Test 200 Solution de John Carruthers

By Ana Roth • 26 April, 2012

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John Carruthers

Dear Fernando and Ana: Congratulations on being 200! That is very old. Neither of you looks a day over 40! For your readers, here is a little quiz from the Spring NABC in Memphis to celebrate your milestone:

Number 200 Quiz

1.   Here is a rather complex bidding problem:

 IMPs. Dealer East. Neither Vul.  You and these cards: 

        J 10 4

        A K J 10

        A K Q 3

      A 5

  West         North       East           South

—              —                     1             Pass

1              Pass            11            Pass

2              Pass            2NT            Pass

?

1.   At least 5/4 in clubs/spades – all balanced hands open or rebid in no-trump

What is your bidding plan?     

Solution:

  1.     J 10 4                      

        A K J 10                  

        A K Q 3                  

      A 5                          

 Already you know quite a bit about partner’s hand: he must be 4=3=1=5 with the heart queen (maybe 4=2=2=5 if he decided to rebid 2NT instead of three clubs). He cannot have four hearts or he’d have rebid one heart, not one spade. You surely have a good play for six no-trump at least, but is a grand slam possible? Sure it is, but think about playing in hearts, where you can ruff a diamond! If he has the king-queen of clubs and the ace-king of spades, your third spade can go away on his clubs. If he has the club king-queen-jack, he needs only the spade ace.

 There is another possibility: that he has the ace-king-queen of spades and no clubs higher than the queen – then your second club could be discarded on his fourth spade. Which should you play him for, and can you find out the information you need? The possibilities are:

     i.      ace-king of spades and king-queen of clubs (discard a spade from your hand on the club queen)

    ii.      ace of spades and king-queen-jack of clubs (no diamond ruff needed – seven no-trump has 13 tricks unless clubs are 5-1 or 6-0)           

   iii.      ace-king-queen of spades (discard your club on the long spade)

 The key bid in the auction will be your next one. If you bid three hearts in an attempt to suggest that as a trump suit, you’ll likely hear three notrump next. If instead you bid three clubs or three spades, agreeing that suit, you can then use Key Card Blackwood to find out about the relevant trump queen and key cards, all the while planning to play in 6NT or seven hearts, depending on partner’s responses. Suppose you agree clubs, your hoped-for auction would be:

1.     J 10 4                       A K Q 3

        A K J 10                   Q 7 6

        A K Q 3                     4

      A 5                              Q J 9 6 2

  West         North       East           South

—              —                     1             Pass

1              Pass            1             Pass

2              Pass            2NT           Pass

3             Pass             3             Pass

4NT           Pass             5             Pass

5NT           Pass             6(or 6 or 6)

 If partner bids six clubs, denying anything extra, you retire in six notrump. It would be too dangerous to bid six hearts as partner would quite rightly interpret that as a club grand slam try, perhaps asking for third-round heart control. On the other hand, if he admits to the spade king by bidding either six diamonds or six spades, depending on your methods (you are supposed to know what you’re doing when you bid five notrump!), you can bid seven hearts, confident that it will be cold. If he had bid anything other than five spades over four notrump, you’d have signed off in six notrump. The problem will be that East will not know that king-queen-jack to five clubs solidifies the suit for seven hearts. He’ll expect better clubs from you, so that king-queen to five will appear as good as king-queen-jack to five. Still, you’ve made an effort.

 In my view, agreeing spades is better for two reasons: (i.) he needs less in spades to make seven hearts viable than he does in clubs, (ii.) you’ll be able to find a cold grand slam more often after spade agreement. Your ideal auction will go:

 West         North       East           South

—              —                1              Pass

1              Pass            1              Pass

2              Pass            2NT            Pass

3              Pass            4              Pass

4NT           Pass             5              Pass

7              Pass            Pass             Pass

 If he bids anything other than five spades (or five hearts), you must bid six no trump as you may be off the spade ace. However, over five hearts, you can try five notrump and he can bid seven clubs with solid clubs, knowing this time that the clubs are worth extra tricks. If he instead bids six clubs over five notrump, showing the club king, you’ll have to decide whether to risk a grand slam opposite the ace-king of spades and king of clubs. We’ve all been in worse.

 There is, however, a downside to agreeing spades – there is always a danger that partner will become confused when you bid seven hearts and return to the ‘safety’ of the known fit. Maybe he’ll think you’re offering him a choice of seven hearts or seven spades or making a try for seven notrump. Whereas after agreeing clubs, you can always convert to hearts at the same level.

 

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