BRIDGE

SOUTH opens a 15-17 point INT and arrives in 3NT after West has overcalled. How would you play this contract on the lead of the queen of hearts? There is no time to establish the club suit and the defenders will beat you to the finishing tape if you set off in that direction. Instead you should aim to set up the diamonds, then add four tricks in spades. Win the heart lead with the king and play the queen of diamonds. West will win the first or second round of diamonds and clear the heart suit. You now play a spade to the 10, pleased to see the finesse win. After cashing the king of spades, you return to the South hand with a diamond. When you play the ace of spades, the queen falls from West and you have four spade tricks and the contract. Why was it right to play West for the queen of spades, rather than East? Because if East held Q-x-x in the spade suit you could not score four spade tricks anyway. West would win the fourth round. Even if your spades were A-J-9-4, when you could pick up Q-x-x with East, it would still be better to play West for the spade queen. You need the queen to be guarded only twice. Since West holds longer hearts than East he is more likely to hold only three spades.

Partnerís INT is weak, showing 12-14 points. What will you respond?

Answer

You could respond 3C but that would usually show a better suit than this. You are not quite strong enough to leap to 6NT and I like best a limit bid of 4NT, inviting partner to bid a slam with more than a minimum opening. This is one of the few situations where 4NT is not Blackwood. A Gerber 4C response would be pointless since the presence or absence of the ace of hearts is barely relevant to your slam prospects.

Awards:4NT-10,3C,7, 6NT-6, 3NT-3, 4C(Gerber)-2.

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