Best of Show

I'm playing in a regional tournament with a good player who is a super card player. We have a little competition between us to see who finds the best hand of the week. I expected him to win, but we agreed that this hand took the prize.

Playing matchpoints at favorable vulnerability, I deal and pick up the South hand. We have a simple auction to the normal 3NT contract.

S: J3
H: A10732
D: 86
C: A975
S: AQ2
H: K
D: KQJ753
C: J103

Me Partner
1D: 1H:
3D: 3H:

West leads the S:5, and I hopefully put up the S:J. East covers this with the S:K. It looks right to duck this because if diamonds run I have 10 tricks, so I'd like to tighten up the count before East thinks about shifting to clubs, which could be embarrassing. East continues with the S:6. I win and West contributes the S:7. The S:4 is still missing. I'm not sure what's going on in spades yet, but I have no alternative but to start the diamonds. I lead a high diamond from my hand and East wins. He continues with that missing S:4. I win, getting the S:10 from West. It looks as if spades are 3-5, the opener having led a 3-card suit.

I've been thinking about how I can manage a beer on this hand, but there really isn't any safe way; if I duck a trick, whoever wins it could have some spades left. I shall give up on my beverage possibilities.

I have my ten tricks and there's nothing I can do but to run diamonds, so I do. I've discarded one heart already on the spades, so I pitch two clubs and a heart on the first three diamonds. With one more winner to go, the position is

S: ---
H: A107
D: ---
C: A9
S: ---
H: K
D: 7
C: J103
East has discarded two spades, so now I know he started with five of them. He also had two diamonds, leaving West with three cards in each pointed suit. Again, there's not much to do but cash the last diamond. Interesting! West discards the C:Q and East a heart. I can take my three tricks by cashing the H:K, then crossing to dummy, but the two spade discards means that I can safely strand the H:A; if I cash the club first, my C:J10 will prevent the opponents from being able to take more than one trick, so it's safe to discard the C:9. More importantly, however, it really looks as if West has been squeezed. If she had both club honors and five hearts or both heart honors, she had no safe discard on the last diamond. Discarding a club just shows that the position would have worked against either opponent. Because West had all the honors, I could just as easily have cashed the H:K before the last diamond and West would have been positionally simple squeezed in the rounded suits.

I'm confident that the squeeze position worked, so I remark, "have you really been criss-cross squeezed?" and lead the small club. Yes, she has, having been dealt 3-5-3-2 shape with the club honors doubleton. I make the remainder for 11 tricks.

The defense has lost their way a couple of times, though their defense was rather natural, but the spade lead required some care for me to achieve 460. Three other declarers managed it, presumably on different defense. We are not winning by any stretch, so the matchpoints are far less worthwhile than the opportunity to execute a funny sort of criss-cross squeeze. The extended menace in clubs meant that I was able to strand the H:A without loss. Interestingly, I never scored a trick with it.

At the end of the tournament, we agree that this was the best ending, although partner puts forth that his opening lead from KJ109xxx that speared my stiff Queen to unblock a suit is a candidate. We choose my hand, though, on the basis that we've each tried that King lead more than once, but neither of us had seen that end position before.

We agree, however, that "Best of Show" really went to an opponent's remark. Late in a matchpoint session, the opponents manage to pull off Hesitation Blackwood against us. The director rules that the result stands, so we are discussing appealling. We've learned that the carryover will only be two boards, so the score difference will be very small. As we discuss this, a pair of experts sits down. One is a total jerk, but a very strong player. In an earlier event, he had claimed victory, only to lose to a 78% game. The entire crowd thought that even sweeter. His partner is a good player, although not as good as the jerk, but he's a nice guy. Mr. Jerk makes some really obnoxious comment about hesitations, presumably responding to our discussion; the whole table goes silent. My partner honestly inquires, "was that a joke?" He explains his comment and we still don't know. After the round is over; Mr. Jerk has yelled at everyone at the table at least once. He leaves shortly before Mr. Nice Guy. I note that Mr. NG has three regular partners; all three regularly have Conduct clashes with the powers that be. I put this very tactfully; he responds, "yes, all three are AHs." "So why do you do this to yourself?" "I need the money."

Jeff Goldsmith,, November 10, 1998