Back to Basics

Playing in the Life Master pairs, I'm in second seat with none vulnerable. I hold
 S:AK743 H:Q1087 D:AK10 C:J
RHO passes, so I get to open 1S:. Partner responds a forcing notrump, and I bid 2H:. This isn't quite good enough for a direct 3H:, but I plan to bid again if partner doesn't pass. Surprisingly, LHO chimes in with 2NT, obviously for the minors. Partner passes, and RHO bids 3C:. We play most doubles in positions like this for takeout, but partner has a theory that if an opponent thinks his hand is not good enough to enter on the first round of the auction, he probably doesn't belong there on the second, so our doubles are penalty when that happens. I've bid two other suits, so I can't really have a trump stack, but partner expects more than a singleton, so I'm afraid he'd pass too often if I double. I really don't want to defend 3C: undoubled when they are white; I expect we have a plus score available in two of a major. If I can't double, I guess I have to bid 3D:, the same thing I would have if they'd passed. I really don't want to do that, but I've taken long enough that partner will feel constrained to pass my double. Yuck. Oh, well—I bid 3D: and hope I've not blown it too badly. I wish I'd've just followed my instincts and doubled in tempo.

Partner shrugs and bids 3S:, as expected, and everyone gets off. When I see dummy, I am still not sure if I've done the right thing.

S: J96
H: A93
D: 652
C: 9863
S: AK743
H: Q1087
D: AK10
C: J
All Pass
LHO starts with two high clubs, and I ruff. I can always generate four trump tricks by ruffing another club, and I have AK, A outside. So I need two more tricks from hearts. One will have to be a high card, and the other should just be a ruff in the short hand. I'm inclined to play RHO for the H:J rather than the H:K, since LHO bid, but most likely he has both. The problem with that approach, however, is that LHO might ruff my heart winner if RHO has four hearts to the king. But that will be OK as long as he does not do it with a singleton trump. So I cash the trump ace and play a heart to the ace and a heart off dummy. RHO plays low without a flicker, so I continue my plan and insert the H:10. It holds, and LHO follows. That's good. I can't afford to play another trump yet, so I continue with the H:Q, trying to look like someone with H:KQ10x. What the heck, LHO might ruff it with the S:Q.

After some study, LHO does ruff the H:Q, but with a low trump. He gets a scowl from his partner, but it didn't matter. He exits with a high diamond (rats! If he had played a club, I'd've made an overtrick!). I draw one more round of trumps, ruff a heart, and claim nine tricks for what I assume is a normal 140.

The defenders start at each other. RHO complains that his partner ruffed his winner, and LHO "suggests" that if the H:K was taken, they might take a few more tricks. Normally, I try not to get involved in such discussions, but this time I say, "nothing mattered; I was taking at least nine tricks all the time." I explain that if RHO wins the H:K and gives his partner a ruff, I get to finesse a second time, then win the return, discard a diamond from dummy on the H:Q, and ruff a diamond. They'll get one heart, one ruff, the S:Q, and the C:A, but nothing more. And the ruff of the H:Q was irrelevant as long as LHO didn't make the mistake of returning a club. If he did that, I'd cash a trump, both high diamonds, ruff a heart, and then make my last trump en passant. When he returned a diamond, he got back to even, so their defense essentially didn't matter. It looked pretty dismal, but it broke even.

As we are going over the hands at dinner, I find that each other pair with us played the hand in spades, but no one else made more than eight tricks. One player went so far as to claim that taking more required a defensive error. I was baffled. All this hand requires is to ruff a loser in the short hand, yet several good players didn't see that and relied on the heart spots for their ninth trick, which doesn't work.

When we come back, I'm curious enough to check the scores on this board. No one in our section managed +140, and we got a 90% score for it. How odd. The play does not seem complicated at all.

Copyright © 2009 Jeff Goldsmith