A Weird Decision

Playing in the second round of the Grand National Pairs (sorry, "North American Open Pairs" doesn't have the same ring to it, and, yes, I know "national" is a misnomer because Canadians can enter), we are vulnerable against not. In third seat, I hold
 S:A763 H:8654 D:KQJ94 C:
Partner opens 2S:, and RHO passes. Partner's weak two bids are pretty down-the-middle. He always has a six-card suit and a decent hand, so the vulnerability is not that important. My decision here, however, is obvious; I bid 4S:. It might make, it might have no play, and there's no way I can find out about heart shortness, so looking for slam is pretty silly.

The bidding doesn't end there. LHO bids 5H:. I have no idea if he's bidding to make or saving, and I bet neither does he. Unless partner doubles, I plan to go on to 5S:. I also won't know if I'm saving or bidding to make.

Surprise! Partner bids 5S:! RHO passes. What do I make of this? This partner is not one to bid the same cards twice and he long ago learned not to preempt and bid again. So he must have some sort of twist to his hand. That pretty much has to be a heart void. Really? If so, he needs only the S:KQ for us to make a 15-HCP slam! If he doesn't have the heart void, my bidding on will look pretty stupid. After lots of reflection, I decide to trust partner and bid 6S:. All pass.

Partner turns up with

 S:KJ10982 H:D:A C:1097432
When spades are 2-1 and the D:10 falls, he makes a somewhat surprising overtrick.

After the hand, LHO laments that he could have let us play 4S:. Yes, and we would have had half a matchpoint. It could have been worse. At one table, someone in his seat took the profitable 7H: save. When my hand heard a forcing pass, he bid the grand!

Ought I have considered trying for seven? I could have cue-bid 6C:. I would have heard 6D: and would have known that we have no top losers. Might I bid the grand then? For it to be cold, I'd need partner to have S:KQxxxx, a heart void, and the D:A. Add in even one black jack and partner would open 1S:, not 2S:. With a heart void, partner should have enough diamonds for the suit to be likely to run (his actual shape would never occur to me), but he'd still have a fair number of clubs not to have any face cards among them. If partner only has the S:KJ10 (as he did), then we need 2-1 trumps or 3-0 on my left (very unlikely), because we can't draw trumps and ruff two clubs (6 spades plus 5 diamonds means we need two ruffs) without taking a first-round trump finesse. That isn't a good play, and today would blow to a stiff queen. Even with everything else perfect, a first-round diamond ruff wouldn't be a big surprise. So I think, no, I ought not try for a grand.

Our auction was weird enough.

Copyright © 2007 Jeff Goldsmith