X-Clubs 60

Now for our statistical analysis of the specific situation we encountered, with the eight card heart suit missing the ace. This is not all that uncommon and can happen with any suit, and you have to guess whether to bid 3NT or game in the suit. If opener does not turn up with the ace, you can almost certainly give up on No Trumps, but in real life you have no way of knowing that partner does have that crucial card. The same can apply to a suit like AQJ10xxx where the crucial card is the king. But why guess when you have the Evil 2NT at your disposal? Responder calling 2NT will allow you to find out whether opener has that missing card in your suit, and you can then make your decision based on it.

I asked Mike to give me a random deal of 20 hands where opener has a balanced hand and cover (minimum Qxx) in every suit, which means that opener has the ace of hearts. Then counted the number of times either 3NT or 4H could be made ‘double dummy’ according to Deep Finesse (DF). In practice of course things are a bit different at the table and defenders can often be depended on to defend badly, especially when declarer’s hand is hidden. I have found that in such cases, 3NT is harder to defend against than game in a suit. But let’s look at the cold hard ‘facts’ that DF presents us with on the small sample of 20 deals:

Just as a reminder, let me repeat the East-West hands as they were when the deal was played.
Board 18 Dealer East NS Vul


Of the 20 random deals given 20 different East hands with a 12-14 1NT opening including the ace of hearts, 4H is minus one ten times and minus two twice and makes four eight times, a success rate of 40%. 3NT is minus one six times, minus two twice, makes three nine times, and makes four four times, a success rate of 65%.

When you look at those cold hard facts, and factor in the number of times you have had to decide whether to bid game or not and whether it should be in your long suit or not, do you still not wish that there was a way to find out whether partner has the vital ace or king in your long suit? A nod and a wink is strictly illegal but a bid of 2NT is authorised even by the fussiest authorities, as far as I am aware.

The knowledge about a weak suit can be useful in many other situations, as I have found out, sometimes to avoid a 3NT contract when one suit is wide open and a 4-3 major game is untouchable, or when a weakness opposite e.g. a singleton in responder’s hand will make a game or even slam odds on despite a lower combined high card point count than would normally be required. “Points, Schmoints”, to quote Marty Bergen.

We will look at different scenarios on this topic in coming issues, as has been requested by some readers who are keen to do better with their 1NT openings.