Author: Larry Cohen
Date of publish: 10/01/2008
Level: Intermediate to Advanced

Eric Rodwell, Steve Weinstein, Jeff Meckstroth, LC, Bob Hampton, Dave Berkowitz

For my team, it was a very successful week in Chattanooga, Tennessee. We won the Monday/Tuesday knockout, then the Wednesday/Thursday knockout and topped off an undefeated week by winning the Friday/Saturday knockout. Of course, it didn't hurt that the best pair in the world (you figure it out) was on our team (see photo).

?Q 4 3
?A 7 6
?8 5 4
?A Q 6 2

Early in the week, I faced this impossible yet simple bidding problem:

With both sides vulnerable, LHO opened 1?, partner doubled and RHO passed. What is your pleasure?

A simple invitational bid of 3? is possible, but it has two strikes: 1) you are a bit heavy, and 2), partner might not be thrilled about clubs (I've even seen takeout doubles of 1? with 4?4 in the majors and only a doubleton club).

Another possible choice is a cue?bid of 2?. If you ever plan to make such a bid, you need agreements. What kind of a hand does it show? Is it game forcing? How high is it forcing? If you bid 2? and partner bids, say 2?, what next?

I came up with a third choice. I bid 2NT. Yes, I see that my diamonds are headed by the eight. However, in all other aspects, the bid fit my hand. I was balanced and had the right strength for this invitational bid. Maybe partner would provide some diamond help. Even opposite two little diamonds, I might do fine in notrump if the suit was 4?4. Furthermore, LHO might think I have diamonds stopped and avoid leading the suit from say, ?AQJxx.

My 2NT was raised by partner to 3NT. All was well as partner had a balanced 14?count with diamond help—and we made 600. I'll never know whether my bid was lucky or good.

It does, however, remind me of a famous story told by Eddie Kantar. In a similar situation he bid 2NT with a diamond stopper of only ?Jxx (again, the opponents' suit). A diamond was led. Eddie's partner, Marshall Miles, tabled the dummy and walked away from the table (a kibitzer turned the dummy). Unfortunately, Marshall's dummy had only two low diamonds and the opponents ran the suit for down one. When Marshall returned to the table and asked, "how'd you do," Kantar replied: "I went down—I misguessed the diamond queen." Marshall asked "did you play opener for it?" Eddie replied: "No, I played you for it!"

Moving on, here is a deal from the morning knockout. In this 4?handed event (which we also won), our teammates were Joyce Hampton and 2005 Blue?Ribbon pairs winner, Jenny Wolpert. Watch her in action as South on this deal:

Vul: North-South
Dlr: North
?K Q 10 2
?Q 10 2
?K Q 7 6 5
?J 10 3
?J 9 7 5 4
?8 7
?A J 10
  ?8 7
?8 6
?A K J 9 6 5
?8 3 2
  ?A K Q 9 6 4 2
?A 3
?4 3
?9 4

If North plays 3NT, East can defeat that contract by guessing to reach partner in clubs to get a diamond through the queen (down 3).

At both tables, after North opened 1?, East preempted in diamonds and South landed in 4?.

At my table, a diamond was led to the ten and jack. As East, I didn't find the ironclad winning defense. I cashed a second diamond and played a third round. Declarer ruffed with the ?9, but failed when West overruffed and cashed the ?A for down 1. What is the real winning defense? We'll get back to that in a moment.

At the other table, Jenny also received a diamond lead and three rounds of the suit. She ruffed the third diamond high (setting up a trump trick for West). She cashed the top two spades and then set about getting rid of her club loser. She needed four heart tricks. Playing with the odds (and based on East's known diamond length), she cashed the ?A, finessed to the ?10, and took the ?K and ?Q, throwing away the clubs, plus 620.

Well done, Jenny—but there was a winning defense. East has to win the diamond lead and shift at trick two to a club. West takes his club trick and then goes back to diamonds to get his trump promotion. How does the defense know? There is no easy way for East to play for this layout, but even if he does, how does West know that the club shift is not from a singleton? Maybe West would win the ?A and try to issue a club ruff. The way for East to prevent that path is to cleverly win trick one with the ?K! Now when a club goes to the ace, West "knows" that declarer has another diamond (presumably the jack). West would revert to diamonds to get his sure trump promotion. Sometimes, bridge can be tough (but sensational).

Speaking of sensational, here is a deal where a double?void led to an amusing result:

Vul: East-West
Dlr: East
?K 4 2
?A 9 8 6 4 3
?5 4 2
?8 3
?K Q J 10 7 5 2
?5 4 2
  ?8 7
?A 10 6 3
?K 10 9 8 7 6 3
  ?A Q J 10 6 5
?K Q J 8 7
?A Q

At one table, East passed as dealer. South opened 2?, West bid hearts, and South declared 6?. West led her singleton diamond, East won the ace, and issued a ruff for down one.

At my table, the auction was more exciting. East dealt and opened 3?. What should I do with the South hand?

A popular treatment is to use a jump to 4? (called Roman Jump Overcalls) as diamonds a major. This bid is forcing to game. For a full description, click here.

I decided this was as good a call as any. West passed (he knew what my major was) and North bid 4?, pass/correct (he also knew what my major was)! Normally, I would correct to 4?, but this hand was so good that I control?bid 5? to show my massive strength. Opposite either the ?K or ?A, I wanted to be in slam. Partner would know those were good cards, and indeed he cooperated. Eventually, we reached 6? by South. East made a Lightner Double. This would normally be a good idea. He would steer partner away from the normal club lead, and alert partner to the possibility of a ruff. East counted on a heart ruff and the ?A. West duly led a heart, but East was sorely disappointed when he got overruffed at trick one. I drew trump and lost only the ?A to make 1210 for a 15?Imp gain. It was that kind of week.