This real deal was dealt by Patti Lee.
South has a beautiful hand, almost worth a strong 2 opening. After the 1 opener, should West overcall with 1? The suit is so-so (A109xx would be more desirable). Being vulnerable is a deterrent. On the flip side, it is only the one level and ace-ace-king makes for a much better 11-count than a bunch of scattered queens and jacks.
After West’s 1, should North make a negative double? It commits partner to the 2-level (or 1NT), so shouldn’t be made with a lousy 6-count. Here, the Q (in the opponent’s suit) is of dubious value. However, North is 5-5 with decent cards in his long suits, so let’s go with the (aggressive) double as shown.
East should eat up a ton of auction space with a preempt. Even 5 is possible, but the 4 raise shown is practical. This jump typically shows lots of trump (but not necessarily HCP).
South has quite a good hand and shouldn’t go quietly. With so much shape, defending doesn’t seem attractive, so South repeats his amazing 6-card club suit. West passes and North can’t be happy. This is not what he had in mind when he risked his negative double. Still, who is he to overrule South? North already showed something like this, so has to trust that his partner knows what he is doing.
East has an interesting decision. It is tempting to bid 5. Here, especially, if East thinks his partner is short in clubs, 5 might even make (picture, say Axxxx AKxx xxx x). But the general rule of thumb is “the 5-level belongs to the opponents.” Let’s have East Pass as shown and later we can see how 5 would have worked out.
Let’s have West lead the A. Normally, we don’t lay down aces against suit contracts. Here, though, it is the suit East-West have been vigorously bidding. It is unlikely to cost a trick and nothing else seems more attractive.
In a trump suit, declarer counts losers. The only possible losers are the A and K, so this looks easy. The only problem might be if declarer runs out of trump. He will have to trump the first trick and then draw trump. The 4-2 break means that declarer will be left with only one trump. Then what?
He can knock out the A. If the defenders take it and play another spade, declarer would be okay. He’d throw 2 diamonds on the hearts and then decide if he wanted to risk the diamond finesse for an overtrick. He’d take 6 clubs, 4 hearts and the A.
However, the defense shouldn’t make life so easy. After trump are drawn and declarer lays down the K, West should duck. East plays the 9. This is a count signal. Hi-lo indicates a doubleton. Accordingly, West knows his partner has 2 hearts, so declarer started with 3 hearts.
When declarer plays a second heart, West knows to duck again (if he takes the ace, declarer has another heart left to allow him to run the hearts). Once West ducks, declarer is cut off from dummy’s long hearts. Should declarer play a third heart? No. There would be no point (the defense would win and there would be no entry to dummy’s good hearts). In fact, on the second round of hearts, declarer should win it in dummy.
Why? Since he will be abandoning the hearts anyway, he might as well be in the right hand to start diamonds. He leads the Q for a finesse. If it wins, he’ll have an overtrick. It loses, but all West can do is cash his A now (or he won’t get it). 5 bid and made for +600.
So, how would 5 have worked out? South would double and North would lead a club. If South shifts to hearts, the defense gets 2 clubs, 1 heart and 1 diamond for down 2 (500). What if South plays 3 rounds of clubs? If declarer trumps with the 9, North makes his Q and then a heart shift means 800! If declarer ruffs the 3rd club high and guesses trump (he’d have to finesse), he can get out for down only 1! He can draw trump ending in dummy and lead a diamond. His K becomes a parking place for a heart and he loses only 3 minor-suit tricks.
1) A 1-level overcall can be light. Suit quality and vulnerability are important. Ace-king-ace is typically enough (along with a 5-card suit) to overcall on the 1-level.
2) Negative doubles of 1 show more than a plain old ugly 6-count. They don’t promise the other 2 suits, but tend to show the other major.
3) A jump-raise of an overcall to the 4-level is weak/distributional.
4) Faced with a high-level guess when holding a shapely hand, bid one more, especially with a void in the opponents’ suit.
5) The 5-level usually belongs to the opponents (generally don’t bid “5 over 5”).
6) Usually don’t lead aces, but it is okay if your side has bid and raised the suit (especially at a high level).
7) A count signal is used when declarer leads a suit. Hi-lo shows an even number.