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High-level Flexibility
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In a Round of 16 match in the Open Trials, you have to find the best way to handle a strong hand against an enemy preempt.

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

South
A9743
A
A85
AKQ5
W
N
E
S
P
P
2
?

If you make a takeout double, you do play Lebensohl.

Your call?

South
A9743
A
A85
AKQ5
W
N
E
S
P
P
2
?

Ideally you would like to start with an overcall and then make a takeout double if West bids 3 or 4. That will give you the high-level flexibility you would like to have, showing a spade suit but willing to hear partner bid a minor or pass the double. The problem is that you might not get that second chance. Your hand is so strong that you pretty much have to start with a takeout double. There is too much danger of missing a game if you overcall 2.

You double. The bidding continues:

W
N
E
S
P
P
2
X
4
P
P
?

Your call?

South
A9743
A
A85
AKQ5
W
N
E
S
P
P
2
X
4
P
P
?

You have only two sensible choices, double and 4.

Double appears to be the most flexible. This leaves partner the option of passing or bidding 4, or even 5 of a minor if he has a long minor. You implied some support for the minors with your initial takeout double.

4 has the advantage of showing the 5-card spade suit. This is the only way you can get to a 5-3 spade fit, and may be the only route to a 5-4 spade fit if partner would have passed a double with 4 spades and a flat hand. It is important to know that the sequence of double followed by a spade bid does not show a stronger hand than an immediate spade bid. It shows a more flexible hand type. If you knew you wanted to play in spades, you would not have made a takeout double. You would have bid 2, 3, or 4 depending on your strength. The reason for making the takeout double is to bring other strains into play. Partner should assume you have something like this, and he will not leave you in 4 with a small singleton spade. Thus, it is the 4 call, not the double, which gives you more flexibility. You lose the option of defending 4 doubled, but you will never have any idea whether this is good for your side or not.

You bid 4, ending the auction.

W
N
E
S
P
P
2
X
4
P
P
4
P
P
P

West leads the 4. Third and low leads.

North
1086
J8
K7432
863
South
A9743
A
A85
AKQ5
W
N
E
S
P
P
2
X
4
P
P
4
P
P
P

Which heart do you play from dummy?

North
1086
J8
K7432
863
South
A9743
A
A85
AKQ5
W
N
E
S
P
P
2
X
4
P
P
4
P
P
P

It probably isn't going to matter, but if anything you figure to get more information by playing the 8. If you play the jack East will cover, and you won't have found out anything. If you play the 8, you can see if East is able to insert a middle heart or if he has to play an honor.

You play the 8. East covers with the 9, and you win your ace. How do you proceed?

North
1086
J
K7432
863
South
A9743
A85
AKQ5
W
N
E
S
P
P
2
X
4
P
P
4
P
P
P

If the spades are 3-2, you can easily make by ducking a spade. You ruff the heart return, lay down the ace of spades, and play four rounds of clubs ruffing the fourth club in dummy.

Leading the ace of spades looks more promising. On a 3-2 spade split you will still be cold unless the opponents are able to draw another round of trump. You won't mind much if East has the 3 spades, since that takes care of 9 of his cards. It would be a near certainty that either the diamonds are 3-2 or the clubs are 3-3, which is all you need. If West has 3 spades you might have blown it, but only if West's exact shape is 3-4-4-2. Otherwise, one of the minors will split. Also, West isn't always going to be able to draw your trumps. He probably doesn't have KQJ tripleton of spades, since with that he would have led a spade. He will likely need KQx. KJx won't be good enough unless he works out to crocodile by going up with the king of spades. This would be an impossible play to find, since with limited dummy entries you probably wouldn't be taking a spade finesse.

If the ace of spades spears a stiff honor, you will have decent chances. If West has the singleton spade (it was a third seat weak 2, so East might be 6-4 in the majors), you will be able to eventually catch West in a minor-suit squeeze. If East has the singleton spade you may be in trouble, but it will still be the best you can do.

There is one other odd play to look at. You might consider crossing to the king of diamonds and leading a small spade off. The plan would be to duck if East plays small, but to win if East plays an honor. East will never know to play an honor from honor-doubleton, since he can't possibly see your problem. However, this approach costs a vital entry to dummy for setting up the diamonds or squeeze possibilities, so it can be discarded, as it goes down on some 4-1 spade splits when you might otherwise have made.

You lead the ace of spades. West plays the 5, and East the king. Now what?

North
108
J
K7432
863
South
9743
A85
AKQ5
W
N
E
S
P
P
2
X
4
P
P
4
P
P
P

It looks like East's king is singleton. It could be from KQ doubleton, but if he has that his proper play is the queen. The reason is that if he plays the king and declarer has AQxxxx, declarer will know it is a stiff king. Declarer can now lead low towards dummy and give West a headache.

It looks like all you can do is continue trumps and hope for the best in the minors. If it is a stiff king, you will not be able to take advantage of a 3-2 diamond split, since you will lose control. You will probably need clubs to be 3-3.

You can do better. Instead of playing another trump, lead out the top clubs. West's distribution could be 4-4-1-4. If so, you will be able to ruff the fourth club in dummy, cross back to a diamond, and lead a diamond towards dummy. If West ruffs he ruffs air, and if he doesn't ruff the king of diamonds will be your tenth trick. Even if East did start with KQ doubleton of spades and a doubleton club, he will be ruffing with a natural trump trick and you will still be able to ruff your fourth club in dummy and take 10 tricks.

It is true that if East has a doubleton club and has played the king of spades from K2 doubleton, you will go down. Since East isn't looking into your hand, there is no way he will ever find that play.

You choose to continue with a small spade. West wins the jack of spades (East discarding a club), cashes the queen of spades (East discarding a heart), and leads the queen of hearts, East playing small. What do you do?

North
J
K7432
863
South
97
A85
AKQ5
W
N
E
S
P
P
2
X
4
P
P
4
P
P
P

You cannot ruff and duck a diamond to establish a long diamond if the diamonds are 3-2, since you will be forced again and lose control. While it is hard to imagine that there is a squeeze position, it can't hurt you to correct the count by discarding a diamond.

You choose to ruff. You draw the last trump, and test the clubs. As feared, East started with 5 clubs, and you are down 1. The full hand is:

West
QJ52
Q1042
QJ106
9
North
1086
J8
K7432
863
East
K
K97653
9
J10742
South
A9743
A
A85
AKQ5
W
N
E
S
P
P
2
X
4
P
P
4
P
P
P
D
4 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
4
8
9
A
3
1
0
A
5
6
K
3
2
0
3
J
8
2
0
2
1
Q
10
3
4
0
2
2
Q
J
6
7
3
3
2
9
2
2
5
3
4
2
A
9
3
4
3
5
2
K
6
8

How was the defense?

West
QJ52
Q1042
QJ106
9
North
1086
J8
K7432
863
East
K
K97653
9
J10742
South
A9743
A
A85
AKQ5
W
N
E
S
P
P
2
X
4
P
P
4
P
P
P
D
4 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
4
8
9
A
3
1
0
A
5
6
K
3
2
0
3
J
8
2
0
2
1
Q
10
3
4
0
2
2
Q
J
6
7
3
3
2
9
2
2
5
3
4
2
A
9
3
4
3
5
2
K
6
8

Clearly West was right to force declarer. However, his actual sequence of plays might have been costly. Suppose declarer had the same hand, with the 10 instead of the 5. Declarer would ruff the heart, cash two top clubs getting the news, cross to the king of diamonds, and take the marked club finesse.

Instead of cashing the queen of spades, West should lead the queen of hearts. Declarer cannot afford to ruff this, since he will lose control, so declarer must pitch a diamond. West now shifts to a diamond. Declarer can only win and lead a spade. West wins, and plays another diamond. This knocks out dummy's last entry, so declarer is forced to take a first round club finesse in order to make. Granted East shouldn't be discarding a club immediately from Jxxxx and declarer might go right, but this is still a more effective defense. Since East had the 10, nothing mattered.

How was the E-W bidding?

West
QJ52
Q1042
QJ106
9
North
1086
J8
K7432
863
East
K
K97653
9
J10742
South
A9743
A
A85
AKQ5
W
N
E
S
P
P
2
X
4
P
P
4
P
P
P
D
4 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
4
8
9
A
3
1
0
A
5
6
K
3
2
0
3
J
8
2
0
2
1
Q
10
3
4
0
2
2
Q
J
6
7
3
3
2
9
2
2
5
3
4
2
A
9
3
4
3
5
2
K
6
8

The 2 opening was okay, but relatively conservative. With this extreme 6-5 shape and being short in spades it looks like a better bet to open 3. Such a call could hit a disaster, but most of the time it will be fine, and the extra level of bidding gobbled up could do a lot of damage to the opponents.

West's 4 call looks reasonable. He doesn't know who can make what, but he does have a good fit for his partner. Bidding only 3 leaves N-S too much room. Bidding 5 forces N-S to double, and it might be a phantom save.

At the other table, N-S settled for defending 4 doubled. Declarer lost the obvious four aces for down 1.

While it is important to be alert to a possible falsecard from an opponent, it is equally important to be realistic about what falsecards an opponent is capable of making given his view of the hand. He isn't looking into your hand. Also, some falsecards are so unusual that even an expert isn't likely to think of them. If declarer had realized that East simply couldn't find the king of spades play from king-doubleton, it would be clear to try the clubs instead of a second round of spades.

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