The Best Lie

Nearing the end of a long sectional weekend, I was convinced to play two rounds of the Sunday Swiss on a team with Zach Brescoll, Jean Davis, Brad McKeown, and Dave Cantor. The team had played very well all day, and I came in for the last two rounds, given that I had two of the best volunteers I could ask for at the helm in the kitchen.

Usually at least once per session, there is just no good bid for a hand I hold. Whether it is an opening hand, a responding hand, a competitive auction, an invitational hand, or one of many other types of bidding problems, sometimes you just have to fib. In situations like this, I like to approach the menu of options (possible bids) and use process of elimination to determine the best lie. I try to figure out my partner’s worst- and best-case scenario bids, and go from there.

One such hand came up in the final round. I hadn’t kept a close eye on the scores, but I was pretty sure this match would decide our fate in, perhaps, the top five finishers of the day. It was the second or third board of the round, and I pick up the following:

Screen Shot 2018-09-16 at 1.54.54 PM.png

It was a decent enough 15-count, albeit with a singleton honor. I always like to plan ahead to my next bid, so I started envisioning the possible auctions. The toughest situation to accommodate would be opening 1♣, and hearing 1♠ from my partner. The hand is not strong enough to bid 2 as that’d be a reverse. I don’t want to rebid 2♠ with only three of them, nor do I want to rebid 2♣ with only 5 of them, and not great ones at that.

With that in mind, expand your menu and think about what you might open this hand, with the notion of the “best lie” in mind.

So, we don’t like any of our options after opening 1♣. What if we think outside the box, and consider opening 1NT?

The obvious flaw is the singleton. But, seeing as it is (A) an honor, and (B) in a minor, we will never end up in less than a 7-card fit (worst case scenario is parter transfers to diamonds), and we have something at least resembling a stopper if the opponents lead it against a NT contract.

On a hand like this, I think 1NT is the best lie as to what to open. The ACBL recently relaxed their policy on this, and now you can, by agreement with partner, open 1NT with a singleton honor in any suit. But, we like to reserve this for the really tricky, “problem” hands as above – the hands that are hard to describe later.

The auction got much more interesting even after I decided to open 1NT: My partner bid Stayman, I responded 2♥, and then he JUMPED to 3♠. We play this as artificial, showing shortness somewhere, with a heart fit, and slam interest. I cooperated in the investigation for slam by showing a club control. Knowing I had the ♣K was enough for partner – he asked me for keycarded, then landed us in 6. Trumps split 3-2, and diamonds split 4-2, which allowed me to set up the diamond suit and call it a day.

There is nothing to say that we wouldn’t have gotten to slam had I opened 1♣, but the slam was not reached after they opened 1♣ at the other table, so who knows what would happen in that parallel universe. Here is the full deal and auction below:

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