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 The Big Game by Ben Norton

The Big Game

Teams matches are the pinnacle of bridge competition. The big decisions can easily swing the result and there’s no randomness created by a multitude of pairs to score up with, as in a matchpoint game. In knockout events especially, there’s nowhere to hide in what is a direct battle of wits.

The South chair is beckoning. Time to win some IMPs (or, on some problems, not lose them).

Question 1

  Your Hand
 9 8
 A 10 9 6 3
 9 8 4 2
 4 2
Q: 1 - Straight into the fray.

All Pass

 Your choice:
A: 6. Partner needn’t have a great suit for his overcall. He’s at favorable vulnerability and he could have a good hand. What’s more, East is prepared for a Spade lead. He would have taken a slower route otherwise.

You do best to lead your own long suit. All you need is a three-card honor holding in partner’s hand and the suit will likely be established in one fell swoop. Having the A is a big bonus, since you can hold it up to retain communication with partner.

The only issue that remains is which Heart to lead. The 10 is the traditional card, to prevent partner’s Queen from being played on thin air when dummy has the likes of J 8 x opposite declarer’s K x x, but that’s an unlikely scenario and besides, the suit isn’t going to run on that layout.

A low Heart is the correct lead. If partner has a holding such as K x, Q J, or K J, the 10 might give up a trick, crashing partner’s honor. Keep the 10 for later The 6 provides your best chance of cashing the suit.

Your result so far:
Open Question

Question 2

  Your Hand
 9 7 5
 A K J 9 7
 Q 6 3 2
Q: 2 - What do you make of this?

*2 showed Hearts and a minor. 3NT promised a Heart stopper.

2*3NTAll Pass

 Your choice:
A: J. From the looks of the auction, West is prepared for a Heart lead, but you have an excellent holding yourself and should not be deterred. You should certainly be looking to establish your own long suit, holding the majority of your side’s strength, and your Diamonds are too weak to play on, needing an awful lot from partner to set them up.

A Heart lead represents your best chance, but again you have a decision as to which card. A top one could pick up Q x in dummy, but may cut the link with partner when he has a doubleton. To cater for this, retain both of your top Hearts.

The Q is likely in dummy, so try the J. That may pin 10 x on your right (with Q x x x in dummy) and could give declarer a guess when dummy has Q x x and partner 10 x. Should he cover and risk unblocking the suit for the defense when North has A x, or play low and go down on this layout?

Your result so far:
Open Question

Question 3

  Your Hand
 J 10
 Q J 10 6
 J 10 9 8
 A 6 2
Q: 3 - Not everyone’s auction, but here you are.

*West has shown an invitational hand with 4/4 in the majors

All Pass

 Your choice:
A: J. It could be right to lead a trump, hoping to cut down declarer’s ruffing potential and thus protect your Heart tricks. However, partner might be the one with the doubleton Heart, in which case you do best to lead the Q, angling for a ruff (perhaps an immediate one, if partner has A x over dummy’s King), but there may be a more pressing need.

If declarer has a source of tricks in Clubs, you have to set about the Diamonds immediately. Since that’s not too unlikely and a major-suit lead would be guessing at partner’s Heart length anyway, table the J. Just a well-placed K in partner’s hand might be enough.

Your result so far:
Open Question

Question 4

  Your Hand
 10 8 5 4 2
 J 10
 9 7
 Q J 9 4
Q: 4 - From rags to riches.

*1 showed four-plus Hearts and 1 three-card support. West has subsequently promised six Diamonds and a game-forcing hand

All Pass

 Your choice:
A: Q. East should have the black suits sewn up for his 3NT call, knowing of 10 red-suit cards opposite. Therefore, a Spade lead is unlikely to work. Partner’s honors will be caught underneath East’s tenace. A Heart lead won’t do much good either, given that partner has only four of them.

You need less from partner for a Club attack to work, and with the nine to back up your holding, the Q is superior to a low one, which could gift declarer a cheap trick. Hopefully partner will gain the lead a few times and return Clubs through declarer.

Your result so far:
Open Question

Question 5

  Your Hand
 5 2
 10 9 5 3 2
 A Q J 9 8 6
Q: 5 - A lot of IMPs riding on this one.

*3 showed some Heart length, since you didn’t open 3 initially. 4 was a good Spade raise, not promising a control

All Pass

 Your choice:
A: 6. You plan to get partner on lead for a Club ruff, so a trump (rarely right against small slams) is out of the question. Should you lead a Heart, presumably the nine - your ‘weird’ card that is usually only from shortness – to deny an honor and act as an alarm clock signal for partner to do something unusual, or is the route to partner’s hand in Diamonds?

Partner is a big favorite to hold the K after his jump to 5. However, the first round of Diamonds might not stand up. That still needs less than a Heart lead, though. Why should partner have the A after the opponents have confidently bid slam? Indeed, if partner had the A and big Diamond support, he might have tried 4 en route, to help you with the opening lead.

A low Diamond, underleading to partner’s King, carries the most potential. Select the 6, your lowest pip, as a suit preference signal for a Club return. Partner shouldn’t play back a Diamond, not only on the auction, but also as there must be a reason why you’ve underled the Ace.

Your result so far:
Open Question

Overall Results

Your results:   out of    Average: 

What next? You may enjoy playing our prepared hands series.
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