The Real Deal


This deal is from the NABC Swiss Teams in March 2009 from Houston. At favorable vulnerability, you hold:

♠ 10 9 8 7 4
J 10 9
Q 5
♣ K 7 2

Left-hand opponent deals and opens 1. Partner overcalls 1♠, and RHO makes a negative double. What will you do?

Surely, you will raise spades, but to what level? My readers know I am a “Law” follower, but do you really think I will bid to the four level with this junk? We expect 10 trumps, but certain factors require adjusting. Here, with your terrible (flat) shape, all your points outside of trumps (good for defense), and the (unfavorable) vulnerability, I wouldn’t dream of bidding 4♠.

This hand is so junky, that it probably isn’t worth much more than a preemptive raise anyway. Let’s say you content yourself with 3♠, LHO bids 4 and everyone passes.

Now, I’m going to trust you. Let’s forget this hand, and jump over to partner’s seat and defend:

Dlr: South Dummy
Vul: E-W ♠ K 3
David 10 7 6 3 2
♠ A Q J 6 5 2 ♣ Q J 10 5 3
8 6
J 8 4
♣ A 6

My partner found the outstanding (on this deal, anyway) lead of the ♣A and saw this dummy. Partner encourages clubs so you play another club to his king. He plays a third club and declarer follows. What is your plan?

You ruff, of course, for the third defensive trick. Then what?

Most mortals would carelessly lay down the ♠A, expecting it to take the setting trick. Because this is a “column” deal, maybe you avoided the urge. Let’s look at the full deal
(even though you already know it):

Dlr: South ♠ K 3
Vul: E-W K
10 7 6 3 2
♣ Q J 10 5 3
♠ A Q J 6 5 2 ♠ 10 9 8 7 4
8 6 J 10 9
J 8 4 Q 5
♣ A 6 ♣ K 7 2
♠ —
A Q 7 5 4 3 2
A K 9
♣ 9 8 4

After ♣A K and a club ruff, the ♠A would allow declarer to make 4. He would ruff, and then throw his diamond loser on the ♠K. A good West player who is concentrating, however, will see that there is no need to lay down the ♠A. Where could it go? There is no entry to dummy’s good clubs (because after only the K is played, trumps won’t be drawn). The diamonds can’t possibly run (declarer would need to have A K Q x — he can’t have four diamonds, three clubs and one spade for his 4 bid). David Berkowitz easily worked this out, and exited passively with a red suit. Declarer eventually had to lose a diamond trick for down one. If declarer runs all his trumps, West has to know to keep all three of his diamonds and to discard the ♠A. Good defensive signaling will get the job done (East can use a count signal at some point). Well done, David. At the other table, East–West “sacrificed” in 4♠, doubled down 500, so our team
won 11 IMPs. If West had defended carelessly (or made any other opening lead), it would have been a 2-IMP win (420 vs. 500).

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