The Declarer (Floyd McWilliams' Blog)

Thursday, September 26, 2002

A week ago today I was at a surprise birthday party for my friend Joel Singer. Joel and his wife Melissa moved to Ann Arbor last year, and were in town for a wedding. We played a few hands of bridge. I was partnered with my friend Scott Benson, playing the Caroline Club; Joel was at my right. There was a hand where I played well, and another that was not-so-well.

On the first hand I am in fourth chair. There is no vulnerability in this informal game. (Some of the spots are invented; where this is done they are irrelevant.)





LHO passes, Scott passes showing 9 or fewer HCP, Joel passes. Caroline Club is a strong club system, so all strong hands are opened with 1C. In first and second seat "strong hand" means 16 or more HCP; in third and fourth chair all bids are two points stronger so 18 points are needed. This hand has 17 but the five-card suit and controls make it worth more. So I open 1C.

LHO passes and partner responds 1S. This shows five or more hearts and game forcing values, say a good 7 to 9.

I could bid 4H right away but slam is possible opposite a stiff club. I don't want to bid my spade suit; we have a already found a good fit and concealing the long suit may help during the play. So I bid 2H.

Scott bids 3C, which is not what I want. 4H.

A low diamond is led and dummy appears:





I cash two rounds of diamonds and cross to the ace of clubs for a club pitch on the diamond queen. I want to ruff clubs, so I lead ace and another club. RHO wins the second round with the queen.

RHO returns a middle spade. I rise ace and ruff a spade low. RHO follows with the ten. Unless he's fooling around he has another spade. Now I ruff a club with the seven. RHO plays the queen and LHO the jack, so my last club on the table is good.

I ruff another spade with the six of trumps. RHO plays the king on this trick.

At this point I have eight tricks in and need two of the last four.
Dummy has S- HJT8 D- C2
I have SQ9 HA3 D- C-.

I have a 100% play for the 10th trick: I ruff the master club with the ace of trumps and lead my last trump. If LHO plays an honor that sets up a trick for the JT. When he plays low, I play the jack. RHO (Joel) wins and is endplayed. He had KQ9x over dummy so careful handling was required.

Now, sadly, we pass to the not so clever side. I hold





Scott passes (showing 0-9, remember). Joel opens 2H weak. I pass (opposite a 0-9 hand bidding 3C is crazy, though I could understand it at matchpoints). All pass and it's my lead.

I start with my stiff diamond and dummy appears:





Dummy plays small and Scott plays the ten. Declarer wins with the queen. It looks like Scott had AJT of diamonds. Rising ace to give me a ruff would be wrong as he can't have a reentry.

Joel plays a spade to the ace and leads a trump down. I duck. He goes to dummy with the other spade honor, but this time he leads a club to his king. I win the ace and play a spade.

Joel ruffs and plays the heart king. I win and am at the crucial point. I don't want to be thrown in later so I cash the heart queen and exit with my last spade.

Disaster! Joel leads the nine of clubs. Cashing the last spade set up a winkle! If I duck, Scott is endplayed with the jack -- he has only diamonds left and must play ace and a diamond. I have only clubs left, so rising queen sets up dummy's nine of clubs and I must exit a club.

The correct play was to cash the club queen after the heart queen. Now I can exit with the last spade. Joel has only trumps and diamonds, and must lead diamonds out of his hand to go down one.



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