| All Pass
This deal was dealt by Denise Hoffman.
After West’s pass, what should North open? In “Standard,” with 3-3 in the minors, we open 1. Some players mistakenly open 1 with this hand, thinking they should open the “better” minor. No. Opening 1 promises 4 cards in the suit unless you are exactly 4=4=3=2 (4-4 in the majors, 3 diamonds and 2 clubs).
East passes and South has a choice. Should the response be 1 or 1? The general rule is to bypass the diamonds. With a strong hand (opening-bid strength at least), it is okay to show the diamonds first and the hearts later. This actual South hand is barely strong enough. Still, I am showing 1 in the auction diagram. The hearts are good, and it makes life simpler if you get the major in right away. But yes, a 1 response would be acceptable.
North should raise to 2. The hand is balanced, but a 4-4 major-suit fit is what bridge life is all about.
South no longer has any need to show diamonds. South wants to be in 4, so jumps there directly.
The Opening Lead
West has a dilemma. Normally, an unbid side-suit singleton (the 10) is an attractive choice. It is relatively safe and also sets up the possibility to get a ruff(s). However, the general exception to leading a singleton is when you have a strong trump holding. West has a “natural trump trick”—and doesn’t need to get a ruff. Still, leading from one of the kings isn’t necessarily any better, so I think I’d go with the singleton 10 as shown.
In a suit contract, declarer should think about what tricks will be lost. Let’s count from the point-of-view of South’s (declarer’s) hand. If trumps split 3-2 (declarer doesn’t know otherwise), there are no losers there. In clubs there is a loser and in spades maybe one (depending on who has the K). In diamonds, there is at least one trick to lose.
The lead could be a singleton, but declarer should still play low from dummy. Why? Even if East wins the king and issues a ruff, it comes at a cost for the defense. Declarer’s diamonds would then be good. On the long diamonds, he could throw two clubs from dummy. Then, there would be no club loser.
Accordingly, declarer plays low from dummy and East wins the king. East now has to decide between switching to the Q or returning partner’s suit. This is not an easy decision. Suppose East does return a diamond (returning partner’s suit usually makes him happy). Since West might be trumping, East should signal which side suit he likes—in this case clubs. The way to do that is to play the lowest diamond (the 3) to show a like for the lowest-ranking side suit. A high diamond would show preference for the highest-ranking side suit (in this case, spades). Because East prefers clubs, he returns the 3. South should play low from hand (no reason to waste anything) and West trumps.
Declarer needs excellent foresight on this trick. When West trumps, declarer can’t lazily call for a low card from dummy. He has to see the need to get dummy’s A out of the way. Let’s watch what happens. When West trumps, the A is spectacularly played from dummy. West dutifully plays a low club to the jack and declarer’s ace. Declarer draws trump in 3 rounds ending in dummy to leave:
What if the A were still blocking up the works? Dummy could play the A, but then declarer would have no convenient way to reach the South hand. In the actual diagram, declarer can take all the remaining tricks! The low diamond allows declarer to take a marked finesse against East’s remaining Jx. The 9 wins and then the Q and 5 provide a parking place for both of dummy’s clubs. Now, the spade finesse produces a valuable overtrick.
This wasn’t the best defense. An earlier club play would have held the contract to 10 tricks.
1) When responding to 1, skip the diamonds unless your hand is strong enough to show the diamonds first and then the major later. Typically, this would amount to opening-bid strength.
2) When rebidding as opener, always raise your partner’s major when you have 4-card support.
3) Against a suit contract, it is almost always advisable to lead a singleton (not a singleton trump). If you have a strong trump holding and an attractive alternative, you might eschew the singleton lead.
4) When returning a suit that you expect partner will ruff, play a small card to indicate preference for the lower-ranking side suit; play a high card to indicate a preference for the higher-ranking side suit.
5) Think ahead about unblocking in a long suit where entries are an issue.
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