Your Best Chance
This hand was played in a knockout event at the 2011 Sarasota FL Regional:
♠ K J 3 ♥ A J 10 8 6 4 ♦ A 4 2 ♣ 4
At favorable vulnerability, South deals and opens 1♥. Partner responds with 2NT, Jacoby.
Playing the “basic” version of the convention, you rebid 3♣ to indicate shortness. North follows with 3♦. What’s that?
Hearts are surely trumps, so theoretically this is a “control bid.” But, on the three level (especially below three of the trump suit), we don’t get crazy about showing controls. I’d
think of 3♦ more as “something in diamonds and I am alive for any slam possibility.” Certainly, this should be a fast-arrival auction; if either player at any point bids 4♥, that is the weakest action.
In spite of having “only” 13 high-card points, you have tons of upgrades. You have prime cards, good trumps and six of them! You are surely interested in cooperating. You could bid 3♥, forward-going, or maybe a better bid is 3♠ to show something there. Partner bids 4♣ next. He is still interested and has a club control. You still are too good to sign off. I like either 4♦ or maybe even Blackwood. That’s enough bidding theory. Let’s say you end up in 6♥ and you get the ♣Q lead:
♠ A 9 5 4
♥ 9 7 5 3
♦ K Q 3
♣ A 5
♠ K J 3
♥ A J 10 8 6 4
♦ A 4 2
In spite of only 13 HCP opposite 13 HCP, this isn’t a bad slam. What is your plan?
Your only possible losers are in hearts and spades. If West has the ♥K–Q–2, you are dead. If East has them, you can pick up the suit. Accordingly,
win the first club in dummy and advance the ♥9. You never know when somebody might cover.
No luck. East plays a smooth ♥2.
The safety play to make sure (100% sure) of only one heart loser is to let the nine ride. Even if it loses, you will be able to rely on the spade finesse. If West shows out, you can pat yourself on the back for your safety.
However, the correct play in the heart suit does not take the entire deal into account.
For the small gain of East having all three hearts, your finesse gives up on the bigger picture. If you play the ace and West follows, you are in great shape. You will have only one heart
loser and you will also be unlikely to have a spade loser.
After the ♥A wins, you can strip the minors and exit in hearts. If West wins, he is endplayed into a free finesse in spades or giving you a ruff-sluff. Even if East wins, he will have to break spades and you will succeed if he has either the ♠Q or the ♠10 or both (you will play low and West will have to play his big one if he has it). If West has both the ♠Q and the ♠10 and East has two hearts, it just isn’t your day.
Surely it is better to play for 2–1 hearts (and almost a sure claim) than to guard against an unlikely 3–0 heart break (and still not even have a claim).
Here is the Real Deal:
|Dlr: South||♠ A 9 5 4|
|Vul: E-W||♥ 9 7 5 3|
|♦ K Q 3|
|♣ A 5|
|♠ Q 10 6||♠ 8 7 2|
|♥ K Q||♥ 2|
|♦ J 8 6||♦ 10 9 7 5|
|♣ Q J 10 7 2||♣ K 9 8 6 3|
|♠ K J 3|
|♥ A J 10 8 6 4|
|♦ A 4 2|
As you can see, after the club lead, declarer would go down if he finesses in hearts. West would safely exit and sit back and wait for his spade trick. However, winning the ♥A and stripping the hand is a successful line of play. When West gets thrown in with the ♥K he has to present South his contract.