Saturday, November 14, 2009

Balancing with Balanced Hands

I have observed that many partnerships do not have well-defined agreements covering how to handle balanced hands when LHO opens one of a suit and it goes pass, pass to you.  Have you discussed how to show balanced hands of any strength?  Have you discussed the meaning of the following bids with your favorite partner?

Double, then 1NT
Double, then 2NT

Jenn and I had, fortunately, had a detailed discussion about this recently when I was dealt

♠  KQx
♥  A9xx
♦  AKx
♣  Axx

LHO opened 1 Diamond, which was passed around to me.  We had agreed to cover all of the ranges as follows:

1NT = 10-14 HCP
Double then 1NT = 15-17
Double then 2NT = 18-19
2NT = 20-21.

Since I had 20 HCP, I duly bid 2NT.  Jenn bid 3 Clubs, Stayman.  I rebid 3 Hearts, she bid 3NT and I passed. 

LHO led the king of clubs, and I looked at

♠  T987
♥  KTx 
♦  QTxx
♣  xx

♠  KQx
♥  A9xx
♦  AKx
♣  Axx

How would you play it?

I decided that LHO had to have 4 diamonds, since with only 3 of each minor and a club suit headed by the KQ, he surely would have opened 1 Club.  So, with a marked diamond finesse (if the jack didn't fall on my right) I had 8 tricks: one spade, 2 hearts, 4 diamonds and one club.  The ninth could come from a second spade, if the jack was on my right, or a third heart if the suit split 3-3 or the queen or jack was doubleton.  There was also the possiblity of an endplay against LHO since had to have most of the outstanding honors. 

I held up ace of clubs until the third round, and pitched a spade from dummy.  RHO played the jack on the third round, suggesting that the clubs were 5-3 with length on my right.  I took the AK of diamonds, and finessed the ten which held.  RHO pitched a spade on the ten of diamonds.  Now I had a choice of plays.  I could play the AK of hearts hoping for an honor to drop then, if not, another heart hoping for 3-3.  I could finesse hoping RHO had the jack of spades.  I could play the queen of diamonds, pitching a heart, then play a spade to the queen hoping to endplay LHO. 

If the heart suit is considered in isolation, the best percentage play is three rounds of hearts.  However, I couldn't do this because I couldn't afford to lose a heart to RHO, who held 2 good clubs.  So I decided to cash the diamond and pitch a heart, then play spades.  RHO pitched another spade on the diamond queen.  Now I played a spade to my queen, on which RHO discarded a club, and LHO ducked.  Now I knew that LHO's hand was

♠  AJxx
♥  ??
♦  Jxxx
♣  KQx

He opened the bidding, so I decided he had to have the heart queen and/or jack.  So I played a heart to the king and another heart, planning to duck this into him for a forced spade return. As it happened, RHO covered with the jack, I played the king dropping LHO's queen and my nine of hearts was the ninth trick.  I could also have ducked the heart to LHO and scored the spade king as I originally intended on an endplay. Cute hand!

Good luck!

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