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Bridge 1/18
The balancing to two no-trump
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If your right-hand opponent opens one of a suit and you immediately overcall two no-trump, you are promising at least 5-5 in the two lowest-ranking unbid suits. But if one of a suit is opened on your left and two passes follow, now a jump to two no-trump is natural, showing the values for a two-no-trump opening bid: 20-22 points. True, you might shade a point if your hand includes a decent five-card minor suit; and you might shade two points if you hold a respectable six-card minor suit (and 6-3-2-2 distribution). Remember, when the play takes place, you will have the advantage of knowing where most of the missing honor cards are located.
    How should South plan the play in three no-trump? West leads the heart queen.
    After South balances with two no-trump, North might look for a 4-4 spade fit. He would do this (according to partnership agreement) by bidding three clubs, Stayman, or three hearts, cue-bid Stayman.
    South has six top tricks: two hearts, two diamonds and two clubs. If he immediately concedes a club trick, that establishes only eight tricks. West clears hearts and gets one spade, three hearts and one club.
    As West is marked with the spade ace from his opening bid, South must start with a low spade from his hand. If West goes in with his ace, declarer has nine tricks via three spades, two hearts, two diamonds and two clubs. But if West ducks, declarer wins with the spade jack (or king) on the board and shifts to clubs. He takes one spade, two hearts, two diamonds and four clubs.
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