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Fitting Card
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In a round-robin match in the Open Trials, you face an interesting evaluation problem.

None vul, West deals. As South, you hold:

South
983
AQJ3
Q92
Q54
W
N
E
S
P
1
P
1
P
3
P
?

3: 4-card support, singleton or void in either spades or clubs, minimum opening bid. With the same hand and a non-minimum, North would bid 2 to show that.

Your call?

South
983
AQJ3
Q92
Q54
W
N
E
S
P
1
P
1
P
3
P
?

At first your hand doesn't look like much. A flat 11-count, with a lot of queens and jacks. Opposite a minimum opening bid, which can be an 11-count, game prospects don't look so great.

A closer examination of the hand reveals a rosier picture. The heart suit is great, particularly with the ruffs taken in partner's hand. Partner is a good favorite to hold at least 5 diamonds, since his only distribution which doesn't have 5 diamonds is a 4-4-4-1 hand. If partner's shortness is in spades, that is really great. It is more likely that partner's shortness is in clubs since neither opponent overcalled 1, but even opposite that the hand has good prospects. If the opponents don't establish spade tricks quickly, you can anticipate drawing trumps and discarding losing spades on the diamonds. The queen of diamonds is a huge fitting card. It doesn't pay to hang one trick short of game on this type of hand.

You bid 4, ending the auction.

W
N
E
S
P
1
P
1
P
3
P
4
P
P
P

West leads the 2. Third and fifth leads. UDCA.

North
AJ7
9862
AJ873
3
South
983
AQJ3
Q92
Q54
W
N
E
S
P
1
P
1
P
3
P
4
P
P
P

What do you play from dummy?

North
AJ7
9862
AJ873
3
South
983
AQJ3
Q92
Q54
W
N
E
S
P
1
P
1
P
3
P
4
P
P
P

Playing small is clear. West isn't going to be underleading the KQ on this auction. If West has K10 or Q10, playing small will hold your spade losses to 1 trick.

You play small. Unfortunately, East produces the 10. He leads back the 4 to West's king and dummy's ace. What next?

North
J
9862
AJ873
3
South
9
AQJ3
Q92
Q54
W
N
E
S
P
1
P
1
P
3
P
4
P
P
P

You have a club loser and another spade loser staring you in the face, so you will have to pick up both red suits without loss. That will take some luck. You are in dummy, so taking the heart finesse is clear.

You lead the 2. East plays the 4, you the queen, and West the 7. What next?

North
J
986
AJ873
3
South
9
AJ3
Q92
Q54
W
N
E
S
P
1
P
1
P
3
P
4
P
P
P

The 7 is an interesting card. If it is not a falsecard from 1075, it is either a singleton 7 or 107 doubleton. West is free to falsecard here, but most likely it is an honest card simply because West won't see any reason why falsecarding might be important.

The spade position is clear. On the assumption that West didn't underlead KQ of spades, the queen of spades is in the East hand. That means that West didn't start with 5 spades. The opponents play third and fifth leads, so West must have started with Kxx of spades.

How should you attack the diamonds? You need the king of diamonds onside. If West started with king-doubleton, you want to lead a small diamond to the jack and then cash the ace of diamonds. If West started with at least 3 diamonds, you want to begin by leading the queen. You won't be able to pick up a 4-1 diamond split if West is astute enough to duck, but he will probably cover since from his point of view you could have queen-doubleton.

The expected distributions in spades and hearts indicate that West is more likely to have the diamond length. Leading the queen looks best.

What will your plan be if you lead the queen of diamonds and it gets covered? The percentage play appears to be to later finesse for the 10. If you are going to do that, there is a good argument for leading a small diamond to the 8, ensuring that you will have the dummy entry to repeat the heart finesse. This risks going down more than one, but it does guard against West having K10xx of diamonds and being astute enough to not cover.

Is there any reason to delay the diamond play and lead a club, in order to generate a dummy entry? No, that isn't a good idea, since there would be a danger of a trump promotion if West started with 107.

You choose to lead the queen of diamonds. West covers with the king. You win the ace, East playing the 4. You lead a heart off dummy. East follows small. What do you play?

North
J
986
J873
3
South
9
AJ3
92
Q54
W
N
E
S
P
1
P
1
P
3
P
4
P
P
P

You know East has the king of hearts, but either defender could have the 10. If East has it, you need to take the double finesse. It looks better to play West for the 10. East is assumed to have 4 spades, decreasing the chances that he has 4 hearts. Also, if East had 4 hearts he could have fouled up your entries by covering the heart lead from dummy, although most players probably wouldn't think of that since they don't expect you to double finesse.

You put in the jack of hearts. West follows with the 10. You draw the remaining trump, West discarding a club. Now you lead the 9. West follows with the 6. Do you finesse or go up?

North
J
9
J873
3
South
9
3
92
Q54
W
N
E
S
P
1
P
1
P
3
P
4
P
P
P

If West started with a doubleton diamond, you are dead. If West started with 3 diamonds, it is a total guess. Both players would have two small diamonds initially, making it equally likely for either to have the 10. West would have covered the queen of diamonds from Kxx whether or not he has the 10.

There is always the possibility that West started with K10xx of diamonds. While West could have defeated the contract by not covering the queen if that is his holding, he might not have realized this and made the routine cover. Since otherwise the play is a tossup, the 4-1 possibility swings the odds in favor of the finesse.

You let the 9 ride. It holds! You run the diamonds discarding a spade and a club, and wind up with 11 tricks -- 5 hearts, 5 diamonds, and 1 spade. The full hand is:

West
K62
107
K106
A10986
North
AJ7
9862
AJ873
3
East
Q1054
K54
54
KJ72
South
983
AQJ3
Q92
Q54
W
N
E
S
P
1
P
1
P
3
P
4
P
P
P
D
4 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
2
7
10
3
2
0
1
4
8
K
A
1
1
1
2
4
Q
7
3
2
1
Q
K
A
4
1
3
1
6
5
J
10
3
4
1
A
6
8
K
3
5
1
9
6
3
5
3
6
1
7

Could the defense have done anything better?

West
K62
107
K106
A10986
North
AJ7
9862
AJ873
3
East
Q1054
K54
54
KJ72
South
983
AQJ3
Q92
Q54
W
N
E
S
P
1
P
1
P
3
P
4
P
P
P
D
4 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
2
7
10
3
2
0
1
4
8
K
A
1
1
1
2
4
Q
7
3
2
1
Q
K
A
4
1
3
1
6
5
J
10
3
4
1
A
6
8
K
3
5
1
9
6
3
5
3
6
1
7

West did fine with his spade lead. He was concerned about his diamond holding, and judged that an aggressive lead rather than a trump lead was called for. If West had a fourth diamond, a trump lead would have looked better.

East's return of a small spade looks automatic. However, East might have considered returning the queen of spades. This loses the potential of a trump promotion on the fourth round of spades, but that isn't likely. Otherwise, returning the queen is quite safe. The advantage of this play is that declarer might place East for a doubleton spade, and might have misjudged the play of the diamond suit thinking West has 5 spades (and thus short in diamonds). Declarer might wonder why West didn't overcall, but he could get it wrong. It is worthwhile for defenders to be on the lookout for this sort of safe falsecard which conceals their true distribution.

Should West have overcalled 2 or made a takeout double?

West
K62
107
K106
A10986
North
AJ7
9862
AJ873
3
East
Q1054
K54
54
KJ72
South
983
AQJ3
Q92
Q54
W
N
E
S
P
1
P
1
P
3
P
4
P
P
P
D
4 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
2
7
10
3
2
0
1
4
8
K
A
1
1
1
2
4
Q
7
3
2
1
Q
K
A
4
1
3
1
6
5
J
10
3
4
1
A
6
8
K
3
5
1
9
6
3
5
3
6
1
7

West's hand is minimal, and he is relatively flat. Still, it is neither vulnerable, and bidding might lead to a making contract or push the opponents beyond their depth. The danger is very small. On balance, West probably does better to act.

How was North's auction?

West
K62
107
K106
A10986
North
AJ7
9862
AJ873
3
East
Q1054
K54
54
KJ72
South
983
AQJ3
Q92
Q54
W
N
E
S
P
1
P
1
P
3
P
4
P
P
P
D
4 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
2
7
10
3
2
0
1
4
8
K
A
1
1
1
2
4
Q
7
3
2
1
Q
K
A
4
1
3
1
6
5
J
10
3
4
1
A
6
8
K
3
5
1
9
6
3
5
3
6
1
7

Holding two aces and a couple of possibly working jacks, North has a reasonable opening playing Precision. The 3 call is systemic. 2 would show a balanced hand. It may seem weird to jump with a weak hand, but the call is very descriptive and can help partner evaluate as seen here. Sometimes the call has preemptive value, stealing the pot where a simple raise would not have kept the opponents from balancing. In addition, the simple raise is known to be a balanced hand with 4 trumps (we don't raise with 3), so the range is well-defined -- 11-13 vulnerable, 13-15 non-vulnerable. This tight description makes bidding very accurate.

Aggressive bidding can sometimes lead to poor games. However, these games have been known to make if you take advantage of a favorable lie of the cards. This hand is a good example.

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