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High Level Bidding: Low Level Finessing.

All you will see below is not perfect, whether it be in the bidding or in the defence. It was all a little unusual and, of course, it really did happen this way. The truth can be much stranger than fiction:

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South Deals
E-W Vul
 
N
W   E
S
   
 
8 7 5 4 3 2
A J 9 8 3
Q 7
West North East South
      Pass
4  Pass Pass ?

 

It would certainly have been easier had you an opening bid to show a sub-opener with both majors…but you do not. Irrespective, would you have opened anyway?

A weak 2 in spades? To describe your hand as such would be a major distortion. So, you passed and thought you would be able to enter the bidding later. Yet, out came a natural 4Diamond-small on your left. Not so pleasant now. What’s it to be?

It’s as though West heard your inner thoughts and made it as hard as they could for you to find a bid. No-one opens 4Diamond-small and then gets left to play there. Of that we all agree. Yet, what did the Panel think of our failure to open? They were pretty supportive though not without regret:

Nigel Kearney “Agree with pass. A 1Spade-small opening is an option but you have to draw the line somewhere.”

Michael Ware “Agree with pass. Don't mind a 1Spade-small opener instead. If Club-smallQ was In the majors, then 1Spade-small.”

Matt Brown “I have many regrets passing this hand at 1st favourable as opposed to a hyper-aggressive 1Spade-small (but I know this isn't standard!).”

While others just think opening is wrong:

Stephen Blackstock “The initial pass is clear. 1Spade-small is silly, and a weak two with a suit headed by the eight spot is not my style. And, of course, pre-empting in one major risks losing the other.”

Bruce Anderson “opening 1Spade-small because of the 6/5 shape could be considered but not only is the hand weak in high cards, the quality of the spade suit is pathetic. I am likely to have the chance to bid as the auction progresses.”

Indeed, you do, Bruce but perhaps at a higher level than you would have wished. Will you?:

Bruce Anderson “Double: partner is marked with values and may have trump tricks. If not, they may have a four- card major; then my 6/5 shape means game is likely. There is a risk partner cannot pass for penalties and only has long clubs; then we may be overboard.   But some risks must be taken when playing Pairs.”

You just cannot pass:

Michael Cornell Double: absolutely automatic- almost certainly heavily major orientated so would expect partner to happily bid a 3-card major unless they want to defend, which I am prepared for with between 1 and 2+ defensive tricks. I would only expect partner to bid 5Club-smallwith longish clubs and a pretty weak hand.”

Nigel Kearney “Double. Partner will expect something like this from a double at the four level by a passed hand and I think getting into the auction with this much shape has more ways to gain than lose.”

Stephen Blackstock “Double. Clear cut. Partner should expect distributional playing strength rather than say 4414 – so likely long in both majors but perhaps spades and clubs (so I can correct hearts to spades at the four level). A penalty pass isn’t totally unwelcome with my ace and a useful card in clubs.

Peter Newell “Double: I would find it easier at Pairs.  I think partner will pass quite often and getting plus 200 instead of 100 could make a big difference. If they make well a bottom is a bottom, or if partner bids 5Club-small, ugh! To reopen at the 4 level as a passed hand, partner should expect lots of shape and both majors (with a major minor 2-suiter, I would open with a bid showing that or a weak 2) so my hand shouldn’t be too much of a surprise.”

Matt Brown “Double. An impossible problem... 4Spade-small, 4Heart-small or X could all be right. I think 4Spade-small is too unilaterally missing any possibility of hearts. My second choice was to bid 4Heart-small and maybe run to 4Spade-small depending on how quickly they double.

I lean towards double hoping that partner will choose a major or pass (I think my hand has enough defence having passed already). If partner bids 5Club-small, well they haven't doubled us yet...”

Almost one vote for a major suit but Michael Ware was correct when he described “Double” as being “unanimous” for the Panel. Not so, though, at the table:

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

A decent partner would produce a spade or two, an honour or two. “Thanks, partner” as the Diamond-smallA was tabled by West. ("Thank you at least for your "one trump of hope!" thought South!

Well, the lead was about the only good news! South ruffed and tried the Spade-small2. It was unlikely Spade-small6 would win the tricklaughing. Indeed, West’s Spade-small10 won with East contributing Spade-small9.

West exited Club-small3, low from dummy, East’s Club-small10 and South’s Club-smallQ. Spade-small3 now went to West’s Spade-smallQ and East’s Spade-smallJ. West’s exit this time was Club-small6.

Declarer took stock. “There was no way of establishing the heart suit, and rising with an honour looked like compromising my communications which were already in serious jeopardy. I was desperate to get to hand to lead the third round of trumps. North's carding looked like they was leading from three small clubs – so, I played the Club-small4 from dummy.”

(Presumably, South did not play a high club and then a diamond in case West had an 8-card suit..8 diamonds, 3 clubs, 3 spades..not a promising outlook!)

Take a look:

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

 

  Thus, declarer took a very low-level finesse by playing Club-small5 from dummy. East followed with Club-small2 and South’s Club-small7 won the trick! Excellent pip watching.

All that was needed was a third round of trumps with West’s ace taking out their partner’s king leaving West to lead a minor card which left declarer in dummy with plenty of discards for all the heart losers. Did you get the feeling that East's trump play suggested they did not want to be on lead?!

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  Never in doubt!

4Spade-small bid and made without the top 6 trumps. Yes, East could have spoilt the story by overtaking earlier to lead a heart or West by playing two more rounds of diamonds instead of the clubs!

Had South doubled, North would surely pass 4Diamond-small. A trump lead is best for the defence though the singleton spade is understandable. South can give their partner a ruff as declarer attempts to ruff a club in dummy..and there is still the chance for one trump exit but not two. Therefore, West will get to ruff a club loser in dummy though most routes lead to 4 tricks for the defence, (+200) though not as good a score as making 4Spade-small. That was a pretty good result, a second top, though taking +200 off 4Diamond-smallx would have been well above average, too... and risk-free!

A nice story: thanks to John Kruiniger.

A Nice Challenge
How would you go about making 12 tricks in your 6Spade-small slam below?

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

 

Your 2Spade-small was a good old fashioned strong but not quite game-forcing “Acol 2”. Many players claim never to have such hands these days.

West led Club-smallK and you need to make 12 tricks. Oh, there is one way..if the defence are a bit sleepy. Any ideas when maybe they might be a little more alert?

(p.s. Do not spend more than 6 hours trying to solve this one!foot-in-mouth)

Richard Solomon





 

 

 

 



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