club finesse was followed by a second club discarding a diamond. Two heart ruffs in dummy were all that were needed to make 10 tricks this time as clubs were played from dummy with South ruffing and West over-ruffing on two occasions.

It was even easier for the 2 declarers in clubs who simply took the club finesse to make 12 tricks though 5Club-small not slam does seem to be the percentage contract.

The lead that does hold declarer to 10 tricks in 4Spade-small, no matter what, is the club lead as declarer cannot finesse, draw trumps and enjoy the clubs. So, a good time for the “joking” Club-smallJ lead. Even if declarer gets the lead right by finessing (with a sly glance at North as the queen holds!), they must play carefully to get their 10 tricks.

Three club contracts out of 16 so far. One more club suit to go.  This deal produced an interesting bid:

North held:

Spade-smallA852

Heart-small A654

Diamond-small JT75

Club-smallT

and North saw this sequence:

West              North            East                South

                        Pass                Pass                1Club-small

2Heart-small1                x                      4Heart-small                  4NT

Pass                ?

1 weak jump

Two more questions:

What does 4NT mean?

What should you bid?

The answer to the first question may not straightaway give you the answer to the second. While there may be an argument some days for Blackwood, it is hard to imagine many 1 level openers simply needing to know how many key-cards/aces their partner had. A more practical answer is long clubs with a suit above clubs which in this case must be diamonds.

So, what should you bid? If your partner has 10 cards in the minors (they must surely have 6 clubs to take this action), your aces will immediately take care of 2 of their 3 major cards. Similarly, if we assume they have the Club-smallA, as any decent partner should, can they be replied upon for two of the top three diamonds? Fortune favoured the brave this evening:

Board 21
North Deals
N-S Vul
A 8 5 2
A 6 5 4
J 10 7 5
10
Q J 9 7
Q J 10 9 2
9 3
5 2
 
N
W   E
S
 
K 4 3
K 8 7 3
A 8 6
J 4 3
 
10 6
K Q 4 2
A K Q 9 8 7 6

 

“Nice hand for a 14 count, partner” as 12 tricks rolled in in either minor suit. There were two pairs in slam, one in each minor with most of the rest in any of three making games including a somewhat unusual 9 trick 3NT.

Three pairs played in a club contract with the power of the 4-4 fit only required had there been a bad club break. A 4-1 diamond break might have beaten the club slam as well as causing some problems in 6Club-small.

Three club hands with 21 clubs and only declaring the contract 6 times out of 18. Seems we do not care that much about long club suits when deciding on trumps! However, in the second and third hands, the suit was very useful even if it was not trumps.

Richard Solomon

 

 

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