Setting 5♦ in an ACBL Instant Tournament

By BBOer roman99 (Roman L. Weil)

This interesting deal came up in an ACBL Instant Tournament – Matchpoints played earlier this month. Several things about this deal merit attention.

Of the 15 South dealers, six opened 1♣, eight opened 1 and one passed. West GIB passed at all tables, with their ♠AQ108xx J8xxx x ♣x. Every human I showed this hand to overcalled one spade (my preference) or chose an artificial two-suit showing call.

Six pairs reached 5 contracts, two from the South side and four from North.  Those four resulted from South’s opening one club, which I think sub-optimal given the unequal suit strengths.  I’d be happy to have experts tell me why I’m wrong in that judgment.

The two South declarers (including me) received club leads from West, but East didn’t return the suit so E-W lost their ruff and the contract made.  Whew.

When North declared 5, East was on lead.  Three out of four East leaders led a trump. The one table that made another lead prompted me to write this text.

That East led the club Ace.  He next played the spade King.  And continued with his doubleton club to give West a ruff and the setting trick.  What a beautiful defense. Opening lead Ace, to survey the playing field.  Play the spade King at trick two is the best match point play to save overtricks.  When that King held the lead, the club play for the ruff was the only conceivable play to win another trick. 

But how many players would think to find that?

Not part of this deal’s analysis, but interesting to note is a discussion I had with one of my partners about how to rebid the South hand after it opens 1 and North responds 2, inverted raise.  Partner liked a splinter 3♠, while I liked showing the club suit, because if there is a slam, North’s club holding is the key. [In robot’s system, 3♣ and 4♣ have conventional meanings unrelated to showing club length, so at the BBO table I bid 5♣, which partner corrected to 5, ending the auction.] 

About West’s action or non-action, if sitting West, I’d overcall 1♠ and I expect North’s action to help me understand the heart distribution.  If North has four, they’ll likely put in a negative double; if they have five or more, they’ll likely bid them.  By the time the auction gets back to me, I’ll likely have a decent idea of the heart distribution.  On this deal, North will give a diamond raise, East will raise spades, and South will bid clubs.  West can figure North for no more than three hearts and South for no more than two, so East for three or more.  Continuing to bid spades will seem safer.  In fact, par is E-W sacrificing at 5♠ against N-S unbeatable 5♣, which no one bid.  

A side revelation is that given a choice of two ten-card trump suits where you hold the Ace in one but not in the other, choose for the trump suit the one where you don’t have the Ace.