You’re not in seven
This deal was reported to me by Fred Theurkauf. It was played in the 2015 San Diego Regional. At IMPs, nonvulnerable, South held:
♠ Q 10 8 5 3 ♥ A K 10 4 3 2 ♦ A 2 ♣ —
Should he open the five- or six-card suit?
This 5–6 conundrum has been around forever. Ideally, you want to open the longer suit, and if the majors were reversed, it would be easy. Here, though, if you open in hearts, you risk having to reverse when you next bid spades.
I think this hand with its ♥A K, ♦A and beautiful distribution is worth reversing. So I would bid the suits in “normal” order, starting with the six-card suit.
If you open 1♥, left-hand opponent preempts with 3♣, your partner passes and RHO contributes 3♦. Following through on your plan, though a level higher than intended, you volunteer 3♠. Partner perks up and you eventually land in 6spades;.
Maybe partner should have bid 3♠ himself. It turns out you’ve missed quite an excellent grand slam. West led the ♣A, RHO followed and declarer ruffed. At the table, both expert players (as I was told) laid down the ♥A to throw a diamond and then ruffed a heart.
Next came the ♠A, on which LHO showed out. The declarers played a spade to the 10 (for the marked finesse) and ruffed another heart. Disaster! RHO overruffed. There were still two more red cards to ruff in dummy, but only one trump with which to do so.
Let’s follow this careless line of play with all 52 cards in view:
Declarer ruffed the ♣A lead and needlessly played the ♥A to throw a diamond. He ruffed a heart, played the ♠A (dummy’s second trump) and a spade (dummy’s third trump) to finesse his 10. He now tried to ruff another heart in dummy, but was doomed by the 5–2 heart break.
It is true that the bad major-suit splits were unlucky, but after all, there was a preempt. There were some ways to overcome the careless start, but a much safer line was available.
Ruff the club lead and play a low heart from hand at trick two. Ruff in dummy and test trumps with the ♠A. Play a spade to the 10 and ruff another low heart in dummy with the penultimate trump. Come to hand with the ♦A and ruff a third low heart in dummy with the ♠K. Declarer remains with:
♠ Q 8 5 ♥ A K 10 ♦ 2 ♣ —
The significant outstanding cards are the ♠J with East and the two remaining hearts with West. Declarer comes to hand by ruffing a club, draws the last trump and loses only a diamond at the end. Declarer’s big error was playing as if he was in a grand slam. Ruffing two low hearts early virtually guarantees 12 tricks.