Playing in a weak club game, partner doesn't seem to be paying much attention. It will be a struggle to win, but I'm trying. We get to the last hand; I think we need to win this board to win, but I'm just guessing. As dealer, vulnerable, I pick up
 S:K5 H:K87 D:AK2 C:AKJ32.
Our 2NT opening is 20-21, but I think this hand is just a tad too good by straight evaluation. On the other hand, since I'm deciding between opening 2NT and opening 2C: and rebidding 2NT, do I want to be in game opposite two queens? If they are the minor queens, definitely. If the majors, I'm not sure, although my stopper situation will be improved. I think I'll need some fit or spots as well in that case. Upon reflection, it seems as if opening 2C: is a mild overbid, but opening 2NT is a mild underbid. I'll go for the overbid.

Partner raies to game, West leads a small heart, and I see

S: 1084
H: QJ4
D: 987643
C: 9
S: K5
H: K87
D: AK2
C: AKJ32
Opening leader is a decent player, but East is a beginner. I don't yet see how that might matter, but overall, I can probably count on less than sparkling defense. I play low from dummy and win East's H:6 with the cowboy. I'd like to preserve a late entry to dummy, so I shall be profligate with my hearts.

There's nothing much to do but test the diamonds. If they are 2-2, I'm playing for overtricks. No, West shows out on the second round, pitching a low heart. It's lower than his first one, so he has at least five hearts.

What now? If I thought this was a normal contract, I'd try to make the maximum number of tricks, but I doubt very much that anyone else will be in game. That means that undertricks don't matter; I need to make the contract. I do not see how I'm going to make nine tricks without the diamonds, so I continue the suit. Maybe East will continue hearts. On the third round of diamonds, West pitches another heart. East thinks for a little while and plays a small spade. I have nothing to do but try the king, so I do. No luck. West wins it and starts to think.

Good news! He shifts to the C:10. I'm still in deep water, but that's an improvement. West plays the C:6 and I win with the C:A. My only real hope is West's winning the H:A and continuing clubs. Concealing the C:J might work; it'll mark East with the jack and maybe the rest of the missing honors from West's perspective. I continue with a heart. West hops up on it and thinks some more. He continues with a club, so I claim ten tricks. That is good enough to win the board and the game (phew).

We've all heard about the ploy in which declarer gets a lead into his AQx and wins the trick higher than neccesary in order to get the opening leader to underlead his king again while another suit was wide open. The play above is just a variation on that; perhaps they might be called "Profligate Coups."

Jeff Goldsmith,, May 9, 2000