A Surprise

I'm playing a cut-around IMP game. Partner and I have no special agreements, and neither do the opponents. In fourth seat, I pick up
 S:AK53 H:A42 D:K9 C:J862
Our 1NT is 15-17, so this hand clearly qualifies. LHO passes, and partner transfers to hearts. RHO passes, and I have nothing special, so I accept the transfer. Now, LHO chimes in with 2S:. Partner bids 3D: and RHO passes. I don't know if partner thinks 3D: is competitive, invitational, or forcing, but I don't care and just bid the heart game. Even if partner was just competing, 4H: should have some play.

The opening lead is the S:10, and I see

H: KJ753
D: A7542
C: 1093
S: AK53
H: A42
D: K9
C: J862
All Pass
Looks like partner was forcing. Despite the favorable lead, this contract isn't cold. On a club lead, I'd need both red suits to break, a heart finesse, and some racing luck. Luckily, I got a spade lead.

It looks as if LHO has six spades. He didn't lead a singleton club, so I doubt both red suits are breaking. He could have queen doubleton in hearts and three diamonds, giving him 6232, but other than that one case, I'm going to have to deal with a bad break or two. If hearts are 3-2 and diamonds 4-2, how about cashing two high trumps, ruffing a diamond, and giving up a diamond? That will work, but if trumps are 4-1, I'll need diamonds 3-3, and if they aren't, the hand will explode on me. If hearts are 3-2 and diamonds 4-2, I think I can make by ruffing with dummy's small trumps, since that means that clubs are probably 3-3, and I'll be able to ruff three times in dummy while RHO follows to two clubs and a spade. That'll give me six trump tricks and two ace-kings. A crossruff line looks as if it can handle bad breaks better than the straightforward line, so I embark on that approach. The first step surely must be to cut communication between the defenders and establish my own, so I exit with a small club.

Weirdness is perpetrated. LHO thinks for a bit and plays the C:Q. RHO immediately overtakes this with the ace and continues with the seven. I cover, of course, and LHO, looking a little annoyed, gives up his king. My clubs are good! I ruff and wonder what's going on. Surely LHO is 6-4 in the blacks. If he's 2-1 in the reds, I can play two rounds of trumps and run the minors. If he's 1-2 in the reds, I need to cash no more than one trump, but I can pitch diamonds on clubs. Even if he's 2-1, I can afford to cash the H:A and play a winning club, so I cross back to hand with the trump ace.

Surprise! LHO shows out. So he's 6034. RHO didn't double 4H:? Huh? He has three surprise trump tricks, an ace, and his partner bid, and he didn't double? Amazing. No one plays the cards that well; he was probably just asleep at the switch.

The position is

H: KJ7
D: A7542
S: Q9x
D: Jxx
C: xx
S: x
H: Q1098
D: Qxx
S: 53
H: 42
D: K9
C: J8
and just about anything will work. The simplest approach is to ruff a spade, cash the high diamonds, and ruff a diamond. I have eight tricks in (two spades, one high heart, two diamonds, two ruffs in dummy, and a ruff in hand), and I just exit with a (winning) club. RHO is down to all trumps, so he has to ruff and lead into dummy's KJ bare. Ten tricks.

I guess LHO was right not to double after all, but if he had, his partner probably would have found the killing club lead. He should reason that partner is not playing him for multiple tricks (he passed his first two times), so it's a good idea to let him know the location of the trick he has. I wouldn't have had much of a chance after that.

At the other table, the five trumps did double, but on a different auction, and his partner still didn't find a club lead (why not?). Despite that, declarer managed to go down a trick to let us win 11 IMPs.

Copyright © 2011 Jeff Goldsmith