This Real Deal was dealt by Joslyn Kilborn, a freelance writer and photographer.
|| All Pass
West deals and has to decide what his first action should be. Can you preempt with a side void? Yes, if the hand isn’t strong enough for a 1-level opening. West’s hand is too good for 3C. If in doubt, the Rule of 20 is a decent guideline. Add your 2 longest suit lengths (4 spades + 6 clubs) to the HCP (10) and if it totals 20 or more, open the bidding (but not with a preempt). Can you preempt with a side 4-card major? Yes, but usually you should try not to (doing so only if your suit is very good and the 4-card major is very weak). This West hand is wrong for a preempt. The void and 6-4 shape makes it worth a 1-level opening (1).
Should North overcall 1? His suit is decent and he has 8 points (barely enough to overcall on the one level). But, since he is vulnerable, he should have a tad more. Accordingly, a “pass” is shown in the bidding diagram (aggressive players would indeed overcall).
Should East respond 1 or 1? In modern style, it is best to get the major in. Bypass the diamonds unless your hand is good enough to respond 1 now and introduce spades later. This East hand is quite weak and is worth only one call. Use that call to introduce the 4-card major.
South has 15 points and should enter the bidding. Should he double to show both unbid suits (hearts and diamonds) or just overcall? With a 5-card major, it is good practice to overcall. Start with a double only if you are strong enough to double and later bid the 5-card major. To double and bid again you need at least 17/18 points. South overcalls 2 to make sure to get his 5-card major into the auction.
In spite of his HCP minimum, West should raise to 2. In support of spades, he has a decent hand and nothing to be ashamed of.
North should support with support. He has 8 HCP and can add one for the doubleton club (since he is raising partner). 8 HCP and 3 trumps with a side doubleton is plenty good enough to raise to 3.
East passes and so should South. If his partner had a better hand, he could have made a cue-bid raise (3=limit raise or better) instead of bidding only 3.
West might be tempted to bid again, but he has already bid twice and does have decent defense against hearts (QJx).
The Play in 3
Even though his partner bid spades, West should not lead one. Leading aces (or underleading them) against suit contracts is risky and usually a bad idea. The Q is much safer. Should declarer win and if so, should he draw trump right away? In a suit contract, count losers. With the club lead, South sees a club loser in addition to the A and A. What about the trump suit? Only 5 are missing and if they split 3-2, declarer will lose only one trump trick. That’s one trick to lose in each suit, but that is fine since declarer needs only 9 tricks for his contract. If there is no reason not to draw trump, then draw them. I see no reason not to. Win the A and take the top two hearts. Once they are 3-2, the contract should be easily made. Don’t play a third trump (there is no reason to “draw” their high one and waste two of yours). You want to keep all your trumps so you can handle future club plays. After the top trumps, play diamonds. The defense can win, but can get only one trick in each suit. If West gets a diamond ruff, it is with a natural trump suit. Nine tricks taken for +140. Notice that with the A lead, declarer would make an overtrick (throwing a club loser on a spade).
What would happen if E-W went to 3?
Had West gone to 3, South would lead a high heart. The defense would get 2 high hearts, a club and eventually two trump tricks for down one. Minus 100 (East-West) is certainly better than -140, However, who is to say that South wouldn’t double and collect 200 points?
1. You can preempt with a side void, unless the hand is worth a 1-level opening.
2. Usually, don’t preempt with a side 4-card major.
3. If your HCP + length in 2 longest suits is 20 or more, open a 1-bid.
4. When vulnerable, try to have a little extra—only 8 flat points is not really enough to overcall.
5. After partner’s 1C, bypass diamonds when responding (if you plan to bid only one time).
6. Holding a 5-card major, prefer to overcall (as opposed to a takeout double) unless you have 17/18+.
7. Don’t lead or underlead aces against suit contracts.