Planting a Seed

At the Sacramento regional every year, there is a special two-day Swiss team event called the Capital City Swiss Team Championship. I'd never before been inclined to go, but a friend invited me, so I decided to make the drive. We have a five-man team to allow me to arrive Saturday without having to wake up at an inhumane hour and to leave early for the drive home on Sunday.

The first day was really rough for me. The opponents were playing like magicians every round. On one hand they dropped my singleton king offside missing four cards to make a doubled partscore, and on another they bid an unbiddable and unbeatable game because responder thought their 12-14 notrump opening was 15-17. It was just one of those days. My team had 55 (out of a possible 80) victory points when I went in, but with me in for the next half we scored just 26 more. With 20 out of 38 teams qualifying for play on Sunday and our being barely over average, we were in some real danger, but we squeaked into the next day in 19th place. As the top team got a carryover of 30 VPs and we got 0.67, our work was cut out for us.

The second day got off to a great start. We won our first three matches, and combined with some rough going for the top teams we were up to 6th place, in striking distance and flying high. We sit down for round four against the team in 5th with a pair of senior world champions at our table. The very first board gives me some decisions in the bidding, as I pick up:

 S:J109xx H:xx D:Axx C:Kxx
We are vul against not, and the auction begins on my left with 1H:. Partner, a reliable performer who plays right down the middle, comes in with 1S:. RHO raises to 2H:. Many players would simply blast 4S: here, but I dislike that action on a balanced hand. Partner knows we are vul, so if he doesn't bid game after I invite then how good can it be? So I show an invitational spade raise with 3H:, and LHO bids 4H:, ending the auction.

My partner leads the S:A (A from AK) as dummy comes down with this suitable looking collection:

H: xxx
D: KJ109x
C: QJ98x
S: J109xx
H: xx
D: Axx
C: Kxx
4H:All Pass
Declarer ruffs in dummy and quickly leads a club. I haven't yet had time to work out the whole hand, but there is one thing I know already. Unless partner holds the club ace, we are not beating this. Therefore, and since I would like to be on lead to play a trump from my side of the table, I play the C:K in perfect tempo, as declarer follows with the C:10 and my partner signals even count. This was good for us for several reasons. Not only was I able to hold the lead for my likely trump return, but declarer is surely deceived as to the location of the club ace. Anyway I now have a moment to consider the hand.

Partner would probably have bid 4S: if he had six of them, and we usually lead the Q from AKQ, so he has either AK, or possibly something like AQ of spades. I think I'll assume the first one to give us a better chance. Declarer's club play and partner's signal suggest declarer's club ten was a singleton. As for diamonds, declarer has at most three, since partner would have led a singleton. I will give declarer the D:Q since his 4H: bid is looking a bit skimpy. Partner may or may not have a heart honor, but again to improve our odds of beating this I think I had better assume he has one. So it looks like if we are to be able to beat this, declarer's hand is approximately  S:Qxx H:AKJxxx D:Qxx C:10. That seems to fit with the auction as a 4H: bid at favorable vulnerability. My best chance looks like returning a trump as I had intended, so I do that as declarer wins the H:A.

Now declarer doesn't want to ruff a spade since he will go down if hearts aren't breaking, so he tries to get his minor suits going by leading a diamond to the (not very) deceptive D:J. I am right in tempo ducking that, and declarer must surely have the locations of the minor suit aces reversed. He still wants to eliminate a loser in case trumps don't break, and he thinks he sees a safe way by taking the ruffing finesse in clubs through my 'proven' ace. So he does just that, pitching a spade as my partner wins the ace. The look on declarer's face is a sight to behold! Partner is quick to play a diamond to my ace as declarer drops the (again not deceptive) queen, and as pard was careful to play the D:3 then D:2, I know to give him his ruff and set the contract. It is clear from declarer's demeanor that he doesn't know what hit him. I planted a seed of the hand in declarer's mind that was so convincing that he never considered it might not be the case.

This board was crucial. We won 11 IMPs to win the round 11-10 and move up to 5th place. Since things were going so well, I kept playing through round six, and we won the next two rounds as well to move into the lead! With only two more rounds to go, I really had to get going, so I wished the team the best of luck and went on my way. Unfortunately I found out later that we lost the last two matches to finish in 6th place. Still, it was a nice comeback from 19th at the start of the day, and I had a good time. Maybe I shall play in this thing again.

Copyright © 2006 Josh Donn