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Daily Bridge in New Zealand

High-Level happenings.

A question for you. You lead your singleton H2 against 7C doubled, the opponents’ sacrifice. What happened?

Depending perhaps on the result, we all love a piece of high-level drama. Someone usually has a strong looking hand and the other pair are often taking a sacrifice…but how high and how far are the opponents prepared to go? So, today we look at such a deal from the point of view of the player who is being pushed around, the player with a strong hand.

Bridge in NZ.pngnz map.jpg

     
South Deals
None Vul
 
N
W   E
S
   
 
A K 8 7 4 2
A J 7 5 3
A 4
West North East South
      1 
Pass 4  4 NT ?

 

The game is Swiss Pairs and you have a good hand, especially after partner’s action. What now? 4NT is “two places to play.”

We all know that our partner will have a fair few spades and will not hold less than 0 high-card points! Indeed, any honours are a real bonus! Their shape is and will probably remain unknown during the bidding. Is it better to wait and see what the opponents have to say before bidding again or should we bid an immediately? It would be a sad day when we had more than one diamond and one club loser.

The Panel go for the quick approach and a touch of optimism:

Julie Atkinson “6♠: Impossible to have a sensible auction to slam.”

Kris Wooles “6♠: Bidding at a high level on this sort of auction where both sides may have big fits involves a little guess work. I could bid 5♠ when we could be cold for 6 or just bid 6♠ and make everyone guess. Given I usually like to err on the side of aggression, I would bid 6♠. I know I might go down even at the 5 level.”

Nigel Kearney “6♠: A 5♣ cue bid is the textbook approach, creating a force and allowing partner to cue bid 5♦. But I think it is will be too hard for partner to know if he has the right cards for grand so I'm just going to blast 6♠ and double if they continue.”

Michael Cornell “6♠: Must be close and I suspect they have a good dive, probably in hearts, which my bid may make harder to find. LHO will probably expect minors in their partner’s hand.”

Peter Newell “6♠: seems right on values and East clearly has a big 2 suiter.  The opponents may have a big club or heart fit, and I’m not going to give them the room to find out which. This will make it impossible for them to judge whether they should be diving or not.  While partner’s 4♠ is pre-emptive, I expect 4, often 5 trumps, usually a shortage but not much in the way of high cards.  Partner may have a diamond honour or quite likely a diamond shortage and given our spade fit, we should be able to ruff at least 3 diamonds in dummy.  While we will be cold for a grand slam occasionally, chasing rainbows usually isn’t worthwhile.

How could Peter be so right and so wrong? There was a rainbow to chase but there would be no diamond ruffs needed in a spade contract.We do have two other bids suggested:

Stephen Blackstock "5♦: Descriptive and ongoing. Definitely not a cue. It’s normal to show length in compressed auctions. It’s tempting to jump to 6♠, but we may have a grand or, opposite the wrong dummy, any slam may have no play. Let’s see what North has to say. If North can jump to 6♠, I will raise.

5♠ is worth considering, if only because uncertainty about East’s suits may persuade West not to save – but it is too conservative regarding our slam prospects."

 

Bruce Anderson "5♣: a cue bid showing slam interest. I am hoping to hear 5♦ from partner, showing second round control, after which I will bid the small slam. Possibly we can make a grand if partner has gold like ♠Qxxxx  ♥Jxxx  ♦x ♣Kxx and considered that hand was not strong enough to splinter. But my bidding 5♥ over 5 ♦would not lead anywhere as partner would never move again with a hand like that.

If I hear 5♥ over 5♣ that is likely to show the ace, providing a club pitch, meaning the small slam should be a  good contract."

 That is fine in theory though in practice, the opposition are likely to disrupt such plans.

Our Panel voted mainly for the direct approach. However, at one table, South doubled with West bidding 5♣. This produced a 5♠ bid from North, suggesting that they had a freaky hand with little in clubs. East passed and South bid one more. No-one was prepared to go to the 7-level which was perhaps a shame for both pairs with 7♣ being an excellent sacrifice while 7♠ would be a very profitable call had either North or South found it. Take a look:

South Deals
None Vul
J 10 9 5 3
2
Q 10 9 8 6 4
10
6
J 10 9 8 6 5 4
2
K 9 8 3
 
N
W   E
S
 
Q
A K Q 7 3
K
Q J 7 6 5 2
 
A K 8 7 4 2
A J 7 5 3
A 4
West North East South
      1 
Pass 4  4 NT ?

 

The winning action for North after West's 5♣ was to call 5♦ which if interpreted as natural would have excited South a lot. In practice, it would seem this did not happen as none of the 19 North-Souths bid to either cold grand-slam. 6♠ was the contract at 8 tables with 5 rather timidly selling out at 5♠. The remainder saw East-West taking successful sacrifices, four at the 6 level and two in 7♥, all doubled, of course. Yet, would Stephen Blackstock's 5♦ call have propelled the partnership to grand slam. It seems it just might.

The cheaper 7 level sacrifice is 7♣ by East, with no defensive ruff available. However, it would be a very intrigued North who would lead their heart singleton aiming for a ruff in 7♣x and seeing that they had given their partner a ruff instead!

knife edge.jpg

The club ruff against 7♥x is a little more standard and would give the defence 4 tricks or +800 but East-West were living on a knife-edge with 1510 available to their opponents.   

So, our Panel bid what they think or hope they can make and at the same time make it harder for their opponents to know whether or not they should be sacrificing. That seems a fair approach.

Are you good at finessing?

Well, if you are, there is the potential to take plenty in this deal. There are finesses/ guesses in all four suits, one a two-way finesse. You can afford one wrong guess/finesse but since you are in a small slam, any more would see you down.

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

 

After the strong 1NT opening, 3♠ was a natural slam try. 3NT was a waiting bid and both 4-level minor bids were cue-bids. 5♥ showed 2 key-cards but no ♠Q. West leads ♣3.

You did notice West’s double, didn’t you? So, you put up the ♣Q at trick 1 with East following with ♣J. Over to you.

Richard Solomon

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