There is Only One Meckstroth
It is the last round of a regional Swiss, and unfortunately we have no
chance to win. We were doing well until the previous round when we had to
play Meckstroth and Rodwell. They blitzed us to knock us out of
contention. I am playing with a regular partner who prides
himself on aggressive game bidding, and we are at the table of a stodgy
old couple who thus far in the round have proven to be surprisingly
With both vul, I pick up as dealer AKQxx 109x xxx Kx.
I open 1, and partner responds with a game forcing 2. Though 2 is
ostensibly natural, we also begin with that bid on most game forcing
balanced hands so he can easily have a 3-card suit. We have a useful set
of artificial follow-ups here, so I use one, 2, which
shows one of: any minimum hand with at least 6 spades, extra values
with at least 6 not-great spades, or a minimum balanced hand. This gets
doubled on my left, so I hope our methods haven't given our opponents an
advantage on this hand. My partner next bids 2, which shows a balanced
hand with 3-card spade support and eliminates the possibility that his
2 bid was based on a good 5 card suit. My bids on the next round are
essentially natural, so 2NT through 3 all show a concentration of strength
in a balanced minimum, 3 and 3NT show a minimum and a maximum
respectively with 6 spades. I choose to fib a little with 3 since none
of the bids to show balanced hands look particularly descriptive, and
if partner has slam ambitions, I want to alleviate his trump suit
concerns. Partner then ends the auction with 4.
1) Game forcing, natural but can be a 3-card suit in a balanced hand.
2) Either 12-14 balanced, or 6+ spades but inappropriate for an
immediate 3 or 4 bid.
3) Spade support in a balanced hand.
4) Minimum with 6 spades.
I get the K lead. I see partner
stretched to force to game as usual, and now it's up to me to justify
I decide to duck the opening diamond lead, as my general idea at this
point will be to set up hearts to pitch a diamond loser, and for this to
work RHO will have to be out of diamonds whenever he wins a heart trick.
There is also the chance that LHO will hold KQ10xx and switch
suits, playing me for Jxx. Unfortunately RHO plays the 9 (standard
carding), and LHO continues with the Q which I win, RHO's dropping the
jack. Too bad RHO's spot wasn't smaller.
I next draw two rounds of trumps, leaving one in dummy as a later hand
reentry. RHO follows with the 9 and J, so unless he is being tricky with
J109 he seems to have a doubleton spade to go with his doubleton diamond.
I next lead the 9, hoping to slip it by something like KJx on my left,
and also catering to the unlikely legitimate chance of 8x offside if RHO
has something like J109 8x Jx AJxxxx. The 9 gets covered in order by
the jack, queen, and king, and RHO immediately plays back a low heart.
It's reconstruction time. The fact that RHO didn't play a spade back now
seems to confirm my suspicion that he began with a doubleton in the
suit. Since I am giving RHO 9 round cards to my LHO's 5, it looks as if
hearts are not breaking. I'm going down right now if hearts are 1-5,
and a club surely would have been returned if the A were on my left,
so I give my RHO 2425 with the A. Since that gives LHO one small heart
and RHO three, the odds are heavily in favor of the 8's being on
my right. Now I can visualize a really cool ending.
I duck the heart and win cheaply in dummy with the 7 as LHO follows low,
I next play off the rest of my trumps, throwing a diamond and a club
from dummy. RHO has to keep 8x, so he is squeezed out of his
club length. I follow by unblocking the 10, which has done its job
admirably, and play the K. RHO ducks but this only delays the
inevitable. I exit with my last club to him and wait for him to give me
the A at trick 13 for my steppingstone squeeze.
A fascinating aspect to this hand is that RHO can beat me in an amazing
way, by ducking the first heart trick! Double dummy, I
could simply draw the last trump next and pass the 10 to RHO, who would
be endplayed. But who in the world would do anything but draw the last
trump and play a low heart toward the ace, hoping for KJ doubleton or
KJx onside? It's lucky for me that RHO is not Meckstroth.
Unfortunately my conscience is eating at me. The above analysis escaped
me at the table, and I actually played the 10 from hand on the heart
return to avoid blocking the suit in case hearts were 3-3 or J8
doubleton onside. It's too bad, since this hand would have helped me
feel better about a relatively unsuccessful day. Apparently I'm not
Meckstroth either. Today was full of reminders that there is only one
Copyright © 2005 Josh Donn