The Drillers

Playing in a two-session unit party, one of my teammates and I are discussing the weakness of the field. I tell her that one way to judge a field is to listen to the room. Experts rarely snap their cards or drill them into the table; beginners usually do. I don't know why, but that's the way it is. This room sounds like a popcorn machine.

Playing in the last match after dinner, we encounter a pair I've not seen before. They drill their cards into the table harder than I've ever seen. Their elbows are above their ears! I assume they are very weak players. If they played a lot of bridge, they'd have shoulders like NFL lineman.

I pick up my best hand of the day.

 S:AQ764 H:AK9 D:AKQJ4 C:
I don't like to open two-suiters 2C:, but this hand makes game opposite a 3334 Yarborough. For that matter, partner may pass 1S: with nondescript hands laydown for a grand. It's not long before I regret my choice.
2D: was waiting, and we do not have a 2nd negative at the four-level. Partner is a good player, but he and I don't have a lot of detailed agreements; if I were to try 5NT, I assume he would sign off in 6S: without two high spades. I am pretty sure he doesn't have them. I don't see a scientific way to avoid slam, despite partner's possibly having a 2344 Yarborough, which would not yield much play. If he has that, we need to be in 6D:, I guess. Maybe that's what I ought to bid. I'm going to be more optimistic than that, though, and try for the grand. My plan is to cue 5C: and then raise 5S: to slam. If partner has a high trump and a little something, I think he'll know to go on. If partner tanks before signing off in 5S:, I'll have a problem, but I think I can convince a committee that passing 5S: is not an option. In any case, partner almost certainly has an automatic 5S: bid, so a tank is unlikely to happen.

Partner does bid the expected 5S: in tempo. Something I didn't consider happens. RHO doubles. With feeling. She obviously thinks she's beating this a lot. There's no way she's ever heard of a Stripe Tailed Ape double—she thinks we are nailed. Maybe I ought to run to 6D:? Or redouble? Hmm. I honestly have no idea what to do. I was about to bid a slam, not having any idea if it was right, and my opponent is sure I can't make five. After a little consideration, I finally judge to pass. Maybe I'll save five IMPs against slam doubled going down at the other table. Maybe she got me. We shall see.

Everyone passes. RHO looks very surprised and wants to bid again. "But he (my partner) bid 5S: after I doubled 5C:!" Yup, she got me. She thought she was doubling 5C:. No wonder she was so sure. Dummy comes down with

 S:J8532 H:QJ7 D:82 C:864
I ruff the club lead, cross to dummy in hearts and take a spade finesse. They are 2-1 with the S:K onside, so I made two doubled overtricks. Lose four IMPs.

I've never before seen a true Stripe Tailed Ape double. This one had the extra merit of being extremely convincing. RHO knew she was beating the contract she doubled. How could I disbelieve her?

Copyright © 2005 Jeff Goldsmith