Maritha Pottenger

The La Jolla Unit Game on August 26, 2018 featured Hand #19 which was interesting in terms of slam bidding. South held KJ3 KQ107643 AJ6 and opened 1. Partner bid 2. Despite partner bidding your void, you have an excellent hand. In both Two Over One and Standard American, this hand is worth a jump to 3—showing and great 6-card suit or a good 7-card suit and slam interest. In 2/1, it is a demand to cue bid. Partner will bid 3. You can bid 4. Partner will bid 4. You will ask for Key Cards and partner will show three. Having all the Key Cards and the Queen of trumps, you can inquire about Kings. Partner will show you one King—or the specific the K—depending on how your partnership handles the answers to King asks. You can count two spade tricks; seven heart tricks; two diamonds, and one club trick. So, the matchpoint bid is 6NT. Partner's hand is AQ5 A5 AK32 9873. Since you cannot find out that partner has the key the Q, you cannot bid 7 or 7NT, but bidding 6NT will get you most of the matchpoints available, a 74% board in practice. A single pair reached 7NT, but Matthew Kidd, the victim, reports the opponents weren't very confident about their bidding sequence.

Hand #26 was interesting in terms of Declarer play and defense. At our table, South had J87 KJ9 A2 KJ854 and opened a “Weak” No Trump (12-14 HCP). After a Stayman inquiry, and denial of a major, I put partner in 3NT. [Pairs playing strong NT would have the uncontested auction 1 1; 1NT 3NT.] The lead was the Q, and I provided an excellent Dummy yielding:

AQ104 82 K63 AQ62

J87 KJ9 A2 KJ854

You can count five club tricks and three spade tricks even if the finesse loses, plus two diamond tricks, but you'd like some info about the hand before you try to guess anything in hearts. Take the A in the South and play the 7 or the 8 (NOT the Jack in case the King is singleton) toward Dummy. The 10 wins in dummy with the 5 and the 6 appearing on your left and right. Cash the top two clubs in Dummy and play a club toward your hand. Then run the J (which is covered by the K this time). Go ahead and cash the rest of the clubs, discarding a diamond from Dummy.

West (your LHO) will start to squirm. West started with K952 Q63 QJ105 107. If his partner does not help him out, he is in big trouble. East should have made it easy for West as East started with 9874 and could have played the 9 at trick one. If East plays the 9 (promising the eight), then West can let go of two diamonds and a heart or even three diamonds. (East will signal something good in hearts.) If East does NOT tell West about his diamond holding, poor West will feel squeezed in three suits. At our table, West gave up one diamond, one heart and eventually one spade on the run of clubs. That insured that we got four spade tricks.

Double-Dummy, Declarer makes four spade tricks by running the 8 on the first round of the suit, but that is not a reasonable play in real life. If West keeps all four spades—to keep parity with Dummy [Remember Rule of Parity is most basic discarding guideline.]—and all three hearts, discarding three diamonds on the run of clubs, Declarer can be held to 11 tricks. If, however, West discards even one heart (while keeping all four spades), Declarer will still have a shot at 12 tricks. After taking one diamond, five clubs and three spades, Declarer leads a heart from Dummy. If East rises with the A (to return a diamond to the now-bare King), Declarer will take TWO hearts in the end when the King fells the Queen (which became doubleton when West discarded a heart on the clubs). Of course, if East DUCKS the heart, South can take the King but will make only 11 tricks, taking two diamonds, three spades, five clubs, and one heart.