Monday, May 31, 2010

A nice bit of hand evaluation

The setting: a club Swiss – the last of four six-board matches. There are three strong teams, six not particularly strong teams and ourselves. We are not doing particularly well.  We have no chance of winning and if we don't do something good in the last match, we won't scratch.  We've had one very lucky result but a couple of soft boards.  As it turns out, we are ahead by just one imp half-way through.  On the fourth board, all are vulnerable and I pick up ♠QJ982 KT64 75 ♣83 (spots approximate).  Len, my partner, is the dealer and opens 1♣.  I bid 1♠ and partner rebids 1NT, showing a balanced 15-17.  I rebid 2, showing no interest in game and offering partner a choice of majors.  Partner  surprises me by jumping to 4!  His hand is, literally, aces and spaces.  But he knows the power of aces (his 4333 hand is now worth about 18 points) and with two eight-card major suit fits, and a vulnerable game possibility, he decides to bid it all on his own.  I dare say that I would have raised to four if he'd bid three.

Interestingly, this is a hand where we might actually have a slight advantage over the strong no-trumpers.   I can show both majors with a fairly narrowly-defined sub-invitational range (6-8 hcp).  Strong no-trumpers probably get to use this sequence more frequently but, for them, the range is less narrowly-defined (6-11 hcp or thereabouts).  It really wouldn't make sense to have this auction playing a strong no-trump because the responding hand could easily be much too weak.

Anyway, the opening lead is a diamond and dummy is: ♠AT6 A953 A62 ♣A94.  As long as trumps are three-two (they are), I can make this hand if either the ♠K is onside (it isn't) or if the player with the last heart has four spades (he hasn't).  Fortunately, for me, the defense isn't perfect and I'm able to pitch dummy's two losing clubs before the ace is knocked out.  That's 10 tricks, 10 imps and a win by 6, which is just enough to put us into 3rd place.

Can you win this sectional Swiss?

It's the final (7th) match of the Central Massachusetts sectional.  There are 26 teams, and your team is atop the standings by 2 VPs and is playing the 2nd placed team.  The match is going fairly well through the first seven boards.  They've just bid and made a vulnerable slam but you're fairly confident that your teammates will have found it too.  In actual fact, it turns out that we are up by 9 imps at this point and, again in retrospect, we can lose as many as 4 imps on the last board and still win the event.  You pick up this collection in third seat (we are vulnerable, they are not): ♠K8 864 AJT75 ♣AQ8.  Your RHO, somewhat surprisingly opens a weak 2.  Things are looking good.  With our side silent, the auction proceeds: 2– 2♠ (forcing) – 3♣ – 3 – 3♠ – 4♠.  Partner leads ♣7 and this dummy appears: ♠T2 5 KQ9842 ♣KJT9.  It's possible, by the way, that some of the spots are incorrect.  You win dummy's low club with your Q and it's over to you.

Many of the other teams have finished by now and the noise level is right up.  People are picking up bidding boxes, folding tables, and so on.  It's not the best time to be analyzing the hand.  I reasoned as follows: dummy won't be providing any tricks for declarer unless it's a heart ruff, so unless declarer has 10 running tricks in his own hand, in which case no defense will matter, it can't hurt to shift to the SK.  After all, if declarer wants to finesse against my K, he can presumably ruff a heart and run the T.

How do you like my plan?  It turns out my analysis was superficial.  This was declarer's hand: ♠AJ973 AKQT32 – ♣62.  Strange as it may seem, there's only one card in my hand that it's safe to play: ♣A.  Oh, and by the way, if I do correctly cash out then lead a red card, and if declarer does ruff a heart in order to run the T, not only must I not cover, but partner must hold up his Q!  Ultimately, his six will become the setting trick!  The whole hand hinges on the relative weakness of declarer's trumps and his transportation problems.  He can't ruff a heart, finesse in spades and get back to his hand to draw trumps without losing control. 

Our teammates were in 4 at the other table which has no prayer as it turns out, despite the robust trumps, since declarer is permanently cut off from the dummy.  So, we lost 11 imps on the board and ended up tied (with our last opponents) for 2nd place.

We had a great day, though, and all my teammates played really well.  Thanks to you all.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Slam tries with a nine-card fit

The other day at Westwood, playing with Steve, an interesting hand came up that got me thinking about the best way to consider a slam after partner has shown a four-card major-suit fit.  My hand (vulnerable vs. not, 2nd to speak) was a useful ♠A42 AKJ62 AQ32 ♣6.  Not enough to open 2♣, surely but a fine hand.  The opponents were silent throughout and in response to my 1 bid, partner bid 3, in this case showing a weak hand with four card support.  I think it would not be a crime simply to rebid 4 here.  But I didn't want to give up on slam.  But how should it be done?

After discussion with Kim, I think the right bid here is the next step to ask for shortness, 3♠ in this case (3NT if our suit was spades).  With no shortness, partner simply signs off in game.  With a singleton (or void) partner bids the short suit (a splinter essentially), using 3NT for short spades if our suit is hearts.  Opener can now make a control-showing slam try or ask for any keycards, or of course sign off. 

Suppose partner's hand had been ♠9 T873 KJ86 ♣J972.  Slam would be dependent on finding the trump queen.  With ♠9 Q873 KT86 ♣T972, slam would be close to cold.  Over my 3♠ call, partner would bid 3NT and I would continue with 4♣.  Partner would show a control with 4 and I could continue with keycards, finding that we did or did not have the trump queen as the case may be.

Admittedly, this is a rather fortunate example.  The shortness and control showing bids all happen to be the next step, allowing an orderly key-card asking sequence. 

At the table of course, none of this had been discussed.  I made a somewhat lame 4 slam try and partner quite reasonably signed off in game.  Partner's actual hand was ♠J9 T873 KJ86 ♣972.  I guessed to drop the Q and made 5. 

Still, it's obvious that any rebid by opener other than bidding game, must be some sort of slam try.  Shortness is usually the key to low-hcp slams so shortness is what should be looked for.  If opener makes any other rebid (not the 1st step and not the 5th, i.e. game, step) then he is showing shortness.  (This would be unusual, however, since it is really responder's shortness that is the key to bidding slams.)  Responder cuebids if he has a control and no wastage, otherwise he signs off.  A jump rebid by opener would show a void and should be the exclusion key-card ask.

After a standard limit raise, we would use the same sequences.  However, this time of course, responder is significantly stronger and opener can be correspondingly weaker.  It's much less likely now that responder has shortness because he didn't splinter already.  So, it's opener's rebid that is the most important.  As described above, it should show shortness.

Over a constructive or limit-raise Bergen response, the issues are a little different.  Again, responder is unlikely to have a limit-raise with shortness since he didn't splinter.  But over a constructive raise, it's very possible.

An upcoming blog will look at such sequences.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

All systems working

Is there a perfect bidding system for bridge?  Chthonic (that fictional, bridge-playing automaton) believes there is.  It has something to do with using the bids to divide the space of possible hands according to the Fibonacci numbers.  But of course, it's totally artificial.  Besides, he hasn't actually published it yet.

All other practical systems have trade-offs.  Precision is a carefully designed system and is used by some of the top pairs in the world, including Meckstroth and Rodwell.  The first call (assuming the opponents haven't already bid) divides your hand, more or less, into three tranches:  0-10 (pass), 11-15 (1 thru 2), 16+ (1♣).  I say more or less because there are still other bids like weak twos, etc. but these are the constructive opening bids.  If one partner opens 1♣, responder immediately attempts to divide the partnership wealth into two tranches: part-score, game.  There's a lot to be said for knowing in two bids if we have game, definitely don't have game, or might have game.  But even Precision has weaknesses, it allows the opponents to preempt before we've designated a suit and then there's the nebulous 1 call which has to cover a wide range of hands, some of which are decidedly short in diamonds.

But, for the purpose of this discussion, I'm more interested in natural systems where the constructive opening bids are all at the one-level.  In the early days of bridge most people played that you needed four cards to bid a suit and, if you had a balanced 16-18 count, you opened 1NT.  Occasionally, it might be necessary to make a "prepared" bid, that's to say a bid in a low-ranking suit, preparing to show a balanced hand at your next turn, when your point range fell outside the 16-18 range.  However, this was fairly unusual, because you almost always had a biddable four-card suit.  The notrump range was reasonable, because even opposite a Yarborough, you would still have some chance of making or at least going down no more than one.  Besides, you don't get so many balanced 16-18 hands so the bid didn't come up all that often.

Then, it was realized that this was all very well for Rubber bridge where you were constantly partnering someone different and therefore didn't really have time to work out a "system" anyway.  But for "serious" tournament bridge, where bidding a game is so important (all bidding systems are tuned primarily for playing IMPs because that is considered to be "real" bridge, as opposed to matchpoints), it was felt that some adjustments were needed.  In particular, suppose partner opens 1♠ and you hold ♠A53 QJT9 7 ♣A9863.  You'd really love to know if partner has five spades because then game is reasonable opposite even a minimum hand.  This means that you can afford to make some bid other than 2♠ which would be a shut-out opposite a normal 12-15 point hand.  However, if partner in fact has only four spades, your attempt to get to game might easily get you too high, resulting in a negative score.

So, the idea of five-card majors was born.  It was accepted that minor suits could be bid with just four, or even three, cards because we don't tend to look for marginal games based chiefly on minor suits.  We look primarily for 3 notrump contracts or, secondarily, 5-of-a-minor based on something like 26 hcp (with some distributional help in the case of the minor-suit game). 

So, now comes the big question.  In the event that we don't have a 5-card major, but instead some other balanced hand, what should our NT range be.  The early theorists felt that there was a considerable advantage to the weak no trump (12-14).  This was because, on those occasions where you had to start with a minor suit (thus leaving the door open to major suit intervention) and which might not even be based on four cards, it was better to have something to spare point-wise (i.e. 15+).  Those balanced 12-14 hands would be opened with a somewhat preemptive 1NT.  As long as partner had distribution, and/or at least 6 high card points, nothing bad would be likely to happen.  Much thought was put into running from the dreaded double of 1NT.

Some people were not convinced by this argument and decided to switch things around.  The new system was called "Standard American", although to begin with it certainly wasn't standard, even in America.  Balanced 12-14 hands would henceforth be opened with a minor suit, followed by a 1NT rebid and balanced 15-17 hands would be opened with 1NT.  Not quite so much comfort as in 16-18 but we got to use the new systems (transfers, etc.) more often.

Because balanced 12-14 hands are so common, std-am players open a lot of hands with 1 of a minor.  It makes it very easy for the opponents to intervene now because responder has very little idea of what's going on.  Is the minor suit opened really "real"?  After partner opens 1♣ and RHO overcalls 1♠, a hand like ♠853 QJT9 72 ♣A986 wants to raise to 2♣ but may fear that partner opened a three-card suit with four good spades and a total of 12 hcp.  He's apt to make a negative double, especially because partner might have a good hand with four hearts, but which might very easily get the partnership too high when opener has the wrong hand.

Now, let's address the issue of missing a 4-4 major fit and playing in notrump instead.  First of all, provided both contracts make, there really isn't much difference when playing IMPs (1 imp probably).  Admittedly, there may be a big difference between 90 and 110 at matchpoints.  However, whatever system we are playing, 1 notrump will usually only be played when we have two opposing balanced hands without game aspirations.  Sometimes, given these conditions, playing in a suit will be better than playing 1NT but this is not always the case: one at least of the balanced hands has to have some ruffing potential; trump quality has to be good enough to withstand an attack on the trump suit, etc.

Let's assume that we have two hands with a combined point count of 22 and an eight-card spade fit.  Opener has a balanced hand with 4423 shape.  Responder's hand is 4243.  Let's first assume that opener has 14 hcp.  The weak-no-trumpers' auction will go 1NT all pass.  The strong-no-trumpers will go 1♣ – 1♠ – 2♠ (we're assuming a Walsh style here, otherwise the spade fit will likely be lost).  Thus the weak-no-trumpers may lose an imp at teams and perhaps earn only a 25% board at matchpoints.

Now, let's look what will happen if a Jack is passed under the table from responder to opener (a priori 15hcp is slightly less likely than 14 hcp so this scenario will happen slightly less frequently).   Now, the tables are turned.  The weak-no-trumpers will find the spade fit and win an imp or the 75% board.  In the long run, these differences are not likely to be really significant, especially at teams.

The one situation where we may legitimately miss our spade fit is when opener is 4333 and responder is 4423.  An auction which starts 1♣ (when the hand doesn't fall into our NT range) may continue 1– 1NT all pass.  But, this is usually not a tragedy.

Now, why is it wrong to rebid a suit when you've opened a "prepared" club (or diamond).  Again, we're not too concerned about getting to the perfect part-score for the reasons outlined above.  Any making part-score is considered equivalent.  But what if our aspirations are game, or slam?  Let's suppose that we pick up this hand ♠A653 KJT9 7 ♣A983 and hear partner open 1♣.  We dutifully bid 1 and now partner rebids 1NT.  We know within a point or two what partner's strength is and we know that he is balanced.  If he's showing 12-14, we will want to try for game.  If partner has 15-17 we definitely want to be in at least game, but aren't sure of the strain yet.  It's possible that partner has only three clubs but in that case, his distribution is 4333.  If we had a minimum responding hand, say ♠8653 KJT9 7 ♣A983, we wouldn't really care and we would pass (they might take a few diamond tricks but we only have to make 7).  But with the stronger hand, we have plenty of room to find out exactly what partner has.  If he has four spades, we want to be in 4♠ (slam is possible but not likely).

What if partner rebids 1♠ over our 1?  Now, we know that he has at least a relatively unbalanced hand.  It still might have as few as 12 hcp but conceivably it could have up to about 21 hcp.  Most probably he has a singleton somewhere (probably in hearts) [although some hands with a small doubleton diamond might also  rebid 1♠].  So partner most probably has something like 4135 shape.  He certainly has at least four clubs.  It seems that we have a double fit in the blacks.  If our rounded suits were switched so that our hand was ♠A653 A983 7 ♣KJT9, we would certainly want to investigate slam.  How disappointed we're going to be if partner puts down a 4333 hand like ♠KJ42 Q72 AQ4 ♣Q86!  That's why it's so very important to limit your hand (by bidding notrump) as soon as possible when it's balanced.

Finally, what about Walsh?  It's designed to prevent us from finding our 4-4 major fits, right?  No.  Quite the reverse.  First of all, Walsh only applies when the auction begins 1♣ – 1, not 1♣ – 1.  Walsh bidders suppress a four or five card diamond suit when they hold a four-card major but are only strong enough for one unforced bid.  This maximizes the chance that the partnership will find a 4-4 major-suit fit.  If responder has diamonds and a major with invitational strength or better, then he bids naturally and if opener rebids 1NT, possibly hiding a four-card major, then we can still find it by using a checkback bid such as NMF or XYZ.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Mini-splinters in support of partner

Here's a promising hand I held at the club last week, playing with Len: ♠A53 KJT9 7 ♣AK986.  All were vulnerable and, as the dealer, I had no difficulty in choosing an opening bid: 1♣.  After a pass on my left, partner bid 1.  Now, my hand has become even better.  But just how good is it?  In particular, is it sufficiently good for a bid of 4?  If partner has as little as ♠Kxxx Qxxx xxx ♣xx, game in hearts would be a pretty good bet, though perhaps not cold.  I decided therefore to bid 4 and partner asked about key cards.  Pretty soon, partner was installed in 6 and I was feeling more than a little smug.  Most probably we'd be one of very few pairs in 6 and it rated to be a pretty good contract.  Not everyone, I told myself, would have made a splinter bid at our second turn.

Partner turned out to have a very suitable hand: ♠QJ6 AQ42 A62 ♣T75.  We had a definite club loser but if clubs split (they did), partner would be able to ditch two spades on the long clubs.  With such a strong trump holding, there should be no difficulty in ruffing two diamonds in dummy.  Even if clubs were 4-2, the ♠K might be onside.  Unfortunately, in order to negotiate two diamond ruffs, set up the clubs and draw trumps, it was necessary that trumps split 3-2, which they had a 68% right so to do.

They didn't.  In the end, partner went down 2, though double-dummy play (i.e. not trying to make 6) would make 11 tricks.

I was feeling a little less smug now.  You know you're getting an absolute zero when you try for an iffy slam and it goes down.

So what went wrong?  There was nothing wrong with partner's bidding.  I think I overbid my hand.  Here's how I could have got the same message across (support with short diamonds): at my second turn, I could have called 3, a mini-splinter in support of partner, but forcing only to the three-level.  Obviously, with two opening hands and a fit, we're still going to reach game, but we're not going to get to the iffy slam.  Give partner ♠Kxx AQxx Axx ♣xxx or ♠QJx AQxx Axx ♣Qxx and now the slam is odds-on, even opposite my mini-splinter.

Had my minor suits been switched, the mini-splinter would not have been available, because my jump rebid would have been a game-forcing and natural jump shift.  To summarize, here are the three available mini-splinter sequences:
  • 1♣ – 1– 3;
  • 1♣ – 1♠ – 3;
  • 1 – 1♠ – 3.
Furthermore, opposite a non-passed hand, we might consider the following four sequences as mini-splinters, as opposed to jump shifts (according to partnership style and after discussion):
  • 1♣ – 1 – 2;
  • 1♣ – 1 – 2♠;
  • 1♣ – 1– 2♠;
  • 1 – 1 – 2♠.
Would partner have recognized 3 as a mini-splinter?  It's a jump where the non-jump would have been forcing (in this case a reverse), so it must be a splinter.  However, we'd never discussed what ranges the two splinters might show.  But I think it makes total sense for the mini-splinter to be forcing only to the three-level, since we also have available the full splinter, i.e. a double-jump for a game force.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

How many bids is your hand worth?

Let's say you pick up this hand in second seat (at love all): ♠AQJ732 8 J83 ♣T32.  You've got a nice spade suit but not much else.  If RHO passes, you'll describe your hand perfectly in one bid: 2♠.  You wouldn't think twice about it, would you?

But what if your RHO bids 1?  Surely, you'd make the same bid.  What's changed?  Nothing very much other than it's even more urgent to describe your hand and preempt the auction, since we now know that RHO has at least opening strength and that we have a singleton in the enemy suit.  Probably, if partner was a passed hand too you'd actually bid 3♠ here assuming the vulnerability was suitable.

Would anything persuade you to bid 1♠?  Well, you might argue that an overcall doesn't actually promise opening strength so there'd be no harm done (although given that 1♠ wouldn't be using up any bidding space, you probably should have at least close to opening count).  But here's what might happen: LHO will double and partner will raise to 2♠.  RHO will rebid 3 and now we'll want to bid again (our LAW level is 3).  But that would definitely show six spades and a solid opening hand because we took two bids with the hand.

The obvious and, I would argue, mandatory bid at this hand's first turn is 2♠.  What could go wrong?  Well, on a bad day, LHO will have 5 spades and a heart void together with all the other points in the deck.  But, playing duplicate, all your fellows should be in the same boat.  And maybe RHO won't have the hand to double at that level.  No, it's far better to get this hand out on the table in one descriptive bid, just like you would have if dealer had passed.

At the table, we allowed the opponents to go +140 instead of outbidding them and drifting off two for -100 (there wasn't a high probability of a double).  In fact, there's a chance we might even have got to play the hand at 2♠ down only 1.

Monday, May 3, 2010

A Dummy's Guide to 2/1 Auctions

I've never really understood why people think 2/1 is difficult.  In particular, why do bridge teachers still teach "Standard American" which is a hotch-potch of a system?  One of the problems is that there really aren't any good, readable, comprehensive books.  Maybe the Rodwell and Grant is good but I haven't seen it.

One of the issues is the forcing 1NT.  That, and the related sequence 1 p 1♠, needs to be described first (part 1 of a hypothetical book) because it is perhaps the least intuitive part of the system.  But the auctions that start with a 2/1 sequence are simplicity itself (part 2).  The other sections are not really part of 2/1 per se but might be included for completeness: there are the minor suit openings, including inverted minors and reverses, and notrump openings (parts 3 and 4); there are gadgets such as Jacoby 2NT, splinters, new minor forcing, etc. (part 5).  Part 6 might be about judgment, hand evaluation, inferences, etc.  Parts 7 and 8 would cover slam bidding and competitive bidding.

Here's my summary of part 2 (all you really need to know about non-competitive 2/1 sequences).
  • Priorities are [starting with responder's first bid, assuming a game-going hand]:
    • (a) support partner with four cards (there are various ways to do this);
    • (b) show your own pattern (or continue showing);
    • (c) support partner with three cards;
    • (d) show stoppers for notrump if a, b, c, don't apply;
    • (e) otherwise, bid the unbid suit ("fourth suit") if you don't have it stopped (or you have a holding like Ax);
  • Showing your pattern:
    • Bid suits in length order (longest first);
    • Rebidding a suit shows extra length (except opener's first rebid of a 5-card major may be used to show a minimum hand with no other good rebid);
    • A jump rebid shows a solid suit;
    • Rebidding a second suit shows at least 6-5 if the sequence was a reverse and at least 5-5 otherwise;
  • Jumps in new suits always show support for partner's just-bid suit and shortness in the named suit;
  • There are no "preferences" in 2/1 bidding, at least not until we get to the four level;
  • All bids below 3NT are forcing, and once a suit has been supported, all bids below game are forcing.
There are also various secondary agreements that you may or may not want to adopt (these all relate to 2/1 sequences):
  1. Responder's rebid of 3NT indicates a balanced 15-17;
  2. Opener's rebid of 2NT indicates a balanced hand suitable for notrump play in the 18-19 range or in the "wrong" range for an opening 1NT (e.g. if you play 15-17 1NT openers, then a 2NT rebid shows 12-14 or 18-19);
  3. Opener's rebid above 2NT promises "extras" [in my opinion, this promises at least a good 14 hcp, some would promise more];
  4. Opener's reverse promises "extras" [in my opinion, this promises at least a solid 12 hcp];
  5. Responder's jump to 4 of opener's major shows a "picture bid", with all (or most) values in the suits bid;
  6. With 6-4 distribution, opener rebids the major if a bare minimum [i.e. less than a solid 12 hcp];
  7. 1 p 2♣ is not 100% game-forcing;
  8. 1M p 2m p 2x p 3m is not forcing.
    That's about it.  It's really very simple.  There's very little need for judgment or fudging (once the 2/1 sequence has been initiated).  You just follow the list of priorities.

    Sunday, May 2, 2010

    Officially Old

    It's official.  I've joined the ranks of the oldies by playing in my first "Seniors" event. I think having events limited to Seniors (55+) is completely daft – the vast majority of players qualify to play in such events – such events simply exclude something like of 20% of active players, the ones that are the future of bridge.  But there you are, we in New England have a Seniors-only Regional and we're not going to give it up.  So, Len and I drove the two hours each way to Chatham, a beautiful spot at the elbow of Cape Cod, for a two-session pairs game.  We played badly in the afternoon, with more than our fair share of bad luck, but recovered in the evening to get a section top, not quite sufficient comeback for an overall award.

    The crowd is slightly different.  Many of the contestants seem to be of the more social bridge types, including quite a few pairs who appeared to be couples.  Table etiquette wasn't always perfect.  There was an unusually high number of director calls.  But I thought the standard of play was a little better than I expected.

    An interesting situation came up.  Only we are vulnerable and LHO deals and opens 2♣ (strong and artificial).  Partner passes and RHO bids 2, artificial showing 0-3 hcp.  Our hand is ♠A64 KJ964 9 ♣AQ72, a hand we would have opened had we been first to speak.  We can assume that LHO has at least 18hcp (although stranger things have happened) and probably not more than 25hcp.  So they have 18-26, leaving partner with 0-8.  A priori, any hand that falls with in a range is more likely to be at the "ten" end of the range than the other end.  So let's tentatively assume that partner has 5cp.  Chances are he's going to be on lead against a spade, diamond or notrump contract, at least based on our hand.  We want to help him avoid giving anything away on the lead.  How about a lead-directing double?

    Our first thought is that the vulnerability is wrong for us, but that's misleading.  We are very unlikely to be declaring so our vulnerability is not relevant.  However, there is just a possibility that they may "send it back", i.e. redouble and needless to say, if they make 2XX, it will be very bad news for us.  Not quite such bad news when they are not-vulnerable, but it won't matter much, at least, not at matchpoints.  2XX will beat any other game contract (640) and two overtricks (1040) will beat any slam they could legitimately make (which does seem pretty unlikely, given our hand).  Still with their (estimated) 21 hcp and at least a 5-0 split against them, worrying about 2XX seems unduly pessimistic.

    Still, there are other dangers in doubling for a heart lead.  Declarer might have A, Q and T sitting over us.  But, if that is so, declarer could have taken that finesse for himself, assuming that he has some way of reaching dummy,  Besides, there's a possibility that dummy, or even partner, will have the Q or T.

    On balance, I think I might risk the double.  However, you could accuse me of having 20-20 hindsight, since this action would have worked well for several reasons.

    But, let's say we go with the conservative route and pass (bearing in mind that we have to pass quicker than it takes you to read all this, lest our hesitation suggest a heart lead).  LHO now bids 3 and this is passed out.  Partner leads the ♠2 (3rd and lowest) dummy comes down with  ♠JT9 T82 63 ♣JT986.  Now, how are you feeling about passing over 2?

    Anyway, you win your A (declarer playing the Q) and return the 6, declarer playing the K.  I think switching to trumps looks better given that we can't ruff the third spade, even if partner has the K.  Declarer starts the trumps with the A, all following (partner plays the 4) and continues with the Q, partner winning with the K.  It's a pity partner didn't lead a club at the beginning as he might now be getting a club ruff.  Meanwhile, we need to make a discard to help partner decide what to continue.  What should it be?  Partner might be thinking that we started with A6 of spades, in which case, we can't stop declarer getting to dummy for a finesse in hearts or clubs.  Pitching our other spade would clarify the position.  But actually, we have stuff in hearts and we wouldn't be unhappy with a heart lead.  It's important to note here that our discard will be telling, not asking.  If we play an encouraging heart, partner is not commanded to lead that suit.  We are simply informing him where we have values.  As it turns out partner has the HQ and will be happy to lead a low heart.  A trump continuation by partner will also be safe.

    Unfortunately, we decide to discard our lowest heart and partner thinks that perhaps the safest lead is to give declarer his spade, as he assumes that declarer will likely want to finesse a heart to his Q.  Disaster!  Partner gives declarer access to an otherwise unreachable dummy for a pitch and to finesse against our clubs.  Instead of going plus like everyone else, we are minus 130 for a very round zero.