Walkin' da Dawg

Playing in a club game with a sound but unimaginative partner against opponents who are certainly not world class, I pick up in second seat vulnerable against not
 S:AJ876432 H:D:Q C:AJ52
As I look at my hand, a regular partner pulls up a chair to kibitz. Turns out his client canceled at the last minute, so he decided to watch a hand or two.

RHO opens 1D:. I like to play that 4D: is Namyats for one of the majors here, but partner would not have any idea what I was doing. In any case, at this vulnerability, I don't want to wave a red flag in front of the opponents, so I simply bid 1S:. LHO bids 2H:, partner raises to 2S:, and RHO skip bids to 4H:. If the opponents have all their stuff in the red suits, it looks like partner may have black stuff, in which case, we could easily have a slam. I could bid 5C: as a slam try or just bid 6S:, but is that a good idea? I figure we can make 11 or 12 tricks in spades, and they can make 11 or 12 tricks in hearts. If they think we bid 6S: with any degree of confidence, they'll bid 7H:. +680 will be a much better score than +100 or +300, so my real goal isn't to find a slam, but to buy the hand in spades below the seven level. Hmmm...even 7S: might not be ridiculous. Give partner king-fourth of spades and king fifth of clubs, and on a heart lead, we might make a grand slam. Still, since I don't plan to bid a grand, I want to buy the hand, so I shall walk the dog.

I study my hand for the required ten seconds, and bid only 4S:. LHO takes perhaps a millisecond and bids 5H:. If we had been bidding orally, he'd've belted it out. Partner and RHO pass, and I take about 3 seconds and bid 5S:. I think one ought always pause a bit before acting in a high-level auction, so I pause here to try and maintain an even tempo. LHO thinks this time for maybe five seconds, and bids 6H:. Again, this is passed to me, and after the requisite three or four seconds, I bid 6S:. LHO has much more of a problem this time, and after 30 seconds he doubles, ending the auction.

The opening lead is the H:K, and partner remarks, "you are going to like my hand," as he lays down the dummy.

S: K1095
H: 85
D: J85
C: K943
S: AJ876432
D: Q
C: AJ52
Pass6S:DoubleAll Pass
Indeed, I do like his hand. 6S: isn't cold, but it certainly has play. The opening bidder appears to be 1453 or 1444. That leaves responder with 0742 or 0751. With the latter shape, he might well have leapt to 6H: instead of bidding 5H:. Or maybe he was walking the dog, too.

If RHO is 1453, I'd like to avoid losing to a doubleton C:Q offside. If I strip the majors and play a diamond, RHO might be good enough to realize that I'm 4-4 in clubs and that a ruff and discard won't help me. Oddly, in this case it will, because I can then show-up squeeze him in the minors. So I ruff the first trick, cross to the S:K, and ruff another heart. I might as well lead a diamond from dummy; RHO's tempo may tell me he does not have both diamond honors. Or he may simply duck a diamond if he has only one of them, which may be good for me.

I cross to a high trump, and play a small diamond. RHO, without much thought, wins the D:K. So he has both honors. I'm hoping he now plays a heart, but after a fair bit of thought, he tries cashing another diamond honor. I ruff and run all the trumps but one. RHO pitches two diamonds. So there's no reason to continue with the last trump. I lead to the C:K. LHO plays the ten on this, not that it matters much. When I cash the D:J, RHO shows out, so he's marked with four clubs. I can take the club finesse with confidence. +1660.

It turned out that RHO had 1444 shape. If he had exited a club, I would have won the C:J and squeezed him in the minors to make twelve tricks. Since I was pretty sure that he had at least three clubs and quite possibly four, that was the play I was intending. On the other hand, in that case, I would have gone down if clubs were 3-2 with the queen offside and the ten on my right, whereas playing a low club then would ensure the contract. Perhaps I ought to have left RHO with a heart exit so that I didn't have to make this guess, but I was really hoping for a "useless" ruff and discard so that I didn't have to guess clubs at all. I think a heart return was much more likely than a club return, so against these folks, my line was probably best.

Copyright © 2006 Jeff Goldsmith