YOU arrive in 3NT after a straightforward auction and West leads the king of hearts. It is a common understanding among tournament players nowadays that the lead of a king asks partner to unblock any honour he might hold, otherwise to give a count signal (a high card shows an even number of cards in the suit, a low card shows an odd number). East duly follows with the two of hearts, his lowest spot-card to tell partner that he holds an odd number of hearts. This is precious information to West because he now knows that declare’s jack of hearts is doubleton. Declarer ducks the first heart and ducks again when West continues with the heart queen. Take the South cards now. How would you continue when West plays a third round of hearts? Declarer won with dummy’s ace and played the queen of clubs, East following with a low card. Declarer knew that he would go down if West held the ace of clubs (West would be able to cash two long hearts). He therefore overtook dummy’s queen of clubs with the king. This card won the trick and he took advantage of the entry to his hand by leading the nine of diamonds. He could not be denied six tricks from the diamond suit, giving him the contract.

What will you say now on these West cards?

There might well be a slam on but you can hardly raise to 6D with two top spade losers. Pre-empts force you to guess and it seems best on this hand to raise to 5D. Your heart suit does not merit a 4H bid. Partner might pass when holding only 10-x in the heart suit, expecting you to hold a much stronger suit. A 4NT Blackwood call would not be much good because a 2-ace 5H response would force you to a slam and you might have two top spade losers.

Awards: 5D – 10, 6D – 5, 4H – 4, 4NT – 3.

David Bird — Knight Features