Spectacularly Unsuccessful

It's the first day of the national two-day Swiss, and the match before dinner is sometimes a little hectic. Teams who finish early are chattering about dinner plans, raising the noise level a bit. As dealer, white on red, I pick up a pretty good hand,  S:KQJ953 H:AKQ9 D:Q9 C:K. Four losers is few enough to open 2C:, but this hand is going to be hard to bid, so I start low with 1S:.

That turns out well, as the auction is at the five-level by my next turn. LHO jumps to 3C:, partner raises to 3S:, and RHO leaps to 5D:. What are our chances of a slam? Partner's 3S: can range from a decent single raise up through a bad limit raise, so it is possible that he holds something like  S:Axxx H:xxx D:Kxx C:Axx. I think it'd be pushing a little too hard to try for slam if RHO didn't bid 5D:, but now there's a pretty good chance that partner is short in diamonds. As little as  S:Axx H:xxxxx D:x C:Axxx makes a slam pretty good. Will partner know when to accept? Most of the time, yes, but he might go with two aces and a doubleton diamond. Even then, LHO might have to guess which suit to lead. I think it's close, but I'll make a slam try by bidding 5H:.

Partner provides the fastest signoff in history, and the opponents have nothing more to say, so I get to play 5S:. The opening lead is the C:A, and I see

S: A10842
H: 42
D: 753
C: 742
S: KQJ953
D: Q9
C: K
5H:Pass5S:All Pass
Looks like I bid too much. Partner had his bidding shoes on, too, but I didn't have to get us to the five-level with three losers in their suits. Oh, well. I wonder why I didn't consider doubling the red on white opponents?

Everyone follows to the C:A, and without much thought, LHO continues clubs. That's nice! I follow low from dummy, and RHO puts up the C:J, which I ruff. LHO is not an idiot; in fact, he's a very strong player, so diamonds must be 8-0. I'm sure that with only AQ10 at the top of his suit, LHO, being at unfavorable vulnerability, must have seven clubs. He's surely not 0607, but he could be 1507 or more likely, 2407. It should be pretty easy to endplay him in any case. I start by drawing trumps, which takes two rounds. LHO turns out to have the spades, so he is probably 2407. I cash the top hearts, pitching a diamond from dummy, but the H:J10 don't fall, so I ruff the fourth heart and exit with dummy's last club, pitching a losing diamond. As expected, RHO shows out on this, so I can claim 11 tricks.

This is a textbook loser-on-loser play, so I am quite surprised that the expert declarer at the other table went down. My teammates say that he didn't even try to drop the heart honors, but just claimed down one at Trick 2. How odd.

It didn't really occur to me to double 5D:, but it looks as if we were only getting 200 if I did.

LHO had  S:xx H:Jxxx D:C:AQ10xxxx. I'm glad I wasn't in his chair. My opening lead would likely have been spectacularly unsuccessful.

Copyright © 2014 Jeff Goldsmith