Two Interesting Lines
Playing a set match (at IMPs) on OKBridge against very strong
opposition, I am dealt
J1054 KJ653 AQ5 J
Partner is in second chair and opens 1. We
have the bidding to ourselves. I respond 1
and he rebids 1NT. This partner opens very light;
he has emphasized that 12-counts must only invite
opposite his opening bids. Since we are playing
two-way checkback, I bid 2, relaying to 2,
and rebid 2 to show four spades, five hearts,
and invitational values. Partner bids 3. Preference
for hearts makes my hand substantially better, so despite
his failure to bid game, I shall do it. LHO leads a small
trump and I see:
I would have bid his hand differently. I would have
raised 1 to 2 and I would have bid 4
over 2. Despite my preferences for bidding hearts,
I see we've reached the second-best contract. 3NT is cold.
4 looks OK, but it would have been far better without
a trump lead. Upon reflection, showing my spades was foolish.
If partner has four spades and chose not to show them, mine
are not good enough to introduce. Maybe I would have got a
friendlier lead then.
There are nine top tricks in this contract. A tenth can
be made in diamonds much of the time. On any other lead,
I would have expected to be able to ruff a spade in dummy
for ten tricks. Now that will be impossible. On
the other hand, perhaps a dummy reversal will work. If I
can ruff three clubs in hand, I will have three trumps in
dummy, three diamond tricks, three ruffs, and the A
for ten tricks. Entries are a problem; I'll need four
entries to dummy, three to ruff clubs and one to draw the
last trump. Since I can use only two trump entries and
one has been destroyed by the lead, it appears as if I'm
one entry short. But I see a way. I think I shall proceed
with the dummy reversal line.
I win the first trick in dummy, cash the A, and ruff
a club. I might as well exit with a spade to tighten up the
end game, so I play a low spade. LHO wins the 8 and
plays another trump. I win in dummy and ruff
another club. The position is now:
If I cross to the K and ruff the last club,
the opponents will be able to ruff a diamond unless
diamonds are 3-3, then play spades, causing me to
lose two spades, a ruff, and the last diamond. Instead,
I cash two high diamonds from my hand. If the J
drops, I have at least ten tricks, 11 if the person with
four diamonds has the last trump (I can cash all four diamonds,
then make my last two trumps separately). It doesn't drop, but I
have another string to my bow. I lead a diamond toward the
K. If LHO has the last trump, he can't ruff; he'll
just be ruffing a loser. That will allow me to cash my last
diamond and make my two trumps for ten tricks. Alternatively,
if whoever has the last trump also has four diamonds, the
K will hold and I can get two trump tricks for ten
tricks. I don't need an entry to the A, as I shall
have no winners left other than it, so I need not draw trumps.
Of course, if diamonds are 3-3, I have ten tricks.
Unfortunately, the only losing case occurs; RHO ruffs the
K. Now I'm down one, as dummy has three losers and
I only have one trump left. Rats.
Partner notes quickly, "playing spades works." I see that's
true, but the alternative line requires some guesswork.
Instead of playing clubs, at trick two I can play a spade
from dummy. RHO follows small and my J loses to the
A. I win the trump return in dummy and play another
spade. RHO wins the Q. On this, the 8 drops
from LHO. RHO continues with a third trump and LHO pitches
a club. Since trumps are drawn, I can play on diamonds now.
It looks as if LHO is relatively short in spades and is known
to be shorter in trumps than RHO, so it's reasonable to play
diamonds to be 4-2 with length on my left, but there's a better
line. If I cash three rounds of diamonds and they are not
breaking, I can ruff a club to hand and try to guess spades.
My spades are the 10 and 5. The opponents have the K, 9, and 3
left. I'm pretty sure that RHO has the K, so I need
simply to guess whether spades are 3-4 or 4-3. If the former,
I have a good chance to drop the 9 under the 10,
setting up my 5 by force! If the latter, exiting with
the small spade will set up the 10. Getting this guess
right in the endgame is surely better than the difference between
the slightly more likely line in diamonds and cashing the honors,
and, in fact, will probably work. I'd definitely play for the
short spot to set up the 5, just because it's so much
fun to set up the 5. Hmmmm...If I were to take this line,
I should unblock the 5 under the honor on my right so as
to be setting up the 4 to beat the 3!
The latter line has the additional chance that whoever is forced
to win the second spade may not be able to play a third round
of trumps. In that case, I'll get to ruff a spade in dummy after
The full hand was
It turns out that pinning the spade spots works, judging
diamonds works, and the dummy reversal plus Morton's Fork
Coup does not. Rats. Despite the result, I think the
unsuccessful line is best, although it is pretty close.
Copyright © 2001 Jeff Goldsmith