Freak Show

Practicing with hands from the 1989 World Junior Championships, I deal Vulnerable vs. not
 S:K9 H:AKJ108762 D:AKQ C:---
I am not used to holding eleven and a half winner hands, so I am in an unfamiliar position and need to consider tactics here. My primary goal should be to determine whether partner has the S:A, and to a lesser degree, the C:A. Another goal, which perhaps ought to be even more important, is to discourage a save. Our stated conditions of contest are IMPs, so it is not clear that a save is forthcoming, but I do want to play the hand in hearts if possible. First question: are the hearts solid? I do not know, and I do not see how to find out. They are opposite a small doubleton, but not against a void. They are not quite good enough if partner has a small singleton, but I think I shall take the chance and treat them as solid. The worst that can happen is that we reach a risky grand. The book way to bid the hand is to open 2C: and jump bid hearts. Partner is expected to show Aces individually, so the S:A should be easy to find. A possible problem with that is interference---they might bid enough clubs (especially if a double of 2C: shows clubs) that my jump might not be conventional. I can try to bid the hand slowly, which ought to discourage preemption unless they really have tons of clubs, but then it will be hard to find out specifically about the Aces. Also, if they preempt, partner is very unlikely to do anything with the little that I need to make all the tricks, so I do not see how this will help. My best solution, I think, is to use a convention that has never come up before. An opening bid of 4NT we play asks for specific Aces. 5C: shows none, 5NT the C:A, and 6C: two or more. I try the effect of 4NT. Partner bids 5S:! I bid 7H: with confidence, not expecting them to save when we have the top spades. Dummy is
 S:AQJ2 H:954 D:108532 C:2
It seems as if my plan might have been necessary because they have twelve clubs. Too bad for them: they cannot bid eight! This reminds me of another problem where the suits were reversed and the tactics were harder. At matchpoints against good opponents, again Red on White, I deal and hold:
 S:--- H:--- D:AKQJ732 C:AKJ864
Not much in playing strength, but this hand has some promise. The problem here is not how much I can make, but how to discourage a sacrifice. It might even be better to play in five or six than to accept 300 or 500 against seven of a major. The choices this time are a little less obvious. 2C: is an option, any number of diamonds will have their supporters, and some creative folks might try passing to see what is going on. Others might try to build a smokescreen with 1NT or some other psych, but that is not for me, nor, do I think, it is the time for such an effort. Terence Reese once dreamt up a hand where he held all thirteen clubs at rubber bridge as dealer. This hand is analogous except that the opponents do not rate to have trump voids. His suggestion was to open a preempt, 4C: or 5C:, as the best way to be convincing when you ``save'' in seven. He was going to be happy if 5C: got passed out. While an opening preempt appeals to me tactically, this is matchpoints, and the rest of the field is not going to be playing against good players. If my guys save, I lose the board, but if I only play a game or a small slam, I lose the board, too. This is an unfortunate position to be in; I'd much rather have flat boards against the better opponents and play these things against palookas. Given the matchpoint scoring, I shall have to force to the grand slam, so what is the best way to get there? I think that opening 7D: will make it hardest for them to save than any other bid and, besides, it is the most fun.
Copyright © 1992 Jeff Goldsmith