Ted's Bridge World Dante's Infernal

For Better and For Worse

Sometimes your partner does something right.  In this week's Wednesday Pairs, my own partner engineered an auction that was imperfect, but imaginative:

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Having denied possession of the trump queen, partner forced me to a slam anyway.  In retrospect, I can think of only one situation where that could make sense: he didn't feel that the queen was needed!  The only possibility is that he has an 8-card suit and expects it to run anyway (89%).  Since partner is inviting a notrump slam, he should not be hoping for a long-card winner in another suit.  No, he must hold a king on the side in order to count twelve tricks — eight spades, the king, plus my three aces.

In fact, partner was way ahead of me.  Absence of the trump queen indicated that I must have something else for my requisite point-count.  He assumed that I would not go beyond six spades without another keycard — namely, a minor-suit king, and was planning to convert to 6NT regardless.  When I volunteered that contract myself, partner felt justified in contracting for all the tricks.

My 6NT bid was misguided, though.  Once the proper inference is made about the extra-long spade suit, spot-cards lose their relevance.  Also, partner could have done better simply by asking for kings over the five-club response.  It is not worth bidding a grand slam unless one can determine precisely what tricks will be taken.  In fact, only one other pair bid to the 7-level (in spades), and four pairs stopped in game!  Only one matchpoint would have been lost by stopping in six notrump.

Upon seeing the dummy (as well as the singleton queen of spades in her own hand!), my left-hand opponent announced, "That was the worst auction I have ever heard in all my years of bridge."

That was said, however, because she didn't understand most of it.  Then my partner and I were further instructed that the 5NT bid was a signoff in Standard, which is ridiculous; had partner wanted to quit, he would simply have passed me in five spades.

Therefore, although justice wasn't necessarily served on this occasion, I felt especially pleased and only a little bit guilty when the diamond finesse succeeded and I scored up +1520.  Was this a Better, or was it a Worse?

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Addendum: Subsequent reading and discussion indicate that some others would treat responder's 5NT bid as asking whether opener has three spades.  So they might perpetrate the same auction with, say, seven spades and another plain-suit winner.

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Two days later, I sat south against a pair of congenial strangers:

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Opening Lead: 2

As is often the case with today's partner, north's bidding only marginally described his actual holding.  At least he had the good sense to pass when I attempted to improve the contract.

The "obvious" line of play is to grab the first trick, discard diamonds on the club ace and king, then get the trumps out.  Bringing in the spades later for just two losers, if possible, would secure an overtrick.  For some reason, however, I decided to duck the opening lead in dummy; even if the defenders were to cash a couple of diamond winners, my remaining spade losers would disappear on dummy's clubs, and I should still be able to make the hand.

Well, the 8 held the trick!  Yep.  Although it didn't take a genius to conclude forthwith that my opponents were novices, I had no idea that the fun was just beginning.  I cashed dummy's top clubs, discarding diamonds, then played the 10, ducked by west.  Now I ruffed a club with the trump king; LHO overruffed (!) and returned the 7!

Running that lead to my jack, I ran off all the trumps but one before playing a spade to the ace.  West did manage to hold onto her marriage in that suit, so I had to lose one at the end.  The subsequent revoke penalty, however, took away the pair of tricks that the opponents had actually managed to win.

The final tally: 3, with four overtricks, +260.  And it wasn't even our hand!  Although my contract was unbeatable, so was 4 as the cards lay.

It doesn't get much worse (or better) than that.

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