Sometimes bridge is very frustrating. I do not like it
when my partners yell at me, so I try very hard not to
say anything even slightly uncomplimentary to most of
my partners. One partner, used to this, became very
angry at my response to her butchering a hand. "But
I didn't say a thing." "You raised your eyebrow!"
Sometimes this resolve is tested.
Playing in the finals of a regional flight A barometer
pairs game, partner is a very experienced player, but
our partnership is new. He's not having a good day,
and I'm out of practice, so our game is having its ups
and downs. So far this evening, it's been all downs.
I deal myself the usual:
9865 Q3 86 K9852
I pass, of course, as does LHO. Partner opens 1,
and RHO overcalls 1. Some would make a negative
double here, but I don't like my Q, and I have
a piece of crap, so I pass. LHO raises preemptively to 3,
and partner doubles. RHO quickly repounds,
giving me a bidding problem. I don't know what is
right; 4 will help the defense more if we defend,
but could go for a very large number if partner is 4162.
I retreat to the almost certain 8-card fit, bidding 3.
The next two pass and RHO regretfully bids 4, which
becomes the final contract. I lead the 8 and see
that dummy is a little scanty.
On the first trick, partner contributes the J, losing
to the Ace. Declarer considers for awhile and shifts to a
small club. That's odd. What's going on?
Why isn't declarer drawing trump? If he had both the
Ace and King, he'd surely draw two rounds. He's seen
my high diamond lead and knows of the danger of a trump
promotion. He must not be worried about that, so he
must have the K. If he had AJ10xx, he'd
probably plunk down the Ace, losing only if partner has
all three trumps, impossible on the auction. He must
be missing the trump ace, which partner holds singleton,
and is trying to get to dummy to lead trumps towards his
hand. That means he must have 1543 shape. He probably
has x KJ1098 AK10x Axx. Is there anything I can
do about this? Yes, we need to continue diamonds after
winning this trick; partner will win the A,
cash a spade, give me a trump promotion, and we'll have four
tricks. Could declarer's black ace be in spades? I guess
so; in that case, we'll need to cash a second club before
playing diamonds, as declarer will have three diamond tricks
and a pitch for the losing club. How will partner know which
of those hands declarer holds? Do I have the A or the
K? I surely don't have both. I see it! How about
if I play the K on this trick? Partner will now be
playing double-dummy; if he has the AK, I'll win this
trick and continue diamonds (or spades). If he has the A,
he'll overtake if he has the Q or encourage otherwise.
We might set up declarer's Q, but that's not an important
Upon reflection, I play the K to the second trick.
Partner, without thinking, overtakes. Good! He has the
AQ and won't have a problem. In tempo, he continues
with the Q, to which I carefully contribute the deuce,
just in case he's not sure about the hand. Again, in tempo,
he shifts to small spade. Does partner have a doubleton club?
That'd be OK if declarer ruffs a club. Declarer wins the stiff Ace,
ruffs a club, partner's following (argh), and plays a trump.
Partner wins the A and starts to think. After a few
seconds, I just fold my cards, so declarer claims, knowing
that I have a second diamond and fourth club, the whole hand's
This is a near zero; few bid game with our opponents' cards
and not all of them made it. After four boards, we are
almost two full boards below average. It's going to be a long
Things go a little better after this; I have the opportunity
to fly solo a few times (down this far this early, getting
a winning momentum going is important) and was lucky, but we
never fully recovered.
I run into the above declarer after the first break; he's
a good buddy. He notes that we have helped him get on the
leader board, so at least there's a silver lining to our
game. I am not consoled and am in a pretty bad mood, so
I remark that they bid both hands well, but he hacked the
play on the 4 contract. "Huh?" "Yeah, my partner
gave you the contract. To make it on your own, you had
to play a small heart from hand at trick two. The play
is fairly strongly indicated." "What do you mean? How
could I tell RHO had the stiff Ace?" "Given that we didn't
have a whole lot of high cards, his double has to be based
on trump shortness. If I had both the trump honors, perhaps
I might've doubled 4? That means RHO doesn't have a
void or a small singleton. Which honor does he have? If
he has the Ace, you have to duck one now or we'll get a
promotion on third round of diamonds. If he has the Queen,
you can do anything but that. Which is more likely? I'd
play the doubler for the Ace; with Ax, I might lead trumps
and partner might not double with just the Q. With an ace
and four spades, I'd probably make a negative double of 1.
All the indications point towards the actual layout."
Still, he wasn't punished, and we were. Bridge can be
July 12th, 1999