This deal comes from the National Swiss Teams at the 2009 NABC in Houston. What would you open (both sides vulnerable) with this hand:
♠ Q J
♥ A K
♦ A 7 6 2
♣ A Q 7 6 5?
I see two main possibilities. One is to open 1♣. After that, you probably will end up reversing into 2♦. Most readers/players prefer to avoid
reverse auctions, so I think it is more practical to open 2NT. You have 20 high-card points, and the hand is kind of balanced. I don’t like to have two doubletons for a 2NT opener, but half
the points are in the doubletons and half the points are in the 5–4 part of the hand, to even things out.
Have I talked you into the losing action? If you open 2NT, partner bids Stayman and you end up in 3NT. If you open 1♣, maybe you have a chance to reach the excellent club slam:
♠ A K 8 6
♥ 10 8 5 3
♣ J 9 8 2
♠ Q J
♥ A K
♦ A 7 6 2
♣ A Q 7 6 5
Here is a “precise” route to 6♣, which will also provide a clue in the play. I had opened the South hand a Precision 1♣ (strong, forcing and artificial). Left-hand opponent overcalled in diamonds, and partner was able to show a 4–4–1–4 hand. This made it easy (using Roman Key Card Blackwood) to reach 6♣. So, there you are with the ♦K lead. How do you play?
You win the ♦A and have to decide (as always) if you should draw trump now or later. Also, as always, you should count your losers. Looking at it from the South hand’s point of view (using North’s assets), there are no problems in the majors. You probably will lose a trump trick, but you can handle all three of your little diamonds. You can throw two of them on dummy’s spades, and ruff the last one in dummy. This means it is probably best to just work on trumps — don’t worry about losing to the ♣K. As long as trumps aren’t 4–0, you should soon be claiming.
So, at trick two, play the ♣A (don’t worry if the ♣K is onside) — you don’t care about overtricks in Swiss Teams. Everyone follows low on the ♣A — they weren’t 4–0. It looks easy now. What next?
|Dlr: East||♠ A K 8 6|
|Vul: Both||♥ 10 8 5 3|
|♣ J 9 8 2|
|♠ 5 3 2||♠ 10 9 7 4|
|♥ J 9 7||♥ Q 6 4 2|
|♦ K Q J 9 4 3||♦ 10 8|
|♣ 4||♣ K 10 3|
|♠ Q J|
|♥ A K|
|♦ A 7 6 2|
|♣ A Q 7 6 5|
Look at the full deal. There is a big trap waiting! Suppose that after the ♣A, you were to lead a low club. Dummy plays the jack and East wins the King. Then East taps dummy with
a diamond. Do you see the problem? The spades are blocked. You can take the ♠Q J, but can’t get back to dummy for the ♠A K. You can’t ruff another diamond in dummy because
it will get overruffed.
So, if you cash the ♣A and play a low club, you are down!
A much easier solution is to play the ♣Q after the ace. Now, nothing can go wrong. If clubs are 2–2, you claim. If clubs are 3–1, you still have the ♣J as a late entry to dummy. On the actual layout, East can win the ♣Q and tap dummy, but now you unblock the ♠Q J, then cross to the ♣J to draw the last trump, and take your two discards on the high spades to claim 1370. For bidding and making 6♣ (the play went as described), your team wins 12 IMPs (the other table opened 2NT and played in 3NT making 630).
Note: Cashing the ♠Q J first would also work on this layout, but wouldn’t be a good idea if spades split poorly. There were many ways to make this contract, but the trap to avoid was ♣A followed by a low club.