A Mature Decision


Author: Larry Cohen
Date of publish: 01/27/2015
Level: Intermediate

This deal comes from my archives, back in my playing days. In a national pair game, dealer both vulnerable, I held this hand:

 

 ?5
?QJ42
?AK10
?J10765
I like to open aggressively, and I would consider most 5-4-3-1 hands with 11 HCP to be worth opening. However, I think the mature decision is to pass with this hand. Why? If you open 1? and partner responds 1? (the most likely call, given your spade shortness), what will you do next? Rebid 1NT with a singleton? Repeat those lousy clubs? Surely, you don't have the strength for a reverse. When faced with a marginal opening bid, consider the potential rebid problems and act accordingly. Let's say you pass (as I did). LHO opens 1? and partner overcalls 1?, passed by RHO. That's an unexpected turn of events.

 

Facing a vulnerable 1?, you have a powerful hand. I wouldn't stop short of game, and you might as well make the best descriptive call available. Assuming you use Splinter Bids (even opposite overcalls), you can bid 3?. Especially as a passed hand, you can't possibly have long spades--partner will be able to figure this out. In fact, he launches into RKC (hopefully in hearts!) and after your reply, he bids 6?. Let's hop over to his seat and manage the play on the ?9 lead:

 

?5
?QJ42
?AK10
?J10765
 
?J87
?AK10875
?J64
?A

Considering you were a passed hand partner was optimistic to bid a slam, but your splinter bid really turned him on. After the ?9, you should play dummy's ?10. Unless East is looking at all 6 missing clubs, there is no way he can know not to cover. Once it goes 9-10-Q-A, you have a strong remaining position in the club suit.

 

Should you draw trump? There is no rush. A 3-0 break could prove awkward in handling. Best it to give up a spade at trick 2. East wins and returns a trump. You win in dummy (all following) and advance the ?J. East has to cover and you ruff (LHO following small). The only high club out is the ?8. You can draw the other trump ending in dummy and play the ?7. RHO plays low (smoothly). Should you let it ride?  

 

There is no reason to take this risk. If LHO led the ?9 from ?983, you will needlessly go down. It can't hurt to ruff. Even if LHO shows out, you are fine. You now have a marked ruffing finesse for the ?8. Go back to dummy (spade ruff) and play the ?6. If East covers, your ?5 is good for a diamond discard. If not, you let it run (by now, West will be out of clubs). You end up ruffing 2 spades in dummy, and throwing a diamond (not ever needing a diamond finesse) on a club.

 

This was the Real Deal:

 

Vul: Both
Dir:North
?5
?QJ42
?AK10
?J10765
 
?Q10943
?93
?9853
?93
  ?AK62
?6
?Q72
?KQ842
  ?J87
?AK10875
?J64
?A
 

Once East covered the club (how could he not), you were well on your way to setting up a club. Actually, no matter how the defense handles the clubs, declarer can always manage to set up a club via multiple ruffing finesses.