And Underruffing

Playing in the first round of a Midnight Swiss with five-minute boards, we draw probably the second best team in the event. We have started late, so I have little time to think when I pick up this gem:
S: J109765
H: 10943
D: ---
C: 876
H: AQJ75
D: J1062
C: J10
The bidding is as brief as it is inaccurate. I open 1H: and my partner jumps to game. 4S: looks a lot better as is normally the case when a weak hand has a long suit, but 4H: is certainly playable, and getting to game is a triumph, provided, of course, that I make it.

The bad guys lead a diamond, which I think is good for them. Tapping dummy may make the spades useless, but I must win the first trick with a low trump on the board anyway. This is as good a time as any to take the spade finesse. Who knows, those things don't always not work. Surprise! This time the Queen holds. I cash the Ace and unfortunately, the King does not drop. It must be right to ruff a diamond to dummy and set up spades. I ruff the third spade with the Queen, hoping to be overruffed, because I might then have a reentry to dummy in trumps, but the Queen holds.

I can now ruff a diamond and lead a good spade from dummy, but I think that will mess up my planned end position, so I exit with a club. They take their two clubs and continue with a third, which I ruff in hand. Now I ruff a diamond and ruff another spade with the seven. If it holds, I am cold by continuing with a low heart, but West overruffs and goes into the tank with these cards remaining:

S: J10
H: 10
D: ---
C: ---
S: ---
H: AJ5
D: ---
C: ---
He finally plays a club which I ruff in dummy and underruff in hand with the five. The lead of a spade from dummy allows me to take the trump finesse successfully one more time and I manage 10 tricks for a big swing on the board and a close win in the match.

This position of the underruffing grand coup at trick 11 is very rare. I had only seen it before in Terence Reese's classic Master Play at Bridge, and feel very lucky to encounter one in real life.

Copyright © 1992 Jeff Goldsmith