Join Bridge Winners
Unusual Avoidance
(Page of 11)

In a Round of 16 match in the Open Trials, you face a difficult constructive auction.

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

South
6
J10
K104
AK108742
W
N
E
S
P
1
P
?

Available are:

1NT: Semi-forcing

2: Natural game force

3: To play

Your call?

South
6
J10
K104
AK108742
W
N
E
S
P
1
P
?

It is true that if partner has a minimal opening bid without a club fit that you might not have a game. However, you can't risk bidding 1NT, since if you get dropped there it is too likely that you will have missed a game. In addition there is a choice of games issue on this hand, as well as a possible slam if partner has the right cards. You simply have to start with 2 and not worry about getting to a bad game.

You bid 2. The bidding continues:

W
N
E
S
P
1
P
2
P
3
P
?

Partner would probably have splintered if he had 4-card club support and shortness, since a splinter by him doesn't show any extra strength.

Available to you are:

3: This will be assumed to be a probe for 3NT until proven otherwise.

4: This is a simple forcing call, showing slam interest and leaving the next move to partner.

4: RKC for clubs

4: Splinter

5: To play, no slam interest.

Your call?

South
6
J10
K104
AK108742
W
N
E
S
P
1
P
2
P
3
P
?

3 as a probe certainly makes sense. Still, there arguments against this approach. Partner will be bidding 3NT with something like Q10x of spades, and that could be worse than 5. Even if partner has a definite spade stopper 5 could be better -- picture partner with something like Ax KQxxx Qx Qxxx. Also, there is the possibility that partner has a magic hand and you have a slam. While it is possible that 3NT is making and 5 is in trouble, it looks better to commit to clubs.

Clearly you aren't strong enough for RKC. You could just bid 5, but that gives up on slam. 4 shows your slam interest, but partner may not be able to make a sensible evaluation. The best bet appears to be a 4 splinter. This uses up room, but it is such a perfect picture of your hand that partner figures to make the right decision. If partner has something like xx AKxxx Ax Qxxx he will know he has the perfect hand and drive to slam. If he has less, he will be willing to stop in 5.

You bid 4. The bidding continues:

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

4: Splinter

4NT: Last Train

Your call?

South
6
J10
K104
AK108742
W
N
E
S
P
1
P
2
P
3
P
4
P
4NT
P
?

Partner's Last Train call shows some interest. You need more than some interest to make a slam. You need partner to jump out of his chair and shout "eureka!" when you bid 4. If partner can't drive to slam himself opposite your splinter, you don't figure to have a good slam.

You bid 5 ending the auction.

W
N
E
S
P
1
P
2
P
3
P
4
P
4NT
P
5
P
P
P

West leads the 2. Third and low leads. Standard signals.

North
AJ9
A8532
82
QJ5
South
6
J10
K104
AK108742
W
N
E
S
P
1
P
2
P
3
P
4
P
4NT
P
5
P
P
P

What do you play from dummy?

North
AJ9
A8532
82
QJ5
South
6
J10
K104
AK108742
W
N
E
S
P
1
P
2
P
3
P
4
P
4NT
P
5
P
P
P

If the ace of diamonds is onside you always have 11 tricks, as a diamond ruff in dummy gives you 8 trump tricks and 1 trick in each side suit. You need to find a way to make if the ace of diamonds is offside.

If you play the jack East can certainly win the trick, since West isn't underleading KQ on this auction. It will be obvious to East to shift to a diamond looking at that dummy, and you will need the ace of diamonds onside.

Playing the 9 is a possibility. If East has just the queen of spades he may be convinced that you have a singleton king, since otherwise why would you ever be doing this? Still this is a little far-fetched. It looks better to win the ace of spades and work out what to do.

You win the ace of spades. East follows with the 4. How do you proceed?

North
J9
A8532
82
QJ5
South
J10
K104
AK108742
W
N
E
S
P
1
P
2
P
3
P
4
P
4NT
P
5
P
P
P

You have some chance to develop 3 heart tricks. However, this must be done while keeping East off lead. In order to do this legitimately, you will need West to have KQ of hearts. You can cross to your hand, and lead the 10 of hearts. If West covers, you win and continue hearts. This will succeed if West has KQx of hearts or KQxx with East having 9-doubleton.

If you are going to take this approach, you must come to your hand with a spade ruff rather than a club. The danger of coming to your hand with a club is that when you then go to dummy you won't know what to do if the 9 of hearts hasn't come down. You can play for a 3-3 heart split, but if that fails you will be down since you will have to squander dummy's last trump to lead up to your king of diamonds so you won't be able to ruff a diamond in dummy. In addition, ruffing a spade gives you the option of an unusual avoidance play:if East fails to cover dummy's spade, then you can discard a heart instead of ruffing.

Another approach is to come off dummy with a small heart. This won't work if East has the king of hearts, but if he has Qxx of hearts and no ace of diamonds he might fail to put up the queen. He should know what you are doing, but players have been know to make mistakes. This play gives up on the 9x of hearts in East's hand.

It is a close call. The best legitimate play is to ruff a spade and lead a heart from your hand. However, if you judge there is a fair chance that East will fall asleep at the switch and fail to play the queen from Qxx, then leading a heart off dummy is best.

You choose to lead the 9. East plays the 7. What do you do?

North
J9
A8532
82
QJ5
South
J10
K104
AK108742
W
N
E
S
P
1
P
2
P
3
P
4
P
4NT
P
5
P
P
P

East has given you the opportunity to make this unusual avoidance play. Should you take it?

It appears to be a good idea. If West wins and continues spades, you can ruff, heart to ace, heart ruff, cross to dummy with a club, and ruff a heart. This makes if the hearts are 3-3. If not, you can again cross to dummy with a club and take the diamond finesse. Should the trumps be 3-0 this is too risky as the defense will be able to pull dummy's third trump, so you will instead just take the diamond finesse.

There is one flaw with this plan. What if West meanly returns a trump? You win, heart to ace. heart ruff, and club to dummy. Then what? If you play for the hearts to split and are wrong, you will go down even if the ace of diamonds is onside, since you will have to spend dummy's last trump to take the diamond finesse. Thus, you will lose your chance to go for the favorable heart lie with the diamond finesse in reserve.

Should West find the club shift? He should. Your hand will be an open book once you discard a heart, and it will be clear that the club shift damages your entries and cuts down on your options. Therefore, you should continue with your original plan of ruffing the spade and leading a heart up to dummy.

You choose to discard the 10. West wins the 10, and leads the 6. Now what?

North
J9
A8532
82
QJ5
South
J10
K104
AK108742
W
N
E
S
P
1
P
2
P
3
P
4
P
4NT
P
5
P
P
P

You might as well win in your hand and start the hearts. Assuming the clubs are splitting, you can always go back to the diamond finesse later. If the clubs are 3-0, you can cross to the ace of hearts and take the diamond finesse, ensuring you can ruff the third round of diamonds in dummy if the ace of diamonds is onside.

You play small from dummy, and win East's 9 with your 10. You lead the jack of hearts to the king and ace, 6 from East. You ruff a heart with the 8, East playing the 7 and West the 4. You cross to dummy with a club, West discarding a spade. Now what?

North
J9
A8532
82
QJ5
South
J10
K104
AK108742
W
N
E
S
P
1
P
2
P
3
P
4
P
4NT
P
5
P
P
P

This is the moment of decision. You can play for a 3-3 heart split or the ace of diamonds onside, but you can't play for both.

There isn't much to go on in the heart suit. West could have covered with the king of hearts from just about any holding. East's count play can't be trusted.

West did find the good club shift, but that doesn't mean anything. It was clear to West that the shift will give you the most problems whatever the defensive layout is. West simply made a good play to cut down on your options.

The one inference you have going for you is East's play of a small spade at trick 2. Clearly East has a spade honor, since West didn't lead a small spade from KQ10. While East's play is probably an error in any event, it is a serious error if East doesn't have the ace of diamonds, as the play may allow you to make a no-play contract. For this reason, it looks best to bank on the diamond finesse rather than the heart split.

You lead a diamond off dummy. East goes up ace, and you claim the rest. The full hand is:

West
108532
KQ4
J763
6
North
AJ9
A8532
82
QJ5
East
KQ74
976
AQ95
93
South
6
J10
K104
AK108742
W
N
E
S
P
1
P
2
P
3
P
4
P
4NT
P
5
P
P
P
D
5 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
2
A
4
6
1
1
0
9
7
10
10
0
1
1
6
5
9
10
3
2
1
J
K
A
6
1
3
1
2
7
8
4
3
4
1
2
3
J
3
1
5
1
2
A
7

How was the opening lead and subsequent defense?

West
108532
KQ4
J763
6
North
AJ9
A8532
82
QJ5
East
KQ74
976
AQ95
93
South
6
J10
K104
AK108742
W
N
E
S
P
1
P
2
P
3
P
4
P
4NT
P
5
P
P
P
D
5 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
2
A
4
6
1
1
0
9
7
10
10
0
1
1
6
5
9
10
3
2
1
J
K
A
6
1
3
1
2
7
8
4
3
4
1
2
3
J
3
1
5
1
2
A
7

Assuming South didn't psych the splinter, which is a pretty reasonable assumption, the spade lead doesn't appear to accomplish much. Declarer figures to be 1-2 in the majors, giving him at least 6 clubs, so a forcing defense won't succeed. West knows that the hearts are splitting. The best chance for the defense appears to be to establish diamond tricks. A diamond lead makes more sense.

Clearly East should have gone up with an honor on the second round of spades. While he can't know fully what the hand is about, it is just a good general principle to give declarer fewer options.

West's club shift may seem like a good defense, and it would have been on a different layout. The problem is that it can't work. Declarer's major-suit shape is clearly 1-2. Declarer can't have Kxxx of diamonds and 6 clubs for this line of play, since if declarer had that he would have led a diamond to his king at trick 2 in order to get the two needed diamond ruffs. If declarer has the actual hand, the club shift may scare declarer out of setting up the heart suit, but since the ace of diamonds is onside that isn't going to matter since any line of play declarer takes will succeed. The danger is that declarer is missing the AK of diamonds. If that is the case, it is vital for West to shift to a diamond, as otherwise declarer can and will set up the hearts and make the contract with 7 club tricks, 3 heart tricks, and 1 spade trick.

How was North's bidding?

West
108532
KQ4
J763
6
North
AJ9
A8532
82
QJ5
East
KQ74
976
AQ95
93
South
6
J10
K104
AK108742
W
N
E
S
P
1
P
2
P
3
P
4
P
4NT
P
5
P
P
P
D
5 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
2
A
4
6
1
1
0
9
7
10
10
0
1
1
6
5
9
10
3
2
1
J
K
A
6
1
3
1
2
7
8
4
3
4
1
2
3
J
3
1
5
1
2
A
7

North's raise to 3 looks fine. North would rather have 4-card support, but QJx is pretty hefty. North cannot rebid 2 as that shows a 6-card suit. 2NT is possible, but with the small doubleton in diamonds, 3 looks better.

North hand is minimal, and he has only 3 trumps. However he has prime cards which are all working. His hand could be worse. His Last Train 4NT call looks on target. Not good enough to drive to slam, but not bad enough to completely discourage.

At the other table, on the same auction South chose to bid 3. North bid 3NT, and South passed. This contract took 10 tricks.

Having a proper feel for which decisions an opponent is likely to get right and which decisions he might get wrong is very important for high-level play. It should have been apparent to declarer that West had the necessary information to find the club shift, and that West would find that shift if it mattered. On the other hand, while in theory East should know to rise holding Qxx, in real life East could easily slip and play small.

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