By Bob Klein. My penultimate hand, following six mediocre days of results at the San Francisco NABC, made me forget everything that preceded it. I picked up this monster:
Once I realized that I had indeed sorted it correctly and mentally got up off the floor after having been knocked down, I started to think of how I would approach the bidding. Before getting too far, I heard my partner, Dave Neuman, open one Heart in front of me in first seat. Now my perspective changed considerably. I saw that the only thing I needed to know about his hand was his spade holding to as much specificity as possible.
I decided that if I showed a 6-5 or longer in diamonds and spades, I might get to find out if he has 3-card or longer spade support. I thought it unlikely that he would have 4 spades since he didn't use Flannery, which he could have done even if he was 4-6 in the majors. So I bid 2 Diamonds. He rebid 2 Hearts, I bid 2 Spades, he bid 2NT and I completed the picture with 3 spades. Now I would get an answer. He obliged by bidding 4 Spades. This almost certainly showed 3 spades.
Now the stage was set for me to get the information I needed: did he have the ace of spades, never mind any other aces he might hold? I therefore bid 5NT, which in this auction was unambiguously a grand slam force with spades agreed. His reply of 6 Spades confirmed that he had the ace, since if he didn't have any of the top three spade honors, he would have replied 6 Clubs. I now bid 7 Diamonds, confident that Dave, knowing that I had already bid diamonds and had assumed captaincy, wasn't giving him a choice (if I really wanted him to choose between spades and diamonds, I would instead have bid 7 Clubs.)
I got the king of clubs lead, and looked at:
So I had to avoid losing a trick to the nasty jack of spades. I saw three chances:
1. Spades split 3-2
2. RHO has four to the jack. Here you cannot misguess if you play the king first.
3. LHO has four to the jack and the ace of hearts and will be squeezed at trick ten.
So I played the ace of clubs pitching a spade, drew trump, cashed the king of spades and ran all of the diamonds to reach this 3-card ending:
If the heart ace has not already appeared, play for the spades to come in. If LHO started with Jxxx, he would already have been squeezed. It turned out that RHO had Jxxx so I had a marked finesse of the jack and the grand came home for an 11-IMP win.
At the other table, after the player holding Dave's hand opened 1 Heart, my teammate preempted with 3 Clubs. They never got to bid spades, eventually had to guess what to do, and ended up in 6 Diamonds. Here are all four hands: