An Hour of Sleep

Playing in the Platinum Pairs, we face pair 2. They are clearly inexperienced; I wonder how they qualified.*

As dealer, I pick up a pretty good hand,  S:AKQJ96 H:Q8 D:A973 C:Q. I open 1S:, LHO bids a confident 2H:, and partner raises to 2S:. RHO tanks for about 10 seconds and passes. I use the stop card and bid 4S:, figuring it to end the auction, but LHO figures otherwise and bids 5H: without waiting as much as half a second.

I have a major problem now, not the least of which is whether or not to call the director. I guarantee the opponents will deny any hesitation, and will claim to have taken exactly 10 seconds after the skip bid (not that that matters at all). Partner is oblivious, so he'll not be of much help. While I'm thinking, partner and RHO pass quickly. It can't hurt to call the director, but it will cause a fracas. Furthermore, these guys will probably appeal, and it's my night to serve on the national appeals committee, so that will require two full committees. Yuck. I suspect this is a problem that very few other people have had to think about at the table. If I can be confident of doing the right thing, I think I'll just do it and skip the director call.

So what's going on? I have 18 HCP and LHO sounds like he has a full opener and a six- or seven-card heart suit. Partner will have something for his raise, so that leaves the tanker with nothing. He must have heart support. With three, he'd just pass reluctantly, not tank, so he has to have four hearts. Wait a sec...partner has a stiff heart? Yes, he has to. So 5S: should be easy.

What about partner's pass? I think my choice to bid 4S: didn't put us in a force, so his pass doesn't mean anything. If we were in a force, he'd have bid 5S: with a stiff heart, but I assumed LHO would not bid with the unauthorized information.

I finally decide that the inference about the heart shortness is solid enough and forgo calling the director. 5S: ends the auction and I buy  S:10xxx H:x D:KQxxxx C:xx. They cash their two aces, no one has a diamond void, and I claim 11 tricks.

Phew. I just earned myself an hour of sleep tonight.

* Steve McDevitt did some impressive detective work. He found out that we were playing against a fill-in pair who had not qualified to play and were ineligible to continue. Amazing job! Looks like my at-the-table instincts were on the mark, too.
Copyright © 2011 Jeff Goldsmith