TIPS FOR IMPROVERS by Michael Newman
Points of interest from the April 2013 duplicates
1Declarer with only 4 points
Board 9 Tuesday 23 April – Vulnerability East West – Dealer North
South opens 1 Diamond in third seat and West overcalls 1 Heart. North passes and East raises to 2 Hearts. Although South only has 14 HCPs he has the perfect shape to make a takeout double of 2 Hearts. West now ups the ante with 3 Hearts as he has a sixth Heart and the spotlight now turns to North.
North should expect South to either have a 4=1=5=3 hand or a stronger 3=1=6=3 hand. Therefore although North has ‘only’ four HCPs and the Jack of Hearts is wasted nevertheless North has a very good hand for playing in Spades. There is highly likely to be a nine card fit in Spades, the singleton Diamond is excellent if the Diamonds need to be established and QJ10x in Clubs is also hugely valuable. Thus North should jump to 4 Spades over West’s 3 Heart bid which ends the bidding.
Admittedly the East West cards are lying very favourably in that the trumps break 2-2 and the Club finesse is also right. However that merely results in an overtrick being made (six trump tricks, four Club tricks and the Ace of Diamonds). The chances of making just ten tricks are very good and certainly well above 50% even though the combined North South hands have just 18 points.
2Text Book Avoidance Play
Board 13 Tuesday 23 April – Vulnerability Amber
North opens 1 Diamond and South responds 1 Heart. West overcalls 1 Spade and North doubles. This is a support double by opener to show three card support for responder’s Hearts whereas if North bid 2 Hearts this would guarantee four cards. South with a good Spade stop could bid either 2NT or 3NT but should err on the side of caution at pairs. Whatever he decides North will not stay out of game with 14 points.
It was Eric Rodwell (one half of the greatest American partnership of the last 25years Meckstroth and Rodwell) who in the early 1990’s suggested that in competitive auctions if opposition overcall in a suit at the cheapest level then a double by the opener should show exactly three card support for responder’s major suit while a raise would promise 4 cards. This allows responder to be much better able to decide how high to bid in a competitive auction because he knows whether his side have a 7 card, 8 card or 9 card fit.
The opening lead to 3NT is a low Spade to the Queen and King. East has now become the danger hand in that if he gains the lead a second Spade lead would sink the contract. Declarer needs to establish the Diamond suit and one possibility would be to play for the King and Jack in the West hand. However that only represents a 25% possibility of success. Much better is simply to play West for the King but to play the suit in a way which lessens the chance of East gaining the lead to continue Spades through declarer’s remaining Jx. Declarer plays a low Diamond to the Queen which wins. He then returns to hand with the Ace of Clubs and plays a second Diamond; when West plays the King he ducks in the Dummy. His Spade tenace is thus protected and Declarer now makes four Diamond tricks, two Club tricks, four Heart tricks when the Jack drops and one Spade for eleven tricks +460. If West had played low on the second Diamond having started with Kxx then Declarer would have risen with the Ace dropping East’s Jack and played a third Diamond losing to West and again East never gets the lead.
3King for Count or Unblock & Queen for Attitude
Board 11 Monday 29 April – Vulnerability White
North South are defending against West’s contract of 4 Hearts. North leads the King of Diamonds.
Playing traditional methods there is a great danger that if South plays small and West allows the King to win that North may assume that West has AJx and that he will surrender a trick if he continues with Diamonds. As you can see this will be disastrous as Declarer will drive out the Ace of Spades as soon as he gets the lead so establishing a second Spade trick to deal with one of the Diamond losers.
The solution is something which I became aware of more than 10 years ago when I read David Bird’s book published in 2000 titled 10 Ways to Improve Your Bridge. In a suit contract when leading from a three or four card suit headed by the King and Queen you should lead the King from KQ10(x) but should lead the Queen from KQx(x). Thus on the above example on the lead of the King of Diamonds South knows that his partner is promising at least KQ10 and can safely throw the Jack of Diamonds under the King. North can then continue with Diamonds if Declarer holds up the Ace and the fourth defensive trick is quickly established. Likewise if North’s Diamonds were only KQx he would start off by leading the QUEEN of Diamonds. South would know that he could not afford to throw the Jack but he would encourage the lead by playing his second highest Diamond so that North would know that a continuation would be safe.
To summarise if you lead the King from KQ10(x) and partner plays low you know he does not have the Jack and if you lead the Queen from KQx(x) and partner plays the lowest outstanding card you also know he does not have the Jack1. In other words you are about to be Bath Couped.
1He might have Jx doubleton when partner leads the Queen but cannot have Jxx