Join Bridge Winners
The Extra Level
(Page of 10)

In a round-robin match in the Open Trials, you must decide how high to enter the auction.

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

West
1096
KQ10964
AJ6
5
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
?

Your call?

West
1096
KQ10964
AJ6
5
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
?

A 2 overcall would appear to be the normal action. You have a good 6-card heart suit. Anything else would seem to be out of line.

If RHO had opened 1, overcalling 3 would be questionable. Partner wouldn't be a passed hand, and a weak jump overcall could lead to a missed game.

The actual auction is different. Partner passed over the 1 opening, which indicates that he doesn't have enough to make game opposite your hand. Either this is a part-score battle, or the opponents are in game range.

There is plenty of value going the extra level and bidding 3. That extra level may disrupt the enemy communications and force them into an inferior contract. You have a singleton club, so there is a good chance that North is planning a club rebid. If that is the case, it will be a lot easier for him to bid 3 than 4. If the opponents belong in 3NT, overcalling 3 may make it difficult for them to get together to find their combined strength and their heart stopper. If the opponents have a spade fit, the extra level makes it difficult for them to find that fit safely.

It is true that you are more likely to go for a number if you bid 3. This won't happen often. The vulnerability is favorable, making it less attractive for the opponents to defend. Also, most pairs play doubles at this level are takeout or card-showing, again making it difficult for them to penalize you.

You bid 3. The bidding concludes:

W
N
E
S
1
P
1
3
X
P
3
P
4
P
P
P

Your lead. Standard honor leads.

West
1096
KQ10964
AJ6
5
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
3
X
P
3
P
4
P
P
P

If you were defending 6, it would be clear to lead a heart. You would need only 2 tricks to defeat the contract. The plan would be to establish a heart trick before dummy's diamonds are set up for discards.

Defending 4 is another story. Simply establishing a heart trick isn't going to defeat 4. You need a couple of other tricks. This means that partner needs a card or two. The simplest approach is to lead your singleton club to get a ruff. As little as the ace of clubs in partner's hand will be sufficient. He wins the ace of clubs, gives you a club ruff, and now you can lead your king of hearts to establish the setting trick.

It is unlikely that a heart lead is necessary to defeat 4. You have the ace of diamonds, so an immediate cashout won't be necessary since declarer's discards aren't ready. If declarer has the ace of hearts partner will need something in clubs and/or trumps to defeat 4, and if partner has these cards the club lead is likely to lead to getting a club ruff.

You lead the 5.

West
1096
KQ10964
AJ6
5
North
A8
83
KQ32
AKQ82
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
3
X
P
3
P
4
P
P
P

Dummy wins the ace of clubs. Partner plays the 6, and declarer the 3.

You play suit-preference at trick 1. After that UDCA. Your carding in trumps is defined as suit-preference.

At trick 2, declarer leads dummy's ace of spades. Partner plays the 5, and declarer the 2. Which spade do you play?

West
1096
KQ10964
AJ6
North
A8
83
KQ32
KQ82
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
3
X
P
3
P
4
P
P
P

If partner happens to have the king of spades, you want him to give you a club ruff. You can then shift to the king of hearts, and hopefully declarer will not be able to dispose of his heart loser on dummy's clubs. Since your plays in the trump suit are defined as suit preference, you want to play your spades up the line. You must play the 6.

For the record, some pairs play that a high-low in trumps shows a third trump, usually with the desire to ruff something. That would work fine here, but it is an inefficient way to signal. Knowing how many trumps partner has usually isn't too important, and the opportunity to signal for a ruff is rare. Being able to use your trump spots for suit-preference is more important. As illustrated on this hand, if you want a ruff your suit-preference signal should guide partner appropriately.

You play the 6. Declarer leads another spade. Partner plays the queen, holding the trick. That's nice. You follow with the 9. Partner shifts to the 5, declarer winning the ace. Now declarer leads the 7. Do you win or duck?

West
10
KQ1096
AJ6
North
8
KQ32
KQ82
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
3
X
P
3
P
4
P
P
P

It is clear to grab the ace of diamonds. You have a heart trick or two to cash. Declarer's diamond could be a singleton.

You win the ace of diamonds, partnier following with the 4. You cash the king of hearts. Partner follows with the 2, and declarer the jack. What next?

West
10
Q1096
J6
North
KQ3
KQ82
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
3
X
P
3
P
4
P
P
P

If declarer started with 2 hearts and 3 diamonds, you might get a couple of extra tricks by leading the jack of diamonds. This establishes a diamond trick if partner has the 10. It also locks declarer in dummy, so you will get your club ruff. If instead you lead a heart, declarer can ruff, play a trump, and escape for down 1.

That's not what partner's carding says. Partner led the 5, and followed with the 2. If partner had 752 he would have led the 2, since clearly count is what matters to you here. Your heart trick is cashing. Naturally you lead the queen, since you don't want partner ruffing with his good trump.

You lead the queen of hearts. It holds, partner discarding a club. And now?

West
10
1096
J6
North
KQ3
KQ8
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
3
X
P
3
P
4
P
P
P

It is easy now. You lead a heart, and partner ruffs with his good king of spades and gives you a club ruff. This time you lead your smallest heart, letting partner know he is supposed to ruff even though declarer is also out of hearts.

You lead the 6. Partner ruffs, and leads a club for you to ruff. Down 3. The full hand is:

West
1096
KQ10964
AJ6
5
North
A8
83
KQ32
AKQ82
East
KQ5
52
10984
10976
South
J7432
AJ7
75
J43
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
3
X
P
3
P
4
P
P
P
D
4 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
5
A
6
3
1
1
0
A
5
2
6
1
2
0
8
Q
3
9
2
2
1
5
A
4
3
3
3
1
5
A
2
4
0
3
2
K
8
2
J
0
3
3
Q
2
7
7
0
3
4
6
8
K
4
2
3
5
8
J
10
9

How was East's defense?

West
1096
KQ10964
AJ6
5
North
A8
83
KQ32
AKQ82
East
KQ5
52
10984
10976
South
J7432
AJ7
75
J43
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
3
X
P
3
P
4
P
P
P
D
4 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
5
A
6
3
1
1
0
A
5
2
6
1
2
0
8
Q
3
9
2
2
1
5
A
4
3
3
3
1
5
A
2
4
0
3
2
K
8
2
J
0
3
3
Q
2
7
7
0
3
4
6
8
K
4
2
3
5
8
J
10
9

East's play on trick 1 is suit-preference. He has no interest in either red suit, so he plays the 6, the most encouraging club since it is neither high nor low.

East is correct to win with the queen of spades. This tells West where the king is. If East wins the king, he would be assumed to not have the queen.

East shifted to a heart because he couldn't believe that declarer had rebid a 5-card spade suit. This would have been a necessary shift if declarer had 6 spades and West had AQ of hearts and no ace of diamonds, since if East doesn't shift to a heart, declarer's losing hearts go on the clubs. However, that is not what West's carding says. West can clearly afford to play his spades in either order, so his 6 then 9 is clearly suit-preference for clubs. If West had the same distribution with no king of hearts or AJ of hearts and no ace of diamonds, failure to give West a ruff would have cost the contract.

What about declarer's line of play?

West
1096
KQ10964
AJ6
5
North
A8
83
KQ32
AKQ82
East
KQ5
52
10984
10976
South
J7432
AJ7
75
J43
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
3
X
P
3
P
4
P
P
P
D
4 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
5
A
6
3
1
1
0
A
5
2
6
1
2
0
8
Q
3
9
2
2
1
5
A
4
3
3
3
1
5
A
2
4
0
3
2
K
8
2
J
0
3
3
Q
2
7
7
0
3
4
6
8
K
4
2
3
5
8
J
10
9

Naturally declarer had to go up ace of hearts, since if he ducks that is the fourth defensive trick.

When East failed to give West a club ruff, declarer was thinking that East started with KQ10x of trumps and the only chance to make would be a trump coup. In order to have a chance, the hearts would have to be 7-1 and East would have to hold the ace of diamonds. That is possible. The problem is that even if declarer finds this lie of the cards, it isn't good enough. East returns a diamond. Declarer wins, ruffs a diamond to shorten himself to East's length, and starts running clubs. East has to follow to 4 rounds of clubs, but is able to ruff the fifth round with the 10. East doesn't get his trump trick, but declarer is left with a heart loser in the end.

Declarer's only chance to make is if the trumps are 3-3, in addition to the hearts being 7-1 and East having the ace of diamonds. This means that East has made an error failing to give West a ruff, but as seen East did, in fact, make that error. Declarer must lead a third round of trumps and hope for the best.

What went wrong with the N-S auction?

West
1096
KQ10964
AJ6
5
North
A8
83
KQ32
AKQ82
East
KQ5
52
10984
10976
South
J7432
AJ7
75
J43
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
3
X
P
3
P
4
P
P
P
D
4 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
5
A
6
3
1
1
0
A
5
2
6
1
2
0
8
Q
3
9
2
2
1
5
A
4
3
3
3
1
5
A
2
4
0
3
2
K
8
2
J
0
3
3
Q
2
7
7
0
3
4
6
8
K
4
2
3
5
8
J
10
9

North's choice of opening 1 rather than 1 is unusual, but that had no major effect on the auction.

North apparently meant his double as card-showing. South must have thought that the double was a support double, or that South's highest priority was to rebid a 5-card spade suit in case there is a 5-3 fit. Holding AJx of hearts, it appears that South should bid 3NT, since he knows that North isn't going to be able to do so. Yes, a 5-3 spade fit might be missed, but that doesn't mean that 3NT won't make. The problem is that if North doesn't have 3 spades, North is going to be stuck for a bid, and 3NT will be gone forever.

North really had no choice but to bid 4. From his point of view spades is a playable strain and there might be no heart stopper.

Conservative bidders who would bid 2 on the West hand do not realize that they may be costing themselves IMPs. They see only the loss when bidding 3 would be a catastrophe. They do not see the potential gain from bidding 3, since it never happens at their table. Sure, it is easy to say that N-S will get to 3NT anyway. Sure, N-S should have gotten to 3NT. But they didn't, while if they had the extra room afforded to them by a 2 overcall they almost certainly would not have had an accident. The gain from causing the opponents to have an accident is one which can't be measured, but it definitely exists.

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