Hard to Plan
At IMPs, one usually knows the target number of tricks
one wants to take; it is often worth taking big chances
to make a contract. At matchpoints, however, sometimes
one's trick goal is less clear.
Playing in the Life Master Pairs, a hand arises where
I have no idea how many tricks I need to take.
I have found that downgrading 15-counts, even the
really crappy one here, is losing matchpoints. Most
of the field is going to open 1NT; to be the one pair
who doesn't is to bet a full board on that one judgment.
Since at best such a judgment can only provide a tiny
edge, such a call is tantamount to rolling dice for
the board. Oddly, it's not usually the constructive
nature of the 1NT opening which is key in cases like
this, but the preemptive effect.
Anyway, I open that piece of junk 1NT. Partner shows
exactly 4441 shape and game going values, so I have
nowhere to go but 3NT. Fortunately, partner has
extras, so 3NT has some play.
The opening lead is the 9. I run it around
to my hand while RHO follows small. Despite the
28 HCP, 3NT isn't cold; I start with two spades,
one heart, three diamonds, and two club tricks.
I'd like to lead another spade towards hand; RHO
could have a doubleton ace. It seems natural to
attack hearts while in hand, so I do. On the first
round of hearts, LHO inserts the Q. I have
nine tricks for sure now, but that may not be enough
for a good score. Anyway, I win the A and
play another spade. RHO supplies the 8 and
I win again in hand. It looks as if the opening
lead was a doubleton.
The next order of business is to lead a heart towards
the table; LHO can't take his K without giving
me a trick. When I do, RHO shows out, pitching a club.
Interesting. I think I can guarantee ten tricks now
if I guess well. I cash the A and the three
top diamonds ending in dummy. The suit splits 3-3,
so when I cash the fourth diamond, I have already
taken nine tricks. I can't get to my K, but
the opponents will be forced to let me there.
On the last diamond, RHO pitches a club and LHO a
heart. A heart? I expected a club. That would
have given me a guess. Now, however, I know that
LHO has two hearts and two clubs left, so I just
exit with a heart, and after LHO cashes his last
heart, I claim the last two tricks with clubs.
Making 11 tricks was far better than I initially
LHO was counted out as 2533. If he pitches a
club instead of a heart on the last diamond, I
would have had to exit with a spade to RHO. After
he cashed his two spades, I'd have to guess who
held the Q. If RHO, I can finesse the J
to make five, but if I'm wrong, LHO would take the
last two tricks and I'd only make three. I get 5-3
odds in favor of the finesse, so I'd probably try it.
On the other hand, if LHO has the Q, I'd make
five by dropping it. He was sort of squeezed.
After the game, I am rather surprised to find that
RHO had the Q the whole time! Since I needed
the KJ to make 15 HCP, LHO should have had no
trouble discarding a useless club. I probably would
have got it right anyway, but he made it easy for me.
Copyright © 2005 Jeff Goldsmith