Playing in our local regional this last week, you are in the 2nd last match of the Swiss Teams. You are currently leading the field, but there are a lot of teams snapping at your heels, so any slip up and you will find yourself looking up, not down.
The first board of the match, you pick up JTxxx AKJTxx Ax --- and hear the rather surprising auction, 1H (3D) ? to you, what now. This particular North player had the ability to use 5C as exclusion key card, to find out scientifically what to do, but finally decided to play pressure bridge and leapt to 6H, which went all Pass. The opening lead was the K of Diamonds, and it turns out you are off the AK of Spades, but due to a fortunate lie of the Clubs, partner is able to pitch 4 Spades on the Clubs and make 6H. The result, a push board, it was the identical auction and play at the other table.
Now for the other problem on the board. Sitting in East chair, you hold AKxx x Txx 9xxxx and hear the above auction, 1H (3D) 6H to you. Do you double, and if you do, what do you think the chances are partner will find a Spade over a Club. And finally, will 2 Spades even cash. These are the kinds of decisions, especially on board 1 of the match, that can give you even more grey hairs. Personally, I think I would chance the double, it sounds like your RHO is prepared for a Diamond lead, and without partner knowing there is a profitable other lead, they will probably try a Diamond or maybe a Trump. The risk of not doubling is that if you have 2 Spade tricks to cash, they may go away, the risk of doubling is that partner leads the wrong suit, or that you did not have 2 tricks to cash at all. But I think the risk/reward ratio is in favor of the double, since if you double and it makes, either since it was always cold or partner leads the wrong suit, you give up 5-6 IMPS, but if the double causes it to go down, you stand to gain 13 IMPS. If the double was neutral, in that it was always going down or always making, it is about even.
Now for the board that gave this article it’s name. Later in the same match, V vs Not, you pick up this fine hand, AJ AT3 AKT7 QJT8 and open 1C in first seat. This goes P, 1H by partner, Double on your right. We play a redouble shows 3 card support (not my favorite, but the condition of contest), so I thought the options were between that and a flawed 2N bid. Since I have good 3 card support, only 1.5 stoppers in Spades, and a ruffing value in support of Hearts, I thought it was fairly lopsided in support of the redouble to start. This now went 1S on my left, 4H (!) by partner, 4S on my right.
I have an awful good hand on this auction, the question is can we make a grand slam? I would need partner to have 6 Hearts to the KQ and the AK of Clubs to be able to count 13 tricks, and the 4S bid tends to be warning of some not to friendly breaks here. So deciding not to play partner for the perfecto, I bid 6H, which went around to RHO, who not being done, bid 6S. Wanting to get partner in on any decisions, I passed, but partner reopened with a double, ending the auction.
Partner led the K of Clubs and this dummy tabled, KQTx x QJ9xx xxx, certainly had her bidding shoes on. I signaled encouragement, and partner continued with the A of Clubs (oops, looking like the perfecto, sigh) and another Club, everyone following. I now cashed the A of Hearts, and continued with the Ten, declarer ruffing on board. Declarer played the J of Diamonds off board, and I won the K as partner played a high Diamond (standard count). So I am pretty sure I have an exact count on the hand, and continued my last Heart, LHO and partner following, ruffed on board. Declarer exited the K of Spades off board, as I won the A, and then did not stop to think like I should have. I know declarer started with 5323 distribution, and partner was 2623. Unless we manufacture something, we are only getting the A of Diamonds at this point, since declarer is almost all trump now. But there is one small chance, if you look; if partner has the 9 of Spades, it is higher than all of declarers trumps, and he will score it on 2 rounds of Diamonds. In addition, he can then play a Heart to give me an uppercut in trumps, for the full +2000 on the board. But, being lazy on the board, I returned the pedestrian J of Spades, and watched partner follow suit with the 9 (of course) as declarer claimed -1400 on the board. Fortunately, they missed the grand at the other table as well and we only lost 2 IMPS on the board. But chances like these have to be taken advantage of when they come up if you want to win, especially when there is no downside, as happens here.
The last part, which kind of surprised me, occurred at the end of the first match we played. It was an Ax event, and we were playing a local team, that usually plays in Flight B, except they had 1 person on their team that forced them to play in A flight. When they played a really good match, we scored it up as a dead tie. I went back to their table to compare before turning the result in, but they said they had us winning by 12. Looking at their score card, I saw they had marked 1 game as making, when our partners said they had gone down 1. I pointed this out, and the NS at the table thought about it and went ‘Yea, we did set that’. We marked it up as the draw, and they thanked me for being honest. Not sure what they expected, but I can not see too many people actually taking the win here, especially against a newer team like we were playing. Or maybe I am wrong and that does happen too often. We wound up winning the event in the end, but if we had taken that win and won, I would not really have felt very good about it.