The interesting Eights of Spades
Playing in a STaC game, I finally pick up a good hand.
S: AKQ74 H:KJ3 D:KQ C:AQ5
I open 2 Clubs, strong and partner bids a waiting (non-negative) 2 diamonds. I could bid 2 spades, but I have every suit stopped, and I’m semi-balanced, and even if partner has three spades and doesn’t ask, Jake, its matchpoints. (Incidentally, I’ve bought the new edition of Woolsey’s book by the same name, despite owning the prior edition. Totally worth it).
I bid 2 No Trump, and get raised to 3NT.
I get the diamond five lead and dummy is (finally) something good.
S: T9x H:xxx D:T7 C:KJTxx
My decision to bid NT looks right when I play small off dummy and LHO plays the diamond 8 and I win (perforce) with the queen. (I suppose I could have won with the king. I don’t think it would fool anybody).
With that lead, I have 11 tricks assuming the suits behave, which will beat those in four spades. (Even the best declarer is probably going to lose two aces). And a heart lead against 4S may hold them to four. But — when things look best, be cautious.
I cash a high spade and another, and LHO shows out on the second spade. But I have been paying attention for once and LHO’s singleton was the eight of spades.
I ‘finesse’ the club jack, and lead the spade T off the board. If RHO covers, my 7 is good. RHO does not cover. I float the ten, come back to the club ace, cash my spades, then overtake my clubs. I’m pitching somewhat randomly but my (solid) opponents don’t toss away either red ace, so I make 11 tricks. Even if those in four spades made five I’d have a top.
Not a difficult hand, by any stretch, but satisfying, and one that I get wrong (by failing to notice the exact spot) too often.
Later in the session, I pick up my more typical hand:
S:K753 H:QT6 D:J875 C:85
Partner opens 1 Diamond and RHO overcalls 1 Spade.
Well, that was my bid, but now I have an easy raise to 2 Diamonds, so I make it. LHO raises to 2 Spades. Partner is there with three diamonds and RHO bids 3 Spades.
This isn’t particularly near enough to double, but I toy with it anyway (matchpoints!) before passing. I lead the pedestrian fourth best diamond, and dummy shows up with:
S:T9x H:A9xx D:Kx C:97xx
The diamond goes to my partner’s queen, and then she plays the ace, fetching the Ten from declarer. I carefully play my jack underneath this, to warn partner away from the clubs (playing an unusually high card to suggest the higher suit — in this case, hearts).
Partner leads the deuce of hearts (almost certainly showing the king) and it goes small to my ten and dummies ace. Declarer now leads the spade ten and partner plays the interesting 8 as declarer ducks, and I duck as well.
I may be able to get a second trick by force, at least — on a misplay. Declarer now leads the spade 9 for a repeat of the finesse, then frowns when partner shows out. She rises with the ace and leads a small heart. Now I don’t have to do anything clever. I win the heart queen (to avoid blocking the suit), pull dummy’s last trump and lead a diamond. Declarer can ruff, but if she pulls my last trump she’ll have to lead clubs from her hand and then lose a bunch of diamonds, and if she doesn’t….well, at this point no scenario ends well for declarer. As it happens, declarer goes down three. On a different hand my spade seven might have come into play (if both declarer and I had 2 hearts, I can play for a promotion).
Danny Kleinman is fond of saying that the 8 of trumps matters on a surprising number of hands. This is the first time I’ve been aware of it twice in one session.