The First Board

For some reason, the first round of a tournament often sets the tone for the whole day. Sometimes, I am not yet concentrating and suffer a lapse on the first round. The only round worse is the last. Better discipline would help, I imagine. Or more sleep.

Today, I am playing with a very good partner on a strong team in an 8-round regional Swiss. As usual, I draw the strongest team in the field in the first round. I am on a long streak of doing that. The good news is that this isn't a knockout for a change. Drawing this team in a KO is a good way to get the evening off.

On the very first board, I am faced with problems. I deal at favorable and hold

 S:AJ843 H:Q107 D:K2 C:QJ4.
I open 1S: and LHO overcalls 2D:. Partner bids 2H:, which we play as fairly strong. RHO raises to 3D:, and I have an easy call: 3H:. LHO is quiet and partner bids 3S:, which means he has three spades and five hearts and a game forcing hand. Even though partner is a masterful player of the dummy, I choose to play with spades as trump to protect my D:K from the lead, so I finish the auction with 4S:. West leads the D:Q, and I see that this hand is not cold.
S: 1095
H: AK632
D: 7
C: A1042
S: AJ843
H: Q107
D: K2
C: QJ5
East wins the first trick with the D:A and thinks for quite some time, as do I. I have four potential losers: two spades, one diamond, and a club. It appears as if the spades are offside, and the club is onside, since after the D:A is seen to be in the East, there are only 9 high-card points left for the vulnerable overcaller to have without the C:K. East must have raised on just a good diamond fit. East eventually returns the C:6. This is odd. Why would he do that? Wanting an entry to dummy, I play small on this trick and West contributes the seven with a look of disgust on his face. For a pair of pros, these guys are not acting very confident. I win the club with the Ten and track the S:10. There's no good reason not to duck this, so I let West win the Queen.

He quickly puts the C:3 on the table and I have to decide between two lines of play. I can take the club finesse and draw trumps or I can play for a heart discard of my third club. The count suggests to me that I ought to take the finesse, but these guys' table action has convinced me otherwise. I am certain that the club finesse is not working, so I fly with the Ace, cash the trump Ace (nothing good happens) and play hearts. West ruffs the third heart (uh, oh) and continues with...a diamond. Good news! I ruff my good diamond, and cash a fourth heart, shedding my last club and claim the contract. Every card was offside, yet I still managed to make the hand.

West is not happy with East. His initial salvo begins something like, ``you idiot, can't you shift to a spade like a human being?" Hopefully, neither will trust the other for the rest of the match, but it was not to be. They calm down and play very well for the rest of the match, and we lose the first match 32-2. We shall have to do very well indeed for the rest of the day to win this event. Almost---we manage second, although not to this team! I wonder what happened to them.

When I got back to our teammates' table, I hear them discussing this hand. The ``discussion'' begins ``you moron, can't you shift to a spade like a human being?" I guess it must have been a difficult hand to defend.

Copyright © 1995 Jeff Goldsmith