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44 - December 2023

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Report – Australian championship

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Australian Championship
(Teams, IMPs).

You are in the shoes of Sartaj Hans, a very good Australian player. Your objective is to make 3 No-Trump without seeking any overtricks.

WNES
GILLHANS
1
Pass2Pass2
Pass3♣Pass3
Pass3♠Pass3NT

Contract: 3 No-Trump by South.
Lead: ♠7.

First of all, you need to count your tricks.
You have one trick in Spades, two tricks in Hearts, three tricks in Diamonds and one trick in Clubs. You are two tricks short.

In which suits do you think you can find those tricks?
Spades can provide an extra trick. In addition, Diamonds are sure to give at least a fourth trick thanks to the quality of the spot cards, even if you may sometimes need to lose a trick in the process.

Do you let the lead run to your hand?
West does not necessarily have the King of Spades. If you don’t play the Ace and East has the King of Spades, he’ll get on lead and is likely to switch to a Club. You will then be in great danger, as the defense could get three Clubs, a Spade and a Diamond.

In fact, you need to prevent East from getting in so that he cannot play a Club.
The only way of making sure that you establish a trick without East getting in is to go up with the Ace of Spades and then handle the Diamonds in a special way: play the 10 from dummy and, if East doesn’t cover, follow with the 6 from your hand!

What can happen?
If East has the Jack, like here, your finesse is successful and you are on your way to ten tricks.

Do you have any entry problems at this stage?
No, as long as you’re careful. Start by unblocking the Ace of Diamonds, then the Ace of Hearts. Then cash all your Diamonds and finally play a Spade to the Queen-Jack. That way, you establish a second Spade trick with one of your honors and this will also serve as entry to your King of Hearts.

What if West has the Diamond Jack?
Then West gets on lead but he cannot do anything that bothers you: if West plays another Spade and East wins and switches to a Club, you win the Ace, play a Diamond to the Ace, a Heart to the Ace, then cash the Diamonds before getting back to hand with a Spade; If West plays a Club, you call for a small one from dummy.

Post-mortem
By opting for this line of play, which is 100%, Sartaj Hans made sure he would bring home his contract against any defense!

Variations on a hand

What is your bid as West?

♠ 5
KJ8
AKJ6
♣ AQJ93

1.

WNES
1♣Pass1♠Pass
2Pass2♠Pass
?

View solution

3NT: Careful, 2NT would not be forcing here. With 19HCP you can afford to impose playing game: leap directly to 3NT.

2.

WNES
1♣Pass1Pass
2Pass2Pass
?

View solution

3♠: This bid is a Splinter, showing a singleton Spade and three-card support in Hearts. If East has a minimum, he will quietly sign off in 4. If not, he will start with control bids to investigate slam.

3.

WNES
1♣1♠Pass3♠
?

View solution

Double: With a strong hand and no certainty about the trump suit, the best is to go for a take-out Double. It does not always guarantee four Hearts, in this type of situations you need to be flexible.

4.

WNES
1♠Pass
2♣Pass2Pass
3Pass3NTPass
?

View solution

4NT: This is a quantitative 4NT because no fit has been found. This bid is legitimate with 19HCP opposite partner’s opening. The latter can pass if he has not more than 12 or a mediocre 13HCP

5.

WNES
1♣1♠23♠
?

View solution

4♠: A good way to show strong support in Diamonds and slam ambitions, all topped off with a control in Spades. This is not Exclusion Blackwood, which must be bid with a jump.

6.

WNES
1Pass
2♣Pass2♠Pass
3Pass4♣Pass
4NTPass5Pass
?

View solution

7NT: An excellent bet! East has reversed, so he is supposed to have 16HCP. Since he does not have the Queen of Hearts, he most likely holds the King of Clubs, the King of Spades and the Queen of either Spades or Diamonds. If he has the Diamond Queen, you have thirteen tricks. If he holds the Queen of Spades, you can play Ace-King of Hearts to see if the Queen falls, then fall back on the Diamond finesse. In the worstcase scenario, the grand slam will undoubtedly depend on the successful finesse of the Queen of Hearts, which is not yet a catastrophe. Note that a commendable alternative is to say 7♣ in the hope of ruffing a Diamond on the short side, but this is not a panacea.

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Nicolas Lhuissier

U21 World Champion in Beijing in 2008 and Junior Champion of Europe in Brasov in 2009, he has been teaching bridge in a big Parisian club for about 10 years. He has also been working as a bridge journalist for several years. You can watch bridge lessons on his YouTube channel.

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