I've Learned

I'm playing in a regional open pairs with a partner with whom bidding is sometimes an adventure. He is famous for reaching slams on 3-0, 4-2, and other somewhat inadequate trump suits. I pick up a useful collection:
 S:KJ10987 H:KJ10 D:K84 C:7
RHO is the dealer and bids 1H:. I have an easy 1S: overcall. After this start, we have the auction to ourselves. Partner cues 2H:. We play this promises a spade fit and at least limit raise values, but with four trumps and a limit raise, partner could bid 3H:. I assume, therefore, he has either only three spades or a hand better than a limit raise. Obviously, we should be in game, but these are not particularly slammish cards. I am not a big believer in fast arrival, but this is a situation in which it is reasonable, so I bid the obvious 4S:, expecting to end the auction. Nope. Partner is still there with 5S:. Huh? My first reaction is, "what is he doing now?" Upon reflection, however, partner's hand is unlimited, so he could have a slam try opposite my hand. He could even have a slam force, I suppose. In that case, I guess partner's bid must be asking about heart control. Maybe RHO psyched and partner has a total mountain. Maybe he's being an optimist. Maybe he has a long suit and some aces. I guess he could really have his bid, so I think I ought not break discipline and pass, much as I want to. Confused auctions in the slam zone in this partnership nearly always end in disaster. I guess I shouldn't pass this time; what's one more disaster anyway?

What ought I bid if I don't pass? That's easy. 5NT shows the guarded H:K, which is what I have. If partner has a huge hand, perhaps 6NT is best, so I might as well let him know about my hearts. So I bid 5NT.

Partner bids 6D:. Not again. I need to figure out what partner is doing. Let's see...he could have nearly independent diamonds and not really have spade support, being afraid to bid a forcing 3D: the first time, and is offering a choice of trump suits...is that possible with my holding D:Kxx? He could have some sort of grand-slam try...no, that's not possible, since we have to be off a heart winner. He could be trying to make me choose between 6S: and 6NT...no, 6H: would do that quite clearly. He could have pulled the wrong card out of the bidding box...he probably would have noticed that by now, as I've been pondering this for at least two minutes. Or he could have lost his mind. Great. If he's suggesting diamonds as a trump suit, he'll have only three (or two?) spades and I may need to find the trump queen in spades. On the other hand, 6D: would likely be cold. If that's true, I should probably pass; 6NT is likely to need spades on a club lead...but they'll never find it, of course. I suppose partner could be void in clubs...nah. If my guess as to what he's doing, however, is wrong, 6D: will be a ludicrous contract. Ding! That's easy. I've learned how to play with this partner. Never pass any slam bid that could be a ludicrous contract, so passing 6D: is out. That leaves 6S: or 6NT. I have no idea on what to make that decision. Maybe I ought to put the ball back in partner's court with 6H:? No chance. When the auction has gone out of control, NEVER let him guess; he may be on a completely different wavelength. He might think I've found the H:A after all and bid the grand. Hmmm...maybe that's what he's thinking with 6D:...letting me cue the H:A, even though I've already denied it. Yikes. This is going nowhere. I think we are probably quite high enough already, so if any slam makes, we'll get a good result, so I give up and bid 6S:. I don't really expect it to make; down two is probably what will happen. Partner passes 6S:. Phew.

The opening lead is the D:J. Dummy is a surprise. Or maybe not. I don't think I can be any more surprised than I already am.

S: A65
H: 64
D: A
C: AKQ9843
S: KJ10987
H: KJ10
D: K84
C: 7

Pass6S:All Pass

6S: isn't cold. Wait a sec...what the heck was 6D:? This is one of the hands I visualized for partner, except that he would have bid 6C: with it. If he'd done that, I'd've thought long and hard between 6S: and 6NT, deciding between whether I think we would need to ruff out the clubs or whether clubs would supply enough tricks to make 6NT without having to find the S:Q. I probably would have got it wrong. In fact, 6NT is better, as I need only one of the black suits to run. In spades, I have lots of tricks, but I may lose two if I don't find the S:Q.

I see two lines of play. We are missing only 12 HCP (11 after the lead), so I can finesse the opening bidder for the S:Q. Or I can cash the two high spades and hope the person with S:Qxx has three clubs so I can dispose of all my hearts. I look at their convention card. No help there. I don't know my opponents, so I have no idea if RHO is prone to psyching. I'm pretty sure she has the H:A from the lead. Their high cards are so crummy that LHO wouldn't think of doubling even if RHO psyched. I'll start by cashing the S:A. Maybe my problem will go away. Nope. I might as well try another spade from dummy. If RHO shows out or plays the S:Q, it'll be easy. Lucky for me, the S:Q appears, so I claim thirteen tricks when clubs break. 6NT would have been better, I guess, but I'm sure +1460 is a fine result.

It turns out that RHO didn't really psych; she just opened light on a ten-count with six hearts. If she'd had a third spade and one fewer heart, either line would have worked, as she was 2623.

For once, a slam-bidding adventure seems to have worked out well.

Copyright © 2002 Jeff Goldsmith