Do You Mind?

I'm playing a regional Stratified Pairs with a decent but streaky partner. We had a good game in the afternoon and lead the field by over a board. Early in the evening session, however, we have had several reversals, mostly avoidable, and I feel that the event may be slipping away from us. Partner appears to be panicking; I'm not sure I blame him. Still, I think it is time I did something on my own.

The next round begins and a local pro and his client sit down. The pro's on my left. I've never seen his client before, but she seems nervous. He has enough confidence for the two of them. Fortunately, I pick up a hand that might be amenable to solo action, as I have been hoping.

At unfavorable vulnerability, partner deals and opens 1D:. We play 12-14 notrump openings, so he is either unbalanced or has extra values. I have

 S:AKQJ953 H:K872 D:10 C:10.
It seems that whenever my two stiffs are the same rank, something interesting happens...then again, whenever I have a hand with two stiffs, something interesting happens!

It's possible to bid this hand scientifically, and I shall try, so I start with a strong jump shift, 2S:, intending to rebid 3S:, showing a solid suit and something outside. LHO is not vulnerable; he bids a confident 3C:. This gets passed around to me. Partner had the chance to double or bid 3D:, so I'm guessing that he has a strong notrump without a lot in clubs. The heck with science; I wheel out the old Black. Partner and I have the agreement that this is key card for spades. LHO appears to wonder if we have our Blackwood agreements down, as he interferes with 5C:. We do. Partner bids 5D:, showing two key cards without the S:Q (verified!), so I imagine we are off the C:A. If 6NT is cold, partner will know it, so I just bid 6S: and all pass. LHO leads the C:A. Dummy is a disappointment.

S: 2
H: A1096
D: AK65
C: 9543
S: AKQJ953
H: K872
D: 10
C: 10
I have eleven tricks off the top, but there's surely a squeeze for the 12th. Since a red suit shift might be inconvenient, I play quickly from dummy and my hand. Without much thought, LHO continues clubs (yeah, I'd bid this way with two clubs, sure) and I ruff, RHO's echoing to show the obvious doubleton. (Actually, I figured her for a singleton or a void.)

Time to take stock. Most likely, I'll be able to squeeze RHO in the red suits. There might be a double or single squeeze played as a compound, since I don't know who guards which red suit; on the other hand, dummy looks likely to get squeezed first. The first order of business is to draw trumps and see a pitch or two. Both opponents follow to two rounds of trumps (good...a 5-0 break would have been annoying) and on the third one, I pitch a heart from dummy while RHO effortlessly pitches a heart. What's this all about? She either has three small or she has five hearts. If she had five, the pro would be 3046...why didn't he underlead at trick one? Hmmm...knowing he's 3-6 in the blacks, there must be some squeeze. If he's 0-4 there's a double squeeze. If he's 1-3, I can ruff out the diamonds and squeeze LHO in the reds. If he's 2-2, a squeeze is automatic. If he's 3-1 or 4-0, I get him in hearts and clubs. Hmmm...time to cash another trump. LHO pitches a club, dummy a club, and LHO a diamond, again without much thought. I'm pretty sure the overcaller is 3046. That first heart pitch seems pretty telling. I'm going to act on it.

I lead a small heart towards the table, and as expected, LHO pitches a club. I mildly ask, "do you mind if I claim on a double squeeze?" Silence. I'm sure the client would have no problem if the pro agreed, but he doesn't seem clear on it. Anyway, since I've sort of claimed, I face my hand. No comments. I continue the hand exposed, winning the H:A, crossing back to hand with the H:K, and running the trumps. LHO discards obviously; on the last trump, he waffles between the last club and his diamond guard in this position:

S: ---
H: ---
D: AK6
C: 9
S: ---
H: ---
D: QJ9
C: Q
S: ---
H: Q
D: 874
C: ---
S: 3
H: 87
D: 10
C: ---
He eventually discards the diamond. I pitch the club from dummy and RHO pitches a diamond as well. I lead a diamond to dummy, which is good, and make 12 tricks, as claimed.

Partner is thinking, and while he's not normally tactless, I think he's noticed that LHO could have beaten the hand by shifting to a diamond at trick 2. To forestall any discussion of that possibility, I mention to LHO, "I am surprised you didn't underlead at trick one to get a ruff." He replies, "I wasn't sure you didn't have the ten, and this sounded like a normal contract, so the overtrick might well matter." Partner chimes in, "against me, they'd make two club tricks!" I knew he'd say that; he once tried such an underlead, blew to a small card, then got squeezed out of his whole suit later in the play. That's what would have happened this time, too!

That result gets us on a winning roll. Taking my lead, on the next hand, partner solos us into 6S: (again!) and makes it. We get nearly all the matchpoints for the round and never look back, winning the event comfortably. I like to think this was the keystone hand.

A couple of days later, LHO came up to me and complimented me on the hand, "that was a nice play you made against us." "Thank you. It was a fun hand." For some reason, opponents decided it was time to compliment me during the tournament. (Did someone leak that I bought wine and chocolate for hospitality?) Later on, a player came up to me and complimented me on calling the director on him! My brilliant reply was, "huh? Most people don't like having the director called!" "You did it so nicely. I never felt as if we did anything wrong. I actually enjoyed thinking about the situation as it unfolded." Amazing...I wish my partners could be so complimentary!

Jeff Goldsmith,, July 15, 1998