First and Last

Playing in the national Fast Pairs, we only have 11 minutes a round for two boards. Personally, I think 10 or 9 is quite sufficient, but this will do. It's nice to be done by 7PM and have a nice dinner without having to play at uncivilized hours.

The first and last rounds of a large tournament are always the hardest in which to concentrate. In the first round, one may not have one's full focus ready to bear yet; in the last round, if one is winning, finding out the scores is very exciting — who can wait? If we are losing, who cares about the last round? We've come close to winning this event every time, so I promise myself to focus on every board.

On the first board of the event, I'm posed with a few problems. I hold  S:83 H:AQ752 D:K108 C:Q97. Partner opens 1S:, and I respond a forcing 1NT. He rebids 2S:, and I have a choice to make. A 5-3 heart fit will likely play better than a 6-2 spade fit, so I leave some wiggling room by bidding 2NT instead of a more normal 3S:. Partner thrumps (bids 3NT), which ends the auction. West leads the C:6 and I see:

S: KQJ975
H: 9
D: A73
C: A102
S: 83
H: AQ752
D: K108
C: Q97
Looks like 3NT is a great spot. I play low from dummy and RHO contributes the C:3. Obviously, it's time to knock out the S:A, so I do. East wins and shifts to a low heart. I can't see any reason not to try the finesse, and it holds. Cool. If spades break, I have 11 tricks and have already lost one. Squeeze time! First I check to see if spades break by cashing another high spade. They do. So I run off all the high spades and the C:A, before crossing back to the D:K in my hand. When I cash the H:A, if a squeeze is there, it has operated. The ending is
D: A73
C: 10
H: A7
D: K10
C: Q
Lots of good stuff could have happened. In practice, hearts were 2-5, so a simple double squeeze around diamonds occurred. Making six for a fine matchpoint score. Beer.

We qualify easily and are running a good game in the finals. The last board also has both bidding and play decisions. My partner picks up  S:AQJ32 H:943 D:AKJ C:A6. In first seat, I open a 10-12 1NT. He relays to find my distribution, and when he learns it is 4333 exactly, chooses to play 3NT. Or more precisely, chooses to let me play 3NT. The opening lead is the D:2.

S: AQJ32
H: 943
C: A6
S: K965
H: A106
D: 654
C: K109
We've played it from the wrong side, but it appears that 3NT is better than 4S:. I win the opening lead and play a few spades. Nothing exciting happens, so I take the diamond finesse. It works. There's nothing to do but lead a heart from dummy. RHO puts up the H:Q, which I allow to hold. He exits with a diamond, so I cash my last spade in this position:
S: J
H: 93
C: A6
H: J
D: 7
C: 875
H: K8
C: QJ3
H: A10
C: K109
Lo! and behold! East is squeezed in hearts and clubs. It was very lucky to find him with five hearts and the C:QJ, but it happens. We again make 12 tricks in 3NT for a near top board.

It's not quite enough. We end up third overall. Too bad we didn't play any other hands in 3NT with an 8 or 9 card major suit fit!

Copyright © 2002 Jeff Goldsmith