Could have made slam, but didn’t even make 3 diamonds

WEST CHESTER, PA – Although we had a decent 54% game, my partner Christine Matus and I had our string of victories (or ties for tops) broken this week at the Monday night (2-15-2013) game at Hershey’s Mill, a nice game with a lot of nice people that we want to continue to support – it’s a $5 game that’s no more than 10 minutes from where I work and where Christine lives.

There are no hand records at the Hershey’s Mill game – what do you want for $5? – and the boards are shuffled and made by the players themselves. You might think that eliminates the possibility of those crazy computer-dealt misshapen hands with crazy distribution that don’t let you make anything. But the human dealers can be just as whimsical as the computers, as one hand from last Monday night shows.

Playing against Marta and Jill, another couple of the Monday night regulars, we got one board at our table where the results were really all over the place. One East-West pair, with 27 points between them, played it in 3 No-Trump despite major transportation difficulties because of the uneven distributions and made six (!). We got a good board on the hand because with my interference bidding on fumes (I had four high-card points), Marta and Jill as East-West couldn’t find their fit and wound up in 3 Diamonds.

Jill made a mistake on the opening trick, which meant that we could have actually set her in 3 Diamonds, but my partner Christine, very obliging in this instance, gave it right back to her with another mistake and let her make her partial contract.

But that actually spoils a much better story, so when I take the hand for a column, since it’s fiction anyway, I’m going to have Christine play perfect defense and set that 3 Diamonds contract. That sets up the dichotomy that one pair can make 6 No-Trump on the same hand where another pair can’t even make a 3 contract with a solid 5-2 trump suit having all four top honors.

In real life Jill is East, but to make play easier to follow, I‘ll turn the hands around and make her South while she assumes the role of my column’s anti-hero, Flustered Flo. Her partner Marta will become Flo’s partner, Loyal Larry, with the North hand. I’ll be Smug Sam with the East hand, who crashes Flo’s and Larry’s party, and my partner Christine will become Sam’s partner Shy Shem with West. This time she was really shy since never had a chance to say a thing.

The hand

North Dealer; neither side vulnerable

10 5
K Q J 5 4 3
8 7
A Q 5
West East
K Q 9 6 2 8 7
A 9 2 8 7 6
10 9 6 4 5 2
4 K J 10 8 7 6
A J 4 3
A K Q J 3
9 3 2

The bidding

North East South West
1 3 3 All pass

Opening lead: 4 of Clubs

How Flustered Flo played it

Sometimes you have to give up a trick that you could have taken to set up more than one trick later during the play.

Flustered Flo, on the diagrammed hand at a recent Club game, had a chance to give up one and set up no fewer than five down the road, but she missed the chance and as a result, went down in a partial contract when she should have made a Game and more.

Flo got stuck playing a 3 Diamonds contract because of a bold interference bid by her nemesis, Smug Sam, who was playing East. His weak jump to 3 Clubs cleverly took up a lot of bidding room and prevented Flo from bidding both her suits. Not knowing Flo had Spades, Flo’s partner Loyal Larry couldn’t bid No-Trump since he had no idea Flo had Spades.

Since the lead of the 4 of Clubs was on obvious singleton, Flo wasn’t going to take any chances on a losing finesse and getting a cross-ruff back and she took the trick with dummy’s Ace. She then led the King of Hearts – to be able to continue playing Hearts and getting pitches if the opponents held up their Ace, but Sam’s partner, Shy Shem, didn’t fall for that ploy and took his Ace right away.

Shem continued with a trump lead, which Flo took in her hand. She then made one more desperate try to get to the board and collect the rest of the good Hearts by leading a low Spade. Maybe the opponents would allow her to take the 10, or at least she might get a ruff with dummy’s last trump. No dice, as Shem took the Spade Queen and returned another Diamond to remove dummy’s last trump.

Now Flo’s fate was sealed. She was bound to lose another Spade and two Club tricks, which in addition to the Spade she’s already lost and the Heart Ace added up to Down One – and another bottom board for Flo and Larry against her nemesis Smug Sam.

“We had 27 points between us and I had a really solid trump suit with all four top honors,” Flo lamented. “I can’t believe we couldn’t even have made 3 on that.”

“You could have made an overtrick if you’d played it right,” said Sam, smug as always. “You’ve got to let the first Club go and give us a ruff.”

“Why would I want to give up a trick that I don’t have to lose?” Flo asked incredulously.

“Ever heard of the idea to give up something to get much more back later?” Sam asked. “You’ve got to realize that your Club Ace is your only side entry to the dummy to set up your Hearts after you drive out our Ace, You’ve got to guard that Ace with your life. So give up the first Club trick and a ruff. My partner can’t get back to my hand and once the trump are out, you calmly get to the board with the Club Ace and collect all your Hearts to dump all the losers from your hand. You only lose the first two tricks and the Heart Ace and make an overtrick.”

“So I didn’t think far enough ahead,” said Flo. “Maybe we should have just doubled you in your 3 Clubs bid. You can’t make that.”

“Sure you can double,” Sam explained. “And it actually would be a good board for you since I go Down Three for a 500 positive score for you. I lose one Spade trick and two in all the other suits against the best defense. But you don’t know you can set me by three.   That’s a very risky bid for you. You’ve got to get a game of your own.”

“Where do we have Game?” Flo asked.

“In No-Trump, of course,” Sam said. “If North is playing it – that’s most likely because he can indicate he’s got the Clubs stopped – I have to lead from the East hand. You make 6 if I lead a Club and you make 5 if I’m smart enough to lead a Spade.”

“But we can’t find our fit in No-Trump after your crazy jump to 3 Clubs,” Flo protested.

“Well, isn’t that just too bad,” said Sam.

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