Do I have a tell?
Playing the semi-finals of a Knockout Match against strong opposition, I pick up:
S:JTx H:AQJT9x D:Qx C:Ax
I have an easy 1 Heart opening bid. My Left Hand Opponent bids 1 No Trump. My partner passes and RHO bids 2 Clubs, stayman (asking for a 4 card spade suit). I could rebid my hearts, but my hand certainly can’t make game so I may as well see what’s what. I pass (in tempo, I think). LHO bids 2 Diamonds, denying one, and RHO bids 3 No Trump.
Now, I could double this, which demands a heart lead. The downside is that they may have 9 tricks off the top (4 spades, 4 diamonds an a heart) before I get in with the club ace. And the spades are ominous. LHO may run to 4 spades on a 4-3 fit. If doubling pushes them into 4 spades, it could make. That would be ruinous. I pass quickly (I think).
Now something odd happens. My LHO is thinking. Quite seriously.
I’ve heard the auction 1N-2C (Stayman)- any response-3N thousands of times. It’s one of the most common in the game. It’s almost never disturbed. And yet, my LHO is apparently given serious consideration to pulling 3N to some other contract. Presumably 4S on a known seven card fit.
What. The. Hell.
Four spades looks to be a great contract. How can he know this? Finally, after an eternity, he passes 3N. I get a heart lead and dummy hits with something like
S:K9xx H:x D:ATxx C:Kxxx
On that auction, partner is pretty much broke, but we open light so declarer may suspect partner of a stray queen. I put in the HQ (since I know declarer has the king). Declarer rather quickly plays the Spade ace and the Spade Queen. I’ve followed with the two then the jack (somewhat randomly, I hope). Partner has played the six then the eight. He’s playing randomly as well; he knows I know he’s broke. Declarer leads a small spade, partner plays the three and, after a long consultation with the stars, declarer shrugs and follows the principle of restricted choice. He finesses the 9, I win and cash my tricks for down 3, +300.
As it turns out, the other table did double 3N. Declarer (another strong player) took the exact same line for the exact same reason, and went down three doubled, for -800.
Sadly for our team, declarer was 3=3=3=4 instead of 3=3=4=3. Because then declarer can delay the decision and count out the hand completely. Even after winning 4 spades you’ll still need four diamonds, so why not hook the diamonds first? On the run of the diamonds I have one easy discard, but once I stop discarding clubs and start discarding hearts my hand is an open book. (Actually, with Jx of spades and Axx of clubs I can give declarer a real problem by discarding only one club and then pretending the other is a spade. I must remember that). But with only KJx of diamonds, declarer didn’t’ want to start with low to the ace, because he’ll only get to run three rounds and in any case, he’ll still have to guess the spades. So why risk the queen offside.
Still, I’m wondering — I don’t double and yet declarer almost pulled to 4 spades anyway (which makes on any number of reasonable lines).
Seriously, do I have a tell?
Anyway, we were exactly tied at half time, but in the second half partner and I have twice as many good results as mistakes, and our teammates pull out a solid session with one huge positive, so we win handily. Later, we rolled through the finals with nary a problem. So that makes me second KO sectional win this year. I recommend having strong teammates.