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Polish Up Your Bridge 4: a quick decision
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In an online teams of four game (IMPs), you have a strong hand to open in first position, all vulnerable:

South
K10
65
AKQ10
A10972
W
N
E
S
?

Your opening bids include:

1 = 12-14 balanced/4414, 15+ with clubs, OR 18+ almost any shape.

1 = 4+ diamonds, unbalanced, could have longer clubs, max 17(+)

1N = 15-17, balanced/4414 and may contain a 5-card major, 6-card minor, or two doubletons

2N = 5+/5+ in the minors, 5-10 OR 17+

Your call?

Your partnership has no problems with treating a 2245 hand as balanced, but should you do so here? KT in spades suits a NT opening, but xx in hearts and good cards in both minor suits suggests differently.

Your other question is how strong to consider it. 16 HCP, but clearly stronger than that number suggests. It probably doesn't get to an 18 equivalent on brute force, but it has excellent playing strength. The difficulty in evaluating it is perhaps another reason not to treat this hand as balanced. What about your unbalanced options? You still have decisions to make.

You can certainly open 1 intending to rebid 2, which would show 15+ with 5+ clubs. The problem with this is you won't get to show your diamonds below the 3-level. Partner's 2 continuation there is artificial, and so unless partner has 5+ diamonds and GF values opposite a weak NT (enough to respond 2 initially), they won't be able to show a diamond suit at all unless you do.

What about a 1 opening? You're allowed to open 1 with longer clubs than diamonds, and indeed if 11-14 it would be your only option with an unbalanced hand 4=5 in the minors. Your rebid after a 1M response would be 2, ambiguous as to length and wide-ranging. 2 is non-forcing, but partner will keep the auction alive most of the time. A 3 rebid would show 5+/5+ with 15-17ish. You don't currently assign an artificial meaning to a 1N rebid, so that shows a semi-balanced hand, but a weak one. You cannot change your mind and show a strong balanced-ish hand if you open 1.

2N? That incorporates a strong hand with both minors, but it's 5+/5+ by definition. While your diamonds are good, you simply don't have that shape. There are times with the weak option where you might want to bend that (e.g. 3rd in hand favourable), but it doesn't pay to misdescribe the strong version. Opening 2N on this hand would be wrong.

At the table you open 1, and partner responds 1 (7+, 4+ hearts). As described above your rebid has to be 2, which partner raises to 3:

South
K10
65
AKQ10
A10972
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
P
2
P
3
P
?

Your bid?

Partner's raise shows 4+-card club support. With 2-3 in the minors they will give false preference if game is possible. In the worse case you might play in a 4-2 fit – a negative consequence of not utilising an artificial 1N rebid to distinguish between the suits – though it's unlikely.

Anyway, here you're quite happy with partner's continuation. Game seems odds on, but which game? Either of 3N or 5 could be correct. 6 seems unlikely with partner making a NF raise, but is in theory still possible.

If you want to play 3N, you probably want to play it from your side. The only way to do that is to bid 3N immediately, which is very unilateral. 3 invites partner into the equation, but unless LHO doubles for the lead partner will have to bid 3N themselves or go past it.

3N might still be okay from partner's side. What if partner doesn't have a stop? You're unlikely to want to be in 3N, even from your side. 3 will tell you that.

You bid 3, and partner continues with 4 (non-forcing in your current agreements, rightly or wrongly):

South
K10
65
AKQ10
A10972
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
P
2
P
3
P
3
P
4
P
?

What now?

Partner is on the lower end of his 3 bid to make a non-forcing 4 bid, but you're too strong to stop on a dime. Lack of values in spades raises the chance that partner has HCP in clubs too. 5 is clear.

You bid 5, which ends the auction. The 4 is lead (4th highest from length and strength; reverse carding), and partner puts down the following:

West
North
963
A873
96
KJ64
East
South
K10
65
AKQ10
A10972
W
N
E
S
 
1
P
1
P
2
P
3
P
3
P
4
P
5
P
P
P
D
5 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
4
3
A
10
2
0
1
Q
K
2
6
3
1
1
2

RHO wins the A and returns the Q, LHO following with 2. What's your plan?

You've lost one trick already, and a heart loser is inevitable. You need to find the trump queen to make your contract. The percentage line with a 9-card fit and all else being equal is to play for the drop, but it's so close that we can do better than playing trumps immediately.

Spades look to be 5-3, with LHO having lead 4th highest from Jxx42 and RHO holding AQx. What other information can we discover?

Well we can play some red suit cards and see what signals we get. The opponents are playing reverse count on declarer's lead. Should we trust their carding? Well, the best way to get accurate carding information is to obscure our own holdings as much as possible. The less they can work out immediately, the less they can be sure that a falsecard won't hurt their partner.

That being the case, you should lead diamonds from dummy. You cross to the A and lead up to hand in diamonds:

West
North
963
A873
96
KJ64
East
South
K10
65
AKQ10
A10972
W
N
E
S
 
1
P
1
P
2
P
3
P
3
P
4
P
5
P
P
P
D
5 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
4
3
A
10
2
0
1
Q
K
2
6
3
1
1
6
4
A
9
1
2
1
6
7
4

Which honour do you play?

Clearly not the ace, that advertises the king. Either the K (potentially from KQ, KJ, or K-) or Q (from KQ or AQ, not QJ as nothing to discard in dummy) provide some ambiguity.

At the table you choose the K, and LHO plays the 2:

West
North
963
A873
96
KJ64
East
South
K10
65
AKQ10
A10972
W
N
E
S
 
1
P
1
P
2
P
3
P
3
P
4
P
5
P
P
P
D
5 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
4
3
A
10
2
0
1
Q
K
2
6
3
1
1
6
4
A
9
1
2
1
6
7
K
2
3
3
1
4

What can you infer from the cards so far, and what do you do next?

It's hard to know what's happening in hearts, even assuming true signals. The 4 could be high from H42 with the 9 low from HHT9, or the 4 could be low from HHT4 and the 9 high from H92, or indeed the suit could split more unevenly.

Diamonds look clearer as there are more spot cards out. If the signals are true, LHO has an even number of diamonds and RHO has an odd number. The 2 is telling, because the only odd number consistent with that card is the singleton 2, a split which is unlikely.

As for what next, we can still obtain more information. Is it worth the risk of a ruff? Well the alternative is picking a line now. Given the 5-3 spade break, playing for the clubs to be 1-3 seems reasonable. If that's the case it's likely the red suits are splitting 3-4 and 4-3 respectively, in which case getting more information is safe. That might not be the case, but there doesn't seem to be more risk there than accidentally picking the wrong trump line from lack of information.

You play a heart from hand, LHO following with the 2 and RHO winning with the T, returning the Q. You ruff with the 9, just in case LHO gave false count with 42 in hearts but lacks the Q, but they follow with the K:

West
North
963
A873
96
KJ64
East
South
K10
65
AKQ10
A10972
W
N
E
S
 
1
P
1
P
2
P
3
P
3
P
4
P
5
P
P
P
D
5 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
4
3
A
10
2
0
1
Q
K
2
6
3
1
1
6
4
A
9
1
2
1
6
7
K
2
3
3
1
5
2
7
10
2
3
2
Q
9
K
3
3
4
2
6

What do we know?

The hearts appear to have been 3-4. Assuming truthful carding in diamonds, it seems either LHO was 5=3=4=1 and RHO 3=4=3=3, or LHO was 5=3=2=3 and RHO 3=4=5=1. Thankfully we can cater to both, by playing a high diamond then ruffing the T in dummy. If diamonds were 2-5 then LHO can only ruff in front of dummy.

Yes, you lose to 5=3=1=4 opposite 3=4=6=0, but that's an unlikely distribution and requires RHO to have found the falsecard on the first round of diamonds. This is a slight risk, and one worth taking.

What if the opponents have falsecarded in hearts? It's possible that the cards are something like 5=4=2=2 opposite 3=3=5=2. Unfortunately you cannot always discover that in time, but at least playing on diamonds might rule that out.

At the table you fail to consider 5=3=2=3 vs 3=4=5=1, and thinking only about a 2-2 or 1-3 split rather than 3-1 being possible, you continue with a club to the king, all following. All then follow to two more rounds of diamonds, and so you hook the queen to make your contract.

West
J8742
K42
J542
5
North
963
A873
96
KJ64
East
AQ5
QJ109
873
Q83
South
K10
65
AKQ10
A10972
W
N
E
S
 
1
P
1
P
2
P
3
P
3
P
4
P
5
P
P
P
D
5 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
4
3
A
10
2
0
1
Q
K
2
6
3
1
1
6
4
A
9
1
2
1
6
7
K
2
3
3
1
5
2
7
10
2
3
2
Q
9
K
3
3
4
2
2
5
K
3
1
5
2
9
8
A
4
3
6
2
10
5
J
3
1
7
2
4
8
10
7
3
8
2
10

Could the defence have worked out to falsecard?

Miscarding in hearts looks safe from west's perspective. Declarer has shown 9 cards in the minors and has turned up with KT, so has a maximum of two hearts. With the heart holding in dummy, partner probably doesn't need to know immediately what's going on in the suit. They will know the spade position and can't do anything about it anyway, either having run out themselves or having the 5 left.

But you need to make a quick decision, and there might always be layouts you haven't considered. Unless you're able to work it out as being safe in time, it's best to default to true signalling for the sake of partnership trust. That's all to the good in general, but declarer can and should make use of that information too.

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