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   Dec. 20/99






by Beverly Kraft -Eric Kokish


 When you open the bidding at the three-level you hope to make life more difficult for your opponents than your partner, who is often referred to as the third opponent. Ungraciously, perhaps. Players who believe in the power of the preemptive opening are willing to live with their disasters, which can sometimes be dramatic. They feel that they will be far ahead in the long run.

Both sides vulnerable East deals

  J 8
A 10 9 6 5
10 9 3 2

5 4

8 7 4
A K 8 5 4

K J 6 3

K Q 10 9 7 6 4

Q 9 7 2

  A 3 2
K Q J 2
Q 7 6

A 10 8

West North East South
    3 3NT



Opening Lead:

 On today's deal, East's 3 opening was quite normal. It forced a decision on South, whose best guess was 3NT, which kept his side out of hearts. 4 would have had no chance, the defenders getting two diamonds, a diamond ruff, and two slow black-suit winners. 3NT was hardly a desirable contract, but it had the advantage of not being down off the top.

 Unless a different lead is overwhelmingly attractive, it's sound to lead the vulnerable pre-emptor's suit. Think of safety and partnership harmony. Our West led a low diamond, ten, jack, queen. The diamond lead might have been a winner but it required a nice layout for success. Here it gave South eight tricks and a diamond toward the ten-nine threatened to develop a ninth. West won the king and East, with those lovely spades over dummy's jack, flagged spades by signalling with the ten. When West switched to spades declarer should haven taken the ace immediately (both West's non-spade lead and East's 3
opening pointed to the suit being seven-one; another diamond from South would then have established a ninth trick. Declarer ducked East's nine, however.

 East really should have switched to a club in any case, but a "safe" spade continuation let declarer off the hook. Could West logically have switched to a club himself (rather than a spade)? If West reasonably credits declarer with five heart tricks (else why not attack hearts?) two diamonds, at least one spade and one club, he should find the club switch as the only legitimate chance. But East could have helped earlier too. West would know that he could play a spade safely if he had one. By discarding a relatively low spade, East could suggest a switch, with clubs being the only logical possibility.

 By pushing the opponents into a contract that made, should the preempt be deemed a failure? Or should we focus instead on the performance of the protagonists?