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In a round-robin match in the Open Trials, you have to find the right move in a high-level competitive decision.

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

East
8
AKQJ4
Q3
J9863
W
N
E
S
P
P
1
1
2
4
?

2: Limit raise in hearts. If partner weren't a passed hand, it would be a limit raise or better.

If partner were not a passed hand, you would be defined to be in a force, since partner's hand would be unlimited. With partner being a passed hand his hand is  limited, so there is no force created.

Your call?

East
8
AKQJ4
Q3
J9863
W
N
E
S
P
P
1
1
2
4
?

How are your prospects in 5? While partner could produce a perfect hand, it is very unlikely that 5 will make. On the other hand, 5 is potentially a good save against 4. You don't figure to go down more than 2 whatever partner has, and down 1 is a reasonable expectation. If North had passed, you were going to take a shot at 4.

How are your prospects defending 4? You have no idea. If partner has some spade stuff, you certainly want to defend. If partner doesn't has some spade stuff it might be better to compete to 5, particularly if partner has 4-card heart support. Partner knows what he has. You don't have to make any suggestion. It is right for you to pass and respect partner's decision. He might be passing, doubling, or competing to 5, any of which is okay with you.

You pass. The auction concludes:

W
N
E
S
P
P
1
1
2
4
P
P
X
P
P
P

West leads the 7. Third and fifth leads. UDCA signals.

North
AJ107
62
64
Q10754
East
8
AKQJ4
Q3
J9863
W
N
E
S
P
P
1
1
2
4
P
P
X
P
P
P

Which heart do you win with, and what is your early defensive plan?

North
AJ107
62
64
Q10754
East
8
AKQJ4
Q3
J9863
W
N
E
S
P
P
1
1
2
4
P
P
X
P
P
P

Even though you play third and fifth leads, since partner has raised hearts he would lead top from three small. The information that he has nothing in hearts would be more important to you than his count. Thus, he could have 753. His lead would also be consistent with 1087 or 1087x, although considering his double of 4, he probably doesn't have 4 hearts.

At first glance, a trump shift looks reasonable. Partner probably has 3 trumps for his double. He may have the 10, the ace of clubs, or a couple of diamond entries to draw 3 rounds of trumps and limit declarer to one ruff in dummy. However, a trump shift can't gain. Whatever the club position is, dummy's queen of clubs can definitely be established. If declarer takes 2 ruffs in dummy, he won't be able to enjoy that queen of clubs. Consequently, it looks better to shift to a diamond, possibly after cashing another heart. Your 8 could be an annoyance on the third round of diamonds.

Declarer could have KJ of diamonds, in which case he will have a guess in the diamond suit. If declarer knows that you have all the heart honors, he will be able to place partner with the ace of diamonds. However, if he thinks partner has a heart honor, he may misguess the diamonds. This argues for winning the first trick with the ace of hearts, so declarer thinks partner's lead is from KJx or KJxx.

Given that, is it right to win the ace of hearts and shoot back a small diamond at trick 2? That is risky. Declarer could have something like AJ10 of diamonds, and he will play the 10 or the jack. Partner will think declarer has the king of hearts if you win the ace, so partner will return a diamond and you might lose your heart trick.

The best approach is to win the ace of hearts and continue with the queen of hearts. This is consistent with not holding the king. Then you can shift to a small diamond, and nothing terrible will happen.

You choose to win the king of hearts, and then cash the ace. Partner follows with the 5, with declarer playing the 8 and the 9. What do you do now?

North
AJ107
64
Q10754
East
8
QJ4
Q3
J9863
W
N
E
S
P
P
1
1
2
4
P
P
X
P
P
P

The low diamond shift looks clear. In addition to establishing a diamond trick or two, your 8 may force declarer to ruff the third round with the jack or 10 which could promote a trump trick for partner. A small diamond is better than the queen in case declarer has a diamond guess.

You shift to a small diamond. Declarer wins the ace, partner playing the 2.

Declarer leads the queen of spades and lets it ride. He continues with a spade to the jack. What do you discard?

North
AJ10
6
Q10754
East
QJ4
Q
J9863
W
N
E
S
P
P
1
1
2
4
P
P
X
P
P
P

You don't need all of your hearts. Dummy has plenty of entries, so you may need to keep all your clubs in order to control the fifth round of the suit.

You discard a heart. Declarer now cashes the ace of spades. What do you discard?

North
A10
6
Q10754
East
QJ
Q
J9863
W
N
E
S
P
P
1
1
2
4
P
P
X
P
P
P

With one fewer dummy entry, holding onto all your clubs isn't so important. Partner figures to have a club honor. If so, keeping 4 clubs will be sufficient.

If there a reason to retain an extra heart? Possibly. Suppose you discard a heart, and declarer's hand is Q9xxx 1098 AJx Ax. Declarer will cross to his ace of clubs, dropping partner's king. When that happens, declarer can ruff his last heart, taking out your last heart, and exit with a diamond. Partner can't overtake, since that would set up declarer's jack. You would be forced to win the trick, and you would be end-played.

Can it be necessary to hold onto all your clubs? Only if declarer started with AKx of clubs. That would make partner's hand look like Kxx xxx KJxxxxx --. Partner might have bid differently with that hand. The endplay danger looks greater.

You choose to discard a heart. Declarer leads a club to his ace, dropping partner's king. Declarer now ruffs a heart, and leads a diamond off dummy. You play the queen and pray. You breathe a big sigh of relief when partner is able to overtake and cash the jack of diamonds for the setting trick. The full hand is:

West
K93
753
KJ10972
K
North
AJ107
62
64
Q10754
East
8
AKQJ4
Q3
J9863
South
Q6542
1098
A85
A2
W
N
E
S
P
P
1
1
2
4
P
P
X
P
P
P
D
4X South
NS: 0 EW: 0
7
2
K
8
2
0
1
A
9
5
6
2
0
2
3
A
2
4
3
1
2
Q
3
7
8
3
2
2
2
9
J
4
1
3
2
A
J
4
K
1
4
2
4
3
A
K
3
5
2
10
3
10
Q
1
6
2
6
Q
5
K
0
6
3
J
10

How was declarer's line of play?

West
K93
753
KJ10972
K
North
AJ107
62
64
Q10754
East
8
AKQJ4
Q3
J9863
South
Q6542
1098
A85
A2
W
N
E
S
P
P
1
1
2
4
P
P
X
P
P
P
D
4X South
NS: 0 EW: 0
7
2
K
8
2
0
1
A
9
5
6
2
0
2
3
A
2
4
3
1
2
Q
3
7
8
3
2
2
2
9
J
4
1
3
2
A
J
4
K
1
4
2
4
3
A
K
3
5
2
10
3
10
Q
1
6
2
6
Q
5
K
0
6
3
J
10

It looks okay. Declarer was pretty sure from the bidding that West had the king of spades, so it looked right to simply draw trump and guess the clubs for down 1. When the king of clubs unexpectedly fell, declarer took his best shot to make the hand.

How was the N-S auction?

West
K93
753
KJ10972
K
North
AJ107
62
64
Q10754
East
8
AKQJ4
Q3
J9863
South
Q6542
1098
A85
A2
W
N
E
S
P
P
1
1
2
4
P
P
X
P
P
P
D
4X South
NS: 0 EW: 0
7
2
K
8
2
0
1
A
9
5
6
2
0
2
3
A
2
4
3
1
2
Q
3
7
8
3
2
2
2
9
J
4
1
3
2
A
J
4
K
1
4
2
4
3
A
K
3
5
2
10
3
10
Q
1
6
2
6
Q
5
K
0
6
3
J
10

Some would not overcall on the South hand. The overcall doesn't take up any space, South doesn't particularly want a spade lead, and N-S are probably outgunned. Still, spades outrank hearts, and overcalling may be the difference between getting a plus score or a minus score if this is a part-score hand.

North has a tough problem. He could bid only 3, but he knows that if he does that he will likely be facing a 4 call at his next turn and then he won't know what to do. North judged it better to put the pressure on with an immediate 4 call. Maybe 4 will make. Maybe 4 is a make, and 4 is a decent sacrifice. Maybe E-W will do the wrong thing. There are several ways 4 can win.

How about West's auction?

West
K93
753
KJ10972
K
North
AJ107
62
64
Q10754
East
8
AKQJ4
Q3
J9863
South
Q6542
1098
A85
A2
W
N
E
S
P
P
1
1
2
4
P
P
X
P
P
P
D
4X South
NS: 0 EW: 0
7
2
K
8
2
0
1
A
9
5
6
2
0
2
3
A
2
4
3
1
2
Q
3
7
8
3
2
2
2
9
J
4
1
3
2
A
J
4
K
1
4
2
4
3
A
K
3
5
2
10
3
10
Q
1
6
2
6
Q
5
K
0
6
3
J
10

West's hand simply isn't worth opening. You have to draw the line somewhere, and West's hand is below that line. Opening 3 doesn't feel right. West does have available a 2 opener, which shows a "good" 3 bid -- just under a minimal 1 opening. The problem is that West does have 3-card support for both majors, and an opening preempt might lose a vulnerable game.

The 2 call limit+ raise looks about right. If West had a fit-showing jump available that would be reasonable, but E-W do not play that.

The final double looks percentage. West has a fair amount of defense, including his Kxx of spades which figures to be worth a trick. Sure, 4 might make, but it probably won't and could go down 2. In addition maybe 4 is a make, in which case West has a score to protect.

A fundamental defensive principle is: Keep winners, discard losers. The key is to determine what is a winner and what is a loser. East failed to determine that his fifth club wasn't a winner, and had a nervous moment when he might have been in with the queen of diamonds and forced to lead a club. Since declarer had only one remaining trump in dummy, East's heart was potentially a true winner.

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