Join Bridge Winners
The Right Strain
(Page of 10)

In a Rosenblum round-robin match, you have the opportunity to make use of your high-powered notrump structure.


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

North
K74
AK96
A42
A42

Your first few bids are fairly automatic in your system: 

W
N
E
S
P
1
P
1
P
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
2
P
?

 

1: Artificial, 16+ points
1: Artificial, 0-8 points, any shape
1NT: 17-19 balanced, may have 5-card major
2: Asks for 5-card major
2: No 5-card major
2: 4 spades, fewer than 4 hearts, at least game-invitational

Bids which you might make on your hand are as follows:

2: Minimum, usually 4 spades but possibly 3 spades preferring to play a 4-3 fit if partner is just invitational
2NT: Minimum, fewer than 4 spades
3: Non-minimum, fewer than 4 spades, says nothing about clubs

Your choice?




North
K74
AK96
A42
A42
W
N
E
S
P
1
P
1
P
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
2
P
?


There are hands where it is right to suggest playing in 2 in a 4-3 fit, but this 4-3-3-3 hand can't be one of them. The choice is between 2NT and 3.

Is this a minimum or a non-minimum? Strengthwise, you have 18 HCP, right in the middle of your stated 17-19 range. You need to examine the other qualities of your hand.

There are two major drawbacks. One is that your shape is 4-3-3-3. This is worth a major deduction. 4-3-3-3 distribution is worse than most players realize. With only one 4-card suit the hand doesn't have much in the way of a source of tricks.

The other drawback is the lack of 10's and 9's. These spot cards aren't included in the point count, but when it comes to actually taking tricks they can make quite a difference. This lack of intermediates is also worth a major deduction.

On the plus side, you have all aces and kings as opposed to a bunch of queens and jacks. The Goren point count tends to undervalue aces and overvalue queens and jacks. Thus, on the high-card count your hand is better than 18 HCP.

These factors just about balance out. That should make this hand barely a non-minimum. Those aces and kings have a way of producing tricks and preventing the opponents from taking tricks. You are worth 3.

You choose to bid 3. The bidding continues:
North
K74
AK96
A42
A42
W
N
E
S
P
1
P
1
P
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
2
P
3
P
3
P
?

3: Non-minimum, fewer than 4 spades
3: Club shortness (singleton or void)

For the record, other calls by responder would be:
3: Shortness in the other major, not 4-4 in minors (4-4-4-1 hands are handled differently). Opener can ask minor length with 3, and then 3 shows 5+ clubs, 3NT 5+ diamonds.
3: Diamond shortness
3NT: No shortness

Thus, responder can show all 5-4-3-1 shapes with one 4-card major.

No conventions after this. Everything (except 4 obviously) is quite natural.

Your call?



North
K74
AK96
A42
A42
W
N
E
S
P
1
P
1
P
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
2
P
3
P
3
P
?


You know a lot about partner's hand. He has 4 spades, fewer than 4 hearts, and at most 1 club. Therefore, he must have at least 5 diamonds to get up to 13 cards. His expected shape is 4-3-5-1, although 4-3-6-0 or 4-2-6-1 are possible.

What is the right strain? Probably not notrump. You have only a single club stopper, and the opponents have a 9-card club fit. They will be able to establish 4 club tricks with the opening lead, which means you will have to take 9 tricks off the top. If partner has the perfect KQxxx of diamonds and queen of hearts those 9 tricks are there, but any slight deviation from that and 3NT won't be making.

Diamonds is your best fit. The problem is that diamonds is a minor suit, and 11 tricks might be difficult to find. Give partner a perfect fitting maximum such as QJxx xxx KQxxx x. You still need a 3-2 diamond split and have to find a way to avoid a second spade loser. Anything slightly different and 5 is likely to have no play.

You could just bid 4. Would that be forcing? There doesn't appear to be any reason why it should be. Partner has described his exact hand. Your hand is also limited, so slam is out of the question. If you wanted to be in 5, you would bid it. Thus, 4 logically should not be forcing. Unfortunately 4 isn't game, and they still pay that vulnerable game bonus.

How about a 4-3 major-suit fit? Spades isn't right. Not only might partner's spades be weak, but the long hand will be forced by club leads. Hearts, on the other hand, could easily be the right strain. The club ruffs get taken in the short hand, and your heart holding is strong enough to keep control of things. A 3-3 heart split might be needed, but not necessarily. Picture partner with something like QJ10x xxx KJxxx x and 4 can come home losing 1 spade trick and 2 heart tricks. Partner's shape might be 4-2-6-1, but he knows that you have only 4 hearts so with that shape he will go to 5 which might make.

It is true that 4 is more likely to make than 4. It is also likely that 4 is an underdog. If 4 were sure to make, that would be the right bid. However, 4 is far from a lock. Therefore, it is better to bid 4 and collect that fat vulnerable game bonus when 4 comes home.

You choose to bid 4, which ends the auction.

W
N
E
S
P
1
P
1
P
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
2
P
3
P
3
P
4
P
P
P


Partner's artificial 1 response makes him declarer. Over you go to his seat to play the hand.

West leads the 3 (3rd and 5th leads, upside-down count and attitude signals).

North
K74
AK96
A42
A42
South
Q952
853
KQ953
7
W
N
E
S
P
1
P
1
P
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
2
P
3
P
3
P
4
P
P
P


How do you tackle the hand?



North
K74
AK96
A42
A42
South
Q952
853
KQ953
7
W
N
E
S
P
1
P
1
P
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
2
P
3
P
3
P
4
P
P
P


Winning the opening lead is clear. Even though you have a sure heart loser, there can be no gain from ducking the first trick.

If the opening lead is honest, you can assume that West started with 5 clubs and East with 4, or possibly West with 3 clubs and East with 6. Since you have shown club shortness West can afford to be dishonest. However, experience has shown that even in this situation most players lead a true card.

If the diamonds behave, you have 9 top tricks. The tenth may come from a 3-3 heart split or by doing something good with the spade suit. Unfortunately, you won't have time to try both suits. For example, suppose you win the club lead, draw trumps, and duck a heart. They lead back a club, forcing you to ruff. You knock out the A. They force you again, taking out your last trump. If the hearts aren't 3-3 you won't make even if the spades behave, since by the time your long spade is set up the opponents will be taking the last trick.

You need to decide which major to go after for your tenth trick. Clearly it is the spade suit, as there are possibilities other than the 3-3 split. You might find ace-doubleton and lead through it, followed by ducking a spade. You have some decent spade spots. Also, there might be potential of ruffing the fourth round of spades in dummy.

Is there any value in delaying drawing any trumps? Possibly. If you leave the trumps in dummy and go right after spades, you could gain when West has exactly 2 spades and 3 diamonds -- the uppercut on the fourth round of spades won't hurt you. However, this means leading spades from dummy, which you clearly don't want to do. Also, if you play a couple of rounds of trumps you get to see if they split or not, and if they are 4-1 you may want to change plans.

All things considered, drawing a couple of rounds of trumps looks best. Naturally you will play ace and then a trump to your hand, as you will want the option of leading spades from your hand towards dummy's shorter holding. This will maximize your chances of putting your 9 to good use. If the distribution from the diamond suit indicates that the first spade play should come from dummy, there are plenty of dummy entries.

You choose to play A and a diamond to your K.

What will you do if somebody has J10xx?




North
K74
AK96
4
42
South
Q952
853
Q95
W
N
E
S
P
1
P
1
P
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
2
P
3
P
3
P
4
P
P
P


If the diamonds are bad, you will need to lose only one spade trick. That means finding an opponent with ace-doubleton of spades. Play the opponent who has the long diamonds for ace-doubleton of spades. That won't necessarily get you home. You will probably still need a 3-3 heart split to dispose of your fourth spade.

What will you do if West has a singleton jack or 10 of diamonds?




North
K74
AK96
4
42
South
Q952
853
Q95
W
N
E
S
P
1
P
1
P
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
2
P
3
P
3
P
4
P
P
P


Now you don't have a trump loser, but you are in danger of getting tapped out. Since East has the long diamonds, cross to the A and lead a spade to the queen, playing him for ace-doubleton of spades. If he doesn't have that you will need the spades 3-3. Suppose West wins the ace, and leads a club. You ruff, and play a spade to the king and another spade, hopefully splitting out the suit. This will mean East's likely distribution is 3-2-4-4. They continue clubs, of course, but instead of ruffing you discard a heart. The only defense which now gives you a problem is a fourth round of clubs. You ruff in the dummy discarding another heart, and lead ace and king of hearts. East is trump couped.

In fact, both opponents follow to two rounds of diamonds, West playing the jack on the second round. What do you do now?




North
K74
AK96
4
42
South
Q952
853
Q95
W
N
E
S
P
1
P
1
P
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
2
P
3
P
3
P
4
P
P
P


Obviously you will lead a spade to the king. The question is whether or not to draw the last trump. There is no need to. The opponents will always be able to prevent you from ruffing your fourth spade in dummy, but the small trump in dummy may be a nuisance which forces them to waste what might be an important tempo. For example, suppose West's hand is AJ10x, Jxx, J10x, Qxx. You lead a spade to the king, and duck a spade to his 10. He leads a club, forcing you. You ruff, and lead another spade. Now he must lead a diamond, since if he leads another club you will be able to ruff the fourth round of spades in dummy. You win, and if you can duck a heart to East with the hearts 3-3 you will be able to score the long heart. You will need East to have 2 of the heart honors, since if West puts up an honor you won't be able to get back to your hand for another heart play. You will have to win the ace, and lead the 9 from dummy.

You lead a spade to the king. West plays the 3, and East the 8. What do you do now?




North
74
AK96
4
42
South
Q95
853
Q95
W
N
E
S
P
1
P
1
P
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
2
P
3
P
3
P
4
P
P
P


The 8 falling turns dummy's 7 into a big spot. It is quite possible that East started with 108 or J8 doubleton of spades, in which case you have a second spade trick on power. Draw the last trump, cross to dummy with a heart, and lead the 4. If the jack or 10 comes up you cover, and your 7 will drive out West's remaining honor setting up your 9.

If East unexpectedly follows with the 6, you put in the 9 which will force West's jack or 10. Now you will have to judge whether to play for the spades 3-3 or the hearts 3-3. Assuming West has 5 clubs from the opening lead it is clear to play for the spades 3-3, since if West has 4 spades the hearts won't be splitting either.

You choose to lead the 4 from dummy without drawing the last trump. East plays the 10. Do you cover?




North
74
AK96
4
42
South
Q95
853
Q95
W
N
E
S
P
1
P
1
P
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
2
P
3
P
3
P
4
P
P
P


You might as well cover. If West has AJxx and East has the missing trump, there is nothing you can do. If you duck, West will overtake, cash the A, and play another spade which will defeat you. Covering gains if West has AJxx of spades and the third trump.

You cover. West wins the A, and leads a club. You ruff, draw the last trump, and knock out the J to make the contract. The full hand is:


West
A63
QJ7
J7
K10653
North
K74
AK96
A42
A42
East
J108
1042
1086
QJ98
South
Q952
853
KQ953
7
W
N
E
S
 
P
1
P
1
P
1N
P
2
P
2
P
2
P
3
P
3
P
4
P
P
P
D
4 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
3
A
8
7
1
1
0
A
6
3
7
1
2
0
2
8
K
J
3
3
0
2
3
K
8
1
4
0
4
10
Q
A
0
4
1
5
2
J
5
3
5
1
Q
6
4
10
3
6
1
5
6
7
J
2
6
2
8


As it turns out, nothing mattered. The hand lay very favorably, and any decent line of play would succeed.

The same favorable lie of the cards allows 4 to make also. Looking at just the N-S hands, would you prefer to be in 4 or 4?




West
A63
QJ7
J7
K10653
North
K74
AK96
A42
A42
East
J108
1042
1086
QJ98
South
Q952
853
KQ953
7
W
N
E
S
 
P
1
P
1
P
1N
P
2
P
2
P
2
P
3
P
3
P
4
P
P
P
D
4 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
3
A
8
7
1
1
0
A
6
3
7
1
2
0
2
8
K
J
3
3
0
2
3
K
8
1
4
0
4
10
Q
A
0
4
1
5
2
J
5
3
5
1
Q
6
4
10
3
6
1
5
6
7
J
2
6
2
8


4 has reasonable chances. If the hearts are 3-3, 4 will probably make, although not necessarily. If the hearts are 4-2, 4 will probably go down, although there may be some play. On balance, 4 is an underdog, and possibly enough of an underdog so if there were a sure plus score in some partial that would be better than 4 even though 4 gets the vulnerable game bonus. However, 4 might fail, and that possibility makes it clear that 4 is superior.

The puppet Stayman structure which allows you to avoid 3NT and find the right strain is very powerful. A standard structure with these shapes after a 1NT opener (or after a strong 1 followed by 1NT) could do no better than Stayman followed by 3NT. The key to puppet Stayman is that responder, not opener, does the describing, so the strong hand is in position to choose the right strain.

6 Comments
Getting Comments... loading...
.

Bottom Home Top