Should South open 1 or 1NT? Normally, with two doubletons you shouldn’t open 1NT, but here I recommend it. Why? The alternative is worse. If you open 1, you will likely have difficult rebid problems. For example, what should South do if his partner were to respond 1 to 1? He couldn’t rebid 1NT (that would show 12-14). He couldn’t rebid 2NT (that would show 18-19). He would have to rebid either 2 (feels like an underbid and usually would show 6 clubs) or rebid 2 (a reverse). At all costs, I like to avoid reverse auctions; here, South is a little light for such an action. Opening 1NT (15-17 “balanced”) avoids the rebid headache. True, the hand is a bit flawed for 1NT, but only a bit. Our auctions are usually easy after starting with 1NT.
North has a very easy plan. He has enough for game and has to only consider whether that game should be 3NT or 4-of-a-major. If using an advanced method called Puppet Stayman, he could look for a 5-3 heart fit (in addition to a 4-4 or 5-4 spade fit). I recommend that convention only for experienced players. Here, North can use plain old normal Stayman: 2. South answers 2 to show 4 cards there and North jumps to 3NT. If South also had 4 spades, he would correct from 3NT to 4 (knowing that North has to have a 4-card major on this auction). With the actual hand, South passes, so the auction was: 1N-2-2-3N-P.
West has a tough opening lead problem. He knows dummy has 4 spades and declarer has four hearts. Accordingly, he might lead a diamond. If he leads a spade, should he lead low or the 10 (top of the interior sequence)? With Q1098x, I would lead the 10, but probably not Q109xx. Nothing is clear. Let’s see how the deal plays out if West leads a 4th best spade—the five.
In notrump, declarer counts winners. He has 2 spades, 2 hearts and the minor-suit aces; only 6 sure winners. Which suit should he work on? He has 7 cards in hearts and clubs, but the clubs offer better chances since declarer has 5 of them. How should he play the suit? With this combination it is best to start by leading up to dummy’s queen (gaining if the king is located in front of the queen). Here, South is in his hand anyway after the spade lead and his low club goes to the queen and king.
East has nothing more attractive than to return his partner’s suit. Declarer wins in hand and wants to continue to work on clubs. How? He remains with A10xx and wants to lead from dummy to finesse his 10. Even though the queen lost to the king, there is no reason that the jack can’t now be onside. To reach dummy, declarer plays to the K (this is safer than opening up the diamonds where declarer doesn’t have as many assets). A club is played from dummy and as planned, declarer finesses the 10. This is 50-50 as opposed to playing the ace and hoping for exactly Jx offside. The 10 wins and the A comes next—declarer hoping the suit is 3-3. When West discards, declarer has to surrender the 4th round of clubs to East, leaving this position:
East has no spades to play, so has to play a red suit. If he plays a diamond, declarer wins in dummy and can take a heart finesse, trying for overtricks. If East plays a heart, he had better be careful. If he plays a low heart in the diagrammed position, declarer can take the rest of the tricks! If he guesses to play low, the H9 wins in dummy. Then another heart finesse and later a diamond finesse results in 11 tricks! If East is going to play a heart, the 10 is a safer play. Now, even if declarer finesses the jack, East still gets a heart trick. This is called a “Surrounding Play” and really belongs in a publication for super-experts. Anyway, it does show the potential intricacies of suit combinations. The term comes from the fact that East’s 10-8 “surround” dummy’s 9. I hope that you, dear reader, can see the difference between East playing the 8 or the 10. I also hope you don’t try this at home, as 99 times out of 100, you’ll want to lead low from Q10x – not the 10.
The most likely result in the ending shown is that declarer loses one more trick, but still makes 10 tricks for +630. By setting up clubs and playing skillfully, declarer likely will get a good matchpoint score.
>You can open 1NT with two doubletons if in range and it is the least bad alternative
>In notrump, usually set up your longest suits (especially if you have ample stoppers in the opponent’s suit)
>With A10xxx opposite Qx, lead low towards the queen and if it loses, later finesse the 10.
>There is something in bridge called a “Surround Play” - but it usually comes up only in articles and books.