Only One Club Will Do
Playing in a unit game (matchpoints), I pick up
a fairly normal-looking hand and reach a normal
3NT might have been a little precipitous, but partner
believes in making a support double nearly always, so
I am pretty confident that he doesn't have three hearts.
A slow auction might tip off the defense, so I just bid
what's in front of my face.
The opening lead is a bit of a surprise, the K.
That's remarkably inconvenient. On a spade lead, I'd
make 11 or 12 tricks without breathing hard. I doubt
this is a common lead unless the opening leader also
has the 10. Even then, most will likely get a
There's no point in ducking the first trick, and the
J could come in handy later. If I can pick up
the clubs, I have 11 tricks and since LHO surely has
the K, I can strip-squeeze him to lead into
my spade tenace.
Entries are a major problem. I only have two sure
entries to my hand. I'll need one to take the club
finesse, but I want to keep the spades intact for
the endgame. So I lead to the A at trick two.
How shall I tackle the clubs? I can pick up the
suit if LHO has either king doubleton or singleton
king. If he has king doubleton, I need to unblock
the jack and the eight on the first two rounds of
the suit. If he has stiff king, I can't afford to
play the jack, so only the 8 will do on the
first round of the suit. In theory, I can pick up
singleton ten or nine on my right, but LHO appears
to be long in spades and diamonds, so I don't want
to give up stiff king for those.
There's yet another complication. If LHO has the
singleton K, there's no problem, but if he
has two clubs, how do I get back to my hand to
cash the top hearts before throwing LHO in to
lead from the K? I can't, so I must cash
them now. This may lead to extra undertricks, but
I don't expect many got the K lead, so if
I lose a club trick, I'm getting a zero anyway. The right
play must be to cash the high hearts pitching spades,
and lead the 8 from hand.
LHO turns out to have the singleton K, so my
plan works out. I cash out all the clubs and in
the three-card end-position, throw LHO in with the
K to give me two spade tricks for twelve in
all and an excellent matchpoint score. My care
in cashing the hearts first wasn't needed, nor for
that matter, was the unblock of the 8.
Unblocking specifically an eight from J86 is a
pretty unusual play. Despite its not having been
necessary on the lie of the cards, it was still
Copyright © 2006 Jeff Goldsmith