Grand Defense

Playing in a regional knockout, we are in a three-way match against a very good team and a not-so-good team. We start against the weak team, and things are off to a bad start. I "steal" the board for -150 against their game. Or at least they would have had a game if either our suit had not broken 2-2 or their key finesse had worked. Luckily, it was white, so I pencil in lose five. Then we diagonose that our heart stopper for 3NT is 10xx vs. xx and stop in 4D:. Soft defense lets us make overtricks (everyone knew we didn't have any cards in hearts, yet they didn't lead the either table), and, of course, it turns out that hearts were 4-4 and the D:Q was onside. This one was red, so this is a sure lose ten. But they miss an easy red game and let partner steal a partscore, so we're back up to even.

No one vulnerable, partner deals and I hold

 S:10864 H:AJ862 D:98 C:J3
Partner opens a 12-14 NT. I'm about to embark on Garbage Stayman when RHO does it first. He overcalls 2D: for the majors. That shuts me up in a hurry. Things get even better. LHO bids 2H:, and everyone (especially yours truly) is content.

Partner finds a small trump lead (rah!) and I see

S: AQ72
H: KQ107
D: A43
C: 105
S: 10864
H: AJ862
D: 98
C: J3
All Pass
Declarer plays the H:K from dummy. Partner's lead suggests he has some spade cards. Since I strongly suspect declarer to have only two hearts, he is also short in spades. He has to have an entry, so if I duck this, he'll cross to hand, take a spade finesse, and ruff a spade. On the other hand, if I win this and return a trump, he'll make his H:9 anyway (or worse if I return the H:J). I think I'll be better placed by ducking now and leaving a trump in partner's hand, so I do.

As expected, declarer crosses to the D:K, takes a winning spade finesse, cashes the S:A, and ruffs a spade with the H:9. I drop the S:10 on the third round of spades, and partner drops the S:K.

Declarer plays a diamond to the ace and a small diamond off dummy. The hand is more or less an open book now, so let's reconstruct it. Partner's spades were KJx. His hearts were two small. If he had either the C:AK or C:KQ, he probably would have led them, so he has the C:AQ. He needs the D:Q to get to 12 HCP, and he probably has the D:J as well or declarer may have considered taking a diamond finesse. I don't know the minor suit shapes, but it doesn't matter; the hand is roughly as follows, and I know we can get the remaining tricks.

S: 7
H: Q107
D: 4
C: 105
H: x
C: AQxx
S: 8
H: AJ86
C: J3
D: 10x
C: K9xxx
I have no losers left, but having more trumps than dummy is a liability, so I ruff partner's winning diamond. He looks a little confused, but the light dawns when I cash the S:8. Now I shift to the C:3. Not the C:J—I don't want declarer to duck and for partner carelessly to let me win the trick. Partner wins the C:Q and plays a trump. I win and play back my club. Declarer is good enough to duck that, but partner is playing double-dummy now, too, so he wins the C:A, and I claim the last two tricks with high trumps over dummy. Down two for all of 100 points.

Having to ruff partner's winner makes this a Grand Coup. They come up from time to time, but this is the first one I've had on defense.

It turns out that winning the first trick would have been better, but that wasn't obvious, and this was fun.

As expected, this was a small gain. The second half goes well, and we beat this team handily. Unfortunately, they beat the good team by enough that we are out on quotient. This is not my lucky day. The good team came by to apologize for losing their other match. They even managed mostly to suppress a grin.

Copyright © 2012 Jeff Goldsmith