Can't Win 'Em All

Playing in a sectional Swiss, we've won our first two matches and are vying for the lead. Halfway through the third match, partner deals me
 S:A72 H:8 D:K4 C:AQ109753
Partner opens 1D:, I respond 2C:, and he rebids 2NT. We play a 3C: rebid is not forcing, so I try 3S:. Partner thrumps (he bids 3NT). Am I worth a try for slam? Partner has shown a balanced minimum with wastage in hearts, but we open 10-12 NTs, so partner probably has 13 or 14 HCP. I think it is worth one try, so I trot out 4C:. Partner bids 5S:. I have no idea what he means by that, but a grand is not in the picture, so I retreat to 6C: which becomes the final contract. The opening lead is the D:J and I see:
S: K86
H: AQ43
D: A876
C: 82
S: A72
H: 8
D: K4
C: AQ109753
I still don't know what 5S: was, but that's not important. 6C: looks adequate, but it's not cold. If I can pick up the trumps without loss, I'm home. If not, the most likely chance is the heart finesse.

The first order of business is trumps. I win the diamond in dummy. With no information, the normal play in clubs is to finesse the queen, and if it loses, to cash the ace. So I take the trump finesse. It wins, but on the second round, LHO shows out, pitching a small spade. I may be able to generate a squeeze, so I cash the D:K and exit with a trump, pitching a heart from dummy. On the second round of diamonds, LHO contributes the nine. It looks as if he has J109 alone. When RHO wins his trump trick, he continues with a low diamond. I ruff, and LHO confirms my opinion of the diamond suit by playing his ten. Unless they are playing a very deep game, RHO has the remaining diamond. Of course, I have unblocked the D:8 just in case a beer is lurking.

Good things have happened. If the heart finesse is on, I don't need to take it, so I might as well try to ruff down the doubleton king offside. It doesn't come down, so I run all my trumps, reaching this end position, assuming the H:K is onside.

S: K8
H: Q
D: 7
S: ???
H: K
S: ???
D: Q
S: A72
C: 3
On the last trump, LHO pitches a spade. I'm done with the H:Q. Perforce, RHO also pitches a spade. I lead the S:7 to dummy, cross back to the S:A, and claim the last trick with the S:2 to make my slam. The heart finesse was winning all the time, but sometimes those extra chances pay off.

Our teammates led a heart against 3NT played from the other side. Lickety-split, declarer ran the C:8, picked up the whole suit, and claimed all the tricks. We won 9 IMPs and the match on the board anyway. Not good enough! Despite winning all our matches, we ended up second, because another team won most of their matches by more than we did. Oh, well, You can't win 'em all...

Copyright © 2003 Jeff Goldsmith