Real Deal #14

Author: Larry Cohen
Date of publish: 07/06/2016
Level: Intermediate

Larry Cohen's article from Better Bridge Magazine - The Real Deal #14


Dir: South
♠ AQ8
♥ 83
♦ AK743
♣ J75
♠ K105
♥ 1076
♦ Q82
♣ Q864
  ♠ J743
♥ 942
♦ 5
♣ AK1032
  ♠ 962
♦ J1096
♣ 9

This Real Deal was dealt by Mary Aitken, founder of Verity, the Toronto Women’s Club.

South deals and should open the bidding with 1♠. Though the hand contains only 11 HCP, any modern hand evaluation method would classify it as an opening bid. The simplest rule for deciding whether or not to open the bidding is the “Rule of 20.” This says to open with a one-bid if the total of your HCP (11 in this case) and the length of your two longest suits (9--5 hearts + 4 diamonds) is 20. Only the soundest of players would pass with this hand—and I don’t consider that to be winning bridge.

After South’s one heart, North has an easy response of 2♠. No matter what the system, 2♠ is natural and shows at least 10 points. Using the modern “Two-Over-One Game Forcing” (which I highly recommend), the 2♠ response shows at least an opening bid. That means both players (opener and responder) hold an opening bid, and the partnership cannot stop bidding until at least game is reached. Let’s continue the auction on the assumption that the 2♠ bid was game-forcing.

What should South rebid? It is tempting to repeat that beautiful heart suit, but that would be an error. South has already promised five hearts (albeit it, they didn’t have to be so strong). On Opener’s second bid it is much more important to describe the shape than suit-strength. Repeating hearts should show a six-card suit. Rebidding in notrump shows a 5-3-3-2 hand. Bidding a new (second) suit shows four cards there. In this case, the standout bid is 3♠—supporting with support. Opener has now shown hearts along with diamond support—exactly what he has.

Responder now has a bit of a problem. He could just go to game in diamonds by bidding 5♠. But, what’s the hurry? Surely, North should be interested in a 3NT contract. Perhaps his partner has something like:

J2♠   ♠KJ972  ♠QJ62♠  ♠KQ.

Opposite such a hand, 3NT is the correct contract. How to get there? North should “bid where he lives.” After 1♠-2♠-3♠, he should bid 3♠. What is this 3♠ bid? Some might think it shows the ace, looking for a diamond slam. Some might think it shows a four-card suit. But, when you are below 3NT, such bids should be considered “looking for 3NT.” The 3♠ bid shows “something” in spades. Partner will bid 3NT if he has the missing suit (clubs) stopped. If partner doesn’t have clubs stopped, he will have to find some other bid.

After 1♠-2♠-3♠-3♠, opener surely isn’t considering 3NT (nothing close to a club stopper). He has to come up with another bid. This must be the time to repeat that beautiful heart suit. A bid of 4♠ now would suggest 4♠ as the final contract. Rule:  When in doubt, four-of-a previously-bid-major is a suggestion to play there. South suggests it, and North probably should accept the suggestion. He knows it is a 5-2 fit, but it is so much easier to take 10 tricks in the major than 11 in a five-of-a-minor. Furthermore, at matchpoint scoring, the major pays better.

So, our action is:  1♠-2♠-3♠-3♠-4♠-P.  I also have complete understanding and sympathy for reaching 5♠ with the North-South cards. That contract would likely make 11 tricks. Declarer would lose only the club ace, and likely a trump trick (laying down the ace-king is the percentage play). How about the play in 4♠?


West would likely lead the unbid suit—clubs.  4♠


East should win the king (with ace-king, third hand plays the cheapest of equals). Then what? East would be very tempted to shift to his singleton diamond. His hope would be that his partner could get in with a high heart (not today, as we can see), and issue a diamond ruff. If he does shift to his diamond, declarer will make the remaining 12 tricks for a great score. Declarer would put up the ♠J to trap the queen. He would then draw trumps, taking 5 hearts, 5 diamonds, and eventually the spade finesse for 2 more tricks.

East might choose not to shift to his singleton. He could try a “tapping” defense. He can continue clubs, forcing South to ruff. He can hope that declarer will have to lose a trick(s) in trumps and the defense can continue the club attack, maybe running declarer out of trumps. If East does continue clubs at trick two, declarer will ruff and draw trumps in three rounds. He will then turn his attention to diamonds. We can see that a finesse brings in the suit, but declarer won’t know this. He should follow the percentages (eight-ever, nine-never) and play for the drop. After the ace-king of diamonds, he gets the bad news. He has to now let the defense in with the DQ.  Then, West plays more clubs and declarer has to ruff with his last trump. He has 10 sure tricks (5 hearts, 4 diamonds and 1 spade). Along the way, declarer should unblcok his high diamonds from hand so that he doesn't get stuck with the 4th diamond in his hand. Late in the play, declarer can risk the spade finesse (which would win and get him to 11 tricks). However, if the spade finesse were to lose, he would go down; he is out of trumps and the defense would have good clubs to cash. I think declarer in 4♠, having reached the best spot, would be content with +620 (likely a decent score—it would beat all pairs in 5♠ making only 600).

A top board would go to the players who scored 680 (12 tricks) in hearts, and a very good board would go to those who made 650 (11 tricks in hearts).

Key Points:

1) In a 2/1 GF auction, the opener rebids naturally

2) New suit bids below 3NT should be considered as a probe for 3NT

3) Rebids of a previously bid major on the four level are a suggestion to play there

4) On defense, there will often be a decision as to whether to shift to a singleton and try to get a ruff, or to try to run declarer out of trumps