All Together Now

The nationals are only a couple of days away...for some reason, I seem to be more interested in bridge than work. It's late afternoon, and I've finished the projects I had in mind for today and a few others besides, so I noodle around OKBridge for a bit, not really intending to play. A national champion greets me and asks if I'd like to play against him and his partner for awhile. "Hmmm...OK." I call a regular partner and away we go.

The boards are interesting. On an early hand, I give partner a spade ruff, but he's afraid that declarer will overruff, so he pitches. Not to worry, I turn around and give him a diamond ruff instead! The prettiest hand of the session was this one.

S: K9
H: Q65
D: Q1062
C: A743
S: J105
H: J1083
C: J1062
I open the South hand a 10-12 notrump and play there. The expert is on my right; I don't know his partner. The opening lead is the D:9, and I pause to take stock. I have four tricks off the top and can generate a trick in each major. There's no reason for West to have led a short suit, so I suspect the D:J is falling, giving me seven tricks. Entries are a possible problem, but most likely, I'm playing for overtricks.

I win the first trick with the D:K; if West wins the trick, I'd prefer he continue diamonds than shift to spades. I need to get my heart trick, or possibly two, so at trick two, I continue with a low heart to the H:Q, which holds. West played the H:7 and East the H:4, which, since they are playing standard signals, looks like a doubleton. Maybe it's doubleton 94. I continue with another heart, East completes his echo (rats), and my H:J loses to the king. As expected, West continues a diamond to my D:A. The D:J didn't fall, so it looks as if West is 4-4 in the red suits. It's convenient to play him for honor doubleton in clubs anyway, so I lead the C:J. West covers with the Queen and I win the C:A. I don't know what to pitch from dummy on the diamonds, so I continue with another club. East plays low. I think the odds favor honor doubleton rather than C:KQ tight, so I play the C:10, which holds as West follows. I have five tricks in the bag and probably three more as long as I maintain an entry to dummy. I choose to be a little tricky and lead the C:6 overtaking with the C:7. West pitches a small spade on this, so I'm pretty sure his shape was 3442. East wins the C:K and continues with the D:J. I have to discard from hand. I'm pretty sure that West has one of the spade honors or he might have switched to a spade earlier, so I win and cash my winners in dummy pitching spades, leaving

S: K9
H: 6
D: ---
C: ---
S: J
H: 108
D: ---
C: ---
I don't know the location of the spade honors, but it doesn't matter. West clearly has two hearts left and only one spade. If he has either spade honor, either spade from dummy will generate an extra trick. If I lead the S:9, East will have the choice of flying with the ace and giving me a trick with the S:K or letting his partner win the S:Q and be endplayed into giving me a heart trick. The S:K will work just as well, however, and I like the effect, so thinking, "all together now!" I lead the S:K from dummy. East contributes the S:A, I the S:J, and West the S:Q. When was the last time you saw the AKQJ of a suit on trick 11? East has to give me a trick with the S:9, so I end up +150 for a good score. Too bad it was IMPs.

Note that if the S:A and S:Q had been switched, my play of the S:K would not have cost; West would have been forced to win and give me a heart trick. Perhaps East would have been a poet and contributed the S:Q.

In the endgame, West was squeezed. It would have been better for him to have pitched a heart, but I would have exited with a heart to him and would have been able to guess spades for nine tricks.

Jeff Goldsmith,, March 18, 1998