A Perfect Top

A "perfect" top is a board on which everyone but you has the same score, and yours is better because you did something right. That's only happened to me once.

Playing in a sectional pairs game with an attractive young lady, the game is going reasonably well. We reach the obvious contract with these cards:

S: J10953
H: A52
D: A63
C: J4
S: KQ82
H: K7
D: K75
C: A962


I get the opening lead of a small heart. I win and knock out the trump ace, win the heart return, and draw trumps, their being 2-2. There's really nothing much to the hand; I have three obvious losers. Is there any hope for another trick? Yes, I think it's possible to generate a second club trick if I am very lucky. There's also a very small chance of a club-diamond squeeze. I'm in my hand after drawing trumps, so I lead a small club towards the C:J. West, without much of a pause, goes up with the C:Q and continues with a third heart, which I ruff. One position in which I can get another club trick is if West has C:KQ10 alone. That's not too likely. Alternatively, he could have C:Q10x. If I float the C:J, I can win an extra trick by ruffing down the C:10 and setting up the C:9. The other possibility was if the person with the fourth club has five diamonds. That is no longer possible, as the opponents have each shown up with five major suit cards, so no one can have nine minor suit cards. I cross to dummy in trumps and advance the C:J. East covers without much thought; perhaps West went up with C:Qxxx? I'm glad to be spared the guess as to what to do if East had ducked smoothly. Now there's nothing to do but hope. I win the club and ruff a club. Lo! and behold! West started with C:Q10x and my C:9 is a parking place for the diamond loser. I claim 11 tricks and go on to the next hand.

Near the end of the session, I think we are having a good game, but not one good enough to win. I estimate we are in about 3rd place. A hand comes up in which I have to decide whether or not to bid a slam that's on a finesse. I don't think the field will be there, so should I go with or against the field? I'd like to impress the young lady sitting across from me, and I think the difference between first and second is larger than second and third, so I go for it. My luck is out; the finesse loses, and we get a poor score. Nothing more happens during the session, so I'm anxious to find out how my choice worked out.

We end up fourth. If I hadn't bid the slam, we'd've been second. If it made, we'd've won. I'm happy that my decision was at least based on good estimates, but just then realize that perhaps I shouldn't have done it. What if partner needs just a few masterpoints to become life master? Belatedly, I apologize to partner and ask her if she minded my choice. She doesn't much care; she enjoyed the game in any case. Good...I was worried about that.

While I'm checking the scores, I notice that the board above is a complete top. And everyone else in the section got five and a half matchpoints. My overtrick was a perfect top! My partner doesn't notice, and I don't see the need to tell her. She seems to like me anyway.

Jeff Goldsmith, jeff@tintin.jpl.nasa.gov, January 14, 1999