Hand of the Week, Vol. 3 No. 2

This exciting deal from the Friday 22 January game posed challenges in the bidding, the play, and the defense.

Dealer South
None vul
S J 9 8 7
H K Q T 9 7
D 7 3 2
C 7
S 2
H 8 2
D A K Q J 9 8 6
C A J 4
[table marker] S A Q 6 5
H 5 4
D T 4
C Q T 9 8 2
S K T 4 3
H A J 6 3
D 5
C K 6 5 3

1) Should South open?

This is a matter of style. My preference is to open 1C hoping to raise partner's major-suit response. If I pass and partner opens 1H or 1S, I may have trouble convincing him I have such good support. It isn't wrong to play a more conservative style if your partner prefers it.

2) How many diamonds should West bid?

If South passes, West has a hard hand to describe: eight solid tricks if diamonds are trump. With too many high cards to preempt, opening 1D and following with a jump to 4D or 5D is reasonable. It's much too good of a hand to simply rebid 2D.

If South opens 1C, I think an immediate jump to 5D is a standout despite having two aces which is usually a no-no for preempts. Cutting North-South off from finding a major suit fit is too important for you to risk going slow and starting with 1D.

One way or another, West is almost surely going to be declarer in 5D.

3) What is North's opening lead?

Did you automatically lead your singleton club? If South opened 1C, that's defensible. You are hoping the first two tricks are the CA and a club ruff, and then you can switch to the HK. Do be aware that you're putting all your eggs in one basket if you lead the club; partner will only have that ace about half the time. At least consider your heart sequence as an alternative.

If South did not open 1C, the HK opening lead should be clear. The time to lead a singleton is when you have a good expectation that partner can give you the ruff before declarer can get in and pull the trump - preferably with another entry to give you a second ruff. Singleton leads are risky.

4) The rest of the play and defense

Declarer's plan is simple: draw trumps, then take the club finesse. There is one thing that can spoil this plan for him -- North switching to a spade after cashing his heart winners. This makes declarer use his only sure entry to the dummy before he is ready. The best declarer can do now is to pull two rounds of trump with the ace and ten and then try the club finesse with one trump still out. As the cards lie, perfect defense beats 5D.

South has one key play to make too: not wasting his king of clubs! With the Q-T-9-8 visible in dummy, it should be obvious to south that he'll never win a club trick; the best he can do is hang onto his king to block the suit. "Cover an honour with an honour" is a good rule of thumb, but the reason to cover is to set up intermediate cards in the suit. If your side doesn't have any intermediates to set up, don't help your opponent. When this hand was played at the club, three Wests were allowed to take all 13 tricks -- which can only happen if North leads a club and South wastes his king.

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This page last updated 26.01.10
©2009 Gordon Bower