Never Put Down an 8-Card Suit in Dummy

By Karen Walker

Courtesy of Karen’s Bridge Library:

Lee Magee, Kansas City MO, offers good advice on what to do with ultra-long suits. Originally published in the District 8 Advocate.


Partner opens 1, your right-hand-opponent passes, and you hold

Q 104 KQJ98654 102

What’s your plan for the bidding?

This hand was dealt in the Life Master Pairs at the 1997 ACBL summer championships in Albuquerque NM, and it generated some lively discussions after the game. Some players responded 2D,x planning to continue bidding diamonds until partner got the message. Others, many of whom were playing a system where a 2-over-1 response is forcing to game, chose a Forcing 1NT to limit their high-card strength. This conventional response forces opener to bid one more time so you can continue describing your hand.

Whether you choose 1NT or 2, the real problem comes at your second turn after partner jumps to 3. What now?

Even though this was an “expert” event, the players varied widely in their approaches with this hand, and the final scores were all over the map. The most frequent choice was a raise to 4, which is the contract that would probably score the most matchpoints if it makes. These players figured that their spade queen was a valuable filler, and they hoped their diamond suit would be a source of tricks. Even the two tens might be helpful “pushers” if partner needed to develop tricks in hearts or clubs.

The second most popular choice was a pessimistic pass. Partner’s 3 bid is highly invitational, but the passers didn’t like having a singleton (even a good one) for support, and they were discouraged by their lack of aces and kings.

When I held this hand, the lack of an outside trick slowed me down, too. I chose the Forcing 1NT to limit my hand, with the intention of jumping in diamonds after partner’s rebid. When partner jumped to 3, I found myself tempted by the high-scoring 4 contract, but finally decided that my hand rated to be worthless in any contract but diamonds.

I couldn’t bid 4 because we play any new-suit bid here as a cuebid for a possible spade slam — showing the ace of diamonds and a good hand (10+ points) with some spade support. So I launched off to 5, and that ended the auction.

The results

Partner held just what he advertised

AKJ1086 A85 3 K84.

The A was onside, and I pitched my heart loser on one of dummy’s spades to end up with 11 tricks — 7 diamonds, 2 spades, a club and a heart. That was good for 80 percent of the matchpoints, which indicates how few pairs were willing to bid 5 with this hand. Some pairs stopped in 4, and they got the second-highest score.

As you can see, the spade contracts were disasters, and most declarers took only seven or eight tricks. The lead was a singleton diamond to the ace, usually followed by a shift to hearts. If declarer tried to cash a high diamond when he was in dummy with the spade queen, he went down three — the diamond was ruffed, the opponents led more hearts, and with no more dummy entries, partner couldn’t even lead up to his club king.

Optimism is often rewarded at matchpoints. If partner had held Ax of diamonds and the same spade suit, the spade bidders would have beaten my score. Counting on partner for a diamond fit, though, seemed way too optimistic to me. When you hold an 8-card suit, the odds are heavy that partner is very short, especially when you know he has a long suit of his own.

Good bridge advice

The lesson on this hand was summed by my friend Lee Magee of Kansas City. When we were discussing this hand over New Mexican margaritas after the session, one of our group asked Lee why he had been so confident about his 5 bid. “I have a hard-and-fast rule,” Lee bellowed. “Never put down an 8-card suit in dummy!”

That may be somewhat of an over-simplification, but it makes good sense. When you have an auction in which you and partner have both shown long suits, and you’re in doubt about which one should be trumps, make the weaker hand the declarer. Since the weak hand will have fewer outside entries, its long suit may score tricks only if it’s trumps — especially if the suit is “topless” (missing the ace and/or king), like the one in this hand.