Hand of the Week #9

Today's hand is from the Tuesday 15 April club game. Your opponents are vulnerable, you are not; left-hand opponent is the dealer, and you pick up a hand you wish you got more often -- wow, a nice suit and 17 HCP:

S 8
H A K J T 2
D Q J 3
C A Q 8 5

The bidding starts 1D on your left, a preemptive 3S from your partner, and a pass on your right. What do you do?

The easy part first. This hand HAS to be played in some number of spades. Don't even think about 3NT or 4H. Your partner's preempt shows a hand which is worth a lot more if spades are trump than if anything else is. Your choice is how many spades you want to play.

Now for the hard part. How many tricks do you expect to your side to take, given the bidding so far? We can break this into two pieces -- how much do you expect from your partner, and where do you expect the missing face cards to be?

A classic equal-vulnerability preempt is a hand like SKQJTxxx Hx Dxxx Cxx: six winners in trump, and nothing else. Or perhaps partner will have a little bit less solid of a trump suit, but an extra potential winner outside of trump, like SAQ9xxxx Hx Dxxx CKx. At this vulnerability, however, partner should be preempting very agressively - he may well have only five winners rather than six for you.

What about the other suits? There is an opening bid on your left -- his 13 and your 17 makes 30 HCP, and partner rates to have at least six, maybe eight, for his preempt -- leaving virtually nothing on your right. If you have to take a heart or club finesse into opener, it is all but guaranteed to lose. Worse, unless partner has a singleton diamond, the defense may well start with DAK and a diamond ruff.

In short, your "17 HCP" is really only 3 sure tricks, the HAK and CA. It was fine to think of the DQJx as 3 points before the bidding started, but you have more information now, and know that your diamonds are likely worthless and your CQ and HJ are worth a bit less than face value.

A bit of thought tells you that you have almost no chance of making 4S, even if your partner has his full bid. PASS, and hope that partner can make even three.

The full hand:

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

Even the most clueless of defenders will take five easy tricks in diamonds and spades: 3S goes down. But correctly passing 3S was worth a top when the rest of the room was blinded by their point count and raised to 4: the recap sheet showed 3S-1 at my table, but 4S down 2 or 3 at all the other tables.

The Monday night lesson series for the next month is going to discuss hand evaluation topics: how kings and queens go up and down in value as you gain information in the bidding; how much singletons are worth; the losing trick count and the law of total tricks.

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This page last updated 18.06.08
©2008 Gordon Bower