Two from a Club Game

Today's panelists: Fred Curtis, Barry Rigal, Mike Shuster, Len Vishnevsky, Marshall Miles, David Weiss, Robb Gordon, Jeff Aker, Kent Hartman, Web Ewell, David Caprera

All matchpoints, weak field, expert partner

  1. both vul, you hold

     S:x H:QJ10987532 D:Qx C:x

    2S: Pass4S: 5H:
    PassPass5S: Pass
    PassDbl All Pass

    Partner leads the H:A. Dummy hits with  S:AJxx H:x D:KJ C:AKQ109x. (Ouch.) What do you play to trick one? Is there a general rule which applies?

    I am a simple soul and play H:Q asking for a switch to D:....though what CHO will do with the D:A (cashing is important if I held a singleton) is normal arrangement under these scenarios is McKenney as I cannot see how it can be correct to continue the suit....I have played in a partnership where we had convoluted agreements where 3rd seat has shown a long suit and we attempted to indicate by extreme high card, extreme low card or various middle cards the potential high card/ruff available... N.B. this differs from other situations where it could be right to continue the suit lead...
    Obvious shift is a diamond.

    Discourage heart to ask for a diamond..... but if you want a club ruff you play an alarm clock card — here the H:QJ.

    So to get partner to underlead in diamonds play the H:9/8 upside down. [Obvious shift is right side up... --Jeff]

    This is a more difficult problem that appears at first blush, as partner may think I have a diamond void when I give suit preference with the H:Q (I expect the H:K is about to fall), but that would probably leave me with too many clubs. Would the H:10 be more effective?
    Neither count nor attitude makes any sense here, so H:Q is suit preference. If pard doesn't have D:A, nothing will matter, and if he does he has to guess whether I have D:Q or a stiff, and whether to try for a set (underlead or cash/ruff) or cash. At MP, I wouldn't be surprised to see D:A next if he hadn't doubled. At least it'll keep him from trying to give me a club ruff.

    H:Q says shift to diamonds, to pard and to declarer, to help him go wrong. A middle heart should say I don't want any shift, and then pard will have to try for the ruff.

    A middlish heart. I think the queen or jack would persuade partner to try for a diamond ruff instead of leading a low diamond.
    We probably won't beat this whatever I do. Partner's putative spade trick will be crushed by dummy. The only chance I see is for partner to underlead the diamond and have declarer misguess. The difficulty is that CHO might hope I have a singleton diamond and play for a legitimate set by playing ace and another.

    If I had a singleton or void in diamonds, I would play my highest heart. So I can't do that. If I wanted a club ruff, I would play my lowest heart. So I can't do that. That leaves a middle-ish heart as the correct card. I play the nine.

    The problem is that declarer might think that I would play my highest diamond with the ace. I guess I shouldn't do that, but he might think I would. Unfortunately, I can't do any better than to hope CHO can read my signal correctly.

    I play the Jack. The king might fall from declarer. My rule is that the top card in a likely sequence is never suit preference (although partner will likely read the queen here).
    I am an attitude signaller at trick one, which only covers part of the issue here. Playing standard signals, a low heart here suggests diamonds (I'll get back to the side issue in a moment) and a high one denies any interest in diamonds. With a void in clubs I would play the J (the Rev. E S Bulcon doesnt have this issue).

    Next, how do you distinguish between a diamond honor and a diamond singleton? You have to realize that declarer is entitled to know your agreements, so you need to signal the same way with the Ace and the Queen, in case he needs to guess. Thus, since I think that asking for diamonds would normally suggest an honor, I would play the deuce of hearts with the actual hand, and a middle heart with a singleton, hoping partner could work it out.

    I think the general rule here is suit preference. I play the heart queen. Don't see how we're beating this unless partner has the diamond ace, underleads it right now, and declarer misguesses. Ugh.
    I think the play at trick one is suit preference - general rule is whenever we lead our suit and dummy is short, signal suit preference. (That's convenient on this hand, because if you signal odd I don't think you'll convince partner you have a 9-bagger.) I would play the heart queen. I think I want partner to try to cash the diamond ace — there's a slim chance declarers diamonds could go away on the clubs before partner could ruff in. (I hope partner has the diamond ace and a trump trick, or we aren't getting a good result...) I could play a middling heart if I wanted partner to continue them — I obviously have enough hearts on the auction that I wouldn't need to play an ambiguous spot card. I suppose I could play the jack to indicate that I think diamonds is right but I'm not sure, but I think that's too deep and may confuse partner about the location of the queen.
    In my world, "honors show honors" so that the Q would deny the K and show the J. Partner can tell that the key play here is either to underlead the D:A or give you a club ruff. I would play the H:10; that should be high enough (conceivably the H:J could be from KJTxxxx). Playing the H:2 should get you a club. Playing the H:Q won't get you a club but could possibly get partner cashing out to save the overberry.
    H:Q. Didn't work. Partner tried to give me a diamond ruff.
    hard to say. Maybe none.
    Too hard1
    I think David Weiss' reasoning is closest, with Marshall more or less on the same page. If you take it one step further, I think their argument is very compelling. That step is simply to sit in partner's seat. What does he see? Pretty much all the high cards in the deck. That means that you have a boatload of hearts and were saving, not hoping to make 5H:. (Yes, he should have known that when you didn't double 5S:, and yes, that means he ought not have doubled it himself, but that's water under the bridge.) So how does he think we are going to beat this? Since you have a lot of hearts and probably exactly one spade (since declarer has six most of the time), he figures the way to beat it is to give you a ruff, and that's a pretty likely case; you'd bid 5H: with 1804 or 1840 or 1813 or the like. He probably isn't thinking about nine or ten hearts, but if you have that long a suit, your prospects of a void club or stiff or void diamond are even better. So from his perspective, your card should tell him which suit you are ruffing. The principle here is, "make the signal partner wants to see." This time, because you can't ruff anything, you have to play a middle heart. Partner has to look for an alternate defense, so his only hope is a diamond underlead, your having the D:Q, and declarer's misguessing.

    What about fooling declarer? If you had the D:A, you'd normally supply a high heart, so will declarer guess right? Maybe. But if you had the D:A, you could also play a nondescript heart and partner will shrug and lead a diamond. Probably more compelling for declarer is that partner doesn't have the vaguest semblance of a double without the D:A. But in this game, we can hope declarer doesn't work that out. If he does, we are getting a zero no matter what.

    Some play that the H:Q simply promises the jack and denies the king. That's fine in normal situations, but what's the point here? No one cares which heart honors you have. It's all well and good to have a firm rule about honor signals, and I agree that high honors often just clarify the suit, but signals have to be context-dependent. If the composition of my suit is irrelevant to partner, my card doesn't state it, just as if in an attitude situation, when attitude is irrelevant to partner, my card isn't attitude. In unclear situations, using your general rule is fine, but sometimes we have to do more than that.


    This suit is trumps. You are in 6C: and have ten tricks outside. Yeah, that means you should be in 6NT, but that's too bad. How do you play trumps?

    Line A: run the Jack. If it is covered, finesse the 8. If it is ducked, finesse the 10.
    Line B: low to the 10, then Ace.

    Line B is best for max tricks, but Line A is best to make 3 tricks. The holdings which matter:

         3 tricks vs. 2 tricks
         East holds   Rate   Favors
           KQ9x       5.7%      A
           Hxx        6.8%      A  (H = king or queen)
           KQx        6.8%      B
           H9x       13.6%      A
           Hx        13.6%      B
         2 tricks vs. 1 trick
         East holds   Rate   Favors
           H          5.7%      B
           x          5.7%      B
    So the bottom line is that it's best to play low to the 10 for max tricks, but if you need to avoid two losers and take three tricks, running the jack picks up two more cases, KQ97 and KQ94 on the right. KQ74 is picked up by low to the 10, too.

    At the table, I ran the Jack and RHO had Qx, so taking the percentage play cost me my slam. Rats.

Jeff Goldsmith,, Oct 16, 2006