“Drop dead” lives on

Most players are aware that after partner opens 1NT, it is possible for responder to perform a rescue operation to a long suit, as South might do with this hand:

SOUTH
♠ Q8643
52
32
9852

NORTH      SOUTH
1NT        ?

Over opener’s 1NT, responder usually does best to run to the 5-card major, so makes the “drop dead” bid of 2S, asking opener to pass. Better still if playing "transfers" - in that case, responder bids 2H, asking opener to bid 2S, thereby allowing the strong hand to declare.

 

What if, over North’s 1NT opening, an opponent had intervened with a bid of 2D? South still bids 2S, competing for the part-score. Transfers do not apply.

What most club players do not know is whether it is still possible to make a “drop dead” bid when interference by the opponents propels the auction to the three level. Differences of opinion on this matter are a common cause of bidding disasters, as on this hand from a Trumps Festival of Bridge Pairs event:

Dealer South, nil vul.

          NORTH
          ♠ 986
          ♥
          ♦ KT9762
          ♣ J875
WEST               EAST          
AT743            QJ5      
Q93              JT8542  
4                A85
KQ96             4
          SOUTH
          ♠ K2
          ♥ AK76
          ♦ QJ3
          ♣ AT32

WEST    NORTH   EAST    SOUTH   
                        1NT     
2S      3D      Pass    3NT

The 2S overcall showed spades and a minor, part of the Hamilton (Cappelletti) method of interference over 1NT. What should North have done over that?

It is important to have some way to compete in North’s position. The standard treatment is that 3D by North is a drop dead bid, unless you have worked out a different method. Most important, however, is for both members of the partnership to be on the same wavelength.

Sadly that was not the case this time. Despite having near perfect cards, South had an unhappy time in 3NT. West led a low spade to East’s SJ, taken by the SK. Next, declarer led the DQ, then the DJ and another diamond. It was an easy matter for East to hold up the DA until this third round, knowing that would leave declarer with no diamond left to ever cross over to dummy with.

That left declarer with six top tricks and no easy route to a seventh, and sure enough, the contract finished up three light.