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Go for the Throat
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In a round-robin match in the Senior trials, you have to decide how high to preempt over a strong club.

N-S vul, North deals. As East, you hold:

East
Q987653
63
AKQ8
W
N
E
S
1
?

1: Strong, artificial

Your call?

East
Q987653
63
AKQ8
W
N
E
S
1
?

One must be wary about overpreempting to 4. The level is so high that the opponents are often forced to either sell out or double. When you bid 4, you better be prepared to wear it.

On this hand you are quite prepared to play 4. All partner needs is the ace or king of spades for 4 to potentially have very good play. The vulnerability is favorable. You are never going to sell out to 4. You should put the maximum pressure on your opponents. There is potential for a double game swing, and the opponents haven't started to find a suit.

You choose to bid 3. The auction continues:

W
N
E
S
1
3
X
P
4
?

DBL: Cards, game-forcing.

Your agreements are that double by you would say to avoid a spade lead.

Your call?

 

East
Q987653
63
AKQ8
W
N
E
S
1
3
X
P
4
?

You have no idea where the opponents are headed, or even who is going to be the declarer. Double would give South the flexibility of passing if he doesn't have a convenient call.

On the other hand, you really don't want a spade lead against anything. While you can't be sure that partner will find the club lead, at least you have a fighting chance if you double. If you pass, he will almost certainly lead a spade. It has to be worth giving South the extra flexibility in order to get partner away from a spade lead.

You double. The bidding continues:

W
N
E
S
1
3
X
P
4
X
P
P
5
P
5
P
5
?

Your call?

 

East
Q987653
63
AKQ8
W
N
E
S
1
3
X
P
4
X
P
P
5
P
5
P
5
?

Who knows where they are headed. At any rate, there is no reason for you to double now. You have already given partner the message that he should avoid a spade lead. A double can only help the opponents untangle things.

You pass. The bidding continues:

W
N
E
S
1
3
X
P
4
X
P
P
5
P
5
P
5
P
6
P
P
?

Your call?

East
Q987653
63
AKQ8
W
N
E
S
1
3
X
P
4
X
P
P
5
P
5
P
5
P
6
P
P
?

This is an entirely different story. Avoiding a spade lead might not be good enough. You really want a diamond lead.

Double would be Lightner, of course. It would definitely call for an unusual lead. Usually you would be doubling on a void, but possibly with something like AQ in dummy's suit. If partner plays you for a void, he will almost certainly work out that the void is in diamonds. Thus, you will very likely get the desired diamond lead if you double, while you probably won't get a diamond lead if you don't. Making a Lightner double is very clear.

You double. The bidding continues:

W
N
E
S
1
3
X
P
4
X
P
P
5
P
5
P
5
P
6
P
P
X
6NT
P
P
?

Your call?

 

East
Q987653
63
AKQ8
W
N
E
S
1
3
X
P
4
X
P
P
5
P
5
P
5
P
6
P
P
X
6NT
P
P
?

This is beyond your wildest dreams. 6NT is down at least 2 on a club lead, maybe more. Is it time to go for the throat?

If partner knows that your double of 6 was based on a diamond void, then of course he will lead a club. A double of 6NT couldn't possibly be based on anything else, particularly since your double of 4 told partner to avoid a spade lead.

The problem is that partner might not be sure that your double of 6 is based on a diamond void. It could be based on AQ of diamonds. If you did have AQ of diamonds, you would certainly double 6NT to make it clear what your double of 6 was based on. If partner fears that the opponents might have 12 tricks outside of diamonds, he might lead a diamond.

Suppose you don't double. What will partner lead? He will think you have a diamond void for your double of 6, so he won't lead that. A heart lead is silly. And you have already told him to avoid a spade lead. He will certainly lead a club. He won't be expecting to strike this much gold, but he will know that you want a club lead and he won't have any reason to lead anything else.

When you doubled 4, the opponents hadn't bid a suit yet. They might have been headed anyplace. You would have doubled 4 to get him away from a spade lead if you had the AQ of diamonds instead of the AKQ of clubs. There is no clue for partner there.

You would like to collect the bonus for the doubled undertricks. But the first priority is to defeat the slam. For all you know your teammates won't be in slam, or they will play in a cold 6 or 6 from the North side. The extra points for doubling might be almost meaningless. But if doubling causes partner to get off to the wrong lead, that is a major catastrophe.

You choose to double, ending the auction.

W
N
E
S
1
3
X
P
4
X
P
P
5
P
5
P
5
P
6
P
P
X
6NT
P
P
X
P
P
P

Partner is on lead. He sits and thinks and thinks and thinks. You hold your breath. Finally the screen is tapped signifying that he has led. The screen is raised. And you see that his lead is .........

A diamond! Disaster! The full hand is:

West
10
852
10762
107632
North
AJ
AKQ4
AQJ943
5
East
Q987653
63
AKQ8
South
K42
J1097
K85
J94
W
N
E
S
 
1
3
X
P
4
X
P
P
5
P
5
P
5
P
6
P
P
X
6N
P
P
X
P
P
P
D
6NTX South
NS: 0 EW: 0
6
1

Declarer has 12 top tricks. To add insult to injury, you get squeezed in the black suits for the overtrick. There was a 5-trick swing on the opening lead.

Do you think West should have gone right?

 

West
10
852
10762
107632
North
AJ
AKQ4
AQJ943
5
East
Q987653
63
AKQ8
South
K42
J1097
K85
J94
W
N
E
S
 
1
3
X
P
4
X
P
P
5
P
5
P
5
P
6
P
P
X
6N
P
P
X
P
P
P
D
6NTX South
NS: 0 EW: 0
6
1

It is hard to see why. From West's point of view East was doubling on the AQ of diamonds. If West doesn't lead a diamond, he could see declarer having 5 heart tricks, 3 spade tricks, and 4 club tricks. He doesn't have any indication that South is bidding this way on a 4-card heart suit.

If East had not doubled, West certainly would have shrugged and led a club, expecting declarer to claim and being annoyed that South was able to run successfully. West would have been pleasantly surprised.

What do you think about the N-S auction?

West
10
852
10762
107632
North
AJ
AKQ4
AQJ943
5
East
Q987653
63
AKQ8
South
K42
J1097
K85
J94
W
N
E
S
 
1
3
X
P
4
X
P
P
5
P
5
P
5
P
6
P
P
X
6N
P
P
X
P
P
P
D
6NTX South
NS: 0 EW: 0
6
1

Since the partnership is in a game force once South doubles 3, North probably would have been better off bidding 4 instead of 4. He could probably follow with 5, and South would get the picture. Forcing to slam on the North hand once South shows values is quite reasonable.

South had an easy pass over the double of 4, since he had no preference at all. When North then bid 5, bypassing clubs, South reasonably believed that North was showing a red 2-suiter. Hence his correction to 5.

North's 5 call was too optimistic. At this point things are so jammed up that he should have been concentrating on getting to the best strain, either by bidding 6 or 5NT pick a slam. Getting to a grand sensibly at this point is too difficult.

South thought that North was making a grand slam try with hearts definitely trumps. South's hand is as bad as can be, so South signed off.

South knew that the double was based on a diamond void, and likely an ace. Running to 6NT was quite reasonable. He could hardly expect to be off the entire club suit.

The point of this hand is that it is important to make sure that partner will have the picture you want him to have when you are taking an action that asks him to do something. East failed to look at things from West's point of view, and the result was a major catastrophe.

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