A Q 5
K 9 3
A K 10 5 3
K J 7 6 4 3
Q 6 2
10 9 2
K 10 7
A J 10 8 6 2
A J 9 5 3
Q 9 8 6 4
In a court of law, where the defense is not obliged to tell a coherent story but only to cast doubt on the prosecution’s, a well-established technique is to argue in the alternative. The defendant accused of borrowing a tea-kettle and returning it broken might maintain that he never borrowed it, that it was broken when he borrowed it, and that he returned it in perfect condition.
Our hero is in a sticky situation after East’s preemptive overcall. Fortunately, he can bid in the alternative, with a three heart call alerted as “to play.” A spec wants to know how an ordinarily forcing bid can be to play. A more experienced spec explains: “Because he doesn’t have a good enough hand to force to game. With a better hand, 3H would be forcing.” This is bidding in the alternative.
North, however, is unfamiliar with the concept and bids 3NT. On a diamond lead this would roll home, but East finds the exceptional lead of the heart king, and the contract has no hope. Declarer can’t be blamed too severely for trying to make his contract by ducking the heart and finessing the jack on the second round. West promptly leads the diamond queen back through. North plays the king on the first round, which would make him look pretty foolish if diamonds were 7-1 but makes no difference on the actual layout. Down 4.
Our hero is nonplussed:
G: when I show heart, why are we playing in NT?
ralphm: why do you ask? i have 8x in hearts
Sigh. Doesn’t anybody understand that three hearts is not, in this case, a forcing bid? “Besides,” Gerard adds to the specs, “he went down four because of his poor play. 3NT is very makeable.”