Playing in the finals of a national pair game, I don't recognize my opponents. That doesn't mean much, as the Spingold is still going, but since they appear to be Americans, maybe they are weak and will give us a board.

I am dealt my usual,  S:6543 H:J753 D:1042 C:Q3. A rock. No one is vulnerable, and in first seat, partner opens 1H:. RHO overcalls 1S:, and I make a pushy preemptive raise to 3H:. After two passes, RHO bids 3S: and buys it there.

I have four trumps, so the tap looks like the right approach. Declarer is likely to have a singleton heart, so I should lead the H:J. It probably won't matter, but if dummy has H:Kxx, I can hold the lead and get the tap started immediately. Dummy hits with

S: Qx
H: Q9x
D: AJ9x
C: Jxxx
S: 6543
H: J753
D: 1042
C: Q3
Pass3S:All Pass
Dummy covers and partner wins the H:K. Declarer drops the ten! Nice lead! After a little thought, partner shifts to the C:9. Declarer ducks, and I win the C:Q. It seems natural to start the tap, but we are playing Jack denies leads in the middle of the hand. That means either partner has no club higher than the 9, or the ten and another. It's also possible that he has C:AK9 exactly. He'd have no alternative to the C:9 then, but that's unlikely. If partner has the C:K109 and one diamond honor and declarer is 6133, I must continue clubs so that we get our four tricks. If partner has exactly C:AK9 and declarer is 5134, I must play a heart to tap declarer to beat the contract. Would partner have bid differently in either case? His bidding is consistent with his having  S:x H:AK8xx D:Kxx C:K109x or with  S:xx H:AK8xx D:xxx C:AK9. Declarer really should have six trumps to bid 3S:, but maybe he has 100 honors fifth.

Aha! If declarer has the D:KQ, the tap is too late; declarer can just draw trumps and cash nine tricks. He can't get more than nine if we cash three clubs, so there's no need to worry about partner's C:AK9. So I continue a club to set up our club trick before it goes away on the diamonds.

Horrors! Partner wins the C:A and continues with the C:8. I ruff, and partner wins the D:K later to beat the hand one trick.

After the hand, I ask if partner has forgotten our lead convention. "No, I remember, but I just played a careless card." When partner has just found a great lead, it is time to try your best, not play carelessly. Partners hate having their good plays ravaged. No wonder we are not doing well.

If I continue hearts at trick three, declarer can still hold the contract to down one, but not if he plays even one round of trumps. If he does that, he will be down two. Oh, well.

Copyright © 2008 Jeff Goldsmith