This deal was submitted by….
Randy and Marilyn Bennett
For two reasons, South should not open one notrump. One: With a 5-card major and a side 4-card suit, it is preferable to open in the major. Contrast this to 5-3-3-2 shape, where opening 1NT is fine with a 5-card major if in range. Two: The hand is too good for a 15-17 notrump. Counting length points and adding for the 10 and 109, the hand is worth at least 18 points.
West should not overcall with such a poor suit and poor hand. North’s correct bid is 4. This is really a textbook example of what a raise from 1-of-a-major to 4-of-a-major looks like. It doesn’t show opening bid values. It shows shape, typically 5 trumps. The point range, counting shape, is roughly 4-9 points (a little more if vulnerable). It is basically a preemptive bid, based on the LAW of Total Tricks, which we will address in detail later. Everyone is shown as passing--but we will also visit that later on.
When dealt ace-king, it is almost always right to lead that suit against a suit contract. In the old days, the “book” lead was the king, but now it is the ace. The thinking is that you would never lay down an unsupported ace, so you might as well have the ace lead promise the king. That frees up the king lead to promise the queen. Without this agreement, your partner never knew when you led a king if it was from ace-king or king-queen. If you happen to lead from ace-king doubleton, then you switch the modern order; lead the king and then play the ace to tell partner you started with only two.
Declarer has to lose only two clubs and a diamond—10 tricks are fairly routine. On the A lead, how should East signal? He should play the jack—high from a doubleton. With queen- or king-doubleton, you never signal high-low, but with jack-doubleton, you can. The opening leader will know that another club cashes—and he might try it in case the jack is a singleton and he can give his partner a ruff. That is a bit unlikely, though, since it would mean East started with two singletons (hearts and clubs). On the actual deal, it doesn’t matter much what the defense does. Pretty much no matter what happens, they will get only the AK and the A to hold declarer to 10 tricks.
ALTERNATIVE BIDDING AND VULNERABILITY
Notice that the vulnerability is not indicated. When people random-deal the cards, they never tell me the vulnerability. At certain colors, for example if East were not vulnerable against vulnerable, he might make a very daring overcall of 4! Believe it or not, there is an expert adage to cover this situation: “When in doubt, in a competitive auction, bid 4 against the opponents’ 4.” This risky action pays off quite often due to the scoring. If either contract were to make (or if both make), it is likely winning action. Either 4 makes (good), or it turns out to go down less (even if doubled) than 4. An expert joke is “4 by the opponents is a transfer to 4.” Here, though it is dangerous for East to enter on the 4-level, it would work out incredibly well. What a catch! In fact 4 is unbeatable, and might even be doubled by South. Most experts would bid 4 with the East hand, unless they were vulnerable. I’m not sure I recommend trying this at home.
THE LAW OF TOTAL TRICKS
On this deal, both sides have a 10-card trump fit. Both sides can make 10 tricks. There are a total of 20 trumps (10 for each side) and 20 tricks available (10 for each side). There is a guideline called the LAW of Total Tricks, that predicts this phenomenon. It says that if you total up both sides trumps, you can expect it to approximately equal the total number of tricks available to both sides. On this deal, it happens to work exactly (10+10 = 10+10). Space constraints permit explaining how all this can help while actually bidding at the table, but in a nutshell, it is the theory behind a useful guideline: When your side has a 10-card fit, you are usually safe to compete to the 4-level. Either you’ll make 10 tricks, or find it is a good sacrifice against what the opponents can make. Similarly, if your side has a 9-card fit, competing to the 3-level is a sound idea—and with an 8-card fit, the 2-level is comfortable. All of this assumes you don’t have enough HCP for game or slam – in which case you wouldn’t even think about this “LAW.” You can learn more by searching for the topic on-line.
1) Raising 1 of a major to 4 of a major is a weak distributional bid.
2) It would be extremely rare for opener to bid again after getting raised from 1 of a major to 4 of a major.
3) Leading ace from ace-king is now the norm.
4) A good adage to remember: “When in doubt, bid 4 over the opponents’ 4”
5) The LAW of Total Tricks states that the total number of trumps on a deal is approximately equal to the total number of tricks.