This deal comes from the Reisinger Board-a-Match Teams at the 2012 NABC. South held:
♠A J 10 ♥K J 5 ♦K 2 ♣A 10 9 7 6
With both sides vulnerable, his partner dealt and passed. Right-hand opponent opened 3♦. Now what?
There are two sensible calls. One is 3NT and the other is double. I don’t like the diamond stopper for 3NT (because you can’t hold up). If I held K–x–x or even A–x, I’d be more tempted. On the other hand, I’d prefer to have one, if not both, four-card majors for a takeout double. Let’s go with a double, which is what was chosen by Alan Sontag at the table. LHO passes and partner bids 4♦. Ugh. Do you bid your long club suit (5♣) or choose a three-card major, and if so, which one?
Right or wrong, Sontag chose to pick his better major, spades, and wound up in 4♠ on this layout:
At the other table, the North player faced the same start and chose to bid 3♥ and played it there (making). So, a full board rests on whether or not you can make 4♠.
West leads a diamond to East’s ace and back comes the ♣K. Your thoughts?.
With East holding some high diamonds and the ♣K, you can be sure the ♠K is offside. That means you need 2–2 clubs. You win the ♣A — West playing an honor — and continue
clubs, pleased to see that West started with ♣Q J doubleton. Next comes another diamond. Your plan?.
You discard (let’s say a club) from dummy and win the ♦K. You know the ♦K is wrong, so it is pointless to cross to dummy for a spade finesse. It would be nice if spades are 3–3. If spades are 5–1 you have no real chance. To lay down the ♠A and play another spade would be a big mistake.
If spades are 4–2 (which is with the odds, especially with East’s preempt), you’d be dead. West would hold up his ♠K to leave:
You can’t deal with West’s fourth trump. If you play another spade, he wins the king and taps dummy with a diamond, establishing his long trump. If you do anything else, West ruffs in with his low trump. So, how can you handle a 4–2 spade break?
You have to hope that the 4–2 break includes a doubleton nine with RHO. Just don’t prematurely release your ♠A. When starting to draw trump, play the ♠J on the first round. If West takes it, you can ruff a diamond return in hand. Then, lay down your last high spade, cross to dummy in hearts and try the ♠Q. If the suit splits 3–3 or East started with 9–x, you can draw trump and claim. Dummy’s 8 saves the day.
What if West ducks the ♠J? Repeat the process by playing the ♠10 next (again, don’t release the ♠A). If West ducks, you play the ♠A next and just run winners. If West takes his ♠K and plays a diamond, you ruff in hand and proceed as above.
This is exactly how Sontag played the Real Deal:
Spades weren’t 3–3, but declarer was rewarded when the 4–2 break included East’s 9–x. Well played! Plus 620 won the board.