The Real Deal


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A Mature Decision

This deal comes from my archives, back in my playing days. In a national pair game, both vulnerable, I held this hand in first seat:

♠ 5    Q J 4 2    A K 10   ♣ J 10 7 6 5

I like to open aggressively, and I would consider most 5–4–3–1 hands with 11 high-card points to be worth opening. I think the mature decision, however, is to pass with this hand. Why? If you open 1♣ and partner responds 1♠ (the most likely call, given your spade shortness), what will you do next? Rebid 1NT with a singleton? Repeat those lousy clubs? Surely, you don’t have the strength for a reverse. When faced with a marginal opening bid, consider the potential rebid problems and act accordingly.

Let’s say you pass (as I did). Left-hand opponent opens 1♣ and partner overcalls 1, passed by RHO. That’s an unexpected turn of events.

Facing a vulnerable 1 overcall, you have a powerful hand. I wouldn’t stop short of game, and you might as well make the best descriptive call available. Assuming you use splinter bids, even opposite overcalls, you can bid 3♠. You can’t possibly be showing long spades – especially as a passed hand – so partner will be able to figure this out.

Partner, in fact, launches into Roman Key Card Blackwood (hopefully in hearts!) and after you show one key card, he bids 6. Let’s hop over to his seat and manage the play on the lead of the ♣9:

North
♠ 5
Q J 4 2
A K 10
♣ J 10 7 6 5
South
♠ J 8 7
A K 10 8 7 5
J 6 4
♣ A

Considering you were a passed hand, partner was optimistic to bid a slam, but your splinter bid really turned him on. Cover the ♣9, with dummy’s 10. Unless East is looking at all six missing clubs, there is no way he can know not to cover. Once it goes 9, 10, queen, ace, your remaining position in the club suit is strong.

Should you draw trumps? There is no rush. A 3–0 break could prove awkward. Best is to give up a spade at trick two. East wins and returns a trump. You win in dummy (all following) and advance the ♣J. East has to cover and you ruff high (LHO following low). The only high club remaining is the 8. You can draw the other trump, ending in dummy, and play the ♣7. RHO plays low (smoothly). Should you let it ride?

There is no reason to take this risk. If LHO led the 9 from ♣9 8 3, you will needlessly go down. It can’t hurt to ruff. Even if LHO shows out, you are fine. You now have a marked ruffing finesse for the 8. Go back to dummy with a spade ruff and play the ♣6. If East covers, your ♣5 is good for a diamond discard. If not, you let it run. By now, West will be out of clubs. You end up ruffing two spades in dummy and throwing a diamond on a club (never needing the diamond finesse).

This was the Real Deal:

North
♠ 5
Q J 4 2
A K 10
♣ J 10 7 6 5
West
♠ Q 10 9 4 3
9 3
9 8 5 3
♣ 9 3
East
♠ A K 6 2
6
Q 7 2
♣ K Q 8 4 2
South
♠ J 8 7
A K 10 8 7 5
J 6 4
♣ A

Once East covered the club (how could he not?), you were well on your way to setting up a club. Actually, no matter how the defense handles the clubs, declarer can always manage to set up a club via multiple ruffing finesses.