Prayer Almost Answered

Playing IMP pairs in a new partnership with a player who is said to be a very lucky man, I encountered a hand in which my confidence in our partnership was not up to the task of reaching the right contract.

I held  S:A2 H:Q10987 D:AKQ97 C:2 and opened 1H:. Partner responded 2C:, which we were playing as game forcing except for some situations that I didn't yet know. The auction continued:

So far, I know that he has three-card heart support and a minimum opening bid. He expresses little interest in slam, knowing that I have at least ten red cards and some extra values. I should probably pass, but it is very hard to envision a hand that doesn't have at least some play for slam, so I try Roman Key Card Blackwood, find out that he has two key cards (probably an ace and the H:K) and I decide to go for slam anyway. There are hands on which there will be no play, but I can also see hands where 6H: is cold, so I await the dummy with some anticipation.

The dummy turns out to be almost as bad as it can get; much of his values are wasted opposite my singleton:

S: 103
D: 1084
C: KQJ104
S: A2
H: Q10987
D: AKQ97
C: 2
Worse still, they find the lead of the S:K, so I am in big trouble. After a non-spade lead, I would make 6H: most of the time, but now I am in grave danger of losing two tricks very quickly.

Preemptively, I apologize to partner for having overbid, yet another time. While I am thinking about the hand, partner asks me, all sweetness and light, if I thought that his sequence, 2H:, then 3H:, then 4H:, was encouraging toward slam. Being slightly annoyed that my bidding has led me to a bad spot, I snap back, ``of course not. Just shut up and pray.'' After the hand, I apologized to him for the rude comment, but in the meantime, I am helping him pray.

What do I need to make this? I shall need to ruff my little spade in dummy and the only way to get a discard is on diamonds. For this to happen, I shall need an opponent to have four diamonds and three hearts. To that end, I draw one round of trump, cross back to the D:A, all following, and draw a second round of trumps ending in dummy. I continue with the D:10, intending to run it, since I need East (at this point) to have started with D:Jxxx.

Disaster! My prayers were answered: I had prayed for someone to hold D:Jxxx and three trumps, but I had forgotten to specify that it had to be East! My magic holding was in West's hand; on the second round of diamonds, East discarded a small club.

I am going to go down, but at least my line of play has salvaged a trick. I cash the top three diamonds and ruff them good with dummy's last trump. I exit with the C:10 (anyone asleep enough to duck this and see me home? No.) and after they cash a spade, I can claim for down one.

``Partner,'' I cry, ``great praying! If only the defending hands had been interchanged, we would have made it. Next time, though, let's pray a little more accurately.'' I then apologize for the earlier snap while partner is laughing.

When seeing the scores, I note that I have tied a player who was in five and failed to take the safety play against a 4-1 diamond break and went down. It was still a loss, but at least we didn't lose to everyone.

Copyright © 1993 Jeff Goldsmith