Three-Way Final

I'm playing in a regional knockout, and for the first time in my life, I'm in a three-way final match. An early error in bracketing (someone miscalculated his team's masterpoints) was compounded by a director's error in trying to fix it. So three teams are left and only one gets to win.

Each of our matches is close at the half, but the third match is not, so we need to win both to win the event. Having to win two six-board matches is dicey—anything can happen in such a short match.

Both red, I deal and I pick up  S:KQ9 H:AK72 D:4 C:AQ1086. I open 1C:. The auction is at the five-level by my next call: 1D:-3C:-5D:. Partner's preemptive 3C: bid red should have some values, but not normally two key cards, so I have no option but to double, which ends the auction.

Partner leads the C:2 (low from odd), and I see

S: A7652
H: J4
D: KQ853
C: 7
S: KQ9
H: AK72
D: 4
C: AQ1086
DblAll Pass
Impressive dummy. But I doubt they'll make it. We are getting at least 200, 500 if declarer has two or more spades. Can we get 800? If declarer has three spades, we can, but there's a big danger that I'll be endplayed after declarer strips the hand and plays a low spade towards his possible S:Jxx. I can avoid this by getting partner in to lead a spade now. The endplay won't work if partner has the S:J, but he probably does not. The only possible entry he can have is the H:Q. I suppose he could have the D:A, but I'm not holding my breath. In order to find out if partner has the H:Q, I win the first trick and shift to the H:K. Declarer plays the three and partner the five. We are playing upside-down carding, so this must show the H:Q. It was nice of declarer to reveal the H:3, but there would have been no holding partner could have and play the H:5 without the queen anyway. From H:1053, he should play the ten; looking at that dummy, it can't be of any value. So I underlead my H:A to partner's H:Q. He goes into the tank. Uh, oh! I led the H:2 back without thinking...maybe that is confusing him? I don't see why it'd matter—what possible thing could I have in mind other than a spade through to break up an endplay? He tanks and he tanks. I worry and I worry. Finally, he smiles; I see the light bulb go on over his head, and he shifts to a spade. Declarer ducks. I win, exit with a trump, and get a second spade trick in the end for +800.

At the other table, the contract was the same, but our declarer got out for 500, so we win 7 IMPs and the match by 7. We win the other match by a little, so we win the event.

I wonder if partner was just tweaking me by thinking so long after winning the H:Q, but after the match, he says to me that he wasn't sure what I had in mind when I put him on lead and it took him a while to figure it out. I'm glad he took the time to get it right.

Copyright © 2009 Jeff Goldsmith