Not My Shining Hour

Probably the best hand I ever played got me zero matchpoints. I found a trump gambit (unnecessarily losing a trump trick) to gain two tricks. Unfortunately, we were in 5C: doubled down two for a bottom board. The bidding was more than a trifle optimistic.

Playing in a club game with an expert partner, I hold

 S:Q652 H:D:A732 C:KQ642
Crummy spots, but at least there's the beer. Partner opens 1NT, 15-17. I'm wondering whether to show this as a 4144 hand or as four spades and five clubs when I realize that we don't have a way to show 4144, so I bid 2C:. Then I remember we do have a way. Starting with Stayman is probably best anyway. Partner bids 2H: as expected, so I bid 3C:. He bids 3S:, and I have a problem. If he is 4-4 in the majors, I want to play 4S:. On the other hand, if he has club support, which seems likely, and weak short diamonds, probably 3424 shape, 6C: looks very promising. So I bid 4S:; he'll pass with spades and bid clubs with clubs. He jumps to 6C:, ending the auction, and I see that I have been a hasty overbidder again. No, I'll probably never learn, Bob. I get the opening lead of the S:9 and see
S: AK3
H: AJ104
D: J54
C: A108
S: Q652
D: A732
C: KQ642
I guess he could have that hand, which means I ought to have bid 3NT. Make the D:J the C:J, however, and 6C: looks real good. It sure isn't this time.

I see a bunch of chances, none of them wonderful. Probably my best hope is for RHO to fly with a heart honor if I lead them from dummy at trick 2. Then I can pitch three diamonds away on hearts and maybe spades are 3-3, there's a squeeze, or maybe short spades are with a doubleton trump. In any case, I think my best line is a dummy reversal, so I win the first trick in dummy and play a small heart. RHO plays low quickly. Rats.

I ruff in hand and take stock. Since one of the possible end positions is a diamond-spade squeeze, I need to rectify the count at some point. Now is as good as any. So I duck a diamond. Maybe I'll find D:KQ tight. That'll simplify the hand a great deal. And maybe they'll play a heart for me. Or LHO will fly with D:Qxxx. Not this time. LHO plays small. RHO wins the D:9 and quickly continues with the D:K. Wonderful. At least that means RHO has both diamond honors; if she also has four spades, a squeeze may operate in the endgame.

In order to get there, I need to ruff three hearts in hand and draw trumps. I don't have enough entries to the table to do that. How about an "unnecessary" finesse of the C:10? That'll give me a third entry to dummy, two to ruff hearts and one to draw trumps. LHO is not a skilled player; she'd never think of inserting the C:J to foil this plan. No, that's not good enough anyway. If I play a spade to dummy, ruff a heart, hook the C:10, and ruff a heart, trumps are blocked; I'll have the stiff C:K in hand and C:A8 in dummy. I'll need to find doubleton C:J9 onside, because I'll need to overtake the C:K.

How about if I ruff two hearts high? Then I'll need to finesse against both the C:J and C:9, but at least it's a chance. I'll go down a bunch and look stupid if it fails, but I just don't see a better line. No one else will be in 6C:, so I don't think it matters how many tricks I take if I don't make it. Still, I don't enjoy looking stupid. Is there a better plan? If there is, I don't see it. Pondering.

After a long tank, I still don't see a better option, so I cross to the S:K in dummy (LHO plays the S:8) and ruff a heart high. I hook the C:8 and cross my fingers. Yeah, right. RHO looks at me as if I'm crazy, wins the C:J, and cashes a diamond. Then she plays a spade. LHO follows (she had S:987), so at least I don't go down three. I cross to the dummy in trumps, cash the H:A, and when it holds, claim on a high cross-ruff.

Guess how many matchpoints. Yep, none at all. Everyone else was in 3NT, mostly making five.

We've all heard of hands where one needs to take an unnecessary trump finesse, but I don't think I've ever seen a hand before where an unnecessary double finesse was needed. Very cool. Or it would have been if it had worked.

Copyright © 2005 Jeff Goldsmith