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Handling a Freak

Board 10
East Deals
Both Vul
N
W E
S
J
A K J 8 7 5 2
Q J 10 4 3
West North East South
?

What do you open the East hand, and what is your general plan? There is no right or wrong answer, but there are two possibilities. First of all, it's a genuine opening bid, so 1  can hardly be wrong. Second, you can elect to preempt with a 5  bid in order to make life difficult for the opponents. Both plans have merit, and both have drawbacks. Let's suppose you open 1 , the theoretically correct bid, and see the following first round of bidding:


Board 10
East Deals
Both Vul
N
W E
S
J
A K J 8 7 5 2
Q J 10 4 3
West North East South
1  1 ♠
2  2 ♠ ?

You are pretty sure the opponents are headed for 4 ♠. Do you bid some number of clubs in order to bring partner into the picture? If so, how many clubs do you bid? If you bid clubs the opponents might discover that they have a massive heart fit, so that plan has drawbacks.

Do you jump to 5  in order to make the opponents guess? Or do you bid 3  in an attempt to "walk the dog"? As I said, there is no right or wrong answer, at least in theory. Whatever works at the table is the right answer.

There is one bid that gives up captaincy, and puts your trust in partner: 5 ♣. This bid shows a massive 2-suiter, and a good partner should now know what to do.


Board 10
East Deals
Both Vul
N
W E
S
J
A K J 8 7 5 2
Q J 10 4 3
West North East South
1  1 ♠
2  2 ♠ 5  5 ♠
Dbl Pass ?

Instead of 5 ♣, suppose instead that you bid 5  in order to keep the opponents in the dark about the heart fit that you know they must have. Partner would have made a negative double over 1 ♠ with four hearts, so the opponents have a ten card heart fit.

But the auction shown here is not the auction you had hoped for. Given that partner has raised your diamonds, you expect to take zero tricks in your own hand on defense. On a very good day, you might win a diamond, but I wouldn't hold my breath. On the other hand, if you bid 6 , you might drive them into 6 ♠, against which you have no defense. You are certainly in a competitive bidding pickle here. Do you pull partner's double? If you decide to pull the double, will the opponents go to 6 ♠? Moreover, partner might well have all his high card values in the major suits. Perhaps the opponents are overboard. Among the good things that could happen on defense is the possibility that you could get a heart ruff.


Board 10
East Deals
Both Vul
N
W E
S
J
A K J 8 7 5 2
Q J 10 4 3
West North East South
5  5 ♠
Pass Pass ?

OK, let's go back to the opening bid. Suppose you elect to preempt 5 . Do you break the rule and bid again in the above auction, presumably by bidding 6 ♣? Or do you pass, hoping that the preempt has done its work? Questions, questions. But as I said, no clear answers.

Gentle reader, if you have read this far you have an advantage over every East that picked up this hand. If you are sure what the best plan for this hand is, you're a better analyst than your humble reporter. Nevertheless, I do not approve of a 5  preempt. Your hand is just too good for that. Let us take a closer look at a 5 ♣ bid.


Board 10
East Deals
Both Vul
N
W E
S
J
A K J 8 7 5 2
Q J 10 4 3
West North East South
1  1 ♠
2  2 ♠ 5 ♣

The first thing to note is that a 5 ♣ bid describes your hand very nicely. It describes a massive 2-suited hand in the minors, which is exactly what you have. Now that you have described the hand accurately, you can relax and let partner take control.

If partner subsequently doubles the opponents, it can only be that he has high cards in the major suits. The 5 ♣ bid is the logical conclusion to your decision to open 1  rather than preempting 5 . Once partner supports diamonds, you can count on taking at least ten tricks in your own hand. Since you would never dream of selling out to 4 ♠, so why not describe your hand? Make your partner part of the team!

Notice that when you bid 5 ♣, partner becomes the only player at the table who knows what is going on. You don't know where partner's values are, nor do the opponents. Partner knows, and is best equipped to make the final decision.

Now let's take a look at the complete deal.


Board 10
East Deals
Both Vul
Q 7 3
K Q 9 7 4 3
10 9 6
8
10 5 2
8 5 2
Q 4 3
A K 9 5
N
W E
S
J
A K J 8 7 5 2
Q J 10 4 3
A K 9 8 6 4
A J 10 6
7 6 2
West North East South
1  1 ♠
2  2 ♠ 5 ♣ Pass
6 ♣! 6  Pass Pass
7 ♣ Pass Pass Dbl
All pass

The auction shown here is one possible ending to this drama. Even when North makes the inspired 6  call, West achieves at least a par score by bidding 7 ♣.

After this auction, West can reasonably presume that the opponents have no more than one minor suit loser, and therefore sacrifices at 7 ♣.

But a funny thing might happen on the way to this "sacrifice". What does the South player lead against 7 ♣? At double dummy, he can underlead the ♠ AK9864 in order to get a diamond ruff. If he does this, I would suggest holding your cards closer to your chest. There is a pretty good

 

     
 
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