Several years ago, a frequent partner told me about a hand he played against Lew Stansby. Lew had a side suit of Ax opposite Qxx. At trick two, he led small towards the queen. Partner, with Kxxxx, ducked, not imagining this position. That was the key trick, so Lew made an impossible contract.

Tonight, I'm playing a home team game against mixed opposition. Neither side is vulnerable when I pick up  S:KJ9 H:K42 D:8632 C:A54. RHO deals and passes. This isn't up to my opening standards (too bad a 10-12 NT isn't available), so I pass. LHO opens 1C:, partner passes, and RHO bids 1H:. I pass again, as does LHO. Partner reopens with a double. My choices seem to be 2D: and 1NT. I suspect we have the bulk of the high card, so with 4333 shape, I choose 1NT. Tomorrow, perhaps, I might bid 2D:. All pass, but RHO thinks about this for a little while before passing. I suspect he's not considering doubling; he's either considering bidding 2C: or 2H:. I get the H:3 lead and buy a so-so dummy:

S: A1076
H: J5
D: Q1097
C: QJ9
S: KJ9
H: K42
D: 8632
C: A54
All Pass
I play the H:J from dummy, but RHO covers with the queen. Looks like he was thinking about 2C:, not 2H:. Also, I think 1NT looks better than 2D:. 2D: has four top losers, no way to get rid of a second heart loser, and two finesses to take. I can probably avoid one of the finesses, but it doesn't look like a favorite. Then again 1NT looks ugly, too. If I guess spades, I have four spades, one heart, and one club off the top. I don't have time to set up diamonds before they take at least three hearts, two diamonds, and a club, probably two clubs, so I want an alternative. If I have four spade tricks, all I need is two club tricks. Lew's play comes to mind. Perhaps if I lead a small club from hand, LHO will duck, imagining that I have stronger hearts needing to be led through. It's pretty specious, but it looks like my best chance. By the time they cash their hearts, maybe I'll have a clue about spades anyway. So I lead a low club to the queen. It holds. Cool.

Who has the S:Q? Looks to me like LHO is balanced, therefore having 12-14 HCP. If RHO was thinking about bidding clubs, he must have four. Why didn't LHO raise hearts? He must have only three. If RHO has nine cards in the rounded suits, then I ought to play LHO for the S:Q. Is that possible? He could have  S:Qxxx H:Axx D:Axx C:Kxx. That's 13. Looks about right. I'm going to play him for the S:Q. I cross to my hand with the S:K and run the S:J. LHO covers this, so I win in dummy. No one has contributed the S:8, so I don't know how they break. I can't afford, however, to exit with a heart; they may take four hearts and three diamonds before I get back in. So I cash the S:10. All follow, so I claim 7 tricks for +90.

That turned out to be a good result. Our teammates also played 1NT making one for +90.

Copyright © 2002 Jeff Goldsmith