Maritha Pottenger

Hands are from Adventures in Bridge, November 8, 2018.

Hand #23

North (Dummy): J9 AJ K962 KQJ75

West: KQ852 5 A53 1062

This hand was an excellent example of the importance of preventing overtricks at matchpoints.

South (RHO) preempts with 3 in first seat, you pass as West, and North raises to game.

You lead the K, and partner signals encouragement, promising the A since the J is in Dummy. On a good day, you can expect to take two spade tricks, one diamond and one club. However, everyone is vulnerable and yet South has opened 3 without the A and J in her suit. It is possible that South has the A. If so, you must be VERY careful in the order in which you cash your defensive tricks.

BEST defense is to cash the A BEFORE you try to cash another spade. After you book the A, you can try a second spade. If Declarer ruffs the second spade, and partner does have the A, it cannot really go away. If Declarer has seven hearts and only one spade, she has five cards in the minors, so partner will get a club tricks eventually—if he has the A. If you second spade lives, you will then switch to a club.

Several N/S pairs made 12 tricks for a 71% board when West continued with spades at trick two. Alas, Ray Sachs cashed the A at trick two, holding us to 11 tricks, leaving us with a 14% board. That’s a 57% difference, enough to drop our final score for the session by 2%.

Hand #25

South (Dummy): Q A54 AKQJ853 J9

West: AK92 K98 1095 Q103

The bidding went 1 by South (RHO). You passed as West and North responded 1. South jumped to 3 and North bid 3NT. Partner leads the 4. The rule of 11 tells you that there are three cards higher than the 4 in Declarer's hand (because you have two and Dummy has two).

Declarer calls for the J, and you play the Q. Declarer takes the K and puts the Q on the table, and lets it ride. You can see seven diamond tricks and one heart trick on Dummy. Declarer has already booked one club trick, so Declarer had nine tricks once the club was led. He is obviously looking for overtricks. What should you do?

It is extremely unlikely that Declarer would risk the heart finesse without holding a second stopper in clubs. It is probable that Declarer started with AK(x). You have, however, the perfect play. Cash the K (promising the A and smothering Dummy's singleton Queen). If partner HAS led from the A and wants you to return a club, she can indicate that by discouraging in spades.

Partner holds J103 of spades. Her proper play is the JACK, which promises the 10. You can then lead LOW to her the 10. She can return her third spade to your A and 9, and Declarer will rue the day he tried for an overtrick.

Incidentally, in my opinion, East should play the J when you are playing upside-down signals as well. Sequences (three cards or longer) take priority over upside-down. It is vital to know when partner has those touching honors. Something to discuss with your partners!

Hand #12

South: 10632 AQ9 A5 K1083

North: AKQ7 4 KJ932 QJ6

North opens 1 and East overcalls 1. South makes a negative double. North jumps to 2. (Some people would jump to 4—splinter—because North has a 5-loser hand in spades.)

I thought awhile as South and fell from grace, chickening out because of my horrible spades. I just bid game. I should have tried a 3 bid. That is “ostensibly” a help-suit game try. However, as a general principle, North, who is going to game, can afford to cue bid along the way. So, she can bid 3. [We bid first OR second round controls as long as we are below 4NT which can be used to confirm which level of control was being shown.] I can then bid 3. Partner can then take control with Key Card ask. Once I show two Key Cards, she will happily place the control in 6.

If I had signed off at 3 over partner's 3 call, she would know that my 3 was only a help-suit try, and simply raise me to game. Once I bid 3 over her 3, she knows that my 3 was a slam try and is eager to cooperate.