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Tales of Akarana

How High Would You Go? clubs, that is. Who needs the “boss” suit, when you have clubs…and plenty of them!  If you were North-South this week, there were some interesting decisions.

The first one came about when your partner as North opened 3Club-small in first seat. The vulnerability may be significant in that only your side was vulnerable. Thus, partner should not have too bad a collection, should they? You have a fair one, yourself:

Spade-small KQ96                     Heart-small AJ75                      Diamond-small AKJT                       Club-small K

There are some interesting comments to make here about one’s ace-asking approach. Many pairs, using “key card” swap the first 2 responses to 4NT so that the first step shows 1 or 4 and the second 0 or 3. This is particularly helpful when hearts are trumps so that opposite the 1 or 4 response, you can ask and get the answer of whether partner has the Heart-smallQ and stop in 5Heart-small if they do not. You are more likely to want to know when partner holds one key card than none.

However, there is no advantage when clubs are trumps. The above hand demonstrates why sticking to step 1 (5Club-small) as 0 or 3 is a good idea. If partner produced 0 key cards, you would not want to be higher than 5Club-small.

However, would you try slam if partner produced one key card? If so, then try 4NT.

However, at least one pair had an even better approach. After a pre-empt in a minor, the bid of the other minor at the 4 level is of little natural use. So, after a 3Club-small pre-empt, you can jump to 4Diamond-small as “key card”. Partner shows 1. So, you might ask for the Club-smallQ and outside kings. You can ask and stay at the game level if the answer is negative. If you do this time, partner has the Club-smallQ and no outside kings. Are you going to slam? 

You would be glad if you did:

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


A pretty good 6Club-small slam even on a testing Heart-small10 lead. A good reason to keep those adverse vulnerability pre-empts up to scratch. If you are missing the AK of trumps, it is very handy to have some reasonable middle trumps though QT9 to seven clubs and an outside ace would probably satisfy most as we all know the jack would fall in two rounds when partner has the singleton king!

It was a little harder for the club bidders on this board:

Spade-small A43    Heart-small AK8  Diamond-smallClub-small Q987543 after this auction:

West              North            East                South

                                                1Diamond-small                 2Club-small

2Diamond-small                 3Diamond-small                  5Diamond-small                 ?

Only North-South were vulnerable. You do have excellent major controls and a partner who has some club support. Enough for slam? Here’s hoping! If you do, the opponents may bid more diamonds with 6Diamond-smallx being as good as both sides could get (-500).

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


A good slam or a lucky slam (you choose) as it required a well-placed Heart-smallQ to take care of the spade loser.

Another decent swag of clubs came to North later in the night:

Spade-smallHeart-small QJ7   Diamond-smallClub-smallAKJ76432

This time the vulnerability was reversed with only the opposition vulnerable. This is either a 4Club-small opener (if you can) or 1Club-small.

At one table where it started with 1Club-small, it looked like North had wished they had opened 4Club-smallas North made up quickly for lost time:

West              North            East                South

                        1Club-small               1Spade-small                 Pass

2Club-small                  5Club-small               5Spade-small                 6Club-small

6Spade-small                  ?

If partner really has club support but cannot bid over 1Club-small, then the vulnerability looks perfect for a sacrifice over 6Club-small though what would worry me more than the worth of bidding 7Club-small would be whether one would be pushing the opponents to a making 7Spade-small over which you are helpless.


At the table, Fuxia Wen was one of those who did bid 7Club-small and emerged with a good -800 (4 down) but the grand slam so nearly made:

Board 25
North Deals
E-W Vul
Q J 7
A K J 7 6 4 3 2
9 4 2
A 6 4 3
A K Q 4 2
W   E
A K Q 8 7 6 5
K 10 9 8
9 7
J 10
5 2
J 10 8 5 3
Q 10 8 5



The bad diamond break meant that in a spade contract,there had to be a heart loser this time so that 7Club-smallx was the place North-South wanted to be, assuming a small slam had been bid.

A 4Club-small, or even 5Club-small opening, should also have the same result with South having no defence to the small slam which West should bid once their partner enters the auction with a high- level spade bid.

So, once again, the lowest ranking suit had the final and winning say on the board!

Richard Solomon






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