On the Way

Playing in the North American Open Pairs with a competent partner against decent opposition, I deal myself vulnerable against not this promising collection:
 S:AKQ864 H:1083 D:--- C:K1042
We are playing five-card majors and Two-over-One game force. This rates to be a good hand for our system, so I am feeling encouraged when I open 1S:. LHO passes and partner bids 2C:, game forcing, which I like a lot. I am about to make a splinter jump when I hear an overcall of 2NT, showing length in the red suits. Not to be deterred, I choose to jump to 4D:, showing my club support and diamond shortness. LHO can get in this and does by raising my diamonds to five. Partner thinks about this a bit, but comes up with the bid I want to hear: 5H:. Good partner!

I am about to bid the Grand Slam Force because 7C: will be cold opposite as little as  S:xx H:Axx D:xxx C:AQJxx and partner must have more than that for his game force. On my way to seven, however, RHO bids 6D:, making me guess about partner's club holding. I think it is really no guess; partner made a grand slam try when he bid 5H:, since we were by then committed to 6C:, so he must have the top clubs. I bid 7C:, hoping strenuously that the opponents do not sacrifice.

7C: is passed around to RHO who gives this quite a bit of thought, as well he might, and finally decides to trust us and saves in 7D:. How unfortunate. Before I double this, I give some thought to 7S:. 13 tricks are obvious at clubs, but I only see six spades, one heart, and five clubs at spades. If partner holds the H:K or a sixth club and S:Jx or three little spades, we can make 7S:, too, which has to be better than defending diamonds. How can I tell if he has this stuff? I am pretty confident about the 13th winner, but I cannot tell if spades are good enough to play at the seven-level; certainly partner could have a singleton, in which case 7S: is a very bad bet. How can I tell? I cannot, but fortunately, partner is still in the game. I choose to pass, which is clearly forcing, and must suggest some higher contract. 7NT seems very unlikely given that I am probably void in diamonds, so the contract I must be considering is 7S:. 7D: goes around to partner who considers for a little while and finally doubles. This gets passed out and we collect 500, less than our game, so we are happy to find that we get an average score when several pairs are allowed to play diamonds at a lower level.

The final forcing pass was an unusual one in that normally, forcing passes at the seven level are intended to suggest bidding a grand after they have saved against our small slam. This one was suggesting a conversion to a higher-ranking suit, which had never occurred to me before.

Partner held  S:10x H:AJx D:Qxx C:AQJxx. He certainly had his bidding shoes on, but 7C: is an excellent contract, and today had the benefit of being cold. His decision to double rather than bid 7S: was a good one because he had no extra winner and no real help in spades. Thank you, partner.

Copyright © 1993 Jeff Goldsmith