This Contribution from Ray on Board 17 Monday 21st October Claret Cup
This was not a success for Sheila and myself – 29%
WEST S AQ93 S K8752 EAST
H QJ7 H A65
D AQ3 D K64
C A52 C Q10
Is playing in NoTrumps better than in the 9 card Spade suit ?
Extra tricks in a suit contract come mainly from ruffing in the hand that has fewer trumps, or in either hand where trumps are equal. On this hand, the 5th Spade will win a trick in No Trumps, and no more by possibly ruffing a Club.
On this hand, No trumps makes as many tricks as Spades, and gets the crucial extra 10 points.
We played in Spades – mistake!
Should a Slam be bid, or Game?
The most simple version of the Losing Trick Count suggests Game.
( West 6 losers, East 8 losers, 6+8 = 14 : 18-14 = 4 . So bid to the 4 level - or 3NT ) – or, take 14 from 24, which is the number of tricks you can expect to make - 10.
The New Losing Trick Count does better, suggesting that the hands can be expected to make 11 tricks ( 1.5 losers for each missing ace, 1.0 for each missing king, 0.5 for each missing queen gives West 6 losers, East 8 losers, together 14 losers, take from 19 gives 5 , so bid to the 5 level ( well, stop in game) – or you can take 14 from 25 which is the number of tricks you can expect to make - 11
The Milton Count is 19+12 = 31, plus maybe a point for the 5th Spade. Arguably a bit light for a Slam in No Trumps ( 33 being sound on flat hands ) Fewer high card points are usually necessary for Slam in a suit, because of long suits and ruffing possibilities, but there are no extra tricks available on this hand from ruffs, and the 5th spade trick is also there in No Trumps.
It looks like a slam will only make if North has both missing Kings – a 25% chance.
We stopped in Game – understandable mistake!
What is South’s best lead against 4 Spades ? ( or 6 S/NT )
South’s lead can only be passive, and a trump lead is least likely to save declare a guess – well done Brian. No lead gives declare the 12th trick, but a Heart or Club lead gives declarer no option but to play North for the King in the suit not led. ( Duck a Club lead establishing the CQ, then play North for the HK for the the 12th trick. A Heart lead, establishes 2 Heart tricks and you must play low to the CQ for your 12th )
How to play 4 Spades ( or 6 Spades ) on a Spade lead ?
It’s always possible to make 11 tricks ( 5 Spades, 3 Diamonds, HA + CA ) and another Heart whoever has the HK .
How to make the 12th?
The simple option is to accept the 75% chance that only 11 tricks are available. Take out trumps, play low towards the CQ, then play North for the HK. It works ! Slam made or Game + 2.
I decided to try for an elimination and throw in. ( This sounds clever, but trying to be so usually works badly for me – a little knowledge being a dangerous thing )
There is a brief explanation of "Elimnation and Throw in" play here
I took out trumps, then played the HQ. It did not matter who had the HK, though North had it and sensibly covered. I won with the AH , eliminated Diamonds, and played HJ and Hx, throwing in North. Marion then had to give me a ruff and discard by returning a Heart, or lead away from her CK.
It worked ; it was pretty ; but was it any better than simply playing North for both missing Kings?
Although it doesn’t matter who held the HK, whoever is thrown in has to also have the CK. What are the odds on that? Furthermore South might have been able to win the 3d round of Hearts and save his partner from the end play. I suspect that Brian would have done this if possible, which is was not.
Anyway, I had some interest and fun to go along with our 29%
How to bid this hand
I opened a mini no trump (10 – 12) Sheila bid 2 clubs (5 card Stayman) I bid 3 spades ( 5 spades and 12 points ) With a flat 19 and 4 spades, Sheila settled for 4 spades.
What if the opening was one no trumps (12 - 14) ?
With 19 points, partner might bid a Quantitative 4 no trumps ( asking partner to pass, or bid 6 no trumps with a maximum )
We play Gerber over any natural no trump bid, so checking for aces with 4 clubs, and for kings, with 5 clubs would be an alternative route looking for a slam ( missing 2 kings, 5 no trumps would be the contract )
Some might use Stayman to locate the spade fit, and have a go at 6 spades, knowing between 31 and 33 points were held, maybe after using RKCB to check for key cards.
What if the opening bid was one spade? ( playing 5 card majors, or not liking opening one no trump with a 5 card major )
Knowing the partnership held 31+ points, and 9 spades, a slam in spades might be bid immediately, or via whatever control asking/showing system was available.