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A Beautiful Top ... the Power of a 4-4 Fit


Gerry Daly

Playing 5 card spades how excited are you when partner opens 1S and you are looking at this hand?

AQJ3
KJ42
A64
A6

Most will be considering slam and the optimistic will be wondering if a grand is within reach. How do you proceed from here?

On the occasion when I was dealt this hand I was playing a basic Acol system with 5card spades at the local club. The first question to be answered was "what is partner's range", to determine if a grand slam in spades was a possibility. With none of my usual gadgets available I bid 2D (ostensibly natural) get a range clarifying rebid. While the 2H response I got showed minimum values, it opened up new possibilities for the final contract. 4NT was RKCB in hearts and the 5D response confirmed the HA but made checking for Queen difficult. Flirting with the idea of bidding 7H I made a King enquiry and heard there were two kings opposite.

WestNorthEastSouth
  1 Pass
2 Pass2 Pass
4 NTPass5 Pass
5 NTPass6 Pass
?   

At this point one can almost count 13 tricks, 4 Hearts, 5 spades, AK and A in minors and a minor ruff after pitching a minor card on the long spade. This all assumes that Partner has the Spade K and that hearts are 3-2 with no losing Queen. Playing match points an overtrick is as valuable as bidding to the next level and without risk so I settled for 6H.

The full hand was

East Deals
E-W Vul
6 5 2
7 6 3
Q 7 5 3 2
J 9
A Q J 3
K J 4 2
A 6 4
A 6
N
WE
S
K 10 8 7 4
A Q 10 8
K 8
7 3
9
9 5
J 10 9
K Q 10 8 5 4 2

and partner soon had collected the 13 tricks anticipated. Surprisingly for a local club session nobody missed bidding the slam. All other pairs were in 6S making the 12 tricks that was the limit of the hand in this contract. The extra trick made bidding 6H a clear top.

The takeaway is that playing in a 4-4 fit, provided the trump quality is sufficient, is usually a better option than a 5-3 or 5-4 fit as the longer suits are better used as side suits for discarding losers.

There was no real temptation to bid 7H playing a match points competition. Although it might be more tempting at teams the story won't have a happy ending if partner has the King of clubs instead of the King of diamonds.

Interestingly playing with my preferred system that employs the Jacoby 2NT response to the 1S opening would have meant that the heart fit would go undetected.



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