Thanks to some input from readers, I can now answer the questions I asked last week:
Board 8 from Thursday 8/11/2018
Q: If West opens 1C, how do so many EW pairs end up in 3NT and why?
A: Some Wests, if they are playing basic Acol, would open 1S. If North overcalls in diamonds, East would probably bid 3S despite only three card support. A 1S opening will hardly ever be only four cards, but because West has only four, West may bid 3NT despite no diamond stopper, just to say “balanced 15-16 with only four spades”. I believe that is wrong if West has no hold in what has been announced as opponents’ good suit. West should bid 4S if East raises spades, which most Easts would do even if playing four card openings in all suits. Also, after a 1S opening and overcall of 2D, East can bid 3C and West can then look for a diamond stop in East’s hand by cue bidding 3D. That will elicit 3S from East and West will have to settle for the known 4-3 spade game.
Then we have those who would open 1C, as most would, and despite North’s overcall (2D is much better than 1D) and partner’s value raise to 3C, bid 3NT because of the point count and balanced distribution. I agree that in normal circumstances (say West opens a 15-17 1NT or North does NOT overcall) the inevitable 3NT by West would be reached. But after an overcall by North, EW just have to have a way to ask for a diamond stop or bid to 4S despite the 4-3 fit, and virtue would be rewarded when despite three diamond losers, the spades fall favourably and ten tricks are easy even if North starts with the ace of diamonds, the only defence to limit the defensive tricks to ten. Yes, I know that on a low diamond lead against 3NT West will make five.
Q: Does nobody double a 1NT opening bid for penalties these days?
A: It does appear that people still do double 1NT if they have 15+ points, which is good to hear. But maybe the next part is more difficult? If East doubles 1NT, South has nowhere to go and with eight points, West should be happy to defend.
Now that we have got to where things should be when East doubles 1NT and all pass, let’s talk about the defence. There is no reason for East to lead anything other the recommended ‘fourth highest of longest and strongest’, the six of clubs. When declarer plays low from dummy, what card should West play? You may have been taught that ‘third hand plays high’ but there is every reason to disobey that teaching. Why?
West should be able to see that the jack will certainly lose to the queen, king, OR ace unless East has led from AKQx(x) and what will happen then? Dummy’s TEN will become a stopper in the suit. Hence, ‘slotting’ the EIGHT is a no brainer, whether you use the Rule of 11 or not. That rule will tell you that declarer will have two cards higher than the six that has been led. You just have to hope that one of them is the seven and not the nine. But just seeing what will happen if you play the jack at trick one would be enough for a thinking defender.
If you want to brush up on your basic defence, my book “Tips and Quips” has good sections on opening leads and defence and some copies are still available for order. My new book, “Thirteen Tricks and Evil Acol: A better way to play Acol” will be available at the end of the month, and has had some great reviews from those who have read the files in advance.