Real Deal #30

Author: Larry Cohen
Date of publish: 05/16/2021
Level: General Interest

This Real Deal was dealt by …Jordan MacDonald {originally published in Better Bridge Magazine}

Dlr: North
♠ 5432
♥ K763
♦ K2
♣ K105
♠ AKJ108
♥ Q109
♦ A3
♣ 876
  ♠ Q976
♥ 4
♦ Q87
♣ J9432
  ♠ --
♥ AJ852
♦ J109654
♣ AQ


I am often asked how to open 6-5 hands. Unfortunately, there is no “one size fits all” answer.  Generally, I try to bid the 6-card suit first. But when the 6-card suit is a minor and the 5-card suit is a major it is a little more complex. If the 5-card major is spades, it is usually advisable to open in the minor. It will then be convenient to bid spades (the boss suit) twice. But when the 5-card major is hearts, things are tougher. Opening in a minor and attempting to bid hearts next brings us into the ugly area of reverses. For example, if South opens 1♠ and then later has to bid 2♠ (on some different layout), that is a reverse showing a big hand (roughly 17+). For that reason, with 5 hearts and 6 in a minor, I recommend opening 1♠ (unless the hand is of reversing strength).

Phew! What a way to start. If you’re still with me, let’s assume the auction starts with two passes and South chooses to open 1♠.  West has a good 1♠ overcall. North should raise hearts, but to two or more? With nice 4-card support, and a ruffing value, I think North’s hand is too strong for only 2♠. Having three kings is a much better 9 HCP than some scattered queens and jacks. Especially here, with an overcall made in front of the kings, the North hand is worth upgrading to limit-raise strength. In the modern world, many players use the jump raise (3♠) in competition as preemptive. How would you show a limit raise or better? With the 2♠ bid shown in the auction. (If this is beyond you and your partner’s desired complexity level, you can use 3♠ as a limit raise after the overcall).

East should raise spades and is shown as making a tactical jump to 4♠. Taking advantage of the favorable vulnerability, East assumes his opponents are likely to bid and make 4♠ for 620. If 4♠ is doubled and down less than four tricks it is a profitable sacrifice. Bidding it right away (instead of later) puts maximum pressure on the opponents. A good adage is “bid 4♠ over 4♠.” True, North-South haven’t bid 4♠ yet, but are very likely to do so. I wouldn’t advise this bid if the vulnerability were reversed (vulnerable against not).

South has exceptional distribution. With a spade void, he should take the push to the 5-level. General advice: When void in the opponent’s suit, bid more. What 5-level call should South make? Would 5♠ or 5♠ be a control-bid looking for slam? Probably that is how partner would interpret such a bid. Is South worth it? Not clear. He is minimum in HCP, but that spade void is almost like holding the ♠A. Anyway, let’s say South contents himself with 5♠ as shown. Nobody has anything further to say (usually, once you push your opponents to the 5 level, you shouldn’t bid again). West could consider a penalty double, but maybe his side is already ahead of the game by pushing the opponents to the five level.


   Pass  Pass 1♠ 
1♠  2♠  4♠  5♠
 Pass Pass  Pass   


West has no reason to lead anything but a high spade. Declarer ruffs and has to decide if he should draw trumps first or work on diamonds right away. This is a tough/close decision.   Let’s say declarer does play two high trumps (ending in hand). When it comes time to work on diamonds, declarer will lead diamonds from his hand He will have to guess who has the ace and who has the queen.

The opening leader looks to have some top spades, but it isn’t clear which ones.  On this auction (with East-West vigorously biding to 4♠), West might easily lay down the ♠A without the king (in cashout mode).  So, declarer cannot infer that West has both the ace-king in spades. He is trying to place/locate the HCP in preparation to playing the diamonds. The winning guess is to lead from hand and put up dummy’s ♠K (as opposed to running the ♠J).  Had the ♠A and ♠Q been the reverse of what is shown, then running the ♠J would be the winning decision. If diamonds are guessed correctly, the rest is easy. Declarer loses one high diamond, but ruffs the 3rd round of diamonds in dummy. He has plenty of transportation back and forth.

After the diamonds are set up, South’s hand is good. He loses only a trump trick and a diamond for +650. It turns out, that East-West would do slightly better by sacrificing again in 5♠—which can be doubled and defeated 3 tricks for 500.


Lesson Points:

1) With 5 spades and 6 of a minor, tend to open in the minor. With 5 hearts and 6 in the minor, open 1♠ unless good enough to reverse.

2) Four-card trump support along with kings behind an overcaller is worth an upgrade.

3) Especially at favorable vulnerability, be willing to quickly bid 4♠ when the opponents seem headed to 4♠.

4) Voids in the opponent’s suit argue strongly towards bidding on.

5) Once you push the opponents to 5, tend not to bid again (though it would have worked on this deal).