Only The Dummy Can Say

Playing in a sectional Swiss, we are doing well, but one team is still in front of us. They are arguably the best team in the room, so when we draw them, they are the team we need to beat.

With no one vulnerable, I deal and open 1D: with  S:A63 H:KJ74 D:A1092 C:Q2. LHO passes and partner raises to 2D:. We play that "standard," 6-9 with four trumps. RHO bids 2H:. I've seen players' "prebalancing" bids before, so I try a very risky double. I think it'd be a standout at matchpoints, but at IMPs, this is probably unsound action. LHO gives it some thought and bids 2NT. Both pass to me. I like 2NT substantially better than 2H:, so I hit that, too. All pass.

Partner leads the H:5. When dummy appears, I am quite thankful we are not defending 2H: doubled.

S: Q92
H: AQ10962
D: 43
C: J6
S: A63
H: KJ74
D: A1092
C: Q2
PassPassDblAll Pass
Declarer plays low from dummy, more or less marking him with the singleton H:8, and I win the H:J. I shift to the D:10; I'm not yet sure what's going on on the hand, and I don't want to break either black suit. Declarer thinks for 60 seconds before flying with the D:K. Partner discourages. What??? I thought LHO was an ethical type, but they are each denying the D:Q. Something's fishy. Either LHO is sleazing or partner has miscarded me.

After another minute's thought, declarer leads the S:8 and runs it. Looks like he has S:K108x and has guessed spades. Then again, he has no entry to the board, so he cannot guess them the other way. I like it that he has no dummy entry, so I duck this trick. Declarer continues with a small spade, and partner forgets to play the S:J, letting declarer insert the S:9. Declarer has reached the table. For the last time, as I let him hold this trick, too. He gratefully cashes the H:A, pitching a club, and continues another spade, which I win perforce. Partner contributes the S:J, so I had the suit right. Upon reflection, declarer needed to lead low to the S:9 the first time in order to reach dummy, but it was a mixed blessing to get there, as we shall see.

Upon winning the S:A, I cash the H:K. Declarer pulls one card out of his hand, then another, then puts that one back. Eventually, he pitches a club. Partner discards another diamond, so he was carding correctly the first time; it was declarer pulling shenanigans in diamonds. Since we are now playing double-dummy, this is the position as I am about to cash the H:K.

H: Q1096
D: 4
C: J6
D: J65
C: K1074
H: K7
D: A92
C: Q2
S: 10
D: Q8
C: A985
On the H:K, declarer is triple squeezed. If he pitches a diamond, I can cash three diamond tricks. When he actually pitches a club, I shift to the C:Q. He wins, cashes his spade, and exits a club. Since partner didn't pitch any clubs, we run three clubs and take the last trick with the D:A for down two, +300. Pitching the spade winner would have done no better. I would shift to the C:Q and declarer would eventually get thrown in with the fourth round of clubs to lead diamonds from his hand, giving us two more diamonds for seven tricks.

All's well that ends well, but I'm awfully glad we were not defending 2H: doubled. I don't think we would have beaten it. We would not have won the match if so. And probably not the event.

As an aside, if you ever find yourself in declarer's shoes, having thought about the rest of the hand at trick two (giving him the benefit of the doubt) instead of playing one of your equals in proper tempo, play the queen. That lets the opponents know the diamond suit, but to simulate holding KJ by pausing inappropriately is not proper, so letting them know the suit by your card is the only correct play.

Copyright © 2003 Jeff Goldsmith