Momentum part three
Things started badly for Team Gartaganis in the seventh (of eight) set when a defensive mishap allowed me to bring home an impossible 3NT for a thirteen imp gain.
Vul: north south
I had opened a weak NT in second chair, showing 11+ to 14 HCP. Keith quickly bid 3NT and Campbell led the heart ten from his A1092 holding. I could see I was in serious doo doo here. Even if I can divine the diamond suit for no losers, that’s only eight tricks. Surely any attempts at razmataz in the club suit first would be met with suspicion by either defender, and the hearts quickly cashed.
So I won the queen of hearts nonchalantly, giving nothing away about my predicament to my screenmate. I looked like a guy with KQx of hearts. I led a diamond to the dummy’s queen. Campbell followed with the ten on my left, but Klimo then followed with the 9!
What was going on here? Had Campbell just unintentionally Grosvenored me? Or maybe Klimo was giving a Smith echo, or perhaps just playing the 9 from 9x forcing me to waste an entry back to my hand to repeat the diamond finesse.
I had a feeling Campbell had pulled the wrong card – and I sneaked a quick glance at him to get a read. Just as I did, he was sneaking his own glance back at me and our eyes collided momentarily.
You’d think with all the poker I play I would now know exactly what was going on in the diamond suit – but this play (and the eye action) had all come out of left field, and I still wasn’t sure.
I finally reasoned I did NOT want to enter my hand with the spade ace and repeat the finesse – it would simply give away too much information to my skilled opponents about the whole hand. So I called for dummy’s ace, and watched amusedly as Klimo in fact pitched a small club.
I continued with my confident approach to the hand and played another diamond casually to Campbell’s king. As his king hit the table, I could feel Klimo’s disbelief ooze through the screen as he refused to turn over his card to ready for the next trick. It was like he was frozen in the moment.
Amusing yes, but I still only had seven tricks now that diamonds were only good for four of them. Campbell had no reason at this point to think I was in dire straights in the heart suit, so he exited a spade. I won in dummy, and played off the remaining diamond winners.
Finally I had to exit a club, but by this point I think Klimo had momentarily become unhinged by the diamond suit plays, and between the two of them they blocked the heart suit when Campbell won the club ace, and somehow I emerged with nine tricks.
Klimo excused himself to go regroup (always a very good idea when something real bad happens to your partnership in an important match)
The table atmosphere was eerie quiet at that point. Not a word was spoken by anyone for a full five minutes while Klimo gathered himself. Keith and I could not have asked for a better start to the final quarter. A big pick up, and the opponents clearly upset by an unfortunate turn of events.
And then two boards later, adversity of a similar nature struck our partnership. It began with an innocent three heart contract declared by Campbell – it looked to be a sure down 1 (in an inferior strain) and six imps for Team Korbel – but the defense went seriously awry and declarer snuck home for a two imp gain.
The very next board I held KQJxx KJ AJ9x 10x
Red vs white I opened 1S, LHO said 2D, Keith said 4D, and RHO said 4NT. I doubled (we were in a FP auction – and were even before my double). LHO bid 5C and this was passed around to me.
I didn’t think the old “double with a doubleton rule” applies here – we are simply defending or bidding on and each partner has to express an opinion or pass with no opinion.
Keith passed it around to me – I went for the vulnerable game bonus – not to mention possible slam bonus if he held the right cards so I cue bid 5D trying for slam. Keith bid 5S and we went down 1 when he held A10xxx Qxxxx x Qx.
Clearly one of us should have doubled five clubs and held down the loss to a few imps versus the actual twelve when four spades made at the other table. Credit to Klimo for getting busy with his hand with only 9 10974 875 KJ964 – generating a pick up no matter what.
Bad things seem to come in threes. The very next hand we bid up to what seemed like a routine 3NT after Klimo began the auction with an 12-14 HCP weak NT on my right. They were vul we were not and I held K94 AQ76 K6 AQ94. I doubled and Campbell (on my left bid two hearts – showing the majors. Keith bid three diamonds, and I bid 3NT – all passed.
The lead was the spade queen and I beheld :
I ducked the lead, and spades were continued to the ace, followed by the heart jack from Klimo – which I won with the queen. I ducked a heart a little later and found out Campbell was 44 in the majors. The only relevant matters at this point were (a) who has the diamond jack, and (b) are diamonds 3-3 (and therefore clubs 2-4) or are diamonds 2-4 (and therefore clubs 3-3).
I am sure people watching on BBO were screaming at their monitors for me to hurry up and take my ten tricks but alas there would be no story then. At the moment of truth I played king of diamonds and a diamond to dummy’s ace. Campbell played first the nine then a spot. (They play UDC but at this stage in the hand – carding would be very random by both opponents.) Klimo showed an even number of diamonds.
I went with my gut – usually it helps me to do so but here I was dead wrong. I abandoned diamonds – and played three rounds of clubs – playing Klimo for KJ10 of clubs and Jxxx of diamonds. He did have KJ10 of clubs but a pesky fourth one too – so the “Miami end play” was a spectacular down 1 – J9x of diamonds were onside and ripe for the picking the entire time.
My line was obscure – as (a) diamonds were just as likely to be 3-3 as clubs – and (b) even if clubs are 3-3 – this only helps if RHO has specifically KJ10 and cannot take himself off an endplay (with KJx or K10x he can unblock his honours)
So if you want to talk percentages, the odds definitely favored the straight forward (winning) line of simply cashing the diamonds from the top down.
I suppose some would admire my “not being afraid to look stupid if I am wrong” approach on this hand, but the truth is – better to be right – always – when you make a move like this. I was going for the jugular and the only throats I ended up cutting were my own and Keith’s. Why give the opponents something to feed on and gain confidence with?
That was twenty four imps to Team Gartaganis in three short hands and the lead was now down to eleven imps for Team Korbel – and momentum back with our opponents.
We bid up to a reasonable 5 diamonds doubled a couple of boards later – if the club ace is offside we will go down 1 (but then they can make four spades the other way) and if it is onside we make our doubled contract. Down 1 – lose two imps as the same contract was undoubled at the other table.
Then I held Q832 642 J4 KQ87 and heard Keith open 1D in first chair white on red. Klimo said one heart and I bid one spade. Campbell on my left said double – showing clubs; and Keith bid three diamonds freely. I was pretty sure nine tricks could only be taken with soft defense – which was not likely to happen here after they had told each other their hands and I had a major shortage of quick tricks on the side.
I passed and Keith went down one (normal) holding K10x A98 AKQ763 6. But it was a ten imp loss nonetheless on a totally different auction at the other table and the non heart hand on lead. We were now down by one imp!