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A Little Help from a Friend

South Deals
None Vul
8 6 5
Q 10 4 2
A Q 10 5
10 5
K Q 10 9 4
A 8
9 2
A K 9 3
South West North East
1 3 Pass Pass
3 Pass 4 All Pass

Dave Metcalf (sphinx on OKbridge and a regular face-to-face partner of mine in the early 90s) played this hand nicely to make his contract, with a little help from the bidding. As his partner, I have to admit, I passed 3 not due to any caution or wisdom on my part, but because I thought Dave had opened 1 . I'm not sure what to make of Dave's 3 call - he certainly isn't ready for a 4 call if he reopens with a double, and his spade suit is pretty good. Pass is an unpleasant option, although not unreasonable.
The Q was led, and Dave won the A, cashed the K, and ruffed a club, West's jack falling. Dave led a trump to the king, which won. Crossing with the A, he led another trump, and East flew the ace, West showing out. East exited a heart, which Dave won with the ace.
Q 10 4
Q 10 5
Q 10 9
It looks like Dave still had to lose a trump, a diamond and a heart, but Dave made an inspired play - he cashed the Q and the good 9, pitching hearts from dummy, then threw East in with the trump. East could cash the K, but then had to give up a trick in diamonds, allowing Dave to pitch his heart loser.
If West had been quiet on the auction, we would either have played 3 , making, or 4 , which would be down one when Dave took the diamond finesse. The bidding gave Dave enough information, though - West showed up with the K-J-x-x-x-x and Q-J-x, so he was quite unlikely to have the K as well. Also, East was marked with only the one heart, so it was a sure thing that he was left with only diamonds at the end when he was thrown in with a trump.
So again, let me argue passionately for passing. We often see cases where preempts and overcalls win, but we rarely comtemplate the subtle instances when they lose. Against a good player, describing your hand can be very dangerous.
I've had spectacular wins when I've failed to overcall. While it is nice to find that nine-card solid fit during the auction, it is much nicer to find it on opening lead against 3 NT. It is often nice to conceal those 6-1 and 7-1 breaks in side-suits, as well.
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Thomas Andrews (bridge@thomasoandrews.com), © 1995-2009.
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