A Distant Third
I'm playing in a national Swiss team event against good
opposition when I pick up A5 AQ KQ5 AJ10932 as dealer.
Our 2NT range is 20-21, so I think this is a toss-up whether
to open 2NT or 2. If partner passes 2NT, I probably
won't make game unless he has all his stuff in clubs, or at
least length there, which is possible, but is a little unlikely.
This is about a 3-3/4 loser hand; partner will need to cover
about 2-1/2 losers to make slam good. He'll try for slam over 2NT
with that much stuff, so upon reflection, I think 2NT is
I open 2NT. Partner transfers to hearts and bids 3NT. What
now? In general, after a 2NT opening (or 2-2-2NT),
I think it's generally right to play partner's major with two
of the top three honors doubleton. The suit is blocked, and
partner's trumps provide dummy entries, which often makes the
major play a lot better. This one is a bit closer than normal,
however, since I have a six-card suit. On the other hand, the
opponents will probably lead spades, and I may need time to set
up the clubs, so I choose to play 4.
The opening lead is the 8. Dummy is a little surprising.
With eight HCP and five poor hearts, I don't think I'd use
this sequence. With 5332, it's attractive just to bid 3NT.
It seems unlikely that partner will go down in 3NT when we
have 28-29 HCP and two balanced hands, particularly when I
have slow cards in my short suits. But a bad heart break
could easily beat 4. A 5-4 heart fit is probably
worth playing, though, so I think it's probably right to
trot out Stayman, but it's close. Partner's actual sequence
seems to me to be a distant third choice. Then again, the
spades could be very dangerous at 3NT. If the K and
K are offside, 3NT could go down when 4 makes.
But my hand is a little skewed for 2NT, and he couldn't know
that I have only two spades. Of course, partner didn't
expect me to choose hearts with only two of them.
Given the 8 lead, the K obviously is on this time, so 3NT is cold, but
4 has some issues. I cover the 8,
RHO produces the K, and I win. I need to
avoid three trump losers, so I cross to the A and take
the trump hook. It loses. That's pretty worrisome, but LHO
thinks for a while and continues diamonds. That's good—he
clearly has the K, so as long as he wins all the trump
losers (and I don't have four of them!), I should be OK. I
win the diamond and cash the A. No jack or nine appears, but
they both follow. I have no entry to dummy, but LHO doesn't
know that, so I continue with a small club. LHO pauses, but
not long, and discards an encouraging spade on the club. I
win the 7 in dummy and play a trump. Both follow, so
I claim 11 tricks to lose one IMP. Phew.
It turned out that LHO had the J, so he was in a pickle.
If he ruffed the club, I could just play another club to dummy
to draw RHO's trump. I don't think I've ever seen that play
before when the entry possibly ruffed was a seven.
Copyright © 2014 Jeff Goldsmith