Too Tough

Playing in the semi-finals of a knockout team tournament, we draw Hamman. He doesn't have as good a team as he often does, but any team with Bob Hamman is a force with which to be reckoned. I am out the first half (we have a client in) and show up stuck 22 IMPs. This is going to be difficult.

Late in the second half, my partner has a bidding problem. I deal and, invulnerable, open 1NT, showing 10-12 HCP, balanced. She holds

 S:QJ5 H:AKJ D:KQJ10 C:A95

That's a pretty good hand. We have 31-33 HCP, so slam is definitely in the picture. I could have a five-card major or four (or even three!) diamonds, so she chooses to ask for my distribution. The bidding proceeds:


2D: was game-forcing relay Stayman. 3C: and 3H: were relays. I showed exactly 3-3-2-5 distribution with my actions. What now?

Any slam but 6NT is out; 4NT would be natural and invitational here, but is that right? What hand can I have that would make slam a good bet? How about  S:Kxx H:xxx D:Ax C:KQxxx? No chance; I'd open that 1C:, since the good five-card suit and all primes makes the hand a little too good for a 10-12 NT. About the only hand I can think of that makes 6NT good is  S:A10x H:xxx D:Ax C:QJ10xx. Playing for rare specific hands (sorry, we can't ask about club spots) seems wrong, so she passes 3NT.

I actually held  S:K109 H:Q53 D:A7 C:K7652. I have 12 HCP, giving us 33 HCP. No slam has any play. We score up +460, and expect to gain 11 IMPs on the hand. I note that I thought about opening 1C: on this hand and consider it to be a maximum 1NT opening.

The 11 IMPs are not to be. At the other table, the auction went

My handPartner's hand

An astonishing push. After the comparison, we walk by Hamman's table and hear him mutter, "33 points and no one bids slam. This game is getting too tough."

We end up losing the match by 3 IMPs. 22 IMPs was just too tough to recover.

Jeff Goldsmith,, Jan. 2, 1997