What's Going on?
Playing in the last round of a regional barometer pairs
final, we are in 6th place with a shot at first. Paul
Soloway (the possessor of more masterpoints than anyone,
living or dead) is on my right; he is playing with a client.
The first board out, I pick up as dealer, vul against
A A4 AK983 K8542
I open 1, the client jumps to 2, and
this is passed back to me. What shall I do? We play
negative doubles, so the normal action for me, being
short in their suit, is to double. I think that is
wrong for two reasons. Firstly, if partner has a
heart stack, where are the spades? Probably in
Soloway's hand. I doubt that partner has a stack in
both majors; he'd've bid spades before taking a chance
on passing; for all he knows, we might have a spade
slam. Partner is, however, marked with some length in
hearts because Soloway, white on red, did not raise.
I'd guess that hearts are something like 6-3-2-2 or
6-4-1-2 around the table. We can still have
a game so I must bid, and I think it is clearly best
to bid 3. That could be made on a weaker hand,
but partner knows that I might still be strong and
just have the wrong shape (heart length, perhaps) for
a takeout double. I bid 3, and the auction
proceeds strangely. LHO passes, and partner bids 3,
which Soloway doubles. The bidding has gone:
What is going on? Partner's cue-bid shows a strong hand,
presumably with a fit for one of the minors. What is this
double? It must be for the lead, but he cannot have something
like King doubleton or even singleton King because he would have
bid 3 the previous time. Soloway would not be chicken
to raise his partner for a lead white against red, so what does
he have? Only one solution makes sense: he must be void in hearts
with lots of bad spades and a bad hand. He's expecting us to
get to a minor suit slam and go down on a heart ruff. He's not
bidding spades, which he knows that his partner fits, since both
of us have denied spades, so he must have a second trick somewhere
in the minor suits, probably QJ10x in one of the minors.
What is partner's hand? He must have something like 3-5-1-4
shape or possibly 3-5-4-1, though I suspect a club fit since
he'd be less likely to go for penalties with a hidden fit for my
suit. With 3-5-4-1 and, say, KJxxx, I'd expect him
to bid notrumps rather than pass. Could Soloway have diamonds
wedged and a heart ruff? Yes, he could, but I think he'd pave
the way for a spade sacrifice if he only had one minor. That's
it! He must have a trick or prospective trick in each minor so
that his ruff will not be their only trick. That means LHO has
spades, too, so spades are probably 4-5. LHO must be something
like 4-6-2-1 or 4-6-3-0. I think clubs are splitting very badly,
either 4-1 or 4-0. I know hearts are zip-splitting.
Where will the field be? Probably split between 3NT,
minor suit slams, and spade saves. Minor suit slams are going down. What about
6NT? I am not getting a spade lead, which is bound to doom 6NT,
but will that be good enough? I shall possibly get three heart
tricks, one or two spades, five of one minor and two of the other.
If all that works, I shall make 12 tricks. I'm not sure whether
6NT will make or not, but I suspect that everyone else will
get a spade lead or know that they are getting one, so they
will not bid 6NT. Do they have a save if it does make?
Spades are blocked, so we cannot draw two rounds of trumps early.
If partner has a singleton diamond, we can take one spade, two
diamonds, and maybe a club against spades. We might get another
spade. 7 might or might not be a good save against 6NT.
Will anyone in the field be there? I don't know, but I am sure
some will be in 6 doubled. That might be a good save against
If I bid 3NT, I beat all the people in a minor suit slam going
down. I beat many of the saves, and I get the maximum if 6NT
is going down. If 6NT makes, our opponents will not save against it,
and that would be the maximum. I would not be willing to bet on 6NT
with a spade lead, so I don't think many in the field will bid
6NT, either. The more I think about it, the worse I feel about
6NT. If a heart lead lets me make six, I think I'll win the board
even if I'm in three. That does it. I bid 3NT, which ends the
3 K9762 Q742 A76
Soloway had 7-0-2-4 shape, so all slams were going down.
We have four defensive tricks against spades, so we beat
even those who got six spades doubled three tricks for an
excellent score on the board.
Copyright © 1992 Jeff Goldsmith