A Solid Suit

Bridge is a funny game. Would you believe that a 10-card fit to the AKQJ might afford some technique in playing the suit?

Playing in a matchpoint tournament where each player allegedly has more than 750 masterpoints, I pick up second position:

 S:K98 H:A4 D:A10 C:AQ8765
against two players I have never seen before. We are playing a 15-17 notrump, but this hand is definitely too good for 1NT. This feels like about a 19 count to me, so I open 1C: intending to rebid 2NT. LHO overcalls 1H:, partner raises to 2C:, and RHO passes. 3NT seems obvious, and when I bid that, everyone passes.

After fidgeting for a little while, West selects the D:K as his opening lead and I see

S: Q654
H: 10832
D: 5
C: KJ94
S: K98
H: A4
D: A10
C: AQ8765
Partner made an unusual call at his first opportunity; most would make a negative double to try to get the spade suit into the picture. I would then rebid 2NT and we would likely play there, so I probably need to make this contract to get a good board. Actually, I think partner's bid was reasonable. It seems more likely that we have a club fit than a spade fit and the initial raise might be what I need to be able to compete to the three-level. What makes me unhappy, however, is the opening lead. 3NT is cold on the expected heart lead; the diamond has struck a vital blow to my chances.

I have eight tricks on top and only one real chance for another, that's being the spade suit. But before I can set up a spade trick, they will be able to cash at least four diamond tricks and a spade to beat me. I can try to steal my spade trick at trick two by leading the S:9, or I can try the effect of running my clubs. Maybe they will make an error. Without much confidence, I decide upon the latter line. To conceal my diamond holding, I win the first trick. Holding up will be futile, anyway.

I begin the clubs by cashing the King and both opponents follow. Since I want them to make damaging discards, I want to play clubs in order to force the opponent with the singleton to make two discards before his partner makes any. So, I continue with the C:J off the dummy and East shows out, pitching a diamond (yay!) I let this hold and continue with a third round of clubs from the dummy. East pitches another diamond, which is fatal if diamonds are 6-4, and it turns out that I make 3NT when they don't have enough diamonds to cash when I give up the S:A.

Note again the play of the club suit. If East had followed to the second club, I would have overtaken the C:J with the Queen and continued a third round of clubs from my hand, unblocking the Nine from dummy. That way, West would have to make a second discard before seeing any of partner's. Who would think that the play of the hand would revolve around the play of the club suit?

Copyright © 1993 Jeff Goldsmith