The Only Chance

I'm playing in a regional KO with a partner who is sound, but with whom I have no partnership. We have spent maybe five minutes discussing system and less than that on general bidding style. That's still no excuse for a bid I perpetrated, but sometimes these things work out.

At unfavorable vulnerability in first chair, I deal myself

 S:93 H:K8 D:AQJ86 C:AQ43
Probably I ought to open 1NT to simplify the auction, but I've had lots of success opening these hands 1D:. Since I also think that's the right bridge action, I do it, notwithstanding some reservations that we could easily get out of our systemic comfort zone. LHO overcalls 1H:, and partner bids 1S:, showing five or more spades. RHO jumps to 3H:, and I have a problem. The "right" action is to double, showing extra values with no clear direction, but I am not confident that partner will think I have what I have. Perhaps I ought to pass. After all, if I discount the H:K, I'm looking at a 13-count. On the other hand, if I don't bid 3NT now, we aren't getting there, and if the auction goes 1NT-3NT at the other table, I don't want to lose a game swing to them. I talk myself into bidding 3NT (twist my arm!) and there the auction ends.

Dummy is a disappointment. Partner even apologizes for it.

S: KJ642
H: 1032
D: 1072
C: J6
S: 93
H: K8
D: AQJ86
C: AQ43
3NTAll Pass
The opening lead is the H:4. A bit belatedly, I ask if 3H: was preemptive or a limit raise. "A limit raise." Ulp. So I had a clue to shut up and didn't use it. This could be bloody. I glance at the opponents' convention card and see that they lead fourth best. Hearts are apparently 4-4. That's nice. At least I'm not down before I start. I play low from dummy, RHO wins the H:A and continues with the H:5, further confirming that hearts are 4-4.

What will it take to make this? I need five diamond tricks, two clubs, and one in each major. That means that I need to place RHO with the minor suit kings along with his H:A. That doesn't leave much for LHO's overcall, just the H:QJ and the S:AQ. I shall need at least one entry to dummy to take the diamond finesse. The S:K will supply one. I could make then by leading a diamond to the queen, dropping the D:K doubleton, crossing back to the D:10, and taking a club hook. That seems like a long shot. Is there anything better? What if I lead to the S:J, run the D:10 (unblocking the D:8 just in case there was stiff nine offside), take another diamond finesse, clear diamonds, and exit spades. LHO will be able to cash her hearts, but someone will have to lead clubs for me. Alternatively, I could play her for doubleton S:A and hope she errs by ducking the first spade. Probably she won't do that; I sure have given her enough time to think about the hand. She'll also might be able to reach partner in hearts. All in all, since my card placing has put the S:Q onside and I think that's the best chance anyway, I'll play for that.

I lead a spade to the jack and it holds. Hooray! I try the D:10, which holds, but no D:9 appears. Another small diamond to the queen holds (there's that 9!). The D:A clears the suit. I might as well run the diamonds. Someone might pitch something useful, but probably they won't. I can let go a couple of spades from dummy without any difficulty. Nothing interesting happens, so I lead a spade towards the table. LHO cashes her two hearts and exits with a club and I take the last two tricks to make my contract. I guess I didn't need the club finesse after all, but it was onside, as expected.

Good took roughly five finesses, a 4-4 break, and a 3-2 break. OK, it's a little better than that, but not much.

Note that I could not make the hand by leading to the S:K. When I was done with my diamonds, LHO would have four tricks to cash, though if she had the C:K, she'd be strip squeezed. Since I decided RHO needed that card for his limit raise, this line was the only chance.

Copyright © 2007 Jeff Goldsmith