Hand of the Week #33

Today we feature a deal from the Friday 05 December game on which every pair in the room landed in the wrong contract:

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

The most common contract was 3NT by North, after an auction like 2C - Pass - 2D - Pass - 3NT (25-27). Even if East's opening lead is a heart, North is going to need some spectacularly good luck to find nine tricks. There are no entries to the South hand to take any finesses or to cash any spades if they can be established. It is far harder to make 3NT with 26 HCP when the points are split 25 and 1 than when they are 16 and 10.

Blame for getting stuck in 3NT on this hand, however, lies squarely with South. With a weak hand and a 6-card major, you do not leave your partner in notrump! If North had opened 1NT, it would be obvious for South to sign off in 2S (via a 2H Jacoby transfer for most duplicate players, or with a drop-dead response of 2S playing old-fashioned Goren style bidding.) The same logic applies over 2NT and 3NT as over 1NT: the weaker your hand is, the more important it is you take your partner out of notrump and into your long major, where your hand will take tricks. On this week's deal, 4S cannot be beaten, and will often make five on a better spade break.

You do have to make sure that you and your partner know what your system is after 2NT and 3NT bids, however. My recommendation is that you play Stayman and Jacoby over 2NT and 2C - 2D - 2NT, and Gerber and Texas over 2C - 2D - 3NT. But if you haven't discussed it... you might find yourself playing 4H in your 3-2 fit after your partner passes your transfer bid, like I did.

East might also have chosen to preempt over the 2C opening. Today, that will just help steer N-S into 4S, but it's the right action in the long run, to take away space for N-S to explore for a possible slam.

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This page last updated 15.12.08
©2008 Gordon Bower