Nice Defense, Partner
Playing in the finals of the North American Swiss,
I deal and hold
A872 J1072 KQ987
I'm generally not fond of 5440 hands, but I like my
spots and partner believes in opening light distributional
hands, so I open 1. Partner bids 1, and I have
an easy 1 rebid. Partner rebids 2, which we
play denies four spades and creates a game force. I'd prefer
not to suggest a balanced hand and have notrump played from
partner's side (a double for a diamond lead looms) so I try
3. Partner rebids his diamonds and I end the festivities
with 3NT, suspecting that it's not a good contract, but there's
nothing else I can do.
The opening lead is the 5 after at least
a two-minute study.
Dummy is rather a disappointment.
Partner chose a poor time to overbid; I had already
done so myself, and we have a pretty bad misfit.
At least we are not doubled. On the other hand,
3 would not be a glorious contract, either.
3NT is not just a bad contract, it's a disaster.
I have three tricks off the top and no entry to
either hand. It looks as if they found the only
lead not to give me a trick, too. I play low from
dummy and RHO inserts the Q. I win with the
Ace and, for lack of anything better to do, continue
spades. LHO flies with the J and goes into
a major trance. After at least three minutes, he
plays a small diamond. That's good! Now I have at
least four tricks! I insert the Q from dummy,
which loses to the K. RHO cashes the K,
so spades are 3-3. She continues with a small club
and I try the K. It loses to the A and
another club comes back. I'm up to six tricks so far!
I top RHO's 10 and cash the 13th spade, pitching
diamonds from dummy. On the spade, LHO effortlessly
pitches a diamond and RHO a club. What's going on?
Spades were 3-3. I am pretty sure RHO has the last
club honor and at least four diamonds. The opening
leader was probably 3433. The last few cards are
I'm not sure about the high diamond spots or the
heart honors, but this looks about right. I have
two ways to generate a seventh trick now. I exit
with the 9 to which both follow, while I
pitch a heart from dummy. RHO makes
it easy; she continues with the Q. I win
the A and cash one high diamond, then
continue with another heart. LHO wins but must
lead to my hand, which is now good.
In the endgame, I could have alternatively led
to the A, cashed one diamond, and continued
with a heart. If RHO wins, she can cash a club,
but must give me the last two tricks with the
J8. If LHO overtakes the heart, my hand
is good. That's an odd sort of winkle against
a minor tenace. The same position would have
arisen if RHO had exited (as I expected) with a
Taking seven tricks at notrump with these cards
is not exactly a triumph, but it seemed pretty
miraculous to me. Partner was impressed with the
ending and was about to say, "nicely played" when
RHO complimented her partner on the defense. After
the match, partner says, "I couldn't say anything
after that hand. After all, there can't be both
good play and good defense!"
Copyright © 2001 Jeff Goldsmith