Some problems from the Santa Barbara Sectional

Today's Panelists: Michael Schreiber, Barry Rigal, David Caprera, Chris Willenken, Dan Hugh-Jones, David Milton, Robb Gordon, Joel Wooldridge, Mike Shuster, Bobby Bodenheimer, David Weiss, Kent Hartman, Ed Davis, Marshall Miles, John Jones

All at IMPs, short matches

  1. Both vul, you hold

     S:AQ10x H:A7xx D:A109x C:Q

    CHO You
    1D: 1H:
    2H: 2S:
    4H: ?
    a) What now? What's your plan?


    MICHAEL
    Pass. I can't tell what I need to know.
    BARRY
    I pass 4H: mildly reluctantly but prepared to concede this is the broken egg one has to crack in order to make an omelet—OK take off marks for convoluted style!
    DAVIDC
    Okay, I bid 2S:. (For the record, 3D: by me would have been ok, too.) [Agreed. --Jeff] Partner bids 4H: which is game but not slam interest. Partner could have  S:Kx H:KQTx D:Jxxx C:Axx which is just about reasonable slam. Could 5 be too high? Sure could. I am going plus and passing.
    CHRIS
    Pass. I consider it ridiculous to bid again with such weak trumps. On a bad day, we could be down in four.
    DAN
    Blackwood and then bid a slam if partner shows a KC and the trump Q. [Except that 5D: shows one, which means... --Jeff]
    DAVIDM
    I am going to bid 6D: and give partner a choice of slams.
    ROBB
    4NT. I expect to get to 6H:. Too many holes to try for 7.
    JOEL
    I pass. I dare not risk the 5 level or a bad slam.
    MIKE
    5D:. Presumably this implies a club control, since partner didn't cuebid 3 or 4 clubs en route to 4H:. This doesn't show shape, but it does show the diamond ace. Blackwood is wrong, as it doesn't find out about the necessary elements for slam—partner's secondary red suit holdings. Parner should know now that K, KQ, KQ is gold. Second choice is pass. Opposite the wrong hand, we could be in trouble at the 5 level (S:KJx,(KQJx,xxxx),C:Kx)
    BOBBY
    I pass—our distributions on this hand are likely to be close, and that makes me dubious about prospects for 12 tricks.
    DAVIDW
    Pass, avoiding the quest for a magic hand. Partner bid only 2H:; he pretty much needs  S:Kx H:KQxx D:KQxx C:xxx for 6H: to be good. Any wastage in clubs will doom the hand. Bad breaks could doom us at the 5 level if he has any of the many wrong hands.
    KENT
    4S:, key card. Tough auction. Partner shouldn't have the club ace. [Why not? Would he cue on the way with crappy hearts? --Jeff] If partner shows one key, I will check for the trump queen, and we'll be in either five or six hearts.
    ED
    Pass. Partner will usually need all cards working to make slam a reasonable contract and I think there will be more -100 and -200 in reaching 5H: and 6H: than there will be +1430s in 6H:. Obviously the uninformative jump to 4H: destroys any real chance to find out if slam will be good. On this hand, a self-splinter of 4C: over 2H: might be the best bid since the one card I don't want to find in partner's hand when the dummy comes down in 6H: is the C:K. I'd like to get there opposite  S:Kx H:KQxx D:KQxx C:xxx but not get past 4H: opposite  S:xxx H:KQJx D:Qxxx C:AJ, or  S:KJx H:Qxxx D:Qxxx C:Ax.
    MARSHALL
    Pass. To have a good slam, I need perfect cards (S:K, H:KQ, D:KQ) and don't know how to find out. Maybe I should have bid 4C: over 2H:, but that would have given up on our chances to bid 6D: in case of a 4-3 heart fit although I'm not getting there this way either. [The problem isn't 6D: then, but not reaching 3NT when there's only a 4-3 heart fit. 4C: would definitely be a poor choice. 3D: might be better, though. --Jeff]
    JJ
    I think some slam try is in order. Any bid except for 5C: or 4NT emphasizes pard's looking at his C: holding and bidding aggressively with a C: control, which is exactly the wrong message. If Iím going to blast a slam, offering 6D: is a good idea. That allows us to play 6D: if pard has something like  S:x H:Kxxx D:KQxxx C:KJx. I think Iíll choose 6D:.
    JEFF AT THE TABLE
    4NT, then 6H: when we had enough keys. Even at the table, I hated this choice; I think a direct 6D: is much better.
    VOTES
    ActionVotes
    Pass9
    4S:1
    4NT3
    5D:1
    6D:2
    WINNING ACTION
    Pass, sort of. Partner has  S:Kx H:KQ108 D:KQ8xx C:xx. 6D: is a fine contract. 6H: is also a very good contract. Not this time. Hearts are 5-0 offside. 6D: gets doubled and goes for 500. 6H: just goes down two quietly.
    JEFF UPON REFLECTION
    Looks like a close call. 9 stop in game and 7 drive to slam. Upon lots of reflection, it seems that slam can't be much better than 50-50 on balance. Passing seems right. If we bid, I don't see anything that will allow partner to help judge at the 5-level (sorry, 5D: doesn't do it, which is why I think we might have been better served bidding 3D: a round ago...unless that wasn't forcing), I think shooting out 6D: is best. Partner will pick a red slam based on his lower red suit honors, which is what we want. It'd be nice to stop lower when one of his red suits is truly awful, but I don't see how to do that anymore.

    Another possiblity is to bid 5H:. That has to imply that I am not worried about controls, probably just about trumps. That'll cover one of the problems. And we might even get to 6D: after that if partner suggests playing there. Problem with that is we might play 5H: down when 6D: is cold.


    b) Do you play that 4H: is ambiguous about slam or suggests lack of slam interest or neither? (Obviously, partner has few aces this time, but in general, should he cue bid if he's slammish, to cater to a slam try by responder?)
    MICHAEL
    I'll cue bid if I have a hand that wanted to make a limit raise but didn't.
    BARRY
    I believe other action than jumping to 4H: should be made on no more than 15% of good hands. [Excluding counter-game tries and 3NT efforts.] Splinters (some), 4D:—with the appropriate hand, typically. Partner would bid 4H: with e.g.  S:Kx H:Jxxx D:KQxx C:KJx because the spade holding is perfect (opposite  S:Axxx H:AQxxx D:xx C:xx you have to bid 4H: or else you play 3H: here).
    DAVIDC
    Partner bids 4H: which is game but not slam interest.
    CHRIS
    I hate the methods entirely. I play that 2S: is a relay, asking opener about trump length, hand strength, and distribution, 2NT and 3H: are invitational, and all other bids are natural and forcing to game. In these methods, 3D: is ideal- partner won't get excited without strong diamonds, and he won't go jumping randomly to game no matter what. A jump to 4H: over 3D: would be a picture jump, showing concentrated values in the red suits with four hearts.
    DAN
    Partner has just accepted a natural game try. I don't see that it says anything much about his feelings regarding slam. Three of a red suit would have been to play, and 3S: would have shown four spades, so his available cuebids were all somewhat ambiguous: 3C: sounds like a counter-game try, 4C: sounds like a splinter and 4D: sounds like good diamonds and might not even be perceived as forcing. [!!! --Jeff] I don't see him necessarily cue-bidding 3C: every time he holds a game-acceptance and the club ace.
    DAVIDM
    The way that I play it, 2S: would have been an artificial help suit relay. This would effectively prevent partner from keeping me from describing my hand. (unintended side benefit) Without that agreement, partner should not be slammish, but should probably have concentrations in H:+D:. He did not bid NT so he is unlikely to have a lot wasted in clubs.

    I believe in bidding out patterns when slam is possible. I like to get partner involved if I can (it tends to keep them happier in the long run if you occasionally pretend to value their judgement ) I think partners bidding says that he doesn't have anything to add to the description of his hand, but has sound values for what he has shown.

    ROBB
    Ambiguous. Most cuebids suggest uncertainty about strain at the 3 level.
    JOEL
    4H: shouldn't be a super fitter. It's a nice hand, but not great.
    MIKE
    ...Presumably this implies a club control, since partner didn't cuebid 3 or 4 clubs en route to 4H:...
    BOBBY
    I play that it tends to show a lack of slam interest.
    DAVIDW
    Since 2S: is only a try for game, any of partner's bids below 3H: are bounceback game tries. Therefore, only 3S: or 4C: are viable as cue bids on [Not 3S:. That is needed for 4342 acceptances. --Jeff] this sequence, Partner's 4H: bid shows a good hand, including 4 trumps, for 2H:, since he accepted. If I were to try for slam, I would bid 5C:, and raise 5D: to 6D:, catering to the hand where we have a heart loser ( S:KJ H:Kxxx D:KQxxx C:Jx). [I assume this means that partner should cue if some bids are defined as such. --Jeff]
    KENT
    4H: doesn't deny slam interest, but does deny the ability to cue on the way. Yes, he should cue if he's accepting cheerfully. I don't need a very good hand from partner if all of his stuff is outside of clubs. [I'm calling this "4H: is nonslammish," as the real question is "do you cue when partner might just have a game try or do you cater to the rare case of a slam try?" --Jeff]
    ED
    I play methods that distinguish between responder's holding game-only hands and slam hands. Opener's bids depend on what responder is interested in knowing — a jump to 4H: has no specific meaning opposite game-only interest and shows a poor fit opposite slam interest.
    MARSHALL
    I'll admit that I don't have good methods for this type of sequence. But since reaching the right game is more important than trying for slam, I wonder whether a cue bid shouldn't show a maximum with 3 trumps, suggesting notrump if partner has the right hand. [2/3NT shows three hearts over 2S:. Each show a maximum (only 3H: shows a min) but with different surenesses about 3NT. 2NT leaves room to judge about stoppers; 3NT does not. --Jeff]
    JJ
    In terms of general methods, in game try situations I try to bid according to the principle that hands that evaluate to more than the expected maximum (in this case, about 15 evaluation points) should do something to try to tell partner about the extras, but that normal maximums should not. Thus, I wind up bidding something like this:
    • 90th - 100th percentile of hands: try to find a way to show extras
    • 60th - 90th percentile of hands: accept game
    • 40th - 60th percentile of hands: try to find a return try if possible
    • 1st - 40th percentile of hands: decline game
    Bids which would clearly show extras in this auction:
    • 4C:: shortness
    • 4D:: good D:
    Bids which might show extras:
    • 3C:: normally a return game try, possibly better
    Bids which accept game:
    • 3S:: shows four spades
    • 4H:: shows four hearts normally
    • 3NT - max without four hearts
    Bids which are NF:
    • 2NT: min with three hearts
    • 3D:: min with three hearts, 5+D: (this could be played as forcing)
    • 3H:: signoff
    [Not me. 2NT is forcing; 3D: is forcing. Each are natural. 3NT suggests playing there fairly strongly. 2NT is ambiguous to strength. If we play a partscore after raising a major, we play it in the major. --Jeff]

    The actual hand is interesting. Itís not clear to me as to what the best bid over 2H: is. 2S: and 4C: (shortness with a slam try) are both good calls. 2S: has the advantage of allowing for alternate strains other than hearts. 3NT and 4S: are both realistic possibilities after 2S:. On the other hand, 4C: gets across the slam possibilities right away. If pard has the right hand for slam, (a maximum with good H:, little or nothing in C:), heíll bid RKC and youíll get there.) Given that this is an IMP problem and that 4H: will make even if it the wrong strain, I think 4C: is best.

    [That seems to me to be after-the-fact thinking. I'd never bid 4C: with four so-so hearts. Not only do we get to the wrong game often, we can sometimes dope out club duplication below game with 2S:. Perhaps the auction might go ...2S:-3C:-3D:-3NT. Are we not thrilled to pass? Also, if we bid 4C: and partner has H:Kxx, it won't occur to him that we rate to lose two trump tricks; he'll drive to slam with a hand otherwise suitable. --Jeff]

    JEFF AT THE TABLE
    I thought partner was denying slammish cards, but since I have all these aces, I already knew that.
    VOTES
    StyleVotes
    4H: ambiguous4
    4H: nonslammish10
    In Between1
    JEFF UPON REFLECTION
    Where did this come from, you might ask? Ed and I have been having a discussion about whether it is right for a game-try acceptor to show something about his hand in case partner was making a slam try. Ed avers that he never ought to, that nearly all the time, that's just giving information to the enemy. That sounds like sensible theory, but standard methods then have a very serious problem trying to reach slams after simple slam tries. So I wondered how many subscribe to this theory. Looks like very few. Seems to me it is really good to do at matchpoints, less critial at IMPs. The right theoretical answer is to disambiguate game and slam tries. How to do that effectively is less clear, as there are other things we need to do with the space: find 3NT when it's right, change strain (say with opener's 4342 vs. responder's 4423), and have counter-game-tries. There's room for experimentation, that's for sure.

  2. None vul, you hold

     S:xx H:Q10x D:KJ10x C:K9xx

    RHO LHO
    1S: 2S: (Bergen)
    4S: Pass

    What do you lead?


    MICHAEL
    D:J.
    BARRY
    Trump. D:J might be equally attractive, but if dummy has no source of tricks then the trump looks better and I get a second chance in all probability, and only take finesses for declarer he is favorite to get right for himself.
    DAVIDC
    I'll go passive, lead a trump and pick up partner's Qxx. Who knows?
    CHRIS
    Trump. Totally random, as any of the four suits could be right. Second choice diamond jack.
    DAN
    Yuk. I lead the D:J with trepidation. I probably would have led a trump at MPs. Maybe I should here, too.
    DAVIDM
    I would tend to lead the small heart. It is unlikely that I will be clearing up the problem of declarers 4-4 heart fit. Playing Bergen, they might have explored that possibility. I don't play Bergen so, I am not completely familiar with followups after 1-2. If they were not playing Bergen, I would probably lead a trump.
    ROBB
    trump.
    JOEL
    trump.
    MIKE
    S:x. There is no special reason to believe that dummy will have a source of tricks. If I pickle partner's S:QJ, that is just unlucky, but declarer was likely to pick up the lone Q there anyway.
    BOBBY
    I opt for the passive-aggressive lead of a trump. This lead probably won't hurt much, and with a strong RHO on the right, I dislike underleading one of my kings (and the queen even more).
    DAVIDW
    This is a classic trump lead auction. [1-2-4? Really? --Jeff] In addition, trump leads are most likely to be effective when dummy has three trumps. At worst I'll lose a tempo, which may not be fatal when I have cards everywhere. My rather distant second choice is the diamond jack.
    KENT
    A trump. This may pickle partner's trump holding, but I have all suits stopped, no clear alternative, and would like to reduce ruffs in dummy. If declarer has a sixth trump, this may well blow a tempo.
    ED
    D:T (coded) or D:J (standard). A mild preference for this over a trump lead — it would be a stronger preference if I didn't hold the H:Q and C:K.
    MARSHALL
    A spade. No reason to be aggressive after this sequence.
    JJ
    A trump. Second choice is the correct D: in my methods. A trump might be right when I cut down ruffs (dummy is 3424 or similar) or when being neutral is right. At IMPs itís close. At matchpoints I really favor a trump lead over the aggressive leads.
    JEFF AT THE TABLE
    trump
    VOTES
    LeadVotes
    Trump12
    Heart1
    D:J3
    WINNING ACTION
    Trump. Declarer needs to ruff hearts in dummy and only an initial trump lead is fast enough to stop him. Dummy has long clubs, but our K9xx is sufficient to prevent the use of the suit.
    JEFF UPON REFLECTION
    I think the odds favor a trump lead because we have so much stuff, which means declarer's finesses rate to be offside and our chance of hitting partner's honors is lowered by the strength of our hand. If declarer isn't making this on force of high cards, he may need either a long suit in dummy as a source of tricks or ruffs in dummy. If dummy has a long suit, perhaps I have it bottled up.

    Bergen helps the defense here—I'd not lead a trump if I knew dummy had four, because it'd be useless. I couldn't stop a ruff. But with dummy's having only three, I can do something useful with trump leads.

    Before the panel vote, I thought this was a tough problem, but I guess it is not. We did win a game swing when I found a trump lead and my counterpart did not.


  3. Favorable

    S: K943
    H: J953
    D: J42
    C: A3
    S: QJ52
    H: Q10
    D: 98
    C: Q10986

    South You North East
    1H: Pass2H:* Dbl
    4H: All Pass

    2H: was a 3-card (!) raise.

    Do you pass over 4H:?


    MICHAEL
    No, no, no. God deals you favorable vulnerability for a reason.
    BARRY
    I probably [pass], slowly and reluctantly but I do. Too flat in the red suits to act—obviously we all bid with just a tad more shape.
    DAVIDC
    Surely I do if dummy is going to table S:K9xx. But, no, I don't bid with my quacks and 8 losers which may take tricks on defense.
    CHRIS
    Yup.
    DAN
    Very close. I think I would have bid 4S:. Maybe double-dummy everyone is going down at the four level, but we have been known to let contracts make that shouldn't. Also, at these colours, it may be that we can't touch 4H: and partner's double was a purely shape-based effort to allow us to save.
    DAVIDM
    Yes, however, if my H:Q were elsewhere, I would bid,  S:QJxx H:xx D:Qx C:QT98x
    ROBB
    I probably would have bid.
    JOEL
    Yes. If I was 4-2-1-6, I'd bid. But this isn't good enough reason (might be a 4-3 fit, for instance).
    MIKE
    I would have bid 4S: over 4H:. A bit pushy, but follows the competitive rule, bidding 4S: over 4H: if it is at all reasonable.
    BOBBY
    Yes. Doing otherwise seems rash.
    KENT
    No. 4S: at favorable, in spite of the crummy distribution. Even favorable at IMPs, I expect partner to have a very good hand to come into a live auction with an unlimited hand on his left. I think the 4H: bid was based on a lot of shape—seven trumps wouldn't surprise me at all. I really don't like the looks of dummy—either partner or RHO is really light, as this is a stone max.
    ED
    Yes, I pass.
    MARSHALL
    yes.
    JJ
    Iím a 4S: bidder. The S: say bid, the H:QT suggest passing. The 5-4 suggests bidding. If they are making the save must go for less than the value of game. I think I'll get out for down 2 frequently, and down 3 most of the rest of the time. I think I have a better expectation if I bid, especially given that sometimes the opps bid on to 5H: if I try 4S:. [Odd. I think the 5-4 suggets passing. No singletons, only four trumps. --Jeff]
    JEFF AT THE TABLE
    pass. I don't like going for big numbers, but perhaps I should have saved in 4S: this time.
    VOTES
    ActionVotes
    Bid6
    Pass9
    WINNING ACTION
    depends on your defense.
    JEFF UPON REFLECTION
    Looks like it is close. I'm a passer still. No aces, no kings, no singletons, no voids. Does partner really want me bidding on that kind of hand? On the other hand, I have a bunch of high card schmoints and everyone's bidding a lot. That suggests declarer is bidding on long hearts or some quirky shape. He might just bid 5H: over 4S:, a huge win for our side. This time, of course, LHO saws off 4S:, stopping RHO from getting too high.

    You lead the S:Q.

    T1: S:Q-3-6-8
    You are playing upside-down count and attitude.

    Over to you.


    MICHAEL
    shift to a club.
    BARRY
    C:10. Hoping to set up a club trick before it gets away on diamonds—though I had to work to find a hand that fit the target there are some. How likely is a club to be important—only if we have to cash D:AK and ruff I think now. Not impossible for sure—but might declarer cover T1 then ?
    DAVIDC
    Answer 1. My monkey said to lead a second spade so I do. Could he have a "problem" with ATx or ATxx and try to give me a ruff by flying A? No, because declarer would have likely covered the Q holding the J (a Grovesner but I guess there are hands where it would work; not thought about it before.) Anyway, I don't see any other switch being all that attractive.

    Answer 2. Low C:. It looks like declarer has at least 4 diamonds and we need to get our club trick in before partner's D: card is dislodged. If partner has a second spade trick coming, it won't go away. And from ATx, partner couldn't very well play the T.

    Answer 3. D:. Partner has D:AK and you need to get your ruff right now to beat it. Partner couldn't know you need a D: ruff so signalled low, again possibly from S:ATx.

    Answer 4. H:T. The entire hand comes down to taking two trump tricks with QT opposite A2. If left to his own devices, declarer can't go wrong. Playing the T gives declarer a chance to play partner for AQ2.

    And the winner is (da-da-da-dut-da-da; fanfare of trumpets) "Answer 2." Seems most likely.

    CHRIS
    Diamond nine. Declarer is a heavy favorite to have six hearts, in which case there is no need to shift to clubs now. If declarer has one spade, we need at least two red tricks to defeat the contract, so we'll have time for clubs later. If declarer has two spades, a club shift only wins against a hand like  S:T8 H:AKxxxx D:KQx C:xx, in which case partner would presumably have played the spade seven at trick one.

    Discounting a ridiculously bad signal from partner, a club shift gains when declarer has  S:xx H:AKxxx D:KQTx C:xx, which would be a pretty random 4H: bid. I'll play for  S:x H:AKxxxx D:QTxx C:Kx instead.

    DAN
    I'll play for a trump promotion and shift to the D:9. Maybe partner has something along the lines of  S:Axxx H:D:AKxxx C:xxxx and declarer has  S:x H:AKxxxxx D:Qxx C:Kx.
    DAVIDM
    If partner has 4 spades, it is probably safe to continue, however, if he only has 3, it may set up a pitch. Partner's 6 looks encouraging, however, what is he supposed to play holding AT6. I think I am going to switch to the D:9.
    ROBB
    Club. WTP? Do I think I am tapping somebody? How am I getting 4 tricks if I don't have a club trick?
    JOEL
    I shift to the C:8. Time to set up partner's king before his diamond card gets knocked out. I'm assuming that if partner wanted a diamond shift, he'd have played discouraging. I'm hoping declarer has something like:  S:xx H:AKxxxxx D:KQ C:xx or one of a variety of hyper-aggressive hands.
    MIKE
    Partner probably doesn't hold the D:AK or the red aces or he would have discouraged. In that case, I shift to a club to get that trick established before declarer sets up a pitch on the diamond. Perhaps partner has only 3 spades.

    I changed my mind. Partner's encouragement merely shows the S:10, which is information I already had. That doesn't change the fact that there are more cases where a diamond switch wins than a club switch. (club gains when partner holds  S:A10xx H:K D:H10xx C:Kxxx, diamond when partner holds D:AK or the red aces)

    BOBBY
    I switch to the C:9, trying to assault dummy's entries. A spade continuation won't effect the K as a menace or for its throw-in potential, and it seems right at IMPs to be aggressive.
    DAVIDW
    I switch to a low club. This looks like the right thing to do against declarer's 1-6-4-2 (or the less likely 2-5-4-2) pattern, where we need to ensure that we get our club trick. I am worried that declarer will be able to shed a club from dummy on his diamond suit. My defense caters to partner's most likely distribution, 4-1-4-4. In an emergency, partner may have to play me for the club queen to avoid an endplay, so I lead a low one to make that easier.
    KENT
    Diamond nine, playing partner for either D:AK or H:A, D:K.
    ED
    C:6. This can't cost unless declarer has C:KJx and a diamond loser to discard. There is a very good chance that a club loser will go on declarer's long diamonds if I don't play clubs now.
    MARSHALL
    Play S:J. Tempting to lead a trump, but leading Q could lose if partner has stiff king. Leading 10 might lose if partner failed to play the king.
    JJ
    Given that Iím on defense, I shift to the D:9. With the 2 undisclosed hands having done all this bidding on 24 HCP, itís extremely likely that hearts are divided 6-1 if not 7-0 between pard and declarer. I came up with a couple of constructions where a C: or a S: could be right, but they are rare. [What are they? --Jeff] Itís not always going to beat the hand to cash a 2nd spade even if it does happen to cash. By far the best chance to beat the contract is to catch pard with the D:AK. I also win on AD:, AH:. BTW, pardís signal is almost meaningless; even if he has the D:AK he wonít know that youíre ruffing. Nor will he know that the 2nd spade isnít cashing. [I thought about that problem at some length, and I concluded John is mistaken. If the defense is careful, 3rd hand will know the 2nd spade isn't cashing because partner didn't continue spades. More on that later. --Jeff]
    JEFF AT THE TABLE
    Shift to a club. I trusted my partner, but I think that was probably wrong.
    VOTES
    ActionVotes
    Club9
    Spade1
    Diamond5
    WINNING ACTION
    Diamond. Partner has  S:A1076 H:D:AKxxxx C:xxx.
    JEFF UPON REFLECTION
    I'm with Joel. At the table, I didn't analyze the hand beyond "partner encouraged spades, so he can't have the D:AK or he'd want a shift real bad." Problem is, I couldn't find a construction on which a club shift was necessary to beat it. Fortunately, Mike and Joel found some, albeit unlikely ones.

    I'm a little surprised that so few of the panel even mentioned partner's carding. It mattered a lot to me at the table, convincing me to play a club rather than a diamond. As a matter of fact, I think this problem is all about partner's carding. I wonder why so few others agree.

    What ought partner play at T1? One might think that it depends on the partnership signalling style (note that Mike and I disagree about the meaning of the S:6). Nope. Partner should play the S:10! That's not an upside-down signal. It's not a right-side-up signal. It's not attitude, not count, not suit preference. It's a pure signal. If partner can afford to blow up the spade suit (if I have only QJx, he's given declarer a trick) he must have fast winners outside of spades. Where can they be? Diamonds. Therefore, I logically have no choice but to shift to diamonds. He also cannot have any combinable honors in clubs or we might be getting them too slowly. Therefore, he has roughly the exact hand he has and my defense becomes clear. Those things never work at the table, though. Partner usually says, "that's a very clever play. Perhaps I ought to have worked it out." What they really mean is, "that so-and-so keeps giving me goofy problems like this and he's complaining because I don't solve them all??? He can just ... "

    Ignoring the issue of the S:10, what ought partner's card at T1 be? Attitude? When the S:Q holds, his attitude is known. Count? We'd be pretty surprised if he didn't have exactly four spades. And even if he didn't, do we care much how many spades he has? It's not directly going to influence our action. What we need to know right away is to what to shift. If the hand were played the other way around, with dummy's having the singleton spade, most would play partner's card as suit preference. Here, everyone has a good idea that declarer has a singleton, so I think the T1 signal should be suit preference. If you play "Obvious Shift," it comes to the same thing—encourage spades if you want a club, discourage if you want the obvious shift, diamonds. More simply, 3rd hand knows opening leader's problem. Opening leader knows his partner knows his problem. Therefore, 3rd hand's card should be an attempt to solve that problem. If one has strict partnership rules about signals (sometimes a good thing), one might have to find the S:10 signal. If your partnership is more flexible, then I think this should be a suit preference case.

    What about later defense? Let's say partner plays the S:10 like a good boy. What should we do? I don't see how the D:8 will help; I think it'd deny a doubleton diamond when we follow with the D:9 later. That sequence would suggest a spade is cashing. On the other hand, since we know partner's diamonds are fast winners, we can do better. If we have only three spades, we can continue spades to cash partner's second spade when we are 3-3 in the pointed suits. Then partner cashes his diamonds for down one. How does he know we have a third spade, not a doubleton? We continue with the small one, not the S:J, keeping the card we are known to hold. With S:QJ tight, we continue the honor and partner gives us a ruff, gets back with a diamond, and judges from the hand count and our diamond spot whether to try for a trump promotion or to cash another diamond for down two. What if declarer drops the D:Q under the first diamond winner? Partner has to cash another. We aren't beating this if only one diamond cashes. OK, that's the complicated partnership defense. Here's the simple logical defense. After one spade and two diamonds cash, partner is free to continue diamonds no matter whether he trusts us or not. Why? Because the spade trick isn't going anywhere. The trump promotion might disappear, but if declarer has two spades, partner will take trick thirteen anyway.

    All in all, it's a fascinating hand. And the panel blew it just as badly as I did at the table!



Jeff Goldsmith, jeff@gg.caltech.edu, Nov. 26, 2002