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Fake it 'til you make it

Playing in the 10K Swiss, I hold, all red in first seat:



Pretty standard 1H opener.  LHO passes and partner passes, diminishing my ardor.  RHO doubles back in, I pass, and LHO bids 1NT.

Partner surprises me with a 2H bid.  This is passed back to LHO, who doubles.  Since we're vulnerable at teams, I suspect he really means it.  This is passed out.  The opening lead is a small trump, and partner puts down:



I play the Queen, which holds.

In partner's defense, he probably didn't expect to get doubled and wanted the chance to tell me he had something good in hearts.  Nevertheless, I'm in a terrible spot.  I can count four hearts, a diamond, and a spade.  The trump lead and presumed continuations will keep me from ruffing a second spade in dummy.  Maybe I can build a second spade if they break 3-3, but I judge that extremely unlikely.  That's down two and -500 against their nothing.

Is there any way to salvage something?  The trump lead actually points the way.  LHO has correctly figured out that I need to ruff a loser in dummy, but neither opponent knows what loser (or losers) I'm trying to ruff.  If I can get LHO to win the next trick, it's possible LHO will sacrifice his trump trick to prevent ruffs in dummy.

I therefore abandon any attempts at getting a spade ruff and instead pretend I'm trying to get some club ruffs.  I lead a club at trick two. RHO plays small as I'd hoped and I play the Nine.  LHO wins and returns another heart.  Dummy's Jack holds, RHO following.

This is a huge relief; I am now only down one, and we'll likely lose a couple of imps instead of a bunch.

However, no reason to not to try and get more.  I'm in dummy and now seems like a good time to play towards my diamond honors.  I lead a diamond, RHO plays small, I put up the King, and LHO plays small.  I've got my diamond trick secured.

I need help in the spade suit, though, if I'm going to get a second spade trick.  I exit with the Ten of clubs.  As expected, LHO wins and returns the King of hearts to my Ace.  I haven't accomplished much other than to bolster the illusion I have more clubs in my hand.

I still have time to play on spades and hope they break 3-3.  I suppose it's possible that RHO balanced on 3244 shape.  Vulnerable at teams, though, I expect RHO will have four spades most of the time.  I think I'm going to play for spades to be 4-2.

I exit with the Queen of diamonds, hoping to smother the Jack, but alas, LHO follows small while RHO wins the Ace.

RHO leads the Queen of spades.  This is exactly what I was hoping for.  I throw the Five (concealing the Two) as LHO follows.  If I'm reading the cards right, LHO started with Kx of spades while RHO started with QJxx.

RHO thinks for a bit.  What I'm hoping is that he continues a low spade.  I'll play the Ace, dropping LHO's theoretical King.  Then I'll play a heart, forcing a discard from RHO.  Fooled by my club and diamond plays, hopefully RHO will discard a spade.  Then I can concede a spade and claim.  Sure, he should figure out his partner isn't playing the King from KTx.  Still, this is the most likely scenario I can conjure.

RHO, though, surprises me by continuing the Jack of spades.  My excitement spikes; I play the Ace and breathlessly await LHO's card.  As I expected, he plays the King.

Wonderful.  I am now making 2Hx.  However, no reason to claim yet.  I play two more hearts, forcing two more discards from RHO.  Of course I have to have another club, right?  I tried to ruff one, after all.  After much agonizing, he discards a spade on the last heart and I claim the last two tricks. Making an overtrick.

I know I greatly benefited from some very soft defense.  Still, I made the best of the bad situation I started in.  I didn't yell at partner when the dummy came down, letting the opponents know I was going down multiple tricks.  I tried to paint a picture of the kind of hand I held, and even if it should not have fooled the opponents, there was no harm in trying.  And sometimes you do reap dividends.

Unfortunately we lost that match; the opponents played well on other hands.  But I'll always remember how I bluffed the opponents into turning -500 into +870.

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