Little Risk

Playing in a sectional Swiss, we are blowing away the field. The fifth (of seven) matches is against a married couple who has recently moved to the area. She's slow. He's glacial.

Nothing much has happened so far in the match. They missed a slam, but it's unlikely that our teammates will bid it, either. I pick up the South hand in third seat. Two passes to me and I get to open either 1S: or 1NT. The hand looks like notrump, but, frankly, it's not good enough for a 15-17 NT, and since I don't like opening 1NT with a decent five-card major, I choose to open 1S:. Partner raises to 2S: and all pass. That doesn't happen often, and the gentleman on my left gives it some, but not much, thought before selling out. For him, that's a fast pass.

S: 1054
H: A10732
D: K8
C: 1062
S: KQJ62
D: QJ5
C: Q53
Partner Me
Pass 1S:
2S: Pass
They play 3rd and 5th leads. He leads the C:7. She wins the C:A without much thought and goes into a 90-second tank, emerging with a spade shift. Obviously, RHO has the C:J and LHO the C:K or they'd've continued the suit. My S:K loses to the S:A and a trump comes back. I win in hand (trumps are 3-2) and play a diamond to the D:K. RHO wins and plays the last trump. I win and LHO pitches the C:4.

The club suit is interesting. Neither opponent can lead the suit without giving up a trick, nor can they discard down to a singleton.

I have eight top tricks, so my contract is not in jeopardy. Since this is IMPs, risking the contract for overtricks is foolish, but we have such a big lead I don't think there is much of a real risk, and I see a pretty endposition I'm going to try to reach.

Since they can't both have a good count on diamonds, I cash my trumps. Maybe they'll err. In any case, slow players are often easy to read, so I can probably figure out who has what. On the two spades, LHO pitches diamonds. RHO pitches a heart and a diamond. I'm sure I know what's going on, now. LHO was 2344 with the H:Q. If so, I have him in a squeeze without the count. The position is

H: A107
D: 8
C: 106
H: Qxx
D: x
C: Kx
H: xx
D: xx
C: Jx
C: Q5
Everyone follows to the first high diamond, but on the second, LHO is in trouble. He calmly pitches his low club, but I'm certain of the position. Just to be sure, I cross to the H:A and play a club towards my hand. Nothing interesting appears on my right, so I duck this trick. As expected, LHO wins the stiff C:K and has to play a heart, so I claim making three.

On one hand, I took a risk of going down on this hand for a probably worthless overtrick. On the other hand, it wasn't much of a risk; I was pretty sure I had the hand right. On the third hand, we were winning by so much, the score didn't matter. And a squeeze without the count was a lot of fun.

On reflection, I wonder if I did the right thing. No, I'm sure it's right to play for the squeeze, but I think I played the ending less than poetically. I had two alternate lines. I could have simply ducked a club and claimed, or I could have cashed the H:K, run the H:J, then thrown LHO in with the C:K to give me my H:A. Since the Rueful Rabbit would take this last line, not realizing that hearts were blocked and being stuck with only clubs (Rueful Rabbits pull off squeezes without the count having no idea what they are doing!), that line is out. Ducking the club shows more confidence. I ought to have done that. I know I knew what I was doing, though, so it was still plenty of fun.

Copyright © 2000 Jeff Goldsmith