Try, Try, Again

Playing in a sectional Swiss, I deal and pick up a pretty good hand.
 S:AJ8 H:AQ98 D:A10 C:AQ53
This seems right on the borderline between 2NT (20-21) and 2C: followed by 2NT. If partner has a queen and a jack, 3NT is going to be no bargain, so I don't upgrade. Partner, after a little thought, bids 3NT, and LHO leads the S:4. As partner puts down dummy, he says, "I bid 3NT on a hand very similar to this recently. It didn't work out." That's encouraging.
S: 1092
H: J4
D: QJ732
C: 1092
S: AJ8
H: AQ98
D: A10
C: AQ53
So much for my reasoning about a queen and a jack. At least it looks like I was on target: 3NT is no bargain.

I play low from dummy, and RHO puts up the S:Q. It seems right to start diamonds. They'll probably duck two rounds, but maybe I can get a feel for how things break by then. I expect accurate count, at least from whoever does not have the D:K, so I can judge whether to overtake the D:10. LHO high-lows to show an even number on the diamonds, so I don't overtake, and after a little thought, RHO ducks the second diamond. It seems pretty clear that he has Kxxx.

So I now have two spades, two easy hearts, two diamonds, and one club. I'm going to have to get tricks out of both clubs and hearts at some point. I'd prefer to start clubs from dummy, so I lead the H:8. LHO thinks for a moment and plays small. I think this is a real hezzie, not a deceptive one. Since it looks as if he has the H:K, I rise with the H:J, which holds. I could play clubs now, but I think it's stronger to lead a high diamond from dummy. When RHO covers, I discard the S:J! That breaks up a one-suit squeeze of sorts against me in spades. If RHO had continued spades, I would have had a Hobson's choice; if I put up the S:J, LHO would duck, and if I don't, he'd win and clear the suit. RHO does, in fact, continue spades, but LHO is now forced to win and lead one of the suits I need played. In practice, he continues with a club. I put up the C:10 from dummy, but it's covered with the C:J. I win and lead toward dummy's other club spot. That loses, and a club comes back. I win, and am pleased to see that clubs were 3-3. I cash another club to reach this position:

S: 10
H: 4
D: Q
H: AQ9
I have seven tricks in (one spade, one heart, two diamonds, and three clubs), and I know LHO has the H:K, so I place the H:Q on the table. LHO wins and thinks for a second, but I face my cards, and he folds. Making three.

It turns out that the cards lay so well for me that nearly anything would have worked; LHO held  S:K7643 H:K105 D:86 C:764. If I had seen the opponents' cards, I could easily have made an overtrick. This line, however, was very pretty; it included attempts to take advantage of all dummy's high spot cards, a cute unblock, and a nifty endplay at the end.

Copyright © 2010 Jeff Goldsmith