The ACBL has a policy which baffles me. At national
tournaments, they use boards without vulnerability
inserts. Those boards have the vulnerability
and dealer indicated by a small sticker on the board.
Since the ACBL membership in general does not see
particularly well, this policy seems either
thoughtless or foolish. I can't begin to count the
number of times an opponent didn't notice he was
the dealer, and I personally have mistaken the vulnerability
a few times. I used to be very careful about it, squinting
at the board before each hand, but I have become lax recently.
In the second round of the second final session of the
national Fast Pairs tournament, I am in second seat and
pick up Jx Kxx QJ10xx KQx. We are not vulnerable,
so I open a 10-12 NT. Only just as I am placing the bid
on the table, I notice we are vulernable. Rather than give
partner gruesome unauthorized information to deal with, I
just go through with the bid. Demonstrating fine partnership
harmony, partner announces my bid as 10-12, then he
notices the vulnerability and corrects himself to 15-17.
So I'm a little light. Partner bids 4, a Texas
Transfer, RHO doubles, and I retreat to 4. I wonder
what I'm getting myself into. I get the lead of a small heart
Remarkably enough, 4 isn't a hopeless contract.
If I lose only one spade trick, I need to avoid losing
a club trick to make. RHO, a client, wins the first
trick and continues with a small heart. I win and the
pro on my left follows up the line. It looks as if
hearts are 3-5. I run the J which loses to the
queen. RHO shifts to the 9. I put up the Q
and LHO pulls out one card, then quickly changes to another,
which turns out to be the A. That looks suspiciously
as if he is falsecarding, but you never know. He continues
with another heart, which I ruff in dummy. I cross back
to the K and advance my other spade. When LHO
plays the 9, I have a guess. He would surely have
played that card from 9xx as well as K9x.
I go with the odds, however, and insert the 10. It
holds and RHO follows. Yippee! I draw the last trump and
start running trumps. Maybe someone will have the K
and four clubs and I won't have to guess clubs. No such
luck, it seems; no one discards a club, and at trick 11,
I have crossed back to my hand with the Q leaving
dummy with the A10 and my hand with a small club
and the 10 (having discarded the J just to
be tricky). LHO has discarded two diamonds and RHO has
discarded one heart and two diamonds. The opponent's
remaining cards are two clubs, one heart (which I'm sure
RHO is holding) and the K. Where are they? I
might as well play a club now, because LHO might have
the stiff J left, but no, he plays the low one,
so I have to figure out what's going on. I finally
decide that if the client had the K, she might
not have switched to the 9, she might have discarded
a club, and RHO might not have thought of playing some
other card than the A, so I try the A.
Wrong. They got me. Down one for a near zero. Rats.
After the game, I show the hand to a friend. My partner
thinks about it while the friend also guesses wrong and suggests
that perhaps the pro would have led a high diamond with
AK instead of leading the suit his partner had
doubled. His argument convinces me I judged wrongly.
The very next hand, again I open 1NT, but this time I have
my 15-17 HCP, having stared carefully at the vulnerability.
We have a quick Stayman auction to 3NT and I see:
The opening lead is the 10 which I duck to
what becomes obviously the singleton Q. RHO
thinks for a little while and shifts to a low club.
I win in hand and start on the spades. A small spade
to dummy's Q holds, so I finesse the 10
on the way back. LHO thinks for awhile before playing
his A, so I know the suit is 3-3. That's good;
3NT is now cold with three spades, three hearts, one
diamond, and two clubs. LHO exits with the Q
and RHO plays the deuce, suggesting that the suit is
2-5. That means I have a full count on the hand.
LHO is 3-2-6-2 and RHO is 3-4-1-5. Filling in the
cards we know, here's the situation:
I have a sure
line for the contract; I can just run the J
and they can only take one trick in each suit and
I'll have nine for +600. This is a pair event, so
I must consider risking my contract to make an
overtrick. If RHO has the Q, I can unblock
spades, cross to the A, cash the spade pitching
a diamond, finesse the J and cash the K,
then exit with a club, forcing RHO to lead into the
A10. That will achieve ten tricks. If LHO
has the Q, I can cash the K, duck a
diamond, win the diamond return, and on the 8,
RHO will be squeezed in hearts and clubs, so I'll
get four heart tricks that way. Who has the Q?
If I guess wrong and try for the overtrick with the
first line, I'll go down when LHO runs his diamonds.
RHO is twice as likely to be dealt the Q than her
partner because she has four of them and he only two.
So I set out on the first line, cashing the high spade,
crossing to the A, and cashing the long spade in
dummy. RHO, without apparent thought, pitches the
9 on this! They play upside-down signals, but
the real question is why is she doing this? Does she
realize the position and is trying to cause me to veer
from the winning line or is she just pitching a worthless
heart? I'm getting a headache. There's no way she's good
enough to know what plan I had in mind. Is she just playing
a card at random? She knows her small club isn't worth
anything; why isn't she throwing it? I finally decide
she does not have the Q and pitch a diamond, then
cash the K and advance the J. When LHO does
not cover, I know I've been had for the second time in
two hands. RHO wins the heart and cashes her club to
hold me to nine tricks. Rats.
As usual, we didn't win. These two boards would
have helped a lot.
Copyright © 2003 Jeff Goldsmith