Hand of the Week #26

Today's deal comes from the Tuesday 26 August game, and contains two valuable lessons: one about competitive bidding judgment and one basic card combination that beginners frequently misplay. Vulnerable against not, you deal yourself a less than spectacular hand:

S 9 8
H Q 9 7 5 3 2
D T 4
C Q 4 2

A timid player might pass throughout the whole auction. But your opinion of your hand needs to be adjusted according to how the auction develops. Here is how the bidding went at my table:


Normally with 4HCP it is right to pass. Your hand is a lot better than an average 4HCP hand, however: you have a 6-card suit, and you have a queen in your partner's suit, much more likely to be valuable than a queen in a random side suit. You are happy to stop at 2H if you can, of course. When the opponents reopen, you shouldn't be shy about competing to 3H. Your extra length in hearts beyond what your 1H bid promised -- cards which will take tricks if hearts are trump but be worthless if anything else is trump -- are the deciding factor in whether you compete, not whether you are at the top or bottom of your high-card range.

Dealer West
EW vul
S K J 6 4 3
D 9 6 3
C J 9 7 6
S 9 8
H Q 9 7 5 3 2
D T 4
C Q 4 2
[table marker] S A 5 2
H K J T 4
D K 7 2
C A 5 3
S Q T 7
H 8 6
D A Q J 8 5
C K T 8

Looking at the whole deal, North-South also showed fine competitive judgment. After South's 1D overcall (promising a 5-card suit, unlike a 1D opening bid), North's first priority is to support his partner. Then, on the next round, North doesn't want to sell out to 2H with a singleton, and sensibly bids 2S rather than 3D, to give a choice of contracts and show where his values are. South is happy to play 2S.

Declarer is doomed to lose one spade, one heart, two diamonds, and either one or two clubs. Going down one in 3H, scoring -100 instead of -140 defending spades, is an excellent matchpoint result, while going down two for -200 will be a bottom. E-W need to take their best chance to go down just one.

Unless the defenders give declarer a present, West's only chance is to finesse in clubs. Remember that a finesse is leading toward an almost-high card in hopes that it will win. Win the CA and lead small toward the CQ Leading the CQ when you don't also hold the CJ is an expensive mistake, undoing all the benefits of three rounds of good bidding in an instant. But that's exactly what my opponent did, and I see someone misplay this card combination almost every week.

Incidentally, if E-W had been playing a 15-17 notrump instead of 16-18, East's 1NT bid would likely have shut N-S out of the bidding entirely, and allowed E-W to play a makeable 2H contract.

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This page last updated 15.09.08
©2008 Gordon Bower