Secret Weapon

My partner likes to preempt. He's quite a good player, but his ideas on preemption are not at all mainstream. Not vulnerable, he can have lots of different types of hands, which poses me with a bidding problem when I pick up in third chair:
 S:AK9x H:A D:A1098x C:A10x
Partner opens 2H:. We are playing suit-length Ogust, so if I give up on slam, I can judge between hearts and notrump by whether or not partner has five or six hearts. He can preempt with outside strength and length though, so is slam out of the question? I don't know, and I don't think I can find out. Since he didn't open the bidding, I think I have to assume we can't make slam, so I choose to bid 2NT. He responds 3D:, a good hand with only five hearts. I guess 3NT and partner goes into the tank.

Odd. Partner must be thinking of bidding a new suit, so he's 5-5 or perhaps even a canape 5-6. If he bids a new suit, I'm bidding at least six. The worst suit for him to have is clubs, and if he's just king-fifth in both suits, slam is possible.

Nope, he passes 3NT. Rats. Despite what I expect due to the tank, dummy is still a bit of a surprise:

S: x
H: Q9xxx
C: QJ9xxxx
S: AK9x
H: A
D: A1098x
C: A10x

LHO leads a small spade and seems pretty taken aback by dummy. She starts to stammer, "what kind of a bid is that!" "Looks like a bad one to me, ma'am!" She turns to my partner and asks, "are you taking lessons?" Partner starts to grin and I'm about to lose it. I remain composed, but I really want to wring my hands and natter "Secret Weapon!" in my best mad scientist voice. She considers calling the director, but ends up not doing it. Insulting partner a couple of times is sufficient it seems.

The play goes quickly. I win the first spade high and cash the C:A. LHO has the singleton C:K. I reel off seven club tricks, pitching three diamonds and a spade from hand. Sometimes these endings can get complicated, but not this time, as they unguard both spades and diamonds, letting me make seven. +520.

Partner apologizes for failing to bid 4C: (not for actually bidding 2H:!) as that would get us to the good club slam. "Yes, I would have bid six over that, but I certainly would not have guessed your hand!"

It turns out that +520 is 75% of the matchpoints. The rude lady didn't get much of a score for our apparently silly result. No one else did, either, as we cruised to a 70+% game. Perhaps flexible pre-emts aren't so bad!

Copyright © 2001 Jeff Goldsmith