Just Par

Few hands are interesting just during the bidding; almost always a good hand has some points during the play. Once in a while, however, one can play or defend the hand before the opening lead!

Playing in a home team game of reasonable standard, at both red I am second to speak with

 S:5 H:8742 D:K52 C:A9532
Dealer passes, as do I. Third hand opens 1S:, and my partner overcalls 3D:. We play a variation of The Overcall Structure, so 3D: is a Roman Jump Overcall, showing four or more hearts, five or more diamonds, and 5-7 AKQ losers. At the 3-level, partner will nearly always have ten or more cards in his two suits, usually 5-5. RHO cue bids 3H:, obviously a good spade raise, and I have a problem. This is a tactical situation, because I know my LHO is pretty much going to bid 4S: if he has room. I have no idea yet what we should do after that, so instead of taking unilateral action, I simply bid what's in front of my face, 4H:. It seems likely that we can make or get very close to that contract, so let's see what everyone else has to say. If it comes around to me, I can judge whether to bid on or not then.

Opener, as expected, bids 4S:. Big suprise. The opponents have a probable 10- or 11-card spade fit. Partner, however, does something unexpected; he bids 5D:. That's natural; he probably has 5-6 or 5-7 in the reds. RHO passes. After a little thought, I pass 5D:. I think we'll probably lose one spade and one heart trick. It's possible that we can make a slam, but I think we'll be at best on a finesse, and we might have no play. Playing diamonds may avoid a diamond ruff in a heart contract, so 5D: seems safer than 5H:.

I guess the five-level doesn't belong to LHO's opponents, because he isn't done yet. He tries 5S:, which is passed around to me. I have a third bidding problem. All this after passing in 2nd seat?

Can we make 6D:? Maybe. Probably not. It looks like diamonds are not breaking very well. That probably won't matter, but D:Jxxx might cause some handling problems. I still think we'll have to lose a spade and a heart. If partner were void in spades, I think he would have bid 6D: on his own, having found out now that we have a double fit. Can they make 5S:? Partner is probably 1561 or maybe even 1471. They probably won't make on a club lead. Declarer is likely to be void in diamonds, so he has at least two clubs. We ought to be able to manage a club and a ruff and a heart trick. It's possible that declarer is 8203 and will be able to pitch his own heart loser (if he has the H:A) on a club, but that also seems unlikely. Seems to me that if I can get partner to lead a club, we'll beat 5S: one trick. Can I get him to do it? Yes! I double 5S:. Partner knows I know he probably has a singleton club. (I hope he's not void!) What can I have to double? I can't have a lot of trumps; I must have the C:A and can see a way to beat the hand.

It turns out that partner has  S:x H:AJ10x D:AQJ10xxx C:x. He leads a club, gets his ruff, and cashes the H:A. Declarer disgustedly claims the rest, being void in diamonds.

Looks like I didn't need to double. Partner would have probably led the H:A, to which I can contribute the deuce. He'd then know to shift to a club and get his ruff. I am still happy I doubled. Partner may have led a diamond. This way he had no problem.

Turns out we can't make 6D:. We can make five, so we have obtained exactly par! At the other table, 5S: was not doubled and the D:A was led. Making five.

Copyright © 2004 Jeff Goldsmith