Zach Brescoll and I had the following defensive disaster at the club the last time we played together in what was otherwise a very good game. See if you can do better than I did.
Playing West (the hands are rotated), with our opponents vulnerable, I picked up the following pretty collection:
Following 3 passes to me, I opened 1♦ (which in our system just showed 11-15 HCP with no 5-card major), South overcalled 1♠, Zach made a negative double showing 4+ hearts and North bid 2♣. I made the obvious jump to 3♦ (showing 6+ diamonds and 14-15 HCP). South passed as did my partner. North, my right-hand-opponent bid 3♠.
What should I do know?
Obviously I’m going to bid again but what? 4♦ was the safe choice but did I have some other options? In our style, I did. A double here would show a sound opening and leave the decision to Zach as to what to do to. I liked this option — having already showed 6+ diamonds by my 3♦ bid, my double would give Zach the option of rebidding his hearts with 5, taking me to 4 diamonds without 5 hearts, or, if he thought we could set the contract, passing. Defending the contract doubled with opponents vulnerable was particularly attractive so long as we could manage the set, since unless we could make 5♦, setting the contract at 200 a trick would be a top board.
So I doubled. South passed. Zach thought for an uncharacteristically long eight seconds and then passed. So the final contract was 3♠ doubled.
Zach led the ♦3 and the following distressingly strong dummy came down:
I took the ♦A and considered my options. I counted 3 tricks only — my two Aces and a heart (presuming my partner at least had the ♥Q). To set the contract, I had to start by placing Zach with at least the ♣A or ♥A. I was pretty sure he had one or the other, otherwise he would not have enough values for his negative double.
But that would not be enough. That’s only 4 tricks. I would also have to get a club ruff for our 5th trick. How would I manage that?
Obviously, I had to get to Zach’s hand while I still had a trump. So I shifted to the ♥K, declarer taking the ♥A, Zach playing the encouraging ♥4. Good — Zach has the ♥Q. He must also have the ♣A for his negative double and so we are still in the running here.
Declarer played a low spade to the ♠K. I took my ♠A immediately. Here are the exposed hands after I’m in with the ♠A.
Now I was at a cross-roads. I needed to continue in a manner that Zach would know to shift to a club when he got in. If he shifts to a club, it is down 1 for a top. But if he does not shift to a club, it’s a bottom board for sure. But how could I communicate that message to him? The hand absolutely depends on me getting this right. Click on the link below for the answer.
After some thought, I lead the ♥2, concealing the ♥J, in the hopes that Zach would figure it out. He could not. He played a 3rd heart expecting me to ruff. When I did not, a dark cloud crossed his face, and the doubled contract made. So much for a bottom board which cost us a 1st or 2nd place finish for the day.
What should I have done? A confession. When I asked you: “But how could I communicate that message to him?” when deciding what to lead after the fourth trick, I posed a trick question. Because by that time, there was no possible way I could communicate to Zach that I had three, not two, hearts, and that I was pining for a club shift. It was already too late.
I would have had a better chance of persuading Zach to shift to a club had I led a low heart, instead of the ♥K, after I took the ♦A. Then, perhaps, Zach would figured out to later overtake my next heart (which would have been the ♥J) with his ♥Q, and play a club as he would have known I started with a tripleton, not a doubleton, heart
But defending in this manner asks for alot. Truth be told, Zach patiently explained to me that I had blown this hand during the bidding. Let’s review the bidding:
My partner’s double of the 1♠ overcall was negative, showing 4+ hearts.
Zach explained that instead of jumping to 3♦ after my right-hand-opponent had bid 2♣, I should have doubled the 2♣ overcall. This would not have been a penalty or take-out double, but would have been a support double showing exactly 3 hearts.
When Zach explained this, it was as if a bolt of lightening struck me. I had not heard of this expansion of the support double convention. But it makes perfect sense. Just as the sequence 1♦ – pass – 1♥ – 2♣ – dbl would be a support double showing exactly 3 hearts, so to should the sequence 1♦ – 1♠ – dbl – 2♣ – dbl show exactly 3 hearts. My partner’s negative double over 1♠ shows 4 or more hearts (either 4 hearts with a weak hand or 5+ hearts with less than invitational values) exactly like his 1♥ bid does in the 1st sequence and so there was no reason why a double of 2♣ in this sequence should be anything other than a support double.
But what about my 7-card diamond suit? Shouldn’t that take bidding priority? Not to worry. My double would have been forcing for 1 round and so if we didn’t have a good fit in hearts, I could have always shown my long diamonds later. A jump to 4♦ would have gotten the message across. There was no need to rebid the diamonds right away.
Had I bid in this fashion, Zach would have known exactly what to do. Knowing that I started with three hearts, he knows that I can’t ruff the 3rd round but that declarer can and will ruff (the board having initially held 4 hearts). With nothing better to do, Zach would have cashed the ♣A, noted my void, and then given me a ruff. Down 1 for a top!
So now in my bidding system, the final double in the sequence 1♦ – 1♠ – dbl – 2♣ – dbl shows exactly 3 hearts. How about 1♦ – 1♥ – dbl – 2♣ – dbl? Does that show exactly 3 spades? Or since my partner showed no more than 4 spades (he would have been 1♠ over 1♥ holding 5) is there any point showing just 3 spades? And how about 1♣ – 1♦ – dbl – 2♦ – dbl? The first double promised 4-4 in the majors. What does the final double show? Not having figured out either of these issues myself, I will leave these questions for another day.
— Tom Hunt