Real Deal #13

Author: Larry Cohen
Date of publish: 11/21/2015
Level: Beginner to Intermediate

Larry Cohen's article from Better Bridge Magazine - The Real Deal #13

This Real Deal was dealt by Canadians Roisin and Paul O’Hara, bronze medalists in the recent World Wide Bridge Contest.

♠ A9762
♥ Q9
♦ KQ2
♣ AK2
♠ QJ1085
♥ K7
♦ 753
♣ QJ9
  ♠ K3
♥ J63
♦ A1096
♣ 10853
  ♠ 4
♥ A108542
♦ J84
♣ 764

Should South open 2♠? I’m not a stickler about needing two of the top three or three of the top five honors for a weak two-bid. More important to me is the vulnerability.

If South were at favorable vulnerability—not vulnerable against vulnerable opponents—I’d consider it a reasonable action to preempt with 2♠. At the actual unfavorable vulnerability—vulnerable against non-vulnerable opponents—it would not occur to me to open my mouth. Only the most wild and aggressive preemptors would open 2♠ with this hand.

After South sensibly passes, West passes, and North opens 1♠. North is too strong for 1NT, but not strong enough for 2NT.

East passes, and South is back in the spotlight. What should South do?

With only 5 highcard points it is tempting to pass, but somehow it doesn’t feel right to table this dummy in 1♠. Can South bid the hearts now? No. Even by a passed hand, a two-over-one response still shows “something.”

The something would be about 10–11 points, maybe a very nice 9. With more, South would have opened the bidding.

Without enough strength to respond 2♠, South’s only other choice is 1NT. This says nothing about “notrump”— it doesn’t promise stoppers or a balanced hand. It just says: “I have enough to respond, but not enough to go to the two level in a new suit.”

What should North do after South responds 1NT?

North should say 2NT. A rebid of 2NT after any one-level response shows a balanced hand with 18–19 points. Newer players don’t realize that 2NT here is the correct bid; they tend to bid 3NT with this type of hand. After 2NT, South should finally show the hearts. South doesn’t want to play in notrump. It is a question now of 3♠ or 4♠. (Note: There are several fancy conventions available after opener’s 2NT rebid, but I recommend them only for very experienced players.)

I think South is worth 3½ hearts. That’s not legal you say? One way to count points is to add 1 point for a five-card suit and 2 for a six-card suit. Would I do so here? When partner has shown a balanced hand—via 2NT in this case—it is indeed sensible to make that adjustment. You know your long suit is not opposite a singleton or void. Given that partner has some hearts opposite you, let’s say you upgrade and go to 4♠. Now, how do you play it?


West might lead from the spade sequence, but that is dummy’s suit. Let’s say that instead West leads the ♠Q.


In a suit contract, declarer assesses the losers. After this club attack, it looks like a club will be lost. The ♠A is missing, and at least one trump trick will be lost. The key will be to hold it to only one trump loser. Declarer wins the first trick with one of dummy’s high clubs. At trick two, should South draw trump? Sure. Why mess around?

Declarer needs to pick up trumps for only one loser. Put another way, South hopes for five heart tricks, two clubs, two diamonds, and a spade. What is the best way to play the hearts?

As good a plan as any is to take two finesses. Lead dummy’s ♠Q. If it is covered with the ♠K, all your problems are solved. You can win the ♠A and then drive out the ♠J. If the ♠K isn’t covered—as on the actual deal—you let it run.

The ♠Q loses to the ♠K, but there is no reason to panic. Whatever West does, you will get to dummy to play the ♠9. Finesse again. This time the finesse wins, and thankfully the suit divides 3–2. You can overtake the ♠9 with the ♠10, and then lay down the ♠A to draw the last trump.

As planned, you lose only one heart, one diamond, and one club to score your vulnerable game—a very good result.