This deal was submitted by….
*Transfer to Diamonds
If West deals, as in the diagram, he opens 1NT. After North’s pass, East would like to play in 3. He has to know how to do this in his system. Some players can bid 3 directly to sign off. Others can use Stayman and then bid 3 as a weak bid. However, those routes typically have other meanings—this is up to partnership discussion.
In the auction shown, East-West are using 4-suit transfers. This is yet another way to play. To make it even more confusing, many pairs use 2NT as the transfer to diamonds. Others like to have 2NT available as natural so they use 3 (as shown) to transfer. Learning your system after 1NT is time consuming but essential.
Should South come in after the transfer? Maybe, maybe not. He is shown as passing, but when the auction comes back to him, he knows his partner has some values (the opponents stopped in a partscore). Now, he is likely to balance with 3—dangerous though it is.
North has good undisclosed support, but his partner didn’t bid directly; he only balanced. If you want your partners to keep on balancing in the future, don’t hang them for balancing by raising them to game.
What should West lead? Perhaps the K, the suit shown by his partner. However, I prefer a trump lead for several reasons. The K is risky (who is to say partner has any high diamonds for his bid—he might just have a lot of low ones). Against partscores, usually it pays to make passive leads. Here, West has cards in every side suit; it isn’t likely there is a need to attack and set up quick defensive tricks. Furthermore, a trump lead might help the defense by cutting down ruffs in the dummy.
Declarer (after issuing a well-meant “thank you partner”) has to decide if he should draw trumps or do something else first. Always address this issue when you declare a suit contract. Here, declarer has lots of low red cards to ruff in dummy, so he should not draw trumps. He might as well win the trump lead in hand and play his club. Not only will this set up dummy’s K, but it will provide later transportation (via club ruffs) back to declarer’s hand in case he wants to ruff red cards in dummy. Also, declarer might eventually set up a long club in dummy.
West wins the A and continues the trump attack. Declarer can win this in hand and lead a low diamond towards dummy. The best West can do is take his K and play his final trump. Declarer can knock out the other high diamond and eventually will perform a “quadfecta” in the heart suit. This is a term I once used in a magazine article for a suit such as the hearts. What is the quadfecta? Declarer will win a heart (the A), lose a heart, ruff a heart in dummy, and throw a heart (on the K). Got that? Win one, lose one, ruff one, and pitch one.
In all, declarer makes his 3 contract by taking five spade tricks in hand, a ruff in dummy, and one trick in each side suit. Or, put another way, he loses only a club, heart and two diamonds. The trump lead was a good idea, but on the lie of the cards, there is no way to defeat 3.
When I receive these randomly dealt hands, I have the decision to make as to who the actual “Dealer” is. On this deal, I chose it to be West, so that I wouldn’t have a headache. What headache? What if South were to open the bidding in front of West? South opens 1 and then what? The West hand is a headache. He has 15 HCP, so doesn’t want to pass. He shouldn’t overcall 1NT without a stopper in the opponents’ spade suit. That leaves a takeout double, but I teach that you need at least three cards in all of the unbid suits (unless you have 18+). So, West would have to commit a lie. I actually asked some fellow experts what they would do in this situation and more than half chose the flawed takeout double. I decided to avoid the issue by having West as the dealer.
Make sure you and your partner know your system after your 1NT opening (how do you signoff in a minor).
When RHO transfers, you are in direct seat; you can always wait to see if they stop in a partscore and then balance
Try not to hang your partner when he balances
Lead passively against partscores
As declarer in a suit contract, always ask: “Should I draw or not draw trump?”