On the same wavelength
Playing a club game with Hank, I am off my game (I blame anti-histamines and not having played in roughly a month). But due to the movement we skip the only difficult pair, and we’ve received lots of gifts (including the following auction (1D)-1H-(1S) – P – (6S) when I’m holding five spades to the ten.
So I’m in a good mood when I pick up the following collection:
S:QTx H:A D:KQT C:AK9742
It gets even better when Hank opens One Diamond in second seat. Our opponents are silent throughout.
I have an easy 2 Clubs bid, so I make it. (Despite playing 2/1, we don’t play this as game forcing).
Hank bids 3 Clubs. We have two ways to raise clubs, and this is the weaker one. I could cue bid, or even just sign off in Three NT, but slam would have play opposite some 7 point hands (Kxx xx Axxx xxxx). We may be off two fast spade tricks, and I could cue bid three hearts and then pull 3N to 4C, but I decide to not advertise my weakness and just check for key cards. I bid 4 Diamonds.
Hank bids 4 Hearts, showing one ‘ace.’
Since I’m looking at the 5th ‘ace’ (the king of clubs), I know it is an actual ace.
I want to check on the club queen so I bid the next step 4 Spades.
Hank bids 5 Clubs, denying the queen. It occurs to me that in this one instance perhaps we should play 4 NT denies the queen (instead of returning to the suit) because I could have passed that.
If Hank doesn’t have the queen of clubs, how many does he have? I have an inference in that Hank could have also bid 2 diamonds over 2 Clubs, which just shows five diamonds (and is forcing one round) or 2 hearts, which shows a balanced hand. So if he only had 3 clubs to the jack, he had the option of not raising, immediately. As compared to that, 3 clubs shows a weak hand and two diamonds is wide.
As I consider this, I also realize that 5 Clubs is going to not be a great scoring contract. 3 N will probably make 4 for +630 (or +660 if it makes 5) and even if I play in 5 Clubs, I’m only getting +600. If Hank does only have three clubs without the queen I’ll need the clubs to break, but that also means that Hank is likely to have the Spade King. In short, Five clubs making exactly isn’t a great score, so even though I think I’m an underdog I bid 6 clubs.
(Funny auction. I bid 4S to check on the queen, but apparently I was going no matter what).
This gets passed around and LHO leads the diamond jack and Hank puts down:
S:Kx H:Kxx D:A8xxx C:Jxx
That is, in fact, a minimum, but at least it has the Spade King, so I have a play. I win the Diamond King and lay down the club ace. Do I get a 2-2 split? Do I get the stiff queen?
I get the rail.
RHO discards the three of spades. Looks like I’m off one, but worse contracts have made. Let’s put LHO to the test and force her to decide what to do. I lead a small club towards the jack and she … ducks. Huh. I win the jack, come back to the king and let LHO win her club.
RHO has been decidedly unhelpful in his pitches if he has the spade ace, playing up the line for the first three and then discarding a heart. If LHO is looking at the spade ace she’ll cash it, but for all LHO knows I may have the SA and be missing the HA.
LHO plays a small spade and RHO wins his ace and I claim the rest. Down one is not unjust, but I’m vaguely annoyed that she guessed right, because it was a guess as far as I can tell.
(Actually, later on I notice that RHO had four diamonds to the 9, so it was hopeless as long as he never pitched one).
The post-mortem is amusing. Hank’s first comment is “You know, 4N should deny the queen, but that’s not our system….” which is exactly what I had been thinking. He also was torn between 2 diamonds and raising to 3 clubs. We decide that raising to 3C can be done with only three clubs, but they should include the queen (or better).
I was still right to bid the slam (once I had decided to ask). It only took a 2-2 clubs split (which is over 40%) or the stiff queen (which is 1/4 of 50%, so 12.5%) so about 50/50 (dropping a few percent for a ruff on opening lead or ace of spades, ruff). As the only pair to bid it, we got a zero, but five clubs would only score a ‘1’.
I was getting 5:1 odds for an even money proposition. I would have been right if Hank’s clubs were Txx or worse, which then means I need the 2-2 break.
At least we were both on the same wavelength every step of the way.