Someone once said that one should not try to obtain the best possible result, but instead, to try for the best result possible. Two hands came up the other day in which setting a goal early allowed me to choose a winning option.

Playing IMP pairs in a mixed field, I deal and pick up:

 S:3 H:KQJ84 D:104 C:J10875
Both sides are vulnerable. I could open this hand 2H: in our style, but I choose not to do so. I pass as does my LHO and partner. RHO opens 1D:, and it is time to set a goal. They can make 4S:, almost certainly, but they may or may not bid it on their own. If they do, I want to know if I should save (I'm probably going to.) My highest priority should be to try to prevent them from bidding game, though. My options at this point are to bid 2NT or 1NT unusual or to bid some number of hearts. I suspect that regardless of what I bid, LHO will bid the next number of spades. RHO will raise him. So 3H: and 2NT are out because that will drive them to 4S:. 4H: might be best; I'll buy it doubled, but I'm not willing to take a -500 just yet. And 4H: could be a disaster. I'm going to bid a boring 1H:. I expect them to bid up to 2S:; hopefully we can prevent a game try from happening by bidding 3H:.

The bidding proceeds as I expect:

Continuing with my plan, I bid 3H:. Momentum carries them to 3S: and the bidding ends there. Not surprisingly, they make an overtrick. We only gain 2 IMPs, but we have averted a disaster.

On the very next board, they are vulnerable and we are not and I pick up in 4th seat:

 S:A2 H:A874 D:A1032 C:1083
LHO deals and opens 1C:, partner bids 2H: (weak) and RHO competes to 3C:. What is my goal on this hand? I think I'd most like to defend 5C: doubled. That'll certainly go down and might get hammered. Barring that, I want to play 4H:, which might make. Most of the bids I have now show heart support and let partner back into the auction. Only one bid bars partner, and since I want to be sure that I can play 5C: doubled, I choose to pick that one, which is 4H:. LHO ``saves'' in 5C: as hoped, and I get to double it. The play goes our way and we net 800 from the carnage. It looks as if 4H: was making, but it wasn't a sure thing.
Copyright © 1994 Jeff Goldsmith