16 Minutes

Playing in the first round of the Spingold, we draw a pretty good, mostly Dutch team. Our opponents are good and they are slow. On consecutive boards, one tanked for 5, 4, and 7 minutes. We'll finish the 64-board match around dawn.

S: 32
H: K102
D: A52
C: AK962
S: 54
H: J953
D: 63
C: QJ753
1NT was 15-17. 2C: was ordinary Stayman, but 3C: asked for distributional information. 3D: showed either 4333 exactly or five spades.

Partner leads the D:Q. For us to have any chance to beat this, declarer has to be 5332 exactly, and his high cards need to be the S:AKJ, H:A, and D:K. Partner needs to have a high club spot, too, or declarer has three clubs and two in each other suit.

I wonder why dummy asked about declarer's shape. Vs. 4234 or 4324, declarer needs a perfecto to make 6C:; it doesn't seem to me that it'd pay to pass game on that off chance, and if not, then why tell the defense about declarer's hand?

Declarer plays low from dummy, and I discourage at trick one. It's possible that declarer will duck this trick, and if so, we can beat 3NT if partner will shift to a heart, even if declarer has the 4333 hand. Neither event is likely, but it's worth trying. Surprisingly, the first happens, but not surprisingly, the second doesn't. Shifting from Qxx through that dummy looks silly, especially if partner has spades locked up. Partner continues diamonds and declarer wins in hand. He leads the C:10 and partner plays small. OK, we are doomed. After a small pause (maybe only 45 seconds; did I mention these guys were slow), declarer goes up with the C:A and leads a spade off dummy. He hooks the S:J, losing to partner's queen. Partner clears the diamonds while I pitch an encouraging heart.

Declarer, of course, now tests the spades. On the third round, both dummy and I pitch clubs. So now declarer plays his C:8 (I wish I had that!) and passes it to me. I win and immediately shift to the H:J. That's the only way to give declarer a problem:

H: K102
C: K9
S: 10
H: Q87
D: 10
H: J95
C: Q7
S: 76
H: A64
If I exit with a club, I surrender the 9th trick immediately. If I play a low heart, declarer has a choice of endplaying me in either hearts or clubs. When I play the H:J, however, declarer has to decide who has the H:Q. If I have it, either endplay still works. If partner has it, declarer can just win in hand and hook the H:10.

Declarer starts thinking about this. And thinking. Dummy is jeering. "You had 9 top tricks and now you've given yourself a guess! Ha, ha!" It's obvious to me what declarer is thinking about. "We are playing a very low seeded team, so is the bozo on my right finding the 'obvious' play from both heart honors, or did he quickly work out the position and make a good play?" Restricted choice applies so it's 2-1 that I have only one of the heart honors, but most weak players will play the jack from both much more than half the time. Joy. I can't win. Either declarer makes the hand or insults me. Declarer is still thinking. I glance at the clock; he's only been tanking about 2 minutes so far, nothing out of the ordinary for these guys. Dummy is still laughing. Declarer is still thinking. Dummy is bored and fidgeting. Declarer thinks some more. He shrugs and plays the H:A, since that doesn't commit him to anything. And goes back into the tank. I glance at the clock. He's been at it 10 minutes. I mention gently, "I don't mean to be rude, but 10 minutes is a bit long to make a single play." No effect. Still thinking. Finally, six minutes later, he shrugs and hooks the heart. We fold. Sixteen minutes. At least I wasn't insulted. Much.

Copyright © 2008 Jeff Goldsmith