Real Deal #35 (From Audrey Grant Magazine)

Author: Larry Cohen
Date of publish: 05/02/2022
Level: General Interest

Dlr: None
♠ 5
♥ A7
♦ 9864
♣ AQ8765
♠ K732
♥ J1052
♦ 5
♣ K1092
  ♠ AQ109
♥ Q964
♦ J1073
♣ 4
  ♠ J864
♥ K83
♦ AKQ2
♣ J3
  West    North    East    South  
   1♠ Pass   1♠
 Pass 2♠  Pass   3NT
All Pass       

This Real deal was dealt by Gail June Edwards.



The Light Opening


North has only 10 HCP, but should open the bidding. A good 6-card suit (2 top honors) is worth at least a few extra points. Hands with quick tricks (ace and ace-queen) are also better than their point value. There is no exact way to count the value of a hand, but including distribution, most good players would equate North’s values to about 13-14 points. When in doubt about opening the bidding, the Rule of 20 is a decent guideline: Add your HCP (10) to the length of your two longest suits (6+4=10) and if it adds up to 20, you have an opening bid.


Up the Line?


After a 1♠ opening, should East make a takeout double? With a perfect 4-4-4 in the unbid suits, it is possible. Normally, a takeout doubler will have opening bid values, so this is just a bit short. Should responder (South) show a diamond suit or bypass the diamonds and respond in a 4-card major? The modern way is as follows: With less than opening bid values (where responder might be able to bid only one time), bypass the diamonds and show the major right away. However, if the responder (as here) has opening bid values, he can show the diamonds now and worry about finding the major later (because there will be a later). Here, with such good diamonds, I am content to bid the suit as shown. If the spades were AKQ2 and the diamonds only J864, then my judgment would say to ignore a so-so diamond suit and respond in spades. So, again, there is no one exact “correct” way.


The Rest of the Auction:


North could repeat the 6-card club suit, but it is more accurate to raise partner with 4-card support. That way the opener is showing 5+ clubs and 4 diamonds (with 4-4 he would likely have opened 1♠). When you can show 9 or more of your cards (2♠), that is better than showing only 6 of your cards (2♠). This is not a “reverse” since you are just raising partner. Opener’s non-jump rebid shows a minimum hand, so responder can give up on the possibility of slam. Still, with 14 HCP, he must insist on game. With everything stopped (at least he thinks so) and a balanced hand, 3NT is a standout call.


The Lead:


West has a tough choice. He shouldn’t lead a club, a suit dummy is sure to have. Which major should he lead? The spades are headed by a high honor (the king), but the hearts have two “honors” the jack and ten. If a heart is led, the correct lead is the two (fourth-best). Lead the jack only from a suit headed by J109 or J108 (3 in a row or almost 3 in a row). I asked some few fellow-experts what they would lead, and it was a toss-up!  Three votes for each major.


The Play:

On a low spade lead, the defense would collect the first four tricks in spades. Then, they would likely shift to hearts and declarer would work on clubs. On an opening heart lead, declarer should win in hand and work on clubs. The best play in clubs is to lead the ♠J from South’s hand. It is almost impossible to play the suit for no losers (109 doubleton in East’s hand is the needed miracle). The practical idea is to try to lose only one club trick. Leading the jack will be costly if LHO has a singleton king, but otherwise should work best. West would cover with the king and dummy’s ace wins the trick. Best is for declarer to cross to his hand in diamonds and lead another club. When LHO follows, he can insert a low club from dummy, guarding against the actual 4-1 break. Even if the low card loses, that will be the last loser in the suit, now ready to run (with the HA still in dummy as an entry).

So, if spades were led at trick one, declarer can work on clubs as described above for down only one (losing 4 spades and a club). But, if hearts are led, and declarer plays as shown, the defense will need to find the spade shift when West wins his eventual club trick. Furthermore, if East throws a spade on any of the clubs, the defense will no longer be able to collect all 4 spade tricks.

The most likely result on this deal is 3NT by South, down one. Because of the spade weakness, a much better contract than 3NT would be 5 of either minor. With the bad splits, no game contract can legitimately be made on this deal.


Lesson Points:

1) Try to open distributional hands even if you don’t have 12 HCP. Use the Rule of 20.

2) When responding to 1♠, bypass diamonds unless you have opening-bid strength.

3) On lead against notrump, with a choice between Kxxx or J10xx either suit is acceptable.

4) When leading from J10xx, lead low, not the jack.