No Help

Playing in a Regional matchpoint event, I sit down with a good player on my right and his red-haired girlfriend on my left. Partner is competent, but not very imaginative. With no one vulnerable, the redhead deals and opens 2D:, a weak two-bid. Partner passes, and after a long hesitation, RHO bids 4D:. I am looking at the best hand I'll hold all day:
 S:AK53 H:AK1042 D:--- C:AK43
I have an easy takeout double, she passes, partner bids 5C:, and RHO passes in tempo this time. Now I have a bidding problem.
What is going on? Can I deduce anything about partner's shape? Obviously, he doesn't have a four card major, or he would have bid it. The opponents probably have ten diamonds, so he probably has three. That means he has either 3-3-3-4 shape or he has five clubs. If he were 3-3-3-4, he would either pass the double or bid 4H:, so I am confident that he has five clubs.

Can I deduce anything from the wiggle on my right? I don't know, but he's been here before, so he would put maximum pressure on me if he could. Bidding 4D: is sort of like kissing your grandmother; if they have a major suit game, they'll bid it and you've gained very little. I suspect that either he thinks he has some defense against four of a major or that he has not enough shape to go to the five-level. He is not normally faint-hearted, but this is not the right venue to go for 500 vs. a game, so in either case I suspect that he has a fairly balanced hand. If he has any shortness, it rates to be in clubs. If he had a semi-balanced hand with only four diamonds, I suspect that he would pass and not tell us about their fit, so I am guessing that he has 5-3-3-2 with five diamonds. That would, at least, explain the long decision. I cannot be sure of this, but I think that is what is going on.

What does this mean about our chances? Unlike most auctions in which they have preempted us, this time I think the suits are breaking in a civilized fashion. I know that we have a nine card club fit and that (of course) partner does not have very much. But I do. If we have nine trumps, then my diamond void means that we are playing with a 30-point deck. I have the best 21, so we do not need much for game or slam. Slam might well roll if partner has a 3-2-3-5 Yarborough! I don't know that he has more than that, but if he does, can I find out? All I need for a grand is for him to hold a hand like  S:xxx H:Qxx D:xx C:QJ10xx. How can I get him to cooperate in a grand slam venture? Probably not at all; he thinks he has garbage, and he is going to be no help at all in a grand slam search. I could probe for seven with a delicate 5H: bid, which must be forcing, but since we rate to get a good score for reaching a 23 or 24-point slam in the first place, I do not feel the need to take any chances and just bid 6C:. If my estimation of the distribution is correct, the opponents have preempted on a 5-5 diamond fit, which will likely not happen at other tables. I can easily imagine other bidding going Pass-Pass-Pass-1H:-All Pass. Maybe five is good enough? Perhaps, but if 4H: is making, we need to be in slam, and I am confident that slam is cold, so I bid it ending the auction.

Partner held

 S:J109 H:87 D:543 C:QJ1086.
6C: was easy when each opponent was found to be 3-3-5-2, which was my guess during the bidding. +920 was a cold matchpoint top, beating a large number of +170s, and a few +420s.
Copyright © 1995 Jeff Goldsmith