Competitive auctions on shapely hands tend to swing a lot of imps and it is important to have good agreements. This auction started quietly but West’s 3D bid threw a spanner in the works. Perhaps, West should have bid 4D but was hoping partner could bid 3NT. NS were playing cue raises so the 4D diamond bid showed a full value raise to 4H but gave no hint of the diamond shortage. Those without any agreement about cue raises will probably survive because partner will interpret 4D as a shortage with at least game values. It is not a good idea just to bid 4H because, over the 5D bid which comes next, partner does not know whether North is just competing to 4H or actually has a good hand. When East bids 5D, South has a problem. Since the 4D bid gave a strong expectation that 4H will make, expert practice is to play ‘forcing pass’ here. If North had bid only 4H, the expectation that 4H would make would not be there, and forcing pass would not be on. Teams, none vul, Dealer East
South’s bids should now be that an immediate 5H is the weakest bid and double is penalty. Importantly, pass then 5H over partner’s forced bid, is the strongest forward move. South is expecting his side to have no wasted values in diamonds and so the forcing pass is plausible. Now the spotlight shifts to North. In some measure, North showed his values with the 4D bid but with partner making the forcing pass, he must bid 6H since he has first round control in three suits and the trump fillers.
West makes the unsurprising lead of the ace of diamonds and South has to plan the play after ruffing the DA. The entry position is such that only a 3-2 club split (68 per cent) can be handled so declarer has to play spades. The normal play is to run the queen and then play the jack next whatever happens. This is about 86 per cent for three tricks. There is a safety play of first leading towards the queen and, if it holds, leading towards the jack next. Unfortunately, there is no side entry to allow this. However, at the table, spades behaved.