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What Partner did not bid

"Is there any point to which you would wish to draw my attention?"

"To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time."
"The dog did nothing in the night-time."
"That was the curious incident," remarked Sherlock Holmes.
Inspector Gregory and Sherlock Holmes in "Silver Blaze".

We have begun our look at the Defence by considering how the auction can impact on the opening lead. You must listen carefully to the bids made, but also, less obviously, listen to the bids that weren’t made.

North Deals
None Vul
J 5 3
A K 4 3 2
J
K J 9 4
10 8 4
Q J 9
10 6 4
8 7 5 2
N
W E
S
A 7 6 2
10 8 6
K Q 9 7 2
3
K Q 9
7 5
A 8 5 3
A Q 10 6
West North East South
  1  Pass1 2 
Pass 3  Pass 3 NT
All pass      
  1. Worth a one-level overcall (in diamonds,
    if legal), but not a two-level overcall.

What happened
West gave cursory thought to the bidding when deciding on his opening lead to the 3 NT game. “Not hearts or clubs, the opposing suits”, he began. So far so good. Between spades and diamonds, with identical holdings, he guessed to lead the unbid major, spades.
No good. East won  A and switched belatedly to  K, but declarer could win  A, then cash four clubs,  AK, and the promoted  KQ. Nine tricks - game made.

What should have happened
Note (1) tells the story. West needs to find his partner’s suit, in order to have a hope of beating 3 NT. But East cannot have a decent five-card spade suit, or he would have overcalled 1 . However a two-level overcall is a different beast, requiring more, so it was entirely possible that East held a decent five-card diamond suit. Ergo West should have led a diamond. On  4 lead, to  J and  Q, declarer cannot make 3 NT. East presses on with diamonds until declarer takes his  A, and, with declarer unable to run nine winners without playing on spades, has  A entry to cash his remaining winners in the suit. Down one.

Footnote: Did you notice that North-South can make 6 ?

If you remember one thing...
Reflect on what partner didn’t bid.

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