High-level balancing act
This deal comes from my fertile source, the South Florida IMP game. My long-time bridge partner, David Berkowitz, called me and asked what I would do with this hand (vulnerable against not):
♠A J 10 7 6 2 ♥K Q 6 5 ♦J 5 4 ♣—
His left-hand opponent opened 1NT (15–17) and RHO bid 3♦, game forcing with both minors. I told him it is not my style to play the hero. LHO might have ♠K–Q–9–x and good hearts, and I could go for 1400.
OK, you pass (timidly) and LHO bids 5♦ which comes back to you.
My answer this time: “You know that if I passed the first time, I still pass. So would you.” David is a conservative player. But he told me that even though he passed the first time, he balanced with 5♠! His logic made sense: LHO didn’t try for 3NT. Likely he had nothing in the majors – if he had both majors, he would have bid 3NT. With one decent major, he might have bid it, looking for 3NT. Based on this logic, our partner should have good cards in the majors (and short diamonds, to boot).
5♠ was passed around to RHO who bid 6♦. David passed this around to his partner who now came in herself with 6♥. This was doubled and passed around again to David’s partner, who retreated to 6♠. This was the unusual (has anyone seen such a thing before?) auction:
(1) Game forcing with clubs and diamonds
A high diamond was led, followed by a club shift. Now what?
Assuming the ♠Q was with the notrump opener, David ran the ♠J at trick three. Why didn’t he play the ♠A first? Because he needed to not only take the spade finesse, but ruff a diamond in dummy. The ♠J held (RHO playing the ♠9). A diamond ruff in dummy was followed by the ♠K. David came to hand to play the ♠A and take 12 tricks (six spades, five hearts and a ruff in dummy) – plus 1660.
This was the Real Deal: