The Real Deal


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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♠:

Dlr:
South
Vul:
E-W
North
♠ 10 8 6 4
K J 6
K Q J 10
♣ 10 8
South
♠ K Q 9 7 5 2
4
8
♣ A K Q 6 2

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:

Dlr:
South
Vul:
N-S
North
♠ 10 8 6 4
K J 6
K Q J 10
♣ 10 8
West
♠ —
10 9 3
9 7 6 5 4 3
♣ J 9 4 3
East
♠ A J 3
A Q 8 7 5 2
A 2
♣ 7 5
South
♠ K Q 9 7 5 2
4
8
♣ A K Q 6 2

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.