Playing matchpoints against questionable opponents, I run into a tactic that I've never seen before. Fourth to speak, red on white, I hold:
 S:K6542 H:--- D:Q104 C:98765
My LHO opens 1NT, showing 15-17 HCP, and partner doubles. We play Woolsey over strong notrumps, so partner is showing a four-card major and a longer minor. This partner is very creative about entering the auction over their strong notrump, so he may have a hand that is unexpected, but for the moment, I shall have to believe this description. RHO does not and redoubles in a voice of thunder.

At this point, any suit bid by me would suggest it as a place to play. If RHO had passed, 2C: would have asked partner to pass or correct if his minor were diamonds, but pass does that job now. LHO passes, too, and partner bids 2C:. That is a nice surprise, but something is fishy when RHO again vehemently doubles. Well, I can live with this, so I pass again. LHO does, too, and partner redoubles! RHO smirks and passes and I have my first real problem of the auction.

What is going on? Partner is supposed to have a good hand to enter at this vulnerability, but he cannot be intending to play 2C: redoubled. If we were to make 2C: doubled, we would have all the matchpoints, so he would just pass. Besides, RHO sounds like a man with a fistful of clubs and I have five of them. If partner has clubs, there are 17 of them in the deck. The redouble must be for takeout. That means he must have five diamonds and 4-4 in the majors. He has a club void! The first thing I know for sure is that I must act as if I am considering passing. This partner deserves to sweat. Fortunately, it is not clear what to do right now, so I can happily let him worry without having to do anything untoward.

If partner is 4-4-5-0, what can we make and what can they make? It seems obvious that they can make 4H:; they have nine hearts and lots of high cards. No, if they reach 4H:, I shall be on lead and I'll lead the C:9, giving partner a ruff. Hopefully, he'll have the S:A, underlead it to my King (the nine was suit preference) and I can give him a second ruff. He must have another trick somewhere (he's crazy, but not that crazy,) so we shall beat 4H:. That will be a good score.

What can we make? We have nine spades and eight diamonds. The Law of Total Tricks suggests that, since they can probably only make nine tricks in hearts (we are finding the best defense,) then we can make nine tricks in spades. Due to the double fits, more tricks should be available, but I think the two defensive ruffs we have will counteract the double fit; we can probably make around nine tricks in spades and probably the same in diamonds. It is also clear that we shall not be able to play this hand undoubled. Good! So my first priority is to be allowed to play the hand at or below 3S:; otherwise, I want to double and beat 4H:.

Usually, the best action is to bid as much as one thinks one can make immediately. On this hand, that is 3S:. I think that is a poor tactic now, though. I want to play the hand doubled. Jumping the bidding might discourage them from doubling or even letting us play it at all. That means I should probably bid 2S:. If I bid 2S:, what will happen next? Can I reconstruct their hands? Hearts are probably 4-5, with the five on my right. Clubs are probably 3-5 or 4-4. Spades are either 2-2 or 3-1 and diamonds are probably 3-2, though they might be 4-1. My guess is that RHO is 2-5-2-4, giving the notrump opener 2-4-3-4 shape. No one can double 2S:! LHO will pass, RHO will bid 3H:, and we shall defend 4H: doubled. Unless, horrors, LHO passes 3H: out of confusion. She's clearly never been in this position before. Bidding 2S: seems as if it will work out poorly. I have a better answer, though. If I bid 2D:, LHO will double and RHO will sit it out because he has a doubleton. 2D: has to be easy to make, so +180 should be a cold top unless we can beat 4H: two tricks. In that case, I shall probably make an overtrick and +380 is better than +300.

I bid 2D:, after a long pause. I am still hoping that partner is worried about my passing, but he seems fairly nonchalant rather than relieved. All else goes as planned, and I make 2D: doubled with an overtrick for all the matchpoints. The whole hand was:

S: A873
H: A542
D: 98732
C: ---
S: QJ10
H: Q873
D: AK5
C: KQ2
S: 9
H: KJ1096
D: J6
C: AJ1043
S: K6542
H: ---
D: Q104
C: 98765
Partner's hand was rather thin for a red vs. white overcall, but his continuation was thoughtful and very successful. Once he had identified the club void to me, we were getting over 75% of the matchpoints. The unusual tactical situation for me allowed us to get the remainder as well. What is so odd about this hand is that I had to play in our second-best fit in order to allow the opponents to double us. Our best fit would be too hard for them to double. Odd. Also note that RHO bid badly. He should start showing his suits, rather than try to double us. If he were to do so, he would reach 4H: from partner's side of the table, which would pose no problems in the play.
Copyright © 1994 Jeff Goldsmith