The Real Deal


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Some chance is better than no chance

This deal was from the round of eight in the 2015 Grand National Teams. South held:

♠ A K 7 2   Q 7   K J 9 6 4   ♣ Q 6

With both sides vulnerable, she opened 1 and saw her left-hand opponent overcall 1♠. Her partner bid 2, indicating at least five hearts and 10 points, and RHO doubled. What does that show?

Most doubles are not Alertable, so if you want to know, you have to ask. Upon asking, you are told this shows clubs with spade tolerance. Believe it or not, this is called a snapdragon double. Don’t ask.

Not forced to bid – RHO’s double keeps the auction open for partner – opener passed. LHO retreated to 2♠ and responder cuebid 3♣. Now what?

I’m not a fan of the term “Western cuebid.” To me, this 3♣ bid doesn’t really mean anything other than forcing. As the partner of the cuebidder, with the opponent’s suit stopped, I would usually go to 3NT. Here, opener does have spades well stopped, but some club concern. It’s a tricky situation. Maybe partner should “tell” (rather than “ask”) by bidding the suit he has stopped, since the opponents have shown two suits. Anyway, opener did try 3NT, but her partner removed to 5, the final contract.

The 8 is led and you see:

Dlr:
South
Vul:
Both
North
♠ 5
A K J 3 2
Q 10 5 3 2
♣ 7 3
South
♠ A K 7 2
Q 7
K J 9 6 4
♣ Q 6

Thankfully, you have escaped a club lead, which would have cost you two fast losers with the A to come. Now, you can get rid of a club on the spades. What is your complete plan?

Does that heart lead seem strange? It should. Why wouldn’t LHO have led his suit or his partner’s clubs? He must be leading a singleton. When the opponents lead your known side suit, it usually means it is because they are trying to get a ruff.

Can you do anything about it?

The national champion who declared the hand didn’t give it proper attention. She won the heart and played the ♠A K throwing a club from dummy. Next came a trump, but LHO won the ace and put RHO in with a club to get a heart ruff for down one. This was the Real Deal:

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

So what could declarer have done? She had a very good option available. After winning the heart and playing the ♠A K, she can be pretty sure that a diamond play won’t work. The opening leader likely has more than one diamond. When the defense wins the A they are just about certain to get a ruff. On the actual deal, when West won the A, East encouraged in clubs, so West underled his ace to get his ruff for down one.

After the ♠A K, declarer should play another spade. It is her legitimate chance. She is trying to cut communications and on this layout she would have succeeded. On the third round of spades, the remaining club is discarded from dummy. If East can’t win the trick (as here), West keeps the lead and gets only his A. Was it fortunate that East couldn’t win or ruff the third spade? Yes, but it was the best chance.

At the other table, South played 3NT down two, so making 5 would have produced a large pickup.