Zero or three?
This deal is from the South Florida Bridge Players IMP game. At favorable vulnerability, South holds:
♠ K Q 9 7 5 2 ♥ 4 ♦ 8 ♣ A K Q 6 2
RHO opens 1♥. What’s your call?
This hand is too good to preempt, although I suppose a direct 4♠ is possible. I would prefer to have more high-card points and less freaky shape to start with double. A Michaels bid is an option, but with the extra spade, I prefer to overcall 1♠ for now. It isn’t likely to go Pass–Pass–Pass.
HO passes and your partner cuebids 2♥. What’s that? It requires partnership discussion, but let’s assume you are playing my preferred way, where this shows a limit raise or better and guarantees at least three-card spade support.
My first instinct is to use Roman Key Card Blackwood. Opposite three aces, you can bid 7♠. Opposite two aces, you can bid a small slam. You can sign off in 5♠ opposite one ace.
If you decide to bid 4NT, partner answers 5♦, showing zero or three key cards (1430). Now what?
You can’t bid 7♠, in case partner has zero key cards. The solution is to bid 5♠. Partner has to know that three key cards is good enough for slam. Unfortunately, when you bid 5♠, partner passes. That means zero key cards, and it means you are too high.
Let’s try a different route over 2♥. How can it hurt to bid 3♣, ostensibly a game try? Partner could try to sign off in 3♠. You’ll have none of that and can make a slam attempt by bidding 4♣. It is still vaguely possible that partner has two aces. If he now bids 4♠, you can be sure he doesn’t have two aces (he would have owed you a control bid of 4♦ or 4♥). Now, using your mulligan, try the play in 4♠:
West leads the ♥10 and you try dummy’s jack. East wins the ♥Q and lays down the ♥A. You ruff, and as your goal is only 10 tricks, you might as well play the ♠K. LHO throws a diamond and RHO thinks it over and ducks. Now what?
Will you play the ♣A K and try to ruff a club in dummy? If the third club doesn’t get overuffed, you’ll make an extra trick (throwing a diamond on the ♥K and leading a spade). No, that is not a good idea, as the full deal shows:
After East ducks the ♠K, you must resist the temptation to reach dummy on your own. You should play the dentist and extract East’s clubs. Cash
only the ♣A K, hoping East has at least two clubs. Now instead of a third club, play a diamond. East wins, but he has to give you access to dummy where you can lead a spade.
At trick two, East could have defeated you with a club return or by playing the dentist himself. East can extract your singleton diamond and safely exit with the ♥A or a club. As long as you are cut off from dummy, East will receive two spade tricks.