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Daily Bridge in New Zealand

“Where have all the diamonds gone..long time passing…?”

A vanishing suit, one that questions whether we dare take a bid. Why would we bid, in the pass-out seat when we have a four-card holding in the opposition suit, a partner who failed to take any action and moderate values of our own….and a mysterious void!?

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North Deals
Both Vul
 
N
W   E
S
   
 
A Q J 8 4
A K 4 2
J 9 3 2
West North East South
  Pass Pass 1 
2  Pass Pass ?

 

Well, if you pass, that will end the bidding! That is certain. Is that a good idea?You are playing for imps.

If you double, the words of a Pete Seeger song made famous by Peter, Paul and Mary (“Where have all the diamonds gone?” OK, we have substituted “diamonds” instead of “flowers) may ring in your ears.

So, pass, double, or bid. Only 3 options!

Someone has lots of diamonds and if you decide to compete with your side ending as declarer, it will not be very good from your point of view if your partner wants to make that suit trumps. Despite that, we have some bidders:

Kris Wooles “2Heart-small: while passing might be right, equally partner might have not many points but with a bunch of hearts and a shortage in clubs. I’m bidding what I am looking at, rightly or wrongly.”

Nigel Kearney “2Heart-small: Pass could easily be right and I might do that at match-points, but at IMPs the possibility of making 4Heart-small tempts me to try again. Double looks a poor choice so that leaves 2Heart-small which unfortunately suggests 5-5 so there may be a tricky declarer play problem in my future.”

We might also remember that our partner had the opportunity to open which rules out them having a weak 2 in hearts or indeed a 7-card diamond suit unless they are extremely weak. Both Kris and Nigel acknowledge their action is risky. Double seems an unwise choice because of the diamond danger.

Others do not bid:

Michael Cornell “Pass: not my favourite bid. Partner is either short of points or has a few clubs. I originally liked my hand but not any more opposite a passing partner. My guess is they can make a few diamonds and we can make very little but I expect to beat 2Club-small (I have 4.5 defensive tricks in my own hand.)”

Stephen Blackstock “Pass: Game seems a long way off if partner cannot bid 2Spade-small or 2Diamond-small, or double. He might have a red two-suiter too weak to call, but if so, it will still need favourable breaks at best for game to make.

We must have very good chances to defeat 2Club-small, and that could be our only plus. With game remote, pass seems the percentage action even at Teams. At match-points, anything else would be wrong in my view.”

Michael Ware “Pass: Partner's inability to act over 2Club-small effectively denying any values with 3+Spade-small or 4 hearts is too big to ignore.

Pam Livingston “ Pass: Partner would not be shy about raising with 3 spades or doubling with 4 hearts with a few points.  I have defensive cards and will take my chances there.”

How many is “a few points”? Three queens including one in the enemy suit?

Peter Newell “Pass: if partner cannot raise spades or make a take-out double, this looks like a misfit and I don’t want to be part of it.  It is true occasionally partner will be too weak for a take-out double and have something like 5/5 in the reds but on balance I’ll pass and expect to take a small plus score.

Matt Brown “Pass: Partner couldn't act over 2Club-small and we have 4 of them and only 15 points. We could still for sure be making 4Heart-small but I think it's too unlikely on balance.”

Bruce Anderson “Pass: partner is very unlikely to have a “penalty pass “given that I have 4 clubs. Also, it is reasonable to assume that West is not unhinged and has their bid. So, I am not re-opening with a double.

2Heart-small is the obvious alternative. But partner did not make a negative double, lessening the likelihood of a heart fit. Probably partner has length in diamonds without the strength to bid freely at the two level. Partner may have a weak hand with hearts, but a misfit is more likely so I am going to defend.”

Length in clubs, length in diamonds, not many high card points, no liking for spades. Such comments have been made about our partner’s hand…and three of those statements were indeed true. Which was the odd one out? Perhaps the one you might least expect. Our partner had quite a flat hand, a mere 6-count, and length and some strength in the opponent’s suit.

They had no particular length in diamonds!

At the table, South chose to bid 2Heart-small, bought a heart invite from their partner and ended in 4Heart-small. Before we show you all four hands, here is the play problem in that contract. It is not as “tricky” as Nigel Kearney may have feared but required careful play:

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

 

West led two high clubs (surprise, surprise…East was void in clubs and discarded two diamonds) and then gave their partner a club ruff. Back came a low diamond. Ruffing seemed to be a very good idea. Over, then, to you.

So, would you have made a negative double on the North cards above? You are short of points, have no shape, except for a doubleton in partner’s suit, no high honours and have that annoying club holding. Oh, you are vulnerable, too.  It is almost a case of “if partner cannot bid, why would you?”

It was a good idea for one of North or South to bid, as long as 4Heart-small made. For that to happen, you really need the ever-silent East to hold the Spade-smallK. So, draw trumps and take the spade finesse, but if the finesse worked, you may need to take it twice…and thus needed two entries to dummy.

So, play Heart-smallA and then a heart to the queen, not two high hearts in hand:

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

Two rounds of trumps would have cleared the suit, followed by a spade finesse, a club to dummy (how ironic to use the opposition suit for that purpose), a second finesse, Spade-smallA and a spade ruff…and finally the king has fallen!

Ruff a second diamond…and claim with your Spade-small8 winning trick 13.

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That was a very lucky making contract. To record a plus as South, without looking at the East-West cards, would you rather have played 4Heart-small or defended 2Club-small? I think the latter. Three rounds of hearts after an initial spade lead leaves West in dire straits and certain defeat.

Would you have overcalled as West? Not the best overcall opposite a passed partner. Would you have bid 2Diamond-small as East after partner struck your void? Perhaps but East might anticipate a horrible misfit.

So, I am with the passers though on this day, the biggest North-South score came, just, from bidding….and in answer to our first question, the diamonds were with East-West, “(almost) every one”.

The best defence

You are playing Teams. You want to beat any contract you defend but just restricting overtricks can offer a small reward as well. So, what to do here? You are East:

South Deals
None Vul
A J 9 6
K 4
A Q 9 7 4 3
K
   
N
W   E
S
 
10 4 3 2
A 5 3
J 5 2
A Q J
West North East South
  Dummy You  
      2 
Pass 2 NT Pass 3 
Pass 4  All pass  

 

2Heart-small was a Weak 2 and 2NT asked about outside features. 3Spade-small showed a “spade feature”, a feature being an honour and not a shortage.

West led Diamond-smallT with declarer’s Diamond-smallK taking the first trick. (Yes, that’s a feature, too!) At trick 2, declarer plays a small heart to West’s Heart-small9, Heart-smallK and your ace. What do you play to trick 3 and why?

Richard Solomon

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