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Subject: 1NT -- The most interesting contract rss

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Brian Bankler
United States
San Antonio
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"Keep Summer Safe!"
They say that 1-NT is the hardest contract to play and defend against. The points are often equally split, so there's lots going. Playing in a sectional with a decent partner sometimes prone to flights of fancy, I'm dummy on the first hand, but then I open 1NT (15-17) and get to play it.

I see the following (Suits are always S-H-D-C)

Dummy: Txx AT86 Kxx JTx

S8 Led

Hand: KQx Qx JT83 AK87

If the S8 is fourth best, then the T will win. I don't think it's fourth best, but in that case I don't think my play matters much. I play the T and RHO wins the ace and continues with the spade three. I win the king (LHO playing the seven).

I don't want to break hearts, and I want to break clubs from dummy, so it's a diamond. The obvious play is to lead a high diamond to finesse against LHO's (hoped for) queen. But I don't actually want LHO to cover. So I lead the T. LHO flickers, then plays the seven. I duck in dummy and my ten has won (RHO playing the deuce).

I think LHO has made a mistake.

I lead a small diamond and it goes Queen-King-Ace. I'm positive RHO has 9x remaining. RHO leads another spade and I win the queen, all following. Now I want to be in dummy to lead towards my diamond. Leading a heart to the ace risks losing two hearts and a spade right away. And since I'm going to finesse the diamond I can't also finesse the club.

I decide to give up on the chance of dropping a stiff or doubleton queen. I lead a small club towards the ten, which holds. Man, everything is going my way. I now lead a diamond towards my T8 and finesse when RHO plays low (LHO pitches a club).

Even I can't imagine that LHO has pitched a club from Qxx remaining, and when I cash my CA RHO shows out, so LHO started with five clubs. I cash another club and give LHO his club winner, letting him break hearts. RHO is showing that she has a good heart (and pitches her winning spade to keep a guard), and I believe her. I win my heart ace and lose the last trick to her king.

Making three looks good, but its only slightly above average. LHO had no great lead. Practically everything helped me.

Next round we have a near disaster:

My hand: T8xx AKT AQxx Tx
Partner: KQx x KJxx AKQxx

We have the auction to ourselves, and the hand is cold for six diamonds. But our auction is:

Partner Me
1C 1S
3S(?) 4D* (*Mild slam try)
5C 5S* (*I don't know why you didn't ask key cards, but I'm done)
6S P

Six spades is terrible. Not hopeless, but really odds against.

I get the heart lead and have no real choice but to win and pitch a spade towards my spade king.

It wins, but I'm not out of the woods. I cross to my DJ and lead towards my spade queen.

It wins. I'm still not out of the woods. I lead a small spade and when RHO plays the jack I'm out of the woods as it crashes into LHO's ace.

I can pitch dummy's two clubs on my good spade and King of hearts, so I claim, then apologize to the opponents for the fix they just got. I couldn't handle any 4-2 break, except LHO having A7xx and RHO having J9, and even the 3-3 break needed to have the ace in the right

RHO thinks that the field will be in 6N (cold since clubs are 3-3) but I'm dubious and I'm right. One pair (out of 18) finds Six NT. I ask partner why she didn't just reverse and then support spades, implying 3=1=4=5 shape. She admits that's better.

A top for us, but the play was totally dictated. Slams are like that, mostly.

Next round and I'm declaring a 1N contract again.

Dummy: xx K9xx KTxx xxx

S2 Led

Me : AKJx QJxx J9x Kx

Looks like I got a friendly lead. RHO plays the ST and I win with the jack. I don't particularly want a club lead through, and I have a choice in how to play diamonds, so I defer the decision and attack hearts. I lead the heart jack and LHO wins and plays another spade. RHO flys the queen this time.

What? Playing the ten on the first round when holding the queen is wrong, finessing against partner. Ah well. I could finesse diamonds, but against opponents like this I think I'll play for another (costlier) mistake.

I win and cash my hearts (RHO pitching two clubs and LHO an encouraging diamond) ending in hand and cash my spade Jack. Next, I throw in LHO with the fourth spade. He could put me to the test with a small diamond.

I'm not tested. He cashes both minor aces and then a small diamond. He's already shown up with three aces, with the diamond queen he's close to doubling 1N, just needing a jack.

I fly with the diamond king and RHO's queen falls. I have the rest.

This time 1N making three is a solid average-plus.

Two hands later (same opponents). I open 1N and play it there again.

Dummy: T9xx Ax 8xx QJ8x

H2 led

Me: A 9xx KQTx AKT9x

(Just recently the ACBL made it legal to agree to open 1N with a stiff honor. You could always do it before, but you couldn't have any system to show it. In any case, I would have opened 1N for years, and I still don't have a system to show it).

On the small heart lead I'm wondering if I want to win, since hearts look to be 4-4 and I can't hold up anyway. A spade switch could be awkward. On the other hand, if they do switch to a spade, then they can't run hearts. I'm honestly not sure.

On the other hand, not winning means that I give my opponents a chance to mess up. That's the tie breaker. I duck.

RHO wins with the Queen of hearts and leads a spade. I win the ace, naturally. I play the 9 of clubs to the jack (muddying the water, and I may want to lead cover the ten and lead small to the 8 for three entries to board). I play a diamond to the king. Why the king and not the queen?

I want LHO to take his ace if he has it. He has it and takes it. What does he lead now? The opponents may be about to run off four spades (They can't run five) which is still 1N making two.

But he leads a heart! I win the ace. Next question -- Do I finesse the diamond jack? A good player would duck the diamond ace routinely so I would have to guess the second round, but these aren't good players. I don't think I can tell who has the jack. But I have 8 tricks already by cashing out and something good can still happen. The jack could fall. This isn't a choice. I play a high club and a club to the board. RHO pitches a heart and LHO pitches a spade. I can't bring myself to finesse watch them run who knows how many diamond tricks, even if I think the finesse is a favorite. So I just cash my clubs (ending in hand). LHO pitches another heart and a diamond and RHO pitches .... a spade and a diamond. Can this be happening?

Yes. I cash the diamond king and both follow, RHO with the jack. I now run my diamonds, vaguely curious if anyone can diagnose that I have opened with a stiff spade. Nope. My 9 of hearts takes the final trick, each opponent showing a spade honor. I leave as the recriminations start, but do note that LHO falsecarded on trick one, leading the deuce from a five card suit. There is no question about this score ... a cold top.

Despite these four hands, we suffer a few setbacks (and mistakes) and only score a pitiful 56%.

The evening session is about the same, but lacks any exciting 1N play...
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