Stepping Lightly

I enjoy playing 1NT. Early in the play, the defenders are usually very much in the dark about the hand. Lots of pretty deceptions and end positions eventuate from early missteps by the bad guys.

Playing in a large matchpoint event with a mixed field, I sit down against a pair I've never seen before. LHO opens 1C:, partner overcalls 1D:, RHO bids 1S:, and I end the auction with 1NT.

I buy a surprisingly good dummy. With partner's hand, I would have raised to 2NT, but since my 1NT call was a bit of an overbid, I am glad we are safely in one.

S: KJ4
H: J6
D: AK874
C: K76
S: Q865
H: A1093
D: 92
C: J98
Perhaps partner is used to my competitive 1NT bids and knew not to continue. Maybe he was just sleepy. All is well, though, and I am graced with the H:2 opening lead. This has the unfortunate effect of knocking out my only sure hand entry early. I'll have to rely on the S:Q later. I play low from dummy and East contributes the Queen. I win and fire back a heart. West hops up with the King and continues the suit. While this has helped me with entries, I don't feel comfortable about discarding from the dummy so soon. I obviously cannot afford a black card, so I toss a diamond. Hopefully, they won't break and I will be ahead of everyone. I don't want to squeeze dummy any further, so I continue with a spade to the King, which holds. I exit with a low diamond to my Nine and West's Jack. It looks as if he has both diamond cards and the spade Ace. That means the he has the club Queen and his partner the Ace, unless she has responded on total cheese. It's still possible, though. After a little thought, the presumed 12-count continues with another heart. I don't need the third club from dummy anymore, so I win and pitch a club from dummy. On the second spade, up pops the Ace as expected. Since neither the 9 or 10 was doubleton, I can't afford to unblock. Still unwilling to continue clubs, he continues with the D:Q and I win.

Diamonds turn out to be 3-3 when I cash the other high diamond, so on the fourth diamond, East is squeezed in an interesting way.

S: J
H: ---
D: 7
C: K7
S: ---
H: ---
D: ---
C: ?xxx
S: 109
H: ---
D: ---
C: ?x
S: Q8
H: ---
D: ---
C: J9
I am going to pitch the small club anyway, but East has a problem. She obviously can't pitch a club honor or a spade, so she stiffs her club honor. If her club is the Ace, then I can cash the S:J and continue with a club, steppingstoning my way to the S:Q. But I really hope that her club is the Queen, because then her parnter will be in a dilemma. He can either let the club hold, letting my steppingstone work anyway, or he can overtake, winkling a trick for the C:K. To my dismay, she had the Ace and diamonds were 3-3 all the time, so I got myself an average for +150.
Copyright © 1993 Jeff Goldsmith