Playing in the last round of a local matchpoint game against the second best pair in the field, I get to play a hand for glory only because both pairs have no chance. LHO deals and opens 1C:, which is passed around to me.
 S:AQ10632 H:KJ10 D:Q10 C:74
My partner is an expert, but we do not play together much, so we have no agreements about balancing. Fortunately, Standard has a bid for this hand. A reopening jump overcall shows about 11-15 HCP and a good six-card suit. This hand certainly qualifies, so I bid 2S:. Partner bids a slow 2NT and I have a problem. 2NT ought to be natural and invitational to game, but we are not on firm ground here, so I make a ``safety'' bid of 3S:. Partner announces, ``It's my turn, 4S:,'' and they lead the C:A.
S: 954
H: A53
D: K83
C: K1092
S: AQ10632
H: KJ10
D: Q10
C: 74
LHO wins this trick and continues with the C:Q, which I win, RHO following up-the-line.

I have two aces to lose and problems to solve in both trumps and hearts. The normal way to play this trump suit is to finesse the Queen and then play the Ace. That is the best line for the largest number of tricks, and this is matchpoints. This time, however, there are only 18 HCP out there, so it is possible that RHO has the S:K, but I doubt it since he passed his partner's opening bid. Can I find out? Maybe. At trick three, I play a diamond to the Queen. It holds. Unless LHO (who appears sleepy) has ducked this, which is a very dangerous play for her, it seems as if RHO has the D:A, which means that he cannot have the H:Q or S:K. Just to be sure, I continue with a second diamond, the ten. LHO, looking bored, covers with the Jack in tempo. What is going on? She has the J9, but not the Ace, I am sure. Maybe she will do something helpful, so I duck the diamond Jack. Righty gives this some thought, but ducks as well. LHO shrugs and continues diamonds, which I ruff as RHO plays the Ace. When I cash the trump Ace, both follow, so I have no alternative to continuing with a small trump. They are 2-2, with the King offside, as expected. When both follow to the trump, I can claim without worrying about the marked heart finesse, since LHO is endplayed. Making four, for a near top.

It looks like 3NT would have gone down on a diamond lead, though it is not clear we would have received one. Well, the play's the thing.

Copyright © 1994 Jeff Goldsmith