Playing in a national Open Pairs, our opponents are
not at the table for the beginning of the round. They
show up, looking sheepish, seven minutes into the 15-minute
round. We say, "not to worry, we play fast." The first
board is trivial and takes a minute or two. The second
board isn't and takes longer.
I deal myself 86 K95 AQ963 K85. I open 1,
and over partner's 1, rebid the obvious 1NT. Partner
bids 2, which we play as an artificial game force.
I could rebid 2NT, but I see no good reason not to emphasize
my good five-card suit, so I bid 3. Partner raises to
4 and I have a bidding problem. I think we are more
or less committed to slam now; 3NT is surely playable. My
hand has sterile shape, but the high card structure seems
suitable for a high-level contract, so I keep the ball rolling
with 4. Partner ends proceedings with 6NT, and I wonder
if this bidding made any sense.
Answer: not really. The opening lead is the 7.
Dummy's shape is also sterile, but at least we have lots of aces
and kings. That's not the same as lots of tricks, though.
Assuming I can bring in the diamonds, I have one spade, two hearts,
five diamonds, and two clubs, for ten tricks. I don't like that
7. If it's shortness, I'm going to need the heart finesse
and a black suit squeeze, which doesn't feel real likely.
I'll need to rectify the count, and maybe it's an honest fourth
best (yeah, right), so I insert the 10 from dummy. Wonder of
wonders, it holds. Maybe spades are 3-3 onside...in that case, I
don't even need to bring home diamonds. I cross to the A
and take another spade finesse, which wins. LHO obligingly plays
the 9 rather than the card he was known to hold, so when RHO
follows, I know spades are 4-2. If diamonds come home, I'm up to
twelve tricks. Maybe partner's bidding wasn't so bad after all.
Let's see what's going on in diamonds. I cash the K, and
everyone follows. Mike Flader (a national tournament director)
is hovering; we are now one minute into the next round. I look
at him, and he just nods, suggesting that he knows the opponents
arrived late and I'm to carry on.
I have twelve tricks right now. I can take the heart hook for
the overtrick, but I won't do that, because if the finesse is
working, I don't need to take it. LHO will be squeezed on the
run of the minor suit winners, so I'll be able to drop a doubleton
Q offside. I don't think that's real likely, though. If
LHO had five hearts, he'd've led one at trick one. Let's run a
few more tricks and see what happens. I can always fall back on
that line later. I cash the A and RHO pitches a heart, as
do I. I play another diamond, and RHO shows out, pitching a club.
One more diamond gets a heart from LHO and a club from RHO, as I shuck a
spade from dummy. The position is now
LHO had seven diamonds and spades and RHO only four. A priori,
that means that RHO is 9-6 to hold the Q. Their discards have
not suggested that RHO doesn't have it, so I'm going to play him for
it. I cross to the A, come back to the K, and cash the
last diamond. If RHO has the Q, I'll have a double squeeze
around clubs for the overtrick. The opponents struggle with their
discards on the last diamond, each pitching clubs reluctantly, and
as RHO does have the Q, I make all thirteen tricks for a fine
We are three minutes into the next round as I hand the score slip to
the opponents to sign. Flader murmurs to me, "nicely played," as he
hurries them along to the next table.
Copyright © 2006 Jeff Goldsmith