If you are reading this, it means my editor allowed me to write about an “almost” Real Deal. This is based on a theme from a deal that occurred in the 2018 Orlando World Bridge Championships. Our “almost South” held:
♠K Q J ♥A K Q ♦A K ♣A K 10 9 2
After three passes (no surprise), what should you open? You could just take a stab at 6NT. After all, opposite:
♠x x x ♥x x x ♦x x x ♣x x x x
it has reasonable play. Let’s be more scientific and open 2♣. Over partner’s 2♦ waiting, rather than bid notrump (yet), let’s try to focus on the key issue – clubs. You bid 3♣ and this pays off when partner raises to 4♣.
This is a perfect ace-asking hand. Many experts use 4♦ to ask, but we’ll go with a straightforward 4NT, over which partner responds 5♣. Assuming you know that your partnership uses 1430, that means one keycard – the ♠A, of course. Now what?
The next step, 5♦, asks for the ♣Q. In this case, you must be interested in seven, because you are already past 5♣, so there is no need to ask for the ♣Q unless possession of it would cause you to bid seven. On the same wavelength, your partner jumps to 7♣ to show the queen. Being greedy, you convert to 7NT and receive the ♠10 lead:
How should you play?
The only issue is the club suit. If you can take five tricks there, you have 13 in total. The robotic play in clubs is to lay down the ace, then cross to the queen. If left-hand opponent shows out on the second round, you are in the right hand to take a finesse against RHO’s marked ♣J x x x. Should you play like a robot?
No. You will never pick up clubs if LHO has ♣J x x x (x). Why would you take an early finesse against West when the suit might be 3–2? You wouldn’t. So, it is East’s ♣J x x x (x) you worry about. If he has only ♣J x x x, there is no problem. But, if he has ♣J x x x x – unlikely, I know – laying down the ace first is fatal. You could cross to the queen and finesse, but you’d be left with ♣K 10 and a void in dummy. You couldn’t take a second finesse. This is why the correct play here (with a side dummy entry) is to win the first trick in hand and start with a low club to the queen. If everyone follows and you play back to your ace and LHO shows out, you still have the ♠A for the marked club finesse. The gain comes in the “Real” Deal:
You win the spade lead in hand, saving dummy’s ♠A, of course. Now comes the key play of a low club to the queen. The 5–0 break causes no problem. You finesse at trick three and then cross to the ♠A to take another club finesse and make the contract.
On the “real” Real Deal, on a slightly different layout, the expert declarer played the club suit correctly, but alas they split 3–2!