He is hopeless, hopeless,
client sleeping through the midnight Swiss.1

Playing with an inexperienced partner who fancies himself an expert, I watched in some amusement as he found himself with a difficult decision playing IMP pairs.

S: AJ10973
H: KQ72
D: J9
C: K
S: Q
H: A10
D: KQ8543
C: 10987
2NT suggested a possible save in either minor, but due to the great disparity in the suits and the possibly that the final contract might be 4S:, a 3D: bid is a lot better. Regardless, partner gets high marks for enterprise. Many other players would be cowed by the opponents' strong auction. 2NT at least has the benefit that if the worst befalls, we have two possible suits in which to play, but if I were to bid 3C: and get viciously doubled, would he be willing to stay there? Should he? Fortunately, that decision did not come to pass.

Partner found the lead of the S:Q, sensible because if we are to beat this, I shall need to have a quick entry or two and he has the trump Ace. Declarer won the first trick in hand and immediately led a small trump, which our hero correctly grabbed with the Ace. What now?

In a strong partnership, at least one of my cards to the first two tricks would be suit preference and would suggest to partner the location of my entry. At matchpoints, holding declarer to ten tricks might well be a good score. Woe—on this hand, partner was not watching my cards, but fortunately, we were playing IMPs so he had a strong clue to the correct play.

Declarer, when he gets in, will have six spade tricks, three heart tricks, and at least one ruff for ten tricks. Any tricks that we shall get must be got right away. If my card is the C:A, then we shall take two aces and a ruff, but we shall not beat the contract. If, however, I have the D:A with not more than three of them, we have four tricks and beat the contract. So, it must be right to try to get a plus score and continue diamonds. In real life, I held D:A10x and C:Qxxx, so a diamond shift creates down one. Nice lead, partner!

The story has an unhappy ending, though. Partner ``was afraid to underlead his diamond honors,'' though I was truly worried at the table that he had underled his C:A! Unlucky, partner, to find the singleton King in the dummy.

1Paraphrased and stolen (with apologies) from Paul Simon
Copyright © 1995 Jeff Goldsmith