No cow flew by

by Jonathan Mestel

Sometimes I dream about doing something clever at bridge, emulating classic hands in the great books. Usually though, I have to accept almost getting somewhere close...I was West in the following hand from a Crockfords match

Dealer N
S Q6
H A97532
Game All
S K4
H QJ104
D A983
C 943
W         E
S AJ975
H -
D K742
C A852
S 10832
H K86
D 1065
C 1076
   West       North       East       South   
1h X 2h X*
3c 3s P 3NT

Over 2h it would be nice to have a natural 2NT available, but that would have been Lebensohl. Perhaps a quick pass would have been best, but I opted for a responsive double, showing values and denying 4 spades. I hoped partner would bid 2s and I could then bid 2NT, but LHO scuppered me with his 3c bid.

3NT is a lousy contract; we could expect to lose 2 hearts and 3 clubs before looking at the other suits. -300 could be a normal result. However, declarer has a big advantage - the defence don't know how dire are our straits, and they often accept +100, and +200 they will regard as a good board.

cK was led and ducked, followed by cQ which I also ducked. LHO now switched to sQ. Not so bad now. Surely with cJ10 LHO would have continued the suit, so clubs appear to be breaking. If LHO has sQxx we even have 9 tricks, but the lead of the Q suggests a doubleton at most, so that North is 2-6-2-3 or 1-6-3-3. Not much point ducking sQ, so I won and led hQ from hand.

LHO won with hA and after some thought emerged with dQ. to dummy's king. I continued the suit to d9 and North's dJ. If North exits passively in a minor now I can cash the clubs and diamonds ending in hand squeezing South in the majors. As North was clearly afraid that I held hKQ10 I had high hopes, but in fact he exited with a spade. This kills the entries for a squeeze; I cashed my clubs spades and diamonds and conceded hK for down one.

At this point I belatedly recalled a hand titled "A cow flew by" from Reese's classic `Play these hands with me.' Suppose I throw s7 on the hQ. When North leads dQ I win with the king dropping d8 and follow with d7 to the d9 and dJ. Now if North exits with the spade, in the two card ending dummy has s9 d4, and I hold hJ d3. When d4 is led, South would have to choose between hK and s10, and would doubtless not have been watching the diamond spots assiduously. If he throws the wrong one, he could explain he was distracted as "a cow flew by."

Alas, a missed opportunity for bovine aviation. I didn't foresee the possibility and threw d2 on hQ. All I have left is a near miss and a Newsletter article.

But it's worse. I now see that playing dK on dQ was a bad error. Suppose I'd ducked - North then has a genuine problem as I might just have held K10 KQJx xxx xxx. If he continues diamonds I get a genuine squeeze. Perhaps I could blame that cow.