The Real Deal


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This deal was played by my long‑time partner, David Berkowitz, in the 2010 Santa Clara (CA) Regional. With neither side vulnerable at IMPs, he held:

♠ A Q 8 7 5 4      —    Q 10     ♣ 10 8 7 5 4

Would you open, and if so, with what?

I like 2♠ (which is what David chose at the table). I’m not a big fan of passing, but the hand feels a little light for a one‑level opening. I don’t mind having a side void, nor does the side five‑card minor bother me.

Partner bids 2NT. Most people use that as asking for a feature (some play Ogust). What would it mean if you jumped to 4♣? Is that shortness or length? (If you are thinking Gerber, please don’t tell me.) I believe that showing length is more practical, so let’s say you try 4♣. Partner bids 4♠, and you play it there.

♠ 10 3 2
Q J 7 6
A K 3
♣ A Q 2

♠ A Q 8 7 5 4

Q 10
♣ 10 8 7 5 4

West leads a low heart.

What should you play from dummy?

I like playing low in these situations. Usually it is difficult for right-hand opponent to know he can insert a low card — he will usually rise with an honor. Later, you might be able to use the remaining Q–J to
good effect. For example, you can lead the queen and throw a loser, and then later, another loser on the good J. On this deal, it isn’t likely to matter, but when you play low from dummy, East produces the ace.

What is your plan?

Your only potential losers are in the black suits. Overtricks aren’t too mportant (team scoring), so safety should be your main concern. You can afford to lose one spade trick (and at worst two club tricks), so it
seems risky to take an early spade finesse (which might lose to a singleton king).

Better is to lay down the ♠A at trick two. If nothing good happens, cross to dummy and lead up to the queen. You will lose two tricks only if LHO has both the king and jack (guarded). In that case, you are still in good shape if you can play the clubs for only one loser.

At the table, the ♠A at trick two gets the king from West! Boy, are you a good player.

Now what?

With only one spade loser (East remains with J–9), you can afford to lose two club tricks. Again, why mess around and risk losing to an offside singleton king? It worked so well the first time, you might as well play a
club to the ace.

Assuming nothing interesting happens, you can come back to hand and lead up to the ♣Q. By playing both suits cautiously you maximize your chances in your spade game. This was the Real Deal:

♠ 10 3 2
Q J 7 6
A K 3
♣ A Q 2
♠ K ♠ J 9 6
K 10 5 3 2 A 9 8 4
J 7 6 4 9 8 5 2
♣ J 9 3 ♣ K 6
♠ A Q 8 7 5 4
Q 10
♣ 10 8 7 5 4

After the ♠K fell, David played to the ♣A. He came back to hand with the Q and led another club towards dummy. He guessed wrong (playing the queen) but still had 10 easy tricks.

At the other table, declarer started spades by playing low from dummy and finessing the queen. When he later played a club to the queen he was down one (losing two tricks in each black suit).

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