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Daily Bridge in New Zealand

High Stakes from the Start.

I have a little confession to make, to the Panel. When today’s deal occurred, it was in the Pairs’ environment where if one makes the wrong decision, it is only a maximum of around 4%. 16 or 17 imps in the out column at Teams is rather more serious. However, I changed the conditions to Teams. The Panel are made of stern stuff. They can handle the pressure. Can you?

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South Deals
Both Vul
W   E
Q J 6 4 3
A K 10 8 5 3 2
West North East South
Pass 2  2  2 
3  6  ?  

No messing at this table. North’s 2Club-small was alerted as being natural and forcing to game. Within a very short time, North was forcing to slam. Oh, by the way, your partner was in the bidding, too.

So, the bidding is not yet over. Have you anything else to add?

There is an assumption that once a slam is a sensible contract, that if it goes down to say a bad trump break that you will get a reasonable, certainly not below average score. You do not need to double even if you are pretty certain you will defeat it.

Reserve the double of the slam by the defender not on lead as a request for an unusual lead and as Matt Brown says:

Matt Brown “Double: Asking for dummy’s first bid suit! It is too likely we are beating this slam, and we have too many weak spades to consider sacrificing. X to get our club lead and now hope partner has a trump trick (he probably has 4 hearts) or that a top diamond is cashing.”

Matt is fairly confident about our chances of success. Kris is a little less so:

Kris Wooles “Double: Lightner looking for club lead. While not being sure that it will work but it might afford the best chance of defeating the contract.”

Peter Newell "Double: for an unusual lead – club lead certainly looks best and partner certainly will not lead a club unless I double….it may not beat it, but gives us the best chance on most hands…assuming partner leads a club, declarer will have some difficulty with the distribution as it doesn’t look likely East started with 7-5 on the auction…

Pam Livingston “Double. This asks partner to make an unusual lead i.e. not our suit. Implies either a void or a useful holding in dummy's side suit.”

By “side”, Pam really normally means the first suit bid by dummy. The double is a command not to lead one’s own suit and also not to lead a trump.

Michael wants to get personal:

Michael Cornell “Double: I would like to know who North is!

Anyway, I double, Lightner, and expect to get a club lead. I reckon North is 0-5-1-7 and is simply bidding what he thinks he can make (key-card cannot help him)

There are a lot of imps at stake here but I am not taking a cheap dive when I can see them going down. I cannot believe North has not cued a diamond void and he cannot have 2 or 3 surely?

A suggestion of our diving, vulnerable, at the 7 Level?

Bruce Anderson “Double: a Lightner double asking for an unusual lead, which partner should read as a club.

 Then, I am taking the view partner has a trick, possibly in trumps, or the Spade-smallA, to defeat the slam. North’s bidding is strange and suggests they are hopeful of a diamond lead. If North has solid clubs, very strong heart support, and a diamond void, why didn’t they just RKC in hearts, over our partner’s 3Diamond-small? Something is likely to be missing, so I am not sacrificing in 7Diamond-small.”

Expecting our partner to have the Spade-smallA does seem a tad hopeful. However, both Michael and Bruce make the point that North has not looked for grand-slam. Therefore, they expect to lose one trick…and therefore getting the club lead will provide the defence with their second trick.

Moving closer to 7Diamond-small is:

Stephen Blackstock “Double: This is very close between saving and defending. I would rather not double and pay out -1660 if that is wrong, but if I don’t, partner will reasonably assume I don’t have a club void and lead perhaps a singleton spade. If 7Diamond-smallx costs on average -800, then failing to save will lose 13 imps, but saving against 6Heart-small down one costs 14 imps.

If we take our trick one ruff, what then? Perhaps one diamond will cash (unlikely, I grant). Perhaps I have a deep spade trick. Perhaps partner has Heart-smallQxx or even four trumps which may be inconvenient for declarer. In my view, too many “perhapses” to be comfortable that saving is a percentage action. Of course, this is the problem with IMP scoring, especially in short matches – there can be enormous swings on what is virtually the toss of a coin.

The coining of a new word in Stephen’s answer. We only need one “perhaps” to happen and we have made the right decision. Our final panellist does not believe in "perhapses" and did take the plunge:

Nigel Kearney “7Diamond-small: Very tough decision. We can make a Lightner double and ruff the club lead but still need one more trick. One of them probably has a diamond void and partner could have a heart or club trick, or not. I hope to get out for 800 if they double 7Diamond-small and obviously will be happy if they push on to 7Heart-small. I wish I had pre-empted the first time so I could double now and leave it up to partner, but he won't expect a hand like this from a 2Diamond-small overcall.”

I wonder if Nigel would have had more company playing Pairs. This problem arose as the first board of the day in a Pairs tournament where you like to ease your way in with 1NT making with an overtrick, rather than a vulnerable 7- level sacrifice.

 tough decisions.jpg

I had Stephen’s list of “perhapses” in my ear and doubled 6Heart-small but after the club ruff, they disappeared very quickly:

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

North did have a singleton diamond but South did not and West’s trumps did not threaten the contract. -800 was an expectation for 7Diamond-smallx though when North scored a spade ruff with the defence’s only trump, that was -1100. Better though than -1660 and best of all (for the defence) would have been South’s attempt at grand-slam, because of their diamond void.

“Double” of that contract by East should produce a quick and pleasant result for the defence. Praise indeed for the Lightner Double.

Been in worse?

North Deals
E-W Vul
A Q 10 5
4 2
Q 9 8 5 4
W   E
K 2
A K 10 7 6 3
K 8 7 3
West North East South
  1  Pass 1 
Pass 1  Pass 2 
Pass 2 NT Pass 3 
Pass 4  Pass 4 NT
Pass 5  Pass 6 
All pass      


2Diamond-small was artificial game-force, 4th suit forcing. 5Heart-small showed two key-cards but no Heart-smallQ.

You have certainly found yourself in worse slams than this one. So, best see if you can come to 12 tricks. West led Diamond-small5. Trick 1 goes Diamond-smallJ, Diamond-smallQ and Diamond-smallA. Plan the play from there. Trust me. Nothing bad will happen straightaway.

Richard Solomon


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