I'm playing in a club game with a good player in an
inexperienced partnership against weak opposition.
We are having fits and starts, when I pick up
J103 A1086 QJ5 AK9
This looks like a strong notrump, which we are playing,
so I open 1NT. Partner transfers to spades and bids 2NT,
giving me a bit of a problem. Bidding game seems wrong,
so my choice is between playing 2NT and 3. The
shape suggests notrump, but the aces and spades suggest
spades. Notrump would probably be better at the game
level, but in a partscore, we may not have enough stuff
to get the spades going in time. On the other hand,
partner could have bid Stayman and rebid 2 to
suggest an unbalanced invitational hand with five spades.
It's close, but opposite a balanced hand, 4333 should
elect notrump, I think, and I feel like playing notrump,
so I pass.
The opening lead is a small club and dummy is not what
The field is going to be in 4. Partner has
underbid by a fair bit. I would have transferred
to spades and bid diamonds. Then my hand would
choose spades. On the other hand, they haven't made
4 yet. I haven't made 2NT, either. I think
4 rates to make; it will go down only if
spades are bad and the diamond finesse is off. I
have to hope that spades are wedged.
I play low from dummy and win East's Q with
the K. I want them to know I have the AK;
if West wins a trick, I would like him to be afraid to
I have nothing to do but set up my diamond tricks
now. I hope the finesse loses, but I don't have
any sensible alternative. West covers my Q,
unfortunately, and I win. The good news is that
I'm up to eight tricks. The bad news is that 4
I could play on hearts now, playing spades to be
breaking poorly, but if they win a heart and continue
clubs, I won't know whether to chance a second heart
finesse. It must be better to find out what's going
on in spades. If East has a doubleton honor, I may
be able to run the suit; if he flies with the Q,
I'll know he has both honors. Otherwise, I might be
able to duck a trick to West. Maybe he won't continue
clubs. I play a small spade from dummy and East plays
the 8 to my J and West's Q. West
immediately continues with the K. That's friendly.
I'm up to nine tricks now. I win the A as East
pitches a club.
I lied. I'm up to ten tricks. Under the A, I
unblock the 10. I continue with the 7
from dummy, driving out the 9 and shortly claim
ten tricks: three spades, one heart, four diamonds, and
Oddly, the field has managed to go down in 4.
Not a single pair made it. +180 is a cold top. I'm
not sure how they managed to go down. Maybe they just
slammed down the ace of trumps and lost three spades
and a heart?
The unblock of a winner to set up the spade suit seems
to me to be an unusual play. It must come up in other
guises, but I think this is the first time I've ever
seen this particular combination. This is the spade
suit after a trick was lost to the Q:
When West played the K, I can always run the
suit with one loser, but unblocking saves an entry
to dummy, which, in this case, was needed.
Copyright © 2001 Jeff Goldsmith