Join Bridge Winners
Penultimate segment
(Page of 9)

Going into the next to last 15-board segment in the finals for Senior USA1, we had a useful 51 IMP lead. As we all know, this is far from conclusive. Bart Bramley and I were East and West respectively, vs. Curtis Cheek and Zia North and South respectively. It was important for us to avoid disasters, but we could not try to freeze the ball and not fight for IMPs. That is the surest way to blow a lead.

The first few boards were relatively tame with us having slightly the worst of it. Then I faced the following decision.

West
K73
K8743
KJ
QJ7
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
P
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
2
P
?

1NT: 11-13

2: Forces 2

2: Natural invite

West
K73
K8743
KJ
QJ7
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
P
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
2
P
?

My hand is junky with no aces. Still, I was maximum in high cards and I had 3-card spade support when I might have had a doubleton. This isn't the sort of hand to risk missing a vulnerable game, so I bid 4.

Zia led the king of clubs, and I knew I had done the wrong thing. That negated my club holding, which would have been a lot stronger if partner had club strength. However, my dummy judgment turned out to be way off. The full hand was:

West
K73
K8743
KJ
QJ7
North
Q4
A965
Q9643
85
East
A10982
10
8
A96432
South
J65
QJ2
A10752
K10
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
P
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
2
P
4
P
P
P
D
4 East
NS: 0 EW: 0
K
1

Zia had found the lead to led 4 make.

A couple of boards later, I gave myself an unnecessary problem.

West
98
AJ72
J103
10764
North
K43
K985
8762
32
East
South
W
N
E
S
1
3
P
4
P
P
X
P
P
P
D
4X South
NS: 0 EW: 0
9
3
A
2
2
0
1
K
A
J
2
3
1
1
10
8
4
7
3
2
1
9
4

1:  Strong, artificial.

I led a trump.  Bart won the ace, and shifted to the king of diamonds, Zia winning the ace.  It seemed normal to play the jack of diamonds to clarify the position for partner, but this was badly judged. If declarer has A9 doubleton, that will set up a ruffing finesse for declarer which may give him a second diamond trick. Furthermore, I had to decide what to do when Zia drew a second round of trump and shoved the 9 of diamonds at me. It wouldn't matter much if Zia has a doubleton, but what if he has 4 diamonds. If partner has KQ doubleton, going up 10 will cost a trick. However, if Zia is doing a job on me with AQ9x, I better grab my 10. Which should I do?

I finally decided that if Bart had KQ doubleton of diamonds, he would have led the queen rather than the king, so I went up 10. It was a good thing I did this. Zia was doing a job on me, and if I had ducked the contract would have made. The full hand was:

West
98
AJ72
J103
10764
North
K43
K985
8762
32
East
A7
Q63
K4
AKQJ98
South
QJ10652
104
AQ95
5
W
N
E
S
1
3
P
4
P
P
X
P
P
P
D
4X South
NS: 0 EW: 0
9
3
A
2
2
0
1
K
A
J
2
3
1
1
10
8
4
7
3
2
1
9
4

A couple of boards later I faced an annoying competitive decision.

West
4
10853
K107
A10963
W
N
E
S
P
1
1
3
?

I would happily compete to 3 over 2, but bidding 4 over 3 looks like a bit much with only 3-card support. Still, showing diamond support might be vital, so I bid 4. It was a big winner. The full hand was:

West
4
10853
K107
A10963
North
Q5
AJ62
986
KQJ2
East
A932
Q7
AQJ542
5
South
KJ10876
K94
3
874
W
N
E
S
P
1
1
3
4
4
5
X
P
P
P
D
5X East
NS: 0 EW: 0

A trump lead defeats 5, and perhaps Zia should have found one. However he led a spade, and Bart was able to ruff 3 spades in dummy and score 9 trump tricks and two black aces to make. Of course Bart discarded a heart on the fourth round of clubs, a loser on loser play which preserved his 5 of diamonds.

On the next board, I had an interesting slam decision on a relay auction.

West
J942
AQJ10
K82
98
W
N
E
S
P
1
1
2NT
P
3
P
3NT
P
4NT
P
?

1: Strong, artificial

2NT: Balanced 11-13, 4-4-3-2, two suits same rank

3: Relay

3NT: Doubleton club, so exactly 4=4=3=2

4NT: Natural invite

I had a minimal point count, but my AQJ10 of hearts was a nice source of tricks. Furthermore, it was likely that Bart had about a 2NT opening which would be made at the other table, and opposite that my hand would probably drive to slam. Since we were ahead in the match I didn't want to stop in game when they figured to be in slam.

Having decided to bid slam, I might as well bid 6 instead of 6NT. Bart knows my shape, so he won't play me for a 5-card heart suit, and my 4-card suit couldn't be better than this. I could picture the possibility of ruffing a spade or a diamond in Bart's hand for the twelfth trick. Of course I don't know his shape, but he knows mine, and he will know if there is any ruffing value in his hand.

It was a huge winner. The full hand was:

West
J942
AQJ10
K82
98
North
1086
9865
1075
764
East
AQ5
K32
Q4
AKQ53
South
K73
74
AJ963
J102
W
N
E
S
P
1
1
2NT
P
3
P
3NT
P
4NT
P
6
P
P
P
D
6 West
NS: 0 EW: 0

Curtis led a diamond. I played small, and Zia's 9 forced my king. I led back a diamond. Zia won, and returned the 10 of clubs. I won, heart to hand, diamond ruff, drew trumps discarding spades, and when the clubs were 3-3 I had 12 tricks. Note that if trumps had been 3-3 I would have been able to set up the clubs if the clubs were 4-2, and then a winning spade finesse would see me home.

Bart's judgment was excellent. He knew my shape, and he could see that if I didn't have the jack of clubs (and the odds are 6 to 2 against my having that card) slam would almost certainly need a 3-3 club split if I am minimal, so despite holding 20 HCP and a good 5-card suit opposite my 11-13 range he was only worth an invite. When I bid 6 he knew I had to have great hearts, and he could see the potential for ruffing a diamond in his hand or ruffing out the clubs, so he properly chose 6 to 6NT.

Had Curtis found a trump lead, which he might well find on the auction if he pictures what is going on, I would not have the entries to ruff a diamond and get back to my hand to draw trumps since Zia would lead a second round of trumps when he is in. However, I can and probably would still make. I can lead a diamond to my king, which Zia has to duck. I then draw trump and run the clubs. In the 3-card ending Zia has to either blank his ace of diamonds in which case I throw him in, or blank his king of spades in which case I drop it. I have to guess the count, but Zia almost certainly has exactly 5 diamonds since he would have bid 2 with a 6-card suit. Thus, if I decide to play him for the king of spades, I will have it right.

A few boards later Bart had a slam decision.

East
AK8542
A105
J6
K8
W
N
E
S
1
P
2NT
P
3
P
3
P
3
P
3
P
4
P
?

2NT: Raise, could be limit

3: Any minimum

3: Relay

3: Some shortness

3: Relay

4: Singleton (not void) heart

The singleton heart fit Bart's hand well, While he doesn't know exactly what I have, I have to have something for my opening bid even though I am minimal. So, he blasted away with 4NT RKC and bid the slam when I showed up with one key card. Slam was laydown. The full hand was:

West
Q10763
Q
AK42
Q65
North
9
K9742
1075
A932
East
AK8542
A105
J6
K8
South
J
J863
Q983
J1074
W
N
E
S
 
1
P
2N
P
3
P
3
P
3
P
3
P
4
P
4N
P
5
P
6
P
P
P
D
6 West
NS: 0 EW: 0

With two boards to go we were clearly having much the best of it, and it looked like we might be far enough ahead for the match to be virtually over. However, the great shuffler wasn't through dealing out slam hands.

West
KJ765
87
AQJ1098
W
N
E
S
4
4
?

Yes, that is the actual auction. It was hard to believe that the opponents wouldn't bid a slam which is almost certainly cold, and I am always going to save against that slam. I don't mind if they push on to a grand, since there is a good chance that I have a spade trick on defense. Therefore, I might as well fire out 7 immediately and let them guess what to do. However, the auction took an unexpected turn.

West
KJ765
87
AQJ1098
W
N
E
S
4
4
7
7
P
P
?

It is likely the opponents have 6 tricks in each red suit along with the ace of spades. However, if they are a trick short partner will probably lead a club, and the sluff and ruff will certainly give declarer his thirteenth trick. I can prevent that club lead by making a Lightner double, since that double would clearly call for a lead of some major suit. Was it worth the risk of the doubled (or possibly redoubled) bonus for this gain? I judged that it was, since if our teammates fail to bid the grand we are slated for a big loss anyway if the grand makes, so if the double causes the grand to go down as much as 10% of the time it was probably worth it. Also, there was a good chance that one of the opponents will run to 7 fearing that I have a heart void, so the double won't cost.

I doubled. Curtis ran to 7. Not surprisingly, that was cold. The hand was:

West
KJ765
87
AQJ1098
North
4
A10432
AKQJ1032
East
Q2
9874
K765432
South
A10983
KQJ965
65
W
N
E
S
4
4
7
7
P
P
X
7
P
P
P
D
7 South
NS: 0 EW: 0

Curtis had made an imaginative 7 call. He knew he might be off the ace of spades, and if so it would likely be in my hand. Hence he chose 7 to put Bart on lead. When I doubled, this gave him an unusual problem. From his point of view, there were three possible reasons I might be doubling.

1) I was void in hearts and wanted a heart lead. If so, he needs to bid 7.

2) I had the ace of spades. If that is the case, he needs to pass and hope Bart misses on the lead.

3) I might have several diamonds and be bluffing a double to get him to bid 7, in the hope that Bart is void in diamonds. This is a bit farfetched, but I might be doing this.

I'm sure the thought that I was doubling simply to prevent Bart from leading a club and yielding a ruff and sluff never occurred to Curtis. I have never seen that theme before.

The final hand of the segment involved yet another slam decision, where we had a precise relay auction.

West
A8
AQJ8642
K92
9
W
N
E
S
P
1
P
2
P
2
P
2NT
P
3
P
3
P
4
P
5
P
5
P
6
P
?

1: Strong, artificial

2: Balanced, 8-10 or 14+ HCP

2: Relay

2NT: 4-4-3-2, two suits same rank

3: Relay

3: Doubleton spade, so exactly 2=3=4=4

4: Forces 4 unless Bart has 14+ HCP

5: 14+ HCP, 6 controls (ace = 2, king = 1)

5: Relay

6: Ace or king of diamonds, ace or king of clubs, ace or king of hearts, no queen of diamonds.

If I choose, I can relay with 6. Bart will bid 6 with no queen of clubs, 6 with queen of clubs and no queen of hearts.

Bart's barebones hand is Kx Kxx Axxx Axxx. He definitely does not have the queen of diamonds. I can find out about the queen of clubs if I want. If he has that card then the grand will at worst be on the club finesse. If he also has the jack of diamonds the grand will be a little better than 50%, since I can try to ruff out he king of clubs with the diamond finesse (or possibly a show-up squeeze if Curtis has the king of clubs and 4 diamonds) in reserve. Perhaps that makes bidding the grand percentage, but it would be so close that it wouldn't be worth it since the grand is clearly anti-percentage if Bart doesn't have the jack of diamonds.

What is likely to be happening at the other table? Their methods won't be so sophisticated, so they are likely to bid the grand. We are in the lead with a good set, which argues for trying to get to the same contract as the other room if reasonable, so it might be right to relay for the queen of clubs and bid the grand if Bart has it. The problem is that the grand may depend upon the play as well as the bidding. If Bart has AQJx of clubs, declarer would be on a guess between the straight finesse and the ruffing finesse. If Bart has AJ10x of diamonds, declarer would be on a guess for the queen of diamonds when the king of clubs failed to ruff out. If I misguess and they guess correctly at the other table, that would be even a bigger adverse swing. All things considered, it looked right to settle for the small slam. The full hand was:

West
A8
AQJ8642
K92
9
North
Q53
973
Q10
J10542
East
KJ
K105
AJ63
AQ86
South
1097642
8754
K73
W
N
E
S
 
P
1
P
2
P
2
P
2N
P
3
P
3
P
4
P
5
P
5
P
6
P
6
P
P
P
D
6 West
NS: 0 EW: 0

Everything works, and there are 13 tricks.

Here are the results of these hands at the other table:

West
K73
K8743
KJ
QJ7
North
Q4
A965
Q9643
85
East
A10982
10
8
A96432
South
J65
QJ2
A10752
K10
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
P
2
P
3
P
4
P
P
P
D
4 East
NS: 0 EW: 0
K
1

South also led the king of clubs, and declarer stole a diamond trick for an overtrick.

West
98
AJ72
J103
10764
North
K43
K985
8762
32
East
A7
Q63
K4
AKQJ98
South
QJ10652
104
AQ95
5
W
N
E
S
2NT
P
3
P
3
P
3NT
P
P
P
D
3NT East
NS: 0 EW: 0

After a spade lead this failed by 2 tricks when declarer naturally tried to make by taking the heart finesse.

West
4
10853
K107
A10963
North
Q5
AJ62
986
KQJ2
East
A932
Q7
AQJ542
5
South
KJ10876
K94
3
874
W
N
E
S
P
1
1
1
2
P
2
2
4
P
5
P
P
P
D
5 East
NS: 0 EW: 0

South led a club, and declarer took the same 11 tricks Bart took.

West
J942
AQJ10
K82
98
North
1086
9865
1075
764
East
AQ5
K32
Q4
AKQ53
South
K73
74
AJ963
J102
W
N
E
S
P
2NT
P
3
P
3
P
4NT
P
6NT
P
P
P
D
6NT East
NS: 0 EW: 0

South led the jack of clubs. Declarer won, heart to dummy, and diamond to queen and ace. The losing spade finesse meant down 1.

West
Q10763
Q
AK42
Q65
North
9
K9742
1075
A932
East
AK8542
A105
J6
K8
South
J
J863
Q983
J1074
W
N
E
S
 
1
P
2N
P
3
P
3
P
4
P
4
P
4N
P
5
P
6
P
P
P
D
6 West
NS: 0 EW: 0

I don't know what their auction meant, but they also got to the cold slam.

West
KJ765
87
AQJ1098
North
4
A10432
AKQJ1032
East
Q2
9874
K765432
South
A10983
KQJ965
65
W
N
E
S
3
4
4
6
P
P
7
P
P
X
P
P
P
D
7X East
NS: 0 EW: 0

West's clever 4 call meant that 7 by North would fail, but 7 was still cold. Our teammates judged badly, and collected only 100.

West
A8
AQJ8642
K92
9
North
Q53
973
Q10
J10542
East
KJ
K10
AJ63
AQ86
South
1097642
5
8754
K73
W
N
E
S
 
P
1
P
2
P
2
P
3
P
3
P
4
P
4
P
4N
P
5
P
5N
P
7
P
P
P
D
7 West
NS: 0 EW: 0

As feared, the so-so grand was bid at the other table.

The last two boards cost us 27 IMPs, resulting in losing the segment 44-38. This left us with a 45 IMP lead. The final segment was anti-climactic with tamer boards, and we won comfortably.

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