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What Must Be
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In a quarter-final match in the Senior trials for USA2, you have to decide whether and with what to enter the auction.

Both vul, North deals. As East, you hold

East
KQ9864
1064
42
106
W
N
E
S
1
?

A 2 overcall would be defined as preemptive.

Your call?

East
KQ9864
1064
42
106
W
N
E
S
1
?

The big danger with overcalling 1 is the third opponent. Partner is going to play you for considerably more in high cards than you have, and may drive to a hopeless game.

2 runs some risk of going for a number. The flatness of your hand is a definite drawback. It means that if the opponents do choose to penalize you, all their aces and kings will cash. In addition, if your opponents get pushed to a thin game all the suits will behave for them. If they stumble and bid the wrong game, they will probably survive since everything is splitting. Otherwise, your hand is fine for a weak jump overcall. Partner will play you for something like this, and you do rob the opponents of bidding space.

Of course you could always just pass. However, it is usually right to speak when you have something to say. Your whole hand is spades.

You bid 2. The auction continues:

W
N
E
S
1
2
3
P
3
?

Your call?

East
KQ9864
1064
42
106
W
N
E
S
1
2
3
P
3
?

There is no reason to double. You have already bid your spade suit, and if partner winds up on lead he will know that and lead a spade unless he has something better to lead. All double would do is give the opponents more flexibility. In fact, the meaning of a double would be to tell partner that you don't want a spade lead.

You pass. The auction concludes:

W
N
E
S
1
2
3
P
3
P
3NT
P
P
P

Partner leads the jack of spades.

North
107
K853
A1063
AJ7
East
KQ9864
1064
42
106
W
N
E
S
1
2
3
P
3
P
3NT
P
P
P

What do you play?

North
107
K853
A1063
AJ7
East
KQ9864
1064
42
106
W
N
E
S
1
2
3
P
3
P
3NT
P
P
P

Whether it is right to continue spades or shift to something else, there can't be any value to leaving partner on lead. You have the spade spots to afford to overtake and continue the suit if you so choose. If it is better to shift to something, the shift will come better from your side.

It is correct to overtake with the queen. With equal honors, third hand plays the lowest of the honors if playinng an honor. Playing the king would deny the queen.

You overtake with the queen of spades. Declarer plays the 2. What do you lead at trick 2?

North
10
K853
A1063
AJ7
East
K9864
1064
42
106
W
N
E
S
1
2
3
P
3
P
3NT
P
P
P

There is no future in spades as far as developing tricks go. Partner has at most a doubleton spade, since if partner had Jxx he would have led a small spade. Declarer knows you have 6 spades, so he will win the second round of spades. Continuing spades is safe, but it won't set up anything.

One advantage of continuing spades is that declarer will not be able to afford to let you in. This means that if he has any choice he will finesse through you for safety. This is fine with you, since you don't have anything.

Still, going passive isn't likely to defeat this contract. Dummy has a good fit for declarer's clubs, and declarer is likely to have 9 tricks if you give him time.

Dummy's diamonds are strong, and if partner has KQJ9 of diamonds he probably would have led a diamond. The heart suit has more promise. Partner could easily have 4 hearts, and if his hearts are strong a heart shift might develop 3 heart tricks.

If you do shift to a heart, you must lead small. It may be important to retain your 10 for a later entry. Also, you might not be able to afford the 10. If declarer has something like Jx, giving partner AQ9x, then leading the 10 will promote dummy's 8 for the fourth round of hearts.

You shift to the 4. Declarer plays the 2, partner the jack, and dummy wins the king. Declarer cashes the ace and jack of clubs, and leads a club to his king. You can easily afford to discard a spade. Partner follows to the third round of clubs. When declarer now plays the queen of clubs, partner discards the 5. What is your discarding plan?

North
10
853
A1063
East
K986
106
42
W
N
E
S
1
2
3
P
3
P
3NT
P
P
P

Unless you know for certain that the contract can't be defeated, it is correct to assume that the cards are such that the contract can be defeated. You can count 5 club tricks, 1 spade trick, 1 heart trick, and 1 diamond trick off the top for declarer. Therefore;

Partner holds the ace of hearts. Otherwise, the hand is cold.

Partner holds the king of diamonds. Otherwise, that is declarer's ninth trick.

Partner holds either the queen of jack of diamonds. Otherwise, declarer has a winning finesse for his ninth trick.

A typical hand for declarer might be Axx xx Qxx KQxxx. Your plan is to get in with your 10 of hearts and put a diamond through, with the defense taking 1 spade, 3 hearts, and 1 diamond.

Clearly you must hold both of your hearts, particularly if declarer has the queen. In addition, you must hold at least one diamond. There is no value in keeping more than 2 spades. Assuming you are defeating the contract, if declarer lets you score a second spade trick, that will be the setting trick. You might as well discard 2 more spades and hold both of your diamonds.

You discard 2 more spades. It doesn't matter. Partner has the hoped-for heart holding, but declarer has the king of diamonds and 9 top tricks. The full hand is:

West
J
AQJ7
QJ975
983
North
107
K853
A1063
AJ7
East
KQ9864
1064
42
106
South
A532
92
K8
KQ542
W
N
E
S
1
2
3
P
3
P
3NT
P
P
P
D
3NT South
NS: 0 EW: 0
J
7
Q
2
2
0
1
4
2
J
K
1
1
1
A
10
2
3
1
2
1
J
6
4
9
1
3
1
7
4
K
8
3
4
1
Q
5
3
9
3
5
1
5
7
5
6
3
6
1
K
9
3
2
3
7
1
8

How was West's defense?

West
J
AQJ7
QJ975
983
North
107
K853
A1063
AJ7
East
KQ9864
1064
42
106
South
A532
92
K8
KQ542
W
N
E
S
1
2
3
P
3
P
3NT
P
P
P
D
3NT South
NS: 0 EW: 0
J
7
Q
2
2
0
1
4
2
J
K
1
1
1
A
10
2
3
1
2
1
J
6
4
9
1
3
1
7
4
K
8
3
4
1
Q
5
3
9
3
5
1
5
7
5
6
3
6
1
K
9
3
2
3
7
1
8

West's only 5-card suit was bid on his left. While the spade lead probably won't set the contract outright, it is pretty safe and may develop a trick or two. It looks best.

West's play of the jack of hearts is correct. There is no need to win the ace now. Playing the jack retains communication with partner. If West had played the ace, declarer could duck the second round of hearts, and West would have been caught in a red-suit squeeze for an overtrick.

How was the N-S auction?

West
J
AQJ7
QJ975
983
North
107
K853
A1063
AJ7
East
KQ9864
1064
42
106
South
A532
92
K8
KQ542
W
N
E
S
1
2
3
P
3
P
3NT
P
P
P
D
3NT South
NS: 0 EW: 0
J
7
Q
2
2
0
1
4
2
J
K
1
1
1
A
10
2
3
1
2
1
J
6
4
9
1
3
1
7
4
K
8
3
4
1
Q
5
3
9
3
5
1
5
7
5
6
3
6
1
K
9
3
2
3
7
1
8

It looks fine. South has a game drive opposite an opening bid, and bidding the club suit is vital since there might be a club slam. North has club support but is balanced, so North wants to keep 3NT in the picture. His 3 call does not show extra strength, and is not a cue-bid in support of clubs. It is simply a probe for the best game at this point. Unless a known 8-card major-suit fit exists, there are no slam tries below 3NT. Searching for the best game has priority.

At the other table, East didn't overcall, and 3NT by North was reached after South responded 1. East knew there was no future in the spade suit, so he tried the 10 lead hoping to hit a 5-card suit. He found that 5-card suit, but unfortunately in dummy's hand rather than in his partner's hand. Declarer led up to the king of hearts for his ninth trick.

Defending becomes simple when you can see that, off the top, declarer has one trick less than he needs to make his contract. You assume what must be to defeat the contract, placing the necessary cards in partner's hand. If he doesn't have them, you were never defeating the contract.

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