♠ A K 7 2
♥ K 7 6 2
♦ 7 2
♣ 7 6 2
♠ A K Q 10
♥ Q 6
♦ A K J 10
♣ A K J
By Mike Lawrence
Every now and then you get a hand that is too enormous to open two or three notrump.
The book says that with twenty-seven balanced high card points you must open four notrump but it doesn’t tell you how to respond to four notrump. In any event, I have found that opening four notrump to show a big notrump hand is just too unwieldy as well as too rare to cater to. A much better use for an opening four notrump bid is to ask for aces. Once in awhile you get a hand like this one.
K Q J 10 8 7 6 4
A K Q
I would love to know how many aces my partner has. If I open four notrump, I find out. If I open one diamond or perhaps two clubs, the opponents may get into the bidding and either deprive me of being able to ask for aces later or perhaps will find a good save against my game or slam.
Going back to the question of what to bid with the twenty-seven point hand above, a possible solution is to open two clubs and rebid a good four card suit. On this hand, rebidding two spades works well because partner has a fit and raises to game. Note that North’s four spade bid is a weak bid showing four trump, a smidgen of points, but nothing useful for slam. South can pass four spades knowing there are two heart losers.
Can you imagine any other auction which gets you to four spades? I am not claiming that this bidding trick will always work, but it is a good one to consider when you have one of these monstrous hands.
Against four spades, West starts with three rounds of hearts forcing South to ruff. How should South play?
You can, if you wish to play conservatively, draw trump and take your ten sure tricks. You have four spade tricks, a heart ruff in your hand, two diamonds and three clubs. A sure ten tricks.
But if you are playing in a tournament where overtricks are worth something, you may wish to play all out to get an overtrick.
THE TWO OBVIOUS LINES
One line is to play three clubs discarding a diamond from dummy. Now you can play the ace and king of diamonds and ruff two diamonds in dummy.
Hopefully, no one can ruff any of these tricks.
Another possibility is to take a diamond finesse somewhere along the way. But that is risky because the defenders may get a diamond ruff or if you have drawn trumps, West may cash a heart when he gets in with the queen of diamonds.
THE BEST LINE
There is yet a third line which avoids 99% of the hazards. I invite you to look for it now before showing you all four hands.
♠ J 9 8 4
♥ 7 5 4 2
♦ 7 3 2
♣ Q 6
♠ 7 6 5 2
♥ A K J 10
♦ Q 9 8 4
♥ 9 8 3
♦ 6 5
♣ 9 8 7 5 4 3 2
♠ A K Q 10
♥ Q 6
♦ A K J 10
♣ A K J
The winning play is called a dummy reversal. When West led the third round of hearts, South must ruff with a high one, not the ten. Play one high spade out of your hand to make sure they divide at least 4-1. When both of your opponents follow, you can almost claim.
Go to dummy with the queen of clubs and ruff the last heart with your remaining high trump honor. This leaves you with the singleton ten of spades. There are still three trumps out and because you still have the ten of spades, you can overtake it with the jack, draw trumps and claim. Dummy’s hearts are all gone and the third small diamond in dummy will be discarded on your good clubs.
This line gives you eleven sure tricks and requires only that clubs aren’t divided eight-zero. As you can see, the clubs are not eight-zero, but they are almost that bad. The seven-one split means that West will ruff the second round of clubs and one of your tricks will go up in smoke.
Remember. When you have a choice of ruffing one suit in dummy or another suit in your hand, always consider which is the safer approach. Learning to look at a hand from both perspectives is an important skill.
Imagine this scenario and decide if you have not seen it before. You put down your dummy for partner. Your hand includes four trumps, a singleton in a side suit, and the K109763 of another.
They lead your singleton suit and your partner wins the opening lead in his hand.
What do you expect your partner to do next?
If you said that you expect him to continue the suit they led and ruff it in dummy, you are right. You are right that this is the line of play found routinely my declarers around the world. But it is possible that this is not a good line. Your K109763 side suit may be the key to the hand. Perhaps your partner should be setting up this suit rather than ruffing things in dummy.
Care to know more about Dummy Reversals, one of the least understood of dummy play techniques? You will find many examples of them in Private Bridge Lessons, Volume Two. Just look in the software section for a further discussion of this and other software products.