Sunday, August 10, 2008

Confessions of a Bungler

By John Kozero

Time to ‘fess up to what my regular partners have long known: I am an inveterate bungler whose only saving grace is that, amazingly, I happen to be just plain lucky almost ALL of the time.

Take this hand for example from a recent pairs game:

S: Void H: AQJ97 D: A1095 C: K1062

No one vul, I open 1H in first seat. Lefty bids 1S, partner Bob K. bids 2S. Righty passes. I like my hand. Even if partner has only an average limit raise, there are fine slam possibilities here (even a 9-counter like K 4th of H, KJ of D and the Q doubleton of clubs would work for slam). So I let pard in on my slam aspirations by bidding 3S (which guarantees at least second round control of spades). Pard cues a club control which increases the chances that he has more than a bare limit raise.

I cooperate with a 4D cue in return to see if I can elicit one more minor suit cue from him. Instead he launches into Old Black, which leaves me in a quandary. Clearly we’re committed to 6, but if we’re missing the ace of spades, pard will not be able to read my void and we might miss a good play for 7.
Counterbalancing that is the fact that I have been somewhat aggressive in my bidding this 14-pointer and pard might take me for more than I have. Worse still, I have totally forgotten how to handle RKC responses that include a void. Arrgghhhhhhh, I’ve bungled another bidding sequence!

So I just cut the Gordian Knot and bid 6H, hoping pard will read my void and carry on to 7 with a mountain outside of spades, and pass with all other hands. He passed, the K of spades is led and I see we are in a decent slam. Pard puts down:

S: AJ84 H: 8642 D: K32 C: A4 looking at my
S: Void H: AQJ97 D: A1095 C: K1062

Lefty is marked with almost everything, so I expect a heart loser. There are possibilities to ruff out the Quack in clubs or to squeeze her in at least two if not three suits. That’s where I made my first mistake: I took the ace of spades and pitched a diamond.

I then played a heart to the A (Righty playing the 3) and hoped the Rabbi’s Rule ("Drop the offsides K whenever it is singleton.") was working. It wasn’t. But Lefty played the heart 10. She’s an honest citizen who would normally not venture the 10 from K105 so my luck was running and I could play another heart to force out the K. That was my second questionable play.

Lefty took her K (and her pard followed) and exited the Q of clubs. I took the two toppers in clubs and ruffed the third. Down came Lefty’s J of clubs making my 10 good to pitch a diamond and ruff the last one. Making 6 for a top on the board.

"Boy, I sure made the right choice in tossing a diamond at trick one," I said. Bob smiled the way an indulgent parent humors a backward child, and diplomatically offered: "Well, yes, you might have ruffed Trick One and postponed the decision on which minor to toss."

How right he was. Keeping that AJ tenace in place would have been a potent threat for two pitches if I had endplayed Lefty with the K of hearts. Since I was convinced the hearts were two-two, I could have ruffed a round of clubs prior to putting Lefty in with K of hearts. (I could discount the possibility of a second round ruff with the other small trump because that would mean Lefty would have started with six clubs as well as at least 5 spades.)

Then after being thrown in with K of hearts, if Lefty was out of clubs, she must lead either a spade allowing me to pitch both losing diamonds or to impale the opposition's QJ of diamonds on the sharpened bamboo stakes of my Kxx looking A109. That would have retained the actual possibility of the club Quack coming down in three rounds setting up my 10 but still keeping all other threats (such as a pointy-suit squeeze) wide open.

Oh, well. If given the choice, I’ll take the kiss of Lady Luck over the impersonal logic of competent declarer play any day…..especially considering how neatly my luck manages to irritate and frustrate my opponents.

1 comment:

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