Jeff Lehman

Kicking Back

Provided that the partnership has solid rules to diminish the chances of misunderstanding of its application (something to be discussed at end of this article), kickback is one of my favorite conventions.

The general reason for kickback being preferred over 4NT as the keycard ask is the saving of bidding space.  4NT generally works fine for keycard when the agreed trump suit is spades – there is usually room to follow up with a queen ask, for example, when one of the five keycards is missing, and you want to avoid bidding slam if the trump queen is also missing.  However, 4NT can often work poorly when the agreed trump suit is not spades – there is often no room to follow up with a queen ask without getting above the five level (for example, 1-2 [inverted and game forcing]; 4NT-5; what should asker do with one keycard missing when asker does not hold the Q?).

Although the subject hand arose in a matchpoint context, assume that it arose in an IMP-scored event.

Consider this hand from North’s perspective, who held the following:

N
North
AQx
KQJxx
x
AJ10x

 

 

and heard this auction (see notations for explanations):

W
West
N
North
E
East
S
South
Pass
11
Pass
1
Pass
1NT2
Pass
23
Pass
24
Pass
35
Pass
3NT6
Pass
?
 
 
(1) (playing weak notrumps)
(2) 15-17, denies four hearts, does not deny four spades
(3) XYZ, artificial and game forcing
(4) denies three hearts, promises four spades
(5) establishing trump suit
(6) no special agreements, presumably best description

 

Almost certainly, South’s distribution is 4=2=3=4.

Let’s consider some possible hands for South:

KJxx, Ax, QJx, KQxx.  6 is a great contract; 6NT can be down after just two tricks.

Kxxx, Ax, AJx, Kxxx.   6 is a good contract; 6NT is only fair.

KJxx, Ax, KQx, Kxxx.  6NT is a great contract; 6 depends upon finding the Q.

KJxx, xx, AKQ, Kxxx.  6NT is preferable to 6, since 6NT might make without guessing the Q, while 6 will not.

KJxx, xx, KQJ, KQxx.  Off two aces, slam is surely not making.

How to distinguish these hands from one another?

Remembering that North holds two of the five keycards (A and A), the samples suggest the following:

  • When South holds three or more of the SIX keycards (four aces, K, Q), 6 would often have extra chances compared to 6NT, since there is a possible extra trick available via a diamond ruff and/or a possible lesser loser in the diamond suit (or the establishment of the fifth heart by ruffing if missing the A). 
  • When South holds only one of the FIVE keycards, slam should, needless to say, be avoided.
  • When South holds two of the FIVE keycards, and is missing the Q, the slam with the best chance of making is 6NT.  In this situation, 6 will always depend upon picking up the Q, while 6NT might be made without picking up the Q.

Keycard, followed when appropriate by a queen ask, seems to me to be the route to identify whether 6 is the best slam or not.

Some favor 4♣ as the keycard ask (minorwood); while some favor 4 as the keycard ask (kickback).  I strongly favor kickback, because with a slam invitational hand, a responder who is using 4 as kickback can bid 4 and hear opener’s opinion about slam, without having to commit to a keycard ask.  Opener would sign off in 4NT over 4 on a hand such as KJxx, xx, AKQ, Qxxx (a hand with poor holdings in both responder’s heart suit and the potential trump suit of clubs), and opener would avoid signing off in 4NT over 4 on a hand such as Kxxx, Ax, Axx, KQxx (a hand with lots of working cards, especially in the rounded suits).  Responder would appreciate the distinction provided by hearing opener’s opinion over responder’s 4 bid inviting a club slam if holding a hand such as Ax, KQxx, xx, Axxxx.

About those rules to diminish the chances for misunderstanding in a kickback auction?  I like the following rules because they are pretty simple to apply:

  • The keycard ask is never the suit above the agreed suit, if such suit was mentioned on the first round of bidding by either partner. Accordingly, as an example, if an auction began 1-1, and later diamonds were agreed by each partner, a subsequent 4 bid would be excluded from being keycard, but rather a 4 bid would become keycard.
  • The keycard ask and 4NT swap meanings; that is, when the four level of a particular suit is defined above as the keycard ask suit, then 4NT becomes the four-level control bid for the keycard ask suit.

A bit off the subject, but partnerships with solid XYZ agreements might note a way for responder, with club slam ambitions, to distinguish the quality of responder’s club holding.  Responders’ bid of 3 over opener’s 1NT bid can be reserved for hands of 16-18 support points, with two or more honors in the club (X suit).

Is this a lucky day for your slam bidding decision?

Off to a good start playing in the third round of an eight round regional Swiss, I faced a slam bidding decision.   Vulnerable, I opened 1 on AQxx, Axxx, –, AKQxx.  My partner responded 3NT, showing 13-15 HCP and a balanced hand.

As it turns out, my counterpart at my teammates’ table faced the same bidding decision after an identical start to the auction.

What should I bid?  Why?

I had two immediate reactions.  One, with a prime 19 facing 13-15, I was going to bid some slam.  Two, the space-usurping (but descriptive) 3NT call left me with little room to investigate.  Our partnership had discussed no follow ups to this auction start, meaning that any attempt to inject science could produce a misunderstanding.

What can I divine about partner’s hand?  Assuming partner has not chosen this moment to eschew exploration and hope to “steal” 3NT by choosing a call that hides his distribution from not only the opponents but also from me, I can expect that partner’s distribution is either 3=3=4=3 or 3=3=3=4. 

Partner’s distribution being 3=3=4=3 is more likely than his distribution being 3=3=3=4 for two reasons: (1) my void in diamonds portends his length in diamonds; and (2) partner might have chosen to bid an inverted raise of 2 if he held four clubs.

I think I can eliminate consideration of a major suit slam.  For a major suit slam to be the only slam making would seem to require a parlay to effect a dummy reversal, to choose a major suit where partner holds enough honors so that trumps can be drawn, and to find the trump suit to be split 3-3.  No, I think the choice of slam is between 6NT and 6.

Advantages of bidding 6NT are that 6NT scores more than 6, and that 6NT — being played by partner’s side — is more likely to produce a favorable opening lead (into a diamond tenace) than is 6.

However, I considered several potential advantages for choosing 6, even if partner holds only three clubs (and he might hold four clubs).

  • Ruffing a major suit loser in dummy.  Assume, for example, that partner holds KQx, that hearts split 4-2, and that clubs split 3-2.  If the hand with two hearts holds only two clubs, I will be able to ruff the fourth round of hearts after drawing just two rounds of trumps.
  • Dummy reversal.  Assume that dummy has sufficient entries and holds the J.  Then I might be able to ruff three diamonds in hand (two with low trumps and one with a high trump) and still be able to draw all the trumps of the opponents.  This would give me six trump tricks to add to 6 possible top tricks in the other three suits.
  • Ruffing finesse in diamonds.  Assume, for example, that partner’s diamond suit is something like AQJx.  If the K sits over partner’s holding, I can establish a second diamond trick without cost of losing a diamond trick.

All in all, I judged 6 to be the better bid.  My counterpart at the other table chose 6NT.

The opening lead at my table was the J.  Thankfully for the patient opponents, the play proceeded more quickly than my decision to bid 6♣:

N
North
J9x
KQJ
KQx
Jxxx
J
S
South
AQxx
Axxx
AKQxx

 

 

Play proceeded: J, Q, A and ruff; opposing trumps drawn with AKQ; KQJ unblocked, reaching this position:

N
North
J9x
Kx
J
 
S
South
AQxx
A
x

 

 

I now played a spade to my queen, being assured of twelve tricks whether the spade finesse won or lost.  +1370 at least.

Meanwhile, on best defense (the only kind one’s teammates give, right?), 6NT is dependent on the 50-50 proposition of the K being onside.  (Poor defense would be playing the A on air; or, should the K be offside, neglecting to return a diamond when winning with the K and then finding that spades can produce three more tricks for declarer.)

On my lucky days, the K is offside and my +1370 is matched with my teammates’ +100.  On my unlucky days, the K is onside and my +1370 is matched with my teammates’ -1440.

This was one of my lucky days!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THIS dummy is not strong enough?

Playing against two, well, rather unsophisticated players at a local club duplicate, we observed the following auction:

W
West
N
North
E
East
S
South
1
Dbl
1
Pass
2
Dbl
Pass
2
Pass
4
All Pass
 

North’s bidding box cards were presented quickly and with relish.  On the other hand, South evidenced a meekness about the whole situation.  (I am not insuating any intentional Unauthorized Information being communicated by North; only that North, unintentionally but noticably, probably violated Law 73A2 by her mannerisms.  Oh well, any violation was not relevant to the particular hand, I think.)

As West, I chose to lead a trump.

Dummy had the strength suggested by her bidding mannerisms:

 
N
North
AKQJ10
AQJ83
A
64
W
West
42
KQJ1083
AJ532
2

 

Declarer called for the Q, losing to East’s K.

East switched to the K.  Should I as West encourage continuation of clubs or discourage in hopes of receiving a spade switch which I could ruff with my lowly 4?  Thinking, perhaps unfairly, that: (1) partner might find it difficult to be thinking of the possibility of my ruffing a spade, looking at the quality of those spades in dummy; and (2) if partner has a doubleton club and was also dealt KTx of hearts, there might be a trump promotion from my winning the second club and leading a third round, I chose to encourage a club continuation.  Partner did continue clubs, with the Q.  This gave me pause and I switched gears.  Now I chose to play the J on this trick, hoping that might be treated as an alarm clock by partner.  Partner did, in fact, now switch to a spade and my ruff set the contract.  That leads to the title of this blog entry “THIS dummy is not strong enough?”.

Actually, I had missed par by not underleading my A (yeh, right) at Trick 1 in order to receive TWO spade ruffs!  The whole hand:

 
16
E-W
West
N
North
AKQJ10
AQJ83
A
64
 
W
West
42
KQJ1083
AJ532
2
E
East
9753
K6
764
KQ87
 
S
South
8642
10975
952
109
 

.

 

 

Lessons Learned

W
West
K976
KQJ1095
8
A8
6
E
East
52
A7
J10632
Q1073

 

 

W
West
N
North
E
East
S
South
1
Pass
1NT1
Dbl
Pass
2
2
All Pass
(1) forcing

From a club duplicate matchpoint pairs event.  How should West play 2?

West has seven top tricks and a probable eighth trick if the A is onside, as is likely.  Is there any play for a ninth trick?

At the table, declarer received a heart lead.  Thinking that if South owned no more hearts, a spade ruff might be available, declarer won the A in dummy and led a spade toward his hand. South hopped with the A and returned a second heart.  Later on in the hand, declarer led a small club from his Ax holding toward dummy’s QTxx, hoping that North would err, inferring a club guess, and duck the K, allowing the otherwise-entryless Q to score.

This was foolish play by declarer.

Even had no trump been led, declarer will be unable to ruff a spade in dummy (unless a spade were led by North!).  The only way that declarer can reach dummy is with the A, and so declarer will be forced to lead a trump to dummy’s ace at some stage in order to lead a spade toward his hand.  Even if South has no second heart, South can force an entry to North’s hand by the simple expedient of ducking the spade lead from dummy and allowing North to win the second round of spades with a lower card, at which time North can lead a second trump to eliminate the chance for a spade ruff.  South ducking the first round of spade might also pay off if it contributes to declarer misguessing the suit, when holding the king and jack of spades.

Instead, declarer should have won the heart lead in hand and led A and a small club.  If clubs were/could be guessed correctly, declarer could use dummy’s A entry to both cash an extra club winner (pitching a pointed suit loser) and lead toward the K.

By the way, the bidding information suggesting that South had no more than three clubs increases the chances that South’s distribution is slightly flawed for the takeout double and hence might have compensating extra strength … so, had declarer correctly won the heart lead in hand, declarer should guess clubs correctly.

 
8
None
West
N
North
J84
643
K75
J652
 
W
West
K976
KQJ1095
8
A8
6
E
East
52
A7
J10632
Q1073
 
S
South
AQ103
82
AQ94
K94
 

 

Alas, I was declarer and suffered a blind spot on a fairly easy deal.

 

What do you think about the bidding?

Not much, I would say.  Let’s start with West’s decision to pass South’s takeout double.  With options to bid, pass, or double, how can West show his general hand type?

I have heard players say that Pass is the weakest option.  I disagree that strength is the primary consideration for opener’s actions.  I think that opener’s choices should be dictated by his Offense-to-Defense Orientation.  With a hand with a stronger offensive than defensive orientation (typically a hand with an extra long suit or a side five card suit and/or strength concentrated in its long suits), opener should bid.  With a hand with a stronger defensive than offensive orientation (typically a hand where high cards appear to be equally useful on offense or defense), opener should strive to Pass (or, with extra strength, redouble).

The best action on the shown hand, which has some extra strength, but also has a very strong suit, is not totally clear, but, in retrospect, I think bidding 2 directly is a superior choice to the Pass chosen at the table.  The fact that West has six hearts should not, IMHO, be conclusive for choosing to bid (if opener’s hand were, instead, something like KQxx, KTxxxx, x, Ax, a Pass is more attractive), but the concentration of heart strength in its length should have made 2 opener’s choice on the actual hand.

How about the bidding of responder?

I think responder erred, too.  IMHO, responder should generally decide what to do by applying Total Tricks to the hand and projecting into opener’s hand exactly two card length in the suit bid by advancer.  Taking that approach, responder would have concluded that the opponents had just contracted for eight tricks when holding only seven trumps and would have chosen to defend.  Stated a different way, responder chose to contract for eight tricks with an expectation that his side had only seven trumps.  With somewhat more strength, or maybe an extra intermediate club, or maybe if the opponents were vulnerable (placing +200 in his sights), responder might even have chosen to double advancer’s 2 call for penalty.

If opener had fewer than two clubs, opener would probably be well-placed to remove the penalty double and bid on, naturally.

Lessons learned.  I hope.

Double, Pass, or Bid On?

A recent matchpoint session at the local club duplicate presented an extraordinarily high number of “double, pass, or bid on” competitive bidding decisions.  With no promise that what worked best at the table is best in general, try your choices on the following hands.

Board 4.

W
West
1092
J93
AK107
K64

 

W
West
N
North
E
East
S
South
Pass
1
4
4
?
 
 
 

 

Your call?

 

Board 5. 

W
West
AKJ7
AK52
632
J10
W
West
N
North
E
East
S
South
Pass
Pass
1
Dbl
2
2
Pass
?
 
 
 

 

Your call?

 

Board 6. 

W
North
KQ105
KQ83
J54
97
W
West
N
North
E
East
S
South
Pass
1
Dbl
1
2
Dbl1
Pass
32
Pass
Pass
?
 
 
 
(1) see text
(2) see text

The auction requires a lot of explanation.  First of all, South’s double was alerted and described by North as showing four spades.  Second of all, North had first bid an insufficient 2.  When the director was called and explained the options, North changed his call to 3.  Your call?

There’s more.  After the auction is concluded,  South corrected the explanation of her double, saying that double was “Do Something Intelligent” … just about my least favorite agreement, because I believe that it is difficult for partner to do something intelligent when he has been given, basically, only “pass the blame” information, nothing about suit lengths and very little about hand strength.

Anyway, do you change your call should the director allow the bidding to rollback to you?

 

Board 11. 

W
West
3
J962
J975
AJ64
W
West
N
North
E
East
S
South
2
Pass
2
3
3
4
4
Pass
Pass
?
 
 
 

 

Your call?

 

Board 14. 

W
West
9
A763
AK73
9876
W
West
N
North
E
East
S
South
2
Pass
Pass
Dbl
Pass
3
?
 
 
 

 

Your call?

 

Board 20. 

W
West
Q4
Q109852
852
87
East
West
1
21
3
?
(1) weak, no further discussion

 

Finally, an uncontested auction.  Your call?

 

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

Board 4.

Double was the winner (+500 for better than 90% of the mps), even though partner’s 4 call was lighter than anticipated.

 
4
Both
West
N
North
AQJ874
K6
Q65
92
 
W
West
1092
J93
AK107
K64
A
E
East
6
A1087542
J9
J87
 
S
South
K53
Q
8432
AQ1053
 

 

 

Board 5. 

Raising to 3 was the winner, as partner went on to 4 and can make up to eleven tricks (+450 is a shared top).

 
5
N-S
North
N
North
Q9
Q108
K1097
9642
 
W
West
AKJ7
AK52
632
J10
A
E
East
106543
J73
5
KQ87
 
S
South
82
964
AQJ84
A53
 

 

 

Board 6.

Doubling was the winner (+300 for an unshared top).

 
6
E-W
East
N
North
842
J97
Q972
A84
 
W
West
KQ105
KQ83
J54
97
9
E
East
J93
A1052
A106
1062
 
S
South
A76
64
K83
KQJ53
 

 

 

Board 11.

5 was the winner .  (Well-timed overcall, pard!)  The opponents chose to double 5 rather than bid on to 5 .  (Whether 5X goes for -100 or -300  — depending upon declarer’s ability to guess the clubs –, it scores more than 90% of the mps).

 
11
None
South
N
North
AKQ9654
A
82
1085
 
W
West
3
J962
J975
AJ64
J
E
East
82
KQ10543
K
K932
 
S
South
J107
87
AQ10643
Q7
 

 

 

Board 14. 

Doubling was the winner (+500 for an unshared top), as partner shows up with a ton of defensive values.

 
14
None
East
N
North
AQJ5
Q95
Q108
KQJ
 
W
West
9
A763
AK73
9876
9
E
East
K108732
K2
96
A32
 
S
South
64
J1084
J542
1054
 

 

 

Board 20. 

Raising to 4 was the winner on the 52-card layout.  (+170 is a 23% board; + 620 is a 64% board.)

 
20
Both
West
N
North
J76
63
KJ64
KQ43
 
W
West
Q4
Q109852
852
87
K
E
East
A852
AKJ4
Q7
AJ9
 
S
South
K1093
7
A1093
10652
 

 

How did you do?

 

 

 

 

 

Spot Cards Speak

North deals.  With your side silent, the auction progresses 1 by North, 1NT (not forcing) by South, 4 by North.

You lead the J and see:

 
1
None
North
N
North
 
W
West
J
E
East (you)
AQ98
7
964
J10865
 
S
South (dumm
752
52
Q753
KQ73
 

You are playing standard carding.

  1. J, 3, 4, A.
  2. K, 7, 2, 3
  3.  Q, 9, 5, A
  4. 4, J, Q, 2

What do you play and why?

 

Do you remember the club spots played at Trick 1?  If so, you realize that the only unseen clubs are the 9 and the 2.  Where might they lie?

You can be sure that declarer owns the 9.  After all, your partner would not have played the 4 at Trick 1 from a holding of either 942 (he would have played the 2) or 94 (he would have played the 9).

Who owns the 2?  Well, if partner were dealt the 42 doubleton and thus declarer were dealt the A9 doubleton, then declarer might have tried to discard a spade on the third round of clubs before giving up the lead to the A.  Thus, all indications are that partner was dealt the 4 singleton and you must give him a ruff right now.

If you fail to give your partner a club ruff at Trick 5, declarer will arrange to finesse you out of your T8 and pitch a losing diamond on dummy’s fourth club.

 
1
None
North
N
North
J
KQJ10864
A2
A92
 
W
West
K10643
A93
KJ108
4
J
E
East (you)
AQ98
7
964
J10865
 
S
South (dumm
752
52
Q753
KQ73
 

The spot cards spoke.  Were you listening?

PS: If West were dealt 42 doubleton (so that declarer were dealt A9 doubleton), a club return by you would deny declarer the ability to pitch a loser on the third round of clubs … assuming your partner has a third heart.  

Carefully planned hand

W
West
753
K96
J1095
A65
A
E
East
64
AQ1073
K7
QJ32

 

 

W
West
N
North
E
East
S
South
Pass
Pass
Pass
1
1
2
2
3
All Pass

South begins with the three top spades, North following suit with the J on the third round.  You ruff the third round in your hand.

Assume that your objective on this hand is to make your 3 contract.  (In point of fact, the hand arose in a club matchpoint duplicate and both sides are vulnerable, and so your targeted number of tricks might well be eight and not nine.)

How do you continue?

You have lost two spades and with surely at least one loser in each minor suit, you must assume that trumps split.  Given that South passed as dealer holding AKQ, you can be pretty sure that the K and A are with North.  If clubs are 3-3, holding your club losses to one is automatic.  But if clubs are 4-2, you will need to lead toward the QJ twice.  And you need to lead toward the K once, too.

How can you produce enough entries to that dummy to allow for three leads toward your hand?

Well, if the 9 is a second entry in the trump suit, you will have the extra entry you need.

One possible play line is this (remembering that three rounds of spades have been played, and that you have ruffed the third):

  1.  A
  2. small heart to dummy’s 9, hoping that the J is onside, with each opponent following suit
  3. small toward your QJ, winning the trick
  4. K, drawing the last trump
  5. second small toward your QJ, North winning the K but leaving you with stiff ace opposite Jx.
  6. Win return with A
  7. Lead J toward your king, with North hopping with the A
  8. Claim last three tricks with long heart, K, and J

As it turns out, luck is with you, the whole hand (Temple Reyim club game, morning of October 14) being:

 
23
Both
South
N
North
J98
52
AQ42
K1087
 
W
West
753
K96
J1095
A65
A
E
East
64
AQ1073
K7
QJ32
 
S
South
AKQ102
J84
863
94
 

 

 

 

Greed, not Good.

On Board 22 of Thursday’s club game, I was on lead against a third seat 15-17 vul v not 1NT, passed out, with this collection:

N
North
KQ72
QJ3
K98
Q84

.

 

I chose to lead the Q, and received an encouraging 9 from partner, as I held the trick.  I continued two more rounds of the suit, declarer winning the ace at last.  The whole deal (partner South having chosen to pass in passout seat rather than bid 2 showing a two-suiter to include clubs):

 
22
E-W
East
N
North
KQ72
QJ3
K98
Q84
 
W
West
AJ9
A52
AQJ43
32
Q
E
East
1053
107
7652
AJ96
 
S
South
864
K9864
10
K1075
 

 

Unable to repel the greed of finding my partner with Kx of diamonds, declarer chose not to start diamonds from the top but rather to lead a club toward dummy.

This card combination is a common one.  With Qxx/QTx/Kxx/KTx second hand should normally rise with the high honor, appearing to some declarers as though he were splitting from a holding with both high honors; with KQx second hand should duck, because declarer’s percentage play is to finesse the nine playing second hand for QTx/KTx rather than KQx.

I played the Q and declarer ducked.  I continued a small club and declarer finessed the jack, losing to partner’s king.  Partner ran two heart tricks.  Dummy had pitched three diamonds; declarer had pitched one of each pointed suit; I had pitched the 7 and the 8.  Next partner switched to a spade.  Declarer chose to insert the jack, losing to my queen. 

The position now:

 
22
E-W
East
N
North
K2
K9
8
 
W
West
A
AQJ4
Q
E
East
105
7
A9
 
S
South
86
10
105
 

 

 

A small spade now endplays declarer, who, having already lost four hearts, two clubs and a spade, will lose the K and a second spade for -300.

Greed, (at least some times) not Good.

 

 

Well bid hands at the Club IMP pairs

Partner Len Aberbach of Wayland, MA, helped bid to great contracts on two hands in today’s club IMP pairs event.

Board 14:

W
West
J765
Q6
863
AQJ2
A
E
East
9
KJ1093
AK7
K1075

 

W
West
N
North
E
East
S
South
1
Pass1
1
Pass
2
Pass
3
Pass
3
Pass
32
Pass
4
All Pass
(1) surprising pass
(2) suggesting the weakness of his spades

4 basically depends only upon trumps breaking no worse than 4-2. 

Meanwhile, 3NT can be set whenever NS can win four spades before the A is dislodged.  Even if the J wins a trick, when spades are 5-3 and the defense keeps its transportation fluid by allowing NS to win the first or second spade trick, NS can prevail.  When EW attacks hearts – as they must – the defense will be in position to have won four spade tricks along with the A.

The key bid was Len’s 3 call, warning me against notrump and presumptively showing Hx in hearts.

 
14
None
East
N
North
Q42
A2
QJ952
986
 
W
West
J765
Q6
863
AQJ2
A
E
East
9
KJ1093
AK7
K1075
 
S
South
AK1083
8754
104
43
 

 

 

Board 8:

W
West
K8764
QJ4
KJ
AJ9
8
E
East
Q2
A876
K1086543
W
West
N
North
E
East
S
South
11
2
Dbl2
Pass
2NT3
Pass
3NT
44
Pass5
Pass
5
All Pass
(1) Playing 1NT as 12-14
(2) negative
(3) suggesting a 15-17 balanced hand with diamond stopper
(4) yes, really!
(5) the key call

5 basically depends upon avoiding a trump loser.  By contrast, 3NT can be set if North can reach South with an immediate major suit entry and then South can lead a diamond through West.

The key bid was Len’s pass of 4, when a double might have been the call I was anticipating. 

 
8
None
West
N
North
AJ105
K52
AQ1092
2
 
W
West
K8764
QJ4
KJ
AJ9
8
E
East
Q2
A876
K1086543
 
S
South
93
1093
876543
Q7
 

 

 

Alas, neither of these two boards was quite the bonanza we had hoped for.  On Board 14, 7 pairs allowed 3NT to make, so that our +420 gained against datum only +3.07.  On Board 8, South had no entry and so 3NT by West made easily for one pair while two other pairs who reached 5 were doubled (OK, one pair went down in 5 and one pair went down in 6), and +400 won only 5.27 IMPs to datum.

 

To the last board …

Our team was playing well, and amicably, against excellent competition in the semi-finals of the District 25 Grand National Teams.  We were playing in Flight A, limited to players with fewer than 6,000 masterpoints.

Unbeknownst to my partner and me, we had retained all but 5 of our 18 IMP halftime lead entering the last board of the session.

N
North
KQ4
QJ742
K85
AQ
 
S
South
A987
A53
AQ43
109

 

North
South
11
22
2NT3
3
4
4
44
55
6
All Pass
(1) Playing weak notrumps
(2) game forcing and natural
(3) 15-17
(4) keycard
(5) 0 or 3 keycards

North-South are vulnerable, the diagrams notwithstanding.

The opponents seemed to have bid aggressively but well to reach 6.  Winning the opening lead of the 3 (7, T, K) in hand, declarer assessed that if there were only one trump loser, the contract seemed to have several chances:  the club finesse, diamonds splitting 3-3, spades splitting 3-3, or a finesse of the J.

Sitting West, my partner, Wayne Burt of Pembroke, NH, won an early trick with the K and found the return that most tests declarer, a club.  Declarer, Dean Panagopoulos of Lynn, MA, considered the switch carefully and decided not to risk the slam on the club finesse.  Instead, he rose with the A, as I played an encouraging club.  Declarer now played on diamonds, winning the third round in hand.  West proved to own the fourth round winner in diamonds, however.  Declarer was now down to a different combo shot for the contract: either spades split 3-3 or my hand, owning 4+ cards in spades and the K, would be caught in a show-up squeeze.  He played his other top spade winner in hand (both East and West following small) and his remaining trump winners.

 
North
4
(J)
Q
 
S
South
A9
4

As declarer advanced the J, no show up of the K, but …

 

 
28
N-S
North
N
North
KQ4
QJ742
K85
AQ
 
W
West
1052
K10
10976
KJ53
3
E
East
J63
986
J2
87642
 
S
South
A987
A53
AQ43
109
 

Our teammates, reasonably enough, did not reach this slam and the 13 IMP swing was enough for our skilled opponents to come-from-behind and win.  Congratulations to Dean Panagopoulos and his teammates: Yiji Starr of Wayland,MA, Glenn McIntyre of Bedford, MA, and Ron Mak of Manchester, NH.  They went on to win the finals and will represent our district well in the NABC continuation of the event.

I also offer congratulations to my teammates in the semi-finals, Wayne Burt, Bob Bertoni of Haverhill, MA, and Peter Manzon of Waltham, MA, and also Joyce Pearson of Framingham, MA, who was able to fill in for Peter in the qualifying that preceded the semi-finals.

 

 

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