Real Deal # 28

Author: Larry Cohen
Date of publish: 10/30/2020
Level: All Levels

Real Deal #28

Dealt by Sven-Olai Hoyland

♠ 3
♥ Q108743
♦ J1063
♣ K4
♠ KJ542
♥ KJ62
♦ K7
♣ Q9
  ♠ AQ10987
♥ A5
♦ 854
♣ 102
  ♠ 6
♥ 9
♦ AQ92
♣ AJ87653



  2♠  2♠  3♠ 
4♠  Pass   Pass 5♠ 
Pass   Pass Pass   

Should North start with a preempt? Sound players would require a better suit, but I’d guess that 90% of tournament players would indeed open 2♠. Why? Because of the vulnerability. When favorable (not vul against vul), good players tend to be very aggressive. Here, the 6-4 shape, along with the ♠10 (contrast this to Q-empty-sixth) would be enough reason for most players to start with a preempt.

Should East overcall? A 2-level overcall (especially vulnerable) shows a nice hand—pretty much opening-bid strength. East is worth 2♠ because he has a good 6-card suit and ace-queen-ace. East’s hand is a minimum for this action, but within range.
South is shown as bidding 3♠. Bids after partner preempts should be forcing (at least for one round). South isn’t sure if he has a good hand or not. Opposite something like ♠Kxx in clubs he would have a tremendous hand. But, opposite say a small singleton club and three low diamonds, he doesn’t have much at all. There is no real way to know.

West has a nice hand in support of spades. He could make a cue-bid of the opponent’s suit (either 3♠ or 4♠). Perhaps this would be a good idea, as it would show a good hand. Instead, I’ve shown a jump to four spades. More on this later.

When it comes around to South, the vulnerability really tempts him to sacrifice in 5♠. Maybe if he was going to bid 5♠ he should have bid it the first time. All of these bids involve a bit of guesswork as opposed to clear right/wrong decisions.

West doesn’t appear to have enough shape to go to the five level, and not enough tricks to double. When it comes around to East, he might double, but is shown as passing. Here is where West’s earlier action becomes more relevant. West’s actual jump to game could have been based on just lots of trump and good shape as opposed to high cards. Had West cue-bid earlier, East (with 2 aces) would now double 5♠.

The Play

West has no reason not to lead his partner’s suit. East takes the spade ace and ponders. Another spade would be disastrous. Declarer would throw his heart and ruff in dummy, making the contract! However, East has no reason to continue spades. He could switch to diamonds, but this would be wrong if declarer has, say: ♠x ♠xx ♠AKQ ♠AQJxxxx. Declarer would play 3 diamonds and then ace and a club to throw a heart. This construction isn’t too likely, so I think a diamond play is right, but most defenders like to grab aces, so let’s say East cashes the ♠A and continue hearts. Now what?

Declarer, from his point of view, is still alive. He will ruff the heart and then decide how to play the minors. Missing only 4 clubs to the queen, the percentages favor playing for the drop (as opposed to finessing). The saying goes: “8-ever, 9-never” – which means that with 8 cards in the suit, “ever” or “always” finesse. With 9 cards, “never” finesse. Also, if clubs were 3-1, the opponents might have done more bidding. So, declarer plans to play the top clubs. What about diamonds? There, he wants to lead the DJ from dummy for a finesse.

Which first and how? Drawing trumps first is best (why suffer a diamond ruff?). But the order is important. Declarer wants to cash the top clubs ending in dummy. If he just plays a low club to the king and then works on diamonds, he may suffer a ruff. Best is to play the ♠A then a club to the king. That suit behaves, and the ♠J comes next. Alas, that finesse fails, for down one. This would give a score of +50 to East-West.

East-West are entitled to 10 tricks if they play in spades (they have to lose ace-king-ace in the minors). They would have made 620 in 4♠, and the best they could have done was +100 (had they doubled 5C). Still, +50 is not a disaster, as some East-West pairs might go on to 5♠ down one with the East-West cards.

Readers of my previous columns should be aware of the LAW of Total Tricks. Notice that North-South have 9 trumps (clubs) and East-West have 11 trumps (spades). That adds up to 20 trumps. There are also 20 tricks (10 for each side).

Lesson Points
>Vulnerability is an important factor in deciding whether or not to preempt
>A vulnerable 2-level overcall shows opening bid strength
>Judging at the 5-level involves guesswork—there is often no right or wrong
>With 9 trumps missing the queen, the odds favor playing for the drop
>The LAW of Total Tricks is a guideline that says the Total Number of Trumps on a Deal is approximately equal to the Total Number of Tricks available.