No, Fourteen

Playing in an early round of a national pair event, I'm dealt a hand that looks interesting,  S:A1075 H:A D:AKJ106 C:QJ4. Partner opens 1C:! With this 19-count, we are going to play a slam, but which one is far from clear. We play Walsh, so if I start with 1D: and then bid spades, we are in a game force. That seems efficient, so I bid 1D:. Partner appears to be unbalanced (and his hand, too), because he continues 1H:. We play 1S: natural and game forcing. Handy this time. Partner doesn't alert, but LHO asks about 1S:. "Natural and forcing to game. You see, we play 2S: denies four spades and is forcing to game." Anyway, he thinks for a bit and jumps to 3D:. Cool. He should be 0445.

If he has the C:AK and the D:Q, we should be on a grand. That's only 9 HCP; he surely has more than that. Since there's no way he can have an opening bid with 0445 shape and not have a club honor, Blackwood is safe. Will it tell me what I need to know to bid 7NT? I think so; partner will show one key card. Then I can bid 5H: and he'll bid 6C: to show the trump queen and C:K. I think 6S: now can't ask about the S:K; I already know he doesn't have it. It should be a choice between 7D: and 7NT. He may not be able to get the decision right, but I don't see a better way to try for 7NT. In any case, bidding a cold 7D: should be a pretty good result.

I've been thinking long enough. I trot out 4NT. Partner, as expected, bids 5D: to show one key card. I continue 5H: as planned. Partner comes up with a surprise, 5S:! Huh? He can't have the S:K. Would he jump in diamonds with only D:Qxx? He can't be 1444; we open those 1D:. Shrug. I try 6C:, asking about the C:K. I'm pretty sure he has it, but let's be sure. He responds 6H:. Cool. So we have two spades, two hearts, five diamonds, and four clubs. That's thirteen tops. I leap to 7NT, ready to claim at trick one.

LHO goes into the tank about his opening lead. As well he might—we have bid all four suits and landed in 7NT. There's no reason to torture him, so I tell him, "don't think too long, we have thirteen tops." Partner says, "Fourteen. I have the queen of hearts." And so it is.

S: K
H: KQ42
D: Q543
C: AK93
S: A1075
H: A
D: AKJ106
C: QJ4

After the round, I wonder why partner opened 1C: instead of 1D:. It worked out well, but what was he going to bid if I responded 1S:? He's out of range for 1NT or 2NT. On the other hand, opening 1D: and rebidding 2C: doesn't look like a panacea, either. But he's strong enough to continue 2H: over 2D: and that should get us to the right strain at least. Truth to tell, I'd probably open his hand 1NT. Maybe I've been playing too much with Marshall Miles. Not knowing about the fourth club trick might be enough for us to be forced to stop in 7D:.

Copyright © 2008 Jeff Goldsmith