Not My Shining Hour
Probably the best hand I ever played got me
zero matchpoints. I found a trump gambit
(unnecessarily losing a trump trick) to
gain two tricks. Unfortunately, we were in
5 doubled down two for a bottom board.
The bidding was more than a trifle optimistic.
Playing in a club game with an expert partner,
Q652 A732 KQ642
Crummy spots, but at least there's the beer.
Partner opens 1NT, 15-17. I'm wondering whether
to show this as a 4144 hand or as four spades and
five clubs when I realize that we don't have a
way to show 4144, so I bid 2. Then I
remember we do have a way. Starting with Stayman
is probably best anyway. Partner bids 2
as expected, so I bid 3. He bids 3,
and I have a problem. If he is 4-4 in the majors,
I want to play 4. On the other hand, if he
has club support, which seems likely, and weak short
diamonds, probably 3424 shape, 6 looks very
promising. So I bid 4; he'll pass with spades
and bid clubs with clubs. He jumps to 6,
ending the auction, and I see that I have been a
hasty overbidder again. No, I'll probably never learn, Bob.
I get the opening lead of the 9 and see
I guess he could have that hand, which means I ought to
have bid 3NT. Make the J the J, however, and 6
looks real good. It sure isn't this time.
I see a bunch of chances, none of them wonderful.
Probably my best hope is for RHO to fly with a
heart honor if I lead them from dummy at trick 2.
Then I can pitch three diamonds away on hearts and maybe
spades are 3-3, there's a squeeze, or maybe short
spades are with a doubleton trump. In any case, I
think my best line is a dummy reversal, so I win the
first trick in dummy and play a small heart. RHO
plays low quickly. Rats.
I ruff in hand and take stock. Since one of the
possible end positions is a diamond-spade squeeze,
I need to rectify the count at some point. Now is
as good as any. So I duck a diamond. Maybe I'll
find KQ tight. That'll simplify the hand a great
deal. And maybe they'll play a heart for me. Or
LHO will fly with Qxxx. Not this time.
LHO plays small. RHO wins the 9 and quickly
continues with the K. Wonderful. At least
that means RHO has both diamond honors; if she also
has four spades, a squeeze may operate in the endgame.
In order to get there, I need to ruff three hearts in
hand and draw trumps. I don't have enough entries to
the table to do that. How about an "unnecessary" finesse
of the 10? That'll give me a third entry to
dummy, two to ruff hearts and one to draw trumps. LHO
is not a skilled player; she'd never think of inserting
the J to foil this plan. No, that's not good enough
anyway. If I play a spade to dummy, ruff a heart, hook
the 10, and ruff a heart, trumps are blocked; I'll
have the stiff K in hand and A8 in dummy.
I'll need to find doubleton J9 onside, because I'll
need to overtake the K.
How about if I ruff two hearts high? Then I'll need to
finesse against both the J and 9, but at
least it's a chance. I'll go down a bunch and look
stupid if it fails, but I just don't see a better line.
No one else will be in 6, so I don't think it
matters how many tricks I take if I don't make it.
Still, I don't enjoy looking stupid. Is there a better
plan? If there is, I don't see it. Pondering.
After a long tank, I still don't see a better option,
so I cross to the K in dummy (LHO plays the 8)
and ruff a heart high. I hook the 8 and cross my
fingers. Yeah, right. RHO looks at me as if I'm crazy,
wins the J, and cashes a diamond. Then she
plays a spade. LHO follows (she had 987), so at
least I don't go down three. I cross to the dummy in
trumps, cash the A, and when it holds, claim on
a high cross-ruff.
Guess how many matchpoints. Yep, none at all. Everyone
else was in 3NT, mostly making five.
We've all heard of hands where one needs to take an
unnecessary trump finesse, but I don't think I've ever
seen a hand before where an unnecessary double finesse
was needed. Very cool. Or it would have been if it
Copyright © 2005 Jeff Goldsmith