SOUTH had shown four spades in response to Stayman, so West saw no future in leading that suit. Instead he tried his luck with the jack of clubs. South called for dummy’s queen and an unwelcome king appeared from East. Suppose you had been the declarer. How would you have played 3 NT? The original declarer held up for one round and took his ace of clubs on the second round. Hoping for a miracle, he led a heart to the king. East knew that his partner held the last club, since declarer would otherwise have held up the club ace for another round. West’s nine of clubs was the highest club out and was blocking the defenders’ suit. East therefore defended cleverly by holding up the ace of hearts. With eight tricks now on view, declarer tested his luck one more time with a second round of hearts. Things went sour. East won with the ace of hearts and West discarded the blocking nine of clubs. East was then able to score four more club tricks and the game was two down. Declarer could have made the contract by winning the first round of clubs. If East won the second round of hearts after that start, permitting West only one discard, the club suit would still be blocked. If instead East ducked twice, declarer would have nine tricks!

What will you say on the West cards?

The hand is not suitable for a take-out double. That’s because partner is most likely to respond in your short suit, clubs, and if you bid again at that stage you would be showing a very strong hand. in the absence of a suitable convention, you should overcall 1S, hoping to bid 2H on the next round. A perfect convention is available, however: a Michaels Cue-bid of 2D, showing 5-5 in the major suits.

Awards: 2D (Michaels) — 10, 1S — 7, 1H — 4, Double-2.

David Bird — Knight Features