Join Bridge Winners
A Cow Flew By
(Page of 14)

In a round-robin match in the Bermuda Bowl, you must decide whether or not to interfere vs. an enemy strong notrump.

Both vul, West deals. As West, you hold:

West
J1084
2
AK1052
1065
W
N
E
S
P
P
P
1NT
?

1NT: 15-17

Double would show a 4-card major and a longer minor. 2 would show both majors, 2 would show 1 major.

Your call?

West
J1084
2
AK1052
1065
W
N
E
S
P
P
P
1NT
?

The shape and texture of the hand is perfect for double. But what good would it do? It doesn't rob the opponents of any space, at least not immediately. Partner was unable to open in third seat, so this probably isn't your hand. There are two potential downsides to the double. One is that you might go for a number. This probably isn't too serious a danger, since you are at a low level and the opponents have to worry about their own vulnerable game. The second downside is that the double reveals a lot about your distribution, which may help the opponents in the play. This could be quite serious. You will probably be defending, and you may be defending a game contract.

The potential gains from the double aren't great. About the best you could expect is to find a spade fit and outbid the opponents, or push them to a partial which doesn't make. It doesn't look worth the risks.

You pass. The auction continues:

W
N
E
S
P
P
P
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
2NT
P
3NT
?

Your call?

West
J1084
2
AK1052
1065
W
N
E
S
P
P
P
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
2NT
P
3NT
?

At first glance a double looks wildly speculative. Upon close reflection, it becomes apparent that a double has a lot going for it.

1) The opponents are on an invitational sequence. This is very important. Partner can be counted on for 7 or 8 HCP. If North had jumped to 3NT, you could not be sure that the opponents don't have extra values and that partner might be broke.

2) You have secondary values in spades behind South's spade suit. Also, if dummy has 4 hearts, which is likely, partner has the hearts behind dummy. It doesn't look like the opponents have a good source of tricks.

3) You have a great opening lead ready. The diamonds may run outright, or they may run after losing the lead once in the suit.

If neither opponent has 4 diamonds, your chances of defeating 3NT look very good. Even if an opponent has 4 diamonds so the diamonds don't run, there is a fair chance that declarer still won't have 9 tricks.

What if you double and they make? It isn't the end of the world. You aren't going to be redoubled with the opponents having an invitational auction, and an overtrick seems very unlikely. Doubling costs only 4 IMPs (750 vs. 600) when wrong, and that only if your teammates are also in 3NT making. Even if you only defeat 3NT doubled 1 trick that is worth 3 IMPs, almost as much as the double risks. And it is quite possible that 3NT will go down more. Your side could easily have 4 diamond tricks and at least 2 other tricks with partner's known 7 or 8 HCP.

What if they run? In the first place, it is likely that they either don't have a place to run or won't risk trying to find it. And if they do run, you will have chased them out of a 3NT contract which you might not have been beating. You will be quite happy if they run.

It looks like the double is a very good bet.

You choose to pass, ending the auction.

W
N
E
S
P
P
P
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
2NT
P
3NT
P
P
P

Your lead. You lead ace from AK and Rusinow vs. notrump, with king being your power lead. If you aren't leading an honor, you play attitude leads vs. notrump.

 

West
J1084
2
AK1052
1065
W
N
E
S
P
P
P
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
2NT
P
3NT
P
P
P

A small diamond looks clear. You don't have a sure entry outside of the diamond suit, so you can't afford to lead an honor. A small diamond might be necessary if partner has a doubleton diamond and the enemy diamonds are 3-3. If you lose to a queen-doubleton when you could have taken 5 diamond tricks off the top, that is just too bad. You will still defeat the contract unless declarer has 9 top tricks.

You lead the 2.

West
J1084
2
AK1052
1065
North
92
K1085
Q96
KJ73
W
N
E
S
P
P
P
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
2NT
P
3NT
P
P
P

Dummy plays the 6. Partner plays the 4 (standard count). Declarer overtakes with the 8, and leads the 3. Do you win this trick or not?

West
J1084
2
AK105
1065
North
92
K1085
Q9
KJ73
W
N
E
S
P
P
P
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
2NT
P
3NT
P
P
P

Declarer definitely has 4 diamonds. Partner has given standard count, and partner's 4 is now known to be his lowest diamond. With a small doubleton, partner would have played his higher diamond.

You can't prevent declarer from getting 2 diamond tricks. However, you do have control over when he gets these tricks. If declarer's shape is 4-3-4-2, which is quite possible, partner may have to guard hearts and clubs later in the hand. If you win the second and third round of diamonds, that may subject partner to a squeeze on the fourth round. By ducking now, partner will be under no pressure at all unless declarer is willing to let you take 3 diamond tricks.

The danger with ducking is that it might be declarer's ninth trick. For example, suppose declarer's hand is something like Axxx Ax J8xx AQx. If you duck, he has 1 spade, 2 hearts, 2 diamonds, and 4 clubs. If you win and shift to a spade, the defense will set up 3 spade tricks before declarer can enjoy his second diamond trick.

Since you can't tell exactly what partner holds in hearts and clubs and you can construct a layout where ducking is fatal, it is probably right to win the diamond trick.

You win the K. Partner discards the 2. You are playing odd-even first discard. An odd spot card is encouraging. An even spot card is discouraging, with suit-preference implications.

What do you play at trick 3?

West
J1084
2
A105
1065
North
92
K1085
Q
KJ73
W
N
E
S
P
P
P
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
2NT
P
3NT
P
P
P

Partner's club discard is somewhat of a surprise. You know he has at least 5 hearts, so you would have expected him to discard a heart. Perhaps he didn't want to discard an idle fifth, and he felt discarding a club first would be more deceptive. Or perhaps he didn't have the right odd or even spot card to send the message he wished to convey.

If you believe that partner has more than one even spot card, that would indicate that his 2 was suit-preference for hearts. But that is not a command to shift to hearts. You must look at your hand, the dummy, his card, and put it all together to find the best defense.

With your spade holding, a spade shift still looks right regardless of partner's discard. It is safe, and potentially sets up one or more spade tricks for the defense.

Which spade should you shift to? A small spade is fine if partner has any spade honor, and ensures that partner will do whatever unblocking is necessary. It only costs if partner has no spade honor. Is that possible? No way. If partner had nothing in spades, he certainly would have discarded some even spade spot rather than a potentially important club. Partner must have at least one spade honor.

You shift to a small spade. Partner's queen is taken by declarer's king. Declarer plays another diamond at you. Now what do you do?

 

West
J108
2
A105
1065
North
9
K1085
Q
KJ73
W
N
E
S
P
P
P
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
2NT
P
3NT
P
P
P

Once again, you have the option of ducking the diamond in order to prevent declarer from correcting the count for a squeeze. And once again, it is too risky. Partner could conceivably have started with AQx of spades. From that holding he would have played the queen in order to retain the flow of communication which would be particularly necessary if your spade holding were J8xx. While this isn't very likely considering declarer's line of play and partner's 2 discard, ducking the diamond risks not getting the trick. Partner might have enough in clubs and hearts so if you take your ace of diamonds it will become the setting trick.

You win the ace of diamonds. Partner discards the 4. After the first discard, future discards in new suits are upside-down.

What do you play now?

 

West
J108
2
105
1065
North
9
K1085
KJ73
W
N
E
S
P
P
P
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
2NT
P
3NT
P
P
P

It looks intutively right to continue spades. If partner started with AQx of spades that will defeat the contract. Partner would play the queen from that holding, in order to maintain a smooth communication flow with your hand. That would be necessary if your spades were J8xx.

Can partner really have AQx of spades? Declarer would be conceding down 1 if that were the case, so it would mean that declarer had no way to make the contract without getting a second diamond trick. What would declarer have for his 1NT opening and acceptance of the invite? King of spades and jack of diamonds so far is all. He would need both heart and club aces and a queen, and even that only gets him to 14 HCP. Add in the jack of hearts (say AQ of clubs and jack of hearts), and he would be going after hearts for his ninth trick.

The conclusion is that declarer must have the A. If you continue spades, he will certainly duck. This will allow him to lose exactly 3 tricks, which may be what he needs to do to end-play partner. It is better to lead a diamond back at declarer. Now if he ducks a spade you will have the option of cashing the long diamond. Partner might get squeezed, but he won't get end-played since your side will have 4 tricks.

You choose to lead the jack of spades. Partner plays the 5, and declarer the 6. Now what?

 

West
108
2
105
1065
North
K1085
KJ73
W
N
E
S
P
P
P
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
2NT
P
3NT
P
P
P

While it could be helpful to partner to get a heart or a club through in order to help him avoid an end-play, you don't know that this won't be helpful to declarer. It is better to continue with a spade or a diamond. Not only will this establish a winner in your hand, but it will force dummy to make a discard. Partner will be able to follow if you lead a spade or discard his last spade if you lead a diamond, so dummy will be under pressure while partner will not be.

Between a spade and a diamond, you are better off leading a diamond. This establishes your long diamond, which prevents declarer from ducking another spade to you. If you play a spade, declarer has the option of letting you take a spade trick, and that will correct the count for a squeeze on partner. While you don't know what declarer will do, it must be right to limit his options as much as possible.

You choose to lead the 10. Dummy discards a club. Declarer wins the ace, and leads a spade back to you. Dummy discards a heart, and partner discards the 7. Now what do you try?

 

West
2
105
1065
North
K108
KJ7
W
N
E
S
P
P
P
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
2NT
P
3NT
P
P
P

It is now clear what is going on. Declarer has intentionally given you a spade trick with the intent of correcting the count for a squeeze on partner. Declarer must have both rounded aces, and partner both queens. It is also clear that partner has the jack of hearts, since if declarer had that card he would have taken a heart finesse into partner, the safe hand, and he would have 3 heart tricks, 2 diamond tricks, 2 spade tricks, and 2 club tricks. Declarer's hand must be AKxx Axx J8xx Ax.

If you lead a diamond, declarer will discard a heart from dummy and partner will be squeezed. A heart shift looks better, as this somewhat disrupts declarer's communication. Declarer can still run the squeeze, but he must be careful with his timing.

You shift to a heart. Declarer wins the king of hearts, partner playing the 9, and leads a heart to partner's queen and declarer's ace. What do you discard?

West
105
1065
North
108
KJ7
W
N
E
S
P
P
P
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
2NT
P
3NT
P
P
P

You must discard a diamond. Declarer has the count of the hand now, but he doesn't know for sure who has the Q. If you discard a club, he can't go wrong.

You discard a diamond. Declarer cashes the J. He pitches dummy's 10, as your partner discards the 4. Now declarer cashes the ace of clubs, partner playing the 9. At trick 12, declarer leads a club towards dummy. Does it matter which club you play?

 

West
106
North
KJ
W
N
E
S
P
P
P
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
2NT
P
3NT
P
P
P

This is a classic squeeze-guess position. If declarer thinks you have the queen of clubs, he must finesse. If he thinks your partner has the queen of clubs, he must drop it. Partner was squeezed into coming down to a doubleton club, since he had to guard the hearts.

Normally it would make no difference which card you play. The 6 and the 10 are equals for all practical intents and purposes. You can just play one of them randomly. Of course if you think declarer will think that you would play the 6 (or falsecard with the 10) then you could choose to play the other one, but getting into head games with declarer on this sort of thing will probably cost more than it will gain.

On this deal, there is a reason to play the 10. The key goes back to partner's first discard. He discarded a club in the face of dummy's KJxx of clubs. Declarer now knows that discard came from a 4-card suit. While it is sort of odd that partner would make this discard from any 4-card holding, it would be really strange for him to make that discard from 109xx. He could see that this would be almost sure to cost a club trick. If you play the 6 declarer will know the 10 is still out there, and if you started with Q65 that would mean partner had discarded from 109xx. It is better for you to play the 10. Now from declarer's point of view, partner's club discard was either from Q9xx or 9xxx, with the 9 being a falsecard. Declarer is more likely to go wrong.

You wrongly play the 6. Declarer thinks about this for a bit, and finally goes up K, dropping partner's queen and making the contract. The full hand is:

West
J1084
2
AK1052
1065
North
92
K1085
Q96
KJ73
East
Q53
QJ974
4
Q942
South
AK76
A63
J873
A8
W
N
E
S
P
P
P
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
2NT
P
3NT
P
P
P
D
3NT South
NS: 0 EW: 0
2
6
4
8
3
1
0
3
K
9
2
0
1
1
4
2
Q
K
3
2
1
7
A
Q
4
0
2
2
J
9
5
6
0
2
3
10
3
3
A
3
3
3
7
8
5
7
0
3
4
2
K
9
3
1
4
4
8
Q
A
5
3
5
4
J
10
10
4
3
6
4
A
5
7
9
3
7
4
8
6
K
12

What do you think of East's initial 2 discard?

 

West
J1084
2
AK1052
1065
North
92
K1085
Q96
KJ73
East
Q53
QJ974
4
Q942
South
AK76
A63
J873
A8
W
N
E
S
P
P
P
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
2NT
P
3NT
P
P
P
D
3NT South
NS: 0 EW: 0
2
6
4
8
3
1
0
3
K
9
2
0
1
1
4
2
Q
K
3
2
1
7
A
Q
4
0
2
2
J
9
5
6
0
2
3
10
3
3
A
3
3
3
7
8
5
7
0
3
4
2
K
9
3
1
4
4
8
Q
A
5
3
5
4
J
10
10
4
3
6
4
A
5
7
9
3
7
4
8
6
K
12

A heart discard seems routine. But the club discard is an interesting gambit. The club discard gave declarer his ninth trick on power. But declarer doesn't know that. From declarer's point of view it appears East has discarded a club from queen-fifth, which means that declarer will need to squeeze or end-play East to make the hand. A heart discard would probably have made it easier for declarer to read the hand. The club discard looks like a good idea. Of course East can't afford to discard a spade, since that is potentially discarding a winner.

One point worth noting is that if East wanted to discard an encouraging heart he had a problem. He would have to discard an odd spot card. The 7 might turn out to be valuable in the end position if declarer has A6x of hearts and West shifts to a heart. And if East had instead been dealt QJ964, he definitely would not be able to discard an encouraging heart. This illustrates the disadvantage of odd-even discards. You are at the mercy of the spot cards you are dealt. Playing upside-down if you want to make an encouraging discard in a suit you can always afford your lowest spot card.

What do you think of the way declarer handled the hand?

West
J1084
2
AK1052
1065
North
92
K1085
Q96
KJ73
East
Q53
QJ974
4
Q942
South
AK76
A63
J873
A8
W
N
E
S
P
P
P
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
2NT
P
3NT
P
P
P
D
3NT South
NS: 0 EW: 0
2
6
4
8
3
1
0
3
K
9
2
0
1
1
4
2
Q
K
3
2
1
7
A
Q
4
0
2
2
J
9
5
6
0
2
3
10
3
3
A
3
3
3
7
8
5
7
0
3
4
2
K
9
3
1
4
4
8
Q
A
5
3
5
4
J
10
10
4
3
6
4
A
5
7
9
3
7
4
8
6
K
12

Declarer could have handled the diamond spots better. If he had led the 7 instead of the 3 at trick 2, West would not have known where the 3 was. It is possible that declarer might make this play with only 3 diamonds, if he was setting up a potential suicide squeeze on the defense where West would be forced to cash his diamonds or not get them and this would correct the count for a squeeze on East. Thus, West definitely could not risk ducking the second round of diamonds.

Declarer did well to win the king of spades instead of the ace. This may keep West in the dark about the location of the ace of spades. If declarer wins the ace it will be obvious that he has the king, because with Axxx he surely would have held up.

In the end, declarer had to guess who had the queen of clubs. The way the play went, declarer could have avoided that guess if he reads that West has the 4-card spade holding. On the third round of spades, he should have discarded a heart instead of a club from dummy. Now he cashes his jack of diamonds, discards another heart, and looks to see what East discards. If East discards another club, declarer will know that he has 9 tricks by playing ace and a club to the jack, since East can't still have 4 clubs. If instead East discards a heart, he will be known to have at least 3 clubs left. Therefore, declarer can cash two hearts and the ace of clubs, and if his last heart isn't good throw East in to force a club play.

It might seem as though West could avoid this position by leading a diamond instead of the jack of spades after winning his ace of diamonds, but this is not the case. Dummy discards a spade, and East is squeezed. If East discards either rounded suit, declarer can safely set up the fourth round of that suit in dummy. And if East discards a spade, declarer can cash the king of spades and then he will have the same end-play -- only giving the defense 2 heart tricks instead of 1 heart trick and 1 spade trick.

What happened was that declarer was convinced from East's club discard that the clubs were 5-2. He thought that East started with 5 clubs and 4 hearts, so his squeeze was a sure thing. Only when he played the second round of hearts and discovered that the hearts were 5-1 did he realize he didn't have a lock and would have to guess who had the queen of clubs.

While doubling would not have been a success on this hand, I am convinced that it is the percentage action. West was unfortunate to find N-S with 2 diamond stoppers as well as fully maximum values for their auction, and even with all that game was far from cold. I know that at the table "a cow flew by", and I had woodenly passed before it even occurred to me that doubling was a consideration. This happens quite often. There was even a hand in a recent major event where a player holding the ace of trumps failed to double a grand (and a runout to 7NT was not a danger). It cost him 2 IMPs when the same contract was reached in the other room but there were no flying cows there.

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