Don’t give themm a chance
This deal comes from a first-round Vanderbilt match at the 2013 St. Louis NABC. At unfavorable vulnerability, South is dealt:
♠5 ♥A J 3 ♦Q 4 ♣A K J 10 7 6 4
He opened 1♣ to which partner responded 1♠. What should South do when East overcalls 2♥? He is strong enough to act on the three level, so he should bid 3♣. While it was possible to gamble with 3NT (that would tend to show good long clubs and hearts stopped), I’d prefer to have the ♣Q instead of the ♣J for such an aggressive bid. Bidding 3♣ does show extras.
Partner bids 3♦ and now what? He has diamonds and spades, you have the hearts stopped, so 3NT it is. Everyone passes, and you see:
The ♥ 8 is led and East plays the ♥ Q. Over to you. First of all, do you agree with partner’s bidding? I do. In modern style, he bypassed the diamonds with a “one-bid hand.” When you showed extras with 3♣, he was a little aggressive, but vulnerable at IMPs, he should be. The final contract is a good one.
Let’s count winners. If clubs run, there will be nine easy tricks. So, what if you have to lose a trick to the ♣Q? That means you have only eight top tricks. You will need a ninth trick somewhere, and you also have entry considerations.
If you hold up the ♥A and East obliges you by continuing hearts (from his known ♥K Q), all will be good. But why should he be so friendly? He sees the relatively weak spades in dummy, and you don’t welcome a switch to that suit (you might lose three spade tricks, along with the ♥Q and ♣Q). Accordingly, you shouldn’t give him the chance. You win the first trick and then …
Work on clubs, but maintain communications between your hand and dummy! If you lay down the ♣A K and the queen doesn’t fall, you are in big trouble (no entry to hand). So, you should start clubs not with the ace or king, but with the jack! If either opponent wins the queen, you now have a club in dummy with which to reach your hand.
After they get their ♣Q, you will have no trouble getting a ninth trick; any suit they work on will give you a trick. Even if they continue clubs (hardly likely), you should be able to eventually forge a ninth trick on your own. If East started with ♣Q 9 8 x (unlikely), he has to take it. If West started with ♣Q 9 8 x and ducks the first round, you will then
have to hope the diamonds come in. By playing the ♣J first, you are catering to many normal layouts where clubs are 3–1. In fact, this was the Real Deal:
Declarer should win the ♥A at trick one and play the ♣J at trick two. West wins (though he might actually duck!), but declarer will easily make his contract. At the table, declarer ducked the ♥Q at trick one. East made the good shift to the ♠10. Declarer won in dummy with the jack and played clubs from the top. West got in with the ♣Q and then played the ♠Q to give the defense five tricks. Winning the ♥A at trick one was not the only hurdle. Declarer had to resist the temptation to start clubs with the ace or king – which would have been fatal.
The other table in the match played in 5♣ down, so a big opportunity was lost.