X-Clubs 40

This week, a real fun as well as educational deal that has something for everyone.
Board 12 from Wednesday 23/11/22
Dealer West NS Vul


After a mundane opening 1C from West, things could get quite exciting, depending on how much bidding both sides want to do. Despite being vulnerable against not, most Norths would be tempted to bid some number of hearts. Is the hand worth the maximum preempt of 3H, or just a weak jump overcall of 2H, or even just a 1H overcall. Any heart bid from North should tell South just where the hand belongs, to EW. If North has jumped to 3H, South’s hearts are worth NO tricks on defence. At the unfavourable vulnerability, South’s best option is to keep on passing and hope that EW don’t find any slam that is likely to be on their way. Whatever North bids at their first chance to bid, East will make a ‘free bid’ in spades and West will raise. It is now over to East to bid what should be an odds on slam.

Whichever way the bidding may proceed, most competent EW pairs should be able to bid to the small slam, but if not, some NS pairs may push it to the limit and bid to 5H and get doubled for their trouble. This is where vulnerability conditions are so important in a match point game. Being vulnerable vs not,
NS cannot afford to get doubled and go down two which will loses against any game scores for the non vulnerable EW games.

I noticed that one NS pair did push the boat out to 5H and of course were doubled. This is when we can make an award for the ‘most helpful opening lead’: East led the ace of clubs! Why do I think East deserves that award? Yes, admittedly clubs is partner’s suit, but a) what is the hurry and b) what do you hope to achieve by the lead of a doubleton or singleton against a suit contract? The answer is surely obvious: you are hoping for a ruff, either at trick two or a bit later. East was obviously not aware that he had no trumps! +200 did not do EW any favours, but ironically enough, neither should +500 have, because all EW pairs could have chalked up +510. Only a clairvoyant South would find a diamond lead to limit declarer to twelve tricks, given that any competent declarer should know about finessing and end up with thirteen tricks.