Heat 1

In Zia Mahmood's new book Bridge My Way, Zia claims that bridge players seem to operate in streaks. When all is going terribly and nothing seems to work, we are in Heat 3. Normal days are Heat 2, but when everything is wonderful and we cannot touch a wrong card, that is Heat 1. Being in Heat 1 is a great feeling. On this hand, declarer has to be in heat 1 to make a close game.
S: A875
H: 642
D: K1095
C: A3
S: J92
H: AJ5
D: A32
C: KQ82
I am South, playing in a regional Flight A pairs event vs. a junior pro on my left and an inexperienced client on my right. The pro, without much thought, leads the C:J.

I have seven tricks on top, with hopes for more in spades and diamonds. Since the red suits are unlikely to supply more than one extra trick, I shall have to play on spades. I win the C:A in dummy and play a low spade from dummy planning to finesse the 9, making 3 spade tricks against doubleton 10 on the right. East, in tempo, flies with the S:Q and switches to the H:3.

What is going on? Clearly, East has KQx or better in spades. Playing the Queen was a mistake. She should play the King, concealing the Queen, though, unless she has the ten also, she should probably duck. Since she didn't return a club, she is probably short, most likely a singleton. From her heart spot, hearts are probably 4-3. Although I cannot tell which way right now, it seems likely that East has the fourth because she is short in clubs.

What can I do about this? I cannot get a spade trick without letting them take three hearts and two spades, unless East has KQ alone in spades. I cannot get four diamond tricks unless QJ tight is around, which is unlikely. The H:KQ must be split (or offside) since she'd probably play a high heart from KQxx, and the 9 from 987x or the 10 from 1098x. Conceivably, East has 1087x, but most likely, the heart honors are split. If East has six clubs and three hearts, he can have either 2-2 or 3-1 in the pointed suits. If he is 2-3-2-6, I need QJ tight in diamonds, but if he is 3-3-1-6, I only need stiff honor to bring me up to 8 tricks. An endplay will get me another.

I duck the heart return to West's 10; he returns the King. I am confident now that his original heart holding was K10x, so I win the second heart and play a small diamond from hand. Voila! He plays the Jack. I continue with the ten from dummy, which is not covered. West shows out, pitching a club, so I have my 8th trick in the bag. Now, all I have to do is cash my diamond and club winners and see what East discards. She follows, of course, to the third diamond and pitches a diamond and a heart on the top clubs, which means she must have been dealt 3-4-5-1 shape and I am going to make this. I exit with my carefully preserved H:J and East wins and cashes a diamond winner. With two cards left, she exits low spade and I put up the Jack, which holds. Making 9 tricks is a complete matchpoint top.

Copyright © 1995 Jeff Goldsmith