Femmes Fatale

Playing in a regional pairs event with a new and strong partner, we qualify for the barometer final with a tiny carryover. Going into the last round, we are one-half of a matchpoint out of first place and a pack is breathing down our neck. Jill Meyers and Kay Schulle arrive at our table. The first board is a pretty flat 3NT, but we can make a minor suit slam and would even get there if they did not preempt. The last board is this:
S: K1065
H: Q83
D: K643
C: 86
S: J2
H: K10542
D: ?52
C: K109
S: 873
H: 76
D: ?8
C: QJ7542
S: AQ94
H: AJ9
D: Q1097
C: A3
PassPassPass1NT (15-17)
All Pass
Kay, West, leads the S:J and I draw trumps in three rounds, ending in dummy, West beginning with a doubleton. On the third round of spades, West contributes the H:5, which, in their methods, is encouraging in hearts. Being agreeable, I play a heart to the Jack, which loses to the King. She returns a heart and I play a third round, East showing out this time and playing the C:5, requesting a club shift. Being agreeable, I cash the C:A and play another club. East wins this with the Jack. West followed with the Nine and Ten on the first two rounds. After a little thought (half a second is an eternity for this pair,) Jill exits with the C:Q. I ruff in dummy, pitching a diamond from hand while West plays the King. This looks to be a true card, especially considering the previous spots. I continue with a diamond to the Queen, which holds, and the D:10, which gets the last small diamond from West.

The whole hand is now known except for two cards. Who has the D:A, and who has the D:J? What clues are there? How about the bidding? I check their convention card. Voila! They are playing 10-12 1NT openings. I doublecheck about this and find that they only play those not vulnerable, otherwise, they play 15-17 and 2 Over 1 Game Force. So much for that. How about the opening lead? The S:J is a very dangerous lead. (I always ask for unsupported trump honor leads, but this time I wish they hadn't.) This suggests that she had a dangerous holding in the side suits from which to lead. Jxx and Axx are both terrible leads into a strong notrump, so that is inconclusive. Additionally, after we have possibly struggled into game on a 4-4 fit, a trump lead is often best, so I don't know how much inference I can draw from this. What about the defense so far? They have defended well, I am afraid, and it would have been a masterstroke to duck the D:Q from Axx, but trivial from Jxx. Grumble. I wish that I did not have this problem with the event on the line.

Finally, I decide that perhaps West would have bid with an 11-count and a five-card major, and run the Ten. Wrong. Down one. We end up fifth. If I play the King, we win the event. Nice defense.

Copyright © 1992 Jeff Goldsmith