Maritha Pottenger

Ken Batko is now tied with Dee Willms with 24 out of 26 stars.

Hands are from Soledad Club, October 15, 2018.

Hand #15

East (Dummy): J8776 J9 KJ5 Q953

South: K953 Q AQ842 J74

This hand was a good example of how important it is for the opener to reopen the auction with a double when he has shortness in a suit that is overcalled and it goes pass, pass to him.

South opened 1. West (LHO) overcalled 2 (Weak Jump Overcall) and North and East passed. South reopened with a double. This is mandatory—the other half of negative doubles. Partner (North) could be sitting there with a penalty double of 2 and cannot say anything, because a double by her would promise four spades and typically clubs.

North thought awhile and then passed the double, converting it to penalty. This is a very important part of negative doubles. The old fashioned penalty (“positive”) double is not gone—but inflicting one becomes a partnership dance where one partner reopens with a double and the other converts. Many good opportunities present themselves, even against strong players.

North led the A. With the Q in Dummy, your duty is to give count, so you do. Partner then shifts to the A and then the 2. Since the 2 is the lowest outstanding spade, that promises a doubleton. You duly return the 9, asking for a diamond back, the higher of the two remaining suits. Partner ruffs the spade and returns a top-of-nothing 9. You win the Q and Declarer plays the 7. The 10 is missing, so Declarer has one more diamond. You can cash one more diamond before trying to give partner an uppercut with a fourth round of spades. Or, you can play the spade now. It turns out optimal defense is to play a club back first (playing partner for only four clubs). Then partner can play another diamond to you, and you can try for the uppercut with a fourth round of spades. That will actually be down three for poor West.

If you play the spade now, Declarer will discard a losing diamond while your partner ruffs. Partner will then cash the other top club. If you cash your diamond before playing the fourth round of spades, Declarer can discard a losing club on the fourth round of spades while partner ruffs. Both of those roads lead to down two for Declarer. Since N/S do NOT have game, plus 300 is still an excellent result: 11 out of 12 matchpoints (92%).

Hand #10

North: KJ3 KQJ43 A Q1032

South: AQ1065 10864 AK98

This hand was an exercise in visualizing your partner's hand. South opened 1 and West preempted with 3. North bid 3 and South bid 4. North temporized with 4. (It is possible South is bidding a 3-card club suit if he has three or four diamonds, but no stopper.) South bid 4—clearly just a default at this point—does NOT promise six. North figures that South is very likely to hold the AK and AQ on this auction, so simply bid 6.

The K is led. Declarer won in dummy perforce and immediately led the K for a ruffing finesse (equal honors opposite a void), discarding a losing diamond. West got the A, but that was the end of the defense.

One minor note: once West shows up with two spades, Declarer is careful to play the clubs, A and then over to the Q on Dummy. If anyone is going to have Jxxx on this auction, it will be RHO (East).

Four pairs (out of 13) got to slam on this hand. Making six was 9½ out of 12 matchpoints (79%). Two lucky pairs got the A lead, and made seven for 11½ matchpoints (96%).

Hand #14

North: A843 4 KQ10743 109

South: 10 AQJ65 J9865 QJ

A couple of notes on strategy apply to this hand. East opened 1 and South (perforce!) passed. West responded with 1. North should bid 3 (NOT 2) for two reasons: (1) a 2 level overcall promises an opening hand, which you do not have; (2) 3 takes away the possibility of East making a support double (showing three card support for West’s spades) if that was an option for the opponents. At our table, East, loving their diamond void, bid 3 on their moth-eaten 6-card suit.

South now made an excellent tactical decision to bid 4 rather than doubling 3. He figured that the opponents could run to either spades or clubs and be OK. 4 proved the winning call because N/S make exactly 4. E/W can make 4, but it is difficult for them to find their 5-3 fit on this sequence.