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World’s Worst Suit

This recent deal from an online practice session created quite a discussion between our opponents. North felt that South shouldn’t bid such a pitiful spade suit — yes, tying the world’s record many times over — and South felt that North shouldn’t make a jump raise with only three trumps. South was not happy having to play in a shaky 4 S contract with nine cold tricks in notrump.

4 S by South

E-W Vul
S A K 7
H 3 2
D A 8 4 3
C A K 9 4
S Q J 9 6
H J 6 5
D K Q 10 9 5
C 7
TableS 10 8
H K Q 10 9 7
D J 7 6
C J 8 2
Lead: D KS 5 4 3 2
H A 8 4
D 2
C Q 10 6 5 3

West

Pass
All Pass
North
1 C
3 S
East
Pass
Pass
South
1 S
4 S

As West I led the D K, won by the ace. Declarer could not get home by cashing two trumps and running the clubs, so he started by ducking a heart. East won the H Q and returned a diamond, ruffed by South. Now there was just no way to get home: If declarer cashed two trumps, he would lose control; and if he did not, East’s S 10 would come into play on the fourth round of diamonds.

Declarer has a sticky problem, but ducking the heart seems to be a weak effort as it loses a tempo to the defense. I think it is best (based on the North-South cards only) to lead clubs first. If they split 2-2, you will still have a problem; but whenever they are 3-1, you are in great shape (barring the unlikely event that the person who ruffs is short in trumps).

Suppose declarer leads clubs immediately and I ruff the second or third round. Declarer now can simply cash the top spades and continue clubs with complete control, eventually ruffing a heart in dummy as his 10th trick. If instead I refuse to ruff, declarer has three club tricks in the bag and can revert to crossruff lines and succeed.

But I wonder: Does this make it right to bid a 5-4-3-2 suit?

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© 2002 Richard Pavlicek