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Surrounding Play
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In a Round of 16 match in the Open Trials, you have to decide how to follow up your strong 1 opening in competition.

N-S vul, West deals. As West, you hold:

West
94
AQJ
AK7
K10863
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
1
?

1: 16+, artificial

1: 0-8

Your bids here are as follows:

Pass: Balanced minimum or penalty double of 1.

Double: Takeout double

1NT: 16-19, spade stopper

2: Natural, NF

Your call?

West
94
AQJ
AK7
K10863
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
1
?

Pass does show the balanced minimum you have. The problem is that partner is going to pass out 1 with a balanced 3 or 4-count and 3 or 4 spades, and with you holding a small doubleton spade that isn't your route to a plus score. If you can take 7 tricks with spades as trump, you can certainly take 7 tricks in notrump or 8 tricks in your best strain. It is quite possible that 1 makes for them and 2 of something makes for your side. In addition. if you bid, you may push them to 2.

Between double and 2, double looks better. 2 puts all your eggs in one basket. Double leaves open the possibility of playing 1NT, 2 of a red suit, or even defending 1 doubled, depending on partner's hand. It is a far more flexible call.

You choose to pass, ending the auction.

W
N
E
S
1
P
1
1
P
P
P

Your lead. From an AK holding, you may lead either the ace or the king. If you lead the ace, partner will give a standard attitude signal. If you lead the king, partner will give a suit-preference signal.

West
94
AQJ
AK7
K10863
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
1
P
P
P

It is certainly right to lead a diamond honor. Anything else would be a shot in the dark, and could easily blow a trick. In addition to being safest, leading a diamond honor has the advantage of holding the trick, and the appearance of dummy and/or partner's card may tell you what to do next. It is easier to defend looking at 26 cards than looking at 13 cards.

Partner's attitude in diamonds alone isn't likely to be important. It looks like a suit-preference signal will be of the most value. Partner doesn't have much, and it could be critical to find out where his only high card is.

You lead the king of diamonds.

West
94
AQJ
AK7
K10863
North
J6
K64
J52
QJ542
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
1
P
P
P

Partner plays the 4, and declarer the 6.

Partner's play is defined as suit-preference. 2, 3, 4, by priority, are suit-preference low. 10, 9, 8, by priority, are suit-preference high. 6, 5, 7, by priority, are encouraging. If partner doesn't have a card in the category he wishes to signal, he plays what he judges is the least damaging card. If partner has 2 cards in a category, the higher priority card means that is the signal he wishes to give while the lower priority card means he doesn't really want to give that signal.

Your play?

West
94
AQJ
A7
K10863
North
J6
K64
J5
QJ542
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
1
P
P
P

If partner's 4 is truly intended as a suit-preference signal, that means he wants a club shift. He could be void in clubs, in which case you could get 3 club ruffs. Still, that would only be 6 tricks for the defense, so that might not be enough.

It is possible that the 4 wasn't a signal for clubs, but was what partner considered the least damaging signal. Partner doesn't have a middle diamond spot, so it is quite possible that he wants diamonds continued but is unable to signal that. A club shift wouldn't look too attractive to you, so if partner were trying to give a least damaging signal he would probably choose suit-preference low. Also, note that the 3 is missing. Partner might have something like Q43 of diamonds, in which case the 4 would be his indicated play. It doesn't look right to shift to a club unless there really is nothing else that might work.

A heart shift is attractive. This knocks out dummy's only sure entry, and potentially establishes a heart trick for the defense. Declarer can't have a singleton heart, since partner wouldn't have remained silent with 6 hearts. Therefore, a heart shift has everything to gain and nothing to lose.

There is no need to lead the ace. Leading one of the minor honors gives you better control of the hand. Also, if you lead ace and a heart partner may think you have a doubleton and try to give you a non-existent heart ruff.

Which honor should you lead? It might seem like it doesn't make a difference, but it could to partner. What would you have led if you had AQ10 of hearts? You would lead the queen, a classic surrounding play so declarer doesn't get to make use of his jack. Suppose you lead the queen from your actual AQJ holding. When partner gets in he will be thinking that you have AQ10, so it will look necessary for him to put a heart through. That isn't what you want partner to do -- you want him to shift to a club. Therefore, you should lead the jack of hearts. When declarer goes up king partner will probably work out that you have AQJ, but even if he thinks the jack is your highest, partner will know there is no need to return a heart. He will know you don't have AJ10, since if you did, declarer would not have gone up king of hearts.

You choose to shift to the queen of hearts. Dummy's king wins, partner playing the 7. Declarer leads the jack of spades off dummy. Partner wins the ace, and returns the 2 to declarer's 10 and your jack. What now?

West
9
A
A7
K10863
North
6
6
J5
QJ542
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
1
P
P
P

Partner's 2 return is his smallest heart, so he should be leading from a remaining holding of 3 hearts. It has to be right to cash your ace.

You cash your ace of hearts. Partner plays the 5, and declarer the 3. What next?

West
9
A7
K10863
North
6
J5
QJ542
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
1
P
P
P

You would like to keep declarer off the dummy if he has a spade finesse to take. However, in order to defeat this contract you will need to score your king of clubs (or partner's queen of diamonds if he has that card) as well as a spade trick from partner. All you can do is cash your ace of diamonds.

You cash the ace of diamonds. Partner plays the 3, and declarer the queen. And now?

West
9
7
K10863
North
6
J
QJ542
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
1
P
P
P

Partner's 3 should be current standard count. At any rate, all you can do is exit with a diamond and hope for the best.

You exit with a diamond. Declarer wins the jack in dummy (following from his hand), plays a spade to his king, cashes the queen of spades, and leads a spade to partner. Partner shifts to a club, and you get your king of clubs for down 1. The full hand is: 

West
94
AQJ
AK7
K10863
North
J6
K64
J52
QJ542
East
A1083
9752
10843
7
South
KQ752
1083
Q96
A9
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
1
P
P
P
D
1 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
K
2
4
6
0
0
1
Q
K
7
8
1
1
1
J
A
2
4
2
1
2
2
10
J
4
0
1
3
A
6
5
3
0
1
4
A
5
3
Q
0
1
5
7
J
8
9
1
2
5
6
3
K
9
3
3
5
Q
3
2
10
3
4
5
7
6
4
8
2
4
6
7
11

How was East's defense?

West
94
AQJ
AK7
K10863
North
J6
K64
J52
QJ542
East
A1083
9752
10843
7
South
KQ752
1083
Q96
A9
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
1
P
P
P
D
1 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
K
2
4
6
0
0
1
Q
K
7
8
1
1
1
J
A
2
4
2
1
2
2
10
J
4
0
1
3
A
6
5
3
0
1
4
A
5
3
Q
0
1
5
7
J
8
9
1
2
5
6
3
K
9
3
3
5
Q
3
2
10
3
4
5
7
6
4
8
2
4
6
7
11

East wanted to encourage in diamonds, since he definitely didn't want a shift to a heart or a club. He wasn't dealt a middle spot in diamonds, so he had to choose the least damaging card. A heart shift will look more attractive to West than a club shift, so playing a low diamond would be less likely to cause West to go wrong. Since East had two diamonds in the suit-preference low category, he properly played the spot with the lowest priority. As seen, West was able to read that this was a possibility and stay away from a club shift.

East was correct to grab the jack of spades with his ace. That would practically guarantee that his 10 would score. If he ducked and the jack of spades held, East would have to duck the second round, and declarer might work out to finesse the 9 or otherwise make life difficult for the defense.

East's heart return was based on the reasonable assumption that West's queen of hearts shift was a surrounding play from AQ10. If that is the case, it may be essential for East to put a heart through now. Also, East probably has a natural trump trick so a club ruff might not be of value. If West had shifted to the jack of hearts East would have known there was no reason to return a heart, so the club shift would be clear. It didn't make any difference on this hand, but on a different layout it might have mattered.

Could declarer have done anything better?

West
94
AQJ
AK7
K10863
North
J6
K64
J52
QJ542
East
A1083
9752
10843
7
South
KQ752
1083
Q96
A9
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
1
P
P
P
D
1 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
K
2
4
6
0
0
1
Q
K
7
8
1
1
1
J
A
2
4
2
1
2
2
10
J
4
0
1
3
A
6
5
3
0
1
4
A
5
3
Q
0
1
5
7
J
8
9
1
2
5
6
3
K
9
3
3
5
Q
3
2
10
3
4
5
7
6
4
8
2
4
6
7
11

Declarer's play at trick 1 is worth looking at. The general principle for declarer is to signal for what you want using the enemy signaling methods. Thus, if declarer wanted a heart shift he should play the 9, while if he wanted diamonds continued he should play the 6. On the actual hand declarer wanted diamonds continued, so he was correct to play the 6. Note how this made it appear to West that his partner might be trying to signal encouragement, since West could see all the middle diamond spots so he knew his partner was unable to play an encouraging spot. As it happened West had an easy heart shift anyway, so nothing mattered.

Was East correct to sell out to 1?

West
94
AQJ
AK7
K10863
North
J6
K64
J52
QJ542
East
A1083
9752
10843
7
South
KQ752
1083
Q96
A9
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
1
P
P
P
D
1 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
K
2
4
6
0
0
1
Q
K
7
8
1
1
1
J
A
2
4
2
1
2
2
10
J
4
0
1
3
A
6
5
3
0
1
4
A
5
3
Q
0
1
5
7
J
8
9
1
2
5
6
3
K
9
3
3
5
Q
3
2
10
3
4
5
7
6
4
8
2
4
6
7
11

It is seldom right to let the opponents play at the 1-level when your side has half the deck or close to it, but this time it does look right. East can expect that West would have made a takeout double with a doubleton spade, so E-W figure to have at least 7 spades between the two hands. Defending 1, which is in essence the same as declaring 1, should be as good as anything in the assumed 4-3 spade fit.

At the other table West opened a strong 1NT, and East took the garbage Stayman route, choosing to pass the 2 response. This could have worked out okay, but declarer postponed drawing trumps and ran into an enemy crossruff where both opponents had shortness behind declarer and dummy's shortness in the black suits so he wound up going down 1.

The reason for shifting to the jack of hearts rather than the queen is not easy to see. It is necessary to project yourself into partner's mind, see what he is likely to be looking at, and understand how he will interpret both of the plays.

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