Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Phillip Alder
Newspaper Enterprise Assn.
When we are bidding, we always try to reach at least a game contract. Assuming we will do that, if we have a major-suit fit, we charge into four hearts or four spades. If we do not have a major-suit fit, we steer toward three no-trump. We bid five of a minor only when we are confident that three no-trump, four hearts and four spades are unmakable.
But sometimes, once we have established a minor-suit fit, we might be uncertain about three no-trump. How do we investigate three no-trump’s viability?
Look at the South hand. You open one club and partner responds three clubs, a limit raise showing five-plus clubs, some 10-12 points (eight losers), and no four-card or longer major. What would you do next?
You are thinking about three no-trump, but can the opponents cash too many heart tricks? Since you do not know, rebid three diamonds, which shows a stopper in that suit. And when North returns the compliment with three hearts, highlighting his strength there, you convert to three no-trump. (Note that with best defense South must guess the trumps to make five clubs.)
West leads the spade seven: two, jack, king. You have seven top tricks: one spade (trick one), two hearts, two diamonds and two clubs. You can get the extra tricks from clubs, but must make sure that East cannot gain the lead; otherwise, he will push a spade straight through your queen. Play a club to dummy’s king. Here, you end with 10 tricks. But even if East were void in clubs, your contract would still be safe.