Tough Week

It's been a tough week. I've been carefully counting out all the hands and it's done nothing but hurt me. The short hand always has the honor, the obvious play always works if there's a better one based on the count, and once in awhile, I've just done something goofy. As a result, we are playing in a one-session Swiss after losing a KO match. Oddly, we draw much stronger teams in the Swiss than we would have in the KO. Everyone else seemed to have a tough time, too, today.

Both vulnerable, I pick up a decent hand:

 S:85 H:AQ10972 D:42 C:K53.
RHO opens 1D: in front of me. We play a 2H: overcall to show the majors, so I bid 1H:. LHO bids 1S: and partner bids 1NT. That's supposed to show some values, but I don't think game rates to be an issue. Opener supports spades and I have a mild problem. They probably have eight spades and we eight hearts; partner doesn't go out of his way to bid 1NT with a singleton in my suit. I don't want to sell to 2S: with sixteen total trumps, so I bid 3H:. Partner must think this shows a good hand, as he raises me to game. No one doubles, to my surprise.

I get the opening lead of the S:A and see:

S: K63
H: 43
C: Q1042
S: 85
H: AQ10972
D: 42
C: K53

Pass4H:All Pass
This does not look good. We have three aces to lose and the trumps need a lot of luck. The third club is going to be a problem, too, as I expect they'll knock out my only late entry to dummy at trick two.

For now, I just follow low to the first trick. LHO continues with a small spade, and I win the S:K. I need to pick up trumps, so I don't have any choice but to play a trump to the H:10. This passes off, so I have a chance. No honor appeared on my right, so I am playing for 2-3 trumps. West would have shifted to a singleton diamond, so it's safe to use that suit as an entry to dummy. I play a low diamond from hand, and West inserts the D:10. I put on the D:J and East gives this some thought. He finally ducks, playing low from hand. Diamonds appear to be 2-5. Since the spades were bid and supported and these guys play negative doubles, I can work out the entire hand. Since I'm assuming trumps to be 2-3, East has to have 3-3-5-2 shape exactly. For now, I can't do anything but finish drawing trump. Luckily, East had H:KJx, which was by no means a sure thing.

I pitch a small diamond from dummy on the third trump and take stock. If clubs are 5-2, the odds strongly favor a finesse of the C:J, as East surely has the C:A. I don't have to test that now, however; I can continue with a diamond, forcing them to play spades to help confirm my count. East wins the second diamond (West does follow) and exits with the S:J, which I ruff. It seems pretty clear now that East was dealt  S:Jxx H:KJx D:Axxxx C:A?. He does not need the C:J for his opening bid, nor does West need it for his response.

I'm about to finesse the C:10 when, just in time, I see an improvement. I put the C:K on the table. If East wins, I have access to dummy's diamond winner. If he ducks, I'll have a marked finesse on the second round of clubs. As I play low from dummy (perhaps inserting the C:10 would be more poetic as I don't need it anymore!) East goes into a trance. To save time, I face my cards and claim, "if you have ace and one, you are pickled." He folds his cards and gives up. I never find out who had the C:J!

Winning ten tricks was very lucky (for a pleasant change) and we go on to blitz the match.

If East had won the first diamond and played the suit back, the situation would not have changed. I would not have been able to ruff the spade, but once I determine that East has only two clubs, I can force an entry to dummy with the C:Q so as not to lose two club tricks.

Copyright © 2001 Jeff Goldsmith