Twelve for me, one for both of you
This deal was played in the South Florida Bridge Players team game (a common source of deals for this column). With both sides vulnerable, South held:
♠ A K 10 6 3 ♥ A K J 8 ♦ A ♣ A 4 2
He opened 2♣ and received a response of 2♦ waiting. He bid 2♠ and his partner bid 2NT. The pair had 3♣ available as a second negative, so 2NT was natural and suggested something more than a total bust. South now showed his hearts, and his partner bid 4♣. What’s that?
There has been an epidemic Gerber outbreak in South Florida, but thankfully, it hasn’t spread to the expert game. Too many intermediate players have erroneously been taught that 4♣ is “always” Gerber.
On this auction, partner isn’t showing a club suit. He could have bid 3♣ over 2♣ to show good clubs, or 3♣ then 4♣ with a weaker club one-suiter. So if it isn’t clubs, and it isn’t Gerber, the likely meaning of 4♣ is, “I have a good raise to 4♥, probably with a club control.”
South now used Roman Key Card Blackwood and got the answer he knew he would get – 5♦, showing zero key cards. This was the only way, however, to get to the questions that he wanted to ask: “Partner, do you have the trump queen and what about kings?” South bid 5♠ to ask about the ♥Q and North bid 6♥ denying it.
Assuming you aren’t dizzied by this auction, try the play in 6♥ with the lead of the ♦J.
Let’s say you win the ♦A and lay down the top trumps. On the second round, your right-hand opponent shows out (LHO started with ♥Q 10 9). Now what?.
You play the ♠A K and throw what from dummy? If spades split 4–3, you can always set up the fifth spade and eventually throw a club on it, then ruff a club in dummy. So, you might as well keep all of dummy’s clubs in case spades are not 4–3. You throw a diamond on the high spade, and then upon ruffing a spade in dummy, you get bad news: East throws a diamond. Spades are 5–2.
You have two more trumps in dummy to ruff your last two spades, but how will you play the clubs? In the (presumably) expert game, both declarers fell from grace and played the ♣A and a club to the jack. With LHO known to have five spades and three hearts (as opposed to RHO’s two spades and one heart), the club finesse was not a favorite.
Something much better was available. After ruffing the third spade, declarer should ruff a diamond in hand and then ruff the fourth spade in dummy. Another diamond is ruffed in hand. If LHO overruffs, so be it – the club finesse is always available later. That diamond ruff lives, and the fifth and final spade is ruffed in dummy. Declarer then plays to the ♣A and back to the ♣K, taking the first 12 tricks. On the final trick, declarer loses to both East’s ♣Q and West’s trump Q! This was the Real Deal:
It was fortunate to find LHO following to all of those minor-suit tricks, but surely this was a better line of play than taking a club finesse.