Playing in a national pairs event, I am fourth to speak
64 A954 KJ432 A3
Partner opens 1 and I respond 1. He rebids
1, and I have a choice to make. With a hand which
looks suit-oriented and only a single heart stop, I think
I'll take a two-step to 3NT via the fourth suit, which we
play as forcing to game. So I bid 2. It gets
doubled on my left; partner then bids 3. My slow
route will allow partner to pull 3NT now if his hand is
unsuitable, so I bid 3NT. It seems that his hand is
unsuitable for 3NT because he bids 4.
What now? If 3NT was making four or more, we need to play slam
to get a decent score. Is 430 available? LHO didn't overcall
1; he might with five decent hearts and an entry. If he
has only four hearts, then 3NT will make only three unless we
have no side loser. So 5 might score well even if we
make six. In addition, I have a minimum for my previous
bidding, so I see no reason not to bid 5.
Partner has a surprise in store for me. He finds a call
that I was not expecting: 4NT. Ruh, roh. The director is
summoned and whips out the rule book. We all know this one,
but there are a few complications. He says, "normally, you
can correct your bid to 5NT and not bar partner, but in this
case, 4NT would have been conventional, so even if you do that,
he is still barred. So you can make any call you like, but
he must pass." Partner insists that his 4NT would have been
natural, since we had just bid 3NT. I'm a bit dubious about
that, but I don't need to argue the point. I contribute, "in any
case, 5NT surely is conventional, so no matter what you choose,
I shall be barred. And remember Law 23if they are damaged
by my enforced pass, the score may be adjusted." Partner
doesn't care. He wants to bid notrump, so he bids 5NT and,
of course, there we rest.
LHO finds the 9 lead (odd...I assumed he would lead
a heart), and this dummy hits:
At least I now understand why partner wanted to bid 4NT so
much. He ought to have bid it instead of 4.
5NT isn't much of a contract, but it's not so bad without
a heart lead. I don't think there's much to the play. I'll
need to pick up clubs, and when I give up a club trick, they'll
surely switch to hearts, so I need to unblock diamonds first.
If all goes well, I'll take three spades, one heart, five
diamonds, and four clubs. They will have taken one trick
by then, so that looks like a reasonable line to twelve tricks.
Following that plan, I win the spade and cash two diamonds.
LHO shows out on the second one, pitching the 6.
Curious. I don't need the fifth diamond if clubs come
home...does the 5-1 diamond break mean anything about how
to play clubs? It looks as if LHO has three or four spades
and four or five hearts. He has between three and five clubs.
Which is it? RHO probably gave count in spades at trick one;
if so, the opening leader has four spades. He doesn't have
very good hearts, at most KJ10xx. He probably would
not have overcalled with xxxx KJ10xx x Kxx. He might
not have doubled 2 with only four hearts; for all he
knows, I could be 6-5 in diamonds and hearts and we could
have an 8-card heart fit. Maybe he has six hearts and
chose not to preempt. It's hard to say, but clubs look
like they are 3-3. More importantly, if I am wrong by
playing for them to be 3-3, I can still make 5NT if things
go right, but if I'm wrong having played them to be 4-2
(by finessing the 9), I think I must surely go down.
So I cash the A and play a club
to the Q. Neither the K nor the 10
appears, so I still don't know how they broke. I have
ten tricks and probably 11 since I think the J is
dropping, but without a fifth diamond trick, I am not
making six no matter what, so I continue with a third club.
RHO shows out, pitching a heart. Rats. Got that one wrong.
LHO shifts to the J and RHO overtakes with the Q.
How friendly! Were hearts 6-1 the whole time? That would
give LHO 2614 shape, which is quite consistent with the play
so far, but would he really not bid over 1 with that
hand? Wait a sec...RHO pitched a heart on the clubs. So
LHO was 3514. RHO is winning the heart, so I can safely duck
this trick, since his partner has the good club. I ought to
be able to squeeze RHO in diamonds and spades now. LHO glares at his
partner. RHO sheepishly returns another heart (What??? Where
did he get that?) and I win. Unless these guys are playing a
very deep game, I have a claim now; LHO is going to be squeezed
in hearts and spades, since he was obviously 4414. It's sort of
a double squeeze, since RHO needs to guard diamonds, but since
he can't have a fourth spade, that doesn't matter. I cash my
two diamonds and LHO starts to think. There has been enough
agony on this hand already, so I just claim, showing him my
cards, and he gives up. He had led from J983 and was
squeezed on the last diamond.
The director has been hanging around, because it took almost
ten minutes to work out the ruling. The play wasn't exactly
lightning-fast, so he tells us we have a late play on the
I tell partner that if (when?) our score is adjusted to
5 down one, I'm going to smack him. He should have
known better than to bid 5NT. If we get a good score there,
we are not going to be able to keep it. If he really wanted
to play notrump, he ought to have bid six. And so it is...after
the next round, the director comes back and informs us that
he is adjusting the score to -50 in 5. Upon reflection,
that seems generous to me. I'd've probably gone down two,
but since I made 11 tricks in 5NT, I guess he figured they
would not find a good defense. We don't have time to
discuss it with him, and -50 is probably a zero anyway,
so I don't think anyone really cares. And frankly, I'm not
thinking about 5 much...with what shall I
Copyright © 2004 Jeff Goldsmith