Ted's Bridge World Dante's Infernal

Holiday Hi-Jinks

You have paid your entry fees for the two-session Open Pairs Championship at the Citrus Heights Sectional.  Midway through the morning session you pick up a particularly fine holding on Board #6, as North in fourth position with the opponents vulnerable.  Soon you find yourself caught up in a particularly unusual auction against competent opponents:

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What is your opening lead, and why?  (details below)

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A week later you find yourself declaring a doubled slam at the Saturday afternoon club game:

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Opening Lead: D6

Winning the opening lead in dummy, you cash the ace of spades, upon which west discards a heart.  Plan the play; then read the solution below.

Answers

Against 5 Doubled, you must consider how your side might win as many as three tricks, by visualizing your left-hand opponent's hand.  Since your side had passed out the deal in 3, he clearly was bidding to make!  Not only that, but he seems to have made a slam try!  Passed hand or not, there is only one holding that conceivably qualifies for these actions.  East must be 7-6 in the red suits, and he was hoping to elicit a 5 cue bid from partner over 4, in which case he intended to bid a slam!

That being the case, your only possible tricks might be the ace and king of diamonds, plus a trump trick.  The full deal:

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At my table, the opening lead of a trump was ineffective, and the contract was fulfilled.  West's bidding indicated that he held at least three hearts; otherwise, he would not have taken two preferences in the higher-ranking suit.  Therefore, he always should be able either to ruff a diamond or set up that suit with just two losers.  The better chance of playing three rounds of diamonds immediately would have enabled south to score her trump queen for the setting trick.

In retrospect, east could have done better, by bidding 4NT over north's 4, then converting partner's 5 response to 5.  This would have shown that the diamonds were longer than the hearts, enabling west to pass that bid and play in the unbeatable contract!  As east had indicated that he could support a 5-level contract with no help from partner, west would be justified in bidding one level higher with any diamond honor he might hold.

In the final analysis, the "par" result was for north-south to sacrifice in 6 Doubled, down one for -200 points.  It is not surprising that that result did not accrue at any table.

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Despite the 5-0 trump split, with reasonable care you can make this contract!  As a diamond loser is unavoidable, you must not also lose a trump trick.

So concluding, you continue with a low heart from dummy to the king, then three rounds of clubs.  Had west followed every time, you would have had no choice but to find east with two hearts, although that holding is unlikely in light of the high-level vulnerable preempt.  But when west shows out on the third club, your contract becomes a sure thing.

You play off the fourth club, discarding dummy's A!  After that, it is a simple matter to lead the king and another diamond, then claim the balance on a "high" crossruff.  What fun!

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