Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Double-Edged Sword

Many expert pairs play weak 1NT openings. They are a useful preemptive device that frequently earn large swings in team competitions. The problem is that the swings sometimes go against you, and for unexpected reasons. Here's an example of one that resulted in a disaster for our opponents.

With both sides vulnerable, RHO opened 1NT, described as 12-14. I held this nice collection:


I doubled, LHO took out to 2 spades, natural, and it went pass, pass, back to me. With this big balanced hand, I decided to come back in with 2NT. We hadn't discussed the meaning of this action, but surely it showed something like this. Jenn rebid 3 clubs, which I interpreted as Stayman. I rebid 3 diamonds, and she put me into 3NT.

LHO led the king of spades, and when she tabled the dummy I was looking at:



I didn't like my chances. Perhaps Jenn might have passed 2NT, but, being no shrinking violet, aggressively tried for a vulnerable game by looking for a heart fit, and retreating having not found it.

I only could see 4 sure tricks, and even if the diamonds split or the queen dropped singleton, I only would have 7 fast tricks. Even with a successful club finesse, I still would be a trick short. So a lot had to go right. First of all, LHO had to hold 6 spades, so I could isolate his suit by holding up the ace. Second, he had to have no outside entry. Finally, I was short a tempo to establish a possible ninth trick in hearts, so I needed some help from the defense.

LHO took the king and queen of spades, and slipped by continuing with the jack. Now, I took the ace and stopped to count the hand. Partner has 2 points, I have 19, so we have 21. LHO showed up with the KQJ of spades, another 6. So only 13 points are not accounted for, of which RHO has at least 12. So I knew that RHO had the AK of hearts, the club king and diamond queen. But if he had only 3 spades and the doubleton queen, I now knew that I could get home. I cashed the diamond AK, held my breath, and got the 2-2 split. Now I had 2 dummy entries with my low diamonds, so I could go over to the diamond ten and punch a heart through RHO, forcing him to win. I held my breath again, and was rewarded when RHO shifted to a club. Now I could win the queen, play another heart and set up my ninth trick in hearts. 3NT bid and made and 10 IMPs for the good guys!

This victory was made possible only because of the weak NT. Without it, we would never have gotten to 3NT on our own, and I wouldn't have likely been able to place all the cards even if we had.

Another point of interest: LHO could have defeated the contract had he not played a third round of spades and instead shifted to clubs. It is often not a good strategy to set up a suit for which you have no entries, particularly when the declarer can figure this out from the bidding. Here, LHO had a difficult decision to make. If he shifted to a heart or club, he might finesse his partner when dummy had no entries. If, for example, his partner held Kx instead of Qx of diamonds, I would not have been able to get to dummy to take a finesse in any suit. So shifting was risky. Here, tempo was more critical than entries, but he didn't know that. So his decision to continue spades, while wrong this time, is not a clear error. Perhaps his partner could have helped him by carding in spades to give him a suit preference signal. Given that his partner held AK of hearts and KJ of clubs, it wasn't clear to him that clubs was actually the suit that had to be played. So this was a very difficult defense, maybe worthy of Kantar for the Defense!

1 comment:

Memphis MOJO said...

VN hand and vn write up.

Two blog pieces in one day!!