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Layers

Playing a practice session the other night online, I was fortunate to play a hand with so many layers of interest that I just had to make note of it. My partner was Marty Fleisher and our opponents were a top-level pair, Jeff Aker and Doug Simson.

First, I was confronted with difficult bidding issues. I held:

South
Q84
Q2
Q96
K6543
W
N
E
S
1
3
?

Scoring was matchpoints and we were at unfavorable vulnerability. Marty opened 1 in first seat and Doug preempted 3. What now?

While I’ve got some cards, it seemed like any action was a clear overbid, so I passed. The auction continued:

South
Q84
Q2
Q96
K6543
W
N
E
S
1
3
P
P
X
P
?

This one seems tough to me. 3NT, 4, 4, 5 and Pass are all possible. A good problem and I must admit that I still don’t know the “right” call. In any case I tried 4 with a hopeful thought that perhaps Marty’s distribution was 1633.

Three seconds later I was sorry, as Jeff quickly doubled on my left. I now began pondering whether or not to run, when lo and behold Marty bid 4! After Doug passed, I presumed Marty was 0544. I was happy (or as happy as one who just made a presumably losing bid can be) to move on to 5. Surprisingly quickly, I saw all pass. Fascinating!

Jeff thought for awhile and led the 3. Here’s what I saw:

Marty
A8754
AK75
J1082
Michael
Q84
Q2
Q96
K6543
W
N
E
S
1
3
P
P
X
P
4
X
4
P
5
P
P
P

What a brilliant extrication by Marty! He later commented that if two players think a contract will do poorly (in this case both he and Jeff), that’s good enough for him. Anyway, I ruffed the opening lead in dummy. Now awkwardly placed, I tried the J. RHO played the 7, I played the 3, and LHO won the Q . Next came the 10. I ruffed again in dummy and seeing nothing better, crossed to the Q and ruffed my last spade. Interestingly, Jeff followed with the A and Doug with the K. I then cashed AK...all followed. That was nice. This hand was becoming quite intriguing.

Presumably Jeff was down to the A and 5 hearts. If my reasoning was correct, I could lead the good diamond from dummy to great effect. Doug would presumably ruff with his low trump and I would overruff. Jeff could either overruff this with his A and be endplayed into leading from his K now, or...if he pitched, I could simply cause the same endplay by throwing him in with the A one trick later. Perfect! Alas, I’d missed another layer here. On the last diamond from dummy Doug could simply discard his stiff heart. Jeff would ruff and return a heart for Doug to ruff, scuttling the contract.

Is this what happened at the table? No. Actually, Doug did not discard a heart, but ruffed the diamond with the 9, overruffed by my K and once more by Jeff’s A. Back came the expected heart. While playing low in dummy, I muttered something about this being the coolest hand I’d ever seen and.....Doug dramatically produced his stiff K to set me a trick! The full hand was...

Jeff
A103
J10963
J84
AQ
Marty
A8754
AK75
J1082
Doug
KJ97652
K
1032
97
Michael
Q84
Q2
Q96
K6543
W
N
E
S
1
3
P
P
X
P
4
X
4
P
5
P
P
P
D
5 South
NS: 0 EW: 0

Was that the final layer? No! It took me until the next morning to realize that with perfect play on both sides, I should have seen that playing the 13th diamond was an error. I could never make (Doug would discard the singleton heart as suggested) if the cards were distributed as I presumed, therefore I had to play Doug for the stiff K and cash the A at trick 8! I could then continue with dummy’s last diamond and the opponents have no effective defense. Quite a remarkable hand all around.

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